Political Animal


April 21, 2012 8:27 AM Culture Wars and the Presidential Election

By Adele Stan

Ever since the election of Barack Obama to the presidency, the Republican Party — now a very right-wing enterprise, indeed — has enjoyed remarkably good fortune consolidating its power in legislatures and governor’s mansions across the country. But as the presidential election approaches, writes Michael Cooper in the New York Times, G.O.P. strategists have begun to fret over chickens coming home to roost on the White House lawn.

In 21 states, Cooper reports, Republicans control both the legislative and executive branches, and that has led to an avalanche of controversies over issues ranging from evolution to the definition of rape to mandatory invasive ultrasounds for women seeking abortions — not to mention union rights for public employees. While these issues may galvanize the G.O.P.’s right-wing base, they’re likely to alienate the swing voters Mitt Romney will need in order to win the presidency. As described in the Times:

Tennessee enacted a law this month intended to protect teachers who question the theory of evolution. Arizona moved to ban nearly all abortions after 20 weeks, and Mississippi imposed regulations that could close the state’s only abortion clinic. Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin signed a law allowing the state’s public schools to teach about abstinence instead of contraception.
John Weaver, a Republican strategist who worked on the presidential campaigns of Senator John McCain and Jon M. Huntsman Jr., said that the attention Republicans were paying to social issues at the state level could cost the party support from several important blocs of voters, including independents, women and young people voting for the first or second time.
“I think it’s problematic,” he said, “not just for this national election we’re facing, but for the long-term health of the party.”

But right wing leaders don’t seem particularly invested in winning the presidency — at least not in 2012. Mitt Romney is not their candidate, and Barack Obama is the perfect fundraising and umbrage-inducing foil for right-wing fundraising and base-building for a wide-open contest in 2016. Incumbents, even wounded ones, are notoriously difficult to defeat. Why waste the effort on a guy you don’t really want, when the real work of moving the entire party your way takes place at the state level?

The Times piece notes Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’ call for “a truce” on so-called social issues, and his advice for Republicans to focus solely on fiscal issues. But right-wing strategist Phyllis Schlafly, at a lecture she delivered this week in Washington, scoffed at Daniels’ suggestion:

Now, that is impossible to do, because social issues and fiscal issues are locked in a tight embrace. If you care about the big spending and the big debt that the Obama administration has racked up, you have to ask, what is the money being spent on? And it’s being spent on the social issues. So there’s no way to cut this big debt and this big spending unless we address the social issues.

For more on Schlafly’s appearance at George Washington University on Wednesday, see Peter Montgomery’s post at Right Wing Watch. And I’ll have more on Schlafly and the 40-year Republican war on women at AlterNet tomorrow.


  • N.Wells on April 21, 2012 9:22 AM:

    Democrats must run nationally and consistently against Republican extremism and Republican delusions, rather than against individual candidates: "Vote for me because the nation cannot afford any more Republican control / to end the modern Republican era of extremism.", "Punish lying Republicans, Vote Democratic", etc. The Republicans have already done most of the heavy lifting necessary to make "Republican" a dirty word or failed brand - now just push that home.

  • DAY on April 21, 2012 9:27 AM:

    Welcome! I liked your piece on Nugent vs Rosen at alternet.

    As for the "chickens", they have been laying their eggs in local nests for a looong time, starting with school boards and other (dog catcher, prothonotary, township commissioner) races that are won by single digits.
    And then they start the "Culture Wars" (i.e., evolution, abstinence, school prayer) until all of a sudden their name recognition gets them on state wide ballots. That, as you say, is when the voters finally wake up and say, "HEY! wait just a darn minute. . ."
    We hope.

  • Mark-NC on April 21, 2012 9:27 AM:

    I think its problematic, he said, not just for this national election were facing, but for the long-term health of the party.

    In a sane world that would be true. However, don't underestimate the power of cold-blooded lying to get the Repugnant Ones through!

  • stormskies on April 21, 2012 9:58 AM:

    This is such perfect testimony about how the Repiglicans lie about everything. None of these Repiglicans actually campaigned on any of these social issues: it was all about jobs. And they used that 'lure' to deceive people in order to get them to vote for them. Once installed they then did all of this insane social issue crap.

    And that is exactly what Democrats should say over and over in our next election: to point out this fact. And then ask if they want more of this. "Is this what you want" over and over. Do you like being lied to and deceived ?

    It's what Obama should do as well: to point out over and over of all the fucking lies of buffoon Romney. And to link of his lies to the Repiglicans in general: the reality they have created in all of those 21 States that they totally control. This would make the contrast between him and the Democrats so black and white that it would be hard to imagine the average American saying "yes, lie to me more, deceive me more".

  • Ron Byers on April 21, 2012 10:03 AM:

    As always follow the money. The right wing social activists can't go on vacation while the Republican party fixes its image. The professionals like Shafley have to be paid.

  • Kathryn on April 21, 2012 10:50 AM:

    Agree with N. Wells, need to run against governors and state legislatures. Something along the line of "If you like how John Kasich governs, you're going to love Mitt Romney" or "Mitt Romney supports Virginia anti women legislation, Vote for Barack Obama".

    just tangled with captcha before to the point of rage. if a person cannot decifer captcha, trying 6 more times does not help. We use to get new ink blots now the same one is frozen forever, help!

  • POed Lib on April 21, 2012 11:10 AM:

    In SD, the Democrats got wiped out in 2010, where a number of more democratic seats went Repuke. The Repukes responded by enacting repulsive anti-teacher laws, which have brought a populist revolt. I am running for the state senate, partly due to the education issues. Many repukes are now in considerable anxiety due to the over-reach.

    Over-reach - it's not just a river in Egypt.

  • stormskies on April 21, 2012 11:39 AM:

    POed Lib................good luck .. sure hope you win, and can bring sense to people ... rational sense again ..

  • Kathryn on April 21, 2012 11:46 AM:

    Way to go POed Lib.........."If You Believe in Public Education, Vote Democratic", paid for by Obsma For America.

  • Bonnie on April 21, 2012 4:24 PM:

    How soon every one forgets. The big debt we have was created by the Republicans! Republican President, Republican Congress. Republicans are the big spenders or our tax dollars--NOT the Democrats.

  • Anonymous on April 21, 2012 5:18 PM:

    Phyllis Schlafly is now 87. I don't know how she reconciles what she says with what she does, because if she did do as she tells other women to do she'd be at home baking cookies and no one would have ever heard of her. What a hypocrite.

  • Matt McIrvin on April 21, 2012 6:48 PM:

    "And its being spent on the social issues."

    Yes, over 95% of the federal budget goes to funding abortions, teaching evolution and making people gay married.

    What she's doing here is actually a clever dodge: you can include Medicare and Social Security as social programs when claiming the budget is all being spent on social programs, then leave them out when getting elderly Medicare/Social Security recipients outraged about what those social programs actually are. (And, for your next trick, leave out the payroll tax that funds Medicare and Social Security when getting well-off people outraged about the parasites who "pay no taxes".)

  • emma on April 21, 2012 7:52 PM:

    The tea-infused GOP is doubling down in the War on Reality with the queen of wingnut welfare, Schlafly. Hey Phyllis, women ARE in combat now and we are going to get our ERA. I hope you live to see it.