Posts Tagged ‘Utah’

united-states-capitol-night-view

 

After an increasingly likely trouncing by Hillary Clinton, which might extend a long way down the ballot paper and might even – in the fevered dreams of a few ironed-on Democrats anyway – result in Democrat majorities in both houses of Congress, although we think that unlikely – the “Grand Old Party” is going to have to do some very serious thinking about it’s future direction.

It is not at all improbable that the party will actually splinter beyond repair, and the right in American politics will find itself much like the Centre and Left in Britain, where the Conservative Party currently looks unassailable by an Opposition split between a Labour Party which is completely riven with internal discord much as the Republicans are now, with about another 20% or so of the vote shared out between the vaguely centrist Liberal Democrats, the Greens, and the Nationalists in Wales and Scotland.

With a “first past the post” electoral system for its main elections, just like in America, any major splits on one side of the traditional two-sided model of adversary politics can very quickly result in a long-lasting hegemony for the more stable side.

Which is why we are interested in Evan McMullin, the ex-CIA operative taking Trump votes in Utah. An independent conservative who calls himself “the opposite of Trump”, he is giving the Republican presidential candidate a run for his money in Utah, a state that has reliably voted ‘red’ for more than 50 years.

Evan McMullin was once the chief policy director of the House Republican Conference, but he decided to leave the party after he realised the GOP’s problems “are too deep” to resolve in this generation’s lifetime, he told NBC News. His platform now is based on differentiating himself from the main party candidates, who he argues are more similar than they are different from each other. A similar siren call in Australia – which has proportional voting in its Upper House (Senate) has seen a clutch of smaller parties and independents seize the balance of power from the two major parties, with as yet uncertain results.

The issue is at stake, of course, is have the divisions in the Republican party simply become too overt and too fundamental for it to recover?

Image: Evan McMullinMcMullin, (left), a Brigham Young University graduate, former CIA officer, investment banker and congressional aide, certainly thinks so. And it seems a large number of his local electorate agree with him.

“The short-hand is I believe both Trump and Clinton are from the left side of the political spectrum in most ways,” he said. “Both want to grow the size of the government. I’m the only conservative in this race. I favour a limited government.”

His alternative governing views, and his Mormon faith, have attracted so much support among Utah voters that in a survey conducted earlier this week by Salt Lake City-based Y2 Analytics, McMullin was in a statistical tie with Trump and Clinton.

The survey, conducted after lewd comments made by Trump in 2005 surfaced, showed Clinton and Trump tied at 26 percent, McMullin with 22 percent, and Libertarian Gary Johnson holding steady at 14 percent, according to Utah’s Deseret News.

The support, McMullin said, is as much about his policies compared to Clintons’ and Trump’s as it is about his character. “I think the American people know that both of these options are awful, and they’re looking for something better. That [Trump] tape really crystallised that sentiment for a lot of people. I consider myself the opposite of Trump in a lot of ways, both in terms of a lot of policies, and in terms of temperament and judgment,” he said.

McMullin, along with his running mate Mindy Finn, doesn’t have much of a shot at actually getting elected President — he’s only on the ballot in 11 states and a write-in option in 23 others — but political experts say his rise in Utah is notable.

“This is completely different than anything we’ve ever seen,” Christopher Karpowitz, co-director of the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University, told NBC News. “I think there is just widespread frustration with Donald Trump and really with both of the candidates from the two major parties, so Utahns, including many who have typically voted Republican, are casting about for some other alternative.” McMullin, Karpowitz added, fits a “particular set of needs in this state: people who don’t feel like they can in good conscience vote for Trump, but they’re not ready to vote for Hillary Clinton, either.”

But political watchers aren’t ready to predict a win for McMullin in Utah, which hasn’t strayed from its Republican roots since 1964 — even with big-name Republicans such as Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Gov. Gary Herbert withdrawing their support for Trump in recent days.

“I still think it’s unlikely that he takes the state of Utah,” Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah. But for Clinton and Trump, he said, “I think it’s going to be closer than anyone could have expected.” And losing the state’s six Electoral Votes could seriously complicate Trump’s ability to win the 270 needed to win the White House.

Whether he wins or not, McMullin says he fears for the future of the GOP.

“I seriously doubt the Republican party is viable as a political vehicle going forward. I think it will shrink in size, I think it might become a white nationalist party if Donald Trump supporters remain active after the election,” he said. “It’s time for a new generation of leadership.”

The interesting thing for anyone who can manage to look at the matter dispassionately is that both major parties in the USA are, of course, coalitions of the willing, but at the moment the Democrats are doing a much better job of yoking together their party, which ranges widely across traditional white collar voters who prefer an interventionists government but who hold conservative social views, socialists, urban radicals, environmentalists, social liberals, right over to really quite conservative characters like Clinton herself. The burying of the hatchet between Clinton and the populist “socialist” Bernie Sanders has been accomplished with panache despite dire predictions of widespread abstentions by his supporters.

The distinct strands in the Republicans include traditional centrists who could easily find common cause with the right of the Democrats, the religious right whose concerns are largely social, hard-right small-government “trickle down” Friendmanites, libertarians who combine far right economics with far left social values, Tea Party populists who detest Washington and want a grab bag of policies that mainly coalesce around “Leave me alone” and “Cut my taxes”, and near-fanatical States’-righters who want to re-write the constitutional settlement altogether.

rats-ship-aThe difference is that following years of internal strife between the centrist party leadership and the bands of loud and (for some) exceptionally (at least superficially) attractive Tea Party followers, the Republican Party had almost given up any pretence of being one party. And the selection of Trump – an act of political suicide in our view, an opinion we have maintained all along since his unlikely candidacy was touted – has now simply made the split more obvious than ever, as legions of rats leave the sinking ship in droves.

The dire problem for the Republicans is that, as we said, the American electoral system does not reward anything other than the creation of two coherent power blocks. Whereas in Europe you can afford to have a multiplicity of right wing parties trading preferences in a PR system, and then devising a working coalition in Government, the American system simply doesn’t offer that option. And as the system is essentially Presidential, anyway, that election invariably comes down to a choice between two candidates, as this year.

In the days when the contest of ideas in America was basically between two centrist parties, albeit with differing traditions, things were much simpler. But perhaps because of the much greater influence of a massively increased media market constantly deluging us with more and more “opinion”, or perhaps just from a generalised exhaustion amongst the electorate, who feel that both sides have taken them for a rise and the system – as far as them benefitting from it, at least – is broken, those days are over.

We are in uncharted territory. And right now, the Good Ship Republican is the one heading towards the rocks fastest.

And a system permanently leant towards one side of the political compass is not good for democracy, or any country. Those on the right in America need to some some hard thinking.

 

Mike Lee of utah - one of a number of tea Party representatives facing an uncertain future

Mike Lee of utah – one of a number of tea Party representatives facing an uncertain future

 

Fascinating article on Bloomberg making the same case that we have been making for some time that the grassroots Republican Party, and its central establishment, faced with increasing irrelevance, will turn on its recently-minted hard-right, Tea Party-supported Senators and Congresspeople.

The article is fair and reasonable as it nevertheless draws a bead on the Tea Party reps. As with this paragraph:

The meltdown on Capitol Hill doesn’t mean the end of the Tea Party. In fact, most of those lawmakers accurately point out that they are doing what the constituents in their painfully drawn, one-sided, overwhelmingly white, aging, anti-gay, anti-immigrant, science-denying districts want. Still, there are emerging signs — from declining poll numbers to the breach with the Republican Party’s traditional business allies — that the act is getting old. Mess with Democratic totems such as Social Security and nutritional programs for pregnant mothers, send Sarah Palin to Washington periodically to pour salt on open wounds, but don’t mess with Treasury bills and the markets.

We believe the article captures a key issue: the alarm felt in the business community, locally in the US and worldwide, at the prospect of an American default. In simple terms, those who recognise the scale of the looming disaster seem to be saying ‘this far and no further”.

What is interesting now is what will happen to Tea Party lawmakers in 2014 and in pre-selections/primaries.

One case the article singles out is:

Senator Mike Lee of Utah, a Tea Party darling since his surprising defeat in 2010 of Robert Bennett, a beloved conservative senator. He’s become sidekick to Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, chiming in during the recent filibuster about a childhood accident and his dream of being a pirate.

Lee is one of the new lawmakers who have been dubbed “wacko birds” by Senator John McCain of Arizona. Karl Rove said Lee’s scorched-earth strategy was “the one tactic that might be able to guarantee that the Democrats pick up seats in the Congress in 2014.” Even Lee’s friend and Capitol Hill roommate, Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, refused to back his plan to defund the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Lee’s favorable rating has dropped 10 percentage points since a June Brigham Young University poll, which – important note – doesn’t skew liberal. More than half of Utah voters see him unfavorably; 57 percent said he should be more willing to compromise. In a separate survey, a majority of Utah voters now disapprove of the Tea Party’s influence.”

Josh Romney

Josh Romney

What makes this particular seat really interesting is that Lee will be challenged from his left. And fascinatingly, Josh Romney is one of the options waiting in the wings. Back in June the telegenic son of former Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said in an interview with KSL that he wouldn’t rule out a potential run for office in the future.

“I’m not ruling anything in or out,” Romney told the Salt Lake City station. “But obviously, having spent the last couple of years on the political trail, it’s hard to give all that up.”

He continued, “I haven’t made any decisions on anything like that … I’m just really focused on my family and work right now and not looking at any particular office.”

Even if Lee survives a primary contest, there’s an excellent chance that Democratic Representative Jim Matheson — who’s been gerrymandered into unwinnable districts twice but still wins — could win a statewide race in the reddest state in the country.

Utah Republicans have been heading toward buyer’s remorse for some time. At last year’s convention in Salt Lake City, a robust 125,000 Republicans turned out. This was a reaction to the 2010 convention, when 50,000 Tea Party activists took over and eliminated Bennett in favor of Lee. By 2012, the establishment was back in charge, and Bennett got a long and loud standing ovation. At that same convention, Senator Orrin Hatch easily won the nomination and re-election.”

94bMeanwhile, the political ambitions of Mitt Romney’s son have long been an open secret.

One of the funniest moments of the 2012 election was when he became the unwitting star of a short-lived by amusing satirical meme that sprang from his intense look of concentration – well, that’s the polite way of describing it – while watching President Obama make mincemeat of his Dad in the second Presidential debate.

If Romney the Younger gets up in Utah, no doubt the meme will be revivified. Which is slightly unfair, as the man himself seems like a perfectly respectable, mainstream GOP type, and not at all like the menacing lunatic of one unfortunate photo. Still, such are the joys of public life, especially in America. No doubt he’ll laugh it off.

 


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