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Saturday, October 22, 2016

House Republicans will hold their leadership elections next week and all signs point to them remaining more interested in appeasing a narrow base than governing a diverse country.

Consider: The only woman positioned to run for Majority Leader, Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, decided not to make a bid. The two men competing for the job are conservatives from the Deep South. The favorite for Speaker, Kevin McCarthy of California, is less experienced than John Boehner, less accomplished, and — if he follows through on private promises — more confrontational.

McCarthy has already signaled with a potentially costly gaffe that he may not be ready for primetime. It came when he boasted to Sean Hannity on Fox News that the House investigation of the 2012 murders of Americans in Benghazi has done serious damage to Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought and made that happen,” he said.

Not that this was a secret, but thanks for the gift of a sound bite that makes clear the Benghazi probe — the latest of many — is not entirely about getting to the truth. The incident recalls a classic moment in 2012 when Mike Turzai, majority leader of the Pennsylvania House, ran down a list of achievements that ended: “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”

Later that year, President Obama beat Mitt Romney by 5 percentage points in Pennsylvania. And a judge ultimately struck down that voter identification law. The larger point is that until Turzai’s brag, conservatives across the country had religiously stuck to talking points about good government and rooting out (virtually nonexistent) fraud, as opposed to giving their side an edge by making it harder for some people — like urban minorities — to vote.

One of the deepest rifts in today’s chasm-ridden GOP is whether to try to attract a larger swath of voters or to double down on the party’s dwindling core of loyalists. The latest test — over whether to shut down the government in an attempt to strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood — illuminated the divide. Republican reactions were revealing, especially among senators facing voters next year in blue and purple states.

You had Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire demanding of Sen. Ted Cruz, presidential candidate and chief agitator in the upper chamber, exactly what he hoped to accomplish when the Senate GOP did not have 60 votes to overcome a Democratic filibuster, much less 67 to override a veto by the Democratic president. And Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois tweeting Wednesday, after the Senate passed a bill to fund the government (including Planned Parenthood), “When our govt shut down in 2013, it cost U.S. $24 billion. We were elected to govern responsibly, not by crisis.” And Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who tweeted “Troubling that a #governmentshutdown was even an option, causing great economic hardship to the 15,000 Alaskans employed by the fed. gov.”

I don’t doubt the sincerity or passion of conservatives fighting abortion. I don’t even argue with the idea that by giving Planned Parenthood money for services like contraception, cancer screenings and STD tests, the federal government frees up money for the group to perform abortions. But the facts on the ground are stark. It will take a Republican Senate supermajority and a Republican president to get what conservatives want, and what they want does not have broad public support. That’s the case whether the issue is defunding Planned Parenthood, curbing abortion, or shutting the government.

Only 36 percent in a new NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll said more restrictive laws on abortion would be a step in the right direction. Majorities in that poll and two other new ones, meanwhile, said Planned Parenthood should continue to receive federal funds. One of the polls, from Quinnipiac University, found sentiment running 3 to 1 against shuttering the government over the issue. Only 23 percent favored a shutdown.

To cap off the bad-news week for the GOP, Planned Parenthood had a 47 percent positive rating in the NBC poll — the highest of any entity or person tested. Obama came closest at 46 percent, followed by the Democratic Party at 41 percent and Joe Biden at 40 percent. The most positively viewed on the Republican side were presidential candidate Ben Carson and the party itself, each at 29 percent.

Democrats have their own problems, but they are far more in step with mainstream America on a number of important issues — not least the idea that shutting down the federal government is an acceptable substitute for winning the elections you need to prevail.

Follow Jill Lawrence on Twitter @JillDLawrence. To find out more about Jill Lawrence and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks at the the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition Forum in Des Moines, Iowa, September 19, 2015.  REUTERS/Brian C. Frank

  • patrick g van meter

    I am a Democrat and don’t trust Hillary. I do have some trust with what the GOP and the tea party will do. Its simple. First, War. This will set things up to destroy SS and Medicare which is #2. #3, the climate deniers owned by special interests will destroy the species if their wars haven’t already done it. Vote for Sanders.

    • joe schmo

      Hey uninformed voter? Have you listened to Donald Trump lately? Hillary is a liar. Bernie is a communist. Biden is not all there. Trump will not go to war unless it makes sense. He merely wants to build a STRONG military. He wants to build up SS and Medicare not tear them down. Obamacare, this next year WILL cost you more money. Climate Change….aye yay yay? Here we go! Read this please:

      Do you know anything about communism? My father escaped communist Europe, I visited communist Europe as a child. I have a younger Romanian friend who escaped communist Romania. We all hate it! We all say it is coming in the back door. I have family in Europe. It’s a mess! You don’t know what you are saying!

      • FireBaron

        Schmo, Trump is a clueless wonder who has no concept of what the Presidential or Congressional powers actually are. He is in this to stroke his own ego, not because he believes he has a chance of winning the nomination, let alone the election.
        His “core” of supporters include people who believe Ted Cruz and the Koch brothers are too liberal for this country. His lack of understanding of the actual workings of the US Economy are a laugh, as his lack of understanding of the Federal Debt structure.
        He claims to have “Experts” who will handle all this “stuff” for him, so he doesn’t need to know anything. Sorry, we had to deal with that from 2001 to 2009 when we had the “decider-in-chief” who allowed everyone else to make his decisions for him. We don’t need another.
        As for that other dismal business failure who tanked one corporation she ran, and damn near tanked the other before the BoD finally fired her, she is almost as clueless as the Hair Weave Wonder.
        Thanks to the nut-jobs the GOP has produced, whoever wins the Democratic Nomination should have no problem winning the election.

        • yabbed

          Any Republican in the field could beat Bernie Sanders.

          • RED

            You keep believing that. And I sure hope we get the chance to prove how completely wrong you are. Of course, Cons being wrong is one of their primary character traits, just call Skewed and see how President Romney’s term is going.

          • Looner

            I think a socialist president is not possible with the general idiocy of Americans right now. I hate to say it, but it’s not going to happen.

          • RED

            Agreed that idiocy is rampant right now in the US, the Con sickness has spread like a medieval plague. But Bernie Sanders isn’t a socialist, not a true socialist but a Democratic socialist which is different. Second, the Republican party is so disgusting and full of sick evil people that I think we have a rare opportunity to elect someone truly different. We know the Cons are not going to get the Latino vote or the African American vote, they have very little chance of winning.

          • Harbinger08

            Hard to say. Depends on who they put forward. Maybe he could beat Trump, who will not be the nominee in any case. I doubt he would beat Bush or Rubio. In any case running Sanders would be a desperate gamble. Losing to the republicans would be a catastrophe to everything that Sanders stands for. Millions of Americans would be irreparably harmed, and the consequences to global peace and the environment is incalculable.

      • Dominick Vila

        I agree with you on communism. It is a failed ideology, largely because the only thing it offers is eternal mediocrity, which is unacceptable to most people with an ounce of ambition and a desire to offer a better life to their children.
        However, what does that have to do with Sen. Sanders? His proposals include livable wages, putting in place policies that ensure all Americans benefit from our economic prosperity, instead of just a privileged few; dialogue Vs war; strengthening Social Security and MEDICARE, instead of privatizing them or dismantling them; ensuring seniors get the help they need to live with a modicum of dignity, and students get the help they need to go to college or trade school; taking steps to control abuses by the pharma industry and Wall Street, etc.
        Trying to improve our standard of living, trying to eliminate fraud and abuse, and trying to pursue peaceful solutions to international problems, has nothing to do with communism, or even Karl Marx’s form of socialism.

        • rome44

          Couldn’t have said it better myself.

        • patrick g van meter

          Well said Dominick. Unfortunately on deaf ears

          • midway54

            …ears that are alongside an empty cranium.

          • patrick g van meter


      • RED

        If your statement of your family is true then you really ought to be ashamed of yourself for being so ignorant. Most Americans are stupid because they don’t have a clue that there is a world bigger than their own little street. But you supposedly have been exposed to a greater world and yet you’re still too dumb to recognize the difference between communism & socialism. Or that your too brain dead to get that the capitalism can be just a brutal as communism, it’s just a matter of what the organizations oppressing you call themselves. I assume you would argue that communism is brutal and violent to people. But yet you have no problem with people dying from an inability to access healthcare or medicine or even food? Is that a better system because you maybe it doesn’t affect you? Or is it just easier to ignore the poor and weak? So, no serious politician in the US is proposing communism, certainly not Bernie Sanders. But sadly we have a country of morons too stupid to overcome their mind blowing ignorance even when that ignorance is a direct contributor to their own plight.

      • patrick g van meter

        I have listened to everything Trump has said. When he went to the border he mentioned Mexico is booming. So he looks over into Mexico and says Mexico is booming. All of the border towns are booming because of US shoppers. Drug, dental work and many other things are at least 50% cheaper there. Thats just one example of what Trump does. BTW, we already have deterents. Enough to eliminate the species. On top of being a denier, you like Trump? That is amazing. Communism and Socialism are not synonymous. Have you heard of anyone trying to escape Norway or sweden? They are also capitalist.

      • 788eddie

        Since you have family in Europe, you might want to think about visiting them. One-way tickets are quite reasonable.

      • 788eddie

        You asked if “uninformed voter” has listened to Donald Trump, who says many nasty things about Democrats in the running for President. Are you inferring that Donald Trump is a good and unimpeachable source of information? Really?

      • latebloomingrandma

        Bernie is actually very concerned about the direction of our democracy, rather than handing it over to the plutocrats. Socialism is not a form of government, it’s an economic system. Senator Sanders is NOT a Communist!! Unfettered capitalism can cause great inequalities, that’s what he’s saying. We are witnesses to it.

    • yabbed

      I suspect you are a Republican operative working the berniebot nonsense to weaken Hillary Clinton for the Republicans in the general election. This bernieburn nonsense is a scam. There may be some few stupid people and a few more AIPAC operatives, along with some losers who are looking for Bernie with his 90% tax rate and government income redistribution plan to put some of other people’s income in their empty pockets. That was Bernie’s campaign back in the days when he was living on unemployment benefits and trying desperately to get elected to the government pig trough.

      But you’re not Democrats just like Bernie Sanders isn’t a Democrat.

      • Looner

        At first I was a Bernie Sanders supporter … Even had a reoccurring donation to him and I am a “founding member”. But I just went over to Hillary. I examined both platforms and found Hillary’s to be much sounder and better for America.

  • joe schmo

    Are you kidding me right now! Guess what dems, do you still have an Occupy Wall
    Street movement? Then it’s settled. There’s no Tea Party. It’s irrelevant. Here’s a lesson for you conservatives are simply conservatives.

    • johninPCFL

      The teabaggers have taken over the GOP to the extent that John Boehner couldn’t stand the smell anymore.

    • FireBaron

      Then you better tell people like “The Tea Party Patriots” and other groups rallying support for the GOP.

      • Edward Carpenter

        I would not refer to tea partiers as patriots. They’re not even close to that…

    • John Murchison

      Oh, there is still a tea party movement alright. The backbone of the Republican Party maybe nearly severed but the original party is still there. The teas haven’t completely taken the party over yet so the term is still relevant. As for Occupy Wall Street…they aren’t gone either. Take a look at Bernie Sanders supporters.

  • yabbed

    The state of AL has over one third of their mostly black and rural counties no longer issuing drivers’ licenses. And, of course, a driver’s license is a requirement for voting in those counties.