Let the Age of Pragmatism Begin

by Cinzia Croce

The first round of Senate confirmation hearings for Donald Trump’s nominees is now in the history books, and it is clear that the incoming president intends to make good on his promise to change Washington. Rex Tillerson and Generals James Mattis and Robert Kelly walked away having established themselves as strong, accomplished, serious men with records of success in their individual endeavors.  Even Dr. Ben Carson — who seemed an admittedly odd choice to head HUD — reassured, pledging to bringing a fresh look to programs whose structure has not been examined in decades, despite, in many cases, having failed to meet the expectations of activists.

There was one consistent theme throughout the testimonies: pragmatism over ideology. After decades of ideological warfare paralyzing Washington, the Trump Administration promises to reassess where we are as a country and chart a new, sustainable course both at home and abroad instead of pursuing ideological purity or utopia.

During the campaign, Trump’s opponents warned that his ego was very fragile, making him susceptible to flattery. If elected, we were warned, he would surround himself with lackeys — “yes men” who would indulge his impulsive, reckless, childish behavior, putting the country — no — the entire world at risk. The hearings effectively debunked the caricature. No one can call General Mattis a lackey or fear that he would not stand up to Trump. The same is true of General Kelly, and Tillerson.

Yet instead of being reassured that Trump is not filling the Cabinet with flunkies, his opponents have switched tactics: they point to areas where the nominees diverge from the president-elect and wring their hands about the divisions and tension or whether it will lead to chaos. There will be no honeymoon, it seems: every decision Trump makes will be cast in a negative light. If his nominees had gone before the Senate and agreed with Trump’s views to the letter — especially with respect to Russia — his opponents would have issued dire warnings that the Kremlin is about to take over our government. Continue reading

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Why We Were Right About Trump

By Alex Knepper

Punditry contains an element of competition. There are thousands of prophesying scribblers out there, and political observers trying to make sense of what’s going on can only be expected to keep up with the thoughts of a handful. As relative newcomers to the arena, one must reasonably ask: Why read the New American Perspective rather than some other website?

Needless to say, this election season has humbled many pundits, including some marquee names. The New American Perspective is one of the only publications whose predictions about the Republican primary season were almost entirely correct — living up to our promise of clear-minded analysis, free of wishful thinking. Although it’s probably not possible to eliminate the elements of gloating or bragging from reviewing the ways in which one was correct — well, let us review:

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The GOP’s Choice: To Lead, Or to Cheerlead?

By Cinzia Croce

Just like the employer who is convinced that what’s really necessary to boost workforce morale is a motivational speaker rather than a wage increase, the GOP establishment is convinced that just one more pep talk about the need to be ‘optimistic’ and to ‘not give into fear’ is just what is needed to rein in the recalcitrant base that won’t let go of their infatuation with Trump.  In a gorgeous Capitol Hill committee room with several American flags serving as background, Speaker Paul Ryan delivered a speech about the state of American politics before an audience filled with young interns — after all: there is nothing more uplifting than speaking to young people, for they are our future! His blue eyes sparkling more than usual and his voice was filled with the eagerness of a young lover, Ryan spoke about the American founding ideals, the need for civility, and his desire for politics to be an aspirational battle of ideas.

In other words: the same drivel that the Republican consultant class finds irresistible but falls on deaf ears outside the Beltway.

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It was the same speech that Jeb! delivered during his “joyful tortoise” phase of his campaign, when the brightest Republican political strategists concluded that the best way to defeat Trump was to ignore him. After months of talking about his hopeful vision for America and millions of dollars in advertising touting his conservative record as Florida governor, Jeb languished at the bottom of the polls, as the voters just didn’t seem interested in ‘optimism.’ Eventually, the tortoise campaign found its final resting place on the beaches of South Carolina.

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Rubio Holds the GOP Hostage In Florida

By Alex Knepper

The three remaining not-Trump Republican candidates have reached a deal: Marco Rubio is encouraging his supporters in Ohio to vote for John Kasich, Kasich is encouraging his supporters in Florida to vote for Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz is remaining neutral and standing down in each of those states.

Given that Rubio and Kasich are perpetual losers who, combined, are still lagging Cruz in the delegate and states-won count by a hefty margin, a fair-minded observer might wonder what they are still doing in the race at all. Cruz supporters — who, in case we need reminding, actively want Cruz to win rather than just wanting to stop Trump — may question why they are being asked to rally around these losers rather than the losers being asked to rally around Cruz. It is an especially perplexing question if we assume that Rubio and Kasich’s primary goal is to put their principles first and stop Donald Trump from winning the nomination.

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As I said last week, if Rubio really cared first of all about stopping Donald Trump, he should have dropped out after Super Tuesday. If Rubio had dropped out then — without endorsing a candidate — he’d have been out more-or-less in time to keep early votes for him in Florida from coming in, hand Kasich a surefire win in Ohio, and give people two weeks to rally around Cruz in Florida. Then, after Kasich won Ohio, he would drop out and endorse Cruz with Rubio. But it’s time to dispel with this notion that Rubio has an equal chance in Florida as Kasich does in Ohio. Rubio’s home-state advantage has always been overstated — he’s been down by double-digits since Trump first catapulted to the top of the polls — and, judging by the humiliating results of Super Tuesday and the March 8th contests, Rubio is not nationally viable. There ain’t no ‘establishment lane.’ Yet, here we are: because of Rubio’s ambition and vanity, Kasich is still an underdog in Ohio, and Florida is as likely as it was a month ago to fall into Trump’s column.

So why is Rubio still in the race? Because he is not actually concerned with stopping Trump. Rather, he is concerned with remaining viable for what would probably be a vice-presidential offer at a brokered convention, which will only be likely if he manages to collect several hundred delegates. He has essentially held the GOP hostage in Florida: as long as he is still in the race, his built-in home-state advantage ensures that nobody not named Trump can surpass him there, forcing everyone else to rally around him if they want to deny Trump the state’s 99 delegates.

There’s nothing sinister about politicians acting out of self-interest — but I don’t want to hear these fraudulent pieties about how they are concerned primarily with stopping Trump.

Super Tuesday Fallout: Trump’s Staggering Triumph and the End of the Line for Rubio

By Alex Knepper

1. If Rubio Wants to Save the GOP From Trump, There’s Only One Option Left

The New American Perspective has been bearish on Marco Rubio since our launch. It is increasingly clear that the Republican Party elite made a profoundly foolish choice in rallying around him. It is almost certainly the case that if John Kasich were not in the race, Rubio could have triumphed in Virginia — but if Rubio had not been in the race, it is likely that Ted Cruz would have won Arkansas and John Kasich would have won Vermont, denying Trump his lopsided state victory tally. Rubio’s sole win was in the quirky Minnesota caucuses, which gave just 22% and 17% of the vote to the eventual nominees in 2008 and 2012, respectively. And as the calendar shifts to winner-take-all states, Rubio’s presence in the race will actually make it more difficult to deny Trump an outright majority of delegates in the run-up to the convention. If Rubio drops out and endorses Kasich, for instance, Kasich could take delegate-rich Ohio from Trump. But Rubio is not going to take Florida, and everyone knows it but the Rubio team. If Rubio really wants to save the Republican Party from Trump, there’s only one way to do it.

2. Trump Is Building a New Coalition

To demonstrate the breadth and depth of Donald Trump’s ‘Silent Majority’ coalition, consider that he is the candidate of both self-described moderate Republicans and self-described Evangelicals. He is the first Republican candidate since Ronald Reagan to truly bring new voters into the process. His most lopsided victories occurred in Massachusetts and Alabama. No Republican candidate has ever won all of the primary states Trump has, and the calendar for the rest of the month is very favorable to him. On March 15, it might be fair to start calling him the presumptive nominee. Ted Cruz’s best shot at the nomination — or, at least, a brokered convention — was to sweep the South, and that didn’t happen. He didn’t even come close. Trump has genuine national appeal: he has secured victories in every region of the country except the Midwest, and that too will soon change. That he is now attracting support from governors and members of Congress is proof that savvy-enough politicians in the GOP fear that if they don’t get on board with Trump, he’ll only run them over — and fear, as Trump knows very well, is a better motivator than love.

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3. The Writing’s On the Wall, But Bernie’s Got No Reason to Quit

Although Bernie Sanders turned in surprisingly strong performances in Colorado, Minnesota, and Oklahoma (and his home state of Vermont, of course), his disappointing performance in Massachusetts and humiliating showings in the South — fueled by Hillary’s near-unanimous support among black voters — tell us that he has nowhere to go. He simply has not been able to significantly expand his base beyond white progressives.

But Bernie’s not going anywhere: he owes the Democratic Party nothing, and he’s acutely aware of the generation gap dividing its voters — and he wants to help ensure that the next generation of Democratic primary voters is ready to upend the Clinton wing of the party. He’s got the money and the organization to move forward, so we should probably expect him to remain in the race until Hillary actually secures a majority of pledged delegates.

4. Hillary’s Theme Emerges?

George H.W. Bush, the last president to win a third term for his party, sometimes campaigned on the idea of cultivating a ‘kinder, gentler America.’ Hillary Clinton, in a surprising embrace of her femininity, is pivoting toward a theme we haven’t heard much from her since the early 1990s: ‘love and kindness,’ compassion, and wholeness. The wisdom of this approach is questionable, although the Republicans seem gleeful to provide her with the antithesis of kindness. But her sincerity cannot be doubted: it is a theme she’s returned to again and again in her career, despite that it is often met with ridicule. Hillary Clinton does not exactly exude warmth. But if John Kasich, who’s been on the scene for as long as Clinton herself and whose temper is legendary, can successfully recast himself as a paragon of compassion, I see no reason why Hillary Clinton can’t be believable.

The State of the Race: Hillary the Inevitable, Rubio the Illusory, and a Nevada Prediction

By Alex Knepper

1. Hillary Has Always Been Inevitable

Overexcited journalists have for months been desperately trying to turn the Clinton-Sanders contest into a real race, but when all is said and done, the Democratic primary map is likely to resemble the 2000 Republican one: a blowout victory by a challenger in New Hamsphire fueled by independent voters is quickly snuffed out in South Carolina, after which point the candidate with near-unanimous ‘establishment’ backing cruises to the nomination, losing a few demographically-unfriendly states here and there.

A year ago, I said that Hillary’s unprecedented strengths in the ‘invisible primary,’ unlike in 2008, rendered her the inevitable nominee, and that she would be able to hold off a challenge from Elizabeth Warren (or, as it turned out, someone like her) by holding onto the black vote, not letting her challenger catch her asleep at the wheel in caucus states, and appealing to Democrats’ sense of pragmatism as they try to retain the White House for a third term. This is exactly what she’s done.

The primaries to this point have revealed a not-insignificant challenge facing Clinton in the general election, though: the ‘generation gap’ in the Democratic Party is a veritable chasm, and her surrogates have often acted dismissively and condescendingly toward Sanders supporters. If there’s anything the Clintons can always count on, though, it’s Republican overreach, and Hillary is always at her rhetorical best when taking on Republicans. If Donald Trump is the Republican nominee, which looks likely right now, Clinton will be able to reach out not only to Sanders supporters but to ‘establishment’-oriented Republicans who just cannot bring themselves to vote for him. And lest we forget about the fundamentals: the electoral college math still favors Democrats.

2. Here We Go With Another Fake Rubio Surge

If Jeb Bush came in a relatively close 2nd in Iowa, 1st in New Hampshire by 20 points, and 1st in South Carolina by 10 points, nobody would question whether the race was basically over. Marco Rubio probably has Nikki Haley to thank for pulling him back from the abyss, but winning a fifth of the vote for a distant second place tie at this stage in the race — and no delegates! — is not impressive. There isn’t one state among the next dozen or so that’s a likely win for Rubio, even in a three-man race with Trump and Ted Cruz — and eventually, if Rubio wants to be a contender for the nomination, he needs to start actually winning states.

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3. Ted Cruz Will Continue to Behave Like Other Iowa ‘Winners’

Ted Cruz’s disappointing third-place finish — and moderately-surprising loss to Trump among Evangelical voters — revealed that he has no path to the nomination. What he does have is a path to possibly win enough delegates in a three-man race to force a brokered convention, at which point he could instruct his delegates to vote for Trump on the condition that Trump selects Cruz as his VP candidate. This is a longshot scenario, but Cruz has plenty of money and organization, plenty of ambition, and plenty of loyal supporters who can’t stomach Trump but find Rubio too unseasoned and ideologically suspect.

In 2008 and 2012 respectively, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, high off of their unlikely come-from-behind wins in Iowa, stayed in the race long beyond the point of viability. Cruz will do the same, and he will lose, too. But in the meantime, his presence makes life easier for Trump. The center-right ‘establishment’ loathes both Trump and Cruz, but for the Republican rank-and-file, Cruz and Rubio are more similar, insofar as they are both Reagan Republicans with relatively conventional political resumes and loyalties that don’t extend very far beyond the traditional GOP nexus. You won’t see Cruz picking any fights with the Pope, George W. Bush, or Fox News.

4. My Nevada Prediction

Predicting caucuses is always a tricky business, and there’s been minimal polling out of Nevada, but here’s my best guess:

Trump 39
Rubio 30
Cruz 26
Kasich 4
Carson 2

McConnell’s Risky Gamble

By Cinzia Croce

Barack Obama is a very lucky politician. His election as president came about because of a perfect political storm: a primary opponent who did not realize she was losing until it was too late; a general election adversary who frivolously threw away his most potent argument — Obama’s lack of experience — by selecting Sarah Palin as his running mate; and finally, a predecessor who mismanaged the subprime mortgage crisis for months, leading to the eventual financial meltdown taking place a month before voters headed for the polls. Continue reading