Baggers vs. Sentient Beings at Town Hall Meeting

Rep. Lou Barletta, Republican from Pennsylvania, got an earful at a recent town hall meeting in his district. The meeting seems to have devolved into a shouting match between a lady who challenged the congressman’s recent vote for the Ryan budget and some baggers who screamed at her to shut up. You can watch the video and read a partial transcript here.

The Congressman got a word in occasionally. At one point (and this is not in the transcript) he said that jobs were going overseas because U.S. businesses paid the highest taxes in the world. That’s a lie in so many ways it’s pitiful. The U.S. has among the lowest taxes of industrialized democracies, Taxes are at a historic low, in fact. And some corporations are barely paying taxes at all.

I guess the Congressman didn’t mean that to be a factual statement.

Government Math

Gail Collins at the New York Times has written a couple of really good columns about the politics of abortion and family planning recently. Earlier this week, in “Behind the Abortion War,” she described the Right’s antipathy to contraception. Today, in “The New Anti-Abortion Math,” she writes about the Right’s refusal to face reality about their opposition to contraception.

Pointing to the government of the state of Texas, Collins writes,

Right now, the state is wrestling with a fiscal megacrisis that goes back to 2006, when the Legislature cut local property taxes and made up for the lost revenue with a new business tax. The new tax produced billions less than expected to the shock and horror of everyone except all the experts who had been predicting that all along.

Governor Perry blames the whole thing on President Obama.

Texas’ problems are of interest to us all because Texas is producing a huge chunk of the nation’s future work force with a system that goes like this:

• Terrible sex education programs and a lack of access to contraceptives leads to a huge number of births to poor women. (About 60 percent of the deliveries in Texas are financed by Medicaid.) Texas also leads the nation in the number of teenage mothers with two or more offspring.

• The Texas baby boom — an 800,000 increase in schoolchildren over the last decade — marches off to underfunded schools. Which are getting more underfunded by the minute, thanks to that little tax error.

And naturally, when times got tough at the State Capitol, one of the first things the cash-strapped Legislature tried to cut was family planning.

This is typical:

The state estimates the pregnancies averted would reduce its Medicaid bill by more than $36 million next year. But when a budget expert told the Texas House Committee on Human Services that the program saved money, he was laced into by Representative Jodie Laubenberg for using “government math.”

The Fetus People have persuaded themselves that there are “studies” that show widespread contraceptive use leads to more unwanted pregnancies. Actual studies show just the opposite, of course.

I also got a kick out of Gov. Perry’s claim that he knows abstinence education works “from personal experience.” I hadn’t heard that one before.

This goes back to my long-standing gripe that media continue to paint anti-abortion activists and pro-reproductive rights activists as equally radical and absolutist. But the major reproductive rights organizations like NARAL and Planned Parenthood just want to maintain the Roe v. Wade guidelines, whereas the anti-aborts don’t want to just overturn Roe v. Wade; they want to overturn Griswold v. Connecticut.

The Huntsman Test?

This is a follow up to yesterday’s post on the Republican presidential candidate field. Jeff Zeleny at the New York Times and Michael Crowley at Time both write about the “Huntsman test,” which boils down to two questions — can a candidate the Republican base likes win the general election? Can a viable general election candidate win a Republican nomination?

Yes, that’s the same question asked two ways. In talking about the “Huntsman test,” they’re pointing to potential candidate Jon Huntsman, who represents the sort of candidate who might do well with moderate voters, and asking if someone that moderate could possibly be nominated.

Michael Crowley writes of Huntsman’s potential candidacy,

The first goal is to return the GOP back to pure conservative orthodoxy; this is the Tea Party mantra in a nutshell. The second is to defeat Barack Obama at all costs. I realize there are people who think that one naturally leads to the next. But there are more people–including most of the Republican Party establishment–who think that nominating a Tea Party hero/heroine will replicate Delaware’s Christine O’Donnell debacle on a national scale.

A Huntsman campaign might force Republican voters to decide between the two propositions. As Zeleny notes, his record is full of heresies–from gay rights to global warming to calling Barack Obama a “remarkable leader.” (You can also add conservative crankiness over his spending record as Utah governor to the list.) Jennifer Rubin thinks that Huntsman doesn’t even “pass the laugh test” with conservative voters, and that talk of his candidacy is a case of liberal-media wish fulfillment.

It’s hard to say whether Huntsman himself could ever catch on as a candidate, but the point is that he represents the type of candidate who could appeal to a broad enough spectrum of voters to actually win a national election. But it’s unlikely such a candidate could be nominated, and if he were nominated, it’s unlikely the baggers would work up enthusiasm for his candidacy. To a hard-core bagger, a moderate Republican is no different from a Democrat.

This is not to say that they won’t vote for the white guy over the black guy. But don’t expect them to show up at his rallies or donate money to his candidacy. And low-information voters often don’t bother to vote at all unless they are riled up about something.

Republicans have a shot a beating Barack Obama only if they have a candidate they can rally around and support with enthusiasm. Enthusiasm builds a bandwagon effect that can swing the mushy middle. If Republicans are conflicted about their guy, it doesn’t inspire much confidence in the mushies to dump the incumbent.

A lot depends on what the economy is doing next year and whether the issues surrounding the Ryan budget can be kept on the front burner. If the economy slows again, I think President Obama could be vulnerable to one of the “Fairfax Five” (Barbour, Daniels, Huntsman, Pawlenty and Romney). A close election could well come down to which side has the most enthusiasm.