National Council for a New America

Right Wing Leftovers

  • It looks like, after just one event, Rep. Eric Cantor's National Council for a New America has already flamed out.
  • Operation Rescue has launched a petition aimed at stopping LeRoy Carhart from opening a new facility in Kansas.
  • The Alliance Defense Fund has announced that September 27 will be its second "Pulpit Freedom Sunday" in which churches and pastors are urged to challenge tax rules barring them from endorsing political candidates [PDF].
  • A principal overseeing a high school in which church-state violations were reportedly rampant now faces possible jail time for violating a court order to cease such practices.
  • Finally, Ralph Reed declares that "values voters" will resuscitate the GOP:

    The bottom line is that voters primarily motivated by their values will not go away. They are a persistent bunch. They have now gained a place at the table, have been seasoned by the experience of building (and now losing) a governing majority, and they are going to speak to a broad range of issues, from the economy to climate change to health care. They will likely be at the center of any GOP revival of fortunes. No amount of name-calling or intimidation will make them go away.

If At First You Don't Succeed, Start Another Right Wing Group

Everyone knows that conservatives and Republicans are struggling at the moment and trying to figure out how to regain their influence in politics, motivate their supporters, and start winning elections. 

Nobody seems to be able agree on a course of action or any sort of messaging ... but what they can agree on apparently is that what they need are new groups. 

A few weeks back a new group called The Faith and Freedom Institute emerged in order to combat "satanic wickedness" and return America to a foundation of Biblical principles.  Since that is pretty much the mission of every other right-wing group, why this new one is needed is beyond me. 

And just last week we found out that Tony Perkins, Richard Land, Wellington Boone, and Harry Jackson were launching something known as Call 2 Fall ... which seems to be some sort of Lou Engle-less version of "The Call."  Again, why this new duplicate effort is necessary remains a mystery.

Now, via Dan Gilgoff, we find out that yet another new right-wing effort in underway:

As religious conservatives are receiving some cold shoulders from the Republican Party, they're beginning to launch new political organizations of their own. Tonight, coinciding with his debate with Doug Kmiec at the National Press Club—an exchange that began here on God & Country—conservative Catholic legal scholar and activist Robby George will be unveiling one of them: the American Principles Project.

The group's website says it will hold Republicans to account on conservative positions:

The message of the 2006 and 2008 elections is not that the American people want to be governed by the ultraliberal and statist ideology of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid; rather it is that Americans will not tolerate Republicans and "conservatives" who refuse to honor in practice the principles they purport to affirm—Republicans and "conservatives" who expand government, spend our tax dollars wantonly, do nothing about out-of-control judges who undermine democracy, and sit idly by as marriage is redefined and further weakened.

The key difference between this group and others cropping up to chart a course forward for the GOP is that the American Principles Projects counts opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage among its top priorities.

The American Principles Project seems to be a response to the National Council for a New America, which angered the Religious Right when it unveiled its agenda for the remaking the GOP which contained no mention of the social issues like gay marriage and abortion that make up the core of their mission.

The confusing thing about this is that there are already dozens of right-wing groups for whom opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage are their top priorities.

In fact, this mission statement from the American Principles Project could, literally, apply to just about every other right-wing group currently in existence:

The United States of America does not need new principles. It needs renewed fidelity to the principles set forth in our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. These are timeless principles: truths that we hold, in Jefferson's immortal words, to be, "self-evident." They are, moreover, universal principles, not the historically contingent beliefs or customs of a particular sect or clan or tribe. They are rooted in the nature of man as a being who, by virtue of his God-given dignity and rationality, owns the right to participate in the great project of self-government as a free and equal citizen. Whatever others may say, we at the American Principles Project and all who join with us reaffirm the truth that each and every member of the human family is, "created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

If these timeless principles are to be restored and our national commitment to them renewed, then a new voice is needed in American politics, a voice that is unafraid to stand up for what is right and speak out against what is wrong. Indeed, that "voice" must be nothing less than millions of American voices raised in unison in defense of political liberty and economic freedom, the sanctity of human life and the integrity of marriage and the family, and the sovereignty and security of our nation.

The Right already has dozens of national and state-based organizations committed to this very same mission.

Has anyone at the American Principles Project ever heard of the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America, the American Family Association, or the Traditional Values Coalition? 

What exactly is this new group going to bring to the table that these various other groups don't? 

Whatever the conservative movement's problems might be at the moment, I can assure them that their dilemma is not rooted in the fact that there are just too few groups pressing the right-wing agenda.

Right Wing Round-Up

  • As Eric Boehlert asks, who cares what Newt Gingrich thinks?
  • Greg Sargent answers that question, pointing out that the National Council for a New America does.
  • Pam reports that Peter LaBarbera is already fulminating against the Fulsom Street Fair.
  • Dave Neiwert says Ann Coulter doesn't do well when challenged directly.
  • Steve Benen comments on Michael Steele's speech today positioning the GOP as the party of new ideas, observing that until they come up with some, they are apparently just going to stick with "socialism, handshake, 9/11."
  • Jonathan Chait wonders if the Republicans have any contingency plans in place in case their anti-Obama crusade doesn't pan out politically.
  • Finally, Jeremy observes that even legally recognized gay marriages are still "counterfeit" to the Alliance Defense Fund.

The Best Thing Ever To Happen to Huckabee

It is rapidly becoming clear that the emergence of the National Council for a New America is just about the best thing that could have happened to Mike Huckabee politically. The new organization, with its obvious effort to push social conservatives aside, has allowed Huckabee to establish himself as a bona fide champion of those who feel they are being marginalized by the Republican party and solidify his effort to position himself as their candidate of choice in 2012. 

Even though Rep. Eric Cantor has been working to appease Huckabee (and by extension the Religious Right groups who have suddenly discovered Huckabee's appeal) it doesn't look like Huckabee is about to let this "controversy" dissipate, at least not without one last shot:

A new group was recently formed that is calling itself a group of experts for the purpose of making the Republican Party attractive to voters again. The strategy is supposedly to go on a listening tour so they can talk to the American people and hear what people are concerned about.

It's hard to keep from laughing out loud when people living in the bubble of the Beltway suddenly wake up one day and think they ought to have a listening tour; even funnier when their first earful expedition takes them all the way to the suburbs of Washington, D.C.

...

In my book, "Do the Right Thing," I dedicate an entire chapter called "Politically Homeless" to the unfortunate attitude between some in the party who treat values voters as if they were embarrassing distant cousins who are allowed to come to the family gatherings a couple of times a year, but aren't expected to be seen beyond that. Values voters are conservative on social issues, and economic ones as well.

For those on the listening tour, listen to this: If the party elite want to abandon principled leadership to protect life, support traditional marriage while going along with deficit exploding spending, interference and micro-managing of private business and failing to police corruption and govern competently, then hearing aids or a panel of experts won't help.

The ironic thing is that while this opportunity for Huckabee to establish himself as the Religious Right's most stalwart and committed advocate fell right into his lap, Huckabee himself may have been undermining his ability to capitalize on it because, ever since the election, he's been busy poking his eyes of all of those Religious Right leaders who did not support him. 

As he says in his column, he dedicated a whole chapter to the "politically homeless" values voters ... but what he doesn't mention is that the focus of the chapter was on the fact that he was now "politically homeless" because those who were leaders of the social conservative movement had refused to support him during the primary, as I explained in my review:

What is astonishing is the outright contempt with which Huckabee treats the religious right establishment and its leadership. His sense of betrayal courses through the chapter on the subject, in which he laments that he has now been made “politically homeless,” declaring that the “generals” of the movement are going to be surprised with they see their foot soldiers abandon them for true leaders—presumably, Huckabee and the gaggle of right-wing figures who supported his campaign.

“[I]n so many ways, I was the perfect choice for them. I was not coming to them, I was coming from them,” Huckabee writes, going on to complain that “none of the candidates had accomplished more on the life issues than I had—no one,” and that “no one in the race supported traditional marriage more strongly than I did.” And yet the religious right establishment was not only lukewarm to his candidacy, most were downright hostile. Huckabee attacks the influential Arlington Group for jerking him around and goes after several high-profile leaders by name: Pat Robertson, John Hagee, Rod Parsley, Bob Jones III, and especially Gary Bauer, whom he calls “politically clueless.”

...

In the end, Huckabee declares that the movement is no longer led by “clear-minded and deeply-rooted prophets with distinct moral lines,” but rather by “political operatives…whose goal was to be included and invited” to hobnob with the insiders. Yet Huckabee concludes that, in the end, it was probably best that the religious right establishment didn’t back him because they would have just “thought that they were solely responsible for any success I might have had.”

The fact that Huckabee was able to do so well without their support is clearly a great source for pride for him, so much so that he declares that the success of his campaign will be the harbinger of a “new wave of leaders…[with] prophetic voices…[who are] determined to follow their convictions instead of the conventional wisdom.” Those constituting this “new wave” of leadership, according to Huckabee, is a veritable who’s who of fringe right-wing second-stringers like Janet Folger, Don Wildmon, Michael Farris, Rick Scarborough, Mat Staver, and David Barton. The one thing they all have in common, interestingly enough, is that they endorsed Mike Huckabee.

If Huckabee really wants to become the Right's choice in 2012, he's going to have to start doing a lot more defending and a lot less criticizing of its leadership. 

The Ever-Underappreciated Right Continues to Grumble

To say that the Republican Party is having a bit of trouble at the moment figuring out just what it stands for and what sort of message it needs to help it start winning elections would be a bit of an understatement.

The latest controversy stems from the fact that various Religious Right leaders are blasting the National Council for a New America for its lack of focus on social issues at it seeks to lay out the GOP’s agenda for moving the party forward.  

Though Rep. Eric Cantor has been working to smooth over the rift, David Paul Kuhn of Real Clear Politics tracked down several Religious Right leaders who are obviously growing increasingly fed-up with being marginalized and blamed for every defeat that befalls the GOP: 

There is a brooding sense within top social conservative circles that they have become the revolving scapegoat of the Republican Party. Many of the longtime leaders of the Christian right, from Richard Land to Tony Perkins to Gary Bauer, expressed resentment in extended interviews with a singular theme: that the most loyal GOP bloc has been so quickly thrown under many critics' bus.

"There are powerful interest groups in the party and in the country that are trying to scapegoat social conservatives," Land said, who has long served as a bridge between Southern Baptists' political concerns and GOP leadership. "It's people who have no problem ignoring facts."

"That's the pattern that has emerged over the last couple of decades," said Perkins, who heads the Family Research Council. "People want to find an easy excuse for the GOP's failures and they try to point to the social conservative issues and by extension social conservatives."

The Religious Right realizes that it does not control the Republican Party, pointing to the fact that John McCain was not their top choice in the 2008 primaries as evidence, with Gary Bauer admitting that the “social conservatives are not the gatekeeper of the Republican party,” no matter how much they sometimes act as if they are.

But they still expect their role in the party to be recognized and respected and, if they don’t start feeling appreciated says Land, the GOP might just wake up one day to find that they have all left, declaring "Republicans delude themselves to thinking that social conservatives will have no where else to go."

Of course, these sorts of threats happen every few years and never amount to anything because, as Kuhn points out, “a divorce between the Christian right and the GOP would leave Republicans in ruin.”  

And that is why Bauer says he doesn’t see it happening this time either because, come election time, both the party and the Religious Right base will realize that their fates are intricately linked: "I'm not concerned that they could actually be that stupid. There are whole areas of the country where the only reason the Republicans are competitive are because of values and social issues."

Right Wing Leftovers

  • As promised, Alan Keyes has gone ahead and gotten himself arrested at Notre Dame.
  • Politico has more on the on-going dispute between the Religious Right and the National Council for a New America.
  • Focus on the Family is asking its activists to contact Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter and ask him to veto SB 88, which grants domestic-partner benefits to the same-sex partners of state employees.
  • National Religious Broadcasters has joined the right-wing campaign against hate crimes legislation - and considering that Craig Parshall, husband of the ultra-right-wing Janet Parshall, is senior vice president and general counsel for the NRB, it doesn't come as much of a surprise.
  • Finally, Pat Robertson informs a viewer that she must break up with her atheist boyfriend and that they can't get married "because he is going to be serving the Devil."

Cantor Moves to Appease Huckabee and the Right

Just yesterday I wrote a post noting that Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council were not happy with the new National Council for a New America and it's obvious lack of concern about the social issues that are central to the Religious Right's agenda and wondered if Mike Huckabee might be about to emerge as key player in any unfolding drama.

Well, guess what?  Greg Sargent reports that that is exactly what is happening as Rep. Eric Cantor scrambles to appease the Right by reaching out to Huckabee:

In a fresh round of GOP infighting over the soul of the battered party, Mike Huckabee just took a shot at a host of potential primary rivals, disparaging Eric Cantor’s new group to revive the GOP, the National Council for a New America, and the high-profile Republicans that make up the group’s “panel of experts.”

The experts Huckabee was referring to include Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, and Bobby Jindal, all of whom are being talked about for 2012.

Huckabee’s broadside came in a statement attacking Cantor’s group, which Cantor has said was formed partly to “listen” to the American people.

“It is a sad day when our party comes to the point where we think it is necessary to form a `listening group’ to find out what Americans think we should be fighting for,” Huckabee said. “Our problem is not lack of `experts,’ but too many of them and not enough attention to the hard working people in our communities that aren’t connected to the Beltway, but to the heartland.”

In a sign that social conservatives aren’t in the mood to give Cantor’s group room to rebrand the party, Huckabee also took a shot at the group’s lack of immediate emphasis on social issues, saying that the group has dismissed “values voters” and urging an emphasis on “traditional marriage” and the GOP’s role as “a party that values life.”

Cantor spokesperson Brad Dayspring extended a conciliatory hand towards Huckabee.

“Eric reached out to Governor Huckabee, appreciates his efforts as a leader in our nation and he looks forward to remaining in close communication with all leaders,” Dayspring told me, adding that social issues would be a focus of Cantor’s group: “All issues, all topics, and all ideas will be included in the dialogue that the National Council for a New America will have.”

Will The Right, Unwilling to be Turned Aside, Turn to Huckabee?

Last week Steve Benen wrote a post about the National Council for a New America and its agenda for re-branding the Republican Party.  As he noted, the agenda covered issues like tax cuts, healthcare, energy, and national security while social issues were noticeably missing:

[W]hat may be the most interesting thing about this new group's "policy framework" is what it doesn't say. There's no mention of gays, abortion, state-sponsored religion, guns, or immigration. It's almost as if Republicans don't feel like fighting a culture war anymore.

Hey, activists in the GOP base, is sounds like the Republican Party is trying to throw you under the bus. Are you going to take this lying down?

As it turns out, the Religious Right isn’t about that take this lying down, judging by this Washington Update from the Family Research Council:

In another step away from its conservative roots, Republican members of the House unveiled The National Council for a New America in hopes of recasting the Party's ailing identity. The effort only underscores the Republicans' present identity crisis, as the GOP leadership kicked off the campaign devoid of the values that once caused voters to identify with the party.

The group's priorities, which were unveiled at a pizza parlor press conference, include the economy, health care, education, energy, and national security. Notice anything conspicuously absent? Former Gov. Jeb Bush explained the values void by saying it was time for the GOP to give up its "nostalgia" for Reagan-era ideas and look forward to new "relevant" ideas. (Yes, because that worked so well for Republicans in 2006 and 2008!) Bush ignored the fact that abandoning the array of principles that Reagan espoused is exactly what got the GOP into this mess. No one is suggesting that we try living in the past, but President Reagan's principles are the ones that guided our nation from its very inception. Turning away from those fundamental truths would be a death knell for the GOP as little would be left to distinguish the Republicans from the Democrats.

Too many Republicans leaders are running scared on the claims of the Left and the media that social conservatism is a dead-end for the GOP. If that were the case, why are pro-family leaders like Mike Huckabee creating such excitement in the conservative base? The Republican establishment doesn't draw a crowd. Governor Sarah Palin does. Also, take a look at the recent Pew Research poll, which showed overall support for abortion in America has dropped eight percentage points in the last year and support for it among moderate and liberal Republicans has dropped a whopping 24%. Based on that, how can the GOP suggest that life is a losing issue? If there were a road sign for the GOP on this new journey, it would read: Welcome to the wilderness. You're going to be there for awhile.

The interesting side-note here is that FRC is, for the first time that I can recall, approvingly citing Mike Huckabee. During the GOP primary campaign, they and pretty much every other “mainstream” Religious Right group were decidedly unexcited about him and conspicuously unsupportive of his candidacy – something which Huckabee repeatedly complained about during the campaign and continues to complain about even today.

Since then, Huckabee has been working to position himself as the champion of the social conservatives within the party and now it is looking as if his efforts might be starting to pay off.  The Religious Right, growing concerned that the GOP could start shoving them aside in an effort to start winning elections, might soon find that the man for whom they had no love the last time around to be the one to whom they’ll have to turn to try and save their place in the party.

Outside the Beltway Thinking

One of the clichés of modern politics is that “outside the Beltway” is where the “real” America exists.  While those “inside the Beltway” are nothing but a bunch of politicos, wonks, and lobbyists who represent everything that is wrong with politics, those who live “outside the Beltway” are the manifestations of everything true, right, and decent about this nation.

And, as someone who actually lives “outside the Beltway,” allow me to say that this is undoubtedly and universally true.  Everyone who lives “inside” is a horrible, horrible person while all of us who live “outside” are virtuous and delightful. 

As such, if you want to get in touch with everything good about America, you have to get “outside the Beltway” which, as Steve Benen reports, is exactly what Republicans are doing as they set about re-branding their party:

As part of the Republican Party's rebranding effort, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) hosted a National Council for a New America event at a pizza shop over the weekend. Roll Call reported, "Cantor said the idea of the road show is to gather ideas from outside the Beltway to shape the Republican agenda."

CQ had a similar item: "After consecutive catastrophic electoral losses ... Republican leaders are turning their attention outside the Capital Beltway -- and outside their severely diminished party ranks -- to gather ideas from the public that they hope will help them rebound."

Cantor said the meeting represented a baby step in the GOP’s effort to get "outside the Beltway."  There was only one problem, as Benen pointed out - it was actually held “inside the Beltway”:  

At the risk of sounding picky, it's probably worth noting that Republicans started gathering ideas "from outside the Beltway" at an event inside the Beltway.

A place called Pie-tanza, in an Arlington strip mall, hosted the event. Pie-tanza is just a few minutes from the Washington Golf and Country Club. Indeed, it's only about six miles from Capitol Hill.  

Indeed.  See that big circular road?  It’s the Capital Beltway.  And see that “A” inside that big circular road? That’s Pie-tanza.

It might be easier for Cantor and the Republicans to gather ideas from “outside the Beltway” if their next meeting is actually held, you know, outside of the Beltway.

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