Monday, January 11, 2016


There's a widespread belief that Democrats are likely to win this year's presidential election no matter what, and that the GOP is utterly doomed if Donald Trump is the nominee. I don't share that belief -- but even if it's accurate, even if a Trump-Clinton or Trump-Sanders race ends in a Democratic landslide, I can guarantee you that the GOP will recover from the Trump campaign almost instantly.

How? The press will do what it always does when Republicans stumble: It will give the GOP a do-over.

Don't believe me? Go to Politico today and read about Paul Ryan, who's positioning himself to be the face of that do-over:
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Paul Ryan talked about the ills of the criminal-justice system. He quizzed GOP presidential hopefuls at a forum here about what they’ve done to help the impoverished and vowed that Republicans, if they put their minds to it, could “make breakthroughs” in the war on poverty.

This is what Ryan wants his Republican Party to look like. But it bears little resemblance to the one on display in the presidential primary, a battle that some senior Republicans say has gotten so coarse that it’s putting their congressional majorities at risk.

So as Ryan tries to reassert the party’s substantive side with a series of policy rollouts in the coming months -- a conservative replacement to Obamacare, tax reform, a criminal justice bill -- he’s also looking to give the House GOP its own identity.
I know some of you think there's going to be a brokered convention and Paul Ryan's going to emerge as the presidential nominee, but that won't happen -- even if they lose, Trump and Ted Cruz will send a lot of angry delegates to the convention, and those people aren't going to vote for Ryan, who's aroused right-wing ire for cutting deals with Democrats.

No, Ryan's just positioning himself to be an alternative face of the GOP now, and the face of the rebranded GOP in the event that Trump goes down in flames and takes the Senate majority with him.

The so-called liberal media has always loved Ryan, and will be delighted to argue that he represents the real GOP, not Trump. The Politico story, like so many past Ryan stories, goes moist-eyed as he pays lip service to the notion of addressing the issue of poverty. It also glosses over the real meaning of one of his agenda items:
Ryan said in the interview he believes the GOP will craft a criminal justice reform plan in the next six months, a major development in the party’s agenda....

“The silly season is going to kick in pretty fast,” Ryan said of the campaign for the White House. “I think criminal justice reform is probably the biggest [issue] we can make a difference on. … There’s a real way forward on that.”
The reason for the focus on this issue becomes clearer when you understand the real reason right-wing zealots such as the Koch brothers have made criminal justice reform a priority:
But, as the Kochs ride the wave of momentum toward criminal justice reform, it is becoming increasingly clear that part of their agenda would actually make it harder to prosecute corporate violations of environmental and financial laws that protect the public from corporate wrongdoing. The changes would make it harder to hold executives and their employees responsible for violating U.S. laws and would protect their financial interests, at the public's expense.

Over at least the past five years, the Kochs and Koch-backed groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have been pushing to increase the "intent" standard for criminal violations, particularly for so-called "white collar" crime and executive suite criminals....

A bill that passed the U.S. House Judiciary Committee [in November], sponsored by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), doesn't address mass incarceration, one of the primary concerns that progressives have been raising for years. His bill would instead overhaul many federal criminal laws by requiring prosecutors to prove that a person or corporation "knowingly" engaged in illegal conduct and additionally "knew" or should have known that the conduct violated federal law. Koch Industries is one of his top contributors in this election cycle.

The bill's default criminal intent standard is strikingly similar to the ALEC "Criminal Intent Protection Act," and tracks policies promoted by Koch-backed organizations for the past five years.
(Michigan governor Rick Snyder, by the way, signed a state criminal-intent bill into law just before Christmas.)

The specifics don't matter, though -- to the casual observer, Ryan seems mature and responsible. And just as the press allowed George W. Bush to banish the memory of Newt Gingrich in 2000, and allowed the Tea Party to banish Bush's memory starting in 2009, Ryan will get to be the face of the GOP in 2017 if that's what it takes to salvage the party's reputation.

The GOP will not fail. The mainstream press won't allow that to happen.


Victor said...

If the GOP does unravel, the MSM will still be putting lipstick on that corpse until there's nothing left to put lipstick on.

And then, they'll still find ways to somehow or other prop-up that corpse!

You can't blame "both sides," if one of them is long, long dead.

sdhays said...

Will the media have a choice? I totally agree that they will be desperate to give the Republicans a do-over (they already want to). But 1) no matter what happens, Trump isn't going away and 2) unless the Democrats get some kind of magic landslide that removes Republicans from positions of power for at least 2 years, the Republicans are going to make it rain with their own poo, just as they did in 2010 and onward. How long will Paul Ryan be able maintain the facade before they depose him too?

The Trump phenomenon is exposing the reality of the Republican coalition, and that genie isn't going back in the bottle until that coalition is drummed from the halls of power repeatedly for several election cycles. So I think that maybe, just maybe, all Washington Post's horses and all CNN's men won't be able to restore the veneer of respectability to the Republican Party after a Trump or Cruz candidacy. Reality may be too bright for the media to successfully paper over.

One can hope...

Unknown said...

We'll see. The problem for Ryan is that for all he talks about "what have you done to help the impoverished" an examination of the four or five iterations of his economic plan "The Path to Prosperity" starting from when he was just the Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee shows that they start and stop with reducing tax on all forms of return to capital to zero. No tax on capital gains, dividends, interest coupled with elimination of the estate tax means that 99% of the income of the top 0.1% would never be taxed at all. And neither would that of any of their kids. It would kick Picketty's R>G into steroidal fueled overdrive.

Rubio's version of this in 2016 is a pale version of Pure Paul R. At some point words fail and CBO scoring kicks in. And even though Ryan has had some success in bullying CBO to score his unofficial plans in the past, scoring actual legislation promoted by the actual Speaker of the House is something else. A couple of years ago at the joint blog I post at I called the Ryan Path "Tax Freedom for Billionaires". And that is exactly what it is. Paid for in fractional part by gutting all forms of Social Insurance. And no amount of "hey I just want to improve the lives of poor people by starving them into prosperity" is going to entirely mask that.