As my colleague The Moose reported earlier today, Ralph Reed gave Georgia Democrats something to get excited about by officially announcing his candidacy for Lieutenant Governor in 2006. This race, folks, will be more fun than a barrel of monkeys at a creationism conference.Why, you might ask, is the Lordly Ralph, the legendary architect of Christian Right politics and more recently the extremely successful Georgia GOP chairman and Bush-Cheney strategist, so interested in presiding over the Georgia State Senate? In an earlier post, I suggested that he may be the victim of the Raquel Welch Syndrome, the natural if often hopeless desire to become respected as a serious practitioner of one’s chosen art, whether it’s acting or governing. But I’ve since learned that Reed has harbored a burning ambition since childhood to serve as Chief Executive of the Empire State of the South, and views the LG job as a stepping stone to that Seat of Power, a necessity since one of his political makeover projects, Governor Sonny Perdue, is running for re-election in ’06.But first Ralph must overcome a primary challenge from another guy who’s been seeing a future Governor in the bathroom mirror since he became old enough to reach the sink, Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, the scion of a well-known political family who’s been elected statewide three times. The first published polls show Oxendine with a healthy lead over Reed. And he will not readily concede Christian Right support to Ralph: in his first race for Insurance Commissioner back in 1994, Oxendine’s big proposal was to exempt churches from paying some state tax on insurance policies, arguing that he didn’t want to “tax God” (you just can’t make this stuff up).But I suspect that Oxendine’s campaign against Reed will be, to paraphrase Hunter S. Thompson, “like sending out a three-toed sloth to take turf from a wolverine.” With all due respect to the Insurance Commissioner, he’s not exactly a Big Strategic Thinker. In fact, he’d probably draw even odds in a game of State Capitals with Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, the guy who’s besmirching my surname in his campaign for governor this year.Should Reed dispatch Oxendine, the real fun will begin. Former state legislator Greg Hecht, who ran a respectable but losing campaign for Congress in 2002, has already announced for the Democratic nomination. But the buzz is that Hecht will likely face one of my favorite politicians, Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond. Thurmond is a smart, charming, funny, and accomplished African-American with a proven track record of biracial appeal (he used to joke that he did particularly well in heavily-white counties bordering South Carolina where they thought he was Strom Thurmond’s grandson).If Reed is the GOPer in the race, the Democratic nominee, whoever it is, will have no trouble raising money in-state and nationally, and will need no more than fifteen minutes to compile an oppo-research file so toxic that they’ll have to handle it with tongs. Indeed, Oxendine aside, the biggest obstacle to a Reed candidacy may be the possibility that Ralph will have to take crucial time off the campaign trail to cool his heels in various courtrooms and congressional hearing-rooms preparing to explain his alleged role in the ever-widening Abramoff Indian Tribe Casino Shakedown scandal, a truly bizarre tale of corruption and hypocrisy that is likely to tranfix the whole hep political world at some point this year. I’m not the only one who’s looking forward to the moment when Reed has to testify before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee chaired by Sen. John McCain, the object of the famous 2000 South Carolina primary smear-and-whispering campaign by Bush operatives, reportedly under the direction of one Ralph Reed.If that’s not enough intrigue to keep you bookmarking that Atlanta Journal-Constitution web page (or checking out Reed’s exceptionally cheesy campaign site), there’s additional irony in Ralph’s aspiration to become Lieutenant Governor of Georgia. In between his better-known gigs with the Christian Coalition, the 2002 Georgia coordinated campaign, and the two Bush campaigns, Ralph tried his hand at being a down-home paid political consultant. In 1998, he was the key strategist for a Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor named Mitch Scandalakis, who ran a series of ads that (a) made an overt racial appeal, and (b) accused his opponent, Mark Taylor, of a completely fabricated cocaine addiction. Not only did Ralph’s candidate get righteously stomped like a Klansman at a Hip-Hop club; the backlash against his tactics took down most of the whole state Republican ticket.If that’s not enough irony for you, there’s this: when Ralph’s Republican buddies took over the state Senate in 2003, they stripped the Lieutenant Governor’s Office–occupied by the self-same smear target Mark Taylor–of most of its considerable powers. If Ralph somehow wins, he will have to go back to those same senators (assuming his party hangs onto control) and explain why he needs to lord it over them with powers denied to his predecessor.All in all, it’s going to be a wild ride.
TDS Strategy Memos
Latest Research from:
By Ed Kilgore
After watching Donald Trump’s wildly applauded address to this year’s CPAC conference, I wrote an assessment at New York:
In his rapturously received 88-minute address to the 2021 CPAC conference on Sunday, former president Donald Trump didn’t give his listeners what so many of them wanted: a pledge to run for president again in 2024 (though he teased the crowd with his obvious availability). But he vented his outsized spleen fully, and left no doubt that the future of Trumpism will be its past, revived and vindicated.
Much of the speech was rehashed from the brag sessions of the 2020 campaign, treating his administration as one long parade of unprecedented triumphs on every single front. Accordingly, Joe Biden’s extremely brief presidency was condemned as the worst in history already thanks to the 46th president’s reversal of the policies of the 45th (especially on immigration policy), which were one long parade of unprecedented triumphs on every single front. Viewers were left with the distinct impression that a near-utopian future for the country would be as simple as the replacement of Biden with — well, if not Trump — then someone with exactly the same policies and sterling leadership qualities.In tune with the reactionary atmosphere of this and every other Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump suggested that resistance to the plans of the hated opposition was enough of an agenda. Twice he asserted that Democratic governance would put the country on a short road to full-fledged communism. But it was remarkable how little he bothered to outline any ideas for the future other than the restoration of the recent past.
The one exception was his bloody-shirt demands for “election integrity” legislation in every state, which included a universal revocation of no-excuse absentee balloting (and all in-person early voting, since he called for a “single election day”) and universal voter ID requirements. It’s an audacious proposal, considering that 13 states (including Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin) carried by Biden already have voter ID requirements, and fully 34 (including 12 states carried by Trump) had no-excuse voting by mail before the COVID-19 pandemic and the marginal liberalization of deadlines and procedures that Trump blames for his defeat.
Apparently Trump’s “landslide” victory required tighter voting rules than the country has had for many years. It’s unlikely a return to the spirit of the days of poll taxes and literacy tests is going to pass muster with federal and state courts (Trump, of course, blasted the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court that included three of his nominees, for lacking the “courage” to overturn Biden’s victory). But Republican subscription to this terrible assault on voting rights is another way that GOP elected officials can bend the knee to Trump.
Other than voter suppression, the future of Trumpism as outlined by its founder seemed to revolve around vengeance against RINOs, the ancient conservative epithet that now seems to be defined strictly by a lack of loyalty to Donald Trump. To feral roars from the crowd, he named every single congressional Republican who voted for his impeachment or conviction, suggesting that all must go before the GOP would be able to match the communist-bent Democrats in viciousness and self-discipline.
It appears, then, that Trump has determined to ensure that Republicans go into 2022 and 2024 as a political force dedicated to the restoration of his legacy with or without his personal leadership. For the most part, the dominant ideological movement in the party and the hallowed conservative movement is his. Indeed, one of the more unmistakeable phenomena of CPAC 2021 is the extent to which Republican activists now treat the conservative and MAGA movements as identical. And if he chooses to keep control of both movements, who can challenge him? The obvious successor to Trumpism is ever more Trumpism, and the obvious successor to Trump is still Trump.