Thanks to Greg Sargent, in his new personal blog The Horse’s Mouth, for a heads-up on Rudy Guiliani’s appearance at a fundraiser for Ralph Reed down in Georgia yesterday. Yes, indeedy, “America’s Mayor” lent his name and mug to the doughty if dingy former Poster Boy of the Christian Right, who is struggling against the backwash from his complicity in the Jack Abramoff scandal and other past sins to get himself nominated for the mighty post of Lieutenant Governor of Georgia. Greg’s post led me to check in with the indispensable Political Insider blog maintained by Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporters Jim Galloway and Tom Baxter. Their take on the Guiliani appearance noted that ol’ Rudy followed up his appearance for Ralph by cheerfully telling reporters he was still in favor of civil domestic partnership rights for gays and lesbians. This is, ironically, a position that’s anathema to Ralph and his supporters, who are currently up in arms about a state court decision striking down Georgia’s constitutional ban on any kind of official acknowledgement of gay and lesbian relationships. Indeed, George W. Bush’s disinclination to talk much these days about a federal constitutional ban on gay marriage or anything like it is one of the major grievances of the Cultural Right, and one of the reasons, along with his opposition to Deporting All Mexicans, that the “conservative base” is threatening to take a dive in November. Naturally Greg’s analysis compares Rudy to John McCain as a former ideological heretic getting a long look from GOP establishment types worried about 2008. But there is a big difference between the two. As Michael Kinsley explains in today’s Washington Post, McCain’s a guy who’s problem is that people who largely agree with him ideologically don’t like him or trust him. Rudy’s a guy that conservatives like and trust, but don’t agree with. His attack-dog appearance at the 2004 Republican Convention showed he was willing to please the conservative base on the national security topics they agree on, and his agreement to eat rubber chicken with Ralph Reed shows he’s willing to overlook differences on domestic and cultural issues. But are his putative partners in the GOP really willing to accept his positions in favor of what they think of as Holocaust-level baby-killing and rampant, triumphal sodomy?Personally, I’ve never taken Rudy’s presidential prospects that seriously. And until he starts spending less time raking in cash on the motivational- speaker circuit, and more time hanging out at pot-luck dinners in Iowa, I won’t be convinced that events like his appearance for Reed represent anything other than fluffing pillows with the Right. But if I’m wrong, and Rudy commits himself to a presidential race, then this man who at some roast once jokingly (in drag, no less) called himself “a Republican pretending to be a Democrat pretending to be a Republican” is going to have to discard the disguises and tell us precisely why he clings to the party of Ralph Reed, and George W. Bush. And a Guiliani candidacy would definitely hurt McCain, and increase the likelihood that someone (Allen? Gingrich?) will emerge as the True Conservative alternative to front-runners who have dissed the almighty Base.
TDS Strategy Memos
Latest Research from:
By Ed Kilgore
Watching an intra-Democratic argument on voting rights strategy intensify in Washington, I offered some advice to both sides at New York:
There has been an underlying disagreement within the mostly Democratic coalition favoring voting rights that was nicely captured in this New York Times report on Friday:
“A quiet divide between President Biden and the leaders of the voting rights movement burst into the open on Thursday, as 150 organizations urged him to use his political mettle to push for two expansive federal voting rights bills that would combat a Republican wave of balloting restrictions … In private calls with voting rights groups and civil rights leaders, White House officials and close allies of the president have expressed confidence that it is possible to ‘out-organize voter suppression,’ according to multiple people familiar with the conversations.”
Both sides in this argument are partly wrong. Those who expect Joe Biden to force the For the People Act or the John Lewis Voting Rights Act through the Senate via some major revision in the ability to filibuster are probably expecting the impossible. Yes, perhaps if Biden personally and insistently and abrasively lobbied Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema to abandon her very consistent defense of the filibuster, up to and including encouragement of a primary challenge to her when she is up for reelection in 2024, she might decide her current and very insistent independent-maverick “branding” isn’t going to keep working for her. But Joe Manchin? He would be thrilled to get attacked by a Democratic president or Democratic advocacy groups for insisting that he won’t support voting-rights measures unless at least some Republicans support them. His state is so very red that the threat of a primary challenge to the sole remaining successful West Virginia Democrat is a laugher.
Short of a nuclear attack on West Virginia, it’s hard to identify anything Biden might do to Manchin that wouldn’t run a high risk of backfiring. And he does need Manchin on the reconciliation bills Democrats are using to get around the filibuster to enact Biden’s social and economic agenda. It’s just too bad voting-rights bills don’t qualify for reconciliation.
Yes, it is intensely frustrating that Biden cannot bring himself to come out forthrightly for filibuster reform, but it probably doesn’t matter since it is not happening unless the Democratic Senate Conference gets bigger, making senators like Manchin and Sinema irrelevant on the subject. So at some point voting-rights advocates need to focus on that goal.
At the same time, White House claims that Democrats can “out-organize voter suppression” are partially wrong as well. Yes, restrictive provisions like voter-ID requirements, limits on voting by mail, and even voter-roll purges can be countered and perhaps overcome by intensive efforts to educate and energize the voters Republicans are trying to keep from the polls. But you cannot out-organize a partisan gerrymander, or a law that lets election officials or state legislators overturn the outcome of an election after votes are cast.
Voting-rights advocates will eventually have to play the cards dealt to them by the system as it currently exists. That means refraining from too much anger aimed at Democratic pols who have little choice but to concede defeat on some legislation and concentrate on legislation (i.e., those reconciliation bills with many items vital to the people whose voting rights are also under attack) they can enact with no margin for error in the Senate and little in the House. At the same time, Biden and his staff and Democratic “pragmatists” in Congress should never for a moment be cavalier about the legislative obstacles they face in defending democracy itself. They may have to accept a tactical defeat on voting rights in this Congress. But they should never, ever, give up on making it happen later if not sooner.