By Al Giordano
Saturday night marks ten years since the first midnight that Narco News - of which The Field is part - appeared on the Internet and what else can be said other than that we're real happy that you, kind reader, have come here and have stuck around, and that we're real proud to be able to keep doing the work of authentic journalism day in, day out.
If you're in the New York area, join with more than 15 graduates of the School of Authentic Journalism, and other writers, journalists, media makers, artists, personalities, Field Hands and readers for a memorable night of food, drink and conversation.
If you can't attend, please consider making a contribution via this link:
Or send a check to:
The Fund for Authentic Journalism
PO Box 241
Natick, MA 01760 US
If you can attend and need directions to the celebration - it begins at 8 p.m. on Saturday in Fort Greene, Brooklyn - email me at email@example.com
On Saturday night, the next ten years begin. Stand with us as we ring in a new decade.
By Al Giordano
Students and professors from the School of Authentic Journalism visit the headquarters of the daily Por Esto! in Cancún in February of 2010. Photo DR Noah Friedman-Rudovsky.
Greetings Field Hands and all from the little town that created your correspondent, where we are getting everything ready for Saturday's Narco News 10th Anniversary Celebration (hope to see you there: to rsvp, click here).
And where, also, tonight, Wednesday, some of the graduates of the School of Authentic Journalism and I will be leading a discussion on Authentic Journalism as Civil Resistance at the Brecht Forum at 7:30 p.m.
From the Brecht Forum announcement:
This month marks ten years since Narco News (www.narconews.com) began publishing “on the drug war and democracy from Latin America.” Launched as a means to publish reports from Mexico by Al Giordano – New York native and community organizer-turned-journalist – Narco News fast grew into a vital radical news source in seven languages with hundreds of collaborators who walk alongside social movements and report on civil resistance, organizing campaigns and official corruption throughout the hemisphere.
Four months after its inception, Giordano and Narco News, together with veteran Mexican journalist Mario Menéndez Rodríguez, found themselves as defendants in a lawsuit brought by the National Bank of Mexico (now part of Citigroup) in New York (Banamex v. Mario Menéndez, Al Giordano and Narco News). In December 2001 they won the landmark decision from the New York Supreme Court extending First Amendment protections to Narco News reporters and, by extension, to all Internet journalists, paving the legal path for the online journalism that exists from so many corners today.
The global attention from that court case - together with the daily reports on social movements from Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Honduras, Venezuela, from all 31 states of the Mexican Republic and so many other parts of the hemisphere - brought a wave of emails from young journalists, community organizers and change agents throughout the world asking if they could come work or intern in Narco News’ offices. Not having an office, Giordano and colleagues decided instead to form The School of Authentic Journalism, which has trained scores of communicators from more than 40 countries in investigative and online journalism, documentary film production, community radio and the creation of viral videos on the Internet.
Giordano, who during his final year in New York (1996-97) authored “The Medium is The Middleman: For a Revolution Against the Media,” a document that applied anarcho-syndicalist, Situationist and other histories and philosophies to “the problem of media,” comes to the Brecht Forum on April 14 to talk about the philosophical underpinnings of what he calls “the authentic journalism renaissance."
In the ten years since Narco News was born, social movements have grown to rely on producing their own media to be heard and seen and to communicate among their participants, and the mass media has become increasingly dependent on citizen journalism to cover international social conflicts. The act of reporting coherently, freed of the corporate constraints of “objectivity” and obsessions with the machinations of those in power “up above,” of using a cell phone as a video camera, of editing a viral video, and of deploying other decentralized weapons of communication to report on the struggles from “down below,” has itself become a form of civil resistance. Giordano will be joined at the Brecht Forum by invited graduates of the School of Authentic Journalism to help lead the conversation, where they will also discuss the urgent responsibility of radical communicators to grow “faster, better and more coherent” at covering news in ways that make authentic journalists part of the struggles they report, and that help, and not harm, those movements' prospects for victory.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about some scholarships available to independent journalists and community organizers to be able to attend gratis.
Sliding scale: $6/$10/$15
Free for Brecht Forum Subscribers
Post-event we'll move to some nearby hole in the wall to celebrate the birthday of School of Authentic Journalism graduate Ter Garcia, native of Spain visiting NY (I've told her that in her honor the city is keeping the subway open for 24 hours...).
By Al Giordano
I haven’t seen anybody ring the obvious bell on yesterday’s “straw poll” results at the Republican Southern Leadership Conference, but the key word there is Southern, and (the Southern Belle?) tolls for thee, Mike Huckabee.
Members of the RSLC are primarily from the South, and even in the case of candidates busing in their supporters to stack the poll, most of those folks had to come from either the South or from Texas to go cast a ballot in Louisiana.
Rewind two years to the February 9, 2008 primary in the Bayou State and Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee won 43 percent of the vote to 41 percent for John McCain. Mitt Romney garnered 6 percent and Ron Paul got 5 percent.
Huckabee also won Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Arkansas in ’08, so for him to come in fifth place in this straw poll that took place among party activists in what should be his geographical base territory is nothing short of devastating for his 2012 presidential prospects. It probably also indicates that he's not working that hard for it, which would firm up speculation that he doesn't plan on running anyway.
I had speculated here a few days ago here some reasons why Huckabee would be unlikely to become a candidate, and yesterday’s results increase that likelihood, leaving Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich to duke it out to be the Christian Right’s standard bearer in the Anybody-but-Mitt primaries and caucuses.
Additionally, scratch the surface of the first round results (where Romney edged out US Rep. Ron Paul, of Texas, by one vote to win the straw poll) and there are two candidates that significantly advanced their causes yesterday: Romney and Gingrich.
The deep south is the toughest region for Romney (for the Evangelical bias against Mormons that we discussed earlier this week) and so he astro-turfed an “Evangelicals for Mitt” group to carry his water for him at the RSLC convention while skipping out on it himself to avoid any YouTube moments of getting booed or otherwise embarrassed. That Romney is this well organized in his weakest region two years out signals that, A. He’s running a fifty state strategy, and, B. Money can buy you love.
I still believe Romney has little to no chance of winning the nomination because the anti-Mitt vote will coalesce behind the last surviving alternative to defeat him.
What Gingrich showed yesterday was that he can go toe to toe with Palin in the sub-primary to be that candidate. And if Huckabee doesn’t run, Gingrich becomes heir apparent to be the Southern candidate in the contest, which gives him a Super Tuesday February 2012 shot to knock Palin out of the game altogether and spend the rest of the primaries as the Anti-Mitt.
Furthermore, this straw poll included a second choice ballot that, when combined with the first choice results, shows a first tier troika emerging between Romney, Palin and Gingrich. And that will lead to some delicious moments as they try to tear each other to pieces. (And the nasty meter a lso would rise dramatically without Huckabee - the archetypal middle child always ready to play the Rodney King "can't we all get along?" role - on the debate stage.)
Follow my reasoning on this, and then I’ll add some chatter about Ron Paul and Rick Perry, among others.
Here were the first round results of the straw poll:
Initial Choice (If the primary election for president were held today, for whom would you vote?)
Mitt Romney (439) 24 percent
Ron Paul (438) 24 percent
Sarah Palin (330) 18 percent
Newt Gingrich (321) 18 percent
Mike Huckabee (80) 4 percent
Tim Pawlenty (54) 3 percent
Mike Pence (58) 3 percent
Rick Santorum (41) 2 percent
Gary Johnson (3) 1 percent
Come on! Four percent, Mike? So, not only is Huckabee plunging down into the second tier quicksand, but Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty can’t get out of it: two wooly mammoths in the tar pit, sloshing around with Indiana US Rep. Mike Pence, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. (And if South Dakota Sen. John Thune, or former RNC chair Haley Barbour jump in, they, too, will start from the tar pit and have to navigate their way up to the first tier due to lack of name recognition.)
But now look at the second choices of the Southern party faithful:
Second Choice (Who would be your second choice in the Republican Primary Election for president?)
Newt Gingrich (339) 20 percent
Sarah Palin (332) 20 percent
Mitt Romney (242) 14 percent
Mike Huckabee (178) 11 percent
Mike Pence (141) 8 percent
Rick Santorum (125) 7 percent
Tim Pawlenty (114) 7 percent
Gary Johnson (104) 6 percent
Ron Paul (98) 6 percent
The second ballot is interesting on many levels, because it shows the comfort factor that Romney, Gingrich and Palin have, each, among about 38 percent of the attendees. It also shows who has room to grow, and who benefits as other candidates decline to run or stumble early on. Primary voters tend to coalesce around frontrunners with every new primary or caucus.
The sharp drop off for Ron Paul – from the stellar to the cellar – from ballot one to ballot two pretty much explains why the nomination is out of reach for him on this planet. In 2008, Paul got about five percent of the total GOP primary votes nationwide, bringing him a paltry 35 delegates to the convention. Even if he were to double that in two years it still would leave him out of the real fight.
To best analyze these second ballot results we first have to look at where the Paul voters went. About 80 were so enthusiastic for their man that they didn’t bother to cast a second ballot. Another 104 went to Johnson, the most truly libertarian of the remaining candidates (and that pretty much describes what percent – about a quarter – of Paul voters are true blue libertarians, as opposed to the hooligan yahoos they’ve thrown in with). The rest likely divided up between Pence, Pawlenty, Gingrich and Palin, probably in that order, with maybe some flat tax believers falling into the Huckabee camp. I doubt that many Paul votes, if any, went to Romney, with the man-of-the-system cologne that he exudes.
Now, let’s look at the combined percentages from the two ballots cast:
Mitt Romney (681) 20 percent
Sarah Palin (662) 19 percent
Newt Gingrich (660) 19 percent
Ron Paul (536) 16 percent
Mike Huckabee (258) 8 percent
Mike Pence (199) 6 percent
Tim Pawlenty (168) 5 percent
Rick Santorum (166) 5 percent
Gary Johnson (107) 3 percent
So there are your two tiers, plus Ron Paul off in a tier of his own.
As for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who spoke at the conference but asked for his name to be kept off the straw ballot, I watched some of his speech and could barely sit through it. Know why? Because to every American that is not Texan, the guy sounds exactly like George W. Bush. (And as Mark Halperin noted, practically nobody even mentioned Bush during their speeches; the nightmare is still too fresh.) Sure, Perry, if he runs, will have lots of money, he’ll have all the Texas delegates (which could make him a convention kingmaker), but he will not be able to avoid reminding everyone else of Dubya, which even for Republicans that liked Bush still sounds Pavlov’s Bell as a signifier for electoral defeat. So while I’m sympathetic to the commenters here who warned not to underestimate Perry, I see his path to national traction to be very difficult because of the ghost of Bush.
If I had to pick which candidate I’d rather be in a three-way first tier between Romney, Palin and Gingrich, my money would be on Newt today. He is less likely to say something jaw-droppingly stupid than Palin, and far less likely to be perceived as flip-flopping, sterile, or ideologically weak as Romney.
The computer keeps spitting out the name Gingrich from many different scenarios that could happen in the long two years ahead. That said, you betcha that the oppo research teams of Romney and Palin are working overtime to find the perfect skeleton in Newt’s closet. But, also, Gingrich’s oppo research monkeys are likewise digging up dirt on the other two. And I ask you: which of the three is the most nasty and Machiavellian when it comes to throwing the dirt, and knowing exactly when to dish it?
Also, for Field Hands and political junkies in the New York City area, I’ve just added another event to my upcoming visit there: A gathering of NYC Kossacks and bloggers on Tuesday, April 20, 6 p.m. at Zanzibar, to the left of midtown. Should be a great free-wheeling discussion. Maybe I'll bring my bookie from the Bronx to coordinate a 2012 GOP nomination betting pool...
By Al Giordano
One of the reasons we use a horizontal learning model for the School of Authentic Journalism is that frequently we professors become the students and the scholars end up teaching vital skills and lessons, including sometimes by leading plenary sessions. At February’s j-school I asked Milena Velis to do that as she’s part of an organization in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that I view as having developed a model for authentic journalism that can and ought to be replicated everywhere: The Media Mobilizing Project.
Milena Velis and Rev. Jim Lawson at the 2010 School of Authentic Journalism. DR 2010 Kara Newhouse.
Two years ago this month, a then recently-formed MMP invited me to Philly to conduct a workshop on how Narco News was developed, share the lessons we have learned from it, and the underlying philosophical and organizing principles behind the work we do. There, I was met by a diverse group of about 60 people: union leaders, members of neighborhood, civil rights, student and immigrant groups, and community organizers of many stripes. Frustrated that the commercial media either distorted or ignored community organizing efforts in their city, they had come together with the goal of helping each other create their own media from below. They had a lot of ideas of their own and peppered me with smart questions for almost three hours. Then they took me out to a karaoke bar, plied me with beer, made me sing, and asked still more questions. They do know how to organize!
As the video you are about to see demonstrates, two years later, the Media Mobilizing Project has changed the history of political organizing in its city. From organizing Walmart workers to supporting striking taxi drivers and neighbors opposed to casino construction, they’ve stepped onto the terrain that the commercial media had abandoned: giving voice and image and communications skills and tools to these movements. They’ve trained hundreds of organizers to use cameras, microphones and the Internet for communication, and now host three radio shows – one by students, one by labor organizers and another in the Spanish language – and are developing a television show at present. The website and other media they’ve created has also broken ground in improving communications systems within the struggles, and between different movements working on different causes.
This is not the case of an "NGO" or an outside group of "professionals" coming in to teach the organizers, but, rather, one of organizers and media makers teaching each other, on a similar horizontal learning system that we deploy at the School of Authentic Journalism. It is a bona fide homegrown movement.
The Media Mobilizing Project accomplished all that without a big money chest or asking permission from any authority. They just got together and organized each other to do it themselves. As you watch this video, think about how its model could be applied to your community, and about who else in your own circles you’ll want to show it that might be interested in launching a similar grassroots project:
School of Authentic Journalism scholar Ter Garcia of the class of 2010, who has remained in Mexico from her native Spain since the school completed in mid-February, produced this video, and shares with us some of the techniques she did to do it:
This video is based on the plenary session given by Milena Velis and videotaped by the Viral Video Team at the School of Authentic Journalism, together with images that enrich and illustrate the narration.
The Media Mobilizing Project is an organization that uses communications media as a weapon in struggle. So when it came time to produce this video, the videos already produced by MMP, available on its website and on Youtube, were thus very helpful to complete this video. In the case of the history of the Media Mobilizing Project and the influence it took from the Zapatista movement and that of Martin Luther King, I searched for images at Archive.org since that is a database of documents that utilize a Creative Commons license. In the same way, the soundtrack for the video was found in another free license music database known as Jamendo. Screenshots from the Media Mobilizing Project’s blog were captured with Screenium software (one can download a test program of the software that allows one to capture up to 30 seconds of an image. To best render the screen shots while using Final Cut Pro software, first I saved them as Quicktime films, since the still image captured by Screenium can otherwise present problems with Final Cut Pro, but using Quicktime can be exported at the size of 720x480, and that way the image has better quality for the video.
It should be noted that Ter’s background, prior to attending the School, was as a daily newspaper reporter, not a video producer or editor. At the School, she was part of the Documentary Filmmaking work group. Prior to the school she had not used Final Cut Pro software, or any of the others she lists, above, to produce this video. Some weeks later, you’ve just watched a newsreel that she produced from cradle to grave.
Ter Garcia (fourth from left) with the Documentary Filmmaking work group at the 2010 School of Authentic Journalism. DR 2010 Jill Freidberg.
That’s very much the philosophy of the both Media Mobilizing Project and the School of Authentic Journalism: One doesn’t need to attend four years or two years of or even one semester of expensive journalism or cinema schools to learn to do this work and do it well. Experience is gained by doing it, and once experience is gained, we have a responsibility to pass it on to others and multiply these skills, to democratize them.
As it becomes increasingly evident that the commercial media doesn’t serve democracy at the grassroots level, it is correspondingly urgent to construct media from within the ranks of those who organize, a media from below. Through the Media Mobilizing Project, as you’ve just seen, taxi drivers and Walmart clerks and community organizers have now become video producers, radio hosts, investigative reporters and Internet journalists. And it has mobilized so many people, from social sectors that previously did not communicate or organize much with each other, to do this in just two years.
This is the future that ten years ago we dreamed about at Narco News. And that future is happening now.
I'll add that on Wednesday evening, April 14, at 7:30 p.m., we'll be talking more about Authentic Journalism as Civil Resistance in New York City at the Brecht Forum at 451 West Street. Some of the graduates of the School of Authentic Journalism will be present to participate in the conversation. For those of you close by, we hope to see you there. And if you can't afford the sliding scale ($6, $10, or $15) ticket, send me an email at email@example.com telling us why you'd like to attend: we have a few scholarships to give out, especially for those who want to do this kind of work, or be better, faster and more coherent at it. And, as always, we'll be scouting for scholars for the next School of Authentic Journalism there, as well.
By Al Giordano
While the Paultards and the Mittsters quarrel over which team is trying to stack tomorrow’s GOP presidential straw poll (both!) at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Sarah Palin gives the crowd caribou jerky to munch on (labeled “Teriyaki Sticks” because she can see Japan from her house) while she reaches to establish foreign policy cred, and Mike Huckabee rolls out his “fair tax” plan (tastes like Jerry Brown's of 1992 and Steve Forbes of 1996 and 2000!), it’s Newt Gingrich that so far is milking the gathering most effectively to position his own presidential run.
Gingrich – who entered the hall yesterday to the Rocky III theme “Eye of the Tiger” - is the only aspirant offering Republicans a plan that looks like victory (the short version: I was your Lenin in 1994 and will be again in 2010... and 2012!).
He’s the Republican Austin Powers, frozen cryogenically for years, and now he’s baaaaaack!
Check out how those old and overweight palefaces greet him like a rock star:
Gingrich begins with a loud cue from an audience plant member, “Where’s your teleprompter?” for which he has the punchline ready: “When you speak from the heart you don’t need a teleprompter.”
Later he says that President Obama “only reads parts of things” and also dishes that America needs a president “not an athlete.”
“Historians,” he lectures, “will someday write that the longer Obama talked the less the American people believed.”
If you’re a Southern Republican, that kind of red meat sates far better than, say, caribou jerky.
He tells the faithful that, “This is the most radical administration in American history… Their experience is the machine politics of Chicago, the corruption of Springfield and the radicalism of Alinsky,” and describes it as “a left wing machine dedicated to a secular socialist future.” Then to make it all sound really grave and scholarly, he says the upcoming elections mark “the most serious conflict since the 1830s.”
And here is Newtie’s plan (more Doctor Evil than Austin Powers, it turns out):
- Republicans should all go out next month and buy Gingrich’s upcoming book: “To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular Socialist Machine.”
- He’ll of course be doing a book tour in key primary and caucus states, duh.
- That in the last 14 days of the January Massachusetts senatorial special election campaign, “Scott Brown raised 10 million dollars on the Internet.” (Providing an indication of how Newt plans to raise his. Yes, He Caaaaaaaaaan!)
- Tosses in a dose of triumphalism: “When we win control of the House and Senate this fall…”
- And then, referring to himself as “having helped design the 1994 campaign” he offers three easy “assignments” to the party activists.
- One: Everybody should use the phrase “secular socialist machine” to refer to the Obama administration. (Consult his book cover if you can't remember it!)
- Two: Everybody should put signs up all over America that say “2 + 2 = 4,” and Newt’s PAC will be providing them in bumpersticker, button and placard form free for all! (It’s a tactic taken from the Polish Solidarity movement of the late 70s and 80s, which Gingrich openly acknowledges while he explains that that movement won, in his opinion, because of Pope John Paul II’s 1979 pilgrimage to Poland… Somehow the Gdansk shipyard strike and the cause of independent labor unions is not mentioned.)
- Three: The GOP should become “the party of Yes!” (Yes, Yes, Yes, they really truly really can!)
Of course, Professor Gingrich plays his usual act as party intellectual to the kiddies, quoting Camus and even the anarchist George Orwell, and leads the assembled Weight Watchers Club Republican base chanting “If you can’t afford to buy a house… DON’T BUY ONE!”
“I want us to run a national campaign,” he asserts and they lap it up.
The reddest meat, of course, came with Gingrich’s pledge to shut down the US government:
Here’s my promise… When we win control of the House and Senate this fall, Stage One of the end of Obamaism will be a new Republican Congress in January that simply refuses to fund any of the radical efforts…
Once upon a time, I used to be Speaker of the House and I actually understand the legislative process. And the truth is, under our Constitution, the Congress doesn’t have to pass the money. If EPA gets not budget, it can’t enforce cap-and-trade…
So Stage One of Obamaism being gone is to simply win this fall and not fund it for two years. Stage Two is…to ensure Obama joins Jimmy Carter in the tradition of one-party presidents. And, that in that context, that we be prepared to commit that a Republican President and a Republican Congress in February and March of 2013 will repeal every radical bill passed by this machine.
Faiz Shakir at Think Progress tosses a little water on the fire:
Gingrich is recycling from his old playbook. As Salon’s Mike Madden describes the “new” strategy, “In other words, shut down the government.” For approximately three weeks in the winter of 1995, Gingrich orchestrated a shutdown of the entire federal government by refusing to fund its operations, either by passing a budget or a continuing resolution. CNN reported at the time, “The current shutdown began at midnight Friday, when Congress did not extend a temporary spending measure put in place after the last closure.”
Newt’s budget showdown with President Clinton caused the former Speaker significant political damage. His personal disapproval ratings reached a high of 65 percent. Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) criticized Gingrich’s handling of the shutdown, saying he “made the mistake of his life.” It’s a mistake that Gingrich appears willing to make again.
As does Jed Lewison at Daily Kos:
On policy grounds, Gingrich's strategy ended in abject failure. Politically, the GOP did manage to hang onto its majority in the House in the 1996 elections, but went from a 38 seat majority to a 22 seat margin. And President Clinton won the big prize, beating Bob Dole by 8.5% and winning an electoral college landslide. And now Newt is promising a replay...before the GOP has even managed to reclaim the Congress. First things first, buddy.
And, again, here:
Here's one thing Newt Gingrich didn't mention in his speech last night pledging that Republicans would stop "Obamaism" by shutting down the Federal government if they win this fall's election: they will never do it -- and they know it.
The proof of this is not merely that the GOP, led by then-Speaker Gingrich, tried and failed the same strategy in 1995. (As Gingrich himself said, "our strategy failed.")…
Newt's pledge may sound good to the teabagging Republicans. But they should also know this: They. Will. Never. Do. It. Didn't do it in 1995. Won't do it in 2011.
Finally, to assure he gets cut good breaks along the long campaign trail, Gingrich is also working the ref. At the very time when Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele is embattled over the party funds spent at a bondage strip club, Newt came to Steele’s defense on CNN this week:
In an interview with CNN, Gingrich was asked if Republican donors were right to have questioned Steele's financial stewardship.
In nine of the 14 months Steele has led the RNC, the committee has spent more than it has raised. That's on top of the recent scandal involving an expenditure at a sex-themed Hollywood nightclub.
"That's just so factually false. I'm amazed that a serious reporter could ask it," Gingrich responded.
Gingrich said questions about Steele's fiscal record were "false," because the RNC had its best fundraising month in recent memory in March, banking $11.4 million.
"They have raised over $100 million. They have $11 million in the bank with zero debt," he said. "Here's a guy who helped win New Jersey, helped win Massachusetts, helped win Virginia. They have had the biggest fundraising month in their history, and you're raising fundraising questions?"
I don’t know how the other GOP presidential wannabes can compete with the sheer glare of Contract With America: the Sequel offered up by Gingrich.
Huckabee’s Fair Tax?
Palin’s newfound ability to see North Korea from her house? Just listen to her recycle her 2008 convention speech:
And President Obama, with all that vast nuclear expertise he acquired as a community organizer, a part-time senator, and a candidate for president, has accomplished nothing to date with Iran or North Korea.
Unable to stop strutting her foreign policy wisdom cue cards, Palin also told conference goers:
The administration eased sanctions on Cuba and sided with Chavez against Honduran democracy. They won’t bring up human rights with China because, quote, 'we know what they are going to say.' They offer tepid sanctions on North Korea and 'gold stars and cookies' for the Sudanese President. They send letters to Iranian mullahs but can barely muster a word of support for the Green Movement seeking freedom and women’s rights in Iran!
(As Jim Newell at Wonkette points out, Palin might wish to check with Republican Senator and foreign policy heavyweight Richard Lugar, first.)
And Mitt Romney has the worst two years of his life coming up while President Obama will destroy him politically among the GOP base by praising Mitt’s health care reform in Massachusetts, again and again, as the predecessor of the national law.
Not even the Paultards can compete with Newt, the renewed GOP flavor of the month! Again! How retro! How wonderful for bloggers, pundits and for... the Democrats.
If Gingrich bests either Romney or Paul in Saturday’s straw poll (everyone knows those are the two that have bused in their voting slaves and good showings will produce only yawns), or even just holds his own, he’ll be on fire heading into this first phase of the knock-down drag-out 2012 GOP presidential follies.
The media declared frontrunners – Romney, Palin and Huckabee – are in for some turbulence ahead. Gingrich is out of the freeze tank and offering the party base to shag. Oh, baby!
By Al Giordano
Mark Halperin has started the ball rolling on speculation over who will run, and who can win, the 2012 Republican nomination for president in the United States.
Since so many factors are yet to be determined (among them: the results of the 2010 midterm Congressional elections, the order of 2012 state primaries and caucuses, or even whether the GOP National Convention will be in Tampa, Phoenix or Salt Lake City), Halperin has committed a reckless and highly irresponsible act, that bastard!, which makes it irresistible for me to not to join in the fun.
Thus, today, The Field unveils its first tote sheet for the competition to become the sacrificial lamb to Obama’s reelection:
Sarah Palin 5-1
Mike Huckabee 5-1
Newt Gingrich 8-1
John Thune 15-1
Tim Pawlenty 20-1
Mitt Romney 25-1
Ron Paul 80-1
Lou Dobbs 100-1
First, here’s the “macro” analysis: 2012, for the Republican party, will be something akin to 1964 when conservative ideologues chose Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater (remembered mainly for this quote: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice”), who beat a strong field of moderate Republicans to win the convention. Goldwater bested NY Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, PA Gov. William Scranton, and MI Gov. George Romney (yup, as in father-of-Mitt), among others.
Goldwater went on in November to win a paltry six states – Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina of the Old Confederacy plus his home state of Arizona - with just 52 Electoral Votes to President Lyndon Johnson (LBJ took the remaining 44 states with 486 Electoral Votes). Yet despite that lesson in civics, Republican primary voters are poised once again to make the most radical gesture in choosing their nominee.
The most important group of GOP primary voters continues to be Evangelical Christians (Southern Baptists, to be precise) and this time a perfect storm of a possible alliance with the fledgling Teabagger faction looms, if only to gang up on the candidate the media will declare as frontrunner.
Now, let’s look our gift horses in the mouth:
The False Frontrunner: Mitt Romney
The most powerful underlying dynamic of the 2012 Republican primaries will be very similar to what occurred in 2008: Mitt Romney as the false frontrunner vs. Anybody But Mitt.
Romney is handsome, articulate, has more money than God, high name recognition, constant attention from the media, and he’s off to the earliest start: Speaking and sowing staff in key primary and caucus states, buying up the best of GOP consultants and operatives, much as he did prior to 2008.
Yet John McCain won in ‘08 precisely because he was the last man standing between Romney and the nomination, and GOP conservatives, as much as they disliked McCain, held their noses and went with grandpa solely to stop Romney.
The ugly truth of the Southern Baptist-dominated Christian Right in the US is that while it shares so much political ideology with the faithful of the Church of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons), the bigotry against their religious cousins (See: The American Religion: The Emergence of The Post-Christian Nation, by Harold Bloom, 1993, Simon & Schuster) is far too steep a barrier for Romney to survive politically.
As early as 2005, Washington Monthly writer Amy Sullivan nailed this insurmountable factor for Romney’s 2008 aspirations:
It's likely that Romney's primary opponents and prominent religious leaders will publicly take the high road, remaining mum on the issue of his Mormonism. But, says Marshall Wittman, former political director of the Christian Coalition and later an aide to McCain, "so much in the primaries takes place under the radar. It's never publicly said, but it takes place in emails and word of mouth." The push-poll script writes itself: "Would you be more or less likely to vote for Mitt Romney if you knew he was a Mormon, and that Mormons believe in polygamy?"
If Romney were to win the GOP nomination, he’d probably be the strongest possible challenger to Obama. But he won’t survive a primary electorate dominated by haters. Period. Game over.
Romney will, however, provoke the alliance between Evangelicals and Tea Baggers against him, a shotgun wedding that will plunge the GOP into new depths of nut house crazy. And the rest of the field – save Ron Paul, who runs for president on a planet other than earth – will compete to become the Anti-Romney. That’s where the real action is going to play out.
Which brings us to our next contender…
The Invisible Man: Tim Pawlenty
As Halperin notes:
Two major Republican candidates are engaged in the serious travel, staff hiring, contact building and general planning that are required to make a credible run for President. That pair is Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who ran in 2008 and is — and will be for the foreseeable future — the party's front runner, and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who was considered for the 2008 veep slot by John McCain.
While Pawlenty, on paper, would be acceptable to GOP primary voters as a suitable Anti-Romney, his inability to offer red meat to the haters pretty much will take him out of the game early in the primaries. Compared to our next cluster of potential 2012 Republican aspirants – “the Crazies” – Pawlenty will simply whither from the spotlight. He generates zero emotion, pro or con. Stand him up on a debate podium next to a Palin, a Huckabee or a Gingrich while one or more of those types goes all ballistic on Romney, and the audience will simply forget Pawlenty is there at all. He’ll be the invisible man (think Chris Dodd in 2008) of the GOP nomination fight.
He may still have a McCain-like chance at threading that needle (which is why I group him in the top five tier) but if one of the more polarizing conservatives jumps in – and one or more surely will – Pawlenty’s presence will disperse like water vapors under hot light.
The Crazies: Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee and/or Newt Gingrich
The primary-within-the-primaries will be for the hearts and minds of the Evangelical voters, and Sarah Palin is the 800-pound caribou on this tundra. If she enters the presidential sweepstakes, the nomination is hers to lose.
Last November, Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi, aptly described the Palin magic:
The people who dismiss her book Going Rogue as the petty, vindictive meanderings of a preening paranoiac with the IQ of a celery stalk completely miss the book’s significance, because in some ways it’s really a revolutionary and innovative piece of literature.
Palin — and there’s just no way to deny this — is a supremely gifted politician. She has staked out, as her own personal political turf, the entire landscape of incoherent white American resentment. In this area she leaves even Rush Limbaugh in the dust.
The reason for that is that poor Rush is an anachronism, in the sense that his whole schtick revolves around talking about real political issues. And real political issues are boring…
Sarah Palin’s battlefield, on the other hand, is whatever is happening five feet in front of her face. She is building a political career around the little interpersonal wars in the immediate airspace surrounding her sawdust-filled head. And in the process she connects with pissed-off, frightened, put-upon America on a plane that’s far more elemental than the mega-ditto schtick…
Complaining about the assholes we interact with on a daily basis is the #1 eternal pastime of the human race…
That Palin is so reviled by liberals and Democrats and the creative class of the media is a veritable GOP primary vote-producing machine for her. The only potential rival who might be able to out organize her (because he’s more of an organizer than a grandstander) is former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who in 2008 built the inside track for the Evangelical vote only to see it leave him when McCain surfaced as a more viable Anti-Romney than he was.
Of the crazies, Huckabee is the smartest, the most streetwise, and politically deft. Which is why I think he is not likely to run in 2012: He knows he can’t beat Obama in November, and, after all, come 2016 he’ll be only 60 years old (as compared to a then-68-year-old Hillary Clinton or a 73-year-old Joe Biden). My guess is that Huckabee will skip the 2012 contest and keep laying the groundwork for four years down the pike.
But I also agree with Taibbi: that Sarah Palin is a lot smarter than liberals give her credit for being. She’s only going to be 52 in 2016. My best guess is that she'll flirt with a candidacy right up to the deadline and then decline to run this time.
And what happens if both Palin and Huckabee take a bye year in 2012? The odds for Newt Gingrich – also as smart as he is crazy, but he can’t wait until 2016: He’s 66 now, will be 72 then, thus 2012 represents his last shot. He also really doesn’t care as much about whether he can beat Obama in November of that year: Newt is, in that sense, more Goldwater than any of the others: the true ideologue who will damn the torpedoes and propel himself right smack into an iceberg if it means saving the ideological “purity” of his party.
In fact, if Palin and Huckabee don’t run, I would then place Gingrich as the authentic frontrunner, and up his odds to something like 3-1 or better, ahead of the rest of the pack. I bet that sounds nuts to a lot of you... about as nuts as, say, predicting in 2007 that Obama would be the Democratic nominee. Gingrich has got the red meat to offer up, a nose for organizing the party base, and he is better equipped to go nuclear against Romney in ways that the more mediagenic Palin and Huckabee would or could ever do. Newt is the unabashed prince of nasty. And 2012 will be the nastiest, most desperate year for Republicans in generations, really since 1964.
Still, Gingrich’s prospects depend heavily on the other two first-tier crazies not competing, or flaming out from scandal (whereas since everyone already knows Newt is scandalous he has no pedestal to fall down from) and so unless and until they definitively are out, I have to keep him in the second tier of the batshit brigade.
While one of these three is most likely to establish himself or herself as the Anti-Romney, and thus the nominee, there is one dark horse on the horizon that could shoot toward the front of the pack simply by coming out of nowhere…
The Dark Horse: John Thune
Keep one eye on the shadows, always. Who is lurking backstage? Somebody, in every presidential campaign, gets to play the role of the new and intriguing brand. At the centerpiece of the South Dakota senator’s bio is one Republican-pleasing triumph: Thune is the guy who defeated, in 2004, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. While he is not as red-meat offering as the previous trio of crazies, he easily bests Pawlenty on that front and has a better shot than the Milquetoast from Minnesota to emerge as the Anti-Mitt.
Thune's chances, interestingly, improve if Palin, Huckabee and Gingrich all – or even just two of them - jump into the race and fall into an internecine mud pit trying to tear each other down.
The emergent dark horse - there's always one - might end up being someone other than Thune, but among the possibilities he seems the more likely to jump in and perhaps gain some traction.
The Crazier: Ron Paul
He’ll be back. The same crowd of Paultards will support him. He’ll get about the same number of votes as he did in 2008. But unless Palin, Huckabee and Gingrich all decline to be candidates, Paul’s dreams of leading an electoral teabagger parade will be crushed under the celebrity star power of one of those three. If none of the crazies compete, look for Paul to expand his base and his vote, but still come in third behind Romney and the to-be-determined Anti-Romney. If GOP base voters view Mormons as strange and foreign, they view Paul as an alien from another solar system.
The Craziest: Lou Dobbs 100-1
I don’t think it is likely that the former CNN anti-immigrant cheerleader will run, but I put his name in the mix as a placeholder for someone like him to jump in, as Tom Tancredo did last round, trying to capitalize on anti-immigrant insanity, especially if Obama really does push immigration reform (and The Field believes he will), stirring up that hornet’s nest in 2010 and beyond.
Ironically, a craziest candidate scenario, if a Dobbs type were to win the nomination, would be formidable in a general election and perhaps put big rust belt states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan in a danger zone for Democrats with his combination of racist demagoguery and faux-populism on economic worries. But as Tancredo’s non-starter of a candidacy showed in 2008, the Evangelical base just isn’t as interested in immigrant bashing as it would seem on the surface. Still, we see it likely that some talk show host or media personality (from the media sector, as opposed to politicos-turned-media-hosts like Palin and Huckabee) will join this circus before it begins traveling town to town, thus I float Dobbs’ name as a representative of that missing piece of the upcoming puzzle.
The Too Smart to Run in 2012 Club: Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Rick Perry, Mitch Daniels, Mike Pence, Bobby Jindal, and any other Republican leader with a brain. These are adults, and barring some cataclysmic economic collapse or some other freakish turn of political fortunes and dynamics in the US, none of the grown-ups are going to expend the time and money to win a nomination that then heads straight into the Obama buzzsaw in November of 2012.
(You may ask yourself, but what if Democrats lose big in the midterm elections, might that provoke some of the guys on the sidelines to get in? Not the smart ones, I submit. The political dynamics for Obama's reelection would more likely improve rather than lessen if he gets to run against, say, an obstructionist US Congress. While big GOP gains in 2010 would severely hurt the Obama policy agenda, it would also create its own electoral backlash. The big boys and girls understand how that works.)
In sum, almost all of the action will be in the sub-primary to be the crazy Anti-Romney, the race to become The New Goldwater, and I’ve outlined why I think Gingrich – having the least to lose and the most to gain – may end up the nominee by default.
One word of caution: Paradoxically, Gingrich – unlike Palin or Huckabee or Thune or even Pawlenty – has a tendency to jump the shark and go too far out on the ideological limb even for Republicans, and presents perhaps the one scenario through which Romney could emerge the nominee: The danger for Newt is that he is so polarizing that the race to be the Anti-Newt could eclipse the contest to be the Anti-Mitt, and Romney is smart enough to try to parlay that opportunity if it opens.
Any way we slice this ergot-laced bread, watching this Rogues Gallery go into battle against each other in the context of an overall zeitgeist of nasty desperation and Obama derangement syndrome, is going to be fun, fun fun ‘til our daddy takes the T-Bird away.