Wearing a black leather vest that barely covered the cigar tucked into his pocket, a man named Harley Brown was allowed to join the debate among candidates for governor of Idaho last week, holding forth on discrimination against bikers and the presidential seal tattooed on his shoulder after God told him he would one day occupy the White House. Another candidate, Walt Bayes, railed against “a bunch of eastern idiots” pushing the country toward Sodom and Gomorrah. If you thought that this was nothing but a stunt designed by Gov. Butch Otter to distract attention from his real opponent, you’d be right. But you’d also be missing the larger point: Republican primaries around the country have largely degenerated into self-parodies. They may lack the flowing beards of Mr. Brown and Mr. Bayes, but many of the other candidates in the party’s primaries — a large number of which will take place on Tuesday — are running on ideas only slightly less extreme. [...]Paul Waldman at The American Prospect dives into the Tea Party's struggles:
No Republican has a shot in this year’s party primaries without paying homage to extremist ideas. Whether the Tea Party is still a political force is a moot point; the radicalism of 2010 and 2012 is very much alive in 2014.
These aren't the significant primary challenges of the kind we've seen in recent years. You get the sense that Tea Party folks are sitting around saying, "Well, Obamacare isn't getting repealed. The presidential election isn't for a couple of years. Anybody have any ideas about what we should be doing?" And someone says, "Well, we could have the committee vote censure the senator." Then everyone else says, "All right, may as well." It may not sound as dramatic as storming the barricades of power, but at the moment, it's about all they've got.Much more on this and the day's other top stories below the fold.
In Washington, there's a fight going on between a conservative Republican establishment and an extremely conservative Republican counter-establishment, both well-funded and staffed by experienced operatives. But down at the grass roots, the battles are not so high-profile, if no less sincerely felt. [...] Tea Partiers are revolutionaries, and I'm sure that for many of them, the first few years of the Obama administration were the most exciting of their political lives. They confronted what they believed was literally a threat to the existence of the nation they loved. They were getting noticed, forcing powerful people to listen to them, shaping the debate and striking fear in the hearts of Democrats and Republicans alike. Their party was being remade in their image, and they were making history. And even as that has all faded, they still think of themselves as revolutionaries. Revolutions are dramatic and inspiring; what comes afterward, not so much. What are they supposed to do now? Organize protests to push for some piece of tax legislation that'll never get passed? How dreadfully boring. Continuing the revolution has much more appeal.
John McCormick and Greg Giroux at Bloomberg examine how conservative business interests are coming to the aid of their Republican friends in Congress:
It’s all about protecting loyal friends and eliminating a few troublemakers.Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast notes that the Tea Party is weaker than it's ever been, but it's not quite dead yet:
That’s the business community’s goal in U.S. House elections amid a power struggle between the limited-government Tea Party movement and more traditional Republicans. While control of the Senate is November’s main prize, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is spending heavily in select House races, including one in Idaho where the Republican primary is tomorrow.
The nation’s largest business-lobbying group hasn’t said how much it will spend in the 2014 election, though it probably will exceed the $33.8 million in 2010. The Chamber has already aired television ads in more than 20 House and Senate races, and it’s expected to intervene in key districts to defend pro-business House Republicans against Tea Party opponents, or to help business-friendly challengers unseat Tea Party incumbents.
The aim is to send a chilling message to the Tea Party’s most zealous members, as well as bolster Republicans who have been loyal to House Speaker John Boehner and taken tough votes, such as those to raise the federal debt ceiling.
Tonight, the tea party is going to lose some elections. Its Senate candidates in Kentucky and Georgia are going to lose—and lose really, really badly in at least in Kentucky. The theme of the night on cable (and for the balance of the week really) will be the death of the tea party. Everybody’s waiting with a safety net, as Elvis Costello (nearly) sang, but I say don’t bury them ’cuz they’re not dead yet.Charles Babington:
While it’s true that the majority of tea-party candidates are losing, something else has been going on more under the radar, smartly picked up on recently by Jamie Fuller of The Washington Post. A lot of Republican candidates are trying to finesse the establishment-tea party Maginot Line and be both things to all people. She writes, I believe accurately, that the clear goal of many candidates is “staying comfortable with the tea party while networking with the establishment on the side.” This certainly describes North Carolina’s Thom Tillis. He beat an explicitly tea party backed challenger, but Tillis is still deeply reactionary (eliminate the minimum wage entirely, he once suggested!), he backed the Cruz-led government shutdown, and he is distinguishable ideologically from tea party candidates only in that he’s not quite as wacko as the tea party guy was.
Tuesday’s high-profile primary elections could extend a streak of sorts for Tea Party Republicans: losing individual races but winning the larger ideological war by tugging the GOP rightward.Switching topics, Molly Redden at Mother Jones takes a look at a bill in North Carolina that would make it a crime to disclose fracking chemicals:
Several Tea Party-endorsed candidates are struggling in Tuesday’s Republican congressional primaries in Georgia, Kentucky, and Idaho. In each state, however, the ‘‘establishment’’ Republican candidates have emphasized their conservative credentials, which narrows the party’s philosophical differences.
Citing similar dynamics in other states, Democrats say the GOP candidates who are trying to give Republicans control of the Senate will prove to be too far right for centrist voters in November.
On Thursday, three Republican state senators introduced a bill that would slap a felony charge on individuals who disclosed confidential information about fracking chemicals. The bill, whose sponsors include a member of Republican party leadership, establishes procedures for fire chiefs and health care providers to obtain chemical information during emergencies. But as the trade publication Energywire noted Friday, individuals who leak information outside of emergency settings could be penalized with fines and several months in prison. [...] The disclosure of the chemicals used to break up shale formations and release natural gas is one of the most heated issues surrounding fracking. Many energy companies argue that the information should be proprietary, while public health advocates counter that they can't monitor for environmental and health impacts without it. Under public pressure, a few companies have begun to report chemicals voluntarily.Jesse Coleman:
North Carolina has banned fracking until the state can approve regulations. The bill introduced Thursday, titled the Energy Modernization Act, is meant to complement the rules currently being written by the North Carolina Mining & Energy Commission. [...]
Draft regulations from the North Carolina commission have been praised as some of the strongest fracking rules in the country. But observers already worry that the final regulations will be significantly weaker. In early May, the commission put off approving a near-final chemical disclosure rule because Haliburton, which has huge stakes in the fracking industry, complained the proposal was too strict, the News & Observer reported.
The three republican state senators that proposed the bill have close ties to the oil and gas industry and industry lobbyists McguireWoods. McGuireWoods, a lobbying firm that represents Halliburton, Koch Industries, and other oil and gas interests, donated to all three senators. [...] The shale industry's control over fracking chemical disclosure legislation in North Carolina has been under particular scrutiny in recent weeks, after a cache of emails revealed that Halliburton, Koch Industries, and other fracking industry interests had close ties to officials responsible for writing fracking rules.Meanwhile, Lisa Hymas at Grist says it's possible the Obama administration may require some form of disclosure:
In a live chat on Monday with Grist, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz suggested that fracking companies might need to be more forthcoming about their chemical cocktails.On the topic of the VA wait time controversy, Eugene Robinson hopes for action from the Obama administration:
The fracking process involves high-pressure injection of a mixture of fluids into shale seams to force up oil and gas. Many fracking companies and chemical manufacturers say the makeup of their chemical mixtures is a trade secret and shouldn’t have to be divulged, but environmental activists and some community leaders say the public has a right to know, and at the very least first responders need to know when coping with fracking-related exposures and emergencies.
Earlier this month, the EPA announced that it would accept public comments on the issue, responding to a petition filed by environmental law firm Earthjustice, but the agency didn’t commit to crafting any federal disclosure rules. Some states require some level of disclosure about chemicals, but enforcement of and compliance with those rules has been spotty at best.
If VA hospitals really are falsifying records to disguise lengthy waiting times — and if veterans are dying as a consequence — then President Obama needs to bring in new management to fix the problems and fast.Finally, this piece Jamie Stiehm is a must-read:
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, speaking Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” described Obama as “madder than hell” about the VA scandal. By now, we should all be used to the fact that Obama is never what you would call demonstrative with his anger, at least publicly. No frothing, no foaming, no gnashing of teeth. I take McDonough at his word that the president is royally steamed.
That’s all it takes to make up your mind about a candidate’s face, according to a new Dartmouth College study on masculine and feminine features in politicians. They call it “gendered facial cues” in brain imaging.
Forget the firm handshake or the barnstorming speech. What matters, upfront, is how a candidate looks, new social psychology research suggests, from the neck up. (And you thought politics was shallow.) This may be even more true for women than for men.
Snap judgments on faces have real consequences for women running for office, Dartmouth assistant professor Jon Freeman says. And the findings aren’t pretty. Summing up his lab’s research, Freeman suggests the more feminine a woman candidate’s face appears to a large sample of people, the more successful she was likely to be.