Salon's Luke Brinker pummels the endorsement by the Denver Post of Representative Cory Gardner (photo below from AP) in his fight to unseat first-term incumbent Mark Udall and join Democrat Michael Bennet in Colorado's delegation in the U.S. Senate.
Brinker criticizes the paper's rationalization of Gardner's ultra-conservative views. Gardner supports "personhood" legislation but the publication cites his "call for over-the-counter sales of contraceptives," though many women require insurance coverage to pay for birth control. The paper characterizes Gardner's view on same-sex marriage as "irrelevant," which it rationalizes by arguing "marriage equality appears unstoppable." (It even refers to his "past" position without stating how, or if, it has changed.)
Further, the Denver Post's editorial, Brinker notes, ignores "climate change, on which Gardner has held three positions just this week." The D.P. exults "If Gardner's past is any guide, he would very likely match Bennet's influence in the upper chamber, providing Colorado with a powerful one-two punch and pairing two young, energetic senators with clout on both sides of the aisle." Taking a deserved shot at the cult of youth, Brinker responds "the editors write, 'he has quickly become someone to be reckoned with and whose words carry weight.' Pair him with Colorado's other senator, Democrat Michael Bennet, and the state will have 'two young, energetic' voices in Washington!"
But Brinker's focus is the idea the Denver Post expresses when the editorialists write
If Gardner wins, of course, it could mean the Senate has flipped to Republicans. However, that doesn't mean it will simply butt heads with President Obama as the Republican House has done. As The Wall Street Journal's Gerald Seib recently pointed out, "A look back shows that eras of evenly divided power — Congress fully controlled by one party, the presidency by the other — have turned out to be among the most productive" because both sides temper their policies.
Brinker responds "the notion that this right-wing congressman could help usher in a new era of bipartisan goodwill and policy innovation seems far-fetched, but the Post begs to differ.... Try not to think too much about the past four years, lest you disabuse yourself of this comforting thought."
We might think Repub obstructionism began when Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader of the institution Gardner wants to join, admitted “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” However, Robert Draper in "Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives" described a meeting of 15-20 Republicans, including Frank Luntz and GOP Representatives and Senators, held on the evening of January 20, 2009- the day Barack Obama was inaugurated. Draper wrote
For several hours in the Caucus Room (a high-end D.C. establishment), the book says they plotted out ways to not just win back political power, but to also put the brakes on Obama’s legislative platform.
"If you act like you're the minority, you’re going to stay in the minority,” Draper quotes [Rep. Kevin] McCarthy [R-Calif.] as saying. “We’ve gotta challenge them on every single bill and challenge them on every single campaign"....
The dinner lasted nearly four hours. They parted company almost giddily. The Republicans had agreed on a way forward:
Go after Geithner. (And indeed Kyl did, the next day: ‘Would you answer my question rather than dancing around it — please?’)
Show united and unyielding opposition to the president’s economic policies. (Eight days later, Minority Whip Cantor would hold the House Republicans to a unanimous No against Obama’s economic stimulus plan.)
Begin attacking vulnerable Democrats on the airwaves. (The first National Republican Congressional Committee attack ads would run in less than two months.)
Win the spear point of the House in 2010. Jab Obama relentlessly in 2011. Win the White House and the Senate in 2012.
Nevertheless, the GOP had suggested its strategy even before Barack Obama took the oath of office. In Michael Grunwald's The New New Deal, the author explained
Biden says that during the transition, he was warned not to expect any cooperation on many votes. “I spoke to seven different Republican Senators, who said, `Joe, I’m not going to be able to help you on anything,’ he recalls. His informants said McConnell had demanded unified resistance. “The way it was characterized to me was: `For the next two years, we can’t let you succeed in anything. That’s our ticket to coming back,’” Biden says.
The vice president says he hasn’t even told Obama who his sources were, but Bob Bennett of Utah and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania both confirmed they had conversations with Biden along these lines.
Former Ohio Senator George Voinovich told Grunwald "if he was for it, we had to be against it."
Summarizing strategy decided in a meeting of McConnell and other Republicans in early January of 2009, Voinovich stated "He wanted everyone to hold the fort. All he cared about was making sure Obama could never have a clean victory." Grunwald wrote also
“People were pretty demoralized, and there were two totally opposite thoughts on how to approach the situation,” a McConnell aide recalls. “One was, `we don't like the president, we ought to pop him early.’ The other was, `he’s really popular, we should work with him, because that’s what people want us to do.’ The boss’s take was: Neither." McConnell realized that it would be much easier to fight Obama if Republicans first made a public show of wanting to work with him.
The Denver Post editorial demonstrates how the Cantor (the leading Repub at the 1/20/09 meeting)/McConnell strategy worked to a T. Obstruct the work of Congress so that the American public's faith in the institution plummets (currently, to 8%), after which GOP challengers promise an end to a dysfunctional Congress, and the mainstream media soaks it up.
But there is something else at work even the insightful Brinker barely hints at. He writes
Gardner's social views, including opposition to abortion rights with no exceptions and steadfast opposition to LGBT equality? Well, the Post editorial board writes,Gardner isn't a "culture warrior"' instead, he "has emphasized economic and energy issues." His retrograde views don't matter, you see, because he has enough media training to know how to be quiet about them!
Gardner has tried to re-invent himself, a successful endeavor insofar as he has swatted aside the image of himself as a latter-day Pat Buchanan. Decades ago, the journalist excoriated the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as "the most divisive figure in the century’s most divisive decade" and who now obscurely, arguably a little crudely, contends
with neoconservatives in the van, the GOP hierarchy is today in headlong retreat on same-sex marriage. Its performance calls to mind the insight of that unreconstructed Confederate chaplain to Stonewall Jackson, Robert Lewis,Dabney, on the failure of conservatives to halt the march of the egalitarians.
Brinker recognizes the religion of Republicans who eschew Buchanan's cultural war in favor of the faith of the bipartisan enlightened. He observes
while the center-right paper clutches its pearls over what will happen to the nation if we don't pass "entitlement reform" (i.e., savage cuts to Social Security and Medicare) and "tax reform" (i.e., lower rates for the wealthy and corporations), it has nothing to say about the threat climate change poses to our planet.
It's what happens when the mainstream media tries to be "balanced," thereby ignoring the concentrated onslaught against President Obama- the man as well as his policies- and finds the kind of Republican it yearns for. The ideal candidate gives a nod and a wink to the cultural warriors by supporting personhood while signaling some sort of willingness to re-consider immigration reform and de-emphasizing marriage issues. All the while, he or she can stand firm on the issues which benefit the 1% and give new hope to media that it has finally found that new, congenial, "attractive option to the gridlocked status quo."