Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) just wanted to get rid of a program that good-government advocates consider corporate welfare. He ended up in the tea party's crosshairs instead.
Since last week, voters in Kansas' 1st Congressional District—covering the western part of the state—have been flooded with ads blasting the second-term incumbent for cosponsoring a bill in April that would eliminate a federal mandate that gasoline include ethanol. "Washington, DC, sure has changed Tim Huelskamp," Tom Willis, an agribusiness CEO from Liberal, Kansas, says in one ad.
The ad was paid for by Now or Never PAC, a conservative super-PAC that has spent more than $8 million since 2012 in support of tea party candidates. Huelskamp, who once compared the Obamacare rollout to Hurricane Katrina and proposed impeaching Attorney General Eric Holder over his refusal to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, is the kind of candidate Now or Never PAC would traditionally get behind. Instead, in the week leading up to Tuesday's congressional primary, Now or Never has spent $260,000 hammering Huelskamp—and in the process, propping up his opponent, Alan LaPolice, a little-known Army vet and onetime actor who has lived in the district full-time for only a year.
Borderline personality: A Minuteman Project volunteer in 2005
In early July, Chris Davis issued a call to arms. "You see an illegal, you point your gun right dead at them, right between the eyes, and say, 'Get back across the border, or you will be shot,'" the Texas-based militia commander said in a YouTube video heralding Operation Secure Our Border-Laredo Sector, a plan to block the wave of undocumented migrants coming into his state. "If you get any flak from sheriffs, city, or feds, Border Patrol, tell them, 'Look—this is our birthright. We have a right to secure our own land. This is our land.'"
Davis' video was publicized by local newspapersand the Los Angeles Times. But the militia never materialized in Laredo, and Davis walked back his comments. (The video has been taken down.) Over the last few weeks, a smaller force under Davis' watch has appeared along the southern border, spread thinly across three states. The fizzling of this grand mobilization was another reminder that the current immigration crisis has been missing a key ingredient of recent border showdowns: Bands of the heavily-armed self-appointed border guardians known as Minutemen.
During the past four years, the Minuteman groups that defined conservative immigration policy during the mid-to-late-2000s have mostly self-destructed—sometimes spectacularly so. Founding Minuteman leaders are in prison, facing criminal charges, dead, or sidelined. "It really attracted a lot of people that had some pretty extreme issues," says Juanita Molina, executive director of the Border Action Network, an advocacy group that provides aid to migrants in the desert. "We saw the movement implode on itself mostly because of that." An analysis by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors right-wing extremist groups, found that the number of Minuteman groups in the Southwest had declined from 310 to 38 between 2010 and 2012.
This is an actual image from Ted Nugent's Facebook page.
Ted Nugent doesn't have a racist bone in his body. But sometimes racist words just happen to come out of it. On Monday, tribal officials in Idaho canceled the aging rock-and-roller's scheduled concert at a Coeur d'Alene casino over his past rhetoric. PerIndian Country Today:
Later in the day, [tribe spokeswoman Heather] Keen said in a statement, "Reviewing scheduled acts is not something in which Tribal Council or the tribal government participates; however, if it had been up to Tribal Council this act would have never been booked."
Then, Monday evening, Keen announced the concert was being canceled, explaining that "Nugent's history of racist and hate-filled remarks was brought to Tribal Council's attention earlier today." Tribal Chief Allan added that "We know what it's like to be the target of hateful messages and we would never want perpetuate hate in any way."
Among the racist issues brought to the tribe's attention: Referring to President Obama as a "subhuman mongrel," and his wholehearted support for the Washington football team name, which he outlined in a 2013 op-ed for the conservative conspiracy site WorldNetDaily, titled "A tomahawk chop to political correctness." The first line of the piece is, "Every so often some numbskull beats the politically correct war drum..." and it continues at pace from there, nodding to "Native Americans whose feathers are ruffled" and, "wafting smoke signals of real distress."
Nugent responded to the canceled event at the Coeur d'Alene casino and calls for similar cancellations elsewhere by calling his critics "unclean vermin," thereby refuting any further claims of racism.
On Tuesday, 40 minutes into Glenn Beck's nationally broadcast "night of action" targeting the Common Core education standards being implemented in schools across the nation, a North Carolina activist named Andrea Dillon announced live that her state's governor had just signed a law directing the board of education to rewrite its standards—a step shy of jettisoning North Carolina from the initiative outright. A murmur went through the audience of two dozen or so parents and kids at the cinema in Ballston, Virginia where I was watching, one of hundreds of theaters around the country that was broadcasting the interactive event, dubbed "We Will Not Conform"* (a nod to Beck's new book on the standards, Conform). Beck offered a few words of congratulation, and Dillon patted her allies on the back: "North Carolina's got a lot of gumption."
It wasn't the biggest political story of the night—that would be either David Perdue's victory in the Georgia Republican Senate primary, or President Barack Obama's consumption of multiple cheeseburgers, depending on your point of view. But Tuesday was a big day for opponents of the Common Core State Standards, a set of math and language-arts guidelines adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia in 2010, and, of late, an object of obsession for Beck and his army of parent activists. North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory became the latest once-supportive governor to hop the fence in opposition to the standards. Last week, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker called on his state to repeal Common Core, echoing an earlier move by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal to extricate his state from the standards. (That effort has turned the state board of education and Louisiana's lieutenant governor against Jindal, and is now mired in litigation.) Meanwhile, in Georgia, where Republican officials in the state have previously been staunch supporters of the standards, an anti-Core teacher holds a narrow lead in the Republican primary for state superintendent—a position with broad powers for Core implementation.
In the run-up to last May's primary to replace retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Georgia Republicans flirted with a large field of candidates that included Reps. Paul Broun (who once called evolution a lie "from the pit of hell") and Phil Gingrey (who once defended Todd Akin). But when the dust settled, it was former Dollar General CEO David Perdue and 11-term congressman Jack Kingston who went on to a top-two runoff—a decision framed at the time as a victory for the Chamber of Commerce Republican establishment over the tea party fringe. On Tuesday, after trailing in every poll, Perdue won a narrow victory to claim the GOP nomination. He will take on Democrat Michelle Nunn (the daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn) in November.
But the real story may be the lack of influence wielded by Kingston's biggest supporter, the US Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber backed Kingston to the tune of $2.3 million in TV ads during the primary, only to see him use its most precious issues as mallets with which to bludgeon Perdue. Take the Common Core State Standards, a set of national math and language-arts benchmarks for public schools that have become a bogeyman for conservatives. The Chamber supports Common Core and recently poured $1.38 million into a PR campaign to promote it. But that didn't stop Kingston from characterizing Common Core as an abomination and attacking Perdue—who himself has been highly critical of the standards—for supporting "the Obamacare of education." In the final days of the race, Perdue fought back, running ads depicting Kingston as soft on immigration because of his support from the Chamber, which backs comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. "Kingston's pro-amnesty vote is bought and paid for," one ad warned. Kingston, in turn, had falsely accused Perdue of supporting amnesty during the runoff.
Kingston will likely land on his feet—11-term congressmen beloved by the Chamber of Commerce tend to do pretty well in Washington!—but his days in Congress are now numbered. At least we'll always have this video of him explaining why evolution is a myth—because Jack Kingston is not descended from an ape.