In retrospect, maybe the sodomy part was a mistake. Republican Ken Cuccinelli goes into today's gubernatorial election in Virginia expected to lose to Democrat Terry McAullife, a man who almost missed the birth of a child to attend a fundraiser and once downed shots of Puerto Rican rum on morning television. The Most Quoted Man in Washington, University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato, has summed up the election as two people "running against the only people they could beat"—and Cuccinelli, well, couldn't.
Why? There were a lot of contributing factors: McAuliffe outspent Cuccinelli by about $14 million, living up to his reputation as a relentless fundraiser. Cuccinelli's swan dive coincided with the government shutdown in October, which was especially painful to Virginians. A third-party candidate, Robert Sarvis, took up a protest vote that might otherwise have gone to Cuccinelli. And both Cuccinelli and sitting GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell were tied to a slow-burning political influence scandal.
But perhaps the simplest explanation for Cuccinelli's struggles is that Virginians found him and his running mate, E.W. Jackson, to be uniquely unlikable politicians fixated on uniquely unappealing issues.
Update: Former state Sen. Bradley Byrne narrowly defeated Dean Young on Tuesday night to win the Republican nomination for Alabama's special election, all but guaranteeing him a spot in Congress. The outcome is being hailed as a win for Republican establishment, which poured significant resources into Byrne's campaign against the tea partier Young. But as I explained on Monday, there's little daylight between the two camps when it comes to policy. Even in a loss, the tea party won big.
It would be tough to find a political office-seeker less prepared for the job he's running for than Alabama congressional candidate Dean Young. Asked by the Guardian last week to identify the current House majority whip, the Republican suggested House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who left his old post almost three years ago. Quizzed on the current treasury secretary, Young identified Henry Paulson (who left four years ago) and then Tim Geithner (who left his post 10 months ago). Young, who also called President Obama's country of origin "the $64,000 question," didn't go so far as to suggest that the Gettysburg Address is where Lincoln lived, but that's probably because no one asked.
On Tuesday, Young will face off against former state Sen. Bradley Byrne in a runoff for the Republican nomination in the special election to replace former GOP Rep. Jo Bonner, who resigned to take a job at the University of Alabama. (In March, Mother Jonesreported that Bonner had gone on an all-expenses-paid African safari under the auspices of investigating Al Qaeda's ties to poaching.) In a deep-red district, the runoff winner is all but assured a spot in Congress—which means that Young, who held a narrow lead in the final poll of the race, could soon be headed to Washington.
Anticipation is rising on a night in early August as about 300 starry-eyed libertarians gather at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia, for a lesson on how to save the Republican Party, the Constitution, and maybe America. The hero they've come to see is Justin Amash, a 33-year-old Michigan congressman who has spent the previous two months crusading against National Security Agency surveillance. The GOP gadfly is joined by three other congressional newcomers who serve as Amash's ideological sidekicks. As the crowd jumps to its feet to greet Amash, one young activist can't contain himself: "I'm on a first-name basis with the man who wants to save the Fourth Amendment!"
Just one week earlier, Amash had brought the House of Representatives to a standstill with a measure that would have prohibited the NSA from indiscriminately collecting Americans' phone and internet data. Leaders in both parties opposed his amendment, but Amash had sensed an opportunity to capitalize on strong bipartisan disgust over the surveillance scandal. In just a few days he'd cobbled together 205 votes split almost evenly between Republicans and Democrats—and might even have seen his measure pass had House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the White House not applied last-minute pressure to stop it.
Amash and his colleagues are greeted as liberators at the Young Americans for Liberty Convention, one of the dozens of initiatives spawned by the 2008 presidential campaign of Texas Rep. Ron Paul. Every so often the crowd of twentysomethings breaks into chants of "End the Fed," or into a chorus of boos at the mention of establishment figures like Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, whose existence Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina invokes the way a Hogwarts first-year might hint at Lord Voldemort.
The event has the feel of a fraternity reunion. At one point, Mulvaney takes an "End the Fed" trucker hat from an audience member and places it atop the curls of his colleague Thomas Massie, a Tesla-driving mechanical engineer who last year came out of nowhere to win one of Kentucky's congressional seats. Rep. Raúl Labrador of Idaho finishes the night with a winding joke about Amash's support for legalizing prostitution. And like any good brotherhood, they even have an initiation ritual: As the forum ends, Amash walks over to Mulvaney to recognize him formally with a custom red-and-gold "liberty pin" reserved for his closest allies in the House. A voice cuts through the din as they exit the stage: "We love you, Justin!"
After a decade of aggressive expansion of the national security state, Amash, a Star Trek-tweeting, Justin Bieber-quoting amateur arborist from Grand Rapids, has emerged as an unlikely leader of the most serious rebellion against unchecked surveillance powers since 9/11. He's also become a driving force in the fight for the future of the libertarian movement long led by the retired Paul—and perhaps even for the soul of the deeply fractured GOP.
In October, I reported that Mississippi GOP senate candidate Chris McDaniel had delivered speeches to the local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, including during a conference the neo-Confederate group held in August. When I contacted McDaniel's campaign for the story, a spokesman said: "Senator McDaniel has driven across Mississippi to speak to many groups over the past decade." He did not dispute that McDaniel had attended the August gathering. A spokesman for the SCV chapter also told me that McDaniel had attended the August event as well as an earlier event, but now McDaniel is saying he wasn't at the August gathering. He told the Clarion-Ledger that although he had been scheduled to speak at the event, but missed it because he was in Chicago for a conference for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). An SCV member backed him up:
"He wasn't at this last one," said [SCV spokesman George Jaynes]. "He missed a flight coming out of Chicago … A guy from Mother Jones news, which I had never heard of, called me the other night and was asking questions. Maybe I didn't explain myself well. Maybe this guy misunderstood me. But (McDaniel) wasn't there."
The Southern Heritage Conference was Aug. 9-10. The ALEC conference in Chicago was Aug. 7-9. McDaniel said he recollects he stayed over at least a day after the ALEC event, and was still out of state when the Rosin Heels event was held.
McDaniel also alleges that Mother Jones "doctored" a photo to falsely depict him speaking to the event; the image was identified in the story as a photoshop.
Though McDaniel might have missed the conference because of airline issues, he did deliver the keynote address at an event the group held on June 22 in Jackson. Jaynes confirmed to the Clarion-Ledger that McDaniel had indeed spoken to the group in previous years (which Jaynes also told me). So whether or not McDaniel made it to the August conference, there is no question he's been a friend to this particular group.
With Trayvon Martin’s mom watching, Ted Cruz and other gun rights advocates push back on laws’ critics at Senate hearing.
Tim MurphyOct. 29, 2013 3:10 PM
Sybrina Fulton, mother of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, speaks with her attorney at Tuesday's Senate hearing on Stand Your Ground laws.
When it was his turn to ask a question at Tuesday's Senate hearing on Stand Your Ground laws, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) lowered his voice and spoke cautiously about the pain Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, must feel. But then he got to his point. Addressing Fulton, who had traveled from Florida to express her opposition to the spread of these laws, Cruz sought to downplay the significance of her message.
"I understand, for the family, you're simply mourning the loss of your son, and I understand that," he said, "but there are other players that are seeking to do a great deal more based on what happened that Florida night."
Cruz, his Republican colleagues, and the witnesses they'd summoned before the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, had a different point to make: Stand Your Ground laws—which allow a person to kill another if he feels his life is endangered—benefit black people if you hold the data up to the light and squint a little. And those who would say otherwise are using race as a cudgel to force through their anti-gun agenda. "With whom do we stand?" Cruz asked. "I for one believe we should stand for the innocent against aggressors."