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Jon Cummings Tag

noconcessionsThe summer movie season may have ended but the indie phenomenon that is Boyhood continues. Richard Linklater’s 12-years-in-the-making portrait of a Houston youth, Mason (Ellar Coltrane), from age six to his freshman year at college. Critics greeted it with near-universal hosannas, and count me in as one of its admirers. But a certain amount of grumbling could also be detected–and when my almost-from-boyhood pal and Popdose colleague Jon Cummings went thumbs down, I knew it was time to hash it out. So here it goes, with me offering my positive take (with reservations) and Jon–well, long time, no see, buddy, and if you’re gonna thrash a little kid like this, come back into the arena and pick on some grownup targets, OK? Missed ya.

(Spoilers ahead.)

JC: The hype over Boyhood has been cacophonous, hasn’t it? Between the various celebrations of the filming process, the improvised plotting and dialogue–and the suggestions that we already had our Oscar winner in August–the film jumped to the top of the must-see list for hipster-doofuses everywhere.

BC: The “masterpiece” label hung on it does it no favors. That’s tough to live up to when you enter the theater expecting to be enthralled, enraptured, etc. Few movies do that; Richard Linklater’s sure don’t. He’s gotten a couple of Oscar nominations for writing but prestige isn’t his thing. Nor is crowdpleasing, School of Rock excepted. He’s an indie guy through and through, and as he’s in his mid-50s, with a 25-year career behind him, I don’t expect to see him putting out

In January of 2007, I began writing a column called Basement Songs for my blog Thunderbolt. The original inspiration behind these posts was to write about the songs that had meaning to me, creating a sense of place and time to put my few readers into the moment that that particular song connected with me. Basement Songs quickly evolved into something else entirely, a sort-of memoir that was more about what happened than the song itself. In some cases the song was mentioned in passing, or in the last sentence of the column. I wasn’t writing for anyone in particular- I believe I had about 10 readers – so if I changed the rules from week to week, I didn’t anticipate anyone would mind.

A week and a half past the 2012 election, conservatives predictably have formed the traditional circular firing squad; less predictably, but (I suppose) unsurprisingly, they’ve left the heavy artillery at home. They’ve apparently chosen to use paintball guns instead – making a big mess, but inflicting little in the way of real damage. They’re not particularly good shots, either: For every ball of glop that hits an easy Republican target – Karen Hughes threatening to “cut out the tongue” of the next GOP candidate who talks about rape, Bobby Jindal rejecting Mitt Romney’s sour-grapes “gifts” whine and demanding that the GOP “stop being the Stupid Party” – two or three veer wildly off course, from Grover Norquist’s “poopyhead” remark to the secession petitions that became this week’s outlet for right-wing petulance (and left-wing schadenfreude).

Meanwhile, pundits from the mainstream and left-wing media have focused on castigating/ridiculing Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and the other usual suspects for lying to their audiences throughout the fall. They have a point: The “conservative entertainment complex,” as repentant rightie David Frum labeled it last weekend, consistently misrepresented the state of the race and insisted Romney was headed for a landslide. Their utter certainty was based on utterly nothing – nothing beyond what Peggy Noonan called “all the vibrations” indicating that, polls be damned, Obama’s team couldn’t possibly put its 2008 coalition together again. Check out those rabid, lily-white crowds at Romney rallies, readying the torches and pitchforks! How about all those Romney/Ryan signs dotting the landscape in rural Florida!

The trouble is, few on the right have joined Frum (who is now ensconced at MSNBC — the last refuge for excommunicated conservatives) in calling out Fox and friends. And the right-wing pundits themselves have quickly moved on to spinning the next scandal (Obama must have known about Petraeus’ wick-dipping before Election Day!), feeling little compulsion to tweak their narratives in the slightest, much less apologize to those they misled. And why should they? Rush and Sean and Savage and the rest will get paid either way – whether or not their preferred candidate wins, whether or not their audiences are the most misinformed citizens in the country. And they’ll get paid even more if, now that last Tuesday’s defeat is in the books, they respond not with sheepish acknowledgment of their errors, but by ginning up even more outrage among their audiences at the horrid state of America Under Obama.

Last weekend, while performing the fall-Saturday ritual of refreshing the ESPN ScoreCenter app on my phone every few minutes, I couldn’t help but consider the irony that oozed like primordial slime from the Ohio State-Penn State matchup. Here were two shamed football programs, ostensibly in the midst of some of the toughest penalties ever imposed by the NCAA, that nevertheless brought a combined record of 13-2 into the game. They may be ineligible for bowl invitations next month, but here they were in late October, playing before a national television audience and reveling in the opportunity to ignore their sordid circumstances and pretend their game actually meant something.

While considering that irony, my thoughts turned (as they inevitably do these days) to politics, and to the races going on in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Both are swing states, and both are the victims of rampant skullduggery by the Republican Party during this campaign season. Even though many of them have been shot down by the courts, the GOP-designed Voter ID laws in Pennsylvania and nearly two dozen other states stand an exponentially greater chance of suppressing thousands of Democratic votes than they do of stopping even one instance of supposed voter fraud. Meanwhile, Ohio’s Republican governor and his allies conspired to place pointless limits on early voting in that state – pointless, that is, except to deny convenient voting times to senior, minority, and college-age voters who might have difficulty making it to (and through) the long lines at their precincts next Tuesday, and who happen to be more likely than other citizens to vote Democratic. And even though that effort, too, was slapped down by the courts, urban precincts in Ohio as well as Pennsylvania and other swing states will be flooded on Tuesday with thugs from some cockamamie organization called “True the Vote” whose only goal is to intimidate minority voters to the extent that they give up the franchise.

Conflating college football and political gamesmanship isn’t too big a stretch – both pastimes encourage junkies to obsess over autumn poll-watching, after all – so last Saturday I began imagining an appropriate punishment for all the moral, ethical, strategic and policy misdeeds of the Republican Party over the last four, or 12, or 20 years (take your pick). Clearly, even the multitude of repercussions that have rained down on the Nittany Lions this past year are not (yet) achieving a suitably punitive effect. So if we extrapolate the NCAA’s sanctions regime to the political arena, it seems apparent that a Penn State-level reprimand won’t do – not even a decade-long, filibuster-proof majority for Senate Democrats, say, or a requirement that Fox News ditch the rabid punditry and broadcast only, you know, “news.”

No, what’s required here is the full-on SMU treatment from the 1980s – a “death penalty” for the entire Republican Party/Tea Party/Fox establishment, lasting several years, that will truly force American conservatives to confront the moral failings, the intellectual bankruptcy, the policymaking extremes, and the ineptitude at governance that currently befoul the institutions that promote and perpetuate their  ideology.

 My favorite quote of the past month came from a pollster who had watched Mitt Romney’s post-convention fall and post-debate rise – and had withstood all the attendant Republican whining about supposedly skewed party-ID samples. “When you give conservatives bad news in your polls, they want to kill you,” the pollster said. “When you give liberals bad news, they want to kill themselves.”

True enough – I know that I personally stood on the ledge from the first Rombama debate straight through Biden’s first soul-replenishing cackle last Thursday. Liberals are considerably less suicidal at the end of this week, following Tuesday’s slugfest and its exposure of Romney’s soft underbelly on taxes and binders and whatnot. Still, the polls are uncomfortably tight, if not quite alarming (yet – I continue to pray for serenity at the altar of Nate Silver). And we’re just two weeks removed from feeling as though the bottom had fallen out from under President Obama’s re-election bid.

Have we been worried for the right reasons? Our wailing and gnashing of teeth has centered primarily on Obama’s sluggish performance in that first debate – his failure to bring up Romney’s comment about the 47 Percent, his failure to match Mitt’s alpha-dog attitude on the split screen, etc. The excuses were legion, from altitude issues to pre-anniversary-sex jitters. (Or maybe it was post-coital weariness? Was coach always right when he told us to “save it for the game”?). But it seems to me the problem was more deep-seated than any of that, and might be traceable all the way back to the Obama campaign’s first decisions when it became clear Romney would be the Republican nominee.

Last winter and spring, at the beginning of their quest to define their opponent before he could define himself to the voters, the President and the Davids (Axelrod, Plouffe) first had to choose their definition of the guy. Which of The Two Romneys would they turn into a bogeyman? Would it be the Multiple-Choice Mitt of his career in Massachusetts politics, a serial panderer and Etch-a-Sketch artist who seemed ideologically rudderless (in the same way the Bushies made his state’s last presidential nominee appear)? Or would it be the Severe Conservative of the GOP primaries, who scrambled to the right of secessionist Rick Perry on immigration and later bought off the Tea Party’s skepticism while spending his wacked-out rivals into oblivion?

The Obamans chose the latter, of course, and spent the next six months (and a couple hundred million bucks) convincing undecided voters that Mitt had been permanently possessed by an unholy offspring of Grover Norquist and Rick Santorum.

For the first time in a generation, a competitive congressional race is brewing in my Ventura County, CA district. This series explores the local, statewide and national implications of a campaign that was born of voter discontent and might just wind up transforming Congress, and our politics in general. I outlined the parameters of the race here; a few weeks ago I interviewed the independent candidate, Linda Parks, who is starting to gain national attention for her quixotic quest; and last week I covered the single debate that will feature all six candidates in advance of the June 5 primary, exploring the ways in which such events bring out the best and worst in our politicians, and in our politics in general.

Like a lot of Americans, I never know what to do with political mailers. They’re printed in color on glossy paper, and cut in unusual sizes and shapes designed to make sure we pay attention to them. Occasionally they feature pleasant images of a candidate with her family, or with constituents who symbolize the campaign’s priorities (teachers, firefighters, veterans, nurses, minorities, generalized white people, etc.), and they feature upbeat messages like “Family First” or “Championing Education.” More often, though, they feature menacing or cartoonish images of an opponent, along with phrases intended to sow doubt or disgust – “Not Who She Says She Is,” or “We Just Can’t Trust Her.” Many times, it’s difficult to tell exactly who has sent a particular mailer – it’s amazing how tiny the print can get on a return address or a disclaimer. Always, these mailers are sent in hopes of changing somebody’s mind – if not in my household, then somewhere on my street or in my ZIP code.

Every time, though, I find myself asking the same question many Americans ask when such a mailer appears in the post: Does it belong in the wastebasket, or the recycling bin?

Campaign mailers have become a daily fact of life for registered Democrats in California’s brand-new 26th congressional district … my district in Ventura County, northwest of Los Angeles. Republicans are enjoying a mild spring here, with seasonal temperatures and a low volume of postal deliveries – primarily because there’s only one of them running for our open seat, a down-the-line conservative named Tony Strickland, and he’s expected to sail through the June 5 primary and into the general election. Democrats, on the other hand, are in a tizzy at the moment. Four of them are on the primary ballot, but the greatest concern for the party establishment is not that the wrong one might win a chance to oppose Strickland come November. It’s that none of them might get that opportunity.

The reason for that is California’s new open-primary system, which awards slots on the general-election ballot to the top two finishers in the primary, regardless of party. There is no guaranteed “Democratic” or “Republican” slot in November – and to complicate matters further, as I’ve noted throughout this series, the primary race in the 26th features an independent candidate, county supervisor Linda Parks, who has an excellent chance of surpassing all the Democratic candidates next month and taking that second slot. Last week she even received a high-profile endorsement from the Los Angeles Times, an event that reportedly sent the Democratic establishment reeling.

For the first time in a generation, a competitive congressional race is percolating in my Ventura County, CA district. This series explores the local, statewide and national implications of a campaign that was born of voter discontent and might just wind up transforming Congress, and our politics in general. I outlined the parameters of the race here, and a couple weeks ago I interviewed the independent candidate, Linda Parks, who is starting to gain national attention for her quixotic quest.

An overflow audience crowded every inch of sitting and standing room at a local conference hall last Monday night, craning their necks and getting their partisan hackles raised even before the 26th congressional district’s six candidates had entered the room. The scene was a debate – the first and perhaps only one to feature all of those six competitors on the same stage in advance of the June 5 open primary, which will send the top two vote-getters to the general election regardless of party affiliation. Expectations were sky-high amongst the onlookers for a partisan slugfest with a twist … that twist being the presence of a well-known independent candidate who has based her candidacy on pointing out every instance of her rivals’ partisan slugging.

Events pretty much played out as advertised – a steady diet of ideological back-and-forth, simmered with accusations of malfeasance and lack of qualification – and spiced with disrespectful rejoinders from the conservatives in the audience, who at times threatened to turn the proceedings into a 2009-style “town hall” debacle. The one Republican on the stage, state senator Tony Strickland, behaved like the confident and well-funded frontrunner he is, while the leading Democrat in the race, state assemblywoman Julia Brownley, spent the evening firing off round after caustic round at the liberal bull’s-eye of 2012, the Paul Ryan budget. The independent, Linda Parks, turned every answer into a critique of the two-party system and the disquieting influence of special interests on both Strickland and Brownley’s campaigns. Left sucking for oxygen were two lesser Democratic candidates whose presence can only be described as vanity affairs, while a Hispanic harbor commissioner named Jess Herrera spent the debate struggling valiantly to raise his profile above potential-spoiler status.

It was an unusually fiery debate, for these parts – one befitting the national focus that has been placed on this race by the major parties and their PAC cohorts, which are threatening to break previous records for spending by outside entities in a primary for a House seat. But while it accomplished much by allowing the principal candidates to mark their respective partisan (or non-partisan) territories, it didn’t offer voters much reason to like any of them. Strickland, Brownley and Parks walked into that room as ideological archetypes rather than captivating personalities; sadly, while all of them stuck the landings on their talking points, not one of them emerged looking any more attractive as individuals.

For the first time in a generation, a competitive race is percolating in my congressional district in Ventura County, California. Our state cherishes its reputation as a laboratory for American democracy, but in this district, in this election, our most recent experiments are proving quite combustible indeed – thanks to a representative’s retirement, a nonpartisan redistricting, and California’s first-time shift to an open primary system. The major parties, special-interest PACS, and other outside groups are preparing to flood our district with campaign cash, and with good reason – the outcome here may have profound ramifications for control of the next Congress, and even the future of our elections process. The first column in this series outlined the broad parameters of the race; over the next few weeks I’ll be profiling the candidates and covering the run-up to the June 5 open primary.

There’s a low-key rebellion underway in California – a challenge to the two-party system, with the potential to change the way Americans elect their leaders – and Linda Parks is leading the charge. The three-term county supervisor and onetime mayor of Thousand Oaks is one of more than 30 declared congressional candidates statewide whose ballot lines will read not “Democrat,” not “Republican,” but “No Party Preference.” And among them all, Parks has (by far) the best chance of withstanding the impending flood of major-party and PAC funds, and making her way to Washington in the fall.

The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call has already profiled her, and last week in the Daily Beast, Bush strategist-turned-paragon of moderation Mark McKinnon praised her as a “fighter” who has “seen the enemy within … the two-party system.” Parks herself is well aware of what she’s up against – and she’s got a strong sense of her possible impact. “This is historic,” she says, matter-of-factly. “It’s game-changing, at a time when Congress is broken and less popular than ever. People are ready for the hyper-partisanship and the special-interest influence to get fixed, and they have a great opportunity to do something about it right here. The open primary and the redistricting that have happened in California have made it possible for a moderate like me to get elected.

“This is not just a congressional campaign. It’s a statement, a movement against partisanship and against special-interest money. I never aspired to run for Congress. It’s the state of the nation, not personal ambition, that’s driving me. And if I’m successful, getting elected as a moderate without support from the special interests, there will be others who follow in my wake.”

Heady stuff, to be sure. Then again, Parks told me all of this not in some flag-festooned office or ballroom somewhere, but in between smoothie sips outside a strip-mall Jamba Juice. And she did so after responding to an interview request I had left on an answering machine whose outgoing message intoned, “You’ve reached the Parks family … and Linda Parks for Congress.”

 

When you’re a politics junkie like I am, but live in a state as resolutely blue as California, it’s easy to envy folks in other states who spend their leap years on the front lines of presidential campaigns that I’m doomed to watch from afar. Compounding my covetousness is the fact that I’ve lived for the last nine years in conservative Ventura County, in a congressional and state-assembly district that has long been exquisitely gerrymandered to keep electing Republicans in races that weren’t even vaguely competitive.

Happily, though, this year we V.C. suburbanites – thanks to the mad genius of California’s notoriously fickle voters – find ourselves smack-dab in the middle of one of the nation’s most captivating congressional races. It’s a campaign that promises to be a real humdinger, bringing together many of the discordant, corrupting, frustrating and fascinating linchpins of contemporary political combat: voter initiatives and their consequences, a game-changing redistricting, an open seat, an influx of party and PAC money, a grudge match between longtime rivals, special-interest jockeying … and even a well-liked independent with an excellent chance of winning, who plans to spend the campaign blasting the partisan logjams in both Washington and Sacramento.

There are plenty of races around the country that are being transformed by redistricting and retirements, or merely by the voters’ shifting moods. But this  campaign, here in my home district, is so intriguing for so many reasons that — at least until the June 10 primary, and hopefully right through November – I can’t imagine a better use for this space than to delve into the intricacies of the candidates’ positioning on issues, and in relation to one another; the strategic and financial maneuverings of the local and national parties, as well as the outside groups that currently are plotting to plow money into the race; and the electorate, locally and statewide, that (brilliantly or foolishly) created the scenario that’s playing out. Sure, it’s a local race for one congressional seat — but it’s also a laboratory for trends that are shaking up politics nationwide. And with control of Congress very much up in the air this fall, every competitive race comes with very high stakes.

First, let’s explore how the race got to its current point:

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Finally, some voting! (Well, some caucusing, really, but it’s practically the same thing.) Tuesday’s evening of Republican politicking in Iowa told us little to nothing we didn’t already know about the GOP field, but it did leave a distinct impression about the party’s base – a distinct odor, really. It’s the whiff of desperation, the stench of a mob that has worked itself into a sweat railing against all the stuff it doesn’t want … but can’t begin to agree on what it does want.

And how is a party that can’t answer a simple question – what, exactly, are you for? – supposed to run a country?

nullThe issues that divided the Iowans who voted variously for Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul are not small ones, and my guess is that they won’t be resolved quickly or easily. That’s not to say the GOP nominating contest will drag on terribly long, or be particularly suspenseful; my guess is that Romney, coming out of next week’s big win in New Hampshire, will simply out-organize and outspend the poorly funded (and that’s being generous) Santorum into submission by the end of the month. Romney may not win South Carolina – who will win it is anybody’s guess, and doesn’t really matter — but once Floridians vote in late January Romney will be able to coast into the summer, with Paul serving as little more than the belligerent schnauzer nipping at his heels.

That’s the way Republicans do things, organizationally speaking – they coalesce early, and move on to the bigger fight. But that’s the easy part – the establishment settling on a frontrunner and clearing his path. The trouble is that the frontrunner isn’t really the man for his moment. Has there ever been such a disconnect between the obvious passions of a party’s base and the wishy-washy lethargy of its likely standard-bearer? Even John Kerry had more of a purchase on his party’s ideals than does poor Mitt — who, according to a healthy majority of Republicans, may as well be John Kerry.

It’s generally agreed upon that if you don’t have any new flavor to add to the original, you shouldn’t bother doing a cover.  But what exactly are the ingredients for a great cover?

There’s no secret recipe.  Some of the songs below are great because they completely deconstruct the original, stripping it down to its most basic components of chords and lyrics, and build it back up again in a completely different style.  For others, the genius of the original song was always present but the presentation was lacking, and when the talents of a different performer are added, the song gains a gravity that it didn’t have in its original form.  And some of them, whether by generational ignorance or through the general obscurity of the original artist, simply didn’t receive the exposure they needed for their greatness to be recognized until they were delivered by a more familiar voice.  But the finest of these, the ones we love the best, are simply great songs by great artists where the addition of a new twist and a new voice creates something that is greater than the sum of its parts.  You can hear and recognize the glory of the original version in every note of the cover, but the listening experience is taken to another level through the talents of the covering artist.

The process for generating our list was fairly simple.  We created a huge list (800+ songs) of nominees, and each of the authors that participated selected their own top 100.  Those top 100 lists were weighted on a curve and used to generate the list that you see below.  Next week, we’ll publish a separate “honorable mention” post featuring some of the songs that didn’t earn enough votes to make the list, but were important enough to individual authors that we wanted to make sure they received some attention as well.  If you’ve got a Spotify account, you can listen to most of the originals here, and the cover versions here.  If you don’t have an account yet, you can request an invitation (they issue them pretty promptly now).  Enjoy! — Zack Dennis

One of the most common tropes in the action-adventure film – particularly the comic actioner – is the car (or train, or bus) that careens toward the cliff/riverbank/unfinished bridge and screeches to a stop just before it’s too late. As the vehicle dangles on the precipice, the passengers scramble out the back to safety, then turn around to contemplate the disaster that might have been. Sometimes their ride home stays put … and sometimes it tumbles into the abyss.

Teafoxlicans were gambling on that first outcome this summer as they played out their scenario over the debt ceiling, putting the pedal to the metal on the nation’s financial well-being and demanding a ransom in the trillions (spending cuts only!) before they would hit the brakes and avoid a devastating default. Early last week they finally got their deal, left the car teetering on the brink, and climbed out the back, fully expecting that they’d be able to drive home later. Instead, it now seems clear that the car has gone over the cliff – with your 401k and mine inside.

Of course, there are other action-pic metaphors I could have chosen – the bitter climax of the atrocious Perfect Storm, perhaps, when the sun comes out briefly but then disappears, and Clooney turns to Wahlberg and grimly intones, “She’s not gonna let us out.” (Those of us peering into the bleak future might quote John C. Reilly’s so-bad-they’re-horrible final words before being swallowed up by the drink: “This is gonna be hard on my little boy.”)

Right wingers have lashed out in fury this past week at those who have taken to calling them “hostage takers” and “economic terrorists.” Still, to beat the action-flick metaphor just a bit more firmly into the ground, I might suggest that when GOP leaders famously showed their House colleagues a clip from The Town to gird them for the final debt-ceiling battle, they might have been better off showing the climax of The Dark Knight. After all, the Joker’s amoral brilliance in pitting two ferryboats against one another, and daring each to blow up the other before he sends both to oblivion, is a nice metaphor for the Teafoxlicans’ play here: pitting the full faith and credit of the United States against recovery-killing spending cuts.

Sadly, in this case, it seems that both boats have now exploded.

In the hours since Wednesday night’s thwarting of democracy in Madison, a repulsed nation has focused its attention on the immediate question: How the hell did this happen? How did a newly elected governor and legislative majority, flying in the face of heated opposition from most of the state’s residents, manage to circumvent the state’s constitution and enact a law with no purpose but to disempower the state’s public workforce? How did Wisconsin remake itself as Libya … or at least Arizona?

It’s an interesting question, to be sure, and the answers are full of strategizing and subterfuge and hubris. But the question of how Wisconsin’s Republicans took their state’s labor laws back to the 1920s is not the one we should be asking. What we should want to know is why they bothered. Why was Scott Walker’s first substantive act as governor a move that he had kept secret from his voting populace as he was campaigning to lead them? Why did he bother to strip collective-bargaining rights from a union that had already agreed to the wage and benefit givebacks he had demanded so he could pay for his tax breaks for the wealthy? The answers to those questions are complicated, and they have profound ramifications for the entire nation as we head into the decade.

Sometime over the last two years, one imagines, a group of wealthy white men sat down for a series of hush-hush meetings in a conference room somewhere – my guess is someplace like Karl Rove’s Washington office, or the Koch Brothers’ digs in Wichita — to plot out a way to make sure a political year like 2008 will never happen again. (Sure, this sounds like conspiracy theorizing – but how else can we explain how a dozen Republican governors got the same idea at the same time, and sprung it on horrified electorates who had no idea it was coming?)

Rove’s long-held and widely publicized dream of a Republican “permanent majority” had been crushed, at least temporarily, by the party’s own incompetence, corruption and bad ideas. And in the wake of the Democrats’ ’08 sweep, as Washington Republicans flailed away but failed to stop the stimulus and health-care reform, the mainstream (and I use that word loosely) of conservatism suddenly seemed to have been co-opted by Tea Party populists who were almost as angry at the GOP establishment as they were at the guy in the White House whose race/religion/nationality (and maybe even policies) they couldn’t stomach.

But while guys like Dick Armey were rousing the rabble, back in that conference room the brain trust of the Republican establishment began figuring out how to turn the Tea Party’s rage into a renewed power grab for themselves. They identified the sources of the Democratic Party’s new strength, and began devising ways to cut those sources off at the knees. First they focused on the remnants of organized labor, and particularly the public-employee unions, which could mobilize manpower and money to match the GOP’s own power base within the energy industry and the evangelical community. Then they noted the Democrats’ overwhelming majorities among minorities and young voters, both of whom had flocked to the polls in larger numbers than ever before to make history by electing Barack Obama.

How could these three pillars of Democratic triumph be decimated, or at least held in check enough for Republicans to regain power?