Tom Cotton: Disturbing Views, Bad Votes and Delusions of Grandeur

Today’s magnum opus profile of Tom Cotton by Molly Ball of The Atlantic is a definite must-read. It is quite long, but full of scary insights into the mind of the first-term congressman. We’ve pulled a few key nuggets for you.

It’s been clear for some time that Cotton is out of touch with Arkansans, but Ball’s stellar reporting, shows that Cotton is really not in touch with anyone other than himself. Cotton doesn’t even really connect with his own colleagues in the House of Representatives.  But as you will see, that is not very surprising, as Cotton believes that a man of such great intellect and “raw brainpower” as himself (tongue planted firmly in cheek) belongs in the Senate.

Ball unearths for the first time Cotton’s thesis from Harvard College – a body of work the Tea Party darling stands by to this day (he can still quote much of it verbatim) and one that offers a very clear picture of the real Tom Cotton.

This little doozy from Cotton’s thesis pretty much sums up how highly Tom Cotton regards Tom Cotton:

“National officeholders have an enlarged ambition and mental acuity that distinguishes them from all other sorts of men,” Cotton wrote. And where such men belong, he argued—where they will naturally find their place—is in the U.S. Senate.

But wait – it actually gets worse:

Men who seek national office, Cotton wrote in his thesis, are the most ambitious men, seeking the headiest sort of power over a nation’s commerce, finance, and affairs of state. Self-selection ensures that they have “a superior intelligence compared to the unambitious and to the lesser ambitious.” This does not necessarily mean that they are wise, he notes, but “it does imply some amount of sheer, raw brainpower. National officeholders will all possess something akin to shrewdness, cleverness, or perhaps even cunning.”

There’s even more:

“Ambition characterizes and distinguishes national officeholders from other kinds of human beings,” Cotton wrote. “Inflammatory passion and selfish interest characterizes most men, whereas ambition characterizes men who pursue and hold national office. Such men rise from the people through a process of self-selection since politics is a dirty business that discourages all but the most ambitious.”

The article also gives insight into how much Cotton has been trained and groomed by some of the most extreme far right conservatives out there, how they’ve funded his political rise and he votes in lock step with their agenda. That includes The Club for Growth, which was the largest fundraiser for his first election to Congress and which gave Cotton a 92% rating on their Congressional scorecard in his first term.

One reason Club for Growth was so high on Cotton was that he was so low on farmers.

Ball writes:

The votes that marked him an outlier in the Arkansas Republican delegation—the farm bill, disaster aid, the Children’s Hospital—were all in keeping with the Club’s austere philosophy.

She also writes:

It is not the only time Cotton has outdone even other Republicans with his conservative absolutism. He was the only Arkansas Republican to vote twice against the farm bill and five times against disaster-aid funding—two initiatives that national conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation see as symptoms of big government, but that many rural Southerners rely on heavily. Cotton also was the only Arkansan to vote for a budget drafted by the Republican Study Committee that would slash spending, voucherize Medicare, and raise the eligibility age for Social Security to 70.

Cotton’s unwillingness to compromise and his blind and reckless adherence to the extreme agendas of outfits like The Club for Growth and Heritage Foundation clearly causes frustration with other Republicans. They even question his voting record!

One GOP strategist involved in the midterm elections complained about Cotton’s failure to leap decisively ahead of Pryor, telling me, “His problem is, his voting record was scripted by the Heritage Foundation.”

Scorecards like the Club’s frustrate House Speaker John Boehner, who believes that it and other pressure groups—the Heritage Foundation keeps a similar tally—encourage Republicans against constructiveness and compromise. But the groups’ tough-minded ideology has found willing acolytes in the House’s most staunchly ideological crop of members, many of them elected in the Tea Party wave of 2010 that handed Republicans the House majority, and more, like Cotton, elected since. Politico last year dubbed Cotton the face of the “hell no caucus” that was making Boehner’s life difficult by refusing to entertain any inkling of gun control or immigration reform.

The Atlantic article also shows just how concerned national Republicans are over Cotton’s inability to connect with voters and the impact that might have on his chances in the election.

Yet Cotton retains an air of impenetrability, a blankness that has puzzled voters and pundits alike. And his failure to dominate the race has prompted prominent Republicans to worry that something is missing.

Ball also caught up with Gov. Beebe for the article. Unlike Cotton, Gov. Beebe knows that to get things done, there has to be compromise.  And she spoke with Sen. Pryor:

Arkansans are conservative, Beebe said, but they are practical, not ideological, and they value a personal connection with their politicians. “Some of those pragmatic business Republicans see more advantage to Senator Pryor’s reelection than they do to an extremely, very, very conservative opponent,” he said. Pryor, when I interviewed him at a catfish fry in the tiny town of Grady, agreed with this assessment. (Cotton had appeared briefly at the event—a mainstay of the Arkansas political calendar—shaking a few hands and leaving early for a fundraiser. Pryor stayed for several hours, sweating profusely and greeting every voter like an old friend.) “I meet a lot of Republicans who say that, for one reason or another, they just can’t support him,” Pryor told me. “What they know from business is that this my-way-or-the-highway attitude my opponent has, it’s dead-end politics. What you end up with there is, you end up shutting down the government. You end up with fiscal cliffs. Businesspeople know that you’ve got to compromise and work with other people.”

We could write more about Cotton’s out of touch views on race, his issues with freedom of the press, etc., but this post is already quite long, and this is just one more chapter in the narrative Democrats have built against Tom Cotton and his positions that are out of step with Arkansas.

Why have “Americans soured on North Carolina”?

A recent national poll by Public Policy Polling (PPP) out of Raleigh, North Carolina shows that there has been a palpable, downward shift in people’s opinion of the state of North Carolina.  PPP regularly polls on the “favorability” rating of each state in the country.  The latest PPP poll on North Carolina showed a drop in its favorability from 40% to 30% and the state’s unfavorable rating jumped from 11% to 23%.  The poll found a steep decline among Hispanic, Women and African Americans—all groups that previously held the state in high regard.

This, of course, set tongues wagging in the national media that these poll results suggest a backlash against the state for its rightward political shift among the state legislature.  Of course, some of the commentary noted similar low favorability ratings among other Southern states and ascribed their opinions as to why that is the case.

As a Southerner, it drives me nuts that people (or groups) outside the South might take a poll like this, and apply its findings to the entire region.  North Carolinians (and other Southerners) begin to feel as though, “the rest of the country thinks what is happening here is nuts, they think we are nuts.”

What we think is important, is to understand how North Carolinians feel about this shift in perception.  “How do you feel that many outside our state once looked upon North Carolina positively, and now they don’t?”  We agree with those in and around North Carolina who have accurately articulated the sentiment, “This perception is not accurate of the whole, but rather of a few.  We have to change this dynamic and fix this misperception.”

Unfortunately, the more common mistake is for Southerners (and each of us have been guilty of this at some time, on some level) to take on such an air of defiance.  To rally around ourselves and instead of taking action, find fault with the outsiders who say the South is out of step with the rest of nation.

To be sure, there is power behind such data.  North Carolina remains an economic powerhouse in the South, but outside opinions can change that dynamic.  Over time, these types of opinions can become solidified and can have devastating consequences:  less money coming in to the state, fewer new jobs created, growing educations problems — especially in economically strong areas like the Research Triangle Park region.  As we all know, bad economics lead to an environment that impacts the livelihood of families.  The prophecy becomes self-fulfilling.

Our goal as an organization is to give a voice to those who are totally flabbergasted at what they see happening and are looking for the vehicle to right the ship.

Burns Strider

Founder and Principal at the Eleison Group

Member, Southern Progress Fund Board of Advisors

Southern Progress Fund Goes Public


New Political Action Committee to Support State Legislative and Statewide Down Ballot Elections Across the South and Deep South; Group Will Also Run Aggressive Voter Registration and Voter Protection Efforts in Southern States

Jackson, MS – Former Democratic Mississippi Governor and 2008 Democratic U.S. Senate Candidate Ronnie Musgrove today announced the formation of the Southern Progress Fund, a new multi-state organization that seeks to lay the long-term groundwork to make Democrats more competitive in the South.

The Southern Progress Fund will focus on local and state government elections throughout the South, shepherding much-needed attention and resources to elections that are often overshadowed by federal elections and gubernatorial races.

Announcing the formation of the Southern Progress Fund, Musgrove wrote in the Huffington Post, “Democrats cannot and should not write off an entire region of the country, and we certainly cannot ignore the South, which like other regions of the country has a long history of producing great leaders.  If Democrats continue to spend less money in the South than in most other regions of the country, then we will continue to get what we pay for.  And we will lose out on a lot of critical Southern voices and potential leaders in the making.”

Musgrove said he was motivated to do something when in November 2012 the Koch brothers took an active role in working to make both houses of the Arkansas State Legislature majority Republican for the first time since 1874.  This made all state legislative bodies in the South majority Republican – with the exception of the Kentucky House of Representatives, where Democrats remain in the majority.  The Southern Progress Fund seeks to change this.

Musgrove cautioned that it will be several years before multiple states in the South are “in play” or considered battleground states in presidential elections.  In the meantime, he said, “there are many candidates to recruit, elections to be won, and voters to register.”

Enhanced efforts to disenfranchise Democratic voters make the need for organized efforts to protect all Americans right to be heard more necessary than it has been in decades.  As such, the Southern Progress Fund will partner with the Southern Progress Action Fund, a separate non-profit organization, to fund aggressive voter registration and voter protection efforts throughout the South.

Immediately after the Supreme Court decision to repeal Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act, six states in the South took action to change and enact voter suppression laws without prior approval from the U.S. Department of Justice.  While these laws are not entirely unique to the South, onerous voter ID and other voter suppression laws have always been designed to disenfranchise low-income seniors, African Americans and Latinos.

Musgrove said Southern Progress Fund will help fight such laws, “The extreme far-right fringe of the Republican Party that currently has a stranglehold on the South is holding back much needed progress.  That grip is loosening and Southern Progress Fund will work hard to speed up that process and make it okay to be a proud Democrat in the South once again.”

Southern Progress Fund

In The Washington Post, Karen Tumulty and Dan Balz write about the near impossibility of rewriting the Voting Rights Act in the face of the Supreme Court’s Decision to gut the landmark legislation: “If the five justices who voted to gut this landmark legislation think that this Congress has the ability to reform this legislation in the current hyper-partisan environment, they are beyond naive,” said Ronnie Musgrove, a former Democratic governor of Mississippi.

The Atlantic’s Molly Ball reports, the Southern Progress Fund, also is gearing up to launch in the coming months, led by former Mississippi Governor Ronnie Musgrove…The goal, Musgrove said, is “to lay the groundwork long-term for the South once again to be a Democratic stronghold,” by “building a strong bench of up-and-coming Democratic leaders.”

This article in the American Prospect more clearly than anything else we have read shows why a Democratic resurgence in the South is an inevitability.  And most importantly, how building a base of support for Democrats in the South will have a profound impact on national politics.  This is a must read.

The Republican Party is in the weakest position it has been in two decades of Pew Research Center polling. Interviews with more than 7,000 respondents nationwide so far this year found just 23% identifying themselves as Republicans. This is down from 25% in 2008 and 30% as recently as 2004. In total, the GOP has lost roughly a quarter of its base over the past five years. Read more.

There are large differences between Tea Party and Republican party. Some seem unsolvable. Establishment Republicans are closer aligned to Democrats than Tea Party on issues about education and environmental protections.