Saturday, April 21, 2012

Suppress the vote

This is an extension of my blog from Thursday, April 19th, "Shameful tactics," about the so-called "voter fraud" laws.  That's a misnomer.   They are actually voter suppression laws, because the covert motivation to solve this non-existent problem is an attempt to reduce the number of people who will vote for Democratic candidates and more liberal laws.

Actually, it's a brilliant, diabolical idea -- because it sounds so reasonable.   Don't we all want voting to be limited to those who are eligible?   These laws don't actually disenfranchise anyone, but they discourage and make it difficult for certain groups -- so that they're less likely to vote.   And these are select groups (young, elderly, low-income, hourly wage workers) who are much more likely to vote Democratic -- when they vote.

Here are some facts being publicized by Craig Newmark, the founder of Craig's List.

1.  Between 2001 and 2007, there were:

       352 deaths caused by lightning

        9 instances of possible voter impersonation

2.  Does it really matter?

        The quick answer is that the significance of the "problem" they purportedly are solving is non-existent.   On the other hand, the number of people adversely affected by the laws will be huge.

        5 million voter-age citizens will likely be affected by these laws

        70% of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency will come from states that have already passed these laws

        5 out of the 11 battleground states will have, or are considering, these laws

3.   Who does not have a driver's license or similar photo ID?

        20+ million voting-age citizens
        20% of 18-29 year olds (college student ID's do not qualify)
        10% of Latinos
        25% of blacks
        20% of Asian-Americans
          8% of whites

        202,000 new voters were registered by registration drives for the 2008 election.  Such registration drives are now much more difficult or impossible under the new laws.

Maria Teresa Kumar, of Voto Latino, said:
"The problem is not that ineligible voters are voting;  
it's that eligible voters are not voting."

This is almost exclusively the doings of Republican controlled state legislatures and Republican governors.  Isn't it pathetic that this is the only way they think they can win elections?   The problem is that it works, unless we can get the laws overturned, as is happening in some state courts.


Mitchel Daniels

Here's my theory:   the Republicans don't think they will win their year -- despite the economy and despite their success in demonizing Obama for a good portion of the voting public.

The reason they can't capture this moment when Obama is vulnerable is that their best people aren't running.  One of them, Mitch Daniels, has just endorsed Romney -- and a day later issued some strong criticism of his campaign.

He said he is disappointed in Romney's rhetoric, that he doesn't talk like he is campaigning to govern , and that he hasn't effectively outlined his policies and how they will affect "the young and poor."

Daniels told the Indianapolis Star:
"You have to campaign to govern, not just to win. . . .  Spend the precious time and dollars explaining what's at stake and a constructive program to make life better. And as I say, look at everything through the lens of folks who have yet to achieve.

"Romney doesn't talk that way." 
That's certainly true.   It's just not in his DNA.    Trying to connect with NASCAR people, he tells them he has friends who own one of the racing cars.  And of course there's the story about his building an elevator in his California house -- an elevator for his cars.  It's a different world.  Does he really not get that?

Daniels hit this theme when he said that Romney should not talk about how his policies would affect the supporters who pay to get into his fundraisers, but instead about how they would affect those who can't afford to attend a high-priced event.  "Explain those things from the standpoint of the young and poor -- those who haven't achieved the dream yet." Daniels said.

I suspect that Daniels is sitting this one out.  Assuming that Romney loses, Daniels will be a formidable opponent in 2016.   He has been in Congress, has been a White House budget director, and is now a popular governor of Indiana.


Friday, April 20, 2012

"Poverty is a shortage of money."

Apropo my previous post about Pennsylvania Republican Senator Pat Toomey's saying that the number of people who really need help is a small segment of the population:

There has been a spirited exchange in The Nation about the term "culture of poverty."   The discussion originated with Barbara Ehrenreich's "Rediscovering Poverty" in the April 2nd issue.   Letters to the editor then followed in the April 30th issue.

Ehrenreich referred to Michael Harrington's book The Other America, which became the defining work on poverty in this country and informed much of the debate about Lyndon Johnson's "war on poverty."   Some of the back and forth had to do with how the term has been misunderstood and misused since that time.

As Harrington used it (his son insisted in a letter to the editor) "culture of poverty" referred to the effect of poverty on the attitudes and lives of those living in poverty.  It was not used to suggest that it was the cause of poverty.

But it has come to be misused (either through misunderstanding or deliberately and manipulatively) by conservatives like Pat Toomey to blame poverty on the poor themselves, saying they create the "culture of poverty" by their "bad attitudes and faulty lifestyles."  This then allows conservatives to feel justified in trying to limit the social network programs that Democrats favor.

This is another example of Karl Rove type tactics.   Take something that is a strength of your opponent and turn it into a liability, then blame the victim.

Ehrenreich herself put it very succinctly:
"Poverty is not, after all, a cultural aberration or a character flaw.  Poverty is a shortage of money."
Democrats have got to learn how to rebut the Toomeys, the Roves -- and, yes, even the pandering Romneys -- with pithy rebuttals instead of policy discourses.   Don't let them get away with turning things upside down.

We dismissively sneer at "bumper sticker" slogans.  But that's what people remember.  They don't remember policy discourses.

This election is too important.   It will determine the direction of the Supreme Court for the next generation.   It's already way too conservative, too pro-business.   A Romney presidency would make it even worse, changing a 5-4 split to a 6-3 or maybe even a 7-2.


Should be a push-over

It's always "the economy, stupid."

For that reason, President Obama is vulnerable to what happens in the job market, as well as to other economic indicators, in the coming months.

But, with the extreme positions and statements the Republicans are putting out, how could they possibly win an election this fall?  Unless the Democrats completely blow it.

First, there's the Paul Ryan budget, which doesn't even do what it claims to do -- reduce the deficit.    It will reward the wealthy, hurt the middle class and working people, and cut the needy off many vital programs in the safety net -- and increase the deficit.

But the House Republicans passed it, and Mitt Romney has enthusiastically endorsed it.

Is Pat Toomey trying to outdo them in the Senate?

Toomey (R-PA) is considered one of the budget mavens in the Senate.   In discussing the Senate GOP budget proposal, he declared that the number of people in the U.S. "who really need help" make up only a "small segment of our society."

That's a nice bookend to Romney's declaring the the $300,000+ plus fees he got for speaking engagements "wasn't a whole lot of money."

According to the census bureau, the number of Americans "living in poverty" has spiked to 49.1 million since the recession began.

Let's see, with a U.S. population of 300 million, that comes out to about 16% of us living in poverty.  OK, I guess that's really not so very many people.    So it should be just fine to cut social network programs way back.   We don't want to make all those folks dependent on the government, do we?

On the other hand, here are some countries, each of which has fewer than 49 million in their entire population:

South Korea, Columbia, Spain, Ukraine, Argentina, Poland, Canada, Australia, plus about 190 more.

In fact, only 24 out of the 242 countries, listed by Wikipedia with their populations, have more than 49 million.

It's the economy, stupid.   Yes.  But let's make sure we've got our figures in perspective.  Rich Republicans can't tell the difference between a little and a lot.   They're so used to having a lot.

I think our friends in Canada would say that 49,100,000 is a lot of people.  The 2011 census lists Canada's population at 33,476,688.   Our poor outnumber their total.  Still think that's a "small segment", Mr. Toomey?


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Marco Rubio says No

Marco Rubio has been at, or near, the top of most lists of potential VP choices for Romney.  Rubio has done the usual modest demurral:  "It's not going to happen."

But today, speaking at an event sponsored by the National Journal, he was unequivocal.   Even if Romney asked and said he needed him, he would turn it down.

He even went so far as to suggest that the vice president has no power and little influence, and he thinks he can have more influence by staying in the Senate.

He did not, however, say he would never be interested in running for President.

So my guess is that he thinks he'll be in a better position to make a White House bid in a few years if he stays in the Senate.    Better than being Romney's VP and being the obvious choice for 2020?

Well, of course, that's not the only possible outcome.    He may be thinking that he'd be better off making a name for himself in the Senate than resigning and running for the VP slot in 2012 -- and losing.

Smart man.


Shameful tactics

Politics is a dirty business.   But is there no shame in Republicans?

Wouldn't you think that they would be ashamed to have it be so obvious that they feel they can't win elections without rigging the process.  Consider these two examples:

(1) Numerous states have passed so-called "voter fraud" bills, in which they establish requirements that voters show a government issued photo ID in order to vote.   On the face of it, and in their rationalizations, it seems perfectly defensible to not want people to vote who are not entitled to do so.

The problem is that it's a solution without a problem.   No state has shown that there is any significant problem of people trying to vote who are not eligible -- at least not as a deception.   All the cases of actual attempts to vote usually are of some mix up about the voting precinct, have moved and now updated addresses, etc.

What they are confusing (perhaps intentionally) are the cases where voter registration drive workers -- who are paid by the number of people they register -- make up fake names to pad their count.   But how often does someone show up to vote using one of these fake names?  Never.

On the other hand, the photo ID laws just make it harder for certain groups who tend not to have a driver's license -- and, guess what?   They tend to vote Democratic.

Further, Republicans don't seem in the least concerned about the ease with which fraud is committed in absentee voting.  That is a problem -- and of course absentee ballots tend to be used more by those who vote Republican.

(2)   Now this one really takes the prize of bald-faced audacity.   In the Wisconsin recall election Republicans have recruited six "fake Denicratuc" candidates to run in the Democratic primary -- trying to dilute the vote and prevent the Democratic candidates from winning in their own primaries.

Do the Republicans have no shame.    Don't they realize that the message is loud and clear:  "We're afraid we can't win in a fair and square vote by an enfranchised population?"


Monday, April 16, 2012

"I don't think they ought to balance their budget on the backs of the poor."

"I don't think they ought to balance their budget
 on the backs of the poor."

Who said that?   None other than President George W. Bush in 1998, when he was pushing his idea for "compassionate conservatism."

"Well, now . . .  " (as George Will would say).

Instead, we get the exact opposite from the Paul Ryan budget proposal --which was passed by the House Republicans and enthusiastically endorsed by Mitt Romney.

But now Romney is trying to pivot and move a little back to the center to compete with Obama for the moderates and independents.

Not so fast, say the House Republicans, who claim:  "We're not a cheerleading squad.  We're the conductor.  We're supposed to drive the train."   That came from Rep. Jeff Landry (R-LA).

So it looks like there's going to be a bit of a skirmish within the Republican Party before Romney can freely turn to his battles with Obama and the Democratic Party.

No wonder they're trying to keep George W. under wraps.    That line of his from 1998 will make a wonderful campaign sound bite bumper sticker, and question at debate time.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Truth about the Zimmerman case

Bill Cosby said it most clearly:   The Trayvon Martin case is about guns, not race.

Cosby was interviewed on CNN's "State of the Union" this morning.   He said calling Zimmerman a racist is a distraction and doesn't solve anything.  The bigger question is what Zimmerman was doing with a gun.

I totally agree.


Just what we need

Yesterday, just three weeks after undergoing a heart transplant, Dick Cheney walked onstage to speak at some length at the Wyoming Republican Party Convention and reportedly looked stronger than before this major surgery and its difficult post-op recovery.

I was initially outraged by his saying that President Obama "has been an unmitigated disaster for this country."

Now, even in political hyperbole, that's pretty extreme, especially coming from Darth Vader himself, who I felt was an unmitigated disaster for this country (Iraq war, Patriot Act, increased power of the Executive, torture, secret deals for the oil industry and defense contractors, etc.).

This morning, I'm thinking this is exactly what we need to fire up the disaffected progressives.   Surely, despite their disappointment and anger at Obama, they will wake up and say:  "No way has he been an unmitigated disaster.

And then go out and work to re-elect him.   That's what it's going to take -- coming to face the stark reality of what we will get if we don't.