Saturday, December 1, 2012

Thinking about the GOP's problem

This is going to be about the Republicans, but for a change I'm not going to rant about how awful they are.

This is about the Republicans' dilemma.  And they really do have a serious dilemma.  For all John Biehner's bluster, he is in a very difficult spot trying to hold his caucus together, pull them back from the brink that brought on defeat.

In 2010, the Tea Party conservatives had the momentum and the election brought a lot of them into Congress.   They pulled the Republican party and the Republican caucuses in House and Senate way to the far right.   Moderates almost lost control of the party.

One of the results was that a lot of ultraconservatives beat more moderate candidates in the 2012 primaries;  some of them were incumbents who lost their seats (Sen. Lugar for example).

But look at the results in the general election.   It was one of the main factors in the Democrats gaining seats in both House and Senate -- and led to some of the surprises.  The other big factor in the "surprise" margins of victory for Obama and down-ticket offices was the Dem's ground game of registering and getting more voters to the polls.

The Romney campaign's internal polling is now being analyzed, and it shows that they badly missed the demographic changes, and therefore under-represented especially Hispanics and Asians, who both went heavily for Obama.

But back to the main point of how ultraconservative nominees led to loss of seats.   Jay Bookman in the AJC  a few days ago wrote about this and gave three examples of states in which this happened.

Indiana:   Esteemed, even by Democrats, Senator Richard Lugar lost the nomination to a more conservative opponent, who defines compromise as Democrats giving in to Republicans.    Mitt Romney carried Indiana by 10 points;  but the Democratic Senate candidate won by 5 points.

Missouri:  Rep. Todd Akins was favored to take Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill's seat, until his infamous remark about women who get raped can't get pregnant.   Romney carried Missouri by 10 points;  McCaskill won by 15 points.

North Dakota:  A seat left open by retiring Democratic Senator Kent Conrad, one of the more fiscally conservative Democrats.   The ultraconservative GOP candidate was favored to win, and Romney won the state by 20 points.   Yet a Democrat, more liberal than Conrad whom she will replace, won a narrow victory.

Bookman concludes:
"In these states,and others, Republicans mde the mistake of believing that they could pursue ideological purity without risking rejection at the ballot box, and Democrats were more than happy to teach them otherwise."
These are three seats the Republicans could easily have won with a more moderate candidate.   There are other examples, as well, if a bit less dramatic.

So now the dilemma for GOP leaders in Congress and in the Party is how to convince the remaining Tea Party crowd that following their demands to go far right is a losing strategy and to get them on board with moving the party back to right-center.


Friday, November 30, 2012

Breaking pledges

Folks, I really did try for a while to find other things to write about so that this blog is not just a rant about how awful the Republican politicos are.   That's a hard assignment, when we are bombarded daily with evidence that they are.

The meme of this week has mostly been their posturing over the debt-reduction, budgetary negotiations.   Just this morning, here are some headlines of stories on Huffington Post:

"'Surprise':  GOP Outraged By Offer They Received Weeks Ago"

"Obama Takes Fiscal Cliff Show on the Road as Republicans Stew"

"Krauthammer Loses It:  Obama Offer Like Civil War"

 This is about their storming around yesterday over the budgetary proposal that President Obama had given them some time back;  or rather he sent over a slightly newer version, but he had the Secretary of the Treasury deliver it instead of appearing himself.    I'm thinking it's the fact that he sent Geithner while, as someone put it, he was flying all over the country hyping up his tax hike message to the American people.

The sub-meme running this week also is their outraged reaction to Harry Reid's plan to change the Senate filibuster rules on the first day of the next session.

In all this, they're acting like they're entitled to run the show, even though they lost the election decisively -- some even say there was a mandate from the voters to change the show.

Here's the headline I would like to hand to the Republicans:

"Elections Have Consequences and You Lost"


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Add this to the election costs

Remember when the Republicans held us all hostage last year, refusing to vote to increase the debt ceiling unless the President caved in on tax cuts for the wealthy?

The Bipartisan Policy Center has just released a report that says it's going to cost taxpayers about $18.9 billion over the next 10 years, because of the increased interest rates the government had to pay on the money it borrowed during the standoff, due to our creditors' fear that we might default.

It was pure politics.  They knew it had to be done, and they knew they were eventually going to do it.   But they held everyone hostage -- and now we have to pay for their political stunt.

So -- just one more cost to add to the already $6 billion estimated by the New York Times as the amount of money raised and spent on the election.  It actually quadruples the cost of politics this year.

Also add in the $1 million spent by the House to defend DOMA in court after the Department of Justice declined to defend it.  

Do you need any more evidence to vote these bums out of office next chance you get, like 2014?


Our Liberal Future

Johnathan Chait has a new article on the Daily Intel blog about the future of the political parties in terms of how young people voted in the 2012 election.  He uses the Pew Research Survey's analysis of the youth voteIt's encouraging for liberals.  Here are some excerpts from Chait's discussion:

"The youngest generation of voters contains a much smaller proportion of white voters than previous generations, and those whites in that generation vote Republican by a much smaller margin than their elders. [And younger voters seem to have a deeper attachment to liberalism than just the social issues, which] may actually portend a full-scale sea change in American politics.

". . . the core of Americans’ political thinking [is] a blend of symbolic conservatism and operational liberalism. Most Americans, that is, oppose big government in the abstract but favor it in the particular. They oppose “regulation” and “spending,” but favor, say, enforcement of clean-air laws and Social Security. . . .

"But this is not the case with younger voters. By a 59 percent to 37 percent margin, voters under 30 say the government should do more to solve problems. More remarkably, 33 percent of voters under 30 identified themselves as liberal, as against 26 percent who called themselves conservative [in contrast to older groups who identify more as conservatives, when asked].

"What all this suggests is that we may soon see a political landscape that will appear from the perspective of today and virtually all of American history as unrecognizably liberal. . . .

"Obviously, such a future hinges on the generational patterns of the last two election cycles persisting. But, as another Pew survey showed, generational patterns tend to be sticky. It’s not the case that voters start out liberal and move rightward. Americans form a voting pattern early in their life and tend to hold to it. . . .  Republicans fervently (and plausibly) hoped . . .  [that] having voted for Obama and borne the brunt of mass unemployment, once-idealistic voters would stare at the faded Obama posters on their wall and accept the Republican analysis that failed Big Government policies have brought about their misery.

"But young voters haven’t drawn this conclusion — or not many of them have, at any rate. So either something else is going to have to happen to disrupt the liberalism of the rising youth cohort, or else the Republican Party itself will have to change in ways far more dramatic than any of its leading lights seem prepared to contemplate."

This is very encouraging.  Although this makes sense, I still have doubts about the degree to which this can be assumed, and I think Chait may be overly generous in his interpretation of the second Pew survey he cites as support of people sticking with their liberal-conservative choices.   I'm from the generation that saw the South go from Democratic to Republican in very quick order when desegregation became the issue

Still, Chait's perspective is encouraging.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Isn't it lov-er-ly?

OK.  Here I am going off on the Republicans, again.   But it's impossible for me not to gloat a bit at the scrambling they're doing, trying to repair their badly fractured image.   They don't seem to know that what happened is that their fun-house mirror broke.   We've known how out of touch they were.  They just didn't know it.  And their talk radio and FoxNews just reflected it all back at them -- and they believed it.

They really do have a dilemma.   They tried so hard to convey an image of diversity, for example, in their convention.   Their trouble is that the cameras wouldn't stay focused on the stage -- which showed a carefully selected range of skin tones and ethnicity.

But the cameras kept panning the audience, the delegates.   And it was hard to spot anything but white, white, white.    And we are headed for a not too distant future when white will no longer be a majority.

Now the chickens are coming home to roost in the House.   They still have control of the House (but with fewer votes than before), and they may want to have more diversity in their committee chairs.  But John Boehner's announcement of the 19 committee chairs for the next two years was a monotonous list:   White men 19.  White women 0.  People of color 0.

They just didn't have anyone other than white men on the committees with experience to elevate to chair status.   Oh, a few committee members, but not with any seniority.   The most likely woman who could have been nominated would have to have been leap-frogged over seven men with more seniority.  And you know how politicians are about their status in the pecking order.

[chuckle, chuckle]   I like to give my glee the high-falutin' German name:  Schadenfreude.  It means pleasure in the misfortune of others.


Dolly Parton lost in her own look-alike contest

I like Dolly Parton.    Not her country music or her flamboyant, "trail-park trash" style (that's her own term).   I like her honesty and her big heart.   I like it that she embraces her roots and makes no apologies for simply being who she is.  I like it that she accepts other people as they are.

Dolly has just published a new memoir in which she supposedly tells an anecdote that I found very funny in the kind of ironic humor that appeals to me.

It seems that, just for a lark, she once entered a look-alike contest dressed as herself.   It was primarily a contest for drag queens, with several other Dollys and a few Chers.

She lost.  Admittedly, she had camped it up a bit more than usual, so perhaps she was just too over the top for the judges.  


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Benefits of ObamaCare's extension of Medicaid

Some Republican governors and legislatures are playing stupid politics with their people's health.

The Kaiser Family Foundation and the Urban Institute have completed a study of the program and concluded that the ObamaCare extension of Medicaid would cover an additional 20 million people at a modest cost to the states.  We already knew from government analysts that the federal government will pay 100% of the costs for the first three years, declining to 90% thereafter.

But now the Kaiser/Urban study shows that states might even come out ahead, since this program will reduce taxpayer funded compensation for hospitals and health care providers for uncompensated medical bills.

And that's just in the accounting department.  Think of the human side of this:   20 million more people get adequate health care instead of doing without and winding up in ER's when it becomes a crisis.

It's stupid not to grab such a bargain.  It's even stupid politically in the long run.   You think when those 20 million people realize what they've been denied by conservatives governors just to spite Obama, they aren't going to vote them out of office?   They should tar and feather them and run them out of town on a rail.   Our own Nathan Deal should be at the head of the hounded pack.


Is Fox News reforming ???

Has anyone else noticed the increasing frequency that headlines such as this are appearing?
"Fox News Host Challenges John McCain on Taxes"?
On his Sunday news show, Chris Wallace confronted McCain on his flip-flopping on tax cuts for the wealthy, which he had previously opposed and now says we have to do because this will stimulate growth and create jobs.

Then there was the now infamous election night confrontation between Megyn Kelly and Karl Rove over his obstinate refusal to believe Fox News's own number crunchers calling Ohio for Obama.   The next day, Rove was again on Fox News, saying Obama only won by "suppressing the vote" and quoting statistics to show that his victory was less significant than in 2008.   Kelly interrupted him to say:  “You keep saying that, but he won, Karl, he won. . . that's what [people] care about."

And there have been several other instances lately where I was surprised at their news people challenging the kind of statements they used to encourage and amplify.

And Thomas Ricks, being interviewed on FoxNews yesterday, said it right in their face:  "I think the emphasis on Benghazi has been extremely political, partly because Fox is operating as the wing of the Republican Party."  

Surely this cannot be anything less than a deliberate policy shift coming from high above in their news department, trying to get rid of that image.

Is Fox trying to rehabilitate itself and erase the stain of (1) a Pew Research study that showed that people who watch Fox News have even less accurate information about current news than people who don't watch any news at all;  and (2) the beating conservative and their pundits took in predicting it all wrong?

Could be.  Stayed tuned.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Rice 2 at State

It is widely believed that President Obama is set on nominating U. N. Ambassador Susan Rice to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State -- despite the childish, outspoken opposition from Sen. John McCain and others.

New York magazine's John Heilemann predicts she will be confirmed and gives five reasons he's so sure of that:

1.  Because every piece of available evidence is that Obama really, really wants her in that position.   In addition to the similarities of name and race to Rice 1 (Condi) at State, Susan Rice enjoys the same kind of close relationship with Obama that Condi did with George W. Bush.   She has long been part of his inner circle of advisers on foreign policy, and they share trust and a world view.

2.  She is imminently qualified for the job.    A Rhodes Scholar with an Oxford Ph.D. in international relations, Rice was part of the National Security team in the Clinton administration and then Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.   Before being named Ambassador to the U.N., she was a scholar at the Brookings Institute.    In addition to her expertise and experience in international relations, she is known to be effective in negotiating coalitions to get things done.

3.  The opposition to her appointment focuses on one Sunday morning of talk shows in which she gave the Obama administration's preliminary report about the terrorist attack on our diplomats in Benghazi, Libya.    This is ludicrous and obviously an excuse for the real reasons (below).   Rice simply reported the latest unclassified intelligence briefing she had been given at that early moment in the investigation of what happened.   She should not be blamed for the fact that later public information proved her statements incorrect.  In fact, it's now becoming clear that our intelligence knew differently at the time, but that information was classified.  McCain knows full well that she could not have reported classified information.

4.  "Because McCain is being a jack-ass, and Obama is sick of it."   That's Heilemann's wording.  The aging and petulant loser, McCain, is known widely for letting his personal piques distort his good sense -- and he often winds up looking like a jack-ass.  He knows that some of Obama's best attack lines against him in the 2008 race were straight from the mind of Susan Rice.   Besides, she is a stand-in for Obama, himself.   McCain's a sore loser.

5.  "Because if McCain insists on pressing the fight, Obama will win."   Heilemann says Obama will win.   Democrats have a 53-47 majority in the senate and would need only six Republicans to vote with them to kill a filibuster.   Besides, Harry Reid may very well find the courage to push through a change in the filibuster rules before then.

I find nothing to disagree with here.   I haven't known much about Susan Rice before now, except that she was supposed to be very bright, very knowledgeable, and an Obama insider.  She has kept a pretty low profile as U.N. ambassador but has reportedly been very effective behind the scenes.   It sounds like she would be an excellent choice -- and well worth the fight to defeat John McCain once again.


PS:  After writing this, I read that McCain was back-tracking on the Sunday morning news shows, saying that he would consider voting for her if she gives a full account of the whole sequence and explains herself.   Later he went even further and said that his quarrel was really with Obama, not Rice.   I guess his advisers read the writing on the wall, and they're now trying to put lipstick on the pouty pig.