Friday, December 31, 2010

Categories - 2

Same deal.

Categories - 1

Nothing to see here. Just setting up the categories.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christine O'Donnell Under FBI Investigation - It's All Joe Biden's Fault!

The news came out yesterday that Christine O’Donnell, one of our favorite Senate candidates, is under investigation by the FBI for misuse of campaign funds:

BALTIMORE — Federal authorities have opened a criminal investigation of Delaware Republican Christine O’Donnell to determine if the former Senate candidate broke the law by using campaign money to pay personal expenses, according to a person with knowledge of the investigation

This is not the first time allegations regarding misuse of campaign funds, or allowing outside groups to act for her have been made. The Delaware state GOP filed an FEC complaint about it before the primary election, and the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed another one.

CREW’s complaint is based, in part, on the affidavit of former campaign aide David Keegan. Mr. Keegan explained that in 2009, when Ms. O’Donnell was out of money, she paid her landlord, Brent Vasher, two months rent out of her campaign funds. On FEC forms, Ms. O’Donnell called the expenditures “expense reimbursements.” Mr. Keegan also attested that Ms. O’Donnell routinely used campaign funds for meals and gas, and even a bowling outing. This is not surprising given that Ms. O’Donnell has not held a steady job or had a discernable source of income for many years.

Which has been out there for a while, and most of the allegations go back to her 2008 campaign. But, apparently the FBI has gotten around to investigating the criminal allegations, and as usual, the fact that there was an investigation is what made news. Needless to say, Christine O’Donnell had a response to the investigation, and she knows exactly who to blame for it:

I was warned by numerous sources that the DE political establishment is going to use every resource available to them. So given that the King of the Delaware Political Establishment just so happens to be the Vice President of the most liberal Presidential administration in U.S. history, it is no surprise that misuse and abuse of the FBI would not be off the table. And further connecting the dots, do you think it is just a coincidence that Melanie Sloan was a senior Biden staffer just before she joined CREW and filed her complaint against me?!

Yes, here we’ve been thinking Joe Biden is a nice guy, and it turns out that he’s really an evil mastermind who controls both parties in Delaware and has told the FBI to investigate a losing Senatorial candidate. Well, according to Christine that is. While the rest of us wouldn’t be surprised to find out that there were some legally questionable uses of campaign funds, or even surprised if it turned out to be “stupid” instead of “criminal,” which CREW and others wanted investigated, Christine knows who is behind it. Joe Biden.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The GOP's Tolerance Problem - a Democratic Opportunity

There’s an interesting commentary over at CNN by Julian Zelizer entitled “Race could backfire on the right.” In it, he talks about the strain of racism – and pandering to it – which has often appeared in conservative politics:

In recent months, there have been questions about the degree to which racial politics has influenced Tea Party activists and some Republican politicians. The heated debates about illegal immigration and the proposed construction of an Islamic cultural center near ground zero brought out some of the uglier elements of the conservative movement. At some of the early Tea Party events, there were placards that drew on explicitly racial imagery of the nation’s president.

He makes the point that the conservative tradition is not about race, but doesn’t deny that there is indeed a strain of it running through it, which I say can be broadened out even further to “intolerance.” One may look no further than the embrace by some of “birthers,” who question whether the President was born in Hawaii or not – despite overwhelming proof. It’s even more exacerbated by various groups reactions to gays:

Ever vigilant against “twisted and dangerous” threat of gay conservatives, right-wing groups are now repudiating any person, place, or thing that may associate with these wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing, most notably the American Conservative Union’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

Then there was their embrace of Arizona’s SB 1070, and now they’re planning on upping the ante:

First on his list is a bill to end birthright citizenship. Mr. Pearce and other lawmakers plan to unveil the measure at a Jan. 5 press conference at the National Press Club, five days before the start of the Arizona legislative session.

Whether the Republicans like it or not, they have put themselves in the position of alienating large numbers of people and painting themselves as the “Party of Intolerance.” Whether it’s genuine belief by some, or cynical pandering by others, that’s the reality. It has already cost them in elections, as Latino voters turned to Democrats over Republicans.

Those results, GOP strategists say, can be tied directly to the alienation of Hispanic voters turned off by years of tough rhetoric on immigration by California Republicans. And unless Republicans in Washington heed the warning and tone down the way they debate immigration policy, this year’s GOP successes could be short-lived, strategists say.

The reality, as we’ve been seeing, is that for now, they see the pandering to the intolerance as a “winning strategy,” or are electing people from those groups who consider it a “given.” Zelizer gives a piece of advice for them in 2012:

If Republicans want to rebound from 2008 and to create a broad coalition for victory, they will need to attract Latino voters, suburban moderates and other parts of the electorate who want little to do with any kind of racial or ethnic backlash.

Conservatives should think long and hard about nominating a Republican who cannot demonstrate, once and for all, without any question, that he or she fully understands the history of racial inequality in this country and appreciates the centrality of a pluralistic America.

Personally, I don’t think they’ll do it, and particularly not in 2012. They’ve locked themselves into this course, and only at the expense of alienating one or more of their bases will they be able to change that. It’s paid some short-term benefits for them, but in the long-term, it’s going to hurt them. The population demographics of this country are changing, as well as the attitudes of acceptance towards various groups. What we’ve seen is narrowing of their appeal, and the ability to build a “broad-based coalition” is limited, if not crippled.

Which is an opportunity for the Democratic Party. As the Republicans proceed to alienate more groups of voters, we need to be willing to listen to them, and offer them an alternative that’s attractive. It will be “messy” in some ways, since not all groups share the entire progressive agenda. But at the same time, when one Party is manifestly unfriendly towards them, and another is willing to listen, the party that listens is more likely to get their votes. In the longer run, they become a “base” of the party. It’s there that our opportunity lies, if we’re willing to take it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

FCC Passes Net Neutrality Rules – Now Look for Legal Challenges

It’s official – the Federal Communications Commission has passed its first set of regulations for internet service providers.

It wasn’t a unanimous decision. The rules passed only because Democratic commissioners outnumber Republican ones three to two, and even that majority wasn’t a sure thing until FCC chairman Julius Genachowski was able to convince fellow Dems Michael Cobbs and Mignon Clyburn that the rules, while not as tough and sweeping as they would like, were better than no regulations at all.

Purists are already screeching about alleged betrayal – have been for months, actually – and are making a spectacle of themselves because the rules don’t completely shut internet providers out of any and all decisions about regulating internet traffic.
And on the other side, consumer groups aren’t happy, either. Public interest groups have said they will consider filing suit against the rules that they fought to enact, asserting that the regulation doesn’t go far enough to protect consumers.

“The activist Internet community is independent, innovative and fearless in this power grab,” said Tyrone Brown, former FCC commissioner and president of the nonprofit Media Access Project. “The telecom giants may have bitten off more than they can chew.”
Um, right. I’m sure they are quaking in fear of whiny spoiled-brat activists who would dump the entire jar of cookies into the trash simply because there aren’t enough for everyone to have more than one.

The fact is, these rules are already on very shaky legal ground, given that a federal appeals court decision from 2008 found that the commission has no legal standing for regulating internet service providers. That court said that there was no federal law that gave the FCC authority over the internet.

So with that legal hurdle to overcome, on top of the determination of Republicans in Congress to pass new legislation prohibiting the FCC from enacting these new regulations, it should be obvious to anyone with an ounce of common sense why Genachowski went with a slate of rules that granted businesses a little more slack than progressives think is desirable. For instance, the rules prohibit internet providers from slowing the traffic of smaller businesses or products from competitors, but grant them some leeway in regulating traffic congestion. Wireless internet providers are exempt from some of the rules. These compromises are designed to make the rules seem less like a “power grab” and, it is hoped, better able to withstand legal challenges that might hinge on the argument that they create an unfair burden on businesses.
Of course, liberal activists aren’t the only ones throwing fits over these regulations.Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said she will reintroduce legislation to overthrow the rules. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) said she will move to withdraw funds appropriated to the FCC to execute the rules.

“The FCC is attempting to push excessive government regulation of the Internet through without Congressional authority, and these actions threaten the very future of the technology,” said Hutchison, the ranking GOP member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
And the beat goes on. Stay tuned; this is gonna get interesting.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Just The Facts - Improving Messaging Must Start At The Grassroots

There are a couple of great sites on the Internet for those who want to do a quick fact check on some politician’s statements. There’s Snopes, which is one of the great debunking sites for various myths, chain e-mails, and other things you may hear about a politician. FactCheck and PolitiFact both look at current events, statements and advertising by various politicians, political parties, and news media pundits, and check their veracity against the facts. I consider them “must have” sites for anyone who may want to see what’s really the case, not what they may have heard or want to believe.

The reason I mention these sites is because of a new study that just came out. It looked at the misinformation the people reported – in other words, whether what they said were the facts were actually the truth – and what their primary news source was. The result? Fox News viewers are the most misinformed.

The study found that daily Fox News viewers, regardless of political party, were “significantly” more likely than non-viewers to erroneously believe that:

  • Most economists estimate the stimulus caused job losses (12 points more likely)
  • Most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit (31 points)
  • The economy is getting worse (26 points)
  • Most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring (30 points)
  • The stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts (14 points)
  • Their own income taxes have gone up (14 points)
  • The auto bailout only occurred under Obama (13 points)
  • When TARP came up for a vote most Republicans opposed it (12 points)
  • And that it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States (31 points)

In other words, all the above statements are not true, but Fox News viewers are more likely to tell you they are. Last year another study found the same thing about the health care legislation – Fox News viewers were the ones significantly misinformed about its contents. Which is sad, but explains a lot. PolitiFact just released its “Lie of the Year“, and it doesn’t surprise me one bit. Why? I’ve heard it all over on various right-wing media and from various conservative commenters on blogs. The #1 Lie?

1. ObamaCare is a “government takeover” of health care. – Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio; Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Fla.; the Republican Party of Florida; Lt. Gov.-elect Rebecca Kleefisch, R-Wis.; and others:

A lot of the top ten lies also belong to Republicans as well. What’s disturbing about this is not that politicians lie, or that Fox News turns out to be a virtual press arm of the Republican Party. It’s that the rest of the media has let this slide without asking the tough questions, or providing a fact check on it in their reporting. Instead, they have had the habit of just printing or repeating what was said. While I can point to the fact checking services, and yes, they’re invaluable, the average person reading or watching the news is unlikely to go to that effort on their own.

That is the where our messaging needs to begin. We talk to our neighbors, we know people elsewhere. I know during the election campaign, I received a number of chain e-mails forwarded to me from various friends and relatives, and they quickly learned that I was going to come right back with a link to one of the fact checking services and an explanation of why the chain e-mail was wrong. Even in conversations, we have the opportunity to correct the misinformed, or at least give them the resources to check themselves. That’s something we all can do.

On the larger scale, we push back against the misinformation. Letters to the editor calling out a report on a mistake, or rebutting an editorial is a beginning. Here on the blogs, we continue it, as well as “call out” those – even technically “on our side” – who also sow misleading or factually wrong information. We can call attention to stories that were missed, or inadequately covered. While none of this is going to make an immediate change, it’s starting the push back. If we hope to see the correct information disseminated, it begins with us, personally and by making sure that the media knows that someone is watching for their mistakes, and is not letting them slide on it.

FCC on the Brink of Passing Net Neutrality Rules

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has reportedly won over the other Democratic commissioners and will have the votes to pass a reworked version of the net neutrality framework he unveiled at the first of this month.
Mr. Genachowski’s proposal “would forbid both wired and wireless Internet service providers from blocking lawful content. It would also require broadband Internet service providers to give consumers basic information about how the companies manage their networks and would forbid discrimination in transmitting lawful content,” Edward Wyatt of The New York Times reported on Dec. 1.
The proposal also allowed providers the right to manage their networks to prevent congestion and unlawful content, which many people see as opening the door to providers using broadband congestion to allow certain traffic a clearer path.

Michael Cobbs, one of the other two Democratic commissioners, initially opposed the proposal on the ground that it didn’t regulate internet providers strictly enough. The December 1 proposal left room for service providers to offer customers a tiered service structure, with faster access available to those willing to pay higher prices. Cobbs and the other Democratic commissioner Mignon Clyburn have been working with Genochowski to strengthen the plan.

It’s not clear just yet what the final version of the proposal includes, but Cobbs has declared himself not satisfied but grudgingly willing to vote for the plan. He and Clyburn have both pledged to vote with the chair, which will ensure passage over the negative votes by the two Republican commissioners.
“I believe we have been able to make the current iteration better than what was originally circulated,” Mr. Copps said. “If vigilantly and vigorously implemented by the Commission — and if upheld by the courts — it could represent an important milestone in the ongoing struggle to safeguard the awesome opportunity-creating power of the open Internet.”

He continued, “While I cannot vote wholeheartedly to approve the item, I will not block it by voting against it. I instead plan to concur so that we may move forward.”
This is what pragmatism looks like, folks. Cobbs and Clyburn – and Genachowski too, I’m sure – would have loved to enact regulations that would have ensured that all customers of all internet service providers would have equal access to the fastest broadband speeds available, at equal prices. The fact of the matter is, however, that the FCC’s role in regulating internet service is on uncertain ground. The likelihood of a court ruling striking down rules that overreach is quite high, and Republicans are already poised to challenge any attempt by the FCC to enact even these comparatively mild regulations.

With all that in mind, the Democratic commissioners are opting for a more conservative set of rules in hopes of establishing the FCC’s authority over internet service providers. I, personally, would have liked stronger rules, too. However, it’s sort of like the health care law – we need to get some regulation in place and established and then gradually strengthen it. Overreaching right now will almost certainly kill the chance of any internet provider regulations at all for at least a couple more years.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

DADT Repeal Passes 65-31

The Senate today passed an identical bill to the one that the House passed ending the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. The vote was 65 for and 31 against. This is a landmark step, and the fulfillment of one of President Obama’s promises, that DADT would end on his watch.

Obama was expected to sign it next week, although the change wouldn’t take immediate effect. The legislation says the president and his top military advisers must certify that lifting the ban won’t hurt troops’ fighting ability. After that, there’s a 60-day waiting period for the military.

If you look at the text of the bill, there’s a number of steps that have to be followed:

SEC. 2. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE POLICY CONCERNING HOMOSEXUALITY IN THE ARMED FORCES.

    (a) Comprehensive Review on the Implementation of a Repeal of 10 U.S.C. 654-
    (1) IN GENERAL- On March 2, 2010, the Secretary of Defense issued a memorandum directing the Comprehensive Review on the Implementation of a Repeal of 10 U.S.C. 654 (section 654 of title 10, United States Code).
    (2) OBJECTIVES AND SCOPE OF REVIEW- The Terms of Reference accompanying the Secretary’s memorandum established the following objectives and scope of the ordered review:
    (A) Determine any impacts to military readiness, military effectiveness and unit cohesion, recruiting/retention, and family readiness that may result from repeal of the law and recommend any actions that should be taken in light of such impacts.
    (B) Determine leadership, guidance, and training on standards of conduct and new policies.
    (C) Determine appropriate changes to existing policies and regulations, including but not limited to issues regarding personnel management, leadership and training, facilities, investigations, and benefits.
    (D) Recommend appropriate changes (if any) to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
    (E) Monitor and evaluate existing legislative proposals to repeal 10 U.S.C. 654 and proposals that may be introduced in the Congress during the period of the review.
    (F) Assure appropriate ways to monitor the workforce climate and military effectiveness that support successful follow-through on implementation.
    (G) Evaluate the issues raised in ongoing litigation involving 10 U.S.C. 654.
    (b) Effective Date- The amendments made by subsection (f) shall take effect 60 days after the date on which the last of the following occurs:
    (1) The Secretary of Defense has received the report required by the memorandum of the Secretary referred to in subsection (a).
    (2) The President transmits to the congressional defense committees a written certification, signed by the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stating each of the following:
    (A) That the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have considered the recommendations contained in the report and the report’s proposed plan of action.
    (B) That the Department of Defense has prepared the necessary policies and regulations to exercise the discretion provided by the amendments made by subsection (f).
    (C) That the implementation of necessary policies and regulations pursuant to the discretion provided by the amendments made by subsection (f) is consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces.
    (c) No Immediate Effect on Current Policy- Section 654 of title 10, United States Code, shall remain in effect until such time that all of the requirements and certifications required by subsection (b) are met. If these requirements and certifications are not met, section 654 of title 10, United States Code, shall remain in effect.
    (d) Benefits- Nothing in this section, or the amendments made by this section, shall be construed to require the furnishing of benefits in violation of section 7 of title 1, United States Code (relating to the definitions of `marriage’ and `spouse’ and referred to as the `Defense of Marriage Act’).
    (e) No Private Cause of Action- Nothing in this section, or the amendments made by this section, shall be construed to create a private cause of action.

What does all this mean? Once the bill is signed into law, a process will start. The military will be looking at the best way to implement the new policy, develop regulations and training programs, and make all the necessary changes in ensuring that the chains of command are ready and prepared for it. They will then make that report to the President, who will certify it to Congress that the military is ready. 60 days after that, the new policy takes effect. So for now, the existing policy of “DADT” is still in effect.

How long will this take to implement? Probably not very long. I’m sure that the Pentagon has had working groups already detailed to develop these plans. But, for now – and probably for the next 6 months – it isn’t in place. You might also note that this law does not entail recognizing gay marriages or extending same-sex couples the benefits that heterosexuals enjoy. That’s under a separate law (DOMA), and this law contains the language which says that DOMA applies.While that may be disappointing to some who expected an “instant change,” it gives the military time to ensure that everyone’s on the same page, that there are no “nasty surprises” that crop up, and that the troops themselves know it’s coming down the pike, so there will be minimal disruption.

That does not mean that there won’t be some disruption. There are those in the military who strongly disapprove of the policy. Despite that, the overall reaction is one of “we’ll deal with it.” That is, there will be issues, some will decide to leave, but overall, the military will do what it always does – salute and follow orders. In a few years, most people will be wondering what the fuss was about.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Wait, You Wanted This, Right? Tea Party Politicians are Implementing Their Platform

One of the more disappointing (to put it mildly) aspects of the 2010 election was the number of states where conservative Tea Party favorites did well – winning governorships and taking over various legislatures and local governments. As badly as it went for the Democratic Party, it points to an opportunity for 2012. That is, as part of our effort, we need to remind the voters that elections have consequences. While much has been said about this election being a backlash against the current Administration, looking forward, we need to begin pointing out that the choices the voters made – and various Democratic voters by sitting out – are not what they intended when they voted in those conservatives. Particularly when those conservatives turn out to have been serious about their campaign pledges.

We’ve already begun to see the impacts. Wisconsin and Ohio lost 1.195 billion dollars in high-speed rail funding. Why? Because their Republican Governors-Elect said they were going to reject the projects, and they did. Admittedly, they wanted to use the money for something else, but they kept their promise. It’s had some additional consequences in Wisconsin, as a train manufacturer has picked up and moved. In Florida, Republican Governor-elect Rick Scott is planning on a massive voucher program which would gut public schools, which is not a surprise to those who followed his campaign.

There are now more examples lining up, much to the dismay of people in those areas. In Nevada, Governor-elect Brian Sandoval is actually doing what he said he’d do, to the dismay of people who supported him:

“Everyone says he’s a good guy, a smart guy,” he confided. “But they wonder why he is doing these dumb things. He’s not doing what politicians do, which is say what you have to do to get elected, then soften the rhetoric.”

Alas, many folks will hear that and cheer Sandoval for refusing to holster his no-tax guns. As I have written before, Sandoval, who developed a reputation as that good, smart guy, was so afraid of Gov. Jim Gibbons in the primary that he so hopelessly boxed himself with no-new-taxes rhetoric that he has no wiggle room. You cannot soften that rhetoric; you can only contradict it, and he appears unwilling to do so.

Yes, he’s gutting the education system there, and business leaders are not happy about it. In Nassau County, New York, another Tea Party candidate won the county administrator position, and cut taxes. The problem? The county’s going bankrupt and the state may have to take it over – again.

Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano faced a budget crisis when he took office in January, and has a worse one now.

Instead, Mr. Mangano, a Republican who won one of the first upsets of the Tea Party era, did what he had promised: He cut taxes, adding $40 million to the county’s deficit, which has since reached nearly $350 million

Sad to say, the public has become so used to politicians running on one thing and doing another when they get into office, that the reality that conservative Republicans are actually doing what they said they were going to do comes as a shock. Which gives a messaging opportunity for Democrats. The reality of the Tea Party program, the extreme conservative agenda, is not what the electorate wanted. It means cuts to education, loss of services, and even jobs. We need to point out that “low taxes” also means “low services.” The reality will set in, and that should be a spur to the electorate. The hard part is going to be not to gloat, because after all …. they said they wanted it, right?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

States Are Not Red or Blue - They're a Shade Of Purple

In a previous post about rebuilding the Party, I talked about “moving to the country.“ In that, I talked about how it often seems that when we talk about “progressives” or liberals, we end up talking about a predominantly urban group. Which leads to misunderstandings:

One of the frequent complaints I’ve heard from progressives is wondering why various areas “vote against their own interests.” There are two reasons why this happens. First, they may be voting for their own interests, and second, they may be voting against you – the urban areas.

There’s a post over at Motley Moose which called my attention to a book which examines what’s happening, and highlights some mistakes that the media – and various political analysts – miss. The book is called “Our Patchwork Nation” by journalist Dante Chinni and political scientist James Gimpel. They did a three year study of the country, with a county-by-county look at socioeconomic status, and came up with 12 categories, or “community types.” In a review, the reason why they went to these lengths is something many of us share:

The authors are motivated by their frustration with the oversimplified red state/blue state construct: “We hate that map. In so many ways, it represents a lie.” This is something of a straw man: The red/blue concept took root because, for several cycles, the electoral-college map broke down in strikingly consistent ways, before the sharp pendulum swings of 2008 and 2010.

They’re quite right – the idea of a “blue state” or a “red state” is a lie. It’s something that anyone looking at electoral patterns, either by county or House district would see, but it made a “convenient” shorthand. But the convenience often blinds us to the ground reality and can lead us into mistaking support for an agenda. I’ve lived in a number of states in my life, and in different parts of those states, so what is “obvious” to me often seems not to be to others. For example, when people talk about the “solid Blue” state of New York, they’re not talking about the state, they’re talking about the city. As I pointed out in my earlier article here, the county I live in is completely different from New York City. Let’s compare my county to New York County (Manhattan). Manhattan is densely populated, urban, fairly wealthy, ethnically diverse, and strongly Democratic. My county is rural, sparsely populated, lower middle class, ethnically homogeneous (97.6% white), and strongly Republican. The county I live in now has far more in common with the county where I lived in Colorado, than it does with Manhattan.

In looking at the categories, and then looking at how each state’s counties break down by them, the diversity in each state becomes readily apparent. What we’re looking at is not a simple picture of whether a state is “Red” or “Blue,” but the shade of purple it is. While one can quibble over whether the characterization of a specific area is correct, recognizing the diversity and “lean” on a more granular basis is necessary if we are to make the case for why progressive values – and the Democratic Party – is better than conservative values and the Republican Party.

As an example of “failure to make the explanation”, while we – along with most economists – saw the necessity of the stimulus, it didn’t go well with rural areas:

“I’m disgusted with the entire party,” Cliff Wehrman, a North Dakotan who had supported Pomeroy in past elections told The Wall Street Journal back in September. He was deeply angry about the stimulus spending, saying, “Who do they think is going to pay for all this?”

And it was that anger that rained down on Democrats last week in rural America. Not despair over the recession – this region has fared better than any other in recent years – not Tea Party euphoria, but “small-c” conservative economics. People in this region want you to invest carefully and live within your means and they saw a federal government doing neither of those things. These were the areas that received almost no money in the federal bank bailout and little of the foreclosure crisis has touched these areas.

In other words, we were unable to explain it in a way that made sense to them. This is a failure in messaging, and where we need to improve. In some places, we’ll never be able to make a persuasive case, simply because the area falls strongly into one of the bases for the Republican Party. But outside of those areas, we should recognize that the message that may play well in one are will fall flat in another – and tailor it accordingly. As an example, minority rights are a huge concern to various areas, particularly those that are ethnically diverse or have a high percentage of minorities. That’s going to be a major issue for them. In my county, it’s an abstract. It’s not that people are for or against them, it’s just that it doesn’t resonate with them as an issue. We need to find – and focus – on an issue that does.

The take-away lesson, such as it is, is that we need to stop regarding a state – or a region or congressional district – as a solid color. We need instead to ask ourselves “what shade of purple is it?” and plan accordingly.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Professional Left Is Not The Base - And It Never Was

One of the statements that you’ll often hear among the “professional left” and various blogs inhabited by the Left purists is that they are The Base. It’s at their core, and their lashing out at the President is often summed up as “how can he betray his base” or “He’s lost his base.” Even as intelligent a columnist as Ezra Klein has bought into this mantra:

My conversations with various progressives over the past 24 hours have convinced me that the problem is less the specifics of the deal — though liberals legitimately dislike the tax cuts for the rich, and rightly point out that Obama swore to let them expire — than the way in which it was reached. Put simply, Obama and the Democrats didn’t fight for them.

The pattern, for progressives, seems clear: The White House uses them during elections, but doesn’t listen to, or consult them, while governing. In fact, it insults them, and then tells them to quiet down, they got the best bargain possible, even if it wasn’t the one they’d asked for, or been promised.

The people he’s listening to are the very same “professional left” and what we here call the “frustrati” who have been attacking and criticizing the President all along. The idea that the President has “alienated” or “lost” his base by the deal he struck with Congressional Republicans would be disturbing, because no politician or political party likes to “shatter a base,” or blithely ignore it. So why would President Obama do that, then? For a very simple reason, one that escapes many in the media – and most definitely escapes the professional Left: They are not the base.

Back in April, I decided to take a look at why the President seemed to not be paying attention to what many on the left blogs said. After all, they were telling everyone they were the base of the party. What I found was something quite different.

If you look at the “progressive” organizations, one of the largest – if not the largest – is MoveOn.org. It claims some 3 million members. Now, I happen to know, from having been a “member,” just how that figure was arrived at. Another organization that claims a large membership, some 300,000 supporters, is the PCCC. Again, I know how that figure was arrived at for the same reason as I know about MoveOn.org. What it is, is the number of people who are on their mailing lists, who have at some point signed a petition or may have donated to them. In terms of hard membership, it’s not a reliable figure, it’s more of a popularity poll. Now, three million, or three hundred thousand, sounds like an impressive figure, and it’s not to say that it isn’t one. But, as a “base” of a party? Well, that’s something else. If you look at the registration figures for the Democratic Party in this country, you’d see that there are some 70+ million members. Which, doing basic math means that MoveOn consists of just over 4% of the Party. PCCC consists of just over 0.4%.

In other words, looking at membership in various organizations or the number of people belonging to one of the “true progressive” blogs amount to a very small fraction of the Democratic Party. Well, that’s just me doing some seat of the pants math, right? Obviously, these people are speaking for a much larger group, right? Well, not according to a recent poll:

- Blacks: 90% approve/6% disapprove
- Democrats: 82/12
- Liberals: 79/16
- Latinos: 56/33
- Post grads: 56/41
- UPDATE: 18-29: 53/38
- UPDATE 2: NBC’s Ana Maria Arumi notes that in the 2010 midterm exit polls, voters 18-29 said they approved of the president’s job by a 62/38 margin, which is close to how they voted in 2008 — 66/32
- Women: 52/43
- 18-34: 49/43

Or a new poll which shows solid support for the compromise:

For a “shattered base” this is remarkably strong and solid support for the President. I’m not the only one who has noticed it, as Steve Kornacki over at Salon points out:

There’s just one problem: The premise on which all of this is based is totally and completely wrong. Liberal commentators and activists and interest group leaders may be seething over Obama, but their rage has not trickled down to the Democratic voters (and, in particular, the Democratic voters who identify themselves as liberals), even though they’ve been venting their grief for the better part of two years.

Despite their complaints, loud, long, and all over the media, they haven’t shifted the real base one inch. It’s still very strongly behind the President, and approving of him. The professional Left and the frustrati are a small minority of the Party, if they happen to belong to it in the first place. Despite their media presence, we need to remember that. They may not “get it,” and they may not understand it, but we should. They are not the real base of the Party. It’s to the real base that the President is listening – just as he should. The frustrati? They’re not the base – and they never were, no matter what they say.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Elections Have Consequences

In the heady days after the 2008 election, Barbara Boxer’s quote (the title statement of this article) became a common meme around the liberal blogosphere. Whenever conservatives complained about something, the rather cocky response was “Elections have consequences,” with sides of “deal with it,” and “it sucks to be you!” There were confident predictions that the Republican Party was doomed to be a small, regional minority party. What is equally apparent is that over the next two years, many Democrats – including those self-described progressive blogs – lost sight of the truth of that statement. There are consequences in each and every election. They determine how the country, your state, or your local government will operate.

In 2010, the lesson came back home. Republicans regained control of the House, and many state legislatures. The consequences of this will reverberate for the next decade – not until 2012, but until 2020. I’m going to look at my home state of New York, since it is in many ways a microcosm of what happened elsewhere. If you look at the House map for the state, you see a lot of cross-hatched red. Those are Democratic seats that were captured by the Republicans – and one is still in a recount. NY 13, 19, 20, 24, 25, 29 – six seats, with a possible seventh switched hands. Throughout 2009, most of the chatter on Democratic boards was about working towards taking the two seats that Republicans still held: NY-3 (Peter King) and NY-26 (Chris Lee). Yet, this year, the “Blue State of New York” gained a very distinct shade of Red.

A good part of the reason for this can be summed up by one figure: 32.1%. That’s the percentage of eligible voters who turned out to vote in this election, and it’s the lowest of any state. In 2008, that figure was 58.3%. There are any number of reasons or excuses for this. The Governor’s race was considered to be a shoo-in, since the Republican candidate was alienating voters by the bushel. There were two Senate races, both of whom featured well-funded Democratic incumbents who had not drawn serious opponents. In terms of providing a hotly-contested set of contests that would excite voters, this wasn’t it. It was considered a yawner, a preordained result. But that’s not the entire story. At the same time, the current governor was deeply unpopular. The State Senate had undergone several upheavals with embarrassing battles for control, several Democratic senators had ethical complaints or criminal charges filed against them, with one being expelled, and the Senate had voted down a marriage rights law, alienating the LGBT groups. On the national scene, several of the Representatives had made votes which alienate the unions, including voting against the HCR act. At the same time, the Tea Parties were in full voice. They appeared on the scene disrupting various town halls, wrote numerous letters to the editors, had rallies, and generally captured the news coverage.

The combination of unexciting state-wide races, antagonized interest groups, and incessant negative coverage led to a suppression of voting turnout on the part of Democrats. Republicans were able to turn out more in the local areas, and independents caught the “throw the bums out” mentality. While this had minimal effect on the areas with a high Democratic advantage (New York City), it had a major impact on swing districts. This is true not only of the House of Representatives, but also the State Senate voting. The control of the State Senate shifted back to the Republicans.

What are the consequences of this? On the National front, most of the Republicans elected were hard-right Tea Party favorites, and with the overall control of the House shifting to the Republicans, it means a difficult road for any progressive legislation for the next two years. No matter what agenda items may be “popular” for various progressives, the ability to introduce – and move – that legislation has been seriously damaged. On the state front, control of the state Senate means that many progressive agenda items – particularly marriage rights legislation – are now dead. They are simply not going to happen, there is not going to be a vote on them. But something else important is on the agenda. This year, the census was conducted. That means over the next two years, redistricting will happen. The state legislative districts and the House of Representatives districts will be drawn, and that means the Republicans control it. New York is infamous for its willingness to draw districts that make various seats “safe seats.” Which, in 2012 is going to create problems in taking back the House seats we lost, because the newly-drawn districts (and we’re predicted to lose two seats) will be designed to favor the incumbent Republicans over the incumbent Democrats.

Those are the consequences of the 2010 election for New York State. But, as I said, New York just a microcosm. This pattern was repeated in many other states. Look at the map again, and the one for the Senate and Governors. You see the same thing happening. A lot of people who thought that this election didn’t matter, that it was “just another mid-term,” weren’t thinking ahead. They were denying the consequences, or at most they think the consequences will be only until 2012. They are wrong. The consequences of this one “meh” mid-term will be reverberating for at least the next 4 years, and more likely the next decade.

That’s what happened, so what can we do about it? The first thing is that 2012 election preparation starts now. We need ideas, we need candidates, we need to get off our asses and get back to work. The second lesson is that if we take any election for granted, we lose. Let’s be honest, we got complacent. 2006 saw us take back control of the House and Senate. 2008 saw us take back the White House and increase our margin in Congress. We were on a roll. Then we relaxed. We got lazy, and we didn’t take the Tea Party or the Republicans seriously. Well, we got a very rude wake-up call, and we now know that we have to get back into the game. We need to go back to what got us ahead in the first place. Relentless organizing at the local level. Positive messaging, pushed everywhere that focuses on Republicans, and what they’re doing and how Democrats are better for the country – and the local area. The the third lesson is No matter what you want to call yourself, no matter how “disappointed” you are, Democrats are going to be better than Republicans for you. Your favorite agenda item that’s really, really important to you is more likely to get attention – and be put into action – if Democrats are in charge. It isn’t going to happen with Republicans. The final lesson? Elections have consequences. Whether they’re good consequences or bad consequences, they will have them. Never forget it. Now get to work.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Accepting the voting results is not OK if you're a Republican

One of the rituals every Party has after an election is to complain about the results, particularly if it was a close election. Democrats still complain about 2000 in Florida and 2004 in Ohio, while Republicans complain about 2008 in Minnesota. There’s always a feeling that there was some way they were “robbed” of the win. Recently, though, Republicans have decided on a new version. Rather than accept that they lost an election, they deny the results, and challenge the entire election. Tom Emmer in Minnesota is in the process of dragging out the election as long as possible:

Going into the recount, Democratic nominee Mark Dayton led by 8,770 votes, or 0.42%. While this is within the 0.5% needed to trigger a statewide recount, many observers had doubted that Emmer could pull ahead, as Dayton’s lead is probably too wide to be reversed. However, a possible drawn-out legal contest could potentially result in Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty staying in office in the interim, with the opportunity to work with a newly elected Republican legislature

The general feeling all around (except for Emmer) is that Dayton won:

“I think psychologically, we’ve all sort of moved into Governor Dayton,” said John Gilmore, a member of the GOP central committee who backed Emmer. “I know people on the left, right and in the middle. It’s resignation on the right and it’s a settled fact in the middle and on the left.”

Mathematically, the results are pretty obvious. Barring some revelation of massive fraud, which no one really thinks will happen, the only things that Emmer will accomplish is delaying Governor Dayton’s entry into office, allowing Governor Pawlenty a few more days/weeks in that office, and costing Minnesota taxpayers money. But he will be standing on a new Republican principle: Never admit you lost an election.

He’s not the only one doing this. Joe Miller is blaming “corruption” for his write-in loss. Since ACORN no longer exists – and wasn’t in Alaska in the first place, he’s come up with a new villain. In this case, it was the Evil Alaska Native Regional Corporations – i.e.; the Native Alaskans:

How did they do it? Through the creation of a “superPAC” named Alaskans Standing Together (AST) and designed to help Mrs. Murkowski defeat not only me, the Republican nominee, but more surprisingly, Scott McAdams, the Democratic nominee.

AST hit the airways with hundreds of thousands of dollars in attack ads, making numerous false allegations regarding my positions and background. Within a mere three weeks, AST spent $1.2 million, inundating the Alaska market,” Miller writes. “It also hired dozens of workers to travel to the villages to teach people how to vote for Lisa Murkowski. They even painted vans with AST’s logo to bus people to the polls

Terrible, awful behavior. A group running ads, conducting voter education programs, voter outreach, and making sure people got to the polls. Unheard of behavior! Why, you would think that they were … a normal political action group! They’re obviously to blame, not that he admits he lost:

An Alaska judge has expedited the schedule for Republican Joe Miller’s Alaska Senate race lawsuit, setting arguments for next Wednesday and asking that attorneys on both sides complete any filings as quickly as possible.

Despite Miller’s objections, Judge William Carey said: “We need to resolve this matter at this state court level just as soon as we can.”

Miller’s suit argues that the state acted unlawfully in counting misspelled ballots for write-in candidate Sen. Lisa Murkowski. He also alleges that Murkowski’s ballots were held to a different standard because they were counted by hand, while his were counted by machine.

Yes, yes, he was robbed. He didn’t lose!

On a serious note, this is a harbinger of what we can expect in 2012. The scattered incidents from the 2008 election, along with the blaming of ACORN and accusations of “voter fraud” to explain the voters often overwhelming rejection of various Republican politicians, to this year, where candidates have taken that playbook and added more. In 2012, it’s sure to be even more widespread. Be prepared, because it’s going to be a rough ride. At one time, the norm was that if it was obvious you’d lost, you were expected to concede graciously. You accepted the voter’s choice, even if you were unhappy about it. The new paradigm for Republican candidates is that you won’t accept the results. You never concede, and you’ll have to be dragged kicking and screaming out the door. Because, after all, the voter’s choice was wrong – unless you win. Accepting the loss is not OK if you’re a Republican.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Open Thread 12-04-10

Senate Republicans blocked legislation Saturday to let upper-income tax cuts expire on Jan. 1, a showdown scripted by Democrats eager to showcase GOP lawmakers as defenders of millionaires.

“Do we want to extend those tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires at a time of huge deficits. I would argue vociferously we shouldn’t,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., shortly before the votes.

The online payment service provider PayPal has cut off the account used by WikiLeaks to collect donations, serving another blow to the organization just as it was struggling to keep its website accessible after an American company stopped directing traffic to it.

While gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the economy, has recovered 84% of the output that was lost during the recession, but the labor market has recouped only 11% of the jobs that were lost.

“We’re producing almost as much as we did before the recession, with 7.5 million less people,” said Lakshman Achuthan, managing director of Economic Cycle Research Institute. “The difference is going into the productivity numbers and corporate profits.”

The network recruited girls in Bosnia and brought them to France, where they were taught how to steal. Some of them were “sold” to the ring by their families, the police official said.

The girls “had a (daily) objective of at least euro300 ($401),” the prosecutor said. If they didn’t follow through, “they were hit, burned with cigarettes and sometimes raped.”

Now Bill Gates, who in recent years has turned his attention and considerable fortune to improving American education, is investing $335 million through his foundation to overhaul the personnel departments of several big school systems. A big chunk of that money is financing research by dozens of social scientists and thousands of teachers to develop a better system for evaluating classroom instruction.

And to me, this rigidity comes from this polarizing world view that they’re a bunch of socialists over there. You know, again, I’ve spent a lot of time with the president. I’ve spent a lot of time with the people around him. They’re liberals! … But they’re not idiots. And they’re not Europeans, and they don’t want to be a European welfare state. … It’s American liberalism, and it’s not inflexible.

  • The trade deal with Korea that President Obama was supposed to sign during his trip there has been finalized:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – South Korea has agreed to give the United States five years to phase out a 2.5 percent tariff on Korean-built cars rather than cut the tariff immediately, clearing the way for a deal on a stalled bilateral trade pact, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

  • This is just funny

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Corporations Are Overtaxed? Try Another One

The standard thing you will hear from every Republican is that businesses are overtaxed. They’ll all point in horror to the top marginal rate of 35%, and wail about how this makes the United States uncompetitive in the world market, and at how it’s one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world. Just listen:

Horrible, isn’t it? It’s a shame that we’re so non-competitive because of our high tax rates on businesses. Why, they’re going broke right and left, right? Well, not quite. You see, they’re posting record profits.

As a share of gross domestic product, corporate profits also have been increasing, and they now represent 11.2 percent of total output. That is the highest share since the fourth quarter of 2006, when they accounted for 11.7 percent of output.

Well, they’d be able to do so much more if they didn’t have that high tax burden, right? Well, the problem with that is they’re not paying that much in taxes:

The most egregious example is General Electric. Last year the conglomerate generated $10.3 billion in pretax income, but ended up owing nothing to Uncle Sam. In fact, it recorded a tax benefit of $1.1 billion.

Now, if the corporations were paying taxes at the official rate, then the Republicans might have a point. But they’re not. In 2005, the GAO estimated that 2/3′rds of the corporations did not pay taxes. Overall, real business tax rates to GDP are among the lower ones in the world. We’re also extremely competitive as a place to do business. Now, if you look through a list of what the top 25 corporations paid in income taxes, you’ll see a lot of variations – some seem to pay more than the top rate. Which is misleading since that figure is their total income tax bill for all their operations. It’s not a “U.S. only” breakdown.

But, if we reduced the taxes, the country would be doing so much better, right? Just like Ireland! After all, it was held up as a model of what a low business tax and light regulation would do. Except that now they need to be bailed out.

Critics of Ireland’s low tax on business profits say raising it would be the quickest way to increase state income without hurting consumers. According to Eurostat, corporate tax rates in the eurozone average 25.7%, and only Cyprus and Bulgaria are lower than Ireland with rates of 10%.

Germany and France, whose rates stand at 29.8% and 34.4% respectively, have spent the past decade grumbling as some of their own companies and a disproportionate share of U.S. multinationals choose Ireland as their EU headquarters.

“There’s only one real reason for that, namely the avoidance of taxes,” said Markus Ferber, a member of the European Parliament for the German Christian Social Union, part of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing coalition.

Some go even further, saying that the low corporate tax rate was central to Ireland’s economic collapse.

Let’s see, light government regulation of the financial sector, low business taxes, that means economic prosperity, right? In the short term, yes, it did, but it was an illusion. In terms of long term prosperity, it’s turning out – again – that regulation of the financial markets and good tax policy – not no or very low taxes – is the key. This does not mean that the tax code shouldn’t be revised, it should. But when you have many corporations not having to pay taxes in the first place, along with using shell games to avoid them, all their complaining about the tax burden is meaningless. You have to be paying taxes in the first place for it to be a “burden”. The crying over the poor corporations and their tax burden that Republicans are doing is not standing up to scrutiny. It shows they’re not serious about the balancing the budget, fiscal responsibility, or reducing the deficit.

 
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