Politicoreported yesterday that congressional Republicans are weighing a variety of tactics to “address” their disgust over Obama’s immigration policy, and “GOP aides and lawmakers” are considering the idea of “refusing to invite the president to give his State of the Union address.”Late last week, Breitbart News also ran a piece of its own on the subject: “Congress should indicate to President Obama that his presence is not welcome on Capitol Hill as long as his ‘executive amnesty’ remains in place. The gesture would, no doubt, be perceived as rude, but it is appropriate.”
I maintain that, under the legal system and the legal standards, the Ferguson grand jury did not have probable cause to indict Officer Darren Wilson. That should prompt a discussion as to whether the legal system is sufficient to take care of what is clearly a national problem — the prevalence of cop-on-black violence.
But that discussion is for another day I write here to point out one aspect of Officer Darren Wilson’s actions in his confrontation with Michael Brown that hasn’t received much attention.
By his own admission, Wilson got out of his car and chased Brown, who he knew was unarmed. Wilson said that he fired several shots when Brown supposedly turned and charged him. By his own admission, Wilson missed Brown with some of the shots. Then he fired again, another series of shots, some of which missed and some of which hit Brown, killing him. “I don’t know how many I shot,” Wilson told the grand jury, “I just know I shot it.” We can hope that “it” means the gun and not Brown.
This all took place in the middle of the day at the Canfield Green Apartments, a public housing project in Ferguson that has far, far more than its fair share of crime and poverty. Wilson killed Brown on August 9, a little after noon. It was a summer day; school didn’t start until August 25. So in the middle of a housing project, with apartments and people all around, Officer Darren Wilson made the tactical decision to fire wildly at an unarmed man who was posing no threat to anyone except him.
As many have said, Wilson could have gotten back in his SUV and awaited backup. But, no matter what you think happened, we know that Wilson decided the best course of action was to fire ten bullets, no matter who might get hurt. We also know that some of those shots hit the apartment buildings around Wilson and Brown. And we know that Wilson is pretty damn lucky he didn’t hurt or kill anyone else while he was firing his gun over and over.
We need more black police and better police training. Not only on issues of race, but issues relating to the use of deadly force.
Exhibit A is Darren Wilson. Exhibit B is this:
CLEVELAND, Ohio – A Cleveland police officer fatally shot Tamir Rice immediately after leaving his moving patrol car while his partner stayed at the wheel, surveillance video shows.
The video showed Wednesday by police captures the Saturday afternoon shooting at a West Side recreation center in which 12-year-old Rice was shot.
The video contains no audio.
A rookie officer pulled the trigger, said Jeffrey Follmer, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association.
Police were sent to the Cudell Recreation Center at Detroit Avenue and West Boulevard about 3:30 p.m. when someone called 9-1-1 to report a “guy with a gun pointing it at people.”
The caller told dispatchers twice that the gun was “probably fake,” but that detail was not relayed to the responding officers, Follmer said.
A decision has been reached by the grand jury deliberating whether to bring charges against Darren Wilson, the officer who fatally shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO.
I fully expect that no charges will be brought, and all hell will break loose. Pretty predictable actually. Laws give the police wide latitude in using deadly force. Maybe those laws shouldn’t give wide latitude, but that’s a separate discussion from whether or not Darren Wilson broke the law.
And obviously it is time for heavily armed law enforcement to stop assuming that unarmed black people are a danger to them. Unfortunately, I don’t think what happens next in Ferguson — the riots, etc. — is going to move that ball forward.
UPDATE: 5 pm CT (6 Eastern) announcement
UPDATE (the following day): Yyyyyyup.
In other words, dog bites man.
University of Baltimore law professor Garrett Epps wrote a piece in the Atlantic entitled “Imperfect Union: The Constitution Didn’t Foresee Divided Government” that discussed the likely confrontations between the President and the newly-Republican Congress:
What’s coming will be painful, frustrating, and dangerous—and it will illustrate a constitutional malfunction unforeseen in 1787. The country will survive, and it’s possible it can even make progress—but at tremendous cost in polarization and missed opportunity. The country is like a car driving with the handbrake on: Any movement forward will be accompanied by smoke and internal damage.
So we might profitably put a six-month moratorium on paeans to the wisdom of the Framers. The problem of divided government is a bug, not a feature, and the Constitution itself provides no guidance on how to work around it.
This sent the right wing into “gotcha” conniptions and Twitter giggles. It even prompted the World’s Dumbest Lawyer to write Professor Epps’ employer, the University of Baltimore Law School, in order to demonstrate that the founders indeed envisioned separation of powers (as shown by the Constitution as well as The Federation Papers).
Of course, educated people and people NOT on the lookout for gotchas could read Epps article, and could tell that Epps was talking about DIVIDED GOVERNMENT… which is not the same as “separation of powers”. And the reason you can tell he is talking about “divided government” is because — in the very quote that sent conservatives off the rails — he uses the phrase “divided government”.
To people who actually know what they are talking about, “divided government” does not mean the separate branches of government and the various powers they hold. Go ahead and google “divided government”. I’ll wait. You’ll find it explained thusly:
In the United States, divided government describes a situation in which one party controls the White House and another party controls one or both houses of the United States Congress, thus leading to Congressional gridlock. Divided government is suggested by some to be an undesirable product of the separation of powers in the United States’ political system. Earlier in the 20th century, divided government was rare, but since the 1970s, it has become increasingly common, mainly in part because of the Watergate scandal, which popularized the idea that a divided government is good for the country
Emphasis mine. Clearly “divided government” does not mean “separation of powers” or the above sentence would not make sense. It has to do with POLITICAL PARTIES, a concept that does not appear in the Constitution. Nor are political parties spoken of favorably in the Federalist Papers.
So, Epps’ point is not incorrect. It is accurate. At worst, it can be criticized for being obviously true. The framers — who did not anticipate or promote political parties — set up a government which has separation of powers, but did not anticipate a divided government and Congressional gridlike. That is simply a fact.
Twitchy and The World’s Dumbest Lawyer have once again exposed their own ignorance and blamed it on someone else.
It must suck to be so wrong so often. And right now, Yale Law School must be so embarrassed.
Republicans think they’ve just happened upon a major moment in the never-ending political debate over Obamacare: Newly discovered video of White House consultant Jonathan Gruber’s controversial comments about the passage of the law.
In the video, from 2013, Gruber suggests the details of the law were obscured in order to assure its passage. He says the bill relied on the “stupidity of the American voter” and a “lack of transparency.” Pretty damning stuff.
Republicans, naturally, think they just might have this goose cooked now, with the Post’s Robert Costa quoting Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) calling Gruber’s comments a potential (for lack of a better term) game-changer — one that could finally help turn public sentiment against Obamacare for good and assist the GOP’s efforts to dismantle it.
“We may want to have hearings on this,” Jordan told Costa. “We shouldn’t be surprised they were misleading us.”
But while it’s clear this is hardly Obamacare’s proudest moment, the idea that Gruber’s comments will suddenly swing public sentiment against Obamacare is wishful thinking. That’s because any damage Gruber did — ultimately — was to himself, and nobody knew who he was before last week.
What did Gruber actually do? In The West Wing terms, it is the classic Washington scandal — get into trouble for telling the truth. In a city where it is a cliche not to show how the sausage is made, Gruber was exposing something sordid yet completely commonplace about how Congress makes policy of all types: Legislators frequently game policy to fit the sometimes arbitrary conventions by which the Congressional Budget Office evaluates laws and the public debates them.
Indeed, when Gruber discusses the ignorance of American voters in the video clips, no political scientist who knows even smidgen about American public opinion would have raised an eyebrow. This isn’t because political scientists look down on voters; it’s because they have surveyed voters repeatedly and discovered that rational ignorance is this is just the way it is.
But stating that most voters are uninformed about most things is one of those rude utterances that one just does not say in polite political company. People can say it behind closed doors, or at academic settings, but never on camera.
Gruber, unknowingly, said it on camera. That’s his sin. And I suspect it’s a sin that countless social scientists have committed at myriad conferences over the years.
But Obama didn’t say it, and it doesn’t change what Obamacare is, or how we, as a country, are benefiting from it.
Nor will it lead to Obamacare’s downfall, despite the zeal of many conservative pundits who think this is THE “smoking gun”. That’s because Gruber’s comments, while damning, aren’t exactly the most fertile political territory. While “stupidity of the American voter” is a pretty strong soundbite, Gruber’s connection to the law takes some explaining. And most people — apart from those who already decided the efficacy of the law years ago — are really keen on the latest Obamacare debate a week after the 2014 election.
Changing public opinion on something like this, five years hence, takes a lot — especially when the support and opposition have been baked in for so long at pretty constant levels.
If anything can change that, it is far more likely to be something that has a personal impact on lots of Americans — like large premium increases or canceled plans. And if Obamacare is dismantled, it will be because the GOP has Congressional majorities and a president who wants to do it. That means no earlier than 2017.
The Leonids can sometimes be a spectacular show, with one storm in 1833 producing a reported 100,000 meteors per hour. Tonight’s show should bring about 10 to 15 meteors per hour.
A meteor shower will happen when the Earth flies through a trail of debris from a comet. These particular meteorites are leftovers from Tempel-Tuttle, a comet that orbits the sun every 33 years. The comet left behind dust and debris which will enter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up, creating the show.
The meteor shower will be centered on the constellation Leo, hence the name, which will be to the east after midnight. However, meteors should be visible anywhere in the sky where it’s dark and there are no clouds blocking visibility.
The best time to view the meteor shower with the naked eye is between midnight and dawn.
The Slooh Community Observatory, which operates telescopes around the world, will offer a live online show of the Leonid meteor shower beginning at 8:00 p.m. EST for those who don’t want to go outside or live in a city with a lot of light pollution. You can watch the show when it begins here.
That will be welcome news to those who don’t want to go outside to witness the spectacular show. It’s going to be a chilly November night, but for those who are willing to brave the cold, they can witness the Leonid meteor shower at its peak, according to Wired.com.
The Slooh Space Camera will begin broadcasting from its Canary Islands observatory, a Spanish territory off the coast of northwestern Africa. It will move to the Prescott OBservatory in Arizona later in the evening to follow the light show.
A number of Twitter accounts allegedly belonging to the Ku Klux Klan have been hacked by the Australian branch of activist group Anonymous.
The accounts, including @YourKKKcentral and @KuKluxKlanUSA, were seized after Anonymous declared “cyber warfare” on the racist group.
Members of the KKK have been threatening to use “lethal force” against demonstrators in Ferguson, Missouri, who are protesting about the fatal August shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson.
A grand jury, sitting in the county seat of Clayton is currently deliberating whether to bring criminal charges against Wilson.
Flyers handed out by the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, which is the Missouri branch of the sect, told “the terrorists masquerading as ‘peaceful protesters’” that they had “awakened a sleeping giant”.
In a video released on YouTube on Friday, Anonymous responded to the KKK’s actions with the launch of its “Operation KKK”.
It said: “We are not attacking you because of what you believe in as we fight for freedom of speech…
“We are attacking you because of what you did to our brothers and sisters at the Ferguson protest on 12 November.”
It added: “The aim of our operation is nothing more than cyber warfare. Anything you upload will be taken down, anything you use to promote the KKK will be shut down.”
Tweeting from @KuKluxKlanUSA last night, the hacktivist group said:
UPDATE: Anonymous will release a statement on THIS account tomorrow at 03:00 GMT (21 hours from now) regarding the seizing of this account.
; Ku Klux Klan (@KuKluxKlanUSA) November 17, 2014
Based on the direct messages sent from and to this account, we can confirm that this account was run by an official Klan member.
; Ku Klux Klan (@KuKluxKlanUSA) November 17, 2014
That is all we will say for now. The rest will be clarified in tomorrow’s statement. #OpKKK
; Ku Klux Klan (@KuKluxKlanUSA) November 17, 2014
According to an unconfirmed statement sent to ZDNet, Anonymous also claims to have seized the website belonging to Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, as well as personal accounts. It is also reportedly conducting a phone harassment campaign.
However, #HoodsOff went a step further, providing home addresses, phone numbers, and information about the families of KKK members. This is where the group may have crossed an defensible ethical divide and fallen into a crevasse. While exposing people as members of a racist hate group is indeed an act of service to the public, providing information that could make them targets of aggression is not.
European Space Agency is putting a probe on a comet. Pretty awesome.
The author’s inspiration for this cartoon comes in part from this piece from September, about Kentucky voters who love the state’s new health insurance exchange (Kynect) but still disapprove of the Affordable Care act:
“I’m tickled to death with it,” Ms. Evans, 49, said of her new coverage as she walked around the Kentucky State Fair recently with her daughter, who also qualified for Medicaid under the law. “It’s helped me out a bunch.”But Ms. Evans scowled at the mention of President Obama — “Nobody don’t care for nobody no more, and I think he’s got a lot to do with that,” she explained — and said she would vote this fall for Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and minority leader, who is fond of saying the health care law should be “pulled out root and branch.”
Then there was this piece about disillusionment with Washington last Wednesday. It was full of quotes by people angry about gridlock, but not quite grasping its source:
And in Racine, Wis., Jeffrey Kowalczuk, a 56-year-old account representative for a trucking company, seemed no less disillusioned than Ms. Pizarro after voting for Republicans in that critical state. “I’m just tired of all the fighting and bickering,” he said. “We’re all Americans. It’s just getting old with all that stuff.”
The article concluded:
“Obama has not accomplished what he promised to the community,” said Juan Neyra, 69, a retired security guard in Denver. He said he used to vote for Democrats, but this year had voted for the Republican Senate candidate, Representative Cory Gardner, who was challenging Senator Mark Udall, a Democrat. “And Udall supports Obama,” Mr. Neyra said.
Straight outta the GOP playbook.
Obama got on the Intertubes this morning and said this:
For those not wanting to watch or listen, he basically called for a strict policy of so-called net neutrality and formally opposed any deals in which content providers like Netflix would pay huge sums to broadband companies for faster access to their customers. (Net Neutrality, according to Wikipedia, is “the principle that Internet Service Providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication.” )
Net neutrality is very big among progressives and young people (including young conservatives). To ensure net neutrality, you need government regulation. Which conservatives don’t like.
This put Republicans in a quandary about how to respond. Check out Ted Cruz’s reaction (via Colin Campbell of Business Insider):
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) came out swinging after President Barack Obama wholeheartedly endorsed new internet regulations Monday morning.
Cruz, who is mulling a run for president in 2016, compared the entire concept of “net neutrality” — which posits that internet companies should not be allowed to speed or slow down their services for certain users — to Obama’s much-maligned healthcare reform.
‘”Net Neutrality’ is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government,” Cruz wrote on Twitter.
The more Republicans extend their philosophy of absolute private property and unregulated markets into areas that affect aspects of daily life, the more they may ultimately undermine their own message that government is always the problem and big avaricious companies can do no wrong. This was a good move for Obama.
Most of the critics who dislike “The Newsroom” are members of the so-called “new media”, which (surprise surprise) Aaron Sorkin often uses as a target (not only in The Newsroom, but in The Social Network, Studio 60 and even as far back as The West Wing). Last night, Sorkin took another convincing swipe at “new media”, focusing on how Reddit and Twitter “covered” the hunt for the Boston Marathon bombers (i.e., badly if not irresponsibly, by misidentifying the bombing suspects).
Nobody watches the show anymore, but I think in the future people will discover “The Newsroom” and long for its message: we need media that is more concerned about being right in its reportage rather than being first.
And I don’t care what people say — it’s still the crispest, funniest show on television.
On Thursday afternoon, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit just became the first federal appeals court in the country to side with marriage discrimination. Although the immediate effect of this court’s 2-1 decision is that marriage equality will not quickly become the law in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, the most important consequence of the Sixth Circuit’s holding is that there is now a “circuit split” on the question of whether same-sex couples must be allowed to marry under the Constitution. A circuit split, which occurs when two or more federal appeals courts disagree on the same question of law, is one of the most common reasons that the Supreme Court agrees to hear a case. Thus, the Sixth Circuit’s decision on Thursday all but guarantees that the justices will decide whether the Constitution’s promise of equality extends to gay people in all 50 states.
To date, the Fourth, Seventh, Ninth and Tenth Circuits have all sided with equality, along with nearly every single federal trial judge to consider the question after the Supreme Court struck down the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act in 2013. Moreover, the Supreme Court has stood aside and allowed the federal appeals court decisions supporting marriage equality to take effect. The momentum is clearly against discrimination, and Judge Jeffrey Sutton’s opinion for the Sixth Circuit shows a keen awareness of this fact. His decision reads like the Custer’s Last Stand of judicial opinions. In it, he tries to anticipate every single legal argument that can be raised in support of marriage equality, and then he attempts to bat it down.
To the justices who concern themselves with how the Constitution was understood at the time it was written, Sutton warns that “[n]obody in this case . . argues that the people who adopted the Fourteenth Amendment understood it to require the States to change the definition of marriage.” To those who worry about the legacy of anti-gay animus in the United States, he claims that bans on marriage equality “codified a long-existing, widely held social norm already reflected in state law.” To those that fixate on tradition, Sutton writes that “a State might wish to wait and see before changing a norm that our society (like all others) has accepted for centuries.”
According to longstanding Supreme Court precedent, however, groups that have historically been subject to discrimination that has little basis in their ability to “perform or contribute to society” enjoy heightened protection against discrimination under the Constitution. Sutton concedes the legacy of discrimination against gay people, yet he discounts its relevance to this case. His explanation for why is worth quoting at length:
We cannot deny the lamentable reality that gay individuals have experienced prejudice in this country, sometimes at the hands of public officials, sometimes at the hands of fellow citizens. Stonewall, Anita Bryant’s uninvited answer to the question “Who are we to judge?”, unequal enforcement of antisodomy laws between gay and straight partners, Matthew Shepard, and the language of insult directed at gays and others make it hard for anyone to deny the point. But we also cannot deny that the institution of marriage arose independently of this record of discrimination. The traditional definition of marriage goes back thousands of years and spans almost every society in history. By contrast, “American laws targeting same-sex couples did not develop until the last third of the 20th century.” This order of events prevents us from inferring from history that prejudice against gays led to the traditional definition of marriage in the same way that we can infer from history that prejudice against African Americans led to laws against miscegenation. The usual leap from history of discrimination to intensification of judicial review does not work.
Sutton is probably correct that marriage discrimination did not emerge in the same way that Jim Crow laws did. Jim Crow was part of a conscious and comprehensive effort to reduce African Americans to second-class citizenship. Laws excluding same-sex couples from the blessings of marriage, by contrast, were not always enacted with such conscious intent. But even if Sutton is correct that marriage discrimination was not enacted with the same conscious intent as Jim Crow, it is hard to see why that justifies weakening the Constitution’s promise of equality. Why does anti-gay bias become less harmful or less invidious because it was, until recently, so tightly woven into American culture that it would never have occurred to generations of Americans to extend equal rights to gay couples?
Discrimination, moreover, is does not become constitutional simply because it was enacted for relatively benign, or even benevolent, purposes. Many of the early cases challenging gender discrimination, for example, targeted laws that were intended to protect women or even place them on a chivalric pedestal. Craig v. Boren, which is arguably the Supreme Court’s most important gender discrimination case, struck down a law that discriminated against men. It is difficult to argue that the Oklahoma lawmakers who enacted that law did so because they were biased against males — especially because the law was enacted at a time when it was difficult for women to be elected to public office.
In any event, Sutton’s opinion is likely to be reversed by the Supreme Court. It is very unlikely that the justices would have allowed other court decisions siding with marriage equality to take effect unless they believed that there are five votes on the Court to extend marriage equality throughout the land.
John Boehner, at a presser today, warned that if President Obama moves forward with executive action on deportations, Republicans will never, ever, ever act on the legislative immigration reform that Republicans have refused to act on for the last 18 months:
“I’ve made clear to the president that if he acts unilaterally on his own outside of his authority, he will poison the well and there will be no chance for immigration reform moving in this Congress,” Boehner told reporters at his first news conference after big GOP gains in Tuesday’s midterm elections.
“When you play with matches, you take the risk of burning yourself. And he’s going to burn himself if he continues to go down this path,” he said.
Shorter Boehner: If Obama doesn’t join us in refusing to lift a finger to address our broken immigration system, there is no chance we will ever lift a finger to address our broken immigration system, is that clear?
Demographics remain the same, says Pew:
Yesterday’s elections brought a widespread win for the Republican Party, which will increase its share of seats in the House in the next Congress, and take over the Senate, with a net gain of at least seven seats.
Nationally, 52% of voters backed Republican candidates for Congress, while 47% voted for Democrats, according to exit polls by the National Election Pool, as reported by The New York Times. The overall vote share is similar to the GOP’s margin in the 2010 elections, and many of the key demographic divides seen in that election — particularly wide gender and age gaps — remain.
And well-known generational divides were again in evidence in Tuesday’s election. Young voters have been the Democratic Party’s strongest supporters over the last decade, as they were again yesterday, while Republicans fared best among older voters. But — as in 2010 — an older electorate compared with presidential elections advantaged the GOP.
Fully 22% of 2014 voters were 65 and older — a group GOP candidates won by 16-points. By comparison, in 2012, they made up just 16% of the electorate.
And even though Democratic candidates won the 18- to 29- year-old vote by an 11-point margin, 54% to 43%, this group didn’t carry the same weight as it did two years ago when Barack Obama was re-elected. They made up a much smaller share of the electorate than in 2012, and the Democratic margins among this group also were not as large as in 2012.
According to the exit polls, voters younger than 30 were just 13% of those who showed up at the polls. Though this is little different than the 12% they represented in 2010, younger voters accounted for a larger share (19%) of the 2012 electorate.
And among 30- to 44- year-olds this year, 50% voted for Democrats while 48% for Republicans, but just 22% of yesterday’s voters were in this age range, while 27% of voters were in this age group two years ago.
This gap is the result both of the youngest voters (18- to 29- year-olds) consistently favoring Democrats over Republicans, while over this same time period voters 65 and older have consistently favored Republicans. Before 2004, there were little to no age differences in vote preferences going back more than two decades.
And the gender gap in elections is at least as wide today as at any point over the last 15 years. Women were ten points less likely than men to support Republicans in yesterday’s election. That gap was eight points in 2012, six points in 2010, five points in 2008 and four points in 2006.
National Review has an editorial today that’s headlined:
The Governing Trap
Yup. The National Review is suggesting that governing Republicans should not actually try to govern the country:
The desire to prove Republicans can govern also makes them hostage to their opponents in the Democratic party and the media. It empowers Senator Harry Reid, whose dethroning was in large measure the point of the election. If Republicans proclaim that they have to govern now that they run Congress, they maximize the incentive for the Democrats to filibuster everything they can — and for President Obama to veto the remainder. Then the Democrats will explain that the Republicans are too extreme to get anything done.
Can we stop and reflect for a moment on the fact that “not governing” is exactly what Republicans have been doing (or… NOT doing) these past six years? Rather, they have been creating gridlock and finding ways to blame it on Democrats. NR understands how well this worked and wants to protect Republicans from actually having to do things.
Beyond that, NR is afraid that trying to govern will just upset one faction or another in the GOP’s delicately balanced coalition. They even admit it. Who needs a bunch of crazy tea partiers stirring up trouble again? There’s no reasoning with those folks! Better to just lie low.
That said, they are probably right. They have little to gain and so much to lose.
So what happened? In retrospect, it was a fairly familiar midterm story. A ruling party went into a campaign with an unpopular President and a discontented electorate, and, on an Election Day characterized by low turnout among the general population, and by intense excitement among activists in the opposition party, it got trounced. What was surprising was how long it took for this story to emerge—right up until yesterday.
How dissatisfied was the electorate? According to the national exit poll, fifty-nine per cent of voters said that they were angry or disappointed with the Obama Administration. Seven in ten said that the economy is in bad shape, and just one in three said it is improving. Sixty-five per cent of respondents said that the country was seriously off-track. That last figure is twelve points higher than the equivalent finding in the exit poll taken during the 2012 Presidential election.
This toxic environment created the conditions for a classic midterm backlash against an unpopular President. Something very similar happened to George W. Bush, in November, 2006. What confused the picture this year was the strong and well-financed campaigns that Hagan and several other embattled Democrats ran, which allowed them to outperform the fundaments up until the last few days of the campaign, when things started to crater.
All across the country, it was enough to sweep Republicans home. Naturally, the focus was on the Senate. But, as Scott Walker’s victory indicated, the G.O.P. also did very well in gubernatorial elections. In Florida, Rick Scott scraped by the ex-governor (and party turncoat) Charlie Crist, who had been leading in the polls for much of the year. In Michigan, Rick Snyder handily defeated his Democratic challenger, Mark Schauer. Even Kansas’s Sam Brownback, an irresponsible tax-cutter and budget-slasher who was, at one stage, so unpopular that it looked like he might be run out of the state, got reëlected.
The G.O.P. also scored some big pick-ups in governor’s races. In Maryland, the Republican businessman Larry Hogan came from well behind in the polls to defeat Anthony Brown, the state’s lieutenant governor. In Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson, a former Republican congressman who was one of Bill Clinton’s principal tormentors during the Whitewater saga and the subsequent impeachment trial, emerged victorious. About the only good news for Democrats in governors’ races was a pick-up in Pennsylvania, where the kitchen-cabinet magnate Tom Wolf defeated Tom Corbett, the Republican incumbent, and in Connecticut, with what looked like a hold, as Dannel Malloy claimed victory over Tom Foley. (In the early hours of Wednesday, Foley was still refusing to concede defeat.) In Colorado, with ninety-two per cent of the vote counted as of this writing, the Democratic incumbent John Hickenlooper was running slightly ahead of the Republican Bob Beauprez.
And yet, despite all of this, it would be premature to call the 2014 election a major turning point. There’s little evidence that the country has taken a big swing toward the Republican Party’s ideology or policy positions, or, even, that it has any great liking for the G.O.P. The same exit poll that showed fifty-nine per cent of respondents were dissatisfied or angry with the Obama Administration found that sixty-one per cent of respondents were angry or disappointed with Republican leaders in Congress. It found that fifty-three per cent of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of the Democratic Party and that fifty-six per cent have an unfavorable opinion of the Republican Party.
As for policy, the exit poll showed that the economy remains the biggest issue, by far, in voters’ minds. Jobs and wages are what people care about most, and, in both of these areas, they tended to support Democratic positions. One quick example: at the same time as they were electing a Republican senator and a Republican governor, the voters of Arkansas approved, by a two-to-one margin, a raise in the state’s minimum wage.
We also shouldn’t forget that this was a midterm electorate, not a Presidential-election electorate. According to the exit poll, the number of seniors who voted yesterday was twice as large as the number of eighteen-to-twenty-nine-year-olds.
In short, this was a big protest vote, and a big defeat for President Obama. To that extent, it was a big victory for the Republicans. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader-elect, earned his moment of glory. (“It’s time to turn this country around—and I will not let you down,” McConnell told a group of cheering supporters relatively early in the evening, following his thumping of Grimes.) But if a “wave election” is one that signifies important changes in the underlying dynamics of the American electorate, then this wasn’t a wave election.
I pretty much agree with Ezra Klein’s take:
One outcome from today’s elections has pretty much already been decided: Whether Democrats somehow hold the Senate or whether Republicans capture it, we are only headed for more polarization, not less.
Presuming Republicans win the Upper Chamber, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will claim a new era of constructive governance has arrived, while simultaneously claiming a mandate to chip away at President Obama’s already achieved policy gains. (Those who profess a love for bipartisan cooperation will politely ignore this absurdity.) But McConnell’s only way to re-litigate Obama’s policies will remain budgetary guerrilla warfare that will only work if Obama allows it to work, which he won’t. This election won’t resolve any of the larger arguments of the Obama era — whether backward looking or forward looking — and while compromises may be possible here and there, the big picture will mostly be more stalemate.
This is the structural reality underlying the battle for the Senate: Because voters increasingly vote for the same party in Congressional elections that they do in presidential ones, it’s becoming harder for either party to hold seats in states won by the opposing party’s presidential candidate. At best for Democrats, the result of this election will be a majority so narrow that it’s almost non-existent. The most likely outcome for Republicans is a majority of two or three seats — far from enough to do any serious damage to any of Obama’s major policy achievements.
“We’re seeing greater consistency across different types of elections,” political scientist Alan Abramowitz tells me. “Aside from the close ones, it’s very hard now for a Democrat to be elected in a Romney state, and very hard for Republicans to win in Obama states.”
Ron Brownstein has a must-read that explains how demographics in the core red state battlegrounds, where older blue collar whites continue to trend away from the Democratic Party, are fueling this trend. Also seeJonathan Cohn’s useful map which captures the situation nicely.
The rub, Abramowitz says, is that in this election, this trend will produce amore polarized Senate. That’s because, in the states where control will mostly be decided, moderate Democrats are likely to be replaced with very conservative Republicans. In Arkansas and Alaska, senators Mark Pryor and Mark Begich will likely be replaced by Tom Cotton and Dan Sullivan. In Iowa and Colorado, Joni Ernst and Cory Gardner, who may well prevail, are more conservative than the retiring Tom Harkin and Mark Udall are liberal.
“The net result will be that we’ll have a Republican caucus that is more conservative than it is now, and a Democratic caucus that is more liberal than it is now,” Abramowitz says. “You’re subtracting moderates from the Democratic caucus, and adding very conservative Republicans to the GOP caucus.”
“As a result, we’ll have a more polarized Senate, with more confrontation and gridlock,” Abramowitz continues. “I can’t see the new Republican-controlled Congress being more willing to work with the president.”
And as Jonathan Chait notes, beyond the Senate, the dominant fact of our politics is that the GOP-controlled House and the President can’t agree on anything, no matter what the Senate does. The notion that the Senate can somehow bridge this divide has long been a pipe dream. But for the aforementioned reasons, it may, if anything, be even more fanciful next year. Which probably means that, whatever happens today, we’re looking at more of the same dispiriting mess for at least the next two years and quite possibly longer.
* THE FINAL POLLING AVERAGES: In Colorado, Cory Gardner leads Senator Mark Udall by 1.9 points. In Georgia, David Perdue leads Michelle Nunn by four points, but he appears short of the 50 percent to avoid a runoff. In Iowa, Joni Ernst leads Bruce Braley by 2.4 points.
In New Hampshire, Senator Jeanne Shaheen leads Scott Brown by 1.4 points. In North Carolina, Senator Kay Hagan leads Thom Tillis by 0.7 points. In Kansas, Senator Pat Roberts leads independent Greg Orman by 1.7 points.
All these races could still go either way, but the big picture remains that Republicans lead by more than four points in enough states to take the majority.
* UNCERTAINTY REMAINS IN THE POLLS: Nate Silver explains how lingering uncertainty in the polls means the possibility of Democrats holding the Senate cannot be ruled out entirely. There are two scenarios, one in which they are close to right, and one in which they are wrong:
In the final set of simulations we ran, Democrats won just 14 percent of the time when the overall bias in the polls was less than one point in either direction. This represents what we’ve called the “squeaker” scenario — Democrats eke out victories in just enough of the competitive states to win, even though the polls do a reasonably good job overall. The Democrats’ alternative is the “shocker” scenario — the case where the polls do prove to be skewed against them. In the simulations where the polls had at least a 1-point Republican bias, Democrats won the Senate 61 percent of the time.
So if the polls are a bit off, Democrats can hold. Of course, they could beunderestimating GOP strength, which would mean a bigger-than-expected GOP majority.
* HOW OLD WILL TODAY’S ELECTORATE BE? Gerald Seib notes that today’s outcome will be determined in part by which side shapes the electorate they want, and offers this polling:
When Journal/NBC News pollsters gauged which voters are likely to actually show up to cast votes, based on their interest in this year’s election and their voting history, they found that just 11% of those most likely to vote this year are under the age of 30. Meanwhile, a hefty 24% of those most likely to vote were those aged 65 and over…it will be a much older electorate overall than the one that showed up for the 2012 presidential election.
* OTHER STORIES TO WATCH TODAY: Danny Vinik has an important reminder: The Medicaid expansion and the minimum wage are also on the ballot today in multiple states. If Democrats or independents are elected governor in a number of states, it could result in an expansion of health coverage under Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. Meanwhile, voters in four states will weigh in on whether to raise their states’ minimum wage.
So even if Democrats lose the Senate, there could be some bright spots for the Democratic agenda here and there.
* WE’RE PROBABLY HEADING FOR RUNOFFS, FOLKS: The Post has an overview of all the plans outside groups are already putting together in the event that Senate control could be decided by runoffs in either Louisiana or Georgia, or both.
If this comes to pass, either one or both states will be absolutely flooded with outside money, political operatives, party lawyers, and preening national media figures. My God, what a zoo that will be.
One of the Car Talk brothers (the one with the laugh):
Tom Magliozzi, one of public radio’s most popular personalities, died on Monday of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 77 years old.
Tom and his brother, Ray, became famous as “Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers” on the weekly NPR show Car Talk. They bantered, told jokes, laughed and sometimes even gave pretty good advice to listeners who called in with their car troubles.
If there was one thing that defined Tom Magliozzi, it was his laugh. It was loud, it was constant, it was infectious.
“His laugh is the working definition of infectious laughter,” says Doug Berman, the longtime producer of Car Talk. He remembers the first time he ever encountered Magliozzi.
“Before I ever met him, I heard him, and it wasn’t on the air,” he recalls.
Berman was the news director of WBUR at the time.
“I’d just hear this laughter,” he says. “And then there’d be more of it, and people would sort of gather around him. He was just kind of a magnet.”
The Magliozzi brothers grew up in a tough neighborhood of East Cambridge, Mass., in a close-knit Italian family. Tom was 12 years older, the beloved older brother to Ray. They liked to act like they were just a couple of regular guys who happened to be mechanics, but both of them graduated from MIT.