Last night, in the 26th District of New York, a special election was held to fill the vacant congressional seat of Republican Chris Lee, who resigned in February (following a sex scandal where he advertised a shirtless photo of himself on Craigslist).
The 26th District, in upstate New York, is very Republican. To give some perspective, the district, which spans from Rochester to Buffalo, has 27,000 more Republicans than Democrats, voted for John McCain over Barack Obama in 2008 (he won by 6 percentage points), and has had just three Democrats represent it in the last 150 years. The 26th is about as red as they come.
Three candidates vied for the empty seat: Democrat Kathy Hochul, her Republican opponent, Jane Corwin, and Tea Party candidate Jack Davis.
Yesterday Hochul defeated Corwin in the special election. Hochul received 47% of the vote, with Corwin earning 43%, and Tea Party candidate Jack Davis earning 8%.
This is a big win for Democrats, coming in such a heavily Republican district. And while one might say that the Tea Party candidate was a "spoiler" who took victory from the GOP, that would be wrong. As Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com points out, the results from last night still would have been bad for Republicans if Corwin had received all of the votes for Davis. If Corwin had somehow received all of the votes for Davis, a dubious proposition at best, she would still have only won by four points.
In fact, in a district so heavily dominated by Republicans someone like Corwin should be able to easily win a special election. In 2010 Republican Chris Lee, later forced to resign because of the infamous Craigslist scandal, won the seat by a 48-point margin (74%-26%).
So how did Hochel win? And can Democrats benefit from this in 2012?
Hochel's campaign was almost a one-note campain: she focussed on entitlements. Specifically, she put herself on the side of seniors when it came to Medicare. The Republicans, as you know, want to scrap Medicare and replace it with vouchers. (Interestingly, they accused Obamacare of doing that, which it didn't).
This put her opponent on the defensive for the whole campaign. You see, Republicans like to pretend that they are doing something noble, something fair — in the interest of asking all Americans to sacrifice. The problem is that they’re not asking oil and gas companies to sacrifice. They’re not asking multimillionaires to sacrifice. But they're asking seniors to give up on Medicare. That does not resonate well.
So expect Medicare to be a very important part of the 2012 election. It will be a topic on which Democrats can make significant in-roads with independants and, yes, even Tea Partiers.
Look, it's a free country, and you can vote for anybody you damn well please for any damn reason. But why oh why is this happening?
Exit polling reveals that gay and lesbian voters played a critical role in the Republican Party’s historic gains in the U.S. House on Tuesday night. According to CNN, 31% of self-identified gay voters supported Republican candidates for the U.S. House. This number is a dramatic increase from the 19% GOP House candidates won among gay voters in 2008. “Exit polling makes it clear gay voters played an important role in bringing conservative leadership to Congress,” said Jimmy LaSalvia, Executive Director of GOProud, the only national organization representing gay conservatives and their allies.
Now, I think Mr. Jimmy LaSalvia is overstating things a bit when he says that gay voters played an important role in bringing about the GOP sweep. He has to say that; he's the Executive Director of GOProud.
But still — the fact that nearly one-third of all gay voters went Republican is disturbing. Again, I understand that it is possible to be gay and be in favor of, say, the Republican's plan to…. well, the Republican's policies (whatever they are). But I still don't know how one can pull the lever for a party which increasingly works hard to deny you civil rights. What's going on?
Spare me your TV pundits — I think this guy mentioned in the Washington Post is onto something:
But if we'd gone to an actual party, then we would've missed a special lesson from a Murray supporter named Buddy Foley, 65, a pianist and handler-wrangler who won't say what he handles or wrangles (besides the Stella Artois in his hand).
"Let me tell you how America works," says Foley, who wears a plaid shirt, a mallard-print tie and a woodpecker feather in his fedora. "You have Democrats voting for Democrats and Republicans voting for Republicans and then you have these people down the middle who are — " he lowers his voice " — undereducated, and are trying to make a living and do the best for their children, but they're so busy that they realize two weeks before an election that, 'Gee, I better start watching TV to get some news,' and by then the richest [expletives] in America have shoved their [expletiving] money into attack ads and that's what this middle group of people sees, and they vote accordingly and they're the ones who steer the country."
"Many of us who understand the law are scratching our heads this morning, laughing so we don't cry… I would like to see Oklahoma politicians explain if this means that the courts can no longer consider the Ten Commandments. Isn't that a precept of another culture and another nation? The result of this is that judges aren't going to know when and how they can look at sources of American law that were international law in origin."
– Rick Tepker, the first member of the University of Oklahoma School of Law faculty to try a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, on the referendum passed by Oklahoma citizens which bars state judges from — I am not making this up – considering Islamic or international law when making a ruling.
Which is kind of like passing a law which says that FEMA can't set up death camps to indoctrinate your kidnapped children into socialism.
It's very disconcerting what these right wingers actually believe. They think liberal judges might come along and apply Sharia law? Seriously? As Digby once said: "Somebody's got to stop all those liberal judges from imposing ultra-conservative Sharia Law and stoning gays and women who stray from God's path. Oh wait…what are we talking about again?"
You'll get fuller analysis — and better analysis — from, well, just about anywhere else. These are a couple of things that I thought were noteworthy, and shouldn't be overlooked:
(1) Blue Dog Democrats, a coalition of moderate to conservative Democrats in the House, did VERY badly. Essentially, they were cut in half. Of the 39 Dems who voted against Health Care Reform, 12 are going to be returning in the next Congress. Conversely, 95% of the members of the “Progressive Caucus” won re-election. The lesson to be learned there is that if you think you're a Democrat, then playing conservative isn't going to help you. You might as well become a progressive, because they're going to call you a dirty hippie socialist anyway.
(2) Three Supreme Court judges in Iowa who ruled in favor of same-sex marriage there, were ousted. This is why judges should never ever ever be subject to popular vote. Because the last thing you want a judge to do is to make legal decisions based on what will be well-received. If that were the case, we'd still have segregation. Folks, if judges make a constitutional ruling that you don't like, you change the constitution, not the judges.
(3) Most of the focus is on the national races and governorships, but state legislatures really reflect the GOP wave. The North Carolina state legislature, for example, has a Republican majority for the first time since 1870. But they also gained control of chambers in the states of Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
(4) Rand Paul is going to be fun for the next few years. Especially if he's going to say things like this:
There are no rich. There are no middle class. There are no poor. We all are interconnected in the economy. You remember a few years ago, when they tried to tax the yachts, that didn’t work. You know who lost their jobs? The people making the boats, the guys making 50,000 and 60,000 dollars a year lost their jobs. We all either work for rich people or we sell stuff to rich people. So just punishing rich people is as bad for the economy as punishing anyone.
(5) Speaking of Kentucky, the city of Lexington just elected an openly gay mayor, which is pretty amazing, considering it's Kentucky and all.
(7) The Tea Party helped Republicans in some races, but didn't deliver the goods in others. The same could be said of Palin endorsements. What does that mean? It means that the Tea Party still gets to play. They'll become a double-edged sword for the GOP.
First, we have more than a communications problem — the public heard us but disagreed with our approach. Democrats need not reassess our goals for America, but we need to seriously rethink how to reach them.
Second, don’t blame the voters. They aren’t stupid or addled by fear. They are skeptical about government efficacy, worried about the deficit and angry that Democrats placed other priorities above their main concern: economic growth.
… although I'm not sure I agree on the specifics.
(9) Apparently, dressing up as Nazi is still over the line, as Iott lost.
RALEIGH, NC —With less than 24 hours until the close of polls tomorrow night, the North Carolina Democratic Party is getting reports of disgraceful repeated robo calls to unaffiliated and Democratic voters from conservative interest groups meant to anger voters and suppress turnout.
These unsolicited robo calls, which are coming to a voters sometimes up to eight times in a row, include a Democratic candidate asking for support in tomorrow’s election. Not surprisingly, many people hang up the call before they can hear the full message. The NCDP expects these robo calls to continue being made to unaffiliated and Democratic households into the middle of the night.
“These robo calls are a desperate, despicable, and unfortunately, predictable, attempt by the GOP to keep Democratic voters away from the polls tomorrow,” said Andrew Whalen, Executive Director of the NCDP. “It seems like there is no line Republicans will not cross in order to secure victory. North Carolina voters need to know who is behind these calls, and the NCDP will do everything in its power to ensure these likely illegal calls are stopped as soon as possible.”
These robo calls are not the first dirty tricks Republicans have played in the days leading up to tomorrow’s election. On Sunday, an organization named Americans in Contact PAC (AIPAC) started sending out unsolicited text messages to voters in the districts of Congressmen Heath Shuler and Larry Kissell. These text messages, which could violate FCC regulations, provided a phone number to the Democratic candidates’ campaign offices, leaving voters with the impression that the text messages were sent from their campaigns.
What was the average monthly private sector job growth in 2008, the final year of the Bush presidency, and what has it been so far in 2010?
What was the Federal deficit for the last fiscal year of the Bush presidency, and what was it for the first full fiscal year of the Obama presidency?
What was the stock market at on the last day of the Bush presidency? What is it at today?
In 2008, we lost an average of 317,250 private sector jobs per month. In 2010, we have gained an average of 95,888 private sector jobs per month. (Source) That's a difference of nearly five million jobs between Bush's last year in office and President Obama's second year.
In FY2009, which began on September 1, 2008 and represents the Bush Administration's final budget, the budget deficit was $1.416 trillion. In FY2010, the first budget of the Obama Administration, the budget deficit was $1.291 trillion, a decline of $125 billion. (Source) Yes, that means President Obama has cut the deficit — there's a long way to go, but we're in better shape now than we were under Bush and the GOP.
On Bush's final day in office, the Dow, NASDAQ, and S&P 500 closed at 7,949, 1,440, and 805, respectively. Today, as of 10:15AM Pacific, they are at 11,108, 2,512, and 1,183. That means since President Obama took office, the Dow, NASDAQ, and S&P 500 have increased 40%, 74%, and 47%, respectively.
I'm just saying that if you want to vote Republican, that's fine, but please know that they got us into this mess.
As far-right ophthalmologist Rand Paul (R) arrived for the candidates' final debate, Lauren Valle of MoveOn.org tried to give him a satirical "employee of the month award" from Republicorp, a pseudo-entity created by MoveOn to draw attention to the merger of the GOP and corporate interests.
But before Valle could reach the candidate, Paul supporters grabbed her, forced her to the ground, and at one point, literally stomped on her head as she lay helpless on the curb.
There was apparently some talk from Paul backers that the woman simply fell. The video shows otherwise.
Valle did not initially appear to be seriously injured in the attack — she spoke to reporters after having been assaulted, complaining of headaches — but last night, Valle was in a local hospital. Her condition has not yet been reported this morning. We also do not yet know who stomped on her head, though local police are investigating.
Took five minutes. In and out. Easy and kind of fun.
In fact, I might do it again later this week.
Didn't quite vote the straight Democratic ticket. Left a lot of positions blank. And if I knew the candidate (a neighbor, or a legal colleague running for the court), I didn't care about political party.
Voted "yes" on the library bond issue, although I think that might lose because people in these parts don't cotton to that edumacation thing, especially if it means higher taxes.
Voted "yes" on the constitutional amendment which will ban ex-felons from being sheriff. You may ask "WTF?", but seven ex-felons ran for sheriff in various counties throughout North Carolina, so it's an epidemic down here. You may wonder who would be in favor of ex-felons becoming sheriff, and the answer is the Libertarian Party of North Carolina. They point out that stealing pine needles is a felony in North Carolina (they are right about that), and ask "do we want to preclude people from being sheriff simply because they stole pine needles?"
And after giving it some thought, I concluded, "Actually, yes. If you steal anything, pine needles, bicycles, whatever — you probably shouldn't be sheriff." So I voted "yes" on that one.
I think O'Donnell may have put the final nail in the coffin that is her Senate campaign. With this:
David Brody: How do you see God’s role in all of this because you’ve had some ups and you’ve had some downs. Where is God in all of this? How do you see all of that?
Christine O’Donnell: God is the reason that I’m running. If I didn’t believe that there were a cause greater than myself worth fighting for, if I didn’t believe that it takes a complete dying of self to make things right in this Election cycle I would not be running and when you die to yourself you rely on a power greater than yourself so prayer is what’s gotten us all through. The day that we saw a spike in the polls was a day that some people had a prayer meeting for me that morning for this campaign so I believe that prayer plays a direct role in this campaign and I always ask please pray for the campaign; please pray for our staff; please pray specifically that the eyes of the voters be opened.
I think it is fine for politicians to invoke their faith. It's fine if their belief in God is what is causing them to run for office. That's all fine by me.
But O'Donnell is saying – literally and unequivocally – that God created a spike in the polls the other day.
What does that mean if she loses? That people didn't pray hard enough?
UPDATE — Also Chris Coons latest ad really makes O'Donnell look, well, kinda nutty:
Maddow on MTP about the so-called apathetic Democrats in 2010:
"I think that the initial diagnosis that Democrats don’t care and were going to be–weren’t going to be able to turn out, that they weren’t going to be able to get off their hands and actually get out to the polls this year has turned out to be a little bit of–a little bit wrong. We’re seeing the high Democratic numbers in terms of early voting, for example. But, you know, it was less than two years ago that this country turned out and elected Barack Obama by seven points, by 10 million votes, and it was–for the second straight election, elected a hugely greater number of Democrats to Congress and the Senate than they did Republicans, and that was less than two years ago.
I don’t think the country has changed that much. We, at that time, in 2008, saw people screaming about the president’s birth certificate and imagining everybody was a Muslim and fainting at the sight of Sarah Palin. I mean, those people existed in 2008, as well, but they lost. And so I think that the narrative has been very exciting on the Republican side, but I don’t think the country has changed as much since 2008 as the narrative would suggest."
I think there is some truth to this. Voter anger was supposed to carry Republicans to a sweeping victory, but as the remaining days of the campaign come and go, races around the country aren’t following the script. Some of them, in fact, are quite tight.
Will the Republicans pick up seats in the House? Yes. A couple dozen. But the Senate probably isn't in play anymore; the Democrats will maintain the majority.
And here's something else — another phenomenon that I think many people overlook. The cellphone bias. About one in four Americans are reachable only by cell phone now, and most polls do not bother with cell phone users. And cellphones have a Republican bias.
For the last four years, the Pew Research Center has conducted public opinion surveys involving separate, parallel samples of both landline and mobile phones. Their design allows for a comparison between combined samples of landline and cell interviews and samples based only on landline calls.
Before the 2008 election, they found that calling only landline phones introduced a "small but real" bias in favor of John McCain, an average bias of 2.3 percentage points on the margin on nine national surveys conducted between June and October of that year.
But even in the two years since 2008, that bias has grown larger. The most recent survey in the study, conducted in late August and early September, also involved comparisons based on a subgroup of "likely voters" chosen using a traditional seven question turnout scale (similar to the classic Gallup likely voter model):
The combined landline and cell estimate produced a seven-point Republican advantage: 50% supported the GOP candidate for Congress in their district while 43% backed the Democratic candidate. The Republican lead would have been 12 points if only the landline sample had been interviewed, a significant difference from the combined sample of five points in the margin.
In other words, most polls we see out there are probably 3-5 points off, favoring the GOP.
So this might not be another 1994. Or, at least, not as bad as 1994.
WASHINGTON – Republican congressional candidate Stephen Broden stunned his party Thursday, saying he would not rule out violent overthrow of the government if elections did not produce a change in leadership.
In a rambling exchange during a TV interview, Broden, a South Dallas pastor, said a violent uprising "is not the first option," but it is "on the table." That drew a quick denunciation from the head of the Dallas County GOP, who called the remarks "inappropriate."
Broden, a first-time candidate, is challenging veteran incumbent Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson in Dallas' heavily Democratic 30th Congressional District. Johnson's campaign declined to comment on Broden.
In the interview, Brad Watson, political reporter for WFAA-TV (Channel 8), asked Broden about a tea party event last year in Fort Worth in which he described the nation's government as tyrannical.
"We have a constitutional remedy," Broden said then. "And the Framers say if that don't work, revolution."
Watson asked if his definition of revolution included violent overthrow of the government. In a prolonged back-and-forth, Broden at first declined to explicitly address insurrection, saying the first way to deal with a repressive government is to "alter it or abolish it."
"If the government is not producing the results or has become destructive to the ends of our liberties, we have a right to get rid of that government and to get rid of it by any means necessary," Broden said, adding the nation was founded on a violent revolt against Britain's King George III.
Watson asked if violence would be in option in 2010, under the current government.
"The option is on the table. I don't think that we should remove anything from the table as it relates to our liberties and our freedoms," Broden said, without elaborating. "However, it is not the first option."
What is most frightening is that these people actually believe that violent overthrow of the government is what the framers of the Constitution actually envisioned.
Ironically, treason is the only crime actually defined in the Constitution and it was defined as "levying war against the United States". This moron thinks the Constitution encourages it. No, it doesn't.
Earlier this week, I posted about Rich Iott, who is the Republican candidate for Congress for some district in Ohio. And the reason I posted about him was because he and his friends like to dress up in Nazi uniforms, which is something a candidate for high office probably shouldn't do (IMHO).
"Rich Iott doesn't have an anti-Semitic bone in his body," [said Iott's spokesperson], who sought to distinguish between a Nazi uniform and an SS uniform, which he said is what Iott is wearing in the now-famous image.
The Nazis were Adolf Hitler's party — and became shorthand for the German military under his rule — while the SS was an elite squadron of soldiers and law enforcers responsible for a variety of war crimes.
So first of all, I erred when I wrote that Iott was wearing a Nazi solder's uniform. He wasn't. It was an SS uniform. He wasn't posing as one of Hitler's regular soldiers, but as a member of Hitler's elite soldiers and law enforcers. Specifically, Iott engages in re-enactments where he portrays himself as a member of the Waffen SS — specifically, an SS officer in The Wiking SS. The Wiking SS was part of the 5th Panzer Division that fought bloody battles on the Eastern Front. That division was responsible for rounding up Ukranian and Hungarian Jews and murdering more than 700 in games of bloody and torturous inhumanity. Joseph Mengele was a member of that unit. And this candidate for the U.S. Senate likes to dress up as one of them and not as a regular Nazi. So I stand corrected.
Secondly, I may not be the world's highest authority on politics, but it seems to me that if your campaign spokesman is making the distinction between whether the candidate was wearing a Nazi uniform or an SS uniform, it's probably time to fold it in.
It's very common to see conservatives take potshots at "Hollywood liberals", i.e., how Hollywood is full of liberals. Even if it is true — and it probably is — I never quite understood the reason why it generates such outrage. So what? Do you hear progressives whine and moan about how country music is full of conservatives?
Anyway, I've always dismissed the Hollywood criticism as envy of some sort. I mean "envy" makes sense when the only Hollywood people who support your cause are Chuck "Has Been" Norris, Pat "Who?" Boone, Steve "The Baldwin Who Can't Act" Baldwin, and, most recently, Clint "I Get Cameos In My Brother's Movies" Howard.
Heavy hitters all.
But let's not forgot another one — Pat Sajak — who takes time from his busy wheel-spinning schedule to pen a brief article for the National Review.
Disenfranchising certain law-abiding tax-paying Americans.
He's in favor of it.
Oh, he denies it by saying…
I’m not suggesting that public employees should be denied the right to vote…
… but that's the kind of phrase that is immediately followed by a "but", and indeed it is.
Pat's argument is this: people who are employed by the government have a conflict of interest when they get to vote for who is in government, or get to vote on ballot initiatives which concern them. For example, should public school teachers be allowed to vote on a ballot initiative which caps the salaries of public school teachers?
No, says Pat. They have a conflict of interest. After all…
None of my family and friends is allowed to appear on Wheel of Fortune.
Right. Because voter participation in their democratic government is just like a game show.
Then Pat continues with his comparison:
Same goes for my kids’ teachers or the guys who rotate my tires. If there’s not a real conflict of interest, there is, at least, the appearance of one.
Well, what about the public school teacher example? Can their kids, friends, or families vote on that ballot initiative?
Make no mistake about it: this is batshit crazy. Banning Americans from voting just because they might benefit from the outcome runs counter to the whole purpose of elections in the first place.
I mean, what's next? Suppose a candidate comes along with a plan to lower taxes on people making over $250,000 a year. Should we not let those wealthy voters vote, simply because they might benefit from such a law? Hmmmmm. Wait a minute…..
No, seriously… DUMB idea. And try getting that past the U.S. soldiers. Yes, they are public employees, too.
The Tea Party crowd sure does bring an odd assortment of politicians to the forefront. You know what I mean — politicians who are people "just like you and me".
Which is true. I know I'm always having to disavow being a witch.
But in the race to crazy, the winner has to be Ohio Congressional candidate Rich Iott.
Iott likes to dress up like a Nazi.
Yes, it is a rather unusual hobby of his… dressing up as a member of the 5th SS Wiking Panzer Division, a unit in the German army during World War II. And now Iott has to go on teevee and explain why he belongs to a group that honors German soldiers.
In Sterling, VA, House Republicans this morning will unveil their governing blueprint if they win back the majority in November. It’s called “A Pledge to America,” but it really isn’t a call to revolutionize the way Congress does business like the GOP’s “Contract with America” did in 1994. Rather, the “Pledge” is a laundry list of priorities.
The 21-page document contains five plans: on jobs and the economy (make the Bush tax cuts permanent, give small businesses a tax deduction, require congressional approval of new federal regulations that cost $100 million or more); on government spending (cut government spending to its 2008 level, cap new discretionary spending, cut Congress’ budget, freeze the hiring of non-security federal workers; hold WEEKLY spending cut votes); on health care (repeal the health-care law, enact medical malpractice reform, ensure access for patients with pre-existing conditions); on reforming Congress (post the text of any legislation online at least three days before coming up for a vote, end the practice of attaching non-germane bills to must-pass legislation; provide in EVERY bill the specific Constitutional provision); and on national security (fully fund missile defense, require tough sanctions against Iran, and enforce the border).
But the GOP’s blueprint also contains obvious contradictions. How can the GOP claim to have new ideas when its first policy proposal is making the Bush tax cuts permanent? How does it reduce the deficit if you make those tax cuts permanent? Why work to ensure access for patients with pre-existing conditions if you repeal a law that already does that? Why push for tax cuts for small businesses when your party has opposed similar cuts that Democrats have offered? (Indeed, will House Republicans today vote for that Democratic measure?) And then there’s this: The document makes absolutely no mention about what to do regarding the war in Afghanistan. (It does talk about Iran and lumps immigration in their national security section). It also ignores what to do about Social Security and Medicare. And how do you truly address cutting government spending if you ignore Social Security and Medicare?
The document speaks constantly and eloquently of the dangers of debt — but offers a raft of proposals that would sharply increase it. It says, in one paragraph, that the Republican Party will commit itself to "greater liberty" and then, in the next, that it will protect "traditional marriage." It says that "small business must have certainty that the rules won't change every few months" and then promises to change all the rules that the Obama administration has passed in recent months. It is a document with a clear theory of what has gone wrong — debt, policy uncertainty, and too much government — and a solid promise to make most of it worse.
It's not exactly bold or new, and some conservatives are panning it:
These 21 pages tell you lots of things, some contradictory things, but mostly this: it is a serious of compromises and milquetoast rhetorical flourishes in search of unanimity among House Republicans because the House GOP does not have the fortitude to lead boldly in opposition to Barack Obama.
Yes, yes, it is full of mom tested, kid approved pablum that will make certain hearts on the right sing in solidarity. But like a diet full of sugar, it will actually do nothing but keep making Washington fatter before we crash from the sugar high.
It is dreck — dreck with some stuff I like, but like Brussels sprouts in butter. I like the butter, not the Brussels sprouts. Overall, this grand illusion of an agenda that will never happen is best spoken of today and then never again as if it did not happen. It is best forgotten.
The pledge begins by lamenting “an arrogant and out-of-touch government of self-appointed elites” issuing “mandates”, then proceeds to demand health care mandates on insurance companies that will drive up the costs of health care for ordinary Americans.
The plan wants to put “government on the path to a balanced budget” without doing anything substantive. There is a promise to “immediately reduce spending” by cutting off stimulus funds. Wow. Exciting.
There is a plan to cut Congress’s budget, which is pretty much what was promised in 1994. Seriously? In 4 years did the Democrats really blow up the Congressional budget? No — the GOP did that too.
There is no call for a Spending Limitation Amendment or a Balanced Budget Amendment. It is just meaningless stuff the Democrats can easily undo and that ultimately the Senate GOP will even turn its nose up at.
The entirety of this Promise is laughable. Why? It is an illusion that fixates on stuff the GOP already should be doing while not daring to touch on stuff that will have any meaningful longterm effects on the size and scope of the federal government.
This document proves the GOP is more focused on the acquisition of power than the advocacy of long term sound public policy. All the good stuff in it is stuff we expect them to do. What is not in it is more than a little telling that the House GOP has not learned much of anything from 2006.
It doesn't help that the Pledge was apparently put together under the auspices of one Brian Wild “a House staffer who, up till April 2010, served as a lobbyist for some of the nation’s most powerful oil, pharmaceutical, and insurance companies.”
Christine O'Donnell, the anti-masturbation anti-condom Tea Party candidate who was vaulted into the national spotlight when she ousted moderate Republican Mike Castle for the bid for Delaware's U.S. Senate seat, says she merely "dabbled" in witchcraft, and besides, it was in high school and it served as a learning experience for her.
Which, I suppose, is better than admitting it wasn't a learning experience for her.
The following Democrats have come out in support of extending all of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts. A full extension of the tax cuts would include those individuals making more than $200,000 and families making more than $250,000. This list will be updated as more members make their position known.
Mike Ross (Ark.)
Ann Kirkpatrick (Ariz.)
Harry Mitchell (Ariz.)
Jim Costa (Calif.)
John Salazar (Colo.)
Jim Himes (Conn.)
Allen Boyd (Fla.)
Ron Klein (Fla.)
John Barrow (Ga.)
Sanford Bishop Jr. (Ga.)
Jim Marshall (Ga.)
Walt Minnick (Idaho)
Melissa Bean (Ill.)
Joe Donnelly (Ind.)
Brad Ellsworth (Ind.)
Frank Kratovil (Md.)
Gary Peters (Mich.)
Travis Childers (Miss.)
Mike McIntyre (N.C.)
Earl Pomeroy (N.D.)
Harry Teague (N.M.)
Mike McMahon (N.Y.)
Zack Space (Ohio)
Dan Boren (Okla.)
Jason Altmire (Pa.)
Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (S.D.)
Jim Cooper (Tenn.)
Lincoln Davis (Tenn.)
Jim Matheson (Utah)
Rick Boucher (Va.)
Gerry Connolly (Va.)
Glenn Nye (Va.)
Joe Lieberman (Conn.), an Independent who caucuses with Democrats
Evan Bayh (Ind.)
Ben Nelson (Neb.)
Kent Conrad (N.D.)
Jim Webb (Va.)
I find myself in agreement with the folks at Sadly, No, with their message to Democratic politicians who want the uber-wealthy to have tax cuts:
If, in the middle of the worst economy in a lifetime, with unemployment and poverty at toxic levels, you can’t bring yourself to tell the most privileged amongst us that they ought to resume chipping in a couple of percentage points more at the top marginal rate, why even call yourself a Democrat?
This country really is going to the dogs. And it’s being pushed in that direction by wealth disparity that is third-worldish in its propensity for beating down the psyches of the have-nots — only our national mythology of studiously denying that the vast majority of have-nots (including you!) are in fact never-wills prevents the whole thing from crumbling. That and the insidious creep throughout society over the past 40 years of the Randian philosophy of selfishness, rich people worship and the attendant calculated purging of empathy from the citizenry.
I'm fairly certain that many of the Dinos listed above are facing tough races in their respective districts, and that's why they feel they have to come out in favor of tax cuts for the rich.
Except they don't. A recent CBS poll finds that 53 percent of respondents now favor having the nation’s top earners contribute a little bit more to the country that made them so fabulously wealthy. A good politician should be able to make this argument convincingly. All you need is a graph, like this:
Point being that the uber-wealthy have done just fine — thank you very much — over the past 30 years. The Top 1% has more than tripled its income (300%) with fairly steady growth since 1980. The middle and lower classes have seen only about a 15% increase in real income with all of those gains coming after the early 90s.
That's an easy thing for voters to understand. So tell me, why shouldn't we keep taxes only slightly higher for those in the top income brackets?
In Fort Myers, Florida, the Salvation Army reports a 60% jump in families seeking its services.
In Tucscon, Arizona, a local soup kitchen has seen the number of people it serves nightly go from an 40 to 150-200.
In the last year, in Livingston County, Michigan, the number of people looking for food and cash assistant has risen by over 30%. In Jackson County, it's up over 24%.
In Texas, more than one out of every four kids under the age of 18 lives in poverty. That's higher than the national average of one out of every five. And over a quarter of the entire state is without health insurance. Charities there report 25-50% more demand for food and assistance since 2008.
In Steuben County, New York, homelessness has risen by 15% since 2009. And Catholic Charities says that it's serving 33% more people than last year.
In Minnesota, "At Families Moving Forward, a Minneapolis network of churches offering shelter to families with children, the number of calls for housing has shot up from 50 for every opening to 150."
According to the census, the poverty rate in the United States has risen from 13.2% in 2008 to 14.3% in 2009. For those of you doing math, that's one out of every seven Americans. Income has fallen. The number of people without health insurance has risen. Extended unemployment benefits are all that kept 3.3 million more people from falling below the cruel poverty line.
Oh, and by the way: "The top fifth of households accounted for 50.3% of all pre-tax income; the bottom two-fifths got 12%." When it comes to tax cuts and discretionary spending cuts, we're arguing about what now?
Well, it may seem counterintuitive that Democrats are cheering the victory of Tea Party-backed candidate Christine O'Donnell as the GOP candidate as US Senator for Delaware, but that's what they are doing.
Christine O'Donnell, a perennial candidate running on a platform of fiscal conservatism (despite having had tons of personal financing problems) defeated incumbent GOP senator Mike Castle, in a victory which stunned politicians and pundits alike. Tea Partiers rejoiced. But not as much as Democrats rejoiced.
The problem is that O'Donnell is so fringe that she's not likely to get the vote of independents in the general election. In fact, she's not likely to get a lot of Republican votes. Which means that Democratic candidate might be able to take the Senate seat away from the Republicans, something you won't find happening much in this upcoming election.
How fringe is O'Donnell? Here she is on MTV in the 1990's, doing what she does:
I really like that last line of hers. This is why she doesn't like masturbation:
If he already knows what pleases him and can please himself, then why am I in the picture?
Because, apparently, her only purpose in the relationship is to provide a little friction, and the only way she can improve on her man's experience is by keeping him ignorant. So yes, why is she in the picture?
The following year, while representing SALT on C-SPAN, O'Donnell argued that people with AIDS didn't deserve to be called "victims." A guy called in to say that he had a hard time feeling sorry for people with AIDS because their disease was their own fault. In his opinion, feeling sorry people with AIDS was like feeling sorry for "bank robbers who get shot in the head" while they're robbing banks. "He makes an excellent point," O'Donnell replied.
She's also argued against coed college dorms, insisting that they could lead to "orgy rooms" and "menage a trois rooms."
But that's the tip of the iceberg. In 1998, while O’Donnell was a guest on Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher, she espoused the virtues of telling the truth. Very commendable, until comedian Eddie Izzard pressed her on just how far she would take her anti-lying beliefs. Izzard asked O’Donnell whether or not she would lie to Nazis who showed up at her door during WWII and demanded to know if she were hiding any Jewish people in her house. O’Donnell refused to even entertain the notion of concealing the truth from Nazis in that scenario because “you never have to practice deception”:
O’DONNELL: A lie, whether it be a lie or an exaggeration, is disrespect to whoever you’re exaggerating or lying to, because it’s not respecting reality.
MAHER: Quite the opposite, it can be respect.
IZZARD: What if someone comes to you in the middle of the Second World War and says, ‘do you have any Jewish people in your house?’ and you do have them. That would be a lie. That would be disrespectful to Hitler.
O’DONNELL: I believe if I were in that situation, God would provide a way to do the right thing righteously. I believe that!
MAHER: God is not there. Hitler’s there and you’re there.
O’DONNELL: You never have to practice deception. God always provides a way out.
Nice. At the end of the show, O’Donnell also proclaimed that “we took the Bible and prayer out of public schools, now we’re having weekly shootings practically." Right. That's why.
CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: Well, creationism, in essence, is believing that the world began as the Bible in Genesis says, that God created the Earth in six days, six 24-hour periods. And there is just as much, if not more, evidence supporting that [than evolution].
Fun quotes about HBO series while on Hardball on June 20, 2003:
"[T]he thing that attracts people to The Sopranos is the family element. It shows that America still has a longing for that traditional upbringing."
She added, regarding Sex and the City, "It's not taking into the account the physical destruction of going from one man to the other, spreading disease, spreading AIDS. It doesn't take into account your emotions."
And it doesn't look like the GOP is going to unify behind the Tea Party. Loser Mike Castle has said he won't endorse O'Connell. Heck, even Karl Rove can't support her.
Benen's take on the Frankenstein's monster created by the GOP:
These voters have been told by their party not to compromise or settle for partial victories. There's just too much at stake, they're told. Evil forces are trying to take your country away.
Easily misled and manipulated people bought into this rhetoric. They've come to believe it's their responsibility to elect radical ideologues who'll save us from impending doom. Sensible people with last names like Castle, Crist, Specter, Bennett, Murkowski, and Inglis were insufficiently right-wing, so they were cast aside.
These activists have been fed red meat that's been tainted without their knowledge — and now those who did the tainting are frustrated when the activists end up sick.
There's a limit to this, of course. Republicans are still poised to have an exceptionally good election cycle, and many of the lunatic candidates who've won primaries without the party's backing are very likely to win anyway.
But stepping back, even with the GOP's expected gains in mind, Republicans' carefully-executed strategy will leave them with (a) fewer wins than they would have had; (b) a smaller, more extreme party; (c) a base that's been taught to reject any and all compromises; and (d) a party incapable of governing effectively.
RELATED: It's not just Delaware. Last night, New York’s Republicans picked Carl Paladino to run for governor against Andrew Cuomo. Carl’s the guy who sent around hardcore pornographic and racist emails on a teabagger mailing list.
Last week, a major story covered by all the major media outlets was the weekly Gallup poll showing that Republicans were 10 points up over Democrats in the tracking of congressional voting preferences. That was the highest in a decade we were told. And it meant DOOOOM for Democrats in the upcoming congressional races.
EVERYBODY said so.
it's a weekly poll, and look where it is this week:
So what conclusion can be made? Probably that this poll doesn't mean a lot.
Americans trust Democrats more to handle the country's problems. Americans think Democrats represent their values better. Americans think Democrats are more concerned with the needs of people like them, and they think Democrats deserve to be reelected at a higher rate than Republicans.
So who will most Americans vote for in the upcoming elections?
CARSON CITY, Nev. — The 10 of clubs wasn't quite good enough.
That's what Carl Moore Sr. drew Thursday in the tiebreaker between two rural Nevada county commission candidates who sought the Republican nomination in the June 8 primary.
Nye County Commissioner Andrew "Butch" Borasky, who survived a recall last year and is seeking a second term, drew a queen of clubs to advance to the November general election.
The drawing took place in a courtroom in Pahrump, 60 miles west of Las Vegas.
Both tied with 381 votes in the primary. They remained tied after two recounts. State law calls for candidates to draw lots to get a winner when an election is deadlocked. It can be cutting cards, throwing dice, drawing straws or flipping a coin.
Before the big moment, Borasky and Moore agreed on procedure, down to the color of the deck that Clerk Sandra Merlino used – red.
Merlino then shuffled the cards seven times and fanned their fate out on a table. "We decided on high card," Borasky told The Associated Press in a telephone interview afterward. "There was no disagreement between us. We shook hands before and after."
It's really hard to mourn the passing of Senator Robert Byrd at age 92 (D-WV). He's nobody's favorite senator, certainly not among Democrats. He was the last vestige of conservative southern Democrats opposed to desegregation, and one of the few who didn't migrate to the Republican party after efforts to block desegregation failed. Born in North Carolina, Byrd was once a member of the KKK, a move he later claimed to regret.
The interesting question is what happens now. As Nate Silver told us "if the vacancy occurs less than two years and six months before the end of the term, the Governor [of West Virginia] appoints someone to fill the unexpired term and there is no election".
West Virginia's governor is a Democrat, so the appointment would likely be a Democrat. Unfortunately, for an appointment to happen, Byrd would have had to survive until July 3. He did not. Therefore, his replacement is thrown in to a West Virginia election.
I don't hold out much hope for the Democrats in the midterm elections this year, but if they want to do well (or, at the very least, mitigate their losses), then they need to get this message out, and repeat it over and over and over again:
The Republican Party, apparently devoid of ideas themselves, have launched a website called "America Speaking Out". It's an election-year gimmick intended to help give the GOP a policy platform to run on, except that you, Mr. and Mrs. America, get to set the policy platform. It's all designed to show that Republicans are "of the people" and they hear you.
"This is a state of the art – what my kids would say 'really cool' – social networking site where people can put up ideas, other people can rate them, score them, thumbs up, thumbs down, it's really going to be a lot of fun for people and it's going to help us develop the governing agenda for this Congress," added Pence, chairman of the Republican Conference and a possible contender for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.
You know, the GOP is like an elderly person who has just discovered the wonders of the Internet. It's really "cool", but you have to take it worth a grain of salt, especially when it comes to what people say and think. The Internet is ground zero for the tin foil hat people.
i think they're beginning to find that out. One of the first proposals from regular Americans, apparently promoted by a Rand Paul fan, was to eliminate provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Republican officials monitoring the submissions removed it from their site.
"End Child Labor Laws," suggests one helpful participant. "We coddle children too much. They need to spend their youth in the factories."
"How about if Congress actually do thier job and VET or Usurper in Chief, Obama is NOT a Natural Born Citizen in any way," recommends another. "That fake so called birth certificate is useless."
"A 'teacher' told my child in class that dolphins were mammals and not fish!" a third complains. "And the same thing about whales! We need TRADITIONAL VALUES in all areas of education. If it swims in the water, it is a FISH. Period! End of Story."
"Build a castle-style wall along the border, there is plenty of stone laying around about there." That was in the "national security" section of the new site.
"Legalize Marijuana, cause, like, alcohol is legal. Man. Also." That was in the "traditional values" section.
"I say, repeal all the amendments to the Constitution." ("American prosperity" section.)
"Don't let the illegals run out of Arizona and hide. . . . I think that we should do something to identify them in case they try to come back over. Like maybe tattoo a big scarlet 'I' on their chests — for 'illegal'!!!" (Filed under "job creation.")
"Let kids vote!" recommended one. "Let's make a 'Social Security Lotto,' " proposed another. "What dope came up with the idea of criminalizing a parent's right to administer corporal punishment?" a third demanded.
Some contributors demanded action to uncover conspiracies involving the 9/11 attacks and the "NEW WORLD ORDER." One forward thinker recommended that we "build the city of the future somewhere in a non-inhabit part of the United States, preferably the desert."
Some of the uglier forces of the Internet found their way to the House Republican site. "I oppose the Hispanicization of America," said one. "These are not patriotic people." Another contributor had parody in mind (we hope): "English is are official langauge. Anybody who ain't speak it the RIGHT way should kicked out."
Now, some of these suggestions may be progressives getting on the site and trying to make Republicans look stupid. And some of them, no doubt, actually are stupid Republicans.
All over the country, the Republican Party is running up against far-right "tea party" candidates, often to hilarious results. As I have pointed out, the GOP/Tea Party rift tends to divide the right side of the political spectrum, all to the benefit of the Left/Democrats.
It's no different here in North Carolina. The GOP is attacking the tea party's man who (if the GOP is correct) is kind of a loon:
North Carolina Republicans are circulating court documents that suggest a far-right Tea-Party-backed congressional candidate claimed to be the Messiah, tried to raise his stepfather from the dead, believed God would drop a 1,000-mile high pyramid as the New Jerusalem on Greenland, and found the Ark of the Covenant in Arizona.
Tim D'Annunzio also has written that he wants to abolish several key government departments, including the IRS. But there's more going on here than just another wacky conservative politician. The effort by GOP leaders to stop D'Annunzio at all costs offers an intriguing test case of their ability to keep control of the party in the face of challenges from the Tea Party wing. Or as D'Annunzio himself has put it: "The power brokers in Raleigh and in Washington are willing to go to any length and use any unscrupulous tactic to try to destroy somebody. They think that they're losing their control over the Republican party."
D'Annunzio is seeking the GOP nomination to take on Rep. Larry Kissell (D-N.C.) this fall. He was the leader in a primary earlier this month, but didn't win enough of the vote to avoid a runoff in June. The state and national party is backing his opponent, former T.V. sportscaster Harold Johnson. And how.
"I consider Mr. D'Annunzio unfit for public office at any level," Tom Fetzer, the North Carolina GOP chair, told reporters recently. "What he could do to the party as our nominee is secondary in my view to what he could do to the country if he got elected." And a spokesman for the NRCC said: "The issue is, do we give Democrats a candidate that they can absolutely tear apart in the general election? I don't think most Republicans want to see that happen."
To undermine D'Annunzio, the state GOP has been circulating records from his 1995 divorce and from a 1998 child support judgment. In the latter, as the Charlotte Observerreported Sunday, the judge called D'Annunzio "a self-described religious zealot," and wrote that D'Annunzio had "described the government as the 'Antichrist'."
In the divorce case, Anne D'Annunzio said her husband had told her that "God was going to drop a 1,000-mile high pyramid" on Greenland, and also that he had found the Ark of the Covenant in Arizona, among other unusual beliefs.
In addition, a doctor wrote in the custody proceedings that D'Annunzio told him he had once received treatment for heroin dependence, and was jailed three times for offenses that included burglary and assaulting a police officer.
D'Annunzio says his personal problems are in all in the past. But the Born Again candidate still has some pretty extreme political ideas. On a blog he writes, entitled "Christ's War," D'Annunzio declared earlier this year that he wanted to "abolish the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Energy, Labor, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Transportation, Treasury, and Home Land Security," and the IRS, as well as "any appellate court that has shown an anti Constitutional activism." He also advocated giving control of Social Security and Medicare to the states.
I would love it if D'Annunzio won the GOP nomination. Sadly, I don't think it will happen.
Bruce Bartlett may have said it best when he wrote that Paul suffers from foolish consistency syndrome:
I don't believe Rand is a racist; I think he is a fool who is suffering from the foolish consistency syndrome that affects all libertarians. They believe that freedom consists of one thing and one thing only–freedom from governmental constraint. Therefore, it is illogical to them that any increase in government power could ever expand freedom. Yet it is clear that African Americans were far from free in 1964 and that the Civil Rights Act greatly expanded their freedom while diminishing that of racists. To defend the rights of racists to discriminate is reprehensible and especially so when it is done by a major party nominee for the U.S. Senate. I believe that Rand should admit that he was wrong as quickly as possible.
For his part, Rand Paul has spent the last 24 hours backtracking very fast. Originally he had problems with parts of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; now he claims he would have voted for it, even the parts he didn't like (i.e., the part which compelled businesses not to discriminate).
Some conservatives — and even Paul himself — have tried to dismiss the whoe Civil-Rights-gate issue as a gotcha game, based on an historic event which has no bearing on the present. But wiser people (like me) understand that the issue isn't civil rights, but Paul's adherence to a hands-off government. That has real world applications to current events.
And this morning shows why. In an interview on ABC News’ Good Morning America today, host George Stephanopoulos pressed GOP Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul on “how far” he would “push” his anti-government views. Playing a clip of Paul telling Fox Business that he wants to “get rid of regulation” and “get the EPA out of our coal business down,” Stephanopoulos asked if Paul believed “the EPA should not be allowed to tell oil companies they can’t use certain chemicals to enforce safety regulations on that rig out there?” “No,” replied Paul, saying that he was referring to the EPA’s effort to regulate carbon emissions.
When Stephanopoulos followed up with a question about getting “rid of the EPA,” Paul defended BP’s response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill last month and attacked the Obama administration’s crackdown on the oil giant as “really un-American“:
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you don’t want to get rid of the EPA?
PAUL: No, the thing is is that drilling right now and the problem we’re having now is in international waters and I think there needs to be regulation of that and always has been regulation. What I don’t like from the president’s administration is this sort of, you know, “I’ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP.” I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business. I’ve heard nothing from BP about not paying for the spill. And I think it’s part of this sort of blame game society in the sense that it’s always got to be someone’s fault. Instead of the fact that maybe sometimes accidents happen. I mean, we had a mining accident that was very tragic and I’ve met a lot of these miners and their families. They’re very brave people to do a dangerous job. But then we come in and it’s always someone’s fault. Maybe sometimes accidents happen.
Really, Rand? Coming out in favor of BP? It's un-American to come down hard on British Petroleum?
Great timing. And great way to change the subject….
As the day progresses, Rand Paul is clarifying his position on the 1964 Civil Rights Act, assuring the voters that he will not try to repeal it. This afternoon, a spokesman for the Paul campaign told Greg Sargent, "Civil Rights legislation that has been affirmed by our courts gives the Federal government the right to insure that private businesses don't discriminate based on race. Dr. Paul supports those powers."
It's nice that Paul doesn't want to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits private businesses from discriminating on the basis of race, but it still skirts the issue. Because clearly, if the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were to come about now, Rand would be against it.
In a May 30, 2002, letter to the Bowling Green Daily News, Paul's hometown newspaper, he criticized the paper for endorsing the Fair Housing Act, and explained that "a free society will abide unofficial, private discrimination, even when that means allowing hate-filled groups to exclude people based on the color of their skin."…
"The Daily News ignores," wrote Paul, "as does the Fair Housing Act, the distinction between private and public property. Should it be prohibited for public, taxpayer-financed institutions such as schools to reject someone based on an individual's beliefs or attributes? Most certainly. Should it be prohibited for private entities such as a church, bed and breakfast or retirement neighborhood that doesn't want noisy children? Absolutely not."
In language similar to the language he's used talking about the Civil Rights Act, Paul criticized racism while defending the right of businesses to discriminate.
"A free society will abide unofficial, private discrimination," wrote Paul, "even when that means allowing hate-filled groups to exclude people based on the color of their skin. It is unenlightened and ill-informed to promote discrimination against individuals based on the color of their skin. It is likewise unwise to forget the distinction between public (taxpayer-financed) and private entities."
So even though Paul won't try to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he's still in favor of allowing businesses to discriminate on the basis of race. Not in favor of it morally (he insists), but in favor of allowing businesses to get away with it.
Much as Rand Paul would like, this issue really isn't about the Civil Rights Act of 1964. His worldview applies to discrimination today. What are his views on the Lilly Ledbetter Act, or a law against discriminatory housing against gays? I think we know where he stands. It's where he would have stood back in 1964.
I saw a lot of Rand Paul on TV yesterday. And heard him on the radio. The newly-minted Republican candidate for Senator from Kentucky is facing national criticism because of his stance on the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Rand Paul, I honestly believe, is not a racist. He just believes that government should not be involved in business. And he holds to that ideological stand scrupulously.
The 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibited government from discriminating on the basis of race — in schools and bus stations and government jobs. Paul has no problem with that. But the part he has a problem with is where the 1964 Civil Rights Act requires businesses not to discriminate either. While Paul thinks it is stupid and immoral for a business to discriminate, he doesn't think the government has a place in preventing them from doing so. Or, as Ezra Klein writes:
So I take Paul at his word that he's not a racist. What he is, however, is an ideological extremist. He is so categorically opposed to public regulation of private enterprise that he cannot even bring himself to say that the Woolworth lunch counter should've been desegregated. Instead, he falls back on the remedies of the market: "I wouldn't attend, wouldn't support, wouldn't go to," a private institution that discriminates, he told Rachel Maddow. But he would let them discriminate. And in the segregated South, that would've been a perfectly viable business model for many, many very important institutions.
This prompted Rachel Maddow to ask Rand Paul a very simple question on her broadcast last night if the lunch counters at Woolworth's should have been desegregated, "yes or no". Paul's answer was evasive (he knew it was a trap question), but his answer was essentially "no":
"Does the owner of the restaurant own his restaurant? Or does the government own his restaurant? These are important philosophical debates but not a very practical discussion."
"Well, it was pretty practical to the people who had the life nearly beaten out of them trying to desegregate Walgreen's lunch counters despite these esoteric debates about what it means about ownership. This is not a hypothetical Dr. Paul."
Now, I stress again, Paul is not a racist in my view. But his government-get-your-hands-off-business logic certainly encourages racism, and no doubt his views attract racists to his camp.
But Paul's logic is not only offensive to racial minorities, it ought to be offensive to just about everybody. Just think of the laws that regulate business — disabilities laws which require ramps, child labor laws, etc. If Paul took his logic to its natural conclusion, we would be transported back to the turn of the century — the 18th century.
What is at odds here is the very notion of what government should be doing. Paul thinks it should get out of the way. That's a reasonable position. Businesses should be free to do what they want.
But within limits. One person's freedom ceases when it impinges on another's. And there are times — and the civil rights era certainly serves as a good example — where government needs to intercede to ensure equal rights for all. Government needs to be a force for good, where evil is pervasive. No, it can't eradicate evil from the hearts of man, but it certainly can make man behave properly. But this just highlights what a strange philosophy libertarianism is. While libertarians claim to be driven by a goal of maximizing freedom, what they mean by "freedom" is not what most people take that word to mean. To a libertarian, the only freedom that really matters is freedom from government intrusion. But often, meaningful freedom can only be created through government intervention.
Government regulates – and, of course, provides the necessary conditions for the existence of – private business in all kinds of ways. So when people have a particular concern about, say, the Civil Rights Act, as opposed to, say, parking requirements, it’s reasonable to wonder why.
Anyway, it's anybody's guess as to whether Paul's worldview will become a major force. in the meantime, I also suppose it's time to start asking Republican leaders across the country a straightforward question: "Your party's Senate candidate in Kentucky has a problem with the Civil Rights Act. Do you think he's right or wrong?"
If we follow the logic he's already articulated, Paul must necessarily oppose the minimum wage, for example. The Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, in light of their burdens on private companies, would be equally problematic. Social Security must be out of the question. Child-labor laws would obviously be a problem, as would workplace safety regulations and OSHA.
We can even start exploring more details on discrimination. Paul talked about segregated lunch counters yesterday, but let's also explore employment discrimination. If a private company decided to fire a woman for getting pregnant, Rand Paul would necessarily conclude that it's not the government's business. If a private employer refused to hire Jewish applicants, that, under Paul's worldview, would be legally permissible, too.
Rand Paul will spend the next six months trying to defend his philosophical worldview. It should be interesting to watch.
MORE — Even Bruce Bartlett, very much the free marketer himself, gets it:
In 1883 the Supreme Court, then in its most libertarian phase, knocked down the 1875 [Civil Rights] act as well as many other Republican measures passed during Reconstruction designed to aid African Americans. The Court's philosophy in these cases led logically to Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, which essentially gave constitutional protection to legal segregation enforced by state and local governments throughout the U.S.
….The libertarian philosophy of Rand Paul and the Supreme Court of the 1880s and 1890s gave us almost 100 years of segregation, white supremacy, lynchings, chain gangs, the KKK, and discrimination of African Americans for no other reason except their skin color. The gains made by the former slaves in the years after the Civil War were completely reversed once the Supreme Court effectively prevented the federal government from protecting them. Thus we have a perfect test of the libertarian philosophy and an indisputable conclusion: it didn't work. Freedom did not lead to a decline in racism; it only got worse.
….Rand's position is that [the Civil Rights Act] was wrong in principle in 1964. There is no other way of interpreting this except as an endorsement of all the things the Civil Rights Act was designed to prohibit, as favoring the status quo throughout the South that would have led to a continuation of segregation and discrimination against African Americans at least for many more years. Undoubtedly, changing mores would have broken down some of this over time, but there is no reason to believe that it would have been quick or that vestiges wouldn't still remain today. Indeed, vestiges remain despite the Civil Rights Act.
Conventional wisdom and the polls suggest that 2010 will be a banner election year for the Republicans, as anti-Obama fervor continues to grow.
But Steve Benen took note of the special election yesterday in Pennsylvania's 12 District, to replace the House seat held by John Murtha. Democrats ran Mark Critz, a former Murtha staffer, against businessman Tim Burns, who touted his "outsider" status and association with the right-wing Tea Party "movement." Burns was ahead in the polls, in a district where Obama's approval rating was 35%, well below the national average of 50%.
Marc Ambinder noted yesterday, long before the polls even closed, "If the Republican doesn't [win], I think us pundits in Washington are going to have to revise our thinking about whether this is a wave election year for Republicans."
Once the results were in, Politicoadded that "Republicans failed spectacularly, losing on a level playing field where, in this favorable environment, they should have run roughshod over the opposition…. The district itself couldn't have been more primed for a Republican victory."
For those keeping score, there have been seven special elections for U.S. House seats since the president's inauguration 16 months ago: NY20, IL5, CA32, CA10, NY23, FL19, and PA12. Democrats have won all seven.
I certainly don't think Democrats are going to have much to rejoice in this year's upcoming midterms. But perhaps — just perhaps — the whooping won't be as bad as everybody thinks.
In the Republican primaries for Alabama governor, the top Republican candidates are having a battle to show voters who is the more bonafide creationist.
It all started with this attack ad:
Ironically, the group behind that ad is called the True Conservative PAC, a political group that gets most of its money from the teachers' union — or, more accurately, from a collection of other PACs heavily funded by the union.
Yup. Teachers are abetting an attack which calls out a candidate for being soft on creationism.
The subject of the ad, candidate Bradley Byrne, responded with common sense, noting that 2000 years of science necessarily renders parts of the Bible as something other than literal truth.
No, just kidding. Byrne actually responded with a lengthy press release vehemently defending his belief in creationism and the infallible truth of the Bible:
"As a Christian and as a public servant, I have never wavered in my belief that this world and everything in it is a masterpiece created by the hands of God… As a member of the Alabama Board of Education, the record clearly shows that I fought to ensure the teaching of creationism in our school text books. Those who attack me have distorted, twisted and misrepresented my comments and are spewing utter lies to the people of this state."
The Pew Research Center released a report yesterday showing that more Americans distrust their government now that at any point in the last half century.
This is the lede chart:
While this might reflect badly on Obama, and spell bad news for Democrats in the upcoming elections, I think this is more of a "dog bites man" story.
Traditionally, mistrust in government is always down during Democratic administrations. Take a look at this, also from the Pew Report:
Yup. People even trusted the government more under Nixon.
I suspect this may have to do with the fact that Democratics actually try to do things, and people get nervous about change. When you take that and add to it the Republican "fear and noise" machine (Fox News, etc.), I am not surpirsed that government distrust is quite high now.
And why isn't the public trusting the government? That Jan. 2010 poll found that 93% said there's too much partisan fighting between Democrats and Republicans; 84% said special interests have too much influence over legislation; 74% said the government isn't doing enough to regulate Wall Street; 61% said Democratic majorities are trying to push through legislation without bipartisan compromise; an equal 61% said Republicans are trying to block any Democratic legislation without bipartisan compromise; 58% said the federal government is doing too much; and 47% said Obama is failing to provide the kind of leadership needed on the economy and health care.
In other words, it is not necessarily a Democratic problem, but a general feeling that there is too much partisanship and influence by special interests. In other words, a pox upon both the Democratic and Republican houses.
The one thing to note from the NBC/WSJ poll is the stat that 74% don't think government is doing enough to regulate Wall Street. This bodes well for Democrats, as Obama is gearing up to engage in some serious Wall Street financial regulations, and the Republicans are back to their old game of obstructionism. If Republicans keep it up, they may bear more of the blame for government mistrust, and that could impact the 2010 elections.
This strikes me as a political tactic bound to fail. For one thing, healthcare reform will have already started, and people will like it.
The obvious question to such GOP candidates will be this: "What part do you want to repeal first? The part where insurance companies can no longer drop your coverage when you get sick? The part where insurance companies can deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition? Do you want to repeal the Medicare 'donut-hole'?"
These are among the many changes in health care that Americans — even, I suggest, the staunchiest teabaggers — will like. Right now, a lot of Americans are still fearful of "death panels" and "killing grandma". But Republicans can't run on repealing those things — because they don't exist (and never did)! So what exactly will they be repealing?
Top Republicansare increasingly worried that GOP candidates this fall might be burned by a fire that's roaring through the conservative base: demand for the repeal of President Barack Obama'snew health care law.
It's fine to criticize the health law and the way Democratspushed it through Congresswithout a single GOP vote, these party leaders say. But focusing on its outright repeal carries two big risks.
Repeal is politically and legally unlikely, and grass-roots activists may feel disillusioned by a failed crusade. More important, say strategists from both parties, a fiercely repeal-the-bill stance might prove far less popular in a general election than in a conservative-dominated GOP primary, especially in states such as Illinoisand California.
Democrats are counting on that scenario. They say more Americans will learn of the new law's benefits over time and anger over its messy legislative pedigree will fade. For months, Democrats have eagerly catalogued Republican congressional candidates who pledge to repeal the health care law, vowing to make them pay in November.
In Illinois, where there's a spirited battle to fill the Senate seat Obama once held, Democrats seem to have hit a nerve by attacking Republican nominee Mark Kirk's pledge to try to repeal the health law. Two weeks ago, Kirk said he would "lead the effort" to repeal the measure.
On Tuesday, when asked repeatedly by reporters whether he still wants it repealed, Kirk would say only that he opposes the new taxes and Medicare cuts associated with the law.
Republican strategist Kevin Madden said the repeal message is "a call to action" that excites many conservative voters, who will be important in November. But the risk of talking only about repeal, he said, "is you only define your position by what you're against."
Looking around the internets, there seem to be two ways that the GOP intends to undo what has been done.
(1) Constitutional challenge to the law itself. Several state attorneys general plan to file a lawsuit challenging the newly passed law, on the grounds that the federal government cannot constitutionally require citizens to purchase health insurance.
Without getting too deep in the constitutional thicket, the Constitution (the Commerce Clause, specifically) permits the federal government to regulate interstate commerce. For well over a century, this has been held (by courts) to include the regulation of anything that effects interstate commerce. And that is pretty broad. Too broad, conservatives argue.
But Commerce Clause jurisprudence is pretty abundent and shows that Commerce Clause regulation is indeed pretty broad. Recently, the Supreme Court held that even marijuana sales that take place entirely within the boundaries of one state still effect interstate commerce (of marijuana)… and Congress can therefore pass laws proscribing it. (More recently, the ban on partial birth abotions was seen, somehow, as being a law which effects interstate commerce).
Besides, the Court has upheld the extensive federal role in health care through such programs as Medicare and Medicaid. This new law is a change in degree, not in kind, and courts will likely stay out of the way.
The twist here is that rather than forbidding people to buy something (marijuana), the new health care laws require people to buy something (health insurance). But that, I would argue, is a distinction that fails to go to the Commerce Clause. Failure of everybody to buy health insurance still effects interstate commerce. Therefore, Congress has the power to mandate health insurance.
Some have asked this question: "Okay. Well, could Congress require every American to buy a GM car? The cumulative effect of individual failure to buy a GM car has substantial effects on interstate commerce. Your telling me that would be okay?"
My answer to that is this: "No, in my view, such a law would not be 'okay'. But would it be constitutional? No." And here's why: it doesn't satisfy the "necessary and proper" clause. You see, not only must a law effect interstate commerce, but it must be "necessary and proper" to the legislative objective of that law which effects interstate commerce. There simply is no reason twhich makes it necessary for people to buy GM — and only GM – cars.
The same cannot be said for health care reform. You cannot make reforms to the health insurance industry unless you mandate universal coverage.
It's an interesting argument, but ultimately, one that will fail.
(2) Repeal the law. Republicans expect to win back the House and Senate later this year for midterm elections. And they intend to run on campaign promises to repeal health care reform. (In fact, the crazy Michelle Bachmann just introduced legislation to repeal the bill that just passed).
This strikes me as a political tactic bound to fail. For one thing, healthcare reform will have already started, and people will like it.
The obvious question to such GOP candidates will be this: "What part do you want to repeal first? The part where insurance companies can no longer drop your coverage when you get sick? The part where insurance companies can deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition? Do you want to repeal the Medicare 'donut-hole'?"
These are among the many changes in health care that Americans — even, I suggest, the staunchiest teabaggers — will like. Right now, a lot of Americans are still fearful of "death panels" and "killing grandma". But Republicans can't run on repealing those things — because they don't exist (and never did)! So what exactly will they be repealing?
There's an even greater problem that comes with "repeal the law". Under congressional rules, you need a 2/3rd majority to repeal an existing law. What does that mean? That means that Republicans would need 290 votes in the House. Even assuming that all 36 Democrat dissidents (those who voted against health care reform) stay true, it still means that Republicans would need a seventy-six seat gain in the House in the 2010 elections. Possible, but unlikely.
And worse yet, Republicans would need a twenty-six seat gain in the Senate. It will never happen, because only 26 Democrats are up for re-election this year. The GOP will have to win them all. Chances: almost nil.
Don't be fooled: the "repeal the law" meme is just a cynical attempt to keep the GOP based fired up and contributing money. It has absolutely no chance of actually happening.
If the Democrats were smart, they will take this issue and own it. The issue: the recent Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, where the Supremes ruled 5-4 that corporations have the same rights as individuals when it comes to political speech and can therefore use their profits to support or oppose individual candidates. The decision appears to open the door to unlimited spending by corporations, trade groups and unions in the weeks leading up to an election, which has been explicitly banned for decades.
Obama has spoken out against it. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) among other Republican lawmakers have praised the ruling as a victory for free speech. They have stated that they intend to oppose any legislation designed to gut the impact of the court's decision.
Our latest ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that 80 percent of Americans likewise oppose the ruling, including 65 percent who “strongly” oppose it, an unusually high intensity of sentiment.
Seventy-two percent, moreover, support the idea of a legislative workaround to try to reinstate the limits the court lifted.
The bipartisan nature of these views is striking in these largely partisan times. The court’s ruling is opposed, respectively, by 76, 81 and 85 percent of Republicans, independents and Democrats; and by 73, 85 and 86 percent of conservatives, moderates and liberals. Majorities in all these groups, ranging from 58 to 73 percent, not only oppose the ruling but feel strongly about it.
Even among people who agree at least somewhat with the Tea Party movement, which advocates less government regulation, 73 percent oppose the high court’s rejection of this particular law. Among the subset who agree strongly with the Tea Party’s positions on the issues – 14 percent of all adults – fewer but still most, 56 percent, oppose the high court in this case.
So here you have an issue where Democratic lawmakers are clearly on the side of the vast majority of Americans (including Tea Partiers!), and Republican lawmakers are staunchly opposed. This is a great opportunity for Democrats to expose themselves as the real populists, and to expose Republicans as beholden to their corporate overlords.
By the way, for those who are wondering why I disagree with the court's ruling, I'll state it briefly. I'm for free speech. I believe in it, and the Constitution guarantees it. But the Constitution and the Bill of Rights was not written for corporations and unions. Pfizer, Inc is not an entity endowed by God with certain inalienable rights — I am, you are, but not Pfizer, or Exxon, or Bank of America, etc.
The Supreme Court lost sight of who the Bill of Rights was meant to protect. Can the CEO of Pfizer contribute his own money to a candidate's campaign? Certainly, as an American citizen protected by the First Amendment, he has that right. But can he (and the rest of the Pfizer board) take corporate money (which, technically, belongs to the shareholders) and "speak" in such a manner? No, in my view. That's actually engaging in "compelled speech", the antithesis of free speech.
Most people instinctively recognize this. And that's why Democrats need to put this issue front and center.
UPDATE: Then again, this line of attack against the GOP is getting a lot of traction:
In a stinging setback for the national gay-rights movement, Maine voters narrowly decided to repeal the state's new law allowing same-sex marriage.
With 87 percent of precincts reporting early Wednesday morning, 53 percent of voters had approved the repeal, ending an expensive and emotional fight that was closely watched around the country as a referendum on the national gay-marriage movement. Polls had suggested a much closer race.
With the repeal, Maine became the 31st state to reject same-sex marriage at the ballot box. Five other states — Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire and Vermont — have legalized same-sex marriage, but only through court rulings and legislative action.
The Maine vote was particularly discouraging for gay-rights groups because it took place in New England, the region that has been the most open to same-sex marriage, and because opponents of the repeal had far outspent backers.
The results showed a very strong urban-rural divide, with the initiative being rejected by a margin of about 2:1 in Portland but racking up big margins in smaller towns and rural areas, especially in the north of the state.
I'm sure my nephews and niece in Maine are disappointed. While most of them couldn't vote, it was clear (if their Facebook statuses are any indication) of their emotional investment. Their uncle, also a Mainer, is an openly gay man; he and their grandmother bucked the Catholic Church to make this pro-marriage equality ad.
Hopefully, my nephews and nieces are wise beyond their years of life experience. The arc of history is long, but ultimately — ultimately – it bends towards justice. Ten years ago, a vote like this would have probably gotten only 25% support for marriage equality. Twenty-five years ago, television stations would never have even aired their grandmother's ad. And forty years ago, their uncle's sexual preference probably couldn't be openly discussed or accepted in Maine.
On the other hand, my sister's kids need only look to their classmates to see the future of Maine. In five to ten years, these kids will be voters, and — yes — the issue will come back again. With a different result. That's the way these things work. All the Catholic Church and homophobes did was kick the can down the road for a few years.
[UPDATE: Want more evidence that the younger generation gets it? Here's the tally on "Question No 1" from the University of Maine at Orono: 81% No, 19% yes]
In the meantime, there are signs all over the places that the bigotry against gays is becoming a dinosaur. In Washington state, voters moved the state closer to marriage equality by passing a referendum allowing for domestic partnership laws (which Maine already has for gay couples, despite the loss yesterday). Voters in Kalamazoo, Mich., approved an amendment to extend the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance to include LGBT people. In Houston, lesbian mayoral candidate Annise Parker secured a spot in the runoff by capturing about 30 percent of the vote in a four-way race. And in Chapel Hill, NC, an openly gay candidate was elected mayor. None of these things were even imaginable when I was the age of my nephews and niece. The arc of history and all…..
Republicans took back the governor seats in New Jersey and Virginia yesterday. Some have said that those two races were referendums on Obama, especially the Virginia race, since that state voted for the Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in a long time.
I don't think one can make those kinds of conclusions about Obama based on a governor's race. There are too many other important factors, like — oh — the candidates themselves. Besides, Obama's popularity in Virginia is 57%.
No, the Republicans won the governorship of New Jersey and Virginia because of their candidates and because (especially in New Jersey), the Democratic incumbant was very unpopular. It had nothing to do with Obama.
In the NY 23rd district, however, I think you can make some broader implications about the outcome. There, the Republican candidate was a moderate (pro-choice, pro-same-sex marriage). The tea-bagging conservative fringe of the GOP targeted her, supporting a third-party candidate, Doug Hoffman (of the Conservative Party). The Republican candidate bowed out two weeks ago, throwing her support behind the Democrat.
The Tea Baggers had hoped that NY-23 would show that conservatism lives, and a Hoffman victory means that the GOP should move to the right — waaaaay to the right.
And Hoffman should have won. NY-23 has not elected a Democrat to the U.S. House since the 1800's. That's right — no Democrat has ever come from NY-23 in over 100 years. Furthermore, Sarah Palin went up and campaigned for Hoffman. Beck and Limbaugh talked him up incessently.
But he didn't. Owens, the Democrat, gained 49 percent of the vote, versus 46 percent for Hoffman, and six percent for Dede Scozzafava, who's name was still on the ballot, even though she dropped out of the race.
Now, this was the first test of the tea baggers attempt to rebrand the Republican Party as far right. They had a candidate in a very conservative district. And he lost. Major setback for the so-called revitalized conservative movement.
Will they see it that way? Doubt it. They're still aiming to pull the GOP to the far right, further dividing the party, and letting Democrats sail through the crack.
The New York Times has a nice write-up of three elections to watch, since they (supposedly) foretell the political winds.
Personally, I think the story is already written on what these elections mean: We're seeing a complete break-up of the Republican party — and all-out political war between the purists (the tea party people) and the moderates. Certainly, the Democratic party won't benefit from the loss of enthusiasm that it had one year ago, but the divided GOP will hurt the Republicans more.
The NY 23rd race is actually kind of amusing to me. The tea baggers think that if they get a "win" here, they have some sort of proof that there movement is a legitimate one, and it's time to carry forth nationwide. But that itself is a joke. The NY 23rd is one of the most conservative districts in the country outside of the South. That seat has been held by a Republican 70 times. It hardly would "mean" anything, if a conservative won there. That's like a liberal Democrat winning in Vermont, and socialists thinking it means America is ready for socialism.
This deserves a deeper exposition, but I don't think it's entirely correct to characterize the fight between Hoffman and Scozzafava as a fight for the heart and soul of the Republican Party. Rather, its a fight between the institutional Republican Party and a group of people who feel like the Republican Party may not be worth fighting for. They might even prefer to be on their own, for while the upside is that Republicans are re-branded as conservatives, the risk is that conservatives are re-branded as Republicans.
RELATED: Speaking of NY-23, it took Fox News two days to get the story right. Over and over again, they reported that the Republican candidate dropped out of the race to throw her support to Hoffman, the third-party conservative candidate. Watch:
In reality, she threw her support behind the Democratic candidate.
This Youtube video is a perfect example of how difficult it will be in the next election cycle (or two) for GOP candidates.
The video shows Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), a moderate Republican who hasn’t announced whether he’s running for re-election or for the U.S. Senate next year, at a town hall meeting earlier this month.
A woman gets up, holding a baggie containing her birth certificate, and unleashes a rambling, minute-long tirade tirade about how the president is a “citizen of Kenya.” The crowd hoots and cheers when she’s done. Castle responds, diplomatically: “Well I don’t know what comment that invites. If you’re referring to the president, then he is a citizen of the United States.” That elicits roars and boos from the crowd, so Castle presses on. “You can boo, but he is a citizen of the United States.”
How can a reasonable Republican run for office when he is dependent on pleasing crazed constituents — the rabid GOP base – who froth at the mouth over highly insane conspiracy theories?