Archive for Parties

Oct
08

Picking sides

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The Boston Globe’s Noah Bierman examines the struggle between the populist, Elizabeth Warren Wing of the Democratic Party and corporate-backed, Third Way centrists. When critics charge there is no difference between the major parties, Democrats have their Wall Street Wing to thank:

Third Way’s founders dispute that they are doing Wall Street’s bidding or are trying to leave the poor behind. They also insist their financial supporters on the board of trustees do not influence the organization’s political and policy positions.

And yet, Bierman points out,

Third Way’s insistence on linking tax hikes to a grand bargain — which has been impossible to obtain in the Obama era — has a direct bearing on the wallets of the group’s wealthy funders.

Among those are Goldman Sachs Gives. The charitable fund donated a total of $850,000 in 2010 and 2011. So even as the middle class erodes and the party itself moves further left, “financial dependence on Wall Street effectively ties the hands of the Democratic Party,” contends former Clinton labor secretary, Robert Reich.

In a surprising attack on the Warren Wing in the The Wall Street Journal last December, Third Way warned that Warren-style economic populism is a dead end for Democrats. Populist candidates may appeal to the party’s liberal base, writes Bierman, but sound anti-business to the party’s corporate funders.

“That really has never generated a hell of a lot of support on Election Day,” said former JP Morgan Chase senior executive, former Obama chief of staff, and Third Way board member, William M. Daley — no doubt also an authority on neighborhood organizing.

Or not. Especially since the country hasn’t heard a Warren-style populist message since FDR. And you know how that worked out.

As a matter of fact, while Third Way defends the Democrats’ right flank, the rest of the party is moving left, according to Harold Meyerson in The American Prospect. Since 2000, Gallup reports, as party moderates shrank from 44 to 36 percent, the ranks of self-described liberals swelled from 29 to 43 percent. Shifting demography fueled by immigration is one reason.

Nonetheless, business-cozy groups such as Third Way (supposedly concerned with electing Democrats) favor trade agreements unpopular with the Democratic base, but that cater to the “job creators” who bankroll them. But those agreements tend to create more new jobs offshore for people who cannot vote in U.S. elections! Meanwhile, the profit creators — American workers themselves — see fewer of those rising corporate profits in their paychecks. Therefore, as the American middle class continues to shrink, Meyerson believes it’s time for the party to — as both Roosevelts did — pick a side.

Meyerson offers several prescriptions you can read about here.

Village Democrats are consistently about a decade behind their base. Their dependency on corporate money is a big reason why. Money has such a nice, insulating effect that way. But it’s time party leaders caught on and caught up. Perhaps defending the status quo is the real dead end.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : Democrats, National, Parties
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During a recount here in November 2012, I was at the local Board of Elections when a T-party member flashed a handwritten sign at a young woman from Warren Wilson College: “You are a law breaker.” A redistricting error by the GOP-controlled legislature — a precinct line drawn down the middle of the campus — allowed a handful of students’ votes to decide control of the county commission in Buncombe County, North Carolina. Democrats held the majority by 17 votes.

So it was no real surprise to see this the other day:

The head of the College Republicans at one North Carolina college is determined to stop voter registration drives on her campus, whether they’re being sponsored by conservative or liberal groups.

According to MSNBC, Chairwoman Leigh Thomas of the High Point University College Republicans was caught on camera on Wednesday telling a conservative group that it could not register voters on campus because she wasn’t comfortable with it.

[...]

“I don’t approve of it whatsoever—on a campus like High Point University,” she said. ”I don’t want to have any voting registration happening on this campus, with students.”

During the 2012 recount, T-party members argued that students legally registered at their school should not have their votes counted. It didn’t matter what the law said. (The Board chair quoted it to them.) The T-party charged voter fraud (naturally) and argued, essentially, that the law should be what what they wanted it to be. Ironically, they would lose because the GOP’s high-paid mapmakers failed to safely sequester all of the campus in the liberal ghetto created for the city of Asheville, a.k.a. The Cesspool of Sin.

As the High Point University incident this week demonstrates, Republicans don’t want people voting. Paul Weyrich admitted as much in 1980: “I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of the people. They never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” What they want to ensure is that only the right people vote.

So North Carolina holds its breath this weekend as the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether or not to enforce a stay on implementing two key provisions of North Carolina’s restrictive, new voting law.

In North Carolina, the Oct. 1 decision by a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals restores same-day registration for early voters and out-of-precinct voting in the upcoming election. The panel overturned a U.S. District Court decision that found implementing the controversial 2013 law would not cause “irreparable harm” to voters. Voting rights advocates requested a preliminary injunction blocking the law for this year’s election as the broader lawsuit on the constitutionality of North Carolina’s law will be tried next July.

In his job as N.C. Attorney General, Democrat Roy Cooper has asked the Supreme Court to block the ruling. Chief Justice John Roberts oversees the Fourth Circuit and could rule any day.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Oct
01

Dark money and leitmotif

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We’re all pretty tired about now of the fundraising emails. Even without opening them [DELETE], the familiar, red-flashing, DEFCON 1 subject lines from brand-name politicos introduce what’s inside the way Wagner introduced recurring characters as they walked on stage.

I know they are crafted by dedicated, hard-working campaign stiffs just poorly paid to do their jobs. And maybe the mailings “work,” if raising as much money as fast as possible for your team is your sole focus. Still, it feels like democracy’s death spiral. “Look Honey, there’s a fella in a thousand dollar suit who wants to fight for me!” quipped joe shikspack at Firedoglake.

Thomas Edsall takes on the larger money chase in a piece for the New York Times. Comparing and contrasting conservative and liberal “dark money” donors, Edsall reviews a leaked tape of an speech by Mark Holden, general counsel at Koch Industries. Dark money on the left and right are not so different, Holden explains.

Edsall seems not so sure. Although “dark money tilts decisively to the right,” the left’s Democracy Alliance is at least willing to talk about more transparency. The Kochs? Not so much. Still, the influence of money — big and small, light and dark — on politics is troubling as well as an email nuisance.

In the long run, the relatively modest (but growing) dependence of Democrats on dark money, mega-dollar contributors to “super PACs” and other funding mechanisms is corrupting, even as it comes alongside the party’s parallel success in building a powerful small donor base. On issues of taxes, regulation, spending and campaign finance, the Republican Party has established itself as the advocate of the wealthiest Americans. Insofar as the Democratic Party moves in the same direction, it will be unable to act as a counterbalance to the right.

Fine. But instead of just wringing our hands over the corrupting nature of political fundraising, the tactics and vectors for it — and before we start receiving begs from the president’s dog — could we think just a tad about getting that corrupting money out of politics? That’s a light theme we could stand to hear a bit more of, thank you.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : Democrats, National
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Sep
28

Funny, how that works

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Perhaps it is not just a coincidence or a quirk of American policy-making that the words “innovation” and “reform” lately seem to attach themselves to ideas that drive more public money, public infrastructure, and public control into the hands of private investors. Nor that this meme is driven by lobbyists for public-private partnerships (P3s) where corporations stand to rack up profits by privatizing the commons.

Whether it is turning over state prisons to for-profit Corrections Corporation of America or public education over to publicly traded K12 Inc., we are to believe that despite the scandals and poor outcomes, the private sector will always do a better job than big gummint. We hear the private sector is more “efficient” than efforts run by the people and for the people. But more efficient at what?

This last week, as we noted, ITR Concession Co, and its parent company, the Spanish-Australian consortium Cintra-Macquarie declared bankruptcy on its concession to operate the Indiana Toll Road. The 75-year deal fell apart after only eight.

But getting back to efficiency. Think maybe the Germans could do it better? Maybe not.

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Sep
23

A North Carolina Bridgegate?

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As corporate-carpetbagger friendly as the NCGOP has made North Carolina since taking control of the legislature in 2010, they keep surprising. This latest revelation Monday from North Carolina echoes the billion-dollar, Hudson Lights real estate deal thought connected to Gov. Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal. WCNC-Charlotte has video here.
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Sep
17

Old warhorses

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Buster Keaton in “The General.” Public domain.

Hear that melody? Sen. Lindsay Graham is conducting the Village Symphony Orchestra in one of Republicans’ favorite warhorses. You’ve heard it before. You’ll hear it again.

“Republicans mount their warhorses” sits atop the WaPo’s online Opinion section this morning. (If you arrived late, music lovers, the VSO just began the ISIS movement.)

The sudden desire for a ground war is a bit suspect, both because many Republicans adopted this view only after Obama came around to their previous view and because many Republicans oppose even the modest funding Obama has requested to train Syrian fighters. (Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said she opposed “giving even more money to the so-called vetted moderates who aren’t moderate at all.”)

It may be that Republicans embraced the boots-on-the-ground position because Obama rejected it. Whatever the cause, the militancy is spreading — even though polls indicate that while Americans favor military action against the Islamic State, they aren’t keen on ground troops.

Of course, whatever the Kenyan Pretender wants is not enough for Graham and the VSO. Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) wants “all-out-war.” Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) doesn’t want another “half-pregnant war.” As Dana Milbank observes, the rest of the VSO (or is it the Very Serious Orchestra?) oppose anything less than a new ground war in the Middle East. And soon, because they want to hurry back to their districts to campaign for reelection wearing new campaign ribbons. And hoping war hysteria might distract voters from quizzing them on what they haven’t done in Washington to earn their paychecks.

Maybe I missed the act of war ISIS committed against the United States of America that justifies the war into which (with their new trailer) ISIS wants to goad us. Or has America just gone so far down the rabbit hole that we’ll launch another war because — when in doubt — it’s the one thing this aging empire does by default? Like the clueless civilian Buster Keaton plays in “The General,” who, finding himself in the middle of a Civil War battle, brandishes a discarded saber to rally troops whenever he doesn’t know what else to do?

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Sep
11

Stupid is as stupid does

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Many have commented on the recent Facebook posting by a Georgia Republican state senator. Fran Millar complained about siting an early voting location in a South DeKalb mall heavily used by African American residents, a location with large black churches nearby. Millar then made things worse in followup comments:

“I would prefer more educated voters than a greater increase in the number of voters. If you don’t believe this is an efort [sic] to maximize Democratic votes pure and simple, then you are not a realist. This is a partisan stunt and I hope it can be stopped.”

That feeling among Republicans goes back at least to Paul Weyrich’s oldy-goldy, Goo-Goo syndrome speech from 1980.

George Chidi, a Georgia journalist writing in the Guardian, acknowledges the partisan flavor of the location decision, calling the plan “a gigantic middle finger to Republicans intent on suppressing black voters.” But if Republicans want to head off “the coming demographic Armageddon,” Chidi believes, they might just want to start courting those black voters.

Considering that early voting will begin in a few weeks, I want pivot to Millar’s crack about preferring “more educated voters” to more voters generally. It’s easy to sneer at Millar for (basically) calling constituents stupid. Besides being condescending, it’s not the message to send people right before you ask for their votes.

Yet, I sometimes hear the same from lefties about poor, white, Republican voters. Occasionally, they just blurt out that voters are stupid. More often it’s couched in a dog-whistle complaint about people voting against their best interests. Which, if you think about it, is just a more polite way of saying the same thing.

As a field organizer in the South, I remind canvassers that, no, those voters are not stupid. They’re busy. With jobs and kids and choir practice and soccer practice and church and PTA and Friday night football and more. Unlike political junkies, they don’t keep up with issues. They don’t have time for the issues. When they go to the polls they are voting to hire someone to keep up with the issues for them. And when they look at a candidate — your candidate — what they are really asking themselves is simple: “Is this someone I can trust?”

One of my favorite southernisms is, “I wouldn’t trust anyone my dog doesn’t like.” That, I caution canvassers, is how most Americans really vote, like it or not. And if you don’t purge the thought, those “low information” voters? They will know you think they’re stupid before you do. Right before you ask for their votes.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Sep
11

An economic cult

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Paul Krugman this morning writes about “the inflation cult,” doomsaying pundits and supposed economic experts who, economic rain or shine, predict that a steep rise in inflation is coming anytime now and, quite reliably, get it wrong time after time.

Part of that appeal is clearly political; there’s a reason why Mr. Santelli yells about both inflation and how President Obama is giving money away to “losers,” why Mr. Ryan warns about both a debased currency and a government that redistributes from “makers” to “takers.” Inflation cultists almost always link the Fed’s policies to complaints about government spending. They’re completely wrong about the details — no, the Fed isn’t printing money to cover the budget deficit — but it’s true that governments whose debt is denominated in a currency they can issue have more fiscal flexibility, and hence more ability to maintain aid to those in need, than governments that don’t.

And anger against “takers” — anger that is very much tied up with ethnic and cultural divisions — runs deep. Many people, therefore, feel an affinity with those who rant about looming inflation; Mr. Santelli is their kind of guy. In an important sense, I’d argue, the persistence of the inflation cult is an example of the “affinity fraud” crucial to many swindles, in which investors trust a con man because he seems to be part of their tribe. In this case, the con men may be conning themselves as well as their followers, but that hardly matters.

This tribal interpretation of the inflation cult helps explain the sheer rage you encounter when pointing out that the promised hyperinflation is nowhere to be seen. It’s comparable to the reaction you get when pointing out that Obamacare seems to be working, and probably has the same roots.

Not just economists, but the country (and perhaps the entire Republican Party) seems to be in the grip of an economic cult concerned with much more than inflation — that’s just a symptom. As Krugman suggests, ethnic and cultural (and class) divisions factor into it. Digby has written repeatedly (and just yesterday) that many of the same people “have always been wrong about everything.” And yet, their followers keep listening. Conservatism never fails. It is unfalsifiable. I wrote last week that the Koch brothers’ evangelism for the their libertarian Kochification Church resembles recruiting techniques used by cults.

Hey, let’s start a meme.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Sep
10

Math is hard

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TillisCaptureNorth Carolina’s Republican House Speaker, Thom Tillis, wants to be the state’s next U.S. senator. He’s finding it a tough sell. Tea party members and Republican small businessmen oppose Tillis for pushing for toll lanes on I-77 in his own district and elsewhere in the state. Then, someone anonymously slipped a provision into a must-pass budget bill that “allows warrantless drone surveillance at all public events … or any place which is in ‘plain view’ of a law enforcement officer.” Privacy advocates from left to right cried foul.

Next, Tillis was been pilloried for “mansplaining” both in his debate with incumbent Democrat Sen. Kay Hagan and in a TV ad where he uses “simple math” (just numbers on a white board) to show how math is lost on Hagan. The Tillis ad spotlights the average 7% raise he claims state teachers received under his leadership (only after the loud public outcry over Republican education cuts in an election year). Well, not so fast.

When Gov. Pat McCrory wrote to welcome teachers back to the classroom, he touted a “substantial” pay raise that amounted to “an average pay increase of 5.5 percent for teachers.”

That might have been exciting news, except that legislative leaders have been touting a 7 percent average pay raise for more than a month. House Speaker Thom Tillis trumpets that 7 percent figure as “simple math” in a recent campaign ad for his U.S. Senate campaign.

McCroryCapture

I guess math is hard for Pat and Thom.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Sep
03

No Free Lunch

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Our friends on the right get almost gleeful whenever they see an opening to use their superior command of economics to explain to liberals how the world really works.

Yet, the basic concept they themselves have trouble wrapping their brains around is “no free lunch.”

Gov. Sam Brownback’s tea party-driven economic experiment in Kansas is taking a toll. The latest poll shows him trailing his Democratic opponent, Paul Davis, by 8 points. The Kansas City Star says Brownback is “paying a political price for bold leadership.” This is what bold leadership looks like:

Brownback has slashed income taxes, cut thousands off welfare, curbed abortion rights, tried gaining control of judicial appointments and made a failed attempt to cut arts funding.

When the moderate wing of his party stood in the way, Brownback successfully campaigned for conservatives more in step with his political philosophy so he could exert a tighter grip on the statehouse.

The result? His state’s economy is headed into the tank after slashing income taxes at Brownback’s urging, with more cuts scheduled and growth below projections. Standard & Poors downgraded Kansas’ credit rating in August. Davis charges that another Brownback term will bring cuts to Kansas schools.

Five hundred women from across the state gathered last week at the Taking Back Kansas convention in Wichita, put on by Women for Kansas and chaired by Lynn Stephan. The bipartisan group aims to turn out Brownback, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, and U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts in November. Most of the candiidates they support are Democrats.

“Women in this state are scared,” Stephan said. “We’re going broke” under the leadership of Brownback’s tea-party fiscal ideas. Schools and hospitals in some small towns may have to close, she said, and then “the town will dry up and blow away.”

Although she considers herself a moderate Republican, Stephan said that “the Republican party abandoned me 10 years ago.”

That’s about two decades after the party abandoned reality for the magical thinking of trickle down economics and started worshipping the Market as a deity.

As much as conservatives discuss curtailing entitlements, many of them behave as if they are entitled to kick ass on any country they feel is stepping out of line, and to doing so without paying for it. They feel entitled to beat their chests about how exceptional America is, and entitled to the public infrastructure their parents and grandparents built with their taxes and sweat in making it a world power. Yet they seem to have no sense of pride in maintaining it. Not their responsibility. They’re taxed enough already.

They complain their taxes are too high, and all the while the country is running a budget deficit that proves they are not paying enough to cover its costs and to keep it from crumbling. A report last year ranked U.S. highways 18th in the world, behind Korea, Luxembourg, and Saudi Arabia.

Point this out, and conservatives insist that the problem is government is spending too much. That we need to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse — the bane of Republicans’ perpetual motion economy.

See, America could maintain its infrastructure, fund top-notch schools, and support a costly global empire indefinitely without raising taxes just by eliminating the friction of waste, fraud, and abuse.

And by installing this simple device — one that big oil companies have tried to suppress — your car can get 500 miles per gallon. Order now!

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : Economy, Republicans
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