Archive for Democrats


New Democrats are not amused

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It was their party and they’ll cry if they want to. Centrist Democrats threatened by the party’s Warren Wing find themselves out of step with a more populist message. Is it really a “lurch” to the left, or are Democrats beginning to find their voices again? Liberal is no longer the epithet conservatives once made it.

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank explained last week how a few remaining Blue Dogs made protest votes during the election for Speaker of the House. “Colin Powell,” declared Tennessee Democrat Jim Cooper. “Jim Cooper,” voted Gwen Graham of Florida, another centrist Democrat. Other Democrats voted in unison for Nancy Pelosi. Except for Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. She voted for Rep. John Lewis, the Georgia Democrat.

Third Way, “a vestige of the New Democratic movement,” issued a report that blames the populist wing for the Democrats losing ground and registration since 2008. Democrats should “rigorously question the electoral value of today’s populist agenda,” Third Way argues. Milbank is not so sure:

It was a good effort, but Third Way came up short. First, there really aren’t two wings of the party anymore; the pro-business Democrats have lost. “There’s zero question,” Jonathan Cowan, president of Third Way, acknowledged in an interview Tuesday, “that the party is now a populist party.”

It’s also dubious to say, as Third Way does, that the elections of 2010, 2012 and 2014 were about Democratic populism; that theme has only become prominent recently. Also suspect is the Third Way argument, often heard from corporate interests, that reducing inequality could hurt growth. Plenty of evidence says otherwise.

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Democratic Pros and Cons-ervatives

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Bernie Sanders got his close-up last night with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. There was nothing new policy-wise.

However, Sanders and Maddow discussed at length his 1996 vote on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which then-President Clinton signed. Sanders challenged Hillary Clinton’s claim last week that President Clinton signed DOMA because he believed there was “enough political momentum” to amend the constitution [with regard to marriage], and that signing DOMA (as well as “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and the crime bill headed off worse outcomes. “You can’t say that DOMA was passed in order to prevent something worse,” Sanders said. In an indirect swipe at Hillary Clinton (who was not an elected official at the time), Sanders asserted that he made the tough choices when they were tough choices.

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I am Debbie. I am The Gatekeeper.

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Whatever has possessed DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is creating a buildup of negative human emotions in her party, and it must be stopped before it produces a psychomagnotheric slime flow of immense proportions.

Who ya gonna call? Beats me.

First off, The Gatekeeper has decided in the face of dissension in her ranks that there will be only six Democratic debates. “We’re going to have six debates. Period,” Wasserman Schultz told a Christian Science Monitor breakfast in September.

By limiting the number of debates, the DNC is “ceding the discussion and attention to the Republicans,” Martin O’Malley’s campaign manager told Politico. Plus, it gives the appearance that the DNC is protecting front runner Hillary Clinton. If The Gatekeeper is trying hard to appear impartial (as I read somewhere), she is leaving the opposite impression. DNC vice chairs, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and former Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak, have also called for more debates, and the chatter among other members is not favorable to Wasserman Schultz.

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In some documentary about the band Heart, a band member holds up two shoes in the dressing room before a show. One is the shoe he wore to the theater. The other is a knee-high, leather boot that screams rock and roll. “This is reality,” he says, holding up an ordinary desert boot. Holding up the knee-high, leather model, he says, “This is fantasy.”

Now, I answer voice mail about once a week at the local Democratic Party headquarters. Our county is one of the handful in the state that actually has one (and a land line). It’s amazing the expectations the uninitiated have when they call for the first time, the way independent-leaning noobs did because of Barack Obama in 2008, or Bernie Sanders now. They imagine they are calling the DNC headquarters or the White House, and that a full-time, paid staff is just waiting to pick up the phone 24/7/365. This is fantasy.

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Who is against whom?

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Discontent is simmering out there. Donald Trump is one proof. Bernie Sanders is another. The New York Times’ Patrick Healy looks at how discontent manifests itself among liberal-leaning voters:

Interviews with three dozen Democrats in key early states — a mix of undecided voters and Sanders and Clinton supporters — laid bare a sense of hopelessness that their leaders had answers to problems like income inequality and gun violence. It is frustration that Mr. Sanders, a senator from Vermont, and other progressive candidates are channeling and that Mrs. Clinton has addressed with increasing passion, as when she responded to Thursday’s massacre at an Oregon college by saying she was “just sick of this.”

Healy reports that similar insurgencies against party-blessed candidates have also popped up in Florida, Illinois and Pennsylvania. Why? Because gun violence is not the only thing Democratic voters are sick of.

The disaffection among Democrats flows mainly from three sources, according to interviews with voters and strategists. Disappointment lingers with President Obama over the failure to break up big banks after the Great Recession and fight for single-payer health insurance, among other liberal causes. Fatigue with Mrs. Clinton’s controversies endures, as does distaste with her connections to the rich. And anger abounds at party leaders for not pursuing an ideologically pure, economically populist agenda.

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You sues, you lose

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Republicans lost a major foreign policy fight yesterday when Democrats in the Senate filibustered a resolution to disapprove President Obama’s nuclear treaty with Iran. Over in the Animal House, Speaker John Boehner stood up and declared that the situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part: Frivolous lawsuit!

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) promised Thursday that House Republicans will “use every tool at our disposal to stop, slow and delay this agreement from being fully implemented” up to and including suing President Obama to keep him from enforcing the agreement.

Maybe someone else is keeping better count, but that would make at least three times Boehner has gone to the judicial bench after being humiliated in the Congress. The Washington Post report continues:

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Ich bin ein Tar Heel

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Atlantic‘s Emma Green cites attorneys David Boies and Theodore Olson on the effect Citizens United has had on local races across the country. The two debated the effects at the Aspen Ideas Festival this week. But let’s begin, as she does, quoting Norm Ornstein:

Loads of money—mostly conservative—went into judicial-retention elections in the last cycle in Florida, following a similar experience in 2010 in Iowa and Illinois. We saw similar efforts on a smaller scale in other states, including Wisconsin and Michigan. All had a ton of attack ads. Those efforts have exploded in the 2014 elections. In North Carolina, where repeal of the state’s Judicial Campaign Reform Act by the right-wing legislature opened the door to a further explosion of campaign spending, and where the GOP sees retaining a majority on the court (ostensibly, but risibly, nonpartisan) as a key to their continued hegemony in politics, the Republican State Leadership Committee spent $900,000 on an unsuccessful primary campaign to unseat Justice Robin Hudson, and will target Court of Appeals Judge Sam Ervin IV in his second attempt to move to the Supreme Court (the first one, in 2012, cost $4.5 million or more).

Ervin won that Supreme Court seat (defeating incumbent Robert N. Hunter, Jr.) as did incumbent Democrats Hudson and Cheri Beasley in these officially nonpartisan elections.

In Aspen, Ted Olson, who represented Citizens United lobbying firm, began:

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Great balls of jello

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Frank Rich takes aim at the gutlessness of the GOP’s 2016 presidential hopefuls:

Say this about the Old Confederacy: At least its leaders had the courage of their own bad convictions. Today’s neo-Confederate GOP politicians, vying for primary votes in Dixie 150 years after Appomattox, proved themselves to be laughable cowards. Confronted with the simplest of questions – should a state capitol display a flag that stands for slavery, racism, and treason? – they hedged (all of them), spouted gibberish (Ted Cruz), or went into hiding (Rand Paul). If they’d been the Rebel generals in the Civil War, it would have been over in a week.

This was, Rich writes, “the second time in three months we’ve seen GOP presidential contenders unwilling to stand up to the unreconstructed bigots still infesting their party’s base.” In April, they had caved or hedged over “religious freedom” bills passed to sanction discrimination against gay families. They then retreated faster than Lee at Gettysburg after civil rights groups and the NCAA condemned Indiana’s version, and influential CEOs objected to the states dissing their customers.

Seems like only yesterday that Gov. Bobby Jindal and his legislative tigers were lying down like the Siegfried and Roy cats before the once enfant terrible, Grover Norquist. They wrote asking his and Americans for Tax Reform’s permission to sorta kinda raise state taxes after Republican economic dogma had driven Louisiana’s balance sheet (like Kansas’ before it) deep into the red.*

But boy howdy, whichever of these bowls of jello survives being a debate contestant on the RNC’s “Who Wants To Be The Next War President,” you can be sure we will be treated to months of tough-sounding ads telling us that only he (it will be a he) has the balls to protect Uh-murca from the jihadis’ long, curved knives.

* Meanwhile in Minnesota, Gov. Mark Dayton’s Democratic leadership led the state to the top of CNBC’s list of best states for business in 2015.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Reclaiming the heartland

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Hagerty Ryan, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Public domain via Wikipedia.)

At Washington Monthly, a worthwhile examination of the conservative (and not so conservative) mindset extant in the American heartland and what progressives might do to reclaim the politics there. Driving across country with the radio on, it is easy to conclude that the heartland is a monolithic, Rush-fueled sea of conservative rage. Not so, writes Andrew Levison as part of a Washington Monthly/The Democratic Strategist roundatable on Stan Greenberg’s “The Average Joe’s Proviso.” To begin, Levison quotes Rutgers University political scientist, Lilliana Mason, on how it is that people who support some liberal policies elect Republican candidates:

Alaska elected a Republican senator and passed a recreational marijuana initiative, along with an increase in the minimum wage. North Dakota elected a Republican congressman and rejected a Personhood amendment. Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota elected a Republican senator and governor, and passed a minimum wage increase. This led Zachary Goldfarb to write: “Americans will vote for Republicans even though they disagree with them on everything.”

My research suggests a key reason why this happened: our partisan identities motivate us far more powerfully than our views about issues. Although voters may insist in the importance of their values and ideologies, they actually care less about policy and more that their team wins.

Democrats are seen as representing alien ideolgogies, Levison believes. It is often not so much that heartland citizens embrace Republicans as much as they have been taught to loathe Democrats. Understanding how the heartland works is key to cracking it. Levison writes:

In non-heartland areas, such as the formerly industrial regions of the East and Midwest, however, there were also countervailing value systems in working class life as well. Trade unions, precinct level Democratic clubs and liberal catholic churches provided support for an alternative value system that supported New Deal liberalism.

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Republicans pound sand

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It is unlikely that Eugene Robinson wrote the online headline for his column today: “Republicans might as well pound sand.” But that is the gist of it. Their progress in weakening Hillary Clinton so far is “pretty close to zero.”

The  Democrats have the most admired woman in the country 17 out of the last 18 years. The Republicans have contenders bent on taking away health care from over 6 million neighbors and throwing the weak to the wolves. Can’t imagine why they’re having trouble getting traction.

And while Republican presidential hopefuls are still emerging — the party seems to think it is still a couple bozos short of a clown car — Robinson believes Hillary Clinton is hitting all the right notes:

Her fiery speech last week in defense of voting rights was her campaign’s best moment so far. Clinton slammed several of the leading Republican candidates — by name — for their roles in GOP-led efforts to restrict the franchise through voter-ID laws and other means. And she called for automatic voter registration of all citizens upon reaching age 18.

Talk about hitting the right buttons. The big question about Clinton’s candidacy is whether she can inspire the coalition that twice elected President Obama — young people, minorities, women. Voting rights is an issue that reliably sends African Americans to the polls in large numbers. I’ll be surprised if Clinton doesn’t soon have major messages for Latinos on immigration policy and women on issues of reproductive rights.

How cynical, Republicans complain. Translation: How effective.

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