Archive for Democrats

I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

Rev 3:15-16

Sometimes the left just needs to get over itself and quote some King James Bible. Comedian John Fugelsang, for instance, wields scripture with the adroitness of Mackie Messer.

These particular lines from Revelation have hung around like an earworm since Tuesday. After polls closed, the woman ranked the “most moderate” senator, Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina, narrowly lost her bid for reelection to North Carolina’s immoderate, Republican Speaker of the House, “Tholl Road Thom” Tillis. Democrats across the country who tried distancing themselves from the president and Obamacare lost as well.

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Nov
05

Not really coming to vote

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In spite of Sen. Kay Hagan’s loss to state Rep. Thom Tillis last night, there were a few bright spots for North Carolina Democrats. They need to pick up five state House seats to break a GOP supermajority. They picked up three last night, gaining two in just one western county, mine.

Since first elected in 2010, state Rep. Tim Moffitt, R-Buncombe, has wedged conservative county voters against city voters. The ALEC board member passed legislation to strip Asheville of control of its airport and water system. (The NCGOP has gone after Charlotte’s airport as well. It’s the next phase of “Defund the Left.”) Moffitt lost his reelection bid last night. In a newspaper account of local election results, a voter comments about why he supported Moffitt:

Gary Mize, who also lives in Arden, said he voted for Moffitt “to screw the people in (Asheville) City Hall.”

“As a conservative Christian, City Hall stands for nothing I stand for,” Mize said.

In 2011, another state legislator dubbed the left-leaning city “a cesspool of sin.”

I share the quote because it echoes something a friend in SC once said about electioneering. He said he could spot Republicans as they approached the polling place by the sour looks on their faces.

“They’re not coming to vote,” he said. “They’re coming to f–k someone!”

I guess that says “Morning in America” to somebody.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Nov
02

Election Day wild cards

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Hagan-ObamacareSpent some quality time yesterday in the wind and snow and cold electioneering outside a couple of North Carolina early voting locations. It was the last day of early voting and it snowed all day. My wife got a push-poll on Friday knocking Barack Obama and asking if the info would make her more or less likely to vote this year, etc. Republicans here are still running against Obama.

Turnout in North Carolina is way up over 2010. In a blog post considering the impact of the Moral Monday Movement, FishOutofWater writes, “Democratic votes are crushing Republican votes 48.5% to 31.2% with over one million votes accepted.” That’s statewide. Where I live, Democrats are outperforming the GOP and independents in early voting in our county by about 2:1. It’s 49-25-26.

Here’s the catch, according to Michael Bitzer, from the political science department at Catawba College:

One of the key things to consider is the division between urban and rural Democrats: urban Democrats tend to be more liberal than their rural counterparts (in fact, there is still the generation of rural North Carolina Democrats who are generally more conservative and, in all actuality, vote Republican in the voting booth).

Politicos around here know not to trust that all registered Democrats vote for Democrats. Nobody seems to have a good handle on how the independents will break. Still:

Democratic turnout, measured against the same day in 2010, is 24 percent higher, while Republicans have voted slightly above the same level. Of those who have voted early, 49 percent were registered Democrats and 31 percent Republicans.

There has been a stronger showing of African-American voters, 25 percent of the early voting, compared to 20 percent in 2010, which is expected to benefit Hagan.

Unaffiliated and Libertarian voters appear motivated this year. They have cast 1 in 5 of the early ballots, 42 percent more than they did over the same period in 2010. Thirty-two percent of these voters didn’t participate in the 2010 election in the state, Bitzer’s analysis shows.

Another wild card for North Carolina: the GOP eliminated straight-ticket voting this year for the first time since 1925. This will, no doubt, add to lines at the polls:

Black and Democratic voters have long cast more straight-ticket ballots than white and Republicans have. In 2008, Democrats racked up a 401,000-vote cushion among the 2.2 million voters who voted a straight ticket. Elizabeth Dole beat Kay Hagan among those voters who didn’t pull the straight-ticket lever, but that wasn’t enough to dig out of the hole.

In 2012, straight-ticket voters gave Democrats a 308,000-vote lead, including a 78,000-vote edge in Mecklenburg County. Trevor Fuller, now the chairman of the county board of commissioners, actually lost to Michael Hobbs (who?) among voters who assessed each race individually.

Those kinds of numbers surely prompted Republicans to kill the practice, and it seems likely to help the GOP. In Mecklenburg, Democrats in down-ballot races like clerk of court appear to have the most at risk. That will hinge, though, on whether past straight-ticket voters walk out or brave the rest of the ballot.

But another catch. A friend reported that a Republican woman this week sniffed, “I only vote on Election Day.” My friend concluded why: Her voting early would only prove early voting is useful.

The first day of early voting here in North Carolina there were lines at the polls, as there were yesterday. Without straight-ticket voting, people were taking longer in the booths. But with the Democrats’ nominal lead in early turnout numbers, Republicans have to make up a significant difference on Election Day to win. And their older, whiter voters will have to stand in the same lines their party created to do it.

Should the NCGOP lose seats in the legislature on Tuesday and should Kay Hagan keep her seat in the U.S. Senate, count on the NCGOP to attempt to eliminate early voting altogether.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Oct
28

You can’t say poll tax

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The 1981 recording of Lee Atwater explaining the Southern Strategy finally made it onto the Net a couple of years ago. You know the one. It’s the interview where he says:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites. … “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

It’s the decades-old racial strategy that RNC chief Ken Mehlman apologized for to the NAACP in 2005. For what that was worth.

Jeffrey Toobin muses this morning in the New Yorker about recent court rulings on photo ID laws and what voting rights activists might do to counteract them. He includes quotes from federal district court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos’ opinion — struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court — that the Texas photo ID statute, SB 14, “constitutes an unconstitutional poll tax” with an “impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans.” But reading the words this time recalled the Atwater quote.

Maybe it was the photos Dante Atkins shared from a naturalization ceremony at the L.A. Convention Center last week. Afterwards, newly minted citizens crowded the Democrats’ voter registration tent. At the Republican table nearby? Crickets.

Just as in the heyday of “forced busing” debates, Republicans have gone abstract. The dog whistles are pitched so high, many among their base don’t recognize them for what they are. They insist that photo ID laws are not discriminatory (as Ramos ruled), and they get quite testy if you suggest it. If photo ID laws hurt “a bunch of college kids” or “a bunch of lazy blacks” more than older, white Republicans, “so be it.” That is, as Atwater said, a byproduct.

So poll taxes are back, targeted not just at blacks and Hispanics, but at other groups that tend to vote for Democrats. Only in 2014 you can’t say “poll tax.” That backfires. So now it’s “election integrity,” “ballot security,” “restoring confidence,” etc. A hell of a lot more abstract than “poll tax.”

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Oct
13

The new corruption

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It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the system is rigged. Sen. Elizabeth Warren makes that point at every opportunity. But her most recent interview about that with Thomas Frank in Salon shifted too quickly from philosophy to process. Warren would rather talk about how the rigging hurts working people. She wants to explain how the system is rigged and by whom:

The system is rigged. And now that I’ve been in Washington and seen it up close and personal, I just see new ways in which that happens. But we have to stop and back up, and you have to kind of get the right diagnosis of the problem, to see how it is that—it goes well beyond campaign contributions.

Indeed it does. But “the question that lies at the heart of whether our democracy will survive” isn’t a matter of process or policy.

Janine Wedel comes closer to the mark in an excerpt (also in Salon) from her book, “Unaccountable: How Elite Power Brokers Corrupt our Finances, Freedom, and Security.” Everyday people know the system is rigged better than the elite. Wedel sees it in the comments section of Transparency International’s annual rankings of corrupt countries. “Ordinary people have an instinctual grasp of the real nature of corruption and the inequality that often results.” The United States, they believe, is “grievously under-scrutinized.”

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Oct
11

A new prairie populism?

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Somebody described the DNC’s presidential campaign strategy as counting on large, reliable blocks of Electoral College votes from the East and West coasts, then betting on hitting a triple bank shot and pick up enough votes in a couple of big, Midwest states to total 270. The less-populous “flyover states” in the heartland and the South they abandoned to Rush Limbaugh and the GOP long ago.

Howard Dean thought that was nuts. The DNC thought Howard was nuts. And even after Dean as DNC Chair implemented his Fifty State Strategy and Democrats started winning in places that had not seen the DNC in decades, Beltway Democrats pitched Dean’s strategy as soon as Dean left.

Mike Lux sees a new populism lifting Democratic fortunes in the Plains States in a way Dean would approve. In Oklahoma and North Dakota Democrats are surprisingly competitive this year. And more:

In my home state of Nebraska, the open seat Governor’s race is very competitive, with prairie populist Chuck Hassebrook within 7 points in the latest public poll of close friend of the Koch brothers (He spoke at their secret meeting in June), Pete Ricketts. Hassebrook has spent his career advocating for small farmers and small town businesses at the Center for Rural Affairs, while Ricketts’ Koch-style extremism has gotten him into hot water. (First bias alert: Hassebrook is a long time friend.) Meanwhile, the Democrat running for the House in the Omaha district, Brad Ashford, is in a dead heat race with Republican incumbent Lee Terry.

In Kansas, as anyone following politics has become aware of in recent weeks, both incumbent Republican Governor Sam Brownback and incumbent Republican Senator Pat Roberts are in very deep trouble, with high unfavorability numbers and trailing consistently in the polls. The Roberts campaign has been awful, but a big part of the reason for the problems these Republicans are having is that Brownback’s extreme tax and spending cut agenda have badly alienated voters.

Finally in South Dakota, in a race long written off by many pundits and national Democrats, support for Republican Mike Rounds has been collapsing in a 4 way race, and Democrat Rick Weiland (2nd bias alert, Rick is also a good friend whose campaign I am helping) is now close enough in the polling that both the DSCC and several progressive groups are putting real money into the state to help him. Rick is running a classic folksy prairie populist campaign against big money, including writing his own lyrics and singing songs like this one on the campaign trail:

Someone complained to me yesterday about Sen. Kay Hagan ignoring rural counties in western North Carolina. She parachutes into the cities for high-dollar fundraisers and high-profile events, but is invisible in redder counties with few Democrats with fat checkbooks. If your priorities run in election cycles, that makes a kind of sense. Lux offers observations taking a longer view [Emphasis mine]:

The first is that these Democrats are campaigning with gusto in small towns and rural counties. There is a very large part of America that Democrats can’t win without appealing to rural voters, and as Democrats have become more oriented over the years toward focusing on big cities and the suburbs, they have sometimes forgotten to reach out to folks in small towns and on farms and ranches. That has made red states redder, and it has made it harder for Democrats to win a majority in the House. But Democrats in the Plains States are making campaigning in small towns and rural counties a cornerstone of their campaigns. Hassebrook, as I mentioned, has been an advocate for rural folks his whole career, and had robust, active steering committees set up in every county in Nebraska from early in his campaign. He fully expects to win or come close in a lot of rural counties where the last Democratic candidate for Governor, Bob Kerrey, did not get to 30%. In South Dakota, Rick Weiland made as the centerpiece of his campaign strategy the idea that he would become the first candidate to ever go to all 311 South Dakota towns, making quite a contrast with Rounds who has spent most of his campaign raising money on the east and west coasts. The bottom line is that rural voters are like anyone else: if you ignore them, they won’t like you. National Democrats have been ignoring rural America for too long, but these Plains States Democrats are proving that they can win a lot of rural votes if they just work at it.

Are we willing to?

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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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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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.)

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Jul
17

Live Stream – Netroots Nation 2014

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Check back for the addresses listed below and here.


Live streaming video by Ustream

Thursday, July 17, 2014 Keynotes

3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Keynote featuring Vice President Joe Biden
7:15 to 9 p.m. Opening keynote featuring Rev. Barber

Friday, July 18, 2014

10 to 10:45 a.m. Morning keynote featuring Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Categories : Action, Democrats, National, News
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I have long been wary of the fetish among the business and political classes for efficiency. It’s a frequent rationale for bureaucratic decisions that seem to come at the expense of living, breathing people.

A Good Read

Thomas Frank (“What’s the Matter with Kansas?”) speaks with Barry Lynn at Salon on the reemergence of monopolies in America. Lynn describes how, rather than overturning laws on the books for decades, the Reagan administration changed the way the laws regulating monopolies were enforced.

Yes, that was what was so brilliant about what they did. The Department of Justice establishes guidelines that detail how regulators plan to interpret certain types of laws. So the Reagan people did not aim to change the antimonopoly laws themselves, because that would have sparked a real uproar. Instead they said they planned merely to change the guidelines that determine how the regulators and judiciary are supposed to interpret the law.

The Justice Dept. went from raising its eyebrows in the 1960s at mergers that concentrated a few percent of a market to waving though deals involving 80-90% of it.

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