Archive for Parties

At Political Animal, Nancy LeTourneau comments on Rebecca Solnit’s essay on cynicism in Harpers. She writes that when Barack Obama entered the White House riding on a message of hope and change, that “the Republican strategy of total obstruction was designed to dampen all that with cynicism about the political process.” Cynicism about the political process is not in short supply in 2016. Hope is. But let’s not give Republicans too much credit.

Solnit writes:

Cynicism is first of all a style of presenting oneself, and it takes pride more than anything in not being fooled and not being foolish. But in the forms in which I encounter it, cynicism is frequently both these things. That the attitude that prides itself on world-weary experience is often so naïve says much about the triumph of style over substance, attitude over analysis.

Anyone who dares venture onto Facebook or Twitter these days knows the posture. Solnit continues:

If you set purity and perfection as your goals, you have an almost foolproof system according to which everything will necessarily fall short. But expecting perfection is naïve; failing to perceive value by using an impossible standard of measure is even more so. Cynics are often disappointed idealists and upholders of unrealistic standards. They are uncomfortable with victories, because victories are almost always temporary, incomplete, and compromised — but also because the openness of hope is dangerous, and in war, self-defense comes first. Naïve cynicism is absolutist; its practitioners assume that anything you don’t deplore you wholeheartedly endorse. But denouncing anything less than perfection as morally compromising means pursuing aggrandizement of the self, not engagement with a place or system or community, as the highest priority.

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Apr
29

Weak tea

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It will take more than fear of Donald Trump for Democrats to win this fall. They need a message. This article from Harold Meyerson after monumental losses in 2014 summed it up:

What, besides raising the minimum wage, do the Democrats propose to do about the shift in income from wages to profits, from labor to capital, from the 99 percent to the 1 percent? How do they deliver for an embattled middle class in a globalized, de-unionized, far-from-full-employment economy, where workers have lost the power they once wielded to ensure a more equitable distribution of income and wealth? What Democrat, besides Elizabeth Warren, campaigned this year to diminish the sway of the banks? Who proposed policies that would give workers the power to win more stable employment and higher incomes, not just at the level of the minimum wage but across the economic spectrum?

Bernie Sanders has focused on the banks this year, but Democrats as a party have failed so far to send a message to families working without a net that their concerns and anxieties have been both heard and felt, and that Democrats have a plan to address them. They need to forcefully answer the “cares about people like me” question.

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Apr
28

Who do you think you’re fooling?

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Not that long ago, campaigns here fretted that black voters did not take advantage of early voting. With the exception of Sunday voting (souls to the polls), seeing neighbors at the polls on Election Day was a kind of communal celebration. Responding in the New York Times to Monday’s federal court ruling upholding North Carolina’s 2013 voting restrictions, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina N.A.A.C.P., notes how dramatically that changed:

The law eliminated voting rules that had enabled North Carolina to have the fourth best per capita voter turnout in the country. In 2012, 70 percent of black voters used early voting — and cast ballots at a slightly higher percentage than whites. Although black voters made up about 20 percent of the electorate, they made up 41 percent of voters who used same-day registration.

The North Carolina Legislature set out to change those figures and suppress minority votes. Its many impediments to voting all disproportionately affect African-American and Latino voters. None of their attacks would have survived pre-clearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. A Republican official defended the law this way: “If it hurts a bunch of lazy blacks that want the government to give them everything, so be it.”

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Apr
26

Back to the voting booth

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Well, that didn’t go as hoped. This morning’s headline in the Charlotte Observer online reads, “Federal judge who backed limits on early ballots upholds voter ID requirement.” Slate summarizes:

A federal judge on Monday upheld a 2013 North Carolina voter ID law that increased the requirements a voter must meet to cast a ballot, a move that critics say is an effort to discourage black and Hispanic voters from political participation. The suit was brought by the U.S. Department of Justice, the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, as well as a group of North Carolina voters, and claimed the new measure, one of the strictest in the country, violated the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution. U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder, however, disagreed and in his 485-page opinion wrote “North Carolina has provided legitimate state interests for its voter ID requirement and electoral system.”

Critics condemned the ruling, which they will likely appeal to the 4th Circuit:

“This is just one step in a legal battle that is going to continue in the courts,” said Penda Hair, an attorney representing the NAACP. The law “targets the provisions that once made North Carolina among the states with the highest turnout in the nation. This progress was especially clear among African-American and Latino voters, who came to rely on measures like early voting, same-day registration and out-of-precinct provisional ballots to ensure their voices were heard.”

The New York Times explains what was on the table:

The opinion, by Judge Thomas D. Schroeder of Federal District Court in Winston-Salem, upheld the repeal of a provision that allowed people to register and vote on the same day. It also upheld a seven-day reduction in the early-voting period; the end of preregistration, which allowed some people to sign up before their 18th birthdays; and the repeal of a provision that allowed for the counting of ballots cast outside voters’ home precinct.

It also left intact North Carolina’s voter identification requirement, which legislators softened last year to permit residents to cast ballots, even if they lack the required documentation, if they submit affidavits.

Just weeks ahead of a hearing last July, Republicans in the legislature swapped out some of the barricades to voting for hoops.

Rick Hasen at Election Law Blog has additional analysis of the opinion, including these observations on the original impetus behind the bill:

5. On the need for the voter id law to prevent voter fraud, the court says first that it is hard to find impersonation fraud without an id requirement, but more importantly the Supreme Court in the Crawford case said there need not be evidence of impersonation fraud to justify the law. So while the plaintiffs have to present tons of evidence of burden, the state can get by with no evidence of a need. (This seems perverse to me.)

So plaintiffs provided insufficient proof of a burden and the state provided no justification for the law. Let’s call it even.

6. The court also finds that the state did not act with discriminatory intent, citing (without an appreciation for irony) at p. 387 the testimony of Hans von Spakovsky to the legislature on the need for this restrictive law. Whether or not his testimony was true, the court says, the legislature could have believed it true, thereby negating possibility of discriminatory intent.

Spakovsky, the Professor Harold Hill of voter fraud, testified that the “potential for abuse exists.” And windmills might be giants. Sufficient enough reason to pass a law restricting them.

It’s back to the voting booth, people, if voters expect to stop them from stopping voters.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Apr
23

On what streets do they live?

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David Crosby and Graham Nash play Occupy Wall Street on Nov. 8, 2011,. By David Shankbone (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

“Why doesn’t somebody do something?” has become something of a joke question in my house. It’s one of those questions we ask when exasperated over whatever daily outrage comes over the radio, TV, or Web. After hearing the question one too many times, it finally dawned on me that I was somebody. Look at the trouble that’s gotten me into.

A variant of that question is “Why don’t they do something?” That’s an even bigger joke line here, mostly because it evokes that old song from David Crosby. The now-standard rejoinder is, “Who are They? And on what streets do They live?” Maybe we can ask them.

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Apr
22

Boaty McBoatface and our sinking democracy

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Last month I brought you the tale of the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council’s online poll for naming a new research vessel:

The NERC announced the online voting contest to name the nearly $300 million boat to be launched in 2019 recently, and the leading vote-getter so far is the simple but silly “Boaty McBoatface.”

Uri Friedman of the Atlantic considers the outcome and what it says about democracy:

The boat, which is really a ship, acquired new significance this week, when a British official suggested he wouldn’t respect the results of an online government poll in which more than 124,000 people voted to christen the country’s new $300-million research vessel “Boaty McBoatface.” The name received three times more votes than the runner-up entry. The people of the Internet had spoken emphatically, and they’d spoken like a five-year-old.

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Apr
13

Springtime for Pat

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Downtown Raleigh, North Carolina

Oh, those Producers. It’s springtime in Raleigh. Just not for Pat McCrory. When last we saw North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory he was backpedaling on House Bill 2 (HB2).

Critics now call the so-called “bathroom bill” aimed at his gay and transgender constituents a radical Trojan Horse for eliminating anti-discrimination protections in the workplace. Since McCrory signed the bill passed during a one-day, special session Republicans called in March, prominent businesses began boycotting the state, canceling expansions and conventions there, and national performers such as Bruce Springsteen began canceling concert dates. Projected job losses number well over 1,000. Revenue losses have not been calculated. It’s almost as if … they designed HB2 to fail.

Nah.

The national and international backlash forced McCrory yesterday to sign an executive order aimed at quelling the controversy over the bill he signed just weeks ago:

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Apr
10

Boston Globe gives Trump a Bronx cheer

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This morning the Boston Globe offers a glimpse into President Donald Trump’s America with a mocked-up front page illustrating the kind of stories we could expect if Trump were elected president. Stocks plunge, trade wars loom, and “riots continue” over mass deportations.

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Apr
09

Those corrupt delegates

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Did the 37 states that entered the union after it ratified its constitution become part of a corrupt system?

I ask because two of the biggest brands in the current race for president offer different versions of “purity.” Both offer themselves as outsiders untainted by party corruption. Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders sell themselves as immune from being bought by big-money interests. Trump because he has billions of his own and Sanders because, you know, $27 and no super PAC. Both offer themselves as political outsiders, although Trump has the better claim to that. Sanders, the independent who has been in Congress since 1991, offers himself as an alternative to party Democrats.

But a recent story about Trump illustrates the downside of that outsider status when mounting a revolt against the status quo. Trump was flummoxed upon learning that despite beating Ted Cruz in Louisiana, Cruz might come out with more delegates.

Here’s the crux of it:

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Apr
08

Chuck Grassley’s coup

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President Obama took Senate Republicans to school yesterday in a speech at the University of Chicago Law School where he taught constitutional law for a dozen years. He spoke on the intransigence of Senate Republicans in refusing to give a hearing to his Supreme Court nominee, Illinois native Merrick Garland:

“If you start getting into a situation where the process of appointing judges is so broken, so partisan, that an eminently qualified jurist cannot even get a hearing, then we are going to see the kind of sharp partisan polarization that has come to characterize our electoral politics seeping entirely into the judicial system …”

“That erodes the institutional integrity of the judicial branch. At that point, people lose confidence in the ability of the courts to fairly adjudicate cases and controversies. And our democracy cannot afford that …”

Video here.

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