Archive for Parties
A few weeks ago, we looked at how Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin is using his position to weaken and eliminate pockets of political opposition. The University of Wisconsin system, specifically. Chris Hayes had observed:
There’s something sort of ingenious about this from a political standpoint. It seems to me that one of his M.O.s in office has been to sort of use policy as a mechanism by which to reduce the political power of people that would oppose him — progressives, the left. I mean, go after the unions, right? Which is a huge pillar of progressive power in the state of Wisconsin. And another big pillar of progressive power in the state, frankly, is the university system.
I noted that Republicans in North Carolina were using the same M.O. Since then there have been more efforts by the NCGOP at legislatively targeting political opponents. Democrats swept the four open seats on the Wake County Board of Commissioners last November? No problem.
At the Daily Beast, Eleanor Clift explains why Wisconsin Republican Jim Sensenbrenner’s bipartisan effort to repair the Voting Rights Act is going nowhere. Sensenbrenner’s H.R.885, co-sponsored by Democrat Rep. John Lewis of Georgia and forty others (including eight Republicans), was introduced on February 11. The bill is “going nowhere,” Clift believes, in spite of the observance last weekend of the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday at Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge. John Lewis was among the civil rights marchers famously beaten there by Alabama State troopers.
It is worth noting that H.R.885 specifically exempts laws requiring “photo identification as a condition of receiving a ballot for voting in a federal, state, or local election” from actions that trigger federal jurisdiction over state efforts to abridge the right to vote. The price of that bipartisanship, no doubt.
Clift quotes David Bositis, formerly with the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies:
Asked whether the symbolism of Selma fifty years later might move Congress to act, Bositis said flatly, “It’s not going to happen, nothing’s going to happen…. On balance this is more of a problem for the Republican Party than the Democrats because the people who are being disenfranchised view the Republican Party as hostile to them. It’s hurting the Republican Party.”
The Supreme Court 5-4 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder in June of 2013 opened the door to a spate of voter ID laws. “Voter suppression, that’s the intent, but so few people vote in the United States,” says Bositis, “so all they’re doing is reinforcing the idea that Republicans are hostile to minority groups.” The GOP did very well in 2010 and 2014, but it had nothing to do with voter suppression, he says. Young people and minority voters typically have low turnout in non-presidential years.
No election outcomes will be changed with or without the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, he declares. Still, it’s important. “The fact that one of the two major political parties is hostile to the rights of minority citizens is a very big deal—and a lot of that hostility is in the center of gravity of the party, which is Southern whites.” They’re not wielding clubs and hoses anymore, he says, and they may not say anything overtly racist. They cloak their objections in states’ rights. But Republicans not only have no incentive to update the VRA, they have a disincentive, he explains.
Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton’s letter to the Iranian government, the one 46 of his GOP colleagues signed, has everyone from NPR to the Wall Street Journal to MoveOn.org talking about the Logan Act. This, in spite of the fact that since its passage in 1799, there have been “no prosecutions under the Act in its more than 200 year history.” The law forbids citizens from interfering with U.S. foreign policy “without authority of the United States.” Whatever that means.
But the controversy must look to his T-party cohort like Tom Cotton’s coup. (Or is that Tom Cotton’s kooks?) “Cotton is a conservative hero, and a crackpot,” reads the Washington Post’s landing page teaser. Paul Waldman writes for the Post’s Plum Line:
On paper, Cotton looks like a dream politician with nowhere to go but up — Iraq veteran, Harvard Law School graduate, the youngest senator at 37. It’s only when you listen to him talk and hear what he believes that you come to realize he’s a complete crackpot. During the 2014 campaign he told voters that the Islamic State was working with Mexican drug cartels and would soon be coming to attack Arkansas. When he was still in the Army he wrote a letter to the New York Times saying that its editors should be “behind bars” because the paper published stories on the Bush administration’s program to disrupt terrorist groups’ finances (which George W. Bush himself had bragged about, but that’s another story).
While in the House in 2013, Cotton introduced an amendment to prosecute the relatives of those who violated sanctions on Iran, saying that his proposed penalties of up to 20 years in prison would “include a spouse and any relative to the third degree,” including “parents, children, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, grandparents, great grandparents, grandkids, great grandkids.” Forget about the fact that the Constitution expressly prohibits “corruption of blood” penalties — just consider that Cotton wanted to take someone who had violated sanctions and imprison their grandchildren. Needless to say, this deranged piece of legislation was too much even for Republicans to stomach, and it went nowhere.
Waldman suggests Cotton is poised to be the next Jim DeMint.
But forgetting about what the Constitution expressly prohibits is just the point for T-partiers like Cotton. Cloaking themselves in it should be enough. What the law actually says doesn’t matter. What matters is what they believe it should say. (I’ve heard this argued in person.) The fact that “God helps those who help themselves” is not in the Bible, for example, is beside the point. It should be. It feels right. And that truthiness is good enough for them. To borrow again from Stephen Colbert, they want to feel the law at you.
(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)
If you have been following the travails of states under “small government” Republican rule, this will sound familiar. After 59 percent of voters in the city of Denton, Texas voted on November 4 to ban hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in their town, well, Republican lawmakers in Austin are rethinking that whole “bringing democracy closer to the people” thing. Representative Phil King (R) of Weatherford has introduced two bills to prohibit city voters from controlling what happens within their own borders.
King, who per the Center for Media and Democracy sits on the executive board of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), is leading the charge to restrict pesky Texas citizens from exercising democracy when it interferes with the oil and gas bidness:
According to The New York Times, eight states led by Republicans have prohibited municipalities from passing paid sick day legislation in just the past two years. Other such preemption laws have barred cities from raising the minimum wage and regulating the activities of landlords. This year, Arkansas passed a law that blocks a city’s ability to pass anti-discrimination laws that would protect LGBT people, and bills introduced in six states this session would follow Arkansas’ lead.
In case you missed it:
Sen. Chad Barefoot’s controversial plan to change how Wake County elects commissioners would put three Democratic incumbents in the same race if they all seek reelection in 2018.
Barefoot and fellow Republicans say the bill would end “outrageously expensive” countywide campaigns that result in a board that mostly lives in Raleigh. But Democrats say the proposal is a power grab launched after all Republican incumbents lost in last year’s commissioners election.
This follows on the heels of a similar move in Guilford County in February:
GREENSBORO — State Sen. Trudy Wade filed legislation Wednesday proposing the most significant restructuring of the City Council in more than 30 years. Senate Bill 36 would shrink the size of the council, fundamentally change the role and powers of the mayor, lengthen council terms, and reduce the number of council members who are elected at-large.
A stroll down memory lane, ain’t it? And wouldn’t you know, of the four Greensboro city council members who would have to run for a seat in the same district, three are Democrats, as is the mayor.
From our Peach State neighbors:
On Monday, Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, had sat through an hour-long education committee meeting, followed by a 90-minute hearing on his no-knock-warrant bill. Assisted by a few bottles of water.
So after he quickly checked in with chairman Josh McKoon at his Senate Judiciary Committee meeting, Fort made a dash for the bathroom. By the time he got back, S.B. 129, the stalled religious liberty bill authored by McKoon, had been pulled off the table and voted through by his committee. Which at the time, consisted only of Republicans.
I hear they are so very genteel in Georgia.
We wrote here in the last couple of days about “House of Cards” and ugly political rumors. That kind of politics claimed the life of Missouri state auditor and Republican gubernatorial candidate, Tom Schweich. Former Missouri Republican senator, John Danforth, an Episcopal priest, gave a eulogy Rachel Maddow last night said “scorched the political earth” before many of Missouri’s political elite after Schweich committed suicide last week:
Schweich died after an apparent suicide in his suburban St. Louis home last Thursday. Danforth said in his speech that he had spoken with Schweich two days before and that Schweich was “upset about” a radio commercial and a “whispering campaign” that he was Jewish.
The ad in question, run by the Citizens for Fairness PAC, features a narrator imitating “House of Cards” character Francis Underwood, calling him a weak candidate for governor who would lose in the general election.
Writing for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Tony Messenger gave one theory for the suicide:
I have no idea why Schweich killed himself. But for the past several days he had been confiding in me that he planned to accuse the chairman of the Missouri Republican Party, John Hancock, with leading a “whisper campaign” among donors that he, Schweich, was Jewish.
This appeared yesterday in The Hill:
Centrist Democrats are gathering their forces to fight back against the “Elizabeth Warren wing” of their party, fearing a sharp turn to the left could prove disastrous in the 2016 elections.
The New Democrat Coalition (NDC), a caucus of moderate Democrats in the House, plans to unveil an economic policy platform as soon as this week in an attempt to chart a different course.
“I have great respect for Sen. Warren — she’s a tremendous leader,” said Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), one of the members working on the policy proposal. “My own preference is to create a message without bashing businesses or workers, [the latter of which] happens on the other side.”
Peters said that, if Democrats are going to win back the House and Senate, “it’s going to be through the work of the New Democrat Coalition.”
I had to pause reading to laugh out loud.
In the car last night, my wife mused on why many struggling to remain in the middle class speak so harshly of the worse off who accept public assistance, you know, for food. Given last-place aversion (see Saturday’s post), isn’t it a small price to ensure there are people below you on the social ladder to look down on?
I shouted, “You want me on that dole! You need me on that dole!”
In a bit of serendipity later, up popped Heather Cox Richardson’s piece in Salon featuring a photo of Jack Nicholson from “A Few Good Men,” about how Movement Conservatives can’t handle the truth.
Beginning in the 1950s, she writes, William F. Buckley formulated a strategy for pushing back against the popular New Deal. It was “an attack on the Enlightenment principles that gave rise to Western civilization.” Truth no longer served. Instead, “a compelling lie could convince voters so long as it fit a larger narrative of good and evil.” The Cold War provided the growth medium.
By the George W. Bush administration, Richardson concludes,
Demos research associate Sean McElwee’s post this week reviews economic research showing that “Democrats make the pie bigger for everyone, while Republicans redistribute income toward the rich and whites.” But you already knew that. Still, McElwee’s link-filled column at Aljazeera compiles a lot of supporting studies in one convenient location.
Examining changes in poverty, unemployment and income under every president since 1948, political scientists Zoltan Hajnal and Jeremy Horowitz found that blacks, Latinos and Asians fare better under Democratic presidents. But so do whites:
“Put simply: However measured, blacks made consistent gains under Democratic presidents and suffered regular losses under Republicans,” the authors said. While there’s limited data, the findings hold true for Latinos and Asians.
Princeton economists Alan Blinder and Mark Watson found that for the same period, “gross domestic product, employment, corporate profits and productivity grew faster under Democrats than Republicans.” Income too — contrary to shrieks by Republican flacks that if their opponents are elected, Democratic Dorothys will throw buckets of water on all their beautiful wickedness.
— Sean McElwee (@SeanMcElwee) February 27, 2015
On a more local level, US Uncut’s Carl Gibson details how under governor Mark Dayton’s Democratic policies have treated Minnesota. Gibson writes:
Between 2011 and 2015, Gov. Dayton added 172,000 new jobs to Minnesota’s economy — that’s 165,800 more jobs in Dayton’s first term than Pawlenty added in both of his terms combined. Even though Minnesota’s top income tax rate is the 4th-highest in the country, it has the 5th-lowest unemployment rate in the country at 3.6 percent. According to 2012-2013 U.S. census figures, Minnesotans had a median income that was $10,000 larger than the U.S. average, and their median income is still $8,000 more than the U.S. average today.
By late 2013, Minnesota’s private sector job growth exceeded pre-recession levels, and the state’s economy was the 5th fastest-growing in the United States. Forbes even ranked Minnesota the 9th-best state for business (Scott Walker’s “Open For Business” Wisconsin came in at a distant #32 on the same list). Despite the fearmongering over businesses fleeing from Dayton’s tax cuts, 6,230 more Minnesotans filed in the top income tax bracket in 2013, just one year after Dayton’s tax increases went through. As of January 2015, Minnesota has a $1 billion budget surplus, and Gov. Dayton has pledged to reinvest more than one third of that money into public schools. And according to Gallup, Minnesota’s economic confidence is higher than any other state
Dayton’s GOP adversaries, of course, warned that billionaire Dayton’s plans to raise taxes would offend “the job creators.” (Luckily, there are no volcanoes in Minnesota, or the Job Creators would demand virgins.)
What caught my attention most was this from McElwee:
Similarly, in absolute terms, whites do better under Democratic than under Republican leadership. But that doesn’t really matter. People weigh their well-being relative to those around them. There is strong evidence that whites often oppose actions against inequality because of “last place aversion,” the desire to ensure that there is a class of people below oneself. Among white voters, racial bias is strongly correlated with lower support of redistributive programs. For example, research shows that opposition to welfare is driven by racial anger. Approximately half of the difference between social spending in the U.S. and Europe can be explained by racial animosity.
Chronic lefty complaints about working-class whites “voting against their best interests” has long set my teeth on edge. Born of frustration, it’s just an intellectual-sounding way of calling them stupid, and no way to win friends and influence voters. Voters see right through it. Besides, progressives don’t really want them voting what’s best for No. 1. But last-place aversion (a term I’ve not seen before) offers an alternate explanation for why, in spite of the economic data above, many working-class whites vote Republican. President Lyndon Johnson long ago demonstrated an intuitive understanding of last-place aversion as one element of the Republicans’ Southern Strategy:
If you can convince the lowest white man that he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll even empty his pockets for you.
Two of McElwee’s links go to Stanford studies suggesting how last-place aversion explains why, for example, “individuals making just above the minimum wage are the most likely to oppose its increase.” (Last-place aversion, by the way, holds “for both whites and minorities.”) It works like this (emphasis mine):
By the logic developed in the above evolutionary models, not only would humans care about relative position in general but a strong aversion to being near last place would arise because in a monogamous society with roughly balanced sex-ratios, only those at the very bottom would not marry or reproduce. Indeed, being “picked last in gym class” is so often described as a child’s worst fear that the expression has become a cliché.
That explains a lot.
(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)