Archive for Parties

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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I was hoping someone with a clue would pay attention. They reference my Thom’s Tholl Road op-ed in both commercials:

Democrats Attack Tillis Over North Carolina Toll Project

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Oct
16

Cut This

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The Throw Granny Off the Cliff People are back:

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Oct
16

Gaming Democracy

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Last night, judges once again struck down another state’s photo ID law. This time in Arkansas:

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas’ highest court on Wednesday struck down a state law that requires voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot, ruling the requirement unconstitutional just days before early voting begins.

In a decision that could have major implications in the Nov. 4 election, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that determined the law unconstitutionally added a requirement for voting.

The high court noted the Arkansas Constitution lists specific requirements to vote: that a person be a citizen of both the U.S. and Arkansas, be at least 18 years old and be lawfully registered. Anything beyond that amounts to a new requirement and is therefore unconstitutional, the court ruled.

Similar rulings have occurred with Republican voting laws in Pennsylvania (January), Wisconsin, and Texas, although the Texas ruling by the U.S. District Court was overturned yesterday by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The day before the Wisconsin ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed North Carolina to implement its ban on same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting. The state’s sweeping voting bill goes to trial next summer. The mixed rulings may have more to do more with timing than principle:

Despite the flurry of high court rulings, many legal analysts and some judges say the Supreme Court’s actions are less about broad voting rights principles than telling federal judges to butt out, particularly so close to Election Day. In each of the cases where the justices acted, lower federal courts had issued orders that would have changed the rules for elections just weeks away, potentially causing confusion among voters and election officials.

You have to wonder when (and if) the light bulb will come on in the public consciousness. Our moneyed lords and their Republican vassals oppose the very idea of democracy for fear of the peasants peeing on the furniture. The succession of court challenges overturning photo ID laws and marriage equality bans follows a pattern seen in Republican-led states across the country, certainly here in North Carolina. GOP legislatures feel empowered (and directed) to push the constitution and established rules to the limits and beyond, and they dare anyone to stop them. As president-elect George W. Bush quipped, “If this were a dictatorship, it’d be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I’m the dictator.” Was that a Kinsley gaffe?

Charlie Pierce in Esquire on the GOP mining democracy [emphasis mine]:

Simply put, the Republican party deliberately has transformed itself from the Party of Lincoln to the Party of I’ve Got Mine, Jack. And it rarely, if ever, gets called to account for that. As a result, and without substantial notice or paying a substantial price, and on many issues, individual Republicans have been able to justify the benefits they’ve received from government activity that they now oppose in theory and in practice. This is not “hypocrisy.” That is too mild a word. This is the regulatory capture of the government for personal benefit. That it makes a lie, again and again, of the basic principles of modern conservatism — indeed, that it shows those principles to be a sham — is certainly worthy of notice and debate. It is certainly worthy of notice and debate that the conservative idea of the benefits of a political commonwealth means those benefits run only one way. Modern conservatism is not about making the government smaller. It’s about making the government exclusive.

They are bent on gaming democracy the way they game capitalism.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Oct
14

Alex, I’ll take Patrick McHenry for $20,000

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Oct
14

The Sudetenland will rise again

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Last October, Asheville, NC introduced America to Don Yelton on The Daily Show. You remember? The clip where Aasif Mandvi asked Yelton, “You know that we can hear you, right?” after the Republican precinct chair’s remark about “lazy blacks.”

This October, it’s a swastika photoshopped in front of city hall. Asheville is nothing if not colorful.

Known for its hipster arts scene, craft beer culture, and LGBT-friendly atmosphere, Asheville was dubbed “a cesspool of sin” in 2011 by James Forrester, the late Republican state senator. (You could buy tee shirts within hours.) As local gay couples on Thursday anticipated a federal order allowing same-sex marriages for the first time in North Carolina, city council members approved displaying a large rainbow flag from city hall. The local register’s office began issuing licenses late Friday.

So once more unto the breach, two Republican culture warriors — both known for publicity stunts — stepped up to strike back by photoshopping a Nazi flag in place of an image of the rainbow flag. The Sudetenland will rise again or something.

The two Republicans, former city councilman Carl Mumpower and former Buncombe County GOP chairman Chad Nesbitt, criticized the move saying the Asheville City Council’s decision to fly the flag (the council voted unanimously to display it) violated North Carolina open meeting laws.

“I am equating their methods with the Nazi movement,” Mumpower said according to the North Carolina newspaper. “They are indifferent to the rule of law and indifferent to the vote of the people. And that’s Adolph [sic] Hitler all over again in a different disguise.”

These proud, local characters stand as living proof that hippies and fall leaves are not the only local color in town.

(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.)

Categories : Democrats, National
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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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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.)