Archive for the ‘Election’ Category
Voter suppression is a direct attack on the heart of our democratic government: it is a deliberate effort to forestall voters from exercising the basic Constitutional right: to elect those who will speak on their behalf. The GOP is quite deliberately—and openly—working to prevent large swathes of voters from being able to vote, and that effort is truly despicable—plus it gives a chilling view into the intentions and direction of the GOP, which seems to be to seize power by whatever means possible, whether legitimate or not.
Josh Israel writes at ThinkProgress:
As his own party pushed through the Wisconsin Senate the latest in a series of measures to make it harder to vote in the state, Sen. Dale Schultz (R) blasted the efforts as “trying to suppress the vote” last week.
Schultz, who is not seeking re-election and was the lone Republican to oppose a bill last week to limit the hours of early voting in every jurisdiction in the state, was a guest on The Devil’s Advocates radio program on Madison’s 92.1 FM last Wednesday. Asked why his party pushed the bill, Schultz responded, “I am not willing to defend them anymore. I’m just not and I’m embarrassed by this.”
Schultz argued that this and dozens of similar bills before the Senate this were based on “mythology” that voter fraud is a serious concern: “I began this session thinking that there was some lack of faith in our voting process and we maybe needed to address it. But I have come to the conclusion that this is far less noble.”
Noting that Republican President Dwight Eisenhower championed the 1957 civil rights law, Schultz said that he could not “find any real reason” for his party’s effort to make it harder to vote:
SCHULTZ: It’s just, I think, sad when a political party — my political party — has so lost faith in its ideas that it’s pouring all of its energy into election mechanics. And again, I’m a guy who understands and appreciates what we should be doing in order to make sure every vote counts, every vote is legitimate. But that fact is, it ought to be abundantly clear to everybody in this state that there is no massive voter fraud. The only thing that we do have in this state is we have long lines of people who want to vote. And it seems to me that we should be doing everything we can to make it easier, to help these people get their votes counted. And that we should be pitching as political parties our ideas for improving things in the future, rather than mucking around in the mechanics and making it more confrontational at the voting sites and trying to suppress the vote.
Schultz added that the suppression was “just plain wrong,” adding, “It is all predicated on some belief there is a massive fraud or irregularities, something my colleagues have been hot on the trail for three years and have failed miserably at demonstrating.” The GOP-controlled Assembly has already passed a similar bill.
Ian Millhiser reports at ThinkProgress:
Debo Adegbile, who previously served as the acting head of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, is one of the nation’s top civil rights attorneys. He’s also a leading expert on voting rights who twice defended the Voting Rights Act before the Supreme Court — the first time successfully. He was, in other words, an ideal candidate to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division — the division which, among other things, oversees the federal government’s voting rights work in an era where conservative state lawmakers are currently waging a widespread campaign to prevent demographic groups that tend to vote for Democrats from casting a ballot.And yet, the Senate just voted his nomination down, thanks to seven Democrats. TheDemocrats who opposed Adegbile’s confirmation are Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mark Pryor (D-AR) and John Walsh (D-MT).
Although most of these senators have yet to offer an explanation for their votes — and the Senate offices ThinkProgress contacted shortly after the vote were not especially forthcoming — it is likely that their votes were motivated by a campaign to disqualify Adegbile because of a high profile case the NAACP LDF participated in during his time with that organization.
In 2008, a federal appeals court unanimously held — with two Reagan appointees on the panel — that procedures used during a convicted cop killer named Mumia Abu-Jamal’s death penalty hearing violated the Constitution. Specifically, the panel of predominantly Republican judges concluded that the trial judge gave the jury a confusing form that could have been read to require a death sentence unless every single juror agreed to a life sentence. The NAACP LDF filed an amicus brief on Abu-Jamal’s behalf.
At least one of the Democrats who opposed Adegbile, Sen. Casey, cited his work to overturn this unconstitutional death sentence as the reason for his opposition.
As MSNBC’s Adam Serwer points out, the Senate was not always so critical of lawyers who help bad people fight potentially unconstitutional death sentences. Indeed, as an attorney in private practice, Chief Justice John Roberts “devoted 25 pro bono hours” to representing a mass murderer recently executed in Florida.
Ian Millhiser also reports on how one of the Senators immediately proclaimed her support for voting rights:
A fundraising email sent by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) this afternoon claims that “[i]f there’s one thing we should all be able to agree on, it’s that every American deserves the right to vote. It’s one of our most basic rights – but right now it’s under attack.”
Heitkamp is correct. Indeed, one of the ways that voting rights are currently under attack is that Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) voted on Wednesday to block Debo Adegbile, the attorney who twice defended the Voting Rights Act in the Supreme Court, from being confirmed to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
The vote wrapped up shortly after noon today. A copy of Heitkamp’s email obtained by ThinkProgress is timestamped “Wed, Mar 5, 2014 at 1:11 PM,” which means that Heitkamp waited about one hour after she opposed one of the nation’s leading voting rights advocates to send out an email trying to fundraise off of her support for legislation seeking to “restore voting rights for all Americans.” Ironically, the reason why this legislation is necessary is because five conservative justices rejected Mr. Adegbile’s arguments seeking to preserve a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.
A screenshot of Heitkamp’s email is [at the link - LG].
Although the email does not contain an explicit fundraising ask, people who sign the “petition” touted in Heitkamp’s email are directed to an ActBlue page fundraising for Heitkamp, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE). Coons, like Heitkamp, also opposed Adegbile’s nomination.
It should be noted that Heitkamp’s likely did not oppose Adegbile because of his advocacy on behalf of voting rights. Rather, the primary reason offered by senators who opposed this nomination is that Adegbile played a role in convincing a unanimous panel of federal appeals court judges to strike down an unconstitutional death sentence.
I am certain that the man described in this post believes firmly that he is fair, and sees the policies he espouses as being fair. That’s another example where one would love for him to write exactly the specific criteria that define a policy or action as being “fair.”
I confess that I found some of his reasoning surprisingly immature—for example, his pointing out that he never actually used the word “shot,” as though that somehow mattered. Swallow a camel, strain at a gnat.
The GOP truly does not want democracy or a government that responds to the will of the governed. It is stunningly explicit in their actions—and often in their words as well. Josh Israel reports at ThinkProgress:
On a party-line vote, a Florida county’s Republican majority Board of County Commissioners voted Tuesday to eliminate almost one-third of Manatee County’s voting sites. The board accepted a proposal by Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett (R) by a 6-1 vote to trim the number of precincts, despite unanimous public testimony against the move — and complaints by the lone Democratic Commissioner that it would eliminate half of the polling places in his heavily minority District 2.
Bennett, in his first term as elections supervisor, proposed reducing the number of Manatee County precincts from 99 to 69. Citing decreased Election Day turnout, as more voters switch to in-person early voting and vote-by-mail options, he told the commissioners that the move would save money and allow the county to offer more early voting sites in the future.
In the public comment section of the meeting, all ten speeches strongly opposed the move. Representatives of the local NAACP and Southern Christian Leadership Council warned that the cuts would decrease voter turnout because voters would have to travel further to a polling place, especially among the elderly and people without cars, and noted that the cuts disproportionately affected minority-heavy precincts. Bennett dismissed these concerns, noting that because District 2 had received “preferential treatment in the past,” even with the changes, his district will have the smallest number of voters per precinct. “It was overbalanced before, it’s overbalanced now.” Bennett also repeatedly noted that he had discussed the move with civil rights groups and both the Republican and “Democrat” Parties.
Bennett assured the commission that if lines are longer in 2014 as a result of these changes, he would ask them to revisit the decision in 2015, before the 2016 elections. But it is unclear whether voter accessibility is a sincere priority for him. In 2011, while serving in the Florida Senate, he endorsed making it hard to vote: “I wouldn’t have any problem making it harder. I would want them to vote as badly as I want to vote. I want the people of the state of Florida to want to vote as bad as that person in Africa who’s willing to walk 200 miles…This should not be easy.” He made that comment as he supported a voter suppression bill that reduced the number of days for early voting in Florida and helped create long lines across the state.
I think the GOP is directly opposed to traditional American values of respecting the will of the governed and is on a course toward vesting control of the government to a very few, with the mass of Americans simply subject to the rule of this small minority.
If we could move to publicly financed political campaigns, so that members of Congress are not required to spend 5 hours of each day in fund-raising for the next campaign, we might get a government that works better, in part because the tilt toward following the orders of big donors would be rectified.
And I would think sensible members of Congress would agree: who wants to spend 5 hours every day begging for money? Let’s free them from that burdensome task and let them focus on governing, without having to consider how their decisions will affect the inflow of funds, simply on how it affects their constituents.
Elias Isquith writes in Salon:
“Mitt,” Netflix’s recently released documentary chronicling the two failed presidential campaigns of Willard Mitt Romney, has, on the whole, been rather well-received. And not just by the New York Post’s reliably wingnutty film critic, Kyle Smith. Business Insider’s Brett LoGiurato called it “fantastic,” Sahil Kapur of Talking Points Memo described it as a “fascinatingly personal” portrait, Time’s James Poniewozik said it was “interesting” and “humanly sympathetic.”
Not everyone believes that the film succeeds in giving viewers a behind-the-scenes look at two presidential campaigns — but most seem to have found it, at the very least, a humanizing depiction of a seemingly decent man. A few have even gone so far as to argue that “Mitt,” had it been released during the 2012 campaign, could’ve helped Romney shed his image as a robotic plutocrat. Maybe it could’ve even helped him win the election. (Vanishingly unlikely, if one believes in political science; but at this point, it feels somewhat churlish to point that out.)
Even if the man in “Mitt” is not so charming and sympathetic a figure as to counterbalance the woeful policies on which he ran, there is the lingering question of why there is such a great distance between Candidate Romney and Mitt Romney. How could the same guy who at one point in the film acknowledges the immense privilege he was born into repeatedly insist, on the campaign trail, that he was a self-made man, a testament to the American meritocracy? How could the guy who infamously sneered that roughly half of the country were irresponsible, entitled, greedy moochers seem, in another context, to be kind, thoughtful, polite and fundamentally well-meaning?
Sure, people are complicated; and yes, the intensity of the politico-media complex often renders us incapable of seeing the men and women on the other side as fully formed human beings until well after the final ballot is counted. That’s all true. But I think there’s another explanation, one that has more to do with power and economics than ideology and partisanship.
To explain, allow me to turn for a moment to another one of January’s most talked-about happenings in the political world: The debut (to a wider audience, at least) of Thomas Perkins, an octogenarian venture capitalist and multimillionaire.
Last Saturday, Perkins kicked off a full week’s worth of outrage, befuddlement and frustration when the Wall Street Journal published a letter to the editor he had written in which he compared liberal America to Nazi Germany, and the wealthiest 1 percent to the Third Reich’s Jews. Making matters worse, Perkins subsequently appeared on Bloomberg TV, ostensibly to apologize, but in truth to argue that while his warnings of a looming “progressive Kristallnacht” were hyperbolic, his fundamental point — that the nation’s economic 1 percent was demonized and oppressed — held true. (The impetus for all of this, for what it’s worth, was the fact that some people had made fun of his multi-millionaire ex-wife’s oversize hedges.)
While Perkins’ ahistorical and narcissistic ramblings were roundly mocked, they also inspired greater interest in discovering whether or not his fellow members of the 1 percent felt the same way he did. As it turns out, many, if not most, of them do. Bloomberg Businessweek’s Joshua Green explained how in the Obama years, “a class of financiers whose wealth shields them from the effects of practically any government policy has come to develop … a powerful persecution complex.”
Politico’s Ben White took it further, reporting on how the 1 percent is seized with a consuming anxiety in response to the public’s new focus on income and wealth inequality. As one psychologist who works mainly with the hyper-rich told White, the disruption of Occupy Wall Street and the resurgence of (a mild) class-consciousness in American politics has created “a worry among our clients that they are being judged and people are making assumptions about who they are based on their wealth.” . . .
Continue reading. The good stuff is later in the article.
The GOP is openly determined that it will do everything in its power to prevent Democrat-leaning voters from being able to vote, presumably because the GOP knows that its own policies (such as they are: “defund Obamacare” is not much of a policy) are increasingly unpopular, so it becomes increasingly important that more and more people not be allowed to vote. And they are working hard on it, as Aviva Shen reports at ThinkProgress:
A new conservative super PAC hopes to proliferate more voter suppression laws by pouring money into secretary of state races. The group, SOS for SoS, is looking to spend $10 million in nine states in support of candidates who will champion “smart voting,” such as restrictive voter ID laws, voter purges, and proof of citizenship requirements. Secretaries of state set elections procedures and can determine mundane but crucial aspects like voting hours, provisional ballot rules, and recounts.
The announcement, per Politico, comes days after a judge overturned Pennsylvania’s hotly contested voter ID law because it could disenfranchise 750,000 voters. A Democratic counterpart, SoS for Democracy, launched in December to promote secretary of state candidates who are against voter suppression measures. Currently, 29 secretaries of stateare Republican, while 21 are Democrat.
State secretaries have been instrumental in the voting rights war. Some, like Secretaries of State Kris Kobach (R-KS), Jon Husted (R-OH), Ken Detzner (R-FL), and Scott Gessler (R-CO), gained notoriety in the 2012 election for their persistent efforts to restrict early voting hours, purge voter rolls, throw out legitimate votes, and limit registration.
As demographics turn against Republicans’ favor, voter suppression efforts are expected to ramp up even more. A recent study found that states with higher minority turnout are more likely to try to pass voter suppression laws.
Working hard to prevent people from voting is about as undemocratic as one can get. It’s a sign of a corrupt country, which the US, unfortunately, is becoming.
Jeffrey Toobin has a related article in the New Yorker:
The world’s greatest democracy is not so great at running elections, as we all saw in 2012. There were, among other things, long lines at polling places, botched registrations, and mysterious rules on absentee ballots. As President Obama declared victory on election night, he wanted to do something about these problems. He appointed a (very) bipartisan commission, chaired by two self-described “partisan hacks”: Robert Bauer (Obama’s personal lawyer and his one-time White House counsel) and Benjamin Ginsberg (the national counsel to the Romney campaign and many other Republican causes). Wednesday, after six months of work, the “lines commission,” as it’s known, released a hundred-page report. Notwithstanding the strong party affiliations of its leaders, the group was unanimous in its recommendations.
Its an unexpectedly bold document, especially in light of the strong partisan differences over voting these days. Every since the Republican landslides of 2010, states have been tightening the requirements to vote, and Democrats have cried voter suppression. The commission avoids the especially controversial issues of photo-identification requirements and the future of the Voting Rights Act, but it strikes out in a clear pro-voting direction. The key recommendations come in four areas:
• More early voting. More mail and Internet voting would take care of the biggest problem in 2012, long lines. This is a clear embrace of a Democratic priority.
• Easier voter registration, including online. Again, this is a top Democratic priority, though the commission also gives a nod to technologies that compare databases and allow purges of ineligible voters, which have been a Republican cause.
• Improved voting technology. After the 2000 fiasco in Florida, the federal government subsidized the purchase of many new voting machines, but these are now approaching the end of their useful lives. The commission recommends ending the hegemony of the specialized voting machine and allowing voters to use their own computers to print out their ballots at home, like they do with boarding passes. With the right security in place, this makes all the sense in the world.
• The legacy of Newtown. The commission learned, surprisingly, that in the wake of school massacres, many schools are determined to keep strangers off the premises at all times—and that includes voters. Schools represent about twenty per cent of all polling places, and the commission proposed putting even more to use, so this creates a serious problem. The report recommends “taking all the steps necessary to address these legitimate security concerns,” as well as trying to arrange days when children aren’t present—ones set aside for teacher training, for example—to coincide with elections. (Election Day is only a holiday in some states.) Again, early voting and improved technology can address these issues.
As with all federal commissions, the question arises: so what? What impact will these high-minded suggestions have in the real world? The recommendations do not require any federal legislation to be implemented. The real targets are state and local officials who run elections on the ground.
Commission members plan a roadshow to make their case, but it’s far from clear whether there will be the will, or the money, to put their suggestions into practice. Voting rules may have become partisan in recent years, and yet election officials themselves tend to be somewhat removed from the fray. That—and the self-evident logic of the proposals—give the commission members hope. . .
I’ve been puzzled by the full-court press of plainly false stories (Lara Logan and “60 Minutes”, I’m looking at you) on Benghazi pushed by conservatives such as Darrell Issa and others. Benghazi seems of major importance to them, and I couldn’t figure out why. David Kirkpatrick’s excellent (and thorough) report in the NY Times not only did not settle it for them, it led immediately to a ludicrous effort to smear Kirkpatrick based on an item from a spoof issue of his college newspaper 24 years ago, when he was a student. (That issue also included an appearance by Elvis Presley to lead a singalong (Elvis was long since dead), aliens (from other planets), and a report that the student government has absconded to Rio with student fees. (Kevin Drum blogged a good summary of the smear effort.)
I posted a comment asking why conservatives are so weirdly determined to ignore the facts on the ground, and I received an excellent answer that makes a lot of sense from pyrocantha51:
Congress demonstrates again its abysmal state of corruption. This sort of thing is what makes it difficult to be hopeful. Jeff Bryant writes a good article at Campaign for America’s Future on the opposition to stopping the scams:
The good news coming from the U.S. Department of Education recently is the effort to put tougher restrictions on for-profit scam colleges that rip off students, families and the taxpayers.
The bad news is that not all Democrats are behind this effort and pushing for the tighter restrictions.
Think Progress last week passed along a report from The Wall Street Journal that Big Ed has drafted a rewrite of regulations to rein in “for-profit schools whose students end up deep in debt or default on their student loans at exceptionally high rates.”
The colleges that would be most heavily affected include the University of Phoenix (owned by Apollo Education Group), Kaplan Higher Education, Devry Inc., The Art Institute (owned by Education Management Corporation), and Corinthian Colleges, among others.
The guidelines provide the teeth for what is referred to in wonk-speak as a “gainful employment” plan. The new regulations could go into effect as early as 2015 and could cause, according to the WSJ report, “as many as 20 percent of programs at for-profit colleges” to lose revenue. Public and nonprofit colleges four-year colleges would be exempted.
Writers at Think Progress provided some useful backstory:
“For-profit schools have come under scrutiny for burdening students with debt without giving them degrees or skills that help them get jobs to pay them off. Many for-profit schools and community colleges have higher rates of students defaulting on their loans than who actually graduate. More than three-quarters of the students at for-profit collegesfail to earn a degree within six years.”
Further, low-income students are particularly vulnerable to the predatory nature of these for-profit schools, because these students “attend for-profit colleges at a rate four times higherthan other students.”
Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are also at risk of being scammed by the for-profit higher ed sector.
As Mother Jones reported back in 2011, “at 8 of the 10 for-profits that take in the most GI Bill cash, more than half of students drop out within a year of matriculation. Many students find that prospective employers and graduate schools won’t take their coursework seriously,” and “some for-profits have cleaned out students’ military benefits while also signing them up for thousands of dollars in loans without their knowledge.”
But, back to The Wall Street Journal report, “for-profit schools say they are being unfairly targeted, given that some of the highest student-debt burdens fall on those who attend public and nonprofit graduate schools, such as law and medical school. They say they serve many students – such as single mothers and many low-income students who don’t live near a community college – who otherwise would have few, if any, options for attending postsecondary schools.”
Whichever side you take in this debate, clearly big money is involved. According to report filed by David Halperin, when he wrote for the Republic Report, the for-profit higher education industry generates a $35 billion annual revenue, of which the vast majority – “about $32 billion” – comes from federal financial aid. . .
Continue reading. In other words, the for-profit colleges, like charter schools, are another mechanism for private companies to scoop up money from the public till. The key paragraph:
As the intrepid Lee Fang again reported, this time in The Nation, “a small group of House Democrats, led by Representatives Rob Andrews of New Jersey and Alcee Hastings of Florida, are organizing an effort within the caucus to protect the for-profit career college industry from any meaningful regulation.
“The two congressmen are among the largest recipients of campaign cash from the industry.Campaign finance data compiled by TheNation.com show Hastings has received $54,500, and Andrews $78,547, from for-profit college executives and political committees.”
Andrews and Hastings circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter asking, according to Fang, “other House Democrats to sign a document asking the administration to back down.”
The amount of money donated to the Representatives is pocket change to the industry, but it was certainly enough to buy the two Representatives. So long as our Representatives and Senators are, in effect, up on eBay, so long will our government continue to be at the beck and call of the wealthy.
We desperately need public financing of campaigns, with no private money involved. That would put an end to the
bribes campaign donations.
David Weigel has a good piece at Slate:
The headline from Fox News is chilling, especially at this moment when most Americans regret putting Barack Obama back in the Oval Office. “Non-citizens caught voting in 2012 presidential election in key swing state,” reports Eric Shawn. What are the gruesome details?
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted announced Wednesday that his office found 17 non-citizens illegally cast ballots in the 2012 presidential election — and has referred the case for possible prosecution… Husted also found that 274 non-citizens remain on the voting rolls. President Obama beat Mitt Romney in Ohio by just 2 percentage points in November 2012.
Did you catch that, how Shawn pivoted from the number of total votes to the percentage of votes? Why would he do that? Without reading his mind, I’d guess it’s because the actual Ohio margin between Obama and Romney last year was 166,272 votes, and Shawn wants to keep his readers as ignorant as possible. Seventeen votes represents 0.0003 percent of the total of ballots cast for either Obama or Romney in the state, and 0.01 percent of the margin.
Reporters who are brighter and less dishonest than Shawn have come away from the Husted data with a different take. There was, according to Husted, no plot to steal votes or fake votes in the 2012 election. The noncitizens who voted had driver’s licenses, so basic voter ID laws wouldn’t have stopped them. That’s not surprising, given that Husted’s last update in the voter fraud investigation, in May, revealed a total of 135 possible fraud cases.
It’s been a bad week for investigations like these. In Iowa, Jason Noble reported that a two-year fraud investigation had come up with 16 cases worth looking into. That was proportionately lower than Husted’s original finding in Ohio, and both investigations found many, many fewer suspicious ballots than there are ballots spoiled for some reason in any election. One count of Ohio’s ballots in 2004 found that 239,127 were spoiled somehow—missing chads, errant ink marks, etc.
The situation’s improved since then, but there remain many, many more votes lost because of flawed ballots or attritition from long lines than votes canceled out out by the confirmed ballot of a noncitizen. And a great deal of legal work has come up dry in the hunt for the mythical “buses of illegal voters” being spirited in from cities or campuses to stuff the polls.
But if you just read Fox, you’ve learned that the voter fraud problem is very real.
The point of voter ID laws is not, of course, to catch vote fraud—what vote fraud there is (and there’s almost none) is more easily done through mail-in ballots, not showing up physically at the polling place. The point of voter ID laws is to prevent likely Democratic voters from being able to vote.
Elias Isquith has a very interesting column in Salon. From that column:
. . . While most people at least intuitively understand that big-time political campaigns are financed largely by the very wealthy, Ferguson and his co-authors’ paper reveals the degree to which these national operations are funded by a vanishingly small number of people. “We really are dealing with a system that is of by and for the one percent — or the one-and-a-half percent,” Ferguson told Salon in a recent interview. And the numbers bear him out. Assuming that contributions over $500 come largely from the one percent, the paper finds that no less than 59 percent of Obama’s funding, and 79 percent of Romney’s, emanates from that small sliver of society. This contrasts rather jarringly with the popular image of the 2012 campaign as one pitting Obama’s middle-class constituency against Romney’s plutocratic backers. It was more of a plutocrat vs. plutocrat affair.
Even on that score, however, the lines of demarcation are fuzzy at best. It’s undeniable that Romney was more popular among big business than Obama, but the differences between the two were smaller than you’d imagine. In fact, the authors “suspect” that “the president probably enjoyed substantially higher levels of support within big business than most other modern Democratic presidential candidates, even those running for reelection.” Obama got walloped when it comes to what you could call Koch brother industries — oil, gas, plastics, etc. — but he did OK with Wall Street and, especially, the telecom and tech industries.
It’s that last point — Obama’s popularity among the industries that make up the surveillance state — that forms the most surprising and relevant takeaway of the paper. In the wake of the ongoing revelations from Edward Snowden of a national security state-turned-surveillance behemoth, the level of financial support the president enjoys from the industries working with the government to spy on Americans starts to make sense. But to compare this synchronicity to Obama’s 2008 campaign, and its pledges to rein in and civilize the Bush-Cheney post-9/11 national security leviathan, is to risk vertigo.
The distressing conclusion to be drawn from all this is that those interested in truly curtailing the surveillance state will find few friends within the two-party system. Democrats, after all, were supposed to be the ones who were more cautious, pragmatic, and civil liberties-minded when it came to surveillance. Voicing a sentiment that’s no doubt still held by many, if not most, Ferguson told Salon that, prior to his research, he “thought there was more distance between the Democrats and the Republicans on the National Security State.” That distance, if it ever was significant, is certainly gone now. . .
John Halpin posts at ThinkProgress:
Contemporary punditry suffers from many shortcomings, but among its most egregious errors is a widespread failure to examine how political ideology shapes public opinion among whites. Contrary to what you may have been told, there is really no such thing as “white” opinion anymore.
White liberals and white conservatives hold diametrically opposed views on many topics related to the economy and government — divisions that simply do not exist among other groups. Whites may be ideologically polarized, butAfrican-Americans, Latinos, and Asians are not.
A recent CAP/PolicyLink study on attitudes about rising diversity provides clear evidence for this view. Respondents were asked to choose which of the following two statements they agree with more, presenting a clear ideological choice between a more individualistic or collective view of the economy and government. The options were either “In today’s economy, average Americans are on their own. Jobs and benefits are less secure and you can’t really count on anyone but yourself and your family to get ahead” and “In today’s economy, we all face common challenges. Jobs and benefits are less secure, so we all need to work together to make it easier for average Americans to get ahead.”
On the face of it, Americans seem divided on this essential framing of our society — 47 percent believe that people are basically on their own while 49 percent believe that we must work together on common challenges. Under the surface, however, some fascinating trends emerge. A huge divide between whites is one of the most important: while 58 percent of white liberals believe that we must work together on common challenges, 59 percent of white conservatives said that people are basically on their own (overall, 36 percent of white respondents self-identified as ‘liberal’ and 50 percent of whites as ‘conservative’).
By contrast, majorities of African-Americans and Latinos -– regardless of ideological self-identification -– hold a more collective understanding of the economy. 73 percent of African-American liberals and 60 percent of African-American conservatives believe that we must work together on common economic challenges (46 percent of African-Americas self-identify as ‘liberal’ and 38 percent as ‘conservative’). Fifty-six percent of Latino liberals and 53 percent of Latino conservatives believe similarly (45 percent of Latinos self-identify as ‘liberal’ and 43 percent as ‘conservative’). Asian responses on this particular question more closely resemble those of whites than other people of color.
These same ideological patterns emerge on beliefs about reducing racial and ethnic inequality. In a separate test, we asked respondents to choose between two competing ideas about the connection between inequality and growth: “Government policies and investments that reduce racial and ethnic inequality would help us grow faster” and “Government policies and investments to reduce racial and ethnic inequality would not work and would just interfere with economic growth.”
By a 50 to 43 percent margin, Americans overall agree that government policies to reduce racial and ethnic inequality would help with economic growth. Nearly 7 in 10 white liberals (69 percent) take the majority position, but more than 6 in 10 white conservatives (63 percent) disagree. By contrast, significant majorities of African-Americans, Latinos, and Asians believe that government investments to reduce racial and ethnic inequality would be beneficial to growth — again, regardless of whether they identify as ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’. This pattern is repeated on other questions as well.
Although these new results should be replicated by additional studies, the conclusions are nonetheless striking. White liberals think far more like the bulk of African-Americans, Latinos and Asians than white conservatives on the country’s biggest ideological questions. That’s particularly true on diversity questions: . . .
Continue reading. The graph that follows in the text at the link is quite interesting.
Extremely interesting datapoint: A Louisiana Republican backing Obamacare defeats his rival who ran against Obamacare
Josh Israel writes at ThinkProgress:
Louisiana voters elected Republican Vance McAllister in a runoff to fill the state’s vacant Fifth District U.S. House seat on Saturday. McAllister, a businessman who embraced the expansion of Medicaid available to the state under the Affordable Care Act, defeated a Republican party favorite who called for full Obamacare repeal.
In a district won by Mitt Romney with 61 percent of the vote in 2012, two Republicans were the top vote-getters in a 14-candidate October primary. McAllister, who received nearly 60 percent of the vote in Saturday’s special election, criticized much of the Affordable Care Act, but also criticized Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R) decision to dismantle charity hospitals in the state, and to reject its Medicaid expansion, which would expand the qualifications for Medicaid recipients and extend healthcare coverage to hundreds of thousands of uninsured Louisianans. “Our governor and Sen. Riser right here have gutted [heath care] to the core and privatized it.”
McAllister’s top opponent, State Senator Neil Riser (R), received support from House Republican Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), three of the four other Louisiana Republican Congressmen, the National Rifle Association, FreedomWorks and, more tacitly, Gov. Jindal. Riser ran ads saying that he would go to Washington to balance the budget and stop Obamacare — not make friends — andslammed McAllister for ” attempting to redefine himself and stand with President Obama.”
According to President Obama, 265,000 Lousianans would benefit from the Medicaid expansion. According to Jindal’s own Department of Health and Hospitals, the billions of dollars in federal payments available to the state would allow about 272,000 of the roughly 633,000 uninsured adults in the state to get subsidized health insurance on the exchange. But citing potential future costs, Jindal has rejected the expansion, saying “We will not allow President Obama to bully Louisiana into accepting an expansion of Obamacare.”
The essence of fairness is reciprocity: the same rules apply to either side. The GOP either does not grasp this or simply is uninterested in fairness. For example, I blogged earlier about how GOP Senators who strongly condemned filibustering a judicial nomination now are filibustering judicial nominations, the difference being simply that the shoe is on the other foot. But take a look at the rule they laid down earlier, from a post by Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress. All of these plan to vote in favor of a filibuster of judicial nominees:
- Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA): “Every judge nominated by this president or any president deserves an up-or-down vote. It’s the responsibility of the Senate. The Constitution requires it.”
- Tom Coburn (R-OK): “If you look at the Constitution, it says the president is to nominate these people, and the Senate is to advise and consent. That means you got to have a vote if they come out of committee. And that happened for 200 years.”
- John Cornyn (R-TX): “We have a Democratic leader defeated, in part, as I said, because I believe he was identified with this obstructionist practice, this unconstitutional use of the filibuster to deny the president his judicial nominations.
- Mike Crapo (R-ID): “Until this Congress, not one of the President’s nominees has been successfully filibustered in the Senate of the United States because of the understanding of the fact that the Constitution gives the President the right to a vote.”
- Lindsey Graham (R-SC): “I think filibustering judges will destroy the judiciary over time. I think it’s unconstitutional”
- Chuck Grassley (R-IA): “It would be a real constitutional crisis if we up the confirmation of judges from 51 to 60, and that’s essentially what we’d be doing if the Democrats were going to filibuster.”
- Mitch McConnell (R-KY): “The Constitution of the United States is at stake. Article II, Section 2 clearly provides that the President, and the President alone, nominates judges. The Senate is empowered to give advice and consent. But my Democratic colleagues want to change the rules. They want to reinterpret the Constitution to require a supermajority for confirmation.”
- Jeff Sessions (R- AL): “[The Constitution] says the Senate shall advise and consent on treaties by a two-thirds vote, and simply ‘shall advise and consent’ on nominations…. I think there is no doubt the Founders understood that to mean … confirmation of a judicial nomination requires only a simple majority vote.”
- Richard Shelby (R-AL): “Why not allow the President to do his job of selecting judicial nominees and let us do our job in confirming or denying them? Principles of fairness call for it and the Constitution requires it.”
- John Thune (SD): Filibustering judicial nominees “is contrary to our Constitution …. It was the Founders’ intention that the Senate dispose of them with a simple majority vote.”
All of these statements were made when George W. Bush was president. But that should not matter because, as Sen. Cornyn said at the time, “we need to treat all nominees exactly the same, regardless of whether they’re nominated by a Democrat or a Republican president.”
This fails the basic test of fairness, a virtue considerably less important to the conservative mind than, for example, loyalty (the virtue that leads a military officer to protect a rapist under his command). And the GOP attitude toward fairness—i.e., toward not changing one’s position based on the political party involved, is also evident in campaign contributions. Josh Israel notes at ThinkProgress:
Tuesday, as he conceded defeat in the Virginia governor’s race, Ken Cuccinelli II (R) told supporters that he had come closer than polls had indicated “despite being outspent by an unprecedented $15 million.” But while he and his conservative supporters now lament that money cost them the victory they felt they deserved, they have long been the defenders of the system of campaign finance non-regulation in Virginia and nationally.
Conservative groups like the Center for Competitive Politics have long argued that “money doesn’t buy elections.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R), whose own political action committee gave $5,000 to Cuccinelli’s campaign, has for years advocated for an end to limits on campaign contributions, believing “money is speech.” While the 2010 Citizens Unitedruling weakened federal contribution limits, Virginia has long been one of a handful of stateswith no limits whatsoever. The only restriction Cuccinelli supported over his time in the state senate was on contributions from foreign nationals.
Because of the Old Dominion’s anything goes system, candidates can accept millions of dollars from any individual or corporation seeking to ensure their victory. While Governor-Elect Terry McAuliffe raised over $32 million, Cuccinelli himself reported at least $19 million in donations — including hundreds of thousands from fossil fuel companies who preferred a climate-change denier to a candidate focused on green energy.
Leading up to the election, the Cuccinelli campaign repeatedly highlighted the money gap, attacking McAuliffe for as being “bought and paid for,” “exclusively driven by big money,” and “willing to sell his out Virginia families to the highest bidder.” When McAuliffe embraced campaign finance reform in an April interview, agreeing that “there’s just way too much money in politics,” Cuccinelli’s campaign pooh-poohed the idea as “hypocrisy.” “McAuliffe complaining about money in politics is the equivalent of Bobby Knight criticizing cursing among college basketball coaches,” they answered.
In campaign post-mortems, conservatives from Linda Chavez to Ralph Reedboth echoed the candidate’s concession and blamed Cuccinelli’s loss on money. Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots,lamented that the pro-corporate U.S. Chamber of Commerce went from making seven-figure investments in the 2009 campaign for Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) but spent nothing on Cuccinelli. “Just think what would have happened if the business and donor classes of the Republican Party would have helped.” Ben Domenech blamed the “donor class” as “sore losers” who threw a “temper tantrum” by not opening up their wallets for a more conservative nominee.
As Zack Beauchamp noted Thursday, Cuccinelli got “killed in the fundraising race,” in large part because business leaders did not care for his anti-corporatist stances against a tax increase to increase transportation funding and corporate welfare. Cuccinelli embraced anti-government populist ideas — as well as socially conservative ones — but not the priorities of some business interests. Had Cuccinelli embraced their agenda, as McDonnell did in 2009, others in the business community might well have supported him as enthusiastically as the energy sector did.
In an October press release called “Big Money,” the Cuccinelli campaign highlighted a fundraising appeal, sent by the chairman of the University of Virginia Council of Foundations to a hedge fund manager, explaining that he hoped to enlist a large number of UVA alums to support McAuliffe. “The more influential names we have associated with our shared voice the more likely we are going to have the future Governor’s ear,” he wrote.
Therein lies the problem. If money really is the determining factor in who wins elections, candidates who agree with powerful moneyed interests like the Chamber will always have the upper hand over those who do not. And as Virginia saw with McDonnell’s Star Scientific scandal, those wealthy benefactors will be the ones with the freest access to the politicians they bankroll. And if states are the laboratories of democracy, as the late Justice Louis Brandeis suggested, the experiment of unlimited money in Virginia might be a warning sign to conservatives nationally that “anything goes” campaign finance laws may not always work out in their favor.
There’s a lot to be said for drawing up rules that apply to a situation without knowing on which side you’ll be: the rules then are apt to be more fair. In this case, the GOP loved a rule that allowed them to spend any amount of money they wanted on a campaign until they encountered a campaign in which they were heavily outspent, and now they don’t like the rule. Well, then perhaps the rule should be redrawn to limit campaign spending for all parties—and public financing of elections is the way to go.
Fascinating story by Kim Barker for ProPublica:
In a sharply worded ruling, a federal judge in Montana said Tuesday that documents found inside a Colorado meth house pointing to possible election law violations will not be returned to the couple claiming the papers were stolen from one of theircars.
Instead, the thousands of pages will remain where they are — with a federal grand jury in Montana, investigating the dark money group American Tradition Partnership, once known as Western Tradition Partnership, or WTP.
The documents, detailed last fall in aFrontline documentary and ProPublica coverage, point to possible illegal coordination between candidates and WTP, which since 2008 has worked to replace moderate Republicans with more conservative candidates in both Montana and Colorado. The documents, including a folder labeled “Montana $ Bomb,” provided the first real glimpse inside a dark money group. Such so-called social welfare nonprofits, which have poured more than $350 million into federal election ads in recent years, don’t have to disclose their donors.
Conservative political consultant Christian LeFer, a former WTP official, and his wife, Allison LeFer, who helped run the couple’s printing shop, sued Montana’s former Commissioner of Political Practices Jim Murry and the state of Montana to recover the documents.
On Tuesday, the LeFers lost in almost every way possible. They didn’t get their documents. They didn’t get any money; instead, they’ll have to pay Murry’s fees, which haven’t yet been totaled. They won’t be able to file their complaint against Murry ever again.
And on every page of his ruling, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy seemed to somehow insult them.
At one point in his 34-page ruling, Molloy referred to “the procedural morass caused by the LeFers’ posturing.” Since last fall, the LeFers have filed at least five separate complaints in different courts, sometimes with factual errors.
Although WTP operated at the state level, . . .
They simply don’t want Democrats to vote because their sole interest is winning, not governing. Kevin Drum explains in detail.
Interesting report by Anita Kumar at McClatchy:
There’s the vice president of global licensing and retail at the television network HBO, the senior managing partner for a consulting firm based in Chicago and a Miami trial attorney who makes a living suing insurance companies.
Each raised more than a half million dollars for President Barack Obama’s political campaigns. In turn, Obama tapped each to be an ambassador, one of the most coveted posts an occupant of the Oval Office can offer.
Obama has nominated a number of major donors to plum diplomatic posts, from Spain to the Dominican Republic, Australia to Singapore. While the practice is anything but rare for U.S. presidents in modern history, Obama has nominated more donors, friends and supporters – nearly double – than his predecessors since the start of his second term.
Of the 41 ambassadors selected since the beginning of the year, 23 – or 56 percent – are political appointees with little or no diplomatic experience, according to the American Foreign Service Association, which keeps a tally. Nine helped collect more than $500,000 for Obama’s campaigns, though it could be much more because certain campaign finance reports list only the range of the donations.
Just last week, Obama nominated former first daughter Caroline Kennedy, whose influential endorsement helped him secure the Democratic nomination over Hillary Clinton in 2008, as ambassador to Japan.
“It’s long been a practice,” said Meredith McGehee, policy director for the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan organization that studies campaign contributions. “It’s a process that reinforces the notion in American politics that you can buy your way to the most powerful man in the world.”
But Obama’s actions stand out because he promised to be different.
As a candidate, he pledged to decrease the influence of money in politics and push for a series of changes – from eliminating donations from corporations to his inaugural festivities, to fighting a court decision that allows unlimited corporate donations “We’re going to change how Washington works,” he often said.
Many of his promises went unfulfilled, either because he did not lobby for them or changed his mind about supporting them, government watchdog groups say. His ambassadorial picks indicate that – in yet another way – he’s engaged in business as usual, the same quadrennial tradition as his predecessors.
But the White House says . . .
Obama: Don’t trust a word he says, watch what he does.
This country desperately needs publicly financed election campaigns, with private funds not allowed once the candidate is on the ballot (primary or general).
The American Prospect has a very interesting article on the Moral Monday protest against the draconian and repressive actions of the North Carolina legislature. One interesting point:
By the end of session, only 20 percent of North Carolinians approved of the legislature’s performance. The GOP’s marquee legislation—including its assaults on voting rights, reproductive rights, and unemployment benefits—was broadly unpopular. Governor McCrory’s approval ratings, as he signed one extreme bill into law after another, fell by 15 percent in just the last month.
It looks as though the next few elections in North Carolina will be quite interesting.
The article is particularly valuable in providing a context and historical background for the Moral Monday movement—as as noted in the article, It’s “a movement, not a moment.”
It makes me feel more hopeful: egregious overreach may be punished at the polls.
Jaime Fuller writes in The American Prospect about a very interesting initiative:
Susannah Shakow’s first impression of high-school junior Tristana Giunta was that she was awkward. “Like, couldn’t-look-you-in-the-eye kind of awkward,” Shakow says. Giunta was attending the first annual Young Women’s Political Leadership conference in Washington, D.C.—the flagship program offered by Running Start, which Shakow, a lawyer with experience pushing women into politics, started to get girls excited about governing; excited enough to run for office.
The Young Women’s Political Leadership conference is a boot-camp where high-school women learn the ingredients that make a great politician. They take Networking 101, Fundraising 101, and Public Speaking 101. They get first-hand knowledge of how Washington works from women who have been playing the game for ages. Girls learn there are dozens of people their age just as ambitious and as hungry to run for office as they are.
Despite her shy demeanor, Giunta soaked up an impressive amount of campaign know-how that weekend in D.C. She wrote Shakow a letter after leaving, saying she attended the conference because she wanted to run Young Democrats of America (YDA) at her high school, Holton-Arms in Bethesda, Maryland. “I don’t know if you remember,” Giunta wrote, “but in high school, if you’re not popular, of course you never run for anything.” Today, Giunta, who graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown University with a degree in Government and a minor in Environmental Studies this spring, still remembers what an uphill battle running for president of the YDA was. “Some of the things that went on would make the movie Mean Girls look like nursery school,” she says. “I was not popular. I did not fit in socially. I did not do a sport … I did not have a large group of friends to support me. But I wanted so badly to win the election.” The following year, she ran a campaign for the position, and she won. Looking back, Giunta says, “I was the most active president and the club membership grew like never before—all because Running Start helped me to realize I could do it. I could take the risk and somehow it all worked out.”
Shakow filed it away as one of Running Start’s first successes, but the story gets better—she later spoke to a girl who also attended Holton Arms, and asked if she knew Tristana. The girl’s face fell. “Yeah.” Shakow was surprised by the strong reaction, and pressed for more details. “Oh, nothing,” she said. “It’s just I ran against her for YDA president and she cheated. She put up posters, and she had a table, and she had buttons and stuff.” Shakow, retelling the story in Running Start’s office in downtown Washington, D.C. is laughing at this point. “I was like, ‘honey, she didn’t cheat. You just lost.’”
Running Start has only grown more ambitious in the seven years since that first conference. . . .
I guess gutting the Voting Rights act worked, at least from the point of view of the GOP, which is unable to win elections if everyone votes—they have to rely on keeping Democrats from voting, and to the GOP mind, this seems perfectly reasonable and ethical. Scott Keyes reports in ThinkProgress:
Voting in North Carolina may soon change, much in the same way a wrecking ball changes a building.
The highly-conservative North Carolina legislature just released a new voter suppression bill that would enact not just voter ID, but a host of other new initiatives designed to make it more difficult to vote. A significant roadblock to the legislation was removed last month when the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, making it easier for states with a history of racial discrimination like North Carolina to enact new voter suppression laws.
- Implementing a strict voter ID requirement that bars citizens who don’t have a proper photo ID from casting a ballot.
- Eliminating same-day voter registration, which allowed residents to register at the polls.
- Cutting early voting by a full week.
- Increasing the influence of money in elections by raising the maximum campaign contribution to $5,000 and increasing the limit every two years.
- Making it easier for voter suppression groups like True The Vote to challenge any voterwho they think may be ineligible by requiring that challengers simply be registered in the same county, rather than precinct, of those they challenge.
- Vastly increasing the number of “poll observers” and increasing what they’re permitted to do. In 2012, ThinkProgress caught the Romney campaign training such poll observers using highly misleading information.
- Only permitting citizens to vote in their specific precinct, rather than casting a ballot in any nearby ward or election district. This can lead to widespread confusion, particularly in urban areas where many precincts can often be housed in the same building.
- Barring young adults from pre-registering as 16- and 17-year-olds, which is permitted by current law, and repealing a state directive that high schools conduct voter registration drives in order to boost turnout among young voters.
- Prohibiting paid voter registration drives, which tend to register poor and minority citizens.
- Dismantling three state public financing programs, including the landmark program that funded judicial elections.
- Weakening disclosure requirements for outside spending groups.
- Preventing counties from extending polling hours in the event of long lines or other extraordinary circumstances and making it more difficult for them to accommodate elderly or disabled voters with satellite polling sites at nursing homes, for instance.
Each of these changes, on their own, would be a significant step away from increasing voting rights. Taken together, this is the voter suppression magnum opus. . . .