Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Ringside Seat: One Small Step for Florida

Two years after spearheading the lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act and just a few months after affirming his opposition to expanding Medicaid coverage in his state, Florida governor Rick Scott has shifted gears and indeed decided to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid. In a press conference late this afternoon, he explained his reasoning: “While the federal government is committed to pay 100 percent of the cost of new people in Medicaid, I cannot, in good conscience, deny the uninsured access to care.” This, it suffices to say, is a huge gain for the law. As a prominent opponent from one of the country’s largest states, Scott's reversal has weakened efforts to maintain a united front against implementing the Affordable Care Act. It is also a big gain for human welfare. With nearly 4 million people who lack health insurance, Florida has the second-highest rate of uninsured in the country. Part of that is because the state—under its Tea Party leadership—has become remarkably...

Should Democrats Be Afraid of Marco Rubio?

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
Ed Kilgore alerts us to this interesting Reuters story in which freshman senator Ted Cruz of Texas charges that Democrats were beating up on freshman senator Marco Rubio of Florida after the latter's State of the Union response because as a Latino Republican with such mad skillz, Rubio is a dire threat and they need to take him out now. I'll tell you what I think about that, but this also raises an interesting question about how we look at politicians on the other side and how difficult it can be to objectively assess their appeal to the public. Here's an excerpt: Sen. Ted Cruz says some of the attacks on fellow Republican Sen. Marco Rubio by Democrats are motivated by race. Cruz said today the fact that Rubio is a Republican Latino poses a threat to political adversaries. "I think Democrats and the media are afraid of Marco Rubio because he is a smart, intelligent, conservative Hispanic. And they are looking for any excuse they can to attack him, because that threatens them," Cruz...

Why 2016 is the Year of Republican Reform

Wikipedia
Bobby Jindal might say that the GOP needs to stop being the " stupid party ," and Eric Cantor might call for a new agenda that helps ordinary Americans , but the fact of the matter is that the Republican Party hasn't changed much since November, when it failed to capture the White House or make gains in Congress. So far, the Republican "reform" project has been an attempt to clothe old policies—income tax cuts, tight monetary policy, large discretionary spending cuts—in new rhetoric. Insofar that there's been a genuine attempt to rethink the GOP, it has come from the party's intellectual class. Over the last three months, Ramesh Ponnuru, David Frum, Reihan Salam, Michael Gerson, and others have attempted to provide a path out of the wilderness for the Republican Party, one that turns away from old dogmas and attempts to craft a conservatism that's responsive to today's conditions. As Ponnuru put it in a recent piece for the New York Times , today's Republicans "slavishly adhere to the...

Limbaugh Doubles Down

AP Photo/Photo Courtesy of Rush Limbaugh
AP Photo/Photo Courtesy of Rush Limbaugh L istening to the crude, discursive monologues on Rush Limbaugh’s daily three-hour radio program, which I have had occasion to do for a living, is a test of endurance for a person with minimum standards of decency. It’s a bit like being blown out of an airlock into the vacuum of space without a spacesuit. You can hold out for only so long before your lungs rupture and air bubbles perforate your brain. You lose consciousness just as your saliva starts to boil. This is by design. Since Limbaugh’s program began airing nationally 24 years ago, the goal of every episode has been to create an environment in which liberalism can’t but die. The show and its host came along at a time when the Willie Horton-ized politics favored bomb-throwing. The medium of political talk radio was just beginning its ascendance from regional media backwater to primary driver of national Republican politics. But here we are today, newly embarked upon the second half of...

Sequester Stupidity

President Obama arguing against the sequester cuts.
Next week, the "sequester," a package of severe cuts to government spending, will take effect. Although the consequences won't all be felt the first day, they will come fairly quickly, and they'll be painful. Not only to people on an individual basis—say if you're one of the thousands of government employees being furloughed, or when you're waiting in longer lines at the airport—but to the broader economy as all these effects begin to ripple outward. And so, the administration and Congress are engaging in what surely looks to most Americans like a spectacularly idiotic argument about whose fault it is. But before we start blaming both sides equally for indulging in a battle over blame, we have to be clear on who's to blame for all the blaming. The truth is that while both sides are trying to spin things their way, there's a difference in how each is talking about the sequester. President Obama's principal argument is this: The sequester is a really bad thing, so Congress needs to stop...

Why Ken Cuccinelli Might Be Virginia's Next Governor

Gage Skidmore / Flickr
Gage Skidmore / Flickr Attorney General of Virginia Ken Cuccinelli speaking at the 2012 Liberty Political Action Conference in Chantilly, Virginia. Ideology matters much less to electoral outcomes than you’d think. Yes, there are obvious examples of where it matters—see: Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, Sharon Angle, and Christine O’Donnell—but by and large, it plays a marginal role. The fundamentals of an election will do more to drive outcomes than a candidate’s ideology. Or, put another way, a double-dip recession and double-digit unemployment would have doomed Barack Obama regardless of who Republicans nominated. In that world, even Michele Bachmann could win the White House. The point of this is to frame the upcoming Virginia gubernatorial election, which—barring a third-party contender—will pit Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli against Terry McAuliffe, former chair of the Democratic National Committee. Cuccinelli has built his national brand as a hard right, Tea Party...

A Mixed Day for the Fourth Amendment

WikiMedia Commons
Yesterday, the Supreme Court decided two Fourth Amendment cases. The results were mixed. In one case, the Court protected an individual from an unreasonable search. But in another case, the Court again watered down Fourth Amendment protections in the name of the War on (Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs. The facts of the first case are relatively straightforward. The police had a warrant to search an apartment, but searched the assumed resident a mile away from the apartment after tailing him in a car for several minutes. In a 6-3 opinion written by Justice Kennedy, the Court held that the search violated the Fourth Amendment. The warrant, Kennedy persuasively reasoned, covers only the immediate vicinity of the apartment, and there were no exigent circumstances (such as an immediate flight risk or the treat of violence) that would justify the warrantless seizure of items from a person not in the vicinity of the apartment. The most interesting part of this case is the vote...

Senate Tested, Iran Approved?

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File
It’s become difficult to keep track of the all the ridiculous charges that have been thrown at Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel over the past few months, but surely one of the most absurd is the idea that the government of Iran “ endorsed ” his nomination. That this had become the latest claim to make the journey from goofy right-wing bleat to conservative political “fact” became evident during the Senate Armed Services Committee debate over Hagel’s nomination last week. Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, doing his best impersonation of what he thinks a very serious person sounds like, gravely intoned that, with Hagel’s nomination came “something that was truly extraordinary, which is the government of Iran formally and publicly praising the nomination of a defense secretary. I would suggest to you that to my knowledge, that is unprecedented to see a foreign nation like Iran publicly celebrating a nomination.” When Senator Bill Nelson responded that Cruz had “gone over the...

The No-Brainer Argument for $9 an Hour

flickr/B Unis
Raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 should be a no-brainer. Republicans say it will cause employers to shed jobs, but that’s baloney. Employers won’t outsource the jobs abroad or substitute machines for them because jobs at this low level of pay are all in the local personal-service sector (retail, restaurant, hotel, and so on), where employers pass on any small wage hikes to customers as pennies more on their bills. States that have a minimum wage closer to $9 than the current federal minimum don’t have higher rates of unemployment than do states still at the federal minimum. A mere $9 an hour translates into about $18,000 a year—still under the poverty line. When you add in the Earned Income Tax Credit and food stamps it’s possible to barely rise above poverty at this wage, but even the poverty line of about $23,000 understates the true cost of living in most areas of the country. Besides, the proposed increase would put more money into the hands of families that desperately...

The Glocks Are Falling! The Glocks Are Falling!

flickr/ Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Flickr/Alex P. Yeremenko T he gun crowd is so paranoid about the erosion of their Second Amendment rights that they make Chicken Little look like an actuary. The president’s recent gun proposals include initiatives such as expanded background checks, a ban on certain military-type rifles, and limits on the size of magazines. But if you listen to the gun folks, even these tepid proposals are—to quote a past president of the National Rifle Association—“unconstitutional schemes to gut the Second Amendment.” Iowa Senator Charles Grassley accused Obama of thinking “the Second Amendment can be tossed aside.” Any skeptical glance in the direction of that Glock on their hip is worth a Second Amendment yelp. These objections are overblown. There is little question that Obama’s current proposals would withstand constitutional review. (I was one of about 50 law professors who signed a recent letter saying just that .) The reason is that a constitutional right is not violated every time it is...

Ringside Seat: State House of Cards

Anyone familiar with state legislatures knows that the folks who move through their halls are a varied bunch. There are earnest, hard-working legislators, up-and-comers on their way to bigger and better offices, and old-school pols, among other types. There are also a not inconsiderable number of nutballs and idiots who managed to get themselves elected to offices no one pays much attention to before Election Day. To wit: A state representative in Missouri just introduced a bill making it a felony for one of his fellow legislators to introduce legislation curtailing gun rights. He says he knows it won't pass, but he just wanted to make a point. About freedom. It's easy to forget, with all the attention focused on the White House and Congress, that state legislatures are more than just the source of weird bills and rampant corruption. In fact, a huge amount of legislation profoundly affecting Americans' lives passes through them every day. One of the ways we'll be able to tell if this...

Why Liberals Make Better Political Pop Culture than Conservatives

An image from the libertarian animated film "Silver Circle"
In my ongoing quest to reach across the aisle and foster bipartisanship, I come to praise Jonah Goldberg—yes, that Jonah Goldberg, the author of Liberal Fascism and innumerable appalling columns, for what he writes in the Los Angeles Times , in which he recoils at the suggestion by some of his brethren that they need to buy a movie studio and start churning out conservative films: There's a difference between art and propaganda. Outside the art house crowd, liberal agitprop doesn't sell. Art must work with the expectations and beliefs of the audience. Even though pregnancies are commonplace on TV, you'll probably never see a hilarious episode of a sitcom in which a character has an abortion — because abortion isn't funny. The conservative desire to create a right-wing movie industry is an attempt to mimic a caricature of Hollywood. Any such effort would be a waste of money that would make the Romney campaign seem like a great investment. There's something Goldberg doesn't mention,...

An Empty Eighth Amendment Promise

Wikimedia commons
Warren Hill has an IQ below 70. Despite this, barring an unlikely intervention by the Supreme Court, he will be executed by the state of Georgia tonight. The likelihood of this outcome is a lesson in how Supreme Court decisions can't always be taken at face value. That Georgia is about to send a mentally handicapped man to the death chamber is, while dismaying, not in itself surprising. What is unusual about the case, however, is that the Supreme Court issued a ruling in 2002 that would seem to make what Georgia is about to do plainly illegal. In his opinion for the Court in Atkins v. Viriginia , Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that mentally handicapped individuals were categorically excluded from the death penalty by the cruel and unusual punishment clause of the Eighth Amendment. Given Hill's low IQ and the fact that even the state's expert witnesses have recanted their earlier testimony that he was not mentally retarded, the execution of Hill would seem to be a clear violation of...

White House Reporters versus the Obama Administration

White House reporters getting the story.
At some point in every presidency, the White House press corps begins to complain about how they're being treated. Sometimes these complaints are legitimate and necessary, the Fourth Estate demanding that the public be adequately informed of what its government is up to. At other times, it's little more than a bunch of overpaid prima donnas whining that the White House staff isn't treating them with the deference they feel they deserve and doing their jobs for them. So let's say you're one of those reporters, and your frustration has been mounting. How can you make sure everyone understands that your gripe is of the first kind and not the second? Well for starters, you might not want to rise up to express your outrage over the fact that you didn't get to watch the President play golf with Tiger Woods. But that's just what happened over the last couple of days. It seems that when Barack Obama hit the links with Woods over the weekend, White House reporters weren't allowed to follow...

Stopping Domestic Violence: A Radical Feminist Idea?

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, accompanied by fellow House Democrats, discusses the reintroduction of the Violence Against Women Act. O f all the strange choices made by the GOP in recent years, the sudden opposition to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is among the most confusing. The act had long counted on bipartisan support for its reauthorization—George W. Bush signed it without incident in 2005—but now Republicans in the House seem intent on killing it. Republicans haven’t suddenly morphed into evil comic-book villains who openly support rape and wife-beating, so what gives? Obviously, Republicans don't want voters to think they have it in for victims of gender-based violence. But the objections being offered by VAWA opponents are inconsistent or nonsensical. Some say the law represents an unconstitutional overreach and takes away state and local jurisdiction over domestic violence; in fact, the act provides federal support to local law...

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