Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Leaning Out—of This Fight

AP Photo/Keystone, Laurent Gillieron, File
I am leaning in just a little as I write this. OK, I’m not. But I am feeling a little sick as I ponder the next unpleasant installment of the “mommy wars” that’s hurtling toward us. This past Friday, The New York Times’ Jodi Kantor assembled the ingredients for yet another bitter and prolonged back-and-forth about women and work. At its center is Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead , a new book that purports to show American women the way out of our relative powerlessness. In it, Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, gives women advice on how to assume leadership roles by, among other things, understanding our strengths and reassessing how we hold our bodies in business meetings. On the other side of the ring, we have Anne Marie Slaughter , the Princeton Professor and former Obama Administration official, who with her viral “we can’t have it all” essay in The Atlantic this past summer, can serve as a foil to the first. Finally, critically, we have the media , who (myself...

Ted Cruz Is the Next Jim DeMint, Not the Next Barack Obama

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
As the old saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. That isn't to say that first impressions are necessarily immutable destiny in politics, since there are those who have bombed in their national debut and turned things around, and others who looked terrific at first but turned out to be something less. Bill Clinton gave a famously terrible speech at the 1988 Democratic convention, and Sarah Palin was dynamite in her speech at the GOP's 2008 gathering. Nevertheless, there are some things you just can't overcome, particularly if what caused them wasn't a bad night's sleep but the very core of your being. A year or two ago, if you asked Republicans to list their next generation of stars Ted Cruz's name would inevitably have come up. Young (he's only 42), Latino (his father emigrated from Cuba), smart (Princeton, Harvard Law) and articulate (he was a champion debater), he looked like someone with an unlimited future. But then he got to Washington and started...

Shorter White House on the Sequester: "It Will Destroy Everything"

Wikipedia
At this point, odds are low for a deal to avert the sequester. Republicans want an agreement to replace the planned across-the-board spending cuts—which include cuts to defense spending—with ones that target social spending and entitlements. President Obama is willing to compromise on spending cuts, but insists on new revenues. "Balanced" deficit reduction—a key part of his reelection platform—is still a priority for the administration, and it commands wide support from the public. It's unclear what happens next, but the administration is attempting to build support for its position with a new lobbying campaign, aimed at the states. Just last night, the White House released detailed descriptions of how the sequester would affect each state. If it hits, says the administration , 70,000 children would lose access to Head Start, 2,100 fewer food inspections could occur, up to 373,000 mentally ill adults and children would go untreated, and small businesses may see $900 million in reduced...

Fix the Economy, Not the Deficit

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak President Obama discuses the sequester last week surounded by emergency responders, whom the White House says could be affected if state and local governments lose federal money as a result of budget cuts. I t’s hard to be happy about the prospect of the sequester—the huge, automatics cuts to domestic spending set to take place if lawmakers can't reach a long-term budget deal—going into effect at the end of the week. Not only will it will mean substantial cuts to important programs; it will be a further drag on an already weak economy, shaving 0.6 percentage points off our growth rate. The end of the payroll tax cut, which expired on January 1, has already pushed it down to around 2.0, but the sequester cuts will depress it below the rate needed to keep pace with those entering the labor market. As a result, we are likely to see a modest increase in unemployment over the course of the year if the cuts are left in place. Of course, it could be worse. Half of...

Bringing Up Beltway at the Oscars

AP/Matt Sayles
Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP A lthough we shouldn’t stretch the point, Academy Award campaigns aren’t so entirely different from other kinds of campaigns. There are demographics and constituencies (actors are by far the academy’s largest faction), trends and backlashes, and the equivalent of caucuses and primaries that, in terms of the final outcome, range from the meaningless (the Golden Globes) to the barely meaningful (critics groups) to the incontestably significant (the guild awards). This political nature exists even when the nominees themselves have nothing to do with politics. It’s all the more apparent, then, when the movies contending for last night’s Oscars are distinguished by a political subtext so obvious even the broadcast’s producers couldn’t miss it among the “boob” songs and William Shatner beaming in from the future and Seth McFarlane’s contempt-laced humor; thus the First Lady of the United States was recruited to present the final prize. Fully two thirds of...

Ringside Seat: Prospect'd

There's nothing wrong with being a centrist, if you find that your true ideology happens to lie between where Democrats and Republicans are at this particular moment in history. There are some people who feel that way. But far more common in Washington is centrism not as a sincere expression of beliefs, but as an attitude, or even a pose. The idea that wisdom is always to be found at the precise midpoint between what Democrats and Republicans are saying is a particular Washington curse, accompanied by its pox-on-both-their-houses handmaiden, the idea that both parties are always equally guilty of whatever sins are currently being committed in politics. So when David Brooks of The New York Times wrote a column claiming that neither Democrats nor Republicans had a plan to replace the sequester and reduce the deficit, The Washington Post 's Ezra Klein, using the skills he learned as a writer for The American Prospect , decided to see if Brooks might want to have a chat about the topic...

Why Black Voters Are Critical for the GOP

New York Times
New York Times If there's a corollary to the idea that GOP reform is unnecessary, it's that further outreach is less important than advertised. A little less turnout from minorities, and a little more support from whites, and you have a President Romney. With that said, if Republicans are going to invest in new outreach, they should at least make smart decisions about it. So far, the collective opinion of the Republican Party is that it needs to win Latino votes in order to become competitive again. In the long-term, as Latinos become a growing portion of the American electorate, that's probably true. In the short-term, however, it's not clear Republicans are well-served by focusing on Hispanic voters. Remember, Latino attachment to the Democratic Party goes beyond immigration—Latino voters are more liberal than the median American, favoring greater government intervention in the economy. To win a significant portion of Latino voters, Republicans would have to moderate on core issues...

The Weak Political Case for GOP Reform

Marion Doss / Flickr
Marion Doss / Flickr In today's Washington Post , Republican scribe Michael Gerson makes yet another case for Republican reform : A Republican recovery in presidential politics will depend on two factors. First, candidates will need to do more than rebrand existing policy approaches or translate them into Spanish. Some serious rethinking is necessary, particularly on economic matters. In our Commentary essay, we raise ideas such as ending corporate welfare, breaking up the mega-banks, improving the treatment of families in the tax code, and encouraging economic mobility through education reform and improved job training. Whatever form Republican proposals eventually take, they must move beyond Reagan-era nostalgia. The more I think about it, the more I think this is wrongheaded. Obviously, there's a substantive case for Republican reform—eventually, the GOP will win the White House, and it will need a serious governing agenda. But the political case for reform is much weaker. Yes,...

Beltway Pundits Mysteriously Forget Barack Obama's Deficit Hawkery

Center for American Progress
Center for American Progress Today has seen several columns from frustrated pundits who want President Obama to "lead" Republicans to a deal on the automatic spending cuts scheduled for next month (i.e. "the sequester). The cuts, if implemented, will cause a huge slowdown in economic growth, and throw the federal government into disarray. Pace the recent column from David Brooks, the president has offered a deal on the sequester. It's a "balanced" package that achieves $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction through savings, spending cuts, and tax increases. The only obstacle is the Republican Party, which refuses to accept any new taxes. Some pundits, like National Journal 's Ron Fournier, insist GOP intransigence is the product of poor "leadership." If Obama would lead, the argument goes, Republicans would fall in line. But it's not leadership to accede to unreasonable demands, in this case, a short-term austerity package of immediate spending cuts. Imagine a child who demanded a dinner...

Ringside Seat: Gay New World

If you're a Republican these days, the agita just never seems to end. The public is blaming you for this sequester business (so unfair!), your own colleagues are giving up on fighting Obamacare, the public disagrees with you on pretty much every major issue, and to top it all off, this gay-marriage thing won't go away. It seems like such a short time ago when you could blast Democrats for wanting to let sodomites destroy this cherished institution—what with their tastefully appointed homes and desire to file taxes jointly and visit each other in the hospital—and just watch the votes roll in. But no more. Now public opinion has turned against you, former Republican presidential candidates are writing that supporting same-sex marriage is the conservative thing to do, and you have to watch ads in which Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, and Laura Bush argue in favor of it (granted, the former First Lady asked that she be taken out of the ad, but it still stings). Perhaps some succor can be taken...

Extremist Republicans Don't Want to be Attacked for Extremism

Google Images
Google Images President George W. Bush signing the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. The National Review 's Andrew Stiles is still upset with Democratic messaging on reproductive rights: Welcome to the scorched-earth phase of the Democrats’ “war on women” campaign, and the beginning of a ruthless offensive to hold their Senate majority, and possibly to retake the House, in 2014. Democrats have nearly perfected the following exercise in cynical electioneering: 1) introduce legislation; 2) title it something that appeals to the vast majority of Americans who have no interest in learning what is actually in the bill, e.g., the “Violence Against Women Act”; 3) make sure it is sufficiently noxious to the GOP that few Republicans will support it; 4) vote, and await headlines such as “[GOP Lawmaker] Votes No On Violence Against Women Act”; 5) clip and use headline in 30-second campaign ad; and 6) repeat. I'm not sure if Stiles knows this, but the Violence Against Women Act...

The Sequester Blame Game

Google
A key part of the GOP's strategy on the sequester is to blame President Obama for the fact it exists at all. One good example is House Speaker John Boehner's op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal : With the debt limit set to be hit in a matter of hours, Republicans and Democrats in Congress reluctantly accepted the president's demand for the sequester, and a revised version of the Budget Control Act was passed on a bipartisan basis. Ultimately, the super committee failed to find an agreement, despite Republicans offering a balanced mix of spending cuts and new revenue through tax reform. As a result, the president's sequester is now imminent. The big problem with this narrative is that it directly contradicts Boehner's rhetoric at the time. After the deal was crafted, in July 2011, Boehner told GOP House members that "There was nothing in this framework that violates our principles." Later, in an interview with CBS News following the House vote on the bill, he described the deal as...

Americans Really Want the GOP to Knock It Off

fakelvis / Flickr
fakelvis / Flickr If the public is unhappy with anything, it's the crisis-driven governing of the last two years. Between the debt ceiling stand-off—when House Republicans threatened to sink the economy if they didn't get spending cuts—and the recent fiscal cliff battle—where, again, Republicans threatened economic disaster if they didn't get spending cuts—the United States has lurched from fight to fight, crisis to crisis, in an ongoing game of domestic brinksmanship. This strategy might appeal to the Republican base—which has no interest in the Obama agenda—but it's been a nonstarter with the broader public, which just wants government to function. Indeed, GOP intransigence is almost certainly the reason for its dismal ratings in the latest poll from USA Today and the Pew Research Center. Republican leaders, for example, receive a 25 percent approval rating from the public, with a sharp divide between Democrats and independents (who give them a 22 percent and 15 percent rating,...

What We'll Be Talking about in 2016

AP Photo/Mark Hirsch
Yes, pundits of all stripes are already starting to handicap the presidential fields for 2016. Yes, that’s a long time from now … although we are under three years to the Iowa Caucuses, and probably just about two years from the first debates, so it’s not all that long. More to the point: as long as the candidates are running—and they are—there’s no reason to pretend the contest hasn’t started yet. While the identity of the next Democratic and Republican nominees is important, what’s even more important is what they intend to do if elected. Indeed: the nomination process is important because it’s how parties sort out their differences and make decisions about who they are, and what kinds of public policy they support. Moreover, the nomination process is the best chance for groups and individuals within the party to have a chance of affecting what the party will do if it wins. In general elections with huge electorates, there’s not much one person can do that makes any difference. In...

Republican Rationality on Medicaid

Rick Scott, who surprised everyone and did the right thing. (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Florida governor Rick Scott, with his skeletal frame, shiny bald pate, nine-figure fortune possibly obtained at least partially through Medicare fraud, and love of humiliating poor people, resembles nothing so much as a comic-book villain. So it was something of a surprise when he announced yesterday that he is reversing his previous position and will allow poor Floridians to receive Medicaid coverage as provided for in the Affordable Care Act. It isn't hard to explain why: the federal government is paying 100 percent of the cost of new enrollees in the first few years, and nearly all the cost thereafter, meaning for a small investment on the state's part it gets a healthier, happier, more productive citizenry. Only a truly despicable politician would turn it down, preferring to see their constituents go without health insurance than get it from the government, as I've argued (OK, "raged" is more like it) before. After the Supreme Court said it its Obamacare decision that states could...

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