Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

This Goes Out to All the Ladies

(Gabriel Arana)

This past election, President Barack Obama made blatant appeals to female voters to great success. Fifty-five percent of women and a jaw-dropping 68 percent of single women voted for the president this round. Feminist and reproductive-rights groups especially campaigned hard, not just to reward him for some significant wins for women in office but because they widely believed that he could do even more in a second term, especially with 18 congressional seats swapping from anti- or mixed-choice to pro-choice.

Dreaming of a Nonwhite Conservative Base

Republicans might deny most forms of science, but after this past election, they at least recognize polling realities. The demographic trajectory of the country spells doom for the GOP in future national elections, unless they figure out a way to buck the trend and appeal to groups beyond white voters. For now, the new emerging majority strongly favors Democrats. Young voters? Check. Among voters under the age of 30, Obama won 60-37 percent. Hispanics? Voted for Obama 71-27 percent and turned out in record numbers. As South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham described his party's predicament earlier this year, “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.”

The Rewards and Pitfalls of Ideological Dissent

Bruce Bartlett, talking to a bunch of liberals.

At any given time, there will be a few people celebrated among partisans on each side in Washington because they have left their own tribe and come to the other side to assure them that their opponents are just as terrible as they imagined. The apostate promises not only a validation of what you believed, but a thrilling insider perspective on the other side's true nature. Becoming one of these dissidents is surely painful, but it also promises both professional opportunity and intellectual satisfaction, as you may well find yourself lauded more often and more loudly than you had been when you were just one of hundreds of operatives or thinkers on your own side...

There's No Such Thing as a Free Debt Ceiling. Unless...

It’s gone under the radar, but Politico reported this morning that, after a private request from President Obama to raise the debt ceiling, House Speaker John Boehner responded with a (not so) veiled demand.

“There is a price for everything.”

Sure, but that doesn’t mean you always have to pay it. Unlike last year, when he needed House Republicans to raise the debt ceiling—lest the United States fall into a second recession—Obama has all the leverage in this situation. If he does nothing, taxes on the rich return to their Clinton-era levels, and Republicans will have to negotiate from an unfavorable baseline.

Why Obama Won't Be the One to End the War on Drugs

Not this guy.

In New York magazine, Benjamin Wallace-Wells has a long article about the failure of the War on Drugs, in which he says, "Without really acknowledging it, we are beginning to experiment with a negotiated surrender." This is in reference to the recently passed marijuana legalization initiatives in Colorado and Washington, which will likely be followed by other states in upcoming elections. Hanging over these policy changes is the still-to-be-determined reaction of the Obama administration, which hasn't yet said whether it plans to send DEA agents to crack down on the businesses these laws allow for, or the growing operations they'll produce. And I'm beginning to suspect that the administration will try to set some kind of policy course intended to be as low-key and neutral as possible, neither giving the two states the green light to proceed as their new laws envision, nor embarking on some kind of dramatic and visible crackdown.

The Coming Liberal Wave

Photograph by Scout Tufankjian for Obama for America

One of the surprises on Election Day was turnout among young voters. Rather than decline, the youth vote went up as a proportion of the electorate, from 18 percent to 19 percent. The most recent analysis from the Pew Research Center, which looks at the composition of the youth vote, offers a few clues as to why that may have been the case.

What's Next for Marriage Equality?

(AP Photo/The Capitol, Paul W. Gillespie)

In case you missed it, Team Marriage Equality just won five different statewide votes (I’m counting the Iowa race, where NOM failed in its attempt to recall one of the Supreme Court justices who voted for equal marriage). Okay, so maybe you heard. Everyone and her brother has been reporting on the ballot breakthrough, including me in my most giddily Tiggerish incarnation.

The Election Heard Round the Watercooler

(Flickr / striatic)

This year's election wasn't the most negative in history, or the most trivial. But it did see a few new developments, including one particularly troubling one: the spread of politics into some places it used to be unwelcome. And not just any politics, but a kind of ill-informed, antagonistic kind of politics, the kind that says that your party losing is literally a national catastrophe and that there is no such thing as an opponent, only an enemy. When we hear ridiculous stories like that of the gun store owner in Arizona who took out an ad in the local paper proclaiming, "If you voted for Barack Obama, your business is NOT WELCOME at Southwest Shooting Authority," we aren't surprised.

Don't Believe the Fiscal Cliff Hype

For the past week, GOP lawmakers have been falling over themselves to move away from Grover Norquist, pied piper of low tax rates on rich people (see Daily Meme. Tennessee Senator Bob Corker said that he was not “obligated on the pledge,” and Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss followed suit, telling a local TV station that he cares “more about his country” than a “20-year-old pledge.” Likewise, South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham declared that he would violate his promise for the good of the country, only if Democrats will "do entitlement reform."

How Not to Appeal to Asian Americans

House Committee on Education and the Workforce Dem / Flickr

Of the various post-election stories, the GOP’s “Latino problem” is one of the most prominent. At some point over the last three weeks, every prominent Republican leader has had something to say about the party’s poor performance with Latino voters.

Less remarked upon, but just as important, is the GOP’s abysmal showing with Asian Americans. Most exit polls show President Obama winning Asian Americans 3-to–1, a larger spread than his margin among Latinos, and second only to African Americans, who gave nearly all of their votes to the president.

What Do Republicans Want?

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

As we head into negotiations on the Austerity Trap (better known by the inaccurate moniker "fiscal cliff," which I refuse to use), there's a clear narrative emerging. This narrative has it that Democrats want to see taxes increase on rich people, which Republicans aren't happy about, while Republicans want to see entitlement "reform," which Democrats aren't happy about. So once everybody gives a little, and Republicans accept some tax increases for the rich while Democrats accept some "reform" of Social Security and Medicare, then we can have a happy ending.

The problem with this is that while the Democrats' position is quite clear—the Bush tax cuts should expire for income over $250,000—the Republicans' position is extremely vague, on both the tax side and the entitlement side. Let's take taxes first. A bunch of Republicans are being praised for their willingness to violate Grover Norquist's pledge to Never Raise Taxes In Any Way Ever Never Ever. Yet they're remaining steadfast that tax rates must stay the same, while allowing that maybe we can trim some deductions for the wealthy. As Steve Benen points out, some are acting like these Republicans are being generous for essentially taking the position that they support Mitt Romney's tax plan. Perhaps they're assuming that the wealthy will be able to cleverly evade any limitation on deductions, so it won't make a difference to their primary constituency. But in any case, we haven't heard them take a specific position. Are they proposing a hard cap on all deductions? Eliminating certain deductions while keeping others? We don't yet know.

Then we get to the price Republicans are going to want to exact for any agreement to stop the Austerity Trap, and this is where they're really vague. They want "reform" of entitlements. And what is "reform," you ask? Well, nobody ever says...

Simpler Is Better

(Flickr / James Milstid)

On Saturday, The Wall Street Journal ran one of its trademark editorials making fun of government red tape—the massive regulations required to implement the Affordable Care Act; the 398 different rulemakings necessary to carry out the Dodd-Frank Act, and a great deal more. 

I seldom agree with the Journal’s editorial page, but it makes an unintentional point: Government regulations have become so complex that they can’t do their job. Or at best, the sheer complexity makes the government sitting ducks for the mischief of industry lobbyists looking to further complicate the rules with loopholes.

Do Republicans Have a Southern Problem?

(Flickr/change-of-venue)

One of the more interesting elements of President Barack Obama’s re-election victory was his strong performance in the South. He won Virginia and Florida—again—and came close to a win in North Carolina, where he lost by just two points. “Obama’s 2012 numbers in the Southeastern coastal states,” writes Douglas Blackmon for The Washington Post, “outperformed every Democratic nominee since Carter and significantly narrowed past gaps between Democratic and Republican candidates.”

Another Defeat for the NRA

Earlier this year, I did a lengthy series for Think Progress detailing how the National Rifle Association's power to influence elections is wildly overestimated by nearly everyone in Washington (here's Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4). The group's advocates argued that I was wrong, and in fact the NRA retains the ability to get its friends elected and defeat its enemies. So how did they do in this year's election?

The answer is, abysmally. The Sunlight Foundation put together data on outside spending from a variety of interest groups, and the data show how poorly the NRA did. At the top of the ticket, of course, they failed to defeat the man whom they have promised is coming to take everyone's guns (despite the fact that he is not actually coming to take anyone's guns). Through their two political committees, the Political Victory Fund and the Institute for Legislative Action, the NRA spent $13.4 million on the presidential race, to no avail. But the Senate is where their futility was really striking.

Scott Walker Figures It Out

What does a 2016 presidential aspirant do when his state votes Democratic? Rig the next election, of course. Wisconsin didn't turn into the swing state Scott Walker, Mitt Romney and the GOP had wished, with Obama carrying it by more than six percent and Democrat Tammy Baldwin winning an open Senate seat. Walker, the union-busting Koch brothers buddy, has pinpointed the source of the GOP's woes in Wisconsin—its liberal voting laws. "States across the country that have same-day registration have real problems," Walker 

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