Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

The Judicial Bush Doctrine

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
P resident Obama needs to be more like George W. Bush. Bush understood that a president’s longest-lasting legacy is often the judges who receive a lifetime appointment to the federal bench. He understood that another Republican will occupy the White House someday, and they will need a slate of potential nominees to the Supreme Court. And he understood that the judiciary can quietly implement an unpopular conservative agenda that would never survive contact with the elected branches of government. We are still living the legacy of Bush’s appointments. The Supreme Court’s five conservatives trashed consumers’ ability to stand up to rapacious corporations. They greenlighted laws intended primarily to suppress minority, low-income, and student voters . They thumbed their nose at women’s right to equal pay for equal work . And, while the Court’s Citizens United decision did not enable Mitt Romney’s rich friends to buy him four years in the White House, it will create a generation of...

The Ghost of Norquist Past

(AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke, File)
This week, Grover Norquist has been all over the place attacking the idea that President Obama would use his mandate to stand firm on the highly-popular idea of letting the Bush-era tax cuts expire for those earning over $250,000 a year. When asked what his agenda for the fiscal showdown was, Norquist told The Washington Post , “You want to stop any tax increases, so continue any tax cuts that lapse.” In other words, allowing a tax cut to lapse equals a tax increase, eh? Not so fast says … Grover Norquist. In a July 2011 meeting with The Washington Post editorial board, Norquist said , “Not continuing a tax cut is not technically a tax increase.” Now, for those of you who may not know, Grover Norquist is not, as his name might suggest, a character on Sesame Street. Norquist is the bizarrely powerful head of Americans for Tax Reform, the conservative anti-government advocacy group that pressures political candidates to sign absolutist pledges against raising taxes. Norquist holds...

Don't Fear the Backlash

(Flickr/David Schumaker)
(Flickr/Dave Schumaker) Supporters and protestors of same-sex marriage gather outside San Francisco's City Hall in 2008. Many observers have criticized the approach of using litigation to achieve social change ever since a Hawaii court ruled in 1993 that the denial of marriage benefits to same-sex couples was unconstitutional —criticism that only accelerated after Massachusetts's landmark Goodridge decision in 2003 ruling that bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. Much of this criticism takes the form of what I call the " countermobilization myth "—that is, the idea that victories won through the courts produce a unique amount of political backlash that make them counterproductive. The remarkable wave of success for LGBT rights on Election Day, combined with a steady increase in support for same-sex marriage, makes the countermobilization myth even more untenable. Michael Klarman's invaluable new book, From the Closet to the Altar , remains ambivalent about the use of...

Fiscal Cliff: The End Game

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) President Barack Obama makes an opening statement during his news conference yesterday in the East Room of the White House. The president says the economy cannot afford a tax increase on all Americans and is calling on congressional Republicans to support an extension of existing tax rates for households earning $250,000 or less. P resident Barack Obama continued to display a new toughness about the debt negotiation at his first post-election press conference yesterday. He confirmed publicly what he has been telling progressive leaders privately. He will not give on the principle that taxes—rates as well as loophole closings—must be raised on people earning over $250,000 a year. “We should not hold the middle class hostage while we debate tax cuts for the wealthy,” he declared. Obama has also told progressive leaders that he is looking for $600 billion more in other tax increases on the well-to-do, in order to reduce the pressure for spending cuts. And he...

The President We Hoped For?

We’re about to find out, in the “fiscal cliff” negotiations, whether President Obama plans to govern the way he ran for re-election—and whether, as a result, he just might become the kind of president liberals hoped he’d be in the first place. The single most surprising thing about the 2012 campaign (unless you’re a Republican still shell-shocked over the outcome) was that the “man from Kumbaya” completely rejected the Bill Clinton re-election model. It was the polar opposite of triangulation: This time, the Democratic incumbent won with a resonant message of liberal populism. And damned if it didn’t work—not just because Obama won, but because the central arguments he made to raise taxes on the wealthy and preserve government as a force for fairness and opportunity changed Americans’ minds in fundamental ways. When the man asserts, as he has been doing, that “voters agreed with me” on issues like tax increases for rich folks, he’s not blowing smoke. Check out these numbers: A year...

47 Percent, Part 2

Flickr/Austen Hufford
Earlier in the week I wrote about the increasing conservative complaint that too many Americans are mooching off the labors of genuine hard-working job creators. Well now Mitt Romney himself has extended this analysis to the ballot box, telling his big donors in a post-election conference call that the reason he lost was, essentially, that Barack Obama bought off those moochers with promises of free stuff. When the 47 percent video came out, I couldn't have been the only one who wondered just how many times he had delivered that riff; it seems unlikely it was the first and last time he said it. But now the election's over, and he isn't stopping. Romney seems appalled that Obama would be so diabolical as to pursue policies that were beneficial to people who then went to the polls to vote for him. It's worth quoting at length: "With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest, was a big gift," he said. "Free contraceptives were very big with young...

Romney Says He Lost Because Obama Gave "Gifts" to Blacks and Latinos

(AP Photo/Mary Schwalm) The former Massachusetts governor speaks to delegates at the New Hampshire Republican Convention in Concord, N.H Saturday. When the “47 percent” video first hit, there was a question as to whether this was the “real Romney,” or someone pandering to the prejudices of the Republican donor class. If you stepped away from the passion of moment, you could easily see a scenario where Romney felt that it was in his best interest to adopt another bit of right-wing rhetoric, for the sake of cash and support. Then again, by that point it was more than clear that the Republican Party had been infected with a Randian mania. It wasn’t—and isn’t—hard to find conservatives who attack the mass of Americans as “takers” who rob the “makers” of their rightful wealth. Indeed, this was Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan’s central message until he was chosen for the national stage. And given the constituency for this ideology—wealthy (white) hedge fund managers and assorted rich...

Is Mitch McConnell the Worst?

Gage Skidmore / Flickr
Gage Skidmore / Flickr I think most people can agree that Kentucky's Mitch McConnell is one of the most innovative Senate Minority Leaders in recent memory. His insight—that the opposition party can obstruct and force the majority party to bear the public’s discontent—helped give Republicans a House majority in 2010, and gave the GOP a fighting chance in this year’s presidential election (see: Mitt Romney’s late-game promise to bring bipartisanship to Washington). If Romney had won—and if Republicans had taken the Senate—you could credibly argue that McConnell was one of the most successful minority leaders in modern history. Indeed, he would have been one of the chief architects behind a massive political comeback. In the real world, however, Barack Obama won reelection and Democrats expanded their majority in the Senate. And in the same way that Obama’s legacy would have been tarnished had he lost reelection, is it the case that McConnell’s is harmed because he failed to deliver the...

Yes, This Is a Post about 2016.

Who knows - it could be him. (Flickr/dsb nola)
Before you turn away, I'm going to say loud and proud that despite all the people crying "I can't wait until this is over!" in the last few weeks, despite the Bronco Bama girl , despite the torture endured by the citizens of Ohio, I am sorry the election is over. Sort of, anyway. Why? Because I write about politics for a living. When the World Series ends, we don't expect sportswriters to say, "I sure am glad that's over!" So yes, even though in the coming months and years I'll be writing a lot about policy, I'm also going to write about politics, including upcoming elections. Deal with it. Now that that's off my chest, Benjy Sarlin makes an interesting observation about the suddenly moderating Republicans who are publicly saying their party has to find a way to be more friendly to more kinds of people if it wants to win back the White House in 2016: "It's hard to believe now, but the popular punditry [after the 2008 election]—as now—was that Republicans needed to moderate their...

Give It Up, John Kerry

Center for American Progress Action Fund/Flickr
Center for American Progress Action Fund/Flickr J ust this morning , incoming Maine Senator Angus King, an independent, announced that he would be caucusing with Democrats, giving the party a working majority of 55 members—53 Democrats and two independents (the other is Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders). Among many other things, this makes it more likely that Massachusetts Senator John Kerry will be plucked from Congress and given a job in the administration, where he would likely serve as Secretary of Defense. Indeed, as the Washington Post reported yesterday, administration officials see the larger Senate majority as an opportunity to grab a candidate that they like: [A]dministration officials, one of whom described Kerry as a “war hero,” said his qualifications for the defense job included not only his naval service in Vietnam but also his knowledge of the budget and experience in the diplomacy that has increasingly become a part of the defense portfolio. They said the Democrats’...

Is the Religious Right in Trouble?

Pat Robertson, possibly fending off a hurricane. (Flickr/Daniel Oines)
If we're going to count the losers of the 2012 election, the religious right has to be high on the list. Its members said they would turn out in extraordinary numbers to fight that infidel in the White House, but Ralph Reed's turnout push fizzled. Gay marriage is now legal in three more states than it was on November 5, with more sure to come. In response, some on the religious right are wondering whether this politics thing just isn't working out for them. It isn't that they failed to get their message out, said influential religious-right quote machine Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, "it's that the entire moral landscape has changed. ... An increasingly secularized America understands our positions and has rejected them." We've heard this kind of thing before, and Ed Kilgore warns that the religious right's stranglehold on the Republican Party hasn't lessened at all: Lest we forget, every single Republican candidate for president in 2012 toed the...

Who Counts in Arizona?

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Democrats celebrate as President Barack Obama is declared the winner of the presidential race at Democratic Party gathering, Tuesday, November 6, 2012, in Tucson, Arizona. W hen Arizona's secretary of state announced, one day after the election, that more than 600,000 early and provisional ballots remained uncounted, Viva Samuel Ramirez wasn’t concerned about what the news meant for the state’s close U.S. Senate race or two Congressional races that remained up in the air. (And still do, incredibly enough, one week later.) Ramirez's worry was for the tens of thousands of voters he and others in the One Arizona coalition had registered to vote. Many were Latino, and already suspicious of a state government that passed SB 1070, Arizona’s infamous “papers please” law. The 2012 election was the first time many of them had ever cast a ballot, and Ramirez had hoped it would be the start of a new wave of civic participation in the state. Now he's worried...

Bobby Jindal: Let's Get Small

Today a pair of leading Republicans—and potential presidential contenders for 2016—offered some indications that the party might actually have a conversation about its future that goes beyond nominating Marco Rubio and grudgingly submitting to immigration reform. In interviews with Politico , Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky had some bracing things to say about the GOP’s failures and future—though only one of them (guess which?) suggested anything more than an image makeover. Jindal, who’s taking over as head of the Republican Governors Association this week, had lots of eminently quotable and bold-sounding things to say—not the least being that he acknowledged openly that Republicans had been “the stupid party,” and implied that Mitt Romney had been the chief dumbass: “The Republican Party is going to fight for every single vote,” he said, adding rather pointedly: “That means the 47 percent and the 53 percent.” And he told reporter Jonathan Martin, “...

Law Enforcement and Decriminalized Marijuana

A happy Seattle police officer. (SPD)
On Election Day, Colorado and Washington passed initiatives legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. The future of both laws is uncertain, due to the fact that the drug is still illegal under federal law, which makes the creation of a legal market complex, to say the least. Nevertheless, within a few days, prosecutors in Washington dismissed hundreds of misdemeanor marijuana possession cases, even though the new law doesn't officially take effect until December 6. Which is an indication that in the short term, the laws may have a substantial impact on the work of law enforcement, and the relationship of citizens to the police, in those states. We don't know that for sure, of course. But the Seattle Police Department is already showing how hip it can be. As we learn via Romenesko , the SPD has a blog run by a journalist, who wrote a piece called "Mariwhatnow? A Guide to Legal Marijuana Use in Seattle," that is, to say the least, not the kind of thing you expect from an employee of...

But One Mitt to Give for His Country

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
I don't know how many words I wrote about Mitt Romney over the last five years, but I'm sure it topped 100,000. So I'll almost miss him now that he's gone, and I'd like to offer a couple of (perhaps) final thoughts on him. In defeat, Romney's sins become easier to forgive, and we can acknowledge that he isn't without personal virtues. We'll never know how he would have performed in the difficult moments, when forced to deal with an unexpected crisis or confronted with choices in which every option was a bad one. Perhaps his lack of rigid ideology would have helped him. It's sometimes said that presidential candidates come in two forms, the "conviction" candidates like Goldwater, McGovern, or Reagan who run for a cause, and the others, who run for themselves. Though it may be impossible for any politician, even the most ideological, to run for president without being an egomaniac, Romney stands apart even among his peers for having run for no cause in particular. That isn't necessarily...

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