Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Daily Meme: Poll Dancing

Architect of the Capitol
They’re calling it a “mini-Super Tuesday .” Today’s round of primaries for U.S. Senate seats in six states—Kentucky, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Arkansas and Idaho—could determine the Democrats’ chances for holding on to control of the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body. In Kentucky, where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to beat right-wing challenger Matt Bevin, the prognosticators at Politico fret that unless McConnell wallops the upstart, there’ll be whispering about his weakness on the right. (Egads!) The most entertaining story to emerge so far from the primary races is that of Republican contender and neurosurgeon Monica Wehby, who would take on Democrat Jeff Merkley if she were to win the GOP nomination, depending on whether or not that story Politico broke about a police report filed against her by her onetime boyfriend sinks her chances. Speaking of elections, the New York Times ran a fascinating article about David Koch’s 1980 vice presidential bid on...

The Republican Candidate's Marijuana Dilemma

Democratic voters at a 4/20 rally. (Flickr/Jonathan Piccolo)
Back in 1992 when Bill Clinton said he kinda smoked pot, but "I didn't inhale," it was a big deal, both for the sort-of admission and for the squirreliness of the evasion. Eight years later, when Barack Obama said not only did he smoke pot, but he inhaled ("That was the point"), it was much less of a big deal, partly because Obama made no attempt to explain it away. As we move toward an era when most American adults have at least tried marijuana (more on that below), the chances that any particular candidate will have done it at least a time or two in their younger days grows higher and higher. But if you're a Republican, it's still complicated, since a large proportion of the population whose votes you need look at pot as something only done by hippies and jazz musicians. You can see this struggle in the person of Marco Rubio, soon-to-be presidential candidate and erstwhile GOP golden boy. Yesterday he got asked in an interview with ABC's Jonathan Karl whether he had ever smoked pot...

Gray Matter: 'Bush's Brain' Short-Circuits

©Jenny Warburg
©Jenny Warburg Karl Rove, former political strategist to President George W. Bush, at a forum in 2012. Karl Rove, the most brilliant political strategist of his generation, the man George W. Bush called "the Architect," the man Stephen Colbert immortalized as "Ham Rove," the pundit to whom Fox News viewers turn to give them the low-down, stuck his foot in it again. Should anyone really be surprised? In case you've been in the desert on a vision quest, last week Rove implied, with some mangled facts, that Hillary Clinton might have lingering brain damage from the incident in 2012 when she suffered a concussion and had a blood clot removed. Democrats and even some Republicans got really mad, even as all agreed that the health of presidential candidates is a legitimate topic for discussion. Then over the weekend on Fox News Sunday , Rove was on the defensive but refused to back down. "Look, I'm not questioning her health," he said, right after questioning her health. "What I'm...

Dally Meme: Delusion and Moxie, Rove and Jindal

Politics may not be for the faint of heart, but it's often for the deluded of mind. Today's meme is about those who are deluding either themselves or others, and will inevitably have their hopes dashed by cruel reality. We start with Karl Rove, who went on Fox News Sunday and said that despite all that talk about Hillary Clinton and traumatic brain injuries, "Look, I'm not questioning her health." Sure, OK. Louisiana governor and future presidential candidate Bobby Jindal penned an op-ed for foxnews.com arguing that the Affordable Care Act can still be repealed , despite what "those in the elite salons of Washington" may think. All you need is "political will," and maybe another 50 repeal votes in the House. That ought to do it. San Antonio mayor Julian Castro is going to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and a lot of people see that as a stepping stone to a vice-presidential bid in 2016. Phillip Bump says : keep dreaming. Almost 60,000 people have signed a petition...

Rebels Without a Cause

I think this is one of the Georgia GOP Senate candidates. (Flickr/Mez Love)
At a debate Saturday night among the Republican candidates competing in tomorrow's U.S. Senate primary in Georgia, something interesting happened when the contenders were asked whether they plan on supporting Mitch McConnell for another term as the body's Republican leader. Three of the candidates, including front-runner David Perdue and Karen Handel, who is battling to come in second and thereby reach a runoff, gave an outright "no." Three other candidates hedged, saying they hadn't made up their minds. The only one who said "yes" was an obscure candidate who has no chance of advancing to the next round in the nomination fight. Most voters probably couldn't care less about a question like this one. But the Georgia candidates' reactions show something important about where Republican politics are at the moment, and the strange and sometimes contradictory things GOP voters expect from their candidates—or at least what those candidates believe voters expect. It isn't just a Tea Party-...

Daily Meme: Strange Doin's in Dixie

AP Photo/Susan Walsh
No subject tends to confound political pundits—or national Democrats and liberals in general—quite like Southern politics. And if you don't believe it, take a gander at the oft-cited 2006 manual for Democratic Dixie-bashing , Tom Schaller's Whistling Past Dixie, which bizarrely recommended that the party abandon the nation's largest and fastest-growing region (not to mention its largest African-American population) and just let the GOP have it. Fortunately, President Obama ignored that sage advice and won three electoral-vote-rich Southern states in 2008. But old habits of stereotyping the South as incurably right-wing die hard—if they die at all. This year, liberal pundits fretting about losing the Democrats' majority in the U.S. Senate were asking the same old questions: How could the Democrats possibly hope to hold onto their Senate seats in such snake-handling, Confederate flag-waving, gay-bashing, Obamacare-hating backwaters as Louisiana, Arkansas and North Carolina? As yet...

Sorry, Right-Wing Media, Unionization Is Good for Liberal Publications

Credit Meg McLain/Matt Ortega
Meg McLain I can't tell if it's intellectual dishonesty or intellectual incompetence, but a number of conservative outlets have wildly misconstrued comments from The Nation 's Richard Kim in my recent piece on diversity at liberal publications. Here's what Kim said about diversity at the country's oldest liberal magazine: “The staff here is unionized, which means there is little job turnover,” says Richard Kim, executive editor at The Nation , who is Asian American and gay. “We only get to make a hire every four or five years.” And here is what the staff at the Washington Free Beacon took away : A top editor at one of the nation’s oldest liberal magazine says unionization has destroyed diversity in the newsroom. … Richard Kim, executive editor at the Nation , told the American Prospect that union restrictions on hiring and firing have made it impossible to bring more minorities on board. If this were written by a first-year college student, I'd ask, "Does your evidence support the...

Who Do You Hate?

Flickr/mafleen
Think fast: Which politicians from the other side do you merely dislike, and which do you absolutely despise? Can you say why? I was thinking about this because of Harry Reid, who really, really gets on conservatives' nerves, and seems to be constantly trying to figure out new ways to make them mad. Unlike Nancy Pelosi, who generates contempt from the right mostly for who she is (a San Francisco liberal, a woman with power), with Reid it's about what he does, specifically his propensity for saying things about conservatives that are over the top. Most liberals look at Reid and see him as an extremely skilled legislative leader, even if they cringe a bit when his statements go too far. For instance, it's possible to criticize the Koch brothers without saying they "are about as un-American as anyone I can imagine"; things like that seem designed to just drive Republicans nuts. As Simon Malloy says , "Harry Reid is a troll. He's an effective majority leader and he knows how to work...

Fast Food, Slow Movement

Flickr/The All-Nite Images
Not long ago, I was interviewing Hahrie Han, a political scientist at Wellesley who studies social movements, for an article in an upcoming print edition of the Prospect , and we started talking about the Occupy movement and some of the problems it faced. She pointed out that liberals are great at exploiting new technologies, but sometimes that can actually pose a problem for movement-building. One of the great benefits social media offer is their ability to organize quickly—have people activate their networks, and within hours you can get hundreds or even thousands of people out to an event or a protest. But that quick ramp-up can mean that your effort becomes very big while its demands are still in the process of formation, which may have had something to do with the trouble Occupy had sustaining itself. For all of social media's efficiency, "they don't have a lot of the side benefits that the kind of organization that used to be required to get lots of people to come to a public...

Daily Meme: The Ugliness of Being a Woman Boss

AP
Yesterday, the New York Times fired its executive editor , Jill Abramson, the first woman to lead the paper in its 163 years of publication. When a woman finally reaches this pinnacle—perhaps the single most important position in journalism in America, if not the world—then gets shown the door after just two and a half years, questions about gender in the workplace will inevitably come up. Rebecca Traister argued that even if the firing was justified, t he abrupt and brutal way in which it was carried out was depressing , especially compared to the manner in which previous Times editors have left. She points specifically to Howell Raines, whose disastrous term as executive editor featured a disgruntled newsroom and the Jayson Blair scandal. Raines gave a speech to the staff and was presented with a stuffed moose. In his story on the firing , New Yorker media writer Ken Auletta reported the following: "Several weeks ago, I'm told, Abramson discovered that her pay and her pension...

Liberal Republicans—They're Alive!

OK, maybe not quite. (Flickr/Emi Hoshi)
Until not long ago, we tended to think of Republicans as unified and focused, and Democrats as inherently fractious (see, for instance, the evergreen "Dems In Disarray" headline). These days the opposite is true—or at least it's the case that Republicans have become just as divided as Democrats. But how much of that is about Washington infighting and intraparty struggles for power, and how much is actually substantive and matters to voters? This post from The Upshot at the New York Times has some provocative hints. Using polling data from February that tested opinions on a range of issues, they found that Republicans are much less unified than Democrats when it comes to their opinions on policy: On these seven issues, 47 percent of self-identified Democrats agree with the party’s stance on at least six of them. And 66 percent agree with at least five. Republicans were less cohesive, with just 25 percent agreeing on six or more issues, and 48 percent agreeing on five. Piling on more...

Daily Meme: So You Want to Be a Tea Partier?

AP Photo/Alex Brandon
Yesterday, the Tea Party had its first big win of the season. Ben Sasse, who rallied with Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin while vying for the Republican Senate nomination in Nebraska, carried away a comfortable victory against two other contenders. Ted Cruz took to Facebook to express his delight. "Ben Sasse's decisive victory in Nebraska tonight is a clear indication that the grassroots are rising up to make D.C. listen," he wrote. "They're rising up to take our country back." But it seems that Sasse, the former president of Midlands University, may not be the kind of Tea Party candidate we're used to. Bickering with Mitch McConnell — the Senate minority leader generally considered to be the linchpin of the Republican establishment — is Sasse's best far-right credential. Otherwise, he looks shockingly mainstream. After all, what kind of Tea Party candidate served as an advisor to the former Health and Human Services secretary during the early implementation of the Affordable Care Act?...

Michael Boggs, an Unacceptable Judicial Nominee

U.S. District Court nominee Michael Boggs seems like an all-too-depressing example of a typical 21st-century Republican federal judicial appointment. As a state legislator, he voted to keep a symbol of treason in defense of slavery and lawlessness in defense of apartheid on the state flag. He opposes reproductive freedom. He supported amending the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Given his conservative views and apparent neoconfederate sympathies, he has attracted strong opposition from members of Congress like the civil rights icon John Lewis. What's even more depressing is that Boggs was nominated not by George W. Bush but by Barack Obama. How did this happen? And should be done about it? The primary villains here, as is so often the case, reside in the World's Worst Deliberative Body. Senate Democrats took an long time to abolish the filibuster for executive branch and sub-Supreme Court judicial appointments, permitting the Republican minority in the Senate to engage in...

Daily Meme: Paging Doctor Rove

In a move reminiscent of the Terry Schiavo episode—in which Senator Bill Frist, the Tennessee Republican, assumed the power to diagnose people via television —right-wing strategist Karl Rove is spending his time on the speaker circuit telling people Hillary Clinton might have brain damage. Why, pray tell? After suffering from a blood clot in 2012 that delayed her congressional testimony about Benghazi, Clinton came back "after 30 days in the hospital ... wearing glasses that are only for people who have traumatic brain injury." "We need to know what’s up with that," Rove said at a conference last week. ( The New York Post reported his comments today.) Except it was three days later . And as far as anyone knows, there are no special glasses for people who've had a brain injury. Is this Rove, cartoon supervillain, at work? Former George W. Bush Communications Director Nicolle Wallace, who worked with Rove in the White House, says it was "a deliberate strategy on his part to raise [...

A Question About Southern Culture and the Confederate Flag

Flickr/Cyrus Farivar
Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a confirmation hearing for Michael Boggs, a conservative Georgia state judge whom President Obama nominated for a federal judgeship as part of a deal to get Republicans to allow votes on some of his other nominees. (Lesson: Obstructionism works, so keep doing it!) Boggs got grilled by Democrats over some of the votes he took as a state legislator, including one to keep the Confederate stars and bars as part of the Georgia state flag. Which gives me the opportunity to get something off my chest. Before I do though, it should be noted that there are plenty of white Southerners who wish that their states had long ago put the Confederate flag issue behind them, and agree with us Yankees that it's a symbol of treason and white supremacy, and not the kind of thing you want to fly over your state house or put on a license plate, a s you can in Georgia . Boggs claimed in his hearing that he was offended by the Confederate flag, but voted for it...

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