Election 2012

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.

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 Romanesko, 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 usually expect from an employee of a police department. Here's an excerpt:

Romney and the 0 Percent

AP Photo

My favorite exit-poll factoid this year comes near the end of the quadrennial Edison-Mitofsky questionnaire, as reported on the NBC News web site. The pollsters asked people leaving their voting places whether Barack Obama’s policies, and Mitt Romney’s policies, “generally favor[ed]” the rich, the middle class, or the poor—and respondents could give more than one answer. Among Obama supporters, 86 percent said that Obama’s policies favored the middle class, with another 25 percent saying that they favored the poor. Only 12 percent of Romney’s supporters, by contrast, believed that Obama’s policies favored the middle class while a whopping 74 percent said that they favored the poor—not a good thing in Romneyworld.  

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 as harsh a criticism as it might sound. A person of intelligence, wisdom, good decision-making ability and strong management skills might perform well as president in many ways, irrespective of the actual agenda he pursued. And someone lacking in those traits who nevertheless had the beliefs you agree with could end up doing terrible harm. But for better or worse, we choose our presidents not only for what kind of people they seem to be, but how they make us feel about ourselves. And this was a problem Romney never found a way to solve.

Kristol's Blasphemy, Norquist's Denial

Thus far, the most ear-popping conservative reaction to last week’s election has come from Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol. On Fox News Sunday, he spoke a truth that you would have expected to have been bleeped by Roger Ailes’s censors before it could reach the tender ears of shocked right-wingers: “It won’t kill the country if we raise taxes a little bit on millionaires,” Kristol said. “It really won’t, I don’t think. I don’t really understand why Republicans don’t take Obama’s offer.” And there was more: “Really?

Progressives: The Biggest Winners of State Ballot Measures

(AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Liberals had a lot to celebrate on election night, from the outcome of the presidential race to a number of major Senate wins. But less noticed on the whole was the stunning display of progressive power in ballot measures across the country. From gay marriage to marijuana legalization, from teachers unions to school funding, voters on the whole supported a progressive agenda in the 2012 election. State policy not only carries major implications for the lives of state residents, it also helps set the stage for national debates on issues. In a number of states, voters were deciding the direction of public education; in others, the fate of union power. Election night brought some big victories for liberals, albeit with a few defeats.

The Business of the Ideological Media Is Business

Flickr/DonkeyHotey

There now appears to be a healthy debate going on in Republican circles about the problems created by the information cocoon in which conservatives have embedded themselves in recent years (I wrote about this last week). That's good for them, but I doubt it's going to work. My guess is that a couple of years from now, the conservative media's rhetoric will be just the same as it is now—just as angry, just as prone to race-baiting, just as unwilling to acknowledge reality when it conflicts with their beliefs. Jonathan Martin of Politico took the time to interview a bunch of younger Repbublican operatives and thinkers, and they all seem to be in agreement that something has to change. But the right has a real generational problem, and it isn't about their leaders. It's about their audience.

Conservative media is a political force, but first and foremost it's a business. And that business' primary customers have grown used to a particular product. Those customers are, above all, older white men, and the product is that particular combination of anger, resentment, and contempt for people outside your tribe that has characterized conservative media for so long. Fox News has the oldest audience of any of the cable channels, and they like what Hannity, O'Reilly and the rest have been giving them just fine. They like hearing that Barack Obama is a socialist America-hater destroying our country. They like the culture war. It keeps them coming back. So if you were Sean Hannity, and you understood that perfectly well, what incentive would you have to change?

Election Results, Revisited

Mother Jones

The 2012 election results are close to finalized. Over the weekend, Florida was placed into President Obama’s column—giving him 332 electoral votes to Mitt Romney’s 206—and while officials are still counting votes, the current tally gives Obama 50.6 percent the vote to Romney’s 47.9 percent.

The Reproductive Rights Checklist

Delegates cheer as President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund Cecile Richards addresses the Democratic National Convention. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

How did women's health issues fare in the election, and what do we have to look forward to?

Land of the "Free Stuff," Home of the Brave

(AP Photo/Jeff Christensen)

If you want to explain why your party lost a presidential election, there are a number of places to look. You can blame your candidate and his campaign (which usually means, "If only they had listened to me!"). You can blame your party and ask if it should examine its ideology or its rhetoric. You can blame the media. Or you can blame the voters. As the old political saw says, "The people have spoken—the bastards." And that is what one conservative after another has been saying over the last week.

Get Out the Union Vote

(Flickr/Wisconsin AFL-CIO/Justin Geiger)

Despite setbacks in several states, the American labor movement came out a clear winner in Tuesday’s elections. Most important, they played a key role in ensuring the re-election of President Obama, and contributed significantly to Democratic Senate victories in hotly contested races in Massachusetts, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Virginia.

When "We Don't Like Your Kind" Becomes a Problem

New York, where not many Republicans live. (Flickr/iPhil Photos)

There are a lot of ways to parse a loss like the one the GOP suffered on Tuesday, but what ought to be increasingly clear to smart Republicans is that there's something fundamentally problematic in how they've gone about assembling their electoral coalitions. Conservatives are complaining a lot in the last couple of days that Obama ran a "divisive" campaign, I guess because he once called rich people "fat cats" or something, but the truth is that Republicans have been experts at division for a long time. Much of their appeal, at one level or another, has been "We don't like those kind of people." Sometimes it's welfare recipients, sometimes it's undocumented immigrants, sometimes it's people who come from big cities or have too much education or enjoy a coffee drink made with espresso and steamed milk. They've been very good for a very long time at telling voters, "We're just like you, because we both hate those people over there."

As a political strategy, this can be very effective, so long as the "them" at whom you're directing your contempt isn't too large a group. But once "them" grows too big, you've dug yourself an electoral hole. That's the problem they now have with Latinos. Their anti-immigrant rhetoric sent two simultaneous messages, one about policy and one about identity. The first message was that we don't support policies you do support, like the DREAM Act. The second message, which Latinos heard loud and clear, was this: We don't like people like you.

Justice, Retained

(Flickr/sundee.forsyth)

Two years ago, amid the shellacking of congressional Democrats in the midterm elections, three Iowa Supreme Court justices—Marsha Ternus, David Baker, and Michael Streit—lost their seats after conservative activists launched a campaign against all the judges who joined the unanimous Varnum v. Brien decision in 2009, which legalized gay marriage in the state.

Iowans shifted gears Tuesday, retaining David Wiggins, another of the Varnum judges that conservatives had sought to oust. Wiggens was the only judge up for a retention vote, which Supreme Court justices in the state face every eight years.

Democrats Make Gains in Statehouses, but Republicans Still Dominate

(Flickr/Jim Bowen)

After the Republicans swept to power in state legislatures across the country in 2010, the situation for state-level Democrats couldn't get much worse. The Grand Old Party won control of 21 house and senate chambers, and gained supermajorities in several states. Progressive and independent-leaning states like Maine and Minnesota were suddenly dominated by conservative legislators.

A New Side of Barack Obama

Forty years ago, the campaign of Senator Ed Muskie, until then the presumed nominee of the Democratic party, effectively ended on a snowy day in Manchester, New Hampshire. Angered by the attacks on him and his wife by the conservative Manchester Union-Leader, Muskie held a press conference outside the paper's offices to denounce them. Reporters at the scene thought that Muskie was crying, though he later said the wetness on his face was only melting snow. But David Broder's story in the Washington Post about the press conference began, "With tears streaming down his face and his voice choked with emotion..." He was obviously not presidential material.

Eight years later, a different kind of president was elected, one who understood intimately how to convey emotions through television. Ronald Reagan wasn't afraid to get choked up at appropriate moments — when lauding the heroism of an ordinary person called to do something extraordinary, or just when speaking about how great America is. Reagan made it possible, even uncontroversial, for a male politician to cry (though it's still extremely dangerous for a female politician to cry, lest she reveal herself as unstable and weak).

Which brings us to this remarkable video of Barack Obama thanking his campaign staff for all their hard work.

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