The Obama Administration

With Border Patrol Already Out of Control, GOP Demands Won't Fix Immigration Woes

The ties that bind us to the countries to our south are deep and enduring. Building a wall, or a host of new field offices, or a miniature army won't do anything to change that.

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
(AP Photo/Gregory Bull) A U.S. Border Patrol agent looks to the north near where the border wall ends as is separates Tijuana, Mexico, left, and San Diego, right. This post originally appeared at AlterNet . W hen Congress first created the Border Patrol back in 1924, it was staffed by a ragtag collection of former Texas Rangers, local sheriffs and mail clerks. These men, stationed at backwoods outposts along the 7,500 miles that demarcate the U.S. border, were charged with handling customs violations and preventing liquour smuggling during Prohibition. The agency was seen as the forgotten stepchild of U.S. law enforcement—understaffed, undertrained and nonessential. Today, the Border Patrol is the country’s largest law enforcement agency, with some 46,000 Customs officers and Border Patrol agents. Their annual budget is a jaw-dropping $12.4 billion, and “securing our borders” is a top priority for U.S. politicians both Democratic and Republican. In an investigation for Politico...

How Democrats Can Win Back the White Working Class and Increase Turnout Among Blacks and Latinos

(Photo: Fibonacci Blue via Flickr/Creative Commons License)
(Photo: CNV Sioux Falls, SD Action via Flickr) Demonstrators in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, urge fellow citizens to vote for the November 4 ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage. The demonstration took place on Saturday, September 27. T he voting turnout in this year's congressional and gubernatorial elections was the lowest since 1942. Much of the story was in young people, poor people, black and Hispanic citizens, who tend to support Democrats, voting in far lower numbers than in 2008 or 2012. The Democrats just weren't offering them very much. But the other part of the Election Day story was older voters and the white working class, especially men, deserting the Democrats in droves—again, because Democrats didn't seem to be offering much. Republicans, at least, were promising lower taxes. Turnout on average dropped from 2012 by a staggering 42 percent. But as Sam Wang reported in a post-election piece for The American Prospect , the drop-off was evidently worse for Democrats...

Conservatives Should Explain Exactly What Jonathan Gruber Tricked Us All Into Believing

As we've all watched Republicans quiver with delight over the comments of MIT economist Jonathan Gruber about the Affordable Care Act, I've wondered what they really think about this little controversy. By which I mean, do they believe that "Former adviser to White House says politically intemperate things" is just a handy bludgeon with which to beat Barack Obama about the head and shoulders, or do they really think that Gruber's words are some kind of magical key that, now found, will enable them to destroy the ACA? I lean toward the former, mostly because their analysis of what exactly Gruber said has been so general (the law was sold on lies!). Though a lot of attention has been paid to Gruber referring to the "stupidity" of the voters, that's only of substantive concern if he was revealing some specific way in which the administration deceived the public. And when he said that, he was trying to say that the public didn't grasp that some people would be paying into the system but...

The Political Is Very Personal

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
As President Obama prepares to take executive action on immigration reform, Republicans are once again being torn apart. You can look at it as a battle between their heads and their hearts, with their heads understanding that doing things like shutting down the government or even impeaching Barack Obama would in fact end up being good for Obama and terrible for them, while their hearts cry for satisfaction, wanting only to beat their tiny fists against the president they despise so much: Congressional Republicans have split into competing factions over how to respond to President Obama's expected moves to overhaul the nation's immigration system, which are likely to include protecting millions from being deported. The first, favored by the GOP leadership, would have Republicans denounce what House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has called "executive amnesty" and use the party's new grip on Congress to contest changes to the law incrementally in the months ahead. The second, which...

The Keystone XL Issue May Be Resolved With—Shocker—Democratic Capitulation

"Do you want me to drink a glass of crude oil? 'Cause I will. I mean it." (Flickr/Mary Landrieu)
The current Democratic effort to help Mary Landrieu win her runoff election by scheduling a quick vote on the Keystone XL pipeline has to be one of the most politically idiotic moves in recent history. As I argued yesterday , not only is it guaranteed to fail in its goal of helping Landrieu, it gives Republicans a huge policy victory while getting nothing in return. Runoff elections have extremely low turnout, and the only way Landrieu stands a chance is if she can convince lots of Louisiana Democrats to go to the polls to save her. This kind of me-too policymaking—I'm just as pro-oil as Republicans are!—is about the last thing that'll pump up Democratic enthusiasm. But they're going ahead with it anyway, and word is now that a vote is likely next week. All may not be well, however, between Landrieu and her colleagues. The close of this article in today's Post is rich with intrigue: Before her remarks, Landrieu was spotted riding the escalator alone up from the Senate trains that...

Chart of the Day: What Republicans Really Want

(AP Photo/Dennis Brack)
In case you were wondering just how inclined Republicans will be to find ways to work with President Obama, here's the chart of the day, from a new Pew Research Center poll . Victory, it seems, does not make the GOP electorate magnanimous: This isn't a new story, but it's still striking. While the Ron Fourniers of the world will tell you that "the American people" want the two parties to come together to get things done, that isn't actually true. Many Americans want that, but they're mostly Democrats and independents. Most Republicans, on the other hand, don't want that at all. What they want is a fight. They want the officials they elected to shake their fists at that radical Kenyan socialist in the White House and tell him where he can shove it. Since that's what most of those officials are inclined to do anyway, the decision is simple for them. When there's a choice between compromising to get something accomplished and "standing up" to Barack Obama to make a point, they're going...

Republicans May Finally Get Their Wish to Watch the Affordable Care Act Destroyed

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
SEIU O n Friday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of King v. Burwell , perhaps the last gasp in the Republican attempt to use the courts to destroy the Affordable Care Act. The reaction to this news among liberals was, to put it mildly, shock and dismay. Simply put, the lawsuit is a joke, and the fact that any judge, let alone a justice of the Supreme Court (not to mention five of them) would do anything but laugh it out of court is a testament to just how shamelessly partisan Republican judges have become. At least four justices have to consent to hear a case, so it's possible that there will still be five votes to turn back this stink bomb of a case. That will probably depend on the good will of John Roberts, something I wouldn't exactly want to stake my life on. But lives are indeed at stake. There are a couple of optimistic scenarios for how this could all turn out, and I'll explain why I suspect they're wrong. But in case you haven't been following, this case rests on...

John Boehner Already Making Excuses For His Failure

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
It only took a couple of days before John Boehner made clear that when it comes to his approach to legislating in the wake of the Republicans' victory in the midterms, absolutely nothing has changed. All that talk about "getting things done" and "showing they can govern"? Forget about it. In his press conference the day after the election, President Obama got asked about immigration reform and repeated what he's been saying all along—that if Congress doesn't pass anything, he'll take some (as yet undisclosed) actions based on executive authority. He also noted for the umpteenth time that the Senate already passed a reform bill, one that included lots of gettin'-tough provisions demanded by Republicans, which Boehner refused to bring to a vote in the House even though it would have passed. He also emphasized that if Congress does pass a bill, it would supplant whatever executive actions he might take, so taking some executive actions might provide a nice inducement for them to do...

The Next Attempt By Republicans to Mislead On the Affordable Care Act

Mitch McConnell is deeply concerned about these women. (Flickr/Swampler)
If you were paying close attention, you would have heard a new phrase being repeated by Republicans, particularly Mitch McConnell, over the last few days: "restore the 40-hour workweek." You may have said, "Wait, is the workweek not 40 hours anymore?" If you had no idea what McConnell is talking about—and I'm pretty sure he's hoping very few people do—it sounds like he's advocating some kind of pro-worker initiative. And indeed, that's how he and John Boehner put it in their op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal , saying that one of the top items on their agenda is to "restore the traditional 40-hour definition of full-time employment, removing an arbitrary and destructive government barrier to more hours and better pay created by the Affordable Care Act of 2010." Now we're getting closer. The government, with that damn Obamacare, is cutting your hours and pay! As Boehner put it , we have to "restore the 40-hour workweek for American workers that was undone by Obamacare." Since we're...

Watch Party Dispatch: High Schoolers From Across the Country Want Change Now

For one thing, they're more concerned with voting rights than the behind-the-scenes details of national politics.

Close Up Foundation
T he Hamilton Live, a Washington, D.C., nightclub, is unrecognizable on election night. One hundred twenty-two high school students from 11 states, not to mention the 30 from Mexico, fill the bottom floor of the Hamilton usually packed for late night R&B and blues. This watch party is the culmination of the second day of an election week program run by the Close Up Foundation, an organization that seeks to teach students to be engaged citizens. The atmosphere is fairly sedate for a room full of teenagers away from their parents on a school night. They don’t react to the projections coming in on the big screen in front of them. To their credit, they’re focused on speakers Matt Robbins, of the conservative organizing non-profit American Majority, and Christian Dorsey, of the non-partisan Economic Policy Institute, presenting a Republican and Democrat point of view, respectively. Robbins keeps asking if the students have questions about how things really run in Washington. Although...

Top 5 Senate Races Where Dark Money and Outside Spending Ran Wild

Half a billion dollars was spent on U.S. Senate races this year, making this cycle the most expensive midterm campaign ever.

Shutterstock.com
This article has been corrected. G et ready for a week of pundits making claims of just what was proven by the results of the 2014 midterm elections. But one thing is already quite clear: Money is indeed a deciding factor. Half a billion dollars was spent on U.S. Senate races this year, making this cycle the most expensive midterm campaign ever. Much of that money was used by non-profit issue groups for what is known as “outside spending”—meaning money used for advertising and other forms of communication ostensibly to support an issue, but most often an issue that is framed in such a way to lend support to the group’s favored candidate. (These are the ads that often say something like: “Call Senator X and tell him to stop [supporting some allegedly terrible thing].") The 2014 cycle also shows how effectively outside spending groups can sway elections: When conservative groups outspend liberal groups (and sometimes even when they don’t), conservative candidates win. North Carolina,...

The Democrats' Catastrophe and the Need For a New Agenda

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, joined by his wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, celebrates with his supporters at an election night party in Louisville,Tuesday, November 4, 2014. McConnell won a sixth term in Washington, with his eyes on the larger prize of GOP control of the Senate. The Kentucky Senate race, with McConnell, a 30-year incumbent, fighting off a spirited challenge from Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, has been among the most combative and closely watched contests that could determine the balance of power in Congress. D emocrats had ample reason to fear that this year’s midterm elections would not go well for them, but bad doesn’t begin to describe what happened to them—and the nation—yesterday. Catastrophic is more like it. Democrats didn’t just lose the Senate; they lost statehouse after statehouse. They didn’t just lose the red states; they lost the purple and the blue. They lost the governorships of Maryland...

What We Talk About When We Talk About a Republican Senate

Presuming we have a Republican Congress next year, there's going to be a lot of talk right after the election about what that will change 1) politically and 2) substantively. While I'm ordinarily an advocate of more substantive discussion and less political discussion (not that I have a problem with political discussion, since I do plenty of it myself, it's just that it should be leavened with consideration of the things that actually matter), there's a potential problem in the substantive discussion that I think we should be on the lookout for. For instance, this morning on the radio I heard some energy expert whose name I didn't catch say that if Republicans take over the Senate, we're likely to see the government shift its focus toward fossil fuels and away from renewables. Which sounds perfectly logical until you ask how such a shift is supposed to take place. This is what is often missing from policy discussion: enough acknowledgment of the institutional processes that determine...

U.S. Supreme Court Could Decide Nation Status of Jerusalem

United States policy on the disputed city is illogical—for pragmatic reasons. SCOTUS shouldn't interfere.

(Photo by Omer Messinger/NurPhoto/Sipa USA) (Sipa via AP Images)
(Photo by Omer Messinger/NurPhoto/Sipa USA) (Sipa via AP Images) Israelis dance and wave national flags during the Jerusalem Day march on May 28, 2014, in a celebration marking the "unification" of Jerusalem after Israel took the city's east side from Jordan during the Six Days War in 1967. Author's update: Congress cannot force the executive branch to recognize Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday . The 6-3 decision in Zivotofsky v. Kerry was a narrow separation-of-powers victory for the presidency in setting foreign policy. It was also a major defeat for the Israeli government and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in their Congressional strategy—bypassing the White House and attempting to set American policy toward Israel via Capitol Hill. The case dealt with a 2002 provision that required the State Department to register the place of birth of U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem as Israel, if so requested. In an article last fall (below...

No Love for Obama as Election Day Approaches

Official White House photo by Pete Souza
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza I f Republicans win a significant victory in next Tuesday's election—and it now looks like they will indeed take the Senate—get ready for a whole lot of Obama-bashing, not only from the press and Republicans, but from liberals, as well. Some will go so far as to declare his presidency over, and I suspect more than a few genuine leftists will heap scorn on their liberal friends for their naïve embrace of a politician promising (as politicians always do) to change Washington. We can see one variant of this critique, the Jimmy Carter comparison, in a piece by Thomas Frank , based on an interview he conducted with historian Rick Perlstein: The moral of this story is not directed at Democratic politicians; it is meant for us, the liberal rank and file. We still "yearn to believe," as Perlstein says. There is something about the Carter/Obama personality that appeals to us in a deep, unspoken way, and that has led Democrats to fall for a whole string...

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