Paul Waldman

In Early Polling, God Remains Undecided On Pick For 2016 GOP Nominee

I believe those are Iowa caucus voters behind him. (Flickr/Sebastian Bergmann)
Had you asked me which of the 20 or so potential Republican presidential candidates would be first to claim that his candidacy was endorsed by God himself, I would have said Ben Carson, who has the necessary combination of deep religious faith and self-aggrandizing nuttiness. And today we learn that while the creator of the universe is still mulling his options, he's not exactly giving Carson a no : In an interview on Thursday with Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network, Carson said he felt the hand of the Lord pushing him toward the White House. "Has He grabbed you by the collar yet?" host David Brody asked. "I feel fingers," Carson said. "But, um, you know... It's mostly me." Admirably modest and self-aware, I'd say. But I still bet that eventually Carson will announce that he's received a signal from above that the campaign is a go. If and when he does, he'll surely have some competition, that is if 2016 is anything like 2012. In case you don't recall, God was awfully busy...

Why There Won't Be Any Grand Immigration Confrontation Between Obama and Republicans

Flickr/SEIU
Republicans are, as expected, utterly livid about President Obama's announcement last night of executive actions he'll be taking on immigration, even as they completely ignore the substance of the moves (some of which are things they support). If one of Obama's goals was to divide Republicans against themselves, he certainly seems to have succeeded; as Robert Costa reported late last night, Republicans have "been thrust back into the same cycle of intraparty warfare that has largely defined the GOP during the Obama years and that has hurt the party's brand among the broader electorate." If you were just listening to members of Congress talk today, you'd think this issue will inevitably result in a bloody confrontation between Congress and the White House. This conflict is being portrayed in apocalyptic terms by some—Sen. Tom Coburn said "you could see instances of anarchy" and "You could see violence" as a result of Obama's actions, while another well-known Republican warned of "...

Why Republicans Are So Mad About Obama's Immigration Order

Flickr/Mindaugas Danys
President Obama is going to detail some executive actions he plans to take on immigration in a speech tonight , and you may have noticed that the debate over this move is almost completely void of discussion of the particulars. Instead, we're discussing whether Obama is exceeding his powers. That's an important question to address, but it also frees Republicans (for the moment anyway) of having to visibly argue for things like deporting the parents of kids who are already allowed to stay in the United States. One thing you'll notice as you watch coverage of the issue is that Republicans are seriously pissed off at Obama. And not in the faux outrage, pretend umbrage way—they are genuinely, sincerely angry. And while there may be a few here or there whose blood boils at the thought of an undocumented immigrant parent not living in constant terror of immigration authorities, for the vast majority it isn't about the substance at all. So what is it about? Here's my attempt at explaining it...

Charticle: Good News About America (Really!)

Flickr/Brandon Anderson
S ince we in the journalism/commentary business tend to find negative developments in the world more newsworthy than positive ones, every once in a while it's nice to offer up some good news. The recent release of the annual FBI crime statistics offers just such an opportunity. Crime is not just down over the long term, it seems to be declining every year; in almost every category you can find, crime was down between 2012 and 2013. It's down in cities and suburbs, in violent and non-violent offenses, in north and south, east and west. Now, it should be said that compared to most of our peer countries, America is still a terrifying hellscape of chaos and cruelty. We have about 17 times as many murders per capita as they do in Iceland, where apparently everyone's too busy huddling together for warmth to kill each other. But let's look at some charts, shall we? First up is overall violent crime: The average American is only half as likely to be a victim of violent crime as he or she was...

How Republicans Are Learning to Love the Shutdown

Flickr/Rich Renomeron
Conventional wisdom is malleable, and it appears that conventional wisdom on the wisdom of shutting down the government is shifting, at least within the Republican party. While the old CW was that it was a terrible idea that Republicans suffered for, and it would be foolish to do it again, the new CW seems to be, "Hey, didn't we shut down the government and win the next election?" The other day, influential conservative journalist Byron York began pushing this line, writing that the 2013 shutdown "so deeply damaged GOP prospects that Republicans exceeded expectations in 2014, winning control of the Senate in spectacular fashion and making unexpected gains in the House." And now, as Dave Weigel reports, Republicans are taking it up : In [conservative] circles, it's clear that the president can be stared down on immigration. And it's clear that a fight, even if it led to shutdown, would be either rewarded or forgotten by voters when they returned to the polling booths in November 2016...

Hillary Clinton's "Connection" to White Voters: What Could It Possibly Be?

One of these things is not like the other. (White House photo by Pete Souza)
In an interview published yesterday at Talking Points Memo, Mitch Stewart, an adviser to the nascent Hillary Clinton quasi-campaign, argued that Clinton could expand the map of states that Barack Obama won, putting more places in play. The reason, he said, that "Secretary Clinton has more appeal than any other Democrat looking at running is that with white working-class voters, she does have a connection." The idea of Clinton's "connection" to the white working class is something you hear now and again, and I think it's worth examining in some detail. Because it raises some uncomfortable questions that I doubt the Clinton campaign wants to confront. Something tells me she isn't going to be putting "Hillary Clinton: A Democrat, But White!" on her bumper stickers. But that's the essence of what we're talking about about here. It seems like a long time ago now, but during the 2008 primaries things got extremely racially charged for a while, at a time when the Clinton campaign was...

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...

How Badly Do Republicans Want Tax Reform? (Maybe Not That Badly)

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Representative Dave Camp, Republican of Michigan, speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 9, 2014. I f there's one major issue on which everyone in Washington seems to believe the White House and congressional Republicans might be able to agree to do something ambitious in the next two years, it's tax reform. A significant overhaul of the tax code hasn't happened in many years, and there are some areas of agreement between the two sides. Republicans supposedly want to show they can govern as the party in control of Congress, and President Barack Obama would like to obtain at least one significant legislative achievement in his second term. Big business, which has the ear of both parties, is eager for it. So is it going to happen? The answer depends, it would seem, on the tender emotions of Republicans, who are already complaining that tax reform might have to be scrapped if Obama is mean...

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...

Fox News, Where Conservative Senior Citizens Get to Look At Half-Naked 'Girls'

Another hard-hitting Fox investigation.
There's something almost endearing about the fact that in an age when there are literally millions of images and videos of humans without their clothes on available instantaneously to anyone with an internet connection, the occasion of a famous person allowing her butt to be photographed can produce such an extraordinary amount of discussion. I'm not going to analyze the semiotic meanings and deep cultural resonance of Kim Kardashian's behind (beyond saying that for someone with no discernible skills or talents, she sure is good at getting attention), but I do want to say something about the issue Conor Friedersdorf raises with regard to Fox News, which has been giving this critical issue extensive coverage: Fox is, of course, not so different from other gigantic broadcast media corporations in shamelessly exploiting the fact that sex sells. Its behavior is noteworthy only insofar as it underscores the fact that the ideological mission it purports to have and the cultural critiques it...

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...

The 2016 Republican Primary Is Getting More Interesting All The Time

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
Is it wrong of me to feel a little giddy thinking about the 2016 Republican presidential primaries? It is going to be a hoot and a holler, and with the midterms now behind us, potential candidates are moving quickly. The latest is a certain smooth-talking Baptist minister from Arkansas who is guaranteed to liven up the proceedings : Advisers are already scouting real estate in Little Rock, Ark., for a possible presidential campaign headquarters. Huckabee is scheduled to spend part of November holding private meetings with powerful GOP financiers in Las Vegas, New York, and California, gauging their interest in being bundlers for his possible campaign and asking for pledges of five-to six-figure donations to his aligned organizations. And he is planning two strategy sessions in December, in Little Rock and Destin, Fla., near his new Gulf Coast home, to discuss timing, potential staffing, and an opening pitch to voters. In January, Huckabee will publish "God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy,"...

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...

This Year's Biggest Spenders

Flickr/Ervins Strauhmanis
The Center for Responsive Politics is out with what I assume are final numbers on spending in the 2014 election , and it's some eye-popping stuff. The headline is that the North Carolina Senate race between Kay Hagan and Thom Tillis did indeed turn out to be the most expensive in history, with an amazing $116 million spent overall, $84 million of which was from outside sources. This tops the previous record-holder, Hillary Clinton's 2000 race, in which $70 million (or $97 million in today's money) was spent. Let's take a look at the top ten: There was $709 million spent on these ten races. You'll also notice that Republicans won seven, Democrats won two (New Hampshire and Michigan), and there's one (Louisiana) to be decided in a runoff. Much of that money went down the toilet via television ads, but if you're a Democrat you're hoping that at least some of it went into building an infrastructure that could form the basis of future campaigns. And what about the House? Here are the top...

Exit Polls and the Extrapolation Mistake

Not looking too busy. (Flickr/Stephen Velasco)
Talking about turnout in the 2014 election can look an awful lot like making excuses for the Democrats' loss, which I wouldn't want to do. Democrats don't need to feel better about what happened last Tuesday. They ought to feel bad, not just over how their party performed but about the very real consequences to people's lives that might occur as a result. But now that the data are coming in, we're seeing just how it was Republicans won. It wasn't because they did such a terrific job of persuading people to support their dynamic agenda for change, it was because their voters came to the polls and the Democrats' voters didn't. That was made possible by the fact that turnout overall was so abysmal. According to the United States Election Project, turnout this year was 36.4 percent of the voting-eligible population, the lowest of any election since 1942. Among those who did vote, exit polls showed that Republicans outnumbered Democrats 36 to 35 percent, with the rest calling themselves...

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