Paul Waldman

Can Democrats Win In the South by Being More Liberal?

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
I t isn't accurate to call Mary Landrieu "the last Southern Democrat," as one headline after another put it in the days leading up to and following her defeat in Saturday’s runoff election in Louisiana. While it's true that Republicans now control almost all the Senate seats, governorships, and legislatures of the 11 states of the old confederacy (the exceptions are found in Virginia and Florida), there are quite a few Democratic elected officials left in the South—but few of them were elected statewide, and a large proportion of them are black. For years, Democrats have tried to hold on in the South by appealing to the white voters who have steadily drifted away from them. That strategy has failed. Their future in the South—and they can have one—would start with black and Latino voters and work outward from there. It would be almost the exact opposite of how Democrats have been running statewide in recent years. No one expected Landrieu to hold on for a third term in the Senate,...

Whose Civil War Is Worse?

Flickr/Tom Gill
For some reason that I should probably determine one day, I've always found internal disputes with the conservative movement/Republican party somewhat more interesting than internal disputes within the liberal movement/Democratic party. Perhaps it's because, as a liberal, I get a little Nelson Muntzian charge out of watching the folks on the other side tear themselves apart. Or perhaps it's because, immersed as I am in the liberal world, the disputes on the left make more sense to me and therefore plumbing their mysteries isn't so compelling. Regardless, it has often been the case that one side is unified as the other is engaged in intramural battles; for many years, it was the Republicans who were together while the Dems were in disarray, while in the last few years the Democrats have been more united while the GOP has been riven by infighting. But could both sides now be at their own compatriots' throats? And if so, whose internal battle is more vicious? Charles Krauthammer insists...

Does Jeb Bush Understand His Party?

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
Can Jeb Bush avoid becoming the Jon Huntsman of 2016? You might remember Huntsman—affable fellow, ran for president in 2012? When he first joined the race, Huntsman got a lot of positive press coverage and even some praise from liberals. Here was a former governor who was certainly conservative but also seemed willing to work with Democrats, who disagreed with President Obama on many things but didn't hate him, and whose willingness to renounce past flirtations with sanity and pander shamelessly to tea partiers was minimal. And of course, his candidacy went nowhere. And now we've got Jeb Bush, who has a well-known name, the affection of corporate America, and maybe the best shot of anyone at becoming the "establishment" candidate. The problem is that he's not willing to give up his support of comprehensive immigration reform or Common Core educational standards, making him suspiciously moderate in primary voters' eyes. And as the Wall Street Journal reminds us, he even refuses to take...

Quote of the Day: 'When Cops Are Scared'

(AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Laurie Skrivan)
"Cops can get into a state of mind where they're scared to death. When they're in that really, really frightened place they panic and they act out on that panic. I have known cops who haven't had a racist bone in their bodies and in fact had adopted black children, they went to black churches on the weekend; and these are white cops. They really weren't overtly racist. They weren't consciously racist. But you know what they had in their minds that made them act out and beat a black suspect unwarrantedly? They had fear. They were afraid of black men. I know a lot of white cops who have told me. And I interviewed over 900 police officers in 18 months and they started talking to me, it was almost like a therapy session for them I didn't realize that they needed an outlet to talk. "They would say things like, 'Ms. Rice I'm scared of black men. Black men terrify me. I'm really scared of them. Ms. Rice, you know black men who come out of prison, they've got great hulk strength and I'm...

Jim Webb's Nostalgia For a Pre-Diversity Democratic Party

Flickr/Donkey Hotey
Jim Webb wants to know: can Democrats be the party of white guys again? OK, so that's not entirely fair. But it isn't that far off. Here's the message Webb is giving as he begins his presidential maybe-candidacy: Former senator and potential presidential candidate Jim Webb told an audience in Richmond on Tuesday that the Democratic Party has lost white working-class voters by becoming "a party of interest groups." "The Democratic Party has lost the message that made it such a great party for so many years, and that message was: Take care of working people, take care of the people who have no voice in the corridors of power, no matter their race, ethnicity or any other reason," Webb said. "The Democratic Party has basically turned into a party of interest groups." This isn't a new critique, and there's a lot of truth there, as long as you define "interest groups" as groups of people. The evolution that Webb is lamenting here is essentially what has happened to the Democratic party...

Businessmen Don't Understand Politics, Part 3,486

Flickr/Sam Graf
Yesterday, Barack Obama, who as we all know is on a mission to destroy capitalism, sat down with a group of capitalists from the Business Roundtable to hear their sage advice and answer their insightful questions about the economy and the state of the nation. During the session , Fred Smith, the CEO of Federal Express, mentioned a couple of bills floating around Congress to increase the gas tax, and asked the president, "Why not, before the Congress goes home for December, just pass a bill that takes the two bipartisan bills that I just mentioned, up, and solves the problem?" Yes, why not "just pass a bill"? Strange how nobody in Washington seems to have thought of that. It took a can-do business leader to cut through all the baloney and find the solution to the problem of crumbling infrastructure. I'm sure Smith is a smart guy in his way — I can't imagine an idiot could run a huge company like FedEx. But it's obvious that he knows nothing about politics. Yet I'm sure that like most...

The Carson Campaign Is Coming

I have heard your entreaties, and I reluctantly accept. (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
So in the latest CNN poll of Republicans on their preferences for the 2016 presidential primary, Mitt Romney comes in first, which isn't surprising since people remember his name. A little more odd is the fact that Ben Carson—retired neurosurgeon, habitué of conservative confabs, and courageous warrior in the battle against the "PC police" who claim that when you compare being gay to pedophelia and bestiality, it's kind of uncool—comes in second. But as Mark Murray of NBC points out , there's a simple explanation for why Carson polls ahead of more experienced politicians: Carson is a paid contributor to Fox News, which means that Republican primary voters see him on their teevees all the time. And Carson is actually putting together a staff and preparing for a run, which leads to the obvious question: In just what way will his candidacy crash and burn? Actually, I don't think it will. I think Ben Carson is in this for the long haul. It's not that he has a chance at winning, because he...

Congressional GOP Leaders Figure Out How to Temporarily Tame Conservative Beast

Artist's rendering of John Boehner. (Flickr/lensonjapan)
It looks like Republican leaders in Congress have settled on a way forward that (they hope) will fund the government, avoid a shutdown controversy, and not give up the fight against Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration. Here's the latest, from Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan of Politico : Speaker John Boehner announced Tuesday in a closed Republican meeting that the House would vote to disapprove of President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration this week and will vote to fund the government next week. The two-part plan, which GOP leadership laid out Monday evening to some lawmakers, is designed to give Republicans an opportunity to express displeasure with the White House's move on immigration while avoiding a shutdown. The disapproval of Obama's unilateral action—which states the executive branch cannot selectively enforce immigration deportation laws—won't change much, since the Senate will likely ignore it. The plan was inspired by two conservative lawmakers:...

The Cycle of Republican Radicalization

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported on a Quinnipiac poll from a week ago showing a striking change in public opinion on immigration. The question was whether undocumented immigrants should be deported or should be able to get on a path to citizenship. Clear majorities of the public have long favored a path to citizenship (especially if you provide details of what that path would entail, which this poll didn't). But that has changed, because Republicans have changed. As the Post described the Quinnipiac results, "Although [Republicans] supported citizenship over deportation 43 to 38 percent in November 2013, today they support deportation/involuntary departure over citizenship, 54 to 27 percent." That's an enormous shift, and it provides an object lesson in a dynamic that has repeated itself many times during the Obama presidency. We've talked a lot about how the GOP in Congress has moved steadily to the right in recent years, but we haven't paid as much attention to the movement...

Is Obama Bold Enough For You Now?

Barack Obama, being all passive and weak. (White House photo by Pete Souza)
Remember when the problem everyone had with Barack Obama was how passive he was? In late October, Charles Krauthammer lamented Obama's "observer presidency with its bewildered-bystander pose." Dana Milbank agreed that "The real problem with Obama is not overreach but his tendency to be hands-off." Milbank quoted Mitt Romney approvingly for his criticism of Obama for not being sufficiently "focused" on the Ebola threat (I guess a more focused president would have managed to avert the thousands of American Ebola deaths—oh wait). Anonymous Hillary Clinton aides tell reporters that unlike the "passive" Obama, their boss is going to be "aggressive" and "decisive" when it comes to foreign crises. Leon Panetta writes a memoir criticizing Obama for being passive, but the specific criticisms look a lot like, "I told the President to do something, and he didn't follow my advice!" This isn't a new complaint. For years, pundits who are supposed to have some sense of how politics actually works...

How Obama Boxed In Republicans With His Immigration Order

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) President Barack Obama shakes hands with people in the crowd following his remarks on immigration reform at Chamizal National Memorial Park in El Paso, Texas, May 10, 2011. I f there's an elected Republican who thinks it wasn't a bad idea for President Obama to take executive action on immigration, he or she has yet to make that opinion known. Not surprisingly, the 20 or 30 men (and one woman ) hoping to get the GOP nomination for president in 2016 have been particularly vocal on the topic. But while thunderous denunciations of the Constitution-shredding socialist dictator in the White House may seem to them today like exactly what the situation demands, before long they're going to be asked a simple yet dangerous question: If you become president, what are you going to do about it? Although they haven't actually answered that question yet, their feelings have been unambiguous. Ted Cruz said Obama has "gotten in the job of counterfeiting...

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...

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