Archive

  • The Government We Deserve

    Vote for me, because these are hogs.
    This may be the most expensive midterm election in history, but it isn't necessarily the dumbest. That's not because it's smart in any way, just that elections in America are always dumb. To take just one tiny data point, the hottest Senate race in the country may be in Iowa, where everything turns on just how mad the Democratic candidate got when his neighbor's chickens kept crapping in his yard. Madison and Jefferson would be so proud. Commentators with brows set high and low periodically try to redeem a public that falls for this kind of stuff, with varying degrees of success. Political scientists often point out that accumulating detailed political knowledge is an inefficient use of time, when you can just use party identification as a proxy and almost all the time your decisions will be the same as they would if you knew as much as the most addicted political junkie. Perfectly true. But other attempts are less successful. I point your attention to a piece today in the Times by...
  • What's Wrong With Political Legacies?

    That's Jebbie in front of his dad. (Wikimedia Commons/George Bush Presidential Library)
    If you were Jeb Bush, you'd probably think this is a golden opportunity to finally mount that presidential bid you've been thinking about your whole life. The current Democratic president isn't particularly popular and has been serving for two terms, making the "time for a change" argument a natural for Republicans. The party is desperate for someone who can "reach out" to Hispanic voters, and you've long been known as the guy who can do that — your own wife is Mexican, and you speak Spanish. Perhaps most importantly, although there are a couple of Republican governors who might end up running, the competition at the moment doesn't exactly look like a field of giants. So over the weekend, we got new indications that Jeb '16 is on its way. Today's New York Times features an article about the Bush family's eagerness for Jeb to run, including sought-after endorsements by Jeb Jr., George W., and George H.W. Jeb's son George P. Bush appeared on ABC's This Week and said that his father is...
  • 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...
  • Rand Paul Continues Record of Brilliant Media Manipulation

    Flickr/circulating
    As I've probably made clear by now, I am 1) abundantly skeptical of Rand Paul's ability to be president of the United States, and only somewhat less skeptical of his ability to win the presidency; and 2) in tremendous admiration of Paul's skill at working the media. There will be abundant time to explore #1 in the months ahead, but today offers us yet another example of #2. Paul, you see, is convening a super-secret meeting of his brain trust to discuss his upcoming presidential campaign, and somehow, news of the meeting found its way to the National Journal and reporter Shane Goldmacher: Sen. Rand Paul is summoning his top strategists and political advisers to Washington one week after the November election for a strategy session over his widely expected 2016 presidential bid. The gathering of Paul's top lieutenants in the nation's capital has been quietly organized by Doug Stafford, his chief political strategist, who began reaching out to key figures in Paul's political world...
  • Barack Obama, the Veto-Less President

    This chart and more can be yours if you click inside.
    If the Republicans take over the Senate in this year's election, as now looks likely, one thing seems certain: President Obama will be issuing a lot of vetoes in the next two years. Or maybe not over the whole two years, but certainly at first. With Republicans in control of both houses of Congress for the first time since 2006, there would be an initial spasm of pointless legislating , as they set about to fulfill the promises they've made over the course of Obama's presidency: repealing the Affordable Care Act, slashing environmental protections, cutting taxes, establishing "the Reagan" as the new currency to replace the dollar, and so on. The prospect of future veto fights highlights an extraordinary fact: Obama has issued fewer vetoes than any president in modern (and even not-so-modern) American history. He has vetoed a grand total of two bills: the Interstate Recognition of Notarizations Act of 2010, which had to do with home foreclosures , and a continuing resolution that had...
  • Have Republicans Found a Way to Insure Poor People and Still Hate Barack Obama?

    Flickr/David Mason
    At the risk of being overly optimistic, I think we may have reached a tipping point on Medicaid expansion, where it will soon become completely acceptable for Republican states to accept it, insure their poor citizens, and reap the economic and social benefits despite the taint of Obamacare. I'm not saying there won't be holdouts, because there will be. But something is changing. I'll explain why in a moment, but first, the quick background. (Skip this paragraph if you know all this.) When the Supreme Court decided in 2012 that states could opt out of the expansion of Medicaid included in the Affordable Care Act, some health-care wonks said we shouldn't worry. The expansion was so generous—with the federal government picking up 100 percent of the cost at first, then ratcheting down to 90 percent of the cost over a few years—that it would be insane for any state to turn the money down. In fact, the most conservative states had the most to gain, since their Medicaid eligibility levels...
  • SCOTUS to Texas: Go Forth and Discriminate Against Your Citizens Starting Monday

    Wikimedia Commons
    The Supreme Court said Saturday that, for the first time, it is allowing a voting law to be used for an election even though a federal judge, after conducting a trial, found the law is racially discriminatory in both its intent and its impact, and is an unconstitutional poll tax. It is not only not a good look for the court, it is an abdication of the federal responsibility to protect every American voter from racially discriminatory voter suppression. These continuing voter restrictions are the worst attack on Americans’ voting rights since Reconstruction led to the Jim Crow era. We are in the middle of the storm that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg described in her Shelby County dissent. Studies show that recent restrictions on voting were more likely to be introduced and adopted in places that saw increased political participation from lower-income people and people of color. Voting in Texas starts Monday, and the new law only allows seven forms of acceptable identification, including...
  • Why Liberals Love (and Trust) NPR

    Flickr/MrTinDC
    The Pew Research Center has one of its ginormous studies out today, this one about polarization and media use, and as usual it's full of interesting stuff. I want to make a point about news in general and NPR in particular, and then after that, for those who care about these things, I have a methodological point to make about how we measure ideology. One of the distinct things about the Pew results is that conservatives love, love, love Fox News, while no single news outlet has the same kind of near-universal use among liberals. Look, for instance at this chart showing which sources each group cites as their main source of news: But the really interesting difference emerges when they ask which sources people trust: You'll notice that for the consistent conservatives, trust is basically a function of ideology and partisanship. The only sources that over 50 percent of them trust are Fox and a bunch of conservative radio hosts (and yes, conservatives would argue that that's because all...
  • John Kasich Successfully Begins Two-Year Ritual of Self-Flagellation

    Does the fact that it was 1985 excuse this Bieber-plus-mullet? Only the voters can decide. (Wikimedia Commons)
    At Holy Cross-Immaculata church in Cincinnati, there's a Good Friday tradition called " Praying the Steps ," in which parishioners slowly climb the 85 steps up to the church, saying a prayer on each step. It may take a while to get to the top, but that's the entire point of the exercise—the time and effort it takes is a symbol of one's devotion. Keep that in mind for a moment as we talk about that state's governor, John Kasich, and his complicated feelings about the Affordable Care Act. Yesterday, Governor Kasich went through a ritual that has grown no less absurd for being so familiar. It goes like this: 1) Republican politician accidentally acknowledges that the ACA is the law and repeal efforts are futile (or even that it actually helps people); 2) Conservatives do a collective spit-take; 3) Politician issues apology/clarification, making clear his unshakeable belief that the ACA was vomited out of the very fires of hell and of course he wants to repeal it; 4) Conservatives say, "...
  • On Ebola, Like Terrorism, We Don't Actually Have to Be Right 100 Percent of the Time

    I'm done (for the moment, anyway) writing entire posts trying to remind/convince people that the chances of you dying from Ebola are incredibly small. But that doesn't mean there isn't more to say about the often idiotic reactions people are having to a disease that has infected a grand total of two Americans on U.S. soil. This struck me this morning : Rep. Tim Murphy, who chaired a hearing last week questioning the Obama administration's response to the Ebola virus, argued again on Sunday for restricting travel from West African countries where the disease is threatening to spill over into the rest of the continent. "This is like dealing with terrorism," the Republican congressman from Pennsylvania said on "Fox News Sunday." "We have to be right 100 percent of the time, and Ebola only has to get in once." Representative Murphy is both exactly right and spectacularly wrong. He's wrong because Ebola doesn't only have to get in once. It already got in! And most Americans remain weirdly...

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