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The Tea Party Revealed

The op-ed of the day is from political scientists David Campbell and Robert Putnam, reporting on surveys they have done that contain in-depth analysis of Tea Partiers. What's different about their data is that they did a panel study (where the same respondents are interviewed at multiple times) that began in 2006, before the Tea Party emerged. That means they can look at today's Tea Partiers and know who they were before. And guess what: the prevailing narrative around the Tea Party -- that it's made up of folks who were not politically involved before, but just got mad about government spending -- is false. It's worth quoting at length: Our analysis casts doubt on the Tea Party’s "origin story." Early on, Tea Partiers were often described as nonpartisan political neophytes. Actually, the Tea Party's supporters today were highly partisan Republicans long before the Tea Party was born, and were more likely than others to have contacted government officials. In fact, past Republican...

Wisconsin Recall Part Deux

Last week, Wisconsin Democrats were on offense, winning two races against Republican state senators in a historic slate of recall elections. Yesterday, however, the situation was reversed, with Democrats defending two of their lawmakers from GOP attempts at recall. The state senators in question – Robert Wirch and Jim Holperin – were among the 14 state senators who left Wisconsin in an attempt to stop passage of Governor Scott Walker’s anti-union measure earlier this year. Thanks to high turnout and mobilization by Democratic activists, both incumbents defeated their conservative opponents. This leaves the composition of the Wisconsin state senate at 17 Republicans to 16 Democrats – unchanged from where it was after last week’s recall elections, when Democrats captured two Republican state senate seats. It’s unclear whether this will have an effect on public policy in the state, but it does serve to boost Wisconsin progresives. According to USA Today, Wisconsin Democratic leaders are...

Rick Perry Doesn't Want You To Think Texas Is Special

In a piece encouraging people to chill out about Rick Perry , Ed Kilgore makes a small but critical point: Following an initial love-fest, Rick Perry is about to undergo the kind of heightened scrutiny that’s already afflicting Bachmann. The centerpiece of his campaign message, the Texas Economic Miracle, is already coming into question in the media, and will be challenged, however indirectly, by his GOP rivals. Eventually, someone will draw attention to the fact that if Perry’s low-tax, low-services, corporate-subsidizing policies really were an economic cure-all, similar conditions should have made states like Alabama and Mississippi world-beating dynamos years ago. Ed has put his finger on the difference between Rick Perry's argument about why Texas has fared better than most states during the Great Recession, and the argument his critics are starting to make. Essentially, Perry is arguing that it doesn't really have anything in particular to do with Texas. Instead, it's the...

The Ron Paul-Era in American Politics

To Politico ’s Roger Simon, Rep. Ron Paul was “ shafted ” by the national press, despite his strong second place finish in the Ames Straw Poll. “Any fair assessment of Ames . . . would have said the winds of the Republican Party are blowing toward both Bachmann and Paul,” writes Simon. Ron Paul’s Iowa campaign was dismissed by the national press, but that wasn’t an unfair decision. Paul’s supporters are more motivated than most, but they form a small percentage of the Republican electorate. During the 2008 GOP primaries, Paul polled mostly below the double-digits, and in the latest Real Clear Politics average , Paul garners 9 percent support among Republicans, well behind Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann. If the political press is most interested in following the campaigns of plausible Republican candidates for the presidential nomination, then it makes total sense to ignore Paul. Where it makes less sense – and where the press has definitely dropped the ball – is in the...

Ron Paul, Press Victim

Should Ron Paul be getting more attention? Roger Simon says yes . Jon Stewart says yes . Kevin Drum says no , as does Steve Kornacki . I'm going to take a slightly different position. The pro-Paul argument is that if you're going to pay attention to something like the Ames straw poll, then you have to treat the candidates by the same rules. Michele Bachmann won, so she should get attention for that. But Paul came in a close second, so he ought to be getting credit for that too. Yet reporters are not only ignoring him, but when they do talk about him, it's with barely disguised contempt, as you can see in the Daily Show montage. The counter-argument is, as Kevin puts it, "Paul has a small but fervent fan base that hasn't grown noticeably since he ran and flamed out in 2008, and he has a well-known (but meaningless) ability to fire up this little fan base for assorted minor events like this." This is also true. Now, reporters will insist that their decisions about whom to cover and whom...

Rick Perry's Threats Establish Him as a Mainstream Republican

Three days out of the gate, and Texas Governor Rick Perry has already had his first gaffe in the Republican presidential primary. Speaking before a crowd in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Monday, Perry called loose monetary policy and act of treason, and made not-so-subtle threats about the physical safety of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, should he happen to find himself in Texas. “If this guy prints more money between now and the election,” said Perry to the group, “I don’t know what y’all would do to him in Iowa, but we – we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous – or treasonous in my opinion” This is a little ironic given Perry’s own flirtation with near-treasonous ideas. But if you put those two things aside, you’ll notice that this isn’t a unique sentiment among Republican presidential hopefuls. Back when he was still a viable candidate for the GOP nomination, former...

Is Rick Perry Too Dumb?

Ta-Nehisi Coates isn't worried that Rick Perry might be too dumb to be president: I'm sure there some level of imbecility which would be too much for Americans, but it seems that the ability to understand and speak to the ambitions of a critical mass of the electorate is much more important. Intelligence might help that effort. But empathy--or at least the ability to communicate empathy--with your audience seems much more important. This is a response to a point Kevin Drum made , in which he argued that Americans would find Perry to be something of an idiot. I'm sort of on Ta-Nehisi's side, but we have to make a distinction -- one I'll probably be stressing repeatedly for the next year -- between running for president and being president. Consider George W. Bush . Bush's intellectual limitations did nothing to prevent him from being an excellent candidate, essentially because he was no smarter than the average voter. So just as many voters are persuaded by simplistic ideas repeated...

If the President Defends Liberalism and No One Listens, Does It Matter?

In their despair over the debt-ceiling deal, liberals have admonished President Obama for his failure to use the “bully pulpit” and take his case to the public. Political psychologist Drew Westen offered a lengthy version of this argument in last week’s New York Times , lamenting Obama’s failure to capture the public’s imagination and act as a national advocate for liberalism. The problem with this critique, as pointed out by many, is that Obama has articulated a political vision for the country and has repeatedly defended liberalism as a governing ideology. The issue isn’t that Obama hasn’t been talking; it’s that the press hasn’t been listening. For an example, take President Obama’s ongoing bus tour through the Midwest. As part of this event, he stopped in Cannon Falls, Minnesota for a town hall with residents. Obama gave brief remarks, and then turned the mic over to the crowd for a lengthy question and answer session, during which he gave a forceful defense of government in the...

The Vision Thing

At Politico , Glenn Thrush explores President Obama’s vision problem, or his alleged inability to articulate a unified message for the country. Taking a page from discontented liberals, Thrush compares Obama unfavorably with Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy: Obama has groped for a larger message to match the iconic “hope and change” rallying cry of the campaign, and began his term with the promise of a “New Foundation” meant to echo the optimism of FDR and JFK. […] “There is nothing wrong with our country. There is something wrong with our politics,” Obama said Thursday during a trip to Michigan. “This downgrade you’ve been reading about could have been entirely avoided if there had been willingness to compromise in Congress. “There are some in Congress who would rather see their opponents lose than America win.” […] That might make the case for reelecting Obama, but will it get Americans out of the country’s collective funk the way a message like FDR’s “The only thing we have to...

The Meaning of Gaffes

If you'll permit a little cross-self-promotion, I had a piece in Sunday's Washington Post , which opened this way: If you aren't old enough to remember it, you've probably heard the story of the most consequential presidential campaign gaffe of the modern era. In 1972, Maine Sen. Edmund Muskie responded to a series of attacks by the Manchester Union Leader with a news conference outside the paper's offices. Standing in the New Hampshire snow, the candidate for the Democratic nomination condemned the paper for, among other things, attacking his wife. The Washington Post's David Broder began his story about the incident this way: "With tears streaming down his face and his voice choked with emotion . . ." Though Muskie insisted that his facial wetness came from the snow, the idea that a candidate would cry created a scandal. Muskie, thought until that moment to be his party's inevitable nominee, soon saw his campaign flounder and die. The less well-known part of this story is that some...

Are Perry's Views "Mainstream" Conservatism?

Much of conservative Forbe's blogger Avik Roy 's response to the devastating list of quotes complied by Matt Yglesias from Rick Perry 's book consist of assertions that Perry didn't say what he said. But one of his responses I found remarkable. Here's Perry on the constitutional scope of federal power: [Perry] regrets the existence of jurisprudence construing the Commerce Clause to permit “federal laws regulating the environment, regulating guns, protecting civil rights, establishing the massive programs and Medicare and Medicaid, creating national minimum wage laws, [and] establishing national labor laws.” Perry makes a partial exception for laws barring racial discrimination which he says fulfill “the intent behind the passage of the Reconstruction Era amendments.” He also argues that Social Security and the regulation of financial markets violates the Constitution. According to Roy, however, "this is about as mainstream of a conservative position on constitutional law as there is...

They're Soaking In It

Here's the problem with our politics. Conservative eminence grise Norman Podhoretz writes the following in The Wall Street Journal over the weekend: Furthermore, what Mr. Westen regards as an opportunistic appeal to the center we [conservatives] interpret as a tactic calculated to obfuscate his unshakable strategic objective, which is to turn this country into a European-style social democracy while diminishing the leading role it has played in the world since the end of World War II. The Democrats have persistently denied that these are Mr. Obama's goals, but they have only been able to do so by ignoring or dismissing what Mr. Obama himself, in a rare moment of candor, promised at the tail end of his run for the presidency: "We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America."... He is still the same anti-American leftist he was before becoming our president, and it is this rather than inexperience or incompetence or weakness or stupidity that accounts...

11CA Rules Mandate Unconstitutional

For the first time, a federal appellate court has ruled that the individual mandate provision of the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. The 2-1 ruling [ pdf ] is notable for three reasons. First, this new conflict between circuit courts makes it likely that the Supreme Court will hear the case in the upcoming term. Second, Judge Frank Hull has become the first Democratic appointee to find the mandate unconstitutional. And third, the 11th circuit rejected Judge Roger Vinsion's transparently illogical conclusion that the mandate could not be severed from the rest of the ACA. If upheld in full, the newest decision would leave the rest of the ACA standing. On the merits, the key arguments of the majority are familiar -- most notably, that the mandate is unprecedented in scope and that if the mandate was upheld, federal power would be theoretically unlimited. For reasons I've explained at some length , I find both of these arguments unpersuasive in the extreme. What's more important...

Can Democrats Take Back the House in 2012?

If this were a normal political environment, it would be safe to assume a GOP House majority through the 2012 cycle. After all, at 240 seats, it would take another wave election – the third in as many cycles – for Republicans to lose control of the House. But the politics of this moment are highly unusual: Te economy is teetering on the edge of a double-dip recession and the new GOP majority has eschewed moderation altogether, opting instead for brinksmanship on the nation’s finances, and a hard-right agenda of deep spending cuts and attacks on reproductive health care for women. As a result, not only has the Republican Party tarred Congress with its worst approval ratings ever, but it has led the public to double-down on its disdain for the GOP -- an incredible feat, given the party’s already poor approval ratings. With all of this in mind, it’s no surprise that after taking a shellacking in last year’s elections, the Democratic Party is now leading the generic congressional ballot...

The Ames Straw Poll, Uncut and Unrated

When Stephen Colbert briefly toyed with running for president four years ago, there was a certain amount of criticism from people who said he was demeaning what ought to be a serious process, no matter how much the campaigns and candidates might work to demean it themselves. The argument wasn't entirely without merit, though whatever damage was done was probably outweighed by the satirical value to be gained. And this year, in the wake of the Citizens United decision, wherein the Supreme Court essentially lifted nearly all restrictions on campaign spending by those seeking to buy elections, the need for satire is greater than ever. Happily, Citizens United also allows Colbert to engage in all kinds of mischief, which is all the more appropriate when aimed at foolishness like the Ames Straw Poll. Here's the latest bit of awesomeness from Colbert's SuperPAC, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow. The ad is titled "Behind the Green Corn": Now tell me, is that corn sequence really any...

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