Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Ringside Seat: Prospect'd

There's nothing wrong with being a centrist, if you find that your true ideology happens to lie between where Democrats and Republicans are at this particular moment in history. There are some people who feel that way. But far more common in Washington is centrism not as a sincere expression of beliefs, but as an attitude, or even a pose. The idea that wisdom is always to be found at the precise midpoint between what Democrats and Republicans are saying is a particular Washington curse, accompanied by its pox-on-both-their-houses handmaiden, the idea that both parties are always equally guilty of whatever sins are currently being committed in politics. So when David Brooks of The New York Times wrote a column claiming that neither Democrats nor Republicans had a plan to replace the sequester and reduce the deficit, The Washington Post 's Ezra Klein, using the skills he learned as a writer for The American Prospect , decided to see if Brooks might want to have a chat about the topic...

Why Black Voters Are Critical for the GOP

New York Times
New York Times If there's a corollary to the idea that GOP reform is unnecessary, it's that further outreach is less important than advertised. A little less turnout from minorities, and a little more support from whites, and you have a President Romney. With that said, if Republicans are going to invest in new outreach, they should at least make smart decisions about it. So far, the collective opinion of the Republican Party is that it needs to win Latino votes in order to become competitive again. In the long-term, as Latinos become a growing portion of the American electorate, that's probably true. In the short-term, however, it's not clear Republicans are well-served by focusing on Hispanic voters. Remember, Latino attachment to the Democratic Party goes beyond immigration—Latino voters are more liberal than the median American, favoring greater government intervention in the economy. To win a significant portion of Latino voters, Republicans would have to moderate on core issues...

The Weak Political Case for GOP Reform

Marion Doss / Flickr
Marion Doss / Flickr In today's Washington Post , Republican scribe Michael Gerson makes yet another case for Republican reform : A Republican recovery in presidential politics will depend on two factors. First, candidates will need to do more than rebrand existing policy approaches or translate them into Spanish. Some serious rethinking is necessary, particularly on economic matters. In our Commentary essay, we raise ideas such as ending corporate welfare, breaking up the mega-banks, improving the treatment of families in the tax code, and encouraging economic mobility through education reform and improved job training. Whatever form Republican proposals eventually take, they must move beyond Reagan-era nostalgia. The more I think about it, the more I think this is wrongheaded. Obviously, there's a substantive case for Republican reform—eventually, the GOP will win the White House, and it will need a serious governing agenda. But the political case for reform is much weaker. Yes,...

Beltway Pundits Mysteriously Forget Barack Obama's Deficit Hawkery

Center for American Progress
Center for American Progress Today has seen several columns from frustrated pundits who want President Obama to "lead" Republicans to a deal on the automatic spending cuts scheduled for next month (i.e. "the sequester). The cuts, if implemented, will cause a huge slowdown in economic growth, and throw the federal government into disarray. Pace the recent column from David Brooks, the president has offered a deal on the sequester. It's a "balanced" package that achieves $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction through savings, spending cuts, and tax increases. The only obstacle is the Republican Party, which refuses to accept any new taxes. Some pundits, like National Journal 's Ron Fournier, insist GOP intransigence is the product of poor "leadership." If Obama would lead, the argument goes, Republicans would fall in line. But it's not leadership to accede to unreasonable demands, in this case, a short-term austerity package of immediate spending cuts. Imagine a child who demanded a dinner...

Ringside Seat: Gay New World

If you're a Republican these days, the agita just never seems to end. The public is blaming you for this sequester business (so unfair!), your own colleagues are giving up on fighting Obamacare, the public disagrees with you on pretty much every major issue, and to top it all off, this gay-marriage thing won't go away. It seems like such a short time ago when you could blast Democrats for wanting to let sodomites destroy this cherished institution—what with their tastefully appointed homes and desire to file taxes jointly and visit each other in the hospital—and just watch the votes roll in. But no more. Now public opinion has turned against you, former Republican presidential candidates are writing that supporting same-sex marriage is the conservative thing to do, and you have to watch ads in which Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, and Laura Bush argue in favor of it (granted, the former First Lady asked that she be taken out of the ad, but it still stings). Perhaps some succor can be taken...

Extremist Republicans Don't Want to be Attacked for Extremism

Google Images
Google Images President George W. Bush signing the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. The National Review 's Andrew Stiles is still upset with Democratic messaging on reproductive rights: Welcome to the scorched-earth phase of the Democrats’ “war on women” campaign, and the beginning of a ruthless offensive to hold their Senate majority, and possibly to retake the House, in 2014. Democrats have nearly perfected the following exercise in cynical electioneering: 1) introduce legislation; 2) title it something that appeals to the vast majority of Americans who have no interest in learning what is actually in the bill, e.g., the “Violence Against Women Act”; 3) make sure it is sufficiently noxious to the GOP that few Republicans will support it; 4) vote, and await headlines such as “[GOP Lawmaker] Votes No On Violence Against Women Act”; 5) clip and use headline in 30-second campaign ad; and 6) repeat. I'm not sure if Stiles knows this, but the Violence Against Women Act...

The Sequester Blame Game

Google
A key part of the GOP's strategy on the sequester is to blame President Obama for the fact it exists at all. One good example is House Speaker John Boehner's op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal : With the debt limit set to be hit in a matter of hours, Republicans and Democrats in Congress reluctantly accepted the president's demand for the sequester, and a revised version of the Budget Control Act was passed on a bipartisan basis. Ultimately, the super committee failed to find an agreement, despite Republicans offering a balanced mix of spending cuts and new revenue through tax reform. As a result, the president's sequester is now imminent. The big problem with this narrative is that it directly contradicts Boehner's rhetoric at the time. After the deal was crafted, in July 2011, Boehner told GOP House members that "There was nothing in this framework that violates our principles." Later, in an interview with CBS News following the House vote on the bill, he described the deal as...

Americans Really Want the GOP to Knock It Off

fakelvis / Flickr
fakelvis / Flickr If the public is unhappy with anything, it's the crisis-driven governing of the last two years. Between the debt ceiling stand-off—when House Republicans threatened to sink the economy if they didn't get spending cuts—and the recent fiscal cliff battle—where, again, Republicans threatened economic disaster if they didn't get spending cuts—the United States has lurched from fight to fight, crisis to crisis, in an ongoing game of domestic brinksmanship. This strategy might appeal to the Republican base—which has no interest in the Obama agenda—but it's been a nonstarter with the broader public, which just wants government to function. Indeed, GOP intransigence is almost certainly the reason for its dismal ratings in the latest poll from USA Today and the Pew Research Center. Republican leaders, for example, receive a 25 percent approval rating from the public, with a sharp divide between Democrats and independents (who give them a 22 percent and 15 percent rating,...

What We'll Be Talking about in 2016

AP Photo/Mark Hirsch
Yes, pundits of all stripes are already starting to handicap the presidential fields for 2016. Yes, that’s a long time from now … although we are under three years to the Iowa Caucuses, and probably just about two years from the first debates, so it’s not all that long. More to the point: as long as the candidates are running—and they are—there’s no reason to pretend the contest hasn’t started yet. While the identity of the next Democratic and Republican nominees is important, what’s even more important is what they intend to do if elected. Indeed: the nomination process is important because it’s how parties sort out their differences and make decisions about who they are, and what kinds of public policy they support. Moreover, the nomination process is the best chance for groups and individuals within the party to have a chance of affecting what the party will do if it wins. In general elections with huge electorates, there’s not much one person can do that makes any difference. In...

Republican Rationality on Medicaid

Rick Scott, who surprised everyone and did the right thing. (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Florida governor Rick Scott, with his skeletal frame, shiny bald pate, nine-figure fortune possibly obtained at least partially through Medicare fraud, and love of humiliating poor people, resembles nothing so much as a comic-book villain. So it was something of a surprise when he announced yesterday that he is reversing his previous position and will allow poor Floridians to receive Medicaid coverage as provided for in the Affordable Care Act. It isn't hard to explain why: the federal government is paying 100 percent of the cost of new enrollees in the first few years, and nearly all the cost thereafter, meaning for a small investment on the state's part it gets a healthier, happier, more productive citizenry. Only a truly despicable politician would turn it down, preferring to see their constituents go without health insurance than get it from the government, as I've argued (OK, "raged" is more like it) before. After the Supreme Court said it its Obamacare decision that states could...

Still More BS

AP Photo/Alex Brandon
We all do things that we regret. President Obama must surely regret that he ever listened to the extreme deficit hawks back in early 2010, when he appointed the Bowles-Simpson Commission, the fiscal zombie that just won’t die. The commission is long defunct. The recommendations of its majority report never became law (because that required a super-majority). But the dreams and schemes of B-S have become the gold standard of deflationists everywhere. The test of budgetary soundness is: does it meet the recommendations of Bowles and Simpson? On Tuesday, the depressive duo were at it again, calling for additional deficit reductions of $2.4 trillion over a decade. This is almost a trillion dollars beyond what President Obama and Congress are considering. This clarion call was issued under the aegis of the corporate group, “Fix the Debt,” a bunch of millionaires and billionaires urging regular people to tighten their belts for the greater good. Quite apart from the impact of particular...

Why Republicans Should Want to Index the Minimum Wage

Flickr/FiddleFlix
If Republicans have any political sense at all, they’ll support not just raising the minimum wage, but indexing it. The economic case for raising the wage, at a time when economic inequality is rampant, working-class incomes are declining, and Wal-Mart sales are falling through the floor, is overwhelming. But while Republicans may blow off the economic consequences of not raising the federal standard, they can’t be so cavalier in dismissing the political consequences. The constituency that today’s GOP most desperately seeks to win, or at least neutralize, is Latinos—the ethnic group most clustered in low-wage jobs, and most certain to benefit from a minimum wage hike. In swing districts with substantial Latino populations, Democrats are certain to highlight Republican opposition to raising the wage in the 2014 elections. Nor is support for a higher wage limited to Latinos. On each occasion in the past decade that a state minimum wage increase has been put before voters as a referendum...

Augmented Reality Is Here, and It's Right on Your Face

You must be at least this cool to buy Google Glass.
There are some technological developments that come as a complete surprise, and some that are logical extrapolations of what we've had for a while, so obvious that we know we'll eventually get them, it's just a matter of the development of the necessary components. A wearable augmented reality device falls into the latter category. For years, we've been seeing sci-fi movies in which a character looks out at the world, or at a person, and sees a whole bunch of information pop up in front of his eyes (the best-known example is probably The Terminator , which came out in all the way back in 1984). But as of now, you can actually get one. Well, maybe not you specifically, but somebody. Google Glass, which is essentially a smartphone in the shape of a pair of glasses that are, depending on your perspective, totally cool-looking or remarkably dorky, is going on sale. You won't be able to go down to Target and buy a pair, though; for this first run, you have to actually apply to Google, and...

Ringside Seat: One Small Step for Florida

Two years after spearheading the lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act and just a few months after affirming his opposition to expanding Medicaid coverage in his state, Florida governor Rick Scott has shifted gears and indeed decided to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid. In a press conference late this afternoon, he explained his reasoning: “While the federal government is committed to pay 100 percent of the cost of new people in Medicaid, I cannot, in good conscience, deny the uninsured access to care.” This, it suffices to say, is a huge gain for the law. As a prominent opponent from one of the country’s largest states, Scott's reversal has weakened efforts to maintain a united front against implementing the Affordable Care Act. It is also a big gain for human welfare. With nearly 4 million people who lack health insurance, Florida has the second-highest rate of uninsured in the country. Part of that is because the state—under its Tea Party leadership—has become remarkably...

Should Democrats Be Afraid of Marco Rubio?

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
Ed Kilgore alerts us to this interesting Reuters story in which freshman senator Ted Cruz of Texas charges that Democrats were beating up on freshman senator Marco Rubio of Florida after the latter's State of the Union response because as a Latino Republican with such mad skillz, Rubio is a dire threat and they need to take him out now. I'll tell you what I think about that, but this also raises an interesting question about how we look at politicians on the other side and how difficult it can be to objectively assess their appeal to the public. Here's an excerpt: Sen. Ted Cruz says some of the attacks on fellow Republican Sen. Marco Rubio by Democrats are motivated by race. Cruz said today the fact that Rubio is a Republican Latino poses a threat to political adversaries. "I think Democrats and the media are afraid of Marco Rubio because he is a smart, intelligent, conservative Hispanic. And they are looking for any excuse they can to attack him, because that threatens them," Cruz...

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