Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

The President's Dream State

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak President Obama at last night's State of the Union address B y any measure, President Obama’s first term was consequential. In four years, he signed an $800 billion stimulus program into law, laid the foundation for universal health insurance, secured new regulations governing the financial sector, repealed "don't ask, don't tell," and put the United States on the path back to economic recovery. For his second term, he has an agenda that’s just as ambitious and—reflecting the coalition that re-elected him—unambiguously progressive. Other than a de rigeur nod to deficit reduction—he mentioned “the deficit” ten times—the speech ticked off a litany of liberal policies: Universal pre-school, a cap-and-trade system to limit carbon emissions, a higher federal minimum wage (set at 9$ an hour, the highest it’s been since 1981), and billions more in new infrastructure spending to repair roads and bridges. That’s to say nothing of comprehensive immigration reform (with...

The State of Our Union in 28 GIFs

Hey, it's almost time to get started! Any minute now... Still clapping ... (Is the livestream stuck on a loop?) Aaaand, let's hear it for the middle class! We must keep promises we’ve already made so our young people aren't left holding the bag. “Deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan.” Everyone likes the idea of a smarter government. It's just vague enough to work! MACS MADE IN AMERICA! Would you like some new jobs, former manufacturing workers? Finally, a shout out to fighting climate change. Boehner is not amused. Preschool for every child in America! + Immigration reform sounds awesome! Until you realize that "back of the line” means ... never? HEY GIRL, how'd you like a paycheck fairness act? Yes, and a reauthorized Violence Against Women Act, too, thanks! It's time to tie the minimum wage to cost of living. Was that dainty clap sarcastic, John Boehner? Who doesn't love our brave men and women in the military? We've got the most serious generals. And the best...

Marco Rubio Is Thirsty ... for America

Marco Rubio reaches for his water
It's not his fault, really. Maybe it was understandable nervousness—after all, here he was just a few days after being anointed "The Republican Savior" in a Time magazine cover, following the president, but without an applauding crowd to feed off. Or maybe it was that the room was hot and dry. Whatever the cause, after trying to wipe the sweat from his brow and face for 12 long minutes and repeatedly moving his tongue around his mouth to get some moisture going, Marco Rubio decided he just had no choice but to bend down and grab that tantalizing little bottle of water that lay just out of reach. So don't blame him for that, even though he'll no doubt get plenty of mockery for it today. You can blame him, however, for the insipid speech he delivered, a combination of calumny and cliché that demonstrated just why Republicans are having such problems appealing to voters. Let's start with this: Presidents in both parties – from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan – have known that our free...

Same Old, Same Old SOTU

The president shall, Article II Section 3 of the U. S. Constitution reads, "from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient," so here we arrive at the yearly State of the Union address. George Washington delivered the first in 1790, but Thomas Jefferson thought it sufficient to send his thoughts on the union's state in writing, and presidents did the same until Woodrow Wilson went before Congress in 1913 to describe with his mouth how the country was doing. And then technology spread the State of the Union to the masses: Calvin Coolidge's 1923 State of the Union was the first to be broadcast on radio, Harry Truman's 1947 SOTU was the first on television, and Lyndon Johnson made it an evening affair in 1965 to maximize the TV audience. The next year saw the first opposition response, in which Everett Dirksen and Gerald Ford lit up the screen responding to President...

Why Asian Americans Are So Democratic—In Three Charts

Jamelle Bouie / The American Prospect
Apropos of this morning’s post on the Democratic Party’s overwhelming strength with Asian Americans, it’s worth looking at why Asians are so supportive of Democrats in general, and President Obama in particular. One answer is the anti-immigrant politics of the Republican Party. It’s not that Asians are liberal as much as it is that—as a largely foreign-born community—they’re turned off by the GOP’s overt hostility toward immigration. But a poll taken before the election complicates that picture. In the survey , conducted by the Asian American Legal Defense Fund, only 7 percent of respondents saw Mitt Romney as hostile toward Asian Americans. Romney used anti-immigrant rhetoric, but it didn’t create an impression of hostility toward the Asian American community writ large. And even if it did, rhetoric alone isn’t enough to explain Obama’s wide advantage with Asian Americans For that, you have to look to ideology. In its 2012 survey on the beliefs and views of Asian Americans, the Pew...

What Will Actually Happen at the SOTU

As you well know by now, President Obama will deliver his State of the Union address tonight. In case you plan to be busy giving the dog a bath or getting a jump on your taxes, here's what will happen: 1. The speech won't be the longest in history, but it'll probably still be a little long for your taste. 2. Democrats will interrupt Obama with applause approximately four-thousand times, including 850 standing ovations, which will stretch out the speech far beyond the length it needs to be (see number 1). 3. Knowing that this is one of the only times he has something close to the whole nation's attention all year, the President will briefly mention a wide variety of policy issues. After the speech is over, commentators will complain that this was a "laundry list" that they found boring. The viewing public, on the other hand, will be perfectly fine with hearing it. 4. Most of the speech will be taken up with arguing for the same policies Obama has advocated for years. But there will be...

America's Long Experiment in Racial Quotas

Wikipedia
Wikipedia A 1937 redlined map of Philadelphia by the city's Home Owners' Loan Corporation. Racial inequality in housing, health, and education is still a fact of American life, but many of the programs and policies meant to combat it are on the chopping block. This year, for instance, the Supreme Court will rule on a challenge to the University of Texas’ affirmative action program—from a white student denied admission —and in doing so, is expected to end race-based preferences in college admissions. Likewise, conservative Republicans have mounted an effort to gut the Voting Rights Act . Their position? That it’s unfair to place greater federal scrutiny on states with a history of racial discrimination. This, despite the fact that—over the last two years—those same states have passed a host of laws that make voting more difficult for African Americans and other minorities. At the other end of the hemisphere, however, politicians and activists are working to combat racial inequality,...

The Public and the Drone War

Jamelle Bouie / The American Prospect
It’s a near certainty that President Obama will continue his drone war, including targeted strikes against American citizens. Why? Because, at the moment, there’s not much of a political price to pursuing the strategy. To wit, today’s survey from CBS News is just the latest in a list of polls that show wide support for drone strikes, and smaller—but still significant—support for strikes against American citizens. Overall, 57 percent of Americans approve of how President Obama has handled terrorism, as opposed to the 31 percent that disapprove. Seventy-one percent favor drone attacks against suspected terrorists, with overwhelming support from all partisan groups: The picture is different when it comes to killing Americans suspected of terrorism. There, the broad public is ambivalent—just a plurality of Democrats and independents support the policy. Republican support—reflecting the party’s aggressive approach to foreign policy—is still strong, though substantially smaller than support...

The GOP's Big Asian-American Problem

Jamelle Bouie / The American Prospect
Still overlooked in the immigration discussion are Asian Americans, who are the fastest growing demographic group in the country—and one of the most diverse. The bulk of Asian American immigrants (83 percent) come from China, the Philippines, India, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan. At present, they’re 5.8 percent of the total population, nearly half of whom live in the West, with a large concentration on the Pacific coast. Seventy-four percent of Asian American adults were born outside of the United States, and in 2009—according to the Pew Research Center—Asian American immigration outpaced Hispanic immigration for the first time in recent history: The Republican Party’s standing with Latinos is solid compared to where it is with Asian Americans. A whopping 73 percent of Asians supported Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election, up 11 percent from four years ago. When you disaggregate by nationality, the difference between Asian support for Obama and Romney is even more stark and...

If He's For It, I'm Against It

(AP Photo/Tim Sloan, Pool)
Over the past few years, folks like me have pointed out many times that Republicans have, almost as one, changed their minds on the wisdom of a number of important policies, for no apparent reason other than the fact that Barack Obama embraced them. The most notable ones are "cap and trade," which used to be a conservative way to harness the power of markets to address climate change, but then became a sinister government power grab to force everyone to huddle in the cold as the useless solar panels on their roofs provided only enough power to run a tiny hotplate; and the individual health insurance mandate, which used to be a Heritage Foundation-crafted idea to use the power of markets to achieve universal private insurance coverage and avoid single-payer health care, then became the greatest threat to freedom the world has seen since Joseph Stalin was laid to rest. Yet for all the (deserved) ridicule, there's something almost rational lying underneath these changes in position...

Not a Shot in Hell

Flickr/Catholic Church of England and Wales
Flickr/M.Mazu Pope Benedict XVI waves to the crowd as he arrives for an open-air mass in the Terreiro do Paso in Lisbon on May 11, 2010. D istilled to their essence, elections turn on the rigidity of numbers, concrete and comforting, imposed onto the chaos of human opinion. We stew when they do not go our way, but in these matters, majorities rule, minorities shout, and votes rarely occur without the employment of cajoling and cunning by candidates. The same will hold true when, following the February 28 resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, a papal conclave convenes and the College of Cardinals confines itself to the Sistine Chapel until the next pontiff is chosen. Cue images of white smoke issuing from chimneys as crimson-robed old men cast their ballots, all set to a dark, baroque soundtrack. As mesmerizing or as laughable as the ritual may seem—true to form, on issues involving the Church, opinion is divided—the outcome of this most special of elections inarguably affects not only the...

State of the Nugent

During his 1982 State of the Union address, Ronald Reagan did something unusual. In keeping with his preference for locating heroism in ordinary Americans, he told the story of one Lenny Skutnik, an employee of the Congressional Budget Office who two weeks earlier leaped into the Potomac River to save a drowning woman in the wake of a plane crash. As Reagan described the event, the cameras swiveled to the gallery, where Skutnik was seated next to the First Lady. People loved it so much that it became a tradition, and every subsequent State of the Union address has featured a presidential shout-out to a regular American in the audience who has done something extraordinary. But what if you're the opposition party? Telling your own story during the SOTU isn't easy, with all eyes on the president. Sure, you can shout "You lie!" as the president talks, but that's been done. You can bring an American hero with you to the speech, but unless he or she is recognizable, no one will even realize...

Still Waiting for That GOP Fever to Break

Photo of Bay Bridge construction courtesy of Caltrans
Word is that in tomorrow's State of the Union address, Barack Obama is going to propose some new infrastructure spending. Not only as a way of boosting the economy in the short term by creating jobs in areas like construction, steel, concrete, those little plastic anchors you put around screws when you're putting them in brick, and so on, but also as an investment that pays long-term dividends in the form of bridges that work and sewer pipes that don't burst. As Neil Irwin points out , given the large number of construction workers sitting idle and the incredible fact that the United States can now borrow money at negative interest—something that won't be true forever—it would be crazy for us not to take advantage of this moment and start doing some long-overdue repairs. "One can easily imagine a deal," Irwin writes. "Democrats get their new infrastructure spending, and Republicans insist on a structure that requires private sector lenders to be co-investors in any projects, deploying...

Why the GOP Has a Hard Road Ahead (In Four Charts)

Pew Research Center
Today’s New York Times does a great job of highlighting something that’s been under-discussed in the conversation over Latino voters and immigration reform—Insofar that the GOP has a minority problem, it’s a subset of a much larger young person problem. Here’s the Times with more: Nationally, voters under 30 accounted for 19 percent of the electorate last year, up from 18 percent in 2008. These millennials are by far the most ethnically and racially diverse voter cohort; whites account for just 58 percent of them, according to the Pew center, while 76 percent of older voters are white. That diversity is partly why young voters skew liberal, said Scott Keeter, the center’s director of survey research. As more young people come of age, the electorate will grow more diverse. Unless Republicans break the bonds between Democrats and minorities, Mr. Keeter said, “this alignment is going to be baked into the younger generation.” The Pew Research Center’s 2011 and 2012 surveys on Millennials...

Tomorrow's Republican Post-SOTU Whining Today

Here's a heads-up: After President Obama delivers his State of the Union address tomorrow, Republicans will wave their hands in front of their faces and whine that it was viciously, horribly, frighteningly "partisan." And what will this partisanship consist of? Hold on to your hat here. He's expected to argue for the same policies he has been arguing for and pursuing for the last four years . If the Republican members of Congress restrain themselves from shouting "You lie!" during the speech, it'll only be because of their superior breeding and manners. This, of course, is a follow-up to Obama's inauguration speech, which was condemned by Republicans not because he said anything mean about them, but because he talked about some of the policies he prefers. That, you see, is "partisanship," and when the other side does it, it's beyond the pale. So in today's Politico , under the headline "Obama's State of the Union: Aggressive," we read , without any particular evidence for the...

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