Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

They're Just Not That into You

A White House Hanukkah celebration. You'll notice that Biden is seriously digging it.

I'd like to pre-predict something about the 2016 presidential race. During that race, there will be an article or two in Politico interviewing a few grumpy alter kockers in Palm Beach who say that this time, they've really had it with those Democrats. Republican politicians will assure reporters that the GOP's unswerving Likudnik loyalties are finally winning American Jews around. And then the Democratic nominee, whomever he or she may be, will get the overwhelming majority of the Jewish vote, somewhere between 70 and 80 percent. How do I know this? Because that's what always happens. John Sides at the Monkey Cage alerts us to a new paper by political scientist Eric Uslander explaning how once again GOP hopes were dashed in 2012:

Where Public Opinion On Guns Is Headed

In the last few years, gun advocates have made much of the fact that when pollsters ask people broad, non-specific questions about gun laws, like "In general, do you think gun control laws should be made more strict, less strict, or kept as they are now?", support for restrictions has gone down, in some cases below 50 percent. As I've discussed before, that doesn't mean that people ever stopped supporting specific restrictions like those we're now discussing, but there were enough polls confirming the decline in support for generalized "gun control" since the 1990s that we can be fairly sure the phenomenon was real. But now, new polling is showing increased support for restrictions. For instance, a CBS poll released the other day, which uses the text I just quoted, showed support for making laws more strict at 57 percent, an 18-point jump from when the question was asked in April and a 10-year high. A new CNN poll produced similar results, with 52 percent saying either that there should be major restrictions on guns or that all there should be no private ownership of guns at all.

So what exactly is going on, and where is opinion likely to go? I think the answer to the first question is only partly that many people were so horrified by the shooting in Newtown that they finally said enough is enough. Perhaps more importantly, people are being exposed to something they haven't seen in a long time: a two-sided debate on guns

Debating the Chained CPI

Flickr/The Survivor Woman/401(K)

Yesterday, I posted a piece that questioned the political and policy wisdom of President Obama’s latest offer for a budget deal. My qualms were vindicated when Speaker Boehner, rather than taking the widely leaked “progress” as a new common ground, went back to his starting point and offered his own “Plan B”. This left President Obama in just the position that he vowed that he’d be in again—“negotiating against himself.”

Obama's Unwise, Unnecessary Concessions

AP Photo/ Evan Vucci

Why is the president back to making premature and unnecessary concessions to Republicans? Two central issues in the 2012 presidential election were whether the Bush tax cuts should be ended for people earning over $250,000, and whether Social Security and Medicare should be protected from future budget cuts. The president said yes to both. Republicans said no. Obama won.

Where Have You Been?

Barack Obama doesn't do many press conferences, so when he came into the White House briefing room today it was because he had something important to say. Obama announced that Vice President Joe Biden will be heading a task force, or perhaps a working group—whatever you're going to call it, don't call it a commission ("This is not some Washington commission," Obama said)–to figure out just what can be done to reduce gun violence. "I will use all the powers of this office to help advance efforts aimed at preventing more tragedies like this," he said. "We won't prevent them all, but that can't be an excuse not to try."

Robert Bork, Martyr of Incivility?

AP Photo/Charles Tasnadi

AP Photo/Charles Tasnadi

Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the first day of his confirmation hearings, September 16, 1987.

Speaking Ill of the Dead

What do you say when a public figure you find repellent dies? Do you hold your tongue, not speak ill of the dead, and wait some decent interval before saying what you really thought of them? After all, there's no time like their death. Robert Bork died today, and the truth is that in a few months nobody is going to be talking much about his legacy. So now's the time to weigh in, which Jeffrey Toobin does, in a rather unrestrained way:

Robert Bork, who died Wednesday, was an unrepentant reactionary who was on the wrong side of every major legal controversy of the twentieth century. The fifty-eight senators who voted against Bork for confirmation to the Supreme Court in 1987 honored themselves, and the Constitution. In the subsequent quarter-century, Bork devoted himself to proving that his critics were right about him all along.

Hard to disagree — Bork's philosophy was a particularly nasty one, and he spent much of his public life expressing his boundless contempt for modern America, particularly the ways it had become more humane than it once was...

The Fundamentals Were Right!

Drew Linzer / Votamatic

This afternoon, Drew Linzer—whose election forecasting site, Votematic, rivaled Nate Silver’s for accuracy–tweeted two charts showing key election fundamentals: Second quarter GDP growth, and the president’s net approval rating in June. Those presidents with a growing economy and a positive approval rating almost always win, and those with a shrinking economy and a negative approval rating almost always lose. And while Republicans spent the year thinking this wouldn’t be true for President Obama, as Linzer shows, it was.

Here’s where 2012 fell on a graph showing 2nd quarter GDP growth and the incumbent party’s share of the two-party vote:

The Social Security Conversation We Should Be Having

401K / Flickr

Matthew Yglesias makes an excellent point about an essential tension between Social Security and the demands of “The Market,” in a post called “Why the Powers that Be Hate Social Security”:

Everyone Is a Taker

Pew Research Center

After a year where Republicans—even so-called “moderates,” like Mitt Romney—devoted themselves to dividing the public into “makers” and “takers,” a new survey from the Pew Research Service shows that most Americans—55 percent, in fact—are “dependent on government” in some form.

Concealed Carry and the Triumph of Fear

Flickr/Of Small Things

Thanks to the tireless efforts of the NRA and the gun manufacturers, 49 states now issue concealed carry permits to people for whom merely owning guns is not enough. As we focus our attention on military-style rifles and high-capacity magazines, we need to remember that the most important change in recent years isn't in the equipment, but in the spread of a new kind of mentality among many gun owners, one that seeks to make fear the organizing principle of American society.

This has been the essential focus of gun advocates' work in recent years: changing laws so that as many people as possible can carry as many guns as possible into as many places as possible. Since the people who want to do so have driven the discussion and the laws on guns, it's important to understand where they're coming from. And frankly, it's an ugly place.

The Real Barrier to Better Gun-Control Policy

WikiMedia Commons

The horrific mass killing of elementary schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut has served as another reminded that the United States is an unusually violent country. And the evidence is overwhelming that lax regulations of private firearms plays a major role in this unnecessarily high rate of violent death. And yet, it is very unlikely that any federal legislation will be passed in response to the Newtown killings, let alone regulations comparable to those in other liberal democracies.

Fixing Obama’s Second Term

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

In the president’s first term, a gauntlet of procedural hurdles stood in the way of progressive change. As Majority Leader Harry Reid promises to reform the filibuster—on the magical day when the new Senate convenes and can make new rules—most progressives are wondering whether it’s an end to many of President Barack Obama’s problems. After all, without the constant threat of a filibuster, Senate Democrats wouldn’t have had to scramble for votes from the centrists who watered down health-care legislation and stalled action on climate change in Obama’s first two years, when he had an outright majority in the Senate.

Chairman Summers? Let’s Hope Not

AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi

He’s back. Larry Summers is running hard to succeed Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve when Bernanke’s term expires in early 2014. This is not a great idea, for three main reasons. The first is Summers’ famous temperament. The problem is not just that he’s less than sensitive to women. It’s that he’s a bully in general, cocksure of himself, using others as foils and prevailing by controlling the agenda.

Whither NRA?

There are some serious, perhaps insurmountable obstacles to any new gun-safety measures being passed through Congress. Specifically, the House of Representatives is controlled by Republicans, and nearly all of them have been endorsed by the National Rifle Association. Those endorsements didn't come for nothing; they're an acknowledgement of past service and a warning against future heresy. And as the GOP has grown more Southern and rural in recent  years, the NRA's grip has only tightened.