A much more attractive ceiling. (Flick/Richard Carter)
Kevin Drum has written a very helpful explainer on everything you'd want to know about the fiscal cliff/curb/staircase/trap, and near the end he reminds us that the debt ceiling is going to come up again early next year. "However, an agreement to raise the debt ceiling will almost certainly be part of the negotiations surrounding the fiscal cliff." Which is good, but I'd like to suggest that Congress go a step further. Instead of raising the debt ceiling, meaning we'd have to revisit the issue again in a year, why don't they go ahead and eliminate it once and for all?
By this point, it’s clear that former Clinton administration official—and twice failed North Carolina senate candidate—Erksine Bowles is on the short list to replace Tim Geithner as Treasury Secretary. For reasons outlined by Paul Krugman, and our own Bob Kuttner, Bowles would be a terrible choice for Treasury: He’s a deficit scold more concerned with lowering taxes than reducing unemployment and providing a strong base for economic growth.
Liberals had a lot to celebrate on election night, from the outcome of the presidential race to a number of major Senate wins. But less noticed on the whole was the stunning display of progressive power in ballot measures across the country. From gay marriage to marijuana legalization, from teachers unions to school funding, voters on the whole supported a progressive agenda in the 2012 election. State policy not only carries major implications for the lives of state residents, it also helps set the stage for national debates on issues. In a number of states, voters were deciding the direction of public education; in others, the fate of union power. Election night brought some big victories for liberals, albeit with a few defeats.
There now appears to be a healthy debate going on in Republican circles about the problems created by the information cocoon in which conservatives have embedded themselves in recent years (I wrote about this last week). That's good for them, but I doubt it's going to work. My guess is that a couple of years from now, the conservative media's rhetoric will be just the same as it is now—just as angry, just as prone to race-baiting, just as unwilling to acknowledge reality when it conflicts with their beliefs. Jonathan Martin of Politico took the time to interview a bunch of younger Repbublican operatives and thinkers, and they all seem to be in agreement that something has to change. But the right has a real generational problem, and it isn't about their leaders. It's about their audience.
Conservative media is a political force, but first and foremost it's a business. And that business' primary customers have grown used to a particular product. Those customers are, above all, older white men, and the product is that particular combination of anger, resentment, and contempt for people outside your tribe that has characterized conservative media for so long. Fox News has the oldest audience of any of the cable channels, and they like what Hannity, O'Reilly and the rest have been giving them just fine. They like hearing that Barack Obama is a socialist America-hater destroying our country. They like the culture war. It keeps them coming back. So if you were Sean Hannity, and you understood that perfectly well, what incentive would you have to change?
The 2012 election results are close to finalized. Over the weekend, Florida was placed into President Obama’s column—giving him 332 electoral votes to Mitt Romney’s 206—and while officials are still counting votes, the current tally gives Obama 50.6 percent the vote to Romney’s 47.9 percent.
If you want to explain why your party lost a presidential election, there are a number of places to look. You can blame your candidate and his campaign (which usually means, "If only they had listened to me!"). You can blame your party and ask if it should examine its ideology or its rhetoric. You can blame the media. Or you can blame the voters. As the old political saw says, "The people have spoken—the bastards." And that is what one conservative after another has been saying over the last week.
Now that elections season is over, Washington has returned to obsessing over the “fiscal cliff,” a collection of tax increases and spending cuts that—if triggered—would gradually remove hundreds of billions of dollars from the economy and put the United States on the path to another recession.
He’s cute as a button. He’s a charismatic speaker. He’s young and he’s brown. And the moment the election was called for Obama on Tuesday night, he was immediately anointed as the Republican savior for 2016. "If there's a winner tonight,” George Will opined as ABC News analyzed the results, “it's the senator from Florida, Marco Rubio.
New York, where not many Republicans live. (Flickr/iPhil Photos)
There are a lot of ways to parse a loss like the one the GOP suffered on Tuesday, but what ought to be increasingly clear to smart Republicans is that there's something fundamentally problematic in how they've gone about assembling their electoral coalitions. Conservatives are complaining a lot in the last couple of days that Obama ran a "divisive" campaign, I guess because he once called rich people "fat cats" or something, but the truth is that Republicans have been experts at division for a long time. Much of their appeal, at one level or another, has been "We don't like those kind of people." Sometimes it's welfare recipients, sometimes it's undocumented immigrants, sometimes it's people who come from big cities or have too much education or enjoy a coffee drink made with espresso and steamed milk. They've been very good for a very long time at telling voters, "We're just like you, because we both hate those people over there."
As a political strategy, this can be very effective, so long as the "them" at whom you're directing your contempt isn't too large a group. But once "them" grows too big, you've dug yourself an electoral hole. That's the problem they now have with Latinos. Their anti-immigrant rhetoric sent two simultaneous messages, one about policy and one about identity. The first message was that we don't support policies you do support, like the DREAM Act. The second message, which Latinos heard loud and clear, was this: We don't like people like you.
Two years ago, amid the shellacking of congressional Democrats in the midterm elections, three Iowa Supreme Court justices—Marsha Ternus, David Baker, and Michael Streit—lost their seats after conservative activists launched a campaign against all the judges who joined the unanimous Varnum v. Brien decision in 2009, which legalized gay marriage in the state.
Iowans shifted gears Tuesday, retaining David Wiggins, another of the Varnum judges that conservatives had sought to oust. Wiggens was the only judge up for a retention vote, which Supreme Court justices in the state face every eight years.
After the Republicans swept to power in state legislatures across the country in 2010, the situation for state-level Democrats couldn't get much worse. The Grand Old Party won control of 21 house and senate chambers, and gained supermajorities in several states. Progressive and independent-leaning states like Maine and Minnesota were suddenly dominated by conservative legislators.
Forty years ago, the campaign of Senator Ed Muskie, until then the presumed nominee of the Democratic party, effectively ended on a snowy day in Manchester, New Hampshire. Angered by the attacks on him and his wife by the conservative Manchester Union-Leader, Muskie held a press conference outside the paper's offices to denounce them. Reporters at the scene thought that Muskie was crying, though he later said the wetness on his face was only melting snow. But David Broder's story in the Washington Post about the press conference began, "With tears streaming down his face and his voice choked with emotion..." He was obviously not presidential material.
Eight years later, a different kind of president was elected, one who understood intimately how to convey emotions through television. Ronald Reagan wasn't afraid to get choked up at appropriate moments — when lauding the heroism of an ordinary person called to do something extraordinary, or just when speaking about how great America is. Reagan made it possible, even uncontroversial, for a male politician to cry (though it's still extremely dangerous for a female politician to cry, lest she reveal herself as unstable and weak).
Which brings us to this remarkable video of Barack Obama thanking his campaign staff for all their hard work.
I’ve told this story before in one venue or another, but I think that—72 hours after the election—it’s good for one last recounting before I retire it. Two and a half years ago, I was on a flight from Los Angeles to New York when the woman in the next seat picked a fight with me about the Affordable Care Act, which was on the verge of passing the Senate. She and I had gotten along well enough until then, though our interaction mostly entailed me helping her find the outlet to plug in her laptop; peering over my shoulder, however, she surmised (not incorrectly, it should be acknowledged) what my position was based on the website I was looking at, and she wanted to set me straight. “You know what the difference is between us?” she finally concluded about 15 futile minutes later. “I’m a responsible person and you’re not.” I confess I didn’t know what to say to this other than what I didn’t ask, which was whether she had children, who rather exponentially up the responsibility quotient of one’s life; I didn’t ask because I knew the answer, and I also knew that, as a woman, she was of an age when this could be a profoundly painful matter. I couldn’t bring myself to win an argument at that cost. It may also be that it was as unfair of me to assume this was someone for whom responsibility was something she took only for herself as it was of her to assume it was something I didn’t take at all.
After declaring a new national post-election holiday yesterday—Liberal Schadenfreude Day—we’re starting to think it should be a week-long celebration. So much to gloat over after all these years of despair! Our favorite gloat-worthy item on Thursday came courtesy of the Sunlight Foundation. The money-in-politics watchdog did a nifty calculation of the returns that 2012’s big spenders got for their money.