Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Nationalizing the Vote?

I want to thank every American who participated in this election whether you voted for the very first time or waited in line for a very long time—by the way, we have to fix that," President Obama said as he kicked off his victory speech last week by throwing a bone to the liberals who spent much of the past year fighting Republican efforts to restrict voting rights. The laws didn't end up tipping the final results but certainly disenfranchised scores of voters and created a needless hassle for others across the country. In Northern Virginia, long lines forced voters to wait three hours past the time polls were set to close, while in Florida voters rushed to vote the weekend before the election to take advantage of the reduced early-voting window.

The Moral Question of the Medicaid Expansion

Uninsured people getting medical care at an event in Los Angeles earlier this year. (Flickr/Neon Tommy)

In the last four years, we've seen a lot of reflexive, frankly dickish anti-Obamaism from Republicans at all levels. Much of it is relatively harmless; when some knuckle-dragging congressman goes on talk radio to air his suspicions that Obama's birth certificate is a forgery, there may be some chipping away at the President's legitimacy, but no one's life is affected directly. But there are some cases where Republicans are willing to do direct, substantial, even life-threatening harm to thousands or even millions of people, for literally no other reason than to demonstrate their unflagging hatred for the man in the Oval Office.

I'm talking here about the coming expansion of Medicaid, which didn't get discussed much during the campaign, but which is the most profound effect of the passage of the Affordable Care Act. As you'll recall, when the Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate, it gave a gift to Republicans too, saying states could opt out of the law's expansion of Medicaid, under which anyone earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level would be eligible. Especially for poorer, Southern states, the Medicaid expansion is a huge boon, particularly since the federal government will be paying all the cost of the expansion in the first few years, and nearly all the cost from that point forward. Those states currently have absurdly stingy eligibility requirements for the program, making it so that if you earn enough to live someplace other than your car and eat as much as two meals a day, you're probably ineligible. So here comes the federal government, saying to the states, "We're going to pay to get all these poor people in your state health insurance, which will save the state money in uncompensated care, and make for a healthier, happier, and more productive population." To which many states have replied, "Screw you, Obama!"

Putting Faith in the Conservative Creed

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

As Democrats continue to bask in the post-election schadenfreude of watching Republicans weep and gnash their teeth at losing the presidential election, the sense that conservatives are the architects of their own misery is only enhancing liberal glee. It seems the initial shock hasn’t warn off: In a conference call with his fundraising team, Mitt Romney is still blaming his loss on those freeloading Americans who wanted stuff.

Defending the Right to Treat Your Employees Like Dirt

Papa Johns? More like Papa Jerk's! Thank you, I'll be here all week. (Flickr/jumbledpile)

Getting tired of eating at Chick-fil-A every day to express your hatred of liberals? Well, now you have a couple more options. You can chow down at Applebee's, where the CEO of their New York franchises went on TV to declare that he won't be doing more hiring because of the costs Obamacare would impose. Or you can head over to Papa John's, whose CEO, John Schnatter, has said that Obamacare could add as much as—brace yourself—10 cents to the cost of a pizza, and since obviously customers would never tolerate such price gouging, he'll just have to cut back employees' hours.

In our new era of corporate political activism, we're goin to be seeing a lot more of this kind of thing. So let's make sure we all understand exactly what it is these chieftains are complaining about: They don't want to give their employees health insurance.

When Majorities Don't Mean Control

(Flickr/ johan weiland)

In the Empire State, winning elections doesn’t always translate into power it seems. Next year, Democrats will likely have a majority of seats in the state’s upper chamber. But they aren’t likely to control it. It’s one of the stranger outcomes of the latest election.

What Benghazi Is about: Scandal Envy

John McCain, still bitter. (Flickr/Chesi-Fotos CC)

If you're looking at the Republican harumphing over Benghazi and asking yourself, "Why are we supposed to be so mad about this again?", you're probably not alone. Let's review: There was an attack on our consulate that killed four Americans, including our ambassador. Amid confusing and contradictory reports from the ground, President Obama waited too long to utter the magic incantation, "Terrorism, terrorists, terror!" that would have...well, it would have done something, but it turns out that he did say "terror," so never mind that. But that's not the real scandal! The real scandal is that Susan Rice went on television soon after and amid all kinds of "based on the best information we have"s and "we'll have to see"s, said one thing that turned out not to be the case: that after the protests in Cairo, there was some kind of copycat protest in Benghazi, which was then "hijacked" by extremist elements using heavy weapons to stage an attack.

A sane person might say, OK, she was obviously given some incorrect information at that time, but it's not a particularly meaningful deception. As people have been pointing out for weeks now, it's not as though not using the word "terror" or saying there was a protest before the attack gave the White House some enormous political advantage. If you're going to have a cover-up, there really has to be something you're covering up.

The Judicial Bush Doctrine

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

President Obama needs to be more like George W. Bush.

Bush understood that a president’s longest-lasting legacy is often the judges who receive a lifetime appointment to the federal bench. He understood that another Republican will occupy the White House someday, and they will need a slate of potential nominees to the Supreme Court. And he understood that the judiciary can quietly implement an unpopular conservative agenda that would never survive contact with the elected branches of government.

The Ghost of Norquist Past

(AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke, File)

This week, Grover Norquist has been all over the place attacking the idea that President Obama would use his mandate to stand firm on the highly-popular idea of letting the Bush-era tax cuts expire for those earning over $250,000 a year.

Don't Fear the Backlash

(Flickr/David Schumaker)

Many observers have criticized the approach of using litigation to achieve social change ever since a Hawaii court ruled in 1993 that the denial of marriage benefits to same-sex couples was unconstitutional—criticism that only accelerated after Massachusetts's landmark Goodridge decision in 2003 ruling that bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. Much of this criticism takes the form of what I call the "countermobilization myth"—that is, the idea that victories won through the courts produce unique amounts of political backlash that make them counterproductive. The remarkable wave of success for LBGT rights on Election Day, combined with a steady increase in support for same-sex marriage, makes the countermobilization myth even more untenable. Michael Klarman's invaluable new book, From the Closet to the Altar, remains somewhat ambivalent about the use of litigation to advance same-sex marriage. But ultimately, it provides a powerful case that in the right circumstances, litigation can be an effective tool for social reform.

Fiscal Cliff: The End Game

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

President Barack Obama continued to display a new toughness about the debt negotiation at his first post-election press conference yesterday. He confirmed publicly what he has been telling progressive leaders privately. He will not give on the principle that taxes—rates as well as loophole closings—must be raised on people earning over $250,000 a year.

“We should not hold the middle class hostage while we debate tax cuts for the wealthy,” he declared. Obama has also told progressive leaders that he is looking for $600 billion more in other tax increases on the well-to-do, in order to reduce the pressure for spending cuts.

The President We Hoped For?

We’re about to find out, in the “fiscal cliff” negotiations, whether President Obama plans to govern the way he ran for re-election—and whether, as a result, he just might become the kind of president liberals hoped he’d be in the first place. The single most surprising thing about the 2012 campaign (unless you’re a Republican still shell-shocked over the outcome) was that the “man from Kumbaya” completely rejected the Bill Clinton re-election model. It was the polar opposite of triangulation: This time, the Democratic incumbent won with a resonant message of liberal populism.

47 Percent, Part 2

Flickr/Austen Hufford

Earlier in the week I wrote about the increasing conservative complaint that too many Americans are mooching off the labors of genuine hard-working job creators. Well now Mitt Romney himself has extended this analysis to the ballot box, telling his big donors in a post-election conference call that the reason he lost was, essentially, that Barack Obama bought off those moochers with promises of free stuff. When the 47 percent video came out, I couldn't have been the only one who wondered just how many times he had delivered that riff; it seems unlikely it was the first and last time he said it. But now the election's over, and he isn't stopping. Romney seems appalled that Obama would be so diabolical as to pursue policies that were beneficial to people who then went to the polls to vote for him. It's worth quoting at length:

Romney Says He Lost Because Obama Gave "Gifts" to Blacks and Latinos

When the “47 percent” video first hit, there was a question as to whether this was the “real Romney,” or someone pandering to the prejudices of the Republican donor class. If you stepped away from the passion of moment, you could easily see a scenario where Romney felt that it was in his best interest to adopt another bit of right-wing rhetoric, for the sake of cash and support.

Is Mitch McConnell the Worst?

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

I think most people can agree that Kentucky's Mitch McConnell is one of the most innovative Senate Minority Leaders in recent memory. His insight—that the opposition party can obstruct and force the majority party to bear the public’s discontent—helped give Republicans a House majority in 2010, and gave the GOP a fighting chance in this year’s presidential election (see: Mitt Romney’s late-game promise to bring bipartisanship to Washington).

Yes, This Is a Post about 2016.

Who knows - it could be him. (Flickr/dsb nola)

Yes, this is a post about the 2016 presidential race. Before you turn away, I'm going to say loud and proud that despite all the people crying "I can't wait until this is over!" in the last few weeks, despite the Bronco Bama girl, despite the torture endured by the citizens of Ohio, I am sorry the election is over. Sort of, anyway. Why? Because I write about politics for a living. When the World Series ends, we don't expect sportswriters to say, "I sure am glad that's over!" So yes, even though in the coming months and years I'll be writing a lot about policy, I'm also going to write about politics, including upcoming elections. Deal with it.

Now that that's off my chest, Benjy Sarlin makes an interesting observation about the suddenly moderating Republicans who are publicly saying their party has to find a way to be more friendly to more kinds of people if it wants to win back the White House in 2016: "It's hard to believe now, but the popular punditry [after the 2008 election] — as now — was that Republicans needed to moderate their policies and tone to compete with Obama. Several Republicans considered likely presidential candidates made big bets on this new era of bipartisanship and went bust." The ones who took a stance of implacable opposition ended up leading their party, none more so than Mitt Romney. So is the same thing going to happen over the next four years?

Probably, yes.

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