Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Give It Up, John Kerry

Center for American Progress Action Fund/Flickr

Just this morning, incoming Maine Senator Angus King, an independent, announced that he would be caucusing with Democrats, giving the party a working majority of 55 members—53 Democrats and 2 independents (the other is Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders).

Is the Religious Right in Trouble?

Pat Robertson, possibly fending off a hurricane. (Flickr/Daniel Oines)

If we're going to count the losers of the 2012 election, the religious right has to be high on the list. Its members said they would turn out in extraordinary numbers to fight that infidel in the White House, but Ralph Reed's turnout push fizzled. Gay marriage is now legal in three more states than it was on November 5, with more sure to come. In response, some on the religious right are wondering whether this politics thing just isn't working out for them. It isn't that they failed to get their message out, said influential religious-right quote machine Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, "it's that the entire moral landscape has changed. ... An increasingly secularized America understands our positions and has rejected them."

We've heard this kind of thing before, and Ed Kilgore warns that the religious right's stranglehold on the Republican Party hasn't lessened at all:

Who Counts in Arizona?

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Arizona Democrats celebrate as President Barack Obama is declared the winner of the presidential race at Democratic Party gathering, Tuesday, November 6, 2012, in Tucson, Arizona. 

Bobby Jindal: Let's Get Small

Today a pair of leading Republicans—and potential presidential contenders for 2016—offered some indications that the party might actually have a conversation about its future that goes beyond nominating Marco Rubio and grudgingly submitting to immigration reform. In interviews with Politico, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky had some bracing things to say about the GOP’s failures and future—though only one of them (guess which?) suggested anything more than an image makeover.

Law Enforcement and Decriminalized Marijuana

A happy Seattle police officer. (SPD)

On election day, Colorado and Washington passed initiatives legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. The future of both laws is uncertain, due to the fact that the drug is still illegal under federal law, which makes the creation of a legal market complex, to say the least. Nevertheless, within a few days, prosecutors in Washington dismissed hundreds of misdemeanor marijuana possession cases, even though the new law doesn't officially take effect until December 6. Which is an indication that in the short term, the laws may have a substantial impact on the work of law enforcement, and the relationship of citizens to the police, in those states.

We don't know that for sure, of course. But the Seattle Police Department is already showing how hip it can be. As we learn via Romanesko, the SPD has a blog run by a journalist, who wrote a piece called "Mariwhatnow? A Guide to Legal Marijuana Use in Seattle," that is, to say the least, not the kind of thing you usually expect from an employee of a police department. Here's an excerpt:

But One Mitt to Give for His Country

Flickr/Gage Skidmore

I don't know how many words I wrote about Mitt Romney over the last five years, but I'm sure it topped 100,000. So I'll almost miss him now that he's gone, and I'd like to offer a couple of (perhaps) final thoughts on him. In defeat, Romney's sins become easier to forgive, and we can acknowledge that he isn't without personal virtues. We'll never know how he would have performed in the difficult moments, when forced to deal with an unexpected crisis or confronted with choices in which every option was a bad one. Perhaps his lack of rigid ideology would have helped him.

It's sometimes said that presidential candidates come in two forms, the "conviction" candidates like Goldwater, McGovern, or Reagan who run for a cause, and the others, who run for themselves. Though it may be impossible for any politician, even the most ideological, to run for president without being an egomaniac, Romney stands apart even among his peers for having run for no cause in particular.

That isn't necessarily as harsh a criticism as it might sound. A person of intelligence, wisdom, good decision-making ability and strong management skills might perform well as president in many ways, irrespective of the actual agenda he pursued. And someone lacking in those traits who nevertheless had the beliefs you agree with could end up doing terrible harm. But for better or worse, we choose our presidents not only for what kind of people they seem to be, but how they make us feel about ourselves. And this was a problem Romney never found a way to solve.

Kristol's Blasphemy, Norquist's Denial

Thus far, the most ear-popping conservative reaction to last week’s election has come from Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol. On Fox News Sunday, he spoke a truth that you would have expected to have been bleeped by Roger Ailes’s censors before it could reach the tender ears of shocked right-wingers: “It won’t kill the country if we raise taxes a little bit on millionaires,” Kristol said. “It really won’t, I don’t think. I don’t really understand why Republicans don’t take Obama’s offer.” And there was more: “Really?

The Time Is Right to Get Rid of the Debt Ceiling

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?

Nixon Can't Always Go to China

New America Foundation/Flickr

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.

Progressives: The Biggest Winners of State Ballot Measures

(AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

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.

The Business of the Ideological Media Is Business

Flickr/DonkeyHotey

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?

Election Results, Revisited

Mother Jones

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.

The Reproductive Rights Checklist

Delegates cheer as President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund Cecile Richards addresses the Democratic National Convention. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

How did women's health issues fare in the election, and what do we have to look forward to?

Land of the "Free Stuff," Home of the Brave

(AP Photo/Jeff Christensen)

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.

How the Fiscal Cliff Has Helped Clear the Air

(contemplicity/Flickr)

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.

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