Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

The Great Society's Next Frontier

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh) A copy of H.R. 3200, America Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, sits on the desk of House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, a Democrat from California. A s The Washington Post ’s Ezra Klein declared shortly after voters re-elected President Barack Obama, one of the major winners last week was health-care reform. With Democrats holding on to the Senate and the White House, Republicans will be unable to repeal the law before all of its provisions go into effect in 2014—after which, the theory goes, the public will come to accept that government has the responsibility to ensure health care is available for all. This is the end of a long battle for progressives: Health care has been the major missing piece of our welfare state for nearly a century, and for decades making it part of our system of social insurance has been a primary goal of politicians, think tanks, and activists. With this piece of the progressive puzzle in place, the natural...

Nobody's Fault but Their Own

(Flickr/George Allen for Senate)
George Allen for Senate Former Virginia senator George Allen meets with supporters. I f there was anything Republicans should have been surprised about in this month’s elections, it was their rout in the Senate. Not only did they lose races against vulnerable Democratic incumbents in GOP leaning states—Missouri, Florida, and Montana, for instance—but they also lost almost every competitive open race and failed to hold a vacant one in Indiana. Politico reports that GOP leaders are working to prevent a repeat of this scenario by exerting more control over the nomination process. Republicans believe that they would have done better had they kept politicians like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock out of the picture. The goal for the next four years is to erase the Tea Party-versus-Washington narrative that has made it difficult to get establishment Republicans through the primary process: “We ought to make certain that if we get engaged in primaries that we’re doing it based on the desires,...

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. Democrats in Congress are ready to answer Obama's call for solutions. On Thursday, Senator Chris Coons and Representative George Miller both released bills to reform the election process. Coons's bill, the Louis L. Redding Fair, Accurate,...

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 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...

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. Clearly, the only explanation for all this delusion is that conservative media and campaign consultants, steeped in years of confidently lying about everything from global warming to the causes of the deficit, got a little too bold about their ability to create their own realities. The only question is whether conservatives will learn their lesson and exhibit more skepticism about their self-selected news media in the future. The answer is almost surely no, for a very good reason: Conservative credulousness is so baked into the culture of the right that it...

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 . That's it. They'd prefer to talk about "regulation" in some general sense, so you might get the impression that Obamacare is making them needlessly remodel...

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. Just getting a majority of seats was impressive. Since 1965, the Democrats only controlled the chamber once, in the 2009-2010 session. The party had conceded easy victories, agreeing to a deal in which the GOP drew Senate districts in exchange for a more favorable Democratic map in the state Assembly. But in the end, they had a lot to celebrate. Two Democratic incumbents held their seats against tough challenges, while an open seat in Rochester, previously held by the GOP, switched hands. Perhaps most exciting for the long-suffering party, in the “super Jewish” district, former Councilman Simcha Felder beat the incumbent senator with a commanding 67 percent. In total, Democrats have a 31-30 majority, with two races still...

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 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...

The Judicial Bush Doctrine

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
P resident 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. We are still living the legacy of Bush’s appointments. The Supreme Court’s five conservatives trashed consumers’ ability to stand up to rapacious corporations. They greenlighted laws intended primarily to suppress minority, low-income, and student voters . They thumbed their nose at women’s right to equal pay for equal work . And, while the Court’s Citizens United decision did not enable Mitt Romney’s rich friends to buy him four years in the White House, it will create a generation of...

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. When asked what his agenda for the fiscal showdown was, Norquist told The Washington Post , “You want to stop any tax increases, so continue any tax cuts that lapse.” In other words, allowing a tax cut to lapse equals a tax increase, eh? Not so fast says … Grover Norquist. In a July 2011 meeting with The Washington Post editorial board, Norquist said , “Not continuing a tax cut is not technically a tax increase.” Now, for those of you who may not know, Grover Norquist is not, as his name might suggest, a character on Sesame Street. Norquist is the bizarrely powerful head of Americans for Tax Reform, the conservative anti-government advocacy group that pressures political candidates to sign absolutist pledges against raising taxes. Norquist holds...

Don't Fear the Backlash

(Flickr/David Schumaker)
(Flickr/Dave Schumaker) Supporters and protestors of same-sex marriage gather outside San Francisco's City Hall in 2008. 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 a unique amount of political backlash that make them counterproductive. The remarkable wave of success for LGBT 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 ambivalent about the use of...

Fiscal Cliff: The End Game

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) President Barack Obama makes an opening statement during his news conference yesterday in the East Room of the White House. The president says the economy cannot afford a tax increase on all Americans and is calling on congressional Republicans to support an extension of existing tax rates for households earning $250,000 or less. P resident 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. And he...

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. And damned if it didn’t work—not just because Obama won, but because the central arguments he made to raise taxes on the wealthy and preserve government as a force for fairness and opportunity changed Americans’ minds in fundamental ways. When the man asserts, as he has been doing, that “voters agreed with me” on issues like tax increases for rich folks, he’s not blowing smoke. Check out these numbers: A year...

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: "With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest, was a big gift," he said. "Free contraceptives were very big with young...

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

(AP Photo/Mary Schwalm) The former Massachusetts governor speaks to delegates at the New Hampshire Republican Convention in Concord, N.H Saturday. 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. Then again, by that point it was more than clear that the Republican Party had been infected with a Randian mania. It wasn’t—and isn’t—hard to find conservatives who attack the mass of Americans as “takers” who rob the “makers” of their rightful wealth. Indeed, this was Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan’s central message until he was chosen for the national stage. And given the constituency for this ideology—wealthy (white) hedge fund managers and assorted rich...

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