Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Don't Believe the Fiscal Cliff Hype

For the past week, GOP lawmakers have been falling over themselves to move away from Grover Norquist, pied piper of low tax rates on rich people (see Daily Meme. Tennessee Senator Bob Corker said that he was not “obligated on the pledge,” and Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss followed suit, telling a local TV station that he cares “more about his country” than a “20-year-old pledge.” Likewise, South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham declared that he would violate his promise for the good of the country, only if Democrats will "do entitlement reform." On the face of it, this is both high-minded and politically realistic. The Norquist pledge is a bad idea; it hampers legislators as they attempt to solve a series of fiscal problems. And while it’s old news at this point, it is true that President Obama won re-election, and on a message of higher taxes, no less! You could read these statements as a declaration that some Republicans, at least, are ready to work with the president...

How Not to Appeal to Asian Americans

House Committee on Education and the Workforce Dem / Flickr
House Committee on Education and the Workforce Dem / Flickr Of the various post-election stories, the GOP’s “Latino problem” is one of the most prominent. At some point over the last three weeks, every prominent Republican leader has had something to say about the party’s poor performance with Latino voters. Less remarked upon, but just as important, is the GOP’s abysmal showing with Asian Americans. Most exit polls show President Obama winning Asian Americans 3-to–1 , a larger spread than his margin among Latinos, and second only to African Americans, who gave nearly all of their votes to the president. As with Latinos, Asian American movement to the Democratic Party has a lot to do with with the explicitly anti-immigrant stance of the GOP, as well as the overwhelming sense that the GOP is a party for hidebound whites, and actively hostile toward nonwhites of all stripes. There’s a policy component in this as well; the Asian American community is highly diverse (ethnically,...

What Do Republicans Want?

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File) In this November 16, 2012, file photo, President Barack Obama acknowledges House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio while speaking to reporters in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, as he hosted a meeting of the bipartisan, bicameral leadership of Congress to discuss the deficit and economy. A big coalition of business groups says there must be give-and-take in the negotiations to avoid the "fiscal cliff" of massive tax hikes and spending cuts. But the coalition also says raising tax rates is out of the question. The group doesn’t care that President Barack Obama campaigned to raise tax rates on the rich. A s we head into negotiations on the Austerity Trap (better known by the inaccurate moniker "fiscal cliff," which I refuse to use), there's a clear narrative emerging. This narrative has it that Democrats want to see taxes increase on rich people, which Republicans aren't happy about, while Republicans want to see entitlement "reform,"...

Simpler Is Better

(Flickr / James Milstid)
On Saturday, The Wall Street Journal ran one of its trademark editorials making fun of government red tape—the massive regulations required to implement the Affordable Care Act; the 398 different rulemakings necessary to carry out the Dodd-Frank Act, and a great deal more. I seldom agree with the Journal ’s editorial page, but it makes an unintentional point: Government regulations have become so complex that they can’t do their job. Or at best, the sheer complexity makes the government sitting ducks for the mischief of industry lobbyists looking to further complicate the rules with loopholes. But where does the complexity come from? It comes from the metastasized abuses of the private sector and the success of the business elite in getting government to pass laws with plenty of room for industry to maneuver. The Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, by contrast, was simplicity itself. It ran just a few pages and didn’t need 398 different rulemakings to carry it out. The act provided that you...

Do Republicans Have a Southern Problem?

(Flickr/change-of-venue)
One of the more interesting elements of President Barack Obama’s re-election victory was his strong performance in the South. He won Virginia and Florida—again—and came close to a win in North Carolina, where he lost by just two points. “Obama’s 2012 numbers in the Southeastern coastal states,” writes Douglas Blackmon for The Washington Post , “outperformed every Democratic nominee since Carter and significantly narrowed past gaps between Democratic and Republican candidates.” Indeed, Blackmon—who won a Pulitzer for the book Slavery by Another Name —sees this as a crack in the Republican Party’s otherwise solid hold on the South. A growing African American population, combined with greater Latino immigration and a shrinking white electorate (the share of white votes in Florida dropped to 66 percent, for example) has allowed Democrats to make gains in states that were once GOP strongholds. Judging from Election Day, this is most true in the five states that hug the coast: Virginia,...

Another Defeat for the NRA

Earlier this year, I did a lengthy series for Think Progress detailing how the National Rifle Association's power to influence elections is wildly overestimated by nearly everyone in Washington (here's Part 1 , Part 2 , Part 3 , and Part 4 ). The group's advocates argued that I was wrong, and in fact the NRA retains the ability to get its friends elected and defeat its enemies. So how did they do in this year's election? The answer is, abysmally. The Sunlight Foundation put together data on outside spending from a variety of interest groups, and the data show how poorly the NRA did. At the top of the ticket, of course, they failed to defeat the man whom they have promised is coming to take everyone's guns (despite the fact that he is not actually coming to take anyone's guns). Through their two political committees, the Political Victory Fund and the Institute for Legislative Action, the NRA spent $13.4 million on the presidential race, to no avail. But the Senate is where their...

Scott Walker Figures It Out

What does a 2016 presidential aspirant do when his state votes Democratic? Rig the next election, of course. Wisconsin didn't turn into the swing state Scott Walker, Mitt Romney and the GOP had wished, with Obama carrying it by more than six percent and Democrat Tammy Baldwin winning an open Senate seat. Walker, the union-busting Koch brothers buddy, has pinpointed the source of the GOP's woes in Wisconsin—its liberal voting laws. "States across the country that have same-day registration have real problems," Walker Those senior citizens aren't Walker's real problem, of course—it's Wisconsin's voter-friendly election laws. Since taking office he's been itching to dismantle them. In 2011, Walker signed a bill to implement a photo-ID requirement. The courts eventually overturned the proposal as unconstitutional. Dismantling same-day registration, however, likely wouldn't violate the state constitution—but could prove just as suppressive as a photo-ID law. The eight states with same-day...

Remember that Provisional Ballot Problem?

(Flickr/Joe Hall)
Ohio has finally begun to tally provisional ballots. This was supposed to be the moment we were all waiting for—back when the presidential election was going to be airtight and everyone was worried about elections administration in the ultimate battleground. Instead, the Obama campaign won a decisive victory, so few kept following the counting in Ohio. But even without an audience, the state's court battles continued well after Election Day. While the presidential race may not hang in the balance, the outcomes of two legislative races will determine a whether Republican lawmakers have a supermajority—which would allow them to easily pass a conservative agenda, including more attempts at voter suppression. “I think Ohio dodged a proverbial bullet,” said Ned Foley, the head of Ohio State’s Moritz Law Center. Still, Foley is quick to point out, “The focus has gone away but that doesn’t mean the vulnerabilities don’t exist.” The most recent fights have been over how to count provisional...

Weird Science

This totally happened, probably.
Twenty years or so ago, a few politicians got caught when somebody asked them the price of a gallon of milk and they didn't know the answer. As a consequence, campaign managers and political consultants started making sure their candidates knew the price of milk and a few similar items like a loaf of bread, should they ever be called upon to assure voters that they do in fact visit the supermarket and are thus in touch with how regular folk live their lives. In a similar but somewhat more complex game of gotcha, Marco Rubio is the latest Republican politician to express discomfort about the question of the earth's age. Unfortunately, unlike the price of milk, that's not a question upon which people of every ideology agree. But if you're a politician wondering what you should answer if you get asked the question, here's a guide to the possibilities, and what each one says about you. There are four possible answers: 1. "The earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old." This answer says...

Rush's Dream Journal

Republicans drifted through much of 2012 in trickle-down fantasyland, self-deporting to a mystical world where Mitt Romney's rightward shift during the primary helped their candidate. Election Day shook the party awake, forcing Republicans to reckon with their purity problem. Louisiana Governor and 2016 wannabe Bobby Jindal disavowed Romney's they-just-want-gifts comment all last week, and the Sunday shows featured a barrage of Republicans disparaging the man they had envisioned as president. "We’re in a death spiral with Hispanic voters because of rhetoric around immigration," said Senator Lindsey Graham. "And candidate Romney and the primary dug the hole deeper." On Meet the Press, GOP strategist Mike Murphy shared the view that "the biggest problem Mitt Romney had was the Republican primary." But Murphy strayed a little too close to the third rail of conservative politics when he said the party shouldn't base its views on "Rush Limbaugh’s dream journal." Rush, of course, never...

Ideological Positioning for the 2016 Primaries Has Begun

Andrew Cuomo, looking confidently into the future. (Flickr/Patja)
In 2012, the ideological question Republican candidates confronted was nothing more than whether or not they hated Barack Obama, a test they all passed. But what if you're running for the Democratic nomination in 2016? There may not actually be much to distinguish the candidates from one another. Now that the issue of marriage equality is pretty much settled within the party, if you put together a group of Democrats with national ambitions, they'll have the same positions on pretty much everything. Which brings us to the interesting case of New York governor Andrew Cuomo, who is almost certainly running for president in 2016. Over the weekend, Chris Hayes explained that "Democrats can't count on New York's supposedly Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo," and Salon 's Alex Pareene wrote a piece headlined "Andrew Cuomo, Fake Democrat." Both were criticizing Cuomo for seeming to undermine his chances of getting what you'd think every governor would want, a legislature controlled by his...

Anti-Testing: Unlikely Common Ground?

(Flick/ cliff1066â„¢)
At first glance, the 2012 elections didn’t seem to have much bearing on education policies. After all, the fundamental debates around schools—whether to increase the role of testing, merit pay, charter schools, and school choice—are, for the most part, outside the realm of partisan politics. Among both Democratic and Republican leadership, there’s a fair amount of consensus in the self-proclaimed reform agenda, which seeks to make schools more like a marketplace and relies on testing to offer metrics for success. It’s the one area where the parties seem to agree. Heck, Obama’s secretary of education, Arne Duncan, is delivering a keynote speech at Jeb Bush’s Excellence in Education summit at the end of the month. But while the politicians might agree, this year’s election turned out to offer a surprising message: Many still support the idea of charter schools, but a whole lot of teachers and parents aren’t so pleased with the elevation of testing, the new regimented days with little...

No, Conservatives, Benghazi Is Not Worse Than Watergate

Richard Nixon delivering his resignation speech.
On Friday, I got into a little Twitter tete-a-tete with Jim Treacher of the Daily Caller over this post I wrote last week, which argued that the reason conservatives are acting as though the aftermath of the events in Benghazi is the scandal of the century is that they're frustrated that Barack Obama hasn't had a major scandal, so they're making as big a deal as possible out of whatever's handy. What ensued opened my eyes to something I found surprising, though I suppose I shouldn't have been so naïve. It turns out that many conservatives not only believe Benghazi is far, far more serious than Watergate was, they seem to have no idea what Watergate was actually about or how far-reaching it was. After the number of Treacher's followers tweeting me with "How many people died in Watergate? Huh? Huh?" reached triple digits (each tweet no doubt considered by its author to be a snowflake of insight), I decided that since the story broke 40 years ago, we all might need a reminder of why...

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,...

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