Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

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 Republican Party is going to fall on its sword to defend a bunch of millionaires, half of whom voted Democratic and half of whom live in Hollywood and are hostile?” If it were possible to kill Paul Ryan and Grover Norquist, the prince and monarch of anti-tax Republicanism, in a single stroke, Kristol’s words would surely have done the deed. It’s one thing for 'wingers like Sean Hannity to be urging the party to give up on its anti-immigration hard line—which has...

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? Just because something has been around for three quarters of a century, that doesn't mean it's in any way useful, and this is one little legislative artifact we can do without. Before last year the debt ceiling was raised 75 times since its creation in 1939, and nearly all of those increases were nothing more than an opportunity for the opposition party of the moment to give a few floor speeches railing against the...

Nixon Can't Always Go to China

New America Foundation/Flickr
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 Robert 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. But he has his advocates, among them William Cohan, a former investment banker and investigative journalist. Cohan sees the deficit as the chief problem facing the United States, and thinks Bowles is the only candidate for Treasury who can craft a bipartisan deal to get our “fiscal house in order” and bring some accountability to Wall Street. Wait, what? Yes, Cohan sees Bowles as a more progressive alternative to the other name on the short list, White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew. Here’s what he has to say: For...

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. Here are the most notable winners and losers. WINNERS Teachers Over the cries of teachers' groups, legislatures around the country have passed a number of reform laws, expanding the role of testing and decreasing educators' contract protections. But on...

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...

Election Results, Revisited

Mother Jones
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 . I hope we can all appreciate the irony of that. Compared to 2004 , which seems to be the election most analagous to this one, President Obama has outperformed George W. Bush by more than 40,000 votes, and Mitt Romney has underperformed John Kerry by more than 245,000 votes. It should be noted that that there are still a few million provisional and absentee ballots in California that need counting. If they look like the rest of the state, then Obama’s could move closer to 51 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)
After an election in which Republican rape philosophers —from Todd Akin in Missouri to Richard Mourdock in Indiana— went down in defeat , and after 20 women, the most in any year in history, were elected to the Senate, it would be reasonable to hope the political chatter devoted to concern-trolling over ladyparts will decline. But we shouldn’t assume the issue is going away. Battles over funding are likely to become a bigger priority for both pro- and anti-choicers. With that, here’s a review of the good, the bad, and the ugly for the future of reproductive rights. The Good Because Obama won the election, the Affordable Care Act will continue to be implemented, which bodes well for reproductive health care. The ACA requires insurance to cover a slate of women’s preventive health services without requiring a copay , including well-woman visits, testing for HPV—a virus that causes many forms of cervical cancer—and, most contentiously, contraception. Many insurance plans have started...

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. They aren't saying that the voters are uninformed, or that they allowed themselves to be duped. Instead, Barack Obama's re-election is said to be a moral failing on the part of the American public. They got what they wanted, conservatives are saying. And what was it they wanted? Universal health coverage, higher taxes on the wealthy, strong environmental regulations, legal abortion? Nope. They wanted free stuff. Because that's just how those people are. This was perhaps articulated most...

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. What’s interesting about the fiscal-cliff conversation is that this straightforwardly Keynesian argument—we shouldn’t reduce deficits during an economic recovery—is coming from people whose claim to fame is deficit reduction regardless of the circumstances. Erksine Bowles, for example, is a notorious deficit scold whose namesake—along with former Republican lawmaker Alan Simpson—is the Bowles-Simpson deficit-reduction proposal, which would reduce the debt by $4 trillion over the next decade through a combination of tax increases and cuts to entitlement spending. Bowles thinks it’s imperative that we avoid the fiscal cliff: “People are never going to understand how critical this particular time...

Marco Rubio's Clueless Boosters

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. Because all eyes are now going to be turned to him as a man who might have a way to broaden the demographic appeal of this party." Charles Krauthammer—one of the few pundits whose election predications were as risibly off-base as Will’s—also began to get starry-eyed about the Tea Party hero. And hey, next week he’s speaking in Iowa ! But the conservatives who are promoting Rubio as their magic ticket for wooing Latinos are only demonstrating that they still haven’t got a clue about what it actually takes. As Ta-Nehisi Coates points out, “Diversity isn't simply giving Mia Love a plum speaking spot . It is finding a Mia Love who represents the interests,...

When "We Don't Like Your Kind" Becomes a Problem

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,...

Justice, Retained

(Flickr/sundee.forsyth)
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 2009 Varnum v. Brien , 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. Wiggins was the only judge up for a retention vote this go-around, which Supreme Court justices in the state face every eight years. What changed? The liberal network of pro-judge groups that failed in 2010 learned from their mistakes. Two years ago, the campaign led by prominent conservative activist Bob Vander Plaats took progressives by surprise. Liberal voters paid little attention to the retention vote, believing that Vander Plaats posed no real challenge—after all, retention votes were on the backside of the ballot...

Democrats Make Gains in Statehouses, but Republicans Still Dominate

(Flickr/Jim Bowen)
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. Democrats had little power to stop the wave of cuts to public education, health care, and other social services that the new Tea Party lawmakers pushed for—decisions with long-term costs, particularly to marginalized populations . And when the new Census results came in, it was those Republican majorities that redrew political districts to favor their own party. In spite of partisan redistricting, Democrats fared much better in the states this year—though not nearly as well as the party did in federal elections. Democrats retook seven chambers, including both house and senate in Minnesota and Maine (where...

A New Side of Barack Obama

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...

The America in the Next Seat

(Flickr/Jake Mates)
(Flickr/Jake Mates) 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...

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