Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Chasing Swingers, Not Specifics

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan are on stage with their wives Ann Romney and Janna Ryan at the end of the Republican National Convention This year’s Republican Convention wins the prize for most conflicted message. Half the time, the convention was devoted to assuring those elusive swing voters—who needed assurance that Republicans really aren’t all angry old white men who hate women and minorities and would close your plant in a blink of the eye if they could make a nickel on the deal—that Republicans in general and Mitt Romney in particular were inclusive, caring, nurturing patriots. The other half of the time, it was devoted to bashing President Barack Obama for his anti-American agenda, an agenda the Republican base has fabricated out of its own paranoia. Because it is effectively all white, the GOP is compelled to send out a revolving door of minority pols and businessmen to affirm the party’s...

Pennsylvania Has a New Voter ID Option—But Serious Burdens Remain

(Flickr/amslerPIX)
There's a lot not to like about Pennsylvania's voter ID law, which requires voters show a government-issued photo ID at the polls. Only a few types of IDs are acceptable, like driver's licenses and passports, and even public-university student IDs must have an expiration date on them. Ever since Republicans passed the law in March, critics have worried that without a comprehensive education plan, hundreds of thousands of voters would not even know about the law—those Pennsylvanians, disproportionately nonwhite and low-income, who lack the necessary ID. Most urgently, they pointed to the people could't get an ID under Pennsylvania's unusually restrictive rules, because they didn't have a birth certificate or social security card or their married name was different than the names on some documents. In a lawsuit aimed at blocking the law, plaintiff Vivienne Applewhite exemplified the problem—a longtime voter, born in South Carolina, whose Social Security card had been stolen and whose...

Did Hubris Kill Texas's Photo ID Law?

(AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
In a unanimous decision on Thursday, a panel of three federal judges knocked down the Texas voter-ID law, which would have required voters to show a form of government-issued photo identification. The state will undoubtedly appeal the decision, but the news is yet another blow to the law, which the Justice Department already determined would disproportionately affect nonwhite voters. The Department of Justice estimated that between 600,000 and 800,000 registered voters would be affected. Those with Hispanic surnames were far more likely than whites to not have the requisite identification. While it's yet another rebuke to strict voter-ID laws, the court's decision also illustrates just how much the specifics of this law, and its particularly scary effects, were brought on by the arrogance of state lawmakers and (Republican) officials. Like right-wing Republicans in the many states that went whole-hog GOP in 2009 and 2010—Wisconsin, Michigan, Maine, Alabama, Virginia, and Louisiana...

The Hidden Candidate

(John Cuneo)
(John Cuneo) W hen Gore Vidal died a few weeks ago, eulogies quoted his famous observation that “the more money an American accumulates the less interesting he himself becomes.” Vidal originally wrote these words in a 1972 essay on Howard Hughes, but who could read them today and not think of Willard Mitt Romney? Blessed with parodically presidential good looks, yet cursed with the unconvincing mannerisms of an early-generation android without its update patch, Romney is that most discombobulating of political phenomena—a boring enigma. Trying to figure out his true nature is akin to facing a block of polystyrene. You can’t see inside, and you can’t get a toehold. You’re left with analogies. Romney has been dubbed the next Herbert Hoover, awarded the honorary George H.W. Bush “Wimp” prize from Newsweek , and compared to a porn-movie queen because he changes his positions so often (this last from Arlen Specter, who only changes parties). Those of a more artistic bent have dubbed Romney...

Ryan's Speech Lays on the Charm, Drops the Plan

Paul Ryan might be a familiar pretty face among the wonky set, but for most voters he is an unknown figure, a minor House representative from someplace in the middle of the country whose name they first encountered at the start of the month. His primetime premiere at the GOP convention last night was supposed to be his coming out moment, an occasion to sell voters on the idea that he is a leader they can see leading the country. Instead, Ryan revealed that he cannot escape the conservative think tank culture that spawned him. It is sure to satisfy the rightwingers who filled the convention hall in Tampa, but the vice=presidential candidate offered little of substance or style for those yet to be decided voters. Typically these convention speeches serve two purposes: building a narrative of one's life story and spinning a vision on the purpose of government. Ryan failed in both directions. He barely touched upon his personal biography. There were the requisite shout-outs to his wife,...

Obama and the Two Virginias

(Jamelle Bouie)
(Jamelle Bouie) President Obama in Charlottesville, Virginia yesterday Well before President Obama arrived for his Wednesday rally in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia, local Tea Partiers had gathered to protest his event and promise an end to his tyrannical administration. Assembled in the nearest open space—a park set adjacent to downtown—and with a massive equestrian statue of Robert E. Lee as their backdrop, they denounced Obama’s record with fighting words. “The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive,” said Republican state Delegate Rob Bell, quoting Thomas Jefferson’s famous letter to Abigail Adams. “It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then.” Bishop E.W. Jackson, a black Tea Party activist and cable news commentator who lost a longshot campaign for the U.S. Senate nomination this year, attacked Obama for … everything. In his...

Fact-Checkers Are No Match For Romney and Ryan

Flickr/depone
In the vice-presidential debate in 1984, George H.W. Bush charged that Walter Mondale and his running mate Geraldine Ferraro had said that the Marines killed in their barracks the year before in Lebanon had "died in shame." It was a lie—neither Mondale nor Ferraro had said any such thing. The Democrats were outraged and demanded an apology, but Bush refused to even admit he hadn't told the truth. Asked about the controversy later, Bush's press secretary, Peter Teeley, made a stunning statement. "You can say anything you want during a debate, and 80 million people hear it." And what if reporters then wrote stories demonstrating that the candidate had lied? "So what?" Teeley responded. "'Maybe 200 people read it or 2,000 or 20,000.'' But things are different now, right? Now we have fact-checkers, so candidates can't get away with that kind of thing. Well ... maybe not. Last night, Paul Ryan delivered a speech that may have set a new standard for dishonesty in an already dishonest...

And the Nominees for Best Political Actor Are ...

(Flickr/NewsHour)
Before Mitt Romney takes the stage today to deliver his acceptance speech, we'll probably get to see a biographical video explaining who Romney is, where he comes from, what he believes, and why he's right for America. The convention film has become one of the centerpieces of these gatherings, so we thought we'd take a little tour of some of the best films from the past to see what makes a good convention film and we might be in for. The convention film may not seem like such a big deal when the campaigns put out videos of some kind or another nearly every day, but it's their only chance to have a highly produced ten minutes or so viewed by tens of millions of voters, all at the same time. The best convention films have managed to unite the candidate's story with our own stories—how we see ourselves and how we see our country. But it took a while for them to become really effective pieces of propaganda, even though campaign films have existed in one form or another nearly as long as...

A Star Is Born

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) Republican vice presidential nominee, Representative Paul Ryan, joined by his familyafter his acceptance speech during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. By the time Paul Ryan finished speaking on Wednesday night, Mitt Romney’s place in the new Republican order had become clear: Win or lose, he’s the placeholder for Paul Ryan until Ryan himself can run for president. In his vice-presidential acceptance speech, Ryan accomplished two distinct tasks: He delivered the convention’s first telling attack on the Obama Administration, and he seized the mantle of leader of the American conservative movement. Ryan’s Obama attacks resonated, as the other convention speeches have not, because at least some of them were partly true. To be sure, he alluded, as all Republican speakers apparently must, to Obama’s supposed dismissal of small businessmen, which never happened. He conjured the specter of an all-encompassing welfare state, a hoary Republican...

Not Your Grandma’s Republican Party

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo) This is a general view during the opening of the Republican National Convention in the Coliseum in Chicago, Ill., June 8, 1920. The Republican National Convention released its platform yesterday during the big opening day of its weeklong event—only slightly punctuated by the weather—and to no one’s surprise, it was chock-full of regressive policy ideas that seek to push the United States back a few decades or centuries. But it wasn’t always that way. The Prospect dug through the history books and found the parts of past Republican Party platforms that the current members don’t care to remember—and that we think are pretty great. Below are some of the best ideas the GOP ever promulgated. 1860: Ending Slavery “…the normal condition of all the territory of the United States is that of freedom: That, as our Republican fathers, when they had abolished slavery in all our national territory, ordained that 'no persons should be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due...

Ann Romney's Fail

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Ann Romney, wife of U.S. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. Early in their careers, almost all journalists hear the same piece of advice: Show, don’t tell. Give an anecdote, provide some detail, offer something that demonstrates the point you’re trying to make. It would have been good advice for Ann Romney. It's not that her convention speech was poorly delivered. The would-be first lady has a Junior League likability—she's sweet and charming, if a bit removed from the average life of most Americans. The random cry of “I love women” was at least overt and obvious in its effort to close the gender gap the GOP currently faces. Even her nervousness had its appeal Tuesday night—she delivered her speech a little too fast, proving once again that she’s human. But Ann Romney had one job to do: Give us some reason—any reason—to believe her husband isn’t some cold-hearted automaton. On that count,...

Should Labor Boycott Charlotte?

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
The Democratic National Convention is less than a week away, and liberals are getting fired up. But at least one of the party's key constituencies isn’t quite so excited. That group is organized labor. Last July’s announcement that the convention would be held in the staunchly anti-union city of Charlotte, North Carolina—the least unionized state in the country—set off a firestorm of protest in the labor movement. A year later, dissatisfaction still simmers, and there's a case to be made for an unprecedented move. The message is simple: maybe labor should sit this one out. To a large extent, politics is about resources. How an organization decides to deploy those it has available says a lot about its values and priorities. So why would labor want to channel limited funds into bolstering a local economy organized around avowedly anti-union principles? By opting for North Carolina as a convention destination, rather than a swing state with stronger union infrastructure such as Ohio or...

Chris Christie's Dark Vision for America

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) New Jersey Governor Chris Christie addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012. Ann Romney’s speech to the Republican National Convention was supposed to be about love—the love she has for husband, and the love they hope they can share and show to the country. It was a nice riff, and would have been a great way to the end the night. Instead, it was the warm-up to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who had a different message : Forget love, the only thing that matters is respect . “I believe we have become paralyzed by our desire to be loved,” said Christie, urging Republicans—and voters—to abandon the search for a candidate they like and instead choose someone who would get things done. What’s odd is that this wasn’t a pitch for Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor didn’t make an appearance until late in the speech, and even then, he was presented in terms ludicrous to anyone with even a cursory knowledge...

Ann Romney Coos while Chris Christie Fizzles

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applwhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applwhite) New Jersey Governor Chris Christie leaves the stage after addressing the Republican National Convention in Tampa yesterday. Like Caesar’s Gaul, the first night of the Republicans’ Convention was divided into three parts: the Diversity Hour, the Caring Wife, and the Chris Christie Anti-Climax. Much of the art of the convention these days is devoted to convincing viewers that we—the elected officials and their spouses at the podium—are just like you. At Republican conventions, this means assuring racial minorities that, although they may not see people who look like them when the cameras pan the hall, there are actually black and Latino Republicans—especially Latino, since the Republicans don’t really expect to pick up more than a handful of black votes anyway. But it also means assuring working- and middle-class voters that, notwithstanding party tax policies that hugely favor the very rich, there are actually very rich Republicans who can remember times...

When Mitt Romney Stops Being Polite ... And Starts Getting Real

You won't be seeing this at the RNC.
Assuming the Republican convention doesn't get cancelled altogether, the GOP will be trying to "humanize" Mitt Romney, so that American voters will come to realize that he is, in fact, a human. And apparently, Republican bigwigs are concerned that the Romney campaign hasn't yet, and may not ever, put the proper effort into this task. According to Politico , they're grumbling about Romney's inability to respond effectively to attacks on him for not releasing his taxes, and are worried that the convention won't be enough about Romney the man. As for Mitt himself, he seems to be attempting a kind of jiu-jitsu on this question. Here's my favorite part: In a Saturday interview with POLITICO, Romney rejected what he suggested was a sort of political cosmetic surgery advocated by political or media commentators who say he needs to overhaul his image. Paraphrasing Popeye, Romney said, "I am who I am." It was a line that suggested a kind of genial freedom from artifice — an impression that was...

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