Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Is the Driverless Car Menace 2012's Sleeper Issue?

A Florida senior just after her brush with death.
As someone who has gone on record in support of driverless cars, I simply must raise my voice in objection to this ad targeting Florida state representative Jeff Brandes, who is running for state senate. An inconsequential local race, you say? Not when this kind of vicious anti-technological filth is sent out to paralyze our nation's seniors with fear of walking the streets! If you think American politics is no fun, just take a gander: Clearly, this Brandes character is some kind of fifth column infiltrator preparing us for the coming robot apocalypse, when Roombas start mowing down helpless seniors in their homes and ATMs reach out and swallow you when all you wanted was to take out $20 and make it to the early bird on time. For all we know, Brandes might be a robot himself. Actually, before long robots will actually be used to provide companionship and assistance to seniors. It's already happening in Japan. And also, help them pull off jewel heists:

The Coming Obama Landslide

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
In terms of demographics, Mitt Romney has one path to victory: overwhelming support from white voters. At the least, he’ll have to outperform every Republican since Ronald Reagan, and win 60 percent of their votes. And this is if minority turnout is at its 2008 levels. If it increases, he needs even more whites to make up the difference. Seniors play a key part in this coalition. The New Republic ’s Nate Cohn puts it bluntly : “Romney’s road to the White House runs through seniors.” John McCain won 51 percent of seniors, beating Obama by four percentage points. At the moment, Cohn notes, Obama’s support among this group is in the low 40s. If the former Massachusetts governor can outperform McCain and crush Obama among older Americans, he can eke out a narrow win. But if Obama can hold his own—and move closer to his 2008 total—he’ll have secured victory. Enter Paul Ryan. As a congressman, the Wisconsin representative’s signature accomplishment is a proposal to reform entitlements,...

Mitt Romney's Terrible Laugh

(AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Some public figures get defined by a single image, or a single statement ("Ask not what your country can do for you"; "I am not a crook"). Others have a characteristic linguistic tic or hand gesture that through repetition come to embody them; think of Ronald Reagan's head shake, George W. Bush's shoulder-shimmy, or that closed-fist-with-thumb-on-top thing Bill Clinton used to do. For Mitt Romney, it's the laugh. I'm sure that at times Romney laughs with genuine mirth, but you know the laugh I'm talking about. It's the one he delivers when he gets asked a question he doesn't want to answer, or is confronted with a demand to explain a flip-flop or a lie. It's the phoniest laugh in the world, the one New York Times reporter Ashley Parker wrote "sounds like someone stating the sounds of laughter, a staccato 'Ha. Ha. Ha.'" Everything Mitt Romney is as a candidate is distilled within that laugh—his insincerity, his ambition, his awkwardness, and above all his fear. When Mitt laughs that...

I Know You Are But What Am I? Medicare Edition

In the good old days, you could get political speeches on LP.
Republicans' pleasure over Mitt Romney picking Paul Ryan for his running mate is tempered by their nervousness that Democrats will use Ryan's budget to hammer them on Medicare, particularly in Florida. And yes, they will. So how are Republicans going to respond? The answer is that they'll employ the time-honored "I know you are, but what am I?" strategy. The National Republican Congressional Committee—the House Republicans' campaign arm—is sending out memos to its members telling them to, in the title of one, "Stay on offense on Medicare." And how do you do it? You say, we're not the ones who want to destroy Medicare, the Democrats are the ones who want to destroy Medicare! We're already hearing it from Romney and Ryan, and it'll be coming from all kinds of other places as well; here's the Heritage Foundation saying "Obamacare ends Medicare as we know it." (How? Because it's all governmenty.) This kind of muddying of the waters has worked before. Here's one of my favorite ads from...

Shiny, Happy Ryan

(AP Photo/Conrad Schmidt)
Although Paul Ryan has only been on the Republican presidential ticket for two days, the punditocracy's opinions on how he will influence the race this fall have already solidified. Republicans think he is the saving grace of a candidate wounded by chronic awkwardness, a schizophrenic policy history, and, well, just being filthy rich. Democrats, meanwhile, have been chortling non-stop for the past 48 hours, relishing the chance to tell all those elderly swing voters in Florida about Ryan's evil plot to dismantle Medicare. However, Democrats' entrenched evaluations fail to include an essential variable in the equation of how the Wisconsin representative will play with voters: however strident his policy proposals, you can't fault the packaging. When Paul Ryan was a young twenty-something working at the conservative think tank Empower America, Jack Kemp taught him that conservative talking points could be " delivered with a smile " instead of apocalyptic threats, and Paul Ryan is a...

Phony Hawkery

Definitely not Paul Ryan. (Flickr/contemplicity)
This is something that other people have mentioned, and Jamelle brings up in his extremely helpful post about Paul Ryan, but it really needs to be emphasized: Paul Ryan is not a "deficit hawk." No matter how many times the news media tell us, it doesn't make it true. As I've said before , you can't call yourself a deficit hawk if the only programs you want to cut are the ones you don't like anyway. Show me someone who's willing to cut programs he favors (Ryan isn't), and would actually take potentially painful measures to balance the budget (Ryan wouldn't), and that's a deficit hawk. Ryan, on the other hand, is a conservative ideologue who couches what Newt Gingrich appropriately called "right-wing social engineering" in a lot of talk about making tough choices. But I've never actually seen Paul Ryan make a "tough" choice, at least one that was tough for him. There's nothing "tough" about a conservative Republican who tells you he wants to slash Medicare and Medicaid, increase defense...

How to Get Out the Vote in a Voter ID World

(AP Photo/The Kansas City Star, Mike Ransdell)
Voter ID laws create an unnecessary barrier to voting that disproportionately affects poor and nonwhite voters. If you’re going to have them, you should at least tell people that they're going into effect. But given the impetus of these laws—to disenfranchise Democratic-leaning voters—it's no surprise that few of the states that have passed them have made any effort to educate voters. Since 2010, 12 states have passed laws requiring voters to show government-issued identification in order to vote. One such law is Pennsylvania's, where studies estimate anywhere from 780,000 to 1.2 million could be turned away at the polls on Election Day because of new ID requirements. A state court is expected to rule this week on whether the law can go forward, but in the meantime, many have blasted Pennsylvania's anemic efforts to inform voters. Because the state originally estimated that far fewer voters would be affected, the plan was simply to remind those who turned out for the April primaries...

Five Things to Know about Paul Ryan's Plan

(AP Photo)
Long before he won the Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney had enthusiastically endorsed the budget of Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan as the template for his own proposals. As I detailed in the Prospect 's print magazine, Romney promises to extend the Bush tax cuts, cut income-tax and capital-gains rates, and reduce corporate taxes. Now that Romney has selected Ryan as his running mate—and the former Massachusetts governor says he'll play a key part in his administration—odds are even higher that this plan will be implemented by the Romney administration. Both candidates envision a rearrangement of the federal government and its responsibilities, but Romney has always been responsive to the needs of a presidential election. Not Ryan. As someone responsible to congressional Republicans, his proposals had room to be far-reaching and radical. Here are five charts that illustrate his proposals and give a sense of his true priorities. Ryan wants to end most taxes on the top...

Paul Ryan, Culture Warrior

Mitt Romney's choice of Paul Ryan to be his running mate, as the Prospect 's Jamelle Bouie points out , leaves no doubt that if elected Romney will pursue Ryan's agenda of savage cuts to the already threadbare American safety net in order to finance upper-class tax cuts and additional defense spending that even the Pentagon doesn't want. The Ryan choice does not merely reveal, however, Romney's commitment to 19th-century fiscal policy. It also demonstrates Romney's commitment to a 19th-century view of women and gays and lesbians. Not only would Medicare be unlikely to survive a Republican administration, Roe v. Wade would almost certainly be gone as well. Because Romney had to express pro-choice views in order to secure the governorship of Massachusetts, some pundits are sure to suggest that Ryan pick reflects a focus on fiscal issues but a moderation on cultural issues. But, in fact, there's no reason to believe that Romney's opportunistic support for abortion rights reflects his "...

Paul Ryan: The Next President of the United States?

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
Democrats seem nearly unanimous that Mitt Romney's pick of Paul Ryan to be his running mate is a good thing, since it will make winning substantially more difficult for Romney (Jamelle explains why here ). I agree, and I continue to believe that the odds remain substantially in favor of Barack Obama winning re-election. But I thought I'd take the opportunity of an outbreak of hope on the left side of the aisle to offer a little vision of horror. As of Sunday morning, Paul Ryan may indeed be the person most likely to be, in the words of Romney's slip of the tongue , the next president of the United States. The reason I say this is that while we don't yet know the conditions under which the 2016 presidential campaign will take place, the GOP will begin with a substantial advantage. Winning three consecutive presidential terms is very hard. It has only happened once since 1948, when George H.W. Bush beat Michael Dukakis in 1988. No matter how well things are going, the public eventually...

Paul Ryan: Behind Blue Eyes

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan touts his 2012 federal budget. Today, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney announced Ryan as his running mate. As the chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan gives Romney a link to Capitol Hill leadership and underscores Romney's effort to make the election a referendum on the nation's economic course. After a campaign spent pandering slavishly to the right, Mitt Romney has finally inspired a giddy burst of bipartisan consensus: On the right and left, everyone’s jumping for joy about his new running mate. For conservatives who’ve always regarded the former “Massachusetts moderate” with cold suspicion, it wasn’t enough for Romney to endorse and effusively praise Paul Ryan’s infamous budget—a plan that would give the richest Americans an average tax cut of at least $150,000 a year and cap Medicare benefits , meaning that seniors would fall further and further behind over time. They didn’t believe Romney...

Lipstick on a Wonk

(AP/Scott Applewhite)
I t’s official : Mitt Romney has picked Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan to join him as his running mate. I’ve already written why I think Ryan is a terrible choice . In short, his plan to cut taxes on the rich and gut the welfare state is one of the most unpopular proposals in American politics. Conservatives love Ryan, but seniors, young people, women, nonwhites, veterans, the disabled, and the poor might feel differently about a man who wants to make the federal government an ATM for the wealthy. In terms of the election, it’s hard to see how Romney gains from this choice. Because of its large population of working-class whites, Wisconsin has the potential to become a swing state, but for now, Obama has a solid lead . Yes, vice presidential nominees provide a home-state boost, but it’s small— on average, two points . Barring a major change in the race, the most Ryan will do is help Romney lose Wisconsin by a somewhat smaller margin than he would have otherwise. With that said, a...

Paul Ryan: Obama's Dream Opponent

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
UPDATED : Mitt Romney has selected Paul Ryan as his running mate. As Beltway anticipation builds for Mitt Romney’s vice presidential announcement, conservative pundits have re-upped their calls for a “bold” and adventurous choice. This morning, the Wall Street Journal editorial page took the lead with a plea to add House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan to the ticket. The Journal acknowledges the appeal of VP frontrunners Tim Pawlenty and Rob Portman—working-class roots and high-level experience, respectively—but says that Ryan is the only politician with the gravitas and vision to campaign on a presidential level. Here’s the op-ed: Too risky, goes the Beltway chorus. His selection would make Medicare and the House budget the issue, not the economy. The 42-year-old is too young, too wonky, too, you know, serious. Beneath it all you can hear the murmurs of the ultimate Washington insult—that Mr. Ryan is too dangerous because he thinks politics is about things that matter. That dude really...

Romney's Health Care Dilemma Returns

One of these things is...not like the other?
Mitt Romney has been so busy securing his Republican base that he hasn't had time to court independent voters, the ones who will actually decide this election. But now, probably by accident, he has an opportunity to show them that he's something other than a slave to his party's right wing. Will he take it? When Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul committed the apparently unpardonable sin of praising the health care law Mitt Romney passed as governor of Massachusetts, was she making a horrible mistake that made everyone in Romney headquarters gasp in horror, or was she just reflecting what her candidate actually believes? The answer to that question would tell us where Romney is going to go from here on health care, and whether he may at long last try to find some issue on which he can convince voters he's something more than a vessel for whatever his party's right wing wants to do to the country. Most everyone, myself included, initially assumed that Saul just spoke out of turn. After...

Why Mitt Romney Can't Help But Flounder

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
Romney’s task for this summer was to reintroduce himself to the public as a competent moderate—someone who could get the economy back into shape by sheer dint of his business experience. But since Team Obama began its savage attacks on Bain Capital, the Romney campaign has been on the defensive. Revelations about Bain-led outsourcing, his “shadow years” at the company, and his opaque tax returns have wreaked havoc with his favorability ratings. Romney’s unfavorability is higher now than it’s been since the GOP primaries. Romney’s 40 percent favorability is the lowest mid-summer rating for a presidential nominee since 1948. This, to put it lightly, is a big problem for Team Romney. Contrary to what the campaign seems to think, the economy isn’t bad enough to guarantee a defeat for President Obama. As Nate Cohn points out at The New Republic , Obama’s disapproval rating has hovered at 47 percent—the same as his approval rating. Americans are divided on the president’s tenure, but aren’t...