Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Yes, We Should Keep Talking about Our Gun Laws

Flickr/Brittany Randolph
When an event like the mass shooting in Colorado happens, it's a fair bet that people on every side will take the opportunity to say, "See? This just reinforces what we've been telling you all along." But that's easier for some than others. I looked around some conservative web sites today to see what their reaction was, and much of it ran to this: Awful liberals are going to use this to push their anti-gun agenda, and they should be ashamed of themselves (see here or here ). But is there really anything wrong with taking the events that occur in our country, even horrible ones, and making the connections to our policy and political choices? Isn't that what people who write about politics are supposed to do? Obviously, making those connections can be done in ways that are crass and inappropriate. But so can a discussion about anything. You can say we should talk about something else out of respect for the victims and their families, but the idea that the families' grief might be...

Your Guide to "Ending Medicare As We Know It"

Paul Ryan is very sincere.
Yesterday, President Obama went to Florida and told seniors that Mitt Romney wants to end Medicare as we know it, and it appears that this argument (and some related ones) will be a central feature of the Obama campaign's message in the coming days. It's entirely possible, as Jonathan Chait has suggested , that all the Obama campaign's attacks on Romney's finances and record at Bain Capital are the first stage of a two-stage strategy that culminates with an attack on the Ryan budget. Since we'll be talking about this a lot soon, I thought it might be worthwhile to refresh our memories on what this is all about, particularly with regard to Medicare, and how it relates to the current campaign. First: Is it fair to tar Mitt Romney with the Ryan plan? No question. While Romney's own policy proposals are quite a bit more vague than the Ryan plan is, they follow the same contours, and when Romney is asked about the Ryan plan he never hesitates to praise it. When asked about it last month,...

Voters of No Confidence

(Flickr/kristen_a)
If Americans don't believe that elections are conducted fairly, or believe that the person who takes office didn't actually win, the implications for the country are pretty scary. But according to one recent survey, distrust in election outcomes is startlingly widespread—and growing. The survey, conducted in March by the Opinion Research Center for information tech firm InfoSENTRY Services, asked respondents to say, "on a scale of 1 to 5," how confident they were that votes were counted accurately in their area. One signified "no confidence," and the scale moved up from there. (Read more about the s urvey's methodology here. ) This year, the number of people who answered one or two—in other words had little to no confidence in the accuracy—was the highest it's been since the survey was first conducted in 2004: 23 percent. You might expect trust to grow in American elections as we get further from the debacle of 2000. After all, if there was a time to wonder if all votes got counted,...

The Rich Really Are Different

Not actually Mitt Romney (image from richkidsofinstagram.tumblr.com)
In the last couple of years, we've occasionally seen stories where Wall Street types justify their enormous compensation packages by saying they work really, really hard. They stay late, they work weekends, they just keep their noses to the grindstone, and that's why they get paid what they do. Sure, $30 million a year is a lot of money. But the hedge fund manager who made it probably worked 1,000 times harder than the electrician who made $30,000. Right? I thought of those Wall Streeters and their rhetoric about hard work when considering the question of Mitt Romney's tax returns. One of the things we've found out in the whole when-did-Romney-leave-Bain controversy is that even after he retired/went on a leave of absence, he was being paid at least $100,000 a year for doing what he swears was absolutely nothing. That's a lot of money for doing nothing, at least to people like you and me, but remember that to Mitt Romney, it's peanuts. According to the information he has released , he...

Don't Like Blacks? You'll Love Voter ID

Wikimedia Commons/Library of Congress
Despite the rhetoric of GOP officials, it’s more than clear that voter ID laws are designed to depress turnout among traditionally Democratic groups. Attorney General Eric Holder has even gone so far as to attack the laws as glorified “ poll taxes ”—one of the mechanisms used during Jim Crow to keep African Americans from voting. Regardless of where you fall politically, it seems like this should be objectionable to everyone. The United States had a long and hard path to universal suffrage, and voter suppression is a direct challenge to the idea that everyone counts and everyone should have a say. Unfortunately, there is a real divide on the desirability of voter ID laws; according to the latest survey from the University of Delaware’s Center for Political Communication, support for voter identification is strongest among those who harbor negative opinions toward African Americans: To assess attitudes toward African Americans, all non-African Americans respondents in the poll were...

In the Beginning Was the Word

Flickr/nofrills
I'm beginning to wonder whether Mitt Romney and all of his supporters weren't linguistics majors in college. After all, the thing you choose to study reflects what you think is important. If you major in physics, it's because the laws and operation of the universe are what you find most important. If you major in economics, it's because you find money to be the prime organizing force of human activity. And linguists, like the Republicans of 2012, believe that language is the key to understanding who we are as humans. Here's what I mean. Let's say you wanted to indict not Barack Obama's handling of the economy, but his beliefs about the economy, to get at the very essence of who he is. How would you do it? Some of us would say, we can determine who he is by looking at his actions. If he's a committed Marxist undertaking the dismantling of capitalism, surely we could find the evidence in what he has done. Did he nationalize the steel industry? Well, no. He (and George W. Bush) kind of...

Presidential Race Tightening in New Mexico

The presidential race appears to be tightening in New Mexico, where Obama's former lead of 15 points has dwindled to 5 points. Polls have shown that if Romney picks Governor Susana Martinez (R-NM) as his running mate, he has a decent shot at winning the state, not to mention gaining more votes among women and Latinos. Martinez has said she doesn't want the job because she has to care for her elderly father and ill sister, but couldn't Romney could offer to hire a team of registered nurses to take care of them full time? Today's Presidential Polls State Obama Romney Start End Pollster New Jersey 49% 38% Jul 09 Jul 15 Quinnipiac U. New Mexico 49% 44% Jul 13 Jul 16 PPP Virginia 47% 46% Jul 16 Jul 17 Rasmussen Today's Senate Polls State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster New Jersey Bob Menendez 47% Joseph Kyrillos 34% Jul 09 Jul 15 Quinnipiac U.

Wealthy Republican Senate Candidates Picking Up Steam

A number of self-funded Republicans embroiled in bitter primary fights for Senate nominations are getting traction . These include Wil Cardon in Arizona (running against Represenatative Jeff Flake), Eric Hovde in Wisconsin (running against former governor Tommy Thompson and Representative Mark Neumann), John Brunner in Missouri (running against former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman and Representative Todd Akin), and Linda McMahon in Connecticut (running against former representative Chris Shays). None of them have held elective office before, which means they have no record for opposition researchers to pick apart. On the other hand, all of them are Tea Party favorites, and recent history shows that when a Tea Party candidate defeats the establishment favorite in the primary, the Democrats are often able to hang onto a seat they would otherwise have lost (think: Delaware, Colorado, and Nevada in 2010). In all four of the above cases, the late date of the primary makes the problem even...

If Only They Knew

If only we could go back in time and get Barack Obama to write a candid book about his youth!
For a long time now, Mitt Romney and the people who work for him have seemed like the reasonable people in the Republican party. That isn't to say that Romney's policies or rhetoric were particularly reasonable, but we all accepted that when he started breathing fire, it was an act. Buffeted by the winds of extremism, he made a bargain with his party's base: I'll pretend to be as crazy as you, and you'll learn to live with me as your nominee. But now, Barack Obama has finally opened the can of whoop-ass on Romney that many of us had long been expecting, and as McKay Coppins reports , both Romney himself and his people don't like it one bit. Their reaction indicates that maybe they were never that different from the Republican base after all. "[Romney] has said Obama's a nice fellow, he's just in over his head," the adviser said. "But I think the governor himself believes this latest round of attacks that have impugned his integrity and accused him of being a felon go so far beyond...

Can Rick Perry's Playbook Work in the Texas Senate Race?

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Texas Governor Rick Perry is famous for delivering negative ads that send his opponents' campaigns reeling; they tend to contain such wild, over-the-top accusations that responding to them is tricky business. In the 2002 gubernatorial race, when he was fending off Democratic billionaire Tony Sanchez, the governor pulled out a last-minute ad that basically accused the candidate of laundering money for drug cartels. In his latest battle for the Governor's Mansion, against Houston Mayor Bill White, Perry's team found a police officer's widow who said that White's "sanctuary city" policies led an undocumented worker to kill her husband. The Perry team has long been feared for such ads—and their devastating effect. Now that the Perry team is working Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst's runoff campaign for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison, you might have thought similar ads would help bring down his novice Tea Party challenger, Ted Cruz. But after a couple of days...

The Meaning of "That"

Barack Obama, out hating America. (White House/Pete Souza)
Mitt Romney is, without doubt, a representative of contemporary capitalism, a spectacularly rich financier who got his money not by making things but by buying and selling companies, exploiting leverage, and a whole bunch of other things folks like you and me will never have the privilege of understanding. So it isn't surprising that this campaign has featured a debate about the nature of our economic system. That debate could be a salutary and educational discussion that leaves us all more informed and aware. Or it could be an occasion for some of the most vile demagoguery you could imagine. Do you need to ask which course it will take? By now, we can all agree that a large portion of the Republican party has created in their minds an imaginary Barack Obama, one who is either a literal or philosophical foreigner (Romney has begun dropping the word "foreign" in as often as he can when discussing Obama), who hates America (here's Rush Limbaugh on Monday : "I think it can now be said,...

New Study Finds Voter-ID Laws Burdensome

Flickr/76803040@N04
Ten states have recently passed laws requiring voters to present government-issued photo identification before they can vote. Ostensibly, these laws are to prevent voter fraud. However, a study by nonpartisan university researchers at NYU's Brennan Center for Justice has shown that voter fraud is microscopic ( e.g. , 0.00004% of the votes in the 2004 Ohio election were fraudulent); the penalty for getting caught is so large (5 years in prison), and the effect of one vote so small, that nobody risks it. The very occasional fraudulent vote is invariably from an ex-felon or green-card holder who mistakenly thought he had the right to vote. Nevertheless, states persist in passing voter ID laws. Why? As the study shows, the real effect of these laws is to disenfranchise low-income voters who are disproportionately minorities and Democrats. The legislators who pass voter-ID laws and the governors who sign them (invariably, Republicans) know this very well. By making poor people, who often...

The Romney Death Star Is Not Operational

It’s still too early to tell, but if the Washington Examiner ’s Byron York is right , the vaunted “Romney Death Star” has an unshielded thermal exhaust port at the center of its super-structure: So at least at the moment, the vaunted Romney death star, the machine that flattened his Republican opponents, just isn’t working. Romney is trying to get traction — this week, he’s focusing on Obama’s crony capitalism — but he is struggling. To fix things, he’ll have to put out more facts about his own record, plus capitalize on more bad economic news for Obama (that’s a sure bet at this point), plus gain access to the money he’s raised for the general election, plus find a way to sharpen the SuperPACs’ games. When the general election began, the assumption was that the Romney Death Star was fully operational; it had destroyed Newt Gingrich in a show of force, and overtook Rick Santorum in his underdog effort to win the nomination. But in the face of a fully-equipped opponent, it has faltered...

Mitt's Troubles Never End

I'm comin' fer ya, Mitt! (Flickr/akseabird)
It's looking like Mitt Romney might name his VP pick pretty soon, which is probably a good idea given that the release of the pick will result in a few days of positive coverage when the news media is consumed with something other than what Bain Capital did when, or what juicy nuggets might be contained within Romney's hidden tax returns. But there's a downside: once we do get to the Republican convention, the VP nominee will be old news, so the media can pay much more attention to intra-party squabbling. And nobody likes a good squabble more than Sarah Palin. Remember her? The Romney camp will not comment on Palin, or on plans for the convention, but one adviser associated with the campaign suggested that Palin would be prohibited from speaking at the Republican convention by her contract with Fox News. "It's true I'm prohibited from doing some things," Palin says, "but this is the first I've heard anyone suggest that as an excuse, er, reason to stay away from engaging in the...

With High Unemployment, Why Is Obama Ahead?

Nate Silver has an excellent post this morning on the Romney campaign’s reaction to the attacks on Bain Capital. The short story is that Romney might be overreacting to the controversy; he continues to equivocate and go on the defensive, despite the thin evidence that these attacks are having an effect on the race. Both Obama and Romney are roughly where they were three months ago, when the general election began in earnest, and polls taken since the attacks began have been inconclusive on the effect of anti-Bain ads. To show that Romney isn’t underperforming (because of Bain or anything else), Silver looks to his economic model for the election, which predicts a small but solid lead for the incumbent. Moreover, he makes an important point about the economic indicators that matter in the election year: Pace almost all election coverage, unemployment doesn’t actually tell you much about the final outcome of an election: In plain English, what this chart says is that there’s almost no...

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