Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

FineGaffeGate!

President Obama says something horrible.
If you don't follow a bunch of conservatives on Twitter, you may have missed the fact that in a press conference this morning, Barack Obama said the most horrific thing any president has ever said, an extemporaneous utterance so mind-boggling, so vile, so earth-shatteringly awful that it will forever transform the way all Americans look at him and make it plain that he should not be re-elected. What was it? "You know, Hitler had some good ideas," perhaps? "I saw Milli Vanilli on tour three times and every show was awesome"? No such luck. Behold: We've created 4.3 million jobs over the past 27 months. The private sector is doing fine. Where we're seeing problems is with state and local government, often with cuts initiated by governors or mayors who are not getting the kind of help they're accustomed to from the federal government. Madre de dios! Sacre bleu! Holy crap! If you said that this would make Mitt Romney very fake-indignant, you'd be right . "Is he really that out of touch?,"...

What's the Deal With All These Voting Restrictions?

(AP Photo/Michael S. Green)
Though it is the crown jewel of our charming little American democracy, the right to vote hasn’t ever been a thing of glittering beauty. At its best, voting is the stuff of fluorescent-lit hallways at local middle school schools and the withering glares of geriatric poll workers. At its worst, it’s the stuff of racist poll taxes, land owner-only discrimination, and good old-fashioned sexism. Most of us have, understandably, gotten so caught up with the myriad problems facing our nation—a money-oozing general election campaign, rampant cannibalism, and the heartbreaking realization that we just might not be able to keep up with the Kardashians—that recent kerfuffles over voter ID laws and cries of disenfranchisement might have slipped under our radar, awash in that pre-7 a.m. white noise on NPR. Even if you’re lucid and caffeinated, it can be difficult to keep up with all the moving parts of voter ID legislation, court decisions, and good ‘ole fashioned Sunday morning verbal brawling...

Joe Scarborough and the Hostile Media Effect

The New York Times, showing blatant pro-Romney bias.
I have a soft spot for Joe Scarborough. Back when I was more of a partisan warrior I used to go on a lot of conservative radio and television shows, including "Scarborough Country," and he was without question the most fair-minded of the hosts I dealt with. There were even a couple of times when he admitted he had been wrong about something, which is pretty rare. But I'm going to have to object to some of his recent remarks, in particular because they offer a vivid demonstration of what communication scholars call the Hostile Media Effect. Here's the quick version of what happened: The New York Times published a story in their Home section about Mitt Romney's house in La Jolla (the one with the car elevator) and how the neighbors are reacting to having the Romneys in the neighborhood. There are some not-particularly-friendly comments from some of Mitt's Democratic neighbors, and some details that are complimentary (Mitt was recently seen touching up the paint on the fence, just like a...

Why "Outside Money" Isn't Something to Get Angry About

Center for Public Integrity
The chart of the day, which comes via the Center for Public Integrity , is both vivid and, I'll argue, mostly beside the point. But before we get to my objections, the first thing to notice is what's obvious: Scott Walker and his allies spent way, way, way more money than the other side did in Wisconsin. While it's true that the more high-profile an election is the less a spending advantage matters, and while it's also true that as long as the other side has enough funds to compete, a spending advantage matters less, we're talking about a 7-to-1 difference here, which is pretty striking. Now, to the chart: I'll ignore the fact that they use a pie chart, which is if not a capital crime of data visualization, at least a misdemeanor. In any case, there are two points this chart is making: the difference in Walker's money versus Barrett's money, and the difference in the amount each raised from out of state. To the latter, I say, who cares? This data point—that one candidate raised more...

The SBA List's "Free Speech" Battle

Last week, the Susan B. Anthony List’s computers were seized as evidence in an ongoing federal lawsuit in Ohio. Yesterday, the group’s president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, sent out a fundraising e-mail with the news and a plea for donations. “As important as it is that we vigorously defend against the opposition’s efforts to strip us of our cherished First Amendment right to speak, every minute (and dollar) we spend doing it takes away from our efforts to defeat Planned Parenthood and their pro-abortion Congressional allies,” Dannenfelser wrote. The lawsuit’s plaintiff is a former Ohio representative for the Cincinnati area, Steve Driehaus. He filed it in 2010, and it stems from the SBA List’s campaign activities in that year’s midterm elections. The group attacked Democrats who oppose abortion around the country, arguing that their support for the health-care-reform act that year would direct taxpayer dollars to abortions. Billboards in Ohio would have read “Shame on Steve Driehaus!...

The End of 5-4

The Supreme Court in 2010.
Of all the things we talk about during a presidential campaign, the Supreme Court probably has the lowest discussion-to-importance ratio. Appointing justices to the Court is one of the most consequential privileges of the presidency, one that has become more important in the last couple of decades since the Court has become more politicized. But there isn't a great deal to say about it during the campaign, beyond, "If we lose the election, we'll lose the Court." The candidates aren't going to say much of anything about whom they'd appoint other than a bunch of disingenuous bromides ("I'll appoint justices who will interpret the law, not make law!"), and we don't actually know who's going to retire in the next few years, so in the campaign context there isn't much to be said . But if there's anything that ought to make you afraid of a Mitt Romney presidency, it's this. First of all, if Romney wins he will be under enormous pressure to make sure that anyone he appoints will be not just...

Wisconsin, an "Elastic" State

(OldOnliner/Flickr)
The results of the Wisconsin recall election weren’t surprising; for the last month, polls had shown Walker with a solid lead over his Democratic opponent. What was interesting—and a little surprising—was the extent to which President Barack Obama has maintained a strong position in the Badger State. Among the 2.4 million people who voted in last night’s election—a slight decrease from presidential turnout— 52 percent support Obama. Obama’s performance is down from 2008 , when he captured 56 percent of the vote, but Mitt Romney hasn’t captured the difference. As with John McCain, only 43 percent of Wisconsin voters support Mitt Romney. Even still, that’s a significant swing, and indicative of a point Nate Silver made last month. In an excellent post , Silver offered a different way to evaluate swing states. Rather than categorize states on the basis of their vote margins—how close the two parties' numbers are—Silver rated them on the basis of their "elasticity" or electoral...

What the Affordable Care Act Decision Will Mean

President Obama signing the Affordable Care Act.
Sometime soon—probably in three weeks or so—the Supreme Court is going to hand down its ruling on the Affordable Care Act. Given what happened at the oral arguments, there aren't too many people predicting that the ACA will be upheld, although that of course remains a possibility. Those oral arguments now seem like someone smacking us awake out of a dream in which we believed that the Republican-appointed justices might have something in mind other than the partisan and ideological advantage of their side. It was a weird dream, so weird that in the days before the arguments, some people seriously discussed the possibility that Antonin Scalia might be bound by the logic he had followed in previous cases involving the commerce clause and vote to uphold the law. What a joke. But it seems that the only real question is whether the Court will strike down the individual mandate alone, or strike down the law in its entirety. The former will mean one gigantic problem, namely what to do about...

Obama, Post-Post-Partisanship

(Flickr/Matt Ortega)
Over the past month or two, as the president’s political position has continued to erode and he becomes more vulnerable, an extraordinary and vaguely preposterous conversation has taken shape. Variations on it have been advanced by everyone from former presidents chatting with Hollywood moguls on news cable TV to esteemed Sunday-morning newspaper columnists picking their way through the racial bric-à-brac of the presidential psyche. In a way, it’s the corollary of the birther discussion at the other end of the spectrum, which is to say that it’s a conversation we’ve never had about any other president. The upshot of this conversation is whether it would be a betrayal of everything for which the president has been a metaphor, and of all the attendant mythologies that have accompanied his election and time in office, if he should offer a critique of the record of the man running against him who is running on that same record. In short, as we debate fundamental matters having to do with...

Inconsistent Mandate

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney's stances on health insurance mandates stand as one of the great ironies of the 2012 presidential race. At various points both have opposed the mandate and both have advocated for the idea, successfully forcing the measure into legislation. The only problem is that they have evolved in opposite directions. The Obama campaign made the strategic decision to carve out a niche as the anti-mandate candidate during the 2008 Democratic primary. "It forces everyone to buy insurance, even if you can't afford it, and you pay a penalty if you don't," said one ominous ad from the 2008 campaign that Obama used to attack Hillary Clinton. That staunch opposition of course changed once Obama assumed office and faced the realities of crafting legislation. His team realized any measure that prevented insurance companies from discriminating on the basis of pre-existing conditions would collapse without a mandate, as healthy individuals would flee the market, leaving only the...

Mitt Romney Pretends to Court Hispanic Voters

A Romney ad shows how Hispanics have fallen into a dirty, yellowish pit of human misery under Obama.
Before 2008, there was a story I used to tell about how presidential campaigns have been waged over the last few decades. It goes like this: The Democrat comes before the voters and says, "If you examine my ten-point plan, I believe you will agree that my ten-point plan is superior to my opponent's ten-point plan." Then the Republican comes before the voters, points to the Democrat, and says, "That guy hates you and everything you stand for." It may not have applied to every election in our lifetimes (Bill Clinton was pretty good at running for president, you may remember), but it rang true enough that when I said it, liberals tended to chuckle and nod their heads. That changed in 2008, when Barack Obama ran a campaign in both the primaries and general election that reflected a profound understanding that politics is much more about identity than issues. His opponent understood it too, but the statement of identity that a vote for McCain represented just couldn't garner a majority of...

Extortion Politics

As others have noted , it’s not hard to see the Keynesian case for Mitt Romney’s presidency. Because of Republican opposition, there’s little chance that President Obama could pass stimulus in his second term. Instead, it’s more likely that we’ll stay on the current path of deficit reduction and inaction with regards to the employment crisis. By contrast, if elected president, Mitt Romney would enjoy a cooperative Republican majority that might be willing to pass stimulus if Romney proposed it. What’s more, Romney has made a clear promise to begin his term with large tax cuts, and delay his spending cuts for subsequent years, which is just another way of promising Keynesian stimulus if he’s elected. If you assume that most Republicans are insincere about their opposition to spending, then in the short-term, at least, a Romney presidency might actually be better for the economy. This argument makes perfect sense, but it’s bothered me for a while. In his take on the Keynesian case for...

Feel the Romney

Mitt Romney shares an emotional state with fellow humans.
Mitt Romney has always been a candidate more of the head than the heart. He looks presidential enough, and particularly for Republicans, his resume as a successful businessman is admirable. He certainly seems smart and competent. But no rock stars are going to be putting together songs like this one about the Romney candidacy. Not even songs like this one . Nobody is moved to tears by a Mitt Romney speech. In years hence, Republicans will not be telling their grandkids about how the 2012 campaign was the one that meant the most to them, the time when they felt that politics could be uplifting and inspiring, the one that made them feel like citizenship was something participatory and meaningful. All that seems pretty plain. But the Romney campaign isn't willing to go down without giving that whole "inspiring" thing a shot. Here's their latest ad: The ad promises that, of course, on the first day of his presidency Mitt Romney will start creating jobs, what with all his job-creating job...

All Local Politics Are National

After what seems like forever, it’s finally Wisconsin Recall Eve. Regardless of what happens tomorrow, one thing’s certain: If you’ve had any doubts about the growing nationalization of elections, wash them away now. All politics may be local, but people in D.C.—whether journalists, politicians, or billionaire dilettantes—have found that they can have an outsized influence on the national stage by investing in state and local races. The recall election has proved to be the most expensive in Wisconsin’s history— $30.5 million coming from outside groups—and although locals have insisted time and time again that “It's a Wisconsin-specific moment, not a national referendum,” 80 percent (rough approximation) of news coverage on Monday will focus on the national implications of the race—even though this is not a referendum on President Obama. There is one real big-picture implication. The Wisconsin recall election’s transmogrification into a national circus over the past year will affect...

Are Donors Less Enthusiastic About Obama?

Are Obama donors less enthusiastic than they were in 2012? Writing for Buzzfeed , Ben Smith says yes : In 2008, more than 550,000 gave more than $200 to Barack Obama, entering their names in the longest list of individual donors ever seen in American politics. […] But now, as Obama struggles to keep pace with his 2008 fundraising clip, that list offers a cross-section of Democratic disappointment and alienation. According to a BuzzFeed analysis of campaign finance data, 88% of the people who gave $200 or more in 2008 — 537,806 people — have not yet given that sum this year. And this drop-off isn’t simply an artifact of timing. A full 87% of the people who gave $200 — the sum that triggers an itemized report to the Federal Elections Commission — through April of 2008, 182,078 people, had not contributed by the end of last month. It’s absolutely true that donations have dropped off from 2008, and while Smith has mustered plenty of quotes from dissatisfied Democrats, it’s not clear that...

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