Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

What to Read Before You Unwonk Tonight

The big story of the day was the surprise evacuation of Zuccotti Park early this morning, prompted because the “health and safety conditions became intolerable,” according to Mayor Bloomberg. Although the situation seems dire, with journalists being arrested, protesters injured by aggressive police officers, and the vibrant camp being dismantled, nobody should interpret this as a sign that the Occupy movement is disintegrating. The New Yorker ’s Amy Davidson put it best: “Zuccotti Park, despite its utopian aspirations, wasn’t the promised land, a particular piece of ground that had to be won. It wasn’t even technically on Wall Street. It could, in some sense, have been anywhere, or everywhere; perhaps that will be the backward effect of this eviction. In that way, and in others one can only glimpse, the quiet in Zuccotti this morning felt like a lull, not an ending.” In other Occupy news, Pawnee might be the next town to rail against Wall Street, and NBC should fear a potential “...

Health Care Supreme

The Supreme Court, as expected, has decided to take up the question of whether the Affordable Care Act violates the Constitution, and has allotted five and a half hours for oral argument. This is far longer than the typical 30 minutes lawyers get to argue before the Court, but it represents the magnitude of the case. Supreme Court opinions striking down acts of Congress are rare. To find a case where the Supreme Court struck down the centerpiece of a sitting president’s legislative agenda, you would have to go back to the New Deal, when reactionary holdovers like Willis Van Devanter and James McReynolds—the latter a justice so racist and anti-Semitic he would refuse to shake the hands of Jewish colleagues and turn his back on African American lawyers making oral arguments—created a constitutional crisis by repeatedly striking down key New Deal legislation. The Supreme Court's decision to hear the ACA challenge raises three key questions: Should the Supreme Court strike down the...

Herman Cain's Known Unknowns

If you haven't seen it already, here's a remarkable video of Herman Cain struggling to answer a question about whether he disagreed with the actions President Obama took in supporting the Libyan uprising. From the first moment, it's something we almost never see in a presidential candidate. He looks like a student who forgot to study struggling through an oral exam. He asks for hints, he stares at the ceiling, he wrestles to come up with a coherent thing to say. But beyond Cain looking very, very foolish, there are actually some interesting things going on here. The point that will be getting all the attention is where Cain says, "I do not agree with the way he handled it, for the following reasons — No, that's a different one. (Pauses) I gotta go back, see. (Pauses) Got all this stuff twirling around in my head." Yeah, apparently. Anyhow, just watch: The Libya engagement happened while Cain was already running for president -- it's not like he's being asked to take a position on the...

Putting Marriage Rights to a Vote

The country's gradual movement toward marriage equality took a step further last week. Democrats in Iowa won a closely contested special election, which allowed the party to maintain their senate majority and essentially assured that no amendment to overturn same-sex marriage will be put to a vote until 2015 at the absolute earliest. That followed a New Jersey court's decision to hear a case that might replace the state's civil unions provision with full marriage rights. But a bit of bad news snuck through as well. Basic Rights Oregon—or BRO, a delightful acronym for the state's leading LGBT rights group—announced that they would abandon their goal of putting a pro-marriage measure on the ballot in 2012, with their sights now set on 2014. "It is not a question of if we will cross this threshold, but when," the group's board wrote in a release . "We have considered the possibility of putting this issue on the ballot for the 2012 election. However several factors, including the expense...

What to Read Before You Unwonk Tonight

The Prospect ’s Jamelle Bouie blogged about the most important story that’s been hiding under Newt Gingrich’s surge (a news story fit for nothing but speculation for how it will end ) and other election stories—“the European debt crisis has raised the odds of a U.S. recession to more than 50 percent by early 2012, according to a new report from the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank.” Other big story of the day: The Supreme Court will hear a challenge to the Affordable Care Act in March. In light of this announcement, it’s a good time to revisit Garrett Epps’ post from last week on notoriously conservative Judge Laurence Silberman upholding the law. GQ just published its pizza-party interview with Herman Cain, which is a must-read. Not for the insight it lends into the pizza professional’s political acumen but simply because it is a terrific character study of a man who says incredibly interesting things but who just shouldn’t be elected president. A man who thinks Godfather’s Pizza...

The Most Important Political News of the Day

Reuters provides us with the most important political news of the day—the European debt crisis has raised the odds of a U.S. recession to more than 50 percent by early 2012, according to a new report from the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank: While it is difficult to gauge the odds precisely, an analysis of leading U.S. economic indicators suggests a rising chance of a recession through the end of the year and into early next year, researchers at the regional Fed bank wrote on Monday. The risk of recession recedes after the second half of 2012, they found. The San Francisco Fed provides a useful chart to illustrate the factors which are driving the risk of recession: From now until the second half of 2012, the European debt crisis accounts for more than 30 percent of the risk of recession, while domestic factors account for a little less. It goes without saying that a recession would be terrible for Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. Negative economic growth – along with more...

Divided Government Isn't Magic

Despite the fact that his No. 1 priority is the defeat of Barack Obama in 2012, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell looks forward to the potential for divided government: “Divided government is the perfect time to do big things, the perfect time,” Mr. McConnell said in a recent session with New York Times reporters and editors. He cited three fairly recent examples of major legislative bargains that were struck with one party in the White House and another running things on Capitol Hill: the 1983 overhaul of Social Security negotiated between President Ronald Reagan and Speaker Tip O’Neill; sweeping 1986 tax law changes; and the welfare reform package of 1996 negotiated between President Bill Clinton and Congressional Republicans. This kind of “grand bargain” bipartisanship can work when both sides have the same goal in mind. In 1983, both sides wanted to save Social Security’s finances, in 1986, both sides agreed that the tax code had become too complicated, and in 1996, both...

Is Mitt Romney Really the Smart One?

Steve Benen offers a provocative suggestion : maybe we shouldn't be thinking about Mitt Romney as the smart, informed one: For all the jokes about the clowns that make up this year's Republican presidential field, the conventional wisdom is flawed. Romney, we're told, is the "serious" one, in large part because he speaks in complete sentences, and isn't bad at pretending to be credible. Ultimately, though, Romney's efforts don’t change the fact that he's faking it — and those who understand the issues beyond a surface-level understanding surely realize the GOP frontrunner just doesn't know what he's talking about. If the weekend's foreign policy debate showed anything, it was that nearly all the Republican candidates are faking it when it comes to foreign affairs, but Steve lists a bunch of occasions on which Romney has said things that are just inane. So why is it that those instances haven't dented this image? He certainly benefits from his opponents: it's almost impossible to look...

Do Regulations Cost Jobs?

One clear consensus emerged at the Republican presidential debate on the economy last week: government regulations are stifling our economic recovery. "I’ve said I’m going to repeal every single Obama-era regulation that costs business over a hundred million dollars. Repeal them all," Rick Santorum said, to no disagreements from the other candidates who all envisioned a robust recovery once regulations were wiped from the books. "The real issue facing America are regulations. It doesn’t make any difference whether it’s the EPA or whether it’s the federal banking, the Dodd-Frank or Obamacare, that’s what’s killing America," Rick Perry said, recalling details for a rare moment. "And the next president of the United States has to have the courage to go forward, pull back every regulation since 2008, audit them for one thing: Is it creating jobs, or is it killing jobs? And if that regulation is killing jobs, do away with it." Are regulations killing jobs? Not really, at least according to...

Gingrich Isn't Going to Be the GOP Nominee

The arguments for why Herman Cain won’t be the Republican presidential nominee, even if he’s popular, are straightforward. He has little history with the Republican Party establishment and shallow relationships with GOP activists on the state and local level. He lacks an on-the-ground campaign in the early primary states, and he’s devoted his time to states like Alabama—irrelevant to the nomination contest but a fine venue for selling books. Indeed, Cain’s upcoming visit to Iowa—the state he has to win or do well in to have a shot at the nomination—is his first since mid-October. Serious candidates tend to spent a lot more time in “make or break” states. At the moment, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is surging in the polls. In the latest survey of Republican voters from NBC News and The Wall Street Journal , Gingrich earns 22 percent support, a 5 point increase from his previous performance. The reasons for his newfound popularity aren’t hard to grok; the once-ascendent Herman...

Why Tuesday? Because Republicans Said So

Earlier this week, The Washington Post 's Ezra Klein profiled the "Why Tuesday" organization. Here's how that group explains the history of our current election calendar: In 1845, before Florida, California, and Texas were states or slavery had been abolished, Congress needed to pick a time for Americans to vote. We were an agrarian society. We traveled by horse and buggy. Farmers needed a day to get to the county seat, a day to vote, and a day to get back, without interfering with the three days of worship. So that left Tuesday and Wednesday, but Wednesday was market day. So, Tuesday it was. In 1875 Congress extended the Tuesday date for national House elections and in 1914 for federal Senate elections. Of course the constraints that made people in the 1800s choose Tuesday no longer apply in the modern era. Without a bias for the status quo, there would be no reason to choose Tuesday over Wednesday or Thurday. Klein advocated for The Weekend Voting Act, a bill that would move and...

Guess Who Doesn't Like Herman Cain?

As if to remind us of his utter contempt for women, Georgia businessman Herman Cain capped off a campaign appearance yesterday with a joke about Anita Hill, who accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his 1991 confirmation hearing: A clip that first aired on “Special Report With Bret Baeir” shows Cain in the middle of a raucous crowd of supporters when someone makes a comment about Anita Hill. The substance of the comment was drowned out by applause in the room, but it had the candidate doubled over with laughter. “Is she going to endorse me?” Cain asked, smiling. […] With this in mind, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that Cain has lost considerable support among Republican women -– according to the latest CBS News poll , he is down 13 points among GOP women, to 15 percent. This brings his overall numbers down to 18 percent support among all Republicans, placing him in the lead, but not by much. Flanking Cain are Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, who...

Not All Flip-Flops Are Created Equal

Mitt Romney isn’t the first candidate to flip his positions in the service of national ambitions, but there’s something dramatic about the speed and velocity of his transformation. As The Wall Street Journal details in this excellent piece, Romney ran for governor as a liberal –- he promised to defend the state’s abortion laws and provide domestic partnership benefits and then offered himself as a voice for moderation within the Republican Party. Once elected, he continued on that path, signing a state ban on assault weapons and closing a coal power plant under the rationale that private industry shouldn’t have carte blanche to release dangerous fumes into the air. This all changed in 2005, when Romney began to position himself for a run in the 2008 Republican presidential primary. By the end of the year, he had reversed himself on everything from abortion to climate change, even going as far as to demonize same-sex residents of Massachusetts to out-of-state audiences, in order to...

Primaries Not Doing the GOP Any Favors

Gallup has some interesting numbers out on the presidential race. With the usual caveat that this is only one set of polls, over the past two months he has moved from trailing a generic Republican by 8 points to being even. The figures among independents are what is really striking: What happened in the interim? Why, the Republican primary race, of course. Americans have gotten a look at what the GOP is offering, and it ain't pretty. Unlike a few months ago, when the pollster asks about supporting "the Republican Party's candidate for president," there are particular individuals who come to mind. There's that wide-eyed radical woman from Minnesota, that Texas Ted Baxter, that ignoramus pizza guy whom lots of women say made crude advances toward them, that robotic corporatist. There are no more fantasy candidates—all the candidates are real. I couldn't help think back to the Democratic primaries of four years ago. If you'll recall, it was certainly a brawl, with plenty of charges,...

Rick Perry's Off-Base Even When He's On-Point

Media coverage of last night's debate has been consumed by Rick Perry's onstage mental block, and for good reason. As I wrote over on the homepage, his inability to recall the three executive-branch agencies he would eliminate was more than your typical gaffe, quite possibly the most embarrassing moment from a presidential debate in the television era (I might be a little young to make such a claim, but reporters who have followed debates since 1960 concur ). Perry's donors are e-mailing members of the media to say their funding stream will soon run dry, and the Des Moines Register spoke with one Iowa supporter who thinks the campaign is over. “Oh my God it was just horrible. Just horrible,” said Hamilton County GOP Chairman Mark Greenfield, who has endorsed Perry. “I felt very bad for him. It happens. But it shouldn’t happen when you run for president. It was very embarrassing for everyone.” Those 50 seconds of stumbling were mighty painful to watch, but it's worth noting how abysmal...

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