Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Believing Cain

The talk of the town today is of course Politico's story detailing how two women who worked for Herman Cain at the National Restaurant Association in the 1990's accused him of sexual harassment, and were then given payouts to leave the organization (and made to sign non-disclosure agreements, of course). Although Politico relied extensively on anonymous sources for their story and obtained only some details about the alleged harassment, it does appear that they worked it pretty hard and didn't publish until they were confident about the facts they had. There are two possibilities here when it comes to the allegations. The first is that the women's allegations are true, which would mean Herman Cain is a pig who preys on women who work for him. The second is that the allegations are false, which would mean Herman Cain is an innocent man besmirched by allegations he can't escape. At the moment, we have no basis on which to determine which of those two is more likely to be true. When...

Foreclosed for Business

Before the Republican presidential primary debate in Nevada, 2012 GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney told the editorial board of the Las Vegas Review Journal that government shouldn’t be in the business of trying to help families about to lose their homes. “ Don’t try and stop the foreclosure process ,” he said. Former pizza magnate Herman Cain claimed following the debate that the best way to help homeowners facing foreclosure is to “ get government off the back of the banks .” Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich’s prescription for aiding homeowners, meanwhile, is to repeal the Wall Street reform law that Congress passed last year. Listening to the GOP presidential candidates, you’d never know that Nevada was the state hardest hit by the bursting of the housing bubble, that it has led the nation in foreclosures for 56 consecutive months , or that last year one in nine Nevada households received a foreclosure notice. The one time that foreclosures came up during the debate, none of the...

Will the Right Rally 'Round Cain After Harassment Allegations?

Last night, Politico broke the news that Herman Cain was involved in a sexual-harassment suit during his tenure as head of the National Restaurant Association. "At least two female employees complained to colleagues and senior association officials about inappropriate behavior by Cain, ultimately leaving their jobs at the trade group," writes Politico . According to the story, Cain used sexual innuendo when interacting with the women in question; one reported an "unwanted sexual advance" from Cain during an event. Politico reports that both women received financial compensation upon leaving the association, and one was warned that "she may be the subject of an embarrassing story involving a presidential candidate." So far, the Cain campaign has reacted with a series of "non-denial denials." In a phone interview with Fox News, campaign spokesman J.D. Gordon denied the allegations and dodged further questions from host Geraldo Rivera. "All I'm telling you right now is, this is something...

Racism's Over!

The new laws to restrict voter access to the polls are unlikely to change before the 2012 election. Republican-controlled legislatures elected in 2010 have systematically changed voting laws across the country—restricting early voting, photo ID, etc.—using their power to disenfranchise blocks of voters that typically support the other party. Voting rights advocates have fought back in a handful of states. In Maine, a repeal of same-day registration that passed earlier this summer will be subjected to a referendum vote next month. But Democrats have little recourse to stop these laws from hitting the books in most states. There is, however, still hope that the Obama administration will use the executive branch's powers to block a handful of the most egregious changes. Section Five of the Voting Rights Act forces states with a history of discrimination in their voting policies to receive preclearance from the Department of Justice or a federal court before changing their laws, and...

A Scary Guide to the GOP Tax Plans

When did tax-reform plans become so sexy? It seems like every day now GOP candidates are flaunting a new, slimmer tax plan, complete with a catchy name and nonsensical (or nonexistent) ideas supporting them. After a while, they can all start to look the same, but they vary widely on the craziness spectrum. Homeland Security decided that colors are passé as a way to measure threat, so here is my patented Herman Cain “I am America” smile threat level system. The Baseline: There are some basic conservative calling cards that the GOP tax plans share. They would all eliminate the 15 percent capital gains tax (Mitt Romney would only eliminate the tax for families making less than $200,000 a year) and the estate tax, and all the candidates have vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act and Dodd-Frank. If your only source of news for the past couple of weeks has been the GOP debates, you would think that these were the two most dangerous pieces of legislation ever to be passed in the United...

The Trouble With Iowa

I long ago went on record as a critic of the early election contests in Iowa and particularly New Hampshire, which produce all kinds of distortions in our national politics (take, for instance, the persistence of ethanol subsidies). But there's one I forgot to mention: the inordinate influence given to politicians who would otherwise be regarded as nutballs, simply because they happen to come from an early state. Case in point: an article in today's Politico, "Steve King Not Ready to Crown a 2012er," about how King, an Iowa congressman, has yet to make his much sought-after endorsement. You may not know King, but he is without question one of Congress' most ridiculous characters. He's the kind of guy who goes into an auditorium of schoolchildren and asks them where they stand on abortion. The kind of guy who, after a deranged terrorist flew a plane into an IRS building, killing a US government employee, responded by saying the incident was "sad," but the guy basically was right to...

A Different Kind of Revenge Film

Writing over at Mother Jones , Adam Serwer makes a smart point about ethnic revenge flicks like Inglorious Basterds and the forthcoming Django Unchained . “The true “revenge” of Inglorious Basterds,” Adam writes, “is in the banishment of a particular stereotype, the idea of the weak, fearful Jew who goes helplessly into the ovens.” The problem with Django Unchained is that African Americans have never had a problem with being portrayed as aggressive and prone to violence. Indeed, that’s the stereotype we’ve worked to reject . As Adam notes, “[A] film in which a slave kills his masters may vicariously avenge a historical injustice, but it lacks the catharsis of defying the accepted narrative that narrowly limits what being black is supposed to mean.” In his eyes, a real black revenge story isn’t Django Unchained , it’s The Cosby Show . I don’t disagree! But I think Adam is a little too neat in dismissing the value of a film like Django Unchained could have in subverting other...

Meet Your New Republicans!

Republicans are fond of ascribing tremendous diversity to their party, but as this latest Gallup survey shows, the truth is that the GOP is just about as diverse as it was in 2008, which is to say, not very much. The GOP remains disproportionately white, and also, disproportionately male. 53 percent of Republicans are men, while just 47 percent are women. By contrast, the overall population is 49 percent male, 51 percent female. That said, these numbers are an improvement from three years ago, when men were a slightly larger percentage of self-identified Republicans. The most significant news from the survey is the overall growth of the Republican Party—40 percent of Americans describe themselves as Republicans, up from 37 percent in 2008. These new Republicans come by way of traditional Republican groups. It’s not that the GOP has made inroads into minority communities as much as it is that they’ve deepened their support among non-Hispanic whites. One last tidbit: Republicans are...

Will Rick Perry Execute Another Innocent Man?

Rick Perry's struggles with the GOP base can largely be traced back to the debate in late September in which he called opposition to tuition assistance for illegal immigrants "heartless." Given his subsequent drop in the polls, he is now contemplating skipping future debates. But for liberal audiences, the most chilling moment of Perry's brief debate history came when he defended Texas' status as the country's execution leader. Perry practically reveled with glee as he described dolling out the "ultimate justice" (at the time, I noted his sharp departure in tone from the last Texas governor who ran for president). It was a truly disturbing moment because evidence from one case in Texas indicates that at least one innocent man, Cameron Todd Willingham, was put to death during Perry's tenure as governor. And Perry may be on his way to executing another innocent man. Hank Skinner was convicted of killing three people—his girlfriend and her two children—and sentenced to death in 1995. His...

Jon Huntsman Should Find a Better Gig

Jon Huntsman has staked his entire presidential bid on the New Hampshire Republican primary. He’s diverted his campaign’s resources to the state, and held dozens of events over the last several weeks. Unfortunately for the former Utah governor and ambassador to China, this has been an exercise in futility. Yahoo News reports that despite holding 80 events in the state, Huntsman has only raised $1,000, to go along with his abysmal performance in state polls . I’ve said this since the beginning of his campaign and it bears repeating: Jon Huntsman was never a serious nominee for president. The hundreds of thousands he’s invested in his campaign could have been better spent doing so many other things. As for the $1000 he raised in New Hampshire? He should divert that from the campaign and spend it on something useful, like a Macbook Air , or perhaps a truckload of Godfather’s Pizza .

The GOP's New Latino Friend, Or Maybe Not

For some time now, everyone has assumed that whoever the Republican nominee for president turns out to be, Florida senator Marco Rubio will be that person's choice for vice president. Rubio is young, handsome, charismatic, articulate, good at raising money (he pulled in $21 million for his Senate race last year), and as an added bonus, he's Latino in a party dominated by old, boring white guys. But is the bloom coming off Rubio's rose? In the last week there's been some controversy over the story of Rubio's parents; briefly, he's always referred to them as "exiles" from Cuba and stated before that they fled the Castro regime, but it now turns out that they left Cuba a few years before the revolution. In Florida's Cuban community, this matters, because being an exile or the child of exiles gives you extra status. But as the Washington Post reports today, "Democrats had already questioned whether a Cuban American who has voiced conservative views on immigration and opposed the historic...

Which Side Are You On?

This last tidbit from the latest The New York Times and CBS News poll should count as a sign that Democrats are winning the messaging war over taxes and the middle-class: Few Americans believe that the Obama administration is solely on the side of the middle-class, but even fewer believe that that is true of Republicans. What’s more, the large majority of Americans (correctly) see Republicans as class warriors for the rich. Democrats should continue to hammer on higher taxes for the wealthy, and Republicans should continue their petulant whining – provided they’re not worried about public perceptions. Of course, while this is a good short-term sign, both congressional Democrats and the Obama administration should remember that these perceptions will have a minor role – at best – in the 2012 elections. Come next year, Americans could hate the GOP, but if the economy slides back into recession, you can safely assume that they’ll elect them to the White House.

DOJ Might Strike Down Photo ID Laws

When Republicans gained control of state legislatures across the country in 2010, they began a systematic effort to restrict voting access, disenfranchising likely Democratic voters in the process. Five states passed strict ID laws, which will require voters to present a form of government-issued photo identification to get their ballot on Election Day. Some of those laws are still on hold thanks to Section Five of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The law requires states with a history of discrimination against minority voters to receive preclearance from either the Department of Justice or a federal court for any change to voting procedures. The burden of proof lies on the states, which must show that the changes will not harm minority voters. Photo ID laws in South Carolina and Texas are currently under review at the DOJ. Now the Obama administration might be on the verge of striking down these Republican electioneering laws, according to a leading House Democrat. At a meeting with...

Rick Perry Promises Four Years of Abysmal Job Growth

Texas Governor Rick Perry has released his first television ad, and in it, he makes a big promise. “As president, I will create at least 2 and half million new jobs.” The problem, as Steve Benen points out , is that this is a lot less impressive than it sounds. Since the recession officially ended a year and a half ago, the economy has added 2.56 million private-sector jobs . Unfortunately, thanks largely to public sector layoffs, net job growth comes to 2.1 million jobs. Even still, President Obama’s record of 2.1 million jobs in eighteen months – lackluster as it is – is far preferable to Perry’s promise of 2.5 million jobs in four years.

Should Rick Perry Drop Out of the Debates?

By and large, debates aren’t a huge deal for candidates in a presidential primary. Because most Americans don’t watch them, their relevance is limited to primary voters and other party actors, and even then, an acceptable candidate doesn’t need to have good debate skills – middling skills are okay , provided candidates run an otherwise strong campaign. Texas Governor Rick Perry might be the exception that proves the rule. His campaign has not been bad, but his debate performances have been terrible. Even at his best, he is a disaster , flubbing basic facts, botching attacks on his competitors, and chastising the audience for disagreement . Perry’s debate skills are so bad that they’ve actually taken a toll on his campaign. Two months ago, Perry was the frontrunner in the Republican nomination contest. Today, he’s at the bottom of the pack, trailing with just 6 percent support from GOP voters. With that in mind, it’s not a surprise to learn that his campaign is rethinking its choice to...

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