Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Disastrous Obamacare Rollout Leaves Opinions on Law Weirdly Unchanged

Don't they realize the hell this now-missing woman has been through?
If you had asked Republicans a few months ago what they hoped for from the first month of operation of the Affordable Care Act's insurance exchanges, they probably would have said, "It'd be great if the website doesn't work at all, and people get completely frustrated about it. And it'd be nice if the insurance companies chip in by sending people scary letters about policy cancellations. It'd be extra-great if the media then credulously reported on those letters without asking whether they're true, or saying much of anything about all the people who will benefit from the law. If that happens, Americans will surely turn against it en masse, and we'll be on our way to repealing it once and for all." If that's what they wanted, they got it—at least until we get to the part about Americans turning against the ACA en masse. Things could hardly have gone worse in this stage of the rollout, and guess what: Americans' opinions about the law are, by all indications, exactly what they were...

Daily Meme: So Much Meaning

"Election Day 2013: What happened, and what it all means" "What Tuesday’s Election Returns Mean for 2016" "What Christie's victory means for the next presidential race" "What Christie, McAuliffe victories mean for America" "Chris Christie On 2016 Speculation ‘It Doesn’t Mean Anything To Me’" "The Republican governor’s immense success in dark blue New Jersey means that millennials, hungry for bipartisanship, and the GOP, eager to broaden its appeal, should look to Christie as a model for the future." "What it means for New Jersey is still in question." "Those looking to extrapolate out what his broad-based victory means for a potential 2016 presidential bid might want to tap the brakes." "That means Christie will have to do the meet and greets at Iowa county fairs and in the hamlets of New Hampshire in order to get people to know him." "A look at the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial elections, and what the results potentially mean with relation to the 2014 and 2016 elections." "...

Rand Paul Grudgingly Gives In to Haters Demanding He Not Plagiarize

They're on to me! Let's get the hell out of here! (Flickr/Medill DC)
Imagine if you walked into your office one day and literally every wall had a giant poster with your smiling face on it. Not only that, your name is on every piece of paper, the receptionist says it every time he answers the phone, and some people are wearing buttons with your name on them, too. When you look around at the staff, they aren't just engaged in some activity with a common goal like in any enterprise, all the component parts of that goal are about you . That guy over there? His job is to get you on television and get you quoted in the newspaper. That woman in the corner? She writes legislation that you then claim you wrote. That one on the right? Her whole job is setting and keeping track of your schedule. Those two down the hall? They write speeches that you deliver and op-eds that go out under your name. Not even the most powerful CEO has an operation as focused on one person as even a mid-level politician does. The only thing that compares is whatever staff I assume...

The Democrats' Original Food-Stamp Sin

AP Images/J. Scott Applewhite
“Today, 47 million Americans struggling to put food on the table will have to make do with less,” began the emailed press release from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office. The statement lamented the $5 billion cut to food-stamp benefits that took effect November 1, rolling back a 13.6 percent expansion to the program that was part of the 2009 stimulus package. The cuts leave “participants with just $1.40 to spend per meal,” the press release continued, adding that House Republicans want to subject food stamps to more cuts in the future. But before Democrats completely rewrite the history of this body blow to the poor, a review of the facts would be in order. The seeds of this current food-stamp cut were sown by multiple deals made when Democrats held both chambers of Congress and the White House. They used money from the food-stamp program to pay for other priorities like education, health care and the school lunch program, all the while assuring that they would eventually...

What Divides Democrats

AP Images/Paul Sakuma
AP Images/Paul Sakuma N ew York–area voters had the opportunity this fall to cast their ballot for one of two Democrats who are divided by more than the Hudson River. Cory Booker, the Newark mayor, whom New Jersey’s electors sent to the U.S. Senate in October, and Bill de Blasio, the Democratic nominee for mayor of New York City, personify two distinct futures for the Democratic Party. Booker is a corporate Democrat—more precisely, a Wall Street and Silicon Valley Democrat—who praises the beneficent rich as sources of charitable giving and policy ideas that can lift the poor. De Blasio is an anti-corporate Democrat who condemns big business and the financial sector for using their wealth to rig the economy in their favor and at everyone else’s expense. The divide between Booker and de Blasio matters because it defines the most fundamental fault line within the Democratic Party. Not so long ago, the Democrats generally agreed with one another on economics—hence the New Deal and Great...

What Have We Learned from the 2013 Elections?

Flickr/Coventry City Council
Well, another election is in the books. It wasn't the most surprising or the most compelling, but every election offers lessons for candidates and parties. So what did we learn? Let's get to the do's and don'ts of 2013: DO : Dramatically outspend your opponent . It may not guarantee you victory, but it sure doesn't hurt. DON'T : Wage a campaign against sodomy . People love sodomy. They just love it. Don't say you're going to make ice cream illegal, either. DO : Get your cool teenage kids with awesome hair to cut ads for you . DON'T : Come out in favor of kittens being run over by subways. Full-grown cats would be a different story, since they are Satan's representatives here on Earth. But kittens? Being crushed in a blur of steel and gore? Not good. DO : Walk around disaster sites . Nothing says "I care" like looking over destroyed houses and hugging shocked residents. If you can arrange for the one-year anniversary of a disaster to come just before election day, that's even better...

What This Election Means, Revealed at Last

Soon-to-be governor Terry McAuliffe yukking it up with media big shot John King. (Flickr/Adam Fagen)
Pop quiz: Who's the governor of Georgia? It's a pretty important state, with a population greater than that of Virginia or New Jersey, to pick two others at random. Can't recall? Don't much care? You get my point—the fact that we momentarily care about who the governors of those other two states are is just an accident of the electoral calendar. It's perfectly fine to pay a lot of attention to the two states with gubernatorial elections in odd years just because there aren't many other elections happening. But come tomorrow, there's going to be a lot of media chin-scratching about What the 2013 Election Means. Was it a harbinger? A bellwether? A foreshadowing? An omen? Here's the answer: In the grand scheme of things, this election means ... almost nothing. For example, did you know that in every election since 1978, the winner of the Virginia governor's race has been from the party that didn't control the White House? Fascinating! And yet Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, is almost...

If You Give a Mouse a Vote

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer In the hours leading up to the release of tonight's election returns, don't waste your bated breath on the victors. After weeks of polling and widening leads, there's little suspense over who will be the next mayor of New York or governor of Virginia or New Jersey. Countless stories will be written about what the exit polls mean for 2016. Pundits are being caught at the exact moment in time when their nostalgia for the last presidential campaign is in perfect balance with their gestating impatience for the next midterms to start. Columnists' campaign to persuade you that their analysis of county-by-county breakdowns of election data proves that Republicans will keep the House or lose it into perpetuity starts at midnight. This is all well and good and predictable and inescapable, but if you drill down far enough into the electoral ephemera, there is a nugget of data that offers a bit more intrigue. How many voters will pick Mickey Mouse? The New York Times Write-...

Daily Meme: Voting Rights and Wrongs

It's Election Day! Which means, of course, lots of people are having lots of problems voting. In New York City, the voting machines that serve as the ur-text for our government's technology woes are malfunctioning. Philadelphia is having some voting booth issues too. In states where Voting Rights Act preclearance requirements once kept restrictive laws off the books, the Supreme Court's recent decision in Shelby County v. Holder is causing problems. Many people are already fighting back , and have been fighting back for awhile. Texas's new voter-ID law, in particular, has been getting a lot of pushback. Another thing preventing many Americans from voting? Laws that keep citizens with criminal records from casting a ballot. That's over 5 million people. In many states, absentee and early voting means that turnout pm Election Day itself can be a bit underwhelming. In Virginia, however, day-of voting still reigns supreme. Expect depressed voter turnout given that many people will find it...

In Shocking Development, Health Insurance Companies Still Suck

The Affordable Care Act was designed to solve the big problem of health security—namely that nobody in America had it—and find a way to get coverage for the 50 million Americans who were uninsured. It also attempted to address lots of other problems, and this week it's a good time to remind ourselves that many of its provisions came about because, to put it bluntly, health-insurance companies are despicable scum who will literally kill people (more on this below) if it makes them more money. I bring this up because now, people in the news media are learning about a scam insurance companies are trying to pull on some of their customers, and are not only not portraying it as such, but are simply taking the insurance companies' word and blaming the whole thing on the Obama administration. I realize that part about "despicable scum" is a little intemperate, and without question there are employees of the insurers who are good people. But as a whole, outside of the tobacco companies or gun...

Bill de Blasio's Elements of Style

AP Photo/Seth Wenig
Jenny Warburg W hen he wins New York City's mayoral election today, Bill de Blasio will have succeeded in branding himself the next big thing in progressive politics. But it remains to be seen which de Blasio shines through over the next four years: the former Hillary Clinton operative who admires neoliberal Governor Andrew Cuomo and is friendly with the real-estate industry, or the activist lefty who got arrested protesting the closure of a Brooklyn hospital and has promised to take on income inequality and the New York Police Department's sprawling anti-terrorism apparatus. "The aspiration is to be fundamentally transformative," says Professor John Mollenkopf at The City University of New York's Center for Urban Research. "He really does want to see how New York City can become less unequal and more capable of promoting upward mobility. But assuming things go the way the polls suggest, he still faces an enormous challenge." In particular, de Blasio will have to muscle through an...

Bretton Woods Revisited

AP Images
AP Images O n July 22, 1944, as allied troops were racing across Normandy to liberate Paris, representatives of 44 nations meeting at the Mount Washington resort in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, created a financial and monetary system for the postwar era. It had taken three weeks of exhausting diplomacy. At the closing banquet, the assembled delegates rose and sang “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.” The fellow in question was John Maynard Keynes, leader of the British delegation and intellectual inspiration of the Bretton Woods design. Lord Keynes, the world’s most celebrated economist, was playing a tricky dual role. He had proposed a radical new monetary system to free the world from the deflationary pressures that had caused and prolonged the Great Depression. Bretton Woods, he hoped, would be the international anchor for the suite of domestic measures that came to be known as Keynesian—the use of public spending to cure depression and the regulation of financial markets to prevent...

Two Days until Brief Explosion of Christie Mania

Flickr/Bob Jagendorf
Only two states, New Jersey and Virginia, hold their gubernatorial elections in odd years. Since there's generally a dearth of other political news at that time, Washington-based reporters usually decide that whoever got elected in Virginia is suddenly a national figure with a future as a presidential or at least vice-presidential candidate. They say this because they have become familiar with the Virginia race and therefore perceive it as important, and because Virginia is a swing state, which is supposed to mean that someone who got elected there might also appeal to voters elsewhere. This year, however, the Virginia race features two candidates no one much likes: Ken Cuccinelli, who seems like he might launch a campaign to reintroduce witch trials to the commonwealth if he became governor, and Terry McAuliffe, an almost comically smarmy operator whose most profound talent lies in separating people from their money. Obviously, neither of those two is ever going to be president, so...

Daily Meme: Twelve Quotes about Double Down that Will Make You Wish 2016 Never Comes

1 . " Game Change 2012 is finally upon us," the behind-the-scenes tale of the 2012 presidential election. 2. "Double Down: Game Change 2012 , by political journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, is going to sell a shitload of copies. " 3. "The digital blast radius for Double Down is infinite." 4. "The entire story has the unintended effect of showing how minor —at least in terms of deciding elections—their thoroughly reported details actually are." 5. "It’s called Double Down , probably after the KFC bacon and cheese and two hunks of fried chicken instead of bread sandwich, because like the sandwich it appeals to a small group of antisocial gluttons while nauseating everyone else ." 6. " The former Republican House speaker discussed Double Down , the upcoming book on the 2012 presidential election, on CNN's State of the Union on Sunday." 7. "The woman behind the new book Never Trust a Liberal Over Three—Especially a Republican offered her personal perspective on another piece of...

How Virginia Ended Up with a Stinker of a Governor's Race

AP Images/Steve Helber
AP Images/Steve Helber K en Cuccinelli wasn’t even supposed to be running. Among Virginia Republicans, everyone knew the order of succession—after Governor Bob McDonnell wrapped up his term in office, Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling was supposed to be next up. That was the bargain the two men struck in 2009 to avoid a messy primary battle. But no one had consulted Cuccinelli, the attorney general and the state’s social conservative darling, and he wasn’t content to wait his turn. In December 2011, Cuccinelli, the man who made his name fighting against abortion and gay rights, announced his candidacy. It looked like a smart move. Cuccinelli had national ambitions; already, some saw him as a contender for the 2016 presidential nomination, following in the footsteps of Rick Santorum and other far-right figures. But first he needed a higher-visibility role—and he needed to prove that he could make his message attractive to a wider audience. His vehement opposition to abortion and gay...

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