Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Why the GOP Rebranding is Doomed, At Least For Now

Rebranding the GOP won't be quite this easy. (Flickr/quinn.anya)
When a company or an organization decides to do a rebranding, it does some research, maybe hires consultants, gets input from key employees, and then makes decisions about what the rebranding is going to consist of. This process can at times be excruciating, all the more so if the organization has some commitment to consensus; if you've ever suffered through a web redesign, you've probably had the experience of wondering, as the debate over the difference between particular shades of blue stretches into its third hour, just how much it would hurt if you plunged a pen through your ear into your brain. But at the end of the process, there's someone in charge who will have the final say. But when a political party decides to do a rebranding, things are a lot more difficult. In fact, it may not even be possible to get everyone to agree that the rebranding will actually take place. And once it begins, it can just go on forever, because the influence over the party's brand is so widely...

The Fox You Rode in On

A few years ago, people joked that Fox new was running a jobs program for has-been, hoping-to-be-again Republican politicians dreaming of defeating Barack Obama in 2012. Among the personalities emploted by the network during Obama's first term were Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, and of course, Sarah Palin. Palin had the best deal by far: a $1 million a year salary, a studio buily in her house so she wouldn't have to go anywhere, and a schedule of appearances so relaxed that she ended up getting paid more than $15 for every word she uttered on the air. And the thing of it was, she was terrible at it. She's always had some talents, but speaking extemporaneously on current affairs is most assuredly not among them. After one too many halting, inarticulate appearances on Hannity and The O'Reilly Factor , Roger Ailes quite reasonably cut her loose at the beginning of this year. Yet just a few months later, she's back. Fox has rehired Palin, lest the world be deprived of her...

Offensive Photo Spreads and Insincere Apologies

An image from a recent Vice magazine photo spread. That's supposed to be Sylvia Plath, getting ready to put her head in the oven.
Throughout its existence, Vice magazine has attempted to cultivate an image of edgy rebelliousness, with provocative covers and journalism that runs less to "Here are stories you need to know about" and more to "Check out this crazy shit that's happening somewhere!" Which is fine, but it has a definitely male perspective, which is one of the reasons people were shocked when the latest issue of the magazine featured a photo spread of models re-enacting the suicides of famous female writers like Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf. The caption below each photo described their method of suicide, along with credit for the clothes the models were wearing. The most disturbing shot was probably that of a model posing as Iris Chang with a gun pointed at her head, but the most tasteless had to be that of the one portraying Taiwanese author Sanmao, who hanged herself with a pair of stockings. They included a fashion credit for the stockings wrapped around the model's neck. After what one might have...

Marco Rubio's Broken English Requirement

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
*/ AP Photo/Charles Dharapak Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, has proposed an amendment to the current Gang of Eight immigration bill requiring English proficiency in order to obtain a green card. M arco Rubio wants immigrants to learn English—and fast. Last week, the Florida Senator introduced an amendment to the Gang of Eight's immigration bill, currently being debated on the floor of the Senate, that would require undocumented immigrants to demonstrate English proficiency before becoming legal permanent residents. Current law already requires English proficiency for naturalization , but the proposal would impose the requirement just to obtain a green card. "I just truly believe that as part of any successful immigration reform, you have to have assimilation," Rubio said in explaining the purpose of the amendment. "And one of the quickest ways for people to assimilate into our culture and into our society is to speak the unifying language of our country, which is...

The Boehner Ultimatum

Sometimes it's hard to tell which Republicans in Congress fear more: immigration reform passing, or immigration reform not passing. They need to help pass reform to show America's Latino voters that, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, the Republican party doesn't actually hate them. But their base doesn't actually like the idea of comprehensive reform, particularly if it involves a path to citizenship (even a long and painful one). What to do? In the Senate, where six-year terms allow for a longer view and members represent entire states, immigration reform probably has more than enough votes to pass, even over a filibuster. In the House, however, things are more complicated. It isn't that reform can't get the votes, because it can. But if it did, the majority would be made up of nearly all the Democrats and just some of the Republicans. And that would be a violation of the "Hastert rule," which calls for no bill to be allowed to the floor for a vote unless it has the...

David Brooks and the Anti-Neuroscience Backlash

Flickr/TZA
Neuroscience has come a long way in recent years. Our understanding of the brain is expanding rapidly, even as we grasp more and more just how spectacularly complex the blob in your head is. And as we gain new understanding and new tools to look at what's going on in the brain, like functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), it's not surprising that there are people—both legitimate scientists and hucksters—eager to push the technology where it might not be quite prepared to go. For instance, people are working on turning fMRI machines into lie detectors; there are even companies that claim they can use a brain scan to tell whether you're lying. But there's still disagreement about how reliable these methods are. So it's also not surprising that as neuroscience advances, we're seeing something of an anti-neuroscience backlash. Some of it is perfectly reasonable and measured, but some of it—like today's column by David Brooks of The New York Times —leaps right from criticism of...

Your Guide to the Polls on U.S. Military Involvement in Syria

Flickr/Freedom House
It's obviously a bad idea for the administration to decide whether to jump into a whole new Middle East quagmire based on whether the famously inattentive and uninformed American public thinks it's a good idea. Nevertheless, public opinion is inevitably going to play a role in President Obama's decision-making on this. That isn't to say Obama won't take any particular step unless the polls show the public approves, but any time a politician does something unpopular, he'll always be looking over his shoulder a little bit. So what do the American people think about the prospect of American military involvement in Syria? The first thing to understand is that they're not paying very much attention to the issue, which means few have given it a great deal of thought. According to a new Pew poll , only 15 percent of the public says they're following the story very closely, a figure that has been basically unchanged over the two years of the civil war there. (Another 30 percent say they're...

Oops, Will Perry Do It Again?

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
As soon as Rick Perry uttered his infamous “oops” during the Republican presidential primary, most Americans likely figured the Texas governor’s political career would soon fade to black. Even before he forgot which federal departments he wanted to axe, Perry’s performance had been less than inspiring, and the aftermath only made things worse, culminating with an overtly homophobic ad complaining that “there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military, but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.” I’m guessing once Perry finally suspended his campaign, those outside Texas imagined he’d return to Austin and quietly wait out the rest of his gubernatorial term. But his latest decisions—including a string of more than two dozen vetoes—seems to only further confirm what most Texas insiders have been saying for months: Perry is paving the way for a second act and a second bid for the White House. And he’s not moving toward the center. The...

The Man Behind Moral Mondays

Jenny Warburg
Jenny Warburg S ince they began in April, weekly “Moral Monday” protests at the North Carolina General Assembly have swelled into a movement gaining national attention. Led by the state’s charismatic NAACP president, the Reverend Doctor William Barber, progressives from across the state have come to denounce a flood of regressive legislation emanating from the Republican legislature—and in some cases, to perform acts of civil disobedience. Last Monday, in the largest Moral Monday yet, 1,400 protested and more than 80 were arrested inside the Legislative Building. In all, more than 400 have been arrested so far. Barber himself has been arrested twice at the General Assembly. Moral Monday began as a way to call attention—both in the state and nationally— to what Barber calls a “mean-spirited quadruple attack” on the most vulnerable. This year, Republicans lawmakers have slashed unemployment benefits, raised taxes for poor and working families, rejected federal funds for Medicaid...

Ringside Seat: Another Day, Another SCOTUS Decision

The story of voting rights in recent years has been largely about conservatives and legislators in Republican states working hard to restrict them, and progressives trying to counter those moves with legal challenges and organizing drives. The most prominent fights have been over voter ID laws, which are supposed to address the "problem" of voter impersonation, something that occurs about as often as two-headed sharks . Unfortunately, the Supreme Court upheld voter ID laws in 2008. But today saw an unexpected defeat for those who would like to make voting as difficult as possible, when the Court struck down an Arizona law requiring voters to prove their citizenship. Just as millions of American citizens lack photo IDs, millions don't have the ability to provide proof of their citizenship. The Court held that federal law—in this case, the "motor voter" law requiring only that voters swear under penalty of perjury that they are citizens—trumped the Arizona law. So for now anyway, it won...

Down with Voter Suppression

Arizona Republic
(AP Photo/J. David Ake) A rizona's Proposition 200, which passed in 2004, combined two important conservative priorities: voter suppression and anti-immigration demagoguery. It required Arizona voters in federal elections to provide evidence of citizenship that went beyond the requirements of federal law. Today, the Arizona provision was struck down by the Supreme Court, with even two of the Court's most conservative members ultimately unpersuaded that the Arizona law was legal. This decision is an important victory for the voting rights, even if some of the language in the Court's opinion is more sympathetic to Arizona's ends than is appropriate. Today's case involved a question of statutory interpretation rather than the Constitution. The key issue was whether Prop 200 conflicts with the Motor Voter Act, the 1993 law creating a uniform form to streamline federal vote registration by mail. Under the Supremacy Clause of Article VI of the Constitution, conflicts between state law and a...

The Gang of 8 Lobbies Fox News

Ryan Lizza has a behind-the-scenes article about immigration reform in the New Yorker , based mostly on interviews with members of the Senate's Gang of Eight, which shows some of the personal aspects of how big legislation can get accomplished. For instance, John McCain, ever the prima donna, comes across as seething with resentment that Marco Rubio has gotten more attention on the issue than he has. And the part that may get the most notice is the blunt words of an unnamed Rubio aide, who in regard to the question of whether certain immigrants take jobs from Americans, says, "There are American workers who, for lack of a better term, can't cut it...There shouldn't be a presumption that every American worker is a star performer. There are people who just can't get it, can't do it, don't want to do it. And so you can't obviously discuss that publicly." Hey dude, guess what: you just did! But in any case, here's the part that interested me: Fox News has notably changed its tone since...

The Fourth Circuit's NLRB Smackdown

Flickr/Tim Evanson/Carlos Fernandez
Flickr/Carlos Fernandez Union members outside the Region 13 office of the National Labor Relations Board A t the heart of the latest feud between business groups and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is an 11x17 sheet of paper that blandly recites the basics of a statute. But depending on whom you ask, the future of labor, the First Amendment, and freedom from state interference are at stake. On Friday, the Fourth Circuit became the second federal appeals court to strike down the NLRB's requirement that employers hang a simple poster advising employees of their right to join a union—the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reached a similar ruling last month. The notice resembled the signs in so many break-rooms and copy nooks that advertise the minimum wage or anti-discrimination and health-and-safety laws. This particular poster, however, enraged groups opposed to organized labor and pulled the Labor Board into extensive litigation. The NLRB had intended the sign to educate workers...

Charting a Moral Monday, from the Capitol to the Prison Bus

Jenny Warburg
Jenny Warburg Thousands of people have been taking part in the weekly rallies. At the one on June 10, there were over 1,400 protesters swarming the Capitol building. Thousands of demonstrators have been congregating at the North Carolina State Capitol for weeks to protest the increasingly tone-deaf policies being trotted out by the General Assembly. As Chris Kromm and Sue Sturgis put it in our May/June issue , There is growing anger over the GOP agenda. In April, the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP began organizing what it calls “Moral Monday” protests at the General Assembly in response to the Republican assault on programs serving the state’s poorest and most vulnerable residents, timed to coincide with the opening of the session each week, the protests have drawn thousands of people to the legislature from throughout the state, a diverse crowd that has included young and old, black and white, students, working people, professionals, and retirees. Some protesters have engaged in...

Ringside Seat: The Family that Tweets Together

Being a politician requires a certain comfort with transparency. You have to accommodate yourself to being recorded all the time and accept that you'll have to be more open about your private life than most people. Not only will you have to parade your family before the cameras and worry that the girlfriend you dumped in college will tell her tale of woe to the local TV station, but you'll probably also have to make your finances public. And you'd better not forget to mow your lawn, lest your next opponent tar you as a bad neighbor who can't be trusted to keep America in tip-top shape. But now there's something else you'll have to worry about if you're an officeholder: Is that teenage son of yours a troglodytic moron? Because if he is, chances are pretty good he has expressed his unsavory views over social media. And if he has, there's an opposition researcher from the other party who's going to find out. So we've just gotten to know 16-year-old Joey Heck, son of Congressman Joe Heck...

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