Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

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...

When Republican Governors Do the Right Thing

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
One of the oddest political turnarounds in recent days has been the emergence of Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona as an Obamacare hero. Up until now, Brewer was known primarily for her forceful advocacy of the notorious anti-immigrant measure S.B. 1070, for supposedly wagging her finger at the president of the United States on an airport tarmac, for claiming weirdly that headless bodies were showing up in the Arizona desert, and for perhaps the most epic brain freeze in the history of televised debates. Yet despite being a fervent opponent of the Affordable Care Act, Brewer not only decided to accept the expansion of Medicaid that is being rejected by many of her fellow GOP governors, she campaigned aggressively for it over the objection of many Arizona Republicans, and yesterday she won the battle when the expansion passed the Arizona Legislature. So will other Republican governors follow her lead? Perhaps, but it's going to depend a lot on their own personal political calendars. Let's...

Nothing to Hide, Much to Fear

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
I n reviewing the public’s ambivalent reaction to the disclosures of NSA data mining , I find that some people conclude that it’s no big deal, while others are uneasy but can’t quite explain why. It’s just a modest generic invasion of privacy that is not even activated in most cases. Presumably, this is a weapon that the authorities need to keep us safe. After closed-door hearings yesterday, some skeptics on Capitol Hill were somewhat reassured that safeguards are adequate. If you are in this camp, here are three good reasons to reconsider. First, the history of such surveillance is that it tends to be abused. As heedless of civil liberties as Attorney General Eric Holder has been, he is surely better than whoever the next Republican Attorney General might be. Remember Alberto Gonzalez? Secondly, the authorities tend to define terrorism down. After the Patriot Act was passed, Attorney General Gonzalez kept assuring the Congress and the American public that its sweeping powers would...

A Quiet Blockbuster

(AP Photo/J. David Ake) A s we near the end of this Supreme Court term, a number of cases of substantial interest to politically-aware people who aren't court specialists remain to be decided. Landmark rulings involving the constitutionality of affirmative action, crucial provisions of the Voting Rights Act, and laws discriminating against gays and lesbians are still up in the air. People without access to the physical opinions handed out at the Supreme Court building used to have to wait for media reports about the outcome of cases to trickle out. Today, opinions are released almost instantaneously in PDF form, transforming late-term opinion days into a minor event. According to Kali Borkoski of the indispensable SCOTUSBlog , more than 60,000 readers have viewed its live-blogging of yesterday's opinions, with more than 12,000 simultaneous viewers a little after 10 a.m, when the decisions are announced. However, the vast majority of these onlookers did not get rulings in the cases...

Ringside Seat: The Metamucil Conspiracy

While there are a few foundations that give awards for service to the cause of liberalism, most of the cash prizes top out in the four figures. Which is why we might be just a tad jealous that our conservative friends, if they play their cards right, might grab themselves a Bradley Prize, given to those who have gone above and beyond the call of conservative duty; it comes with a check for a cool $1 million. This year's awards were given out last night, and one went to Roger Ailes, the CEO of Fox News, who certainly deserves it. Ailes did say he'd be giving the money to charity, which is nice, and given that his total compensation last year was $21 million, he can certainly spare it. In his speech blasting the Obama administration and liberals in general, the head of the "fair and balanced" news network took time to repeat one of the most oddly persistent conspiracy theories about the Affordable Care Act. "The federal government is about to hire 16,000 more IRS agents to enforce...

Whither White America?

Flowizm/Flickr
“Majority-minority” is an unusual term—by definition, minorities are no longer such if they’re in the majority—but it’s a convenient shorthand for what most people expect to happen in the United States over the next few decades. A growing population of nonwhites—driven by Asian and Latino immigration—will yield a country where most Americans have nonwhite heritage, thus “majority-minority.” The most recent analysis from the Census Bureau seems to bear this out. Last year was the first year that whites were a minority of all newborns, and based on current rates of growth, they’ll become a minority of the under–five set by next year, if not the end of this one. Overall, the government projects that within five years, minorities will compromise a majority of all Americans under the age of eighteen, something to keep in mind when trying to project future political support for both parties. There’s more: For the first time in more than a century, the number of deaths among white Americans...

Where Do Americans Stand on Affirmative Action?

Eddie~S/Flickr
Eddie~S/Flickr The last week or so has seen several polls on the popularity of affirmative action, as a preface (of sorts) to the Supreme Court’s anticipated ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas. But major differences between the polls make it difficult to judge where Americans stand on racial preferences One survey from The Washington Post and ABC News, for example, found a huge, diverse majority against “allowing universities to consider applicants race as a factor in deciding which students to admit.” Overall, 76 percent of Americans opposed race conscious admissions, while only 22 percent gave their support. This was consistent among all racial groups: 79 percent of whites opposed using race as a factor, along with 68 percent of Hispanics and 78 percent of blacks. For opponents of affirmative action, this seems to be a welcome sign that the whole of American society has turned against race-based efforts to increase diversity in higher education. But that’s only one poll...

Cuomo Finally Gets in the Campaign Finance Reform Game

AP Images/Mike Groll
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo spent his career cultivating the image of a man who gets what he wants. In 2011, he rammed same-sex marriage legislation through the legislature, even with a Republican-controlled Senate. In 2012, when he wanted New York to be the first state to pass gun-control laws after the Newtown shooting, he was similarly productive. This year, Cuomo has said he wants to make state elections fairer, by lowering contribution limits and supplementing small donations with public dollars to give them more weight. The governor was unabashedly critical of the state legislature’s history of corruption and pointed to campaign finance reform as a key solution. But as it looks increasingly unlikely such a measure will pass before the Assembly adjourns on June 20, it’s Cuomo who stands to face the blame. After weeks of mounting pressure from activists and donors, Cuomo finally unveiled his plan for campaign reform on Tuesday, but he was already backpedaling. According to The...

What Will Republicans Do if Obamacare Turns Out OK?

Flickr/Fibonacci Blue
Ramesh Ponnuru has a long piece at National Review imploring conservatives to come up with a health-care plan they can swiftly put in place when Obamacare inevitably collapses under the weight of its disastrous big-government delusions. Though I disagree with almost every point Ponnuru makes along the way, from his analysis of what will happen with Obamacare to his recommendations of what a conservative health-insurance system should look like (the fact that anyone, even a free-market dogmatist, thinks catastrophic coverage plus high-risk pools would work out great is just incredible), I'll give him credit for trying to get his ideological brethren to come up with a proposal to solve what they themselves keep saying is a terrible problem. But alas, his effort is doomed to fail. Why? Because when it comes to health care, conservatives just don't care . I'll elaborate in a moment, but here's the crux of Ponnuru's argument: Opponents of Obamacare should plan instead for the likelihood...

Shocking Public Health Ads that Probably Don't Work

Yep, that's your brain.
We've had something of a dearth of memorable public-service announcements in recent years here in America. When was the last time something stuck with you or became part of our cultural memory like "This is your brain on drugs" ? But in the UK, they try really hard to shock the hell out of you with PSAs, perhaps because they sometimes don't seem to get the difference between "memorable" and "effective." Take a look at this, which made the rounds yesterday. I'll talk in a moment about whether stuff like this actually works, but before you watch it, a warning: although it has only a bit of gore, you probably don't want to be raising a mug of hot coffee to your lips as it plays: Clever, in that "We paid an elite ad agency half a million pounds to come up with this" kind of way. But it's far from the most horrifying PSA about automotive safety; for that, I'd nominate this Welsh PSA from a few years ago trying to discourage people from texting while driving, which vividly portrays not only...

Rand Paul Plays God Politics

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin Senator Rand Paul at a forum on immigration organized by the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference A s Senator Rand Paul delivered his keynote speech on immigration reform at yesterday's gathering of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, anxieties about the GOP’s identity crisis rippled through the room. The likely 2016 presidential hopeful spoke briefly in Spanish before discussing his Christian faith and opposition to abortion. He assured his audience he got them: “Man’s humanity to man is how we will be judged,” he said. The religious undertone of Paul’s remarks stood in stark contrast to the rest of the event, which focused on the economic and border-security provisions of the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill, currently being debated on the floor of the Senate. This highlights the competing interests pro-reform Republicans are scrambling to satisfy. On the one hand, pro-...

Ringside Seat: Breaking the GOP's Still Akin Heart

Republicans learned a number of lessons from the 2012 elections. They learned they need to reach out to Latinos. They learned that younger Americans aren't too fond of them. And they learned a lesson that was summed up in three words: "No more Akins." That would be Todd Akin, the Missouri Senate candidate whose bid was torpedoed when he shared with the voters his colorful views on the likelihood of rape resulting in pregnancy (almost non-existent, he said, if in fact it's a "legitimate rape," because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down"). There was also, don't forget, the equally gynecologically insightful Richard Mourdock, who opined that if you're raped and become pregnant, "that is something that God intended to happen." One party strategist after another whispered frantically, "Ix-nay on the ape-ray!" to no avail. But they just can't help themselves. Today, the House Judiciary Committee was debating a bill to make all abortions illegal after 20 weeks,...

The End of the Austerity Crusade?

Rex Features via AP Images
I s President Obama planning to reverse course on deficit reduction? You will recall that the president joined the deficit-hawk crowd in calling for more than $4 trillion of deficit reduction over the next decade; that he has offered to cut Social Security and Medicare as part of a grand bargain (that the Republicans mercifully rejected); that it was Obama who appointed the Bowles-Simpson Commission; and that his own budget for FY 2014 includes substantial spending cuts. But, with the 2014 midterm election looming and the recovery stuck in second gear with mediocre job creation, there is zero chance of a grand-budget bargain that includes tax increases, and interest rates are creeping up (which will slow the recovery further). Europe demonstrates that austerity economics are a proven failure. Even the International Monetary Fund says so . So let us read the tea leaves. First, the president has just named Jason Furman to chair the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA). Furman was a...

Where's the Intelligence Fallout?

That's what you say, but how can we be sure? (Flickr/sunnyUK)
You can make a reasonable argument for why Edward Snowden was wrong to release the information he did to The Guardian and The Washington Post (for instance, here 's Jeffrey Toobin and here 's Josh Marshall making that argument). But if you're going to turn Snowden into a villain, you'd have to show that the leaks did some kind of demonstrable harm to American national security. Even if you don't find Snowden's action heroic, it's quite possible that leaking this classified information was illegal and wrong, but nevertheless didn't do much damage or make us less safe than we otherwise were. So what is that harm? What the government has been saying so far isn't all that persuasive. While some of the details are new, we've known for years that the NSA was tracking phone and Internet traffic. This reminds me a little bit of 2006, when The New York Times reported on a government program to track and disrupt financing for terrorist groups through the banking system. The Bush administration...

Pages