Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Why 2014 Is a Key Year for Democrats

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

2010 wasn't just a bad year for Democrats in Congress—it saw Republican triumphs on the state-level as well. Twenty-three GOP governors were elected that year, and in eleven states—Iowa, Kansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Wyoming—Republicans won governorships away from Democrats.

What We Have Here Is a Failure to Communicate. Sort Of.

Congressional Republicans, apparently. (Flickr/jumbledpile)

Like any number of liberals, I have from time to time complained about the difficulty of having substantive arguments about politics when your opponents refuse to acknowledge plain facts about the world. It's hard to have a discussion about what to do about climate change, for instance, if the other person refuses to believe that climate change is occurring. It's hard to discuss how to handle market failures in health insurance when the other person holds that markets are always perfect and government health insurance is always more expensive. As frustrating as those kinds of impasses are, at least you're talking about complex systems that require at least some investment of time to understand.

But there's a rather incredible dance going on right now in the dispute over the budget that takes every stereotype liberals have about know-nothing Republicans and turns it up to 11. To sum it up, Democrats are being forced to negotiate with a group of people who are either so dumb they can't figure out what the White House's negotiating position is (unlikely) or so incredibly irresponsible that they don't care enough to find out, when doing so would literally take them about 30 seconds (probable). It's hard to find words to describe this kind of behavior. The Republican position is that this negotiation is of vital importance to the future of the country, indeed, so important that they may be willing to shut the government down and let the full faith and credit of the United States be destroyed if they don't get what they want; but they also can't be bothered to understand what it is the other side wants. And these people hold our nation's fate in their hands.

Rand Paul's Blinkered Libertarianism

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Even if you disagree with Senator Rand Paul's broader politics, there's something inspiring about a politician willing to speak at length—and at some discomfort—for what he believes in. That's even more true when you consider the subject—civil liberties. Paul joins many other civil libertarians in his disdain for targeted killings, the administration's drone policy, and its general approach to due process.

Outmatched

Flickr/FergieFam07

In early December, the Michigan Legislature met for a lame-duck session that should have been uncontroversial—just a bit of housework before the next body convened in 2013. Instead, the GOP majority used the period to enact a dream list of conservative priorities: abortion-rights restrictions, a phaseout of the personal--property tax, reductions to welfare. Its crowning achievement was the passage of a right-to-work bill prohibiting unions from collecting mandatory dues. 

Chávez Rising

AP Photo

The last official photo of Hugo Chávez shows him surrounded by his two daughters, Maria Gabriela and Rosa Virginia. It’s a tableau of Renaissance proportions (and probably Photoshopped) that reminds followers of a saintly leader ready to be resurrected, his daughters already mourning the loss of their earthly father but preparing him to be transported to his next life. Whether Chávez can be resurrected through the election of his self-appointed heir, Vice President Nicolás Maduro, remains the next test for the cult of Chavismo that arose around this former paratrooper and failed putchist.

The Internet's Patriot Act

flickr/IronCurtaiNYC

“I believe that it is very possible,” former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told a rapt audience at Georgetown University earlier this month, “the next Pearl Harbor could be a cyber attack that would have one hell of an impact on the United States of America.” That’s a belief Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano shares—in January, she urged Congress not to “wait until there is a 9/11 in the cyber world” to act on cyber-security legislation. Subtle warnings, these are not.

Over the past 12 months, hackers have broken into the networks of major news organizations, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal in a string of audacious security breaches. The U.S. Government Accountability Office found that cyber-security incidents reported by federal agencies have risen 800 percent since 2006. Chinese hackers infiltrated the networks of nearly 800 U.S. companies and research institutions between 2000 and 2010, siphoning trillions of dollars in trade secrets and industrial IP. “They are stealing everything that isn’t bolted down,” warned House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Rogers, the lead sponsor of CISPA—the bill designed to counter these cyber threats. “And it’s getting exponentially worse.”

Few Waves in California

Flickr/msun523

If the sequester had come to California 25 years ago, its effect would have been catastrophic. Today, its effects are decidedly less draconian – but since today’s California has a considerably less robust economy than that of the late '80s, the sequester will still cool off the state’s already tepid recovery.

Ringside Seat: A Plague of Slush

And lo, did the heavens open and pour down from above a wave of crystalline horror, and the people of the city did wail and moan and rend their garments in fear. Pillars of salt were spread on the byways to make them navigable by donkey and SUV alike, yet the people still cowered within their huts, Instagramming pictures of the newly alabaster land and spreading word through Twitter, with a million voices shouting, "Behold!" And parents did set their children in front of glowing boxes to quiet the incessant cries of boredom, and Madagascar 3 did unspool, and unspool again.

Obama Didn't Cry Wolf on the Sequester

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Over at the Washington Post, Chris Cillizza chides President Obama for "crying wolf" on sequestration.

A Tale of Two Filibusters

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Today has been an interesting day for filibusters. This morning, the Senate filibustered President Obama's nomination of Caitlin Halligan to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. Halligan isn't unqualified and she isn't a radical. Her only offense is that Obama wants her for one of the most important courts in the country. As such, Republicans successfully filibuster her nomination, by a vote of 51 to 41. Sixty votes are needed to break a filibuster and move to a final vote.

There is No "Fever" to Break

Google Images

The New York Times's reports today that President Obama has invited a dozen GOP senators out to dinner, in an effort to get around Republican leadership and build support for a new agreement on long-term deficit reduction. As Greg Sargent writes for the Washington Post, "It’s not hard to figure out what Obama is telling these Senators: He’s telling them what his actual deficit reduction plan contains — a mix of real entitlement cuts and new revenues."

Fake Prostitutes, Fake Terrorists, and the Trouble with Conservative Media

Remember this guy?

Just before the 2012 election, the Daily Caller, a web site run by Tucker Carlson, produced a blockbuster report claiming that New Jersey senator Robert Menendez had frequented underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic, and they had the prostitutes' testimony to prove it. Bizarrely, mainstream media did not pick up the story, Menendez was re-elected, and to almost no one's surprise, the whole thing now appears to have been a slander cooked up by Republican operatives. How did such a thing happen? The answer is, it's ACORN's fault. Hold on while I explain.

Show Me the Policy!

Flickr/Talk Radio News Service

Republicans have been scrambling since the election to figure out what they need to improve their standing with the public and appeal to the electorate of the future. Despite trumpeting Marco Rubio and his immigration platform in a shallow attempt to appeal to Hispanic voters, things have only gotten more dire since November. In part because of the sequester fight, the GOP’s approval ratings have plummeted.

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