Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Ringside Seat: Times, They Keep on Changin'

Just eight years ago, Republicans were crowing that the terrifying specter of gay people being allowed to marry was an electoral gold mine for them, persuading people to vote for the GOP and bringing their voters out to the polls in force. Things have changed a lot since then—same-sex marriage is now legal in nine states plus the District of Columbia, with more sure to follow, and most polls now show a majority of the public in favor of marriage equality. A few smart Republicans have acknowledged that their party is on the wrong side of history on this issue, and many assume that it will come around eventually. At which point, as they now do on issues of race, they'll claim they were on the right side all along.

Conservatives Shun Popular GOP Governor

Bob Jagendorf / Flickr

New Jersey's Chris Christie is now the eighth Republican governor to back Obamacare's Medicaid expansion.

Secret Wiretapping Cannot Be Challenged Because It's Secret

By delegating broad authority to the executive branch to engage in warrantless wiretapping of Americans, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) raises serious potential constitutional issues. The Fourth Amendment, which forbids "unreasonable" searches and seizures and under which warrantless searches are presumptively unconstitutional, is difficult to square with the kind of powers claimed by Congress and the Executive Branch. Today, however, the Supreme Court decided to duck this crucial constitutional issue based on almost comically illogical reasoning.

Victory for the Friends of Hamas!

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff / Flickr

By a vote of 71 to 27, the Senate closed debate on Chuck Hagel's nomination to lead the Department of Defense, thus beating a Republican filibuster on his confirmation.

Does the GOP Have a Forward Vision?

Pew Research Center

Yet another poll shows a public unhappy with the Republican Party's political positioning. According to a new survey from the Pew Research Center, 62 percent of Americans say the GOP is "out-of-touch" compared to 46 percent who say the same for the Democratic Party. Likewise, 52 percent of Americans say Republicans "too extreme"—only 39 percent say that's true of Democrats. Overall, as this graph shows, the public has a pretty negative view of the Republican Party:


Conservatives Seek to Blot Bob McDonnell's Name from the Book of Reagan

Jamelle Bouie / The American Prospect

I wrote yesterday that Ken Cuccinelli was the clear winner of the fight over Virginia's new transportation bill. Yes, it passed the General Assembly and is on its way to becoming law, but Cuccinelli successfully positioned himself as an opponent of new spending and higher taxes, and in a low-turnout election where energized supporters are key, Cuccinelli bought himself a small advantage.

Nobody Knows What They're Doing

He loves it when a plan comes together, but he doesn't work in Washington.

In his Washington Post column today, Ezra Klein makes an important point about politics generally and Washington in particular that I think isn't widely enough understood. He calls it "the myth of scheming," and what it amounts to is that in politics, things don't operate they way do in the movies. Or to put it less charitably, nobody knows what the hell they're doing and everyone is bumbling around blindly:

The Sequestering of Barack Obama

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

President Obama has miscalculated both the tactical politics of the sequester and the depressive economic impact of budget cuts on the rest of his presidency. The sequester will cut economic growth in half this year. But it’s now clear, one way or another, that we will get cuts in the $85 billion range that the sequester mandates this fiscal year. All that remains are the details.

Save the Surpluses for Another Rainy Day

Guido Bergmann/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

The last several years have been bleak for state governments. Most had to tap, if not drain, rainy-day funds—money set aside for emergencies. But that usually wasn’t enough to bridge shortfalls. Some raised taxes and other revenue, but for the most part, states relied on cuts. Since 2007, states have slashed nearly $300 billion from their budgets, with health care and education being hardest hit; according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a progressive think tank, over the last five years 23 states have made deep cuts to pre-K and public school spending, while 20 have made major cuts to health care. 

Karl Rove Is Going to Haunt American Politics Forever

Ah, the good old days.

Karl Rove is, it's fair to say, the most famous political consultant of the modern age. There are a few others who achieved notoriety, like Lee Atwater, but none has had quite Rove's profile. He's admired and reviled, has had biographies written about him, and has been satirically immortalized by Stephen Colbert as a canned ham with glasses ("Ham Rove"). This came about partly because he was extremely successful at his craft, and because his success came out of some of the most ruthless and immoral tactics you could imagine, the kind of stuff you ordinarily only see in movies about politics but not in actual politics (see here for some details). But more than anything else, it was because the politician he drove to the White House was assumed by so many to be a dolt, and therefore the idea of Rove as the evil genius puppetmaster pulling all the strings made sense.

After reaching the pinnacle of his profession, most people in Rove's position would have left the actual work of politics, in the same way the winner of the Westminster Kennel Club show doesn't enter any more dog shows. Once you've stood on top of the mountain, the idea that you'll come back down and keep writing direct mail pieces for Senate candidates seems ridiculous. The logical career path would have been to become a "senior strategic advisor" or some such to Bank of America or G.E., getting a seven-figure salary for doing not much of anything beyond lunching with the CEO and giving your deep thoughts on the political situation to the board. You could go on Fox or the Sunday shows just to keep your profile up, but actually continuing to work in the rough-and-tumble would be beneath you.

But Rove stayed in the game, and when you do that, you risk damage to your reputation as all-knowing and all-seeing. Which is just what happened this past election. Rove's Crossroads GPS not only lost most of the races in which they were involved (not necessarily their fault; it was a Democratic year, after all), but his embarrassing performance on election night, insisting on Fox that the network had called Ohio too early and Mitt Romney might pull it out after all, no doubt made a lot of people say, "Hmm, maybe Rove isn't such a genius after all."

So how do you salvage things, and make sure that you can still raise the tens and hundreds of millions of dollars you need to be a player in the next election and the one after that?

Trading The Blame Game for The Bully Pulpit

Flickr/Neon Tommy

The White House apparently believes the best way to strengthen its hand in the upcoming “sequester” showdown with Republicans is to tell Americans how awful the spending cuts will be and blame Republicans for them.

It won’t work. These tactical messages are getting in the way of the larger truth, which the president must hammer home: The Republicans’ austerity and trickle-down economics are dangerous, bald-faced lies.

Yes, the pending spending cuts will hurt. But even if some Americans begin to feel the pain when the cuts go into effect Friday, most won’t feel it for weeks or months, if ever.

Ringside Seat: It's All in the Details

As a number of commentators have pointed out in the last few days, with the sequester looming, the Democrats have a single message they're sending to the public. Republicans, on the other hand, are a bit more muddled. The former say that this will be a disaster, with effects seen in every corner of the country and in too many areas of American life to count. The latter say that it was all Barack Obama's idea, so blame him (even if Republicans voted for it), and besides, Democrats are exaggerating how bad it'll be. But Republicans are facing what they've faced in previous showdowns: When you actually shut down the government or cut it back drastically, the debate moves from the abstract to the specific. And that's not where they want to be. 

Ken Cuccinelli Makes Smart Moves in Virginia's Transportation Fight

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

On Saturday, the Virginia General Assembly ended its session by passing a landmark transportation funding bill that would overhaul how Virginians pay for roads, highways and mass transit. The new plan would replace the 17.5 cents-per-gallon tax on gasoline—unchanged for 26 years—with a new 3.5 percent tax on motor fuels that would keep pace with inflation and growth.

Better Technology Won't Save the GOP

NewsHour / Flickr

It's hard to argue there isn't a large technology divide between Republicans and Democrats. The Obama campaign was lightyears ahead of Team Romney in terms of its online sophistication, including its presence on social media. As a result, some Republicans argue for a greater focus on technology as a way to appeal to younger voters and recover lost support in national elections. Stuart Stevens, chief guru for the Romney campaign, disagrees.

Leaning Out—of This Fight

AP Photo/Keystone, Laurent Gillieron, File

I am leaning in just a little as I write this. OK, I’m not. But I am feeling a little sick as I ponder the next unpleasant installment of the “mommy wars” that’s hurtling toward us.