Politics of the United States

Whose Civil War Is Worse?

Flickr/Tom Gill
For some reason that I should probably determine one day, I've always found internal disputes with the conservative movement/Republican party somewhat more interesting than internal disputes within the liberal movement/Democratic party. Perhaps it's because, as a liberal, I get a little Nelson Muntzian charge out of watching the folks on the other side tear themselves apart. Or perhaps it's because, immersed as I am in the liberal world, the disputes on the left make more sense to me and therefore plumbing their mysteries isn't so compelling. Regardless, it has often been the case that one side is unified as the other is engaged in intramural battles; for many years, it was the Republicans who were together while the Dems were in disarray, while in the last few years the Democrats have been more united while the GOP has been riven by infighting. But could both sides now be at their own compatriots' throats? And if so, whose internal battle is more vicious? Charles Krauthammer insists...

Does Jeb Bush Understand His Party?

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
Can Jeb Bush avoid becoming the Jon Huntsman of 2016? You might remember Huntsman—affable fellow, ran for president in 2012? When he first joined the race, Huntsman got a lot of positive press coverage and even some praise from liberals. Here was a former governor who was certainly conservative but also seemed willing to work with Democrats, who disagreed with President Obama on many things but didn't hate him, and whose willingness to renounce past flirtations with sanity and pander shamelessly to tea partiers was minimal. And of course, his candidacy went nowhere. And now we've got Jeb Bush, who has a well-known name, the affection of corporate America, and maybe the best shot of anyone at becoming the "establishment" candidate. The problem is that he's not willing to give up his support of comprehensive immigration reform or Common Core educational standards, making him suspiciously moderate in primary voters' eyes. And as the Wall Street Journal reminds us, he even refuses to take...

Jim Webb's Nostalgia For a Pre-Diversity Democratic Party

Flickr/Donkey Hotey
Jim Webb wants to know: can Democrats be the party of white guys again? OK, so that's not entirely fair. But it isn't that far off. Here's the message Webb is giving as he begins his presidential maybe-candidacy: Former senator and potential presidential candidate Jim Webb told an audience in Richmond on Tuesday that the Democratic Party has lost white working-class voters by becoming "a party of interest groups." "The Democratic Party has lost the message that made it such a great party for so many years, and that message was: Take care of working people, take care of the people who have no voice in the corridors of power, no matter their race, ethnicity or any other reason," Webb said. "The Democratic Party has basically turned into a party of interest groups." This isn't a new critique, and there's a lot of truth there, as long as you define "interest groups" as groups of people. The evolution that Webb is lamenting here is essentially what has happened to the Democratic party...

The Cycle of Republican Radicalization

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported on a Quinnipiac poll from a week ago showing a striking change in public opinion on immigration. The question was whether undocumented immigrants should be deported or should be able to get on a path to citizenship. Clear majorities of the public have long favored a path to citizenship (especially if you provide details of what that path would entail, which this poll didn't). But that has changed, because Republicans have changed. As the Post described the Quinnipiac results, "Although [Republicans] supported citizenship over deportation 43 to 38 percent in November 2013, today they support deportation/involuntary departure over citizenship, 54 to 27 percent." That's an enormous shift, and it provides an object lesson in a dynamic that has repeated itself many times during the Obama presidency. We've talked a lot about how the GOP in Congress has moved steadily to the right in recent years, but we haven't paid as much attention to the movement...

Why There Won't Be Any Grand Immigration Confrontation Between Obama and Republicans

Flickr/SEIU
Republicans are, as expected, utterly livid about President Obama's announcement last night of executive actions he'll be taking on immigration, even as they completely ignore the substance of the moves (some of which are things they support). If one of Obama's goals was to divide Republicans against themselves, he certainly seems to have succeeded; as Robert Costa reported late last night, Republicans have "been thrust back into the same cycle of intraparty warfare that has largely defined the GOP during the Obama years and that has hurt the party's brand among the broader electorate." If you were just listening to members of Congress talk today, you'd think this issue will inevitably result in a bloody confrontation between Congress and the White House. This conflict is being portrayed in apocalyptic terms by some—Sen. Tom Coburn said "you could see instances of anarchy" and "You could see violence" as a result of Obama's actions, while another well-known Republican warned of "...

Why Republicans Are So Mad About Obama's Immigration Order

Flickr/Mindaugas Danys
President Obama is going to detail some executive actions he plans to take on immigration in a speech tonight , and you may have noticed that the debate over this move is almost completely void of discussion of the particulars. Instead, we're discussing whether Obama is exceeding his powers. That's an important question to address, but it also frees Republicans (for the moment anyway) of having to visibly argue for things like deporting the parents of kids who are already allowed to stay in the United States. One thing you'll notice as you watch coverage of the issue is that Republicans are seriously pissed off at Obama. And not in the faux outrage, pretend umbrage way—they are genuinely, sincerely angry. And while there may be a few here or there whose blood boils at the thought of an undocumented immigrant parent not living in constant terror of immigration authorities, for the vast majority it isn't about the substance at all. So what is it about? Here's my attempt at explaining it...

How Republicans Are Learning to Love the Shutdown

Flickr/Rich Renomeron
Conventional wisdom is malleable, and it appears that conventional wisdom on the wisdom of shutting down the government is shifting, at least within the Republican party. While the old CW was that it was a terrible idea that Republicans suffered for, and it would be foolish to do it again, the new CW seems to be, "Hey, didn't we shut down the government and win the next election?" The other day, influential conservative journalist Byron York began pushing this line, writing that the 2013 shutdown "so deeply damaged GOP prospects that Republicans exceeded expectations in 2014, winning control of the Senate in spectacular fashion and making unexpected gains in the House." And now, as Dave Weigel reports, Republicans are taking it up : In [conservative] circles, it's clear that the president can be stared down on immigration. And it's clear that a fight, even if it led to shutdown, would be either rewarded or forgotten by voters when they returned to the polling booths in November 2016...

Hillary Clinton's "Connection" to White Voters: What Could It Possibly Be?

One of these things is not like the other. (White House photo by Pete Souza)
In an interview published yesterday at Talking Points Memo, Mitch Stewart, an adviser to the nascent Hillary Clinton quasi-campaign, argued that Clinton could expand the map of states that Barack Obama won, putting more places in play. The reason, he said, that "Secretary Clinton has more appeal than any other Democrat looking at running is that with white working-class voters, she does have a connection." The idea of Clinton's "connection" to the white working class is something you hear now and again, and I think it's worth examining in some detail. Because it raises some uncomfortable questions that I doubt the Clinton campaign wants to confront. Something tells me she isn't going to be putting "Hillary Clinton: A Democrat, But White!" on her bumper stickers. But that's the essence of what we're talking about about here. It seems like a long time ago now, but during the 2008 primaries things got extremely racially charged for a while, at a time when the Clinton campaign was...

The Keystone XL Issue May Be Resolved With—Shocker—Democratic Capitulation

"Do you want me to drink a glass of crude oil? 'Cause I will. I mean it." (Flickr/Mary Landrieu)
The current Democratic effort to help Mary Landrieu win her runoff election by scheduling a quick vote on the Keystone XL pipeline has to be one of the most politically idiotic moves in recent history. As I argued yesterday , not only is it guaranteed to fail in its goal of helping Landrieu, it gives Republicans a huge policy victory while getting nothing in return. Runoff elections have extremely low turnout, and the only way Landrieu stands a chance is if she can convince lots of Louisiana Democrats to go to the polls to save her. This kind of me-too policymaking—I'm just as pro-oil as Republicans are!—is about the last thing that'll pump up Democratic enthusiasm. But they're going ahead with it anyway, and word is now that a vote is likely next week. All may not be well, however, between Landrieu and her colleagues. The close of this article in today's Post is rich with intrigue: Before her remarks, Landrieu was spotted riding the escalator alone up from the Senate trains that...

Congressman From Goldman Sachs Vying to Lead Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) U.S. Representative Jim Himes, Democrat of Connecticut, shown here at a hearing of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence regarding NSA surveillance in Washington, Tuesday, June 18, 2013. Himes, who is close to Wall Street financiers, is vying to lead the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . A fter the Democrats' drubbing in the 2014 midterm elections, there have been fervent debates about whether the party should embrace an economic populism to tap pocketbook frustrations—or move further to the center in the hopes of capturing more independents. One thing the Democrats did throughout Obama's nearly six years was move closer to Wall Street—from the economic team Obama appointed, to the administration's premature embrace of deficit reduction promoted by financial moguls, to a bailout plan that shored up the biggest banks rather than breaking them up. It was this coziness with big...

Can Democrats Get to a True Blue Majority?

These two are totally not speaking to each other. (Flickr/Beverley Goodwin)
Everyone knew that the 2014 Senate election was going to be a tough one for Democrats, in large part because they were defending more seats than Republicans, and many of those seats were in red states. And of course, Democrats lost all the close races, with the exception of the one in New Hampshire. This is going to have an effect on the Democratic caucus in the Senate that we haven't really been talking about since last Tuesday: it's going to make it more liberal. In fact, the red state Democratic senator is a nearly extinct species. Look at the incumbents who lost: Mark Begich in Alaska, Mark Pryor in Arkansas, Mark Udall in Colorado, Kay Hagan in North Carolina, and possibly Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, who is headed for a run-off. That's three red-state senators, and two from swing states. Democrats also lost vacated seats in Iowa (swing), Montana (basically red), South Dakota (red), and West Virginia (red). If Landrieu loses, there will be no more Southern Democratic senators...

In Blue State Turned Red, Former Candidate Says Low Turnout Reflects Dems' Failures

The fundamental lesson for Maryland Democrats is that a candidate must stand for something, and that something better be what the citizens of the state want. 

(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana) Larry Hogan, left, governor-elect of Maryland, is shown a campaign rally at Patapsco Arena in Baltimore on Sunday, November 2, 2014. He is accompanied by New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie, chairman of the Republican Governors Association. An earlier version of this essay appeared at The Huffington Post . T he national political red tide swept up the Chesapeake Bay, over the jetties of Spa Creek and up Annapolis's Main Street to the statehouse this week. After eight years of the Democratic administration of Governor Martin O'Malley and Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown—characterized by substantial progress on social issues—the Lieutenant Governor Hex landed squarely on Brown. A lieutenant governor has never succeeded his governor here; this year was no different. In a day when fatigue with and anger at the Obama administration was evident across the country, one of the biggest surprises was here in Maryland. In a state where registered Democrats...

One Reason the Democrats Lost So Big in Midterms: Exceptionally Low Voter Turnout

Not since 1942 has turnout been so low.

(AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
(AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton) A voter leaves the Bells Elementary School polling place for Colleton County, Tuesday, November 4, 2014, in Ruffin, South Carolina. W hen turnout falls, Democrats perform worse in elections. That general pattern is well known. In making their forecasts, pollsters try to estimate what that turnout will be on the basis of previous elections. This year, pre-election opinion polls were off by the largest amount seen in over 20 years. Could this massive underperformance by Democrats have been connected to a wrong guess about turnout? Here is a graph of turnout over the history of the United States. The data come from the Vital Statistics of American Politics and were plotted by Michael McDonald . As the graph shows, fewer people vote in midterm elections than in presidential elections—about 30 percent fewer, in the post-Watergate era. Data from Vital Statistics of American Politics , plotted by Michael McDonald. I have added to this graph an arrowhead...

Progressive Midterm Victories You Didn't Hear About -- And Some That Could Still Happen

Across the nation, voters passed measures against fracking and abortion restrictions, and for the minimum wage, paid sick leave, public safety and gun reform. 

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Topher Jones, from left, of Denton, Texas, Edward Hartmann, of Dallas and Angie Holliday of Denton, Texas, hold a campaign sign supporting a ban outside city hall, Tuesday, July 15, 2014, in Denton, Texas. A North Texas city became the first in the state to ban hydraulic fracturing when voters passed a ballot measure on November 4, 2014. T uesday’s Republican wave of election victories did not reflect public opinion or the public mood. Instead it was the result of the GOP’s triumph in changing the rules of democracy to favor big business and conservative interest groups, including the triumphs of corporate money and voter suppression. But while Democrat candidates were going down to defeat, liberals and progressive won some impressive but little-publicized victories on important issues—including minimum wage hikes—especially in red and purple states, suggesting that voters are not as conservative as the pundits are pontificating. One of the most significant...

Biggest Midterm Winner Wasn't on the Ballot: Chris Christie

Nothing better sets up a presidential run than raising dollars and getting out the votes for other politicians.

(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, foreground, campaigns for Florida Governor Rick Scott, left rear, during a stop at the Jacaranda Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria, Sunday, October 26, 2014 in Plantation, Florida. O n Tuesday, Republicans won big in races for offices at all levels of government. But the biggest winner of all is a politician who wasn’t even on the ballot: New Jersey governor and GOP presidential hopeful Chris Christie. As chairman of the Republican Governors Association (RGA), Christie spent significant time campaigning and fundraising for Republicans in 37 states this election season. Races that looked to be close or even potential GOP losses, such as the contest in Florida between incumbent Rick Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist, turned into big wins for the Republican Party. RGA Executive Director Phil Cox said that the New Jersey governor played an “instrumental” role in Republican successes around the nation. In addition to Scott,...

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