Conservatism

Do We Need a New Voting Rights Act?

(Flickr/Sunset Parkerpix)
On Friday, two counties in Southern states requested that the Supreme Court reconsider a key element of the Voting Rights Act . Both Kinston, North Carolina and Shelby County, Alabama hope the Court will find that Section 5 of the Act—the one that requires states and counties with a history of voter suppression to get permission from the feds before implementing changes to election law—is unconstitutional. The government has previously justified Section 5 under the Fifteenth Amendment, which guarantees the right to vote and prohibits discrimination based on race. The counties—both in states with new voter-ID laws—argue that the provision violates the Tenth Amendment, which gives states the right to regulate elections. Furthermore, they claim it unfairly gives states different levels of sovereignty by treating some differently than others. With voter-ID laws proliferating around the country, the Voting Rights Act has been in the national conversation for months now, and Section 5 has...

Sharia Scare in Tennessee

(Courtesy of the Vanderbilt Alumni Association)
In Murfreesboro, Tennessee, just outside Nashville, the Muslim community won a hard-fought victory Wednesday. After a two-year legal battle that inflamed anti-Islamic sentiment across the state, a federal judge ruled that a new Islamic community center could get the permits necessary to open. Elsewhere in the state, however, Muslim residents got a cold reminder this week of just how much prejudice exists around them. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, a conservative Republican who's pro-life and anti-tax, is facing a chorus of angry voices from county Republican parties. It seems he's just not concerned enough about the threat of Sharia law. According to The Tennessean , Republicans in Stewart, Carroll, and Williamson counties passed resolutions criticizing Governor Haslam for hiring Samar Ali, a Tennessee native and Muslim American, as international director of the state's Department of Economic and Community Development. The Tennessean reports that six other counties have also adopted...

It's the Occupation, Stupid

Why did the most recent coalition in the Israeli government only last ten weeks?

In France's Fourth Republic, it was said that tourists in Paris made sure to take in the daily changing of the government. According to myth, a deputy who dozed in the National Assembly might wake up to be told that he'd been premier twice during his nap. The coalitions that rule countries with multiparty systems can be flimsy things. But outside the realm of myth, Israel's most recent coalition was particularly short-lived: It ruled for ten weeks, just seventy days, before collapsing this week. By bringing Shaul Mofaz's centrist Kadima Party into his government in May, Netanyahu sought to avoid early elections. Among the big things that new friends Shaul and Bibi promised to do were ending the widely resented draft exemption for ultra-Orthodox men and jump-starting the peace process with the Palestinians. In other words, Netanyahu would show that he was really a moderate, and that he had been waiting for Kadima's support to rule as one. The explicit reason that Kadima left the...

Can Rick Perry's Playbook Work in the Texas Senate Race?

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Texas Governor Rick Perry is famous for delivering negative ads that send his opponents' campaigns reeling; they tend to contain such wild, over-the-top accusations that responding to them is tricky business. In the 2002 gubernatorial race, when he was fending off Democratic billionaire Tony Sanchez, the governor pulled out a last-minute ad that basically accused the candidate of laundering money for drug cartels. In his latest battle for the Governor's Mansion, against Houston Mayor Bill White, Perry's team found a police officer's widow who said that White's "sanctuary city" policies led an undocumented worker to kill her husband. The Perry team has long been feared for such ads—and their devastating effect. Now that the Perry team is working Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst's runoff campaign for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison, you might have thought similar ads would help bring down his novice Tea Party challenger, Ted Cruz. But after a couple of days...

Ted Cruz's Texas Tea

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
It wasn't supposed to work this way. Much as Mitt Romney was supposed to cruise into the GOP presidential nomination, Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst was supposed to have an easy path to the U.S. Senate. Dewhurst, after all, has a been a loyal soldier to Governor Rick Perry for the better part of nine years. He's toed the party line, pushing the state Senate chamber into ever more conservative territory, and he had a limitless campaign fund from his own personal wealth. Now, state insiders assumed, was his time to move up the ladder. Instead, he's locked into a tight runoff against a Tea Party favorite, and much like Romney during the presidential race, he's stuck responding to accusations of moderation, begging his audience to believe that he's just as conservative and just as hard-line as his opposition. But unlike Romney, Dewhurst has become the underdog—and a loss is looking more and more likely. Dewhurst's fall can be attributed largely to Ted Cruz, the Tea Party...

The Myth of Rags to Riches

In the latest version of SimCity, a computer game that let's you pretend to be an urban planner, city residents are born into an economic class and there they remain for life. This may have been done for simplicity's sake, but the scenario makes the popular computer game disturbingly similar to the situation of most Americans. The latest report from Pew Charitable Trusts, "Purusing the American Dream," deals a stunning blow to any romantic notions of bootstrapping your way to the top. It turns out only 4 percent of those raised in the bottom 20 percent ever climb into the top 20 percent. Rather, people raised on one rung of the income ladder are likely to stay pretty close to it as adults. As the report notes, "Forty-three percent of Americans raised in the bottom quintile remain stuck in the bottom as adults and 70 percent remain below the middle class." The report, from a non-partisan group that's far from ideological, shows that while in absolute numbers, the vast majority of...

Could the Voting Rights Act Be Struck Down?

(Flickr/ezola)
Texas doesn't have an air-tight case when it comes to the stringent voter-ID law that's currently having its week in court. Even Fox commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano said he expects the state to lose . And according to Politico , the Department of Justice (DOJ) has promised to show not only that the voter-ID law will have a discriminatory effect but that such an effect was intentional. Texas's case, meanwhile, rests on two different arguments: First, that the state needs a voter-ID law to combat voter fraud, and second, that the state should not have to obtain preclearance—as required by the Voting Rights Act—for changes in its election law in the first place. After failing to do so in years past, Texas's GOP-dominated legislature passed a stringent voter-ID law in 2011. Under this law, only a few forms of identification are allowed: driver's licenses and state-issued identification cards, military IDs, citizenship certificates (with photos), passports, and handgun licenses. But...

Starve a Cold, and Your Taxes

(Flickr / Gage Skidmore)
It's a well-known rule in journalism that when you don't want to write the story your editor assigned you, you suggest a new one—an equally good, if not better, alternative. This rule, obviously, does not extend to politics, where several Republican governors have taken pains to assure people that they absolutely positively hate the Affordable Care Act—Maine Governor Paul LePage worried that under the law, the IRS would turn into the Gestapo . And Texas Governor Rick Perry went on Fox News Monday morning to explain just how intense his hatred was. But rather than offering any sort of alternative plan, Perry denied there was a health-care problem in the first place. "We're not going to be a part of socializing health care in the State of Texas," he proclaimed. He said that the state would not participate in the subsidies states are supposed to set up to help the middle class buy policies, nor would the state expand Medicaid to cover those too poor for the subsidies. The former won't...

Florida's Voter Purge: What the Hell?

(Flickr/ldcross)
With a tangle of lawsuits and legal complexities, it's easy to get lost in the minutiae of Florida's voter-purge debacle. Last week, as a U.S. District Court ruled on one of the disputes between the Department of Justice and the state of Florida, most of the media discussion focused on who'd won and who'd lost in the rather nuanced court opinion. More legal action comes next week, and the discussion will likely be similar. At its core, though, this is a story of how Florida's secretary of state cast suspicion on thousands of perfectly legitimate voters. Waving around a list of 180,000 potential non-citizens and sending out a sample of 2,700 to elections officials, the state's methodology was deeply flawed. Many of those identified had immigrated to this country and completed the arduous path to citizenship. Now they're at risk of being kicked off voter rolls. With voter-ID laws gaining popularity in states across the country, the purge constitutes a new front in the battle to protect...

A Crack in the GOP's Support for Voter-ID Laws

(Flickr/ Michigan Municipal League)
There's little question what the political calculus behind voter-ID laws is. Advocates argue that the laws, which require government photo identification to vote, are necessary to prevent voter fraud—despite there being virtually no evidence that such fraud is a problem. In practice, the laws will disproportionately have an impact on poor people and those of color, two Democratic-leaning groups that are less likely to have such IDs. Predictably, Republicans have been pushing for these laws, while Democrats generally oppose them. That is, until earlier this week, when Michigan Governor Rick Snyder shot down his own party and vetoed a state voter-ID law . He also vetoed laws that would have made it harder to conduct voter-registration drives and to confirm U.S. citizenship for voters. All three—pushed by Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and sponsored by Republican lawmakers—would likely have dampened turnout, particularly among disadvantaged communities. During hearings on the...

Can We Take John Roberts's Word at Face Value?

Flickr/Donkey Hotey
For years, conservatives have articulated a clear legal philosophy to guide their beliefs about the proper role of the courts and the way judges should arrive at their decisions, much clearer than the philosophy liberals espouse. They said they supported "originalism," whereby judges would simply examine the Constitution as the Founders understood it to guide its interpretation today. They said they opposed "judicial activism," wanting judges to simply interpret the law instead of making their own laws. Liberals always replied that these ideas were a disingenuous cover for something much simpler: conservatives just want judicial decisions that support their policy preferences. They see whatever they want in the Constitution and define "judicial activism" as nothing more than decisions whose outcomes they don't like. The reaction to Chief Justice John Roberts joining the Supreme Court's four liberals to uphold the Affordable Care Act shows something revealing about the conservative...

Our Strange Ideological Divide

When Democrats pursue centrist solutions to problems, Republicans react as though we were all just herded onto collective farms.

Yes, they actually believe this. (Flickr/Peter Vidrine)
If you knew nothing about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the picture you saw last Thursday of liberals celebrating and conservatives lamenting the end of American liberty would have convinced you that a monumental shift to the left had just taken place. Was the military budget cut by two-thirds or higher education made free for all Americans, you might have asked? At the very least, a universal, public health-insurance program must have been established. But no, the greatest ideological battle in decades was fought over a law that solidifies the position of private health-insurance companies. That isn't to ignore that those companies will be subject to greater regulation, outlawing their cruelest abuses of their customers, and millions will be added to the insurance program for the poor. The ACA is a very, very good thing, but after its full implementation we will still have the least socialized health-care system of any advanced country in the world. Yet to hear the ACA's opponents...

Same-Sex Marriage Is a Radical Feminist Idea

Does anyone remember yesterday, before our minds were blown away by watching (on Twitter) Roberts vote to uphold the Affordable Care Act and Kennedy join with the three billygoats to declare the whole thing unconstitutional? I’m having trouble remembering, too. But my notes here say that yesterday I wrote about David Blankenhorn’s decision to support same-sex marriage, and I critiqued (via something Richard Kim wrote at The Nation ) the more progressive faction of the LGBT movement for their long-ago hopes of rerouting the marriage equality movement into a more general attempt to overhaul marriage and family law. That post yesterday took some hits, in ways that suggested I hadn’t accurately conveyed my beliefs. In particular, Chris Geidner wrote, in a series of tweets that I’ll condense here: Whoa: @ejgraff takes on @RichardKimNYC (& many others) in an almost stridently conservative piece: ampro.me/Qk8iNv. The piece, in several places, was dismissive of what was a far more even...

Why Perry Stands to Lose the Texas Senate Race, No Matter Who Wins

(Flickr/eschipul)
Friday night, after candidates David Dewhurst and Ted Cruz finished their debate on who would be best to fill Texas' Senate seat, Cruz fired off a shot at his opponent. He argued that Dewhurst's key supporter, Governor Rick Perry, only endorsed the lieutenant governor so that he could replace his number two . Perry, of course, quickly dismissed the allegation, but the exchange raised a good question—why has Rick Perry waded so far into a Senate primary from which he has little to gain? The race began simply enough, with the personally wealthy Dewhurst as a giant amidst a field of lesser-known and lesser-funded candidates. Few expected the race to go into a run-off at all. But thanks to a lengthy legal fight around the state's redistricting maps, the Texas primaries were postponed again and again. The extra time gave Cruz a chance to build a coalition of conservative backers. He's gotten major contributions from Grover Norquist's anti-tax group Club for Growth—national Tea Party...

The Ongoing Triumph of Radical Individualism

A figure from a bygone era.
Scott Walker's victory in the Wisconsin recall has been gleefully hailed on the right as a death knell for American unions, and while that may be an exaggeration, there's no doubt that the labor movement is in a long and perhaps inexorable decline. How did it happen? One answer is that conservatives have of late found increasing success in a tactic they've used for decades: getting non-unionized workers to resent unionized workers for the better pay, benefits, and working conditions that unionized workers have used collective bargaining to obtain. This is only possible if you convince people to see everyone around them as not potential allies but as competitors in a zero-sum contest. Rich Yeselson offers a story about watching William Winpisinger, the head of the machinists' union, on television 30 years ago: As always, the conflict formula for talk shows eventually took hold, and Winpisinger received a barrage of hostile questions from Donahue's audience. So, he stood up—a big, bald...

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