Conservatism

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...

Tough Choices

Over at the New York Times , Ross Douthat has a mostly excellent take on the Wisconsin recall and what it means for American politics. The short story is that economic distress will result in a zero-sum politics, where both sides vie for the greatest gains while doing as much as possible to block their opponents. He exaggerates the extent to which this is true on the Democratic side—Democrats haven’t pushed laws to keep Republicans from voting, nor have they used legislation to attack core GOP constituencies—but the point is well taken. Politics has become hyper-partisan and totalistic, and while Douthat doesn’t say it, you can trace this to the Republican Party’s utter disregard for institutional norms (see: the filibuster ). The problem with Douthat’s argument comes at the end, where—in a bold bit of projection—he praises Republican innovation and accuses the Democratic Party of policy nihilism: The House Republicans have spent the past two years taking tough votes on entitlement...

In Texas, Incumbents Suffer for Not Being Extreme Enough

(Flickr/daverugby83)
Yesterday I asked whether Texas voters would punish those incumbents who approved billions in state education cuts . I didn't even mention the billions of dollars in cuts to health and human services—or that despite these cuts, critical structural revenue problems remain in the state, which means this coming session will be worse. I just wondered whether incumbents would suffer for the session's austere approach. Well several incumbents suffered—but not in a manner you might expect. Take Rob Eissler, the Republican chair of the Public Education Committee who pushed for some of the big budget cuts. He lost his primary Tuesday night in a big upset. But he didn't lost his seat to a candidate pushing back against cuts. Nope. Eissler lost his seat to a Tea Party insurgent because—get this—Eissler had been too moderate and was too closely aligned with House Speaker Joe Straus. Nationally the focus may be on the Cruz-Dewhurst Senate race, but it seems insurgencies are alive and well when it...

Cruz-in' for a Fight in Texas

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Ted Cruz, who managed to force a run-off election with current Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, deserved his victory party Tuesday night. He had a strong showing despite being outspent by a considerable margin by his rival. Towards the end, Cruz benefitted from national attention as Sarah Palin and Tea Party groups pushed his candidacy. Support from the Club for Growth and Senator Jim DeMint also helped. With Dewhurst netting 45 percent to Cruz's 34, the two men will now face each other again at the end of July. For the Cruz team, the late primary is a good thing; summer in Texas tends to bring out right-wing voters while Moderates, it's assumed, leave the state for cooler climates. Cruz has a clear shot if he can get a few breaks—the run-off gives his campaign clear momentum and he'll likely be able to raise more money in these next few weeks. Dewhurst still has the advantage, however. Despite Cruz's Tea Party lustre, Dewhurst has been a loyal Rick Perry soldier for quite...

Will Texas Voters Care About Billions in Education Cuts?

(Flickr/hpeguk)
Last year, during the biennial legislative session, Texas House Republicans approved a budget with a crippling $10 billion in cuts to public schools over the next two years—this despite warnings from educators that the results would be catastrophic. Several state senators fought to make the cuts only harmful rather than damning. In the end, Texas public schools lost $5.4 billion in the two-year budget, an unprecedented cut that's left districts and classrooms struggling to provide basic services. More than 10,000 teaching positions have been cut, and over 8,000 elementary schools have applied for waivers to go over the state's class-size cap, almost 6,000 more than last year according to the AP. Tuesday's Texas primaries beg the question: Will any incumbents pay? Texas educators haven't traditionally been a politically hard-line group. It's a conservative state, but since the current funding system went into place after World War II, there've been no deep cuts to education. Texas has...

Romney's Ambitious First Day

(Screenshot from campaign ad)
Perhaps Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign wasn't meaningless after all. During the Florida primary, I tracked Gingrich and his ludicrous proposals to overhaul the entire federal government so quickly upon taking office that he would barely have time to change into a tux for the inauguration parties. His extensive list of promises for day one was absurd, yet it seems to have influenced Mitt Romney. Romney's first general-election ad was titled "Day One," and now the Republican nominee revisits the same idea in a new ad, unimaginatively called "Day One, Part Two." Between these two ads, Romney has promised a first day that will include: Immediate approval to construct the Keystone Pipeline Executive orders to halt the implementation of the Affordable Care Act The introduction of tax cuts for "job creators" Deficit reduction "Ending the Obama era of big government" (this one is left up to the viewer's interpretation) Threatening China on trade to "demand they play by the rules" A...

Marco Rubio Is Already Tired of the Senate

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Marco Rubio spent much of the past year denying his ambitions to attain higher office. He would shoot down reporters every time they questioned his desire to join the 2012 Republican ticket as vice president, claiming his intent was solely to learn the ins and outs of the Senate. "I don't want to be the vice president right now, or maybe ever. I really want to do a good job in the Senate," he said in an interview last month. But now that the veepstakes has kicked, off Rubio's adopted a far different tone. From a speech in D.C. yesterday: Too often times in the United States Senate especially, most of the votes we take are nothing but messaging points," Rubio said in a speech at the Latino Coalition's Annual Economic Summit in Washington. "Bills are brought to the floor, that people know are not going to pass, for one purpose alone, and that's to give people talking points on the Sunday evening shows. "Our people deserve better. It's not like we don't have major issues to confront, but...

How Walker Loses in Wisconsin

(Flickr/WisPolitics.com)
The Wisconsin recall effort may look like a lost cause for the Democrats and union activists who hope to see Governor Scott Walker voted out in a couple weeks. Over at the Washington Post , Jenifer Rubin offered a piece titled " Democrats are dreading a Wisconsin wipeout. " InTrade, the prediction market for anything and everything, shows Walker today with a 91 percent chance of winning . But things are hardly settled. While Walker has a clear and consistent lead in polls, that lead is relatively small—except for an outlier or two, it's been around 5 points or less. "The polling is showing margins that are either close to the margin of error or just outside the margin of error," explains Charles Franklin, a Wisconsin political scientist who's currently overseeing the Marquette Law School Poll. (His own poll showed a 6-point Walker lead.) The stakes are high. If, after collecting more than 1 million signatures to prompt a recall, Democrats fail to oust Walker, it will give the current...

The Senate Race to Ridiculousness, Youtube Portrait

(Flickr/ malczyk)
It wasn't supposed to be this way. Texas was supposed to have its primaries done long ago, when the GOP's presidential candidate was still in contention. In that scenario, the Senate seat Kay Bailey Hutchison held for two decades would then go to Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst. Dewhurst has for the most part been a loyal soldier to Governor Rick Perry and, with his millions in personal wealth, he could run a strong campaign while everyone else would be drowned out by presidential politics. Alas, the state's redistricting debacle meant the primaries were pushed back months. Now, with a week to go, Dewhurst is still leading the race, but the latest poll shows things will likely go to a runoff . Not surprisingly, with competition in the race, things have turned increasingly nasty. What's weird, however, are the negative claims. Dewhurst, who sat back while the legislature passed a budget with billions in cuts, including unprecedented education cuts, has been accused of being a big...

A Plan to Privatize a State's Entire Male Prison System

(Flickr/Tim Pearce, Los Gatos)
It's been tough times for the prison privatization industry. The two biggest companies both have extra space thanks to a recent drop in the number of people sent to private prisons. The companies just can't seem to expand their share of the market. The poor guys really lost out when the Florida Senate killed a bill that would have privatized 27 prisons and displaced more than 3,500 workers. The lobbying was so aggressive, one senator with health problems actually had to get protection from her colleagues. Then there's the not-so-great press—a two-part series from NPR last year included particularly horrifying tales . All told, these poor private prison company execs have not had much to smile about. So imagine what joy they must have had when New Hampshire put out an RFP to privatize the state's entire prison system. That's right—the entire system. According to the New Hampshire Business Review , previous state debate on privatization didn't exactly win anyone's affection, and the...

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