In the president’s first term, a gauntlet of procedural hurdles stood in the way of progressive change. As Majority Leader Harry Reid promises to reform the filibuster—on the magical day when the new Senate convenes and can make new rules—most progressives are wondering whether it’s an end to many of President Barack Obama’s problems. After all, without the constant threat of a filibuster, Senate Democrats wouldn’t have had to scramble for votes from the centrists who watered down health-care legislation and stalled action on climate change in Obama’s first two years, when he had an outright majority in the Senate.
The most notable thing to come out of President Obama’s speech last night—eulogizing the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut—was his unambiguous commitment to pursuing new gun regulations in the coming weeks. Granted, he didn’t use the word “gun,” but the implications were clear:
If there’s even one step we can take to save another child or another parent or another town from the grief that’s visited Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek and Newtown and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that, then surely we have an obligation to try.
In the last frantic days of the 2012 campaign, Mitt Romney turned to desperation. His campaign realized that Ohio was slipping out of contention and turned to untruths to peel white, working-class voters away from Obama. They rolled out a campaign ad charging that, under Obama's auto bailout, Chrysler would be shipping Jeep manufacturing over to China. That, of course, was an outright lie. Even Chrysler jumped in to dispute the claims, but Romney was not dissuaded, assuming the public wouldn't be smart enough to parse through the dispute.
This campaign cycle, even election rules were grounds for partisan fighting. Republican Ken Detzner, Florida’s secretary of state, attempted a purge of the voter rolls, prompting accusations of discrimination. In Colorado, Secretary of State Scott Gessler, also a Republican, tinkered with a similar effort. Pennsylvania’s Secretary of the Commonwealth Carole Aichele, another Republican appointed by Governor Tom Corbett, openly supported the state’s voter-ID law. Most famously, there was Jon Husted, Ohio’s Republican secretary of state, whose decision to limit early-voting hours to keep them consistent across the state prompted cries of outrage.
A few weeks before the election, the invaluable Rick Perlstein published a lengthy article in The Baffler titled "The Long Con," about how successful conservative entrepreneurs have been at separating the right-wing rank and file from their money over the past few decades. If you were to sign up for updates from the likes of Human Events or World Net Daily, you'd be inundated not only with come-ons from political groups but with innumerable offers for miracle cures for every ailment under the sun. "The strategic alliance of snake-oil vendors and conservative true believers points up evidence of another successful long march," Perlstein wrote, "of tactics designed to corral fleeceable multitudes all in one place—and the formation of a cast of mind that makes it hard for either them or us to discern where the ideological con ended and the money con began."
In today's political universe there may be no pundit more ridiculous than Dick Morris, who never hesitates to offer a prediction and is almost always wrong. Like many of his brethren, Morris has found that opportunities for income are not restricted to a Fox contract and best-selling "books." While Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Bill O'Reilly offer "premium" content on their web sites you can pay for (if the four or so hours a day of their television and radio shows aren't enough for you), Morris decided this year that the fervid desire that 80-year-old angry white guy shaking his fist at the television screen has to get rid of Barack Obama was a business opportunity that couldn't be passed up. What if you could say to that angry old man, "Give me your money, and I'll use it to defeat Obama," but then you actually, you know, kept the money for yourself? It might require a little creative accounting, but Morris was up to the task. Ben Dimiero and Eric Hananoki of Media Matters report:
Those two guys in the front knew how to do it. (White House/Pete Souza)
Shaping the next phase in the history of the Republican party is an ongoing project that won't really be completed until they have another president, and their 2016 nominee could well be that person. Part of what makes this process interesting is that there is no obvious choice. Republicans are famous for nominating the person who is "next in line," usually someone who ran previously and lost. Every Republican nominee dating back to Richard Nixon has fit this pattern, with the exception of George W. Bush in 2000 (and Gerald Ford, who is obviously a special case). But the people who lost to Mitt Romney in 2012 revealed themselves to be an extraordinarily unappealing group; Paul Ryan didn't exactly emerge from the race looking like a giant; and there are multiple governors like Bobby Jindal and Mitch Daniels who could be strong competitors. So the next GOP nominee could be a hard-right conservative, or a relative moderate, or something in between.
As E.J. Dionne points out in his column today, when a party spend some time in the wilderness, its path back to power usually involves some ideological accommodation:
Karl Rove on election night, insisting it wasn't over.
Fox News has been in the news a bunch over the last two days, with stories like Roger Ailes' wooing of David Petraeus, and now the discovery by Gabriel Sherman of New York that the network has benched Karl Rove and Dick Morris, though for slightly different reasons. Morris is just an embarrassment because he's always so hilariously wrong about everything, while Rove apparently angered top management by challenging the network's call of Ohio for Obama on election night. "Ailes's deputy, Fox News programming chief Bill Shine, has sent out orders mandating that producers must get permission before booking Rove or Morris." This highlights something we liberals may not appreciate: it isn't easy being Fox.
For starters, MSNBC and CNN don't get nearly as much attention for their internal conflicts as Fox does. That's not only because there's a healthy appetite among liberals for these kinds of stories, but also because there seem to be many people within Fox who are happy to leak to reporters about what goes on there, presumably because they don't like their employer's politics. Without them, we'd never know about these things. But more importantly, Fox has a lot of people and factions to keep happy. To see what I mean, let's start with Ed Kilgore's explanation for the sidelining of Morris and particularly Rove:
If this poll from Public Policy Polling is any indication, a fair number of Republicans have convinced themselves Barack Obama won re-election with fraud and other nefarious efforts:
49% of GOP voters nationally say they think that ACORN stole the election for President Obama. We found that 52% of Republicans thought that ACORN stole the 2008 election for Obama, so this is a modest decline, but perhaps smaller than might have been expected given that ACORN doesn’t exist anymore.
The Boston Globe, Politico, and Huffington Post are all reporting that Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren has been granted her wish to get a seat on the Senate Banking Committee.
This victory for progressives is huge. It means that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid—who makes the committee selection, later ratified by the Democratic caucus—did not cave to pressure from either the financial lobby or from Senate Banking Committee Chairman, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, who is effectively part of that lobby. (South Dakota gutted its usury laws decades ago to make the state hospitable to the back office operations of the biggest banks.)
Since President Obama unveiled his proposal for the fiscal cliff last week, Republicans have been complaining that it’s nothing new. “After the election, I offered to speed this up by putting revenue on the table and unfortunately, the White House responded with their la-la land offer that couldn’t pass the House, couldn’t pass the Senate, and it was basically the president’s budget from last February,” House Majority Leader John Boehner told reporters this afternoon.
As such, there’s been some anticipation about what Republicans would offer. If the GOP is so opposed to old ideas, then surely they’d come up with something new and exciting to break the impasse over the fiscal cliff?
The conventional wisdom on fiscal cliff negotiations is that President Barack Obama holds most, if not all, of the leverage. If Republicans refuse to budge, the government automatically imposes policies that Republicans fear—higher tax rates and sharp cuts to military spending.
New American citizens at a naturalization ceremony at the Grand Canyon. (Flickr/Grand Canyon NPS)
After the election revealed the central demographic problem the GOP faces—it is emphatically the party of white people in a country that grows more diverse by the day—there was some triumphalism among liberals about this state of affairs. But the always humane and thoughtful Harold Pollack reminds us that we should reserve some sympathy for the people who feel unsettled by the rapid pace of change in 21st century America: