Elections

The Unecessary Radicalism of Citizens United

WikiMedia COmmons
One of the many striking things about the Supreme Court's infamous Citizens United decision is how poorly the facts of the case fit the extremely sweeping holding. The potential First Amendment issues involved with campaign finance regulation exist on a spectrum. Political editorials, even when published in corporate-owned media and attempting to influence the campaign, are obviously "pure speech" that can be restricted only in extraordinary circumstances. Direct donations to candidates, on the other hand, are further removed from pure speech and also raise serious problems of democratic equality, so the leeway that can be given to government to restrict them might be greater. Political advertising falls somewhere in the middle. Citizens United involved the suppression of a political campaign documentary about Hillary Clinton—something that doesn't neatly fit into the categories, but is closer to "pure speech" than being a campaign expenditure. While many progressives disagree, I...

A Mayor for the Occupy Set

Jefferson Smith isn't planning to shed his activist and political organizer cred if elected to run Portland.

(Flickr / hotshot977)
In the early 2000s, Jefferson Smith grew a reputation in progressive grassroots political circles as the hulking 6’ 3” strawberry-blond force of nature behind Oregon’s The Bus Project , a non-profit merry band of allies named for a 1978 touring coach bought on eBay, which busied itself , training scores of young people in the mechanics of democracy, signing up tens of thousands of new voters, and selling t-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “Vote, F*cker.” In 2008, Smith won election to the Oregon House of Representatives, where he memorably convinced colleagues on both sides of the aisle to Rickroll the chamber , one word at a time. A well-styled and widely-circulated TED talk last summer on the structural opportunities of politics in the public interest added to his mainstream credibility as a big thinker. In some liberal circles, Smith, now 38, is the embodiment of the promise of netroots-generation politics: the idea that, as the Bus Project puts it, “democracy works best when more...

Bush Endorses Romney

(White House photo by Eric Draper. Via Wikimedia Commons)
Mitt Romney clearly coveted the endorsement of George H.W. Bush. He first met with Bush the Elder in December at the former president's Texas home in an appearance everyone assumed equaled a full endorsement. However Romney staged a second event in March for the official endorsement as another photo-op with Bush 41. Meanwhile the other Bush who once occupied the oval office was nowhere to be seen, never rolled out as a public endorser even though Romney clearly wrapped up the nomination weeks ago. George W. Bush finally entered the fray Tuesday to let the country know whom he plans to vote for this fall: “I’m for Mitt Romney,” Bush told ABC News this morning as the doors of an elevator closed on him, after he gave a speech on human rights a block from his old home — the White House. Yeesh, talk about lackluster. The string of Republicans reluctantly supporting Mitt Romney has become one of the dominant tropes of the 2012 election, with each seemingly unable to muster any kind of verve...

What Romney's Medicare Plan Actually Does

(Flickr/Images of Money)
DC journos have spent much of the 2012 election trying to answer the question of how exactly a President Romney would governor. On one side, there are the skeptics who never bought into Romney’s rhetoric during the Republican nomination. They argue Romney is, at heart, still a moderate northeastern governor, a businessman unsuited for the extremism that has come to dominate his party. Others are equally convinced that Romney must be taken at face value. Sure he might have positioned himself in the middle while he governed a state dominated by Democrats, but he has spent the past five years running for president full-time, aligning himself with every right-wing whim over the course of his two campaigns. He’s the Republican who sought the endorsement of Ted Nugent, discarded a gay spokesman, and calls corporations people. Lest we forget, it was Romney who was poised to run as the right-wing challenger to John McCain and Rudy Giuliani in 2008 before Mike Huckabee swooped in to steal the...

Romney's "Boring" Choice

(Flickr/Austen Hufford)
Politico nabbed an incredibly unsurprising scoop this morning: Mitt Romney will probably select an "incredibly boring white guy" as his running mate. That's the description attributed to one unnamed Republican official, stating the obvious. Much of the VP speculation has centered on the exciting young politicians from the class of 2010. Perhaps Romney would select Suzanna Martinez or Marco Rubio in the hopes of peeling away some of the Hispanic vote. Or South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley in an effort to rebut charges that Republicans are waging a war on women. Who knows, maybe Romney could even tap Senator Rand Paul if he wants to make sure the elder Paul doesn't use his delegates to cause a ruckus at the Tampa convention. None of those choices would fit Romney's standard modus operandi. He's the cold calculating consultant, disinclined to any flashy decisions, tending toward the safe bet. The VP selection typically has only a minimal impact on boosting the overall ticket's...

LGBT Groups Need to Play Offense

Gay marriage often ends up on the ballot after a push by conservative groups, meaning the outcome often ends in their favor.

(AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach)
Basic Rights Oregon (BRO)—the leading LGBT advocacy group in the state—faced a difficult decision this past November. In 2004, Oregon voters approved a constitutional measure to ban same-sex marriage. The vote wasn’t even close. The amendment passed by a whopping 57-43 percent margin as part of a larger push by Republicans to incite fervor in their base during George W. Bush's re-election campaign. Since then, Basic Rights Oregon had been eying the 2004 amendment for possible repeal. Should the organization hit the go button to bring the issue to the voters again in 2012? For now, that looks like a risky move—BRO’s internal poll numbers predict a evenly split electorate. The organization didn't want to risk putting the amendment up only to see if fail, and they just weren't quite confident enough that the state had shifted enough since 2004. “Who would ever choose to go into a ballot measure at 50-50?” says Jeana Frazzini, the group's executive director. “We need a solid cushion of...

Bring On Less Democracy

(Flickr / afagen)
Is anybody else as depressed as I am about the next four years? No matter who wins, we face the prospect of bitterly divided government, savage partisanship in Congress, and increasing executive desperation. Even if Republicans win the Senate and retain the House, they will not have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate; even if Obama holds on to the White House, he will face filibusters in the Senate and outright defiance in the House. A Congress that cannot deal with the tiny student-debt problem in orderly fashion is unlikely to be able to tackle big problems at all. The response to legislative paralysis is, of course, executive aggrandizement. Charlie Savage of The New York Times laid out recently the turn by the Obama administration to executive authority as its means of governing the country. It’s entirely predictable; legislative fecklessness has led to presidential power-grabbing for more than a century. And if Mitt Romney becomes president, he is already poised to follow...

Elections? Ooh, That's Scary

Talk about a quick campaign. The latest one in Israel lasted about a week, and there wasn't even an election at the end.

(AP Photo/Gali Tibbon, Pool)
Just last weekend, local political commentators were enthusing about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's tactical brilliance in deciding on snap elections more than a year ahead of schedule. The opposition—particularly the centrist Kadima party—was unprepared. Polls purportedly proved that Netanyahu's Likud would be the only party holding more than a quarter the seats in the next parliament; all the rest would stand in line to join his coalition. An cabinet press release on Sunday named September 4 as election day. Two days later, the nation awoke to news that Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz had cut a deal with Netanyahu to bring his party into the current coalition. Elections can wait till late 2013, as originally scheduled. Political commentators enthused again, this time about Netanyahu's brilliance in co-opting one potential rival and frustrating others. Foreign analysts wondered whether Netanyahu's deal with Mofaz, a former general, would promote or hinder an Israeli strike against...

The Price of Prejudice

Amendment One passed yesterday, 61-39 percent, making North Carolina the 30th state to put a ban on same-sex marriage right in the state constitution.

(AP Photo/Jerry Wolford, News-Record )
Another day, another damned defeat. It wasn't much of a surprise. Despite heroic efforts by gay-rights activists , yesterday North Carolinians amended their state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Amendment One passed by an overwhelming 22-percent margin. Gay marriage is already illegal in North Carolina by statute, but amending the constitution ensures that state courts can't overturn the law. (Small consolation prize: Obama says he’s “disappointed” that voters in North Carolina didn’t “evolve” any faster than he has . [ UPDATE ]: The president declared his support for marriage equality today.) For supporters of gay rights, it's another setback in a war that, overall, seems to be going the right way. But it's disappointing nonetheless, and there are a few things that are both telling and especially harmful about the gay-marriage ban in North Carolina. Opponents of marriage equality in the state weren't just satisfied with stopping gay people from getting married. Amendment One...

Tired of War

(Flickr/The US Army)
Obama campaign thinks a general election on foreign policy works toward their favor, as the past few weeks have made clear. The President is trying to stake out a middle ground between the typical hawk and dove divide, highlighting his success in killing Osama bin Laden and engagement in Libya while also recognizing the country’s war-weary sentiment by extracting the country from Iraq and signing an agreement with the Afghanistan government to remove the United States from combat operations by 2014. For a time it looked as if Mitt Romney might not fall under the influence of the neoconservative dogma that dominated the GOP’s foreign policy vision during the last decade. Like many of the other Republican presidential candidates, he expressed hesitance toward an indefinite military force in Afghanistan, recognizing the quagmire of the decade-long war. His tone has changed since he’s dispatched his nomination opponents and has attempted to contrast his views directly with Obama. Perhaps...

Super PACs Already Spending Big

(Flickr/401K)
It’s been clear since the start of the Republican nomination that 2012 would be the year of the super PAC. While Mitt Romney’s campaign was better funded than his opponents, it was his affiliated super PAC Restore Our Future that truly freed Romney to tear apart every opponent who momentarily rose to equal footing. The same dynamic is playing out in the early stages of the general election, with Obama's fundraising advantage negated by his super PACs struggles as Romney's continues to thrive. But far too much time and attention is wasted on super PACs at the presidential level. Romney and Obama will both have plenty of funds when you combined their campaigns and super PACs. Neither will have trouble finding the cash to run a glut of TV ads or hire an extensive staff on the ground. A few extra million here or there will have only a marginal impact on the election’s outcome, especially in the relatively high information level that voters will have when they enter the ballot booth...

No One Trust's Obama's Evolution

(Flickr/VJnet)
Few people truly believe Barack Obama when he claims his position on same-sex marriage is "evolving." He first publicly endorsed marriage equality in 1996 while running for the Illinois state senate. At the time, just 27 percent of the population shared his views, according to a Gallup poll. Now, Gallup's tracking numbers from last year have 53 percent of the country favoring SSM. It might have been politically expedient for Obama to position himself against same-sex unions in 2008, but it's impossible to imagine anyone at the vanguard of LGBT civil rights like that young Illinois legislator truly changing his mind. That's why his continuing "evolution" makes no sense. It ticks off liberals and moderates who are convinced that Obama does not have the courage to stand up for his convictions. And it certainly wins him no plaudits from conservatives, who also believe it is a smokescreen to hide his true agenda. To wit, here's RNC Chairman Reince Priebus on MSNBC earlier today: “So we’ve...

Greece Takes Revenge

Voters kicked out the leaders who presided over their fall into crippling debt.

(Rex Features via AP Images)
For two years, Greek voters could only express their mounting disaffection with the economic catastrophe that had befallen them by demonstrating, publicly rebuking members of the political class, even occasionally beating them. Yesterday, they finally got the chance to punish their politicians, in particular those of PASOK and Nea Demokratia—the two parties which had alternated in power for the past four decades—at the ballot box. They certainly got their revenge. But the cost of their choice may well be too heavy for them to bear. The two parties—which backed the government led by technocrat Lucas Papademos responsible for Greece’s second bailout agreement—were pummeled at the polls. In the last parliamentary election in October 2009, their combined share of the vote was 77 percent. On Sunday, they eked out 32 percent. Nea Demokratia topped voters’ preferences, but its share of the vote—18.9 percent—was barely more than half of its 2009 performance, its worse ever until yesterday...

Obama's Untenable Position on Same-Sex Marriage

(Flickr/Barack Obama)
Oh, good old Joe. The vice president just can’t help himself sometimes, getting juiced up and spouting off whatever comes to his mind rather than staying on message like the Obama campaign would prefer. On yesterday’s Meet the Press , Biden was questioned about his stance on same-sex marriage and seemingly went a step further than the official White House line, perhaps not endorsing marriage equality directly but coming pretty close : David Gregory: You’re comfortable with same-sex marriage now? Biden: Look, I am Vice President of the United States of America. The president sets the policy. I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual men marrying women are entitled to the same exact rights. All the civil rights, all the civil liberties. And quite frankly I don’t see much of a distinction beyond that. Of course that’s not the official policy of the Obama campaign, so officials acted quick to walk back Biden’s statement. But the...

Newton Gingrich's Passage to Power

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
The existence of the Republican Party has been marked by five incarnations in its century and a half, peaking early with its first president and the country’s greatest, Abraham Lincoln. The second Republican age culminated at the outset of the last century with Theodore Roosevelt; the third age with Dwight Eisenhower; the fourth with Ronald Reagan—whose harbingers were Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon—and whose coda was George H. W. Bush. The fifth that ultimately would coalesce around the presidency of Bush’s son was inaugurated by Newton Leroy Gingrich of Georgia, and not even W. has better represented the party’s style and substance these past 20 years. It might be natural, then, even to someone less possessed of Gingrich’s megalomania, to believe that it was natural for him to retake command of the Republican forces after the party’s worst presidential loss—not merely in numbers but morale and reason-to-be—since 1964. So enraged was the party at everything and everyone but itself...

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