Elections

Actually, it’s Greece’s Election

ATHENS —To hear the leaders of the European austerity party and a lot of commentators tell it, the upcoming Greek election will be a “referendum” between keeping Greece’s austerity commitments and staying in the Eurozone—or recklessly walking away. A vote for a centrist coalition, supposedly, is a vote for staying in; a vote for the left is a vote for throwing caution to the winds and destroying Greece. But viewed from Greece, that framing is totally wrong. The leftist Syriza party, actually a coalition of 12 (!) parties, substantially displaced social-democratic PASOK as the radical party in the deadlocked May 6 election, where no governing coalition could be formed. In the do-over election scheduled for June 17, Syriza is could well come in first with at least 25 percent of the vote. Under Greek law, where the top performing party gets a bonus of 50 seats in parliament, that should be enough to give Syriza in coalition with a couple of smaller parties a governing majority. In the...

No Taxmageddon Solution Before November

(Flickr/Nasa hq photo)
Congress is deadlocked on a host of issues that will need to be solved before the end of the year lest the country plunge off a fiscal cliff at the start of 2013. If no action is taken, all of the Bush tax cuts will expire, the payroll tax will return to higher rates, and the full-sequester spending cuts will go into effect, with the debt ceiling hitting its limit shortly thereafter. Estimates from the Congressional Budget Office released early this week paint a horror story for the start of 2013, with the economy contracting by 1.3 percent. The New York Times tries to offer a bit of hope this morning, with a story detailing both Democrat and Republican intentions to tackle the tax cuts before the lame duck session: Both parties in the House and the Senate are eager, perhaps even giddy, at the prospect of voting for their respective versions of an extension of the cuts this summer, well before the due date. Speaker John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, has said there will be a House...

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...

Clinton as Veep Wouldn't Change the Election

(DoD Photo By Glenn Fawcett)
Polls remain essentially tied between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney as the campaign heads into the pre-convention summer slog. That gives pundits plenty of time to chew over various scenarios for how each candidate could reconfigure their campaigns before the general election. The veepstakes is already the dominant story on Romney's side, but some have also begun speculating about Obama's running mate. At The Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky says the way for Obama to win in November is by dumping Biden and adding Hillary Clinton to the ticket: Now bring in Hillary. Forget about it. The most consistently admired woman in America over the last 20 years? The gender gap would be 20 points. And the Obama and Clinton machines fused like that—it’s like Secretariat and Zenyatta breeding. And the signal sent to Democrats and women across the country that the whole thing is being teed up for her in 2016. This would be a blowout. Tomasky's argument is predicated on a recent New York Times poll that...

Merkel in the Minority

(Flickr / Environment Blog)
ATHENS —The European austerity caucus led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel is coming apart, but Germany retains the power to block the newly forming coalition for growth as a solution to the eurozone crisis. Tonight’s summit dinner in Brussels is unlikely to produce a breakthrough. But what a difference an election makes. Since Francois Hollande was elected President of France less than three weeks ago, leaders that had been bullied into siding with the Germans are breaking loose. Here in Greece, reckless talk by leaders of the European Central Bank that they might not back Greek banks if Greece tried to walk away from the terms of the austerity deal led to runs on Greek banks. Greek citizens lined up at ATM machines to convert their savings to cash before Greece was pushed out of the euro. Last week, that loose talk ended. ATM machines are quiet. The ECB promised that it would get some $25 billion euros to the banks, more than the amount that had been withdrawn in panic. Greek...

States Lag on Health Exchanges

(Flickr/GenBug)
Once the law is fully implemented, health care exchanges will be the part of the Affordable Care Act we likely notice most. The exchanges were designed to turn health insurance into something approximating a real market—unlike the current system which creates a myriad of blocks that prevent the consumers from purchasing health insurance as they would any good, forcing families to either receive insurance through their employer, pay exorbitant costs for individual, or go without any coverage. The exchanges—along with subsidies for low and middle-income Americans—will ease that burden, allowing consumers to select a plan from a central hub without worrying about pre-existing conditions affecting their coverage. Liberals shouldered a number of defeats in 2009 and early 2010 as the Affordable Care Act snaked through the grind of congressional dysfunction. The failure of a public option ate up most of the attention at the time, but a minor shift in how the exchanges would operate might...

Bipartisan Watermelon Destruction

(Still photo from campaign ad)
Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is out with his first campaign ad today, and it's about as bizarre as you would expect. The ad is reminiscent of Herman Cain's avant-garde commercials (even nabbing the same "any questions" tagline), though thankfully Johnson reserves his destruction for fruit and leaves any innocent animals alone. It's a nice bit of wrought political theater, but not particularly effective as an ad to introduce Johnson to the public. His face and name don't even appear until a minute into the spot, and then only as a still frame. Typically you'd want to have the candidate actually speak in the video—especially when he's largely an unfamiliar face such as Johnson. The low-budget ad is yet another indication that, despite being well credentialed, Johnson is unlikely to perform much above past libertarian presidential candidates.

Repeal and Pretend to Replace

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Maybe Republicans aren't so opposed to health care reform after all. After grandstanding against the Affordable Care Act for the past few years, Republicans aren't ready to let the entire bill die should the Supreme Court overturn the law later this summer. Congressional Republicans are crafting a contingency plan to reinstate some of the popular elements of the bill in that scenario, according to Politico . It's a clear indication that the GOP has learned the same lesson as Democrats: while the all-encompassing idea of Obamacare may fair poorly in the polls, voters typically support individual elements of the bill. The Republicans would reportedly like to maintain the provision that allows young people to stay on their parents' health insurance until they turn 26 and rules that close a donut hole on Medicare's prescription coverage. Most notably, they would also reinstate the ban on insurance companies denying coverage based on preexisting conditions. That last part reveals why these...

Tie Goes to the President

(Flickr/acqueline.poggi)
The basic odds make it fairly unlikely that the Democrats will maintain their Senate majority. They only hold a narrow 53-47 edge after the 2010 midterms, and the party must defend 23 seats in 2012, compared to just ten for Republicans. Their troubles only increased when moderate Democrats hailing from conservative states—Ben Nelson and Kent Conrad as the most notable—decided that now was the time to retire, all but ceding their spots to the GOP. Every scenario looked doom and gloom for their chances. But then Republicans decided to sabotage those odds. First Olympia Snowe announced her retirement, after growing tired of her party's partisan rancor. Her seat is expected to go to the independent—but Democratic friendly—candidate Angus King. Last week, Indiana Republicans booted out longtime Senator Dick Lugar in favor of a Tea Party challenger, while Nebraskans selected the right wing candidate in their primary earlier this week. Polling maestro Nate Silver of Five Thirty Eight is out...

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...

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