Elections

Separating the Presidential Wheat from the Chaff

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
Just what does it mean for someone to be qualified to be, or even run for, president? I thought of that question when watching this interview on Fox News Sunday with Ben Carson, who is preparing to be the first member of what we might call the nutball caucus of the 2016 Republican primaries, occupied last time around by Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, and to a lesser extent (since he was actually briefly competitive) Rick Santorum. I've always found Carson to be a puzzlement. On one hand, he was a highly successful neurosurgeon, and you can't become that without being a relatively smart person. On the other hand, when he talks about politics and policy, it quickly becomes clear that the man is a complete lunatic. In this interview, Wallace asks him, "You said recently that you thought that there might not actually be elections in 2016 because of widespread anarchy. Do you really believe that?" Carson responds, "I hope that that's not going to be the case, but certainly there is that...

Chart of the Day

Flickr/Rob Chandanais
Our chart of the day comes from this article in Politico Magazine by Doug McAdam and Karina Kloos, about how the contemporary Republican party has its roots in the racial struggles of the 1960s. It's a good overview of that history, even if you may not find any shocking revelations there. But this chart they use is particularly striking, showing the racial makeup of Barack Obama's and Mitt Romney's voters in 2012: I've written a lot about how some people within the Republican Party, and the conservative movement more generally, find political value in fostering white resentment. Sometimes that resentment is directed at specific figures like Barack Obama, and at those times it usually reaches back to the 1960s to prey on white fears of angry black people coming to do you financial and physical harm (the best comment about Eric Holder's resignation yesterday undoubtedly came from Fox News host Andrea Tantaros, who said of Holder, "He ran the DOJ much like the Black Panthers would. That...

Might We Have Mitt Romney to Kick Around Some More?

I've got a secret... (Flickr/davelawrence8)
I often find it hard to get inside the heads of politicians, since the idea of running for office—particularly all that fundraising, glad-handing, and ass-kissing—has about as much appeal for me as spending a year or two eating nothing but live maggots every day. But I can appreciate that running for president, getting your party's nomination, and then losing must be positively tortuous, particularly if you spent your whole life thinking you'd be president one day. By the time you get to the end of the campaign, you've spent untold hours thinking about how your destiny is about to be realized, you will remake the world, people will carve statues of you, plus Air Force One is really cool and you can do stuff like say, "Hey, let's have Stevie Wonder come sing at our house this weekend." Then not only are all those dreams dashed, but a guy you've come to despise takes your place. What's surprising is that the likes of John McCain, John Kerry, and Al Gore don't suffer complete breakdowns...

The Politics of Pre-K: How A Program Known to Help Poor Mothers Could Doom Your Candidacy

When the emphasis is kept on how it's good for business, early-childhood education is popular. Just don't call it childcare. 

(AP Photo/The Monitor, Gabe Hernandez)
(AP Photo/The Monitor, Gabe Hernandez) I n Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race, education has emerged as one of the most heated issues. A Quinnipiac University poll released this month found education ranked as the most important issue for voters, after jobs and the economy. Despite contentious politics surrounding reform of public education from kindergarten through twelfth grade, Republican incumbent Tom Corbett and Democratic challenger Tom Wolf have discovered that plugging expansion of pre-kindergarten programs wins them political points without treading into treacherous waters. That is, as long as they don't mention the mothers who will inevitably benefit, too. The governor’s record is haunted by his 2011 budget, from which he cut nearly $900 million in public education funds—a decrease of more than 10 percent. The severe cuts have garnered national attention , particularly for Philadelphia—the state’s largest school district—which wrestled with a $304 million cut this past school...

Plagiarism Charges and the Vapidity of Campaign Website 'Plans'

Now that looks like a plan. (Flickr/Camille Rose)
Not one but two major candidates got in trouble this week for having "plans" on their websites that turned out to be cut and pasted from other sources. So how much of a sin is this? Should it affect anyone's vote? The answers are: not a very serious one, and no. To catch you up: the first candidate to get caught was Monica Wehby, the Republican nominee for Senate in Oregon, whose health care "plan" turned out to come from a survey by Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, and whose economic "plan" was copied from the websites of other candidates. Then last night we learned that Mary Burke, the Democrat challenging Scott Walker for governor in Wisconsin, did the same thing. In both cases, the transgression was blamed on staffers who subsequently resigned (in a nice touch, the Burke campaign said it wasn't "plagiarism" because the staffer himself had written the plans he copied when he worked for those other candidates). Buzzfeed's Andrew Kaczynski broke both these stories, and he deserves some...

How District Lines Just Kept 400,000 Poor and Middle Class Virginians From Getting Health Coverage

Flickr/Taber Andrew Baln
Yesterday, the Virginia legislature passed a budget that once again rejected Governor Terry McAuliffe's call to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which would have given health insurance to 400,000 Virginians who are currently uninsured. We don't have to go over all the specious arguments made by expansion's opponents, or delve into the details of the billions of federal dollars and economic benefits that the state is giving up. The question I want to address at the moment is, in a state that everyone acknowledges is trending blue, how does this happen? Particularly when even many strongly conservative states are coming around to expanding Medicaid? At one level, the answer is that Virginia's elected Republicans are a particularly cruel bunch, who like Republicans elsewhere would happily see a poor family go without coverage if it means they can give the finger to Barack Obama. But the more structural answer lies in the way district lines have been drawn there. First, let'...

What America Needs Is More Senators Who Can Handle Themselves In a Firefight

Pull!
Let's be honest: the job of a United States senator does not involve much in the way of gunplay. There's a lot of speechifying, a lot of talking, a lot of trying to stay awake in hearings, and a whole lot of fundraising. But shooting in the course of your duties? Very little, if any at all. I suppose it's possible that we might one day see something like a scene out of a G.I. Joe movie, where terrorist commandos take over the Capitol building and the only thing standing between them and the fall of the United States of America is Barbara Mikulski and her .50-cal Desert Eagle, putting down bad guys like poison-pill amendments at a subcommittee markup...but probably not. Which is part of the reason why I love ads with candidates shooting stuff so much. Candidates do many things in ads that have little or nothing to do with the jobs they're running for—walking over some grass toward the camera with their families, explaining things to small groups of police officers gathered around them...

Republicans Make Big Advances Thanks to Citizens United

The increase in corporate money in elections has favored one party over the other.

(Cartoon by DonkeyHotey via Flickr)
This article originally appeared on Facing South , a website published by the Institute for Southern Studies. I t's been more than four years since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission , a ruling that expanded the ability of corporations and unions to influence politics. Now, with two election cycles completed, a series of studies have emerged to assess what impact it's had on our political system. One of the first and most thorough investigations into Citizens United 's effects on elections, published in July by professors at the University of Alberta and Emory University and a researcher at Competition Economics, concludes that the ruling has significantly benefited Republican candidates for state legislatures -- especially in North Carolina and Tennessee. Before the January 2010 Citizens United decision, corporations and labor unions were prohibited from making so-called independent expenditures for federal races --...

Could Scottish Independence Set Off a Cascade of Secession?

(Danny Lawson/PA Wire - Press Association via AP Images)
(Danny Lawson/PA Wire - Press Association via AP Images) Scottish independence referendum. Deputy First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon and actor Alan Cumming on September 8, 2014, outside the Yes Kelvin campaign hub in Glasgow ahead of the Scottish independence referendum vote on September 18. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . U ntil recently, few people took seriously the possibility that Scotland might actually secede from the United Kingdom. However, with a referendum scheduled for September 18, the latest polls show secession in the lead for the first time, and gaining dramatic momentum . The British government is frantically scrambling to offer the Scots a much more autonomous form of federalism, to head off the drive for full independence. Meanwhile, the specter of a diminished Britain has led to speculative attack against the British pound. What's going on here? For one thing, with the European Union allowing membership for lots of micro-states,...

No, Democrats Can't Win Back the House -- At Least Not Just Yet

Wikimedia Commons
(Photo: Flickr/freshwater2006) A re Republicans going to hold on the House of Representatives forever? That's the question Nate Cohn examines in a piece in Sunday's New York Times called " Why Democrats Can't Win the House ." Cohn's basic argument will be familiar to readers of this blog and many others, because it's been around a while. What it boils down to is that while the post-2010 redistricting dominated by Republicans didn't help Democrats' prospects of taking back the House, the real problem for them lies in the way the two party's voters are distributed throughout the country. Democrats are more concentrated in cities, where many of their votes are essentially surplus; if all it takes to make a district an iron-clad lock for your party is something like a 65 percent majority, having a 90 percent majority doesn't do you any more good. Republicans, on the other hand, are distributed much more efficiently; they have almost no districts with that near-unanimous majority, but lots...

Doomed Jeb Bush Presidential Campaign Moves Closer to Reality

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
The Wall Street Journal tells us today that we shouldn't forget about Jeb: WASHINGTON—Republican strategists and fundraisers say Jeb Bush's closest advisers have been quietly spreading the word that they should avoid committing to other possible presidential candidates until he decides on his own course after the November election. The message from Mr. Bush 's inner circle during the past few months is in part an effort to bat down speculation that the former Florida governor has ruled out a 2016 run, say GOP donors and strategists who have spoken with the Bush camp. The message, as one put it, is: "Before you do anything, let us know." Jim Nicholson, a Bush supporter who served in President George W. Bush's cabinet, said: "I think the chances are better than 50-50 that he runs, and that is based on some conversations I've had with members of the Bush family." Mr. Bush's aides aren't actively making calls but responding to supporters who are fielding inquiries from other potential...

In Horrible Gaffe, Scott Brown Straightforwardly Explains Conservative Philosophy

Scott Brown gives the unvarnished truth.
Former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, who is now hoping to return to the Senate from New Hampshire, got caught by the busy little candidate trackers at the Democratic group American Bridge saying what everyone will now acknowledge is a "gaffe" when he said, in response to a question about what he would do to create jobs: "Here's the thing, folks say, what are you going to do to create jobs? I am not going to create one job, it is not my job to create jobs. It's yours. My job is to make sure that government stays out of your way so that you can actually grow and expand." No doubt someone's preparing an ad right now based on the quote: Brown is following in the footsteps of the man he hopes will be his leader come January, Mitch McConnell, who got asked in April what he would do to bring jobs to one particular corner of Kentucky, and responded, "That is not my job. It is the primary responsibility of the state Commerce Cabinet." Since then, McConnell's opponent, Alison Lundergan...

The Stupidity of Hating Your Senator for Living Where You've Sent Her to Work

(MSNBC/Morning Joe)
(MSNBC/Morning Joe) T his year, not one, but two, incumbent senators up for re-election have been dogged by the "issue" of the precise location where they rest their heads at the end of a weary day of lawmaking. First it was Republican Pat Roberts, who, we learned in February , lists the home of some friends as his official residence in Kansas; apparently he crashes there when he's in the state. And now it's Democrat Mary Landrieu, whose heretofore unimpeachable Louisiana roots (her father Moon was the mayor of New Orleans in the 1970s, and her brother Mitch holds that office today) are now being questioned. It seems that although Landrieu owns a home in Washington, she's registered to vote in the New Orleans house she grew up in, where her parents still reside (even though it's technically owned by Mary and her eight siblings, all of whose names begin with "M"—make of that what you will). The opposition researchers have certainly been earning their keep. But should the rest of us...

Labor's New Groove: Taking the Struggle From Streets to Legislatures

(AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
(AP Photo/Paul Beaty) Demonstrators rally for better wages outside a McDonald's restaurant in Chicago, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013. Demonstrations planned in 100 cities are part of push by labor unions, worker advocacy groups and Democrats to raise the federal minimum wage of $7.25. L abor Day, 2014, comes at a time when Americans have concluded—correctly—that their country is downwardly mobile. In a Rutgers University poll released last week, 71 percent of Americans said they believed the changes to the economy caused by the Great Recession are permanent. (Asked the same question in November 2009, just 49 percent chose the “permanent” option.) Only 14 percent agreed with the description of American workers as “happy at work,” while 68 percent said American workers were “highly stressed” and 70 percent agreed they were “not secure in their jobs.” The economic data released last week confirm Americans’ pessimism. In a study for the Economic Policy Institute, economist Elise Gould reported...

Still Nader After All These Years

(AP Photo/George Ruhe, File)
(AP Photo/George Ruhe, File) In this April 27, 2008, file photo, Ralph Nader speaks to supporters as he campaigns for his 2008 independent presidential bid in Waterbury, Connecticut. F or many Democrats who came of age after 2000, Ralph Nader is a crank who cost Al Gore the presidency. But Nader deserves a more honored place in the progressive pantheon. Over the years, Nader has understood the stranglehold of corporate power on democracy as well as anyone, and throughout his career he has creatively organized counterweights. In the heyday of postwar reform, the 1960s and 1970s, Nader-inspired groups prodded and energized Congressional allies to enact one piece of pro-consumer legislation after another. As both a journalist and senior Senate staffer in that era, I can attest that nobody did it better than Nader. Since then, Nader has been a prophet, often without honor in his own coalition. I should add that I go back a long way with Ralph Nader. When I was in Washington, D.C., in the...

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