Jamelle Bouie

Hillary Clinton's Unsurprising Popularity

Titanic Belfast / Flickr
Titanic Belfast / Flickr Yet another poll finds that Hillary Clinton is the most popular political figure in the country. The latest survey from Quinnipiac University finds her with 61 percent favorability rating, with only 34 percent who see her negatively. By contrast, President Obama’s favorability is at 51 percent, Joe Biden’s is at 46 percent, and John Boehner’s is at 20 percent. Of course, this doesn’t come as a surprise. Prior to joining the administration as Secretary of State, Clinton was a popular runner-up for the Democratic presidential nomination. She won support from millions of voters, and earned the respect of millions more. For the last four years, she’s been America’s representative to the world—a statesperson, removed from the sturm und drang of partisan politics. If Clinton decides to run for president, all of this changes. She’ll cease to be “Hillary Clinton: Secretary of State” and instead will revert to “Hillary Clinton: Democrat.” Republicans will remember that...

Mass Joblessness Is Still a Problem—Someone Tell Washington

kanu101 / Flickr
The unemployment rate is a decent measure of where the economy stands, but it doesn’t provide a full picture of joblessness—it only measures the employment status of people looking for a job. For a broader sense of unemployment—and its affect on everyday life—you have to dig deeper. A recent study from Rutgers University, for example, provides a sobering look at the broad impact of persistent joblessness. In “ Diminished Lives and Futures: A Portrait of America in the Great-Recession Era ,” researchers Mark Szeltner, Carl Van Horn, and Cliff Zukin find that “nearly one-quarter (23%) of all survey respondents report being laid off from either a full-time or part-time job.” There’s a stark racial divide, 31 percent of blacks and Hispanics report losing a job, versus 22 percent of whites, and a large gender gap—27 percent of men have lost employment since the recession began, versus 19 percent of women. What’s staggering is the number of people who have been touched by joblessness...

The Rising Tide of Anti-Black Racism

Google
Google This image was distributed by a Republican organization in San Bernardino, California during the 2008 Presidential election. Thomas Edsall has a fascinating column in today’s New York Times on the persistence of racial resentment in the Obama-era. For those not familiar with the term, “racial resentment” is defined as the convergence of anti-black sentiments with traditional American views on hard work and individualism. It’s measured using questions that focus on race and effort. People who answer in the affirmative to questions like this—“Irish, Italian, Jewish and many other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up. Blacks should do the same without any special favors”—and in the negative to questions like this—“Generations of slavery and discrimination have created conditions that make it difficult for blacks to work their way out of the lower class”—are assigned a high place on the resentment scale. Edsall runs though recent research from a variety of sources...

The NRA Is Ruining Its Reputation

Gage Skidmore / Flickr
Gage Skidmore / Flickr NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre speaking at the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference. Last month, I noted the extent to which the National Rifle Association was digging a hole for itself by hewing to the most extreme rhetoric in its arsenal. Rather than quietly agree to sensible reforms—like an assault weapon’s ban and universal background checks—the NRA has taken a maximalist position on gun control, pushing the view that safety requires a gun in every home and a holster on every belt. True to form, this approach has backfired in the court of public opinion, as ordinary Americans—who otherwise support the 2nd Amendment—recoil from the extreme rhetoric of the NRA and its supporters. To wit, the latest national survey from Public Policy Polling shows that the organization has lost cachet with a good number of Americans. Thirty-nine percent say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate with the NRA’s endorsement, compared to 26 percent...

Debt Reduction Is Hurting the Economy

Wall Street Journal
For left-leaning writers, at least, it’s almost cliché to note the extent to which the press defers to deficit hawks, despite clear evidence that deficits are not a pressing problem for the United States. Even still, it’s worth noting when reporters pass along received wisdom, especially when we have fresh data to show the folly of Washington’s obsession with deficit reduction. To wit, here’s The Wall Street Journal with a piece that just cedes the idea there’s a deficit problem and it requires further “belt tightening” from the federal government: A slowly improving economy and recently enacted tax increases will help bring down the federal deficit for the next few years, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday, but it will take another $2 trillion in belt-tightening over the next decade to begin to move the federal debt closer to historic levels. […] CBO projects that if Congress leaves current laws unchanged, the debt will be 77% by 2023, and it will be higher if across-the-...

The Virginia GOP Just Made Voting More Difficult for Poor People

New York State Government
Virginia doesn’t make it easy to vote, and this afternoon, the state lawmakers have tightened requirements, passing a voter-identification bill that would eliminate several forms of ID currently accepted at the polls: Senate Bill 719, sponsored by Sen. Richard H. Black, R-Loudoun, would not go into effect until 2014 and stipulates a voter education component – the result of a Democratic amendment the chamber adopted Monday, also thanks to Bolling’s tie-breaking vote. The Senate legislation, and a companion measure – House Bill 1337, sponsored by Del. Mark L. Cole, R-Spotsylvania, which cleared the House of Delegates today on a 63–36 vote – would eliminate the use of a utility bill, pay stub, bank statement, government check and Social Security card as acceptable identification that can be presented at the polls. Voters would still be able to use a voter identification card, concealed handgun permit, driver’s license and student ID card. Put simply, voting has just become more...

What Does the Justice Department Say about Targeted Killings?

Wikipedia
In case you missed it, last night, NBC News published a Justice Department white paper detailing the criteria the administration uses to decide if it will kill Americans who belong to al-Qaeda as senior leaders. National security is not my area of expertise, but several reporters have already given excellent takes on the memo and its implications. Writing at The Week , Mark Ambinder gives a short run-down of the white paper. In it, the administration’s lawyers detail the standards that must be met before the president can authorize a targeted killing. First, Ambinder writes, “‘An informed, high-level official’ must determine that the person represents ‘an imminent threat’ of ‘violent attack against the United States.’” Second, “Capturing the dude is ‘infeasible,’ and the government will continue to assess whether capturing him is feasible.” And finally, as almost an aside, “The killing, or ‘lethal operation,’ must be conducted according to the laws of war.” Writing for Wired ’s Danger...

Paul Ryan Is Not a Fan of Electoral Vote Rigging

Wikipedia
Last month, Republicans in several swing states—Virginia, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania—floated a change that would give the GOP a decisive advantage in presidential elections. As it stands, most states, sans Nebraska and Maine, distribute their electoral votes in a winner-take-all system—if you win the state, you win the electoral votes. What Republicans have proposed is a system where electoral votes are distributed by congressional district—if you win the district, then you win the votes. The problem, as I explained last month, is that Democrats tend to cluster in urban areas, packing their voters into a handful of districts. By contrast, Republicans control more land . This scheme would privilege the GOP for having an advantage with land, and disadvantage Democrats for representing population dense areas. Outrage from this proposal exploded as soon as people realized its implications, and one by one, Republicans have backed away from it. Yesterday, the Wisconsin State Journal...

The Nullification Crisis, Part Deux

Wikipedia
Wikipedia John C. Calhoun, former vice president and senator from South Carolina. From its inception as part of Dodd-Frank financial, Republicans have been opposed to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency meant to protect consumers from predatory financial practices. In a sane political world, Republicans would register through the usual channels, including elections. If you want to change Washington—or even just an agency—the first order of business is winning elections. In the world as it exists, however, Republicans have decided to simply block any attempt at enforcing laws they don’t like. For the CFPB, this means blocking confirmation for its director—former Ohio attorney general Richard Cordray—until the administration agrees to gut the agency and leave consumers more vulnerable to predatory financial practices: Senate Republicans are renewing their vow to block any nominee to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) unless major changes are made to its...

Establishment Republicans Can't Blame the Tea Party for Everything

Wikipedia
When Republicans began 2012, the Senate was within in their grasp—Democrats were defending a huge number of seats, and several incumbents, like Claire McCaskill of Missouri, were deeply unpopular. They finished it, however, with a smaller minority than anyone could have predicted. Obviously, this was a huge defeat for the GOP, and blame for it has fallen on two particular candidates—Richard Mourdock in Indiana and Todd Akin in Missouri—who represent the failures and excesses of Tea Party conservatism. In an effort to avoid a repeat of this in 2014, establishment Republicans have begun an effort to recruit more pliable candidates—ones who won’t sink GOP odds with ill-considered words on rape and women’s health. According to The New York Times , the “Conservative Victory Project” is “intended to counter other organizations that have helped defeat establishment Republican candidates over the last two election cycles. It is the most robust attempt yet by Republicans to impose a new sense...

"Acting White" Isn't a Thing

Google
Every community has its problems. It’s only among African Americans, however, that those problems are pathologized and turned into a symptom of “culture.” Crime against neighbors becomes “black-on-black” crime, the predictable patterns of poor communities becomes a “culture of dependency,” and the usual teasing of grade school—where nerdy kids become targets of ridicule—is used as evidence of an anti-education pathology among African Americans. With education, the idea is straightforward: Black students reject educational achievement lest they’re accused of “acting white.” Then-Senate candidate Barack Obama referenced it in his 2004 Democratic National Convention speech—“Children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white”—and it received renewed currency by way of a 2011 book by Stuart Buck, a lawyer and educational fellow at the University of Arkansas. There are so...

Exit Scott Brown

Wikipedia
When it was clear that Barack Obama would choose John Kerry to lead the State Department, I wrote that it was tantamount to giving Scott Brown—and the Republican Party—another Senate seat. Brown may have lost his bid for reelection, but he remained popular among Massachusetts voters, and would have been well-positioned for a comeback. As it turns out, however, Brown won’t be back in the Senate anytime soon. NBC News reports that the former senator has decided against running in the special election to replace Kerry: The special election would have been Brown’s third since his initial January 2011 election to the Senate, when he bested Democratic favorite Martha Coakley in an election to fill the seat of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. Brown’s election came at the height of the fight over health care reform in Congress, and his victory was seen as the advent of the political influence of the Tea Party movement. The current contenders, then, are Democratic Representatives Edward Markey...

A Contraception Compromise

Stacy Lynn Baum / Flickr
Last year, as part of implementation for the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration rolled out a rule on contraception that inspired a huge backlash from religious conservatives and began the “war on women” fight that extended through the presidential campaign. In short, Health and Human Services required all employers to include contraception in health insurance plans, without extra charge. Religious institutions could receive an exemption as long as they met particular requirements: Said organizations had to be nonprofits who mainly employed co-religionists, and had “the inculcation of religious values” as their primary purpose. This definition precluded exemptions for certain religious charities—like Catholic hospitals—which prompted a variety of lawsuits, as well as a huge political spectacle that tarnished Republicans for the rest of the year. But the Obama administration listened to complaints, and has adopted a new definition of “religious organization” that’s a little...

Jobs on Jobs on Jobs on Jobs

Steve Benen, Maddow Blog
According to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the economy created 157,000 jobs in January, a solid number, though behind what we need to see a robust recovery. More important, as always, are the revisions. November’s job growth was revised to 247,000 (up from 161,000) and December’s was revised to 196,000 (up from 155,000). These are big revisions, and when analyzed as part of a trend, it’s clear that the government was been underestimating job growth for most of 2012, to the tune of 28,000 jobs a month. It should be said that this makes Barack Obama’s re-election victory even easier to explain. If the president’s standing was higher than expected, it’s because economic conditions were much better than we thought. And if Obama’s approval rating has seen a big, post-election bump—and it has—it might have something to do with the fact that employment growth broke the 200,000 barrier in November. Mitt Romney has received a huge amount of opprobrium for the tenor of...

Bill Kristol Tells Republicans to Keep On Keeping On

Wikipedia
Writing at the Weekly Standard , William Kristol offers a little advice to the Republican Party as it looks for a path forward. He outlines four steps for the GOP to take, but it’s the second one that stands out: The second step is to recall Bill Buckley’s famous words, at the founding of National Review. The magazine​—​and by implication the conservative movement​—​would “stand athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.” A little willingness on the part of Republicans to sometimes stand athwart History would also go a long way. Kristol has not just woken up from a four-year coma. But if he had, this advice would make much more sense. After all, he would have missed the GOP’s decision to adopt the mantle of “no,” and oppose the whole of President Obama’s agenda, beginning in January 2009, and continuing—with few exceptions—to the present. Republicans offered near-categorical opposition to the stimulus...

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