Jamelle Bouie

Today in Hostage Taking

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At some point this year, Congress will have to raise the debt ceiling, as well as deal with a host of out-standing budget issues. But rather then try to discuss them in good faith—free of a manufactured crisis—Republicans have all but announced their decision to take some kind of legislative hostage, as soon as they can find one. Here’s Lori Montogomery, reporting for The Washington Post : Democrats are urging Republicans to initiate talks well before the next deadline and at last resolve the long-standing dispute over whether to tame the debt solely by cutting spending, as Republicans demand, or also by raising taxes on the wealthy, as Obama insists….But senior Senate Republicans, including several who recently dined with Obama and huddled with administration officials, conceded that it may be tough to bring their colleagues to the table too far ahead of the debt-ceiling deadline….“We need to realize this debt ceiling is out there. It’s inevitable. It’s coming. And [the later...

Does Terry McAuliffe Stand a Chance?

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mou-ikkai/Flickr I argued yesterday that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli—the Virginia GOP’s right-wing nominee for governor—is likely to win the state’s gubernatorial election, for reasons of turnout. Barring a strong mobilization effort from Democrat Terry McAuliffe, there will be far fewer voters in November’s election, and the majority will Republican. If Cuccinelli can avoid serious mistakes, he’ll have an easy path to victory. If the latest poll from NBC News is any indication, this judgment may have been premature. NBC finds a tight contest in the commonwealth, with McAuliffe winning 43 percent of registered voters to Cuccinelli’s 41 percent, and 16 percent saying their undecided. McAuliffe has relatively poor name recognition, which gives him room to grow—with a strong campaign, he can overcome the built-in disadvantages of the landscape. Likewise, McAuliffe may also benefit from the GOP’s poor approval ratings in Virginia—53 percent say they have an unfavorable opinion of the...

The Return of Mark Sanford

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If there’s a lesson from yesterday’s special election in the first district of South Carolina—which covers most of Charleston, as well as small towns like Summerville and Goose Creek—it’s that Republican voters in the state are willing to do anything but vote for a Democrat. Elizabeth Colbert-Busch (sister of Stephen Colbert) ran a well-funded campaign to take the seat, but couldn’t prevail over disgraced former governor Mark Sanford, who won by a comfortable nine-point margin . Not that this comes as a surprise. Not only does Sanford have a long-standing relationship with the district—he held the seat for three terms before becoming governor—but it’s also a deeply conservative area which Republicans routinely win by double-digits or more. Yes, one early poll from Public Policy Polling gave Colbert-Busch a large lead over Sanford, but at every point, the most likely outcome was a win for the former governor. It’s tempting to read a broader narrative into this race, but the truth is...

The Future of White People

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honeyfitz/Flickr Writing for Reuters , Reihan Salam has an excellent take on the evolution of Hispanic identity. He doesn’t try to relate this with the current push for immigration reform, but it’s useful to consider in the broader context of American politics. Here’s the key passage: The Census Bureau relies on individuals to self-identify with a given ethnic category. We now know, however, that many individuals who could identify as Hispanic, by virtue of a parent or grandparent born in a Spanish-speaking country, choose not to do so. In recent years, Brian Duncan, an economist at the University of Colorado Denver, and Stephen Trejo, an economist at the University of Texas at Austin, have been studying this “ethnic attrition rate” among U.S. immigrants and their descendants. And their findings suggest that while a given generation of Americans might identify as Hispanic, there is a decent chance that their children will not. This squares with what I found last year, in my piece for...

Did the Obama Campaign Matter?

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President Obama’s 2012 reelection victory was immediately followed by reporting and analysis on his turnout operation, which surpassed 2008’s in scope and scale. The Obama campaign devoted millions to sophisticated polling, modeling, and data collection. It was able to pinpoint particular demographic groups, and target them with mail, advertisements, volunteers and everything else in their arsenal. The general assumption from everyone—including myself—was that this operation was integral to Obama’s success. Or was it? At The Monkey Cage , political scientists Ryan Enos and Anthony Fowler find that Obama’s voter mobilization effort—while more sophisticated than any other operation in election history—was only slightly more effective than Mitt Romney’s. Here are the details: While registered Democrats and Republicans in these media markets (7.5 million and 7.0 million individuals, respectively) were heavily targeted by the Obama and Romney campaigns, others may not have been. Among...

Ken Cuccinelli Is Winning. Here's Why.

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Gage Skidmore/Flickr The race between Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli isn’t as bleak as the fight between Godzilla and Moth-Ra (thanks, Jonathan Chait, for the comparison ), but it’s close. Fairly or not, McAuliffe is seen as a soulless Democratic Party hack, with few supporters and nothing to connect him to the state or its history. But he’s better than Ken Cuccinelli, whose entire reputation is for right-wing revanchism. He hates taxes, he hates abortion, and has used his position as attorney general to launch ideological crusades against health care reform and climate science. The only difference between him and a candidate like Todd Akin is that Cuccinelli actually stands a chance of winning. To wit, according to the latest Washington Post poll, Cuccinelli holds a ten-point lead over McAuliffe among likely voters, and a five point lead among all Virginians. How is this possible in a state Barack Obama won twice? Demographics. The drop-off between presidential and gubernatorial...

A Roaring Jobs Report

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Here is the thing to remember about every jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: You have to wait for the revisions. Remember, the monthly jobs report is a scientific survey of households and employers. That doesn’t mean it’s inaccurate, but for any given survey, there are ways to improve the accuracy and reach a higher degree of precision. Month after month, this is what the BLS does—it tests and adjusts, in order to get the most accurate account of the where the economy stands. With all of that said, this month was a solid one for jobs; April employment grew by 165,000 jobs, a decent number, though not as good as it should be given population growth and the still-sluggish economy. The number of long-term unemployed declined 258,000 to 4.4 million (around 37 percent of all unemployed Americans). Joblessness dropped to a four-year-low of 7.5 percent. But more important than this is the revisions. As it turns out, February was the biggest month for job growth in years—the BLS...

Whither Bob McDonnell?

Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect
Jamelle Bouie / The American Prospect Just last year, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell was touted as a top-tier candidate for national office. Successful and well-liked in the Commonwealth, he could sell conservatism as a reasonable, pragmatic approach to solving the nation’s problems. In just the last few months, however, things have just collapsed for the Virginia governor, who is limited to a single term by state law. First, in throwing his remaining political capital behind an overhaul of Virginia’s transportation infrastructure, he alienated conservative activists—in the state, and nationwide—for his support of new taxes to pay for road improvements and other measures. And now, over the last few weeks, he’s been embroiled in a controversy—and FBI investigation—over his relationship with the chief executive of Star Scientific, a major donor to his campaign. The short story is that the executive, Jonnie R. Williams Sr., gave $15,000 to pay for the wedding of McDonnell’s daughter...

Barack Obama Asks Press to Maybe, Possibly Hold Republicans Responsible Sometime

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During this morning’s press conference , President Obama got a question from ABC News’ Jonathan Karl on whether he still has “the juice” to get the rest of his agenda through Congress. Obama’s response came in two parts. First, he noted the extent to which Republicans are unwilling to play ball. On sequestration, for example, the GOP has adopted two, mutually exclusive positions: That it isn’t a big deal, and that it’s causing terrible pain to ordinary Americans. As Obama points out, this allows Republicans to reject any effort at replacing the sequester—citing their opposition to new revenues or higher taxes—and it gives them a hammer with which to hit the administration. He didn’t say it, but he was clearly exasperated—how, exactly, is he supposed to deal with this behavior? His answer is that he can’t, and moreover, that it’s not his responsibility : [Y]ou know, Jonathan, you seem to suggest that somehow, these folks over there have no responsibilities and that my job is to somehow...

Young People Are Now Pessimistic Like the Rest of Us

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For the last few years, the Harvard Institute of Politics has been running detailed surveys of 18 to 29 year olds—the so-called “Millennial” generation—designed to uncover and describe their political beliefs. The latest survey , released this morning, shows a striking result—a growing number of young people are pessimistic about the quality and competence of our institutions, and skeptical that politics can solve problems. According to Harvard, 81 percent of 18 to 29 year olds rarely or never trust Congress to do the right thing. Fifty-eight percent say the same of the Supreme Court, 60 percent of the presidency, and 77 percent of the federal government overall. The only institution that comes in for positive marks is the military—54 percent say they trust it to do the right thing most of the time. As for political participation, only 35 percent say that running for office is an “honorable thing to do,” 47 percent say that politics are no longer to meet the challenges “our country is...

Conservatives Try to Rewrite Civil Rights History (Again)

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Wikipedia Rand Paul’s unsuccessful speech at Howard University—where he tried, and failed, to paint the Republican Party as the true home for African American voters—didn’t happen in a vacuum. It drew from a heavily revisionist history of American politics, in which the GOP never wavered in its commitment to black rights, and the Democratic Party embraced its role as a haven for segregationists. In this telling of history, black support for Democrats is a function of liberal demagoguery and crude identity politics. If African Americans truly understood their interests, the argument goes, they’d have never left the Republican Party. Conservative writer Kevin Williamson offered a version of this history in a large feature for the National Review last year, and this week, he’s back with a smaller take— highlighting Barry Goldwater’s contributions to a local civil rights fight in Arizona —that comes to the same conclusion: Democrats were never on the right side of civil rights. Here’s...

In 2012, Black Turnout at an All-Time High

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NathanF/Flickr It’s official —in 2012, African Americans voted at a higher rate than any other racial group in the United States, including whites. And it’s that turnout which delivered key states like Virginia, Ohio, and Florida, thus giving President Obama another four years in the Oval Office. Overall, while blacks made up 12 percent of eligible voters in last year’s election, they represented 13 percent of total votes, a consequence of African American enthusiasm and lower turnout among white voters. Here’s the Associated Press with more: The 2012 data suggest Romney was a particularly weak GOP candidate, unable to motivate white voters let alone attract significant black or Latino support. Obama’s personal appeal and the slowly improving economy helped overcome doubts and spur record levels of minority voters in a way that may not be easily replicated for Democrats soon. Romney would have erased Obama’s nearly 5 million-vote victory margin and narrowly won the popular vote if...

Are Democrats Moving Away from "Debt Crisis" Rhetoric?

Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect
Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect Deficit reduction has been Washington’s obsession for the past two years, and the main approach of both parties is austerity—any combination of policies that raises government revenue and reduces its expenditures. On one side is the Republican Party, which wants to lower the debt and, eventually, balance the budget with large cuts to existing social services, from Medicaid—a health-care program for the poor—to food stamps, unemployment insurance, and other key services for low-income Americans. If this is full austerity, then you could call the Democratic approach austerity “light.” Like Republicans, most Democrats—including President Obama—want cuts to federal spending. But they reduce spending with cuts to Medicare—through adjusted payments to hospitals, manufacturers, and doctors—and defense spending. In addition, Democrats want higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans to “balance” these cuts and spread the burden across income groups. New taxes...

A Lesson in Who Actually Matters to Washington

Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect
Jamelle Bouie Last night, after just several days of complaints from flyers—who had to deal with airline delays—the Senate rushed to pass the Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013, which give the Federal Aviation Administration the power to avoid sequestration by shifting money and avoiding furloughs for air traffic controllers. The House did the same today . Given the number of flights, and the time lost from delays, it’s a decent solution to a real problem. It’s also incredibly frustrating. The sequester has been a disaster. The indiscriminate cuts to discretionary spending have harmed kids in Head Start, workers on unemployment benefits, and families in Section 8 housing. It’s on track to remove tens of billions from the economy, both in spending cuts and in lost output, as people lose jobs and cut back on their consumption. But none of this has moved Congress to act. Instead, Republicans continue to use the sequester as a political tool, attacking Obama for cutting spending they like...

The GOP Still Can't Quit George W. Bush

Tech Sgt. Craig Clapper, USAF
Tech Sgt. Craig Clapper, USAF Former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura Bush give a final farewell wave to the crowd of more than 1,000 people gathered on Andrews Air Force Base, Md., to wish them a fond farewell before their final departure aboard Air Force One. This week, George W. Bush dedicates his presidential library and re-enters public life after a long, quiet hiatus. Not that he was missed. Most Americans have nothing but disdain for the former president. The failures of his administration—including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the bungled response to Hurricane Katrina, and the 2008 financial crisis—left him with an abysmal approval rating. And as recently as six months ago, a majority of voters viewed him as responsible for the poor economy. If, as suggested by some conservative pundits, America has graded Barack Obama on a curve, it’s almost certainly because he is still dealing with the fallout from eight years of neglect, disinterest, and incompetence. With...

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