Jamelle Bouie

Why Is it So Hard for Obama to Implement His Agenda?

Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect
Intel Photos / Flickr So far, there are three items on President Obama’s second-term agenda: Gun control, immigration reform, and a “grand bargain” on debt and deficits. And so far, Obama has yet to make real headway on either one, despite winning a solid victory in last year’s elections, and gaining allies in the Senate. This raises the question: What—if anything—can he do to press his agenda forward? One answer, floated earlier this year by centrist pundits, is for Obama to build better relationships with lawmakers on the Hill. Unfortunately, as Jackie Calmes notes for The New York Times , it’s not that simple: Members of both parties say Mr. Obama faces a conundrum with his legislative approach to a deeply polarized Congress. In the past, when he has stayed aloof from legislative action, Republicans and others have accused him of a lack of leadership; when he has gotten involved, they have complained that they could not support any bill so closely identified with Mr. Obama without...

No, Margaret Thatcher Wouldn't Have Been a Liberal Now

Williams, U.S. Military
Williams, U.S. Military Margaret Thatcher bids farewell after a visit to the United States. Since Obama entered office, liberals have developed a rhetorical trick meant to highlight the extremism of his opponents. When Mitch McConnell or John Boehner or anyone else comes out against a policy or approach—new taxes, Keynesian spending—liberals will note these policies weren’t always anathema to conservatives. “Reagan raised taxes 11 times and gave amnesty to unauthorized immigrants!” “Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency!” “Bob Dole had a plan for universal health insurance !” The point, always, is to present today’s Republicans as unreasonable and—implicitly—to position Obama at the center of American politics. After all, if habitual tax raiser Ronald Reagan is a conservative, what does that make Obama, who has cut taxes far more than he’s raised them? With the passing of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, you see this playing out again. Conservatives claim...

Is Gun Control Out for the Count?

Flickr/HellerDK
Crashmaster0007/Flickr I mmediately after the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the conventional wisdom was that Congress would act to pass new gun-control laws. How else, after all, would you respond to the massacre of 20 children? But while Sandy Hook galvanized gun-control supporters—including President Barack Obama—to act, it didn’t dissolve opposition. The National Rifle Association (NRA) and its allies in Congress have had great success in intimidating lawmakers and weakening proposed regulations. It’s because of the NRA that an assault-weapons ban is off the table, as are proposals that would place limits on magazine sizes. As of yet, however, the NRA hasn’t been able to kill a proposal for universal background checks. It’s the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s push for gun control, and the main point of the president's activism on the issue. What’s more, as reported yesterday by The Washington Post , several lawmakers are working on a deal to move forward with the...

How to Fix Social Security? Make it Bigger

401(K) 2013/Flickr
401(K) 2013/Flickr Many liberals, myself included, are frustrated by the mainstream conversation on entitlement spending, which holds as gospel that we need cuts to our two major retirement programs, Social Security and Medicare. But only one of them–Medicare–faces the prospect of high long-term costs. Social Security, by contrast, is a fairly stable and well-funded program, and needs slight adjustments–at most–to ensure its long-term stability. Insofar that major changes are need, it’s on the other end. America is facing a retirement crisis. Too few people have savings, and defined contribution plans aren’t robust enough for many of the workers who have them. Americans need stable retirement income, and Social Security, as the healthiest leg of our social safety net, is well-positioned to fill the hole. To that end, the New America Foundation has proposed an “ Expanded Social Security ,” funded by new taxes, that would serve as a federal pension program. Here is the basic outline:...

Red States Getting Redder

Stacy Lynn Baum / Flickr
Last week, I noted the extent to which opposition to same-sex marriage and opposition to abortion are still linked tightly together. With its new anti-abortion law—and long-standing ban on gay marriage—Alabama is the latest state to prove the point : Alabama lawmakers late Tuesday gave final passage to a measure placing stricter regulations on clinics that provide abortions. […] The bill requires abortion clinics to use doctors who have approval to admit patients to hospitals in the same city. Some clinics now use doctors from other cities that don’t have local hospital privileges. A similar law in Mississippi is threatening to close that state’s only abortion clinic, which is challenging the law in court. The bill also sets stricter building requirements, including wider halls and doors and better fire suppression systems. The state Department of Public Health, which regulates Alabama’s five abortion clinics, reports that most will not meet the stricter standards. These laws are...

Americans Want a Path to Citizenship

Jens Schott Knudsen/Flickr
Jens Schott Knudsen/Flickr Sign in favor of immigration reform are on display outside Judson Memorial Church on West 4th Street in New York CIty on June 5th, 2010. The most important takeaway from the latest Washington Post poll is its news on immigration. Among all adults, 57 percent support a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants, one of the most contentious elements of the framework for comprehensive immigration reform. Forty percent are opposed, and of those, 24 percent have a “strong” opposition to the measure (on the other side, 31 percent are strongly supportive). Among registered voters, the spread is smaller but the result is the same; 54 percent support a path to citizenship while 43 percent are opposed. Indeed, support for a path to citizenship holds strong across income groups (55 percent of voters with incomes under $100,000, and 65 percent of voters with incomes over, are supportive), gender (men and women are equally in favor), race (51 percent of whites and...

Bobby Jindal Is Not a Popular Guy

Derek Bridges / Flickr
Derek Bridges / Flickr Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. If you are a governor with presidential ambitions, it helps to be popular in your state. Few politicians have managed to win higher offices—much less the presidency—without building a good reputation with their constituents. Which is why Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal should be worried about this new poll , that shows him with a 38 percent approval rating among the state’s voters. Sixty percent disapprove. According to the survey, conducted by Southern Media & Opinion Research, Jindal’s falling approval ratings are a function of his tax plan, which would end corporate and income taxes while raising sales taxes and other fees, burdening lower-income Louisianans in order to fund large tax cuts their upper-income counterparts. Overall, 63 percent opposed the plan to abolish personal and corporate income taxes and raise state sales taxes, while only 27 percent supported it. Likewise, 60 percent opposed further spending cuts to...

Gun Control Moves to the States

Teknorat / Flickr
The United States hasn’t passed significant national gun laws in more than a decade, and despite urging from President Obama and other lawmakers, there’s little sign we’re close to new legislation. A large part of this has to do with the continued influence of the National Rifle Association, which has announced its complete opposition to new gun control laws. As The Washington Post reports , the NRA is now opposed to universal background checks—which it formerly supported—and as well as bans on “straw purchases," which is when someone with a clean record buys a gun for someone who can’t pass a background check. What’s more, later this morning, the NRA will unveil its proposal for putting armed guards in more schools, illustrating the extent to which its position is more guns, everywhere. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t good news on the gun-control front. While Congress remains paralyzed by the grasp of the NRA, various state legislatures have made moves to strengthen their own gun...

North Carolina GOP Still Trying to Keep Dems from the Polls

Barack Obama / Flickr
I noted last week that Republicans haven't backed off from their zeal for new voter-identification laws. In just the last three months, 55 new voting restrictions have been introduced in 30 states, with Republican lawmakers leading the charge. North Carolina is one of those states, and there, the GOP hasn't even tried to hide its push to keep Democratic voters from the polls. Chris Fitzsimon of NC Policy Watch explains : House Majority Leader Edgar Starnes has filed legislation that would shorten the length of time for early voting, prohibit voting on Sunday, abolish same-day registration at early voting sites, and end straight-ticket voting. Republican leaders don't have anything close to a legitimate reason for the thinly-veiled attempt to manipulate the state's voting laws for their partisan advantage. They used to claim that voter ID provisions were needed to solve the problem of widespread voter fraud. But House Speaker Thom Tillis all but admitted recently that fraud is not the...

Marriage-Equality Caution

The American Prospect/Jamelle Bouie
When it comes to any issue, it's important to remember that there's no even distribution of support or opposition. A majority of Americans may support same-sex marriage, but that doesn't translate to a majority of people in a majority of states. In Virginia, for example, a new survey from the University of Mary Washington—which polled 1,004 adults living in the state—45 percent of respondents favored marriage equality, while 46 percent were opposed. This is a dramatic shift from seven years ago, when Virginians passed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, 57 percent to 43 percent. It's worth noting that, in the last two presidential elections, public opinion in Virginia has tracked that for the country writ large. Barack Obama's 2008 margin in the state was just a point smaller than his margin overall, and his 2012 total in Virginia was nearly identical to his national performance. If, because of its demographics, Virginia is a nationally representative state, then this might be...

GOP Outreach to Latinos Has a Healthcare Problem

House GOP Leader / Flickr
So far, Republican outreach efforts have focused on Latino voters and consist of a major push to pass immigration reform. The premise is straightforward, if debatable: To win national elections, Republicans will have to repair their relationship with Latinos, and move away from the anti-immigrant rhetoric of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. And while comprehensive immigration reform isn't the preferred policy of the GOP, it seems to offer the shortest path to greater credibility with Latino voters. But, as the Los Angeles Times explains , there's far more to GOP problems than just immigration. "As Republican leaders try to woo Latino voters with a new openness to legal status for the nation's illegal immigrants," writes the Times , "the party remains at odds with America's fastest-growing ethnic community on another key issue: healthcare." By a two-to-one margin, Latinos are huge supporters of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama's comprehensive health care law. What's more,...

What's the Way Forward for the GOP on Same-Sex Marriage?

The American Prospect/Jamelle Bouie
The American Prospect/Jamelle Bouie Yesterday, two different Republicans offered two different views of the party’s future. When asked whether the GOP would move toward the mainstream on same-sex marriage, Ed Gillespie, former chair of the Republican National Committee, told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace that he doesn’t “see the Republican Party or most Republicans, obviously, changing in terms of believing that marriage is between one man and one woman.” And while he doesn’t oppose legal benefits for gay couples, he continues to oppose same-sex marriage and doesn’t think you’ll ever see the Republican platform change position. On the other end, in an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press , freshman Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona gave the opposite view , predicting that it’s “inevitable” that a Republican presidential nominee will embrace same-sex marriage and that it might be sooner than later. On Flake’s side is the rapid march of public opinion. In just a few years, the public has...

Barack Obama is Not a Supervillain

Flickr
If there’s anything that’s always struck me about the GOP’s response to Barack Obama, it’s the extent to which conservatives have grossly underestimated Obama’s political prowess. It seems obvious to me that the first African American president would be a terribly effective politician, but it’s a lesson Republicans are only beginning to learn—four months after Obama won a second term in the White House. Conservative writer John Podhoretz has a skewed view of Obama’s priorities—he calls the center-left Democrat a “statist” who holds an “anti-exceptionalist” view of America—but he understands the extent to which Barack Obama is a formidable opponent that Republicans underestimate to their peril: Barack Obama is a serious man. Yes, he likes to golf, and yes, he ran a campaign with cutesy Facebook pictures and seemingly inane Flash slideshows like “Life of Julia.” No, he does not seem interested in the mechanics of legislation, nor does he seem adept at negotiation. But the weird...

Here's One Way to Attract Minority Voters

KCIvey / Flickr
Buzzfeed’s McKay Coppins has a great examination of the Republican Party’s renewed attempt to reach out to minority voters. In short, it’s not just that the GOP needs to recruit nonwhite candidates—it also needs “to overcome is own overwhelming whiteness” as an organization. “There is not a single racial minority among the 20 most senior officials who run the Republican National Committee, National Republican Congressional Committee, and National Republican Senatorial Committee,” writes Coppins. And absent any connection to nonwhite communities, it’s difficult to make genuine inroads. Coppins is focused on the Republican Party’s image, but there’s also the question of policy, and more broadly, respect. It’s not just that nonwhite voters disagree with Republican priorities on the economy—it’s that the GOP gives little indication that it respects the interests of blacks, Latinos, and other minorities. To wit, Republican lawmakers continue to push voter identification laws that...

Republicans Still Oppose Abortion and Same-Sex Marriage, Democrats Still Support Them

Talking Points Memo
Here's a contrast: At the same time the Supreme Court held oral arguments on a case that could legalize same-sex marriage, North Dakota lawmakers passed one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the nation. It's a sign, argues Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post , that the two have decoupled as issues of controversy, "Younger Americans have become increasingly supportive of gay marriage in a way that hasn’t necessarily happened for abortion rights." On the whole, "Millennials" are just as ambivalent on abortion rights as their older counterparts. To wit, only 50 percent of Americans under the age of thirty believe abortion should be legal in all or some cases, compared to 54 percent of Americans in their 30s and 40s, and 55 percent of Americans in their 50s and 60s. But is this evidence of a "decoupling" of the two issues? In terms of public opinion, the information is clear—it is. But polls aren't the same as political coalitions, and it's harder to say the parties have changed...

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