Elections

Why the 2016 Republican Primaries Will Be a Messy Venn Diagram

This guy's coming back! (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
The 2016 Democratic presidential primaries are promising to be rather boring—although anything can happen, at the moment it looks like Hillary Clinton won't have much competition, and if she does it will come from the less-than-electrifying likes of Martin O'Malley . The Republican side is where the sizzle is going to be, with a bunch of interesting personalities slashing each other to pieces in an exhilarating deathmatch. One of the themes of the commentary about that race will be the candidates' attempts to woo and ultimately secure as many of the GOP's constituency groups as possible. And I think there's a mistake in how we often think about that particular process. It's not a contest with an end point where one person wins. To see what I mean, let's take a look at this interesting article from Tim Alberta and Shane Goldmacher about the early struggle between Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee to win evangelicals : The courtship of Christian leaders by White House contenders—"the...

The Government We Deserve

Vote for me, because these are hogs.
This may be the most expensive midterm election in history, but it isn't necessarily the dumbest. That's not because it's smart in any way, just that elections in America are always dumb. To take just one tiny data point, the hottest Senate race in the country may be in Iowa, where everything turns on just how mad the Democratic candidate got when his neighbor's chickens kept crapping in his yard. Madison and Jefferson would be so proud. Commentators with brows set high and low periodically try to redeem a public that falls for this kind of stuff, with varying degrees of success. Political scientists often point out that accumulating detailed political knowledge is an inefficient use of time, when you can just use party identification as a proxy and almost all the time your decisions will be the same as they would if you knew as much as the most addicted political junkie. Perfectly true. But other attempts are less successful. I point your attention to a piece today in the Times by...

What's Wrong With Political Legacies?

That's Jebbie in front of his dad. (Wikimedia Commons/George Bush Presidential Library)
If you were Jeb Bush, you'd probably think this is a golden opportunity to finally mount that presidential bid you've been thinking about your whole life. The current Democratic president isn't particularly popular and has been serving for two terms, making the "time for a change" argument a natural for Republicans. The party is desperate for someone who can "reach out" to Hispanic voters, and you've long been known as the guy who can do that — your own wife is Mexican, and you speak Spanish. Perhaps most importantly, although there are a couple of Republican governors who might end up running, the competition at the moment doesn't exactly look like a field of giants. So over the weekend, we got new indications that Jeb '16 is on its way. Today's New York Times features an article about the Bush family's eagerness for Jeb to run, including sought-after endorsements by Jeb Jr., George W., and George H.W. Jeb's son George P. Bush appeared on ABC's This Week and said that his father is...

No Love for Obama as Election Day Approaches

Official White House photo by Pete Souza
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza I f Republicans win a significant victory in next Tuesday's election—and it now looks like they will indeed take the Senate—get ready for a whole lot of Obama-bashing, not only from the press and Republicans, but from liberals, as well. Some will go so far as to declare his presidency over, and I suspect more than a few genuine leftists will heap scorn on their liberal friends for their naïve embrace of a politician promising (as politicians always do) to change Washington. We can see one variant of this critique, the Jimmy Carter comparison, in a piece by Thomas Frank , based on an interview he conducted with historian Rick Perlstein: The moral of this story is not directed at Democratic politicians; it is meant for us, the liberal rank and file. We still "yearn to believe," as Perlstein says. There is something about the Carter/Obama personality that appeals to us in a deep, unspoken way, and that has led Democrats to fall for a whole string...

Have Republicans Found a Way to Insure Poor People and Still Hate Barack Obama?

Flickr/David Mason
At the risk of being overly optimistic, I think we may have reached a tipping point on Medicaid expansion, where it will soon become completely acceptable for Republican states to accept it, insure their poor citizens, and reap the economic and social benefits despite the taint of Obamacare. I'm not saying there won't be holdouts, because there will be. But something is changing. I'll explain why in a moment, but first, the quick background. (Skip this paragraph if you know all this.) When the Supreme Court decided in 2012 that states could opt out of the expansion of Medicaid included in the Affordable Care Act, some health-care wonks said we shouldn't worry. The expansion was so generous—with the federal government picking up 100 percent of the cost at first, then ratcheting down to 90 percent of the cost over a few years—that it would be insane for any state to turn the money down. In fact, the most conservative states had the most to gain, since their Medicaid eligibility levels...

SCOTUS to Texas: Go Forth and Discriminate Against Your Citizens Starting Monday

Wikimedia Commons
The Supreme Court said Saturday that, for the first time, it is allowing a voting law to be used for an election even though a federal judge, after conducting a trial, found the law is racially discriminatory in both its intent and its impact, and is an unconstitutional poll tax. It is not only not a good look for the court, it is an abdication of the federal responsibility to protect every American voter from racially discriminatory voter suppression. These continuing voter restrictions are the worst attack on Americans’ voting rights since Reconstruction led to the Jim Crow era. We are in the middle of the storm that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg described in her Shelby County dissent. Studies show that recent restrictions on voting were more likely to be introduced and adopted in places that saw increased political participation from lower-income people and people of color. Voting in Texas starts Monday, and the new law only allows seven forms of acceptable identification, including...

John Kasich Successfully Begins Two-Year Ritual of Self-Flagellation

Does the fact that it was 1985 excuse this Bieber-plus-mullet? Only the voters can decide. (Wikimedia Commons)
At Holy Cross-Immaculata church in Cincinnati, there's a Good Friday tradition called " Praying the Steps ," in which parishioners slowly climb the 85 steps up to the church, saying a prayer on each step. It may take a while to get to the top, but that's the entire point of the exercise—the time and effort it takes is a symbol of one's devotion. Keep that in mind for a moment as we talk about that state's governor, John Kasich, and his complicated feelings about the Affordable Care Act. Yesterday, Governor Kasich went through a ritual that has grown no less absurd for being so familiar. It goes like this: 1) Republican politician accidentally acknowledges that the ACA is the law and repeal efforts are futile (or even that it actually helps people); 2) Conservatives do a collective spit-take; 3) Politician issues apology/clarification, making clear his unshakeable belief that the ACA was vomited out of the very fires of hell and of course he wants to repeal it; 4) Conservatives say, "...

What Would Elections Be Like If Everyone Voted?

Click inside for the charty goodness.
Imagine, if you would, an election in which almost everyone turned out to vote. Campaigns would have to reorient their persuasion efforts, because they'd have to talk to everyone. It wouldn't matter whether it was a presidential year or a midterm year. All the time, money, and effort that goes into identifying potential voters, making sure they're registered, and then getting them to the polls would no longer be needed. And of course, people like me wouldn't be able to spend months talking about which voters were going to turn out and which ones weren't. One of the most fundamental features of a midterm election like this one is that the electorate will be different from the one that comes out in a presidential year. It'll be older, whiter, and generally more Republican. While Republicans try to reinforce this difference, Democrats try to counteract it. The degree to which each succeeds determines the outcome, and if this year is like previous midterms, turnout will be around 40...

The Return of the 'Different Kind of Republican'

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
There's always a market, particularly in the media, for the politician who can surprise by running counter to the stereotypes of his or her party. As the two parties become more ideologically unified, that figure becomes even more compelling. The trick is to do it without making your party's loyal supporters angry at you. Which brings us to Rand Paul , who has a plan to become 2016's "Different kind of Republican," the label that was placed on George W. Bush back in 2000: Sen. Rand Paul tells POLITICO that the Republican presidential candidate in 2016 could capture one-third or more of the African-American vote by pushing criminal-justice reform, school choice and economic empowerment. "If Republicans have a clue and do this and go out and ask every African-American for their vote, I think we can transform an election in one cycle," the Kentucky Republican said in a phone interview Thursday as he was driven through New Hampshire in a rental car. Paul — on the cover of the new issue of...

Are You Ready for Some Terror?

I don't know if Ebola is actually going to take Republicans to victory this fall, but it's becoming obvious that they are super-psyched about it. Put a scary disease together with a new terrorist organization and the ever-present threat of undocumented immigrants sneaking over the border, and you've got yourself a putrid stew of fear-mongering, irrationality, conspiracy theories, and good old-fashioned Obama-hatred that they're luxuriating in like it was a warm bath on a cold night. It isn't just coming from the nuttier corners of the right where you might expect it. It's going mainstream. One candidate after another is incorporating the issue into their campaign. Scott Brown warns of people with Ebola walking across the border. Thom Tillis agrees : "Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve got an Ebola outbreak, we have bad actors that can come across the border. We need to seal the border and secure it." "We have to secure the border. That is the first thing," says Pat Roberts, "And in addition...

Republicans Target Georgia Voter Registration Drive With Questionable Charges of Fraud

A recent study finds that if 60 percent of unregistered African Americans and other people of color in the Peach State registered to vote, their votes would likely be enough to sway statewide elections. So GOP leaders are pushing back.

(AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Hyosub Shin)
(AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Hyosub Shin) David Worley, member of State Election Board, speaks as Brian Kemp (right), chairman of State Election Board, listens during a special meeting to lay out the case of alleged voter registration fraud against the New Georgia Project at the Georgia State Capitol on Wednesday, September 17, 2014. This article originally appeared at Facing South , the website published by the Institute for Southern Studies. W hile states across the country including Georgia have passed laws imposing new requirements on voters, the nonpartisan New Georgia Project has fought back against the forces of voter suppression with a massive voter registration effort. But the effort has faced backlash in the form of a controversial fraud investigation by Georgia's Republican secretary of state. It's also embroiled in a lawsuit over the state's alleged failure to process more than 40,000 new voter registrations. NGP began in March 2013 with 60 canvassers focusing...

It's Not Your Senator's Job to Stop Ebola

Flickr/Krysten Newby
To the endless list of inane things candidates accuse one another of, we can now add this: My opponent has not done enough to stop Ebola! Or actually, in this case it's local media , and the politician in question is Pat Roberts; but Roberts' opponent is picking up on it (and may have been the source of the story, since a nearly identical report appeared on a second local news station ): On the stump and in television interviews, Senator Pat Roberts has taken aim at the White House's response to the Ebola outbreak in Africa, and in the United States, including calling for a travel ban to effected [sic] West African nations. But when Roberts had a chance, as a member of the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, to attend a special joint hearing with top public health officials briefing lawmakers on the virus and the fight against it—he was a no-show. If only Pat Roberts had been at that hearing, we'd all be safe. There are few criticisms more meaningless and yet...

Kentucky Candidates Agree: Coal Is the Future!

Flickr/Matt Zaske
There was a debate in Kentucky yesterday between U.S. Senate candidates Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes, and while there was lots of disagreement, one thing both candidates agreed on is that what their state and America needs is more of that sweet, sweet coal. McConnell accused Grimes of being complicit, because she's a Democrat, in "Obama's war on coal," and Grimes protested that she loves coal more than she loves her own mama (though not quite in so many words). Throughout this campaign they've both been so enthusiastic about coal, you almost expected them to pull out a few lumps of the stuff and start smearing it all over their faces while moaning, "Oh, coal, God yes, coal, coal, COAL!!!" Here's a dose of reality: There are only a tiny number of people left in Kentucky who mine coal. According to the state's department of energy: "At the end of 2013, coal mines in Kentucky directly employed 11,885 people." Since there are about 3.4 million people over the age of 18 in...

Maybe That Wendy Davis Attack Ad Wasn't Really So Bad, After All

(AP Photo/The McAllen Monitor, Gabe Hernandez, Pool)
O n Friday, the campaign of Wendy Davis, the Democratic nominee for governor in Texas, released an ad that was powerful enough to not only get condemned by liberals and conservatives alike, but to convince some journalists to abandon their stance of objectivity. "Wendy Davis is running one of the nastiest campaign ads you will ever see," read a headline in the Washington Post . "Outrage spreads" over the ad, said the Los Angeles Times . What has everyone so angry is that the ad refers to the fact that Davis' opponent, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, uses a wheelchair, with a picture of an empty one. I'm going to argue that Davis' ad may be less problematic than many people are making it out to be. But it does tell us a good deal about how these kinds of attacks should be judged. Let's start by taking a look: Here's the text: "A tree fell on Greg Abbott. He sued and got millions. Since then, he's spent his career working against other victims. Abbott argued a woman whose leg was...

A Wild Week for Voting Rights

J ust a month before the election, voting rights have been on a wild ride. The Supreme Court began its term by reinstating voting restrictions in Ohio and North Carolina after federal appeals courts put these laws on hold for unfairly burdening voting rights, particularly for people of color. But last night, the Court took action to stop Wisconsin’s voter ID requirement from going into effect only weeks before Election Day, and a federal court struck down Texas’s voter ID law after a trial on the merits, ruling for voters in both cases. So while voters in North Carolina and Ohio face more burdensome voter restrictions, voters in Wisconsin and Texas will not be disenfranchised by unconstitutional discriminatory photo ID requirements in November . Here’s what happened in each state. In the two states where voter disenfranchisement will continue, same-day voter registration was rolled back. Last week the Court stayed the 6 th Circuit order and allowed Ohio’s cuts to early voting to...

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