Harold Meyerson

Clueless Kinsley

Back in the days when Michael Kinsley was the designated liberal on CNN’s “Crossfire” show, paired off against Pat Buchanan or Robert Novak, he would answer the complaints of actual liberals that he really wasn’t a liberal himself by agreeing with them. Kinsley was and still is a man of the cautious, corporate center, which means liberal on social and cultural issues and an Aspen/Jackson Hole corporate elitist on economics. Which is to say, while he’s a trenchant social critic, he hasn’t even noticed the bankruptcy of mainstream economics. For evidence of this assertion, readers need look no farther than Kinsley’s column today, which ran in both the Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg News . In it, he attacks the Obama campaign for going after Mitt Romney for offshoring jobs—because, he argues, offshoring is really a good thing. Well, he doesn’t actually argue it. Instead, he simply asserts that “most economists believe in the theory of free trade, which holds that a nation cannot prosper...

Fishing for Boos

(Flickr / jim.greenfield)
In early 1990, as the lackluster California governorship of the lackluster George Deukmejian was running down, the two Democratic front-runners to succeed him were Attorney General John Van de Kamp and San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein—in that order. Then, at the state’s annual Democratic Party convention—a body with no nominating power (that was to be decided in a subsequent primary) but nonetheless a yearly gathering for liberal activists—Feinstein included in her speech a ringing, if otherwise gratuitous, endorsement of the death penalty. Predictably, the delegates booed her. Just as predictably, her standing in the polls quickly shot past Van de Kamp’s and she went on to win the Democratic primary (though she lost the general election to Republican Pete Wilson). Make no mistake, though: She’d wanted those boos. She needed them to surge in the polls. It’s increasingly clear that Mitt Romney wanted the boos he got during his speech at yesterday’s NAACP convention, too. His...

Union Maid

Over the past several decades, at any number of public events I’ve attended, I never had trouble knowing when Joyce Miller was in the house. “Harold!” she would boom, her voice a friendly foghorn across a crowded room. Over the decades, she’d needed that voice to make herself—and the cause of women workers—heard. A founder and, later, the president of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, Joyce was a longtime official of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, a heavily female union headed by invariably male leaders who eventually made room for very talented secondary-level women leaders such as Joyce. In 1980, even the AFL-CIO executive council made room for Joyce, when she was elected to become its first female member. During the decades when middle-class feminism was on the rise, Joyce continually reminded everyone within earshot that working-class women faced doubly difficult challenges—entering, or stuck, in a workforce where “the feminization of poverty” (a term she employed as far back...

Bury Those Lines!

(Flickr / (adam) THEO)
When more than a million metro-area Washingtonians lost their power in last Friday’s superheated near-hurricane, and hundreds of thousands of them went three, four, or five sweltering days before it came back on, was Pepco—the local power company—to blame? How about Dominion Virginia Power? Would a municipally owned company have done a better job? I’m all for having publicly owned utilities, but in this case, I don’t think ownership mattered. When a storm like last Friday’s sweeps through, all that counts is whether the power lines are buried underground or strung from poles. Neighborhoods that had their power lines underground (like mine, in Dupont Circle) didn’t lose power. Neighborhoods that didn’t went dark—unless they were spared by a shift in the winds. As climate change subjects more and more cities and regions to extreme weather, one obvious response is to bury the lines underground. This probably isn’t a good idea in earthquake belts, but there aren’t all that many such belts...

Not the Issue?

If you don't think Republicans are monomaniacs, may I suggest watching Mitch McConnell's performance on Fox News Sunday. Three times host Chris Wallace asked McConnell what would become of the 30 million Americans who'd be able to obtain health coverage under the Obama administration's newly upheld health-care law if the Republicans repealed the law, and three times McConnell said that such temporal concerns were beside the point. The third time Wallace asked about the 30 million Americans, McConnell responded, "That is not the issue. The question is how you can go step by step to improve the American health-care system." An incredulous Wallace followed up with, "You don't think 30 million people who are uninsured is an issue?" To which McConnell responded, "Let me tell you what we're not going to do. We're not going to turn the American health-care system into a Western European system." Ideology—maybe it's closer to theology—trumps reality. Thirty thousand, thirty million, thirty...

The Anti-Scalia Uprising

(Flickr/U.S. Mission Geneva)
I’m not the only one who has noticed that Antonin Scalia has become the Supreme Court’s crazy uncle. As I wrote here yesterday, Scalia’s dissent in the Court’s Monday ruling striking down most of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law was bizarre beyond belief—arrogating to Arizona a degree of sovereignty in border (and foreign, and military) policy that law and custom restrict to nations. His willingness to let Arizona make its own foreign policy was also in sharp contrast to his refusal to grant Montana the right to put controls on campaign spending in its state elections—a decision he joined on the same day he issued his Arizona dissent. I largely eschewed Scalia’s most egregious conduct on Monday—his rant against President Obama’s recent order forbidding the deportation of young immigrants brought here without documentation as children, which Scalia delivered from the bench in reading his Arizona dissent, notwithstanding that Obama’s order had nothing to do with the case the court was...

Who’s Sovereign Now?

(AP Photo/Chris Greenberg, File)
Hard to say what’s more bizarre about Antonin Scalia’s furious dissent against the Supreme Court’s decision striking down most of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law: his railing at President Barack Obama’s executive order stopping the deportation of immigrants brought here as children (which wasn’t remotely the subject of the case at hand) or his basis for upholding Arizona’s law—that Arizona is a sovereign state with the rights generally claimed by nation-states. “Today’s opinion,” Scalia writes, “deprives States of what most would consider the defining characteristic of sovereignty: the power to exclude from the sovereign’s territory people who have no right to be there.” This power, he continues, has been recognized as far back as 1758, when the Swiss philosopher Emer de Vattel, in his book The Law of Nations , wrote, “The sovereign may forbid the entrance of his territory either to foreigners in general, or for certain particular purposes.” Vattel was writing about nation-states, of...

Romney’s Worsening Latino Headache

Mitt Romney’s Latino problem just got a lot worse. President Obama’s executive order to the immigration service to cease deportations of immigrants who came here without documentation before they turned 16 has gone as far as a president can go without bringing Congress along with him. A president can’t change the legal status of the undocumented by himself, but he can issue orders to Homeland Security, which is precisely what Obama did. This means that should Romney win the fall election, it’s entirely a matter of his discretion whether to continue, amend or revoke Obama’s order. It also means he has to take a position on the order while campaigning—and given the importance of the order, he has to take a position damn quick. Many Republicans will pressure him to announce he’ll rescind it. The nearly all-white Republican base, certainly its Tea Party wing, will want him to rescind it. But announcing that will not only reduce Romney’s already meager Latino support, it will likely...

Post-New Deal America Needs Unions

(Flickr/Kheel Center, Cornell University)
One of the unfortunate consequences of the still more unfortunate failure of the unions’ effort to recall Wisconsin governor Scott Walker earlier this month is the gloating and schadenfreude that’s come forth from labor’s enemies. Some comes straight up, as in this column from Charles Krauthammer. Some comes with the caveat that private sector unions are fine in their place, but public sector unions have no place at all, an opinion expressed in this blog post from Chuck Lane. (I confine myself here to offerings from my Washington Post colleagues, but they’re representative of the breed.) As I noted in my response to Lane, it would be nice if these defenders of private-sector unions had bestirred themselves to join the battle for labor law reform in 2010, since under the current labor law, workers effectively have no protection from being fired when they seek to join a union. As it is, Lane, Mickey Kaus and their fellow union critics endorse private-sector unions in the abstract, but...

California Tries Something New

(Flickr/Loco Steve)
California ventured onto unknown terrain last week, holding its first primary election with districts carved by a non-partisan commission, and under a new law that stipulates the top two finishers in the primary, regardless of party, are the candidates who advance to the November run-off. There were two theories behind these reforms, which were enacted, in best California fashion, by voters approving a ballot measure. The first was that redistricting at the hands of the legislature had become the ultimate incumbent-protection act—during the preceding ten years, of the 173 members of Congress, the state senate and the assembly who came before the voters in multiple elections, just one had been unseated. By shifting control of redistricting to a non-partisan commission, the state’s legislators might actually have to pay heed to their districts’ voters. The second theory was that by creating more competitive districts, more centrist candidates would seek and win office, thereby reducing...

A Wisconsin Domino Effect?

(AP/Wisconsin State Journal, John Hart)
(AP/Wisconsin State Journal, John Hart) Supporters of a recall effort against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker continue to sing a union solidarity song outside the State Capitol Building after polling results begin show a victory for Walker in statewide recall elections Tuesday, June 5, 2012. Wisconsin residents have been casting votes in recall elections against Walker, his lieutenant governor and several state senators. While hardly surprising to anyone who read the polls, yesterday’s victory by Republican Governor Scott Walker was a body blow to Wisconsin unions and to American workers. Within Wisconsin, Walker’s victory ensures that his law repealing collective-bargaining rights for public employees will stay on the books, and if Republicans maintain their hold on the state senate—four of their senators faced recall elections, and as I write this at least three have survived—they will, at least in theory, be able to go forward on other parts of their Social Darwinist agenda...

Tomorrow’s Electoral Wildcard

It’s not in Wisconsin, where the recall of Governor Scott Walker can have only two possible outcomes. It’s in California, where Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein—long the most popular pol in the state—is facing a large field of non-entities as she campaigns for re-election, and where the challenger who may well emerge from the pack to take her on is California’s leading birther: Republican dentist Orly Taitz. Twenty-three candidates are vying to take on Feinstein in November, and not one is remotely serious, even if we define seriousness down to having the capacity to raise just a million dollars in America’s most costly state, and to being known as at least a modestly reputable person to 10 percent of the electorate. Essentially, Republicans have given up on running statewide in California, which has no Republican statewide elected officials and lopsidedly Democratic congressional and legislative delegations (likely to become more so after November). In 2010, GOP gubernatorial...

No Slam Dunk in Wisconsin

We don’t know the outcome of Tuesday’s gubernatorial election in Wisconsin, of course, but we do know this: Even if labor somehow manages to oust Republican Governor Scott Walker, the result will be nothing like the resounding repudiation that Ohio voters delivered last year in repealing that state’s anti-collective bargaining law pushed by an equally controversial GOP governor, John Kasich. Why the difference? Kasich’s bill went beyond Walker’s in banning collective bargaining for cops and fire fighters, which proved a decidedly unpopular position, but that can hardly account for more than a fraction of the difference. Moreover, Wisconsin is generally regarded as a more liberal state than Ohio. Democrats have carried it in every presidential election for the past two decades, while Ohio went Republican as recently as 2004. Wisconsin has a storied progressive history; Ohio has nothing of the kind. Walker’s bill which, like Kasich’s, repealed collective bargaining rights for public...

May the Most Electable Man Win

Up in Wisconsin, Democrats anointed a centrist to take on Republican Governor Scott Walker in next month’s recall election. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett clobbered former Dane County executive Kathleen Falk, the preferred candidate of Wisconsin labor and the activists who’d campaigned against Walker’s anti-union jihad, by a resounding 24 percent. Falk had been prominent in last year’s anti-Walker resistance in Madison, and she was the logical candidate to be Walker’s Democratic challenger in next month’s recall. But she plainly wasn’t the strongest candidate—polls showed her trailing Walker by 5 to 10 points, while Barrett was running even with the governor. Labor poured millions into Falk’s campaign, but the polling probably convinced even many unionists that getting rid of Walker and restoring public-sector workers’ collective bargaining rights required a vote for Barrett. Wisconsin unions endorsed Barrett last night wholeheartedly—if they don’t dump Walker next month, it will be a...

Richard Lugar, the Tea Party's Sacrificial Lamb

(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
When he was the young mayor of Indianapolis in the late Sixties and early Seventies, Richard Lugar was acclaimed by Richard Nixon as his favorite mayor. An orthodox Main Street Republican, stiff despite his years, Lugar was competent, conventional and Nixonian in a good way (studious, intellectually ambitious) without any of Big Dick’s phobias. He brought those attributes to the Senate, where in recent decades he took on the challenge of ridding the world of loose nukes. It was a task that required him to work alongside his Democratic colleagues, which was never a problem for Lugar in any case. Yesterday, the Republican Jacobins dispatched Dick Lugar to history’s dustbin. He was a creature of the Republican past—a contemporary of Bob Dole and Howard Baker and a generation of not-excessively partisan and certainly not all that ideological Republicans who used to dominate their party. Indiana Republicans, who’d sent him to the Senate for six successive terms, now found him wanting: He...

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