“What The Keystone Vote Tells Us About The Democratic Party”: Republicans Succeeding In Defining What It Means To Be A Liberal
The bill to authorize construction of the Keystone pipeline failed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate last night by a single vote. Every Republican voted in favor, since support for the idea of sending Canadian oil to American refineries so it can be processed for sale overseas has become a core value of conservatism. But they were joined by 14 Democrats. And if we look at who those Democrats are, we can learn quite a bit about the state of their party.
Five of those Democrats are red-staters who discovered this year that “distancing” yourself from Barack Obama isn’t enough to win re-election in a year of extremely low turnout. The first is Mary Landrieu, on whose behalf this entire exercise was mounted, on the absurd theory that Louisiana voters will turn out in droves for her runoff in December once they learn how much she loves oil, a fact of which they were supposedly unaware before now. Then we have Mark Begich of Alaska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and John Walsh of Montana. The first three lost their seats, and Walsh would have been ousted by voters had he not resigned over a plagiarism scandal.
The next group of Democrats are also from red states: Heidi Heitkamp of South Dakota, John Tester of Montana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Claire McCaskill of Missouri. Through whatever combination of electoral fear and genuine conviction, these are among the senators who disagree with their colleagues most often. McCaskill is a particularly notable case; lately she has been moving to the right in visible ways, including proclaiming her opposition to Harry Reid remaining leader of the Democrats in the Senate and criticizing President Obama’s proposed actions on immigration. Rumor has it that she’s preparing to run for governor, which could help explain why.
The final group of Democrats who voted in favor of the pipeline may have each had their own reasons, but none could have imagined that voting against the pipeline would be a huge political liability. These were Michael Bennet of Colorado, Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, Mark Warner of Virginia, and Tom Carper of Delaware.
So what does this tell us? To a great degree it suggests that Republicans are still succeeding in defining what it means to be a liberal, striking fear into the hearts of any Democrat who wants to win in a red state. Republicans haven’t actually spent too much time arguing the environmental concerns over Keystone, other than to dismiss them out of hand. Instead, they’ve touted the pipeline as a jobs boon that would boost the entire American economy, a claim no sane person believes.
But red-state Democrats still live their lives in a state of perpetual terror that someone might call them a liberal (the only red-state Democrats who voted No were Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, both of whom are retiring).
If these votes don’t change, when Republicans bring the pipeline up again in the new Congress, it will have enough votes to overcome a filibuster — but still fall short of the 67 that would be needed to override a presidential veto. And the Democrats who supported the pipeline will find that it really didn’t help them.
Their red state colleagues who lost their elections have already found out that high-profile breaks with their party don’t keep you politically safe. And indeed, those red-state losses have made the Democratic caucus in the Senate more liberal, and it’s possible that in 2016 the number of red state Democrats will decline even further (even if Democrats gain seats overall). So even if there is still the possibility of Dem divisions on some issues, the fracturing off of red state Dems could matter less and less over time, making the future of Democrats in Congress one of more, not less, unity.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect; The Plum Line, The Washington Post, November 19, 2014
I actually remember the way Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) used to be, back when he boasted about being a “square peg” – a label he used as a shorthand to say he doesn’t always fit in.
The Utah Republican used to actually see value in cooperating with people with whom he disagreed, working with Democrats, for example, on stem-cell research, the DREAM Act, and S-CHIP.
But then he threw it all away. As Amanda Terkel reported, Hatch’s remarks at the Federalist Society’s annual conference are a reminder of the kind of politician he’s become.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) came out swinging against Democrats Friday, telling a room of conservative lawyers that Republicans were ready to give the other party “a taste of their own medicine.”
“Frankly, I intend to win with our candidate for the presidency in 2016, and we will give them a taste of their own medicine,” said Hatch. “And we’re going to win. We’re going to win. These next two years are extremely important. Maybe the most important two years in our history.”
“I get a big kick out of them using the word ‘progressive,’” the senator said of Democrats. “My gosh, they’re just straight old dumbass liberals anyway.”
It wasn’t too long ago that Hatch was positioned to become a rare statesman in Republican politics. But that was before his partisan Memorial Day tantrums, his occasional references to hitting people he doesn’t like, and his juvenile whining about “dumbass liberals.”
Those looking for GOP statesmanship will apparently have to look elsewhere.
On a related note, did you happen to catch Hatch’s remarks about immigration reform?
“Part of it is our fault. We haven’t really seized this problem. Of course, we haven’t been in a position to do it either, with Democrats controlling the Senate. I’m not blaming Republicans. But we really haven’t seized that problem and found solutions for it.” […]
“Frankly, I’d like to see immigration done the right way,” Hatch added. “This president is prone to doing through executive order that which he cannot do by working with the Congress, because he won’t work with us. If he worked with us, I think we could get an immigration bill through.”
For goodness sakes, does Orrin Hatch not remember the events of the last two years? With “Democrats controlling the Senate,” a comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform bill passed easily, and garnered the support of the business community, labor, law enforcement, immigration advocates, and the religious community. Republicans then killed it.
“I’m not blaming Republicans”? Why not? They’re the ones who chose to reject the legislation. They’re also the ones who promised a more partisan alternative, only to break their word.
“If he worked with us, I think we could get an immigration bill through.” President Obama did work with Congress, and helped rally support for a bipartisan bill. GOP lawmakers killed it anyway.
How is it possible Orrin Hatch doesn’t know this? For that matter, given the circumstances, shouldn’t he be slightly more circumspect about throwing around words such as “dumbass”?
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 17, 2014
“Honest Conviction And Straightforward Argument”: For Democrats, The Right Lesson From 2014 Is To Be More Liberal
Republicans will probably take control of the Senate in the 2014 elections, according to the latest projections. It’s a grim result for liberals, particularly when you consider the likely consequences: the mountain of garbage legislation that will be dumped on the White House…the possible gutting of the Congressional Budget Office…the total halting of the confirmation process for judiciary and executive branch positions.
But if Democrats do lose, they must try to keep their cool, and refrain from sinking into the usual pessimism. Because make no mistake, centrist sellouts like Will Marshall are going to descend on the Democrats’ routed supporters and proclaim that the party must turn right to have a chance of victory in 2016. It’s critical that Democrats ignore these calls, not only because they betray a pathetic spinelessness, but also because they’re not even close to being true.
Here’s why Democrats are behind in 2014, in descending order of importance: 1) In the Senate, Dems are defending the 2008 wave election, which means they have to beat back challenges in 21 out of 36 seats; 2) Democratic voters are systematically less likely to turn out in midterm elections; 3) the House has been heavily gerrymandered to give Republicans a large handicap; 4) President Obama is fairly unpopular, especially in the states where the races are tightest. All together, Republicans have a significant advantage overall in a contest that will come down to turnout operations.
The bellwether for this cycle is the Senate race in Colorado, where the Democratic incumbent Mark Udall is slightly behind Republican Cory Gardner in a tight race. To his credit, Udall isn’t being cowed by Very Serious Person hand-wringing. He’s making a hard play to turn out the Democratic base (basically minorities and women), and isn’t backing off his strong anti-torture and pro-civil liberties positions, despite being viciously terror-baited for it.
This isn’t just a noble stand — it’s probably his best strategy as well. Though ObamaCare is basically working (especially the Medicaid expansion part), neither the law nor the Democratic Party are very popular in the state. A progressive agenda at the state level has led to an enraged rural backlash, and Udall has had setbacks in other areas (in particular, an utterly moronic endorsement of Gardner from The Denver Post). Playing to the center simply would have further alienated Latinos and women. It’s worth noting that in the 2010 Colorado Senate race, Michael Bennet eked out a surprising come-from-behind win on the strength of Latino turnout.
And while there isn’t much hard data to support it, I stubbornly hold to the premise that honest conviction and straightforward argument garner more support than today’s politicos, usually focus-grouped to within an inch of their lives, tend to believe.
That brings us to 2016. During presidential election years, three out of the four issues I outlined above will be neutralized: Republicans will have to defend more seats than Democrats, Democratic turnout will be at its highest, and Obama will not be on the ballot. The electorate will also be measurably less white than in 2012 due to demographic trends. Thus, there’s every reason to think that a Udall-esque strategy of turning out the base (as opposed to the traditional Democratic move of snidely dismissing the base in a “bid for the center”) will work quite well.
Additionally, when you look behind the advantage that Republicans hold, you find Democrats seriously contesting some races in some totally unexpected places. Alaska, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Georgia ought to be easy Republican locks, but have turned into competitive fights. Independent candidates have upended the races in Kansas and South Dakota — the latter is especially interesting, since the Democrat is running on a platform of unabashed economic populism.
Bottom line: don’t listen to the aging New Democrats. The 2016 election ought to be run on a confidently liberal platform.
By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, October 29, 2014
“A New Test For Conservatives On Ferguson”: We All Should Care About The Pathologies That Affect Policing In America
Just when we thought the news out of Ferguson, MO was getting more hopeful, the Ferguson PD, apparently trying to confirm their reputation as America’s worst police department, has now endeavored to make this situation even more rancid than it already was. As expected, they finally released the name of the officer who killed Michael Brown on Saturday. They did not, however, release any information on the shooting. No description of the officer’s story, no synopsis of accounts of the multiple witnesses, nothing about the shooting at all.
But there was something else they released: a report on a robbery that occurred at a convenience store some time before. They now claim that Michael Brown was a suspect in that robbery. That they are saying this for the first time is more than a little strange. But it threatens to pull this case back into a familiar pattern, just when it looked like liberals and conservatives could agree on some things.
If you watched the news last night, you would have seen something incredibly heartening in Ferguson. After nights of tear gas and rubber bullets, law enforcement officers stood amid protesters, talking to them, listening to them, even hugging them. There was no violence. And it happened because the Missouri governor told the inept Ferguson police to stand the hell down, and brought in the state highway patrol to bring a little sense to the situation.
Meanwhile, there were signs that a cross-ideological effort to address some of the problems the case highlighted might be a real possibility. Even some conservatives were talking not just about the militarization of law enforcement, but also about the unequal treatment of black people by the police. Rand Paul wrote an op-ed about it. Conservative pundit Erick Erickson, not ordinarily anybody’s idea of a conciliator, wrote a piece essentially pleading with his white audience to care about this (“just because Michael Brown may not look like you should not immediately serve as an excuse to ignore the issues involved”).
That isn’t to say that some conservatives out there weren’t taking a different tack. Fox News’ coverage offered clips of looting on the first night after the shooting running on an endless loop, along with plenty of talk about “riots” and “violent protesters.” However, there was a division among conservatives, with more than a few rejecting the storyline of violent, threatening black people out of control.
But today, after the geniuses at the Ferguson PD put out their new information, plenty of conservatives on Twitter are saying, essentially, “See? Michael Brown was no innocent kid!” (If you want to read some, Jamelle Bouie has been retweeting them.) The same message is no doubt going to show up on talk radio this afternoon. The implication is clear: he had it coming.
We don’t yet know whether the person who took the cigars from that convenience store was Michael Brown. The police officer didn’t know either — if indeed the reason he confronted Brown was because Brown matched a description he had been given of the suspect. But the point is, that’s utterly irrelevant. Being suspected of shoplifting isn’t grounds for a roadside execution.
We have to give credit to the conservatives who were able to step out of the usual divide we so often see in cases like this one, and say clearly that we all should care about the pathologies that affect policing in America. Now that some of their brethren are going to be trying to convince the country that Michael Brown was a thug who got what he deserved, they’ll face a test. Can they stand up for the principles they’ve already articulated, even as the debate gets uglier? Let’s hope so.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect; The Plum Line, The Washington Post, August 15, 2014
Having infuriated millions of Robin Williams fans with insensitive remarks on the late actor’s suicide, Rush Limbaugh now blames the “liberal media” and “despicable leftists” for distorting his innocent message.
This is an old dodge for Limbaugh. Yet however he parses his language, there can be no doubt that he sought to exploit a tragic event for what he likes to call “political education.” His attempt to brand Williams’ suicide with “the leftist worldview” was perfectly plain. And as usual, his alibi is plainly false.
In his original commentary on Williams, Limbaugh quoted Fox News – hardly a “liberal media” source even by his elastic definition – about the great comic’s possible motivations for taking his own life:
I mean, right here there’s a story on the Fox News website. Do you know, it says right here, that the real reasons that Robin Williams killed himself are he was embarrassed at having to take television roles after a sterling movie career….He’d had some divorces that ripped up his net worth, and he had a big ranch in Napa that he couldn’t afford any longer and had to put up for sale, and a house in Tiburon that he couldn’t afford anymore. This is all what’s in the Fox News story.
He had it all, but he had nothing. He made everybody else laugh but was miserable inside. I mean, it fits a certain picture, or a certain image that the left has.
Pursuing this tendentious theme, Limbaugh went on to mention the “survivor’s guilt” that Williams reportedly suffered over the early deaths of three close show-business friends, Christopher Reeve, John Belushi, and Andy Kaufman. “He could never get over the guilt that they died and he didn’t. Well, that is a constant measurement that is made by political leftists in judging the country,” he harrumphed, concluding with a few incomprehensible sentences about “outcome-based education.” (Even more oddly, Limbaugh promoted a wonderful appreciation of Williams in the Guardian by Russell Brand — an actor with very strong left-wing opinions.)
Still, his point was unmistakable: If you’re concerned about life’s unfairness – as Robin Williams, a dedicated lifelong liberal, certainly was – then you probably suffer from a dark and pessimistic worldview that may very well lead you to kill yourself.
Insofar as Limbaugh pretends to be educating the public, let’s school him by turning around his exploitative blather and putting him in the place of his rhetorical victim. A decade ago, when the radio talker’s addictive dependency on prescription painkillers was first exposed, it would have been easy enough to lampoon his behavior as an expression of his right-wing worldview.
Popping mouthfuls of oxycontin? He thought he could get away with it because of his wealth and status, like so many other millionaire crooks. Violating the narcotics code? He hates government and thinks he can ignore laws that inconvenience him, just like the Bundy Ranch gang. Publicly urging criminal prosecution of drug addicts while indulging the same weakness? He is just another moral hypocrite, like so many of his cronies on the right, from William Bennett to Newt Gingrich to… Rush Limbaugh.
As America watched Limbaugh struggle with his own personal issues, nobody tried to claim that he became a junkie because of his political attitudes. Indeed, most liberal commentators wished him a full recovery, even while noting his frequent failures of empathy. A few even suggested that he seize the opportunity to contemplate his habitual cruelty to others — and try to change.
Sadly, that never happened. If it had, then Limbaugh might have come to understand depression and substance abuse, which evidently killed Robin Williams, as illnesses rather than political or moral failing – exactly like the addiction that harmed Rush’s hearing and could have claimed his life. He might even have experienced an emotion so often mocked as “liberal” and too often absent from conservative moralizing:
By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, The National Memo, August 15, 2014