The conservative Heritage Foundation today – in a re-run of theirs from 2007 – released a “cost estimate” for immigration reform. Not surprisingly, Heritage predicts that the price tag of immigration reform will be just shy of astronomical: $6.3 trillion over the next few decades.
Back in 2007, Heritage helped prevent comprehensive immigration reform from becoming law by claiming that it would cost $2.6 trillion (in the last six years, something evidently happened to more than double Heritage’s estimate). In the intervening years, the GOP’s trouble attracting minority voters has only increased, so this time, Republicans in Congress and their allies who want to see immigration reform become a reality were ready.
“Here we go again,” tweeted Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., one of the so-called “gang of eight” in the Senate. “New Heritage study claims huge cost for Immigration Reform. Ignores economic benefits.” Former Congressional Budget Office director and McCain campaign adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin wrote that the study “failed to consider the implications of reform and instead looked solely at the cost of low-skilled immigrants.” The Immigration Task Force at the Bipartisan Policy Center, cochaired by Republican former Gov. Haley Barbour and former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, said in a statement, “We strongly believe that this study’s modeling and assumptions are fundamentally flawed.”
For the record, the Congressional Budget Office found that the 2007 immigration bill – which Heritage said would cost $2.6 trillion – would have actually boosted revenue by tens of billions of dollars. And past Heritage studies on immigration have been, to put it mildly, a bit off the mark.
But critiquing the Heritage study on an economic basis means accepting that it is meant as a good-faith effort to assess the impact of proposed legislation. As the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent and the Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky both note, that isn’t really the point. As Tomasky writes:
The Heritage Foundation has now come out against immigration reform, without exactly taking that position, indeed while claiming to take the opposite position … This is an old conservative play – go after the cost of something, which permits them not to be against the idea per se, only against its fiscal ramifications. “We’re not against immigration reform. Quite the contrary! We’re just against the cost of this particular bill.” It’s a cousin of the old saw one always heard back in the Cold War days: “We’re not against arms-control treaties in general at all, but we are certainly against this one,” which just happened to be the case with regard to every single one.
Heritage analysts even freely admit that their estimate isn’t of the gang of eight’s specific proposal, but about some phantom comprehensive reform bill. Adding in one more level of absurdity, Heritage chose not to use so-called “dynamic scoring” when assessing the impact of immigration reform, even though most of the time it screams bloody murder when dynamic scoring is not used to figure out how much a bill might cost.
So Heritage is not really trying to figure out what immigration reform will actually do to the economy; it is just giving the right-wing base a number to wield as a cudgel. But this time, other conservatives, rather than progressives, are trying to show Heritage’s politics-dressed-up-as-math for what it really is. Those of us on the other end of the political spectrum just get to sit back and watch.
By: Pat Garofalo, U. S. News and World Report, May 6, 2013
Voters in Madison and Milwaukee have reaffirmed the state’s Election Day registration law, with an overwhelming majority supporting the practice in two advisory referendums on Tuesday’s ballot. Allowing voters to register on Election Day has helped Wisconsin achieve one of the highest voter turnout rates in the country — but some state Republicans have proposed rolling back the state’s highly successful law.
Advocates say the vote on the advisory referendum sends a message to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and legislative leaders that election day registration works well and should be retained. Around 82 percent of voters in Dane County (where Madison is located) supported Election Day registration, and 73 percent of Milwaukee voters backed it.
The Milwaukee Common Council and Dane County Board added the advisory referendums to the April 2 ballot after Governor Walker indicated support for ending election day registration in November 2011, followed by other top Republicans, including Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. Students, people of color, and the poor are most likely to register on election day — largely because they are more likely to have moved since the last time they voted — and proposals to end Election Day registration were considered part of the larger GOP push to rig the voting process for partisan gain.
Pew Charitable Trusts recently ranked Wisconsin as one of the highest-performing states in the nation during the 2008 and 2010 election cycles, and praised the Dairy State for allowing voters to register at the polls on election day, which has helped Wisconsin achieve the second-highest voter turnout rate in the nation. The other seven states that allow Election Day registration also rank among those with the highest turnout in the country.
In 1975, Wisconsin was one of the first states in the country to allow voters to register on election day, and in recent years others have been catching on: last year, California and Connecticut passed Election Day registration (but the laws have not yet taken effect), and fourteen other states are considering similar proposals this year.
In February, Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board estimated that ending Election Day registration could cost $14.5 million. Walker backed off his support for any measure that cost that much, but Speaker Vos questioned the cost estimate.
Tuesday’s referendum votes are non-binding, but voting rights advocates hope the measure will put the nail in the coffin for proposals to end Wisconsin’s Election Day registration.
By: Brendan Fischer, The Center for Media and Democracy, April 3, 2013
“Virginia Is The New Florida”: New Voter Suppression Efforts Prove The Voting Rights Act Is Still Needed
In 2011 and 2012, 180 new voting restrictions were introduced in forty-one states. Ultimately, twenty-five laws and two executive actions were passed in nineteen states following the 2010 election to make it harder to vote. In many cases, these laws backfired on their Republican sponsors. The courts blocked ten of them, and young and minority voters—the prime target of the restrictions—formed a larger share of the electorate in 2012 than in 2008.
Despite the GOP’s avowal to reach out to new constituencies following the 2012 election, Republican state legislators have continued to support new voting restrictions in 2013. According to a report by Project Vote, fifty-five new voting restrictions have been introduced in thirty states so far this year. “The 2013 legislative season has once again brought an onslaught of bills to restrict access to the ballot, including proposals to undercut important election laws that have recently opened the electorate to more voters,” writes Erin Ferns Lee. These measures include “strict photo ID policies…voter registration restrictions; voter purges; [felon] disenfranchisement; and policies to cut back or revoke voting laws that have made voting more convenient.”
Here’s the breakdown of where such laws have been introduced.
• Mandating a government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot: Arkansas, Connecticut, Iowa, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Washington, Wyoming
• Restricting voter registration drives: Illinois, Indiana, Montana, New Mexico, Virginia
• Banning election-day voter registration: California, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska
• Requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote: Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia
• Purging the voter rolls: Colorado, Indiana, New Mexico, Texas, Virginia
• Reducing early voting: Arizona, Indiana, South Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin
• Disenfranchising ex-felons: Virginia.
(On the plus side, thirty states have also introduced measures to make voting easier by adopting online voter registration, election-day registration, expanded early voting and the restoration of voting rights for ex-felons.)
Most of these measures are still pending before state legislatures, but Virginia, which has gubernatorial and legislative elections this year, is leading the way in enacting new voting restrictions. On January 21, 2013, as Virginia State Senator Henry Marsh, a longtime civil rights activist, attended President Obama’s second inauguration on Martin Luther King Day, the deadlocked Virginia Senate took advantage of Marsh’s absence to pass a new redistricting map that reduced Democratic seats by diluting black voting strength in at least eight districts. The measure was ultimately defeated in the Virginia House, but the move set the tone on voting rights for the legislative session.
On Tuesday morning, as the nation followed the debate over Proposition 8 at the Supreme Court, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell signed a strict voter ID bill. In the last election, Virginians could vote by showing a number of different IDs, including a utility bill, a Social Security card or, this being the South, a concealed handgun permit. The new law restricts the forms of acceptable ID to a driver’s license, a passport, a state-issued photo ID card, a student ID with a photo on it or an employee photo ID. The Commonwealth Institute, a progressive research group, estimates that 869,000 registered voters in Virginia may lack these forms of photo ID, and says the new law will cost the state anywhere from $7 to $21 million to implement.
McDonnell’s spokesman called the photo ID law “a reasonable effort to protect the sanctity of our democratic process.” Yet the measure will likely only exacerbate the existing problems in Virginia’s election system, according to voting rights experts. In the last election, Virginia voters waited up to seven hours to cast a ballot. “Long lines across the state were a result of insufficient resources, poor allocation of resources that did exist, and frequent breakdowns of aging voting equipment,” according to a post-election report by the Election Protection coalition.
Moreover, study after study has shown that voter ID laws disproportionately impact young and minority voters. Not only are these constituencies less likely to have photo ID, but even in states without ID laws, black and Hispanic youth were significantly more likely than whites to be asked to show ID. According to a Politico write-up of a new report by political scientists at the University of Chicago and Washington University, “17.3 percent of black youth and 8.1 percent of Latino youth said their lack of adequate ID kept them from voting, compared with just 4.7 percent of white youth.” Mamie Locke, chairman of the Virginia Black Legislative Caucus, called the ID law “a continuation of attempts by Republicans to suppress the vote of individuals who are not likely to support their right wing agenda.”
Nor is voter fraud a rampant problem in Virginia, as supporters of the voter ID law suggest. There have been only thirty-five cases of alleged election fraud since 2000 in the state, according to an exhaustive survey by News21, and only five cases led to plea deals or convictions. Ironically, the one major case of election fraud in the state last year concerned a GOP firm charged with dumping voter registration forms.
Virginia must receive approval for its election change from the federal government under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The new voting restrictions enacted in Virginia and introduced elsewhere across the country show why Section 5 is still very much needed. If anything, the statute should be expanded in light of contemporary voter suppression efforts, not eliminated.
Virginia is quickly becoming the new Florida when it comes to electoral dysfunction. Like Florida, Virginia also passed new laws this year to restrict voter registration drives and to purge the voter rolls of alleged non-citizen voters. In Florida, such measures forced groups like the League of Women Voters to halt voter registration efforts and wrongly labeled thousands of eligible voters as non-citizens. All of this is happening, coincidentally, in a crucial election year for the Commonwealth.
The continued push to restrict the right to vote reveals the extent to which conservative power remains deeply embedded in the states, thanks to the 2010 election and subsequent aggressive gerrymandering by GOP state legislatures to protect their majorities. To combat this imbalance, Howard Dean’s group Democracy For America is launching a new effort to flip state legislatures from red to blue. The group will start, fittingly, in Virginia this year, and then expand to Iowa, Michigan and Pennsylvania in 2014. DFA plans to spend $750,000 targeting five seats in the Virginia House of Delegates in 2013. Jamelle Bouie explains why this is savvy politics:
It’s hard to overstate how smart a way this is for liberal groups to invest their time and money. Virginia, in fact, is a great case study for why it’s key for Democrats to make gains on the state level. Democrats control both Senate seats in the state, and it was key to Barack Obama’s victories in 2008 and 2012. Despite this, Republicans control all three statewide offices (governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general), the House of Delegates, and have the tie breaking vote in the state senate. The result? Republicans have been able to push a strong conservative agenda in the state.
With Congress deadlocked, the states are where the action is. It’s good that people are finally taking notice, especially as state politics continue to shift further to the right in many places.
By: Ari Berman, The Nation, March 28, 2013
The Republican Party is a presidential election away from extinction. If it can’t win the 2016 contest, and unless it has bolstered its congressional presence beyond the benefits of gerrymandered redistricting—which is to say not only retaking the Senate but polling more votes than the opposition nationally—the party will die. It will die not for reasons of “branding” or marketing or electoral cosmetics but because the party is at odds with the inevitable American trajectory in the direction of liberty, and with its own nature; paradoxically the party of Abraham Lincoln, which once saved the Union and which gives such passionate lip service to constitutionality, has come to embody the values of the Confederacy in its hostility to constitutional federalism and the civil bonds that the founding document codifies. The Republican Party will vanish not because of what its says but because of what it believes, not because of how it presents itself but because of who it is when it thinks no one is looking.
The contention by some that the GOP has an identity crisis is nonsense. It’s hard to remember any political organization in the last half century that had a clearer idea of itself. The party’s problem isn’t what it doesn’t know but what everyone else does know, which is that—as displayed in Congress on Tuesday night at the president’s State of the Union address, when Republicans could barely muster perfunctory support for the most benign positions favoring fair pay and opposing domestic violence—the party apparently despises women, gays, Latinos, African Americans, the poor, and the old. The more indelible this impression becomes, the more impossible it will be for even an estimable candidate, be it Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, or the now famously desiccated Marco Rubio, to transcend the party that nominates him. This isn’t to say that the argument for limited government will die with the party. It has been part of the American conversation since James Madison and Alexander Hamilton squared off over the Constitution in 1789, with Thomas Jefferson and John Adams each in their corners holding the coats of their respective protégés. The intent of the argument, however, has changed from an essential advocacy of freedom to retribution against the weak.
The Republican Party was born of the most righteous of purposes, which was the containment and eventual elimination of slavery. Trumping the party’s love of the free market was the insistence that a human being should not be one of that market’s commodities: FREE LABOR, FREE LAND, FREE MEN was the party’s manifesto in the 1850s. Four decades after Lincoln, the party under Theodore Roosevelt believed that the captains, colonels, and generals of industry who most profited from the market had become the market’s biggest threat and needed to be constrained for the market’s sake. In the 1960s the candidacy of Barry Goldwater represented not the birth of modern corporate conservatism as later embodied by President Ronald Reagan and then Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney, and Eric Cantor, but a libertarianism more practical and less unhinged than the present-day version. Sometime in the last 30 years, however, the party became a flack to corporate culture at the expense of either freedom or individualism, and as the country grows more economically oligarchic, the Republican Party that best reflects that oligarchy loses political credibility with the public.
What the current party shares in its collective psychosis with the party of the ’60s is its yearning for martyrdom. If it’s true that what hold on power the GOP still has lies in congressional districts more and more resembling outliers—a power that will die off as figuratively as the constituents of those districts die off literally—it’s also true that many in the party are gripped by the death wish that thrills all martyrs and leaves them moist for self-annihilation. These Republicans have a different notion from other modern political parties of what a party is supposed to be. They don’t see a party as a coalition of disparate interests having just enough in common that together everyone gets what they need, if not what they want. Republicans believe that, definitionally, a party signifies principles so unyielding that any compromise of anything at all renders the party meaningless. Nothing better indicates the theocratic personality of the party than that the very notion of coalition is corrupt, even debased, like a congregation that allows infidels in its ranks. In the last couple of weeks a national poll reported that by three to two, Democrats are willing to compromise on certain things in order to achieve other, larger things. Among Republicans, the numbers are exactly the reverse. It’s not unreasonable that true believers conclude Karl Rove—as responsible as any single person for what the party has become—is now a hack, given that he is one and always has been, and given what for true believers is the rather belated revelation that Rove loves power for its own sake which, whatever else may be so, can’t be said of the party’s zealots.
Self cannibalization is the instinct of such movements. The more desperate the Republican Party becomes, the more voraciously it devours its Robespierres, Dantons, Héberts, if such comparisons don’t unduly flatter the romantic delusions of self-styled Republican Jacobins. Thus Senator Rubio’s superstardom is already on the descent, so blemished by his flirtations with reality not to mention with compassion on the matter of immigration reform that not only did he back away from the issue in his response to the president on Tuesday but it was necessary for Kentucky Senator Rand Paul to offer another, purer response to Rubio’s tainted one. Thus the face of Hispanic Republicanism, however far beyond the oxymoronic such a concept lurches, isn’t Rubio on Tuesday night but Tuesday afternoon’s new hotshot Ted Cruz, senator from Texas for 43 days and attacking the character of Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel so ruthlessly and without any facts that even fellow Hagel opponent John McCain objected. Thus the scowling response of congressional Republicans Tuesday night to the president’s clarion call on behalf of voting rights, which was last regarded as controversial 50 years ago by Southern segregationists and might have been considered in 2013 something of a gimme as far as applause lines go. Thus on further review the videotape reveals Speaker John Boehner—who initially stood with the rest of the country to applaud the victims of gun violence during the State of the Union’s concluding litany—looking out nervously at his seething and largely unmoved caucus (which leads him far more than he leads them) and, realizing the error of his heart, taking his seat again halfway through the honor roll of the dead, by the time the president got to Tucson.
By: Steve Erickson, The American Prospect, February 14, 2013
In the wake of their 2012 election defeats, the Republican Party hasn’t been willing to change much, but GOP officials have at least been willing to acknowledge their demographic problem. The party’s core group of supporters is old, right-wing, and white, which isn’t a recipe for success in a modern, increasingly diverse nation.
Whatever their other faults, Republican leaders realize the current trends are unsustainable for them, and at least rhetorically, seem eager to bring in new supporters. With that in mind, Reince Priebus traveled to Atlanta yesterday to do some outreach.
During a stop in Atlanta to talk with black voters Thursday, Priebus said the answer is more about framing than about substance.
“I think freedom and liberty is a fresh idea,” he said after a closed-door session with about two dozen black business and civic leaders. “I think it’s always a revolutionary idea. I don’t think there’s anything we need to fix as far as our principles and our policies.” [...]
The priority, Priebus said, will be investing time in the African-American community. “I don’t think you can show up a few months before the election,” he said.
What’s wrong with this? Nothing, really. I’m not convinced repackaging a stale and ineffective Republican agenda can be sold as “fresh,” but I think it’s entirely worthwhile for the RNC chairman to reach out to African Americans, listen to concerns from the community, and make a meaningful investment that doesn’t start “a few months before the election.”
In fact, it’s worth noting that we’ve seen this before. In 2005, as part of a similar outreach effort, then-RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman gave a terrific speech at an NAACP convention, in which he conceded that the Republican Party made a conscious decision not to “reach out” to black voters, instead choosing to “benefit politically from racial polarization.” Mehlman admitted that his party was “wrong.”
Five years later, then-RNC Chairman Michael Steele conceded his party was wrong to pursue a deliberately racially-divisive “Southern Strategy” for four decades, but he hoped Republicans would start to put things right going forward.
And now Priebus wants to undo some of the damage, too. But in his case, there’s a catch.
With one hand, the current chairman of the Republican National Committee is reaching out to the African-American community. With his other hand, Priebus is also working on new voting restrictions that disenfranchise — you guessed it — the African-American community.
Even if we put aside how detrimental the Republican policy agenda would be to minority communities, there’s an important disconnect between what Priebus is asking for (the support of African-American voters) and what Priebus is doing (encouraging the most sweeping voting restrictions since Jim Crow).
I don’t imagine the RNC chairman will be eager to talk about this during his so-called “listening tour,” but I hope some of the folks he encounters ask him about the recent war on voting. Deliberately long voting lines? Unnecessary voter-ID laws? Bogus allegations of voter fraud? A scheme to rig the electoral college? Efforts to weaken the Voting Rights Act? All of these have two things in common: (1) they disproportionately and adversely affect the African-American community; and (2) they’re all supported, encouraged, and celebrated by today’s Republican Party.
Let’s make this easy for Reince Priebus: can you explain the contradiction of asking for African-American votes while simultaneously endorsing measures to make it harder for African Americans to vote.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 8, 2013