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“November Gets Iffier”: The Worm Has Turned A Bit; The GOP Victory Parade Seems A Bit Premature

Just when much of the punditocracy was settling in for a few happy weeks of arguing over the extent of the Republican “wave” in November, while Mitch McConnell figuratively measured curtains for the Majority Leader’s offices, the worm has turned a bit, at least in the polling data, and the GOP victory parade seems a bit premature. WaPo’s Chris Cillizza sums up the confused state of prophecy:

Democrats are now (very slightly) favored to hold the Senate majority on Nov. 4, according to Election Lab, The Post’s statistical model of the 2014 midterm elections.

Election Lab puts Democrats’ chances of retaining their majority at 51 percent — a huge change from even a few months ago, when the model predicted that Republicans had a better than 80 percent chance of winning the six seats they need to take control…..

The movement toward Democrats in the Election Lab model isn’t unique. LEO, the New York Times’ Upshot model, gives Republicans a 51 percent chance of winning the Senate — but that is down significantly over the past few weeks.

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight model now has Republican chances of winning the Senate at 55 percent, down from 64 percent 12 days ago.

Meanwhile, Princeton Election Consortium’s Sam Wang, the forecaster who focuses strictly on polling data, and refuses to tilt the data to reflect “fundamentals” like historical precedents, presidential approval ratings and the condition of the economy, has the probability of continued Democratic control of the Senate at 81%.

As Cillizza notes, though, the most prominent traditional forecasters–who do not use statistical models and tend to put a greater emphasis on factors like campaign spending and “momentum” and national trends–seem to be moving in the opposite direction:

What’s interesting about the election models is that they are moving in the opposite direction of political handicappers. In recent days, Stu Rothenberg and Charlie Cook, the two best-known, nonpartisan prognosticators in Washington, have each written that the possibility of large-scale Republicans gains is increasing, not decreasing

I don’t know if this disconnect between poll- and non-poll-based analysis will generate the level of ferocious debate we saw during the Great “Skewing” Battle of 2012. But it is interesting that despite the shifting winds, in the heart of conservative-land there’s not even a scintilla of doubt that Republicans are on their way to a historic win in November that will carry over into 2016, and presumably last foreover. Check out these lines from TV celebrity pundit S.E. Cupp in the New York Daily News:

It’s hard to imagine Democrats can course-correct in less than two years the failures they — and Hillary Clinton, in particular — have overseen for more than six.

In the lead-up to the 2014 midterms, Democrats have tried and failed to figure out successful campaign strategies. They tried to resurrect the “war on women,” but believe it or not, Democrats have a bigger problem with men than Republicans do with women.

According to GWU battleground polling, Republicans are only six points behind among women, whereas Democrats are 15 points behind among men, and 28 points behind among white men in particular. That’s a lot of ground to make up.

Raising the minimum wage turned out not to be the barnstormer Democrats hoped it would be either.

Another of their “big ideas” was to make tax inversion, where businesses move to foreign countries to avoid steep corporate taxes here, a turnout issue. Last week Politico called that effort a “massive dud.”

Without any cohesion — united only, it seems, by their desire to distance themselves from their standard-bearer — Democrats are having to run a spaghetti strategy: throw it on the wall and see what sticks.

Republicans won big in the 2010 midterms but weren’t able to swing back to the center in time for 2012. With all this momentum behind them, the pathway is clear. And not even Hillary Clinton should be able to stop them.

There’s a rather obvious and irreconcilable gap between those who look forward to elections by consulting at empirical data and those who view them as representing moral judgments on the truth or error of world views. Think I’ll stick to empirical data, but then I would, wouldn’t I? I’m a liberal, God help me.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 17, 2014

September 19, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Election 2014, Midterm Elections | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“If Money Is Speech And Speech Is Freedom…”: Those With Less Money Get Less Freedom, Less Speech, Less Representation

If money is speech and speech is freedom, then it follows that those who have more money will have more freedom.

This includes the freedom to determine who gets to vote, the freedom to dictate how much workers are paid, and the freedom to impose their agenda regardless of public opinion.

It also follows that those with less money will have less freedom, less speech, and less representation.

These are the basic tautologies in logic that Conservatives refuse to address. By equating freedom with money, the Party That Loves Liberty and Freedom is actually reducing the liberty and freedom of the vast majority of Americans. Yet when the majority of Senators tried to correct this problem, obstructionist Senate Republicans killed the proposal with a filibuster. Conservatives accused the Democrats who supported the proposal of trying “to radically shrink First Amendment protection of political speech.”

Constitutional guarantees of free speech, it turns out, are only available for those who can afford to pay.

Bloviating pundits notwithstanding, speech is not an infinite resource. There are only so many radio and television ads that can be sold; only so many prime time hours; only so many websites. Perhaps the most finite of all resources is the attention span of voters. Once these resources have reached their full capacity, there is no room left. Other voices and ideas are simply unheard, no matter how brilliant, valuable, or vote-worthy they might be. Television stations cannot squeeze in one more commercial. Voters will not sit through another political ad.

In the war of voter attrition, the Koch brothers are winning.

The problem is exacerbated by judges that believe that political ads are not required to tell the truth. Politicians and the PACs that suppport them have the freedom to create a lie and to overpower any opposition to it, including opposing views that are based on actual facts. It’s a perfect propaganda machine.

Voter fatigue translates into skewed election results. Once in office, politicians rewrite election laws, gerrymander Congressional districts, and take other actions to ensure that their donors are rewarded and that they and their party remain in power. Laws that can’t be changed through legislation are manipulated through the budget process. New ideas are allowed to die despite having strong public approval. 92 percent of Americans think that requiring a background check before someone can buy a gun is a good idea. 72 percent of Americans support raising the minimum wage. Yet these and other popular ideas are routinely killed by a minority of Senators who represent a minority of voters.

Let’s be honest. Citizens United and the closely related McCutcheon were not about increasing freedom of speech. Both were 5-4 decisions from a Conservative majority and are about ensuring political control in the face of changing voter preferences. Both cases are about drowning out any opposition.

Which brings us to Net Neutrality. If money equals freedom, then startup companies and small businesses that have less money will have less freedom. This means, among other things, less freedom for innovation, less freedom for commerce, and less freedom of speech. The end of the Net Neutrality means a decline in the quality of service for everyone who uses the Internet. Ultimately, it is one step closer to the end of discussion, debate, and democracy.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web portion of the Internet, envisioned and still supports an open and inclusive web. Conservatives are on record as opposing this freedom. Instead, they prefer a “free market approach” that will do to the Internet what Citizens United has done to political campaigns. American media is already dominated by an oligarchy of just six companies. Independent media outlets and commentators already face enormous challenges as they struggle to be heard. Banishing these websites to the slow lane of the Internet would mean less freedom, not more.

Free speech cannot exist when those without money are shut out of the conversation. Democracy, in political ads and on media websites, requires a diversity of legitimate ideas, not simply the repetition of the same biases and misinformation.

Instead of asking why Democrats oppose unchallenged speech for a few, the better question is to ask why so many in Washington seem to oppose freedom for all.

 

By: Bob Seay, Editor, NewsPrism.com; The Huffington Post Blog, September 15, 2014

 

September 16, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Democracy, Freedom | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“No Idea Of Whats At Risk”: What People Don’t Know Can Hurt Them

For those who remain engaged in public affairs, the basics on contemporary politics are usually too obvious to even mention. We know who President Obama is and what party he belongs to; we know who Speaker of the House John Boehner is and his party affiliation; etc.

But like it or not, we’re in the minority. Most Americans don’t keep up with current events enough to know which party, for example, is in the majority in the House and the Senate.

It’s easy to lament the scope of our uninformed electorate, but in the short term, it’s also worth appreciating the practical consequence. As Greg Sargent noted yesterday, there’s new focus-group research that shows many Democratic voters are likely to skip the 2014 midterms in large part because they have no idea what’s at risk.

What if a key part of the problem is that many of these voters simply don’t know that Democratic control of the Senate is at stake in this fall’s elections?

That’s one of the conclusions veteran Dem pollster Celinda Lake reached after conducting new focus groups and polling for the liberal group MoveOn. Lake conducted two focus groups of people from Detroit and its suburbs. One was made up of single white women under 55 and married white women under 35 (millenials). The second was all African American women. These are the same voters who are expected to drop off in many red state Senate contests, too.

Lake added that the drop-off voters “had no idea that control of the Senate was even up for grabs and were even very confused about who controlled it. These voters are very representative of drop-off voters in a lot of states.”

Told that their state’s election may very well dictate control of the Senate in 2015 and 2016, these voters’ motivation went up. Reminded of specific issues at stake in the event of a Republican takeover, and their interest, not surprisingly, grew further.

The point isn’t lost on Democratic officials, who’ve seen the recent polls showing Dems faring well among registered voters, but losing among likely voters. Greg noted the DSCC’s Bannock Street Project which is “investing $60 million in organizing that is premised on contacting voters again, and again, and again,” as well as “unprecedented levels of organizing to states that aren’t contested in presidential years, such as Arkansas.”

Ed Kilgore added that it’s not a simple message, “at least for low-information voters who cannot be expected to be focused on issues of Senate control and where it’s determined, much less immediately grasp what a GOP Senate could mean next year and down the road. So it requires multiple mutually reinforcing and highly targeted messages, and a lot of repetition. And that means money and scale.”

Election Day is 53 days away. Early voting in much of the country starts even sooner.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 12, 2014

September 15, 2014 Posted by | Electorate, Midterm Elections | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Pay Close Attention!”: Don’t Be Fooled By New GOP Enthusiasm For Over-The-Counter Birth Control

The hot new trend among Republican candidates is a surprising one, to say the least. As of now there are four GOP Senate contenders who have endorsed making birth control pills available over the counter.

All four — Cory Gardner in Colorado, Thom Tillis in North Carolina, Ed Gillespie in Virginia, and Mike McFadden in Minnesota — oppose abortion rights, and all four oppose the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that insurance policies pay for preventative care, including birth control, with no deductibles or co-pays. Yet these conservative Republicans are touting their deep commitment to easily available birth control. It’s likely that more Republicans will now be asked their position on OTC birth control, and some will embrace it to counter Dem criticism that they’re soldiers in a “war on women.”

The one who has advocated OTC birth control pills most aggressively is Gardner, in large part because he has been the target of relentless criticism from Democrats over his prior support of “personhood” measures granting full legal status to fertilized eggs, which would outlaw not only abortion but some forms of birth control as well. Here’s an ad in which Gardner practically pretends to be Gloria Steinem while a group of women nod and smile their approval.

Democrats telegraphed way back in April that they would make these attacks central in multiple Senate races. The fact that Republicans have come up with this new push-back suggests the Dem attacks may have been working.

The new-found embrace of OTC birth control pills might seem odd, even bizarre. But it makes more sense if you think about it as a fundamentally elitist position. The truth is that conservatives have long been much more concerned with restricting the reproductive choices available to poor and middle class women, while leaving wealthy women free to do pretty much as they please. And allowing birth control pills to be sold over the counter is perfectly in line with that history.

Let’s be clear that making birth control pills available over the counter would be a good thing — but only if insurance continued to pay for it. The cost of the pill can be as much as $600 a year, which is out of reach for many women. And we know that insurance companies seldom reimburse customers for OTC medications. The price of the medication might come down over time if it were sold over the counter, but in the meantime millions of women are dependent on their insurance plans to be able to afford it. By opposing the ACA, all these GOP candidates are putting themselves on record in opposition to requiring insurance companies to pay for any birth control in policies women themselves have bought. And that’s not to mention other forms of contraception, like IUDs, that require a doctor’s care and come with a significant up-front cost.

If you’re well-off, you can afford whatever kind of contraception you like whether your insurance company reimburses for it or not. And abortion restrictions don’t impose much of a burden on you either. The federal government bans Medicaid from paying for abortions, but that only affects poor women. A law mandating a 48-hour waiting period before getting an abortion may be an inconvenience for a wealthy woman, but it can make it all but impossible for a woman without means. In some states, it means taking (unpaid) time off work to travel to one of the state’s few abortion clinics, driving hundreds of miles, and paying for a hotel room.

While they’re going to use a lot of buzzwords like “access” and “choice,” the net effect of the policies these candidates are advocating would be to make birth control less available to women. And I think that’s why we haven’t seen any public blowback from the Christian right on this issue. The articles written about the new Republican enthusiasm for OTC birth control sometimes include a disapproving quote from a representative of the Catholic Church. But none of the bevy of organizations with the word “Family” in their name, which are so vehemently opposed to any kind of reproductive freedom for women, are loudly condemning these candidates. Nor are any of their Republican colleagues. So what does that tell you?

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, September 8, 2014

September 9, 2014 Posted by | Birth Control, Contraception, GOP, Reproductive Rights | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“It’s Not My Job”: Scott Brown, “I Am Not Going To Create One Job”

Former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, appeared on a local radio show this week and caused a bit of a stir. Specifically, he suggested his supporters in neighboring states should come to the Granite State, take advantage of same-day registration, and vote for him, in effect calling for voter fraud on a massive scale.

The problem, of course, was that Brown was kidding. If you listen to the audio, it seems he probably wasn’t serious about the scheme, though given his personal circumstances, this is an odd thing for Brown to joke about.

But a day later, the former senator was entirely serious when he made these comments to a group of voters:

“Here’s the thing. People say, ‘What are you going to do to create jobs?’ I am not going to create one job, it is not my job to create jobs. It’s yours. My job is to make sure that government stays out of your way so that you can actually grow and expand. Obamacare’s a great example. The number one job inhibitor right now is Obamacare…. We have to repeal it.”

As is too often the case, Brown seems a little confused about public policy. On health care, there’s literally nothing to suggest the Affordable Care Act is undermining job growth, just as there’s literally nothing to suggest unemployment will improve if Scott Brown takes health care benefits away from millions of Americans. The very idea is bizarre.

But that, of course, is secondary to the Republican’s boast that he is “not going to create one job.” This is so misguided, it’s the kind of comment that’s likely to linger for a while.

Note, for example, Brown is simply wrong on the basics of economic policy. The public sector creates jobs all the time. How a former U.S. senator can fail to understand this is a bit of a mystery.

Also, when he was in Massachusetts, Brown used to say that he could, in fact, create jobs through government policymaking. What caused the former GOP lawmaker to change his mind when he changed states? Why did he think he could create jobs in Massachusetts, but not in New Hampshire?

For that matter, just as a matter of rudimentary political competence, what kind of candidate tells voters, “I am not going to create one job”?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 4, 2014

September 5, 2014 Posted by | Economic Policy, Jobs, Scott Brown | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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