Tuesday’s presidential election is one of the most important political events to affect racial progress in America since the 1964 contest between Sen. Barry Goldwater and President Lyndon Johnson.
Fortunately, the much-feared Goldwater victory never came to pass. But in ’64, there was plenty of praying among people of good will.
And with good reason.
Widely regarded as a founder of the modern conservative movement, Goldwater entered the presidential race as an outspoken defender of “states rights” and a fierce opponent of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Goldwater’s anti-civil-rights stance earned him the support of Deep South states, making him the first Republican since Reconstruction to carry Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia and Louisiana.
Operating with a well-earned inner sense of peril, African Americans voted overwhelmingly against Goldwater, helping to hand Johnson a landslide victory. A retreat on progress toward racial equality was averted.
What would be the consequences for race of a Mitt Romney victory?
A Romney takeover of the White House might well rival Andrew Johnson’s ascendancy to the presidency after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865.
Let’s dispense with something right now. I am not asserting that, in the unlikely event President Obama loses, the result could be chalked up to his being black.
A Romney win would be worrisome, however, because of his strong embrace of states rights and his deep mistrust of the federal government — sentiments Andrew Johnson shared.
And we know what that Johnson did once in office.
His sympathy for Confederacy holdouts, and his distaste for Washington, led him to retreat from Reconstruction and avert his gaze as Southern states enacted Jim Crow laws, many of which lasted until the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
There is nothing in Romney’s record to suggest that he would be any stronger than Andrew Johnson in resisting the blandishments of his most extreme supporters, especially regarding federal enforcement.
Johnson stood by as Southern states enacted “black codes,” which restricted rights of freed blacks and prevented blacks from voting.
Romney stood by last year as Republican-controlled state legislatures passed voter-identification laws, making it harder for people of color, senior citizens and people with disabilities to exercise their fundamental right to vote.
Is a Romney victory out of the question?
Lest we forget, Abraham Lincoln was not a beloved president across the nation at the time of his death. To white Southerners, wrote historian Don E. Fehrenbacher, the 16th president was “The principal author of all the woe that descended upon them . . . a ruthless Attila bent upon the destruction of a superior civilization.”
In his April 1876 oration in memory of Lincoln, Frederick Douglass said, “Few great public men have ever been the victims of fiercer denunciation than Abraham Lincoln was during his administration. Reproaches came thick and fast upon him from within and from without, and from opposite quarters.”
In some quarters, the hatred of Lincoln bordered on fanaticism; similar sentiments are in evidence against Obama.
It was Lincoln’s declaration that, after the war, the nation would have “a new birth of freedom” that led to him taking a bullet on Good Friday, April 14, 1865.
Obama’s exhortation in 2004, “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America,” goes down no better with some folks.
For months on end, Romney and his ilk have been stoking the country with the charge that Obama has been systematically undermining America’s economic and social structure. It has caught hold; how much, we’ll see.
If Romney prevails, who will dictate what policies a Romney administration pursues? Certainly not Mitt Romney, a panderer and flip-flopper whose convictions don’t extend far beyond getting elected.
But the next president will make appointments to the Justice Department, State Department, the Pentagon; the departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services; the Securities and Exchange Commission; the Treasury Department; and probably a Supreme Court justice or two. And there will be political jobs galore to fill. With a Romney administration, that means recruiting people who hate the federal government.
So where will Romney turn for help? Why, from those who helped get him where he is today: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter and the Fox news crew, to name a few.
The ghost of Andrew Johnson is lurking in the wings.
By: Colbert I. King, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, November 2, 2012
“No. 1,” declared Mitt Romney in Wednesday’s debate, “pre-existing conditions are covered under my plan.” No, they aren’t — as Mr. Romney’s own advisers have conceded in the past, and did again after the debate.
Was Mr. Romney lying? Well, either that or he was making what amounts to a sick joke. Either way, his attempt to deceive voters on this issue was the biggest of many misleading and/or dishonest claims he made over the course of that hour and a half. Yes, President Obama did a notably bad job of responding. But I’ll leave the theater criticism to others and talk instead about the issue that should be at the heart of this election.
So, about that sick joke: What Mr. Romney actually proposes is that Americans with pre-existing conditions who already have health coverage be allowed to keep that coverage even if they lose their job — as long as they keep paying the premiums. As it happens, this is already the law of the land. But it’s not what anyone in real life means by having a health plan that covers pre-existing conditions, because it applies only to those who manage to land a job with health insurance in the first place (and are able to maintain their payments despite losing that job). Did I mention that the number of jobs that come with health insurance has been steadily declining over the past decade?
What Mr. Romney did in the debate, in other words, was, at best, to play a word game with voters, pretending to offer something substantive for the uninsured while actually offering nothing. For all practical purposes, he simply lied about what his policy proposals would do.
How many Americans would be left out in the cold under Mr. Romney’s plan? One answer is 89 million. According to the nonpartisan Commonwealth Foundation, that’s the number of Americans who lack the “continuous coverage” that would make them eligible for health insurance under Mr. Romney’s empty promises. By the way, that’s more than a third of the U.S. population under 65 years old.
Another answer is 45 million, the estimated number of people who would have health insurance if Mr. Obama were re-elected, but would lose it if Mr. Romney were to win.
That estimate reflects two factors. First, Mr. Romney proposes repealing the Affordable Care Act, which means doing away with all the ways in which that law would help tens of millions of Americans who either have pre-existing conditions or can’t afford health insurance for other reasons. Second, Mr. Romney is proposing drastic cuts in Medicaid — basically to save money that he could use to cut taxes on the wealthy — which would deny essential health care to millions more Americans. (And, no, despite what he has said, you can’t get the care you need just by going to the emergency room.)
Wait, it gets worse. The true number of victims from Mr. Romney’s health proposals would be much larger than either of these numbers, for a couple of reasons.
One is that Medicaid doesn’t just provide health care to Americans too young for Medicare; it also pays for nursing care and other necessities for many older Americans.
Also, many Americans have health insurance but live under the continual threat of losing it. Obamacare would eliminate this threat, but Mr. Romney would bring it back and make it worse. Safety nets don’t just help people who actually fall, they make life more secure for everyone who might fall. But Mr. Romney would take that security away, not just on health care but across the board.
What about the claim made by a Romney adviser after the debate that states could step in to guarantee coverage for pre-existing conditions? That’s nonsense on many levels. For one thing, Mr. Romney wants to eliminate restrictions on interstate insurance sales, depriving states of regulatory power. Furthermore, if all you do is require that insurance companies cover everyone, healthy people will wait until they’re sick to sign up, leading to sky-high premiums. So you need to couple regulations on insurers with a requirement that everyone have insurance. And, to make that feasible, you have to offer insurance subsidies to lower-income Americans, which have to be paid for at a federal level.
And what you end up with is — precisely — the health reform President Obama signed into law.
One could wish that Mr. Obama had made this point effectively in the debate. He had every right to jump up and say, “There you go again”: Not only was Mr. Romney’s claim fundamentally dishonest, it has already been extensively debunked, and the Romney campaign itself has admitted that it’s false.
For whatever reason, the president didn’t do that, on health care or on anything else. But, as I said, never mind the theater criticism. The fact is that Mr. Romney tried to mislead the public, and he shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it.
By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, October 4, 2012
The Supreme Court’s rejection of a long-shot legal challenge to let states bar corporate and union political contributions in their own elections underscores the legal quandary in which many left-of-center campaign finance reformers find themselves.
The court, in a 5-to-4 vote split along ideological lines, refused on Monday to strike down a Montana ban on corporate political spending. The decision effectively upholds its landmark 2010 decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which held that corporations and unions were entitled to the same free speech protections as citizens, or at least allow state law to supersede it.
Because the Supreme Court decided Citizens United only two years ago and its conservative majority remains intact, few legal experts expected it to rule in favor of the challenge.
The current case, American Tradition Partnership v. Bullock, stemmed from a century-old Montana law that prohibits corporations from spending money on political campaigns. The effort, joined by more than 20 states, stipulated states should be allowed to carve out their own rules to regulate political fundraising and spending, an argument backed by the Montana Supreme Court when it ruled in favor of the state law last year.
But the Supreme Court, in a one-page per curiam opinion that shut the door on the possibility of oral arguments, curtly dismissed the notion that federal law didn’t apply.
The Citizens United decision, combined with other court cases and FEC rulings, has dramatically loosened fundraising and spending regulations for independent political organizations, which have proliferated since 2010 and become a major force in campaigns. Effort to curb the spending through the judiciary have thus far proven fruitless; Paul Ryan, senior counsel to the Campaign Legal Center, a left-of-center interest group, called the ruling “disappointing but predictable.”
“Unfortunately the only surprise would have been if the Supreme Court had taken the opportunity to revisit its horribly misguided decision in Citizens United,” Ryan said. “Clearly, the Supreme Court has decided to wash its hands of the disastrous results of its earlier decision. Apparently the same five Justices who gave us Citizens United are not troubled by the fact that special interests are picking the winners and losers in our federal and state elections.”
In a dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer agreed. He reiterated his existing objection to the Citizens United decision, arguing that the proliferation of political spending amounted to a quid pro arrangement between politicians and political spenders. He also backed the state’s right to decide on its own whether corporate spending constituted to a corrupting influence, the threshold conservative justices have argued laws must pass to be constitutional.
“Thus, Montana’s experience, like considerable experience elsewhere since the Court’s decision in Citizens United, casts grave doubt on the Court’s supposition that independent expenditures do not corrupt or appear to do so,” Breyer wrote.
But even as the liberal justice signaled he would like to reconsider Citizens United, he acknowledged the court’s unchanging conservative majority means he doubts there is a “significant possibility” the court will reverse itself — something that left conservatives pleased.
“This closes the door on the argument that unique facts in a certain state can be employed to overturn [Citizens United],” said Jim Bopp, an Indiana campaign finance attorney who has spearheaded an array of challenges to campaign finance laws across the country. “Further, it means that independent expenditures are never corrupting as a matter of federal constitutional law.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a longtime advocate for loosening campaign finance regulations, hailed it as “another important victory for freedom of speech.”
“Clearly, the much predicted corporate tsunami that critics of Citizens United warned about simply did not occur,” he said in a statement.
By: Alex Roarty, The Atlantic, June 25, 2012
I can’t read the whole thing yet, since it’s hiding behind the Wall Street Journal’s paywall, and I’m not about to subscribe. But from the headline and lede, it seems Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has taken a long stroll down memory lane by resurrecting the one-fashionable idea of a “swap” whereby currently shared federal-state governing responsibilities would be divided. In particular, he proposes that Medicaid be taken over by the feds in exchange for total assumption of responsibility for education by the states, and mentions he tried to sell the idea to Ronald Reagan back in the early 1980s.
I don’t know exactly which meetings Alexander is talking about, but as it happens, I was working for the then-chairman of the National Governors’ Association, the late Georgia Democratic Gov. George Busbee, when he was leading “federalism” discussions with the Reagan folk in 1981. Most governors at the time, regardless of party, were interested in what was called a “sorting out” agenda that would federalize some programs and devolve others; this was a favorite topic in particular for Arizona’s Democratic Gov. Bruce Babbitt, who like to talk about “states’ rights for liberals.” Babbitt wanted a “grand swap” in which Washington would become responsible for all health care and “welfare” programs in exchange for state assumption of transportation, education and criminal justice, areas in which they were already the major funders and policymakers. My own boss had a similar approach, but was mainly concerned to head off the kind of one-way abandonment of federal responsibility that most conservatives had in mind when they talked about “federalism.”
Whatever they told Alexander, that was pretty much the tendency of the Reaganites of the day. Reagan’s famous OMB director, David Stockman was interested in a “swap” that would have devolved cash income support, food stamps, and health care for the poor in exchange for the feds taking responsibility for the health care needs of seniors who were “dual-enrolled” in Medicaid or obtaining long-term care subsidies. It was basically a “swap” of old folks for poor folks. The governors weren’t buying it, and in any event, the Reagan administration was simultaneously pursuing a budget that would “cap” federal Medicaid payments, basically intitiating the kind of gradual shift in responsibility for the program to the states that Paul Ryan is pursuing in a more comprehensive way with his proposal to turn Medicaid into a “block grant.” As it happened, the Medicaid “cap” was one of the few budget proposals Reagan lost on in 1981.
Best as I can recall, this was the high-water mark of national Republican interest in taking over Medicaid, and it obviously was lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut. It’s only gotten worse sice then. It is striking that ol’ Lamar is talking about a federal takeover of Medicaid even as he joins other Republicans in violently opposing ObamaCare, since one major feature of ObamaCare is a significant increase in federal responsibility for Medicaid (via higher match rates for new enrolees), and for the health care needs of low-income families generally.
The bottom line is that Alexander is really living in the distant past if he thinks his party will support federalization of Medicaid (unless they get the idea they can starve or abolish it). The prevailing sentiment in the GOP, as reflected in the Ryan budget, is to move towards devolution of all current federal-state programs to the states, via rapid funding cuts to non-defense discretionary programs and by turning Medicaid and food stamps into block grants (along with big funding cuts). Matter of fact, Alexander voted for the Ryan budget himself. Maybe he explained that little contradiction in the portion of his op-ed still behind the paywall. Or maybe he’s just having a senior moment.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, May 16, 2012