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“Ugly And Un-American”: Republicans’ Long Term Strategy Is To Limit Voting Rights

According to political prognosticators, the presidential race is once again a toss-up, settling into a familiar pattern after weeks in which President Obama seemed to be gaining a modest lead. The pundits are wrong to suggest a new dynamic: The race has always been too close to call.

That’s always been the contour of this campaign — periodic gaffes and brilliant debate performances aside. Republican strategists have long expected a close election; they prepared for it years ago. How did they do it? With Machiavellian strokes, GOP leaders around the country passed laws designed to block the ballot for a small number of voting blocs that tend to support Democrats.

It’s no secret — and no surprise — that the strict voter ID laws in vogue in Republican circles target poorer voters, especially those who are black and brown. Black and Latino Americans tend to vote for Democratic candidates.

No matter how much the right yells “voter fraud,” its spokesmen cannot conceal an ugly and old-fashioned strategy: Suppress the vote. Keep poor people of color from casting a ballot. Deny to certain citizens a fundamental democratic right. There is virtually no in-person voter fraud at the polls, and that’s the sort of chicanery that voter identification laws ostensibly prevent.

Instead, voter ID laws are intended to help Republicans win elections. Because the GOP brain trust is excellent at executing a long-term strategy, its demographers saw the party’s weakness years ago and began to plan for it. As the nation’s ethnic minorities, especially Latinos, grow in number, the Republican Party would have to become more inclusive or face extinction.

President George W. Bush tried to make the GOP more inclusive, but he couldn’t persuade the nativists in his party to back comprehensive immigration reform. Instead, the Republican base became more exclusionary, more jingoistic, more suspicious of diversity.

That’s why voter ID laws became so important to the party’s future. In a deeply polarized country, important races are increasingly decided by very narrow margins. In 2000, the popular vote was essentially tied. In 2004, Bush won the popular vote by about 2.5 percentage points over John Kerry. In such tight contests, Republicans need not disenfranchise large numbers of voters — just a few.

The GOP insists it just wants to protect “ballot integrity,” but sometimes its lesser lights fail to stay on message. In June, Pennsylvania state House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, a Republican, proudly recited a list of accomplishments at a state party meeting. “Pro-Second Amendment? The Castle Doctrine, it’s done. First pro-life legislation — abortion facility regulations — in 22 years, done. Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”

Since young adults voted overwhelmingly for Obama in 2008, college students have also been the targets of stringent voter ID laws. In New Hampshire, for example, state House Speaker Bill O’Brien, also a Republican, pushed hard for a ban on college-issued photo IDs at the polls and an end to same-day voter registration in 2011.

Allowing students to register and vote on the same day, he later told a group of tea partiers, would simply lead to “the kids coming out of the schools and basically doing what I did when I was a kid, which is voting as a liberal. That’s what kids do — they don’t have life experience, and they just vote their feelings.”

Neither Turzai nor O’Brien mentioned voter fraud.

If protecting the ballot from con artists were the real issue here, Republicans would zero in on absentee ballots, which have been at the heart of most of the biggest voting scams over the last several decades. The Commission on Federal Election Reform, headed by James Baker and Jimmy Carter, cited absentee ballots as the “largest source of potential voter fraud” in its 2005 report.

Curiously, rules for absentee ballots have been loosened in many states. That’s because of the widespread perception that those ballots of convenience are more likely to be used by Republican voters.

The Republican Party ought to be ashamed of this ugly and un-American strategy. For all its talk about the sanctity of the U.S. Constitution, it seems to have little respect for one of its basic principles: the right to vote.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker, The National Memo, October 13, 2012

October 13, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Voting Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Down On America”: As Economy Improves, Republicans Remain In Denial

When Joe Biden said “I’ve never met two guys more down on America across the board,” he meant Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan — who provoked the vice president’s snipe during their debate by insisting, utterly falsely, that unemployment is still worsening across the nation. But the vice president’s complaint also applies to the Republican leadership at large, in Congress and across the right-wing media, where the talking points on U.S. economic prospects and progress are always negative.

Certainly the Republicans have tried to do their part to sink the economy, as last year’s manufactured debt crisis demonstrated beyond doubt. But whenever the news is good, they insist that the encouraging data must be inaccurate or even manipulated – as former General Electric boss Jack Welch proclaimed in his infamous tweet about the newly improved unemployment data last week.

This week the right-wing propaganda machine disparaged a big reduction in new jobless claims as a statistical anomaly, supposedly based on California’s failure to report its data to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in Washington. The only problem with this theory is that California officials did report those numbers.Meanwhile both the mainstream and right-wing media largely ignored the latest report by the Financial Times and the Brookings Institution, which found that the United States is “the sole bright spot” in a sluggish world economy.

Just how much uplifting data must appear before the persistent naysayers admit that the economy is improving? It is true that the numbers cut against their political interest, so they’re likely to deny any signs of economic health unless and until they can claim credit. Yet the signs are present and increasing.

On Friday, the Treasury Department reported that the federal budget deficit will again exceed $1 trillion, mostly as a consequence of the Bush tax cuts—but the good news is that tax revenue went up anyway by 6.4 percent, solely because of growth in jobs and income. (And in fact, the deficit was lower than last year, thanks to a reduction in government spending as American troops left Iraq.) So the president is reducing the deficit, as promised, in the only sensible and equitable way that can be done—by eliminating the cost of a pointless war abroad and stimulating growth at home.

Consumer confidence—another key indicator—has risen to the highest level since September 2007, according to a survey released today by Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan. The measure climbed to 83.1, jumping almost five points from the August rating of 78.3. Reuters reported that the new number significantly exceeded the expectations of most analysts, “who expected the rating to drop.”

There is more almost every day. Ask the bankers, who also seem to have noticed positive indicators (when they take a break from raising money for Romney). The chief financial economist for the Bank of Tokyo, for instance, told the Los Angeles Times that even if the new jobs numbers require correction—as such statistics almost always do, “the [improved] direction of the labor market is real.”

Reporting record profits for JPMorgan Chase on Friday, Jamie Dimon released a statement saying that the housing market has “turned a corner.” His company’s investment banking unit earned more in underwriting fees for equity and debt instruments—another indicator that firms are finally putting money into plants and equipment, rather than continuing to sit on trillions of dollars.

Polls suggest that the setbacks of the past few years have left voters with little patience for White House boasts of economic progress. But recent improvements open space for President Obama to say that things are finally getting better—and that changing course toward the radical right would be dangerous and foolish.

 

By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, October 12, 2012

October 13, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Paging Private Ryan”: Paul Ryan’s Congressional Opponent Say’s “Debate Me Next”

On the heels of last night’s vice-presidential debate, Paul Ryan’s Democratic opponent for his congressional seat wants a second round—while he sits in Biden’s chair.

Rob Zerban is facing a tough road to unseating Ryan, who won Wisconsin’s 1st district with over 68 percent of the vote in 2010—and the district has since been reapportioned to include even more Republicans.

Yet, the district is still fairly purple—Obama narrowly won it in 2008, and the redistricting only added a couple Republican points. Zerban has far outraised any other Ryan challenger over the years, though he still lags far behind Ryan in that category.

But most importantly, Zerban believes that by exposing Ryan’s radical views on the safety net—Zerban notably supports a Medicare-for-all plan, as opposed to Ryan’s partial privatization—he can win over voters in the district. He believes a debate would be the best chance to do that.

“After Paul Ryan’s performance last night, a lot of questions for me were answered about why he won’t come back to the district and debate,” Zerban told supporters on a conference call Friday afternoon. “We’ve seen that on a national stage that he cannot defend his extremely out-of-touch budget, which calls for killing Medicare and trying to transfer the cost of these programs to the back of senior citizens across this country. We can see that he can’t defend his $5 trillion tax cut for the wealthiest people in this nation, again shifting that cost onto the middle class, hardworking Americans across this country.

“I’m confident that by having Paul Ryan come back to the district and try to defend his positions, which we know are indefensible—the numbers don’t add up—if he were to come back and stand side-by-side with me on a stage, the choice would be so clear we’d have this race in the bag already.”

Every newspaper in the district has called on Ryan to come back and debate Zerban.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee has backed Zerban and raised $124,000 for him, and has placed 42,000 calls into the district through it’s Call Out the Vote program. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has also placed Zerban in its red-to-blue fundraising drive.

 

By: George Zornick, The Nation, October 12, 2012

 

 

October 13, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Wisconsin | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Answer Was Clear”: Why I Didn’t Hate Martha Raddatz’s Abortion Question

Precious little time during last night’s vice-presidential debate was devoted to an issue the Republicans have been hellbent on politicizing since they took control of the House in 2010. That, of course, was the niggling question of whether Romney and Ryan would work to further restrict access to abortion and contraception—or outlaw it altogether—if they win on November 6. Romney’s long career of flip-flopping on this issue has hit some kind of time-lapse photography in recent weeks, with his flips and flops coming fast and furiously: in Des Moines on Tuesday, he told an audience “There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.” Perhaps he should alert his running mate, who’s a co-sponsor of no less than thirty-eight abortion-restriction bills. (Romney’s staff walked back his statement the next morning.)

Debate #2 was a good time to clear this up, since Jim Lehrer failed to raise the issue in last week’s Obama/Romney match-up. And, with about ten minutes left in the debate, moderator Martha Raddatz finally did. But many of us watching at home, the question she asked left a lot to be desired:

RADDATZ: I want to move on, and I want to return home for these last few questions. This debate is, indeed, historic. We have two Catholic candidates, first time, on a stage such as this. And I would like to ask you both to tell me what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion. Please talk about how you came to that decision. Talk about how your religion played a part in that. And, please, this is such an emotional issue for so many people in this country…

RYAN: Sure.

RADDATZ: …please talk personally about this, if you could.

There is a good argument against this way of framing the question. Joe Biden and Paul Ryan’s personal and religious beliefs aren’t really the most salient issue here: their policy positions are, and the way those positions impact 52 percent of the population of this country. Raddatz’s question took the focus off how restrictions on abortion rights impact actual women (plus, as Katha Pollitt put it last night, her voice “got all mourny and tragic”).

For many Democrats and pro-choicers, talking about religion and abortion in the same breath has long felt like playing on right-wing turf. As Irin Carmon wrote, “[S]he chose to frame the late-breaking, much-yearned for question about “social issues” in just the way Republicans prefer: in terms of religion.” But does it have to be that way? Joe Biden offered voters who struggle with the morality of abortion a way to separate their personal, religious beliefs and their public, political orientation toward the issue. He didn’t quite make the case that his religion leads him to support abortion rights, but he drew a clear distinction between his religious beliefs and his political position. And he acknowledged that equally devout people can and do come to different moral determinations about abortion than he does.

BIDEN: My religion defines who I am, and I’ve been a practicing Catholic my whole life. And has particularly informed my social doctrine. The Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who—who can’t take care of themselves, people who need help.

With regard to—with regard to abortion, I accept my church’s position on abortion as a—what we call a [inaudible] doctrine. Life begins at conception in the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life.

But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews, and I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the—the congressman. I—I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that—women they can’t control their body. It’s a decision between them and their doctor.

It’s not intrinsically anti-woman to grapple with abortion through the lens of religion or morality. It’s just that religion has so often and so effectively been used as a weapon against women, demeaned them, made them incapable of being moral actors and dismissed the complexities of their lives. And while “personal views” aren’t necessarily best placed at a vice-presidential debate, I’m glad we have a prominent Catholic politician on record that faith and respect for women’s own decision-making don’t have to be opposed.

I wasn’t thrilled that Sister Simone Campbell, one of the Nuns on the Bus traveling the country to oppose Ryan’s budget, identified as pro-life in her DNC speech, either—but if she was going to go there, I loved that she did it by describing support for the Affordable Care Act as “part of my pro-life stance.” Both she and Joe Biden have offered pro-choice, anti-choice and confused Catholics a way to vote for the Democratic ticket with a clear conscience. And for that I’m grateful—to Raddatz, too. Besides, as Amy Davidson notes, Raddatz made use of one of her many strong follow-ups in a way that put the attention right back on women: “I want to go back to the abortion question here. If the Romney-Ryan ticket is elected, should those who believe that abortion should remain legal be worried?” For anyone who still hadn’t figured it out, by the end of the night, the answer was clear.

 

By: Emily Douglas, The Nation, October 12, 2012

October 13, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Populist Mitt”: Does Romney Want to Raise Taxes On The Wealthy?

At last night’s debate, the mathematical impossibility of the Romney tax plan came up, just as it did during the first Obama-Romney debate, and just as it surely will in the second Obama-Romney debate on Tuesday. The real problem with Romney’s proposal, though, isn’t just that it’s mathematically impossible, but that it’s logically strange in one important way nobody seems to have noticed yet, namely that Romney seems to be proposing big tax increases for the wealthy. I’ll get to why that is in a minute, but before I do let’s review the problem. Since Kevin Drum gave a nice explanation, I’ll just steal it:

Romney has promised a 20 percent across-the-board rate cut, which includes people making over $200,000 per year. This would reduce tax revenues by about $251 billion per year.

But wait! What about the economic growth this will unleash? That’s mostly mythical, but let’s bend over backwards here. If you incorporate the growth estimate of one of Romney’s advisors, Greg Mankiw, Romney’s rate cuts would only cost about $215 billion per year.

Next, try to pick out a set of deductions and loopholes that can be closed to make up for this revenue loss.

But wait! Romney hasn’t said exactly which deductions he would target. So it’s not fair to pick and choose specific deductions. Fine. Instead, let’s assume that Romney completely eliminates every single deduction for high earners. All of them. It turns out this would make up $165 billion per year.

So even under the best possible assumptions, Romney’s plan would cut taxes on the rich by $50 billion per year.

But Romney says he won’t cut taxes on the rich.

If you want a lengthier explanation of all this, Josh Barro gives it here. To sum up: Romney’s now-emphatic promise that he won’t cut taxes for the wealthy (“I cannot reduce the burden paid by high-income Americans,” he said during his debate with Obama, “So any — any language to the contrary is simply not accurate”) is just impossible to keep if he’s actually going to also reduce their taxes by 20 percent. And that’s where we get to the crazy part. Here’s what I would ask Mitt Romney if I had the chance:

You say you want to cut income tax rates for everyone, and pay for every penny by eliminating rich people’s deductions and loopholes. So if you’re paying for it by getting more money from the rich, that means the rich’s taxes are going up. If rich people’s taxes were staying the same under your plan, we wouldn’t be getting the money to pay for the across-the board rate cut for everyone. You keep saying wealthy people won’t see a tax cut, but what you’re actually proposing is a tax increase on the wealthy. That being the case, why go through this double bank-shot of cutting the rich’s income tax rates, then going after their deductions? If what you’re proposing is to raise taxes on the rich, why not just raise taxes on the rich, say by raising their income tax rates?

I suppose if somebody asked Romney this, he’d deliver some convoluted explanation involving tax simplification (a reasonable goal in itself, but beside the point) and the explosion of growth that will come from a tax cut. But that wouldn’t make sense either—if all those “job creators” are getting their taxes increased, won’t that hamper their ability to do their divine job-creating work? Because as Republicans never tire of telling us, if you raise taxes on job creators, the economy inevitably goes down the toilet.
So how do we account for the logical conundrum of Mitt Romney’s tax plan? Someone would have to go back and check, but I’m guessing the whole thing evolved piecemeal, in a combination of actual proposals somebody sat down and worked out, and rhetorical moves Romney made in both planned and extemporaneous contexts. After proposing the 20 percent rate cut, at some point he started promising not to cut taxes for the wealthy because he didn’t want to seem like the plutocrat the Obama campaign is making him out to be, and that backed him into a corner he now can’t get out of. I haven’t seen anybody ask him about the fact that he’s actually proposing raising taxes on the rich, even though that’s what he’s doing. Maybe when someone does, he’ll embrace his new populist self.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, October 12, 2012

October 13, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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