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“Vroom, Vroom”: So Let Me Tell You About My Car And Why Mitt Romney Will Lose Ohio

Greetings from the battleground state of Ohio, which Democrats and Republicans alike insist will determine the presidential race.

No use resenting us if you don’t live here. For a few more days, we’ll be the center of the universe. After Election Day, you can go back to wondering how a state with so many dairy farms and coal miners can be in the same time zone as Manhattan.

President Barack Obama continues to hold the lead in polls in Ohio. Beltway pundits love to rattle off the reasons, but this Buckeye who lives here has narrowed it down to one: the auto rescue.

So, let me tell you about my car.

Last summer, I traded in my Pontiac Vibe for a Chevy Cruze. It’s bright red. I call it my red-hot mama car, just to embarrass the kids.

I bought the Cruze primarily because of my roots. I was born in Ohio and raised here by blue-collar parents who believed in God, hard work and organized labor. In the early 1970s, dozens of my relatives, including my utility worker father, worked in union jobs at power plants, steel mills and auto factories. I grew up believing that Ohioans knew how to make things — big things — that were shipped all around the world.

How my parents would have loved the story of the Chevy Cruze. It’s a tale of many cities, many of them in my home state, full of the people I come from.

Bear with me, please, as I rattle off Ohio workers’ contributions to the Cruze, which is now one of the best-selling cars in America:

The engine is made in Defiance.

The seat frames: Lorain.

The brackets: Waverly.

The fasteners: Brunswick.

The plastics: Tallmadge.

The seats: Warren.

The transmission: Toledo.

The sound system: Springboro.

The steel: Middletown and Cleveland.

The wing nuts: Tiffin.

The weld nuts: Hudson.

The weld studs: Medina.

The insulators: Norwalk.

The wheel bearings: Sandusky.

That is a partial list of Cruze parts made in Ohio.

The Cruze is assembled by about 4,500 union workers in Lordstown, Ohio, which is producing cars around the clock.

But wait… there’s more.

Even if you don’t live here, you probably have heard about another made-in-Ohio car: Chrysler’s Jeep Wrangler, which is assembled by union workers in Toledo.

I’ll spare you that list of Ohio suppliers. Lots of cities — and lots of workers, too.

Mitt Romney, who opposed the auto rescue, recently claimed during a campaign stop in Defiance, Ohio, that Chrysler is planning to move its Jeep production to China.

For a few hours, I was willing to write off this absurd claim as just another Romney gaffe. He says a lot of ridiculous things. Some of them are even unscripted.

Then Romney doubled down on his lie with TV and radio ads here in Ohio. In them, he claims that President Obama “sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China.” A little word-tweaking, but the clear intention is to scare Ohio workers into believing they are about to lose their jobs.

For this whopper, Romney has earned nonpartisan PolitiFact’s worst rating, “Pants on Fire.” As PolitiFact also reminded readers, about 1 in 8 jobs in this state are auto-related. That’s more than 800,000 jobs, which means at least a half-million families who have better lives because of the auto industry. These workers have relatives — friends and neighbors, too. Most of them care about the survival of the auto industry, too, because they care about the people who work in it.

This is very bad news for Romney — just as it was bad news for Ohio Republicans when going after the collective bargaining rights of state workers backfired on them last year.

In the wake of Romney’s ad, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne felt the need to send a letter to his employees: “Jeep assembly lines will remain in operation in the United States and will constitute the backbone of the brand,” he said. “It is inaccurate to suggest anything different.”

Nevertheless, as I write this, Romney’s ad continues to run in Ohio.

And I’m days away from renaming my made-in-Ohio Chevy Cruze the red-hot victory car for Barack Obama.

By: Connie Schultz, The National Memo, October 31, 2012

November 1, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Case For Barack Obama”: A Record Of Accomplishment That Bests Any President Since Roosevelt

I decided to support Barack Obama pretty early in the Democratic primary, around spring of 2007. But unlike so many of his supporters, I never experienced a kind of emotional response to his candidacy. I never felt his election would change everything about American politics or government, that it would lead us out of the darkness. Nothing Obama did or said ever made me well up with tears.

Possibly for that same reason, I have never felt even a bit of the crushing sense of disappointment that at various times has enveloped so many Obama voters. I supported Obama because I judged him to have a keen analytical mind, grasping both the possibilities and the limits of activist government, and possessed of excellent communicative talents. I thought he would nudge government policy in an incrementally better direction. I consider his presidency an overwhelming success.

I can understand why somebody who never shared Obama’s goals would vote against his reelection. If you think the tax code already punishes the rich too heavily, that it’s not government’s role to subsidize health insurance for those who can’t obtain it, that the military shouldn’t have to let gays serve openly, and so on, then Obama’s presidency has been a disaster, but you probably didn’t vote for him last time. For anybody who voted for Obama in 2008 and had even the vaguest sense of his platform, the notion that he has fallen short of some plausible performance threshold seems to me unfathomable.

Obama’s résumé of accomplishments is broad and deep, running the gamut from economic to social to foreign policy. The general thrust of his reforms, especially in economic policy, has been a combination of politically radical and ideologically moderate. The combination has confused liberals into thinking of Obamaism as a series of sad half-measures, and conservatives to deem it socialism, but the truth is neither. Obama’s agenda has generally hewed to the consensus of mainstream economists and policy experts. What makes the agenda radical is that, historically, vast realms of policy had been shaped by special interests for their own benefit. Plans to rationalize those things, to write laws that make sense, molder on think-tank shelves for years, even generations. They are often boring. But then Obama, in a frenetic burst of activity, made many of them happen all at once.

Bipartisan panels of economists had long urged Medicare to reform its payment methods to curb perverse incentives by hospitals and doctors to run up costs as high as possible; Obama overcame fierce resistance in Congress in order to craft, as part of Obamacare, a revolution in paying for quality rather than quantity. He eliminated billions of dollars in useless subsidies to banks funneling (at no risk) government loans to college students. By dangling federal public-education grants, Obama unleashed a wave of public-school reform, over the objections of the most recalcitrant elements of the teachers union movement. And he forced Wall Street to accept financial regulations that, while weaker than ideal, were far tougher than anybody considered possible to get through Congress.

It is noteworthy that four of the best decisions that Obama made during his presidency ran against the advice of much of his own administration. Numerous Democrats in Congress and the White House urged him to throw in the towel on health-care reform, but he was one of very few voices in his administration determined to see it through. Many of his own advisers, both economists steeped in free-market models and advisers anxious about a bailout-weary public, argued against his decision to extend credit to, and restructure, the auto industry. On Libya, Obama’s staff presented him with options either to posture ineffectually or do nothing; he alone forced them to draw up an option that would prevent a massacre. And Obama overruled some cautious advisers and decided to kill Osama bin Laden.

The latter three decisions are all highly popular now, but all of them carried the risk of inflicting a mortal political wound, like Bill Clinton’s health-care failure and Jimmy Carter’s attempted raid into Iran. (George W. Bush, presented with a similar option, did not strike bin Laden.) In making these calls, Obama displayed judgment and nerve.

A year ago, I wrote about the pervasive disillusionment felt by Obama’s supporters. It is a sentiment that has shadowed every Democratic president since Franklin Roosevelt, and even Roosevelt provoked long bouts of agony and disillusionment among his supporters. All were seen by many Democrats at the time as failures, weaklings, or unprincipled deal-makers. It’s true that all of them, including Obama, have made terrible errors. What this tells us, though, is that we need some realistic baseline against which to measure them.

Obama can boast a record of accomplishment that bests any president since Roosevelt, and has fewer demerits on his record than any of them, including Roosevelt. The only president that comes close in gross positive accomplishment is Lyndon Johnson, whose successes were overwhelmed by his failures to such a degree that he abandoned his reelection campaign. The immediacy of the political moment can — and usually does — blind us. (In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, the wide and even bipartisan sentiment prevailed that George W. Bush was exactly the right sort of person we would want to have as president at that moment.)

The sense among Obama’s wavering supporters that he has failed rests upon a two-part indictment. The first and most potent is that he has presided over a weak economy. This line of attack on Obama became inevitable starting on approximately September 14, 2008, when the U.S. financial system imploded. The economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff have established that financial crises wreak vastly deeper harm than regular recessions. Financial crises freak out consumers, and they freak out political elites in a way that creates a panicked stampede toward exactly the wrong sorts of policies (like reducing short-term deficits) that in turn makes the crisis even worse.

This panic has impeded Obama’s recovery measures. But the fact remains that, by the standards of a financial crisis, the United States suffered through a relatively shallow trough and has enjoyed a fairly rapid recovery. (Here is a chart laying out the comparison between the United States and other comparably afflicted economies.) Obama managed to stabilize the financial system and, through the stimulus, avert a total collapse in consumer demand.

But while America has suffered less since 2008 than other victims of a financial crisis, it has suffered. Obama’s notable success in containing the damage has not redounded to his benefit for another, even more historically durable reason: Voters tend to blame or credit incumbent politicians for the state of their lives utterly regardless of responsibility. This is not even limited to things like the economy, where politicians can affect the outcome. Voters reward or punish incumbents based on the weather or the success of local sports teams. Mitt Romney’s campaign theme attempting to assign all blame to Obama for the state of the economy is a clever manipulation of this long-standing form of irrationality. In 2004, Romney dismissed any attempt to blame George W. Bush for the decline of jobs under his watch as “poppycock.” In his most condescending tone, Romney explained that of course outside forces were to blame — those outside forces being the vastly milder 2001 recession — and that attempting to hold Bush responsible for the economic record of his term was sheer stupidity. Now Romney has made that very theme the central basis of his presidential campaign.

The second indictment of Obama is that he failed to redeem the broader vision of trans-partisan governance he campaigned on. The reason this happened is that the Republicans’ leadership in Congress grasped early on that its path to returning to power required Obama to fail, and that they could help bring this about by denying his initiatives any support. In a meeting before Obama’s inauguration reported by Time’s Michael Grunwald, the House Republican leadership instructed their members on exactly this strategy. GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has followed the same strategy. GOP House members and senators have admitted, some of them publicly, that their leadership prevailed upon them not to negotiate with Obama.

Partisan strife between Congress and the president has gone on for decades. In the past, members of Congress often opposed the president’s agenda, but they also believed that the voters would punish them if they failed to show accomplishments, and so they carefully balanced their substantive opposition with a sense of political self-preservation. What makes the Republican opposition different is that it rests upon a novel, and probably true, insight. Most Americans pay little attention to the details of policy. They rely upon a broad heuristic — if something has touched off an ugly and protracted battle, it is probably bad, but if both sides agree on it, it is probably good. Even many Sunday political talk-show chatterers and other blowhards use the same basic thought process. And so, as McConnell actually said out loud, “if the proponents of the bill were able to say it was bipartisan, it tended to convey to the public that this is O.K., they must have figured it out.” McConnell, in keeping with his Bond-villain habit of boasting openly about his nefarious intentions, actually announced in a prepared speech that his top political priority was to make Obama a one-term president.

The Republican strategy is perfectly clear and not even very well hidden. Yet many of us don’t accept it as a reality because it does not feel true. We instinctively hold the president, not Congress, responsible, another finding political scientists have measured. The hunger to attribute all outcomes to the president is so deep that the political elite take it on faith. Bob Woodward, who is justly famed as a reporter but whose opinions are interesting only as a barometer of Washington establishmentarianism, blamed Obama because Republicans turned down an extraordinarily favorable budget deal. “Presidents work their will — or should work their will,” Woodward declared, “on the important matters of national business.”

How can a president “work his will” in such a way as to force autonomous members of the opposite party controlling a co-equal branch of government to sacrifice their own calculated self-interest? It is a form of magical thinking, but a pervasive one. Which is exactly why the Republican strategy — making Obama’s promise to transcend partisanship fail by withholding cooperation — has worked.

Whether this strategy succeeds in its ultimate goal — returning the GOP to power in 2013 — depends on the election. In an unusual way, the success of Obama’s first term hangs in large part on his reelection bid, as a President Romney would probably kill his grandest achievement of providing health insurance to those Americans too sick or poor to acquire it in the marketplace. So any evaluation of Obama’s term before the election must be provisional.

What can be said without equivocation is that Obama has proven himself morally, intellectually, temperamentally, and strategically. In my lifetime, or my parents’, he is easily the best president. On his own terms, and not merely as a contrast to an unacceptable alternative, he overwhelmingly deserves reelection.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intel, October 31, 2012

November 1, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“To Accommodate Or To Suppress”: Election 2012, A Vote For The Future Or A Vote For The Past?

The 2012 presidential election is fundamentally a contest between our future and our past. Barack Obama’s America is the America that will be; Mitt Romney’s is the America that was. And the distance between the two is greater, perhaps, than in any election we’ve had since the Civil War.

The demographic bases of the rival coalitions couldn’t be more different. Monday’s poll from the Pew Research Center is just the latest to show Obama with a decisive lead (in this case, 21 percentage points) among voters younger than 30. Obama’s margin declines to six points among voters ages 30 through 44, and he breaks even with Romney among voters ages 45 through 64. Romney’s home turf is voters 65 and older; among those, he leads Obama by 19 points.

Age polarization is not specific to the presidential election. On a host of issues, as diverse as gay and lesbian rights and skepticism about the merits of capitalism, polls have shown that younger voters are consistently more tolerant and well to the left of their elders.

Nor is age the only metric through which we can differentiate our future from our past. The other is race, as the nation grows more racially diverse (or, more bluntly, less white) each year. While the 2000 Census put whites’ share of the U.S. population at 69.1 percent, that share had declined to 63.7 percent in the 2010 Census, while the proportion of Hispanics rose from 12.5 percent to 16.3 percent. In raw numbers, total white population increased by just 1.2 percent during the decade, while the African American segment grew by 12.3 percent and the Hispanic share by 43 percent. Demographers predict that the white share of the U.S. population will fall beneath 50 percent in the 2050 Census.

Rather than trying to establish a foothold among America’s growing minorities, however, Romney and the Republicans have decided to forgo an appeal to Hispanic voters by opposing legislation that would grant legal status to undocumented immigrants brought here as children and by backing legislation that effectively requires Hispanics to carry documentation papers in certain states. Republicans seek a majority through winning an ever-higher share of white voters. The Washington Post reported last week that its polling showed the greatest racial gap between the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates since the 1988 election, with Romney favored by 60 percent of white voters and Obama by 80 percent of minority voters (a figure that may prove low, if three-quarters of the Hispanic vote goes to Obama, as some other polls suggest it will). The problem for Republicans, of course, is that the minority vote is a far larger share of the total vote today than it was 24 years ago.

By repeatedly estranging minorities and opposing social policies favored by the young, the Republicans have opted for a King Canute strategy: standing on the shore and commanding the tide to stop. Republicans with an eye toward the future, most notably George W. Bush and Karl Rove, have urged the party to embrace immigration reform, but the base is rabidly anti-immigrant and its antipathy is reinforced daily by talk radio hosts and Fox News chatterers who depict an America under siege by alien forces.

Should Republicans prevail in this election and seek to build a more-than-one-term plurality, they will confront a stark choice: Either Romney must persuade his party to reverse its stance on immigration, or the party must seek to extend the scope of its voter-suppression efforts. Put another way, they must try to either accommodate the future or suppress it.

Accommodation with diversity and modernity, however, is simply not part of the Republican DNA. Today’s Republican Party has largely cornered the market on religious fundamentalists, even as the number of GOP scientists has dwindled (a 2009 Pew poll of scientists found that just 6 percent self-identified as Republicans, while 55 percent said they were Democrats). Many of the largest Republican funders come from economic sectors hardly distinguished by significant productivity increases or their contributions to mass prosperity (casino gambling, Wall Street), while Silicon Valley remains more Democratic turf. (By the way, all those messages Republican CEOs have been sending their employees , predicting layoffs should Obama be reelected? Have any of them promised raises if Romney wins? Just askin’.)

Two Americas are facing off in next week’s election. By their makeup, the Democrats are bound to move, if haltingly, into the future, while the Republicans parade proudly into the pre-New Deal past — some of it mythic, lots of it ugly. The differences could not be clearer.

 

By: Harold Meyerson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, October 30, 2012

November 1, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Tale Of Presidential Surrogates”: Bill Clinton Stumps For Obama, While George W. Bush Heads To Cayman Islands

On Thursday, Bill Clinton will be campaigning for President Barack Obama while George W. Bush will be spreading a message that Mitt Romney would rather voters forget, in a stark example of the differing roles that the two former presidents have played in the 2012 campaign.

Clinton will spend Thursday on the campaign trail in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Throughout the 2012 campaign — but especially since giving a universally praised nominating speech on Obama’s behalf at the 2012 Democratic convention — Clinton has been Obama’s most effective surrogate, forcefully endorsing the president’s agenda and gleefully attacking Romney and the Republican Party. Forced off the campaign trail by Hurricane Sandy with just six days until the election, Obama has become more reliant on Clinton than ever. In the past several days, the Obama campaign has dispatched Clinton to Ohio, Iowa, and Minnesota — where the former president blasted Romney for the faulty tax plan at the heart of his economic agenda.

Bush, on the other hand, will spend Thursday in the Cayman Islands, delivering the keynote address at the Cayman Alternative Investment Summit. As Romney struggles to convince voters that he understands their economic struggles, having the previous Republican president reminding them of the questions surrounding Romney’s financial dealings in the Caymans is beyond unhelpful.

Of course, that shouldn’t be much of a surprise; after all, Bush has not helped Romney at all throughout the campaign. From Bush’s tepid endorsement of the Republican nominee — telling reporters “I’m for Mitt Romney” as a set of elevator doors closed on him — to his almost complete absence from the Republican convention and campaign trail, Bush and Romney seem to have come to a mutual understanding: the less mention of the years 2000-2008, the better.

There’s a simple reason that Clinton is seemingly omnipresent in this campaign, while Bush can’t even be found in this country: Clinton is one of the most popular political figures in America, while Bush is one of the most reviled. Romney has steadfastly avoided Bush — and will continue to do so in the campaign’s final days — because if the campaign is framed as a choice between eight more years of Clinton or eight more years of Bush, it would be a landslide.

 

By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, October 31, 2012

November 1, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Until The Umbilical Cord Is Cut”: In GOP View, Life Is Sacred, Except When It’s Not

“… And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
— Richard Mourdock, GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate

Life is sacred.

That, Mourdock would later insist, was what he was trying to say last week during a debate with his opponents. Instead, he became the latest in a growing list of conservatives to trip over women’s bodies. The Indiana Republican said he didn’t mean it the way it sounded, i.e., that rape is something God intends or approves. Rather, his point was that “Life is precious. I believe (that) to the very marrow of my bones.” His party agrees.

This year, the GOP adopted — again — a platform under which no woman could ever legally have an abortion. Not if she was impregnated by her own father. Not if she was raped. Not if the abortion were needed to save her life. Never. Because life is sacred.

And that leaves you wondering: what about the 12-year-old girl who has grown up dreading the midnight creak of her bedroom door, the weight settling above her, the whispered assurances that “This is our secret.”

What about the sixth-grader whose barely adolescent breasts are suddenly swollen and who wakes up racing for the toilet every morning, sick to her stomach? Is her life sacred?

What about the co-ed who can still feel the stranger’s hands forcing her knees apart, still feel his hot breath on her cheek, the lashing whip of his curses, that terrible moment of penetration, invasion, violation and bitter, impotent rage?

What about the student who now holds the home pregnancy test strip in her hand, watches it change colors and feels, as she slips to her knees on the bathroom floor with that hateful seed growing in her womb, as if she was just raped all over again? Is her life sacred?

What about the mother of three, just diagnosed with an aggressive cancer, the woman whose doctor says she needs chemotherapy immediately if she is to have any hope of survival? What about the agonizing decision she must now make, to refuse chemo, knowing it will mean dying and abandoning her existing children, or to take the drug, knowing it will kill the child she carries inside? Is her life not sacred?

It doesn’t seem to be, at least, not in the formulation embraced by the Grand Old Party. In that formulation, women are bystanders to their own existence, their individual situations subordinate to a one-size-fits-all morality, their very selves unimportant, except as vessels bearing children.

For that matter, the children themselves, once born, are not particularly sacred, especially if they have the misfortune to be born into less-than-ideal circumstances, situations where they might need help from the rest of us. But you see, “life” is not just the fact of existence. The term refers also to the nature and quality of that existence. So if we truly hold life sacred, we do not balance budgets by denying funding to programs that feed hungry children. We do not look the other way when kids have no access to health care. We do not countenance easy gun availability that makes the playground a war zone. We do not put up with child welfare agencies where tragedies routinely befall children who are always said to have “fallen between the cracks.”

Mourdock and other conservatives frequently tout the sacredness of life, but they seem to have a rather narrow definition thereof. They seem to consider life sacred only until the umbilical cord is cut. So for all its moral earnestness, their argument against abortion rights always manages to go too far and yet, not nearly far enough. If life is sacred when it is in the womb, well, it is also sacred when it is not.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., The National Memo, October 31, 2012

November 1, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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