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“The Coming Post-Election GOP Freak Out”: For Republicans, Any Turn Of Bad Luck Or Unwanted Results Is A Conspiracy

What’s the state of mind this weekend of the conservative outrage machine? With regard to liberals, I think it’s fair to say as of Saturday that most of us (excepting your allowed-for percentage of nervous nellies) expect Barack Obama to win. If he somehow doesn’t, we’ll be surprised and deeply depressed. But provided the outcome doesn’t involve some kind of Florida-style shenanigans, in a couple days’ time, we’ll come to terms with it.

Meanwhile–conservatives? I think that they are certain that Mitt Romney will win and that all information to the contrary is a pack of lies; that they will be completely shocked and outraged if he doesn’t; that, if he loses, it will be the inevitable product of foul play; and that therefore they’ll immediately start scouring the landscape looking for parties to blame and will keep themselves in a state suspended agitation for…days, weeks, four years, forever. Which wouldn’t matter to the rest of us but for the fact that they’ll continue to have the power to screw up the country.

The conservatives I read, and certainly my conservative commenters, just can’t wait for Tuesday, when the American people will arise out of their torpor and finally send Obama to the dugout. I’m continually struck–nay, impressed, even–by the iron certainty with which they say this, and by their unswerving ability to pluck out the favorable polls (getting fewer and farther between, incidentally) and throw a bucket of ice-cold water on the ones they don’t like.

Objective reality says Obama is ahead. But to conservatives, there’s always something wrong in objective-reality land, always a reason to claim that the world is in fact spinning in the opposite direction. Quinnipiac has too many Democrats! PPP is a Democratic firm! This one oversampled blacks, that one Latinos. And of course, these objections are never merely just stated. They’re the rhetorical equivalent of dirty nuclear bombs. Conservatives on Twitter howl derisively at these polls as if their purveyors are offering alchemical cures for venereal disease.

We’re all prey to “confirmation bias,” as Paul Waldman called it in his American Prospect column Friday. We look at the polls that we know will be more likely to show the result we want to see. With Republicans, that has meant Rasmussen, obviously, and Gallup. With liberals it has meant…well, virtually every other polling operation under God’s golden sun, more often than not, because the simple fact remains that Obama has led in most polls for a year, nationwide and statewide.

But there’s confirmation bias, and there’s denial. Pennsylvania is up for grabs? If you say so, wingosphere. But Obama’s led in 53 straight polls there, journalist Eric Boehlert tweeted yesterday. In the last two days we’ve seen about 20 different state polls. Obama led in 18. If my guy were on the business end of results like those, I’d be psychologically preparing myself.

Which, indeed, I am anyway. You never really know. The mess in Eastern Pennsylvania could, maybe, so discourage turnout in the Obama-friendliest areas of the state he could lose. Fifty-three straight polls, and 18 out of 20, could be wrong. That many polls have never been that wrong before, but I guess there’s a first time for everything. (Please don’t mention 1948, wingers–comparing polling then to polling today is like comparing a ’48 Plymouth to a new Lexus.)

You never really know. Most liberals acknowledge this simple reality. But wingers seem to know, or think they know. Of course they don’t know, and deep down they know that they don’t know, which must be a kind of psychological torture to them, and so they compensate for having to endure that torture by putting up that front of absolute certainty, which in turn brings its own rewards whatever the result. Their guy wins, they get to say, “Ha! I knew it all along.” Their guy loses, they get to be outraged and blame the blacks, the media, the pollsters, Nate Silver. In a weird sort of way I suspect many of them prefer the latter outcome.

Yes, it’s strange. And it’s made all the stranger because I would imagine that outside the political realm, most conservatives are pretty reasonable people who accept outcomes just like the rest of us. If their team loses the Super Bowl, or their kid’s project doesn’t win the science fair, or even if they get passed over for that promotion, most conservatives surely are unhappy, as anyone would be, but they fundamentally accept the legitimacy of the outcome.

But not in politics. In the political realm, we have this hate machine, this massive propaganda apparatus, that tells conservatives that any turn of bad luck is not merely bad luck but the result of a conspiracy that society has hatched against them. Thus, Mitt Romney–whom conservatives used to hate, before they were forced to embrace him–has made no mistakes on the campaign trail. The furor over the 47 percent remarks, the two debate losses, and much else–these aren’t signs of his misjudgment or fallibility. To conservatives, they’re all part of the broader plot against him, and more importantly against them.

And so, when you look at the world that way, the conspiracy never dies, the rope never stops spinning. If Obama wins, the excuses will start coming; the excuses will mushroom quickly into reasons why the victory was illegitimate; illegitimacy thus “established,” the next mission is to oppose Obama at every turn with even greater fervor. Any political means necessary to stop or even remove him will become justified. It’s all as predictable as a goose sh*tting. And if Obama does win, it will start Wednesday morning. What am I saying? I meant Tuesday night.

 

By: MIchael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, November 4, 2012

November 4, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Blackmail Caucus”: Republican “Vote For Romney Or Else” Protection Racket Politics

If President Obama is re-elected, health care coverage will expand dramatically, taxes on the wealthy will go up and Wall Street will face tougher regulation. If Mitt Romney wins instead, health coverage will shrink substantially, taxes on the wealthy will fall to levels not seen in 80 years and financial regulation will be rolled back.

Given the starkness of this difference, you might have expected to see people from both sides of the political divide urging voters to cast their ballots based on the issues. Lately, however, I’ve seen a growing number of Romney supporters making a quite different argument. Vote for Mr. Romney, they say, because if he loses, Republicans will destroy the economy.

O.K., they don’t quite put it that way. The argument is phrased in terms of “partisan gridlock,” as if both parties were equally extreme. But they aren’t. This is, in reality, all about appeasing the hard men of the Republican Party.

If you want an example of what I’m talking about, consider the remarkable — in a bad way — editorial in which The Des Moines Register endorsed Mr. Romney. The paper acknowledged that Mr. Obama’s signature economic policy, the 2009 stimulus, was the right thing to do. It also acknowledged that Mr. Obama tried hard to reach out across the partisan divide, but was rebuffed.

Yet it endorsed his opponent anyway, offering some half-hearted support for Romneynomics, but mainly asserting that Mr. Romney would be able to work with Democrats in a way that Mr. Obama has not been able to work with Republicans. Why? Well, the paper claims — as many of those making this argument do — that, in office, Mr. Romney would be far more centrist than anything he has said in the campaign would indicate. (And the notion that he has been lying all along is supposed to be a point in his favor?) But mostly it just takes it for granted that Democrats would be more reasonable.

Is this a good argument?

The starting point for many “vote for Romney or else” statements is the notion that a re-elected President Obama wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything in his second term. What this misses is the fact that he has already accomplished a great deal, in the form of health reform and financial reform — reforms that will go into effect if, and only if, he is re-elected.

But would Mr. Obama be able to negotiate a Grand Bargain on the budget? Probably not — but so what? America isn’t facing any kind of short-run fiscal crisis, except in the fevered imagination of a few Beltway insiders. If you’re worried about the long-run imbalance between spending and revenue, well, that’s an issue that will have to be resolved eventually, but not right away. Furthermore, I’d argue that any alleged Grand Bargain would be worthless as long as the G.O.P. remained as extreme as it is, because the next Republican president, following the lead of George W. Bush, would just squander the gains on tax cuts and unfunded wars.

So we shouldn’t worry about the ability of a re-elected Obama to get things done. On the other hand, it’s reasonable to worry that Republicans will do their best to make America ungovernable during a second Obama term. After all, they have been doing that ever since Mr. Obama took office.

During the first two years of Mr. Obama’s presidency, when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, Republicans offered scorched-earth opposition to anything and everything he proposed. Among other things, they engaged in an unprecedented number of filibusters, turning the Senate — for the first time — into a chamber in which nothing can pass without 60 votes.

And, when Republicans took control of the House, they became even more extreme. The 2011 debt ceiling standoff was a first in American history: An opposition party declared itself willing to undermine the full faith and credit of the U.S. government, with incalculable economic effects, unless it got its way. And the looming fight over the “fiscal cliff” is more of the same. Once again, the G.O.P. is threatening to inflict large damage on the economy unless Mr. Obama gives it something — an extension of tax cuts for the wealthy — that it lacks the votes to pass through normal constitutional processes.

Would a Democratic Senate offer equally extreme opposition to a President Romney? No, it wouldn’t. So, yes, there is a case that “partisan gridlock” would be less damaging if Mr. Romney won.

But are we ready to become a country in which “Nice country you got here. Shame if something were to happen to it” becomes a winning political argument? I hope not. By all means, vote for Mr. Romney if you think he offers the better policies. But arguing for Mr. Romney on the grounds that he could get things done veers dangerously close to accepting protection-racket politics, which have no place in American life.

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, November 1, 2012

November 4, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“We Can’t Afford A President Romney”: An Israeli And A Palestinian On The American Presidential Election…They Don’t Want Mitt Either

Watching the American election from overseas, it makes sense to us that the conversation is mostly focused on the economic recovery. And yet, behind closed doors, topics related to us get discussed. What we’re hearing isn’t so great. In a video of a private meeting with wealthy donors, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said, “I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say there’s just no way.”

We resent that. We’re an Israeli and a Palestinian—ordinary people from opposing sides of this conflict, who have forged a friendship based on the belief that this conflict can be ended with the shared vision of a two-state solution based on the borders of 1967 with mutually agreed upon land swaps. We have remained friends despite the challenges and the everyday apathy, hopelessness and despair of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We are again being tossed aside as dispensable pawns on an international chess board. If we have learned anything by living through this conflict, it is that we must hold our leaders accountable. If reconciliation through the two-state solution, hard as it will be, fails, it will only be because the leaders don’t make it a priority.

The trust-building process between Israelis and Palestinians is so delicate and essential for a future peace agreement, that every time a public figure uses dismissive rhetoric, we feel as if we are only walking backwards, scared of being pulled into another round of violence by those who benefit from the stagnation of talks. The idea that a candidate for President of the United States truly believes there is no hope for the two-state solution and that it is a problem that should be ignored not only scares us, it makes us furious.

For Americans, the two-state solution is a theory, a way out of a crisis that is, at best, worrisome. To us, the two-state solution represents our best hope for a livable future. We are aware of the difficulties such a solution holds, but the status-quo is not acceptable—it affects peoples’ lives on a daily basis, in almost everything they do—and it’s a dangerous strategy.

We do have our share of criticism over the negotiation process in the past four years and Obama’s attempts at restarting it. Still, we are pleased he at least considers it a priority. Under a hypothetical Romney administration, we have no hope this issue would be addressed—resulting in further upheaval and damage to the security and future prosperity of both the State of Israel and the future Palestinian State, and, eventually, America.

We are not alone in believing this. President Clinton, appearing on CNN recently, responded to Romney’s comments: “It is accurate that the United States cannot make peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. They have to do that. What we need to do is maximize the attractiveness of doing it and minimize the risks of doing it—we can do that.” He’s right: no American president will ever be able to force both sides to make peace. But a U.S. president can and must help by providing incentives, easing the way, taking the necessary steps, and, most importantly, believing it is possible. Romney simply lacks the hope and vision that we need in the leader of the most powerful country on earth. Obama is our chance to keep on the path for a two-state solution.

 

By: Ahmad Omeir and Danny Shaket, Open Zion, Daily Beast, November 2, 2012

November 4, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Blind To Every Human Virtue”: Mitt Romney And Bain Capital Create Their Own 47% “Victims”

Here’s the 47% Question: If the hedge fund founded by the Republican candidate for president buys a company in a small Midwestern town and then sends all its jobs to China, do those workers thereby become the “victims” Mitt Romney had in mind when he dismissed those who “do not take responsibility for their lives” because they are “dependent” on government?

That’s the situation facing 170 workers at an auto sensor manufacturing plant in Freeport, Illinois after a Bain Capital-owned company, Sensata Technologies, bought out their factory and then decided it would be cheaper to board up the plant and send its parts to China — but not before subjecting workers to the final humiliation of training their Chinese replacements.

In response, some workers have set up a camp across from the factory and are calling “Bainport” to protest the move, according to Dave Johnson at Truthout. Others have asked Mitt Romney to intercede on their behalf with his former company, foolishly taking Romney at his word that, as president, he would “get tough” with China and fight for every American job. Good luck with that.

It’s not as if the company is hurting for money. According to a company financial statement quoted by Johnson, Sensata’s net income last year was $355 million, up 16% from 2010. Its total revenues were $1.8 billion in 2011, up almost 19% from the year before.

Yet, Romney’s former colleague, Sensata board chairman Paul Edgerley, says Bain’s responsibilities to investors demands shuttering the Freeport plant and shipping operations to Asia.

Johnson says the layoffs will surely have a ripple-effect in this small town of about 25,000 that has only three principal employers and a poverty rate well above the national average. And so, Bain’s decision to move the plant to China is a dagger in the heart of this community, says Johnson, and represents “the epitome of corporate America’s lack of patriotism, [with] it’s capital unmoored from any sense of responsibility for the people that make the profits or the communities where they live.”

In moving the plant to China, Sensata is simply operating according to the business strategy mapped out for the hedge fund by Romney himself: Buy assets with little money down. Load them with debt. Raid their pension funds. Break their unions. Then “harvest them” for profits.

On that infamous video disrespecting the bottom 47%, Romney makes a dubious value judgment when he says individuals who are not resourceful or self-reliant enough to make it in the survival-of-the-fittest jungle created for them by cut-throat capitalists like those at Bain Capital are therefore “irresponsible” when they lean on others in hard times, especially when it’s the crutch of government.

That’s the same self-serving justification we hear from conservative economists like Charles Murray who ignore the consequences of globalization and technological change and blame instead the middle class for its own shrunken prospects when average Americans stray from the traditional family values and old-fashioned American work ethic Murray thinks is all that separates rich from poor.

Romney’s is an ethic that equates “morality” with “success.” This may help explain a presidential campaign that justifies egregious falsehoods and elaborate fabrications if they win Romney a point or two with a gullible public.

Newt Gingrich was right when he called out Romney during the Republican primaries as a “predatory corporate raider” who only pretends to be a real capitalist.

A real capitalist, said the original Austrian-school economist Joseph Schumpeter, would know that the fruits of the free market’s dynamic innovations could only be harvested by societies prudent enough to make provision for the victims of capitalism’s relentless change.

Schumpeter, Austria’s finance minister in 1919 and the originator of the famous phrase about capitalism’s “creative destruction,” believed public relief during Hard Times was “imperative on moral and social grounds” and also important to stabilize demand, writes Hans-Michael Trautwein.

“Schumpeter was in favor of unemployment relief as the best way to counteract the effects of the business cycle on workers’ welfare,” says Trautwein in a paper on the great economists’ views on unemployment.

Predators like Mitt Romney, in contrast, want to have their cake and eat it too. They want the benefits that go with destroying other people’s lives for their own profit but without the responsibility to pay the least in compensation.

A real capitalist concerned about the viability of a free market capitalist system in a democratic society would be far more alert to the caveats Schumpeter laid out. And the fact that Romney isn’t, as he speaks contemptuously of the victims his Bain Capital business model have created, exposes Romney as someone who cares little about the free market beyond his own ability to profit spectacularly from the very same unregulated and lightly taxed rigged system he would promote as president.

The irony of the rapacious worldview Romney shares with many in America’s plutocratic class is that it fails as both morals and economics. This is one reasonRomney’s peculiar brand of buccaneer capitalism has so often had to be rescued from itself.

How can it be possible, for example, that a company like Citibank could sell securities it knows to be toxic to one set of customers while at the same time betting on those very same securities to default – and then only getting a $285 million fine from regulators, which is a slap on the wrist considering the monstrous sums involved?

That is what New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wants to know when he says of Citibank’s fraud” “It doesn’t get any more immoral than this.”

Romney complains about the 47% he says are parasites. Yet, as Friedman notes, “there is in our economy now a disconnect between pay and performance,” which is a fairly serviceable definition of “parasite” in my book.

Under the rules now in place, says Friedman, Romney’s Bain Capital can make tens of millions of dollars on firms it buys that go bankrupt. A bank like Citigroup can sell toxic securities to a hedge fund that loses hundreds of millions of dollars on the deal while Citigroup still makes $160 million in fees and trading profits betting against those same assets.

Despite the wrong turns it has taken in recent decades, Friedman still believes capitalism and free markets are the best engines for generating growth and relieving poverty — “provided they are balanced with meaningful transparency, regulation and oversight.”

What we’ve lost in the last decade, he says, is that balance. “And if we don’t get it back — and there is now a tidal wave of money resisting that — we will have another crisis. And, if that happens, the cry for justice could turn ugly.”

Mitt Romney sells himself as a successful businessman who “knows” how to create jobs because he “understands” what it takes because Romney himself is rich. In place of policy, in other words, all that Romney has to offer is biography.

Mitt Romney wants to be our president. Yet as Chrystia Freeland reminds us, Romney embraces a “ravage capitalism that is loyal to no nation-state and blind to every human virtue but profit” – a win-at-all-costs ethos that has a familiar, if dangerous, pedigree among history’s self-destructive ruling classes.

What separates successful states from failed ones, says the author of Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, are governing institutions that are either inclusive or extractive.

Extractive states are those controlled by ruling elites whose sole objective is extracting as much wealth as they can from the rest of society, says Freeland, while inclusive states “give everyone access to economic opportunity.”

Greater inclusiveness creates more prosperity which, in turn, creates an incentive for ever greater inclusiveness, says Freeland

Elites themselves prosper from these inclusive systems, says Freeland, but there also comes a time when these elites face the self-destructive temptation to pull up the ladder behind them once they’ve extracted wealth from the broader community “to such a degree that the society becomes dysfunctional and mired by social problems.”

Marx’s famous warning about capitalism containing the seeds of its own destruction may be the danger America faces today, says Freeland, as the 1% percent “pulls away from everyone else” by cannibalizing the broad Middle Class Republic that America has built up since the Second World War — with its public investments in education, infrastructure, basic research and development and health and retirement security — and as these elites pursue “an economic, political and social agenda that increases that gap even further and ultimately destroys the open system that made America rich and allowed its 1 percent to thrive in the first place.”

This is the absurdity of Mitt Romney’s comment about the 47% who are “dependent upon government,” says Freeland, since it’s those at the “top of the economic pyramid who have been most effective at capturing government support — and at getting others to pay for it.”

Today’s super-rich may be different from you and me but they are no different from their plutocratic predecessors throughout history, says Freeland.

“Now, as then, the titans are seeking an even greater political voice to match their economic power,” she writes. “Now, as then, the inevitable danger is that they will confuse their own self-interest with the common good. The irony of the political rise of the plutocrats is that they threaten the system that created them.”

 

By: Ted Frier, Open Salon, November 3, 2012

November 4, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Never Underestimate GOP Cynicism”: Those Who Think Sandy’s Effects Won’t Matter Because It Primarily Affected Blue States Should Think Again

For all the speculation about the effect of Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath on the election, one important aspect has gotten surprisingly little attention: How many people will be unable to vote because of power outages, floods, and impaired transportation systems? How many will be deterred from voting because they are dealing with serious dislocations in their lives? And what new forms of Republican mischief will all this invite?

Other things being equal, President Obama seems to have been the winner so far because of his impressive handling of the crisis. Chris Christie surely helped on the image front.

But other things are not equal. Four days before the election, at least three million Americans are without power. And so are thousands of neighborhood polling places.

Bus and subway lines are not fully operating, and there are gas shortages, especially in New Jersey. Both factors raise obstacles to people getting to the polls.

Hundreds of thousands of people—conceivably more than a million—may not be able to vote in their usual polling place. Some may not bother to vote at all.

As always, lower-income voters, who tend to favor Democrats, have fewer options and backup plans than more affluent voters. Any competent political scientist will confirm that it’s always a challenge to persuade lower-income citizens that voting can make a difference in their lives. The aftermath of the storm is just one more obstacle to full participation.

Last-minute shifts in polling venues are both confusing to voters and to local election officials, many of whom are volunteers. People who registered may not show up on lists if they are voting outside their usual location, leading to more ballot challenges than usual, even without Republican skullduggery.

Some jurisdictions are printing up paper ballots as a fallback, but the preparations seem surprisingly lackadaisical. At the very least, all of this introduces new uncertainty and new opportunities for ballot challenges.

Under the Help America Vote Act of 2002, passed after the 2000 election debacle, federal law requires local officials to permit provisional voting if there is some question about whether a citizen is entitled to cast a ballot. But provisional voting invites legal appeals, and God help us if the number of challenged ballots in a key swing state exceeds the margin separating the candidates. Worst case, we could see the courts getting involved, with ominous echoes of the Supreme Court’s theft of the 2000 election.

It may seem comforting to Democrats that most of the hardest-hit states are safely blue. But think again. Although Obama seems narrowly ahead in the projected electoral count, the popular vote seems to be almost a tie. To win it, Obama needs to roll up big margins in states deep blue like New York—where turnout could well be depressed. He would of course still be president if he won the Electoral College and lost the popular vote. But in terms of the national psychology (and his own self-confidence as a fighter), Obama would have more of the appearance of a mandate if he won the popular vote.

One of the hard hit states, Pennsylvania, is still close enough that Republicans are throwing money into it. At this writing, between 250 and 300 Pennsylvania polling places are still without power, along with 307,000 Pennsylvania citizens. On balance, any fallout from the storm that depresses turnout is not good for Democrats.

Mercifully, the talk from earlier in the week that a state might actually try to postpone Election Day has faded. It’s clear that only Congress has the right to set Election Day. If elections were not postponed during the Civil War, it’s unthinkable that they’d be postponed a week after a hurricane. Even The Wall Street Journal editorial page discouraged the idea of delaying the election (maybe because Obama’s lead is widening?)

But after what we’ve seen in the past several elections in Republican voter-suppression efforts, never estimate the cynicism of the GOP or its appetite for fishing in troubled waters. The best antidote to all of this is a big general turnout and a stormproof margin of Democratic victory.

 

By: Robert Kuttner, The American Prospect, November 3, 2012

November 4, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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