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“Can You Say “Whig’s”: The Only Thing For Republicans To Fear Is Never Getting Elected Again

Ah, bipartisanship. Can you smell it? Well it’s in the air again, as a group of eight senators (for the love of god, can we not call them a “gang”?), four Democrats and four Republicans, unveiled a proposal for immigration reform. It includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants (an even faster one for seasonal agricultural workers, because what, do you expect native-born Americans to spend 10 hours a day bending over in the hot sun?), measures to improve the legal immigration system, and efforts to attract skilled immigrants. The proposal also stipulates that the path to citizenship would only happen after the implementation of stricter border enforcement, but one of the great unacknowledged developments of recent years is that border enforcement is far more vigorous than it used to be. We’ve got more Border Patrol agents making more arrests, and Barack Obama has deported people much faster than George W. Bush did (there were more than 400,000 deportations in 2012, a new record).

Immigration reform is looking rather likely to pass through Congress, and there’s one reason: fear. Republicans are terrified that unless they do something to reverse their abysmal performance among Latino voters in the last election, they could go the way of the Whigs. So even though most of them don’t really want to do it, enough of them could grit their teeth and vote yes on a comprehensive immigration reform package.

And that’s how bipartisanship happens: not when everyone realizes that they love their country more than they love their party, or when the cries of the public for comity in Congress become too loud, or even when a problem gets too big (as it happens, after years of steady increases, the number of undocumented immigrants has been stagnant since the Great Recession hit, mostly because there were fewer available jobs drawing immigrants here). Bipartisanship happens when preferences and raw political interest align to give both parties something they want or think they need. The Democrats have long wanted comprehensive immigration reform, and the Republicans now see it in their interest.


By: Paul Waldman and Jamie Fuller, The American Prospect, January 28, 2013

January 29, 2013 Posted by | Immigration | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Programming And Political Failure”: Sarah Palin, Fox News And The End Of An Era

Wasn’t it fitting that Sarah Palin’s exit from Fox News was made official the same week President Obama celebrated his second inauguration? Didn’t it just seem apt that the once-future star of Fox News and the Tea Party movement lost her national media platform just days after the president she tried to demonize for four years basked in the glow of his easy reelection victory?

Palin’s breakup with Fox was expected, but it’s still significant. A “milestone,” is how former Bush speechwriter David Frum put it.

The move represents the end of a brief, ill-conceived era within the conservative media movement, and specifically at Fox, where in the wake of Obama’s first White House win Palin, along with preposterous cohort Glenn Beck, was irresponsibly tapped to become a high-priced pundit who trafficked in hate.

At Fox, Palin represented a particularly angry and juvenile wing of the conservative movement. It’s the part that appears deeply obsessed with Obama as a person; an unhealthy obsession that seemed to surpass any interest in his policies. With lazy name-calling as her weapon of choice, Palin served as Fox News’ point person for misguided snark and sophomoric put-downs. Palin also epitomized the uber-aggressive anti-intellectual push that coincided with Obama’s swearing in four years ago.

And for a while, it looked like the push might work. In 2010, it seemed like Palin and Beck might just succeed in helping Fox change the face of American politics with their signature calling cards of continuous conspiracies (Beck) and perpetual victimization (Palin).

But it never happened.

In the wake of Beck’s cable TV departure in 2011, Obama’s reelection win in 2012, and now Palin’s farewell from Fox last week, it’s obvious the blueprint drawn up by Fox chief Roger Ailes was a programming and political failure. Yes, the name-calling and conspiratorial chatter remains at Fox, but it’s no longer delivered by Palin who was going to be the star some loyalist thought the channel could ride all the way to the White House.

Let’s also note that Fox’s Palin era was marked by how the Beltway press often did everything in its power to prop her up as a “star” reaching new heights, when with each passing month Palin’s standing with the public seemed to register new lows.

Belying claims of liberal bias, the political press seemed desperate for Palin to succeed and to become a lasting presence in American politics; a permanent TV foil during the Obama era. Can you think of another time when the press so enthusiastically heralded the losing vice presidential candidate as a political and media “phenomena”?

— ABC’s The Note: “There is precisely one superstar in the Republican Party.”

Time’s Mark Halperin: Palin’s “operating on a different plane, hovering higher than a mere celebrity, more buoyant than an average politician.”

Washington Post’s David Broder: “A public figure at the top of her game.”

Wrong, wrong and wrong.

Whatever success and momentum Palin enjoyed on Fox in terms of influencing the national conversation (i.e. “death panels”), it slowed in January 2011. That’s when, responding to an Arizona shopping center shooting spree that nearly claimed the life of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Palin cast herself as a victim, and condemned the press for manufacturing a “blood libel.” (Palin appeared to not understand that historically, “blood libel” relates to the anti-Semitic charge that Jews murder children and use their blood for religious rituals.)

The Beltway press seemed truly aghast by Palin’s performance. And so did Roger Ailes. When Palin bowed out of the 2012 presidential race and did so on a right-wing talk show instead of on Fox, thereby robbing the channel of the spotlight, her star seemed to fade precipitously, to the point where her views and commentary were irrelevant to last year’s presidential campaign.

Meanwhile, Palin’s departure is also significant because it comes at a time when Fox is still reeling from Obama’s reelection. (A reelection Palin was supposed to help derail.) Where the channel spent the previous four years with a laser-like focus rallying right-wing believers in an effort to drive Obama from the White House, while simultaneously, we were told, saving liberty and countless freedoms, Fox today seems utterly lost knowing it won’t ever defeat Obama at the polls.

Clinging ever tighter to the gears on its phony outrage machine, Fox talkers take turns taking umbrage. Last week’s relentless sobbing over Obama’s inauguration speech (too partisan!) was a perfect example of how the channel can’t stop lashing out at imaginary slights.

Writing for Esquire‘s website, Tom Junod noticed the same pervasive sense of bewilderment. A student of Fox who wrote a lengthy profile of Ailes two years ago, Junod labeled the Fox incarnation on display early in Obama’s second term to be a “freak show” wallowing in defeat and an over-sized “sense of injury”:

The question, of course, is whether [Ailes] knows what anyone else in the United States might like, or whether his network, even as it holds its captive audience, will descend further into political irrelevance. For all his instinctive showmanship, and for all his purported populist genius, Ailes saw Obama cobble together his new majority right under his nose, and knew neither what to call it or how to stop it.

In other words, Fox News got steamrolled by Obama’s reelection. Palin’s departure from the Fox payroll serves as a useful exclamation point to that fact.


By: Eric Boehlert, The Huffington Post, January 28, 2013

January 29, 2013 Posted by | Inauguration 2013, Politics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Hell Isle”: A Commonwealth Of The United States Where “Funny Talkers” Need Not Apply

Check out what the loopy Ayn Randroids are up to now. In long-suffering Detroit, a libertarian real estate developer wants to buy a civic crown jewel, Belle Isle, the 982-acre park designed by Frederick Law Olmstead—think the Motor City’s Central Park—and turn it into an independent nation, selling citizenships at $300,000 per. Not, mind you, out of any mercenary motives, says would-be founder Rodney Lockwood—but just “to provide an economic and social laboratory for a society which effectively addresses some of the most important problems of American, and the western world.” (Sic.)

Address how? Well, let’s say I’ve never seen a document that better reveals the extent to which, for libertarians, “liberty” means the opposite of liberty—at least since Rick Santorum held up the company town in which his grandpa was entombed as a beacon of freedom.

An aspiring Ayn Rand himself, Lockwood has set out his vision in a “novel,” poetically titled Belle Isle: Detroit’s Game Changer. Although he’s actually done the master one better, by imagining he can get his utopia built. Last week he presented the plan, alongside a retired Chrysler executive, a charter school entrepreneur (who apparently enjoys a cameo in the novel running one of the island’s two K-12 schools) and a senior economist at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, to what The Detroit News called “a select group of movers and shakers at the tony Detroit Athletic Club,” who included the president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Never let it be said Rod Lockwood (perfect pornstar name? You be the judge) hasn’t thought this thing through. The plan is foolproof: “Belle Isle is sold by the City of Detroit to a group of investors for $1 billion. The island is then developed into a city-state of 35,000 people, with its own laws, customs and currency, under United States supervision as a Commonwealth.” Relations with neighboring, impoverished Detroit will be naught but copacetic, and not exploitative at all: “Plants will be built across the Detroit River…. with the engineering and management functions on Belle Isle. Companies from all over the world will locate on Belle Isle, bringing in massive amounts of capital and GDP.” (Because, you know, tax-dodging international financiers of the sort a scheme like this attracts are just desperate to open and operate factories.) Government will be limited to ten percent or less of GDP, “by constitutional dictate. The social safety net is operated charities, which are highly encouraged and supported by the government.”

Although, on Belle Isle, “the word ‘Government’ is discouraged and replaced with the word ‘Service’ in the name of buildings.” Note the verb-tense slippage between present and future throughout. Lockwood is a realist.

He says what he imagines is a “Midwest Tiger”—helpfully explaining that his self-bestowed nickname is “a play on the label given Singapore as the ‘Asian Tiger.’ Singapore, in recent decades, has transformed itself into the most dynamic economy in the world, through low regulation, low taxes and business-friendly practices.”

Singapore. You know: that libertarian paradise where chewing gum is banned; thousands of people each year are sentenced to whippings with rattan canes for such offenses as overstaying visas and spray-painting buildings; the punishment for littering can be $1,000, a term of forced labor and being required to wear a sign reading “I am a litter lout”; and where pornography, criticizing religion, connecting to an unsecured Wi-Fi hotspot and (yes!) over-exuberant hugging are all banned. Freedom!

What are the Commonwealth’s other inspirations, you ask? “The country of Liechtenstein, which, although a monarchy, has a very effective government.”

And indeed, just like little Liechtenstein, Belle Islanders will enjoy protection from America’s security umbrella: “As a Commonwealth of the United States…Belle Isle pays its share of the U.S. defense budget, based on its population. It amounts to about $2,000 per person per year.” In fact Belle Islanders can expect nothing but fiscal gratitude from citizens of the United States. Yes, “a citizen who lives on Belle Isle who operates an investment fund with world-wide customers will pay no income taxes” to the United States. “Won’t the US lose a lot of tax revenue?” Oh, ye of little libertarian faith. “It will probably gain revenue…. Entrepreneurs from around the world will locate on Belle Isle and headquarter there, but often have their plant operations in the US because the island is so small. Businesses producing products in the U.S. will still be taxed at US corporate rates…. the influx of capital and jobs will be staggering…. Detroiters will see this vision as the answer to their prayers, and how could the federal government deny Detroit a chance to turn itself around, accelerate its re-birth, all at no cost to the taxpayer? How could they deny this long standing population of over 700,000 their first real shot at the American dream.” (Sic.)

Want in? Three requirements. First, of course, you need to come up with $300,000. “Will the citizenship fee pay for the purchase of any land for homes or businesses on Belle Isle?” “No—that will be an additional cost.” But look what that $300,000 buys you: “One of the core values” of the new nation, Lockwood writes, “is respect for all its citizens, no matter their station in life.”

Second: approval by the “citizenship board.” (Freedom!) Third step: “a command of English.” Because nothing says “respect for all its citizens” like “funny-talkers need not apply.”

And yes, it’s true, Lockwood proposes the “Rand” as the name of Belle Isle’s currency. But I’m sure he means Rand as in “Ayn Rand,” not, you know, Rand as in “South Africa,” the former home of a social system that functioned by surrounding minority enclaves of affluent whites with a reserve army of impoverished and disenfranchised blacks. Not like that at all.

What could go wrong? What’s the downside? After all, writes Lockwood in the section of his FAQ asking, ‘What is Bell Isle used for currently?”, “It is uninhabited and functions as a public park.” Just like that dead zone between 59th and 110th Streets in Manhattan.

You can sign up for updates on the project here. Although, take note, in order do so you have to give the organizers your phone number. Because, you know… freedom.


By: Rick Perlstein, The Nation, January 28, 2013

January 29, 2013 Posted by | Libertarians | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Moment Of Truth”: Is Immigration Reform The End Of The Line For GOP-Tea Party Alliance?

As Republican elected officials—hoping to save their political party from going the way of the dinosaur—race to grab as much credit as possible for a newly minted immigration reform effort designed to create a pathway to citizenship for some 11 million people illegally in the United States, the moment of truth for the GOP-Tea Party alliance may now be at hand.

And make no mistake…it’s going to get ugly.

While the immigration plan proposed on Monday by a bipartisan panel of eight U.S. Senators would create what the group is calling a “tough but fair path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States that is contingent upon securing our borders and tracking whether legal immigrants have left the country when required”, it seems unlikely that Tea Party backed Members in the House of Representatives can support any such plan without being viewed as having sold out the most basic of Tea Party principles. As a result, any action in the Senate to approve such a reform effort is likely to kick off an inter-party war in the House that will make the battles inside the GOP caucus over the fiscal cliff, debt ceiling and tax increases for the 1 percent appear, by comparison, to be a walk in the park on Sunday.

The problem is as simple as it is glaring.

A willingness on the part of Tea Party supported elected officials to abide a policy that could lead to 11 million illegals achieving American citizenship or green card status would be seen as the ultimate betrayal of the principles that give the Tea Party movement its strength—not to mention its financial support. Thus, a Tea Party backed politician who votes for any immigration reform bill will be seen to have sold out the movement in favor of the preservation of the Republican Party— an action that would be anathema to many loyal Tea Partiers.

As Matt Maggio writes in the Greensborough TEA Party Examiner:

“Another reason why the Tea Party will shift its focus to immigration now is that – with this year’s election now over – many of those in “traditional” Republican circles who had seen the Tea Party as a helpful parallel force for their goals are now out of active involvement. As such, the Tea Party’s own grassroots main issues – illegal aliens, taxes, Obamacare, and bailouts – are what will matter in the movement, not the Republican Party’s goals.”

The issue also presents a political ‘Sophie’s Choice’ for members of the GOP Congressional caucus who come to Washington without the strong backing of the Tea Party and choose not to overtly identify with the group. Despite their non-reliance on espousing Tea Party principles in their rhetoric and Congressional voting records, these elected officials will, nevertheless, be forced to choose between continuing a policy that has alienated the Hispanic community (fast becoming the most important voting block in the nation as proven by the 2012 presidential race) and will lead to political irrelevancy for their party, or get behind the GOP survival effort and face the inevitable electoral nightmare for Republican elected officials everywhere—a Tea Party backed primary challenge.

Talk about a Catch-22 with no way out.

While the Republican members of the group of eight—including Senators Marco Rubio of Florida, John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Jeff Flake of Arizona—have sought to appease the most extreme wing of their party by including language that would prevent much in the way of forward movement for illegal immigrants until a committee to be formed of Southwestern state leaders first approve the satisfactory completion of new efforts to secure the border, it is highly unlikely that this language contained in the bipartisan framework will pass muster with enough Senate Democrats to allow such a provision to make it into a final Senate bill.

After all, it is these very Southwestern elected officials—including Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona—who have made a career out of doing everything in their power to block illegal immigration and, as a result, are likely to never give the “thumbs up” that would be required to allow the process of legalizing immigrants to begin.

This means that any bill to make it out of the Senate would likely create a less restrictive opportunity for legalization, putting increased pressure of those House Republicans who want to vote for the legislation in the effort to please Hispanics and preserve their political party’s future.

At the end of what will surely be a hard-fought process, the odds are that the nation will get some sort of new immigration policy that will allow both political parties to claim a measure of credit. But the odds are equally good that the inevitable battle supreme that will play out inside the House Republican caucus will drive the final wedge between mainstream Congressional Republicans and their Tea Party flank—splitting off the extremist from the GOP caucus once and for all.

You can read the full text of the “Bipartisan Framework For Comprehensive Immigration Reform” here.

By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, January 28, 2013

January 29, 2013 Posted by | Immigration | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Oppose, Oppose, Oppose”: Why President Obama Is Right About The GOP

In a revealing interview with The New Republic that was published over the weekend, President Obama laid plain the strategic choice that he believes faces the Republican party heading into 2014 — and beyond.

“Until Republicans feel that there’s a real price to pay for them just saying no and being obstructionist, you’ll probably see at least a number of them arguing that we should keep on doing it,” the president said. “It worked for them in the 2010 election cycle, and I think there are those who believe that it can work again.”

While GOP strategists might dismiss Obama’s analysis of the way forward for their side as overly simplistic, there is considerable truth in what he says. And the direction the party decides to head on that very question will be a telling indicator of the nature of both the 2014 midterm elections and the 2016 Republican primary fight.

Remember back to the immediate aftermath of the 2008 election? Some Republicans, stunned by the breadth and depth of their defeats, began to talk about the need to reimagine the party to fit the modern American electorate.

Then came Obama’s economic stimulus plan and his health care law — not to mention the bank bailouts. The tea party was born and, with it, those within the GOP who regarded the 2008 election as a fluke won the day. The Republican Party united around its opposition to Obama and was rewarded (in spades) for doing so in the 2010 midterm elections.

(Sidebar: Many people — read: Democrats — blame Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) for articulating the “opposition at all costs strategy.” While McConnell did say the goal for the GOP and its voters was to make Obama a “one-term president,” he did so mere days before the 2010 election and, therefore, was not the strategic father, for good or bad, of the oppose-at-all-costs approach. Besides that, what McConnell was saying was that to accomplish the goals Republicans believed in, Obama would have to be removed as president, which is a somewhat indisputable notion.)

Riding high on that “oppose, oppose, oppose” strategy, Republicans galloped into the 2012 presidential election full of bravado and apparent momentum. Then the strategy started to fail. As much as Republican presidential candidates tried to shine a light on Obama and his policies, the debate kept coming back to Mitt Romney, his view of the world and what he would do as president. And Romney never came close to fully articulating that alternative vision.

Now, four years after some Republicans were pushing for a reexamination of what the party believes and why they believe it, it appears as though that reckoning is underway.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), in a speech last week at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting, said that “if this election taught us anything, it is that we will not win elections by simply pointing out the failures of the other side.” And already people including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (like Jindal a potential 2016 candidate) are pushing to break the partisan logjam on overhauling the country’s immigration laws.

The question for Republicans is whether that spirit — voiced by Jindal and Rubio among others — holds steady amid what will be an epic fight over debt and spending over these next few months. And it may not. Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, for example, said Sunday that he expects Congress to fail to reach a deal to avoid automatic across the board cuts known as the sequester.

The easiest path for Republicans will be to define themselves wholly in opposition to the president and what he proposes. And, such a path — as demonstrated by the 2010 midterm elections — could well have short-term political benefits.

But to sustain and to thrive as a party, Republicans almost certainly need to cut deals on matters of political necessity (immigration is the most obvious) while simultaneously staking out new ground with a rigorous — and positive — set of policy proposals.

The top leaders of the party are well aware of that reality. But do they have enough control over the rank and file to put it into practice between now and 2014?

Time will tell.

By: Chris Cilliza and Aaron Blake, The Washington Post, The Fix, January 28, 2013

January 29, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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