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“The Choice Now Is Between Bad And Worse”: Is It Too Late For The GOP To Save Itself With Latinos?

Since the 2012 election, there’s a story we’ve heard over and over about Republicans and the Latino vote. After spending years bashing immigrants, the party got hammered among this increasingly vital demographic group this election cycle, whereupon the party’s more pragmatic elements woke up and realized if they don’t convince Latinos the GOP isn’t hostile to them, they could make it impossible to win presidential elections. They’ve got one shot on immigration reform. Pass it, and they can stanch the bleeding. Kill it, and they lock in their dreadful performance among Latinos for generations.

This story is mostly true. But I’m beginning to wonder if it isn’t already too late for the GOP to win Latinos over. It’s going a little far to suggest that Latinos could become the equivalent of African Americans, giving 90 percent or more of their votes to Democrats in every election. But is it possible that so much damage has already been done that even if immigration reform passes, Republicans won’t see any improvement in their standing among Latinos?

Since we’re talking about what might happen in the future, this is all speculative, and it’s a little ridiculous to predict that anything that happens now will hold for “generations.” One generation, maybe, but nobody can say what the political landscape will look like in 30 or 40 years. But let’s think about how this is likely to play out in the near term.

If immigration reform fails because of anti-immigrant sentiment from the GOP’s right wing, that’s obviously a disaster for them. But even if it passes, that might be only a marginally better outcome. The debate itself could be making things worse by giving the anti-reform forces a bigger platform to express their views, even if other elements of the party are trying to put on a friendlier face. And if a bill does pass, who’s going to get the credit? Barack Obama, of course. It’ll be trumpeted in the media as the major legislative accomplishment of his second term (either the first, or the only, depending on how the next few years go), and much of the story will be about him for no reason other than that he’s the president and that’s how these things work; the president is the protagonist of most of the stories told about what happens in Washington, whether he deserves to be or not.

Furthermore, the legislation will almost certainly pass with the votes of almost every Democrat in both houses of Congress, and over the opposition of most Republicans. It doesn’t need  many Republican votes, and for every Republican officeholder who wants to see it pass, there are probably two or three who feel enough pressure from the party’s right wing that they’ll end up voting against it, if for no other reason than to forestall a primary challenge— the primary thing every Republican member of Congress fears these days.

So how is this debate going to look to the public as the vote approaches? On one side you’ll have Obama and the Democrats, along with a few Republicans; on the other side you’ll have a whole lot of Republicans, some of whom will no doubt continue to say offensive things about immigrants. For good measure, many people will assume, whether it’s true or not, that the Democrats are sincere in their support of immigration reform, while the Republicans who join them are doing it just to save their political skins. When it’s over, Obama will declare victory, and everyone will know that it happened because the intransigent Republicans were defeated. Some conservative Republicans running in primaries around the country will still see immigrant-bashing as a potentially fruitful campaign tactic, giving voters the occasional helpful reminder about where much of the party stands. And in the next election (and the one after that, and the one after that), the default assumption among Latino voters will continue to be that your average Republican despises and distrusts them. That isn’t to say that any individual Republican candidate can’t overcome that assumption and win the votes of significant numbers of Latinos, but it will be a very difficult thing to do, and most will fail when they try.

So at this point, it certainly looks like the two potential outcomes are that conservative Republicans succeed in killing immigration reform, which is disastrous for the GOP, or it passes, which is only a little bit better. If they’re going to change their image among Latino voters, it’s going to have to be a long-term project.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, April 30, 2013

May 5, 2013 Posted by | Immigration Reform, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“To Know Him Is To Dislike Him”: Ted Cruz On How To Make Enemies And Alienate People

As we discussed a month ago, Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) career on Capitol Hill is off to a difficult start. The Atlantic noted “a remarkable number of both Republicans and Democrats” have already come forward “to say that they think Cruz is kind of a jerk.” The New York Times added that “even some Republican colleagues are growing publicly frustrated” with the right-wing freshman.

It can, however, get worse. In fact, Cruz seems to be going out of his way to make enemies and alienate people.

Just a few days ago, Cruz made an unannounced appearance at the FreedomWorks Texas Summit, where he openly mocked his Senate Republican colleagues, calling them “squishes” who don’t like to be held accountable.

“Here was their argument,” Cruz said of Senate Republican. “They said: ‘Listen, before you did this, the politics of it were great. The Democrats were the bad guys. The Republicans were the good guys. Now we all look like a bunch of squishes.’ “Well, there is an alternative: you could just not be a bunch of squishes.”

It’s worth pausing to appreciate the irony: Cruz was the one afraid of a debate on reducing gun violence, and it was his GOP colleagues who were kowtowed into ignoring common sense and popular will.

But even putting that aside, it’s unclear who the senator thinks he’s impressing by taking cheap shots at his ostensible allies. It’s reached the point at which even Jennifer Rubin wants the Texas Republican to stop “being a jerk.”

Wait, it gets worse.

In Cruz’s version of events, he’s the hero of his own morality play, killing gun reforms singlehandedly, eking out a surprise victory at the last minute, thanks to his awesome awesomeness.

Dave Weigel rained on Cruz’s parade.

But Cruz blurs the timeline. In his version of events, Democrats were convinced up to the last minute that they could break 60 votes on Manchin-Toomey (“the look of shock from the senior Democrats!”) and Republicans shamed Cruz for his … well, for his ballsiness, in this telling. Fellow Republicans, says Cruz, were “yelling at us at the top of their lungs! Look, why did you do this! As a result of what you did, I gotta go home and my constituents are yelling at me that I’ve got to stand on principle!”

Back on Earth, Democrats basically knew that they wouldn’t break 60 on the night before the series of gun votes; Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy tweeted his disappointment. Cruz was in those rooms with GOP senators, and I wasn’t, but if they were angry at him on the week of April 8, it wasn’t because they disagreed with his gun stance, or lacked principle. It was because they considered it astrategic.

Reporters who live in D.C. and spend too many daylight hours talking to politicians, we get that. This was a pretty simple story of ideological preferences and interest group pressure. But Cruz wants a voter back home, a Republican activist, to learn something else — a Jimmy Stewart tale, in which the rest of the GOP was ready to sell you out until one man stood up and thundered “nay.”

All of this dishonest grandstanding may make right-wing activists swoon, but it should also cause Cruz some trouble on Capitol Hill. Senators have traditionally forged relationships with their colleagues in order to build coalitions and be more effective in passing legislation. Cruz is going out of his way to do the opposite — scolding his veteran colleagues, lecturing them on his wisdom, and creating conditions in which just about everyone who knows him dislikes him.

This should make it all but impossible for Cruz to play a constructive role in the chamber, though that may not matter to him, since he doesn’t seem especially interested in governing anyway.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 30, 2013

May 5, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Senate | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“As Maine Goes”: A Bipartisan Call To Overturn Citizens United

When the Maine State House voted 111-33 this week to call for a constitutional amendment to overturn the US Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the support for this bold gesture was notably bipartisan. Twenty-five Republicans joined four independents and all eighty-two Democrats to back the call.

Similarly, when the Maine State Senate voted 25-9 for the resolution, five Republicans joined with nineteen Democrats and independent Senator Richard Woodbury to “call upon each Member of the Maine Congressional Delegation to actively support and promote in Congress an amendment to the United States Constitution on campaign finance.”

What happened in Maine this week was a big deal for several reasons:

1. Maine became the thirteenth state to urge Congress to develop an amendment to address the money-in-politics crisis that is unfolding as a result of Supreme Court rulings that that have effectively struck down campaign-finance regulations and ushered in a new era of unlimited spending by wealthy individuals and corporate interests. Maine joins West Virginia, Colorado, Montana, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, California, Rhode Island, Maryland, Vermont, New Mexico and Hawaii in calling for an amendment. Washington, DC, has also backed the drive.

2. The swift action by both houses of the Maine legislature, coming less than a month after West Virginia urged Congress to act, confirms the momentum that is building for the movement, which has been backed by almost 500 communities nationwide. Though media coverage has been scant, it is rare in recent history for a grassroots movement to amend the constitution to have attracted so much official support at the municipal, county and state levels nationwide.

3. As in a number of other states, the significant level of bipartisan support in Maine provides a reminder that this movement is attracting support from across the partisan and ideological spectrum.

That final point merits particular attention.

Because of the often narrow and simplistic way in which political debates are covered in the United States—if they are covered at all—there is a tendency to think that all Democrats are reformers, while all Republicans are backers of big money in politics. That’s not the case. Polling has consistently shown that Republicans support for restrictions on corporate spending in elections very nearly parallels that of Democrats. And, while there are too many national Democrats who buy into big-money equations, there are Republicans who have begun to raise the right objections—and point to the right answers. Notably, Congressman Walter Jones Jr., a very conservative Republican congressman from North Carolina, is a cosponsor—along with Kentucky Democrat John Yarmuth—of a constitutional amendment proposal that would overturn key provisions of the Citizens United decision and establish that campaign contributions can be regulated by Congress and state legislatures.

Bipartisan support for reform is more evident in the states. State legislators are active at the grassroots, knocking on doors and meeting constituents face to face. They recognize the deep frustration with a political process that seems to have spun out of control, and they reject the premise that corporations and wealthy individuals have a constitutional right to buy elections.

“There has to be a way to secure First Amendment rights to speech and still control the amount of dollars spent on campaigns,” says Maine state Senator Edward Youngblood, a Republican who went so far as to appear at rallies calling for a constitutional amendment. “It should be plain to everyone after the election we’ve just had, which broke records for spending, that the system isn’t getting better.”

Youngblood is right, and the group that organized support for reform in his state, Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, wisely reached out to Democrats, Republicans, independents and third-party backers in pursuit of a “multi-partisan” coalition.

The approach has excited national groups such as Public Citizen’s Democracy Is for People Campaign, Move to Amend and Free Speech for People. Indeed, Free Speech for People’s Peter Schurman declared, “This terrific bi-partisan vote is a huge win, not only for Maine, but for all Americans. Republicans, independents, and Democrats alike are clamoring for a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United and bring back real democracy. We’re thrilled that Maine is now helping lead the way forward.”

He’s right, especially when it comes to the emphasis on drawing support from all parties for a reform that seeks to restore genuine competition based on ideas—as opposed to a shouting match between billionaires.

 

By: John Nichols, The Nation, May 1, 2013

May 5, 2013 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Citizens United | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Keeping The Outcry At Manageable Levels”: The Perverse Policy Math Of The GOP’s Sequester

So we’re 10 weeks in, and the GOP’s sequester strategy is coming into sharper focus. If a cut affects Americans residing at the higher end of the socioeconomic ladder, move heaven and earth to make it right. But if it affects folks who may have less means … crickets.

So while everyone knows about the heroic efforts of Republicans to rein in flight delays and restart White House tours, we hear a lot less about those who are losing the assistance they need to send their kids to school, eat a hot meal or just make it until they find their next job.

And one is left to wonder: How did a country like America ever get here? The answer is that it’s all part of the GOP’s long game against government.

It starts with a perverse kind of policy math that says if a government cut creates an inconvenience we should do something about it. But if a cut takes away something that’s critical to your survival today or the life trajectory of your kids, well, you’re out of luck.

And the way the sequester plays out – moving slowly across the land, knocking a handful of people out of Head Start here, reducing unemployment checks there – is the perfect way to effectuate a plan as brutal as the one Republicans conceive. Spreading out the impacts keeps the outcry at manageable levels, and ensures that there is no one critical mass of objectors – until it’s too late.

And in the mean time, the GOP gets what it’s long wanted: The slow withdrawal of government from the day-to-day lives of ordinary people. Government will continue to do many expensive things if the sequester plays out as intended: protect the country; administer justice; subsidize some industries and not others. But it will be out of the “help people go as far as their hard work and talent will take them” business. That just won’t be its role anymore.

We can certainly have a society that operates that way. There’s no rule against it. But what will America look like if the GOP gets it way?

On the one hand the amount of taxes some pay should go down. And those who are fortunate enough to be born into good life circumstances will have less competition to fear from those who are less well off – they simply will have less ways to get into a position to compete. Presumably that means wealth continues to collect at the upper ends of the socioeconomic structure, while more families fall to the bottom.

That’s not how the GOP would describe their approach, of course. But at some point we have to move past hysterical rhetoric about big government and get to the nuts and bolts of the policies they are attempting to effectuate under that banner. Now would be a good time to have that discussion.

It’s not only happening on the federal level. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has made headlines by calling on his state’s universities to find a way to provide a college education for $10,000. Now I suppose we could conclude that the governor really is concerned about people who can’t afford a more expensive education, though there’s little in his record to support that notion. More likely, this is his semester sequester. Rather than finding ways for less wealthy students to get the same quality education as their more well heeled counterparts, Perry’s putting the onus on the universities to dumb down their educational offerings for a less wealthy track.

All of this, of course, turns the way most of us think about government entirely on its head. When elected officials run for office, they do so by articulating a philosophy about how to address the problems we face – as a community, town, city or country. We vote for them when we conclude their prescriptions fit with the way we would like to see the problems we care about approached. Over the history of this country, that process – electing people who’s views align with our own – has resulted in the construction of a state that is more muscular in some areas, less so in others.

Another way of saying: Head Start didn’t just emerge like some kind of algae bloom on the national treasury. We, citizens, saw a problem, that disadvantaged kids weren’t getting a very good education. We asked our representatives to do something about it. Head Start was one of the solutions they came up with. If public polling is any indication, we like it. And if research is any guide, it works.

But the sequester means Republicans don’t have to debate the merits of Head Start. Instead, they keep the debate squarely in the frame that suits them best: that government is too big, it doesn’t work, we can slash away and no one will be the worse for it. But of course they will.

So where does this all end up? My guess is programs that people rely on sustain deep cuts, which becomes an argument to cut them even more: Look! Their performance is inexplicably worsening! And in some cases we get back to a place approximating where we were when the programs were first initiated. Over time, news reports and research bubbles up showing the deplorable circumstances under which some folks live, go to school, etc. Stirred by our conscience and the better angels of our nature we decide something has to be done. And we turn to government. Because that’s what its there for.

And at that moment, a cycle of absurd sequester stupidity will have finally run its course.

 

By: Anson Kaye, U. S. News and World Report, May 2, 2013

May 5, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Sequester | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Deeply Confused”: The Republican War On Data

The politics of paranoia can lead policymakers into some unfortunate directions. On everything from homeland security to education to guns, paranoid politicians invariably end up pushing some truly bizarre proposals for no good reason.

In the latest example, some far-right congressional Republicans have decided to wage a war on census data because they have paranoid ideas about “big government.”

A group of Republicans are cooking up legislation that could give President Barack Obama an unintentional assist with disagreeable unemployment numbers — by eliminating the key economic statistic altogether.

The bill, introduced last week by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), would bar the U.S. Census Bureau from conducting nearly all surveys except for a decennial population count. Such a step that would end the government’s ability to provide reliable estimates of the employment rate. Indeed, the government would not be able to produce any of the major economic indices that move markets every month, said multiple statistics experts, who were aghast at the proposal.

“They simply wouldn’t exist. We won’t have an unemployment rate,” said Ken Prewitt, the former director of the U.S. Census who is now a professor of public affairs at Columbia University.

The core issue is something called the American Community Survey, which the Census Bureau uses as a supplemental to the decennial reports, providing information on commuting, income, family structure, educational attainment, housing, and finance. The results are used extensively by businesses, researchers, academics, and government agencies, and have been an invaluable tool for decades.

Right-wing lawmakers, however, have come to believe nefarious government officials are collecting the information as part of a larger scheme — it’s never been entirely clear to me what they see as the point of the plot — that must be stopped. Sen. Rand Paul (K-Ky.), who revels in strange conspiracy theories, proposed legislation in March to make elements of the American Community Survey optional, apparently because he didn’t realize that they were already optional.

But it’s not just the American Community Survey that congressional Republicans are eager to crush.

Indeed, Rep. Jeff Duncan’s (R-S.C.) bizarre proposal, which has 10 co-sponsors, would also explicitly eliminate the agricultural census, economic census, government census, and mid-decade census.

As a consequence, Duncan’s bill would eliminate the existence of the unemployment rate and the measurement of the nation’s GDP, among other thing.

Maurine Haver, founder of business research firm Haver Analytics and a past president of the National Association for Business Economics, told the Huffington Post‘s Michael McAuliff, “Do they understand that these data that the Census Bureau collects are fundamental to everything else that’s done? They think the country doesn’t need to know how many people are unemployed, either?”

The answers to these questions are unclear — Duncan and other supporters of this proposal have not explained why they oppose the data, why they see the need to eliminate the data, or even if they understand what it is they’re doing.

Duncan, incidentally, is the same deeply confused congressman who spewed bizarre conspiracy theories about the Boston Marathon bombing, going so far that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano felt the need to say Duncan’s ignorant inquiries were “full of misstatements and misapprehensions,” and “not worthy of an answer.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 2, 2013

May 5, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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