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“Stop Kidding Yourselves”: No, Conservatives, You Won’t Stop Watching Football If The NFL Markets Obamacare

News broke last week that the Obama administration had reached out to the National Basketball Association about a partnership to promote the president’s health reform law. Now, it is seeking a similar deal with the National Football League that will involve “paid advertising and partnerships to encourage enrollment” in Obamacare’s new programs, according to The Hill.

I’ve explained why the Obama-NBA partnership makes sense for both parties, and that reasoning holds true for the NFL–and more importantly, the networks that air the games–too. Given the enormous amount of money television networks pay for the right to air football games, they’re unlikely to turn down advertising that will help them reach the break-even point on those investments. And for the Obama administration, football is a logical target. The NFL has the largest audience of any sport in America. It reaches people in demographics that the Obama administration needs to reach with basic information about. And beyond the ads, such a partnership meshes nicely with other corporate citizenship efforts the NFL has undertaken, like its health-driven Play60 campaign. Plus, it’s the law.

Conservatives, to no one’s surprise, are nevertheless outraged. The Weekly Standard’s Jeffrey Anderson said it would be “yet another reminder that football is best watched on Saturdays,” and Twitchy highlighted tweets from conservatives who said it would cause a “mass exodus of support.” “If the NFL backs Obamacare,” one Twitchy tweet says, “they can kiss this season goodbye.”

It’s unlikely the NFL is rethinking its strategy based on a few tweets, but here’s a word of advice in case they are: the idea that people are going to stop watching football because of a few pro-health care ads, most of which will likely deal more with the details of new programs instead of advocating for it on ideological grounds, is absurd. I might personally share Anderson’s view that football is, indeed, best watched on Saturdays, but the NFL is the most popular sport in America. Its TV ratings are sky-high from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon. The league has endured two lockouts, the beginnings of a concussion crisis, and plenty of other on- and off-field controversies without turning the masses away. It’s going to take much more than a few health care ads to get people to stop watching.

The NFL, of course, knows that, but that doesn’t mean the partnership is going to happen. The cost of advertising may be too high for the government to pay on a regular basis, or the two sides may just fail to reach an agreement on other collaborations. If it does happen, though, conservatives might kick and scream and send angry tweets that the Twitchy team aggregates into a post every Sunday afternoon. To suggest that people will stop watching, though, is an exaggeration on the same level as cries of “government takeover of health care” and “death panels.”


By: Travis Waldron, Think Progress, June 28, 2013

July 2, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Widening The Gender Gap”: Prioritizing Recruitment Over Policy, The Unfortunate Timing Of The GOP’s “Project Grow”

We talked last week about a new Republican project, designed to “advance the role of women within our party.” On Friday afternoon, the initiative, which will fall under the umbrella of the National Republican Congressional Committee, was formally launched, along with its new name.

With a stagnant number of women in its caucus, the House GOP’s campaign organization announced a new program Friday, Project Grow, to recruit, mentor and elect more female candidates in 2014.

“We need more women to run,” Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., said. “Project Grow will plant that seed that will get them thinking of doing it.” […]

“Women are the majority, and we need to do a better job, and that’s what this is all about,” NRCC Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., said of Project Grow at the event.

According to the project’s website, it’s actually an acronym: “Project GROW” stands for “Growing Republican Opportunities for Women.” (Yes, the “G” in “GROW” stands for “grow.”) Once the initiative was launched, the Republican National Committee touted the effort with an unfortunate choice of words: “We need to be a party that allows talented women to rise to the top.”

This, of course, led DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Shultz to immediately respond to the use of the word “allow”, “Democratic women DO rise to the top. We don’t need permission.”

Stepping back, it’s worth noting that there’s nothing especially wrong with the idea behind “Project GROW,” and I think there’s value in major parties recruiting more women candidates to seek and hold public office. The Republican Party is currently dominated by men, especially in Congress — remember the House committee chairs? — and if the party is committed to making gender diversity a priority, more power to ’em.

The problem, however, is what Republican leaders think efforts like these will do for the party.

GOP officials seem to understand that the gender gap is large and getting larger. The party is not only alienating racial and ethnic minorities at an alarming pace, it’s also watching women become more Democratic with each passing year.

It makes sense that Republicans want to do something about this. It doesn’t make sense that Republicans have a diagnosis that has nothing to do with the underlying ailment.

I haven’t seen any polling on this lately, so I’ll concede that my assessment is based more on observation than quantitative analysis, but I have a strong hunch that if a pollster were to ask American women nationwide about why the GOP is struggling with women voters, “candidate recruitment” would not be near the top of the list.

Rather, the problem seems to be with the Republican Party’s policy agenda. If “Project GROW” brings a more diverse slate of candidates, that’s nice, but if the candidates are pushing the same proposals that drove women voters away in the first place, Republicans will probably be disappointed with the results.

Indeed, even the timing of “Project GROW” helps reinforce the larger issue — the national party is prioritizing candidate recruitment, while Republican policymakers at the state and federal level are pushing measures that severely undermine women’s rights.

Adding insult to injury, Republicans have chosen Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) to play a leadership role in this project, despite the fact that she opposes pay-equity measures for women, and voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Let’s make this plain for party leaders: recruitment matters, but policies matter more. If Republicans want to close the gender gap, they’ll need to reconsider their agenda, not just their slate of candidates.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 1, 2013

July 2, 2013 Posted by | Gender Gap, GOP | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Trapped In A Conservative Box”: The Cost Of The GOP’s Redistricting Wins Presents A Real Problem

Sometimes in politics you can lose by winning. Witness the problems the Republican Party is experiencing trying to govern with a majority that is widely believed to be unshakeable in the near future thanks to the redistricting job GOP state legislators did after the 2010 census.

Politico’s Alex Isenstadt has a report today suggesting that the party’s success has trapped Republicans in a conservative box, “narrowing the party’s appeal at a time when some GOP leaders say its future rests on the opposite happening.”

This isn’t necessarily a new thought. As I wrote back in early March:

In a sense the GOP’s success in the last round of redistricting – creating what the Cook Political Report sees as over 200 safe GOP districts – is proving Pyrrhic. If you’re a Republican member of Congress your greatest existential threat comes from primary challenges, so that’s what shapes your agenda, even if it comes at the cost of national political viability.

I was writing then about the GOP’s doubling down on the same policy agenda that voters rejected last November. That hasn’t changed in the intervening months. In fact, if you watched most House Republicans (and more than a few senators and other elected officials) you would not know that the party lost last year on multiple fronts: The presidential race wasn’t close and Obama became the first candidate since Dwight Eisenhower to crack 51 percent two elections in a row; Democrats picked up seats in both chambers of Congress and won more House votes than did the GOP, though Republicans held the lower chamber because, in large part, of their redistricting success. Meanwhile, the national GOP brand remains terrible.

Isenstadt is writing about “recurring drama within the House Republican Conference – from the surprise meltdown on the farm bill to the looming showdown over immigration reform,” but it’s the same basic problem: Conservatives unchecked by practical considerations such as what will help the party nationally.

The Politico piece has a couple of telling nuggets:

Of the 234 House Republicans, just four now represent districts that favor Democrats, according to data compiled by The Cook Political Report. That’s down from the 22 Republicans who resided in Democratic-friendly seats following the 2010 midterms, prior to the line-drawing.

They’re also serving districts that are increasingly white. After redistricting and the 2012 election, according to The Cook Political Report, the average Republican congressional district went from 73 percent white to 75 percent white. And even as Hispanics have emerged as America’s fastest-growing demographic group, only about one-tenth of Republicans represent districts where the Latino population is 25 percent or higher.

The piece also has the obligatory conservative quote about how what the party really needs is not to broaden its appeal but more starkly state its case. But this proceeds from an incorrect assumption of conservatism’s nationwide appeal. I am always reminded of this passage from Ryan Lizza’s Eric Cantor profile a few months ago. Lizza spoke with Georgia Republican Rep. Tom Price, a conservative leader:

He explained how surprised he was when one of his colleagues from a Northern state told him that he favored a tax increase on millionaires. “It hit me that what he was hearing when he’s going home to a Republican district in a blue state is completely different than what I’m hearing when I go home to a Republican district in a red state,” he said. “My folks are livid about this stuff. His folks clearly weren’t. And so we weren’t even starting from the same premise.”

Price is no tea party freshman just finding his way around the Congress. He’s the vice chairman of the House Budget Committee and has been in Congress for eight years. And yet it only just recently occurred to him that not every district holds the same political beliefs as his. That’s a real problem for Republicans and it’s one their redistricting success is only exacerbating.


By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, July 1, 2013

July 2, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Women’s Health Is In Danger”: A Fiercely Anti-Choice Ohio GOP Redefines “Pregnancy” To Mean “Not-Pregnancy”

Last night, Ohio Governor John Kasich took a little time from his weekend to sign a new $65 billion budget for the state. There are many moving parts to the law, including a $2.5 billion tax cut which—like most Republican tax cuts—is meant to help the rich at the expense of everyone else. But of those parts, the most relevant for discussion—given last week’s fiasco in the Texas Senate—are the new restrictions on all reproductive services.

In addition to slashing tax burdens on the wealthiest Ohioans, the budget measure signed yesterday would allocate federal funds away from Planned Parenthood—which uses them to provide contraception and other health services, not abortion—to crisis pregnancy centers, which claim to offer support, counseling and a full range of options for women who think they may be pregnant. In reality, they are overtly anti-abortion. “[A]ccording to personal accounts compiled by the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL),” notes the Guttmacher Institute, “once women are inside the office, counselors subject them to antiabortion propaganda, characterizing abortion as painful and life threatening, with long-lasting physical and psychological consequences.” While the psychological impact of abortion varies from woman to woman, in terms of medical safety, abortion ranks on the low end of risky procedures. CPC’s also discourage use of contraceptives like the morning-after pill, which are presented as abortion equivalents.

The Ohio law also requires doctors to give a verbal description of the ultrasound, including a fetal heartbeat if available. It compels abortion providers to tell patients that a fetus can feel pain and that a woman who has an abortion can increase her risk for breast cancer. This claim, touted frequently by anti-abortion activists, has little basis in fact. “The scientific evidence,” notes the American Cancer Society, “does not support the notion that abortion of any kind raises the risk of breast cancer or any other type of cancer.”

The law also redefines “pregnancy” and “fetus” in ways that could affect the availability of certain forms of birth control. Ohio Republicans have defined as “human offspring developing during pregnancy from the moment of conception and includes the embryonic stage of development,” and declared pregnancy as beginning with “fertilization.” Biological science, by contrast, defines pregnancy as beginning with the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterine lining. Why? Because a fertilized egg isn’t guaranteed to become an embryo; it can fail to implant and be expelled by the body.

There are also explicit restrictions to abortion access, as well as new requirements for doctors who perform them. Abortion providers are banned from having transfer agreements with public hospitals. Given that clinics are required to have transfer agreements, this could cause the closure of some clinics, and otherwise hamper access to reproductive health services. What’s more, the waiting period for abortions is extended from 24 hours to 48 hours, and the law would also eliminate “medical necessity” as a reason to waive the waiting period, replacing it with a waiver for “medical emergency.”

The difference, as the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes, is that the former is defined “as a medical condition that complicates the pregnancy so that it warrants an immediate abortion,” while the latter is “a condition that would result in the woman’s death without an abortion.” In practical terms, a necessity is a state of urgency where you may need an abortion in the future, whereas an emergency is where you need one now. It doesn’t seem like a big change, but it could have major implications, especially when coupled with the new penalties for violating these restrictions.

A doctor who does could be charged with a first-degree felony and a fine of up to $1 million—penalties normally reserved for rape, murder, attempted murder, and aggravated robbery (among others). We have no idea how many doctors will hesitate or refuse to perform abortions under serious circumstances, but my guess is that it will be more than a few, with serious consequences for women’s health.

As with the proposed law in Texas, it’s hard to describe these measures as anything other than backdoor attempts at making abortion unavailable in Ohio, through harsh restrictions, new regulations, or the legal intimidation.

Yesterday, on Meet the Press, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that there was “currently an assault on women’s health” and that “women’s health was in danger.” She’s absolutely right. Since the 2010 midterm elections—when Republicans swept statehouses and governorships across the country—there’s been a concerted push to deny women access to the wide array of reproductive health services.

On one hand, there’s a refreshing clarity about these efforts. Conservative lawmakers have all but dispensed with attempts to sound moderate, arguing that rape exceptions are unnecessary, and pushing for proposals—like defunding Planned Parenthood and limiting sex education—that would increase the rate of unplanned pregnancies (and thus abortions).

Of course, the only reason Republicans have become so open about this is because—on the whole—they are winning this fight.


By: Jamelle Bouie, The American Prospect, July 1, 2013

July 2, 2013 Posted by | Reproductive Rights, Women's Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Preventing Access To The Ballot Box”: Polling Disenfranchisement Will Be More Difficult To Flag

Time for everyone to step away from their respective ledges.

A few days have passed since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on one of the most effective pieces of civil rights legislation ever passed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Some of the kneejerk liberal oratory, the gnashing of teeth, is completely out of step with reality. The court’s decision does not signal a slippage to Jim Crow antics like poll taxes and hatred so violent that merely registering a black person to vote could lead to murder.

Likewise, conservatives would do well to cease gloating about the landmark ruling that nullified an important part of the Act. After all, it’s not like the court found that the nine states and portions of six others receiving extra scrutiny have become bastions of free and equal treatment for all voters.

In fact, records compiled for Congress the last time it renewed the Voting Rights Act in 2006 reflect many examples of disparate impacts for voters in recent years.

Clearly, a black man in the White House does not mean the nation has eradicated discriminatory problems in voting, intentional or not.

The problem now is Congress.

Congress needs to rewrite the guidelines nullified by the ruling to consider new situations across the United States. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts tried to nudge toward that goal in the ruling.

Dramatic demographic shifts necessitate it. New populations of voters not fully considered in 1965 such as Hispanics, Asians and increasing numbers of less mobile elderly are bringing new challenges to ensuring access to the polls.

The Court’s 5-4 ruling in Shelby v. Holder made irrelevant a portion of the law initially intended to halt the horrific abuses of the civil rights era.

Alabama’s Shelby County challenged a section of the Voting Rights Act that mandated so-called pre-clearance standards. Most of the states and some of jurisdictions covered are in the South. Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, they must first receive the federal government’s permission before redrawing legislative maps, shifting polling places or enacting new rules on voter identification.

These jurisdictions must prove to the Justice Department or a panel of federal judges that planned changes will not have a discriminatory effect.

Problem was, the areas were chosen by past abuses. Too far in the past, the court decided, nullifying the formula used to determine who is covered.

The court wants Congress to readdress the formula, using more current voting patterns. Congress failed to do that the last time the Voting Rights Act was renewed.

The Justice Department can and will still pursue abuses. They’ll be busy.

Accessibility to the ballot box is under assault in America. Legislatures nationwide are passing changes to voting laws, often under the guise of stopping voter fraud.

Repeatedly, politicians pushing for the measures cannot prove fraud exists. Often, they are mislabeling database errors as fraud. Problems like two people with the same name, inaccurate data entry of addresses or birthdays. The glitches need to be eliminated; new technology can be employed.

But the goal should always be increasing access for eligible voters, not making reaching the ballot box unnecessarily more difficult — and often placing that burden on older, poorer and minority voters.

Here is the thing.

Areas affected by pre-clearance standards could have been exempted from scrutiny years ago. All they needed to do was keep a clean slate, not have any violations for 10 consecutive years. This process, called “bailout,” is included in the act.

But problems continued. Most of the jurisdictions never met that mark.

No, they had to wait until a conservative-leaning court cut them some slack.

And now an ineffective Congress will make it that much more difficult to flag modern-era abuses.


By: Mary Sanchez, The National Memo, July 1, 2013

July 2, 2013 Posted by | Supreme Court, Voting Rights Act | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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