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“Policies That Are Simply Repugnant”: Beneath The Republican Wave, Voters Still Reject Right-Wing Ideology

In the wake of a “wave election” like the 2014 midterm, Americans will soon find out whether they actually want what they have wrought. The polls tell us that too many voters are weary of President Obama, including a significant number who actually voted for him two years ago. Polls likewise suggest that most voters today repose more trust in Republicans on such fundamental issues as economic growth, national security, and budget discipline. But do they want what Republicans in control will do now?

If they are faithful to their beliefs, the Republican leadership in Washington will now seek to advance a set of policies that are simply repugnant to the public – most notably in the Ryan budget that they have signed up to promote (except for the caucus of ultra-right Republicans who consider that wild plan too “moderate”).

House Speaker John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, the new Senate Majority Leader, will have to try to repeal Obamacare — but they will likely be pushed further than that. Proposals to reduce Medicare to vouchers, privatize Social Security, and gut the Federal agencies that protect the health and safety of ordinary citizens and the preservation of clean water and air will soon emerge. They will continue to let the nation’s infrastructure crumble. And they will attempt to shift the burden of taxation from the wealthy to the middle class, working families, and even the poor.

Attention to all these basic questions has been deflected, for the moment, by demagogic campaigns blaring the Ebola virus and Islamist militants at the border, as well as disaffection with the president. But that level of distraction will not last, once the Republicans begin to bring forward the kind of extremist legislation that their Tea Party base (and the billionaire lobby surrounding the Koch brothers) will demand.

When Americans look at real issues – even in this era of dissatisfaction and distraction – they display little interest in Republican-style solutions. The most obvious examples in this election are the referendum ballots on the minimum wage, which passed by two-to-one margins both in deep-red states such as Arkansas and in suddenly purplish places like Illinois, which elected a Republican governor. In Alaska, South Dakota, and Nebraska, where Republican candidates romped at every level,  voters passed state minimum wage increases by wide margins.

While GOP candidates in this year’s election set aside their “free-market” principles in the face of voter sentiment for higher wages – including Tom Cotton, who won a Senate seat in Arkansas – the Republican platform declared plainly in 2012 that the minimum wage “has seriously restricted progress in the private sector.” They aren’t simply against federal minimum wage increases, which they consistently oppose in Congress. They are against the very idea of a legal minimum wage, period.

In the president’s home state, where the election of a Republican governor is regarded as a political bellwether, the simultaneous rejection of right-wing ideology went beyond the minimum wage. Voters in Illinois overwhelmingly approved a “millionaire’s tax” – a special 3 percent state income tax surcharge on every resident earning more than a million dollars annually. Increasing taxes on the wealthy is, of course, anathema to the Republican right.

Even worse, from the Republican perspective, is that revenues from the millionaires tax will be dedicated to public education – another element of American democracy that the GOP constantly seeks to undermine.

Finally, the Illinois electorate approved a law mandating insurance coverage of prescription birth control, directly repudiating the Hobby Lobby decision by the Supreme Court’s right-wing majority. Like the minimum wage and the millionaires tax, this referendum was advisory and not legally binding. Republicans mocked all three as obvious attempts to draw Democratic voters to the polls. And as a political ploy, if that is what those ballot questions represented, they did not succeed.

But taken with the minimum wage referenda in other, more conservative states, they appear to represent prevailing sentiment among the American people.

Today, Republicans have every reason to celebrate a smashing victory that had very little to do with ideas and policies – and everything to do with an unpopular president’s streak of bad luck. What will happen when the right begins to implement its extremist ideology remains to be seen.


By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, The National Memo, November 5, 2014

November 7, 2014 Posted by | Midterm Elections, Minimum Wage, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Problem Of Political Precedents”: When Failure Is Rewarded, It Encourages More Failure

In a democracy, fear is supposed to be a powerful motivator for policymakers. There’s a constant realization that there’s always another election coming, and those who want to keep their jobs – and avoid voters’ wrath – will have to be responsible stewards of the public trust.

But what if these norms start to break down? What if the incentives baked into the cake prove to be faulty?

Kevin Drum made a comment last week that struck a chord, noting that Americans seemed inclined to blame Democrats, not Republicans, “for the rising dysfunction of the federal government.”

[This] is especially galling for Democrats, but it’s a win for Republicans and yet another sign of change in the way Washington is likely to work in the future. Republicans have discovered that a sufficiently united party can obstruct everything and anything but largely escape blame for the resulting gridlock.

This lesson has not been lost on Democrats, and it bodes ill for the future regardless of who wins our next few elections.

I think that’s correct and it’s a point that’s not repeated nearly enough.

In a democratic model, the last couple of years have been a mess of historic proportions. Republicans, consciously or not, decided to roll the dice – they would ignore the 2012 election results, refuse to govern, and kill measures regardless of their merit, popular support, or bipartisan appeal. They would shut down the government. They would eschew compromise. They would ignore calls to present policy solutions of their own. They would create the least productive Congress in modern American history.

And then they would wait for the American people to give them a reward.

Which voters delivered yesterday with a lovely bow on top.

When there is no accountability in a political system, there is no incentive for even well-intentioned policymakers to behave responsibly. It seems quite twisted: an unpopular party with unpopular ideas failed miserably at basic governance, and was rewarded handsomely for its efforts. The process isn’t supposed to work this way, and yet we now know it works exactly this way.

The resulting precedent is more than a little discouraging. When failure is rewarded, it encourages more failure. When obstruction is rewarded, it encourages more obstruction. When radicalism is rewarded, it encourages more radicalism. When a refusal to compromise is rewarded, it means politicians will be led to believe they, too, should refuse to work on bipartisan solutions.

It’s not a recipe for sound governance.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 7, 2014

November 7, 2014 Posted by | Democracy, Midterm Elections, Republicans | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Hostility Of Latter-Day Republicans”: For Obama, No Point In Being Conciliatory Now

I didn’t watch much TV last night, but I got the impression that whenever the gabbers ran out of steam in describing what was unfolding, they’d revert to blah blah blah about whether the results would re-inaugurate some sort of Era of Good Feeling in Washington.

It’s unclear to me if this sort of talk reflects incredible delusions about the hostility to compromise of latter-day Republicans, or the belief that Barack Obama and Democrats have no play but total surrender. Either way, it makes no sense, even if both sides make the obligatory cooing sounds about bipartisanship and “solving the country’s problems” for a few days.

Last night’s results, in fact, will enormously ratchet up pressure on Republican congressional leaders to act as though their party is already in charge. We’re much more likely to hear ultimatums than peace offerings. I’d figure Boehner and McConnell will let the White House know, privately and publicly, that life can get easier if Obama (a) approves the Keystone XL pipeline, (b) indefinitely delays any DACA expansion, and (c) indefinitely delays final action on climate change regs.

Maybe (a) is a viable option; for all any of us knows, the administration has already decided to approve Keystone. But pure merits aside, backing off on DACA would squander the most important political chip Obama can play for his party before leaving office, and backing off climate change regs might well kill prospects for doing anything on the most important long-range challenge facing the country for many years to come. I personally cannot see anything within the power of congressional Republicans to offer Obama that would justify either concession. Saying “no,” on the other hand, will almost certainly cause Republicans heartburn over the inevitable divisions of opinion about how, exactly, to respond (after the shrieks of rage have subsided). Add in the fact that an awful lot of Republican activists and opinion-leaders are going to vastly over-interpret the midterm results into either a “mandate” or a sign of manifest destiny, there’s little reason to think the GOP is going to listen to those who think the next two years must be devoted to changing the party’s image. At this point, it would be a terrible idea for Obama and Democrats to help Republicans achieve a “pragmatic” makeover they’re not willing to earn by disappointing the almighty “base.”

Besides, Democrats have another task that should absorb their time for the next year or so: coming up with a agenda for keeping the economic recovery going while boosting its tangible benefits for the 99%. Making progress on that front would be better medicine for the Democratic Party and for the country than considering concessions to the people who think there’s not enough inequality today.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, November 5, 2014

November 7, 2014 Posted by | Bipartisanship, Midterm Elections, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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