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“The Cycle Of Republican Radicalization”: The Particularly Intense Loathing Republicans At All Levels Have For Obama Feeds The Cycle

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported on a Quinnipiac poll from a week ago showing a striking change in public opinion on immigration. The question was whether undocumented immigrants should be deported or should be able to get on a path to citizenship. Clear majorities of the public have long favored a path to citizenship (especially if you provide details of what that path would entail, which this poll didn’t). But that has changed, because Republicans have changed. As the Post described the Quinnipiac results, “Although [Republicans] supported citizenship over deportation 43 to 38 percent in November 2013, today they support deportation/involuntary departure over citizenship, 54 to 27 percent.”

That’s an enormous shift, and it provides an object lesson in a dynamic that has repeated itself many times during the Obama presidency. We’ve talked a lot about how the GOP in Congress has moved steadily to the right in recent years, but we haven’t paid as much attention to the movement of Republican voters. But the two feed off each other in a cycle.

Immigration is a perfect example. Before this latest immigration controversy, Republican voters were at least favorably inclined toward a path to citizenship. But then Barack Obama moves to grant temporary legal status to some undocumented people (and by the way, nothing he’s doing creates a path to citizenship for anyone, but that’s another story). It becomes a huge, headline-dominating story, in which every single prominent Republican denounces the move as one of the most vile offenses to which the Constitution has ever been subjected. Conservative media light up with condemnations. And because voters take cues from the elites on their own side, Republicans are naturally going to think the order was wrong while Democrats are going to think it was right.

But what the Quinnipiac poll suggests — and granted, this is only one poll and we won’t know for sure until we get more evidence — this process also ends up shifting people’s underlying beliefs about the issue. In this case, the controversy makes Republicans more conservative.

Let’s take another example. People like me have mocked Republican officeholders for the way they shifted on the wisdom of health insurance reform that involves establishing a marketplace where people can buy private insurance, providing subsidies so those with modest incomes can afford it, and imposing an individual mandate to ensure a wide risk pool. When Mitt Romney passed a plan on that model in 2006, Republicans thought it was an innovative, market-based solution to the problem of health insecurity and the uninsured, but when Barack Obama passed a similar plan in 2010, they decided it was a freedom-murdering socialist nightmare.

But it’s safe to say that the average Republican voter didn’t have much of an opinion on that particular kind of health care reform prior to Barack Obama becoming president. They did, however, have opinions on the underlying question of whether it’s the responsibility of the government to make sure that everyone has health coverage. You’d expect most Republicans to say no, since they believe in the free market and aren’t favorably inclined toward the safety net. And most did — in Gallup polls, the number of Republicans answering no to this question has consistently been over 50 percent. In 2006, for instance, it was 57 percent. But since then the rejection of government having this responsibility has gone from a majority position among Republicans to near-unanimity. In 2013, it reached 86 percent.

So it isn’t just that Republican voters were convinced that the Affordable Care Act is a bad thing. As a group they moved to the right, with the minority of them who believed in a government responsibility for health care either changing their minds or changing their party affiliation.

This movement hasn’t happened on every issue; for instance, you might be surprised to learn that substantial numbers of Republican voters appreciate the reality of global warming and favor taking steps to address it; in some cases, even a majority of them do, depending on what specific question is being asked (see here for some examples). My guess is that there are two reasons we haven’t seen a similar movement to the right on climate. First, there is some diversity of opinion within the GOP elite, from outright climate denialism on one end to acknowledgement of reality on the other (without, it should be said, accepting that anything ought to be done about it). Second, and perhaps more important, the issue has never been at the top of the news agenda for an extended period in recent years, particularly in a conflict that pits all Republicans against Barack Obama.

But when an issue like immigration or health care does meet those criteria, you get a particular cycle. Elite Republicans take their place in the fight against Obama; then rank-and-file Republicans follow along; then pushed by their constituencies, the officeholders harden their positions, which in turn pulls their voters farther to the right, and on it goes. The particularly intense loathing Republicans at all levels have for Obama feeds the cycle, pushing them toward not just disagreeing with him on particular courses of policy but rejecting the underlying principles he holds.

Is this cycle going to continue after Obama leaves office? If Hillary Clinton wins in 2016, it probably will.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, December 2, 2014

December 3, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, GOP, Republican Voters | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Buying And Selling Political Campaigns”: McConnell’s Eyes On The Prize–Repealing All Campaign Finance Laws

The big unfolding story of the post-election period is the ever-rising clamor of Republicans for appropriations riders “defunding” Obama’s executive action on immigration, or this or that feature of Obamacare. I am sure others will get into line holding up additional conservative ideological totems.

But what does it appear Mitch McConnell is focused on? Further deregulating campaign money, of course (per a report from Paul Blumenthal at Huffpost):

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is trying to use a massive appropriations bill to loosen campaign finance rules.

The Republican leader’s office is attempting to attach a policy rider to the omnibus bill that would effectively end limits imposed on coordinated spending by federal candidates and political party committees.

Currently, coordinated spending by candidates and political parties is limited based on a series of formulas for different offices. For example, the total amount presidential candidates may coordinate with political parties is calculated as the national voting-age population multiplied by two cents — a figure that is adjusted for the cost of living each election cycle.

The McConnell rider would allow parties to consult with candidate campaigns on advertising or other electoral advocacy without having the resulting spending count towards their coordinated limit, so long as the spending is not “controlled by, or made at the direction of” the candidate. The change would create a loophole essentially making the coordinated limits moot…..

In practice, discarding the current limits would give candidates significant input into the spending of party committees that can accept much larger direct contributions than the candidates are allowed to receive for their own campaigns.

This is pretty typical of McConnell’s priorities. This supremely cynical man may or may not actually believe in the various tenets of conservative orthodoxy. But he believes in buying and selling political campaigns with vast and unlimited appeals for cash from special interests with the tenacity of a mystic in direct communication with God Almighty.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, December 2, 2014

December 3, 2014 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Mitch Mc Connell, Politics | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Acting On Our Collective Fears”: Darren Wilson; America’s ‘Model Policeman’

Truth is stranger than fiction; it is also most certainly harder to accept.

In a nearly hour-long interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday, a day after thousands of protesters took to the streets from coast to coast, expressing outrage that yet another white police officer got away with the murder of another unarmed black person, Wilson stuck to his story: “I just did my job. I did what I was paid to do. I followed my training…. That’s it.”

Sure, there are plenty of reasons to doubt his account. If he knew Michael Brown was a robbery suspect, why did he politely stop him and Dorian Johnson for jaywalking only to “have a conversation,” as he described to Stephanopoulos? If the West Florissant section of Ferguson is “really a great community,” why did he testify that it was a not very “well-liked community” and a hotbed of anti-police sentiment?

And yet, despite all the equivocations, the shooting death of the teenager on August 9 and Monday’s grand jury decision not to indict Wilson were entirely unsurprising. They are the predictable outcomes of a criminal justice system doing exactly what it was meant to do. For all the dissecting and debating of the veracity of Darren Wilson’s grand jury testimony this week, one thing seems crystal clear. He was in fact doing his job.

Indeed, by this standard, isn’t Darren Wilson actually a model police officer?

He certainly thinks so. When asked by Stephanopoulos if he could make “something good” come of this experience, he said he would “love to teach people” and give them “more insight in uses of force.” That he may have logged more time on first-person shooters—emptying clip after clip to take down demonic super-villains who “run through shots”—than actual police work is beside the point. Darren Wilson has the kind of experience that many Americans value.

Evidence abounds that the United States is the world’s most punitive nation. More people are behind bars and incarcerated at higher per capita rates here than anywhere in the world. African-Americans are the nation’s prime suspects and prisoners. White police officers are our chosen protectors, enforcing the law in the name of public safety.

In a Pew research poll conducted shortly after Ferguson made national headlines this summer, researchers found that most Americans have a “fair amount of confidence in local police.” Eighty-five percent of respondents, white and black, gave a fair to excellent rating on police “protecting people from crime.” And on “using the right amount of force,” 66 percent of respondents gave a fair to excellent rating; white support stood at 73 percent and blacks at 42 percent. Though a clear racial divide exists, African-Americans are only 13 percent of the population nationally. Everyone is therefore implicated in police performance writ large, if not by choice, certainly through political representatives.

Critics and protesters of police violence among African-Americans and on the political left, as polling data suggests, see things differently. They are organizing against the routine killing of unarmed men and beating of helpless women on an unprecedented scale not seen since the anti-lynching movement of the last century. Even with such evidence in hand that black men are twenty-one times as likely to be killed by law enforcement than white men, as analyzed in a recent report by ProPublica, today’s movement like the one before it might fail to overcome deeply entrenched fears of black criminality without a massive shift in white public opinion and a new model for law enforcement.

Most whites do not realize they are reading from very old racial scripts. When Ida B. Wells, the world’s leading anti-lynching activist and black social worker of the early twentieth century, tried to explain to a wealthy suffragist in Chicago that anti-black violence in the nation must end, Mary Plummer replied: blacks need to “drive the criminals out” of the community. “Have you forgotten that 10 percent of all the crimes that were committed in Chicago last year were by colored men [less than 3 percent of the population]?”

Like Mary Plummer, Darren Wilson is emphatic that the issue is not racism. Brown’s African-American neighborhood is “one of our high-crime areas for the city,” he said during the interview. “You can’t perform the duties of a police officer and have racism in you. I help people. That’s my job.” On that day, “the only emotion I ever felt was fear,” before my training took over. “We are taught to deal with the threat at hand.”

Implicit bias research tells us that most Americans are afraid of black people and subconsciously associate dangerous weapons and animals with them. They see things often that are not there. Stanford psychologists Rebecca Haley and Jennifer Eberhardt note in a study last month that the more people perceive blacks as criminals or prisoners, “the more people fear crime, which then increases their acceptance of punitive policies.”

The truth is that Wilson has no regrets. He wouldn’t do things differently. He’s looking forward to a new chapter in his professional journey as a teacher, trainer or a consultant. He’s our representative figure—a model policeman—acting on our collective fears.


By: Khalil Gibran Muhammad, The Nation, November 29, 2014


December 3, 2014 Posted by | Darren Wilson, Ferguson Missouri, Racism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Trademark Arrogance”: Ferguson Nightmare Widens: Rudy Giuliani, The NFL And Cops Doubling Down On Their “Right” To Kill

The single worst moment in Officer Darren Wilson’s testimony about the day he shot Michael Brown came when he called the unarmed teenager “it,” saying at one point, “it looks like a demon.” He also compared him to “Hulk Hogan” and described him as “bulking up” as if to magically “run through” his bullets. But somehow the word “it” cut through the delusional, self-aggrandizing dramatics and showed the problem at the heart of their encounter: To Wilson, Mike Brown wasn’t human. “It” was a “demon.”

Yet Wilson’s often incredible testimony about the threat posed by Brown carried the day, and the grand jury declined to indict the cop for killing the unarmed teen. The decision has not only worsened the nation’s racial tension, but provoked despair over the possibility of change. Hundreds of politicians and pundits are criticizing the most disruptive Ferguson protesters, including President Obama, but almost no one is talking to the police about the way they consistently escalate these controversies – in the street, with young black men, but also in their dealings with communities afterward, when they tolerate no criticism.

That trademark arrogance has been taken to an extreme by the St. Louis Police Officers’ Association’s demand that the NFL discipline five St. Louis Rams players who participated in a pre-game “hands up, don’t shoot” protest of Mike Brown’s killing Sunday night. Appropriately, the NFL says no such discipline will be forthcoming; the cops also want an apology.

That a local police association thinks it is somehow bigger than the NFL, and that it has the power to curtail the First Amendment rights of football players, is just another example of the preemptive, aggressive self-defense that keeps police officers unaccountable for their transgressions.

Prosecutor-in-chief Rudy Giuliani set the tone for the Ferguson debate a day before the grand jury’s decision was announced. Giuliani minimized the problem of white police killing young black men on “Meet the Press,” telling Michael Eric Dyson “the white police officers wouldn’t be there if you weren’t killing each other 70-75 percent of the time” and asking “why don’t you cut it down so so many white police officers don’t have to be in black areas?”

A stunned Dyson shot back: “Look at this! This is the defensive mechanism of white supremacy in your mind, sir!”

I missed the Giuliani-Dyson debate when it aired, and when I searched for it online I was shocked to see the way right-wing sites were framing it: Newsbusters, Breitbart and others accused Dyson of “attacking” Giuliani, when the former New York mayor was clearly on the offensive. Dyson became the bad guy by calling Giuliani’s mind-set what it was. And the black guy is always the “attacker” in the right-wing mind, anyway.

As was the case with George Zimmerman’s acquittal, the Ferguson grand jury may have theoretically reached a defensible position given the letter of the law. They only had to believe Wilson had a “reasonable” belief that his life was in danger in order for the shooting to be justified. Thus leaders from President Obama to Mike Brown’s parents themselves have urged calm on angry communities, and counseled protesters to live with the verdict.

Dyson is among many to point out why that response, especially from the president, is so unsatisfying. While Obama strongly denounced “criminal acts” and insisted “I do not have any sympathy” for people destroying “your own communities,” his comments on the events that led to the violence were weirdly “vague, halting and non-committal,” Dyson wrote in the New York Times.

He slipped back into an emotional blandness that underplayed the searing divide, saying there was “an impression that folks have” about unjust policing and “there are issues in which the law too often feels as if it is being applied in discriminatory fashion.”

Of course even that relatively mild rebuke got Obama charged with inciting the Ferguson unrest by the right. The loons at Front Page Mag claimed Obama’s remarks stoked a “lynch mob” mentality while others called it “race-baiting as usual.” Milwaukee’s conservative sheriff David Clarke, who is African-American, insisted Obama’s call for calm after the verdict “was done with a wink and a nod,” because the president’s overall “political strategy of divide and conquer fuels this sort of racial animosity between people.”

Predictably, Rudy Giuliani escalated his rhetoric this past Sunday on Fox, telling Chris Wallace that it’s black people who bear responsibility for the outsize, and occasionally excessive, police presence in their communities.

“I think just as much, if not more, responsibility is on the black community to reduce the reason why the police officers are assigned in such large numbers to the black community.” He added: “It’s because blacks commit murder eight times more per capita than any other group in our society. If I’d put all my police on Park Avenue instead of Harlem, thousands more blacks would have died during my time in office.”

When it comes to controlling the public debate over these killings, the police lobby consistently uses excessive force — and gets away with it. Their outsize response to peaceful protest by the St. Louis Rams is only the latest example, and here’s hoping the NFL and the team don’t back down.


By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, December 1, 2014

December 3, 2014 Posted by | Ferguson Missouri, Racism, Rudy Giuliani | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“How Obama Boxed In Republicans With His Immigration Order”: Revoking It In 2017 Will Be A Lot More Complicated

If there’s an elected Republican who thinks it wasn’t a bad idea for President Obama to take executive action on immigration, he or she has yet to make that opinion known. Not surprisingly, the 20 or 30 men (and one woman) hoping to get the GOP nomination for president in 2016 have been particularly vocal on the topic. But while thunderous denunciations of the Constitution-shredding socialist dictator in the White House may seem to them today like exactly what the situation demands, before long they’re going to be asked a simple yet dangerous question: If you become president, what are you going to do about it?

Although they haven’t actually answered that question yet, their feelings have been unambiguous. Ted Cruz said Obama has “gotten in the job of counterfeiting immigration papers, because there’s no legal authority to do what he’s doing.” Rand Paul compared the order to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Rick Perry threatened to sue over it. So did Scott Walker. So did Mike Pence.

Because these guys would all like to be president, we have to place their opposition in a different context from their current jobs as senators and governors. So let’s imagine it’s January 2017. You, Republican candidate, have just been sworn in as president. Two years ago, Barack Obama made this policy change, and as a result, millions of undocumented immigrants registered with the government, submitted to background checks, paid back taxes, and obtained work permits. They’re now working legally and not living in fear of immigration authorities. You have to decide what’s going to happen to them. This is a very different situation than it was back in 2014 when the move was announced. Instead of wondering whether we should give legal status to a group of undocumented immigrants, we’re now wondering whether to take away legal status from a group of people who are documented, even if they’re not actually on a path to citizenship.

And don’t forget, these are pretty sympathetic folks — they’ve been in the United States for at least seven years now (under the order, only those who came before 2010 are eligible), and they were either brought here as children and grew up in America, or are the parents of children who were born in the U.S., or are legal residents. Deporting them would mean breaking up families. Just think how that’s going to play on the evening news—the image of children crying desperately as their parents are carted off by law enforcement on your orders isn’t exactly going to go over well.

That’s what the next president will confront. So what are the possible answers a Republican candidate could give to the question of what they will do about Obama’s order? They might say what a lot of Republicans fear, which is that however much they opposed the move in the first place, by 2017, undoing it will be impractical and cruel. But saying that would pretty much doom them with the extremely conservative white Republican primary electorate, because it both capitulates on the substance and reflects a stance of less than maximal opposition toward something Barack Obama did.

Alternatively, they could say they’ll immediately reverse the order and start deporting these immigrants. In fact, if they believe as they say that the order is illegal, wouldn’t they have no choice but to revoke it? And immediately? The trouble is that saying so would risk both alienating and mobilizing Latino voters, for whom undocumented people aren’t an abstraction or an invading horde but individual human beings.

If the eventual nominee said explicitly that he’ll revoke Obama’s order, it could remind a lot of people of 2012, when Mitt Romney suggested that given the impracticality of rounding up millions of undocumented immigrants, the way to deal with the problem was “self-deportation” — in other words, making life so miserable for them that they decided to return to the countries from which they fled. Even RNC chairman Reince Priebus later called that comment “horrific” because of the message it sent to Latinos. Pledging to start breaking up families would be even worse.

Since both those answers are extremely unappealing, the GOP candidates might try to retreat to a dodge — something like, “I’ll sit down with congressional leaders to determine a way forward.” Any reporter or debate monitor with a pulse is likely to follow up with, “O.K., but legislation can take time, and there’s little appetite among Republicans in Congress for immigration reform that goes much beyond building fences. So in the meantime, would you leave Obama’s order in place or issue your own order revoking it?” And they’d be right back where they started.

There are times when it’s perfectly reasonable for a candidate to answer a tough question with “It depends,” and this could be one of those times; for instance, how a Republican president would address the issue could depend on how many people actually sign up for this new legal status. But let’s be realistic: Republican primary voters are unlikely to accept that as an answer. They’re going to want a declaration of resolve and commitment, a signal that the candidates feel the same way about undocumented immigrants that they do. And there is bound to be at least one candidate (Ted Cruz, I’m guessing) who will open the bidding with an emphatic pledge to reverse Obama’s order on his first day in office. That will raise the pressure on all the other candidates to follow suit.

If they do, it will send a message of hostility that Latino voters will hear loud and clear, a message the GOP has been trying (unsuccessfully) to avoid for the last couple of years. Barack Obama sure boxed them in on this one, didn’t he?


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, December 1, 2014

December 3, 2014 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Immigration Reform, Republicans | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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