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“Allowing Ideology To Overcome Common Sense”: Conservative Policies Just Don’t Work: Immigration Edition

I’ve frequently used the devastating failure of Sam Brownback’s conservative economic experiment in Kansas to show that conservative policies aren’t just morally and ethically wrong, but also simply dysfunctional and counterproductive at a basic utilitarian level. Most educated people understand this about supply-side economic policy by now.

It’s also, of course, true of social policy. We know that sexual repression, abstinence education and social stigma is the surest way to increase unintended pregnancy, STD transmission and infidelity. We know that you can’t actually “pray the gay away” even if you wanted to.

And it’s true of immigration policy, that very hot topic at present. Dave Weigel at the Washington Post reminds us of the utter failure of Trump-style immigration policy, in the very state where Trump decided to host his stadium rally:

Alabama, which hosted the largest rally of Trump’s presidential campaign Friday night, had been a test kitchen for Trump-style crackdowns on undocumented workers — and it had not gone well.

In 2011, a new Republican legislature and governor enacted HB 56, the Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act. Chief sponsor Micky Hammon warned the undocumented population that he would “make it difficult for them to live here, so they will deport themselves.” Renting a house or giving a job to an “illegal” became a crime. Police were empowered to demand proof of citizenship from anyone who looked as if he or she might lack it. School administrators were instructed to do the same to children.

The backlash was massive — a legal assault that chipped away at the law, and a political campaign that made Republicans own its consequences. Business groups blamed the tough measures for scaring away capital and for an exodus of workers that hurt the state’s agriculture industry. After Mitt Romney lost the 2012 presidential election, strategists in his own party blamed his support for the Alabama attrition policy. Those critics included Donald Trump.

It wasn’t just a political failure and black eye for the state. It was also a direct policy failure. As in other states that tried similar experiments, the agriculture sector suffered greatly as workers driven away by hostile policies were not easily replaced.

Asked about the law, Alabama voters rarely say that it worked. Large farms spent millions training new workers. The Byrds conceded that the agriculture sector suffered after some immigrants fled the state. “Most of them left and didn’t come back,” said Terry Darring-Rogers, who works at a Mobile law firm specializing in immigration.

But many Republicans have already forgotten that lesson, allowing their ideology to overwhelm their common sense in the belief that it wasn’t state conservative policy that failed, but the federal government’s interference that stymied it:

To Republicans, the lesson of HB 56 was no longer that it failed. The lesson was that it had not been permitted to work, stymied by the Obama administration. That theory took shape in the displays in some Robertsdale stores, where a sign declaring compliance with E-Verify was posted above an even larger ad from the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.

Some people will never learn, no matter how much self-inflicted failure they endure. When Josh Duggar and countless similar self-righteous conservatives are exposed as cheating molesters, it doesn’t cause conservatives to question whether their belief system might be causing those problems. They just double down. When abstinence education causes more teen pregnancy than responsible sex education, conservatives double down on the slut shaming. When tax cuts on the rich and wage cuts to government workers lead to economic recession, Republicans don’t question their core economic beliefs; they just claim they weren’t allowed to go far enough.

In a way, modern conservatives are similar to the Communists of old. No matter how obvious the ideology’s failure, the response is always that the policies were not enacted in a strong and pure enough manner.

That inability to come to grips with failure and adjust course, and that insistence on doubling down in the face of adverse results, is part of why many consider modern conservatism to be an almost cultic movement. Its adherents long since stopped caring about the evidence or empirical results. It’s all about who can prove truest to the faith, and maximally annoy and rebel against the evil liberal heathens. Policies and results are really beside the point.


By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 23, 2015

August 24, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Ideology, Immigration | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“A Ferocious Corporate Overlord”: No Surprise; Trump Is A Union Buster At His Own Hotel

Their boss is famous for firing people with merciless gusto. So you can imagine it took just as much chutzpah for the workers at the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas to rally today and demand the right to unionize and to gain respect on the job.

While the Donald seeks election to a new post, roughly 500 workers at the hotel are focusing on a very different vote: They’ve been pushing to form a union for months, and are trying to snatch a bit of Trump’s campaign spotlight this summer to call on him “Make America Great Again” right on his home turf. As a recent ad for the unionization campaign proclaims: “We think that working for Mr. Trump in Las Vegas is a chance to make our lives better…but only if he pays us the same wages and benefits as everyone else working on the Strip.”

Of course, what do they expect from the man who’s built a brand for himself as a ferocious corporate overlord? His attitude on the campaign trail is as ruthless as his management style, laced with racial invective and almost self-caricaturing jingoism. (Not to mention hypocrisy—just ask the many low-wage immigrant laborers he has exploited over the years). But amid the buffoonery, the local hospitality union, Culinary Workers Union Local 226, is pressing serious charges of labor violations and denouncing his operations as a bastion of union busting in an otherwise union town.

In fact, the nearby Las Vegas strip and downtown area have a roughly 95 percent union density. Local 226, a Nevada affiliate of UNITE HERE, recently sealed several multi-year contracts covering tens of thousands of local food-service workers, housekeepers, and other hospitality staff, featuring wages and benefits topping $20 an hour, full health and retirement benefits, and workplace-grievance procedures. Not surprisingly, Trump’s staff is heavily comprised of immigrants whose terms of work lag behind union hospitality workers in benefits, wages, and job security.

About 86 percent of workers in the planned bargaining unit have signed “Union Yes” cards. UNITE HERE is seeking neutrality from the employer and a straight card-check majority vote for unionization, rather than plodding through the NLRB ballot process. Nonetheless, according to the union, the management has run a stealth campaign to persuade hotel staff that organizing is not in their best interest.

According to NLRB charges filed by the union, five hotel workers were “unfairly suspended for exercising their legal right to wear a union button and organize their coworkers” last year (they were eventually reinstated with back pay, along with an agreement to post workers rights publicly and not interfere with future organizing). Last June, the union filed new charges alleging the management “violated the federally protected rights of workers to participate in union activities” including “incidents of alleged physical assault, verbal abuse, intimidation, and threats by management.” The workers charged the managers with blocking organizers from distributing pro-union literature in the workers’ dining room, while stealthily allowing anti-union activists to campaign during work hours.

Sebastian Corcordel, who came to the United States from Romania over a decade ago and has been working as a server at Trump International since it opened in 2008, hopes a union can provide the job security he feels his workplace has long lacked, along with long-overdue raises. The resistance facing the campaign, in his view, underscores how badly the staff needs basic protections and grievance procedures at work.

“I see [this] with myself, and with my coworkers. They try to [apply] pressure: Don’t do this, don’t do this, don’t go with the union,” he says of the management, pointing to a flurry of anti-union propaganda flyers and posters. Some coworkers are wary of the organizing drive, he concedes: “Some of them are very very afraid to be a part of the union…[but] It’s their right, and nobody can retaliate against them.” And when others criticize his support for the campaign, the proud naturalized citizen replies, “This is my right. Like the right to vote.”

The Trump workers build on a legacy of social movements on the Strip. In the 1960s, Las Vegas was a battlefield for civil-rights struggles in the push to desegregate casinos. In later years racial conflicts would erupt and intersect periodically with labor strife, as militant black working-class communities formed the backbone of the gambling industry. Under the leadership of former hotel worker turned union chief Hattie Canty, UNITE HERE’s multiethnic coalition staged massive strikes and won contracts that set a remarkably high bar for labor rights in the post-industrial Sunbelt economy. Christopher Johnson on notes: “By 1996, room maids could earn approximately $9.25 an hour; more than double the average wage for hotel maids in other cities. For Hattie Canty, as with most unionized workers, these wages had enabled a middle class lifestyle.”

But Vegas’s good fortunes are fleeting, The recession hit the low-wage workforce hard, and unemployment spiked among Nevada’s black and Latino populations.

As a core immigrant job sector, the hospitality industry has actually managed to rebound somewhat, compared to another major industry for low-wage immigrants, construction, making the Vegas hotels that much more vital to the Latino community’s long-term economic recovery. Still, both industries are rife with occupational hazards, abuse and discrimination. Embattled unions like Local 226 are holding the line in Vegas against the brand of neoliberal hegemony Trump champions.

Trump’s election platform promises the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants and sealing the borders, supposedly to protect American workers. But Corcordel scoffs at the notion of immigrant workers’ somehow taking more than they give to the economy—particularly the chunk of it controlled by Trump himself:

The entire hotel is immigrants.… So I don’t know why he’s against immigrants, because we do our job very fairly and we help him too to grow [the business].… how you gonna have the hotel without workers to work?

While Trump trumpets his plan to make the country “great again” and “improve jobs, wages and security for all Americans,” the new Americans who make his businesses run each day hope their boss comes around to letting them finally improve their own jobs, wages, and security—by forming their own more perfect union.


By: Michelle Chen, The Nation, August 21, 2015


August 24, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Immigrant Laborers, Unions | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“You’ve Come A Long Way, Maybe”: The Women Who Ran Before Hillary And Carly

In a blast from the past, two women who ran for president, Pat Schroeder in 1988 and Carol Moseley Braun in 2004, liken their experience to what Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina are up against today. It’s a very different world but still frighteningly similar in the assumptions made about female candidates.

Clinton has shattered stereotypes about women and fundraising, and she’s put in place a campaign infrastructure that surpasses any of her rivals. Fiorina is testing the boundaries of what once might have been dismissed as a catfight by taking direct aim at Clinton. And both camps are exploring how much gender solidarity exists with fewer glass ceilings and a millennial generation that is much more willing to elect a woman to the White House.

Democratic Representative Schroeder said the thing that made her nuts was people saying, “I just can’t imagine having a man for First Lady. How do you relate to that? Images are so hard to crack.” For example, how do you show a woman working hard? With a man, he loosens his tie and rolls up his sleeves. Women look like unmade beds or models, she said. 

Schroeder coined the phrase “Teflon president” for Ronald Reagan, and she took on the sexism in Congress, declaring, “I have a uterus and a brain and I use them both.” A long-serving member of Congress on the Armed Services Committee, she dropped out of the ’88 race in September ’87, before any votes were cast. She said the media covered her only when she spoke to women’s groups.

Ambassador Braun was the first and still only African-American woman elected to the U.S. Senate. After serving a single term and losing her bid for reelection, she ran for president in 2004 after a short stint as ambassador to New Zealand. She dropped out before the Iowa caucus, but lives on in the highlight reel of debates with her quip that the black vote decided the 2000 election—Clarence Thomas’s vote in the Bush v. Gore Supreme Court decision.   

Money was a problem for both women, but they were also running against ingrained images of what a president is supposed to look like. 

“We don’t have the equivalent of looking large and in charge,” said Braun in a conference call organized by the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, which is partnering with the Center for American Women and Politics to provide historical context for the current race. 

“The concept of a woman reviewing the troops is almost incomprehensible,” she said. “Will we have the equivalent of Angela Merkel? I hope so…You have to navigate cultural quicksand in a way no male candidate has to do.” 

“The commander in chief thing is a hang-up,” agreed Schroeder, who was criticized for crying in the press conference when she withdrew from the presidential race. Irked by what she perceives as a double standard, Schroeder for years kept a “crying folder” filled with newspaper clips of men who were applauded for crying.

A woman getting into it with another woman was always dangerous territory. Several times in a congressional career that spanned the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, Schroeder faced a female opponent for her congressional seat. “We had to be so careful. The media wanted to make it a catfight. We had to make it a tea party.”

Leslie Sanchez, a Republican consultant on the conference call, said she has gotten lots of calls about Fiorina and the way she goes after Clinton. Some say it’s a catfight but Sanchez says, “That’s her style, she’s very direct. People can make of it what they want it to be.”

Much of what Schroeder and Braun had to say is turned on its head by Clinton, who can hold her own on any of the standard ways a campaign is measured. Toughness doesn’t appear to be her problem, and after watching her perform as secretary of state, reviewing the troops doesn’t seem out of bounds as an image that Americans could get comfortable with.

But there are clues in these earlier campaigns to what some Democrats are giving voice to, and that is the lack of enthusiasm for Clinton and the historic nature of her candidacy. She is no Barack Obama, exciting young people and minorities; she doesn’t have her husband’s empathy with the voters, and she’s not a one-woman reality show who can (almost) fill a stadium the way Donald Trump can.

To win, she needs the sisterhood to turn out in force, and the historical data isn’t there. Kathleen Harrington, deputy campaign manager for Elizabeth Dole’s 2000 presidential race, said on the call that older women—women older than Dole, who was 54 at the time, were “incredibly supportive.” Among women over 60, “There was hunger for a woman president,” said Harrington. Younger women, not so much—they’ve got time for history.   

The rallying cry since the 1980s is that the time for women had come, and in 2008 when Clinton ran for president, “We really assumed women would gravitate toward a female candidate. And that was true for women over 45,” says Sanchez. “Democratic women under 45 voted on personality and policy, not gender.”  

Sanchez did research across the aisle for her 2009 book, You’ve Come a Long Way, Maybe. Her advice for Fiorina, who’s used to being in business circles and the only woman in the room, is to remember the ladies. “I don’t see her talking to conservative women although they have evangelized around her. There are so many woman entrepreneurs she can talk to.” As for Clinton, keep riding the Girl Power movement, as this piece of history has been a long time coming.  


By: Eleanor Clift, The Daily Beast, August 23, 2015

August 24, 2015 Posted by | Carly Fiorina, Hillary Clinton, Women Voters | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Donald Trump At The Wheel”: He’s Driving The GOP Over A Cliff, And The Establishment Can’t Stop Him

After a week’s worth of soundbites from presidential candidates about “anchor babies” and repealing birthright citizenship, it is now clear, if it wasn’t already, that Donald Trump has the steering wheel of the Republican Party firmly in his grasp.

So despite the Republican National Committee’s infamous “autopsy” of the 2012 election — which found that the party could not compete unless it fixed its increasingly toxic image among the Latino electorate — the GOP’s presidential primary has devolved into a contest to see who can demonize and dehumanize immigrants the most. If a sensible, pragmatic Republican Party “establishment” actually existed, now is right about when it would step in. But it doesn’t, of course; so it won’t.

Which is not to say that what passes for the GOP establishment nowadays has gone silent. As recent pieces from elite conservative pundits in Slate and Politico Magazine show, something approximating an establishment is still in the mix. The problem, though, is that this establishment is completely incapable of controlling Trump, much less the party’s overall message. And whether they opt for conflict or cooptation, their attempts to manipulate Trump will inevitably fail.

Because the establishment, unlike Trump, cannot bring itself to see the Republican Party — and the conservative movement, in general — for the clumsy vehicle of politicized resentment and white identity politics that it really is.

True, conservative elites have been playing some version of this game for a while now; using extreme reactionaries to win elections but pretending the GOP is run by urbane, center-right moderates. But those forces used to be disorganized enough that long-shot protest candidacies (like the Pat Buchanan’s in the 1990s) were the best they could do. And that made maintaining the lie — that the conservative movement’s inmates did not run the asylum — a whole lot easier. At this point, however, that’s no longer the case.

Nevertheless, they’re still trying. And thus do we get pieces like this one in Slate, by National Review’s Reihan Salam, which operates from the absurd premise that conservative, iconoclastic minority voters can be brought into the GOP coalition without tearing the whole thing apart. “There appears to be a nontrivial share of black voters who are open to a center-right message,” Salam writes near the end of his piece. “Winning them over,” he continues, “will mean decontaminating a GOP brand.”

If the GOP coalition was the pluralist, cosmopolitan entity of his imagination, Salam would have a decent point. But such a GOP wouldn’t have a xenophobic, populist figure like Trump, whose mantra is that “we” must “take our country back,” as its biggest star, would it? If the Republican Party was comprised of voters who signed-up because they held “conservative positions on issues,” which is what Salam seems to think, then how could an ideological grab-bag like Trump be in the position he’s in?

As Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul complained earlier this summer, Trump is anything but a consistent conservative. But as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who hopes to be the second-choice of Trump’s supporters, seems to understand, the kind of voters who now control the GOP primary don’t see politics through that prism. They don’t love Trump because of any long-held views on taxes or abortion or Social Security; they love Trump because they see him as “one of [them].”

Obviously, Salam is not the only serious right-wing pundit to misunderstand the GOP coalition. He’s not even the only one from National Review to do it as of late. Editor-in-chief Rich Lowry recently wrote a piece for Politico Magazine that celebrated Trump’s influence. Yet he littered his praise with caveats about how Trump’s “bar-stool bombast” and “excesses” obscured his larger, more intellectually defensible views. But for the Republicans flocking to Trump, the rhetoric isn’t an afterthought; it’s what Trumpism is.

Lowry’s attempt to rush to the front of the pro-Trump mob and then try to lead it is relatively feeble. But even if his column was as powerful as it would need to be to get these people’s attention, it would still fail. Because Lowry, like Salam, doesn’t know how to talk to these people, which is due in no small part to his spending so much of his career responding to liberal criticism by pretending these folks don’t even exist. In that sense, speaking to them in their own language, as Trump does, would be a defeat.

Then again, what would Lowry or Salam actually say to these people, hypothetically, to get them to stop making the GOP look so viciously nativist? While the differences between the two groups are in a sense aesthetic, this is a case where style and substance and one and the same. Trump’s backers adore him because he’s willing to say the things they believe, but are told they shouldn’t. For them, a strategy that required no more public talk of “anchor babies” would be missing the point.

And that’s why the GOP finds itself in its current predicament, and why no one should expect a pragmatic, sober-minded establishment to ultimately step in. Until the Trump phenomenon collapses due to the public’s fatigue or Trump’s individual boredom, this is how the GOP primary will remain. The only candidates who’ll survive will be the ones willing to kick dirt on illegal immigrants. They’ll be the ones who stopped campaigning in the GOP of the pundits’ imaginations, opting instead to win over voters who actually exist.


By: Elias Isquith, Salon, August 22, 2015

August 24, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Immigrants | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Paul ‘Rage LePage’, You Don’t Have To Impeach Me”: GOP Governor To Voters; ‘Just Ask Me To Leave’

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R), among his many other legislative problems, is facing the possibility of impeachment as part of an abuse-of-power scandal. In an unexpected twist, the Tea Party governor has said impeachment may be unnecessary – because he’s willing to resign from office.

If you missed last night’s show, the Bangor Daily News reported this week on a LePage interview from July 30, in which he suggested he’ll step down if Mainers personally ask him to.

When LePage was asked if he’s worried about an impeachment proceeding, he responded:

“If the people of Maine want me, I’ll do the job. If they don’t want me, just ask me to leave. You don’t have to impeach me…. So far, I’ve only got four people write me that wanted me to resign.”

We know of a retired librarian in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, who wrote to his governor, asking LePage to step down. The note was not well received – LePage wrote back personally, saying, “Not going to happen.”

But might it happen? In that radio interview, the governor made it sound as if resignation is on the table – if enough Mainers write to the governor’s office, asking him to step down, he’d actually consider it.


As Rachel added, “For the record, the governor has never really explained whether he was serious about his offer to resign if he got enough letters asking him to. He also hasn’t said how many people, exactly, would have to ask him resign in order for him to actually do it. He also hasn’t said how many Mainers so far have taken him up on his offer now that he said that’s what it will take.

“We did ask his office about those things today. When we hear back, we will let you know but I suggest you don’t wait up.”


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 21, 2015

August 24, 2015 Posted by | Maine, Paul LePage, Tea Party | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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