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“I’m No Math Genius, But…”: In Elections, Addition is Always Better Than Subtraction

In the November/December 2015 issue of the Washington Monthly, I wrote a review of Stanley Greenberg’s book America Ascendant. One of the main points Greenberg makes is to outline a reform agenda that Democrats should embrace to win the support of white working class voters.

Greenberg provides polling and focus group data to show strong support from Americans (not just Democrats or Republicans) for the following items: Americans want to protect Medicare and Social Security. They want paid sick days, and access to affordable child care for working mothers and families. They want equal pay for women. They want an affordable college education. And, finally, they want long-term infrastructure investment to rebuild America and create middle-class jobs, while raising taxes on the very rich so they pay their fair share.

I was reminded of that when I read an article by Phillip Rucker and Robert Costa about how Republicans – especially Trump and Cruz – are pinning their presidential hopes on wooing white working class voters. But they have a totally different approach.

Trump is making the most visceral, raw appeal to people who feel left out of the economic recovery and ignored by the political establishment. He espouses hard-line views on immigration that border on nativism, protectionist trade policies and a tough approach with countries like China, Japan and Mexico that he portrays as thieves of U.S. manufacturing jobs…

Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, said the candidate’s words for the working class are deliberately personal. “People don’t feel like these jobs have disappeared,” he said. “They’ve been stolen, and they don’t mind if someone is speaking forcefully about taking them back for blue-collar Americans…”

“None of [the candidates] are saying what they should be saying — ‘Get them out of here’ — except Trump,” said Tim Labelle, 73, a retired auto mechanic who voted for Obama in 2008. “They’re taking our jobs, and they’re gonna take over our whole country if we don’t put an end to it.”

Interestingly enough, Mitt Romney is suggesting another approach – one more in line with what Greenberg outlined.

“As a party we speak a lot about deregulation and tax policy, and you know what? People have been hearing that for 25 years, and they’re getting tired of that message,” Romney said in a recent interview. He added, “I think we’re nuts not to raise the minimum wage. I think, as a party, to say we’re trying to help the middle class of America and the poor and not raise the minimum wage sends exactly the wrong signal.”

So the question becomes: what is the more effective strategy for appealing to white working class voters? Is it the one focused on a nativist appeal or the one that addresses their real economic challenges?

The advantage of the former is that it is animated by emotions – fear and anger – as opposed to a more thoughtful appeal to reason. That carries a lot of currency these days apparently. But to the extent that it might be successful immediately, it is destined to be a problem over the long term. That is because it is, by definition, an either/or formulation that is built on an us/them divide. The more candidates like Trump and Cruz embrace an appeal based on wooing white working class voters by denigrating people of color, the “whiter” their party becomes. That does not bode well given our country’s rapidly changing demographics.

On the other hand, the reform agenda outlined by Greenberg and the proposal Romney embraced about raising the minimum wage are just as appealing to the rising American electorate as they are to white working class voters. In that way, it is focused on a both/and rather than an either/or. I’m no math genius, but when it comes to winning elections, I’m smart enough to know that addition is always more effective than subtraction.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 14, 2016

January 14, 2016 Posted by | Economic Recovery, Fearmongering, Middle Class, White Working Class | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“For The GOP, It’s Always A Base Election”: Only Change Is The Idea Of How To Give The Base What It Wants

I wonder if anyone has come up with workable definition of a base election. The idea is simple enough. Some elections are won not by winning an argument with the other side and persuading swing voters or independents or undecideds, but by doing a better job than your opponents in convincing your core voters to turn out to vote.

It seems to me that this is roughly how the Republicans won the 2004 presidential election, and also probably how they won the 2002 midterms. It’s definitely how they won the midterms in 2010 and 2014. On the other hand, I think the Democrats were successful in 2006 and 2008 precisely because they convinced people in the middle (and even many Republicans) to come over to their side. I think you can probably make the same case for 2012, although that seems to have been more of a hybrid of the two.

In any case, it seems to me that the Republicans last won a presidential election using a base mobilization strategy in 2004, and we shouldn’t forget how close of a call that was. When the polls closed, most people looking at the exit polls thought that John Kerry had won. And he would have won if Bush hadn’t done such a great job getting out his base in Ohio. Yes, there were also shenanigans in Ohio that may have changed the outcome, but it’s definite that the red parts of Ohio turned out in huge numbers, largely motivated by their opposition to gay marriage.

So, 2004 is a fairly recent example that shows that the Republicans could theoretically win a base election. It won’t be easy to replicate, though. First, demographic changes since 2004 have made it harder for the Republicans to win a base election because their base is now smaller and the Democrats’ base is now larger. Second, it helped Bush a lot that he was the incumbent and could direct media coverage and attention at will. It also helped that he had a willing partner in shenanigans in then-Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell.

Since 2004, the Republicans have tried and failed twice to win an election by pandering to their base rather than pursuing voters in the middle. All the proof you need of that is that Sarah Palin and Paul Ryan were chosen as running mates, both of whom were supposed to please the mouth-breathers and rally them to the cause.

After the Republicans lost in 2012, the RNC’s after-report was clear about the futility of trying to win a base election again in 2016. Yet, the idea seems more popular right now than it was in the last two cycles. Perhaps the only thing that’s changed is the idea of how to give the base what it wants. Does it want someone who is frothing at the mouth about immigration even if they’re pretty inconsistent as a conservative on many other issues? Or, are they looking for the most hated man in Washington, DC, just because they hate Washington, DC so very much?

That’s really the choice they have between Trump and Cruz, although Trump promises to at least change the shape of the Republican base. That doesn’t mean he will enlarge it though.

This is admittedly a weird election season and unpredictable, but I think a base election is close to unwinnable for the Republican Party in a presidential year. If they win, I don’t think it will be because their base turned out and the Democrats’ base did not. If they win it will because the persuadable voters liked their candidate better than the Democratic candidate. And the more their candidate panders to the base, the less likely that the persuadable voters will like them better.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 13, 2016

January 14, 2016 Posted by | Base Elections, GOP Base, Independents, Swing Voters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Deliberately Trying To Dupe Voters”: Why The GOP’s Fence Fantasy Is A Farce

A long time ago, in a not-so-faraway land, a civilization existed that was governed through a fairly rational political system. Even conservative candidates for high office had to have a good idea or two — and be quasi-qualified.

That land was the USA. It still exists as a place, but these days, Republican candidates don’t even have to be qualified — much less sane — to run for the highest office in the land. All they need is the backing of one or more billionaires, a hot fear-button issue to exploit and a talent for pandering without shame to the most fanatical clique of know-nothings in their party. Also, they must be able to wall themselves off from reality, erecting a wall of political goop around their heads so thick that even facts and obvious truth cannot get through to them.

Indeed, the GOP’s “One Great Issue” of the 2016 campaign for president is: The Wall. Ted Cruz practically snarls when he declares again and again that he’ll “build a wall that works.” Marco Rubio is absolute about it: “We must secure our border, the physical border, with a wall, absolutely.” And Donnie Trump has basically built his campaign atop his fantasy of such an imperial edifice: “We’re going to do a wall,” he commands, as though he’s barking at one of his hotel construction crews.

There are, of course, certain problems that you might expect them to address, such as the exorbitant cost of the thing, the extensive environmental damage it’ll do, and the futility of thinking that people aren’t clever enough to get around, over, under or through any wall. But don’t hold your breath waiting for any common sense to intrude on their macho posturing.

Trump even made a TV ad depicting hordes of marauding Mexicans invading our country — proof that a huge wall is necessary! Only, the film footage he used is not of Mexican migrants, but of Moroccans fleeing into Spain. But after all, when trying to stir up fear of foreigners, what the hell does honesty have to do with it?

A proper wall, we’re told, makes good neighbors. But an 18-foot high, 2,000-mile-long wall goes way beyond proper, and it both antagonizes your neighbor and screams out your own pitiful fear and weakness.

Besides, haven’t we been trying this for years? With the Secure Fence Act of 2006, Congress mandated construction of a wall along the 1,954 miles of our border with Mexico. A decade later, guess how many miles have been completed? About 650. It turns out that erecting a monstrous wall is not so simple after all.

First, it becomes prohibitively expensive — about $10 billion just for the materials to build it from the tip of Texas westward to the Pacific, not counting labor costs and maintenance. Second, there’s the prickly problem of land acquisition — to erect the scattered segments of the first 650 miles of fence, the federal government had to sue hundreds of property owners to take their land. Odd, isn’t it, that right-wing politicos who loudly rail against overreaching Big Government now favor using government muscle to grab private property? Third, it’s impossible to fence the whole border — hundreds of miles of it are in the Rio Grande’s flood plain, and more miles are on the steep mountainous terrain of southern Arizona.

Trump, Cruz, Rubio and the other “just build a wall” simpletons either don’t know what they’re talking about or are deliberately trying to dupe voters. Before you buy a 2,000-mile wall from them, take a peek at the small part already built — because of the poor terrain and legal prohibitions, it’s not one long fence, but a fragment here, and another there, with miles of gaps in between. Anyone wanting to cross into the U.S. can just go to one of the gaps and walk around the silly fence.

 

By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, January 13, 2015

January 14, 2016 Posted by | Fearmongering, GOP Presidential Candidates, Mexico Border Wall | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Political Disaster Of Unimaginable Proportions”: Why Republicans Wouldn’t Actually Repeal Obamacare

Last week, in a bold example of their governing prowess, congressional Republicans took their 62nd vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and this time they actually passed it through both houses and sent it to President Obama to be vetoed. Naturally, they were exultant at their triumph. Speaker Paul Ryan admitted that there is as yet no replacement for the ACA, but they’ll be getting around to putting one together before you know it. The fact that they’ve been promising that replacement for more than five years now might make you a bit skeptical.

What we know for sure is this: If a Republican wins the White House this November, he’ll make repeal of the ACA one of his first priorities, whether there’s a replacement ready or not. To listen to them talk, the only division between the candidates is whether they’ll do it on their first day in the Oval Office, in their first hour, or in the limo on the way back from the inauguration.

But I’ve got news for you: They aren’t going to do it, at least not in the way they’re promising. Because it would be an absolute catastrophe.

Let’s take a brief tour around the consequences of repealing the ACA. First, everyone who benefited from the expansion of Medicaid would immediately lose their health coverage. According to Charles Gaba of acasignups.net, who has been tracking these data as assiduously as anyone, that amounts to about nine million people. Granted, the working poor are not a group whose fate keeps too many Republicans up at night, but tossing nine million of them off their health coverage is at least bound to generate some uncomfortable headlines.

Then there’s all the people who now get their health coverage through the exchanges that the ACA set up. Remember how fake-outraged Republicans were back in the fall of 2013 because some people with crappy health plans got letters from their insurers telling them that they’d have to sign up for a plan that was compatible with the ACA’s new standards? The truth was that some of them would wind up paying more for coverage while others would pay less, but it was the subject of a thousand credulous news stories portraying them all as victims, to Republicans’ unending joy.

Now imagine that ten million people, the number signed up for private coverage through the exchanges, all had their coverage simultaneously thrown into doubt. Think that might cause some bad press for the party and the president who did it?

There’s more. The ACA also allowed young people to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26; three million took advantage of the provision. They’d likely lose their insurance too. Oh, and if you’re a senior on Medicare? Get ready for the return of the “doughnut hole” in prescription drug coverage, which the ACA closed.

Let’s add in one more element (though there are lots of the ACA’s provisions we don’t have time to discuss). One of the central and most popular provisions of the ACA banned insurance companies from even asking about pre-existing conditions when they offer you a plan. About half of Americans have some kind of condition that in the old days would mean they either could get insurance but it wouldn’t cover that condition, or they couldn’t get covered at all. If you bought insurance in the old days, you remember what a hassle it was to document for the insurer every time you saw a doctor for years prior. You don’t have to do that now, but if Republicans succeed, we’ll be back to those bad old days. So they can look forward to lots of news stories about cancer survivors who now can’t get insurance anymore, thanks to the GOP.

But wait, they’ll say, our phantom replacement plan has a solution: high-risk pools! This is a common element of the various inchoate health-care plans Republicans have come up with. Anyone who knows anything about insurance knows why these are no solution at all. They take all the sickest people and put them together in one pool, which of course means that the premiums to insure them become incredibly high. As I’ve written elsewhere, high-risk pools are the health insurance equivalent of going to a loan shark: You might do it if you’re desperate and have no other option, but you’re going to pay through the nose. So good luck with that.

Even if Republicans could come together around a single replacement plan, that plan would still be a political disaster. The theory behind their health-care ideas is that once we inject some more market magic into health care, everything will be great. But there are a couple of important things to understand about this idea. First of all, their plans don’t even try to achieve anything like universal coverage. It just isn’t one of their goals, and as a consequence, implementing their plans is going to mean a lot more uninsured than we have now, a reversal of the progress the ACA is made, with millions or even tens of millions of people likely to lose coverage. Second, even if the market mechanisms they use were to work out how they predict—and it’s almost certain they won’t, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt for a moment—it would take a substantial amount of time.

In this, the ACA is direct. You can’t afford coverage? Here’s a subsidy, now you can afford coverage. But under Republican plans, more people shopping around for their health care is, over time, supposed to bring costs down, which will eventually translate to lower premiums. But in the meantime, while we wait for the invisible hand to perform its alchemy, millions upon millions of Americans will get screwed. Think there’s going to be a political backlash?

I suspect that many conservatives understand that, but still think that in the long term, their small-government ideas will leave us with a superior system. But that still leaves them with a political dilemma. On one hand, repealing the ACA would be spectacularly disruptive—in fact, unwinding the law will probably be more disruptive than putting it in place was, now that the entire health-care and health-insurance industries have adapted to it—and there will be millions of people victimized by repeal. It will be a political disaster of unimaginable proportions.

On the other hand, they’ve invested so much emotional, political, and rhetorical energy over the last six years into their opposition to this law that they would seemingly have no choice but to repeal it, no matter the consequences. Liberals may argue that the ACA would have been a lot better if it hadn’t worked so hard to accommodate the market-based character of the American health-care system, but Republicans have been telling their constituents that it’s the most horrific case of government oppression since the Cultural Revolution (or as Ben Carson says, “the worst thing that’s happened to this nation since slavery”). They can’t exactly turn around to the people who elected them and say, “Look, I know we said we’d repeal this thing, but that’s going to be a real mess. How about if we just make some changes to it so it works more like we’d like?”

Or maybe they could. Just look what happened to Matt Bevin, the new governor of Kentucky. He ran on a platform of purging the state of every molecule of that despicable Obamacare, but now that he’s in office, things are looking a little more complicated. That’s because Kentucky is one of the great ACA success stories, where the expansion of Medicaid brought health insurance to a half a million low-income people who didn’t have it, and the state’s health-care exchange, Kynect, was a model of success. So Bevin is now backtracking on his promise, saying that instead of just eliminating the Medicaid expansion he’s going to reform it. And Kynect may get the axe (which would mean just turning it over to the federal government), but that won’t happen for quite some time, if at all.

And that’s what I think we’d see if we actually got a Republican president and a Republican Congress forced to deal with the consequences of what they’ve been promising for so long. Once they have the ability to bring down such a health-care calamity on the public, it’s not going to seem like such a great idea. They’ll say they’re as committed to it as ever, while behind the scenes they’ll be frantically trying to figure out how to do something they can call “repeal” but that won’t actually get rid of all the things people like about the law. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a “repeal” bill that, in the name of an effective transition, left much of the law in place, then slowly instituted their market-driven ideas over time. Because there are limits to even what kind of damage an all-Republican government would inflict—if not on the country, then at least on their political fortunes.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, January 10, 2016

January 14, 2016 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Let’s Not Ever Do That Again”: SC Gov. Nikki Haley; The U.S. Has ‘Never’ Passed Laws Based On Race And Religion — Um…

Gov. Nikki Haley’s (R-SC) decision to speak out against Donald Trump and other anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim forces in the Republican Party is certainly laudable — but her awareness of American history needs a little work.

The Hill reports:

She said Wednesday that Trump’s call for a temporary ban on Muslim immigration to the country is what compelled her to speak out.

“You know, the one thing that got me I think was when he started saying ban all Muslims,” she said.

“We’ve never in the history of this country passed any laws or done anything based on race or religion,” she added. “Let’s not start that now.”

Of course, the state of South Carolina is itself a grand exhibit of America’s history of racially-based laws. It was the state where the Civil War began, as the first state to secede in the South’s effort to preserve and expand the institution of slavery, and it was where the first shots of the war were fired at Fort Sumter.

During the Jim Crow era, the state was also home to Strom Thurmond and the Dixiecrat rebellion of 1948, a political mobilization for segregation that rallied against the emerging post-World War II civil rights movement.

To be sure, both South Carolina and the United States as a whole have made progress, climbing upward from these tainted beginnings to build a great country. But it sure does sound odd to hear a political leader say that we’ve “never in the history of this country” passed such odious laws — and, “Let’s not start that now.”

A better thing to say would’ve been: “Let’s not ever do that again.” That sort of myth-busting — against the idea of America as not just a great country, but a perfect one — would, in fact, be the right way to avoid doing it again.

 

By: Eric Kleefeld, The National Memo, January 13, 2015

January 14, 2016 Posted by | American History, Nikki Haley, Racism | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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