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“Fulfilling Their Constitutional Duties”: On SCOTUS, Pressure Falls On Endangered GOP Senators

All corners of the Republican Party have made themselves very clear: they intend to, in Donald Trump’s words, “delay, delay, delay” the confirmation of Antonin Scalia’s replacement on the Supreme Court until after the 2016 election. Ted Cruz has signaled his intention to lead a blockade, and Mitch McConnell intends to run a blockade.

All of this would be unprecedented, despite conservative protestations to the contrary. Conventional wisdom seems to suggest that McConnell can hold the Supreme Court nomination hostage for the whole year. But is that true?

It’s not necessary for the entire GOP to confirm the nominee. It only requires a few GOP Senators to join with the Democrats to fulfill their Constitutional duties. And as it turns out, there are quite a few Republican Senators in blue states who would be pilloried as intransigent obstructionists if they refused to confirm commonsense consensus nominees.

Among these Senators would be Senator Mark Kirk in Illinois, who is already Democrats’ primary target for a Senate takeover. Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson is less ideologically likely to cross the aisle, but with Russ Feingold already seeming likely to defeat him in November, it’s not clear that Johnson can afford to give Democrats yet another cudgel with which to attack him. The same goes for Senator Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania and Rob Portman in Ohio.

President Obama will certainly nominate a number of popular, reasonable and consensus nominees, from recently confirmed Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Sri Srinivasan. With each attempted and withdrawn nomination the Republican Party would look worse as a whole, but the careers of the specifically imperiled Senators would be particularly threatened–and with them the Republican Senate majority itself.

Will Ayotte, Kirk and their colleagues kowtow to McConnell and Cruz and likely eliminate their ability to hold their seats, or will they do the right thing, perform their constitutional duty and protect their Senate careers?

Time will tell.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 14, 2016

February 14, 2016 Posted by | GOP, Mitch Mc Connell, Senate Republicans, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Stop Bernie-Splaining To Black Voters”: A Not-So-Subtle, Not-So-Innocuous Savior Syndrome And Paternalistic Patronage

Now that Iowa and New Hampshire are vanishing in the rearview mirror, the Democratic contests shift more West and South — beginning with Nevada and South Carolina, states that have significantly more Hispanic or black voters, respectively, who at this point disproportionately favor Hillary Clinton to Bernie Sanders.

This support for Clinton, particular among African-American voters, is for some perplexing and for others irritating.

I cannot tell you the number of people who have commented to me on social media that they don’t understand this support. “Don’t black folks understand that Bernie best represents their interests?” the argument generally goes. But from there, it can lead to a comparison between Sanders and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; to an assertion that Sanders is the Barack Obama that we really wanted and needed; to an exasperated “black people are voting against their interests” stance.

If only black people knew more, understood better, where the candidates stood — now and over their lifetimes — they would make a better choice, the right choice. The level of condescension in these comments is staggering.

Sanders is a solid candidate and his integrity and earnestness are admirable, but that can get lost in the noise of advocacy.

Tucked among all this Bernie-splaining by some supporters, it appears to me, is a not-so-subtle, not-so-innocuous savior syndrome and paternalistic patronage that I find so grossly offensive that it boggles the mind that such language should emanate from the mouths — or keyboards — of supposed progressives.

But then I am reminded that the idea that black folks are infantile and must be told what to do and what to think is not confined by ideological barriers. The ideological difference is that one side prefers punishment and the other pity, and neither is a thing in which most black folks delight.

It is not so much that black voters love Clinton and loathe Sanders. Indeed, in The Nation magazine, the estimable Michelle Alexander makes a strong case in an essay titled “Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote.” For many there isn’t much passion for either candidate. Instead, black folks are trying to keep their feet planted in reality and choose from among politicians who have historically promised much and delivered little. It is often a choice between the devil you know and the one you don’t, or more precisely, among the friend who betrays you, the stranger who entices you and the enemy who seeks to destroy you.

It is not black folks who need to come to a new understanding, but those whose privileged gaze prevents them from seeing that black thought and consciousness is informed by a bitter history, a mountain of disappointment and an ocean of tears.

There is a passage by James Baldwin in his essay “Journey to Atlanta” that I believe explains some of the apprehension about Sanders’s grand plans in a way that I could never equal, and although it is long, I’m going to quote it here in full.

Of all Americans, Negroes distrust politicians most, or, more accurately, they have been best trained to expect nothing from them; more than other Americans, they are always aware of the enormous gap between election promises and their daily lives. It is true that the promises excite them, but this is not because they are taken as proof of good intentions. They are the proof of something more concrete than intentions: that the Negro situation is not static, that changes have occurred, and are occurring and will occur — this, in spite of the daily, dead-end monotony. It is this daily, dead-end monotony, though, as well as the wise desire not to be betrayed by too much hoping, which causes them to look on politicians with such an extraordinarily disenchanted eye.

This fatalistic indifference is something that drives the optimistic American liberal quite mad; he is prone, in his more exasperated moments, to refer to Negroes as political children, an appellation not entirely just. Negro liberals, being consulted, assure us that this is something that will disappear with “education,” a vast, all-purpose term, conjuring up visions of sunlit housing projects, stacks of copybooks and a race of well-soaped, dark-skinned people who never slur their R’s. Actually, this is not so much political irresponsibility as the product of experience, experience which no amount of education can quite efface.

Baldwin continues:

“Our people” have functioned in this country for nearly a century as political weapons, the trump card up the enemies’ sleeve; anything promised Negroes at election time is also a threat leveled at the opposition; in the struggle for mastery the Negro is the pawn.

Even black folks who don’t explicitly articulate this intuitively understand it.

History and experience have burned into the black American psyche a sort of functional pragmatism that will be hard to erase. It is a coping mechanism, a survival mechanism, and its existence doesn’t depend on others’ understanding or approval.

However, that pragmatism could work against the idealism of a candidate like Sanders.

Black folks don’t want to be “betrayed by too much hoping,” and Sanders’s proposals, as good as they sound, can also sound too good to be true. There is a whiff of fancifulness.

For instance, Sanders says that his agenda will require a Congress-flipping political revolution of like-minded voters, but so far, that revolution has yet to materialize. Just as in Iowa, in New Hampshire there were more voters — or caucusgoers — making choices in the Republican contest than in the Democratic one. That, so far, sounds more like a Republican revolution. If that trend holds for the rest of the primary season and into the general election, not only would Democrats not be likely pick up congressional seats, they could lose more of them.

That’s a stubborn fact emerging — a reality — and it is one that all voters, including black ones, shouldn’t be simply told to discount.

This is not to say that Clinton or Sanders is the better choice for Democrats this season, but simply that the way some of Sanders’s supporters have talked down to black voters does him a disservice, and makes clear their insensitivity to the cultural and experiential political knowledge that has accrued to the black electorate.

 

By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, Opinion Pages, The New York Times, February 10, 2016

February 14, 2016 Posted by | African Americans, Bernie Sanders, Black Voters, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Latino Voters Not Loving Cruz, Rubio”: These Two Have Taken To Casting Other Latino Immigrants As The Outsiders

It’s striking that in a presidential season with two viable Latino contenders, discussion of Hispanic voters has been negligible.

This will change as the primaries move to states with larger Latino populations, Nevada being first up. In those states, Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio will come under questioning for ethnic loyalty.

This scrutiny will do them no favors. While some may imagine that Cruz or Rubio would get a boost in the general election from being the first Hispanic presidential nominee, either one would only help to hand the White House to the Democrats. The reason is simple: They continue to spurn other Hispanics.

Here we have two children of immigrants trying to get elected by demonizing immigrants. Indeed, Rubio and Cruz embody a reality that they and their party deny: Latinos become Americanized very quickly.

Both men are very close to their immigrant roots, one generation away. Yet both men are highly assimilated. Rubio’s love of rap music and respect for Pitbull, N.W.A., Tupac and Nicki Minaj, is often cited. Cruz, raised in Texas and the son of an evangelical preacher, has a penchant for Western attire and after 9/11 switched his preference from classic rock to country music.

This is not exceptional for Latino families, whether they are legally in the United States or not. Assimilation happens; it’s an unstoppable force of our society.

Neither man speaks with an accent; only Rubio is bilingual. Latino immigrant families shift from Spanish, becoming monolingual in English by the third generation. They follow the same pattern, the same fluid rate of language acquisition, as previous immigrant groups, be they European or Asian. In fact, some studies suggest that language shifts are now occurring faster for Latinos, due to technology.

But to appeal to a GOP base that is positioned as anti-immigrant, these two have taken to casting other Latino immigrants as the outsiders, as resistant to becoming Americanized, as unworthy of opportunities to right their immigration status, whether that be by legislation or executive order.

On the campaign trail this year, only one message is permissible to Republican candidates: Latinos are to be feared and deported. Build the wall! Secure the borders! End birthright citizenship!

Never mind that migration from Mexico has dramatically slowed and that illegal migration peaked nearly a decade ago.

Some ascribe Rubio’s and Cruz’ lack of sympathy to being of Cuban descent. Cubans enjoy a huge advantage over other immigrants. If they can reach U.S. soil, they have an easy path to permanent legal status within a year. It’s a leftover policy from the Cold War, when many were fleeing the persecution of communist repression, although that wasn’t the case with either of the senators’ families.

Increasingly, that connection to yesteryear is fraying. Cuban-Americans are moving away from their once steadfast ties to the GOP.

Interestingly, Rubio probably got a taste of the non-Cuban immigrant experiences. He spent a portion of his teen-age years in Las Vegas, where his father found work as a bartender. The young Rubio was often assumed to be Mexican-American and counted many Mexican-American schoolmates as his closest friends. It’s reasonable to assume that he knew kids who had parents or other family members who were in this country without legal status.

Perhaps that experience is what led Rubio to join the Gang of Eight, a group of senators who authored the last sane proposal for immigration reform, in 2013.

Now he tries to scrub that fact from his record.

A record 27.3 million Latinos will be eligible to vote this election cycle. Nearly half, 44 percent, will be millennials, according to Pew Research Center. Data crunchers believe that the eventual winner of the 2016 presidential election will need to draw at least 40 percent of Hispanic votes.

Immigration obviously isn’t the only issue of interest to Latinos; it isn’t even the most important. Jobs, the economy, education rank very high too.

However, it is a kind of gut-level test about attitudes. Rubio, especially, with his shifting to attract right-wing votes, has jilted Latino voters who would like to like him.

Given their current posturing on immigration, neither Rubio nor Cruz has a chance.

The backlash is coming. A group of high-profile Latino celebrities, including Benjamin Bratt, America Ferrera, George Lopez and Zoe Saldana, organized to call on the GOP presidential candidates to end their anti-immigrant fear-mongering.

Guitarist Carlos Santana, in a statement, underlined the plea this way: “It’s never too late to graduate from the university of fear!” Sadly, it may be if you are seeking the Republican nomination.

 

By: Mary Sanchez, Opinion-Page Columnist for The Kansas City Star; The National Memo, February 12, 2016

February 14, 2016 Posted by | Immigrants, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Understanding Bernie Bros”: Right-Wing Hillary-Haters Seeking To Foment Discord Among Democrats

Sometimes I think I learned more politically relevant lessons playing ball than anywhere else. If nothing else, sports teach realism: what you can do, what you can’t, how to deal with it. Also, what’s the score, how much time’s left, and what’s the best tactic right now?

It helps to know the rules, and it’s important to keep your head. Bad plays are inevitable, dumb plays less forgivable.

But here’s something else you learn playing ball: not everybody on your team is going to be your friend, just as people wearing different-colored shirts aren’t personal enemies.

Also, spectators can be fickle. Your most passionate fans can quickly turn into your opponent’s ally.

These are all useful concepts during an American primary election.

An athlete in his youth, Bernie Sanders appears to understand overwrought fans. His campaign’s apology to Hillary Clinton supporters harassed online by so-called “Bernie Bros,” angry young men given to coarse attacks upon anybody — especially women — supporting his rival was a class move.

“If you support @berniesanders,” Sanders aide Mike Casca tweeted from Iowa, “please follow the senator’s lead and be respectful when people disagree with you.”

Columnist Joan Walsh has called out the Bernie Bros’ behavior. “When I’ve disclosed that my daughter works for Clinton — in The Nation, on MSNBC, and on social media — we’ve both come in for trolling so vile,” she wrote “it’s made me not merely defensive of her. It’s forced me to recognize how little society respects the passion of the many young women — and men — who are putting their souls into electing the first female president.”

Walsh told BuzzFeed that while she didn’t blame Sanders, “it is disturbing to see such a misogynist strain in the male left. It’s not a new thing, but it’s tough to experience.”

Kathleen Geier, a contributor to The Nation and a Sanders supporter, concedes the Bernie Bros are definitely “doing harm to the cause. I haven’t seen people treat Obama supporters like this, or supporters of other male establishment candidates — just Hillary. So it’s definitely misogyny.”

Well, yes and no. See, I suspect many of these jokers are Internet trolls in the original sense: right-wing Hillary-haters seeking to foment discord among Democrats.

Anybody can pretend to be anything online. Anonymity encourages people to unmask their darkest impulses. Read the comments line to almost anything on the Internet about the Clinton-Sanders campaign.

Did a group of prominent women Senators and diplomats endorse Hillary?

“Their vaginas are making terrible choices!” writes one characteristically vulgar Sanders supporter. The discussion goes straight downhill from there.

Even in the relatively civilized precincts of The Guardian, commenters to a Jill Abramson column sympathetic to Clinton revel in nasty sexual insults:

“Yes, please tell me how Shillary is the nicest corporate oligarchical servant, and how she will lovingly sell out the people who voted for her to her banker masters, with a twinkle in her fellating eye.”

Another online philosopher opines that “she can’t be good for a nation if she wasn’t good enough for her husband.”

A third adds that “Hillary is a terrible campaigner and a much worse human being. She is thoroughly corrupt, dishonest, vile, vindictive, vengeful, condescending, etc.”

As somebody who’s gotten obscene, often threatening emails WRITTEN ALL IN IN CAPS for years, I can’t say I’m shocked. Recently a tough guy in Illinois speculated that being named “Eugene” made me a sissy; Noreen says Hillary’s a COMMIE BITCH. My photo makes her vomit.

All in a day’s work.

Anyway, maybe I’m looking in the wrong places, but I see no comparable venom towards Bernie Sanders. My own strongest reservation is that despite his admirable qualities, I’ve seen few signs of political realism in his campaign.

As baseball people say, there’s no such thing as a six-run home run. How otherwise sensible Democrats have persuaded themselves that a candidate preaching “revolution” and promising big tax increases can win come November in swing states like Ohio, Michigan, and Florida—places that have trended Democratic, but have Republican governors — is hard for me to grasp.

(Unless, of course, the GOP nominates a far-right Froot Loop like Ted Cruz, not a probability I’d want to gamble on.)

The Daily Banter’s Chez Pazienza sums up everything that needs to be said about “Bernie Bros,” make-believe and real: “if you’re a liberal who believes these things about Clinton — if you see her as anything other than a liberal Democrat who’s guilty of nothing more than being a politician with faults and with a plethora of enemies like every other on this planet, including Bernie Sanders — you’ve proven that the protracted smear campaign against this woman has worked. You prove that the GOP won a long time ago.”

Meanwhile, both candidates’ supporters would do well to recall that Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton voted together in the U.S. Senate 93 percent of the time.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, February 10, 2016

February 14, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Bros, Bernie Sanders, Democratic Primary Debates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Sanders’ ‘Medicare For All'”: The Devil Is In The Details

Bernie Sanders is a proud and self-described socialist, a veteran Vermont senator who wants to bring some European ideas to the United States. One of those ideas is a single-payer health care system: a government-funded program in which the patient bears little to no cost. Sanders describes it as “Medicare for all.”

It’s an excellent idea. The United States is the richest country in the world, and it ought to grant every citizen guaranteed access to doctors and hospitals. That’s what Canada, Japan and the countries of Western Europe have all done.

But Sanders is vague — and his supporters quite naive — about the prospects of bringing a single-payer system to the United States. He insists that he could accomplish that in a prospective first term “if many millions of people demand it.”

Here’s the rub: They won’t — at least not in the systematic and sustained manner that would be required to bring about that sort of, well, revolutionary change to the American medical-industrial complex.

There’s a reason that the U.S. doesn’t have “Medicare for all”: politics. Do Sanders and his supporters remember the epic battle to pass the Affordable Care Act?

Democrats have been trying to pass a version of universal health care since the days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But conservatives have fought every proposal that would increase access for ordinary Americans, including Medicare; Ronald Reagan, then a neophyte political activist, toured the country campaigning against it.

Bill Clinton made universal health care a cornerstone of his presidential campaign in 1992, and he appointed his wife, Hillary, to head a task force to propose legislation after he won. They tried mightily to pass it, but conservatives denounced it, and the insurance industry spent millions to defeat it.

That’s why President Barack Obama brought the insurance industry on board when he started toward the Affordable Care Act. He knew he needed their support to have a prayer of passage. So the ACA preserves the business of selling health insurance through private companies.

Still, it has helped millions of families; nearly 9 million more Americans had health insurance in 2014 than the year before, according to government data. Moreover, the ACA prevents insurance companies from banning patients because they are sick and prohibits insurers from placing “lifetime caps” on the amount of money any person can collect for health care.

Would a single-payer plan have been even better? You bet. But listen to Obama’s former aide, David Axelrod, describe the difficulties of trying to pass such a proposal.

“I support single-payer health care, but having gone through health reform, we couldn’t even get a national consensus around the public option! It was Democratic votes that were ultimately missing on that issue,” Axelrod remembered. (The public option was a proposal for a government-run health insurance plan to compete with private health insurers.)

History shows that Obama and his allies spent months trying to make the ACA more palatable to conservatives to entice a few GOP votes. Actually, the mandate requiring that all adults have health insurance was originally a conservative idea. While the federal government provides subsidies to help families with modest incomes buy insurance, it doesn’t pay the full cost. (Obamacare also sets aside billions for states to expand Medicaid, but the Supreme Court made that optional, and many states have refused to expand.)

Still, the ACA did not get a single Republican vote in the end — not one. Republicans are still trying to repeal the law, taking more than 60 votes in Congress and going to the Supreme Court with challenges. Most of those Republicans will be easily re-elected to Congress.

Given recent history, it’s clear that Sanders’ plan would face very long odds — and that’s before details become clear. The Vermont senator proposes an extraordinary range of patient care — dental and vision coverage, mental health care, long-term care — while, he says, saving trillions of dollars. Many health care experts say that can’t be done, so health care spending would likely increase. You don’t have to be a conservative voter to fear where that would lead us.

If Vermont’s audacious senator has a plan for overcoming an ultraconservative GOP caucus in Congress, a right-leaning U.S. Supreme Court, and millions of voters who still flinch from the word “socialist,” he ought to lay it out. It would be quite a revolutionary plan, indeed.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize Winner for commentary in 2007: The National Memo, February 13, 2016

February 14, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Medicare for All, Single Payer | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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