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“Voters Remorse”: The New GOP Congress Americans Do Not ‘Wish They Had’

The man who lost the last (presidential) election round and who goes around talk shows trying to pretend he did not, has some advice for the man who beat him in 2012.

Appearing on Sunday’s CBS Face the Nation, failed presidential candidate Mitt Romney told Bob Schieffer, when asked about the possibility of “Obama taking executive action to overhaul immigration policy,” “The president has got to learn that he lost this last election round.”

The man who lost the last (presidential) election round said so after lecturing his nemesis about how to fight ISIL (“what we should have done by now is have — is have American troops staying by in — in Iraq”) and after implying that perhaps the President should just curl up in a fetal position, contrary to David Axelrod’s and most Americans’ expectations. “The President ought to let the Republican Congress, the Republican House and the Republican Senate come together with legislation that they put on his desk which relates to immigration,” the man who lost the last (presidential) election round told Bob Schieffer.

This latest bit of GOP arrogance is very similar to Mitch McConnell’s recent hubris: “We’d like for the president to recognize the reality that he has the government that he has, not the one that he wishes he had, and work with us,” when a “very disturbed” incoming Senate Majority Leader lamented that the president was still the President and was still intending to use his executive powers.

Which, in turn, is very reminiscent of the effrontery of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld whose callous response to a soldier asking for better protection for our troops in Iraq was: “You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.”

Memo to Messrs. Romney and McConnell — and to the GOP:

Midterm elections are not intended to neuter a president. They are midcourse corrections intended to make government work better for the people who elect their representatives; to — in fact — transform the government we have into the government the people wish they have. On November 4, 2014, the American people gave Republicans another chance to stop the obstruction, stop the obfuscation, stop the gridlock, stop the arrogance, stop the raw partisanship and work with a man who is still President of the United States for the common good of all Americans, not just a few.

To do all this, congressional Republicans must disprove the disturbing allegation that they “have been sent to Washington with a mandate not so much to conduct business but rather to collect a bounty, to do what they promised and what their supporters expect: Stop Obama at any cost and at every turn, to erase his name or at least put an asterisk by it.”

Or will they?


By: Dorian de Wind, The Huffington Post Blog, November 17, 2014

November 19, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Midterm Elections, Voters | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Animal House Republicans Take Control”: It’s Not About Helping You Or Me; It’s About Power

This too shall pass. In the bipolar Gong Show of Washington politics, it’s the Republicans’ turn. Count on them to opt for televised spectacle over governing. It’s what they do.

You think a guy like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz will be dutifully attending committee meetings and painstakingly crafting legislation? Not as long as President Obama’s still in the White House and there are TV cameras on the premises.

There’s actually an editorial in the influential conservative magazine National Review entitled “The Governing Trap.

It argues for two more years of Animal House Republicanism: “If voters come to believe that a Republican Congress and a Democratic president are doing a fine job of governing together, why wouldn’t they vote to continue the arrangement in 2016?”

See, it’s not about helping you or me; it’s about power.

Speaking of 2016, does anybody imagine the pendulum’s stopped swinging? Here’s the deal: the GOP made big Senate gains in 2004, 2010 and 2014, the Democrats in 2006, 2008 and 2012.

Comes the 2016 presidential election year, 24 of 34 incumbent senators will be Republicans — seven in states that Obama won twice.

Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich is so old he can remember back when Rush Limbaugh’s personal hero became Speaker of the House:

“I was in the Clinton administration Election Day 1994 when Democrats lost both houses of Congress and Newt Gingrich became king of the Hill,” he writes. “It was horrible. But you know what? It created all sorts of opportunities. It smoked Republicans out. They could no longer hide behind blue-dog Democrats. Americans saw them for who they were. Gingrich became the most hated man in America. The 1994 election also marked the end of the coalition of conservative Republicans and southern Democrats that had controlled much of Congress since the end of the New Deal.”

Alas, Gingrich’s demise took several years. He was simply outmaneuvered politically by Bill Clinton, while widespread exposure to his grating personality and gigantic ego eventually forced him out. The Clinton impeachment doomed him.

Meanwhile, however, those blue-dog Democrats have nearly all become Republicans. I’d argue that the demise of regionally and ideologically diverse American political parties — i.e. of liberal Republicans and conservative Southern Democrats — has brought paralysis to Washington. The merger of GOP economic primitivism with Southern-style fundamentalist religiosity has badly damaged bipartisanship.

Always and everywhere, certitude is the enemy of compromise. After all, if God says that cutting tycoons’ income taxes infallibly leads to higher revenues and enhanced prosperity, it would be sinful to notice that it’s never actually happened in the visible world.

Gingrich got elected due to the Clinton tax increases of 1993, which every single Republican in Congress voted against amid universal predictions of doom. The actual result turned out to be 25 million new jobs and a balanced budget.

What’s more, does anybody remember that the supposed rationale for President Bush’s 2001 tax cuts was that paying down the national debt too soon might stifle investment? Certainly nobody in the Tea Party does.

Meanwhile, count me among those who think that even “red state” Democrats who ran away from President Obama as if he had Ebola made a big mistake. (Remember Ebola? It’s so last week, I know. However, I await apologies from readers of the Chicken Little persuasion who objected to my writing that politicizing a disease was contemptible and the danger of a serious outbreak extremely small.)

But back to Obama. It’s true that his overall approval rating stands at 43 percent. Also, however, that the Republican Congress checks in at 13 percent. The president remains quite popular among the kinds of Democrats who mostly sat out the 2014 election.

True, many voters don’t understand how deep and dangerous a hole the U.S. economy had fallen into in 2008; nor that unemployment’s dropping sharply; the stock market’s more than doubled; and that the Federal budget deficit’s dropped from 9.8 percent to a fiscally sustainable 2.9 percent of GDP on Obama’s watch. But they’ll never know if Democrats don’t tell them.

Probably a candidate like Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor was doomed anyway. But how could anybody imagine the rope-a-dope tactic would work? The same is true regarding Obamacare. Why not praise the law’s popular features and talk about fixing the rest? The Republicans have no health insurance plan except back to the bad old days of “pre-existing conditions” and get sick/get canceled.

On the defensive, Democrats have articulated no persuasive plan for fixing what New York Times economics writer Dave Leonhardt calls “The Great Wage Slowdown.

“Median inflation-adjusted income last year,” he writes, “was still $2,100 lower than when President Obama took office in 2009 — and $3,600 lower than when President George W. Bush took office in 2001.”

Well, they’d better find one. Meanwhile, the GOP/Animal House plan is well known: Cut Scrooge McDuck’s taxes; keep yelling Obama, Obama, Obama.


By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, November 12, 2014

November 12, 2014 Posted by | Congress, Midterm Elections, Republicans | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Barack Obama Is A Big Meanie!”: John Boehner Already Making Excuses For His Failure

It only took a couple of days before John Boehner made clear that when it comes to his approach to legislating in the wake of the Republicans’ victory in the midterms, absolutely nothing has changed. All that talk about “getting things done” and “showing they can govern”? Forget about it.

In his press conference the day after the election, President Obama got asked about immigration reform and repeated what he’s been saying all along—that if Congress doesn’t pass anything, he’ll take some (as yet undisclosed) actions based on executive authority. He also noted for the umpteenth time that the Senate already passed a reform bill, one that included lots of gettin’-tough provisions demanded by Republicans, which Boehner refused to bring to a vote in the House even though it would have passed. He also emphasized that if Congress does pass a bill, it would supplant whatever executive actions he might take, so taking some executive actions might provide a nice inducement for them to do something.

So yesterday when Boehner had his own press conference, he got super-mad:

“I’ve made clear to the president that if he acts unilaterally, on his own, outside of his authority, he will poison the well, and there will be no chance of immigration reform moving in this Congress. It is as simple as that,” he said. “When you play with matches, you take the risk of burning yourself. And he’s going to burn himself if he continues to go down this path.”

Let’s think about this “poisoning the well” idea. Boehner is saying that if President Obama takes executive action, congressional Republicans will be angry and distrustful, which would make legislating harder. While up until now, they’ve been friendly and trusting toward Obama, and willing to work together.

Just a couple of days after the election, Boehner is already preparing excuses for why he failed. Why didn’t immigration reform pass? Because Barack Obama is a big meanie!

That well was poisoned long ago, and it was Republicans who did the poisoning. This is an important reminder that the fundamental dynamic within the GOP—in which appeasing the party’s right wing is the primary concern of the leadership—has not changed at all. In fact, it’s been intensified. In both the House and Senate, the incoming GOP caucus will be more conservative than they are right now. The problem was never that John Boehner didn’t think it was good for the country or his party to pass comprehensive immigration reform, the problem was that he didn’t have the courage to stand up to the Tea Party right. And now there are even more of them.

Meanwhile over in the Senate, you’ll have a combination of Republicans up for re-election in two or four years who will be increasingly nervous about a primary challenge from the right, and new members who hail from the Ted Cruz caucus. You think you’ll get a yes vote for comprehensive reform from Tom Cotton, who claimed during the campaign that ISIS and Mexican drug gangs were conspiring to attack us via the Rio Grande? How about Joni Ernst, who talked about shooting government officials and believes the United Nations has a secret plan to force Iowa farmers off their land and relocate them to urban centers? Or James Lankford, who thinks too many American children are on ritalin “because welfare moms want to get additional benefits”? Is this the group of sensible moderates that is going to vote for comprehensive reform?

I’ll bet that John Boehner would like nothing better than to have Barack Obama issue some executive orders on immigration. Then he’d have an easy answer every time someone asked when he was going to allow a vote on a comprehensive immigration package. What can I do? Obama poisoned the well. It’s not my responsibility anymore.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, November 7, 2014

November 9, 2014 Posted by | Congress, John Boehner, Midterm Elections | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Republicans Cloaking Their Extremism”: The Values Election We Didn’t Have — And Must Have

Tuesday’s elections have left us with a dismal political landscape in Washington, D.C. and exposed the deep dissatisfaction many Americans feel with the economy and the functioning of government.

The results also, let’s be frank, pay sad tribute to the dishonest genius of Republican Party strategists, who coached candidates to hide clear records of extremism, and who spent six years laser-focused on making Congress dysfunctional while managing to convince voters it was the fault of President Obama and the Democrats.

By cloaking their extremism, and by evading responsibility for anti-government and anti-governing obstructionism, Republican leaders kept voters from having a clear sense of the real contest this year’s elections represented. In 2008 and 2012, there was no denying that the elections were between two very different systems of values and ideas about the role of government in promoting and protecting the well-being of its people. This year’s election was largely a failure to the extent that it was not about values and policies but the personal unpopularity of President Obama, any and all government failings, and the dysfunction in Washington.

In fact, there’s a troubling paradox in the election results: some of the best news for progressives is also some of the most depressing, because it points to the depth and cost of our political failures.

Here’s what I mean. Voters in red states and blue cities alike voted to raise the minimum wage, which polls show has majority support across the political spectrum. But those same voters elected Republican candidates who have opposed efforts to raise workers’ wages. Colorado and North Dakota both rejected anti-choice “personhood” amendments, but voters elected officials in favor of “personhood” laws and hell-bent on closing down health clinics. Polls show support for equal rights for LGBT people way up, but many voters still supported candidates who are committed to resisting any gains toward legal equality.

Voters are rightly dissatisfied with an economy that leaves so many workers and families with stagnant or sinking wages and opportunities. Yet they voted for candidates most likely to make those problems worse. Americans who are hurting are not the ones who will benefit from further tax cuts for the rich, policies that give wealthy corporations and shadowy political groups more influence over elections than voters and ordinary people, and the gutting of regulations that protect consumers and communities from wrongdoing by unaccountable corporations. They’re concerned about climate change yet their votes yesterday hand the gavel of the Senate committee responsible for dealing with it to a climate change denier.

The deck was clearly stacked against progressives this year. Democrats faced contested races in a number of conservative states. There was seemingly no end to the bad news overseas, some of which found its way home. And President Obama’s popularity dwindled even as the economic picture brightened, because so many people were not feeling any of the benefits in their own pockets.

But that’s no excuse for the wave of defeats. Too many Democrats did not make a clear and convincing case about the consequences of policies pushed by far-right activists and promoted by Republican elected officials. And that allowed the debate to become a referendum on voters’ feelings about Barack Obama — and on an insider’s squabble about where the buck stopped on the lack of effective action in Congress.

We must not let Republicans continue to get away with the sleight-of-hand they used to distract voters from their extremism this year. Progressive leaders must make clear what values are at stake in the upcoming policy debates — and whose policies are aligned with the American values and the interests of American families. We must push Democrats to draw clear distinctions between the values of the far-right lawmakers who will make this the most ideologically extreme Congress in memory and the voters who believe our nation’s future depends on prosperity that is broadly shared, not funneled only to those at the very top. This also requires Democrats to have a clear agenda that excites the people who sat out this week’s elections.

Moving forward, the most important mission for President Obama and Democratic congressional leaders is not to show how well they can work with Republican congressional leaders, but to show voters that they can and will take principled stands when core values are at stake, and to help Americans understand how the policy agenda of far-right Republicans undermines the kind of communities and country they want to live in.


By: Michael B. Keegan, President, People For the American Way; The Huffington Post Blog, November 5, 2014

November 9, 2014 Posted by | Democrats, Midterm Elections, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Midterms Rewarded Personal Irresponsibility”: The Moral Hazard Created By The Republican Midterm Victory

One of the hardiest of conservative memes over the last few decades has been about the moral hazard created by The Welfare State: Helping people who are poor or sick may have some social benefits, but they are far outweighed by the dangers of rewarding personal irresponsibility, you see. People–and sadly, their children–need to suffer visibly and painfully for their failure to achieve success in this, the greatest country in the history of the world, where anyone with some initiative and persistence can do well. Then they’ll shape up or perish, and others will be warned.

This has always been more than a little self-serving for those who thereby celebrate their own righteousness, while often confusing privilege and luck with virtue. But I do see their point a bit better today in thinking about the moral hazard created by the Republican midterm victory of 2014. Paul Krugman crystallized it perfectly:

the biggest secret of the Republican triumph surely lies in the discovery that obstructionism bordering on sabotage is a winning political strategy. From Day 1 of the Obama administration, Mr. McConnell and his colleagues have done everything they could to undermine effective policy, in particular blocking every effort to do the obvious thing — boost infrastructure spending — in a time of low interest rates and high unemployment.

This was, it turned out, bad for America but good for Republicans. Most voters don’t know much about policy details, nor do they understand the legislative process. So all they saw was that the man in the White House wasn’t delivering prosperity — and they punished his party.

You’d better believe that if Republicans are ever in the position Democrats were in when McConnell and company decided on this scorched-earth strategy, this lesson of 2014 will be remembered–because after all, personal irresponsibility was rewarded.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, November 7, 2014

November 8, 2014 Posted by | Midterm Elections, Personal Responsibility, Republicans | , , , , | 1 Comment

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