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“Imaginary Armies Of Voices”: The “American People” Who Only Exist In Ted Cruz’s Head

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz spoke seemingly endlessly about Obamacare yesterday and today, repeatedly demanding that Washington listen to “the American people.” But to which people exactly is Cruz listening? And is he willing to follow his own advice?

I ask because the latest New York Times/CBS News poll shows that an astonishing majority disapproves of the kind of shutdown-showdown tactics the tea party legislator is pushing in his effort to stop the Affordable Care Act. According to the Times:

Eight in 10 Americans find it unacceptable for either President Obama or members of Congress to threaten to shut down the government during budget negotiations in order to achieve their goals, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. Fewer than 1 in 5 think the stalemate between Mr. Obama and the Republicans in Congress is acceptable.

These results jibe with a host of other polls showing that Americans want cooperation in Washington and don’t want a government shutdown. But that’s precisely what Cruz and House Republicans are threatening to do with their “defund” stand: shut down the government unless President Obama and Senate Democrats grant them a win by extortion that the American people – the real ones, not Cruz’s imagined armies – denied them at the ballot box less than a year ago.

And it also bears repeating that for all of Cruz’s sanctimonious blather about how Congress should be more attuned to “the American people,” he flatly opposes their will on other critical issues. As I wrote last week:

For example 86 percent of Americans support background checks for people buying guns; on immigration reform, 64 percent of Americans support the comprehensive bill that the Senate passed and 78 percent support a qualified path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. … For those keeping track at home, those figures are more impressive than the 50-something opposed to Obamacare – perhaps no one has told Cruz, Lee et al. about these judgments from “the American people?”

So which “American people” is he talking about exactly? And will he listen to the ones that exist outside of his imagination?


By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, September 25, 2013

September 26, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Self Righteous Verbal Tick”: Ted Cruz Doesn’t Speak For “The American People”

Can we please leave “the American people” out of the debate over defunding the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare)? I’m not talking about the citizens of this great nation, but rather the politically self-righteous verbal tick our elected officials and commentators employ in an effort to invest in themselves the authority of the electorate.

So for example, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, the “defund” ringmaster, said earlier this week that while his grand idea has little chance in the Senate, “House Republicans must stand firm, hold their ground, and continue to listen to the American people.” And on Fox News on Wednesday night, Cruz praised “House leadership for listening to the American people,” adding that, “We’ve got to respond to the American people.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Cruz said, “needs to listen to” – you guessed it! – “the American people.”

Appearing on the same show, Utah GOP Sen. Mike Lee declared that “the American people are coming together, and they’re standing together and they’re saying, please defund this law.” He went on to praise House Speaker John Boehner for standing “with the American people. We now need to stand with him and with the people and defund this law.” And so on. (Boehner’s House this morning actually did pass a continuing resolution which would keep the government open through Dec.15 while defunding the Affordable Care Act; the bill stands no chance of passing the Senate.)

It must be bracing to carry a mandate to speak on behalf of the American people … even if, as is the case with Cruz, Lee and their tea party pals, they don’t have anything of the sort. Instead they have the insufferable pretension of one: They alone speak for the people because, well, they say so. Their belief in their own popular righteousness recalls Mr. Dooley’s definition of a fanatic: someone who “does what he thinks th’ Lord wud do if He knew th’ facts iv th’ case.”

And from whence does their mandate to speak so authoritatively for “the American people” derive? Cruz referenced an Internet petition which garnered 1.3 million signatures. “Look, today’s decision is a victory for the American people,” he said. “Those 1.3 million Americans … that went and signed that petition and spoke out.” That might explain the difference between the American people and Cruz’s “the American people”: He defines the term as people who share his radical agenda.

More broadly Cruz, Lee and company would presumably point to polls showing that Obamacare remains broadly unpopular. But that reflects, charitably, a superficial knowledge of the polling. Take the Pew Research Center/USA Today poll released earlier this week. Fully 53 percent disapprove of the Affordable Care Act as opposed to only 42 percent who approve. (The Real Clear Politics average of polls has 38 percent approving and 52 percent disapproving.) But dig deeper and you’ll find that that 53 percent is split over how to deal with the law they don’t like – more than half of them, 27 percent, want pols to try to make the law work; a lesser number, 23 percent, want to see elected officials try to make it fail. In other words something like one-quarter of the actual American people stand with Cruz, Lee and the rest of the fanatics. Some mandate.

This is not an unusual result. Even a laughably skewed poll which Heritage Action – the activist branch of the Heritage Foundation – commissioned to bolster the “defund” push found that 52 percent of Americans (or more precisely 52 percent of Americans in a selection of 10 GOP-leaning House districts) think that implementation of the law should go forward, while only 44.5 percent favor repeal. This makes intuitive sense: Not everyone who dislikes the law does so because they’re conservative; some portion of the law’s critics is progressives disappointed that it wasn’t more liberal.

But there are a couple of more important points to be made about polls. For one thing, the most authoritative poll taken in the last year occurred in November, at great expense. It had a sample size of more than 125 million and the results were not particularly close: The candidate who campaigned on repealing Obamacare lost by four percentage points – nearly five million votes – to the fellow who signed Obamacare into law. You’d think that if the American people saw stopping Obamacare as a cause worth fighting for “with every ounce of breath we have,” as Cruz put it Thursday, they might have so indicated at the ballot box. And yet Cruz, Lee and their cronies seem to see in this result a mandate from “the American people” (if not the American people) to obstruct the law to the maximum extent, even to the extent of shutting down the government to stop it.

And while the tea party right’s fidelity to the will of “the American people” as expressed by more recent public opinion polls is admirable, it takes on a far more self-serving aspect when considered in light of other polls which left people like Ted Cruz and Mike Lee unmoved. For example 86 percent of Americans support background checks for people buying guns; on immigration reform, 64 percent of Americans support the comprehensive bill that the Senate passed and 78 percent support a qualified path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Oh, and 71 percent of Americans oppose shutting down the government, according to a poll conducted over the summer for House Republicans. For those keeping track at home, those figures are more impressive than the 50-something opposed to Obamacare – perhaps no one has told Cruz, Lee et al. about these judgments from “the American people?”

The list goes on. The fact is, as I have written over and over and over and over, there are a number of prominent issues where the GOP seems immune to the charms of “the American people.”

And to be clear, this is not a partisan problem. Pols in both parties are promiscuous with the desires of “the American people,” while none have a monopoly on it. So let’s agree that it’s time to retire “the American people” – or more specifically their demands and expectations – from the political lexicon.

By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, September 21, 2013

September 22, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Beginning Of An Exceptional Friendship”: The American People’s Reply To Comrade Vladimir Putin

Dear President Putin,

Thank you so much for your letter to the American people! I am an American person, and when I learned on Thursday from the official Russian news agency, the New York Times, that you wanted “to speak directly to the American people,” I thought: How sweet!

I know I speak for many American people when I congratulate you on your English. It was flawless, with none of those dropped articles that plague so many of your countrymen. Please don’t be offended, but I have to ask: Did Edward Snowden help you with your letter?

It’s not just your English that impressed me. Your geopolitical points were smart — da bomb, as we American people like to say. (This is not the kind that would be used in Syria.) You were so thoughtful to bring up those memories of our days long ago as allies, and your references to “mutual trust” and “shared success” make me think that maybe we could be friends again. Your favorable mentions of Israel and the Pope remind me that we have so much in common.

Although some of us think it’s a good idea to have the U.S. military strike Syria, most of the American people agree with you that it would be a bad idea. (President Obama, you may have heard, is on both sides of the issue.) Your arguments against attack were creative, which is why it’s such a shame that, at the very end, you kind of stepped in it. When you told us that Americans are not “exceptional” — well, that hurts all of us American people.

I was surprised by this lapse because I think you really “get” Americans. When we saw photos of you shirtless in Siberia, you brought to mind one of our most celebrated American lawmakers, Anthony Weiner. When we watched you navigate around Russian laws to stay in power, you brought to mind another quintessentially American figure, Rod Blagojevich. The Harley-Davidson, the black clothing, the mistress half your age — you are practically American yourself.

This makes your crack about “American exceptionalism” all the more perplexing. “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional,” you wrote. “We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.” (Thank you for the considerate mention of God, by the way; American people respond well to that.) But I’m guessing what went wrong here is your translators let you down when they defined exceptional for you as luchshyy (better) rather than razlichnyy (different).

Americans do not believe they are better than other peoples. If you doubt this, you need only look at Congress. If we really thought we were superior, is there any chance we would choose them to represent us? There are exceptions — we think we are better than Canadians, for example, but please don’t tell them, because they’re awfully nice — but generally we accept that all countries have their strengths. We know, for example, that Russians are better than us at producing delicacies such as caviar and dioxin. (Kidding!)

When we say we are exceptional, what we really are saying is we are different. With few exceptions, we are all strangers to our land; our families came from all corners of the world and brought all of its colors, religions and languages. We believe this mixing, together with our free society, has produced generations of creative energy and ingenuity, from the Declaration of Independence to Facebook, from Thomas Jefferson to Miley Cyrus. There is no other country quite like that.

Americans aren’t better than others, but our American experience is unique — exceptional — and it has created the world’s most powerful economy and military, which, more often than not, has been used for good in the world. When you question American exceptionalism, you will find little support from any of us, liberals or conservatives, Democrats or Republicans, doves or hawks.

I hope you won’t take this criticism badly, because I offer it in friendship. I was in Slovenia that day in 2001 when President George W. Bush looked into your soul and liked what he saw. And had your ancestors not chased my ancestors out of Eastern Europe, I would not be here today, participating in the American experiment.

Anyway, it was such a pleasure to get your letter. Please write again soon. I think this is the beginning of an exceptional friendship.


By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, September 12, 2013

September 15, 2013 Posted by | Democracy, Syria | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Romney Dog Whistle”: Obama’s Philosophy Is “Foreign To The American Experience”

Mitt Romney doubled down on his characterization of President Obama as a “foreigner” during an interviewwith CNBC’s Larry Kudlow Monday afternoon, insisting that the president believes that the government is responsible for the success of entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Romney’s comments continue to misrepresent Obama’s remarks at a July 17th event, during which Obama suggested that society as a whole contributes to the economic accomplishments of the individual. Republicans have seized on the remarks to advance the myth that the president espouses an “un American” governing philosophy:

KUDLOW: Why do you think President Obama, what did he mean, if you’ve got a business, you didn’t build it, someone else made that happen? He claims it’s being taken out of context. What do you think it means? Do you think this is Obama anti-business, anti-entrepreneur? Or do you think maybe he has been treated unfairly? […]

ROMNEY: This is an ideology which says hey, we’re all the same here, we ought to take from all and give to one another and that achievement, individual initiative and risk-taking and success are not to be rewarded as they have in the past. It’s a very strange and in some respects foreign to the American experience type of philosophy. We have always been a nation that has celebrated success of various kinds. The kid that gets the honor roll, the individual worker that gets a promotion, the person that gets a better job. And in fact, the person that builds a business. And by the way, if you have a business and you started it, you did build it. And you deserve credit for that. It was not built for you by government…. So his whole philosophy is an upside-down philosophy that does not comport with the American experience.

In reality, Obama’s contention that — “when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together” — is something Romney himself has agreed with. For instance, during his speech at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics, Romney said, “You Olympians, however, know you didn’t get here solely on your own power. For most of you, loving parents, sisters or brothers, encouraged your hopes, coaches guided, communities built venues in order to organize competitions.”

He echoed the same sentiment last week, saying, “I know that you recognize a lot of people help you in a business. Perhaps the bank, the investors. There is no question your mom and dad, your school teachers. The people who provide roads, the fire, the police. A lot of people help.”


By: Igor Volsky, Think Progress, July 23, 2012

July 24, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Are You That Stupid?”: Vote For Romney, He Loves America

On Tuesday, Mitt Romney gave a speech billed as his big general-election pitch. It was a perfectly serviceable piece of work: competently written and competently delivered. But it didn’t contain an ounce of actual policy. If this speech was all you knew of Mitt Romney — if it was your one guide to his presidential campaign — you’d sum his message up as, “vote for me: I think America is great.”

Don’t believe me? The full speech is here. The first nine paragraphs are biography. The next eight are attack lines on President Obama (“It’s still about the economy …and we’re not stupid”). Then we get into Romney’s vision.

“I have a very different vision for America, and of our future,” Romney said. “It is an America driven by freedom, where free people, pursuing happiness in their own unique ways, create free enterprises that employ more and more Americans. Because there are so many enterprises that are succeeding, the competition for hard-working, educated and skilled employees is intense, and so wages and salaries rise.”

Sign me up! So how is Romney going to make sure so many enterprises are succeeding that competition for workers drives wages and salaries skyward? Well, here’s the very next paragraph: “I see an America with a growing middle class, with rising standards of living. I see children even more successful than their parents – some successful even beyond their wildest dreams – and others congratulating them for their achievement, not attacking them for it.”

And then: “In the America I see, character and choices matter. And education, hard work, and living within our means are valued and rewarded. And poverty will be defeated, not with a government check, but with respect and achievement that is taught by parents, learned in school, and practiced in the workplace.”

So on, and so forth. Romney never makes the turn to how he would achieve this America. Believing in it is apparently enough. The end result isn’t so much a preview of how Romney would govern the country as a game of “I Spy: America the Beautiful” edition.

I’m not a pollster. I don’t know if the American people want to hear about policy. Perhaps they prefer gauzy generalities. Perhaps they’re more interested in what candidates think of America than what they want to do for America. But if this is what the general election is going to be like, then it’s not going to be a clash of visions. It’s going to be a clash of adjectives. And in that case, it really will be the economy, stupid, as the American people will have nothing in particular to vote for.


By: Ezra Klein, The Washington Post Wonkblog, April 24, 2012

April 26, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , | Leave a comment

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