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“Significantly Ambivalent On Key Issues”: The White Working Class As “Yes, But” And “No, But” Voters

I think we are beginning to understand this year more than in the past that non-college white voters–a.k.a. the “white working class” are currently bifurcated into those who intensely dislike government but aren’t sold on conservative economic panaceas and those who are very angry about the “rigged” economy but aren’t sure they trust government to do anything about it. The former are heavily represented in the current support base of Donald Trump, while the latter should be targets for Democrats. That proposition about the latter was, of course, the main message in Stan Greenberg’s essay on the white working class in the current issue of the Washington Monthly, which also served as the basis for the roundtable discussion WaMo sponsored in conjunction with The Democratic Strategist.

In his WaPo column yesterday, E.J. Dionne grasped the importance of this realization in writing about “yes, but” voters who may have partisan voting habits but are significantly ambivalent on key issues. After discussing some polling from WaPo and Pew, Dionne noted:

[A] third study, a joint product of the Democratic Strategist Web site and Washington Monthly magazine, points to the work Democrats need to do with white working-class voters.

One key finding, from pollster Stan Greenberg: Such voters are “open to an expansive Democratic economic agenda” but “are only ready to listen when they think that Democrats understand their deeply held belief that politics has been corrupted and government has failed.” This calls for not only “populist measures to reduce the control of big money and corruption” but also, as Mark Schmitt of the New America Foundation argued, “high-profile efforts to show that government can be innovative, accessible and responsive.”

This ambivalent feeling about government is the most important “yes, but” impulse in the American electorate, and the party that masters this blend of hope and skepticism will win the 2016 election.

Yessir. The broader lesson is that the stereotype of swing voters as Broderesque, Fournierite “centrists” looking for bipartisan compromises that don’t upset elites misses the real swing voters, who may not be as numerous on the surface as is years past, but who could move political mountains in response to the right combination of messages that take seriously their concerns.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 27, 2015

July 28, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Economy, White Working Class | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Cheese Head Guv’s Sleazy Past”: Scott Walker, One Of The Most Divisive Governors In The Country

Tens of thousands of protesters make for much better television than court documents, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be paying attention to Scott Walker’s scandal-plagued re-election bid this year—even if it is unaccompanied by the hoopla of his 2012 recall election. In that year, Walker was able to best a weak Democratic candidate in an election where some voters backed him because of concerns about whether a recall was appropriate, and not because they supported his union-busting legislation.

This year, the most recent poll has Walker trailing the Democratic nominee, Mary Burke, by two percentage points among likely voters, and the embattled GOP incumbent has faced new allegations that he illegally coordinated outside spending during his recall election with groups like the Wisconsin Club for Growth. But while the 2012 recall excited liberals across the country (it seemed at times during that election that MSNBC’s Ed Schultz had moved to the Badger State), this year liberals can barely muster a shrug.

Part of this ennui, as Noam Scheiber at The New Republic points out, is that it’s not in anyone’s interest to make a big deal about Walker, despite the fact that he might be running for president in a couple years. After losing to him in 2012, liberals have a kind of political PTSD when it comes to Wisconsin, and are afraid of raising the stakes in the campaign.

Plus, Burke is a relatively moderate former business executive, which makes her a good candidate for a general election, but not exactly the best one to excite the progressive base. And without shots of hordes of protesters like the kind that swarmed the state capital in Madison two years ago, the campaign becomes far less compelling for television, and is thus unlikely to receive much national coverage.

The outrage that Walker is provoking is of a less exciting variety this time around. In 2012, there were teachers and small-town government workers made furious by Walker’s efforts to quash collective bargaining rights for public employees. In 2014, however, there is far less uproar over Walker potentially violating campaign finance laws to encourage corporations to give unlimited donations to the Wisconsin Club for Growth—and only the Wisconsin Club for Growth. In an email to a consultant for that group who also served as an adviser to the governor in 2011, a Walker aide emphasized that the incumbent wanted “all the issue advocacy efforts run thru one group to ensure correct messaging.”

These efforts are further illustrated in an email that Kelly Rindfleisch, a former Walker aide, sent the governor before a fundraising trip in 2011, which told him to “stress that donations to [Wisconsin Club for Growth] are not disclosed and can accept corporate donations without limits.”

Rindfleisch, who has since been convicted of misconduct in office as a result of one of the many investigations surrounding Walker, added that the governor should stress to donors that he could accept corporate contributions that wouldn’t be reported.

A national Democratic consultant familiar with the race took pains to point out what a big prize Walker would be for the left. The Wisconsin governor “is very vulnerable, in a very dangerous spot for an incumbent and the fact that he hasn’t committed to serve out his next term means that what happens in Wisconsin is likely to have an effect on ’16.” But most importantly for Democrats, knocking off Walker would be a major consolation prize if they lose control of the Senate in 2014.

With prospects of holding on to a majority in the Senate uncertain, Walker offers Democrats an enviable scalp to wave in November. After all, he has been one of the most divisive governors in the country, and serves in a key swing state. Plus, Walker evokes so much anger among parts of the Democratic base that would lessen the bite of potential losses in national races.

Although some national progressive groups are starting to focus on the race—Democracy for America announced Thursday that it was backing Burke to “put a stop to the flow of extreme right-wing legislation that has been poisoning” Wisconsin under Walker—the attention is still far less than in 2012, when outside Democratic groups flooded the Badger State with money. The result is that Walker still has a significant fundraising advantage heading into final two months of campaigning.

The question, though, is whether the incumbent can hold on and win in the swing state. Because while Walker may savor the absence of protesters demonstrating against him, his poll numbers are still worse than they were in 2012.

 

By: Ben Jacobs, The Daily Beast, August 28, 2014

August 30, 2014 Posted by | Scott Walker, Wisconsin | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Damning And Far More Serious”: Wisconsin’s Walker Confronted With Damaging New Details

For all the current and former Republican governors facing serious scandals – Rick Perry, Bob McDonnell, Chris Christie, et al – let’s not forget about Gov. Scott Walker. The Wisconsin chief executive is in the middle of a tough re-election fight – which he’ll have to win to move forward with his presidential plans – and a lingering controversy is making his task more difficult.

To briefly recap, Wisconsin election laws prohibit officials from coordinating campaign activities with outside political groups. When Walker faced a recall campaign, however, he and his team may have directly overseen how outside groups – including some allegedly non-partisan non-profits – spent their campaign resources.

Late Friday night, the allegations surrounding the governor’s office appear to have grown far more serious. Consider this report from Madison’s Wisconsin State Journal.

Gov. Scott Walker personally solicited millions of dollars in contributions for a conservative group during the 2011 and 2012 recalls, which prosecutors cited as evidence the governor and his campaign violated state campaign finance laws, records made public on Friday show.

Among the groups that donated money to Wisconsin Club for Growth during that time was Gogebic Taconite, which contributed $700,000, according to the records. The company later won approval from the Legislature and Walker to streamline regulations for a massive iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin.

In an April court filing unsealed briefly on Friday, a lawyer wrote, “Because Wisconsin Club for Growth’s fundraising and expenditures were being coordinated with Scott Walker’s agents at the time of Gogebic’s donation, there is certainly an appearance of corruption in light of the resulting legislation from which it benefited.”

I think it’s safe to say these revelations do not cast Walker and his team in a positive light. On the contrary, Friday’s night’s evidence appears quite damning.

As additional reporting from the weekend makes clear, Team Walker, with the governor’s direct involvement, is accused of raising money for Wisconsin Club for Growth, which in turn ran ads to support the governor and helped disperse campaign funds to conservative allies.

In one especially damaging detail, Walker was dispatched to Las Vegas with talking points on the importance of unregulated contributions for the supposedly independent nonprofit group.

“Stress that donations to [Wisconsin Club for Growth] are not disclosed and can accept corporate donations without limits,” an aide told Walker via email. “Let [potential donors] know that you can accept corporate contributions and it is not reported.”

Wisconsin Club for Growth allegedly funneled these unregulated contributions to allies, all to help Walker prevail in his recall election. Indeed, the reports suggest the governor insisted on Wisconsin Club for Growth maintaining a leadership role in order to “ensure correct messaging.” A fundraising consultant for Walker to one of the governor’s campaign consultants, “We had some past problems with multiple groups doing work on ‘behalf’ of Gov. Walker and it caused some issues.”

The coordination aspect is clearly problematic under campaign-finance laws, but the scandal may also include a possible quid-pro-quo angle.

Other Wisconsin Club for Growth donors included Gogebic Taconite LLC, which has proposed opening a 4 1/2-mile long iron mine in northern Wisconsin. The company gave $700,000 to Club for Growth in 2011 and 2012. Walker signed legislation last year streamlining state mining requirements and paving the way for the project. The documents don’t show whether Walker directly solicited donations from that company. A spokesman for the company did not return a message seeking comment.

There are 71 days until Election Day in Wisconsin. These are probably not the kind of headlines the Republican governor was hoping for as the campaign cycle approaches Labor Day.

Postscript: If you’re new to Walker’s scandal or need a refresher, this Q&A is helpful (thanks to my colleague Nazanin Rafsanjani for the heads-up).

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 25, 2014

August 26, 2014 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Scott Walker, Wisconsin | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Everyone Was Let Go”: Darren Wilson’s Former Police Force Was Disbanded For Excessive Force And Corruption

While news outlets and commentators have attempted to analyze every action of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teen shot to death six times in Ferguson, Missouri two weeks ago, we seem to know very little about his shooter, Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Wilson, who just months ago won a commendation in a Town Council ceremony, now remains under the police’s protection and hasn’t spoken about the incident.

But as the public continues to search for answers, the Washington Post has published a report on Wilson’s career, including a brief biography, that offers some insight into Wilson’s past.

According to officials interviewed by the Post, Wilson maintained a clean record, but the Post reports that his first job “was not an ideal place to learn how to police.” He entered the police force in 2009, joining a nearly all-white, 45-member task force that patrolled Jennings, Missouri, a small, impoverished city of 14,000 where the residents were 89 percent African-American. The racial tension was high, and the police were accused of using excessive force against its residents:

Racial tension was endemic in Jennings, said Rodney Epps, an African American city council member.

“You’re dealing with white cops, and they don’t know how to address black people,” Epps said. “The straw that broke the camel’s back, an officer shot at a female. She was stopped for a traffic violation. She had a child in the back [of the] car and was probably worried about getting locked up. And this officer chased her down Highway 70, past city limits, and took a shot at her. Just ridiculous.”

Police faced a series of lawsuits for using unnecessary force, Stichnote said. One black resident, Cassandra Fuller, sued the department claiming a white Jennings police officer beat her in June 2009 on her own porch after she made a joke. A car had smashed into her van, which was parked in front of her home, and she called police. The responding officer asked her to move the van. “It don’t run. You can take it home with you if you want,” she answered. She said the officer became enraged, threw her off the porch, knocked her to the ground and kicked her in the stomach.

The department paid Fuller a confidential sum to settle the case, she said.

The department also endured a corruption scandal. In 2011, city council members voted 6-1 to shut down the force and start over, bringing in a new set of officers. Everyone was let go, including Wilson, but he soon found a job at the Ferguson police department, where he has been since.

Lt. Jeff Fuesting, who took over command of the Jennings force, assessed the problems of the former task force like this:

“There was a disconnect between the community and the police department. There were just too many instances of police tactics which put the credibility of the police department in jeopardy. Complaints against officers. There was a communication breakdown between the police and the community. There were allegations involving use of force that raised questions.”

 

By: Prachi Gupta, Assistant News Editor, Salon, August 24, 2014

August 25, 2014 Posted by | Darren Wilson, Ferguson Missouri, Law Enforcement | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“When Rick Perry Said And Did Nothing”: Two Other District Attorneys Faced The Same Charges Under Similar Circumstances

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s (R) legal troubles started over a year ago, when Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested for drunk driving. After an ugly scene in April 2013, Lehmberg, a Democrat, pleaded guilty, apologized, and served 20 days behind bars.

Despite the fact that this was the district attorney’s first offense, Perry called for her resignation. Lehmberg refused. As we discussed over the weekend, this set a series of steps in motion: the governor announced that if she did not resign, he would use his veto power to strip her office of its state funding. When Lehmberg ignored the threat, the governor followed through and vetoed the funding, in the process scrapping resources for the Texas Public Integrity Unit.

Now, for those who are skeptical of the case against Perry, the governor’s actions hardly seem unreasonable. Indeed, it’s not exactly outrageous to think a governor would want to see a district attorney step down after she spent a few weeks in jail.

But the Dallas Morning News added an interesting wrinkle to this argument.

Rick Perry was outraged at the spectacle of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg’s drunken-driving arrest last year. But he didn’t feel that strongly when two other district attorneys faced the same charges under similar circumstances.

In those cases, he said and did nothing.

This is no small detail. If Perry was convinced a DUI was a disqualifier for a district attorney, why did the governor apply this standard so selectively?

Democratic strategist Jason Stanford put it this way: “The key difference was that one of the DAs was investigating his administration for corruption and the other two DAs weren’t.”

In 2009, for example, a Kaufman County D.A. was convicted of drunk driving, his second offense. Perry’s office said nothing, dismissing it as a local issue.

In 2002, a Swisher County district attorney was found guilty of aggravated DWI, which came against the backdrop of a scandal involving the prosecutor and a sting operation gone wrong. Again, Perry said nothing.

So why would the governor rely on different standards? Jason Stanford, the Democratic strategist, added that Perry treated Lehmberg differently “in a way that makes you question what his motives were. And he had a real clear motive because she’s investigating him for corruption” in connection with a cancer-fund scandal.

I realize many on the left and right have been quick to dismiss this case on the merits. That said, I can’t help but wonder if they were a little too quick in their judgments.

Update: I heard from Gov. Perry’s press secretary this morning, who passed along an affidavit from Chris Walling, a former investigator with the Public Integrity Unit, who said the governor was not a target in the cancer-fund scandal.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, August 21, 2014

August 24, 2014 Posted by | Abuse of Power, Rick Perry, Texas | , , , | 2 Comments

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