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“Intra-Party Divisions Not Yet Irreparable”: Latest Polling Casts 2016 Race In New Light, Especially For Dems

A New York Times/CBS News poll, released last night, found Hillary Clinton with a six-point lead over Donald Trump, 47% to 41%. Given that the Republican race has been over for weeks, while Democrats are still battling it out, the margin probably brings some comfort to those hoping to avoid Trump’s inauguration.

Indeed, the Times’ piece on the results noted that Republican voters “are starting to fall in line with Mr. Trump now that he is their presumptive nominee – and that they expect party officials to do the same. Eight in 10 Republican voters say their leaders should support Mr. Trump even if they disagree with him on important issues.”

Among Democrats, it’s a little more complicated.

…Mrs. Clinton is still contending with resistance to her candidacy from supporters of Mr. Sanders as their contest carries on and grows more contentious. Twenty-eight percent of Mr. Sanders’s primary voters say they will not support her if she is the nominee, a figure that reflects the continuing anger many Sanders supporters feel toward both Mrs. Clinton and a process they believe is unfair.

To a certain degree, this reinforces the intense anxiety many Democrats are feeling. The 2016 race poses a variety of challenges for the party, but if a significant chunk of Sanders supporters refuse to support the Democratic nominee, Clinton will lose, Trump will be president, and the Supreme Court will be lost for a generation.

But some context is in order. At this point eight years ago, 60% of Clinton backers said they were ready to vote for then-Sen. Barack Obama in a general election. Now, in this poll, 72% of Sanders backers say they’ll vote Clinton.

Obviously, Democrats would prefer to see that number at 100%, but the point is, Democratic divisions were even more dramatic eight years ago, though that didn’t stop Obama from winning the general election with relative ease in 2008. After the convention, the party and like-minded allies came together, as they nearly always do.

Similarly, the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent noted this morning that Clinton’s favorability ratings among Democrats are even higher now than Obama’s at roughly this point eight years ago.

The parallels are admittedly imprecise. In 2008, for example, the substantive and ideological differences between Clinton and Obama, all of their intense fighting notwithstanding, were practically nonexistent. They were also both Democratic loyalists with a deep commitment to the party, its candidates, and its future.

As TPM’s Josh Marshall explained yesterday, “Sanders and Jeff Weaver have no such investment on the line. Indeed, their own political background is one as dissidents whose political posture is one of resisting and opposing institutional politics.” The results are key structural differences between the Democratic races in 2008 and 2016.

The fact remains, however, that the latest polling data suggests intra-party divisions have not yet reached an irreparable point, and Bloomberg Politics reported today that the senator himself has “reached out to multiple Senate colleagues in an attempt to assuage them,” including Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who faced the fury of Sanders backers at the Nevada Democratic convention last weekend, and Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, came away from the conversation on Wednesday convinced that Sanders, who has all but lost the presidential nomination battle to Hillary Clinton, understands the need for party unity and will do his part to defeat presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.

“We talked about the demonstrations and such,” Durbin said Thursday in an interview. “I am convinced, as Bernie has said repeatedly, he is going to be on the team to defeat Donald Trump. I don’t have any question in my mind.”

That’s obviously just one perspective, and we didn’t hear the exact nature of the phone call, but if the Vermont senator intends to burn down the convention, the party, and the country this fall, Sanders doesn’t appear to be giving others that impression.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 20, 2016

May 23, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Democrats, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Upending The Status Quo”: How Obama Is Shrewdly Using Partisanship To Sideline Netanyahu And Save The Iran Nuclear Deal

The conventional wisdom is that partisanship in Washington, D.C., is one of the biggest obstacles to solving America’s most entrenched problems, from fixing the immigration system to closing the inequality gap. But if the fallout from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s forthcoming address to Congress is any indication, partisanship can be a pretty useful tool when it comes to upending the status quo.

Throughout the controversy, the White House has been happy to run its relationship with Netanyahu through the partisan vortex, helping splinter a bipartisan consensus that was once the most potent domestic threat to a U.S. rapport with Iran — a deal that would constitute the crowning accomplishment of President Obama’s foreign policy legacy.

Of course, Netanyahu has himself to blame more than anyone. By accepting an invitation from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to essentially hammer the administration before a joint session of Congress, without notifying the White House or the State Department, he took his longstanding disdain for Obama to new heights. When even Fox News anchors are questioning your treatment of the president, this may be a sign you have crossed a line.

He exacerbated his problems by rejecting an invitation from Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) to privately meet with Democrats, in what they said was an attempt to “balance the politically divisive invitation from Speaker Boehner.” Netanyahu explained that the meeting would “compound the misperception of partisanship regarding my upcoming visit,” but it seems his rejection accomplished that just fine on its own.

“Since when does an Israeli prime minister say no to a meeting with Democrats?” bemoaned a former Israeli official to The New York Times. And referring to Durbin and Feinstein, he said, “By the way, their Israeli voting record is impeccable. Not good, not very good, impeccable.”

This gets to the crux of the problem for Obama, as he potentially heads into the final stretch of a years-long attempt to reach a deal on Iran’s controversial nuclear program. He not only has to fend off opposition from Republicans, but staunch pro-Israel members of his own party, some of whom seem intent on passing additional sanctions on Iran to scuttle any deal. The problem is so acute that, as recently as January, Obama faced the prospect of a united Congress overriding his veto for the first time in his presidency.

But that has changed. By aligning himself so plainly with the GOP, Netanyahu may have made it impossible for Democrats to join the Republicans. As Dov Zakheim writes at Foreign Policy, “Netanyahu’s determination to address Congress has all but destroyed any chance the Hill’s passing new sanctions and overriding a presidential veto. The deal will therefore go ahead.”

The Obama administration appears to realize this, taking the fight to Netanyahu in a highly public way. The White House made clear it would snub Netanyahu, saying both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden would not meet with him. It still has not said who (if anyone) will be attending the annual summit this weekend of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the powerful pro-Israel lobby. [Update: Rice and Samantha Powers, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., will attend.] Then this week, National Security Advisor Susan Rice said Netanyhu’s speech was “destructive” to U.S.-Israeli relations — not “unhelpful” or any other boilerplate diplomatic language, but “destructive.”

Then Secretary of State John Kerry used his testimony on Wednesday to the House Foreign Affairs Committee to remind everyone that Netanyahu supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Never mind that Kerry was for it before he was against it — he noted that Netanyahu is a hysterical hawk and associated the Israeli prime minister with the most divisive foreign policy issue of the last generation. After all, everyone knows that there is little rank-and-file Democrats hate more than the Iraq War and those who egged the Bush administration on. (Kerry’s attack was all the more remarkable given the fact that his friendship with Netanyahu goes back to the 1970s.)

This is all bad news for those who believe that a U.S. accord with Iran would spell doom for Israel. But for those who believe that diplomacy and negotiations are far better than the alternatives, they might have partisanship to thank.


By: Ryu Spaeth, The Week, February 27, 2015

March 3, 2015 Posted by | Benjamin Netanyahu, Congress, Foreign Policy | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Typical Republican Trick”: Gun Nuts Deploy Rand Paul And Ted Cruz For Cynical Political Scheme

Earlier this week the Senate voted 82-12 to open debate on the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act, a measure introduced by Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan that “aims to preserve federal lands for hunting, fishing and shooting” and had over 20 Republican co-sponsors. It also would “amend the Toxic Substances Control Act, preventing the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating ammunition and fishing equipment that may contain lead.” Sounds … lovely. What it really is, though, is a vehicle for an endangered red-state Democrat such as Kay Hagan to bring something home to brag about.

And that’s why it had to die on Thursday, in a spectacularly cynical yet all-too-common flameout during amendment.

Republicans, who agreed with the bill in spirit but, more pertinently, knew that it might help Kay Hagan win reelection, pulled off a typical trick: trying to attach a number of insane gun lobby amendments to the bill that would force Hagan and other red-state Democrats to cast difficult votes.

Sen. Tom Coburn’s amendment would limit “the circumstances under which veterans can be denied access to firearms because of mental illness.” Sen. Ted Cruz’s “would allow expanded interstate transport of ammunition and firearms.” And then, there’s beloved hero-Sen. Rand Paul, who thinks this hunting and fishing bill represents the latest perfectly reasonable opportunity to strip Washington, D.C., of all its gun laws.

Rand’s proposed amendment to the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act would repeal the registration requirement, end the ban on semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines, expand the right to carry guns outside the home and protect the right to carry guns on federal land in D.C. and elsewhere in the country. In essence, the bill would eliminate the District’s local gun laws, leaving only federal firearms law to regulate gun ownership and use in the city.

(You’ve got to love the way Republicans casually introduce amendments to overhaul laws set by the local government of the District of Columbia. Oh, here’s a little amendment to get rid of all your gun laws. Oh, here’s a quick note I drew up to keep marijuana criminalized in your little town of sin. Non-voting Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, of course, is never consulted on these things, but members of Congress do seek her out when they want to bitch about the traffic. Anyway, this is an aside, which is why it’s in parentheses.)

Once Coburn et al. drafted their amendments, pro-gun control Democrats decided to retaliate. “If we open this to a gun debate, we’re going to hear both sides,” Sen. Dick Durbin said earlier in the week. And so he drew up an amendment to “stiffen the penalty for straw purchases of guns to 15 years in prison,” while Sen. Richard Blumenthal offered one that “would temporarily take guns away from people who commit domestic violence and have a restraining order placed against them.”

And so Harry Reid blocked amendments, Republicans withdrew their support, and the measure went down on a 41-56 cloture vote this morning. This is all well and good according to the Gun Owners of America, a lobby that had pushed for the Republican amendment flood to what it called “a do-nothing, reelection bill for Harry Reid’s cronies.”

We weep not, reader, for the demise of the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014. The nation will survive without it. But if a bill that essentially says “WE LIKE HUNTING AND FISHING” gets bogged down in an amendment battle about whether or not to have any gun control laws anymore and then dies, maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to begin the August recess right now and extend it through Election Day.


By: Jim Newell, Salon, July 11, 2014


July 13, 2014 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Lobby, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Senate Comity Brigade Was Wrong”: Democratic Activists Urging Filibuster Reform For Presidential Appointments Were Right

I wrote a few days ago about how the Supreme Court’s decision to bar recess appointments made with less than a 10-day break in Senate proceedings increases the importance of controlling Congress.

But it also proves again that Democratic activists urging filibuster reform for Presidential appointments were right, and the status-quo-ante comity-obsessed Senators were wrong.

Now the Democrats who supported changing the rules are rightly taking plaudits for their success:

Democrats say the decision Thursday to rebuke Obama’s 2012 appointments to the National Labor Relations Board has made their change to Senate rules seem remarkably prescient. That change made it easier for the Senate to confirm Obama’s nominees, transforming recess appointments — a tactic to get around the chamber’s hurdles — into something of a relic.

That shift has already allowed Senate Democrats to squeeze through several nominees who might have been defeated under the old framework.

“Clearly this president has faced more opposition for even routine appointments, let alone important lifetime appointments like the judiciary. I’m sorry we had to change the rules and it’s created some pain in our Senate that’s still there,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). “But there had to be a way for this president to lead.”

The language used by Durbin here is still odd. It has “created some pain” in “our” Senate? Too often, the language used by Senators to describe the upper chamber is reminiscent of a private drinking club or children’s clubhouse. It isn’t. Whatever advantage there might have been in the past to friendly interactions between Senators across party lines to accomplish national goals has long been erased by hardline partisanship.

That’s largely because movement conservatives largely purged northern Rockefeller Republicans from their ranks, and because the old Dixiecrats who liked New Deal policies as long as they didn’t benefit minorities too much are gratefully a relic of the past. So on most issues not related to national security, there’s frankly very little reason for Senators to “reach across the aisle” anymore.

The clubby comity so prized by Senators now serves little purpose beyond the worst kind of bipartisanship on behalf of wealthy corporate interests and military contractors. It would be far better for Senators to worry more about how well their own views match those of their constituents, than how well they get along with one another.


By: David Atkins, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, June 28, 2014

June 30, 2014 Posted by | Filibuster, Senate | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Dumb, Pathetic And Predictable”: Karl Rove’s Limitless Capacity For Self-Pity

Nearly three years ago, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) noticed a problem with Karl Rove’s attack operation, American Crossroads. The group sought and received tax-exempt status from the IRS, but it was clearly a partisan political operation, not a “social welfare” group, raising vast sums from anonymous donors. The senator urged the tax agency to investigate whether Crossroads deserved the generous tax benefit.

Rove, who in 2005 accused Durbin of trying to kill American troops by criticizing George W. Bush, apparently holds a grudge.

Rove unloaded with both barrels on the Illinois Democrat, blasting him in an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News and in a column in The Wall Street Journal. Rove is charging that Durbin’s sending a letter in 2010 to Internal Revenue Service officials, asking them to investigate American Crossroads, was nothing less than a bid to “silence conservatives.”

“What was going on is obvious: Mr. Durbin wanted the IRS to silence conservatives,” Rove wrote. … “[I]n the glare of public attention, using the IRS to cripple or destroy opponents looks corrupt. Abuse of power always is.”

There’s a near-constant strain of self-pity and victimization that underscores Rove’s approach to politics, which makes this new argument rather predictable. Nevertheless, on the merits, the argument is also quite dumb.

I can appreciate why the IRS controversy offers Republican media personalities an attractive excuse for self-indulgence, settling old scores against perceived enemies, but neither Durbin nor any other Democratic officials tried to “silence” anyone. The entire line of attack is nonsense.

In 2010, Durbin saw Rove’s group flouting a loophole in the tax law, taking advantage of a tax benefit it almost certainly was not entitled to. Durbin didn’t say American Crossroads shouldn’t exist, and certainly didn’t argue that the attack operation lacks the right of free speech, but simply said the group did not deserve to be tax-exempt and asked the IRS to take a closer look. (It’s unclear if the IRS acted on the request.)

If Rove wants to argue that his political group deserves to be tax-exempt, fine, let’s have the debate. But that’s not an argument the Republican pundit wants to have. Instead, it’s better for fundraising and base-mobilization for Rove to use his media platform to complain, “Dick Durbin was mean to me three years ago.”

It’s misleading; it’s based on a faulty premise; and it’s kind of pathetic.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 31, 2013

June 2, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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