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“We Shouldn’t Wait Until Trump Loses 40 States To Ask”: The Biggest Reason For The GOP’s Black Voter Problem? Apathy

Hey, remember when the GOP said it would try to reach out to black voters?

In the wake of the Republican Party’s crushing loss in 2012, it made a big show of trying to woo black voters. The RNC even hired a bunch of young, smart, black Republicans to work on outreach efforts.

It was a pretty good idea, too, since without its super majorities of the black vote, the Democratic Party becomes uncompetitive nationally. More importantly, though, if you’re living in a country where one political party has a super majority of the white vote and the other a super majority of the black vote, maybe that’s a problem and you should do something about it?

But all of those black Republicans are gone now. And a story in The New Republic by two scholars, Theodore R. Johnson and Leah Wright Rigueur, notes instances of casual racism by state-level GOP grandees towards black staffers.

The reasons why black voters don’t want to vote for the GOP are well known. They aren’t driven so much by policy — spend enough time in an African-American church, and you will hear things said about welfare and crime that would make Newt Gingrich blanch — but by the perception that the GOP doesn’t have black people’s interests at heart.

In a way, this is deeply unfair. The most successful anti-poverty programs of the past 30 years have been the Earned-Income Tax Credit and welfare reform, both Republican efforts. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, the EITC lifted 9.4 million people (including five million children) out of poverty and improved the lives of 22 million more. As the scholar Scott Winship points out, the poverty rate basically didn’t change between 1967 and 1993. But after welfare reform, poverty, especially child poverty, plummeted, even as welfare rolls shrank and work was boosted to an unprecedented degree. This is probably why 2008 Barack Obama praised welfare reform, even though he had opposed it at the time.

And perhaps the single biggest obstacle to black empowerment has been bankrupt school bureaucracies supported by teachers’ unions which are a pillar of the Democratic Party. Conservatives have also taken the lead on prison reform.

But in another way, the perception is perfectly accurate. Most Republican elected officials and staffers don’t actually care about the interests of the black community. And it shows in their actions and priorities. This isn’t just about the infamous Southern strategy or any specific policy; it’s about the fact that most Republican officeholders don’t see the black community as an important constituency.

And, of course, there is the case of Donald Trump, whose candidacy is transparently about white identity politics.

America’s growing ethnic diversity isn’t happening without problems, and racial polarization, while perhaps not unavoidable, is also not surprising. And let’s not say the GOP is only to blame. Obama’s deft trolling of the GOP seems almost designed as a kind of “Southern strategy in reverse,” in a context where the Democratic Party needs a high turnout among minorities to win elections yet is running an underwhelming rich, old, white, out of touch candidate. To a much greater extent than the GOP, the Democratic Party’s electoral playbook requires that the electorate be, and remain, polarized along racial lines.

That being said, just because the Democrats are baiting doesn’t mean the GOP should take the bait. And it remains an uncomfortable fact that white identity politics remain attractive to many voters and, therefore, many politicians. Johnson and Rigueur put the GOP’s dilemma very well:

[National Republicans] can’t make explicit appeals to African Americans for fear of alienating segments of their state constituencies already fearful of power diffusion, but they can’t appear to be insensitive to the plight of minorities. As a result, they speak in terms of colorblind policies that purport to help everyone in general and no one in particular. This allows citizens to read into party policies whatever they’d like, which only serves to further racialize the issues and galvanize the electorate. The ambiguity provides cover for the states while leaving the national party both blameless and fully responsible for the continuing gulf between blacks and the party. [The New Republic]

The bottom line is: The reason why black voters don’t want to vote Republican is because Republicans don’t want them to. Not consciously, for most of them. But while almost every Republican would like for more black people to vote Republican, in a world of competing priorities and trade-offs, this one gets left on the cutting-room floor. One basic truth which they teach you in business school — and I’m told Republicans respect business wisdom — is that if you have 10 priorities, you have none.

So, is it a priority, or not? Until the GOP can answer that question, all the talk about “outreach,” and yes, even policy, will be moot. And maybe we shouldn’t wait until Trump loses 40 states to ask it.


By: Pascal-Emmanuel  Gobry, The Week, May 2, 2016

May 4, 2016 Posted by | Black Americans, GOP, White Voters | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Rand Paul’s Prevarication Problem”: Afflicting The Afflicted & Comforting The Comfortable

Last week I called Sen. Rand Paul the most interesting man in Republican politics, and I still think that’s true. I also expressed some anxiety about the threat he could pose to the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016. That’s subsiding. In the last week Paul’s been caught in some big fibs, degrading struggling workers while defending the Koch brothers. That’s an interesting guide to his values.

Like all the GOP contenders, Paul is now talking piously about the problem of poverty, which modern Republicans have discovered because Barack Obama hasn’t made it go away. You can almost hear the briefing from a Frank Luntz type: “He’s the first black president, and he hasn’t ended poverty! Not even black poverty!” It also lets them slyly play on the notion of Obama as a privileged, uppity Ivy Leaguer – a “snob,” in Rick Santorum’s parlance — who doesn’t care about the poor or working class.

Whatever you say, Mitt Romney.

I still give Rand Paul some credit for identifying the criminal justice system as a source of black disadvantage. And if he ever figures out something meaningful to do about it, I promise to revise my thinking about him as mostly an opportunist. But when it comes to policies that might ease either poverty or the suffering of the working and middle classes, Paul learned at his father’s knee that government is the bad guy – and that slackers and moochers are playing the system and exploiting the rest of us.

That’s why he shamefully claimed that most recipients of Social Security Disability Insurance are faking it. “Over half of the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts,” he told New Hampshire voters. The Washington Post fact checker showed the “back pain” disability category he cited included everything from muscle strain to amputations, while the “anxiety” number included conditions like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. He got three Pinocchios for that one.

A few days later, asked whether he supports a time-honored GOP alternative to welfare, the Earned Income Tax credit for the working poor, he insisted the program is fraud-ridden – which it is not. Speaking to the Koch Brothers’ Freedom Network Chamber of Commerce event Sunday, Paul claimed the EITC has a “fraud rate” of 25 percent that costs taxpayers “$20 billion to $30 billion a year.” He cited a report from the Government Accountability Office, but found “that’s not what the report said.”

The program did have an “improper payment rate” of 24 percent, but that includes worker filing errors and IRS paperwork problems that are largely attributable to the complexity of the tax law itself. Such payments cost $14.5 billion, less than half of Paul’s high end estimate.

Of course those slackers and moochers stand in sharp contrast with those hardworking and honest Americans, Charles and David Koch (who just revealed they’ll spend $900 million on the 2016 races). Paul took up their cause a couple of days later on Fox Business Network, defending them from “liberal haters” and claiming their advocacy “has nothing to do with government.” Paul went on:

I defy any of the liberal haters that are out there to find one instance when they have ever asked for a subsidy or a special government break. I have never heard of any and what they’re wanting is to be left alone, like most businesses in our country.

The folks at American Bridge took up the challenge, and found dozens of ways the Kochs have “asked for a subsidy or a special government break.” Last year in particular Koch Industries ramped up its lobbying efforts, according to, spending $4 million in the third quarter of 2014 alone, largely on issues of “the environment, oil and financial policy.” An energy and environment trade publication found “that amount of lobbying money makes Koch Industries one of Washington, D.C.’s biggest influence spenders so far this year, outranking energy competitors such as Exxon Mobil Corp.”

But it didn’t start in 2014. A 2011 report by the Center for Public Integrity found that Koch Industries “spends tens of millions of dollars to influence every facet of government that could affect its global empire,” working through trade organizations whose names – the National Environmental Development Association, for instance — obscure their goals. They’ve lobbied heavily against carbon control and the use of lower-carbon fuels, and against federal regulation of toxic chemicals. They also pushed unsuccessfully to protect the expiring Bush tax cuts.

It’s good to know that Paul will trounce sick and struggling working people and come to the aid of gazillionaires. That doesn’t make him “the most interesting man in politics;” it makes him a standard issue Republican.  Ralph Nader has told the left it should support Paul in 2016 because of his anti-war rumbling (though lately he’s criticized his wobbling on the issue), but anyone who takes Nader’s advice after 2000 probably isn’t serious about issues of war or justice anyway.


By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, January 29, 2015

January 29, 2015 Posted by | Poverty, Rand Paul, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Still With Worrisome Fundamental Beliefs”: It Says A Lot That A Strong Economy Is Bad News For Mitt Romney in 2016

Nothing says democracy like a private-equity-manager-turned-governor whose dad ran for president facing off against a governor-turned-private-equity-manager whose dad was president over, you guessed it, the presidency.

That’s what we might get, though, if Mitt Romney, who’s “considering” a run in 2016, and Jeb Bush, who’s already formed a political action committee, end up duking it out over the Republican nomination. (Romney started out in private equity before becoming a governor, for those keeping score at home, while Bush was a governor before getting into private equity). But before we, well, get too far into the horserace, we should remember that Romney, at least, lost in no small way because he didn’t have anything approximating a policy agenda.

Think about that. Romney was a professional presidential candidate for almost five years by the time Election Day rolled around in 2012, and he still didn’t have a coherent strategy for the economy by then. His tax plan was a mathematical impossibility: he would have had to either abandon his tax cuts for the rich, raise taxes on the middle class, or run much bigger deficits to make it work.

And his economic plan, well, we’re still waiting for it. Romney told his donors that “if it looks like I’m going to win, the markets will be happy” and “we’ll see capital come back, and we’ll see—without actually doing anything—we’ll actually get a boost to the economy.” And that was it.

Romney really thought President Obama was scaring away a recovery, so all he had to do was win and then do nothing. Now, to be fair, doing nothing has actually worked out okay for Obama since he got re-elected, though not by choice, as the combination of more monetary stimulus, less fiscal austerity, and time have healed the economy enough that unemployment has started falling fast.

In fact, joblessness is already lower after two years, at 5.6 percent, than Romney said he’d get it in four. But, as you might have noticed, the recession put us in such a deep hole that there are still plenty of problems that need fixing. Romney, though, didn’t have a plan to take advantage of can’t-go-any-lower interest rates to rebuild our infrastructure. Or to help underwater homeowners refinance their mortgages. Or, more on this in a minute, to increase worker wages.

Romney, in other words, just ran against the economy, and hoped that would be enough. It wasn’t. And it shouldn’t even be an option in 2016, when unemployment could be as low as 4 percent. The question then won’t be how to get jobs, but rather how to get good ones with good pay.

Now, Romney is ideologically flexible. But he seems to have some worrisome fundamental beliefs that would hurt him if he runs in 2016.

After he lost the presidential race, Romney blamed his loss on Obama giving “gifts” to minorities and women, and warned that “this is really serious” since “we’re following the path of every other great nation, which is we’re following greater government, tax the rich people, promise more stuff to everybody, borrow until you go over a cliff.”

Does that sound like somebody who would try to boost stagnant wages—which should be the issue of 2016—by, say, expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (and the ranks of the “47 43 percent“) like a lot of conservative wonks want to?


By: Matt O’Brien, The Wonk Blog, The Washington Post, January 12, 2015

January 15, 2015 Posted by | Economic Policy, Election 2016, Mitt Romney | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Pain For The Afflicted, Benefits For The Rich”: The Republican Party’s Top Priority Is To Raise Taxes On The Poor. Literally.

Following their convincing victory in the 2014 elections, everyone is wondering what Republicans will do with their new majority in the Senate and House. Well, their policy agenda is becoming clear. It will be unrestrained class warfare against the poor.

This priority was made apparent over the last week during the negotiation of a colossal tax cut package. Senate Democrats and Republicans had been doing some low-key negotiations to renew a slew of tax cuts for corporations and lower- and middle-income Americans, according to reporting from Brian Faler and Rachel Bade at Politico.

Then President Obama announced his executive action on immigration. Enraged Republicans promptly took vengeance on all the goodies for the working poor (as well as for clean energy), cutting them out of the deal and proposing a raft of permanent tax cuts for corporations alone worth $440 billion over 10 years. Cowed Democrats, led by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), were about ready to go along, prompting a decidedly justified outcry from liberals. Obama then threatened a veto, and the negotiations broke down entirely.

A few takeaways from this. First, it’s yet another reminder that Republicans don’t care about the national debt. Conservative carping about the debt is 100 percent of the time a rhetorical cudgel deployed with utter cynicism against programs they dislike for other reasons. When the topic is food stamps or unemployment insurance, they demand offsets to pay for them. (Because “we’re broke,” as Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) put it in a similar context.) But when it comes to dropping planeloads of money on corporations and rich people, Republicans will casually blow a half-trillion hole in the 10-year budget without blinking.

We can safely assume that should Republicans win in 2016, they’ll take all the reduction in the budget deficit accomplished over the Obama years (at great cost and for no benefit, but that’s another story) and do the same thing that George W. Bush did: hand it immediately to the rich.

That’s not all, though. Unlike Bush, who gave his eye-wateringly regressive tax cuts a patina of democratic legitimacy by cutting the non-rich in on a small fraction of the spoils, Republicans are now firmly committed to the idea that poor people don’t pay enough in taxes. The Earned Income Tax Credit was originally a conservative alternative to the welfare state, but increasingly only Democrats support it. Republicans are convinced that the EITC is riddled with fraud, and that voting for it means giving welfare to unauthorized immigrants. (In reality, the EITC results in quite a lot of technically improper payments, but mostly as a result of unnecessary complexity.)

Massive transfers of money to the rich are one half of the Republican economic policy agenda; massive transfers of money away from poor are the other half. And the cuts would be cruel indeed:

For example, a single mother with two children working full time in a nursing home for the minimum wage and earning $14,500 would lose her entire [Child Tax Credit] of $1,725 if the CTC provision expires. [CBPP]

Apparently, cutting the income of a poor working single mother by 12 percent is good and proper conservative policymaking in 2014. Because immigration.

Finally, we see that Republicans are still incapable of the basics of political governance. They can’t maintain any sort of agenda outside of being against what Obama is for. Once the president drives them into a frenzy — which is to say, anytime he does anything at all — any negotiations on deck will be blown up as punishment. These days, divided government means constant high-stakes conflict, as everything, including tax credits for working moms, is weaponized in a naked struggle for power.

But should Republicans ever get the run of things, we now have a very good idea of what’s in store: pain for the afflicted, and benefits for the comfortable.


By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, December 3, 2014

December 4, 2014 Posted by | Poor and Low Income, Republicans, Tax Cuts | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Complicated Lies?”: The Amazingly Two-Faced Mitch McConnell

Alison Lundergan Grimes has been getting a lot of grief lately, not least from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which pulled the plug on her campaign yesterday. Her team quickly sent out a press release noting that she has $4.4 million in cash on hand, which the release said was “more than any Democrat in a competitive U.S. Senate race.” So she probably has enough to see her through to the end, but obviously, the DSCC move isn’t exactly a vote of confidence.

Even so, I’d like to pay her a compliment: I can’t conceive of how she managed to sit there next to Mitch McConnell at that debate Monday night and hear him say some of the things he said without her head exploding. That took admirable self-control.

I’m not sure which suffix to add to “shame” to better describe McConnell’s performance: Was it –less, or was it –ful? Remember Mitt Romney during the first debate of 2012, how he routinely said “my position is X” (invariably a more centrist posture) when for the preceding umpteen months his position had been the much more right-wing Not X? Well, McConnell made Romney look like an ironman of forthright constancy. So this is how, with a 30-year Senate record that you’d think you might be able to boast about, you win reelection: By completely misrepresenting who you’ve been for the last six years, and by saying “Obama” every 45 seconds.

Misrepresentations were numerous, but let’s just zero in on student loans. Grimes raised the issue and noted the rising costs of the loans, which Congress hasn’t addressed. McConnell responded that the Senate had taken care of the issue in a bipartisan fashion. But it didn’t. The Elizabeth Warren-sponsored bill failed in the Senate by four votes, getting only 56 yeas but needing 60 to end debate and make it to the floor. Two Republicans voted with the Democrats, but McConnell wasn’t one of them. And McConnell said publicly at the time that he was against Warren’s plan because it was “designed to fail” since it would raise taxes on rich people.

McConnell similarly talked out of both sides of his mouth on the minimum wage, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and other issues. And he, too, dodged a question, and it was one that’s rather more important than the one Grimes dodged about whether she had voted for President Obama. McConnell wouldn’t say whether climate change is real and whether humans contribute to it, so if he wins, Kentuckians will have the pleasure of knowing who their senator voted for in 2012 while he spends the next six years positioning himself to the right of Exxon-Mobil (which at least supports a carbon tax) and blocking any attempt to do anything about global warming.

McConnell’s real howler, of course, had to do with Obamacare. As you may know by now, he said yes, sure, keep Kynect, the state’s roaringly successful health-insurance exchange set up under the health-care law. After all, it’s “just a website.”

This was the moment when I was wondering how Grimes’s head could possibly stay in one piece. As McConnell well knows, Kynect is not just a website. It’s a state health-care program that citizens happen to be able to access through a website. Kentuckians go on to the Kynect website to see what types of insurance coverage are available to them under the Kynect program, which exists solely because of Obamacare. So if you repeal Obamacare “root and branch,” which is still McConnell’s position, you can leave the Kynect website up, but those coverage options people find via the site will no longer exist. Saying keep the website but kill the program is like saying that someone can keep that nice-looking home page that says “Google,” but it just won’t perform searches anymore.

It’s amazing, the audacity of it. If what Grimes did on the Obama-vote question is “disqualifying,” as Chuck Todd put it, then what is an incumbent senator telling a whopper like this? Given that half a million Kentuckians have signed up for insurance through Kynect, isn’t this just a little more important? What’s worse is that he knows he can get away with saying something like that because he is well aware that the explanation of why he’s lying is a little complicated for the average voter to take in. The media just aren’t set up to correct the record very well on things like this. I read a handful of write-ups of the debate from within Kentucky yesterday, and none among the few I read actually burrowed into an explanation of McConnell’s lie. It just gets summarized as a “testy exchange” or some such.

There was one event during this campaign season when McConnell did tell his audience the truth. But that didn’t happen in Kentucky in front of voters. It happened over the summer in California, at the St. Regis Monarch Bay Resort, where rooms run upwards of $500 a night, at a gathering put together by the Koch brothers. McConnell has been saying on the trail that if he wins and the GOP takes the Senate, he’ll open up the amendment process, implying that he’d permit votes on issues Democrats wanted to push—notably, of course, raising the minimum wage.

But behind closed doors at the Koch event, McConnell said the opposite, promising the 1 percenters that, should they win, his Republicans  are “not going to be debating all these gosh darn proposals. That’s all we do in the Senate is vote on things like raising the minimum wage [inaudible]—cost the country 500,000 new jobs; extending unemployment—that’s a great message for retirees; uh, the student-loan package the other day, that’s just going to make things worse, uh.”

That was—speaking of comparisons to Mitt Romney—McConnell’s 47 percent moment. The sentiment is not as clearly put, so it wasn’t as usable for the opposition. But that was the probable (let’s face it) future majority leader saying to his real base: Don’t worry, boys, I got you covered.

That is how he will operate if he becomes majority leader. An inspiring campaign, all right.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, October 15, 2014

October 19, 2014 Posted by | Mitch Mc Connell, Senate | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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