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“Liberal Republicans–They’re Alive!”: The Fractures In The GOP Aren’t Just About Tactics

Until not long ago, we tended to think of Republicans as unified and focused, and Democrats as inherently fractious (see, for instance, the evergreen “Dems In Disarray” headline). These days the opposite is true—or at least it’s the case that Republicans have become just as divided as Democrats. But how much of that is about Washington infighting and intraparty struggles for power, and how much is actually substantive and matters to voters? This post from The Upshot at the New York Times has some provocative hints. Using polling data from February that tested opinions on a range of issues, they found that Republicans are much less unified than Democrats when it comes to their opinions on policy:

On these seven issues, 47 percent of self-identified Democrats agree with the party’s stance on at least six of them. And 66 percent agree with at least five. Republicans were less cohesive, with just 25 percent agreeing on six or more issues, and 48 percent agreeing on five.

Piling on more issues showed similar results. To check our results, we also created an 11-issue index that added four topics: federal funding for universal pre-kindergarten, the distribution of wealth in the United States, the minimum wage and abortion. A majority of Democrats—61 percent—agreed with at least eight Democratic positions, compared with 42 percent of Republicans who agreed with eight or more Republican positions.

Even though you have a relatively large number of issues being tested, it could be a function of the particular ones we’re talking about. For instance, minimum wage increases are hugely popular and always have been, so it isn’t surprising that plenty of Republicans break with their party on that, and it doesn’t necessarily signify a fundamental and meaningful fracture. So I went over to the original poll, which has a nice interactive graphic you can use to see crosstabs on each question, and there are some interesting signs of dissent within the GOP. For instance:

20 percent of Republicans say their party is nominating candidates who are too conservative, compared to only 9 percent of Democrats who say their party’s candidates are too liberal. At the same time, 32 percent of Republicans say their party’s candidates aren’t conservative enough, compared to 18 percent of Democrats who say their party’s candidates aren’t liberal enough.

29 percent of Republicans say they have an unfavorable view of the Republican party, compared to 14 percent of Democrats who have an unfavorable view of the Democratic party.

On many issues, there are between a quarter and two-fifths of Republicans who disagree with the party’s position. 34 percent think marijuana should be legal, 33 percent think gun laws should be more strict, 28 percent support federally funded universal pre-K, 24 percent think global warming is caused mostly by human activity, 36 percent support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, 40 percent support same-sex marriage, and 37 percent think the distribution of wealth should be more fair.

The Tea Party gets all the press, and not without reason, but there is obviously a significant bloc of Republicans who are displeased with their party’s right turn in the last few years. We’re talking about more than just a few disgruntled Rockefeller Republicans bemoaning it after 18 holes at the Greenwich country club. We’re talking about as much as a third of the party’s voters.

Of course, issues aren’t everything, and these days, conservatism is defined in many ways. It’s a set of policy positions, but it can also be measured by the depth of your loathing for Democrats in general and Barack Obama in particular, or by the kinds of political tactics you embrace. But this is a good reminder that there are significant numbers of Republicans out there who, if you just look at what they think about issues, actually look pretty liberal.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, May 15, 2014

May 15, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Aggressive, Progressive Governance”: The New Populism Begins At The Local And State Level

As Republican obstruction keeps anything from moving in Washington (except, of course, the package of corporate tax dodges known as “extenders” that are likely to glide through with bipartisan support), populist movements and leaders are moving at the local and state level, from New York City to Seattle, Maine to Minnesota.

“Fate loves the fearless.” Quoting the fierce 19th-century abolitionist James Russell Lowell, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio summarized his first 100 days in office in a speech last week at New York’s historic Cooper Union. Embattled but unbowed, the mayor detailed what he’d been able to move of the populist agenda that he ran on.

De Blasio, no one’s fool, began with the good news on the nuts and bolts vital to running any city: Crime is down, pedestrian deaths are down, potholes are being filled faster and the winter’s record snowfalls got cleaned up.

He then announced success in gaining the most state funding in history for his pledge of universal pre-K. De Blasio’s previous call to pay for this by raising taxes on those making over $500,000 a year was sabotaged by Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, a stalwart of the Wall Street wing of the party, but de Blasio still got much of the money he sought. Beyond this success, after-school programs are being made available to ever more students. The mayor announced a move away from high-stakes testing, with educators empowered to make more comprehensive assessments as to a child’s progress. Paid sick leave has been extended to half a million more New Yorkers. More affordable housing is being built, as the city made it a requirement for luxury developers.

Unfortunately for New Yorkers, Cuomo swatted away de Blasio’s effort to get authority to raise the city’s minimum wage. But across the country, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is championing a $15-an-hour minimum wage, with a commission set up to work out the details. Murray, considered a moderate in a city that just elected a socialist city councilperson, quotes Franklin Roosevelt on the need for “bold, persistent experimentation.” In addition to pay, he is pushing on public housing, renewable energy and universal pre-K.

San Francisco now has a minimum wage of $10.55, indexed to Bay Area inflation, and a working families tax credit to supplement the federal one. The city requires employers to provide paid sick leave, and has a Healthy San Francisco plan, that essentially offers universal health care with a public option to city residents.

And while Republicans refuse even to allow a vote on raising the minimum wage in Congress, Minnesota, Maryland and Connecticut have all recently passed minimum wage increases, with more states likely to follow.

Congress has blocked any major effort to capture a lead in the green industrial revolution, but cities are filling the gap. Seattle, blessed by plentiful dams, is carbon neutral. Portland gets half of its energy from renewable sources. Austin aims to be carbon neutral by 2020 and has devoted 10 percent of the city’s land to parks.

While national leaders continue to bolster the banks at the same time as they abandon underwater homeowners, in Richmond, Calif., a Green Party mayor is pushing to use eminent domain to take over underwater mortgages, refinance them at current value and allow families to keep their homes. The city has fined banks for not maintaining the homes that they’ve foreclosed on. Wall Street has retaliated, essentially boycotting the city’s last bond offering.

While efforts to shut down the offshore tax dodges used by multinationals have been blocked in Washington, Oregon just enacted a bill to tax the state’s share of profits stashed in 39 countries and territories; Maine’s state legislature just approved similar legislation and several other states are considering the same.

In his Cooper Union speech, De Blasio noted the “resistance from some powerful interests . . . people who have a stake in the status quo and don’t want to see these changes.” But he noted, “This administration is a product of movement politics. . . . A movement of people who share a vision . . . We believe we are at our best when everyone gets a shot at fulfilling their dreams.”

And the only vehicle for that is aggressive, progressive governance. De Blasio closed by quoting one of his heroes, Robert F. Kennedy, “Everything that makes our lives worthwhile — family, work, education, a place to raise one’s children and a place to rest one’s head — all this depends on the decisions of government. Therefore, our essential humanity can be protected and preserved only where government must answer — not just to the wealthy, not just to those of a particular religion or a particular race, but to all its people.”

The new populism is just beginning to form. In cities and states across the country, people are beginning to be heard and beginning to find leaders who will stand with them. And that offers some promise for the future.

 

By: Katrina vanden Heuvel, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 15, 2014

 

April 21, 2014 Posted by | Populism, Progressives | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“When Republicans Were Problem-Solvers”: The Idea Of Politics As All-Ideology, All-The-Time Is A Relatively Recent GOP Invention

We interrupt this highly partisan and ideological moment with some contrarian news: President Obama is not the only politician who thinks that expanding access to pre-kindergarten is a good investment.

In Alabama, Republican Gov. Robert Bentley urged a 60 percent increase in preschool funding in his state, with the goal of having a universal preschool system in place within 10 years. “I truly believe by allowing greater access to a voluntary pre-K education,” Bentley declared this month in his State of the State message, “we will change the lives of children in Alabama.” The state Bentley leads is not a notoriously liberal place.

In Michigan, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder just proposed a large increase in preschool funding — from $109 million this fiscal year to $174 million in 2014 and $239 million in 2015.

Nobody should pretend that the president has found in pre-K education the key that will unlock bipartisanship. Right out of the box, Andrew J. Coulson of the libertarian Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom told the New York Times that Obama’s plan “just doesn’t make any sense” while Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), who chairs the House Education and Workforce Committee, sounded a skeptical note in saying the president “needs to explain how this program will be different.”

But by today’s partisan standards, Kline’s comment was remarkably restrained. So it’s worth pausing to wonder if we might be slowly opening an era when Republicans will be feeling a little less pressure to mouth tea-party attacks on government and more incentive to say that they, too, want to solve problems that concern the vast majority of Americans.

In pushing universal pre-K, Obama made a shrewd choice in both political and policy terms. There are enough studies to show that early childhood education programs make a real difference, which is why Republicans such as Snyder and Bentley embrace them. And Obama is structuring his initiative to work with the states to build on what many of them are already doing or would like to do.

This beachhead of cooperation might also serve as a reminder to Republicans that the idea of politics as all-ideology, all-the-time is a relatively recent invention. Education reform was a thoroughly bipartisan cause in the 1980s. Governors such as Democrats Bill Clinton in Arkansas and Richard Riley in South Carolina and Republican Lamar Alexander in Tennessee teamed up to push for higher standards. Alexander, who is now in the Senate, was willing to raise taxes to finance his education initiatives.

There is also the tale of Tommy Thompson, who as governor of Wisconsin in the 1990s tried to broaden health insurance coverage with his “BadgerCare” program. Early in the debate over Obama’s Affordable Care Act, Thompson called it “another important step” toward achieving reform.

Thompson had to eat those words when he sought the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate last year in the face of tea party opposition. The rebuke of Thompson from Chris Chocola, president of the conservative Club for Growth, was representative. “The world has changed since he was elected to office,” said Chocola, who had endorsed one of Thompson’s primary opponents. “Now we’re talking about how much less we’ll spend rather than how much more we’ll spend.” That was right-wing ideology speaking.

Thompson survived the primary but was then defeated by Democrat Tammy Baldwin. While liberals cheered Baldwin’s victory, there was something poignant in Thompson’s losing, in part because he traded in his problem-solving past for a new anti-government disposition that didn’t really fit him.

Despite the abuse of the rules on Chuck Hagel’s confirmation, you sense that Republicans such as Thompson and Alexander (there are many others) are exasperated with the view that the only point of seeking public office is to shrink government. But it will take considerable courage for such Republicans to move their party back to a time when conservatives and progressives did not have to disagree on everything — when causes such as helping 4-year-olds to learn and thrive could encourage politicians to lay down their arms at least momentarily.

There are other issues that ought to be like this: training and education programs to restore mobility and ease inequalities; immigration reform; and at least parts of Obama’s agenda to curb gun violence. But progress will require conservatives to give up certain recent habits and remember when they, too, believed that government could successfully remedy some of the nation’s ills.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, February 17, 2013

February 18, 2013 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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