Maybe the Republicans Don’t Want to Run the Country, Just the States?

Doug Mills/The New York Times

Doug Mills/The New York Times

New Orleans   President Obama predictably in his last State of the Union address made the case for unity, change, and a new politics.

Makes sense. For the Democrats there is a bedrock belief in the future, demographics is destiny. Change is a friend. All things will come to those who wait.

How do we understand the Republicans though now that they are caught in their great divide? Building a higher fence at the border and deporting millions guarantees them little support in the Latino community? Cutting federal taxes, export-import banks, the federal budget, squeezing infrastructure investment, and free trade agreements alienates them from their corporate sponsors and even if there may not be many votes there, it’s their money that has filled their coffers? What’s up with all of this?

Eventually I have to wonder if the Republican base and a lot of their financiers and even key leaders even want to run the country on a national basis. Sure, there’s no rehab program for the ambition addiction of individual politicians, but I’m talking about the rest of the gang and the people behind them.

It seems for the Republicans the bedrock belief is in the past, demographics is defeat. Change is not a friend, and waiting means that the window could close on them forever.

Most of them probably believe there is no way to ever realistically achieve their ideal of no government, since it’s still a big, bad world out there, but for many it is hard for me not to conclude that they’ve given up on governing the complex, massive behemoth of a federal government. It’s hard not for me not to start think that all of this national stuff and chest beating is a smokescreen: they’ve decided not to be a national party, but to make their last stand state by state.

It can’t be just coincidence. Too much evidence is piling up. It’s all about division.

· Take healthcare, 31 states now in with the Louisiana decision, and 19 out.
· Take guns, different rules in every state with no hope of federal action.
· Take land and they are doing just that, taking land, and claiming that the federal government should give over the land to the states so it could parcel the pieces out to mining, oil and gas, timber companies, and ranchers.
· Take environment, where the Senate Majority leader wanted states to rebel over the coal emissions standards and most of them would scuttle the EPA in a minute.
· Take the poor, and believe me they would love for us to take them, but from Speaker Ryan on down their answer is “block grants,” no matter how they’ve failed, and that means “money for nothing,” since the same 19 or more would take the money and let the poor run or try to pay for bus tickets to their neighbors on the Nevada plan.
· Take workers and their unions, or what’s left of them, where they are using the states to undermine any notion of federal protections for workers, wage increases, and semblance of union security.

The beat goes on and on. This isn’t just tactics, it’s becoming a clear strategy. Make the country ungovernable and hunker down in the states as a last stand at the Alamo and hope you can run the clock out and freeze time. The devil take the hindmost.


Please enjoy Bonnie Raitt’s Gypsy in Me. Thanks to KABF.


Midterms Looking Very Bad

Nate Silver

Nate Silver

New Orleans    About the best thing that Democrats can say these days is that November is still seven months away and that anything can happen in politics in that time.  True that, but otherwise for Democrats facing the mid-term elections, if it weren’t for bad news, they wouldn’t have any news at all.

            Master big data man, Nate Silver, of the 538 blog who has become legendary in recent elections for calling the numbers and the states on the electoral count, is saying that Republicans are in the lead to take the Senate. 

            The nonprofit Pew Research polls find Democrats behind in three critical categories among independents, whites, and millennials.  Republicans are leading 47 to 38% among independents who are often the tie breakers.  Where millennials were solidly with the Democrats a couple of years ago with 59% support they are now down to 49%.  Among white voters Democrats are now behind 38 to 53%. 

Oh, and worse, whites are expected to be 80% of the midterm electorate.  

You want more bad news, where Democrats are leading heavily among Latinos but of course not having delivered on immigration reform, voter participation and registration has declined among Latinos in both the 2010 and 2012 elections and is expected to continue to fall for the 2014 midterms.

And to put a cherry on top of all of this the President’s popularity is only at 44%.

Can massive voter turnout turn all of this around?  Sure, but usually the falloff of voter participation drops from over 60% of eligible voters in presidential elections down to less than 50% in the midterms, and, did I already mention that 80% of those voters are expected to be white as a sheet?

The discouraging news in the Senate is also based on where the contests are taking place in states where Republicans are rising like Arkansas, Alaska, and of course Louisiana.  A story in the Wall Street Journal reflecting on Senator Mary Landrieu’s frighteningly close ties to the oil and gas industry in her home state, seemed to argue that she could pull it out, but to say something is a tight bet is different from a sure thing.

Meanwhile other commentators are pitching the emerging battle as essentially the Koch brothers, who are already committing money tens of millions in pushing the Senate buttons, against Obama. 

The one thing that recent months seem to have produced in startling fashion is voter fatigue even though there were no elections since these days we seem to all be victims of eternal campaigning.

There’s time for a turnaround of course, but someone has to grip the wheel and for progressives I get the sense that no one is in the driver seat.


Republican Presidential Candidates Houses: Bad Taste Past the Boundaries

            New Orleans               Republicans, Democrats, or whatever, when something is way, way over the line, it should be roundly understood as out of bounds.  A piece in the New York Times Home and Garden section this week by Kate Zernike called “The Houses of the Hopefuls” was appalling on any number of levels.

Having Glen Beck and other haters give people my home address and phone number is, admittedly, part of why I am fairly easily offended that there are simply no standards at the Times or anywhere else it would seem over about the privacy of public figures, and the Times would at least like to pretend that it is a place that sets such standards.  Past privacy though, was there no editorial or journalistic judgment that would restrain them from publishing pictures and descriptions of the candidates houses in the interest of public safety and some sense of a basic human right to safety, even if they are so bold, arrogant, or principled to put themselves forward for public office.

On those grounds alone the piece was offensive from its first premise that somehow we (citizens and voyeurs?) have a “right” to peek through the windows of their houses and stalk them on the blocks where they live in order to “get to know them better.”  God, how ridiculous is all of that?

But, then if readers tried to get through the piece, you would quickly be able to discover why Republican candidates of all stripes and persuasions have no problems with the “call and response” from their base about the smug elitism and sensibilities of what former Vice President Spiro Agnew once famously called the “nattering nabobs” of the East Coast corridor.  The article without apology seems to see its mission as making fun of the candidates and their families, parading forward one rock throwing, self-promoting designer after another willing to take a crack at the taste and sensibilities of these candidates and their private spaces.  The article was snide and “bitchy.”  In this case bad taste was truly in the eyes of the beholder, because virtually the entire article reeked of bad taste compounded by terrible judgment.

The reporter and the Times think they are in a position to take potshots at the taste of the candidates because they are so old-fashioned, traditional, and tend towards the “colonial” in housing styles.  Duh?  Quelle shock!   When George McGovern ran for President as a peace candidate against the sitting Democratic President Lyndon Johnson over the issue of the Vietnam War, he clearly stated a universal political law when he said, “those that would be most radical, must remember to appear most conservative,” as he explained his on wardrobe and lifestyle in the post-sixties environment.

Here’s the perfect example from the article.  I’m no friend of Michelle Bachmann, but once one gets past that and wraps one’s mind around the fact that a large family overflowing with adopted and other children that makes its money through public and social services can possibly afford a house with a $750,000 price tag, why is it not in fact admirable that she and her husband bought a house that was part of a charity construction design and build project?   To me it seems commendable in fact, though it rates no comment from the Times other than earning her a couple of body shots from a so-called professional whining about the design and line of the roof, as if Michelle and her gang were the architects and up there hammering away on the beams and shingles.

It never gets better after that, expect that the reporter and her buddies do seem to believe that you get more if you are richer so they had some faint praise for Romney and Huntsman as the zillionaires of the crew.

The Times Public Editor and anyone with an iota of routine manners and slight common sense should recoil and protest this unseemly and unsafe invasion of privacy and ad hominem attack (and that goes for Michelle Bachman , too!).

As always, let’s hope for a better new year!


Party, Party, Party: Libs, Labor, and No Label

New Orleans During the World Series we Kevin Skeekeyfinally learned something interesting about Barbara Bush that wasn’t horrific.  It turns out she knows how to keep the box score on a game.  While the Georges were rubbernecking and Laura was talking over her shoulder, the Iron Fist of Texas was dutifully minding the box score.  If you don’t know, then learn, because we are all being asked to keep a score card for the efforts offering to save us from something now in these moments of our anger and alienation.

For the most part the dominant prescription for the dealing with the grassroots movement of the Tea-People and others is not a grassroots movement but it seems money and moderation.  It turns out that when the right is storming the halls of Congress and the White House, it’s an organic apple a day, if you please.   The basic teams in the field still seem to be the Tea-people versus the Me-People, but let’s mark the scorecard.

Yesterday’s news of more players joining as free agents included the Liberals spearheaded by Rob MacKay, who was labeled as a Taco Bell guy, but is better known to many of us over the years as a supporter of serious reform in California on many fronts and more recently as a big whoop with the Democracy Alliance, a Democratic political club of a 100+ rich contributors, and David Brock of Media Matters and its allied organizations.  Brock’s main quotes seem to focus on the fact that he was really good a raising money and that he was confident that he could raise money for whatever the Liberals wanted to do.  Program will follow.

There was also news that Steve Rosenthal, another long time comrade and friend, was convening people in DC to look at moving something forward to save the day.  Given Steve’s long history with CWA, DOL, and then as political director for the AFL-CIO, and then as labor’s point man in a number of efforts around battlegrounds and voter mobilization, it’s fair to believe that Steve would be the point man for Labor.

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Tea Party, Me Party, More Parties

New Orleans       tea-party-fort-worth One of the post-lecture questions from a perceptive Lafayette College student that has stuck with me in the last couple of days, began with a phrase something like, “Since you seem to support the Tea Party, ….blah, blah, blah.”  I answered with a couple of jokes, since the premise was in some ways ridiculous, and more seriously quoted Chris Rock as the best source for an answer to the question:  it’s not that I support the Tea Party, but in Rock’s classic terms, “I understand!”

But, upon reflection, a more honest answer, though probably more confusing and less useful to the fine students of Lafayette, would have been to say, that “yes, I support the ‘party,’ just not the principles and the politics.”  I’m a party-guy, just not a Tea Party guy.

I’m frankly bored by all of these articles in the wake of the mid-term election that argue in such lofty terms that the Tea-people will have to move to the center and get their “govern” groove on.  I think the real fight is going to emerge between the Republican Party pols that sucked up to the Tea-people to get elected and hope their movement runs out of steam and caffeine, dying in the cup so to speak.  This is all of the big whoops of the established structure trying to pretend that compromise is all that counts and their way is always the best way, because they believe it’s the only way.  No listening there.

The movement stories about isolated and angry citizens who found their voice in the Tea Party and a life defining cause by channeling their anger and alienation into the movement and the elections, should not be forgotten.  Those are activists and organizers who I can guarantee anyone who will listen, will NOT be happy as Republicans.  They need their own party.  They need a Tea Party that is a real party fighting (win or lose) for votes from a local base, rather than simply another caucus in the elephant herd.

There are states where that is easy and they can even fuse with the Republicans, like New York, Connecticut Vermont, South Carolina, and, perhaps even Oregon, just as the Working Families Party has done in some of these same states.  There are states where it is harder, but in every state, the rules still allow distinct parties to be built, and whether progressives or tea-people, these are real alternatives despite the fact that the work is hard and the road is long.  We simply need more parties that just the Rep-Dem Party that rules now with the favor of big money, daily pundits, and the more powerful Business Party that funds and focuses the whole shebang, but doesn’t have a separate ballot line on election day.

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Puppy Love for the Big Dawg, Clinton

Bill Clinton Urged Florida Democrat to Quit Bid

Bill Clinton Urged Florida Democrat to Quit Bid

Phoenix I’m pretty sure either Mexico billionaire Carlos Slim didn’t make his contribution this year to the Clinton Foundation Global Initiative and decided to take it out in trade, or the New York Times is so desperate to find something upbeat for the Demos about the midterm elections that they had to come up with somebody, but whatever the reason we are being treated to the equivalent of a sudden outpouring of media puppy love for the old big dawg, former President Bill Clinton.

Suddenly, he’s just where he wants to be again:  everywhere!  And, better than ever before, he’s unleashed and unaccountable to anybody or anything.

We get treated to a story about how he makes and breaks restaurants around the world by stopping by and chowing down whether hot dog stands in Iceland or pricey digs in 5 star Indian hotels.  We also learn that he is both a vegan, and someone who orders the biggest steak in – where was that – Spain?  Germany?  No matter, like I said, a meat-eating vegan:  accountable to no one!

He’s supposedly a big draw out on the hustings and going where President Obama supposedly can’t go or isn’t welcome or thought to be a liability.  Clinton’s popularity is way up, while Obama’s is way down.

Unleashed is a tricky place for big Bill.

Certainly he was all over the line in the primary fight for Senator Blanche Lincoln, but I guess the general readership could look the other way at his blatant union bashing and say, “well, it’s Arkansas, it’s the home state, what can you do?”

Today the story is everywhere, released by Clinton’s people, but without a doubt cleared by Obama’s political folks, as he throws Congressman Kendrick Meeks (Democrat – Florida) under the bus with a tale that he had “almost” convinced him to withdraw from the race for the Senate and support the more moderate, Governor Charlie Crist, a Republican running as an independent, against the Tea Party swoon, Mark Rubio.   I’m having trouble remembering a time where it was clearer that a candidate was knifed in the back, Brutus-and-Caesar-in-Rome-style in front of God, TV, and the full on print media, in hopes of turning the tide for the candidate that Clinton and Obama have decided they want.  Did I have to say that Meek is African-American or that he had won the primary in Florida?  No, I didn’t think so.  So, Clinton suddenly in the warm glow collects a big chit for Obama by tossing an African-American under the bus so that Obama doesn’t have to take this heat to his own base, and Clinton can still posture that folks will be ok, because, hey, remember, he was the “first black president.”

Here the dog barked for the master, but given the buildup of the “new” Bill, it could all still look like more of the “no boundaries, do my own thing” Bill of recent years.

The next move in this sweet dance between two lively Presidents is going to be very interesting with the good ol’ boy from Arkansas goes to collect on these big time favors.

Meanwhile the press will keep fawning as if they are still at the McDonald’s line on Broadway in Little Rock in the ‘90’s, and miss the story even as it unfurls in front of their own eyes, lost in the warm glow of puppy love for the big dawg.