Karl Rove Points the Way to the White House for Democrats

election2016New Orleans               You don’t expect Karl Rove to be the voice of reason for Republicans, given his role as the master political operative between the two Bush presidencies, but these days you have embrace whatever help you can find.  In this case,  Rove was writing a “sober up” memo to the Republican faithful and trying to pop a balloon floating around their ranks that they could win the White House by doing a better job at turning out more conservatives who they were claiming they were “stay-at-home” voters last time.  Rove marshals extensive evidence in an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, that the dealers of this story are essentially smoking their own dope.

The point of Rove’s message is obviously an attempt to reign in the radicals including a handful of whom are running for President in the Republican primary, the likes of Senator Ted Cruz, Governor Bobby Jindal, Senator Rand Paul, and a gaggle of others.  He is clearly stepping up as a voice of the right-center “moderate” wing of the party, and given his closeness to the Bushes, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him fronting for former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s campaign.

But saying all of that, there are two sides to this coin, and the other side points the directions for the Democrats as clearly as it scolds the Republicans.  Rove’s comments go right to the heart of voter turnout and why the field program is still going to be the secret sauce for a winner in 2016.  The voter turnout dropped from 131.5 million when Obama won in 2008 to 129.2 million when he won his second term.  Rove is crystal clear that while turnout may have sagged, the percentage of self-declared conservative voters in 2012 had never been higher, reaching 39%, which is pretty scary in itself.

Rove says that,

“Republicans concerned about voters who failed to show up should look elsewhere.  There were approximately 4.9 million fewer self-identified moderates, 1.7 million fewer white Catholics, and 1.2 million fewer women who voted in 2012 than in 2008.”

Among the Catholics who didn’t vote, Rove claims they appear to be middle-class and blue collar voters, who were turned off to Obama, but couldn’t stomach Romney, largely because of his elitism.   That’s an emerging, troubling issue for the Hillary-Democrats as well.

So, what are the tips for the Democrats?  In general, they are going to have to double down to pull the same number of African-Americans as Obama did in both elections.  Hillary Clinton may think she can do that, but it won’t be easy, and it won’t be Bill, it has to be Obama himself working that base, which would temper any criticism from any candidate. Young voters are not mentioned by Rove, because the Republicans know there’s not much chance there, though Rand Paul is betting he can take a slice, and Democrats will have the same problem, except with younger women if Hillary is the candidate.  There’s also little doubt that with Hillary as the candidate there will be a significant, and perhaps historic, increase in women voting, if the campaign keeps it together.  Hillary and any of the announced candidates are not going to be able to hold onto the Hispanic loyalty against Jeb Bush or Senator Marc Rubio, but once again Obama might be the difference here given all of his recent initiatives.

Here’s my takeaway.  We’re going to hear a lot from Hillary and the rest of them that we have to appeal to the moderates to win.  Maybe so, but if you study Rove’s remarks, it also looks like to win we need President Obama to see 2016 as his third presidential election with his legacy on the line in order to hold onto the key blocks that have to perform in order to win.

Hope in an Unlikely Place: Obama’s White House

veto-presidentNew Orleans   These days it’s simply the better course of both valor and discretion to face a new year with trepidation, especially when it comes to the national political horizon. We’re facing some bad business and constant attacks to the progressive forces with the Republicans in ascendancy both in Congress and the majority of the states in 2015. Nothing much good will probably be allowed to happen in 2016 with the presidential contest in full flower, so 2015 will set the table for better or worse.

I don’t want to start the year as a Debbie Downer though, so I’m going to look at the silver lining, and darned if it we finally can’t find it in perhaps the most unlikely place to look:the White House.  After six years of half-steps and more “maybe we will,” than “yes, we can,” President Obama seems to finally have seen the butt whipping of the November mid-terms as a flashing light giving him a choice of just taking an exit off the route or going through construction and making the best of it.  With one decision after another from evaluating schools differently to immigration reform to initiatives on climate change with China and opening up a different chapter in Cuba, we are starting to see the Barack Obama we had thought we were voting for in 2008. Perhaps this “hope-y” thing, as Sarah Palin called it, is finally going to work out for us.

There’s one thing we can count on.  Obama has been clear that after 6 years of few vetoes, he’s ready to handle the goal line stands.  On something like protecting the Affordable Care Act, Congress seems to be
conceding that they can vote to repeal, but it’s a symbolic step with no chance of overriding the veto in the Senate.  With another 2 years of millions enjoying the benefit of health care, this could be hard to ever
turn back.  Regardless, we will see the White House at the goal line a lot over the next two years, so remember the DEFENSE chant regardless of the season.

On the positive side certainly Obama is still a politician, so when it comes to 2016, just as we all most recently witnessed in 2014, he’s not going to take any action that imperils the chance that there will be a Democrat in the White House to protect whatever he leaves behind as a legacy or the future of other programs in the pipeline.  Nonetheless, 2015 could continue to be Obama’s year of “living dangerously,” and forging new ground both domestically and internationally where he has the power of the presidency and the full resources of the White House and can prevail. That could be exciting, so it’s worth getting those kind of New Year’s resolutions to Pennsylvania Avenue as soon as you can!

There’s a chance that after six years of thinking that his silver tongued oratory would be enough to move the political markers, the President is finally ready to go all in, push the envelope, and stop asking for permission to make change.

That’s my hope for 2015.

Preparing for the Implementation of Obama’s Immigration Order

Angelica Salas

Angelica Salas

Little Rock       When CMS, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, got ready to implement the Affordable Care Act in route to signing up 10 million people for health insurance more than $100 million was allocated by the federal government for navigators and another amount as large for community clinics and a like amount in the states in order to assist in enrollment in this new program.  Now within months up to 5 million people will engage in a similar process of applying for work permits and pushing mountains of paper through the Department of Homeland Security to determine their eligibility under the still to be established terms and procedures to take President Obama’s executive order on immigration and translate it into on-the-ground reality.  And, if 5 million might be eligible, many millions more will be trying to figure out if there’s any chance they are eligible or might qualify in some way or another. 

            Here’s the big difference though.  The task of advising and assisting these millions will not be facilitated by hundreds of millions of dollars of grants from the federal government.  The burden will disproportionately fall on the nonprofit, social service sector.

            Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, estimated that “the new and expanded programs could draw more than 250,000 applications from New Yorkers in the first few months, posing what he described as a ‘massive human services challenge.’”   In New York, they are trying to put groups and money together to meet the surge of expected interest, but that’s not going to be the case in many of the red states where this order is being resisted aggressively, and some of those states like Texas, Arizona, and Florida are where interest will be extreme.

            Angelica Salas, director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) told reporters in Las Vegas where President Obama formally announced his order that he had stopped on the way out of the hall and told her, “Now sign them up.”   That’s a tall order with limited resources even though Angelica will no doubt get some help from the state of California, but even so with an estimated quarter of the eligible in California her office and many others will be overwhelmed.

            This is a golden opportunity but it’s not hard to see the bumpy road ahead in our “red” states where nonprofits will be besieged.   There are a couple of months to get ready, but volunteers, lawyers, churches, unions, and others in cities and towns throughout the country need to think about “citizen wealth centers” as we are that can be prepared to offer assistance.  This opportunity is only real and will only work, if as the President instructed, we can “sign them up.”  It’s something we know how to do, but are going to need a lot of help to make happen.

            People get ready!

 

Obama Immigration Action is a Band-Aid, Not a Cure

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(Photo: Drew Angerer Getty Images)

New Orleans   Make no mistake, President Obama’s immigration news is good news for everyone but rightwing ideologues. They are winning the air war perhaps for a hot minute by framing the action in a lie, and once again the administration is not doing well at explaining itself, but once the first wave of reaction settles, the wisdom of this action will be clearer.

Here are some important things to understand.

This is not amnesty. Far from it! This is a maximum three year Band-Aid being applied on a gaping national wound with no cure still in sight. All some immigrants are getting from this executive order is a chance to apply, after paying any owed taxes and new fees and proving they do not have criminal records, for a three-year work permit and a social security number. These workers are not even going to be allowed to qualify for benefits like those offered with subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. Frankly, some may not chance this opportunity because it is temporary, but hopefully many will.

Remember as well that the only immigrants being given this opportunity are those that are the parents of American citizens or permanent residents born here. This program unites families. How bad could that possibly be? The order also added another 250,000 DREAMers to the list of those who can walk in public without fear by extending the protection from 2007 in his earlier order to 2010 in this new action.

President Obama is also right. If Republicans and the far right don’t like this, they can finally join in the process of taking the heat from folks they are stirring up now, and pass a bill making something permanent. Or, they can win the Presidency by a democratic vote of the people, and make a different judgment.

And, the talk about filing suit either at the state or national level to stop this is not going to work in court either. Using the concept of “prosecutorial discretion,” the President is prioritizing going after criminals rather than families, and that’s the right thing to do. There will be injustice in that push still. There will be deportations of immigrants arrested for minor slip-ups but still seen as criminals, but this is still better than the ridiculous situation currently. Thankfully, there will be fewer of these kinds of minor abuses because very importantly, the President is also terminating the Secure Communities program that has made junior immigration agents out of local police departments giving rise to the abuses of Maricopa County’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio and many others who have accurately been accused of creating a new apartheid and arresting people for the crime of “being brown,” and criminalizing the fact that they are in the country illegally.

Once the temperature cools on some of the political mischief, it is also clear who is really worried about some of Obama’s action, and that’s low wage employers practicing wage theft on undocumented immigrants and farmers depending on such labor for the same reason. The Wall Street Journal was crystal clear in their report that a big part of the burn is all about the money:

By giving work papers to millions of illegal workers, Mr. Obama’s plan could affect businesses in unexpected ways, enabling workers to seek new jobs and higher wages to the benefit of some business sectors more than others. Some in agriculture, for example, worried that affected workers would leave for other sectors.

Finally, in this executive order no one is really happy. The techsters didn’t get unlimited visas for big brains they wanted. Reformers didn’t get the real solutions advocated during this administration and the last. Heck, on the progressive left we even bear the burden of having gone for comprehensive reform over the last six years when we always knew we had the best chance of winning a piecemeal package that united families right from Obama’s inauguration day, if we had been willing to settle for it. Six year later we have only won a temporary solution on something that might have been a slam dunk in the first 100-days.

There will be time for cold facts evaluation, but right now it’s all about looking forward and Obama’s action, and his inspiring framing of his order, presents a new challenge and opportunity for us to make the best of this moment.

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Please enjoy Earthquake Driver by Counting Crows, Thanks to KABF.

Surprise! Comcast Doesn’t Own Obama

20110101_ldd001New Orleans    Well, another country heard from! President Obama seems to be shaking off the midterms by stepping up his game. He came out forcefully for “net neutrality.” That’s not really news, he’s always said that he was for net neutrality, but this time he finally came out foursquare for the internet being classified as a public utility. Furthermore, he was against the fast and slow lanes for the internet that has been proposed by big cable and internet companies to further monopolize their cash machine, while denying net neutrality. 

Of course all of this was the President joining the rest of us in heaving a rock at the windows of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Admittedly, four million people have now weighed in on this question of the FCC holding hearings and determining the future status of the internet, the vast majority arguing decidedly for net neutrality and for full utility classification like electricity, telephones, and the like, but still his rock has a lot of weight. Unfortunately, the FCC is more beholding to Congress than the President once they are appointed for both their budget and legal implementation, and more than just me are still scratching our heads at why he named a corporate communications lobbyist and trade association executive as chair of the FCC, so it’s not like they are jumping to attention at his call.

But, let’s celebrate the good news where we find it, even as we acknowledge that the struggle is still fierce. The stock market understood the message well enough and pulled down the stocks and value of Comcast and the like by 4% in the wake of the President’s remarks, because they get the fact that big, bad, bully Comcast is not going to be happy with even a compromise on this issue since they want it all, all of the time. Comcast likely overstepped again and over-estimated the buddy-buddy relationship they were claiming for their executive vice-president David Cohen with the President and thinking that his living room fundraisers with Obama allowed them to stake a quiet claim to his silence on this issue, which he has maintained over recent years. The President’s remarks made it clear they may have made some down payments, but they don’t own his farm.

No matter how many times Comcast and others want to claim that they need a monopoly machine to keep the tech wave rolling, their loud roar can’t seem to drown out the voices of Netflix and others saying, “nay!” Reports of a meeting between Vimeo, Kickstarter, and other internet upstart darlings begging the White House and Obama advisers to ride hard with the rest of us against the bullies and earlier meetings with Facebook, Google, and others, make it impossible for Comcast and the like to claim that they speak for Silicon Valley and innovation.

These days we have to be honest with ourselves. We’re never going to win this hands’ down. Whatever emerges will be a sloppy compromise with dreams dragging and lawyers rushing into court, but at least the Comcast con has been called, and more and more of our allies are stepping into the fight so we’re not going to get bulldozed.

Now if we could just get the same support in bridging the digital divide….

Politics are Local, but Impact is National

Midterm Elections Minimum WageNew Orleans    The old saw that “all politics are local,” has a lot of merit, but added up, the impact in national. That is alternately both a depressing and hopeful sign in the tea leaves still gathering from the midterm election.

The Republicans took the Senate. Impossible not to see the president as crippled in his last two lame duck years. He’ll be flying even lower than he has been, and he’s already buzzing way too close to the ground.

So much for immigration reform, legislative progress on climate change, and much of anything else, though I would still argue there’s an outside chance for a small federal minimum wage adjustment. Fixing the Affordable Care Act in a good way is also not going to happen, nor is it likely we’ll see much Medicaid expansion.

But, it’s not the end of the world, no matter how bleak, when you look at some of the local elections where the toxic referendum on the President was not the Republican’s multi-billion dollar message.

Three state minimum wage efforts won with Arkansas leading with 65% of the vote and moving to $8.50 by 2017 and Nebraska going to $9.00. South Dakota also won and Alaska seems likely once all of the votes are counted. Let’s have more of this!

Some of the hipsters argue that the toxicity of Washington, D.C. should decrease a little bit now that voters in the nation’s capital have voted to legalize marijuana possession. There’s no smoking anymore in the halls of Congress, but maybe they’ll be more chill on the streets.

Colorado and North Dakota rejected restrictions on abortion. Massachusetts voters approved what is likely the most liberal and comprehensive sick time provision allowing accrual of up to 40 hours of sick pay for workers. Teachers even won in Missouri in bringing some rationality around linking pay to performance of students with other measures in Washington State still possible. GMO labeling fared less well in Colorado.

So, I was wrong that this election might not be settled until the “ladies sing” in runoffs. Louisiana has one with Senator Mary Landrieu, but her chances of winning are now exceedingly slim since she campaigned on delivering pork, and will now be stripped of her Chairman’s title on the Energy Committee. There was no runoff in Georgia. So much for all that.

On the other hand the race by the San Francisco Bay in Richmond where progressives have battled Chevron, who spent $3 million to influence the city council and mayor’s races turned out fine with Arkansas-born Tom Butt  won as Mayor and council seats were taken by all of the endorsees of the Richmond Progressive Alliance.

The lesson I draw is simple: we can win, but we need a bigger base with more boots on the ground and issues that speak directly to our base.