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Archive for July, 2012

Why gun control isn’t a lost cause

July 30th, 2012

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This piece was originally posted on The Washington Post.

Dozens of college students murdered in their classrooms; a member of Congress shot at point-blank range; innocents gunned down in a movie theater. Then, in the aftermath of a mass gun crime, the same ritual: national shock and anger, traumatized communities asking how this could happen, followed by … nothing. At least, no progress on gun safety.

In a speech to the Urban League on Wednesday, President Obama called for a conversation on youth violence and more steps to keep guns away from criminals and the mentally ill. But everyone, including Obama, has been pretty frank about it: No major new gun laws will result. Read the rest of this entry »

NRA is real winner on gun laws

July 23rd, 2012

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This piece was originally posted on Politico.

Nothing will happen. That seems to be the consensus among policy experts after the senseless tragedy in Aurora, Colo., last week.

In the past, after sensational instances of gun violence, whether it was a celebrated person getting shot or the massacre of innocent children, we’d see a surge of support for new gun control measures. No longer. We didn’t see much of a policy response to the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona last year or to the shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida this year.

The National Rifle Association has won. It has succeeded in changing the national discussion from gun control to gun rights. How did that happen?

For one thing, Americans have lost confidence in gun control measures. Gallup has been polling on the issue since 1959. Last October, Gallup reported “support for a variety of gun control measures at historic lows.”

Should there be a law banning the possession of handguns except by the police and other authorized persons? In 1959, 60 percent said yes. In 2011, 26 percent said yes. Should it be illegal to manufacture, sell or possess assault weapons? Last year, for the first time, a majority of Americans said no.

Why the shift? Here’s one reason: By and large, Democrats have stopped talking about the gun issue. It’s too costly for them. In September 1994, the Democratic Congress passed an assault weapons ban and President Bill Clinton signed it. In November 1994, Democrats lost their majority in the House for the first time in 40 years. Clinton said the gun lobby had to lot to do with his party’s defeat.

Since 1994, Democrats have been skittish about the gun issue. The assault weapons ban was allowed to lapse in 2004. Getting it renewed has not been high on President Barack Obama’s agenda.

During the 2004 presidential campaign, I met with a group of voters in West Virginia. West Virginia used to be a solid New Deal Democratic state. The late Sen. Robert Byrd was the embodiment of that tradition. But in the last three presidential elections, West Virginia has gone Republican.

I asked the voters how many of them had health insurance. Only three out of 10 did. I asked them which candidate would be more likely to help the uninsured. Most of them said John Kerry, the Democrat. So were they planning to vote for Kerry? Almost all said no. “Why not?” I asked.

“We hear he wants to take away our guns,” one member of the group said.

“Are your guns more important than your health insurance?” I asked.

“Mister,” one woman replied, “our guns ARE our health insurance.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Everything you always wanted to know about national security in preparing for debates (but were afraid to ask)

July 20th, 2012

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The economy will dominate the 2012 election. But at some point, candidates for federal office will be asked about national security. Democrats may be inclined to rest on President Obama’s laurels, but aside from the President’s own reputation, the Party brand hasn’t improved much on these issues. Rather than being caught unprepared, check out Third Way’s 2012 National Security Debate Book and get the facts!

Monday— #FactTime: Defeating AQAP, NATO routes out of Afghanistan, CISADA, drones in Pakistan–National security demystified! http://bit.ly/OJgrZ9

Tuesday— #FactTime: Despite OBL, Republicans best Democrats by 11 points on dealing with terrorism and military threats. http://bit.ly/NDgF2N

Wednesday—#FactTime: Obama bests Romney by 12 on terrorism and 8 on foreign policy, despite Democratic brand on security issues. http://bit.ly/MA7Lne

Thursday— #FactTime: By 35 points, Independents think the U.S. should not be involved in Afghanistan. http://bit.ly/OJvWQI

Friday— #FactTime: Red districts, blue districts, all districts express support for cutting defense spending. http://goo.gl/ELPkK

Better Know a Moderate*

July 19th, 2012

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In an election year with hyper-partisan campaigning aimed at the base, the center of the electorate is often overlooked. Yet moderates have outnumbered liberals and conservatives in every Presidential election since 1976. Moderates don’t just split the difference between conservatives and liberals. They have their own beliefs and values. To better understand them, we’ve put together a quick list of poll questions that can help provide insight into how moderates think—and what makes them distinct.

The Future

Our research indicates that moderates are more worried about the financial future of both their country and their family and less about their current personal financial situation. Here are a few questions that might garner interesting responses from moderates about their biggest economic concerns:

1.    Do you believe you can meet your financial obligations and pay your bills over the next 12 months?
2.    How likely (very, somewhat, not at all) are you to do the following over the next year: Give to charity? Save for college or retirement? Take a vacation? Miss a mortgage, rent, or credit card payment? Collect unemployment? Lose your health insurance?
3.    If the global economy were the Olympics, in 10 years would the U.S.: a) win the gold, b) win the silver or bronze, or c) not be on the medal stand?
4.    Which best describes you: a) I have attained the American Dream, b) I will attain the American Dream, or c) I will never attain the American Dream?
5.    How confident are you that your kids or kids in the next generation will attain the American Dream?

The U.S. Economic System

Moderates tend not to see themselves as victims and believe the system basically works for them. Here are a few questions that might illustrate that view:

6.    Do you think America’s economic system is basically fair?
7.    Do you think America is divided into the “Haves” and the “Have Nots”? Regardless, in which category would you place yourself—“Have” or “Have Not”?
8.    Do you think that the fact that some people are rich and others poor is an acceptable part of America’s economic system?
9.    Which statement better reflects your own views: I can succeed if I work hard. Or: Hard work is no guarantee of success.
10.    Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: If you play by the rules, you will likely succeed.

Politics and Governing

Moderates don’t approach politics in the same manner as partisans (the base of each party). Here are a few questions that might illuminate their pragmatic approach over ideological dogmatism:

11.    On a scale of 1 through 9, with 1 being liberal, 9 being conservative, and 5 being moderate, where would you put yourself? Where would you place President Obama? Mitt Romney? Democrats in Congress? Republicans in Congress?
12.    Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? I support political leaders who are willing to compromise.
13.    Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? I prefer pragmatic solutions over ideological solutions in politics.
14.    Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? The government should take care of those who can’t take care of themselves [SPLIT sample and add to half] even if it means going deeper into debt.
15.    Which statement comes closest to your view: America needs more community. OR: America needs more personal responsibility.

Over the next few months as polling runs rampant, we hope some folks will consider including a few of these questions in their surveys, so that we can all gain a better understanding of the moderates who will decide the election in 2012.

*With apologies to Stephen Colbert.

Don’t Panic: The NYT Poll is an Outlier

July 19th, 2012

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The NYT/CBS poll released today has left many Democrats nervous and pundits wondering if this is the turning of the tide. But neither alarm nor even real interest is warranted: this poll is an outlier and should be viewed with real skepticism.

This kind of thing happens all the time. Polls get weird samples and the results look too strange to be true. Last month, Bloomberg had one showing Obama with a 13-point lead. That was wrong, and this Times poll is almost certainly wrong as well.

Reasons for doubt: Horserace

The NYT/CBS poll has Romney winning the head-to-head by 2 points, within the margin of error. This is unsurprising—no one expects a blowout this year. Real Clear Politics, which takes the average of publicly available media polls and includes this newest survey, finds the race closer than 2 points, but with President Obama winning 46.3% to 44.9%. Read the rest of this entry »

A tale of two nations

July 17th, 2012

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By: Jeremy Twitchell

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

With apologies to Charles Dickens, there’s really no better way of contrasting how wind energy has fared this month in Dickens’ homeland, the United Kingdom, with how it has fared in the U.S.

Last week, the British government authorized two new wind farms that together will provide more than 1 gigwatt (GW) of power, part of a decade-long initiative to increase the country’s overall offshore wind capacity to 18 GW by 2020. It is also another step toward the nation’s goal of drawing 15% of its energy load from renewable sources by the same year.

And when the British government recently proposed to reduce the tax credit that it provides to wind farms by 10% because of declining technology costs, the industry agreed. Even when more conservative politicians called for cuts of 25%, the two sides recognized the importance of maintaining predictability for the industry and quickly moved to work out their differences. An agreement is expected later this week. Read the rest of this entry »