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Posts Tagged ‘tea party’

What unites Democrats? Republicans!

February 13th, 2014

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Back in 1901, Finley Peter Dunne’s character Mr. Dooley said, “The Dimmycratic Party ain’t on speakin’ terms with itsilf.” Is that happening again now? You might think so, given the talk about a populist revolt on the left.

But Democrats are in fact remarkably united on most issues. They agree on everything from increasing the minimum wage, to extending unemployment benefits to raising the debt ceiling.

Yes, there are divisions emerging over trade and energy. But it’s not anything like the bitter confrontations we used to see among Democrats over civil rights and the Vietnam War. It’s also not anything like the bitter civil war that’s broken out in the Republican Party. No one is threatening to walk out.

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What Democrats have going for them? Republicans

November 12th, 2013

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Democrats had one thing going for them in the election this week: Republicans. That kept the President Barack Obama’s party from faring much worse.

Dissatisfaction with the economy is still very high. In the network exit polls, more than 80 percent of Virginia and New Jersey voters said they were worried about the nation’s economy over the next year.

The economy was the top issue in both states. New Jersey voters concerned about the economy voted 2 to 1 for Republican Governor Chris Christie — even though he was the incumbent. It isn’t his economy. It’s Obama’s economy. That’s the new rule in American politics: All politics is national.

In Virginia, however, the poor economy didn’t do the Republican candidate much good. Virginia voters who cited the economy as their top concern split their vote, 49 percent for Republican Ken Cuccinelli and 43 percent for Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

The Republican should have carried Virginia. Obama’s job rating among Virginia voters was down 6 points since 2012. Nonetheless, McAuliffe built solid majorities in the same New America constituencies that had delivered the state for Obama last year: women, racial minorities, educated professionals and young voters. Particularly unmarried women, whom Cuccinelli offended with his attacks on abortion, divorce and contraception. The Republican vote among unmarried women in Virginia dropped from 34 percent for Mitt Romney in 2012 to 25 percent for Cuccinelli in 2013.

Why did Cuccinelli lose Virginia? Because he was linked to the Tea Party. Forty-two percent of Virginia voters said they opposed the Tea Party. Only 9 percent of them voted for Cuccinelli. Among New Jersey voters, opinion of the Tea Party was only slightly more negative (45 percent opposed). The difference was, Christie got 38 percent of the anti-Tea Party vote in New Jersey. Christie is a Republican — but he isn’t part of the Tea Party movement.

Christie cut sharply into the Obama coalition in New Jersey. Women in New Jersey voted 62 percent for Democrat Obama in 2012. They voted 57 percent for Republican Christie in 2013. Christie carried the Latino vote in New Jersey and got 21 percent of the African-American vote. One-third of New Jersey Democrats voted for Christie. What percentage of Virginia Democrats voted for Cuccinelli? Two.

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Opposing Obamacare: GOP’s Defining Issue

October 28th, 2013

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After the French Revolution, the statesman and diplomat Talleyrand said of the Bourbon kings, “They learned nothing and they forgot nothing.” The same might be said of congressional Republicans after their disastrous government shutdown adventure.

Obamacare survives. That itself is something of a miracle. Look at how many near-death experiences it has been through. The loss of Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) in 2009 deprived Democrats of the majority they needed to end a Senate filibuster. They managed to circumvent the filibuster by applying a controversial rule that allowed the bill to pass with a simple majority.

Republicans won control of the House of Representatives in the 2010 midterm election by promising to repeal Obamacare. The House has now voted 46 times — 46 times! — to repeal Obamacare, only to see the votes ignored by the Democratic Senate.

In 2012, the Affordable Care Act was upheld by the Supreme Court by a vote of five-to-four — but only after Chief Justice John Roberts defined healthcare not as a constitutional right, but as a benefit that can be taken away at any time. The court described the Affordable Care Act as a decision “entrusted to our nation’s elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them.”

This month, Republicans shut down the federal government rather than pass a budget that included funding for Obamacare. The result? A wave of public anger over Republican tactics, plus damage to the economy. Meanwhile, Obamacare is still the law.

So what have Republicans learned? Nothing. “We fought the fight. We didn’t win,” Speaker John Boehner (R-Oh.) said. “We lived to fight another day.”

For Republicans, opposition to Obamacare has become a defining issue,  like antiwar sentiment was for Democrats during the war in Iraq. Of course, people were being killed in Iraq. But look at what Representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said about Obamacare: “Let’s repeal this failure before it literally kills women, kills children, kills senior citizens.”

Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said the message to seniors is, “You’re going to die sooner. When you restrict the ability of primary caregivers in this country to do what is best for their senior patients, what you’re doing is limiting their life expectancy.”

The antiwar movement had an explicit and feasible objective: End the war. President Barack Obama got elected on a promise to do just that. And he did.

Do Republicans have any reasonable prospect of ending Obamacare? They think so — even after all those near-death experiences. They take hope from all the problems this month with the rollout of the Healthcare.gov website.

Representative Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, put it this way to the New York Times: “If the website glitches are just the tip of the iceberg, it’s only a matter of time before the law sinks and takes with it those Democrats who wrote it, voted for it and are proud of it.”

What Republicans are trying to do is create a wave of public anger against Obamacare that will sweep the GOP into office, starting with next year’s midterm election. They want 2014 to be the reverse of 2006. In 2006, a wave of public anger over the war in Iraq swept Republicans out of power in Congress, presaged Obama’s presidential election win two years later — and ended the war. In 2014, Republicans expect a wave of public anger over Obamacare to sweep Democrats out of power in Congress, presage the election of a Republican President in 2016 — and end Obamacare.

Right now, Republicans are getting their wave of public anger, but it’s aimed largely at them. Public support for Obamacare has actually been increasing in the post-shutdown polls.

Yes, there are serious problems with the federal website, but they don’t affect most Americans. A majority of people still get health insurance from their employers, and another third get it from the government (through Medicare and Medicaid). This will not change, though Republicans warn that employers may try to avoid paying healthcare premiums by reducing workers’ hours. And 40 percent of the uninsured live in states like California, which have their own healthcare exchanges — that have been working pretty well.

Nonetheless, public awareness of problems with the federal website has been growing. Time magazine reports that 46 percent of Americans believe the exchanges are working “not too well” or “not well at all.” The administration has hired a new contractor who promises to have the federal website fixed by the end of November.

Nervous Democrats also have been pressuring the Obama administration to extend the penalty-free deadline for enrollment. The administration has now agreed to extend it for six weeks, until the end of March. Some Democrats are calling for a yearlong extension. They are clearly worried about the November 2014 midterm.

Meanwhile, Republicans are doing everything they can to publicize the problems and discourage people from signing up. The administration is aiming to have seven million people signed up by the end of 2014. The Obama administration estimates that 700,000 people have applied for private insurance plans using the federal and state exchanges, although many of them have enrolled in Medicaid, which is a public program. Republicans have started their own website where frustrated applicants can report problems with Obamacare.

Republicans in Congress have shifted strategies from trying to kill Obamacare outright to investigating problems with the new law. Does anyone really think those investigations are aimed at saving or improving the law? More likely, they are aimed at driving down public confidence.

The GOP’s political strategy here is pretty simple: Do everything possible to discourage young and healthy people from signing up for Obamacare. If the new insurance plans are dominated by the old and the sick — people who are desperate to get coverage — then insurance premiums will skyrocket. And a wave of public anger is certain to follow.

There is a name for such a strategy. It’s called sabotage.

This piece originally published via Reuters.

Post shutdown: Time for recriminations

October 18th, 2013

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Recriminations!

It’s a familiar ritual in Washington every time a party loses a battle or a candidate loses an election. Only this time, it could lead to something more serious: A split in the Republican Party.

The most severe recriminations are aimed at the Tea Party. Why did they take on a fight they were certain to lose? And without any endgame or exit strategy? Don’t they understand how politics works?

Here’s the answer: No.

Or rather, they do understand how politics works — and they reject it. The United States has a Constitution that divides power. The only way anything gets done is through deal-making and compromise. It’s been that way for 225 years.  (See the movie Lincoln for a good example).

The Tea Party doesn’t play by those rules. To them, compromise means selling out. They won’t make deals. It’s got to be either victory or defeat. In this case, it was defeat.

But it was a glorious defeat, and they are proud of it. It was their Alamo.  “We’re going to start this all over again,” Representative John Fleming (R-La.) told the New York Times.  Representative Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) said to the Washington Post, “We are waiting around for another battle over Obamacare.”  After all, six weeks after the Alamo disaster, the Texas army routed the Mexicans at the Battle of San Jacinto.  Their battle cry: “Remember the Alamo.”

Soon we will start hearing “Remember the Shutdown!”

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The Politics of Syria

September 4th, 2013

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Congressional Democrats are in a bind. If they vote to authorize a military strike on Syria, they could be putting the country on a slippery slope to war. But if they vote no, they will deliver a crushing defeat to their president.

What President Barack Obama did was call their bluff. Last week, more than 50 House Democratssigned a letter urging the president to “seek an affirmative decision of Congress” before committing to any military engagement. That was the Democrats’ way of going on record to express reservations about what Obama sounded like he was going to do anyway. Then, lo and behold, the president decided to do exactly what they asked. Now it’s their decision. Read the rest of this entry »

Fear of Government Rivals Fear of Terrorism

August 12th, 2013

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At his August 9 news conference, President Obama said “People may want to jigger slightly sort of the balance between the information that we can get versus the incremental encroachments on privacy that, if [they] haven’t already taken place, take place in a future Administration or as technology is developed further.” Pretty tentative language for an issue that’s exploding on the political scene.

For the first time since 9/11, according to the July Pew poll, more Americans say they are concerned that the government’s anti-terrorism policies “have gone too far in restricting civil liberties” than say that they “have not gone far enough to protect the country.” Concern about civil liberties has jumped from 27% in 2010 to 47% today. That’s the impact of the Edward Snowden revelations.

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