Happy 4th of July, when we celebrate a time when the Tea Party was a symbol of freedom, as opposed to today when the Tea Party has become the symbol of plutocracy, oligarchy, and suppressing religious freedom.
Happy 4th of July, when we celebrate a time when the Tea Party was a symbol of freedom, as opposed to today when the Tea Party has become the symbol of plutocracy, oligarchy, and suppressing religious freedom.
After over fifty votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act the Republicans are in the need for another gimmick. John Boehner believes he has come up with a new one in suing Barack Obama for doing what he supported when Bush was president. Republicans are giving up their claimed opposition to frivolous law suits to sue Barack Obama for issuing Executive Orders despite the fact that Obama has used issues far fewer executive orders and signing statements than other recent president such as George Bush. As Paul Waldman wrote:
It’s irresistible to charge Republicans with hypocrisy, especially given the fact that they were unconcerned when the Bush administration pushed so vigorously at the limits of presidential power. Bush and his staff regularly ignored laws they preferred not to follow, often with the thinnest of justifications, whether it was claiming executive privilege to ignore congressional subpoenas or issuing 1,200 signing statements declaring the president’s intention to disregard certain parts of duly passed laws. (They pushed the limits of vice presidential power, too—Dick Cheney famously argued that since the vice president is also president of the Senate, he was a member of both the executive and legislative branches, yet actually a member of neither and thus not subject to either’s legal constraints. Seriously, he actually believed that.)
It is certainly hypocritical for Republicans to object to abuse of executive power after they backed Dick Cheney and George Bush’s claims on the Unitary Executive with virtually unlimited power. It is also notable that the problem stems from Republican abuses in the Congress which are responsible for the current gridlock which necessitates executive action.
This flip flop on executive orders includes Speaker Boehner personally:
President Obama has issued about 180 executive orders — a power that has been utilized by every president since George Washington except for the brief-tenured William Henry Harrison — and taken other executive actions. A Boehner spokesman denounced these as “a clear record of ignoring the American people’s elected representatives and exceeding his constitutional authority, which has dangerous implications for both our system of government and our economy.”
But Boehner embraced the power of a Republican president to take action, even at times when he would circumvent Congress by doing so. President George W. Bush’s issued hundreds of orders of his own over his eight years in office. In 2001 and 2007, Boehner strongly supported unilateral actions by Bush to prevent embryonic stem-cell research involving new embryos, saying the 2001 decision “preserves the sanctity of life and allows limited research that could help millions of Americans suffering from life-threatening diseases.” He endorsed a 2008 Bush executive order to limit earmarks. In the final days of Bush’s second term, he even wrote to the president asking him to use an executive order to exempt a historic steamboat from safety regulations after Congress opted not to do so.
Boehner even pushed for administrative compliance with one of President Obama’s executive orders. In 2010, he asked Obama for a progress report on implementation of an executive order banning taxpayer funding for abortion in Obamacare. In a letter to then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, he noted that the order had “paved the way” for the law’s passage and that the lack of update on implementation “does little to diminish widespread skepticism about the administration’s commitment to enforcing the Executive Order and preventing the law law from increasing federal support for abortion.”
Most likely this comes about in response to demands from the far right wing base. It has cost the Republicans a fortune to block most Tea Party challenges in the primaries this year. In the process the establishment Republican Party has become almost as radical as the Tea Party and is forced to pull stunts such as this. It is largely a way to appease those who are demanding impeachment after the Republicans saw how that worked for them when they tried it against Bill Clinton. I imagine many Democrats would love to see the Republicans try impeachment. For now they will have to settle for this, already using the threatened law suit to raise money.
Democrats have been more successful than Republicans in raising money so far this year with small Democratic donors contributing more to the Democrats than people like the Koch Brothers are donating to the Republicans. This is undoubtedly coming from a small percentage of the country which is more politically engaged. Ideally we would have a higher percentage of the voters outraged by the Republican tactics and abuse of the democratic process. This is unlikely to occur as the Democrats lack the ability to make an issue out of the ways in which the Republicans abuse the system. Of course it is harder to make voters aware of such problems in a country in which only 40 percent are aware of which party controls which house of Congress.
I think it was a smart move by the Koch Brothers to give a $25 million grant to the United Negro College Fund. If their goal is to improve their public reputation in response to the campaign by the Democratic Party to vilify them, such a move is likely to be far more effective than Charles Koch’s whiny and misleading op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. Maybe they hope that this will help counter some of the harm done by their financing of the Tea Party which, while containing a variety of views, far too often looks like the KKK without the white sheets. The willingness and ability of the Koch Brothers to receive this form of favorable publicity also gives an example of why it is foolish for the Democrats to spend so much effort in their campaign against the Koch Brothers personally as opposed to actually learning how to promote a coherent message.
There are many reasons to vote for the Democrats over the Republicans with the Republicans adopting an extremist agenda, acting to undermine the foundations of our Democratic system, and failing to engage in any rational thought as they pursue policies in contradiction of economics, science, and the very principles of individual liberty which this nation was founded upon. There are so many issues for the Democrats to concentrate on, yet Harry Reid wants to concentrate on a pair of brothers who most people have never heard about. Sure attacking the Koch Brothers might be good for fund raising emails, but this is no substitute for coming up with a real message.
The fact of the matter is that the Koch Brothers are not the worst enemy faced by the Democrats and supporters of liberty (true liberty, not the plutocracy and religious authoritarianism promoted by the right wing under this label). There is certainly quite a bit of hypocrisy in the economic views of the Koch Brothers, who made their fortune taking advantage of government programs while selectively arguing for economic libertarianism as a means to escape regulation. However in some ways the Koch Brothers are preferable to the standard Republican line, from opposing the Iraq War to being more libertarian on social issues. David Koch also has a long history of philanthropy. They could even be a force for moderation of some of the extreme views of the Republican Party.
Of course this is not meant to excuse all their behavior, including suspected illegal activity and funding of efforts to deny climate change (which on at least one occasion has blown up in their faces). The most reprehensible has been the funding of dishonest advertisements against the Affordable Care Act. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but when they spread false information which contributes to mistrust of a law which has resulted in improvements in the lives of millions, they risk doing serious harm to those who remain uninsured based upon misinformation. The Affordable Care Act is also a good thing for the economy, helping to reduce the deficit, reduce unemployment, and enable people to leave jobs they remain in for insurance coverage to work for or form small businesses of their own. Those who truly support freedom, as opposed to giving it lip service as the right wing does, would prefer a system which gives more choice to individuals rather than leaving them at the mercy of an insurance industry which has existed without serious competition in most markets, and which found it to be more profitable to find ways to deny providing care. Support of Obamacare is the only rational position for those who support the rights of the individual over the rights of abusive monopolies. Unfortunately such a choice is beyond the thought process of those on the right who have been brainwashed to see our tradition of self-government as the source of tyranny.
I would find it far easier to ignore the Koch Brothers if they would cease spending their money on these dishonest ads and ideally use their influence to truly promote freedom. Regardless, we could show appreciation for contributions such as this and perhaps it is time for Harry Reed to find a new bogey man–or preferably to do a better job of actually promoting ideas.
While the media is increasingly talking about the 2016 presidential election, we have a major election coming up for control of Congress later this year. At present it appears that it is unlikely for the Democrats to take control of the House, and they are now fighting to retain control of the Senate. Predictions that the Republicans will hold the House and possibly take the Senate are based upon historical trends and which Senate seats are up for reelection this year. Of course it is possible to see a break from past trends.
Among the trends causing people to predict this to be a good year for Republicans: minorities and young voters don’t vote as often in off-year elections, a president’s party generally does poorly in the sixth year of the president’s term, a president’s party does poorly when the president has low approval ratings, and a president’s party does poorly when the economy is having difficulties.
On top of this, the Democrats are defending Senate seats in several red states this year, giving the Republicans a chance to pick up some seats. Fortunately the situation is reversed in 2016 with more blue-state Republicans up for reelection. Based upon these fundamentals in a presidential election which is likely to already be more favorable to the party, a Democrat winning the White House should also see a pick up of several Senate seats.
The Republican Party has been working in other ways to pick up votes. They have made voter suppression a major part of their electoral strategy, along with continuing the Southern Strategy based upon racism and now xenophobia. On the other hand, their history of racism may backfire with the increase in minority voters, possibly turning some southern states blue in the near future. We saw this first in Virginia and to a lesser degree in North Carolina. In the future this could extend to Georgia, Texas, and additional states.
Republicans have an advantage in keeping control of the House as so many House districts are gerrymandered to protect the incumbent. In addition, Democrats tend to be more concentrated in urban areas, meaning that even if more people vote for Democrats than Republicans, the Republicans will win more seats by small margins while Democrats will win a smaller number with bigger majorities. More people voted for Democrats than Republicans in Congressional races in 2012 but the Republicans retained control of the House. It would probably take at least a seven percent margin of victory for Democrats to take control of the House. Republican representation in the Senate is also exaggerated compared to their level of support due to lesser populated Republican states having the same number of Senators as more populated Democratic states.
There are some things which could throw off the fundamentals this year, but we cannot count on voters suddenly no longer being fooled by the GOP line. At present the Republicans receive far too many votes from low-information white voters. Over time the number of younger voters who receive their fake news from Jon Stewart will overtake the older voters who receive their fake news from Fox.
While Obama’s approval rating is low, Congress has an even lower approval rating. Typically in such situations people like their own Congressman even if they disapprove of Congress. This year polls show that many people also think their own Congressman should be thrown out. Based upon this, I wouldn’t be surprised if more incumbents than usual get upset, but that might not necessarily help the Democrats over Republicans. In addition, more people see the Republicans as being more responsible for gridlock, in contrast to a common false media narrative of treating each party as being equally responsible. Maybe they will surprise the pundits and throw the Republicans out.
Another factor influencing whether predictions based upon the fundamentals must occur is that any competent Democratic strategist is aware of every point here, and the party is doing far more than they did in 2010 to try to change this. They are working to increase turnout among Democratic voters this year. They have a technological edge both in regards to get out the vote efforts and fund raising. It even appears that the same problems which are placing Republicans at a disadvantage with younger voters is also impacting their ability to recruit young tech savvy political operatives. Besides using their technological advantages over Republicans in getting out the vote efforts, they can motivate Democratic voters with fear of the consequences of the Republicans taking control of the Senate. Tea Party extremism has led to an end to talk of a grand bargain. Democratic compromises on entitlement programs might have discouraged some voters on the left from turning out for Democrats.
I think Democrats will do better if they can successfully explain the advantages of their policies as opposed to Republican policies. Democratic economic policies turned around the economic collapse caused by Republican economic policies, even if the Republicans have managed to slow recovery with their obstructionist moves, decided upon from the start of Obama’s term. The deficit rolled up by George Bush has dropped considerably since Obama took office. The CBO projects a deficit of $514 billion in 2014, representing three percent of the Gross Domestic Product. This is near the average level for the past forty years, and a vast improvement from 2009 when the deficit was at 10.1 percent of GDP.
Despite early IT problems, which the Obama administration does deserve criticism for, the Affordable Care Act has turned into a tremendous success on a policy level, both in terms of health care reform and its benefits for the economy. Both the Medicare Advantage plans under George Bush and the original Medicare program had early implementation problems which took a couple of years to solve. Of course Republicans will continue to spread unsubstantiated scare stories and it is possible Obama might never received the credit he deserves. Health care premiums will be remain high on the individual market as they were high before Obamacare. Insurance companies will continue to use restricted panels of physicians and hospitals as they did before Obamacare, leaving room for Republicans to blame the Affordable Care Act for problems unrelated to the law.
Other factors could come into play. The Tea Party might oust electable Republicans and replace them with extremist candidates which the Democrats can more easily beat. While doubtful, the Tea Party might force Congressional Republicans into a situation analogous to the government shut-down before the election which reduces public support for Republicans. While it is doubtful it will really alter that many votes, even the changes in the late night comedians could help the Democrats over the Republicans.
The easy prediction is now that the Republicans will keep control of the House and control of the Senate is up for grabs. Depending upon whether the factors discussed above alter the usual fundamentals, we still might wind up seeing the pundits talking about all the reasons they knew we would have a different outcome after the results are known.
As Chris Christie’s popularity has fallen following recent scandals, his popularity has picked up to a degree on the far right now that they see him as a “victim” of the liberal media. There’s almost nothing the far right loves better than to see themselves as victims.
In return Christie is pandering to the Tea Party and far right, using their tactic of distorting the views of the left. I was listening to an excerpt of a speech by Chris Christie over XM earlier. While I cannot find a full transcript, this report from The Guardian provides the gist of what I objected to:
“You want income equality? That’s mediocrity,” said Christie, in an apparent attempt to bolster his conservative credentials during a discussion at the Economic Club of Chicago on Wednesday. “Everybody can have an equal mediocre salary. That’s what we can afford.”
He argued that by pursuing income equality, left-leaning Democrats such as Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio misjudged the American spirit, which he defined as: “How do I get a little more?”
“I don’t think the American people want income equality. What they want is income opportunity,” said Christie, who also used the talk to heap praise on former president George W Bush. He added: “I grew up in an America that said life isn’t fair – but opportunity is.”
He is making two major errors here. First, Democrats do not believe everyone should have equal incomes. When speaking of income inequality they are speaking of the unprecedented concentration of wealth by the top one tenth of one percent and how this is damaging to the middle class and the economy. Secondly, they object to the system being rigged for the benefit of the top one tenth of one percent and it is the Democrats who support greater opportunity.
It is also interesting that Christie thinks it would help himself to bring up George Bush.
The article concludes:
What Bridgegate has laid bare is the skill and audacity with which Christie constructed his public image. “It’s almost like people were in a trance,” Buono told me. Christie may have been misunderstood for so long because his transactionalism diverted from the standard New Jersey model. He wasn’t out to line his own pockets, or build a business empire. He wasn’t even seeking to advance a partisan agenda. And yet it was transactionalism all the same. Christie used a corrupt system to expand his own power and burnish his own image, and he did it so artfully that he nearly came within striking distance of the White House. When he got cozy with Democratic bosses, people only saw a man willing to work across the aisle. When he bullied his opponents, they only saw a truth-teller. It was one of the most effective optical illusions in American politics—until it wasn’t.
The House passed a clean bill increasing the debt ceiling today, showing that the Democrats have learned their lesson to refuse to negotiate with terrorists. The bill extending the debt ceiling until March 2015 passed by a margin of House voted 221-201, with the support of only 28 Republicans.
Initially Republicans had hoped to tie their vote to some concessions, such as elimination of the risk corridors form the Affordable Care Act. Their argument for this fell apart when the Congressional Budget Office reported that the risk corridors will wind up saving the government eight billion dollars. It would hardly make sense to tie a measure to the vote on the debt ceiling which would lead to an increase in the deficit.
Democrats have learned that if they give into Republican demands, they will insist upon further concessions with each vote on the budget or debt ceiling, further harming the economy. The full Republican caucus would never vote for something as basic as paying our bills (a concept that previous Republican presidents such as Ronald Reagan had no problem with). The only way that the bill would pass would be if John Boehner allowed a vote of the entire House, leading to passage primarily with Democratic votes.
By allowing the bill to go to a vote of the entire House, Speaker Boehner showed that he understood how damaging it would be to the country and/or the Republican Party to once again play chicken with defaulting on the debt. The vote also showed how few sane Republicans there are, with 199 voting against, however I suspect that some of them understood the damage which would result from defaulting but voted against the increase to appease their constituents. One danger of gerrymandering Congressional districts to keep incumbents safe is that even sane Republican Congressmen would find it safer to vote as extremists out of fear of a Tea Party challenge.
While Boehner allowed the bill to come before a vote of the entire House, there is no guarantee that he will do so on future bills, especially when the consequences are less dire. Shutting down the government in October led to a drop in Republican support in the polls, showing that to some degree public pressure can influence the Republicans, but Boehner will be under other pressures from the right to limit his ability to repeatedly bring measures before the full House. Greg Sargent believes that the era of Republican debt limit extortion is dead while Talking Points Memo cautions that the Tea Party Ain’t Over yet.
Imagine if we lived in a country where we had majority rule and a minority party was unable to repeatedly impose its will upon the rest of the country. While a certain degree of roadblocks on government are needed to prevent the “tyranny of the majority,” our current system is being abused, leading to a tyranny of the minority.
Cross posted at The Moderate Voice