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The Daily Strategist

May 29, 2015

Granholm: GOP Candidates Against Fair Pay for Women Courting Defeat



Republican presidential candidates would be smart to get a clue that this time they are not going to get a free or easy ride on pay discrimination against women, as former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm's HuffPo post "Equal Pay for Women: 5 GOP Hopefuls Who Just Don't Get It" makes clear. Granholm writes,

If I knew in 1995 that we'd still be talking about gender-based income inequality in 2015, I'd have been thoroughly depressed...In my opinion, every candidate who enters this presidential race should have a record of fighting to end inequality in the workplace.

Instead, here's what we have:

When asked if he supports the Paycheck Fairness Act to give women equal pay for equal work, Jeb Bush replied, "What is the Paycheck Fairness Act?"

Marco Rubio repeatedly voted against equal pay legislation, calling it "a welfare plan for trial lawyers."

Rand Paul voted against paycheck fairness legislation multiple times and compared equal pay legislation to the Soviet Politburo.

Scott Walker repealed a Wisconsin law allowing victims of pay discrimination to seek damages in state courts.

Ted Cruz voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act three times.

It is kind of stunning. These are all mainstream GOP candidates, albeit in their party's admittedly narrowing philosophical context. You have to wonder, how do these guys think they are going to justify opposing something as simple as fair pay for women in the general election, especially when the Democratic front-runner is the country's most eloquent champion of the principle?

As Granholm notes,

In the Senate, Hillary Clinton consistently advocated for paycheck fairness, introducing legislation to fight discrimination in the workplace and co-chairing hearings on the need to close the wage gap between men and women. Senator Clinton also was an original co-sponsor of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay act, signed into law by President Obama in 2009, which expanded workers' rights to take pay discrimination issues to court.

Either they think they can deflect the question with dodgey distractions, which have served the Republicans well on some occasions, or they will try some fancy footwork walking it back. Neither option leaves them looking credible.

Perhaps they are gambling that most white women voters have cast ballots for Republicans in recent presidential elections, despite the GOP's long-standing opposition to fair pay for women. But 2016 will likely see the Democratic nominee and media pressing the issue as never before, and at a time when family income is lagging nationwide.

Expect lots of hemming and hawing on this topic from these five Republican candidates, and they are probably not the only ones in their party who will find themselves in a well-baited trap --- largely of their own making. Indications are 2016 will not be a good year for candidates to project themselves as champions of pay discrimination against women.


May 28, 2015

Claiming Democrats Have Moved Far Left Since Bill Clinton Just Doesn't Work



Going into every election cycle, Republicans worried about their party's extremism and MSM types determined to maintain equivalency between the two parties on every front both engage in an attempted demonstration that Democrats are moving far to the left. Usually Bill Clinton is used as some sort of benchmark of what is not "left," though Republicans attacked him for alleged extremism as well.

We had a particularly weak example of this meme in a New York Times op-ed by conservative policy writer and occasional intraparty critic Peter Wehner, as I noted at Washington Monthly:

Ignoring the fact that most actual lefty Democrats think Barack Obama is too much like Bill Clinton, Wehner's case almost entirely depends on contrasting the noble centrist Big Dog (who, of course, conservatives denounced as a godless socialist when he was actually in office) with the left-bent Obama.

And it's a really terrible argument. Exhibit one for Wehner involves Clinton's support for three-strikes-and-you're-out and 100,000 cops, as though they are the same thing, with Eric Holder's de-incarceration commitment. Keep up, Pete: Clinton, along with two-thirds of the Republican presidential field, has called for a reversal of "mass incarceration" policies. It's not an ideological move in either direction so much as a rare and belated bipartisan recognition of what does and doesn't work.

Exhibit two is welfare reform, and aside from ignoring everything Clinton did on low-income economic policy other than signing the 1996 welfare law, Wehner blandly accepts the race-drenched lie--and he's smart enough to know that it is indeed widely interpreted to be a lie--from the 2012 Romney campaign that Obama has "loosened welfare-to-work requirements." Then he tries to pivot to a contrast of Clinton's shutdown of the "welfare entitlement" with Obama's creation of a health care entitlement--without noting that Clinton had a health care proposal that was distinctly more "liberal" than Obama's. Pretty big omission, I'd say.

It gets worse. Wehner suggests that unlike Clinton Obama wants to boost taxes on the wealthy, which conveniently ignores Clinton's first budget. Speaking of the budget, Obama's fiscal record is contrasted with Clinton's without noting that Obama inherited not only a huge deficit but the worst economy since the 1930s. Wehner makes a fact-free assertion that Obama isn't as friendly towards U.S. allies as Clinton was. And in a telling maneuver, he suddenly shifts the contrast from Clinton-versus-Obama to Clinton-versus-Clinton in mentioning the dispute over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, where HRC has been "non-committal." Well, the crazy lefty Barack Obama hasn't been "non-committal," has he? Yes, a majority of congressional Democrats oppose him on TPP. But a majority of congressional Democrats also opposed Clinton on NAFTA and GATT, and denied him "fast-track" trade negotiating authority. Plus ca change....

Nonetheless, Wehner stumbles on to his pre-fab conclusion:

The Democratic Party is now a pre-Bill Clinton party, the result of Mr. Obama's own ideological predilections and the coalition he has built.

In the very next breath he acknowledges that on the one issue where the Democratic Party really has "moved to the left," same-sex marriage, the country has moved with it (and the "pre-Bill Clinton" Democratic Party had to move as well). And then he leaps to the circular argument that Republicans must be better representing the "center" of public opinion, because they're doing so well in midterms!

I suspect Wehner's object in the op-ed was to sanitize any criticism he might have of his own party in the immediate future. Others use the meme to claim the "center" for the GOP strictly by way of comparative extremism. Either way, the facts just are no friendly to the case, and are not getting any friendlier with the passage of time.


Political Strategy Notes



At the New York Times Jack Healy's "A Drive for Swing State Votes Has Colorado's Latinos Listening" previews the coming deluge of political appeals to Hispanics in the Rockies. "Interviews with Latino voters here and across Colorado also underscored the difficulty of scrubbing away an anti-immigrant image that has alienated potential Latino voters after two years of skirmishes in Congress in which the Republican-led House killed a bipartisan Senate bill that included a path to citizenship for 11 million immigrants illegally in the country." However, notes Healy, "Latino turnout in 2014 was five to 20 points lower than average turnout, according to Latino Decisions, which studies Latino political participation" and only ten of twenty million Latinos who are eligible to vote are registered.

A chap by the name of Graeme Goodsir (not kidding) has an interesting letter at the PA Patriot-News, touting election law in Australia, where "voting is compulsory for everyone over age 18, with a fine (it used to be $25) for failure to do so, without reason...The Australian system has a "built-in freedom NOT to vote" - it allows dissenters to record "informal votes" - which simply don't get counted - but those people still must participate by showing up and having their names marked off the electoral roll." A tweak that might work better for the U.S. is a $50 elections surcharge on every citizen who is eligible and able to vote, refundable to those who vote.

At Seven Days, a Vermont-based alternative Weekly, Paul Heintz has a juicy follow-up to Atlanta NBC affiliate WXIA-TV's expose (video here) of ALEC's secretive confab in Savannah. Heintz's post outs the "state representative from New England" featured in the video clip as Vermont state Rep. Bob Helm, who is also VT's ALEC Chair. Heintz notes: "Former [VT] Governor Howard Dean, who forwarded the WXIA story to Seven Days and others, says he was outraged when he saw it. He says ALEC attempts to "bribe" legislators to support its positions...."That was one of the most shocking videos I've seen in 35 years in public life," Dean says. "They're basically giving legislators money and paying them to come to these meetings. In exchange, they get full participation in the legislative process, without any public view at all."

Gallup affirms trend of increasing social liberalism among Americans. But how about an in-depth probe of attitudes towards economic reforms?

Republican Peter Wehner cites the GOP edge in elected officials and cherry-picks opinion data to make a case that Democrats have "pulled too far left," but overstates his case in saying that Democrats "are placing a very risky bet that there are virtually no limits to how far left they can go." Ed Kilgore provides a proper shredding of Wehner's screed at the Washington Monthly.

Bryce Covert writes at Think Progress that Sen. Bernie Sanders may have hit on an idea that is likely to resonate: "guaranteed vacation time for every worker in this country," a benefit which employers currently deny to about a quarter of American workers.

Adam Liptak reports at The Times that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case which will have potentially far-reaching consequences on partisan politics, specifically "whether voting districts should have the same number of people, or the same number of eligible voters." If the court decides in favor of the eligible voters yardstick, it could "political power from cities to rural areas, a move that would benefit Republicans."

Is there really absolutely nothing positive we can do to help our neighbor Mexico strengthen and protect their democracy from recurring horrors like this? Mexico's people and culture have enriched the U.S. beyond measure, and we just shrug off their deepening troubles. Democrats ought to be able to come up with a few non-paternalistic ideas, or at least ask Mexico's leading champions of democracy how we can help.

Just a follow-up thought to Vega's blistering take-down of MSM reporting on Hillary Clinton's presidential candidacy and indifference to the GOP's growing extremism: It appears that too many editors have a high tolerance for lazy, false equivalence reportage. But maybe America's J-schools could also do a little more soul-searching about the kind of reporters their graduates are becoming, and adjust curricula accordingly. At Knightblog, Eric Newton has an interesting post on "The Best Journalism School in America is...," showing a concern for innovation in programs. But it would be good to see more in the way of teaching critical thinking among such criteria.


May 27, 2015

Democrats: the mainstream media gang is whining with operatic self-pity because they think Hillary is treating them as if they were no better than partisan GOP operatives of Fox News. It's our job to tell them that Hillary is absolutely right.



In recent days a number of mainstream political commentators and members of the Washington press corps have been sputtering with indignation that Hillary Clinton is treating them as something less than the fiercely independent champions of the American public and noble guardians of American democracy.

Here, for example, is Jason Horowitz of the New York Times, loudly harrumphing his resentment at Hillary's refusal to treat the press with what he considers the proper respect and attention.

The solution for [Hillary's] team has been to keep the press at bay as Mrs. Clinton reads the scripts to her daily campaign shows..."The media was confined between the bar and the stove," Gary Swenson said, describing an event with Mrs. Clinton at his home in Mason City, Iowa, on Monday.

...There is no one to force her out of her Rose Garden. Neither Bernie Sanders nor Martin O'Malley has applied significant pressure on her. That leaves the news media as her only real opponent so far on the way to the Democratic presidential nomination, and while it may not be great for an educated populace or the furtherance of American democracy, it makes all the political sense in the world for Mrs. Clinton to ignore them, too.

And just in case anyone missed Horowitz's modest identification of himself with nothing less than the furtherance of American democracy itself, he also promoted his article on twitter with the following painful attempt at wit:

In Iowa, Queen Hillary and the Everyday Americans of the Round Table distribute alms to the clamoring press

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza, on the other hand, took a pretentious "more in sorrow than in anger" approach, piously lecturing his readers on the invaluable role and value of the press:

The role of the media is to show voters who these [candidates] are, really, and to explain how these people would govern the country if elected. Like the media or not, that's a very important role -- and one that is essential to a functioning democracy.

Other mainstream commentators and journalists took essentially similar stances. They were the noble defenders of American democracy; Hillary was the cynical politician who was refusing to follow the rules.

Progressive commentators responded with fierce and entirely justified expressions of contempt for this sanctimonious posturing. They pointed out that for many years the Washington establishment press had been obsessed with trivial, horse-race coverage, had continually sought "gotcha" moments instead of substance, had ignored important policy questions and had focused on finding superficial "flip-flops" while ignoring the growth of genuinely pernicious views. Many progressive commentators noted the long and grotesque history of articles about scandals regarding the Clintons that turned out to be totally devoid of content (e.g. whitewater, Vince Foster's "murder," Benghazi) and the equally pathetic way the D.C. press had repeated and legitimized a variety of clinically delusional charges against President Obama - charges they knew perfectly well were nonsense.

For Democrats, it is always deeply satisfying to watch progressive commentators energetically mock and ridicule the breathtaking conceit, vanity and narcissism of the mainstream media and their absurd pretentions. But it is imperative to note, however, that the progressive criticisms do not adequately emphasize one centrally important point.

Continue reading "Democrats: the mainstream media gang is whining with operatic self-pity because they think Hillary is treating them as if they were no better than partisan GOP operatives of Fox News. It's our job to tell them that Hillary is absolutely right." »


Dionne: Dems Must Reconcile Their Populists and Centrists



From E. J. Dionne, Jr.'s Washington Post column "Progressive Frenemies":

Earlier this month, Gov. Jack Markell of Delaware, a proud Democratic centrist, published a thoughtful essay on the Atlantic's Web site under a very polemical headline: "Americans Need Jobs, Not Populism." Take that, Elizabeth Warren.

The Massachusetts Democrat is clearly unpersuaded. In a powerful speech to the California Democratic Convention last weekend, she used variations on the word "fight" 21 times. "This country isn't working for working people," Warren declared. "It's working only for those at the top." If populism is a problem, Warren has not received the message.

There's other grist for this narrative. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was reelected this year only after a spirited battle during which his opponent, Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, labeled him "Mayor 1 Percent." And every other day, it seems, there's a report about Hillary Clinton being under pressure either to "move left" or to resist doing so.

Dionne acknowledges that "there are real dividing lines within the center-left" on issues such as trade, public education reform and public employee pension costs. But he sees the "us vs. them frame" as problematic:

..A post on the Democratic Strategist Web site in March argued that "slinging essentially vacuous stereotypes like 'corporate centrists' and 'left wing populists' " inevitably leads to "a vicious downward spiral of mutual recrimination."

The larger difficulty is that the epithets exaggerate the differences between two sides that in fact need each other. There is political energy in the populist critique because rising inequality and concentrated wealth really are an outrage. But the centrists offer remedies that, in most cases, the populists accept.

Both Markell and Warren, for example, have emphasized the importance of business growth and job creation. In her California speech, Warren described the need for policies that foster prosperity while "bending it toward more opportunity for everyone." Her priorities were not far from those Markell outlined in his article.

There was nothing exotically left-wing about Warren's call for "education for our kids, roads and bridges and power so businesses could grow and get their goods to market and build good jobs here in America, research so we would have a giant pipeline of ideas that would permit our children and grandchildren to build a world we could only dream about."

For his part, Markell freely acknowledged that "the altered economic terrain is preventing new wealth from being broadly shared," that "income inequality is growing worse," and that "a huge number of Americans are economically insecure." Growth is "necessary, but not sufficient," and he made the case for "a decent minimum wage," "affordable and quality health care," and support for a dignified retirement.

Sen. Warren and Gov. Markell, would you kindly give each other a call?

As the populists-centrists conflict plays out, "they would do well to remember the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr's observation that it's always wise to seek the truth in our opponents' error, and the error in our own truth," says Dionne. Further, "to win the presidency, one of Clinton's central tasks will be to move both sides in the progressive argument to embrace Niebuhr's counsel."


May 26, 2015

Creamer: Progressives in Position to Lead Dems, Compel Reforms



The following article by Democratic strategist Robert Creamer, author of "Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win," is cross-posted from HuffPo:

There has been a flurry of recent commentary about the "battle" between the Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren wings of the Democratic Party -- a supposed contest for the party's soul.

But by and large, the battle for control for the ideological center of the Democratic Party has been settled -- and it is likely that Hilary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren were never the real protagonists.

There are still pro-Wall Street, corporatist -- and even socially conservative -- elements in the Democratic coalition. But the center of the Party has consolidated around progressive principles as never before with respect to economic, social and foreign policy.

There may be some differences in style and emphasis, but it's hard to tell the difference between a Clinton speech and a Warren speech when it comes to most economic questions -- and particularly when it comes to the overarching narrative.

There is increasing consensus in the Democratic Party leadership and rank and file with respect to the reasons why the incomes of ordinary Americans have flat-lined even though the economy has grown.

And there is increasing consensus in the Democratic Party with respect to the solutions.

You might summarize the emerging Democratic economic consensus something like this:

Since the disastrous Great Recession, our economy has been going in the right direction under President Obama's leadership, but we need to make sure that average Americans benefit when it grows.

That means that we have to reform government so that it works for average Americans, not wealthy special interests.

Too many politicians have given in to the power of lobbyists for big business and the wealthy, and changed the rules to make it easier for companies to lay off workers, get rid of unions, raid pension funds, ship jobs overseas, and keep wages low.

Corporate CEOs and billionaires keep getting new tax breaks, while average Americans struggle to provide for their families. Ordinary people have seen their incomes flat-line because politicians have stacked the deck against middle class people in favor of the rich. As a result CEOs who used to make 20 times what they paid their workers and not make almost 300 times what they pay their workers. And the Wall Street bankers and speculators continue to get bigger and bigger bonuses -- even though the recklessness of the big Wall Street banks wrecked the economy and caused the Great Recession.

Instead, our government we should focus on improving the incomes of average Americans, not creating loopholes and subsidies for big corporations. If you work hard and play by the rules in this country, you should be paid enough to live on and support your family, and retire securely. A thriving middle class isn't just the result of a strong economy -- it builds a strong economy. When average people have money in their pockets, we are able to support local businesses and the economy grows.

We should use tax dollars to build roads and create jobs, instead of tax breaks for millionaires.

And we should get big money out of politics -- government should help level the playing field, not rig the system for the powerful.

That's a powerful narrative and it isn't just supported by most Democrats -- it is resonant with most Americans.

The same goes for social policy. Twenty years ago issues like immigration reform, reproductive choice, gay marriage -- even civil rights -- were wedge issues inside the Democratic Party. No longer.

Today banners supporting immigration reform, abortion rights, gay marriage and voting rights are proudly displayed at Democratic Conventions. Instead these issues are all wedge issues inside the Republican Party.

And the same can be said for foreign policy. No serious leader of the Democratic Party supports another ground war in the Middle East. There is virtual unanimity that the Iraq War was a horrible mistake that kicked over the sectarian hornets' nest and created the conditions leading to the problems we have today -- especially the rise of ISIL.

The only area of major policy division in the Democratic Party today is trade, and even there most of the Democratic Party has united around a consensus position that is very skeptical of trade deals that increase the power of large corporations and drag down the wages of American workers.

In fact, in the last 30 years, we have rarely seen such consensus on policy inside the Democratic Party -- and the progressive coalition at its core. One reason is that most Americans when asked agree with virtually all of these positions.

Continue reading "Creamer: Progressives in Position to Lead Dems, Compel Reforms" »


How ALEC Operates in GA




May 25, 2015

Political Strategy Notes



E. J. Dionne, Jr. ruminates on the "GOP's Flip-Flopping." Dionne notes that WI Gov. Scott Walker excuses is own flip-floppage because it's just changing his positions, not his votes. Says Dionne, "Sheer brilliance! Other than former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Walker's major rivals at the moment are Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Senator, R-Ky. They have all cast lots of votes. So Walker can accuse them of flip-flopping while claiming blanket immunity for himself...Unfortunately for the Republican Party and the country, Walker's careful parsing of shape-shifting counts as one of the cerebral high points of the debate among the party's 2016 presidential candidates."

If Democrats didn't have enough to worry about, Josh Kraushaar has a disturbing post at the National Journal, which notes, "One of the most underappreciated stories in recent years is the deterioration of the Democratic bench under President Obama's tenure in office. The party has become much more ideologically homogenous, losing most of its moderate wing as a result of the last two disastrous midterm elections. By one new catch-all measure, a party-strength index introduced by RealClearPolitics analysts Sean Trende and David Byler, Democrats are in their worst position since 1928. That dynamic has manifested itself in the Democratic presidential contest, where the bench is so barren that a flawed Hillary Clinton is barreling to an uncontested nomination."

But don't fret too much about it because Campaign for America's Future's Isaiah Poole's "Gallup Poll Finds Liberalism Ascendent, Conservatism In Decline" provides a hopeful antidote.

"...The question is not whether rioting ever yields a productive response, but whether it does so in general. Omar Wasow, an assistant professor at the department of politics at Princeton, has published a timely new paper studying this very question. And his answer is clear: Riots on the whole provoke a hostile right-wing response. They generate attention, all right, but the wrong kind," warns Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine. "Wasow finds that nonviolent civil-rights protests did not trigger a national backlash, but that violent protests and looting did. The physical damage inflicted upon poor urban neighborhoods by rioting does not have the compensating virtue of easing the way for more progressive policies; instead, it compounds the damage by promoting a regressive backlash."

From Kitty Holland's Irish Times article about the national referendum approving same sex marriage, "Working class areas embracing change faster, campaigners claim": "Gráinne Healy of Marriage Equality, said she was not surprised at the strong 'Yes' votes from "working class and deprived communities" after months of canvassing in communities across the social spectrum..."When we were out canvassing in areas like Finglas, there was an overwhelming Yes on the doorsteps. Once we moved into Glasnevin, there would be more resistance. It seemed the houses with two cars and plenty of money were just less open to Yes," said Healy..."That was confirmed when the ballot boxes were opened on Saturday...Ruth Coppinger, TD, of the Anti-Austerity Alliance, said the results showed the "myth" that social change would be "led by the middle class" was "untrue...She said there was a "more complete" break away from Church-teaching in working class areas."

Across the Irish Sea, Labour MP John Healey explains "Why Labour must win back working class voters from Ukip," noting: "In two-thirds of the target seats we failed to take, the Ukip vote was greater than the Tory majority. And in constituencies where Ukip got a high share of the vote, the Tory to Labour swing was markedly weaker."

At The Hill Juan Williams reports on "GOP dishonesty on ISIS and Iraq," and reminds readers that "The GOP debating position is in tatters. And, in any event, it does not fit with the American public's opinion of the war in Iraq. An October NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found 66 percent of Americans say the Iraq war was "not worth it." Last week, a Rasmussen poll found 61 percent agreeing that the legacy of the war is "failure."

Facing South's Sue Sturgis has an encouraging edition of her Institute Index column, "Embracing the benefits of online voter registration," which notes "According to the Pew report, which was based on a 2013 survey of 13 states that at the time had online registration, number of security breaches that have been reported as a result of online voter registration: 0...Number of states that currently or will soon offer online voter registration: at least 28"

Headline for the week, and one which would be lovely to see in a Republican newspaper in the U.S., comes from Martin Henry's article in Jamaica's Daily Gleaner: "Beware Working Class Raising Pitchforks In Rage. Either that or Tim Murphy's Mother Jones post, "Does Mike Huckabee Know Where the Ark of the Covenant Is Buried?"


May 22, 2015

GOP Winnowing Field By Debates



Want to know one reason GOP presidential candidates are not rushing to participate in this year's Iowa Republican Straw Poll, traditionally the first "scorable" event of the cycle? Other ways are emerging to "winnow" the very large field, as I discussed today at the Washington Monthly. I first quoted Craig Robinson of The Iowa Republican:

There is...another dynamic at work here that didn't exist in previous cycles. The large field of 2016 Republican candidates is making the debate stage really crowded. Both CNN and FOX News recently said that they would limit the debate stage to the top ten candidates. This is a huge development in the presidential campaigns' poker game.

Huckabee doesn't have to worry about getting in the debates as he routinely polls in the top five of all national and state polls. That's not the case for Santorum, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Carly Fiorina, or Lindsey Graham. So what would help Huckabee's strategy to win Iowa? He needs candidates like Santorum and Jindal out of the race.

Huckabee could accomplish that in two ways. One, by beating them in something like the Straw Poll, which costs lots of money and has other risks associated with it. Or two, Huckabee could slow play it, and let the debates actually clear his main rivals for the Christian conservative votes in Iowa. Huckabee is essentially taking the conservative approach by counting on the debates to winnow the large 2016 GOP field.

Sure enough, Fox News is limiting participation in the first debate on August 6 (just two days before the straw poll) to its estimation of the top ten candidates in public opinion surveys. And if you look at the latest national Fox poll, Rick Perry's 11th, Rick Santorum's 12th, and Bobby Jindal is 14th. If you figure candidates not tested (e.g., Donald Trump and John Kasich) might later make the top ten, and take seriously my suggestion that the whole GOP is going to conspire to boost Carly Fiorina's standing to get her on that stage, then it's already white-knuckle time for the Ricks and for Bobby. That not only confirms Robinson's point about Huckabee letting the debates do the winnowing, but also indicates the endangered candidates might decide to devote their resources to whatever it takes to get them into the national polling Top Ten rather than screwing around with chartering buses to Boone....

In any event, the high likelihood that debates using polling data may serve as a winnower of the field resolves one debate we've all been having: for Republicans, at least, and this year, at least, early horse-race polls really do matter.

So don't be surprised if hardly anybody decides to deal with the Straw Poll--or if some of the stragglers say or do some outrageous things to boost their visibility and poll numbers just enough to qualify for the debates.


Sanders, Krugman: Why Overreaching TPP Should Be Defeated



Imagine for a minute that you don't really have a strong opinion one way or the other about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). You are concerned about trade agreements in general, and you get it that the TPP is an especially big deal. But you are keeping your mind open, recognizing that in economic theory, at least, there is a chance that expanded trade can actually add to the stock of stable jobs in your country.

It's likely that many Americans feel this way, and are waiting for a good briefing which touches on all of the key points from both sides of the argument. For the time-challenged, Sen. Bernie Sanders, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the presidency, has a HuffPo op-ed, "The TPP Must Be Defeated," which makes a strong case against the deal in four major points. Sanders writes:

First, the TPP follows in the footsteps of failed trade agreements like NAFTA, CAFTA, Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) with China, and the South Korea Free Trade agreement. Over and over again, supporters of these agreements told us that they would create jobs. Over and over again, they have been proven dead wrong.

Since 2001, nearly 60,000 manufacturing plants in this country have been shut down and we have lost over 4.7 million decent paying manufacturing jobs. NAFTA has led to the loss of nearly 700,000 jobs. PNTR with China has led to the loss of 2.7 million jobs. Our trade agreement with South Korea has led to the loss of about 75,000 jobs. While bad trade agreements are not the only reason why manufacturing jobs in the U.S. have declined, they are an important factor.

The TPP continues an approach towards trade which forces Americans to compete against workers in Vietnam where the minimum wage is 56 cents an hour, independent labor unions are banned, and people are thrown in jail for expressing their political beliefs. This is not "free trade." This is the race to the bottom. While we must help poor people around the world improve their standard of living, we can do that without destroying the American middle class.

Secondly, when we are talking about the TPP it's important to know who is for it and who is against it.

Large, multi-national corporations that have outsourced millions of good paying American jobs to China, Mexico, Vietnam, India and other low-wage countries think the TPP is a great idea. They understand that this legislation will allow them to accelerate efforts to hire cheap labor abroad. The TPP is also strongly supported by Wall Street and large pharmaceutical companies who believe their global profits will increase if this agreement is passed.

On the other hand, every union in this country, representing millions of American workers, is in opposition to this agreement because they understand that the TPP will lead to the loss of decent-paying jobs and will depress wages. Virtually every major environmental organization, including the League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and 350.org[350.org], among many others, also oppose this legislation. They understand that the TPP will make it easier for multi-national corporations to pollute and degrade the global environment. Major religious groups such as the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. and the United Methodist Church, also oppose this legislation because of what it could do to the poorest people on earth.

Continue reading "Sanders, Krugman: Why Overreaching TPP Should Be Defeated" »






Editor's Corner

by Ed Kilgore



May 28: Claiming Democrats Have Moved Far Left Since Bill Clinton Just Doesn't Work


Going into every election cycle, Republicans worried about their party's extremism and MSM types determined to maintain equivalency between the two parties on every front both engage in an attempted demonstration that Democrats are moving far to the left. Usually Bill Clinton is used as some sort of benchmark of what is not "left," though Republicans attacked him for alleged extremism as well.

We had a particularly weak example of this meme in a New York Times op-ed by conservative policy writer and occasional intraparty critic Peter Wehner, as I noted at Washington Monthly:

Ignoring the fact that most actual lefty Democrats think Barack Obama is too much like Bill Clinton, Wehner's case almost entirely depends on contrasting the noble centrist Big Dog (who, of course, conservatives denounced as a godless socialist when he was actually in office) with the left-bent Obama.

And it's a really terrible argument. Exhibit one for Wehner involves Clinton's support for three-strikes-and-you're-out and 100,000 cops, as though they are the same thing, with Eric Holder's de-incarceration commitment. Keep up, Pete: Clinton, along with two-thirds of the Republican presidential field, has called for a reversal of "mass incarceration" policies. It's not an ideological move in either direction so much as a rare and belated bipartisan recognition of what does and doesn't work.

Exhibit two is welfare reform, and aside from ignoring everything Clinton did on low-income economic policy other than signing the 1996 welfare law, Wehner blandly accepts the race-drenched lie--and he's smart enough to know that it is indeed widely interpreted to be a lie--from the 2012 Romney campaign that Obama has "loosened welfare-to-work requirements." Then he tries to pivot to a contrast of Clinton's shutdown of the "welfare entitlement" with Obama's creation of a health care entitlement--without noting that Clinton had a health care proposal that was distinctly more "liberal" than Obama's. Pretty big omission, I'd say.

It gets worse. Wehner suggests that unlike Clinton Obama wants to boost taxes on the wealthy, which conveniently ignores Clinton's first budget. Speaking of the budget, Obama's fiscal record is contrasted with Clinton's without noting that Obama inherited not only a huge deficit but the worst economy since the 1930s. Wehner makes a fact-free assertion that Obama isn't as friendly towards U.S. allies as Clinton was. And in a telling maneuver, he suddenly shifts the contrast from Clinton-versus-Obama to Clinton-versus-Clinton in mentioning the dispute over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, where HRC has been "non-committal." Well, the crazy lefty Barack Obama hasn't been "non-committal," has he? Yes, a majority of congressional Democrats oppose him on TPP. But a majority of congressional Democrats also opposed Clinton on NAFTA and GATT, and denied him "fast-track" trade negotiating authority. Plus ca change....

Nonetheless, Wehner stumbles on to his pre-fab conclusion:

The Democratic Party is now a pre-Bill Clinton party, the result of Mr. Obama's own ideological predilections and the coalition he has built.

In the very next breath he acknowledges that on the one issue where the Democratic Party really has "moved to the left," same-sex marriage, the country has moved with it (and the "pre-Bill Clinton" Democratic Party had to move as well). And then he leaps to the circular argument that Republicans must be better representing the "center" of public opinion, because they're doing so well in midterms!

I suspect Wehner's object in the op-ed was to sanitize any criticism he might have of his own party in the immediate future. Others use the meme to claim the "center" for the GOP strictly by way of comparative extremism. Either way, the facts just are no friendly to the case, and are not getting any friendlier with the passage of time.


May 22: GOP Winnowing Field by Debates

Want to know one reason GOP presidential candidates are not rushing to participate in this year's Iowa Republican Straw Poll, traditionally the first "scorable" event of the cycle? Other ways are emerging to "winnow" the very large field, as I discussed today at the Washington Monthly. I first quoted Craig Robinson of The Iowa Republican:

There is...another dynamic at work here that didn't exist in previous cycles. The large field of 2016 Republican candidates is making the debate stage really crowded. Both CNN and FOX News recently said that they would limit the debate stage to the top ten candidates. This is a huge development in the presidential campaigns' poker game.

Huckabee doesn't have to worry about getting in the debates as he routinely polls in the top five of all national and state polls. That's not the case for Santorum, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Carly Fiorina, or Lindsey Graham. So what would help Huckabee's strategy to win Iowa? He needs candidates like Santorum and Jindal out of the race.

Huckabee could accomplish that in two ways. One, by beating them in something like the Straw Poll, which costs lots of money and has other risks associated with it. Or two, Huckabee could slow play it, and let the debates actually clear his main rivals for the Christian conservative votes in Iowa. Huckabee is essentially taking the conservative approach by counting on the debates to winnow the large 2016 GOP field.

Sure enough, Fox News is limiting participation in the first debate on August 6 (just two days before the straw poll) to its estimation of the top ten candidates in public opinion surveys. And if you look at the latest national Fox poll, Rick Perry's 11th, Rick Santorum's 12th, and Bobby Jindal is 14th. If you figure candidates not tested (e.g., Donald Trump and John Kasich) might later make the top ten, and take seriously my suggestion that the whole GOP is going to conspire to boost Carly Fiorina's standing to get her on that stage, then it's already white-knuckle time for the Ricks and for Bobby. That not only confirms Robinson's point about Huckabee letting the debates do the winnowing, but also indicates the endangered candidates might decide to devote their resources to whatever it takes to get them into the national polling Top Ten rather than screwing around with chartering buses to Boone....

In any event, the high likelihood that debates using polling data may serve as a winnower of the field resolves one debate we've all been having: for Republicans, at least, and this year, at least, early horse-race polls really do matter.

So don't be surprised if hardly anybody decides to deal with the Straw Poll--or if some of the stragglers say or do some outrageous things to boost their visibility and poll numbers just enough to qualify for the debates.


May 20: The Earliest-Ever "Brokered Convention" Fantasy!

It arrives every four years, so long as there is any chance of a competitive nominating process: the primaries could be inconclusive and we could have a Brokered Convention! With that phrase comes an array of more distinct fantasies, mostly from fictionalized or dimly remembered conventions of the past when multiple ballots or smoke-filled rooms full of deal-makers or wild gyrations on the floor between rival coalitions produced a dramatic outcome. It's kind of important, however, to get real about "brokered conventions," particularly in a year when the odds of it happening seem higher, as I discussed at the Washington Monthly with respect to the GOP:

So far as I know, Taegan Goddard's the first to raise this specter for 2016, and he actually makes a decent case that if it's ever going to happen, the circumstances are favorable. There's no real front-runner. There are enough candidates that the lesser-of-two-evils dynamic that produces an early winner may not kick in for a good while. And Super-PACs may make it possible for candidates whose campaigns would have starved to death in the past to survive later into the process.

Goddard could have added that changes in the calendar designed to end the nomination process earlier could backfire by reducing opportunities for a horrified party to avoid a "brokered convention." And it's also interesting that the closest thing to a Party Elite favorite, Jeb Bush, appears to be pursuing not a clinch-it-early strategy, but a win-it-in-the-late-innings approach.

Still, let's review the record: there hasn't been a convention which began with significant doubt about the identity of the nominee since the GOP event in 1976. The last multi-ballot convention was in 1952, when Democrats took three ballots to nominate Adlai Stevenson. The main reason for this shift away from deliberative--or if you wish, "brokered"--conventions was the rise of a primary system that all but eliminated undecided delegates and favorite-son or stalking-horse candidacies. So it requires really, really special circumstances even to get within shouting distance of a convention where someone hasn't locked up the nomination long before the balloons are inflated. And even if that perfect storm occurs, in 2016 or some other year, the word "brokered" is probably off, as I noted in a TNR column on the subject in 2012:

As...Jonathan Bernstein, has noted, a "brokered convention" depends on "brokers." Party leaders have a lot of ways to influence the selection of delegates in the primaries, but beyond that, their powers are limited. In the extremely unlikely event no winner heads to Tampa with a majority of delegates, we are looking not at a "brokered" convention, but a "deadlock" where the actual delegates, once their legal and moral commitments are discharged, can do what they want. "Brokering" is much too tame a metaphor for what would take place in that scenario. It would be a lot more like herding feral cats. Fortunately, it probably won't--no, it definitely won't--come to that.

But we can dream, at least this far out.

It's probably a dream, however, caused by eating something strange just before bedtime, or maybe a pundit's deadline that arrives too soon.


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