Commentary Magazine


Topic: Democrats

BuyPartisan and Our Polarized, Overly Politicized Civic Culture

Have you tuned in to recent congressional floor debates, read political blogs, or watched prime-time political talks shows and thought to yourself: “What this country needs is more polarization with an extra helping of mutual suspicion and the politicization of everything you keep in your house”? If so, you might need a sabbatical from political media. What you most certainly don’t need, but probably very much want, is this iPhone app that can enable your full transformation into a raving lunatic.

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Have you tuned in to recent congressional floor debates, read political blogs, or watched prime-time political talks shows and thought to yourself: “What this country needs is more polarization with an extra helping of mutual suspicion and the politicization of everything you keep in your house”? If so, you might need a sabbatical from political media. What you most certainly don’t need, but probably very much want, is this iPhone app that can enable your full transformation into a raving lunatic.

It’s called BuyPartisan, which is clever. It allows you to scan the barcode of products at the grocery store to see how that company allocates its political donations. It was created by Matthew Colbert, formerly a Capitol Hill staffer. For those whose political advocacy is a bit high-proof but not yet completely insufferable, the app will help them reach their potential. According to CBS, the app has about 100,000 users, which suggests there are very many people across the country desperate for a way to stop getting dinner-party invitations.

As the L.A. Times reported:

“We’re trying to make every day election day for people,” Colbert said, adding that the app helps consumers support products that reflect their political beliefs.

BuyPartisan doesn’t directly urge users to boycott products, but that’s likely how many consumers will use it.

Well then I suppose this proves there is such a thing as too much democracy. In any event, Colbert was the first to develop the app, but he wasn’t the first to attempt to release this virus into the air:

It’s all based on publicly available data compiled by non-profit groups like the Sunlight Foundation.

“My first reaction was, cool, we tried to do that!” Sunlight’s Gabriela Schneider said.

More such wisdom from Schneider:

“When I go to vote and when I go to make a purchase, I should know what’s the politics behind that. I should be able to know who’s behind the political ad that’s telling me to vote this way or that way,” Schneider said.

At the very least, it makes you look at your household products in a different way.

If you were wondering if it’s at all possible for a news organization to publish a story about political spending and not find the long and winding road that inevitably leads to the Koch brothers, the answer is: No, it’s not possible. The media’s Koch obsession is just who they are at this point:

The app showed 95 percent of contributions made by Quilted Northern toilet papers went to Republicans. The parent company, Georgia Pacific, is owned by Koch Industries.

“So for those that really care about it and who like that side, they can buy it,” Colbert said. “And for those that don’t like that side, they can go, ‘Maybe I don’t want to buy it. Maybe there’s a different toilet paper I want.’”

I suppose you can look at the Quilted Northern aspect in two ways, if you’re a Democrat whose daily activity is governed by DNC talking points. On the one hand, Harry Reid told you the Kochs are un-American, and therefore you perhaps won’t give them your money. On the other hand, it would be completely demented to boycott toilet paper made by a company whose parent company is owned by libertarians. The question, then, comes down to whether you’ve managed to follow politics closely and keep your sanity.

On a more serious note, such apps would be harmless if we lived in a society that could handle such detailed information with a sense of dignity. Unfortunately, we know what many people will do with such information. Last year, the CEO of Mozilla (developers of the Firefox browser) was forced to step down after committing the thought crime of years ago donating to the prop 8 ballot initiative in California, which opposed gay marriage.

I personally know someone who received death threats after donating to the campaign of a Republican governor, and I am certainly not alone in that regard. We have seen a demand for full campaign donor transparency coupled with the IRS’s witch hunt targeting conservative and pro-Israel political activists, a very clear signal from national Democrats that political voices are to be identified for the purpose of silencing them.

The instinct to have everything on your grocery shopping list conform to an unyielding loyalty to a political party is not a healthy one. And neither is an app that caters to it.

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The Republican Party and Single Women

I’ve written in the past about the demographic problems facing the Republican Party, especially during presidential years. My basic point is that Republicans do best with demographic groups that are contracting and worst with demographic groups that are expanding. Which means the GOP faces systemic, not just transitory, challenges.

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I’ve written in the past about the demographic problems facing the Republican Party, especially during presidential years. My basic point is that Republicans do best with demographic groups that are contracting and worst with demographic groups that are expanding. Which means the GOP faces systemic, not just transitory, challenges.

A recent story in the New York Times highlights just one of the demographic groups that is both growing and becoming less reliably Republican: single women. Here are some facts, as laid out in the Times story:

  • Half of all adult women over the age of 18 are unmarried—56 million, up from 45 million in 2000.
  • Single women now account for one in four people of voting age. In 2012, 58 percent of single women voted. (During this year’s mid-term, this number could slide by one-third, to roughly 39 percent, according to the Voter Participation Center. Many unmarried women do not turn out to vote during non-presidential elections.)
  • Single women have become Democrats’ most reliable supporters, behind African-Americans.
  • In 2012, two-thirds of single women who voted supported President Obama.

“You have a group that’s growing in size, and becoming more politically concentrated in terms of the Democrats,” according to Tom W. Smith, director of the General Social Survey at the National Opinion Research Center of the University of Chicago.

Single women tend to be socially liberal–but, according to the Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, “the issues they really care about are economic.” Ruy Teixeira, a political demographer at the Center for American Progress, says unmarried women, and especially unmarried mothers, have greater economic vulnerability.

To be sure, Republicans can win presidential elections without carrying a majority of single women. (Among married women, a slim majority supported Mitt Romney, while he won the male vote by eight points.) But it will be tough to win those elections if the Republican nominee for president loses the female vote by 12 points and single women by 36 points, as was the case in 2012.

I wouldn’t advise, and because I’m a social conservative I wouldn’t want, the GOP to become a socially liberal party. But that doesn’t mean certain things can’t be done. They include giving more prominent public roles to responsible women in the party (for example, Kelly Ayotte and Cathy McMorris Rodgers). It means nominating a presidential candidate who is principled but not seen as the aggressor on social issues. Grace and a gladsome spirit beat a zealous and judgmental one. And it means putting cultural issues in the context of a decent and humane social order.

In addition, Republicans would be wise to enlarge the social issues they speak about. Liberals and the elite press will want to keep the focus on issues like contraception, abortion, and same-sex marriage. Republicans need to counter by speaking in compelling ways about the intellectual and moral education of the young, about education as the civil-rights struggle of this generation, and protecting children from harm, including drug use and standing against drug legalization. They need to speak about an agenda focused on social mobility and helping people gain the skills they’ll need to succeed in a 21st century economy. Republicans also need to make it clear they want to strengthen, rather than weaken, the social safety net, including about the purposes of government in ways that reassures rather than unnerves people, especially those who are most vulnerable.

The GOP is hardly in danger of disappearing; in fact, it looks very much like it will take control of the Senate in addition to maintain control in the House. The Republican Party still possesses considerable strengths. The public is highly skeptical of much of the agenda of the Democratic Party. It helps, of course, that the Obama presidency is breaking apart and so, in many respects, is liberalism. Which means voters, including single women, are likely to give a fresh look to Republicans. It’ll be interesting to see what they find, how welcome they feel, and how they respond.

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Battleground Poll Points to GOP Victory

National polls can tell us a lot about the national mood, but if you want to get a grip on who will win the midterm elections, the only way to do it is to focus in on those who vote in contested House districts and states where Senate seats are up for grabs. That’s what Politico did with its latest poll published today and the results are likely to dampen some of the mild signs of optimism that Democrats have been exhibiting in recent weeks. According to the poll, likely voters say they favor Republicans over Democrats by a 41-34 percent margin. While each race will be won or lost by individual candidates rather than a generic party brand, this is another reminder that President Obama’s efforts to claim that he has conclusively won the debate on ObamaCare and other top issues will not help his party at the polls this November.

The results echo other polls of the entire country in which Americans overwhelmingly believe that the nation is headed in the wrong direction. With 60 percent of those in battleground areas believing that the debate on ObamaCare is not over and almost half calling for its outright repeal, the notion that a focus on health care will backfire on Republicans this year seems unfounded. Just as significantly, the list of top voter concerns should give cold comfort to Democratic strategists and liberal media outlets that have highlighted such issues as immigration or climate change. On a list of issues voters identified as their top priority, the economy ranks first with 26 percent while jobs and health care are the only others to register in double digits at 12 percent. Immigration and the environment get only three percent and two percent respectively. With the president’s job approval rating under water (59-40 percent negative) and voter enthusiasm also low in these areas, any hope of a surge in turnout that would benefit Democrats also seems unlikely.

But perhaps the biggest problem for Democrats is that, at least in those areas of the country where the minority of Americans will decide the 2014 elections, the liberal campaign to demonize congressional Republicans appears to have failed.

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National polls can tell us a lot about the national mood, but if you want to get a grip on who will win the midterm elections, the only way to do it is to focus in on those who vote in contested House districts and states where Senate seats are up for grabs. That’s what Politico did with its latest poll published today and the results are likely to dampen some of the mild signs of optimism that Democrats have been exhibiting in recent weeks. According to the poll, likely voters say they favor Republicans over Democrats by a 41-34 percent margin. While each race will be won or lost by individual candidates rather than a generic party brand, this is another reminder that President Obama’s efforts to claim that he has conclusively won the debate on ObamaCare and other top issues will not help his party at the polls this November.

The results echo other polls of the entire country in which Americans overwhelmingly believe that the nation is headed in the wrong direction. With 60 percent of those in battleground areas believing that the debate on ObamaCare is not over and almost half calling for its outright repeal, the notion that a focus on health care will backfire on Republicans this year seems unfounded. Just as significantly, the list of top voter concerns should give cold comfort to Democratic strategists and liberal media outlets that have highlighted such issues as immigration or climate change. On a list of issues voters identified as their top priority, the economy ranks first with 26 percent while jobs and health care are the only others to register in double digits at 12 percent. Immigration and the environment get only three percent and two percent respectively. With the president’s job approval rating under water (59-40 percent negative) and voter enthusiasm also low in these areas, any hope of a surge in turnout that would benefit Democrats also seems unlikely.

But perhaps the biggest problem for Democrats is that, at least in those areas of the country where the minority of Americans will decide the 2014 elections, the liberal campaign to demonize congressional Republicans appears to have failed.

One of the interesting sidelights of this poll can be gleaned from the low approval ratings both parties’ congressional caucuses received. In the poll, Republicans are slightly more unpopular with a 69-31 percent negative/positive rating to the Democrats 64-35 result. That’s a troubling gap, but nowhere the margin that Democrats had hoped for heading into 2014. Democrats have been working under the assumption that the stands that House Republicans have taken in the last year would sink them with the voters. Their refusal to enact immigration reform, climate change legislation, or to raise the minimum wage is assumed to be a liability. But even more than that, the president and his party thought last fall’s government shutdown would put the GOP under water for the foreseeable future. This result, while still showing the voters’ disapproval, indicates that the subsequent debate over ObamaCare has overshadowed if not completely erased any substantive advantage held by the Democrats.

It is possible to interpret the poll numbers as a sign that opinion is shifting on the health-care law with a slight majority favoring its retention, albeit with a significant number believing it should be altered. But the assumption that this shows that Americans are gradually accepting the law—and that it will cease to work for the GOP in 2016—doesn’t take into account the fact that much of the pain and dislocation that it will cause hasn’t yet been felt. With a lot of the unpopular mandates delayed until 2015, the potential for a negative impact on the economy as well as a surge of anger by those who have been inconvenienced by it is being underestimated. If ObamaCare can’t establish itself as a clear favorite of most Americans before this happens, it isn’t likely to happen after the mandates go into effect.

If the Politico poll shows, in the words of the site’s article about the survey, that ObamaCare is a “political anchor” for the Democrats in 2014, anyone who assumes that it will help them in 2016 is making a leap of faith that is unjustified by the data. 

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Treacherous Political Terrain for Democrats

This week several national polls were released. If you shift through and aggregate the data, they spell trouble for Democrats in the mid-term elections later this year. Here’s why.

Historically, mid-term elections in the second term of a presidency are rough on the party in power. In this case, the president’s overall approval rating is in the low-to-mid 40s, meaning Senate Democrats in red states (where the president’s approval ratings are even lower) need to run roughly 10 points ahead of Mr. Obama to win. That’s tough.

In addition, by several key metrics Democrats are in worse shape now than they were at a comparable time in 2010, when Republicans won the most lopsided mid-term election since before the middle part of the last century. The generic ballot right now is essentially tied, which is historically good news for the GOP. Voter intensity favors Republicans, while some key Democratic constituencies (like young voters) are losing interest in politics. The president’s policies are generally quite unpopular, with little evidence that support for the Affordable Care Act is increasing (independents oppose it more than they favor it by double digits). The economy remains sluggish (growth in the first quarter of this year was only 0.1 percent). There is widespread pessimism in the country and near-record distrust of government.

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This week several national polls were released. If you shift through and aggregate the data, they spell trouble for Democrats in the mid-term elections later this year. Here’s why.

Historically, mid-term elections in the second term of a presidency are rough on the party in power. In this case, the president’s overall approval rating is in the low-to-mid 40s, meaning Senate Democrats in red states (where the president’s approval ratings are even lower) need to run roughly 10 points ahead of Mr. Obama to win. That’s tough.

In addition, by several key metrics Democrats are in worse shape now than they were at a comparable time in 2010, when Republicans won the most lopsided mid-term election since before the middle part of the last century. The generic ballot right now is essentially tied, which is historically good news for the GOP. Voter intensity favors Republicans, while some key Democratic constituencies (like young voters) are losing interest in politics. The president’s policies are generally quite unpopular, with little evidence that support for the Affordable Care Act is increasing (independents oppose it more than they favor it by double digits). The economy remains sluggish (growth in the first quarter of this year was only 0.1 percent). There is widespread pessimism in the country and near-record distrust of government.

The political landscape for Democrats, then, is treacherous, and the president knows that another blowout in a mid-term election will not only complicate the last two years of his presidency but also damage his legacy. 

In response, the White House seems to have settled on a strategy of trying to energize its base voters, which means the president is going to focus on “wedge issues” rather than common ground with Republicans; and ratchet up rather than down his polarizing language.

My guess is the president and his party will gain relatively little electorally from this. On the flip side, he will continue to discredit what was once his most appealing quality as a political leader–his promise that he would put an end to “the politics that breeds division and conflict and cynicism”; that he would not pit red America against blue America; and that he would help Americans to “rediscover our bonds to each other and to get out of this constant petty bickering that’s come to characterize our politics.”

No one believes that has happened, and in fact polls suggest Mr. Obama to be the most polarizing president in the history of modern polling. Democrats will blame Republicans for the bitter nature of our politics while Republicans will say that the responsibility for this rests with him rather than his critics. Whatever the case, there is no dispute about the fact that the president has failed to achieve his core commitment when he first ran. Having to explain failure is never a good position for a president to be in; but that is the situation Mr. Obama finds himself in these days, on issue after issue.  

The Obama presidency continues to come apart. 

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Dems Need to Be Careful on Shutdown

With only a few hours before the congressional standoff leads to a government shutdown, Democrats are in the awkward position of having to publicly declare their sorrow and disgust about the situation while inwardly celebrating. After more than two years of dueling with the GOP over budgets and debt-ceiling rises and daring them to do something like this, the president and his party have finally fished their wish today. Their assumption all along has been that, like the government shutdown of 1995, the public will blame the Republicans while Democrats can pose as the voices of reason. That’s the way it will be played on most broadcast networks and newspapers and there’s very little the GOP can do about it.

This strikes most conservatives, even those who disagree with the strategy of threatening a shutdown unless ObamaCare is defunded or delayed, as unfair. They’re right. It is unfair. The president and the Senate Democrats are being just as unreasonable and ideological as the Republicans when they say they won’t compromise and throw the GOP even a bone in exchange for a continuing resolution from the House funding the government. But who said life had to be fair? Anyone who hasn’t already figured out that the liberal mainstream media ensures that the D.C. battleground is not a level playing field isn’t smart enough to be in Congress.

But even though polls appear to vindicate the conventional wisdom about the blame for the shutdown tilting against the Republicans, Democrats shouldn’t get too cocky about any of this. A shutdown will work in their favor, but perhaps not as much as they might have thought. A lot will depend on how the coming days and weeks play out politically and which party blinks or makes a grave tactical error. But as much as they stand to gain from goading the GOP into making an almost certainly futile last stand on ObamaCare, there are dangers for the Democrats that they may be ignoring in their jubilation.

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With only a few hours before the congressional standoff leads to a government shutdown, Democrats are in the awkward position of having to publicly declare their sorrow and disgust about the situation while inwardly celebrating. After more than two years of dueling with the GOP over budgets and debt-ceiling rises and daring them to do something like this, the president and his party have finally fished their wish today. Their assumption all along has been that, like the government shutdown of 1995, the public will blame the Republicans while Democrats can pose as the voices of reason. That’s the way it will be played on most broadcast networks and newspapers and there’s very little the GOP can do about it.

This strikes most conservatives, even those who disagree with the strategy of threatening a shutdown unless ObamaCare is defunded or delayed, as unfair. They’re right. It is unfair. The president and the Senate Democrats are being just as unreasonable and ideological as the Republicans when they say they won’t compromise and throw the GOP even a bone in exchange for a continuing resolution from the House funding the government. But who said life had to be fair? Anyone who hasn’t already figured out that the liberal mainstream media ensures that the D.C. battleground is not a level playing field isn’t smart enough to be in Congress.

But even though polls appear to vindicate the conventional wisdom about the blame for the shutdown tilting against the Republicans, Democrats shouldn’t get too cocky about any of this. A shutdown will work in their favor, but perhaps not as much as they might have thought. A lot will depend on how the coming days and weeks play out politically and which party blinks or makes a grave tactical error. But as much as they stand to gain from goading the GOP into making an almost certainly futile last stand on ObamaCare, there are dangers for the Democrats that they may be ignoring in their jubilation.

Let’s specify that any attempt to completely discount the advantage Democrats will gain for this is pure spin. By demanding that the president pay a high price in order to fund the government, Republicans make themselves look like hostage takers. Again, this is mostly unfair, especially since Democrats have tried the same tactic in the past without being labeled as terrorists. The dynamic of the confrontation is that by asking for government funding without any conditions, the president places himself in a position where he can play the grown up in the room, even if that is a distortion of the truth. Even if most Americans oppose ObamaCare, using that issue to create a deadlock that causes a government shutdown is political poison. Letting someone like Senator Ted Cruz, whose personality is easy to skewer and positions are perceived as extreme, be seen as the face of the party makes it harder for the GOP to evade responsibility for the mess.

But Democrats shouldn’t be too cocky. The same polls that show Republicans being killed by the public for their involvement in the showdown also show Democrats and the president getting low marks for their role in the shutdown. In fact, today’s Washington Post poll on the subject showed that although 46 percent of Americans would blame the GOP more, 49 percent either blame the Democrats more (36 percent) or say both parties deserve the blame (13 percent). That’s an edge for the Democrats, but not enough in itself to change the political equation in 2014 when a new Congress will be elected.

It should also be understood that President Obama could lose this advantage as easily as the Republicans can make it worse by what he does in the next few days. If the president were acting as if he was really trying to avert a shutdown by working hard to compromise, he would be in a powerful position. But as everyone knows, while the nation spent the weekend worrying about the impact of a shutdown on the economy, he was playing golf.

The problem for the president is that by digging in his heels in this manner and contemptuously refusing to move an inch toward the Republicans, he has undermined his pose as the man who eschews petty partisan warfare. Nor does having Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as their lead spokesman help the Democrats. Reid’s angry and confrontational tone is every bit the match of Cruz’s snarky contempt for the left.

Despite having worked so hard and waited so long to get to this moment, Democrats and their media cheerleaders are also showing a bit too much satisfaction about the way things have gone. They’re so sure that a shutdown is a political bonanza that they’re getting sloppy. The more they crow and issue partisan demands or act as if the world is coming to an end, the less they will gain from the shutdown.

While the shutdown is a more serious problem than the sequester that we were also told would be the end of civilization, Democrats may also find that many citizens won’t be fazed by this development–and not all of them will be Tea Partiers.

There is also the very real possibility that the ObamaCare rollout, which will begin tomorrow whether there is a shutdown or not, will undermine the Democrats’ position rather than enhancing it as they’ve believed all along. The impact on the economy and the rising costs of health care may prove to be more of a liability for the left than even conservatives have believed possible. Nor is there any reason to believe that any of the Republicans who have engineered the confrontation will suffer next year when they face the voters again. But those members—principally Democrats—that insist on giving themselves federal health-care subsidies that the general public is denied may well have good reason to regret their votes next year.

Nevertheless, any competition between a president and a divided Congress is one in which the politician with the biggest megaphone tends to win, and that is President Obama. As much as ObamaCare should be repealed, it isn’t going to happen and threatening a shutdown is going to hurt Republicans. However, the assumption that a presidential position of shut up and simply pass along the money will work indefinitely is untested. Barack Obama is entering the lame-duck portion of his presidency. Democrats who assume they don’t have to compromise may find that this stand is as unproductive for them as the shutdown is for the GOP.

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Young Dem Voters Won’t Stay Bought

Since President Obama’s relatively narrow yet still clear re-election victory, both liberals and conservatives have engaged in a virtual non-stop orgy of analysis geared toward explaining the result. Some of this discussion has been useful as Republicans have been forced to come to grips with the fact that they have been pushing away Hispanics and relying on assumptions about the way social issues played with most voters that may no longer be true. But, as happens after almost every election, there is also an equal amount of nonsense being put forward about how 2012 marks a turning pointing in our political history that may lead to realignment. As recently as 2005, Republicans were playing this game and now it is the turn of liberals to jump to unsustainable conclusions.

The latest example of this sort of writing comes in today’s New York Times as Sheryl Gay Stolberg details her journey to Montana to claim President Obama’s success with young voters may lead to an irreversible shift in the country’s political alignment. Her thesis is that the Democrats’ advantage with this demographic isn’t merely limited to the way their acceptance of gay marriage and abortion have affected those under 30. Instead, she goes farther than that and claims that young voters are now as addicted to entitlement spending as some of their elders. This belief in the goodness of government largesse and the alleged corresponding decline in cynicism about big government will create a new political reality that will be baked into the system even as these voters get older.

There is no denying the appeal of free stuff from the government for citizens of any age or background. In 21st century America, everyone has their snout in the proverbial trough of federal spending and that impacts attempts to cut spending or to rally support for fiscal sanity. But the problem with the belief that the young Montanans who like the idea of preserving Medicare and Social Security as they are today will form a Democratic firewall to preserve an Obama majority indefinitely is that the assumption upon which this idea rests is built on sand. Sooner or later most young members of the workforce are going to catch on to the fact that they are the losers in the liberal entitlement Ponzi scheme, not the winners.

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Since President Obama’s relatively narrow yet still clear re-election victory, both liberals and conservatives have engaged in a virtual non-stop orgy of analysis geared toward explaining the result. Some of this discussion has been useful as Republicans have been forced to come to grips with the fact that they have been pushing away Hispanics and relying on assumptions about the way social issues played with most voters that may no longer be true. But, as happens after almost every election, there is also an equal amount of nonsense being put forward about how 2012 marks a turning pointing in our political history that may lead to realignment. As recently as 2005, Republicans were playing this game and now it is the turn of liberals to jump to unsustainable conclusions.

The latest example of this sort of writing comes in today’s New York Times as Sheryl Gay Stolberg details her journey to Montana to claim President Obama’s success with young voters may lead to an irreversible shift in the country’s political alignment. Her thesis is that the Democrats’ advantage with this demographic isn’t merely limited to the way their acceptance of gay marriage and abortion have affected those under 30. Instead, she goes farther than that and claims that young voters are now as addicted to entitlement spending as some of their elders. This belief in the goodness of government largesse and the alleged corresponding decline in cynicism about big government will create a new political reality that will be baked into the system even as these voters get older.

There is no denying the appeal of free stuff from the government for citizens of any age or background. In 21st century America, everyone has their snout in the proverbial trough of federal spending and that impacts attempts to cut spending or to rally support for fiscal sanity. But the problem with the belief that the young Montanans who like the idea of preserving Medicare and Social Security as they are today will form a Democratic firewall to preserve an Obama majority indefinitely is that the assumption upon which this idea rests is built on sand. Sooner or later most young members of the workforce are going to catch on to the fact that they are the losers in the liberal entitlement Ponzi scheme, not the winners.

Stolberg has a point when she makes the case that social issues like gay marriage may be a losing battle for conservatives who underestimate the way popular culture has altered the views of many Americans in the last generation. However, the affection for government she discovers among some Montanans who would presumably be just the sort of Western individualists that would disdain Washington makes a less persuasive argument for future Democratic dominance.

It may be that many of those interviewed by Stolberg like the idea of free health care, more government subsidies for education and government “investment” in job creation that will provide some of them with paychecks for a while. But while many seniors may regard the national debt that has been piling up in order to pay for all these goodies is the next generation’s problem, these under-30 voters are going to live long enough to see the day of reckoning for the government’s spending problem. If they do get productive jobs in the private sector, they’re not going to like the way their tax rates are going to skyrocket in order to pay for the free stuff they like so much today. They are also going to realize that the administration’s pledge to keep entitlements in tact is not likely to survive President Obama’s time in office, if that long.

No one should assume that the ticking debt time bomb ensures Republican victories any more than the appeal of government benefits guarantees votes in perpetuity for the Democrats. The GOP has a lot of work to do to reinvigorate their brand but the notion that a pro-growth platform that tells the truth about entitlements to the people is a loser is a Democratic fairy tale. Democrats may buy some young voters with promises about entitlements that can’t be kept. But the idea that they will stay bought despite the looming debt crisis is not one that Obama’s successors should stake their careers on. 

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Schemers vs. Ineffective Message Crafters

Today’s New York Times Book Review features an interview with NPR’s Ira Glass, who was asked, “What’s the one book you wish someone else would write?” He gave the following answer:

“Could someone please write a book explaining why the Democratic Party and its allies are so much less effective at crafting a message and having a vision than their Republican counterparts? … I remember reading in The Times that as soon as Obama won, the Republicans were scheming about how they’d turn it around for the next election, and came up with the plan that won them the House, and wondered, did the House Dems even hold a similar meeting?”

You have to admire the scheme the Republicans crafted as soon as Obama won. Faced with a new president with a 65 percent approval rating and complete control of Congress, the Republicans held a meeting and came up with a brilliant plan:

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Today’s New York Times Book Review features an interview with NPR’s Ira Glass, who was asked, “What’s the one book you wish someone else would write?” He gave the following answer:

“Could someone please write a book explaining why the Democratic Party and its allies are so much less effective at crafting a message and having a vision than their Republican counterparts? … I remember reading in The Times that as soon as Obama won, the Republicans were scheming about how they’d turn it around for the next election, and came up with the plan that won them the House, and wondered, did the House Dems even hold a similar meeting?”

You have to admire the scheme the Republicans crafted as soon as Obama won. Faced with a new president with a 65 percent approval rating and complete control of Congress, the Republicans held a meeting and came up with a brilliant plan:

Have the President spend nearly a trillion dollars on shovel-ready jobs that didn’t exist; use the money to benefit public-employee unions while the private sector hemorrhaged; pivot to a federal healthcare plan opposed by a majority of the public; assign oversight of the recovery effort to Joe Biden (because nobody messes with Joe); run up trillions of new public debt; propose budgets no one would vote for; ignore the presidential commission’s recommendations for solving the problem; adopt an apologetic foreign policy, intentionally putting daylight between America and its allies; trade the interests of European allies for magic reset beans; become impatient with the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process” but exhibit endless patience with Iran; play a record number of rounds of golf but avoid press conferences; give himself an A- after his first year (conditioned on ramming his healthcare plan through Congress within a couple months).

And then the Republicans took advantage of the fact that, as Glass suggests, the Democrats did not even hold a similar meeting.

Although the Times has not reported it, the word is out that after the 2010 shellacking, the Republicans held another meeting, and came up with an even simpler scheme for 2012: have the President double down, explaining how in his first two years he got the policy right but didn’t tell a story to the American people; and then have him craft a one-word message to the people: Forward.

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Dems Release Oppo Books on Potential VPs

Pro-Obama super PAC American Bridge 21st Century has released opposition research books on five of Romney’s most likely VP choices, and the messaging is as predictable as you’d expect. Rob Portman’s file ties him to Bush’s economic policies, Tim Pawlenty’s rehashes his anti-Romney attacks during the primaries, Marco Rubio’s targets his autobiographical errors, Bobby Jindal’s hits him about tax cuts for the wealthy, and Paul Ryan’s is one long Mediscare attack. And that’s just the beginning; the booklets are hundreds of pages long and cover everything from the candidates’ statements about contentious social issues to their remarks on the Ryan plan, and (in Rubio’s and Pawlenty’s cases) an entire section on their “neoconservatism.”

Democrats obviously have attack plans lined up for each of them, so there’s no such thing as a completely “safe” pick. Not that it matters — as we’ve seen from the disgraceful Priorities USA ad, if the Obama campaign runs out of attacks, their backers have no problem just making things up.

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Pro-Obama super PAC American Bridge 21st Century has released opposition research books on five of Romney’s most likely VP choices, and the messaging is as predictable as you’d expect. Rob Portman’s file ties him to Bush’s economic policies, Tim Pawlenty’s rehashes his anti-Romney attacks during the primaries, Marco Rubio’s targets his autobiographical errors, Bobby Jindal’s hits him about tax cuts for the wealthy, and Paul Ryan’s is one long Mediscare attack. And that’s just the beginning; the booklets are hundreds of pages long and cover everything from the candidates’ statements about contentious social issues to their remarks on the Ryan plan, and (in Rubio’s and Pawlenty’s cases) an entire section on their “neoconservatism.”

Democrats obviously have attack plans lined up for each of them, so there’s no such thing as a completely “safe” pick. Not that it matters — as we’ve seen from the disgraceful Priorities USA ad, if the Obama campaign runs out of attacks, their backers have no problem just making things up.

But the booklets are a good reminder that the Ryan plan assault can and will happen whether or not Ryan is on the ticket — even if Romney chooses a running mate who hasn’t endorsed the plan, the media will hound him until he takes a position. As Rich Lowry wrote in a column for Politico:

The Democrats’ assault over Medicare will be ferocious — not to mention lowdown and dishonest. Hell, they’ve already all but accused Romney of killing someone, and they haven’t even gotten around to Medicare. When the barrage starts, Romney won’t be able to duck and cover or look at his shoes. He’ll have to win the argument — or at least hold his own.

This is the broader point. Romney has to carry the argument to President Barack Obama. The state of the economy alone isn’t enough to convince people that Romney has better ideas to create jobs. Neither is his résumé. Romney needs to make the case for his program, and perhaps no one is better suited to contribute to this effort than Ryan.

The fight is coming, whether or not Romney invites it forward.

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DCCC Apologizes to Adelson for “Untrue” Attacks

A few weeks ago, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee accused top Republican donor Sheldon Adelson of personally approving and profiting off of prostitution at his Macau casinos. It wasn’t the smartest move, since their charge was based on unsubstantiated allegations from a disgruntled employer who’s been suing Adelson for years. The casino mogul’s attorney immediately slapped the DCCC with the threat of a defamation suit, and now the group has backed off and apologized, according to The Hill:

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee issued an apology to casino mogul and prominent Republican donor Sheldon Adelson on Thursday, after the billionaire threatened to sue the organization over comments insinuating he profited from prostitution at his Chinese resorts.

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A few weeks ago, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee accused top Republican donor Sheldon Adelson of personally approving and profiting off of prostitution at his Macau casinos. It wasn’t the smartest move, since their charge was based on unsubstantiated allegations from a disgruntled employer who’s been suing Adelson for years. The casino mogul’s attorney immediately slapped the DCCC with the threat of a defamation suit, and now the group has backed off and apologized, according to The Hill:

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee issued an apology to casino mogul and prominent Republican donor Sheldon Adelson on Thursday, after the billionaire threatened to sue the organization over comments insinuating he profited from prostitution at his Chinese resorts.

“In press statements issued on June 29 and July 2, 2012, the DCCC made unsubstantiated allegations that attacked Sheldon Adelson, a supporter of the opposing party,” the DCCC said in an e-mail released Thursday. “This was wrong.  The statements were untrue and unfair and we retract them.  The DCCC extends its sincere apology to Mr. Adelson and his family for any injury we have caused.”

That could not have been an easy apology for the DCCC, but clearly it didn’t want to get tied up in a defamation suit and spend massive sums defending itself during an election year when it can least afford it.

This all could have been avoided if the DCCC was just a little bit more careful in its statements on Adelson. Now that the group had to retract its comments, it pretty much takes the Macau prostitution controversy off the table for Democrats for the rest of the election cycle. Anytime it’s brought up, all the GOP would need to do is point out that the DCCC was forced to apologize after repeating the allegations. Adelson just inoculated himself from one of the only damaging lines of attack Democrats had against him.

By the way, this isn’t the first apology Adelson has received from a Democratic attack group this season.  The NJDC also backed down from its claim last month that Adelson’s money was “dirty” because of the Macau casino allegations, after Jewish American leaders blasted the campaign as partisan and unfair.

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The Reinvention of an Anti-War Activist

You wouldn’t normally expect Washington Democrats to spend much time fretting over a congressional primary in Arizona. But the three-way Democratic race between Kyrsten Sinema, Andrei Cherny, and David Schapira is getting a surprising amount of attention from national Democrats, the pro-Israel community and the political media.

Ten years ago, Sinema was one of those radical left-wing activists who donned pink tutus at anti-war rallies and organized with anti-Israel groups. Today, the 36-year-old is running for Congress as an AIPAC-supporting moderate who would have voted in favor of the Afghanistan intervention.

The problem? Some Democrats say her evolution doesn’t add up. For one, Sinema’s been involved with anti-Israel and anti-war groups much more recently than her campaign has acknowledged. And while she recently released a strongly-worded pro-Israel position paper, her latest comments on foreign policy issues have been dodgy and confusing.

“Is she for or against killing bin Laden?” asked former AIPAC spokesman Josh Block. “Based on her record, you don’t know. You would think when you’re considering a member of Congress, you would know their positions on these issues.”

One Democratic Arizona state representative who has worked with Sinema said her views are impossible to decipher.

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You wouldn’t normally expect Washington Democrats to spend much time fretting over a congressional primary in Arizona. But the three-way Democratic race between Kyrsten Sinema, Andrei Cherny, and David Schapira is getting a surprising amount of attention from national Democrats, the pro-Israel community and the political media.

Ten years ago, Sinema was one of those radical left-wing activists who donned pink tutus at anti-war rallies and organized with anti-Israel groups. Today, the 36-year-old is running for Congress as an AIPAC-supporting moderate who would have voted in favor of the Afghanistan intervention.

The problem? Some Democrats say her evolution doesn’t add up. For one, Sinema’s been involved with anti-Israel and anti-war groups much more recently than her campaign has acknowledged. And while she recently released a strongly-worded pro-Israel position paper, her latest comments on foreign policy issues have been dodgy and confusing.

“Is she for or against killing bin Laden?” asked former AIPAC spokesman Josh Block. “Based on her record, you don’t know. You would think when you’re considering a member of Congress, you would know their positions on these issues.”

One Democratic Arizona state representative who has worked with Sinema said her views are impossible to decipher.

“When she wanted to be an activist, she was anti-war, all these kinds of things that now she says she never was,” he said. “I don’t think she actually has a foreign policy core, I think she has a political core.”

According to the Washington Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo, Sinema didn’t just dabble in radical circles; she helped organize and lead extreme anti-war groups that took anti-Israel positions on issues like the right of return and Israel’s self defense. Townhall’s Guy Benson reported that she was involved in anarchist riots that encouraged property destruction.

Sinema’s campaign disputed the claim that she was involved with anti-Israel activism, calling it a smear tactic by opponents.

“These weren’t anti-Israel groups. These were ‘Let’s not go to war with Iraq and Afghanistan groups,’” Sinema’s spokesman Rodd McLeod told me. He acknowledged that there may have been anti-Israel elements at some of the rallies she attended, but that this never represented her own view. “Frankly it’s sexist. She has to agree with the people she marches with, when she’s a 25-year-old grad student?”

That phrasing is slightly misleading, since Sinema’s involvement with radical and anti-Israel causes continued well beyond her mid-20s. Two years ago, Sinema was a featured speaker at an anti-war rally sponsored by Code Pink, the End the War Coalition, and Women in Black. She also sat on the board of the Progressive Democrats of America in 2006 and 2007, when she was entering her second term as an Arizona state representative. During that time, PDA issued a statement condemning the pro-Israel lobby and equating it with Palestinian terrorism.

“PDA opposes the powerful and dangerous lobbies that distort US foreign policy in the Middle East, much as we condemn those Palestinians guilty of waging and supporting terrorist war against Israeli civilians,” read the statement.

The organization also blamed Israeli policy for Palestinian terror attacks.

“[W]hile we condemn such terrorism, it remains our belief that the root cause of violence in Israel and Palestine is the Israeli occupation and intransigence, despite Israel’s trumpeted withdrawal from Gaza.”

When I raised this with McLeod, he said he wasn’t aware Sinema was ever a PDA board member and that the statement didn’t reflect her views. “She does not believe Israeli intransigence is the root cause of the conflict,” he said. “To conflate terrorism…with political activity is just absurd. She would never support that.”

Some of Sinema’s positions on national security are also unclear. In a May questionnaire requesting an endorsement from the PDA, Sinema wrote that she “led efforts opposing these wars [in Iraq and Afghanistan] before they even started.”

That same month, she told The Hill newspaper that she would have voted to authorize the 2001 Afghanistan intervention if she had been in Congress at the time — and added that she also supports military intervention in Sudan and Somalia.

The campaign doesn’t believe this is a contradiction. “She makes a distinction between an invasion and occupation, and the use of military force,” McLeod explained.

Sinema also seems unfamiliar with some of the content in her staunchly pro-Israel position paper. The Jewish Journal’s Shmuel Rosner obtained private email conversations in which Sinema contradicted portions of the paper and seemed perplexed by what a “demilitarized” Palestinian state meant.

When I asked McLeod how much involvement Sinema had with the paper, he said she had done much of the work herself. “I did one edit on it, but she worked with members of the community on it.”

But in one of the emails cited by the Jewish Journal, Sinema claimed that her staff had written the paper, not her.

“You are right, staff writes position papers,” she wrote. “I will ask staff to edit and get an updated and accurate position uploaded to the website this week.”

Sinema refused to answer questions about her history when I called her on the phone. Instead, she said I would have to request an interview through her office.

“I assume you got this [cell phone] number from my opponents, and I’m sure they’re trying to spread some horrible stories about me,” she said,

When I got in touch with her spokesperson, McLeod, he said Sinema was busy and wouldn’t have time to talk to me directly.

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Dems to Turn Obama Campaign Talking Points into Legislation

Democrats in Congress frustrated by President Obama’s repeated refusal to release all of his papers from his days in the Illinois state senate and his college transcripts are introducing legislation that would force the president to release his political records and Columbia transcripts–just in case he misrepresented his back story to enable his transfer there.

Just kidding! Democrats are introducing legislation to force Mitt Romney to release his tax returns. Running out of retired baseball players to prosecute and looking for some other creative ways to cynically use their taxpayer-funded salaries to waste everyone’s time and money on a political stunt designed to treat the Congress as if it were a liberal super-PAC, Democrats have seized on the issue of Romney’s tax returns as a nifty way to legislate campaign ads from the Senate floor. Senators Carl Levin and Dick Durbin can’t even pretend that this is not what they’re doing, even though the legislation would obviously force all candidates to comply:

Sen. Carl Levin told reporters that the Senate proposal would shed new light on the use of shell corporations based overseas to help U.S. companies and individuals avoid U.S. taxes. But Durbin confirmed the timing of the proposal is designed to highlight Democratic complaints with Romney’s investments.

“Clearly, I think the American people are entitled to more,” Durbin said, of the two years of tax returns Romney has so far said he will release. “I also think he has an obligation to explain why he and his family decided that offshore tax havens are the right place to park their money and their wealth. Those are legitimate questions.”

The two suggested they would move the item as an amendment to some other larger bill in coming weeks, which could force a Senate floor debate.

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Democrats in Congress frustrated by President Obama’s repeated refusal to release all of his papers from his days in the Illinois state senate and his college transcripts are introducing legislation that would force the president to release his political records and Columbia transcripts–just in case he misrepresented his back story to enable his transfer there.

Just kidding! Democrats are introducing legislation to force Mitt Romney to release his tax returns. Running out of retired baseball players to prosecute and looking for some other creative ways to cynically use their taxpayer-funded salaries to waste everyone’s time and money on a political stunt designed to treat the Congress as if it were a liberal super-PAC, Democrats have seized on the issue of Romney’s tax returns as a nifty way to legislate campaign ads from the Senate floor. Senators Carl Levin and Dick Durbin can’t even pretend that this is not what they’re doing, even though the legislation would obviously force all candidates to comply:

Sen. Carl Levin told reporters that the Senate proposal would shed new light on the use of shell corporations based overseas to help U.S. companies and individuals avoid U.S. taxes. But Durbin confirmed the timing of the proposal is designed to highlight Democratic complaints with Romney’s investments.

“Clearly, I think the American people are entitled to more,” Durbin said, of the two years of tax returns Romney has so far said he will release. “I also think he has an obligation to explain why he and his family decided that offshore tax havens are the right place to park their money and their wealth. Those are legitimate questions.”

The two suggested they would move the item as an amendment to some other larger bill in coming weeks, which could force a Senate floor debate.

I, for one, agree that the American people are entitled to more. I’d start with a budget–something Senate Democrats steadfastly refuse to do. GOP House Speaker John Boehner also thinks the American people deserve more: “The American people are asking, where are the jobs? They’re not asking where in the hell the tax returns are,” he told the Washington Post.

Well that may be, but what could Durbin and Levin possibly care what Americans are asking for? It’s silly season, after all–a time that seems strangely permanent in Harry Reid’s Senate. Besides, it’s just congressional legislation designed with a specific individual political opponent of Durbin and Levin’s in mind. It’s not like there’s any way such a standard could be abused. What could possibly go wrong?

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Voter Enthusiasm Among GOP Rises

Four years ago, could we have guessed that President Obama would soon be considered less exciting than candidate Mitt Romney? The enthusiasm gap between Republicans and Democrats has grown to more than 20 points since March, according to today’s CBS News/NYT poll (h/t HotAir):

Meantime, three and a half months before election day, Republican enthusiasm about voting this year has shot up since Mitt Romney clinched the nomination in April, from 36 percent of Republicans saying they were more enthusiastic in March to 49 percent now.

President Obama was helped to election in 2008 by a wave of voter enthusiasm among Democrats, however this year, Democratic enthusiasm is down a bit since March. Twenty-seven percent of Democrats said they were more enthusiastic about voting this year than they were in past elections, compared to 30 percent four months ago. And 48 percent of Democrats say their enthusiasm this year is the same as past elections, compared to 39 percent who answered the same question in March.

Independent voters’ enthusiasm is also up with 29 percent saying they’re more enthusiastic now from 22 percent four months ago.

Overall, voters aren’t as enthusiastic about this year’s election as they were in 2008. Just 33 percent of all registered voters said they were more enthusiastic this year than they were for past elections, compared to 41 percent in March 2008.

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Four years ago, could we have guessed that President Obama would soon be considered less exciting than candidate Mitt Romney? The enthusiasm gap between Republicans and Democrats has grown to more than 20 points since March, according to today’s CBS News/NYT poll (h/t HotAir):

Meantime, three and a half months before election day, Republican enthusiasm about voting this year has shot up since Mitt Romney clinched the nomination in April, from 36 percent of Republicans saying they were more enthusiastic in March to 49 percent now.

President Obama was helped to election in 2008 by a wave of voter enthusiasm among Democrats, however this year, Democratic enthusiasm is down a bit since March. Twenty-seven percent of Democrats said they were more enthusiastic about voting this year than they were in past elections, compared to 30 percent four months ago. And 48 percent of Democrats say their enthusiasm this year is the same as past elections, compared to 39 percent who answered the same question in March.

Independent voters’ enthusiasm is also up with 29 percent saying they’re more enthusiastic now from 22 percent four months ago.

Overall, voters aren’t as enthusiastic about this year’s election as they were in 2008. Just 33 percent of all registered voters said they were more enthusiastic this year than they were for past elections, compared to 41 percent in March 2008.

The GOP-Democratic gap is actually less troubling for Obama than the rising enthusiasm among independent voters. What’s causing the trend? The next line in the CBS story might give you an idea:

As for the direction of the country, voters are growing increasingly more pessimistic, however.

Sixty-four percent of those polled think the country is on the wrong track, up from 62 percent in May.

At HotAir, Ed Morrissey raises another good, related point:

The big takeaway, though, is that 49 percent of Republicans and 29 percent of independents express increased enthusiasm for this election, while only 27 percent of Democrats say the same thing. If Obama’s attacks are depressing enthusiasm, it’s pretty clear whose enthusiasm he’s depressing. That was always the risk for a candidate whose main qualification for office was hope and change, and whose signature outcome has been economic stagnation.

This is particularly problematic for Obama because his reelection relies on him either getting his base out to the polls in greater numbers than in 2008 or winning over new supporters to make up for the ones he’s lost. It doesn’t look like he’s made headway in either area, according to this poll. Not only does this point to a troubling trend down the road, it also requires Obama to refigure his current talking points. As Politico’s Donovan Slack reports, the Obama campaign has tended to play up positive enthusiasm numbers to argue it’s in good shape for November.

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Health Care Vote Not Just for Show?

Some conservatives have complained that the House vote to repeal ObamaCare tomorrow is just for show and has no chance of passing the Senate or — even if it miraculously did — surviving a presidential veto. True, but so what? Many voters are just starting to tune in to the general election, and it’s worth getting the latest positions of House lawmakers on the record. For Democrats running in conservative districts, this could be the last shot to oppose the unpopular health care law before the election. For Republicans, it’s a chance to show they’re on the side of the majority of Americans who oppose ObamaCare.

And for the White House, it’s a potential political embarrassment, depending on how many Democrats switch over to the anti-ObamaCare side. The Hill reports:

Only three Democrats voted for repeal after the GOP took control of the House last year, but Republicans are confident they can add to this number on Wednesday in spite of the Supreme Court’s ruling that the law is constitutional.

Already, one politically vulnerable Democrat, Rep. Larry Kissell (N.C.), has said he will vote to repeal the health care law after opposing the same measure a year ago.

The GOP’s hope is that a strong House vote — and fresh Democratic opposition — will thwart the White House’s effort to boost political support for the law in light of the Court ruling, said one House Republican leadership aide. Conservatives complaining about symbolic votes are being unrealistic.

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Some conservatives have complained that the House vote to repeal ObamaCare tomorrow is just for show and has no chance of passing the Senate or — even if it miraculously did — surviving a presidential veto. True, but so what? Many voters are just starting to tune in to the general election, and it’s worth getting the latest positions of House lawmakers on the record. For Democrats running in conservative districts, this could be the last shot to oppose the unpopular health care law before the election. For Republicans, it’s a chance to show they’re on the side of the majority of Americans who oppose ObamaCare.

And for the White House, it’s a potential political embarrassment, depending on how many Democrats switch over to the anti-ObamaCare side. The Hill reports:

Only three Democrats voted for repeal after the GOP took control of the House last year, but Republicans are confident they can add to this number on Wednesday in spite of the Supreme Court’s ruling that the law is constitutional.

Already, one politically vulnerable Democrat, Rep. Larry Kissell (N.C.), has said he will vote to repeal the health care law after opposing the same measure a year ago.

The GOP’s hope is that a strong House vote — and fresh Democratic opposition — will thwart the White House’s effort to boost political support for the law in light of the Court ruling, said one House Republican leadership aide. Conservatives complaining about symbolic votes are being unrealistic.

ObamaCare isn’t going away unless President Obama is voted out of office, which means all the GOP can do at the moment is apply political pressure to Democrats and sympathize with voter anger about the law. Because House Democratic leaders are trying to change the subject away from health care, that means it’s probably working:

Democrats, meanwhile, are seeking to portray the GOP as myopically focused on health care at the expense of the economy and other problems. The office of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) released a video mocking the vote by using the mantra employed by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio): “Where are the jobs?”

To refresh Pelosi’s memory, it wasn’t the Republicans who jammed through Obama’s health care law instead of focusing on job creation. Now that ObamaCare’s been spared by the Supreme Court, Democrats would prefer to ignore the unpopular law until after November. House votes like the one tomorrow won’t let them.

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Why Upholding ObamaCare Will Badly Damage Obama’s Reelection Chances

Having already written about the majority opinion by Chief Justice Roberts, what about the politics of the decision?

I have argued before that while overturning the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would be a debilitating blow to the president, upholding it would create problems of its own. And that’s certainly the case.

For one thing, as others at “Contentions” have pointed out, the president is now saddled with a huge middle class tax increase. Anchoring the Affordable Care Act in the Tax Clause is the only way it passed constitutional muster—and Republicans will do everything in their power to tether Obama to his tax increase. It doesn’t help the president that the argument that saved ObamaCare contradicted what Obama himself repeatedly said, which is (a) the individual mandate is “absolutely not a tax increase” and (b) he would never in a thousand years raise taxes on the middle class.

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Having already written about the majority opinion by Chief Justice Roberts, what about the politics of the decision?

I have argued before that while overturning the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would be a debilitating blow to the president, upholding it would create problems of its own. And that’s certainly the case.

For one thing, as others at “Contentions” have pointed out, the president is now saddled with a huge middle class tax increase. Anchoring the Affordable Care Act in the Tax Clause is the only way it passed constitutional muster—and Republicans will do everything in their power to tether Obama to his tax increase. It doesn’t help the president that the argument that saved ObamaCare contradicted what Obama himself repeatedly said, which is (a) the individual mandate is “absolutely not a tax increase” and (b) he would never in a thousand years raise taxes on the middle class.

It was, and he has.

In addition, the decision by the Court to uphold the Affordable Care Act has once again thrust to center stage a historically unpopular law (one that is particularly unpopular in swing states).

The Supreme Court, then, has succeeded in once again inflaming the passions of the GOP base while reminding independents why they despise the ACA. The 2012 election may now take on a 2010 feel. And for those who might have forgotten, Democrats—thanks in large part to Obama’s health care law—sustained an epic defeat in that mid-term election.

As it was, so may it be.

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When Legacy and Legitimacy Collide

In the opening chapter of his new book Twilight of the Elites, the Nation’s Chris Hayes makes an astute point about the challenge then-Senator Barack Obama set up for himself when running for president. In some ways, it is a recurring theme in presidential politics, but it was clearly more pronounced in Obama’s case. As a candidate, Obama had to defeat the epitome of his party’s establishment: the Clintons, their brand of politics, and their allies–and then run against George W. Bush’s party. To do so, Obama had to tear down the public’s already shaky faith in their elites and their elite institutions. But as a liberal who believes in a muscular federal government, Obama also needed to immediately restore the reputations of those institutions, or he couldn’t govern.

Hayes thinks that’s pretty much what the president tried to do, and ended up being an establishment elite himself. I partially disagree, and what we saw at the Supreme Court yesterday, and in the months and days leading up to it, shows why. The headlines in the mainstream media after ObamaCare survived its own death panel by the mercy of Chief Justice John Roberts were telling. Viewers learned, almost uniformly, that Roberts had saved the Court and its reputation. But that reputation was under constant assault from Obama himself–this time as president–and his allies. As if he were an insurgent candidate again, Obama put in unprecedented effort to tarnish the reputation and legitimacy of the Court, as it turned out decisions he didn’t like and even contemplated overturning his signature piece of legislation. But then a funny thing happened.

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In the opening chapter of his new book Twilight of the Elites, the Nation’s Chris Hayes makes an astute point about the challenge then-Senator Barack Obama set up for himself when running for president. In some ways, it is a recurring theme in presidential politics, but it was clearly more pronounced in Obama’s case. As a candidate, Obama had to defeat the epitome of his party’s establishment: the Clintons, their brand of politics, and their allies–and then run against George W. Bush’s party. To do so, Obama had to tear down the public’s already shaky faith in their elites and their elite institutions. But as a liberal who believes in a muscular federal government, Obama also needed to immediately restore the reputations of those institutions, or he couldn’t govern.

Hayes thinks that’s pretty much what the president tried to do, and ended up being an establishment elite himself. I partially disagree, and what we saw at the Supreme Court yesterday, and in the months and days leading up to it, shows why. The headlines in the mainstream media after ObamaCare survived its own death panel by the mercy of Chief Justice John Roberts were telling. Viewers learned, almost uniformly, that Roberts had saved the Court and its reputation. But that reputation was under constant assault from Obama himself–this time as president–and his allies. As if he were an insurgent candidate again, Obama put in unprecedented effort to tarnish the reputation and legitimacy of the Court, as it turned out decisions he didn’t like and even contemplated overturning his signature piece of legislation. But then a funny thing happened.

Not only did the Court uphold ObamaCare, but Roberts twisted constitutional logic in knots to save the bill. Suddenly, Obama needs the public’s faith in the institution he kicked dirt at for three years to be restored, or the legitimacy of its ObamaCare decision will be called into question. Liberal pundits said the Roberts ruling would improve the Court’s image. It’s possible, but because this legislation was so broadly unpopular, it’s not clear at all that they will applaud this decision. Unlike Roberts, the Congress that passed ObamaCare, highly paid liberal purveyors of Beltway conventional wisdom, and, yes, Obama too, the people are outside the elite institutions looking in.

And what they saw was a display of quintessentially elite behavior. Obama has always been clear: he is a fan of single-payer health insurance, and has always opposed the individual mandate, which he has now embraced, and which he insisted wasn’t a tax. The bill that finally passed in his name was a mess, but the president had to have something–his legacy depended on it. What the process produced was not good legislation, but by that point it no longer mattered; Democratic Party leaders began admitting that nobody had any idea what was actually in the final bill.

Yesterday, at the Supreme Court, John Roberts made a decision based on his legacy as chief justice. He doesn’t seem to completely believe what he wrote in his majority opinion, and neither does anyone else on the Court. Just like the legislation itself, the Court ruling that saved ObamaCare was the result of an elite member of an elite institution thinking about the history books.

The Supreme Court can take some solace in the fact that it wasn’t the only institution whose legitimacy was under constant assault from the Obama administration. Once the Democrats had their overwhelming majority in Congress taken away by the people, it too found itself in the dock. This was ironic, because the Senate was and is still controlled by the Democrats; in order to delegitimize the institution, the Democrats have to perform an ongoing and ugly act of self-sabotage–for example, by blocking broadly popular bills and refusing to pass a budget. And as Bethany reported this morning, the institution of the presidency–currently consumed by a habit of using vulgar language–isn’t faring all that well either.

But the media’s complicity in all this cannot be blamed on the president. Surely, Obama has set a tone, and that tone has been followed. But he isn’t responsible for the more hysterical smears of his supporters. It’s not Obama’s fault, for example, that a writer at a respected liberal journalistic institution accused the country’s most accomplished jurists of attempting a coup–Obama isn’t an editor there, nor is he the fallen education system that produced such thinking.

But he may find that he’s uncorked something he can’t get back in the bottle once he goes looking for institutional legitimacy and only finds rubble. And in such a case, he may find that this, too, will be his legacy.

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Lesson of ObamaCare: Get it Passed

That this morning’s ObamaCare decision is disastrous should go without saying. The government’s claim that the mandate is a tax should have been rejected as the Alice in Wonderland reasoning that it is–here’s Obama saying it’s not a tax and here he is saying he’s never raised any taxes–and the law should have been struck down.

Conservatives who are finding solace in potential political implications–that the decision will unite the Tea Party behind Mitt Romney, that Obama will get tagged for increasing taxes, etc.–are setting themselves up for disappointment. As of March, only half of Americans even knew that ObamaCare was still on the books. As of today, they’re going to be bombarded with the message that Obama won, that the Supreme Court  signed on to ObamaCare, and that anyway, the issue is closed and we need to be talking about jobs. It’s not clear that Romney should or will move off his all-economy-all-the-time messaging. This morning, he’s at least partly framing the decision in terms of jobs. With the exception of short-term fundraising, it’s uncertain how today’s decision will ultimately impact the election.

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That this morning’s ObamaCare decision is disastrous should go without saying. The government’s claim that the mandate is a tax should have been rejected as the Alice in Wonderland reasoning that it is–here’s Obama saying it’s not a tax and here he is saying he’s never raised any taxes–and the law should have been struck down.

Conservatives who are finding solace in potential political implications–that the decision will unite the Tea Party behind Mitt Romney, that Obama will get tagged for increasing taxes, etc.–are setting themselves up for disappointment. As of March, only half of Americans even knew that ObamaCare was still on the books. As of today, they’re going to be bombarded with the message that Obama won, that the Supreme Court  signed on to ObamaCare, and that anyway, the issue is closed and we need to be talking about jobs. It’s not clear that Romney should or will move off his all-economy-all-the-time messaging. This morning, he’s at least partly framing the decision in terms of jobs. With the exception of short-term fundraising, it’s uncertain how today’s decision will ultimately impact the election.

Even if Romney did start pointing out that the president flip-flopped on ObamaCare being a tax, and even if that message penetrated the electorate, conservatives would still have traded removing a dagger aimed at the heart of the country’s fundamental notions of citizenship and its financial solvency for the off-chance that “Democrats pulled off a bait-and-switch” will swing five percent of Virginia voters. Not a great deal.

The lesson of ObamaCare remains the same as it’s been since the Democrats used exotic parliamentary maneuvers to pass it: success for a political movement lies in passing what you can, however you can, whenever you can, and on whatever basis is at hand. The presumption granted to facts on the ground–argumentatively and politically–is worth whatever short-term hits parties and movements take to their credibility. Once a law is passed, its proponents get to paint any change as upsetting rather than restoring the status quo. That’s how House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi could declare that ObamaCare had moved from a privilege to a right, with the New York Times insisting we have to let existing laws work. Meanwhile, liberals gained a strange new respect for judicial modesty, which was to be enforced by intimidation from the president and his water-carriers.

That presumption played out in the Court’s decision which, once you get past the literally surreal declaration that ObamaCare is a tax, isn’t terrible. Congress does have nearly unlimited taxation power, more or less by design. Judicial checks were erected, meanwhile, to limit expansive congressional mischief conducted under the umbrella of its enumerated powers.

Before this morning, that distinction was implicitly recognized, albeit badly mangled, by liberals such as Ezra Klein and Paul Krugman. They simply could not get past the argument that, because Congress can undeniably tax the country into a single-payer system, a less ambitious non-tax intervention should surely pass constitutional muster. That reasoning, which was delivered with typically inexplicable cocooned smugness and happens to be exactly backwards, simply misunderstands the kinds of checks built into the Constitution. The analogy here is to Congress’s power to raise an army. Citizens can be ordered to become soldiers but not ordered to become construction workers, even though building a wall is much less severe than being sent to war. The Framers placed fewer institutional checks on broad enumerated powers such as taxation and conscription because in a democracy over-taxation and needless war-making are electorally toxic. The check on Members of Congress in those contexts is that they’ll get voted out of office. The Framers erected institutional judicial checks on violations of liberty that were less publicly inflammatory, and which therefore required something beyond electoral oversight. Luckily, the Kleins and Krugmans of the world will no longer have to trouble themselves with those distinctions, now that they’ve been told ObamaCare is indeed a tax and not something structurally less than a tax.

Voters were supposed to prevent Congress from taxing them into a health care mandate. The Court was supposed to check Congress from abusing its Commerce Clause authority to create a health care mandate. Democrats dodged voter oversight on taxation in 2010 by insisting ObamaCare wasn’t a tax, and then they survived judicial rejection of their Commerce Clause reasoning in 2012 by insisting it is a tax. It’s a neat trick, and one they shouldn’t have been allowed to get away with. But again, presumption is powerful, and it lets you throw everything against the wall to see what sticks. Conservatives would do well to heed that lesson.

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NRA to Score Holder Contempt Vote

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has leverage with House Democrats running for reelection in conservative districts, and its decision to score the Eric Holder contempt vote (in favor of it) will complicate Minority Whip Steny Hoyer’s attempts to keep Democrats united in opposition (h/t HotAir):

“I think there are some members that will consider the recommendations of the NRA,” Hoyer said to reporters today. “Whether they think those recommendations are founded or not, I don’t know at this point.”

The number of Democratic defections could reach 31, according to House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), whose committee voted last Wednesday to move the contempt citation to a full House vote.

Issa cites a letter sent from 31 Democrats to the Obama administration last year asking for them to be forthcoming with details of the Fast and Furious gun-walking operation as a template for possible Democratic “yes” votes.

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The National Rifle Association (NRA) has leverage with House Democrats running for reelection in conservative districts, and its decision to score the Eric Holder contempt vote (in favor of it) will complicate Minority Whip Steny Hoyer’s attempts to keep Democrats united in opposition (h/t HotAir):

“I think there are some members that will consider the recommendations of the NRA,” Hoyer said to reporters today. “Whether they think those recommendations are founded or not, I don’t know at this point.”

The number of Democratic defections could reach 31, according to House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), whose committee voted last Wednesday to move the contempt citation to a full House vote.

Issa cites a letter sent from 31 Democrats to the Obama administration last year asking for them to be forthcoming with details of the Fast and Furious gun-walking operation as a template for possible Democratic “yes” votes.

So far, Rep. Matheson is the first Democratic defector. Getting 31 Democrats to cross the aisle still seems like a long-shot for Issa, but the NRA scoring will certainly help. The lobbying group does appear to have had some interest or involvement in the Fast and Furious letter Issa mentions that had 31 Democratic signatories last year, since it was posted on the NRA website under “media.” If the Democrats lose 31 members on this vote, their argument that the GOP is using it as a ploy to tie Holder’s hands on voting rights becomes even more absurd.

The NRA, meanwhile, outlined its justification for scoring the vote in a recent letter to House GOP leadership, making the case that this is about gun rights, not partisanship (h/t Moe Lane):

It is no secret that the NRA does not admire Attorney General Holder. For years, we have pointed out his history of anti-Second Amendment advocacy and enforcement actions. Since taking office, Attorney General Holder has seized on the violence in Mexico to promote the lie that “90 percent” of firearms used in Mexican crime come from the U.S.; to call for bringing back the 1994 Clinton gun ban; and to justify the illegal multiple sales reporting scheme, which amounts to gun registration for honest Americans who buy long guns in southwest border states.

But our support of this contempt resolution is not about those issues — nor is it a partisan decision, for we have also expressed our strong policy disagreements with Attorney General Holder’s predecessors of both parties. The reason we support the contempt resolution is the same reason we first called for Attorney General Holder’s resignation more than a year ago: the Department’s obstruction of congressional oversight of a program that cost lives in support of an anti-gun agenda.

Hoyer will try his best to keep his party in line, but the election is a little more than four months away, and some Democrats won’t be able to afford being on the wrong side of the NRA.

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Democrats Afraid to Be Seen with Obama?

Competing for a speaking slot at the Democratic and Republican parties’ presidential nominating conventions is a time-honored tradition every four years. The reason is simple: presidential nominees are generally popular within the party and may be the next leader of the free world, and the conventions provide an opportunity to be seen and heard by millions of Americans. (Nielsen keeps historical convention ratings for Democrats here, and Republicans here.)

So it is surely a sign of something close to panic that Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee head Steve Israel is publicly advising Democrats to stay home from President Obama’s nominating convention this year:

The man responsible for getting Democrats elected to the Congress this fall has a message for his party’s candidates: Stay away from the Democratic National Convention in September.

“If they want to win an election, they need to be in their districts,” New York Congressman Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told the Reuters Washington Summit on Tuesday.

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Competing for a speaking slot at the Democratic and Republican parties’ presidential nominating conventions is a time-honored tradition every four years. The reason is simple: presidential nominees are generally popular within the party and may be the next leader of the free world, and the conventions provide an opportunity to be seen and heard by millions of Americans. (Nielsen keeps historical convention ratings for Democrats here, and Republicans here.)

So it is surely a sign of something close to panic that Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee head Steve Israel is publicly advising Democrats to stay home from President Obama’s nominating convention this year:

The man responsible for getting Democrats elected to the Congress this fall has a message for his party’s candidates: Stay away from the Democratic National Convention in September.

“If they want to win an election, they need to be in their districts,” New York Congressman Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told the Reuters Washington Summit on Tuesday.

Who would have guessed the clear favorite for “least convincing political spin of the year” would go to someone other than Jay Carney or Debbie Wasserman Schultz? Not a single person will buy this spin, for two reasons: First, even if the Democrats expected another wave election in favor of the GOP, the very candidates most susceptible to that wave–less experienced members of the House–would benefit most by appearing at the convention, as it would raise their profile. And second, the announcement from Israel came after Democratic politicians began heading for the lifeboats.

The most notable of these Democrats was Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, whose declaration that she would be caught nowhere near the president’s convention seems to have spooked her party into making a monumental unforced error. If Democrats think they’re headed for another shellacking at the polls, perhaps they know something the rest of the country doesn’t. Because there haven’t been any serious indicators of such a wave–at least nothing like 2010.

Volunteering that information won’t help them, because it won’t increase turnout and it will draw attention to the left’s sense of impending doom–something that occasionally develops into a self-fulfilling prophecy. It also forces media outlets to report a story that has thus far flown below the radar. If this were happening to a Republican administration, mainstream newspapers would be running story after story about how the president is so unpopular, even within his own party, that no one will be seen with him, his governance too radical even for the radicals.

But those stories had yet to appear this time, with the media’s election-year sensitivity to Obama’s image helpfully guiding them. Israel took a story the president’s allies were keeping under wraps and put it in neon lights. Don’t believe the polls showing Obama and Romney just about even, the DCCC itself seems to be saying, the president is politically toxic and everyone knows it.

Well, now everyone knows it.

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Dems Play Race Card on Holder Vote

I wrote about Rep. Nancy Pelosi putting out the feelers on this ludicrous argument last week, and now it sounds like Democrats are actually going ahead with it. True, the idea that the Eric Holder contempt vote is connected to his efforts to fight “minority voter suppression” is deranged, not just because it makes no sense from a timeline perspective but also because it would require you to willfully ignore his repeated attempts to hinder the congressional investigation of “Fast and Furious.” Unless you want to try to argue that Republicans somehow forced him to be uncooperative with an investigating committee.

This Democratic pushback campaign is being led by none other than MSNBC “News Anchor” Rev. Al Sharpton, reports The Hill:

At the front of the push is a group of seven national civil rights leaders, including the Rev. Al Sharpton…scheduled to hold a press conference Tuesday about the effect that placing Holder in contempt of Congress would have on his ability to protect the rights of black and Hispanic voters, homeowners and immigrants.

“I’m not saying that this is because Holder is black, and I’m not calling [Republicans] racists. I’m saying what they’re doing has a racial effect, and that’s what we’re going to talk about [on Tuesday],” said Sharpton in a phone interview.

“The question one would have to raise is: If he is held in contempt, under that cloud, how does he fight for voter rights? This compromises the Justice Department from being able to do a lot of fighting.”

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I wrote about Rep. Nancy Pelosi putting out the feelers on this ludicrous argument last week, and now it sounds like Democrats are actually going ahead with it. True, the idea that the Eric Holder contempt vote is connected to his efforts to fight “minority voter suppression” is deranged, not just because it makes no sense from a timeline perspective but also because it would require you to willfully ignore his repeated attempts to hinder the congressional investigation of “Fast and Furious.” Unless you want to try to argue that Republicans somehow forced him to be uncooperative with an investigating committee.

This Democratic pushback campaign is being led by none other than MSNBC “News Anchor” Rev. Al Sharpton, reports The Hill:

At the front of the push is a group of seven national civil rights leaders, including the Rev. Al Sharpton…scheduled to hold a press conference Tuesday about the effect that placing Holder in contempt of Congress would have on his ability to protect the rights of black and Hispanic voters, homeowners and immigrants.

“I’m not saying that this is because Holder is black, and I’m not calling [Republicans] racists. I’m saying what they’re doing has a racial effect, and that’s what we’re going to talk about [on Tuesday],” said Sharpton in a phone interview.

“The question one would have to raise is: If he is held in contempt, under that cloud, how does he fight for voter rights? This compromises the Justice Department from being able to do a lot of fighting.”

Do news anchors often hold press conferences to attack members of a political party? Congratulations MSNBC, your news channel is officially a laughing stock.

As for the argument about voter suppression, I highly doubt this will be effective. Democrats can’t defend Holder on the merits so they’re trying to change the subject — and people will see through that quickly.

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DNC Bus Tour to Shadow Romney

As Jonathan noted, the latest poll out of Michigan is more evidence that the state is seriously in play for Mitt Romney. Take into account that Obama won Michigan by 16 points in 2008, and was up by 14 points in a Public Policy Polling survey taken just last month. Whether the tightening of the Michigan race is due to fallout from the Wisconsin recall or the latest jobs report, something has clearly shifted the momentum to Romney in the past few weeks.

The Romney campaign sees an opening, and it’s tapped Michigan as the final stop on its swing-state bus tour next week. If you’re wondering how nervous Democrats are about losing the rust belt, take a look at this desperate gambit:

Democrats are launching a bus tour this morning to mirror Mitt Romney’s weekend bus tour of several swing states. The Democratic National Commmittee’s bus will stop in the same states Romney is visiting, carrying Democratic surrogates and Massachusetts officials to highlight the weaknesses in Romney’s record as Bay State governor and to criticize his economic platform. For instance, the bus is scheduled to stop in Scranton, Pa., this afternoon with former Rep. Patrick Murphy, a Massachusetts teacher and a member of the Pennsylvania teacher’s union aboard. …

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As Jonathan noted, the latest poll out of Michigan is more evidence that the state is seriously in play for Mitt Romney. Take into account that Obama won Michigan by 16 points in 2008, and was up by 14 points in a Public Policy Polling survey taken just last month. Whether the tightening of the Michigan race is due to fallout from the Wisconsin recall or the latest jobs report, something has clearly shifted the momentum to Romney in the past few weeks.

The Romney campaign sees an opening, and it’s tapped Michigan as the final stop on its swing-state bus tour next week. If you’re wondering how nervous Democrats are about losing the rust belt, take a look at this desperate gambit:

Democrats are launching a bus tour this morning to mirror Mitt Romney’s weekend bus tour of several swing states. The Democratic National Commmittee’s bus will stop in the same states Romney is visiting, carrying Democratic surrogates and Massachusetts officials to highlight the weaknesses in Romney’s record as Bay State governor and to criticize his economic platform. For instance, the bus is scheduled to stop in Scranton, Pa., this afternoon with former Rep. Patrick Murphy, a Massachusetts teacher and a member of the Pennsylvania teacher’s union aboard. …

Democrats are calling their tour the “Romney Economics: The Middle Class Under the Bus.”

Obama was right about one thing in his speech yesterday. This election will be about two competing economic visions — Romney’s actual proposals, versus the negative Democratic spin on Romney’s proposals.

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