2014 midterm elections

A Meandering Consideration of Absolutism

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint meeting of Congress in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, 3 March 2015.  (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

“Maybe it’s an unfortunate hallmark of contemporary conservative thought?”

Steve Benen

Over at Slate, Fred Kaplan offers an interesting consideration:

It’s looking more and more like Benjamin Netanyahu committed a strategic blunder in so ferociously opposing the Iran nuclear deal and in rallying his American allies to spend all their resources on a campaign to kill the deal in Congress.

SlateIf current trends hold, the Israeli prime minister and his stateside lobbyists—mainly AIPAC—are set to lose this fight. It’s politically risky for Israel’s head of state to go up against the president of his only big ally and benefactor; it’s catastrophic to do so and come away with nothing. Similarly, it’s a huge defeat for AIPAC, whose power derives from an image of invincibility. American politicians and donors might get the idea that the group isn’t so invincible after all, that they can defy its wishes, now and then, without great risk.

It would have been better for Netanyahu—and for Israel—had he maybe grumbled about the Iran deal but not opposed it outright, let alone so brazenly. He could have pried many more favors from Obama in exchange for his scowl-faced neutrality. Not that Obama, or any other American president, will cut Israel off; but relations will remain more strained, and requests for other favors (for more or bigger weapons, or for certain votes in international forums) will be scrutinized more warily, than they would have been.

There is, of course, much more to Kaplan’s consideration, including the implications of current Congressional momentum and the widening gap between the credibility of favoring and opposing arguments. Toward the latter, he notes, “Most criticisms of the deal actually have nothing to do with the deal”, and that’s about as least unfavorable as his critique of the criticism gets.

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Something About a Dunce Cap

U.S. Capitol building at dusk on a winter's eve. (Photo credit: Peterson)

“Every pundit who said the GOP was ready to prove it can be a governing party: go sit in the corner for a while.”

Steve Benen

It’s just one of those things. Does the day end in -y? Then this is what a Republican majority looks like:

It’s quite a congressional majority, isn’t it? Nearly a month into the new Congress, Republicans have prioritized an oil-pipeline bill they know can’t pass, an immigration package they know can’t pass, changes to Wall Street safeguards they know can’t pass, anti-abortion legislation they know can’t pass, and anti-healthcare measures they know can’t pass.

It’s part of a larger squeaky-wheel mentality: Make enough noise, then point to the noise you’ve made as evidence that there is noise.

Which seems almost silly, except as we saw once again in November, it works.

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Benen, Steve. “They’re not just ‘getting it out of the way'”. msnbc. 3 February 2015.

A Lingering Question

Detail of animation by Mark Fiore, 14 November 2014, via Daily Kos Comics.

“One of the most fascinating things about this election was comparing what people actually believe in versus what or who they actually voted for. Voting against your own interests seemed to be the dominant theme in this election. Happy with your Kentucky Kynect health exchange, brought to you by Obama’s Affordable Care Act? Then you’ll definitely want to vote for Mitch McConnell so he can keep trying to dismantle Obamacare bit by bit. Huh?”

Mark Fiore

To the one, the election is over and the People have spoken. In Iowa, intelligence and basic competence are anathema; in Kansas, voters objected to the prospect of fiscal solvency; Colorado voters decided it just wasn’t a year in which the human rights of women in their state have anything to do with anyone. Voters knew, going in, what they were asking for, and what they asked for is more gridlock, melodrama, and basic uselessness of government. So, yes, the election is over, and we need to get used to it. To the other, though, a couple brief points:

• It is difficult to not focus on that sense of amazement; this is difficult since people are expected to simply shut up and move on, but history will have a hard time explaining what happened in this year-six election. Perhaps some will point to Obama, and that only makes sense if people ignore actual facts or wonder yet again about the racism question; if this was a referendum on Obama and his policies, then it’s hard to comprehend why people who like what the ACA does would vote against it. Perhaps they believed the media narratives, which make sense unto themselves but only if the audience accounts specifically for the fact that actual facts are barred from that discourse. As Rob Corddry once joked in a role as a media correspondent, “Listen buddy: not my job to stand between the people talking to me and the people listening to me.” Unfortunately, it’s not simply a joke; Jim Lehrer, a titan of television journalism, agreed that it was not his job, as a reporter, to separate fact from fiction. But that’s the thing: To the one, the election is over. To the other, though, explaining what happened in any justifiable historical context requires addressing the apparent paradoxes in the outcomes, so we will continue to see such bewilderment as cartoonist Mark Fiore expresses.

• The second point is simple enough: If you choose to complain of gridlock and other governmental silliness over the next couple years, and you voted for Republicans in the 2014 midterm, then you need to shut the hell up and stop complaining about getting what you wanted. It would be one thing to leave such blatant stupidity to itself, except it seems somewhat contagious. Consider a nearly unhinged proposition: In order for President Obama to show “leadership” satisfactory to these people, he must follow the Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives. Think about that for a moment; Obama must show leadership by not leading, unless Republicans want to skip on tough votes, in which case Obama needs to show leadership, for which Republicans intend to either sue him in court or impeach him in Congress. When it comes to What American Voters Want, this actually seems like a newly-discovered valence of absurdity. It’s one thing to say the GOP is playing politics; it’s quite another to pretend that such idiotic shenannigans are not what our Republican neighbors want. So when our conservative neighbors lament government inefficiency, the appropriate response is to tell them to shut up and stop complaining about getting what they voted for.

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Fiore, Mark. “The screw you strategy”. Daily Kos Comics. 14 November 2014.

What They Voted For

TedCruz-bw-banner

One of the hammers that has yet to drop after the 2014 GOP midterm victory is the obvious question:

Top Republicans want Loretta Lynch’s nomination to be attorney general delayed until they are in charge of the Senate — and they are insisting she divulge whether she supports the president’s plan to act without Congress on a major immigration amnesty.

Soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky issued a Friday statement saying her nomination should be considered “in the new Congress,” and on Saturday, Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah also pushed for a delay.

Cruz and Lee issued a joint statement highlighting their demand Lynch divulge her thoughts on whether an executive amnesty would be constitutional.

“President [Barack] Obama’s Attorney General nominee deserves fair and full consideration of the United States Senate, which is precisely why she should not be confirmed in the lame duck session of Congress by senators who just lost their seats and are no longer accountable to the voters. The Attorney General is the President’s chief law enforcement officer. As such, the nominee must demonstrate full and complete commitment to the law. Loretta Lynch deserves the opportunity to demonstrate those qualities, beginning with a statement whether or not she believes the President’s executive amnesty plans are constitutional and legal.”

(Dennis)

It is not as if we should be surprised; they told us before the election. Even the Speaker of the House is on board with the suggestion that a lame-duck congress should walk away from its duties, even with a war on the line.

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A Note About Iowa

Joni Ernst

One might wonder, given the polling out of the Hawkeye State, what the hell is wrong with Iowa. The idea that cowardice, ignorance, and tinfoil paranoia are Iowa values might strike many as strange, but that’s the thing: It is a question for Iowans.

No, really. It is perfectly within the rights of Iowa voters to send to the United States Senate a candidate who is incapable of distinguishing fact from opinion.

Ben Terris opens his glimpse into the Ernst campaign with a brief description of something rather quite expected:

Depending on the time of year, Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst (R) either thinks President Obama is an president that who refuses to lead, or is an overzealous “dictator” who is constantly “overstepping his bounds.”

We’re at the part of the Goldilocks story where the president is too small.

“We have an apathetic president,” she told a crowd in Newton, Iowa, as part of her 24-hour get out the vote tour around the country. It’s a different message from the time in January when she suggested that the president should be impeached for enacting parts of his agenda without Congress’s approval.

After the event, Ernst elaborated without elucidating exactly what she meant.

“He is just standing back and letting things happen, he is reactive rather than proactive,” she said. “With Ebola, he’s been very hands off.”

Contradiction is one of Ernst’s talents, which in turn makes her sound as if she has no clue what she is talking about. In Iowa, this sort of cluelessness is apparently a virtue.

What follows, though, might seem a bit excessive, even for Iowa: (more…)