voter attitudes

A Memo to Mike Huckabee (Civic Leadership)

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee waits backstage before speaking during the Freedom Summit Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

MEMORANDUM

To: Mike Huckabee

re: Civic leadership

So … Mike―

The two-time Republican presidential also-ran lashed out Erickson, again on Fox News, accusing the conservative of attempting “to blow up the Republican Party.”

“The message that’s coming across is the voters are stupid so we’ll figure out a way to make the decision for you because we don’t trust your decision,” Huckabee complained of Erickson’s anti-Trump effort.

(Tesfaye)

―you do realize, do you not, that sometimes that’s exactly what civic leaders are expected to do?

In our own American heritage we say the Constitution is not a suicide pact. In our human endeavor, we might simply say that civilized society is not a suicide pact. Observably, the Donald Trump phenomenon disdains either expression.

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A New Way of Doing Things

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - OCTOBER 31: U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Arkansas looks on during a tailgate party before the start of a Fayetteville High School football game on October 31, 2014 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. With less than a week to go before election day U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is holding a narrow lead over incumbent U.S. Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR). (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

“Of course, in the American tradition, the idea of elected American officials trying to sabotage American foreign policy, on purpose, brazenly undermining our nation’s attempts at international leadership, seems plainly ridiculous. But in 2015, it’s become an increasingly common Republican tactic.”

Steve Benen

This is not a good sign:

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), one of the nation’s most aggressive climate deniers and the man Senate Republicans chose to lead the Senate committee on environmental policy, wasn’t subtle when describing his sabotage ambitions.

“The Tom Cotton letter was an educational effort,” Senator Snowball told the WSJ.

It is impossible to state with appropriate gravity the strangeness of the #GOP47; this really was, once upon a time, out of bounds. And it is, at the very least, foolhardy, if not downright dangerous. The difference between the two is up to voters; if this is the what they expect of governance, the marketplace will respond, and this will be how foreign policy goes. To the other, if this really is as worrisome to Americans as many seem to think it should be―and, yes, that includes the triune staff of This Is (Me, Myself, and I, as the old Gilligan’s Island joke goes)―what will Americans say when a Republican is in office and Democrats are trying to stymie some foreign policy initiative? Is this the way it will go, or will Democrats be expected to play by obsolete rules that will cost them at the ballot box and, as a result, cost everyone else in terms of policy resolution?

If it was good enough for Bush when he negotiated our exit from Iraq, then it is good enough for Obama trying to negotiate against a future nuclear war, or simply haggle over clean air. When Republicans appeal to some version of common sense―should the Senate have a say in this or that?―remember the standard they are appealing against. There is an unfortunate appearance in American politics and governance that we only get around to certain assertions of the right thing when there are other complicating issues. There are plenty who rightly wonder if the president’s skin color is what inspires Republican hatred. Others might suggest that the GOP has simply run out of tricks in opposition to a Democratic president at a time that interrupts their effort to build a warring New American Century. Regardless, however, of what leads to such conservative lunacy, Republicans need to knock it the fuck off.

And, quite frankly, American voters need to make that point. Out in Washington state, Democrats held a supermajority for years, and generally refused to use it; this conforms to an older political model by which such strongarming is considered unseemly. In the face of conservative bullying, however, it has long been a question whether or not this is an appropriate resolution for the question. As Republicans grow their game, perhaps we might look upon Democratic incompetence as a series of opportunities lost for the sake of some dignity that voters don’t give a damn about anymore. In the end, two state Senate Democrats rolled, handing the chamber to Republicans, and once again our sense of obligation―say, funding the schools to meet constitutional requirements―is brought into question as an issue of whether or not it is worth fulfilling those commitments. That is to say, given a chamber to control in our state government, Republicans returned the discussion to whether or not it is financially worth obeying the law.

Perhaps state Democrats should have used their supermajority.

Nonetheless, what will the American people say if Democrats, under a Republican presidential administration, return the favor?

Don’t want them to do that? Then don’t ask them to.

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Benen, Steve. “GOP sees Cotton sabotage strategy as ‘an educational effort'”. msnbc. 27 April 2015.

A Long Note on Political Tradition in These United States

President Barack Obama, delivers his State of the Union speech at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 12, 2013 in Washington, DC.  (Charles Dharapak/AP)

By now of course we have become accustomed to the proposition that Republicans, once elected, would rather sit around. To some it actually seems a very sick idea; not only did the Speaker of the House demonstrate that Republicans conisder their job description to include going on vacation instead of actually working because, well, the most important part of the job is election and re-election, but in recent months the GOP has shown more and more willingness to simply admit that the inherent failure of government is more of a conservative goal than anything else.

Boehner and the band skipped out on gigs that might need Congressional attention, such as the Daa’ish question, the Ebola question, and the Immigration Reform question; despite their howls of rage regarding the latter, the fact of executive action occasionally arises when Congress refuses to pass a bill and the Speaker of the House calls on the President to use his executive authority. They could have skipped screeching themselves hoarse by simply sticking around and doing their jobs. Then again, the prior statement is controversial if only because it would appear that Congressional Republicans appear to believe their first, last, and only job is to win votes. Given their reluctance to undertake day-to-day Constitutional functions of Congress, such as advising and consenting to presidential appointments—or, as such, formally refusing the nomination—we ought not be surprised that the latest duty Republicans wish to shirk is sitting through an annual speech.

Nearly 16 years later, another Democratic president, also hated by his Republican attackers, is poised to deliver his penultimate State of the Union address. And like Pat Robertson, the idea of denying the president a SOTU invitation is once again on the right’s mind.

“Yes, there’s a risk to overreacting, but there’s a risk to underreacting as well,” said Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review. “And I fear that’s the way the congressional leadership is leaning.”

Mr. Lowry suggested one way Congress could react. “If I were John Boehner,” he said, referring to the House speaker, “I’d say to the president: ‘Send us your State of the Union in writing. You’re not welcome in our chamber.'”

Lowry may not dictate GOP decision making the way Limbaugh and Fox News do, but it’s important to note that he isn’t the only one publicly pushing the idea.

Politico reported yesterday that congressional Republicans are weighing a variety of tactics to “address” their disgust over Obama’s immigration policy, and “GOP aides and lawmakers” are considering the idea of “refusing to invite the president to give his State of the Union address.”

Late last week, Breitbart News also ran a piece of its own on the subject: “Congress should indicate to President Obama that his presence is not welcome on Capitol Hill as long as his ‘executive amnesty’ remains in place. The gesture would, no doubt, be perceived as rude, but it is appropriate.”

(Benen)

Wait, wait, wait—sixteen years ago?

Yes. Like impeachment chatter and stonewalling, Republicans want to make refusing to hear the State of the Union Address part of their standard response to any Democratic president.

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Another Look at Voters and What They Just Voted For

The U.S. Capitol is pictured at dawn in Washington D.C. on Oct. 15, 2013. (Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

And that’s where the confusion kicks in. The American mainstream strongly backs the same policy agenda Democrats want, but that same mainstream just elected a Congress that will make it impossible for Americans to get what they say they support.

Steve Benen

It might seem to need some unpacking, but in truth the point holds.

There is, for instance, the temptation to point out the Senate shift, and remind that this was the “mainstream” in places like Iowa, where voters clearly prefer uneducated, tinfoil trash and threats of sedition from elected officials. Or Kansas, where voters are cheering on the destruction of the state government. Or Colorado, where 2010 saw Sen. Michael Bennet win a narrow victory, but only because it was a statewide election, and just enough voters were offended at the idea of sending a prosecutor who aids and abets rape to the U.S. Senate; it should be noted that in the state’s Fourth Congressional District, Colorado voters had no qualms about sending the abettor to the House of Representatives. Of course, voters in the states’ Fifteenth Legislative District also sent a paranoid, homophobic exorcist to the legislature, and in the overlapping Fifth Congressional District, returned Rep. Doug “Tar Baby” Lamborn to the House in celebration of ignorance and hatred. Looking at the Senate swing, it’s easy enough to fall back to the comfort that, for the most part, Democrats lost where they were expected to lose.

But a broader picture of voters can also be found in the midterm election; Republicans made enormous gains in state government across the nation. Certes, in a state like Washington, where ballot measures were the only statewide votes, things went about as expected; we don’t match the national trend, but that in part is because we had nothing to do with the question of Senate control.

But it seems this will be the defining legacy of the 2014 midterms. Voters said they want something, and then voted against it. At this point, we cannot begin to explain the result without accounting for irrationality in the psychopathology of everyday life. A dialectic of neurosis might explain the preference of party labels over real results, but is it a twisted identity politic or something deeper, like a craven need for perpetual Manichaean dualism? Close, low-scoring contests are the height of professional sportsα, but disastrous for political outcomes.

It’s easy enough to express what just happened in the sense that Republicans just won big in an election. The harder answer is to figure just what that actually means in terms of voters. As to governance, the answer is clear: The ability of governments in the United States to function appropriately will be further degraded as Republicans move forward feeling empowered to prove their thesis that government just doens’t work.

It is, furthermore, easy enough to say we want nice outcomes. It is harder to accomplish those nice outcomes, though, and nearly impossible for voters to admit that, no, they don’t really want that stuff. And that, too, might well emerge from a dialectic of neurosis, that people only say they want good outcomes because they fret about what the neighbors would think if they came right out and admitted what they’re really after.

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α The basic principle: Offense wins games; defense wins championships. Football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer … you name it, the principle holds. And let’s face it, outside the SEC, most American football fans are pretty much sick of sixty-point blowouts.

Benen, Steve. “NBC poll: Public attitudes clear as mud”. msnbc. 20 November 2014.