Friday, June 26, 2015

What do you do with a problem like Donald?

By Richard Barry

Donald Trump is going to be such a headache for Republicans this campaign cycle.

He has virtually zero chance of winning the presidential nomination. But insiders worry that the loud-mouthed mogul is more than just a minor comedic nuisance on cable news; they fret that he’s a loose cannon whose rants about Mexicans and scorched-earth attacks on his rivals will damage the eventual nominee and hurt a party struggling to connect with women and minorities and desperate to win.

And that's all true. The other point is that Republicans are in the position of needing to reach out to new constituencies while not alienating their core vote. This requires a relatively high degree of subtlety and sophistication. Trump's involvement in the campaign will mean that any candidate wishing to be taken seriously will have to take Trump on directly, which will upset their ability to effectively talk out of both sides of their mouth.

In a sense, Donald Trump is a distillation of many of the worst qualities of conservatism. The problem for the Republican Party is that Trump had no interest in sugar-coating the message.

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Republicans secretly cheer survival of Obamacare

By Richard Barry

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court saved President Obama's signature health care law and, as countless news organization said this morning, ensured his legacy.

The ruling holds that the Affordable Care Act authorized federal tax credits for eligible Americans living not only in states with their own exchanges but also in the 34 states with federal marketplaces. It staved off a major political showdown and a mad scramble in states that would have needed to act to prevent millions from losing health care coverage.

Great news for those of us who like the thought that people will be able to get the health care they need. But you know who else it's great news for? Republicans.

As Steve Benen writes, you won't hear them crowing about it publicly, and on the record they will continue to say all sorts of nasty things about the law and now the Supreme Court. But if you have your eye on the next election cycle, Republicans don't mind the survival of Obamacare at all.

Heading into this morning, some basic policy truths were clear. We knew, for example, that congressional Republicans have made no progress in creating an alternative to the Affordable Care Act -- despite more than five years of broken promises -- and in all likelihood, they never would. We also knew that most of those who would suffer from a plaintiff victory in King v. Burwell would be middle-income families in red states who would naturally look to their GOP representatives for help.

Those same representatives would face enormous pressure from right-wing institutions to let the American health care system burn and treat affected families like collateral damage in a political war. And then there were the Republican governors -- some of whom also happen to be presidential candidates -- who would have been under pressure to create exchange marketplaces in their states to prevent constituents from suffering. Of course, those same governors would have simultaneously faced equal pressure from partisans and ideologues to do exactly nothing.

Let's say the words together just so we can better understand how ridiculous politics can be: Republicans have fought the Affordable Care Act like no other initiative of the Obama Administration. They have made it the centrepiece of their attack on big government and the liberal nanny state. Now that it's the law and actually helping some of the same people they hope will support their party, they will continue to criticize it but also count themselves lucky they don't have to be held accountable for its demise.

My head hurts.

(Cross-posted at Phantom Public.)

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Even Fox News is bored by Sarah Palin

By Richard Barry

If you follow politics, the only reason to pay attention to the wackier sorts in and around the Republican side of things is to discern why their brand of self-aggrandizing foolishness has any traction at all. People like Donald Trump, Michelle Bachman, Rick Santorum, and Sarah Palin may be, or have been, national political figures of a sort but this doesn't mean most people, aside from those blinded by love, think they will seriously compete for national office.

But each of these individuals, and others on the fringes, have a constituency, and any serious conservative politician has to understand it in order to cobble together a coalition large enough to win a nomination.

Anyway,  that's my mea culpa for writing about people like Sarah Palin and, in this case, as a lead up to news that she has been dumped by Fox News.
Fox News will not renew its contract with Sarah Palin, whose bombastic appearances have been a cable staple since the former Alaska governor’s failed run on John McCain’s ticket in the 2008 presidential election cycle. When asked for comment, a Fox News spokesperson confirmed the network had amicably parted ways with the governor on June 1.

Palin, 51, is expected to make occasional guest appearances on Fox and Fox Business, and will appear on other networks and cables. She has a show on the Sportsman Channel, does a lot of speeches, and will announce a new publishing project soon.

So, this doesn't mean she's going away entirely in the short term. She has 4.5 million Facebook fans and 1.15 million Twitter followers, and in more conservative states is sought out as a valuable endorsement.

Maybe Sarah Palin is so much a creation of the 24-hour news cycle, social media's need for new content, and the way so much of politics has morphed into one big reality TV show that she will never really go away.

But maybe this is the beginning of the end. Let's hope.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Behind the Ad: Bailout Bush?

By Richard Barry

Who: America's Liberty (a super-PAC backing Sen. Rand Paul)

Where: Web ad in early primary states (though it appears to be running elsewhere)

What's going on: Here comes the crazy. In the style of a loud and frenetic infomercial, a screaming pitchman by the name of Max Power (remember the Simpsons episode featuring Homer as Max) offers a Bailout Bu$h action figure and tell us, the viewer/customer, about how Jeb worked for Lehman Brothers right before the crash and supported the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

"This offer guarantees a presidential candidate cannot win a single primary state, let alone the general election," a voice-over says at the end of the ad as Power bathes in a tub of money.

Does anyone on the right know how to be funny? Apparently not. 

(Cross-posted at Phantom Public.)

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Monday, June 22, 2015

TPP represents the failed neoliberal past

Lydia DePillis tried to get to the bottom of a question, Why NAFTA Passed and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Failed. She noted that nothing had really changed in terms of the arguments for and against the two deals. The only real answer she comes up with is that there was a procedural difference: the fast-track authority was long done on NAFTA — before it was negotiated. So it was just a matter of voting for it or against it. I think it is simpler than that.

The 1992 election was widely misinterpreted by both Republicans and Democrats. Republicans are to this day convinced that they lost because Bush raised taxes. The Democrats were for a time — and to some extent still — under the delusion that Clinton won because he turned right and had his “Sister Souljah moment.” So there was a feeling that conservative policy was the right way to go — or at least the wave of the future. That just isn’t true anymore. I think that even the Democratic Party establishment is waking up to the fact that the New Democratic movement was bad for the nation and ultimately bad for the party.

Here’s the question that people are starting to ask: why vote for the Democratic Party when its unofficial slogan is, “Not as bad as the Republicans!”? If the Republican Party hadn’t become so horrible, the Democratic Party would be doing major soul searching right now. And even as it is, a whole lot of Democrats are wondering what it matters to win elections when the playing field is so shifted to the right that even a conservative measure like Obamacare required herculean effort and passed only with Democratic votes. The American voter is pretty messed up, but almost no one is in favor of having two political parties as fully owned corporate subsidiaries.
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The revolution is not coming (not this week)

By Richard Barry

Tell me Bernie-mania isn't fun. Yes, in Colorado over the weekend Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders tore it up with a crowd of nearly 5,000 in Denver, his largest since announcing for the Democratic nomination in May.

Breathing a progressive political fire, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders ignited Colorado supporters with a blistering condemnation of billionaires and corporations.

The 73-year-old Independent spoke for an hour and hit a nerve on economic issues as he advocated for an end to income inequality as well as a higher minimum wage, pay equity for women and more government spending on infrastructure.

"What we are doing tonight is we are sending a message to the billionaire class and that is: You can't have it all!" Sanders said, shouting to a crowd that filled a University of Denver gymnasium and spilled onto a nearby lacrosse field. "The unquenchable greed of the billionaire class is destroying this nation and it has got to end."

Combine this with other stories out this weekend that, according to new polling data, there is a significant increase in the number of Americans who describe themselves as liberal and the number of Americans taking liberal positions on the issues.

Since the 1988 presidential campaign, when George H.W. Bush and Lee Atwater turned “Massachusetts liberal” into an epithet, the label has been tainted — so much so that many liberals abandoned it for “progressive.”

But new polling shows a significant increase in the number of Americans who describe themselves as liberal and the number of Americans taking liberal positions on issues. Gallup has found the percentage of Americans calling themselves social liberals has equaled the percentage of social conservatives for the first time since pollsters began asking the question in 1999 (when 39 percent identified as conservative and 21 percent as liberal). Democrats are more likely to call themselves liberal and Republicans are less likely to embrace the “conservative” description, opting instead for moderate.

I would caution my brothers and sisters on the left not to get too excited in the short term because we have a long way to go before a progressive like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren can win the Democratic presidential nomination or the presidency itself. But trends are everything in politics and, for many of us, this is a good one.

My sense has long been that the tea party movement is a response built on fear based on the diminishing stature of the U.S. in the world and potentially lower standards of living at home and the kind of selfishness that can accompany that fear.

My hope is that the recent rise of liberal sentiment is based on a growing understanding that if we are to survive intact we have to learn to share what we have, which means, horror of horrors, we have to talk about how best to redistribute the wealth.

It won't happen overnight, especially in terns of electoral success,  but it's a good trend.

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