Americans Oppose Every GOP Idea for the Fiscal Cliff

I've joked that if you "unskewed" the presidential election results to get rid of the American people's liberal bias, you'd see that Mitt Romney totally won the election. While it's fun to tweak conservatives over the poll trutherism that caused them to be caught with their pants down on election night, the fact is that this form of denialism has always been there. It's usually expressed as "you can get a poll to say whatever you want," but this time they just put more effort into it with the addition of fantasy numbers -- an effort that, ironically, was spent getting polls to say what conservatives wanted to hear. You hope this particular strain of reality opposition has suffered a fatal blow with Mitt Romney's loss, but you never know. Conservatives have a talent for ignoring lessons.

But not learning this particular lesson would be a tragedy for the GOP, so I think it's sinking in. Given the findings of a new poll, the time would be right for a GOP awakening, anyway.

Raising taxes on income over $250,000 remains a broadly popular approach to dealing with the country’s budgetary woes, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Sixty percent of all Americans back higher taxes on higher incomes in the new Post-ABC data. Earlier this month, an identical 60 percent of voters in the presidential election said income taxes should be raised on income over $250,000, according to the national exit poll.

In the new poll, 73 percent of Democrats support such tax hikes, including a majority, 57 percent, who do so “strongly.” Among political independents, 63 percent back an increase, while 59 percent of Republicans oppose such a move.

Other proposed solutions to shrinking the debt are far less popular with the public. Only 44 percent support new limitations on the deductions people can claim on their federal income taxes — a proposal that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney put forward during his unsuccessful 2012 presidential campaign.

In fact, if you look at the results closely, the poll has absolutely no good news for Republicans at all. As Steve Benen points out, "in the fiscal fight, the American mainstream disagrees with congressional Republicans on everything." If you wanted to get a portrait of exactly what it is that the American public opposes as a fiscal cliff solution, you could just grab any segment from any cable news network featuring any random Republican counting off their party's talking points. The GOP doesn't have a leg to stand on here. In fact, earlier polling showed Americans were ready to blame the GOP for a jump off the fiscal cliff. This newest one just spells out the specifics.

And Republicans are even being stripped of their fig leafs. They've been suggesting that closing loopholes would be preferable to raising tax rates, but the poll shows that's not a popular position either. Of course, Mitt Romney proposed this, so America has just gone through months and months of being told you can't close enough loopholes to get the job done without screwing the middle class. These things sink in and the losing candidate's position becomes a losing position. For current Republican congress critters, the idea's just a PR stunt anyway -- it's a way to raise taxes while denying you're actually raising taxes. Luckily, a big percentage aren't buying it.

So, will the GOP heed the writing on the wall or will they, in typical Republican style, take a kamikaze run off the fiscal cliff? One sign of the party coming around to sanity is the fact that anti-tax lobbyist Grover Norquist -- once a top powerbroker for the GOP -- is now being thrown under every passing bus. At this point, it looks like any tough talk is posturing. Republican leaders will take whatever bone is handed to them and try to sell it to their base and their Wall Street donors as a feast.

Anything else looks like political suicide. As Republicans learned the hard way, poll numbers do not lie.


[poll graphic courtesy of Steve Benen and Maddow Blog]


If It's Not Racism, Then It's Another Kind of Crazy

Amb. Susan Rice
One of the great joys of the post-election political landscape is watching Republicans struggle with the BS with which they've hobbled themselves. Chief among these is the whole Benghazi affair. If you want a measure of how crazy the rightwing freakout over the attack on our consulate there actually is, just take it down and look at it for a bit. The whole argument behind the GOP "logic" works like this: knowing the attack was terrorism, President Obama sent out his minions to lie all about it. Why? Because if everyone knew it was a pre-planned terrorist attack and not a protest that got out of hand, Obama wouldn't be reelected. Not sure why we're supposed to believe that (and no one's actually explained it), but there you go. The important thing to remember is that it's all a big coverup.

Anyway, the coverup was uncovered-up before the election and Obama sailed to reelection anyway. At this point, the whole conspiracy theory is looking pretty sick. No one but Republicans cared about Benghazi much, so the whole "coverup" theory was done for from the gitgo. After all, why risk a scandal to avoid something that was clearly not scandalous -- or even politically hazardous? In the court of public opinion, Barack Obama was cleared -- resoundingly.

And it was a surprise to no one but the right. All during the campaign, Benghazi wasn't even a blip on the issues radar. Polling showed pretty much no one all that worked up over it. But the right was sure that everyone was going to lose it over Benghazi any minute now. If they just kept up the pressure, they could turn this into a major scandal -- despite the distinct absence of anything actually scandalous.

Now that the election is over and the public failed to freak out over the GOP's big package of nothing, they're kind of stuck with Benghazi. Maybe they think that to just drop it now that it's failed to serve its purpose would be to give away the game and admit the whole thing was BS all along. So this dead horse must be thoroughly beaten. If only there were some way out. A distraction, maybe. Some sort of victim card they could play or something.


Aha! Here it is. A Washington Post editorial titled, "The GOP’s bizarre attack on Susan Rice." The piece deals with a letter written by Rep. Jeff Duncan that claims "Ambassador Rice is widely viewed as having either willfully or incompetently misled the American public" about Benghazi.

Well, yeah. "Widely viewed" by wingnuts. Everyone else lives in reality, where -- according to the Post -- "established facts" state otherwise.

But being accused of just pulling stuff out of their collective butt isn't enough to rile up the right. They're used to that, since they do it all the time. No, what's getting under their skin is being accused of racism.

[James Taranto, Wall Street Journal:]

Post editorial] focuses on the critics rather than their choice of words. Here's the passage that outrages Jacobson: "Could it be, as members of the Congressional Black Caucus are charging, that the signatories of the letter are targeting Ms. Rice because she is an African American woman? The signatories deny that, and we can't know their hearts. What we do know is that more than 80 of the signatories are white males, and nearly half are from states of the former Confederacy."

Let's examine this argument carefully. The
Post acknowledges that "we can't know their hearts." But it finds a (literally) prima facie reason to suspect them of invidious motives: Almost all of them are persons of pallor. The Post is casting aspersions on Duncan and his colleagues based explicitly on the color of their skin. And it is accusing them of racism!

I'm going to go ahead and guess that the Washington Post editorial board has more than a few white people on it. Just a hunch. Taranto's accusation of "anti-white bigotry" is laughable BS.

But the Congressional Black Caucus? Not a lot of white people there. Could the accusation of racism be, in itself, racist?

I'm going to go ahead and say no. The problem with all of this is that the Right's attacks on Amb. Rice have been completely debunked and the whole thing has devolved into a clown show.

So, if we can accuse the Black Caucus of anything, it's of trying to figure out what irrational thought process is behind all this. Racism is as good an explanation as any, although we can't rule out madness or alcohol or drug abuse. If the Republicans who signed Duncan's letter don't want to be accused of just plain lying, then they have to be prepared for the inevitable speculation -- what is wrong with their heads, then?

As I said, the GOP has pretty much done this to themselves. Even people like John McCain are starting to realize this is a loser. It's fun to be outraged, but it helps to actually have something to be outraged about -- and there's no there there. The smartest thing would be to just drop the whole affair and hope everyone forgets it was ever a thing.

But these are Republicans and they don't do things like that. They'll ride this thing all the way down to the pavement.


[image source]


Walmart's Phony Low Prices

Walmart Storefront
It's pretty clear by now that Republican economic policies can be boiled down to "penny wise, but pound foolish." The idea is that it's possible to save your way to prosperity. This ignores simple math: if you don't make enough to be wealthy, no amount of saving will make you wealthy. It's a question of incomes, not savings. Rich people are rich because they make a lot of money. And you make a lot of money by spending wisely.

Of course, Republican economic policies make no sense because they're rationalizations for the transfer of wealth from the bottom to the top. Some really do believe this math-challenged mumbo-jumbo -- perhaps even most Republicans. But those few who understand don't expect it to actually help everyone. It's just a con to help those few at the top. Tell the chumps the wealth will trickle down and, if the question of when actually ever seeps into their sheepish brains, tell them it'll happen any minute now, just you wait. Because Reagan.

But what's the penny wise and pound foolish thinking look like in the wild? Pretty the opposite of this:

[Mother Jones:]

Chances are you missed this particular bargain on Black Friday: Agree to spend 15 cents more on every shopping trip, and Walmart, Target, and other large retailers will agree to pay their workers at least $25,000 a year.

Big box retailers aren't actually offering that deal, but a new study by the liberal think tank Demos argues that it would be a great bargain for us all if they did. Increasing the average wage at large retailers from $21,000 to $25,000 would probably cost you less than $20 a year at the register yet lift some 1.5 million people out of poverty (including your cashier), create 100,000 new jobs, and boost GDP by some $13.5 billion.

Demos argues that retailers would benefit, despite higher labor costs, because their low-wage employees could suddenly afford to buy more of the basic necessities that they scan and load into plastic bags every day.

If you're like me, this is the part where you release a loud and resounding, "Duh!"

This is Henry Ford's argument -- that the worker ought to make enough to afford the product -- and that argument made Ford a rich man. If you can convince your workers to give you some of your money back (and make a tidy profit in the process), why wouldn't you?

Because you're penny wise and pound foolish. There are maybe five people on Earth who would argue that Walmart's success is because of their commitment to quality. Walmart makes money by saving money -- except they don't. Not really, anyway.

The problem with Walmart's business model is that it's a welfare queen business model. Their low prices are propped up by low wages, which in turn are subsidized by government largesse.

Daily Kos:

Wal-Mart's poverty wages force employees to rely on $2.66 billion in government help every year, or about $420,000 per store. In state after state, Wal-Mart employees are the top recipients of Medicaid. As many as 80 percent of workers in Wal-Mart stores use food stamps.

And that government money? That comes out of your pocket. Walmart's low prices are a con. It's not any cheaper than any place else -- they just do a better job of hiding and shifting the costs. You've heard of "creative accounting?" This is creative commerce; the cost on the price tag isn't actually what you're paying. Worse, if you don't shop at Walmart, you're still paying for their stuff. They've found a way to suck money out of your wallet without even selling you anything.

And Walmart's not going to be very interested in changing. Their wage slavery is making them a tidy profit. It may be a welfare queen business model, but it's a successful model. The company makes $15 billion a year. Off food stamps and Medicaid.

From a legal standpoint, you can't blame Walmart -- this is all completely above board. From a moral standpoint, they don't get off so easy. But there is no way in the world that you can argue that Walmart's government-subsidized prices represent any close to free market economics.

And it also represents the failure of trickle-down economics. Walmart is fabulously successful, yet the workers get paid crap. And they'll always get paid crap. It's a dead-end job.

If we force Walmart to change, expect Republicans to scream bloody murder. Penny wise, pound foolish.


[image source]


GOP Stalwarts Deny Any Change is Needed

No U-Turn sign
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the entirely predictable GOP civil war is moving forward nicely, with those who see the demographic writing on the wall calling for some basic changes to not only messaging, but actual policy. One GOP pollster, for example, said the party needs to jettison it's homophobia. "We should remain a pro-life party, but we will get nowhere being a party standing against gay rights," warned Whit Ayres. Other prejudices and idiocies are suggested for the chopping block as well.

That many Republicans are wising up and realizing that attacking everyone other than straight evangelical white males is electoral suicide is probably a good thing for the nation. That they seem to be losing the argument to the knuckledraggers is good news for Democrats. The change-nothing faction within the GOP is "the more dominant voice, and the one gaining currency within the center of the party," according to WSJ.

It asserts that Mitt Romney's loss to President Barack Obama was primarily a tactical failure, a combination of poor articulation of GOP positions and a weak effort to register voters and move them to the polls. Better execution on both, they say, would have swung the few hundred thousand votes in a few states that would have tipped the presidential election the other way.

This contingent, which includes many Republican governors, points to a wide range of shortcomings that it faults for the party's failings in the presidential and a number of Senate races. Among those: poor candidates, a shoddy turnout machine and an overall tone that didn't resonate well with young voters, minorities and women.

But few in this camp believe deeper surgery is needed. "It is critically important we remain true to who we are," Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said in an interview here at the meeting of the Republican Governors Association. "We have to figure out how to make our principles more attractive to emerging voters. But if we abdicate those, we become a very different entity."

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad summed up this argument nicely. "We need candidates that don't say dumb things," he said.

Yes, Richard Mourdock's position on rape as a blessing wasn't the problem -- the problem was that he put it so poorly. Sugarcoat it a little and everyone will swallow it. This is denial on steroids.

But what can you expect from people guided more by their ideology than by reason? As I've pointed out before, it's pretty much impossible to accept the core "pro-life" position -- that life begins at conception -- and also allow exceptions to abortion bans. Saying they shouldn't talk about that position ignores the fact that they'll eventually be forced to vote on it. And, when that time comes, they'll vote their consciences and have to explain why they think women should be forced to carry a rapist's baby to term. The discussion is unavoidable. Once you begin to have that conversation, there's no way to spin things to suddenly make this lunatic argument any more popular.

And the same goes for every fringe issue down the line. Sooner or later, you're going to have to say what you believe and that's going to end you. In fact, the fallout would probably be even worse for the Republican brand. Think they hate you for saying how you'd vote? Wait until you see how they feel after you've actually voted. Hint; you won't enjoy it.

It's not the "tone," it's the positions. A changing electorate hates GOP positions. And why does this surprise anyone? The homophobic, sexist campaign of religious wedge issues, combined with the racist southern strategy, could only work so long as a shrinking portion of the electorate was big enough to move elections. How on Earth are you supposed to continue attacking gays, women, Latinos, blacks, Muslims, etc. while attracting those same people you're attacking? The problem is the hate.

If Republicans don't change course, they will die as a national party. Gerrymandering will save them in regional races -- state and local, congressional -- for a while. But when that sort of election rigging is irrelevant -- i.e., presidential races -- the GOP will continue to get their clock cleaned, by bigger and increasingly more convincing margins.

It's reports like this that put smiles on the faces of Democratic strategists and activists. The headline they saw in the Wall Street Journal is "GOP Kamikazes Winning the Navigational Fight."


[image source]


Griper Blade: There's a Reason it's Called Reproductive Freedom

"Pro-life" my ass:

[The Irish Times:]

Savita HalappanavarTwo investigations are under way into the death of a woman who was 17 weeks pregnant, at University Hospital Galway last month.

Savita Halappanavar (31), a dentist, presented with back pain at the hospital on October 21st, was found to be miscarrying, and died of septicaemia a week later.

Her husband, Praveen Halappanavar (34), an engineer at Boston Scientific in Galway, says she asked several times over a three-day period that the pregnancy be terminated. He says that, having been told she was miscarrying, and after one day in severe pain, Ms Halappanavar asked for a medical termination.

This was refused, he says, because the foetal heartbeat was still present and they were told, “this is a Catholic country”.

She spent a further 2½ days “in agony” until the foetal heartbeat stopped.

Mr. Halappanavar told the paper that he asked a consultant if they couldn't induce labor and save his wife, but was told no. "The consultant said it was the law, that this is a Catholic country," he said. "Savita [a Hindu] said: ‘I am neither Irish nor Catholic’ but they said there was nothing they could do."

Savita might as well have been treated by witch doctors, then sacrificed to some idiot god she didn't believe in. I can't imagine what a nightmare it must be for everyone to know exactly what could be done to save your life, to be surrounded with the technology capable of doing it, but to be denied survival because of superstition -- "This is a Catholic country" might as well be stated, "this is a stone age culture."

Once again, we see idiotic and brutal math involved with the "pro-life" position. Quite a while back, I wrote a post about the abortion ban in Romania under communist dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu. Ceaucescu banned abortion in his country and women began dying in epidemic numbers overnight. And it was all entirely predictable. As I wrote at the time, women abort because they feel they have to -- that they'd risk their lives to do it proves they feel they have no choice. And to return to that brutal math:

So what we see is that when abortion is illegal women -- who are indisputably alive -- die. And, since these women are pregnant, that hypothetical unborn life would logically be dead too. The math doesn't really work. As a lifesaving measure, banning abortion sucks.

Keep in mind, Savita Halappanavar died not so that her "unborn child" could live, but so that the fetus' heartbeat would stop. There was no saving this pregnancy, they were merely prolonging her agony to satisfy some unscientific and entirely philosophical argument. Nothing about this death serves any point at all. It was stupid. This is a tragedy unworthy of a 21st century nation.

And this would be the state of American medicine if a whole lot of people had their way. Further, this would be what any Catholic hospital could do if even more had their way. A woman could be told she must die to serve her failing fetus, because that's what the hospital's "religious freedom" demands. The patient's religious freedom? Screw that. This is a Catholic country hospital. Oppression equals freedom.

This whole "pro-life" frootloopery is about more than idiotic theories about rape. It's about more than temper tantrums over contraception coverage. It's about women's freedom. Not in any abstract sense, but in the very real "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" sense. In the sense that they get to refuse to be sacrificed to satisfy someone else's religion. That they're free to be guided by their own beliefs and their own moral code, not those handed down on high from the Priests of the High and Holy Government Order.

It was the Halappanavar's misfortune that they didn't live in a free country and that misfortune cost Savita her life. It was an entirely avoidable tragedy -- which is why I, for one, will never stop fighting to avoid similar American tragedies.


[photo via Irish Times]


GOP Crazies Tell GOP Crazies to Stop Being So Crazy

Louisiana Governor Bobbie Jindal
It's a case of the message being correct, but delivered by a perfectly inappropriate messenger. As Republicans sort through the rubble left behind by the 2012 election cycle, they're beginning to divide into two camps: "we've got to stop being so danged crazy!" and "we weren't even close to crazy enough." It's pretty clear who's right here. After all, Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, and Allen West didn't lose their races because everyone thought they were big ol' flaming liberals. They lost because their electorates were obviously tired of rightwing frootloops.

The problem with this intra-party division is that one group bleeds over into the other. Crazy people are demanding other crazy people stop being so darned crazy.


Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal on Monday called on Republicans to “stop being the stupid party” and make a concerted effort to reach a broader swath of voters with an inclusive economic message that pre-empts efforts to caricature the GOP as the party of the rich.

In his first interview since his party’s electoral thumping last week, Jindal urged Republicans to both reject anti-intellectualism and embrace a populist-tinged reform approach that he said would mitigate what exit polls show was one of President Barack Obama’s most effective lines of attack against Mitt Romney.

“We’ve got to make sure that we are not the party of big business, big banks, big Wall Street bailouts, big corporate loopholes, big anything,” Jindal told POLITICO in a 45-minute telephone interview. “We cannot be, we must not be, the party that simply protects the rich so they get to keep their toys.”

"It is no secret we had a number of Republicans damage our brand this year with offensive, bizarre comments — enough of that," Jindal said. "It’s not going to be the last time anyone says something stupid within our party, but it can’t be tolerated within our party. We’ve also had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism. We need to stop being simplistic, we need to trust the intelligence of the American people and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters."

Pretty on the money. Only one problem: Bobby Jindal is the stereotypical Republican whackjob. After all, it was Jindal who bizarrely criticized volcano monitoring as a waste of money. Ironically, Jindal later blew $200 million on a scheme to protect Louisiana from the Deepwater Horizon oil slick -- after being warned by scientists that it wouldn't work. For the record, Louisiana's not a wealthy state with hundreds of millions of dollars they can flush down the toilet whenever the governor thinks he's an engineering genius.

If Bobby Jindal represents any wing of the Republican Party, it's the crazy anti-science and anti-fact wing. This is a man who participated in an exorcism in college and signed what is most likely the most backwards piece of education legislation into law. Among the "facts" kids in Louisiana are now allowed to learn are that dinosaurs and humans lived side by side, that "God used the Trail of Tears to bring many Indians to Christ," and that slavery and the Great Depression are being misrepresented as bad things.

This is the guy who's telling other Republicans to stop being so crazy.

But my point isn't to single out Jindal. The point is that Jindal represents a real problem for the GOP -- namely, that crazy people don't know that they're crazy. He's absolutely correct that the GOP needs to stop being the party of morons and lunatics, but he has absolutely no idea that he's one of those morons and lunatics. He wants to see Republicans stop promoting every brand of conservative craziness but the science-denialism that embraces creationism and believes global warming is a hoax perpetrated by socialist scientists. Republicans have to reject every form of insanity and idiocy except his particular brand, because his isn't crazy or stupid.

And that's the entire GOP's problem in a nutshell. They all need to stop being nutjobs, but they all think the other sort of nutjob is the problem. So the anti-science nuts blame the anti-abortion nuts, who in turn blame the economic flatearthers, who point their fingers at the next group of crazies down the line. You can see how well that'll pan out for them.

No, what Republicans need is not for one group of lunatics to start listening to another group of lunatics. What the Republican Party needs is new Republicans. And the old Republicans aren't exactly willing to be replaced by a saner brand. Nor are Republican voters eager to replace them.

So they're left with Bobby Jindal as a prime example of their dilemma; he both put his finger directly on his party's problem and totally misunderstood it at the same time. And so, it's unlikely that the problem will be solved anytime soon.


[image source]


The Other Way the Media Got the Election Wrong

The hackiness of much of the American punditry was exposed by last week's election results. Both Dick Morris and George Will predicted a Romney landslide. But it was Dan Rather who demonstrated the talking heads' weakness best, by citing his "gut" in predicting "a good day for Romney." Never has it been so clear that a lot of news personalities have no idea what the hell they're talking about and are just making it up as they go along -- or worse, are spinning what they do know to reflect their biases.

But calling a Romney landslide, based on absolutely nothing but ideological optimism and wishful thinking, wasn't the only way to make a bad call on election night. The idea of a popular vote/electoral college vote split -- a la 2000 -- was a lot more prevalent in the media. Just about every news outlet going ran the story at one point. And just every news outlet going was just making up news.

Yes, an electoral college/popular vote split was possible, mostly by virtue of not being impossible. But Nate Silver's last forecast before the election gave that result a 5.3% possibility. There's a difference between a real possibility and a realistic possibility. When there's a 94.7% chance that your prediction is going to be wrong, you aren't courting the realistic.

In fact, the electoral college/popular vote split prediction was just as ridiculous as predicting a Romney win. More so, in fact, since Silver gave Romney a 9.1% chance of winning. The predictions of Dick Morris, George Will, Dan Rather, Newt Gingrich, et al. were actually less absurd than this one.

So why would so many news sources push this possibility? The answer is simple. Money. Eyes on pages and eyes on screens. The possibility of a replay of 2000, complete with the discussion of hanging chads, overvotes, undervotes, and the intent of the voter, presents a lot to like for a news editor interested in ad revenue. There is no doubt it's exciting, but there's more to it than that. It's familiar and that gives the reader/viewer/consumer the opportunity to feel smart and well-informed. Most of the audience has been through this before. They can feel like experts on this stuff -- and people like to feel knowledgeable. They like to be able to discuss these issues with some level of confidence.

Which is fine. In fact, it's great. But shouldn't the media be educating people about real possibilities and real issues that may arise, rather than lazily falling back on things the consumer already knows? If there's virtually no chance of a electoral college/popular vote split, there's no realistic reason to rehash how that scenario plays out.

Combined with the failed predictions of Romney victory, the stories of an electoral college/popular vote split show just how badly our media got pretty much everything wrong. Those of us who knew who to listen to and who to ignore weren't at all surprised by election night, while those who didn't found themselves terribly misinformed of the real possibilities. We shouldn't have to know who are the real wonks and who are the hacks -- the hacks should be thrown out of the punditry club so there's no danger of their infecting the voting populace with stupid. They literally serve no purpose other than to propagandize for their candidates and ideologies.

We need fact-based reporting, not gut-based BS spouting. The follow up to every pundit's declaration of anything should be, "Can you prove that?" It was the fact-based forecasts grounded in actually numbers that did the best and it was the punditry's forecasts based on their feelings that were the worst. And the very rock-bottom worst were the rightwing hacks. And, on that side of the aisle, the rightwing hacks are actually running the show.

"The problem with the Republican leaders is that they’re cowards, not that they’re fundamentally mistaken," former Bush speechwriter David Frum said recently on MSNBC's Morning Joe. "The real locus of the problem is the Republican activist base and the Republican donor base. They went apocalyptic over the past four years, and that was exploited by a lot of people in the conservative world. I won’t soon forget the lupine smile that played over the head of one major conservative institution when he told me that our donors think the apocalypse has arrived, that Republicans have been fleeced and exploited and lied to by a conservative entertainment complex."

If the right wants to keep listening to their hacks, they should go ahead and do that. It's what's brought them to this sorry place, but if that's what they want to do, that's what they should do. But there's no reason anyone who's not tuned into wingnut talk radio or Fox News should be exposed to the likes of George Will or Karl Rove. It's become clear that they serve no purpose other than their own and do not operate with the public good in mind.

Put the hacks into hack time and the news into news time and never, ever, ever mix the two again. It's poisonous to our understanding of the world and it's actually hurting our politics.


[image source]


No Real Victory for Wisconsin GOP

You've probably heard that Wisconsin state Republicans managed to dodge the Democratic trend this year and retake the state Senate. There's a tight and contested election yet to be resolved, but Republicans will probably control the Senate 18-15. This gives the GOP the levers of state government -- the Assembly and the Governor's office are both in Republican hands. However, this may not be the disaster that it seems at first. Or, at least, not as bad a one.

The first and most obvious point in favor of this argument is that Senate rules that 3/5 of the chamber be present before any vote can be taken on budgetary matters. If 14 or more Senators are no-shows, you don't have a quorum. You might remember that this maneuver was the prelude to the recall fight. Both parties will want to avoid this in the future.

But a more important and convincing point is that Governor Scott Walker, while an ideologue, is probably the most ambitious politician in Wisconsin. He has ideological goals, but they pale in comparison to his personal career goals. He had hoped his union-busting would make him a Republican vice presidential short-lister, but things became much more contentious than he had imagined and that dream died. I think the whole thing surprised and scared him, leaving him legitimately chastened. That sort of overreach won't happen again.

Because if there's one thing that's really bad for your career, it's getting fired. And despite his party's victories at the state level, things at the federal level went very, very poorly. Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan was also defending his House seat and, although he did win, it didn't actually go as well as he would've liked. His share of the vote that reelected him was down nearly twenty points from just two years ago. According to the University of Minnesota's Eric Ostermeier, Ryan's win was "his narrowest ever congressional contest." Ryan's is a swing district and Walker will likely need it to survive reelection, a mere two years away.

Which brings us to the race that probably really put starch in Walker's drawers: Tammy Baldwin's defeat of former Gov. Tommy Thompson. Behold this graphic:

Baldwin wins 23 Walker counties in Wisconsin

Of the counties won by Walker in 2010, twenty-three flipped Democrat to Baldwin -- many by very healthy margins. And Tommy Thompson is not some sort of pariah here; he was the longest serving governor in the state's history. He should've owned this race. He got caught up in a brutal primary against Tea Party nutjobs and he came out broke, sure. But take a look at that map again. Safe counties don't swing like that. Solid red counties would vote for a rabid squirrel before they voted for an openly lesbian candidate who's been -- hands down -- one of the most liberal members of the House of Representatives. The counties that would only vote Republican aren't enough to carry him. Not by a long shot.

No, that map spells trouble for Walker. Big trouble, unless he treads very lightly. Meanwhile, Obama's victory hands him a humiliating defeat on healthcare. He has to come up with a healthcare exchange -- something he had foolishly resisted doing -- and he has to do it in a big hurry. If he fails, the feds will create one for him. He begins this cycle not looking a whole lot like a winner.

As I said, if there's anything that trumps Walker's ideology, it's his ambition. He went all rightwing nutjob after 2010 because he thought this whole Tea Party fad was here to stay. Turned out that was a bad call. Now, he'll probably go all Mitt Romney and shake the Etch-a-Sketch, governing with a finger in the wind and an eye on the polls. Bold, ultra-conservative moves are likely behind him, unless (and until) the pendulum swings way back to crazy again.

"I look forward to working with members of both parties to grow our economy and create jobs," Walker said in a statement on election night. I have no doubt he looks forward to being seen working with members of both parties. Tea Party Scott Walker is most probably dead.

Meet Moderate Scott Walker.



Conservatives Learn the Exact Wrong Lesson

Mosiac shows Hercules fighting the Nemean Lion
Ta-Nehisi Coates has been putting in some really stellar work over at The Atlantic for a while now, but he really deserves some sort of headline award for his post, "Hippies Wander Into the Lions' Den, Maul Lions." In it, he points out that crazy lefty ideas like marriage equality and marijuana legalization were big winners Tuesday night. Issues that the Republican Party thought were fairly safely on their side and only fringey nutjob politics turned out not to be so safe at all. The right had laughed at these things as weak and crazy liberal goofiness -- right up until weak and crazy liberal goofs cleaned their freakin' clock. This was not an election in which rock-ribbed conservatism was endorsed by the electorate. No, this was an election where barefoot, who-cares-who-you-love, tofu-chewing, pot-smoking, Prius-driving, gender-neutral Occupy Wall Street types smacked the rightwing stupid[er].

It was, in Coates' words, "one of the most progressive nights in American history, and arguably the most progressive night in American history in some 40 years."

Which makes this reasoning a little hard to figure:

[The Hill:]

Conservative leaders on Wednesday lashed out at Mitt Romney, saying his attempts to paint himself as a centrist and hide his principles cost him the presidency.

They vowed to wage a war to put the Tea Party in charge of the Republican Party by the time it nominates its next presidential candidate.

“The battle to take over the Republican Party begins today and the failed Republican leadership should resign,” said Richard Viguerie, a top activist and chairman of ConservativeHQ.com.

He said the lesson on Romney’s loss to President Obama on Tuesday is that the GOP must “never again” nominate a “a big government established conservative for president.”

Really? Because judging from the outcome, I'd say the "lesson" was actually the plural "lessons," that they were many, and that they include things like "don't attack better than half the electorate as sluts," "race-baiting doesn't work anymore," "people don't trust Wall Street," and "keep your crazy-assed theories about rape and pregnancy to yourself." Of course, I'm not a big, important towering intellect like Richard Viguerie. America went all gay and weed happy because it was so conservative, I guess.

Richard Mourdock, Todd Akin, and Allen West all lost because they weren't conservative enough either, right? Michele Bachmann barely held onto her seat -- meaning she would've been a lot safer if the Tea Party's rightest of rightwing nuts was more conservative, right? Am I getting this argument correctly? Because so far, it's making no damned sense at all.

You have to give them credit for trying to make this drooling moron of an argument make sense, but an A for effort is all they get. The result is still that drooling moron of an argument. The Hill quotes Jenny Beth Martin of Tea Party Patriots calling Romney a "weak, moderate candidate hand-picked by the country club elite Republican establishment."

"[Voters] didn’t see a clear distinction so they went with what they know," she said.

I guess because a moderate is like a giant squid or something -- everyone knows they exist, but few have actually seen one. The sight of a moderate centrist terrified voters into the arms of the exact opposite of what they wanted. Because it only makes sense that's what you'd do, right? Just like if an election was between a Whig and a Nazi, everyone would go with the Nazi -- because they know what Nazis are all about. So an electorate hungering for a "true" conservative chooses a hippie pinko over the Moderate Mystery Box. That just stands to reason, right? You'll excuse me if I keep asking, because when you try to following this line of reasoning, it's so hard to tell if you're still on the pavement or careening off a roadside cliff.

There's a civil war brewing in the Republican Party. Unfortunately for them, they've chased out all the moderates and the crazies vastly outnumber the sane. The "Mitt wasn't conservative" enough crowd is going to win. And they're going to go off in search of a candidate who demands war with Iran, stoning gays, and who won't be able to shut up about how many rape babies America should be blessed with. That's their idea of a winner.

Man, those hippies are going to eat these fools alive.


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The Opposition (to Everything) Party

2012 electoral college map
If you know a rightwing blogger, you might want to check in on them occasionally, to make sure they haven't opened a vein. The mood in the wingnut blogosphere -- as it was on rightwing Twitter last night -- is one of comically exaggerated doom. What happened on Fox News, when Karl Rove absolutely refused to believe that the president had won Ohio (and with it, reelection), is surprisingly not the norm this morning. I suppose they're in shock and may begin waving their "unskewed" polls around and shrieking that Obama stole the election once they've recovered a bit. But for now, it's all about depression. Over at Breitbart.com, the faithful are being consoled with tales of the popular vote and Obama's failure to gain it, but that particular solace is unlikely to even survive the day -- CNN already has the President at 50% and climbing as of this writing.

So what things should conservatives have learned from last night that they don't seem to be? There are a lot; don't pick fights with Nate Silver over math, don't pick fights with women over rape, don't assume your little Fox News/talk radio bubble isn't lying to you about your chances and making you way too complacent, etc. But the big one is that "divide and conquer" only works when you're dividing off the bigger portion to yourselves.


...“The conservative movement should have particular appeal to people in minority and immigrant communities who are trying to make it, and Republicans need to work harder than ever to communicate our beliefs to them,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who will immediately be looked to as a potential 2016 presidential candidate.

But the GOP’s problem is more fundamental than one bloc of voters. For the second consecutive presidential election, the Republican got thumped among women and young voters in the states that decided the election.

“Our party needs to realize that it’s too old and too white and too male and it needs to figure out how to catch up with the demographics of the country before it’s too late,” said Al Cardenas, the head of the American Conservative Union and a longtime GOP leader. “Our party needs a lot of work to do if we expect to be competitive in the near future.”

Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), a prospective 2014 statewide candidate in a state moving sharply to the middle, was just as blunt: “After tonight, the GOP had better figure out that a big tent sounds good, but if there aren’t any seats in it, what good is it.”

The problem is, this would all require the right to abandon some of their most deeply held beliefs. And that's not going to happen. For example, the biggest winners from last night may be the LGBT community -- more commonly known on the right as "GAAAH!! GAY PEOPLE!! RUN!!!!" or "destroyers of traditional families."

And consider why Republicans turned off women and minorities -- because of the very things the rightwing base believes. That "urban voters" (i.e., African-Americans) all rely on food stamps and welfare because they're too lazy to get a job. That Latinos should be stopped and forced to prove they aren't undocumented. That life begins at rape. And working people and the middle class? Michelle Malkin summed up their feelings about them nicely when she sneered, "Romney types, of course, are the ones who sign the front of the paycheck, and the Obama types are the one who have spent their entire lives signing the back of them." This was Mitt Romney's "47%" argument condensed. When you suggest that wage earners are too stupid to be employers and ignore the fact that the majority of the population are wage earners, things aren't going to go real well for you. Siding with Wall Street against Main Street may sell to the endlessly chumpish Republican voter, but that position can't survive for long in the wild. It -- in the form of opposition to the auto bailout and the jobs that consequentially saved -- is what killed Romney in all-important Ohio.

But if I really had to boil it all down to one reason, I'd blame that rightwing media bubble and the feedback loop it generates. Outlets like Fox News don't exist to advance any ideology (for the most part); it's the Republican Party press office and it exists to get Republicans elected. They accomplish this by being extraordinarily reactionary -- everything liberals do or believe is bad, therefore Republicans must be elected to stop them.

The problem here is that being endlessly reactionary is endlessly reductive. If your argument is that everything that liberals believe is wrong, then you wind up opposing some popular ideas. Democrats, for example, like Social Security and Medicare -- so these are socialism and bad ideas that should be fixed through privatization. Why is inserting a pointless middleman into the equation and increasing costs a good idea? Because liberals are bad and shut up, that's why. As Republicans move closer to opposing everything, they find themselves racing toward zero.

No wonder the GOP watches its share of the electorate shrink year after year, month after month, day after day. They're actively kicking people out of it. They've become a party of straight white evangelicals who believe that the rich should get a free ride on the backs of the poor. Because liberals care about poor people and liberals suck. Just like the Earth sucks and people who get shot by wandering neighborhood watch lunatics suck and people who think that rape isn't a Blessed Gift from On High suck and kids who learn stuff from Sesame Street suck.

Maybe Republicans are headed the way of the dinosaurs and, like the dinosaurs, lack the capacity to understand that their own extinction is right around the corner. Or maybe they'll evolve, adapt, and survive.

I'd put my money on the latter -- if it weren't for the fact that evolution was one of those things that evil liberals believe and therefore sucks.


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Romney's Excellent Argument Against Electing Romney

Mitt Romney takes America hostage
The election campaign is pretty much over. There's some scrambling to be done here or there. A last minute effort to get to those few last voters who may not be undecided, but are unmotivated and still unsure whether voting this year will be worth their time. And that's who the post is aimed at; that voter, perhaps tired of the bitter partisan divide and disgusted with how dirty politics has become, who doesn't think voting will make any difference.

There are plenty of posts out there today -- and many more to be published before the election is over -- that spell out what life under a President Romney would be like. Juan Cole has such a post up now and it's worth a read. But Romney's been so inconsistent in his pitch that it really is impossible to predict exactly how he'll govern. I think he will be a plutocrat who believes that 47% of America is beneath his notice, mostly because his history -- both in the private and public sector -- is one of exactly that. But he's such a flip-flopper and a liar that you can't say with any certainty how he'll govern. And it may be that how he governs would be less consequential than how he got elected.

See, if we really want to know what the consequence is of electing Mitt Romney, we can look at his closing argument. In it, he reveals not so much about himself as of his party -- and it's damningly familiar. In his closing argument last Friday, Mitt Romney took the American people hostage.

[Talking Points Memo:]

In what his campaign billed as his “closing argument,” Mitt Romney warned Americans that a second term for President Obama would have apocalyptic consequences for the economy in part because his own party would force a debt ceiling disaster.

“Unless we change course, we may well be looking at another recession,” Romney told a crowd in West Allis, Wisconsin.

Romney said that Obama “promised to be a post-partisan president, but he became the most partisan” and that his bitter relations with the House GOP could threaten the economy. As his chief example, he pointed to a crisis created entirely by his own party’s choice — Republican lawmakers’ ongoing threat to reject a debt ceiling increase. Economists warn that a failure to pass such a measure would have immediate and catastrophic consequences for the recovery.

“You know that if the President is re-elected, he will still be unable to work with the people in Congress,” Romney said. “He has ignored them, attacked them, blamed them. The debt ceiling will come up again, and shutdown and default will be threatened, chilling the economy.”

The message is simple: elect Mitt Romney or his party will bring down the United States. What a freakin' patriot, huh?

And this is exactly why we shouldn't elect Romney. Imagine what politics will be like in the future if this sort of hostage-taking is considered a successful strategy. And it gets worse.

During Barack Obama's first term, Republicans have engaged in an unprecedented campaign of obstructionism. The filibuster has been abused to the point that absolutely nothing gets done in Washington. The strategy here is as cynical as it is un-American; bring progress to a halt, let the problems America should be solving fester and get worse, then blame Democrats and the president for the mess Republicans have created.

Imagine what happens if we reward that. Republicans will do this every time. They've made it eminently clear that they don't care about the nation -- if they did, they wouldn't filibuster things like the National Bombing Prevention Act or the Veterans Jobs Corps Act. If their strategy is successful, then every time there's a Democratic president or a Democratic majority, Republicans will shut down Washington until election day.

Finally, Mitt Romney has been the most dishonest candidate since Richard Nixon. Positively eager to tell you exactly what polling says you want to hear, Romney changes his own positions as often as his socks -- while engaging in the worst smears this side of Rick Santorum. And the GOP base is even worse. Imagine what happens when birtherism is seen as a political success story, when smearing the president as a communist and a terrorist sympathizer becomes the norm. Don't like politics now? I can guarantee that electing Mitt Romney will make it worse. If we reward all this, we normalize it.

Mitt Romney's closing argument should damn him. It's not even an argument, it's a threat. Seriously, do you really want to vote for the guy who just took you hostage?


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Romney's Running Out of Time

Clock face
Election week began -- appropriately or inappropriately, depending on your point of view -- on Halloween. There are now less than seven days until the election. For Mitt Romney, the sentence, "There's still time to turn this thing around," gets more and more untrue with each passing hour. Signs of his desperation abound. The Cleveland Plain Dealer describes him "flailing" in Ohio, "recklessly" telling lies about Chrysler moving jobs to China. A company spokesperson said that Romney's Chrysler-Jeep story was "a leap that would be difficult even for professional circus acrobats." Meanwhile, tick-tock.

At the same time, the Republican nominee is dusting off his old -- and just as thoroughly debunked -- welfare lie.


Mitt Romney's campaign has brought back a widely-discredited welfare claim in a new television ad, one week before Election Day.

In the ad--which was unannounced by the campaign but posted Tuesday on Romney's YouTube site–the narrator lists the "gutting" of the work requirement in welfare as one of President Barack Obama's so-called failed policies in his first term.

Along with high unemployment and a rise in food stamps, the Romney ad paints Obama as a threat to future generations.

"We may have made it through President Obama's first term," the narrator concludes, as footage of children are featured on the screen. "It's our children who cannot afford a second."

Politifact rated Romney's take on welfare and work requirements as "pants on fire" -- a cute way of saying the man is a blatant liar.

It didn't work the last time and it's hard to see how it would work now. The dog whistle is just a little too audible to non-racists and it may actually do more harm than good. Team Romney did not issue a press release for the ad, in the hopes that it would fly under the radar, unnoticed by anyone other than swing state voters. Meanwhile, tick-tock.

Over at FiveThirtyEight, the trend has shown Romney's chances slowly sinking. His "momentum" propaganda seems more and more ridiculous as that red line dips every day. I've compared Team Romney to Baghdad Bob in the past -- and I've done it because the comparison is so damned on the money.

FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver writes that Obama's midwestern "firewall" is holding -- perhaps even strengthening -- and that national and state polls are no longer in complete disagreement. A state-by-state electoral college count makes the president the clear favorite and national poll averages put Obama over the top as well. Talking Points Memo concurs -- according to polling averages, President Obama holds the slimmest of national leads. But a lead nonetheless. In their electoral college count, Obama easily clears the 270 mark with 303 electoral college votes (Silver gives him 300 and change). Talk of an electoral college victory and a popular vote loss has been fashionable among the punditry, but it should begin to die off now. We seem to be headed toward a victory on both counts.

Meanwhile, tick-tock.

Expect Romney to become more desperate daily. Expect his lies to be more egregious. Expect his flailing to be more frenetic. And I can say this with some confidence because Obama's victory is not assured by any means. A Romney win is doable, but unlikely. And it gets more and more unlikely the longer Mitt runs behind. Nate Silver:

Mr. Obama is not a sure thing, by any means. It is a close race. His chances of holding onto his Electoral College lead and converting it into another term are equivalent to the chances of an N.F.L. team winning when it leads by a field goal with three minutes left to play in the fourth quarter. There are plenty of things that could go wrong, and sometimes they will.

But it turns out that an N.F.L. team that leads by a field goal with three minutes left to go winds up winning the game 79 percent of the time. Those were Mr. Obama's chances in the FiveThirtyEight forecast as of Wednesday: 79 percent.

Actually, there were three minutes left on the clock and a one-in-five chance when he wrote that. Two minutes, fifty-nine seconds now.



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