Weekly Musing 5-18-14
A Crisis of Faith in America
I want a leader of faith. Not faith in some certain religion or political party, but a faith that is the opposite of certainty. That can sit in the doubts and still believe the truth will emerge through a process that respects all opinions. A leader who has faith and strength enough not to need quick certain answers, but can trust in a way forward however murky or uncertain it seems. I believe real confidence comes from the strength to stand in the unknown, and not have to be right.
Yes, we need more faith in politics. But not the kind of faith so many folks communicate in our discourse. I want more leaders to emerge who believe, through the doubts and uncertainties, in the faith of the American public to point the way. Leaders who can sit more quietly in the doubts of the world and with openness listen to the wisdom that comes from diverse discussion. And in that space is where our answers will come from. I am not certain about that, but I believe. I have faith.
How Big a Wave? The big question for 2014: Will we see a GOP ripple … or a tsunami?
The calculated takeaway is this: As of now, Democrats are clear underdogs in the two states where they want to play offense. They also are probably no better than 50-50 in any of the seven red states where they are defending seats, and drowning in a couple. A big enough wave could cut into the blue states, too, although probably not as deeply as Republicans fantasize. Put it all together, and the current forecast calls for a wave that’s more than a ripple but less than a tsunami – a four to eight-seat addition for the Republicans, with the higher end of the range being a shade likelier than the lower. For Harry Reid, that would be a big-enough splash.
For Democrats, Midterm Peril Lies in the Public’s Mood
For Democrats, the 2010 midterm election was like a bad dream, one not to be repeated. So here is reason for Democrats to sleep uneasily right now: Public attitudes today are remarkably similar to those that prevailed just before that election disaster.
Public sentiment is currently similar to that which prevailed just before the 2010 mid-term elections that were disastrous for Democrats. Capital Journal columnist Jerry Seib explains what Democrats have to lose this time around. Photo: Getty Images.
On most traditional readings of the political mood—direction of the country, ratings of the incumbent president’s job performance, economic expectations and hopes for the outcome of the November vote—the feelings today are uncannily close to those that prevailed in October 2010, just before the election in which Democrats lost six Senate seats and a whopping 63 House seats, ceding House control to Republicans.
Indeed, a review of data by the Wall Street Journal/NBC News polling team also shows some similarities between public attitudes today and those that prevailed before elections in 1994 and 2006, in which the sitting president’s party suffered significant setbacks. At a minimum, these readings suggest Democrats have precious little hope of taking back control of the House and will be lucky if they don’t lose more ground there. More important, they show how favorable the landscape is for Republicans to seize the year’s grand prize, which is to win the six seats they need to take control of the Senate.
Sen. Marco Rubio: Yes, I’m Ready to be President
“I do … but I think that’s true for multiple other people that would want to run … I mean, I’ll be 43 this month, but the other thing that perhaps people don’t realize, I’ve served now in public office for the better part of 14 years,” said Rubio. “Most importantly, I think a president has to have a clear vision of where the country needs to go and clear ideas about how to get it there and I think we’re very blessed in our party to have a number of people that fit that criteria.”
When asked if he was qualified to run, Rubio reiterated that the Republican Party has several qualified candidates.
“The question is what — who’s vision is the one that our party wants to follow?” he said.
The inner circle: Sally Bradshaw, Mike Murphy
For a two-term governor of a political hotbed who’s openly mulling a presidential bid in a few years, Jeb Bush is unusually reliant on his own counsel.
But to the extent Bush has a kitchen cabinet, two figures have seats at the head of the table: Sally Bradshaw, Bush’s no-nonsense ex-chief of staff, and Mike Murphy, the Republican consultant and “Meet the Press” mainstay who’s taken up residence in Hollywood. The two go back decades with Bush and have led a tight and informal political operation helping Bush navigate the public side of his 2016 deliberations, which are expected to yield a decision after the November midterms.
Here’s a look at some of the key people outside his family with whom Bush exchanges ideas about politics and policy.
Republicans Pull Hillary Off The Sidelines
Republicans has forced the former secretary of state to engage in hand-to-hand combat long before she had hoped to, accelerating her reemergence as a political figure before she decides whether to run for president in 2016
Hillary Clinton wanted to spend 2014 giving speeches, hawking a new book, but otherwise staying above the political fray while she decides whether to run for president. Republicans have other plans—and they’re working.
For the better part of a year, the GOP has hewed to a two-pronged strategy built around forcing Clinton to engage in day-to-day political battles and resurrecting the drama-filled atmosphere of the late 1990s. On both fronts, it’s hard to argue the party’s efforts aren’t showing success. Republicans are increasingly forcing Clinton to defend her record as secretary of state, and GOP operative Karl Rove provoked a fierce response from Clintonland this week when he publicly questioned her health. Separately, Monica Lewinsky brought up old memories when the former White House intern whose extramarital dalliance with Bill Clinton led to his impeachment broke years of silence with a Vanity Fair tell-all.
How the 2016 Election Was Rigged More Than 200 Years Ago
Ben Highton, a political scientist at the University of California-Davis, has identified a trend that hardly anybody in Washington has noticed yet. In a pair of blog posts, Highton persuasively makes the case that the Electoral College has taken on a strong pro-Democratic tilt. That is, the states in the center of the Electoral College distribution lean more strongly Democratic than the electorate as a whole. How heavily? Highton has a chart:
According to his figures, Republicans would need to win the popular vote by about 1.5 percentage points to stand an even chance of winning the presidency. Even if they win the popular vote by two percent, their odds of winning the election would not top 75 percent. That is a steep Democratic bias.
The Democratic swing-state advantage appears all over the map, but its locus is probably the quintessential swing state of Florida. Since the run-up to the 2012 election, electoral analyst Nate Cohn has been tracking Florida’s steady lurch toward the Democratic party (see here, here, and here).
Demographics May Be Destiny — But Not One Political Direction
Demography is destiny, we are often told, and rightly — up to a point. The American electorate is made up of multiple identifiable segments, defined in various ways, by race and ethnicity, by age cohort, by region and religiosity (or lack thereof), by economic status and interest.
Over time, some segments become larger and some smaller. Some prove to be politically crucial, given the political alignments of the time. Others become irrelevant as they lose cohesion and identity.
From the results of the 2008 presidential election, many pundits prophesied a bleak future for the Republican Party, and not implausibly.
The exit poll showed that President Obama carried by overwhelming margins two demographic segments that were bound to become a larger share of the electorate over time.
He carried Hispanics 67 to 31 percent, despite Republican opponent John McCain’s support of comprehensive immigration legislation. Obama carried voters under 30 — the so-called Millennial Generation — by 66 to 32 percent.
But over time, Democrats’ hold on these groups has weakened. In Gallup polls, Obama’s job approval among Hispanics declined from 75 percent in 2012 to 52 in 2013 and among Millennials from 61 percent in 2012 to 46 percent in 2013.
The recent Harvard Institute of Politics poll of Millennials showed Democrats with a big party identification edge among those over 25, but ahead of Republicans by only 41 to 38 percent among those 18 to 20.
The older Millennials came of political age during the late George W. Bush years and were transfixed by the glamor of candidate Obama in 2008.
The U.S. immigrant population is booming. But mostly in just a handful of states.
In 1990, there were 19.8 million foreign born people in the United States. In 2012, there were 40.7 million.
Those numbers are absolutely eye-popping and, as we have written many times of late in this space, they represent a central piece of the future political puzzle for both parties. Republicans’ inability to attract any significant number of Hispanic votes in either of the last two presidential elections — John McCain won 31 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2008, Mitt Romney won a meager 27 percent in 2012 — presents them with a major challenge in future national elections as the white vote continues to shrink as a percentage of the overall electorate.
A new report from Pew — these guys rock! — suggests that while Republicans still need to be concerned about their struggles among Hispanics, the problem — at least in the near term — may be less dire than it seems. Why? Because the vast majority of the growth in the immigrant population is happening in a relative static number of states — states that, by and large, are already safely in Democratic hands.
Here’s awesome Pew chart, detailing the 15 states with the highest percentage of foreign born residents between 1990 and 2012.
Environmentalists Have Lost the Climate Change Debate
But really, after all these years, admitting that executive power is the only way to move (tepidly) forward on climate change policy is basically admitting defeat. Has there ever been a movement that’s spent as much time, energy and treasure and gotten so little in return? I suspect there are three reasons for this failure: 1) It’s difficult to fight basic economics. 2) On energy, Americans, despite what they say, have no desire to try (nor should they). 3) It’s getting more difficult, not less, to believe environmental doom and gloom.
“There will always be people in this country who say that we’ve got to choose between clean air, clean water and growing the economy, between doing right by the environment and putting people back to work,” Obama said a couple of years ago. “I’m here to tell you that is a false choice.” Well, actually, we already have cleaner air and water, and we (typically) have a growing economy. The thing is there is consensus among economists that regulations do have a cost. Sometimes the price tag is worth it. Oftentimes it’s not.
Europe’s Russian Nightmare Is Starting To Come True
As Russia covertly invaded the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in March, Janusz Bugajski of the Center for Strategic and International.
Studies explained Europe’s perspective:
“There’s a palpable fear throughout Eastern Europe that the Russian government no longer respects the borders of Europe, the map of Europe, that it will unilaterally change the borders of its neighbors on the pretext whether of defending minority rights, restoring law and order, or whatever it is, in order to try to expand its influence and expand its control over parts of territories of neighboring countries,” he told PBS Newshour.
Two months later, that’s exactly what’s happening in eastern Ukraine. Two regions, Donetsk and Luhansk, used slipshod referendums on Sunday to secede from Ukraine. Now separatist leaders in both regions want to join Russia. And Russian troops remain at the border.
The expansionist behind Putin
When Vladimir Putin addressed the Russian parliament in March following his annexation of Crimea — Part 1 of a “slowing-rolling conquest of Ukraine,” as one historian put it — he drew on traditionalist notions of Greater Russia, Slavic destiny and even ethnic mysticism to justify his aggressions.
But behind the self-serving rhetoric were an unspoken geopolitical theory and unacknowledged ideas of a Russian intellectual by the name of Aleksandr Gelyevich Dugin.
Since the early 1990s, Dugin, the son of a KGB officer, has been promoting the concept of Eurasianism, an ideology under which Russia would dominate Western and Eastern Europe as well as Central Asia — and re-establish itself as a global power capable of challenging the geopolitical dominance and liberal ethos of the West.
According to some scholars, Putin’s Duma speech reflects the influence of Dugin’s Eurasianism and the idea of some Greater Russia configuration capable of challenging, in Dugin’s words, “North Atlantic interests.”
A statement Dugin made in 1997 sums up this ideology succinctly: “In principle, Eurasia and our space, the heartland Russia, remain the staging area of a new anti-bourgeois, anti-American revolution,”: he said. “The new Eurasian empire will be constructed on the fundamental principle of the common enemy: the rejection of Atlanticism, strategic control of the U.S. and the refusal to allow liberal values to dominate us.”
Bill Maher: Liberals too soft on Islam, the ‘elephant in the room’
Political talk show host Bill Maher took to his HBO show to battle liberals, arguing that Islam tends to incite acts of violence and that liberals tend to overlook the larger problem.
On his show “Real Time,” Mr. Maher and his panelists began to discuss the recent kidnappings of hundreds of Nigerian girls by the radical Islamist group Boko Haram.
“There’s no mention here of connecting this to the religion, which is always what I am seeking to do because I think that’s the elephant in the room,” Bill Maher said. “And that in the religion at large, women are seen as property, second-class at best, often property.”
Mr. Maher went on to argue that liberals who chalk the incidences up to small groups of radical “bad apples” are not standing up for liberal principles, a major part of which is equality for women.
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