Weekly Musing 12-14-14
The country has had it with Obama
First, it seemed the wheels were coming off the bus internationally. Our people were murdered in Benghazi, Libya. Iraq crumbled. Then Libya crumbled, again. The Islamic State conquered vast stretches of territory. Russia grabbed part of Ukraine. Israel and the United States fought while Iran inched closer to getting the bomb. Our Sunni allies publicly lashed out at the administration. China pressed its advantage.
Now the wheels, which were none too secure here at home, are spinning off in every direction on the domestic side. President Obama got caught flat-footed on Ebola. His 2012 executive move on immigration set off a border crisis. The president then doubled down and created a firestorm with an immigration overreach so vast and unprecedented that it surpassed any act of executive brazenness since Watergate. (The Post’s editorial board denounces his move: “This is not a game of gotcha; facts matter — even in Washington — and so do the numbers. Under close scrutiny it is plain that the White House’s numbers are indefensible. It is similarly plain that the scale of Mr. Obama’s move goes far beyond anything his predecessors attempted. . . . Republicans’ failure to address immigration also does not justify Mr. Obama’s massive unilateral act. Unlike [President George H.W.] Bush in 1990, whose much more modest order was in step with legislation recently and subsequently enacted by Congress, Mr. Obama’s move flies in the face of congressional intent — no matter how indefensible that intent looks.”)
And to top it off, we have serial cases of racial violence and anger over interactions with the police and African Americans, the latest being the nearly inexplicable decision in New York not to indict a police officer in the chokehold killing of Eric Garner. (So much for the notion that if we just had cameras, these controversies would diminish.) Through polls Americans say they do not trust Obama to handle major issues, they don’t like how he responded to the Ferguson, Mo., convulsion, and they would rather Congress run things for a while.
The sad irony is that the one thing Republicans hoped that Obama (no red states, no blue states, etc.) could do — help reduce racial tensions and be an example of racial progress — he is now singularly unable to do. Virtually everything he says or does inflames and aggravates multiple segments of society. It is not that in the specific cases of Eric Garner or Michael Brown he did anything all that provocative. To the contrary, he tried to walk a very thin line. Rather, it is because in the six preceding years he chose to govern as a vicious partisan, jamming through his signature issue on strict party lines with a legislative gimmick and constantly taking delight (most recently in the immigration context) in sticking it to his opponents instead of brokering deals (e.g. the grand bargain he threw away). Forget about governing; he can no longer coexist amicably with Congress or even many members of his own party.
Finally… Russia threatens response if US sets new sanctions over Ukraine – Well, Mr. President?
Russia responded angrily on Saturday to news that US senators had passed a bill calling for fresh sanctions against Moscow and the supply of lethal military aid to Ukraine.
“Undoubtedly, we will not be able to leave this without a response,” deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov told Interfax news agency ahead of a meeting between the Russian and US foreign ministers.
The Senate bill — dubbed the Ukraine Freedom Support Act — must still be approved by the White House, which has so far been reluctant to provide direct military assistance to Ukraine for fear of being drawn into a proxy war with Russia.
Ryabkov blamed “anti-Russian moods” in the United States for the bill passed on Friday, which calls for additional sanctions against Russia and the delivery of up to $350 million (280 million euros’) worth of US military hardware to Ukraine.
The eight-month conflict between government forces and pro-Russian separatists has left at least 4,634 dead and 10,243 wounded, while displacing more than 1.1 million people, according to new figures released by the United Nations
Behind the GOP Statehouse Juggernaut
The media focus on national elections, but the bigger story of 2014 may be the earthquake in the states. Republicans now hold 31 governorships, but as important and less well understood is that they will also hold more state legislative seats than at any time since 1928. These are the building blocks of national success because they train future House and Senate candidates and become laboratories for conservative reform.
A common view is that many GOP candidates simply rode into office thanks to an anti-Democrat “wave election.” But don’t tell that to Florida political veteran Bill McCollum, who laid out a battle plan that produced the party’s statehouse coups. Over a recent lunch in downtown Orlando, Fla., he explained how Republicans did it, how they can capitalize on the wins, and what lessons the successes might hold for the 2016 presidential election.
Mr. McCollum is chairman of one of the least-known important outfits in American politics—the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), an outgrowth of the Republican National Committee formed in 2002 that plays in legislative, lieutenant governors’ and secretary of state races. But “it was only in 2010 that the legislative campaign committee came into its own,” Mr. McCollum says, establishing “a large network of relationships that allowed us to go out and play in a lot of legislative races.”
You might say they overachieved: In 2010 Republicans picked up 675 legislative seats, flipped 21 chambers, and won complete control of 25 statehouses. This year Mr. McCollum credits a “perfect storm” of strong candidates, effective strategy and a highly charged political atmosphere that delivered 69 of 99 state legislative chambers to Republican hands, exceeding the party’s previous high-water mark of 64 in 1920.
Republicans this year flipped nine state legislative chambers: the Colorado Senate; Maine Senate; Minnesota House; Nevada Senate and Assembly; New Hampshire House; New Mexico House and West Virginia House and Senate.
Next year, the GOP will control the legislatures and governorships in 23 states, while Democrats will enjoy hegemony in seven—California, Delaware, Oregon, Hawaii, Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut. Bolstering the GOP’s ranks in state government, Republicans will have 31 lieutenant governors, 28 secretaries of state and 27 attorneys general.
Welcome to the Democrats’ Post-Obama Family Feud
It’s turning out to be an awkward week for the Dean family. As former Vermont Governor Howard Dean announced Wednesday that he would back a Hillary Clinton presidential bid, the progressive group he founded declared that they were launching a major campaign to coax Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren into the race.
“Some of the other candidates may not be happy about this but they’ll thank us for it later,” Jim Dean, executive director of Democracy for America, and Howard’s brother, said of the effort to woo Warren. “Part of this is trying to wake the party up.” His position couldn’t be more different than his brother’s, who praised Clinton as a “mature, seasoned, thoughtful leader” in an editorial published by Politico that morning.
As the Jims of the Democratic world are clamoring for an alternative to Clinton, the Howards are racing to line up behind her even though she hasn’t decided whether to run. The two powerful women at the center of the discontent, however, are little more than indicators of a far broader family feud over the Democratic party’s future heading into 2016. On one side of the debate are strategists and officials, including some aligned with Clinton, who believe their path to the White House in the post-Obama era rests with wooing centrist, working class voters. To progressive activists, union members, and other parts of the “professional left,” as an Obama aide once called them, victory lies in running on an aggressive, populist economic message.
Senate 2016: The Republicans’ 2012 Homework
After playing offense in 2014 and netting nine Senate seats to set up a 54-46 majority in the 114th Congress, Republicans will mostly be playing defense in 2016. That probably means the GOP will end up losing seats, but recent history suggests that we should not be certain about that.
Heading into the 2016 Senate cycle, Republicans find themselves in a position similar to the Democrats going into 2012, with a Senate map dotted with vulnerabilities created by victories won six and 12 years prior.
In 2012, many observers, including us, thought the Republicans were primed to net at least a few Senate seats in large part because the Democrats were defending 23 Senate seats to just 10 for the Republicans. That Democratic exposure was created by the party’s solid wins in 2006, when they netted six Senate seats, and 2000, when they netted four seats. Two straight big elections on the same Senate map suggested the Democrats were in line for losses.
Republicans find themselves in almost the same position Democrats did four years ago, when the 2012 election cycle was taking shape. The GOP is defending 24 seats, while the Democrats only need to protect 10. The 2016 map is also the product of not just one previous big Republican victory, but two. In 2010, the last time this Senate class was contested, Republicans netted six seats. And six years before that, in 2004, Republicans netted four seats.
Map 1, the current occupants of the 34 Senate seats that make up 2016’s Senate Class Three, shows the obvious Republican challenge.
A Mistake Waiting to Happen! G.O.P. Donors Seek to Anoint a 2016 Nominee Early
Dozens of the Republican Party’s leading presidential donors and fund-raisers have begun privately discussing how to clear the field for a single establishment candidate to carry the party’s banner in 2016, fearing that a prolonged primary would bolster Hillary Rodham Clinton, the likely Democratic candidate.
The conversations, described in interviews with a variety of the Republican Party’s most sought-after donors, are centered on the three potential candidates who have the largest existing base of major contributors and overlapping ties to the top tier of those who are uncommitted: Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida and Mitt Romney.
All three are believed to be capable of raising the roughly $80 million in candidate and “super PAC” money that many Republican strategists and donors now believe will be required to win their party’s nomination.
But the reality of all three candidates vying for support has dismayed the party’s top donors and “bundlers,” the volunteers who solicit checks from networks of friends and business associates. They fear being split into competing camps and raising hundreds of millions of dollars for a bloody primary that would injure the party’s eventual nominee — or pave the way for a second-tier candidate without enough mainstream appeal to win the general election.
All-GOP controlled states outnumber all-Democratic states 24-7
Americans for Tax Reform produced the map showing that 146 million Americans live in all-GOP states compared to 49 million in all-Democratic states. Another 112 million live in states where the party of the governor and legislature are different.
What’s more, ATR President Grover Norquist told Secrets that all-Republican states outnumber all-Democratic states by a whopping 24 to 7.
“This is the demographic of the future of America,” he said.
Liberalism Is a Hoax – Public relations in the service of the left
Liberal myths propagated to generate outrage and activism, to organize and coordinate and mobilize disparate grievances and conflicting agendas, so often have the same relation to truth, accuracy, and legitimacy as a Bud Light commercial. Marketing is not limited to business. Inside the office buildings of Washington, D.C., are thousands upon thousands of professionals whose livelihoods depend on the fact that there is no better way than a well-run public relations campaign to get you to do what they want. What recent weeks have done is provide several lessons in the suspect nature of such campaigns…
…So much of contemporary liberalism reeks of a scheme by which already affluent and influential people increase their margins and extend their sway. Liberalism, mind you, in both parties: the Republican elite seems as devoted as their Democratic cousins to the shibboleths of diversity and immigration even as they bemoan the fate of the middle class and seek desperately the votes of white working families.
Just-so stories, extravagant assertions, heated denunciations, empty gestures, moral posturing that increases in intensity the further removed it is from the truth: If the mainstream narration of our ethnic, social, and cultural life is susceptible to error, it is because liberalism is the prevailing disposition of our institutions of higher education, of our media, of our nonprofit and public sectors, and it is therefore cocooned from skepticism and incredulity and independent thought. Sometimes the truth punctures the bubble. And when that happens—and lately it seems to be happening with increasing frequency—liberalism itself goes on trial.
Has the jury reached a verdict? Yes, your honor, it has. We find the defendant guilty. Liberalism is a hoax.
The secret GOP tech summit to plot 2016
The Republican Party’s top operatives — including strategists representing the Koch brothers’ political operation and several leading prospective 2016 presidential candidates – on Monday huddled behind closed doors to discuss how to synchronize their sometimes competing tech efforts, multiple attendees confirmed to POLITICO.
The all-day meeting attracted about 40 of the right’s biggest names in tech and strategy – including Koch operatives Michael Palmer and Marc Short, leading strategists from many of the major super PACs and all of the party committees, as well as close allies of Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Rick Perry and Scott Walker.
The session was at least partly intended to quash a rivalry simmering in the right’s tech ranks. Some party operatives worry that the competition between would be data-wizards could emerge as a problem for Republicans, since Democrats under President Barack Obama have coordinated their technology efforts relatively closely.
…GOP outreach efforts lagged far behind Obama’s vaunted voter-targeting machine in 2012, culminating in the embarrassing Election-Day snafus that plagued the turnout platform built by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign. The platform, called ORCA, was ridiculed as “Romney’s fail whale” and became emblematic of the tech deficiencies plaguing the GOP.
After 2012, conservatives generally agreed that addressing those deficiencies was a driving imperative since data is increasingly central to all phases of politics — from fundraising to messaging to getting out the vote. But they disagreed on how — and who — best to do it, and a competition for data supremacy has emerged between the Koch operation’s technology company (called i360), the Republican National Committee’s effort (Data Trust) and various other outside players.
According to multiple participants, Boyce told attendees it is essential for conservatives to start working more closely together soon — well before the 2016 GOP presidential primary — otherwise the party’s nominee will have to play catchup in the general election like Romney struggled to do. Boyce did not respond to an email message seeking comment on Monday afternoon.
Rick Snyder, eyeing 2016, to take Detroit success story on the road Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, bet his political career on turning around Detroit, even as many leaders of the overwhelmingly Democratic city proclaimed he would fail.
Snyder’s success since last summer has given him a captivating rationale to run for president — and a story he intends to share across the country in the coming months.
As of Thursday, 16 months after the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, Detroit will again control its finances and its destiny. The majority black city of 700,000 has shed billions in debt, and the emergency manager appointed by Snyder is stepping down.
The Motor City’s emergence from bankruptcy is a huge political win not just for the 56-year-old Snyder but also for his brand of technocratic Republicanism.
After a celebratory press conference Wednesday, Snyder told POLITICO that he plans a more aggressive travel schedule next year to “explain the Michigan story to the rest of the country.”
“As we solve these problems, one of the things you find is the perception of an area tends to lag five or 10 years behind the reality of it,” he said. “As we’ve shown the vast improvement over the last few years, now it’s time to start talking about the success in Michigan.”
Detroit from Air
You can learn a lot about a place by seeing it from the air. I’m a pilot and an aerial photographer; I am also trained as an architect. I’ve always been interested in how the natural and constructed worlds work together, and sometimes collide. Issues like income inequality also reveal themselves quickly from above, and in Detroit and the surrounding area, the stark contrast between the haves and the have-nots couldn’t be more apparent.
Outside the city center, I flew over new homes built alongside lakes and country clubs. Five-car garages, swimming pools and pool houses decorated elaborately landscaped yards. However, once I crossed into the city limits, the urban fabric of Detroit looked like a moth-eaten blanket. Vast depopulated areas were filled with vacant lots and blocks of boarded-up and burned-out homes. This type of blight is visible in other American cities but few compare to the emptiness that surrounds Detroit’s downtown.
I first photographed Detroit from the air during the Reagan-Carter campaign 34 years ago. Housing abandonment was well underway. The city had lost tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs as the auto industry contracted and moved parts of its operations out of Detroit. “White flight” from the city, exacerbated by race riots in 1967, also contributed to severe depopulation of the area. Meanwhile, the construction of highways allowed people to live farther away and commute to work, perpetuating the exodus to the suburbs. When I photographed the city in 2004, Detroit was still in decline. I could see from a plane even more abandoned and burned-out buildings, rubble and foundations poking out above the ground. The situation only worsened with the 2008 recession.
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