Weekly Musing 12-28-14
Obama, a One-Man Revolution
Until now there were two types of peaceful American change. One was a president, like Franklin D. Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan, working with Congress to alter American life from the top down by passing a new agenda. The other was popular-reform pressure, as happened in the 1890s or 1960s, to change public opinion and force government to make new laws or change existing ones.
Barack Obama has introduced a quite different, third sort of revolution. He seeks to enact change that both the majority of Americans and their representatives oppose. And he tries to do it by bypassing Congress through executive orders and presidential memoranda of dubious legality.
…After six years of Obama’s tenure, the president’s approval rating is just above 40 percent. He has lost more congressional seats during his administration than has any president in over a half-century. His party is in shambles, with historic midterm losses in state legislatures and governorships.
Obama’s promised new legislation — gun control, climate change, Obamacare — was either rejected by Congress or passed but found to be both unpopular and nearly unworkable. Positive changes — such as lower gas prices brought on by new American oil and gas discoveries and innovative new methods of extraction — came despite, not because of, Obama.
Yet the president presses on with his unpopular agenda, believing, as did Napoleon, that he alone is the revolution — intent to ignore popular opinion, the rule of law, and Congress. He assumes that his mastery of the teleprompter and iconic status as the first black president exempt him from congressional censure or outright public revolt.
In the next two years, we will see presidential overreach that we have not witnessed in modern memory.
The week the GOP primary began
Jeb Bush got serious, Marco Rubio railed on a topic close to home and Rand Paul took yet another contrarian view.
Officially, the Republican 2016 presidential field is a ways from being settled. Unofficially, this certainly felt like the week that the GOP primary was joined.
It started with Bush’s unexpected announcement that he’s “seriously considering” trying to become the third family member to win the presidency, and ended with Rubio and Paul trading shots over President Barack Obama’s new Cuba policy. Any expectation of a tranquil, holiday-season conclusion to a year of partisan battle in the midterms was unambiguously dashed.
“Jeb Bush’s announcement was a thunderclap that startled everyone and jump-started the Republican primaries,” said Mark McKinnon, a onetime adviser to Bush’s brother, George W. Bush.
McKinnon and other Republican strategists said Bush’s move not only sent a signal to anxious donors that the former Florida governor means business, but it also accelerates the primary process.
“The race to lock up money and talent will now be fast and furious,” McKinnon said. “If you intend to be a serious candidate, you can’t afford to wait very long to make your intentions clear. Most likely the serious players will announce their intentions some time in the first quarter of next year.”
Wealthy donors sided with Democrats in midterms
For as often as Democrats attack the conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch for their heavy spending on politics, it’s actually the liberal-minded who shelled out the most cash in the just completed midterm elections.
At least, that is, among those groups that must disclose what they raise and spend.
Among the top 100 individual donors to political groups, more than half gave primarily to Democrats or their allies. Among groups that funneled more than $100,000 to allies, the top of the list tilted overwhelmingly toward Democrats – a group favoring the GOP doesn’t appear on the list until No. 14.
The two biggest super PACs of 2014? Senate Majority PAC and House Majority PAC – both backing Democrats.
In all, the top 10 individual donors to outside groups injected almost $128 million into this year’s elections. Democratic-leaning groups collected $91 million of it.
Among the 183 groups that wrote checks of $100,000 or more to another group, Democrats had a 3-to-1 cash advantage. The biggest player was the National Education Association, at $22 million. Not a single Republican-leaning group cracked the top 10 list of those transferring money to others.
Evening with the Governor
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder looks back at 2014 with Tim Skubick, senior capitol correspondent and anchor of Off the Record from WKAR. The exclusive one-hour interview includes a rare TV appearance by First Lady Sue Snyder. | Watch it now at video.wkar.org
Red states keep growing faster than blue states
Since 2000, states that were red in 2012 grew much more than states that were blue. This led to a redistribution of House seats to states in the South and West — and to a reallocation of electoral votes. (Note that this is percent growth, which includes, say, North Dakota: the fastest growing state in recent years, but with a small population. In raw terms, red states grew by about a million people between July 2013 and July 2014. Blue states grew by about 941,000.)
That third pair of columns is misleading. It includes only the swing states from 2012, Florida, North Carolina and Ohio — and is dominated by the growth in Florida.
Notice in the second map above that the swing states have seen a range of growth. Some grew slowly since 2000. Some, like Florida, grew quickly. Which is important to read in reverse: There’s not a clear link between population growth and being a swing state.
For Republicans that are pleased about the continued growth in your states, some bad news. It does you no good until 2020, when electoral votes and House seats get shifted around again. The new data doesn’t suggest that your states are moving to the left, necessarily, as happened to Virginia as its northern counties absorbed more Democrats. Again, look to Florida, where people have been moving for years. The rate of growth has tapered off a bit, but the state’s political status hasn’t changed much. It’s still the swingiest state in the nation.
Race and the races
Bobby Jindal is Indian-American, but you’ll never hear him describe himself that way. Marco Rubio insists he’s an “American of Hispanic descent.” And Ted Cruz “certainly” identifies as Hispanic, but he didn’t run for office as “the Hispanic guy.”
These Republican lawmakers, along with African-American conservative favorite Ben Carson, look poised to make the 2016 GOP presidential field the party’s most diverse ever. They are all mulling over White House runs as the GOP continues to struggle with minority voters and as racial tensions over police conduct have captivated the nation.
But none is planning to play up his race or ethnicity in a presidential campaign, or even to stress the potentially historic nature of his candidacy. Instead, according to interviews with donors, strategists, aides and several of the possible candidates themselves, each is more likely to hit broader themes such as the American dream and the importance of hard work, which, for Jindal, Cruz and Rubio, would include nods to their parents’ immigrant experience.
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