Category Archives: Politics

Rick Perry hates Texans.

(Austin is very nice though!)

Rick Perry doesn’t seem to like his fellow Texans (via Politico):

Texas GOP Gov. Rick Perry accused President Barack Obama on Wednesday of “punishing” Texas and being “hell-bent” on turning the United States into a socialist country.

Speaking at a luncheon for a Midland County Republican Women’s group, Perry said that “this is an administration hell-bent toward taking American towards a socialist country. And we all don’t need to be afraid to say that because that’s what it is.”

Perry praised the tea party movement to the Republican activists in attendance, crediting the grassroots groups with discouraging some Democrats in Washington from pushing for a public option in the health care bill.

Under Gov. Perry’s wise leadership, Texas has consistently won the coveted title of “nation’s least-insured state.”  Texas leads the nation in uninsured adults and children; a staggering 25 percent of Texans – or 6 million people – live and work without health insurance, and that includes nearly 1.4 million children.  What’s more, Texas is ranked near the bottom when it comes to health care utilization, especially among children: overall, Texas is ranked 43 in terms of prevention and treatment, and among children Texas is ranked 40, with only 67.3 percent of Texas children receiving a preventative medical and dental visit in the past year.

Those of us without a sociopathic disregard for our fellow citizens recognizes that absent some serious intervention in the health care system, this trend is sure to continue, with more and more Texans losing their health insurance, and more and more Texans dying because of it.  I’d like to think that Gov. Perry knows this and is working diligently to find a solution to his state’s health care catastrophe.  But judging from his comments and his steadfast opposition to health care reform, I think it’s safe to say that Rick Perry is mostly unconcerned with the growing humanitarian crisis in his state.  Which makes sense.  The large majority of the uninsured are located in the South and the West, which also happen to be the last remaining Republican strongholds.  And as such, Rick Perry’s casual disregard for the uninsured puts him in close company with most of his ideological fellow-travelers.

To jump on Matt Yglesias’ point from this past weekend, if we operated with a slightly less absurd set of political institutions, a minority of legislators from sparsely populated states – or even larger states – wouldn’t be able to obstruct efforts to provide millions of people with potentially life-saving insurance.  Moreover, if we had a more responsible media, obstructionist legislators and leaders would be treated with disdain and opprobrium, not regularly trotted out as respectable members of the political elite.

Sacrifing Abortion.

Was the amendment restricting insurers that get federal dollars from paying for abortions a necessary evil to get health reform passed? Probably. It’s a heartbreaking setback, and, as Emily Bazelon points out in Double X, this only hurts poor women.

Just to keep things in perspective, though, women without health insurance don’t have abortions paid for now. I’d rather be certain that all women are getting the gynecological care they need, including effective birth control, than fight this battle right now.

Executive Mandates, Executive Power and Health Care Reform.

Getty Images

I predicted this story a few months ago; a grudging acknowledgment that President Barack Obama’s hands-off approach on health care might have been the right one after all. It’s not that I necessarily think it’s better that Obama let Congress hash out the health care plan and then let the town hall hysteria boil and dissipate on national television. It’s just that a kind of coolness and steadiness has always been his strategy, and so far it has worked.

There’s something else at work here, too. Obama seems to appreciate Congress’s place in the process. Respecting Congress might seem a hard thing to do, but it’s what presidents once did. The mini-series on John Adams, based on the biography by David McCullough, lets Adams a little off the hook for The Alien and Sedition acts because he was merely acquiescing to Congress’s will, and they had enough votes to override a veto anyway. In fact, Jon Meacham tells us in “American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House” that the first six presidents rarely used their veto power, usually overriding only those acts they saw as unconstitutional.

It was Jackson, Meacham said, who used veto power for laws with which he disagreed. It became a political tool and a method for making policy. It was Jackson who first saw himself as having a popular mandate, representing the will of the people over the entrenched interests of Congress.

For many of us here, that probably seems like a good presidential philosophy as long as Obama’s in the White House. It feels like Obama is representative of the popular will, and its tempting to want him to take up the progressive mandate mantle. It’s not as though Obama’s completely against strong executive power, as we’ve argued before; he seems particularly reluctant to roll back Bush era expansions of it. But there’s something to be said for respecting the institution and the slow and steady progress it’s most inclined to make, and Obama tends to put his faith in the electoral process. American democracy can evolve in punctuated equilibrium fashion, and the South, interested from the start in establishing a different kind of America, is still fighting the rupturing battles of the 50s,  60s and 70s (even all the way back to the 30s). Change was faster then, but it came at a price. Gay rights advocates, Americans without health care and all of us breathing increasingly warm and poisoned air can point out that slow change costs us something, too. Perhaps progressives can console themselves with this; change is change, and it’s never failed to come.

I am Shocked – Shocked – To Learn That Black People Aren’t All That Jazzed on America.

Even if Rasmussen’s poll is accurate and only 14 percent of African-Americans say that American society “is generally fair and decent” (down from 55 percent from February), this – from Powerline’s John Hinderaker – is still pretty stupid:

It’s interesting that Latinos and Asians evidently have a higher opinion of the decency of American society than whites. But the main point here, obviously, is the dramatic shift among African-Americans. What could have caused it?

The only possible answer is that many Americans have opposed President Obama’s policies. But why would that cause African-Americans to think that our society is “discriminatory” rather than “decent”? No mystery there: in a well-coordinated campaign, the Democratic Party has relentlessly portrayed all disagreement with the Obama administration’s policies as “racist.” That contemptible and divisive tactic had seemed to produce no results, but we now see that it had one consequence: alienating African-Americans from their country.

I wonder what would cause African-Americans to think that our society is discriminatory rather than decent?  The institutional racism and massive economic inequalities notwithstanding, I’m inclined to think that it has something to do with the indiscriminate killing of black people by police, or the thinly-veiled racist outrage surrounding Sonia Sotomayor, or the GOP’s race-baiting spokesmen, or the fact that Republican congressmen refer to the president as “boy” and ask him to “show some humility.”  And then there’s the whole “tea party” thing.

Yeah, I’m pretty sure that has something to do with it.

Do Big Marches Still Matter?

Before the big National Equality Rights March last Sunday, Barney Frank flashed his trademark exasperation at the idea that the demonstration would push lawmakers on gay rights. “The only thing they’ll be putting pressure on is the grass,” he said.

Pam Spaulding reciprocated with some annoyance of her own. “I’m scratching my head on this. OK, so the march isn’t his bag, why not simply say nothing rather than to continue tossing out the barbs?”

While it certainly sucks to have the country’s most prominent openly gay politician call the National Equality March  a big waste of time,  isn’t Frank essentially correct in saying that big rallies like the NEM have little influence on policymakers? To the extent that the  mass demonstrations of the 1960s were effective in spurring policy changes  — and  there’s an argument we could probably have  about how true that may be — those rallies took place when big events monopolized the coverage of a handful of news outlets. That’s a markedly different media landscape than our current one.  There’s also the issue of march fatigue: according to Wikipedia, there have been nine big rallies in D.C. just this year. How much attention are lawmakers paying to any of these events?

There are undoubtedly tons of ancillary organizational benefits that come with big demonstrations. They allow advocacy groups with similar objectives to coordinate and network, to say nothing of the catharsis and goodwill that comes with rubbing shoulders with like-minded people. But to say they have a direct affect on policy seems like a stretch.

Black Republicans and the Specter of Tokenism.

(x-posted from U.S. of J. and the League)

The whiff of tokenism notwithstanding, I’m actually glad to see that there are credible black Republicans angling for high-level political office.  I’ve long argued that it would be good for black people, and great for the country, if Republicans took the African-American community seriously.  For starters, greater black representation within the GOP would probably force our political culture to actually acknowledge the huge amount of ideological diversity within the black community, and increase the likelihood that those views would find substantive representation in the halls of power. I know I’m not speaking alone here when I say that I am regularly annoyed/driven to a blind murderous rage by the fact that our political culture treats black people as this liberal, ideological monolith, which – despite our heavy support for the Democratic Party – is really not the case.

That said, there is a definite aura of tokenism surrounding these guys.  After all, they aren’t just the lone black faces in a lily white party (indeed, a party that takes “lily white” to its Platonic heights) – they are the lone black faces in a party that routinely and casually exploits racial fear and paranoia for political gain, and whose most prominent representatives in the media are race-baiting demagogues.  More importantly, and as Adam recently pointed out, the GOP has yet to really grapple with its ugly racial history, and in fact, hardly acknowledges it (Ken Mehlman’s brief words in 2005 don’t really count).  By contrast, Democrats – from the  Civil Rights Act onwards – have devoted a hell of a lot of political capital to atoning for their ugly racial history.  Indeed, the 1960s are something of an inflection point in that regard: at the moment that Democrats committed themselves to racial liberalism, Republicans embraced the disaffected white southerners left behind in the march towards greater political equality.

Tokenism, as I see it, has less to do with numbers and everything to do with self-respect.  Insofar that any of these guys are tokens, it’s in their willingness (and in the case of Michael Steele or Ken Blackwell, enthusiasm) to be used as props for a party desperate for cheap grace, and eager to absolve itself of its sins without doing the hard work of atoning for them.  That said, and assuming they want to reform the GOP from the inside, I wish them the best of luck.  They’re going to need it.

Politicking With Lies, Again.

Creigh Deeds, Democratic candidate for governor of Virginia

The Washington Post blog 44 posted a survey a few days ago that the RNC is sending out to voters in Virginia as the state gears up toward a hotly contested gubernatorial election.

What we seem to have, as we’ve seen a lot of lately, is an ill-informed public who are swayed by lies instead of facts.

The Republican National Committee has sent some Virginia voters a questionnaire suggesting that the president and Congressional Democrats want to expand welfare benefits with “no time, education or work requirements” and reinstitute the military draft — while raising the budget deficit well beyond what is projected by nonpartisan experts.

The fundraising survey, received this week by a Post reporter who lives in Northern Virginia, is called the “2009 Obama Agenda Survey” and comes as less than a month remains in the hard-fought gubernatorial race between Democrat Creigh Deeds and Republican Robert McDonnell for control of the swing-state.

The survey, touching on an array of divisive topics, is accompanied by a letter from GOP chairman Michael S. Steele describing the items in the survey questions as “Obama’s top priorities” and declaring, “I want you to know that the Republican Party is not dead.”

Some of the 15 questions:

1. Do you agree with Barack Obama’s budget plan that will lead to a $23.1 trillion deficit over the next ten years?

3. Do you support amnesty for illegal immigrants?

4. Should English be the official language of the United States?

6. Are you in favor of expanded welfare benefits and unlimited eligibility (no time, education or work requirements) that Democrats are pushing to pass?

9. Do you support the creation of a national health insurance plan that would be administered by bureaucrats in Washington?

13. Are you in favor of reinstituting the military draft, as Democrats in Congress have proposed?”

The budget deficit is way higher than fair estimates, amnesty for illegal immigrants and expanded welfare benefits aren’t on the agenda, etc., etc. What disappoints me so much is how easy it is to lie to people. It doesn’t matter that the lies floating around about the health care debate and Obama’s administration in general are demonstrably false. You don’t even have to know that much to disprove them, you only need know how to read. I’m sure there’s a lot more going on; some people just don’t have faith in the nebulous, overarching power structure that they feel controls them. And some would say that these kind of raw ideas floating to the top is just a necessary price of democracy. Still. I feel pretty secure in thinking it would disappoint the founders to know these people get all of their information from Glenn Beck.