How Far We’ve Come on Parliamentarians

Following the Politico report on the GOP’s recent effort to tar the parliamentarian over his not-yet-made decision on whether the Health Care Reform bill’s side-car would meet the Byrd Rule for reconciliation, I came across this 2001 Slate article on reconciliation and the parliamentarian’s role. How far we’ve come.

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Jim Bunning Is A Hypocrite (D’Uh!)

On January 28, 2010, Senator Jim Bunning voted against reimposing statutory pay-as-you-go policy.

Today, Jim Bunning stated “I will be back on future spending bills demanding that they be paid for.” He could have had his way on January 28. But for hypocrites like Jim Bunning, party and politics come before country.

Obama: Onwards with reconciliation!

ABC reports that President Obama will back the reconciliation side-car if Health Care is not given an up or down vote. Since the Republicans made up their mind on January 20, 2009 to not help President Obama achieve his legislative goals, this will most likely be the path taken. Of the 59 Democratic Senators, we can almost assure ourselves that there will be some “No” votes on the side-car; however, 50 should be a lot easier to get to. Of the 41 Republicans, not one will vote for the side-car. This is looking more and more like the Democrats will get Health Care Reform done before Easter, giving incumbent Democrats time to run home, explain their vote, and ward off any opposition from within the party and from Republicans.

Health Care Forum

Clip of the forum: Obama v McCain

More to come soon on the policy and political impact of todays healthcare forum.

Why Obama’s Election Ruined Obama’s Term

Piggybacking on Yglesias’ post, I would to take an opportunity to discuss a hypothesis of mine that has been dancing in my head for a while, but I haven’t been able to put into words until recently.

As we all remember, the 2008 Presidential Election was one of the most analyzed, dissected, and reported in recent history. The advent of the internet contributed to the coverage, though just based on what I noticed, “old-school” reporting of the election was fairly high compared to 2000 and certainly 2004. The 2008 Presidential Election coverage began the morning after Democrats retaking the House and the Senate in 2006. Since that point, rumblings began that Gov. Richardson, Sen. Clinton, Sen. Obama, Sen. Bayh, and former Sen. Edwards would throw their hats into the ring. We followed their every move, every vote, every press release to determine who is the likely front-runner to run against the GOP candidate, which was as of then undetermined.

Without recanting much more of history, let’s jump to a more relevant issue. The Mainstream Media loved the 2008 Presidential Election. Ratings were high, publications were sold, and the hissy fight between Clinton and Obama was as entertaining as an episode of Jerry Springer — which means it was really entertaining. There was “Breaking News” coverage, intense stalking of VP candidates, reporters dedicated to report on the PR folks of each campaign, etc. The 2008 Presidential Election was just huge. Every day we heard of a new poll that showed McCain up by 1 point against Obama, then another poll showing Obama up by 3 against McCain, North Carolina treading Democrat, Pennsylvania treading Republican, and it just went on and on.

Sen. Obama’s win in 2008 was larger than most expected. Capturing all of the 2004 states, all of the traditional swing states and new ones like Indiana, and even an elector from Nebraska was really impressive and excellent TV. For weeks the MSM studied the election, digging through exit polls, past performance, and…whether Obama can repeat this in 2012. Without any sense of incredulousness, the MSM was already focusing on 2012 before Obama was able to take the Oath. Is Palin going to run? Is Romney going to run? Is Bobby Jindal the Page going to run (remember that guy?)? Obama, for better or for worse, was never given an opportunity to govern without the MSM reporting on how this may effect his re-election chances. Are independents going to support the stimulus? Are Republicans going to support Health Care Reform? Are Democrats going to split from Obama for being too centrist/leftist/rightist/independent? You pick the question, the MSM probably spent 10 hours a week discussing the question. And all tributaries of the MSM are responsible. Granted FoxNews was a slight more racist, sexist, and classist in their coverage, but they spent just as much time as Keith Olbermann discussing Obama or the other side. This was great TV.

And because this was great TV, the 2008 election carried over into the too-deep coverage of NY-23. Who really cared much about NY-23? Hoffman didn’t surge because of his platform of nihilism; Hoffman surged because of TV coverage. The same with Scott Brown. Yes — Coakley was a disaster of a candidate; I originally supported Capuano. But the more it seemed that Brown had a shot, the more coverage was dedicated to the race. And this is not a black box input-output scheme. TV coverage does help. The more people see “Democrats in Congress stink” as one segment and the very next segment is “Massachusetts could elect a moderate Republican v. an entrenched, boring Democrat”, the higher their chances to vote for the moderate Republicans. Can I prove this scientifically? No. I’ll admit it, I cannot…yet. This is a hypothesis. What happens after 2012 will solidify or kill it.

So, the recap, why did 2008 ruin 2009-2012? Because coverage over elections trivialized policy discussions. Instead of discussing policy for policy’s sake, we were discussing policy for the next-election’s sake. Who cares how Cap and Trade will play out in 2012? Or Health Care in 2012? Or the Stimulus in 2010? In the case of the Stimulus, we were told very clearly that the money will be doled out incrementally over the course of 12-18 months. Guess what, the November 2010 elections fall within that period. The Stimulus was never, has never, and never will be observed over the course of its intended life. Yes, the Obama administration miscalculated unemployment, but it does not mean that the Stimulus contributed negatively to employment. Without the Stimulus, unemployment could have been 12-14%. Proof? The same proof that detractors use to prove that the Stimulus killed employment. This is all speculation. And speculation, especially electoral speculation, killed Obama’s first term. The MSM realized that elections are interesting, something most political nerds realized a very long time ago. And elections are not a temporal story. Eventually, the missing blonde girl will be found. Eventually, we’ll forget that Michael Jackson is a weirdo. Mark Twain said two things in life are permanent: death and taxes. Media executives found a third: Elections in democracies. And the opposition nihilist party bought into the media executive narrative: How will this play in 2010? 2012? And this is exactly what is going on.

Supporting a Progressive Feedback Loop

I’ve just started reading The Value of Nothing, an interesting critique of markets in contemporary society. The book itself is besides the point of this blog. When I first picked it up, I noticed that the pages themselves and the feel of the book looked noticeably different from the normal shiny quality of new books. Sure enough, I found in the inside cover that it was made with recyclable paper. The ability to buy a new book that was made with recycled paper brought a certain joy to me I don’t normally get from buying books.

One of the most important concepts I believe in and want to push forward is that of the progressive feedback loop. This is basically an idea I grabbed from Chris Bowers, who wrote in this piece about the importance of government policies that help reinforce progressive causes. EFCA is the best example of this; a law that supports a workers right to join a union will reinforce the progressive moment. More unionized workers=more money for labor and more on-the-ground canvassers supporting the labor agenda=more resources and support for progressive=more progressives. The logic of this is so easy to understand that it’s an affront to the Democratic Party that certain Senators who benefit majorly from labor support with the blue collar crowd would actually oppose the bill.

But the progressive feedback loop needs to find its way into larger society as well. This isn’t just a question of whether or not we pass laws that will reinforce progressive claims. This is about the way we live our lives and living by our values. It irritates me to no end that CREDO, an obstensibly progressive telecommunication company, has opposed organizing campaigns by labor. How can a company market itself as a progressive company and then deny workers the right to organize and collectively bargain on the job?

More importantly, in the long run we need a strong labor movement more than we need CREDO mobile. So-called progressive companies come and go, but a strong labor movement is much more likely to lead to strong progressive politics. Therefore there’s a positive progressive feedback loop for a progressive company to support the right of its workers to organize; that then increases the density for labor, puts pressure on other companies to accept labor, and increases the power of unions like CWA to organize at other companies.

Over the long run we need to figure out ways to support progressive causes by other progressives. For example I love it when progressive groups buy recycled computer paper or retrofit offices. Environmental and good government groups should work to unionize their employees. We need to establish more internship programs that give young progressives a chance to gain experience and get paid for it so they can support themselves. And in the legal world, we absolutely need to incentivize public service and progressive legal jobs over the economic necessity for some to work for Big Law.

Let’s figure out some way to create infrastructures in society that support progressive causes.

Are We Really Screwed with the Senate? II

Following Eric’s post, I would like to offer some more commentary on Senate races in 2010.

I would like to start by stating that 2010 is shaping up to be a year with modest to substantial Democratic losses. The number one rason as to why is not news to anyone: The Economy. What is news is that the Republicans are running on the fiscal responsibility platform, a mere seventeen months after the collapse of Lehman Brothers and twelve months after the inauguration of President Obama. Republican resopnsibility for the weakened economy and legislative obstructionism to prevent Democrats from accomplishing any of their big goals aside, Democrats are playing defense in 2010. I would like, for a moment, to perhaps recap on some of the offense that is being played below.

Florida

President Obama won Florida in 2008 with 51% of the vote. Nevertheless, Florida is more of a Republican state than Democrats care to admit. With her vast swaths of undeveloped swamps, Republican ideology has been quick to spread across Florida since our last political realignment. The Democrats have Rep. Kendrick Meek from Cook PVI D +34 17th District slated to run against either Republican Governor Charlie Crist or former Republican Speaker Marco Rubio.  Rep. Meek compared to the Crist powerhouse or Rubio shooting star is toast. There is simply no demand for an establishment, overwhelmingly liberal minority Democrat to win this seat in Florida in 2010. That said, even if Meek were an interesting person – which he is not – the political environment in Florida is against him. Florida,  like and if not more than the rest of the country, is angry about their falling housing prices, high unemployment, and their governor’s explicit support for the Stimulus Bill twelve months ago — Kendrick Meek is not the answer. Safe Republican.

Ohio

Eric did a great post on Ohio below. I would add one thing: Portman ran the OMB under President George W. Bush. If this is about deficits, debt, and proper fiscal management, does Ohio want the architect of the Bush budget to possibly sit on the Budget Committee in the US Senate? If I were a Buckeye and I had some semblance of a brain, then I would under no circumstances vote for the guy who played budget quarterback for the losing team. Portman is running four points above Fisher and Bruner…according to Rasmussen with 5% other and 15% undecided. The “Other” number seems a bit high and let’s assume it breaks 50/50. Fisher or Brunner playing the populist card against an established and rather boring Republican like Portman can win this race. Because the polling has been weak at best with only a slight break towards Portman, I am going to classify this as Tossup.

Louisiana

Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-LA, 3rd) down by 20% according to the latest Rasmussen poll against incumbent Republican Sen. David Vitter is beyond me. Vitter was engaged in a moderately covered scandal with prostitutes in DC and Louisiana (namely their Sin City, New Orleans). Louisiana Republicans are, as a whole, much more conservative than their national counterparts, as are, nowadays, Louisiana Democrats. How a conservative state sees an established and adulterous incumbent as their best option for a Senator baffles political logic. The simplest answer would be that Melancon is a Democrat, Vitter is a Republican, and that’s that. This is a winnable race in every other cycle, but this cycle seems to be a bit too anti-Democrat. Lean Republican simply on the merits that Vitter has huge exposed flaws that Democrats could take advantage of if they campaign like, well, Republicans.

Kentucky

The best hope for Democrats here is if Rand Paul gets the nomination and runs on a libertarian ticket in a populist, conservative state like Kentucky. Otherwise, Safe Republican.

Missouri

The name Carnahan ought to be enough to win this or keep it close against an entrenched Republican like Blunt. Not much analysis needed here. Lean Democrat.

New Hampshire

See Eric’s post. Lean Democrat.

North Carolina

We all remember how much time Obama put in North Carolina in 2008, which flipped blue for the first time since 1976 during a presidential election. North Carolina much to luck of Democrats is looking more and more like Virginia in terms of it being a Mid-Atlantic state rather than a Southern state like her counterpart in South Carolina. A large African-American population, college students, professionals, and young migrants ought to keep a rather unpopular incumbent like Burr fighting to keep his seat. This is, again, an anti-incumbent cycle and if Democrats were smart, their likely candidate, Elaine Marshall, should run as a Democrat from North Carolina “who gets it” against a Republican from Washington, DC “who has lost touch”. I am going to put this as a Tossup.

**UPDATE** A PPP Poll brings some excellent news to North Carolina Democrats. Race still stands as Tossup as posted yesterday.

These are preliminary analyses on some of the races. Please keep following our coverage on “Are We Really Screwed with the Senate?”.