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The Daily Strategist

July 6, 2015

Political Strategy Notes



In connection with thy Trump dust-up, Marcus Brenton makes a compelling argument at the Sacramento Bee that Latino consumer power is a more mighty force at this juncture than Latino political power. "Latinos were only 15.4 percent of California voters in 2014, Romero said. Of course, voter turnout was awful in 2014 - it's usually lower for all groups during midterm elections. But in the previous midterm cycle, Latinos were 16.7 percent of voters..."In the Texas race for governor, Democrat Wendy Davis won the Latino vote 55 percent to 44 percent but lost the election to Republican Greg Abbott," wrote Jens Manuel Krogstad and Mark Hugo Lopez for the Pew Research Center. "In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott won re-election despite losing the Hispanic vote to Democrat Charlie Crist by a margin of 38 percent to 58 percent, according to the state exit poll. That's a marked decline from 2010, when 50 percent of Hispanics voted for Scott, and from 2006, when the Latino vote was split 49 percent to 49 percent between the two parties," Krogsad and Lopez wrote...The Nielsen Company recently published a study showing that the average age of Latinos in America is 27, meaning they have more years of prime purchasing power than any other group...But if these consumers don't find their ways to the polls, they will never realize their true power to affect change...Focusing on the numbers, it is clear that Latino purchasing power is a force in American culture - one that caused those big companies to move away from Trump for fear of offending customers."

At The week Paul Waldman's "Donald Trump is a complete lunatic on immigration. But he's no crazier than much of the GOP" puts Trump's Latino-bashing in perspective: "A Pew poll from last month asked people whether they thought that "Immigrants today are a burden on our country because they take our jobs, housing, and health care," or that "Immigrants today strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents." Republicans preferred the first statement by 63-27, while Democrats chose the second statement by 62-32."

Here's an encouraging post by Murphthesurf3 at Daily Kos: "A GOP strategist, columnist at the Houston Chronicle who goes by the handle GOPLifer, Chris Ladd, has declared that the week of the Midterm Elections "was a dark week for Republicans, and for everyone who wants to see America remain the world's most vibrant, most powerful nation."...In a careful analysis, Ladd builds a case: The Midterms of 2014 demonstrate the continuation of a 20 year old trend. Republicans are disappearing from the competitive landscape at the national level where the population is the largest utilizing a declining electoral base of aging, white, and rural voters. As a result no GOP candidate on the horizon has a chance at the White House in 2016 and the chance of holding the Senate beyond 2016 is vanishingly small."

Here's why pundits who jabber about "social issues" are probably wasting your time.

Peter Grier's Monitor post "Honey, we shrunk the undecided voters" notes that "At the beginning of President Obama's reelection campaign about 20 percent of voters overall were persuadable, since they were either undecided or committed to a candidate other than Mr. Obama or Mitt Romney, according to John Sides and Lynn Vavreck, another pair of political science professors...Mr. Sides and Ms. Vavreck then followed this cohort of the undecided through the ups and downs of the campaign. They found that dramatic gaffes made little difference to these voters, as the miscues were lost amid the tsunami of general campaign coverage...Then came the kicker: In November, almost half of the persuadable voters didn't vote at all. Those that did vote, split. About half went for Obama, and half for Mr. Romney."

Jamelle Bouie has an interesting argument at Slate.com, "Why Hillary Clinton Should Go Full Nerd: The Democratic front-runner should offer voters her authentic, geeky self."

In his New York Times op-ed "The Democrats' Fractured Views on Trade," Vikas Bajas explains: "...Both sides assign far too much importance to individual trade agreements, pro or con....The economic gains from the agreement will most likely be modest. The most frequently cited study on the impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, by the economists Peter Petri, Michael Plummer and Fan Zhai, says it will boost gross domestic product in the United States by 0.4 percent by 2025 -- hardly a significant economic stimulus. Economists who are more skeptical of trade deals say the income gain could be even smaller and would mostly benefit people at the top of the income distribution...The way to shore up the economy and expand job creation is to make investments in public goods, like transportation systems, better housing, stronger schools and skills training, especially for the most disadvantaged Americans."

Both major political parties will likely spend considerable time, energy and verbiage trying to paint the opposition as "the party of the past" in 2016. At The Plum Line Greg Sargent explains why Democrats will have the edge on issues in this contest of memes, while Republicans will probably focus on the Democratic nominee's "longevity."

After spending a weekend in Blue Ridge, GA, I was somewhat surprised to see that a huge Confederate battle flag usually seen above a gas station on the main highway had been taken down and replaced by an American flag, perhaps for the Independence Day weekend. But there were lots of pick-up trucks flying the Confederate battle flag, driven by young men, who I gather were being egged on by local reactionary ideologues. But most of the people on the street, locals and visitors alike, seemed bored or indifferent about all of the flag fuss. Mary Francis Berry, former chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, has a good article on the subject, "The Confederate Flag is Just a Distraction." putting it all into sensible context. Yes, take it down from all government facilities. But don't let the issue become a substitute for needed racial justice reforms.


July 3, 2015

Ferrera's Open Letter Clarifies GOP's Trump Problem



"America Ferrera: Thank You, Donald Trump!", Lauren Moraski's CBS News report on the actress's perceptive open letter on Trump's Mexican-bashing at HuffPo, should provide cause for concern among smarter GOP strategists. As Moraski quotes Ferrera:

"You've said some pretty offensive things about Latino immigrants recently, and I think they're worth addressing. Because, you know, this is the United States of America, where I have a right to speak up even if I'm not a billionaire. Isn't that awesome?" she wrote.

"Anyway, I heard what you said about the kind of people you think Latino immigrants are -- people with problems, who bring drugs, crime and rape to America. While your comments are incredibly ignorant and racist, I don't want to spend my time chastising you. I'll leave that to your business partners like Univision and NBC, who have the power to scold you where it hurts. Instead, I'm writing to say thank you!"

"You see, what you just did with your straight talk was send more Latino voters to the polls than several registration rallies combined!" the former "Ugly Betty" star wrote in a blog post published Thursday, adding, "Remarks like yours will serve brilliantly to energize Latino voters and increase turnout on election day against you and any other candidate who runs on a platform of hateful rhetoric."

Ferrera then provides an instructive lesson in political math for the clueless tycoon:

Do you know why that's such a big deal, Donald? Because Latinos are the largest, youngest and fastest-growing constituency in the United States of America. That's right! You are running for President in a country where the Latino population grew by over 49 percent from 2000-2012, while the rest of the country grew by 5.8 percent. What's more, we are the future. The median age of the average Latino is 27 years old, compared to 42 years old for white Americans. In case you need a translation, that means there are a whole lot of Americans who are Latino and have the right to vote. And, we're not going anywhere.

With his remarks stereotyping immigrants of Mexican origin as criminals, drug smugglers and rapists, the tone-deaf Trump crossed the line from silly gasbag to dangerous demagogue. Other Republican presidential candidates have hinted at similar stereotypes, albeit with less blustering stupidity. GOP leaders are apparently divided on how to respond, and the more they equivocate, the worse for them.

No matter. Ferrera is surely right that Trump's comments could swell Latino voter registration, and that alone is very bad news for all Republicans. Once they enter the polls, the GOP's 2016 prospects head further south.


July 2, 2015

Marcotte: 'Ralph Nader's Dishonest, Sexist Rant Against Hillary Clinton'



From Amanda Marcotte's "Ralph Nader's Dishonest, Sexist Rant Against Hillary Clinton" at Talking Points Memo:

Nineties nostalgia is cute when it's all about overalls and Nicki Minaj sampling "Baby Got Back," but Ralph Nader is taking it too far, by trying to revive his all-too-successful late '90s campaign to convince huge numbers of American liberals that there is no meaningful difference between Republicans and Democrats.

In a recent interview with Larry King for Ora.TV, Nader launched a rather scurrilous accusation of secret Republicanism at Hillary Clinton that recalled his similar efforts against Bill Clinton and Al Gore in the '90s, only this time he added a sexist kicker to it. King asked Nader about recent accusations that Nader has lobbed at Clinton, namely that she evinces a "shocking militarism that is a result of trying to overcompensate for her gender by being more aggressive and macho," and that she's "reversing the tradition of women of peace."

Since the Florida mess in 2000, Nader has pitched nonsense like a left-lbertarian alliance, which neither side wants, and he has gushed positively about Rep. Ron Paul's isolationist credo, despite Paul's racist newsletter and opposition to racial justice. Further, adds Marcotte:

Nader talks about politicians from both parties. He concedes that Jeb Bush is just like his brother and calls him a "corporatist and a militarist," but he elides talking about specifics. For Democrats, however, his language gets aggressive and colorful. He outright accuses Obama of being worse than George W. Bush, Same story with Clinton: To watch this interview, you'd think that the country is much more likely to get into a war under Clinton than under Jeb Bush,

Nader is playing the same game on domestic policy, too. He tacitly admits that Clinton might be able to do things like raise the minimum wage or improve the social safety net, but immediately shifts gears back to trying to convince you that there's no real difference between Republicans and Democrats on economic issues,

It's clear that Nader is really gunning for a rerun of the 2000 election. He is still pushing the toxic narrative that the Democrat and the Republican are indistinguishable, with heavy insinuation that the Democrat may even be worse. Even if Nader doesn't run--here's hoping!--that narrative is a godsend for Republicans hoping to chip off votes from the Democrats. If liberals are discouraged from thinking that a vote for the Democrats matters, they're not going to vote, which will help the Republican, likely Jeb Bush, coast to victory.

Many believe that the fallout from Nader's 2000 foray into presidential politics includes two wars, a depression, the extremist conquest of the GOP and the destruction of countless norms of democracy. Enough Nader already.


Parting Blows From SCOTUS



Aside from some of last week's less publicized but significant conservative victories on the Supreme Court in cases involving Clean Air regulations and the death penalty, its latest term ended with a couple of signs of trouble in orders for cases it will hear next year. I discussed them briefly at Washington Monthly:

One involves a racial gerrymandering complaint from Arizona Republicans which could create new problems for what is left of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Another, and the one that got a lot of horrified reaction from progressives today, is a case designed to enable SCOTUS to overturn a precedent benefiting public employee unions.

The case, brought by California teachers at odds with the California Teachers Association union, is aimed at generating a decision that would deem any required payment of fees by non-union members in a public employment setting a compelled "political" expenditure that violates the non-member's First Amendment rights.

I'm not as sure as some commentators that this would be the end of the road for public-sector unions. It would, unless I'm missing something, put them in the same position as private-sector unions in a "right-to-work" state--forced to put up with "free riders" who cannot be required to help support the collective bargaining efforts from which they benefit in compensation and working conditions. That's not a good position. But it's more another unfair burden than a death sentence.

Both actions today are a pretty good indication that the talk of a "left-leaning" Roberts Court is premature, particularly when it comes to anything that directly handicaps the Republican Party or helps workers.

A much more ambivalent signal came from an order to suspend enforcement of a notorious Texas statute aimed at restricting the availability of abortion services via phony "health" regulations. The four Justices traditionally opposed to abortion rights all voted against the order. But it also could pave the way for the long-awaited Supreme Court review of "health"-based abortion restrictions on which one of the five Justices supporting the order, Anthony Kennedy, has already flipped to the dark side.


Political Strategy Notes



A succinct summary of the importance of President Obama's release of a new rule expanding eligibility for overtime pay -- and a good message point for Democrats -- from E. J. Dionne, Jr.'s syndicated column: "To much bellyaching from Republicans and business groups, Obama is putting forward new rules that would make up to 5 million more American workers eligible for overtime pay. He's doing this by ending a scam through which employers designate even relatively low-paid workers as managers to get around the law, which requires an overtime premium after 40 hours per week...Under the current rules, as Obama wrote this week in The Huffington Post, workers earning as little as $23,660 a year can be robbed of overtime by being given supervisory or managerial designations. The new regulation would raise the threshold to a more plausible $50,440 a year."

Another affirmation that courses in civics and government help improve voter turnout.

Jeffrey M. Jones reports on new Gallup poll findings bearing good news for Democrats: "In the second quarter of 2015, Democrats regained an advantage over Republicans in terms of Americans' party affiliation. A total of 46% of Americans identified as Democrats (30%) or said they are independents who lean toward the Democratic Party (16%), while 41% identified as Republicans (25%) or leaned Republican (16%). The two parties were generally even during the previous three quarters, including the fourth quarter of 2014, when the midterm elections took place."

Ralph Nader challenges all presidential candidates to support a $15 minimum wage. But only Gov. Martin O'Malley and Sen. Bernie Sanders have thus far expressed their support of the increase. Nader notes, "Almost all of the Republican candidates support keeping the minimum wage at $7.25 an hour." Nader provides good message points in favor of the measure: "A 2014 study by the Center for American Progress showed that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would cause a six percent drop in welfare enrollments, saving the American people over four billion dollars a year...It's time for the candidates from all parties to reject the corporate dogma that allows companies to pay exploitative wages and force their employees onto public assistance. "

National Journal's Josh Kraushaar sees Dems in good position to regain a Senate majority in 2016: "For this cycle, the map is difficult for Republicans, who are defending many more seats than their Democratic counterparts. Of the nine most-competitive Senate seats, seven are held by Republicans--and six feature sitting Republican senators. Eight of the races are being held in states that President Obama carried twice." Kraushaar also argues that "Republican Senate candidates face the harsh reality that their party's presidential nominees have a bigger impact on their reelection than their own campaigns."

At Brookings William A. Galson and Elaine Kamarck make the case for "More builders and fewer traders: A growth strategy for the American economy," which could be a potent message for Democratic candidates in projecting an economic vision.

A little nugget from Kerry Eleveld's Daily Kos post, "Jeb's taxes reveal a wealthy man who thrived in the great recession and donated little," quoting Bloomberg's Richard Rubin and Michael C. Bender "Jeb's taxes reveal a wealthy man who thrived in the great recession and donated little": "From 2007 to 2013, the Bushes gave a total of $431,056 to charity, or about 1.5 percent of their adjusted gross income. In 2011, Romney, who is much wealthier than Bush, donated more than 29 percent of his income to charity. The Obamas donated 14.8 percent last year.

A few short weeks ago I figured that the GOP had probably bottomed-out with Hispanic LVs. But it now seems Trump's immigrant-bashing and better than expected poll numbers among Republican respondents could damage the GOP brand even more with Latino voters.

Meanwhile, Simon Malloy just puts it out there at Salon.com with "GOP's baffling Trump cowardice: A party too timid to denounce a bigoted gasbag."


July 1, 2015

"Insulted" Liberals and Democratic Turnout



The recent intraparty tensions over trade and commercial policy haven't been a picnic for any Democrats. But it's possible to exaggerate the disunity and its implications, and that's what The Hill columnist Brent Budowsky did today, or so I argued at Washington Monthly:

[Budowsky claims that] liberals "insulted" by the president's disrespecting of Elizabeth Warren during the fast-track debate may well decide to stay home in 2016--just as they did when similarly insulted in 2010 and 2014--forfeiting Democratic control of the White House. Watch him add 2 and 2 and get 13:
The president's defamation of Democrats over trade was untrue, shameful and destructive to the Democratic Party. Most Democrats inside and outside Washington are genuinely worried -- with good reason, rooted in the history of trade agreements -- about the potential loss of American jobs.

This pattern of Obama and his aides insulting liberals began well before the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections, with repeated background quotes in mainstream media from unnamed White House personnel referring to leaders and members of the Democratic base as "the left of the left" and "the professional left...."

Given this legacy of damage that Obama has inflicted against his party and his presidency, by depressing liberal Democratic voters and motivating conservative Republican voters in two midterm elections that were disastrous for Democrats, it was breathtaking that throughout the recent trade debate Obama demonstrated he still has not learned that the leader of a great party must not insult its core voters if it has any hopes of prevailing in future presidential and congressional elections.

Funny, isn't it, that in the midst of all this carnage Obama managed to get himself reelected. Why weren't liberal Democratic voters "depressed" in 2012? Why did they take out their anger at Obama on their own Democratic candidates in 2010 but then turn out for the source of their "discouragement" two years later? And did Democratic losses in more conservative parts of the country in the two midterms really revolve around hordes of angry liberals staying home?

There are two things we actually do know reasonably well: first, the demographic groups that don't tend to show up in non-presidential elections ever, even if liberals are not being insulted by a Democratic president, are now a disproportionate element of the Democratic electoral coalition. And second, strongly committed ideologues, including liberals, do tend to show up and vote in a higher proportion than their less committed "moderate" or "somewhat ideological" counterparts, whether or not they've been "insulted" or "discouraged" or "deenergized" by this or that leader. 25% of the 2012 electorate self-identified as "liberal." That number dropped to 23% in 2014--less than you'd expect given the dropoff in youth and minority voting. That was hardly the most important factor in the outcome. I strongly suspect self-identified "moderates" who are by and large less engaged politically were the people over-represented in the "dropoff" population. And like voters generally, they were vastly less interested, and mostly unaware of, all the ideological signals by Obama that so obsess pundits.

You can certainly make a case that had Obama paid more attention to the advice offered by liberals his policies might have been more effective, and that would have improved party prospects in 2010 and 2014, both in terms of turnout and the Democratic share of the persuadable vote. But the idea that turnout patterns are mostly the product of which party faction has its feelings hurt or assuaged is an ax-grinding proposition with no real empirical basis that I can discern. It doesn't help that Budowsky assumes Obama is personally responsible for the downballot losses of the Democratic Party since 2010. And he also blames Obama for managing to fire up conservatives even as he is discouraging liberals. Had Obama been an Eagle Scout liberal throughout his presidency, would conservatives have been less "energized" in 2010 and 2014? Are we supposed to believe they are like dogs, sensing fear or irresolution in their opponents?

Look, I agree it was a bad idea for the president to talk smack about fast-track opponents and criticize Elizabeth Warren. But let's don't get carried away with the implications. Turnout is unlikely to be the central problem for Democrats in the presidential year of 2016, and to the extent that it is, the challenge will be maximizing minority turnout, which is by no means the same as "liberal" turnout, as the long history of liberal presidential primary challengers who cannot attract minority voters should make reasonably clear. There's also no particular reason to assume that liberal anger at Obama is directly transferable to the 2016 presidential nominee. Even if HRC has annoyed some Democrats by refusing to break with the president whose youth and minority supporters she desperately needs in 2016--more than she needs self-identified liberals--she has not insulted anybody so far as I can tell. And everything about the unfolding presidential nominating process indicates that self-identified liberals are going to get a lot of love from HRC.

So no, I don't think Barack Obama has destroyed the Democratic Party by insulting liberals, and if he's done anything to disproportionately "energize" conservatives who have been working themselves up to an ideological bender for years, it's by embodying the right-wing caricature of "liberals" as elitists working hand-in-glove with those people.

Since Democrats are still going to have to deal with additional tensions as the Trans-Pacific Partnership is taken up in Congress (assuming negotiations don't somehow break down), it's a good time to contain the damage instead of claiming the party is heading towards another 2014. I would add to what I said above that if self-identified Liberal Democrats are indeed so "insulted" by the president's words that they'll likely sit out a high-stakes 2016 election, you'd think it would show up in the president's approval ratings with that category of voters, wouldn't you? According to Gallup, it's at 88%. If liberals are "insulted," they're rapidly getting over it.


Tomasky: Progressives Should Get Real About High Court



Amid the fading euphoria after the Supreme Court rulings favoring Obamacare and same-sex marriage, here is a sobering reminder from Michael Tomasky's Daily Beast column, "Hey, Liberals: SCOTUS Ain't Your Friend":

It would be understandable if liberals were feeling kind of relaxed, kind of "Supreme Court, what's so bad?" over the weekend. John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy delivered for our team on Obamacare, and then Kennedy came through again on same-sex marriage. If this is a conservative court, is getting a liberal one--which will be one of the trump-card arguments for voting for Hillary Clinton next fall--really a matter of such pressing urgency?

Well, yes. As we saw yesterday with the court's death-penalty and EPA rulings, it's still a long way from being a liberal court. But there's more to it than that. People should remember that if a Republican is elected president next year and has the chance to replace Kennedy and/or Ruth Bader Ginsburg with another Samuel Alito, the Obamacare and same-sex marriage standings could easily be reversed. And don't think there aren't conservatives out there thinking about it, because there most certainly are, and they literally want to roll back the judicial clock to 1905.

Tomasky goes on to cite the evaporation of judicial restraint as the guiding principle of conservative jurisprudence. He notes the very real possibility that, if a Republicans wins the white house, there is a danger that they will push forward Supreme Court nominees who are opposed to Medicare, Social Security and even child labor laws. Tomasky concludes with the nightmare scenario that electing a Republican president could mean that "we could end up with two or three more Alitos on the bench."

On the spectrum of issues including campaign finance reform, voting rights, economic justice and worker rights, the Supreme Court's majority is already quite reactionary, despite the Obamacare and gay marriage rulings. If a Republican wins the white house next year, the high court could get even worse. Progressive unity behind the Democratic presidential nominee in the fall of 2016 is an imperative, not only for the survival of the Democratic Party, but perhaps also for American democracy.


June 30, 2015

Political Strategy Notes



There are 59 vacancies on America's federal courts, "including 27 that have been classified as judicial emergencies because of the strain they are putting on caseloads," according to Working Assets. Yet "Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Grassley, known for his obstructionism when he was in the minority, is slow-walking current nominees through his committee. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is not scheduling votes for nominees who do finally make it through Grassley's committee." If you want to do something to help end the Republican roadblock, register your support here.

After the landmark Supreme Court decision protecting the ACA, Jacob Hacker ponders the Act's future at The American Prospect .

Former Bush speechwriter David Frum gets in his 'Mend it, don't end it I-told-you-so' licks at The Atlantic.

On the perils of having two big shot GOP candidates for President, a divisive Governor and increasingly complex demographics in one mega-state, Scott Bland notes at National Journal: "Frosty relationships and Byzantine turf wars are nothing new to politics in any state, especially when one party dominates, the way Republicans have in Florida. But with a presidential election 17 months away, many Republicans are worried that the party's trouble with state leaders could do more than fray nerves--it could ultimately deny the GOP's eventual nominee Florida's 29 electoral votes."

From "Republicans are in retreat" by David Russell at The Hill: "So the Republicans are all in a flurry to redefine, adjust or refocus their message, since the past week showed them to be out of step with both their normally conservative brethren on the Supreme Court and American public opinion. It wasn't just a matter of Obamacare, gay marriage or public anxiety over corporate sponsored trade agreements; it was a confluence of a whole host of data points that made them look out of step and quite silly.Just to string together a few of the threads: The nine deaths in a Charleston, S.C., church bared their racial preferences with a nod toward removing the Confederate flag, but not an inch of give on gun legislation; A Republican-sponsored bill banning notification of the source of meat products as protection for consumers gets national laughs; Their ridicule for Pope Francis's pronouncements on climate change is seen as offensive; The bombastic entry of Donald Trump into the presidential fray, joined by also-ran Govs. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) and Bobby Jindal (R-La.), does little more than highlight the comic element of the Republican presidential campaign; A bill sponsored by Comcast, tagged onto budget legislation to end net neutrality, is called out for the regressive step it is; And a notification that the rich donors have already exceeded their spending in the last election gives the public notice to just how much the party is in the pocket of wealthy sponsors."

Of course Dems should applaud the SCOTUS decision upholding independent redistricting commissions as a victory for good government. But National Journal's Jack Fitzpatrick explains why it will be a tough sell.

Jennifer Agiesta reports at CNN that "A new CNN/ORC poll finds that for the first time in more than two years, 50% of Americans approve of the way Obama is handling the presidency. And his overall ratings are bolstered by increasingly positive reviews of his treatment of race relations and the economy...Obama's approval rating for handling the economy has also climbed, 52% approve in the new poll, compared with 46% who approved in the May survey. That's the first time approval for Obama's handling of the economy has topped 50% in CNN/ORC polling in nearly six years."

"The Demolition of Workers' Compensation" --- a 'sleeper issue' almost guaranteed to make Republicans just about everywhere squirm and sweat, when asked what they would do about it.

Here's a GOP ticket that could lock up the 'low-information voter' bloc.


June 29, 2015

Lakoff: Pope Francis Gets the Moral Framing Right: Global Warming Is Where the Practical and the Moral Meet



The following article by George Lakoff, author of "Don't Think of an Elephant," is cross-posted from HuffPo:

Beginning with my book Moral Politics in 1996 (Ch. 12), I have been arguing that environmental issues are moral issues. There I reviewed and critiqued conservative metaphors of nature as a resource, as property, as an adversary to be conquered.

Instead I argued that we needed to conceptualize nature as the giver of all life, as sustainer and provider, as having inherent value, imposing responsibility, and deserving gratitude, love, adoration, and commitment.

I suggested alternative metaphors of nature as mother, as a divine being, as a living organism, as a home, as a victim to be cared for, and a whole with us as parts inseparable from nature and from each other.

This week, Pope Francis in his Encyclical used all of these and then went much further. First, he got all the science right -- no small task. I have been writing for some time about role of systemic causation in global warming and the environment. The Pope not only got the ecological system effects right, but he went much, much further linking the environmental effects to effects on those most oppressed on earth by poverty, weather disasters, disease, ocean rise, lack of drinking water, the degradation of agriculture, and the of the essential aesthetic and spiritual contact with unspoiled nature. And more, he spoke of our moral responsibility toward animals.

He spoke in metaphors that might sound strange coming in a scientific or political speech, but somehow seem entirely natural for the Pope.

The title of the encyclical is "On Care for our Common Home." This simple phrase establishes the most important frame right from the start. Using the metaphor of the "Earth as Home", he triggers a frame in which all the people of the world are a family, living in a common home.

This frame carries with it many assumptions: As one family, we should care for each other and take responsibility for each other. A home is something we all depend on, physically and emotionally. A home is something inherently worth maintaining and protecting.

164. "...there has been a growing conviction that our planet is a homeland and that humanity is one people living in a common home."

61. "...our common home is falling into seri­ous disrepair."

13. "Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home."

Pope Francis explicitly states what most progressives implicitly believe but rarely say out loud: "The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all." The "Common Good" frame is about interdependence, shared responsibility and shared benefit.

156. Human ecology is inseparable from the notion of the common good, a central and uni­fying principle of social ethics.

157. Society as a whole, and the state in particular, are obliged to defend and promote the common good.

Critics of Pope Francis have attacked him as having a naïve understanding of the economy, of being anti-technology, or of denying the so-called productive role of self-interest. But he is doing much more, suggesting that business and technology can, and ought to, have moral ends, especially in the face of the looming worldwide disaster of global warming. He is further pointing out, correctly, that the global warming disaster and hugely disastrous other effects were created by the business-technology axis seeking profit above all, without being structured to serve the common good.

129. Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving our world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the areas in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good.

54. The alliance between the economy and technology ends up sidelining anything unrelated to its immediate interests.

Continue reading "Lakoff: Pope Francis Gets the Moral Framing Right: Global Warming Is Where the Practical and the Moral Meet" »


June 26, 2015

Long Time Coming



This week's two landmark Supreme Court decisions represented the culmination (for the time being, at least) of two long, hard legal and political struggles. This is most obvious with respect to Obergefell v. Hodges, which made marriage a federally protected constitutional right. It sounds corny, but it really does seem like yesterday that here at TDS we were publishing Jasmine Beach-Ferrara's analysis of how marriage equality activists lost the fight over Proposition 8 in California. It's been a remarkably quick sprint to victory since then.

But unique as Obergefell is, there's something to be said for the historic nature of the Obamacare case, too, as I discussed at Washington Monthly today:

[A]t Vox today, Dylan Matthews reminds us that of the incredibly long hard path this country has followed to reach even the Affordable Care Act's first timorous steps towards universal health coverage. Those conservatives who talk as though no one has ever seriously considered such a socialist abomination until now really are betraying their ignorance about history:
National health insurance has been the single defining goal of American progressivism for more than a century. There have been other struggles, of course: for equality for women, African-Americans, and LGBT people; for environmental protection; against militarism in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. But ever since its inclusion in Teddy Roosevelt's 1912 Bull Moose platform, a federally guaranteed right to health coverage has been the one economic and social policy demand that loomed over all others. It was the big gap between our welfare state and those of our peers in Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.

And for more than a century, efforts to achieve national health insurance failed. Roosevelt's third-party run came up short. His Progressive allies, despite support from the American Medical Association, failed to pass a bill in the 1910s. FDR declined to include health insurance in the Social Security Act, fearing it would sink the whole program, and the Wagner Act, his second attempt, ended in failure too. Harry Truman included a single-payer plan open to all Americans in his Fair Deal set of proposals, but it went nowhere. LBJ got Medicare and Medicaid done after JFK utterly failed, but both programs targeted limited groups.

Richard Nixon proposed a universal health-care plan remarkably similar to Obamacare that was killed when then-Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) walked away from a deal to pass it, in what Kennedy would later call his greatest regret as a senator. Jimmy Carter endorsed single-payer on the campaign trail, but despite having a Democratic supermajority in Congress did nothing to pass it. And the failure of Bill Clinton's health-care plan is the stuff of legend.

Yes, Obamacare haters may dismiss the experience of virtually every other wealthy country by intoning "American exceptionalism", as though we have some long-cherished right to die young that's as essential to the national character as unlimited possession of guns. But this has been a constant issue in our own country, too, and it's a token of how far our political system has drifted to the right that redeeming the vision of Teddy Roosevelt and Harry Truman and Richard Nixon strikes so many people as a horrifying lurch into socialism.

America actually feels a lot more "centered" today.






Editor's Corner

by Ed Kilgore



July 2: Parting Blows From SCOTUS


Aside from some of last week's less publicized but significant conservative victories on the Supreme Court in cases involving Clean Air regulations and the death penalty, its latest term ended with a couple of signs of trouble in orders for cases it will hear next year. I discussed them briefly at Washington Monthly:

One involves a racial gerrymandering complaint from Arizona Republicans which could create new problems for what is left of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Another, and the one that got a lot of horrified reaction from progressives today, is a case designed to enable SCOTUS to overturn a precedent benefiting public employee unions.

The case, brought by California teachers at odds with the California Teachers Association union, is aimed at generating a decision that would deem any required payment of fees by non-union members in a public employment setting a compelled "political" expenditure that violates the non-member's First Amendment rights.

I'm not as sure as some commentators that this would be the end of the road for public-sector unions. It would, unless I'm missing something, put them in the same position as private-sector unions in a "right-to-work" state--forced to put up with "free riders" who cannot be required to help support the collective bargaining efforts from which they benefit in compensation and working conditions. That's not a good position. But it's more another unfair burden than a death sentence.

Both actions today are a pretty good indication that the talk of a "left-leaning" Roberts Court is premature, particularly when it comes to anything that directly handicaps the Republican Party or helps workers.

A much more ambivalent signal came from an order to suspend enforcement of a notorious Texas statute aimed at restricting the availability of abortion services via phony "health" regulations. The four Justices traditionally opposed to abortion rights all voted against the order. But it also could pave the way for the long-awaited Supreme Court review of "health"-based abortion restrictions on which one of the five Justices supporting the order, Anthony Kennedy, has already flipped to the dark side.


July 1: "Insulted" Liberals and Democratic Turnout

The recent intraparty tensions over trade and commercial policy haven't been a picnic for any Democrats. But it's possible to exaggerate the disunity and its implications, and that's what The Hill columnist Brent Budowsky did today, or so I argued at Washington Monthly:

[Budowsky claims that] liberals "insulted" by the president's disrespecting of Elizabeth Warren during the fast-track debate may well decide to stay home in 2016--just as they did when similarly insulted in 2010 and 2014--forfeiting Democratic control of the White House. Watch him add 2 and 2 and get 13:
The president's defamation of Democrats over trade was untrue, shameful and destructive to the Democratic Party. Most Democrats inside and outside Washington are genuinely worried -- with good reason, rooted in the history of trade agreements -- about the potential loss of American jobs.

This pattern of Obama and his aides insulting liberals began well before the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections, with repeated background quotes in mainstream media from unnamed White House personnel referring to leaders and members of the Democratic base as "the left of the left" and "the professional left...."

Given this legacy of damage that Obama has inflicted against his party and his presidency, by depressing liberal Democratic voters and motivating conservative Republican voters in two midterm elections that were disastrous for Democrats, it was breathtaking that throughout the recent trade debate Obama demonstrated he still has not learned that the leader of a great party must not insult its core voters if it has any hopes of prevailing in future presidential and congressional elections.

Funny, isn't it, that in the midst of all this carnage Obama managed to get himself reelected. Why weren't liberal Democratic voters "depressed" in 2012? Why did they take out their anger at Obama on their own Democratic candidates in 2010 but then turn out for the source of their "discouragement" two years later? And did Democratic losses in more conservative parts of the country in the two midterms really revolve around hordes of angry liberals staying home?

There are two things we actually do know reasonably well: first, the demographic groups that don't tend to show up in non-presidential elections ever, even if liberals are not being insulted by a Democratic president, are now a disproportionate element of the Democratic electoral coalition. And second, strongly committed ideologues, including liberals, do tend to show up and vote in a higher proportion than their less committed "moderate" or "somewhat ideological" counterparts, whether or not they've been "insulted" or "discouraged" or "deenergized" by this or that leader. 25% of the 2012 electorate self-identified as "liberal." That number dropped to 23% in 2014--less than you'd expect given the dropoff in youth and minority voting. That was hardly the most important factor in the outcome. I strongly suspect self-identified "moderates" who are by and large less engaged politically were the people over-represented in the "dropoff" population. And like voters generally, they were vastly less interested, and mostly unaware of, all the ideological signals by Obama that so obsess pundits.

You can certainly make a case that had Obama paid more attention to the advice offered by liberals his policies might have been more effective, and that would have improved party prospects in 2010 and 2014, both in terms of turnout and the Democratic share of the persuadable vote. But the idea that turnout patterns are mostly the product of which party faction has its feelings hurt or assuaged is an ax-grinding proposition with no real empirical basis that I can discern. It doesn't help that Budowsky assumes Obama is personally responsible for the downballot losses of the Democratic Party since 2010. And he also blames Obama for managing to fire up conservatives even as he is discouraging liberals. Had Obama been an Eagle Scout liberal throughout his presidency, would conservatives have been less "energized" in 2010 and 2014? Are we supposed to believe they are like dogs, sensing fear or irresolution in their opponents?

Look, I agree it was a bad idea for the president to talk smack about fast-track opponents and criticize Elizabeth Warren. But let's don't get carried away with the implications. Turnout is unlikely to be the central problem for Democrats in the presidential year of 2016, and to the extent that it is, the challenge will be maximizing minority turnout, which is by no means the same as "liberal" turnout, as the long history of liberal presidential primary challengers who cannot attract minority voters should make reasonably clear. There's also no particular reason to assume that liberal anger at Obama is directly transferable to the 2016 presidential nominee. Even if HRC has annoyed some Democrats by refusing to break with the president whose youth and minority supporters she desperately needs in 2016--more than she needs self-identified liberals--she has not insulted anybody so far as I can tell. And everything about the unfolding presidential nominating process indicates that self-identified liberals are going to get a lot of love from HRC.

So no, I don't think Barack Obama has destroyed the Democratic Party by insulting liberals, and if he's done anything to disproportionately "energize" conservatives who have been working themselves up to an ideological bender for years, it's by embodying the right-wing caricature of "liberals" as elitists working hand-in-glove with those people.

Since Democrats are still going to have to deal with additional tensions as the Trans-Pacific Partnership is taken up in Congress (assuming negotiations don't somehow break down), it's a good time to contain the damage instead of claiming the party is heading towards another 2014. I would add to what I said above that if self-identified Liberal Democrats are indeed so "insulted" by the president's words that they'll likely sit out a high-stakes 2016 election, you'd think it would show up in the president's approval ratings with that category of voters, wouldn't you? According to Gallup, it's at 88%. If liberals are "insulted," they're rapidly getting over it.


June 26: Long Time Coming

This week's two landmark Supreme Court decisions represented the culmination (for the time being, at least) of two long, hard legal and political struggles. This is most obvious with respect to Obergefell v. Hodges, which made marriage a federally protected constitutional right. It sounds corny, but it really does seem like yesterday that here at TDS we were publishing Jasmine Beach-Ferrara's analysis of how marriage equality activists lost the fight over Proposition 8 in California. It's been a remarkably quick sprint to victory since then.

But unique as Obergefell is, there's something to be said for the historic nature of the Obamacare case, too, as I discussed at Washington Monthly today:

[A]t Vox today, Dylan Matthews reminds us that of the incredibly long hard path this country has followed to reach even the Affordable Care Act's first timorous steps towards universal health coverage. Those conservatives who talk as though no one has ever seriously considered such a socialist abomination until now really are betraying their ignorance about history:
National health insurance has been the single defining goal of American progressivism for more than a century. There have been other struggles, of course: for equality for women, African-Americans, and LGBT people; for environmental protection; against militarism in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. But ever since its inclusion in Teddy Roosevelt's 1912 Bull Moose platform, a federally guaranteed right to health coverage has been the one economic and social policy demand that loomed over all others. It was the big gap between our welfare state and those of our peers in Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.

And for more than a century, efforts to achieve national health insurance failed. Roosevelt's third-party run came up short. His Progressive allies, despite support from the American Medical Association, failed to pass a bill in the 1910s. FDR declined to include health insurance in the Social Security Act, fearing it would sink the whole program, and the Wagner Act, his second attempt, ended in failure too. Harry Truman included a single-payer plan open to all Americans in his Fair Deal set of proposals, but it went nowhere. LBJ got Medicare and Medicaid done after JFK utterly failed, but both programs targeted limited groups.

Richard Nixon proposed a universal health-care plan remarkably similar to Obamacare that was killed when then-Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) walked away from a deal to pass it, in what Kennedy would later call his greatest regret as a senator. Jimmy Carter endorsed single-payer on the campaign trail, but despite having a Democratic supermajority in Congress did nothing to pass it. And the failure of Bill Clinton's health-care plan is the stuff of legend.

Yes, Obamacare haters may dismiss the experience of virtually every other wealthy country by intoning "American exceptionalism", as though we have some long-cherished right to die young that's as essential to the national character as unlimited possession of guns. But this has been a constant issue in our own country, too, and it's a token of how far our political system has drifted to the right that redeeming the vision of Teddy Roosevelt and Harry Truman and Richard Nixon strikes so many people as a horrifying lurch into socialism.

America actually feels a lot more "centered" today.


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