Barack Obama’s victory speech – Nov 6, 2012

full text – guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 7 November 2012
Link to this video http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2012/nov/07/barack-obama-victory-speech-video

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much. (Sustained cheers, applause.)

Tonight, more than 200 years after a former colony won the right to determine its own destiny, the task of perfecting our union moves forward. (Cheers, applause.)

It moves forward because of you. It moves forward because you reaffirmed the spirit that has triumphed over war and depression, the spirit that has lifted this country from the depths of despair to the great heights of hope, the belief that while each of us will pursue our own individual dreams, we are an American family, and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people. (Cheers, applause.)

Tonight, in this election, you, the American people, reminded us that while our road has been hard, while our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back, and we know in our hearts that for the United States of America, the best is yet to come.

(Cheers, applause.) I want to thank every American who participated in this election. (Cheers, applause.) Whether you voted for the very first time (cheers) or waited in line for a very long time (cheers) – by the way, we have to fix that – (cheers, applause) – whether you pounded the pavement or picked up the phone (cheers, applause), whether you held an Obama sign or a Romney sign, you made your voice heard and you made a difference. (Cheers, applause.)

I just spoke with Governor Romney and I congratulated him and Paul Ryan on a hard-fought campaign. (Cheers, applause.) We may have battled fiercely, but it’s only because we love this country deeply and we care so strongly about its future. From George to Lenore to their son Mitt, the Romney family has chosen to give back to America through public service. And that is a legacy that we honour and applaud tonight. (Cheers, applause.) In the weeks ahead, I also look forward to sitting down with Governor Romney to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward.
(Cheers, applause.)

I want to thank my friend and partner of the last four years, America’s happy warrior, the best vice-president anybody could ever hope for, Joe Biden. (Cheers, applause.)

And I wouldn’t be the man I am today without the woman who agreed to marry me 20 years ago. (Cheers, applause.) Let me say this publicly. Michelle, I have never loved you more. (Cheers, applause.) I have never been prouder to watch the rest of America fall in love with you too as our nation’s first lady. (Cheers, applause.)
Sasha and Malia – (cheers, applause) – before our very eyes, you’re growing up to become two strong, smart, beautiful young women, just like your mom. (Cheers, applause.) And I am so proud of you guys. But I will say that, for now, one dog’s probably enough. (Laughter.)

To the best campaign team and volunteers in the history of politics – (cheers, applause) – the best – the best ever – (cheers, applause) – some of you were new this time around, and some of you have been at my side since the very beginning.

(Cheers, applause.) But all of you are family. No matter what you do or where you go from here, you will carry the memory of the history we made together. (Cheers, applause.) And you will have the lifelong appreciation of a grateful president. Thank you for believing all the way – (cheers, applause) – to every hill, to every valley. (Cheers, applause.) You lifted me up the whole day, and I will always be grateful for everything that you’ve done and all the incredible work that you’ve put in. (Cheers, applause.)

I know that political campaigns can sometimes seem small, even silly. And that provides plenty of fodder for the cynics who tell us that politics is nothing more than a contest of egos or the domain of special interests. But if you ever get the chance to talk to folks who turned out at our rallies and crowded along a rope line in a high school gym or – or saw folks working late at a campaign office in some tiny county far away from home, you’ll discover something else.

You’ll hear the determination in the voice of a young field organiser who’s working his way through college and wants to make sure every child has that same opportunity. (Cheers, applause.) You’ll hear the pride in the voice of a volunteer who’s going door to door because her brother was finally hired when the local auto plant added another shift. (Cheers, applause)

You’ll hear the deep patriotism in the voice of a military spouse who’s working the phones late at night to make sure that no one who fights for this country ever has to fight for a job or a roof over their head when they come home. (Cheers, applause.)

That’s why we do this. That’s what politics can be. That’s why elections matter. It’s not small, it’s big. It’s important. Democracy in a nation of 300 million can be noisy and messy and complicated. We have our own opinions. Each of us has deeply held beliefs. And when we go through tough times, when we make big decisions as a country, it necessarily stirs passions, stirs up controversy. That won’t change after tonight. And it shouldn’t. These arguments we have are a mark of our liberty, and we can never forget that as we speak, people in distant nations are risking their lives right now just for a chance to argue about the issues that matter – (cheers, applause) – the chance to cast their ballots like we did today.

But despite all our differences, most of us share certain hopes for America’s future.

We want our kids to grow up in a country where they have access to the best schools and the best teachers – (cheers, applause) – a country that lives up to its legacy as the global leader in technology and discovery and innovation – (scattered cheers, applause) – with all of the good jobs and new businesses that follow.

We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened up by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet. (Cheers, applause.)

We want to pass on a country that’s safe and respected and admired around the world, a nation that is defended by the strongest military on Earth and the best troops this – this world has ever known – (cheers, applause) – but also a country that moves with confidence beyond this time of war to shape a peace that is built on the promise of freedom and dignity for every human being.

We believe in a generous America, in a compassionate America, in a tolerant America open to the dreams of an immigrant’s daughter who studies in our schools and pledges to our flag – (cheers, applause) – to the young boy on the south side of Chicago who sees a life beyond the nearest street corner – (cheers, applause) – to the furniture worker’s child in North Carolina who wants to become a doctor or a scientist, an engineer or an entrepreneur, a diplomat or even a president.

That’s the – (cheers, applause) – that’s the future we hope for. (Cheers, applause.) That’s the vision we share. That’s where we need to go – forward. (Cheers, applause.) That’s where we need to go. (Cheers, applause.)

Now, we will disagree, sometimes fiercely, about how to get there. As it has for more than two centuries, progress will come in fits and starts. It’s not always a straight line. It’s not always a smooth path. By itself, the recognition that we have common hopes and dreams won’t end all the gridlock, resolve all our problems or substitute for the painstaking work of building consensus and making the difficult compromises needed to move this country forward.

But that common bond is where we must begin. Our economy is recovering. A decade of war is ending. (Cheers, applause.) A long campaign is now over. (Cheers, applause.) And whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you. I have learned from you. And you’ve made me a better president. And with your stories and your struggles, I return to the White House more determined and more inspired than ever about the work there is to do and the future that lies ahead. (Cheers, applause.)

Tonight you voted for action, not politics as usual. (Cheers, applause.) You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours.

And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together – reducing our deficit, reforming our tax code, fixing our immigration system, freeing ourselves from foreign oil. We’ve got more work to do. (Cheers, applause.)

But that doesn’t mean your work is done. The role of citizens in our democracy does not end with your vote. America’s never been about what can be done for us; it’s about what can be done by us together, through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government. (Cheers, applause.) That’s the principle we were founded on.

This country has more wealth than any nation, but that’s not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military in history, but that’s not what makes us strong. Our university, our culture are all the envy of the world, but that’s not what keeps the world coming to our shores. What makes America exceptional are the bonds that hold together the most diverse nation on Earth, the belief that our destiny is shared – (cheers, applause) – that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations, so that the freedom which so many Americans have fought for and died for come with responsibilities as well as rights, and among those are love and charity and duty and patriotism.
That’s what makes America great. (Cheers, applause.)

I am hopeful tonight because I have seen this spirit at work in America. I’ve seen it in the family business whose owners would rather cut their own pay than lay off their neighbours and in the workers who would rather cut back their hours than see a friend lose a job. I’ve seen it in the soldiers who re-enlist after losing a limb and in those Seals who charged up the stairs into darkness and danger because they knew there was a buddy behind them watching their back. (Cheers, applause.) I’ve seen it on the shores of New Jersey and New York, where leaders from every party and level of government have swept aside their differences to help a community rebuild from the wreckage of a terrible storm. (Cheers, applause.)

And I saw it just the other day in Mentor, Ohio, where a father told the story of his eight-year-old daughter whose long battle with leukaemia nearly cost their family everything had it not been for healthcare reform passing just a few months before the insurance company was about to stop paying for her care. (Cheers, applause.) I had an opportunity to not just talk to the father but meet this incredible daughter of his. And when he spoke to the crowd, listening to that father’s story, every parent in that room had tears in their eyes because we knew that little girl could be our own.

And I know that every American wants her future to be just as bright. That’s who we are. That’s the country I’m so proud to lead as your president. (Cheers, applause.)

And tonight, despite all the hardship we’ve been through, despite all the frustrations of Washington, I’ve never been more hopeful about our future. (Cheers, applause.) I have never been more hopeful about America. And I ask you to sustain that hope.

I’m not talking about blind optimism, the kind of hope that just ignores the enormity of the tasks ahead or the road blocks that stand in our path. I’m not talking about the wishful idealism that allows us to just sit on the sidelines or shirk from a fight. I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting. (Cheers, applause.)

America, I believe we can build on the progress we’ve made and continue to fight for new jobs and new opportunities and new security for the middle class. I believe we can keep the promise of our founding, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, abled, disabled, gay or straight. (Cheers, applause.) You can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.

I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and forever will be, the United States of America. (Cheers, applause.)

And together, with your help and God’s grace, we will continue our journey forward and remind the world just why it is that we live in the greatest nation on earth. (Cheers, applause.) Thank you, America. (Cheers, applause.) God bless you. God bless these United States. (Cheers, applause.)

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/07/barack-obama-speech-full-text

The Case for Obama: Why He Is a Great President. Yes, Great

By Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine, 10/31/12

I decided to support Barack Obama pretty early in the Democratic primary, around spring of 2007. But unlike so many of his supporters, I never experienced a kind of emotional response to his candidacy. I never felt his election would change everything about American politics or government, that it would lead us out of the darkness. Nothing Obama did or said ever made me well up with tears.

Possibly for that same reason, I have never felt even a bit of the crushing sense of disappointment that at various times has enveloped so many Obama voters. I supported Obama because I judged him to have a keen analytical mind, grasping both the possibilities and the limits of activist government, and possessed of excellent communicative talents. I thought he would nudge government policy in an incrementally better direction. I consider his presidency an overwhelming success.

I can understand why somebody who never shared Obama’s goals would vote against his reelection. If you think the tax code already punishes the rich too heavily, that it’s not government’s role to subsidize health insurance for those who can’t obtain it, that the military shouldn’t have to let gays serve openly, and so on, then Obama’s presidency has been a disaster, but you probably didn’t vote for him last time. For anybody who voted for Obama in 2008 and had even the vaguest sense of his platform, the notion that he has fallen short of some plausible performance threshold seems to me unfathomable.

Obama’s résumé of accomplishments is broad and deep, running the gamut from economic to social to foreign policy. The general thrust of his reforms, especially in economic policy, has been a combination of politically radical and ideologically moderate. The combination has confused liberals into thinking of Obamaism as a series of sad half-measures, and conservatives to deem it socialism, but the truth is neither. Obama’s agenda has generally hewed to the consensus of mainstream economists and policy experts. What makes the agenda radical is that, historically, vast realms of policy had been shaped by special interests for their own benefit. Plans to rationalize those things, to write laws that make sense, molder on think-tank shelves for years, even generations. They are often boring. But then Obama, in a frenetic burst of activity, made many of them happen all at once.

Bipartisan panels of economists had long urged Medicare to reform its payment methods to curb perverse incentives by hospitals and doctors to run up costs as high as possible; Obama overcame fierce resistance in Congress in order to craft, as part of Obamacare, a revolution in paying for quality rather than quantity. He eliminated billions of dollars in useless subsidies to banks funneling (at no risk) government loans to college students. By dangling federal public-education grants, Obama unleashed a wave of public-school reform, over the objections of the most recalcitrant elements of the teachers union movement. And he forced Wall Street to accept financial regulations that, while weaker than ideal, were far tougher than anybody considered possible to get through Congress.

It is noteworthy that four of the best decisions that Obama made during his presidency ran against the advice of much of his own administration. Numerous Democrats in Congress and the White House urged him to throw in the towel on health-care reform, but he was one of very few voices in his administration determined to see it through. Many of his own advisers, both economists steeped in free-market models and advisers anxious about a bailout-weary public, argued against his decision to extend credit to, and restructure, the auto industry. On Libya, Obama’s staff presented him with options either to posture ineffectually or do nothing; he alone forced them to draw up an option that would prevent a massacre. And Obama overruled some cautious advisers and decided to kill Osama bin Laden.

The latter three decisions are all highly popular now, but all of them carried the risk of inflicting a mortal political wound, like Bill Clinton’s health-care failure and Jimmy Carter’s attempted raid into Iran. (George W. Bush, presented with a similar option, did not strike bin Laden.) In making these calls, Obama displayed judgment and nerve.

A year ago, I wrote about the pervasive disillusionment felt by Obama’s supporters. It is a sentiment that has shadowed every Democratic president since Franklin Roosevelt, and evenRoosevelt provoked long bouts of agony and disillusionment among his supporters. All were seen by many Democrats at the time as failures, weaklings, or unprincipled deal-makers. It’s true that all of them, including Obama, have made terrible errors. What this tells us, though, is that we need some realistic baseline against which to measure them.

Obama can boast a record of accomplishment that bests any president since Roosevelt, and has fewer demerits on his record than any of them, including Roosevelt. The only president that comes close in gross positive accomplishment is Lyndon Johnson, whose successes were overwhelmed by his failures to such a degree that he abandoned his reelection campaign. The immediacy of the political moment can — and usually does — blind us. (In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, the wide and even bipartisan sentiment prevailed that George W. Bush was exactly the right sort of person we would want to have as president at that moment.)

The sense among Obama’s wavering supporters that he has failed rests upon a two-part indictment. The first and most potent is that he has presided over a weak economy. This line of attack on Obama became inevitable starting on approximately September 14, 2008, when the U.S.financial system imploded. The economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff have established that financial crises wreak vastly deeper harm than regular recessions. Financial crises freak out consumers, and they freak out political elites in a way that creates a panicked stampede toward exactly the wrong sorts of policies (like reducing short-term deficits) that in turn makes the crisis even worse.

This panic has impeded Obama’s recovery measures. But the fact remains that, by the standards of a financial crisis, the United Statessuffered through a relatively shallow trough and has enjoyed a fairly rapid recovery. (Here is a chart laying out the comparison between theUnited States and other comparably afflicted economies.) Obama managed to stabilize the financial system and, through the stimulus, avert a total collapse in consumer demand.

But while Americahas suffered less since 2008 than other victims of a financial crisis, it has suffered. Obama’s notable success in containing the damage has not redounded to his benefit for another, even more historically durable reason: Voters tend to blame or credit incumbent politicians for the state of their lives utterly regardless of responsibility. This is not even limited to things like the economy, where politicians can affect the outcome. Voters reward or punish incumbents based on the weather or the success of local sports teams. Mitt Romney’s campaign theme attempting to assign all blame to Obama for the state of the economy is a clever manipulation of this long-standing form of irrationality. In 2004, Romney dismissed any attempt to blame George W. Bush for the decline of jobs under his watch as “poppycock.” In his most condescending tone, Romney explained that of course outside forces were to blame — those outside forces being the vastly milder 2001 recession — and that attempting to hold Bush responsible for the economic record of his term was sheer stupidity. Now Romney has made that very theme the central basis of his presidential campaign.

The second indictment of Obama is that he failed to redeem the broader vision of trans-partisan governance he campaigned on. The reason this happened is that the Republicans’ leadership in Congress grasped early on that its path to returning to power required Obama to fail, and that they could help bring this about by denying his initiatives any support. In a meeting before Obama’s inauguration reported by Time’s Michael Grunwald, the House Republican leadership instructed their members on exactly this strategy. GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has followed the same strategy. GOP House members and senators have admitted, some of them publicly, that their leadership prevailed upon them not to negotiate with Obama.

Partisan strife between Congress and the president has gone on for decades. In the past, members of Congress often opposed the president’s agenda, but they also believed that the voters would punish them if they failed to show accomplishments, and so they carefully balanced their substantive opposition with a sense of political self-preservation. What makes the Republican opposition different is that it rests upon a novel, and probably true, insight. Most Americans pay little attention to the details of policy. They rely upon a broad heuristic — if something has touched off an ugly and protracted battle, it is probably bad, but if both sides agree on it, it is probably good. Even many Sunday political talk-show chatterers and other blowhards use the same basic thought process. And so, as McConnell actually said out loud, “if the proponents of the bill were able to say it was bipartisan, it tended to convey to the public that this is O.K., they must have figured it out.” McConnell, in keeping with his Bond-villain habit of boasting openly about his nefarious intentions, actually announced in a prepared speech that his top political priority was to make Obama a one-term president.

The Republican strategy is perfectly clear and not even very well hidden. Yet many of us don’t accept it as a reality because it does not feel true. We instinctively hold the president, not Congress, responsible, another finding political scientists have measured. The hunger to attribute all outcomes to the president is so deep that the political elite take it on faith. Bob Woodward, who is justly famed as a reporter but whose opinions are interesting only as a barometer of Washington establishmentarianism, blamed Obama because Republicans turned down an extraordinarily favorable budget deal. “Presidents work their will — or should work their will,” Woodward declared, “on the important matters of national business.”

How can a president “work his will” in such a way as to force autonomous members of the opposite party controlling a co-equal branch of government to sacrifice their own calculated self-interest? It is a form of magical thinking, but a pervasive one. Which is exactly why the Republican strategy — making Obama’s promise to transcend partisanship fail by withholding cooperation — has worked.

Whether this strategy succeeds in its ultimate goal — returning the GOP to power in 2013 — depends on the election. In an unusual way, the success of Obama’s first term hangs in large part on his reelection bid, as a President Romney would probably kill his grandest achievement of providing health insurance to those Americans too sick or poor to acquire it in the marketplace. So any evaluation of Obama’s term before the election must be provisional.

What can be said without equivocation is that Obama has proven himself morally, intellectually, temperamentally, and strategically. In my lifetime, or my parents’, he is easily the best president. On his own terms, and not merely as a contrast to an unacceptable alternative, he overwhelmingly deserves reelection.

http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2012/10/barack-obama-is-a-great-president-yes-great.html

Making The Election About Race By Thomas B. Edsall

New York Times, August 27, 2012 

Excerpt

The Republican ticket is flooding the airwaves with commercials that develop two themes designed to turn the presidential contest into a racially freighted resource competition pitting middle class white voters against the minority poor.

Ads that accuse President Obama of gutting the work requirements enacted in the 1996 welfare reform legislation present the first theme. Ads alleging that Obama has taken $716 billion from Medicare – a program serving an overwhelmingly white constituency – in order to provide health coverage to the heavily black and Hispanic poor deliver the second. The ads are meant to work together, to mutually reinforce each other’s claims….

Sharp criticism has done nothing to hold back the Romney campaign from continuing its offensive – in speeches and on the air – because the accuracy of the ads is irrelevant as far as the Republican presidential ticket is concerned. The goal is not to make a legitimate critique, but to portray Obama as willing to give the “undeserving” poor government handouts at the expense of hardworking taxpayers.

Insofar as Romney can revive anti-welfare sentiments – which have been relatively quiescent since the enactment of the 1996 reforms – he may be able to increase voter motivation among whites whose enthusiasm for Romney has been dimmed by the barrage of Obama ads criticizing Bain Capital for firing workers and outsourcing jobs during Romney’s tenure as C.E.O. of the company…There is extensive poll data showing the depth of Republican dependence on white voters…Most importantly, the Pew surveys show that 89% of voters who identify themselves as Republican are white. Faced with few if any possibilities of making gains among blacks and Hispanics – whose support for Obama has remained strong – the Romney campaign has no other choice if the goal is to win but to adopt a strategy to drive up white turnout….

On television and the Internet, however, the Romney campaign is clearly determined “to make this about” race, in the tradition of the notorious 1988 Republican Willie Horton ad, which described the rape of a white woman by a convicted African-American murderer released on furlough from a Massachusetts prison during the gubernatorial administration of Michael Dukakis…

The longer campaigns go on, the nastier they get. Once unthinkable methods become conventional…

The principle media consultant for the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future, which will be running many of the anti-Obama ads over the next ten weeks, is Larry McCarthy, who produced the original Willie Horton ad.

Full text

The Republican ticket is flooding the airwaves with commercials that develop two themes designed to turn the presidential contest into a racially freighted resource competition pitting middle class white voters against the minority poor.

Ads that accuse President Obama of gutting the work requirements enacted in the 1996 welfare reform legislation present the first theme. Ads alleging that Obama has taken $716 billion from Medicare – a program serving an overwhelmingly white constituency – in order to provide health coverage to the heavily black and Hispanic poor deliver the second. The ads are meant to work together, to mutually reinforce each other’s claims.

The announcer in one of the Romney campaign’s TV ads focusing on welfare  tells viewers:

In 1996, President Clinton and a bipartisan Congress helped end welfare as we know it by requiring work for welfare. But on July 12, President Obama quietly announced a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping the work requirement. Under Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job. They just send you a welfare check. And welfare-to-work goes back to being plain old welfare. Mitt Romney will restore the work requirement because it works.

The ad includes the following text and photograph:

Web sites devoted to examining the veracity of political commercials have sharply criticized the ad.

The Washington Post’s fact checker, Glenn Kessler, gave the welfare ads his lowest rating, four Pinocchios. The Tampa Bay Tribune’s Politifact was equally harsh, describing the ads as “a drastic distortion” warranting a “pants on fire” rating. The welfare commercial, according to Politifact, “inflames old resentments about able-bodied adults sitting around collecting public assistance.”

Sharp criticism has done nothing to hold back the Romney campaign from continuing its offensive – in speeches and on the air – because the accuracy of the ads is irrelevant as far as the Republican presidential ticket is concerned. The goal is not to make a legitimate critique, but to portray Obama as willing to give the “undeserving” poor government handouts at the expense of hardworking taxpayers.

Insofar as Romney can revive anti-welfare sentiments – which have been relatively quiescent since the enactment of the 1996 reforms – he may be able to increase voter motivation among whites whose enthusiasm for Romney has been dimmed by the barrage of Obama ads criticizing Bain Capital for firing workers and outsourcing jobs during Romney’s tenure as C.E.O. of the company.

The racial overtones of Romney’s welfare ads are relatively explicit. Romney’s Medicare ads are a bit more subtle.

“You paid into Medicare for years – every paycheck. Now when you need it, Obama has cut $716 billion from Medicare,” the ad begins, with following picture on the screen:

The ad continues:

Why? To pay for Obamacare. The money you paid for your guaranteed health care is going to a massive new government program that is not for you.

In essence, the ad is telling senior voters that the money they paid to insure their own access to Medicare after they turn 65 is going, instead, to pay for free health care for poor people who are younger than 65.

The Romney Medicare ads have a dual purpose. The first is to deflect the Obama campaign’s attack on the Romney-Ryan proposal to radically transform the way medical care for those over 65 is provided. The Associated Press succinctly described the Romney-Ryan proposal:

Starting in 2023, new retirees on the younger side of the line [those younger than 55 in 2012] would get a fixed amount of money from the government to pick either private health insurance or a federal plan modeled on Medicare.

Those going on Medicare after 2022 would have to choose between “premium support” – in other words, a voucher program – to pay for private health care coverage or an option to enroll in a program similar to existing Medicare but without specified funding levels – which means an end to the guaranteed medical coverage currently provided for those over 65.

The liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities sums up the likely future of health care for seniors under the Ryan proposal for reform:

The C.B.O. estimates that by 2030 the House Budget Committee plan would increase the out-of-pocket share of health care spending for a typical Medicare beneficiary from the current 25-to-30% range to 68%. By 2050, the House plan would cut federal health care spending by approximately two thirds. Both plans would place substantial administrative burdens on the most vulnerable and infirm of Medicare’s enrollees. And both would surrender the considerable leverage that Medicare can bring to bear on providers to reduce spending and improve quality.

Polls in key swing states and nationally show that, at present, voters trust Obama more than Romney to deal with Medicare, and strongly prefer to leave the Medicare program as is.

Asked whether “Medicare should continue as it is today” or “should be changed to a system in which the government would provide seniors with a fixed amount of money toward purchasing private health insurance or Medicare insurance” voters in Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin decisively chose to keep Medicare unchanged – by 62-28 in Florida, by 64-27 in Ohio, and by 59-32 in Wisconsin.

When asked whom they trust more to handle the Medicare issue, Florida voters in a Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News poll, reported on August 23, picked Obama over Romney by a 50-42 margin. InOhio, Obama’s margin was 51-41; inWisconsin, it was 51-42.

A separate Pew Research Center survey released on August 21 found that 72 percent of voters had heard “a little” or “a lot” about what Pew described as “a proposal to change Medicare into a program that would give future participants a credit toward purchasing private health insurance coverage.” Of those familiar with the proposal, a plurality, 49 percent, opposed it, while 34 percent favored it.

The bipartisan Battleground Poll conducted August 5-9 by the Tarrance Group, a Republican firm, and Lake Research Partners, a Democratic firm, found that voters trusted Obama over Romney to handle Medicare and Social Security by a 49-45 margin. The same survey found that voters trusted Congressional Democrats over Congressional Republicans to handle Medicare and Social Security by a 48-40 margin.

Romney’s Medicare ad is designed to undermine that relatively modest but potentially crucial advantage. It is artfully constructed to turn the issue of health care into a battle over limited tax dollars between a largely white population of seniors on Medicare and a disproportionately minority population of the currently uninsured who would get health coverage under Obamacare.

Medicare recipients are overwhelmingly white, at 77 percent; 10 percent of recipients are black; and 8 percent Hispanic, with the rest described as coming from other races and ethnicities.

Obamacare, described in the Romney ad as a “massive new government program that is not for you,” would provide health coverage to a population of over 30 million that is not currently insured: 16.3 percent of this population is black; 30.7 percent is Hispanic; 5.2 percent is Asian-American; and 46.3 percent (less than half) is made up of non-Hispanic whites.

Politifact described the Medicare ad as “half true”:

Romney’s claim gives the impression that the law takes money that was already allocated to Medicare and funds the new health care law with it. In fact, the law uses a number of measures to try to reduce the rapid growth of future Medicare spending. Those savings are then used to offset costs created by the law – especially coverage for the uninsured – so that the overall law doesn’t add to the deficit. We rate his statement Half True.

Politifact also rated a claim Romney made later on the stump – that “there’s only one president that I know of in history that robbed Medicare,  $716 billion to pay for a new risky program of his own that we call Obamacare” – as “mostly false.”

The Romney campaign’s shift of focus toward welfare and Medicare suggests that his strategists are worried that just disparaging Obama’s ability to deal with the struggling economy won’t be adequate to produce victory on November 6.

The importance to the Romney-Ryan ticket of two overlapping constituencies – whites without college degrees and white Medicare recipients – cannot be overestimated. Romney, continuing the Republican approach of 2010, is banking on a huge turnout among key white segments of the electorate in order to counter Obama’s strengths with minority voters as well as with young and unmarried female voters of all races.

There is extensive poll data showing the depth of Republican dependence on white voters.

On August 23, Pew Research released its latest findings on partisan identification, and the gains that the Republican Party has made among older and non-college whites since 2004 are remarkable.

Just eight years ago, Pew reports, whites 65 and over were evenly split in their allegiance, 46 percent Democratic, 46 percent Republican. In the most recent findings, these voters are now solidly in the Republican camp, 54-38, an eight point Republican gain. Elderly women were 9 points more Democratic than Republican in 2004, 50-41, the opposite of where they are now, 51-42 Republican. Older men, who were 51-41 Republican in 2004, are now 59-33 Republican.

Similarly, white voters without college degrees, of all ages, have gone from 51-40 Republican in 2004, to 54-37 in 2012, according to Pew.

Most importantly, the Pew surveys show that 89% of voters who identify themselves as Republican are white. Faced with few if any possibilities of making gains among blacks and Hispanics – whose support for Obama has remained strong – the Romney campaign has no other choice if the goal is to win but to adopt a strategy to drive up white turnout.

The Romney campaign is willing to disregard criticism concerning accuracy and veracity in favor of  ”blowing the dog whistle of racism” – resorting to a campaign appealing to racial symbols, images and issues in its bid to break the frustratingly persistent Obama lead in the polls, which has lasted for the past 10 months.

The result is a campaign run at two levels. On the trail, Paul Ryan argues that “we’re going to make this about ideas. We’re going to make this about a positive vision for the future.” On television and the Internet, however, the Romney campaign is clearly determined “to make this about” race, in the tradition of the notorious 1988 Republican Willie Horton ad, which described the rape of a white woman by a convicted African-American murderer released on furlough from a Massachusetts prison during the gubernatorial administration of Michael Dukakis and Jesse Helms’s equally infamous “White Hands” commercial, which depicted a white job applicant who “needed that job” but was rejected because “they had to give it to a minority.”

The longer campaigns go on, the nastier they get. Once unthinkable methods become conventional.

“You can tell they” – the welfare ads- “are landing punches,” Steven Law, president of the Republican super PAC American Crossroads, told the Wall Street Journal. Law’s focus group and polling research suggest that the theme is not necessarily going to work. “The economy is so lousy for middle-income Americans that the same people who chafe at the rise of welfare dependency under Obama don’t automatically default to a ‘get-a-job’ attitude – because they know there are no jobs.”

As the head of a tax-exempt 501(c)4 independent expenditure committee, Law cannot coordinate campaign strategy directly with the Romney campaign. Nonetheless, he is sending a warning. The welfare theme, Law said, “needs to be done sensitively. Right now it may be more of an economic issue than a values issue: In other words, more people on welfare is another disturbing symptom of Obama’s broken-down economy, rather than an indictment of those who are on welfare or the culture as a whole.”

Will the Romney campaign heed Law’s advice to keep it subtle? The principle media consultant for the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future, which will be running many of the anti-Obama ads over the next ten weeks, is Larry McCarthy, who produced the original Willie Horton ad.

Thomas B. Edsall, a professor of journalism at Columbia University, is the author of the book “The Age of Austerity: How Scarcity Will Remake American Politics,” which was published earlier this year.

http://campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/27/making-the-election-about-race/?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20120827

GOP’s Three Biggest Fears in 2012 by Steven Rosenfeld

AlterNet, July 31, 2012

Excerpt

As the 2012 presidential campaign takes a breather, we need to consider why today’s Republicans are no longer the party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt or Richard Nixon, but instead a truly toxic aberration. As James Fallows noted [3] a year ago in the Atlantic, the modern GOP’s biggest sin is discarding “political norms” that everyone once understood would hurt the countryIn the introduction to their recent book, It’s Even Worse Than It Appears, centrists Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein wrote [5], “However awkward it may be for the traditional press and nonpartisan analysts to acknowledge, one of the two major parties, the Republican Party, has become an insurgent outlier—ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”…

what are they so afraid of? The answer is clear—losing power and influence in American politics and culture.

Today’s Republicans cannot compete fairly and win. And when it comes to political tactics, there are three things today’s GOP fears more than almost anything: majority votes in the U.S. Senate; national and state elections where all eligible citizens can vote; and revealing and standing by their top political donors in public….Why do GOP partisans fear these three things? Because without gaming the rules in Congress, without limiting who votes in state and national elections, and without hiding their patrons from the American people, they know they’d lose—and lose badly…Instead, today’s Republican Party must cheat, bully, lie and hide to preserve its power in 2012.

Full text

As the 2012 presidential campaign takes a breather, we need to consider why today’s Republicans are no longer the party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt or Richard Nixon, but instead a truly toxic aberration.

As James Fallows noted [3] a year ago in the Atlantic, the modern GOP’s biggest sin is discarding “political norms” that everyone once understood would hurt the country—such as not paying [4] 74,000 federal air traffic controllers and construction workers to attack labor unions, a drama that played out last August.

Since then the GOP’s bad behavior has only worsened. In the introduction to their recent book, It’s Even Worse Than It Appears, centrists Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein wrote [5], “However awkward it may be for the traditional press and nonpartisan analysts to acknowledge, one of the two major parties, the Republican Party, has become an insurgent outlier—ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

Anyone who has been around a child throwing a temper tantrum would recognize the hallmarks of today’s congressional Republican leadership: threats and bullying, finger-pointing, and running to his room and slamming the door. It’s so transparent and it raises a basic question: what are they so afraid of? The answer is clear—losing power and influence in American politics and culture.

Today’s Republicans cannot compete fairly and win. And when it comes to political tactics, there are three things today’s GOP fears more than almost anything: majority votes in the U.S. Senate; national and state elections where all eligible citizens can vote; and revealing and standing by their top political donors in public.

Why do GOP partisans fear these three things? Because without gaming the rules in Congress, without limiting who votes in state and national elections, and without hiding their patrons from the American people, they know they’d lose—and lose badly.

Fear #1: Majority Rule in the Senate

A very revealing thing happened inWashingtonlast week. On Wednesday, the Senate held two tax cut votes that were not blocked—filibustered—by Republicans. Both times, simple majorities voted to reinstate higher federal income tax rates on the wealthiest Americans. In any other decade, in any other economic downturn, this outcome would seem utterly predictable and common sense. But today’s anti-tax GOP is different.

The first vote rejected [6], 45-54, a GOP plan to extend all of the Bush-era income tax breaks. The second vote approved the Democrats’ tax plan, which would extend the Bush-era tax cuts to the first $250,000 Americans earn in a year (including the first $250,000 that billionaires rake in). Senate Republican leaders later said [7] that they allowed the vote—not filibustering—because it would have no effect, as tax policy must originate in the House and that the GOP-controlled chamber would certainly reject it.

In most legislative bodies, simple majorities—50 percent plus one—is all that is needed to pass legislation. But not so in the Senate, where arcane rules allow endless debate, or filibusters, to continue unless there are 60 votes to end debate. The GOP increasingly has relied on that rule to block all kinds of Democratic proposals. Similarly, it has also relied on “holds” where senators can block nominations to federal posts, particularly judges.

Even the mainstream media has called [8] the GOP’s abuse of the Senate filibuster rules a “road to gridlock.” That’s far too polite. As Wednesday’s tax cut vote amply showed, the ideas championed by Republicans are destined for defeat when they cannot hide behind parliamentary tricks and obscure super-majority votes.

Republicans know they must game the Senate rules to win. But that’s not the only place.

Fear #2: Open Elections

The GOP’s need to game voting has spread like political cancer. In state after state since 2010, Republican-controlled legislatures have gone to great lengths to complicate many aspects of the voting process, from registration to ballot-access rules. The goal, as yet another Republican legislator bragged [9] last week in Wisconsin, is to suppress perceived Democratic voting blocks, particularly people of color, the poor and students.

What’s especially pernicious about the best known of these tactics, stricter voter ID laws, is that it adds a nasty twist to the otherwise simple requirements to be a legal voter. Instead of satisfying age, residency and citizenship status—and showing that one is mentally fit and has no felony record (as in most states)—these new laws say you cannot get a ballot unless you also have a specific kind of state government photo ID. Not everybody has that ID, or the documents needed to obtain it. The right to vote has never been based on plastic.

InPennsylvania, estimates suggest that as many as 750,000 registered voters—many in urban Democratic strongholds—lack the most common form of “acceptable ID,” a state driver’s license. But that’s hardly all the GOP has done. In states likeWisconsin, it has closed offices where people must go to obtain the required photo IDs—creating further barriers to voting. InTexas, it has limited the kind of ID that can be presented at polls, barring university IDs, to suppress student voting, but allowing gun permits.

This anti-democratic trend is larger than just photo ID laws. Floridapassed laws imposing draconian fines and filing deadlines on voter registration groups, which, despite being blocked by a court recently, stopped groups like the League of Women Voters from registering people for months. In the latest twist, Tea Party officials who oversee elections—from Florida’s governor [10] to the secretaries of state in Colorado [11] and Michigan [12]—have been claiming that hundreds of thousands of non-citizens are on official voter rolls and must be purged before November.

“It just sows confusion,” said Ion Sancho, Leon County Florida election supervisor and a lawyer who oversawFlorida’s 2000 presidential recount until halted by the U.S. Supreme Court. “Why are they doing this other than to pay homage to GOP political correctness?”

The answer to that question is that today’s white-dominated, wealth-worshiping GOP knows it cannot hold onto power in an increasingly multiculturalAmericaunless it keeps communities of color, young people and women from voting.

You would think today’s Republicans would be more confident in their ideas, stand by them and trust the voters to decide. But that is not the case, a point that is underscored by the third thing the GOP fears: revealing who is bankrolling their electioneering.

Fear #3: Standing By Their Words in Public

The political party that wants to end all campaign finance regulation so there can be unfettered speech—that’s their high-minded line—doesn’t want members and backers to stand up in public saying, essentially, “I paid for this ad and I approve of this message.”

Why is that, you might ask? It’s because, as has been endlessly debated and ridiculed on election law blogs, the GOP’s stalwart defenders say that disclosing who is bankrolling their campaign efforts would be to expose donors to public criticism and possibly attack. Never mind that everybody else gets pummeled by their propaganda and bile.

This self-serving logic was behind recent efforts by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to block a bill that would require people who write big checks for campaigns to disclose that activity, so Americans would know who is paying for the television, radio, Internet ads, billboards, political junk mail and robo-calls in their states.

McConnell was called [13] the nation’s “hypocrite in chief” for this effort, because for years he preached no regulation of campaign donations or spending, just timely disclosure so an informed public could make up its mind. That pretense evaporated during the Senate’s recent DISCLOSE bill debate, in which he—and other senators who long supported disclosure—closed ranks, blocked and defeated the measure.

But the issue is far bigger than letting the public know who is behind today’s political advertising barrages. One of the biggest campaign finance abuses in 2012 is the use of nonprofit tax structures to run shadow campaigns for specific candidates. The great benefit to the GOP’s patrons, including many corporate executives and trade associations, is that the nonprofit ruse allows them to avoid limits on donation amounts, and equally important, donors to these nonprofits are not legally required to identify themselves.

Think about this. It’s okay for multi-millionaires and corporate lobbies to bankroll the most negative ads in a presidential election year—ads that are thrust upon millions of people whether we want to hear them or not—but the individuals or interests who are paying for those messages need to be protected from criticism or angry responses?

What do these three fears say about the kind of national political party that is today’s GOP? It is a party that does not have the confidence to stand by its ideas or funders in public. It is a party that does not trust voters to accept or reject their agenda—in fair votes. It is a party that cannot live with the consequences of not obstructing bills and appointments in the U.S. Senate.

Instead, today’s Republican Party must cheat, bully, lie and hide to preserve its power in 2012.

See more stories tagged with:

republican party [14],

voter suppression [15],

filibuster [16],

campaign finance reform [17],

disclosure [18]


Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/gops-three-biggest-fears-2012

Links:
[1] http://www.alternet.org
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/steven-rosenfeld
[3] http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/08/on-rules-and-norms-4-reasons-to-regret-this-moment/243082/
[4] http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-faa-shutdown-and-the-new-rules-of-washington/2011/08/04/gIQAJIUOvI_story.html
[5] http://www.amazon.com/Even-Worse-Than-Looks-Constitutional/dp/0465031331
[6] http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2012/07/25/586241/republican-tax-plan-fails/
[7] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/wp/2012/07/26/wonkbook-the-senates-unusual-vote-on-the-bush-tax-cuts/?hpid=z3
[8] http://www.newsday.com/opinion/the-modern-day-filibuster-is-a-road-to-gridlock-1.3724716
[9] http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/07/24/572971/glenn-grothman-voter-id/
[10] http://sarasota.patch.com/articles/scotts-voter-purge-unconscionable-charlie-crist-tells-msnbc
[11] http://www.coloradostatesman.com/content/993634-gessler-besieged-critics-proposed-rules
[12] http://www.mlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2012/07/feds_expanding_access_to_data.html
[13] http://www.rollcall.com/issues/57_154/Mitch-McConnell-Vs-Himself-on-Disclosure-Issues-215491-1.html
[14] http://www.alternet.org/tags/republican-party
[15] http://www.alternet.org/tags/voter-suppression
[16] http://www.alternet.org/tags/filibuster
[17] http://www.alternet.org/tags/campaign-finance-reform-0
[18] http://www.alternet.org/tags/disclosure

A Politics for the 99 Percent by Katrina vanden Heuvel and Robert L. Borosage

The Nation – posted June 6, 2012; appeared in the June 25, 2012

This year will feature the most ideologically polarized election since the Reagan-Carter face-off of 1980. A radical-right Republican Party, backed by big-money interests, has made itself the tribune of privilege and will do significant damage if it takes control in Washington. Staving off that outcome depends on mobilizing the Democratic base. Yet President Obama’s agenda is far removed from what is needed to meet the challenges this country faces. Because of this, we believe progressives must expand the limits of the current debate, even as they rally against the threat posed by a Republican victory.

No one should discount the potential destructiveness of a victory for Mitt Romney. The widespread media assumption that he’s really a “Massachusetts moderate” who adopted extreme positions to placate the Republican electorate before resetting his Etch A Sketch would be irrelevant even if it were true. A Romney victory could be accompanied by GOP control of all branches of government, with the party’s right-wing majority in the House driving the agenda. As Grover Norquist argues, “We are not auditioning for fearless leader…. We just need a president to sign this stuff.”

The “stuff” they would pass—already endorsed by Romney—includes repeal of the modest reforms enacted to police corporations after the Enron scandal and banks after the financial collapse; repeal of healthcare reform, stripping some 30 million people of coverage; budget cuts that would gut almost all domestic functions of the government, from education to child nutrition to safeguarding clean air and water; and an end to Medicare and Medicaid as we know them. These draconian measures would be used to pay for increases in military spending and tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. Under the Romney plan, those making over $1 million a year would receive an average tax break of $250,000. A Romney victory would buoy a Republican right eager to roll back social progress, constrict voting rights and exacerbate racial divides in an era of middle-class decline. The offensive against labor and workers’ rights would escalate. And Romney’s bellicose foreign policy would make George W. Bush look dovish. If Romney wins, we will spend four years fighting to limit the damage he will inflict on the nation.

Obama has indicted the right’s extremes, arguing eloquently for public initiatives to save the middle class and revive the American dream. He’s made inequality a central theme of his campaign, and he will defend tax hikes on the wealthy and investments in areas vital to our future, from education to new energy. In attacking the vulture capitalism of Romney’s Bain Capital, defending the auto industry rescue and promoting investment in new energy, he makes an implicit case for industrial policy. Obama’s defense of human rights—for women, gays and minorities—stands in stark contrast to his opponent’s views. His re-election would help consolidate the emerging reform-coalition majority based on minorities, the young, single women, professionals and union households. Obama is winding down two wars, but his embrace of a modified “war on terror”—drones, renditions, expanded surveillance and other trappings of the imperial presidency—poses deep perils for the country. Even so, at least if Obama wins—and particularly if the Democrats manage to take back the House—our chances of reversing these policies, and winning the broader battle for reform, are vastly greater.

The System Isn’t Broken; It’s Fixed

Yet on the central issue of the campaign—the economy—the limits of the Obama agenda are apparent. In his “economic Sermon on the Mount,” delivered three months after he took office, Obama argued that we could not return to an economy built on debt and bubbles; we had to build “a new foundation” that would work for working people. He proposed moderate measures in critical areas: an economic stimulus, plus reforms in the healthcare, energy and financial sectors. But despite the economic crisis, an election mandate and Democratic majorities in both houses, Republicans combined with entrenched interests to delay, dilute and in some cases defeat reform.

Now the old economy has recovered, even if Americans have not. The big banks are more concentrated than ever and back to making big bets, certain that they are too big to fail. The trade deficit is growing, back up to an average of more than $1.5 billion a day. Wages continue to fall, with more and more Americans struggling to afford healthcare and retirement. Student debt exceeds credit card debt, and the piecemeal privatization of public education continues. Inequality continues to grow, with the top 1 percent capturing a staggering 93 percent of the income growth in 2010.

Beneath Washington’s polarized politics, an establishment consensus has congealed around austerity. After this fall’s election, the United States will face a fiscal train wreck: the Bush tax cuts will expire at the end of the year, as will the payroll tax cut and extended unemployment benefits. The debt ceiling must be raised again, and Republicans are threatening to hold the country hostage once more. The legacy of the last negotiation is an automatic sequester that requires cutting about 10 percent of the discretionary budget—both domestic and military programs. If all the cuts are made, the still-weak economy will plunge back toward recession. That specter is used to justify the call—made by both parties—for a grand bargain based on “shared sacrifice,” in which “everything is on the table.” In this construct, deficits pose the biggest threat, with austerity the needed remedy. Since we have all lived beyond our means, the argument goes, we should all share in the necessary sacrifices.

In fact, mass unemployment, not the deficit, poses the biggest threat to the economy. A turn to austerity would essentially be a declaration that chronic, widespread joblessness—with the declining wages and rising insecurity that accompany it—is the new normal, to which Americans must adjust. The mantra of shared sacrifice ignores the reality that most Americans already have sacrificed—in reduced wages, lost savings, collapsed home values. The question now should be: Who pays the tab for the mess created by Wall Street excesses, costly wars and thirty years of failed conservative policies? The “shared” sacrifice of austerity saddles the most vulnerable and the middle class with the tab. Wall Street gets bailed out and the rich get lower tax rates, while the 99 percent get unemployment and cuts in education, government services, retirement security and affordable healthcare.

The situational populism of presidential campaign rhetoric cannot mask the limits of the Obama mandate. He will offer no transformational agenda, no new foundation for an economy that works for working people, no plan for reviving the middle class. And no matter who wins, only sustained popular pressure will forestall a debilitating “grand bargain” that will further undermine the middle class and the poor.

The Progressive Response

Not surprisingly, the high stakes of 2012 have fueled the perennial debate over the importance of electoral politics versus movement politics. In the face of the threat posed by the right, Democrats urge activists to swallow their disappointment with the president and pull together to get out the vote. In contrast, many movement activists scorn electoral politics, arguing that both parties are so corrupted and compromised that energy should be focused on building independent movements and protests.

Frances Fox Piven terms this a false dichotomy. “Elections and movements do not proceed on separate tracks. To the contrary, electoral politics creates the environment in which movements arise.” And movements can challenge the limits of the electoral debate, forcing politicians to address issues and adopt positions they might otherwise shun. The dedication and imagination of Occupy Wall Street forced inequality, mass unemployment and declining wages onto the national agenda, issues that Romney argued should be talked about only “in quiet rooms.” Popular movements in Wisconsin, Ohio and elsewhere have won dramatic victories in repelling the right’s offensive against unions and working people—even as they have also compelled Democratic politicians to talk once more about workers’ rights. Successful movements build their own narrative, mobilizing activists around a cause and forcing politicians seeking a majority to change their calculations.

In 2012 progressives have little choice but to do both: to take the election seriously while continuing to organize independent movements and challenge the limits of the debate. Committing to electoral politics need not mean—cannot mean—simply folding into an existing campaign and trumpeting a politician’s exaggerated promises. Progressives should see elections as an opportunity to identify champions, drive issues into the debate and hold politicians in both parties accountable. This requires building an infrastructure independent of the Democratic Party, and a movement willing to challenge compromised incumbents. A prime example was Ned Lamont’s 2006 campaign against Joe Lieberman in Connecticut over the Democratic senator’s support for the Iraq War. After Lamont’s stunning upset victory in the primary, Democrats who had begun the campaign arguing about the supply of bulletproof vests finished it calling for an end to the war, which helped them win a majority in the House.

In this election, there are several high-profile races that could send Washington a message—notably the Senate campaigns of Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Warren, both of whom have argued forcefully for taming Wall Street, and both of whom are prime targets for the right. In the House, there are more than a dozen progressive challengers who, if elected, would strengthen the “democratic wing of the Democratic Party.”

At the state and local levels, the stunning mobilization against Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin, followed by recall challenges of Republican senators, helped inspire progressives (and sober conservatives) across the country, who will push their own campaigns no matter what the outcome of the recall. Progressive Majority will field hundreds of local and state candidates while targeting key races that could flip state legislatures.

Even without primary challenges, movements can raise the public’s awareness of progressive issues and force politicians to adopt positions they might otherwise avoid. Activists are moving to put the housing crisis and corrupt banking practices at the center of the national debate. While Occupy Our Homes mobilizes in communities to defend citizens against foreclosure and the Campaign for a Fair Settlement demands that we hold Wall Street accountable for the pervasive fraud that inflated the housing bubble, the Home Defenders League is organizing underwater homeowners in targeted states to demand that banks pay for resetting mortgages, which would bring dramatic benefits in jobs and growth to the overall economy. If these movements gain traction in Florida, Ohio and Nevada, the presidential and Congressional candidates will have to respond.

With student debt greater than credit card debt, students and Occupy activists have started to challenge university tuition hikes, demanding relief from Washington and Wall Street. The president has pushed for extending lower interest rates on student loans, in part to appeal to young voters.

This fall the biggest challenge for progressives will be finding a way to use the election to break the establishment consensus on post-election austerity. This requires mobilization around the demand of Good Jobs First and condemning a premature turn to austerity that would force working families to pay for the mess that Wall Street created. In addition, a broad-based coalition could join the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Senator Bernie Sanders and prominent economists to lay out a common-sense approach to growth and deficits. The most effective deficit-reduction measure is putting people to work—as soon as the unemployed start collecting paychecks, they spend and stimulate the economy, putting even more people to work and expanding tax revenue. Fair tax reform that shuts down corporate loopholes and tax havens and hikes taxes on the wealthy can help pay for the investments we need to build a new foundation for growth. Borrowing money at current interest rates, which are cheaper than free, and investing it in renovating our decrepit infrastructure—roads, sewers, energy systems—will put people to work and have a positive economic return. After we do this, we can focus on getting our books in order over the long term—not by cutting Medicare or Social Security but by fixing our broken healthcare system.

With Romney and the Republicans championing a return to the policies that have devastated the middle class, the election also offers an opportunity to overcome what has been the most baffling of Obama’s failures: his unwillingness to “re-litigate the past,” to educate Americans about the bankrupt ideas and policies that served the 1 percent as they failed the country. It is a measure of that stunning default that after the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the right could be revived electorally without being forced to rethink its assumptions or agenda, and without having to change even a comma of its creed.

Occupy Wall Street has helped to expose how a rigged system threatens our democracy and our economy. Progressives should use the election to hone our narrative on how we got into this mess and how we can get out of it. The conversation shouldn’t simply be about an agenda, though. It should be about values—about the standards we hold in common, now offended by a system that tramples the basic beliefs most Americans hold about their country. In this post–Citizens United world, big money and both parties are flooding the airwaves with billions of dollars in negative ads, but this election can serve as a perfect teachable moment—if progressives counter with teach-ins, house parties, demonstrations, nonviolent protests and marches.

An Honest Politics

Americans understand that the system is broken—and rigged against them. They increasingly see both parties as compromised, and they have little sense of an alternative and even less of a sense that anyone is prepared to fight for them. Progressives must therefore be willing to expose the corruption and compromises of both parties. This requires not only detailing the threat posed by the right but honesty about the limits of the current choice.

We also must go from opposition to proposition. Broad coalitions and campaigns are needed to lay out alternatives and fight for them. Occupy Wall Street challenged the heart of darkness, and the commitment and sacrifice of the thousands who took part in that movement have inspired hope. That’s why sustained efforts to mobilize and drive issues into the debate, while using nonviolence and direct action to defend people in peril, are vital. At the same time, progressives can champion candidates who will fight to transform the Democratic Party into an instrument of the 99 percent.

Defeating Romney and the right’s ruinous agenda is necessary but not sufficient. We need to worry less about co-optation and more about collaboration and expansion. A new course will require electing progressive champions and holding them accountable. It will require bold mobilizations around neglected issues to break the establishment’s stranglehold on our politics. It will require new ideas, new ways of organizing, new strategies of reconstruction.

We are still struggling to free ourselves from the ideas and institutions of the conservative era. We see more clearly than ever the flaws of a system rigged to benefit the few. The money politics that supports market fundamentalism has been exposed. The perils of the politics of division—enforced by a beleaguered, aging white minority against an emerging, more diverse America—are clear. Now we must reach out, teach, engage and mobilize millions of Americans. We must provide them with a sense of hope, a story of possibility, and enlist them to create change. It won’t be easy. But it never is.
Source URL: http://www.thenation.com/article/168264/politics-99-percent

Not Afraid to Talk About Race by Charles Blow

New York Times, June 7, 2012
Hey, I heard that: “Oh, no, the black columnist is writing about race, again.”

Yes, I am. Deal with it. The moment we allow ourselves to be browbeaten out of having important discussions about issues that persist, we cease to command the requisite conviction to wield the pen — or to peck on a keyboard, but you get my drift.

Varying political views among racial and ethnic groups are real.

They have always informed our politics, and no doubt they will continue to do so. The idea, naively held by many, that the election of the first black president would nullify racial grievances, bridge racial differences and erase racial animosities has quickly faded. We find ourselves once again trying to wrestle with the meaning and importance of race in our politics.

In fact, one could argue that examinations of racial attitudes in politics have become more fraught as racial motives, political objectives and accusations and denials of racism and reverse-racism serve as a kind of subterfuge hiding resentments and prejudices.

Either racial attitudes are naked, blatant and visible, this thinking goes, or they’re nonexistent, manufactured by race baiters and hucksters as devices of division. The middle ground, sprinkled with land mines made up of racial labels, is now a place where fair-minded people dare not tread.

That’s a shame.

But it’s not going to stop me. Strap on your lead boots and let’s go for a stroll.

A Pew Research Center American values survey released this week offers fascinating insights into how racially divergent values and the changing racial compositions of political parties influence our politics.

Let’s look at the racial makeup of the two major parties: from 2000 to 2012 the percentage of Republicans who are white has remained relatively steady, about 87 percent. On the other hand, the percentage of Democrats who are white has dropped nine percentage points, from 64 percent in 2000 to 55 percent in 2012. If current trends persist, in a few years the Democratic Party will be a majority minority party. But the largest drop in the white percentage has been among Independents: they were 79 percent white in 2000, but they are only 67 percent white now.

The racial diversity among Democrats and the lack of it among Republicans means that the two bases bring differing sets of concerns to the national debate.

For instance, blacks and Hispanics are far more likely to believe that poverty is a result of circumstances beyond a person’s control than a result of lack of effort.

Blacks and Hispanics also look far more favorably on the role of government, particularly as it relates to guarding against poverty and evening a playing field that they feel is tilted. Seventy-eight percent of both blacks and Hispanics believed that government should guarantee everyone enough to eat and a place to sleep, while only 52 percent of whites agreed with that idea.

This is not to say that minorities who favor a stronger government want more government handouts. There was very little difference in the percentage of blacks, Hispanics and whites who believed that poor people have become too dependent on government assistance programs (it’s pretty high for all three groups, at 70, 69 and 72 percent, respectively).

They seem to want a chance, not a check.

To wit, 62 percent of blacks and 59 percent of Hispanics say that we should make every possible effort to improve the position of blacks and other minorities, even if it means giving them preferential treatment. Not surprisingly, only 22 percent of whites agreed with this idea. Only 12 percent of Republicans — almost all of whom are white — agreed. This percentage has been decreasing since 2007, while the percentage of white Democrats who agree has been increasing.

Now what does that mean for the presidential race?

A staggering 90 percent of Romney supporters are white. Only 4 percent are Hispanic, less than 1 percent are black and another 4 percent are another race.

Of Obama’s supporters, 57 percent are white, 23 percent are black, 12 percent are Hispanic and 7 percent are another race.

And what of the all-important swing voters (those who are undecided, who lean toward a candidate, or who say that they could change their mind)? Nearly three out of four are white. The rest are roughly 8 percent each blacks, Hispanics and another race.

That might explain why the Pew poll found that the swing voters lean more toward Obama voters on issues like civil liberties and the role of labor unions, but are closer to Romney voters on the role of social safety nets, immigration and minority-preference programs.

Put another way, Romney voters and swing voters — who are both overwhelming white — agree on the more racially charged issues.

Pointing out these correlations is not only valid, it is instructive and helpful. In large part this election will be about the role of government in our lives, and different racial and ethnic groups view that particular issue very differently.

The economy always looms large, but for those who feel left behind by the economy even when it’s roaring, but especially when it sputters, social safety nets and governmental activism can also have tremendous weight.

The trick will be to have a conversation about the direction of the country that takes that into account but lifts the language to a level where common goals can be seen from differing racial vantage points — to show a way to be merciful to those struggling while providing a path to financial independence and social equality. Contrary to what many Americans think, most people do in fact want a hand up and not a handout.
http://campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/07/not-afraid-to-talk-about-race/?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20120607