A ‘money bomb’ for 2016

By Matt Miller, Washington Post, May 2, 2013

Excerpt

…an idea so simple yet subversive that it offers a glorious ray of hope…Lawrence Lessig’s “money bomb.” It’s an ingenious plan to make the drive for small-dollar publicly funded elections a central issue in 2016. With a little luck, the Harvard law professor’s idea could help save the republic…our leaders are groveling half a day every day to just 150,000 out of the 311 million of us. Forget “the 1 percent.” This is the one-twentieth of 1 percent who can afford to give a couple of thousand dollars to campaigns… He’s working to launch “a super PAC to end all super PACs.” He wants 50 patriotic billionaires to pony up $20 million to $40 million dollars each…Toss in contributions from less well-heeled folks who believe in the cause. Presto: You have a $1 billion to $2 billion dollar war chest devoted to making grass-roots public funding of campaigns a viable path to office…If enough high-net-worth patriots from both parties see past the irony to its potential, Lessig’s money bomb might just be the beginning of a cure.

Full text

 

Just when you were fed up with our petty, craven politics and were ready to write off the next few years as a circus of filibusters, gridlock and investigations, comes an idea so simple yet subversive that it offers a glorious ray of hope.

Call it Lawrence Lessig’s “money bomb.” It’s an ingenious plan to make the drive for small-dollar publicly funded elections a central issue in 2016. With a little luck, the Harvard law professor’s idea could help save the republic.

Here’s why. Everyone knows the ubiquity of big money in politics undermines democracy. But the mechanics of the money chase now warps daily political life so thoroughly that it would seem funny if it weren’t so shocking.

New legislators are told by party leaders to spend no less than four hours a day “dialing for dollars” for reelection. That’s twice the time they’re expected to spend on committee work, floor votes or meeting with constituents. And it doesn’t count the fundraisers they attend in their “free time.”

“Members routinely duck out of the House office buildings, where they are prohibited by law from campaigning,” the Boston Globe recently reported, “and walk across the street to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee offices…. There, on the second floor, 30 to 40 legislators and their staffers squeeze into the ‘bullpen’ … a makeshift call center of about two dozen cubicles, each 2½ feet wide and equipped with two land lines.”

The two parties function “basically like telemarketing firms,” Tom Perriello, a Virginia Democrat who lost in 2010 after serving one term in the House, told the Globe. “’You go down on any given evening and you’ve got 30 members with headsets on dialing and dialing and dialing, trying to close the deal.’”

This is your democracy at work.

“I won’t dispute for one second the problems of a system that demands immense amount of fund-raisers by its legislators,” Rep. Jim Himes (D- Conn.) told the New York Times the other day. “It’s appalling, it’s disgusting, it’s wasteful and it opens the possibility of conflicts of interest and corruption.

“It’s unfortunately the world we live in,” he added.

Well! At least our leaders are ushering in American decline with eyes wide open. As Lessig pointed out in an interview, our leaders are groveling half a day every day to just 150,000 out of the 311 million of us. Forget “the 1 percent.” This is the one-twentieth of 1 percent who can afford to give a couple of thousand dollars to campaigns.

What does this brand of begging do to elected officials? How does it skew what gets on the agenda? What kind of person wants to do this kind of work? How many rhetorical questions are needed to convince you this situation is corrupt and insane?

Enter Lessig’s idea. He’s working to launch “a super PAC to end all super PACs.” He wants 50 patriotic billionaires to pony up $20 million to $40 million dollars each (provided their fellow tycoons do the same). Toss in contributions from less well-heeled folks who believe in the cause. Presto: You have a $1 billion to $2 billion dollar war chest devoted to making grass-roots public funding of campaigns a viable path to office.

The super PAC would champion a short slate of reforms centered around publicly supported small-dollar campaign funding. It would intervene in campaigns to help elect congressional candidates who sign on to this agenda and to defeat candidates who oppose it. Building on recent reforms in Connecticut and New York, the bedrock fix might involve a system of matching grants or tax credits or vouchers that enable average citizens (via public dollars) to be the main source of finance for competitive campaigns.

Politicos are helping Lessig develop a more precise, district-by-district estimate of how much money it would take to win a congressional majority pledged to these reforms, but his guesstimate feels like it is in the ballpark.

What we have here, of course, is a plot through which billionaires lead the charge to get money out of politics. “You have to embrace the irony,” Lessig told me.

I agree. If such folks are willing to invest big sums to reduce their own power, more power to them. Jonathan Soros piloted a miniature version of such a super PAC in the last election, and with just $2.4 million helped defeat seven of eight candidates targeted for caving to special interest cash. Lessig said that if this “money bomb” can be up and running even on a modest basis by 2014, it might put a scare into candidates and raise the odds that in 2016 they’ll commit to reform. (A new group, Fund for the Republic, is helping explore the idea).

When I worked in the Clinton White House, I heard Al Gore say something I’ve never forgotten. It was in an early meeting on health care reform in the Cabinet Room. Gore observed matter-of-factly that “we’ll never do health care reform right unless we do campaign finance reform first.” Twenty years later, his point still rings true for every major plank on the agenda for American renewal.

If enough high-net-worth patriots from both parties see past the irony to its potential, Lessig’s money bomb might just be the beginning of a cure.

Read more about this issue: The Post’s View: Hidden campaign cash Katrina vanden Heuvel: Reversing ‘Citizens United’ Bob Bauer and Trevor Potter: A new recipe for election reform Jennifer Rubin: McConnell vs. McCain on campaign finance reform Ron Wyden and Lisa Murkowski: Our states vouch for transparent campaign financing

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/matt-miller-a-money-bomb-for-2016/2013/05/29/c01d0e88-c85c-11e2-8da7-d274bc611a47_story_1.html

When Election Regulators Are Mocked

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD, New York Times, April 13, 2013

Excerpt

It is an open scandal in Washington that the Federal Election Commission is completely ossified as the referee and penalizer of abuses in national politics.

Karl Rove’s powerful Crossroads GPS money machine cruelly underlined the agency’s impotence last week with a snippy rebuff of a legitimate inquiry from the commission staff about the shadowy sources of the group’s war chest. Crossroads GPS archly replied that continued inquiries on the matter “are unnecessary,” but that if they keep coming, it will offer the same unrevealing response.

This was no niggling issue. The election commission was asking for more details about the operation’s 2012 fourth-quarter report showing more than $50 million in independent expenditures but not a sign of who donated the money. The insulting rebuke to the agency should be thrown back with a unanimous demand that election law be obeyed. But this is the F.E.C., one of the sorrier federal agencies, where standoffs engineered by the three Republican commissioners on the six-seat panel have stymied efforts to write regulations and enforce them.

The result is a mounting backlog of complaints about blatant campaign abuses. Campaign operatives flout the law, knowing that the commission is toothless. The Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision deregulating campaign spending by corporations and unions has yet to be spelled out in F.E.C. rules needed by campaign operations…[it is] a gaping failure in a democracy that is increasingly exploited by scheming professionals.

Full text

It is an open scandal in Washington that the Federal Election Commission is completely ossified as the referee and penalizer of abuses in national politics.

Karl Rove’s powerful Crossroads GPS money machine cruelly underlined the agency’s impotence last week with a snippy rebuff of a legitimate inquiry from the commission staff about the shadowy sources of the group’s war chest. Crossroads GPS archly replied that continued inquiries on the matter “are unnecessary,” but that if they keep coming, it will offer the same unrevealing response.

This was no niggling issue. The election commission was asking for more details about the operation’s 2012 fourth-quarter report showing more than $50 million in independent expenditures but not a sign of who donated the money. The insulting rebuke to the agency should be thrown back with a unanimous demand that election law be obeyed. But this is the F.E.C., one of the sorrier federal agencies, where standoffs engineered by the three Republican commissioners on the six-seat panel have stymied efforts to write regulations and enforce them.

The result is a mounting backlog of complaints about blatant campaign abuses. Campaign operatives flout the law, knowing that the commission is toothless. The Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision deregulating campaign spending by corporations and unions has yet to be spelled out in F.E.C. rules needed by campaign operations. “Everything gets objected to,” Ellen Weintraub, a Democratic commissioner, told the journal CQ Roll Call. “Everything requires a lengthy discussion.”

At the end of this month the F.E.C., already with one unfilled vacancy, will have five members continuing to sit though their terms have expired. President Obama should fulfill his old campaign promise to nominate independent professionals to the commission. Senate Republicans would doubtlessly block his choices, but it would draw public attention to a gaping failure in a democracy that is increasingly exploited by scheming professionals.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/14/opinion/sunday/the-federal-election-commission-is-mocked.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130414&_r=0

Why Americans Can’t Vote

by Jeffrey Toobin, New Yorker, December 4, 2012

When President Obama claimed victory in last month’s election, he observed that many voters had waited on long lines to cast their ballots, adding, “By the way, we have to fix that.” That was a promise he won’t be able to keep. There’s no fix in the works—and there probably never will be.

It was a pretty terrible election, as far as access to the polls goes. As usual, the worst situation was in Florida, where waits of four hours were common both in early voting and on Election Day. But, of course, 2012 wasn’t even the worst election in Florida in the last dozen years. Observers of American politics may recall certain difficulties with the 2000 race in the Sunshine State. But even that fiasco—which arguably (that is, probably, or rather definitely) changed the outcome in the state and nation—led to no significant reform. Because the problems in 2012 did not even arguably change the results, even in Florida, the urgency for reform is commensurably smaller.

As we think about addressing the voting problems of 2012, it’s worth remembering the legislative response, such as it was, to the 2000 disaster. In 2002, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act, as weak and inconsequential a bill as ever purported to address a national crisis. What did HAVA do? It established some modest standards for voting equipment and provisional voting. And it created the Election Assistance Commission, which was available to give advice to states. But it did virtually nothing to address the principal problem with American elections—which is that the states, not the federal government, run the shows.

State control came about partly because of the Constitution. Our federal government has limited powers, and running elections is not one of them. But the Constitution is also a flexible document, and there’s a good chance that the federal government could take a larger role in preserving the fairness of elections if Congress wanted to establish one. But with the House of Representatives in Republican hands, there’s basically no chance of that happening: the G.O.P.’s interest has run in the other direction, toward passing state measures, like voter-i.d. laws, that tend to restrict the franchise. Republicans do better in low-turnout elections (like the 2010 midterms), and they have made an institutional commitment to suppressing the vote.

So, in light of the post-2010 “reforms,” 2012 was worse than 2000. The notorious butterfly ballot in Palm Beach County, which clearly cost Al Gore the state and the election, came about largely because of the incompetence of local election officials in 2000. (I wrote a book, “Too Close to Call,” about the recount.) But at least before that Election Day, Florida officials played it fairly straight. The Republican officials who ran Florida state government in those days made no wholesale attempts to disenfranchise Democratic-leaning voters. (Well, not many attempts.)

What was different about 2012 was that voter suppression went from (largely) accidental to (completely) intentional. In virtually every state where Republicans took control in the 2010 midterms, they changed the laws to make it harder for their political opponents to vote. Most of these attempts were styled as attempts to limit “voter fraud,” a virtually non-existent problem in the United States. (A former official of the Florida Republican Party recently acknowledged that the purpose of these laws was to hurt Democrats, not to address any real problem.)

To a surprising extent, Democrats and their allies were successful in using the courts to wrest the worst of these laws off the books before Election Day. In some states, like South Carolina, the Justice Department used Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act to stop some of the worst laws. But the Supreme Court is currently weighing a case about whether to declare Section 5—the heart of the Act—unconstitutional. If the Court does strike down Section 5, that will be one more dagger in the heart of voting rights.

But the problem is bigger than just the future of this important law. As long as states run elections, even the occasional invocation of the Voting Rights Act will not preserve the integrity of the system. States are poorer than the federal government and less competent at major projects of this sort. States often defer the business of running elections to local counties, which have even less expertise (and money) than statehouses. And in all respects, states and their county seats are more subject to political manipulation than is the federal government.

Some groups, like the Brennan Center, at New York University, are making admirable attempts to build on the (modest) public outrage about the flawed mechanics of the 2012 election. Still, even these good works cannot undo the structural problem with American elections. Unless and until the federal government takes over the business of running our elections—which will, in all likelihood, never happen—the process of voting will remain the shambles we saw on November 6, 2012.

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2012/12/why-americans-cant-vote.html?printable=true&currentPage=all#ixzz2ENgrxk00

Most American Voters Elected a Democratic House, But We Got a Tea Party Congress

by  MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT, November 26, 2012

BuzzFlash isn’t the first site to note that approximately 53,952,000 Democratic votes were cast for congressional representatives, while only about 53,403,000 votes were cast for House Republicans.  (Curiously enough that is about the same popular vote victory that Al Gore won in the 2000 election: 540,000 votes.)

Yet, the Boehner/Cantor Tea Party tilt remains in the House of Representatives.

As PolicyMic explains:

Republican gerrymandering of electoral districts isn’t as sexy to kick up a fuss about, nor does it make for as good memes, but it’s safe to say that elaborate redistricting helped the party to win their current House majority. And to win by redistricting, looks an awful lot like cheating. Professor Geoffrey Stone emphasized that:

“Although the Republicans won 55% of the House seats, they received less than half of the votes for members of the House of Representatives. Indeed, more than half-a-million more Americans voted for Democratic House candidates than for Republicans House candidates. There was no split-decision. The Democrats won both the presidential election and the House election. But the Republicans won 55% of the seats in the House.

This seems crazy. How could this be?

This answer lies in the 2010 election, in which Republicans won control of a substantial majority of state governments. They then used that power to re-draw congressional district lines in such a way as to maximize the Republican outcome in the 2012 House election.”

Take Pennsylvania, for instance, the Democrats received 2,710,827 votes for congressional candidates; the Republicans, 2,642,952.  Although it was a slim victory, the Dems won the popular vote in Pennsylvania as far as electing representatives to Congress.

Astonishingly, however, due to gerrymandering from the Tea Party tsunami election of 2010, which left the Pennsylvania legislature and governor in full control of the GOP, only 5 Democratic reps to Congress were elected in 2012, while the Republicans will send 13 reps to DC!

In Ohio, Secretary of State John Husted – who unrelentingly tried to suppress Democratic votes in the 2012 election – has denied he was proposing to change the allocation of electoral votes in the Buckeye State to winners of congressional districts.   (Only Nebraska and Maine currently employ such a presidential election system.) But you can’t blame him for launching such a partisan trial balloon, given that his allegiance is to the Republican Party, not the people of Ohio. Under such a system for Ohio in 2012, Romney would have been awarded 12 of the 18 electoral votes in the state (due once again to gerrymandering).

In summary, citizens of the United States elected a Democratic President and a Democratic Senate.  Minus the partisan tactic of gerrymandering, the American people also elected a Democratic House.

President Obama should remember this when he deals with the Tea Party tilt of the gerrymandered Republican House.  John Boehner does not represent the majority of the United States voters; he represents the pathology of a minority.

http://truth-out.org/buzzflash/commentary/item/17656-most-american-voters-elected-a-democratic-house-but-we-got-a-tea-party-congress

Applause for the Numbers Machine

By RICHARD H. THALER, New York TImes, November 17, 2012

THE biggest winners on Election Day weren’t politicians; they were numbers folks.

Computer scientists, behavioral scientists, statisticians and everyone who works with data should be proud. They told us who was going to win, but they also helped to make many of those victories happen.

Three groups of geeks deserve the love they rarely receive: people who run political polls, those who analyze the polls and those who figure out how to help campaigns connect with voters.

Many people doubted the accuracy of political polling this year. Part of the skepticism was based on the wide range of predictions, with some showing President Obama in the lead, and others Mitt Romney. But there were additional, structural reasons to worry whether pollsters would be able to find representative samples of voters.

One problem is that people are harder to reach on the telephone these days. About a third of voters no longer have a land line, and many of those who have them don’t pick up calls from strangers. So modern polling companies have to work harder to find voters willing to answer questions, then have to guess which of these respondents will actually show up and vote.

So it may come as a surprise that, collectively, polling companies did quite well during this election season. Although there was a small tendency for the pollsters to overestimate Mr. Romney’s share of the vote, a simple average of the polls in swing states produced a very accurate prediction of the Electoral College outcome. Notably, the most accurate polls tended to be done via the Internet, many by companies new to this field. That’s geek victory No. 1.

This relatively accurate polling data provided the raw material for the second group of election pioneers: poll analysts like Nate Silver, who writes the FiveThirtyEight blog for The New York Times, as well as Simon Jackman at Stanford, Sam Wang at Princeton and Drew Linzer at Emory University.

What do poll analysts do? They are like the meteorologists who forecast hurricanes. Data for meteorologists comes from satellites and other tracking stations; data for the poll analysts comes from polling companies. The analysts’ job is to take the often conflicting data from the polls and explain what it all means.

Worry about the reliability of the polling data led to widespread skepticism, or even outright hostility, toward poll analysts. The phrase “garbage in, garbage out” was one of the more polite criticisms bouncing around the Internet in the days before the election.

Because the polls were not, in fact, garbage, the first job of a poll analyst was quite easy: to average the results of the various polls, weighing more reliable and recent polls more heavily and correcting for known biases. (Some polls consistently project higher voter shares for one party or the other.)

A harder but more valuable task is to help readers translate the polling data into forecasts of the probability of victory. In Florida, where the final polls showed essentially a tie, according to Mr. Silver’s weighting method, it’s easy to see why he said the chance of either candidate winning the state was 50 percent. Ultimately, President Obama would very narrowly carry the state.

But what about North Carolina, where Mr. Silver projected that Mitt Romney would get 50.6 percent of the vote and President Obama, 48.9 percent? Looking at that very small difference, what probability would you have assigned to a Romney victory in that state?

Most people would guess something very close to 50-50. But not a good numbers guy. By looking back at previous elections with polling data this close, Mr. Silver estimated that Mr. Romney’s chances of winning North Carolina were 74 percent, a number that may seem surprisingly high. (Mr. Romney won the state.)

The slightly larger but still seemingly tiny lead that the president held in Ohio, another swing state, led poll analysts to predict that the chance of an Obama victory in Ohio was around 90 percent. And because Mr. Romney would have to win several such states with small Obama leads in order to prevail in the Electoral College, the analysts ended up with similarly high degrees of confidence in an overall Obama victory. They ended up predicting the Electoral College outcome almost exactly right, especially if you consider the final outcome in Florida to be a virtual tie, as they had projected.

Pundits making forecasts, some of whom had mocked the poll analysts, didn’t fare as well, and many failed miserably. George F. Will predicted that Mr. Romney would win 321 electoral votes, which turned out to be very close to President Obama’s actual total of 332. Jim Cramer from CNBC was nearly as wrong in the opposite direction, projecting that the president would win 440 electoral votes.

There is a lesson here. When it comes to assessing the chances of some complicated combination of events, gut feelings are pretty much useless. Pundits are no better at forecasting election outcomes than they would be at predicting the final path of a hurricane. Smart pundits should consider either abandoning this activity, or consulting with the geeks before rendering their guesses.

The third set of folks who deserve recognition in this election cycle were a group of young people working in a windowless room at Obama headquarters, affectionately known as the cave. They were part of the effort by the numbers-oriented campaign manager, Jim Messina, to maximize turnout.

THERE are two basic parts of an election campaign. The first comes under the category of messaging — deciding what a candidate should say and what ads to run. Most of the commentary we read about elections focuses on this component.

The second part is turnout, and in some ways is even more important. Here is a simple bit of math that you don’t have to be a geek to understand: It doesn’t matter which candidate a person prefers unless that person shows up and votes.

Pundits will debate for eternity which campaign did a better job of communicating its message, but there is no doubt which campaign won the turnout contest. Young, black and Hispanic voters all turned out in higher numbers than expected, and they often supported President Obama.

Much was made of the big Obama advantage in field offices in swing states. But those field offices would have been little good to the campaign without modern tools to find potential voters, have them register and encourage them to vote. In the weeks leading up to the election, the Obama canvassers had accurate lists of potential voters and field-tested scripts for their contacts with voters. This explains in part why Democrats were such heavy users of early voting.

By contrast, Project Orca, a get-out-the-vote computer program for the Romney campaign that wasn’t designed to be used until Election Day, reportedly had some bugs.

There should be something reassuring about this Obama campaign efficiency to all Americans, even those who supported Mr. Romney based on his success in business. When it came to the business of running a campaign, it was the former professor and community organizer who had the more technologically savvy organization and made more effective use of its resources, including geek power.

Richard H. Thaler is a professor of economics and behavioral science at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago. He was an informal adviser to the Obama campaign.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/18/business/how-pollsters-and-analysts-won-big-on-election-day.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20121118

Lee Atwater’s Infamous 1981 Interview on the Southern Strategy

by Rick Perlstein, The Nation, November 13, 2012

It has become, for liberals and leftists enraged by the way Republicans never suffer the consequences for turning electoral politics into a cesspool, a kind of smoking gun. The late, legendarily brutal campaign consultant Lee Atwater explains how Republicans can win the vote of racists without sounding racist themselves:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

Now, the same indefatigable researcher who brought us Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” remarks, James Carter IV, has dug up the entire forty-two-minute interview from which that quote derives. Here, The Nation publishes it in its entirety for the very first time.

Listen to the full forty-two-minute conversation with Atwater: http://www.thenation.com/article/170841/exclusive-lee-atwaters-infamous-1981-interview-southern-strategy

The back-story goes like this. In 1981, Atwater, after a decade as South Carolina’s most effective Republican operative, was working in Ronald Reagan’s White House when he was interviewed by Alexander Lamis, a political scientist at Case Western Reserve University. Lamis published the interview without using Atwater’s name in his 1984 book The Two-Party South. Fifteen years later—and eight years after Atwater passed away from cancer—Lamis republished the interview in another book using Atwater’s name. For seven years no one paid much attention. Then the New York Times’ Bob Herbert, a bit of an Atwater obsessive, quoted it in an October 6, 2005 column [2]—then five more times over the next four years.

Those words soon became legend—quoted in both screeds (The GOP-Haters Handbook, 2007) and scholarship (Corey Robin’s 2011 classic work of political theory, The Reactionary Mind). Google Books records its use in ten books published so far this year alone. Curious about the remarks’ context, Carter, who learned Lamis had died in 2012, asked his widow if she would consider releasing the audio of the interview, especially in light of the use of race-baiting dog-whistles (lies [3] about Obama ending work requirements for welfare; “jokes [4]” about his supposed Kenyan provenance) in the Romney presidential campaign. Renée Lamis, an Obama donor, agreed that very same night. For one thing she was “upset,” Carter told me, that “for some time, conservatives believed [her] husband made up the Atwater interview.” For another, she was eager to illustrate that her husband’s use of the Atwater quote was scholarly, not political.

So what does the new contextual wrapping teach us? It vindicates Lamis, who indeed comes off as careful and scholarly. And no surprise, it shows Atwater acting yet again in bad faith.

In the lead-up to the infamous remarks, it is fascinating to witness the confidence with which Atwater believes himself to be establishing the racial innocence of latter-day Republican campaigning: “My generation,” he insists, “will be the first generation of Southerners that won’t be prejudiced.” He proceeds to develop the argument that by dropping talk about civil rights gains like the Voting Rights Act and sticking to the now-mainstream tropes of fiscal conservatism and national defense, consultants like him were proving “people in the South are just like any people in the history of the world.”

It is only upon Professor Lamis’s gently Socratic follow-ups, and those of a co-interviewer named “Saul” (Carter hasn’t been able to confirm his identity, but suspects it was the late White House correspondent Saul Friedman), that Atwater begins to loosen up—prefacing his reflections, with a plainly guilty conscience, “Now, y’all aren’t quoting me on this?” (Apparently , this is the reason why Atwater’s name wasn’t published in 1984 but was in 1999, after his death).

He then utters his infamous words. The interlocutors go on to kibitz about Huey Long and barbecue. Then Atwater, apparently satisfied that he’d absolved the Southern Republican Party of racism once and for all, follows up with a prediction based on a study he claims demonstrates that Strom Thurmond won 38 percent of South Carolina’s middle-class  black vote in his 1978 Senate campaign (run by Atwater).

“That voter, in my judgment,” he claims, “will be more likely to vote his economic interests than he will anything else. And that is the voter that I think through a fairly slow but very steady process, will go Republican.” Because race no longer matters: “In my judgment Karl Marx [is right]… the real issues ultimately will be the economic issues.” He continues, in words that uncannily echo the “47 percent tape” (nothing new under the wingnut sun), that “statistically, as the number of non-producers in the system moves toward fifty percent,” the conservative coalition cannot but expand. Voila: a new Republican majority. Racism won’t have anything to do with it.

Not bloody likely. In 2005, the political scientists Nicholas Valentino and David Sears demonstrated [6] that a Southern man holding conservative positions on issues other than race is no more likely than a conservative Northerner to vote for a Democrat. But when the relevant identifier is anti-black answers to survey questions—like whether one agrees “If blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as whites”—white Southerners were twice as likely than white Northerners to refuse to vote Democratic. As another political scientist, Thomas Schaller, wrote in his 2006 book Whistling Past Dixie [7] (which naturally quotes the infamous Atwater lines), “Despite the best efforts of Republican spinmeisters…the partisan impact of racial attitudes in the South is stronger today than in the past.”

Which one particular Republican spinmeister, when he wasn’t preening before political scientists, knew fully well—which was why, seven years after that interview, in his stated goal [8] to “rip the bark off the little bastard [Michael Dukakis]” on behalf of his candidate George H.W. Bush, Atwater ran the infamous ad blaming Dukakis for an escaped Massachusetts convict, Willie Horton, “repeatedly raping” an apparently white girl. Indeed, Atwater pledged to make “Willie Horton his running mate.” The commercial was sponsored by a dummy outfit called the National Security Political Action Committee [9]—which it is true, was a whole lot more abstract than saying “nigger, nigger, nigger.”

For more on the GOP’s effort to roll back enfranchisment, read Ari Berman’s Why We Still Need Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act [10].

Source URL: http://www.thenation.com/article/170841/exclusive-lee-atwaters-infamous-1981-interview-southern-strategy

Links:

[1] http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/

[2] http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C04E6DF1E30F935A35753C1A9639C8B63

[3] http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/aug/28/rick-santorum/Santorum-Romney-claim-Obama-ending-welfare-work/

[4] http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/24/romney-makes-a-birther-joke-while-campaigning/

[5] https://donate.thenation.com/sitelink

[6] http://web.posc.jmu.edu/seminar/readings/4a-realignment/race+party%20realignment%20in%20the%20south%20old%20times%20not%20forgotten.pdf

[7] http://books.google.com/books/about/Whistling_Past_Dixie.html?id=jG5Jhexkjg0C

[8] http://www.nytimes.com/1991/01/13/us/gravely-ill-atwater-offers-apology.html

[9] http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Elections/2012/0524/From-Willie-Horton-to-windsurfing-Five-top-political-attack-ads/Willie-Horton-erases-a-double-digit-lead

[10] http://www.thenation.com/blog/171199/why-we-still-need-section-5-voting-rights-act

Shameless GOP Lies: Is There Any Limit to What Republicans Will Say — And What People Will Believe?

By Ernest Partridge [2], The Crisis Papers [1], posted on Alternet.org, April 20, 2011

“In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” — George Orwell

Excerpt

Is there any limit to the outrageousness of the GOP lies? Is there any limit to the capacity of a large number of our fellow citizens to accept these lies?…a long string of Republican lies thrown at the public by right-wing politicians and pundits and largely unchallenged by a compliant corporate media. Among them:…

John Kerry’s allegedly heroic war record was fraudulent.

Barack Obama was born in Kenya and is a secret Muslim.

Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and was involved in the attacks of September 11, 2001…

Global warming is a gigantic hoax, perpetrated by thousands of deceitful scientists.

Obama has raised taxes…

These are not “matters of opinion,” they are flatly and demonstrably false. Clear and decisive refutation of all these claims are available to anyone who cares to examine the evidence. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously remarked, while we are entitled to our own opinions, we are not entitled to our own facts…

finally, there is the “dogma” — a priori “first principles” too sacred to be doubted or subjected to rational analysis and confirmation:

“Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” (Ronald Reagan).

Market fundamentalism: “A free market [co-ordinates] the activity of millions of people, each seeking his own interest, in such a way as to make everyone better off.” (Milton Friedman)

Privatization: “Whenever we find an approach to the extension of private property rights [in the natural environment,] we find superior results.” (Robert J. Smith).

“There is no such thing as society.” (Margaret Thatcher)

“There is no such entity as ‘the public.’” (Ayn Rand)

These last two dogmas bear significant implications. For if there is no such thing as “society,” it follows that there are no social problems or “social injustice. Poverty is the fault of individuals who are sinful and lazy. And if there is no “public,” then there is no “public interest,” and thus no need for government to promote same.

A large portion of the American public believes these lies, accepts these contradictions, and embraces these dogmas, not because of supporting evidence (there is none) or cogent arguments (there are none), but out of sheer unquestioned repetition in the corporate media.

…as long as …millions accept uncritically the lies, myths and dogmas fed to them by the mega-corporations that own our government, there appears to be little hope of a return to economic justice and democratic government that we once enjoyed in the United States of America.

But all is not lost. As the folk tale of the boy who cried “Wolf!” reminds us, liars tend through time to lose their credibility. We should strive to accelerate this process as it applies to the corporate media by exposing the lies and boycotting the sponsors of those who tell the lies…

The restoration of sanity in our public discourse is essential to the restoration of our democracy.

Full text

Is there any limit to the outrageousness of the GOP lies?

Is there any limit to the capacity of a large number of our fellow citizens to accept these lies?

If it were in the interest of the ruling oligarchs to convince a majority of the public that the earth is flat, could they succeed?

This is, after all, a public almost half of which refuses to accept evolution — the central coordinating concept of modern biology. And approximately half of the GOP primary voters believe that Barack Obama was not born in theUnited States.

These unsettling thoughts came to my mind when I heard Michael Steele remark [3] that “not in the history of mankind has the government ever created a job.” This from a man who held a government job as Lieutenant Governor of Maryland. That remark was echoed by Mitch Daniels, [4] the Governor of Indiana and Sarah Palin and I can testify that I have heard it elsewhere.

Michael Steele’s comment is more audacious even than the claim that the earth is flat. (After all, the earth looks flat, doesn’t it?). To say that government never created a single job flies in the face of ordinary, everyday experience. What are police, firefighters, teachers, judges, prosecutors, postal workers, military personnel, etc engaged in if not “government jobs.” What is the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges, the certification of the safety of our food and drugs, air traffic control, if they are not “government jobs.”

The claim that government never creates jobs is so preposterous that it seems pointless even to bother to refute it.

Yet somehow, some GOP politicians freely utter this absurdity without fear of being laughed off the stage of public debate. And apparently some people, failing to give the claim even a moment’s critical reflection, believe it. Otherwise, why would Steele and others say such nonsense in the first place?

And this is only the most egregious of a long string of Republican lies thrown at the public by right-wing politicians and pundits and largely unchallenged by a compliant corporate media. Among them:

  • · Al Gore claimed to have invented the internet and to have discovered the toxic contamination of Love Canal.
  • · John Kerry’s allegedly heroic war record was fraudulent.
  • · Barack Obama was born in Kenyaand is a secret Muslim.
  • · Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and was involved in the attacks of September 11, 2001.
  • · Global warming is a gigantic hoax, perpetrated by thousands of deceitful scientists.
  • · Obama has raised taxes.
  • · “Obamacare” is a “socialist government takeover of health care.”
  • · Ninety percent of Planned Parenthood funding is for abortion services.
  • · Elections in the United States are always accurate and fair.

These are not “matters of opinion,” they are flatly and demonstrably false. Clear and decisive refutation of all these claims are available to anyone who cares to examine the evidence. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously remarked, while we are entitled to our own opinions, we are not entitled to our own facts.

Then there are the contradictions:

  • · Teachers, police officers and firefighters are greedy. But billionaire CEOs and hedge-fund managers are not.
  • · Wall street banksters are entitled to their million-dollar bonuses because these bonuses are contractual obligations with their firms. But the states are not required to honor their contractual obligations to public workers, obligations such as pensions and health coverage.
  • · Federal revenues are increased by cutting taxes (i.e., revenues).
  • · During the Bush administration, “Reagan proved [that] deficits don’t matter.” (Dick Cheney) In the Obama administration, the GOP tells us that the federal deficit is the Number One economic problem today.
  • · “Not in the history of mankind has the government ever created a job.” (Michael Steele, etc.). “Since President Obama has taken office, the federal government had added 200 thousand new federal jobs.” (John Boehner. Also false, by the way. The correct number is 56,000).

And finally, there is the “dogma” — a priori “first principles” too sacred to be doubted or subjected to rational analysis and confirmation:

  • · “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” (Ronald Reagan).
  • · Market fundamentalism: “A free market [co-ordinates] the activity of millions of people, each seeking his own interest, in such a way as to make everyone better off.” (Milton Friedman)
  • · Privatization: “Whenever we find an approach to the extension of private property rights [in the natural environment,] we find superior results.” (Robert J. Smith).
  • · “There is no such thing as society.” (Margaret Thatcher)
  • · “There is no such entity as ‘the public.’” (Ayn Rand)

These last two dogmas [5] bear significant implications. For if there is no such thing as “society,” it follows that there are no social problems or “social injustice. Poverty is the fault of individuals who are sinful and lazy. And if there is no “public,” then there is no “public interest,” and thus no need for government to promote same.

A large portion of the American public believes these lies, accepts these contradictions, and embraces these dogmas, not because of supporting evidence (there is none) or cogent arguments (there are none), but out of sheer unquestioned repetition in the corporate media.

Students of propaganda methods call this “The Big Lie” — a term that has its origins in the Nazi Regime.

Congressman Steve Cohen (Democrat,Tennessee) correctly observed that when the GOP claimed that “Obamacare” was “government takeover of health care,” they were engaging in a “Big Lie.” Yet when he said this on the floor of the House of Representatives, he was so mercilessly hounded by the media and his colleagues, that he felt obliged to apologize.

So now the corporate media has, in effect, ruled the expression, “The Big Lie,” out of bounds of polite political discourse, despite the fact that the term precisely describes the successful method of the right wing propagandists. In short, those who wish to complain against this practice have been effectively disarmed.

So where is the bewildered citizen to go if that citizen is to avoid the big lies and to encounter a fund of verifiable facts and informed opinion? Rule One: stay clear of the corporate media. Even The New York Times, once regarded as “the newspaper of historical record,” can no longer be trusted [6] to deliver “all the news that’s fit to print.”Remember the hullabaloo about Bill Clinton’s “Whitewater” deal? Remember Judith Miller’s breathless disclosure of Saddam Hussein’s nefarious “aluminum tubes”? All promoted by the New York Times. [7] All false.

So where do we find authentic news? Try National Public Radio (while it lasts) and, of course, the internet (until it is privatized and sold to the media conglomerates) where one can find a multitude of independent progressive websites. Also deserving honorable mention is the evening contingent of MSNBC — O’Donnell, Maddow and Schultz. Even so, along with the entire corporate media, these worthies never question the integrity of our elections and only rarely discuss the size of the military budget, now approximately equal all the other military budgets in the world combined, including those of our allies. It should be noted that NBC, the parent company of MSNBC, is half owned by the world’s largest military contractor, General Electric.

In addition, some of the best sources of news are foreign — and all available on the internet. They include the BBC (England) and the CBC (Canada), The Real News (broadcast from Toronto, Canada), Al Jazeera English, and, amazingly, Russia Today. The Russians, it seems, are returning the favor that we bestowed upon them during the Soviet Era, when theU.S. andWestern Europe sent accurate news across “the iron curtain” via The Voice of America and Radio Free Europe. Yes, it has come to that!

But these are all pathetically weak voices accessed by thousands, arrayed against the corporate media that is devoured by millions. And as long as this remains the case, and those millions accept uncritically the lies, myths and dogmas fed to them by the mega-corporations that own our government, there appears to be little hope of a return to economic justice and democratic government that we once enjoyed in theUnited States of   America.

But all is not lost. As the folk tale of the boy who cried “Wolf!” reminds us, liars tend through time to lose their credibility. We should strive to accelerate this process as it applies to the corporate media by exposing the lies and boycotting the sponsors of those who tell the lies.

The experience of the Russians is instructive. My Russian friends tell me that after decades of unabashed lying by Pravda, Izvestia and Gostelradio, fewer and fewer Soviet citizens believed the state media. The facts bear them out, as history discloses that Russians instead sought out foreign sources of news such as The Voice of America and Radio Free Europe. (See my “What if America Loses its Voice?” [8]). Some Russians were so desperate for authentic news and uncensored opinion that they risked arrest and prison by producing and distributing underground manuscripts, “Samizdat,” hand to hand. In the United   States today, a comparable “American Samizdat [9]” can be found on the internet.

When the Soviet government lost control of the hearts and minds of its citizens, its days were numbered.

In the United States, the corporate media, unlike the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, is sensitive to market forces. As ever more Americans refuse to believe the lies served up by the corporate media, the media will either reform or become politically irrelevant, and more and more attention will be directed to responsible sources of news, both foreign and domestic. The fate of Glenn Beck’s TV show and the diminishing audience of Fox “News” may be harbingers of such reform.

Whatever the outcome, Thomas Jefferson’s warning remains enduringly true: “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

The restoration of sanity in our public discourse is essential to the restoration of our democracy. Necessary, but not sufficient. In addition, the liars in public offices must be removed from those offices. And that will only happen if official election returns can once again be trusted [10] to reflect the will of the voters, and not the output of secret software written by right wing partisans.

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/story/150693/shameless_gop_lies%3A_is_there_any_limit_to_what_republicans_will_say_–_and_what_people_will_believe

Links:
[1] http://www.crisispapers.org/
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/ernest-partridge
[3] http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/2009/02/straight_outta_hooverville.php
[4] http://www.illinoispolicy.org/news/article.asp?ArticleSource=3368
[5] http://gadfly.igc.org/libertarian/2-society.htm
[6] http://www.crisispapers.org/essays8p/nyt.htm
[7] http://www.crisispapers.org/essays6p/agenda.htm
[8] http://gadfly.igc.org/russia/voice.htm
[9] http://www.crisispapers.org/samizdat.htm
[10] http://markcrispinmiller.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/OpenLetter4-5-11.pdf
[11] http://www.alternet.org/tags/gop
[12] http://www.alternet.org/tags/lies
[13] http://www.alternet.org/tags/rhetoric
[14] http://www.alternet.org/tags/politicians
[15] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

The campaign’s moral hole

By E.J. Dionne Jr., New York Times, October 7 2012

Does our presidential campaign lack a moral core?

The question arises in the wake of last week’s presidential debate. However you analyze it in electoral terms, the exchange between President Obama and Mitt Romney was most striking as a festival of technocratic mush — dueling studies mashed in with competing statistics. In many ways, the encounter offered voters the worst of all worlds: a great deal of indecipherable wonkery and remarkably little clarity about where each would lead the country.

But there are forces working to make the campaign about something more than a suffocating battle to influence tiny slivers of the electorate. One of my favorite pressure groups, Nuns on the Bus, will be launching a five-day tour on Wednesday through the red, blue and purple parts ofOhio.

Who better than a group of women who have consecrated their lives to the Almighty to remind us that our decisions in November have ethical consequences? Those who serve the impoverished, the sick and the dying know rather a lot about what matters — in life, and in elections.

If some of the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops often give the impression that they constitute the Republican Party at prayer, the activist nuns often seem like Democrats at the barricades. And it’s quite true that a struggle is on for the political soul of American Catholicism. Those among the faithful who see the abortion issue as trumping all others are in a quarrel with their brethren who place more emphasis on the church’s long-standing commitment to social justice.

Nuns on the Bus, led by Sister Simone Campbell, are very much players in this dialogue, and Sister Simone addressed the Democratic National Convention last month. Yet she was careful in her speech to emphasize that what she has been saying about government’s obligation to the poor — and about the problems with Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget — reflected what the bishops have been saying, too.

She also noted in an interview last week that she had laid down some conditions before she spoke in Charlotte. “I would talk if I could say that I was pro-life, that I could lift up the people who live in poverty and that the Democrats have a big tent,” she said.

The nuns’ message on poverty got some reinforcement in a statement late last month from Cardinal Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn. “There are very dark clouds,” they wrote. “Too much rhetoric in the country portrays poor people in a very negative way.”

They argued that the economy is not only failing to “provide sufficient jobs for poor people to earn a decent living to support themselves,” but is also offering fewer “resources for government to do its part for Americans in need.” The situation, they concluded, is “devastating to struggling families throughout the country.”

It’s no accident that the nuns are waging their Ohiocampaign against the Ryan budget during the week of the vice presidential debate. One would like to hope that Thursday’s tussle between Ryan and Vice President Joe Biden will be less a parade of numbers and obfuscating talk of “baselines” and concentrate instead on why voters should actually care about what’s in the federal budget.

Sister Simone points to a study from Bread for the World, a genuinely nonpartisan group that advocates on hunger issues, to suggest one useful line of questioning. To make up for the food-stamp cuts in Ryan’s budget, the group found, “every church in the country would have to come up with approximately $50,000 dedicated to feeding people — every year for the next 10 years.” Can government walk away like this? Can we realistically expect our houses of worship to pick up such a tab?

In all the dissections of Obama’s performance in the first debate, not enough attention has been paid to the real problem with his self-presentation: his failure to convey passion for the purposes of government, the requirements of justice and the point of his presidency. “The president,” says Sister Simone, “has gotten disconnected from the people he cares about.”

Nuns on the Bus will no doubt be criticized from the right for intervening in a political campaign, something that doesn’t bother conservatives when religious figures engage on their side. But the nuns’ most important message is to Obama and Biden: Don’t be afraid of reminding voters that budgets and elections have moral consequences. Doing so just might keep debate-watchers from changing the channel.

ejdionne@washpost.com  

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ej-dionne-jr-the-campaigns-moral-hole/2012/10/07/07df4db4-0f1f-11e2-bd1a-b868e65d57eb_story.html?wpisrc=nl_headlines

 

How the G.O.P. Became the Anti-Urban Party

by Kevin Baker, New York TImes, October 6, 2012

A LEADING Republican columnist, trying to re-stoke her candidate’s faltering campaign before the first presidential debate, felt so desperate that she advised him to turn to cities.

“Wade into the crowd, wade into the fray, hold a hell of a rally in an American city — don’t they count anymore?” Peggy Noonan lamented in The Wall Street Journal. “A big, dense city with skyscrapers like canyons, crowds and placards, and yelling. All of our campaigning now is in bland suburbs and tired hustings.”

But the fact is that cities don’t count anymore — at least not in national Republican politics.

The very word “city” went all but unheard at the Republican convention, held in the rudimentary city of Tampa, Fla.The party platform ratified there is over 31,000 words long. It includes subsections on myriad pressing topics, like “Restructuring the U.S. Postal Service for the Twenty-First Century” and “American Sovereignty in U.S. Courts,” which features a full-throated denunciation of the “unreasonable extension” of the Lacey Act of 1900 (please don’t ask). There are also passages specifying what our national policy should be all over the world — but not in one American city.

Actually, that’s not quite true. Right after “Honoring Our Relationship With American Indians” and shortly before “Honoring and Supporting Americans in the Territories,” the Republican platform addresses another enclave of benighted quasi-citizens: theDistrict of Columbia. Most of what it has to say is about forcing the district to accept school vouchers, lax gun laws and the fact that it will never be a state. It also scolds the district for corruption and “decades of inept one-party rule.” Only a city would get yelled at.

The very few sections that address urban concerns contain similar complaints about cities’ current priorities — not to mention the very idea of city life. The Republican platform bitterly denounces the Democrats for diverting some highway fund money to Amtrak and harrumphs that it is “long past time for the federal government to get out of the way and allow private ventures to provide passenger service to the Northeast corridor. The same holds true with regard to high-speed and intercity rail across the country.”

The Obama administration, the Republicans conclude damningly, is “replacing civil engineering with social engineering as it pursues an exclusively urban vision of dense housing and government transit.”

Unsurprisingly, the chairman of the Republican platform committee, Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia, is from a state that has no city with a population of 500,000 or more. One of his two “co-chairmen” was Senator John Hoeven of North   Dakota, which ranks 47th among the states in population density. The other was Marsha Blackburn, who represents a largely suburban district of Tennessee.

IT could hardly be otherwise. The Republican Party is, more than ever before in its history, an anti-urban party, its support gleaned overwhelmingly from suburban and rural districts — especially in presidential elections.

This wasn’t always the case. During the heyday of the urban political machines, from the Civil War to the Great Depression, Republicans used to hold their own in our nation’s great cities.Philadelphia was dominated for decades by a Republican machine. In Chicago— naturally — both parties had highly competitive, wildly corrupt machines, with a buffoonish Republican mayor, “Big Bill” Thompson, presiding over the city during the ascent of Al Capone. In the 1928 presidential election, the Republican Herbert Hoover swept to victory while carrying cities all across the country: Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Chicago; Detroit; Atlanta; Birmingham, Ala.; Houston; Dallas; Omaha and Los Angeles.

With the possible exception of Houston or maybe Omaha, it’s all but inconceivable that Mr. Romney will carry any of those cities. And that’s due in good part to the man Hoover defeated, more than 80 years ago.

The rise of Alfred E. Smith to the top of the Democratic Party confirmed a sea change in American life. Smith was not simply the first Catholic to lead a major-party ticket. He was also a quintessentially urban candidate, like no one who has ever seriously contended for the presidency before or since.

Born in 1873 on Oliver Street, on the edge of Manhattan’s Chinatown, he was forced to leave school after the death of his father. He never went back, toiling at the Fulton Fish Market for $12 a week. Elected to the New York State Assembly by Tammany Hall’s political machine, he worked his way up to speaker, then governor.

In Albany, Smith pushed through some of the most important social legislation in our history. Yet everything about him remained unacceptably “ghetto” to much of America: the way he dressed; the stogies he smoked in public; his heavy New York accent; and the way he enjoyed singing old Bowery tunes while enjoying a beer with the boys.

It was almost as if today a candidate from the projects — a high-school dropout who still dressed in hip-hop fashion and liked to occasionally drop in to a club to D.J. for a couple of hours — were to become a serious presidential candidate.

“To hundreds of thousands of old-stock Americans, Smith might just as well have been Jewish or black,” the historian Lawrence H. Fuchs wrote.New York “meant night life, short skirts, prostitution, Jewish intellectuals and the Union Theological Seminary.”

In an openly bigoted campaign, Smith was assailed in millions of coarse, anti-Catholic pamphlets and handbills; even a Methodist bishop viciously attacked his “Romanism.” He walked away from the race a bitter man and the cities went with him. By 1930, over 56 percent of all Americans already lived in urban areas.

The Great Depression secured their loyalty to the Democratic Party. Franklin Delano Roosevelt made the cities showcases for the New Deal — especially New York, under the liberal Republican reformer, Fiorello H. La Guardia. Federal money poured in, but in the end the New Deal was about more than building new bridges or getting people off the bread lines. Contrary to Mr. Romney’s contention that government aid automatically turns people into “victims” and “dependents,”Washington’s intervention turned urban Americans from subjects into citizens who could claim the necessities of life as a right, not a favor.

In so doing, it began to shrivel the urban political machines, though it would take decades before they disappeared completely. The cities, which had been places of horrible suffering during the early years of the Great Depression, became alluring again, attracting a dynamic if volatile new mix of the rural poor, black, white and Hispanic. By 1950, almost two-thirds of all Americans lived in urban areas.

Save for mavericks like La Guardia, Republicans had little to add to this battle for the soul of the city. Increasingly, a Republican mayor of a major city became a curiosity. In presidential elections, big cities went Republican only during landslides.

This didn’t seem to matter in the postwar years, as demographic trends began to shift sharply away from the city. Newly prosperous whites and eventually blacks pursued the American dream out to the suburbs. The urban industrial base left too.

FOR Republicans, cities now became object lessons on the shortcomings of activist government and the welfare state — sinkholes of crime and social dysfunction, where Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queens” cavorted in their Cadillacs. The very idea of the city seemed to be a thing of the past, an archaic concept — so much so that Gerald R. Ford seriously considered letting New York go bankrupt in 1975.

This probably cost Ford the 1976 election — much as Mr. Romney’s opposition to “saving Detroit” may yet cost him this one, thanks to all the votes of auto-parts workers he stands to sacrifice inOhio. Tragically, once-great cities likeSt. Louis or Newark never fully recovered from postwar deindustrialization. But urban living was far from dead. Instead, the American economy began to reinvent itself in cities, as they became cleaner, greener, safer, more prosperous, more fun. As the demographic wheel turned again, both new immigrants and a generation of Americans born and raised in the ’burbs moved back in.

Today, four-fifths of the population lives in an urban area — the highest percentage in our history. Although the country remains largely suburban, one in 12 Americans lives in a city of over a million people. More than ever, they are stakeholders, owning where previous generations rented, creating their own jobs and opportunities. Traditional liberal bastions like the Upper West Side of Manhattanare now filled with the owners of co-ops and condominiums worth hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars. Over 140,000 New Yorkers in all — or nearly 4 percent of the labor force — work out of their homes. The percentages are even higher in Los Angeles and Chicago. Most of these individuals are skilled, highly educated “job creators” for themselves and others — the very demographic that Republicans claim to want to attract.

Some have managed it. The Upper West Side voted for the re-election of both the businessman Michael R. Bloomberg and the former prosecutor Rudolph W. Giuliani. Over the past 25 years, cities like Indianapolis, San Diego and even Los Angeles have elected — and re-elected — Republican mayors.

Yet the national Republican Party still can’t get seem to get past its animus toward the very idea of urban life. The only place that Amtrak turns a profit is the Northeast corridor — yet all Republicans can think to do is privatize it, along with the local rail lines on which millions of Americans have been commuting into cities to work for as long as a century and a half. Republicans promise to ban same-sex marriage, make it easier for anyone to get a gun, delegitimize and destroy what they mockingly call “public employees’ unions,” and deport the immigrant workers performing so many thankless but vital tasks.

In short, they promise to rip and tear at the immensely complex fabric of city life while sneering at the entire “urban vision of dense housing and government transit.” There is a terrible arrogance here that has ramifications well beyond the Republicans’ electoral prospects.

There wasn’t so much as a mention of cities in the debate on domestic issues the presidential candidates had last week. Nor did the Democrats have much to say about cities at their convention in Charlotte,N.C.They didn’t have to. Politically, Democrats don’t have to say anything about the urban experience; they embody it. But in too many cities this allows them to keep running corrupt and mediocre candidates.

Mr. Giuliani and Mayor Bloomberg — both Democrats turned Republicans — saw their opportunity in displacing these tired party satraps. Between them, they embraced exactly the sort of “Chinese menu” variety of policy choices that Americans say they prefer. Between them, they backed tough law-enforcement tactics and strict gun laws, supported gay rights and major real-estate developments, opposed smoking in bars and a “living wage.”

Other Republican mayors have scored similar successes around the country. Susan Golding, the second woman and first Jewish mayor of San Diego, was a pro-gay-rights, pro-affirmative-action executive who also built that city’s first homeless shelter — and cracked down on crime while creating “one-stop shopping” for new businesses seeking permits.

The dynasty of Republican mayors begun by Richard G. Lugar in Indianapolishad a prophetic champion in the Buffalo congressman Jack F. Kemp, who tried hard to provide Republicans with a potential urban agenda when he was secretary of housing and urban development under the first President Bush. Mr. Kemp insisted that the party denounce racism and pioneered urban “enterprise zones” — there are over 800 of them today — and even tried to extend the idea of the urban stakeholder movement to the residents of public housing projects by allowing them to buy their own homes.

“This is my way of redeeming my existence on earth,” Mr. Kemp once told a group of reporters. “I wasn’t there with Rosa Parks or Dr. King or John Lewis, but I am here now, and I am going to yell from the rooftops about what we need to do.”

THE potential for change, should Republicans start shouting from the rooftops about cities, is enormous. Constituencies change parties — and in America, parties change constituents, opening them up to the concerns of others, because of the need to form broad, national coalitions. A Republican Party seeking to actively win cities, not just vilify them or suppress their vote, could open the party up to all sorts of new immigrant voters, like Asian and Latino Americans — and maybe even bring back part of an old voting bloc: black people.

At a moment when Republican Party’s “dog whistles” are more racially pitched than ever, this may sound crazy. Yet one got the impression this election season, for instance, that Cory A. Booker, the mayor ofNewark, would like some new place to turn. Mayor Booker has battled valiantly against the sclerotic, black political establishment in his own city as well as outside white indifference. A Mayor Booker who had someplace to go besides the Democratic Party with his city’s votes would be immediately empowered as never before.

Republicans in turn could show on a very human level that they are more than the mere radio ranters who constitute so much of what urban voters get to hear of the right wing. They would have to vie for votes in a manner that reflects urban realities instead of fantastical theories. Imagine a serious, practical discussion of educational reform or mass transit, instead of more heavy-handed attempts to demonize teachers’ unions or privatize the rails.

The prospects for any such change don’t seem high right now. But that may change, too, out of necessity. The Republican refusal to contest the cities has left them in a permanently defensive stance in national campaigns. This can’t continue. The courts have already struck down many voter suppression laws, and the party’s 2008 presidential results read like an actuarial table, with Republicans increasing their percentage of the vote mainly in aging districts that are losing population. In the meantime, as urban areas continue to grow, they become more and more intertwined with what were once distant suburbs, making “urban” issues all the more pertinent to everyone.

The old antagonisms between cities and suburbs will give way to cooperation over everything from where to build the next airport to how to combine municipal services to how to spread the wealth cities generate. And for that matter, over half of all minorities in metropolitan areas — including African-Americans — do not live in the inner city but in surrounding suburbs.

Republicans may not want to go to the cities. But that doesn’t much matter. The cities are coming to them.

Kevin Baker is the author of the “City of Fire” series of historical novels: “Dreamland,” “Paradise Alley” and “Strivers Row.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/07/opinion/sunday/republicans-to-cities-drop-dead.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20121007&_r=0&pagewanted=print

Threats to democracy

 

Sedition: Crime of creating a revolt, disturbance, or violence against lawful civil authority with the intent to cause its overthrow or destruction…Advocating, encouraging, and sanc­tioning sedition is the new norm on the conservative side…a wake-up call for progressives…it’s time to openly con­front the fact that conservatives have spent the past 40 years systematically delegitimizing the very idea of US government. When they’re in power, they mismanage it and defund it. When they’re out of power, they refuse to participate in running the country at all — indeed, they throw all their energy into thwarting the democratic process any way they can. When they need to win an election, they use violent, polarizing, eliminationist language against their opponents to motivate their base. This is sedition in slow motion, a gradual corrosive under­mining of the government’s authority and capability to run the country. And it’s been at the core of their politics going all the way back to Goldwater…puts the short-term needs of the Republi­can party ahead of the long-term viability of the American democracy they’ve sworn to uphold… Guilty of Sedition? How the Right Is Undermining Our Government’s Authority and Capability to Run the Country by Sara Robinson

 

…It is an affront to our democracy that you need a specific identification to vote for a candidate, but not to finance one. Why is it so easy to buy a government, but becoming so hard to vote for one? Voter suppression laws, overzealous filibuster use, you name it — the Republicans use every tactic they can to stop our democracy from actually selecting the person with the most support. Why do they do this? It seems obvious: when you don’t have winning ideas, you change the rules of the game. When you can’t convince voters that you are the best choice, you restrict their ability to choose. Voter Suppression Is Treasonous by Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm

 

10 Ways Our Democracy Is Crumbling Around Us 

 

On the Sabotage of Democracy by Bill Moyers

 

How the Wealthy Wage War on Democracy Itself

Our Democracy Is at Stake  by THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, New York Times, October 1, 2013 – This time is different. What is at stake in this government shutdown forced by a radical Tea Party minority is nothing less than the principle upon which our democracy is based: majority rule. President Obama must not give in to this hostage taking — not just because Obamacare is at stake, but because the future of how we govern ourselves is at stake.…structural changes in money, media and redistricting…are superempowering small political movements to act in extreme ways without consequences and thereby stymie majority rule. If democracy means anything, it means that, if you are outvoted, you accept the results and prepare for the next election. Republicans are refusing to do that. It shows contempt for the democratic process. President Obama is not defending health care. He’s defending the health of our democracy. Every American who cherishes that should stand with him.

The End Game for Democracy

It Can’t Happen Here? 

The March to Anarchy

House Republicans Changed The Rules So A Majority Vote Couldn’t Stop The Government Shutdown by Ashley Alman, Huffington Post, October 13, 2013   — In its effort to extract concessions from Democrats in exchange for opening the government, the GOP has faced a fundamental strategic obstacle: They don’t have the votes. A majority of the members of the House have gone on record saying that if they were given the opportunity to vote, they would support what’s known as a “clean” continuing resolution to fund the government. So House Republican leaders made sure no such vote could happen…Republican members of the House Rules Committee were developing a strategy to keep a clean CR off the floor, guaranteeing the government would remain shut down. Though at least 28 House Republicans have publicly said they would support a clean CR if it were brought to the floor — enough votes for the government to reopen when combined with Democratic support — a House rule passed just before the shutdown essentially prevents that vote from taking place. During a floor speech on Saturday, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) drew attention to the quietly passed rule when he attempted to present a motion to accept the Senate’s clean continuing resolution and reopen the government. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), presiding over the chamber, told Van Hollen that the rule he was asking to use had been “altered” and he did not have the privilege of bringing that vote to the floor…the recently passed House Resolution 368 trumped the standing rules…“Mr. Speaker, why were the rules rigged to keep the government shut down?” Van Hollen asked. “The gentleman will suspend,” Chaffetz interjected. “Democracy has been suspended, Mr. Speaker.” (Van Hollen)

Democracy: government by the people; the common people of a community, as distinguished from any privileged class …What’s wrong with this picture? On every key issue of public concern…the government in this supposed democracy has gone against the wishes of the majority of the public. Clearly, whatever it is, this is no democracy we are living in today… A Profound and Jarring Disconnect by Dave Lindorff,

The U.S. Behaves Nothing Like a Democracy, But You’ll Never Hear About It in Our ‘Free Press’ By Noam Chomsky, AlterNetAugust 15, 2013

Chaos Looms By Paul Krugman, New York TImes blog,  August 1, 2013

Political dysfunction spells trouble for democracies By E.J. Dionne Jr. , Washington Post, May 19, 2013 ……We should consider whether democracy itself is in danger of being discredited. Politicians might usefully disentangle themselves from their day-to-day power struggles long enough to take seriously their responsibility to a noble idea and the systems that undergird it[there are] two streams of discontent the world’s democracies face. One is material. The other might be called spiritual… politicians might contemplate their obligations to stewardship of the democratic ideal…

The Day After Tomorrow by David Brooks, New York Times, September 13, 2010 Every political movement has a story. The surging Republican Party has a story, too. It is a story of virtue betrayed and innocence threatened…the story Republicans are telling each other…is an oversimplified version of American history, with dangerous implications. The fact is, the American story is not just the story of limited governments; it is the story of limited but energetic governments that used aggressive federal power to promote growth and social mobility… If the current Republican Party regards every new bit of government action as a step on the road to serfdom, then the party will be taking this long, mainstream American tradition and exiling it from the G.O.P.  That will be a political tragedy…America faces a series of problems that can’t be addressed simply by getting government out of the way. The social fabric is fraying. Human capital is being squandered. Society is segmenting. The labor markets are ill. Wages are lagging. Inequality is increasing. The nation is overconsuming and underinnovating. China and India are surging. Not all of these challenges can be addressed by the spontaneous healing powers of the market. Most important, it would be an intellectual tragedy. Conservatism is supposed to be nonideological and context-driven. If all government action is automatically dismissed as quasi socialist, then there is no need to think. A pall of dogmatism will settle over the right. Republicans are riding a wave of revulsion about what is happening in Washington. But it is also time to…think about the limited-but-energetic government tradition…at the heart of the American experience.

5 Ways GOP Tried to Subvert Democracy in 2012 — And They’ll Try Again

How the Billionaires Class Is Destroying Democracy

Our Dumb Democracy: Why the Untied States of Stupid Still Reins Supreem

6 Biggest Religious Right Threats to America

America’s Most Dangerous Enemy

10 Ways Our Democracy Is Crumbling Around Us By Les Leopold, AlterNet, April 5, 2012  - Our democracy is in grave danger. In fact, it may already be fatally wounded as a financial oligopoly increasingly dominates American politics and the economy…here are 10 reasons to worry.
1. Money and Politics
Our democracy is supposedly rooted in the idea of one person, one vote. But the introduction of big money into politics distorts, and perhaps, destroys that ideal….all candidates, regardless of party, spend most of their time begging for money, not legislating. You can’t get elected without kissing the oligarchs’ rings.
2. Voter Disenfranchisement
3. Our Skewed Distribution of Income – Ratio of CEO Compensation To Average Employee Compensation in 2000 – Japan 10:1…Britain 25:1…U.S….365:1
4. Tax Breaks for the Super-rich
5. Wall Street Bailouts
6. Deficit Hysteria
7. Crumbling Social and Physical Infrastructure
8. The Failure to Create Jobs
9. The Revolving Door
10. Worshiping the Market Gods

A GOP witch hunt for the zombie voter By Eugene Robinson, Washington Post, April 30, 2012

Are Republicans Committing Treason?By Cliff Schecter, AlterNet, July 20, 2011

Betting Against America’s Government, The Progress Report, April 19, 2010 by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Zaid Jilani, and Alex Seitz-Wald

Guilty of Sedition? How the Right Is Undermining Our Government’s Authority and Capability to Run the Country By Sara Robinson, Campaign for America’s Future, April 6, 2010

The ‘Voter Fraud’ Fraud by Ari Berman, TheNation.com. April 4, 2012

Democracy in America Is a Series of Narrow Escapes, and We May Be Running Out of Luck by Bill Moyers, CommonDreams.org, May 17, 2008  - …The reigning presumption about the American experience…is grounded in the idea of progress, the conviction that the present is “better” than the past and the future will bring even more improvement. For all of its shortcomings, we keep telling ourselves, “The system works.” Now all bets are off. We have fallen under the spell of money, faction, and fear, and the great American experience in creating a different future together has been subjugated to individual cunning in the pursuit of wealth and power -and to the claims of empire, with its ravenous demands and stuporous distractions.
…there is a class war and ordinary people are losing it…The conclusion that we are in trouble is unavoidable…statistics that show real wages lagging behind prices, the compensation of corporate barons soaring to heights unequaled anywhere among industrialized democracies…extremes of wealth and poverty cannot be reconciled with a genuinely democratic politics. When the state becomes the guardian of power and privilege to the neglect of justice for the people as a whole, it mocks the very concept of government as proclaimed in the preamble to our Constitution…Our democracy has prospered most when it was firmly anchored in the idea that “We the People” — not just a favored few — would identify and remedy common distempers and dilemmas and win the gamble our forebears undertook when they espoused the radical idea that people could govern themselves wisely.

‘On a Mission From God’: The Religious Right and the Emerging American Theocracy by Maureen Farrell, BuzzFlash.com, March 9, 2004

Conquering by Stealth and Deception – How the Dominionists Are Succeeding in Their Quest for National Control and World Power by Katherine Yurica, September 14, 2004 – Paul Weyrich’s Secret Manual on How to Win Politically

Mitch McConnell: We Must Rewrite The Constitution Because ‘Elections’ Haven’t ‘Worked’ By Ian Millhiser,  ThinkProgress.org, July 13, 2011

When Democracy Weakens by Bob Herbert,New York Times, February 11, 2011

Who’s Very Important? By Paul Krugman

Invasion of the Democracy Crushers by Rebecca Solnit, TomDispatch.com, October 24, 2010

Our Fill-in-the-Blank Constitution By Geoffrey R. Stone, New York Times, April 13, 2010,

The Perfect Storm That Threatens American Democracy by Robert Reich, Alternet.org, October 20, 2010

The Plutocracy Prevention Act by by Chuck Collins, The Nation, June 28, 2010