October 31, 2014

Why Do Both Parties Fare so Badly with the Public?

Sen. Mike Lee, a co-founder of the Senate tea party caucus. Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography

Some is image, some is reality, some is tough times – but neither will crack that on their current path.

The GOP knows it has an image problem. It regularly polls below anything this side of toenail fungus. So the party elders have spent a lot of energy considering how to fix their messaging. The real problem, though, doesn’t seem to lie as much with the messaging as the message. The GOP in practice is for all intents and purposes the party of the one percent (or the point one percent). Some of its principles are positive messages – freedom, entrepreneurship, and so forth. What it actually does, however, is advocate for the elite at the expense of everyone else – and it really doesn’t even propose, much less seriously push, anything that helps the everyman. The public seems to get that – maybe imperfectly, but they get it. In their mind, the GOP has become the party of the plutocrats – with an antiscientific and often wilfully blind crowd of Fox News viewers cobbled on. This is not an appetizing portrait. In fact arguably the mystery is not why the GOP doesn’t do better, but why it does as well as it does while acting so consistently to the detriment of most of its own voters.

So why don’t liberals clean up? Because they don’t look too great themselves. Substantively they haven’t delivered on their promises. Maybe that is, as Kuttner says, because of conservative obstruction to a greater or lesser degree. But the average voter doesn’t seem to care nearly as much about the why as about the what – and the what is a lack of major improvement. Worse still, many see them as just throwing tax dollars away on different interest groups – and when those groups are not them, it’s unfavorable. This is particularly bad when times are tight – people seem more willing to be generous with the poor when they are in good shape themselves, but when people are straining to make ends meet, it’s harder to favor payments to anyone else – particularly those who are perceived as working less hard (or not at all). Liberals also have the problem that they are identified with government, which people generally think doesn’t work. Ok, partly they think that because conservatives are doing their best to make sure it doesn’t work. But government is also pretty good at botching things up even when no one is deliberately throwing wrenches into the gears. Take Healthcare.gov. So liberals look to most of the public as maybe closer in heart to the middle class than conservatives, but ineffective, catering to the indolent with money the country doesn’t have, and not a very positive alternative in themselves.

The negative views of both sides are exacerbated by gridlock and polarization. Between the very deep divides that exist and the quirks of the political process, (gerrymandering etc) it is very difficult for either side to really do things. There have been major exceptions, true (eg the Bush tax cuts or Obamacare). Still, it’s so much easier to stop then to do that neither party can end up with much in the way of trophies. Even when something gets done at all, it’s complicated, messy, and usually unsatisfying in one way or another. There seems to be an absence of “grand triumphs” that anyone can trumpet. This leads to even greater disaffection and disappointment, as well as a political culture of persistently running on not being the other guy rather than having a positive message. With the possible exception of Obama in 2008, it’s rare that anyone wins for who they claim to be rather than who they aren’t. The last several *waves” have all been incarnations to one level or another of “throw da bums out”, with no real mandates for (or even really approval of) their replacements.

Maybe part of this is that when things are on a general downward slope, everyone is dissatisfied – the opposite facet of the rising tide lifts all boats trope. We’re currently coping with a whole series of trends – the soaring costs of health care and college, the hollowing out of certain sectors, the sluggish job situation, etc, etc – that have been building for years. Taken together, they create a generalized and quite justifiable angst in the electorate – especially given that most were raised in better living standards than even relatively good jobs can support now. That angst lies behind much of the Tea Party frustration (though whether that angst has been targeted in the right directions is another question entirely). On top of that, really turning things around is exceedingly difficult especially given a toxic political climate and often postrational debate environment, where actual facts matter less and less to a disturbingly high fraction of the politicians and the people as well. With a chronically disappointed electorate, elections seem to boil down to picking lesser of two evils in all but the most unusual cases.

The bottom line is that both parties have severe image problems – but that really isn’t the core of the problem. To a much greater degree, they have substance problems (maybe in the literal sense too for some members) underlying them. Both have to operate in a difficult environment against a backdrop of tremendous angst. And both have opportunities to change where they stand and how they see things going – but they aren’t likely to be able to really fix anything on their own either, so victories will remain fleeting and the battle will continue to be second worst until the game changes.

– Dale Edmondson

Rep. Takano slams GOP Congressmembers’ Faulty Logic, in Red Ink

Takano edits to GOP immig

Like the veteran high school teacher that he is, Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside), decided to take out his red pen and apply it to a letter on immigration that fellow Congressmembers from the other party were circulating. Politico gave him some ink for exposing the shoddy reasoning.

He dishes out kindly but exacting critique, pointing out where the letter has logical and factual flaws. For example, the Republican letter claims that the Senate-passed bill is over 1,000 pages, so Rep. Takano circles this and points out that it’s exactly 286 pages. (Note to Congressmembers and staff: please do your research.)

Rep. Takano repeatedly points out “tawdry accusations” and Republican claims that are lacking in evidence. No, seriously, he points it out no more than four times in the short letter. What assertions does he specifically call out?

-“reportedly not all the Senators have read [the bill]”
-“We are disturbed by the secret and under-handed way that the immigration bill moved through the Senate…”
-“To attempt to do everything at once ensures that little will be done right”
-“will prevent the last minute secret deal-making and vote-buying”

One of Rep. Takano’s best closing lines is, “If you don’t understand the bill, come by my office and I’ll explain it. Weak draft, re-do.”

That’s called taking your colleagues to the toolshed. and why I love teachers as elected officials! (Full disclosure, AAA Fund enthusiastically endorsed Rep. Takano early in his campaign.)

-Caroline

Question of the Week: Return of the Tea Party?

Will the IRS’s “Tea Party” scandal help the Tea Party regain some of its lost influence?  Here’s what Fox News has to say.

— Gautam Dutta

Low & Lower, Dumb & Dumber

Ben Carson CPAC

As I cheered Ben Carson‘s implosion, I highlight the difference between merely dabbling in politics & being a credible political leader.

I work & live outside the political industry & sphere so I spectate the idiocy of political media which must never pass as alleged rhetoric much less political dialog. Talking points, soundbytes & other oversimplified regurgitated media cruft is far far below what our government professionals should ever do as their day job. Carson’s taking the low road continues the downward level of public discourse & political dialog, terms too flattering for the lost art.

I’ve been tempted for months to write about how politics is not just abused by others as justification for their personal flaws, a favorite topic of mine in posts past, but how now they don’t even need to hide their outright racism. Why should this Jesus-wanna-be hide his hate of LGBT people? He felt it publicly ok to spew hate speech (which is messed up as it’s no longer a crime thanks to the same perversion of the First Amendment that they did for the Second Amendment), but as societies liberalize over time, the extreme polarization will grow. Where will it end? Comment.

Thanks for listening to my day’s rant. Write for our blogathon or for this blog if you’ve got an opinion.

It’s All Up To What You Value

One week later and I’m still trying to wrap my head around the intense burst of awesomeness from Asian American Justice Center President and former Asian American Action Fund endorsee Mee Moua when she schooled Senator Sessions. Haven’t seen it? Take a look:

SESSIONS: Ms. Moua, maybe you can comment. Do you think that a nation that decides that they can admit an individual somehow has no right to say that that person’s brother would have to qualify independently, rather than being given a guaranteed entry in the country? Do you think a country can legitimately make that decision?

MOUA: Senator Sessions, coming from the Asian American community when in the 1880s we were the first people to be excluded explicitly by the United States immigration policy I’m well aware that this country has never hesitated in the way that it chooses to exercise its authority to permit people to either enter or depart its borders. And we know that the Asian American community in particular didn’t get to enjoy the benefit of immigration to this country until the 1960s when those restrictive policies were lifted. So I know very well and very aware that…

SESSIONS: Well let me just say, it seems to me. It’s perfectly logical to think there are two individuals, let’s say in a good friendly country like Honduras. One is a valedictorian of his class, has two years of college, learned English and very much has a vision to come to the United States and the other one has dropped out of high school, has minimum skills. Both are 20 years of age and that latter person has a brother here. What would be in the interest of the United States? …

MOUA: Senator I think that under your scenario people can conclude about which is in the best interest of the United States. I think the more realistic scenario is that in the second situation that individual will be female, would not have been permitted to get an education and if we would create a system where there would be some kind of preference given to say education, or some other kind of metrics, I think that it would truly disadvantage specifically women and their opportunity to come into this country

SESSIONS: Well that certainly is a problem around the world, and I would think that the primary problem with education and the fact that women have been discriminated against should be focused on the countries that are doing that primarily .

As you can see, Sessions essentially asked a rhetorical question of Moua without care for her answer. My guess is Sessions asked his rhetorical question so he could answer it. What astounds me — and where the awesomeness comes in — is Sessions was almost certainly asking another rhetorical question and yet Moua’s response was so profound that Sessions actually listened and responded to Moua instead of responding to his rhetorical question with more of his talking points. Sessions didn’t alter his position, but he did essentially say “you’re right” to Moua.

Notice Sessions didn’t slow down when Moua was schooling Sessions on Asian Americans. No, it was once she started schooling Sessions on women that he finally snapped out of his rhetoric and — if ever so briefly — into reality. Perhaps the Republican attempts to no longer appear to be “angry white men” party is making slightly more progress on the gender front? With our immigration system facing such incredible gender imbalances, such schooling is needed even for far more well-meaning politicians! Pramila Jayapal over at ColorLines has some great ideas on fixing those imbalances.

While Sessions isn’t Ted Cruz-level crazy, he’s not exactly the firebrand of positive policy. Sessions has blocked a child sex trafficking bill, suggested helping feed the hungry is immoral, and apparently delights in the suffering of illegal immigrant families. Yet somehow in 2003 Jeff Sessions received a 100% rating from the Christian Coalition for his stances on issues relation to families and children. Clearly Sessions values families. Unfortunately, it appears he and his ilk only value certain kinds of families.

What families do you value? I agree with more of Mee Moua’s wise words

Children will always be our children whether they’re over the age of 21 or not. For us to start thinking about which members of our family we’re going to trade away is a dramatic and drastic departure from the core values of what has been driving this country since the founding days.

Senators Boxer, Brown, Franken, Harkin, Hirono, Schatz, and Warren seem to agree too, having urged prioritization of family reunification and a clearing of family visa backlogs. I would go a step further urging a clearing of all backlogs; there’s up to a more than ten year backlog for employment-based immigrant visas too. While that pales in comparison to the backlog for immigrant visas for siblings from the Phillippinnes, a category with a backlog so embarrassing there are still priority dates from the 1980s which have yet to become current.

There’s more you can do than merely marvel at Mee Moua’s awesomeness. Add your name to the to the 18 Million Rising petition to tell Congress you stand for fair and just comprehensive immigration reform and they should too!

– Justin Gillenwater

China Bashing Unlimited: No Taiwanese Is Safe

The below is inspired by Politico‘s “Tweets on Mitch McConnell’s wife’s ethnicity condemned” and their email broadcast about it yesterday (no static web copy). The topic is too important & timely to ignore, part of the continuous China-bashing by all for years, especially during election seasons, but regardless now that every day is campaign season.

LIBERAL SUPER PAC APOLOGIZES FOR TWEETS ABOUT McCONNELL’S ‘CHINESE’ WIFEPhillip Bailey reports for WFPL in Louisville: “Hours after being roundly condemned by Democrats and Republicans, a liberal super PAC is apologizing to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s wife for a series of controversial Twitter messages. The group’s Tweets accused former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, who was born in Taiwan, of moving American jobs to China and that her ‘Chinese (money)’ was buying state elections. Critics slammed the comments as racially offensive, and a national backlash against the group was ignited. Progress Kentucky executive director Shawn Reilly says they remain dedicated to educating voters about McConnell’s record, but their messages ‘included an inappropriate comment on the ethnicity’ of the former labor secretary.

“‘We apologize to the secretary for that unnecessary comment and have deleted the tweets in question. In addition, we have put a review process in place to ensure tweets and other social media communications from Progress Kentucky are reviewed and approved prior to posting,’ he says. Reilly had initially balked at expressing regret despite a spokesperson telling WFPL an apology was forthcoming. But after Democrats such as actress Ashley Judd, who is the rumored opponent for McConnell in 2014, denounced the Twitter messages Progress issued the apology late Tuesday evening.” http://bit.ly/Y09Fly

— The Super PAC had also suggested in tweets that McConnell was gay, reports BuzzFeed:”In two tweets, both of which have since been deleted, Progress Kentucky accused McConnell of being gay, including calling the Senate’s top Republican ‘a gay-bashing gay senator.'” http://bit.ly/12aqXov

While Progress Kentucky apologized, the list of China-bashing is endless, we could never cease writing about it. I write this post to shine just 1 of countless examples, but their numerous nature shouldn’t desensitize you or make you feel that’s tolerable or impossible to stop. Just an idealistic note against the money machine that prizes political donations above all, China bashing being a very successful tool therein.

Republicans try to rebrand as not the party of hate and exclusion

Well, the GOP leaders have met and spoken. They have decided to try to avoid the topic of rape and how they sound when discussing “legitimate” versions of rape (oh, wait but New Mexico GOP legislators just introduced a bill to prohibit victims of rape and incest fro getting abortions.) They also decided that they needed to sound less like “angry white men.”

From yahoo news:

First, they said Republicans must work on improving their tone when taking their ideas to the American people. For example, when discussing immigration, maybe presidential candidates should avoid phrases like “self-deportation” (Mitt Romney) and “anchor babies” (Michele Bachmann).

Henry Barbour said some in the party can appear “hostile” to certain constituencies with the rhetoric they use. The party must increase communication training for candidates, he said.

“There are certainly too many times when we’ve had candidates who have come across as hostile, and that’s not really helpful when you’re trying to win elections,” Barbour said.

Robert Bennett, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, was even more blunt.

“We need to understand that we can’t come off as a bunch of angry white men,” he said.

Good luck with that one, gents.

–Caroline

Senate Republicans slash Sandy relief, call it “slush”

NYU auditorium

Republicans in the U. S. Senate have countered the White House’s $60 billion Hurricane Sandy relief proposal with a plan that would only give $23.8 billion, far short of the $82 billion that the tri-state region of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut requested.

Republicans say the package is only meant to cover immediate needs through March, and they’ll consider providing more funding for projects the consider less pressing — such as preventing subway flooding and protecting shorelines during future storms — in the coming months. “We don’t have time right now to get all the way through and analyze the actual losses that were attributable to Sandy,” said Republican senator James Inhofe, adding that the White House proposal looks like a “slush fund.” (h/t NY Mag)

Lawmakers from affected states worry that their states’ needs will be forgotten in the press of legislation, and it’s hard to start on large scale rebuilding projects without adequate funding. Recently FEMA granted NYU Langone $114 million for reconstruction efforts, out of the estimated $1 billion that it will cost. The photo above is the waterlogged NYU basement auditorium where I’ve sat a few times in my life for special occasions like graduation ceremonies. The NYU hospitals are still closed, except for outpatient activities. And hopefully a good portion of the cleanup funds go to Bellevue, the city’s only public hospital, because they do God’s work.

Also, it’s important to fund mitigation efforts to prevent subway flooding and protect shorelines. The Hoboken NJ PATH stop just reopened yesterday.

Seriously, I mean the Democratic Governor of NYS and the Republican Governor of NJ are working together to get the job done without competing for funds. Why can’t Congress do the same?

–Caroline

Question of the Month: Xmas

Who’ll have the funnest Christmas: President Obama, Mitt Romney, or Kim Kardashian?

— Gautam Dutta

Obama Will Win

President Barack Obama will be reelected tonight.  It’s as simple as that.  Mitt Romney couldn’t handle Obama’s hard earned grassroots strength.  The way things look right now, Obama will take Ohio and Florida — two states Romney simply could not afford to lose.

This is huge — and Asian Americans will have played a major role in Obama’s victory.  One case in point:  the battleground state of Nevada (one-seventh Asian American).

More on this later.

— Gautam Dutta