In the Light of the Morning After …

A few comments and questions on the morning after …

A: The “fight for the soul of the Republican party” requires that sober-minded pragmatists within the party have the guts to stand up to their radical, alienating insurgent wing. With two more Tea Party-driven losses in the Senate, (in Indiana and Missouri), common sense would suggest that the far … far … right should instantly and wholly lose credibility among the party’s “more moderate” leadership and major donors. But … unless the party somehow reworks its primary system and simultaneously de-legitimizes the influence of that wing’s primary thought-shapers — rich-as-Croesus evangelical ministries, talk radio and FoxNews — what few moderates there are will continue to live in fear of torpedoing their own careers if they don’t continue to pander to their party’s least-productive elements. Hell, even Mitch McConnell is worrying about a primary challenge from someone far to the right of him. Even this morning I’m getting e-mail from Tea Party groups arguing — predictably — that Romney, like Bob Dole and John McCain lost because “only real conservatives get elected”.

B: This fundamental strategic problem is umbilically-linked to the party’s lack of appeal among women and minorities, especially “illegals” as so many of them like to describe Hispanics, a group closing in on 20% of the population. What “soul-saver” among viable Republicans dares run with a message of protecting a woman’s individual rights AND compassionate immigration reform? Maybe Marco Rubio on the latter. (A favorite factoid from the last days of the campaign: Had Romney drawn George W. Bush’s numbers among Latinos, he’d have won several swing states.)

C: Barack Obama’s support among white women was the mirror image of his (lack of) support among white men. To which I ask, “How has the experience of white women been so much different/better with Obama — or black men — than that of white males?” My wife argues it’s because women, despite being 52% of the electorate still regard themselves as a minority, certainly in terms of holding political power. I suspect women are far less threatened by a black leader than white men.

D: The Catholic church did itself serious moral damage with its medieval-zealot push on the gay marriage amendment here and around the country. Coupled with the taint of evangelical “craziness” throughout the GOP primaries — and that irrationality’s effect on Romney’s credibility — the drift away from organized religion in this country will probably accelerate.

E:  In terms of 11th hour factors, Romney’s flagrant lies about Chrysler moving Jeep production to China had far more impact on “freezing his momentum” than superstorm Sandy. Moreover, had he wanted to counter the President’s leaderly posture overseeing disaster relief he could have written a personal check of several million dollars to the Red Cross, or coordinated with Karl Rove and other allies to do the same, rather than burning off excess cash on advertising in states where he had no chance in hell — like Minnesota. If you are as rich as Romney, the average guy/gal assumes you’ll step up when things get really bad. I doubt it even crossed his mind.

F: We have entered a new era in political polling, or at least the aggregation/collated end of polling. It is eery how accurate the “Nate Silver model” was last night. And this will only improve.

G: Post-victory and across the pundit spectrum this morning the sage counsel is that “the President must reach across the aisle”. As though he and he alone must “seek compromise”. Recognition of the 1000-pound gorilla presence of the GOP’s far-right insurgency is still not considered “balanced” among the vast majority of mainstream commentators. Good luck accurately reporting the story of the next two months if that’s your default ethic.

H: Finally — for now — the public appetite for a female presidential candidate in 2016 is palpable. I somehow doubt the GOP’s highest profile women — Michele Bachmann — have anything remotely approaching the broad-based appeal of Hillary Clinton (whose popularity has never been as high, but who may decide her time has passed) or freshly-elected Elizabeth Warren.

That said, I’m one happy guy today. And my prediction of a 1.5% popular/ “just under 300” electoral vote win for Obama was a pretty good B+ as calls go.

With Immigration, Mittens Actually Has to Do Something.

The fascination of the day is what the Republicans and Mitt Romney are going to do — actually DO, not just bloviate over and obfuscate — about immigration. The laissez-faire, Libertarian,what’s good for Bain Capital is good for America crowd are on the horns of a dilemma with this one.

Since President Obama went unilateral (at long last) with his decision to stop prosecuting children of “illegal” immigrants, Romney and his advisors have been flapping around like an invasive carp tossed up on the banks of the Rio Grande. To agree with Obama is … well, that’s not even conceivable. The GOP position since November ’08 is to never agree with Obama on anything and blame him for everything, including, as is always worth reminding, the multi-trillion debt run-up of the George W./Dick Cheney administration. Not to mention their inability to push sensible immigration reform past their troglodyte partisans, many of whom are eager to believe that wave after wave of brown-skinned types are pouring across our borders beheading patriotic ranchers and god knows, fornicating with livestock, instead of, you know, picking strawberries in the Central Valley.

The problem is exacerbated because immigration is an issue that actually requires discernible action. You really do have to do something. Immigration is an issue that delivers a lot of immediate, empirical feedback to the effected. This is in contrast to the central — and easily/constantly obfuscatable — tenet of modern conservatism which is that packing on more (and more) tax relief for “job creators” is the only way to restart the economy. With that one conservative partisans can argue ad nauseam that the current level of tax relief is never enough, that liberals are continuing to practice “class warfare” against the only productive members of society, that Barney Frank and Fannie Mae caused the Wall St. meltdown and that “out of control” government spending, requiring laying off thousands of middle class government workers is the only possible way to achieve fiscal balance and employment growth.

They can say all that because the average low information voter finds finance bewildering and is generally inclined to believe that all government — on every level — is inhabited by a bunch of hopeless screw ups.

But … immigration … either the government does something to rectify the problem, or it doesn’t. By stopping the prosecution of young people here because of their parents and opening a path toward citizenship, Obama is doing … something. Still not a lot, but something to alleviate a long, long-festering problem that wouldn’t have festered nearly so long if the modern GOP had any serious intention of, you know, running the government like business. In business you identify problems and solve them. In politics, which is, let’s be honest, is all the Republicans are ever doing these days, you play inane rhetorical games and create as much chaos as possible in hopes of gaining back full power … at which point you can double down your tax cut dreams for the “job creators”.

Another irony with the immigration issue is that the presence of so many “illegals”, (and I use quote marks to suggest that there is a qualitative difference between illegal immigration to do work no American wants to do, and homicidal rampaging), has been shown to be a modest net gain for the economy. This is due to significant gains for the “illegal” fruit pickers and leaf blowers AND the corporate farmers, ranchers, slaughterhouse operations that employ them. (Not so much for school districts and hospitals.)

Presumably a good chunk of those large-scale farm and livestock interests are sympathetic to other Republican policies — like more tax cuts. But as it is, even they aren’t getting relief from the GOP. Large scale employers remain as vulnerable to INS raids as ever, although they are hardly the key villain in the minds of Tea Party conservatives as the Guatemalan who shows up in Pueblo, Colorado with a pair of sandals and a sleeping bag.

In general, Mitt Romney has nothing constructive to offer on any issue you can mention. (The thought of someone as gelatinous as Romney making foreign policy decisions is truly frightening.) But where he can fake it by bewildering the cynical public about finance, job creation with economic double-speak, when it comes to immigration he has to come up with something that actually … does something.

Unless its tax relief for private equity wealth creators, “doing something” ain’t Mitt’s game.

Jon Huntsman and the Evolution of the “Moderate” Label

GOP Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman has signed several bills restricting abortion, and he supports a right to life amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He supports building a fence on the Mexican border. He supports the death penalty. He governed Utah when it was named the most favorable state for business. He not only supports school vouchers, he actually signed a school voucher bill into law. He opposes an assault weapon ban. He wants to slash the authority of the EPA and NLRB. He opposes the Affordable Care Act’s insurance mandate. He wants to eliminate the Earned Income Tax Credit to dramatically increase taxes on the poor. At the same time, he proposes drastically cutting tax rates on the wealthiest Americans and corporations.

Moderate?
If you polled Americans and asked them how they would describe the political philosophy of a candidate holding those positions, they surely would say that candidate is very conservative. After all, Huntsman’s positions are at least as conservative as McCain, Bush 2, Dole, Bush 1, Reagan, Ford, Nixon, and Goldwater.

But despite Governor Huntsman’s strongly conservative record, the rigorous 90-second Google analysis I conducted today reveals that Huntsman is more likely to be described on the Internet and in the news as “moderate Jon Huntsman” than “conservative Jon Huntsman,” by an overwhelming 8-to-1 margin.

I understand that Huntsman is usually labeled a moderate because he is the most moderate person in the 2012 GOP presidential field, a radically conservative line-up. But still, it’s remarkable to see how far news reporters, bloggers and the general public have shifted their definition of “moderate” to the right as the Republicans Party has moved rapidly to the far right.

– Loveland

Reporters Discover Herman Cain

News flash: Sex sells.
Candidate proposes to ban public service based on religion. The news media yawns.

Candidate proposes to electrocute Mexicans. The news media mutters.

Candidate proposes to raise taxes on 84% of the least wealthy Americans during difficult economic times. The news media mumbles.

Candidate is accused of sexual harassment. The news media ROARS!

I wonder about the proportionality here. The first three issues are very substantive. The latest issue may be, but we don’t really know yet. As far as reporters currently know, Herman Cain’s sexual harassment settlement a dozen years ago could have been about anything from a serious abuse of power to a misunderstanding. We just don’t have enough evidence at this stage.

But the harassment issue is getting much more coverage than the other substantive stumbles primarily because there are, well you know, privates involved, potentially

Yes, the issue is also being hyped because Cain is now showing better in the horse race than he was a few months ago. It is also being hyped because the political neophyte is handling the questioning like a political neophyte. However, it should be noted that Cain was a front runner during the release of 9-9-9 tax increase analyses. And if you go back to look at Cain’s responses on the Muslim and electric fence stories, he bungled those responses just as badly as yesterday’s responses.

No, the primary reason this issue is wall-to-wall on the news is pretty clear. It is because it is about s-e-x. And in America, s-e-x means r-a-t-i-n-g-s.

– Loveland

Journalists Tell America’s Story Every Day

Allie Shah at the StarTribune has a story in today’s paper that is a poignant and powerful, intimate look at today’s continuing echoes of American history. This is what excellent journalism does — shows us the broader world, makes us feel what others’ lives are like, connects us. The beauty and sadness of the tale is deepened by Kyndell Harkness’s riveting photographic portraits.

Dr. Mohamed Aden Ali is a Minneapolis Somali whose sister was killed in a bombing in their homeland of Somalia, where she was serving as minister of health. Ali will go back to the disintegrated country for a memorial service for his sister, and is torn between staying there to help his native country and his fellow Somalis, or returning to Minnesota where he has been tending to the thousands of transplanted Somalis here.

This is America. Famine in Ireland, religious intolerance in England, totalitarianism in central Europe, pogroms in Russia, armbands in Germany — people fled to a new land, new chances to take, new freedom. That’s how the country was built. Then emigration expanded, from Asia, from Africa, from Latin America. And the European immigrants who’d become Americans were less eager to see that the newest immigrants were just like them, only different. The same in motivation, in desire, in having faced hardship and refused to let it determine their lives and their children’s futures. But different in skin tone. And America wasn’t such a welcoming place for many who passed through horror to follow their dreams here.

A story such as Ali’s helps us remember we are all one family, no matter our faith, our faces, our forebears or fate. Here’s a man who has been taking care of his refugee brothers and sisters, all torn from a homeland in chaos. He’s a doctor, heads an organization to help all Somalis, is a man who would make any community great, any country great. We need this man, and should welcome him, not just because he’s a doctor but because he’s a compassionate man who cares about his community here and his community an ocean and continent away. This is as true of him and his fellow Somalis as it was of the German, Scottish and Scandinavian ancestors who brought my family here two centuries back.

Our local paper did a fine job today showing us that the whole world is local, and that our neighborhood is the world. And we readers can wish this neighbor well as he faces a terrible choice, but one that will lift and enliven him and whichever community he chooses, however the story ends.

— Bruce Benidt
(Photo from StarTribune.com)

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