Saturday, September 01, 2012

The Anti-Bounce?

It's only two polls taken since the GOPer convention, and so far the traditional bounce for the candidate whose party has just finished its convention is not going real well.  Gallup sees no change in voter preference at all, with President Obama holding a one point lead.

The Ipso/Reuters poll on the other hand, shows a one point bounce...for President Obama.

Friday, August 31, 2012

NRC: Last Laughs

Jamelle Bouie tweeted of the Eastwood spectacle: This is a perfect representation of the campaign: an old white man arguing with an imaginary Barack Obama.

The Borowitz Report:

In a development that the Republican campaign is sure to find troubling, a new poll of likely voters showed nominee Mitt Romney trailing badly behind the empty chair Clint Eastwood talked to onstage at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

When asked the question, “Who cares more about people like me?” thirty-seven per cent of voters responded, “Mitt Romney,” while fifty-two per cent said, “Chair.”

And earlier:
TAMPA (The Borowitz Report)—Coining a phrase that seems destined to become his new campaign slogan, Mitt Romney needed only three words tonight to accept the Republican Presidential nomination: “I bought it.”

Those words had a special meaning for Mr. Romney, who had to spend seventy million dollars in the G.O.P. primaries to defeat a serial adulterer, a former pizza executive, and a crackpot in a sweater-vest.

It has been an up-and-down convention for Mr. Romney, who was largely ignored at Tea Party rallies early in the week but later picked up a key endorsement from his wife.

Tonight, however, was a time to reflect, as he put it, “on money well spent.”

He made an emotional appeal to a group he called “the single-issue billionaires,” imploring them, “Let me know what you want. Eliminate the E.P.A.? Bomb Iran? Mitt Romney is open for business.” The audience roared its approval.

Ultimately, he ended his speech with a rousing call to arms that brought the Republican audience to its feet: “The road to the White House will be hard, and strewn with challenges. But together, there’s nothing we can’t buy.”

Voting Rights Strike Back

Courts have begun weighing in on GOP voter suppression efforts, and they've stopped those laws at least for now in Texas, Florida and today in Ohio.

A federal district court judge restored final weekend early voting to Ohio, per an Obama campaign suit:  “Plaintiffs will suffer irreparable injury if in-person early voting is not restored the last three days before Election Day, and there is no definitive evidence before the Court that elections boards will be tremendously burdened,” Economus wrote.

The judge even cited Bush v. Gore in his ruling, which grants a preliminary injunction.  However, Ohio's GOPer government is appealing, and the court of appeals in Ohio is very GOPer friendly.  So this one isn't over.

Nor is Pennsylvania, where the state supreme court begins reviewing that voter ID law in two weeks.

It's not quite over in Texas either.  This week the voter ID in Texas was struck down in a unanimous decision by a three judge panel in federal court, all appointed by G.W. Bush.  Notably the court used the 1965 voting act to apply the finding that the law's impact would "fall most heavily on the poor and that a disproportionately high percentage of African-Americans and Hispanics in Texas live in poverty."  The Texas GOP government is appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, and this court left open the possibility that a nondiscriminatory voter ID law could be crafted.  

But registration repression by law is over in Florida. After a federal court judge said he would remove all of the harsh restrictions on registration this week, the GOPer Florida government is capitulating.

Florida appeals are done, their law is dead, but the damage may have already been done.  New Democratic voter registration in the state has so far collapsed.  Registration rates have increased in recent months but there's way too much ground to make up.  The Obama campaign has so far said they aren't worried, those voters registered in 2008 are still there.  But with Ohio looking pretty good, Florida seems to be shaping up as the biggest challenge.

In general, however, these court decisions coming one after another are a good sign.  Courts watch each other just as they rely on precedents.  The fact that these laws remain on the books and in the news so far into the campaign have already done damage, simply by confusing people about whether or not they can register or vote.  But to be ultimately successful, they must have a measurable impact on the outcome in November.

Which means it's up to voters to be determined that they aren't going to have their most fundamental self-governing right taken away by cynical totalitarian politicians.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Great Condescender

Reaction to Mitt Romney's acceptance speech has been mixed, to say the least.  Somebody tweeted: If 90% of life is showing up, I give him a 90.  (Photo: that's somebody he's supervising to adjust his teleprompter earlier in the day.)

He may have convinced some people he isn't a robot with his sad eyes and anecdotes about his parents.  But to me he mostly looked like someone suffering from gastric distress, and his tone was incredibly condescending.

For those who tuned in hoping to hear answers, to hear solutions, there were none. And I don't believe the optics worked for him.  His warmongering towards the end did bring us back to the rich guy who likes to fire people. He talked tough, but he didn't look or sound strong. But I'll stick with that one word: condescending. I doubt that is a winning image.

Romney seemed to be trying to give the GOPers in the room just enough of what they needed to hear while the spine of his speech was reaching voters disappointed with President Obama.

More in sorrow than anger he seemed to be saying, President Obama wasn't up to the job. To make this case he had to lie, as usual. Otherwise he was simply condescending.  What this country needs is a real American to lead it, he said.  Condescension depends on implication, but that one was hardly subtle.

But then, I'm not his audience because I am not so disappointed in President Obama, and even if his election was an emotional landmark--how could it not be?--I'm not confusing that with disappointment in what he did: pulling us back from the brink of a second Great Depression, healing our relationships with other countries and the world, ending the war in Iraq, effectively making Al Queda much much less of a threat, passing inclusive health care reform after 75 years of presidents who tried and couldn't do it--reform that not only reflects America's compassionate best but will help the economy and the federal budget for the future.  And so on.

Most people tomorrow will probably be talking about Clint Eastwood, whose bizarre rambling appearance was the first thing that viewers saw who tuned in for the speech on the broadcast networks.  And I assume they'll be asking the question, if Romney can't organize his biggest night, how can he organize a presidency?  A question that's been recurring for awhile.

On the whole, when America was tuning in--which apparently wasn't often--the images I doubt were helpful. Keynoter Chris Christie looked mean and angry.  Commentators agree that most prominent speakers talked more about themselves than Romney and Ryan, or why they should be elected.

Meanwhile, the New York Times fact checkers have already added Romney's speech to Ryan's as depending on lies.  And in a sentence that by now is perfect Timesean understatement, they conclude:

"The two speeches — peppered with statements that were incorrect or incomplete — seemed to signal the arrival of a new kind of presidential campaign, one in which concerns about fact-checking have been largely set aside."

Introducing Mitt Romney

"And this is where we get to the hypocrisy at the heart of Mitt Romney. Everyone knows that he is fantastically rich, having scored great success, the legend goes, as a "turnaround specialist," a shrewd financial operator who revived moribund companies as a high-priced consultant for a storied Wall Street private equity firm. But what most voters don't know is the way Mitt Romney actually made his fortune: by borrowing vast sums of money that other people were forced to pay back. This is the plain, stark reality that has somehow eluded America's top political journalists for two consecutive presidential campaigns: Mitt Romney is one of the greatest and most irresponsible debt creators of all time. In the past few decades, in fact, Romney has piled more debt onto more unsuspecting companies, written more gigantic checks that other people have to cover, than perhaps all but a handful of people on planet Earth."

The above is from a blistering expose in Rolling Stone

"But competence is worthless without direction and, frankly, character. Would that Candidate Romney had indeed presented himself as a solid chief executive who got things done. Instead he has appeared as a fawning PR man, apparently willing to do or say just about anything to get elected. In some areas, notably social policy and foreign affairs, the result is that he is now committed to needlessly extreme or dangerous courses that he may not actually believe in but will find hard to drop; in others, especially to do with the economy, the lack of details means that some attractive-sounding headline policies prove meaningless (and possibly dangerous) on closer inspection. Behind all this sits the worrying idea of a man who does not really know his own mind. America won’t vote for that man; nor would this newspaper."

the above is from The Economist, not exactly a left wing newspaper.

A second Rolling Stone article shows that Mitt Romney drove Bain into the ground until rescued by a federal loan that he engineered:

"The federal records, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal that Romney's initial rescue attempt at Bain & Company was actually a disaster – leaving the firm so financially strapped that it had "no value as a going concern." Even worse, the federal bailout ultimately engineered by Romney screwed the FDIC – the bank insurance system backed by taxpayers – out of at least $10 million. And in an added insult, Romney rewarded top executives at Bain with hefty bonuses at the very moment that he was demanding his handout from the feds."

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mittdacity Jr.

Political scientist Jonathan Bernstein on vp candidate Paul Ryan's acceptance speech to the GOP convention:

 But really, the proper response to a speech like this isn’t to carefully analyze the logic, or to find instances of hypocracy; it’s to call the speaker out for telling flat-out lies to the American people. Paul Ryan has had what I’ve long thought was an undeserved good reputation among many in the press and in Washington. It shouldn’t survive tonight’s speech.

The media response Josh Marshall alluded to may be something like this: Call out the lies right in your headlines.

Update: The Most Dishonest Convention Speech Ever?

Media Backlash Against Ryan Acceptance Speech Continues

The Lies and Lies and Lies of Paul Ryan cont.

Lyin Ryan: The Media Pushback

Paul Ryan=Eddie Haskell

Doubling Down as the Party of Racism

Earlier today a clearly disgusted Josh Marshall posted this at TPM:

"No question. The Romney campaign has doubled down. All in on the race/lazy/dependency groove from here on out. No going back.
In private they’re all but bragging about it — specifically their run of welfare-centric commercials which they’re running at a red hot clip in swing states all across the country. It’s working, they say. The fact-checkers can go screw themselves. "

In a later post he added that the Romney campaign could still drop this line of attack but must do so soon because "for all intents and purposes the political press has placed the Romney campaign at a crossroads."  Which seems to mean that they won't get away with doing it covertly, they'll continue to get sharp questions, and the media will continue to point out the lies and racist appeal.  That of course may not mean anything to the GOPers at this desperate point.  For as one of their own said recently, the demographic trends being what they are, this is probably the last national election where something like this might work.

What that might look like--and why the Romney campaign is likely to ignore it--is implied in these quotes assembled by Andrew Sullivan's blog.  Kevin Drum is the latest journalist to note that, when it comes to being called on a lie,  "The Romney campaign just doesn't seem to care. If it works, they use it. It's like the campaign is being run by cyborgs."

Jonathan Chiat says this isn't entirely new: it was the way that the Bush administration governed: without any regard to the truth, to verifiable fact, to anything but conservative and neocon dogma.  Will voters notice this, and remember what it got us?

Meanwhile, there is concerted effort to suppress the story--by the GOP and apparently even CNN--of the  confirmed incident of someone at the Tampa convention--now reported as involving two people--who threw nuts at a female African American camera operator and cried, "This is how we feed animals" inside the convention hall.  The two people were said to be expelled immediately, but TPM reporters are getting stonewalled on details.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Dream and the Reality of 2012

Ezra Klein in the Washington Post today on the Romney ads accusing President Obama of ending the work requirement for welfare in some states--a charge that Romney is making on the stump, and that reportedly will be the substance of Rick Santorum's speech to the GOPer convention today:

Beyond being flatly false, Romney’s ads are puzzlingly anachronistic. Welfare is a shrunken program...Meanwhile, few think the problem in this country is that the poor don’t want to work...
In modern politics, however, when a campaign begins doubling and tripling down on an unusual line of attack, it’s because it has reams of data showing the attack is working. What’s worrying is why this ad might be working.
Political scientist Michael Tesler partnered with the YouGov online polling service to test the question on 1,000 respondents... reports Tesler, “racial resentment affected whether people thought Romney will help the poor, the middle class and African Americans. Moreover, seeing the ad did not activate other attitudes, such as party or ideological self-identification. It only primed racial resentment.”
This is where things get tricky. Romney’s welfare ads are not racist. But the evidence suggests that they work particularly well if the viewer is racist, or at least racially resentful. And these are the ads that are working so unexpectedly well that welfare is now the spine of Romney’s 2012 on-air message in the battleground states."

Andrew Sullivan on his Daily Beast blog:

I try not to jump to conclusions about racial appeals - but the two-pronged campaign assault by Romney, on Medicare and welfare, does not rise to the level, in my view, of plausible deniability.
The key to both is the classic notion that unworthy blacks are taking from worthy whites. And so the Medicare ad uses white old faces expressing shock at the notion that Obama would transfer money from their retirement healthcare for health insurance for those without, i.e. the poor, who tend to be more minority than the rich. It's basically a lie - Ryan would cut the same from Medicare as Obama would, and there is no direct quid pro quo between the two policies. It's also dishonest: Ryan and Romney are promising to cut Medicare spending and yet are running against Obama for doing exactly that.

Then there's the simple bald lie that Obama is allowing welfare recipients to escape work requirements. I don't remember a campaign in my lifetime which based an entire line of attack on a total fabrication, in fact a reverse of the truth. The welfare waivers are designed exclusively to experiment with how to increase the effectiveness of the work requirement for welfare, and waivers have been granted to Republican governors as well. And yet we get this from the Romney campaign:
"Our most effective ad is our welfare ad," a top television advertising strategist for Romney, Ashley O'Connor, said at a forum Tuesday hosted by ABCNews and Yahoo! News. "It's new information."
It's not. It's new disinformation. It's Orwellian propaganda.

 The simple assumption of racial politics as the driver of campaigns is what's striking. Karl Rove became what he is - a persistent whitehead on the face of American politics - because he learned the art of race-baiting politics in the South. Romney - having given up on Latinos and blacks and gays - is now betting the bank on the white resentment that has been fast losing potency since the 1990s. "

Martin Luther King at the Lincoln Memoral in Washington, 49 years ago today:

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Reporter David Schuster reported that a GOP convention attendee was ejected for throwing nuts at an African American camerawoman for CNN and shouting, "This is how we feed animals." CNN confirmed to TPM.

Update: The chief difference between this year's race baiting by the GOP and past examples, cf. 1988 is that some of the media reporters are calling them on it, to their faces.  Josh Marshall at TMP quotes another example.

New Circus News

The circus tents are going up in Tampa.  Rumors of a circular firing squad attraction in the center ring are probably exaggerated, but... On Monday, a GOPer U.S. Senator suggested that unless the party fixes its problems with women in the next several weeks, Romney will lose.  A story circulated that Chris Christie turned down the v.p. because he believes Romney will lose.

One indication that last week's fracus over rape and abortion and the image of extremism in general are having an impact: a Pew poll found more people interested in the GOPer platform than in either Romney or Ryan's convention speeches.  Interest in economic news however was substantially higher than in the Akin story.

A big uncertainty continues to be the track and impact of a tropical storm which is expected to become a hurricane and make landfall on Tuesday.  Concern over the storm's impact on Tampa led to Monday's convention events being cancelled--and to what has to be the most revealing and the craziest Rush Limbaugh conspiracy theory ever:  that the Obama administration manipulated the storm track prediction to subvert the GOPer convention.  Really:

  "The hurricane center is the regime; the hurricane center is the Commerce Department. It’s the government. It’s Obama,” said Limbaugh.

Meanwhile, several outlets were chortling over the apparent Romney campaign goof of giving away hardback copies of Romney's book to convention delegates which contains his suggestion that Romneycare should be expanded nationally, instead of the paperback edition which says more or less the opposite.  Goof-up it is but also totally in character.  Giving the hardbacks away tells me that Romney had a lot of unsold books in storage--why not give them away, save on warehouse costs and probably get a tax deduction to boot!   Makes perfect Romneysense.

Race and Class

I am a white person, a white male, an old white male.  What constitutes racism in a person's psyche is complicated and in some ways unknowable.  I do believe that we all carry some unconscious racial prejudices that we absorb culturally, and that we as white people in a traditionally white dominated society possess beneath the surface. That includes white people who marched on Washington with Martin Luther King (as I did) 49 years ago today.  That commitment didn't automatically eradicate all racial prejudice or bias. It takes a different perspective brought to our attention to reveal these into our consciousness.  That in part was what "consciousness-raising" was about, not only in terms of gender but also in terms of race and class.

Racist behavior however can be determined more easily, though it too can be complicated.  Racist policy is easier to determine objectively: results and consequences count, not intention.  That's why under certain sections of the Voting Rights Act, it is the effect of laws and policies on racial minorities, not the intentions of the lawmakers and rule makers, that is the determining factor.

The current attempts by the Romney campaign to appeal to racial stereotypes in their lying ads about welfare, among other overt and covert tactics, is racist by definition, for it is designed to exploit conscious and unconscious racism in white voters; moreover it is doing so by attempting to link racist implications with the intentions of a black President. 

Unconscious racism, by the way, can be really unconscious.  It is very often supported by an apparently rational, allegedly fact-based allegation or theory about what's really happening in the real world.  And suggestions or allegations of unconscious racism typically are met with outraged denial.  That's why some political observers suggest that part of the intent of the current Romney strategy is to get "liberals" to charge white working class voters with racism, which will motivate them to repudiate it by voting against "liberals," and President Obama.

Class on the other hand is working against the multimillionaire Romney, with his multiple homes and dancing horse, Swiss bank account and Cayman Island tax shelters.  It's a problem not only of image and unconscious bias but of fairness.  All the taxes that rich businessman Romney avoids are paid by the rest of us and our descendants. 

The class divide is immense, and voters are only starting to learn how immense.  For example, Think Progress visualized a fact about the wealth of GOPer moneyman Sheldon Adelson, who recently pledged half a million bucks to a congressional campaign.  With a fortune estimated at $25 billion, Adelson could give half a million to each and every GOPer running for Congress-for the next 128 years.

The Romney-Ryan program is transparently a huge power grab for the very wealthy, at the expense of everyone else, first and foremost the poor and the sick.  Unless you are very wealthy, being sick for very long still leads to being poor, and with Ryan hacks to Medicaid, to being poor and without medical treatment.

The only way to get this program enacted, the only way to get elected for the GOPer ticket, is to get a high proportion of the white vote.  The estimate being bandied about today was 61%.  Combine that with a fact that even I found startling.  I've been calling the GOP the White People's Party for awhile, because that's the effect of their policies and their pronouncements, and the majority of their membership.  I figured it would be as high as 75% of the party.  But I was wrong.  According to Pew, the proportion of GOPers who are white is 89%.  In 2012 we have one of two major political parties that is composed of almost 90% white people.

The GOPer combination of race and class was exposed in a heated response to GOP chair Reince Priebus by MSNBC's Chris Matthews.  By my lights, Matthews can be way off base at times, but this time he's not only nailed it but did so with electrifying eloquence:

“I have to call you on this, Mr. Chairman,” Matthews said in an appearance with Priebus on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” as he responded to Republicans’ criticism that Obama is running a very negative campaign. “But they’ve both negative. That cheap shot about ‘I don’t have a problem with my birth certificate’ was awful. It is an embarrassment to your party to play that card.”

“You can play your games and giggle about it but the fact is your side playing that card. When you start talking about work requirements, you know what game you’re playing and everybody knows what game you’re playing. It’s a race card and yeah, if your name’s Romney, yeah you were well born, you went to prep school, yeah, brag about it. This guy has an African name and he’s got to live with it. Look who’s gone further in their life. Who was born on third base? Making fun of the guy’s birth certificate issue when it was never a real issue except for the right wing.”

Matthews exposed the sense of class privilege that lurks behind the coded racism of the Romney campaign.  When Romney and Ryan say they didn't need government help to succeed (which by the way is a lie to begin with) it may sound good to lower middle class people for whom applying for welfare would mean a devastating loss of self-status, but only if they forget that Romney and Ryan came from wealthy families, and could buy their way into the best schools and the networks of class success. 

The Obamas freely admit that their success depended not only on their own hard work and determination, not only on their parents' dedication and sacrifice, but on help from government and other institutions in the form of school scholarships and loans, etc.  They celebrate this as an American thing, and see it as a key to expanding the middle class.  They want it for others.  They want it for all others.  Without that kind of help, lower middle class white kids like me never would have gone to college.  I don't think that's changed.  We're still all in this together.  And that the definition of "all" has expanded is really to the greater good of us all, and the future.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

“We have destroyed the forest, our rivers run dry, our wildlife is all but extinct, our climate ruined...but I pass by the woods I’ve saved from the ax. I hear the forest sighing...I planted that forest. And I think: perhaps things may be in our power. Perhaps the climate itself is in our control.”

Anton Chekhov: Uncle Vanya (1897), as adapted in English by David Mamet from a literal translation (1989.)

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Having already cancelled the first day of their convention (but it wasn't going to be on TV anyway, so what was this point?  The mega-billionaires will just have more time to party) GOPers in Tampa await the uncertain effects of a tropical storm/maybe hurricane.

But the news contains seeds of other storms: GOPer presidential candidate Ron Paul is refusing to endorse Mitt Romney, former Florida governor GOPer Charlie Crist endorsed President Obama for reelection ( "I'm confident that President Barack Obama is the right leader for our state and the nation. I applaud and share his vision of a future built by a strong and confident middle class in an economy that gives us the opportunity to reap prosperity through hard work and personal responsibility. It is a vision of the future proven right by our history.") and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee promises "fire from heaven" on behalf of disgraced senatorial candidate Paul Akin.

Meanwhile I've discovered the political dispatches of Andy Borowitz in the New Yorker.  In his post on the oncoming storm he writes that Mitt Romney has called on the federal government to respond to the danger with tax cuts for the wealthy.  "If this hurricane is as powerful as predicted, it could destroy many people’s second and third homes,” Mr. Romney said. “In that worst-case scenario, it would be inhumane to ask them to pay more than thirteen per cent.”  His running mate Paul Ryan warns against Washington intrusion.“If the federal government got involved with this hurricane, they’d make the usual mistake of sending food, water, and medical supplies,” he said. “Clearly, what this situation calls for is vouchers.”