There are many congressional districts where Democrats have nearly zero chance of winning anytime soon. (The recent victory of the disgraced Mark Sanford in a South Carolina congressional race shows how safe a Republican seat can be.)
The difficulty of winning these seats, paradoxically, presents an important opportunity for Democrats.
In the short run, the political battle in America is over who will hold the offices where laws get made. In the long run, the battle is over shaping the public consciousness that determines to whom the people will give power.
For the latter purpose, Democrats in very red districts can make an important contribution in the battle over the country's destiny. It's an educational role that is especially vital because our politics are broken, and while most Americans see there's a problem, not enough Americans see where the problem lies.
A candidate in an unwinnable race can focus on moving hearts and minds, at least incrementally, toward recognizing the paramount political truth of our times: The force that's taken over the Republican Party is being consistently destructive and irresponsible.
The immediately visible problem in our politics is that nothing is getting done. Last year's Congress accomplished less than any in memory. This year's Congress is no better. And it's clear why.
It is well-documented that even before President Obama took office, congressional Republicans decided that their top priority was to make him fail. If nothing can get accomplished, the Republicans figured, the people would blame the president and throw him out of office.
That approach didn't gain the Republicans the White House in the 2012 elections, but obstruction remains the Republicans' main political strategy. And their control of the House and the use of the filibuster in the Senate, enable them to cripple our governing process.
Helping people see that our governmental dysfunction is a deliberate choice the Republicans are making is a good starting place, building as it does on the concerns of citizens -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- over the stalemate in Congress. But that's just one piece in a very big picture that Americans need to see.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Tim Kaine today delivered remarks in Spanish on the Senate floor to voice his support for the bipartisan Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act and strongly urge his colleagues to come together to pass the commonsense proposal.
"Let's show this country and the world that this is not a Republican bill and it is not a Democratic bill but it is a strong bipartisan bill. It is time that we pass comprehensive immigration reform," said Kaine. "While not perfect - I can confidently stand here today and say this bill will do more for border security, more to improve our current backlog, more to strengthen our employment verification system, and more to put measures in place to deal with the future flow of immigrants - compared to any other immigration bill in history."
During his remarks, Kaine said it was not only necessary to debate this bill in English, but also in other languages such as Spanish that are spoken across the country.
On the eve of tomorrow's primary election, it is fitting to remind ourselves how important that Democrats defeat Republicans in today's America, and therefore how important it is to have good, strong Democratic candidates engaged in the contest.
Yesterday I had occasion to articulate how important is the difference between Democrats and Republicans today. It was in exchange with a reader on the generally lefty website, www.OpEdNews.com .
This reader took the position, which I've been encountering for years on that website, that there's no real battle between Democrats and Republicans, that the two parties are both merely arms of the money power, that there's not a dime's worth of difference between the parties, and so people in the know shouldn't worry about the outcome in the contests between the two.
Here's why that lefty dismissal is a fundamental misunderstanding of what's happening in our politics.
1) It is in the political arena that it gets decided whose hand will be on the helm of America, making the decisions about what kind of society we will become.
2) We have two major parties, and our destiny will be in the hands of one of those parties. There are no other players in contention. If the American people are going to have ANY champion fighting for them, it will be one or the other of the two parties.
Whatever you think of the NSA situation (I have very mixed feelings...will have to sort through in coming days/weeks before commenting much more), let's make sure we all understand that this all of this started after 9/11, under the Bush administration, and has been authorized repeatedly - and overwhelmingly - by Congress (e.g., members of both parties voted repeatedly, and overwhelmingly, for the Patriot Act, FISA, etc.). So how about we just focus on the substance of this important issue? Yeah, I know, good luck with that - instead, we've got Rush Limbaugh and others on the right bashing Barack Obama for this situation, when these same people were cheering LOUDLY when Bush did it. As always, it's only "wrong" when a Democrat is in the White House. The fact is, this is a complex issue, as President Obama explained the other day, lots of shades of gray and priorities (liberty, security) to be weighed against one another. This is going to take a long time to sort out...as well it should!
This afternoon at Arlington County Central Library, author and "Ready for Hillary" co-founder Allida Black spoke to several dozen people about Eleanor Roosevelt - and specifically her book, Tomorrow Is Now - and Hillary Clinton. The event was organized by my delegate, Patrick Hope. In the first video, Allida Black (an amazing woman in her own right, by the way) good-naturedly ribs Delegate Hope, then talks about her years of research into Eleanor Roosevelt.
The cover of a recent issue of THE WEEK asked the question whether George W. Bush was "a good president."
The very fact that this question could be asked by a generally excellent news magazine is yet another indication of the sickness in the American body politic.
On the basis of both its competence and, even more so, its moral quality, the Bush presidency was a devastating disaster for the United States.
It left this country -- our economy, our military, our international standing, our political discourse, our Constitution and the rule of law -- in shambles.
It inherited the prospect of budgetary surpluses as far as the eye could see, and then enacted a tax cut that transferred huge wealth from the middle class and from future generations to the richest Americans, and doubled the national debt.
It oversaw a great widening of inequalities of wealth and income between the richest fraction of one percent of Americans and the rest of the population.
It shackled our financial regulators and helped precipitate a global financial meltdown when toxic mortgages, sold as high-grade debt, exploded like time-bombs in banks around the world.
It launched two wars of choice, one under false pretenses, and botched them both.
The Bush presidency was, according to the conservative Reagan jurist, the most lawless presidency in American history.
Last night I went to eat dinner at the Stien Erikson lodge in Utah where Mitt Romney is holding his experts and enthusiasts meeting. A meeting of great minds such as Rience Pribus, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, and Paul Ryan.
As I was leaving the dining room I walked past Paul Ryan who was speaking with Dan Senor (most noted for his former position as chief spokesperson for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq but most recently he worked as a top foreign policy advisor for the Mitt Romney campaign) outside of what I assume was Ryan's room.
I asked Paul Ryan "Congressman how are your plans to privatize Medicare going?" Assuming I was a supporter he responded "We will need a new President first." I told him that "I like our current President, I liked Medicare and hope it will be available for me when I retire." He chuckled and I walked on.
To summarize, Republicans are not just nasty and xenophobic, they also apparently enjoy self destruction. Case in point:
A Republican-led effort to discard President Barack Obama's rule allowing some young undocumented immigrants to defer deportation passed the U.S. House Thursday, a further indication of the challenges still facing pending comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
The measure, which would cut funding to the Department of Homeland Security to implement the program, was approved by a vote of 224-201, mainly along party lines. It was sponsored by Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican who has long voiced opposition to any measures lessening the consequences of illegal immigration.
So, let's get this straight: Republicans are doomed to lose elections at the national level for years to come unless they start attracting votes from Latinos, yet today they went out of their way to do the exact opposite. In the end, 221 Republicans (including all of Virginia's) voted with ultra-bigoted extremist Steve King of Iowa to deport DREAM Act kids. It's crazy, mean-spirited, and suicidal, so why would Republicans do it? Just remember, these are the same people who just nominated Ken Cuccinelli, EW Jackson, and Mark Obenshain (anti-LGBT, anti-immigrant, anti-women, anti-science, anti-government, anti-yoga, etc, etc.) to run Virginia. Any further questions?
1) The President has nominated three highly-qualified justices.
2) They've spread the word that the Republicans in the Senate have delayed confirmation of Obama's judicial nominees WAY more than was the case with such nominations in the past.
3) They've let it be known that filibuster reform --the nuclear option-- is being contemplated if the Republicans continue their unprecedented obstruction on these judicial appointments.
The Republicans have obliged by once again demonstrating their grotesque disrespect for clear or truthful speech by denouncing the President's batch of appointments as "packing" the court, even though these are to fill actual vacancies on the bench and have absolutely nothing to do with court-packing (as when FDR sought in 1937 to expand the number of justices on the Supreme Court).
We'll see how this plays out. But how should we hope it plays out?
I'm wondering: Is getting the judges onto the bench worth more than getting the filibuster rules reformed?
Here's an op/ed just written for publication in newspapers around the 6th District of Virginia, where I live and ran for Congress last time around.
This week I got a mailing from the National Review, a conservative magazine. Printed on the envelope was
"RESIST! He may have won the election. But he hasn't won the fight."
The "He," of course, is President Obama, whose picture was also visible on the outside of the mailing.
So what fight is the National Review calling its readers to join?
It can't be the fight to reduce the deficit. The deficit has been falling for several years, at the fastest rate in history.
It can't be the fight to boost our tepid economic recovery and get more Americans back to work. The Republicans did everything they could to block the initial Obama stimulus in 2009, even though they supported President Bush's tax-rebate stimulus just the year before. Since then they've succeeded in imposing cuts that put additional hundreds of thousands of Americans out of work.
It can't be the fight to improve our healthcare system, which costs us twice as much as any other nation's while delivering a level of health care to the American people that doesn't rank in the top 25. The Republicans did everything they could to prevent health care reform from being passed, even though Obamacare is based largely on Republican ideas. House Republicans have voted to repeal Obamacare 37 times but have never made serious proposals of their own to address this most serious national problem.
It can't be the fight to make sure that the kind of financial crisis that collapsed our economy five years ago doesn't happen again. The Republicans did everything they could to prevent a restoration of the kinds of regulations that kept our financial system stable for seventy years, and now they're trying to dismantle the modest financial reforms that passed despite them.
It can't be the fight to turn back a bunch of "extreme" measures that President Obama has been advancing. Whatever else one may think of the President, nothing he has proposed is extreme by any reasonable criterion. There isn't one proposal he's made that's outside what, twenty years ago, both Democrats and Republicans would have agreed was the American mainstream. There isn't one proposal that would be considered all that "liberal" - let alone extreme or radical - in any of the other rich, capitalist democracies.
The fight isn't about these or any other substantive issues. The fighting is an end in itself, and it's a national disgrace.
A bit earlier today, President Obama delivered an important address entitled, "The Future of our Fight against Terrorism." See the "flip" for a transcript. Also, here's Rep. Jim Moran's reaction to the speech.
I applaud President Obama reiterating his commitment to closing Guantanamo. He was correct when he said that "History will cast a harsh judgment on this aspect of our fight against terrorism, and those of us who fail to end it." The treatment of these prisoners, most of whom never committed a violent act against the United States or our allies, falls far short of our own judicial standards.
The President has rightly lifted the ban on detainee transfers to Yemen, and I echo his call on Congress to repeal the onerous restrictions on detainee transfers overall. Further, I welcome the President's commitment to restarting transfers to third countries, and I look forward to supporting his special envoy to achieve that outcome. I remain concerned that we continue prohibiting trying detainees in U.S. courts, which have tried thousands of terrorists, who today are housed in Defense and Justice Department facilities throughout the country. We have the finest Justice system in the world, one that no individual bent on terror can break.
I look forward to the day we can finally shut the doors on this prison that should never have existed.
With regard to President Obama's commitment to reduce drone strikes, I welcome the President's willingness to improve their transparency and reduce the frequency of their use.
Are the liberal leanings of government bureaucrats an explanation of the IRS Scandal?
David Weigel, conservative-leaning columnist on Slate.com, thinks so. After documenting the notion that more liberals than conservatives work in agencies like the I.R.S. (and offering an explanation, too: liberals believe in government, while conservatives want to cut it back), Weigel writes:
"[D]oes that excuse the IRS's behavior in what Tom Reed called 'Tea Party-targeting-gate?' No. It explains the behavior."
My response: Maybe, but maybe not.
Observe that Weigel, a conservative, ASSUMES that partisan leanings lead to unfair favoritism of one's side, and unfair suspicion of the other side. In other words, he assumes that the ideal of "fairness" is not a reliable force in guiding a person's actions.
That certainly corresponds to the conduct of the political right in our times. But is it universal?
Wow, this is slimy as it gets, although sadly not surprising coming from Republicans. As many of us have suspected all along, this whole Benghazi "scandal" has been ginned up by Republicans and their media echo chamber(s). Yet, in the end, as with most things Republican-related, there's simply "no there there." Nor, according to Ezra Klein, is there apparently any "there there" - at least with regard to the White House or high-level Obama administration officials - on the AP and IRS "scandals." So what on earth is going on here? The #1 rated comment on the Ezra Klein story pretty much sums it all up:
The Republican Dream: an Obama scandal.
They are so convinced that Obama is the most corrupt President in US history, well, because he just is, that they know there is a Watergate-sized scandal hiding somewhere. Truth is: this is one of the most scandal free administrations in US history.
Exactly, and one we should all be very proud of. Now, if only the nihilistic Teapublicans would stop with the McCarthyist garbage and allow the adults (aka, the Democrats) to get back to the important business of our great nation.
Two things in yesterday's news and news coverage on Benghazi caught my eye.
First, there's been plenty of talk about the Republicans' "Benghazi obsession." Some (including --if I remember correctly-- Chris Hayes on MSNBC) have corrected that to say that it is really an "Obama obsession."
But that's not it either. What it is is AN OBSESSION WITH GETTING POWER. That's the big pattern. That's the consistent element over these years. That's what makes sense of what's going on.
Second, there was this quote from the President's statement to the press yesterday. Rightly calling attention to the Republicans' transparent efforts to attack him by making mountains of scandal over the molehills of the administration's handling of the Benghazi attacks, President Obama concluded by saying:
I completely agree, this is unacceptable. Tim Kaine adds:
I am very concerned about allegations the IRS targeted certain groups seeking tax-exempt status on political grounds, including a Virginia-based organization. There's no excuse for ideological discrimination in our system. The Administration should take swift action to get to the bottom of this to ensure those responsible for misconduct are held accountable and establish appropriate safeguards to prevent this from ever happening again.
Mark Warner adds:
These appalling actions by the IRS are completely unacceptable. We need a quick but thorough investigation, and those who are found to have been responsible for this betrayal of the public trust should be fired.
With regard to critics of the Obama administration for not doing more to respond to the attack on our consulate in Benghazi, former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates had the following to say. This much sums up my views perfectly.
"It's sort of a cartoonish impression of military capabilities and military forces...The one thing that our forces are noted for is planning and preparation before we send people in harm's way, and there just wasn't time to do that."
"Frankly, had I been in the job at the time, I think my decisions would have been just as theirs were."
"We don't have a ready force standing by in the Middle East, and so getting somebody there in a timely way would have been very difficult, if not impossible."
"I would not have approved sending an aircraft, a single aircraft, over Benghazi under those circumstances."
"To send some small number of special forces or other troops in without knowing what the environment is, without knowing what the threat is, without having any intelligence in terms of what is actually going on on the ground, would have been very dangerous."
Annabel Park and Eric Byler are champions of civil liberties. They have made many films about the encroachments into those liberties. But this one is close to my heart. There has not been much out of the state capital here in Raleigh to make me proud since I relocated here one year ago; perhaps only former Governor Perdue's veto of the Tea Party's dismantling of voting rights (and a few other vetoes).
That was then. Perdue resigned and her Lt. Governor lost the governor's race to the best friend energy companies and school privateers ever had, long-term Duke Energy employee, Pat McCrory. There is nothing stopping the out-of-control General Assembly (GA) now.
The GA has drastically cut unemployment insurance, slammed public education, and showered goodies on charters (bestowing pretend oversight as it does), raised the sales tax to give cuts to millionaires, passed the most repressive and homophobic law in the nation, voted to allow exploratory horizontal fracking, and banned government scientists from studying sea level rising. They are also disemboweling environmental regulations.
Meanwhile, the governor wants to cut state taxes in half, a proposal so draconian that even Koch brothers ally, Art Pope, the new state budget director (talk about the fox in the hen house), said it went too far! Imagine how bad it is when Art Pope says it's too much. That is only a short list of the ugliness. I will have more to say on some of the other misdeeds of the North Carolina GA.
The multi-pronged attack on voting rights strikes at the heart of what has been a progressive and continually improving state for civil liberties since Terry Sanford led the state in the 1960s. This was not who we are, but sadly, it is now increasingly so--unless we stand up to it. Annabel and Eric have captured the rising chorus of those who have had enough. Bravo!
Rep. Moran's tireless advocacy for animals is one of the things I really like about him. Thank you to Jim Moran for his work to protect animals from barbarous practices like gas chambers for shelter pets. By the way, while we're on the subject, I strongly urge everyone to adopt a shelter pet and to never EVER buy from a breeder!!!
Moran Introduces Resolution Opposing Gas Chamber for Shelter Pets
Washington, DC - Congressman Jim Moran, Northern Virginia Democrat and co-chair of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, today reintroduced a resolution, H. Res. 208, opposing the use of gas chambers to euthanize shelter animals. Introduced during National Pet Week, the resolution is supported by over 400 national, state, and local animal protection and rescue organizations.
"Using gas chambers to kill shelter animals is unnecessarily cruel, causing these animals to suffer in the last moments of their life. This resolution would bring more attention to this unacceptable practice," said Rep. Moran. "With the continued advocacy of compassionate citizens, I hope we can stamp out this inhumane practice."
A co-author of the Heritage Foundation's new immigration report, which right-wing media have hyped despite even conservative criticism about its methodology, has long promoted inflammatory theories about the relationship between race and IQ in Hispanic immigrants, an unsurprising fact given his ties to extremist anti-immigrant organizations.
Dylan Matthews of The Washington Post's Wonkblog reported that Jason Richwine, a co-author of the Heritage report, asserts in his 2009 doctoral dissertation titled "IQ and Immigration Policy" that "there are deep-set differentials in intelligence between races."
That's right: according to Mr. Richwine, "No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against." For good measure, Richwine adds, "the totality of the evidence suggests a genetic component to group differences in IQ." Of course, this is overwhelmingly a bunch of pseudo-scientific drivel (hard to say if the guy's a racist, but it sure doesn't give me a warm and fuzzy feeling...).
Other than that, of course, the Heritage Foundation report has been blasted for being "so flawed that one cannot take their report's conclusions seriously," also "depressingly static, leading to a massive underestimation of the economic benefits of immigration and diminishing estimated tax revenue." Now, add to that, "depressingly co-authored by someone who believes that some races are inherently smarter than others." Again, it's not surprising coming from a "think tank" headed by right-wing nutjob Jim DeMint, and funded by the usual assortment of far-far-right-wing billionaires (including the Koch brothers, the Scaife Foundation, etc.). Still, it's horrifying to see something like this in 2013 America...decades past when this king of crap was considered in any way acceptable.
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