Changes in the political climate can sometimes sneak up on you -- just like changes in the terrestrial climate. Case in point: A recent opinion piece in the right-wing Human Events, "A Conservative's Case for Global Warming", provides a hint that the GOP may be about to start tiptoeing away from climate change denial.
While still repeating a number of easily disprovable climate denial whoppers (e.g., that the earth hasn't warmed in the last 18 years, even though it has, and the usual cheap attempts to downplay the overwhelming scientific consensus), the author seemed to be striving to reposition conservative opinion to accept the reality of climate change -- this, even though he is a member of the Heartland Institute, notorious for (among other travesties) its repugnant Unabomber billboard campaign.
Others have noted the curious phrase that is now ubiquitous among Republican politicians - "I'm not a scientist" -- and like Jonathan Chait, have speculated on whether this phrase represents a kind of tactical retreat:
"I am not a scientist" makes sense as a way to resolve a tension within Republican politics. It may be a political liability for Republicans to openly associate themselves with the kook conspiracy theories popular among conservative ideologues. One solution might be for Republicans to concede that anthropogenic global warming is indeed real, but that any solution is simply too costly. That might allow Republicans to minimize their kook exposure while still hewing to the bottom line party doctrine that individuals and firms ought to be able to dump carbon into the atmosphere for free.
Climate change denial remains rife in Republican ranks, of course - CAP Action counts 56% of Congressional Republicans in the "climate denier caucus". But look closely and the signs are of the first troops starting to back away, hopefully heralding the very beginnings of a full-scale retreat.
Back in the summer of 2008, incurable Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich pushed the slogan "drill here, drill now, pay less," claiming that making the U.S. more oil-independent would be a solution to high gas prices. Democrats, worried voters would reject the reality there's nothing we can do to lower market-set gas prices and absolutely terrified of saying no to Big Oil, embraced the slogan. Later, President Barack Obama implemented it as our national policy. Six years later, how's drill baby drill working out for you?
Today, while U.S. oil production is near all-time highs, gas prices also remain near all-time highs. Drill baby drill has been great for multinational oil companies, but terrible for American consumers. Meanwhile, we continue shoveling billions in annual taxpayer subsidies to those same oil companies.
A side effect of higher oil production is that oil transportation disasters are also at record highs. Oil train wrecks and spills, gas pipeline explosions, and oil pipeline ruptures are skyrocketing. Our communities, wildlife and clean air and water are now at the mercy of our national petro-state.
Note that gas prices hit their all-time high of $4.46 in July 2008 under President George W. "Texas Oilman Who'll Lasso Those Saudi Arabians Into Submission" Bush, well above the prior peak of $3.70 under President Ronald "Yes Another Oil-Friendly Republican Are You Seeing The Pattern Yet" Reagan.
In the heyday of terrorism paranoia, the Virginia General Assembly changed the requirements for obtaining a driver's license. All House and Senate patrons were Republicans. They made proof of legal presence a requirement. Many Democrats were cowed into supporting this. The unintended consequences are apparent now; change the law!
While the grander issues of separating families through deportation, comprehensive immigration reform, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and in-state tuition are terribly important, the day-to-day practical issue of transportation that allows migrants to support themselves and their families is most immediate for laborers. In many cases, persons whose status allows them to legally remain in the United States are prohibited from obtaining licenses under Virginia law.
The consequences on a personal level are devastating. Virginians still in high school, working to support their families, end up taking court docket time, missing school, and paying fines that are doubly punitive. Teachers who take an interest in the welfare of their students often accompany them on their own time in an effort to provide at least support and some counsel. Out of necessity, many end up repeat offenders. Further, being responsible, they make an effort to follow the law by acquiring insurance. But as anyone who has experience in the shadows knows, there is only street justice there. Who knows if these often more expensive policies are even in force?
In George Orwell's Animal Farm, the pigs on Mr. Jones' farm lead an animal revolt against him - a revolution based on high principles, which one by one the pigs violate as they begin to act like the men they replaced. As the pigs start walking on two legs, they replace their slogan "Four legs good, two legs bad" with the new, improved "Four legs good, two legs better."
I thought of Orwell as I listened to Dave Brat's latest speech celebrating his victory over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor - and announcing his choice of Cantor's former political director to be his new campaign manager. Well, that revolution didn't last long, did it?
The media, of course, has been full of commentary about the Tea Party "revolt" against the "Republican establishment". But we've heard too few good explanations of what this "revolt" is really about.
If you were to search for the core of modern conservatism - the driving force and principle at the heart of it - you will find that it is not fundamentally driven by religion, by prejudice, by support for the military, by love of guns or rural values. All of these perspectives are certainly important, particularly to the GOP grassroots. But what drives this party - more than ever before - is the money, support and agenda of the most enormous corporations on Earth. This is the party of the Koch Brothers, the party of ALEC, the party of Exxon-Mobil and Wall Street.
It isn't just Medicaid expansion that has been obstructed by "conservatives." As Staunton School Board member Joel Grogan points out, the new state budget sets funding for schools at pre-2009 levels. The economic impact of this epic legislative failure washes over the future of Virginia. This is McDonnell's leadership legacy.
Whether GOP legislators want to believe it or not, Virginia education is already in crisis. Grogan discussed the departure of Waynesboro High School Teacher of the Year Josh Waldron. After six years of teaching, this accomplished young man is taking home only $100 a month more than when he started.
"The job, though, is about much more. And I have very real concerns about the sustainability of public education in Waynesboro (and as a whole)." - Josh Waldron in his personal blog
Grogan wishes that the organization that represents school board issues hadn't shied away from the Medicaid expansion issue. He was told that they had to stay away from it because the organization is nonpartisan. But this, he says, is not a political issue; it's a moral issue and an economic issue. He argues it is a myth that this is a political issue, pointing out that there are about a dozen states with Republican Governors and legislatures that have either found a way to expand Medicaid or are on the way to it. Even in Virginia, a traditionally conservative organization, the State Chamber of Commerce, favors expansion, proving it isn't a left and right issue. This expansion will create 33,000 jobs.
At least Staunton's Republican state Senator, Emmett Hanger, has broken ranks to plow a path toward a special session that can consider expansion. That means that the battle is not over. Grogan calls for remaining positive and holding our delegates' feet to the fire on this issue.
Have you seen the map going around showing the hypocrisy of Republicans in the House of Delegates? Check it out, Republicans benefit from the very expansion of Medicaid they oppose!
The only problem with the map? It's not the full story! The real story is that Medicaid is working just fine for Red Virginia. The reason the GOP opposes expansion is that it will primarily benefit Blue Virginia ...
The most obvious example is Republican support for our government killing people, explicitly and in cold blood. That's what the death penalty is. State sanctioned killing of a citizen in cold blood. Regardless of your position on the morality or constitutionality of the death penalty, it is, quite simply, support for state-sanctioned death. And as an example of the bedrock principle for Republicans that the state should be allowed to kill its citizens, there is no better example.
How about Republican's opposition to reasonable gun safety legislation? To the point of actively repealing gun safety legislation already in place when they take control of a state? Did you know that Missouri repealed background checks for gun purchases recently? And when it did, gun murders went up 25%?
"Hey, this legislation will cause more people to be violently murdered!"
A new Gallup poll shows worry about global warming and acceptance of the climate science consensus is up sharply in the last two years. Those spikes are not being fueled by Democrats or independents - they're being fueled by Republicans.
But the political conventional wisdom in Washington presents a very real obstacle to this reality breaking through. The same pundits who bemoan partisan polarization in one breath perpetuate it the next - all Democrats hate coal, and all Republicans hate clean air! The nuance of rank-and-file Republicans disagreeing with Republican party leadership stands little chance of breaking through these stereotypes.
Let's dig into the poll numbers. You could make the case that Republicans are just cooling off from the heated fight over clean energy & climate legislation that had party leaders, polluters, and conservative media telling them that they had to oppose climate action to support the team.
But we're just coming off an election year in which Republican candidates went after climate science and clean energy with renewed fury, yet rank-and-file Republican acceptance of the climate science consensus went up anyway. What's really going on here?
Recently, Not Larry Sabato analyzed the Virginia House of Delegates district of Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William/Manassas Park), and concluded that it most resembles New Mexico politically - a solid Obama/Kaine/Democratic district in presidential years. The implication, of course, is that "Sideshow Bob," as I call him (because of his many insane, extreme antics and general tomfoolery) should be one of the top targets for Virginia Democrats in 2013. Of course, that assumes we get our "presidential year" voters out in odd-year Virginia elections, and that's easier said than done. But still, wouldn't it be great to boot Bob for good? Seems like a no-brainer, right?
Then I saw this article and it got me thinking, are we actually better off WITH "Sideshow Bob" Marshall in some ways than without him? First, read this from the HuffPo piece:
Virginia Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William), the author of the state's fetal personhood bill, says he has always been a bit of a thorn in the side of the mainstream Republican Party. But since the 2012 election, he said, the party is "more overtly gun-shy" about dealing with abortion, and the pressure from GOP leadership to back off of his socially conservative agenda is constant.
"It doesn't happen more than seven days a week, 52 weeks a year," he told The Huffington Post sarcastically in an interview. "Through committee assignments, being shoved aside ... I've had to deal with things the hard way."
He added, "The Republican consultants have advised ducking these social issues for years. The social conservatives don't get any credit when they help Republicans win, but they get blamed by the consultant class when they lose."
First of all, I've just got to say, hahahahahahaha. Poor Sideshow.
Second, more seriously, what this tells me is that "Sideshow Bob" is a major problem for Virginia Republicans, one they must expend a lot of energy on to try - and often fail - to keep under control. And why are Virginia Republicans even trying to keep "Sideshow Bob" under control at all? It's not as if they disagree with him on making abortion illegal in most or all circumstances. Since it's not substantive, it must be politics: e.g., Virginia Republicans know that the issues "Sideshow Bob" insists on pushing, year after year, are simply killing them with Virginia women. Perhaps even worse, if that's possible, the "Sideshow Bobs" of the world - add to the long list people like Rick Santorum, Ken Kookinelli, Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, Dick Black, Eugene Delgaudio, etc. - are generally killing the Republican "brand," making them seem (correctly, as far as I can determine) that they want to be in everyone's bedroom and doctor's office, telling you what you can, and more to the point can NOT, do with your body and your private life. And that doesn't just hurt them with women, but also with a lot of men as well.
So, why shouldn't Virginia Democrats just sit back, heat up some popcorn, and enjoy the "Sideshow Bob" (and Dick Black, Eugene Delgaudio, etc.) Show for many years to come? Only one reason, albeit an important one: these guys do damage, not just to the Republican Party, but to a lot of Virginians (e.g., the heinous "Marshall-Newman" amendment enshrines anti-LGBT discrimination in our constitution). For that reason alone, we should almost certainly toss political considerations aside and do everything we can to boot Bob in 2013. Still, the political part of me keeps salivating at the thought of keeping this clown around for many, many election years to come.
Barring any unforeseen event, there aren't enough undecideds to sway these uncertain elections. Persuasion is over now. The embers are being fanned with advertising dollars, but the electorate is now fairly immune to the heat from either side. The negative ads won't do the heavy work of GOTV.
The tea leaves from the polls give a very murky outlook. Republicans told us weeks ago that the polls are unreliable and biased. They were certainly not giving the news that they wanted to hear. For a while they were apoplectic; then curled up in the fetal position. When the polls swung their way, they suddenly became prophetic. But the truth is we (except maybe Nate Silver) won't know what they mean until midnight Tuesday.
The benefit of the ad deluge right now is nearly zero compared to ads run in June or July. Dr. Quentin Kidd (Christopher Newport University) suggests that was factored into the strategy of the Obama campaign. The campaign had ads up at that point in all the swing states because they wanted to set the stage early. Everyone knew that by fall the ads would be ubiquitous to the point of being indistinguishable. This strategy may prove the difference in this race.
In a conversation with Cathy Lewis on WHRV last week, Kidd concurred with the view that we have reached the point of political ad saturation. But, he said, we are in an arms race from which no campaign can pull back without demonstrating some sort of weakness; suggesting maybe the financial support has gone (see George Allen's contribution to himself). And just today a very expensive 20 page, glossy, Obama mailer arrived from OFA.
It wasn't that long ago that the environment was a bipartisan issue. Just 4 years ago, Republicans nominated John McCain, a Congressional leader on climate change, for president. The first President Bush appointed an activist EPA administrator, Bill Reilly, supported the Earth Summit in Rio and passed important Clean Air Act amendments. In past decades, the GOP included genuine environmental leaders like John Chafee and Sherwood Boehlert.
But today's Republican party is the most anti-environment political force in America since the years of the robber barons. Paul Ryan is a climate change denier who has implied that snow in Wisconsin in winter somehow invalidates global warming. Can you say "duh"? (Yes, he also sent letters begging the Department of Energy for stimulus money for green jobs, but that was obviously just a routine pander for a constituent, probably just copied verbatim and barely read.)
Romney and Ryan both routinely refer to the environment only in terms that dismiss all support for sustainability as, in Ryan's words, "green pork." Support for our children's future is thus recast as some sort of assault on the taxpayers. The fact that not all of the government's investments in renewable energy have succeeded is used to tar any attempt to do anything other than worship Big Oil, Gas & Coal. One of Romney's many lies in the last debate was to claim that "half" of the Recovery Act investments in renewables have failed, when in fact, even the Energy Department loan program that has received the most scrutiny has had a 90% success rate to date.
The Democratic grassroots by and large approved of the Obama messaging over the summer leading up to the convention. They were delighted that Obama finally took the offensive, pre-defining Romney as one of the greedy, unfeeling, and out-of-touch one percent. The base, however, was not the principal target of the message; it was the "undecideds," and one part of it was intended to convince the swing-voters that this election offers a crucial, clear choice for Americans, that the election is about much more than "the economy." So far, based in part on meeting voters in the field, I believe that message about the nature of the choice is not completely hitting its mark. That is not to say that it does not sound good, or that it does not resonate with the base, which, from its point of view, finds it convincing and therefore on target---- but that is preaching to the choir.
The real target, the non-base "undecideds," are not quite getting it, the real nature of the choice. Most of them are bumbling along, uneasy about the economy, thinking (even if they voted for Obama in '08) "where's the change?" and "Obama's had his chance, maybe it's time to let the other guys have a turn." The message of "we're on the right track, we need more time," and claims that the Republican agenda is not only socially extreme, but also a re-hash of the very policies that caused the recession, is not sticking in any significant way; it sounds weak. The idea that, in this election, we will be making a crucial social-political choice is not on their radar, much less that democracy itself is on trial.
I'm getting mixed messages from the Fairfax County Republican Committee and the Northern Virginia Tea Party. FCRC Chairman Jay McConville is wishing me "a wonderful Labor Day weekend" and inviting me to attend Ron Wilcox's canvass near Chantilly, VA. "I know it's an important day," he says, "but I am hoping that you can spare two hours toward our cause."
But wait! The same Ron Wilcox, leader of the Northern Virginia Tea Party, is also inviting me to his canvass event. "Spare two hours to boycott Labor Day, the day celebrating Big Labor, by working two hours to defeat Barack Obama."
With reality denial dominating the Republican Party platform, how will Republican National Convention delegates reconcile that the start of their 2012 gathering in Tampa was delayed by climate-fueled extreme weather?
First, let's be clear: It's Big Oil-funded GOP leadership that's the problem, not rank-and-file Republicans. While virtually every Republican member of Congress and national party leader rejects climate science, 43% of rank-and-file Republicans see "solid evidence of global warming" according to the Pew Research Center.
Dig a little deeper and those numbers should be even more eye-catching for GOP leadership.
20 years ago, The Atlantic Magazine asked of the first President Bush: "Can George Bush Think?" The same question deserves to be asked of Mitt Romney. While both men have shown competence in key areas, both have been handicapped by a lack of vision and vast blind spots that come across as inexplicable, if not downright bizarre.
Perhaps the roughest part of the 1992 article for Bush I was when the author, Richard Brookhiser, quoted one of the president's own staffers as saying:
"Can he think in an organized, linear way about problems? Can he pose thesis and antithesis, and draw a synthesis? No. He is the least contemplative man I've ever met."
The author's main point was that, rather than having a consistent ideology -- what Bush dismissively called "the vision thing" -- his style was "dealing with what he finds on his desk every day when he gets in" -- what another Atlantic writer, Richard Schneider termed "The In-Box President".
It is hard to think of another major party presidential nominee worse at grasping the big picture than Mitt Romney. I'm not sure it's sufficient to consider his record of flip-flopping merely sneaky and dishonest. It is so blatant, such a huge elephant in the room, that it borders on the pathological.
These past three years, the anti-Obama contingent has cheered at every shred of bad economic news and bureaucratic misstep. The wild-eyed charges of an ideological war carried on by an administration bent on Marxist objectives are all aimed at obscuring the sad results of three decades of "supply-side" economic mischief.
"Larry Summers and I were both on the side of 'we need a more definitive clean-up of the financial system.' And the question was if somebody, you know, really wasn't solvent, do you need the government to put in capital, realize the losses, clean it up, and then put it back into private hands?" - Christina Romer, White House Economic Advisor 2009 - 2010
Any serious study of this administration's policies reveals a most pragmatic response by Obama at almost every turn. From the selection of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and many other establishment appointees, to the decision not to seize or take the banks to the woodshed, Obama has erred on the side of caution and market reassurance rather than a confrontation with forces that would flirt with a stalemate leading to economic stagnation or catastrophe. It is essential that the story be told clearly and that we rely on the accomplishments. That looks to be the approach the Obama campaign will employ based upon the message from the campaign thus far. The facts are more than embarrassing for the right's apologists.
In Florida, you must register to register persons to vote unless they are immediate family or you work for the state. It is more difficult to register voters there than it is to get a concealed carry permit in Virginia. McDonnell is missing the boat on the voter ID veto.
As indicated last week, the voter ID bill that the Governor seems intent to allow to go into law without his signature is unimaginative child's play on the part of Virginia Republicans. In Florida, other than the two exceptions, anyone who solicits or collects any voter registration application is or is an agent of a Third-Party Voter Registration Organization (3PVRO). Some specific responsibilities of 3PVROs:
Timely submit all voter registration applications collected, including incomplete applications
Serve as a fiduciary for the applicants from which it collects voter registration applications
Ensure its assigned ID # is on any voter registration application
Keep its registration and registration agents' information updated within 10 days of any change
File monthly reports on Form DS-DE 123 no later than the 10th of each month reflecting an accounting of all registration forms it provided to and received from its registration agents during the preceding month
So why, in a year that he could be on the Republican national ticket, McDonnell even hesitates is the bigger question. And the biggest question of all is why, if he is the leader of the state party, he cannot manage to influence his own party members in the legislature to let go of this voter ID nonsense. Next year, he and his could ramp up suppression so much more effectively following Florida's (and ALEC's?) lead.
If the general election were held today instead of in early November, 54% of registered voters say they would back Obama, with 43% supporting former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the front-runner in the GOP nomination battle. That's up from a five-point 51%-46% advantage the president held over Romney in February.
Oh, and "the president's approval rating has inched over the 50% mark in CNN surveys for the first time since last May, when the polls were still registering the after effects of the death of Osama bin Laden." Yep, that Marco Rubio's no dummy. Now Bob McDonnell on the other hand...term limited, nothing much to do after 2013? Sure, why not, at least the first part of the Titanic cruise was first-class fun, until the ice-cold North Atlantic water started pouring in! Oh well, you can't have everything, can you? LOL
UPDATE: The polling numbers from ABC are no better for Willard. Maybe he should focus on the car elevator and the tax shelters in the islands instead of this crazy presidential campaign thang? Heh.
Virginia Republican'ts can't seem to decide, are they more the theocratic/Dominionist party of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell (e.g., "personhood," "trans-vaginal ultrasounds," closing down abortion clinics), or are they a bunch of corporate tools serving the top 0.1% (see Sen. Chap Petersen's press release below for information on what they're trying to accomplish on that front)? At least for now, though, they're trying their very best to be both at once. What a party!
Today, the House of Delegates Civil Law Subcommittee recommended 4-3 to "table" Senator Petersen's bill (SB 163) to protect Virginia homeowners from the use of fraudulent documents in a foreclosure. The recommendation thus prevents the bill from being heard (and voted upon) by the full House of Delegates Courts committee in 2012.
Republican delegates Iaquinto, Loupassi, Habeeb, and Farrell voted against the bill. Democratic delegates Toscano, McClellan and Johnson voted for the bill.
SB 163, which created a civil cause of action for homeowners against banks which used a forged document to obtain a foreclosure, enjoyed a range of political support that spanned the political spectrum.
Two recent articles show the lengths that Republicans will go to appropriate the time of the unemployed and the jailed for free labor. First, the Senate Republicans now want to punish the unemployed even more. Not only do they want to impose a drug-test tax, and deny benefits to those without a high school education, they also want the unemployed to work for free (i.e., de facto slavery). Given that the economy has downsized more people of color, with African American unemployment running as high as 50% in some places, this move has rather sinister and historic non-subtle overtones. It should be a federal crime to demand anyone work for free. But here we are with the Senate GOP demanding exactly that.
Sen. Richard Burr wants to make those on unemployment prove they have applied for a job at least 20 hours a week AND work for free another 20 hours a week, just to get the paltry insurance they are owed. Unemployment insurance is paid by companies to cover employees when the same companies lay off workers. It is the last disincentive to firing and downsizing, and as we have seen, not nearly enough so. When it is a choice of further enriching the already rich or paying workers, you know what the corporate CEOs decide. With at least 2/3 of the unemployed unable to find work, that is a large number of conscripts into servitude. Why, maybe the very same employers who eliminate their jobs can gain their free labor (sarcasm)?
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