Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

The Importance of Process

I just read Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson's soon-to-be-released book The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism , and this passage stuck out as particularly notable. It ought to give some pause to both liberals and conservatives: Midway through our interviews on the Middle Peninsula of Virginia, we were struck by a telling contrast. Between us, the two authors have attended many meetings of highly educated liberals in and around academic communities. In those meetings, detailed knowledge of public policies is common. People know exactly what is in Obama's health reform law, exactly how all kinds of taxes work, and can tell you who pays for and benefits from government expenditures. They can debate the intricacies of cap and trade versus carbon taxes. But even liberal Ph.D.s are often extremely vague about how U.S. politics actually works. People will proclaim in meetings that President Obama should just give a speech on a particular priority — and act as if that...

The Worst Political Column of All Time

Patrick Caddell and Doug Schoen have built a name for themselves as “Fox News Democrats” — the pundits conservatives use to show the world that “even Democrats” agree with their attacks on Barack Obama (he is a hyper-partisan socialist) and liberals as a whole. In fact, most of their work is centered on the premise that Democrats can only succeed if they jetison any semblence of liberalism from their agenda. This is the proper context for their latest op-ed in the Wall Street Journal , which — to put it lightly — is a nightmare. Their argument is straightforward: Barack Obama has been a hyper-partisan disaster for the Democratic Party, and “should abandon his candidacy for re-election in favor of a clear alternative,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. They describe the former First Lady and New York Senator in glowing terms: Never before has there been such an obvious potential successor—one who has been a loyal and effective member of the president’s administration, who has the...

Obama Doesn't Have a "Base" Problem

The Washington Post ’s Chris Cillizza does a nice job of debunking the notion that President Obama faces a problem with his base: In Gallup’s latest weekly tracking polling, Obama’s job approval rating stands at 43 percent among the general public but is nearly double that — 84 percent —among African Americans. In the November NBC-WSJ poll, Obama’s approval rating among black voters stood at a stratospheric 91 percent. […] Although African Americans remain the base group most broadly supportive of Obama, liberals and Democrats are very much in his camp as well. In Gallup’s most recent data, Obama’s job approval rating stood at 78 percent among Democrats and 70 percent among liberals. The important thing to remember in any discussion of Obama’s base — and the Democratic base writ large — is that African Americans loom large. Absent 85-percent-plus of the black vote in national elections, Democrats would have an incredibly hard time of winning the presidency. It should be said that the...

What Happened to the Tea Party?

When the 2012 Republican nominating contest was getting underway earlier this year, it was widely predicted (I predicted it myself) that the race would eventually come down to a contest between an establishment candidate like Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty, and a Tea Party candidate more appealing to the party's base. It seemed perfectly reasonable at the time; after all, the Tea Party had energized the GOP and propelled it to the historic 2010 congressional election victory. With its anti-Obama fervor, the Tea Party was the focus of all the GOP's grassroots energy, to such a degree that nearly every Republican felt compelled to proclaim him or herself a Tea Partier. Once the Tea Party's champion was selected, we would discover just how much strength the party establishment still held in our decentralized political age. Yet with the Iowa caucus just six weeks away, it appears that there will be no grand battle between the establishment and the insurgents, the old guard and the new. There...

Don't Blame Gerrymandering

This weekend, CNN aired an investigative report on partisan gerrymandering. The idea was to expose the practice as corrosive to democracy: “We wanted to show the most important part of the political process when it comes to congressional elections,” says Drew Griffin, who pursued the subject for CNN, “where politicians have been able to carve up the electoral process, therefore guaranteeing Democratic or Republican seats until they do this in the next ten years.” By Griffin’s lights, partisan gerrymandering is a practice that inflates the incumbency rate and leads to polarization and gridlock. Courtesy of CNN CNN investigative correspondent Drew Griffin with Representative Luis Gutierrez (D) Illinois The problem with this analysis is that it doesn’t fit with the existing data. Yes, redistricting technology (politicians now have map-drawing software available to them) has become more sophisticated, and yes, this has coincided with a higher rate of incumbency. But that’s an accident of...

What to Read Before You Unwonk for the Weekend

Rejoice! Congress won at not ruining the Constitution today! The Super Committee won at doing nothing . NERD FIGHT. Round Two. Or three. This has been going on for a while. The Monkey Cage’s John Sides added his two cents to the Economics v. Campaigns election forecast debate, saying that it’s difficult to assess how effective campaigns are while we’re watching them unfold. Maybe it’s time to bench this topic and bring it back for round three after next November. Nate Silver also tried to find out which economic factors have been most consistent in predicting electoral outcomes. Turns out the ISM manufacturing index is a better predictor of whether an incumbent will re-win the White House than the change in unemployment rate or GDP. Yay data. As an addendum to the “Do Campaigns Matter” debate, the “Do Debates Matter” debate might also become a thing soon, followed inevitably by the, “Do the Party Elite matter” and “Do Superdelegates matter” debates that close every primary season. I’m...

The Elephant in the Room

AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari
Mike Huckabee may have taken a pass on a second presidential run, but the 2008 Iowa winner turned Fox News televangelist still wants to have his say in this year's race. He's returning to Iowa—the state that defined him as more than just the Southern governor who lost all the weight—to co-host a forum with Citizens United next month. According to Politico , they have invited the eight major 2012 candidates, with abortion slotted as the primary topic of the event. Debates around choice have been strangely absent thus far in this year's presidential race. "Most of the candidates have addressed [abortion] in generic terms, but not real specific terms," says Steve Scheffler, president of the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition. "So I think a forum of this nature is a good thing, get them tied down a bit more." It was a major wedge issue in 2008, one that turned Iowa's social conservatives against Mitt Romney and derailed his entire campaign. Take this moment from an Iowa debate in 2007,...

Why You Should Prepare for Another Year of Slow Growth and High Unemployment

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia has released its latest forecasts for unemployment over the next several years, and the news isn’t good. By the fourth quarter of 2012 –- election time –- unemployment is expected to be at 8.7 percent. Worse, unemployment isn’t expected to dip below 8 percent until 2014. This could change if growth speeds up over the next year, but the prospects for that aren’t good. For the unemployment rate to drop by any amount, real GDP needs to grow by at least 2 percent. To see a significant reduction in employment, GDP growth needs to reach 4 percent or higher. According to Fed forecasts, the odds for that kind of growth in 2012 are incredibly low: In other words, when you average the predictions made by Fed forecasters, odds of 2 percent to 3 percent GDP growth in 2012 are around 40 percent. The odds for 3 percent to 4 percent growth are below 20 percent, and the odds for anything greater are below 10 percent. The forecast for 2013 is improved -– the...

Crazy People Running for President

AP Photo/Andy Dunaway
Every four years, many people decide to run for president. You don't hear about most of them, because the news media decide, and reasonably so, to ignore folks like the immortal Charles Doty . Even among those who have held major political office, however, some are deemed serious and some are not. For instance, Buddy Roemer — a former member of Congress and governor of Louisiana — is considered not serious, as is Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico. Both are running for the Republican nomination, but neither gets invited to debates or has journalists reporting on their campaigns. Yet Michele Bachmann is considered one of the "real" candidates, even as she languishes in the mid-single-digits in polls. Of course she won't be president, but I think it's worth pointing out that someone like Bachmann can still be treated as a real candidate. Since we've almost gotten used to her, at times one has to step back and marvel at just how incredibly nutty this person is, and the fact...

What to Read Before You Unwonk Tonight

The Super Committee doesn’t have much time left to make a decision on deficit reduction. As November 23 approaches, the media coverage of its inability to agree on anything will grow exponentially. Someone should do a graph on that instead of focusing on what the possible outcomes of the Super Committee could mean for the deficit, which has been covered in great detail already. The smartest option for reducing the deficit is to let the Bush tax cuts expire, something Republicans will never endorse because it would be a big threat to their electoral prospects for multiple election cycles. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a great rundown on what the 2013 sequestration would look like. Then again, sequestration might turn out to be an empty threat given the fact that Congress has the power to both put itself in deficit reduction time-out and render such punishment obsolete (no one puts Boehner in the corner), which is the worst possible outcome for the Super Committee...

Has Grover Norquist Made Himself Unnecessary?

You should read Tim Dickinson's long article in Rolling Stone about how the GOP became the party of the one percent. Essentially, the story is that while there was once a real substance to the idea of "fiscal conservatism"—that Republicans really did care about balancing the books and being good stewards of the public's tax dollars—the last 20 years have brought the Republican Party to a much different place. While they once saw taxes as simply the way to pay for the things government does -- they shouldn't be too high, since conservatives want limited government, but they shouldn't be so low that we run up deficits -- they now see them as an outright evil that really has nothing much at all to do with deficits. Deficits are a handy tool to use when there's a Democrat in the White House to force spending cuts, but not much more. Dickinson puts Dick Cheney at the center of this story, which one could quibble about, but there's something here that I think calls for some discussion: In...

Barack Obama Never Called Americans "Lazy"

Last weekend, in a meeting with CEOs in Honolulu, President Obama offered some mild criticism of himself and the business community when it came to attracting foreign investment: “I think it’s important to remember that the United States is still the largest recipient of foreign investment in the world. And there are a lot of things that make foreign investors see the U.S. as a great opportunity — our stability, our openness, our innovative free market culture. But we’ve been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades. We’ve kind of taken for granted — well, people will want to come here and we aren’t out there hungry, selling America and trying to attract new business into America. [Emphasis mine] It’s hard to imagine something more straightforward than this; Obama doesn’t think that American business is “lazy” as much as he believes that the country could do more to make the United States more attractive to new businesses and entrepreneurs. It’s the usual...

Fixing the Courts

Rick Perry introduced a disastrous congressional reform plan earlier this week that has been rightfully ripped to shreds . Perry's plan would rewrite the constitution to turn Congress into a part-time body, opening the path to far more corruption, increasing the influence of lobbyists and money. We don't often praise the Texas governor here on Vox Pop, but he should be given credit where it is due, and somehow mixed in Perry's plan, which would be Jack Abramoff's dream government, was the most sensible policy proposal from a Republican candidate this year. Perry suggested a constitutional amendment that would end lifetime appointments for federal judges, including the nine justices on the Supreme Court. Here's how his plan puts it : There are a number of proposals which might be considered—one would be a Constitutional Amendment creating 18-year terms staggered every 2 years, so that each of the nine justices would be replaced in order of seniority every other year. This would be a...

Stick a Fork in Him

He's stumbled his way through nearly every debate, including one of the most uncomfortable moments ever seen in a modern debate. He started his campaign leading the polls, only to drop to the bottom of the field. He learned that religious moralizing doesn't forgive a slight divergence from the Tea Party line on immigration. Despite Mitt Romney's inability to win over social conservatives and the clownish makeup of the rest of the field, there is little reason to believe Rick Perry can still win the Republican nomination. Perry's only hope for a comeback was his massive fundraising apparatus, which was expected to easily dwarf any of the other candidates, save possibly Mitt Romney. He began using those funds to full effect after his "oops" hiccup at the debate last week, purchasing nearly $1 million in ads to run on Fox News nationally, and flooding the key early states with ads and mailers. But that advantage has now disappeared alongside his drop in the poll numbers. The Houston...

What to Read Before You Unwonk Tonight

The GOP candidates are turning the Republican Party into a Toyota with its brakes on fire. They realized too late that their math on how many debates were essential to show off that they were 1) not Obama and 2) really conservative, was a bit off, but it’s too late to stop now, and the brakes wouldn’t work anyway. And once the general election comes, no one will trust what they’re selling. OK, I might have expanded on Peter Feaver’s metaphor a bit, but nonetheless Republicans are NOT happy. You know who else isn’t happy? Herman Cain . He’s “not supposed to know anything about foreign policy.” That’s what Chilean models—his second choice for secretary of state after Henry Kissinger —are for. Right now, Congress is less popular than Hugo Chavez, Nixon during Watergate, and the idea of the U.S. turning communist. So it’s probably a good idea for them to make sure the government doesn’t shut down this weekend if they don’t want to be overthrown by a trendier Marxist uprising. NERD FIGHT...

Pages