Category Archives: 2012 election

Kirner’s Folly

Kirner 2

Assemblyman Randy Kirner (R-NV26) is about to secure his position as the poster boy for ALEC in this session of the Assembled Wisdom.  From the ever informative LTN:

“As we discussed yesterday, the Nevada Legislature has devolved into chaos and treachery… Yet again. This time, Assembly Member Randy Kirner (R-Reno) is threatening to kill SB 353, the sexual orientation conversion therapy ban, and possibly additional bills that have nothing to do with union issues, because he’s upset his ALEC bills to blow up unions and hand public servants’ retirement savings (PERS) to Wall Street aren’t moving. Oh, yes. That’s right. He’s going there!

But wait, there’s more. Now that Kirner is hinting that he’s a possible swing vote for the Nevada Revenue Plan, Governor Brian Sandoval’s (R) preferred revenue raising tax reform package, there’s real fear that Kirner is trying to abuse this tense situation to extract some sort of PERS deform (in addition to the bipartisan deal already reached on SB 406).”

Follow The Money

And, why not?  A quick look at the funding behind Assemblyman Kirner’s campaign shows the predominance of right wing money flowing into Kirner’s campaign coffers.  That “Students First” item on the donor list should be a big clue.   “Students First” is Michelle Ree’s anti-union outfit, which was caught working with ALEC in Connecticut to promote the ALEC agenda in 2012.  [BProg]  This year the organization was caught in New Mexico trying to coordinate an anti-union and anti public school campaign using social media and bloggers to promote “educational reform.” [Ravitch]

Kirner’s positions on “reforming” Nevada PERS are straight out of the ALEC playbook. (pdf)  If we’d like a preview of what ALEC and the Koch financed State Policy Network have in mind – handing over public employee retirement funds to the players in the Wall Street Casino – look at Kansas. [Politicususa]

Kirner was also the beneficiary of the Retail Association of Nevada, $5,500 in donations.  Interestingly enough, RAN is a first cousin of the Committee to Protect Nevada Jobs; RAN’s CEO is Mary Lau, who is also listed as the treasurer of CPNJ for 2013.  In August 2013 RAN was pleased to insert a tip of the hat to the Committee to Protect Nevada Jobs for its opposition to the “teacher tax” initiative. (pdf)

The District

Assembly 26 Assemblyman Kirner’s notion that he can blow up this session of the Legislature in search of satisfaction on right wing issues may reflect the district – the 26th is almost exclusively white (86%) and 46% Republican. Most residents live in owner occupied housing, and most are between the ages of 18 and 59. [LegNV pdf] [More: Statistical Atlas]   Kirner ran unopposed in the last election, getting 50.03% of the total vote. [SSE]

Questions

Given the last election results, even considering his close primary, is Assemblyman Kirner functioning as if he were in a safe seat?  Or, given the close primary is he sliding to the radical end of the right wing spectrum because of opposition which emphasized “no new taxes,” “school choice,” and “it’s not government’s job to create jobs?” [Krasner] Little wonder the primary was close given the ideological proximity of the two Republican candidates.

Can Democrats in Assembly District 26 move the needle?  There are 12,077 registered active voting Democrats in AD 25 out of 41,198 total. There are 18,763 registered active Republican voters in the district. There are 1,881 registered members of the Independent American Party, and another 445 registered Libertarians. 7,421 are non-partisan registered voters.  [NVSoS] There are 64,703 residents of the District.  Approximately 63.7% of the residents of the District are active, registered, voters.  First, it’s hard to move the needle without a race, and there is an obvious need for candidate recruitment in AD 26. Secondly, given the 81% turnout in 2012 compared to the 45.55% turnout in Washoe County in 2014, could Democrats “move the needle” if there were a candidate for the Assembly seat in a presidential election year campaign?

In the meantime, we’re treated to what can happen with a “safe seat” ideologically driven incumbent with funding and support from corporate interests and conservative allies – pro gun, anti-union, and anti-gay issues become the basis for retail politics in the District.  Waving these banners shouldn’t be allowed to obscure real issues facing real people in the Silver State.

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Filed under 2012 election, Nevada Democrats, Nevada politics, Politics

GOP: Getting Back to Base-ics?

Now, would someone in the corporate media care to discuss “Republicans in Disarray?”  Heaven knows it’s been a hallmark of coverage about issues within the Democratic Party.  As a former adherent of the GOP, and now as a complete outsider, I’ve had some rambling notions about what’s been happening since the 1980’s.  Here they are.

Ancestor Worship

The election of President Ronald Reagan was a significant one for the Republicans, and the popularization of the Southern Strategy by GOP activist Kevin Phillips continued into the decade.  The Republicans offered a home for the Dixiecrats, the gun lobby, and the “God, Guns, and Gays” wedge issue proponents who found succor within Republican realms.  His was the “Southern Strategy Fulfilled.”  All of this made it far easier for the beknighted President to advance an agenda that was blatantly anti-union, persistently pro-banking, and generally pro-corporate.   He was, however, not the consistent opponent of the New Deal some conservative would like to remember.

“Reagan increased payroll taxes in 1983. History records that, alarmed by spiraling deficits, he signed tax increases during six of his eight years in office. Even so, his administration tripled the national debt, to almost $3 trillion.” [Salon]

He pulled U.S. forces out of Lebanon after the Beirut Barracks bombing. He gave amnesty to undocumented immigrants.  He did not privatize Social Security, instead he raised the payroll taxes.   What he did do was to popularize some right wing ideas which advanced the corporate agenda (to break the social compact between citizens and their government) such as the “welfare queen.”  Reagan’s world was “Leave it to Beaver” without the unionized employees who made the show possible.  It was “Ozzie and Harriet” without any African American neighbors.  It was “See The USA In Your Chevrolet” without acknowledging the Eisenhower Administration’s grand public works project — the Interstate Highway system.  Reagan, instead, paved the route for the Bush and Rove show.

The Bush-Rove Bargain

The Show was abetted by the advance of right wing talk radio in the AM revival after the fairness doctrine was eliminated during the Reagan Administration in 1987.   The Reaganesque mythology of welfare queens was translated to the John Birch Society – Randian free market mythology, and further transmogrified into Compassionate Conservatism, proving  once and for all times that a snappy slogan exempts the speaker from having to provide any specific, cogent, or rational policy proposals on any given subject.  The spins, the twists, and the dog whistling created an environment in which the Oil Barons, the Bankers, and the CEO’s were the Blesséd Among Us, while the rest of the nation’s population would have to demonstrate their worthiness to receive the charity of the country.  If this is sounding a bit familiar, it should.

The Truth Tellers

One of the well documented features of the Romney-Ryan election efforts was the casual association their campaign had with the truth.  Nor did their campaign suffer from a surfeit of consistency.   Indeed, one of the highlights came when this quotation was captured: “I’m not familiar precisely with what I said, but I’ll stand by what I said, whatever it was,” Romney responded.” [RS]  How on Earth could a candidate get away with this?  Even worse, there was this comment from the Romney camp: “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” Romney pollster Neil Newhouse said at a panel organized by ABC News.” [HP]  The answer may well be that Governor Romney assumed that the Mythology of Reagan, the focus group centered conservatism of Bush, the fulfillment of the Southern Strategy, and the cynicism toward information from the media created by the GOP-Fox-Right Wing radio Echo Chamber, would all culminate in a successful election effort.

What Went Wrong?

Policy Matters.  Those corporate friendly policies of the Bush Administration which tended toward de-regulation, capital flight, and “creative” products to enhance investment revenues collapsed in a staggering heap circa 2007 and 2008.  We went from “Greed Is Good,” back to “Greed Is One Of The Seven Deadly Sins.”

Item – The vaunted and well publicized Supply Side Theory of economics proved illusory, in all probability because it was a hoax in the first place.  It may take the American public some time to understand the facts, but as of 2008 they were inescapable — low taxation did not, and never had, create economic growth in the real economy. No amount of spinning, theorizing, generalizing, or rationalizing can make this ideological theory whole again. Yet the Romney campaign persisted, enabled by the plutocrats on the Rove donor lists, the Club for Growth, the US Chamber of Commerce, and the bankers.

Item – The Republicans themselves, at least in the form of former House Speaker New Gingrich, recognized that they had a Financialist candidate in a race wherein the electorate was still reeling from the effects of financialist excesses.   American voters rejected the Supply Siders, in favor of a candidate whose economic policies emphasize growth not European style austerity, which seems to have done precious little for the Eurozone economic growth rate.

Item – the conservative complaints about immigrants being a curse upon the civil state were strident enough to cause Hispanic voters to express their opinions in the polling that mattered.  Opposition to the DREAM Act, calls for self-deportation, “papers please” legislation,” and charges that the Hispanic community was basically “unAmerican,” didn’t help expand the numbers for the Republican Party.

Item – That “rape thing” in combination with wholesale assaults on the Affordable Care Act, attached to radio ranting about “sluts” who take birth control pills, and associated with the most extreme anti-abortion rhetoric wasn’t good for Republicans either.  Only 15% to 20% of Americans believe that abortion should be illegal in all instances. [PR]  Proposing to adopt policies supported by 20% of the population doesn’t seem to be a constructive way to attract votes from the 46.2% of American women who are registered to vote. [Census]

Leadership 

Leadership matters.   Those not self identified members of the Republican Party have marveled at the importance attached to the opinions of the right wing radio ranters in GOP politics.  There have been several instances in which members of Congress, for example, sought to distance themselves from or disagree with radio commentator Rush Limbaugh — only to walk back their criticism almost immediately. Unfortunately for Republican politicians, Mr. Limbaugh’s misogynistic, racist, and otherwise radical offerings are associated with the fringe right not the moderate middle.

It is handy to have one’s own television network, but Fox News however helpful it seeks to be has done a poor job of informing its viewers.  Studies from the University of Maryland and Fairleigh Dickinson University both demonstrated that Fox viewers were the least well informed, and were often willing to accept obviously inaccurate information.  [HP] Fox’s response was to attack the Universities, not to deny the results of the studies.  The Republicans could be certain to count as theirs the votes among the Fox viewers, but while Fox draws about 604,000 per day [TV] it should be recalled that there are 112,806,642 people in the country between the ages of 18-44, another 81,489,445 aged 45-64, and some 40,267,984 over 65.   In slightly more stark terms, Fox is reaching 604,000 daily viewers out of 234,564,071 of those eligible to vote.

Item – An echo chamber can also be a trap.   From the outside it appears the Republicans can’t decide if they are a Party with its own radio and TV broadcasters, or if they are the operatives responsible for promoting the policies sought by  one television network, and a handful of broadcasters on AM radio.   The Party appears to be functioning without a national spokesperson — is the anointed one Rush Limbaugh? Senator John McCain? Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly?  Governor Mitt Romney? Senator Mitch McConnell?  What are we to think of a party that for two election cycles didn’t (or couldn’t) use the services of its most recent incumbent?

Having an incumbent in the White House is always an advantage, but President Obama is the acknowledged leader of the Democratic Party, and has secured the support of former President Bill Clinton, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senator Dick Durbin, Senator John Kerry, and the imprimatur of the Kennedy family.  GOP spokesperson may rail about the “Chicago” clique responsible for the Obama Campaign, but there’s no mistaking the fact that unlike the GOP there is a clear coterie of national Democratic leadership aligned with an incumbent president.

In Fine

Ancestor worship, focus group politics, and the narrowing perspective along polarized lines promoted by a self referencing media does not constitute a recipe  for long term success.  Self definition works better.  If the GOP is truly the Small Government Party, then the privacy invasive anti-abortion portion of the base will be disappointed.  If the GOP is the Party of Big Business, then eventually small business owners will come to define themselves separately from the mega-corporations and the bankers.  If the GOP is the Party of Social Conservatives then does it permanently constrain its membership to the 20% to 30% of voters for whom issues like abortion are primary considerations?

Perhaps the Party might want to look at Democratic efforts to realign itself after 1988?  There’s a template there should the GOP choose to follow it, but WARNING — it requires moderation.

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Filed under 2012 election, conservatism, Politics, Republicans

2012 Election Results: Who’s Singing What Tune?

Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) will get another turn in the barrel as Senate Majority Leader (LV Sun) and we’ll be treated to another two years of the Waltz of the Hours and Hours and Hours in Washington, D.C.    Who’s collating the sheet music?  What tunes are in the air?

The Republicans are singing “I Will Survive,” and performing anywhere there’s an open microphone.  Their modified lyrics tell us that they didn’t really get shellacked in the 2012 election — it was “the demographics,” i.e. those black and brown people came out in numbers we didn’t expect given our vote suppression efforts.  It was “the urban vote” — ah, those black and brown people and the white  urbanites who vote with them, who voted in numbers far beyond the capacity of our Grumpy Old People to offset.

The tune doesn’t play well considering the map of the 2012 election:

Notice that, indeed, President Obama did well in urban areas, BUT those also include the suburbs.  For example, while Romney won Missouri, he lost in St. Louis City 82.7% (Obama) to 16% (Romney).  He lost St. Louis County 56.2% (Obama) to 42.5% (Romney). [MOSoS]  For those inclined to believe that “urban voters” are necessarily black or brown, it’s instructive to know that the St. Louis Metropolitan area is 76.9% white, 18.5% African American, Hispanic 2.6%, and Asian 2.5%.  [StLDemo]

The second part of “I Will Survive” includes lyrics telling anyone still  listening that the GOP won because they retained control of the House of Representatives.   Really?  And, why would we believe that the election was a positive moment in Republican history when, yes, they did retain control of the House — BUT they’re doing it with six seats less than they had after the 2010 elections? [BusWk]

So, Senator Harry Reid will continue as Senate Majority Leader, with assistance from newly elected Senators from Massachusetts and Indiana, and two independents who will join his caucus; and, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will keep her leadership position in the House — with six new allies.

Little wonder the Democrats might be singing “Who’s Sorry Now?”

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Nevada Roundup and other matters with bonus charts

It’s been too long since the last roundup of Nevada blogs and commentary.  There are some good items and pearls of wisdom to be had from the following posts.  See Nevada Progressive for a description of the New And Improved Bi-Partisan Senator Dean Heller — lest we believe that the Senator is “evolving.”  There’s also a cogent bit of election analysis available from The GleanerSteve Sebelius recounts the Heartbreakers.   Blue Lyon adds a pertinent note on the Senatorial race.  Buzzlzarwnd  adds some more information on the 2012 results.

Speaking of things Congressional, The Nevada View offers an explanation of the components of the national debt in a short video.  More on the Fiscal Cliff (or gentle slope) from Vegas Jessie.  This would be a good time to review a previous post from On My Blotter about the arguments for extending tax cuts for middle class Americans.   There’s a highly recommended read on using the GDP as an indicator of economic health from the Nevada Rural Democratic Caucus blog.   And, there’s a timely reminder that the Congressional Republicans are holding tax cuts from middle income families hostage in order to secure tax cut extensions for millionaires and billionaires from The Gavel.

Click on the chart to go to the President’s address on extending middle class tax cuts.  (Video)

The CBPP provides another perspective on this subject, illustrated by this chart indicating that tax cuts for the very wealthiest among us are NOT a way to economic recovery.

Oh, and by the way — the tax issue Wall Street doesn’t want to talk about (carried interest) is coming to the fore, read more at Business Insider.

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Filed under 2012 election, Congress, Economy, Heller, Nevada politics, presidential race, Taxation

Posting Mortems on the 2012 Election

There are about as many theories as to why Democrats were more successful than Republicans at winning Congressional or national offices as there are certified pundit chatterati to propound them.  Political scientists and political consultants will be pouring over the results for the next two years, and their elucubrations are certain to be the stuff of which political dreams (and perhaps nightmares) are made for the 2014 cycle.  Perhaps too much of what will be produced might be safely dismissed.

We Coulda’ Had A Contender?

The statisticians have yet to apply their fine-toothed combs to the 2012 election results, but the Republican Party, should it not wish to join the Cotton Whigs as a chapter in ancient U.S. History, may want to devise a political platform less oppositional in nature.  However, like their predecessors in Whig-dom, the Republicans are currently offering little more than the same kind of anti-government, fundamentally oppositional, philosophy which informed the opponents of Andrew Jackson. Reagan’s “government is the problem” strategy combined with the Southern Strategy could be characterized, at least superficially, as the logical extrapolation of Whig thought. If the combination was powerful enough to work in previous elections, then why didn’t it work in 2012?

One element of the answer is that in order to be a contender a candidate must represent a vision of America which Americans find appealing.  While negative advertising works tactically, a negative strategy is more difficult to sell.  Reagan’s genius was to turn populism on it’s head — reframing the discussion from how to utilize the government to  protect middle income and working Americans into a discourse about how to restrict government “intrusion” into a generalized notion of private life.  Several specific issues lent themselves to his formula — desegregation, gun control, and a broad attack on “welfare,” defined as any form of government benefit or assistance. However, there is a shelf life for specific issues, and just as items in the refrigerator ought not be eaten after they’ve had an opportunity to become bacteria cultivators for four days, political issues get either stale or toxic.

Republican candidates for national offices were saddled with a 1968 Southern Strategy combined with  Reagan anti-government rhetoric mixed with the Rovian calculation that a coalition of evangelical voters and Wall Street executives and bond traders could be sustained.  Why did they still think this would work?

Because it once did, a notion  rather like believing that at one point in time the macaroni salad in the refrigerator was safe for human consumption.   Let’s not be too hasty to draft the obituary for the Republicans, they still have a fundamentally sound philosophical pantry.  It’s the left overs in the refrigerator that are giving them problems.

The notion of limited government does resonate with the American public.  Where the campaigns deviated from this concept is the point at which the Republican contenders were reduced to pretenders.

When Republicans sought to appeal to their evangelical base, especially the most conservative anti-abortion voters, they faltered badly.  The GOP controlled House of Representatives expended an inordinate amount of time and effort in the 112th Congress on anti-abortion bills; while the public waited for ‘jobs’ legislation. Republican candidates who commented on “rape” invariably found themselves on the losing side of the ledger.  Dissonance, which might be acceptable within the party, became cacophonous when individuals not heavily invested in party identification tried to reconcile individual privacy and limited government with trans-vaginal ultrasound procedures and definitional contortions concerning what constitutes a rape.

When Republicans sought to appeal to their financial sector base, with a perfect candidate in that realm, those working in the ‘real economy’ were horrified by the headline, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”  In financialist terms allowing the automobile industry to be liquidated would have made perfect economic sense.  In mixed economy pragmatic terms it would have made for a perfect disaster.   In practical political terms it was a buzz killer of the first water.

Another feature of the Republican problems of 2012 is that they  are marginally reminiscent of the controversies in early church history.  One of the problems associated with  confessional orthodoxy is that the larger the congregation the greater the propensity of the members to behave more like squirrels in a wheelbarrow than soldiers on parade.  A confession of faith requires the conformation of the Apollinarians, the followers of Docetism, the adherents of Donatism, the advocates of Eutychiaism, and the proponents of both Monophysitism and Monothelitism.  The point is that the narrower the definition of “membership” the smaller the number of members.  While this certainly prevents heresy in the body of the church, if the process isn’t curtailed in politics the results are predictable, without requiring extensive polling.

As long as Republican candidates must pass muster in primary elections and caucuses with a political base intent upon eradicating political heresy, then the candidates risk being out of step with more and more voters.  Do candidates have to pass the heresy test before receiving support from the national party? If the answer is an unqualified ‘yes’ then the number of potential candidates is reduced, and if the number of possible candidates is restricted then the appeal to the general populace is as well.

The Democrats had similar problems in the ’80’s — being defined by the opposition as ‘big spenders,’ and ‘big government’ heirs of the Great Society.  They, too, have their problems in the wake of the 2012 election.

You Never Step In The Same River Twice

The worst use of political  postmortems would be to believe that the past is not only prologue but predictive.  Republicans who thought that the 2012 election would look like its 2004 predecessor were very disappointed.  Democrats who believe that the strategies, tactics, and issues of 2012 will be the same in 2014 are asking for trouble.

Some precepts are timeless: Identify your opponent before he or she can self-define; or, the ground game is the best game in town.  However, there are some elements which are not static.  A good issue or policy position is one for which the ground has been prepared.

Same sex marriage, once used as a wedge issue to drive GOP base voters to the polls, is an example of a River Change in American politics.  An openly gay person will be serving in the U.S. Senate for the next six years, and members of the LGBT community have achieved  offices during the last elections.   The activism of the community prepared the ground such that what was once a wedge issue is now a non-issue in much of the United States.

It’s easy to campaign on the “economy,” everyone does it; but, to conclude that the 2014 elections will be driven by the same kind of economic issues which were in the forefront in 2012 is problematic.   One bit of ground being plowed to greater effect is the revision of the Supply Side theory — once the darling of the business media (and still a strong force in public debate) — this notion has taken a beating in the aftermath of the Recession of 2007-2008.  It may take a further beating if the austerity measures enacted in Europe continue to create lower rates of economic growth than in the United States which has not adopted austerity based economics.

This optimism should come with a warning label:  Ground does not plow itself.  Those who believe that only austerity based policies or only growth based economics are the sole solutions are likely to be disappointed in a mixed economy.  Fiscal restraint is a good thing.  So is government spending to secure automatic stabilizers, to add value to our national infrastructure, and to prevent too many citizen consumers from falling into abject poverty. The consultants (already planning their next gigs) would be well advised to look not to “what worked” in terms of policy based positions in 2012, but toward what are likely to be the newer issues of 2014.

Are we sufficiently attentive to plowing ground to secure popular understanding and support for the renovation of our national infrastructure?  Are we making furrows and seeding greater comprehension of climate change or immigration issues?  Are we aiding popular understanding of educational and technological innovation issues?

Those individuals who think that the election results of 2012 mean we don’t have to discuss austerity economics because “the President won” may be very disappointed if the opposition does a better job of communicating a resurrection of  Trickle Down economics… or if the current  misapplication of “Makers and Takers” definitions persists.  If we aren’t telling the neighbors that Makers are workers who provide goods and services then we ought not be surprised when the Wall Street definition of “Maker” as a hedge fund manager speculating in derivatives becomes a popularly accepted political term of art.

Never Read Your Own Press

If Governor Romney was truly “shell shocked” to discover that he wasn’t winning the election, then he was probably trapped in the Faux News cycle of self referenced self informing self justifying self satisfying information.  One of the oldest adages for any business which deals directly with the public is — The only good news is bad news.

The adage’s implications are obvious.  A company will never improve its products, or never improve its services, if it never finds out anything that might be wrong.  A company which ignores customer complaints about its product shouldn’t be surprised to see declining sales.  A firm which ignores customer dissatisfaction with its level of after sale service will awake — preferably before bankruptcy — to find the customers have gone elsewhere. The adage is just as true for politicians and the citizens they serve.

The politician who only listens to members of his Country Club should not expect to get increasing support from middle income constituents.  Nor should a politician who understands only the perspective of labor leaders expect to comprehend the needs of local retail business owners.  Likewise, a person whose exclusive sources of news are highly polarized may find that like the Apollinarians of faded memory they belong to a marginalized cult rather than a broad element of the body politic.

Polarized information comes in various forms.  We have a spectacular example of a propaganda corporation (Fox News) the sole purpose of which appears to be to fire up whatever portion of the base needs to be manipulated to serve opposition purposes.  They’ve created a relatively fact free zone.  However, it’s only slightly less deleterious to create a zone in which selective facts are provided, without acknowledging that other, more unappealing, elements also need to be considered.  Half baked arguments come from half informed advocates.

Meanwhile Back In The Real World

In an era in which information and data are immediately at hand there is no excuse for the perpetuation of myths which serve the polarization and misinformation now on display.  Our political discourse will be improved when we decide to speak plainly and as accurately as possible.

It is high time to rid ourselves of the myth of the Welfare Queen.  She served her purpose 40 years ago, when she  was the mistress of racial animus. It is also time to stop using euphemisms for privatization.  We could also do with fewer references to collateral damage — a drone strike is a deadly drone strike.  Its time to stop lumping all forms of government assistance as entitlements — Social Security and Medicare are entitlements because we’ve already paid for the programs.  No one is “entitled” to TANF or SNAP benefits; families have to meet qualification standards to receive them.

Part of the improvement of our national discussions should be promoted by our media, but that doesn’t let the rest of us off the hook.  We will get what sponsors think we want — and if we want euphemisms, code words, dog whistles, and conflation that’s what we’ll get.   If we want sharks, bears, and freaks, we’ll get sharks, bears, and freaks.

In short we need to be contenders, never pretending to accept orthodoxy for its own sake; we need to accept that if the past never even past then we’re trapped in our own preconceptions; we need to avoid reading and believing our own press; and, we need to clean up the language in which we converse with one another.   We have some work to do before 2014.

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It’s Official: Democrats Control Nevada Legislature

Well, sort of…but the Nevada Legislature posts a roster of newly elected members of the state Senate and Assembly.   Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson (D-LV) moves from the Assembly to Senate District 4; Aaron Ford (D-LV) represents Senate District 11; Justin Jones (D-LV) represents Senate District 9; Tick Segerbloom (D-LV) moves from the Assembly to represent Senate District 3; Debbie Smith (D-Washoe) former Assemblywoman now represents Senate District 13.  Patricia Spearman (D-LV) now represents Senate District 1; and, former State Senator Joyce Woodhouse (D-LV) regains a seat in the Senate representing District 5.

Republicans needed to win five seats in the state Senate to control that legislative body, but could only secure three of them.  The election had similar results for the Nevada state Assembly, which will also remain in Democratic hands.

“The results ensure that both the 21-member Senate and the 42-member Assembly will remain in control of Democrats in the 2013 session, requiring GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval to work with the opposing party in both houses to push through his education reform agenda in the 2013 legislative session.” [NNB]

… and every other agenda he might have had in mind as well.

State Senate District 15 will be represented by Greg Brower who eked out a narrow victory over Democrat Sheila Leslie.  [NVSoS] Brower has been closely associated with the ultra-right wing ALEC, one of the key organizations associated with vote suppression legislation and other radical right model legislation.

Democrat Dina Titus took Congressional District 1 in a 63.53% to 31.58% shellacking of Republican Chris Edwards.  Unsurprisingly, Republican Mark Amodei won the 2nd District race; and, Joe Heck retained his seat in the 3rd District in a closer race, 50.40% to 47.84%.  Nevada sends Stephen Horsford (D) as its representative from the new 4th District.  [NVSoS]  DB will be watching the antics of incumbent Senator Dean Heller, and Rep. Joe Heck as the 113th session of the US Congress begins.

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2012 The Numbers Game

GOP guru and fundraiser Karl Rove has some questions to answer this month — particularly to some of his largest donors, like Sheldon Adelson of Macau and Nevada — however, there are some systemic issues which have been raised from many sectors that deserve some consideration.

Demographic Shifts

No election is ever exactly like any other.  The candidates may differ, the immediate issues change, and the electorate moves along.  The GOP apparently assumed that the God, Guns, and Gays coalition aligned with Wall Street interests would continue to be a winning combination. Not. So.

Ethnicity Shift: Those who were successful in 2012 were no doubt operating from the 2010 Census.  Specifically, there is a significant shift in our population.

“More than half of the growth in the total U.S. population between 2000 and 2010 was because of the increase in the Hispanic population. Between 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic population grew by 43 percent, rising from 35.3 million in 2000 to 50.5 million in 2010. The rise in the Hispanic population accounted for more than half of the 27.3 million increase in the total U.S. population. By 2010, Hispanics comprised 16 percent of the total U.S. population of 308.7 million.”

“The non-Hispanic population grew relatively slower over the decade at about 5 percent. Within the non-Hispanic population, the number of people who reported their race as white alone grew even slower (1 percent). While the non-Hispanic white alone population increased numerically from 194.6 million to 196.8 million over the 10-year period, its proportion of the total population declined from 69 percent to 64 percent.” [Census]

Democratic Party policy positions on crucial issues like immigration reform and education were more aligned with Hispanic voters’ concerns than the hard-line “no amnesty” approach taken by the GOP candidates.  The results from south Florida aren’t yet available, but we could speculate that older Cuban American voters were more likely to vote for Republicans than their younger, Central America origin neighbors.  GOP opposition to the DREAM Act certainly couldn’t have helped.

Age shift:  Research was published last October which should have been of concern to the Republican Party:

“The Republican Party is not a party of the young. More than two thirds of those polled were over 48 years old and only 20% were in the bottom two age brackets. This raises the question of what kind of a future a party has whose membership averages close to retirement age with very few new members becoming involved at or near college age. There’s not much time left for those who currently lead the party. Membership is already shrinking and the trend suggested in these polls is one which would leave the Republican party as a much smaller minority party in less than a generation.”

The older themes still attuned to the Cold War polarization of Good vs. Evil, US vs. Them, may not, and seemed not, to resonate with younger voters in the 2012 election. Nor did the traditional appeals to “family values” from the 1980’s.  References to “Communism” don’t have the same sound to younger voters most of whom may have been in diapers when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989.   Younger voters are also living in a Post-Stonewall World.  The virulent anti-Gay rhetoric of some GOP candidates and spokespersons doesn’t fit with their world-view.

Religion:  The Republicans did well with born-again Evangelical voters, however those declaring themselves “unaffiliated” has also increased among the general population.

The red outlines superimposed on the Pew Research results indicate that the two groups which gave Governor Romney more support than President Obama in 2012 may indicate a “wash” demographically.

In sum, there are demographic shifts in terms of ethnicity, age, and religious affiliation which suggest a diminishing base for Republican candidates.  However, the hypothesis that any one of these is of singular significance is problematic.

Issue Shifts

Whatever slicing and dicing might be done with polling on issues related to the social safety net, support for long-standing support programs — like Social Security — remain solid.

The Pew Research Center also reported back in October 2011 that its polling found the following opinions concerning federal priorities:

Notice that when American were asked about federal programs which seek to address issues of age, health, and education most Americans do not approve of spending cuts.

The issue for the Republicans then becomes — How do you successfully argue in favor of privatizing Social Security, turning Medicare into a voucher program, cutting Pell Grants, transforming Medicaid into a block grant program with significant cuts in state funding, and reducing funding for programs to help the poor, when the majority of Americans don’t share those views?  Hardline positions assumed by some Republican candidates which ran counter to the overall values of voters did not help the ticket.

Women’s Issues

Ah, recall the old saw: You are known by the company you keep.  Unfortunately, the Republicans offered extreme candidates who in turn provided some of the most strident sound bites in the 2012 campaign season.

Defunding Planned Parenthood, while playing well with some portions of the electorate, added to the “extremist” narrative provided by candidates like Todd Akin, Rick Berg, Richard Mourdock and others.   Nor did generalized attacks on Obamacare — with its provisions for women’s health, gender equity, and benefits for children — serve Republican candidates well among women voters.

Coalition Issues

Elections are numbers games.  The Republican formula in which success could be achieved by combining evangelical voters with Wall Street interests met something of a Waterloo in 2012.  The older, whiter, more socially conservative voters aligned with investment and banking sector support, were insufficient to move the needle away from a Democratic win.   One possible reason for this phenomena is that information and informational changes may also be shifting.

At this point, the Pew Research group is again instructive.  Notice who gets his or her news where:

At this point it looks as though as of 2010 we knew that older voters, more likely to be conservative, were more likely to limit their information to what could be obtained in the right wing sources and similar places.  Younger voters were watching cable — but ‘other’ cable shows, and were getting more of their information from traditional media sources.

This second chart is particularly interesting, because conservative have “ruled” the AM radio territory during the last election cycles.  However, that source has declined precipitously since 1991.   The creation of a self-informing echo chamber brings with it the perils of an ill-informed base. We saw one manifestation of the result:

“Many of us watched in astonishment late Tuesday night as Karl Rove frantically strove to deny his own network’s call of the presidential election. The urge to deny reality runs astoundingly deep at the heart of the right-wing propaganda machine. Even two terms of Barack Obama might not be enough to cure that sickness.” [Salon]

The tendrils of the problem entrap those with relatively narrow perspectives.  A smaller group, seeking to perpetuate issues of declining interest to a larger portion of the population, and clinging to a declining form of information transmission, isn’t likely to find larger audiences.

Well and often used business rule: When you are gaining a larger percentage of a declining market — you are in trouble.  If you have a larger audience on AM radio and a handful of cable news channels,  while information from the Internet, satellite radio, social media, and an expanding cable presence, then some questions need to be raised about how that Bubble can be sustained.

In the mean time, Democrats celebrate an outstanding victory in 2012 while the Republicans seek to determine how to avoid the fate of their party in California in the aftermath of Prop 187 in 1994.

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