Tag Archives: elections

ICYMI: In Case You Missed It, Instant Summer Reading Recommendations

The Nevada Independent has several excellent articles about the health insurance ‘reform’ battle in the state,  I’d recommend starting with ‘Senator Cortez-Masto’s denunciation of the Senate health bill,” and move on to ‘Dispatches from Washington.’

The Reno Gazette Journal reports (video) on Rep. Jacky Rosen’s (D-NV3) decision to run for Senator Dean Heller’s seat.

Please note TPM’s report from the conference of Secretaries of State concerning election data security.  If this conclusion doesn’t disturb us, it should:

“But both Republican and Democratic Secretaries of State, who are responsible for carrying out elections in many states, said they have been frustrated in recent months by a lack of information from federal intelligence officials on allegations of Russian meddling with the vote. They say that despite the best efforts by federal officials, it may be too late in to make substantive changes.”

Interestingly enough, vote suppression advocate Chris Kobach was a no-show at the meeting.  Perhaps this is because some election experts have identified major flaws in Kobach’s “election integrity” plans.

And, now we get to “muddle time” during which the current administration tries to muddy the waters about the  other election problem — Russian interference.  Spokespersons and advocates are on the air-waves saying that “Gee, it’s not 17 intelligence agencies, it’s actually just a handful of people who reached the conclusion that the Russians meddled,”  which is one tactic to discredit the reports that are unequivocal in their assessment that, yes, the Russians interfered.   Following this comes the Gee Whiz moment in which the apologist who says that “we’ve not actually seen the evidence of this.”  A statement such as this is simply a variation on the previous talking point:  We’ve investigated this enough, there’s nothing there, move along please.

Speaking of elections, please take a look at the bill introduced by Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV2) HR 2101, the Prior Approval Reform Act:  To amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to expand the ability of trade associations to solicit contributions from the stockholders and executive or administrative personnel of their member corporations, and for other purposes.  The effective date, January 1, 2018, would allow more “corporate” money in politics just in time for 2018 campaign season.   The Associated General Contractors would be pleased to see this enacted. [pdf]  Those disturbed by the dark, and darker money, flowing into our campaigns should track this bill.

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Filed under Amodei, Health Care, health insurance, Heller, Nevada politics, Politics, Vote Suppression, Voting

It’s Not 1950 Anymore

Women Workplace Back in the day, those days of uncompromising conformity, women weren’t in the workforce in large numbers. They had been. They were home now, advised by various and sundry home & shelter magazines to “make way for the boys coming home” from World War II.  Conventional wisdom said that nice girls got jobs in secretarial occupations, teaching (mostly elementary), nursing (not so much as physicians), and domestic service.  There were the outliers – the women who wanted to be accountants not simply bookkeepers; the women who wanted to design kitchens not merely cook in them; the women who wanted to be engineers crafting plans for automobiles not just driving the kids to Scout meetings.  However, for too long they remained the outliers.

Job interviews until relatively recently allowed men (who did the hiring) to ask women (who wanted the jobs) to ask about the applicant’s love life – the real question being “How long are you going to be with us before you get married and quit?”  Or, “…until you get in a ‘family way’ and we ‘have to let you go’.”

In a way the 1950’s Rules of the Gender Game were as deleterious to men as to women.  The entire onus of family expenses in white suburbs was on the man.  The ‘little woman’ could work for some ‘pocket money’ but this wasn’t considered completely within the Rules.  It was expected in white circles that African American women would work, after all “they had to,” – but again, not as the doctor, but as the nurse; not as the architect but as the cook.  It was all very domestic.

It was all completely phony.  How did so many women acquire basic  bookkeeping skills? Quite often They were keeping the household accounts.  Clean, launder, cook, and keep track of the mortgage and car payments; make sure the charge accounts were paid and the Green Stamps collected in the books for redemption.

It was all economically counterproductive.  How many elements of technological progress were delayed because a qualified women was passed over in favor of a less qualified man?  How many companies suffered because men were promoted and paid more than many over-qualified women, resulting in less overall productivity?

It was all potentially dangerous.

While the economic onus was placed on the male, the sexual issues came down on the female.  It was her place to “control herself.”  Boys would be boys, after all they just  “sowed wild oats,” but the young ladies – it, nay, IT, was her fault.  She wanted IT. She asked for IT. She deserved IT.  She dressed for IT. She didn’t resist IT. She was in the wrong place, the wrong time, doing the wrong thing and “that’s what happens.”

So, if he lurked around the water cooler making cracks about the fit of her sweater over the bra designed to define and shape the bust…that was also “what happens.”   If he didn’t mind a bit if she bent over to retrieve a file folder… If he wasn’t “really serious” if she showed a bit of cleavage, then she shouldn’t mind either. After all, department store catalogs of the era advised women how to dress to “please the husband,” or to attract one.

If the tenor of the times made the sopranos uncomfortable, gee, it couldn’t be more uncomfortable than those girdles with the hosiery clips attached?  Indeed, most men did treat their wives with respect, their children with courtesy, and their friends wives with civility.  However, that didn’t prevent  or indeed even much shame the troglodytes who delighted in patting fannies and snapping bras.  This activity didn’t go un-noticed but it wasn’t enough to make a ‘real’ man feel discouraged.  And that’s the point.

It isn’t 1950 anymore.  It’s no longer acceptable to opine sourly but quietly that Dodgy Roger at the garage is hassling the women in the office; Dodgy is going to find himself on the wrong end of an HR complaint.  It’s no longer acceptable to ignore Jumpy John’s continual disparagement of his female cohorts … it’s another route to an EEOC investigation.  It’s no longer acceptable to say “that’s his private business,” when men engage in obscenities and vulgarities in the workplace. It’s not business and if it’s in the workplace it’s not private.

The hard fact of life for vulgarian men is that while the general atmosphere of the 1950s allowed men to avoid some of the more quotidian consequences of unseemly behavior – boorishness and obscenity have never really been socially acceptable. To believe that they once were is to indulge in a fantasy past that never truly defined a reality; they are left with residuals which still make life more difficult for women.

To engage that fantasy is to forget that even in the 1950s invitations to a backyard picnic dwindled if the boor didn’t mend his ways; social interactions at church, in public, and in private diminished as the unacceptable behavior increased.   The difference sixty six years later is that real men do understand the meaning of ‘consent,’ and that real men are less accepting of marginal behavior.   Real women are less likely to remain quiet about sexual harassment and assaults, although they are still vilified for speaking out as if the entire burden of proper behavior is still attached to them.

She should have reported it. She should have reported it sooner. She should have reported it to more than family and friends. She should have reported it to the police. She should have …. When the real question should be: Why did HE do it in the first place?

So, no, it’s not 1950 anymore.  1950 wasn’t even what some contemporary boors imagine it to be.  Perhaps the best we can do is continually remind the boorish vulgarians among us that while progress has been made and there’s little room in contemporary society for their antics, we still have a ways to go.

We still have some distance to cover to remove ourselves from the make way for the boys mentality, the admonitions of the catalog sales department that a well fitting sweater could please him or attract him; from the uninformed attitudes that boys should be given more latitude than girls in matters of manners and morality.   I agree with the First Lady, it seems unconscionable that we’re still talking about the basics of human civility.

One of the most interesting questions surrounding our current election season is if we, as a society, are as willing to confront the agents of social aggression as we are to confront foreign acts of aggression?

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Filed under women, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

Important Dates: 2016 Election

Nevada Voter Registration 2016

_____ Register to vote

_____ Check your own registration

_____ Help someone else register to vote

_____ Help them check their registration

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Filed under elections, Nevada politics, Politics

Polls, Pols, and Timing

Ballot box 2

There are 517 days until the next general election. 517.  That is almost 17 months.  Or, to illustrate it another way, an infant born today will be walking at the time the election comes around, and the little darling will be feeding itself (sort of, if you count spaghetti “worm wrestling” as a form of feeding).  By 18 months the toddler will have about a 20 word vocabulary, to apply along with an assortment of noises, some of which will be comprehensible.  Our toddling little newbie will also be a master of mimicry – which is fine if we’re talking about wiping a table with a sponge, not so fine if it’s an antique hardwood table.  In other words – it’s a LONG time before the next presidential/general election.  There are some things we can do as “consumers” of election and political news which can help make the 2016 experience more positive.

#1. Insist on the development of ISSUES.  For example, what is the best way to promote the growth of the American economy.  This is a long established issue, but remember, we want the development of this issue, not merely a collection of sound bites and dog whistles, and in a rational world this is the appropriate time for the parties to prepare the general outlines of their specific proposals.  Contrary to the common media offering of “What will Candidate X’s statement on job creation mean for blue collar voters?” think about what economic philosophy is the Candidate espousing?  Once the philosophy is clarified then individual proposals can be evaluated on the basis of how they will affect crucial elements of our economy and not merely for select electoral groups.  Consider the source.

Unfortunately, those who get air time, and the attention of punditry, are those who are dramatic, flashy, confrontational — or “newsworthy.”  Is that dramatic, flashy, confrontational candidate really the standard bearer for the party?  If not, then all that’s been accomplished from the issue development side of the ledger is the addition of much bombast and hot air.  This, like the tantrum of a not-quite-two year old, can be safely dealt with by taking a few deep breaths and staying calm.

#2. Insist on transparency.  In an era of “dark money” we need to know if the candidate is being manipulated by large donors of the Super Pac variety. Again, this far out from the general election, it’s still ‘finance’ time for the candidates.   And, in terms of finance, do I want to cast my vote for an individual who is receiving massive amounts of money from sources which are unidentified? Perhaps, it’s more important at this point in time to know to whom candidates (especially presidential aspirants) are speaking than exactly what they say.

Let’s assume at this early date that the candidates will say what they perceive the audience wants to hear – because the candidates are not necessarily there to propose profound ideas – but to collect money.  Buzz words beget buzz and buzz opens billfolds.

#3. Ignore polling. Of all my gripes with modern cable news, the persistence of polling and the reports of polling, heads the list.  17 months out from a general election the only thing we learn from polling is the level of a candidate’s name recognition.   Recognition is a long long way from establishing a ‘brand’ and even further from creating ‘identification’ on the part of the voting public.  I am about to decide that the level of poll reporting done by a media outlet is an indication of its general lack of resources and talent. The more polling reports the greater the paucity of resources and the less imaginative and intelligent the management.

And, herein I’ll give Secretary Clinton some props.

One of the more interesting bits of whining from the D.C. media came from Politico’s publication of Glenn Thrush’s ear-splitting screed about how Secretary Clinton ‘hates the press.’   There is a time for more media access, but 17 months out from a presidential election  isn’t it.  This, for politicians behaving like adults, is the time for dealing with finances and issue development.

Politico also seemed distressed that when Secretary Clinton recently visited Iowa she focused on “preaching to the choir,” in “controlled environments.”  Of course she met with “activists.” Who else does one meet with to set up the ‘ground game’ and seek donations?  Could we also say that when three Republican governors met with mega-donor Sheldon Adelson in late March, the candidates were “preaching to the choir in a controlled environment?”  Of course they were – it’s what candidates do at this stage of the game.

Speaking of issues – the only time we’ll see the entire project launched in a single moment is in a shipyard. Otherwise, we’ll see proposals rolled out one at a time; especially when there’s an advantage to be gained by putting the opposition on the defensive.  On Thursday, June 4, Secretary Clinton released her proposals concerning the expansion of voting rights.  Republicans, who’ve been hard pressed to find significant examples of voter fraud, were caught without a clear response:

“The result is a dynamic in which Republicans are outraged by an ambitious Clinton proposal, for reasons they have not yet identified. Christie thinks voter fraud is a massive problem in New Jersey, which isn’t true, and under the circumstances, isn’t entirely relevant. Perry thinks the status quo in Texas is already great, which would come as news to the 600,000 people the Republican governor helped disenfranchise. Kasich is worried about being “divisive,” as if expanded voting access is somehow inherently acrimonious.” [Benen]

Governor Scott Walker opined that the proposal was out of the mainstream and defied logic – although he couldn’t explain why or how. [Benen]  When issue positions are carefully crafted, and selectively timed, the result is usually good, i.e. the opponents are on the defensive, and “when you’re explaining, you’re losing.”

Thus far the Clinton Campaign has done a good job of staying on target, not rushing the timing, and not clamoring for any more attention from the press than is necessary to get selected messages out while concentrating on the issue development and financial aspects of the campaign.  (Don’t worry, I’ll have kind things to say about Senator Bernie Sanders later, but I think he’s running a very different model of campaigning.)

In the mean time, as those toddlers start walking and feeding themselves, the Beltway Media may want to take some time to review the structure and timing of politicians and campaigns, and not become too enamored of explaining and analyzing their own somewhat worthless polling.

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Filed under Economy, media, Nevada politics, Politics

Who Are We?

Sorrow So, we have the usual post mid-term election gnashing of teeth and rending of fabrics, and while I’ve assiduously avoided the Pundits, there are some ordinary types who  have some insights which deserve a mention and more.

Messages and Media

For example, there’s this excerpt from the comments section of the previous post:

“It isn’t so hard to realize what we need to do — but I’ve been saying this for five years straight. We need to run against REPUBLICANS, not the one Republican that is our opponent. We need to put Republicans on the defensive, instead of letting them define the situations so we are too bust defending ourselves.”

There are two kernels of useful insight illustrated here. First, that Democrats have to define their agenda more clearly and succinctly for public consumption.  The first element leads to the second: Democrats need to adopt the time honored rule of election campaigning – define your opponent before he or she defines you.

What ARE we for?

Economically speaking we’re FOR increasing the prosperity of the 99% of the citizens in this nation; those who are not members of the exclusive set of 1%’ers  whose income is primarily obtained by investment.  Or, in a shorter version – we’re the party for Middle Class Americans.

Socially speaking we’re FOR liberty and opportunity for all. We respect the rights of every single citizen in this nation – white, black, young, old, male and female, gay and straight.

Politically speaking we embrace diversity.  There are fiscally conservative Democrats who are socially liberal.  Socially liberal Democrats who are economically more conservative,  and we want every one of them to believe that the right to vote is essential for one and all.

We can distill this down even more finely: We are the party for the vast majority of Americans, and those who want everyone to participate in our democracy.

Who ARE they?

The Republicans are the party of the 1%, a party which embraces the interests of Wall Street and the financial sector.  They oppose increasing the minimum wage; they oppose equal pay for equal work; they oppose any proposition to make health insurance more affordable, and any plan to allow students to refinance student loans at more affordable rates.  They oppose any regulation of the financial sector, in the face of the Enrons, World Coms, Lehman Brothers and similar debacles.  Ye shall know them by their works.

The Republicans are the party of exclusion.  “Some people” ought not to be included in ‘their America;’  while they speak of divisive politics in sneering tones,  it was their idea to peddle the notion that both white and black Americans receiving social services were ‘stealing from the pockets’ of hard working people.  While they speak of the politics of division, it is their adherence to the idea that America is a Christian Nation – in spite of large numbers of non-believers, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, and non-evangelicals among us.    The only way their Politics of Complaint works is via the ideological buttress that they are a Persecuted Majority – a more illogical concept is difficult to imagine.

The Republicans are the party of Big Daddy Government.   Hey, African American citizen or Hispanic American citizen – know your place, and it’s not at the precinct polling station.   Hallo, Little Lady – Father knows best. You should have that transvaginal ultrasound procedure, whether you want it or not.  Your employer will decide if you can get affordable contraceptive prescriptions.  Hello, little man – we’ll tell you all those things of which you should be afraid.  Don’t fret, while you’re worried about your job being off-shored to some Asian manufacturing base, Big Daddy will protect you from ISIS, Ebola, the IRS, the Homosexual Agenda (whatever that might be?) and Big Government.

We’ve seen Big Daddy on the silver screen, he was Burl Ives in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof.  He’s white, he’s rich, he’s large. He’s a fetishist of the first water.  He will have what he wants when he wants it.  He’s Entitled to what he wants when he wants it.  Not a very appealing character – but he was never meant to be; he’s beyond caring about being acceptable, he’d rather simply be obeyed.

Media and Messages

Forget about seeing the corporate media independently reveal the elitism, or the exclusionism, or the innate authoritarianism of the Right.  Corporations are people, with shareholder value to consider, ratings to gain and advertising to sell.   Witness the disdain with which the chatterati observed the Occupy Movement.   Witness the decline in the popularity of broadcast and print media as sources of news.  It’s in the interstitial  spaces where opportunity lies.

There’s room in the use of one of the oldest axioms of political life: All politics is local.   However, in this world there are two kinds of local: Your neighbors, friends, and physical community; and your social media friends and followers.   Thus far both parties seem to be clutching  a rather old fashioned view of social media – both my e-mail inbox, and the inbox of a Republican friend were overflowing with Send Money Messages (attached to precious little substance) during the last campaign – who’s going to be the first to fully capitalize on the power of social media to DEFINE the opposing party? The opposing party’s candidates?

There are spaces in and among interest groups.  During the recent election I received three glossy mailers opposing a tax increase to support the Nevada Distributive School Fund – all three contained massive misinformation, and all three came from the same source – a combine of Real Estate Interests.  There was precious little tie-in between candidates and the tax issue on display in this little segment of the world.  There should have been. Who should have told me that a combination of corporate interests and Republican allies were opposing more money for schools?

Big Money groups, a product of the highly unfortunate but ultimately predictable decision in Citizens United,  can only drive a message so far. And their range can be constrained by defining them as antithetical to local interests.  For example, a pro-NRA candidate won the Arkansas election for Senator, BUT Washington state voters overwhelmingly passed I-594, an initiative requiring background checks for firearm sales. [MMA]

“[Washington voters] showed that while the gun lobby can intimidate politicians in Washington, it’s a lot harder to intimidate America’s voters,” former US Representative Gabby Giffords said in a statement last night. “This victory for responsibility in Washington State sends a clear message to the other Washington that if Congress is not ready to act to reduce gun violence, voters in states around the country can and will take the matter into their own hands.” [The Nation, 11/5/14]

There’s a message here.  The Big Money NRA took a position antithetical to local interests.

There’s also another space into which the message can be inserted: All politics is national.   There are some newly elected Republicans who could come to symbolize the state of the party. Do your friends and neighbors, physical and social media, relate to this comment from Joni Ernst (R-IA)

“I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere. But I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family — whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.”  [HuffPo]

Then there’s newly elected Representative Crescent Hardy (R-NV4) opining on the situation with the standoff between Federal officials and the ‘sovereign citizen’ domestic terrorists on the Bundy Ranch:

“But Hardy also claimed that the BLM and federal park rangers had no right to enforce laws on the property in question. Asked about that odd statement, Hardy cited the Constitution and the Federalist Papers, which he said were ‘part of the Constitution,’ although he acknowledged he couldn’t immediately identify a passage to support his contention.”  [LVRJ]

And who could forget Senator Ted Cruz and his government shutdown, except that he’d very much like to have everyone forget he was for it before he was against it. Remember the headline, “House Republicans Credit Ted Cruz As Government Shutdown Looms?”   He’d very much like for us to forget this, unfortunately for Cruz and the Republicans – it’s still out there.  Who would like to be associated with these three? Some will, and the rock bottom base of the GOP will cling to these characters like quagga on a row boat – the great American middle?  Perhaps not so much, especially if Democrats are capable of defining their opponents before the opponents define them.

A modest example: What might happen if some party activists, or some interest group, or just a small group of independent citizens, put together a Top Ten List of Great Republican Quotes periodically, and sent them to everyone on their “mailing” list – to be forwarded to everyone on the recipient’s “mailing” lists… Or how about a nice Viral Video?  These activities are relatively cheap and depend more on relationships than money – things could get interesting? If a single person shipped off a Famous GOP Quote to everyone on their e-mail list even if it’s a modest five person collection and each recipient forwarded the message to another five … it doesn’t take long to get to some 625 people, 3125 people….

Here’s hoping the Democratic Party in Nevada, and elsewhere, is not depending on the Big Draw of  a Presidential election to create an atmosphere conducive to the Democratic agenda for 2016.  I hope that the candidate recruitment process is going on NOW. That the messaging process is being calculated NOW. And that the penultimate strategy is we have nothing to fear from Republican candidates other than fear itself.

Democrats have a party the leadership of which: Produced 63 consecutive months of economic growth; we have 54 straight months of increased private sector employment; the unemployment rate has dropped from 10.1% in October 2009 to 5.9%; the federal deficit has been reduced by 66% since October 2009; the rate of federal spending increases is the lowest (1.4%) since the Eisenhower administration; 95% of Americans pay lower taxes than at any time in the last fifty years; 7 million Americans have health insurance they could not have afforded before the ACA; and the rate of health care spending increases has been less (1.3%) than any year since 1965. [pdf]

Cutting through the Crap from the Noise Machine

No regular viewer of the Faux News Machine is going to believe anything in the previous paragraph.  There is a non-productive tendency to want to answer everything tossed out by the Noise Machine when in fact it may better serve Democrats to let them indulge in their regular tantrums and merely enjoy the ludicrous irrationality.

Perhaps we’d be better served by a narrative about fear – as in we’re tired of being afraid.  When did this nation become such a country filled with shrinking violets that we can become frightened of ONE case of Ebola infection in our entire territory?

When did this nation become so afraid of our own neighbors that we must arm ourselves to the gunwales and tremble before the prospect – highly unlikely – of a home invasion?  (the rate is about 0.42%)  When did we become such a troupe of Wet Pants Dancers that we, all 319,000,000 of us,  don’t think we can stand up to 33,000 wacky terrorists in Iraq and Syria?

When did we become so afraid of “debt” that we can’t even consider improving our physical infrastructure, building schools and libraries, expanding our parks, employing more high school counselors, increasing the capacity of our community colleges and technical schools, improving medical and social services for veterans, investing in medical and scientific research….   There are issues here. Positive, practical issues.  We could use some new voices – voices that aren’t afraid – voices telling us we are the strongest, most productive, richest, and most vibrant nation on the face of this planet – and it’s high time we acted like it.

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Backtracking From Pat Hickey: NV GOP leaders march away

Pat HickeyWell, that didn’t take long.  The Reno Gazette Journal headline reads: “Sandoval, Heller distance selves from Reno Assemblyman Hickey.”

“Top Republicans distanced themselves Thursday from Nevada’s Assembly minority leader over comments he made on a conservative radio talk show that Democrats say show the GOP wants to suppress the minority vote.

Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Reno, touched off a political firestorm when he said the 2014 election could be a boon for Republicans because many minorities and younger people won’t vote.

“It’s a great year for Republicans,” he told Dan Mason on KOH-AM radio in Reno, noting “a lot of minorities, a lot of younger people will not turn out in a nonpresidential year.” [RGJ]

After creating a lovely firestorm of national notoriety, Assemblyman Hickey apologized, and said it was never his intention to be insensitive, etc.   The apology would be ever so much more effective had not Assemblyman Hickey (R-Reno25) been closely associated with the ALEC inspired agenda in recent sessions of the Nevada Legislature.    It might also have been more effective had not Assemblyman Hickey been one of the sponsors of a voting ID bill (AB 310) in the 2011 session of the Legislature.  And, it might have sounded less  hollow had Assemblyman Hickey not been a co-sponsor of AB 319 in the 2013 session which required photo identification for voting — a surefire vote suppression technique.

Meanwhile the GOP “rebranding” efforts, and “outreach” activities aimed at minority ethnic groups, women, and young people is quite likely “Dead on Arrival,” [TP 8/16/13] Salon has declared it “Officially Dead.”   Assemblyman Hickey may have helped pound another nail into the coffin.

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Filed under Nevada politics, Politics, Vote Suppression, Voting

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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