It’s as if they didn’t learn a thing from the 2012 elections. Republicans are on the same suicide mission as before - - trying to block immigration reform (if they can’t scuttle it in the Senate, they’re ready to in the House), roll back the clock on abortion rights (they’re pushing federal and state legislation to ban abortions in the first 22 weeks), and stop gay marriage wherever possible.
As almost everyone knows by now, this puts them the wrong side of history. America is becoming more ethnically diverse, women are gaining economic and political power, and young people are more socially libertarian than ever before.
Why can’t Republicans learn?
It’s no answer to say their “base” — ever older, whiter, more rural and male — won’t budge. The Democratic Party of the 1990s simply ignored its old base and became New Democrats, spearheading a North American Free Trade Act (to the chagrin of organized labor), performance standards in classrooms (resisted by teachers’ unions) and welfare reform and crime control (upsetting traditional liberals).
The real answer is the Republican base is far more entrenched, institutionally, than was the old Democratic base. And its power is concentrated in certain states — most of the old Confederacy plus Arizona, Alaska, Indiana, and Wisconsin — which together exert more of a choke-hold on the Republican national party machinery than the old Democrats, spread widely but thinly over many states, exerted on the Democratic Party.
These Republican states are more homogenous and conspicuously less like the rest of America than the urbanized regions of the country that are growing more rapidly. Senators and representatives from these states naturally reflect the dominant views of their constituents — on immigration, abortion, and gay marriage, as well as guns, marijuana, race, and dozens of other salient issues. But these views are increasingly out of step with where most of the nation is heading.
This state-centered, relatively homogenous GOP structure effectively prevents the Party from changing its stripes. Despite all the post-election rhetoric about the necessity for change emanating from GOP leaders who aspire to the national stage, the national stage isn’t really what the GOP is most interested in or attuned to. It’s directed inward rather than outward, to its state constituents rather than to the nation.
This structure also blocks any would-be “New Republicans” such as Chris Christie from gaining the kind of power inside the party that a New Democrat like Bill Clinton received in 1992. The only way they’d be able to attract a following inside the Party would be to commit themselves to policies they’d have to abandon immediately upon getting nominated, as Mitt Romney did with disastrous results.
It’s true that by 1992 Democrats were far more desperate to win the presidency — having been in the wilderness for twelve years — than today’s GOP appears to be. Nonetheless it’s doubtful the GOP will be willing to eschew its old base even if it loses the presidency again in 2016, because without its collection of relatively homogenous states, there just isn’t much of a GOP.
The greater likelihood is a steady eclipse of the Republican Party at the national level, even as it becomes more entrenched in particular states. Those states can be expected to become regressive islands of backwardness within a nation growing steadily more progressive.
The GOP’s national role will be primarily negative — seeking to block, delay, and filibuster measures that will eventually become the law of the land in any event, while simultaneously preaching “states’ rights” and praying for conservative majorities on the Supreme Court.
In other words, more of the same.
WashingtonPost: The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping into the central servers of nine leading US Internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time.
The classified program, code-named PRISM, has not been disclosed publicly before Friday’s story in the Washington Post.
Its establishment in 2007 and six years of exponential growth took place beneath the surface of a roiling debate over the boundaries of surveillance and privacy.
More from the Post on the program here.
One of the companies is new Tumblr parent company Yahoo. Dropbox is reportedly next on the list.
Howard Kurtz, former Washington Post reporter and current host of Reliable Sources on CNN.
Read his excellent takedown of media failures in the run up to the Iraq war here.
The United States has violated Pakistan’s sovereignty and shattered tribal structures with unmanned drone strikes in its counterterrorism operations near the Afghan border, a U.N. human rights investigator said in a statement on Friday.
“I have come to believe that if two people are prepared to make a lifetime commitment to love and care for each other in good times and in bad, the government shouldn’t deny them the opportunity to get married. That isn’t how I’ve always felt. As a congressman, and more recently as a senator, I opposed marriage for same-sex couples. Then something happened that led me to think through my position in a much deeper way.
Two years ago, my son Will, then a college freshman, told my wife, Jane, and me that he is gay…”
- Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), announcing that after wrestling with the issue, he now supports marriage equality.
Now if only one of the Portman kids could come out as poor or unemployed, maybe Congress could pass a decent budget.
That Rob Portman — an actual honest-to-God Republican Senator and not just a has-been party operative or a GOP flack looking to be an MSNBC contributor — supports marriage equality is awesome. All hail Rob Portman and his son.
I only wish politicians of all ideological stripes would learn to generalize from something other than their immediate experience.
Does everyone remember Sen. Mark Kirk, the Illinois Senator who suffered a stroke and then realized that stroke victims on Medicaid may not be receiving optimal care? This is from the Chicago Sun-Times:
“I will look much more carefully at the Illinois Medicaid program to see how my fellow citizens are being cared for who have no income and if they suffer from a stroke,” Kirk said. He said in general a person on Medicaid would be allowed 11 rehab visits in Illinois.
“Had I been limited to that I would have had no chance to recover like I did. So unlike before suffering the stroke, I’m much more focused on Medicaid and what my fellow citizens face.”
I’m glad he cares about low-income Illinoisans who have suffered strokes! But there are also lots of people on Medicaid who have diabetes or heart disease or cancer and they all need help too. And beyond Medicaid, the poor need housing and transportation and affordable child care and food and heaven-forbid, actual money, so that they won’t be so poor anymore.
I struggle with empathy quite a bit, but I don’t need to have a stroke to realize that low-income people need access to high-quality medicine and a a slew of other services.
So, back to Portman. It’s great that his son came out. It’s a reminder that announcing your sexual identity to your family is a very powerful political act. It’s great that Portman supports SSM now. No snark about that.
But we can’t have policy being made entirely based on personal experience. Portman probably doesn’t have a transgender son. Or a Muslim son living in Pakistan. Or a daughter who can’t pay the rent. But the policies he helps make in Washington affects all those people and it’s not asking too much to expect elected officials to base their policy views on something other than their family circumstances.
(And if you’re near a TV, tune into MSNBC’s The Ed Show now!)
Can we just put aside ideology for one minute and agree that businesses hire more workers if they have more customers, and fire workers if they have fewer customers?
There are two big categories of customer: One is comprised of individual consumers. The other is government.
We tend to think of the government as a direct employer — of teachers, fire fighters, civil servants.
But government is also a major customer of the private sector. It buys school supplies, pharmaceuticals, military equipment, computers. It hires private companies to build roads and bridges, dredge ports, manage data.
One out of every five Americans works for a company whose customer is the government.
Here’s the problem: Both categories of customer are buying less.
Individual consumers are buying less because they have less take-home pay. Their wages are dropping (the median wage is 8 percent below what it was in 2000, adjusted for inflation). And their taxes have gone up. The expiration of the Social Security payroll tax cut will shrink the typical paycheck by more than $1,000 this year.
Less take-home pay is causing 45.7 percent of consumers to pull in their belts, according to a survey released Thursday by the National Retail Federation. A quarter of consumers are putting off big-ticket purchases. A third are cutting back on eating out. A fifth are spending less on groceries.
This is why January’s retail sales rose at their smallest rate in three months.
What about the other big customer – government? It used to be that when consumers spent less, government stepped into the breach and spent more in order to keep people employed. That’s what we were supposed to have learned from the Great Depression.
No longer. Government is cutting back, too. Deficit hawks and government-haters are insisting on it.
Last year, President Obama agreed to $1.5 trillion of spending cuts, which have already begun.
Unless Republicans and Democrats reach a budget agreement before next Friday, another $85 billion of spending cuts go into effect this year. They’ll begin almost immediately.
With consumers and government both spending less, businesses won’t hire more workers; they’ll fire more workers. That’s likely to happen in coming months.
Anyone with half a brain should be able to understand all this. But apparently many in Washington don’t have half a brain.