[T]he party’s main problem … is who delivers [the Republican] message and how, not the message itself. “We don’t need a new pair of shoes; we just need to shine our shoes,” said … committeewoman Melody Potter.
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But Republican advocates of marijuana moderation don’t have an easy task. Just because GOP voters might accept the state-rights frame provided by a poll question doesn’t mean that the frame would prevail in a debate. The exit polls in Colorado and Washington, as well as recent Quinnipiac polls, suggest that about 65-70 percent of conservatives, white evangelical Christians, and Republicans are opposed to marijuana legalization. If the Obama administration allowed Colorado and Washington to violate federal law, moderation might become even more difficult as conservative media launch a crusade against a lawless administration.I didn’t think it was quite this bad, though I’m not surprised. Of course, opinions can change, sometimes very rapidly. The Democratic Party went from being strongly for gun control to being indifferent to it on an institutional level, for all the good it did them. But it looks as though engineering this sort of shift would take a enormous amount of effort on the part of party actors, to such an extent that a canny operator would probably be inclined to try something else. This is less “quick fix” than “long-term project,” which makes the likelihood of Democrats getting scooped on the issue much smaller. I feel like, with resepct to Washington and Colorado, what matters most is that the initiatives passed, more so than what the Administration does in reaction to them. The idea that legalization is imminent is more real than it was a few months ago.
Since this is a beat that I usually follow, I’m posting a little something about the Blue Dogs. As we know, the 2010 elections severely depleted the numbers of conservative Democrats in Congress, and this cycle did so again. It’s looking like about fifteen Blue Dogs are going to be in Congress next year, maybe a few more if some of the incoming freshmen decide to join up, but probably not much more. The end is definitely drawing near. Still, it’s worth spending a moment reflecting on why this group used to be powerful. Aside from their numbers, the clout the Blue Dogs had came from a claim–not inherently implausible–that their group was the one group that was able to really hold onto bipartisan support. There was some basis for this–after all, the 2009-2010 session included quite a few Democrats from very Republican districts. Gene Taylor and Chet Edwards both represented R+20 districts. Arkansas had three of four Democrats in its House delegation, Tennessee five of nine. Democrats held House seats in solid-red states like Kansas, Oklahoma, and the Dakotas. This added up to a lot of Democrats accountable to Republican electorates, and many of these Democrats were of long seniority, seeming as if they weren’t mere flashes in the pan.
This was somewhat remarkable, but it turns out that it had little to do with political philosophy, and everything to do with inertia and incumbency. Pretty much all these guys got wiped out in 2010, and what remains are essentially conventional Democrats whose iconoclasm is held in check by the fact they represent districts that could send liberal Democrats to Congress. Mike Thompson identifies as a Blue Dog, but the district he currently represents could easily send a Nancy Pelosi-style liberal to Congress (he literally represents Humboldt County! i.e. Marijuana central), so Thompson has to avoid moving too far to the right lest he draw a tough challenger. This is true of virtually every current Blue Dog. The likelihood that Jim Cooper of Tennessee or Mike Michaud of Maine be replaced by someone to the right of them is astronomical, Cooper represents pretty much the last progressive seat in the state and Maine is a blue state. Sure, there are a few of the old-school Blue Dogs left, like Jim Matheson and John Barrow, but the former was most likely saved by having a last name that is golden with voters of his state (and both are exceptionally good campaigners). Rather than being a body whose electoral incentives pulled them to the right of the Democratic consensus–and who could throw down a “take it or leave it” challenge if they didn’t like how, say, health care reform was looking–the current Blue Dog configuration is a bunch of people whose electoral incentives are not to get too far to the right lest they lose primaries in more Democratic districts. It’s difficult to imagine, for example, David Scott of Georgia telling President Obama to shove his health care plan and then going back to his African-American district and that going really super-well for him. And for someone like Thompson or Jim Costa, going too far off the reservation means the fun wouldn’t end with a primary–because of the “top two” system that makes the top two vote-getters in the primary the general election candidates regardless of party, the fun wouldn’t end in June. Since Barrow is presumed likely to run either for Senate or Governor of Georgia in 2014, we’re looking less at an independent, center-rightish Democratic faction and more at a “Jim Matheson and a bunch of intramurally-vulnerable Democrats” faction. In any event, the influence of this group is pretty much done.
The differences between the two major political parties in America are so massive that it can be hard to fathom sometimes, but every once in a while something happens that shows an illuminating difference between them. Consider two U.S. Representatives who served in office nearly a decade apart, Cynthia McKinney and Allen West. Both are African-American, both are from the South. The former was a Democrat, the latter is a Republican. Both tended in their terms in office toward conspiratorial thinking, bellicosity, and utter legislative uselessness. Can anyone name a bill with either of their names in it? Admittedly, West has spent only one term in office, but he is quite a visible freshman, influential among Republicans, and could probably have some influence on legislation if he wanted to. Both were/are corrosive agents in the House, scorning debate and exacerbating tensions for no real reason. Both think the rules are for little people (West’s election challenges and McKinney’s thinking that she could rush past a metal detector without her lapel pin are both signs of this), and honestly West’s conspiracy theories and McKinney’s are so dully similar there’s almost no need to comment on them, only the characters differ, not the plots. Both are in short, gadflies. And how did the two parties react to these characters:
- McKinney was primaried out of her seat twice and by the end had almost no admirers left, aside from the late Alexander Cockburn. She wound up becoming a Green, running for president, and now who knows.
- Allen West was not primaried. In fact, Republican donors saw fit to give him somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million worth of help in winning his primary and general election races. This is after West ditched his old district for one that was more Republican.
That kind of tells the tale, I think. Lots of wealthy Republicans thought that having Allen West around was deeply important to their movement. Indeed, West was one of the biggest fundraisers this cycle, personally raising four times what his opponent did. And yet he lost, like a true Goliath in a Republican district. If he moved to a more Republican district, he’d probably lose there, too. For the life of me I can’t figure it out, this support for the guy. West could have exactly the same impact on the discourse as a talk radio host, which is probably the inevitable next step for him. And yet Republicans paid dearly to have him lose a seat they shouldn’t have lost. I get that Tea Partiers think that having vocal, energized people like West and Michele Bachmann and Steve King really helps them, but I guess I don’t see how that’s supposed to work out. They don’t have the seat, the Congressman, or $20 million. Maybe it’s time to rethink that governing strategy a little, guys.
As a commentator, from time to time I like to make predictions about things. But unlike most commentators, I always like to share with you how I did after the fact. It’s a twisted kind of fun for me, and it (hopefully) keeps the whole enterprise honest. Just wait for Dick Morris to write an article about why he is wrong about everything in the entire world…
So, here’s how I did (prediction post is here):
- My electoral map was exactly correct, though it wound up resembling Nate Silver’s exactly by election day. I should note that when I put it up, Silver had Florida as slightly red, so I was at least slightly out on a limb.
- I sure was off on the House number–I said the over/under was 15, where the Dems look to net about half that. Still, I made a number of specific calls too, for seats thought to be Republican-leaning: “Mack, West, Barrow, Tierney, Guinta, Hayworth, Canseco and DesJarlais [will] all go the Dems’ way.” And guess what. Aside from Scott “pro-life with an exception for personal embarrassment” DesJarlais, who merely proves that there is nothing Republicans won’t stomach to hold onto power, I got each and every one of these right. I was debating with myself whether or not to put Utah Democrat Tim Matheson on the list–I thought he was going to win despite awful polls just because he’s such a survivor, but I chickened out. Damn, that would have been an impressive prediction!
- My guess for the Senate was essentially right: I said 55 seats for the Dems, and I was right. Shelley Berkeley lost, but due to some 80,000 Obama voters going for someone else. Lousy candidate, lousy campaign, and Berkeley was just no prize ideologically either (she is one of those Democrats who wants to shred the estate tax, incidentally). And she nearly won. This ought to convince Sen. Heller that he’s living on borrowed time, and that moving to the center is absolutely necessary if he wants to avoid catastrophe in six years. I don’t expect that Ryan-loving jerk to do so, though. Seriously, though, the Heitkamp win is incredible. Turns out those Pharos polls that everyone dismissed were exactly right–since they tracked everywhere else I was inclined to trust them, but since all the smart numbers people pooh-poohed them, I figured they must know something. She was closing the race near the end. Impressively done.
- State level: “I’ll predict Democrat wins in the Oregon and Colorado Houses (both are presently split), the Michigan House, the Maine and Minnesota House and Senate, and the New York Senate just barely.” Got Michigan wrong–the Dems made big gains there but fell four seats short overall. The rest were on the money. Didn’t see New Hampshire coming, though I probably should have. And Democrats are a stones’ throw away from winning the Arizona and Pennsylvania Senates, just two seats down in either one, which is cool. “Democrats will narrowly hold onto the Wisconsin Senate and the Iowa Senate, thus respectively constraining Scott Walker and preventing an antigay Constitutional amendment.” Respectively, they narrowly didn’t and did. “I do believe Democrats will finally get to 2/3 here in California…” Yup. The only other miss was the Nevada Senate, which Democrats narrowly held onto. What does it mean to you? Well, aside from a bunch of states no longer dominated by wingnuts, I would fully expect Colorado and Minnesota to join the marriage equality club in short order.
- Oh, and I also said this: “The four marriage equality initiatives will go in the direction of equality…” They did, which is something that not all that many people predicted.
And thus we close the book on this election cycle.
Here’s what he said:
Incest is so rare, I mean it’s so rare. But the rape thing, you know, I know a woman who was raped and kept the child, gave it up for adoption and doesn’t regret it. In fact, she’s a big pro-life proponent. But, on the rape thing it’s like, how does putting more violence onto a woman’s body and taking the life of an innocent child that’s a consequence of this crime, how does that make it better?
This is pretty wrong, but I’d argue, quite a bit less offensive than Richard Mourdock, and vastly less so than Todd Akin. The last part, funny enough, is easily the most defensible. I don’t agree with it, but it’s a fairly logical conclusion for a pro-lifer to draw. If you believe that a fertilized egg instantly becomes a person, then it follows that children conceived by rape are people and shouldn’t be aborted. Most pro-lifers do not advocate this stance because it is politically unpopular, but it’s the only reasonable conclusion that follows from the premise. After all, if you manage to get abortion banned for everything but rape and incest, quashing those last vestiges ought to be easy enough.
The rest of it though…like, wow. Incest is rare? I think Koster is making the mistake of separating out child abuse from this definition, though it very much counts, and is highly prevalent. The real problem with “rape and incest” exceptions is that the connotations are tricky: people know basically what rape is, but incest typically carries a more voluntary connotation, specifically since it’s included in this particular cliche as something separate from rape, even though the voluntary variety is, indeed, quite rare, and outside of the Phillips family, more known for fictional portrayals in A Game Of Thrones and other series. Assuming he actually means the voluntary kind of incest (to the extent that can even exist, given how complicated consent can get with an older, stronger, male family member), it’s unclear why a child created by this process ought to be an exception for pro-lifers at all. One suspects that these exceptions are generally made because of how heinous the specific offenses are considered, rather than through any sort of logic. Of course, my basic belief is that the entire mainstream pro-life position is arbitrary and a made-up, phony position. I have no idea when life begins and neither does anyone else, but as with many issues, it comes down to one group’s desire to remove any ambiguity and to wax self-righteous and maximalistic versus another group’s acceptance of difficulty, nuance, and different viewpoints in coming to a decision. There’s more to it than that, but not all that much.
What one gets from this answer, and from much of the rhetoric and action on the part of pro-life men these past two years, is how much they don’t want to engage with these questions. Koster’s friend who had the baby is a red herring, as she’d still be able to do so under a pro-choice regime. Because of, you know, choice. It’s just a daydream of a world where women just bear whatever children they’re supposed to without any complaint. But does anyone read this quote and come away with a sense that the guy has engaged deeply with these deep, weighty questions?
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