Mitt still hasn't invited Sarah to the GOP's nomination assembly in Tampa, and the Tea Party is livid. Peter J. Boyer on how the snub could sabotage Romney's tenuous ties to the grassroots""and why Palin is keeping the week open, just in case.On the day that Mitt Romney formally announced his run for the presidency last year, he found himself competing with a stiff New Hampshire wind, which stood his hair on end and played havoc with his microphones. What blew in later was even more distracting: the red, white, and blue bus bearing Sarah Palin on her "One...
"I believe that if we're successful in this election," President Obama told campaign donors in Minnesota last month, "that the fever may break, because there's a tradition in the Republican Party of more common sense than that."Apparently Obama believes that if he wins this November, Republicans on Capitol Hill will all begin to act like Chief Justice John Roberts by betraying their conservative beliefs and signing on to Obama's unprecedented expansion of the federal welfare state. But what would America look like if the Republican "fever" did...
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- As a presidential hopeful, Tim Pawlenty won respect among GOP insiders, social conservatives and the tea party movement. Far from the first love of any faction, he quickly washed out as a candidate.
Almost a year after he abandoned his White House bid, Pawlenty's reputation as being suitable but not a standout is actually fueling the speculation that the former Minnesota governor is a serious contender in Republican Mitt Romney's search for a running mate.
Romney is keeping the process tightly under wraps. An announcement could come at any point between now and the Republican convention in late August. It's unclear who the Romney campaign is vetting, though Pawlenty's name comes up frequently in political circles as a prospect. Pawlenty himself isn't giving any clues even as Republicans debate the pros and cons of a Romney-Pawlenty ticket.
To hear these insiders tell it, the earnest Pawlenty might end up satisfying many Republicans without risking the unwelcome distractions that could result from a running mate who is flashier than the nominee, who has close ties to an unpopular past administration or whose background has largely avoided scrutiny.
"He's not a Sarah Palin. He's a Joe Biden type of pick," said Gary Marx, executive director of the conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition, describing Pawlenty as "appealing and acceptable to all branches of the conservative base and the Republican Party as a whole."
Pawlenty, an evangelical, also could help quell any lingering unease about Romney's Mormonism among some conservatives. As the self-made son of a truck driver, his life story could relate more to middle-class voters than that of Romney, the wealthy businessman and son of a former governor.
Campaigning last week for Romney in blue-collar Pittsburgh, Pawlenty weaved a mention of his 1970s boyhood in a struggling meatpacking town to convey his grasp of economic woes on a more personal level.
"I saw the face of unemployment and dislocation from the economy and the effects that has on moms and dads and people and families, neighborhood and community," Pawlenty said in a hushed tone. "I saw it at a real young age, up close and real personal."
During his eight years leading Minnesota, Pawlenty restricted abortions and expanded gun rights. He also stocked his state's judiciary with conservative judges and made frequent use of vetoes and executive budget-cutting powers to curb spending.
His biggest blemish was rather tame – a tobacco surcharge that he insisted be labeled a fee, not a tax. The decision triggered a semantic dispute mirroring the fight over whether President Barack Obama's health insurance mandate is a penalty or a tax.
What Pawlenty lacks is the star power to give Romney's ticket a boost among any key constituency or critical voting bloc. He would also be hard-pressed to swing Minnesota to Republicans for the first time since 1972 – before Pawlenty, 51, was even old enough to vote. His two statewide victories came in races in which he benefited from multiple candidates dividing the vote on the left.
With the presidential race so tight, some GOP leaders want Romney to opt for solid over spectacular, someone who is tested rather than intriguingly new to the national scene.
"He's better prepared than any of these other folks being talked about a lot, in terms of the intellectual and physical rigor of a campaign and the kind of grilling you're going to face," said Bill Lacy, who advised Republican Bob Dole during his presidential campaigns.
When Republicans began lining up last year to challenge Obama, Pawlenty was regarded as a threat to Romney, the presumed front-runner. Pawlenty landed top campaign talent and boasted of his achievements as a Republican who was twice elected to lead a Democratic-leaning state. But he struggled to excite voters and finished a disappointing third in a summer 2011 test vote in Iowa, leading him to quit the race.
Pawlenty soon embraced an industrious role as a go-anywhere, get-tough surrogate for Romney – precisely the tasks often assigned to running mates. Last week he was on a bus in Ohio and Pennsylvania, attacking Obama's record before the president's own bus pulled in for campaign rallies. Before that, he was Romney's emissary to out-of-the-way Republican conventions in California, Michigan, Oklahoma and other spots. And he's scooped ice cream by Ann Romney's side after serving warm-up duties for her husband in New Hampshire.
Campaigning for someone else, Pawlenty has been far more relaxed than when he was on his own. Back then, he tended to come off as bland and rehearsed – especially when stacked against candidates with more flair, such as fellow Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann.
Like other vice presidential contenders, Pawlenty sidesteps questions about his interest in the No. 2 post. He initially asked to be removed from parlor-game shortlists. Now he says it's an honor to be mentioned, while insisting he's content to help Romney in other ways.
"I am enjoying my time in the private sector and view my role in this presidential campaign as being a key volunteer," Pawlenty told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "So, anything beyond that would be an unexpected development."
Part of the hesitancy stems from 2008, when Pawlenty was a runner-up to Palin as John McCain's vice presidential choice. In his memoir last year, Pawlenty recalled marveling about the fact that he was even being vetted. He said it proved that life was "unpredictable" and "filled with possibilities," and he comically described scurrying to pull together the paper trail covering intimate financial and personal details.
As time wore on, Pawlenty concluded he wouldn't be chosen. He suspected McCain would go with Romney, whose own presidential campaign came up short that year. "I actually talked to Mitt about that at some point later on, and he said he thought it was going to be me," Pawlenty wrote.
This time, friends say, Pawlenty seems content to let the process play out around him rather than sweat over it. Meanwhile, he's charted a lucrative course by joining half a dozen corporate boards. As a director at a software company, for instance, he'll pull down $200,000 in salary and restricted stock shares this year. The other companies include medical technology and natural gas exploration firms; they are privately held and don't report their compensation packages.
Investor Ron Eibensteiner, a former Minnesota Republican Party chairman who serves alongside Pawlenty on a startup company board, said that while Pawlenty is acclimating well to corporate culture, the tug of politics remains naturally strong.
"I would imagine that he is very focused on making a little bit of money because he really doesn't have a lot," Eibensteiner said. "But if a good (political) opportunity arose, would he consider it? Absolutely. He'd be a fool not to."
WHEN I was asked to direct “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” my friends warned me not to go anywhere near it. The story is so American, they argued, that I, an immigrant fresh off the boat, could not do it justice. They were surprised when I explained why I wanted to make the film. To me it was not just literature but real life, the life I lived in Czechoslovakia from my birth in 1932 until 1968. The Communist Party was my Nurse Ratched, telling me what I could and could not do; what I was or was not allowed to say; where I was and was not allowed to go; even...
By ALAN FRAM, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON — Democrats want to push tax cuts through the Senate for companies that hire new workers, give raises or buy major new equipment this year.
With neither party eager to let the other claim campaign-season victories, the ultimate fate of the roughly $29 billion legislation seems dubious. Debate was to begin Tuesday, though it was possible Republicans would use procedural blockades to quickly derail the measure.
The legislation would grant tax credits – which are subtracted from a company's tax bill – equal to 10 percent of the amount its 2012 payroll exceeds the salaries it paid in 2011. The maximum credit would be $500,000, a figure that would disproportionately help smaller businesses.
It would also let companies that buy major new property in 2012, such as machinery, deduct the entire cost of the purchase this year. Currently they can only deduct half the amount.
In an election year in which the slumping economy gives President Barack Obama and the Senate's majority Democrats little to boast about, the proposal lets Democrats take the offensive on the tax issue while asserting they are trying to encourage job creation. It was reaching the floor days after the latest gloomy Labor Department report that a scant 80,000 jobs were created last month, leaving the unemployment rate at a rugged 8.2 percent.
"This tax cut is by no means a cure-all, but it could be a difference-maker for small firms on the fence about adding payroll," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. "After last month's sluggish jobs numbers, we may be on the verge of a rare moment of agreement on how to help the economy."
On Monday, Obama proposed continuing wide-ranging tax cuts – which will otherwise lapse in January – for most taxpayers, while letting them expire for households making more than $250,000 annually. He argued that the rich should contribute to deficit reduction efforts.
Republicans want all the tax cuts to be renewed and have opposed Democratic efforts to omit the highest earners, saying that would hurt businesses.
"If my friends on the other side of the aisle truly care about small businesses, as I know they do, then they should join us in stopping these tax hikes that will hit those very same people if the president has his way," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said of Obama's proposal and the Senate Democratic bill. "If small businesses need help then the best thing we can do is stop all the tax increases."
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, plans for a House vote on renewing all those tax cuts later this month. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is likely to hold a Senate vote in July on Obama's proposal to renew the expiring tax reductions for all but those earning more than $250,000.
It was unclear whether Republicans would demand opportunities to reshape the business tax cuts or to force votes on other topics as the price for letting debate begin on the Democratic bill.
The legislation contrasts with a $46 billion measure Republicans pushed through the GOP-run House in April granting 20 percent tax deductions to all businesses with fewer than 500 employees – more than 99 percent of the nation's companies. It drew a veto threat from Obama and has gone nowhere in the Senate.
Both measures were unpaid for, meaning that if enacted, their price tags would make federal deficits bigger.
Both parties support the tax breaks for equipment purchase, though critics have questioned their job-creation potential because they say they would cut taxes for companies that would have bought items anyway.
WASHINGTON -- Rep. Scott Rigell's (R-Va.) message for up-and-coming Republicans would have been considered political heresy just two years ago: You don't have to bow to Grover Norquist to win.
"My advice and counsel to 'Young Guns' would be to not sign the Americans for Tax Reform pledge," the Virginia Republican told The Huffington Post. The anti-tax oath authored by conservative activist Norquist had, until recently, been signed by almost every Republican in Congress or aspirant.
This election season is different. Rigell is one of dozens of GOP challengers and incumbents who have declined, so far, to take the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. Their objections range from personal to political. But underneath is the belief that being locked into a pledge to never support new revenues in a debt-reduction deal is unpalatable.
Just 45 of 83 of the Republican National Congressional Committee's current crop of so-called Young Guns have signed the no-tax pledge this election season, according to a Huffington Post analysis of pledge signatures. During the 2010 midterm elections, 81 of 92 of that Young Guns group signed the pledge. The Young Guns program was founded by GOP leaders to promote and finance up-and-coming congressional candidates.
The sentiment hasn't been shared across the party's ranks. As Norquist's group has pointed out, nearly 100 more politicians today -- candidates and incumbents -- have signed the pledge than two years ago. That's in part because more Republicans are in office. Moreover, campaign pressures can force a candidate's hand. Someone declining to sign the pledge today may think differently by November.
"You are interested in oranges. We are interested in apples," said John Kartch, a spokesman for Norquist's group. A total of 539 incumbent lawmakers and candidates have signed the pledge, Kartch said. That's more than the number of seats in Congress, as some races feature several candidates who all are pledge-takers. Since the Republican Party controls a healthy majority in the House, there is little risk that, come January 2013, there might be a rebellion on the group's pet issue.
"So many of the potentially GOP districts have already been won that any collection of ‘strong’ GOP candidates in 2012 would be less likely to win than the same group measured in 2010," Kartch said.
The eagerness of Rigell and others to downplay or ignore the pledge would have been anathema just two years ago.
Last month, Norquist hosted what he called an "educational meeting" on the Capitol Hill to remind incumbent lawmakers of their commitment to never vote for a tax increase. The Norquist huddle reportedly attracted 20 members of Congress, or 7 percent of the 279 federal legislators who have signed the pledge. Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina walked out early. (Mulvaney’s spokesman said the lawmaker is “already familiar with” the pledge and didn’t need a refresher course).
Although Norquist hasn't shared the names of attendees, Rigell was not there.
The Virginia Republican, who was given Young Gun status in May 2010, yanked his signature from the anti-tax pledge in January, saying he objects to the pledge's prohibition against eliminating corporate loopholes or government subsidies unless the change in the tax code is revenue-neutral.
"I have a voting record," Rigell said. "I've voted a thousand times. If they want to know what Scott Rigell's about, they can go to Open Congress or whatever."
Rigell said he's "certain" the Taxpayer Protection Pledge won't help correct the government's long-term fiscal problems. He told voters about his position five months before the primary, ignoring advisers' pleas to wait until he had secured the GOP nomination.
"If they want me with my convictions to represent them, that's wonderful. I'd be honored," Rigell said. "If they know I'm repudiating and distancing myself from the ATR pledge, and in their wisdom, if they want someone else to represent them, they need to have that opportunity."
Rigell is not the only GOP candidate who has publicly expressed concerns over the anti-tax pledge. Young Gun Richard Tisei’s (R-Mass.) campaign circulated a Salem News article last month declaring that the candidate is "bucking the trend" and will be "one of the lone dissidents" if elected to Congress.
Tisei, running against Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.), said he has known Norquist since his college days, when Tisei was the chairman of College Republicans at American University and Norquist was the executive director of the national organization. Still, the former Massachusetts state senator insisted he wants to avoid getting "tied up in knots" if he's elected.
"I'm not signing any pledges," Tisei told The Huffington Post last week. "I'm just promising to use my best judgment as a congressman. And I think that's the problem in Washington right now. You have both Democrats and Republicans that are inflexible on certain issues."
Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) also takes issue with the pledge's rigidity. The Young Gun easily won an April primary to replace retiring Rep. Todd Platts (R-Pa.) in which six opponents signed the pledge.
"To me, pledges, can be gimmicks," Perry told the York Dispatch in April. "It is easy to candidates to sign pledges and make promises. The proof is in my record."
Other Young Guns are still making up their minds. Businessman Joe Coors, who is trying to unseat Rep. Ed Perlmutter, the Democratic incumbent in Colorado's 7th Congressional District, has not yet taken the Norquist oath. Coors promised to support and co-sponsor an amendment to the U.S. Constitution limiting congressional terms. His signature is also on the Death Tax Repeal Pledge, which simply states a candidate "will support the permanent repeal of the federal estate and gift taxes."
In a statement, Coors spokeswoman Michelle Yi said the campaign is reviewing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge to determine whether it "helps keep the conversation on how to get the economy back on track."
Despite the headline-grabbing defections, one Young Gun said she sees no reason to withhold her signature, even though she has, in the past, backed tax hikes.
In one of the year's most closely watched legislative races, former Saratoga Springs, Utah, Mayor Mia Love aims to become the first black Republican woman in Congress. In a statement provided by her campaign, the Young Gun said would not speculate why fellow Republican office-seekers have not signed the pledge.
Love is no stranger to the dreaded T-word. She has drawn the wrath of local Tea Party groups for a 116 percent property tax increase she approved while mayor.
"As for myself, I signed the pledge for the very simple reason that I firmly believe the federal government has a spending problem, not a revenue problem," Love said in the statement. "As our national economy continues to struggle, we do not need further tax increases."
Recently my friend and colleague Bill Scher challenged progressive critics of President Obama's conciliatory approach toward corporations with a New York Times op-ed entitled "How Liberals Win." Far from being "business as usual," Bill writes, "the Supreme Court's upholding of Mr. Obama's health care law reminds us that the president's approach has achieved significant results."
Bill argues that, critics notwithstanding, ours is not "a system paralyzed by corporations." He adds: "The most liberal reforms in more than 40 years have been brought about because Mr. Obama views corporate power as a force to bargain with, not an enemy to vanquish."
Sorry, Bill. I'm with those who have concluded that the Obama White House has failed, both pragmatically and politically, on a number of key progressive issues. In my view, believing otherwise requires an almost ahistorical view of liberalism. We can't preemptively limit the definition of "liberal victory" to whatever corporate interests will allow.
Wherever the truth lies, the road ahead is clear: We can't allow the radical right to take power this year. But we need to fight for results, not politicians, by building a mobilized and truly independent citizens' movement.
Young and Estranged
This is an important discussion, especially in an election year in which liberals should be terrified. A Romney Presidency and increased Republican control on the Hill would endanger much they hold dear, including representative democracy, our social safety net, and workplace rights. And yet the outcome of this election may depend on the ability to mobilize precisely those voters who believe, not unreasonably, that the Obama Presidency represents "business as usual."
That may not be easy. Youth voters helped propel Obama into office and handed Democrats the House of Representatives. But youth turnout was lower in 2010 than in the previous off-year Congressional election of 2006, meaning they'd been more turned off in the preceding two years than they had been turned on by Obama.
To be sure, they still favor Obama over "generic" Republicans by a wide margin. But a poll which otherwise bodes well for Obama shows that young voters' enthusiasm has diminished considerably since 2008.
Why? Here are some clues: Another poll shows that three out of four young voters consider unemployment a "critical" issue. Obama's jobs messaging was ambiguous for years, at best, promoting jobs-destroying deficit panic as he "bargained" with corporations and their political representatives.
Three out of four young people also believe our economic system unfairly favors the wealthy, while a plurality of them feels their generation will never achieve the American Dream reached by those who came before. The President's rhetoric has improved on these issues in recent months - but that's precisely because independent progressives and the Occupy movement refused to believe that dealmaking with corporations was a "win."
It's a similar story with middle-class voters who struggle with unemployment, stagnating wages and growing wealth inequity, retirement insecurity, lost home value, and tax laws which help the wealthy avoid paying their fair share. Who's speaking for liberals on the economy?
And let's be clear: By "liberals," what we really mean "most Americans." Take Social Security and Medicare: Poll after poll has shown that most Americans oppose their benefits to balance the budget. And yet, through his Simpson/Bowles Deficit Commission and on numerous occasions afterward, the President has opened the door to doing precisely that.
Most Americans want more government action on jobs, yet the President has offered only weak job proposals - and tempered even those with tax cuts that muddy his own message and lave the public confused.
As our own analysis showed, more than twenty million voters live in underwater homes. There, too, the President's corporate-friendly agenda has limited his ability to connect with disaffected voters. These homeowners have been tormented and exploited by the Administration's own HAMP program, which is now better known by the name "extend and pretend."
Obama's Wall Street-friendly approach may be netting him a lot of banker contributions again this year, but a recent poll shows that independents in crucial swing states believe the President has mishandled the mortgage crisis and isn't holding Wall Street bankers "accountable" for their role in the housing crisis.
And when it comes to taxing the wealthy, the President has opted for the milquetoast Buffett rule (Is that the most Warren Buffett should be asked to chip in - the same rate as his secretary?) rather than making the case for truly progressive taxation. On all of these key issues, the President's corporation-placating agenda has hamstrung his ability to connect with key voters the way he did in 2008.
Sure, the President's popular. But there's a difference between approval and votes. The difference is turnout.
There are two possible ways to get these voters to the polling booth: One is to convince them that the Obama Presidency has been a great liberal success. That's the approach taken by my friend Bill, undoubtedly because that's what he believes. Will that bring young voters, the unemployed, underwater homeowners, and other disenchanted citizens to the polls? That means convincing them that what looks like defeat - burdensome debt, foreclosed homes, prolonged joblessness - is really victory.
Good luck with that.
The other approach, which I believe is both more accurate and more effective, is to explain two very important things to them: that the GOP will cause enormous harm if it gains more political power, and that neither a President nor a party will fight for what's right - or even what's popular - without relentless pressure from an independent and mobilized activists.
It didn't have to be this way. Had the President made different decisions, these voters could have been energized over the last three and a half years by hearing clear and forceful arguments in their favor. He could have used his bully pulpit to explain the extent of Wall Street's crimes and then used his Justice Department to investigate them. By viewing "corporate power as a force to be bargained with," Obama chose instead to sacrifice the principle of "one law for all." That alienated voters while leaving our economy at risk.
But what's done is done. That means there are two ways to get out the progressive vote in November: either to pretend that the Obama Presidency has been a victory for progressive values, or to build a movement that will fight for deeper change.
The health care bill which Bill touts as a liberal triumph is a perfect case in point. I don't envy Democratic leaders who must defend it against charges that it contains tax increases - because it does. Some of those taxes, like the surcharge on high earners, would actually be quite popular if the President chose to explain it clearly. Others are un-progressive, unjust, and unwise - and directly contradict the President's campaign promises.
The RIght's "big lie" of the week is its claim that the health bill contains "the largest tax increase in history." It's not even close, and its biggest increase is for those who earn more than $200,000 per year. But middle-class families will take a hit when the law raises the limit for deductible medical expenses to 10 percent of adjusted earnings, up from its current 7.5 percent. Rule changes for health pending accounts will also increase the tax burden for some middle class families.
Ans they weren't all the result of compromises with corporate power, either. A case in point is the excise tax on higher-cost health plans, which is based on ivory-tower economics and will punish people economically for belonging to health plans whose demographic cost drivers they can't control. he President aggressively fought for the unpopular excise tax - one of the few provisions he personally fought to include in the bill - despite campaigning against it in 2008.
Public Option, Private Deals
Then there's the individual mandate, which will affect very few Americans but will nevertheless impose a financial penalty on middle-class and lower-income people. The President asked for trouble when he jettisoned the public option early on in secret negotiations with for-profit health providers.
The public option (a Medicare buy-in for people under 65) was popular across the political spectrum - 51 percent of Republicans supported it, according to polling - and it provided a ready answer for Americans (liberal and otherwise) who were outraged at the idea of being forced to buy a private insurance product that offers inadequate coverage and lousy services at exorbitant prices.
That answer? You can always choose the public option instead.
Instead the President cynically chose to keep backing the public option publicly, long after he'd traded it away privately. But he did so in a lackluster manner that quickly made it clear to some of us that he had made some sort of deal with someone, somewhere. He damaged both himself and liberalism with this approach, by undercutting his personal credibility while failing to champion progressive principles.
The Right Proposes, The Left Disposes
The most direct message Obama sent to Congress as healthcare deliberations began was this one: "I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last. "To cynical parliamentarians that sounded very much like this: I'll sign pretty much any health care bill you send my way.
The way in which the President got his health care bill passed - which mostly involved letting conservative Democrats parlay with Republicans, then failing to win Republican votes anyway - carried the seeds of troubles yet to come.
The end result was a bill whose key provisions were developed by the conservative American Enterprise Institute an enacted into law by Republican Governor Mitt Romney in Massachusetts.
Here's a question: Is it a liberal "win" if Democrats enact policies in 2010 that were first proposed by conservatives in 1993?
Medicare For Almost
Bill Scher points to legislative triumphs of the past, like Medicare under Lyndon Johnson, as proof that dealmaking with the powerful gets results. But Johnson never abandoned the rhetoric of liberalism, even when he sacrificed some of its goals in pursuit of the best achievable outcome. On far too many occasions Obama has abandoned that rhetoric.
The President has also treated progressives inside and outside his party with scorn that borders on contempt. "Sanctimonious," he called them, and "purists" who would be "without victories."
And yet, as some of us predicted at the time, a more "progressive" outcome would have been far more popular than the one he got. Obama's push for unpopular provisions like the excise tax wasn't politically expedient. It was the result of his own choices, by all the evidence, and not the product of political necessity. He owes the left an apology, and more attention to its advice, now that it has proved to be prescient on so many issues.
Obama's defenders defend the healthcare bill's weaknesses by pointing to the improvements made to Medicare since it was initially passed. But could those improvements have taken place if LBJ had dismissed their importance during Medicare's initial passage?
There's no evidence that the President tried to win liberalism's battles before trading them away for the sake of expediency.There are many ways to lose a battle, but the most important one of all is this: First you must try to win it.
The Long View
Something else is missing from the "How Liberals Win" approach: a long view of liberalism. Obamacare's a textbook example, since it was first proposed as a conservative alternative to "Hillarycare" (itself a cumbersome compromise with corporations) in the early 1990s.
Yes, its passage was "historic" in several ways, at least one of which was ironic: Had Democrats agreed to support this conservative proposal in 1993, when Republicans like Warren Rudman were introducing it in the Senate, it would be approaching its twenty-year anniversary.
That doesn't make it a bad bill or mean it's worse than nothing, but it illustrates something very important: While liberals focused on a narrow, short-term definition of "winning," conservatives took a longer view. As a result, conservatives have moved the national dialog radically rightward while liberals frantically shift their definition of "winning" accordingly. A "liberal win" is apparently now defined as the passage of a conservative proposal, as long as it's better than nothing and is signed into law by a Democratic President.
If this keeps up in a few years we'll be celebrating passage of the Romney/Ryan Medicare voucher plan as yet another "liberal win." Didn't America's seniors get something? And didn't a Democrat sign the bill?
The health care bill does some good things, but it also contains many flaws and weaknesses. Bill Scher's engaging in faith-based reasoning, as anyeone does when suggesting that the outcomes the President got were the best that anyone could have achieved. Like most professions of faith, that statement can neither be proved nor disproved.
But even if it's true (which we doubt), these outcomes could have - and should have - been accompanied by stronger rhetoric, by clearer defenses of the good things that were being sacrificed and a pledge to work for them again in the future. That didn't happen, and we're all paying the price.
On issue after issue, President Obama adopted positions that would have been considered center/right Republicanism in previous decades: Over-emphasizing the urgency and importance of deficit reduction. Willingness to cut Social Security benefits to balance the budget. Minimal or destructive action regarding underwater homeowners. Claiming that "Wall Street and Main Street rise and fall together" while failing to investigate criminal bank activity. (And this list doesn't include civil liberties issues, since the topic is economics.)
Would a more progressive Obama be in a stronger political position today? That gets into alternate-history scenarios that can never be proved or disproved. He might have met with more corporate resistance to his agenda - although its hard to imagine much stronger resistance than we're seeing now, despite his many concessions - and his donations from Wall Street and other large donors would have undoubtedly been smaller. That's not trivial in this post-Citizens United world, and we understand that.
On the other hand, a truly progressive President Obama would presumably be enjoying the enthusiastic backing of the core voters who propelled him to the Presidency in 2008. Would a more progressive economic agenda have been a net political advantage? We can't know.
But isn't it about time a Democrat tried it? Clinton's corporate-friendly agenda including the repeal of Glass-Steagall and the deregulation of Wall Street. Obama's corporate-friendly agenda left his party vulnerable to a GOP attack on the left over Medicare, wounded his party's brand as the defender of Social Security, and tainted him as too cozy with Wall Street. How that workin' out?
And here's something we do know: The passage of better bills would have been better for the country.
The Way Forward
One thing is clear: Victory for liberalism cannot and must not be defined by the limits of what legislators can accomplish. Legislators operate within the realm of the politically possible, while independent movements change what's politically possible.
One of the President's greatest failures over the last three and a half years is that he chose to think like a legislator, not a leader. And one of liberalism's greatest failures was allowing so many people to identify with a leader, not with the principles and values that should be a movement's guiding star.
We can't change the past, but we can learn from it. We know that we need to think both short-term and long-term. We know now that electing persuadable politicians is the first step in the change process, not the last one. (Sure, re-elect them, as long as we can pressure them. But don't confuse tactics with strategies, compromises with goals, or politicians with ideals.)
Most of all, we know that we need a vigorous and truly independent movement - one that will speak to disaffected voters like the adults they are, mobilizing them with honest talk about the limits of elected leaders, the power of a engaged citizenry, and the perils of outsourcing ultimate accountability to any politician or party.
That, and not attempting to put a positive gloss on inappropriate compromises, is the way forward. That's the right path, and the pragmatic path, for liberals to take - this year, and in the years to come.
This year's presidential election will hinge on what every other presidential election has hinged on"”the performance of the incumbent. It will be a referendum on President Barack Obama "” not a contest between him and his challenger, Mitt Romney.Every presidential election is largely a referendum on the incumbent or incumbent party. That's because the voters, in their collective judgment, are taking seriously their job of hiring and firing their chief executives. And they do it like any boss "”based on performance.
The health-care ruling has exposed a delicate dance within the Republican Party. Romney does not want to run on the health-care issue. To the extent that he wants to invoke the issue, it's to flay Obama for having focused on it as a distraction from the economy, not as an ideological crusade against Big Government. But conservative activists want to be sure that, if Romney wins, he will commit his political capital to repealing the Affordable Care Act.
When young Americans come alive, they transform the possible. We saw that in 2008 when young Americans -- the millennial generation of 18- to 29-year-olds -- voted in large numbers (larger than the aging baby boomers), and overwhelmingly for Barack Obama. They cast almost one out of every six votes in that election and voted for Obama by a 2-to-1 ratio. We saw what happens when they are discouraged in 2010, when young voter turnout fell a staggering 60 percent, and a Tea Party Congress was elected.What will young voters do in 2012? The president showed his concern by kicking off his campaign...
As Democrats struggle to net 25 seats and win back the House majority in November, no single state reflects the party’s challenges more than Pennsylvania.After all, Pennsylvania has gone Democratic in the past five presidential contests, and the apparent movement of the Philadelphia suburbs away from the GOP during the past two decades suggests a fundamental political shift in the state.
Moments after the Supreme Court ruled that it was largely upholding President Barack Obama’s health care law, Republicans zeroed in on the court's decision to allow the individual mandate because it is enforced through a tax. One of the Republicans to speak out was former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the party’s 2008 vice presidential nominee. After the court's decision was announced on June 28, 2012, Palin tweeted, "Obama lied to the American people. Again. He said it wasn't a tax. Obama lies; freedom dies." We aren’t able to fact-check whether "freedom" ...>> More
If historical precedent is a guide, President Obama should be worried about the recent spate of Democrats who have declared that they won’t attend their own party’s national convention. But the lawmakers’ decision to stay home doesn’t have other Democrats reaching for the panic button yet. Such defections amounted to an early alarm bell as recently as 2008, when a deluge of Republicans steered clear of the Republican National Convention lest they be associated with a then-deeply unpopular GOP. Three months later, a Democratic wave swept the...
The Massachusetts Senate race between Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Democrat Elizabeth Warren continues to be a dead heat, according to a poll released Tuesday afternoon by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling.
The number confirms other recent polls that have shown the race as effectively tied for the past several months. However, it's a slightly tighter margin than PPP's last survey of the race, taken in mid-March. At the time, the firm gave Warren a 5-point lead.
Since then, Brown has doubled his margin among independent voters, among whom he now leads Warren by 24 points, up from 12 previously. His approval rating also jumped 6 points. While the majority of Massachusetts voters (56 percent) say the Republican party is too conservative, only 34 percent said the same of Brown, giving him the opportunity to pick up crossover votes.
But PPP's president, Dean Debnam, predicted Warren could pick up voters before Election Day among "Obama independents," a crucial group that leans Democratic but hasn't decided on the Senate race.
“This race continues to be a sheer toss up,” Debnam said in a press release. “One thing to keep an eye on is the undecideds. They’re supporting Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by 50 points. That could mean Warren has more room
HuffPost Pollster's chart, which combines data from all available polls, estimates the race to be virtually tied, with Warren at 45 percent and Brown at 43 percent.
The PPP poll used automated telephone calls to survey 902 likely Massachusetts voters between June 22 and June 24. The poll has a 3.3 percent margin of error.
With only days and perhaps even just a few hours left before the Supreme Court rules on the constitutional challenge to the Affordable Care Act, the second guessing has already begun among Democrats. Though the outcome is known only to the justices and their clerks and secretaries, in the months since the oral arguments revealedÂ there was a good chanceÂ it would be overturned, the president's party has sunk deeper and deeper into depression over the possibility. Though they may yet win, as today's front-page feature in the New York Times reveals, many on the left are already...
The 2012 election cycle is on track to break the record for the highest number of female candidates running for House seats in the general election, according to calculations by the 2012 Project, a campaign of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
With the primary voting season at the halfway mark, there are 97 women in 26 states who have won their party's nomination and will be on the ballot in the November general elections.
"If the same voting patterns continue in the remaining 24 states, where 115 women are slated to run, as many as 60 additional women would advance to the general election, putting the total well above the current record of 141 women candidates set in 2004," according to the 2012 Project.
Women currently hold 73 of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives. Four states -- Delaware, Iowa, Mississippi and Vermont -- have never had a woman serving in their congressional delegation.
"Research shows that women leaders introduce more bills, bring more resources home to their districts and advocate for new issues on the legislative agenda," said Mary Hughes, founder of the 2012 Project, in a statement.
Already in this election cycle, 294 women have filed to run for House seats, with four more expected to do so, breaking the previous record set in 2010 of 262 women.
At the gubernatorial level, however, fewer women are candidates. While four Republican women are governors, just two Democratic women hold that office -- and both are resigning. This year New Hampshire is the only state where women are running for governor; Jackie Cilley and Maggie Hassan are competing in the Democratic primary, along with Bill Kennedy, to win their party's nomination.
My title today is a familiar phrase to anyone who went to school in America as a child. It seemed a relevant day to discuss the subject, since we're seeing some serious checking and balancing in Washington today. Since I don't have enough factual information on the situation surrounding Eric Holder and the "Fast and Furious" program to intelligently form an opinion at the moment, it might behoove us all to review the concepts involved with the separated powers of our government. If you would prefer instead to listen to uninformed partisan ranting, well, there's plenty of that out there today in the blogosphere, so feel free to read some of that sort of thing instead.
When the United States Constitution was being debated, strong arguments for it were made anonymously in the newspapers of the day, which were then consolidated into the Federalist Papers. In the ninth one of these essays, Alexander Hamilton wrote of "legislative balances and checks" in the new governmental structure. The concept (and the term "checks") was repeatedly discussed throughout the rest of the essays as well. At some point in time, the term must have been flipped around to the "checks and balances" we speak of today.
But while the phrase sounds noble, in reality what the different branches of our government regularly engage in is much more like a tug-of-war. This is what we're seeing today, between the Executive and Legislative branches. More on this in a moment.
First, a misconception must be cleared up: Today's political commenters often misuse the concept of "checks and balances" to refer directly to politics. This is just flat-out wrong. "Having a president of one party and a Congress of the other is one of those checks and balances the Founding Fathers came up with" is an untrue statement, to put it another way. Political parties were not part of what the Federalist Papers or the framers of the Constitution were referring to, in any manner. They actually downright despised the entire concept of "factions" (the term "parties" came into usage later).
Instead of crass politics, there are four major and powerful games of tug-of-war built into our system of government. Many of these have very vague rules (according to the Constitution), and often no real enforcement mechanisms. Imagine four ropes being tugged upon. The first is between the Judiciary and the Executive. A current example is the "Obamacare" ruling from the Supreme Court, next week (although it also involves the Legislature as well). The second game of tug-of-war is between Congress and the Supreme Court. A prime example of this is the recent Citizens United ruling from the Supreme Court, which essentially says that Congress doesn't even have the power to pass a law overturning corporate money in politics, even in the future (Citizens United can now only be "checked" by passing a constitutional amendment). The third game of tug-of-war is the smallest one, but often the most entertaining to watch. This is the struggle between the two houses of Congress. It is exacerbated nowadays by the fact that Republicans control the House while Democrats control the Senate, but even when one party rules both there are still major down-in-the-trenches power struggles which happen regularly between our two houses. The fourth tug-of-war rope reaches the length of Pennsylvania Avenue, with the White House at one end and the Capitol at the other. This is the one in the news today.
Congress has a multitude of minor tools to use against the White House, and one major one. The White House has two major tools to use against Congress, but not much else (other than whipping up public opinion, but the bully pulpit isn't really a "power," here).
Congress has the power of the purse, to de-fund anything the White House tries to do without their approval. Congress has the power to investigate the White House and all the executive departments. Congress has the power to issue subpoenas, cite someone for contempt, and even censure anyone they choose. These are all minor powers. The major power is, of course, impeachment.
The White House has assorted minor powers, and one very major power when it comes to legislation -- the veto. They also have one other major power, the one which President Obama exercised for the first time today -- "executive privilege."
Barring the power of the purse, the veto, and impeachment, the Constitution is pretty silent on all of the rest of this stuff. The word "contempt" or "censure" never appears in the document, for instance. Nor does the phrase "executive privilege," for that matter. Meaning all of this has been subsequently added over time, as convention or tradition or rules of Congress or even U.S. Code law.
I guess my point in writing all of this is to pre-emptively fend off cries -- from both sides of the political aisle -- that we are facing some sort of "constitutional crisis." We really aren't. The House of Representatives can find the Attorney General in contempt of Congress, and they can even censure him if they feel so inclined. Barack Obama can claim executive privilege, as pretty much every president does at some point in his term (Bush and Clinton both did so, multiple times). The federal court system can either choose to get involved in the fracas, or not (federal courts often shy away from this sort of thing, because they prefer political issues to be decided in the political arena).
The politics of the issue are pretty plain to see, no matter which side of the political divide you view it from. The issue will now become a major part of the presidential campaign, that is certain. Eric Holder may not hold onto his job if Obama is elected to a second term (Holder may not even make it to the end of the year, for that matter). But while it will be a giant political fracas, rest assured that it's not actually any sort of constitutional crisis. If the Republicans really could pin something on Holder, then we'd all be talking about his impending impeachment. But even if this drastic measure is taken, the Constitution itself will emerge at the end of the day just fine. After all, though the document is silent on contempt of Congress and executive privilege, impeachment is indeed one of our original checks and balances. The Constitution is strong enough to survive the next few weeks and months, even if pundits having fits of the vapors tell you differently.
U.S. Rep. Mark Critz said on Tuesday he will skip the Democratic National Convention in favor of campaigning in Pennsylvania, much like top elected Democrats in neighboring West Virginia who are disgruntled with President Obama.Critz and others shying away from Obama's renomination party in Charlotte the week of Sept. 3 believe it's more important to shake constituents' hands and listen to their concerns about the economy and the administration's energy policy than to attend an event geared toward party politics."Since I was elected, my focus has been on creating...
If you're thinking about dysfunctional government, there's one main point that you have to know: The parties are not equally guilty. Dysfunctional government isn't about ideological polarization; it's about a rejectionist Republican Party that, among other things, is, while Democrats are in office, dedicated to opposing anything the Democratic president proposes "” regardless of whether they have a history of opposing it or not.Â
WASHINGTON -- As a 13-year-old, Marco Rubio, now a Republican senator from Florida, strongly supported hotel workers pushing for better treatment -- so much so that he called his father a scab for returning to work during a strike, according to his new autobiography, "An American Son."
"I accused him of selling out and called him a scab," Rubio writes in the book, released today. "It hurt him, and I'm ashamed of it. He had no choice."
The book details Rubio's childhood, family and political career. It's largely, and unsurprisingly, positive, defending his record against claims of ethics concerns and discussing how he changed from an unmotivated student in high school and early in his college years to a successful law school graduate and politician. The major themes are his family's struggles and strong work ethic, his conservative values and his quick ascent to the upper chamber of Congress.
But the book also reveals some quirks, such as a past fondness for nightclub "foam parties," singing and Ted Kennedy, the late Democratic icon.
Below are some highlights:
He once ruined shoes at a foam party.
Rubio writes that one night, his now-wife, Jeanette, told him that if he went out to a nightclub that evening, their relationship would be over. He went anyway to a "foam party," where he writes that he "watched the foam descend from the ceiling ... a sight to behold."
While there, he had revelation when his beeper buzzed with Jeanette's number:
As I contemplated my predicament, I looked down at my shoes. They were perfectly white. They had been black when I arrived. ... Maybe because I took it as a sign the life I was leading was phony and unsustainable or just that I had suddenly found myself wearing white shoes, a South Beach fashion faux pas, I left the club and found the nearest pay phone.
He sang at his own wedding.
Rubio sang two songs by Frank Sinatra at his wedding: "New York, New York" and "My Way," which he writes "seems all too fitting now."
He threw up inside a plane full of political operatives.
While working on the 1996 presidential campaign for Bob Dole, Rubio drank a little too much the evening before getting on a plane. He writes that he and his fellow volunteers held an informal vodka shot competition and he was one of the winners. The next day, things went south.
I realized I wasn't going to make it. I was going to throw up in full view of some of the most prominent Republicans in Florida. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen sat to my right. To my left sat a well-known political operative who had volunteered on the campaign. I could either vomit on a congresswoman or on a fellow volunteer. I chose the latter.
He supported Ted Kennedy in 1980.
Rubio wasn't close to being of voting age in 1980. But if he had been, he would have supported a Democrat, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.). He writes that he was "crushed" when former President Jimmy Carter won the Democratic nomination instead. His maternal grandfather then converted him to a love of former President Ronald Reagan and the Republican Party in general.
I wrote a paper in fifth grade praising President Reagan for restoring the U.S. military after it had been demoralized and allowed to decay in the years before his presidency. I recently found it in a red suitcase that had belonged to my grandfather, and still contains some of his possessions.
He was a bad student in high school.
Rubio writes that he graduated high school with a 2.1 grade-point average and was popular, but disruptive. "One teacher wanted me out of class so badly, he promised to give me a C-minus if I didn't come to class, and threatened to give me an F if I showed up again," Rubio writes.
He teared up when Barack Obama won the presidency -- and not for the reason you think.
Rubio has plenty of negative things to say about President Obama in his book, but he writes that he was openly moved the evening that the president won his election as he thought about the significance of having the nation's first African American leader.
I was so proud to be an American, and so moved by the powerful symbolism of the moment, I couldn't stop myself from tearing up. ... [Some] thought they were tears of regret for the election of a Democratic president. But they weren't. There would be plenty of time to oppose the new president's misguided policies. That night was a night to be proud of our country.
He asked his family to leave the Mormon church.
As a child, Rubio's parents began to practice Mormonism after moving to Las Vegas, where some of his family was involved in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But in 1983, he developed a renewed interest in Catholicism, the religion of his earlier childhood. "It had really just been my decision," he writes of his family leaving the Mormon faith, though he adds that he had "nothing but admiration" for the religion.
He considered quitting his 2010 Senate campaign, but his wife and the Associated Press convinced him not to.
Rubio writes that as his fundraising numbers trailed then-Gov. Charlie Crist's, he considered dropping out of the race and running for state attorney general instead, which many believed was a more obtainable position. His wife, even though she "disdained politics," said switching would be going for a title instead of a job that could make a difference, he writes.
Eventually, he vowed not to quit when Brendan Farrington, an Associated Press reporter, asked him about rumors, which Rubio believed were planted by the Crist campaign, that he was planning to step aside.
I'd had enough of their disrespect. I told Brendan I wasn't going to drop out of the Senate race. I was going to shock the world in August 2010 when I won the Republican Party nomination for the U.S. Senate.
Obama in Cleveland / The Big Lebowski / API can't be the only person in America who, at about minute 35 in President Obama's almost hour-long "framing"ï¿½ speech in Cleveland Thursday, wanted to tell the president, as the Dude famously screams at Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski, "You're living in the past!"ï¿½Obama's overly long, repetitive, and by turns self-pitying and self-congratulatory address was so soaked through with nostalgia that MSNBC should have broadcast it in sepia tones. The speech""which even the liberal Obama...
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their creator, with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
from the Declaration of Independence
There is no shortage of political divides in this era of angry politics. But one of the most fundamental of all is between those who favor the Enlightenment and those who oppose it. Considering that the ideals and values of the Enlightenment ushered in the transition from the medieval to the modern and drove the American Revolution, it's a quite stunning and ironic state of affairs to find ourselves in during the early part of the 21st century.
The Enlightenment was a sustained starburst in political thought, a powerful philosophical movement in Europe and North America from the late 17th century through the whole of the 18th century and into the early 19th century. Drawing on Renaissance humanism and the emerging scientific revolution, Enlightenment thinkers rejected feudalism, royalism, superstition, and religious prophecy, applying the reason of science to society.
Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were the key leaders of the American Enlightenment, with George Washington and John Adams in substantial agreement.
With the guidance of these Founding Fathers, egalitarianism, expanding human rights, and the central role for science and rational inquiry in a society marked by a separation of church and state were central characteristics of early American thought.
The most ironic thing about the Tea Party-ized Republican Party, which, despite its appropriation of the Boston Tea Party moniker, is in reality little more than a re-branding of the far right, is that it rejects the ideas which animated the American Revolution, as demonstrated in the Declaration of Independence, and which spurred the remaking of America during the Civil War, as proclaimed in the Gettysburg Address.
A Gallup Poll earlier this month brought home just how far away from Enlightenment thinking much of the country, largely the part represented by the Republican Party, has become. It's actually rather shocking.
An amazing 46% of Americans believe in creationism, the doctrine that denies the science of evolution and holds that human beings in our present form were created by God within the past 10,000 years. Which has people and dinosaurs existing together in some sort of ludicrous cartoon view of reality.
While big majorities of Democrats and independents reject this stuff, the great majority, some 60%, of Republicans embrace it. And when you remove those Americans with postgraduate educations from the mix, most of the remaining Americans believe in creationism.
So much for the power of the news media, the Internet, and other forms of media to inform the people.
Amazingly, the overall numbers are essentially the same as they were 30 years ago. Despite the fact that there have been numerous well-publicized scientific discoveries during the past three decades buttressing evolution science and debunking creationism. In fact, the number of Americans with this woeful sense of the world has actually gone UP a few points, from 44%.
Here's the understated way in which the Gallup organization sums up this appalling pooling of ignorance: "Still, it would be hard to dispute that most scientists who study humans agree that the species evolved over millions of years, and that relatively few scientists believe that humans began in their current form only 10,000 years ago without the benefit of evolution. Thus, almost half of Americans today hold a belief, at least as measured by this question wording, that is at odds with the preponderance of the scientific literature."
Unfortunately, this is only the latest example of how what is frankly medieval anti-Enlightenment thinking has coalesced in America.
The anti-Enlightenment forces in America are all of a piece -- birthers who scream that the first black president is really not an American at all but an African, evolution deniers, greenhouse deniers, anti-solar types, the drill-baby-drill crowd who don't get that oil is a global market so even more drilling here won't drop the price of gasoline, anti-gays, anti-choicers, and so on.
Jefferson and Franklin would roll over in their graves listening to this gabble.
And the supposed "moderate" Mitt Romney is squarely behind all of it.
His own son made birther cracks about Barack Obama, the first black president, several months ago. Romney himself chose to celebrate his clinching win in the Republican primaries with a big fundraiser at the Vegas Strip casino of the most famous birther in the country, Donald Trump, who that very day gave interviews pushing his vicious nonsense.
Romney ran as a moderate in rather liberal Massachusetts. So the question is, when was Romney lying? When he ran to the left of Teddy Kennedy on gay rights when he tried to get elected to the U.S. Senate in the '90s and pushed what's now known as "Obamacare" as governor of Massachsetts in the past decade? Or now, when he runs for president as head of a political party that has pitched itself as anti-Enlightenment.
For Romney is also a former bishop in one of the most conservative religions in America, the Mormon Church. His conservative faith meant enough to him that he worked as a Mormon missionary in France while others his age were going to fight in the Vietnam War, which Romney, a superhawk, vociferously supported. But he doesn't talk about it in public, and the media never presses him.
It's all a far cry from the now vanished Republican Party we had in this country from the Civil War of the 1860s through the Mad Men days of the 1960s, when Republicans embraced civil rights, conservation, and the preservation of the Union against the rebellion of states which today make up the geographic core of the anti-Enlightenment forces in America.
Following the very hard-won victory of Union forces over Confederate at Gettysburg, one of the most critically important battles in American history, in 1863, Abraham Lincoln made a little speech, just 272 words. In this speech, the Gettysburg Address, the man credited as the father of the Republican Party celebrated the turning point in the Civil War and proclaimed the rebirth of the United States along the Enlightenment lines of the Declaration of Independence:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain--that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom--and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
As Garry Wills pointed out in his excellent Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America, Lincoln saw that it was necessary to defeat the reactionary forces massing behind the banner of states' rights. And Lincoln saw that Jefferson had framed an ideal nation toward which the real nation would evolve, praising Jefferson for his intellectual acts as "the most distinguished politician in our history."
Lincoln's remaking of America by reaffirming the Enlightenment principles of the Declaration of Independence in the crucible of Civil War came at a time of great turbulence and division. We live in a time of great turbulence and division as well, though the challenges are more multi-faceted and global: A still uncertain recovery from economic and financial meltdown, a struggle over the nature of democracy marked by the expansion of money politics, unprecedented environmental/climate challenges, a big geopolitical pivot from over-engagement with Islam to increased engagement with Asia while still deeply entangled in war and potential war.
While all this goes on, the country struggles with its latest evolution in human rights.
Most generations of Americans have grappled with their own forms of parochialism, insularity, and squeamishness.
The Committee of Five of the Continental Congress, charged with producing the Declaration of Independence in 1776, included slavery as one of the ills to be removed from the new body politic. Only Virginia's Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration's principal author, came from a Southern colony, while Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, John Adams of Massachusetts, Robert Livingston of New York, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut all came from the North.
The end of slavery, of course, was not included in the Declaration. Practical politics seemed to dictate otherwise, so it was left to Lincoln to end slavery, a more complex task than a simple proclamation.
So it has been with the expansion of human rights for blacks and other ethnic groups, for women, and now for LGBT rights with the struggle over same-sex marriage.
These simply aren't times for an increase in the power of the forces of ignorance. Even Lincoln would have trouble in this political environment.
Which is why we must recognize how starkly fundamental the challenge really is.
You can check things during the day on my site, New West Notes ... www.newwestnotes.com.
A year after resigning from Congress in humiliating fashion, Anthony Weiner has been laying low, but with the unimpressive Democratic field languishing and the New York City's elites openly pushing for new candidates to enter the field, the city's political vets, many of whom are still appalled that the party pushed him out, aren't discounting the prospect of a return.