It may sound paranoid, but the demographic shifts in the United States are such that the GOP-- which has so alienated non-whites and the non-elderly-- is desperate to drastically curtail democracy before it's too late for them. Since at least the French Revolution, the forces of the Right have fought against popular democracy every step of the way. At the founding of this country, conservatives were clear that they would sabotage the whole effort rather than permit universal suffrage to be adopted. Conservatives wanted to make sure that voting would be only allowed for white male property owners, the older the better. One of the Koch brothers' most virulent-- and effective--political arms, ALEC, has been working on the state legislative level to turn the ship of democracy around back in that direction. And in states where the Republicans have gained legislative majorities-- Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Maine, Georgia, Texas, Ohio, New Hampshire, etc-- they have moved down the path of limiting the franchise in ways outlined for them by ALEC. If you do think this is paranoid, let me point you to Jonathan Chait's article in the new issue of New York, 2012 or Never.
?America is approaching a ?tipping point? beyond which the Nation will be unable to change course,? announces the dark, old-timey preamble to Paul Ryan?s ?The Roadmap Plan,? a statement of fiscal principles that shaped the budget outline approved last spring by 98 percent of the House Republican caucus. Rick Santorum warns his audiences, ?We are reaching a tipping point, folks, when those who pay are the minority and those who receive are the majority.? Even such a sober figure as Mitt Romney regularly says things like ?We are only inches away from no longer being a free economy,? and that this election ?could be our last chance.?
The Republican Party is in the grips of many fever dreams. But this is not one of them. To be sure, the apocalyptic ideological analysis-- that ?freedom? is incompatible with Clinton-era tax rates and Massachusetts-style health care-- is pure crazy. But the panicked strategic analysis, and the sense of urgency it gives rise to, is actually quite sound. The modern GOP-- the party of Nixon, Reagan, and both Bushes-- is staring down its own demographic extinction. Right-wing warnings of impending tyranny express, in hyperbolic form, well-grounded dread: that conservative America will soon come to be dominated, in a semi-permanent fashion, by an ascendant Democratic coalition hostile to its outlook and interests. And this impending doom has colored the party?s frantic, fearful response to the Obama presidency.
The GOP has reason to be scared. Obama?s election was the vindication of a prediction made several years before by journalist John Judis and political scientist Ruy Teixeira in their 2002 book, The Emerging Democratic Majority. Despite the fact that George W. Bush then occupied the White House, Judis and Teixeira argued that demographic and political trends were converging in such a way as to form a natural-majority coalition for Democrats.
The Republican Party had increasingly found itself confined to white voters, especially those lacking a college degree and rural whites who, as Obama awkwardly put it in 2008, tend to ?cling to guns or religion.? Meanwhile, the Democrats had increased their standing among whites with graduate degrees, particularly the growing share of secular whites, and remained dominant among racial minorities. As a whole, Judis and Teixeira noted, the electorate was growing both somewhat better educated and dramatically less white, making every successive election less favorable for the GOP. And the trends were even more striking in some key swing states. Judis and Teixeira highlighted Colorado, Nevada, and Arizona, with skyrocketing Latino populations, and Virginia and North Carolina, with their influx of college-educated whites, as the most fertile grounds for the expanding Democratic base.
...[T]he dominant fact of the new Democratic majority is that it has begun to overturn the racial dynamics that have governed American politics for five decades. Whatever its abstract intellectual roots, conservatism has since at least the sixties drawn its political strength by appealing to heartland identity politics. In 1985, Stanley Greenberg, then a political scientist, immersed himself in Macomb County, a blue-collar Detroit suburb where whites had abandoned the Democratic Party in droves. He found that the Reagan Democrats there understood politics almost entirely in racial terms, translating any Democratic appeal to economic justice as taking their money to subsidize the black underclass. And it didn?t end with the Reagan era. Piles of recent studies have found that voters often conflate ?social? and ?economic? issues. What social scientists delicately call ?ethnocentrism? and ?racial resentment? and ?ingroup solidarity? are defining attributes of conservative voting behavior, and help organize a familiar if not necessarily rational coalition of ideological interests. Doctrines like neoconservative foreign policy, supply-side economics, and climate skepticism may bear little connection to each other at the level of abstract thought. But boiled down to political sound bites and served up to the voters, they blend into an indistinguishable stew of racial, religious, cultural, and nationalistic identity.
Obama?s election dramatized the degree to which this long-standing political dynamic had been flipped on its head. In the aftermath of George McGovern?s 1972 defeat, neoconservative intellectual Jeane Kirkpatrick disdainfully identified his voters as ?intellectuals enamored with righteousness and possibility, college students, for whom perfectionism is an occupational hazard; portions of the upper classes freed from concern with economic self-interest,? and so on, curiously neglecting to include racial minorities. All of them were, in essence, people who heard a term like ?real American? and understood that in some way it did not apply to them. Today, cosmopolitan liberals may still feel like an embattled sect-- they certainly describe their political fights in those terms-- but time has transformed their rump minority into a collective majority. As conservative strategists will tell you, there are now more of ?them? than ?us.? What?s more, the disparity will continue to grow indefinitely. Obama actually lost the over-45-year-old vote in 2008, gaining his entire victory margin from younger voters-- more racially diverse, better educated, less religious, and more socially and economically liberal.
...[I]n the cold calculus of game theory, the expected response to this state of affairs would be to accommodate yourself to the growing strength of the opposing coalition-- to persuade pockets of voters on the Democratic margins they might be better served by Republicans. Yet the psychology of decline does not always operate in a straightforward, rational way. A strategy of managing slow decay is unpleasant, and history is replete with instances of leaders who persuaded themselves of the opposite of the obvious conclusion. Rather than adjust themselves to their slowly weakening position, they chose instead to stage a decisive confrontation. If the terms of the fight grow more unfavorable with every passing year, well, all the more reason to have the fight sooner. This was the thought process of the antebellum southern states, sizing up the growing population and industrial might of the North. It was the thinking of the leaders of Austria-Hungary, watching their empire deteriorate and deciding they needed a decisive war with Serbia to save themselves.
At varying levels of conscious and subconscious thought, this is also the reasoning that has driven Republicans in the Obama era. Surveying the landscape, they have concluded that they must strike quickly and decisively at the opposition before all hope is lost.
I very much wanted to like Smash, NBC’s show about the making of a Broadway musical, and not just because I’m eager for the generally well-intentioned network to be repaid for Parks and Recreation and Community with some huge commercial successes. I’m interested in people’s artistic processes, and I adore Anjelica Huston and Debra Messing, who star as the show’s book writer and producer, respectively. But the show isn’t drawing the kind of numbers NBC would have hoped for, particularly for a show they would have loved to monetize the way Fox has turned Glee into a cash cow, with iTunes sales and a spin-off live show. And it’s not really working creatively, either.
Perhaps the central problem of Smash is that it’s predicated on a rivalry that the show is contorting itself to make plausible. There’s no question that Ivy (Megan Hilty) deserves the lead in the Marilyn musical under development over Karen (Katherine McPhee): she’s a more polished Broadway singer, a more accomplished dancer, she has much more experience on the stage, she’s a physical match for Marilyn, and she’s a more dedicated professional. So how does Smash make it seem like an emotionally engaged contest? By making Ivy a shallow bitch. While we get Karen’s home life with her devoted boyfriend and trips home to her friends and supportive family in Iowa, Ivy gets a single phone call home, where it’s clear that things aren’t all right, but we never get any details. Even though she’s clearly more qualified, we’re told Ivy only really gets the part because she slept with Derek, the director, a convenient drama-driving plot device that also happens to reduce a talented performer. Now that we’re in rehearsals, we see Ivy pushing Karen (now a member of the chorus) to the side, even though she’s not exactly doing her job. It’s contrived and irritating.
Then, there’s the show-within-a-show itself. The characters talk endlessly about Marilyn Monroe without revealing anything particularly interesting about her character. The numbers themselves are charming, but ultimately light?maybe it’s just me, but I’m not particularly moved by a faux Marilyn cooing about manipulating men with her sex appeal. The show tells us, rather than shows us, that these artists are having profound experiences with the material?though it does a nice job of showing us how sexy artists can be to non-artists when they’re in their zones.
And I wonder if that combination of material and setting is what’s preventing Smash from becoming the grown-up version of Glee?and would prevent it from being that show even if everything else was clicking. Glee is a hot mess these days, but it can be genuinely daring and moving when it takes on the subject of gay teenagers. But it does so in a setting where everything else is familiar: this is a small town populated with relatively familiar archetypes, the students attend an essentially typical high school, and they’re singing songs almost everyone in the viewing audience has heard before. The gay characters are a minority in a largely straight world. It’s a show that is sometimes about tolerance, and asking to do that from a very safe space for straight, middle-American viewers.
Smash, on the other hand, is asking viewers to come into a world where women and straight men are dominant, framed by music that’s original rather than familiar. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, per se?shows shouldn’t have to star straight dudes to be successful. But I do think that it might be a sign of NBC’s unwillingness or inability to accept that it’s going to have to make some genuinely popular entertainment to score a smash hit. What makes Glee easy to consume isn’t just the renditions of popular hits?it’s the setting. It’s not actually a natural sege from the cover extravaganza that is The Voice and its quartet of judges who represent the full spectrum of the music business to a show about the making of a Broadway musical.
NBC needs to recognize the difference between the two and decide what kind of entertainment it wants to make. If it’s going to make quirky shows or shows that imply that rivals like Glee aren’t grown-up enough, NBC may be consigning itself to a smaller but wealthier group of viewers who are desirable to advertisers. But if it’s going to make big, mass entertainment that it endeavors to make somewhat smarter than its competitors offerings, it needs to do so without giving the impression that it resents having to do it.
Senate Democrats are pushing back against a proposed Republican amendment that could endanger millions of women’s insurance coverage for preventive health care. The measure, introduced by Sen. Roy Blunt (R), would allow any employer to deny coverage of health services to their employees on the basis of their personal moral objections, including the new requirement to cover contraception at no additional cost. “If the Blunt amendment passes, a corporate CEO who doesn’t believe in birth control could simply decide to take it away from his employee’s health care coverage,” according to a video from Senate Democrats:
The Blunt amendment will come to a vote in the Senate on Thursday.
Mom, he started it!The Republican primary has officially moved from clown show status and is now teetering on the edge of a schoolyard brawl ...
Earlier today we had Mitt Romney whining that Rick Santorum's call for crossover voting in today's Michigan primary is a "dirty trick" that only union thugs and Mitt Romney would ever do, and now Santorum has punched back:
"Did you ask him whether the fifty-three percent of the people in New Hampshire who voted that weren?t Republicans - was that kidnapping the process?? asked Santorum? ?He didn?t seem to complain about it then. Thats what bullies do ? you hit them back and they whine."Next up, expect Romney to respond by triple-dog-daring Santorum to lick a frozen flag poll.
In January, marijuana legalization activists in Colorado turned in twice as many signatures as they needed to place a legalization initiative on the state’s 2012 ballot. Yesterday, Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler officially announced that the activists had submitted enough signatures, meaning the initiative will appear on the ballot this November.
According to the Marijuana Policy Project, if passed, the Colorado initiative would legalize limited marijuana use and possession for adults over age 21, while regulating and taxing it like alcohol:
If passed, the initiative would allow adults 21 and older to possess and use limited amounts of marijuana. It would also establish a system of regulations to control and tax marijuana sales, much like the system that exists for alcohol, and direct the state legislature to enact legislation governing the cultivation, processing, and sales of industrial hemp.
?Supporters of rational marijuana policies everywhere should congratulate the residents of Colorado for placing this initiative on the ballot,? Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a press release. Indeed, a slim majority of Americans now support legalizing marijuana, according to recent Gallup polling, while more than three-quarters support legalization for medicinal purposes. Sixteen states have legalized medical marijuana, but the federal government still maintains strict prohibition laws.
And while progressive Colorado Rep. Jared Polis (D) has led the fight to end marijuana prohibition at the federal level, the cause has also been taken up by libertarians who have used legalization as a wedge issue to attack the Constitution’s guarantee that national leaders can actually govern. Activists in California, for instance, sought to declare Justice Department enforcement of federal marijuana laws unconstitutional last year. While DOJ’s actions were unfortunate, the lawsuit itself was a seemingly frivolous way to attack the federal government.
Meanwhile, libertarian activists and politicians who view much of the 20th century’s social policy as unconstitutional have used marijuana liberalization as an issue to jump-start their anti-government crusades. That should concern progressives, who cannot afford to cede an increasingly popular issue that holds important implications for criminal justice reform and public safety to a movement that wants to use it as a way to end the social safety net and gut worker safety laws.
Moments ago, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed over 13,000 for the first time since May 19, 2008. The stock market is now up over 56 percent since Obama took office. Today, the stock market was buoyed, in the view of one economist, by “job and income gains…leading to higher confidence and spending growth, in turn driving further spending gains.” Here’s how the stock market has fared under our last three presidents:
The success of the stock market under Obama is particularly notable considering the majority of Republicans believe he is a “socialist,” presumably out to destroy private enterprise.
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The 2012 season-opening NFL Kickoff game will be played on Wednesday, September 5 (NBC, 8:30 PM ET), Commissioner Roger Goodell announced Tuesday.
The game will be played on Wednesday to avoid a conflict with President Barack Obama’s Thursday night speech at the Democratic National Convention.
The Super Bowl XLVI-champion New York Giants will host the regular-season opener at MetLife Stadium. NBC will televise the game at 8:30 p.m. ET, with "NFL Kickoff 2012" beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET. - NFL.com
On paper, President Obama?s speech to the United Auto Workers this morning isn?t any different than the speech he gave in Osawatomie, Kansas at the beginning of the year, or the one he gave announcing the American Jobs Act last fall. Boiled down, each is a populist call to reject tax cuts for the wealthy, and push for greater fairness and mobility in the economy. Where today?s speech stands apart is in the actual presentation; this stands as one of the most aggressive speeches Obama has delivered, with a barrage of attacks on the Republican Party and its presidential candidates.
The president ripped into Mitt Romney?s position on the automobile bailout calling him out for his opposition??Some even said we should 'let Detroit go bankrupt.'??and then ridiculing him for his refusal to accept its success. He inveighed against the GOP?s hostility to labor unions, calling it ?a load of you-know-what,? and used the auto-bailouts as a departure point for his larger argument: that this is an election of fundamental differences, where Republicans place a greater value on the wants and interests of the wealthiest Americans, and Democrats want to want to preserve and expand opportunity for as many people as possible:
You want to talk about values? Hard work?that?s a value. Looking out for one another?that?s a value. The idea that we?re all in it together?that I am my brother?s keeper; I am my sister?s keeper?that is a value. [?]
We will not settle for a country where a few people do really well, and everyone else struggles to get by. We?re fighting for an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules. We will not go back to an economy weakened by outsourcing, bad debt, and phony profits. We?re fighting for an economy that?s built to last?one built on things like education, energy, manufacturing things the rest of the world wants to buy, and restoring the values that made this country great: Hard work. Fair play. The opportunity to make it if you try. And the responsibility to reach back and help someone else make it, too.
The Republican Party?s argument for in this election?regardless of who wins the nomination?is simple: we have to shrink government to save the economy. And to illustrate the case, they?ll present health care reform, the stimulus, and the bailouts as ?big government? policies that harmed the economy, and kept it from recovery.
This speech sums up President Obama?s response; government is one of the ways in which we provide opportunity for anyone who wants it, and Republicans want to eliminate that, for the sake of giving more and greater advantages to the wealthy and privileged.
The Republican presidential candidates should take note. So far, they?ve been in a bubble of constant conservative affirmation. But in a few short months, one of them will enter the general election, and will have to face off against an aggressive and confident incumbent.