Archive for December, 2010|Monthly archive page

A Political Plea: Drop The Hyperbole

In Issues and Debate on December 28, 2010 at 6:15 pm

A Political Plea: Drop The Hyperbole.

This is a post from The Extinct Existentialist concerning the vitriolic nature of current American politics. I believe this post nails it well.


Obama: The Comeback Kid

In Issues and Debate on December 22, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Today, President Barack Obama signed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell legislation that forced gay and lesbian servicemembers to live a lie for 17 years. This repeal is not only historic in terms of civil rights, but represents a campaign promise made by the President just over 2 years ago. Liberals and gay-rights activists have been chomping at the bits to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell as well as the Defense of Marriage Act since they passed through Congress some years ago. With the election of Obama and Democratic control of the U.S. Congress, the opportunity was ripe for some movement on these very issues. The irony of this repeal comes as Democrats will soon lose control of the U.S. House and the President has been perceived to be on his political knees. Within the past 2 weeks, President Obama has shown that this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Much to the chagrin of the liberal base, President Obama has recently saved unemployment benefits in a deal brokered with congressional Republicans to extend the Bush era tax-cuts. Though this move may have angered some on the Left, moderates are hailing it as a sign that the President is not without compromise as many conservatives stand speechless if not tearless. The Bush era tax-cuts represent an extension not just for the wealthy, but for all Americans and that is no small thing. With tax-cuts, unemployment benefits, and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell out of the way, word now comes that the U.S. Senate is ready to ratify the new START Treaty with Russia, reducing nuclear armaments and providing greater transparencies of nuclear arsenals for both nations. Surpisingly, many congressional Republicans have crossed over just enough to make all of this happen. The truth is, American Governance is a game of compromise and highly utilitarian at its core. Obama is ready to play this game.

Despite the Healthcare debate of 2009, President Obama appears to be at his best when he is being underestimated. This reality is analogous to the early days of the 2008 election season as well as the final primary battle the President endured with Hilary Clinton and the right-wing media. Obama prevailed at the time and he has prevailed this past couple of weeks. He has found a small slice of space by which to meet in the middle while maintaining a left-center position far greater than that of President Bill Clinton. He is able to garner plebiscitary support from political heavyweights on both sides of the aisle and may now enter his third year in office with some very real victories that cannot be tainted by Palin-esque euphemisms such as ‘death panels’ or ‘socialism, communism, fascism, etc.’ Expanding freedom for gays and lesbians cannot be viewed through some fallacious political kaleidoscope with pictures of Obama as Hitler, for Hitler dreamed of exterminating gays as some Christian fanatics do in America today. Obama cannot be decried by the Left for tax-cuts to the wealthy as those same cuts benefit a struggling middle class and provide extended relief for those who are unemployed.

Indeed as we look back on the first 2 years of Obama, we must not forget what great things have occurred. The President has put two women on the Supreme Court and the first Latina in the process. Though Healthcare Reform was hotly contested, the President pulled it off. General Motors has been resuscitated and is building electric cars, all while recently going public on Wallstreet. The stimulus package may not have provided new jobs for the unemployed, but all research suggests that it saved millions of jobs otherwise.  TARP has saved the economy from further ruin and is on a faster pace to be paid back than originally estimated. On the foreign front, Obama has stopped the spiralling of America’s moral standing on the world stage by simply cutting out the hawkish rhetoric of the Bush years. Combat operations in Iraq have come to an end, drawing down a war begun under false pretenses and conducted with little respect for America’s fighting men and women as well as America’s spiralling budget deficits. Has Obama accomplished everything promised? The answer is no as it is for all Preseidents, but the last two years have had successes yet to be fully measured and this President has much more time, opportunity, and political capital than his critics and proponents would like to admit. 2012 is still a long way off and there is much work yet to be done. Happy Holidays.

President Hails "Historic" DADT Step (via The Page by Mark Halperin)

In Issues and Debate on December 18, 2010 at 4:41 pm

Obama applauds Senate cloture vote in Saturday statement, says repeal "will only underscore the professionalism of our troops." THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary December 18, 2010 Statement by the President on the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 Today, the Senate has taken an historic step toward ending a policy that undermines our national security while violating the very ideals that our brave men and women in uniform risk … Read More

via The Page by Mark Halperin

Xenophobia, Homophobia, and the United States Senate

In Issues and Debate on December 18, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Today, December 18th, 2010, the conservative argument of working hard, individual achievement, and merit took a back seat to political tactics and false ideals. The long held tradition of judging a man not on the faults of his parents, but on the merit of his individual achievement has failed to be recognized by the current Repbulican minority via the DREAM Act. The Act was pushed by liberal leaders in Congress to allow young immigrants brought to the United States illegally by their parents a chance at citizenship through a college education or service to the People of the United States through the armed forces. As the vote finally came down on a Saturday session of the U.S. Senate, Republicans filibustered and Democratic Leadership failed to garner the 60 votes needed for cloture. This failure provides a context by which to begin a new dialogue as activists and campaigners begin thinking about 2012. The DREAM Act represents the first step in a commom sense approach to immigration reform. This commom sense has been stifled by Republican Leadership and the conservative mantra of self-determination has proven to be mindless rhetoric. Whether it be xenophobia, fear of liberal-leaning Latino voters, or simply the misplaced pride of a minority party, congressional Republicans have failed to live up to the American concepts of what freedom is. Empty rhetoric is not governance and it is hopeful that this display is not a preamble to the Republican Majority that will soon take the reigns in the U.S. House.

With the DREAM Act sufficiently squashed and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell at the forefront of a lame duck Congress, the U.S. Senate voted 65-31 to repeal a foolish policy and proving that the U.S. Congress is not entirely devoid of reason. With that said, the Nays on repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell came predominantly from Republican Senators bent on pushing a false moral premise that is at odds with the very notions of freedom laid out by our founders over 200 years ago. Unlike the DREAM Act, conservatives see gays in the military and in society at large through the moral kaleidoscope provided mostly by the Christian Right. Though the rhetoric contains arguments concerning the well-being of those serving in the military via unit cohesion and war-time disruption, the truth is that many conservatives have a moral problem with openly gay members of the military as well as within the American community. As the Christian Right and their allies may see gay and lesbian citizens as representing some sort of moral corruption, the true moral corruption exists when freedom is denied. Consequently, this form of rhetoric mirrors those against blacks as the military moved to racially integrate the armed services over half a century ago. Those arguments failed then as they have today.

Contrary to the belief that the DREAM Act was a form of amnesty, the Act truly lays out a path to citizenship with some very difficult requirements. Under the Act, applicants would be required to wait 10 years, have a high school diploma or GED, pay back taxes and application fees, and either be attending college or serving in the military. Beyond that, applicants must be free of a criminal record; a requirement that many members of Congress would fail to fulfill. This ‘path’ is no easy task and represents a foundation for citizenship that many Americans have only through birthright. Without common sense immigration reform that is free of xenophobia and political gamesmanship, this nation will fail to live up to the ideals of freedom or what Abraham Lincoln called “the last, best hope of Earth.”

How the Left failed Obama

In Opinion/Editorial on December 12, 2010 at 3:00 pm
Copyright 2010 Universal Press Syndicate

Since the historic election of Barack Obama in 2008, the Left has gone from a state of euphoria to mannerisms resembling that of a snarling pitbull. As a liberal myself, I have watched the base of my own party begin to self-destruct since January 20 of 2009 as the other half of the country has refused to simply roll-over to some sort of progressive agenda. Sadly, many Progressives have failed to agree on just what that agenda ought to be in a not to dissimilar fashion to many Tea-Party advocates. The difference being, that the Tea-Party has now picked up the ball that the Progressive movement has dropped and kicked around since Obama’s inauguration. The results of this are striking. We have the most liberal president since Jimmy Carter being thrashed at his own left-flank, confused swing voters attempting to reach for solutions that have yet to materialize with an economy in tatters. As the Left postures to preserve its ideology, its stance no longer resembles pragmatism, but rage. That rage has not equated to the sort of grassroots organizing seen in the 2008 election cycle, but that of a drowning victim thrashing in the waters of electoral defeat.

Electoral defeat is the primary reason why the Obama Administration will soon have its hands tied far more than the Left-Wing could have surmised. As Ezra Klein points out well, the gender and racial breakdown of the voting public between the 2008 Presidential Election and 2010 Mid-Term Election didn’t change significantly. The breakdown among voters ages 18-29 as well as those over 65 however, has proven to swing the nation this past year. Voters ages 18-29 went from 18 percent turnout in 2008 to just 11 percent in 2010, while seniors over 65 went from 16 percent to 23 percent in that same time. With the partisan swing in Congress coming to down to less than 10 percentage points and closely matching the turnout numbers among swing voters, Democratic strategists and organizers lost focus in the 2010 cycle, just as they had during the healthcare debate in 2009.

Copyright 2010 Creators Syndicate

From pundits such as Paul Krugman this criticism from the Left has gone from one of merit to that of hyberbole. For Krugman it has come to such an extent as to contradict his own economic theories in recent weeks. His recent comments on Obama’s tax-cut deal with congressional Republicans is but the tip of the iceberg.

But while raising taxes when unemployment is high is a bad thing, there are worse things. And a cold, hard look at the consequences of giving in to the G.O.P. now suggests that saying no, and letting the Bush tax cuts expire on schedule, is the lesser of two evils.

Bear in mind that Republicans want to make those tax cuts permanent. They might agree to a two- or three-year extension — but only because they believe that this would set up the conditions for a permanent extension later. And they may well be right: if tax-cut blackmail works now, why shouldn’t it work again later?

America, however, cannot afford to make those cuts permanent. We’re talking about almost $4 trillion in lost revenue just over the next decade; over the next 75 years, the revenue loss would be more than three times the entire projected Social Security shortfall. So giving in to Republican demands would mean risking a major fiscal crisis — a crisis that could be resolved only by making savage cuts in federal spending.

Krugman’s analysis here only proves the truth of Republican victory in this year’s mid-term. The Republican’s will agree to a multi-year extension with unemployment benefits renewed in the process. Yes the G.O.P. is attempting a long-term starve the beast strategy with the tax-cuts in relation to the overall national debt, but history has proven that strategy will ultimately fail. President Reagan attempted a similar feat and only ended with a higher national debt and coming recession during the term of George H.W. Bush. Furthermore, the Clinton era proved that a healthy economy is possibly the only period by which the national debt and revolving deficits could be reversed. Raising taxes with high unemployment and a stagnant economy is not only bad, it is the most important issue in the current economic and political climate. Krugman has stepped away from his Keynesian roots and become an intellectual polemicist. Without the beginnings of a solid and sustained recovery, there is no second term for Obama. The Left and its pundits expect Obama’s chance at a second term will depend upon appeasing them. They couldn’t be more wrong.

In the political sphere, the expectations game is in constant flux. It really comes from time honored strategies of negotiation and compromise. Focus on what it is you want, aim high and frame the negotiation around false expectations, and bear down until you have compromised enough to hit the desired target. Its the long form of the traditional bidding process found in used car dealerships every day and it works, except when it doesn’t. The Left has created an expectations game for Obama that was never possible, even under ideal conditions. The prime example of this is the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy for gays in the military. While this policy is entirely immoral due to its requirements for deception, it has been around for decades and as such cannot be so easily dismantled. The congressional G.O.P. has been using a circular argument in relation to DADT even as the Secretary of Defense comes forth to recommend repeal. This stalling tactic now gives the G.O.P. the capability to stand firm and hold up any vote until January lest a lame-duck Congress can be convinced to act surreptitiously. As Secretary Gates suggests, all roads on this issue lead to Congress. The G.O.P. has stalled this vote brilliantly until after the mid-term at a time which the odds would favor their position. This example once again highlights the political storm that has arisen from the 2008 election. Just as the Left found itself on the rise, the Tea-Party movement came in as an equal reactionary force to stem the tide, thus proving Isaac Newton correct. The election of Obama served as an example that political movements from the ground up are still possible, but also created such high expectations from the Left combined with a reactionary conservative force making Obama’s agenda a truly up-hill battle. If the Left has any chance of pushing anything that resembles a liberal agenda forward, they must begin to unite over shared values and drop the rhetoric of slash and burn on their own party leadership.






Minnesota Recount Update

In Issues and Debate on December 5, 2010 at 3:57 pm

The recount in the Minnesota Gubernatorial Election is now down to the last days, with Dec. 7th as the deadline for  Minnesota recount officials to submit results. While Mark Dayton is meeting with members of the Democratic Governor’s Association, supporters of Tom Emmer continue to challenge ballots at recount locations across Minnesota. The challenged ballots have been a source of tension between election officials and the Emmer camp since the recount began. With ballot challenging underway, Emmer supporters have continually challenged other aspects of the recount as well. This all comes amid rumors of a ballot challenge quota instituted internally among the state’s GOP recount staff.

Reports are continually arising concerning frivolous ballot challenges such as those ballots containing no vote for any candidate in the gubernatorial race. Such challenges seem superfluous, but may serve well as stalling tactic, as well as one more reason to pursue a court challenge once the Minnesota Canvassing Board reviews all challenged ballots and certifies the election come Dec. 14th. Among other tactics apparently being used include a challenge by Emmer supporters to the call for additional tables at the Hennepin County Government Center on Dec. 1st. According to Minnesota Public Radio, allegations of bias have been tossed around concerning Plymouth City Clerk Sandy Engdahl as well as Hennepin County Elections Manager Rachel Smith. These allegations only serve to stir the pot and delay the inevitable. The Emmer camp appears to be challenging ballots en masse with hopes of overcoming a nearly impossible deficit of nearly 8700 votes. Without question this strategy can only serve to provide evidence for potential legal action.

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