We need maintenance therapy today to combat a rise in opioid use. But many courts and prisons cling to a Reagan-era “Just say no” mind-set. By Sally Satel
Right now I plan on watching the president’s immigration announcement and then immediately going to a local restaurant that serves Thanksgiving dinner every Thursday this time of year for a meal with some good friends who happen to be Republican. Then maybe I can face the inferno of what American politics is likely to become tomorrow.
Here are some remains of the day:
* In a taste of what we’ll be hearing tomorrow, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) says the president’s executive action on immigration may not only earn him impeachment, but prison time.
* Nate Cohn inadvertently eggs them on with analysis suggesting that losing Latino voters probably won’t hurt them much in 2016.
* For the sheer hell of it, I suspect, Ross Douthat suggests that among the possibilities on the American religious horizon is a return to polygamy among mainstream LDS folk.
* At Ten Miles Square, Martin Longman defends Cory Booker against Dana Milbank.
* At College Guide, Daniel Luzer explores the new course at Penn entitled “Wasting Time on the Internet.” Seriously.
And in non-political news:
* Calista Flockhart turns 50. Wonder if she ever started eating.
That’s it for Thursday. Here’s an August 1971 recording of the Allman Brothers (had to be one of the later recordings with Duane) performing one of my favorite songs of theirs, “Trouble No More.” The song was first recorded by Muddy Waters in 1955.
As we await the president’s immigration announcement and The Conservative Freakout, I ran across (h/t/ Sarah Posner) a new Pew analysis of the growth of Pentecostal Protestantism in Latin America—featuring a Q&A with religion professor Andrew Chesnut—and learned a lot.
I wasn’t really aware of Pentecostalism’s ethnic/racial advantage over Catholicism in Latin America. Here’s Chesnut:
[T]he Pentecostal preachers tend to sound more like their congregants. They are often unlettered and they speak to their flock in the same way that people in Latin American speak to each other. They also tend to look like their congregants. So in Guatemala, many preachers are Mayan, and in Brazil they are Afro-Brazilian. By contrast, in the Catholic Church, most priests are part of the elite. They are either white or mestizo and many are actually from Europe.
I also didn’t know how important the “health and wealth gospel” was to Latin American Pentecostalism. The former emphasizes faith healing; the latter is a version of the familiar “prosperity gospel” you hear in the U.S. from people like T.D. Jakes.
And finally, I didn’t know how thoroughly “charismatic” worship practices had spread among Latin American Catholics in response to Pentecostal inroads. Again, here’s Chesnut:
Starting in the late ’60s the Catholic Church embraced charismatic Christianity. That has been the church’s primary response to Pentecostal inroads. The Catholic Charismatic Renewal offers the same ecstatic spirituality, the same healing, but people get to keep the Virgin Mary, and saints as well. So on paper, the Charismatic Renewal offers the best of both worlds.
This strategy has been somewhat successful. It hasn’t stopped losses to the Pentecostal churches, but those losses would have been much more acute if it hadn’t been for this renewal movement in the Latin American Catholic Church.
But here’s the most interesting data point:
Pentecostalism is now overwhelmingly anchored in Latin America, rather than the United States. In Brazil, for example, the Assemblies of God has 10 million to 12 million members, while the American Assemblies of God church has 2 million to 3 million. So now, the Brazilian church is the big brother and the United States is seen as mission territory.
Many [Latin American] churches are now sending out missionaries to the United States, as well as to Europe and Africa and even Asia.
Since Pentecostalism originated in the U.S., and not all that long ago (specifically, in Los Angeles in 1906), this is a re-import into the U.S., undoubtedly reinforced by immigrants. Since Pentecostal Latin Americans are generally more open to conservative political appeals than their Catholic (or more recently, unchurched) brethren, you’d think Republicans would be a bit more open to them as well. But you don’t get the sense GOPers much differentiate among those people who don’t look or talk like them.
If you want a good indicator of how far off the rails today’s conservatives have become on gun issues, check out John McCormick’s report at Bloomberg Politics on the big trouble Dr. Ben Carson’s gotten himself into:
Ahead of a weekend trip to Iowa, potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson sought to assure supporters Wednesday evening that he’s a strong Second Amendment supporter.
As he inches closer to the prospect of a presidential campaign, Carson used a conference call to try to address questions about his loyalty to gun rights. Skeptics often point to a statement the neurosurgeon-turned-conservative-activist made in 2013 to conservative talk-show host Glenn Beck, who asked whether people have the right to own semi-automatic weapons.
“It depends on where you live,” Carson told Beck. “If you live in the midst of a lot of people, and I’m afraid that that semi-automatic weapon is going to fall into the hands of a crazy person, I would rather you not have it.”
Turns out it’s possible to convince “the base” you’re a damn RINO squish even on Glenn Beck’s show. But now Carson’s back into the unassailable position of a stone fanatic:
Carson said that “under no circumstances” would he “allow a bureaucrat to remove any law-abiding citizen’s rights for any kind of weapon that they want to protect themselves.”
Anti-aircraft batteries? Nuclear weapons? No matter: best to err on the side of extremism in today’s GOP.
Political animals of a certain age will probably remember the saga of the Southern Regional Presidential Primary of 1988. Designed (not, as is often reported, by the DLC, but by the Southern Legislative Conference, a state legislators’ group) to provide a “moderate” and most definitely a regional counterweight to the usual liberal activist tilt of Iowa and New Hampshire, the event instead pretty much reduced the presidential field to Mike Dukakis and Jesse Jackson, with Al Gore hanging on without a great deal of momentum. By 1992 the regional primary had come unglued.
Well, now the idea’s back, but among Republicans, and under a different label: “The SEC Primary.” As Jim Galloway and Greg Bluestein of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported back on November 4, the prime mover is Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp (he of the lost 40,000 voter registration applications), and he’s trying to herd six states (GA, AL, AR, LA, MS and TN) to join heavy-weights FL and TX in holding their 2016 primaries on March 1, the first day allowable under the new RNC calendar. The primary calendar guru Josh Putnam thinks LA won’t move from a Saturday primary and AR could be a heavy lift, but otherwise the “SEC” plan is a possibility (I guess Missouri’s just left out, and South Carolina already has a privileged February primary).
As to how an “SEC primary” will affect the Republican nominating process, it’s too early to know. It could create a convenient mopping up moment for a national front-runner on a landscape too large for financially struggling challengers; that’s how it worked out on the GOP side in 1988. But you can see how it could have been a major headache for Mitt Romney in 2012, assuming his conservative opponents had worked out a way to focus on different states. One aspect of the March 1 date is significant: it will be too early under the rules for winner-take-all primaries; in that sense it could help non-frontrunners. At this point, though, it’s not clear whether or if so when there will be any front-runner. As for the favorite-son factor: the vast list of “mentioned” 2016 candidates includes the relatively low total of five from the states we are talking about: two from TX (Cruz and Perry) and two from FL (Bush and Rubio) and one from LA (Bobby Jindal). It’s a pretty good guess that one each from FL and TEX either won’t run or will have dropped out by March 1, and I personally don’t think Bobby Jindal’s going to last long as anything other than a Veep possibility. So theoretically, it could be a pretty big day for somebody. But as Democrats can tell you, don’t be too sure this far in advance who that might be.
I got to see the Allman Brothers a couple of times before Duane’s death (last time I saw them was in New Orleans during JazzFest—I think in 2000—in what might have been Dickie Betts’ last performance with them). They were prominent in the brief moment in the late 60s when Atlanta—with the free concerts at Piedmont Park frequently featuring the Allmans—was the center of the hippie universe. Good times. Sad to see the Bros retire.
Here are some more contemporary midday news/views treats:
* Another campus shooting, this time at FSU; three injured (one critically), shooter killed by police.
* New Republican House speaker-designate in Nevada has long paper trail of toxic op-eds.
* House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers says “defunding” Obama’s immigration action “impossible.” Lucky for him he got re-named to post earlier this week.
* At TNR Rebecca Traister argues a lot of people had reasons to cover their eyes and ears at rape allegations aimed at Bill Cosby’.
And in non-political news:
* Hollywood icon Mike Nichols dies at 83.
As we break for lunch, here are the Allman Brothers with Duane on guitar performing “Dreams” back in 1969.
I guess we might as well get all of the week’s unusually large batch of 2016 punditry out of the way before lunch, and before tonight’s DACA announcement and the reaction to it blots out the sun and fills the sky with angry crows.
I’ve noticed a couple of new pieces about Martin O’Malley’s plans. Neither improves on the profile of the Maryland governor written by Haley Edwards for the Washington Monthly last year, though Molly Ball at the Atlantic offers some observations on O’Malley’s persistence in the face of very high odds and considerable media indifference, and Alex Seitz-Wald of MSNBC reports on his hiring of policy staff, an important step towards a presidential campaign.
Neither piece, however, mentions the most important new problem O’Malley must confront in establishing his “viability,” and by that I don’t mean Jim Webb’s exploratory committee. No, it’s the chatter in elite circles about O’Malley’s alleged responsibility for the November 4 catastrophe that struck his designated successor, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, in what was probably the biggest upset of the cycle.
There are multiple explanations for Brown’s loss that don’t directly involve the incumbent govenror: really bad Democratic turnout, a really bad Brown campaign, Brown’s responsibility for a botched rollout of Maryland’s Obamacare state insurance exchange, and even the “Bradley Effect” (the idea, thought to have been retired by Barack Obama, that voters ashamed of looking racist routinely over-report support to pollsters for African-American candidates). But as noted here on November 6, there’s also plenty of talk about the so-called “rain tax” (see this excellent explanation from Brentin Mock at Grist), a stormwater abatement fee all homeowners in the state had to pay. TNR’s Alec MacGillisexplained why it could be dangerous for Martin O’Malley, after conducting his own focus group at a Maryland polling place:
[E]veryone I spoke with cited it [the “rain tax”] as the crowning example of the nickel-and-diming taxing regime under O’Malley that also includes the $60-per-year “flush tax” to upgrade sewage treatment plants and higher taxes on alcohol, cigarettes, and gas. “The rain tax was the last straw,” said Mike Eline, 64, who does pest control at the University of Maryland campus in Baltimore. “How many taxes can there possibly be?” “It seems any reason they can, they say, ‘let’s tax the people,’” said Daniel, a 63-year-old African-American warehouse worker. “What really upsets me is the rain tax. Rain is something natural that’s just given to us. Nobody has to work for it. But they say, ‘let’s tax it.’”
Now this can all sound like real inside baseball to non-Marylanders, and particularly to the Iowa and New Hampshire Democratic activists who will likely be the real judges and jury for O’Malley’s presidential ambitions. But among the national party elites and media types who play an important role in the “invisible primary,” it’s an issue O’Malley will have to deal with again and again unless he finds an efficient way to spike it, at a time when he needs good press and a lot of it. It will be interesting to see how he handles it.
Two days after Jennifer Rubin told us Scott Walker probably will wait for a decade or two to run for president, Politico’s James Hohmann has the lowdown on the Wisconsin governor’s very specific 2016 plans, much of them gleaned from Walker himself. Seems he’s going to staff up and take some high-profile right-wing positions before launching or folding next summer. It all sounds amazingly calculated, even for a cyborg-like pol:
“We went from, when I was county executive, Walker 1.0, to governor, Walker 2.0,” the governor said. “If this was even ever realistic, we’d have to build a 3.0 right off the bat. You want to keep widening the circle.”
Well, someone in Walker’s circle—perhaps social scientists working from a special Koch Brothers laboratory/dungeon in Wichita or something—have concluded Walker 3.0 needs a little spike in that vanilla persona with respect to “the base” that would determine his fate in places like Iowa. So:
The 47-year-old Republican intends to use an upcoming legislative session in Wisconsin to push an ambitious agenda that could, in combination with his triumphs over Big Labor, bolster his standing with Republican primary voters: Repealing unpopular Common Core standards, requiring drug tests for welfare beneficiaries and cutting property taxes.
Check-a-box, check-a-box, check-a-box. Sounds to me like a sudden, distant sound of indictments rolling off a prosecutor’s printer might be the only obstacle to the remorseless progress of Walker 3.0 towards its failsafe point.
So Jim Webb wasn’t kidding, it seems. He’s gone from telling the occasional journalist he’s thinking about running for president in 2016 to forming an exploratory committee, the first serious candidate in either party, I believe, to do so. Those Democrats who have been fretting that Hillary Clinton would float to the nomination with no opposition at all must be relieved.
But I gotta say, Webb’s statement on why he is thinking about running—his rationale for candidacy—begins with a note that is bound to sound like nails on a chalkboard (if that’s not too archaic a metaphor!) to a potential progressive constituency unhappy with Barack Obama and afraid Hillary Clinton will continue his “centrist” ways:
I’d like to take a few minutes of your time to ask you to consider the most important question facing America today: Is it possible that our next President could actually lay out a vision for the country, and create an environment where leaders from both parties and from all philosophies would feel compelled to work together for the good of the country, despite all of the money and political pressure that now demands they disagree?
I really, really don’t think the average potential primary supporter of Webb against Clinton is going to kick out the jams for a candidate who thinks the real problem in Washington is insufficient bipartisanship. Been there, done that, with Obama, and even Obama struggles to pay lip service to the idea, particularly now on the eve of an intensely partisan fight over immigration policy.
There’s a way to articulate what I’ve in the past called “grassroots bipartisanship” that might work for a candidate like Webb: expressing a gritty determination to create a new progressive coalition that will impose its will on both parties in Washington. But I don’t think that’s what Webb is doing at this point. The idea that bipartisan governance would be easy with the right leadership—a term that suffuses his statement with an unmistakably martial air—comports with his notorious “antipolitics” posture which constantly projects a contempt for the limitations of, well, everybody else. It’s also consistent with his on-again, off-again engagement with politics.
Do progressives want to go to war with the insanely advantaged Hillary Clinton and then with an insanely well-funded GOP nominee under the banner of what Rob Garver calls “Webb’s Cincinnatus act”? I don’t know. But I’ll take Webb’s proto-candidacy more seriously when I start seeing some sort of activity in an early caucus or primary state.
There’s little question what the president’s burden of persuasion will be tonight. Greg Sargent sums it up:
[T]here is little question that Democrats face a major challenge in persuading the public to support what Obama is set to announce tomorrow. The NBC poll tells the story nicely: While only 38 percent support executive action, it also finds that 57 percent support a path to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants, which suggests that even people who agree with Democrats on what needs to be done on immigration may have a tough time accepting unilateral action on the issue.
Greg goes on to point out that support for a “path to citizenship” actually balloons into the 70s when the conditions for achieving citizenship in, say, the Senate-passed legislation are explained, and similar conditions, of course, are attached to the much more limited protections Obama will be offering certain categories of the undocumented in the new initiative. That’s why Democrats will be at pains to go into details on the initiative, and compare it to an intolerable status quo that congressional Republicans (in part because of their internal divisions) cannot and will not deal with. And that’s why the GOP will be equally at pains to focus on the process by which this decision was made rather than its substance.
Earlier this week I suggested opponents of the executive action will in effect be treating it as an equivalent to FDR’s “court-packing” initiative of 1937, generally viewed as his one major political error (though it did indirectly achieve its purpose as the Supreme Court quietly shifted from its determination to take down the New Deal). It will be interesting to see if the explicit comparison is made in the days ahead. But even if it’s not, the dynamic of focusing on process rather than substance (with the reverse for Obama and his allies) is almost certain to persist. After all, each side’s core constituency on this issue is pre-committed to support for or opposition to the initiative; Latino immigration advocates obviously expect Obama to test the limits of his executive authority and conservative neo-nativists would oppose “amnesty” even if they couldn’t find a single lawyer to challenge the president’s constitutional and statutory prerogatives. To the extent that public opinion matters here, the real battle will be over those people who basically favor immigration reform but really wish Congress would deal with it.
Really low turnout in the midterms obviously had an effect on the outcome. But in California, the record low turnout has an interesting byproduct for better or for worse, as KQED’s John Myers explained last week (h/t David Nir of Daily Kos Elections):
Article II of the California Constitution says that the number of valid voter signatures to qualify an initiative is based on the total votes cast in the most recent race for governor. For initiatives that seek to amend the state constitution, the signatures must equal at least 8 percent of the gubernatorial vote; for those that would create new statutes (state law), it’s 5 percent of the gubernatorial vote.
For the 2012 and 2014 elections, that threshold was set in the 2010 contest between Gov. Jerry Brown and GOP challenger Meg Whitman. For 2016 and 2018, the threshold will be set by what happened on Nov. 4.
And as we’re now seeing, that total vote was low. Historically low.
As of now, state elections officials have reported that just shy of 6.5 million votes were cast in the duel between Brown and Republican Neel Kashkari.
That means that backers of any potential 2016 or 2018 ballot measures to write state law could qualify their initiative for the ballot with as few as 325,000 valid signatures. Compare that with the existing threshold for a statutory initiative, which is 504,760….
[F]or a coming election cycle where everyone already expects a torrent of ballot initiatives, from legal pot to tax hikes and beyond, these super-low thresholds could make it a lot easier to get an issue in front of voters.
There’s also a recently enacted provision in state law that requires legislative hearings on any proposed initiative that has collected 25% of the petition signatures needed for ballot certification (the idea being to give the legislature an opportunity to act on whatever’s bugging the initiative supporters).
At current rates, that means that anyone who can get about 82,000 signatures will force the Legislature to engage on the issue.
I’m beginning to understand why Jerry Brown held back many millions of dollars in surplus campaign contributions for use in future ballot initiative fights instead of helping out fellow Democrats this year.
When the president announces his executive action on immigration tonight at 8:00 PM EST, the three big broadcasting networks will not cover it. But it will be covered by the outlets most concerned with the issue, per Politico’s Dylan Byers:
There is a bright spot for the administration though. Their target audience, Hispanics, will likely be tuning in. The two Hispanic-focused networks, Univision and Telemundo, will broadcast the speech live. Univision is even delaying the Latin Grammys broadcast for the speech. CNN, MSNBC and Fox News will also air the speech live.
So the media sources most likely to praise the action (though you have to wonder if the expanded DACA was a bit over-sold, and there will be some disappointment over its scope) and most likely to freak out over it will be covering it live.
If, God forbid, I were in TV-land covering this event, I’d book for immediate comment one of those defeated Democratic senators at whose request this action was delayed from its initial late summer rollout. It would be interesting to ask them if the deportations carried out during the autumn were worth it.
Duane Allman was born on this day in 1946. He died at the age of 24 in 1971 in a motorcycle accident in Macon, Georgia. He was best known as a founder of the Allman Brothers Band, but was equally influential as a session guitarist. Here’s Duane on the recording of Wilson Pickett’s cover of “Hey Jude,” of all things, that Eric Clapton called his favorite guitar solo ever , leading to Duane’s famous guest gig with Derek & the Dominoes).
Looks like we’re gearing down to a really heavy end-of-the-week here in politics-land. Get ready for some unusual levels of conservative hysteria right on into Thanksgiving. Maybe lay in some ABBA music and comfort food for counterpoint, or roast that turkey early and go ahead and put up the tree.
Here are some remains of this day:
* Politico has a write-up of the actual expanded DACA declaration they expect Obama to make tomorrow. No huge surprises; he’s “going big,” but staying on consistent legal ground.
* Latest craziness in the Uber/Buzzfeed battle.
* Tomasky predicts chain reaction from horrific synagogue murders in Jerusalem may produce next intifada.
* At Ten Miles Square, Martin Longman was prophetic in noting the powerful backlash against NSA reform bill from “the bad guys.”
* At College Guide, Daniel Luzer discusses trends in “study abroad:” for Americans, still unusual, and still mostly limited to wealthy.
And in nonpolitical news:
* 50% of country covered in snow—in mid-November.
That’s it for Wednesday. Let’s close with Badfinger performing “Suitcase.” Really good song.
As the engines of the Right-Wing Noise Machine rev themselves up into a high-pitched, chattering whine in anticipation of the Great Tyrannical Amnesty Declaration of 2014, it becomes harder and harder to believe that Republicans are going to resist the temptation to shut down the federal government again. Some of them, of course, are already there. And a lot more are back to the “partial shutdown” position that Ted Cruz tried to sell during his “Defund Obamacare” runup to the 2013 shutdown: the fantasy that Republicans can get Obama blamed for a shutdown if they keep saying they want everything other than the contaminated areas of government to continue.
But by far the more dangerous rationalization was nicely summarized at the Prospect today by Paul Waldman: Republicans don’t think voters will remember what happens now, because they didn’t last time around.
Approval of the Republican party took a nose dive in the wake of the shutdown, and though it is still viewed negatively by most Americans, that didn’t stop Republicans from having a great election day. Because as at least some within the GOP understand, you can create chaos and crisis, and large numbers of voters will conclude not that Republicans are bent on creating chaos and crisis but that “Washington” is broken, and the way to fix it is to elect the people who aren’t in the president’s party. That in this case that happened to be precisely the people who broke it escaped many voters. The fact that the electorate skewed so heavily Republican in an election with the lowest turnout since 1942 also helped them escape the consequences of their behavior.
There’s a very fine line between realizing you’ve escaped the consequences of your behavior and concluding there are no consequences. And once you arrive at that conclusion, you’re the alcoholic who has a drink or two, doesn’t pass out, and decides to celebrate the drinking problem being gone by ordering up a whole bottle.
That seems to be Waldman’s analysis, too:
[W]e may be seeing the front end of an evolution in their thinking, not just from “Shutting down the government would be bad for us” to “We could shut down the government and be just fine,” but from there all the way to “Shutting down the government would be genius.” Just you wait.
It’s rather hard to miss the harsh new light being shown on one of America’s long-time cultural icons, Bill Cosby, as credible rape allegations against him add up. But by far the most fascinating look at him in this new light is from Ta-Nehisi Coates, who writes an apology for failing to think and write enough about those allegations when he was focusing on Cosby in a big Atlantic piece back in 2008. Putting aside the rape allegations (as he did then), this could be Bill Cosby’s big moment:
I spent parts of 2006 and 2007 following Bill Cosby around the country. He was then in the midst of giving a series of “call-outs” in which he upbraided the decline of morality in the black community. Our current organic black conservative moment largely springs from these efforts. It’s worth distinguishing an “organic black conservative” from a black or white Republican moment. Black Republicans, with some exception, don’t simply exist as people who believe in free markets and oppose abortion, but to assure white Republicans that racism no longer exists. Organic black conservatives (like Cosby, for instance) are traditionalists, but they hold no such illusions about America’s past. They believe this country to be racist, perhaps irredeemably so, but assert nonetheless that individual effort can defeat trenchant racism. The organic black conservative vision is riding high at the moment. Thus even the NAACP cannot denounce the outriders of Ferguson without the requisite indictment of “black on black crime.”
The author of this moment is Bill Cosby. In 2004, he gave his “Poundcake Speech,” declaring black youth morally unworthy of their very heritage. Cosby followed the speech with a series of call-outs. I observed several of these call-outs. Again, unlike typical black Republicans, Cosby spoke directly to black people. He did not go on Fox News to complain about the threat of the New Black Panther Party. He did not pen columns insisting the black family was better off under slavery. He was not speaking as a man sent to assure a group that racism did not exist, but as a man who sincerely believed that black people, through the ethic of “twice as good,” could overcome. That is the core of respectability politics. Its appeal is broad in both black and white America, and everywhere Cosby went he was greeted with rapturous applause.
Coates goes on to question himself for failing to pay attention to the evidence that Cosby’s moralizing was deeply ironic. But that was part of the problem: nothing about Cosby squared with the horrific nightmare of a serial rapist—other than the testimony of an awful lot of women who kept being ignored.
Everything about this piece makes it worthwhile to read. You’d have to be familiar with contemporary American journalism and its insane levels of insecurity to understand how Ta-Nehisi Coates ever had trouble holding down a writing job.
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