After Jefferson was baptized by Jerry Falwell, he visited the Gettysburg address. By Martin Longman
I’ve probably told this story before, but about a quarter century ago I was asked to define myself ideologically in a job interview, and I responded without thinking about it that I was a “Washington Monthly neo-liberal.” Now the term “neo-liberal” has since become an epithet (as it pretty much always once in Europe, describing market-oriented conservatism there) that has little to do with what I was trying to convey back in 1988, but the point that WaMo was instrumental in helping make U.S. progressivism more forward-looking and not simply a museum guild for the New Deal remains valid. More to the point, WaMo always has been and still is a vibrant arena for intra-progressive debate that hews to no fixed orthodoxy or organized heresy, either. That’s still another good reason for taking the time to make a donation to keep this distinguished publication alive.
While you’re thinking about that, here are some midday news and views side dishes for your enjoyment:
* TAP’s Abby Rapoport reviews the legal developments on voting rights since the Supreme Court struck down the preclearance mechanism of the Voting Rights Act.
* A year of anticipation of gun legislation culminates in renewal of existing ban on unscreenable weapons. Sad.
* John Podesta reportedly returning to White House staff.
* Mike Konczal explains what to look for in implementation of the Volker Rule against “proprietary trading” by banks.
And in non-political news:
* Another big day of closings in Washington, but bad weather moving on.
As we break for lunch, here’s a recording of Otis performing “These Arms of Mine” at the Whiskey a Go Go.
Brother Benen notes today a few examples of Republicans allowing as how there are good if limited features of the Affordable Care Act, including state-run insurance exchanges:
Yesterday, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who ran on an anti-ACA platform in 2010, stopped by National Review’s office and said he realizes his party’s repeal crusade is a bust. “We’ve got to start talking about transitioning,” the far-right Wisconsinite said.
He continues, “Am I opposed to state-based exchanges? No.” He thinks “it may be that they can be usable.” “I’m all for repeal,” he stipulates, “but it’s there. What do you do with what’s there? We’ve got to start talking about the reality of the situation.”
Steve views this sort of admission as a sign of conservative acceptance that Obamacare may actually start working well, meaning that its structure must be accommodated by Republicans in the future. Maybe, but I think it’s more likely that something like the exchanges has always been part of conservative health care policy thinking (such as it is), particularly insofar as they contemplate the wholesale demolition of employer-based insurance. Even those who are hostile to risk-spreading understand that some mechanism for helping many tens of millions of Americans enter the individual market-place will have to be set up.
Beyond that, there is the abiding irony that what conservatives oppose as a system for the uninsured many of them actively favor for Medicare and/or Medicaid beneficiaries: a system of subsidized private health insurance purchased via some collective structure like an “exchange.” Back in February, Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Avik Roy laid out an entire “Plan B” strategy whereby Obamacare’s exchanges would be used to replace Medicare’s and Medicaid’s single-payer insurance with private insurance (the latter has actually already been semi-privatized in many states).
So I suspect Republicans are reassessing exchanges, in concept at least, for reasons other than their fear that Obamacare’s exchanges will be successful. It’s part of the same pirouette Mitt Romney had to perform in pretending that the Affordable Care Act as a whole was somehow alien to his own principles for health reform.
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In a burgeoning debate over whether Barack Obama is “finished” as a president able to work his will on the country, Ezra Klein makes an important point about the frustrations Obama has experienced this year. They started a long time before the screwed-up rollout of HealthCare.gov:
An overwhelming win in the 2012 election wasn’t enough for Obama to get a big budget deal with House Republicans. The GOP’s fear that it would become demographically irrelevant and Sen. Marco Rubio’s endorsement wasn’t enough for Obama to get an immigration reform bill past House Republicans. The Aurora and Newtown shootings weren’t enough for Obama to get a popular gun-control bill past House Republicans (or even Senate Republicans).
You can ascribe these failures to whatever culprit you want — party polarization. Republican extremism, Democratic dogmatism, the White House’s weak legislative strategy. The result is the same: Obama was unlikely to pass any more big-ticket legislation long before anyone ever tried to log into HealthCare.gov. That’s a huge blow to any administration, and it’s a particular blow to this administration, which believed strongly that immigration reform could be the final piece of Obama’s legislative legacy.
For that reason, a congressional loss in 2014 won’t have the same effect on the Obama administration that the 2006 loss had on the Bush administration. In 2006, Democrats captured both the House and Senate from Republicans, effectively closing off the legislative mechanism to Bush. In 2014, the most Republicans could do is further secure their ability to block Obama from doing anything. Republican gains in Congress would mostly serve to entrench the status quo, not, as was true with Bush, upend it.
Ezra goes on to suggest that Obama has a lot he can and probably will do that doesn’t require congressional approval. But the earlier point is worth underlining. A whole lot has been written about the decision made by Republicans late in 2008 to fight the new president on almost every initiative he offered. But it’s clear a similar decision was made, or at least confirmed, in late 2012 to make 2013 another Year of Confrontation, at least after the “Fiscal Cliff” issues were resolved.
The entire Obama presidency has been a testament to the power a minority party can exercise with a foothold in Congress and an unlimited determination to say “no.” That’s one reason why breaking the filibuster for executive-branch and most judicial nominations was so important: it demonstrated that this will-to-power in the minority party could not be exercised in a reckless fashion without consequences. But the basic dynamics were not changed by HealthCare.gov’s problems. In 2008 and in 2012, the GOP dedicated itself to total obstruction, and all the talk of “rebranding” or moving to a Tea-free GOP was just that.
A lot of folks thought Sen. John Cornyn had dodged a primary bullet when “historian” David Barton took a pass on challenging the senior senator from Texas. But at the last minute before qualifying ended for the March 2014 primary, the Texas Congressional Delegation’s zaniest member this side of Louie Gohmert, Rep. Steve Stockman, took up the banner of True Conservatism, and so Cornyn will spend much of the next few months frothing at the mouth and aping his junior colleague Ted Cruz.
In that respect and others, the Texas primary will parallel Kentucky’s. Just as Mitch McConnell is banking heavily on Rand Paul’s endorsement to survive a challenge from Matt Bevin, Cornyn will try to associate himself with Cruz, who is formally neutral in the race. But impeachment zealot Stockman will provide a lot of ideological litmus tests for the incumbent to pass or fail. So for a while at least, Texas will be represented in the Senate by Ted Cruz and Steve Stockman, who will get to manipulate Cornyn’s vote like a puppet-master.
Nelson Mandela died when I was dealing with my own family’s mourning, but the memorial service being held in South Africa today is but a bare tribute to his remarkable career and legacy.
Here’s the full video of President Obama’s speech at the memorial event:
Here’s how NBC described it:
Invoking Gandhi, Martin Luther King and the American founding fathers, the president spoke of Mandela as “the last great liberator of the 20th century” — a man who, after emerging from prison, held his country whole without taking up arms.
But the president used much of his eulogy, delivered before tens of thousands of people in Johannesburg in a pouring rain at the largest stadium on the African continent, as a call for the living to act in the name of justice and peace.
This is the line in the transcript that caught my attention:
The struggles that follow the victory of formal equality or universal franchise may not be as filled with drama and moral clarity as those that came before, but they are no less important.
This is the argument that Obama and many others keep making when confronted with claims that once slavery, or Jim Crow, or segregated schools, or formal obstacles to voting, or institutionalized discrimination, are gone then the struggle for equality must end, too, or it becomes a demand for “privileges.” This attitude reflects a willful blindness to the actual conditions of people in Africa and in the United States that is stunning in its tenacity. And it ignores the moral as well as the political stake of yesterday’s oppressor and his heirs—those to whom Mandela offered the hand of fellowship—in embracing true equality as more than a superficial purging of laws.
Everybody’s talking this morning, as they should, about Jonathan Cohn’s article at TNR explaining exactly who benefits from and who pays for the improvements made in the Affordable Care Act. You should read the whole thing, but the “winners” are basically low-to-moderate income people with health conditions and the “losers” are for the most part the very wealthy and some elements of the health care industry (including the insurers providing private Medicare Advantage policies).
Yes, some of the institutional costs will be passed on to consumers, but the extent to which that will happen is the subject of sharp and ancient ideological differences over the extent to which corporations and the wealthy are able to pass on costs.
Cohn’s piece is meant to answer and contextualize the conservative argument that Obamacare is “redistributive.” Of course it is. But so, too, is insurance itself, by its very nature: risk pools are designed to cushion losses for the unlucky by tapping the resources of the lucky. Obamacare is mainly a significant expansion and regulation of the risk pool for private health insurance, so the number of unlucky folk benefitting and lucky folk paying more than they immediately get back will be increased.
I’ve often observed that conservatives these days seem to be in revolt against the very idea of health insurance, preferring schemes that encourage people to pay for health costs out-of-pocket like they did in the 1940s or so. Most GOP “reform” proposals now basically focus on pushing people from large-group into individual insurance markets, and then where possible out of insurance altogether. That does indeed reflect a hostility to “redistribution.” But if pursued consistently, it’s a hostility that would lead Republicans to fundamentally oppose the very existence of Medicare and Medicaid, along with the tax subsidy for employer-sponsored health plans.
Otis Redding died in a plane crash in Wisconsin on this day in 1967. Here he is performing his version of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.”
If you’re in the portions of Megalopolis suffering through winter storms, stay home if you can and stay warm at any event. And if you have any new spare time on your hands, and even a bit of spare money, please consider our fundraising appeal. WaMo doesn’t have some billionaire angel to subsidize our operations, and doesn’t use manipulative click-a-mania scams to exaggerate traffic or mislead readers. We are heavily reliant on reader support, and try very hard to justify it every single day with good writing and reporting and a clear perspective on events. Thanks so much if you’ve contributed or will do so directly.
Here are some remains of the day:
* Austan Goosbee makes the economic case for pre-K education.
* Pew finds modest plurality opposing Iran “first step” deal, largely on party lines with indies leaning “no.”
* At TAP Monica Potts explains the latest demagogic Vitter Amendment: a farm bill amendment that would ban ex-offenders from receiving SNAP benefits.
* At Ten Miles Square, Keith Humphreys discusses the media hunger for meaning-heavy anecdotes, whether or not they are true.
* At College Guide, Daniel Luzer mocks new round of “grade inflation” alarms, this time from Harvard.
And in non-political news:
* Big-time winning managers Cox, LaRussa and Torre join Baseball Hall of Fame.
We’ll close the day with a final birthday tribute to my wife:
Conservative activists are struggling a bit to come up with a united front against an impending budget deal between Senate Budget Committee chairman Patty Murray and her House counterpart Paul Ryan that would apparently split the difference between prior R and D funding level positions. Republicans would get some spending reductions below pre-sequester levels (along with setting on outside limit on unemployment relief), and would avoid another politically dangerous government shutdown, and Democrats would get a formal repudiation of the sequester.
Conservatives want to spoil the deal on general principles—Heritage Action hasn’t freaked yet, but is issuing warning growls—but their own line-in-the-sand has not yet been made clear.
Still, at RedState Daniel Horowitz has come up with a sure-fire motivator to prepare for a scorched-earth campaign against a deal:
The undercurrent of this agreement is the emergence of a dynamic that Republicans want to end all of the budget battles once and for all. That would explain their eagerness for a two-year repeal of the sequester. It also coincides with their decision to push off the debt ceiling indefinitely. Even though the debt ceiling law will be reinstated in February, the Treasury will be able to use “extraordinary measures” to delay the deadline until the summer.
So why is there such a rush to eliminate all of our points of leverage?
Who know? But The Hill has already posited that the end of budget fights will be used to pave the road for an amnesty bill next year. This theory is even more plausible given that Paul Ryan is the lead negotiator on the budget, and in light of recent reports that Boehner will push amnesty (thanks to his new staffer) after the filing deadline for primaries passes.
Whoa! Sign a budget deal, get comprehensive immigration reform!
In a nice polarizing maneuver, Horowitz proposes a strategy that will not only screw up a deal and thus kill off the conspiracy to bring “amnesty” back before next year ends, but will also revive the Right’s favorite cause: defunding Obamacare!
Even if conservatives don’t have the stomach for a full defund fight, the worst thing they can do is enable leadership to permanently obviate their future leverage. Rather than passing a permanent new appropriations bill for the rest of the year, conservatives should demand another clean short-term CR with one condition attached. They should write instructions forcing both houses of Congress to pass each of the 12 appropriations bills separately for the next fiscal year (FY 2015). As we’ve noted before, this will allow us to isolate funding for Obamacare in one or two bills without the rest of government funding getting encumbered in the imbroglio. At least we will have the opportunity to fight Obamacare next September without the specter of a full government shutdown.
Ultimately, the future of the Republican Party will boil down to the following question: Is their desire to pass amnesty stronger than their will to fight Obamacare?
I suspect that line may appear in one form or another in grassroots conservative fundraising and “action” communications in the very near future.
Self-funded “outsider” Republicans running for major offices are often aligned with the Tea Folk, sometimes out of personal conviction, sometimes because it’s easy for them to strike poses without the inconvenience of a voting or governing record.
In Iowa, though, the self-funding “outsider” in the 2014 U.S. Senate race shows every sign of being the insider’s “outsider,” and perhaps the best bet for what’s left of the moderate “business” wing of a conservative-activist dominated GOP: former energy executive Mark Jacobs. An ally of Gov. Terry Branstad (he’s served on an education policy commission for Branstad, which is a bit dicey in a state party where hostility to “government schools” is rampant), Jacobs recently made his Senate bid official, and seems so far to be running on a generic reform-and-efficiency message that, much like Branstad’s over the years, could bore the opposition into submission. He’s already being viewed as a probable frontrunner.
So that makes it interesting that he’s committed an early gaffe, per this report from HuffPost’s Amanda Terkel:
As Republican candidates figure out how to best win over women voters, Iowa GOP Senate candidate Mark Jacobs thinks he has the answer: appeal to their emotions.
In an interview Sunday with WHO-TV in Des Moines, host Dave Price asked Jacobs what the “biggest difference between men and women” is, in terms of reaching out to them as voters.
“I think you have to connect with women on an emotional level,” said Jacobs. “And with a wife of 25 years and an 18-year-old daughter, I’ve had a lot of coaching on that.”
The national attention Jacobs is receiving isn’t terribly consistent with the sort of generic campaign he’s running. I supposed it’s possible he was trying to bond with anti-feminist conservatives (though I doubt conservative women were real happy about being reduced to their hormones) or to make himself into a Liberal Media Victim. But more likely, he made a mistake that will cost him a lot of money to overcome.
Since I was traveling over most of the weekend, I just now got around to reading Martin Longman’s fine post here at PA puncturing Sarah Palin’s ludicrous efforts to make Thomas Jefferson an ally in her book-royalty-driven War on Christmas agitprop.
I’d add just a couple of notes to Martin’s essay. First, Palin is basically regurgitating the revisionist history championed by the increasingly discredited David Barton, whose own efforts to turn Jefferson’s church-state teachings upside down have been demolished by conservative evangelical scholars, leading to the withdrawal of Barton’s Jefferson book by its publisher.
And second, there are all sorts of ironies involved in Palin peddling her nonsense at a Baptist university in central Virginia. Baptists, who were until quite recently staunch, even adamant, defenders of church-state separation—often in alliance with the ACLU and other secularist and non-Christian objectors to state-sponsored religious expression—were the very active allies of Jefferson in protesting government support for organized religion. As Longman notes, Jefferson’s most famous utterance on the subject—calling for a “wall of separation” between church and states—was written in a letter to a Connecticut association of Baptists who hailed the Third President’s election as a powerful blow against the theocrats of that era. Palin’s claim that only “angry atheists” object to state support of religion is an insult not just to the equal citizenship rights of nonbelievers, but to the many believers who have defended their faith against the corrupting embrace of the state.
Now it’s true that contemporary Southern Baptists, almost certainly including those associated with Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, where Palin spoke, have at least partially reversed themselves on church-state separation. But even in those precincts, it’s not a settled manner, and reflected in the frequent attacks on David Barton launched by the new communications director of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Joe Carter.
Beyond all that, Palin’s remark about there being “something in the water” in central Virginia encouraging her kind of politics and religion is interesting. Jefferson’s Charlottesville in a progressive island in the region, but even Falwell’s Lynchburg has a recent Democratic voting history of its own (it was carried by both Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and Obama lost narrowly there in 2008), and Liberty is not universally considered an asset to the community (viz. battles over Liberty’s efforts to expand its operations). Twenty miles east from where Palin spoke is Appomattox, where another Cause beloved of white central Virginians, the Confederacy, expired. The region has quite a mixed legacy. But as Longman demonstrates with ease, Sarah Palin’s interest in history appears to extend no further than whatever is necessary to get a cheap applause line, or sell books.
I’m back in the saddle again, more or less, but I hope the effort made by WaMo to keep Political Animal rolling along during my family medical emergency will convince you to drop a few ducats in the cup if you can as we rattle it this week. I mean, seriously, at a lot of sites principal bloggers would have bailed entirely, and substitutes would have done little more than to keep the embers glowing. So if you appreciate an extraordinary commitment to providing you stimulating content all week and year round, even when it’s difficult, it’s a very good time to check under the sofa cushions and help us keep PA going.
With that, here are some midday news/view snacks free for the noshing:
* Abbas, but not Netanyahu or Peres (who is under doctors’ orders to avoid travel), will attend Mandela funeral observances.
* TIME names ten finalists for 2013 Person-of-the-Year, from Bashar Assad to Edith Windsor. Ted Cruz and Miley Cyrus supply comic relief.
* Noted homophobe to head up new Russian state-run news agency.
* Profiles in message discipline: Dick Cheney says Obamacare has destroyed U.S. credibility in Middle East.
* At TAP, David Dayen examines precedent-setting power of efforts to nullify public employee pension commitments in Detroit and Illinois.
And in non-political news:
* Very weird college football regular season ends with 35 bowl participants announced.
As we break briefly for lunch, here another birthday song dedicated to my wife:
So it appears a budget “deal” that raises appropriations above sequester levels and avoids another government shutdown will involve sacrificing the Democratic priority of extending unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed. It’s not clear why congressional Democrats are making it so clear so early that these folks are going to be the first to go over the side, but as Greg Sargent reports abundantly today, the signals are unmistakable.
It feels a lot like last year’s holiday “deal” where higher payroll taxes were the price that supposedly had to be paid to get a partial continuation of the Bush tax cuts.
I would pose this question to big fans of bipartisan budget deals, because it’s one that almost never gets asked or answered: which party’s basic economic theories are being implemented by this disposal of UI benefits? To conservatives, the long-term unemployed are at best sad-sack losers whose failed lives we can no longer afford to subsidize, at at worst vicious looters keeping job-creators from doing their duty for us all. To progressives, the same people are victims of bad macroeconomic policies, wasted essential human capital, and potential consumers who could help lift the economy.
Yes, the presumed deal will help keep appropriations higher than they would otherwise be, which will have significant macroeconomic and microeconomic benefits. But when it comes to the long-term unemployed, those suffering the most from both parties’ mistakes, it’s no compromise at all.
Here it is, from today’s Politico:
No soul-searching for Virginia GOP after losses
James Hohmann’s piece under the headline quotes Virginia Republicans intoning the eternal chant of factors other than ideology that accountedI for the November losses: not enough money, not enough “Establishment” support, bad timing, hostile media, treacherous RINOs. It never much changes, beyond the decision to accentuate, assert or merely hint at the underlying problem that Republicans are fighting a tax-payer funded bribery machine whereby those people are being lured to the polls by promises of access to the heard-earned wealth of virtuous job-creating capitalists and virtuous asset-holding retirees.
I do, however, wish journalists would stop describing the reconsideration process that Republicans regularly resist as soul-searching. These people are pretty clear about what their souls yearn for: a return to a phantasmagoric American past with no welfare state, no progressive taxes, no environmental limits on development, no shiftless young folk or uppity minorities or lawsuit-wielding secularists, and no regular international responsibilities other than the occasional kill-everything-that-moves crusade.
The real concern for most conservatives is the extent to which they agree to mortgage their souls to obtain political power. They naturally don’t want to do that unless it’s absolutely necessary, so they really really want to attribute defeat to everything and anything other than the failure to sell out their ideological birthright for a message of pottage.
This basic reality ought to be within the grasp of every Politico writer.
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