Politics


I am still waiting for Mike Hubbard and Mike Rogers to call Mitt Romney a socialist for his “push toward a socialistic-leaning government in this country” with RomneyCare and its “socialist” mandates . But I also now expect them to call Newt one as well.

If I see somebody who’s earning over $50,000 a year, who has made the calculated decision not to buy health insurance, I’m looking at somebody who is absolutely as irresponsible as anyone who was ever on welfare. Because what they’ve said is, A, I’m gambling that I won’t get sick, and B, I’m gambling that if I do get sick, I can cheat all my neighbors. Now, when you talk to hospitals, a very significant part of their non-collectibles are people who have money, but have calculated it’s not worth the cost to pay. And so I’m actually in favor of finding a way to say, whatever the appropriate level of income is, you ought to have either health insurance, or you ought to post a bond. But we have no right in this society to have a free rider approach, if we’re well off economically, to cheat our neighbors.

 

Last Thursday, Alabama State Sen. Cam Ward announced his support for Mitt Romney. Speaker Mike Hubbard had already announced his support while Congressman Mike Rogers and Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey share the chair of the Alabama for Romney campaign.

Considering the rhetoric of this crowd, how can they jump on the Romney wagon so enthusiastically? Over the past couple of years now, they have consistently beat the drum against President Obama’s “liberal” policies. Most prominently, they have fought his “socialized healthcare programs” even making opposition to any healthcare mandates a key plank of the now infamous ALGOP “Handshake with Alabama

So how do Hubbard and Rogers overlook “push toward a socialistic-leaning government in this country” with RomneyCare and its “socialist” mandates which “will dampen too many employers’ ability to hire and expand” and “threaten job creation and stability across East Alabama” and “which force citizens to purchase something they do not wish to purchase, a mandate which has never been previously demanded of the populace.

Perhaps a healthcare mandate is a “conservative” policy position if a Republican says it:

or if the very conservative Heritage Foundation and Newt Gingrich actually created the idea.

Chris Matthews has been on a tear about the Perry campaign’s attack on Mitt Romney’s Mormonism. Bill Bennett called it religious bigotry.

I agree that Romney’s Mormonism should not be a disqualifying factor formally or practically. After all, even Martin Luther expressed that “I’d rather be ruled by a wise Turk than a foolish Christian.” However, I think Chris Matthews proves too much and too far.

Abraham Kuyper wrote in 1879:

. . . every developed and maturing people ought to have its politics derived from its firm principles which do not float in the air as so many abstractions but which have deep roots in the soil of national life. Our thinking mind, after all, is not some kind of hutch with drawers and cubbyholes in which we have a separate compartment for politics and another for social affairs and a third for spiritual questions. Everything in our minds is interconnected, and our deepest life-principle is nothing but the root from which the fullness of our thoughts shoot up, to spread themselves over the many areas of life. Your political ideas are connected with your social insights; your social insights with your thoughts on marriage and family; those thoughts with your views about the church; your views about the church with your spiritual convictions; and your spiritual convictions with the relation of your heart to God.

This is why the modern presidential “debates” are not very helpful. Rarely do we delve into a candidate’s core principles and presuppositions;  we are content with conclusory sound-bites.  Perry disclosed many of his basic principles in Fed Up; knowledge of those presuppositions powerfully overwhelmed his campaign’s talking-points.

Richard Weaver wrote Ideas have Consequences in 1948. Certainly, religious ideas have consequences as much as philosophical ones.  Also, Thomas Kuhn proved that presuppositions matter even at the scientific research table; the color of one’s world-view “goggles” affects what the scientist observes.  How much more do a politician’s world-view “goggles” matter for development of public policy?

Theology matters no matter how much Chris Matthews wants to hold his nose. Take the popular support for US foreign policy relating to Israel. As shown from an older article of the Baptist Standard entitled “Evangelical Theology drives American support for Isreal,” theology has consequences:

“No one in the U.S. outdoes fundamentalists in their support of Israel, not even American Jews,” said Tim Weber, a Christian historian and dean at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Illinois. “Since Menachem Begin, all Israeli leaders have seen American fundamentalists as important shapers of American foreign policy toward Israel. What many people do not understand is that most fundamentalists support Israel because they believe it will play a key role in events leading up to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.”

While this theological view of the end-times–known as premillennial dispensationalism–is not the majority view among Christians worldwide or even nationwide, it strongly shapes Americans’ views of Israel, Weber said. “The influence of such ideas extends way beyond the tight community that nurtures and studies them. The dispensationalist scenario is imbedded in the fundamentalist subculture, has much greater influence in the more expansive world of American evangelicalism and even reaches into the larger secular population. These ideas matter, and not just for those who believe and understand them.”

For a quite express example see this, read this article entitled “Why stand with Isreal Today?” by Pastor Jack Hayford. I am not making an opinion on the policy, only showing that theology matters and has public consequences.

Romney’s Mormonism may or may not be a source of his basic presuppositions; I don’t know, but we need to explore all the soil, his deepest life-principles, from which his thinking grows. And this is true of each and every candidate.

Over the weekend, the Rick Perry campaign swung an upper-cut at the GOP front-runner Mitt Romney about his Mormonism. I believe this will play well where it matters: in the GOP primary. In the South, a vast majority of Baptists believe that Mormonism is a cult; for decades, such has been a regular topic of apologetic conferences, sermons, Sunday School lessons, and radio talk shows like the Bible Answer Man. It doesn’t matter what Rick Perry claims to believe; the bell has been rung. This map shows the devastating effect of this particular attack; a sizeable part of the red (which denominates Baptist) may not support Romney merely because he is a Mormon. (A poll from June showed that 23% of southerners would not vote for a Mormon, period.) Remember Mike Huckabee stroked this sentiment a little in 2008 with code words: ‘‘Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?’’

I think this only really applies in the primary; Alabama will not flip to Pres. Obama over the issue. However, if even 7-10%  of faithful Republicans in North Carolinian, Virginia, Florida or Georgian just sit it out, it may make an electoral difference.

As reported here,

The Alabama Legislature this year, under new Republican control, took Alabama’s voter ID law one step further by requiring people to show not just documentation but also photographic proof of their identity before being allowed to vote. The new law takes effect in 2014 and was promoted by Republicans as a tool to ensure honest elections.

Alabama of course followed the course of other GOP-controlled states across the country on this issue. A new report shows the real reason for this type legislation; “fraud” is a smoke-screen and talking point.

The study attempts to quantify the number of largely “young, minority, and low-income” — that is, mostly Democratic — voters who will find it “significantly harder” to cast ballots in 2012, and puts a figure on it: 5 million.

That top-line includes a number of different cases and arguments, and isn’t really all that useful. . . .The harder — and largest — numbers are the ones concerning people who don’t have the sort of ID — like drivers licences — required, and may not bother to make the extra effort to obtain special voting identification. (Again, not all of these people were ever going to vote, so the numbers are soft, but offer a sense of scale.)

Here’s the study’s summary of those, most of whom aren’t in battleground states for national politics:

1. 3.2 million voters affected by new photo ID laws. New photo ID laws for voting will be in effect for the 2012 election in five states (Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin), which have a combined citizen voting age population of just under 29 million. 3.2 million (11 percent) of those potential voters do not have state-issued photo ID….

2. 240,000 additional citizens and potential voters affected by new proof of citizenship laws. New proof of citizenship laws will be in effect in three states (Alabama, Kansas, Tennessee), two of which will also have new photo ID laws. Assuming conservatively that those without proof of citizenship overlap substantially with those without state-issued photo ID, we excluded those two states. The citizen voting age population in the remaining state (Alabama) is 3.43 million; 240,000 (7 percent) of those potential voters do not have documentary proof of citizenship.

A large part of these 240,000 are elderly. A State Senator from Tennessee details the typical situation into which many of those in Alabama will find themselves.

When my 94-year-old mother was born, women were not allowed to vote. But then Tennessee ratified the 19th Amendment, and for seven decades Mother has voted faithfully. This year, many of my Republican colleagues in the Legislature took away that right when they made it harder for her — and as many as 675,000 other Tennesseans — to continue to vote.

Ironically, all but seven legislators from the party that supposedly favors less government passed a law requiring my mother to obtain a “big-government” photo identity card in order to vote. When the law goes into effect with the March 2012 presidential primary, poll workers will no longer accept her voter registration card as sufficient proof of identity.

Mother has not driven in at least two decades, so she has no driver’s license. But when she is pushed in her wheelchair to the polls, not one election worker will mistake her for another 94-year-old trying to vote.

My mother is one of 675,337 Tennesseans age 18 and older who, according to the Department of Safety, either have no driver’s license or have a license that does not carry their photo. These citizens may be registered to vote, but unless they obtain a photo ID from a driver’s license station or can produce another type of government-issued photo ID that the new law accepts (such as a military ID or a passport), they will not be allowed to vote.

One cannot get a government ID from the state Department of Safety without producing a “primary proof of identity,” most commonly a birth certificate. Not surprisingly, my mother’s 1916 birth certificate has been misplaced. So she and thousands of other registered voters like her will have to get new birth certificates, which is where the next problem arises.

To apply for a birth certificate, my mother must either travel to the state Department of Health’s Office of Vital Records in Nashville, submit her request online or telephone the office. Traveling nearly halfway across the state is not feasible for many elderly, disabled, mobility-challenged, poor or employed Tennesseans. My mother and thousands of other Tennesseans are not computer literate, so they cannot order a birth certificate online.

I recently asked Annie Prescott, a Nashville attorney, to navigate the third option — a phone call to the Office of Vital Records. She spent the better part of an hour on the phone trying to speak to a live person. Over 15 menu options offered by a series of recorded messages led to three busy signals and four hang-ups. Finally, Prescott got a real person on the phone who instructed her to call a company that charges an additional $15 to process the $15 request, plus $5 to expedite service.

So the total cost of what is supposed to be a free state-issued photo ID card so far is $35, not counting the long-distance phone charges. And applicants still have to take the birth certificate to a driver’s license testing station, where they may have to wait in line for hours.

Only 43 of Tennessee’s 95 counties have such centers. Eleven counties represented by seven Republicans who voted against this bill, including six from East Tennessee, don’t have them. Some of the rural Tennesseans I represent will have to drive from their county through a second county and into a third to reach the closest driver’s license center — a trip of 40 to 60 miles each way. Taking a day off work and with gas averaging $3.58 a gallon, even at minimum wage the expense of travel and lost wages will cost people perhaps an additional $80 to $100 to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

This cost of this process— in many cases totaling $110 to $135 or more — is such a burden that for many it will amount to disenfranchisement.

Some claim this legislation is necessary to prevent voter fraud, citing a state Senate election in Memphis in 2005 in which votes were recorded from two deceased people. But the fact is that the culprits in that case were dishonest election workers, not voters. Photo ID cards would not solve that problem.

My family will do what’s necessary so mother can continue to vote. But what about the other mothers and fathers, the blind, the hearing-impaired, the disabled, the elderly, the poor and the working people who already struggle to pay their bills, much less these new “poll taxes” of $100 or more to meet the requirements of the photo ID law?

I’m not opposed to voters having photo IDs, but I am opposed to taking away the right to vote through a bureaucratic system of poll taxes. People have died trying to register to vote. Now even those who are registered may still be denied the right to vote.

In Alabama in order to obtain a identification card, this 94 year old lady grandmother would need produce to a local DMV (after waiting in line):

  • Two forms of identification, at least one of which contains a photograph (one form must be from the “primary” list, in addition to the Social Security card) or three forms of non-photo identification (one form must be from the “primary” list, in addition to the Social Security card).
  • Social Security card, and
  • $23.50 to purchase license (no checks).

Examples of Primary List Documents:

  • Certified U.S. Birth Certificate issued by an agency designated by state or federal authority.
  • US Passport (current)
  • Alabama Identification Card
  •  Alabama Driver License
  • Certificate of Naturalization
  • Certificate of Citizenship
  • US Certificate of Birth Abroad
  •  Resident Alien Card
  • Valid Foreign Passport with a valid United States Immigration Document

Examples of Secondary List Documents:

  • U.S. State Issued Driver License or
  • Non- Driver ID Card
  • Current International Driver License/Permit
  • Marriage License
  • US Armed Forces Driver License
  • US Military DD-214
  • Professional License Issued by a State or Federal Agency
  • Selective Service Card
  • Veterans Administration
  • Medical Insurance ID Card United States Military ID Card
  • ID card issued by School with Photo
  • School Enrollment Form (DL-1/93)
  • Certified School Record Current Transcript
  • Most recent report card
  • Certified Letter from School
  • GED Certificate
  • Certificate of Graduation
  • W2 Tax Form along with a copy of the previous year’s filed tax forms
  • Documents from Court of Record (Divorce Decree, Adoption Decree, Name Change Decree, Bankruptcy Decree.)

(BTW, if an 18 year old wants to register to vote, in addition to the above, they will need to also produce an acceptable school enrollment form or proof of graduation (if younger than 19 and applying for the first time)

Ross Douthat acknowledges the absence of a serious Republican “populist” candidate in yesterday’s  NYT.  This should be seen by southern Democrats as a void begging to be filled. He begins:

By rights, this should be the election when conservative populists, frequently thwarted and co-opted by the Republican Party’s kingmakers, finally succeed in pushing an insurgent candidate to the top of the presidential ticket. Between the zeal of the Tea Party, the unlovability of Mitt Romney and the widespread hatred of all things Washington, there’s never been a better time to run against the Republican establishment and win.

But the populists haven’t found a standard-bearer capable of taking advantage of this moment. . .

I wholly agree with his assessment here; “there’s never been a better time to run against the Republican establishment and win” but for southern Democrats . He continues:

But amid the bombast and identity politics, it’s still possible to discern a serious populist critique of how the Republican establishment does business — one that links Pat Buchanan’s primary campaigns in the 1990s to figures like Palin, Huckabee, Cain and Ron Paul today.

This critique accuses the Republican leadership of being too cavalier about illegal immigration, too forgiving of crony capitalism and Wall Street-Washington coziness, too promiscuous with overseas military interventions, and too willing to imitate Democrats and centralize power in Washington. Right-wing populists tend to argue that Beltway Republicans have lost touch with the party’s core constituencies: small-business owners, middle-class families and Main Street, U.S.A.

This critique sounds very southern to me, and very Democratic. With the exodus of Tim Pawlenty and his Sam’s Club Conservativism and the utter absence of a populist voice which the Douthats of the world desire, southern Democrats have an incredible opportunity. Southern Democrats authentically can decry crony-capitalism and the “Wall Street-Washington coziness.” We too can advocate against “too promiscuous overseas military interventions.” Whereas the GOP seeks to discredit any and all government,  Democrats are the Party of Jefferson and can advocate for local solutions and control when appropriate and more effective. The fact that we are not already branded as the Party of “small-business owners, middle-class families and Main Street, USA” should be a devastating indictment. And even on the immigration issue, most southerners really only want effective solutions to their bread-and-butter issues consistent with their deepest convictions and morals. Southern Democrats have failed to provide any real alternative policies and ideas, so the GOP nativist poison has been the only serving on the table and all the people have been offered to drink.

These arguments often have merit. The trouble is that no populist politician has been able to deliver an agenda to match. Having identified important problems, right-wing populists almost inevitably rally to unworkable solutions.

They absolutely have merit. Where the GOP has  failed and further entrenched itself further behind an ugly, mongrel of corporatism and libertarianism , Alabamans and other southern Democrats must take advantage of this strategic error by the GOP.

UPDATE: Richard Shelby admitted that Cordray was “well-qualified” at hearings.”

Remember when Sen. Richard Shelby thought the politics should be eschewed in the nomination process. For instance, in 2005, he proclaimed:

Far too many of the President’s nominees were never afforded an up or down vote, because several Democrats chose to block the process for political gain. Inaction on these nominees is a disservice to the American people.”

Or when in February 2005, Shelby specifically promised his constituents in Tuscaloosa that he’d do “whatever it takes” to confirm Bush’s judicial nominees, including killing the filibuster.

Now that the White House isn’t occupied by a Republican, things have changed. President Obama has nominated former Ohio Attorney General to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. But he cannot get a fair hearing:

But when he appears before the Senate panel, he’ll be stepping right back into that glare, knowing full well he’s got a tough road ahead of him. That’s because a filibuster-proof bloc of Republican senators headed off the White House in May, announcing their plans to block any nominee to head the bureau unless several changes were made to it.

There is no indication that the opposition of 44 GOP senators is wavering. In fact, they argue that the nomination of Cordray is pointless now, as any selection will be ignored without those changes in place.

“Opposition to or support of Mr. Cordray’s nomination will become relevant as soon as the president agrees to make the structural changes we’ve requested,” said Jonathan Graffeo, the spokesman for Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). “Until then, Sen. Shelby and his colleagues stand firmly behind the statement they expressed in their May letter: No accountability, no confirmation.”

In other words: no confirmation if we don’t get our way. Is that blocking nominations for political gain?

It appears that the Senate panel will actually vote on this nomination on October 6.

Democrats have the votes to move Cordray’s nomination out of the committee to the Senate floor, but that will likely be as far as it gets for the foreseeable future as political tensions remain high over the creation of the CFPB.

Republicans have promised to block Cordray’s confirmation by the full Senate unless the Obama administration agrees to change the structure of the agency. . .

Republicans have not focused on his record when objecting to his nomination, saying they will oppose any nominee.

As expressed by Congressman Barney Frank:

“Senate Republicans are not entitled to use the confirmation power as a bludgeon to get their way when they cannot do so through the normal legislative process,” Frank wrote in The Washington Post. “We’re going to see an extraordinarily qualified administration to an important consumer protection agency be trashed by the Senate Republican minority because their primary goal is to ensure that financial institutions are not troubled by what they may see as an excessive concern for consumer fairness.”

So why do Alabama families need an effective CFRB?

« Previous PageNext Page »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.