Politics


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?

Per First Read:

*** Why hasn’t Romney caught fire? Both the New York Times and Washington Post today focus on Romney and why he has been unable to excite Republican primary voters so far, despite his improvements on the stump and on the debate stage. Yet here’s one reason both articles don’t really mention: his past positions on issues. While there’s been so much focus on Rick Perry’s record (his support for in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, the HPV vaccine mandate) just look at Romney’s: Only six years ago, he supported abortion rights; in 1994, he sent a letter saying he’d be a stronger advocate for gay rights than Ted Kennedy; according to a 2006 article, he supported a path to citizenship for law-abiding illegal immigrants; he has said that his Massachusetts health-care law should be a model for other states; and he said back in June that humans have contributed to the world getting warmer — and that it’s important to reduce emissions to combat that. All of those positions are anathema to conservatives. A question: Does this Republican electorate want to “settle,” gravitate behind the most electable? When they’ve “settled” in the past, many conservative leaders have regretted it (see McCain or Dole or Bush 41).

*** Romney addresses the flip-flopper charge: Speaking of Romney and his position on the issues, he yesterday addressed the perception that he’s a flip-flopper, per NBC’s Jo Ling Kent. “In the private sector, if you don’t change your view when the facts change, well you’ll get fired for being stubborn and stupid,” he said in a town hall in New Hampshire. “Winston Churchill said, ‘When the facts change I change too, Madam.’” Of course, it was just last week when Romney suggested he doesn’t change positions. The American people “can tell when people are being phony and are pandering to an audience,” he said, “and you’ll see that in politics. You’re not going to see that in my campaign.”

 

Because President Obama’s jobs-bill will tax those making more than $1 million per year at higher rates, the GOP and Tea Party are yelling that he is waging “class warfare.”

What would the Founder’s do?

  • Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions of property in geometrical progression as they rise.” –Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1785. ME 19:18, Papers 8:682
  • “Taxes should be proportioned to what may be annually spared by the individual.” –Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1784. FE 4:15, Papers 7:557
  • “The rich alone use imported articles, and on these alone the whole taxes of the General Government are levied. … Our revenues liberated by the discharge of the public debt, and its surplus applied to canals, roads, schools, etc., the farmer will see his government supported, his children educated, and the face of his country made a paradise by the contributions of the rich alone, without his being called on to spend a cent from his earnings.” –Thomas Jefferson to Thaddeus Kosciusko, 1811. ME 13:41
  • “The great mass of the articles on which impost is paid is foreign luxuries, purchased by those only who are rich enough to afford themselves the use of them. Their patriotism would certainly prefer its continuance and application to the great purposes of the public education, roads, rivers, canals, and such other objects of public improvement as it may be thought proper to add to the constitutional enumeration of federal powers.” –Thomas Jefferson: 6th Annual Message, 1806. ME 3:423
  • “In fact, the poor man in this country who uses nothing but what is made within his own farm or family, or within the United States, pays not a farthing of tax to the General Government, but on his salt; and should we go into that manufacture as we ought to do, he will pay not one cent.” –Thomas Jefferson to Pierre Samuel Dupont de Nemours, 1811. ME 13:39

I suppose we will have the answer to my question soonAs Perry has sustained major damage over his “heart” for the complexity of illegal immigration, Perry’s campaign rolled this out today attacking Romney on RomneyCare:

Time ran article entitled Pro-life Christians Challenge Congressional Republicans on Mercury Regulation which provides some encouraging voices showing that being pro-life is more than being anti-abortion:

You might not expect evangelical Christians to get involved in a political fight over mercury regulations. But when the Environmental Protection Agency proposed in March to tighten limits on industrial mercury emissions, the move caught the attention of an influential group of religious environmentalists who are now butting heads with pro-business Republicans seeking to weaken the regulations in the House on Friday afternoon. . .

Yet this delay faces strong opposition from the rule’s supporters, including evangelicals who argue that mercury pollution is an immediate crisis for the unborn. At the forefront is the Evangelical Environmental Network, a coalition of religious leaders that calls its work “grounded in the Bible’s teaching of the responsibility of God’s people to ‘tend the garden’” of Earth. The group’s leader, Rev. Mitch Hescox, is a registered Republican who worked in the utility and coal industries for 14 years before becoming a pastor.

Taking the fight to Republican critics of the EPA move, the EEN is mounting an ad campaign targeting Republicans Whitfield, Upton and Barton for opposing mercury restrictions while running on pro-life platforms. “I expect members of Congress who claim that they are pro life to use their power to protect the life, especially the unborn,” says a local pastor and mother in one of the ads. “I can’t understand why Congressman Ed Whitfield is fighting to stop the EPA from enforcing its plan specifically meant to protect the unborn by cleaning up dangerous mercury pollution.” The ads have run on 120 Christian and country radio station in Whitfield, Barton and Upton’s districts for the week prior to the Train Act vote. More than 100 evangelical pastors and leaders have also signed the “Evangelical Call to Stop The Mercury Poisoning of the Unborn,” including representatives from over 10 Christian colleges, National Association of Evangelicals President Leith Anderson and Christianity Today’s Editor-in-Chief David Neff. The United States Council of Catholic Bishops submitted similar concerns. “A national standard limiting mercury and other toxic air pollution represents an important opportunity to protect the health and welfare of all people, especially our children and poor and vulnerable communities,” wrote Bishop Stephen Blaire. “While there are short-term costs involved in implementing this standard, the health benefits of such a rule outweigh these costs.”

Here, here.

However, when Christians do not toe the GOP partisan line, listen to  the disdain aimed in their direction:

Even so, some of the Republicans under pressure are suspicious of the EEN’s motives. “This is an activist environmental group parading under the banner of evangelical Christianity and the right to life,” Whitfield’s chief of staff John Sparkman told TIME. “I don’t think it will have resonance in our district.”

We see which issue has greater priority for these “pro-life” legislators: the commands of their corporate masters.

Unfortunately, the TRAIN Act passed the House on Friday afternoon with a 249-169 vote, but President Obama has indicated his willingness to veto this type of legislation if it passes the Senate.

That’s thrilling news to pro-life evangelical leaders who differ with Obama on plenty of other issues, including abortion and stem cell research. But on this issue, Obama and evangelical environmentalists agree that, as the EEN’s Hescox argued, the pro-life position requires protecting children and the unborn from industrial pollution. “‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these,’” Hescox said, quoting the Bible with emphasis. “We are denying our children a full and abundant life by threatening them with mercury.” If the bill passes the House on Friday, that’s a message Hescox and his allies are sure to bring to what they hope will be a more receptive Democratic-led Senate.

The Open Statement to Congress from these Evangelical leaders can be found here.

Micheal Gerson admonishes Christians enamored with libertarianism:

But for millennia, Christian reflection on politics has also included an important, even noble, role for government. Government pursues the common good, which should be shared by the weak and vulnerable—people who can’t compete under the normal rules of the market. A government secures public goods—such as public safety and public health—that individuals cannot adequately achieve on their own.

This two-fold belief in the rights of individuals and the duties of government requires a balance. People can’t be protected from every bad choice. But addictive drugs, for example, impose a form of slavery that ends the possibility of genuine choice.  And the broad prevalence of those drugs turns a community into a shabby, dangerous, violent place—violating the rights of all who live in it.

So nearly every political choice involves the weighing of competing priorities—freedom and the common good. This is the reason that prudence is the highest of political virtues.

And prudence is exactly what some political ideologies lack. Socialism places an unbalanced emphasis on equality above all else—resulting in the routine violation of individual rights. Libertarianism places an unbalanced emphasis on autonomy above all else—resulting in a nation without airport security and food safety laws.

Raising a single, pure, simple principle in politics can be powerful—but it is almost always dangerous. Complexity is the nature of politics. It is also the sign of a serious political thinker or candidate.  

According to a new CBS poll,

In the midst of a bleak economic landscape and after a bruising battle over the federal budget deficit, approval of Congress now matches its all-time low, according to a new CBS News/New York Times poll.

Just 12 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing – the same as the lowest percentage recorded in this poll, reached in October 2008, right before the November elections.

Dissatisfaction with Congress cuts across party lines. Republicans, Democrats, and independents all overwhelmingly disapprove of the job Congress is doing.

Though most Americans disapprove of both parties in Congress, they disapprove of Republicans more. Seventy-two percent of Americans disapprove of the job Republicans in Congress are doing, compared to 63 percent who disapprove of the Democrats in Congress.

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