Democrats Defend Social Programs — Win

How Democrats Win: Defending the Social Safety Net

By RICK PERLSTEIN Thursday, August 18, 2011, TIME | 181 COMMENTS
Charlie Neibergall / AP; Hulton Archive / Getty Images


I was flattered to learn from Joe Klein’s Aug. 15 column in TIME that Barack Obama is reading my book ­Nixonland. The book is about the “separate and irreconcilable fears” over the past 50 years that have come to define the increasingly acrimonious cohabitation of Americans on the left and on the right. I assume Obama turned to it for insight about how he might help turn down the volume in our political conversation. But there’s also a story inNixonland about how the Democratic Party wins, why it loses and the good things that happen when the party gets the formula right. I surely hope Obama did not miss it.

It concerns the two major axes upon which major national elections get fought. Sometimes they become battles over the cultural and social anxieties that ordinary Americans suffer. Other times they are showdowns about middle-class anxieties when the free market fails. Normally, in the former sort of election, Republicans win. In the latter, Democrats do — as we saw in 2008, when the tide turned after John McCain said “the fundamentals of the economy are strong.”

Consider 1960. Even with all that ­famous 1950s prosperity, 1959 saw a recession. Richard Nixon blamed his defeat on Dwight D. Eisenhower’s failure to use government to subdue it. John F. Kennedy, meanwhile, enhanced New Deal programs like Social Security — and a promise to extend that legacy with ­Medicare was central to his appeal. People remember the U.S.’s first televised presidential debate for the contrast between JFK’s cool and a frantic and sweaty Nixon. What’s forgotten is what made Nixon so frantic: Kennedy’s unanswerable argument that Democrats had created those programs while Republicans opposed them.

Presenting himself as the face of calm in confusing times was essential to JFK’s victory, as it is essential to any President’s victory — which is why the Democrats lost in 1968. Nixon effectively associated them with the protesters in the streets. But even then, Nixon almost lost after his opponent Hubert Humphrey enlisted labor unions in a gargantuan last-minute push concerning which party had created Social Security and Medicare and which seemed indifferent about preserving them.

Two years later, Nixon thought he had another one in the bag — the 1970 elections, in which he campaigned tirelessly for Republican candidates, then gave an ­election-eve TV speech blaming Democrats for the “thugs and hoodlums” in the streets. Only he made a terrible mistake: he sounded just as frantic and ugly as the forces he claimed the GOP would subdue.

In contrast, the Democrats ran a response to Nixon’s hysterical election-eve address from Edmund Muskie, the calm, quiet Senator from Maine, who sat in an armchair and asked Americans to vote against a “politics of fear” that insists “you are encircled by monstrous dangers” and instead choose a “politics of trust.”

You might say Muskie’s was a very Barack Obama sort of speech — but with a difference. It was overwhelmingly partisan. It excoriated Republicans for the way they “cut back on health and education for the many … while expanding subsidies and special favors for the few.” In other words, it was just the kind of speech Obama will not give.

That year, the GOP went bust at the polls. Then, in 1972, the Democrats ran a candidate whose speeches were more frantic than any in history. George ­McGovern, following a then fashionable theory that the middle class was prosperous enough to take care of itself and that unions were pretty much irrelevant, spoke to working-class concerns less than any Democrat had before. He lost 49 states.

McGovern didn’t give what Lyndon B. Johnson used to call “Democratic” speeches — LBJ’s shorthand for talking about which party gave the people Social Security, Medicare and the Tennessee Valley Authority and which one was willing to toss them over the side. LBJ gave such speeches all the time in 1964 — and he won 60% of the popular vote.

Here’s what LBJ knew that ­McGovern didn’t: There are few or no historical instances in which saying clearly what you are for and what you are against makes Americans less divided. But there is plenty of evidence that attacking the wealthy has not made them more divided. After all, the man who said of his own day’s plutocrats, “I welcome their hatred,” also assembled the most enduring political coalition in U.S. history.

The Republicans will call it class warfare. Let them. Done right, economic populism cools the political climate. Just knowing that the people in power are willing to lie down on the tracks for them can make the middle much less frantic. Which makes America a better place. And which, incidentally, makes Democrats win.

43% Believe the Tea Party Has Made Things Worse

Poll: Most Democrats See Tea Party as ‘Economic Terrorists’

29 percent of Americans say the Tea Party threatens the economy

Posted: August 8, 2011

With the Democrats and media rapping the Tea Party as economic terrorists during the debt ceiling debate and subsequent S&P downgrade of American debt, a new poll finds that a majority of Democrats agree that the conservative fringe is to blame for the nation’s economic woes, according to a new Rasmussen Reports poll. But just as significantly, when all likely voters are lumped in, including key independents, only 29 percent call the Tea Party “economic terrorists.”

“While 53 percent of Democrats view Tea Party members as terrorists, 57 percent of voters not affiliated with either major party disagree, as do 74 percent of Republicans,” says the poll.

The Tea Party ducks the terrorist label, but the poll isn’t great news because 43 percent believe that party made things worse in the nation during the budget debates.

Highlights of the new poll:

— 55 percent of likely voters say members of the Tea Party are not economic terrorists; 29 percent do and 16 percent are undecided.

— 53 percent of Democrats view Tea Party members as terrorists, 57 percent of voters not affiliated with either major party disagree, as do 74 percent of Republicans.

— 53 percent of Republicans believe the Tea Party has made things better, while 73 percent of Democrats feel it has made things worse. Unaffiliated voters are evenly divided with 37 percent saying the Tea Party made things better and 37 percent worse.

— 34 percent of all voters in separate polling favored tax hikes as part of the deal to raise the debt ceiling; 55 percent opposed including tax increases of any kind in the deal.

— Among those who consider themselves part of the Tea Party movement, 92 percent feel they are not economic terrorists, and 76 percent think they’ve made things better for the country in terms of the budget debate. Those who are not members of the movement are narrowly divided over the terrorist question, and 58 percent of this group think the Tea Party has made things worse for the country.

“Suspicious” Fire Destroys We Are Wisconsin Offices

Fire Destroys We Are Wisconsin PAC Offices in La Crosse; Recall Efforts Subdued

We Are Wisconsin’s La Crosse headquarters a ‘total loss’ after Saturday morning blaze.

By Mark Maley, July 30, 2011, FoxPoint-Bayside Patch

Fire officials in La Crosse are continuing to investigate a Saturday blaze that destroyed the regional offices of We Are Wisconsin, a union political action committee (PAC) that has pumped millions of dollars into supporting Democratic candidates in the upcoming recall elections.

The La Crosse Tribune reports that the cause of the fire, which started at about 9:30 a.m., remains unknown. Firefighters thought they had the blaze under control in the afternoon, however, that wasn’t the case and it continued into the evening, the newspaper reported.

We Are Wisconsin used the building at 432 Jay St. to oversee its efforts in the 32nd Senate District recall election, which will be held Aug. 9. Incumbent Republican state Sen. Dan Kapanke is being challenged by Democratic state Rep. Jennifer Shilling in that district.

A spokesman for the group told the La Crosse Tribune that the group’s office was a total loss.

We Are Wisconsin is a political action committee made up by a coalition of unions that has spent more than $2 million supporting Democratic recall candidates around Wisconsin, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

In the 32nd District, the group has spent about $400,000 to get Shilling elected, the La Crosse Tribune reported.

The group is also active in the 8th Senate District recall race between incumbent Republican Alberta Darling and Democratic challenger Sandy Pasch. In that Milwaukee-area race, We Are Wisconsin has spent at least $570,000 on pro-Pasch ads.

Throughout the day Saturday, those active in the recall effort were taking to Twitter and calling the fire “suspicious” since it occurred just 10 days before the recall. However, fire officials haven’t yet determined the cause of the blaze, according to local media reports.

Still Waiting for Those ‘Jobs’ Bills, GOP

In 200+ Days The House GOP Has Voted To Kill 1.9 Million Jobs And Created 0

July 25, 2011

By Jason Easley, PoliticusUSA

It has been 202+ days since Republicans took back control of the House and promised to create jobs. During this time they have passed legislation that killed 1.9 million jobs and created 0.

Instead of creating jobs, House Democrats contend that the GOP has passed legislation that would kill 1.9 million US jobs:

Before you get the wrong idea, the GOP has passed legislation since they have taken control of the House. Here is a partial list of House Republican accomplishments:

Voted to repeal health care reform on behalf of the health insurance industry;

For big polluters, Republicans passed a bill to undermine our ability to provide a healthier environment for our children, eliminating every tool EPA has to address serious public health threats from carbon pollution, including increased childhood asthma;

Voted to protect taxpayer subsidies for Big Oil and speculators driving up gasoline prices, and against gasoline anti-price gouging legislation for consumers;

Voted to provide more tax cuts for millionaires, and protect tax breaks for corporations shipping jobs overseas;

Voted to strengthen the role of special interests in our elections (by ending the Presidential Election fund that promotes small campaign donations) and against disclosure of foreign countries, companies, or individuals donating to presidential campaigns;

Voted to cripple public radio stations, particularly in rural areas, while not saving taxpayers one dime;

Voted to cut off key federal funding for Planned Parenthood — devastating the primary source of health care, especially preventive services like contraception, cancer screenings, breast exams, and HIV testing, for millions of women across the country; and

Voted for an unprecedented, radical assault on women’s health care – for the first time restricting how women with private insurance can spend private dollars in purchasing health insurance.

So far the big signature achievement of this GOP majority was the vote to kill Medicare, but they may soon top themselves if they do not vote to raise the debt ceiling and allow the US to default.

The House GOP has also vote against 10 Democratically proposed job creation bills including:

An American jobs effort to end government contracts rewarding corporations that ship American jobs overseas. [Vote 19]

Build America Bonds to Create Jobs Now Act – leveraging public dollars to strengthen the private sector, growing our economy by rebuilding America’s schools, hospitals, and transit projects, supported by American businesses, the construction industry, mayors and governors. [Vote 38, Vote 30, Vote 189]

American Jobs Matter Act – to give preference in federal contracts to U.S. manufacturers that create jobs here at home. [Vote 257]

National Manufacturing Strategy Act, which calls on the President to lay out a plan to help ensure American manufacturers can compete, grow, and thrive. [Vote 279]

Advanced Vehicle Manufacturing Technology Act to help ensure the cars of the future are built here in the U.S., by investing in a broad range of near-term and long-term vehicle technologies to improve fuel efficiency, support domestic research and manufacturing, and lead to greater consumer choice of vehicle technologies and fuels. [Vote 310]

Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act to provide our government with effective tools to address unfair currency manipulation by countries like China, which could help create 1 million American manufacturing jobs by leveling the international playing field for American workers and businesses. [Vote 9, Vote 199]

The House GOP has passed more bills related to defunding Planned Parenthood (1) than they have passed to create jobs (0).

The day after the GOP took base the House, John Boehner said, “As you heard me say last night, we are humbled by the trust that the American people have placed in us and we recognize this is a time for us to roll up our sleeves and go to work on the people’s priorities: creating jobs, cutting spending and reforming the way Congress does its business. It’s not just what the American people are demanding — it’s what they are expecting from us.”

We are a little past the 200 day mark and the House GOP have yet to pass a bill that would create a single job. The only spending they are willing to slash is related to the poor, the disabled, women, Social Security and Medicare, but they have changed the way that the Congress does business by being so hardline that House of Representatives is irrelevant as a policy making body and has become an obstacle to agreement on even the most basic of legislation.

House Republicans have pulled a bait and switch on the American electorate. They ran a campaign based on job creation, but once elected set out to implement a corporatist and socially conservative agenda. This is no different than the bait and switch that Rick Snyder and Scott Walker pulled on voters in Wisconsin and Michigan.

How many Americans would have voted Republican in 2010 if they knew on Election Day that the GOP agenda was not to create jobs, so that they could possibly defeat Obama in 2012?

The truth is that House Republicans have no interest in creating jobs, because a prosperous economy would mean the reelection of Barack Obama. For this reason alone, it is a safe bet that the number of bills that House Republicans will introduce to create jobs between now and November 2012 will remain at zero.