Our Common Good

Paul Krugman:

The conventional wisdom — which I too bought into — was that Democrats were going to support Obama, but grudgingly and without much enthusiasm. There had been too many disappointments; the golden aura of 2008 was long gone. Meanwhile, Republicans would show their usual unity and discipline, and at best it would be Obama by a nose.

Instead, the Republicans appear to be in a shambles — while the Democrats seem incredibly united, and increasingly, dare I say it, enthusiastic. (Mark Blumenthal sees this in the polls, but it’s also just the impression you get.)

How did that happen? Partly it’s because this has become such an ideological election — much more so than 2008. The GOP has made it clear that it has a very different vision of what America should be than that of Democrats, and Democrats have rallied around their cause. Among other things, while we weren’t looking, social issues became a source of Democratic strength, not weakness — partly because the country has changed, partly because the Democrats have finally worked up the nerve to stand squarely for things like reproductive rights.

And let me add a speculation: I suspect that in the end Obamacare is turning out to be a big plus, even though it has always had ambivalent polling. The fact is that Obama can point to a big achievement that will survive if he is reelected, perish if he isn’t; health insurance for 50 million or so Americans (30 million from the ACA, another 20 who would lose coverage if Romney/Ryan Medicaid cuts happen) is enough to cure people of the notion that it doesn’t matter who wins.

All of this in turn has an implication that Republicans won’t like — assuming that Rasmussen doesn’t have a special insight into the truth denied to all other pollsters, and that Obama does in fact win with a solid margin. The right is already set up to blame poor Mitt, claiming that he lost because he wasn’t conservative enough. But that’s not what we’re seeing; it looks as if voters are rejecting the right’s whole package, not just the messenger.

The recent flurry of socially conservative legislation, on issues ranging from expanding gun rights to placing new restrictions on abortion, comes as Republicans at the national level are eager to refocus attention on economic issues.

Some Republican strategists and officials, reluctant to be identified because they do not want to publicly antagonize the party’s base, fear that the attention these divisive social issues are receiving at the state level could harm the party’s chances in November, when its hopes of winning back the White House will most likely rest with independent voters in a handful of swing states.

One seasoned strategist called the problem potentially huge. But others said that actions taken by a handful of states would probably have little impact on the national campaign.

Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana, a Republican who created a stir a couple of years ago with his suggestion for a “truce” on social issues, said in an interview that such issues are best handled at the state and local levels. They become more polarizing, he said, when people try to settle them nationally.

“If we don’t address soon what I believe are the lethal threats of our debts, our unaffordable commitments, our slow-growth economy, and so forth, every other problem will seem small,” said Mr. Daniels, whose state did see union protests this year when it enacted a so-called right-to-work law. He noted that Mitt Romney’s campaign was already emphasizing the economy at every opportunity.

“The genuine risk to our party comes if we allow it to appear that these are our first preoccupations,” he said.

But John Weaver, a Republican strategist who worked on the presidential campaigns of Senator John McCain and Jon M. Huntsman Jr., said that the attention Republicans were paying to social issues at the state level could cost the party support from several important blocs of voters, including independents, women and young people voting for the first or second time.

“I think it’s problematic,” he said, “not just for this national election we’re facing, but for the long-term health of the party.”

South Carolina governor Nikki Haley’s now infamous dismissal, that “Women don’t care about contraception. They care about jobs and their families …” was significant.  Of course they care about jobs and their families, as well as their rights as women. But her party has had nothing to offer on the jobs and families front for the past four decades, or on other economic issues.  They have chosen a whole set of policies to make the rich richer and the majority of American women and men poorer:  from union-busting to tax cuts to de-industrialization, and anti-stimulus policies during our worst recession since the Great Depression.  And now they promise more of the same, with spending cuts for the poor and unemployed, and tax cuts for the rich.

It is for these reasons that Republican strategy for four decades has been focused on creating a false populist appeal to white swing voters – who are mostly working class — based on appeals to racism, religious extremism, anti-immigrant sentiment, anti-gay attitudes and other “cultural” issues. The current “war on women” is just another one of the ugly locations to which this strategy has taken them, as they build their bridge to the 17th century.

In the last few years this strategy has broken down, mostly because the Great Recession and weak recovery have focused voters’ attention on the economy. But this latest fight shows that Republicans are losing their “culture wars” even on their own terms.

Some have complained that Democrats are “politicizing” gender issues, but this is what democracy looks like: if one party carries out an assault on the majority of voters – in this case women – their political opposition is going to make an electoral issue out of it.  As they should.

What Republicans and some pundits miss, is that women did not need the Democratic Party to tell them there was a war being waged on their reproductive rights.  It has been women and their families who have depended on the healthcare provided by Planned Parenthood for years and who see that access under attack.

It was women who saw friends die from illegal abortions and who fought for abortion rights and who want that safety for their granddaughters who raised the alarm about states infringing on that right and noted that Republican legislators decided the had the right to dictate what a woman does with her own body.  Like many others of my generation, I was calling my friends and my daughter and granddaughter warning of the need to push back every time any state moved to claim a fetus had more rights to personhood and a woman’s body than the woman herself. 

Like most middle and lower class adult women, I’ve worked all my life.  I’ve felt pay inequality and never forgot the lawsuits we had to file to gain access to many areas of employment from factories to law firms.  I’ve had to support my family both while married and as a single mom.  Women recognized these attacks on our progress all on our own.

We recognize that attacks on Medicare and Social Security are not simply attacks on faceless elders.  They are attacks on families, elders who want to remain independent and families who might face providing a home for an elderly parent and may have to make up the difference between what was promised and what is delivered.  We know how hard that can be on younger struggling families and we know it could sink a struggling single working mom.

Women understand that attacks on unions are attacks on communities and families having the opportunity to improve lives.  We understand that most of us are part of a class that has always had to struggle for the inch, much less the mile.

So even if the right and the pundits get the Democratic Party to cower on fighting this particular war, women won’t.  Even us grandmothers well passed the time of that need.  We may not want our daughters and granddaughters  to have an abortion, but we sure held don’t want them being harmed or even to die because a medically safe one from a trained medical professional is not available. 

Women understand how tightly woven is the cloth that weaves our reproductive rights, the social safety nets and our economic prosperity together.  We understand the connectiveness of the world and the issues we face in our daily lives.  We know that attacks on unions and safety nets like attacks on our reproductive rights are directly connected to our personal and family economies.  And we know when we are being attacked without any man or party telling us. 

Republicans and the right may win a skirmish or two, but in the end, we will win the war. 

The Democratic Party had best stand with us as we will not abandon the fight.  We fight for ourselves and our futures, but also for our families, communities, the nation and the world our great, great grandchildren will inhabit.

Our root problem today is not obdurate denialism coming from the right. That insanity is part of Culture War and can only be treated as a mental illness. Blue America must do what it did in every previous phase of the U.S. Civil War. Simply win. Answer the Tea Party’s tricorner hat nonsense with the Union volunteer’s kepi. We will stop resurgent feudalism and know-nothingism. Tell the troglodytes and oligarchs they cannot have our renaissance. Our enlightenment. Our proudly scientific civilization. No. What I find far more worrisome is the left’s mania to confuse ALL optimism with complacency, proclaiming any zealous, can-do enthusiasm to be part and parcel of the right’s madness. It is a baseless and dismal reflex, inherently illogical, anti-technological, demoralizing, and - above all - truly destructive of hope, undermining our ability to actively and vigorously save ourselves and the world.

David Brin (via azspot)


Fuckery of the highest accord:

The first bill of the session passed by the Oklahoma Senate was an anti-abortion statement that life begins at the moment of conception, approved by senators Wednesday after two hours of debate.

The practical effect of the bill is open to question. Its author, Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, said it’s merely a statement that Oklahoma is “pro-life.” He labeled as fear mongering contentions by opponents that it could lead to restrictions on abortions, birth control, in vitro fertilization and stem cell research.

One question: If corporations and fetuses (fetii?) get personhood, when is it my turn for personhood? I have a wallet and a uterus.

Time for some perspective. Oklahoma, you’ve got more important things to worry about. For example, unemployment has risen a titch:

The poverty rate also rose last year:

And the majority party IS in a position to do something. Oklahoma’s Republicans began gaining the majority in 2006. Observe:

S = Senate, H = House 

But alas, the Oklahoma State Senate must debate the protection of blastocysts versus post-natal people. Instead of focusing on rising unemployment and poverty, the first bill passed by the Republican-dominated Oklahoma State Senate is a personhood bill. 

I’m so goddamn shocked! </sarcasm> 

Basically, the Oklahoma GOP gave the finger to already-born citizens of Oklahoma in favor of prioritizing the “welfare” of maybe babies.

Oh, culture wars…

Responsibility became sacrosanct for conservative culture warriors. Today’s anti-abortionists are not merely pro-life but also pro-responsibility. As Robert Bork wrote, abortion is “a way for women to escape the idea that biology is destiny, and from the tyranny of the family role.” Similarly, conservative racial discourse has morphed from the overt racism of white Southerners who sought to uphold Jim Crow into a colorblind rhetoric of individual merit and hard work, which shapes attacks on affirmative action. Americans have long subscribed to political language—some call it populist—that separates those who earn their way from those who do not. At various historical moments, especially the Great Depression, a rapacious corporate elite has been assigned the role of leeches, thus enabling redistributive economic policies. At other moments, like the current culture wars, poor people, blacks, feminists, immigrants, and assorted “others” are described as parasites, hindering reform. Cultural description tends to match economic prescription, such as with the appropriately titled federal welfare-reform legislation, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996.

Clay Bennett of the Chattanooga Times Free Press


Clay Bennett of the Chattanooga Times Free Press



It’s official. There is no doubt in my mind that Rick Perry will be this election’s top culture war candidate. I first started to believe it when he announced “The Response”, a prayer rally, which turned out to be step one in a voter mobilization drive . That feeling was bolstered as his ties to religious extremists came into the light, and again when his Dominionist beliefs were confirmed. Then Perry passed former Iowa-frontrunner Michele Bachmann in the primary race, according to Public Policy Polling. Now, in my mind, Perry has taken the final step on the road to becoming a culture war candidate.

From The Hill:

Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday signed an anti-abortion-rights group’s presidential pledge, making him the seventh Republican presidential candidate to do so.

Perry’s decision strengthens his hand with conservative voters while drawing attention to front-runner Mitt Romney’s decision not to sign on. Candidates Herman Cain, Jon Huntsman and Gary Johnson have also so far refused to sign the pledge and are under pressure to do so.

“I not only pledge to protect unborn life, but have a record of doing so in Texas,” Perry said in a statement. “I have signed legislation requiring parental consent for a minor to obtain an abortion, and have long advocated adoption as an alternative to abortion in order to protect unborn children.”

The petition, called the Pro-Life Presidential Leadership Pledge, was created by the Susan B. Anthony List. The SBA-List is an organization “dedicated to electing candidates and pursuing policies that will reduce and ultimately end abortion.” The organization topped the list of Pro-Life PAC donors for the 2008 and 2010 election cycles.

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