It doesn't pay to be a fossil fuel Democrat on election day

WillinoisThis was a difficult election for Democrats and it was even worse for Democrats still pushing fossil fuels. The Democratic co-chair of the Congressional Coal Caucus lost his seat along with a slew of others who tried to prove they’re as pro-coal, pro-oil, and pro-fracking as any Republican.

There are plenty of examples like Grimes in Kentucky. Or Tennant and Nick Rahall in West Virginia who mimicked conservative talking points on coal in their losing races. Mary Landrieau is expected to lose in a Louisiana run-off. If you can’t run on clean energy and climate change in a state that saw hurricane Katrina and the Gulf oil disaster then you’re an incompetent politician.

No state made the point more clearly than Illinois, where Democrats serious about climate won re-election while fossil fuel Democrats lost. Governor Pat Quinn once bragged about passing a bill to launch fracking along with lead Senate sponsor Mike Frerichs. Quinn lost re-election after spending months avoiding the issue (and anti-fracking protesters).

Mike Frerichs, who has been viewed as an environmental leader in the past, is still second place in a close count for state Treasurer. He raised climate change and clean energy early in the race but dropped the issue after realizing most of the environmental movement is unhappy with his lead role in launching fracking. Most environmental voters aren’t nearly as happy with the fracking law as the four statehouse green groups who supported it.

An upset few predicted six months ago is the loss of incumbent Congressman Bill Enyart to confessed dog-killer Mike Bost. The Democratic district hasn’t elected a Republican in 70 years but has a long coal mining history. Enyart became Democratic co-chair of the Congressional Coal Caucus with John Shimkus, who’s best known outside Illinois as the Republican who conducted a failed investigation and helped cover up the Foley Congressional page sex scandal.

What did pandering to the coal industry accomplish for Enyart? He lost by a wide margin, getting just 39%. The Green Party candidate increased her vote share to over 6%. Voter turnout was roughly half what it was in 2012. Southern Illinois Democrats had little motivation to vote with the top of the ticket, Governor Pat Quinn, angering them by cutting public employee pensions, closing important regional facilities, and launching fracking.

The coal industry didn’t give Enyart a money advantage either. His fundraising was lower than most incumbents in competitive races. His opponent received larger donations from many fossil fuel interests, including Knight Hawk Coal and Koch Industries. No matter how pro-coal a Democrat tries to be, the industry can always find a Republican who will promise more.

It didn’t work for central Illinois candidate Ann Callis running in one of the nation’s most closely divided Congressional districts. After getting a Sierra Club endorsement in the primary, over two opponents with better environmental platforms, she expressed her support  for more spending on clean coal and promised to not support President Obama on new clean air rules because they wouldn’t create enough coal jobs. By trying to find a safe middle ground she managed to make both sides of the debate unhappy. Continue reading It doesn’t pay to be a fossil fuel Democrat on election day

Sunday Talks, 11/9/14

On ABC’s This Week, the “powerhouse” roundtable debates midterm politics following the Republican takeover of the Senate, with ABC News contributor and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren, BuzzFeed.com editor-in-chief Ben Smith, . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 11/9/14

Friday Talking Points [326] -- A Democratic Economic Platform For Next Time

FTP3Not a fun week to be a Democrat, was it?

President Obama called the 2010 midterms a “shellacking.” He demurred on providing a label for the 2014 midterms, but others sprang into the void. The most notable label so far (the one seemingly most repeated, at any rate) is that Democrats suffered an “ass-kicking” this past Tuesday night. At this point, I won’t quibble over terms. Democrats got beat, and they got beat pretty badly.

Some called this election “the Seinfeld election,” since it was essentially “an election about nothing.” This is somewhat of an oversimplification, but it does point out how the two parties pretty much had a handshake agreement that they weren’t going to lay out any sort of economic agenda for average Americans at all, they were just going to fling mud for the entire cycle. Republicans have always been better at flinging mud, and so they won. But they didn’t beat any sort of shining Democratic agenda, because it largely didn’t exist. If I had to use a television metaphor from Seinfeld, I think I’d have to call it “the Soup Nazi election,” because it was mostly anger and pique that drove the voters (“No elected office for you!“) than anything else.

Democrats need a coherent message on helping the middle class in today’s economy, and they need to all be singing from the same songbook next time around. Many have pointed this out, but what I’m going to do in the talking points section of today’s column is to take the idea one step further and lay out what I think Democrats should consider running on next time around. The 2016 election will have a presidential contest, so it should be easier for Democrats to rally around one platform (assuming the Democratic nominee articulates this platform, of course). This is the platform I’d humbly suggest they use. But more on that in a bit.

The inside-the-Beltway punditocracy is doing what it always does after an election (these days, at least), proclaiming that a spirit of “gettin’ stuff done” now prevails across Washington, with wide-eyed predictions that Congress and the president will now start working together for the betterment of all. Insert your own “What are they smoking now that weed’s legal in DC, and how can I get some?” joke here, as it would be entirely appropriate.

My prediction of what will get done in Washington in the next year is: not much. Or maybe: the barest of minimums. Other than a few minor issues that Republicans and Obama already agree upon, my guess is that there will be no grand bargains struck. There’s a very simple reason why I feel this is true, and it is that the Republicans don’t have a whole lot of motivation to get a lot of things done. For better or for worse, any large changes are going to be laid at the feet of President Obama (as President Clinton is still held responsible for welfare reform, for instance), and included as part of his “legacy.” Are Republicans really all that eager to add to the Obama legacy? Probably not.

That’s the big picture, but the smaller picture shows the same thing. Republicans in Congress just won a smashing electoral success by essentially doing nothing but mercilessly block Obama’s agenda. That, to put it another way, is a winning formula for them with their base voters. Many Republicans — including many who will be running for president in 2016 — are going to be goading the Republican Party to just coast for two more years on absolute obstructionism, after which (they will say) Republicans will capture the White House and hold onto both houses of Congress. Why mess with a good thing?

Republicans don’t really have much of an agenda, other than being against stuff. Obamacare? They’re against it. What do they want done instead? Nobody knows, because the House has not acted, despite Republicans holding the majority for the last four years. Immigration reform? They’re against that, too. What would they do instead? Again, no bill from the House. On issue after issue, Republicans have skated on being against everything Democrats are for, without ever having to put on the table what they’d do instead. This is because they know that the minute they do propose something, a large portion of their own party is going to be obsessively against it.

The House is the place to look if you want to see how things are going to work in the next two years. John Boehner can’t get anything done not because President Obama won’t compromise with him, but because his own Tea Partiers won’t compromise with him — not one tiny bit. So why should we expect Mitch McConnell to have any better luck over in the Senate? McConnell is not only going to have to attempt to corral unruly Tea Partiers (as Boehner has been doing), but with the added complication that a number of them will be actively running for the presidency next year (Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul, to name just three off the top of my head). Each potential candidate will be trying to stake out their own absolutist position on every single issue, and you can bet that they’re not going to be interested in compromising with President Obama, Senate Democrats — or even Mitch McConnell. Their campaign theme — for all of them — will be: “Why settle now for a compromise? If you just vote for me we can have all of what we want after 2016 — no retreat, no compromise, no surrender!” Continue reading Friday Talking Points [326] — A Democratic Economic Platform For Next Time

All Illinois Democrats have to do for re-election is govern like Democrats

WillinoisThere’s a simple lesson for Illinois Democrats from the Tuesday election. If you want to get re-elected as a Democrat in Illinois all you have to do is govern like a liberal Democrat.

It’s not complicated. Illinois is a Democratic state. A majority of voters are pro-union, pro-environment, pro-choice and progressive. The biggest employer is government, which does in fact create jobs. Lots of them.

Dick Durbin is a reliably liberal Senator from downstate. He’s pro-union, pro-environment, voted against the Iraq war, supports Obama, and he’s liberal on social issues. Illinois likes that. He won easy re-election in a tough year for Democrats.

Pat Quinn attacked the livelihood of public employees by pushing pension cuts. He shut down state facilities in small towns that depended on them. He supports fracking. His campaign complained about the Koch Brothers but his agenda as Governor was a slightly watered down version of Scott Walker.

That’s why Pat Quinn lost to the wild card option, Bruce Rauner. Turnout was down in Chicago, the suburban collar counties made a big swing toward Rauner, and southern Illinois Democrats stayed home.

Quinn won 64.3% in Cook county, the same percentage he got in 2010. But with turnout down, he earned about 79,000 fewer votes out of Cook than last time. That’s enough for a few Chicago-centric thinkers to claim, as they always do, that Cook County made the difference. But, even if Quinn had matched his 2010 turnout in Chicago, he still would have lost this election.

The suburban collar counties saw a large swing to the Republican. It partly came from Quinn losing a few percentage points. But Rauner gained more from voters who supported third party candidates in 2010.

For example, in DuPage county Quinn won 38.6% in 2010. He went down two points to 36.7% in 2014. The bigger swing came on the Republican side. DuPage gave Republican Bill Brady 54.3% in 2010. Rauner improved on that by six points to win 60.9%. Suburban voters who supported third party candidates in 2010 switched their vote to Rauner. That happened statewide but the swing was most dramatic in DuPage, Lake and other suburban counties where Brady wasn’t well known.

Rauner finished about as well in central Illinois as Bill Brady did in 2010. They won the same 63% in McLean, Brady’s home county. The fact that Rauner, despite being from Chicago, roughly matched the performance of a central Illinois hometown candidate is remarkable.

Democratic performance was down most dramatically in southern Illinois. It’s no wonder. Quinn cut pensions and jobs for the largest employers: state agencies, schools, and public universities. His main jobs plan for the region was passing a fracking law that’s unpopular with Democrats and independents. Those were the top two issues in the southern half of the state, despite the candidates’ attempt to ignore both. Continue reading All Illinois Democrats have to do for re-election is govern like Democrats

Midterm Hangover

Grumpy2Grumpy: Well Mouse, I’m not feeling too well this week. In fact I think I’m about to have a two-year hangover after Tuesday night’s election results. Austerity will be the name of the game for the foreseeable future. Obama can use his veto pen, but I can’t see him using it on a budget which would effectively shut down government again. This time the blame will go to him, fairly or not. Filling vacant federal court seats? Don’t even think about it, they’ll never make it out of committee.

Mouse: And don’t forget about the Supreme Court. If any Justices should need to be replaced in the next two years expect the Republican Senate to create problems like we’ve never seen before. They will filibuster, drag their feet, and do anything and everything they can to prevent the President from seating a liberal-leaning Justice.

Grumpy: It isn’t just the Congress we have to worry about either. Teapublicans held onto and even gained governorships. Ohio should have gone to Democrats but we had a very weak candidate in Ed Fitzgerald. He had so much dirt on him the Teapublicans couldn’t shovel fast enough. He ended up dragging the entire statewide Democratic ticket down with him. The Republicans even hold a 6-to-1 majority on Ohio’s Supreme Court. Ohio may be a deeper red than ever before after the debacle of 2014.

Sadly, Ohio isn’t the exception this year. Governorships in four states (Arkansas, Maryland, Massachusetts and Illinois) switched to Teapublican control and only Pennsylvania switched to Democratic control. I think we can expect many more attempts at voting restrictions in all the states. In the past the Democrats have been reactionary about Teapublican attempts at voting restrictions. I think it is time for the Democrats to get off their behinds and get proactive about using referendums, lawsuits and any other legal means of securing the voting rights that people died to win for us.

Mouse: As a former Pennsylvanian, I’m happy for my old home state to have returned to the Democratic fold. As a current Arizonan, I’m not surprised at all that this state stayed on the crazy train and elected yet another unqualified Republican along with a whole slate of other Republican disasters for state offices.

The next two years will be a struggle to maintain the right for ALL Americans to vote.

Grumpy: You know, I don’t blame Teapublicans for the sorry state of affairs we find ourselves in for at least the next four years. They did exactly what they needed to do to win. Whatever it took, they did it. They lied, cheated, sowed confusion, deflected blame and used any devious means at their disposal to secure victory. All the Democrats did was cry to the referee(s) that the Teapubs were hitting below the belt. In many, if not most, cases the referees just told them to keep fighting. Continue reading Midterm Hangover

New Hampshire Points to the Future

DDThe real story of the 2014 midterm election can be found in New Hampshire’s Senate race. More than any other states, its votes show how American politics is being redefined. Its results show how rapidly voters are shifting away from the old political paradigms of party and local issues to agenda-driven national issues that drown out regional and state concerns. In New Hampshire, look beyond the winners and losers, at the details and trends. There you’ll find the emerging politics of tomorrow.

First, New Hampshire was the place of Scott Brown’s third try in four years for the US Senate, with only his first attempt being successful but short-lived—but each of his last two races were competitive. New Hampshire was Brown’s second try in two years to win a Senate seat; he moved to the state in December 2013, after losing to Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts, losing a seat he won after a special election.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH.

His 2014 Democratic opponent was the incumbent Senator, former Governor and state legislator Jeanne Shaheen, who had a string of eight election victories in New Hampshire, and was without scandal or personal negatives. She had lived in New Hampshire for 40 years.

In the end, the difference was 17,000 votes out of a rough count of a quarter-million votes cast. That means over 225,000 voters voted for a man who had never served in New Hampshire politics and only jumped into its Senate race last April. Brown had never lived there until 11 months ago, and was clearly using the state as a stepping stone for his singular ambition to win a Senate seat. He had a single plank in his platform: Obama is bad news.

Make no mistake, Republicans want that slogan’s conclusion to resonate as they interchange the names: Hillary is bad news; O’Malley (of Maryland) is bad news; Warren (Massachusetts) is bad news; any and all Democrats are bad news, because they allowed the nation to elect Barack Obama. It is a negative cult of personality tied more to race than reality.

Brown’s boldness, changing states, running on a single plank devoid of state issues, represents a remarkable shift in American politics. It shows conclusively that local politics do not matter (witness Tillis’s win in North Carolina against Kay Hagan!), and that political rhetoric is separating and decoupling from political reality. In one debate, asked about the local economy in Sullivan County, Brown said he saw no difference between it and the than the rest of the state. Shaneen, on the other hand, clearly articulated a list of important local issues. Continue reading New Hampshire Points to the Future

Stormy Monday, 11/3/14

StormyMondayAccording to everyone from Nate Silver to Reince Priebus to Joe Trippi to a host of Democratic and Republican candidates sending out last-minute fundraising e-mails, on Tuesday Republicans will take over the Senate, strengthen their hold on the House, and ramp up their assault on women’s rights, voting rights and civil rights in general with increased legislative majorities at the state level. I trust, Gentle Reader, that you’re about to prove all of them wrong. Thanks in advance!

For those waiting restlessly for the next generation of gormless, amoral, deceitful, opportunistic and downright dumb “civil servants” named Bush to come along, the wait is almost over. Tuesday, son o’Jeb George P. Bush is strongly favored to become Texas Land Commissioner. Interestingly, while Land Commissioner is an actual position, there is no actual Land Commission. Sounds like the perfect job for P.

Salon has a good rundown of some of the most closely watched of the 147 ballot measures that will go before voters on Tuesday. These include recreational cannabis initiatives in DC, Oregon, Washington and Alaska, gun control measures in Washington, GMO labeling in Oregon and Colorado, and abortion restrictions in Tennessee, Colorado and North Dakota.

Good news for calendar-impaired Teabaggers: National Impeach Obama Week II has been extended to November 4, making it technically National Impeach Obama Two Weeks and Four Days, but, hey, who’s counting? The group’s website features allegations about the President “[g]overning by dictatorial fiat with lawless executive orders targeting Amnesty, Obamacare, gun regulation, etc.,” “[b]latantly lying to the American People about the Benghazi attack, Obamacare, etc. for political reasons,” “[e]ncouraging massive numbers of illegal aliens to enter the US for his own perverse political reasons,” and “[b]izarre and erratic behavior, which implies psychological pathology.” Speaking of “bizarre and erratic behavior,” the “II” in the event’s official name commemorates the fact that these buffoons held a week of events back in August, which, judging from the photos on their site, were attended by five people in Austin, TX, four or five more in Middletown, NJ, four people in Prescott, AZ, and a confused-looking woman in Annapolis, MD.

Monday, the President sits down with Fed Chair Janet Yellen to discuss the economy, including, perhaps, contingency measures to keep it from imploding should the GOP attain complete control of the legislative branch the following day. Of course, Gentle Reader, you’re not going to let that happen, are you? Thanks in advance! Continue reading Stormy Monday, 11/3/14

Sunday Talks, 11/2/14

On ABC’s This Week, the midterm elections will be the focus. First up is Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus and Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FA) to discuss them. They will . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 11/2/14

How to Buy Power and Influence

DDOnce, you bought elected officials. Today, you buy the election. How? With ads! Short, distorted, repetitive, intense, saturated, without facts. Who pays? Outside groups. An example: since 2006, the Republican State Leadership Committee has gone from spending $20 million on GOP candidates to a projected $37 million by next week, mainly aimed at state legislatures and judges. In a break with precedent (and mainstream media coverage!), the new era of free speech has focused attacks on elected judges, especially on state Supreme Courts. In North Carolina, one televised ad accused a sitting judge of “siding with child predators.”

And win or lose, these ads are working. A new report  says state judges are considering these ads when they issue rulings in court. The net effect of these ads is slowly, invisibly changing justice, even on constitutional questions.

According to the American Constitution Society (ACS):

Outside interest groups, often with high-stakes economic interests or political causes before the courts, now routinely pour millions of dollars into state supreme court elections. These powerful interests understand the important role that state supreme courts play in American government, and seek to elect justices who will rule as they prefer on priority issues such as environmental and consumer protections, marriage equality, reproductive choice and voting rights. Although their economic and political priorities are not necessarily criminal justice policy, these sophisticated groups understand that “soft on crime” attack ads are often the best means of removing from office justices they oppose.

The Society issued a report, Skewed Justice: Citizens United, Television Advertising, and State Supreme Court Justices’ Decisions in Criminal Cases, that compiled data from more than 3,000 criminal appeals decided in state supreme courts in 32 states from 2008 to 2013.

It found:

  1. The more TV ads aired during state Supreme Court judicial elections in a state, the less likely justices are to vote in favor of criminal defendants. In a state with 10,000 ads, a doubling of airings is associated on average with an 8 percent increase in justices’ voting against a criminal defendant’s appeal.
  2. Justices in states whose bans on corporate and union spending on elections were struck down by Citizens United were less likely to vote in favor of criminal defendants than they were before the decision. In these states, the removal of those prohibitions after Citizens United is associated with, on average, a 7 percent decrease in justices’ voting in favor of criminal defendants.

ThinkProgress notes: “Outside spenders pay for ads with particularly vicious content” even as candidates they support distance themselves; one in Ohio dissembling its support by claiming an ad against his opponent as not an “appropriate approach to judicial campaigning.”

A Mother Jones article cites these phrases from ads: “Terrorist sympathizer. Friend to criminals. Pedophile supporter.” A “free a terrorist” ad ran in Michigan 416 times!

Heavy on emotion, short on facts, completely without context or specifics, watch this example from Michigan:

This kind of ad, televised, makes electoral debate a tough sell and appeals to the lowest forms of information, anger and fear—at the sacrifice of the freedom the soldier died for.

In states with elections for local court seats, money is also wielding a bigger presence on justice.

But the changes in political funding created by the Citizens United decision, along with the internet, have also created more citizen ads, with low production values and distinctively local flavors. For example, these next four, each a little bizarre: Continue reading How to Buy Power and Influence

Fever Dreams

freehandFor all the mainstream media’s obsession with Ebola in recent weeks, one disquieting aspect of the virus remains largely unexamined: its ability to provoke delusional raving from right-wingers.

Take, for example, Larry Klayman, whose history of delusional raving actually predates the current outbreak by about 63 years. Klayman took some time out from his current projects (barking at the moon and petitioning the Department of Homeland Security to deport Barack Obama) to discuss Ebola in the October 10 edition of his WND column. More specifically, Barack Obama and Ebola. His opening salvo echoes criticism leveled at the President from various quarters, not all of them arch-conservative, insisting that “free entry” into the United States by people from Ebola-affected nations be halted.

But Klayman’s just getting started. He then alleges the White House forced CDC Director Thomas Frieden “… to walk the proverbial medical plank, by spewing forth what in street vernacular was vintage cr-p to the American people.” Putting aside the odd revelation that there’s such a thing as a “proverbial medical plank” – who knew? –  Klayman’s contention that Frieden is being “forced, likely to keep his job” to toe the White House line on travel from West Africa begs the question of why the CDC Director would acquiesce and allow, in Klayman’s framing, “potential massive death to our citizenry.” Maybe there’s an obscure out clause in the Hippocratic Oath.

Breaking out multiple dog whistles, Klayman then goes on to claim that Ebola “appears to be even worse a threat to this nation than AIDS or other incurable African generated diseases,” and then calls it “more than likely” that “suicide terrorists from ISIS, perhaps American Muslim traitors” will infect themselves with Ebola and enter the United States. Hey, way to give ‘em ideas, Larry.

Klayman then promotes his deportation petition and closes out by castigating the President for “relegating whites and others who are not black or Muslim to the back of the bus,” castigating Republicans for lacking the “guts or desire to impeach a black president,” and promising a lawsuit to “force Obama to curtail travel and immigration from Liberia and the rest of West Africa.” No doubt the judicial system is on pins and needles.

Also courtesy of WND, living antediluvian fossil Phyllis Schlafly shared her “wisdom” by observing:

“Obama doesn’t want America to believe that we’re exceptional,” Schlafly said. “He wants us to be just like everybody else, and if Africa is suffering from Ebola, we ought to join the group and be suffering from it, too. That’s his attitude.”

Which I suppose is, in a sense, exceptional. And in yet a third unhinged tirade about the President’s supposed yen to unleash viral Armageddon on, among others, the 65,915,796 Americans who voted him into a second term, has-been actress and wannabe pundit Morgan Brittany cited DHS stockpiling of guns’n'ammo and a billion dollars’ worth of “disposable FEMA coffins” stashed somewhere in Georgia (she didn’t say where, but my intuition tells me it’s probably Statesboro). Why, you ask? Over to you, Morgan: Continue reading Fever Dreams