The Republican Machine Vs. The Coakley Campaign

It’s been a fairly long time since Attorney General Martha Coakley famously lost Massachusetts to State Senator Scott Brown. A look back at the race gives an insightful view into the Republican machine, and how Republicans are often quite effective when campaigning.

Mr. Brown ran a classic Republican campaign. He effectively painted Ms. Coakley as lazy and unwilling to campaign, a politician who didn’t care about Massachusetts, who simply assumed that Massachusetts would vote Democratic because it always did. Every minor mistake Coakley made – a stupid statement here, a word spelled wrongly there – was turned into further support for this theme.

These are classic Republican tactics; they are the bread and butter of the Republican machine. Senator John McCain’s campaign spent all summer creating controversy out of nothing. For instance, he ran an ad accusing Senator Barack Obama of not visiting the troops; one of the images in the ad originally showed Mr. Obama draining a three-pointer in front of – guess what – the troops. Mr. McCain’s ad then photoshopped the troops out. In the end Mr. Obama’s campaign, with the helpful aid of Fox News, spent an entire week engulfed in artificial controversy.

Martha Coakley fell victim to similar tactics. She famously didn’t know who Curt Schilling was, for instance – a mistake Mr. Brown used to paint her as elite out-of-touch. Yet being familiar with sports has absolutely nothing to do with being a good Senator or making decisions that affect the country’s well-being. President George W. Bush was a devoted sports fan; that didn’t make him a good president.

Republicans also attacked Ms. Coakley for misspelling Massachusetts in an ad – another variation on the “Martha doesn’t care about Massachusetts” theme. In reality the misspelling occurs for one second in the credits; it isn’t even noticeable unless it’s specifically pointed out to an individual. Chances are that the misspelling had nothing to do with Ms. Coakley; it was probably the fault of a tired staffer running low on sleep. Perhaps more pertinently, if a crisis occurs and the United States is under grave threat, being able to spell “Massachusetts” will not save the nation.

The problem was that Ms. Coakley’s campaign never bothered to point any of this out. It never worked to counter Mr. Brown’s narrative, to say that knowing Curt Schilling’s name has absolutely nothing to do with being a good Senator. Instead, Ms. Coakley essentially ran a turn-out operation, desperately urging Democrats to vote rather than characterizing Mr. Brown’s narrative as wrongheaded. Nationally, Democrats panicked and ran around like chickens with their heads cut off.

In light of this analysis, it comes not as a surprise but almost as expected that Ms. Coakley performed as she did.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

Weekly Pulse: Obama to Push for Reconciliation

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Today, President Barack Obama will deliver a speech to Congress outlining his plan to move forward on health care reform. The president is expected to advocate the use of budget reconciliation.

Art Levine of Working In These Times warns that some centrist Democrats are already getting cold feet on reconciliation. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), chair of the Senate Budget Committee, went on TV to declare reconciliation impossible. These guys just don’t get it. It’s reconciliation or defeat. There is no other way. Without reconciliation, the bill dies. Without a bill, the Democrats get massacred in the mid-term elections.

Health care reform to date

Quick recap: The House and the Senate have both passed health care reform bills. The original plan was to merge those two bills in a conference committee and send the final version back to both houses of Congress for a vote. However, the Democrats lost their filibuster-proof majority in the Senate when Republican Scott Brown defeated Martha Coakley in the special election in Massachusetts.

Once they recovered from their shell shock, Democrats reluctantly converged around Plan B: Let the House re-pass the Senate version of the bill, thereby skipping the step where the Senate votes on the conference report. However, the Senate bill could not pass the House in its current form. So, the Senate needs to tweak the bill to make it acceptable to the House—either before or after the House re-passes the Senate bill. In order to make those changes without getting filibustered, the Senate Democrats will have to insert the modifications through budget reconciliation, where measures pass by a simple majority. Whew!

Of course, the Republicans trying to paint Democrats as tyrants for using reconciliation. Nevermind that 16 of the 22 reconciliation bills passed since reconciliation was invented in 1974 were passed by Republican majorities.

Whither the Public Option?

Reconciliation would appear to give the public health insurance option a new lease on life. The House bill has a public option, but the Senate bill doesn’t. The public option was traded away on the Senate side to forge the original filibuster-proof majority. As a procedural matter, the public option could easily be reinserted during reconciliation because it has such a direct impact on the federal budget, i.e., it would save the taxpayer a lot of money. The White House claims to support a public option. Yet Obama didn’t propose one in his health care plan last week.

Some observers take that as a sign that the White House doesn’t think the votes are there. (Cynics say it’s proof the White House never cared about the public option in the first place.) Even Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) told radio host Ed Schultz that he can’t support a public option for fear of killing the health care bill, according to Jason Hancock of the Iowa Independent. Harkin has been taking a lot of heat from progressives for refusing to join with other senators in signing a letter calling for a public option.

Abortion Storm Clouds

Speaker Nancy Pelosi had little to say about how she plans to overcome resistance within her own caucus on abortion and immigration issues within health reform, as Brian Beutler reports for TPMDC. Pelosi needs 216 votes to pass a bill. The original House bill only passed by 5 votes. Rabid anti-choice Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) claims to have assembled a coalition of like-minded Dems who consider the Senate’s slightly less restrictive rules for abortion funding “unacceptable.” There is no reliable public vote count on how many of these representatives, if any, would vote to kill health care over abortion. If they do, it would be purely out of spite. Abortion language can’t be tweaked in reconciliation because it doesn’t directly affect the budget.

Stupak and the myth of federal funding for abortions

In The Nation, Jessica Arons takes a closer look at Stupak’s radical and misleading anti-choice rhetoric. The federal government is already legally barred from funding elective abortions, and nothing in the Senate bill would change that. Arons explains that the Senate bill would allow plans that participate in the federally-subsidized exchanges to offer abortion coverage provided that customers buy that coverage with their own money, not with subsidized federal dollars. If the government pays 30% of the cost of the policy and the consumer pays 60%, the money for abortion coverage comes out of the consumer’s end.

There’s a long tradition of segregating government money. Both Planned Parenthood and Catholic hospitals get federal funds. By law, Planned Parenthood can’t use that money to perform abortions, but it can use it to do pap smears and offer other health care. By the same token, a Catholic hospital can take federal money to provide medical care, but not to proselytize to patients. Arons ably satirizes Stupak’s extreme position:

If everyone thought like Bart Stupak, a woman seeking an abortion:

(1) would not be able to take a public bus or commuter train to an abortion clinic, even if she paid her own fare;

(2) would not be able to drive on public roads to a clinic, even if she drove her own car and paid for her own gas;

(3) would not be able to walk on public sidewalks to the clinic, even though she paid property taxes;

(4) would not be able to put her child in childcare while she was at the clinic if she received a tax credit that offset the cost of childcare;

(5) would not be able to take medicine at the clinic that was researched or developed by the government, even if she paid for the medicine herself.

Bunning backs down

In other health care news, AlterNet reports that yesterday Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) ended his one-man filibuster of the extension of a bill that would have prevented a 21% cut in Medicare reimbursement rates and extended unemployment benefits while the Senate finalizes the jobs bill. Bunning caved under pressure from his own party. Even Republicans realized that there was no political percentage in stiffing doctors and the unemployed.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

How far will the GOP go for the Latino vote?

From the Restore Fairness blog.

In the 2008 Presidential Election, Republicans won only 31% of the Latino vote, down from 40% of Latino votes they had four years earlier when George Bush took office for the second time. And based on exit polls, it seems apparent that the Hispanic vote played a large part in President Obama’s Electoral College victory and win over John McCain. Add to this the fact that from 1998 to 2008 the number of Latinos eligible to vote rose by 21% (from 16.1 million to 19.5 million), and factor in estimates that say that by 2050 the Hispanic population is expected to increase by 200% and you get a reasonable explanation why Republicans are beginning to panic about how to ensure support from the Latino community. Now that Republicans have woken up to the fact that they desperately need to secure Hispanic support, the question is how they intend to go about doing this, and whether they have it in them to go beyond the surface and address issues that resonate deeply with the Latino community.

Earlier this month, America’s Voice brought out a report that spotlights the growing power of the Latino electorate and suggests that candidates in all political races should keep a close eye on the issues that influence the Latino vote if they intend to remain viable in the House and Senate elections for 2010. The report, The Power of the Latino Vote in America, gives a detailed account of Latino voting trends, identifies 40 Congressional races across 11 states where Latinos are likely to made a huge impact in the November elections, and makes a strong argument for how deeply the issue of immigration reform will affect the Hispanic vote.

While it rates the economy as the top-most issue for the Hispanic population, the report makes it clear that immigration reform has played a key role in how the Latino voters made their choices in 2008, and will continue to do so. The report says,

Polling of Latino voters shows that the Republican Party’s image has been severely damaged by GOP lawmakers’ demagoguery on the issue, and that the vast majority of Latinos simply will not vote for a candidate who advocates mass deportation instead of comprehensive immigration reform…Politicians of both parties also need to approach the issue responsibly during their election campaigns. Heated rhetoric coupled with unrealistic policy solutions like mass deportation will turn off both the crucial Latino voting bloc and other swing voters, who are tired of Washington policymakers talking tough, but delivering little.

But life isn’t hunky dory for Democrats either. Moving forward, the report tells us that while Hispanics have been tending towards the Democrats for years, taking the Latino vote for granted would be a huge fallacy on the part of Democrat candidates. The recent victory of GOP candidate Scott Brown over Democrat Martha Coakley in Massachusetts was attributed to the fact that Coakley failed to reach out to the Latino vote base, and works as a good warning to Democrats who must show leadership and work towards ensuring that their campaign promises be kept in order to keep the support of the powerful Hispanic voter base. Moreover, the Latino-swing constituency, comprising of foreign born, naturalized U.S. citizens of Latino descent who represent about 40% of the Latino population, tend to be favorable to some of the Republican ideals such as the emphasis on “family values.”

On the day of it’s release, Janet Murguia, President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, wrote an article in the Huffington Post in which she prescribed that this report should be bedside reading for any politician in America today. And looking at the activities within a segment of the Republican party in the past few weeks, it looks like many have taken her advice quite seriously. Tea Party extremism aside, a number of Republican candidates in states such as California and Texas, seem to have adopted a more favorable attitude towards immigration reform in order to gain the support of the large Hispanic voter bases. In Texas, George P. Bush, an attorney of Mexican descent and son of Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has founded a political action committee, The Hispanic Republicans of Texas, aimed to promote Hispanics running for office. A number of Republican party strategists are researching social and economic issues that affect the Latino community. And in order to bridge the gap between the Hispanic community and Republican ideals, the Christian group, The Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, plans to spend $500,000 on helping pro-immigration Republican candidates and promote conservative values in the Latino community.

Running a focus group that is researching economic and social issues that face the Latino community, Former Republican National Committee Chairman, Ed Gillespie wants to reach out to Hispanic voters on issues that are important to them. Gillespie blames the loss of Latino support on past “Republican rhetoric,” and says that the key lies in changing the “tone and body language” when addressing the issue of immigration.

We have to make clear to Latino voters that we care as much about welcoming legal immigrants into our country as we do about keeping illegal ones out.

Actions speak louder than words. So while the new GOP language on immigration is evident when Sarah Palin said on Fox News that conservatives needed to be “welcoming and inviting to immigrants” and recognize that “immigrants built this great country,” a lot more than that is necessary before the tides turn. When Republicans stop blocking all immigration reform bills introduced in the Senate and the House, then we will talk.

Learn. Share. Act. Go to restorefairness.org

Progressive bloggers and advocates set the stage for immigration reform in 2010

From the Restore Fairness blog.

"Not the usual suspects-" This is how Nico Pitney, National Editor for the Huffington Post and moderator on a panel discussion about the prospect of immigration reform, introduced his fellow panelists. Organized by the Center for American Progress, Netroots Nation, and America's Voice, the panel featured some of the leading voices for comprehensive and just immigration reform, including Markos Zúñiga, founder and editor of Daily Kos, Andrea Nill, immigration blogger for Think Progress, and María Elena Durazo from the AFL-CIO.

Using the context of Rep. Luis Gutierrez's progressive CIR ASAP immigration reform bill introduced in mid December, the recent election of Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts (and the obvious question of how this will affect the progressive agenda including immigration reform), President Obama's campaign promise to address immigration reform with his election, a lively discussion ensued on what makes the present time ripe for the passage of immigration reform legislation. Unlike the harsh and divisive debates of failed reform in 2007, the overall outlook amongst the panelists was positive, as they approached the topic from the point of view of electoral vote politics, the economy, and the labor movement.

Using Rep. Gutierrez's bill as a solid base, Andrea Nill began by clarifying the fundamentals of Comprehensive Immigration Reform which would include,

An earned path to legalization for undocumented immigrants, including registering with the government, a background check, paying taxes, and ensuring their integration into society.

Creating flexible channels for the future legal flow of immigration which could adjust itself to the ebb and flow of the economy.

Smart enforcement policies including moving resources away from spending money trying to detain and deport immigrants and "chasing busboys and nannies through the desert" into addressing problems such as drug and human trafficking at the border.

Markos Zuniga made the distinction between the political climate around immigration in 2007 and now by talking about today's polls that show 66% of voters (an equal percentage of Democrats and Republicans) support reform making it a truly bipartisan issue. With Latino groups reaching a plurality in 2050 and Asian and other minority communities growing rapidly, the co-relation between electoral votes and reform is clear. For many Republicans, falling back onto nativist rhetoric and hate-mongering like in 2007, could mean a significant loss in votes from Latino and other immigrant communities."President Bush won 40% of the immigrant vote in 2004, John McCain only got 28% in 2008, so the long term health of republican party is in jeopardy if they can't appeal to immigration groups."

Andrea Nill added that while there are three groups largely responsible for the nativist rhetoric - FAIR, NumbersUSA and the Center for Immigration Studies, there is also division between the anti-immigration movement, including within the Republican party between moderates willing to engage with immigration reform, and hardliners such as  Rep. Joe Wilson and Rep. Brian Bilbray and other members of the House Immigration Reform Caucas.

Speaking on behalf of  the labor movement, Maria Durazo said there is high expectations from the administration and Congress to deliver on its promise of reform."These are people who harvests our crops, build our buildings and work in our restaurant...they do services for us but then when we need to respond to their need to bring them out of the shadows we call them names - law breakers, illegals...we want to make sure any immigration legislation has protections for workers, both native born and undocumented immigrants who will come out of the shadows - because we will all lose if we don't work together."

In terms of Sen. Scott Brown's recent victory, the panelists felt that it has little effect since immigration reform has and always will be a bipartisan issue. But on a larger scale, the election felt emblematic of the waning of Democrat popularity due to their lack of engagement with many issues, including immigration, and while voters are looking for the 'hope' and 'change' that they were promised, immigration reform is an opportunity for both Democrats and Republicans to work together towards a viable solution.

But there is also an economic argument for reform. According to a recent Center for American progress report, immigration reform will be crucial for the economy, with mass deportation causing a loss of $2.6 trillion as opposed to a growth of approximately $1.5 trillion over a ten-year period if reform passes. And since the economy, like healthcare,  is a foremost priority of the Obama administration, this is an opportunity to address both issues simultaneously.

The panelists were unanimous on the fact that the present situation is highly favorable towards immigration reform and highlighted the expanse, width and strength of the present coalitions, which today include faith-based groups, LGBT groups, ethnic groups, immigrant rights advocates and immigrant communities in general.

Looking ahead, while Rep. Gutierrez's progressive immigration bill which has 90 co-sponsors would serve as the progressive conscience, everyone is waiting for the bill that Sen. Charles Schumer is working on with Sen. Lindsey Graham is introducing for debate in the Senate. It will then move to the House where it will be written by Rep. Zoe Lofgren.

The penultimate point of the discussion centered around ensuring that the mainstream media begin to report on the issue and mobilize around reform. Maria Elena pointed out the importance of providing people with honest information about the implications of enforcement actions such as raids and detention to families and the economy. Markos Zuniga pointed out that Latino and Asian communities are virtually invisible to the mainstream media, thus removing one side of the immigration story. Stressing the importance of building a pro-immigration story into the media narrative, the speakers highlighted the essential role of online journalism, blogging and networking in building knowledge and momentum for the movement.

Weekly Diaspora: Does Coakley’s Loss Spell Trouble for Immigration Reform?

By Nezua, Media Consortium Blogger

Professional pundits and Democratic politicians are in a frenzy over what Martha Coakley’s senate seat loss to Republican Scott Brown might mean for American politics.

Immigration reform in jeopardy

As Harold Meyerson of the American Prospect reports, the loss of one seat probably won’t derail heath care reform, but it does make the chances of passing immigration reform slimmer. Meyerson writes that immigration reform is “necessary to restore our economic vitality and political equality,” and actually passing reform would benefit the Democratic faction. Unfortunately, that means that immigration reform will require 60 votes in order to pass the senate.

The Texas Observer’s Melissa del Bosque writes about the slim chances of immigration reform passing in 2010. According to Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX), a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, a 2011 target date is “probably more realistic.” del Bosque refuses to lose hope, reminding us that Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) has assured the public that “the Obama administration promised to bring up the issue in 2010.” Of course, bringing up an issue and actually passing reform are two very different animals.

Holding on to hope for 2010

In her daily roundup of Spanish-language media, Erin Rosa of Campus Progress also urges a positive outlook “despite the reorganization of the Senate.” Rosa relays that Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) assured the media during a telephone conference that President Obama “remembers his promise well.” While “most latinos” interviewed are impatient, they hold on to hope that 2010 is the year for reform.

TPS for Haitians

Haitian undocumented that are currently within U.S. borders will be given Temporary Protected Status (TPS), as Julianne Hing reports for RaceWire. The decision only applies to Haitian immigrants in the U.S. prior to January 12, 2010. Hing observes that it is unfortunate that it took “a disaster of this magnitude” to inspire the White House to offer TPS to Haitian immigrants, though it is “a great relief.”

What will the recently granted TPS status mean for Haitians that are already in deportation proceedings? Such is the case of Haitian immigrant Jean Montrevil, as Aarti Shahani reports for New America Media. Montrevil came to the U.S. on a green card in 1986 to “make it big,” but in his efforts, “got stupid,” and caught up in selling drugs from his taxi cab. That was 20 years ago, and Montrevil has served 11 years in prison to pay for his errors. Montrevil is now a father of four and a community leader. The Department of Homeland Security considers his prison time proper cause to deport him. Many others feel he has done his time, and is a positively contributing member of our society. Democracy Now! also covered Montrevil’s story recently, as noted in the Jan. 7 Diaspora.

Invisible to the first world

Why are countries like Haiti mostly invisible to first world nations like the U.S. until catastrophe strikes? Leonardo Padura asks, before the earthquake, “Who talked about Haiti?” for IPS News. Haiti desperately needs the emergency aid so generously given today, but the country has needed help for a long time. “Let us hope that tomorrow, when the tragedy no longer dominates the headlines, and the dead are buried,” writes Padura, “we will not forget Haiti exists….”

Disappointingly, “U.S. corporations, private mercenaries, Washington and the International Monetary Fund” are remembering Haiti in a rather cruel and opportunist fashion, as Benjamin Dangl reports for AlterNet. At a time of crisis and great human need, Washington D.C. is “promoting unpopular economic policies and extending military and economic control over the Haitian people.” This is disturbing, as a long history of economic exploitation helped render the country vulnerable to disaster. The recent earthquake has claimed roughly 200,000 lives so far.

Haiti in context

While borders and border cities bear the brunt of blame when migrants move, the cure won’t be found in bigger bails of barbed wire, or harsh enforcement tactics that deny escape from economic desperation or dangerous conditions.

Jocelyn Barnes, reporting for The Nation, provides a much needed contextualization of Haiti. There are many related factors that weakened and harmed Haiti’s ability to thrive, not the least of which have been storms and earthquakes. But the privatization of Haiti’s infrastructure—which was “championed” by current envoy to Haiti in charge of “leading the quake assistance brigade” former president Bill Clinton—have definitely been instrumental in the country’s fate.

Marching against Arpaio

Finally, given the recent holiday celebrating the life and efforts of civil rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr., we would be remiss in overlooking the January 16 march in Arizona protesting Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The event was organized by Salvador Reza, a respected Mexican American activist and community organizer in Arizona. Musician Linda Ronstadt, Co-Founder of United Farm Workers Dolores Huerta, and approximately 5,000 people marched from a park to Tent City, the name for the sheriff’s makeshift detention center.

Arpaio is reviled by many in the Latino and undocumented community for his methods of racial profiling and humiliating treatment of detainees. Recently, Arpaio was compared to Bull Connor by an ad published in in the Arizona Republic by 60 black leaders and the Center for New Community.

King’s vision was large and led to new horizons; it cannot possibly be contained to one era, or one day on a calendar. The struggle continues, every day, everywhere.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse . This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

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