Weekly Pulse: What Do GOP Gains Mean for Health Care? Abortion Rights?

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

The Republicans gained ground in last night’s midterm elections, recapturing the House and gaining seats in the Senate. The future House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) wasted no time in affirming that the GOP will try to repeal health care reform.

A full-scale repeal is unlikely in the next two years because the Democrats have retained control of the White House and the Senate. However, Republicans are already making noises about shutting down the government to force the issue. The House controls the nation’s purse strings, which confers significant leverage if the majority is willing to bring the government to a screeching halt to make a point.

Don’t assume they’ll blink. The GOP shut down government in 1995, albeit to its own political detriment. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and his allies have sworn a “blood oath” to shut down the government, regardless of the consequences. The Republicans may actually succeed in modifying minor aspects of the Affordable Care Act, such as the controversial 1099 reporting requirement for small business.

The most significant threat to the implementation of health care reform may be at the state level.  Republicans picked up several governorships, and the Affordable Care Act requires the cooperation of states to set up their own insurance exchanges. Hostile governors could seriously impede things.

Mixed results for radical, anti-choice senate candidates

As a group, the eight ultra-radical, anti-choice Republican Senate candidates had mixed results last night. Three wins, two sure losses, and three likely losses that haven’t been definitively called. Voters didn’t seem thrilled about electing senators who oppose a woman’s right to abortion, even in cases of rape and incest.

Two cruised to victory: Rand Paul easily defeated Democrat Jack Conway in Kentucky.  Paul is one of the most extreme the of a radical cohort. As Amie Newman reported in RH Reality Check, Paul doesn’t even believe in a woman’s right to abort to save her own life. In Florida, anti-choice standard bearer Marco Rubio defeated Independent Charlie Christ.

Another radical anti-choicer, Pat Toomey, who favors jailing abortion providers, narrowly edged out Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania.

Two were soundly defeated. Evangelical code-talker Sharron Angle lost to Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), and anti-masturbation crusader Christine O’Donnell lost to Chris Coons in Delaware.

The last three radical anti-choice senate candidates were down, but not, out as of this morning. Democrat Sen. Michael Bennett leads Republican Ken Buck by just 15,000 votes out of over 1.5 million ballots cast, according to TPMDC. Planned Parenthood launched an 11th hour offensive against Buckbecause of his retrograde stances on abortion, sexual assault, and other women’s issues, as Joseph Boven reports for the Colorado Independent.

This morning, Tea Party Republican Joe Miller was trailing behind incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who challenged him as an Independent, but no winner had been declared. In Washington State, Democrat Sen. Patti Murray maintains a 1% lead over radical anti-choicer Republican Dino Rossi.

Are fertilized eggs people in Colorado?

Coloradans won a decisive victory for reproductive rights last night. Fertilized eggs are still not peoplein Colorado, as Jodi Jacobson reports for RH Reality Check.

Amendment 62, which would have conferred full person status from the moment of conception, thereby outlawing abortion and in vitro fertilization. It also called into question the legality of many forms of birth control, including an array of medical procedures for pregnant women that might harm their fetuses. The proposed amendment was resoundingly defeated: 72% against to 28% in favor. This is the second time Colorado voters have rejected an egg-as-person amendment.

Blue Dogs and anti-choice Dems feel the pain

Last night was brutal for corporatist Democrats who fought the more progressive options for health care reform and Democrats who put their anti-choice ideology ahead passing health care. In AlterNet, Sarah Seltzer reports only 12 of the 34 Democrats who voted against health care reform hung on to their seats. The Blue Dog caucus was halved overnight from 56 to 24. Nick Baumann of Mother Jonesspeculated that the midterms would mark the end of the Stupak bloc, the coalition of anti-choice Democrats whose last-minute brinksmanship could have derailed health care reform.

Did foot-dragging on health care hurt Democrats?

Jamelle Bouie suggests at TAPPED that Democrats shot themselves in the foot by passing a health care reform bill that won’t provide tangible benefits to most people for years. The exchanges that are supposed to provide affordable insurance for millions of Americans won’t be up and running until 2014.

In Summer 2009, Former DNC chair Howard Dean predicted that the Democrats would be penalized at the polls if they failed to deliver tangible benefits from health care reform before the midterm elections. That’s why Dean suggested expanding the public health insurance programs we already have, rather than creating insurance exchanges from scratch.

Sink, sunk by Scott

Andy Kroll of Mother Jones profiles Rick Scott, the billionaire health clinic mogul, corporate fraudster, and enemy of health care reform who spent over $50 million of his own money to eke out a very narrow victory over Democrat Alex Sink in the Florida governor’s race.

Apparently, many Floridians were willing to overlook the fact that Scott had to pay a $1.7 billion fine for defrauding Medicare, the largest fine of its kind in history. Scott also spent $5 million of his own money to found Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, one of the leading independent groups opposing health care reform.

Pot isn’t legalized in California

California defeated Proposition 19, which would have legalized marijuana for personal use. David Borden of DRCnet, a pro-legalization group, writes in AlterNet that the fight over Prop 19 brought legalization into the political mainstream, even if the measure didn’t prevail at the polls. The initiative won the backing of the California NAACP, SEIU California, the National Black Police Association, and the National Latino Officers Association and other established groups.

So, what’s next for health care reform? The question everyone is asking is whether John Boehner will cave to the extremists in his own party and attempt a full-scale government shutdown, or whether the Republicans will content themselves with extracting piecemeal modifications of the health care law.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by membersof 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 AuditThe Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Do You Have to be Born Rich to Become President?

When Senator Barack Obama was elected president, his victory was widely taken as a momentous event. In racial terms, Mr. Obama constitutes the first minority president of the United States. This is quite an impressive feat – something that many Americans did not think could be done as late as 2007.

From another perspective, however, Mr. Obama’s election looks less impressive. This perspective is that of class. Mr. Obama was raised by an upper-middle class family: his mother was an anthropologist who had a PhD degree, and Mr. Obama went to a fairly prestigious private school in Hawaii during his early years.

The last president, Mr. George W. Bush, was also born to a wealthy family – in this case far higher up the social ladder than Mr. Obama’s family.

All this raises the question of whether one must be born with parents of a certain income to become president of the United States. In today’s America, inequality higher than it has been for a long time. Does that inequality exclude those born from non-affluent backgrounds from potentially becoming president?

This is a difficult – impossible – question to fully answer. Nevertheless, in the hopes of partially doing so, I have made a table of several recent presidents in the United States and their family background:

Link to Table of Several Recent Presidents in the United States and Their Family Backgrounds

Before beginning an analysis of these results, several caveats must be noted. Research for his table relied heavily entirely on a certain online encyclopedia – because this is a blog post, not a peer-reviewed study. Moreover, much of this data is very subjective and subject to dispute. The difference between a “middle-class” and an “upper-middle class” family background is a bit harder to define than the difference between, say, the number three and four. So is evaluating whether a president is “good” or “bad;” with a president like George H. W. Bush, for instance, “neither good nor bad” is probably a better answer than “good.”

The designations of “lower-class,” “working-class,” and so on were drawn from the jobs of the parents. “Elite” generally means the president’s father – and it is always the father, given the way American society is structured – was a President himself, a Governor, a Senator, an executive of a powerful national business, etc.

As for the evaluations of whether said president was “good” or “bad,” those are based upon what  most historians and Americans think – not personal opinion. Using personal opinion, President Ronald Reagan would be put as a “bad” president. But most Americans and historians probably think he was a “good” president, so that’s what the table shows.

This table is a cropped version of the full results. For the full table – including all the presidents, which would be too long to put on this post – see here.

With these caveats in mind, there are nevertheless some conclusions that may be drawn from the table. Not all of America’s presidents came from rich and wealthy backgrounds; in fact, only four of the fourteen presidents in the table had “elite” backgrounds. President Bill Clinton’s stepfather worked as the owner of an automobile dealership; President Ronald Reagan’s parents didn’t own a house until Mr. Reagan became a famous actor.

On the other hand, coming from a well-off background certainly helps. Fully half of the presidents above had “elite,” “upper-class,” or “upper-middle class” parents. Interestingly, five of these presidents with well-off backgrounds were Democrats; two (the Bushes) were Republicans. This is fairly ironic given the working-class versus business-class association occupied by the parties.

A president’s family background had relatively little to do with whether he was a good president. Of the nine good presidents in the list, five came from well-off backgrounds and four came from poorer backgrounds.

In fact, a regular person’s chances of becoming president are higher nowadays than they were in much of the past. For instance, during the Gilded Age – if one takes a look at the full list – seven consecutive presidents (from President Chester Arthur to President Woodrow Wilson) came from “elite” or “upper-class” backgrounds.

There is other interesting information on the full list. Of America’s 43 presidents,  24 presidents were “good” presidents, while 17 were “bad.” “Good” and “bad” presidents tend to come and go in waves. From President George Washington to President Andrew Jackson, a total of seven consecutive presidents were “good.” But then immediately after comes a long list of really “bad” presidents, from President Martin Van Buren to President James A. Garfield. Out of these thirteen presidents, eleven are “bad.” To be fair, one of the “good” presidents – President Abraham Lincoln – is commonly considered the greatest president of the United States.

In total, 13 presidents had “elite” backgrounds. This is more than the 10 presidents who had “lower-class” or “working-class” backgrounds. Of those 13 presidents with “elite” backgrounds, 8 were “good” presidents and 5 were “bad.” On the other hand, 5 of the ten presidents with “lower-class” or “working-class” backgrounds were “good.” Given the small sample size, this is not enough to really say anything conclusive.

One can do the same with political parties. The Democratic Party has elected 13 presidents; nine of these came from “well-off” backgrounds. By contrast, the Republican Party has elected 20 presidents. Of these, only eight came from “well-off” backgrounds. On the other hand, eight of the the 13 Democratic presidents were “good” presidents, while only 10 of the twenty Republican presidents were “good” presidents.

In conclusion, slightly more than half of America’s presidents were “good” ones. Democratic presidents, surprisingly, tend to have more elite backgrounds, and Republican presidents more humble ones. But Democratic presidents are also slightly more competent.

And to answer the question posed in the title: No, one does not have to be born rich to become president today – which was not always the case in the past. But being born rich certainly does help.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/ 

 

Why Republicans Will Never Nominate Sarah Palin for President

Former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin is one of the most influential Republican figures today. Her “mamma-grizzly” endorsements have won a surprising number of victories, and much of the Republican base holds admiration for her. It is almost natural, then, that many pundits consider her as a front-runner or strong candidate for the 2012 Republican nomination.

Democrats like this. They salivate at the prospect of a Palin candidacy, believing that her unpopularity with non-Republicans will enable any standard-fare Democratic candidate to crush her in a presidential election. This belief is probably true; it would take a remarkable set of circumstances for Ms. Palin to win a general election against Mr. Obama.

But Republicans know just as well as Democrats do that Ms. Palin could not win a general election. That is why they will never nominate former governor Sarah Palin for president, no matter how popular she is amongst the Republican base.

American voters are incredibly brutal when it comes to the test of viability. If voters do not think that a candidate has a chance of winning, they will abandon that candidate in the blink of an eye. A vote for a candidate they like but who cannot win, the logic goes, is effectively a vote for a candidate they really dislike and who stands a strong chance of winning. Better to vote for somebody who stands a chance of defeating the candidate they really dislike.

This problem has bedeviled political campaigns throughout American history. In the 2008 presidential primaries, victims included John Edwards and Bill Richardson on the Democratic side, and Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani on the Republican side. It is a problem that faces every third-party candidacy in the United States - and precious few of them overcome it.

It is also something that will curse Ms. Palin if she ever runs in the Republican primary. Ms. Palin cannot possibly win in the general election, her opponents will charge, so a vote for her is effectively a vote for President Barack Obama. There is nothing Ms. Palin can really say to this, because it is true. While Republicans might personally like Ms. Palin, they will not vote for her. She might be polling well right now, but that support is ephemeral. It will melt away as quickly as Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s did in 2008.

All in all, this is probably a good thing. There is always the chance, of course, that Ms. Palin could actually get elected if nominated. This could happen, for instance, if unemployment is at double-digits in 2012. And Sarah Palin, for all her political celebrity, would probably not make a very good president.

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

 

 

Why Rahm Was 100% Wrong

The Rahm Emanuel strategy was to cut deals with power brokers in Washington and ignore what liberals wanted. This was best illustrated when he called liberals "fucking retarded" for trying to push for real change. His attitude was that you could ignore progressive demands because - where could they go?!

Well, it turns out that the answer to that question is - home. Now there are several polls out showing a 5 to 10% difference between registered Democratic voters and likely Democratic voters. Democrats are basically tied with the Republicans on registered voters. But they get clobbered on likely voters. Why? Because voters who are disillusioned aren't likely to vote.

Why are they disillusioned Rahm might ask when we gave them health care reform and financial reform? The answer is because they're not nearly as dumb as you think they are. You think you can just call something reform and people are going to buy it? That's not going to fly, especially in the new media age.

We all know that Obama struck the same exact deals with the big drug companies that Bush did. Obama had campaigned against those specific agreements, but once he got into office he was convinced that we couldn't upset those deals and that we just had to shoot for a tiny bit of change. That we couldn't change the way Washington ran, we could just play the old Washington game a little better. That is the essence of Rahm Emanuel.

And those games have now left the Democrats with a gigantic deficit in voter enthusiasm. Rahm was supposed to be some sort of political genius. But it has turned out to be the exact opposite. He blew it. He had no idea what he was talking about and it looks like his party is about to lose a massive amount of seats. Why? Because Rahm was wrong, completely and utterly wrong.

Will they learn the right lesson from this and actually try to deliver on change in the next two years after this election? Very likely not. Instead, they will get someone new to come and whisper in their ear that the president must play the same old Washington games again and that the election was a sign to go further right. That'll be another disaster and you can trace that back to the original Rahmism - the belief that power must be accommodated, real change is not possible and that your own voters should be ignored. That is what is 100% wrong and what got the Democrats into this mess in the first place.

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Why Rahm Was 100% Wrong

The Rahm Emanuel strategy was to cut deals with power brokers in Washington and ignore what liberals wanted. This was best illustrated when he called liberals "fucking retarded" for trying to push for real change. His attitude was that you could ignore progressive demands because - where could they go?!

Well, it turns out that the answer to that question is - home. Now there are several polls out showing a 5 to 10% difference between registered Democratic voters and likely Democratic voters. Democrats are basically tied with the Republicans on registered voters. But they get clobbered on likely voters. Why? Because voters who are disillusioned aren't likely to vote.

Why are they disillusioned Rahm might ask when we gave them health care reform and financial reform? The answer is because they're not nearly as dumb as you think they are. You think you can just call something reform and people are going to buy it? That's not going to fly, especially in the new media age.

We all know that Obama struck the same exact deals with the big drug companies that Bush did. Obama had campaigned against those specific agreements, but once he got into office he was convinced that we couldn't upset those deals and that we just had to shoot for a tiny bit of change. That we couldn't change the way Washington ran, we could just play the old Washington game a little better. That is the essence of Rahm Emanuel.

And those games have now left the Democrats with a gigantic deficit in voter enthusiasm. Rahm was supposed to be some sort of political genius. But it has turned out to be the exact opposite. He blew it. He had no idea what he was talking about and it looks like his party is about to lose a massive amount of seats. Why? Because Rahm was wrong, completely and utterly wrong.

Will they learn the right lesson from this and actually try to deliver on change in the next two years after this election? Very likely not. Instead, they will get someone new to come and whisper in their ear that the president must play the same old Washington games again and that the election was a sign to go further right. That'll be another disaster and you can trace that back to the original Rahmism - the belief that power must be accommodated, real change is not possible and that your own voters should be ignored. That is what is 100% wrong and what got the Democrats into this mess in the first place.

Watch The Young Turks Here

Follow Cenk Uygur on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TheYoungTurks
Become a Fan of The Young Turks on Facebook: www.facebook.com/tytnation

 

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