But his decision also followed waves of negative media attention for his past as a lobbyist and statements that many saw as insensitive on racial issues. Though Barbour tried to deflect attention from previous controversial quotes and embrace his lobbying past head on — arguing bluntly that lobbying is what presidents do — those two issues have frequently dogged the Mississippi governor. His decision may stem, in part, from a perception that the ex-lobbyist and consummate insider could be more effective off the stage than on it.
1) I think this quote from the Politico story gets to the heart of Barbour's dropping out - all his talk of "ten year commitments" means little if he really wanted to be President. But the issues of his lobbying and the fact that a white Southerner carrying as much race-related baggage as Barbour does would make Obama's reelection all but assured.
2)... but then, Obama's reelection IS all but assured... which is why Barbour dropping out is hardly surprising... and why Mitch Daniels will never get in.
I wouldn't discount the possibility that Huntsman was bored, very quickly, with being Ambassador; it sounds like a position where you're in a key role, but the actual work of a relationship between the US and China (or most any country, but especially one that important) happens on several levels, and Ambassadors matter only but so much (they are after all, very transient in a State Department where lower level employees can serve far longer). I think Huntsman may have been sold on some notion that he'd play a "key role" only to discover that he was pretty much ignored, in a country not his own, for an extended period of time. Coming home on the pretext of developing a presidential campaign puts him more where the action is, which is probably where he really wants to be - first, home, and second, able to play some role in politics.
Like many, I can't see how Huntsman makes a case for President that appeals to Republican voters in primaries, when Tea Party anger and heavy conservatism are what's moving the base. Utah is especially moody just now (I'm interested to see if Orrin Hatch survives), and Huntsman seems out of step. And I'd keep in mind that Huntsman did jump at an Ambassadorship which is usually seen as running away from a tough political environment at home.Huntsman's bid for Presidential cred seems unlikely to go anywhere... but it does keep him in the game for the next year or so.
I'm more concerned, really, that liberals aren't spending more time watching Haley Barbour's machinations - his attempts to control the machinery of the Republican Party are the kind of moves that can make the primary process irrelevant.
Sadly, this piece does what many liberal pieces have done in recent days: take the insane acts of an unhinged man and try to put them into the context of our left-right political divides. Clearly... they don't fit.
Jared Loughner, it's become clear, is probably suffering from mental illness, most likely paranoid schizophrenia with violent tendencies. His thought process isn't rational. He appears to hear voices, and has trouble distinguishing reality and fantasy (the long stream of ideas about "lucid dreaming" he presented suggest the sense that he had trouble knowing when he was dreaming or not.
As I said on my blog, I'm all for discussions of our civil discourse and the suggestion that some things have gone too far... but it's clear that the tone of our discourse and the actions of Jared Loughner are not related. A far more productive discussion related to Loughner and issues of mental health would be focused on better identifying and treating mental illness, especially schizophrenia which develops in young men in their late teens and early twenties, and which has been a clear element of many mass shootings and violent incidents. Untreated mental illness has pushed a substantial amount of the American response to the mentally ill into our jails, courts and law enforcement systems, which are poorly trained and ill equipped to handle the influx. Our failure to have a proper system to address most mental illnes in this country is beyond embarrassing; it's nearly criminal.
Mostly, as a liberal who's been focused on health issues for years, I'm dismayed that a clear, common sense discussion of mental health and better responding to mental illness has taken so long to come about in the wake of the Tucson shooting. There's an almost willful refusal to see the obvious: Jared Loughner's poor state of mental health is the clearest cause of his actions, and the thing that could, most likely have been treated sooner as a means to prevent this shooting. This is a natural issue that the left could easily turn into a moment of significant progress on mental health at the federal level. It's appalling to me that we're not.
In an otherwise comprehensive examination, this post misses the obvious element of the objection to the mandate that underlies the Hudson decision: the use of a tax penalty to require citizens to purchase a product from a business. That may seem fine to people who support the mandate... but use the example of, say, a tax penalty that applies unless you have prrof of cable television service... and one may begin to appreciate why the question of drawing a line comes into focus.
That said, I don't necessarily a mandate is unconstitutional, though this mandate, as constructed, may be. It may be a question fo simply finding a construct which the Supreme Court defines once these cases reach them, as everyone seems to find inevitable. And, as many point out, the mandate, by itself, is not necessarily crucial to every aspect of the health insurance "reform" bill as it was passed; mostly it was a combination of incentive to the insurers to make reforms, and a way to get closer to full insurance. It's worth pointing out that, for at least some, it will be economically more sensible to pay the fine than pay a high insurance premium. They will then be unindured, and the cost of their care, should it be needed will still have to be absorbed.
I still think a lot of the roiling here - and the attempts of many Obama loyalists to turn these court fights into pitched ideological battles - is probably overblown. The real problems with health reform - the failures to reform Medicare in significant respects, the failure to fund Medicaid expansion appropriately or realistically - are much larger problems that may do more to derail the expected changes of 2014. This "feform" law still has a long way to actually coming to be our reality, and much of what still passes for "analysis" of the healthcare reforms is mostly speculative, and theoretical. It may be that the reforms will work wonders... it's more likely that they can't, or won't.
There are two choices here: this "deal" or nothing. Republicans will not vote for the tax cuts under $250,000 (and, really, that number is an arbitrary figure that has little real meaning), and there's virtually no way to move an alternative bill out of the Senate.
Basically, this battle was lost when many Democrats said that the simplest solution - letting all the tax cuts expire - was impossible. Once you've agreed with the Republicans on the most basic element - that tax cuts, in some form, will continue - there's no leverage to force a compromise. The best threat Dems had was an expressed willingness to simply let 12/31 come and go with no action on tax cuts at all... at which point, even if with a House majority, Republicans would have to rebuild the tax cuts from scratch, including explaining how budget-busting giveaways would be paid for. As long as Obama holds a veto pen, there was the potential to stall any bad bill.
But the reality is that Democrats are scared to geath of being labeled "tax and spend" and seem to have nbo guiding principles, at this moment, for policies and plans of their own. This deal is atrocious. Extending the Bush tax cuts is a lousy idea, and an embarrassing capitulation... one that, most likely, won't look any better come 2012, and probably provides a good road map for Obama as a one termer. But at this point, it's deal or no deal. And I don't think many liberas or progressives have the nerve to stand for that line. Nothing, really, will change until we do.
I'm not sure "Lieberman/Blue Dog" or "Mushy Middle" is the point here - I suspect the larger point is, on healthcare, that Republicans punished congresspeople of both parties for supporting something they opposed. It didn't work in every case (the point being that in especially safe, liberal districts, there was no appetite for making that statement), but it worked a lot, and it could, in 2012, continue to be a factor. And a larger lesson here is that liberal/progressive advocates made essentially no headway in the opposite direction - it's not as if a vote FOR healthcare was a selling point in many places.
Look, I don't like that Republicans won back a majority in the House, either; but I think a lot of the "analysis" we're getting in lefty circles post election is missing the forest for the trees: the point is... this was a big loss. And no one, really, seems to have good answers for how 2012 might play out differently. That, I suspect is the real lesson of the fact that Max Baucus - who shouldn't be in particular trouble in his state - is already polling badly this far out. That's not an isolated example either.... and the Senate races in 2012 look especially bleak.
Until lefty/progressive activists take a longer, harder, and more clear-eyed look at just what's turned voters off to voting for Democrats... and decide to make changes based on those assessments.... we're not likely to see some sort of magical reversal of fortune. Instead, I think too many Democrats/lefties are simply planning to sit around and wait for Republicans - and government generally - to fail over the next two years. That's a terrible recipe (for one thing, it won't help if Republicans make some headway on important issues), and creates a dynamic where Democrats will only win after people's lives get demonstrably worse. That's not something I think we should be hoping for.
...isn't the debunking of "the oft-repeated, little supported meme that Democrats lost big on Nov 2 for moving "too far left," against an electorate moving center-right." That's easy to refute (which would be the definition of "little supported"), but the the problem is that continued data crunching doesn't get much in the way of an answer to the question Democrats face - what went wrong, and what can be done to reverse the losses in the future?
The point, I think, is that a lot of this debate over "center right" and "move to the center" is, yes, nonsense. But take away the silly labeling theories, and you still have the grim reality: Democrats lost an enormous number of House seats; the Senate will remain exceptionally polarized and gridlocked. How does the party of the President govern, and how do Democrats create a fresh appeal that will attract the lost voters... who I don't want to label, but who we will need to attract, wherever their supposed political allegiances lie.
This struggle to recover, I think, is the real problem with the data analysis; there's plenty of excuses for why Dems lost - the economy! those "moderates" are really conservative! - but little real hard work in figuring out "what now?" Absent that, what's left is a kind of dopey fatalism - we were doomed, the economy was bad, we should have passed a second stimulus... blah blah blah.
News flash: the economy will not be getting better anytime soon. There won't be another stimulus bill. So how do Democrats craft a new message that will attract voters?
Again, this is why I harp on the decision to carry over the same losing House leadership team that was in place prior to the election; I don't "hate" Nancy Pelosi, or think she's "too liberal"... I think we've run our course, as Democrats, relying on her strategies for getting and retaining power in DC. We need fresh blood, new voices and a fresh approach. There's really no reason to expect octogenarians and septugenarians who've been in the DC establishment for 15+ years to have the kind of fresh approaches we need. And I admit... I don't know what the next, better message should be. What I do know is that sitting around, waiting for Republicans to fail and gridlock to annoy sing voters... is not a strategy. It's living on the negative hope that, as things get worse, Democrats will look attractive having changed nothing and done little. That, it seems to me, is a recipe for failure... and future disaster. I'm not some angry progressive who's giving up on my left leaning primciples... or the Democratic Party. But, as usual, I'm a lifelong Democrat who, at this late date, has heard all this griping before. Nothing really comes of it. And it's well past the time, I think, to put down the labeling machine and to start figuring out what actions need to be taken to do better next time.
I live in the northeast; I'm not a family of four, but trust me, you can barely support one on what I make. I'm well aware of the disparities... but I think this sense of sympathy for a small business owner whose business clears $200,000 is just not my issue. This idea that Democrats can be both a party that cares about helping those in actual need, and also "protect" people with incomes north of $100K is a fantasy. We have taxes, we need a tax policy that makes sense... and part of what makes sense is that those with higher incomes pay more. Yes, over a million dollars that should be yet more... but this idea of defining "middle class until it covers nearly 80% of people who earn incomes is to lose sight of the proper definition of things, to equalize all issues as if they're the same... and they're not. And my main concern, as a liberal and a Democrat is what we do first for the poorest and those most in need... and after that, what we do for others who do quite well for themselves. As liberals we tend to dismiss conservatives as the people who don't care about others and who would let the poorest suffer... but I think the lesson in expansively defining "middle class" - and losing sight of where the "middle" actually is helps perpetuate damaging notions of just who is poor and how much help they really need.
The other problem, though, is something that I think is harder for the left to face: these issues you mention about small business owners or regional differences are issues tied up in property values, local tax policies, and yes, the painful choices about when and where to cut back on government services. From the foreclosure mess to the issues around education, these complex problems reverberate through our political debates, and I think - still - that the big failure as I mentioned is that we're discussing the tax piece in a vacuum where these other issues get ignored. That's unrealistic, and it leads, I think to the kind of unreality we're debating - I want a family of four at the $100K level to be able to live well; which probably means something about their property values and their local property taxes. And I don't think small business owners should have to make unhappy choices not to grow a business based on high taxes... but that's a larger, longer discussion, to my mind. The main point, I think, is that when we talk about income and income taxes, Democrats are not helping the discussion, or their politics, by losing sight of the people most in need, and that they are people earning below the median... not above it. Until we fix that, I don't know that we're getting anywhere.
Buckeye, I'd start at the median and work outward (you add in dual income couples, get to something just over $100K or so...), but let's be clear about why the President finds it worthwhile to cal $250,000 "middle class": it's the tenured university professors, advertising executives, and other white collar professionals of upscale suburbs on the coasts and in urban enclaves who see themselves as "middle class liberals" who reach those income levels, and alienatting them might be devastating to what's left of the Party's thinly defined majority. One of the enormous problems we have in this country is this perception that "middle class income" gets to be self-defined, or that a variety of factors (New York is expensive!) somehow allow for wide latitudes of perception. The fact remains that most people make far, far less than what's under discussion, and discussions of tax breaks for people making a quarter of a milion dollars just seems absurd. And I think that we're here in this debate over taxes tends to show just how far what we like to call "liberal" or "progressive" politics has warped from a sense of true purpose: helping those actually in need, and telling those who are better off that they share in a resonsibility to help others.
The time has come for progressives to do what the teabaggers did to the Republicans and that was to give them the balls to stand for what they believed in. When many were telling the Republicans that they would have to move to the center following two disastrous elections the teabaggers and their handlers would have none of that. The teabaggers didn’t come up with any new ideas for the Republicans but they forced them to stand on their principles-as misguided as they were. This is not the time to retreat back to some center-right agenda. The problems facing this country are too large and too important. It was the center-right that came up with a stimulus that was too small and misguided to address the problem it was created to fix. It was the center-right who came up with the debt commission recommendations that will put more burdens on the poor and middle-class to reduce the deficit. It is the center-right who believes that tax breaks and outsourcing are good for American workers and not unions. It is the center-right who wants us to believe that 8-9% unemployment is the new normal and we will just have to get use to it. It was the center-right who came up with a mandated healthcare bill that gave away the store to the same industries that were creating the problems.
This paragraph is hash; until "progressives" define a "progressive agenda" that has some actual policies and proposals attached to it ("defending the middle class" is not an agenda, remember?), then "what we stand for" is meaningless. Complaining about "center-right" is a way to deflect from the left's real problem: an abandonment of the core issues we should be pushing: poverty issues, and helping those most in need.
"Teabagging" worked, such as it did, because a core group of conservative voters have made abundantly clear that they have beliefs - however odd - and a willingness to vote out people who do not support them. There is no analagous show of strength on the part of the left, who rubber stamp the exact same people (70 year old Nancy Pelosi; 80 year old Charlie Rangel; Robert Byrd literally until the day he died; John Dingell... we could go on. And on) who have done little to define or advance an actual progressive agenda. Democrats claim - literally after the 2008 election - to be people in favor of change... yet no change of any consequence has happened at the most senior levels of the national party.
When I see a hot headed lefty activist run against a longstanding, do little sitting Congressperson (preferably a longterm "liberal lion") in a heavily Democratic district, then, and only then, will I know that anything like "Tea Party Anger" has engaged the left. As long as "progressives" see only "Blue Dogs" as needing to be put down, they are not asking themselves the hardest, least pleasant and most painful questions: why are we assuming that some of these people are actually "on our side"? And, what, really, do we hope to accomplish?
I'm a liberal and a lifelong Democrat. I don' think we need to be the "center-right" of anything; but I think if we want liberalism to succeed, we need to be clear about what that looks like and how we hope to achieve it. That's the failure. That's our problem. And blaming the others won't solve it. The fault we can fix lies in ourselves.
a) Republicans absolutely have the upper hand: if Democrats can't get agreement on their proposals, the tax cuts expire on 12/31 and everyone's taxes go up. Almost everyone agrees this will be politically disastrpous for Democrats; I don't necessarily buy that, but I think Dem leadership does, and it's killing their ability to talk tough. Republicans, it strikes me, are banking on this. So voting no and waiting for a fauller extension works in their favor. Everything, in fact, works in their favor by simply waiting Dems out.
b) Tax policy is not an actually sexy issue and Democrats are not on great ground agreeing to debate it with Republicans on their terms: which is basically, we think there shouldn't be taxes. I don't think it's surprising that, on those terms, people like them better.
c) As long as Democrats keep defining "middle class" well above the nation's median income ($250,000 vs. the actual median of around $55,000), this argument is actually already on the margins: everyone is talking about where to draw lines for especially well off people in our society. Nothing personal... I don't make anywhere near $50K, never mind $100 or $250K. And I think a lot of people (in the working class) are noting that this debate has nothing to do with anything about them or the problems they face. Again, Democrats - r more to the point, a liberal elite - is once again arguing this narrow issue on the Republican's terms. And again, I'm not sure it's surprising that they're losing on that.
d) Democrats continue to debate this, really, with themselves. That, really, is the crux of why caving is so imminent.
A perfect example would be the healthcare process and subsequent bill. How this should have been handled was in the following manner. Candidate Obama should have met with Democratic Congressional leaders and said if we win we plan to tackle healthcare. What we have to decide is if we believe that healthcare in America is a right of all Americans. Is this one of our principles? If it is then we have to present this to the American people and tell them how we plan to accomplish this goal. First, we will pass comprehensive healthcare reform so that all Americans can have affordable health-care without the restrictions on pre-existing conditions, caps or limits on coverage, or the fear that the insurance company will drop them when they get sick. In subsequent sessions we will continue to refine and improve this bill as we have done in the past with social security, Medicare, and etc.
This, I think, underscores why what you describe is well intentioned, but problematic. A number of reasonable, pro-Obama, pro-Democratic Congressional Leadership types of people wouod tell you "that's what they did." A number of others would say, "that wouldn't have worked." And most conservatives would say "this is a government takeover of healthcare."
My own take is that this thoughtful suggestton amounts to doing the same thging in a slightly different timeframe. The problem with this approach to healthcare reform - which, I'd argue, too, is basically what the bill as passed attempts to do - is that you start out talking about "healthcare" and wind up talking about "health insurance". They are not the same thing, and one problem we've had, all along, when it comes to healthcare crisis discussions is arguments which make these goals equivalent, when they're not. People need care. They may not need insurance.
And this confusion, I think, does go to your broader point about Democrats figuring out what they stand for, and creating policies to accomplish thoughtful goals. Health reform has not succeeded because so few people understand, fully, the various problems in our healthcare systems, how they interconnect, and how complex they are to untangle. Take an obvious example: "preexisting conditions." The problem with simply ordering insurers not to deny cobverage over "preexisting conditions" is that they don't; what insurers do is price coverage for people with preexisting conditions so high as to make it impossible for them to pay for it. To make it affordable, you need, as many experts point out, to require everyone to be insured. This spreads risk widely, and allows overall prices to become more reaosnable for more poeple. However, the next layer of complication is that the true cost of healthcare is constantly in flux. And almost no one, really, can manage to link the amounts people pay to the costs of providing services. This is why Docs and hospitals continue to complain about reimbursement rates by insurers, and why "cost control" is ultimately so key to solving many of our problems getting affordable care.
I bring all this up because I think the healthcare debates are a good example of why the Democrats failed: you can't start legislating massive change until you've got voters and the general public in line with your description of a problem. On Healthcare, on the environment, even on budget and fiscal matters, the current Denocratic leadership - and much of the liberal elite - seem unconcerned with the idea that you need to develop a consensus and explain why your "great ideas" are so right and good. The healthcare bill, really, was a conglomeration of a variety of existing bills, chock full of ideas driven by economic theories and health expertise most people don't have. And on one, really, ever laid out, in a clear, thoughtful way why these ideaswere important or how these conclusions were reached. They are explicable, even resonable ideas. But few poeple understand that. And there are other good ideas no one even discussed. Like why ending the employer based system of health insurance itsellf might be the real roadmap to better care for all.
And finally, this is why I've been beating the unpopular, dead horse of an idea that replacing Nancy Pelosi would be a good first step to a new Democratic approach to policy: the worst combination, it seems to me, is Barack Obama's airy, Policy theory approach to issues combined iwth Nancy Pelosi's pul out the stops, ram it through at all costs approach to passing legislation. Both, really, involve not telling the people you need to support you why a thing matters. And without having that discussion, and getting a group consensus, the rersulting legislation is ugly, brutal manhandling of ideas that people don't understand. That's how we got here. And it won't change unless we change something.
"the conversation being had" is the conversation we are having; it covers a lot of different reasons to consider replacing Nancy Pelosi, some of them silly, some of them hateful... and some of them reasonable and worth further discussion. The "fragmented and disjonted policies we have" are as much a result of Nancy Pelosi's relentless focus on power and winning as they are on perceptions that others are too willing to abandon important principles to get particular results (something, really, that Pelosi shown considerable willingness to do as well - despite the swillingness of many to ignore the deals like the Stupak comprmoise thatb were made to pass the health "reform" bill out of the House). One doesn't have to agree that Nancy Pelosi is "too liberal" or "too strident" or whatever to think that, calmly, it's just time to move on to new leadership and a fresh look at what our goals are and how best to achieve them. Nancy Pelosi is not bad, or terrible, or useless; she has doen a number of impressive remarkable during her time as a leader. At some point, though, the time comes to find new leadership. This, I continue to argue, is that time.
"They fear her because she has taught us that a united, organized Liberal Democratic Party always wins."
Um... except, apparently, when they lose 60+ House seats in a single election.
As I said, there's plenty to re-argue here: the mess that has been fobbed off as "healthcare reform" which, yes, she got passed with a bare majority, a bunch of ugly compromises, and continued mass disapproval. Or the financial regulations that even many lefties admit don't do much to rein in financial fims and clean up banking... or we would go on. But I think the point here, as I said before is more basic: change somehing. Do something differently. After a major loss, the best answer many Democrats seem to have is... let's change nothing and just stand here and wait for the worst to happen. That's not much of a plan, nor is it a set of policies to energize voters in upcoming elections. The things which are Nancy Pelosi strengths - which mostly have to do with fundraising and exercise of political power - are not the things we need, ultimately, to return Democrats to a majority psotiion. We need something different, something else. Does Steny Hoyer have it? No, at best he'd be a stopgap solution. But believing that a 70+ year old woman with over 20 years of working within the sme political machine, aided mostly by a byunch of other elderly, machine driven pols will get ius the change we need is a fantasy, a dangerous one, and one too many Democrats cling to for fear of changing what is seriously broken. We can, and we probably will, wind up going with Nancy Pelosi as Minority Leader in the House - I think she's amassed too much personal power to be stopped (which is, itself another enormous problem no one wants to face). But doing so because liberals want to delude themselves into believing she's the best or only option we have... I remain unconvinced. We can, and should be willling to change, look to new people, and search, ambitiously, for new ideas. She's not going to get them for us.
To take issue with here (what else would be the disputed truth?) - but you yourself do a nice job of summing up why returning Nancy Pelosi to the leadership role is probably mistaken:
I am not one to wax sentimental over past victories and I recognize that now would be an opportune time to shake up the leadership in the party and maybe bring in some fresh blood.
That's pretty much the case against her in a nutshell. I'm not one for dismissing her past accomplishments; but that is past and the question we face is where to go from here. And "shake up the leadership" and "bring in some fresh blood" is about all that needs to be said.