Ed Kilgore says Steny Hoyer should no more be purged from the congressional leadership than Howard Dean should be dumped as DNC Chair. I must confess that my instinctive sympathies lie with Hoyer’s opponent, John Murtha. Ed also comments that, Murtha’s recent strong anti-war stance aside, he’s “been a bit to the right of Jimmy Dean Sausage on a host of issues over the years.” Worth looking into, I would say. One interesting perspective on such questions is Keith Poole’s DW Nominate dataset which eliminates the subjectivity inherent in interest-group rankings in favor of a “best fit” quantitative analysis of all congressional votes. Here’s what I found.
One of the ironies of American politics goes a bit like this: Before the midterm elections, the President of the United States was pushing an unpopular plan for “comperehensive immigration reform.” He was also pushing several other unpopular policies. Largely as a result of his habit of pushing unpopular policies, voters delivered a stunning rebuke to his party at the midterm elections. Most of the newly elected Democrats oppose the president’s unpopular plan for comperehensive reform. And yet the upshot of Democrats taking control of congress is to make comprehensive immigration reform . . . much more likely!
Kevin Drum seems to have some doubts as to whether it would make sense for the Democratic leadership to actually move forward with an immigration bill. I think it does. The votes for a comprehensive reform will be there, even if whichever Democrats inclined to take a restrictionist line want to hew to that line. What’s more, Bush is in a weakened state and could really use a good bipartisan compromise. That means the odds are good he can be forced into a liberal-style comprehensive reform — one that’s long on
amnesty earned legalization and short on guest workers. A bill like that would be good policies and would also help with Democratic coalition-building since more Latino citizens = more Democratic voters over the long term.
The current vogue for immigration restrictions, meanwhile, is pretty clearly a consequence of the generally weak job market. Said weak job market, meanwhile, is a political asset for Democrats all things considered. So by 2008 either immigration will have lost its salience because the job market improves, or else it’ll still be salient but the negative impact it might have on Democrats would be swamped by general economic factors. What’s more, John McCain is an earned legalization supporter, and putting a reform bill with his name on it through the congress will infuriate the GOP base and weaken his odds of winning the nomination. The only thing I would really say about all of this is that the election result should make Democrats irreconciliably opposed to any guest worker program — that’s too high a price to pay. What’s more, if I may add an idiosyncratic opinion, I think Tom Tancredo’s 2008 primary bid stands a good chance of surprising people with its strength.
Number of people killed in Iraq today, including 3 U.S. troops.
sending the same message as terrorists? Fox News wants to know.
After writing an entire column on oil without mentioning global warming, Samuelson writes an entire column on the supposedly high cost of tackling global warming without mentioning key solutions, such as energy efficiency.
With today’s technologies, we don’t know how to cut greenhouse gases in politically and economically acceptable ways. The world’s 1,700 or so coal-fired power plants — big emitters of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas — are a cheap source of electricity.
But for Samuelson, “today’s technologies” to replace coal consist entirely of solar power, wind power, and nuclear power. While solar and wind are certainly more viable than he thinks, the egregious mistake is to ignore the most cost-effective strategy for reducing emissions — simply using energy more efficiently.
This is a common mistake, as we have seen. In fact, many major studies, including one by five national laboratories, have shown that for we could achieve significant carbon reductions without raising the nation’s total energy bill. Those studies include an aggressive set of policies to promote energy-efficient technologies that can pay for their extra cost through reduced energy bills.
Samuelson says, “It seems impossible to have an honest conversation about global warming.” His piece does little to improve the dialogue.
If you’re looking for evidence that Democrats should get more serious about gerrymandering, you need look no further than Illinois. Check out these results. One Democrat ran unopposed. Four Democrats won with over 80 percent of the vote. Three more had over 70 percent of the vote. Phil Hare won with 57 percent. Melissa Bean won with just 51 percent. That’s ten Democrats. Of the nine Republicans, all drew opponents, one secured just 51 percent of the vote and and five more won sixty percent of the vote or fewer.
You could transfer voters out of the Democrats 6-7 safest seats in a way that kept those seats safe but turned all six of the least-safe GOP districts into ones that were very friendly to Democratic challengers. It would require you to create some “funny looking” districts that start out in Chicago with super-Democratic precincts and then reach out into the suburbs rather than having very compact all-urban districts where Democrats get 70-90 percent of the vote, but lots of states work like that.
weren’t cancelled because of the war.
In the course of a great op-ed on the new congress, Old Boss Mike Tomasky notes that splits inside the caucus on cultural issues are unlikely to be important because “there will be no votes in the next two years on any divisive social issues.” Quite so. It doesn’t really matter what, say, Heath Shuler thinks about marriage equality or flag burning because Nancy Pelosi isn’t going to push these topics to the floor — they used to come up all the time as a deliberate GOP legislative tactic.
This, however, is also the reason why groups seeking progressive social change can ill-afford to abandon the judicial process in favor of a single-minded focus on electoral politics. Even if some future scenario arises in which, say, 52 percent of the public favors gay marriage, the Democrats have a majority in the House, and a majority of House members favor gay marriage there still very little chance of a marriage equality bill passing. Even under those cirsumstances, some Democratic members will come from marginal districts where gay marriage is likely to be unpopular. Forcing a vote on gay marriage would imperil those members (even if they voted “no” it would be a problem for them) and protecting marginal members would be a high priority for the leadership. Unless gay rights groups could put a lot of financial clout behind a gay marriage push, it simply wouldn’t be worthwhile to pick a big fight over a controversial topic. What’s more, given the Senate’s massive overrepresentation of culturally conservative voters, it would always be extremely difficult to secure the 60 votes necessary to actually pass a gay marriage bill.
Recall that desegregation was a majority supported position long before the federal government actually did anything about Civil Rights. This was for roughly the same reason — civil rights was bad coalitional politics and the Senate provided ample room for a conservative minority to obstruct progress. Legislative action came eventually because judicial decisions provoked a series of crises that it was impossible for the elected branches in Washington to ignore. This reality doesn’t especially fit one’s intuitive notion of how democracy “ought to work” but it reflects the reality of democracy as actually practiced in the United States.
Mark Kleiman says he hopes to see it from the new congress. I hope so, too, but I’m not super-optimistic. As you’ll recall, the new Democratic majorities are quite narrow and plenty of Democrats — including soon-to-be majority leader Steny Hoyer — voted for the bakruptcy bill. A whole bloc of centrist Democrats even wound up demanding an apology from Nancy Pelosi for turning that into a whipped issue.
Russ Feingold won’t be running for president. Personally, I’m glad he’s not because this allows me to avoid making up my mind about what to say about a Feingold presidential campaign. On the one hand, I’m very substantively enthusiastic about Feingold and what he stands for, and thus would be disinclined to say bad things about his candidacy. On the other hand, it seems to me that he would have been a terrible messenger for a Feingold-style message and that nominating him as a presidential candidate would be a pretty poor tactical decision.