By Bill Schneider
We are witnessing the slow death of public opinion in this country. It’s being displaced by party opinion.
These days, more and more Americans are inclined to judge issues from a partisan viewpoint. In March, according to a Pew Research Center survey, twice as many Republicans (53 percent) as Democrats (27 percent) said the economy was poor. Yet, from everything we know, Republicans are not suffering more economic deprivation than Democrats.
Elections today are less and less about persuasion and more and more about mobilization: You rally your supporters in order to beat back your opponents. Republicans did that in 2004, when President George W. Bush got re-elected with 51 percent of the vote. Democrats did that in 2012, when President Barack Obama got re-elected with 51 percent of the vote.
Republicans today are all fired up over the controversies involving the Internal Revenue Service, the State Department and the Justice Department. They see Watergate.
By Bill Schneider
Old vaudeville joke:
Man goes to the doctor. Says he has a pain in his arm.
“Have you ever had this problem before?” the doctor says.
“Yes,” the man answers.
“Well, you got it again.”
Now look at the Republicans’ immigration problem. Have they had this problem before? Yes. Well, they’ve got it again.
By Bill Schneider
Defying your base is always risky. It can either bring you down — or it can make you look stronger.
Right now, politicians in both parties are trying to pull it off. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) – a likely contender for the 2016 Republican nomination – is preparing to challenge conservatives on immigration reform. President Barack Obama is defying liberals on entitlement reform. What are they thinking?
By Bill Schneider
Fiscal crisis? What fiscal crisis? The stock market is up, unemployment is down and the deficit is shrinking.
The fiscal crisis is in Washington, and it’s a crisis of Washington’s own devising. All those deadlines! January 1: the fiscal cliff. March 1: sequesters. March 27: a possible government shutdown. Sometime in August: the debt ceiling, again.
The unending fiscal crisis could take up the entire year. President Barack Obama desperately wants to end it. For one thing, more spending cuts could bring on a recession. For another, an unending fiscal crisis would monopolize the agenda. No time for Congress to take up immigration reform or gun control or the minimum wage or preschool education.
What can Obama do? Here are the options:
By David Brown
President Obama and his Republican dining companions showed last week that bipartisan schmoozing is back. Whether bipartisan deal-making will follow is anyone’s guess. But if it does, there are reasons to believe tax reform will be on the menu.
The most visible movement on tax reform is in the House of Representatives. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) last week announced that the bill name “H.R. 1” would be reserved for tax reform. Traditionally, House speakers have given that title to bills that are among their top priorities. Consider some of the recent bills with that name: the stimulus package of 2009 and the Medicare prescription drug law of 2003.
The H.R. 1 designation signals the end of an internal Republican dispute over whether to proceed with tax reform. Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-OH) previously advised the party to avoid the issue, because its progress could require votes on controversial topics like the mortgage and charitable deductions. But now, with Boehner’s blessing, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) has a green light to pursue his priority issue.
A new report released Tuesday by Freedom to Marry and Third Way, found that state legislators who vote in favor of marriage for same-sex couples overwhelmingly win voter support when running for reelection.
Based on election results in two states that passed freedom to marry laws in the 2011-2012 legislative cycle and whose members stood for reelection — New York and Washington state — the analysis, “Pro-Marriage Legislators Win Elections,” finds that pro-marriage legislators who ran for reelection won 97 percent of the time.
This is significantly higher than the national incumbent re-election average of 90 percent in 2012.
Do voters punish legislators who support marriage for gay couples? A look at the data from the 2012 election shows that the answer is NO.
- 97% of those who voted for marriage and ran for reelection won, compared to only 90% of incumbent state legislators nationwide.
- Of the 5 who lost, 2 were under investigation for corruption or misuse of taxpayer dollars, so only 3 of 146 lost without being under an ethics cloud (2%).
- At least 85% of the 13 Republican legislators who voted for marriage since the 2010 election did not lose their seats because of it.
Read the study by Third Way and Freedom to Marry for the details: “Pro-Marriage Legislators Win Elections”
By Jon Cowan and Jim Kessler
As the sequester blame game hits fever pitch this week, Republicans’ stance on taxes is simply indefensible, falling hundreds of billions short of even their own prior positions. But as Democrats, we also share a large portion of responsibility for the coming cuts to domestic discretionary spending, as the party has decided in both action and rhetoric that meaningful fixes to the major entitlement programs of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are off-limits.
Think about it. Over the past three years, from debt ceiling deals to the supercommittee and the fiscal cliff, social insurance programs have escaped virtually unscathed while every other category of spending took some hit and revenue grew. And because of the sheer enormousness of the Big 3 entitlements, Democrats face a serious new crisis that is closer to home and will linger long past the sequester: There is now barely a farthing left in the budget for any new investments.
Over the past century, Democrats can boast two major economic legacies. The first is the safety net programs of the New Deal and the Great Society — successful programs that lifted the elderly and vulnerable out of poverty. The second is the New Frontier investment programs defined and expanded under President John F. Kennedy. These investments in science, space, defense, education, as well as highways, rails, ports and medical breakthroughs helped power the U.S. economy during the latter half of the 20th century.
For the past 50 years, these two Democratic legacies have been on a collision course. In the mid-1960s, federal spending on investments outpaced those of entitlements by 3-to-1. By the mid-1970s, we spent one dollar on investments for every dollar that went to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Last year, it was one dollar for investments for every three in entitlements. In 10 years, the ratio will be 1-to-5.
There will be 35 Senate races in 34 states next year (two contests in South Carolina). Democrats now hold 21 of those seats. Six of those Democrats will be running in red states that voted for Mitt Romney last year. Another four are running in swing states that Barack Obama won by relatively narrow margins. When the Senate votes on gun control and immigration reform this year, those are Democrats who will be under the gun, or on the fence.
Should those Democrats be worried?
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo pushed through new gun laws in New York after the school shootings in Newtown, Conn., in December. In four Quinnipiac polls taken in 2012, Cuomo’s job approval rating in New York was over 70%. In January, 2013, it dropped 15 points. Down 20 points among men.
Cuomo still looks O.K. His job approval is 59%. But if the gun issue can damage a Democrat in New York named Cuomo, no one is safe.
For more, check out this month’s Inside Politics Newsletter.
Government a Threat?
A majority of Americans believe the federal government threatens their personal rights and freedoms. That’s something we’ve never seen before. Polling by the Pew Research Center and other organizations show the number of Americans who feel threatened by the federal government climbing steadily since 9/11. In January 2013, nearly a third of Americans called the federal government “a major threat.”
What rights and freedoms do people believe are threatened? The polls do not say. But there appear to be a variety of perceived threats, judging from the groups that feel most threatened.
At the top of the list: conservative Republicans, more than three quarters of whom see the federal government as a threat. President Obama represents their worst nightmare of big government: huge deficits, government bailouts, government control of health care. After health care reform was signed into law in 2010, a Tea Party activist told a rally in Iowa, “Every single person’s body in this whole country belongs to the government now.”
Also near the top of the list: gun owners, 62% of whom see the federal government as a threat. That’s one of the reasons they buy guns.
Increased government surveillance after 9/11 appears to have played a role. The biggest jump occurred between 2002 and 2003 when many security measures like those at airports went into effect. You even find heightened concern among self-described liberal Democrats. More than a third see the federal government as a threat to their personal rights and freedoms. Liberals may have different complaints—more about the Patriot Act and civil liberties than gun rights and health care—but they, too, share the concern about big government.
Read more in this month’s Inside Politics Newsletter.
By Bill Schneider
Democrats don’t talk about it, but they have become the party of the unchurched in America. It’s right there in the 2012 exit poll. Asked, “Are you Protestant, Catholic, Mormon, other Christian, Jewish, Muslim, other or none?” 12% of the voters last year called themselves “None.” They voted 70% for Barack Obama.
The unchurched were about equal in number to African-American voters (13%), larger than Latinos (10%) and much larger than either Mormons or Jews (each 2%).
The reason why Democrats don’t talk about the unchurched is obvious. They don’t want to advertise themselves as “the godless party.” The United States is still a country where religion is a major force in both public and private life. That makes the U.S. unique among advanced industrial countries.
In October, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reported that 58% of Americans claim that religion is very important in their lives—far higher than in Britain (17%), France (13%), Germany (21%) or even Spain, once the land of the Holy Inquisition (22%). More Americans believe in God, heaven, hell, angels, Satan and the inerrant authority of the Bible than citizens of any other modern country.
Parties are becoming increasingly ideologically homogeneous, more and more Americans are identifying themselves as independents. An August 2012 Third Way study found that both Republican and Democratic registrations dropped from 2008 to 2012 in five of the eight battleground states that register voters by party, while independent registrations jumped in six of the eight.
In the states wher parties hold closed primaries, the voter pool is more ideologically driven, making it more likely a hard-core liberal or conservative will emerge from the primary, no matter how competitive the district is. That’s true in 24 states for Republicans; 19 for Democrats.
— National Journal on “Why Reforming the Primary Process Would Produce a More Productive Congress”