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In a May, 2011 post, Appealing To The "Center" Drives Away Voters I wrote that the traditional Democratic campaign strategy of taking positions perceived to be "between" the left and the right not only doesn't appear to work, it actually might be costing Democrats.

The traditional idea, driven by Democratic campaign consultants, is that "independent" voters "swing" between parties. SO you can get them to "swing" your way by taking positions that are not those of the base of your own party, but instead creep over towards those of the other party. I wrote in that May post,

The problem here is the effect the metaphor of a "center" has on our thinking. Thinking about independent voters as being a "block" that is "between" the parties is the problem. It forces the brain into a constraint because of the visual image that it evokes. What I mean is that the actual language of "centrist" changes how we think. The metaphor makes us think they are "between" something called left and right. And as a result it forces certain conclusions.

I said that Karl Rove figured this out, and used this to get Bush to instead "appeal to the base," which increased Republican turnout, while dispirited Dems, tired of their standard-bearers taking wishy-washy positions that give everything away, decided to just stay home. I wrote that Rove has "nailed it,"

Karl Rove believed that there were independents who were not registered Republican because the party was not far enough to the right for them, who would only turn out if the party gave them something to vote for. I think Karl Rove's model is more accurate, that the independent voters are a number of groups, and very large numbers of them are MORE to the left or right than the parties, and don't vote unless the parties appeal enough to them.

Rove decided this means the Republicans need to move ever more to the right, and this will cause those "independent" voters who had changed their affiliation out of disgust with the centrism of their party to now turn out and vote.

Now there is confirmation of this. On NPR's Talk of the Nation today, Clarence Page talked with host Neal Conan about the role of independent voters, saying that we might be surprised to learn that candidates who try to appeal to "independents" tend to lose, because they turn off the voters who closely follow and care about the issues.

Click the Play button below to hear this Talk of the Nation segment:

In fact, candidates that try to "appeal to the center" lose, because this idea of a :center" is a myth. From the transcript:

You know, there is a professor Alan Aramowitz of Emory University, who has been studying this using voting statistics, and he found that the - well, as he put it, in all three of the presidential elections since 1972 that were decided by a margin of less than five points, that the candidate backed by the independents lost.

This was - this surprised me. You know, he's citing here Jimmy Carter in '76, Gerald Ford - sorry, Gerald Ford beat - excuse me, Gerald Ford won the independent vote but lost the election. Put it that way, OK.

Most independents voted for George W. Bush in 2000, but Al Gore got the overall popular vote. As you recall, he got the popular vote but not the state vote.

CONAN: Yeah, but that's fudging your statistics a little bit. The guy who got the independent vote got the big prize.

PAGE: Yeah, but still, though, most of the - the one backed by the independent voters, though, did not get the majority of the popular vote. And in 2004, John Kerry, most independents voted for John Kerry, but he lost the overall election.

What does that mean? What it means is that Karl Rove and others, who have often advocated firing up the base rather than reaching out for independents, they've got a point. In some elections, that works. If you fire up your base, get your vote out, it can be big enough that it will overwhelm the opposition and the independents, because independents also tend to have the least turnout, and they also tend to be the least committed, not just to a party but also to - well, less engaged with the whole campaign.

They are joined by Daron Shaw, who was a campaign strategist for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004.

SHAW: Well, I think the thing that Clarence pointed out that's worth reiterating is that the distinguishing characteristic of independent voters is they're not that interested, they're not that involved, they're not that engaged with politics. So if you're a political professional and you're dealing with finite resources, and you have to make decisions about where you're going to invest dollars, and where you're going to invest manpower, you know, the idea of reaching out to independents, who may or may not show up, and if they do show up may or may not vote for you, can give you pause.

So you know, it's interesting that there's been this movement in the last two or three election cycles, and as Clarence correctly pointed out, I think Karl Rove is kind of given credit for this, although I don't know if he's, you know, the architect or godfather of it; a lot of people who have moved in this direction.

But the idea of sinking your resources into mobilization, which primarily targets, you know, sort of identifiable partisans and appeals to them, that that's become kind of a staple and maybe even the dominant perspective. And I find it kind of interesting that word out of the White House - and you have to read all these things with a dose of caution - but suggests that they're kind of moving in that direction. That's sort of what their thinking is. And I just find that fascinating.

As I wrote in May:

The way to grow your voting base is NOT to try to "appeal" to some group that is not left or right, but is "between" something called left and right. To get more voters -- especially the "independent" ones who won't identify with a party -- is to take stands, be more committed to progressive positions, and to articulate them more clearly.

See also, Clarence Page: What it means to be an 'independent voter' might surprise you.


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It was an amazing thing to be part of, an entire city downtown occupied, then a huge march that shut down a major port. Oakland was #occupied! This was a game changer, a turning point. What happened in Oakland was a very big deal. On the same Wednesday there were big, big #occupy events in several other cities. But will Washington pay attention?

Occupy Oakland

I arrived at Oscar Grant Plaza in Oakland yesterday about 11:30am. The streets were blocked off by police (a single police car keeping traffic out) a block or three out in all four directions, and a large crowd was gathered. The Plaza itself was surrounded by occupier tents, the surrounding street had several booths, and there was a bit of a festival atmosphere.

At the corner of 14th and Broadway there was a stage set up with speakers throughout the day. Hundreds of people milled about, many with signs saying everything from "We Are The 99%" to "Banks Got Bailed Out, We Got Sold Out," "Tax The Rich," "Stand With The 99%," "We Get Cut, They Get Rich," etc...

There was a harmonious energy with people of all ethnicities, ages, cultures and from all over the area. People were friendly, helpful, welcoming, and overall supportive of each other. It was a very pleasant event on a very pleasant day.

The main action of the day began at 4PM as the first of two marches left for the Port of Oakland. A number of buses filled up first, sending people to set up early picket lines. They would be joined and reinforced as marchers arrived. The picket lines and first marchers were effective as the workers honored the lines. Seeing the very large number of people heading for the port authorities decided to close operations and send workers home. But still thousands upon thousands of people marched, with many thousands more joining the 5pm march.

The scene at the port was just astonishing. People were just everywhere, as far as I could walk, passing more and more crowds of people, each time thinking this must be the "main mass." Then walk a bit further and there would be an even bigger mass of people. Drummers, dancers, people sitting on trucks. And of course lots of people wondering what was going on and what would happen next...

Finally people started tricking out, heading back to the occupy center at Oscar Grant Plaza.

And, of course, later a number of anarchists started a bonfire and had to be cleared out with tear gas.

Josh Holland at AlterNet has a good writeup of the days events, in OWS Oakland Takes Over City, Shutting Down One of the Biggest Ports in the Country...But Nightfall Brings More Chaos and Teargas

As many as 15,000 people participated in actions across Oakland yesterday, with small marches peeling off to protest in front of banks or "occupy" foreclosed homes. There were probably eight to ten times the number of people in the streets of Oakland today as I'd seen during past OWS actions. Police maintained a minimal presence throughout the day.

... A day of scattered actions across the city culminated in a massive "occupation" that shut down the Port of Oakland, the fifth busiest container port in the country. When it was announced that operations had been suspended for the night, thousands of people partied around trucks halted in their tracks, celebrating a victory in their struggle with authorities that began with the violent eviction of Occupy Oakland last week. The Oakland police, and Mayor Jean Quan, stung by negative press stemming from the clashes, essentially gave the port to the movement.

No Police At All?

The role of police in communities in a democracy is to be part of the community and to protect the community from the troublemakers, predators, criminals, etc. That includes communities of people expressing their dissatisfaction with plutocracy, just like crowds at football games, etc.

At a football game you see the police mixing with the crowds, spotting trouble, etc. They aren't lined up in full combat gear to intimidate the crowd and make people think they are doing something that is prohibited. They aren't under orders to treat the crowd at a football game or rock concert as an enemy.

In a plutocracy the police are under orders to do just that. And that is what the police have been doing in cities like Oakland.

So because of previous trouble when police were ordered to attack peaceful protesters the police had to be simply absent in Oakland yesterday in the face of such a large crowd. A self-organized mass like Occupy, in its early stages (this was only the 7th week!) hasn't learned how to deal with these things on their own and they shouldn't have to. They shouldn't need to set up their own government, etc., they are part of the larger community. It is not illegal to protest, or to have a beard, etc. People should not be mocked, humiliated, attacked, or have the police set on them because they oppose the greed of the giant corporations and big banks and Wall Street speculators. They are citizens.

This is not the fault of the police force. They are people with families and mortgages and car payments just like most of us. They have to do what they are told to do when they show up for work. The problems start when they show up for work and are told to attack peaceful protesters.

They should have been there assisting the citizens, from the start, just like a crowd at a festival, concert, or sporting event. And that would have prevented the troublemakers from breaking windows, starting bonfires, etc.

Major Labor Presence

There was a very big labor presence at the events in Oakland. The Communications Workers of America (CWA) had a strong presence. Their workers are engaged in a battle with Verizon, a giant and highly profitable company that is trying nonetheless to cut worker pay, benefits, safety standards and generally fight to push them out of the middle class.


Representatives of any, many other labor organizations were present, supporting the goals of the Occupy movement.

Pics

Here is a slideshow of pics and videos taken with my phone: (in some browsers you need to hit refresh to see this)


I also reported quite a bit of moment-to-moment action and posted many more pics on my twitter feed.

Spreading And Growing

The Occupy movement is in its 7th week, and continues to spread and grow. It has spread to cities around the country and world, and the numbers at each location continue to grow.

A quick scan of the news shows events in cities across the country including but not in any way limited to Omaha, Nashville, Rochester, Asheville, Albuquerque, Milwaukee, Denver, Washington, Philadelphia, Tulsa, Detroit, Chicago, Fort Myers, Austin, Boise, Atlanta, Sacramento, Portland, and of course New York.

Washington Reaction

In Washington this week the reaction to the national #occupy protests has been immediate and unrestrained. Reacting to the national attention and concern about Wall Street and corporate greed and the effect on the 99% of Americans facing tremendous work and financial pressures, the House of Representatives debated a bill to affirm "In God We Trust" as the nation's motto. And in the Senate, Republicans filibustered another effort to provide jobs from maintaining the country's crumbling infrastructure.

Also, in reaction to the national call for efforts to fight corporate greed and provide jobs the "super committee" debated how much money to take out of the economy, cutting Medicare and Social Security for the elderly, essential government services for the 99% of us who don't own big chunks of large corporations, all while seeking ways to further lower top and corporate tax rates. Never mind looking for ways to cut the overwhelming, bloated, huge, enormous, extravagant, inflated, out-of-control, budget-busting military budget!!!

At the same time others in Congress are discussing allowing giant multinational corporations to bring back the profits made from sending jobs and factories out of the country without having to pay taxes on that money.

A Warning Shot At Washington's Increasing Irrelevance

As I said, this public protest is spreading and growing. People have had enough and are taking to the streets in increasing numbers. But Washington continues to ignore the public, debating a national motto, as Repubicans block jobs and an elitist "super committee" debates cutting the things government does for the 99%.

Poll after poll shows the public overwhelmingly supports increasing taxes on the wealthy, bringing corporations under control, and reigning in trade agreements that suck our jobs, factories, companies and industries out of the country. People do not want Medicare, Social Security and other essential government programs cut, they want the rich and corporations and Wall Street to start paying their share.

The public wants something done about these problems. They want jobsm, they want something done about the incresing

If Congress continues to ignore the people of the country it will not be long before the situation is like Mubarak pretending he is still in charge of Egypt, while the people of the country are in the streets planning how they will run the country without him and his cronies.

Water On Gremlins

Lee Camp said that pepper spraying #occupiers is like throwing water on gremlins, you just get 10 times as many.

"Good God don't you get it, greed is no longer good."

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.


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In Oakland peaceful #Occupy demonstrators were camping out in front of city hall. The city launched a police raid to clear out the camp, using tear gas, flash-bank grenades, rubber bullets and beating people with batons. An Iraq war vet was hit in the head by either a rubber bullet or tear gas canister and critically injured. These days this is the typical government response to non-Tea-Party "protesters." Let's look at how the Occupiers and protests would be treated if we were a functioning democracy -- a government of by and for We, the People -- instead of a dysfunctional plutocracy serving the biggest corporations and the billionaires behind them.

Citizens?

The first thing to understand about every single person involved in the #occupy movement is that they are citizens and human beings. Even the ones with beards. Alas, even the drummers. (What do you call a drummer who breaks up with his girlfriend? Homeless. What do you call a drummer with half a brain? Gifted.)

The people involved in the #occupy movement are upset that our country has abandoned democracy in favor of plutocracy. They are upset that every decision made in Washington is based on the wishes of the top 1%. They are upset that we do not have a reasonable health care system, no reasonable pension system, or child care system, or other benefits that people in democracies around the world receive. They are upset that most of the benefits of our economy instead go to a very few at the top. They are upset that a huge amount of our money goes to pay for a military machines that costs more than all other countries spend on military combined. They are upset that there is a "Super Committee" meeting in secret to decide how much money to take out of the economy to pay for the bailouts and other costs of the fiasco caused by Wall Street and the big banks.

So with their government ignoring their majority demands they have finally decided to voice their protests publicly. For doing this they have been met with smears, derision, and police attacks.

Police Ordered To Attack

Just as in countries like Syria, Egypt, Libya and Iran, the instinctive response of our plutocratic government and Wall Street-backed power structures has been to see those people who have shown up at these protests as somehow suspect, possibly even as an enemy, and to attack them. FOX News and the entire corporate/conservative media machine regularly attacks them. And the police are ordered to attack them.

This is not "protesters vs police." People who work in law enforcement are part of the 99%, just like us. They have families to feed, bills to pay, and have to do what they're told.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic Source: http://twitpic.com/6s2g4a

And this is what they were ordered to do, to people who were exercising their legitimate rights:

American citizens were treated as criminals and attacked just for speaking out about the injustice of Wall Street getting a huge bailout after they caused this mess, and now the rest of us are told to sacrifice to pay for it.

John Stewart on The Daily Show reacts to the Oakland attack:


If We Were A Democracy Instead Of A Plutocracy

The occupy movement clashes with federal, state and local governments the way they currently work. We really have an opportunity here to come back to an understanding of democracy and the role of government, and who government should serve. Currently government is really set up to serve the top few, and facilitate bigger businesses, and understands the people in their communities as consumers and corporate employees, and not as citizens.

So imagine how it cold be different, if we had a government designed to serve the people rather than keep them in their place. In a country with a true democratic culture the local governments would be serving these people and honoring their right to dissent and protest. They would instinctively be showing up at protests like this and offering to help with any sanitation problems, etc, setting up public toilets, and other services. They would even be offering tents. If there are security problems in the occupy camps a city would be posting police in the encampment to help the people there, with a clear mission to serve them. They certainly would not be seeing them as the enemy, and attacking them.

Imagine Real Democracy and its Implications

The #occupy movement opens up the space to imagine what the country could be if we really did have a democracy with a first instinct of serving the people, instead of serving only the wealthy and their big corporations.

Imagine a government of, by and for the people and the things that regular people want and need. Imagine everyone entitled to a free education through college? Imagine a transportation system that helps us all get around -- mass transit and high-speed rail systems instead of just roads and highways for those who can afford cars, with plutocratic pay lanes so those with more money can get around.

Imagine a people outraged at special passes through airport security for those with first-class tickets.

Imagine advertisers having to get people's permission before they are allowed to interrupt their attention. Imagine the things we would have if We, the People were in charge.

Imagine a modern, maintained infrastructure, good schools, and a guarantee of a job working on those for any9one who needed work.

Imagine a government that enforced laws even when the top few violated them, enforced job discrimination laws, enforced anti-trust laws... or a government that protected citizens from corporate fraud, fees, scams, etc.

Occupiers Are People Too

These occupiers are "the people' just as much as any other people in the community and government should exist to serve them just as much as any other group.

Alas, even the drummers.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.


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Renew California

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Take a look at Renew California, our sister organization.

We have been blasted with conservative "market" propaganda for how many decades now? 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, we have to hear about how "markets" are the best way to allocate services to meet human needs, how corporations are better and more efficient than government.

Here's the thing. Markets are one-dollar-one-vote systems. Those with the dollars get the goods and services. And we are all seeing how that has been working out. Corporations are about a few people at the top making decisions and telling everyone else what to do. We're seeing how that is working out, too.

Democracy is about one-person-one-vote. We all get equal rights, equal access, equal opportunity. Extra money doesn't mean you get more votes. And democracy is about having open, transparent and accountable decision-making.

When We, the People are really the ones making the decisions we decide we want good jobs with good wages, food safety inspections, a clean environment, good schools and a modern infrastructure for our businesses -- and regulations that make sure our businesses are not squashed by the power and wealth of huge multinational corporations.

Someone has to go out and tell the public about the difference, and why democracy is a better choice.

From the Renew California website:

Standing Up - Moving Forward

Right now, conservative extremists are defining the discussion. How can that be, when voters in California gave progressives the largest margin of victory in any state and progressives hold 60% of the state's legislative seats and most of the seven state Constitutional offices?

It happens because the right-wing controls the message and the message is controlling the policy. It isn't supposed to be like that. Progressives should control the message. We are here to fill that need.

Renew California recognizes the importance of reaching out to communities of color and religious groups that share values of social and environmental justice, fairness and opportunity.


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Why are "capital gains" taxes so much lower than taxes on other income? The reason capital gains taxes are lower is because most of the income of the rich is from capital gains. And the reason most of the income of the rich is from capital gains is because capital gains taxes are lower.

Our System

"Capital gains" are the gains, or profits, made from the investment of capital -- the big pools of money that a few of us have the great responsibility and burden of being stuck with. The theory is that the few among us who have bundles of money (capital) use that money to start businesses or buy stocks or property (or race horses) and thereby "create jobs." (For more on how businesses and the wealthy "create jobs," click here and then click here.)

If the value of the business or property (or race horses) goes up those wealthy few make even more money (gains). This ability to obtain these huge gains is a benefit offered to those who have lots of money in the first place. Thus the term "capital gains." These gains are differentiated from the gains the rest of us make from ... working ... because the rest of us do not have the intelligence and wisdom of having those huge pools of money to invest.

Incentives

In our system the income gained from these investments by these wealthy few is therefore taxed at a special very, very low rate, because they have the wisdom and intelligence to have large sums of money available to invest, and the rest of us do not. This low rate is considered an "incentive" to those who have these large accumulations of money, to try to persuade them to make these huge profits. They require these "incentives" to make huge profits, because otherwise they might not be interested in making the huge profits that can result from owning most of the property and stock and race horses (and yachts and private jets and multiple homes and million-dollar cars.) So that is why they must be given the incentive of these very special low tax rates - to persuade them to make investments that reap huge profits that they otherwise would not want to make.

Government Interference

Of course, the wealthy usually complain when government gets involved in creating "incentives" and "picking winners and losers" in ways that help We, the People, saying government interference distorts decision-making. But when the "incentive" is special low tax rates to persuade the wealthy to invest and make huge profits, that's different. Because it is, that's why. Shut up. Hey, look over there!

Job Creation

This reaping of huge profits from "efficiencies" like downsizing, laying people off and making the remaining workers do 2 jobs each in the same amount of time, outsourcing, buying companies and firing everyone and then selling off the pieces, offshoring, force reductions, firing people and then bringing them back as "contractors" at half the pay, relocating factories out of the country where people don't have the protections of democracy, replacing workers with machines, etc. is called "creating jobs."

Effect Of Cutting Capital Gains Taxes

In 2001 these special low tax rates for the very rich "job creators" were made even lower. This was done in order to provide even more incentive for them to make even more profits from their large accumulations of property, houses, cars, yachts, private jets and race horses, so that these "producers" - the "job creators" - would produce even more and create even more jobs. (Click here for more on who and what really creates jobs.) The result of these 2001 tax cuts was spectacular: eight years of the lowest economic growth and lowest job-creation rate since WWII, followed by the collapse of the entire financial system and mass layoffs of millions of us.

So the 2000s brought upon us an even greater need to provide incentives for the producers to create jobs! In fact, each time these incentives are increased and jobs do not result there is even greater pressure to provide even more incentives to the "job creators." A great system, this, if you're already rich, no? The worse things get, the more you get, because you had the wisdom and intelligence to be sitting on a huge pile of cash. Brilliant! (See Did The Rich Cause The Deficit?)

So with all this in mind, today the Washington Post looks at these super-low tax rates for those who have large accumulations of money, in Capital gains tax rates benefiting wealthy feed growing gap between rich and poor,

For the very richest Americans, low tax rates on capital gains are better than any Christmas gift. As a result of a pair of rate cuts, first under President Bill Clinton and then under Bush, most of the richest Americans pay lower overall tax rates than middle-class Americans do. And this is one reason the gap between the wealthy and the rest of the country is widening dramatically.

[. . .] Over the past 20 years, more than 80 percent of the capital gains income realized in the United States has gone to 5 percent of the people; about half of all the capital gains have gone to the wealthiest 0.1 percent.

Repeat, "about half of all the capital gains have gone to the wealthiest 0.1 percent."

The Washington Post story explains the strongest reason why it is so important for legislators to pass these lower tax rates to "incentivize" the wealthiest to invest and make huge profits:

Some lawmakers who have backed low tax rates on capital gains have later been hired by the financial industry.

So you see, it is very clear why it is very, very important for members of Congress to make sure that there is a special very, very low rate of taxation for the wealthiest few. And the result?

The 400 richest taxpayers in 2008 counted 60 percent of their income in the form of capital gains and 8 percent from salary and wages. The rest of the country reported 5 percent in capital gains and 72 percent in salary.

Yes, that is the very same 400 wealthist who have more wealth than 60% of all Americans combined. (That's right, I had it wrong when I wrote that it was more than 50%, it is now more like 60%.)

So here is how it is: the rich are rich because they are smarter than the rest of us. And what is the proof that they're smarter than the rest of us? That's easy:

Because they're rich!

Take a moment to browse a collection of pictures of the job-creating results of these special exemptions from taxation enjoyed by these wealthiest, in Nine Pictures Of The Extreme Income/Wealth Gap. And read more about the ideology behind this idea that the wealthy are "producers" who "create jobs."


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.


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Problem: Your right-wing brother-in-law is plugged into the FOX-Limbaugh lie machine, and keeps sending you emails about "Obama spending" and "Obama deficits" and how the "Stimulus" just made things worse. Solution: Here are three "reality-based" charts to send to him. These charts show what actually happened.

Spending

Bush-Obama Spending Chart

Government spending increased dramatically under Bush. It has not increased much under Obama. Note that this chart does not reflect any spending cuts resulting from deficit-cutting deals.

Deficits

Bush-Obama Deficit Chart

Notes, this chart includes Clinton's last budget year for comparison.

The numbers in these two charts come from Budget of the United States Government: Historical Tables Fiscal Year 2012. They are just the amounts that the government spent and borrowed, period, Anyone can go look then up. People who claim that Obama "tripled the deficit" are either misled or are trying to mislead.

The Stimulus and Jobs

Bush-Obama-Jobs-Chart

In this chart, the RED lines on the left side -- the ones that keep doing DOWN -- show what happened to jobs under the policies of Bush and the Republicans. We were losing lots and lots of jobs every month, and it was getting worse and worse. The BLUE lines -- the ones that just go UP -- show what happened to jobs when the stimulus was in effect. We stopped losing jobs and started gaining jobs, and it was getting better and better. The leveling off on the right side of the chart shows what happened as the stimulus started to wind down: job creation leveled off at too low a level.

It looks a lot like the stimulus reversed what was going on before the stimulus.

Conclusion: THE STIMULUS WORKED BUT WAS NOT ENOUGH!

More False Things

These are just three of the false things that everyone "knows." Some others are (click through): Obama bailed out the banks, businesses will hire if they get tax cuts, health care reform cost $1 trillion, Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme or is "going broke", government spending "takes money out of the economy."

Why This Matters

These things really matter. We all want to fix the terrible problems the country has. But it is so important to know just what the problems are before you decide how to fix them. Otherwise the things you do to try to solve those problems might just make them worse. If you get tricked into thinking that Obama has made things worse and that we should go back to what we were doing before Obama -- tax cuts for the rich, giving giant corporations and Wall Street everything they want -- when those are the things that caused the problems in the first place, then we will be in real trouble.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.


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Here is the video of last night's launch of Rebuild the Dream campaign, with Van Jones. ((If you want to skip the music parts, start at 9:15.)

The three big lies:

1) America is broke.
2) Asking the super rich to pay taxes hurts the economy.
3) Hating America's government and wrecking America's infrastructure is patriotic.

Watch live streaming video from rebuildthedream at livestream.com

Alternet has a great write-up of the event and its meaning, in Van Jones Kicks off American Dream Movement with Energetic Rally and Speech at NYC's Town Hall

And then you can watch this:



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When I participated in my first budget battle as a new member of the California Assembly back in the late 1990s, I was admonished that the budget isn't just a collection of numbers. It is a moral statement of our values as a people and a community. The budgets proposed by the Republicans -- both in California and in Washington, D.C. -- clearly show that today's Republican Party values millionaires over working families and Big Oil over seniors.

In California, we have not been able to extract a single Republican vote to extend the current tax rates necessary to protect our schools and create infrastructure to generate jobs. In Congress, the Republicans have gone so far as to adopt a budget that would end Medicare as we know it, turning it into a voucher or coupon program.

This the wrong direction for medical care because it would force seniors to fend for themselves on the private insurance market and continually pay more for their health care costs. The Republicans have yet to explain how they plan to force insurance companies to cover seniors, an age group that is not profitable to insure. How will they insure these people? Will insurance companies continue to increase premiums across the board, as they are doing now? Of course they will. That's why the Medicare system was created in the first place -- because seniors were the most likely to be uninsured, only 14 percent having medical coverage when the program started. While the Medicare system needs reforms to control costs, the answer is not to force our seniors to navigate a private insurance market that will do everything it can to withhold coverage and services. Reducing access and affordability during life's most difficult moments is morally wrong and not the American way of caring for its vulnerable and deserving citizens.

The same Republican budget would extend tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires and continue unnecessary subsidies for Big Oil, at a time of record profits and high prices at the pump. So here we are: According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Republican plan would have your grandparents pay an additional $6,000 out of pocket every year to cover their medical bills so that the Warren Buffets of the world can receive an additional $200,000 tax break and, at the same time, give Big Oil nearly $8 billion a year in subsidies while they continue to make record profits. It begs the question: What exactly do these Republicans value?

Not only is this plan bad for the American people, Americans do not want it. The Republicans in our legislatures are turning a deaf ear to the fact that 84 percent of Americans oppose their plan to privatize Medicare and reduce benefits and 74 percent support eliminating tax breaks for the oil and gas industry. A majority of Americans support eliminating tax breaks for the wealthy. Even close to 60 percent of Independents support eliminating tax cuts for Americans making over $250,000 a year.

There is a better plan, one that will eliminate the deficit and create a surplus by 2021, contrary to the Republican plan that continues to blow holes in the current deficit. The "People's Budget" advanced by the Congressional Progressive Caucus doesn't attempt to balance the budget on the backs of the middle class, children and seniors, the most vulnerable among us. It would get our fiscal house in order by eliminating tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires and make sure they pay their fair share. It would close tax loopholes so that well-paid accountants can't reduce the tax obligations of the wealthy and big corporations to zero. It would end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, finally bringing our troops home and stop the expenditures of billions of dollars a day in other countries when we need to invest right here at home. It would enact a comprehensive jobs program to put America back to work so there are more taxpayers paying into the Treasury and fewer Americans dependent on the social safety net. It would enact a public health insurance option that will create more competition with private insurance companies and reduce premiums for all Americans. That is the direction we should be taking -- giving more to the people and less to billionaires and Big Oil. It is a responsible approach that will bring hope, opportunity, dignity and fairness back to our public policy. We can do this and we must if we want to ensure that we really are committed to the future and the American Dream.

This appeared in the Santa Barbara News-Press, May 8, 2011


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Is there a "block" of "centrist" voters who "move" one way or the other, to Democrats or Republicans, depending on whether a candidate takes positions that are "between" the positions of those on the "left" and "right?" This is the standard model followed by many Democratic pollsters, who advise their clients to take wishy-washy positions and avoid clear progressive positions. There is reason to believe this view is fundamentally wrong, and that the metaphor of the existence of a "centrist" is affecting and constraining our ability to understand what actually happens in the voting population.

Washington Post's The Fix looks at a Pew poll of independent voters in The misunderstood independent,

In politics, it's often tempting to put independents somewhere in the middle of Republicans and Democrats, politically. They identify somewhere in between the two, so they must be moderates, right?

A new study from the Pew Research Center suggests that's not so true anymore. Independents, in fact, are a fast-growing and increasingly diverse group that both parties are going to need to study and understand in the years ahead.

. . . Pew identifies three different kinds of independents. Libertarians and Disaffecteds are 21 percent of registered voters and lean towards Republicans; Post-Moderns are 14 percent and lean towards Democrats.

A look at their views on issues shows those three groups can often be among the most extreme on a given topic.

Disaffecteds, for example, believe in helping the needy more than most Democrats. Libertarians side with business more than even the solidly Republican Staunch Conservatives. And Post-Moderns accept homosexuality more than most Democrats. The three independents groups are also less religious, on the whole, than either Republicans or most Democrats.

In the post I wrote here last year, The Elusive "Swing" Vote, I wrote about this idea of a "swing" voter, (note I should have written "few" voters switch instead of flatly saying none),

Have you heard of the "Moveable Middle?" This is the idea that there are voters on the left who will always vote on the left, and voters on the right, who will always vote on the right, and then there are voters between them who switch back and forth. They are called "swing voters."

So the idea in politics is that in order to win elections you have to take positions that appeal to these voters, and they will "switch" and vote for you instead of for the other side. This is a fundamental mistake.

Here is what is very important to understand about the "swing" vote: No voters "switch." That is the wrong lesson. There are not voters who "swing" there are left voters and right voters in this middle segment who either show up and vote or do not show up and vote, and this causes this "swing" segment to swing.

The lesson to learn: You have to deliver for YOUR part of that swing segment or they don't show up and vote for you. That is what makes the segment "swing."

That post looked at polling by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee that reached conclusions similar to this more recent Pew polling.

So I've been saying that Dem pollsters are using the wrong model of what an independent voter is, telling the politicians that there is a "block" of independents who will vote one way or the other depending on what they hear. With this model they have to "move to the center" always staying in "between" the position of liberals and the far right, hoping to "attract" these voters away from the other side. They describe a single "center" or "independent voter" who will vote one way or another depending on whether they thing a candidate is "in between" the two poles, even when those poles have been moved very far to the right.

The problem here is the effect the metaphor of a "center" has on our thinking. Thinking about independent voters as being a "block" that is "between" the parties is the problem. It forces the brain into a constraint because of the visual image that it evokes. What I mean is that the actual language of "centrist" changes how we think. The metaphor makes us think they are "between" something called left and right. And as a result it forces certain conclusions.

The PCCC and now the Pew poll show us that these "independent" voters are NOT some group that sits between the positions of the parties. They are not a block and they are not between. Democrats and especially their pollsters think of them as a block that is between, and this is why the do what they do.

Karl Rove believed that there were independents who were not registered Republican because the party was not far enough to the right for them, who would only turn out if the party gave them something to vote for. I think Karl Rove's model is more accurate, that the independent voters are a number of groups, and very large numbers of them are MORE to the left or right than the parties, and don't vote unless the parties appeal enough to them.

Rove decided this means the Republicans need to move ever more to the right, and this will cause those "independent" voters who had changed their affiliation out of disgust with the centrism of their party to now turn out and vote.

I think Rove nailed it. the PCCC had a poll a while back that showed this, and now see below. Dems have it exactly wrong, what they are doing turns off those independents who might have turned out to vote for them.

The way to grow your voting base is NOT to try to "appeal" to some group that is not left or right, but is "between" something called left and right. To get more voters -- especially the "independent" ones who won't identify with a party -- is to take stands, be more committed to progressive positions, and to articulate them more clearly.


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From Sacramento Bee's Capital Alert: Steinberg considers cuts targeting GOP districts,
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg today said he is willing to consider calls to target GOP districts with steeper cuts if legislative Republicans will not vote for taxes or to put taxes on a statewide ballot as part of a budget solution. ... The Sacramento Democrat said he thinks a targeted-cuts scenario like the one state Treasurer Bill Lockyer laid out in an interview with the Bay Area News Group-East Bay's editorial board comes down to "basic fairness." "You don't want to pay for government, well then, you get less of it," he said.
This is an interesting approach. They say this is what their constituents demand, so let them get what they want!

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