Friday, November 04, 2005

Partisan Democrats?

The Yellow Dog Democrat has two very good pieces analyzing the partisanship of Republican voting in the U.S. Senate.

The first is here:

Today's follow-up is here:

The bottom line is that for all the Republicans' bellyaching this week about Harry Reid's shutdown maneuver, the Republican Senate--including its supposedly moderate wing--has given Democrats absolutely zilch in the way of bipartisan cooperation. 80% of Democratic sponsored bills--many of them amendments--have been swatted down by the Republican majority, and most with near unanimous Republican solidarity.

The YDD derives from this that Republicans don't have anything to bitch about when it comes to "bipartisanship" or "cooperation" or "courtesy".

What I draw from these statistics, in addition, is that the so-called "moderate" group of Republicans is a myth. They may talk a good game, occasionally, about wanting to hold the administration accountable or of wanting to do good by the American people, but their voting undermines their claims. You might want to remember the pattern of voting among "moderate" Republican senators when Chuck Hagel and John McCain come calling for independent and Democratic votes in 2008.

Thanks to MahaBlog for the link.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Don't Forget C-Span

Although Harry Reid got the attention earlier this week when he shut down the Senate in protest over Republican foot-dragging on the Intelligence Committee's WMD-White House investigation, House Democrats have also been keeping the heat on.

On the night of Rule 21, four House Democrats, Tim Ryan (OH), William Delahunt (MA) and two reps from Florida (Debbie Shultz Wasserman and Kendrick Meek) let it rip. Picking up where Reid left off, the four let loose on Rove, Scooter, Cheney and the cabal's lies and failures. Tim Ryan was the best.

Tonight the same tandem was at it again, this time reading from the Michael Brown's greatest hits email trail.

With the dominance of the right wing media it sometimes feels as if Democrats are nowhere to be seen or heard, and have been intimidated into silence. But at least some aren't afraid and haven't mailed it in.

So when you get a chance, tune into C-Span at night, after hours. And remember to show these reps some love, too. Harry Reid was great this week, but others are helping, too.

Could Evan Bayh Win Indiana's Electoral Votes?

LA Democrat at MyDD assumes he can.

I'm not so sure. Yes, he's won his gubernatorial and Senate races there handily. But having those same voters choose him for the presidency, where they could reasonably assume his views--if more liberal than their own--would have more importance, give me pause. And his Republican competition would be much steeper in a presidential race than the state level.

Nevertheless, his prospects in that state, and in other proximate or border states (Ohio, Missouri, Iowa, Kentucky) are probably better in those places than those any other candidate, at least on paper.

And while we're a million years from 2008, Bush's poll numbers are down everywhere, including these states, giving this Democrat at least a sliver of hope the Democratic candidate can pry one or more of those states away from the Republicans in 2008.

Bayh is also making himself seen. C-Span carried a speech he gave recently for New Hampshire's Democratic-sponsored, Jefferson-Jackson Day fundraiser, which was at least the second time he's been in the state, or at least the second time C-Span carried his presence there in the last couple of months.

At the same time, Joe Biden and John Edwards, appeared to appreciative crowds recently in Kentucky.

With beseiged and unpopular governors in Ohio and Kentucky, Republicans are on the defensive there.

Naturally, there's a lot of time left for Bush to regain his second-term footing, and even if he doesn't fully recapture his previous aura among the faithful, another Republican candidate in 08 may reignite conservatives. And Kentucky's Fletcher and Ohio's Taft will be gone by then.

But its better to have favorable indicators at even this early stage than to not have them.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Harry Reid has effectively shut down the Senate, using a procedure known as Rule 21, which requires only a seconding motion to summon all the Senators to a behind-close-doors session, to call Republicans to task over the Plame outing, the Scooter Libby indictment, and the war fiasco. In particular, Reid is calling the Republican leadership and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts to task for not following through on their stated commitment to conduct a phase 2 investigation of the lead-up to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.

And he's blistering the administration on just about everything, from the war to Katrina and the prison abuse scandal.

Republicans were just starting to bask in the idea, and the media's acceptance of their spin, that the Libby indictment meant the end of the CIA-leak investigation ("there was no crime...only one indictment...Libby just one bad apple...nothing to see hear, please disperse and move along") and that with the withdrawal of Harriet Miers and the subsequent nomination of radical conservative Sam Alito, the conservatives were back in charge again. Well, they may be in charge, but Harry Reid is turning up the heat.

Republican leaders, conditioned by past Democratic acquiescence, are shocked, SHOCKED by the sudden spine growth:

Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., said Reid was making "some sort of stink about Scooter Libby and the CIA leak."

In addition, Lott said, Reid's move violated the Senate's tradition of courtesy and consent. But there was nothing in Senate rules enabling Republicans to thwart Reid's effort.

As Reid spoke, Frist met in the back of the chamber with a half-dozen senior GOP senators, including Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas, who bore the brunt of Reid's criticism. Reid said Roberts reneged on a promise to fully investigate whether the administration exaggerated and manipulated intelligence leading up to the war.

The Republicans are upset. What happened to "courtesy and consent"? Boo hoo hoo. And the Media was caught without its Republican talking points.

"I never did give them hell. I just told the truth, and they thought it was hell."
---Harry S. Truman (Reid)

Scalito: A Filibuster-Worth Pick?

Democrats will soon have to consider whether the nomination of Sam "Scalito" warrants a filibuster to stop.

What are the main factors that should influence such a decision?

I think the factors break down between the practical and the principled.

The practical factors, of course, are whether the filibuster would be successful, both in its immediate impact on defeating Scalito, and on its deterrent effect in persuading Bush to nominate a more moderate jurist. A secondary practical factor is that of whether the party risks opposition from the conservative press, and public opinion for Democratic Senators in red states, by filibustering.

Principled factors include the party's long term policy agenda and ideological beliefs. Other principled factors could include the historical application of the filibuster to supreme court picks by a minority party, the Democratic Party's past support for "Scalito" and other conservative nominees, both under the current administration, and in past decades--such as the well-trumpeted (by conservatives) unanimous support for Scalia in the 1980's.

From a practical standpoint, I think a filibuster would fail. The Republicans would initiate the nuclear option. The conservative press, which is already trying to force an easy confirmation, would be hostile (witness the early antics of Tweety).

But if "Scalito" warrants a filibuster, I believe Democrats should go to the mattresses, anyway.

This is because while it's immediate practical implications might be negative, it would help, if not force, Democrats to finally confront the Constitutional issues that underly its opposition, thus serving to help distinguish itself from the radical conservatives heading the Republican Party.

As for any rhetoric from conservatives in the media that "it's unprecedented to filibuster" judicial nominees, and that Democrats risk appearing unprincipled, if not inconsistent, in approving past conservative appointments but opposing this one, let me just say this about that: That was then, this is now. The rules have changed. And the Republicans have changed them. As Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson point out in their book, Off Center, the Republican Power Elite has spent the last 20 years skewing the rules of politics to the benefit of themselves and their privileged supporters. Democrats should not feel obligated to play by old rules that the media wants applied only to the Democratic Party. If the filibuster is a tool remaining in the political arsenal, Democrats should not hesitate to use it.

As for the risk a Democratic led filibuster could cause for the next Democratic Administration or Democratic Senate, do you think the next Republican Congress in an Evan Bayh or Joe Biden administration is going to play nicely regardless of how the Democrats treat Scalito?

It's time that Democrats recognized their status as the minority party. As Hacker and Pierson point out, Democrats are a congressional minority in part due to the biases inherent in a system that apportions Senate votes equally to all the states, minimizing the influence of larger states with big cities (in fact, as the authors point out, the Democratic share of the vote in both the House and the Senate is higher than its representation), and in part due to the influence of redistricting in the House. Neither institutional constraint is going away anytime soon. The Democrats face a long road ahead. One of the ways to start the path back to power is to set out for all to see, what the party stands for. The Scalito nomination seems as good a place as any to start.

Scalito: Anti-Worker

Nathan Newman at TPM Cafe has the rundown on "Scalito's" anti-worker opinions while on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

It says a lot about the state of our nation's politics that not only is this the type of judge that could be nominated to the highest court in the land, but that there is a not insignificant portion of the body politic that views such a nomination with gusto.

And that the Democratic Party has not put forth a clear and concerted effort in recent years to repudiate the type of policies and the underlying philosophy that's represented by this pick is of even greater worry.

An Interesting Ad

I saw an interesting political campaign ad over the weekend. It was targeted against Robert McDonnell, the Republican candidate for Virginia Attorney General, whose own ads I had already seen (and which, like this one, didn't openly identify his partisan affiliation).

Anyway, the ad reported that McDonnell was a graduate of Pat Roberton's Regent University, that Robertson had donated to McDonnell's campaign, and that McDonnell was opposed to, among other things, stem cell research (he's also, apparently, and not surprisingly, quite the homophobe).

Anyway, the ad interested me because it was the first ad I can recall seeing in a long time that openly took on the Republicans' achiles heel: the radical religious right.

Now, granted, I suspect this ad was restricted to the northern VA suburbs, and not playing down south, where Robertson, and his buddy, Jerry Falwell, are more revered.

And I don't enough about the Democratic candidate for Attorney General, Creigh Deeds', to know whether this is an act of desperation, a throw-away tactic for northern VA and not part of a broader strategy, or something else.

Regardless, it's an important step for Democratic aspirants to make. Not all Republicans can be tied to Pat Robertson so directly, but Democrats can raise the issues this ad is raising, such as stem cell research, and turn the infamous problem of wedge issues against Republicans for a change.

I'd also like to see this tactic used to raise the profile of issues like the right to privacy, and the separation of church and state, which are not only critically important issues to our society as the politics of supreme court nominations make abundantly clear, but also from a practical standpoint in that I think the radically conservative position on these issues is not the popular one.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Hittin' the Books

In addition to working on my dissertation proposal, I've been hitting Borders/Amazon far too much lately.

But I think there are some real soon-to-be-destined classics out there begging to be read. Last week I got Off Center by Paul Pierson and Jacob Hacker as well as The Rise of American Democracy by Sean Wilentz.

Yesterday, I picked up Doris Kearns Goodwin's Lincoln biography, Team of Rivals, as well as The Third Reich in Power by Richard Evans. This last book is apparently the second of a planned trilogy on the rise and fall of the Nazi's.

All four seem to be well written. Off Center is the shortest by far of the four and I am the furthest along in it. I hope to be done with it soon, and to have a book report of it up here shortly.

For now, happy reading.


Skins 0
NYFootball Giants 36

A brutal, brutal loss for the Redskins. A terrible performance. Fortunately I was out running errands and didn't see any of the game. But here's the thing. The rest of the Skins schedule doesn't look too bad. This was destined to be one of the season's worst games. Next week the Skins HOST the Eagles, who were beaten badly in Dallas three weeks ago, and yesterday, at Denver, 49-21, and last week they barely survived on a blocked kick to beat SD (at home). From there, the Skins go to Tampa, which doesn't have a starting quarterback, host Oakland and San Diego, host the Giants, go to Arizona, go to the St. Louis Rams, and wind up the season at the Eagles. These are all winnable games for Washington, as long as the injuries that appear to be piling up don't deplete them too much.

Eagles 21
Broncos 49

Great game if you hate the Eagles (or any other NFC East team). Actually more interesting than the score might reflect. Broncos went ahead 28-0, rushing everything they had at Donovan McNabb and daring the Eagles to run, which they don't do much of. The Eagles came back with 21 straight points and we're threatening to tie the game up before Denver intercepted a pass in the end zone, triggering another Denver run. The Broncos got some big plays from RB Tatum Bell, the most recent of a long list of runners who have done well in Shanahan's offense. Jake the Snake played smart, too. Everyone's talking about Indy in the AFC given their perfect start, but Denver is creeping up, ready and waiting if Indy slips at New England next week.

Vikes 13
Panthers 38

Vikes get pounded again. And oh yeah, Daunte Culpepper is hurt, and might be out the rest of the year.

Dolphins 21
Saints 6

Jim Haslet will no doubt be joining Mike Tice on the coaches unemployment line this offseason.

Cardinals 13
Dallas 34

Dallas can put up some points. If the Skins don't rebound, I look for either the Cowboys or the Giants to win the NFC East.

Baltimore tonight

Ravens are without defensive superstars, Ed Reed and Ray Lewis. But they will have either Kyle Boller or Anthony Wright at quarterback. This could be ugly.