Will Republicans Unskew Themselves?

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

(By NCrissie B)

The good news is that Dean Chambers, who admitted his assumptions about the 2012 electorate were skewed by Rasmussen models and wishful thinking and sort-of-apologized to the New York Times‘ Nate Silver, is at least more self-aware than Karl Rove. Rove’s on-air challenge when Fox News called Ohio and the election for President Obama quickly became comedy gold.

Never one to miss an opportunity to ingest his own toejam, Rove dined on his foot again yesterday:

Karl Rove told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly on Thursday that President Obama won re-election “by suppressing the vote” with negative campaign ads that “turned off” potential voters, citing a victory that carried a smaller percentage of the popular vote compared to that of the 2008 presidential race.

UnSkewed … or UnSuppressed?

Seriously, Karl? After Republicans waged a nationwide campaign to limit voter registration, impose ever-stricter voter ID laws, and reduce early voting periods in what both a Pennsylvania legislator and the former chairman of the Florida Republican Party admitted was a partisan attempt to suppress likely Democratic voters, you accuse President Obama of “suppressing the vote” … by criticizing his opponent in campaign ads?

This is, of course, a classic Rove tactic of accusing your opponent of what you have been or will be accused of doing. And Rove, now having to defend his American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS SuperPAC spending to donors wondering aloud how their money was spent, may be flailing around for any gambit to save what remains of his reputation and his lucrative income stream.

Still, Rove’s response highlights a still-untold story about the 2012 election. Romney staffers said he was “shellshocked” by the results Tuesday night, and his lead pollster admitted his internal polling presumed an electorate more like the older, whiter turnout of the 2010 midterms. Were his, Rasmussen’s, and similar models based on a belief that 2008 was a high water mark for women, people of color, and young voters … or on a belief that Republicans’ aggressive voter suppression efforts would succeed?

Demographics and Beyond

Obama advisor David Axelrod said Republicans have “soul searcing to do as to whether they’re going to represent the United States of America as the United States of America is and not based on some 50-year-old model.”

But as Axelrod and Obama pollster Joel Benenson note, the lesson of 2012 is not merely America’s changing demographics:

The president’s victory was a triumph of vision, not of demographics. He won because he articulated a set of values that define an America that the majority of us wish to live in: A nation that makes the investments we need to strengthen and grow the middle class. A nation with a fair tax system, and affordable and excellent education for all its citizens. A nation that believes that we’re most prosperous when we recognize that we are all in it together.

Benenson notes that too many in the media, perhaps spurred by the Romney campaign’s insistence that 2012 would be referendum on President Obama, focused on cherry-picked data like unemployment, consumer confidence, and right/wrong track numbers. But Benenson had deeper data:

Such conventional indicators failed to capture the mind-set of the American people who always had a broader view of the nation’s economic situation and what had happened to their lives. A national survey of 800 voters conducted by our firm – not for the Obama campaign – during the final weekend before Tuesday’s vote, confirmed that a clear majority of Americans viewed this election in the context of the scale of the economic crisis we faced and the deep recession that ensued.

Two key data points illustrate why Americans were always far more open to President Obama’s message and accomplishments than commentators assumed. By a three to one margin (74 percent to 23 percent), voters said that what the country faced since 2008 was an “extraordinary crisis more severe than we’ve seen in decades” as opposed to “a typical recession that the country has every several years.” At the same time, a clear majority, 57 percent, believed that the problems we faced after the crisis were “too severe for anyone to fix in a single term,” while only 4 in 10 voters believed another president would have been able to do more than Mr. Obama to get the economy moving in the past four years.

Simply, American voters were smarter than Republican strategists hoped. Or, if those strategists truly believed their own story of President Obama’s first-term failure, the voters were smarter than the strategists themselves.

“We the People”

Republicans lost the White House and seats in both the Senate and House because their platform of wealth, white, heterosexual, Christian, male privilege – what Fox News‘ Bill O’Reilly called “traditional America” – is out of step with the American electorate.

Exit polls showed a majority of Americans favor tax increases to reduce our deficit and invest in our future. The election was also a banner day for LGBT equality and a backlash against the GOP’s war on women. Minnesota Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison won a fourth term with 65% of the vote, despite repeated attempts – including those by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) – to smear Ellison’s Muslim faith. In Arkansas, as Politicususa‘s Sarah Jones quipped, “A Neo-Confederate, a slavery apologist and a death penalty for children advocate walk into an election … and lose big.

The 2012 election was about more than skewed polls and demographic margins. It was about ideas and values, and a majority of American voters chose progressive Democratic ideas and values. As MSNBC’s Martin Bashir put it, “Hate lost.”

If Republicans can unskew themselves from that, we can not only have a more productive political dialogue. We can also create “a more perfect Union” where “We the People” … means all of us.

(Crossposted from Blogistan Polytechnic Institute (BPICampus.com))

Progressive Guide to 2012 State Ballot Initiatives – Part 1 of 2

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

While re-electing President Obama should be the top priority for progressives throughout the country this fall, we must also remember that there are many important candidates and issues that will be found further down the ballot on November 6.  One of the most important categories of down-ballot issues is ballot initiatives, which provide voters the opportunity to have a direct say on major policy matters.

This year, states have a plethora of ballot initiatives pending for a vote in November.  Below is Part 1 of our two-part guide to the initiatives of biggest importance to progressives this fall, along with links for how to get involved in supporting the progressive position on each initiative.  Here in Part 1, we will address ballot initiatives regarding marriage equality, reproductive freedom, criminal justice, estate taxes, and death with dignity.  In Part 2, we will highlight initiatives regarding worker’s rights, government, and education.

If you live in a state with one of the ballot initiatives, please get involved by speaking with your family, friends, and colleagues; by volunteering; and by writing a letter to your local newspaper editor.  If you live out-of-state, please contribute what you can to support the efforts of the progressive organizations who are working on these initiatives.

Marriage Equality

2011 was a banner year for advancing the cause of LGBT equality. However, the issue of marriage equality has yet to win majority support any time when it has been placed on the ballot.  We have a great opportunity to change that track record this November in Washington State, Minnesota, Maine, and Maryland.

Washington Referendum 74vote Yes to uphold the state legislature’s approval of marriage equality

* Washington United for Marriage  * Contribute  * Volunteer  * Facebook page  * Washington newspaper links

Minnesota Same-Sex Marriage Initiativevote No on constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality

* Minnesotans United for All Families  * Contribute  * Volunteer  * Facebook Page    * Minnesota newspaper links

Maine Same-Sex Marriage Questionvote Yes on 1 to repeal Maine’s ban on marriage equality

* Mainers United for Marriage  * Contribute   * Volunteer  * Facebook Page   *Maine newspaper links

Maryland Question 6 - vote Yes to uphold the state legislature’s approval of marriage equality

* Marylanders for Marriage Equality  * Contribute  * Volunteer  *Facebook Page  * Maryland newspaper links

 

Estate Tax

Oregon Measure 84 – vote No on this proposal that would eliminate Oregon’s estate tax, which applies to estates valued at greater than $1 million.  As we’ve explained previously, the estate tax is the fairest and most meritocratic kind of tax there is. For more on why Oregon’s estate tax is good for that state, check out this fact sheet from Tax Fairness Oregon. And then send a letter to your local Oregon newspaper urging people to vote No on Measure 84.

Reproductive Freedom

Florida Amendment 6 – vote No on this proposal, which would prevent state courts from reading the Florida Constitution’s right to privacy to provide any rights to choice that are broader than provided under the federal Constitution, and forbids the use of any state funds for abortion except as required by federal law (i.e., in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the mother).

* Vote No On 6   * Contribute   * Volunteer    * Facebook Page    * Florida Newspapers

 

Criminal Justice

California Proposition 34 – vote Yes to help California become the 16th state to abolish the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without parole.  As we’ve explained previously, the death penalty is barbaric, ineffective, biased, and costly.  The evidence shows that the death penalty costs taxpayers more than life in prison without parole,  does not deter violent crime, and is marred by significant racial bias and far too frequent ineffective legal representation for those who are charged with capital crimes.

* Yes on 34     * Contribute     * Volunteer    *Facebook Page

California Proposition 36 – vote Yes to reform California’s three-strike law.  Under the current three-strikes law, individuals who have been convicted of two previous “serious or violent” crimes automatically receive a sentence of life in prison if they are convicted of a third crime, even if that third crime is non-violent.  Proposition 36 would reform the law by requiring life in prison only if the third crime is “serious or violent,” thereby saving the state approximately $70 – $100 million per year due to reduced prison populations.

* Committee for Three Strikes Reform   * Contribute   * Volunteer   *Facebook Page

Civil Liberties

Massachusetts Death With Dignity Initiative  - vote Yes on Question 2 to make Massachusetts the third state that allows terminally ill patients to choose to end their lives with dignity.  As we’ve explained previously, our current system that forecloses death with dignity in all but two states is simply unbearable for far too many people facing terminal illness.  One way to help reduce or alleviate these painful situations is to allow a terminally ill individual to get medical assistance in hastening their death, but only through a highly regulated system that includes multiple doctor sign offs, waiting periods, and other precautions to ensure that sick people are not being pressured into assisted suicide.  The Massachusetts ballot initiative would do exactly that, thereby allowing Massachusetts to join Oregon and Washington State in authorizing death with dignity.

* Dignity 2012    * Contribute   * Volunteer   * Facebook Page   * Massachusetts Newspapers

Voting Rights

Minnesota Voter Identification Amendment – vote No on the proposal in Minnesota to require individuals to obtain and present photo identification in order to be able to exercise their right to vote.  Supporters of the voter ID proposal pretend to be responding to rampant voter fraud, but a five-year long investigation by the Department of Justice under President W. Bush found “virtually no evidence of any organized effort” to fraudulently impact federal elections and other analyses have similarly found no evidence of fraud.  What the proposal, which would continue conservative efforts to restrict the voting rights of as many as 758,000 eligible voters, is actually designed to do is to make it as difficult as possible for Democratic-leaning groups to vote.

* Our Vote Our Future  * Contribute   * Volunteer   * Facebook Page  * Minnesota Newspapers

This Valentine’s Day, Help Keep the Progress Towards Marriage Equality Going

Monday, February 13th, 2012

As Winning Progressive reported recently, 2011 was a banner year for LGBT equality.  And 2012 is off to a good start.  Yesterday, Washington State’s Democratic Governor Chris Gregoire signed legislation making that state the seventh to recognize marriage equality.  In doing so, Gov. Gregoire reversed her previous opposition to marriage equality, and Washington became the first state in the country to recognize marriage equality after having previously banned it.  Meanwhile, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit struck down California’s anti-marriage equality Proposition 8 as violating the US Constitution, though the case is now going to the US Supreme Court. And yesterday, the New Jersey State Senate approved marriage equality by a 24-16 vote.

While significant progress has been made, much work remains to ensuring that all LGBT Americans have the same right and opportunity to marry the person they love that heterosexual Americans have.  This Valentine’s Day is a great time for all of us to step forward and support the fight for marriage equality.  Here are five states where helping advance the cause of equality will be especially important in 2012:

New Jersey

The New Jersey marriage equality bill now goes to the state General Assembly, where it is expected to pass.  However, GOP Governor Chris Christie has vowed to veto the legislation, claiming that marriage equality needs to be subject to a voter referendum. If you live in New Jersey call Gov. Christie – 609-292-6000 – and your state legislators, and write a letter to the editor in support of marriage equality.

Maine

In Maine, marriage equality supporters turned in more than 105,000 petition signatures in support of putting the issue of marriage quality on the ballot for the 2012 elections.  This figure is more than twice the number of signatures needed. Assuming that the initiative gets on the ballot, we need to work to make sure it passes.  The organization leading the fight is called Why Marriage Matters Maine, and here are links to helping out:

* Organization website   * Contribute   * Volunteer   * Facebook page    *Maine newspaper links

Maryland

Supporters of equality suffered a setback last spring when marriage equality legislation that had passed the state Senate was narrowly defeated in the state House of Delegates.  A large progressive coalition, however, is back to get the legislation passed in 2012, and Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley announced last week that he has made the legislation one of his administration’s handful of top legislative priorities.   Equality Maryland is leading the fight by, among other things, holding weekly phonebanks throughout the state.  Here are links for helping out:

* Organization website   * Contribute   * Volunteer   * Facebook page   * Maryland newspaper links

Minnesota and North Carolina

Unfortunately, there are also states where we have to play defense, as conservatives have gotten anti-marriage equality initiatives onto the ballot in Minnesota and North Carolina.  In Minnesota, the opposition to this initiative is being led by Minnesotans United:

* organization website  * Contribute  * Volunteer  * Facebook Page    * Minnesota newspaper links

In North Carolina, the effort to stop the anti-marriage equality Amendment One is being led by Protect All North Carolina Families:

* organization website   * Contribute   * Volunteer  * Facebook Page   * North Carolina newspaper links

 

2011: A Great Year for LGBT Equality

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011
Two female sailors become the first same-sex couple to share
the traditional "first kiss" after a US Navy ship  returns.
Photo by Brian J. Clark/AP



2011 has been a banner year for the advancement of LGBT equality at the national, state, and local levels.  Following are some of the highlights.  While much work remains, these last few days of 2011 would be a good time to take a moment to celebrate these truly wonderful progressive victories that have brought our country closer to the ideal of equality for all.

DADT Repealed – On September 20, the discriminatory Don’t  Ask Don’t Tell policy, which excluded openly gay and lesbian Americans from serving their country in the military, officially ended.  The official end of that policy followed a certification by military leaders and President Obama that ending the ban on LGBT Americans serving their country in the military would not jeopardize military readiness.  Such certification requirement was established in legislation passed by the Democratic House and Senate in December 2010 that started the repeal process.

Challenging DOMA – In February 2011, the Obama Administration and Attorney General Eric Holder announced that they would no longer defend the “Defense Of Marriage Act” in court because they concluded that the Act is unconstitutional.  In July, the Obama DOJ filed a brief supporting a federal court lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of DOMA, and earlier this month the DOJ sent one of its top civil rights attorneys to argue in federal district court against DOMA.

Supporting Repeal of DOMA – President Obama announced his support for the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the indefensible DOMA.  The Respect for Marriage Act has been introduced in the Senate by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and in the House by Representative Jerry Nadler (D-NY).

Promoting LGBT Rights Abroad – In December, the Obama Administration issued a memorandum announcing its intent to use foreign diplomacy, including foreign aid, to promote LGBT rights around the world. That announcement was accompanied by a speech in favor of LGBT riInghts given by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at United Nations Human Rights Council.

First Openly Gay Federal Judge – In July, the first openly gay federal judge, J. Paul Oetken, was confirmed by the US Senate by an 80-13 vote after being nominated by President Obama and recommended by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY).

Hospital Visitation Rights – On January 17, Department of Health and Human Services regulations requiring any hospital that receives Medicare or Medicaid funding to guarantee equal visitation rights for LGBT patients went into effect.  The rules were promulgated at the direction of President Obama, who had issued a Presidential Memorandum calling for equal visitation rights.

Public Support for Marriage Equality – For the first time in nearly a decade of polling, the majority of respondents (53%) stated they were in favor of marriage equality.  44% were opposed.

US Senate Support for Marriage Equality – the number of Senators who have publicly declared their support for marriage equality is now up to at least 20 (all of them Democrats), after Senators John Kerry, Mark Udall, and Robert Menedez all announced their support in 2011.

New York - July 23, 2011 was the first day in which same-sex marriages were legally authorized in New York, thanks to legislation that was recently passed with the strong support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

California - California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful (“FAIR”) Education Act, which requires that the economic, social, and political contributions of LGBT Californians be included in the school curriculum in that state.

Connecticut – In July, Connecticut became the 15th state in the country to ban discrimination based on gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, and other areas of the law.

Delaware - In May, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell signed legislation making his state the 8th in the nation to recognize same-sex civil unions.  The law is scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2012.

Florida – The Miami-Dade County School District, which is the fourth largest in the nation, added sexual orientation and gender identity to their anti-bullying and harassment policy.

Hawaii - In February, Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed legislation recognizing same-sex civil unions.

Maryland – Supporters of equality suffered a setback last spring when marriage equality legislation that had passed the state Senate was narrowly defeated in the state House of Delegates.  A large progressive coalition, however, is back to get the legislation passed next year, and Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley announced last week that he has made the legislation one of his administration’s handful of top legislative priorities.  If you’d like to support this effort, “like” Equality Maryland’s Facebook page.

Massachusetts – In November, Massachusetts became the 16th state to ban discrimination in housing, employment, insurance, and other areas based on gender identity.

Washington – in Washington State, Democratic Congressman and candidate for Governor Jay Inslee publicly announced his support for marriage equality a few days before launching his gubernatorial campaign.  If you’d like to learn more about Inslee and his campaign, here is his campaign Facebook page and website.

Utah – the state Democratic Party elected Utah’s first openly gay major political party leader by choosing Jim Dabakis.  Dabakis is a co-founder of the Utah Pride Center and Equality Utah.

Quick Hits – An Apology to Obama, Record Fine for a Coal Mine Disaster, and US to Promote LGBT Rights Overseas

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Here are a few stories that we’d like to briefly highlight:

A Formerly-Disillusioned Obama Supporter Apologizes:

The L.A. Times yesterday had an interesting op-ed from a Californian named Spike Dolomite Ward, a 2008 supporter of President Obama who had become disillusioned because she felt the President had not done enough to help the middle class.  Then Ms. Ward was stricken with breast cancer, lost her employer-based insurance coverage, but was able to get insurance through the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan that was created by President Obama’s health care reform legislation.   As Ms. Ward explains:

Which brings me to my apology. I was pretty mad at Obama before I learned about this new insurance plan. I had changed my registration from Democrat to Independent, and I had blacked out the top of the “h” on my Obama bumper sticker, so that it read, “Got nope” instead of “got hope.” I felt like he had let down the struggling middle class. My son and I had campaigned for him, but since he took office, we felt he had let us down.

So this is my public apology. I’m sorry I didn’t do enough of my own research to find out what promises the president has made good on. I’m sorry I didn’t realize that he really has stood up for me and my family, and for so many others like us. I’m getting a new bumper sticker to cover the one that says “Got nope.” It will say “ObamaCares.”

Record $209 Million Fine For Coal Mine Disaster:

In April 2010, a major explosion killed 29 miners at the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia that was then owned by Massey Energy.   Earlier this week, the new owner of that mine, Alpha Natural Resources, agreed to a $209 million penalty , including $1.5 million to each of the victim’s families and $80 million for safety investments in the company’s coal mines.  The settlement of the federal government action against the company is by far the largest ever in a mining accident case, and it came on the same day that the federal Mining Safety and Health Administration issued a 1,000 page report detailing numerous shoddy safety practices and the steps that Massey took to hide those practices from federal government inspectors.

Promoting LGBT Rights Overseas:

The New York Times reports that the Obama Administration has announced its intent to use the power of American diplomacy to promote LGBT equality throughout the world:

The Obama administration announced on Tuesday that the United States would use all the tools of American diplomacy, including the potent enticement of foreign aid, to promote gay rights around the world.

In a memorandum issued by President Obama in Washington and in a speech by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton here, the administration vowed to actively combat efforts by other nations that criminalize homosexual conduct, abuse gay men, lesbians, bisexuals or transgendered people, or ignore abuse against them.

“Some have suggested that gay rights and human rights are separate and distinct,” Mrs. Clinton said at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, “but in fact they are one and the same.”

The Presidential memorandum can be found here and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s speech announcing the policy can be found here.

The Obama DOJ Takes on DOMA

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Part of making our progressive goals a reality is thanking and supporting our representatives when they do the right thing on an issue.  Last Friday, the Obama Administration’s Department of Justice did the right thing by filing a brief in federal court arguing that the indefensible Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) is unconstitutional because it discriminates against LGBT Americans.   Thank the Obama Administration for taking this stand by contacting the White House and by making sure your progressive friends and acquaintances are aware of the steps that the Obama Administration is taking to end DOMA.

The core of DOMA is Section 3, which defines “marriage” for purposes of federal law as being only between a man and a woman, and “spouse” as being only a person of the opposite gender who is a husband or wife.  The result of this provision is that same-sex couples are not able to receive any federal benefits that accrue to married couples or spouses, even if a same-sex marriage is legally valid under state law.  There are approximately 1,138 provisions in federal law in which benefits, rights, or privileges are dependent on marital status and, therefore, denied to same-sex couples by DOMA.  These include health insurance and other benefits for the spouses of federal employees, numerous tax provisions that benefit married couples, and special considerations given to spouses in immigration, asylum, and deportation proceedings.  In short, DOMA denies LGBT Americans equal rights under the law.

Because of its discriminatory impact, there are numerous lawsuits pending in federal courts that challenge the constitutionality of DOMA.  In 2009 and 2010, the Obama Administration DOJ defended DOMA in federal court, as it is customary for DOJ to defend federal laws unless and until Congress changes them.  In February 2011, however, the Obama Administration and Attorney General Eric Holder announced that they would no longer defend DOMA in court because they concluded that the Act is unconstitutional.

Last Friday, the Obama Administration DOJ went a major step further and filed a brief in the case of Golinski v. United States Office of Personnel Management urging the court to find Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional because that law was “motivated in substantial part by animus toward gay and lesbian individuals and their intimate relationships.”  In that case, Karen Golinski, a federal employee, is seeking to have her spouse covered under the federal employee health insurance plan, just as opposite sex spouses are covered.  Click here to read the DOJ brief, which includes a detailed discussion of the discrimination that LGBT have and continue to experience at the hands of federal, state, and local governments and private actors.

The DOJ filing is an important step, as it is the first time that the federal government has urged that a court apply heightened scrutiny to a law that discriminates against LGBT Americans (just as heightened scrutiny applies to laws that discriminate based on race or gender).  The litigation over DOMA is also a good example of how elections matter.  When the Obama Administration announced that it would stop defending DOMA in court, the House Republicans, acting through the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (which has a 3-2 Republican majority), hired their own lawyers to defend DOMA in court.  This effort is being paid for by taxpayers, at the rate of $520 per hour and up to $500,000 total.   The Obama Administration DOJ brief discussed above was filed in response to the House Republicans’ motion asking the court to dismiss Golinski’s lawsuit on the grounds that DOMA is constitutional.   The House Republicans’ brief is available here, and it is striking how different it is from the brief that the Obama Administration filed.

When the Obama Administration’s DOJ defended DOMA in 2009, progressive bloggers such as AmericaBlog were harshly critical.  That criticism was certainly understandable, though considerably overwrought at times.  Now that the Obama Administration DOJ has stood up on this issue and urged a federal court to find DOMA unconstitutional, we certainly hope that progressives will thank and support the Obama Administration for doing the right thing.   You can help out by contacting the White House, writing a letter to your local newspaper editor, and talking with your friends and colleagues about why you support the Obama Administration standing up for equality for LGBT Americans.