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Monday, October 24, 2016

Look at it this way: at least the 2014 midterm elections are over.

Maybe the most clueless pronouncement ever made by a U.S. Supreme Court Justice was Anthony Kennedy’s comment in the 2010 Citizens United case arguing that unlimited “independent [campaign] expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.”

Not even secret donations by free-range tycoons hiding behind fake “charitable” groups with names like Citizens for Cute Kitten Videos. Because when Scrooge McDuck dumps a truckload of bullion into a political campaign, it’s not because he wants anything in return. It’s all about the public good.

Also, the justices ruled, because money is a form of speech. Scrooge needn’t even disclose spending $50 million on TV ads claiming that a candidate seeking to prevent McDuck Industries from dumping liquid cyanide into backyard swimming pools has a hidden history of torturing kittens.

That would be a violation of Scrooge’s First Amendment right to free speech: exactly like a law forbidding you, dear reader, from posting a comment calling me a mangy dog. How could anybody think otherwise?

If only the Supremes had ruled that speech was a form of money. That’s one I could have endorsed.

Metaphysical absurdities aside, the clearest effect of Citizens United has been to make people more contemptuous of politics. “This fall,” writes New York Times columnist Tim Egan, “voters are more disgusted, more bored and more cynical about the midterm elections than at any time in at least two decades….just 29 percent of the electorate said they were ‘enthusiastic’ about voting this year.”

And those, I fear, are mainly the crackpots. Where I live (Arkansas) the easiest way to avoid toxic political arguments during this election season is to pronounce anathema on the lot. Nobody argues with you (except my sainted wife, who tends be dreadfully earnest about these things).

Particularly resented is the ceaseless barrage of TV commercials that has made watching local news broadcasts hazardous to mental health. Ordinary citizens simply don’t know who, if anybody, to believe. The easy option is to believe nobody, and to quietly yearn for the return of the shouting auto dealers and discount furniture pitchmen.

Alas, that reaction’s exactly what McDuck Industries wants. To fix the problem will apparently take a constitutional amendment stipulating what should have been obvious to a powerhouse intellect like Justice Kennedy: that money’s definitely not speech, it’s power.

And that apportioning and delimiting power is what the U.S. Constitution is all about.

Another unfortunate aspect of the 2014 campaign has been the temptation to portray it as a national referendum on President Obama. The news media’s Cult of the Presidency sustains the ongoing melodrama and affirms their own self-importance.

Historically speaking, almost every president’s party loses power in sixth-year midterm elections—perhaps as it begins to dawn upon starry-eyed supporters that the country’s in as big a mess as ever. Thus what the Washington Post calls “Obama’s journey from triumphant, validated Democratic hero to a political millstone weighing on his party’s chances.”

It happened to Ronald Reagan in 1986 and to George W. Bush in 2006, and it would probably have happened to Bill Clinton in 1998—booming economy notwithstanding—if the fools hadn’t impeached him.

It’s particularly likely when a large number of Senate seats are being contested in states that the president lost two years earlier—definitely helping McDuck Industries identify which races to target.

Consider Arkansas, where Sen. Mark Pryor drew no GOP opponent in 2008, but finds himself confronted with McDuck-financed Rep. Tom Cotton, whose entire campaign consists of repeating “Obama, Obama, Obama” like a cockatoo.

It’s apt to work, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist John Brummett writes “because of an irrational aversion to President Barack Obama and Obamacare, the local application of which is saving hospitals, insuring hundreds of thousands of poor people, holding down premiums and saving the state vital money in its Medicaid matching.”

Arkansas, however, ain’t America, only a provincial one percent of it. What’s more, the “irrational aversion,” sad to say, has ancient roots.

Otherwise, two thoughts:

First, Obama is not as unpopular nationally as frontrunning news media pretend. As Media Matters’ Eric Boehlert points out, despite misleading headlines about “plummeting” approval rates, the president’s actual numbers have consistently held in the low- to mid-40s—not good, but nothing close to the mid-20s achieved by George W. Bush.

Secondly, along with Obamacare, improving the health and security of millions, he’s greatly improved the economy, controlled budget deficits, and added 5.5 million jobs, reducing unemployment to 5.9 percent.

In foreign policy, sure the Middle East remains a godawful mess. But when wasn’t it?

Maybe Paul Krugman laid it on a bit thick in Rolling Stone, calling Barack Obama “one of the most consequential and, yes, successful presidents in American history.”

Nevertheless, barring unforeseen disasters, the president’s claims are substantial.

Photo: Brendan Hoffman via Flickr

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Copyright 2014 The National Memo
  • Dominick Vila

    The best thing we can do, in the face of defeat, is reflect on what
    happened, make an effort to understand the reasons for our defeat, and
    act upon our findings. Looking for excuses, and hoping for a level of
    obstructionism that would destroy the opposition is not going to help
    While it is absolutely true that our economy is recovering
    nicely, that jobs are being created, that inflation is low, the the DOW
    is at record highs, that gas prices are declining, that the real estate
    market is recovering, that the incidence of Wall Street abuse has been
    reduced, and that reducing the Federal government deficit is a step in
    the right direction, the truth is that we ignored a facet of our economy
    that was of critical importance, not only in the outcome of this
    midterm election, but for the well being of millions of Americans. That
    is, the fact that millions of fellow Americans have not been touched by
    the economic recovering and are struggling to make ends meet.
    The availability of high paying jobs in sectors of our economy, such as the high tech industry and the healthcare industry, does not hide the fact that there are many among us who have been left behind. Evidence of this became obvious when Democratic, union, counties in states like Kentucky and West Virginia voted for Republican candidates, and the passing comment made by Mitch McConnell during his victory speech, when he talked about unemployed miners, most of them union workers.
    Those unemployed miners, and the millions of assembly line workers who have lost their jobs as a result of outsourcing, are one of the most important reasons for the outcome of this midterm election. Most importantly, the GOP seized our inability or lack of interest on this issue, and suggested solutions that, while they may not solve the problem, they demonstrated a greater interest towards those who are struggling to make ends meet. It doesn’t matter whether or not the reason for the problems that some of our fellow citizens is the direct result of their own decisions, the fact that our government is expected to address the needs of all of our citizens, and the perception that the Obama administration has not done that, is a major contributor to this political debacle.
    I hope we wake up from our stupor before it is too late, because what is likely to happen is the exact opposite to what we hope. Instead of obstructionism, what we are likely to see is a Congress willing to negotiate and pursue goals or “solutions” such as corporate tax breaks to encourage our business community to invest at home and build industry that requires large number of semi-skilled workers. The construction of the Keystone XL pipeline will be at the forefront of their agenda, not because they are unaware of the environmental dangers or the fact that only a few thousand would benefit, but because it would demonstrate a level of commitment to help people who are fearful of the future and who have lost the ability to dream.
    The real question is not what the GOP controlled Congress is going to do, but how far is President Obama going to go to meet them half way?

    • TZToronto

      Oddly, McConnell now says that he’s looking forward to working with President Obama. What happened to the prime objective of making President Obama’s tenure an abject failure? My guess is that McConnell’s prime objective is still in play and that failure of the Republican agenda (whatever that is) to get signed into law by President Obama will be laid at the President’s feet with the claim that President Obama is out of touch with what the American people (i.e., the Koch bros.) want. Clearly, Congressional Democrats will have to get a lot more vociferous if the 2016 outcome is to look different from this awful result.

      • Dominick Vila

        The reason for the apparent change of heart is due to the fact that the GOP no longer has the excuse of an “obstructionist” Senate. With the GOP in control of the House and Senate, they have no choice but to govern. There is no doubt in my mind that they will try to set up President Obama by sending him bills that they know are unacceptable to him, and that would result in him vetoing them or caving in. Either option would spell further disaster for Democrats. I am more interested in finding out how far will President Obama go to compromise and put an end to the gridlock in Washington, than what the GOP controlled Congress is going to do. The GOP did not sweep this midterm election because they are dumb. Their campaign team was outstanding, they showed a level of discipline that was conspicuous by its absence on our side, and they did what had to be done to win. It remains to be seen whether or not they demonstrate the same discipline and pragmatism now that they have nobody else to blame. The problem for Democrats may turn out to be the exact opposite to what we anticipate. I would not be surprised if both Boehner and McConnell make an overt effort to work with the President, try to solve some of the problems we have…with 2016 in mind.

        • Faraday_Cat

          I just hope that if they do the latter, we can fervently point out any bills they push through that are identical to some they obstructed while in the minority…

          • Dominick Vila

            I share your opinion. It would also be nice to highlight the effect of what I expect to be the centerpiece of their “solutions”, which I expect to be focused on tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy.

      • Faraday_Cat

        I don’t know that I will find anyone to take the bet, but my “get rich quick” scheme is to bet someone a whole lot of money that McConnell is full of carp…

    • S.J. Jolly

      “How far is President Obama going to go to meet them half way?: I suspect that “half way” is going to be quite close to Obama’s abject surrender line. With the Republican Party heavily controlled by the Tea Party, and the Tea Party heavily controlled by hard-right billionaires, Congressional Republicans are going to go for all they can get.

  • I’ve often wondered how money influences elections. It can be used to buy access to the voters through the media but intelligent voters simply don’t listen. What’s left? Are our elections decided by those who are too stupid to ignore political ads? Why are so many voters so stupid?

    • S.J. Jolly

      Push people’s buttons enough times, and you can sell them most anything. Intelligent voters just have some buttons different.

    • Faraday_Cat

      The access is a huge part of it…if there are pros and cons to a ballot initiative, but you only EVER hear one side of it (which of course makes it sound like a good idea via spin)…and you are civic-minded enough to vote but too busy (or lazy) to research the other side…how do you think that vote is going to come out?

  • bcsurvivor

    Now come the excuses. I’m surprised you haven’t found a way to blame Bush. The bottom line is the American people have finally realized (although a bit late) that Progressive (aka Socialism) policies do not work to make societies better. The real truth is there are more high powered donors to the Democratic Party than to the Repubs. You’ve been listening to the wrong sources for your information if you believe what they’re trying to sell you. Those who fought so hard to gain American independence would be ashamed and astounded at how easily we have gradually given up our freedoms. This is the very thing they tried so hard to keep from happening. This is our last chance to turn this around and restore what used to be a great country. BTW, the Koch brothers are not evil. They are hard working, good Americans. They have built companies that provide good paying jobs to thousands of Americans. Those in power are trying everything they can to get you to believe otherwise. Don’t be fooled. Do your own research and don’t rely on those trying to brainwash you. Please wake up before it’s too late. The Democrat party of today is not the party of 20 years ago and it started with the Clintons. They have gotten rich off of you. We should never rely on the government to do anything for us. They screw it up every time. The next time you are tempted to say “I wish someone would do….” realize you are the someone and it is better if you take care of it yourself. Please stop allowing those in power to continue to take away our freedoms. I want to be able to choose whether or not I buy a product (health insurance) – I do not want someone telling me I have to. I could go on, but hopefully I’ve given you something to think about. Oh, I am not an imposter – I was invited to receive this publication. Oops!

    • jmprint

      I see you are a breast cancer survivor, God is good, but I’m sure you had a nice insurance in place that you could afford to help you survive. My sister on the other hand did not survive, she couldn’t afford the insurance premiums.

      … and is that the way you feel about birth control, that a women should be able to purchase her contraceptives when she needs and wants them . . .and is that the way you feel about human beings of the same gender that love one another but can’t have the benefits of a union . . . and do you really think that men should have the say so, if and when a women can make a choice if she needs an abortion. … and do really think that people that make minimum wage can survive on $7.25 an hour?

      You should read the article in Rolling Stones about the Kock Brothers and if you don’t see anything wrong then I suspect you are also a member the John Birch Society! The Kock brothers will destroy our water, air and homes with all the fracking and no oversight. And eventually they will own not only the political system, but you and I. Good Luck.

      Us pions will survive regardless, because that’s what we do best.

      So no we are not clueless, just not in the same realm of mind set.

      So vote for GREED and that’s what you will get. Which side do you think the Lord would be on?

      • bcsurvivor

        My survival so far has nothing to do with insurance – the copays, etc set me back plenty. The point is I want to be able to make my own decisions. If they mandate we have health insurance what else will they mandate. They are close to mandating vaccines and other harmful things. I want that choice. I am harming no one if I choose not to. We all make choices affecting our health. We should be responsible for those choices. Women have access to birth control – they need to pay for it if they choose. I should not have to pay for their choices. Does the baby have a choice in an abortion? Don’t think anyone is asking them. Minimum wage is not about surviving. It is about an incentive to move to something better. I worked minimum wage to pay my way through school and then went on to better paying jobs – it works. You should read something other than Rolling Stone on the Koch Brothers. They are from Wichita, KS – google an article from the local newspaper – I think they would know more about them than RS. They are not what’s going to take over and ruin anything – it’s the progressives. You should be way more afraid of Alan Grayson and Nancy Pelosi and others with communist ties than you are of the Koch brothers. I see more greed from the progressives than from anyone else. Don’t confuse greed with common sense capitalism – it along with Christianity has by far produced the best society conditions than any other system. What we are doing wrong is allowing government to interfere in the true workings of both. There is evil being marketed to us – we need to see it for what it is. Which side do you think the Lord would be on?

        • dtgraham

          The Lord would probably be on the side of those with breast cancer, who don’t have anywhere near the money and options that you obviously do, to also get the same treatment that you’ve received. Why? Because they’re human beings who only had the misfortune of getting very sick and don’t have your resources.

          Implying that income level is just a choice that should determine how much health care you get when you desperately need it, is callous beyond belief.

          To then talk about “evil”, and abortion, and Christianity in terms of the way you see your personal morality is the definition of hubris.

        • jmprint

          The point is we all want to make our own decisions. Why is it ok for YOU to want that and not other women. (just like bad sex, hey I got mine). If the republicans mandate that women have to get sonograms, what else will they demand, the republicans in Texas already mandate that a little girl receives the HPV shot, so your spills has no concern but for yourself. You are harming other women, other human beings by your ideology. I see you don’t mind paying for the little blue pill to help your husband’s erection! And yes minimum wage is about surviving for a large portion of our population, you are just to ignorant to know better, while you sit in the comfort zone, voting to send our tax dollars to subsidize the wealthy all along criticizing the poor and under privileged. And for your information I read ALOT and I research for facts. Are you afraid to read the article about the Kock Brother? Try it, it might wake you up, and then maybe not if you are one that is raking in profits from their greed. Mom always said, tell me who you lay with and I will tell you what kind of person you are. Ms Greedy! I can’t believe you guys in Kansas would vote for the same idiot that is bankrupting your state, oh not to worry the Kocks will bail you out! NOT!. The middle class will take care of that for you. I’m not confused about greed the Lord taught me well. He taught me to love God the most and my neighbor before I love myself. Christianity is just that, a Word, remember the BK killer he was a christian like YOU. What’s in your Heart is what counts and I walk beside the Lord everyday of my life, so there is your answer. How many times do you read your bible that you can’t understand what He stood for.
          An abortion involves an embryo, a fetus, not a baby. An abortion terminates the birth. A baby has rights when it is born. A women that gets violently raped should have her rights, isn’t that what you are fighting for YOUR RIGHTS? When men become PERFECT, then there will be no need for abortion!!!!

          • Kurt CPI

            You make some good points, but if you are going to call someone “to ignorant”, you should at least try to use the correct word (“too”) when accusing. It makes you look “too ignorant” to credibly make the accusation.

          • jmprint

            It’s grammatical and you failed to point out the other errors, but I never claimed to be perfect. The word ignorant was the vocal point not the too.

          • Kurt CPI

            Improper use of grammar is acceptable – but not when accusing someone else of ignorance. Improper use of grammar is due to ignorance. It’s the pott callling the keddle black.

          • jmprint

            So is it Keddle or Kettle?

          • Kurt CPI

            Exactly! It’s also “pot” not “pott”

          • jmprint

            To make a mistake is not ignorance. Ignorance is not accepting the truth.

          • Kurt CPI

            I think, I’m sorry to say, that ignorance is lack of knowledge. It has nothing to do with acceptance or rejection of truth or anything else, although it may lead to that outcome. For instance, your ignorance of the OP’s charitable spending may lead you to believe that she is a wealthy hoarder with little compassion for others. Or she may contribute to charity liberally and volunteer at her local hospital. Neither of us can say, because we’re both ignorant of the facts.

          • jmprint

            Thanks for the english lesson. I’ll will try to be a little less ignorant on my next post, or is “in” my next post.

  • S.J. Jolly

    “Why should I fight for her honor when she never has?” (Line from a Groucho Marx comedy) And much like how many Democrat voters feel about Democrat leaders not fighting for Democrat values..

  • Elliot J. Stamler

    Any Democrat who does not identify in two words the complete cause of our disastrous defeat yesterday is living in some kind of delusional dream world. Here are the two words; BARACK OBAMA. I voted for him twice; I liked him a lot personally; I think his domestic record is very good. And all that said, his second term degenerated into disaster for the exact same reason as was displayed by him in the First
    presidential debate of 2014…which immediately afterward caused the only three politicaL advisors of any worth and to whom he would listen, Plouffe, Axelrod and Emanuel, read him the political riot act. But the Obama we saw in that first awful debate performance is, TRAGICALLY he REAL Barack Obama. Cerebral, laid-back, unwilling and unable to rouse himself to fight or the country to support him, professorial, analytical, passive.
    If we had a parliamentary system he would be voted out of leadership forthwith. I say to every Democrat: if you want to save our republic from veritable fascism in 2016 because today’s Republicans ARE fascists, we had better call a spade a spade and not just wholly distance ourselves from the tragedy in the White House and start mobilizing behind Hillary Clinton – our best and probably only hope. And as for you leftist radical types who think she isn’t “liberal” enough for you, get the hell out of the Democratic Party NOW and join Ralph Nader and his collection of Marxists, freaks, socialists, environmental tree-hugging extremists and yes, communists.

  • Kurt CPI

    While I am in total opposition to Citizens United, there is evidence, at least here in Washington State, that spending did not play as large a part in influencing votes as I would have bet. Washington, one of the bluest of blue States, elected a Republican majority for the first time in a long time despite being significantly outspent by Democratic candidates – spending that included plenty of “dark money”. Washington State has had a one-party legislature for decades. Overall, voter turnout was less than 37% which to me shows shameful apathy. But voters that do turn out in low-percentage elections are historically better informed on the issues, and come to vote on the issues as opposed to, say, a Presidential election year where there is 70% turnout but half are only there to vote for a President. They throw darts at chads to decide the legislative and judicial outcomes. Am I cynical? Naahhh…