Chris Lehmann writes at In These Times The Democrats can’t win by cutting class. Some excerpts:
|[T]o put more House districts in play means the Democrats would have to successfully harness a populist economic message to reach constituencies that haven’t lately broken Democratic—lower-middle-class white families, rural voters and the like. “By definition, if you want to go from the minority to the majority, you want to win over a group of voters from the other side,” says Michael Lind, policy director of the New America Foundation, a D.C.-based think-tank. “You can win over the pro-New Deal creationists, or the socially liberal Christian conservatives. But by definition, those people are not going to agree with you on your own personal issues.”
That the Democrats should be this far away from homing in on any sort of majoritarian message is an unusual situation. Historically, midterm cycles have been crucial for shoring up power on the Democratic side of the aisle. In 1982, for example, a resurgent House Democratic majority fresh from major gains in the midterms passed the Boland amendment, forbidding American aid to the Nicaraguan Contras—and thereby laid the groundwork for the Iran-Contra scandal that hamstrung the Reagan administration and came close to endangering the presidency itself. Similarly, the 1974 “Watergate class” of reformist Democrats passed the first wave of campaign-finance legislation to curb the uglier abuses of the election system by moneyed interests.
Over and above such signature reform movements, Democratic Congresses were integral to the New Deal and Great Society eras of lawmaking, whose popular initiatives in turn solidified what became known as the Democratic majority—the coalition of union members, movement liberals, and urban white “ethnic,” black and brown voters that comprise the backbone of the Democratic Party. These voters sustained and nourished the later Democratic Congresses that extended the basic terms of New Deal governance via landmark legislation such as the GI Bill, Medicare, Medicaid, the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act and the raft of workplace and environmental protections legislated into being from the 1970s onward. The voting majorities behind the postwar Democratic domination of Congress should have, on paper, continued to expand in tandem with the vital expansions of income supports and civil-rights protections that these Congresses managed, however narrowly, to enact. […]
Of course, Democrats face other obstacles in advancing a winning strategy to reclaim the House in November—the factors that election wonks call “structural,” such as the gerrymandering of safe Republican districts by Republican dominated state legislatures. But structural forces are, by definition, the very factors that effective majoritarian strategies are crafted to overcome. The GOP overcame much the same set of obstructions in its successful takeover of the House in 2010—the year that the Tea Party, and its corporate backers, stepped into the political limelight.
What’s more, gesturing at the implacable power of GOP-run state legislatures raises the question of just how the Democrats—the historic grassroots party of the people, operating with the enormous advantage of a crippling recession occurring on the Republicans’ executive watch—have been unable to summon their own majorities in so many state legislatures. (That answer—yet again—resides in a decided GOP tactical advantage rooted in long-term conservative organizing initiatives at the state and grassroots levels.)
Meanwhile, when it comes to the allocation of resources within the party, the top-heavy nature of Democratic campaign funding once more distorts the party’s priorities. [...]
If this complaint sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Before the 2006 Democratic wave, the head of the DCCC, Illinois House member Rahm Emanuel, was locked in battle with Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean over Dean’s ambitious “50-state strategy.” The Dean plan sought to put Democratic candidates into competitive play everywhere, as opposed to the traditional coastal, urban and upper-Midwestern strongholds of Democratic congressional power. Emanuel, a member of the investment-banking fraternity who had been charged with shepherding in bundled big-money donations, contended that such far-flung organizing efforts were unrealistic—and thus a strain on the party’s bulging campaign coffers. He got the better of the argument, and after the 2006 cycle, the 50-state strategy was shelved—and Dean was sent packing.
Eight years later, it’s hard not to conclude that the party would be far better off if it had followed Dean’s lead and pressed its already formidable advantages in 2006 into districts that now look like nearly permanent “red state” power bases. A 2013 study in Governing magazine found that even the partial implementation of the Dean plan yielded quite encouraging results for the Democrats. In the 20 red states covered in the survey, “Democratic candidates chalked up modest successes, despite the difficult political terrain,” the Governing team found. “Then, after the project stopped, Democratic success rates cratered.” In other words, in heeding Emanuel’s counsel to follow the big money, Democrats are getting exactly what they paid for.
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2012—Welcome to the culture war against teachers, coming to a theater near you:
|The campaign against teachers is special, and worth paying attention to. It's not like workers in general get much respect in our culture, at least not beyond vague lip service that only ever applies to the individual, powerless worker not asking for anything. And janitors, hotel housekeepers, cashiers, and a host of others could fill books with the daily substance of working in low-status professions, I'm sure. But right now, teachers are the subject of a campaign heavily funded and driven from the top down to take a profession that has long been respected by the public at large and make the people in the profession villains and pariahs, en route to undercutting the prestige, the decision-making ability, the working conditions, and, of course, the wages and benefits of the profession as a whole. What we're watching right now is a specific front in the war on workers, and one with immense reach through our culture—and coming soon to a movie theater near you if it's not already there, in the form of the poorly reviewed parent trigger drama Won't Back Down.
(That it's a war not just on teachers but on the workers of the future and on the government just sweetens the pot for many of the people waging the war.)
On today's Kagro in the Morning show: WH intruder news. Greg Dworkin jumps the fence with Mike Pence hype, enterovirus-68 in CT and "linked to" paralysis in CO, polling on ISIS response & outlooks on military action. Conservatives are at it again with their voter suppression tricks. And a fake Occupy Central app installs spyware on Hong Kong protesters' phones. Senate Rs threaten to use nuclear option they don't believe in to undo change implemented via nuclear option. NFL's new prayer penalty. Cops apparently can't get rid of their military gear. Discounts for having a tool, nothing for knowing how to use it safely. Constantly rising ATM fees: a net neutrality analog?
"And Obamacare, I just don't think is right for Nevada."Lucy Flores is a progressive fighter from the get-go, openly discussing her abortion during last year's committee hearing on Nevada Bill AB230 which sought to "establish a comprehensive, age-appropriate and medically accurate course of instruction in sex education." Her testimony and its cost were featured in this prescient post by Denise Oliver Velez, "Yes, she should ... run for lieutenant governor of Nevada."
"The fact is we have affordable health care now for so many Nevadans," Flores said. "You cannot get kicked off your insurance. You can insure your children when they are in college.
"Quite frankly, my father was able to get expanded insurance and save hundreds and hundreds of dollars because he had an urgent medical need," said Flores, who like Hutchison is a lawyer. "I am very happy that my opponent failed in his attempt to take those benefits away from the people of Nevada (in the Obamacare lawsuit)."
Unafraid of her past, she is proudly running on it.
Why is this race so important?
It is not just that Lucy Flores is a Latina, and we need far more Latinas in public office. It is also not just that Lucy Flores is committed to fighting for marriage equality, health care, education and jobs for the people of Nevada, although those are all desperately needed in Nevada.
But this race is also important to Senator Harry Reid because popular Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval is widely believed to be contemplating a run at Harry's seat in 2016. If Sandoval is faced with a Democrat like Lucy Flores stepping into his office, he may think twice about moving to the Senate.
A little more than two weeks later, they finally backed down and allowed House Democrats to end the shutdown. In the end, they got nothing but blame for their temper tantrum: Obamacare is still here today, and thanks to it millions of people around the country have health insurance that they otherwise would not have had.
Politically speaking, the only thing that allowed Republicans to escape a long fall and winter of stories about the shutdown was the fact that the initial Obamacare rollout was rocky. But that doesn't change the fact they failed to accomplish a single thing with their shutdown, and while it might make it harder to remind Americans that the GOP won't hesitate to do the same thing next year, there's no reason to believe they won't.
But even if the political impact of the shutdown has been overshadowed by other issues, the fact that President Obama and Democrats refused to be bullied by Ted Cruz tactics and that the GOP ultimately backed down is a lesson Washington Democrats should never forget. Even though they won that political battle, the biggest winners are the public they were elected to serve, because Obamacare is here to stay and millions of Americans are better off as a result. And when the November 15 open enrollment period begins, those numbers will grow even larger.
• KS-Gov: It was only a matter of time before Republicans hit Democrat Paul Davis over this embarrassing story from his past that recently came to light. About a week ago, the Coffeyville Journal reported that Davis was at a strip club in 1998 when police were raiding it. Davis was unmarried at the time and says his boss brought him there. With Republican Gov. Sam Brownback trailing in the polls, it's no surprise that the GOP would use this to try and disqualify Davis.
The RGA spot starts with a clip of Davis saying that "the best example of future behavior is past behavior," then cuts to clips of news reports about the strip club story. The narrator then accuses Davis of voting against a bill that would prevent sexually oriented businesses from opening near homes, churches, and day cares. This is a decent line of attack given how socially conservative Kansas is, though after watching this spot it doesn't feel like the GOP has enough material to really destroy Davis' chances.
Head below the fold for more ads in contests from around the country.
The administration is not yet revealing many details of its plan for this second enrollment period, which begins Nov. 15. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell is less than four months into her new job, and she’s brought in a slew of new people to work on management and communications around the Affordable Care Act.Only Politico would put scare quotes around working, since all available evidence shows that yes, the law is working on a variety of levels. That includes providing affordable insurance to millions. Through focus groups conducted by the healthcare research firm PerryUndem, it's clear that many of the still-uninsured don't know that subsidies are available to make insurance more affordable. The focus groups also found that talking about the least popular part of the plan—the mandate to get coverage or face a tax penalty—is a good motivator to get signed up. So expect more emphasis this year on that tax penalty, coupled with the message that there's financial help.
Yet clear themes in their strategy are emerging. The administration and Burwell frequently repeat the point that the law is "working"— meaning that millions of people are getting affordable health coverage. Over the next several months, they'll surely talk more about actual individuals who got coverage in the first year and hammer home that the law offers tax subsidies to many.
Ian Millhiser has read White's decision, and is not impressed.
One thing that immediately stands out in White’s opinion is just how thin his legal reasoning is. Despite the fact that this case concerns a matter of life and death for the millions of Americans he orders uninsured, his actual discussion of the merits of this case comprises less than 7 double-spaced pages of his opinion. In that brief analysis he quotes the two other Republican judges who ordered Obamacare defunded, claiming that "the government offers no textual basis" in the Affordable Care Act itself for treating federally-run exchanges the same as those run by states. In fact, the government has identified numerous provisions of the law which cut against the argument that only some exchanges should provide subsidies.The Tenth Circuit, which would hear an appeal, probably would reverse White. It has seven judges appointed by Democrats, including five Obama appointees, and five by Republicans. So far, the challenge has been considered by nine federal judges in three separate challenges. The only three to strike down the subsidies on the federal exchange are Republicans. There are a lot of moving parts with these challenges. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the law in King, and the D.C. Circuit recently set aside a Halbig ruling by a three-judge panel to consider the case with the full court. Plaintiffs in King have appealed to the Supreme Court, which appears to be waiting to see what the DC Circuit is going to do with Halbig. There's also a fourth case in Indiana. A federal judge will hear those arguments next month.
Even more significantly, White's opinion does not at any point acknowledge the legal standard that applies when a statute contains language that is at odds with other provisions of the law. As the Supreme Court explained in 2007, "a reviewing court should not confine itself to examining a particular statutory provision in isolation" as the "meaning—or ambiguity—of certain words or phrases may only become evident when placed in context." White, by contrast, relies entirely a passage that supports the plaintiffs' arguments while ignoring the much more prevalent statutory language that supports the government’s argument. […]
So White’s opinion is poorly reasoned. It ignores binding Supreme Court precedent. And it engages in selective quotation to support his conclusion. If it is reviewed by a panel of judges interested in neutrally applying the law, White will be reversed.
Where this ends isn't immediately clear. In a normal world, the Supreme Court would be waiting for the D.C. Circuit to throw out the case, and then would decide not to hear the King or Halbig appeals because the circuit courts would be in agreement. If that happened, the other two would end. But the Supreme Court isn't functioning particularly normally anymore. But the key thing that would be weighing in Chief Justice John Roberts' mind right now is the fact that hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people would lose their health insurance if the subsidies are struck down. Taking that away wouldn't be a much of a legacy.
And if the election was held today for U.S. House, for whom would you vote, Jim Mowrer the Democrat or Steve King the Republican? (very likely/certain to vote; N=375, MoE +5.1%pts)
Jim Mowrer ...................................................................................... 43%
Steve King ........................................................................................ 46
(VOL) Unsure ................................................................................... 11
So Steve King has only a three point lead over Daily Kos endorsed Democratic challenger Jim Mowrer, within the margin of error—and this is a district Romney won by eight points in 2012. There's no way any non-crackpot Republican should be struggling this much.
[H]ere's something else to consider: Republican Joni Ernst is leading Democrat Bruce Braley 48-38 in the 4th. With statewide polls showing the Senate race a tossup, this result is pretty plausible, given Romney's performance. That in turn makes the House numbers more believable, too, particularly because the only other poll of the race, from Loras College, had King at a similar 47 percent. Mowrer was further back at 36, but the key point is that King is a few points under 50, despite holding down a district that should be a gimme for any normal Republican.To add insult to that injury Mowrer, who has deep roots in the district himself, has even outraised King.
The catch is going to be getting those anti-King voters into the voting booths come election day, given the historically dismal performance of our voters compared to the sort of hard-righties that still think Steve King is doing a fine and upstanding job. But the poll above is of self-described "very likely" voters, so it's possible. It's especially possible if Steve King continues his pattern of being Steve King between now and November. (Mowrer has risen seven points from the previous district poll to this one, so it's clear his campaign is getting his own message out.)
Be still my heart, there is actually a chance that one of the meanest anti-immigrant, anti-everything-else voices in Congress could get shown the door. That would be worth, at minimum, a celebratory cake.
1) There are more of us than there are of them. Objectively. If we turn out, we win.
2) It's an off-year election, so we don't turn out.
That's the reality we're operating under. All things being equal, with both parties' bases turning out, we'd come out in November with minimal damage. The Senate map and congressional gerrymandering make things tough on us at the federal level, but there'd be no worries about holding the Senate. And with full base turnout, we'd have no problem making major pickups at the governor and statewide level (like secretary of states).
But all things aren't equal. So we have to engage as hard as we can to get our people to vote. That requires either on the ground volunteering, or contributing money to those doing the hard work of winning elections.
I want you all to do me a big favor. Pick one of our ActBlue pages below and chip in $3. Seriously. You're probably thinking "$3 ain't shit," and it's true, on its own it isn't going to win much.
But this month we've had over seven million unique visitors to Daily Kos. Our email action list just crossed 1.7 million strong. We have another 600,000+ people following us on Facebook. Do some simple math, and you can suddenly see how $3 can have an impact. It's why we have so much power as a community, working together for an America we all believe in.
So $3. It really can make a difference. So now think about who could use those $3. Don't forget your local candidates. But if you're still looking for places to give, we've got plenty of options:
Three dollars. It will make a difference, collectively, so we can help get some really great people elected.
- Today's comic by Jen Sorensen is March of Doom:
- The Secret Service's image is taking a serious hit, and rightly so:
The man who jumped the White House fence this month and sprinted through the front door made it much farther into the building than previously known, overpowering one Secret Service officer and running through much of the main floor, according to three people familiar with the incident.Okay, the usher's office doesn't look great here, either.
An alarm box near the front entrance of the White House designed to alert guards to an intruder had been muted at what officers believed was a request of the usher’s office, said a Secret Service official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending IUDs or progestin implants as birth control for teens, who currently tend to use condoms.
- Depressing and frightening:
About 3,000 species of wildlife around the world have seen their numbers plummet far worse than previously thought, according to a new study by one of the world's biggest environmental groups.
The study Tuesday from the Swiss-based WWF largely blamed human threats to nature for a 52 percent decline in wildlife populations between 1970 and 2010.
- Game of Thrones goes western.
- Epic meltdown, live-tweeted.
- Jews are responsible for wall-to-wall carpeting? So says the most repulsive record ever made, apparently.
- I guess you have to see it to fix it:
According to polling by the Public Religion Research Institute, the percent of American who say that the criminal justice system treats black people unfairly rose by 9 percentage points in just one year. In fact, every category of person polled was more likely to think so in 2014 than in 2013, including Republicans, people over 65, and whites.
- Help elect more and better Democrats this November! Please give $3 to Daily Kos' endorsed candidates and strike a blow against Republicans.
- On today's Kagro in the Morning show: WH intruder updates. Greg Dworkin brings Mike Pence hype, enterovirus news & ISIS polls. AFP back at their voter suppression tricks. Senate Rs threaten nuke option redux. Cops can't ditch military gear. Guns in restaurants. ATM neutrality!
The mass sit-in — and for hardier participants, sleep-in — in several of Hong Kong’s key commercial districts has presented the Chinese leadership with one of its biggest and most unexpected challenges in years. The protesters are demanding the right to elect the city’s leader, or chief executive, without procedural hurdles that would ensure that only Beijing’s favored candidates get on the ballot.Just how massive are protests in Hong Kong? Check out this amazing drone footage of the crowds:
As we spoke, Romney compared the barrage of 2016-related questions to a scene in the film “Dumb and Dumber.” After Jim Carrey’s character is flatly rejected by Lauren Holly, she tells him that there’s a one-in-a-million chance she would change her mind. “So,” Romney told me, embodying the character, “Jim Carrey says, ‘You’re telling me there’s a chance.’ ”That's from a Mark Leibovich piece in the upcoming New York Times Magazine titled "Mitt Isn’t Ready to Call It Quits," which perhaps frames what Romney said about the possibility of a third campaign in 2016 a little too strongly. Still, what Romney said was much more than a non-denial denial or even cracking the door open to the possibility of reconsidering running in 2016. Instead, by leaving the question unsettled ("we'll see what happens") he effectively acknowledged that he's considering a bid and that he has not made his mind up.
This was the obvious opening for me to ask if there was a chance. Romney’s response was decidedly meta — “I have nothing to add to the story” — but he then fell into the practiced political parlance of nondenial. “We’ve got a lot of people looking at the race,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”
This is a big shift from what he's been saying publicly since losing in 2012 and it comes as former aides and supporters are aggressively mounting a push for Romney 2016. His words will encourage the ones he hasn't been speaking to and will give the ones who are still in his orbit more credibility when they talk up the possibility for a third bid.
Given all that, it's crystal clear that Romney wants to run again. That doesn't guarantee that he will run again, especially because he probably doesn't want to jeopardize his non-pariah status within the GOP, but if he can launch a bid as the front-runner for the GOP nomination, he will.
But even though Romney is as popular within the GOP as he's ever been, he's still the same old candidate who ran in 2012. For example, check out his new explanation for his 47 percent remarks:
Romney told me that the statement came out wrong, because it was an attempt to placate a rambling supporter who was saying that Obama voters were essentially deadbeats.During the campaign, Romney initially defended his remarks and tried to support his statement. When that didn't work, he said that his remarks were "completely wrong." And now he says that he was lying about his beliefs in order to make a supporter feel good.
“My mistake was that I was speaking in a way that reflected back to the man,” Romney said. “If I had been able to see the camera, I would have remembered that I was talking to the whole world, not just the man.”
Moral of the story: Romney is still Romney. He's still the same guy who can't keep his story straight. He's still the same guy who awkwardly refers to purses with "bedazzle beads." And the best thing he's got going for him continues to be that the GOP is still the same old GOP: A party that might not have a better candidate to nominate in 2016 than the one who led them to defeat in 2012.
Outgoing Republican Secretary of State Matt Schultz is famous for trying to scare immigrants into not voting, though GOP candidate Paul Pate likes to praise Schultz's "good stewardship." So, of course, Pate's been endorsed by GOP neanderthal Rep. Steve King, who thinks Democrats are just going to start stealing elections if they win the SOS race this fall.The 25 percent of voters who remain undecided highlight why it's important to be sure that Anderson has the money he needs to mount a serious campaign. Voters often don't have much information about down-ballot races like secretary of state, making direct voter contact and GOTV crucial. That means even relatively small contributions can have an outsize impact.
While there is not yet a front-runner in the early race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) is quickly becoming the favored contender of social conservatives, riding a recent wave of fiery speeches and standing ovations at right-wing conferences.Until the campaign begins and votes are cast, sweeping statements like that aren't worth the pixels they're displayed on, but Cruz does appear to have some real support, winning his second consecutive presidential straw poll of conference attendees. According to The Post, Cruz's core supporters on the right think he could capture the nomination because the GOP establishment hasn't been able to settle on a favored candidate like they did in 2012 with Mitt Romney, leaving an opening for Cruz who they see as ...
... a charismatic, youthful and unrepentant champion who also holds traditional GOP views on foreign and economic policy.Yeah, I can see your eyes rolling at the notion of Ted Cruz being charismatic, but the key thing is that Cruz's social conservative supporters see him as someone who shares their views on cultural and religious issues but is aligned with the GOP establishment on foreign policy and economic issues, which leads them to believe that Cruz could actually build a coalition between the establishment and social conservatives.
Crazy though a Cruz candidacy may sound, that actually seems like a plausible theory—assuming Cruz can convince the GOP's big money people that he wouldn't sound like a lunatic on the campaign trail. Hopefully he can, because by taking their most unpopular positions and packaging them into one convenient target for Democratic candidates from Hillary Clinton on down in 2016, a Ted Cruz presidential campaign would be a dream come true.
When the North Carolina arm of the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity group tried to register a cat to vote it was amusing. But with more of the story unfolding now, it's downright infuriating.
It didn't make any sense. Jennifer Odom's daughter shouldn't have gotten anything in the mail, let alone a voter registration form.It turns out that AFP has sent hundreds of thousands of these error-ridden, confusing voter registration forms in North Carolina, and both local elections offices and the state board of elections have been swamped with phone calls from confused voters. The forms had numerous bits of misinformation, from filing deadlines to where to send the completed forms to who to contact for more information. The scope of this misinformation is massive, considering it's gone to hundreds of thousands of voters, and has resulted in an investigation by the state, after the state Democratic Party filed an official complaint. Deliberately misinforming voters is a felony.
"It was disturbing for a couple of reasons," said Odom. "First, Samantha would only be four-and-a-half years old. So it's a far cry from the age of voting. Secondly, she passed away two years ago."
Odom says her daughter died on Sept. 11, 2012.
"That's right about the time we started getting these notices," said Odom.
But here's an interesting part to the story. Remember all the pooh-poohing about the Democrats' strategy of hitting the Kochs? When Republicans and pundits alike were saying that the Koch brothers had no name recognition and it would all backfire? Look at how the local news framed this story: "The group behind the mailing is the sharply conservative, Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity Foundation." No, nobody ever heard of the Kochs and their anti-democratic activities.
So far, there's no word whether AFP is trying this in other states with tightly contested Senate races, but as David Ramsey points out in the Arkansas Blog, they've got affiliates in a lot of states, and they're on a mission to
misinform "educate" voters and " keep get out the vote" this cycle. So this probably won't be the last we hear of their phony voter registration drives.
This is one race where third-party candidates aren't having much of an impact: When voters are asked to only choose between Ernst and Braley, the GOP keeps their 2-point lead. The undecideds report voting for Obama over Romney 10-6 and they could give Braley a small boost, but far from enough to let him break open a real lead. Neither candidate is popular at all. Ernst spots a 42-46 favorable rating, while Braley is at 37-44. However, while the favorability gap between the two isn't large, it's been moving in the wrong direction. Back in August PPP found Braley with a 37-41 rating while Ernst was at 36-46. If Ernst has been getting less unpopular while Braley has been absorbing more blows, that's bad news for Team Blue.
It's possible that the GOP's recent spending blitz has something to do with this and Democrats will be able to seize the imitative in the next few weeks: Democrats have more ads reserved for the final stretch of the race. The good news is that Ernst gives Democrats plenty of material to use against her, but Braley has his own flaws that the GOP is more than happy to keep exploiting. Either side can pull off a win here, but Braley and his allies can't afford to allow Ernst to keep recovering.
PPP also took a look at the gubernatorial contest and finds what basically everyone has found: Republican Gov. Terry Branstad is looking very good to win another term. A few months ago Branstad's numbers looked a bit weak, and Democrats had some hope that Jack Hatch could pull off a surprise. But PPP now finds Branstad up 50-36, and neither party has gotten involved here recently. Selzer recently found Branstad up by a similar 48-34. The governor has a strong 53-38 approval rating, while opinions of Hatch are very mixed. Branstad, who served from 1983 to 1999 before returning in 2011, is already the longest serving governor in American history, and it looks like Iowans are happy to keep him around for another four years.
Jonathon Cohn at New Republic assesses Obamacare's first year, rounding up the various reports and surveys of the law to determine that, however unpopular it might still be, it's performing remarkably well. The bottom line for the law was whether it reduced the number of uninsured people in the country, and did it affordably. Those were the primary goals, along with "bending the cost curve"—cutting into the sharp growth in healthcare spending. Since the law was fully implemented, with enrollments starting last October and all the other provisions rolling out on January 1, there's been real progress in all of those goals.
First and foremost, it's indisputable now that more people have insurance.
The most complete data comes from a series of surveys from independent research organizations—the Commonwealth Fund, Gallup, the Rand Corporation, and the Urban Institute. Their numbers do not match up precisely, but all of them have found that, as a result of the law’s coverage expansion, the number of people without insurance fell by something like 10 to 12 million, once you add in the young adult who got coverage because of the law's under-26 provision. Meanwhile, hospitals are reporting that they are seeing fewer and fewer uninsured patients.That, by the way, is good news for hospitals because they're saving money. But for the people who now have insurance, two studies suggest that their lives have improved. The Oregon Medicaid study and a Massachusetts study both show that the newly insured have greater economic security and report better mental health. In Massachusetts, they found that physical health improved, as well.
It is also turning out to be pretty darned affordable, as far as health insurance goes. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that among the people who switched into an Obamacare plan—about 40 percent of the new enrollees—46 percent said they were paying less for their new plan. Premiums for 2015 are shaping up to have very modest increases and even in some markets, decreases. That's in part because of increasing competition: more insurers are jumping into the Obamacare market. The existing, employer-based market is showing very reasonable premium hikes, as well.
That all contributes to what's most surprising: health spending in the country is rising, yes, but rising at historically slow rates. The cost curve is indeed bending, from a variety of factors. Part of it is the recession, but "most experts now think the 'new normal' is lower inflation, because the healthcare industry is becoming more efficient—at least partly in reaction to new incentives that the Affordable Care Act introduced." One of the key things that means, undercutting years of Republican talking points against the law—is that the net effect of the law on the budget is a reduced deficit.
Much of the very good news of Obamacare boils down to Medicaid expansion—even though it hasn't been expanded in two dozen states. That's true for the improved health of the recipients, but also the significant savings for hospitals, savings which ripple through the system. Imagine the impact national Medicaid expansion could have.
No surprise here: With the November elections just five weeks away, Congressman Doug Lamborn is trying to claim he didn't mean what he said when he claimed that he and his colleagues were urging generals to resign in a "blaze of glory" rather than follow orders from President Obama.
In Lamborn's original comments, he said that "a lot of us are talking to the generals behind the scenes" and urging them to "have a public resignation," but now Lamborn is trying to distance himself from his own words, claiming:
Lamborn clarified to The Gazette on Friday that he was talking about old policies from President Barack Obama. He offered resignation as an option when his office received complaints from generals and admirals who were riled up about sequestration in 2013 and the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in 2010.Sure, except (a) Lamborn said he and his colleagues "are talking" to generals—very much in the present tense—and (b) he didn't say "I am talking," he said "a lot of us are talking"—which means he wasn't the only one. But that was when his remarks weren't causing him—or his buddies—political problems. Now that they are, he's changed his tune—and he's not alone:
On Sunday night, U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican from Aurora, tweeted a link to a story about Lamborn’s comments and said, “As a Marine and combat veteran, I know to keep my politics off the battlefield.”As Steve Benen notes, those statements are hardly harsh condemnations of Lamborn. In fact, rather than condemning Lamborn, they seem more like statements aimed at denying that they were the colleagues to which Lamborn was referring.
And when asked about Lamborn’s statement, U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, said: “There is no room for partisan politics when it comes to our men and women in uniform.”
But whether they have or haven't urged generals to resign in order to protest President Obama, one thing is 100 percent clear: Lamborn's original statement wasn't a reference to the past, despite what he's saying now. He clearly and unambiguously said that he was urging generals to refuse orders from the commander-in-chief by resigning. The only question is whether or not that was the truth, and when your best defense is "I was lying" and your colleagues are tripping over each other to say you weren't talking about them, then you've dug yourself quite a deep hole.
Within minutes of the Kansas Supreme Court's decision to leave Democrat Chad Taylor off the Kansas ballot for U.S. Senate (dealing a blow to Kris Kobach–worst secretary of state in the nation) a Kansas City-area Democrat named David Orel filed a challenge trying to force Democrats to name a new candidate. David Orel also happens to be the father of a Alexander Orel, regional director for ultra-conservative Sam Brownback's re-election campaign.
Kris Kobach once again tried to intervene by joining the lawsuit, but the district court ruled against him and refused to let him join the suit.
Kris Kobach's week was about to get worse. Yesterday, David Orel was set to have his day in court, but his case took a serious hit after he failed to appear before the Shawnee County District Court:
“With all due respect to Mr. Orel, he filed a lawsuit against my clients, drug them into court in the middle of a heated campaign season, then thumbs his nose at this court and refuses to show up," said Randy Rathbun, a former U.S. attorney from Wichita who represented the party.Judge Franklin Theis was not amused:
"Without him here, it kind of turns this into political theater," Theis said.Presiding Judge Larry Hendricks also had some serious questions about the military ballots that have already been sent (per federal law):
Democrats also argued that the petition should be dismissed because the secretary of state's office has already mailed out ballots to overseas military personnel, and some of those ballots have already been returned. An order to name another Democratic candidate, Rathbun said, would require invalidating votes that have already been cast and requiring those voters to cast new ballots.The judges indicated they would issue a decision no later than 1 PM on Thursday so the ballot printing won't be delayed any further.
Hendricks, the presiding judge on the panel, also raised the question of how officials would handle such a case if a soldier deployed in a combat zone were to die in action before he or she was able to cast a second ballot.
So, now we wait for yet another court to hand Kansas Republicans and the worst secretary of state in the nation another loss. In the meantime, can you contribute $5 to help elect Jean Schodorf and send Kris Kobach packing?
In Louisiana's November all-party primary, Landrieu leads with 42 percent, far from the 50 percent she'd need to win without a runoff. Cassidy leads fellow Republican and tea partier Rob Maness 34-12: All around, about the same numbers ORC recently found for CNN. Democrats would love to face Maness instead of Cassidy but he doesn't have many resources and no well-funded outside groups are coming to his aid right now. Unless there's a massive surprise, it looks inevitable that Landrieu and Cassidy will advance to a runoff in December.
In a hypothetical runoff, Landrieu trails 48-45. The 7 percent who are undecided identify as Republicans and Democrats in equal numbers, and voted for Mitt Romney 7-3. Most polling over the last few months has shown Cassidy with a small lead in one-on-one matches. A Greenberg Quinlan Rosner poll conducted for the Democratic group Senate Majority PAC gave Landrieu a 2-point edge, but she's generally trailed by 1 to 3 points (with the exception of a Fox News poll that gave Cassidy an unrealistic double-digit lead).
While a 3-point deficit is far from insurmountable, PPP finds that Landrieu is quite unpopular: They peg her approval rating at 42-52. Cassidy's favorables aren't incredible at 37-41 but he has the advantage of running in a very conservative state. It's worth noting that PPP has generally found politicians from both parties with weaker ratings than most other pollsters, but it's still not a good sign for Landrieu if Cassidy has better personal numbers. If you're an unpopular incumbent running in an increasingly hostile state with a very disliked president representing your party (Obama sports a 39-56 approval rating here), your only real option is to make your opponent even more unpopular than you: So far, that doesn't seem to be happening.
PPP also answered the most important question in American politics: Is it a good idea for a politician in a tough race to help someone do a keg stand? It looks like the answer is no: Voters say they disapprove of Landrieu's "keg stand gambit" by a 21-36 margin. If you can't get away with assisting a constituent consume alcohol in Louisiana, you just can't get away with it anywhere.
Mary Landrieu is an incredibly tough campaigner. In 2002 she prevailed in a runoff that Republicans felt they were certain to win. It's also worth noting that while Democrats have usually had problems getting their voters to the polls in runoffs and special elections, Louisiana is one state that's very used to voting at irregular times. In 2002, turnout between November and December dropped by less than 1 percent, though there haven't been any Senate runoffs since then. Even so, for her to win she'll likely need PPP to severely be underestimating her popularity, or she'll take Cassidy's numbers even further below sea level than they are now. Democrats always knew this would be a difficult race, and this poll only confirms it.