Just Like in 2012, Progressive Ideas Win Big on Election Day

Elizabeth_Warren_Nov_2_2012
Photo: Tim Pierce

After President Obama won reelection in 2012, I pointed out how progressive ideas did really well when put to the vote by the public on ballot measures.  While the Republican party is celebrating their non-surprising gains in the legislative branch, progressive ideas absolutely dominated on the ballot, even in red states.

Taking a look at the 13 initiatives highlighted by CNN, 12 have been decided as of this writing.  In only one case did the progressive side lose and even that was not a majority loss (58% approved medical marijuana in Florida, 60% was needed).  CNN’s list did not include other victories for progressive thought, such as the legalization of marijuana in D.C. or the lopsided defeat of the North Dakota anti-choice measure.  Whether it was marijuana, minimum wage laws, birth control or most other issues, the left won.

The fact is, progressive thought is winning and winning big everywhere in the country, even in the alleged “red states”.  But the Republican wins would suggest a different story.  How to explain this?

The reasons are many but I’m reminded here of something Bill Maher recently asked of Senator Elizabeth Warren: “Why aren’t there more people who talk like you in the Democratic Party?”

Again, there are a lot of factors at play here but there is little doubt Democrats have been (and many still are) terrible at pointing out what is a progressive position and what is a conservative one on so many issues.  And when they fail to do that it not only makes voters ignorant as to who stands where, it takes all the energy out of your base and they will only lackadaisically support you, at best.  Seriously, Democratic candidates.  If you are going to lose, at least have some guts to speak forcefully about what it is your ideology means to the everyday person.  Maybe then you won’t have to watch so many of your candidates lose while so much of your ideology wins.

The Obvious Reason Tea Party Candidates are Losing: Too Similar to Establishment Republicans

According to an article in the Washington Post this week, the Tea Party will be making its “last stand” in the June 3rd Mississippi Senate primary.  It’s not really a last stand but the match-up between longtime Senator Thad Cochran and Tea Party favorite Chris McDaniel is drawing a lot of attention and, more importantly, money from Tea Party groups looking to salvage what has been a poor showing thus far in 2014’s primary season.

But why, after some success in recent elections, has the Tea Party done so badly this time around.  The answer: the Republicans they haven’t already beaten in a primary are too similar to Tea Party candidates.

To illustrate this point, let’s take a closer look at four candidates and their issue positions taken directly from their websites: Cochran, McDaniel, Mitch McConnell, and his defeated opponent, Tea Partier Matt Bevin.

Healthcare

Cochran: “Thad continues to fight against Obamacare. He has voted to oppose, defund or repeal Obamacare’s overreach 102 times on the Senate.”  (Thanks for using the Senate’s time and taxpayers dollars so well…)

McDaniel: “Obamacare is a train wreck and must be repealed immediately. Chris was a leading opponent of Obamcare in Mississippi, volunteering his free time as lead counsel in a suit against Obamacare.”

McConnell: “Mitch McConnell has given over 100 speeches against Obamacare on the Senate floor.”  (See previous parenthetical message.)

Bevin: “Obamacare isn’t even fully implemented, and it is already a disaster…We need to defund Obamacare immediately and repeal Obamacare as quickly as legislatively possible.”

So, which ones are the establishment Republicans and which are the Tea Partiers?  Exactly.

Immigration

Cochran: “In fact, he is one of three Senators in history to vote against every comprehensive immigration reform bill that sought to provide amnesty…Thad believes that the United States needs to improve its legal immigration policies and consistently enforce laws already on the books so that we remain globally competitive.

McDaniel: “Chris opposes amnesty and believes we most enforce the laws on the books.”

McConnell: “Mitch McConnell has voted to secure the border and has opposed amnesty.”

Bevin: “An effective plan that stops the failed cycle of amnesty would include immediate enforcement of all the laws on the books.”

McConnell doesn’t have an “enforce the laws on the books” under his issue position page.  What a lefty!!

They aren’t wearing different jerseys anymore.

Second Amendment

Cochran: “The National Rifle Association gives Thad an “A+” rating. Thad believes that the Second Amendment right of the American people to keep and bear arms is not negotiable.”

McDaniel: “Chris is a proud supporter of our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms and will oppose all efforts to undermine this crucial right.”

McConnell: “Mitch McConnell is ‘A’ rated by the NRA for his support of Second Amendment rights.”

Bevin: “Matt is a proud conceal carry gun owner and he believes the Second Amendment is the lynchpin of the Bill of Rights, as it was designed to protect all of the other Amendments.”

Bevin apparently would have proudly carried his gun to the Senate chamber and made sure he got his way (not really).  Because if there is one thing the Founding Fathers loved, it was ruling people using weapons.

Abortion

Cochran: “Thad is pro-life and helped launch the Hyde Amendment to bar the use of certain federal funds to pay for abortions…The National Right to Life Committee strongly supports this legislation and gives Thad a 100% rating for voting to protect unborn children.”

McDaniel: “Chris is unabashedly pro-life and believes we have a responsibility to protect innocent unborn life.”

McConnell: “Since 1998, Mitch McConnell has a 100% pro-life rating by National Right to Life…co-sponsored the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act to ban federal funding for most abortions.”

Bevin: “Matt is pro-life and believes we have a duty to protect unborn human life…In the U.S. Senate, Matt will vote against any bill that contains federal funding or other material support for abortions.”

Remember folks, abortions in any case are unacceptable.  People getting killed through lax gun control laws, malnutrition overseas, or unnecessary wars is totally fine.

Gay Marriage

Cochran: “Thad also is a cosponsor of the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act, which would bar the federal government from discriminating against individuals and organizations based upon their faith-founded belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.”

McDaniel: “Chris believes marriage is between a man and a woman and will vote to protect traditional marriage.”

McConnell: Doesn’t appear on his issue page but he has clear record of opposition.

Bevin: “Matt supports marriage as traditionally defined between a man and a woman.”

Cochran’s is actually worded a little loosely (no pun intended) compared to the others but still pretty much the same.  (I lied. Pun intended.)

The list could go on but two key factors should be noted.  The first is the Tea Party was clearly successful in pushing the already right-of-center U.S. political elite (not the public) even further to the right in recent years and don’t have many areas where they can gain at this point.  They have knocked out the easy ones to beat and are having a tougher time with the ones they can’t paint as moderates.  While a similar list could be made with some Democrats in certain districts/states, the Tea party is trying to sell itself as a big change from the establishment when it really is not.

The second is the realization is now clearly hitting both the Republicans and Tea Partiers that their views are increasingly out-of-touch with younger generations and will one day be historically embarrassing.  And that’s true without even mentioning the harsh reality of climate change and the destructive views of the right concerning it.

While the Post is wrong that June 3rd will be the last stand of the Tea Party, they are correct in suggesting a decline is coming and its political power might be irrelevant sooner than we think.

Mitch McConnell Wants to Give Tax Break Extensions to “People” With $7.9 Trillion in Their Mattresses

When politicians talk about the need for tax breaks for businesses, we are always to assume it is because business is struggling and needs more cash to invest in their ventures.  When politicians on the right talk about it, it comes with the assumption that, as long as these businesses have enough money, that money will “trickle down” to the masses in the form of higher wages and new investments creating new or additional jobs.

That, however, is clearly not true.

Mitch McConnell has pushed hard for an extension of tax breaks for businesses and corporations that expired at the end of last year and he has asked that these breaks not be paid for since they are “existing tax policy”, even though they expired.  The reason he wants this is not because he has the interest of his constituents in mind but because he has been lobbied hard by the “people”* with money who can make his campaign coffers a lot fatter.

Looks about right.

(*”People”, of course, stands for corporations since five justices on planet Earth decided they are people so the rest of us have to go along with that…for now.)

These tax breaks, known as “tax extenders,” largely benefit big corporations like General Electric, HP and Citigroup. The report finds that between January 2011 and September 2013, 1,359 unique lobbyists representing 373 companies and trade associations contacted members of Congress or their staff about the tax package…McConnell alone has received more than $100,000 in total from the top 10 companies who have lobbied most intensely…

The tax-extender package…would add $46 billion to the deficit in 2014.

Obviously, the “people” these tax breaks are for must be struggling to put food on their collective tables.  They must be down to their last pennies and at their breaking point and will be closing up shop very soon.

Except their not.  According to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, David Cay Johnston:

Instead, the biggest companies are putting profits into the corporate equivalent of a mattress. They are hoarding what just a few years ago would have been considered unimaginable pools of cash and buying risk-free securities that can be instantly converted to cash, which together are known in accounting parlance as liquid assets…

My analysis of the latest data from the Federal Reserve, the IRS and corporate reports shows that American businesses last year held almost $7.9 trillion of liquid assets worldwide.

Those who follow the news may be surprised, because the figure that’s been mentioned lately has been just under $2 billion. That figure, which comes from the Federal Reserve, is only for domestic cash…My estimate is conservative. I did not count cash due to American companies from their offshore subsidiaries as accounts receivable because the IRS does not provide fine details on these additional trillions of dollars. (Emphasis added)

Which brings about two important questions.  First, how much more money do corporations need in their mattresses before they are willing to say we have enough to increase wages, pay a higher minimum wage that is truly a living wage, or hire back the tens of thousands of workers they have shed?

Second, why do politicians, mostly on the right like McConnell, continue to coddle these “people” while thumbing their noses at the real and actual people that they are supposed to serve?