Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I voted today...

Yes, I have voted today in Michigan's Republican primary tonight. But, unlike the robo calls, I could not select that religious nutball Rick Santorum. I know Obama has very good chance at beating Santorum in November but he is a nut case. A crazy Tea Party endorsed religious zealot that I could not stomach. I did not vote for Mitt Romney either. I mean, he is so far removed from Michigan (in his "let Detroit go bankrupt" quote) that he is NOT a Michigander anymore. I do not believe in Ron Paul or New Gingrich. So, I voted for Jon Huntsman and my conscience is clear. He was the only respectable candidate the field of nut cases. I'm sorry he dropped out of the race and it's a testament to how the Tea Party had raped the Republican party. So, if you see a vote from precinct 5 of Superior Township in Washtenaw County for Jon Huntsman, that is me!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Fred Who? He's Republican, He's Gay, And He's Competing For Michigan Delegates : It's All Politics : NPR

Okay, Michigan's 8th Congressional District (which is the Lansing area), it's up to you. On Tuesday, vote for Fred Karger. I like seeing a moderate or maybe liberal Republican in the field. I think he has a good game plan on picking up delegates. As the Michigan primary goes, delegate are won by congressional districts. He is targeting only one, the 8th. Good luck Fred. We wish we vote for you. But maybe we can influence some other's vote...

Fred Who? He's Republican, He's Gay, And He's Competing For Michigan Delegates : It's All Politics : NPR:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Poor and Republican in Minnesota

Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You.

This is called the Golden Rule. It is so called because it is the one rule that is common across all of the world's major religions. Even those of us who don't ascribe to any sort of religion understand this rule and tend to abide by it in our daily dealings. I would argue that it's the only rule you need to get you through life, really. Ok, there's the one about yellow snow.

(As a side note, if you're really curious in exploring the world's religion's in depth, but don't really care for the soul crushing boredom of actual religious texts, might I recommend this.)

Myself, along with many other liberals, center our politics around this principle. It's one thing to show concern for the fiscal state of the union, it's entirely another to undercut benefits to those who are in need, because it was/is/may someday be us. And when you impact others, you're impacting yourself.

There are several different types of liberalism, the type that addresses this principle aligns most closely with the Northeastern idea of noblesse oblique, that one has an obligation to help others. This tenet that is an offspring of Catholicism explains why so many Catholics are a certain type of liberal. There are others, with differing sources, but bear this in mind as this discussion segues into something entirely different.


One of the frequent conversations I have with others of a similar political persuasion is a continued befuddlement at how poor and lower middle class Republicans can justify being Republican in the face of the sustained, continuous economic damage the party and their policies continue to do to people in that particular demographic and income bracket.

To that end, the New York Times has answered that question, in spades, here. I would strongly encourage you to spend some quality time with this article, because it has done more than anything else written over the past few years to explain to it's audience why things are the way they are to a certain portion of our population.

There is a certain portion of the population that cannot extricate their religion, and the larger aims of the religious organization to which they belong, from Republican politics. This manifests itself in the candidacy of Rick Santorum, the Mormon followers of Mitt Romney, and the evangelical population that hung on to George W Bush for as long as they could.

But for the rest, there exists this idea of "for me but not for thee". This manifests itself in people who advocate benefits for their age group (current seniors) but are perfectly fine with future generations receiving fewer benefits than the ones awarded to them. They rationalize this by saying they don't want their children/grandchildren to inherit debt, but in reality, this still ultimately involves the "me". I should have mine at the expense of everyone who isn't like me. And I should control the future as well by ensuring you have less then so I can have more now. It's the worst kind of narcissism. Sometimes it's wrapped up in a bow with the phrase "God will provide."

Another recurring theme you'll find in the New York Times piece is the idea of resentment and self loathing. The central focus of the piece are people who accept federal benefits, blame others for their situation and then correspondingly vote for politicians that would phase those benefits out entirely. I'll leave the money quote of this article here for you to ponder:

They are frustrated that they need help, feel guilty for taking it and resent the government for providing it. They say they want less help for themselves; less help in caring for relatives; less assistance when they reach old age.

Acceptance of benefits for people who have bought into the myth of the American Dream, and have failed at it is a major blow to the pride. Some people react with an internal locus of control, others lash out at others in comically inept ways, as detailed here.

It is no secret that the Republican electoral base is becoming increasingly exurban and rural. It follows that people who fashion themselves as independent and who subscribe to the Scotch-Irish tradition of self reliance gravitate toward areas of lower population density as said density changes the world around them. It's also reasonable to conclude that a powerful and profitable message can be sent to people of this tradition by encouraging them to fear and be leery of people who are unlike them, and changes from historically acceptable patterns of thinking. This is a 60 year tradition of Republican politics, effective first in the South, and later put in a nice wrapper by Grandpa Reagan. (Or at least the modern version is. Reactionary politics goes back hundreds of years).

What we've seen more recently is a poorly marketed, ill timed type of logic that rings hollow with an increasing number of people. If we look at the changes in attitudes toward marijuana usage and gay marriage, we see an electorate that operates increasingly on a Golden Rule principle. Or, at the very least, a liberterian principle that says "it doesn't impact my life, so I don't really care" principle. And this is a positive thing. It serves as a foundational base upon which one can work in the Golden Rule to campaign on.

But back on topic, if we set aside the top 1%, who benefit economically from Republican policies, and we set aside the religious zealots, what we're left with is a group of people who essentially grew up in a world that had one strict set of standards, whose standards have gone wildly off the rails (or who have been marketed to believe so) and who react by attempting to reset the world to the way things "should be", where "should be" is defined as a state of order that benefits them the most. And the further the world spins away from that order, the more reactionary they become. And often times, their trendy children react by dropping out and adopting Libertarianism.

For an additional resource on the psychology of a Republican voter, I'd strongly recommend the most comprehensive research on authoritarian personality, available, for free, here.

And live the golden rule today. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Dying Republicans at the Crossroads

I am normally suspicious of the glee that comes at pointing out declines in Republican primary voting. There are a number of people of the left, (Kos in particular) that bang the drum with glee over the lack of enthusiasm at the overall decline in voter turnout in these primaries, most often summarized under the guise of not really liking the choices put in front of them.

Why? The answer is entirely anecdotal, but the 2010 Kentucky Senate primary is illustrative of the irrelevance of these numbers. When comparing the vote turnout for the two party primaries, Democratic turnout topped Republican turnout by a margin of roughly 5:3. However Jack Conway was still defeated handily in the general election by Rand Paul by a margin of 7:5. Regardless of whether Republicans show up for the primary, they do tend to show up on election day.

This is the long way of saying that my suspicion of the relevance of primary data as any sort of main indicator of party health is robust. With that caveat, I found this article on the current state of the Republican primary voter to not be the least bit surprising.

Essentially, the demographic that the mainline Republican Party rode to power starting with Nixon in 1968 (white southern evangelicals) now essentially is the Republican Party at the federal level. Mainline, old guard conservatives have been phased out. Certainly, there is a component of the party that contains Libertarian elements, primarily the white male with some college education under 40 portion of the party, but the voters with actual influence fit this demographic analysis pretty nicely.

And, over the short term, you can make money off of those people pretty nicely. Certainly, they have a disproportionate attention in the media because it's easy to sell advertising to the people that make up this demographic.

But over the long term, as this fringe gets dragged further and further rightward, it becomes more difficult to market to those outside of it and, as such, it loses it's influence on a diversifying society as a whole. For example, the 2006 election featured a number of anti-immigration bills placed on the ballots in a number of states in the south and southwest, this had a tangible impact on Hispanic voters in subsequent elections.

The fact that current Republican candidates and party heads find the idea of arguing about birth control to be relevant to anything more than a slice of it's electorate in the year 2012 should tell you everything you need to know about the age of the electorate to which they are appealing. Rehashing arguments settled in the early 1960s cannot bode well on a party that already has difficulty appealing to female voters, a majority of whom have voted against Republican presidential candidates since 1988.

That said, 90% of politics is getting your supporters to show up, something Democrats are consistently bad at doing in off year election cycles. Whether it's uninspiring candidates, bad marketing, or both, 2010 is illustrative of how much influence this demographic still carries over national politics, even as it, frankly, continues to die off.

There are a lot of people who make this case a bit better than I do. You might start here, for instance.
In many ways, the schism among Romney, Santorum, and Paul more or less defines what being a Republican is in 2012. Paul accurately reflects the Libertarian wing of the party, Santorum accurately reflects it's evangelical wing, and Romney kinda sorta represents everyone else. Everyone who has fallen by the wayside (including Gingrich, who I guess you could fold into something called 'southern old money') folds neatly into one of these three categories.

The problem with this is, the first two groups are fringe but well defined and with a strong sense of (misguided) purpose. Paul supporters are guided by anti-government dogma, Santorum supporters are guided by religious dogma, clumsily wrapped in weak populism. Romney is an accurate reflection of what the Republican Party is at it's core, a terminally conflicted tone deaf vulture capitalist that feeds off the willful ignorance of supporters who accomplishes little but lining the pockets of himself and his friends at the expense of the electorate while flashing a fake plastic smile. And he's not Obama. And that has to mean something, right?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Voter Fraud Myth

Republicans beating the drum on the concept of voter fraud isn't really new. It's no secret that candidates that benefit the most from low voter turnout are Republicans, so the practice of finding ways to impede those voters who are of lower income, are minorities, or who work during voting hours is a hallmark of Republican policy.

John Engler twice vetoed motor-voter laws during the 1990s in Michigan, in no small part because automatic voter registration would have reduced the impediment of voters to turning out to vote. (As it turns out, he overestimated the Michigan Democratic Party in the 1990s, but I digress).

Moving on, once the 24th Amendment was passed, Republicans had to come up with new and interesting ways to keep people from voting them out of office. So whether it's closing DMV offices in Democratic areas, unconstitutional voter ID requirements or voter purges that are of dubious legality or are flat out illegal, they most certainly have managed to do so.

But any good disenfranchisement campaign needs some solid rhetoric to back it up, and that leads us to voter fraud. And, like any good rhetorical campaign, it's important to muddle the issue as much as possible.

To help make sense of the issue, it is necessary to differentiate between voter registration fraud, and actual voter fraud.

Voter registration fraud is at the heart of the ACORN issue. Voter registration fraud is legitimate, problematic and ultimately undid ACORN. Voter registration occurs when people either willfully submit purposely misleading registration information to a county or state board of election, or when, in certain states, people are financially incentivized to do so. By law, in most states, county or state boards of election are required to accept voter registration forms, and to weed through tens of thousands of fraudulent ones is impractical.

However, you might register Mickey Mouse at your address, as if he were a resident. That topic is altogether different than actual, honest to goodness voter fraud. Actual voter fraud occurs either when someone both submits fraudulent registration information and then actually campaigns for office on it and/or actually votes based on it, or when one willingly sells their votes to others.

Once you set aside the old white conservatives screaming about ACORN and get to the heart of the voter fraud issue, the actual voter fraud problem is so small it's silly.

This is a list of every conviction of voter fraud since the year 2000. I'm a bit lazy this morning, but if you sat down and added up, I'd bet you'd come up with around 310 in 46 states. (For comedic purposes, the source of that information is the Republican National Lawyers Association).

What I'm not too lazy to add up is the total number of ballots cast over the same period. Fortunately, the United States Elections Project at George Mason University helps with that.

The total number of ballots cast in elections over the same time period where there were 310 convictions for voter fraud?


So if you're scoring at home, or on the road, 310 of 506,832,881 ballots were proven to be fraudulent over the previous decade. That's 1 in every 1,634,945 ballots, or a whopping 6.1*10^-9% of all ballots cast.

That should more or less shut down the voter fraud debate in it's tracks. Or at least, serve as an effective counter to those who would seek to cloud an issue while they continue to disenfranchise the voting rights of others.

So just what's wrong with requiring a state issued ID when you vote, anyway? Well, for starters, those who are poor, rural, or unable to travel can't acquire them. But let's assume for a moment that you don't actually care about the poor, rural, or those who are unable to travel (which makes you more or less every Republican politician) and look at this from a legal perspective.

First, acquisition of a state issued ID, be it either a drivers license or a state issued identification card, costs money. If you are under the age of 65 in Michigan, this ID is $10 to acquire, and $10 to renew.

Second, because you have to pay money to acquire an ID card (or a drivers license), you are paying money to the state. Because this ID is required to vote, you are paying a poll tax to participate in an election, in violation of the 14th and 24th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.

Now, could a case be made for requiring IDs to vote if both Drivers Licenses and state issued IDs were free? Sure. But ID laws as they stand currently are illegal. But the 24th Amendment doesn't really exist in their version of the Constitution anyway since it doesn't benefit their constituents.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Beyond Pelvic Politics - NYTimes.com

Okay. To further my argument in the previous post on this issue, Nicholas Kristor breaks down the economic impact of requiring coverage of birth control and a way to keep out of poverty... Good read!

Beyond Pelvic Politics - NYTimes.com:

'via Blog this'

Friday, February 10, 2012

Contraception debate

Okay. I've heard quite a few right wing pundit's say that the Obama policy (to require most employers, including Catholic hospitals and universities, to include birth control in their employees' health insurance) is a conflict of the first amendment. That is is a so called "attack" on religious freedom. Well. Um. Hmm. I don't quite see it that way... The policy states that the institution (and universities and hospitals which serve the PUBLIC) has to provide the OPTION of birth control. No one is forcing any women to take or not take birth control. It is up to the individual to decide what is right for her body.

So there, it's NOT an attack on religious rights! You can still preach against birth control in the church. You can still have a class against contraception in your religious university. All the policy states is that a institution serving the public has to abide by the laws of the nation and give the option if requested. That's it. I don't see where this is an infraction on religious rights? All the smoke and mirrors from the right wing is just clouding the issue. You still have the choice to not use birth control. No one is forcing YOU to use it. They are just saying that if your neighbor thinks otherwise; and you serve the public, you have to give the OPTION.