2010 Election Post-Mortem

Yesterday I participated in a panel discussion about the 2010 elections post-mortem at UMD.  There was agreement that last Tuesday’s election was a bad day for many people.  It was also a confusing day with plenty of contradictory signs for 2012.
Among the few sure take-aways is the (almost certain) fact Obama will run for reelection, and–with a slight bit less certainty– he is not likely to face much if any competition in the primaries. This gives him a leg up on one term predecessors Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and HW Bush.
As I see it there are 5 factors that will influence the 2012 election: economy, turnout, infrastructure; message; GOP infighting
First is the economy,stupid. Almost everyone agrees. A bad economy, anemic growth, an unemployment rate at or above 8%; static income growth all  spell trouble for Obama’s reelection changes.
Second,  is turnout. Although the 2010 election turnout was a little higher than for 2006, it was still down about 40% from 2008. Given the tremendous hype surrounding this year’s election, this is disappointing, particularly so given who voted and who stayed home. As it turned out, the enthusiasm gap was real. Obama’s base stayed home. Voters between 18-29 comprised 11% of the electorate as opposed to 18% in 2008; African Americans were at 10%, down from 13% and Latinos stayed about the same, from 9% to 8%.  Older voters and Republicans voted in high numbers. There was some flipping from Obama votes now voting republican but the bigger picture here I think is that we are looking at two different electorates who voted in 2008 and 2010. The one that shows up in force in 2012 may make a big difference in terms of which side wins.
Third is infrastructure, and by this I mean who controls the ground mechanics in key swing states. The governorships and state legislative races here give the GOP the edge. For 2012 Republicans will control the state legislatures and governorships for much of the midwest that Obama needs if he is going to win: Wisconsin, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio.  The GOP of course also will control  redistricting which is likely to place the Dens at an additional disadvantage when it comes to the fight to retake the House. estimates suggest it puts them back another 20 seats.
Fourth is messaging. The GOP, with the Fox megaphone successfully framed the 2010 election cycle as a battle against Obama’s big, near socialist government.  Although Obama and the Dems had a great many successes during the last 2 years, you wouldn’t have known it from the campaign.  If the Dems remain on the defensive and running away from their own agenda, they will lose in 2012, and perhaps deservedly so.
Finally a lot will depend on how the GOP establishment handles the new Tea Partiers who are looking to join the leadership ranks come next January. A civil war among Republicans will make the President’s reelection changes that much better. And of course, a lot will rest upon who is the Republican nominee. Palin as nominee would be a gift.
Otherwise, it’s the economy, stupid, and few people expect much improvement in that regard. The bottom line. Obama is going to have a difficult time getting re-elected.

with 100 hours to go

With 100 hours to go until election day, this has been one of the most surreal political seasons in memory.  While Democrats are closing in on their rivals in many senate and house races, it seems to be way too little and late. The tidal wave is coming brought to you by the likes of the following:

You have the prospective next Speaker of the House John Boehner campaigning for  a nazi re-enactor Rick Iott, a Tea Partier in Nevada telling Latinos not to go to the polls and staying 3 points ahead of the Majority Leader Harry Reid. You have one of the least credible and most laughable head of the RNC Michael Steele on the eve of taking credit for an electoral tidal wave. You have a party, whose own leaders conceded in private they ran out of ideas two decades ago about to take control of the House, perhaps the Senate and spend the next two years filibustering, investigating and smearing every decent policy since the New Deal while labeling their opponents socialists, terrorists, unpatriotic, and worse.  You have a “fair and balanced” media outlet that concedes its own political bias as a way to score ratings and advertising, and yet this outlet gets a prime spot in the White House press room. Its commentators get away with Islamophobic narratives that CNN, MSNBC or NPR that even they couldn’t deploy against any other group.  You have a party that was pretty much treated as dead 2 years ago, on the eve of a broadscale victory with nothing to offer the public except hate, ignorance.

Unless you look at the bigger picture that suggests none of this matters. the lying, name calling, racism…. they are simply distractions.  Underneath it all, It’s all ideology, stupid.

What matters is the larger corporatist assault on democracy that was inspired by Louis Powell’s memo in 1971, that took root during the Reagan revolution of the 1980’s, Clinton’s end of big government in the 1990s and the victory lap of neoliberalism in the post 9/11 2000s.

Beneath the name calling, head stomping stupidity is the underlying attempt to question political authority in the United States.  For the first time in a long time, the narrative is explicitly peeling back a vision of America to its pre-New Deal, even pre progressive era of Lochnerian corporate excess (unregulated freedom of contact).  And you have Tea Party leaders questioning the social contract, raising questions abut the legitimacy of the federal government that most people thought were settled with the Civil War, or even the federalist papers.   Beneath the witches and homophobic propaganda, state’s rights politicians are attacking the federal government. Its legitimacy. The social contract that gave us the federal system.  And they are doping it by claiming federal powers are unconstitutional.  These fundamentalists are running around with pocket editions of the constitution (a good thing by the way)  and pointing to passages they clearly have never read, or at least fail to understand.  (The establishment clause in the first amendment.  Is that your final answer, Mr Coons?)  Still at this level of distraction we are getting closer to the point, which is this:  private corporations are  dumping millions of dollars into right wing political campaign coffers, with no accountability/ no transparency.  They have taken over the political and policy process. And its all behind the curtain. And when you pull back the curtain what you see are private firms generating hateful but extremely profitable policies, under the Tea Party Banner and w/ the stamp of legitimacy given them by faux intellectuals like Kris Kobach and faux political leaders like Jan Brewer (never elected)  and all in the name of freedom and state’s rights.

This is the America that is being advanced by the current campaign cycle; increasing the stakes for everyone to get out and vote next Tuesday, but scarily foreshadowing a future in which such voting is irrelevant

Why Tea Party has So Many Joke Candidates

At this Wednesday’s Tea Party and the 2010 elections conference at University of Maryland, congressman Roscoe Bartlett inadvertently explained why the T Party has run so many jokesters as serious candidates, from Carl palladino to Sharon Engle to christine O’Donnell. Of O’Donnell, Bartlett said the witch and other comments and past experiences are not important. She would do well in the Senate he says because she follows the script on the larger narrative against the fed govt and for deregulated markets. No minimum wage. Put all entitlements on the table. It’s neoliberalism on steroids, with Burkean outrage at the enlightenment. The chastity and masturbation stuff is just entertainment. Presumably this holds for the other candidates too. It’s all about being able to follow the script: let them eat cake!

John Locke and Immigrant “Anchor Babies”

Each week it seems right wing extremists come up with yet another argument against immigrants of color, particularly those who have no papers and who cross the deserts or the Rio Grande along our southern border. The latest involves “anchor babies” and the 14th Amendment. Wow!

But, if one could — for only a moment– divorce it from the 14th Amendment and look at the issue of birth citizenship in terms of a thought experiment, you might agree it raises some interesting questions about consent in democracy and indeed is a worthy and perhaps important debate.

The question of whether children of undocumented immigrants who are born in this country should enjoy rights of citizenship is a centuries old  question about political membership and having voice, concepts which are the basis for our democracy, and which we should debate because they raise important questions of political identity and constitutionality.  This question finds its origins in the political writings of John Locke, an honorary founding father whose theories are embedded in the Declaration of Independence, and who is also a faux hero of the right because of his notion of property rights and minimal government.

Here’s what I think Locke would say about “anchor babies.” Regrettably, he likely would side against the idea of children born to undocumented immigrants getting citizenship.  Not on racial grounds of course but on the grounds of consent.  Locke believed that citizenship and membership into political society was based upon active consent, something that babies–regardless of where they are born–simple are unable to give. No babies are citizens. period.

Since Locke believed the legitimacy of the state came from the consent of the governed at the age of discretion (consent), citizenship is not conferred by birth. According to Locke, every person is born free and equal under authority of their parents. Since what government that person might obey is matter of consent, not birth, and  one cannot confer consent until they reach the age of discretion,then undocumented children would not be citizens. But neither would the rest of our kids.

For Locke, full fledged citizenship is attached to express consent, which is conferred by way of some  mark of allegiance (vows; oath) that pledges the acceptance of the form of the state (See his 2nd Treatise, Section 118-122 on citizenship) by express promise and compact.

So, if we strip citizenship from “anchor babies” we must also strip it from all children.  On the other hand, the bad news for “anchor babies” however is good news for lawful permanent residents who wish to become naturalized as citizens.  In fact, according to Locke, naturalized citizens are society’s only full fledged citizens.

That means– and I really want the right wingnuts to focus in on this, citizenship becomes a tiered status  with the top tier going to the millions of newly naturalized citizens, holding up their hands and taking the oath in mass ceremonies around the country.

The rest of us who were merely born here, gave what he referred to as “tacit consent” a second tier form of consent, which argues for second tier panoply of rights and privileges.

IN short, if the right wing wants to have this debate and the Glenn Beck’s among them will likely base some of the debate on classical liberal history, then let’s do it right.  If Locke is to be an inspired voice for the right-wingers in this debate, then get him right.  The tacit consenters among them (Glenn Beck, Rush; Senators Kyle, McCain…) must concede readiness to relinquish their own privilege and hand it to their Latino brothers and sisters who take the oath and expressly consent to our form of government.

If comprehensive immigration reform ever comes to pass, and it will, then 11-12 million undocumented immigrants will soon (in five years) rightfully take their place among the first tier of citizens, as our governing class.  And I take it that this scenario will have the right’s fervent support. right?

SB 1070 Challenge not Over Yet

As expected, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer just announced the state will appeal Judge Susan Bolton’s decision to grant a preliminary injunction on SB 1070, which means the struggle continues. Although the injunction is great news for the immigrant rights movement and for all Americans and immigrants, when the clock strikes midnight tonight, several backwards provisions in SB1070 are still going into effect.

Tomorrow, it will be a state crime for persons to harbor and transport undocumented immigrants, and the state could impound/remove the vehicle used for harboring/transporting.  Some day laborer provisions remain intact as well. For example, it is unlawful to enter a vehicle in order to work or to hire someone, in a manner that impedes normal flow of traffic. This was an argument made in the friendly House complaint and not addressed in Bolton’s decision.

Further, the decision did not enjoin the private right of action by individuals to sue law enforcement if they maintain that police are not enforcing immigration law to the  fullest extent authorized.

Such issues not covered raises additional questions that will have to be worked out on appeal or back in the legislature. For example, since police cannot ask for documents, what exactly do individuals have a private right to sue for?  It also remains a question whether yet another injunction will be granted for the Friendly House case. It’s ambiguous because although the judge granted today’s injunction for U.S. v Arizona and not for Friendly House, her decision responds to several issues raised in the Friendly House case– not in the DOJ case.

In the meantime, the real challenge tonight is for the WH to respond in a proactive way. More than just patting their DOJ on the back, the president needs to proactively get in front of the issue and lead congress to enact CIR.

Judge Bolton grants Preliminary Injunction on SB1070

This afternoon Judge Susan Bolton, federal district judge, Arizona, granted a preliminary injunction to stop enforcement of provisions in SB 1070, Arizona’s ‘papers please” law.  The decision shifts the narrative in the immigration debate. no longer can anti immigrant conservatives insist that Arizona is merely enjoining acts also enjoined by federal law.  According to the court, Arizona preempted federal authority to regulate immigration.  The message for other states intending to follow the Arizona template: “don’t do it.  It is illegal.  You will be challenged. And, you will be beaten.”

So, when SB1070 goes into effect tomorrow, July 29, 2010, the state will not be able to require police to inquire about the immigration status of anyone they stop, detain or arrest if they reasonably suspect the person is in the countryb illegally. (Section 2)

It will not be able to criminalize the solicitation, applicatioon for, or performamnce of work by an undocumented immigrant (part of Section 5)


The state cannot authorize the warrantless arrest of a person where there is probable cause to believe the person has committed a public offense that makes the person removable. (Sec 6 of SB 1070)

Still to come is a trial on the merits. The state of Arizona can, and likely will appeal the preliminary injunction.  So the 9th circuit could reverse as soon as tomorrow, or. it could take months.  Still to come is a decision on the merits and likely, lengthy appeals.

In other words, today’s victory is a step in the process. Hopefully, it shifts the debate; Hopefully too, it puts pressure on the Obama Administration to show stronger leadership over the CIR debate.

The preemption issue is important; but perhaps more important as far as the quality of life for immigrants is concerned, is for the court(s) to also attend to underlying privacy, due process and equal protection issues.  Whereas preemption deals solely with federalism and prevents a patchwork of strong anti-immigrant state laws, the problem of systemic abuse against immigrants applies to the federal programs as well as to state transgressions.

Shirley Sherrod and National Guard to the Border: An unsettling pattern

In the last 24 hours, news of the National Guard’s deployment to the border and the Vilsack firing and perhaps rehiring of Shirley Sherrod show the limits of the Obama Administration’s iron cage of rationality.  One of the tags on Obama is his excessive rationality, so much so that it casts a shadow over his ability to be motivated by emotion.  Well, cast that aside as yet another Obama myth.   This uber-rational of administrations has taken action in these two instances on the basis of fear not rationality.  The Sherrod affair and the Administration’s border politics share three characteristics: race-sensitive topics, 2) right wing distortions and threats; 3) appeasing the right and fanning racial fear.

In each instance the Administration has taken sides with the right and Fox news racialists against the side of rational argument, the facts, oh, yeah, and civil rights. Now let’s be frank. The President’s race has a lot to do with the right wing’s exploitation of these issues.  It need also be said that the President’s race does not make his Administration a moral beacon on instances of race.

Quite the opposite. the Obama Administration keeps tripping over itself to not appear biased on race, so much so that it sides with the Right wingnuts over the reasonable and common sense dictates of civil rights and the rule of law.

And who is being victimized by the President’s loss of reason?   Residents along the border, in Arizona, and Shirley Sherrod, along with the rest of us who believe in the rule of law and in the normative argument that civil rights have been a good thing for this country, and that such progress must continue.