Sunday, March 3, 2013

Last Call

Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein is crazy smart, and runs a good place over at Wonkblog.  But he’s always been one of those “high-INT/low-WIS” types who doesn’t always see the forest for the trees when it comes to Republicans.  This weekend however , he finally removes the scales from his eyes about the way the GOP operates, and to his credit, admits he’s been played:

My column this weekend is about the almost comically poor lines of communication between the White House and the Hill. The opening anecdote was drawn from a background briefing I attended with a respected Republican legislator who thought it would be a gamechanger for President Obama to say he’d be open to chained CPI — a policy that cuts Social Security benefits — as part of a budget deal.
The only problem? Obama has said he’s open to chained CPI as part of a budget deal. And this isn’t one of those times where the admission was in private, and we’re going off of news reports. It’s right there on his Web site. It’s literally in bold type. But key GOP legislators have no idea Obama’s made that concession.

Klein then investigates this further after Jon Chait points out the GOP is being cementheaded on purpose:

If Obama could get hold of Klein’s mystery legislator and inform him of his budget offer, it almost certainly wouldn’t make a difference. He would come up with something – the cuts aren’t real, or the taxes are awful, or they can’t trust Obama to carry them out, or something.

At  this point (as Booman notes), a Twitter exchange between NYT reporter John Harwood and GOP strategist Mike Murphy illuminates young Ezra.

And then GOP consultant Mike Murphy told Time magazine that Obama could get a deal if he uttered the six magic words, “Some beneficiaries pay more and chained CPI.”
When John Harwood noted on Twitter that Murphy seemed unaware that Obama had already offered both of those items, Murphy responded. At first, Murphy insisted that only means-testing had been offered. When corrected, he followed Chait’s prediction to a ‘T.’
1. (Chait: “the cuts aren’t real”) Murphy: “his CCPI offer is small beans gimmick.”
2. (Chait: “the taxes are awful”) Murphy: the CCPI offer is conditional on “big new revenue.”
3. (Chait: “they can’t trust Obama to carry them out”) Murphy retweets a Twitter comment from someone who was listening in to the conversation: “R’s also don’t trust him, and there’s a history to justify this mistrust.”
As Ezra points out, Mike Murphy is not a fire-breather. He’s very much a moderate Republican circa 1990.

No matter what Harwood said when pointing out President Obama is the one compromising here, and has publicly made the exact offers the GOP claims he refuses to make, Murphy rejected those offers as “unserious” or “untrustworthy.”  And it finally dawns on Ezra that all Republicans are behaving this way.
This had led to a lot of Republicans fanning out to explain what the president should be offering if he was serious about making a deal. Then, when it turns out that the president did offer those items, there’s more furious hand-waving about how no, actually, this is what the president needs to offer to make a deal. Then, when it turns out he’s offered most of that, too, the hand-waving stops and the truth comes out: Republicans won’t make a deal that includes further taxes, they just want to get the White House to implement their agenda in return for nothing. Luckily for them, most of the time, the conversation doesn’t get that far, and the initial comments that the president needs to “get serious” on entitlements is met with sage nods.

Congrats, Ezra.  You’ve discovered the fact you’re surrounded by Village Centrists.  Now how about helping America see through their “both sides do it” nonsense and lets pin the blame where it belongs, eh?
Keep up the good work.

A Useless, Barbaric Relic Of The Past

George F. Will is really sick and tired of minorities acting like there's still any need for Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, because frankly Republicans are busy trying to actively disenfranchise minority voters in all states, not just historically racist Southern ones.  Why single out them?  In the name of put-upon old rich white men, Will demands that you people let it go already and that the era for the need for Section 5 has passed.

Progressives are remarkably uninterested in progress. Social Security is 78 years old, and myriad social improvements have added 17 years to life expectancy since 1935, yet progressives insist the program remain frozen, like a fly in amber. Medicare is 48 years old, and the competence and role of medicine have been transformed since 1965, yet progressives cling to Medicare “as we know it.” And they say that the Voting Rights Act, another 48-year-old, must remain unchanged, despite dramatic improvements in race relations.

The question concerning which the Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday was whether Section 5 of the act is still constitutional, given the disappearance of the conditions that once made it acceptable as a temporary and emergency truncation of states’ sovereignty under federalism. In 2008, two years after the fourth renewal of the act, Barack Obama won a higher percentage of the white vote than did Al Gore and John Kerry in 2000 and 2004, respectively. Today Mississippi has more black elected officials — not more per capita, more — than any other state. Yet defenders of the continuing necessity of Section 5 merely shrug about the fact that race is no longer a barrier to either the nation’s highest office or to state and local offices in what once was the state most emblematic of resistance to racial equality.

And there we have it.  "How can there be disenfranchisement when we have a black President and black people getting elected in Mississippi?"   Gosh, I dunno.  Maybe the part where we make voter ID laws a de facto poll tax?  Maybe the part where Republicans actually opposed efforts to register more voters, or any effort to increase the number of voters in the US at all, because minorities who traditionally have been barred from voting by dint of long lines at urban polling stations, elimination of early and weekend voting, and faulty voting equipment are assumed to all be criminals anyway?

Will plows on, regardless.

Section 5 was enacted as a temporary response to many measures employed, primarily in the South, to disenfranchise minorities. It requires nine states and some jurisdictions in others to get federal permission — “pre-clearance” — for even minor changes in voting procedures. It has been extended four times, most recently in 2006 for 25 years. The 2006 House vote was 390 to 33, the Senate vote was 98 to 0; obviously, the political class’s piety about the act has extinguished thought about its necessity. But one reason for judicial review — for active judicial engagement in the protection of constitutional rights and arrangements — is that the political class, with its majoritarian temptations, cannot be trusted to do so.

Hey, that's Wario Scalia's argument.   Will buys it wholesale.  After decades of bitching about Congress not being able to agree on anything and not being able to come together for overwhelming bipartisan support, when they came together to renew the Voting Rights Act with overwhelming bipartisan support , that just proves that overwhelming bipartisan support is awful and that you can't trust it.  Why trust legislation to legislators?  (Also see George F. Will on why you can't trust the executive to execute, which is to say any of his columns on our "imperial President" over the last four years.)  But hey, let's just have the Supreme Court make endless 5-4 decisions on turning America into a right-wing utopia, that's a real governance system, dammit.

In 1982, Section 2 of the act was amended to say that the measure is violated whenever nomination and election processes “are not equally open to participation” by minority voters. And equality of participation is said to be denied whenever minority voters “have less opportunity than other members of the electorate to . . . elect representatives of their choice.” And representatives “of their choice” has been construed to mean representatives who are members of the same minority. This expresses two tenets of progressivism’s racialism. One is identity politics: Your race is your political identity. The other is categorical representation: Members of a race can be understood and represented only by members of this race. By this reasoning the Voting Rights Act has become an instrument for what Roberts has hitherto called “a sordid business, this divvying us up by race.” 

Section 5 is racism because African-Americans voting for African-Americans is racism, and liberals are racist for allowing it to continue.  As usual, the rich white guy has now made the call that racism is over, and that anyone who still believes this "racist remedy" is necessary is a racist.  Because George F. Will says so!

Seriously, at this point the barbarous ancient relic in this article is George F. Will, not Section 5.

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