Monday, February 2, 2015

Last Call For No Longer Neutral

Granted, it's from Politico, but they are reporting that FCC chair Tom Wheeler is ready to drop some of the "toughest rules possible" on broadband and mobile carriers involving net neutrality.

On Thursday, Wheeler is expected to present to the commission a set of rules that would treat broadband providers like utilities, effectively denying them the right to charge companies a premium for faster access to consumers and holding them accountable for any attempt to secretly impede the flow of data. When the commission finally approves them — a vote is scheduled for late February — it will mark the most significant rewrite of the rules of the road for the Internet in more than a dozen years and affect the competitive playing field for generations to come. 
Wheeler did not speak officially for this report. But interviews with FCC officials, industry executives and representatives of public interest groups reveal the origins of his dramatic pivot on this issue: an intense and relatively brief grass-roots lobbying campaign that targeted two people — him and President Barack Obama. 
“We [knew] that Tom Wheeler was going to make the decision on this,” said Craig Aaron, president and CEO of Free Press, a liberal public interest group. “He was the guy with the most influence over the details, and the question becomes who has the most influence over him, and that is President Obama.”

If that's true, look for the GOP Congress to try to attach legislation undoing such a move and preventing the FCC from ever imposing such rules in "must-pass" legislation.  And yes, I fully expect the GOP to try to shut the government down over this.

As it is by the end of February we could be facing a shutdown over immigration. 

We'll see.

Mirages In The Desert Of The Real

Sure beginning to feel like grousing about National Journal articles is becoming A Thing(tm) around here, but now we've got John Judis talking about how 2006 and 2008 was a "mirage" and that enduring Republican control of the country through the middle class is now a semi-permanent feature of America.

American parties routinely go through periods of ascendancy, decline, and deadlock. From 1896 to 1930, the Republican Party reigned supreme; from 1932 to 1968, the New Deal Democrats dominated; following a period of deadlock, the Reagan Republicans held sway during the 1980s. After the parties exchanged the White House, Democrats appeared to take command of American politics in 2008. In that election, Obama and the Democrats won not only the White House but also large majorities in the Senate and House, plus a decided edge in governor's mansions and state legislatures. 
At the time, some commentators, including me, hailed the onset of an enduring Democratic majority. And the arguments in defense of this view did seem to be backed by persuasive evidence. Obama and the Democrats appeared to have captured the youngest generation of voters, whereas Republicans were relying disproportionately on an aging coalition. The electorate's growing ethnic diversity also seemed likely to help the Democrats going forward. 
These advantages remain partially in place for Democrats today, but they are being severely undermined by two trends that have emerged in the past few elections—one surprising, the other less so. The less surprising trend is that Democrats have continued to hemorrhage support among white working-class voters—a group that generally works in blue-collar and lower-income service jobs and that is roughly identifiable in exit polls as those whites who have not graduated from a four-year college. These voters, and particularly those well above the poverty line, began to shift toward the GOP decades ago, but in recent years that shift has become progressively more pronounced. 
The more surprising trend is that Republicans are gaining dramatically among a group that had tilted toward Democrats in 2006 and 2008: Call them middle-class Americans. These are voters who generally work in what economist Stephen Rose has called "the office economy." In exit polling, they can roughly be identified as those who have college—but not postgraduate—degrees and those whose household incomes are between $50,000 and $100,000. (Obviously, the overlap here is imperfect, but there is a broad congruence between these polling categories.) 
The defection of these voters—who, unlike the white working class, are a growing part of the electorate—is genuinely bad news for Democrats, and very good news indeed for Republicans. The question, of course, is whether it is going to continue. It's tough to say for sure, but I think there is a case to be made that it will.

The two trends Judis should be looking for to explain why the middle-class is becoming more Republican are ones we've talked about on this blog time and again: the destruction of the black and Latino middle-class, and the rise of voter suppression.

It's easy to make that case that middle-class Americans are going to become more and more Republican because the middle-class is leaving black and Latino voters behind.  It's becoming more and more white, and the reason why is simple:  the Bush economic collapse in 2007-2008 destroyed the black and Latino middle class for a generation.  The typical black family has 8% of the wealth of the typical white family.  Eight. Percent.  There effectively is no black middle class left.  It's nearly as bad for Latinos as well.  Black and Latino workers have been kicked out of the "office economy" in droves over the last six years and at every turn Republicans have blocked job plans that would allow people to work their way back into the middle class.

The other half of the puzzle is Republican voter suppression in dozen of states, where urban voters in precincts that are heavily black and/or Latino have to suffer through long lines and use outdated equipment, have to provide voter IDs, and where states have limited or eliminated early voting in order to suppress black and Latino voting specifically.  You combine the two factors and you have this "emerging Republican middle-class voting bloc" that was always there, it just doesn't have black or Latino voters to counter it anymore.

That's your real "Republican advantage".  And no, it doesn't look like it's going to change anytime soon.

The Wicked Webb We Weave

Former Dem Sen. Jim Webb is no longer cute with his "We've got to win back white voters at the expense of everyone else" routine as an alternative to Hillary Clinton in 2016.  In fact, he's getting downright insulting.

"I think they could do better with white, working people and I think this last election showed that," Webb said, referencing the 2014 midterms where Republicans took control of the Senate and added more power in the House. "The Democratic Party could do very well to return to its Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Andrew Jackson roots where the focus of the party was making sure that all people who lack a voice in the corridors of power could have one through the elected represented."

Pressed on his statement by NPR's Steve Inskeep, Webb said that he doesn't think Democrats' distancing from white, working people was a byproduct of President Barack Obama's election.

"This was happening before President Obama," Webb said.

Looking ahead to a 2016 race that he may run in, Webb added: "You are not going to have a situation again where you have 96% of the African American vote turning out for one presidential candidate. ... We need to get back to the principles of the Democratic Party that we are going to give everyone who needs access to the corridors of power that access regardless of any of your antecedents. I think that is a fair concept."

The stunning implication here is that Democrats have spent too much time giving voices of color "access to the corridors of power" and that hey, isn't it really time for a party that will give white men a seat at the table?

That nagging realization in the back of your mind is the fact that's the Republican Party's unspoken (and sometimes very loudly spoken) message, and that trying to be more Republican than the GOP doesn't tend to work out really well for the Democrats, historically.  Webb's hook is that he's disguising the politics of white grievance as populism.  It may even be appealing.

But it's not going to put him in the White House. Charlie Pierce:

Let us stipulate for a moment that Andrew Jackson also was a slaveholder and a genocidal madman, no matter how much the buckskin-shirt crowd loved him. Let us not return to his principles, thank you. And while FDR and Truman were fine presidents, who did some of all that they could have done, they still presided over a Democratic party that was the political and constitutional bulwark of the Jim Crow South. Neither one of them could break that dark alliance until the Civil Rights Movement shook the political order to the point where Lyndon Johnson could blow up the alliance entirely. Webb can't have this argument until he acknowledges: a) that the "principles of the Democratic party" to which he appeals also had a Whites Only sign on them, b) that the commitment of the Democratic Party to equal rights was a titanic moral victory for the entire nation, and c) that a lot of the voters to whom he suggests reaching out remain sorry that the sign ever came down. In the days to which Webb has suggested returning, the Democratic party did not remotely stand for "everybody" who needed it getting access to the corridors of power. The Democratic party only started standing for that at its 1948 national convention, and didn't fully stand for it until 1965. And, from about 1980 until about 2007, there was a powerful element within the Democratic party that thought the way back to power was to distance the party from the moral victory of the civil-rights movement in order to win back "Reagan Democrats," of whom Webb was one at the time.

Granted, the Reagan Democrat wing got us 8 years of Clinton as opposed to more Bush....but then we got more Bush anyway.   Of course, now we're heading for more Clinton.  Webb should figure out quickly that running to the right of Clinton's not going to help him.


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