Tag Archives: Democrats

A Look at the 2012 Race

With a little more than a year to go before the 2012 presidential election, things are really heating up in the Republican Party. After a rather indecisive start, some GOP candidates are clearly emerging as frontrunners, while others have fallen too far behind to make up the difference (in fact, Tim Pawlenty has dropped out altogether). Meanwhile, President Obama has kicked his 2012 campaign into gear, advertising extensively online, and making speeches around the country.

So who are the major competitors in this race? I can hardly claim to be a political expert, but the following is a rough primer on who I think will be the big players in the 2012 election, and a brief description of each’s views and opinions.

Barack Obama

Barack Obama, Democratic incumbent. Can he pull it off again?

44th President of the United States, and the Democratic incumbent in the 2012 campaign. Obama has been raising a pretty substantial amount of cash for the race, and hopes to get up to a record-breaking $1 billion for the whole campaign, up from his $779 million last time around. But despite this, Obama may not stand all that great of a chance of winning. The most recent polling data from Gallup shows the president’s approval rating dropping down below 40% for the first time in his term. If that indicates anything about his success in the coming election, things aren’t looking great for him.

Obama seems to be on the losing side here for two reasons. First, economics. Plain and simple. History has shown that the American people directly associate the success of a given president with the current state of the economy. And as the US goes into what may be a double-dip recession, more and more people seem to be blaming the President for what’s happened to their job, their house, and their bank accounts.

Second, Obama’s record in the Oval Office has shown little sweeping change, and his accomplishments are somewhat spotty. His health care plan is faltering in state courts, Guantanamo Bay is still up and running, and we’re still in Afghanistan. Don’t get me wrong, he has made progress; taking out Osama bin Laden and pulling the country out of Iraq (to a large degree at least), just to name a few. But compared to such Democratic titans of change as FDR or Lyndon B. Johnson, Barack Obama doesn’t have much to show for his years in office so far.

Michele Bachmann

Michele Bachmann, candidate for the GOP primary nomination, House Representative, and presidential hopeful. Also, totally nuts.

Republican House member, representing Minnesota’s 6th congressional district. Bachmann is a devoted part of the Tea Party movement, and was part of recent strong opposition to the raising of the federal debt ceiling (she, like many others, doesn’t seem to realize that the debt ceiling is raised so the US can pay off debts that it has already incurred). She is also a stalwart conservative, both fiscally and socially, and has a strong appeal to the Far Right and large numbers of evangelical Christians.

Bachmann’s popularity and presence has been growing over the past weeks and months, and she resonates strongly with America’s substantial ranks of conservative Christian voters. She has also had two recent victories in Iowa: Coming in first at the Ames Straw Poll, and soundly defeating fellow Minnesotan Tim Pawlenty in heated debate at a Republican debate in the state. Pawlenty has since dropped out of the race for the GOP primary.

But early success in straw polls and interparty debate doesn’t guarantee a good president, let alone a viable candidate in the general election against Barack Obama. Bachmann is similar to Sarah Palin in that she is loved by a specific demographic group (Far Right voters and evangelicals) and widely loathed by most others. Her extreme views and ideas simply don’t resonate with most people outside of her sphere of “Values Voter,” Tea Party influence. On top of that, she has shown little in the way of true leadership skills, and seems to be choosing to lead by protest, rather than by ideas.

What do I mean by that? Bachmann is loudest when objecting to others’ ideas (namely, Barack Obama’s), not when suggesting different ideas that might work better. She is, in a word, confrontational, which is a quality that only helps someone opposing those in power, not someone in that position themselves. But then again, in this age of polarized, partisan politics, she may still have a decent shot at the presidency.

(Also, if she wins, I’m moving to France.)

Rick Perry

Rick Perry, GOP candidate and current governor of Texas. Yeehaw?

Current and long-time governor of Texas. Rick Perry only joined the primary race this past Saturday, the 13th of August, after a few months of deliberating. (He said he would “definitely not” be running last December) Perry is something of an archetypal GOP candidate, being fiscally and socially conservative (and Christian). He has a long and, some would say, decorated history as governor of Texas, and claims responsibility for Texas’ relative success in creating new jobs during the recession.

Even though he joined the race mere days ago, many political junkies believe that Perry stands a high chance of being the frontrunner’s (Mitt Romney’s) main competitor. During his term as governor, Texas created a much larger number of jobs than any other state in the country, and the numbers there were substantially above the national average. Now, this of course does not mean that Perry was directly responsible for these great numbers, and many would argue that the jobs created were the kind few people would be ecstatic about holding. But still, it looks good.

So Rick Perry seems to have a great economic track record, especially concerning jobs, which are Americans’ biggest concerns at present. On top of that, Perry can talk the conservative talk, frequently promising to hack big government down to a minuscule size if elected. Add to that his conservative Christianity, prayer rallies, and gubernatorial experience (real leadership experience, unlike Bachmann), and Rick Perry seems to have a pretty straight shot at the Republican nomination.

Any drawbacks? Being from Texas. While Rick Perry largely resonates with conservatives, his geographical ties to a recent and rather unpopular president may hamstring him. Though of course a candidate’s strengths and abilities don’t necessarily come from or are hampered by his place of origin, the words “Texan” and “President” still don’t sit together comfortably in the minds of many, particularly the more independent voters who still resent the last Texan to sit in the Oval Office (but who doesn’t?).

Mitt Romney

Previous governor of Massachusetts (the 70th, to be exact), also-ran in the 2008 GOP primary, and deep-pocketed business man Mitt Romney.

Businessman and former governor of Massachusetts. Mitt Romney ran in the 2008 GOP primary, and came pretty close to the nomination, though he ultimately lost to John McCain. Romney is currently the decided frontrunner in the GOP race, leading in the polls and the pocket money (so to speak).

Romney has the benefit of name recognition from the 2008 race, as well as a pretty strong conservative history. He’s not as hard-lining as Perry or Bachmann, so he stands a better shot at winning over independents. Romney has a history of corporate leadership, and can claim to have experience leading a financial structure efficiently, which many people feel is exactly what this country needs (of course, part of that efficient leadership in Romney’s corporate life came from extensive job-cutting, but hey).

Romney does face the drawback of his history. During his time as governor, Romney brought nearly-universal health care to his state of Massachusetts. Since that decision, Romney has taken a lot of flak from his conservative competitors about his “Romneycare,” which they claim puts him on equal footing with the much-disdained president. On top of that, Romney has become more conservative over the past years, which leaves him without the long history of conservatism that candidates like Perry and Bachmann can claim.

So Who’s the Next President?

I wish I knew! I’d like to say that I’m confident that President Obama will be reelected in 2012, but things are still up in the air. Obama hasn’t been the dealmaking, aisle-reaching president he ran as, but I do think he could still get some great things done in a second term in office. The GOP primary is still quite undecided, and the general election hasn’t even begun, so we’ll have to see how the situation continues to change. Come back later for another update on the race!

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The Washington Circus

With only one short day left before the US would have crashed into its first-ever default, Congress and the White House have finally settled on a deal on the debt ceiling.

But while the “clear and present” danger of imminent default is out of the way (for now at least), the federal government’s antics surrounding the normally simple process of raising the debt ceiling have scarred the political system this country stands on.

Anyone who’s followed the deliberations in the US Capitol over the debt ceiling has probably not been overly impressed with their elected officials in the past few weeks. As members of Congress, the president, the Tea Party, and leaders from both sides have gone at one another tooth and nail over the debt ceiling issue facing America.

And finally, a deal has emerged between John Boehner and Harry Reid, the de facto leaders of the GOP and Democrats in Congress (respectively), a deal that the president is willing to sign. But this deal is still far from law. An ongoing debate in Washington still threatens to derail it, as members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have objections. The deal has unsavory aspects to both conservatives and progressives: it cuts less spending than the former would like, and has almost none of the tax increases the latter was angling for. This means there’s still a decent chance this deal won’t go through.

But either way, this debate has already done serious damage to the federal government of the United States, and to the people of the country. Besides costing US taxpayers some $1.7 billion, this legislative monkey business has done real damage to the reputation of America’s lawmakers. Weeks of bickering and failed talks fulfill the stereotype that Congress is a lumbering legislative lump of inefficacy (alliteration always strengthens an argument, right?). Recent polls have shown that as many as 80% of Americans are dissatisfied with the actions of their representatives in DC.

So who’s to blame? Who is the ringleader in this circus?

Us.

One (and “one” includes myself) could certainly make a case that the Tea Party movement in the GOP ranks is largely responsible for the crap Congress has been trudging through. If it weren’t for their posturing and political machinations, the raising of the debt ceiling would have been perfectly normal. Like it always has been (the debt ceiling was raised 7 times during George W. Bush’s presidency). Tea Party members of the fractured Republican “coalition” in the House have made ridiculous pledges that pay no attention the real state of the country or its economy. In fact, some Tea Partiers have made it clear they would be willing to run the country into default, just to prove that “it wouldn’t be so bad.”

But as much as I would like to blame the Tea Party for everything happening in Washington, the truth of the matter is ultimately that the ringleaders of this circus were put into place… by us. Back in November of last year, the US people showed their impatience with Democratic leaders by electing a flood of GOP Congressmen and -women. These men and women, many affiliated with the Tea Party, promised to cut spending and “big government” if elected, which is exactly what they’re trying to do (albeit in a highly illogical fashion). Who voted them into office? The American people. And while most of us certainly would’ve liked to see a more mature electorate running our country’s finances, those who put the monkeys in this circus (So to speak. Maybe.) in the first place have to share some of the blame.

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Wisconsin Shenanigans

One of the more popular protest signs in an area rife with division and legal controversy.

The political situation in Wisconsin just keeps getting more and more sticky. As you’ve probably heard by now, Republicans in the WI state Senate forced through their union-busting law through a tricky technicality – which seems like a pretty underhanded way of legislating to me.

What was this trickery? Well, the senators, using a ploy that some Democrats in the state have denounced as illegal, removed parts of Governor Walker’s bill that were related to appropriating funds (technically at least), which allowed them to pass the bill without the minimum quorum of 20 senators required for bills of that nature.

The Democratic senators who retreated to Illinois to hold the bill back, known by some as the “Wisconsin 14,” were outraged by the shifty legality of the Republican senators’ maneuver. And who can blame them? Even after all of their determination and the furious protests of state workers in the capital, the Republican senators have said, essentially, “Enough is enough.” The consequences of this decision are more or less exactly what Gov. Scott Walker wanted to happen: Unions have lost their collective bargaining abilities and have suffered an effective cut in pay.

To me, this seems like pure shenaniganery (which is now a word) on the Republicans’ part. Now, it’s true that these officials were elected by the people back in November for a reason, and that reason was a new desire for fiscal conservatism. So it makes sense that the newly elected Republicans would want to honor that desire by effectively cutting the pay of public workers. But what point could there be to taking away collective bargaining rights, except to slice into a stronghold of Democratic sentiment? The idea that “budget” came into the decision is frankly ridiculous.

On the positive side, this tactic has called the newly elected Republicans’ wisdom and discretion into consideration, and as many as 12 Senators may face recall this spring. The political fallout from this decision will no doubt be significant, and protests are still ongoing in Madison. So soon after the national turnover in elected officials from blue to red, it’s possible that new Republicans will be ousted from office before they can even get the rest of their plans into action.

With similar bills under consideration in Indiana and Ohio, and a national rethinking of the role and privileges of unions, it’s hard to say what might happen in other parts of the country. On the one hand, it’s possible that similar bills will be pushed through in other parts of the country, as Republican lawmakers are spurred forward to mimic their Wisconsinite brethren. On the other hand though, I think it’s quite possible that this can be a strong rallying cry for Democrats and public workers’ unions all across the country. Now, it’s possible for them to say, “Look what the Republicans here had to resort to to remove our rights! Don’t let them do the same thing to you.”

And even if no Republicans legislators are recalled after this, chances are this action hasn’t helped their street cred much, and we could see another total turnover in Wisconsin back to the democrats in the next election cycle. And if similar bills are passed elsewhere, by similar tactics, it’s quite possible that Republicans will lose a considerable amount of political momentum, perhaps even on a national level. Many people, even some who voted them into office, feel that GOP legislators and governors have taken the wrong approach to cutting the deficit, and are hacking away at things like collective bargaining rights, which is unlikely to save the country any money, instead of tackling real problems like social security or bloated military spending.

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Unrest in… Wisconsin?

A protestor's sign in Madison, comparing Governor Walker to ex-president of Egypt Hosni Mubarak.

Typically, when someone says the word “Wisconsin,” I don’t think of protests, civil unrest, and accusations of a governor’s similarity to Hosni Mubarak. But over the last few days, the state’s public workers have reacted strongly to Republican governor Scott Walker’s recent plans to require them to pay more for health insurance and pensions, effectively slicing away a substantial amount of worker income. More surprising are the governor’s hopes to severely castrate (unpleasant yet appropriate imagery) the bargaining rights of these union workers.

The governor has made the claim that such cutbacks are necessary in these tough economic times, and he and supporters have said that so-called excessive benefits and pay for public employees have contributed to the dire economic straits that many parts of the US find themselves in.

Now, it’s understandable that Walker would want to cut back on certain benefits and bonuses for state workers, and in fact, prominent union leaders have agreed to this cut in pay (which works out to around a 7% drop in income). But my real concern with Walker’s action isn’t about the financial side of things so much as the union rights aspect. While I can sympathize with a desire for cutbacks in spending in the public sector, I really fail to see what economic benefits the Republican bloc of Wisconsin hopes to find in the restriction of collective bargaining among unions.

Generally, I don’t have a fantastically high view of unions, to be perfectly honest. While I’m typically a very liberal thinker (and voter), I often find myself taking a more Republican view toward unions. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great to have increased protection and fairness toward workers, particularly those in the lower or middle working classes, to prevent abuse from higher-ups. In this sense, I love unions. In another sense though, unions have the potential to elevate certain professions higher than they should be, and guarantee protections and privileges to only a few.

In this sense, I agree with supporters of the governor’s action (or at least their sentiment). In a recent New York Times article, a number of Wisconsinites have expressed their frustrations over the seeming extra protections that such unions provide to state workers. Many workers for private companies, especially in the industrial sector, feel that people such as public school teachers, policemen, nurses, or firefighters shouldn’t get such excessive benefits and bargaining rights when those working in the private sector don’t have those same bonuses.

And so it goes. I definitely wouldn’t say that these protests will have similar results to those in Cairo, as some seem to be hoping for. But they do raise an interesting and important question of the modern roles and rights of unions, and whether public workers do have this inherent right to collective bargaining. Either way, I think it’s fair to say that this right isn’t what needs to be taken into consideration right now. Walker and other Republicans are trying to turn a budget cut into an outright attack on union rights and union workers, using the excuse of a federal budget as a justification to hack into union power. I fail to see how collective bargaining is going to have a negative impact on Scott Walker’s budget, and it’s time he abandoned the argument that taking this right away will help his state’s economy.

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