Democracy Soup

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Archive for December 2011

Open letter to Iowa Republicans: Use your power wisely during the caucus

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Dear Iowa Republicans:

Right now, you are feeling as proud as anyone can be in your “Leap Year baby” scenario. Every 4 years, the country pays attention to you. And you have worked hard in the modern primary system since 1972 to make sure people care about Iowa the rest of the time. Those farm subsidies don’t pay for themselves, after all.

If our political structure looked at the big picture, they would laugh at the power Iowa has. About 1% of the nation’s delegates come from Iowa; 92% of the population are white, non-Hispanic (2005 numbers). A small, very white dot on the widespread landscape.

Our political structure doesn’t have this wisdom, which is why Chris Dodd moved his family to live in Iowa in 2007 to get ready for the 2008 primary. The Dodds left Iowa and the race shortly after the caucus.

We always say you have a tough choice to make every 4 years. On the Democratic side, Iowans have picked the ultimate nominee 6 of the last 8 times (hometown favorite son Tom Harkin in 1992 and neighbor Dick Gephardt in 1988). Republicans have as many upsets as correct picks in years (minus unopposed candidates): Mike Huckabee (2008), Bob Dole (1988), and George H. W. Bush (1980).

Despite those trends, your state still holds a significant amount of magnitude for deciding the GOP presidential nominee.

Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann have the most to gain or lose in the Iowa caucus. Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman won’t let Iowa affect their runs. Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul are in it, regardless of how Iowa goes. Rick Santorum could stay or leave after Iowa since it won’t matter either way.

In 2008, Romney finished 2nd with 25%, a finish the 2012 Romney would be thrilled to get. Paul had 10%, a figure that should go up in 2012.

Discounting Rudy Giuliani (4%) and Duncan Hunter (1%), the remaining competitors will compete for the share gathered by Huckabee (34%), Fred Thompson (13%), and John McCain (13%). Huckabee and Thompson appealed to social conservatives, Perry and Bachmann’s wheel house. Gingrich can work on McCain’s totals. So unless you all in Iowa know something we don’t, we could see a massive split, thereby reducing the impact GOP Iowans want/need to have.

Iowa Republicans haven’t given a candidate a dominating total, so a general split wouldn’t buck the trend. Little victories can help those who really need it. But what Iowans know the deep dark secret that the Iowa magic only came one time, and that was Jimmy Carter in 1976.

While Iowa’s days were more hype than reality, your state has the power to eliminate. That elimination power cripples the ability to pick good leaders for president. Can’t do well in Iowa? Might as well not run.

The king-making hype is your fault, but the reaction of the rest of the country is their own doing. Presidential candidates should stay in a race for 5-10 states, or until they truly run out of money.

The frustration in most of the country, obviously not Iowa, is that we don’t get to vote for people such as Rudy Giuliani (4%, 2008), Gary Bauer (9%, 2000), Richard Lugar (4%, 1996), or Pierre DuPont (7%, 1988). Maybe we wouldn’t have voted for them anyway, but we should have a chance to decide this for ourselves.

In covering the 2008 primaries, I saw voters in states genuinely excited over having viable choices further down the road than we had ever seen. Democratic Hoosiers, in particular, were excited to see a viable race in May.

This gift is something that Iowa voters get every four years, regardless of the candidates. Maybe this year’s list doesn’t have who you want; of those that are running, you have all the choices, even Santorum.

Unfortunately, this gift isn’t shared by a lot of you Iowa Republicans. The caucus status eliminates any active-duty soldiers fighting for the freedom to vote, college students, learning about freedoms, away on break. Those who are otherwise occupied (work, child rearing) are out of luck. So those who will have the opportunity have extra responsibility.

This will be the first post-teabagger Iowa caucus. You proved conservative enough to select Mike Huckabee in 2008; Perry and Bachmann have to like their chances.

— Newt Gingrich: You have the first chance to show the country whether you believe Newt has changed his stripes. On his 3rd wife and now Catholicism is a lot of change for the former speaker. Has the wheel stopped in a good place for Iowans? Will the vote on Gingrich be based on what he might (or might not) do with farm subsidies?

— Mitt Romney: You won’t vote to put him over the top, even if that ruins your chances of being king-makers. He knows it; you know it. Romney won’t even hold that against you. The question becomes where Romney finishes. A 2nd or 3rd place finish would make his night; anything worse than that makes New Hampshire that much more important.

— Rick Perry: Will Iowans reward his gay-bashing ad? Will you wonder deeply why Perry wore the “Brokeback Mountain” jacket in the ad? Clearly, you aren’t interested in his lack of grasp of the issues or his ability to remember what he wants to eliminate from the federal government.

— Michele Bachmann: After her John Wayne Gacy faux pas, we haven’t heard much about Bachmann’s Iowa roots. Iowa has treated nearby politicians rather well, including Tom Harkin, Barack Obama, Richard Gephardt, and Bob Dole. Even if you don’t count her Iowa roots, her Congressional district in Minnesota isn’t all that far from the Iowa border. Bachmann is certainly conservative enough for Iowa Republicans, she won the Iowa Straw Poll, and her credentials on the gays won’t hurt her in the Hawkeye State. Yet, the pundits don’t think much of her chances.

— Ron Paul: “Why not Ron Paul” could almost be the battle cry for his campaign. Paul, like Romney, has the advantage of being in Iowa in 2008, and drew a decent 10% in an open field. Too bad for him that college students won’t be back from break for the January 3 date. The recent changes of vicious racism in his newsletters will only hurt if you all are paying attention, then again, the 92% Caucasian figures that the charges won’t affect his chances. The better question is whether Paul will get any credit for his finish by the MSM.

— Rick Santorum: Santorum’s conservative consistency would serve him well in Iowa, but his ability to get momentum has never had any, what is the word we want, … momentum. Santorum’s major problem in Iowa and elsewhere is too many far-right conservative voices in the race.

— Jon Huntsman: If Huntsman gets the GOP nomination, it won’t be because of Iowa. Or South Carolina. The Iowa primary Huntsman should have ran in was 1996 or 1976, not 2012.

As for Herman Cain, Sarah Palin, Mitch Daniels, Paul Ryan, and the others who thought of this moment, and passed it up, whew, you might have had a shot. Well, Cain was in it, but as Gingrich has taught us, if you don’t marry your mistress, you can’t be taken seriously.

For those who finish out of the top 2 and think Iowa is the nail in your presidential campaign coffin, remember the wisdom of Joe Lieberman’s “three-way tie for third is really fifth place” strategy. Yes, people laughed at that, but that was on the Democratic side. If Perry or Bachmann pulled out a similar thought, that would seem somewhat normal by comparison of what else they have said.

So as you go meet with your fellow Iowa Republicans on Tuesday, you have a task in front of you that the Republican candidates couldn’t do themselves: eliminate a candidate or two. You will receive pressure from comedians such as Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert to keep Perry and Bachmann. You will receive pressure from the status quo to give Romney more love than you otherwise would. You will receive pressure from Newt Gingrich just because he talks a lot and thinks he is very smart.

The beauty of democracy, twisted as it may seem these days, is that you get to decide who lives in the campaign and who dies. Your subtle moves in the caucus will be analyzed under giant microscopes. You will have more reporters in your face since, well, 2008.

Democracy brings responsibility, but we don’t have to tell you that. You’re Iowans. You control the process. Vote with your heart; let us worry about how you did.


GOP’s artificial deadline threatens the Keystone XL pipeline

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The GOP is being rather snotty over forcing a provision into the payroll tax cut/unemployment benefits deal requiring a 60-day deadline for President Barack Obama to decide on the Keystone XL pipeline project.

The president doesn’t get off easily either, since his administration set an artificial deadline of 2013.

Both sides act like they don’t want the pipeline, but want to blame the other side.

For more coverage, check out this link from our sister blog,

Written by democracysoup

December 27, 2011 at 8:30 am

Conservatives insist liberals want sharia law, but sharia law appeals much more to the right wing

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One flower that stems from the pollen of political allegations are sensationalized theoretical conclusions about the other side. Most people think of them as weeds.

“If we do what the liberals say, we’ll end up like Karl Marx.” “If conservatives get their way, we would constantly be at war and our senior citizens will eat dog food.”

Okay, so most of the manure that are sensationalized theoretical conclusions come from the right-wing because 1) they are good at it, 2) they secretly like being scared, and 3) they don’t really know what liberals would do because it’s so easy to not hear what they’re saying.

Conservatives view liberals as “commies.” Liberals view conservatives as “religious nuts.” Then again, conservatives don’t think Lenin (or Lennon) when they think of commies, they think of Stalin and Brezhnev, neither of which are figures that liberals love. Liberals associate Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell with what conservatives speak, though to be fair, Robertson came out recently telling GOP presidential candidates that they are going too far. Pat Robertson. Seriously.

Mostly out of ignorance, conservatives paint liberals with broad strokes that most liberals would say, “Uh, not quite.” This is easy for conservatives to do because liberal media, what little there is, can be ignored rather easily. Liberals know how to listen to Thom Hartmann, even if it is with a tinny AM radio to a signal that goes down to 1,000 watts at night; most conservatives and moderates have never heard of Thom Hartmann.

This isn’t about the ongoing liberal-conservative war in as much as this is about one new allegation from conservatives that has been spreading for sometime that is not only so wrong about liberals, but also if the allegation were turned around, would fit conservatives to a tailored T.

“If liberals had their way, we would be under Sharia law.”

Even for conservatives, this is difficult to fathom. Liberals somehow want a conservative take on Islamic law, one that punishes people in harsh fashions for accusations that either are things liberals think are OK (gay people) or crimes that don’t fit the punishment (highway robbers should be crucified or mutilated).

In fact, the more you read about sharia law, the more U.S. conservatives would embrace it, not liberals. Religious dogma that can’t be questioned, a harsh justice system with no mercy or exceptions, severely punishing those that love outside marriage, where husbands “rule” and wives “drool,” mostly after being knocked unconscious by their husbands.

“But wait, that’s not fair. Most conservatives would argue against a lot of those points. Some conservatives think the government should not worry about what happens in the bedroom.”

Yes, some conservatives want the government to stop worrying about our sex lives. But not the conservatives we hear from and not the loudest conservatives these days.

Conservatives think they know a lot about communism through the eyes of Karl Marx, but they really don’t. But they have experience with something called “communism.” The vast majority of conservatives and most liberals don’t have much experience with Muslims, much less Sharia law. However, this doesn’t stop conservatives pundits and politicians, including GOP presidential candidates, from saying liberals want sharia law.

Liberals who do have some idea about sharia law aren’t the ones lining up hoping for sharia law. Find us a liberal, one liberal, who wants sharia law in the United States. One. The Chicago Cubs will win two World Series titles before you find one liberal who is begging for sharia law to come to the United States. For non-baseball fans, the Cubs haven’t won 1 World Series since Teddy Roosevelt was president.

The MSM has adopted a olé strategy toward covering conservatives, so getting answers is difficult as to why conservatives think liberals want sharia law or addressing the 180° contrast where sharia law is better suited for conservative interests.

If you are a conservative person who wants sharia law in the United States, feel free to speak up and let your voice be heard. If you are a conservative person who doesn’t like sharia law, then you have a duty to speak up and say that liberals don’t want sharia law. Elements of pure communism (not Soviet rule) have some appeal to liberals, no element of sharia law appeals to liberals. And if you are a conservative person, especially a pundit or politician, who still thinks liberals wants sharia law, then we suggest you do some research. 15 minutes later, you will change your mind — 45 minutes later if you don’t know how to work the Google.

Latest GOP conservative/gay hypocrisy takes Canadian turn

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Greg Davis is a conservative, married “family-oriented” politician from Mississippi. Davis tried really hard to be a conservative, married “family-oriented” Congressman from Mississippi. So you know what is coming next.

Davis has been outed. That isn’t the fun surprise. The surprise comes not even from an audit of $170,000 of allegedly illegal spending of taxpayer dollars, but a $67 charge at a Toronto gay sex shop.

They don’t write them like that anymore.

For his part, Davis now admits that he is gay, even though he has a wife and children. Davis doesn’t remember what the $67 charge was at Priape, but since it may ruin his political career, chances are he really does know.

We don’t care that Davis is gay; the hypocrisy is what gets us, especially when you are conservative, married “family-oriented” politician. Self-hate is always a bad time.

For more, read our account at our sister blog,

Believing government shouldn’t help is one thing, but tell us where the help should come from

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“What I believe is obvious, okay. It’s obvious that government should be limited. If the government wasn’t helping us with the food stamps or unemployment, somebody out there would be. Government don’t need to be helping. They don’t need to be helping us, they don’t.”

As Congress closes up shop for another year of legislation, the “do-nothing” Congresses from history books would be envious of the first half of this Congressional session. Horrible economy? Not one single jobs bill. Not even a bad one. And no indication that 2012 will bring any better news.

President Barack Obama is trying what little he can do. Payroll tax cuts and extended unemployment benefits, simple obvious things, are traveling down a rocky road in bare feet. If those moves get passed, they are drops in thimbles in buckets. People need help.

John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and the GOP House leadership are satisfying their constituencies: corporate companies that are “people,” Grover Norquist, an economic philosophy that has been proven to fail, and people who genuinely believe government’s role isn’t to help people in need.

The quote above is from one of those people, Paul Starr featured in the Vanguard documentary “Two Americas.” The documentary shows us two families, one rich and one poor. In the poor family, Paul and his wife April are out of work, scrounging up money just to make sure they still have electricity for the next day.

These people don’t believe the government should help, but they take the help anyway. As the couple scrounge to get money to keep the electricity going, he calls his mother. She is on Social Security; at first, she says she can’t help him, but later offers $175 to help keep the lights on for the couple and their two young sons.

These American people — who believe government shouldn’t help — collect Social Security benefits, are on Medicare and Medicaid, take food stamps, and get unemployment benefits.

These are not uber-rich, they don’t have walk-in closets or domestic help. They are part of the 99%, yet they are tired of people beating up on the 1%. They are behind in their bills, deep in credit card debt, unemployed or certainly underemployed. They don’t raise much of a fuss, almost certainly go to church on Sunday, and want a safe world for their kids.

As part of the documentary, the Starr family watches a GOP presidential debate sponsored by Fox. One of the questions centers around a poll where 66% of Americans think a tax on the wealthy is a good idea to help pay down the deficit.

“The question was, the wealthy. Are the wealthy paying enough?” Paul says. “I think they are,” April answers.

“I know they are,” Paul says emphatically. “I mean, we’re all paying the same thing, right?” asks April.

It would be easy to say they these people are blind, their ears dominated by Rush Limbaugh and other right-wing talk radio and the folks at Fox. The truth is that these media sources reinforce a basic belief these people sincerely believe, and reinforce their fears in the process.

Paul doesn’t have a college education, neither does April. He has worked in the construction industry. He lost his job and has struggled with finding another job. She is having a hard time finding a job. When they get interviews, they get excited, and say the interviews went well. Then the words on the screen tell us that they never got called back.

To get the $250 he needs to keep the electricity short-term, Paul gets $75 from a nearby church and $175 from his mother. There are plenty of other bills that are long past due. April is on the phone, repeating what the phone company is saying on the other side of the conversation that once the wife hangs up, she’ll have no more phone service.

It’s comforting to think that you don’t need the help from government; after all, you think, your neighbor will come through for you. But what if your neighbor is poor and lose his job? In the documentary, they stand outside and see the power company cutting off their neighbors’ electricity for non-payment. Did someone magically come along and help them?

This is the problem with having a 1% and a 99%. If you are on the poor side of the 99%, which is really saying something, chances are your neighbors are pretty poor, too. While the couple in the documentary got enough money to keep the lights on, they lost their phone and Internet service, things you need in a job search.

Even when people are finding work, the money offered is less than they were getting, and less than you would think a job such as that would be worth. Meanwhile, rent, food, electricity, etc. are all going up in cost. As we saw from a segment on NBC’s “Rock Center,” plenty of working people are eligible and taking advantage of food stamps.

The rich family, Javier and Lucinda Loya, in the documentary have three homes and their bills are paid on time. Like the Starrs, the Loyas have two children, both girls. This rich family raises money for charity, and remember when they had very little money. The Loya family is in the 1%, yet their attitude toward those that are less fortunate is more gracious than the Starr family.

When the Starrs watch their neighbors lose their electricity, their focus is on whether they will lose their own power.

Paul finally finds a job for slightly more than half of what he was making … with a catch. He has to travel several weeks at a time for the job. So the family is bringing in a lot less money, not to mention extra travel expenses. They don’t have to feed him at home while he’s gone, but you have to figure that he will have to eat out more on the road, reducing their income even further.

These are people who don’t question a whole lot. If they aren’t getting help from the banks, they don’t tie it into greed or TARP or bailouts. The economy around them is falling apart, but they don’t associate it to decisions made in Washington or Austin (they, like the rich family, live in Houston). They don’t wonder whether the politicians they supported when they lived in Alabama and the ones they support in Texas are voting on bills that have had a negative impact on the economy.

Long-time The Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten once said about a non political person that he “willed himself into a certain protective ignorance about the way life works.”

Paul and April Starr have a political philosophy, yet also have a “certain protective ignorance.” They aren’t alone. And these people don’t all live in the South, though a lot of them do. These are the people that Boehner and Cantor are fighting for when they don’t pass a jobs bill and they don’t help those in need. They don’t want government’s help, but they’ll take it. They still won’t like it, and they won’t vote for people who will help make their lives better. They just don’t get the connection.

Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich can’t be pro-family if they are against food stamps

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Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are at opposite ends of the GOP presidential polls, yet they are united in being clueless about food stamps. Santorum and Gingrich have enough experience in Washington to know better, but have proven that are woefully ignorant or lack in compassion or both.

Santorum pretends to not know the correlation between food stamps and obesity (i.e., cheap fattening food sponsored by the government), while Gingrich takes us back into a time machine with totally fabricated “welfare queens” stories about food stamps recipients.

For more of this shameful behavior, check out this report from our sister Web site,

GOP voters showing odd traits for what they find acceptable from presidential candidates

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Several allegations of sexual harassment weren’t a problem for Herman Cain, but an allegation of a consensual affair was the last straw for Cain’s presidential campaign. What does that say about Republican primary voters?

So Republican voters didn’t care that Cain had allegedly come on to women in a forced and uncomfortable manner, but spending time with a woman, who for whatever reason wanted to be with Cain, that was too much. Oh well, guess the woman vote wasn’t that important to them.

The person “replacing” Cain as the anti-Romney is Newt Gingrich, whose two affairs (that we know of), are almost too well-known. Gingrich’s affairs are still better known among liberals of all ages than young conservatives. Or conservatives could be working from the logic that, well, at least Gingrich married his mistresses.

All this would be more trivial but we are running out of 2011, which means only one thing: Iowa is coming. New Year’s Day brings college football bowl games on January 2 and the Iowa caucus on January 3. Voting with a hangover isn’t a smart way to pick a presidential nominee.

If Mitt Romney will be the nominee, he still probably won’t win Iowa. If anybody but Romney is the nominee, that person still won’t likely win New Hampshire. Not that anyone is shocked by this, but South Carolina will go a long way to telling us who the GOP nominee will be, provided the race doesn’t last long.

This assembled group of GOP contenders is a rag-tag bunch; the GOP would love to create a candidate based on parts of the individual candidates: Michele Bachmann’s passion, Rick Perry’s hair, Jon Huntsman’s foreign policy knowledge, Rick Santorum’s spunk, Newt Gingrich’s chutzpah, Ron Paul’s integrity, and Mitt Romney’s name recognition. Alas, the Republican voters will have to judge these people on their individual merits. Or beg Donald Trump and/or Sarah Palin to change their minds.

For those expecting Romney to coast need not look further than his interview with Bret Baier on the Fox “News” Channel. Romney took a lot of heat for his reaction to questions from Baier. Normally, Fox wouldn’t even throw a punch at a Republican, but Baier’s treatment of Romney (normal in normal circumstances) is an indicator that the far right does not like Romney. The message Fox sent to Romney: you aren’t convincing prospective voters that you are conservative enough for them.

Republican politicians are very good at dishing it out, but taking it is something they do as often as Herman Cain getting something right on foreign policy. Romney should be thankful that Baier did what he did. If Romney ends up being the nominee, that might be the toughest interview we see of the former Massachusetts governor.

The MSM has an annoying trait, among many, of not asking Republican candidates about things they’ve already done. Won’t ask Gingrich about his past affairs; won’t ask Romney about his earlier stances because “well, that was the past.” Heck, the press couldn’t even ask Texas Governor George W. Bush about his past in 2000, and we didn’t know much about his past.

As for Baier, who is part of the MSM sort of, his motivation wasn’t to be tough on a politician. He only asked Romney about his past to make him look inconsistent.

On the off chance that a rogue interview may come up or even a question that won’t protect Romney, the Bain Capital co-founder needs to react a whole lot better than he did in that interview. Yes, Republicans aren’t used to reasonable questions, much less tough ones. But even in that circumstance, Romney acted indignant to be asked about things that he has said. This on the heels of a media strategy where Romney does very few one-on-one interviews. Now we know why.

While we here at Democracy Soup welcome as many debates as we can get in the political process, maybe we can guide the GOP to doing more one-on-one interviews with journalists who will ask tough questions. Fair questions, but tough ones. They can take the questions usually asked of Democratic politicians and substitute some of the words.

Herman Cain and Rick Perry have something in common: they rose to high numbers in GOP polls based on what they represented. Once they spoke for considerable periods of time, we learned a lot about them that they would have preferred not to share. Republicans deride President Barack Obama for his ability to speak well, but minimal speaking ability is required for this job, George W. Bush being an exception.

Perhaps this is one of Bush’s (many) legacies. As long as the politicians talks tough, it doesn’t matter what they say. In the eyes of the GOP voters, Romney’s sins aren’t that he once spoke of their issues in less conservative terms, it’s just that he hasn’t been as loud about his “new conservative direction.” The far-right Republican voters don’t care about what Romney once thought or even said, they are living in the now. The 2011 version of Mitt Romney hasn’t convinced them to vote for the former Massachusetts governor.

The MSM loved the John McCain of pre-2006; Republican voters wanted the 2008 McCain, who was nothing like that long-ago version of the same man. McCain wasn’t much better at believing what he was saying in 2008, but he did a better job than Romney has about selling it to the GOP masses.

If Romney can learn those vital lessons from McCain about how to effectively flip-flop, the GOP nomination is his. McCain sold his soul to be the GOP nominee, and look where it got him. Can Romney be smart enough to figure out how to sell his soul? And can he do it by January 3?

If not, the process is truly wide-open for the 2012 GOP nomination.