Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Archive for June 2012

President Obama needs to sell us on Obamacare, even if we have to wait until 2014

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You might be ready to forgive John Roberts for his flub of the swearing-in of President Obama in 2009.

Roberts was the deciding vote in the 5-4 decision that upheld the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). For those who were hoping that Justice Anthony Kennedy was going to save the day, yikes.

“The fundamental problem with the court’s approach to this case is this: It saves a statute Congress did not write,” Kennedy said from the bench. “The court regards its strained statutory interpretation as judicial modesty. It is not. It amounts instead to a vast judicial overreaching.”

Not that a White House should excel in marketing, but the Obama Administration has done a horrible job at marketing this legislation. At stake was a tax, but it wasn’t called a tax. And so those that used the legal system to destroy health care reform came one vote away from accomplishing their goals.

After the ruling, President Obama explained to the American people why the legislation has helped some people, and will eventually help most of us.

When most Americans can’t take advantage of the health care reform, the opponents drive the message. You can argue that the government isn’t in control of health care or that there are no death panels, but without visible proof, your argument isn’t that strong.

Now that Obama doesn’t have to worry about the Supreme Court, and he wants to get re-elected, the president should show the American people why Obamacare will help them … even if that help isn’t coming until 2014. His inability to sell Obamacare cost the Dems the House in 2010; if he can’t get that marketing engine going, his chances of still being president will diminish.


Women have to speak up for their vaginas to protect them from political harm

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Long before Michigan state representative Lisa Brown entered the national political landscape, vagina was destined to be the word of 2012. Yes, the “Vagina Monologues” deserves some of that credit for bringing alive what should be a common word, yet little heard in American media and society.

Over 50% of the country has one, most of the rest of us want to find one, and all of us came from one. Yet vagina was a word that just … wasn’t … used.

Sure we use pussy and the c-word and, with apologies to our Canadian readers, beaver. Va-jay-jay is a recent phenomena that was worse than the actual word vagina.

I do enjoy a phrase I heard from the folk/comedy duo of Garfunkel and Oates (both women) who spoke of the “Georgia O’Keefe bouquet.” And I personally like “secret garden.” But I and others in our society should feel just as comfortable to use the clinical term, vagina.

The penis has many great slang terms — dick, cock — to name a couple, but the word penis and its euphemisms are much more commonly used.

Mentioning of lady parts in American society is a recent trend. Women’s lib brought up the idea of burning bras, even if we didn’t always talk about what was inside the bras. Even as much play as breasts have received, people who support raising money for breast cancer research use phrases such as “Save the ta-tas.”

Lisa Brown (D-West Bloomfield) got banned from speaking on the House floor by Michigan House Republicans. This is what got her silenced:

“I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but no means no.”

Brown was referring specifically to her vagina, and also to vaginas all around.

This was too much for Rep. Mike Callton (R-Nashville), a chiropractor with a biology degree, who said that what Brown said was “so offensive, I don’t even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company.”

Afraid to say to women about something that they all have … in 2012.

The embarrassment that these men feel at the use of such word would be slightly amusing at a party. But the Michigan Republicans were jumping on the bandwagon of passing draconian legislation to interfere in health care decisions made by women about their vaginas.

The war on women has been about abortion and reproductive rights, but also laws that treat women as second-class citizens incapable of making decisions about their own bodies. Part of that war has been to make it difficult for women to talk about their private parts.

Clitoris, uterus, ovaries, vagina. Not being able to say these words, not being able to talk about what potential legislation will do to these body parts, this is where women lose the power. Being able to say breasts, nipples, areolas, vaginal wall. This is where power comes into the discussion.

Men talk about their penises and scrotums with pride and vigor. Women need to own what they have and be proud of what they bring to the table. Their vaginas are being put into danger by these legislatures run mostly by men. While some men are rising up to support vaginas, women have to rally to support their own body parts, and protect them from undue government interference.

If these representatives can’t say vagina, then they shouldn’t be messing around with them. And there’s a word for people who behave this way: they are dic, er, penises.

U.S. protesters can learn lessons from Quebec student protesters

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I covered the NATO protests in Chicago with an eye to what was going on in Montréal. The MSM has its way of delegitimizing protesters, whether they be against the Iraq War or NATO or the Afghanistan War or any other action that has fallen into the status quo. The local coverage in Chicago was particular nauseating since journalists went out of their way to critique their signs and how they didn’t conform to the same message.

The fact that the signs were against action taken by NATO, current and future, and that taxpayer money going to war could be better spent on domestic problems — all that escaped the mindset on the TV screen.

Such trivial nonsense wasn’t found in the ongoing coverage of the student protesters in Montréal. The coverage, in English, at least was mostly shallow and worried more about how the protesters upset tourists and summer highlights, including the Canadian Grand Prix, the Montréal Comedy Festival, and the Montréal Jazz Festival.

As for the French coverage, from what I have been told, the slant depended on which source you read. But they didn’t belittle the protesters for “inconsistencies.”

Can American protesters learn lessons from the student protesters in Montréal? Absolutely. Even if American protesters follow every lesson, will the MSM give their cries the same legitimacy as it treated the teabaggers? No. But the coverage of U.S. protesters will improve because much of the ammunition against them will be detonated.

Uniformity of message: The student protesters were chanting the same thing. The rhythm of wooden spoons hitting pots snd pans was catchy and I heard it long after they weren’t around. Not that the teabaggers had consistency, but the MSM usually loves consistency in a message.

Age diversification: When the protesters were mostly students, the cries were that they were young, or spoiled, or didn’t understand the world. When the Quebec government passed Bill 78, making it more difficult for students (or anyone) to protest, people outside the student realm started marching along with the students. Having people of different ages march together shouldn’t give a protest more legitimacy, but the media coverage did soften.

Keep the protest going: NATO had a limited shelf life of 4 days, counting the G8 summit that was supposed to be in Chicago. When you have a limited amount of time, you have to cram in more than you should. And Chicago pressured businesses to keep their employees out of the Loop on Friday and Monday. The student protesters in Montréal have been going longer than 100 days with a consistent message.

Incorporate symbolism in your protest gestures: I heard the terms “le casserole” and the banging of the pots and pans, but didn’t understand the symbolism. Fortunately, I had bilingual people explain this to me during my stay in Montréal, so hopefully this won’t get lost in translation.

Loi is French for law; l’oie is French for goose. The pots and pans are to cook the special goose — the special law. Le casserole is French for saucepan, though that might have been obvious.

Give people a chance to support you without protesting: Too often, we hear the MSM cries implying that only those people out in a protest care about the issue. In Montréal, people wore the carre rouge — red square — to support the protesters. Often, those who were protesting at night wore them during the day. But the streets were filled with people wearing the carre rouge who weren’t visibly protesting.

I saw a tall guy with a Army buzzcut in a 3-piece suit riding one of the rented bikes you see throughout Montréal through a street in the Little Italy neighborhood, and he was wearing a red square of support. I couldn’t react fast enough to take a picture nor to ask him about it.

I was told some people wore green squares (against the protesters) and white squares (neutral in the debate). For what it was worth, I didn’t see a green square or a white square in my 6 days in Quebec’s largest city. But when you can get people against you and for you to wear a symbol of support, you have passion in a movement that has been missing on the American side of the border.

The good news for the students is that government was willing to listen and make change. Early on, the Jean Charest government (province of Quebec) changed its stance to spread out the tuition increase from 5 years to 7 years. The students have had enough power to get more done, but negotiations haven’t gone well. The problem, and this isn’t the students’ fault, is that the fight is about the tuition hikes AND Bill 78. The special law is only temporary, and hasn’t been fully implemented (in part because the police weren’t sure how to do so, and it became virtually impossible to enforce).

At some point to any protest, both sides need a conclusion they can live with. Bill 78 could easily die if the students stop protesting, but the students won’t stop protesting until Bill 78 is removed. As for the tuition hikes, the hikes might go through with a lot more concessions from the Charest government. When protests go on for too long, public support can easily slip. The parties involved don’t always know when is the best time. In this case, thanks to the students’ consistency and passion, they have more power than those who have protested on the American side of the border. The question is how will the students use that power to get concessions. That is a lesson we are still learning.

Dems ahead of curve but neither party working toward full employment

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“Anything over four percent is not cause for celebration.”

Mitt Romney is absolutely right … but as you may have guessed, there is a catch.

Romney was talking about how anything above a 4% unemployment rate wasn’t acceptable. And he’s absolutely right.

The catch? Romney doesn’t have a single proposed program that addresses the unemployment issue. And President Barack Obama, Romney’s challenger in the fall, does have numerous programs that will lower the unemployment rate, though not to the level of 4%.

The last president to average as low as 4% was Lyndon B. Johnson. And given the changes to the unemployment rate during Reagan’s time, the actual unemployment rate doesn’t reflect the true state of employment insecurity.

The unemployment rate has been falling, and the job numbers are good if not great. Though, the unemployment rate looks better in part because the share of Americans as a part of the labor force has reached a 30-year low. So the battle for the White House could come down to “we are doing a lot better” vs. “we should be doing way better.”

For those who think President Obama is in really good shape for the fall election, the electorate, especially in toss-up states, will hear a lot of “we should be doing way better.” That message will be hard to resist.

If the 2012 presidential campaign comes down to who will do a better job in getting you a job, Obama would get close to 500 electoral votes and the Dems would win close to 400 House seats and win every single contested Senate race.

Romney, along with John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Mitch McConnell, are much better at whining about how bad things are as opposed to doing something about that pain.

The card Romney is playing is the “Morning in America” card. A lot of people think of that as Ronald Reagan’s 1980 slogan when it was his 1984 slogan. Then again, Rick Santorum thought it was 1976 during his time in the campaign.

“I’m going to get America strong again,” Romney noted in that same speech. Economically, most Americans would kill to have 1980 back again. The “strong America” cry was false in 1980 and it rings more false in 2012. Infrastructure, education, a lack of commitment to building American jobs are all reason why neither Obama nor Romney will get American “strong” in the next four years.

One of Obama’s lines in the campaign was creating jobs for alternative energies that couldn’t be exported to India or China — jobs that would stay in the good ol’ US of A. The problem in 2012 is that even Obama’s supporters have no idea where we stand on that. How many jobs have we created? How many jobs are indeed still around? The American people want/need to know.

Romney is counting on the 1980 malaise that was partially true and partially part of the GOP hype machine. Americans have been beaten down the last few years either because they have lost their job, suffered with a job, or know someone who has lost a job and suffered through their job. Even if the Obama Administration is happier with the job numbers, many Americans are still not happy.

If Romney thinks he’s 1980 Reagan, he should note that the unemployment rate in Reagan’s first term is similar in numbers to Obama’s numbers (though worse in a few ways compared to now). Be careful what you wish for.

The challenger gets the benefit of the doubt, even when that challenger has literally no plan to help fix the situation. In 2010, the GOP didn’t retake the House and almost grab the Senate because they had a plan. They railed against Obamacare and unemployment and took control of the House. And we still don’t have any help from them.

Things may be better but they still aren’t good.

Voters believed Reagan in 1980. Voters believed the GOP in 2010. The voters got let down.

When the election cycle really kicks in around Labor Day, when Romney has a running mate, then we should have a long-term discussion about how to get more Americans working. Tax credits to companies, tax cuts to rich people, tax incentives for companies to ship jobs overseas, state and local officials bidding against each other for companies to come with no guarantees that they’ll stay when the next bid comes around — these are a lot of what the United States has tried to get jobs for Americans. And they have all failed.

While the Dems have had the advantage over the years in job creation, they had a golden opportunity in 2009 to revolutionize job creation in the United States, and blew that chance.

Ironically, the one area where Obama will help long-term job growth — the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) — still won’t kick in for most Americans … until 2014. This is IF Obama is re-elected, IF the Supreme Court doesn’t play politics, and IF the Dems can take one or two houses in Congress.

When people can start their own businesses after they can buy affordable (relatively speaking) health care, the job dynamic has the potential to change dramatically for the better. Those who can’t afford to quit can leave jobs they don’t want for a chance to do something they want to do. And those jobs won’t be shifted overseas.

Other than Obamacare, assumes it remains pure, politicians in Washington really haven’t done a whole lot to change the job dynamic. The Dems want small changes and the GOP wants no changes. That isn’t enough for the American economy to thrive. Until someone in power figures that out, we’ll be fighting about crumbs.

What Dems should learn from Scott Walker’s recall win

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Scott Walker gets to remain as Wisconsin’s governor, though control of the state Senate, if only temporarily, goes to the Dems.

Those that opposed Walker’s whack on unions lost out for a few reasons. In the momentum of the crowds in and out of the Capitol in Madison, Walker would have been the third governor in three recalls to lose his job.

Whatever you might have thought about Tom Barrett, running the same candidate looked more like sour grapes. Think back to Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger in California in 2003.

And Dems in Wisconsin couldn’t reproduce that spirit that launched all those protests, again Walker outlasted the anger.

Of course, the massive money imbalance didn’t help.

The White House didn’t make a push for the recall vote. Mitt Romney didn’t either, but the recall isn’t his fight. You would think this would have been the perfect place for Joe Biden to shine here. Whatever you might think of Obama, he gets a lot of bad advice, and he seems to listen to it.

The MSM and pundits are screaming that this translates well to the fall elections. Uh, no. Too much will happen between now and November. Obama and his team will make it to Wisconsin between now and the fall election.

Wisconsin used to be a pretty sure thing for the Dems, and they still act this way. Ask Russ Feingold if things have changed in the Badger State. The Dems should fight hard to win Wisconsin. Obama’s home area is within 90-120 minutes of the Wisconsin border. However hard the Dems think they need to fight in Wisconsin, crank it up by at least 10%.

The pundits also fought hard to ask whether Scott Walker was fought on policy and not corruption. Where was that sympathy for Gray Davis in 2003?

How bad were things for Dems in Wisconsin? “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” rained on Wisconsin’s Democratic faithful — before the results arrived.

Yes, the crowds around the Capitol building were awe-inspiring. But when the Dems had the opportunity to do something about that, they resorted to in-fighting and reduced enthusiasm. Yes, getting outspent in multiples (Walker — $30.5 million; Barrett — $3.9 million) is disturbing. Whining about it doesn’t help get those unions back to where they were.

Quebec student protesters media coverage misses truth on street level

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Though I only saw 5 nights on the streets of Montreal, what I did see was nothing like I had taken in via the Web and through English-language accounts.

They were having fun, though they had a serious message. They were happy when people took their pictures. They didn’t even care if we were American. If anything, people were happy that an American didn’t freak out over the prospect of  the protesters during his vacation.

I didn’t seek out the protesters on my trip, but they weren’t hard to find. Often, they started in different parts of the city. As I noted at the time, they didn’t bother my vacation one bit.

For more on the protesters, pictures included, check out this update from our sister blog,