On One Hand

August 10, 2010

Why President Obama is Going to Be OK

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 3:08 pm
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This is a short post, but I wanted to point something out that is quite important nowadays amidst howling opposition to President Obama and the perception, true or false, that our country as a whole has lurched to the Right.

First, some key statistics from Open Left:

In 2008, according to exit polls, 89% self-identified liberals voted for President Obama. Over the past four weeks, according to Gallup, President Obama’s approval rating among self-identified liberals has averaged 74%. That is a decline of 15 points.

In 2008, according to exit polls, 60% of self-identified moderates voted for President Obama. Over the past four weeks, according to Gallup, President Obama’s approval rating among self-identified moderates has averaged 54%. That is a decline of 6 points.

In 2008, according to exit polls, 20% of self-identified conservatives voted for President Obama. Over the past four weeks, according to Gallup, President Obama’s approval rating has averaged 24% among self-identified conservatives. That is an increase of 4 points.

President Obama got 53 percent of the vote in November 2008. His approval ratings are now about seven points lower, meaning that around fourteen percent of those who voted for Barack Obama are now claiming to “disapprove” of the President’s performance today (because 14 percent of 50 percent is 7 percent of the whole sample).

Some of that deficit has come from a drop in support among moderates. A lot of that deficit has come from discontent among liberals and progressives.

That doesn’t mean Democrats are not in trouble in the midterms: because young people and poor people often think midterms are too unimportant to vote in them, or they’re too busy with other issues in their lives, much of the Democratic base is gone, which is always a major boost to Republicans. Democrats tend to do poorly in midterm elections, especially when their party is in charge.

But it does mean that, things looking as they are now, the President will easily be able to shore up his support in 2008 against a Republican opponent. Progressives who think Obama hasn’t done enough for them aren’t going to turn and vote for Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney.

Of course, the numbers that Gallup found and Open Left reported are a bit misleading when some “moderates” have switched to defining themselves as conservative, and some “liberals” have switched to defining themselves as moderate, since the election. As I have pointed out many times before, Americans are devils’ advocates and lovers of balance, and position themselves in contrast to whatever they see as the most powerful party. Still, one thing that is definitely true is that the numbers for Obama are not as bad as they seem.

Anti-Obama conservatives are numerous, are certainly loud, and they have grown in prominence and attention-getting ability since the 2008 election. But they aren’t more numerous than they were in 2008. Ask a few of Barack Obama’s most vehement opponents who they voted for in 2008: it almost certainly wasn’t Barack Obama, and the president will do just fine if only the people who voted for him in 2008 vote for him again in 2012. All things considered, when he comes head-to-head with a Republican candidate he will still have their support.

April 20, 2010

An Open Letter to Mitt Romney

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 3:03 pm
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Dear Mr. Romney,

In 2006, as governor of Massachusetts, you worked with a Democratic legislature and signed a law that gave your state close to universal access to health insurance.

In it was an individual mandate, requiring everyone to buy health insurance to expand the pool reduce health insurance costs in the state, and subsidies for those who could not afford health insurance. The bill in Massachusetts forced insurers to accept all willing customers. It was not a perfect bill, and is not enough to solve all problems with healthcare, but it was a commendable step.

In 2008 you explained why healthcare in Massachusetts was in line with conservative principles. You explained that the individual mandate asked people to care for themselves, and that the bill would save costs and improve the efficiency of the health care system. Conservative organizations like the Heritage Foundation supported you and argued in favor of your bill.

Fast-forward to 2010. President Obama has signed a bill with crucial elements that are virtually identical to what you, a Republican, supported in Massachusetts four years ago. Its keystones are the individual mandate to expand the pool and subsidies for those who cannot afford health insurance, and the guarantee that anyone seeking health insurance coverage can get a plan.

The Republican Party has cast its lot against the White House, distancing itself in every way possible from President Obama and Democrats, in order to deny them any sense of accomplishment. When the President proposes policies that are Republican in origin, the Republican Party quickly disavows them to claim that Barack Obama is an angry leftist. This has done damage to your presidential ambitious, as countless pundits and policymakers on the Right announce that your plan – which they once hailed – is an epic failure and an example of a Leftist vision.

It is unlikely that the Republican party will ever come around on you; it won’t happen unless they come around on Barack Obama, which is a long shot, and that fact makes your current course of action even more perplexing.

Why have you, now, attacked “Obamacare” and favored its repeal? You have gone back on virtually everything you stood for in Massachusetts, and have gone back on your view that the individual mandate and universal healthcare are compatible with conservative principles – now you prefer to claim that your own policies via Barack Obama are leftist and dangerous.

Now you have not only your policies to explain to the Right, but you have a bizzare change in positions to account for. It is difficult for anyone to determine where you stand on anything; the only thing that is clear is that you will unequivocally oppose anything that a political rival supports, even if it is good policy that you favor. That doesn’t make you a leader, Mr. Romney, nor is it smart: it makes you cynical, bitter and opportunistic. Transparently so. And it makes you one of a pack of Republicans who did the same thing when they united their caucus against a moderate, even conservative, healthcare reform bill.

Truth be told, you have a chance to stand as one of the few Republicans who could publically approve of Obamacare. This will not endear you to the far-Right, who you are lost on anyway. It will, however, endear you to the center and make you palatable on the Left. It would help Presient Obama greatly – which is why you will not do it, since the President of the United States is your chosen enemy – but it would also greatly benefit America, and likely benefit your political future. It will help heal deep wounds in this country and I daresay even make you a leader.

You may never win a Republican primary. But you may take other jobs in either Republican or Democratic administrations, as a moderate, if you would simply tell the truth.

The Right has abandoned you, Mr. Romney. Conservative organizations are fleeing from you in an attempt to discredit Obama, and they will continue to do so regardless of what you do. They are not your allies.

There is only one hope for you to have any credibility and a political future: stand against your party. Tell them they are wrong on their efforts to repeal the Health Insurance Reform Law, and should support President Obama’s plan, which is centrist and indeed is far to the right of many other possible plans that could have been popular this year and could yet appear in America’s future. Tell them that Obama’s plan involves the least government intrusion possible to solve dire present problems, and with it is a significant reduction on government financial obligations. Tell Republicans that the plan will reduce the deficit, and is in line of what you approved (and many Conservative policy organizations supported, in theory) in Massachusetts.

Tell them that though you may remain a Republican, you will gladly ally with your president on this specific proposal, and explain why Health Insurance Reform is a good step for America.

Nobody is beleiving this bizarre tightrope act you are currently doing, arguing that your own proposals are great when you propose them, and terrible when a Democrat proposes them. The Right doesn’t beleive it, Republican primary voters don’t believe it, moderate voters don’t believe it and the Left doesn’t believe it. Its time to experiment with telling the truth.

It may be impossible now for you to be elected President someday, given the chaos on the Right. It is certainly becoming more impossible with each and every day that you continue to tow the party line with political doublespeak on healthcare reform. But it is not too late for you to claim some dignity and respect; stand against your party, and with your own beleifs, and stand with the people in America who will benefit from President Obama’s very moderate health care plan.

Thank you,
Matt Pizzuti

April 15, 2010

Yes, This is Really what I Believe about the Opponents of Healthcare Reform

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 2:57 pm
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We’ve gone over the suffering that people without access to health insurance face.

We’ve gone over how expanding access to healthcare can save costs.

We’ve gone over countless plans at making access to healthcare universal, with minimal impact on those who already have health insurance.

We’ve gone over countless plans at making access to healthcare universal that would actually benefit most of those who already have health insurance.

And for many Americans, the answer is still, no. We don’t want that. It’s too expensive, it’s “too much government,” it’s too big, it’s too fast; those are the arguments that generally rise to the surface in the news. You hear polls indicating that people continue to believe that the uninsured still have reasonable access to healthcare even though this is clearly not true. People seem to be willing themselves into denial.

But if you listen closer to ordinary Americans who oppose healthcare reform, you hear things like “healthcare should be a privilege, not a right,” and “I don’t think everyone deserves healthcare.”

It’s time to admit what’s really at play here.

The opponents of healthcare reform, or anything that expands access, are not really concerned with compassion, cost, with the role of government or even with taxes.

It’s about protecting their privilege. “What good is my health plan,” they ask, “if people without my health plan can actually see a doctor too?” You don’t want to win a coupon to pay $2 for a sandwich and get to the stand and find out that the sandwiches are free anyway. If another country were to come in to the United States offering “foreign aid,” saying “we will pay for your uninsured to have healthcare at absolutely no cost to you,” I believe that many Americans who oppose healthcare reform would see even this as a negative.

The history of humanity is full of undeniable cruelty, and undeniable persecution based on constructs of class, race, or other identifiers. Think about American segregation, where white southerners overtly perpetrated their cruelty towards Black Americans for decades, to no benefit of their own. Think about the American Civil War, where poor white Southerners who did not own slaves or personally benefit from slavery still fought and died to protect slavery as an institution.

Look at Roman society, where people of all kinds derived immense pleasure from watching poorer people be tortured and killed in the arena. Look at Greek and Roman slavery, look at South African oppression of blacks, and look at the American genocide of the Native Americans, where white Americans actually overtly stated that extermination of another group of people was the goal. Look at the Holocaust, the irrational hatred so many Germans had for Jewish people, and the cruelties enacted that were of no tangible benefit to their perpetrators.

Look at every school yard where bullies taunt and persecute the outcasts, and you’ll see that even in Suburban America humans continue to exhibit a natural enjoyment of cruelty before they reach the self-criticism and maturity of adulthood.

It seems to be quite an audacious accusation to say that class cruelty is at play today; it is a thought that has been more or less banished from the general rhetoric. But if humanity is so wrought with unnecessary suffering, and even our own history is wrought with it, why do we think that we, modern America, are exempt, uniquely enlightened, and suddenly the only motivation of American Conservatism is economic pragmatism?

It’s not that rich or middle-class Americans don’t want to pay for universal healthcare, it’s that they think that limiting access is a good thing, that privilege is something to be enjoyed when you have it, and that one’s wealth or advantages are discernibly less enjoyable when they are given to others. Classism still exists. Americans feel good thinking the United States is the richest country in the world. Americans feel good thinking that their neighborhood is wealthier than another neighborhood, and that their home is bigger than another home. Americans, in a tendency that all human beings are prone to, feel good knowing how bad others have it. In other words, when you are not suffering, you see others’ suffering as deserved or even good.

The idea that this is what motivates American politics is cringeworthy. It suggests that the views of some on the Right come damned near being definable as hatred; it paints Tea Partiers or other status-quo groups clearly unethical, while we all like to see ourselves as moral and kind. That is why we come up with all kinds of rationalizations to explain the causes we support or oppose: Americans will argue that the uninsured don’t suffer that much, they’ll say fixing the problem would be nice but is too expensive, or they’ll say that they don’t believe it is a realistic goal. Most of these arguments are tacitly false, as demonstrated by many successful programs in other countries that make access to healthcare universal, but it is impossible to win the debate over healthcare by pointing out the falsehood of those arguments when those arguments are not what is actually motivating their proponents.

If you listen closely to Right-wing rhetoric, to the Tea Party protesters and to Conservatives who are not in public office who explain their views on healthcare, you will catch this – many people see universal access to medicine as a NEGATIVE thing. In other words, they’d pay extra to maintain their privilege and others’ suffering. They derive joy from a stratified world in which others are disadvantaged.

If you open up the New Testament, you see Jesus talking quite a bit about the Kingdom of God, and Heaven and Hell. When he talks about who is going where, the conversation is not about “sin.” It’s about how you view the structure of society. The rich and powerful are condemned. The poor and destitute are lifted up. Jesus forgives countless sinners, be they sexual deviants or tax collectors or adulterers. He does not forgive authorities who neglect the poor.

In the many parables in which Jesus discusses someone who is not forgiven, there stories of people literally entering Hell. The Rich Man from the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man is an example. They are people who hoard their wealth and enjoy their privilege so that others may suffer; they are people who refuse to share their table scraps with a beggar. Jesus says that your treatment in the hereafter will be determined on how you treated “the least of these,” the poorest and most reviled in your society.

I am not a Christian, and am not advocating the view that rich or conservative Americans are going to Hell. I don’t believe that the Bible is literally true nor do I think it is free of countless distortions favored by the early Church. But of the reasons I will likely never be a Christian again (aside from lack of evidence and some absurdities in Christian theology) is that the modern church continues to be so self-damningly silent on the issue of privilege, which Jesus opposed more than anything else. The Church condemns homosexuals and birth control, to the extent that it advocates against the election of pro-choice Democrats, yet it allows the persecution of immigrants and uninsured people? The hypocrisy is palpable, and so is the hypocrisy of those who think our current stratification is a good thing.

But that is, ultimately, why people opposing universal healthcare are so careful to couch their sentiments in other arguments, to claim their opposition to reform is simply selfishness and not overt hate, or to claim it is pragmatism and that the bleeding-hearts are the ones who are irrational. Conservative Americans overwhelmingly identify as Christian, and don’t want to position themselves as the one group the Bible condemns more vehemently than any other. What intellectual acrobatics they’ll go through to claim other motives for supporting the same general consequence, of concentrating human suffering on one class of people: look to the last 18 months of healthcare reform to find the answer.

April 9, 2010

Journalists: Stop Rolling Over For Your Detractors

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 4:50 pm
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Journalism is an important institution in the free world. Few dispute this. Journalism is an important institution in America, too; one so valuable that the framers of our Constitution chose to codify the freedom of the press in the First Amendment.

We live in a complicated world. Few dispute this. Nobody has time to absorb information found in every corner; ordinary Americans do not have time to resolve, for themselves, the inner happenings of the titans on Wall Street or the troubled alleys in Afghanistan. Ordinary citizens do not have time to investigate potential corruption in government or the potential outcomes of current economic trends.

We the people rely on other people to gather that information for us: we rely on journalists.

People will criticize the press for doing just that. This is not a new or controversial statement. The act of journalism has been imbued with constant accusations of “bias,” since its beginning, and on many occasions in history governments as well as private institutions have tried to shut it down. The way this story is written clearly benefits the Left, or benefits the Right, a detractor will say.

That may be true. But a story is still a story.

So when I read things like this – commentary on how most people just don’t seem to listen to journalists anymore – I’m disheartened. Timothy Noah’s article discusses one broad example: collectives endeavors by newspapers, magazines and networks all over the country to explain, as fairly and precisely as possible, what has been wrong with healthcare in the United States, and what a person without health insurance goes through in America.

About 85% of American adults are currently insured (it’s a lot lower for children), so most of us do not have the experience of trying to get medical care without insurance. A lot of others may have some individual plan that they think is working great for them, but haven’t gotten sick yet and hadn’t tried to use it, at which point they may find it less of a good plan than they expected. Our own healthcare costs are inflated by uninsured people who use expensive, late ER-care to treat conditions that should have been simpler, but ultimately can’t pay their bills and pass the costs on to us.

So for those of us who aren’t in the know – we benefit from having someone else to tell us what uninsured people go through, and we benefit from having independent parties, who are members of neither the health insurance industry nor government, mediate the conversation and bring us facts about what we pay because the system is broken.

People in the media know that the Republican party has been lying for approximately 16 months on healthcare. Exaggerations and politicking are strangers to no party and to no issue, but it is also a bona-fide FACT that Obama’s healthcare reform looks like what Republican Mitt Romney passed in Massachusetts, It is a bona-fide FACT that Republicans in Congress worked hard to get their moderate members to oppose a bill that was, ultimately, exactly what they had always been asking for (See Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins). It is a bona-fide FACT that the Republican plan for healthcare failed address most problems with American healthcare, and it’s a bona-fide FACT that Obama’s clan is close to the minimum amount of intervention required, far less than progressives wanted or advocated.

It’s a bona-fide FACT that most people polled on the healthcare bill don’t even know what’s in it, and it’s a bona-fide FACT that most people, in general, remain largely ignorant to the inner workings of business and government. It’s a bona-fide FACT that Barack Obama has cut taxes for most Americans since becoming president, and a bona-fide FACT that he has no plans of increasing taxes on the vast majority of Americans beyond what they were when he assumed office. It is a bona-fide FACT that a lot of voters form opinions, not on facts and information, but on how often they hear a certain sound byte, or on vague and general sentiments they see coming from the political party or pundits they trust.

This is not to their discredit, it is just how people process information when they are bombarded with countless, contradictory bits of information every day, and they have no time to do a thorough investigation for themselves. They try to find the “middle” of what they are hearing, or they find someone they trust, and take sides. They come to see anyone who tells them what they don’t believe (even if it’s the truth) as the enemy.

And the Right has, for years, been running against the media when it comes to truth on healthcare, immigration, the military and Wall Street. If you can’t come up with a clear and cohesive argument as to why you should should get to hang on to power and privilege to everyone else’s detriment, run against the media instead, and tell people that the media is lying.

Journalists need to speak up for themselves. Their institution is crumbling. The way to re-gain the public’s trust is not to suddenly try to side with your detractors and question even for yourself whether you are trustworthy – and hope then that your detractors will look more favorably on you.

Journalists need to insist, firmly, that they know how to tell the truth from a lie and that they have no incentive to perpetuate the wrong side. Liberals do not pay the media, corporations do. So when they public information that insults or damages the reputation of corporations, there’s no reason for it to be fabricated.

What we’ve had, though, is a timid, frightened and trembling media run away from itself, fearing detractors.

They hire opinionated pundits and columnists when they don’t trust their reporters; a liberal to praise Barack Obama, and a conservative to damn their very own reporters.

They think that somehow, taking a small step to the Right – which translates to talking less about what uninsured people are saying and a little more about what Republican congressman are saying – will put them in the clear or help them find the perfect center. They think that following the polls will work.

Sadly, politicians, who are often accused of bending their views at popular whim, aren’t nearly as poll-driven as reporters, who scatter like flocks of pigeons when Gallup or Rasmussen comes chasing. And what happens is that voters, also, try to find the mushy middle. If the media takes a step to the Right, the voters will take a step to the Right, and and then the media will take a step to the Right trying to keep up. Even the Right-leaning media will take a step to the Right.

News to CNN: Fox is still going to accuse you of being “the liberal media” no matter if you report the facts straight or if you uphold Ronald Reagan as the second coming of Jesus. Same for network news and MSNBC.

My advice is to stick to your guns. If you weren’t lying when you said all that stuff, then for heaven’s sake act like you weren’t lying and defend yourself. Run a clean, clear and professional news operation, consider all sides, and tell the truth. Hit back at Fox, hard, and hit back at Conservative lies about who journalists are and what they do.

This country depends on it.

March 23, 2010

Healthcare Reform Post-Mortem: What Happened, and Where we Are Now

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 12:48 am

Two comments; first: Yeah! We did it! Change!

And then: what the hell happened?

We had a popular new Democratic president with outstanding rhetorical skills, elected with the biggest percentage of voters in 20 years – largely on plans to reform healthcare – allied by the biggest Democratic majority in congress since 1976 – and in spite of that it took a year-long, caustic and fierce battle to the brink of political suicide to enact a bill that is so moderate and incremental that a liberal Republican could have thought of it. Indeed it has key elements John McCain supported in 2008 and looks somewhat like what Mitt Romney enacted in Massachusetts.

I’ll say it again: “Obamacare” is moderate and incremental. It doesn’t go as far to cover everyone as we will need to go in the future, and some will say it doesn’t even go far enough for now. Yet we’ve come out with a country more divided, with a more fearful status-quo, than we have seen since the Civil Rights era.

Lets create a scale of government involvement in a healthcare system for perspective. A totally government-run and non-optional healthcare system where all doctors and healthcare workers are government employees – say Cuba’s system – is ranked as 100 in government involvement. A totally unregulated “Ayn Rand’s Dream” free-market system where you only get what you can personally pay for even if you’re dying, and providers can set whatever price they want, will be a 0 in government involvement.

That would mean “Obamacare” moved us from about a 25 to a 35. Most of the developed world is between 50 and 90.

The National Health Service in the U.K., in which the government employs all doctors but a small minority of citizens still choose private plans and there are small fees for most services, would be a 95. Canada’s government-insured system where the government pays for care but you get it from private doctor’s offices and hospitals, would be about a 60 with some government and some market. A private insurance system that contains one “public option” letting people buy insurance from the government if they want – a true balance letting individuals opt for a government or private system – would be about a 45. Switzerland’s system with compulsory health insurance from nonprofit private companies (banned by law from earning a profit on their services) would be about a 40. America’s pre-2010 system, which guarantees care in worst-case scenarios where you are broke but dragged to the hospital bleeding, and provides mostly-free care to seniors, some poor people and veterans – but is mostly market-run and leaves many uninsured – would be about a 25. The new system, when fully initiated after 2014, will ensure that anyone can some level of routine care if they want it and enforces penalties to encourage everyone to do so, but from private companies that earn lots of profit for providing care. It’s a 35.

The changes will make a big difference for many uninsured and under-insured Americans, but the post-“Obamacare” American healthcare system is still one of the most right-leaning and market-oriented systems in the developed world. And yet the more conservative 40 percent of the country is treating it like the plague.

So, what the hell happened!?

One word: politics.

To some extent there are Americans who would prefer our healthcare system to be closer to a 10 or 15 in government control, so of course they’re going to be bothered by any change that makes the system more universal or more regulated. But they’re a fringe that doesn’t manifest highly in polls – perhaps no more than 25 percent of the country – so what’s going on with these caustic remarks from independent voters, and this anger at Democrats for passing the bill?

Americans have a cultural preference for balance. Some libertarians and liberals are drawn to ideological consistency, but the the crucial bloc that usually decides which direction the country moves in prefers a system that draws a little influence from any two sides of opposition.

The manifestations of a desire for balance are clear and predictable in our recent history: Americans like divided government, and the party that has control of the White House will inevitably, eventually lose seats in Congress. We like Republicans who come from liberal states and Democrats who come from conservative states. Americans usually elect a new president from the opposite party from the last one, and there haven’t been three presidents in a row from the same party since 1928 when Herbert Hoover followed Calvin Coolidge and Warren Harding. Candidates always win votes by proving “bipartisan” credentials and a willingness to hear out the other side, whether the sentiment is genuine or not.

Sometimes Americans’ view of “balance” is skewed by privilege or history. For example, the word “feminist” means a belief that women should have equal rights and opportunities compared to men, but most people consider feminism an “extreme” word – though equality would suggest feminist ideals represent a perfect balance. A lot of Americans think 25% representation from women in Congress is reasonably diverse and sounds about right, even though a straightforward analysis would consider it blatantly lopsided. Similarly, it is hard to find middle ground when it comes to issues involving race and sexual orientation when history is full of white and heterosexual dominance – most peoples’ compromise position ends up looking more like milder forms of prejudice, rejecting past generations’ attitudes but still making life harder for minorities than it is for most people. They like black people as long as most of the black person’s friends are white, though they’d never have the same standard for white people. They’re OK with gay people as long as the gay person doesn’t act “too flamboyant,” etc. (It’s especially hard for people to find balance when the unfairness tilts in their own favor.)

Americans try to find the middle ground, so when they hear two parties taking two perspectives on a single issue, they assume that both are somewhat right and somewhat wrong, and shoot for the middle. The debate over healthcare reform was no different, and Americans wanted something both Democrats and Republicans would like.

To this cause, Republicans found a brilliant winning strategy to have an unfair amount of influence in the debate. That is: keep crying “government takeover!” and “socialism!” and “leftism!” on healthcare no matter how many items Democrats give up on to move their policy in your direction, and most voters will keep trying to find the “middle” and decide the Democratic plan is too liberal, too much, too fast, or whatever. While all the while the voters are unaware they are moving to the Right compared to where they were months ago. In the end you come up with a product that is centrist or even center-Right, that people would have loved in the beginning, but they still end up thinking it’s an overreach by the left and conclude we need more Republicans in government. A win for Republicans, right? Current polls would say so. That’s why the first strategy of Republicans in congress was to unify their caucus against the bill, ensuring that not a single one of them voted for it, giving the appearance that the finished bill was totally unpalatable to anyone who isn’t on the far-left.

My guess is that this Republican strategy will backfire. They drooled over polls saying a majority of Americans oppose the bill, but a portion of those Americans opposed it because they wanted a more liberal and more far-reaching bill, which surely doesn’t make them Republican allies.

Significant numbers of other hesitant voters will be lost too. The problem is that keeping up the current rhetoric is painfully exhausting, and when the venom finally does die down, there will be less to distract voters from the bill itself, which is hardly leftist at all, and certainly not a government “takeover.” Meanwhile, the people the Republicans rallied to put out on their front lines – the Tea Partiers and the reactionary wing of Congress – are not an example of “balance” that defines most Americans, who will be at a loss to figure out who represents a reasonable counterpart to Obama and to moderate Democrats.

Newspapers will publish “what’s in it for you” stories listing some concrete things that the bill has to offer:

Many Americans age 23-26 will suddenly find themselves covered by their parents’ health insurance plans again; a huge benefit to them, and a big relief for their parents too. Many Americans who are just a little older will find themselves finally able to buy insurance due to generous subsidies that decrease with income. Those with pre-existing conditions will suddenly be able to get coverage and others will be saved from being dropped. A bunch of seniors with poor drug coverage will get checks for $250 to help them pay for it, and it’s hard to be oblivious to a check in the mail. Employees in small companies will be more likely to get health coverage since their company will be assisted by the government if they provide it and fined by the government if they don’t – those who do want to provide coverage will likely be grateful. People seeking individual plans will be able to choose from plans available to people in other states, putting some pressure on insurance companies to keep rates lower and stay competitive.

Most importantly, it will be illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage to those with existing conditions, so it will be possible for people with HIV or diabetes to buy health insurance individually. And it will be nearly impossible for insurance companies to randomly drop you, as they have done to many customers before when those customers got sick. And everyone will be required by law to buy health insurance or pay a fine, something they may resent at first but will likely get used to and be glad they have.

Most people will find these changes to be good, and enough of them will be personally helped that they’ll end up liking the bill. And the fact that Republicans unanimously opposed it won’t make Republicans look very “balanced.”

If I have to make a call, I’d guess that two weeks from now this “unpopular” bill will be seen as a positive step by a slim majority of Americans. The wording a poll uses will matter a lot, but I think that by November around 55 percent of Americans will like the bill, which will be a huge victory for Obama and Democrats. I could be wrong, and Republicans could have a surprising endurance in keeping up their current rhetoric, but my guess is that a small upward tick will result in a few of the more moderate Republicans backing off and providing the “balance” that Americans need to re-position themselves more in favor of healthcare reform.

January 28, 2010

Obama’s First State of the Union Address: A Great Start for 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 1:13 am
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If you are viewing this entry from Facebook, click “view original post” at bottom of the page to see the poll as it is included on livejournal.

It’s late and I won’t say much about the State of the Union right now, but my first impression is that I’m pretty pleased with President Obama’s performance, and eager to see how it will play out in the polls over the next few weeks. The president sounded conciliatory but tough – a good balance for the public to see, but the president will have to be willing to play hardball with recalcitrant Democrats behind closed doors if he wants to get anything done in 2010. He’ll have to completely ignore Republicans and move on without them, which is, ironically, the best way to get them to turn around and cooperate when they see they have suddenly become irrelevant. A good resource for specific themes in this address is Tom Shaller on fivethirtyeight.com.

I think my favorite lines in the whole address were President Obama’s chastisement of Congress – he spoke of the Senate in particular, and he did not spare Democrats his frustration, which is good when the American public is similarly frustrated with Democrats. He repeatedly pointed out that the House already passed items on his agenda, but the Senate – where Democratic majorities are stronger – has failed to move on practically anything, which is partially due to Republican obstructionism and more to do with Democrats being hesitant and ineffective.

But President Obama directly addressed Republicans, too, by mentioning that if they are going to use their meager 40 seats in the Senate as some kind of mandate, then they are part of the government too and need to take ownership of the country. By this point Republicans had already heckled the president – condescendingly and, in my opinon, in a way that was not fitting of the event – and needed to be told off. He could have been harsher in those cases, but I think he shamed them in a smooth way, and in any case maybe their rudeness will embolden President Obama into being less concilliatory himself.

I’ll be interested to see how the snickering and pouty faces Republicans made through most of the speech play in the media over the next few news cycles – they were so out-of-it that they didn’t even stand and clap when President Obama first mentioned cutting the capital gains tax for small businesses, which has been a Republican issue for ages.

Even moreso, I’ll be interested to see just how many points President Obama upticks in the polls after this – I expect it to be more than a couple but less than a complete game-changer (I expect to see him around 53 – he’ll get back the people who voted for him). I’m very pleased to see him taking ownership of the way the last year has gone and pleased to see exactly how he expresses his view of his mistakes and others’. Here’s to hoping the next few weeks are full of action and that a forceful White House can light a fire under congress to do something meaningful in 2010.

January 20, 2010

Take a Breath, Folks: Brown’s Victory is Not Disaster for Democrats

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 3:42 pm
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There is a lot of sensationalism in the media right now, especially among progressives. That is because a Republican, Scott Brown, just won the remainder of Ted Kennedy’s senate term in sparkling-blue Massachusetts in a special election yesterday. The narrative is reading: Democrats Failing, America Tilts to the Right; electorate punishes Democrats for liberal agenda.

Take a deep breath. America isn’t going down the tubes. We are not embarking upon a resurgence of Republicanism. Does anyone believe, even for a second, that Massachusetts voters are actually tilting conservative? Trust me, folks: if you haven’t suddenly tipped to the Right, neither has Massachusetts.

Something else is going on.

Obama’s rise to power was as much about demographic changes in the United States as it was a repudiation of Bush. Black, Asian and Latino Americans are becoming populous enough in many states that Democrats can lose by huge margins among white people but still win the election – minority groups are reluctant to vote for a party that is all about protecting privilege, which they don’t have, and the Republican party is, indeed, all about privilege. The young people turning 18 right now are more liberal than their still-voting grandparents by huge margins; if only people under 25 could vote, gay marriage and legalized marijuana would already be a reality. That has been an incredible benefit to Obama and the reason why he won in so many states in 2008.

But young people don’t vote in special elections – and the special election for Kennedy’s seat was no exception – so what you run with on January 19, 2010, a special election, looks more like the electorate of 1992.

Most liberals say they “would consider voting for a Republican,” even if it’s only a half truth, but for those who were being straightforward, Scott Brown happened to be one of the ones they would consider it for. In Massachusetts, 22 percent of Democrats chose Brown over Democrat Martha Coakley. Brown is more liberal that most Republicans nationwide and is now the single most liberal Republican in the Senate – he would not win a GOP primary for president unless he tacks far to the Right after arriving in the Senate, which would incidentally kill him in Massachusetts. Meanwhile, Massachusetts voters are, quite reasonably, put off by the Democrats’ line: “we can’t do anything with our meager 20-seat majority” so are saying, shit guys, quit being babies and put up with 59 seats.

If Obama weren’t the president or if the Democrats only had a 50 or 55 seats in the Senate, Massachusetts voters would not have sent a Republican. But most people do like the idea of “balance” in government and aren’t buying the line that Democrats are totally crippled by the Republican minority – remember, Republicans got a war and a horribly disastrous tax cut under the Bush administration, with much smaller majorities.

Some angry liberals who wanted a more progressive healthcare bill voted for Brown out of spite of the Democrats. Brown is also really, really good-looking, once modeled nude for Cosmo (which makes him seem tempered in socially-liberal Massachusetts), and yes, that has an effect on voters. He is not a “radicalized” Southern-style Republican, he matches the culture of Massachusetts, and even then, he would not have won had Coakley not really messed up and arrogantly assumed the election was over at the primary.

Saying this election spells doomsday for Democrats is like saying “the roads are too icy for ANYONE to drive” after a passed-out-drunk driver driving a car with no brakes plowed through a broken stoplight and hit a fence in March.

This narrative is even good: the media like to view everything through the lens of massive trends, and will begin looking favorably on a party or coalition after it has hit some sort of painful, rhetorical “rock bottom.” I’m glad that Democrats’ “rock bottom” is happening during a 1-race special election rather than a midterm or presidential election year.

This doesn’t dictate what will happen in November 2010. President Obama is going to give his State of the Union Address in two weeks and re-set the agenda in light of this (painful) learning experience. For the next 10 months we are only going to be seeing Democrats bring up issues that at least 55% of Americans approve of, and they’re going to move through them more quickly so they can actually show some progress – something progressives and hard-up middle-class Americans can mutually celebrate.

If Democrats don’t do that, they absolutely deserve to be voted out of office for incompetence – but I have more optimism than that.

January 15, 2010

How Harry Reid Could Keep his Senate Seat

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 4:41 pm
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Cross posted to On One Hand

It’s not looking good for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who is up for re-election in November despite polls that show him trailing major potential Republican candidates.

Democrats in general have seen a precipitous drop in favorability in Nevada since the 2008 elections. The tourism-based economy and rapid population growth Nevada experienced over the last decade set the state to be hit especially hard by a national economic downturn, and unemployment is currently considerably higher than the national average. That isn’t really the Democrats’ fault and certainly isn’t Harry Reid’s fault, but voters almost always punish the incumbent party for economic woes – and President Obama, who got 55 percent of the vote in Nevada, is down to a 44-percent approval rating, an 11-point drop. (Meanwhile Obama’s national approval ratings are only 3 points lower than his 2008 share of the vote; he won with 52 percent and is currently averaging 48-49 percent approval.)

The numbers Reid faces don’t automatically spell disaster for Democratic incumbents, as Reid won re-election in Nevada in 2004 with 61 percent of the vote even as President Bush beat John Kerry there by 2.5 percent. But Reid has since gotten himself a lower-than-average favorability rating as a Democrat. People on the left consider him to be a timid majority leader, and recent revelations of his pre-2008 gaffes about Barack Obama and race don’t help. Beyond that, there are always voters who wish their state’s representative would focus on their state rather than on national issues as a majority leader.

One way Reid could win some favor in his state is by offering to resign his Senate leadership to do just that – focus on Nevada. His announcement would say “Nevada has served a crucial role in national policy by having one of its senators serve as majority leader, but six years is sacrifice enough and now it’s time for Harry Reid to focus on Nevada again.”

A simple internal poll could test this message by asking Nevadans “if Harry Reid were to resign his senate chairmanship to focus exclusively on serving Nevada as senator, would you see this as a favorable or unfavorable move?” and as a follow-up question to determine how many likely voters would vote to keep Reid in office if he did resign the chairmanship. If the numbers are good, or even just okay, Reid should do it.

Senate majority leader is a powerful position in the senate and might be tough to give up, but Reid is backed into a corner. He can’t be Senate Majority Leader if he’s no longer in the Senate anyway. Ask Tom Dashle, the Democratic senate majority leader from South Dakota who lost his seat to a Republican in 2004, if its harder to lose his status as a senator entirely or just resign the chairmanship.

Either way, it would be considerably less humiliating for Democrats if Harry Reid were no longer senate majority leader and then lost the seat.

Beyond that, Reid should announce that Republicans promise to obstruct Democratic efforts to pass important jobs bills that are yet to move through the Senate, and it is vital to the interests of all working and unemployed Nevadans to keep the seat Democratic. Reid should promise that he will not run again if Nevadans show that they would not re-elect him and another Democrat would do better. Of course it is almost certain that Reid would not make this kind of statement until the point at which he actually decides not to continue in the Senate – which probably won’t happen anyway.

Hanging on to Senate seats will be of particular interest for Democrats in 2010 as the GOP’s obstructionist agenda promises to capitalize on any chance to oppose Barack Obama’s policies. Keeping Nevada in Democratic hands will be important this year, and the tremendous surge in voter registration Democrats enjoyed in Nevada before the 2008 elections would make losing their majority leader’s seat an especially bitter pill to swallow.

December 16, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 5:14 pm
Tags: ,

X-posted to: Kos Diaries

The anger we are feeling over the healthcare reform process is, today, palpable. I am only 24 years old but I can tell you that this month I am cynical about politics for the first time in my life. The thought that the institutional barriers to genuine healthcare reform in America – reform that guarantees all citizens access at affordable rates and saves lives – are so powerful that they withstand the will of more than 60 percent of Americans and a powerful Democratic presence in every branch of the federal government, is sickening.

Now the idea that we will likely be forced to buy insurance from companies that live to screw us is the last straw. I refuse to accept that another generation will die before we see genuine and substantial healthcare reform in America.

This is the kind of moment when we need to get off of our computers and demonstrate our anger in a public way. We know there are more of us than there are teabaggers, and we can make a bigger statement than they have made in light of all the glory and attention the fringe Right got this year. This is the time when we need to be setting up permanent picket lines around insurance offices, hospitals and state capitol buildings.

This is the time when we need to be posting lists of people who died when their coverage was denied on the insurance companies’ front doors to shame them.


December 9, 2009

Fox News’s Blatant Sexism

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 6:07 pm
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The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Gretchen Carlson Dumbs Down
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Crisis


So, according to this video clip, it’s clear that Gretchen Carlson dumbs down just about everything she says on Fox and Friends, which is a perennial critique of American media, particularly of Fox. That is, at least, the case Jon Stewart poignantly makes on the Daily Show. In Stewart’s file footage, Carlson pretends she doesn’t know what a “double-dip recession” is, and looks up “czar” in the dictionary and is just totally shocked that it means “king.”

Then Stewart uncovers that Carlson was valedictorian of her high school class and graduated with honors from Stanford University after designing her own degree there. She spent time studying in Oxford. Getting into Stanford is no cake walk, so either she got to where she was by grit and merit (an analysis I’m always willing to give the benefit of the doubt on), or it was unearned privilege from having wealthy parents. Either way she’s not the airhead she pretends to be on TV.

I see in this something deeper, and more insidious, than what Jon Stewart saw, which is just a dumbing-down of rhetoric so that Joe the Plumber can get what you’re saying. Fox isn’t across-the-board turned-off by intelligence; they have Karl Rove and Neil Cavuto to appear as informed experts making the case for conservatism. On Fox and Friends, Carlson often plays the coy and curious muse of her two colleagues, Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade, who tell her what’s up on a regular basis. The difference between Gretchen Carlson and the “smarter” Fox figures is that she’s a woman.

Come to think of it, isn’t this exactly what every high school cheerleader in America is expected to do? You gotta play dumb so the boys want you. They don’t want blonde girls around for their witty banter, they want a pretty face and tits.

What John Stewart didn’t touch was the blatantly sexist element of Fox’s programming. Gretchen Carlson could thoroughly outclass the other two dunces on that program, but has to dumb herself down and let the boys lead the conversation because this is what conservative Fox viewers want; an intellectually submissive girl.

It’s totally insulting. Can anyone imagine Norah O’Donnel or Rachael Maddow playing dumb perennially on a news program?

Actually, the feminist critique seems like a good way to pry off the fairly robust rhetorical advantage Fox News has with exurban America. Perhaps the station “speaks their language” and taps into a deep-seated (and justifiable) resentment of academia, and the economic privilege that it is wrought with, often serving simply to ensure that people who grew up in wealth are set up to look smart and continue being wealthy. But Middle America is still at least 50% female, and Fox and Friends is clearly demoralizing to women.

Conservatives made feminism legitimate when they attacked criticism of Sarah Palin as “sexist,” particularly when they lamented how the McCain campaign “controlled” her to her image’s detriment. How can they now defend the message they are sending another message to women, that they must be the followers, not the leaders (even when they are smart enough to reverse that role) on their popular morning program?

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