GOP

The Long Road Back, Part One

Absent huge Democratic mistakes in the next few years, the Republican Party's road back could very well be a long one. They just suffered their worst Presidential defeat in 44 years, and have now suffered crushing defeats two elections in a row, a rarity in American history.   The Democrats have more ideological control of Washington than any time since the mid- 1960s. The Democrats themselves have thoroughly modernized in the past few years, building a very 21st century and potentially durable coalition, discovering the first new electoral map of this new century, employing the very latest and very potent tools to speak to and engage the American people, and have become fully focused on the big issues the American people now face. The center-left movement is also regenerating, and has created an investment and entrepreneurial capacity that has a very good chance of building a truly powerful and modern ideological movement to complement the modernizing Democrats. And of course, the Democrats are led by a thoroughly modern man, America's first true leader of this new century, Barack Obama, who so far has shown uncommon leadership potential for a man so young and so new to the national stage.  

The Republicans, on the other hand, seem unnaturally comfortable sticking to their once successful but increasingly anachronistic ways of the 20th century. Their politics has become more reactionary than conservative, as if their party's great task has become to nostalgically but angrily fight against the emerging realities of the 21st century rather than embrace them. Their coalition no longer works in the changing demography of the day, and is dangerously old; their Southern Strategy, so critical to their ascension, has become a relic of the past; their tech and media tools have not kept up with the times; their ideas have become spent and discredited; their leaders, particularly in Washington, seem content to ankle bite rather than lead. They are an aging and frayed bunch, living off the fumes of a day and politics gone by.

At this point, I really believe there is a strong argument to be made that the GOP is further from power, more discredited and more out of touch with the American people than any time since the days of FDR and Truman. The GOP's challenge isn't a moderate-conservative one, a North-South one, a black-white-brown one - it is a forward/backward one. They succeeded in dislodging the Democrats in the late 20th century. They blew their shot in this decade to build a durable majority. Their government failed at a level that has done grave and lasting damage to their brand, and their leaders seem firmly grounded in an old politics that is simply no longer credible in this new day. They are going to have to go through a total overhaul. They will have to develop a new argument that meets the emerging challenges of the new century head on; a new electoral map; a new coalition that at some point begins to accept our fast-growing, non-white population; and competency in a whole new set of media and tech tools. They will have to shed the exploitation of race that has been at the core of their domestic politics; shed their raging intolerance of people not like them; of their comfort with politics and theater over governing; of the binary simplicity of the Cold War and the limitations of free market fundamentalism; and of a whole generation of leaders from Karl Rove to Mitch McConnell to Grover Norquist, who were schooled and evangelized in this breed of politics. This task is a big and complex one, harder perhaps than anything the right has had to do since the founding of the National Review in 1955. 

And certainly one cannot expect this new modern leadership to come from the remnants of the old failed order that still controls the all too comfortable offices of the modern GOP and conservative movement. Rather, look hard at those governors on display last week in Miami for clues to the future of America's center-right. But as able as those governors are - Pawlenty, Jindal, Crist, Palin - one did not see an obvious President there, someone ready to take on Obama in 2012, and lead their Party from a deep and dark wilderness. Interesting folks, but no FDR, no Reagan, no Clinton, no Obama. Despite their claims, the GOP farm team seems awfully thin now, at least for the short term.   

For the GOP it sure looks like a long road back. 

Does the GOP Have a Future With Hispanics?

On this Sunday's meet the press, Senator Mel Martinez acknowledged that the way the national Republican Party has demonized Hispanics these past few years may make it in impossible for their Party to win Presidential elections for years to come. MTP quoted NDN and Simon, "If the Republicans don't make their peace with Hispanic voters, they're not going to win presidential elections anymore. The math just isn't there." This back and forth has now put tremendous public pressure on the GOP to turn around the full-on condemnation of their party among Hispanics. The GOP could help itself avoid political annihilation by abandoning the stance seen by many as a level of racial intolerance unacceptable in a new age of Obama, and by working with President-elect Obama to pass comprehensive immigration reform ASAP. This moment may really be a game-changer for both parties.

Let's not forget, Obama's victory among Hispanics may still be short-lived if he does not follow through on his promises to this community - as stated by Dan Schnur, Republican strategist: "Candidates don't cause realignments, presidents do. Candidate Obama has certainly created the conditions for potential realignment, but it's going to be up to President Obama to govern in a way that can make that happen." And that means passing immigration reform during his first year. Hispanics are not forgetting about his promise - on this Sunday's Al Punto, Jorge Ramos asked all his guests about the prospects of immigration reform. He asked Sen. Bob Menendez (NJ): Will [Obama] fulfill the promise he's made to Hispanics to pass immigration reform? Polls show that people care about the economy, education, etc. but the issue of immigration is still at the forefront for the Hispanic community....This is a big promise, how will he do it? Sen. Menendez responded that Barack Obama has remained steadfast on immigration since his votes for reform last summer. 

Rep. Luis Gutierrez was also asked and noted, "Barack Obama owes his victory to the large Hispanic turnout," as Obama invested more resources in reaching out to this community than Kerry and Bush together in 2004. When asked, "Can he fulfill this promise, or is it just rhetoric?" Luis Gutierrez reported that he has already spoken to Obama staff and that he is already working to strategize how to move on immigration reform, "It's really important to fulfill those promises," that's why on November 15 Rep. Gutierrez is holding a rally and inviting all U.S. citizens who know of undocumented persons to demand action - "We have to continue putting pressure on the administration." And Republican Mario Diaz-Balart agreed, although he opposes Sen. Obama's stance on Cuba policy, etc., he agreed to work to pass immigration reform alongside Rep. Gutierrez.

An article in the Politico today discusses how all "Dem groups" are claiming the win for Barack Obama - the truth is that while Hispanics are still not a "Dem" group, it is undeniable that it was Hispanics - the ultimate swing electorate - who delivered key battleground states like IN, NM, and FL for Barack Obama, and allowed for a sizeable lead in CO and NV due to their numbers in those states and because they held record shares of the electorate. "Without the Latino vote, we would not have won those states," said Federico Pena, national co-chairman of the Obama campaign. And Hispanics were also influential in Obama's victory in Virginia and North Carolina.

For their part, Republicans must decide how to become part of the 21st century if their party is to survive. The immigrant-issues coalition is expanding to include other ethnicities. Mercury News reports, this election was not only an appreciation for Obama's multicultural upbringing, but also a rejection of the Republican-led "demonization" of immigrants, particularly of Hispanic and Muslim backgrounds, in recent years. John McCain could help his party in this regard, at least alleviating some of the strongest negative feelings towards the Republican Party by supporting comprehensive immigration reform in 2009.  Beto Cardenas, former counsel to Kay Bailey Hutchinson: "When we have laws that make it easier to get that labor legally, it will be easier to enforce the laws. Such reform could also protect the rights of the workers, who too frequently are subject to exploitation because they are afraid to report abuses...I think there's a will to address the issue if it can be shown it enhances the economic health of the country," he said.

Why Obama Has Already Won

I'm not referring to tomorrow's final contest - although we can safely estimate that this could be a landslide win for Obama.  What I'm referring to is that regardless of the outcome of the election, Barack Obama has caused a major shift in the electoral map, and the shift means a fundamental change in the politics of this country.

Barack Obama has changed the culture of politics.  He's changed the culture of politics because he's formed an entirely new "base" of supporters (millenials, Hispanics, and many independents), he's recruited record numbers of organizers and an unprecedented grass-roots structure, and he's been able to get people to participate in the democratic process at record levels, as evidenced by the results of early voting this year.  We're seeing an electoral map that could change politics for 20-30 years, with Iowa going for a Democrat, and former Republican strongholds like Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia, and Florida flipping, or at least becoming battleground states. 

Barack's new political movement raised about $600 million total, and drew from 3.2 million individual donors - a record level. This campaign has transformed thousands of communities-and revolutionized the way organizing itself will be understood and practiced for at least the next generation.  Regardless who governs, Obama has created an organization at the community level that, instead of being based on X leadership roles to fill, it has created leadership roles for as many leaders as there are.  Thus creating a solid, durable, series of existing networks.  And these networks will remain, so that they can become mobilized once again, for any cause.  A note on college organizers put it best:

So we have people in charge of whatever they ARE. We are saying, ‘What's your social network?' We say, ‘OK, you're The Balcony Coordinator-your job is to go party at Balcony [a local bar] every weekend-like you do anyways-but now wear a Barack Obama button-and bring voter reg forms.

Millenials and the largest minority - Hispanics - comprise a large portion of this new coalition.  To me, that means that Latinos and Latinas are not only participating civically, but they are now volunteering and organizing for a campaign in record numbers. 

Another great success story of the 2008 campaign and a reflection of this "new culture" of politics, is the overall success of early voting.  In spite of the glitches and long lines, throughout the country, Americans have cast early votes at a pace that far eclipses past performance.

This is owed in part to the important push on the part of the Obama campaign to encourage early voting.  Barack Obama has invested far more heavily in turning out early votes than past Democratic nominees and that effort has provided results.  Nationally, Barack Obama is ahead 59%-40% among early voters.  Analysts say that 1 in 3 of all voters have voted early, up from 22.5 percent in 2004 and just 7 percent in 1992.

Democrats and Republicans voted in roughly equal numbers. That, however, represents a departure from 2004, when many more Republicans than Democrats cast ballots before election day.  Republicans won the battle for absentee votes, but Democrats won among those voting in person.

Florida is a striking example of this. Republicans were voting at a heavier pace in the absentee ballots, but the number of in-person votes cast exceeded the number of absentees.  38% of all Florida voters have cast ballots - 4.2-million votes - and 331,274 more Democrats voted early than Republicans.  Another 710,066 independents have voted.

In Colorado, the number of early votes cast equals slightly more than half of the total number of votes cast -- early and on Election Day - in 2004.

In Nevada, Democrats have cast 225,670 of the 438,129 ballots (51.5%) in the two most populous counties, Las Vegas's Clark County and Reno's Washoe.  Republicans cast 31.3% with the remainder cast by Independents.  Those two counties account for about 90% of the state's turnout.  Early voting is expected to make up 60% of the Silver State's 2008 ballots. Andres was quoted in the Wall Street Journal, pointing out:

John McCain will need to nab between 75% to 80% of the Independent vote, a tall order given that Nevada polling shows nothing like that level of support. He also would need about 12% to 15% of the Democratic vote, perhaps an easier prospect.

In North Carolina, 2,573,206, or about 41% of the state's 6,232,230 registered voters have voted early, and the vote breaks down as a little over 51% Democrats and about 30% Republicans.  The rest were unaffiliated or libertarian.

In Georgia, more than one million people have voted, a big jump from the less than 500,000 people who voted early four years ago. 

Early voting actually makes it harder for attempts to disenfranchise voters to stop eligible voters from casting ballots.  Dirty tricks are also harder to pull off.  If political operatives want to jam get-out-the-vote telephone lines, as they did on Election Day in New Hampshire in 2002, it would be harder to do if people voted over two weeks.  Early voting also reduces the burden on election systems that are often stretched near to the breaking point.  In 2004, voters waited in lines as long as 10 hours. And there is every indication that lines on Tuesday, in some places and at some times, will again be extraordinarily long.  The more people who vote early, the fewer who will be lined up at the polls on Election Day.

With evident success of early-voting, the states that have not adopted it - including New York - should do so.  Congress should also mandate early voting for federal elections - ideally as part of a larger federal bill that would fix the wide array of problems with the electoral system. Today, the idea that all voting must occur in a 15-hour window, or less, on a single day is as outdated as the punch-card voting machine.

Panel Says Palin Abused Power

Just in from CNN.   

What exactly does the rise and fall of Sarah Palin say about John McCain and his judgement?  Are we learning that the downside of mavericky behavior is that sometimes when crazy ole mavericks shoot from the hip, go with their gut, act impulsively, they just simply blow it? 

RNC Convention - Straight Stalk, or Straight Up Lies?

Always fact-check - I appreciate the AP's efforts in correcting the "errors" in several RNC speeches:

Attacks, praise stretch truth at GOP convention

By JIM KUHNHENN, Associated Press WriterWed Sep 3, 11:48 PM ET

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her Republican supporters held back little Wednesday as they issued dismissive attacks on Barack Obama and flattering praise on her credentials to be vice president. In some cases, the reproach and the praise stretched the truth.

Some examples:

PALIN: "I have protected the taxpayers by vetoing wasteful spending ... and championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress. I told the Congress 'thanks but no thanks' for that Bridge to Nowhere."

THE FACTS: As mayor of Wasilla, Palin hired a lobbyist and traveled to Washington annually to support earmarks for the town totaling $27 million. In her two years as governor, Alaska has requested nearly $750 million in special federal spending, by far the largest per-capita request in the nation. While Palin notes she rejected plans to build a $398 million bridge from Ketchikan to an island with 50 residents and an airport, that opposition came only after the plan was ridiculed nationally as a "bridge to nowhere."

PALIN: "There is much to like and admire about our opponent. But listening to him speak, it's easy to forget that this is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform — not even in the state senate."

THE FACTS: Compared to McCain and his two decades in the Senate, Obama does have a more meager record. But he has worked with Republicans to pass legislation that expanded efforts to intercept illegal shipments of weapons of mass destruction and to help destroy conventional weapons stockpiles. The legislation became law last year. To demean that accomplishment would be to also demean the work of Republican Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, a respected foreign policy voice in the Senate. In Illinois, he was the leader on two big, contentious measures in Illinois: studying racial profiling by police and requiring recordings of interrogations in potential death penalty cases. He also successfully co-sponsored major ethics reform legislation.

PALIN: "The Democratic nominee for president supports plans to raise income taxes, raise payroll taxes, raise investment income taxes, raise the death tax, raise business taxes, and increase the tax burden on the American people by hundreds of billions of dollars."

THE FACTS: The Tax Policy Center, a think tank run jointly by the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute, concluded that Obama's plan would increase after-tax income for middle-income taxpayers by about 5 percent by 2012, or nearly $2,200 annually. McCain's plan, which cuts taxes across all income levels, would raise after tax-income for middle-income taxpayers by 3 percent, the center concluded.

Obama would provide $80 billion in tax breaks, mainly for poor workers and the elderly, including tripling the Earned Income Tax Credit for minimum-wage workers and higher credits for larger families. He also would raise income taxes, capital gains and dividend taxes on the wealthiest. He would raise payroll taxes on taxpayers with incomes above $250,000, and he would raise corporate taxes. Small businesses that make more than $250,000 a year would see taxes rise.

MCCAIN: "She's been governor of our largest state, in charge of 20 percent of America's energy supply ... She's responsible for 20 percent of the nation's energy supply. I'm entertained by the comparison and I hope we can keep making that comparison that running a political campaign is somehow comparable to being the executive of the largest state in America," he said in an interview with ABC News' Charles Gibson.

THE FACTS: McCain's phrasing exaggerates both claims. Palin is governor of a state that ranks second nationally in crude oil production, but she's no more "responsible" for that resource than President Bush was when he was governor of Texas, another oil-producing state. In fact, her primary power is the ability to tax oil, which she did in concert with the Alaska Legislature. And where Alaska is the largest state in America, McCain could as easily have called it the 47th largest state — by population.

MCCAIN: "She's the commander of the Alaska National Guard. ... She has been in charge, and she has had national security as one of her primary responsibilities," he said on ABC.

THE FACTS: While governors are in charge of their state guard units, that authority ends whenever those units are called to actual military service. When guard units are deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, for example, they assume those duties under "federal status," which means they report to the Defense Department, not their governors. Alaska's national guard units have a total of about 4,200 personnel, among the smallest of state guard organizations.

FORMER ARKANSAS GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE: Palin "got more votes running for mayor of Wasilla, Alaska than Joe Biden got running for president of the United States."

THE FACTS: A whopper. Palin got 616 votes in the 1996 mayor's election, and got 909 in her 1999 re-election race, for a total of 1,525. Biden dropped out of the race after the Iowa caucuses, but he still got 76,165 votes in 23 states and the District of Columbia where he was on the ballot during the 2008 Presidential primaries.

FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOV. MITT ROMNEY: "We need change, all right — change from a liberal Washington to a conservative Washington! We have a prescription for every American who wants change in Washington — throw out the big-government liberals, and elect John McCain and Sarah Palin."

THE FACTS: A Back-to-the-Future moment. George W. Bush, a conservative Republican, has been president for nearly eight years. And until last year, Republicans controlled Congress. Only since January 2007 have Democrats have been in charge of the House and Senate.

Following on Simon's post, it's clear that the RNC not only has a flare for drama, but will straight up lie if necessary. Throughout the RNC Convention we have heard eloquent stories, partisan attacks, but no real solutions. The RNC is doing exactly what they criticized Barack Obama for doing: giving nice speeches with no substance. While during the DNC Convention, not a single speaker focused on the RNC - they might have made differences known on issues, but at no time were speakers condescending or snide about Senator McCain.  Instead, they focused on presenting their candidate and on Barack Obama's specific proposals in the areas of Energy Reform, Immigration, the Economy, and Health Care. Stories can be entertaining for awhile, but in the end, voters will ask for substance. As Gov. Sebelius stated in the Huffington Post, hockey moms may be moved by speeches, but in the end they want to know exactly how the next President will make health care affordable, increase their wages, or improve schools. As Barack Obama pointed out at Mile-High Stadium, "it's not about me" - this election should be about the American people, but the GOP strategy is precisely to make it about stories and characters. Rep. Wasserman-Shultz put it best: "Where is the beef? Where is the evidence? Sarah Palin is not a reformer...If her best example of being a reformer was trying to sell a plane on E-Bay, that is not my definition of reform." Reform is not found in the usual stretching of the truth in politics. To be successful tonight, John McCain will have to shift from this strategy of making it about Barack Obama and instead focus on how he proposes to pay for the pipelines, nuclear power, solar, and expensive alternative energy sources that Gov. Palin spoke about. He will have to explain the incentives to businesses to conserve energy, to have acessible health care for employees, and how he will make the U.S. competitive in a global, 21st century, marketplace.

GOP o nop?

La estrategia del GOP en cuanto a la comunidad latina no hizo sino causar un efecto contrario: ha empujado el voto latino hacia los demócratas. "En la comunidad latina hay una energía nueva increíble" dijo Simon Rosenberg- fundador de NDN- a NPR. Y esa energía, que sigue creciendo, se aleja más y más del GOP.

En pocas palabras, los resultados alienantes que causó la terrible estrategia anti-inmigrante del GOP dificultan la batalla para Mc Cain por el voto latino. Como si fuera poco, Mc Cain perdió muchos latinos al cambiar de estrategia cuando retiró su apoyo por el proyecto de ley McCain-Kennedy. Y en sus últimas apariciones en importantes eventos latinos (véase conferencia de NALEO y  LULAC), si es que menciona el tema de inmigración, solo se enfoca en el reenforzamiento de la frontera, evitando a toda costa mencionar reforma- algo que obviamente ya no está en sus planes.

Aquí en NDN, nuestro equipo de estrategia hispana estará reportando sobre la conferencia de NCLR en San Diego. Pero mi predicción es que la audiencia latina - a diferencia de como reacciona ante los discursos de McCain- recibirá una vez más a los discursos de Obama de pie.

(Para aquellos que leen en inglés, vean el blog de Simon relacionado a los cambios en la Florida.)

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