Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.
Democrats are still celebrating big Election Day victories, and not just in the White House. The party took back many state legislative seats seized by Tea Partiers in 2010, and added to majorities in already blue states. In California and Illinois, Democrats achieved legislative super-majorities, removing some of the last obstacles to enacting a progressive agenda in two of our largest states.
Progressives should also get to celebrate in New York State, another of the biggest and the bluest. After all, Democrats appeared to have won a narrow State Senate majority of either 32-31 or 33-30, pending recounts. Instead, individuals and factions within the Democratic ranks are threatening to caucus with Republicans in exchange for committee appointments and legislative pork, effectively keeping the GOP in charge despite the clear choice made by voters on Election Day.
Republicans in the State Senate have long been the main obstacle to progressive legislation, consistently stymieing the efforts of the State Assembly—to safeguard reproductive health, micro-stamp guns, to crack down on fracking, to hike the minimum wage. They’ve even been hostile to newer progressive elements of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s agenda, like his call for public financing of elections.
Which brings us to the current conundrum. One would have thought that a Democratic governor would have worked hard to reverse the Tea Party’s 2010 gains in his state. You’d think he’d be working even harder to ensure that no renegade legislators “flip” to the GOP. You would hope that a governor with his eyes on the White House would prefer to cooperate with the diverse progressive legislators of the Democratic/Working Families Party majority rather than the all-white, nearly all-male moderate-to-conservative GOP minority.
And lest we forget where the leverage lies in the relationship, consider how Republicans—faced with a popular governor and an increasingly Democratic electorate—have gone out of their way to make a show of working with Cuomo.
Capital New York’s Azi Paybarah wrote last week that Cuomo “effectively defeated his own party’s efforts to take power in the State Senate.” That’s not an unreasonable view. After vowing to veto any partisan redistricting plan, Cuomo decided not to veto a partisan redistricting plan favorable to senate Republicans. After endorsing Republican state senators for re-election because they backed gay marriage, he declined to endorse the Democrat running against a right-winger who’d ousted one of those Republicans in the primary. Now, with one Democratic state senator announcing he’ll caucus with the GOP, and four more threatening to do the same, Senate control may hang in the balance.
Hence the calls for Cuomo to lead. The governor has voiced support for much of the Assembly Democrats’ agenda. And he’s been vocal about his desire to bring some sanity to campaign finance. So it’s easy to understand why some savvy observers are now questioning the presumed 2016 presidential candidate’s steps. That includes MSNBC’s and The Nation’s Chris Hayes, who on a recent show said, “One can’t help but suspect Andrew Cuomo actually does not want a Democratic majority in the State Senate,” because working with a GOP senate would help “burnish his bipartisan compromiser bona fides,” whereas a Democratic Senate would send him legislation like marijuana decriminalization that could become an electoral albatross.
I don’t know what’s in Governor Cuomo’s heart. But I do know this: The people of New York elected Democratic senators for a reason. Obstruction has ruled in Albany for far too long. Whatever the legislature’s make-up, small-d democracy calls for Cuomo to present, and fight for, a set of robust campaign finance reforms including public financing of elections. But right now, the best way to advance that much needed change is to fight for big-D Democratic control in the New York legislature.
I hope Governor Cuomo joins that fight.
While we wait to see Governor Cuomo’s next move, progressive politics are taking root at the local level. Check out Lucy McKeon’s profile of Mel Wymore, who could be the first transgender member of New York City Council.
Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.
With his final election behind him, and the final attack ads safely off the air, President Obama now returns to his regularly scheduled programming—governing. Yet, the chatter about his second term agenda, from deficit reduction to immigration reform, ignores one critical issue: ending our nation’s inhumane, irrational—and ineffective—war on drugs.
Since its launch in 1971, when President Nixon successfully branded drug addicts as criminals, the war on drugs has resulted in 45 million arrests and destroyed countless families. The result of this trillion-dollar crusade? Americans aren’t drug-free—we’re just the world’s most incarcerated population. We make China look like Woodstock. We’re also, according to the old definition, insane; despite overwhelming evidence of its failure, our elected officials steadfastly refuse to change course.
But on November 6, citizens in Colorado and Washington became the first to approve ballot initiatives legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. Their success illustrates growing tolerance and, indeed, support for a smarter approach that could change, and even save, countless lives.
Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.
Watch too much “mainstream” news, and you might think our choices are as cramped as our political debates. Partially restore our Clinton-era tax rates, or leave them be? Privatize Social Security, or just slash its benefits? Extreme austerity, or the “moderate” variety? In these debates, even short-term wins don’t stanch long-term losses. The discourse keeps shifting to the right, the money keeps flowing to the rich, and the poor keep bearing the burden.
Fortunately, there is an alternative.
While too many pundits and politicians insist we need an austere “Grand Bargain” to avert a “fiscal cliff,” the Congressional Progressive Caucus is laying out a fair bargain full of smart and humane approaches. The CPC’s “Deal for All,” first introduced as a congressional resolution in July, rests on four main planks: No benefit cuts for Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. “Serious revenue increases,” including higher income taxes on the rich and fewer loopholes for corporations. A plan to “significantly reduce” spending on defense. And investments that promote real growth.
The resolution calls out the much-touted Bowles-Simpson plan (which never even passed the Bowles-Simpson Commission) as an “unbalanced” proposal with “unacceptable cuts.” It states plainly that “unemployment levels are still unacceptably high and Federal investments in areas such as infrastructure, education, research, nutrition, housing, and services struggling people in United States depend on grow the economy and create jobs.”
It’s a welcome and worthy document. As The Nation editorialized in support of its predecessor, the CPC’s “Budget for All,” “the winning alternative to Romney/Ryan austerity is not kinder, gentler Democratic austerity.” A Financial Transaction Tax, which Ellison has proposed in separate legislation, is gathering global momentum and also belongs in any progressive deal.
The Deal for All has been gaining support inside and outside the Beltway in recent months, and the CPC will see its ranks strengthened when the congressional class arrives in January (when the Senate will also see an infusion of new progressives like CPC veteran Tammy Baldwin).
The CPC has benefited from principled and savvy leaders in co-chairs Keith Ellison and Raul Grijalva. On Thursday, these congressmen rallied with senators Bernie Sanders, Tom Harkin, Ben Cardin and Sheldon Whitehouse to support the Deal for All. Just as importantly, they were joined by leaders of MoveOn, the Campaign for America’s Future, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, and Strengthen Social Security. The AFL-CIO has also pledged to oppose any deal that cuts social insurance benefits or leaves the Bush tax cuts in place for the top 2 percent.
The stakes are high. As Robert Borosage writes in this week’s cover story on the threat of a “Grand Betrayal,” “The budget debate will draw battle lines within the Democratic Party, between the Wall Street-dominated New Democratic wing and the progressive wing fighting for the change this country desperately needs.” Indeed, as our own Chris Hayes and his panel discussed on Saturday, the absolute refusal of some number of Tea Party House members to raise taxes should mean that any rotten Grand Bargain would need some House Democrats in order to pass. That offers leverage, if progressive representatives can out-organize the bards of austerity in their own caucus. But they won’t be able to do it alone. They’ll need our help.
Read the rest of Robert Borosage‘s cover story on the so-called "fiscal cliff" and the fight against austerity.
FEMINISTS FOR THE WIN. In this week’s issue, Jessica Valenti argues that not only are feminists winning the culture wars but media coverage during the election showed a widespread acceptance of “feminist outrage.” “All of the sudden, women’s anger at the attempted defunding of Planned Parenthood or a male politician’s comment about rape wasn’t the mark of bitter ‘man haters’; it was an understandable reaction from smart, engaged women.” Read more of Valenti’s analysis of this cultural shift in her piece, “Feminists for the Win.” While there are reasons for feminists to be optimistic, this week was also marked by tragedy in Ireland, where Savita Halapannavar died during a miscarriage after being denied what could have been a life-saving abortion. In her piece, “When ‘Pro-Life’ Kills,” Katha Pollitt notes that “if you think it couldn’t happen in the United States, you haven’t been paying attention.” Valenti writes powerfully about the message Savita’s death sends to women: “You are nothing.” Check out her take here, and find out what you can do to fight back. To get all the latest stories from The Nation’s feminist writers like Jessica Valenti, Katha Pollitt, Melissa Harris-Perry, Ilyse Hogue, Bryce Covert and others delivered straight to your inbox, I hope you’ll sign up for our weekly Feminist Roundup e-mail.
THE PETRAEUS LEGACY. On ABC’s This Week last Sunday, I argued that we should be paying less attention to the personal scandals of General Petraeus and more to his failed counterinsurgency programs and escalation of drone warfare. Jeremy Scahill reports that the scandal has revealed something much more significant—that the CIA and the military’s Joint Special Operations Command have battled to control the US’s growing global wars. “Petraeus, an instrumental player in this power struggle, leaves behind an agency that has strayed from intelligence to paramilitary-type activities.” Read more from Scahill in his piece, “The Petraeus Legacy: A Paramilitary CIA?”
LEE ATWATER & THE SOUTHERN STRATEGY. In a Nation exclusive, Rick Perlstein unveils a recording obtained by James Carter IV—the researcher who brought us the 47 percent video—that confirms Lee Atwater’s infamous 1981 interview about how Republicans win votes by appealing to racial anxieties. Instead of using blatantly racist language, Atwater talks about a strategy of coded racism that addresses issues like forced busing, states’ rights, and cutting taxes. You can listen to the full forty-two-minute interview with the Republican strategist here. And take a look at Al Sharpton’s interview with Carter on MSNBC for more on how the modern GOP continues to use Atwater’s strategy—perhaps to its detriment.
GRAND BARGAIN IS THE WRONG SOLUTION. “America doesn’t have a short-term deficit problem,” I wrote in my online column for The Washington Post this week. “It has a jobs and growth problem.” As Congress nears the so-called “fiscal cliff,” they should listen to voters who, by overwhelming margins, want to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans and who oppose cuts to programs like Social Security and Medicare. The “grand bargain” would benefit large corporations and defense contractors at the expense of the poor and middle class. What we really need from Congress is to take on interests that threaten our future, like Wall Street, big oil and coal, and the military industrial complex. Find out how you can take action to implore your representatives to reject the “grand bargain.”
WALMART STRIKE. Walmart workers are fighting back against low pay and poor conditions, and Josh Eidelson reports that we can expect thousands of strikes and demonstrations over the coming week. Walmart has been union-free since its founding, and until last month when workers struck at nine stores, the retail giant had never faced a multi-store strike. “With backing from local labor federations, Occupy activists and groups like the National Organization for Women, warehouse and retail workers could still land a Black Friday blow: warding off potential customers, injecting workplace issues into the usual ‘long lines’/’hot products’ news coverage, and emboldening more workers to face down the largest employer in the world.” For the latest throughout the week, follow Josh Eidelson.
Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.
Americans, listening to the intensifying debate about the fiscal showdown in Washington, must think they’ve entered an “Alice in Wonderland” world. The lame duck Congress only returns to Washington this week, but already the lame is drowning out the logical.
Americans have just voted to reelect the president with clear priorities. They want Washington to get to work creating jobs and economic growth. They expect the president to raise taxes on the richest two percent in order to invest in areas vital to our future, as he pledged repeatedly across the country. They didn’t hear much about the so-called “fiscal cliff” in the election campaign, but their opinions on what is acceptable in any grand bargain are very clear.
In the election eve poll done by the Democracy Corps for the Campaign for America’s Future (disclosure: I serve on the board of the Campaign’s sister institution, the Institute for America’s Future), voters were asked what would be unacceptable in a large deal to reduce deficits. Seventy-nine percent found cuts to Medicare benefits unacceptable; 62 percent found cuts to Social Security unacceptable. And a stunning three in four found across the board domestic cuts that didn’t protect programs for “infants, poor children, schools and college aid” unacceptable.
A PROGRESSIVE SURGE. Progressives won big this week. Aside from the relief of a Romney/Ryan loss, we can be hopeful about strong progressives elected to Congress. Sherrod Brown prevailed in Ohio despite being pummeled by negative Super PAC ads, Elizabeth Warren defeated Scott Brown in Massachusetts, and Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin will become the first openly gay or lesbian to serve in the Senate. And the electorate supported groundbreaking ballot initiatives including taking steps toward marriage equality in states like Maryland and Maine. Washington and Colorado voted to legalize recreational marijuana use which could be the beginning stages toward ending prohibition. Read more from E.J. Graff on Elizabeth Warren and Emily Douglas on marriage equality. And be sure to take a look at The Nation’s editorial on the 2012 election outcomes, “A Progressive Surge.”
A CHANGING AMERICA. As Jon Wiener notes, if only white people had voted on Tuesday, Romney would have won every state but four. But women and people of color showed up in large numbers and pushed President Obama to victory. Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto writes how Obama’s re-election sets a record for support from Latino voters: 75 percent voted for the president and made a crucial difference in Western swing states like Colorado, Virginia and Ohio. Bryce Covert reports on how women voters ensured the defeat of misogynist Senate candidates like Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin. And with a ten-point gender gap, women helped propel Obama to victory as well.
VOTING RIGHTS WATCH. According to Ari Berman, the GOP’s war on voting backfired, reporting that suppression efforts served as motivation to communities of color to organize and get out the vote. “In a country with growing diversity,” writes Berman, “if one party is committed to expanding the right to vote and the other party is committed to restricting the right to vote, it’s not hard to figure out which one will ultimately be more successful.” But challenges lie ahead—despite the large turnout of racial minorities, many faced outright harassment and intimidation on Election Day. Aura Bogado reports how a Republican poll watcher was caught complaining that too many people of color were voting in Aurora, Colorado. And while it was moving to see people brave the long lines to vote, waiting for eight hours to cast a ballot—which, as Brentin Mock reports, disproportionately affects people of color—is cruel and undemocratic, especially for hourly wage workers who cannot afford to miss work. Even with the election over, the urgency of securing voting rights has not passed. With the Supreme Court set to review a section of the Voting Rights Act, we’ll continue to cover this story.
SEIZING THE MOMENT. John Nichols argues that Obama’s big win represents a mandate for progressives to call for bold action against the doctrine of austerity. George Zornick agrees: “The lessons of this election are clear: Voters want higher taxes on the wealthy, and for the government to invest in the economy, not reduce spending.” And with the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, climate change is finally back in the national conversation. Naomi Klein writes how the recovery could be an opportunity to realign our relationship with the natural world. And I call for an end of the Electoral College by passing state-by-state National Popular Vote. Read my piece here to find out more about how state legislatures could be the key to changing the system.
PROGRAMMING NOTE. I’ll be on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday—tune in as I join a roundtable discussion to talk about the election, what progressives hope for in a second Obama term, and more. For time and channel, check local listings.
America can be a strange place. Tuesday night, after learning that President Obama had won Ohio and thus (what a relief!) secured re-election, many of us went to sleep without knowing which candidate more Americans had voted for.
It turns out Obama won the popular vote too, averting a much-predicted electoral college/popular vote split. Some will argue that winning the popular vote as well as the electoral college gives Obama more of a mandate to govern—and it should. But this election—the latest to be fought out over a dozen counties rather than fifty states—should still offer an inspiration to fix how we pick our presidents.
Some argued in recent weeks that Obama wouldn’t score a “real” win if he secured the electoral college alone. But the real issue wasn’t the legitimacy of a victory—it was the integrity of our democracy. After all, this election was governed by the archaic rules we still use. Both campaigns knew this, and essentially wrote off efforts to win the popular vote for its own sake. A popular vote election would have been a very different election in all kinds of respects (consider the drop-off in Obama’s support in deep-blue states, which neither side had reason to care about).
(Facile comparisons to 2000 were inevitable, and of course that election also illustrated the inanity of the electoral college. But liberal rejection of that election’s legitimacy was based in other outrages: names expunged; voters intimidated; translators denied; recounts halted; malfunctioning machines.)
But what we do know is that every American would have had the chance to participate on an equal basis, in sharp contrast to our current system in which four out of five are absolutely ignored by both campaigns.
Electoral college defenders offer a range of arguments, from the openly anti-democratic (direct election equals mob rule), to the nostalgic (we’ve always done it this way), to the opportunistic (your little state will get ignored! More vote-counting means more controversies! The Electoral College protects hurricane victims!). But none of those arguments overcome this one: One person, one vote.
Our current system has a different pedigree: the “three-fifths compromise” between slave states and free states. As Yale constitutional law expert Akhil Amar has pointed out, James Madison wrote in his diary that the question of counting slaves posed a challenge “of a serious nature.… The substitution of electors obviated this difficulty and seemed on the whole to be liable to the fewest objections.”
The American electorate has been transformed since then. But not the Electoral College. In a 2000 editorial, we called our system “a drafty old house.” Perhaps we were being too generous.
As Harvard historian Alexander Keyssar observed, “It is hardly an accident that no other country in the world has imitated our Electoral College.” Imagine, for a moment, trying to convince constitution-writers in any newly democratic nation that there are more prudent alternatives to one person, one vote. Or proposing that California, which is large and diverse in its own right, assign votes to its various regions rather than to its citizens. Or suggesting that the US choose its president by tabulating who won the battleground age groups, or classes or religions.
So what can be done? Congress could get the ball rolling but, with Republicans holding the House, we shouldn’t hold our breath. Fortunately, we don’t have to. Thanks to Amar’s clever strategy and advocates’ savvy organizing, there’s an alternative, with momentum: state-by-state National Popular Vote (NPV).
The concept is simple: individual state legislatures pledge that they’ll assign all of their electoral votes to whichever candidate wins the national popular vote—conditional on enough other states following suit. Once a majority of the nation’s electoral votes rest in states that have passed NPV measures, the laws go into effect and winning the popular vote becomes the only way to win. This elegantly exploits one of the perversities of our current system—there’s no individual, federal right to have your ballot counted—and turns it against the system itself. It’s a state-based solution that could finally force a federal popular-vote election.
And it’s gaining steam. In fact, it’s almost halfway there. Nine states with 132 electoral votes have already passed NPV (that’s 49 percent of the necessary 270 electoral votes). While opponents claim that popular vote elections (read: democracy) would doom small states to irrelevance, some small states aren’t convinced. NPV supporters include not just California (fifty-five electoral votes), but states like Maryland (ten), Hawaii (four), and Vermont (three). After another election fought out over state like Ohio and Florida, it’s not hard to imagine why. In 2008, Ohio drew more campaign cash and visits than the smallest twenty-five states; this year’s stats will be even worse.
“Whether you pounded the pavement or picked up the phone,” Obama told the crowd late Tuesday night, “whether you held an Obama sign or a Romney sign, you made your voice heard and you made a difference.” It’s time to end the Electoral College, so those words can pack a greater punch.
Obama won the popular vote last night thanks to a diverse coaltion of citizens. Check out The Nation editors’ take on “A Progressive Surge” in this election.
On January 6, 1941, as Nazi Germany tightened its cruel grip on Europe, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his annual State of the Union address. He acknowledged the terrible costs of war and argued that the sacrifice would be accepted by future generations only if it led to a newer, better world for all people everywhere, a world based on the four human freedoms central to democracy—freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.
They were, in his view, fundamental American values, and an antidote to the poison of growing tyranny. Three years later, in his 1944 State of the Union address, Roosevelt translated those values into what became known as the “Economic Bill of Rights”— an uncompromising articulation of economic security as a condition of individual freedom.
Today, these principles are embodied by the pure and simple lines, etched in grass, stone and light, of Louis Kahn’s Four Freedoms Park, the great architect’s memorial to Roosevelt that opened last month in New York. Kahn’s extraordinary vision was at last realized, almost forty years after his death, on the southern tip of Roosevelt Island, thanks in no small part to dedicated supporters including my father, Ambassador William vanden Heuvel, who fought tirelessly to make Kahn’s dream a reality in our time.
HURRICANE SANDY. “The presidential candidates decided not to speak about climate change, but climate change has decided to speak to them,” writes Mike Tidwell this week. Only a week before the election, the devastation caused by the storm was massive, including a tragic loss of life. Much of the damage—of homes, communities, and natural and cultural landmarks—cannot be repaired. Mark Hertsgaard writes about Hurricane Sandy as Greek tragedy, stating that we can either choose to ignore warnings about climate change or choose to act. “The question Hurricane Sandy really raises,” writes Hertsgaard, “is how long Big Oil will be allowed to hold the government of the United States hostage.” Also, be sure to read my blog—I ask how Romney Republicans can reconcile their anti-government extremism with actual reality. For more coverage, read Michelle Dean’s piece on FEMA and inequality, and take a look at Allison Kilkenny’s report on how the Occupy movement is helping storm victims. Whether you’re in New York or elsewhere, find out how you can help.
The Nation offices were without power this week, but thanks to the tenacity of our production and editorial teams, our new issue went out on time. On Sunday we accelerated our press schedule and worked through the night—despite being physically separated from one another and without access to our usual systems. Our columnists, writers and cover artist Steve Brodner filed a day early, and the Nation team was able to finish up by midday Monday, just in time to close the entire issue before the storm hit. And a good thing, too—if it had been any later, we would have missed the window. Many thanks to our amazing team.
ELECTION DAY: NOVEMBER 6. With just days until the election, Nation reporters are on the ground in battleground states and campaign headquarters around the country. E.J. Graff is optimistic about Elizabeth Warren’s Senate race in Massachusetts—the relentless campaign finds Warren with a small lead and an enthusiastic volunteer base in its final stretch. George Zornick reports that just days before the election big-dollar donations have been funneled into Todd Akin’s campaign. Is the National Republican Senatorial Committee behind the money surge? For the presidential election, follow our reporters throughout the week—and come Election Day, keep an eye on TheNation.com for an opportunity to unload your anxiety and discuss the results in a Live Chat with Nation readers and writers.
VOTING RIGHTS WATCH. Our Voting Rights Watch team will be monitoring early voting and election day suppression efforts from Virginia, Ohio, Florida and the Election Protection Center in Washington, DC. Brentin Mock reports on early-voting turnout in Florida, and Ari Bermaninvestigates how Hurricane Sandy will impact the election. Aura Bogado and community journalist Maegan E. Ortiz filed a report this week on why voting is especially crucial in communities of color—even for those who don’t live in swing states. Follow our team, who will be covering the election on the ground for The Nation and Colorlines.
#TALKPOVERTY. After months of pushing the candidates to talk about how they plan to tackle poverty in the United States, our own Greg Kaufmann was able to get a response from President Obama’s campaign (unsurprisingly, the Romney campaign chose not to participate.) Read his piece, and find out what the president would do in a second term and what the campaign has to say about child hunger, low-wage jobs, veteran homelessness and more.
PROGRAMMING NOTE. I’ll be on MSNBC’s UP with Chris Hayes this Sunday as we get ready for the election.
As Hurricane Sandy forced evacuations and shut down public transit, New York City bus drivers transported patients to hospitals. Nurses stayed and watched over the sick. First responders marched into danger.
As these public workers were out saving lives, right-wing Republicans like Chris Christie took a break from bashing them. Alas, based on disasters past, we shouldn’t hold our breath for a lasting change of heart.
While political pundits weighed how Mitt Romney could optimize his hurricane optics, a better question got too little play: How can Romney Republicans reconcile their anti-government extremism with actual reality?
If you haven’t watched the video of Romney’s June 2011 debate comments on FEMA, you should. And so should every undecided or under-inspired voter you know. Asked specifically about FEMA—the federal agency responsible for coordinating disaster response—Romney offered a chilling response: “Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.”
“Every time”? Talk about unhinged ideology. (As Matt Yglesias notes, this is also terrible economics.) So much for “moderate Mitt.”
After moderator John King asked once more if Romney was referring to “disaster relief,” the vulture capitalist doubled down: “We cannot—we cannot afford to do these things without jeopardizing the future for our kids.” That’s right: Mitt Romney claimed with a straight face that deficit reduction requires de-federalizing or privatizing FEMA. And in an e-mail to The Huffington Post Sunday night, the Romney campaign didn’t exactly Etch-A-Sketch that stance away; instead, a campaign official said states should “have the resources and assistance they need to cope with natural disasters.” On Tuesday, when reporters asked the candidate himself about his stance, he simply ignored them.
What would a privatized FEMA look like? Premium service for the 1 percent? Elusive coverage for “high-risk” homes? Emergency services from Halliburton? Let’s pray we never find out.
If you’ve been waiting to declare the death of “moderate Republicanism,” consider this: Unless there’s a war to be waged, the modern GOP won’t even recognize a federal responsibility to protect Americans.
Unlike the privateers, public employees serve everyone—including the politicians who use them as punching bags. They teach our kids, they pave our roads, they keep us safe. They often pass up better-paying or less risky work to do it. Weeks like this, it’s near-impossible not to notice. Yet most of the time, these workers get some combination of neglect and contempt from our country’s elite. Consider how quickly after 9/11 politicians’ FDNY baseball caps faded into fiery denunciations of public employee bloat.
And Republicans aren’t just making idle threats. As Mike Konczal and Bryce Covert reported, the class of GOP governors swept into office in 2010 secured massive public sector layoffs—a sadly disregarded part of the story of our ongoing economic slump. Romney himself openly mocked the idea that we need “more firemen, more policemen, more teachers.”
Romney’s contempt for public workers is of a piece with his contempt for those who rely most on public services—or, as he calls, them, “the 47 percent.” Bus rider? Public school parent? Guess what: You’re on your own (or, per Jared Bernstein, YOYO for short).
Of course, like the hurricane itself, slash-and-burn government hurts the most vulnerable the most, but it threatens all of us eventually. Just witness our utter failure to confront our ever-quickening climate crisis.
I’m sure Romney Republicans love the country, but they show little love for public servants, or for 47 percent of the public. Forgive me, but when they say “one nation,” it’s starting to sound a little hollow.
For more Nation takes on Hurricane Sandy, check out Mike Tidwell on what the storm says about climate change and the fate of coastal cities.