The Nation

The View from Jackson

I could analyze Senator Barack Obama's Mississippi win all day--and wouldn't that be a kick? But I wouldn't be able to do nearly as provocative a job as Donna Ladd, editor of the hell-raising Jackson Free Press, and her election-night blogmates.

The post-primary story from the pundisphere was all about the stark racial disparity in the vote, and it was stark indeed, with exit polls showing 91 percent of African Americans going for Obama and 72 percent of whites for Senator Hillary Clinton. But there were other ways to read the Mississippi results, as the Free Press blog points out. For one thing, the strong white vote for Clinton was skewed, as Ladd points out, by Republicans turning out to vote for the New York Senator; 13 percent of the primary voters identified as GOPers, and nearly 80 percent of them went for Clinton. And while older people voted for Clinton, the future looks interesting for Mississippi Democrats; 72 percent of voters under 30 went for Obama, considerably more than the 60 percent overall.

Choice observations from the Magnolia State's progressive universe:

Ladd: "The race really split along racial lines here, showing that even Democrats are predictable on that front in our state.

 Of course, Obama clearly drew a lot more votes, so the 10 percent of his vote that was white might be an impressive number.

 Also, I'd like to know how many people voting who haven't been voting. There are a lot of variables here---and if turnout of progressives, young people and non-whites increases due to his candidacy, that's a huge deal and could change Mississippi's election outcomes, as Obama himself has pointed out:

"Back in August, Obama told the AP that he's the 'only candidate who, having won the nomination, can actually redraw the political map.' The reason? Black voters. 'I guarantee you African-American turnout, if I'm the nominee, goes up 30 percent around the country, minimum,' he said. 'So we're in a position to put states in play that haven't been in play since LBJ.' The state at the heart of Obama's prediction was Mississippi. At the time, Obama said that 'if we just got African-Americans in Mississippi to vote their percentage of the population, Mississippi is suddenly a Democratic state'; in November he told the Washington Post that he 'think[s] [he] can put Mississippi in play.'

"It's the turnout numbers that matter here. [According to early reports, turnout was "mixed" across Mississippi.] Also, the Newsweek blog didn't take into account that McCain could draw a lackluster white vote, although [Republican Governor Haley] Barbour has ensured that [Senator Trent] Lott's seat will be on the November ballot, so that will likely help the conservative turnout, despite McCain."

Ladd: "CNN just said [Obama] has a white-male problem in Mississippi.


I wish they would publish an actual number of how many white men vote Democratic here typically, without a black man on the ticket. 

Obviously, with due respect, he wasn't going to draw a huge white male vote here. The vast majority of them will vote Republican if they vote.

 The story *should* be the black turnout and excitement."

Pikersam: "BTW: We are really going to see how ruthless the Clinton camp can be now that she is one the ropes and about to go down for the count.

 She is banking on the false votes of MI and FL to win which will disenfranchise the rest of the democratic voters across the US."

Ladd: "Their analysis [on CNN] drives me crazy, with Soledad talking about Obama's white-male problem. 

Folks, Hillary's voters are going to vote for Obama if he gets the nomination. The rest of the white boyz are going to vote Republican. What matters is how many non-typical voters, of all races, might be added to the mix because they are excited by Obama?

 How hard can this be?"

Ladd: "Also, the exit polls make it look like Rush's plea for white Republicans to vote for Hillary may have worked some here. That helps in a couple ways: It helps give the nomination to Hillary, who will not excite as many new voters as Obama, and is more partisan and divisive, helping McCain in November. It also means that pundits like Soledad start talking about Obama's white-male problem. Clinton's got one, too, if not as much among diehard Democrats." (Ladd)

Golden Eagle '97: "I'm watching the returns on WAPT...Alan Keyes was on the ballot in MS?"

The House Isn't The Problem

Matt Yglesias makes a very important point on the occasion of the House passing a new ethics package.

While overall the post-2006 congress has been a massive disappointment, that is almost entirely due to the inability to overcome both filibusters and backslapping tradition in the Senate, . The house really has done a remarkably good job of reliably producing good legislation, which is then either ignored by the Senate or vetoed by the president.

The Save Spitzer Campaign

Just about everyone seems to be calling for New York Governor Eliot Spitzer to step down in light of revelations regarding his apparent involvement with a prostitution ring -- and the governor's own acknowledgment of a serious personal misstep.

But the key words there are just about everyone. Because the governor has some defenders, and they are starting to get organized.

Legal commentator Alan Dershowitz, the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, has been mounting something of a one-man defense of his former student in media interviews.

And, now, the popular activist website www.democrats.com has launched a Save Spitzer campaign.

The message is outlined in a letter that promotes the online petition campaign.

Dear Governor Spitzer,

Don't let the Republicans and the rightwing media drive you out of office!

You made a lot of powerful enemies in your career because you took on the most powerful crooks on Wall Street. Now your enemies are trying to get even by destroying your career and your life. Don't let them!

The whole investigation by the Bush Administration stinks to high heaven. This isn't a case of "structuring" or "money laundering." The FBI never investigates johns - so why are they investigating you?

The answer is obvious. George Bush and Karl Rove turned the Justice Department into the political destruction arm of the Republican Party. They've prosecuted 5.6 Democrats for every Republican.

That's why former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman is rotting in jail, and that's what they want to do to you.

As Americans, we are outraged by Bush's endless abuses of justice. If anyone should be removed from office, it's George Bush!

Governor Spitzer, please stand and fight against this outrageous and naked partisan Republican assault. We support you!

The letter and petition were posted by Bob Fertik, the prime mover behind democrats.com, on Tuesday evening. An email blast to the group's extensive lists drew a rapid response that briefly made it tough to reach its site as Spitzer backers -- or, perhaps more precisely, people who simply do not trust any prosecution of a Democrat by the Bush administration -- rushed to sign on.

It is tough to see how Spitzer holds on at this point, especially as details of the prostitution sting are revealed -- casting him in a staggeringly unflattering light -- and as speculation about Mann Act violations continues to dominate the news. But the governor did not make the expected resignation announcement Tuesday, and if he was trolling the internet for good news Tuesday night, he found a little at the democrats.com site.

Quote of the Day

My boss, in an email discussion of Eliot Spitzer:

He should have kept to sticking it to the man.

Bada bing!

Follow Bernie Sanders's Lead

In countless speeches over the past seven years, Democrats have rightly slammed "the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy" as reckless, unnecessary, and unjust. Yet Senator Bernie Sanders has provided Senate Democrats with ample opportunity to put their money where their mouth is and his colleagues have failed to seize that opportunity.

Last year, Sanders introduced the National Priorities Act to rescind the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans and use those revenues for health care, education, childcare, veterans services, infrastructure, deficit reduction and other vital needs. The bill had no cosponsors, was never brought to the floor for a vote, and it languishes in the Senate Finance Committee.

Sanders then took a more modest approach. In a budget amendment, he targeted only the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest three-tenths of 1 percent of taxpayers – in essence, Americans who earn at least one million annually. That garnered 38 Democratic votes (including Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton). Progress, yes, but still only a whimper as compared to the sometimes fiery rhetoric of the party.

Yesterday, at a press conference on Capitol Hill, Sanders announced his latest effort to restore fiscal sanity to the tax code, hoping that the third time will be a charm. Again, his amendment would rescind the tax cuts only for the wealthiest .3 percent of taxpayers in order to increase revenues by $32.5 billion over the next three years (less than 3 months of spending in Iraq). It is currently cosponsored by Senators Clinton, Sherrod Brown, Richard Durbin, Tom Harkin, Edward Kennedy, Barbara Mikulski, and Chuck Schumer. (Disappointingly, Senator Obama hadn't indicated his intention to sign on at the time of this post.)

"At a time when the presidential candidates are running all over the country saying ‘We need change, change, change….' Sander said. "At a time when the American people are saying we are moving this country in a very wrong direction – we've gotta change our direction. This amendment gives the Senate an opportunity to cast a vote which begins the process of changing our national priorities and moving America in a very different direction."

Sanders said the amendment begins to address three major problems facing our nation: the growing economic disparity between the very rich and everyone else; the "shameful reality" that America has the highest child poverty rate of any industrialized nation at 18 percent; and record-breaking deficits and a national debt approaching $10 trillion.

The Sanders amendment calls for $10 billion to be used towards special education – the federal government hasn't fulfilled its statutory commitment in this area and as a result states have been forced to raise property taxes; $5 billion to Head Start which today serves less than half of eligible children; $4 billion to the Child Care Development Block Grant – only one in seven eligible children are able to receive federal childcare assistance due to a lack of funding; $3 billion towards school construction – schools across the nation have a $100 billion backlog in needed repairs; $4 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program to help low-income families with children, fixed-income seniors, and persons with disabilities stay warm in the winter months; $3.5 billion on Food Stamps to help address growing food insecurity; and $3 billion for deficit reduction.

"This is change, this is real change," Sanders said. "At a time when the wealthiest people have not had it so good since the 1920s, almost all of the new wealth creation has gone to the people at the very, very top. We as a nation have got to decide whether we ask those people to pay a little bit more in taxes so that we address the absolute, pressing needs facing our kids in working families all over this country."

The fact that Sanders is once again giving the Democrats a chance to take a stand on this fundamental issue isn't lost on the Senator.

"I think every poll taken indicates that a huge majority of the American people believe that this country under Bush is moving us in the wrong direction," Sanders said. "I think this is one of those areas. People perceive that while the wealthiest people in this country are making huge increases in their incomes, the middle-class is shrinking and poverty is increasing…. From a public policy point of view, it would be very disappointing to me if we did not have overwhelming Democratic support. And from a political point of view, I think it would be a mistake."

Senate Democrats have had too many moments when they needed to show their mettle and they faltered. This is another one of those moments. It's time to follow Sanders' lead.

House to WH on Telco's: Immunize This

The new surveillance bill not only doesn't contain immunity for the telco's but explicitly authorizes the courts to hear the cases.

How the Spitzer Sex Scandal Could Help Hillary

A woman president is not going to be Client 9 of the Emperor's Club VIP sex service.

A woman president is not going to get arrested for soliciting sex in a rest room at the Minneapolis airport.

A woman president is not going to be caught sending hot text messages to young congressional pages.

Many voters may find these arguments persuasive in the wake of the Elliot Spitzer story: if you want to avoid losing your leaders to sex scandals, vote for a woman.

The voters most likely to be persuaded by this argument are, of course, women. And there are a lot of women voters in the Democratic primaries yet to come, and among the superdelegates.

The notion that Hillary could benefit from the Spitzer scandal goes against the conventional wisdom in the blogosphere today, which holds that it hurts Hillary because, as Matt Yglesias wrote, it will "make people worry about the fact that putting Bill Clinton back in the White House seems to raise the possibility of once again having a Democratic administration derailed by a sex scandal."

To say that many voters might find Hillary more appealing at this point is not to say that Barack Obama or John McCain is likely to be caught in a sex scandal. Either possibility seems extremely unlikely.

Of course it also seemed extremely unlikely that Elliot Spitzer would be caught violating the Mann Act.

The question is not whether we will see new revelations, but whether disgust over Spitzer's destruction of his career will lead some voters to look to a woman for freedom from sex scandals.

Campaign For Sensible Priorities

One more thing about the budget. Every time you hear some blowhard talking about the scourge of earmarks remember this chart to keep it all in perspective.

More Revenue!

The senate's been debating the budget the last day and a half, and it's generally been an unedifying show. Republican senators talk exclusively about tax cuts and reigning in spending, but by "spending" they mean "non-military spending that doesn't happen in my state or help my major corporate donors." And Democrats keep harping endlessly on the debt and deficit. Yes, the Bush administration has squandered a surplus on tax cuts for the rich, a bloody, immoral war and a massive escalation of the security state. But! The Republicans are right when they point out that thedebt as a percentage of GDP is towards the high end, but not outside historical norms and that last year's deficit was well within historical norms as a percentage of GDP.

I've never seen any polling data anywhere that suggests the deficit and debt moves voters, even if voters say they care about it. The problem isn't the debt as such, it's the massive increase in military spending, the long term challenge of health care costs and massively expensive tax cuts. The "debt" is too abstract to be politically useful, and harping on it confuses the symptom for the cause.

For this reason, I was heartened by this exchange betwen Sen Kyl and Sen. Sanders yesterday on the senate floor:

Mr. KYL. Madam President, I note that my friend and colleague, the chairman of the Budget Committee, is here. I thought I would begin by quoting something he said which I think sets the tone for the discussion of the budget. I believe it was during a March 4, 2007, interview on ``60 Minutes'' when the distinguished chairman said:

I believe, first of all, that we need more revenue.

Now I won't pretend that I know the exact context in which this statement was made, but it is not the first time I have heard Democratic colleagues say we need more revenue. In one of our informal meetings, colleagues said: We will need a much bigger revenue stream when the next President is elected. That individual was presuming it would be a Democratic President.

Mr. SANDERS. Will the Senator yield?

Mr. KYL. Yes, of course.

Mr. SANDERS. Let me say, very clearly, to set the record straight, as an Independent, we need more revenue. We have the highest rate of childhood poverty in the industrialized world. We have people who are hungry. We have mothers who can't afford childcare. Yes, sir, we need more revenue. We should ask the wealthiest people in this country to help us come up with the revenue.