Category Archives: Politics

How Social Movements Can Win More Victories Like Same-Sex Marriage

Source: Mark Engler and Paul Engler, Dissent blog, July 16, 2014

Not long ago, same-sex marriage in America was not merely an unpopular cause; it was a politically fatal one—a third-rail issue that could end the career of any politician foolish enough to touch it. The idea that gay and lesbian couples would be able to legally exchange vows in states throughout the United States was regarded, at best, as a far-off fantasy and, at worst, as a danger to the republic. …

… Currently, nineteen states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriages, a number that is increasing at a brisk rate. An ever-growing majority of the public expresses its support in national polls, and statistician Nate Silver projects that majorities favoring marriage equality will coalesce in even deeply conservative Southern states by 2024. …

…What is striking about this is not just the seeming suddenness of the reversal. It is that the rapidly expanding victory around same-sex marriage defies many of our common ideas about how social change happens.

This was not a win that came in measured doses, but rather a situation in which the floodgates of progress were opened after years of half-steps and seemingly devastating reversals. It was not something enacted thanks to a senate majority leader twisting arms or a charismatic president pounding his bully pulpit. Instead, it came about through the efforts of a broad-based movement, pushing for increased acceptance of LGBT rights within a wide range of constituencies. The cumulative result was to change the terms of national debate, turning the impossible into the inevitable.

This is perhaps the most important point: Rather than being based on calculating realism—a shrewd assessment of what was attainable in the current political climate—the drive for marriage equality drew on a transformational vision. It was grounded in the idea that if social movements could win the battle over public opinion, the courts and the legislators would ultimately follow.

For those interested in promoting further transformation in the United States and beyond, there are few ideas more worthy of careful and sustained examination….

Why the White Working Class Matters

Source: Stanley Greenberg, Washington Monthly, Vol. 46 nos. 6/7/8, June/July/August 2014

The bad news: Dems can’t govern without them. The good news: Blue-collar whites are far more diverse than during the era of the Reagan Democrats.
Beyond Identity Politics
Source: Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin, Washington Monthly, Vol. 46 nos. 6/7/8, June/July/August 2014

To reach the white working class, promise an economy that “works for everyone.”

Forum: Populists and Progressives, Capitalism and Democracy

Source: Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, Vol 13, no. 3, July 2014
(subscription required)

From the introduction:
The next four essays are revised versions of talks given at a roundtable at the 2012 Organization of American historians conference in Milwaukee. … Asked to consider the place of populism and progressivism in present-day politics, the four participants in this forum responded with New history-style reflections on the uses of past politics on the present and the usefulness of populist and progressive concerns, attitudes, and ideas for contemporary agendas.

Articles include:
Capitalism and Politics in the Progressive Era and in Ours Capitalism and Politics in the Progressive Era and in Ours – Daniel T. Rodgers
If They Repeal the Progressive Era, Should We Care? If They Repeal the Progressive Era, Should We Care? – Charles Postel
Long Live Teddy/Death to Woodrow: The Polarized Politics of the Progressive Era in the 2012 Election Long Live Teddy/Death to Woodrow: The Polarized Politics of the Progressive Era in the 2012 Election – Robert D. Johnston

Why Collective Bargaining Is a Fundamental Human Right

Source: Robert Creamer, Huffington Post, July 9, 2014

The ability for ordinary working people to organize and collectively bargain over their wages and working conditions is a fundamental human right. It is a right just as critical to a democratic society as the right to free speech and the right to vote.

Over the last 30 years many in corporate America and the big Wall Street banks have conducted a sustained attack on that human right. Unionization dropped from 20.1 percent of the workforce in 1983 to 11. 3 percent in 2013 — and the results are there for everyone to see.

During that period productivity and Gross Domestic Product per capita both increased by roughly 80 percent in America. But the wages of ordinary Americans have remained stagnant. Virtually all of the fruits of that increased productivity have gone to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. …

…The right to freedom of association – and to collectively bargain wages and working conditions — is a foundational principle of every democratic society on earth. That right is rooted in the United States’ Bill of Rights, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations, Conventions 87 and 98 of the International Labour Organization, and Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

It’s time for us to make the right to join a union and bargain collectively the keystone of the progressive agenda. …

Party Polarization and Campaign Finance

Source: Thomas E. Mann and Anthony Corrado, Brookings Institution, July 2014

From the summary:
There is a lively debate today over whether or not campaign finance reforms have weakened the role of political parties in campaigns. This seems an odd argument in an era of historically high levels of party loyalty — on roll calls in Congress and voting in the electorate. Are parties too strong and unified or too weak and fragmented? Have they been marginalized in the financing of elections or is their role at least as strong as it has ever been? Does the party role in campaign finance (weak or strong) materially shape the capacity to govern?

In addition, the increasing involvement in presidential and congressional campaigns of large donors – especially through Super PACs and politically-active nonprofit organizations – has raised serious concerns about whether the super-wealthy are buying American democracy. Ideologically-based outside groups financed by wealthy donors appear to be sharpening partisan differences and resisting efforts to forge agreement across parties. Many reformers have advocated steps to increase the number of small donors to balance the influence of the wealthy. But some scholars have found evidence suggesting that small donors are more polarizing than large donors. Can that be true? If so, are there channels other than the ideological positioning of the parties through which small donors might play a more constructive role in our democracy?

In this paper, Thomas Mann and Anthony Corrado attempt to shed light on both of these disputed features of our campaign finance system and then assess whether campaign finance reform offers promise for reducing polarization and strengthening American democracy. They conclude that not only is campaign finance reform a weak tool for depolarizing American political parties, but some break in the party wars is probably a prerequisite to any serious pushback to the broader deregulation of campaign finance now underway.

Hobbled IRS can’t stem ‘dark money’ flow / Mystery political spending to continue unabated through midterm elections

Source: Julie Patel, Center for Public Integrity, July 15, 2014

….The tea party scandal, combined with Congress systematically stripping the IRS of resources and clout over decades, has led to an exempt organizations division that has all but quit regulating politically active nonprofits in any consistent, demonstrable way, a six-month Center for Public Integrity investigation reveals.

The investigation, which involved a review of thousands of pages of IRS documents and interviews with more than two dozen current and former IRS employees and administrators, finds the agency’s nonprofit regulation division has:
– Bled 14 percent of its staff positions during the past two decades while the number of nonprofits it regulates has grown by more than 40 percent.
– Scaled back inquiries, as the number of nonprofit group tax returns investigated recently fell by 10 percent, from 11,699 in 2011 to 10,575 last year. Applications for “social welfare” nonprofit status jumped 27 percent from 1,777 to 2,253 during the same time.
– Reduced the number of denials for exempt status for social welfare nonprofits from nearly 4 percent during the early 1980s to less than a quarter-percent in 2013.
– Softened, tabled or reversed course on at least a dozen proposed policy positions or enforcement plans after criticism from politicians and lobbyists….

When Budgeting Was Easier: Eisenhower and the 1960 Budget

Source: Rudolph G. Penner, Urban Institute, July 11, 2014

From the abstract:
The paper looks back to time when budgeting was easier and budget outcomes were superior. Although it is impossible to replicate the past exactly, there are characteristics of past budgets that might be emulated. The focus is on Eisenhower’s battles to balance the 1960 budget. At the time, almost all spending was controlled by annual appropriations, and popular, rapidly growing entitlements for old people were very much less important. The president’s budget was much more influential. Approaches to gaining more control over entitlements are explored as is the more difficult task of restoring the influence of the president’s budget.

The Ebb And Flow Of Money In Politics: It Will Find A Way

Source: Center for Responsive Politics, June 2014

It’s no secret that the landscape of campaign finance, and of money in politics in general, has shifted radically since our country was founded — and these changes have come fast and furious in recent years. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the need for candidates to have friends with money, and friends with friends with more money, in order to win.

Money often seems to be the biggest determinant of who gets elected to public office, and the price of winning a seat in Congress, let alone the presidency, has skyrocketed. The 2012 elections were the most expensive in history, with a price tag of about $6.3 billion. These days, the biggest contributions go to super PACs and politically active nonprofits that are supposed to act independently, but almost always are operating to benefit a political party or — increasingly — a single candidate.

In our timeline, we take a chronological look at how we got to this point in the financing of our electoral process, from the nation’s early days to the present. We begin at the beginning, with one unexpected fact.

2013 Poverty Scorecard

Source: Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, 2014

From the press release:
A deeply divided Congress made little progress on legislation that would help the 46.5 million people living in poverty in the United States in 2013, according to a report released today. At the same time, many bills and amendments that would have had a very negative effect on people living in poverty were ultimately defeated.

The 2013 Poverty Scorecard, published by the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, is a comprehensive analysis of the voting records of every U.S. Senator and Representative on poverty-related issues. The votes used to evaluate the members cover a wide range of subject areas including budget and tax, food and nutrition, health care, immigrants, cash assistance, domestic violence, legal services, workforce, education, voting rights, and employment rights….

….The voting records reported in the Poverty Scorecard evidence a deep divide on poverty issues. The overwhelming majority of Senators (97%) and Representatives (95%) were graded at one extreme (A+, A) or the other (D, F, F-). As in past years, Congressional delegations from states with high poverty rates were more likely to have a poor score on poverty-related legislation than delegations from states with low poverty rates….

Political Ad Sleuth

Source: Sunlight Foundation, 2014

Search, Upload, Share Political Ad Information

Help us find out who’s trying to influence your vote.

Use this site to get the latest information on political ads purchased at television stations around the country. These files provide the only information we have on who’s behind some of the shadowy groups pouring money into the election. You can sort it by state and individual television market or search by date. This information is not complete but it is the most comprehensive data available. With your help, we’re trying to fill the gaps by getting paper files from TV stations and by entering data. For information on how you can help, check here.
Tracking political spending on television ads just got easier
Source: Al Tompkins, Poynter, July 1, 2014

…Using the tool

Let me walk you through how to use the political ad sleuth tool.

If we open the file on Charlotte, North Carolina TV station reports, we see that the network affiliated stations have written lots of contracts for political ads in the last week. To get details on each contract just click on the contract. Let’s open the first one listed on the page, an ad buy on WBTV. (The Click on the “open original document” file and you will see the actual $71,900 ad contract between the TV station and Waterfront Strategies, an ad buyer for super-PACs.)

But we want to know who is paying the ad buyer. I have marked up the contract to show you where to look for that information. Different invoices use slightly different formats, but you get the idea from this one. I have placed boxes over the ad agency and the advertiser/buyer….