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Predicted Results of Election 2014
Today, Maureen Dowd can't go one $#&$!ing week without making comparisons between "Barry" and "Bill"... Ross Douthat explains how thinking for yourself leads to communism... Dana Milbank says that Obama abandoned the students and now they've abandoned him... The New York Times looks at Ohio's war on democracy... Walter Dean Myers wonders why young adult books are so overwhelmingly white... but first...

Doyle McManus delivers the voice of doom. Doom, I tell you.

This year was always going to be a difficult one for Democrats, as they battle to keep their five-seat majority in the Senate. But in recent months, the political landscape has grown bleaker.

Let's start with the basics: Democrats have more seats at risk this year than Republicans do. Of the 36 Senate seats up for election (including three midterm vacancies), 21 are held by Democrats. And seven of those Democratic seats are in Republican-leaning "red states" that Mitt Romney won in 2012: Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia.

The stakes are enormous. If Republicans take control of the Senate and keep the House of Representatives, they'll be able to pass parts of their conservative agenda that have been blocked until now. President Obama will still have veto power, but he'll have to spend his last two years in office stuck on defense.

...

Compounding Democrats' worries, Republicans are having a good year recruiting top-tier Senate candidates in both blue and red states. In Colorado, GOP Rep. Cory Gardner has turned Democratic Sen. Mark Udall's once-expected reelection into a race to watch. In New Hampshire, former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) moved north last week and announced his desire to become Sen. Scott Brown (R-N.H.). ...

Democrats will try to broaden the debate beyond Obamacare and the pace of economic growth to focus on issues of fairness: a higher minimum wage, stronger overtime pay regulations, pay equity for women. If Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) wins his tough race for reelection in increasingly conservative Arkansas, for example, it may be thanks to a state minimum wage initiative that could mobilize Democratic voters there.

Here's my analysis of the Senate races, one that I don't expect to change any time soon. Part the first: the only issue worth talking about is minimum wage. It's not just Arkansas where this issue polls well, it polls well everywhere. And while the Affordable Care Act might be a battle cry to core Republicans, the truth is it barely registers with voters in general. The same with every other issue you can name except minimum wage. Minimum wage is a big winner for Democrats, and a big problem for Republicans. If Democrats spent send this election standing on that plank, they'll be able to walk it... right back into control of the Senate.

And the second thing... the idea that state hopping Scott Brown is a top-tier candidate is absolutely hilarious. And will remain so, no matter how many times it's repeated.

Some on in, let's see the rest.

Maureen Dowd has managed to produce a column that is, absolutely note for note, a clone of McManus. Does this mean that one of this is guilty of (horrors) plagiarism?  No. It means that neither one of them could manage to generate an original thought or wander more than half a degree from the cliff notes of conventional wisdom.

Scott Brown, the Republican who admitted he wore pink leather shorts on his first date with his wife-to-be, is back.

And Democrats are scared to death.

It’s not that Democrats are particularly scared that the 54-year-old former Massachusetts senator is going to get elected as a New Hampshire senator — although it’s conceivable that a charming, carpetbagging, middling politician could jump across the border and unseat Jeanne Shaheen.

But Shaheen is popular, and strategists don’t think that flinty “Live Free or Die” voters will welcome the Boston transplant with open arms.

This is what’s really freaking out Democrats: They know that Brown, after making some real money working for Fox News since his loss to Elizabeth Warren two years ago, wouldn’t even be getting into the race if the political environment weren’t so toxic for Democrats.

Republicans have been white-hot for Brown to get in, and he finally pulled the trigger Friday, establishing an exploratory committee and asserting that “the Obamacare Democrats are on the wrong side” of a big political wave.

Wait. Already I have to apply the brakes. Let's go though that again. Scott Brown is an a well-known asshole imported into the race mostly because the GOP couldn't even turn over a rock and find anyone worth running in the whole of New Hampshire. Oh, and he's going to lose big. But this is bad new for Dems. All right, Maureen. Tell us why.
G.O.P. leaders think that even if Brown can’t win, he will force Democrats to spend a bunch of money in New Hampshire and curtail what they can spend in other more crucial races like Colorado, Alaska, Montana, Louisiana, Arkansas, North Carolina and Michigan.
Ah. GOP leaders think that Brown will lose, but Dems will spend a lot money... making him... lose... more? And anyway, Maureen says Dems are in a panic, and doomed, and... pretty much everything that McManus said, only Maureen pulls out a "Barry" and some personal digs so you know she was wearing her Mean Girls tank top while writing this.

Ross Douthat may be bowling alone, but he has the young'uns all figured out.

In the future, it seems, there will be only one “ism” — Individualism — and its rule will never end. As for religion, it shall decline; as for marriage, it shall be postponed; as for ideologies, they shall be rejected; as for patriotism, it shall be abandoned; as for strangers, they shall be distrusted. Only pot, selfies and Facebook will abide — and the greatest of these will probably be Facebook.

... the millennials’ skepticism of parties, programs and people runs deeper than their allegiance to a particular ideology. Their left-wing commitments are ardent on a few issues but blur into libertarianism and indifferentism on others. The common denominator is individualism, not left-wing politics: it explains both the personal optimism and the social mistrust, the passion about causes like gay marriage and the declining interest in collective-action crusades like environmentalism, even the fact that religious affiliation has declined but personal belief is still widespread.

Personally, I'd like to think that in five years people will be saying "Face... what? I kind of remember that thing," but then I've always hated Facebook and if the rest of the world finally moves that way it'll make me look prescient instead of just too antisocial to share my thoughts on lunch. By the way, Ross assures us that just because the latest generation tends to be liberal, they're not really liberal and Democrats shouldn't get too confident. Which is kind of like telling Catholics they should get busy worrying. Democrats are never confident.  Oh, and individualism causes communism. So says Douthat (not kidding).

Dana Milbank is even more negative than Douthat when it comes to generation whatever.

The day before the Iowa caucuses in 2008, I wrote about the massive crowds of young people at Barack Obama rallies, noting that his candidacy would collapse “if they don’t show up.”

The next night, after Obama’s victory celebration in Des Moines, Obama strategist Steve Hildebrand spotted me in a crowd. “The kids showed up!” he said fiercely.

They did. But where are they now?

An army of 15 million voters under 30 swept Obama past Hillary Clinton and John McCain and to the presidency in 2008. More than 12 million helped him return in 2012. But now his presidency is on the line — and the Obama youth are abandoning him in his hour of need.

The administration announced last week that only 1.08 million people ages 18 to 34 had signed up for Obamacare by the end of February, or about 25 percent of total enrollees. If the proportion doesn’t improve significantly, the result likely will be fatal for the Affordable Care Act.

The administration had said it needed 40 percent of registrants in the health insurance exchanges to be young adults, or about 2.7 million of the expected 7 million total. Overall enrollment is also below target. But the alarming shortcoming is the number of young participants, which would make the insured population older and sicker and the program too expensive.

What went wrong? The president and his aides failed to keep his youth movement engaged. But part of the problem also is the inability of the millennial generation to remain attached to a cause. The generation that brought Obama to power is connected online but has no loyalty to institutions — including, it turns out, the Obama White House.

In 2008, “the level of innovation and engagement in the election, especially the primaries, was amazing, but then the level of engaging them during the administration was extremely disappointing,” says Peter Levine, a Tufts University professor who specializes in youth civic involvement. “He had a potential army for legislative success and implementation, but the Obama administration did not do that. At a critical moment in the first term, they did not turn to them. . . . They got rapid youth demobilization.”

I believe I've read that idea before on this site called Daily Kos.

The New York Times shakes its editorial finger at Ohio, where Republicans are once again on the run from demon democracy.

Ohio Republicans must not think their political candidates can win a fair fight against Democrats. They’ve decided to rig the state’s election system in their favor, deliberately making voting harder for people who tend to vote Democratic, particularly minorities and the poor. ...

■ Six days of early voting have been eliminated, and same-day registration will no longer be allowed on those days, during which more than 50,000 people voted in 2012. Blacks participated in early voting at a higher rate than whites.

■ Absentee voting will become much more difficult, because counties are barred from sending out ballot applications. Voters will have to answer a complicated set of questions for their absentee ballot to count, and they will have to pay their own postage. In 2012, 1.2 million people in Ohio voted absentee.

■ Provisional ballots, used when there is a question about a voter’s identity in a polling place, will undergo far greater scrutiny, and can be rejected for minute errors.

You know, in any reasonable world, this kind of thing would be all it takes to sink Republicans. How can any party get away with running against democracy.

Sasha Issenberg has an interesting insight into another aspect of America and democracy.

Those seeking evidence that the United States retains an ability to export democracy in the 21st century should turn their attention away from city squares in Kiev and Cairo to more peaceful terrain where a major global devolution of control from political elites is underway.

Ascendant parties in France, Italy, Argentina and Canada are now led by figures chosen under new systems designed to spur intramural competition by widening the circle of people empowered to choose party leaders. Earlier this month, Britain’s Labour Party joined them, deciding overwhelmingly to overhaul the electoral college used to elect the party’s leaders and move toward one-person-one-vote elections. ...

Like bluegrass and Abstract Expressionism, the party primary is a unique creation of the American 20th century, an alternative to the “smoke-filled rooms” that dominated politics in the 19th. In the rest of the world, however, parties effectively remained clubs, bounded by pledges and membership fees, with responsibility for selecting candidate lists tightly controlled by steering committees.

Now many party leaders are choosing to relinquish that authority in exchange for developing better relationships with the type of casual backers whom one former Canadian prime minister dismissed as “tourists.” Faced in particular with a desire to gain intelligence about the electorate — in countries where both laws and culture impede the type of large-scale collection of voter data common in the United States — party leaders are hoping to lure participants with primaries. Around the world, the model is the long 2008 campaign between Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, which for all its ferocity served as a recruitment and organizing tool for the Democratic Party.

Somehow, I'm not sure that the party primary is a legacy I want to hand to the world.

The New York Times speaks out in favor of bringing some sanity to the "justice" system.

Two bipartisan bills now under consideration aim to unwind our decades-long mass incarceration binge and to keep it from happening again. This fact is remarkable not only because of Congress’s stubborn standstill, but because crime and punishment has long been one of the most combustible issues in American politics.

And yet the depth of the crisis in the federal system alone has been clear for years. Harsh mandatory minimum sentencing laws have overstuffed prisons with tens of thousands of low-level, nonviolent drug offenders serving excessively long sentences. Federal prisons now hold more than 215,000 inmates, almost half of whom are in for drug crimes. Many come out more likely to reoffend than they were when they went in, because of the lack of any meaningful rehabilitation programs inside prison and the formidable obstacles to employment, housing and drug treatment that they face upon release.

The proposed legislation would address both the front and back ends of this problem.

And then in six months, everyone who voted for these bills will have to stand up in an election where their opponents will run Willy Horton Mk. III ads on every channel and talk about how they'll get "tough on crime." Which is exactly how we got into this idiocy in the first place. So don't mark me down as being all that hopeful.

Walter Dean Myers asks a really good question.

Where are the people of color in children’s books?

Of 3,200 children’s books published in 2013, just 93 were about black people, according to a study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin.

...

As a teenager I romped the forests with Robin Hood, and trembled to the sound of gunfire with Henry in “The Red Badge of Courage.” Later, when Mama’s problems began to overwhelm her, I wrestled with the demons of dealing with one’s mother with Stephen Dedalus in “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.” But by then I was beginning the quest for my own identity. To an extent I found who I was in the books I read. I was a person who felt the drama of great pain and greater joys, whose emotions could soar within the five-act structure of a Shakespearean play, or find quiet comfort in the poems of Gabriela Mistral. Every book was a landscape upon which I was free to wander.

In the dark times, when my uncle was murdered, when my family became dysfunctional with alcohol and grief, or when I realized that our economics would not allow me to go to college, I began to despair. I read voraciously, spending days in Central Park reading when I should have been going to school.

But there was something missing. I needed more than the characters in the Bible to identify with, or even the characters in Arthur Miller’s plays or my beloved Balzac. As I discovered who I was, a black teenager in a white-dominated world, I saw that these characters, these lives, were not mine. I didn’t want to become the “black” representative, or some shining example of diversity. What I wanted, needed really, was to become an integral and valued part of the mosaic that I saw around me.

Christopher Myers an author and illustrator himself, has his own thoughts on the same theme as his father.

Micheal West has some fun numbers for those enjoying the new Cosmos.

0: The number of Nobel Prizes that Einstein won for his General Theory of Relativity.

240: The number of pieces Einstein’s brain was cut into for research purposes after he died.

100 billion: The estimated number of human beings who have ever lived on Earth.

400 billion: The estimated number of stars in our Milky Way galaxy.

9: The approximate number of years it would take to walk nonstop to the moon if you could.

3,536: The approximate number of years it would take to walk to the sun.

177: How many years it would take to drive to the sun at 60 miles per hour.

49 million: How many years it would take to drive to the next nearest star, Proxima Centauri.

9.3 billion: Approximate number of years the universe had existed before Earth formed.

50: The distance in miles from which the Hubble Space Telescope could discern the color of your eyes.

38 percent: The share of atoms in the human body that are heavier than hydrogen and hence were made inside stars.

And if you think that last one means you are 62% H and nothing but H... yep, that's what it means.  If you're disappointed to find that you're only a bit over a third "star stuff," take heart -- the rest of you is Big Bang Stuff.  There's a lot more nifty numbers on the list.

Originally posted to Devil's Tower on Sat Mar 15, 2014 at 09:25 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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