Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Bernie Sanders Shakes Up Hillary Clinton in Iowa

If Hillary Clinton envisioned a smooth serene passage to the Democrat 2016 presidential nomination, it seems that Bernie Sanders is hell bent to cause some waves and make the passage a bit more storm tossed and stressful.  A case in point?  Sanders has been seeing sizable crowd turnouts, including  2,500 people in Council Bluffs, Iowa, for a Sanders appearance.  Sanders' populist message appears to be resonating and Clinton may need to rethink some of here strategy and agenda.  A piece in the New York Times looks at how Sanders is rocking Clinton's boat.  Here are story excerpts:
The ample crowds and unexpectedly strong showing garnered by Senator Bernie Sanders are setting off worry among advisers and allies of Hillary Rodham Clinton, who believe the Vermont senator could overtake her in Iowa polls by the fall and even defeat her in the nation’s first nominating contest there.

The enthusiasm that Mr. Sanders has generated — including a rally attended by 2,500 people in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Friday — has called into question Mrs. Clinton’s early strategy of focusing on a listening tour of small groups and wooing big donors in private settings. In May, Mrs. Clinton led with 60 percent support to Mr. Sanders’s 15 percent in a Quinnipiac poll. Last week the same poll showed Mrs. Clinton at 52 percent to Mr. Sanders’s 33 percent.

Some of Mrs. Clinton’s advisers acknowledged that they were surprised by Mr. Sanders’s momentum and said there were enough liberal voters in Iowa, including many who supported Barack Obama or John Edwards in 2008, to create problems for her there.

“I think we underestimated that Sanders would quickly attract so many Democrats in Iowa who weren’t likely to support Hillary,” said one Clinton adviser, who like several others spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly share views about the race. “It’s too early to change strategy because no one knows if Sanders will be able to hold on to these voters in the months ahead. We’re working hard to win them over, but, yeah, it’s a real competition there.”

Those who see Mrs. Clinton as being at risk in Iowa say she is still far better positioned to win the nomination than Mr. Sanders, who lags by double digits in Iowa polling. Mr. Sanders is an untested national candidate who has far less money than she does, and his self-announced “democratic socialist” leanings are anathema to many Americans.

But a loss in an early state like Iowa would signal a vulnerability for Mrs. Clinton at a time when she has sought to unite the Democratic Party behind her candidacy, and especially to demonstrate to its restless liberal wing that she can represent their interests. A Sanders victory could also further energize his fund-raising base.

Mr. Sanders’s rising fortunes pose a bind for the Clinton team. Directly challenging the senator on his policies and record could elevate his candidacy, alienate some liberal Democrats and make Mrs. Clinton look anxious. Yet continuing the current strategy — vigorously courting voters while hoping they conclude that Mr. Sanders is unelectable — requires Mrs. Clinton to put faith in an Iowa electorate that snubbed her seven years ago, choosing Mr. Obama and Mr. Edwards over her.

Carter Eskew, a Democratic political consultant, said the strength of the Sanders candidacy should stop further talk of a “coronation” of Mrs. Clinton as the Democratic nominee. “From the Clinton perspective, Sanders has gone from an annoyance to a threat,” he said. “One consolation, Sanders won’t creep up on anybody anymore. The Clinton camp has time to adjust expectations, if not strategy.”

Advisers to Mr. Sanders said voters flocked to his events because he offers ambitious proposals to major problems, such as his plans to eliminate tuition at public colleges, to reduce student debt and to spend $1 trillion on public works programs to create more jobs, though he proposed paying for them with huge tax increases. His advisers also argued that voters viewed him as willing to go further in championing significant tax increases for wealthy Americans to support programs to benefit low- and middle-income Americans.

Virginia Democrats Condemn Virginia GOP Plan for License to Discriminate Laws

In a previous post it was noted how the Virginia GOP is stating that it will make "religious freedom" laws, a/k/a license to discriminate against gays a priority in the 2016 session of the General Assembly.  It is but further proof that the Virginia GOP remains a puppet of the foul hate group, The Family Foundation, and that demonizing gays as a wedge issue remains a higher priority for the Virginia GOP than addressing the state's infrastructure needs, pathetic support for the disabled, and growing the states economy.  Seemingly, the fiasco that GOP Gov. Mike Pence and Republicans in Indiana wrought for themselves has made not impression on the political whores and knuckle draggers at RPV.  A piece in the Roanoke Times looks at the pledge by Virginia Democrats to oppose the GOP effort to enact license to discriminate legislation and to make the GOP's backward thinking an issue in the 2015 Virginia elections.  Here are article highlights:

Democratic lawmakers and gay rights advocates on Monday fired back at Republican leaders in the House of Delegates for wanting to make religious freedom legislation — which they see as discriminatory against same-sex couples — a top priority in the 2016 General Assembly session.

“While Virginia Democrats are focused on creating jobs, Republicans have admitted that their top legislative priority is discriminating against people,”said Democratic Party of Virginia chairwoman Susan Swecker.

“Focusing on Indiana-style discrimination laws instead of growing our economy is irresponsible, dangerous and hopelessly out of touch.”

While Republicans say they will abide by the recent historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made same-sex marriage the law of the land, Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah County, said in an interview last week that protections of religious liberties will be “the primary focus” for the House GOP next year.

House Minority Leader David Toscano, D-Charlottesville, said Monday that “some Republicans want to try to use fear of that as a wedge issue” to drive their voters to the polls in November, when all 140 seats of the General Assembly are up for election.

“There are some people that are scared that the sky is going to fall and all our liberties are going to be taken away, and I will speak loudly and clearly against any notion that we are going to compromise religious liberty or freedom. But I also will speak very strongly against using religion as a rationale for discrimination,” Toscano said.

To Democrats, gay rights and anti-discriminatory policies are about jobs and the economy, Toscano added.  “We hear from a lot of companies who are trying to recruit people that a lot of folks don’t feel that Virginia is all that hospitable,” Toscano said.

“And when you have provisions that allow people to discriminate based on their sexual orientation, it’s not at all helping with recruitment. To us, it’s an economic issue and not related to lifestyle as Republicans aim to make it.”
Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said that almost anything that state legislators stress just four months before their names are on the ballot is related to the election.  “This was an organized Republican effort to capitalize on the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision,” Sabato said. “The November election for the General Assembly will have the lowest turnout of the four-year election cycle. That means both parties have to focus on themes that will generate decent turnout among the party base.”

In Virginia, religious and social-issue conservatives make up a large part of the GOP supporters.  “That’s why the legislators made their appeal as much about religious freedom as gay marriage. When people think the stakes are high, and their beliefs are seriously threatened, they tend to vote,” Sabato said.

Claire Guthrie GastaƱaga, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, called the GOP plan a “thinly veiled attempt to activate the most emotionally engaged parts of their base” for the upcoming elections.

Democrats could use Gilbert’s harsh language to increase turnout among their own supporters, as polls show every age group below 50 now supports gay marriage, and those under 30 back the idea by a massive majority. While the House is firmly in Republican hands, the Senate majority remains up for grabs.

The lesson?  Democrats have to turn out in November and drive a wooden stake through the heart of the Virginia GOP. 

Monday, July 06, 2015

Rainbow Colors in the Adirondacks

The rainbow flag and HRC flag flying neat to the boathouse at the lake house in the Adirondacks this past weekend.  The husband and I will be visiting the lake house in August.

More Monday Male Beauty

Rust-Belt Revivalists Can’t Save the GOP

While most Republicans remain in a frenetic race to out pander themselves to the Christofascist element in the GOP base, one cadre of the GOP believes the party's salvation lies in pandering to the most disgruntled elements of white working class voters in the hope that these efforts will boost voter turnout for this demographic and provide a deus ex machina in the 2016 presidential elections.  Conservative columnist Michael Gerson at the Washington Post calls these members of the GOP "Rust Belt Revivalists" and makes the case as to why this effort in the GOP is doomed to fail.  Here are column highlights:
Attempting to analyze political statements by Donald Trump is often a high dive into a shallow pool. But a number of conservative commentators are making the jump, discerning hidden virtues in his depiction of marauding immigrants intent on crime and rape. 

While finding Trump’s words “crude and reprehensible,” the Weekly Standard’s William Kristol thinks they summarize a “genuine concern about illegal immigrants.” “For all its crassness,” says National Review’s Rich Lowry, “Trump’s rant on immigration is closer to reality than the gauzy cliches of immigration romantics.” 

Some of this is surely an attempt to make the best of a bad situation, the equivalent of: “My, that gangrene is such a pleasing shade of green.”

One brand of Republican reformers — the Rust Belt revivalists — believes the GOP has been too dominated by corporate interests and needs to identify more directly with the economic frustrations of working-class voters. Trump is the cartoon version of this view — preaching protectionism and accusing immigrants of “destroying the fabric of the country.” But Rick Santorum makes a similar economic case, proposing to cut immigration by 25 percent as part of a plan (according to his Web site ) “to protect American workers from foreign labor that is taking jobs that Americans could otherwise hold.”  

In this strategy, there is an inherent tension between appealing to the white working class and appealing to immigrants. . . . the white working class remains the larger group of voters. A concentrated focus on their concerns, the argument goes, might open a path to victory through Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania. 

Another group of reformers — the advocates of a demographic pivot — also believes the Republican Party is too closely identified with the boardroom and the country club. But they look at the declining percentage of white voters . . . and argue that the Republican coalition will need to be browner in order to win in places like Florida, Colorado and Nevada. 

It will come as no surprise that I view the arguments of the Rust Belt revivalists as less compelling and more dangerous. 

First, the effect of immigration on native-born wages, while not imaginary, is easily overstated. . . . The problems of the working class will not be solved by immigration restrictionism.

Second, the advocates of a demographic pivot, even if they are not currently right, are eventually right.  It may well be possible in the 2016 presidential election for Republicans to pump up the white vote enough to secure a victory. But we are reaching the natural limits of that strategy.

Third, the strategy of appealing to the white working class by criticizing immigration raises the risk of racial polarization. Enthusiasm for this approach sometimes has reasons other than economics. There can be ugliness beneath, as Trump demonstrates. 

Finally, a political appeal that encourages division would worsen the GOP’s main political problem: a durable impression that it does not care for the country as a whole. As the old Southern strategy fades, it would be a terrible mistake to replace it with a different form of fear and exclusion.
Republicans have an opportunity to craft an agenda of economic mobility — to reward work (through wage subsidies), strengthen families (with a larger child credit) and encourage skills (with education reform) — that could appeal to both the white working class and rising minority groups, instead of pitting them against each other.  It is the way that Republicans can win, and deserve to win.

I think Gerson is correct on his analysis of the "rustbelt revivalists, yet I suspect that they are the faction that will win out in the near term - or at least until the GOP has lost yet another presidential election cycle. 

The GOP's "Religious Freedom" Laws Will Hurt More Than Gays

While the current Christofascist conniption fits over the gay marriage ruling on June 26, 2015, provide the immediate impetus for falsely named "religious freedom" laws being pushed by Christofascist sycophants in the Republican Party, the targets - or should we say victims? - of such laws are far broader in scope.  Indeed, many of such proposed laws would grant Christofascists the right to selectively ignore any number of laws so long as they could make a claim that obedience to such laws burdened their deeply held religious beliefs.  Anti-woman bias, anti-Muslim discrimination, discrimination against the divorced, etc., etc., would all suddenly become allowable to the "godly folks."  It is a recipe for chaos and is the antithesis of the language of the U.S. Constitution.  A piece in Huffington Post looks at the much wider group of targets for Christofascist bigotry.  Here are highlights:
Did your parents or grandparents ever use the term "hissy fit"? If so, you know you've been witnessing a bunch of them from Republican presidential candidates over the Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage nationwide.

For all the candidates, these references to religious freedom were also references to fundamentalist Christianity. The so-called religious freedom laws Republican wannabees seek are fig leafs for discrimination against gay couples. But should such laws become reality, they would go far beyond the ability of a Christian business to refuse to cater a gay wedding. Adherents of other religions would by definition be accorded equal rights to discriminate based on their beliefs, which go beyond anti-gay tenets.

For example, Orthodox Jews do not believe women should wear pants. So could a woman be fired for wearing pants to work in a business owned by Orthodox Jews?

Would that mean a Mormon-owned business could refuse to hire women at all, because they shouldn't be working?

The Catholic church condemns birth control. Could a Catholic-owned business fire a woman if she was found to be using contraception?

Equally scary are hard-line Muslim views of women. Females are not to go out without a male relative, and must be covered head to toe at all times. Could a Muslim-owned business refuse to serve any woman without a headscarf, or one not accompanied by a male?

Far fetched? Couldn't happen in the U.S.? Don't be too sure.
Hobby Lobby, the Christian business that has already been blessed by the Supremes when they granted the company the right to discriminate against women by refusing insurance coverage of birth control, has quickly backed the candidates.  

Effects on gay couples and women aside, the so-called "religious protections" for business owners the candidates are advocating would also cover those who believe the races shouldn't mix.

Segregated lunch counters anyone?

Religious freedom only extends to (i) being able to belong to whatever faith/church one wants, (ii) being able to hold whatever religious beliefs one wants, (iii) not being forced to support a denomination to which does not belong, and (iv) not having one's faith bar you from civil rights.  It does not extend to the market place and apply to businesses serving the general public.

Monday Morning Male Beauty

Michael Steele Slams the GOP For Its Racism

I'm not the only one who can see the Republican Party's racism.  On yesterday's Meet the Press morning talk shows, former RNC chair, Michael Steele, slammed the GOP for its racism and the extent to which Donald Trumps horrible statements about Hispanics have gone condemned.  The GOP's silence is, of course easily explained: much of the party base IS racist and completely agrees with Trump's slandering of Hispanics.  They likewise fully believe the dog whistle signals that the GOP sends out against blacks.  The Raw Story looks at Steele's remarks.  Here are excerpts:

The former chairperson of the Republican National Committee (RNC) took down his replacement on Sunday morning, saying the party’s policy of not condemning racism is bad politics

In June, perennial presidential candidate Donald Trump, a Republican, declared that Mexican Americans are rapists and criminals, subsequently costing him a number of lucrative business contracts.

Trump’s party, helmed by RNC chair Reince Priebus, has been too slow in speaking out against racist rhetoric in its ranks, Steele says on this weekend’s airing of Meet The Press. A black Republican who ran the RNC during one of its most successful election cycles in recent memory, Steele’s party ousted him in favor of a white man about two years after his start date. Priebus has run the RNC since 2011.

“You’ve got to have that Sister Souljah moment with the party, where you have to be honest and call it what it is. You’ve got to be authentic. People are sophisticated enough to know when you’re just full of B.S.” Steele says on the morning talk show.

“Everyone in the country reacted to this and you didn’t, the party didn’t, and those who want to be president didn’t — until what? This week? That’s a problem,” Steele continues.

“It’s a problem of authenticity. It is a problem of legitimacy when you’re going to go speak to that community. What do you say to them?” Steele asks, before mockingly replying, “Oh, I’m sorry, well, we just figured out how we feel about this.”

“It’s not the place you want to be,” Steele finally says of his fellow Republicans.

A Somewhat Overlooked Impact of the Gay Marriage Ruling

One aspect of the recent same sex marriage ruling that is overlooked by many - in the case of the self-centered Christofascists, they don't care even if it has crossed their minds - is that for countless LGBT youth there is now a message from the highest court in the land that they are worthy of dignity and that their love is worthy of state recognition.   For straights, it may be hard to comprehend how deeply this touches emotionally - I shed some tears when I heard of the ruling - and how many may in the future suffer less from the self-hate and damaged lives that goes with trying to "pray the gay away" and living in the closet.  A piece in Huffington Post by a psychologist looks at this perhaps overlooked impact and the benefits that may flow from the ruling.  Here are highlights:
[H]omosexuality and gay marriage are highly emotional issues. And we therapists possess the privilege of a unique perspective on the emotional elements of most any issue. And the emotional elements are crucial in understanding the issue overall.

For I have sat across from the young man fighting against his truth, his gay-ness, with every fiber of his being. Because it will disappoint his parents. Because he won't be accepted or loved, but rejected. Because he has been taught that who he knows himself to be is wrong. So he fights. He fights against his very nature. The resulting anxiety and depression run so very deep.

I have sat across from the teenage girl who recognizes who she is, but loathes the fact of it, and loathes herself as a result. Because it makes her life so hard, so odd, so weird. It estranges from people she once considered safe. Thoughts of suicide hover in the shadows all around her. And yet in every conceivable way, she is better-than-fine: bright, driven, beautiful, athletic, funny. And gay.

And I have sat across from the man who has lived a lie his entire life, hiding beneath the trappings of 'normalcy': wife, children, house, couple of dogs. Family man. But he is tortured nonetheless. For he is gay as well, and he and those around him, he projects, would find this to be unacceptable. And now an entire family is drawn into the dark.

[T]his ruling suggests another wave in a sea change. For many people, many of my own clients in fact, can now comfort themselves with the fact that what they sense and know about themselves, this undeniable core essence of their being, is now lawful and allowable and acceptable by society's standards. And sure, that's good. 

But it goes beyond just that, right? Because for the majority of us, our loves and attractions are actually celebrated, from crushes to dates to proms to weddings. And we don't really need to give it a thought. There is a wild emotional divide between private shame and public celebration, and it is critical.

I like to think that a generation from now, if our sons or daughters are drawn to someone, male or female, and fall in love with that someone, that we will want to share in the joy that love will bring to their lives, and to our own. 

Making ourselves unavailable to that joy ensures, and has ensured, the opposite: fear and judgment and ego, enough to keep therapists like me flush with clients for generations, treating toxic, wholly unnecessary feelings of shame and depression and relentless anxiety about something that is organic and authentic and actually quite simple.

Fewer people will be compelled to live a lie their entire lives. Fewer people will feel a need to shield their deep reality in shame. Fewer lives will end tragically. This is no small deal.

So I celebrate today, for the emotional well-being of every gay person, man or woman,
who has suffered their love in lieu of celebration. I celebrate the deep breath they can finally draw, and the joyful, well-appointed weddings on the horizon.

Of course, upon sober reflection, we all know that legislation does not flip a switch on feelings, attitudes and emotions. These biases lag well behind.

So if you are the parent, brother, sister, teacher or friend of a gay man or woman and you find yourself bitter today, let me encourage you to turn a page. Allow yourself to open your heart and mind to them, for them and for yourself. Because the train has left the station, and you can continue to be a part of the pain and anxiety and costly emotional heartache, or serve as part of the joy.