Monday Reads: Is it the End of the World as We Know It?Posted: November 3, 2014
I’m really hoping this week goes well but I’m not really looking forward to Tuesday. It’s my birthday and a tough one at that. It’s also election day, and it still looks like some crazy Republicans will be headed to Washington DC. However, I will start with my good news this morning. There are two things. I got to hug and say hi to Hillary Clinton on Saturday. I also got to wave good bye to the dread Daylight Savings Time which I hate with a passion. It’s basically a ploy to get people to stop and shop and go to golf courses on their way home from work. That’s especially true since they extended it into hours where it makes no sense whatsoever.
Daylight Saving Time is the greatest continuing fraud ever perpetuated on American people. And this weekend, the effects of this cruel monster will rear its ugly head again. On Sunday morning, Americans across the country will have to set their clocks back one hour, and next week, the sun will begin its ambling lurch to eventually setting at 4:30 in the afternoon.
Technically-speaking, this sleep cycle-wrecking practice of setting our clocks back is because we will be going back to Standard Time after our flirty summer with DST. And the unsettling shift back to these hours, and the hour “we gain,” is the back-end of the time-bargain we have to pay for setting our clocks forward in March to “maximize daylight”—a phrase probably better suited to organisms that rely on photosynthesis—during the spring and summer hours.
Why we try and “maximize daylight” like we’re plants is actually an archaic practice first thought up in the late 1700s and often attributed to Benjamin Franklin. As some elementary school teacher may have explained to you, this was a practice to accommodate agricultural workers and farmers (wrong, and we’ll get to this in a minute) or lower the nation’s electricity usage.
A lot of that is prime b.s. There is actually no benefit or rhyme or reason we have to endure this weekend’s time shift and no reason we should even be playing with the idea of losing and gaining hours.
Basically, it doesn’t save energy, it’s bad for your health, and the shifts in time kill work productivity because it gives you jet lag. I always hate seeing little children having to get up in the pitch black to stand on corners for school buses. The other thing I hate is that they have to walk home or stand out to get those same buses in the worst heat of the day.
“God, I love getting up an hour earlier,” said no one ever. “Me too. I can’t wait to have my schedule messed up in the fall,” no one replied.
A 2011 Rasmussen poll (for what it’s worth, Rasmussen can be a bit skewed when it comes to conservative politicians but seems to have no known bias against time zones) found that 47 percent (ha, Romney, ha) of Americans said DST was not worth the hassle.
So how do we fix all of this? Over at Quartz, there’s an idea to just have two timezones. But let’s be clear here. The real evil here is change. No one really minds if 4 a.m. is 4 a.m. They (and their possible heart attacks) mind if for some reason or another that 4 a.m. is now 5 a.m and will be 4 a.m. in a few months. It’s time to stop this insanity.
So, what if the worst happens? What if we wake up to a Republican led Senate with Mitch McConnell’s ugly face and personality at the helm? Will we face more years of nothing getting done but everything going to pieces? Here are two things that will happen.
2. Senate confirmations: The battlefield tilts
A GOP-controlled Senate will make it even tougher for Obama to confirm nominees, a process that hasn’t exactly been plain sailing even with Democrats in charge.
Although Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has said she is staying put, it remains plausible that Obama could be faced with a third chance to put his stamp on the court. Republicans would find it much easier to block his choice if they held the majority in the Senate.
Obama will also nominate a replacement for retiring Attorney General Eric Holder, and the confirmation process will likely be fraught whomever he chooses.
Obama also isn’t like to face any shortage of executive branch, ambassador and federal judicial nominations in his final two years in office. They will all need Senate confirmation.
3. Obama to stock up on veto pens
Obama has had to pick up his veto pen on just two occasions since he took office in 2009, largely because Democrats have controlled at least one chamber of Congress throughout that time.
He will need to check he has a plentiful supply of ink if Republicans take the Senate majority. He can expect to spend his final two years using his veto to protect earlier legislative victories, rather than seriously attempting to rack up new ones.
There is some chance of bipartisan progress on issue such as immigration reform and global trade deals. But it also seems likely that Obama will need to rely on executive action if he wants to pursue many of his priorities.
The fact that the races in all of the presidential battleground states stayed close, despite an older and whiter electorate, suggests that Mr. Obama is not yet so unpopular as to cause the voters who remained Democratic-leaning through 2012 to vote Republicans into federal office.
This is perhaps most evident in Iowa, an overwhelmingly white state. It has tilted just slightly Democratic. If Republicans were going to gain voters who used to lean Democratic, Iowa would be the place where we would see it. Mr. Obama’s approval ratings in Iowa are particularly weak, in part because the state is full of white voters without college degrees — the group where Mr. Obama’s support has always been weakest.
The Democratic Senate candidate in Iowa, Bruce Braley, has not run a great campaign. He committed one of the more cringe-worthy gaffes of the cycle when he belittled Senator Charles E. Grassley for being “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school” at a fund-raiser with a group of lawyers. Yet Mr. Braley is locked in a tight race with his Republican opponent, Joni Ernst. If Ms. Ernst wins by a margin of a point or two, that suggests she probably would have lost with a presidential-year electorate.
The story is perhaps even more troubling for Republicans in the South, where Democratic candidates are doing well among white voters.
If Republicans cannot maintain their exceptional margins among Southern white voters in the post-Obama era, their path to victory will get very narrow in states like Georgia and Florida. In both, the white share of the electorate has dropped by more than 10 percentage points since 2000.
PPP’s final polls in Arkansas and Kentucky find Republicans in a strong position to win the Senate seats in those states on Tuesday, but the Louisiana Senate race still has the potential to be pretty competitive.
In Kentucky Mitch McConnell leads Alison Lundergan Grimes 50/42, with Libertarian David Patterson getting 3%. In a head to head match up, McConnell’s lead is 53/44. McConnell remains unpopular, with only 39% of voters approving of him to 50% who disapprove. But his campaign succeeded in making Grimes just as unpopular- her 39/49 favorability rating is nearly identical to his approval rating. For the millions and millions of dollars spent on this race it’s ended up right back around where it started- when we first polled it in December of 2012 McConnell led Grimes by 7 and in this final poll he leads by 8.
In April we found Grimes leading McConnell 45/44. At that time Grimes led McConnell by 37 points with Democrats and trailed him by 2 points with independents. Now she leads him by 35 points with Democrats and by 2 points with independents, nearly identical numbers to what they were 7 months ago. The story of McConnell’s comeback is one of getting his party to pretty universally vote for him, even if it’s still not in love with him. In April McConnell led Grimes by only 49 points with Republicans, 69/20. Now he leads her by 76 points with Republicans, 85/9. His resurgence with the GOP is the story of the race.
In Arkansas, we find Republicans leading the races for Governor and the Senate by 8-10 points. Tom Cotton is up 49/41 on Mark Pryor, and Asa Hutchinson is up 51/41 on Mike Ross. At the end of the day Barack Obama’s unpopularity in the state may be too much for the Democratic candidates to overcome- only 29% of voters approve of the job he’s doing to 62% who disapprove. The Republican candidates have proven to be relatively strong in their own right though. Hutchinson has a 49/35 favorability rating and Cotton’s is 48/40, better than we’re seeing for most candidates across the country this year.
Republicans lead all the down ballot races as well. The one where Democrats have the best chance at pulling out a win is Attorney General, where Republican Leslie Rutledge leads Democrat Nate Steel only 44/40. GOP nominees are ahead by 8-12 points in the rest of the contests. There is one piece of positive news for progressive voters in the Arkansas poll- the state’s initiative to raise the minimum wage leads for passage 65/31. It has near unanimous support from Democrats (88/9), majority support from independents (55/41), and even GOP voters are pretty much evenly divided on it (46/47).
In Louisiana it looks like Mary Landrieu will finish first in Tuesday’s election. She’s polling at 43% to 35% for Bill Cassidy, 15% for Rob Maness, and just 1% for ‘someone else.’ We find that a head to head between Landrieu and Cassidy would be pretty close at this point, with Cassidy ahead just 48/47. Whether a runoff election would really be that close depends on whether Landrieu can get Democratic leaning voters, especially African Americans and young people, to come back out and vote again in December.
There’s been little movement in this race over the last 6 weeks. Landrieu led Cassidy 42/34 in late September. This is yet another contest where neither candidate is well liked. Landrieu has a 45/50 approval rating, but Cassidy also has a 36/44 favorability rating.
“So what might Republicans actually do if they have majorities in both houses of Congress,”asks Reason.com’s Nick Gillespie, the longtime libertarian. “If past behavior is any indication of future performance, the short and likely answer is: screw it all up.”
There’s been plenty of pieces written in the progressive media about what a Republican-majority Senate is likely to mean. But sometimes the better source comes from the ‘takes-one-to-know one’ universe of ideological Republicans who are well acquainted with their current and possibly incoming senators.
“What Republicans can’t do is spend their time trying to chop chunks of government, obsess on the spending side, cut holes in the safety net, perpetuate cronyism or let paranoia gut anti-terror measures (e.g. drones, NSA),” wrote the Washington Post’s “Right Turn” blogger Jennifer Rubin, in a recent advice-filled column. “Senate gadflies are about to learn that being in the majority is different than throwing spitballs from the minority. They will need to show they can problem-solve (or they will confirm concerns that they cannot).
What Gillespie and Ruben both are confirming, actually, is that the Republicans are not likely to do much of anything other than be the fight-picking, time-wasting, obstructionist legislators that they have pledged to be on the 2014 campaign trail.
In other words, it is all too likely that there will be efforts to: dismantle Obamacare; ignore climate change and block all kinds of pro-environmental activities; repeal pro-consumer laws; block increases in the minimum wage; ignore immigration reform; block federal judicial nominees, and maybe even pursue impeachment. Georgia’s Republican senatorial candidate David Perdue haspledged to “prosecute the failed record” of the Obama administration. Iowa’s Joni Ernst wants to ban abortions and same-sex marriage.
These examples, gleaned from recent pieces in The New York Times, Washington Post, The Nation, and other reputable outlets, suggest that the race to the bottom in American politics is about to sink even deeper into the muck. The New Yorker’s sharp political writer, John Cassady, just wrote a piece entitled, “The Empty Elections of 2014,” where he is spot-on in noting that there’s been little substance—but a deluge of idiotic stereotypes and character assassinations—behind the “enervating output of political admen, spin doctors, and negative research shops for whom this is, first and foremost, a profit-making industry.”
Cassady’s point is that Americans are deluding themselves if they are thinking that party is somehow secretly campaigning on substance. The political ads “aren’t just an annoying sideline to, or distraction from, the real issues in the campaign. To a large extent, they are the campaign,” he wrote. “They represent the main source of information about candidates and issues. Which, if you think about it, is pretty alarming.”
There are two big late trends that are not good. One is voter suppression. The other is the problem created by Citizen’s United. Dark Money has entered races at the last minute.
A stealthy coterie of difficult-to-trace outside groups is slipping tens of millions of dollars of attacks ads and negative automated telephone calls into the final days of the midterm campaign, helping fuel an unprecedented surge of last-minute spending on Senate races.
Much of the advertising is being timed to ensure that no voter will know who is paying for it until after the election on Tuesday. Some of the groups are “super PACs” that did not exist before Labor Day but have since spent heavily on political advertising, adding to the volatility of close Senate and House races.
Others formed earlier in the year but remained dormant until recently, reporting few or no contributions in recent filings with the Federal Election Commission, only to unleash six- and seven-figure advertising campaigns as Election Day draws near. Yet more spending is coming from nonprofit organizations with bland names that have popped up in recent weeks but appear to have no life beyond being a conduit for the ads.
Alexander won her office with a late race-baiting flier against her African American opponent. She’s appeared at CPAC, was named a “rising star” by dark money group American Majority, illegally accepted free legal representation from a Bradley Foundation funded lawyer, supports gay bashing Chick Fil A and has accused Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis of supporting infanticide.
Yeah, she’s a real pip, alright.
So it comes as no surprise to us in Milwaukee that she used taxpayer money to mail out 7,000 copies of her newsletter which included the information that a photo ID would be needed to vote on Election Day:
The first problem with this is the fact that US Supreme Court blocked the implementation of this voter suppression law for this election.
But wait! There’s more. There’s always more.
This matter was quickly brought before the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board who ordered her to immediately send out another postcard – again at the taxpayer expense – to correct the misinformation she distributed.
Per her Facebook page, on Friday – just days before the election – she sent out the correction notice. It is doubtful that the postcards will get to the people in time before Election Day.
Despite the fact that it cost taxpayers thousands of dollars to send out the original mailer and thousands of dollars more to send out the correction, I have a feeling that we won’t hear from the conservatives about this waste and fraud.
So, I’m going to just bury my head in work until the end of the year if all this comes true. Then, I’ll look forward to the presidential primaries where Hillary Clinton will likely shine and the Republican Clown Car will just fill up with the worst the country has to offer.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?