As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Why Not Just Dress Up As The Twin Towers In The Next Debate?

Saxby Chambliss used the spectre of bin Laden and Al Qaeda to win his election in 2002, so why wouldn't he use it again to keep the seat?

I'm sure if you asked him, he'd call this a "positive spot."

Interestingly, John McCain is headed to Georgia to campaign for Chambliss. Why not, it's not like he's busy. Obama has not yet been tapped for an appearance in the state, but I assume he will be.

Will McCain ever learn? You don't mess with Obama and his ground game. If they throw everything they have into it and reach enough voters, I think this is very winnable.

Jim Martin is one of four candidates with races still undecided who you can support at the Daily Kos Orange To Blue page.

...while you're at it, you can drop a few shekels for Al Franken, and his looming recount. Most of the counties with an "undervote" are counties that supported Obama, so this could end up with a Franken lead before long. Norm Coleman's lawyers are pulling some shenanigans already, so Al needs your help.

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Gore Makes His Move

If you want to know why Al Gore hasn't run for President since 2000, it's because he thinks he has a better chance to enact an agenda he cares about from the outside instead of from the inside. And here's how he's going about it:

Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection has some environmental advice for the incoming Obama administration: focus on energy efficiency and renewable resources, and create a unified U.S. power grid.

On Thursday, the group Gore founded rolled out a new media campaign to push for immediate investments in three energy areas it maintains would help meet Gore's previously announced challenge to produce 100 percent clean electricity in the United States in a decade [...]

The plan advocates immediate investment in energy efficiency, renewable power generation -- including public investment in wind, solar and geothermal technology -- and the creation of a unified national smart grid.

"Modernize transmission infrastructure so that clean electricity generated anywhere in America can power homes and businesses across the nation," the alliance said in a statement.

The alliance favors "national electricity 'interstates' that move power quickly and cheaply to where it needs to be (and) local smart grids that buy and sell power from households and support clean plug-in cars."

This is the lasting infrastructure that can be a part of the upcoming stimulus package. Modernizing the energy grid is one of the most important things we can do right now. Generating all this wind and solar and geothermal power doesn't do much good unless it can be transmitted nationwide. We actually lose billions in productivity from power outages and loss of electricity on the existing grid, which is crumbling, so this investment will pay off fairly quickly. This is the kind of common sense move that I think will be a hallmark of an Obama Administration.

Gore is also planning to use social media to press the advantage, though he didn't really elaborate on that.

If Gore tried to ram this through as a President or "energy czar" I truly think it would have less impact. His independence is an asset.

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More On The Mandate

Bob Borosage is making the right noises and providing at least some counterweight in the "what does Barack Obama's election mean?" tug-of-war.

The scope of the victory itself reflects the desire for change. Obama’s historic and unlikely candidacy won a majority of the vote, the first Democrat since Jimmy Carter to accomplish that. Democrats in the House and the Senate gained seats in back-to-back elections for the first time since the Great Depression.

The repudiation of George Bush and the Republican Congress and the conservatism they championed is clear.

But what marks this as a sea change election is the consolidation of a new majority coalition, and the mandate provided for progressive reform for Obama and Democrats. Republicans emerge from this election as an aging, monochromatic, largely regional party, increasingly in the grip of its evangelical base. Democrats are consolidating a governing majority in what is, increasingly, a center-left nation.

I think that note about demographics is important. While it's true that every subgroup contributed to the victory at pretty much equal levels, the emergence of a durable Democratic majority did take hold in this election.

Roughly 60% of all Democratic voters are now non-white and / or non-Christian (per exit polls).

Democrats hold a 3-1 margin among non-whites and / or non-Christians (per exit polls)

Non-whites and / or non-Christians now compose 39% of the electorate, their highest total ever (per exit polls)

Over 60% of the country under the age of 43 is non-white and / or non-Christian (Source). Many commenters will justifiably ogle the huge, pro-Obama youth vote this year, but really the non-white and / or non-Christian vote are deeply intertwined.

Over 100% of the population growth in America comes from non-whites and / non-Christians. That is, the white Christian population in America is actually slowly declining, even though the population of the country is still increasing on right pace with average world population growth. (Source) [...]

In this context, Obama’s victory should not be seen as a historical fluke created by the confluence of disastrous Republican governing, a 2004 Illinois Senate field that collapsed around him, and a great speech at the Democratic convention four years ago. It is, instead, a harbinger of America’s future.

Just as Obama made major gains among the non-white and non-Christian, and the very fact of his reflection of the coalition suggests he has a stranglehold on those voters. But he could easily lose them if he doesn't stand for the agenda of the coalition. If he answers David Brooks' dreams and governs like a 1960s moderate Republican, that coalition will fray. Which is why combating the "center-right" myth is so important. Borosage continues:

Not surprisingly, the economy was the overwhelming priority of voters. Nothing else really came close. The argument about the economy – about what Obama described as the “failed philosophy” of trickle-down economics, or what McCain described as a choice between economic growth and socialist redistribution – was the center of the debate between these candidates.

Obama’s agenda was grounded on issues that were championed by progressives: Investment in new energy and conservation as a jobs and growth agenda. Affordable health care for all paid for by raising taxes on the affluent. Investment in education and infrastructure. Empowering workers to organize through passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. Holding corporations and banks more accountable. Ending the war in Iraq. Promising no more NAFTA-type trade agreements, and to repeal tax breaks for companies moving jobs abroad.

McCain largely defended the verities of Reagan era conservatism, founding his campaign on more tax cuts, on freezing spending and stopping earmarks, and continuing corporate trade policies. His health care plan featured a tax credit for those negotiating their own plan. He favored Bush’s privatization of Social Security. He began the election committed to less regulation, but adjusted as the unregulated shadow banking system collapsed. The maverick stayed true to the core of the conservative agenda.

Obama won by large margins over McCain on every economic issue. On the economy generally, 51-38. On education, health care, the financial crisis, the energy crisis, Medicare and Social Security. He even won the debate about taxes 51-42.
When asked why they voted for Obama, the leading reasons were his proposals for withdrawing troops from Iraq, cutting middle class taxes first, providing affordable health care, and his commitment to invest in education and make college more affordable. When those who voted for Obama were asked about their doubts about McCain, picking Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin led the list, but fear that he would give tax breaks to the rich and big corporations came in second, followed by the notion that he would continue Bush’s policies.

On every substantive issue - trade, Social Security, health care, foreign policy, taxes - voters preferred the Obama position to the McCain position. And we finally had an election where those issues mattered.

As I said earlier this week, Obama will have success if he improves the lives of the American people, and in our current dire environment, that means going big and creating what Paul Krugman calls the "new new deal":

. . . Mr. Obama ran on a platform of guaranteed health care and tax breaks for the middle class, paid for with higher taxes on the affluent. John McCain denounced his opponent as a socialist and a "redistributor," but America voted for him anyway. That's a real mandate.

What about the argument that the economic crisis will make a progressive agenda unaffordable?

Well, there's no question that fighting the crisis will cost a lot of money. . . .

But standard textbook economics says that it's O.K., in fact appropriate, to run temporary deficits in the face of a depressed economy. Meanwhile, one or two years of red ink, while it would add modestly to future federal interest expenses, shouldn't stand in the way of a health care plan that, even if quickly enacted into law, probably wouldn't take effect until 2011.. . .

But it would be fair for the new administration to point out how conservative ideology, the belief that greed is always good, helped create this crisis. What F.D.R. said in his second inaugural address — "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics" — has never rung truer.

And right now happens to be one of those times when the converse is also true, and good morals are good economics. Helping the neediest in a time of crisis, through expanded health and unemployment benefits, is the morally right thing to do; it's also a far more effective form of economic stimulus than cutting the capital gains tax. Providing aid to beleaguered state and local governments, so that they can sustain essential public services, is important for those who depend on those services; it's also a way to avoid job losses and limit the depth of the economy's slump.

So a serious progressive agenda — call it a new New Deal — isn't just economically possible, it's exactly what the economy needs.

The bottom line, then, is that Barack Obama shouldn't listen to the people trying to scare him into being a do-nothing president. He has the political mandate; he has good economics on his side. You might say that the only thing he has to fear is fear itself.

As Senator-Elect Jeff Merkley said yesterday, George Bush claimed a mandate without even winning the popular vote. Obama should clearly be able to do the same. But more important, he should match his agenda to the political necessities, not some fanciful notion of how fast or slow you have to press forward, determined by elite gatekeepers with a fetish for the status quo.

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A Step Back

Before we close the book on John McCain's political career, do give a read to this compendium of the five biggest flops of the election. McCain's penchant for "crazy stunt politics" - inserting Joe the Plumber into the debate, or "suspending" his campaign to deal with the bailout bill - was ill-suited to the sobriety of the political moment. I think the most amusing part of the election is how the Obama campaign used McCain's love of "crazy stunt politics" to bait him into running hard in Pennsylvania when the state was already wrapped up.

1. Obama's campaign learns McCain has just $37 million entering October.

2. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell says he's "nervous" that McCain is gaining ground.

3. Obama's team "leaks" an internal poll proving Rendell's anxiety.

4. McCain pulls back in other states to "flood" Pennsylvania with resources.

In the end, Obama won Pennsylvania by double digits.

The key here is the leaked poll. The Obama camp never leaked anything. They were mute. But suddenly, you have their Pennsylvania operation losing track of an incredibly damaging internal poll showing them only two percent abover mcCain, even as all the public pollsters were showing a far less competitive race. And then you have Ed Rendell anxiously running his mouth off in public about his desire to get Obama back in the state. None of it vibed with how the Obama campaign generally operated, and none of it vibed with what we actually seemed to know about the fundamentals in Pennsylvania. But the McCain campaign certainly leapt on it, and time and money that could have gone to Ohio and Colorado and Indiana instead went to Pennsylvania.

I think they were accounting for the fact that McCain rolling the dice in Pennsylvania was a "story" that he couldn't pass up - it would get on the news and allow for lots of discussion. Of course he'd take a swing at that pitch in the dirt. I don't know if you can extrapolate anything out of how Obama would deal with, say, North Korea based on this maneuver, but it was very strategic.

There's plenty of talk that suggests McCain had to shake up the race because running as your basic Republican couldn't have won. Except that, in the public perception, McCain wasn't a basic Republican. He matured into one during the election. Now, it's true that the Obama campaign did a decent job of defining him as a Bush Republican. But McCain had a hand in this as well:

But McCain barely even tried to take advantage of the fact that, when the race began, he wasn’t closely identified with the rotten GOP brand. Of course when he decided he wanted to be president, the first thing to do was to start running to the right in order to win the primary. That’s what you do. And that’s what he did. And it worked — barely — he won, albeit in a way that relied on a lot of independent and crossover votes. Then having won the primary, you want to tack a bit to the center. That’s how the game is played. And it’s especially how the game is played when your party’s image is terrible.

But McCain didn’t do it.

On the climate/energy/environment issues where he really had staked out an unusual position for a Republican, he moved right during the primaries and then moved even further right during the general election, embracing drilling and coal as the centerpiece of his agenda. He shed his image as a moderate on cultural issues with the Palin pick. And he didn’t make up for those rightward thrusts with anything else. Instead of trying to undue the damage to his brand that was caused by shifting right during the primaries, he compounded it by continuing to move right, closing the campaign by dogmatically insisting that run-amok inequality is the essence of America (or something).

I suppose he figured that he had to nail down the conservative base. But they turned out in roughly the same numbers for McCain that they did for George Bush, and it's not like he totally cleared the hurdle of skepticism about him. What McCain lost big was independents, which was supposed to be where he could draw his greatest support. This is why he only improved on Bush's numbers in the Appalachian region and the Deep South, where conservatism is another religion. The far-right strategy is a downward spiral.

It seems like there was another campaign that could have been run. Maybe it wouldn't have succeeded. But it might not have had the same consequences of failure.

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Instant Gratification

While in retrospect this seems obvious, until this point I hadn't factored in that the Iraqis were waiting out the election results like the rest of us, and making sure that they would have an honest broker.

Barack Obama may have been elected only three days ago, but his victory is already beginning to shift the political ground in Iraq and the region.

Iraqi Shiite politicians are indicating that they will move faster toward a new security agreement about American troops, and a Bush administration official said he believed that Iraqis could ratify the agreement as early as the middle of this month.

"Before, the Iraqis were thinking that if they sign the pact, there will be no respect for the schedule of troop withdrawal by Dec. 31, 2011," said Hadi al-Ameri, a powerful member of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a major Shiite party. "If Republicans were still there, there would be no respect for this timetable. This is a positive step to have the same theory about the timetable as Mr. Obama."

Spencer Ackerman has more on this. For background, understand that this deal was dead, completely, and the American forces were by the end of the year going to be in the country illegally. Plus, with bombings ticking back up the country was starting to move into a tailspin. Now, with Obama's presence, the deal really becomes a withdrawal timeline. And it looks like he'll have a mandate for change in Iraq as well:

Obama won’t be able to enter office with the Iraq problem solved. But it will be well on its way to being solved. The strategic framework for his desired withdrawal will be in place. And since he and the Iraqi government see eye to eye on the issue, Obama will have the credibility in place to work toward a political compact among the different Iraqi factions — something the Bush administration hasn’t ever had and a McCain administration wouldn’t ever have had.

That’s not to say Obama will achieve it, just that the stars are better aligned now.

Amazing what a change in leadership can do.

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Obama's Presser

It was distinguished, it was Presidential, it was deferential, it was occasionally charming (the puppy stuff was cute). It even broke a little news, as Barack Obama sought to lay out his economic priorities early in his first term. Even the one slip-up, mentioning Nancy Reagan's séances, was defused with aplomb. It was a solid first press conference.

The reason to move cautiously and deliberately is that George Bush has 75 days to go, and the financial world changed plenty in these past 75 days. We don't really know where we'll be on January 20. But foregrounding public works, extension of unemployment insurance and food stamps, and aid for state and local governments as part of a second stimulus is pretty encouraging, because that's what's needed. I think there is a growing consensus around these items, and if the current White House occupant won't move in that direction, the new one will. Of course, 75 days is a long time, perhaps too long to wait.

On a slightly different note, I think Gallup needs to take a deep breath and not run a daily tracking poll on Obama's favorability rating before he even gets in the Oval Office. The election is over. The polls can wind down as well.

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This Hurts

Darcy Burner has conceded.

U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert appears to have survived a second Democratic wave election, bucking a national trend that flipped at least 23 Republican congressional seats to Democrats.

The Associated Press determined tonight that Reichert's lead for the 8th District seat was insurmountable.

While Burner's spokesman says in that piece she has not conceded, they released a statement a short time later:

"It is likely at this point that Congressman Reichert has won re-election, and while we will certainly ensure that every valid vote is counted, we accept the decision of the voters.

"I would like to thank the thousands of people who put so much time and effort into the campaign, as well as the countless thousands more who went beyond voting to actively participate in our democratic process this year. The election of Barack Obama as our new President will ensure that the change to the direction of our country called for in this campaign is realized in the new year."

Just terrible news. Darcy took time and effort away from campaigning into creating the Responsible Plan to try and change the conversation around Iraq. She succeeded in that - but put a huge target on her back, and the hard right and the NRCC fired away at her. The Seattle Times ran a ridiculous story claiming that she lied about her Harvard degree, which was simply untrue.

Because she took all that fire, she probably drew it away from other progressive Democrats, who have her to thank in part for getting them into Congress. But that's the kind of person Burner is, and she'd never ask for their thanks. She leads by her very nature.

I'm sure there will be an emerging narrative that this means the netroots always lose when they push too hard behind a candidate. There will be a cherry-picking of Ned Lamont and Darcy and that will harden in the CW. You'll hear it everywhere. It's just wrong. We need MORE leaders like Darcy, not less. And I certainly hope she runs again.

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Couting Madness: Huber within 319 votes, Clark and DFA Come Out For Brown

Everyone should bookmark this site monitoring the close races that haven't been called in California. There are four such races within 2% at the moment. There's Prop. 11, which is trending toward passage with a 131,000 vote lead. There's SD-19, which has some breathing room now, as Hannah-Beth Jackson leads by 1,203 votes.

And then there are the two Sacramento-area races. Alyson Huber's race in AD-10 has really tightened up. She now trails Jack Sieglock by just 319 votes out of 154,000 counted. That is well within the 1/2 of 1% territory that would trigger an automatic recount. Which brings up an interesting question which perhaps some election junkie could answer. The Secretary of State certifies the count on December 2. But the new legislature is sworn in on December 1. If there's a race with no clear winner at that point, what happens?

Finally, we have CA-04, the race between Charlie Brown and Tom McClintock. This has bounced around a bit, but we're now looking at an 889 vote lead for McClintock. There are anywhere between 48,000 and 55,000 votes left to count, based on this chart (which you can also bookmark) of unprocessed ballots. This race also appeared headed to a recount, and if you believe this Daily Kos diarist, Brown has a good shot at making up ground, because there are so many outstanding votes in Nevada County, where Brown did best.

We know these counts and recounts are expensive, and now two groups have stepped up with their support of Charlie while we sort this out. Wes Clark sent an email to his list today:

Our friend Charlie Brown needs our help. The margin in California's 4th Congressional District is razor thin, and they're still counting votes. After more than 300,000 ballots were cast in CA-04, the race is tied. The current difference stands at less than half of 1% (less than 500 votes).

With 40,000 vote-by-mail and provisional ballots still to be counted, the race is way too close to call. That's why it's critical for us to make sure all the votes are counted in CA-04.

Please contribute to Charlie Brown's Election Protection Fund today!

Charlie's opponent, Tom McClintock, has hired an election attorney and brought in a team of lawyers to "watch" the locations where absentee and provisional ballots are being counted. McClintock's team is doing everything they can to challenge the votes of thousands of people who faithfully cast their ballots.

Charlie needs our help to fight back.

And DFA has done the same:

In 2000, we lost the election when the Bush campaign beat us in the legal and media fight that followed. In 2004, we had to force a recount in the Washington State Governor's race and we won because you delivered the resources to make it happen.

We need to raise at least $40,000 by Monday to back up these races with the resources they need right now.


In 2004, we raised over $250,000 for the Washington State recount. This year, we need $40,000 right now to keep the GOP dirty tricks at bay and make sure every vote is counted fairly.

DFA's Grassroots All-Star Charlie Brown needs resources to fend off a team of Republican lawyers who, as I write this message, are challenging every Democratic ballot before the FIRST count has even been completed. Charlie is down by less than 500 votes with over 15,000 votes still to be counted. He needs our help to make sure every vote is counted.

(Note: it's now 889 votes with over 48,000 votes left to be counted)

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Friday, November 07, 2008

Friday Random Ten

Enjoy your evening. Also, in the comments, feel free to suggest some new music. I haven't been CD shopping in what seems like forever.

You've Been Flirting Again - Bjork
Bachelorette - Bjork
Poisonous - Dilated Peoples
Daylight - Coldplay
Under The Weather - KT Tunstall
If This Ain't Love (Don't Know What Is) - Nicole Willis & Soul Investigators
Dear Mr. Salesman - Fantastic Plastic Machine
Mars Rendez-Vous (with Jacno) - Stereo Total
The Dress - Blonde Redhead
Slow Show - The National

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365, +21, +8?

Obama did indeed grab that extra electoral vote from Nebraska-02. So make it 365 EVs, with great moves into previously red territory in Indiana, North Carolina, and Nebraska.

As Jon Stewart said on his show this week, "So he won the election by 6 percentage points, but 2-1 in the electoral college. Yes, the Electoral College makes perfect sense!" Which is true, and we need the National Popular Vote, but just like in the primary, Obama's campaign worked with the playing field that they had. They knew how to microtarget at the state and even district level to maximize the votes they needed. And it was incredibly successful.

Meanwhile, we have two more calls for Democrats in the House: Frank Kratovil in MD-01, and Tom Perriello in VA-05. Kratovil's going to be a Blue Dog, but it's notable that he won the seat occupied by Wayne Gilchrest, an antiwar Republican who was primaried out by the Club for Growth. Gilchrest then supported and campaigned for the Democrat and helped him win the seat. As for Perriello, this is a glorious upset. Virgil Goode was a grade-A wingnut, and Perriello is a smart progressive who helped found, the global MoveOn. He was a Responsible Plan endorser, too. He ran a come-from-behind race that made up maybe 30 points in the final months.

And in the Senate, Al Franken keeps closing the gap on Norm Coleman - it's down to 221 votes. That's going to hit a recount. Plus, Nate Silver has done an analysis of the uncounted votes in the Alaska Senate race, and he thinks Mark Begich could still pull it out. Don't underestimate the Silver.

Like I said, it's hard to evaluate Election Day until all these races are called. It's rounding into a very good night.

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Echoes Of Failure: The 2008 California Election Roundup

Back in 2006, I and a lot of other grassroots progressives were angered that California showed little to no movement in its Congressional and legislative seats despite a wave election. You can see some articles about that here and here, when I explained why I was running as a delegate to the state Party. And frankly, I could rerun the entire article today, but instead I'll excerpt.

I've lived in California for the last eight years. I'm a fairly active and engaged citizen, one who has attended plenty of Democratic Club meetings, who has lived in the most heavily Democratic areas of the state in both the North and South, who has volunteered and aided the CDP and Democratic candidates from California during election time, who (you would think) would be the most likely candidate for outreach from that party to help them in their efforts to build a lasting majority. But in actuality, the California Democratic Party means absolutely nothing to me. Neither do its endorsements. The amount of people who aren't online and aren't in grassroots meetings everyday who share this feeling, I'd peg at about 95% of the electorate.

I mean, I'm a part of both those worlds, and I have no connection to the state party. I should be someone that the CDP is reaching out to get involved. They don't. The only time I ever know that the CDP exists is three weeks before the election when they pay for a bunch of ads. The other 23 months of the year they are a nonentity to the vast majority of the populace [...]

Only two Democrats in the entire state of California were able to defeat incumbents last November: Debra Bowen and Jerry McNerney. Both of them harnessed the power of the grassroots and used it to carry them to victory. They also stuck to their principles and created a real contrast with their opponents on core issues. The only way that the California Democratic Party can retain some relevance in the state, and not remain a secretive, cloistered money factory that enriches its elected officials with lobbyist money and does nothing to build the Democratic brand, is by building from the bottom up and not the top down. By becoming more responsive to the grassroots and more effective in its strategy, we can ensure that California stays blue, which is not a given. This is a long-term process that is in its third year, and will not happen overnight. But it's crucial that we continue and keep the pressure on.

In 2008, we experiences that most anomalous of events, a SECOND wave election in a row. Barack Obama won the biggest victory at the top of the ticket in California since WWII. And yet, the efforts of downticket Democrats yielded only minimal success. This is despite a decided improvement in the party in terms of online outreach and voter registration. So something is deeply, deeply wrong with how they're conducting campaigns.

I'm going to lay out the good, the bad and the ugly and make some suggestions as to what we must do to improve this for the future.

The Good

This wasn't a wipeout at the downballot level. The voters agreed with the Calitics endorsements on 8 of 11 ballot measures, with 1, Prop. 11, still too close to call. We did manage, at this hour, a net gain of two Assembly seats, which could expand to three if Alyson Huber in AD-10 has some luck, and a gain of one Senate seat if Hannah-Beth Jackson holds off Tony Strickland in SD-19. It is true that those numbers, 50 in the Assembly and 26 in the Senate, would be high-water marks for this decade. And we came close in a few other seats that we can hopfully capture in the future. In the Congress, we have thus far gained no ground, but a couple seats, CA-44 and CA-03, look well-positioned for the future, and with Bill Durston set to run for a third time, his increased name ID and the closeness of partisan affiliation in that district should make it a targeted seat at the national level.

Voter registration was the driving factor here. In red areas, Democrats did the leg work of registering thousands upon thousands of voters and making uncompetitive seats suddenly competitive.

The Bad

They forgot to turn those new voters out.

What shortsighted CYA masters like Steve Maviglio and Jason Kinney fail to understand, apparently, is the concept of opportunity cost. When you have Barack Obama on the top of the ticket winning 61% of the vote, it is simply inexcusable to have gains that are this modest. Maviglio doesn't tell you that AD-78 and AD-80 were gerrymandered to be Democratic seats, so essentially we got back what was expected in the Assembly, and with a 106-vote lead, who knows what's in store with SD-19. The concept of a wave election is that such energy at the top of the ticket will necessarily trickle down. And that's what I based my initial projections on, that Obama would make "out-of-reach" seats suddenly competitive. But he didn't. And there are two reasons for that: ticket-splitting and voters that stopped at the top, causing a significant undervote. I don't have numbers for Obama at the district level, so it's hard to be sure about ticket dropping, but the ballot measures are generating about 600,000-800,000 less votes than the Presidential race or Prop. 8.

If you want a further analysis, djardin did a great analysis comparing Barbara Boxer's share of the vote in 2004 in Assembly districts, when John Kerry was on top of the ballot, against the vote share from the Assemblymembers who were built for the district in 2008, with Obama. The numbers are astonishing.

District Candidate Boxer Vote 2008 AD Vote
*78 Marty Block 57.9% 55.0%
*80 Manny Perez 57.5% 52.9%
*15 Joan Buchanan 52.6% 52.9%
30 Fran Florez 49.8% 48.3%
26 John Eisenhut 48.6% 48.3%
10 Alyson Huber 48.1% 46.2%

In most of these races, the AD candidates are slightly underperforming the 2004 Boxer vote. The exception is Joan Buchanan in Assembly District 15. Buchanan may have been helped by demographic changes in the district.

It's simply ridiculous that any district candidate would underperform the Boxer vote, after four years of incredible registration gains and a 61% performer at the top of the ticket. It's inexcusable, and nobody inside the party should be feeling good about missing out on the second wave election in a row. These moments don't happen often. And these failures are what lead Yacht Party leaders like Mike Villines to crow about how "Republicans will still be empowered to protect Californians from higher taxes." He knows that he keeps dodging bullets and doesn't have to worry about a backlash for his party's irresponsibility.

These expectations are not unrealistic and this is NOT about gerrymandering, regardless of what fossils like George Skelton say. Alyson Huber, Linda Jones and John Eisenhut had virtual parity in terms of registration in their districts. Fran Florez had a much higher Democratic share. Obama should have carried them to victory. Thanks to him, Democrats took multiple state houses and made gains all over the country, in far more difficult circumstances. There are systematic barriers to a progressive wave here right now.

So what is to account for this? It's important to note that the problems we saw with the No on 8 campaign should not be viewed in isolation. They are a symptom of the poor performance of the consultant class here in this state. No ground game? Check. Maviglio is crowing about the fact that they had a lot of volunteers on ELECTION DAY. That's too late. Based on what I've heard, the CDP dumped all their door-hangers on the local parties, who had no volunteers to hand them out and instead relied on the Democratic clubs to do it. That's dysfunctional and disorganized. Furthermore, that makes clear that no money was put into field - door knocking, phone banking, etc. Instead, the consultocracy again relied on slate mailers and a modicum of TV ads, hoping the IE campaigns, which spent over $10 million, would take up the slack. There was a low-dollar donor program, and it netted something like $200,000, which doesn't pay for two days' worth of spots, and it didn't start until 8 weeks out.

There's no sense of urgency, no notion of the permanent campaign. Did ANY CDP messaging mention the yacht tax loophole? Did they exploit the Republican budget, which was unnecessarily cruel? Was the drive for 2/3 used as a banner across campaigns to frame a narrative on the election? Were any issues put to use? No.

Part of this is what I call our political trade deficit. We export money and volunteers and get nothing in return. The energy and effort put into the Obama campaign locally was impressive, but it didn't translate into anything locally.

California is a state that was expected to vote heavily for Obama. California donors accounted for perhaps 20% of his record-setting $640 million-plus. In the final days of the election campaign, Californians provided even more for the Democratic nominee: They volunteered.

Even though California was not a swing state, Californians still mattered. Some took leaves from work to knock on doors and traveled to the battleground states of Virginia, Colorado, Ohio and others. They even have a name, "bluebirds," people from blue states who flock to Republican strongholds and swing states to help Obama's campaign.

Jack Gribbon, California political director for Unite Here, the unions that include hotel and restaurant workers, oversaw an independent campaign focused on the swing area of Washoe County in the battleground state of Nevada. Knowing that Las Vegas and Clark County, in which the city is located, would probably vote for Obama, Gribbon sought to help swing the more conservative Reno-Sparks area toward the Democrat.

Using multiple voter lists, Gribbon targeted 16,000 voters, most of them with Spanish surnames, many of them Democrats and some of them newly registered.

It's incredible that Californians can be so easily motivated to contribute to a national effort, which requires a lot of work on their behalf, picking up and moving across the country, but they cannot be tapped for a local ground game.

But I don't blame Obama on this. He's trying to win an election. It's not his fault that he's more charismatic or more of a volunteer magnet than the California Democratic Party. The point is that the party has to supplement this, by working in off-years and early in the year to build a grassroots base. And there's a blueprint for this. It comes from Howard Dean. This was part of his memo after the election:

Governor Dean's first step was to assess our Party's strengths and weaknesses and put in place a strategy to address those issues. Dean developed a business plan to rebuild the Democratic Party, modernize our operations and expand the electoral map. The emphasis was on lessons learned and best practices, and it included the following key components:

· Rebuild the Infrastructure of the Party – After assessing the needs on the ground, we hired full-time permanent staff in all 50 states, trained staff and activists, introduced new measures of accountability, and developed a unified technology platform. Over the past four years we've held 140 trainings for candidates, campaign staff, organizers, Party leaders and activists in all 50 states.

· Upgrade and Improve the Party's Technology/Modernize the Way We Do Grassroots Organizing - Over the past four years the DNC has made significant investments in technology, creating a truly national voter file, improved micro-targeting models and developed 21st century campaign tools that merged traditional organizing with new technology.

· Diversify the Donor Base – Shifting the emphasis of Party fundraising to include both small donors and large donors, the DNC brought in more than 1.1 million new donors and raised more than $330 million from '05 – '08. The average contribution over the last three years was $63.88.

· Amplify Democratic Message and Improved Outreach – Created a national communications infrastructure to amplify the Democratic message and reach out to groups we haven't always talked to and expand the map to regions where Democrats have not traditionally been competitive – including the South and the West.

· Professionalize Voter Protection Efforts – Created a year-round national, state and local effort to ensure that every eligible voter has the opportunity to vote.

Those are the bullet points, but the details are important. Training and deploying full-time staffers throughout the state is very desperately needed. They could implement a version of the Neighbor-to-Neighbor program that proved so successful nationwide. The DNC voter file is an amazing tool that I have had the opportunity to use. California, a leader in technology, ought to have the most comprehensive online database of its voters in the country, which we can use for micro-targeting and outreach to distinct communities. And finally, this is about PERSONAL CONTACT AT THE STREET LEVEL. Two years after I campaigned for delegate on a platform of making the party present in people's lives year-round, not just at election time, that is still not a part of the picture. This is why everybody walks away to go volunteer and donate elsewhere. They have no connection to the state party, no interest in the state's issues, and are in many ways contemptuous of the efforts of state politicians. They haven't been drilled on why the government is unmanageable thanks to the 2/3 rule, and they haven't internalized the urgency of why that must be dealt with.

The silver lining is that these thousands of California-based volunteers, who learned organizing on the Obama campaign, could actually be channeled and put to use by the CDP if they chose to do so. The role of the next state party chair in this effort is crucial.

Quite simply, what has been tried isn't working. In two election cycles with massive gains at the national level, in California we have crumbs. Something is deeply wrong. Something is broken. And that must be fixed.

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OR-Sen: Jeff Merkley Shares Our Values

Just finished up a blogger conference call with Jeff Merkley, Oregon's next US Senator. I met Merkley during the campaign and found him to be a solid progressive advocate with a background in international relations and diplomacy, so I think he'll be a good voice for our views in the Senate. Matt Stoller has a write-up, but I should mention that the very first thing Merkley said was that he wanted to do something about renewing our moral standing in the world, by dealing with illegal wiretapping, Guantanamo, torture and secret prisons. You just don't see many politicians willing to foreground that in such a way, and it impressed me.

Specifically, I asked Merkley about what he'd want to see in a second stimulus package if it's not finished during a lame-duck session, and he immediately said "I don't want to mail people $300 checks." He discussed the need for infrastructure and green energy projects immediately, which would create millions of jobs and stimulate the manufacturing side of the economy. He also would like to fold President-Elect Obama's proposals for middle class tax relief and eliminating tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas into whatever immediate stimulus emerges. And he said, "ending the war in Iraq will enable us to free up some money for these programs at home." That was very solid as well. In addition, when I saw him in LA during the campaign, he remarked that he would lose his health insurance provided by the state of Oregon (he was House speaker) if he lost the election - so I congratulated him on staying out of the ranks of the uninsured. Chris Rock said that it's good to elect leaders who can "see broke... they don't have to be broke, but they should be able to see broke." Merkley hasn't lost touch with where he's come from. And health care reform is definitely on his agenda.

I don't think we'll have much trouble holding Merkley to these promises. He wants to remain engaged with the netroots, and I think he'll be very approachable in the future.

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The Clinton Rules

While some conservative activists have the idea to rebuild their party by using the Obama-Dean inclusive vision of organizing and party infrastructure in service to the exclusive vision of conservatism, and others are waging jihad against anyone who dares cross Sarah Palin (by the power of Grayskull Redstate, we will purge you!!!), I think we know how this is all going to turn out, right?

HH: And I think he will be very concerned with the two issues I’m going to raise with you – national security and immigration. Now I believe the Committee On the Present Danger filled a need in the 70s which we need to reorganize an equivalent now. But what do you think, Bill Kristol?

BK: Oh, I agree, and we did a little of that in the 90s with the Project For the New American Century. And I actually think there are people talking about this. And there’s a lot of good foreign policy and defense thinking on our side, the Fred Kagans and Bob Kagans and Reuel Gerechts of the world, Victor Davis Hanson, et cetera. But a little bit of a political organization for them wouldn’t be bad. And I think we should support Obama, incidentally, if he does the right thing.

OF COURSE there will be another PNAC. As the media - and lots of Democrats - do the conservatives' dirty work for them by warning Obama not to read any kind of Democratic victory into the resounding Presidential and Congressional victory, the connected white men at the top of the party will shrink into the background, plot, seek ways to undermine the new President, and basically lie in wait. They aren't going to throw money into 50-state organizing or the Internet - that's for the little people. They are convinced that Obama's agenda will fail and they will stand ready, using their message machine to continue to feed rancid ideas into the media bloodstream. They've already got most of the Democratic Party urging for bipartisanship and restraint like the well-trained litter Grover Norquist et al. always wanted them to be. Fox News and right-wing radio and blogs will continue to work themselves into frenzies. Direct-mail groups will start sending letters to the base about how mysterious that Obama's grandmother and the Nevada state director died on the same day - they'll be added to the Obama Death List. Regnery books arguing against the radical Obama vision will fly off the shelves and into the pulping machines, with the authors all over cable news. AEI and Heritage will schedule conferences on "Why Moving The Top Tax Rate To 39% Kills Poor People" and other illuminating subjects. It will still be difficult to break a filibuster, and the minority party won't make it any easier on anything that matters.

The right doesn't have to "do" anything, I imagine is the consensus. All the structures of an opposition movement already exist, they just have to turn on the switch and sit back and wait.

Now, the question is whether our side has learned anything from 1993-94, or not.

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Committee Rumblings

The committee structure in the Senate is about to undergo a major overhaul, which is healthy. The chairmanships play a key role in shaping policy, and that's never been more important. In addition to Vice President-elect Biden leaving Foreign Relations, and Joe Lieberman about to get dumped, one way or the other, from Homeland Security and Government Affairs, Robert Byrd is stepping down as chair of the Appropriations Committee.

“To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven,” said Byrd, who had fended off earlier challenges this past spring and summer. “Those Biblical words from Ecclesiastes 3:1 express my feelings about this particular time in my life.

“I have been privileged to be a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee for 50 years and to have chaired the committee for ten years, during a time of enormous change in our great country, both culturally and politically,” Byrd continued in a statement released by his office. “I have learned that nothing is quite so permanent as change. It is simply a part of living and should not be feared.”

Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), who is 84, will take over for Byrd on the powerful panel, which oversees hundreds of billions of dollars annually in federal spending. Byrd will officially hand off the gavel on Jan. 6, 2009.

That probably means Hawaii becomes the new Alaska in terms of porkbarrel spending.

What I'm looking for is to get a fighting, reform Democrat on one of the high-profile committees. That could happen with Russ Feingold at Foreign Relations.

Vice President-elect Joe Biden leaves an open chairmanship on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that could end up being filled by one of the most outspoken critics of the Iraq war.
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.), among the chamber's most liberal members, is the fourth Democrat in line on the committee, behind Biden, Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.) and Sen. John Kerry (Mass.).

Dodd said Thursday he plans to stay on as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. Kerry is reportedly lobbying to be President-elect Barack Obama's Secretary of State.

That leaves Feingold, an unapologetic champion of civil liberties and a staunch opponent of the Bush administration's war in Iraq, next in line. Feingold opposed the war from the start and was the first senator to call for a U.S. troop withdrawal timetable.

For accountability and judgment, there could be no better captain at the helm of Foreign Relations than Feingold. One of the Iraq War's strongest opponents (and the sole dissenting voice on the PATRIOT Act), Russ would be the perfect prescription after eight years of Bush foreign policy. And he's not one to pull punches or bow to politics, even with members of his own party: just over a week ago (and right before a Presidential election), Feingold wrote an op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor questioning the conventional wisdom of sending more troops to Afghanistan.

That was a superlative op-ed. I'd be very interested in having this happen. It'd be something to see anyone who got the Iraq war right succeed upwards, wouldn't it?

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Post-Election Comings And Goings For LA-Area Lawmakers

A couple weeks ago I wrote about three looming battles that we had to think about after the election. Two of them have already fizzled. The open primary ballot initiative filed with the state has been withdrawn. That's probably because the Governor wanted to present it himself, so we'll see where that goes, and a lot of it might have to do with whether or not Prop. 11 actually passes. Second, Bush Republican and rich developer Rick Caruso decided against running for Mayor of Los Angeles against Antonio Villaraigosa. There is now no credible candidate running against the incumbent. Caruso may figure that Villaraigosa is primed for bigger and better things (he's in Washington today with President-Elect Obama's council of economic advisers), and if Villaraigosa vacates the seat he'd have a better shot of capturing it.

However, there are a couple other looming battles that are out there. First, Jane Harman, Congresswoman from the 36th Congressional District, is in line for a top intelligence post with the Obama Administration, and the odds are extremely likely that she'd take it. Laura Rozen has a profile here. After a tough primary against Marcy Winograd in 2006, Harman has been a moderately better vote in Congress, but this represents a real opportunity to put a progressive in that seat. Winograd has recently moved into the district, and would certainly be my first choice if it comes open (or if it doesn't - Harman voted for the FISA bill this year).

The other major news is that Henry Waxman, my Congressman, is looking to oust John Dingell from his post atop the Energy and Commerce Committee. This is a long time coming, and I don't think Waxman would go for it without the support of the Speaker. The Dingellsaurus, while a decent liberal on most issues (and also a former representative of mine in Ann Arbor, MI), has blocked progress on climate change and modernizing the auto industry for years. We were finally able to get a modest increase in CAFE standards last year, but Waxman, who wrote the Clean Air Act of 1990, would obviously be a major step up. And with the auto industry on life support and asking for handouts as a result of the old ways of doing business, it's clearly time for a Democratic committee chair who isn't protecting their interests at the expense of the planet. Waxman's "Safe Climate Act" introduced last year would mandate a cut in greenhouse gases of 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. That's exactly the right attitude from the committee chair, and with energy issues obviously so crucial in an Obama Administration, we need someone in that post who recognizes the scope of the problem. It should also be clear that the committee has likely jurisdiction over health care reform.

Grist has a lot more on this story.

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If You Don't Know, Alaska Where Your Ballot Is

I concur with Nate Silver that something is definitely fishy about the Alaska numbers. Nowhere else in the country did the pre-election polls so wildly differ from the post-election reality. Don Young and Ted Stevens, one unspeakably corrupt and the other a convicted felon, both won their elections, apparently, despite being down by double digits in the pre-election polls. I thought there might be a backlash against the "Washington elite libruls" who punished Stevens with a conviction, but that doesn't explain Young. And it certainly doesn't explain this:

Indeed, it seems possible that the number of "questionable" ballots could be quite high. So far, about 220 thousand votes have been processed in Alaska. This compares with 313 thousand votes cast in 2004. After adding back in the roughly 50,000 absentee and early ballots that Roll Call accounts for, that would get us to 270 thousand ballots, or about a 14 percent drop from 2004. It seems unlikely that turnout would drop by 14 percent in Alaska given the presence of both a high-profile senate race and Sarah Palin at the top of the ticket.

More than unlikely. Now, I know the outcome of the Presidential race was apparent by about 4pm local time there, but you would think having a native son (well, daughter) on the ballot would seek to counteract any depressed turnout.

Shannyn Moore has a great write-up on this. And Digby says what we're all thinking:

If this were coming from anywhere but the state that had legislators who proudly belong to something they called the "Corrupt Bastards Club" (with hats!) I would adopt a wait and see attitude. As it is, I have no problem saying that this stinks to high heaven and is probably exactly what it looks like.

Something's very, very wrong.

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Negotiating With Himself

It's funny, Joe Lieberman thinks he's some kind of bonus baby who can get a luxury car and a sweet penthouse apartment overlooking the National Mall out of either caucus in the Senate. At this rate he won't be satisfied until he's Majority Leader. The only problem is that nobody wants to offer him anything.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has reached out to Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) about the prospect of joining the Republican Conference, but Lieberman is still bargaining with Democratic leaders to keep his chairmanship, according to Senate aides in both parties.

“Sen. Lieberman’s preference is to stay in the caucus, but he’s going to keep all his options open,” a Lieberman aide said. “McConnell has reached out to him, and at this stage, his position is he wants to remain in the caucus but losing the chairmanship is unacceptable.”

A Republican Senate aide said Friday morning that there was little McConnell could offer in terms of high-ranking committee slots, which is why Lieberman is resisting overtures from the Republican side [...]

Lieberman’s aide told Politico on Friday morning that “essentially what transpired is that Sen. Reid talked about taking away his position perhaps for another position, and Sen. Lieberman indicated that was unacceptable.”

A person with direct knowledge of the Reid-Lieberman meeting yesterday on Capitol Hill said Reid turned to Lieberman at one point and said, "I prefer to work this out" after Lieberman hinted he would "explore his options" with Republicans if he was stripped of the committee.

Hilarious. Like he has clout. Lieberman would end up being a headache on either side of the aisle - a mole on the Democratic side, a Judas on the increasingly extremist Republican side. What's more, Republicans don't have any committee chairmanships to hand out, either. And nobody's going to put their seniority aside for him.

Of course, his operatives have one goal - to make it look like bolting for the Republicans would make any difference whatsoever, fooling accommodationist Dems into reverting to measures of conciliation and healing. They've already snookered Evan Bayh, who's eminently snooker-able.

BAYH: And I think if Joe came before the caucus and said look, if I said some things that came as offensive, I’m sorry, but they were, you know heartfelt in my support of John McCain. I think we had to just let bygones be bygones. We’re going to need him on healthcare and energy independence and education and a whole lot of other things.

Bayh concluded that Lieberman is “strong on national security.” “And we’re going to prove that there is a place for Democrats who are strong on national security in the Democratic Party,” he said.

I hope I miss when I try to shoot myself shortly after posting this.

If we do nothing, Lieberman will be welcomed back into the party, and they'll probably throw a brunch in his honor. If we call these Senators and let them know that a mole chairing the main oversight committee in the Senate is unacceptable, maybe they won't be so keen to allow it. If after getting stripped on his chairmanship, Lieberman wants to stay in the party, I personally think that's up to him. But making sure he isn't a one-man subpoena machine is the bare minimum of accountability that we should expect.

The number for the Capitol switchboard is (202) 224-3121. Start with your own Senator, but call the more conservative members of the caucus too. Ask whether they support Lieberman remaining as Chair of the Homeland Security committee, given his unfair attacks on President-elect Obama. Be polite, and calm. The young people who answer the phones are entry-level staffers.

Post what you hear in the comments. Let's outflank Lieberman.

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Emanuel In Washington

bSo Rahm Emanuel will be the White House Chief of Staff. As long as that job solely entails him calling up lawmakers and yelling at them like Ari on Entourage (who is modeled on his brother) until they support Obama's agenda, I'm OK with it. However, that's probably not the job, and thus we're going to have to push harder from the outside so that Rahm's manner of thinking, to ignore immigrants because "they can't vote" and to never move forward on anything if Republicans can make up an ad about it, doesn't become White House conventional wisdom.

But the idea that this is some shift in tone is ridiculous. If you look at the choice in its best light, Obama is choosing someone who can shepherd his agenda in the Congress. To the grand poohbahs in the media, that's not allowable? I mean, Karl Rove aside, the campaign was fought on ideological grounds, almost exclusively so. I know that the traditional media wants to reframe a progressive victory as a triumph for center-right post-partisanship, but that's not going to fly. Meanwhile, Emanuel himself is talking the language of post-partisanship:

Emanuel accepted Obama's offer with a gesture of bipartisanship, addressing part of his statement to Republicans. "We often disagree, but I respect their motives," Emanuel said. "Now is a time for unity, and, Mr. President-elect, I will do everything in my power to help you stitch together the frayed fabric of our politics, and help summon Americans of both parties to unite in common purpose."

Hopefully, this is just language, but it certainly feeds this beast of bipartisanship. God help Obama if he actually passes an agenda item. The media will feel so betrayed.

Meanwhile, this sounds much better.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who spoke with Mr. Obama by phone on Wednesday morning, said that they had made plans to discuss coordinated efforts for the transition and the new Congress, but that a more ambitious agenda would unfold next year.

“Our priorities have tracked the Obama campaign priorities for a very long time,” Ms. Pelosi said at a news conference where she cited the economy, health care, energy and the Iraq war as topping the agenda.

She said Democrats were talking with the Bush White House about a potential $61 billion economic stimulus that could be approved in a lame-duck session.

The first thing they're going to do is pass those measures which Bush vetoed. And I think they'll have no problem doing that. Anything further will be met with a push from both conservatives and the media (redundant). The question is whether a grassroots movement can push back.

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Welcome Mr. President

Enjoy the 14-year high in the unemployment rate, at 6.5%. It'll probably be worse once you are inaugurated. 240,000 Americans jobs lost in October. And the holiday season, which usually results in a job increase as retail hires more help, is expected to be dismal. Consumer spending dropped 3.1% last quarter.

But I'm sure George Bush is totally interested in fixing this so Obama can have a clean start. Right.

Why is President Obama ruining the economy?

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Massive Protest At Mormon Temple In Los Angeles

Lots of people are angry about the passage of Prop. 8 and they are just channeling that anger organically. One of the results has been street protests, and today's blocked Santa Monica Boulevard.

Hundreds of people protesting California's new ban on gay marriage demonstrated outside a Mormon temple in Westwood on Thursday, blocking traffic on a major boulevard.

The protesters claim the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spent millions to air deceptive advertisements in support of Proposition 8, which passed on Tuesday with 52 percent of voters casting their ballots to define marriage as a heterosexual union.

If you're unfamiliar with LA, that is a HUGE temple.

There is other talk of boycotting Utah and Marriott hotels, and further street actions. This is how civil rights movements typically mature. And many are correct in the previous thread in saying that rights are not usually put to a vote. This is all being done haphazardly. Will a leader emerge from this movement?

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Election Time!

Yes, since we couldn't spend a waking moment without an election going on, it turns out there's a runoff for the Senate seat in Georgia on December 2.

Jim Martin is the Democrat and he's a new breed of Southern progressive - a populist who opposed the bailout, supports net neutrality, and doesn't think the government should be spying on Americans.

Question: Do you consider yourself a progressive? Why or why not? If yes, why do you think progressives can win in the South?

Jim Martin: Yes. I've often tried to explain why I believe what I do in this way: My mother taught her six sons that we define ourselves by our deeds, not by our words - by living the values that come from our faith. When I was eight years old, I contracted polio. My parents had to isolate me from my brothers and take me out of school for fear that I would infect others. For months, I was confined to my bedroom, visited only by my parents and my doctors. I recovered, but some things in life you never forget. I will never forget what it feels like to need a little help. A government founded on solid principles does not turn its back on children, seniors, or people with disabilities.

Progressives can win in the South because people are fed up with where we are as a country, and they are looking for real change.

Martin has begun his Senate campaign with an ad attaching himself to Barack Obama and positioning himself as the right candidate to help bring along Obama's agenda. In a race expected to have low turnout, that could be enough. That, and what I would imagine to be a huge amount of ground organizing, much of it organic, from the same volunteers who got Obama elected.

And for progressives, there's a revenge factor. Republican Saxby Chambliss smeared war hero Max Cleland with a disgraceful ad in 2002 comparing him to bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. This time, we can pay him back.

You can help keep this ad on the air at the Orange to Blue ActBlue page via Daily Kos.

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Is This So Hard To Say

"Politics is not left, right or center ... It's about improving people's lives."

-Paul Wellstone, Election Night 1990 acceptance speech

We are 18 years on from that piercingly simple statement, and yet nobody in the Democratic Party has managed to use it as the antidote to this endless effort to analyze and re-analyze the election through a conservative frame, by claiming this is a center-right country and Obama had better be cautious in enacting an agenda too far to the left, which would anger the public. This is of course true if you believe the public is directly analogous to the Washington commentariat. I've had a hard time chronicling everyone who has told me that, in the wake of the largest victory for Democrats since 1964, in the wake of winning a majority of the votes cast in 4 out of the last 5 Presidential elections, in the wake of reducing the Republican Party to a regional outpost in the South and part of the Great Plains, this is a profoundly conservative nation. Here's a partial list:

Ron Brownstein, Jon Meacham, Peggy Noonan, Howard Fineman, David Broder, John Heilemann, John King, Mark Penn, Doug Schoen, Charles Krauthammer, Ruth Marcus, Marc Halperin, Dan Balz, Peter Wehner, William Galston, Bob Kerrey, Fred Barnes, Pat Buchanan and Joe Scarborough.

I think they call that a meme. Just for fun, here's a textbook example of the genre:

"My own hunch is that Obama is smart enough not to want to govern as a liberal," said Peter Wehner, a former Bush administration official.

(On our side we have Nina Easton. Whoop-de-damn-do.)

Most of these are movement conservatives masquerading as journalists, but of course they have a disproportionate impact on their Village buddies, who are just as fearful of any altering of the status quo and just as protective of it. So they fundamentally misread the Clinton years and concern troll Barack Obama against making the "same mistakes."

This is one of the classic myths that conservatives and establishment pundits, helped in no small part by conservative Democrats, like to flog. The reality is that we lost the 1994 elections mostly because of the disappointment from working-class Democrats and independents, especially women, who had voted for us in big numbers in 1992 but didn't show up to vote in 1994. We lost because we didn't deliver for our voters, not because we over-reached.

The first major fight was over our first federal budget. As folks may remember, Bob Rubin and other deficit hawks convinced Clinton to dramatically scale back on his campaign promises for investments in domestic programs, and to delay health care reform until we got that budget passed. While Clinton complained that we were going with an approach more like Eisenhower than like a Democrat, he went along with the green eyeshade guys. The budget got progressively more modest over the course of the legislative battle, most importantly taking out Gore's carbon tax idea. The bill that ended up passing was reasonably progressive, but way scaled back from 1992 campaign promises or what progressive members of Congress/groups had been pushing.

The next big fight was over NAFTA, a real example of lefty over-reaching. Yeah, right. And once again, those of us in the White House pushing hard for health care reform to be prioritized early were left disappointed as once more the drive to get health reform passed got delayed. Meanwhile, our allies in the labor movement who were excited about helping us pass a health care bill had to spend millions in fighting the NAFTA battle [...]

For all of our over-reaching, we didn't deliver much to those working class voters who gave us our victory in 1992. Family and Medical Leave was a great thing, and very popular, but very modest compared to bigger picture economic issues. An increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit was also terrific, but helped only a relatively small number of people.

Not delivering much is what cost us the 1994 election. I did a thorough analysis of the 1994 exit polls after the election and did a memo to my fellow White House staffers. What I found was that the key to the election were the voters that stayed home who were non-college educated, lower and middle income, younger, more women than men, and heavily Democratic. Disproportionately large among those non-voters were working class and unmarried women. Overall, there was a 22-point difference in terms of Democratic support (in the wrong direction, of course) between those who voted and those who had in 1992 but didn't in 1994, thereby sealing our fate.

It's a funny thing, the public wants you to improve their lives a bit and keep your campaign promises to do so, and they don't really seem that concerned about whether you're moving too far to "the left" or "the right."

In fact, the entire notion of "what kind of a country is America" becomes quickly tautological. This is a centrist country in the sense that the center would be the median ideology of everyone in it. The question becomes where is that center. And it's completely clear that the public agrees with Obama's agenda, which includes investments in public health, education, energy and infrastructure, an end to the war in Iraq, increased diplomacy, reproductive choice, and a more progressive tax code.

If you want to call that a progressive majority, it would be hard to argue with you. But more than anything, it's a recognition on the part of the vast majority of the public that they would rather have a government that improves people's lives instead of one that actively harms it. So while looking at self-described ideology shows that the electorate is in pretty much the same place as it has been, that's a false indicator. People want to stop being screwed, and they intuitively understand that a conservative agenda was doing that repeatedly. They don't want to be ruled by monsters anymore. The best way to show them that you're not a monster is to marginally improve their lives, fulfilling your role as a public servant to the greater good.

Obama has a difficult task. He has a Village media culture that wants him to go slow instead of looking at what's necessary for the historical moment. He hears every day to push aside those DFHs and mean ol' liberals who would run his Presidency into the ground. He hears the same thing from conservative Blue Dog members of his own party who've suddenly found their fiscally conservative backbone, and even the party leadership, fearful of a backlash and continually stuck in early 1995 mode, weighing risk and reward and gaming out the politics of it all instead of, and let me say this one more time, IMPROVING PEOPLE'S LIVES.

I actually think Nancy Pelosi tried to say this yesterday in a soundbite that Digby flagged yesterday. If you listen to the whole quote, you'll see that she says that raising the minimum wage, increasing CAFE standards, cutting student loans in half and creating the 21st-century GI Bill, all ideas that came out of the progressive wing, were embraced by both parties.

She ended up saying it in a very stunted way, when it doesn't have to be that difficult. The role of government is to improve people's lives. Through initiating projects through collective action that the individual cannot do themselves, like building roads and bridges and police and fire departments. Through equalizing opportunity for success through education programs. Through making sure the least of us doesn't slip into grinding poverty with a social safety net, rather than just socialism for the rich and connected. Through making sure that we have a health care system that provides access and treatment as a basic human right. Through defending the nation with diplomacy and international engagement instead of sending in the military at the slightest provocation. Through adhering to a Constitution that has been ignored and mocked the last eight years.

I think Obama's instincts in this regard may be decent.

The debates unnerved both candidates. When he was preparing for them during the Democratic primaries, Obama was recorded saying, "I don't consider this to be a good format for me, which makes me more cautious. I often find myself trapped by the questions and thinking to myself, 'You know, this is a stupid question, but let me … answer it.' So when Brian Williams is asking me about what's a personal thing that you've done [that's green], and I say, you know, 'Well, I planted a bunch of trees.' And he says, 'I'm talking about personal.' What I'm thinking in my head is, 'Well, the truth is, Brian, we can't solve global warming because I f---ing changed light bulbs in my house. It's because of something collective'."

But he's going to need a great deal of help, and this is where Digby was going previously. The liberal blogosphere is uniquely positioned to act as the counterweight to this large gelatinous mass tut-tutting that we mustn't rock the boat and have the candidate who ran on change actually change anything. Progressive organizations like Media Matters can attack this meme and treat it with the withering contempt it deserves. Obama is going to hear this in his ear (probably from his new Chief of Staff) every ten seconds from the moment he takes the oath of office. It's important for us to make sure he hears something else.

Improve people's lives, President-Elect.

"Any jackass can kick down a barn but it takes a good carpenter to build one."

-Lyndon Johnson

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On Bended Knee

Joe Lieberman is begging to stay relevant:

Bolstered by a newly expanded majority, Harry Reid met with Joe Lieberman on Thursday to sketch out the conditions by which the Connecticut independent could continue to caucus with Senate Democrats. But Lieberman did not accept Reid's initial offers, leaving his future in the caucus uncertain, and potentially setting off a campaign to pressure the Democratic steering committee to decide Lieberman's fate.

Reid offered Lieberman a deal to step down as chairman of the homeland security committee but take over the reins of another subcommittee, likely overseeing economic or small business issues officials said.

Immediately after his meeting with Reid, Lieberman told reporters that he had not made a decision about his future in the caucus, and appeared to launch his first public appeal to members of the Democratic steering committee, whose members decide committee chair assignments.

"I completely agree with President-elect Obama that we must now unite to get our economy going again and to keep the American people safe. that is exactly what I intend to do with my colleagues here in the Senate in support of our new president, and those are the standards I will use in considering the options that I have before me," Lieberman told reporters.

The thing is that Lieberman has very little leverage. There is no reason that Reid could possibly keep someone who continually defamed Barack Obama in the chairmanship of the committee that would oversee the White House. What's more, he was terrible at his job in the 110th Congress, practically never holding any oversight hearings. He's dead weight on the committee.

Lieberman is in no position to demand anything. He's not the crucial 60th vote, and he's never going to get re-elected in Connecticut. In the Republican caucus he'd be a minority of the minority, and the mouth-breathers would quickly tire of his moderate positions on certain issues. Reid has all the leverage and he ought to pull the trigger.

Here's Jane Hamsher:

My guess? Reid told him he can stay in the caucus if he steps down from his committee chairmanship (a campaign we started shortly after the 2006 election, thanks to everyone who participated with pitchforks and torches). I imagine Reid told him they'll wait to do anything until the other Senate races are decided, but that's the way it's going to go down. Those are the rather well-source rumors circulating, anyway.

Joe now goes to see if he can get a better deal from the GOP, knowing his chances of winning in Connecticut as a Republican in 2012 are about "zero."

What the heck could he possibly "get" from an even more ideologically rigid GOP? A ranking membership? The internal dissension would be enormous.

Reid is walking down the right path here, but he'd better watch it. It's bad enough that a swing-state Senator is in charge of the caucus to begin with. If he cozies up to Lieberman after all this, the outrage would be palpable.

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North Carolina, Nebraska; Obama Country

On top of Obama capturing North Carolina's electoral votes, it appears he has snagged one electoral vote from Omaha, as well:

Good news for Barack Obama supporters.

His odds of bagging an electoral vote in Nebraska grew stronger this morning, with word that 10,000 to 12,000 early ballots and 5,200 provisional ballots are left to count in Douglas County.

Obama won about 61 percent of the early votes counted before Tuesday's election. If that percentage holds with the early ballots left to count, Obama stands a strong chance of winning the Omaha-area 2nd Congressional District.

Republicans did not concede defeat this morning, but they acknowledged the long odds.

This would be the first time any state has split their electoral votes, and it would get Obama up to 365 EVs with Missouri still uncalled (though McCain is likely to win there). Obama won pretty much all the swing states, by the way, some with very narrow margins. That's the power of the ground game, and it worked to perfection. Indiana and North Carolina and NE-02 would not have gone to Obama without those efforts.

They all laughed when Howard Dean said we could change the map and compete in places Democrats never competed. 90% of this was just showing up, saying who you were and what you stood for, and letting people make up their own minds. They chose against fear and division, and chose Barack Obama.

Now he must be worthy of their choice. But at some point, you'd think somebody would thank Howard Dean.

You can right here.

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Voter Fraud Canary Not In Coalmine

TPM Muckraker is having some fun today going state by state and showing that not one Secretary of State or elections division has encountered any evidence whatsoever of voter fraud. Reports of voter suppression would be harder to come by because it's more difficult to figure out who didn't vote - in one precinct in Minnesota they ran out of voter registration materials (the state has same-day registration), and at another a Somali interpreter was telling people to vote for Norm Coleman, which may be extremely important in a close Senate race. But basically, the rumors of a "stolen election" through voter fraud were completely unfounded, again.

Of course, that's not the reason for the rumors. It's to suppress the vote, alienate people and delegitimize the election. Fortunately, with maybe 130 million turning out, that doesn't appear to have worked, either. The system nonetheless could use some reform.

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Yes, California, There's Still A Budget Mess To Fix

I STILL haven't had a moment to process the still-brewing outcome of Election 2008 here in California, but there's not much time to savor or despair about the results. A new session of the Legislature has been called, and Arnold is starting off by calling for a tax increase:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called today for a temporary 1.5-cent increase in the state sales tax to help close an $11.2 billion deficit in the state budget, as well as new taxes on liquor and oil production.

Schwarzenegger also proposed one-day-a-month unpaid furloughs for state workers for the next 17 months, as well as rescinding two of the workers' 13 paid holidays.

There are also massive spending cuts planned, $4.5 billion in all, including $2.5 billion on primary school education. This is all happening because we have a short-term deficit of maybe $10 billion dollars, with an additional $13 billion dollar shortfall estimated for next year. In all, by the middle of 2010, the projections are that we will be $24 billion in the hole.

This proposal is completely and utterly insufficient to deal with that. A sales tax increase is regressive and there's no way around that. Part of the proposal to extend the sales tax to services like "appliance and furniture repair, vehicle repair, golf fees, veterinarian services, amusement parks and sporting events," according to the LA Times, and this is part of Karen Bass' restructuring of the revenue side. And an oil extraction fee is deeply needed. We're the only oil-producing state in the country that does not charge oil companies to take our natural resources.

But the cuts are pretty cruel. And education isn't the only thing on the chopping block. The Governor wants to eliminate dental insurance through MediCal for poor Californians, cut welfare subsidies, and reduce services for the elderly, blind and disabled. Hey, they don't have lobbyists, right? And this proposal somehow snuck into the package:

• Relaxing some state labor regulations dealing with meal and rest periods, overtime exemptions and work schedules.

Hey, it wouldn't be a Republican plan if there wasn't some giveaway for business.

There is no question that the state's finances are in the worst shape since the Great Depression. But those Californians doing well have shown, as Robert notes today, a desire to pay for those services that can make this a great state. It's aberrant for people who are wealthy to pull up the drawbridge and have no concern for the least of society. Their continued economic good fortune depends on the stability and security of all citizens, as a rising tide lifts all boats. We have been in a constant state of economic crisis for going on eight years because nobody will admit what needs to be done - to have a revenue structure that doesn't reflect the boom-and-bust cycles of the greater economy.

A couple of the things that Schwarzenegger is doing make sense. He is calling for a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures so lenders can work out loan modifications with borrowers, something President-Elect Obama has already proposed and which will improve our economy (a foreclosure costs something like $250,000 a piece to the economy). And his proposal would speed public works programs as a kind of statewide stimulus package. But the very first thing that can be done is to reinstute the automatic VLF increase that Arnold cut and is now scrambling to cover, which would cost the equivalent of $12 a month for most Californians. But Robert Lehman at SEIU has outlined a new progressive version of the VLF that I think would increase revenue and help protect the climate.

Dedicated Revenues. VLF revenues, based on up to 0.65% of vehicle market value, are dedicated (CA Constitution Article 11, Sec. 15, implemented by Proposition 47 in 1986) to cities and counties; some additional VLF revenues above 0.65% may also be partly dedicated to cities and counties, depending on current statutes. It is unclear whether additional revenues from a vehicle GHG-emission-based component of the fee, rather than the vehicle market value, might be obligated to cities and counties. GHG component revenues should be made available for other dedicated purposes, such as improving State transportation GHG emissions through R&D, energy infrastructure improvements, transportation equipment subsidies or incentives, etc.

Progressivity. The VLF is currently based on a flat 0.65% rate applied to the current estimated market value of the registered vehicle. Owners of newer and more expensive vehicles with higher current market values pay higher level fees, while owners of older and less expensive vehicles pay less. People without vehicles who use mass transit, bicycles, or other forms of transportation do not pay the fee. The 2003 reduction of the VLF heavily benefited Gov. Schwarzenegger for example, with his ostentatious fleet of Hummers, while mass transit riders did not benefit at all.

With this flat fee structure, the VLF still absorbs a larger share of low-income vehicle owners’ household income than it does for upper income Californians; the VLF’s moderate regressivity is similar to that of the sales tax in terms of its relative burden on the lowest income quintile compared to the upper quintile (see UCB Incidence paper below, and CBP, “Options for Balancing the Budget: Reinstating the Vehicle License Fee,” 5/8/02, p.2). A more progressive alternative exists. Rather than assessing the fee on the full value of the vehicle as California has done, Virginia exempts the first $5,000 of vehicle value, making the fee more progressive. With a $5,000 exemption, for example, an estimated one third of California vehicles would be exempt from the VLF and owners of slightly higher value vehicles would pay significantly less. The exempt value could be adjusted over time. A restored VLF should initially be based on vehicle value, with a significant deductible amount from this value, and a rate probably set above 2% to compensate for lost revenue.

This is a smart idea and should be the first counterpoint that the state Democrats propose. At some point we must start raising revenue sensibly. Furthermore, doing anything before December 1, when a net of 2 new Democrats in the Assembly and possibly 1 new Democrat in the Senate join the team in Sacramento, would be ridiculous.

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