From The Archives -- Democratic Demagoguery

[ Posted Monday, September 1st, 2014 – 16:47 PDT ]

Note: In case you missed it, please see the separate Program Note I just posted, for an explanation of what to expect in this week's columns.

This was the first column I ever wrote, for the Huffington Post (I didn't start my own blog until a year later, in the summer of 2007). Democrats were the "out" party in both the House and Senate, and I thought it was worth the attempt to get them to focus a little better. In it, you can also see the germination of the idea which later became my weekly "Friday Talking Points" columns.


Originally published June 9, 2006

You've got to hand it to Republicans, they sure know how to demagogue. The Senate spent this week forcing votes on GOP lost causes. First up was the gay marriage amendment, then came repealing the estate tax. and waiting in the wings is a flag-burning amendment. Lefties everywhere have decried these as cheap political stunts designed to generate campaign fodder for the fall midterms. They're missing the point. Sure, these forced votes are cynical political hackery. The real question is: why can't Democrats manage to do the same?

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Program Note

[ Posted Monday, September 1st, 2014 – 16:40 PDT ]

Just to inform everyone: I will be on vacation all week long. There's an off chance that I might write something new on Thursday or Friday, but it is unlikely, so please don't be disappointed if I don't manage to.

Instead of new columns this week, I dug way back into the misty shrouds of time to re-run some of my earliest columns. These are all (except maybe Friday's) from my first two months of blogging, in June and July of 2006. Some of the points made in these early columns are just as relevant (and demanding of attention) now as they were back then -- a sad commentary on our elected officials, in a way. To set the stage: back then, Democrats were in the minority in both houses of Congress, George W. Bush was president, and midterm elections were approaching. Of course, we all now know that the 2006 midterms were a victorious "wave" election for Democrats in Congress, but that was in no way assured when I wrote these columns.

Anyway, sorry for the week of repeats, but even I've got to get away from politics every so often. New columns (starting, hopefully, with the "Obama Poll Watch" column which really should have run today) will resume next Monday. Hope everyone had a happy Labor Day!

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


Friday Talking Points [318] -- The Gender Gap

[ Posted Friday, August 29th, 2014 – 17:25 PDT ]

President Obama gave a press conference recently, and -- since it is still the political Silly Season -- got a lot of media attention. For what he was wearing. No, seriously. Washington was all a-twitter (or even a-Twitter) because Obama wore a suit that was not dark blue or black. While some may smack their heads over the idiocy of what passes as the Washington press corps, the right thing to do is to celebrate how males have finally reached sartorial equality with women, when viewed by political "journalists." This is not a backhanded compliment, I hasten to point out, it is meant as a backhanded insult. Because it is always insulting to a politician to focus on what she (or, now, he) is wearing, instead of reporting on the substance of her words and actions. This has been going on for women in politics for exactly as long as women have been in American politics, right up to Hillary Clinton's pantsuits and Sarah Palin's shopping spree. All women know this -- they will be judged on what they wear, sometimes more than what they say or do. Especially female politicians. President Obama is just getting a tiny taste of what women have had to put up with in the political arena since Day One. So I choose to celebrate this new equality (of the idiocy of the political press), and the closing of this particular part of the gender gap.

Men, of course, have it easier than women when choosing what to don each morning, for two big reasons. One is the fact that they're men, meaning reporters report on what they say and do a lot more than how they look. The second is that there simply aren't that many "acceptable, serious" choices for what men are supposed to wear in the business or political world. Should I wear the dark blue suit, or the black suit with barely-visible pinstripes? That's about the range of choices, really. There are only two acceptable areas for expressing any sort of originality or personality: the tie, and the flag pin. And the flag pin's a fairly recent addition. Women, on the other hand, have no hard-and-fast rules limiting their choices, which serves to make the choice itself much harder (given the wider range of choice offered) -- to say nothing of the standard they'll be held to once they actually do get dressed.

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Moral High Road Unavailable

[ Posted Thursday, August 28th, 2014 – 16:54 PDT ]

It was reported today that the Islamic terrorist group which just murdered an American journalist -- by brutally cutting his head off while cameras were rolling -- has also waterboarded their American prisoners. Unfortunately, while every civilized person is understandably shocked and outraged over the murder, the moral high road is unavailable to America on the question of waterboarding prisoners. This is precisely the scenario many have been warning about for years: If America tortures prisoners, what will we say when others torture American prisoners?

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The Impending Showdown

[ Posted Wednesday, August 27th, 2014 – 16:39 PDT ]

"It's quiet out there... too quiet."

This line (now a full-blown cliché) was usually uttered by sentries in the old Hollywood Westerns, right before a blazing battle erupted -- which is why it seemed so appropriate today. All's been pretty quiet on the political front this August, mostly because town hall "meet your congressman" public events are fast becoming a thing of the past. Oh, sure, there's been some random sniping going on, but no gigantic issue has overshadowed everything else on the political scene (as in 2010, for instance, when we spent all summer arguing over the "Ground Zero mosque"). But we seem to be poised for a showdown when Congress returns to town early next month, and one way or another it may wind up completely defining the midterm election.

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Marijuana Donor Dollars

[ Posted Tuesday, August 26th, 2014 – 17:06 PDT ]

The national Democratic Party is reluctant to support divisive issues, at times. They drag their feet until pressured by a significant faction within their own base to stop waffling and take a clear progressive stand. This is pretty much common knowledge, and the same can actually be said to a differing extent for the Republican Party (although you'd have to replace the word "progressive" with "conservative" to make it work). What usually pressures the national party enough to act is when large party donors begin to threaten to turn off the spigot, which puts the flow of money to the national party at significant risk. Gay marriage advocates (for example) had gotten a lot of lip service and lukewarm support from Democrats, right up until they started drawing a line in the sand: no marriage equality support, no more donations. Which led to not only President Obama but the entire Democratic Party quickly "evolving" on the issue. This may now be starting to happen on the subject of marijuana.

The case in point is an important one, because of the prominence of Debbie Wasserman Schultz -- who is not only a House member from Florida, but also the current head of the Democratic National Committee. Chairing the D.N.C. means not only, at times, speaking ex cathedra for the party on the issues of the day, but also a whole lot of cozying up to donors. Some even call the position "Fundraiser In Chief," which is an amusing way of admitting the truth of the matter. Wasserman Schultz is responsible for filling the campaign chest of the national party, to be blunt. Which is why the spat she's currently in could have farther-reaching consequences than any other Democratic member of Congress.

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Twenty-Five Years Ago -- The "Big One" Of '89

[ Posted Monday, August 25th, 2014 – 16:38 PDT ]

I wrote and published the column below almost five years ago, so I really should have included "From The Archives" in that title (but didn't because it would have made it too choppy, I felt). I had been planning on running it again this October, near the actual anniversary of the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989 (I may still do so, depending on how lazy I feel in October, I should add).

This past weekend, in the middle of the night, the San Francisco Bay Area felt the biggest earthquake since that day in '89. Thankfully, though, it was only a 6.0 on the Richter scale (compared to Loma Prieta's 6.9), thankfully it happened in the middle of the night (when few are out on the streets), thankfully the quake's effects were not felt in nearly so wide an area (the worst damage in 1989 -- in San Francisco and Oakland -- was fully eighty miles from the epicenter), and most thankfully it happened in a largely agricultural area without dense urban populations. All of these things combined for a very low casualty rate for such a large quake. Even so, at least one death has been reported, and others were injured by falling debris and fires (gas line ruptures are common in earthquakes). Any quake of 6.0 or greater is powerful enough to cause major damage, especially if it goes on for more than a few seconds. On a personal note, I live far from Napa and didn't even feel this weekend's quake (granted, I was asleep at the time).

This weekend's quake got plenty of news coverage, starting Sunday morning. So I thought it would be a good time to share my story from the "Big One," which starts with some generalized comments about earthquakes for the benefit of those who have never felt one. Although written five years ago, it doesn't really need updating because earthquakes don't change that much from year to year. If I were writing it today, I might have added: "(insert your own twerking joke here)" behind the sentence: "This causes them to grind against each other occasionally," but even that's a bit dated, now that Miley Cyrus is behaving herself at awards shows.

Kidding aside, though, if you've ever wondered what experiencing a big earthquake is really like, here is my story.


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Friday Talking Points [317] -- Big And Little Brother

[ Posted Friday, August 22nd, 2014 – 17:06 PDT ]

A lot happened in the world of politics this week. People are still dumping buckets of ice water over their heads, for instance. There are actually multiple scandals happening to various governors right now, but since none of them involve sex, the media is mostly ignoring them (with the exception of Rick Perry, perhaps, since the media has been swooning over him ever since he put on a pair of glasses). But we're going to ignore most of it all this week, to focus instead on the aftermath and ramifications of what has been happening in Ferguson, Missouri for the past few weeks.

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The Marijuana Voter Effect

[ Posted Thursday, August 21st, 2014 – 16:39 PDT ]

Do marijuana legalization ballot initiatives help Democrats at the ballot box? Will Democrats even manage to hold onto the Senate because of pro-marijuana voters up north? These are interesting questions, but I have to say that I'm slightly skeptical that any hard-and-fast answers to such questions will be provided this year. We may not know for certain until after the 2016 election is analyzed, in fact. Which means anyone looking for Democrats to change their behavior might have a long wait in front of them, because if the data's not in until after 2016, then things can't be expected to politically shift in a big way until the 2018 elections -- two full election cycles from now.

The basic idea is a tantalizing one for poll-watchers: the pro-marijuana vote is young, and young people are not known for voting in large numbers (especially in non-presidential elections). If dedicated one-issue voters turn out in droves when marijuana legalization is on the ballot, then Democrats could reasonably expect to benefit, since younger voters also lean pretty heavily Democratic in general. But the situation is a lot more complex than it might seem at first glance.

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McConnell's Reconciliation

[ Posted Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 – 16:41 PDT ]

Just to be clear, that title shouldn't be read in a normal fashion. This is not the story of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell having a "Kumbaya" moment with President Obama. It's not even the story of McConnell reconciling with the Tea Party wing of his own party. Instead, I'm using the word "reconciliation" in a very specific rules-of-the-Senate fashion. Because McConnell just revealed to Politico how he intends to govern, should his party take control of the Senate in November -- and it appears that the previously-arcane "budget reconciliation" maneuver will figure heavily in his playbook.

Many are focusing on another aspect of what McConnell is promising to do, which is understandable because shutting down the government has a lot bigger impact on the country than details of how the Senate conducts its business. But, in this case, I'm choosing instead to ignore the forest (as it were) to concentrate on one particular tree.

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