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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New Political Rule Of Thumb

[ Posted Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 – 17:19 PDT ]

[Note: This isn't going to be much of a column, just to warn everyone in advance. It's more of a "here's an idea, please discuss" sort of column, really. I'm busy with site maintenance behind the scenes, which has been time-consuming. Oh, and a quick warning to current site users: you may possibly experience comments which don't automatically post. And to new users: you may possibly experience problems initially posting comments and registering. In both cases, posting a second comment with a simple "my previous comment didn't appear" message helps me track down such problems, so please do so if you experience problems (and if you are able to do so). And thanks for your continued patience, of course.]


In the spirit (perhaps) of Bill Maher, I'd like to propose a "new rule" for politics: Anyone who tells you what "the next election will be all about," over a year before such election takes place, will be wrong.

Maybe that should be a "law" or "principle" or something, rather than a rule, since it isn't really a guideline for anyone to follow or anything. I leave it for the more pedantic to, well... rule on this aspect.

Cheap puns aside, though, the more elections I closely watch, the more this seems to be a truism. Predictions of the main theme in an upcoming election which are made more than a year out (I would actually say "more than nine months out" but I'm hedging my bets, here) are just not going to become reality. The economy either improves or tanks, wars are started or ended, domestic issues either become moot or appear out of nowhere, and personalities appear on the scene unexpectedly. To put it another way: a year is forever, in politics.

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Perry Case Complicates Boehner's Lawsuit

[ Posted Monday, August 18th, 2014 – 16:17 PDT ]

The indictment of Governor Rick Perry of Texas and his subsequent court case are about to complicate things politically for John Boehner. No matter the actual outcome of Perry's case, the arguments made by Perry and his supporters are going to provide an easy equivalence with Boehner's plans to sue President Obama -- an equivalence which would not have existed had Perry not been indicted.

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Friday Talking Points [316] -- Dog Days

[ Posted Friday, August 15th, 2014 – 17:01 PDT ]

Welcome to the "Dog Days" of summer, at the height of the political Silly Season. This year, one dog did indeed have his day in August, as 7-year-old "Duke" just won a rather bizarre election to become mayor of Cormorant, Minnesota. The strangest thing (to us) was that the "12 people in the village each paid $1 to cast a vote." Um, didn't we make poll taxes illegal quite a while back? The job (and the election) are assumably only "ceremonial" (at least we hope so), but still "Dog Elected Mayor," as a headline, is right up there with "Man Bites Dog." As for Duke's mayoralty, well, it's a "Ruff!" job but someone's got to do it, we suppose. So to speak (or roll over, or shake... good boy!)

In other news, dumping a bucket of ice water over your head is, apparently, now no longer reserved for winning football coaches, and has instead become an activity for the whole family to enjoy. Or something.

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Gregory Out, Todd In At Meet The Press

[ Posted Thursday, August 14th, 2014 – 17:21 PDT ]

Well, it looks like this time around, the rumors turned out to be true. David Gregory is leaving his hosting gig on Meet The Press, and will be replaced by Chuck Todd. Perhaps NBC has some sort of "only people with two first names can host" rule, or something. By this rule, it seems like Andrea Mitchell might have qualified, but Rachel Maddow would have had to have been named something like "Rachel Margaret" to really have had a shot at it.

Ahem. Sorry, that was a little frivolous, wasn't it? I apologize, but it's hard not to be just a tiny bit giddy about the news, since I've been calling on NBC to get rid of David Gregory as host for quite a while now (I've even previously devoted two entire articles to the subject). I explain my reasoning in the first of these (entitled "Please Demote David Gregory, NBC") thusly:

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Obama Prepares To Walk The Immigration Tightrope

[ Posted Wednesday, August 13th, 2014 – 17:00 PDT ]

President Obama is about to walk a political tightrope, on immigration reform. We know this because the White House has been hinting for weeks that Obama will be making an announcement outlining a big policy change. Obama himself will be fulfilling a promise he made earlier this year -- that if Congress couldn't manage to act before the August break, then he would. This is going to be a risky action for Obama to take, for many reasons (hence the tightrope metaphor). How it all plays out is anyone's guess, at this point.

If the White House leaks are to be believed, what the president is contemplating is deferring deportation for up to five million people. If true, this will be a significant shift in policy which will change the lives of almost half of the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States.

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How President Hillary Clinton Would Compare With President Obama

[ Posted Tuesday, August 12th, 2014 – 17:04 PDT ]

I realize that to call this column "premature" would indeed even be an understatement. But you'll have to forgive me, since it's one of those lazy summer days where all of Washington is off on vacation (President Obama is taking two weeks at the beach, and Congress is taking the entire freakin' month off, as usual). So it seems like a good time for some unadulterated speculation of the sheerest sort. And I'm not even going to get drawn in to all the 2016 election speculation today. I'm going to skip over it all and just jump forward to January, 2017, as we all watch the first woman inaugurated to the presidency.

OK, I do realize that a whole bunch of things might happen which could preclude this event from taking place. Hillary Clinton might not even run. A Democrat could beat her in the primaries (it's happened before...). A Republican candidate could beat her in the general election. All sorts of possibilities exist, to be sure. But just for the sake of this article, I'm going to assume nothing derails the Hillary Express, and she not only clears the Democratic field but also posts an impressive landslide in the Electoral College (over whatever hapless Republican gets the nomination).

The question I wish to explore, having posited all of that, is what kind of president Hillary Clinton would turn out to be? More to the point, how would she be different than her Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama? Now, before anyone accuses me of Hillary-bashing (or possibly even misogyny), I do think that the difference between President Hillary Clinton and any Republican who might run against her are so profoundly obvious that they don't even bear mentioning for the purposes of this column. The two parties are widely divided on almost every issue before the country, and needless to say the Republican agenda speaks for itself. So Hillary Clinton's election would be a victory against that agenda, and I would doubtlessly cheer such a victory in relief that we won't have four years of (shudder) President Cruz or President Paul -- or any other Republican. Just to be clear, up front. But the question still remains: how would Hillary be different than Barack?

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The Obama Tactic

[ Posted Monday, August 11th, 2014 – 17:28 PDT ]

American aircraft are once again waging war over the skies of Iraq. President Obama, as many have pointed out, is now the fourth United States president in a row to order some form of military offensive in Iraq. As always, plenty of critics immediately popped up to loudly explain what the president was doing wrong. The usual characters on the right demanded a much more intensive military action, the ones on the left warned darkly about slippery slopes and possible blowback, and the American people seemed to heave a sigh of resignation, in a "here we go again" moment.

One big complaint about Obama's action (or lack thereof) was that it failed to fit into some unifying overall Middle East strategy. This can be summed up in the form of a question: "What is the Obama Doctrine?" Where is the logical, rational explanation of what American stands for in this volatile region of the world? Why can't Obama just go on television and soothe the nerves of the country by putting it all into some sort of comforting narrative?

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Friday Talking Points [315] -- Past, Present, And Future

[ Posted Friday, August 8th, 2014 – 17:28 PDT ]

We've got a lot to cover today (as that headline should evince), but before we begin examining the anniversaries, elections, and politics of the week, I'd like to begin instead by promoting a video.

Yes, this is unusual for me, since I normally favor the written word above multimedia showiness, but this is a noteworthy video of a very special song. The story of the Polish band Taraka, and how their song "Give Ukraine A Helping Hand" became an unofficial anthem of the Ukrainian people's revolution earlier this year (which ran in my Wednesday column, as narrated by the band's manager and producer) is an incredibly heartwarming one, which is why I wanted to draw attention to it here before getting on with the usual weekly snark-fest. The video which accompanies the English version of the song is powerful, and the song itself sends chills down the spine. I urge everyone to take three minutes and give it a listen. You won't easily forget it.

My friends are falling, their memories are always with me
Darkness surrounds us, the stars above us are still clear,
Stand by me, your hopes and dreams will give me courage.
Ukraine is calling, so tell me will you care to hear?

Hear our voices in solitude they sorrow,
In our voices the promise of tomorrow
We made our choices, now bow our heads to pray
As a river, we'll always find our way.

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