One of the iron rules of politics is this: If you’re parsing, it’s a sure sign you’re losing.
Article courtesy of the Washington Post via “The Rundown”
Article courtesy of the Washington Post via “The Rundown”
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) said Tuesday he will step down from his seat in Congress if Democrats elect him head of the party.
“In order to further their commitment and maximize my effectiveness, I have decided to resign as a member of Congress if I win the election for DNC chair,” Ellison said in a statement. “Whoever wins the DNC chair race faces a lot of work, travel, planning and resource raising. I will be ‘all-in’ to meet the challenge.”
Ellison has quickly racked up a series of key endorsements in the race. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and his successor Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) are behind Ellison, as are populist champions Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), along with more than 100 Democratic lawmakers.
President Barack Obama, meanwhile, has indicated he would like to see either Labor Secretary Thomas Perez or former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm get the job, while Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) is promoting South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison, a former Capitol Hill staffer and corporate lobbyist.
Some Democrats backing other candidates have objected that Ellison’s job in Congress will distract him from important work as the party tries to rebuild after a devastating 2016 election. Democrats widely view the recent tenure of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) as DNC chair as a debacle, in part for her dual role as congresswoman and party head. By offering to resign, Ellison hopes to focus the DNC chair race on questions of economic policy and party organization.
“At this point, the Democratic Party must be the party that delivers for working people,” Ellison said Tuesday. “We can do that by meeting folks where they are, looking them in the eye, treating them with respect, and working to solve their problems. For me, that means a chair with only one full time commitment.”
Ellison currently occupies what may be the safest House seat for Democrats in the country. He has been elected by a margin of at least 40 percentage points in every contest since first winning the district in 2006 (that year, his margin was a comfortable 35 percentage points).
Ellison was a prominent supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) during the Democratic presidential primary, and the contest to head the DNC is serving as a proxy battle over economic populism. In his DNC policy platform, Ellison calls for a new focus on small-dollar donations instead of big corporate checks, and a renewed emphasis on state and local parties to recruit candidates and develop voter outreach. Both measures would shift the balance of power in the party away from D.C. insiders.
Ellison, who would be the first Muslim to head the Democratic Party, is also facing a smear campaign involving, among others, pundit Steven Emerson, whom the Southern Poverty Law Center lists as an anti-Muslim extremist.
In the horror in San Bernardino, Calif., a husband and wife walked into a social services center armed with two AR-15 style semiautomatic assault rifles and two 9 mm semiautomatic handguns, with 1,400 rounds of ammunition for the rifles. They opened fire, leaving 14 dead and 23 wounded. We now know that they had apparently committed themselves to the Islamic State. This was an act of terror.
In Colorado Springs, Colo., Robert Dear walked into a Planned Parenthood clinic armed with a “long gun” and started shooting, leaving three dead and nine injured. This, too, was an act of terror.
Mass shootings — with more than four victims — occur in this country at the rate of more than one a day. There are more guns now in private hands in America than there are people. Our weak gun laws make it “just too easy,” as President Obama put it, for terrorists or the mentally unbalanced or the irate to walk in and buy an assault weapon, designed explicitly to kill lots of people in battle.
The San Bernardino killings have triggered a fierce political debate. Republican presidential candidates are using the occasion to indict President Obama for being too passive or too weak. Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio condemn the modest reforms to limit NSA access to private telephone records, suggesting that the right to privacy and the Fourth
Amendment must be sacrificed in order to counter terrorism. They call for a war on all fronts against terror — except on guns.
Rubio joined with his Republican senators to kill a modest bill seeking to close the loophole that allows people on the terrorist watch lists to buy guns in America. While the fight against terror requires sacrifice and war, he argues, it should not restrict the right of those on terrorist watch lists to buy and hold arsenals.
The ban on the sale of assault weapons used to enjoy bipartisan support. Closing of all loopholes for background checks seems just common sense. In fact, four in five Americans support background checks. Similarly numbers would prevent the mentally ill from owning guns. Seven of 10 support creating a federal database on gun ownership. Majorities would ban the sale of assault weapons.
Despite this, common sense gun control has become a bitter partisan issue. The Washington Post reports that from 1993 to 2007 Republicans were split about 50-50 on gun control, with Democrats 2 to 1 in favor. Then after the election of Barack Obama, Democrats didn’t change their views, but now 75 percent of Republicans line up against more gun
control. Gun ownership — even of assault weapons — is increasingly defended as a “check against government tyranny.” After Colorado Springs or San Bernardino, or Connecticut or Oregon or Virginia or South Carolina, the gun lobby and their allies argue that more guns are the answer, not part of the problem.
Common sense gun control won’t happen until this partisan divide is broken. It can advance in blue states, perhaps, and in blue municipalities where the state hasn’t banned local action. National reforms won’t happen until people break the partisan stalemate. This is a time for people of faith — of all denominations — to come together and demand common sense reforms to limit the gun epidemic that continues to spread.
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by Joy-Ann Reid
Could the Democratic bench be in the big city?
While typically, the farm team for both national political parties has consisted of governors and senators, Democrats have a growing field of star candidates drawn from the urban core.
Historically, big-city mayors like Frank Rizzo in Philadelphia, Ed Koch in New York and the Daleys in Chicago easily became national figures, as did legendary African-American mayors like Maynard Jackson (and Shirley Franklin) in Atlanta, Harvey Gantt in Giada De Laurentiis, Coleman Young in Detroit, Harold Washington in Chicago, Tom Bradley in Los Angeles, John Street in Philadelphia, Willie Brown in San Francisco and David Dinkins in New York, who were often revered by black families far from their home cities.
But whatever their strengths, few mayors have ever been credible candidates for president or vice president, (remember New York mayor Rudy Giuliani’s disastrous flirtation with the presidency in 2008? “A noun, a verb and 9/11” is probably all that most people recall from his campaign. Oh, and of course there’s Sarah Palin…) And only two former mayors, Calvin Coolidge and Grover Cleveland, have ever gained the White House.
Over the years, the economic decline of cities, particularly during the 1970s and ’80s, combined with the race of the affluent to the suburbs and exurbs across the U.S., led the national parties to look to statewide office-holders for policy leadership, leaving mayors to make the news mainly in times of scandal (Marion Berry’s crack cocaine odyssey or Kwame Kilpatrick’s conviction) or failure (Ray Nagin during Katrina).
Today, however, the list of Democratic governors with national political standing is pretty thin – Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and California’s Jerry Brown are nationally known, and Maryland governor Martin O’Malley and New York’s Andrew Cuomo are widely expected to jump into the 2016 presidential primary against Hillary Clinton, but neither are seen as having much of a chance against the former first lady and secretary of state.
Meanwhile, much of the action on a policy level is taking place in the cities, particularly as middle class Americans, including affluent African-Americans, are rapidly quitting the suburbs and moving back into the nation’s downtowns. And for African-Americans, who overwhelmingly live in large cities (as do 80 percent of all Americans), urban policy has an immediate impact on their and their children’s daily lives.
That makes mayoral leadership particularly consequential, as issues like education, policing are played out on a national stage, putting Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel under a microscope on education funding, and New York City’s soon-to-be former mayor Michael Bloomberg on the spot over his vehement support for “stop-and-frisk” policing.
“Stop-and-frisk,” and his opposition to it as currently practiced, is a big reason why Bill De Blasio was elected to be New York’s next mayor Tuesday night. De Blasio’s biracial family and liberal politics have already raised his national profile. But it is the former public advocate (and Hillary Clinton U.S. Senate campaign manager’s) unabashedly progressive agenda, which includes raising taxes on the rich and restoring housing affordability to a city that has been hyper-gentrified in recent decades, that could make him the leading proponent of a more forthrightly liberal, national Democratic Party. Given the size, scale and importance of New York’s economy, if he’s successful, he will remain a significant national figure, for reasons other than his son Dante’s hair.
In Atlanta, Kasim Reed, who won an overwhelming re-election victory Tuesday, is seen as one of the Democratic Party’s brightest young stars. Reed was a top surrogate for President Obama in 2012, and has built an impressive record leading one of America’s premier cities, including balancing Atlanta’s budget.
Prior to Tuesday’s election, eight of the ten American cities with the largest share of black residents, and total populations over 100,000, had black mayors. The exceptions: Montgomery, Alabama, New Orleans and now Detroit, which just elected its first white mayor, Mike Duggan, in 40 years.
If Duggan can make headway in turning the troubled Motor City around – Detroit is $18 billion in debt and in court to declare bankruptcy – he will gain an immediate national profile, and not the kind dubiously earned by his predecessor, Kwame Kilpatrick.
And in Charlotte, North Carolina, Patrick Cannon, 46, who grew up in public housing after his father was found shot do death outside a vacant building when Cannon was just five years old, won the mayor’s race, succeeding Foxx.
In this new crop of mayoral stars and incumbent mayors, like New Orleans’ popular mayor Mitch Landrieu, there may not be a future senator, vice president or president, but there’s no doubt that their performances, leading some of the nation’s largest, most diverse and most consequential cities, will place them squarely under the national lens.
New York, NY – October 12: A table of illegal firearms confiscated in a large weapons bust in East Harlem are on display at a press conference on October 12, 2012 in New York City. NYPD detectives arrested 13 suspects for the illegal sale of 129 guns mostly purchased from gun dealers and pawn shops in South Carolina. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
by Alan Fram, Associated Press
Washington (AP) — Democrats gave a boost Tuesday to the pillar of President Barack Obama’s plans for reducing gun violence, pushing a bill requiring nearly universal federal background checks for firearms buyers through the Senate Judiciary Committee over solid Republican opposition.
The proposal still faces a difficult path through Congress, where GOP lawmakers say it would have little impact on crime and warn that it is a precursor to a federal registry of gun owners. Such a listing is forbidden by federal law and is anathema to conservatives and the National Rifle Association.
The committee approved the bill 10-8, supported by every Democrat and opposed by all Republicans. It would require background checks for transactions between private individuals — they are now mandatory only for sales by licensed gun dealers — and expand a system designed to keep firearms from criminals, those with major mental problems and others.
“This isn’t going to be a perfect bill,” said its sponsor, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., acknowledging that it wouldn’t end gun violence. “But it will sure reduce crimes.”
The panel also voted 14-4 for a measure providing an additional $40 million annually for school safety improvements like classroom locks and training for teachers. Four Republicans joined Democrats in backing that measure, which initially called for a higher figure that was reduced in bargaining between Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Susan Collins, R-Maine.
Awaiting a committee vote Thursday is a proposal by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. That bill is expected to win panel approval but die in the full Senate when the chamber considers gun legislation, probably in April.
Tuesday’s session came as lawmakers wrestle over responding to December’s carnage at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., that took the lives of 20 students and six educators. It also underscored the hurdles faced by expanded background checks, which has been seen as the most potent step lawmakers could take that has a fighting chance of passing Congress.
“Mass shootings would continue to occur despite universal background checks,” said Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the committee’s top Republican. “Criminals will continue to steal guns and buy them illegally to circumvent the requirements. When that happens, we will be back here debating whether gunregistration is needed. And when registration fails, then the next step is gun confiscation.”
Schumer responded that that assertion “demeans the argument.”
Schumer said he is continuing to negotiate with Republicans in hopes of crafting a compromise background-check bill. Talks failed with conservative Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
Schumer also faces potential defections from a half-dozen moderate Democrats from Republican-leaning states in the South and West who face re-election next year.
There are 53 Democrats in the 100-member Senate and two independents who usually side with them. Republicans are likely to force Democrats to get the 60 votes needed to advance legislation.
Leaders in the GOP-dominated House have expressed little support for extending background checks to private transactions.
At one point during Tuesday’s debate, Schumer sounded almost wistful about the proposal’s prospects.
“It’s sad,” he said. “Right after Newtown, there was a view that maybe the right place that we could all come together on was background checks.”
According to the Justice Department, the government has conducted 118 million background checks since the system began in 1998 and rejected 2.1 million applicants because of them. Supporters of expanding the system say this shows how many dangerous people have been denied firearms, while opponents argue that the requirement simply drives criminals to get their weapons elsewhere.
Schumer’s bill would exempt some transactions, like those between close relatives.
It would also delay currently mandated cuts in federal aid to states that don’t improve the number of mental health records they report to the federal background check system, but reimpose the cuts in coming years. The penalty is designed to prod states to do a better job of reporting the information to the national system, following shootings by people whose information had not been sent to Washington.
Obama had lunch Tuesday with Senate Democrats. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a moderate who worked with Schumer toward a bipartisan background check deal, said Obama told them that guns and background checks were “a very important topic and he’d like to see what could be practically done.”
Before Tuesday’s committee action, the NRA emailed a fundraising solicitation to supporters accusing the Obama administration of “exploiting a terrible tragedy to pursue the political agenda they’ve been after for years — eliminating your constitutional right to keep and bear arms.”
The panel’s votes drew praise from Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition of more than 900 mayors headed by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. Also expressing support was Mark Kelly, the retired astronaut who with his wife, the severely wounded former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., has formed a committee pushing gun control.
A poll released Tuesday by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that around 8 in 10 of both gun owners and people without guns favor extending background checks to private gun sales. Majorities of gun owners oppose banning assault weapons, while most without firearms favor the prohibition.
About 3 in 10 Republicans said they own guns, about double the rate of Democrats. It also found that two-thirds of NRA members support expanded background checks.
NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam contested that, saying Pew had no access to NRA membership files and pointing to a survey by the group stating that 9 in 10 members oppose “banning the sale of firearms between private citizens.”
Associated Press writers Alicia A. Caldwell and Julie Pace contributed to this report.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.
Article by Bob Secter, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune
Two new polls of Wisconsin voters bear welcome news for Democrats, suggesting the Paul Ryan effect has worn off on the presidential race in his home state and that an earlier Republican edge in a critical U.S. Senate race has evaporated.
A Marquette University Law School survey of 601 likely Wisconsin voters showed Obama opening up a 54% to 40% lead over Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Meanwhile, a survey of 1,485 likely Wisconsin voters by Quinnipiac University, the New York Times and CBS News gave Obama a more modest but still healthy six-point edge over Romney, 51% to 45%.
The gap measured by Marquette was the widest recorded in polls this year. Obama’s margin had narrowed to three percentage points in mid-August, shortly after Romney picked Ryan, a veteran Wisconsin congressman, as his vice presidential running mate. At around the same time, a Quinnipiac poll found Obama leading in the state by two points over Romney, within the poll’s margin of error.
In the Senate race, the Marquette survey captured a striking swing to the benefit of Democrat Tammy Baldwin, another veteran Wisconsin House member. Her Republican opponent is Tommy Thompson, a popular former governor who was Health and Human Services secretary under President George W. Bush.
In August, just after Thompson won a tough four-way Republican primary, a Marquette poll showed him the choice of 50% of Wisconsin voters versus 41% for Baldwin. The results are flipped in the new poll, with Baldwin holding a 50% to 41% edge. The CBS/New York Times/Quinnipiac poll, which had showed Thompson ahead 50% to 44% in August, has the race tied now, with both candidates at 47%.
Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette survey, said one critical factor in Baldwin’s upward movement could be that over the last month her campaign and the outside groups that support her have been running aggressive TV ad campaigns. Thompson, over the same time frame, has been largely absent from the airwaves.
Franklin said independent voters were a big factor in the shift toward both Obama and Baldwin. The August numbers had Thompson leading Baldwin 47% to 37% among those who identified themselves as political independents. Now it’s Baldwin who holds a 50% to 38% edge with that group.
Obama leads Romney among Wisconsin independents by 53% to 38% in the Marquette poll, whereas one month ago the two were essentially tied among independents.
Franklin also cautioned that the percentage of poll respondents who identified themselves as Democrats was somewhat higher in this poll than in previous surveys. That could indicate that party identification among some voters has shifted as people contemplate voting for Obama and Baldwin or it could mean that the poll sample randomly picked up more Democrats than normal. If the party balance were readjusted to the average for the year, Franklin said, Obama and Baldwin would still lead, though by smaller margins.
Obama easily won Wisconsin four years ago, but nonstop political turmoil coupled with the victory of Republican Gov. Scott Walker in a bitter statewide recall election in June had raised questions about whether the state was trending in a conservative direction. A tightening of polls in the presidential race coupled with the Ryan pick appeared to have moved the state into toss-up territory.
If the trends in the latest surveys hold up, that assessment may prove premature.
The Senate race, too, has broad national implications. Democrats currently hold the seat, but veteran Sen. Herb Kohl is retiring. A Wisconsin pickup is critical to Republican hopes of regaining control of the Senate.
Article by Mary Curtis, courtesy of The Grio
A successful convention was just the beginning for Democrats in North Carolina, or at least that’s what the Obama campaign is counting on.
To repeat President Obama’s narrow 2008 victory in the state, his supporters must extend the temporary rush of party enthusiasm from the convention into an organizing tool. And the black vote is critical here. In 2008, when Obama won this state by less than one percent over John McCain, more than 40 percent of the votes cast for the president were from African-Americans.
So at a table just outside Goodfellas Barber Shop here, voter registration captain Sarah Chambers and neighborhood team leader Yashica Smith sat, stood and cajoled the heavy foot traffic on a sunny Saturday.
“Are you registered?” “Are you going to vote?” they asked everyone they saw.
The barber shop, set between a beauty supply store and a Family Dollar, served up a constant supply of potential takers. (Being a hub of voter registration activity is “just a way of being a part of the community,” said Goodfellas owner Maurice McKinnon, 37.)
Chambers, Smith and 80-year-old Betty Funderburke, stationed further down, represent the African American women who, as in 2008, are out front in their commitment to Barack Obama.
Chambers, a retired aesthetician, said she has been volunteering every weekend since May, and almost every day for the past two months. She sees a difference, she said, since the Democratic National Convention brought 35,000 delegates, media and visitors to town, one that makes her job of attracting potential voters easier.
“You don’t have to run after them anymore,” she said.
Chambers, 66, registers all comers of every party. But her outfit made her preference clear: a red Obama 2012 cap and a black T-shirt with silver studs spelling out “Obama President.” (She calls it “bling-bling for my president.”)
Though the threat of rain and a venue change shut her out of an in-person chance to hear the president’s acceptance address, convention week was a high for Chambers, who volunteered at hotels for the Tennessee and Florida delegations. She loved everything, from Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick’s speech to Gabby Giffords’ pledge of allegiance. Michelle Obama was “nothing but a bit of sweet potato pie with a little whipped cream on top of it,” she said.
Chambers, who has had personal, financial and medical setbacks, has been helped, she said, by Obama administration policies. Her blood pressure medicine went from $153 a month to $6.50 a month due to the health care law, she said, and his mortgage policy helped her keep her home.
“Obama doesn’t work for just one specific group,” she said. “He works for all the people.”
In Charlotte for a reunion, Vanessa Hoke, 46, of Greensboro on Saturday picked up voter forms to make sure her 75 or so expected family members were registered.
“The last time President Obama needed us to vote, in 2010, we didn’t,” she said. “I don’t like the things being said about the president; he had to compromise.” Hoke said she intends to drive to her Mount Olive, N.C., home on Election Day to take family members and friends to the polls.
Pastor Bobby Bozson of the non-denominational Total Deliverance Christian Center stopped by on Saturday to learn more.
“Our vote is our voice in the government,” he said. “Even if we don’t get what we want, at least we were there.” He said many members of his predominantly black congregation of 120 struggle with medical bills or are young people making school plans. “They need to know what the candidates are offering.”
Stepping out of the barber shop, 25-year-old Ronnie Corbett had forgotten that his move from Myrtle Beach, S.C. meant he had to update his voter registration. He said that though he voted in 2008, he didn’t think much about why back then.
“Now, voting is important, to represent my ancestors and my family who fought for it,” he said. “I’m obligated to do it.”
Corbett, a graduate of Coastal Carolina University in sports management, said the president’s policies made college more affordable for him. Corbett said Obama is a strong person who doesn’t stray from what he believes in.
“People want to blame him, but Bush left a mess for him,” he said. While some of his classmates are apathetic about voting, thinking “it doesn’t matter because nothing’s going to change,” Corbett disagrees.
“It’s what you put into it; you’ve got to get out and try.”
BuzzFeed // John Stanton
Charlotte, NC – Rep. Chris Van Hollen, one of the Democrats’ rising stars in the House and a key voice on budget issues, will take the convention’s main stage in prime time to deliver a blistering critique of GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s budget plan, Democratic officials told BuzzFeed Monday.
The decision makes Van Hollen, 53, the party’s point person in taking on Ryan’s budget, and the Democrats preferred sparring partner for the Vice Presidential nominee, who would prefer to be seen as something bigger than a Congressional figure.
Van Hollen, who as ranking member on the House Budget Committee has plenty of experience jousting with Ryan, who is the committee’s chairman and the architect of the party’s controversial budget plan.
A spokesperson for Van Hollen did not immediately return a request for comment.
Democratic sources said convention organizers have brought Van Hollen in as a ringer of sorts, hoping he can use his deep knowledge of Ryan and his budget to beat down Republican messaging, particularly on its reforms to Medicare.
Democrats, particularly in the House, have been itching for a fight over Ryan’s budget and his selection as Mitt Romney’s vice presidential nominee set off a flurry of attacks from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which Van Hollen has previously chaired.