AMERICAblog NewsAMERICAblog News A great nation deserves the truth // One of America's top progressive sites for news and opinion Fri, 05 Feb 2016 17:56:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 John Kasich isn’t a moderate: Collective bargaining Fri, 05 Feb 2016 17:56:19 +0000 This may not be a mark against a candidate in a Republican primary, but then again, none of the other posts in this series have been, either. That’s sort of the point.

John Kasich hates unions. A lot.

Ohio’s rate of unionization is only slightly higher than the national average, but the state has long been held as being the buckle of the Rust Belt. Union workers are central to Ohio’s identity, and Ohio is one of the few states left where they wield a significant amount of political power.

kasich horse

John Kasich, marauding against the unions

That political power was put to the test by John Kasich almost immediately after he took office. Citing the economic downturn and revenue shortfalls, and coming off of sweeping victories in the 2010 elections, Republicans in the state had argued that massively curtailing collective bargaining rights was the only way to ensure that Ohio could balance its budget. Unions, Democrats and others throughout the state (correctly) argued that these budgetary concerns were little more than a thinly-veiled excuse to do what conservatives in the state had wanted to do for decades: gut unions.

Their concerns didn’t matter — at least not at first. In March of 2011, only a few months after being elected governor, Kasich signed Senate Bill 5 into law. SB 5 prohibited public sector unions from negotiating wages, eliminated automatic pay increases and banned strikes. It also made it more difficult for public sector unions to collect membership dues. No one from the affected unions was asked for input on the bill, which only passed by one vote in the State Senate over massive protests at the Ohio State House.

Unlike a similar bill in Wisconsin that was passed and subsequently blocked by a judge around the same time, SB 5 did not exempt police officers and firefighters, who were prohibited from negotiating with cities over necessary manpower, potentially leaving critical services critically understaffed.

I can’t imagine why Kasich would be excited to stick it to police unions:

SB 5’s passage triggered an immediate organizing effort to put it on the November ballot for possible repeal. 1.3 million people signed the petition to put the bill up for a referendum (only slightly more than 230,000 signatures were necessary), and the campaign against the bill saw roughly the same level of enthusiasm as the governors’ race that had been held a year earlier. In fact, when all was said and done, voter turnout in 2011 (an off-year election) was only two percentage points lower than it was in 2010, a year in which Ohioans were voting for a new governor and senator.

The bill was defeated by a 61-39 margin, with even a large subset of Republicans in the state agreeing that Kasich’s union busting efforts had gone too far.

In the wake of the bill’s defeat, Kasich shrugged his shoulders and said that, while he was willing to tolerate the voters’ decision, that didn’t mean he accepted it. Warning of a coming fiscal crisis brought on by out of control public spending on unionized workers — those pesky teachers, nurses, police officers and firefighters — Kasich warned that “There is no bailout coming.”

His prediction that public sector unions would bankrupt the state never panned out.

In a Republican primary, a record of trying to steamroll unions is a badge of honor — proof of conservative bona fides. But John Kasich’s pitch to New Hampshire voters is that he isn’t a fighter; he’s a uniter. He is traveling across the state this weekend pleading with voters that, if elected, he will work with Democrats to pass compromise legislation based on conservative principles. To hear him tell it, he’s the reasonable alternative to Donald Trump, who will screw over anyone standing in his way to get what he wants.

Which is exactly what Kasich tried to do to unions as governor.


Sanders and Clinton each won different parts of last night’s debate Fri, 05 Feb 2016 16:11:49 +0000 Last night’s debate was actually pretty fun to watch. With Martin O’Malley out, the moderators were able to, in for much of it, simply sit back and let Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders go at it.

And go at it they did.

On balance, the end result can probably be best summarized as a tie. But that doesn’t mean each candidate doesn’t have a plausible case to make that they won. Those cases just rest on different parts of the debate:

Bernie Sanders is out of his depth on foreign policy

This has been a common thread in Democratic debates, but it was especially true last night. Every time the discussion turns to foreign policy, it’s very clear that Bernie Sanders wants that part of the night to be over. He conflated the religious and geopolitical factors that contribute to the conflict in the Middle East, he couldn’t think on his feet when he was asked a question about Afghanistan instead of Syria and he can’t articulate a broader foreign policy worldview other than “I voted against the Iraq War.” At the very least, he needs to come up with something from this decade to go along with that one credential. Thus far, he hasn’t.

This is a huge shame, given that there is a massive opening for a candidate to make a progressive critique of Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy, which is much farther to the right than her economic or social views. Listening to Clinton talk about global affairs, it’s abundantly clear that she is simply more knowledgeable than any presidential candidate we’ve seen in quite a while. However, Sanders has thus far been unable to effectively make the case that not all experience is good experience, since, again, all he’s got to fall back on is the Iraq War.

This means that not only is Hillary Clinton able to, in a Democratic primary, get away with talking up the fact that (war criminal) Henry Kissinger thinks she did a good job as Secretary of State, as she did last night, but she is also able to including his approval on her website. Sanders has spent a lot of time and energy suggesting that Hillary Clinton’s paid speeches to Goldman Sachs call into question her credibility when she says she’s an economic progressive. He has spent no time or energy pointing out that, for a progressive, Henry Kissinger is a very odd person to count as a friend.

Speaking of progressives…


Bernie Sanders really is more progressive

This week and last night’s debate were both marked by a rather silly fight over the word “progressive.” To get a sense of how silly it’s been, the issue was initially raised during an exchange between Sanders’s and Clinton’s Twitter accounts.

Sanders thinks that the label doesn’t apply to Clinton, given her moderate-to-conservative positions on certain issues and actual self-description as a moderate earlier in the campaign. Clinton, rightly, has pointed out that, based on Sanders’s criteria, stripping the “progressive” label from her requires that it also be stripped from President Obama, most members of the Democratic Party and even, perhaps, Bernie Sanders, who has described himself as a moderate on issues like gun control.

But while I think Clinton wins the narrow point that the labels game here is silly and dumb, it would be equally dumb to insist that there isn’t real ideological space between Clinton and Sanders — in particularly on core structural issues, as well as economic issues. The clearest articulation of this difference came right at the end of the debate.

With many issues left uncovered, Chuck Todd took three that hadn’t been mentioned — immigration reform, climate change and gun control — and asked each candidate to prioritize them. Citing President Obama’s commitment to health insurance reform, Todd pointed out that a president is most likely to get the first parts of their agenda passed (“Had he put immigration reform first, perhaps that gets done and healthcare doesn’t”).

Neither candidate directly answered the question — it’s a minefield of a question since ranking one higher means alienating Democrats who care more about the other two — but they each pivoted back to more comfortable terrain in different ways. Here’s the first part of Clinton’s answer:

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, screenshot via CNN / YouTube

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, screenshot via CNN / YouTube

I don’t accept that premise, Chuck. I think that we’ve got so much business we have to do. We’ve talked a lot tonight about what we’re against — we’re against income inequality. We’re against the abuses of powerful interests. We’re against a lot of things.

I’m for a lot of things. I don’t want to just stop bad things from happening, I want to start good things from happening. And I believe, if I’m so fortunate to get the nomination, I will begin to work immediately on putting together an agenda, beginning to talk with members of Congress and others about how we can push forward.

Clinton then recited a long list of things she is for — more solar panels, lower prescription drug costs, small business growth — without giving any indication as to which will be priorities for her. For a candidate who has criticized her opponent for fantasizing about having it all, Clinton seemed awfully close to suggesting that she can get her entire agenda through a Republican-controlled Congress, provided that the items on that agenda are small enough.

For his part, Sanders didn’t rank-order climate change, immigration reform and gun control, either. But check out the direction Sanders pivoted:

I am absolutely supportive of comprehensive immigration reform and a path towards citizenship for 11 million people today who are living in the shadows. All right? We got to do that.

But you miss — when you looked at the issues, you missed two of the most important. And that is you’re not going to accomplish what has to be done for working families and the middle class unless there is campaign finance reform.


There were a few problems with the specifics Sanders went on to list in the second half of his answer. For starters, he doubled down on his promise to make overturning Citizens United a litmus test for any Supreme Court nominee — a much more complicated proposition than Sanders is letting on. He also said that his next-most important priority, after campaign finance, was getting more people involved in the political process; but rather than naming policies that would do so, like national automatic voter registration, he suggested that he’d organize protests outside of the Capitol to pressure Mitch McConnell into accepting his demands.

But that doesn’t mean Sanders’s pivot didn’t make more sense than Clinton’s. Chuck Todd asked both candidates to rank climate change, immigration reform and gun control in order of which issues they’d tackle first as president, and Sanders was the only candidate to point out that none of those issues will be dealt with in any meaningful way given the political system we have. There are well-organized, well-financed interests standing against necessary progress on these major issues, and they’re operating in a system already biased toward the status quo. Sanders wants to work to change that; Clinton doesn’t think it’s worth the effort.

Which means that if you think major structural reforms are needed in order to tackle political inequality, along with economic inequality, then there really is only one person in this presidential race who has anything to offer you. Hillary Clinton is perfectly content to manage and work within the existing political system in order to make tweaks on the margins. Sanders wants to fundamentally alter the system such that bigger, better policy changes are possible.

Speaker Ryan passes the buck on Voting Rights Act restoration Thu, 04 Feb 2016 18:25:01 +0000 House Speaker Paul Ryan told members of the Congressional Black Caucus today that, while he personally supports the bipartisan legislation pending in the House that would restore the sections of the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court struck down in 2013, he won’t bring that legislation up for a vote.

From the Hill:

Paul Ryan, via Mel Brown /

Paul Ryan, via Mel Brown /

“He said it right in front of everybody — he said he supports the [Jim] Sensenbrenner bill,” Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), said after Ryan met with the group on Capitol Hill.

“So somebody was saying, ‘Well, why don’t you go tell your committee chair to do it?’ ” Cleaver added. “And he said, … ‘Look, I can’t do that.’ ”

Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), a former chairman of the Judiciary panel, has sponsored bipartisan legislation to update the Voting Rights Act (VRA) in response to a 2013 Supreme Court decision that gutted a central provision of the 1965 law.

But Sensenbrenner’s proposal does not have the backing of the current Judiciary chairman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who maintains the Supreme Court left ample protections in the VRA, thereby making congressional action unnecessary.

Ryan told the CBC Wednesday that any voting rights legislation must move by that bottom-up process, Cleaver said.

“He said, ‘I told my own conference I’m not going to do it, so I’m not going to come up here and tell you anything differently. … I want it to be the product of the committee,’ ” Cleaver said.

2016 will mark the first presidential election since the Supreme Court took away federal preclearance requirements from states and localities with histories of racial discrimination in voting laws. 16 states have passed voting restrictions since the last presidential election — many of which were introduced less than 24 hours after the Supreme Court’s ruling. Some of those restrictions are being challenged in court.

Those court challenges are largely based on mounting evidence that these laws really do have racially discriminatory effects, suggesting that the protections the Supreme Court left in place really aren’t enough to protect voting rights for low-income and minority voters. Representative Goodlatte can say he feels that the current protections are enough, but he’s simply wrong. If Speaker Ryan really thought so, he could move these additional protections through.

By refusing to do so and blaming a subordinate, all he’s done instead is pass the buck. Shame on him.

Studies: Voter ID laws skew turnout in favor of white Republicans, racial resentment predicts support for them Thu, 04 Feb 2016 17:58:59 +0000 Two new papers are out showing that, as progressives have been saying for years, voter ID laws have racially discriminatory effects, and that racial resentment among whites is one of the strongest predictors of support for them.

The first paper, from three researchers at the University of California San Diego, examined the effect of strict voter ID laws (laws that require, not request, photo identification) on turnout, controlling for other factors such as electoral competitiveness (Was there a statewide election that year?), existing voting laws (Does the state have early voting, same day registration, etc.?) and other demographic variables (age, income, etc.). As the authors note, “The key test is not whether turnout is lower in strict voter ID states but instead whether the turnout gap between whites and non-whites is greater in strict voter ID states.” So it doesn’t do voter ID law proponents any good to point out that turnout went up among black voters in some states with strict voter ID laws in 2012; the question is whether it would have gone up more had the laws not been in place.

The answer to that question is yes. From ThinkProgress:

Can't Vote, via Daniel Lobo / Flickr

Can’t Vote, via Daniel Lobo / Flickr

“For Latinos in the general election, the predicted gap more than doubles from 4.9 points in states without strict ID laws to 13.5 points in states with strict photo ID laws,” the study found. That gap increased by 2.2 points for African Americans and by 5 points for Asian Americans. The effect was even more pronounced in primary elections.

The study found that strict voter ID laws had little impact on younger voters as a whole, while there were “small indications” that poorer Americans were adversely impacted, though likely not to the same degree racial minorities were.

Given that minorities tend to vote overwhelmingly Democratic, researchers were left with little doubt that strict voter ID laws were hurting Democratic candidates.

In a key finding, the study showed that “Democratic turnout drops by an estimated 8.8 percentage points in general elections when strict photo identification laws are in place,” compared to just 3.6 percentage points for Republicans. Even worse for the left is the impact on the ideology of the electorate. “For strong liberals the estimated drop in turnout in strict photo identification states is an alarming 7.9 percentage points,” researchers found. “By contrast, strong conservatives actually vote at a slightly higher rate – 4.8 points – in strict ID states, all else equal.”

As previous research has found, the bulk of these effects come not from voters showing up at the polls and being turned away because they lack proper ID, but rather because they discourage people — many of whom have proper ID — from showing up in the first place. As it turns out, when you tell people that it’s harder to vote, they are less likely to turn out. When white people make it very clear that they are making it harder for black and brown people to vote, people in those same minority groups are likely to perceive the cost of voting as being higher, and are therefore less likely to turn out.

In short, voter ID laws reduce turnout for everyone, but they reduce turnout much more for people of color than they do for whites, and most people of color happen to be Democrats. There’s a reason why the people pushing these laws are, unanimously, white and Republican, and there’s a reason why Republican support for voter ID laws increases (from 94% to 99%) when you tell them that those laws will make it harder for people to vote.

Which brings us to the next study.

This one, published last year by the MIT Political Science Department, looked at a number of variables to identify predictors of an individual’s support of or opposition to strict voter ID laws. The study measured the relationship between support for strict ID laws and age, gender, ideology, education, race, geography, news consumption, attitudes toward voter fraud and racial resentment.

The results? Republican support for strict voter ID laws was, as noted above, near-universal. The laws are more or less taken as a given in party orthodoxy. However, controlling for partisanship produced a few interesting findings. Namely, while there were weak relationships between support for strict voter ID laws and ideology, along with attitudes toward voter fraud, racial resentment among white respondents was one of the single most predictive variables for strict voter ID law support:

So, to recap: Strict voter ID laws have partisan and racially discriminatory effects, and as such are supported by the partisans and racial groups that stand to benefit from them.

In other words, there is now data to support what progressives have been saying about these laws all along.

Ex-gay conversion therapists flee US, find home in Israel Thu, 04 Feb 2016 17:04:30 +0000 Ex-gay conversion “therapy” is in retreat throughout much of the United States. Not only is momentum building to ban it on a state-by-state basis, but the federal government and President Obama have also endorsed bans on the practice on the grounds that it is unscientific abuse.

While the practice is still legal in way too many parts of the country, it’s fair to say that it’s going out of style.

But the people who have been practicing ex-gay conversion “therapy,” but are no longer able to due to state-level bans, aren’t content to find other work. Instead, they’re moving to a place where they are free to abuse LGBT teens: Israel.

From the Associated Press:

LGBT Israel, via Wikimedia Commons

LGBT Israel, via Wikimedia Commons

A leading American Jewish group promoting therapy it said could turn gays to heterosexuals was ordered shut in December by a New Jersey court, amid growing efforts in the U.S. to curb the generally discredited practice. But therapists with ties to the shuttered group say they have found a haven for their work in Israel.

Israel’s Health Ministry advises against so-called “gay conversion” or “reparative” therapy, calling it scientifically dubious and potentially dangerous, but no law limits it. In Israel, practitioners say their services are in demand, mostly by Orthodox Jewish men trying to reduce their same-sex attractions so they can marry women and raise a traditional family according to their conservative religious values.

Clients also include Jewish teenagers from the U.S. and other countries who attend post-high school study programs at Orthodox seminaries in Israel. Half of all such students attend seminaries that require youth who admit to having homosexual feelings to see reparative therapy practitioners, according to the Yeshiva Inclusion Project, a group that counsels gay prospective students.

Yeah, remember JONAH? The Orthodox Jewish conversion therapy group that a New Jersey jury unanimously found guilty of fraud for claiming that they could “cure” teenagers of their same-sex attractions? Its members are setting up shop in Israel, since what was totally illegal in New Jersey is perfectly legal there.

The Israel Psychological Association and Israel’s Health Ministry have taken a similar position as their counterparts in the United States, finding that there is no evidence that LGBT people can be “converted.” However, practitioners who have set up shop in Israel after leaving the US have said that the reception they get in Israel is far more welcoming.

I can’t imagine why.

Activists and lawyers in Israel argue that, while ex-gay conversion “therapy” may not be outlawed in Israel, it’s possible to make a legal case that practitioners who don’t inform clients of the Israeli government’s position on the practice could have their psychological licenses revoked. However, while practitioners currently don’t regularly provide clients with that information, they don’t seem to think being required to do so would matter that much. As the AP continued:

[Ex-gay practitioner Dr. Elan] Karten says he tells patients he cannot guarantee therapy will succeed, but that it is not a routine part of his therapy to discuss with them the government positions.

“Let’s say someone’s coming to me, and they’re religious. They could open the position statement of the Israel Psychological Association, or they could open the Torah,” he said. “They’re going to probably look at what the IPA says and say, ‘That’s nice, but I still have this to contend with. I have dreams to be a father and a husband.'”

Placed in the context of the recent intra-progressive debate over LGBT equality in Israel, cases like these go to show that while Israel is in many ways progressive on social equality, its government and culture still privilege religious fundamentalism to a dangerous degree. Religious hucksters whose religious beliefs and practices are considered too unfounded and harmful to be tolerated in the United States are able to find acceptance for those unfounded and harmful beliefs in Israel.

It goes to show how much work there is to be done — even in countries we think of as relatively gay-friendly.

Trump wins competition for who can say the worst thing about Obama’s mosque visit, but it’s close Thu, 04 Feb 2016 15:04:18 +0000 President Obama visited the Islamic Society of Baltimore yesterday, marking the first time during his presidency that he has visited a mosque. He gave a completely non-controversial speech about how acceptance is good, discrimination is bad and that anti-Muslim bigotry has become an especially serious problem recently in the wake of  the Paris and San Bernardino shootings.

At least, that’s what people listening to the speech heard. If you’re Marco Rubio, all you heard was the president “pitting people against each other.” As he said, quoted by the Huffington Post:

President Obama speaking at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, screenshot via

President Obama speaking at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, screenshot via

I’m tired of being divided against each other for political reasons like this president’s done. Always pitting people against each other. Always! Look at today: He gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims.

Of course there’s discrimination in America, of every kind. But the bigger issue is radical Islam. And by the way, radical Islam poses a threat to Muslims themselves. They argue that. They’ll tell you that. But again, it’s this constant pitting people against each other. I can’t stand that. It’s hurting our country badly.

For Rubio, discrimination is bad, but Islam is worse, so until we kill all the terrorists dead, it’s okay to put up with discrimination against Muslims. Noted.

But Rubio’s derping in response to Obama’s mosque visit couldn’t hold a candle to Donald Trump, though, who brushed past the “divisiveness” dog whistle and just flat-out called Obama a Muslim. Said Trump, asked by Greta Van Susteren about Obama’s visit (emphasis added):

I don’t have much thought. I think he can go to lots of places. Right now, I dunno…maybe he feels comfortable there. We have a lot of problems in this country, Greta, a lot of places he can go, and he chose a mosque…so that’s his decision. That’s fine.

43 percent of Republicans still believe President Obama is a Muslim, according to a CNN/ORC poll released in September.

John Kasich isn’t a moderate: Reproductive rights Thu, 04 Feb 2016 13:00:14 +0000 These days the headlines are popping off as a brilliant array of colorful candidates seek to capitalize on the whims of voters, penning statements and attempting to frame their records as the winds of the primary season howl around them. Ohio governor John Kasich is no exception, attempting to walk the tightrope between appealing to the Republican Party’s increasingly conservative and evangelical base without losing the mass of undecided and Independent voters any Republican candidate will need to hold up in the general election.

John Kasich, via Michael Vadon / Flickr

John Kasich, via Michael Vadon / Flickr

While Governor Kasich likes to point to his record on healthcare as a sign of his unifying ability — don’t you know he Did the Right Thing and expanded Medicaid? — his tenure in Columbus has been marked by consistent and persistent attacks on women’s health.

“Don’t be fooled- John Kasich is no moderate” cries a Planned Parenthood press release.

“John Kasich is no moderate when it comes to abortion rights,” The Nation alerts its readers.

Mother Jones tells us “How Ohio. Gov. John Kasich is Making Life Hell for Women Seeking Abortions.”

They aren’t exaggerating. As an admitted news junkie myself, I spent this summer at home with my family, and each morning I would sit and peruse the Toledo Blade, my local paper, while eating breakfast. What I read was shocking.

In 2013 the state of Ohio began requiring abortion providers to acquire “transfer-agreements” with local hospitals in case of an emergency. Kasich billed it as a measure to protect women’s health and safety despite the fact that hospitals already are required by law to admit emergency cases. The law’s intended effect, of course, has very little to do with women’s health, as surgical abortion in a medical facility is a safe and routine outpatient procedure.

Following the passage of the transfer agreement legislation, state lawmakers slipped provisions into a budget bill (which Kasich signed) that forbid state-funded hospitals and clinics from entering into such transfer agreements. Measures that became enforceable on December 1, 2015 also included restricting insurance coverage for pregnancy terminating procedures to cases of life endangerment, rape or incest — not only for public employees, but for any health plan offered in the state’s health exchange under the Affordable Care Act. In addition, the bill requires a medically unnecessary ultrasound to test for a fetal heartbeat, driving up costs. Indeed, the true impact of these laws has been just as lawmakers hoped: since the bill passed, five of Ohio’s 14 surgical abortion-providing clinics have closed.

The status of abortion access in my hometown of Toledo, Ohio serves as an excellent case study. After the passing of the 2013 law, Capital Care Network became the only abortion clinic in a metropolitan area of roughly one million people. As is the case throughout the state, Catholic-affiliated hospitals make up a large percentage of the private healthcare sector, thus forcing Capital Care Network to enter into an agreement with the University of Michigan hospital system, following rejection at other local hospitals and certainly under pressure from anti-abortion groups.

Kasich’s administration then argued that the UM hospital, roughly 50 miles from Toledo, was too far away, prompting the state Senate attempted to pass a budgetary line limiting the maximum distance for such transfer agreements to 30 miles. As the Toledo Blade editorial page explained, “The Senate added these rules to the budget without debate or public input, because lawmakers know most Ohioans don’t support such Draconian restrictions on abortion.”

To recap: John Kasich imposed a medically unnecessary requirement on Ohio’s abortion providers, which he then used as a tool to effectively outlaw surgical abortion clinics in all but a select few geographic areas in the state.

What’s happening regarding abortion access and women’s health issues in my hometown of Toledo is even more baffling when compared to the existing regulations in my current place of residence, Ankara, the capital city of Turkey. Ankara has a population of roughly 4.6 million, whereas the population of the state of Ohio is about 18 million. In the entire state of Ohio there are currently 9 abortion providers. In the city of Ankara alone, there are 129. By a simple per-capita measure, that makes it 56 times more difficult to find an abortion clinic in Ohio than it is in Ankara.

As a native Ohioan who faces constant questioning about my experience as a non-Muslim American woman living here in Turkey, I cite this statistic not only because it’s a useful example to counter the assumptions the average American has about women and the Middle East, but also because it is a telling example of just how regressive policies affecting women are under John Kasich, and in the United States more generally. To be clear, Turkey’s regulations regarding abortion access are far from perfect, but it is telling that in a country notorious for its conservative leadership, abortion access remains far more attainable for the average woman here than in the state of Ohio under John Kasich.

Since taking office in 2011, Kasich has signed into law no less than 11 provisions that restrict a woman’s right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. In so doing, not only has Kasich risked violating the U.S. Constitution (his restrictions are being challenged in court as I write), his policies fly in the face of the United Nations recent affirmation of abortion as a human right. Not insignificantly, Kasich’s actions to restrict abortion access have also run afoul of public opinion.

Despite campaign platitudes to moderation, John Kasich’s record is abundantly clear. When it comes to safe, legal (let alone affordable) access to medical procedures, Kasich’s stance is anything but moderate.

Santorum will exit tonight Wed, 03 Feb 2016 19:14:34 +0000 Rick Santorum is dropping out of the 2016 presidential race. He has scheduled an announcement for tonight, where he plans to endorse another candidate.

In other news, Rick Santorum was still running for president as of this morning.

Santorum received just 1,783 votes in the Iowa caucuses, only finishing ahead of Jim Gilmore and “other.”


Rick Santorum fixing gun violence, via Wikimedia Commons

Rick Santorum contemplating his future, via Wikimedia Commons

Democratic Election Assistance commissioner pushes back on state proof-of-citizenship requirements Wed, 03 Feb 2016 18:45:49 +0000 Earlier this week, the Election Assistance Commission announced that it had granted requests from Kansas, Georgia and Alabama to require proof-of-citizenship for voter registration. This amounted to a capitulation by the EAC, which had previously won court battles against Kansas and Arizona over this very issue. As election law professor Rick Hasen explained:

After a bunch of litigation, where things stood until recently was: these states had to accept the federal form for voting in federal elections. KS took the position that it did not have to allow voting by those using the federal form in state elections.  A state court recently rejected this two-tiered voting system, but the issue was on appeal.

Hasen also pointed out on Monday that EAC’s executive director, Brian Newby, is himself from Kansas. According to MSNBC’s Zachary Roth, he is claiming that he has the authority to change state-level requirements for federal voter registration without changing the federal voter registration form itself.

This leaves many observers, myself included, confused as to why the EAC would backtrack on an issue it had already won. Granting three states exceptions from a fairly straightforward rule, without any evidence showing that such changes were necessary, is really strange.

Not only that, but the lone Democratic commissioner on the EAC, Tom Hicks, disagrees with his executive director. As he wrote in a statement earlier today, the move “contradicts policy and precedent,” and that Newby lacked the authority to make these changes on his own:

The Election Assistance Commission, via Wikimedia Commons

The Election Assistance Commission, via Wikimedia Commons

The Executive Director of the United States Election Assistance Commission (EAC) issued letters to the states of Kansas, Georgia, and Alabama granting the states’ request to amend the state instructions to the federal voter registration form, a decision that contradicts policy and precedent previously established by this Commission. The Executive Director unilaterally moved to alter the federal voter registration form to reflect those states’ proof of citizenship requirements though a proposed change to the form beyond a simple change of election office address or phone number. Any material change to the form should be at the guidance of the agency’s Commissioners following a notice and public comment period. In fact, the Commission’s vote in early spring affirmed that agency staff does not have the authority to make policy decisions and further clarifying the role of the Executive Director in its Organizational Management Policy Statement by stating that the Executive Director in consultation with the Commissioners, may only “(1) prepare policy recommendations for commissioners approval, (2) implement policies once made, and (3) take responsibility for administrative matters.” The Commission has addressed this matter several times over the last decade and voted to decline requests to add conflicting language to the federal voter registration form. As such, I believe that this decision constitutes a change of policy, which can only be made following official adoption by at least three Commissioners. Therefore, I ask that the letters be withdrawn. I will also ask that the Commission review this matter in a public forum to consider the acceptance or reject of the instructions.

So I guess we may have an answer to the question of why the EAC caved and gave Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach an undeserving win that has the potential to disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters in his state alone: The move should never have been made in the first place, and could very well be challenged in court soon.

Expect more to come on this.

Poll: Most voters are ready for a political revolution to redistribute wealth Wed, 03 Feb 2016 17:32:36 +0000 A poll conducted by Morning Consult and Vox shows that 54% of registered voters either strongly or somewhat agree with the statement that, “In the next decade, a political revolution might be necessary to redistribute money from the wealthiest Americans to the middle class.” Just 30% strongly or somewhat disagreed with the statement.

As Vox reported on their findings:

Bernie Sanders, via AFGE / Flickr

Bernie Sanders, via AFGE / Flickr

Liberals and liberal-leaning demographics were most likely to agree with the statement. But majorities of independents, white voters, evangelicals, and even Tea Party supporters in our sample agreed too — showing that redistribution may no longer be a dirty word in American politics.

Majorities of registered voters also approved of Sanders’s economic agenda when they were presented in isolation. 73% support raising taxes on the wealthy, 66% support raising taxes on big corporations, 55% support single payer health care and 59% support free college.

Bear in mind that this is simply one poll in a vacuum, and could easily change if, say, meaningful wealth redistribution became an issue in the general election and was subjected to months of conservative attacks. While a majority of registered voters agreed with the need for a political revolution to redistribute wealth from the top to the middle, a similar majority also agreed that “big government” is a greater threat to the country’s future than “big business.” Voters hold inconsistent political opinions; go figure.

However, this finding still serves as one point of vindication for Bernie Sanders’s argument that he is as if not more electable than Hillary Clinton in the general election — an argument based on the premise that he can expand the Democratic electorate by bringing in non-voters and social conservatives who are frustrated with the ongoing decline of the American middle class.

Case in point: Majorities of both Tea Party supporters and registered voters who sat out the 2012 election are in favor of redistribution:

Source: Vox

Source: Vox

There are a number of explanations for these findings. For starters, it isn’t news that non-voters are more economically liberal than voters; whether an economically progressive platform is enough to turn them into voters without major changes to our electoral system remains a more open question. Additionally, members of the Tea Party are likely responding to the words “middle class” much more favorably than they would if the proposition was redistribution “from the wealthiest Americans to the poor.”

In any case, this poll goes to show that when Bernie Sanders says that Americans are hungry for a political revolution, and that they perceive the current distribution of wealth as unfair and in need of change, he isn’t making stuff up.

Donald Trump doesn’t think Cruz treated him fairly in Iowa, wants a do-over Wed, 03 Feb 2016 15:55:35 +0000 Donald Trump didn’t take his loss in Iowa well:

Donald Trump, via iprimages / Flickr

Donald Trump, via iprimages / Flickr

Trump went on to cite a few cases of Ted Cruz’s campaign engaging in what Ben Carson would call “dirty tricks.” As Carson’s campaign has alleged, people caucusing for Cruz were claiming that Carson had already dropped out of the race. Carson’s base of support overlaps most closely with Cruz’s, so Cruz would stand to gain the most if Iowans believed that Carson were no longer in the race. Trump went on to complain about Cruz’s shady (but perfectly legal) voter shaming mailer, and he also accused Cruz of lying about his past support for Obamacare and “choice,” by which he probably means abortion rights — rights that Trump was fine with until very recently.

Taken together, the only appropriate thing to do, according to Trump, is to void Monday’s results and start over:

(UPDATE: Asked by the Boston Herald if he would sue over the Iowa results, Trump said “I probably will.”)

Setting aside for the moment that even if Cruz’s campaign did deliberately lie about Carson’s premature exit from the race, there’d be no legal recourse to void Iowa’s results, the more important point here is that there’s no reset button in politics. It isn’t some video game where you can just quit and play again if you’re losing. There are a lot of perfectly legitimate reasons for why Trump lost, starting with the fact that he didn’t invest in any semblance of a ground-level operation to help him translate his strong showing in the polls into actual people caucusing for him. The idea that Cruz’s campaign was able to manipulate thousands of Carson supporters into backing him instead of Trump through nefarious hijinks is laughable. It also doesn’t explain why Marco Rubio over-performed relative to the polls.

But of course, this is a Republican race, which means that when you lose, you don’t just take your ball and go home; you claim the winner cheated.

This has implications beyond Iowa, though. Trump has consistently said that he will not launch a third-party bid for the White House as long as he is “treated fairly.” If he and his supporters are incapable of accepting losses as legitimate — they must be the result of fraud, rather than Trump’s own incompetence or the fact that a lot of people just plain don’t like him — then the moderators at Fox News debates are going to be the least of the RNC’s worries.

John Kasich isn’t a moderate: Racial justice Wed, 03 Feb 2016 14:58:11 +0000 As the primary cycle tears our two parties into unrecognizable shreds, John Kasich often seems like a refreshing breath of stale, middling air. While the other candidates of his party rant and rave about whatever their least favorite kind of immigrant is this week, the Ohio governor lulls us to sleep with once-familiar GOP sound bites about job growth, infrastructure and Jesus.

It seems as though this nostalgia for the duller days of conservatism may have seduced the New York Times, judging from its endorsement of Kasich last Saturday. Acknowledging that the candidate is “no moderate,” the Times cites Kasich’s experience in Congress and his positions on immigration and government responsibility as reasons to hope for a Republican platform that is as reasonable, rational and charisma-free as it was in 2008.

But given their reception of this editorial board’s last missive, Republican voters are less likely to heed the Timescall for reasoned thought than they are to literally shoot holes in it. It’s unclear what the endorsement is really meant to achieve politically, but if it’s to exert whatever minuscule influence it can over the GOP primary, it should be aware that the problems with Kasich’s record extend well beyond charter schools and anti-union work.

John Kasich, via Marc Nozell / Flickr

John Kasich, via Marc Nozell / Flickr

Governor Kasich, who has the stooped posture and chipper demeanor of your racist high school principle, has a record on racial justice that pundits usually either ignore or faintly praise. Kasich’s tenure as governor got off to a rocky start right from the get-go, when all 23 people he appointed to his first cabinet were white, and all but five were men. When Nina Turner, a black state senator from Cleveland, offered to help, Kasich responded by saying, “I don’t need your people.” Kasich claimed that he meant Democrats, not black people, which isn’t all that much better. It’s been mostly downhill from there.

Nevertheless, publications based in his own state refer to him with evident pride as the “not-Trump.” Even the famously acerbic Jeb Lund references the task force formed by Kasich to tackle criminal justice reform with mild approval.

But Ohio’s own James Neimeister, irritating as it is to admit, knew better. James pointed out that Kasich didn’t so much rise to the challenge of dismantling the clear institutional racism prevalent in his states much as he did reply “maybe” to the invitation while making other plans.

“Kasich hasn’t received half the flack over police brutality that Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (deservedly) has,” wrote James, “but that’s probably because he’s kept his mouth shut and hasn’t sent tanks through downtown Cleveland.” And now that we know that the grand jury that decided not to indict the police officers who shot twelve year-old Tamir Rice within seconds of seeing him didn’t actually vote on any criminal charges, it’s probably safe to say that Kasich’s Committee to Clean Things Up Around Here has missed a few spots.

Then there’s the beautifully intricate web of red tape that Kasich has draped over the state’s food stamp program, a system that Mother Jones reported was having a disproportionately negative impact on black families last September. Then-Congressman John Kasich sponsored a bill that put an expiration date on Ohio’s food stamps so that recipients could only use them for a maximum of three months within any three-year period. When Democrats in the state complained, the magnanimous Kasich inserted a provision that made it possible for those districts most in need of government assistance to extend their benefits.

Yet, since Kasich has become governor, it’s become clear that those he feels are “most in need” are those who live in predominantly white areas. In order for a district to qualify, the governor’s administration must apply for these waivers on its behalf. The entire state had qualified for and received waivers since 2007, due to the especially harsh effects of the recession on Ohio’s economy, yet in 2014, Kasich denied them in all but 16 of Ohio’s 88 counties, in all but 17 the next year.  Most of those counties populations were rural and almost exclusively white — as Mother Jones continued, “the six counties with the highest rate of terminating food stamps for able-bodied, childless adults were all counties populated mostly by minorities.”

The piece goes on to report that the most poverty-stricken members of these counties are not driven into decent-paying jobs and self-sufficiency, but are instead driven to food pantries and panhandling. And where there’s desperation, dependence and a welfare-gutting Republican in the governor’s office, there’s usually a rising incarceration rate. As a whole, Ohio ranks 26th on the list of states with the highest rates of incarceration per 100,000 adults. But those districts in the state with the highest black populations tend to deal with a disproportionate amount of inmates.

A report commissioned in 2006 by the Vera Institute of Justice on Hamilton County, which has a population that is 26% black, found it had “the highest incarceration rate of those examined in Ohio, and is second only to Marion County (Indianapolis) of all jails compared in the region.” Under Governor Kasich, these rising jail populations have reached absurd levels. Inmates at Hamilton County jail wait long hours in waiting rooms and even sleep on the floor while awaiting an open cell, as private prison companies take bids from one another on who gets to own and operate the sleek, expensive new prison that will accommodate this overflow.

Much like in Hamilton, Kasich’s approach to the problem of rising prison population across the state — it has become the seventh largest in the country during his tenure — is privatization. While he failed in his efforts to further privatize the state’s current prison infrastructure, he successfully hired embattled contractor Aramark to provide its prisons’ food. Beyond being known for serving food infested with maggots, the company has also weathered several controversies and lawsuits over the past two decades as a result of alleged racism, both in the prisons themselves and at the executive level.

If members of the New York Times’s editorial board were being held at gunpoint, John Kasich is exactly the candidate they should have endorsed in the GOP primary. Donald Trump would appear to be the gun, in this situation — in a decision emblematic of this entire election year, two thirds of this particularly expensive Manhattan real estate is donated to Trump free of charge. And given the fact that Kasich talks like Mr. Rogers and looks like Bill DeBlasio with cigarette face, the board might be forgiven its instinctual warmth for him.

And as the threat of a racist demagogue in the White House grows more pressing, it’s understandable that the Times may have felt the moral duty to endorse John Kasich. But given the chances that Kasich will seriously take on either Trump or the racist legacy he perpetuates, the best endorsement this election year might be no endorsement at all.

Florida moving toward accepting concealed-carry permits as voter ID Tue, 02 Feb 2016 19:30:19 +0000 The Florida Senate voted unanimously today to add concealed weapons permit holders to be able to use their ID cards as proof of identity when they vote. The bill would also add veteran health cards to the list of acceptable IDs. A sister bill will be taken up by the Florida House of Representatives shortly.

If and when the bill becomes law, concealed carry permits and veterans health cards will be added to the list of existing acceptable IDs, which include the following:

A message from North Carolina's government, via Shutterstock

A message from Florida’s government, via Shutterstock

  • Florida driver’s license
  • Florida identification card issued by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
  • United States passport
  • Debit or credit card
  • Military identification
  • Student identification
  • Retirement center identification
  • Neighborhood association identification
  • Public assistance identification

Florida requires photo identification in order to vote, which rules out most debit and credit cards despite their official inclusion on the state’s list. Additionally, the voter must present a photo ID that includes their signature; if their ID doesn’t have their signature, they must present another ID that does.

This may sound like a bit much, and it is, but as Republican-sponsored voter ID laws go, it’s actually not so bad. Tennessee, for instance, recently survived a court challenge to its photo ID law, which doesn’t include student IDs — not even from state universities. Additionally, since Florida provides at least some avenue by which voters who don’t have acceptable ID can cast a ballot that will count, the National Conference of State Legislatures has rated their law a “non-strict” version of photo ID requirements.

But that still doesn’t make this ad-hoc list of acceptable IDs okay.

That’s because the mere existence of voter ID laws is enough to discourage voter turnout — even among eligible voters who have the acceptable forms of ID. It doesn’t matter quite as much if you let voters without acceptable ID vote provisionally if you’ve discouraged an even larger portion of your eligible voter population from showing up in the first place.

And that’s to say nothing of the already restrictive and racially-discriminatory electoral system that presently exists in Florida. It shouldn’t be lost on us that most of the Florida Senators who just voted to make it slightly easier for the state’s 1.4 million concealed-carry permit holders to vote have no intention of doing anything to help the 1.5 million Floridians (including nearly one out of every four black adults in Florida) who are currently barred from even registering to vote due to past felony convictions. Florida’s electoral system betrays a clear pattern of making it easier for white conservatives to vote, while making it harder for low-income and non-white citizens to vote.

And Florida Republicans don’t seem to care all that much.

Why did the federal government just give Kansas the go-ahead to require proof-of-citizenship for voter registration? Tue, 02 Feb 2016 17:51:37 +0000 The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) announced earlier this week that voters in Kansas will now have to provide “a document, or copy thereof, demonstrating United States citizenship within 90 days of filling out” their voter registration form in order to vote in federal elections. Kansas already requires proof of citizenship for state and local elections.

This is a bizarre reversal, given that Kansas has consistently lost court battles — with the EAC! — in an attempt to have this very requirement added to their federal voter registration forms. Seemingly just because the state asked nicely. As ProjectVote notes, there was no public comment or review in advance of the decision; the EAC’s letter simply references a request that the Kansas Secretary of State’s office made in November.

Kris Kobach, via Wikimedia Commons

Kris Kobach, via Wikimedia Commons

The issue goes back to 2014, when a federal appeals court ruled that Kansas and Arizona could not require proof of citizenship for people registering to vote in federal elections. The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) prohibits states from issuing such requirements, and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was unable to provide “substantial evidence of noncitizens registering to vote using the Federal Form,” which would be the only way to establish a legitimate state interest that could override the NVRA.

Kansas and Arizona appealed that decision up to the Supreme Court, which effectively ruled against them when it declined to hear the case.

In theory, the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case posed bureaucratic issues for the states, which are still allowed to require proof of citizenship for people who wish to register to vote in state and local elections and could therefore keep a separate list of “federal-only” voters. In practice, Kansas tried to simply remove these “federal-only” voters from the rolls altogether, since keeping two separate lists was apparently too difficult.

This prompted two would-be voters who were affected by the voter purge to sue the state, claiming (fairly straightforwardly) that the state was illegally denying them the right to vote in federal elections. Kobach responded by registering the two plaintiffs to vote, showing that the bureaucratic difficulty he’s complaining about doesn’t actually exist. Or, rather, that you can register to vote in Kansas without proof of citizenship if you sue the state, which would seem to be an even bigger bureaucratic hurdle than maintaining separate voter rolls.

At the end of the day, the NVRA bars states from requiring proof of citizenship for voter registration, and every court that has weighed in on the issue has made it clear that what Kansas is doing isn’t allowed. As of right now, the EAC has given no explanation for why they granted the state’s wish and added citizenship requirements to their federal voter registration forms, erecting an unnecessary and almost-certainly illegal hurdle for would-be voters.

Expect this move to be challenged in court.

John Kasich isn’t a moderate: Education Tue, 02 Feb 2016 16:40:47 +0000 If you are following the 2016 Republican primary, surely you have heard this narrative: In a field of extremists and ideologues, John Kasich is a voice of moderation. While it is true that Kasch has not called for a ban on all Muslim travel to the United States or said that we will find out if sand glows after carpet-bombing the Middle East, Kasich has his own set of extreme positions, particularly on education policy.

Kasich has been a tireless advocate for charter schools in Ohio, even as questions have been raised about the quality of these schools. Indeed, Ohio’s charter schools have so many issues that they have become a joke among charter school advocates. According to a report from Margaret Raymond of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, students at Ohio charter schools learn 36 fewer days of math and 14 fewer days of reading than students at traditional public schools in the state.

In addition to questions about education quality, Ohio charters have also been implicated in the improper use of state revenues. Since 2001, audits in Ohio have found that $27.3 million dollars in state money has been misspent by state charter schools. To offer one especially galling example, the state has been billed $1.2 million dollars for students who no longer even attend the schools.

To make matters worse, Dave Hansen, school choice director at the Ohio Department of Education and husband of Kasich’s campaign manager (and former Chief of Staff) Beth Hansen was forced to step down after it was revealed over the summer that failing grades for online charter schools were intentionally left out of state charter school evaluations.

While Kasich did finally sign a charter school reform bill in late 2015, the zeal with which his administration has pursued the expansion of charter schools — even in the face of evidence showing serious problems with the current system — shows just how important charter schools are for his administration. The central role that the expansion of this conservative policy goal has played in his administration stands in direct contrast to the argument that Kasich is a moderate Republican.

At the same time, John Kasich has also sought to weaken the rights of public school teachers and cut funding to public education. Early in his first term, John Kasich signed Senate Bill Five, which took away collective bargaining rights from all public employees in the state, including teachers. (After a massive organizing effort, Ohio voters ultimately overturned this law via referendum in 2011.) Kasich also cut funding for education in early budgets, with total state spending on education only recently exceeding the level of funding under of his predecessor, Democrat Ted Strickland, after being consistently lower throughout much of his tenure.

Kasich also rolled back Strickland’s efforts to reform the very mechanism by which Ohio funds its public schools. That system, which relies on property taxes, was ruled unconstitutional in 1997, as it systematically disadvantages lower-income communities with lower tax bases. By undoing efforts to bring Ohio’s school funding in line with its own constitution, Kasich has effectively signaled that he’s fine with the perpetual and disproportionate underfunding of Ohio’s public schools.

Furthermore, Kasich’s rhetoric on education is as conservative as his actions. In August of 2015 Kasich called for the abolition of teachers’ lounges because teachers “sit together and worry about ‘woe is us.’” This wasn’t the first time that Kasich bashed teachers in the press: Right after winning his first term as governor, Kasich said that he was “waiting for” teachers’ unions to take out full-page ads in the newspaper to apologize to him for the way these unions talked about him during the campaign.

Overall, it is clear that John Kasich is not a moderate when it comes to education, whether one looks at the policies his administration has pursued or the rhetoric he has used when talking about teachers. When it comes to education, John Kasich fits neatly within the conservative wings of the Republican Party.

John Kasich isn’t a moderate Tue, 02 Feb 2016 15:08:29 +0000 With the Iowa caucuses over and done with, all eyes now turn to new Hampshire, which votes a week from today.

A number of candidates who did poorly in Iowa yesterday are expected to do well next week. In particular, that list includes Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and John Kasich, who has been quietly building up support in the state for months after having been the first candidate to begin running ads in the state. Despite coming in a statistical tie for last in Iowa among candidates who people still remember are running (sorry, Rick Santorum and Jim Gilmore), Kasich currently sits in third place in the Huffington Post’s polling average for New Hampshire.

Cowboy KasichKasich is perceived as being in a good position to do well in New Hampshire because he has placed himself squarely in the “moderate lane” of the Republican race. New Hampshire Republicans are cool and dispassionate and swing-y, you see. They aren’t like those hard-line Evangelicals and immigration hawks in Iowa; they want a candidate who is pragmatic and even-keeled and can Get Things Done™ in the White House. Kasich’s put all of his chips down on New Hampshire because he thinks he can make the case that that sounds like him.

After all, don’t you know that he expanded Medicaid under Obamacare? Because Jesus? Haven’t you heard him say in the debates that we need to elect a uniter? Someone who can make sure that we all get along? Isn’t that why the Boston Herald and the New York Times endorsed him?

But here’s the thing: Aside from the Medicaid expansion and his folksy demeanor, there really isn’t much separating John Kasich from the rest of the Republican field. Which is to say, setting aside one ideological heresy, John Kasich is no moderate. Having lived in Ohio while he was governor, I know him as a union-busting, voting rights-denying, reproductive rights-restricting fracking enthusiast. The suggestion that he’s anything else is one of my biggest political pet peeves.


Starting today, running through the New Hampshire primary, AMERICAblog will be running a series of posts reviewing John Kasich’s rhetoric and record. Taking one issue at a time, we’re going to review what Ohio’s governor has said and done, showing that, yes, he really does fit right in with the hardliners in today’s Republican Party.

It’s going to look a bit like this post James Neimeister wrote last year, but fleshed out.

Stay tuned.

Clinton and Sanders tie in Iowa, Trump learns the hard way that field matters Tue, 02 Feb 2016 13:00:30 +0000 With 99% of precincts reporting, it looks like Hillary Clinton has four more delegates than Bernie Sanders (696 to 692 — Martin O’Malley has eight delegates of his own). Raw vote totals are not reported on the Democratic side; only delegates. If you think that’s silly, then you can add it to the long list of reasons why we should ditch Iowa and make Washington, DC’s primary the first nominating contest.

Even if Sanders winds up on the other end of the narrow victory, though, it won’t change much. Either way, the effective tie in Iowa shows two things: First, that Sanders has undoubtedly succeeded in moving the Democratic Party to the left on core economic issues, taking Clinton along with it. Second, that Sanders could be very hard-pressed to translate an effective tie in Iowa to victories in less-white states around the country. He’s still the favorite to win New Hampshire, but Nevada and South Carolina will be real challenges for him.

But that was all true before Iowa Democrats caucused yesterday. Nothing about those results did much to change the dynamics of the race. On the Republican side, however, something big happened last night: Donald Trump lost.

Not only that, he almost came in third. With 99% reporting, Trump trails Ted Cruz 28-24, but Marco Rubio took 23 percent of the vote. Trump only edged the Florida Senator, who is literally three times the Christian Trump is, by one percentage point and about 2,000 votes. Before the caucuses began, Trump was citing poll after poll showing him ahead in Iowa, all but ensuring a win in the state. His dramatic underperformance relative to all of those polls can be attributed to a number of factors, but perhaps most significantly, it shows that campaigns matter. More specifically, it shows that investments in ground-level organizing and other basic aspects of campaign infrastructure, such as internal polling, matter quite a bit.

This is especially true in hotly contested, complicated processes that require significant investments from voters, like the Iowa caucuses. Republican campaigns are notoriously bad at field, but Trump didn’t even really pretend to have a ground-level operation. Based on what little we know about Trump’s field campaign, one of their most competent organizers was fired for being a woman. And she was working part time.

Trump’s campaign staff that did stay on the ground in Iowa committed basic organizing errors, and didn’t seem to do much by way of voter contact. As the New York Times reported last month:

Donald Trump, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Donald Trump, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Some volunteers in charge of turning out supporters to caucus on Feb. 1 are given lists of all registered Republicans in their precincts to contact, ignoring the large number of independents and Democrats who appear to be leaning toward Mr. Trump. Moreover, the volunteers urge people to caucus regardless of whom they support, which risks turning out voters for Mr. Trump’s rivals.

Davenport appears to be a bright spot compared with other regions of Iowa, like rural Brooklyn, where the Trump precinct captain Clair Kuntz said he had not made any effort to contact people. “When I call, it’s not going to be any more than a week out,” he said, adding that he had yet to receive fliers describing Mr. Trump’s positions, a basic canvassing tool that campaigns provide.

Using an app, Ground Game 2, supplied by the Trump campaign, which also provided a list of prospects in his precinct, [a volunteer] placed calls to all eight names — as many as he had been given for the day by Trump headquarters.

So no matter how many Iowans told pollsters that they planned on voting for Trump, and no matter how many people showed up to Trump’s rallies, the campaign did practically nothing to translate pre-caucus support into actual votes when it mattered.

Which says something about campaigns. For despite the massive amounts of money, time and energy that goes into presidential politics every four years, there’s a well-established school of thought in political science which argues that in the end, it doesn’t matter all that much. Give me the unemployment rate, real GDP growth, the current president’s approval rating and whether we’re in a war, and you can predict with reasonable confidence who’s going to win the election — regardless of how many ads are run.

However, a slightly better way to frame that claim is that, in most cases, campaign effects are canceling. Candidate A runs their race, Candidate B runs their race, and since they invest a similar amount of resources and allocate them with similar levels of efficiency, the end result is a wash: barring any major scandals uncovered by particularly skilled opposition research, the candidate who was going to win all along turns out to be the candidate who wins.

Donald Trump just showed us what happens when one candidate unilaterally disarms, running entirely on a cult of personality driven by ego-boosting rallies and earned media (generated in large part through tweetstorms). His supporters consider it a badge of honor that he isn’t running a “traditional” campaign — he barely even ran any ads in Iowa — but one of Trump’s main takeaways from last night may very well be that, while perhaps overpriced, those consultants and quants aren’t totally full of it.

Trump’s decision to completely concede the ground war meant that Cruz and Rubio didn’t have to do all that much to make up some serious ground. Given that caucusers who decided late in the race broke predominantly to candidates not named Trump (Trump is consistently the first choice of many, but the second choice of few), Trump needed to hold serve with voters who decided earlier on. He didn’t have a ground game, which meant he couldn’t identify those voters and turn them out.

Turns out that campaigns do matter, after all.

Does Ted Cruz think we need to “rid the world” of pro-marriage equality Supreme Court justices? Mon, 01 Feb 2016 18:46:39 +0000 Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson campaigned with Ted Cruz in Iowa yesterday, and he had some choice words for the Supreme Court when introducing Cruz at one event:

Said Robertson:

Phil Robertson, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Phil Robertson, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

When a fellow like me looks at the landscape and sees the depravity, the perversion — redefining marriage and telling us that marriage is not between a man and a woman? Come on Iowa, it’s NONSENSE! It is evil. It’s wicked. It’s sinful. They want us to swallow it, you say. We have to run this bunch out of Washington, D.C. We have to rid the earth of them. Get them out of there. Ted Cruz loves God, he loves James Madison and he’s a strict constitutionalist. You know what Ted Cruz understands? He understands that…God raises these empires up. It is God who brings them down.

Ted Cruz followed Robertson on the stage and wasted no time calling him “a joyful, cheerful, unapologetic voice of truth.”

Which can only lead one to wonder: How much of what Robertson said does Cruz believe to be “truth”?

This is one of many instances on the campaign trail in which Cruz has not only openly embraced hardline conservative Christians with odious social views, but has also come awfully close to endorsing those views themselves. Just last week, Cruz announced that he had put Operation Rescue founder Troy Newman on his newly-formed “Pro-Lifers for Cruz” coalition, citing Newman’s books calling for the government to punish abortion providers and the women who have abortions as if they were murderers. By endorsing not only Newman but also his work, Cruz, a death penalty enthusiast, turned what would otherwise be a ridiculous question — “Do you think the government should execute women who have abortions?” — into a serious one. As in, given the people Cruz is surrounding himself with, and the views of theirs that he is amplifying, there seems to be a real chance that, if asked, he would say something along the lines of yes.

Which brings us back to Robertson. Giving him a generous listening, it sounds like he’s referring to marriage equality-affirming politicians and judges as the people we have to “rid the earth” of. Hyperbolic? Maybe. But hey, so is Ted Cruz.

Either way, what’s undoubtedly clear is that Robertson genuinely believes that marriage equality is “evil,” “wicked” and “sinful.” I’d be very interested to see Cruz look a gay or lesbian couple in the eyes and answer whether he agrees with this “unapologetic voice of truth” as far as that goes.

Marco Rubio is fine with 6-hour lines to vote, since “that is only on Election Day” Mon, 01 Feb 2016 17:52:31 +0000 Voters in Florida consistently have a more difficult time registering to vote, and casting ballots, than voters in practically any other state. Florida’s law imposing heavy restrictions on voter registration drives may have been blocked by a federal judge in 2012, but the state has succeeded in conducting massive purges of its voter rolls, cutting back early voting hours and enacting strict voter ID laws. It also remains one of the most difficult states for ex-felons to have their voting rights restored.

In 2012, conservatives in the state introduced so many ballot initiatives that some Floridians’ ballots were twelve pages long. This forced each voter to take longer to fill out their ballot, which led to corresponding increases in wait times — some voters had to wait as long as six or seven hours in order to vote. Those long lines have been shown to have decreased voter turnout in Florida by over 200,000 votes in 2012.

But don’t tell that to Marco Rubio, who seems positively unbothered by these barriers to voting in his home state. From Ari Berman at The Nation:

Marco Rubio, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Marco Rubio, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

During a campaign stop in Des Moines on October 25, John Olsen, a 46-year-old substitute teacher from Ankeny, asked Rubio, “What about the six-hour long lines to vote in Miami?”

“That is only on Election Day,” Rubio responded.

It was a bizarre response from the Florida senator, seeming to suggest that long lines are okay if they occur on Election Day, when most people tend to cast a ballot. But it was also factually inaccurate. After Florida cut early voting from 14 days to eight days during the 2012 election, which Rubio supported, there were long lines throughout the early voting period.

Bizarre indeed. As a few Twitter users were quick to point out, Rubio’s answer is most reminiscent of Yogi Berra’s quip about a popular restaurant: “Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded.” Rubio dismissed Olsen’s question by saying that the issue he raised isn’t an issue because it’s only an issue on the day it could be an issue. In other words, Olsen’s right and Rubio doesn’t care.

That wasn’t all, though. Olsen pressed Rubio on restrictions on Florida’s unsuccessful attempt to restrict voter registration drives and its erroneous purging of 12,000 voters from its rolls in 2000 (the state mis-labeled them as ex-felons). In both cases, Rubio simply said that “No one intentionally kept anyone from voting,” an answer that is both difficult to refute and irrelevant to the fact that many, many people were kept from voting. Again, Olsen is right and Rubio doesn’t care.

Finally, Olsen asked Rubio if he would support legislation currently pending in Congress that would restore the Voting Rights Act. Rubio claimed that he isn’t aware of it — possible, but unlikely given that the bill has received plenty of coverage since being introduced over six months ago.

Normally Republican politicians who benefit from voting rights restrictions will at least come up with a bad argument for why less voting is actually a good thing. Marco Rubio can’t even be bothered to do that much.

Former Trump staffer in Iowa accuses campaign of sex discrimination Mon, 01 Feb 2016 14:50:26 +0000 A few weeks ago, the New York Times reported that Donald Trump’s field campaign in Iowa was an unmitigated disaster. The campaign, per the Times, was making basic organizing errors, failing to make it easy for their supporters to caucus for Trump and, in one case, was letting a 9/11 truther talk to voters on a regular basis.

But there was one person who stood out to the Times as “a bright spot” for Trump’s Iowa operation: Elizabeth Mae Davidson. As the Times wrote:

Donald Trump, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Donald Trump, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Ms. Davidson, based in Davenport, where on Sunday she opened only the second field office in the state for Mr. Trump, is one of the campaign’s most effective organizers. She has recruited captains for nearly all of the 65 precincts in Scott County, in many cases more than one captain per precinct.

But Davenport appears to be a bright spot compared with other regions of Iowa, like rural Brooklyn, where the Trump precinct captain Clair Kuntz said he had not made any effort to contact people. “When I call, it’s not going to be any more than a week out,” he said, adding that he had yet to receive fliers describing Mr. Trump’s positions, a basic canvassing tool that campaigns provide.

Yesterday, the Times reported that Davidson had filed a legal complaint against Trump’s campaign alleging sex discrimination. And not just because Trump reportedly told her and a female volunteer that they could “do a lot of damage” because of their looks, although that’s part of the complaint. More importantly, Davidson is claiming that she was paid less than male staffers with the same title and hours, and was fired for behavior over which male staffers were not dismissed.

The same day that the original Times story was published, Davidson was fired for making “disparaging comments about senior campaign leaders to third parties” and breaking the non-disclosure agreement of her employment contract. Both of those charges are presumably related to Davidson talking to the Times for their story, which went on to describe Trump’s field operation as “amateurish and halting, committing basic organizing errors,” among other things. Field organizers and other lower-level staff are generally prohibited from talking to the press without the go-ahead from communications staff, and it’s unclear whether Trump’s campaign authorized her to speak with the Times. However, there’s no reason to believe that the Times’ description of Trump’s field operation came from Davidson. To the contrary, she is held up in the Times’ story as one of the only people on Trump’s Iowa payroll doing a good job.

Furthermore, Davidson’s complaint notes that male staffers with the same job title as her — “district representative — talked to the paper without authorization from the campaign and were allowed to keep their jobs. Those male staffers, despite holding the same title and working the same hours (all were officially classified as part-time employees since they held day jobs; Davidson is a paralegal), were paid more than her, as well. According to Trump’s FEC filings, reviewed by the Times, male district representatives in Iowa, including at least one who was also classified as a part-time employee, were being paid between $3500 and $4000 per month — up to twice Davidson’s $2000 per month salary.

And again, Davidson was one of Trump’s most effective staffers in the state. Although when the Times reached Trump for comment for yesterday’s story, that had all changed: As Trump explained, “My people tell me she did a terrible job.”

His people, it seems, may also be illegally sexist.