2012 - %3, November

California Approves Clean Energy Measure; Michigan Voters Nix Theirs

| Wed Nov. 7, 2012 3:46 PM EST

For green energy fans, Tuesday's vote on state-level ballot measures was a mixed bag. Michiganders voted down a measure to increase the state's clean energy mandate, while California voters approved an increase in taxes on out-of-state businesses in order to fund clean energy projects.

More on the Michigan measure, which aimed to raise the state's renewable energy standard to 25 percent by 2025, from the Detroit News:

With most precincts reporting, 63 percent of voters opposed the measure.
"Obviously, we're pretty happy with what we're seeing," said Steve Transeth, the former head of the Michigan Public Service Commission who has worked to defeat the ballot measure. "As we've said all along, it's very important we move forward with clean energy and a clean environment. But this proposal was just not the way to go about it."
Proposal 3 represented a doubling-down on renewable energy after state legislators voted in 2008 to reach a 15 percent standard by 2015. Those backing the ballot measure claimed the new standard would not only accelerate Michigan's move away from environmentally-damaging fossil fuels, but create jobs and investment from the construction and maintenance of wind turbines.

There was better news out of California, where voters approved Proposition 39. The measure is expected to generate $1 billion a year that will fund clean energy and other state programs by closing a loophole that currently allows out-of-state businesses to avoid some taxes. From the Sacramento Bee:

The initiative was leading 59 percent to 41 percent late Tuesday with 43 percent of the vote counted.
Proposition 39 was backed almost entirely by billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer, who spent $32 million on the campaign.
The initiative would initially pump $500 million into the state budget and education in the first half of 2013. Thereafter, it would also devote about $500 million for clean energy, in addition to $500 million for the budget and education each year.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

A Decisive Win for Liberalism, But Not a Permanent One

| Wed Nov. 7, 2012 3:41 PM EST
President Barack Obama greets the crowd at his election-night headquarters with his family.

On Tuesday night, a country that once sold black people as property elected a black man to its highest office for a second time. Twice now, Virginia, the seat of the old Confederacy, has given its electoral votes to America's first black president. Although Barack Obama's presidency has often departed from the best moral instincts of American liberalism, from his dismal record on clemency to his stewardship of an unaccountable national security state, the fact of his presidency represents a triumph of American liberalism's ability to push the boundaries of what is possible. 

Liberalism's triumph in the 2012 election goes far beyond the reelection of the first black president of the United States:

  • When the next Senate is sworn in, it will include Wisconsin's Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay member of America's upper house.
  • Colorado and Washington voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use, setting up an inevitable conflict between the federal government's immoral war on drugs and an American electorate that is growing increasingly weary of it.
  • California voters declined to reject the death penalty, but they voted to raise taxes and limit the state's draconian "three strikes" law, which mandated automatic life imprisonment for individuals convicted of three felonies.
  • Marriage equality supporters notched wins in four states, for the first time winning at the ballot box instead of in the courts or state legislatures.
  • Maryland voters approved in-state tuition discounts for undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children.
  • Senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, the most regressive symbols of the Republican agenda on women's rights, were defeated. 

The emerging Democratic majority, as Ruy Teixera once put it, seems to have emerged. But Obama owes that coalition, to an incredible degree, to the decision of Republicans to alienate every significant minority in the country.

Blind to their own identity politics, Republicans dismissed the concerns of gays and lesbians, and women and minorities, as wish lists from "special interests." The right killed George W. Bush's effort at immigration reform in 2006, and was then captured wholesale by immigration restrictionists whose naked hostility to Latinos meant that Obama could preside over more than a million deportations and still win the Hispanic vote in a landslide. American Muslims, who once overwhelmingly voted for Bush, became a toxic fixation for Republicans who began to regard them as a potential fifth column. Granted a majority in Congress with a mandate to heal a bleak American economy, Republicans chose to focus on restricting women's access to abortion and birth control. Eager to deny Obama any legislative accomplishments whatsoever, the GOP attempted to filibuster the repeal of the military's policy banning gays and lesbians from open service. Republicans shouldn't blame Romney for his defeat, not after they paved such a narrow, winding road to victory. 

The Unappreciated Virtues of Doing Nothing

| Wed Nov. 7, 2012 3:31 PM EST

Just a quick point: the conventional wisdom says that Barack Obama accomplished a lot in his first two years but won't accomplish much in his last four. I think this is about right. But this should scare Republicans a lot. Obama really did preside over some substantial changes during his first term—most notably Obamacare—and that made it fairly easy to appeal to centrists who felt apprehensive about this pace of change.

But if Obama spends his next four years presiding over nothing more than the implementation of laws already passed while simultaneously addressing America's fiscal problems—something that's inevitable given the end of the Bush tax cuts and an improving economy—then Democrats will look pretty good in 2016: steady, sober, and decidedly non-scary. It could be that doing nothing is about the best strategy the party could follow. And Republicans are going to do everything they can to help.

How Right-Wing Media Failed the Right Wing

| Wed Nov. 7, 2012 3:18 PM EST

Speaking of "media-driven nightmares about the end of America-as-we-know-it under Obama's leadership," Conor Friedersdorf has a good post today about exactly the problem this poses for the Republican Party:

Barack Obama just trounced a Republican opponent for the second time. But unlike four years ago, when most conservatives saw it coming, Tuesday's result was, for them, an unpleasant surprise. So many on the right had predicted a Mitt Romney victory, or even a blowout -- Dick Morris, George Will, and Michael Barone all predicted the GOP would break 300 electoral votes.

....Conservatives were at a disadvantage because Romney supporters like Jennifer Rubin and Hugh Hewitt saw it as their duty to spin constantly for their favored candidate rather than being frank about his strengths and weaknesses....Conservatives were at an information disadvantage because so many right-leaning outlets wasted time on stories the rest of America dismissed as nonsense....Conservatives were at a disadvantage because their information elites pandered in the most cynical, self-defeating ways, treating would-be candidates like Sarah Palin and Herman Cain as if they were plausible presidents rather than national jokes who'd lose worse than George McGovern.

....On the biggest political story of the year, the conservative media just got its ass handed to it by the mainstream media. And movement conservatives, who believe the MSM is more biased and less rigorous than their alternatives, have no way to explain how their trusted outlets got it wrong, while the New York Times got it right. Hint: The Times hired the most rigorous forecaster it could find.

It ought to be an eye-opening moment.

Like Conor, I agree that this should be an eye-opening moment but probably won't be. The direct audience for conservative news, after all, may be small, but it's fervent. There's just too much money to be made pandering to them, and the folks who do it don't care much about the fact that this pandering has effects that ripple far beyond the true believer base. Unfortunately, failing to be reality based eventually catches up with you.

The Pro-Obama Mosh-Pit Party in Front of the White House, Election Night 2012 [VIDEO]

| Wed Nov. 7, 2012 3:09 PM EST
Gleeful liberals. In trees.

"I just got back from OHIO, and all I got was FOUR MORE YEARS," screamed a stumbling but upbeat Obama campaigner.

Following across-the-board cable news projections that President Obama had won a second term, hundreds of supporters flooded the north side of the White House bordering Lafayette Square. There was a lot of whooping, jumping, and delighted liberals climbing trees. It was like the night Bin Laden got shot in the face, only with more partisanship and less bloodlust.

Obama supporters brought conga drums, life-size cardboard cut-outs of the Michelle, Barack, and Joe, and the standard placards and flags. Also, there was this doodle dog wearing an "OBAMA OR BUST!" white cape (according to smaller text on the dog-shawl, the animal was on a "cross-country tour").

Peppered throughout the celebrating crowd were the usual dissenting voices looking to be passively heard. There was that huddle of college-age males repeatedly shouting, "Allahu Akbar!!!" and then grinning at their implied jab at BHO. There was that one guy sermozing about Reaganomics literally through a bullhorn. And then there was a pair of grey-suited conservatives—name-checking Castro, Iranian mullahs, the works— who really did sound like they believed America had just reelected our Mars-traveling, gay-orgy-having, hurricane-making, nose-job-getting leftist overlord.

You know, the expected trolling amidst the partyin'.

And there was, of course, the obligatory pro-Obama mosh-pit:

The Wall Street Journal also has some good footage of the crowd of hundreds ("most of them young") at the White House on Election Night.

The GOP's Four Big Problems

| Wed Nov. 7, 2012 2:46 PM EST

Greg Sargent is annoyed by the conservative drumbeat that Democrats didn't win a mandate last night. Barack Obama was reelected by a big margin. Democrats picked up seats in the Senate, something that seemed inconceivable as recently as a couple of months ago. Democrats made substantial gains in state legislatures. And a whole raft of liberal initiatives passed: a tax increase in California; marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado; and ratification of gay marriage in Maryland, Maine, and (probably) Washington. Here's Greg:

What happened yesterday is very clear. Romney campaigned on a platform of repealing (and not replacing) Obamacare....readjusting the social contract at the core of Medicare....and dramatically reducing the amount the rich contribute towards the upkeep of government.

....Obama campaigned on the necessity of continuing to implement health reform....on preserving Medicare....and on the moral need for the rich to sacrifice a bit more to enable a more robust role for government in improving the lives of the less fortunate.

All of this was very explicit....People keep arguing that the campaign was regularly drawn into petty squabbles over offhand remarks by the candidates. But some of those squabbles — such as the battles over Obama’s “you didn’t build that” speech and Romney’s “47 percent” remarks — went directly to the heart of the basic ideological conflicts outlined above. Those supposedly petty battles actually embodied big, consequential arguments.

Indeed, Republicans themselves regularly said that this election was a “big choice” between “two very different visions for America.” That was also the regular refrain of pundits just after Romney chose Paul Ryan, the leading architect of the GOP’s overarching ideological blueprint for the country’s future. So by the lights of Republicans and pundits themselves, this outcome should be seen as a big choice by the American people — a big decision about the future direction of the country. Why, now that Obama has won a resounding victory, is this suddenly being talked about as a small, no-mandate election?

That's all true. But let's be honest with ourselves. Obama won the popular vote by a margin of 51-49 percent. The composition of the House stayed pretty much the same. Ditto for the Senate. By a slender margin, we find ourselves in almost exactly the same situation we were in before the election. It's really hard to make the case for a mandate, even assuming you believe in mandates in the first place.

Which I don't. When was the last time a second-term president was able to pass something really significant? You could make a case for tax reform in Reagan's second term, but that's about it.

But there is something else going on. Republicans really do have a problem, and they know it. Or, rather, an interconnected set of problems:

  • They're obviously on the wrong side of history on gay marriage, and they're losing young voters because of it.
  • The Hispanic population is growing, and they're losing that too thanks to their xenophobic immigration policy.
  • Americans are tired of war, and (for better or worse) President Obama has proven hawkish enough that Republicans have lost their edge on national security issues. Mitt Romney more or less conceded that in the third debate by agreeing with practically everything Obama said.
  • The GOP policy of maximal obstruction is probably nearing the end of its shelf life. There are already signs that independent voters are exhausted by it, but the base of the party still demands it.

None of this is especially insightful. In fact, it's practically banal. Everyone knows it. So there's a sense in which it hardly matters if Obama "really" has a mandate. The Republican Party has a choice: either it tacitly acknowledges a mandate and reforms itself to fix the four big problems above, or else it withers further and faces a 2016 election in which the economy is good, the public is tired of crazy talk and mindless obstruction, and there will no longer be any question of whether anyone has a mandate. It will just be a question of counting votes.

I don't expect the Republican Party to reform itself anytime soon. They've become a victim of their own media-driven nightmares about the end of America-as-we-know-it under Obama's leadership, and too many of their supporters now believe this stuff for them to change their tune anytime soon. Nevertheless, change they must. And the sooner they start, the easier it will be.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Sheldon Adelson's Lousy Election Bets

| Wed Nov. 7, 2012 2:31 PM EST

Aptyp_koK /ShutterstockAptyp_koK /ShutterstockCasino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, dropped more than $57 million on super-PACs in this election, becoming America's most famous conservative megadonors (besides the Kochs). So what did they get in return for their investment? A look at the groups they funded and the races they tried to influence shows that overall, their return on investment was about 40 percent: Only two out of every five races these super-PACs spent on had the outcome the outside spending group desired. The two biggest Adelson-backed losers were Republican presidental hopefuls Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, to whose super-PACs the couple gave a total of $40 million. In the congressional races that Adelon-backed super-PACs spent on, the results were decidedly mixed. (A few of those races remain undecided.)

Here's the full tally of those races so far:

Adelson donation Super-PAC Candidate supported/opposed by super-PAC Outcome ROI
$20 million Winning Our Future Pro-Newt Gingrich (R, president) He lost Bad bet
$20 million  Restore Our Future Pro-Mitt Romney (R, president) He lost Bad bet
$5 million  Congressional Leadership Fund Anti-Betty Sue Sutton (D, House, Ohio) She lost Good bet
    Anti-Pete Gallego (D, House, Tx) He won Bad bet
    Anti-Kathleen Hochul (D, House, New York) She lost Good bet
    Anti-Brad Schneider (D, House, Illinois) He won Bad bet
    Anti-Patrick Kreitlow (D, House, Wisconsin) He lost Good bet
    Anti-Shelley Adler (D, House, New Jersey) She lost Good bet
    Anti-Lois Capps (D, House, California) She won Bad bet
    Anti-Leonard Boswell (D, House, Iowa) He lost Good bet
    Anti-John Barrow (D, House, Georgia) He won Bad bet
    Anti-Val Demings (D, House, Florida) He lost Good bet
    Anti-Krysten Sinema (D, House, Arizona) Undecided  
    Anti-Mike McIntyre (D, House, North Carolina) Undecided  
    Anti-Gary McDowell (D, House, Michigan) Undecided  
$5 million YG Action Fund Anti-Larry Kissell (D, House, North Carolina) He lost Good bet
    Anti-John Tierney (D, House, Massachusetts) He won Bad bet
    Anti-William Enyart (D, House, Illinois) He won Bad bet
    Anti-Mark Critz (D, House, Pennsylvania) He lost Good bet
    Anti-Scott Kreadle (R, House, North Carolina) He lost Good bet
    Anti-Lois Frankel (D, House, Florida) She won Bad bet
    Anti-John Barrow (D, House, Georgia) He won Bad bet
    Pro-Richard Hudson (R, House, North Carolina) He won Good bet
    Pro-Adam Kinzinger (R, House, Illinois) He won Good bet
    Anti-Mike McIntyre (D, House, North Carolina) Undecided  
    Pro-Allen West (R, House, Florida) Undecided  
$2 million Freedom PAC Pro-Connie Mack (R, Senate, Florida) He lost Bad bet
    Anti-Patrick Murphy (D, House, Florida) Undecided  
$1.5 million Independence Virginia PAC Pro-George Allen (R, Senate, Virginia) He lost Bad bet
$1 million Ending Spending Action Fund Anti-Barack Obama (D, president) He won Bad bet
    Pro-Mitt Romney (R, president) He lost Bad bet
    Pro-Deb Fischer (R, Senate, Nebraska) She won Good bet
    Anti-Bob Kerrey (D, Senate, Nebraska) He lost Good bet
    Pro-Josh Mandel (R, Senate, Ohio) He lost Bad bet
    Anti-Sherrod Brown (D, Senate, Ohio) He won Bad bet
    Anti-Richard Carmona (D, Senate, Arizona) He lost Good bet
    Pro-Jeff Flake (R, Senate, Arizona) He won Good bet
    Pro-Ted Cruz (R, Senate, Texas) He won Good bet
    Anti-Tim Kaine (D, Senate, Virginia) He won Bad bet
    Anti-Jon Burning (R, Senate, Nebraska) He lost Good bet
    Pro-Connie Mack (R, Senate, Florida) He lost Bad bet
    Pro-George Allen (R, Senate, Virginia) He lost Bad bet
    Pro-Richard Mourdock (R, Senate, Indiana) He lost Bad bet
    Pro-Tommy Thompson (R, Senate, Wisconsin) He lost Bad bet
    Pro-Dean Heller (R, Senate, Nevada) He won Good bet
$1 million Patriot Prosperity PAC Pro-Shmuley Boteach (R, House, New Jersey) He lost Bad bet
    Pro-Joe Kyrillos (R, Senate, New Jersey) He lost Bad bet
$1 million Treasure Coast Jobs Coalition Pro-Allen West (R, House, Florida) Undecided  
$250,000 Conservative Renewal Pro-David Dewhurst (R, Senate, Texas) He lost Bad bet
$250,000 Texas Conservatives Fund Pro-David Dewhurst (R, Senate, Texas) He lost Bad bet
$190,000 Hispanic Leadership Fund Pro-Mitt Romney (R, president) He lost Bad bet
$57.7 million spent total       42% good bets, 58% bad bets

 Sources: Center for Public Integrity, Center for Responsive Politics, Sunlight Foundation

This article has been updated.

We Now Have Four Years of Trench Warfare Ahead of Us

| Wed Nov. 7, 2012 2:10 PM EST

I'm unaccountably exhausted this morning. I don't know why. I was never all that worried about the election because I believed the polls and figured Obama would win. I live on the West Coast, so I didn't have to stay up late last night. My side not only won, but won bigger than anyone expected, so there's no letdown. So what's the deal?

Beats me. Maybe I'm just loathe to face up to the next four years, which promises to be an awful lot like the past two. I don't think Obama's second term will devolve into scandal, as so many other second terms have, but neither do I believe that Republicans will back down from their all-obstruction-all-the-time agenda. It's going to be four years of faux drama and trench warfare, and that just doesn't seem very appealing.

Then again, maybe I just slept badly. I'll let you know tomorrow. 

Wisconsin's Tammy Baldwin Writes Her Way Into the History Books

| Wed Nov. 7, 2012 2:02 PM EST
Senator-elect Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.

There she goes again, making history.

Liberal congresswoman Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin ended Republican Tommy Thompson's four-decade political career, winning 51 percent of the vote on Tuesday in the state's bitterly fought US Senate race. Baldwin will be the first openly gay senator in the institution's history and Wisconsin's first female senator, just as she became the first openly gay Wisconsin State assemblywoman in 1992, and the first openly gay candidate to win a US House election in 1998. Baldwin knows the significance of her election: "Sometimes I think my most significant contribution is not the legislative initiatives I introduce, but the stereotypes I shatter."

Baldwin said that in 1993. During her victory speech Tuesday night, she downplayed her history-making win. "I didn't run to make history; I ran to make a difference," she said. "A difference in the lives of students worried about debt and seniors worried about their retirement security."

That comment speaks volumes about the campaign run by Baldwin and her team. They didn't tout Baldwin as a pathbreaker; instead they pitched her to Wisconsinites across the state as a champion of working people and an avowed defender of Wisconsin manufacturing.

Baldwin's first campaign ad set the tone: It was a broadside against China's currency manipulation and a full-throated defense of Wisconsin's paper industry. "In Wisconsin, we lead the entire nation in paper industry jobs," Baldwin said. "But China, they lead the world in cheating." You could imagine a tea partier saying that—but a Democrat from Dane County, Wisconsin, a bastion of liberalism "surrounded by reality"?

Political experts praised Baldwin's decision to focus on economics and jobs. "You're talking about someone stepping outside the stereotypes and representing herself in a way that is right up the alley of job creation," Charles Franklin, a political scientist who oversees Marquette University's polling, told me this summer. "I don't think you can win on just the paper issue, but she's chosen the issue that seems to me to have the potential for much broader appeal."

Baldwin's focus on manufacturing and blue-collar workers, and also the discipline and hard work I saw her put in on the trail this summer paid off in the end. "I think Tammy ran a flawless race," Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "She was unflappable."

Tommy Thompson...not so much. He courted controversy during his campaign by, for instance, claiming he was the man to "do away with Medicare." His years as a Washington lobbyist and the money he made from that gig dogged him all the way to Election Day. (Wisconsin Democrats made sure of that.)

Thompson, who served four terms as Wisconsin governor, also began his battle with Baldwin short on cash after a tough primary fight. He raised $7.4 million for his Senate campaign, well short of Baldwin's $12.6 million haul. As the general election got underway Baldwin used her financial advantage to blitz the airwaves with ads supporting her. Both candidates saw outside money-funded ads hammer them. Of the $66 million spent in the Baldwin-Thompson race—a state record, by the way—almost $46 million came from super-PACs and nonprofit groups.

Thompson led Baldwin in the polls right after his mid-August primary win, but Baldwin's barrage and finely tuned message paid off. She took the lead in the race in late September, and never relinquished it.

Four More Years: The View From the Other Side

| Wed Nov. 7, 2012 1:11 PM EST

I don't really have anywhere to go with this at the moment, but I do sort of wonder what's going to happen to the Republican rank-and-file now that the election is over. I'm not talking about party leaders: I assume that after a brief spasm of pretending to be willing to work with Obama, they'll return to maximal obstruction mode without missing a beat. I'm thinking more of the tea partyish base.

Losing a presidential election is always tough, but this one was presented to them in unusually apocalyptic terms. Obama was a closet socialist. He was un-American. He wanted to destroy capitalism. He's been responsible for endless economic misery. He's left America open to attack from foreign enemies. He wants to immiserate small business owners in order to distribute goodies to poor people. He engineered a total government takeover of the healthcare industry. He deliberately allowed four brave Americans to die in Benghazi and then ruthlessly covered it up. He wants to outlaw churches. He wants to take away your guns. Etc. On Fox News last night, there was palpable disbelief from right-wing pundits that he could possibly have won. They thought Mitt Romney should have been able to blow Obama out of the water in a massive defeat, and the fact that he didn't meant the Republican Party ought to commit ritual suicide to pay for its world historic incompetence.

And you know, if you immerse yourself in right-wing media, it all makes a sort of sense. "This is not hyperbole," one Republican told Andy Kroll last night, "This country is done. The writing's on the wall. Dead." A relative told me last night about a friend who's literally afraid that her life savings are now in danger because Obama was reelected. James Fallows has been following the story of a small businessman who says he's going to close up shop now that Obama is back in office. All of these people believe that Obama is something close to a dystopian antichrist. And yet....a majority of Americans decided to put him back in office. If Obama really is the guy you've been told he is, that's not just inexplicable, it's nothing short of criminal.

So what happens now? What happens when churches continue to thrive, the economy recovers, Obamacare turns out to be a fairly benign expansion of healthcare coverage, taxes don't change much, and America doesn't find itself under foreign occupation? I don't know. Like I said, I don't really have anywhere to go with this. But a big part of the conservative base has been told that another four years of Obama will literally result in America no longer being a free country, and their fear of what that means is quite real. So what happens now?