This is what a political wave looks like. In 2011, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Col.), who had previously sought to repeal a portion of the Voting Rights Act mandating that ballots be printed in multiple languages, went on a local talk radio station and warned that President Barack Obama planned to steal the 2012 election by granting blanket amnesty to some 12 million undocumented residents. On Sunday, Coffman, who succeeded Rep. Tom Tancredo, a notorious opponent of illegal immigration, in Congress in 2008, endorsed a path to citizenship for children of undocumented immigrants—and legal status for everyone else. That announcement came just two weeks after Coffman introduced a new bill to allow Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (i.e. formerly undocumented residents who were brought to the United States as kids)to serve in the military legally and be put on the path to citizenship.
So what's eating Mike Coffman? It's pretty simple, really: He heard footsteps. The reconfigured sixth congressional district is now 20-percent Latino (it was previously9-percent Latino before dicennial redistricting). It went to Obama by five points in November.The Democratic House Majority PAC hasput Coffman as one of its top-10 targets for 2014. And the Dems have secured a top recruit, former state speaker of the house Andrew Romanoff, to run against him.
Whether the immigration evolution will be enough for Coffman to keep his seat is unclear. Coffman is still a bit cagey as to whether he'd support a path to citizenship for non-DACAs, which, as Washington Post's Greg Sargent points out, still puts him at odds with the majority of voters. But for immigration reform advocates wary of another hardliner insurrection, it's an encouraging sign.
Prison overcrowding at the California Institution for Men in 2006
It sounded like a throwaway line. Toward the end of a four-hour Senate hearing on gun violence last week, Wayne LaPierre, the National Rifle Association’s executive vice president of over two decades, took a break from extolling the virtues of assault rifles and waded briefly into new territory: criminal justice reform. "We've supported prison building," LaPierre said. Then he hammered California for releasing tens of thousands of nonviolent offenders per a Supreme Court order—what he'd previously termed "the largest prison break in American history."
But California's overflowing prisons, which the Supreme Court had deemed "cruel and unusual punishment" in 2011 because of squalid conditions, were partly a product of the NRA's creation. Starting in 1992, as part of a now-defunct program called CrimeStrike, the NRA spent millions of dollars pushing a slate of supposedly anti-crime measures across the country that kept America's prisons full—and built new ones to meet the demand. CrimeStrike's legacy is everywhere these days.
CrimeStrike arose out of necessity. The NRA had come into its own as a political power during the Reagan era, but by the early 1990s, it was strapped for cash. The organization ran up a $9 million deficit in 1991 and was on pace for a $30 million shortfall in 1992, even as it was preparing to go to the mattresses over assault weapons and background checks. The NRA needed a shot in the arm.
The first wagon trains left in January. There were just a few in the beginning, and they proceeded with caution, fording the San Joaquin River, navigating the canyons and switchbacks of the high Sierras, and traversing the salt flats and creosote scrub of the Great Basin before descending, at last, over the rocky peaks and into the the fertile loam of the southern plains. What they couldn't carry with them—ocean-going yachts, car elevators, labradoodles—they'd simply discarded. Someday, maybe, when the time was right, they would return to the California they'd fled, to the Ocean-front estates and climate-controlled wine cellars they'd left behind. But for now, their sights were set on a new homeland where men, and sometimes even women, were free. Texas.
Or something like that, anyway. Earlier this week, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) ratcheted up his longstanding feud with California by purchasing radio ads in the Golden State urging businesses to pack up their things and come to Texas. "Building a business is tough, but I hear building a business in California is next to impossible," Perry said. "I have a message for California businesses: Come check out Texas." California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) responded as well as you might expect from someone who had just been trolled by Rick Perry. The ad was "barely a fart," Brown said at a press conference, while working in a dig at "Lubbock, or whatever those places are that make up that state."
And now the New York Times has entered the fray with the provocative headline, "Millionaires Consider Leaving California Over Taxes." But the article mentions just one Californian, golfer Phil Mickelson, who has recently considered leaving over taxes, and Mickelson later apologized for even talking about the idea. There's also this, from Stanford sociology professor Cristobal Young:
"I suspect the accountants are busier this year, but I don’t think the moving companies are getting a boost," Mr. Young said. "Moving out of state is actually one of the most costly responses they could make. California's high-income earners are clustered in coastal cities far from state borders. Moving to Nevada or Texas or Florida is a very big life change, and means leaving behind family, friends, colleagues and business connections."
Reuters highlighted Young's research in a similar piece last fall, concluding that tax hikes had no impact on where millionaires chose to live:
In fact, more millionaires came to the state than left after California's so-called Millionaire's Tax was introduced in 2005 - adding 1 percentage point of tax to incomes over $1 million. A 1996 cut to taxes for those earning $110,000 and up did not spur migration into the state, either.
The number of millionaires has risen or fallen by about 10,000 a year, but that change has been almost entirely due to the state economy, not wealthy people coming into or leaving the state. Such migration accounted for about 47 people, net, on average.
That's because, high taxes notwithstanding, California still has many things going for it, including science classes that teach science, the ability to drink at a bar without being hauled off in handcuffs, and—this can't be overstated—proximity to California.
On Tuesday, after a handful of Republican candidates with statewide name recognition had signaled they weren't interested, Massachusetts state Rep. Dan Winslow announced he was forming an exploratory committee for the special election to replace former Democratic Sen. John Kerry. Winslow, who is pro-choice and has been previously endorsed by gay rights groups, has been viewed as a rising star in the state party for a few years now (see this profile in Commonwealth magazine in 2011), but would face an uphill challenge if he runs. Reps. Stephen Lynch and Ed Markey are vying for the Democratic nomination.
Prior to launching his exploratory committee, though, Winslow's most noteworthy political move was becoming perhaps the only pol in American history to hold a photo op while playing beer pong. The "Beer Pong and Politics Networking and Fundraiser," held at Boston's Battery Park Bar and Lounge in September 2011, gave attendees a chance to mingle with their representative while partaking in the national sport of 18–24-year-olds. As Winslow told the Medfield Press, "The idea is to encourage participation by people not typically involved in politics. It's as much a 'friend-raiser' as a 'fund-raiser'"—hence the low ticket price ($25, open-bar included). Per the Press, Winslow played with water in his cups instead of beer.
Here's the logo for the event, per its Facebook page:
Winslow isn't the only Republican interested in the race. The Hillreported that the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee has also approached former Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez about running for the seat.
Winslow hasn't responded to a Mother Jones inquiry about the his pong skills, but we'll update if we hear back.
The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is Barry Manilow with a microphone.
Back in September, in an effort to prove...we're not exactly sure what, the National Rifle Association published a list of some several-hundred non-profits, celebrities, companies, and news organizations that "have lent monetary, grassroots or some other type of direct support to anti-gun organizations." Daily Kos, which drew attention to the list Friday morning, calls it "nuts," which is certainly one way of looking at it.
The NRA doesn't offer any explanation of its selection process, or why they think it's a compelling argument to call attention to the fact that the Civil Rights organization founded by Martin Luther King Jr. opposes what the NRA does. But maybe they're on to something.
Here are 12 of the most terrifying people and groups on the NRA's list:
Carrie Fisher. Daughter of a Jedi.
Henry Winkler. Literally jumped a shark one time.
Mennonite Central Committee. You know who else had a central committee?
Barry Manilow. Is Barry Manilow.
The Temptations. Deliver us from them.
Motorcycle Cruiser Magazine. Basically what it sounds like.
Central Conference of American Rabbis. Ditto.
Mary Lou Retton. Her medal may be gold, but her bullets are lead.
Tara Lipinski. Actually wears knives on the bottom of her shoes.
Boys II Men. [sic]
Bob Barker. QED:
Southern Christian Leadership Conference. We don't actually have a joke here. How can you put the SCLC on your enemies list?