Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Break Out The Champagne

He's kidding, isn't he?

USA Today's DeWayne Wickham remarks

But these people and the others who filled the small ballroom in New York City's Flatiron district this night were there as much to celebrate the resurrection of liberalism as to toast Jealous. The youngest person ever to lead the NAACP, this nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization, Jealous was touted for his support of same-sex marriage,opposition to the death penalty and work to defeat voter suppression legislation.

As the recipient of the 2012 Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship, he was -- or this group, at least -- the most obvious manifestation of a liberal resurgence. While recent polls show that conservatives significantly outnumber liberals, liberal ideals and causes have not had a better year since Lyndon Johnson signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act into law.

Proof of this can be found in the approval last month of same-sex marriage laws in Maryland, Maine and Washington, the first states to legalize gay unions by popular vote. And it was evident in the success Democrats had at the polls this year. Liberals revel in the re-election victory President Obama, a moderate Democrat, achieved over Mitt Romney, the GOP candidate whose campaign was a genuflection to the demands of this nation's most misguided conservatives.

Evidence of the banner year for liberals also can be seen in the gains Democrats made in the U.S. Senate, which pushed their majority to 55 seats (including two Independents who are expected to join their caucus). These victories came in a year in which political pundits widely believed Republicans would seize control of the Senate. Among the right-wing Republican Senate candidates who went down to defeat were Tea Party favorites Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana. Both suffered fatal self-inflicted political wounds...

Liberals also chalked up victories in Washington and Colorado when voters in three states that considered measures to legalize the recreational use of marijuana gave their approval. Only in Oregon was this proposition defeated.

One can only hope that the legalization of marijuana, to be regulated, for personal use by adults in two of three states- each a relatively liberal state culturally- will lessen the power of the pharmaceutical and/or alcohol lobbies.  (It also should enable a greater effort by law enforcement to crack down on much more dangerous drugs.)  And legalization of same-sex marriage may lessen the institutional power of.... whom?  Perhaps of people who oppose same-sex marriage.  Or someone.

Wickham's glee may be lost on progressives in the Midwest.    Yesterday in Michigan, Republican Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation prohibiting union membership (or payment of dues) as a condition for employment in both the public and private sectors.   When a referendum proposing to codify the right to organize was defeated 58-42 last month, Republicans in the state legislature were emboldened.   Arguing "this isn’t Wisconsin. It’s worse. It’s Michigan and it’s the UWA," Rich Yeselson explains

The loss provided what is called in an organizing drive a convenient “headcount” for corporations and their conservative Republican allies. The headcount said simply that the UAW and allied unions did not have the unqualified support of most Michigan voters. The unions could, and are, making some noise, but they wouldn’t create sufficient civil strife to defeat a right-to-work flip. The unions could be rolled, the more quickly the better, even during a lame-duck session. The savvy president of the UAW, Bob King, one of the most progressive union leaders in the country, promises not to give up and threatens recall elections. But state right-to-work laws have only been repealed once, in Indiana in 1965. Indiana reinstated right-to-work laws earlier this year.

Slate's Matt Yglesias writes

It's only going to have a modest impact in the short-term, but far and away the biggest economic news of the week from a long-term perspective has got to be Michigan's rather sudden transformation into a right-to-work state. This is noteworthy in part because, as Alec Macgillis writes, Snyder had positioned himself as more moderate than Scott Walker and other GOP governors from the class of 2010. But the legislation he's just passed is really more far reaching than the legislation Walker signed in Wisconsin or anything that's been discussed in Ohio.

In political terms this really does seem like the tipping point. For a long time the United States has existed as a "house divided" in this regard. Democrats in states like Virginia and Nevada didn't seriously try to repeal right-to-work laws, while Republicans in the northeast and midwest didn't try to implement them. But if right-to-work can pass in Michigan, then why shouldn't Republicans press for it in Wisconsin or Ohio or Pennsylvania?

Yglesias is guilty only of understatement.  Michigan's overnight- literally, overnight- transformation from a state with one of the highest (such as it is) unionization rates in the nation to a right-to-work state is not the biggest economic news of the week.  This assault on middle-class rights is easily the biggest news of the week in the domestic sphere, economic or otherwise.

The editorial staff of the Detroit Free Press is disappointed that Rick Snyder (whose election it endorsed), who previously had opposed right-to-work legislation, has undergone a sudden conversion.   It believes

The answer may lie in another Koch-funded group, the American Legislative Exchange Council, which promotes a radical right-wing agenda in states across the country, supplying "model legislation" to sympathetic lawmakers.

The organization boasts more than 2,000 legislative members. It also has corporate members, who weigh in on the model legislation before it's approved by the group's public-sector committee, the group's national chairman said in an interview he gave after dozens of pieces of ALEC-written model legislation were leaked last year in a joint project by The Nation and the Center for Media and Democracy.

Michigan's proposed right-to-work bills mirror the ALEC language practically word-for-word.

It's unclear how many Michigan lawmakers are members of ALEC; the group doesn't make its membership rolls public. But at least one of the lawmakers who introduced Michigan's right-to-work legislation has been associated with ALEC.

Certainly, there are a large number of Michigan legislators who are beholden to Americans for Prosperity, or the Koch brothers. Word is the groups threatened Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville's leadership post, and promised him a primary challenge in 2014, if he refused to move right-to-work forward.

While ALEC, which already dominates several Repub-controlled state legislatures (and at least one GOP governor), grows in influence, DeWayne Wickham is joyful that in a few states, individuals now may smoke marijuana and gays now may enshrine their relationship as marriage. How comforting.

To be fair, the veteran columnist also is very pleased- as he should be- that Democrats picked up seats in the U.S. Senate.   And he is elated that Barack Obama was re-elected.

Wickham and others still under the spell of Mr. Obama ought to remember that after the election of the first black President in 2008, The End of Conservatism As We Know It was declared.   And they should take heed of the reasoning of Yeselson, who recognizes "This isn't Wisconsin.  It's worse.  It's Michigan..."  As with the implementation of right-to-work laws, raising the Medicare eligibility age is (as described by Joe Conason) "a direct assault on the standard of living of working-class Americans."  The power elite thrives.

Eliminating the healthiest cohort from Medicare, thus increasing its premiums and eventually undermining public support for the program, is not being sought by a GOP president.  This isn't a Republican President.  It's worse.  It's a president with a "D" after his name.  It's terrible policy, it's terrible politics, and yet more evidence that the glee over the re-election of Barack Obama must be the beginning, and not the end.

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