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26
Today I suspend Republican-bashing to recommend a provocative political analysis.
 
Titled “Will Disillusioned Millennials Bring an End to the Reagan-Clinton Era?,” it’s from a professor and Daily Beast contributor named Peter Beinart. It’s long, and it’s worth reading.
 
Here’s my best shot at a short recap:
 
For decades now, politics has been dominated by the children of Reagan and children of Clinton. But the Millennials – the generation born between 1980 and 2000 – are very different. And they are going to make American politics very different – maybe, very soon.
 
Beinart: “Millennials are entering adulthood in an America where government provides much less economic security. And their economic experience in this newly deregulated America has been horrendous….The Millennials are unlikely to play out their political conflicts between the yard lines Reagan and Clinton set out.”
 
They lean much farther to the left – cultural, economically and politically. They are secular and socially tolerant. And they can be decidedly anti-corporate.
 
Beinart: “If Millennials remain on the left, the consequences for American politics over the next two decades could be profound. In the 2008 presidential election, Millennials constituted one-fifth of America’s voters. In 2012, they were one-quarter. In 2016, according to predictions by political demographer Ruy Teixeira, they will be one-third. And they will go on constituting between one-third and two-fifths of America’s voters through at least 2028.”
 
The politician who may be most vulnerable to this generational cohort? Hillary Clinton. Specially, an anti-Wall Street candidate like Senator Elizabeth Warren could do to her what RFK and Gene McCarthy did to LBJ in 1968.
 
Forgot for a while DHHS scandals and federal government shutdowns. Ponder the coming Millennium.

 

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25
With thick smoke clouds billowing out of the Capitol it’s hard to see who’s winning the latest war in Washington – plus, it isn’t a simple us versus them war: It’s a three tribe melee (with two camps of Republicans fighting Obama and each other at the same time).
 
At first, a couple of weeks ago, it looked like Chief Boehner of the largest Republican tribe was about to work out a deal with Obama to fund Obamacare and avoid a government shutdown – but then the second Republican camp (a small but fearless tribe of conservatives) threw a monkey wrench into the works.
 
The Republican Chief then reversed course which, of course, didn’t sit well with the President – who, it turns out, is a match for both the conservatives in fearlessness and Boehner in cunning.
 
Suddenly, the Republican Chief found himself under attack from both sides. He’d send a trial balloon floating over toward the Obama camp which the President would shoot down, saying, I’m not budging; then the Chief would try his hand in his own Republican Caucus, explaining, Look, Obama’s not going to give an inch. He knows if the government shuts down we’ll be blamed.
 
That homily fell on deaf ears, too – showing Boehner little more empathy than Obama had, the conservatives more or less said nobody had ever won a fight by running away.
 
Now, all that said, right in the middle of this melee, there is one thing all the tribes agree on: A government shutdown is not a good idea. After all, it means Senators and Congressmen won’t get paid. And all three camps also agree paying soldiers and sailors makes sense – so, while a sergeant’s fighting in Afghanistan, back home his wife isn’t wondering how she’s going to make ends meet at the end of the month.
 
It’s not hard to understand a conservative saying, As a matter of conscience I can’t vote to fund Obamacare.
 
Or to understand Obama saying, And as a matter of conscience I can’t let you not fund Obamacare.
 
But it’s hard to see either saying, I can’t agree to pay soldiers and policemen and to care for the infirmed.
 
So why isn’t someone – anyone – in Washington saying, Let’s fund the things we agree on (which amount to trillions of dollars) then fight it out later over the rest.
 
It’s one of those odd mysteries.
 

 

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10
Foreign policy is not my forte, so don’t ask me what America should do about Syria. But I get politics, and I don’t get President Obama’s political strategy.
 
If you want to do something, why ask permission from a Congress that has proven itself incapable of doing anything?
 
Most Republicans won’t vote for anything Obama wants. They’d rather vote for Putin. After all, they’ve voted to repeal Obamacare only 57 times. They need something new to vote against.
 
And most Democrats will use any excuse to vote against any military action ever.
 
Members of Congress are making a great show of “listening” to their constituents on Syria, which most of their constituents couldn’t find on a map, let alone understand the complexities of what is going on there and what we should do.
 
Obama can make a strong moral case for acting unilaterally. Gas and chemical weapons cross a line. Even Hitler was afraid to use gas as a weapon of war; he used it as a weapon of mass murder.
 
But it doesn’t help that Americans are war-weary after a decade in the Middle East. It doesn’t help that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld & Co. misled the nation into war in Iraq. It doesn’t help that Obama made his chops in 2008 by being the only Democratic presidential candidate who opposed that war from the start. It doesn’t help that John Kerry was famously for the war before he was against it.
 
With Iraq, Americans mistakenly believed – and maybe still believe – that Saddam was behind 9/11. Maybe tonight Obama will have evidence that Assad was behind the Boston bombing, or shingles.
 
Maybe Obama is looking for an excuse not to do anything. That, Congress can do.
 
Or maybe – wow! – he believes this is the right thing to do. Maybe he believes Congress should be consulted before America engages in acts of war. Maybe he thinks it is best to try to persuade, even if he fails, than act on his own.
 
Maybe he is doing something we see so rarely we don’t recognize it: putting a principle over poll numbers. Maybe he is counting on Americans to hear the case, look at the facts and make a thoughtful judgment.
 
What a concept.

 

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06
In the Senate of the world’s oldest democracy the Honorables sat down around a giant horseshoe-shaped table to hold a hearing to ask the Secretary of State how he figured bombing Syria was a good idea – but a strange thing happened: As soon as each Senator asked his first question the Secretary of State would talk and talk and keep on talking hardly pausing for breath.
 
Then another peculiar thing happened – not one Senator said, Mr. Secretary, I understand you figure talking and talking and talking is a pretty good way to keep me from asking more questions and there’s no doubt you’ve proved it works but I’m trying to figure out whether we ought to go to war – so could you stop your filibuster?
 
Over and over with honeyed-words Kerry urged Senators to support a limited, narrow, brief, short bombing attack on Syria, sententiously weaving a time-honored illusion.
 
I can’t remember the last time I agreed with Charlie Rangel but when he was asked how he’d vote on bombing Syria he cut right through Kerry’s chaff and said: “There’s absolutely no question I would vote no because there’re so many questions. One of them is, is this a war? And if it’s not a war, if it’s a limited war, I never heard of anything [like that] in my entire life. If you’re going to fire shells and bomb a community, that’s war, and you have to have a declaration of war, and the Congress should legally, constitutionally approve it and I haven’t seen that evidence.”
 
That’s plain English: If someone landed a cruise missile on, say, the Pentagon that would be war and, by the same token, bombing a city in Syria is war and John Kerry’s weaving illusions (to hide that fact) is how politicians land democracies in wars: By saying they’re not wars. That there’s no pain. Or risk. And no surprises. And no price for believing a fiction.

 

 

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04
Broken politics and posturing politicians present one degree of mendacity when it comes to passing a budget – but the moment a war appears on the horizon that same devilment turns lethal.
                         
A few days ago the President declared that, as leader of the oldest constitutional democracy on earth, he needs the support of Congress to go to war with Syria. Then, two days later, his Secretary of State, with inerrant political versatility charged pell-mell in the opposite direction – declaring the President may attack Syria even if Congress tells him, No.
 
The Secretary of State also said, yes, there is a civil war in Syria but then added (with a somber, straight face) that bombing one side doesn’t involve us in the civil war.
 
In the last twelve years the world’s greatest democracy has attacked Iraq, Afghanistan, bombed Libya, and supported a revolution that deposed the government of Egypt – but now, up in Washington, politicians are stamping their feet, insisting we have to bomb Syria because if we don’t our enemies the Iranians will get the idea we’re weak-kneed.
 
But there’s another fact the clamoring politicians don’t mention: If we bomb Syria then we’ve started a war with Syria and they have every right to attack back.
 
Not one overheated Washington politician has offered a word about where that may lead.
 

 

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03
In the desert land where the Lord struck St. Paul blind then showed him a vision, a pair of skunks are fighting a Civil War and five-thousand miles away in the world’s oldest democracy a great hue and cry has arisen to bomb one of the skunks. 
 
Now in the oldest democracy politics is a bit underhanded so hardly a politician calls bombing another country a war – they call it a ‘limited military action’ with ‘no boots on the ground.’
 
The Viking-helmeted war-hawks – like John McCain and Lindsey Graham – are telling anyone who’ll listen that one of the two skunks (the Assad-skunk) is the worst, lowest, meanest varmint to walk the earth since Hitler. It’s the vile puppet of our bitter enemies the Iranians. And thinks nothing of gassing innocent women and children.
 
And the powerful voices of cable TV, with the prospect of bombs falling and evening news ratings soaring, have raised their voices from the usual howl to a thundering chorus of outrage spiced with devilment. But hardly a soul’s asked: What about the other skunk? Has it slaughtered innocent women and children too?
 
And no one – from the President to the Secretary of State to the leaders in Congress – seems to have given a thought to how not long ago, in the land of the pyramids, when a pair of skunks were fighting we abandoned the 'Mubarak-skunk' to side with the ‘Muslim-Brotherhood-skunk’ – which didn’t work out too well. Or how before that, in the land of the Barbary pirates, we helped the ‘Libyan-rebel-skunk’ by bombing the ‘Gaddafi-skunk’ – which ended with our embassy being blown up.
 
War’s a deadly business. Limited military actions spin out of control. Skunks strike back. People get killed. And no matter what our over-heated politicians in Washington declare – this time someone ought to stop and remember: Replacing one skunk with another is not a grand plan.

 

 

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31
An Old Wise Lobbyist (OWL) gives me a Labor Day break by sharing this:
 
“Contributors to Rep Edgar Starnes' campaign should be disgusted and dismayed that he used their contributions to beautify his Raleigh legislative office.
 
“The Republican House leader used $7,000 of campaign money for furniture and other niceties at the legislative building. He defended his expensive upgrade by saying his constituents deserve to find him in comfortable surroundings when they visit.
 
“He forgot that his contributors supported him financially to help him and his colleagues win elections, not lounge in luxury. It's tantamount to misappropriation of funds when he uses dollars entrusted to his campaign to do a Martha Stewart on his office so he has a comfy place to park his rump.
 
“He's not the first arrogant legislator to suffer this financial brain spasm. Plenty of others used campaign funds to buy cars, clothes and other fun stuff for themselves with the best kind of money – other people's money. They forget that their contributors are largely working stiffs who have to pay for things with their own money.
 
“During the many, many years he was in the minority party, Starnes had a crap office in a dark hallway. No one visited nor cared what he thought.
 
“But he’s a leader now, and his poor judgment further erodes what's left of public trust in
legislators. If Starnes is such a poor steward of his campaign funds, can he be trusted with the people's money? Or the future of the state?”

 

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19
This isn’t a story of sin begetting sin but of foolishness begetting foolishness.
 
Years ago, somewhere, some Democratic political guru sat in a room with reams of demographics of people who never had voted and when he finished studying those pages of statistics one fact was clear as a bell: If those folks started voting more Democrats would be elected.
 
Next, over in the state legislature, the Democratic  politicians went to work and passed motor-voter laws to register people when they applied for a driver’s license.
 
Of course, the Democrats didn’t say they passed those laws to elect more Democrats – they dressed them up in fine sounding rhetoric about the importance to Democracy of more people voting.
 
Voter registration soared – but the new voters didn’t vote.
 
So the Democratic legislators went back to work passing laws to increase voter turnout – like allowing early voting, same day registration, and Sunday voting.
 
But that didn’t make much difference either.
 
Then, in 2008, Barack Obama ran for President.
 
Now, some Democrats will argue that election was when all their years of labor finally paid off – and that Barack Obama running for President was a coincidence. Turnout soared. But, for instance, did African-American turnout rise in 2008 because voters suddenly discovered early voting – or because the first African-American in history was on the ballot.
 
Two years later, in the 2010 election, when President Obama was not on the ballot African-American turnout dropped again. Then, in 2012, when he was on the ballot it went back up. All that seems to indicate Barack Obama, himself, was the prime impetus behind turnout rising and falling – not early voting.
 
Then Republicans came to power.
 
Now, let’s concede, for arguments sake, that when Republicans took office they looked at all those Democratic election laws and reached the exact same conclusion Democrats had years ago – that they’d helped elect Democrats. And they figured turnabout – and repealing those laws – was fair play.
 
Of course, like Democrats years before, Republicans couldn’t very well say they were changing the laws so fewer Democrats would be elected – so, dressed their new laws up in a lot of fine-sounding rhetoric about stopping voter fraud.
 
The new Republican laws elicited a howl from Democrats, led by the formidable Reverend William Barber, so fierce that by the time the Republican plan passed it was all but neutered – there would be seven less early voting days but the number of early voting hours per day would increase so in the end the total number of hours would remain exactly the same.
 
There was a new voter ID requirement but, in the age when a campaign (a Democratic friend actually told me this story about the Obama campaign) can text message three female Obama supporters in North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Alabama, and ask them each to call an undecided female voter in Colorado, how long can getting a voter ID slow a campaign down?
 
Governor McCrory signed the new legislation into law and put out a YouTube video saying how, now, elections would to be clean and safe – but before the ink was dry on the page Reverend Barber sued him, held a press conference, and landed on TV with a 53 minute video of his own.
 
The Governor, the Reverend explained, had landed NC right back in days of Jim Crow. He had trampled on the blood of Civil Rights martyrs, and the combination of the new laws and the Supreme Court’s recent decision on the Voting Rights Act made for the worst day in North Carolina history since the union troops left the state after Reconstruction.

There is the kind of irony here that can only happen in politics: The Democrats pass laws to elect Democrats – that don’t work. Then Republicans undo the Democratic foolishness that didn’t work – to elect Republicans. None of which – on either side – will make a tootles worth of difference when it comes to electing anyone but has led to a political howl so earthshaking you’d think the greatest threat to North Carolina today is whether a precinct has 100 hours of early voting over 17 days or 100 hours of early voting over 10 days.

 

 

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01
“You have a Republican majority that is doing exactly what they were elected to do.” -
Claude Pope, state GOP chairman

“They really messed up when they screwed with the mothers, the teachers and the women.” - Shannon Shanks, Wilmington teacher
 
Well, in 2014 and 2016 we’ll find out who’s right.
 
Republicans may find that their biggest problem isn't just what they did, but how they did it. It was mean, angry and vengeful.
 
They fit right in with the face of the Republican Party nationally. In Washington, they are mean, angry obstructionists. In Raleigh, a mean, angry wrecking crew. Angry old white men lashing out at mothers, teachers and women, not to mention minorities, young people, older people, rural people, city people, gay people, sick people, not-rich people, you name it.
 
Republicans drew districts and passed a voter-suppression law to keep those people in their place. But Americans have this way of rising up when they’re told to sit down and shut up.
 
Even Republicans here worry about the overreach. They stay silent because they want to taste the fruits of victory.
 
But the way they’re going, the may be out of power for another 100 years.

 

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18
Because it’s about a big electoral prize that Democrats dream about – and because it has some salience to North Carolina – this long article in Texas Monthly is worth a read for Democrats. (Sorry, Republicans, it’s banned for you.)
 
The article addresses this proposition: “Democrats once ruled Texas. Then came five decades of steady decline. Can Wendy Davis, the Castro brothers, and Team Obama’s vaunted field operation return their party to power? And if they can’t, can anyone?”
 
North Carolina Democrats start in a far stronger position than Texas Democrats. They’ve won here. President Obama won here. But, still, what will it take to take back the Governor’s Office and the legislature?
 
One interesting fact: Texas is the only state bigger than North Carolina that Mitt Romney won. In other words, populous states go Democratic, and less-populous states go Republican. Which explains why Democrats have an edge in the White House and Republicans, in the U.S. Senate.
 
Not to spoil it, but the last line of the article is worth sharing: “Perhaps what Democrats in Texas need most desperately is not a winner but simply a fighter. Winning comes later.”

 

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