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There are few things that are more difficult to shake than labels. In the political realm especially, when a label seems accurate, or feels like it fits the narrative of a candidate or campaign, labels can be deadly. In the 2004 presidential election, Republicans successfully stuck Democratic nominee John Kerry with the label of “flip-flopper,” and it hurt him in the election. In this presidential election cycle, Texas governor Rick Perry was labeled as, for lack of a better word, unprepared. Everything that Perry did over the course of the campaign began to be viewed through that lens.
One of the most often-used epithets thrown around by politicians is the phrase “carpetbagger,” meaning someone who moves to an area with the idea that the person moved specifically to run for office somewhere that he or she believes is winnable. In 2004, conservative activist Alan Keyes decided to run for the United States senate from Illinois, despite never having lived in the state. Keyes defended himself against these critics due to the strange nature of the race. The Republican nominee dropped out with the race well underway, and Keyes claimed he felt a sense of obligation to run, after being asked to do so by the state GOP. Keyes ended up with 27% of the vote against Democrat Barack Obama. In 2000, Hillary Rodham Clinton ran for the U.S. Senate from the state of New York, and faced similar charges of carpetbagging. Clinton was born and raised in Illinois, attended college in Massachusetts, and was the wife of the governor of Arkansas. While never having lived in NY before 1999, Clinton managed to win 55% of the vote against Republican Rick Lazio.
With all that in mind, Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s possible move to Washington state is all the more interesting. Kucinich recently lost a primary fight for his recently redistricted seat in Congress, and is mulling over his options. Kucinich supporters believe that his particular brand of aggressive liberalism will draw find a welcome home in Washington. As a result of redistricting following the results of the 2010 U.S. Census, Ohio lost two seats in Congress, while Washington’s growth caused the state to pick up an additional seat.
There have been politicians in the past who have lost their primary battles, only to continue on as “independent” candidates in the general election. Joe Lieberman lost a primary battle in 2006, only to be elected that November as a member of the “Connecticut for Lieberman” party. In 2010, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski lost a primary battle, only to continue on and win in the general election after waging a campaign as a write-in candidate. While these candidates seem to have thrown the typical rules aside in order to stay in office, but moving across the country is not typically something we see. Kucinich’s apparent willingness to uproot and run for office thousands of miles away was used against him by his opponent, Marcy Kaptur (a sitting Congresswoman from Ohio). As members of the House of Representatives are distributed throughout the country on the basis of population, Representatives are supposed to be more available and accessible to their constituents, and represent them more closely. A Senator has to represent the views of everyone in a state (which are typically more varied), while Representatives have to represent the needs of much smaller districts (which tend to be more ideologically polarized).
It is still an open question as to whether or not Kucinich will make the move to the Pacific Northwest, let alone whether or not Washingtonians would choose to send a man currently representing Ohioans to Congress to represent them going forward. As far as political sideshows go, this promises to be an entertaining one if it moves forward.
As today’s “Google Doodle” celebrates, today is International Women’s Day. While different groups around the globe have picked different “themes” for this year’s commemoration, overall the day is an opportunity to focus on the millions of women around the world who have struggled, and to focus on ending violence on women and working to achieve gender equality.
While I highly recommend looking into ways you can get involved, possibly checking out the United Nation’s Women’s Day site, or that of the European Union. Of course, there is also InternationalWomensDay.com, which, unsurprisingly, has a lot of information about today. I also would urge you to check out the good work being done by the folks over at EMILY’s List, and the National Organization for Women.
I have been extremely fortunate in my life to have had really remarkable women in my life. I am constantly moved and inspired by the work they do, and the sort of widely-accepted institutionalized gender-bias in our world which they have had to overcome. Why not take a minute today to think about what would happen, for instance, if a leading candidate for President suggested that medicine 99% of men take is “harmful for society”.
I’ll just leave you with this quote, just in case you somehow think there’s no such thing as institutionalized prejudice against women in modern society:
“[Y]ou can’t show a topless woman on TV – and you can’t defibrillate a woman in a bra. So victims of heart attacks on TV are *always* male. Did you know that a woman having a heart attack is more likely to have back or jaw pain than chest or left arm pain? I didn’t – because I’ve never seen a woman having a heart attack. I’ve been trained in CPR and Advanced First Aid by the Red Cross over 15 times in my life, the videos and booklets always have a guy and say the same thing about clutching his chest and/or bicep.
And people laugh when I tell them women are still invisible in this world.” – Caroline Sharp
Today would be a great day to send in that donation to Planned Parenthood you’ve been meaning to get around to!
Maine’s senior senator, Olympia Snowe, announced on Monday that she would not be seeking a fourth term. Snowe was seen as one of the few moderate Republicans left in the Senate, alongside fellow Mainer Susan Collins, and, to some extent, Scott Brown of Massachusetts.
Some Democrats see the change in Maine as a good opportunity to pick up a seat previously barred from them. In 2008, Barack Obama beat John McCain in the state by 18 points. Maine often leans Democratic in presidential elections, but has been represented in the United States Senate since 1995. Maine is home to many independent voters, who pride themselves on their independence from the two major political parties.
Snowe’s departure from the Senate leaves Collins and Brown as the two lone Republicans willing to cross party-lines on certain issues. While occasionally there are votes that have majority support from both parties in the Senate, more often than not, votes come down to party line votes. Without moderates in each party willing to work with members of the other party, it is likely that there will only be more gridlock in Congress, as more partisan Senators replace those who were more moderate.
Olympia Snowe has been one of the most prominent female politicians in the United States, and is the second longest-serving female member of Congress, behind Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski. Snowe was listed by Time as one of the 10 best Senators of 2006, the only female Senator to make the list. Snowe’s tenure as Maine’s senior Senator was marked by her close connection to her constituents, making the trip back to her home state nearly every weekend to visit with Mainers to see what was on their minds. Snowe’s eye on working for her constituents may have been one of the reasons why she was so successful in the state, winning her two re-election campaigns in 2000 and 2006 by 37 and 54 percentage points, respectively.
Senator Snowe was the favorite to win the seat in the fall, and while the highly charged partisan nature of the current poetical climate is not directly responsible for her decision to retire from the Senate (i.e. being primaried out of a job), the tone of the debate and the demonizing of moderation and compromise is certainly a factor. Other Senators from both parties could take a page from Senator Snowe’s book, working to serve the needs of their own constituents rather than pandering to national organizations that benefit from ideological polarization and general negative campaigning.
Yesterday was the Super Tuesday of the GOP nomination race, with ten states holding contests on the same day. While not much changed as a result of yesterday’s contests, since Super Tuesday is one of the high holy days of the political junky calendar, it seems worthwhile to explain why nothing particularly changed this week.
Out of the ten contests, Newt Gingrich won one state, Georgia, which by all accounts he had to hold onto in order to somewhat legitimize his presence in the race for the nomination. Georgia is Gingrich’s original home state, though he currently resides in Virginia. Gingrich has been polling well in southern states, and with his wins in South Carolina and Georgia Newt is now in second place in the estimated delegate counts.
Rick Santorum, who had been leading in national polls over the last few weeks, met (but did not exceed) expectations last night, winning North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Santorum’s showing in Tuesday’s races was enough to keep him going, but not enough to really do any damage to consistent “man to beat,” Mitt Romney.
Speaking of Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor won in all the states he had to in order to not be humiliated. Romney won his home state of Massachusetts, Vermont (Romney has consistently been seen as the only candidate with a hold on New England), and Virginia (where the only two names on the ballot were Mitt Romney and Ron Paul). After a long rough night for the Romney campaign, the hits came hard, with wins in Alaska, Idaho, and a very close score in Ohio. Ohio was the big prize of the night, though Romney won’t be walking away with the entire slate of delegates from the state.
The end result from Tuesday’s races is that the race is in pretty much the same state it was on Monday. Romney is still on track to win the nomination in the long run, though Santorum and Gingrich both will be able to stay in the race, stay funded, and pick up delegates on the path to the convention. All that Tuesday’s contests solidified was that this contest will keep going for some time. Santorum is strong with social conservatives and evangelicals, but loses support with more moderate blue-collar voters when the spotlight stays on his social views as it has over the past few weeks.
Current delegate count, according to NBC news: Romney 335, Gingrich 111, Santorum 107, Paul 29
You may have noticed, over the past couple of weeks, a debate over birth control has become one of the most talked-about issues in the news. Aspects of the “birth control in the news” trend are as follows:
- As part of the Affordable Care Act, employers were to be required to provide contraceptives to employees.
- After protests from religious groups, the White House announced a compromise wherein insurers provide contraception, rather than employers.
- Opponents of presidential candidate Rick Santorum have, after noticing Santorum’s surge in key polls, made sure to call the public’s (and the news media’s) attention to interviews where Senator Santorum voiced his personal opposition to contraception.
- Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) introduced an amendment to the Affordable Care Act, which would allow employers to refuse to cover certain types of medical care (ostensibly birth control) for “religious” or “moral” reasons.
- The House Oversight and Government Reform committee held a hearing on the birth control rule, without any women allowed to testify.
- The Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill which would define the word “person” as beginning at “the moment of conception”. According to the Women’s Health Law Center, “under this law, any kinds of birth control that stop implementation would then be murder.”
The office of Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, claimed that a woman witness brought to testify by the minority members of the committee was not an “appropriate witness,” saying “the hearing is not about reproductive rights but instead about the administration’s actions as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience…”
While that line of reasoning may seem sound to some, others argue that it makes no sense whatsoever. The “birth control mandate” if that is what it is being called, is what is known as a “generally applicable and neutral law,” which means that is broadly applied, instead of something targeting religious groups (which would, of course, be unconstitutional under the First Amendment). Zach Carter at the Huffington Post makes the point that we already have laws that apply broadly to people in all walks of life that some religious groups are opposed to. Pacifists are required to pay taxes that pay for wars, for example. Other laws that have been objected to on religious grounds include payment of Social Security, payment of unemployment taxes, and paying employees a minimum wage. As Lyle Denniston, who has covered the U.S. Supreme Court for over half a century writes, “laws that apply generally and do not single out religious groups may be upheld even if they intrude on religious practices”.
This issue will, most likely, stay in the headlines for the foreseeable future, as both the subject matter and the debate serve to drive television ratings and rile up both the Democratic and Republican bases. That said, however, it is somewhat difficult to believe that we are watching this conversation on televisions tuned to 2012 news coverage, and that we did not accidentally switch to a Mad Men rerun by mistake.
A fun little addition:
Little over a month ago the question of banning contraception was raised at a Republican debate held in New Hampshire, moderated by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. When asked whether or not a state should be able to ban contraception former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, in a fit of short-sightedness replied:
“George… I don’t know whether a state has the right to ban contraception. No state wants to. I mean the idea of you putting forward things that states might want to do that no state wants to do, and asking me whether they can do it or not is kind of a silly thing.”
This has not been a good week in the land of Mitt Romney. One week ago, the former Massachusetts governor was the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, the winner of both the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, a historic first for a non-incumbent candidate. Romney was sitting back as his opponents dug holes for themselves, attacking what they were calling “vulture capitalism” and splitting apart the non-Romney vote into factions.
Now, things have changed. After some intense vote-counting in Iowa, Republicans there have actually awarded the win to Rick Santorum. This shift does little to change the actual delegate counts in the process, as A.) the two men essentially tied and split the delegates, and B.) Iowa’s delegates are not “pledged,” meaning that technically they can vote for whoever they want at the convention. After receiving a standing ovation in a debate kicking off South Carolina week, Newt Gingrich suddenly surged. Dropping his attacks on Romney’s Bain capital days, he focused more on jobs and the economy, making the case that Romney was too out of touch to understand the needs of South Carolinians.
Next up, Rick Perry decided to drop out of the race and endorse Gingrich. While Perry had been polling fairly dismally in the state, this move still helped to cement Gingrich’s status as the candidate with the momentum, as well as helping to coalesce some of the conservatives factions behind his campaign.
On Thursday, Gingrich’s second wife, Marianne, gave an interview with ABC news, claiming that Gingrich had asked her for an “open marriage,” while he was engaged in an affair with his now-wife Callista. While some commentators suggested this late-in-the-game event would derail Newt’s building momentum in South Carolina, instead the former Speaker of the House used it to his advantage. At Thursday night’s CNN debate, after moderator John King opened with a question about the allegations, Gingrich took the opportunity to rail against what he saw as bias in the national press against the Republican candidates, and in favor of President Obama. Receiving another standing ovation, Gingrich kept scoring points on his opponents (now including the media) throughout the evening.
Mitt Romney’s week from Hell ended with Newt Gingrich winning handily the South Carolina primary, beating 2nd-place Romney by more than twelve points, 40.4% – 27.8%. Rick Santorum finished in third with 17 percent of the vote, leading Texas Congressman Ron Paul by only four points.
The Gingrich campaign has many hurdles in front of it now heading in to the Florida primary (January 31), but the Republican party is now facing a scenario it has never witnessed before: three different candidates each having won one of the first three contests.
*No apologies given for horrible puns.