The New York Times and CBS News have released new poll findings that again confirm what other polls have showed: Large majorities agree with the Democratic position, and disagree with the Republican position, on key issues facing the country. But before delving into those numbers, I wanted to highlight this quote from a Republican voter — given to the Times in a follow up interview — because it perfectly captures what is currently causing all the gridlock and stalemate in Washington:
Rick Buckman, 52, a Republican and an electrical engineer from Dallas, Pa., said that while he supported stricter gun legislation, he did not necessarily approve of the president’s approach. “I was really ticked off that the law didn’t pass,” Mr. Buckman said. “But I thought it was wrong of President Obama to get in front of the public and use people who had been damaged by gun violence as props.”
Obviously one doesn’t want to read too much into what one voter says, but this is just perfect. This Republican supports stricter gun laws, and was “ticked off” that they didn’t pass. But to this voter, when Obama gets out there and advocates for what he supports, the president is just grandstanding. What’s more, this voter has been seduced by a ridiculous and lurid line pushed by far right Senators and right wing media — that there’s something nefarious and cynical about Obama’s alliance with Newtown families in pushing for gun control, even though better gun laws are exactly what those families want, and even though they themselves first contacted the White House to get involved in the campaign to push for it.
This goes directly to the ongoing debate about the limits of presidential power in moving Congress and to all the pundit sneering about Obama’s insistence that a “permission structure” is needed for GOP officials to compromise with the president. As Brian Beutler put it yesterday, Obama is right: Nothing will happen unless he can “create atmospheric and procedural and rhetorical conditions that might allow House Republicans to give Obama something he wants without appearing to have consorted with him in any way.” He need to “find a sort of legislative wormhole connecting the House GOP’s irrational universe and the universe everyone else inhabits.” GOP Senator Pat Toomey has also confirmed a variation of this, i.e., that Republican voters across the country won’t let their representatives compromise with the president.
Just look at the NYT/CBS polling. It finds that 88 percent continue to support expanding background checks. Fifty nine percent are angry about the vote against the recent vote against Manchin-Toomey, versus only 36 percent who are satisfied or enthusiastic. Eighty three percent support a path to citizenship if conditions are met. Fifty seven percent support reducing the deficit with a combination of taxes and spending cuts (the Dem position) while only 36 percent support reducing it with only cuts (the GOP position).
And yet, with the possible exception of immigration — because Republicans perceive a possible existential threat from changing demographics – Obama can’t win GOP cooperation on these issues, because to Republicans, cooperation with Obama equals losing. But the way to change this dynamic is supposedly to show more … presidential leadership, even though public support is already overwhelming for his positions, and even though Republicans don’t want to be publicly associated with Obama’s displays of leadership in the first place, let alone allow him any victories. As Jonathan Chait puts it:
For Republicans to compromise with Obama imperils them at both the individual and the party level. Individually, voting with Obama exposes them to primary challenges, which for virtually all Republicans pose a more significant risk than a general election defeat. As a party, handing Obama bipartisan achievements would boost his popularity and thus decrease Republican prospects in 2014 and 2016. To the extent that ways can be found around these obstacles, “leadership” is not it. In this context, leadership is simply a magic word.
* White House urging liberal caution on immigration: Obama is privately warning Latino and liberal leaders that they need to accept the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” immigration reform framework. Any changes to it could mean it doesn’t pass the Senate with the truly broad support required to mount intense pressure on House GOP leaders to allow a vote on it.
Perhaps more to the point, wide Senate backing may be required to force House leaders to allow it to pass mostly with Democratic support, meaning another break with the (nonexistent) Hastert Rule so beloved by conservatives.
* LGBT groups demanding immigration equality: Related to the above: A coalition of gay rights groups continue to demand that gay and lesbian couples be treated equally under the immigration proposal’s provisions for families and spouses sponsoring the legal immigration of a spouse who isn’t a citizen. The theory, as the coalition puts it, is that there is no way conservatives would oppose immigration reform “simply because it affords 28,500 same-sex couples equal immigration rights.”
But Marco Rubio is claiming that any LGBT equality provision will cause the bill to “die,” and that the emerging coalition behind the bill “will fall apart.” The question is whether leading Dems agree with Rubio’s assessment, and how they will handle LGBT anger and pressure.
* Obama housing policy gets a boost: Shahien Narisipour has a good overview of how the nomination of Mel Watt to oversee Fannie and Freddie, combined with a new report from the Congressional Budget Office, is raising hopes that the Obama administration will be able to go ahead with its program to bring relief to distressed homeowners — which is currently being blocked by Bush-appointee Ed DeMarco. As the CBO report shows, however, this goes beyond just homeowners: Relief would also reduce the deficit and help the economy.
Still unclear: Whether Republicans will filibuster and block efforts to help struggling homeowners amid an ongoing foreclosure crisis and boost the economy.
* Democrats should be vigilant about Obamacare implementation: Folks on the right will get very excited about Harry Reid’s new declaration that Obamacare implementation will be problematic if not handled correctly, as Max Baucus has also said:
“Max said unless we implement this properly it’s going to be a train wreck and I agree with him,” Reid said.
Again: Democrats should be calling for caution and care in the implementation of Obamacare, and they should criticize it when it goes awry. That doesn’t constitute running away from the law wholesale, and it’s the right position, politically and substantively.
* Red state Dems should show courage on guns: A must read from Tom Edsall, who digs into polling data and political science research to show that politicians such as the red state Dems who opposed Manchin-Toomey often overestimate the conservatism of their constituents. As Edsall notes, a Yes vote would not have been political suicide; it might have been challenging to explain, but hardly impossible
Conclusion: “the likelihood that they will be punished for supporting common sense measures to contain gun violence is far less than it was two or three decades ago.” Fortunately, there may be another chance for them to get this vote right.
* The optimist’s case for gun reform: Michael Tomasky makes the case that Manchin-Toomey could very well return for another vote, and that the outcome could be quite different the second time around, thanks to the real signs of pressure on Senators we’re seeing after their No vote.
I don’t know if this will happen or not. But Tomasky is absolutely right to argue that getting a majority of the Senate to support a bill negotiated by bipartisan gun rights Senators was a genuine accomplishment. It’s also true that we’re seeing signs that Senators may be paying a political price for their No votes — which is defying expectations a bit. Whether that will be enough is an open question.
* A campaign to put a woman in the White House: The group EMILY’s List is launching a new campaign to make the case that it’s time to put a woman in the White House in 2016, beginning with a new video demonstrating what having a “Madam President” would mean to girls. There’s also a six figure ad buy on sites like Oprah, Feministing and BlogHer.
The group will release polling today showing — per the release — that battleground voters “see women leaders as having the right judgment, priorities and the ability to cut through partisan bickering, as well as put families in front of politics.” Meanwhile, Quinnipiac finds this morning that Hillary Clinton is the overwhelming favorite among Democrats, with 65 percent versus 13 percent for nearest competitor Joe Biden.
* Obama administration wades back into abortion debate: Reigniting a previous debate, the Justice Department is now moving again to restrict access to morning after pills for girls under 15. The administration is justifying this with a procedural claim — it is arguing that a federal judge didn’t have the authority to reverse a previous administration decision making the restriction. But this move will be widely seen by women’s rights groups as an effort to stake out a moderate position and win plaudits from conservative groups often critical of the president.