James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘John Boehner’

As tea boils over, Democrats could actually win by losing Senate & White House–but probably won’t

Posted by James McPherson on August 15, 2011

So, the Tea Party-Grover Norquist-Koch brothers “Axis of No Taxes” has managed to downgrade the country’s credit rating–though caring about Standard & Poor’s poor standards is as stupid as the whole phony debt ceiling “crisis” in which the “compromise” gave Republicans “98 percent of what we want.”

One result? Barack Obama’s approval ratings are the lowest ever, and talking heads are acting as if Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann might be our next president. If that were true, it might not be all bad, for reasons I’ll get to in a moment. But I think a Perry or Bachmann presidency is only slightly more likely than the possibility that PUMAs will push Hillary Clinton into a primary campaign against Obama.

For one thing, while Obama ratings are low, he still fares far better than Congress and everyone else involved in the debt ceiling debacle, and his numbers are pretty close to those of both Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan at the same point in their presidencies (and still higher than the low points for either of those two-term presidents).

Who else is down? In fact, the Tea Party is also at a new low, well below the president in popularity.

Despite that, Tea Party-esque candidates Bachmann and Perry seem to be gaining traction (though I don’t discount the fact that they’re just getting lots of attention because they’re entertaining). And in a crazy primary system in which extremist nuts can fare better than more reasoned candidates–but also boring, compromising, capable-of-actually-governing candidates–perhaps a Bachmann or Perry could win.

Maybe we’ll even see a Perry-Bachmann ticket. Though I’d prefer a PerryPalin “secession ticket,” assuming Palin isn’t busy running for John Kyl’s Senate seat. Or perhaps Perry and Bachmann will split the conservative evangelical vote, ultimately giving the GOP candidacy to serial flip-flopper but perceived moderate Mitt Romney.

I think Romney is the one Republican who might beat Obama, who probably doesn’t deserve to be re-elected but whose primary advantage seems to be the weakness of the GOP. But let’s assume Obama loses. Further, let’s assume that Republicans hold the House, and even win the Senate. Scary, huh?

Well, maybe not. In fact, such an outcome might be bad for the country–but maybe not, in the long run (and as a historian, I like looking at the long run). GOP control of Congress and the White House might even help Democrats in the long run.

Because even if the Republicans win EVERY open Senate seat, they still cannot gain the 60-seat majority that current Senate Republicans have shown us is necessary to get anything through the Senate. And if it can’t get through the Senate, we’ve found that the Republican House voted  doesn’t matter. And if a bill doesn’t get through the Senate, a Republican president can’t sign it.

Do you really think that seriously outnumbered Democrats are going to be more agreeable than slightly outnumbered Republicans have been? Or that Americans are going to understand in 2016 why the GOP couldn’t manage to do anything positive, despite controlling the White House and both houses of Congress?

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Posted in History, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

My cardboard cutout Congresswoman

Posted by James McPherson on August 2, 2011

Along with a small group of other folks, I stopped by the office of my U.S. representative, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, today to complain about the new debt reduction “deal” and the hijacking of the democratic process that Republican Tea Party sypathizers used to force Democrats into deal–while doing their damndest to assure that the economy would suffer further, and that it cannot recover enough to benefit Barack Obama in 2012. (Congressional Dems and Obama have also repeatedly proven themselves to be essentially gutless negotiators, of course.)

The Congresswoman wasn’t in her local office, of course, and we didn’t expect her to be. But we’ve seen plenty of her, and so have you–that’s  her in the photo, with House Speaker John Boehner, the one place where her constitents know they can find her virtually any time Boehner speaks on TV.

McMorris Rodgers never speaks. She just stands there, like a cardboard cutout, perhaps to make it appear as if Republicans care about women. Her “YouTube channel” consists of a single video, in which she is being interviewed by… oh, go ahead, I’ll bet you can guess… Fox News.

Unfortunately McMorris Rodgers also is about as thoughtful as a cardboard cutout. She votes in lockstep with the most conservative Republicans, has willingly forfeited whatever reasoning process she might be tempted to use by signing Grover Norquist’s silly tax pledge, and sometimes co-signs legislation generated by others. But as far as generating ideas of her own? In six years, my Congresswoman has introduced 34 bills, only four of which have made it out of committee–and NONE of which have passed.

In our conversation with the aide, I incorrectly said Cathy had introduced 32 bills, but he helpfully pointed out that she had introduced two more just a couple of days ago. And–perhaps surprisingly, for a Republican–these bills actually call for funding something related to science. The fact that they are related to Down syndrome (admittedly, one of many worthy medical causes) means they are more related to the Congresswoman’s own situation than to that of the vast majority of her constituents.

I don’t know where Cathy was today–probably on call in case Boehner was able to find a camera. But officially she had gone on recess for the next five weeks. And since Congressional Republicans also tried to kill unions in exchange for funding the FAA,  some 4,000 airline employees and thousands of construction workers will be without work. Remember how Republicans kept saying their primary concern was about jobs?

Today some of her constituents asked if Cathy would be having any town hall meetings during the recess, and an aide assured that she “planned to,” but “none have been scheduled yet.” I’ll be pleasantly surprised–hell, I’ll be amazed–if she has the guts to host one in which opponents can question her, even in this deeply red district. After all, she offers only vague, often irrelevant, sometimes condescending responses to emails and letters–responses that we pay for, of course.

The aide was a nice young man, but despite knowing about her two most recent bills he didn’t seem to be all that well informed about his boss–not knowing that she had signed the Norquist pledge, for example. On the other hand, he’s probably as well informed as Cathy, and he doesn’t have Boehner to tell him what to think.

When someone asked why McMorris Rodgers was such a fan of Exxon, the aide replied, “I don’t think we’ve ever had anyone from Exxon in here.” Well, duh–I doubt that oil executives drop by an office in the outer reaches of the country, especially when that office isn’t frequented by the member of Congress. But the fact remains that Exxon-Mobil is one of McMorris Rodgers’ top donors for the 2012 campaign now underway.

Her top donor during her time in Congress? The billionaire Koch brothers-funded, union-gutting, right-wing Club for Growth. I’ll bet she talks to them, even if she won’t speak to her constituents.

Next-day addendum: Not surprisingly, I wasn’t the only one to notice McMorris Rodgers’ hypocrisy. Spokesman-Review columnist Shawn Vestal had a piece about it this morning. I was briefly more excited about another Spokesman headline: “Feds announce turkey recall.” Sadly, the story turned out not to be about the new budget agreement.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Election Day: A boost to Obama’s 2012 campaign

Posted by James McPherson on November 2, 2010

So how many House seats with the Democrats lose today? A record is unlikely, thanks to modern gerrymandering by both parties. The Democrats lost a record 116 House seats in 1894, exactly 20 years after the GOP lost 96.

This election is likely to be closer to the 53 the Democrats lost in 1994, the 56 they lost in 1946, or the 57 Republicans lost in 1910. And while dramatic, it’s hardly likely to be earth-shattering (despite the claims you’ll hear tonight on the cable news networks).

Keep in mind that the GOP must pick up a net of 77 seats to have the SAME 255 seats that Democrats now hold. And even if Republicans were to win EVERY Senate seat that’s open they’d have a smaller majority there than Dems do now.

In fact, the Democrats aren’t likely to lose even enough to cost them the Senate majority. I predict they’ll end up with 51 seats, perhaps one or two more if Sharron Angle and/or Joe Miller manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory (though we may not know the final outcome in Alaska for a couple of weeks or more).

We’ll likely have a GOP-controlled House that can’t do much because there will be a Democratic Senate (which also won’t be able to do much) and a Democratic president who will be able to campaign against a “do-nothing Congress” in his re-election bid, as Harry Truman did in 1948. We’ll have two years of gridlock, or the parties will figure out how to work together.

Either may help Barack Obama two years from now, especially if Sarah Palin runs for president and John Boehner turns out to be the kind of House leader I expect: Think Newt Gingrich with less charisma. Come to think of it, the GOP gave us that not long ago.

Also keep in mind that a lot can happen in the next two years, as I was reminded when I came across this poll last week. Two years before Obama was elected president, 37 percent of people had “never heard of him.” In a disgusting example of American ignorance, 30 percent now say the same about Boehner.

Posted in History, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Bipartisan agreement that conservatives should ease off the trigger

Posted by James McPherson on March 25, 2010

Having Joy Behar and Elisabeth Hasselbeck of “The View” agree on something should give pause to those who would disagree with them. And if the agreement comes in the form of harsh criticism of Sarah Palin–for whom Hasselbeck stumped during the 2008 campaign–maybe it’s time for angry gun nuts and other Tea Party types to turn things down a notch.

The criticism revolves around Palin’s use of crosshairs on a map “targeting” Democrats, which Hasselbeck referred to as “purely despicable” and “an abuse of the Second Amendment.” Of course, John McCain defended Palin’s language–oddly, I agree with him in this case more than I do Hasselbeck, though I find the use of crosshairs more troubling. (By the way, if you Google “McCain defends Palin,” you get almost 3.9 million hits.)

I rarely agree with Hasselbeck, but I do sometimes feel sorry for her because she is so badly outnumbered on “The View,” just as I feel for Eleanor Clift when she frequently has to fight four conservatives on “The McLaughlin Group.” And as I said, I’m not sure that Palin’s language is that far over the line, in historical terms.

But if folks on your own side find problems with your methods, the proper response isn’t an Eric Cantor knee-jerk blame-the-Dems reaction. Instead, conservatives should be looking to how they might appeal more to the rational middle rather than to the the lunatic fringe that is now getting so much attention.

Republicans, you lost, despite your best and worst efforts. Get over it. Elections have consequences. Approval of both health care reform and Democrats is already climbing, probably in part because of your obstructionist methods.

Of course, you’ll probably focus on the part of the CBS poll that says most Americans want you to keep fighting health care reform, and either through ignorance or (more likely) willful distortion you’ll misinterpret that result the same as you did the polls showing that most Americans weren’t happy with the proposed health care bill.

You see, many of us opposed the bill not because it went too far but because it doesn’t go nearly far enough, even if we think it’s better than the nothing you would have given us. Likewise, many of us hope you keep fighting reform, because we want you to keep demonstrating how out of touch you are with most Americans, boosting the party of “Yes we can” even more over that of “Hell no you can’t.” (For more on that, see the video below).

Frankly, we aren’t crazy about the Democrats, but considering the mess you created when you were in charge, we much prefer a Democratic majority over a Republican one. Come to think of it, please keep listening to Palin, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and ramping up the loony language–it seems to be doing wonders for our side.

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »