Archive for the ‘Republicans’ Category

Arlen Specter and a Postpartisan Landscape

Written by Henry L. Chambers, Jr. on April 29th, 2009

The Democrats have gone from minority status to almost filibuster-proof majority status in the Senate with blazing speed, at least in political years.  The essential switch in party affiliation by Sen. Arlen Specterspecter.jpg coupled with the anticipated eventual victory of Al Franken in Minnesota has nearly made the transformation complete.  The irony is in how many Republicans have changed their tune with respect to the power that should be accorded a majority.  Many Republicans seemed to argue that 51 Republican votes in the Senate should lead to the exercise of 100% of power.  When Democrats gained 51 votes in the Senate, the Republican mantra became shared power.  The claim was that power should be shared because America was essentially equally divided.  Indeed, even when Democrats reached the high-50s in number of Senators, the Republican position appeared to be that using the filibuster to enforce shared power was perfectly acceptable.  Using the filibuster until Democrats shared power or put some Republican ideas into specific pieces of legislation was deemed perfectly appropriate.  The question now becomes: What power should the Republicans be able to exercise in a Senate in which Democrats have a filibuster-proof majority?

Republicans, as a political group, should not be able to exercise much pure power vis-a-vis the Democrats.  Of course, individual senators and certain groups of senators with ideologically similar positions on specific issues should be able to exercise influence on particular matters.  As a consequence of the numerical paucity of Republicans, Democrats arguably should stop listening to Republicans as Republicans and should start listening to individual Republican senators or mixed groups of Democratic and Republican senators as members of the club who might have good ideas.  Ironically, if Democrats take the ideas of these groups seriously, Sen. Specter’s switch in party affiliation may be the first step to a postpartisan Senate.

Who Will Save the Republicans?

Written by Robert Justin Lipkin on April 28th, 2009

The Republican Party risks imploding. With duplicitious ideologues like Kristol and his ilk, obstructionists like Boehner, delusionals like Cantor, the comatose like Bachman, and the authentic loonies like Limbaugh, the Republicans are ripe for self-destruction. Unless a person adtmpphptw20wr1.jpghering to conservative principles, but a person of character, honesty, and integrity arrives on the scene, someone who can restart a Republican conversation, the Party is destined at best to remain a regional party of crazed anti-intellectual political perverts.  To do that this New Age Republican must give up on the prospect that Obama will fail so completely that his administration will constitute nothing more than a blip on the political radar screen. He or she must accept that Obamaism is here to stay. This New Age Republican must be someone who realizes and acknowledges the reality of life after the perfidious Bush-Cheney team that nearly brought America to it knees.  This Republican savior must be smart, honest, willing to compromise and above all, ready to condemn the Republican loonies who blame the Swine-Flu on Obama, propose renaming the Democratic Party the Democratic Socialist Party, deny that waterboarding is torture because it is part of the U.S. SERE training program and reject the fact that CO2 is dangerous because it’s natural. This New Age Republican must be able to adhere to conservative principles while at the same time abandoning the unreflective, religious commitment to “free markets,” deregulation, and oh yes, cutting taxes. What a new Republican Party needs is a conservative pragmatist who will to engage Obama in conversation about the future of the nation. In fact, what the Republicans need is a Republican Obama.  Any takers?

Judicial Non-Deference to the FDA

Written by Rebecca Zietlow on March 26th, 2009

The Food and Drug Administration has been taking it on the chin in the courts – and for good reasonfinal1.jpg.  For years, it has been apparent that the FDA process for approving and evaluating drugs is flawed.  Far too many drugs have been approved only to be recalled due to deadly side effects that were uncovered only after the drug’s approval.  This problem has gotten so bad that recently, one of my doctors told me that he waits a year after a new drug is approved by the FDA before he prescribes it.  The doctor said that he waits a year in order to ensure that the drug is safe and find out more about the drug’s side effects.  Removal of approved drugs from the market is surely embarassing to FDA officials, but it is profoundly disturbing to those of us who are potential users of those drugs.   It is also evidence that things are not working right at the FDA.  Maybe the drug industry has too much power, and maybe the agency has become too politicized.

In two recent high profile cases, courts have confirmed that the FDA’s decision making process is problematic.  In Wyeth v. Levine, the United States Supreme Court upheld a state court judgment against a leading drug company and in favor of a patient who lost her arm because her doctor used the risky “IV push” method to administer a drug to her.  Wyeth sold the medication with a label did not warn against using the IV push method.  The SCOTUS rejected the company’s argument that the claim was preempted by the FDA’s approval of its label.  Under the Bush administration, the FDA had changed its regulation to provide that “FDA approval preempts contrary or conflicting state law.”  However, the Court held that the new regulation had no authority because it was contrary to the legislative history of the Food and Drug Act, because the FDA had finalized the regulation without giving states or interested parties any opportunity to comment on the change, and because the FDA had failed to provide any reasoned explanation for overturning its long standing policy of non-preemption.  Why would the FDA unilaterally act to preempt state tort claims against drug companies?  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the Bush administration FDA wanted to protect drug companies from lawsuits regardless of the cost to public health.

This week, a New York federal district judge overturned an FDA regulation prohibiting girls under the age of 18 from purchasing the controversial “morning after” pill without a prescription.  The court held that the FDA’s rule was entirely unsupported by scientific evidence, and that there was strong evidence that the rule was based not on science, but on politics.  Why would the Bush administration FDA want to raise the age limit for girls to buy this form of contraception without a prescription?  The “morning after” pill is a hot button issue in the conservative “right to life” movement, a key constituency of President Bush.

We deserve a government that works, and a Food and Drug Administration that bases its policies on protecting our health, not protecting drug companies or religious principles.  Thank goodness our courts are doing what they can to make the FDA accountable for its shoddy performance.

Bobby Jindal’s Fallacy/The Republican Party’s Perennial Deception

Written by Robert Justin Lipkin on February 25th, 2009

How many times have we heard that Democrats are for government, while Republicans are for ordinary citizens? What a choice! Between the two who could argue that government is a more comforting, a more deserving institution?  But that’s not the real Republican choice. Republicans are thoroughly disingenuous when they present the choice as between government and citizens. What they want is the choice between governmentmpphpmh2mlg.jpgt and corporate culture presiding over both government and ordinary people. So you must ask yourself: if you must be represented by someone whom would you choose? Government? Or corporations? That’s the real choice Republicans offer us despite how deeply they try to hide it.  Consider Governor Bobby Jindal’s response to President Obama’s congressional address embodies this subterfuge. Jindal says “Democratic leaders in Washington — they place their hope in the federal government. We place our hope in you, the American people. In the end, it comes down to an honest and fundamental disagreement about the proper role of government. We oppose the National Democratic view that says the way to strengthen our country is to increase dependence on government. We believe the way to strengthen our country is to restrain spending in Washington, to empower individuals and small businesses to grow our economy and to create jobs.” No Jindal and his Republican cohorts want to strengthen corporations at the expense of the people and the government representing the people. This has been the very best kept political secret in decade. Americans keep faith with this secret at their own peril.

Bipartisanship

Written by Henry L. Chambers, Jr. on February 18th, 2009

During and after the battle over the stimulus package, many prominent Republicans complained about a supposed lack of bipartisanship demonstrated by Democrats and President Obama.  Sen. McCain, Sen. Graham and Rep. Boehner all have pointedly noted the very small number of Republicans who voted for the stimulus package, claiming that this proves that the bill was not bipartisan.  Of course, that a small number of Republicans voted for the bill hardly means the bill is not bipartisan.  The bill itself may be bipartisan.  That is, it may reflect fairly reflect principles largely thought to be Republican principles, even if the bill is not the same bill the congressional Republicans would have drafted.  It is entirely possible that not only should the Republican congressmen have voted for the bill, but that rank and file Republicans and centrists may generally support the bill.  If that is the case, likely because congressional Republicans (and especially Republican senators) are isolated from and more conservative than average Republicans, it is the congressional Republicans who are not reaching out far enough rather than congressional Democrats leaving Republicans out of the discussion.

Not surprisingly, what it likely occurring is that the big-name Republicans simply have not adjusted their outlook to the new reality.  When Republicans were in the majority, they wrote bills.  When Republicanstmpphpqdhlzb.jpg were a filibuster-proof minority they had the power to help write bills by stopping bills from passing.  Now that Republicans number barely 40 in the Senate and have no filibuster to protect them in the House, all they have is the power to persuade and the ability to stomp their feet if they do not get their way.  For newly elected Republicans who know no better, bipartisanship may appear to mean merely that one’s ideas will be given a fair hearing.  However, to Republicans like McCain, Graham and Boehner who have wielded power, bipartisanship means the ability to wield power even when one is in the minority.  To them, bipartisanship is what happens when they have to be courted for their votes because Democrats are required to reach fairly deeply into the Republican caucus to try to get votes.  Now that these senators are merely being courted for the quality of their ideas, rather than their votes, bipartisanship appears to them to be dead.   I am not ready to argue that the stimulus bill incorporates large chunks of Republican orthodoxy.  However, I am willing to say that the mere refusal of Republicans to vote for the stimulus package does not mean that centrist and Republican concerns were not taken into account when the bill was written.

Scheming Republicans

Written by Robert Justin Lipkin on February 9th, 2009

Why are congressional Republicans refusing en masse to support President Obama’s stimulus package? Are they sticking to their guns for conscientious reasons? Or are they just playing politics? If they latter they should keetmpphprjzn7c1.jpgp in mind that 74% of the American public believe that President Obama is trying to compromise with the congressional Republicans while only 39% of Americans believe congressional Republicans are trying to compromise with the President. Some Republicans seem to think that compromise requires equality between two sides to a political dispute. If two individuals both want an apple pie, a compromise requires splitting the pie in two equal halves. According to this view of compromise, both the Republicans and Democrats should each have an equal share of the stimulus pie.  After subtracting those issues upon which there is agreement, each Party should get an equal share of the remainder. In ordinary circumstances, such a conception of compromise might be plausible, but certainly not in politics. If this conception applied to political compromises, why have elections at all. If the will of the electorate was to give the Democrats control of Congress and the Presidency, then the lion’s share of the compromise should go to the Democrats. “Compromise” in a republican democracy means that the electoral winner should take the loser’s suggestions into account and implement some suggestions while rejecting others. During the Bush administration, Democrats were virtually shut out of policy making. Now, President Obama has met with all the congressional Republicans and he’s dropped some elements of the Democratic Congress’s version of the stimulus package the Republicans found unacceptable.  But that’s not enough for congressional Republicans. Why?  They seem to believe that should get an equal share of the pie. But that, in effect, would, betray the verdict in the last election. The Democrats won and are bound by that victory to favor their own programs, especially when up against intransigent Republicans. So what do Republicans want? Their obduracy is hurting the possibility of planting the seeds of an economic recovery. They care more about politics than they do about the nation. Congressional Republicans seem oblivious to the fact that their indifference to the plight of the American public can backfire on their political scheming.

AMERICANS VOTE!

Written by Robert Justin Lipkin on November 4th, 2008

Citizens of the United States of America go to the polls today in record numbers to begin a fundamentally new direction in the American experiment. (Click here.04memo2190.jpg) Will the poisonous rot of the contemporary Republican Party remain in place or will the Party be punished for permitting itself to be hijacked by the most dangerous, the most divisive, and the least constitutionally faithful president in American history? If the polls are accurate predictors, Barack Obama will become the forty-fourth president of the United States.  The American people, however, should keep in mind that an Obama victory, even an Obama mandate, will be ineffective unless each individual supporting Obama appreciates the necessity of finding a place on their everyday “to do” list a category labeled “political participation.”  Voting every two, four, or six years is not enough.  A movement must be created that will make sure that the forces of darkness are kept at bay.  These forces derive from an attitude deeply entrenched in every American constituting an obdurate insistence that “I’m right and you’re wrong,” and that my political responsibility is to beat you, dominate you, or eliminate you.  You are not merely my opponent; you are instead my hateful enemy. Unless we acquire a sincere respect for our opponents and until the necessity for principled compromise resonates deeply in the American spirit, Obama’s victory will be short-lived.

A Bittersweet Victory for Voters

Written by Rebecca Zietlow on October 23rd, 2008

Every four years, Ohioans experience a new surge of interest in election law.  This year’s litigation has taken an ironic turn.  The Republican Party has run into a roadblock – the barriers to civil rights litigation erected by Republican nominees on the United States Supreme Court.

Two weeks ago, the Ohio Republican Party filed a lawsuit against Jennifer Brunner, the Democratic Ohio Secretary of State.  The suit asked a United States District Court to find that the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) requires the Secretary to compare the list of 600,000 newly registered voters against other government databases, and to investigate the voters whose names and addresses did not precisely match other government records.  If they had prevailed, the right to vote of an estimated 200,000 Ohio voters could have been challenged, and there would have been a real risk of chaos on election day.

The District Court ruled against the Secretary despite the fact that the Republican Party failed to show any evidence of voter fraud, and despite the fact that another federal statute, the National Voter Registration Act (also known as the “Motor Voter” Act), prohibits the removal of voters based on computer matching.  A 6th Circuit panel overturned the District Court, but in a highly unusual procedural move, a divided 6th Circuit issued an en banc opinion upholding the District Court’s order.  Written by Bush “43” appointee, Judge Jeffrey Sutton, the panel opinion was, to be kind, surprising.

Prior to his appointment to the federal bench, Sutton established his legal reputation as an advocate for restricting Congress’ power to enact civil rights legislation and make civil rights enforceable against state officials.  One of Sutton’s most important victories was in the case of Alexander v. Sandoval, a case in which the Court gutted the ability of private individuals to enforce their federal rights by imposing a highly restrictive test for determining whether a federal statute creates a private right of action, thereby making the requirements set forth in the statute enforceable by private citizens against the government.  Combined with the subsequent case of Gonzaga v. Doe, the Court’s Sandoval ruling has had a devastating impact on civil rights and other public interest litigation.

Sandoval and Gonzaga pose an insurmountable barrier for any private individual, including the Ohio Republican Party, wishing to enforce the provisions of a statute like HAVA, which governs the Secretary of State’s implementation of a variety of voter registration requirements.  Yet, in his opinion, Sutton inconceivably glossed over the private right of action issue, stating “perhaps when a statute effectively benefits everyone but no one in particular, a right of action still may exist.”  Perhaps that would have been the case had Sutton not prevailed in his role as counsel for the State of Alabama in Sandoval . . . perhaps someday in the future when we have another Supreme Court . . . perhaps when a snowball no longer melts in hell! Perhaps, indeed.

Millions of recipients of public benefits, those concerned about the environment, victims of civil rights violations and others who have suffered from states’ violations of federal law would be better off if Judge Sutton had been right.  But, thanks in large part to Sutton’s efforts as a private attorney, his Sixth Circuit en banc opinion was clearly wrong.  Secretary Brunner appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which issued a 2-page per curiam opinion vacating the 6th Circuit en banc ruling on the ground that – surprise – there was no likelihood that the plaintiffs would prevail since the holdings of Sandoval and Gonzaga precluded them from having a private right of action to enforce the requirements of HAVA.  Thus, the party that appointed the judges that closed the doors of the federal courts to civil rights litigants had those same doors slammed in their face — truly a bittersweet victory for Ohio voters.

John McCain’s New Bailout Proposal – UPDATE

Written by Henry L. Chambers, Jr. on October 8th, 2008

During last night’s debate, John McCain unveiled a new bailout proposal called the McCain Resurgence Plan.  That plan would require that the Treasury Department buy certain individual subprime mortgages then reissue affordable fixed-rate, government-backed mortgages to homeowners based on the home’s current market value.  McCain’s stated goals, to stabilize home prices and help people who may otherwise lose their house, are laudable.  However, the Resurgence Plan is nothing new.

McCain’s proposal is no bold stroke.  The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (the Bailout) already allows the Treasury Department to buy troubled assets – including mortgages – when the Secretary deems such a purchase to “promote[] financial market stability.”  Presumably, Sen. McCain’s point is to issue a plan that reflects his priorities.  He appears to want to guarantee that much of the $700 billion for the bailout goes directly to help homeowners stay in their houses.  Helping people who could afford to stay in their home if their mortgages reflected the market price of their homes is a good idea.  However, it is a good idea that many people have had for a long time and was on the table when he suspended his campaign to ostensibly help Congress deal with the economic crisis.   Ironically, had he pushed to guarantee that some of the money would be spent in this way, as a number of others – including Barack Obama – already had, he could have been seen as a maverick who reached across the aisle to put country first.  Of course, many in the Republican Party would have disowned him, but such is life.  

One can only ask if it would be too Palinesque to suggest that John McCain would rather lose an economy than lose an election.      

 UPDATE

It looks like I was both overly fair and somewhat unfair to John McCain in my prior post.  I was overly fair because I assumed that his Resurgence plan was structured to buy mortgages at or near their market value then replace the old mortgages with new mortgages issued at market value.  As noted in the original post, that plan would be unoriginal and tardy, but sensible at heart.  Conversely, I was unfair to McCain because his plan is to buy homes at their souffle prices with taxpayer money then issue new mortgages on those homes at their current deflated market value.  In fairness to McCain, his plan (as I understand it) is new and mavericky.  Of course, it is also bizarre and gimmicky given the current economic climate.  It is a gift to banks that bet on the souffle and lost.    

In fairness to myself, when I heard McCain propose his Resurgence plan during the debate, I asked my wife if she could hear the sound of thousands of economists screaming.  I had assumed that the plan he proposed was in fact the plan he proposed.  However, I convinced myself during the debate that a fiscal conservative or even a sane person could not possibly have proposed what I thought he had proposed.  Hence, I wrote the original post.  Now that I know that McCain really proposed what he said he proposed,  I wonder how long it will take for some number of his economic advisers to fold up their tents and go home.  Conversely, how long will it take for McCain to distance himself from his Resurgence plan by claiming that he really meant something completely different than what he said?         

  

Should Karl Rove Go to Prison?

Written by Robert Justin Lipkin on July 28th, 2008

Is it possible for Obama’s vision of a “new politics” to take root when men like Karl Rove operate freely and without punishment in the halls of political power?

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Rovian politics, like Brooklyn Street Fighting, is heartbreakingly ruthless. One could, however, almost always opt out of Brooklyn street fights; just never join a gang. Remain a civilian. But not even “civilians” are beyond Rove’s poisonous tentacles. Or to put it differently, not one is beyond Rove’s nefarious clutches.

roveBush-Rove politics must be ranked with the most notorious and devastating brand of character assassination, dirty tricks, and downright viciousness in the history of the republic. It’s not at all clear how Mr. Bush, a born-again Christian, can sanction such conduct. But he does. Wherein lies the morality–“love thy neighbor”–in such a strategy? Of course, Bush and Rove, in all probability, have developed enormous capacities to rationalize and compartmentalize their decisions to the detriment of the nation. Here lies another reason for punishing the Republican Party this fall. This is not retributive punishment–revenge is not involved–rather it is for the sake of deterrence. Hopefully, if we punish the Republicans for bringing us the past eight years, the Party will think twice about ever again inflicting such grievous injuries on the Constitution, the nation’s traditions, and on the American people. Although, it will not happen, Karl Rove certainly deserves to go to prison if the crimes his been accused of can be proven in court. But such punishment is clearly insufficient. The real culprit here is the Republican Party and Republicans who are so blinded by partisanship that they have no ability to discern the good of the nation.