Looking back at 2012 progressively

2012 was a pretty good year for those of a progressive/liberal political point of view and Winning Progressive has compiled a good summary.  You can read the entire article here, but I’ve pulled out some of my particular favorites – in my own order of significance.

First I have to talk about Mitch McConnell who not only lost his effort to make President Obama a one-termer, but last night voted to increase taxes.  (Although since it happened after we technically went off the cliff  at midnight, he will probably spin it as a decrease.)  I think he an John Boehner were the big losers last year, not Mitt.  Mitt is done with politics, but McConnell and Boehner have to continue to try to herd their Republican members and get re-elected.

President Obama re-elected

So now to some accomplishments.

* President Obama Re-Elected With A More Diverse and Progressive Congress– The November elections saw the re-election of President Obama and the election of four new progressive U.S. Senators – Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).  In addition, Joe Lieberman (I-CT) is finally leaving the Senate!  On the House side, the Democrats elected in November will be the first major party caucus in US history that is majority female and people of color.  New House progressives will include Alan Grayson (FL-09), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Dan Kildee (MI-05), Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02), Grace Meng (NY-06), Patrick Murphy (FL-18), Rick Nolan (MN-08), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Raul Ruiz (CA-36), Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01), Mark Tacano (CA-41), Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08), and Kyrsten Simena (AZ-09).  On the flip side, tea party conservatives Allen West (FL), Chip Cravaack (MN), Bobby Schilling (IL), Roscoe Bartlett (MD), Ann-Marie Buerkle (NY), Francisco Canseco (TX), and Joe Walsh (IL) were all defeat and, hopefully, will never be heard from politically again.

* LGBT Equality– 2012 was, of course, a banner year for advancing LGBT equality.  For the first time in US history, equality was supported by a majority of voters facing ballot proposals approving marriage equality in Maine, Washington, and Maryland, and refusing to ban equality in Minnesota. The first openly lesbian U.S. Senator, Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) was elected in November as were a record seven openly-gay House members.  President Obama publicly supported marriage equality, and anti-equality forces in Iowa failed in their effort to recall a state Supreme Court justice who declared that state’s ban on marriage equality unconstitutional.  In February, a federal appellate court ruled California’s anti-marriage equality Proposition 8 unconstitutional, and two federal courts in 2012 did the same with the Defense of Marriage Act.

* Health Care Reform – In a decision that surprised many commentators, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka “ObamaCare.”And while the GOP-controlled House has voted at least 33 times to repeal ObamaCare, President Obama’s re-election in November virtually guarantees that will never occur.   In implementing ObamaCare, the Obama Administration, standing up to strong opposition from conservative religious organizations, finalized rules requiring that contraception be included as a preventive health service that insurance policies must cover with no co-pay.  This will help millions of women afford access to birth control and also save money by reducing unintended pregnancies.

Those are my personal big three.

Yes, there is a lot left to do and a lot that happened that I didn’t particularly think was terrific, but on the first day of a new year, we should celebrate our successes!

Replacing John Kerry or potential food fight in Massachusetts

John Kerry has not been appointed to anything as of this writing.  He has certainly not been confirmed by the Senate.  Neither of these facts are keeping the speculation about the race to replace him from heading toward some kind of crescendo.  Ben Affleck, Ted Kennedy, Jr., Congressman Ed Markey, or my former boss, Congressman Mike Capuano.  Will one of them get appointed by Governor Deval Patrick as interim and then be allowed to run or will it be Vicki Kennedy or former governor Michael Dukakis neither of whom will run.  Rumors. Rumors and speculation.

One thing I do know is that Scott Brown is running for something.  He just came out in support of an assault weapons ban which is a change in his previous position.  If he votes for the President’s fiscal cliff plan then we can be absolutely certain he is running.  The cynic in me would say that he likes being a senator more than he values loyalty to his party which, by the way, he didn’t mention much in his campaign against Elizabeth Warren.  It is Republican.

But let us play the game.

Ben Affleck and Ted, Jr. both campaigned for Elizabeth Warren.  Both appear to have good solid Democratic left politics.  Both probably have good name recognition (an issue for Ed Markey and Mike Capuano – although if I remember correctly, Mike came in second to Martha Coakley in Democratic primary to run against Scott Brown in the last special election.  Some, including me, said at the time that Mike would have pushed back harder against Brown than Coakley did).

For one, Ted, Jr. doesn’t really live in Massachusetts even though a lot of people probably think he must.  He would have to hurry and change his residence and registration.

The Boston Globe ran a piece speculating on all of this and said this about Ted, Jr.

The younger Kennedy would have to go out and campaign for the seat, just as his relative, Joseph P. Kennedy III, just did with his recent US House campaign.

Edward Jr. could rely on his father’s legacy, but also highlight his own work with the disability community, as well as his private-sector experience heading a New York-based health care advisory firm.

One immediate challenge, though, is residency. Kennedy may spend time each summer at the family compound on Cape Cod, but he lives in Connecticut.

Massachusetts election law does not require US House members to live in their respective House districts, only that they be an “inhabitant” of the state when elected. The same is true for senators, who don’t represent geographical districts but the entire state. Candidates for both offices, however, have to be registered voters in the state to circulate nomination papers.

President John F. Kennedy famously maintained his voter registration at 122 Bowdoin St., an apartment building across from the State House, all the way until his assassination.

Edward Kennedy Jr. would have to make some sort of formal commitment to Massachusetts before voters made a formal commitment to him.

Ironically enough, Hillary Clinton – the person whose departure may clear the path for a special election campaign – did just the same sort of thing in New York before winning her own seat in the US Senate

Then there is Ben.  His mother lives in Cambridge, but I thought he lived in California.  Anyway, I think he probably has the same residency issues as Ted, Jr.  But, hey, if Sonny Bono could become a Congressman.  A better example for Ben would be Al Franken who went home to Minnesota and visited everyone without cracking a joke.  Franken has made himself into a very good senator.  Unfortunately Ben doesn’t have time to do this.  He does go to Senate hearings, however.

Jay Westcott/POLITICO

The Globe didn’t have much to say about Ben, but Politico reported

“That’s not what I’m here to talk about,” Affleck told POLITICO. “I’m here to talk about what role we can place in making the Eastern Congo a better place.”

Earlier this week, reports surfaced that he was being touted as a possible candidate for Senate in Massachusetts. Affleck campaigned for Sen.-elect Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) when she beat freshman Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) in November.

So will Massachusetts go for star power, legacy or a seasoned politician?  And the bigger question:  who can beat Scott Brown?

Photograph of Ted Kennedy, Jr. – Brian Snyder/AP

Photograph of Ben Affleck  – Jay Westcott/Politico

Elizabeth Warren meets some Republicans (with update)

Here is cartoonist Dan Wasserman’s take on Senator Elect Elizbeth Warren and her potential assignment to the Senate Banking Committee.  Of course, some of us think this is exactly why she needs to be appointed.  Are you listening Harry Reid?  (update: Looks like he listened!)

banking and warren

The Asian-American vote

It is easy to find stories about the Latino and African American vote which was critical to Democratic success but the Asian American vote was also something the Republican Party may want to consider.

Beyond the election of Japanese American Mazie Hirono (a little ethnic pride here), the first Asian American woman Senator, the Asian American (the Obama campaign called us AAPI for Asian American Pacific Islanders) went overwhelming for the President.

From Politico

While Asians only constituted 2 percent of the national electorate, in some states they made up a considerably higher proportion. In California, for example, they represented 11 percent of the vote.

“With 73 percent of AAPIs [Asian-American and Pacific Islanders] voting for Obama, we are clearly an undeniable and unshakable political power,” said California Democratic Rep. Mike Honda, chairman emeritus of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, in an email. “As the fastest growing ethnic community in the country, we are the margin of victory.”

The National Journal reports

President Obama carried 73 percent of the Asian vote on Tuesday, continuing a two-decade-long march of Asian-Americans toward the Democratic Party in presidential politics.

Obama improved his performance among Asian-Americans more than among any other ethnic group between 2008 and 2012, according to exit polling. His support in the community jumped 11 percentage points, from 62 percent in 2008.

The 73 percent support that Obama garnered was the highest since national exit polls began tallying the Asian vote, and it marked the fifth straight presidential election in which the Democratic nominee attracted a greater share of the Asian-American vote.

President Clinton won only 31 percent of the Asian-American vote in 1992. His vice president, Al Gore, was the first Democrat to capture a majority of the community, with 54 percent support when Gore ran for president in 2000.

The Boston Globe had a longer story with some very interesting observations.

State Representative Tackey Chan, a Quincy Democrat, said Obama’s personal biography also appeals to many Asian-American voters.

“He knows what it’s like to have an immigrant parent, to struggle a little,” Chan said. “He spent some time in Indonesia growing up. I think they feel like he’s more likable and more sensitive to issues affecting Asian-Americans.”

In Massachusetts the Asian American vote was helped by Elizabeth Warren’s campaign outreach.

Nam Pham, executive director of the Vietnamese American Initiative for Development in Dorchester, said simple outreach can win votes.

“In our culture, we respect people who show us respect,” Pham said. “If you show people that you care, they will listen.”

Pham’s group helped to register about 300 Vietnamese-Americans for the election on a nonpartisan basis, but Pham said most of them probably voted for Democrats.

“In the Senate race, the [Elizabeth] Warren campaign did an excellent job of visiting and telling people here who they are and why they should vote for her,” Pham said. “[Scott] Brown was almost invisible in the Asian community.”

Scott Brown’s implication that Elizabeth Warren’s success was because she “checked the box” was also offensive.

Brown implied that Warren had advanced in her career as a law professor because she at one point claimed to have Native American ancestry. His suggestion was that she had taken undeserved advantage of affirmative action programs.

The strategy has been blamed for alienating women voters, by insinuating that Warren hadn’t earned her career accomplishments. Chan said the tactic also offended minorities, by diminishing theirs.

“Are you saying minorities only get ahead because they’re minorities?” he said. “It’s saying if you’re a minority, you automatically get a step up.”

But the two big reasons nationally appear to be health care and a shared immigrant experience.  As Lisa Hasegawa (no relation, but I have met her) pointed out

The final result aligned closely with a survey taken on the eve of Election Day by the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development, which also showed 60 percent support for government-guaranteed access to health insurance, much higher than the overall electorate.

“A lot of Asian-Americans come from places with subsidized health care, where that’s an expectation, and it’s an important issue for them,” said Lisa Hasegawa, the coalition’s executive director.

If you want to know why this all matters nationally, think Virginia.  Specifically, think Northern Virginia where the Asian American population is only growing.  Think margin of victory in a divided country.

A huge win

Americans voted to give President Obama a second chance to change Washington.

The re-election of Barack Obama last night was a huge win in many ways.  I went to bed after the confetti dropped in Chicago and woke up too early with my head still spinning.  I figure I can sleep later.  So who won besides the President?  Here are a few of my thoughts.

Last night was a win for everyone who has been supporting a tax increase for the wealthiest Americans.  Politico summarizes the exit polling this way

Six in 10 voters nationwide say they think taxes should be increased, a welcome  statistic for President  Barack Obama and a sign that the president’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s  proposed tax cuts  for the wealthy may have been effective.

Almost half of voters said taxes should be boosted on Americans making more than  $250,000 per year, and one in seven voters said taxes should be increased on all  Americans.

I think the Democratic wins in the Senate as well as the President’s re-election reflect this.  It is a loss for Grover Nordquist perhaps Republicans in Congress can now forget that silly pledge and negotiate all the fiscal and budget issues hanging over us.

This was a big win for the ground game over big money.  The Adelsons, Roves and Kochs of the world can’t buy an election. The Senate wins by Tim Kaine and Sherrod Brown showed that if you turn out voters, all the negative spending on advertising can’t buy the election.  I watched and worked the ground game here in Massachusetts using the same database that was used by Democrats all over the country.  All the information added this election should only help Democrats in the future.  This email sent last night under the President’s name tells the story

I’m about to go speak to the crowd here in Chicago, but I wanted to thank you first.

I want you to know that this wasn’t fate, and it wasn’t an accident. You made this happen.

You organized yourselves block by block. You took ownership of this campaign five and ten dollars at a time. And when it wasn’t easy, you pressed forward.

I will spend the rest of my presidency honoring your support, and doing what I can to finish what we started.

But I want you to take real pride, as I do, in how we got the chance in the first place.

Today is the clearest proof yet that, against the odds, ordinary Americans can overcome powerful interests.

There’s a lot more work to do.

But for right now: Thank you.

The election was a huge win for people of color,  for marriage equality (Maine and Maryland, and probably Minnesota) and for an American that is changing.  From the Washington Post

The electorate was less white (from 74 percent in 2008 to 72 percent this year), more Latino (9 percent to 10 percent), just as African-American (13 percent to 13 percent), more female (53 percent to 54 percent), more low-income (38 percent making less than $50,000 in 2008 to 41 percent Tuesday) and — perhaps most remarkably, younger (18 percent to 19 percent).

It all suggests that Obama’s laser-like focus on turning out each of his key constituencies — minorities, women and young people — paid dividends.

And in many cases, these groups backed him as much or more as in 2008.

Women gave Obama 55 percent of the vote and low-income voters gave him 60 percent, about the same as four years ago.

Latinos gave Obama 67 percent of their vote four years ago, and 71 percent on Tuesday.

I think the racially tinged and anti-immigrant Republican campaign made people angry and they were angry enough to come out to vote.  Until the Republican party learns to deal with the changing demographics in this country, they will become more and more powerless.

And my final thought for right now – this was a huge win for Nate Silver.  For those of us who put our trust in him, this was vindication.  His final map looks suspiciously like the final map but if Florida continues today as it is trending, I think he underestimated the Electoral College vote.  Nate predicted 313 electoral votes but with Florida it will be 332.

[Photograph:  Doug Mills/The New York Times]

Report from my precinct

People are still in line to vote here in the City of Boston, but my Roxbury precinct voted in record numbers.  617 ballots out of about 900 or so registered voter.  Obama/Biden got 583 to Romney/Ryan’s 20.  Elizabeth Warren got 576 votes to Scott Brown’s 35.

No winners called yet in Massachusetts, but in my neighborhood we have winners.  It was worth the work.

More reports to come.

Why voting for Obama is important in blue states

If you are like me and live in a state that has already an insurmountable lead for President Obama’s re-election you might be tempted to vote third party, but it is still important for you to vote for Obama.  Why?  The popular vote total.  The pundits and headlines will continue to say the race is tied.  Forget the electoral college which in most estimates have Obama now over the 279 mark with some headed to 300.  No it is the popular vote where there is potential trouble.

Willard Mitt is too close for comfort. This morning Nate Silver puts it at 50.6 to 48.3 or a 2.3% margin for the President.  The margin of error is 2.1.  Much of the Romney vote comes from Red States and that is what is making it look close.  Unless Obama wins both the popular vote and the electoral college, the Republicans can complain about the results.  You know they will.  They are already beginning to blame Hurricane Sandy for the loss.

Of course, we won’t know until the votes are counted how things will turn out.  Polls can be wrong and folks like Nate depend on aggregating polls, but as an Obama supporter, I do feel hopeful.

Also it looks as if Elizabeth Warren will beat Senator Scott Brown.  Let’s hope that’s the last time I have to call him that!  And better yet, it is beginning to look like my old friend, Tim Kaine, will win in Virginia.

This shows President Clinton, President Obama and Tim Kaine.  This is an important sign:  The Democratic Senate candidate is not running from the President.  In a purple state.

So if you live in a blue state, don’t be thinking your vote for Obama doesn’t matter because it does.