Tag Archives: Democrats

Texas not yet a battleground

Forgive my skepticism here.

The young man who founded Battleground Texas needs a dose of reality. Jeremy Bird says he remains optimistic that Texas is on the way to becoming a battleground state, where the two major parties will compete head to head for votes.

Um, not yet, Mr. Bird.


At one level, I’m with him. I too wish the state wasn’t dominated by a single party. Republicans have held every statewide office since 1994. Recently, though, a Texas Court of Criminal Appeals judge, Larry Meyers, switched from Republican to Democrat — and now he’s running for a spot on the Texas Supreme Court as a Democrat. Good luck with that, Judge Meyers.

My preference, believe it or not, is based on the notion that the parties need to be contested to keep them more honest than they are when they dominate the landscape. Democrats used to hold that position in Texas. It slipped away from them arguably with the election in 1961 of Republican John Tower to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Lyndon Johnson, who became vice president of the United States. Seventeen years later, the state elected its first Republican governor since Reconstruction, Bill Clements.

The GOP has been on an upward trajectory ever since.

Bird founded Battleground Texas with the hope of knocking Republicans down a few pegs. I don’t think it’s going to happen this election cycle, or perhaps even the next one in 2016.

The group has pinned its hopes on state Sen. Wendy Davis’s campaign for governor. But that effort has hit a serious bump over revelations about her personal story, some of which doesn’t add up. Her poll numbers are slipping.

Maybe one day the state will return to some form of competitiveness between the parties. I’m not convinced we’ve arrived at that moment.

‘Compromise’ not such a dirty word

It turns out that compromise indeed is possible in the 113th Congress.

When it shows itself, we learn that things actually can get done, such as approving a federal budget that keeps the government running through September. The House of Representatives approved the deal overwhelmingly and has sent it back to the Senate hopefully for final approval.


The $1.1 trillion budget deal marks a departure from recent history, where Republicans and Democrats have fought over every big and little thing in the budget. It has produced gridlock, made a lot of people angry, shut down part of the government for a time, forced public opinion of Congress into a sinkhole and redefined the term “political dysfunction.”

Does this signal a new day on Capitol Hill? Probably not. However, one can hope.

Tomorrow might bring a new set of hassles and disagreements, particularly in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives that seems to have declared its intention to block everything House Democrats and the Democrat in chief in the White House want to do.

The bill reduces funds for the Internal Revenue Service, gives federal workers a 1 percent pay increase and gives money to the Environmental Protection Agency. These measures make Republicans happy. Meanwhile, Democrats got something for themselves, such as funding for Head Start, which helps early childhood education efforts.

No one is entirely happy with the deal, nor are they entirely unhappy.

That’s the spirit of compromise. Things can get done. It’s how you legislate. It’s how good government is supposed to work.

What’s more, it doesn’t inflict nearly the pain that stubborn intransigence can produce.

Congress sees ‘spike’ in approval rating

What gives here?

Congress’s approval ratings, which had been languishing in the single digits for months on end, suddenly have taken a “spike” upward. According to the RealClearPolitics.com poll average — the one that takes in all the major polls’ findings and averages them out — shows congressional approval at 12.4 percent, as of Dec. 9.

I think we’re going to see even more improvement in the days and weeks ahead.


On what do I base that bold prediction? It’s the budget deal hammered out by Democrats and Republicans, actually working together to avoid a government shutdown that has done the trick.

I’ve noted already that the deal announced by committee chairs Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray — a Republican and Democrat, respectively — is far from perfect. But the bigger point is that legislation rarely satisfies everyone. Good government almost always is the product of compromise, which by definition means both sides have to give a little to get something done.

If you track congressional approval ratings on the link attached to this blog back to when the government shut down in October, you’ll notice a decided tanking of public approval of Congress. Republicans leaders who run the House of Representatives took it on the chin the hardest from Americans fed up with the obstruction, the posturing and the do-nothing approach taken by the GOP.

It goes without saying — but I’ll say it anyway — that both chambers of Congress are populated by politicians … even those who say they “aren’t politicians.” Therefore, politicians depend on the people’s feelings about the job they’re doing if they want to stay in office.

All 535 members of the House and Senate should take heed at this “spike” in approval ratings. I think Americans are sending them a message: Do something — for a change.

Let us stumble now to next big issue

Immigration reform.

Does anyone remember that immigration reform used to be the most pressing issue facing Congress? Then the Syria crisis erupted. Then came the battle over funding the government and the debt crisis. Each set of crises eclipsed the earlier set.

OK, now we have settled — for the moment — the government shutdown and the debt ceiling matters and the Syria crisis appears to be settling at least temporarily, we can look back toward immigration reform as something that needs to be decided.

The U.S. Senate passed an immigration reform package by a substantial bipartisan margin. It then got stalled in the House of Representatives, which — given that Republicans control the place — isn’t a big surprise any longer. The GOP remains dedicated to the proposition that its mission is to deny Democrats any legislative victory. So the fight has continued.

Immigration reform concerns a lessening of the pressure to deport those who are here illegally. About 11 million — give or take a few thousand — residents are here without permission. Many of them have led constructive and productive lives here. It is true that many have not. I’m waiting for a study that reveals the comparative percentages of illegal residents and U.S. citizens who have run afoul of the law.

The Senate-passed immigration bill creates a “pathway to citizenship” for those who are here illegally. It gives them a chance to become citizens if they choose to do so. Those who don’t then can seek legal resident status.

Foes of this bill call it “amnesty” and say it forgives those who have broken U.S. laws. The more ardent foes of immigration reform want to round them up and send them back to their native lands. Remember when eventual 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney vowed to make life so miserable for undocumented immigrants that they would “self-deport” themselves back to their homeland?

Well, the budget battles are done. President Obama says immigration reform needs to return to the front burner. The House needs to finish the job begun in the Senate.

Get that one done, ladies and gentlemen, before returning to the budget squabbles that are sure to re-erupt right after the first of the year.

GOP fails to heed the message

Two new polls should turn congressional Republicans downright apoplectic.

The Associated Press/GFK poll puts congressional approval at 5 percent. That’s bad enough. Now comes a new Gallup Poll that says 28 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the GOP, a record low for the Gallup organization.


To be sure, Democrats aren’t faring much better. Public opinion surveys are blaming Congress — not the White House or the president — for the government mess that now threatens to blow the economy to smithereens.

And by Congress, I mean members of both parties.

However, since Republicans control the budget-writing arm of the legislative branch — the House of Representatives — they are going to get bulk of the blame if the parties fail to agree on a way to reopen parts of the government and increase the nation’s debt ceiling.


Some of us keep harping on the obvious: The GOP strategy, which has been all but abandoned, of trying to link defunding of the Affordable Care Act to approving a new budget is a sure loser. Smart Republicans keep harping on that to the wild-eyed crazies comprising the tea party wing of their party.

Now they’re messing with the debt limit, even suggesting that defaulting on our nation’s financial obligations isn’t that big of a deal.

I do believe it is a very big deal.

Failure to resolve this matter is going to wipe out what’s left of the GOP’s paltry support.

Bring ‘CR’ to a vote … and reopen government if it passes

President Obama laid it out there for all to see and hear.

If the speaker of the House of Representatives is right, that a continuing resolution to fund the government lacks the votes in the House, then put the issue to a vote to decide this matter. Period.

Speaker John Boehner keeps insisting the continuing resolution doesn’t have enough support to pass. With that, we’re supposed to take his word for it. Never mind that some independent analysts have suggested at least 22 Republican House members would vote “yes” on a CR, putting the issue over the top assuming all Democratic lawmakers would vote for it.

The president held a news conference today and spelled out as plainly as possible: Put the issue to a vote and let’s find out who’s right.

It cannot be that hard for the speaker to bring the matter up for a vote of the full House. He is the speaker, the Man of the House, the guy with the gavel. Do it, Mr. Speaker.

Then he and the rest of his gang can get back to an even more serious matter: raising the debt ceiling to enable the U.S. government to keep paying its bills.

Obama used some strong language today in excoriating what he called a “radical” bunch of GOP lawmakers. He accused them of extorting the government to get their way.

We’ll raise the debt ceiling, but only if we get everything we want. That’s how Obama framed their argument. Is that wrong? Isn’t that what they’re demanding? Has he misrepresented their argument? I think not on all counts.

If they don’t get what they want, the nation defaults on its obligations, it refuses to spend money already appropriated by Congress, its credit rating gets downgraded — again — and the markets are going to react very badly, taking a lot of retirement account balances into the crapper.

First things first. Vote on the continuing resolution to determine who’s got the votes. If it passes — which I’m betting it would — the government can get back to functioning fully.

‘Civil war’ not a new thing in U.S. politics

Intraparty warfare has engulfed the Republican Party.

It’s the tea party vs. the establishment wing. Not sure yet who’s winning. To be honest, I don’t really care who wins this one. Rest assured, the GOP will emerge from it eventually. I’m not sure it will be any stronger as a result. Then again, I don’t really care about that, either.

It fascinates me, though, to see the GOP entangled in this imbroglio, this struggle for what’s left of its soul. Why? Because I thought I’d seen the worst of the worst political party civil wars. It happened to the Democrats back in the 1960s and early 1970s.


Some of us remember those times. The Vietnam War was raging. It was hawks vs. doves back then.

The hawks were led by some stalwart Democrats. I can think of the late Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson of Washington and the late Vice President (and later Sen.) Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota — who, by the way, served in the Senate before being elected VP in 1964. The doves were led by equally stalwart Democrats, such as the late Sens. Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota, George McGovern of South Dakota and (my first real political hero) Robert F. Kennedy of New York.

They fought equally hard for the soul of the Democratic Party. They all were patriots. They loved their country in equal measure, just as Republicans love their country today. They fought with each other back then over the terms of how we should prosecute and eventually end the Vietnam War.

One interesting similarity emerges between then and now. The Democratic hawks accused the doves of being not quite patriotic enough. Today, we hear the “tea party patriots” accusing establishment Republicans and even those dreaded Democrats of, um, being somewhat impure and tainted, that they aren’t the true believers.

The Democrats’ civil war ended eventually. It took a constitutional crisis, Watergate, to coalesce Democrats behind a winning candidate, Jimmy Carter in 1976. They hit a major bump four years later when the economy tanked and Iranian militants took Americans hostage on President Carter’s watch. Republican Ronald Reagan took the White House back in 1980. Bill Clinton recaptured it for the Democrats in 1992.

How will the current GOP battle end is anyone’s guess. The tea party is calling the cadence within the party, which still comprises some smart folks who know how to make government work.

I’m going to sit back and watch this one play out.

March on DC event lacked bipartisan flavor

I watched a lot of the 50th anniversary celebration of the March on Washington event this week and came away with a single disappointment.

There was no sign of leading Republicans at the speaker’s podium.

Of course, leave it to the likes of Fox News loudmouth Bill O’Reilly to claim falsely that “no Republicans were invited” to speak.


Turns out there were invitations extended. Former Presidents George H.W. Bush and his son, George W. Bush, got invited but declined — understandably — for health reasons. House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor were invited, but couldn’t attend because of “scheduling conflicts.” Same is true, I suppose, for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The scheduling conflict dodge does bother me. All of these individuals knew long ago that this event was on the calendar. If they wanted to attend this event, they certainly could have had their schedulers ensure they would be available to take part — don’t you think?

Absent their presence anywhere near the DC Mall this week, many of the speeches were tinged with a bit too much partisan rancor from those who argued against legislation to make voting more restrictive, which is a largely Republican initiative being pushed on Capitol Hill and in state capitol buildings throughout the South — and that includes Texas.

There once was a time, about 50 years ago, when Democrats and Republicans locked arms for a single cause, which was equality for all Americans. I was hoping the two parties could put aside their differences to mark the 50th anniversary of one of the great days of the American civil rights movement.

Maybe next time.

Partisanship enters debate over crime

I got into an interesting rhetorical tug-of-war with a friend of mine this week.

It involved the sentencing of former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. to 30 months in federal prison; Jackson’s wife got a one-year sentence in Club Fed. Jesse Jackson’s crime involved the theft of $750,000 from his campaign treasure chest.

My friend, a businessman in Amarillo — and a dedicated Republican — wanted to know if Democrats were still “proud” of their party now that one of their own had been sent up the proverbial river for committing a crime. I responded that the Republican Party has had its share of crooks; I cited former President Richard Nixon and former Vice President Spiro Agnew as examples. We went back and forth after that, but didn’t really settle anything.

He’s still an ardent Republican and I’m still an equally ardent Democrat. I believe we’re still friends; I’ll likely find out next time I visit his business establishment.

But the exchange brought to mind the cheapening of what’s happened to Jackson and other political leaders of either stripe — Democrat or Republican. It pains me when partisans try to hang the “all Democrats/Republicans are crooks” label on either party when someone gets convicted and sentenced for committing a crime.

I don’t give a damn about Jackson’s party affiliation, any more than I gave a damn that Nixon and Agnew were Republicans. Jackson was tried and convicted by the federal court. Nixon was nearly impeached by the House of Representatives and he quit to avoid a certain impeachment and conviction by the Senate; Agnew resigned after being indicted by the feds for taking bribes.

The system in all those cases worked irrespective of the political labels any of the principals wore at the time, and it usually works whenever any high-profile politician gets in trouble.