Saturday, 20 March 2010

New York Times Article: Thought Provoking

From the NY Times this week. A thought-provoking article by an American commentator on a British proposal re: a proposed political ethos. I didn't think it would relate to a blog task but, having read Hannah's post on the Greens, realised that it does. I refer to it in my comment on Hannah's 'Greens' but have posted here too because I'm interested in your views.

Not sure if the link above will work - it usually doesn't - so here's hoping.

Friday, 19 March 2010

The Brady Campaign

I have decided to look at an anti gun group called the Brady Campaign. The link to the website is below:http://www.bradycampaign.org/

The campaign was founded in 1974 by Mark Borinsky who was robbed and almost killed by a gunman. The group was known then as the National Council to Control Handguns. The name was changed three more times in 1980, 1983, and 1989. In 2001 the group settled on the Brady Campaign this was in dedication to Sarah and James Brady who lobbied for safer gun control. James Brady was press Secretary for President Reagan and was shot in the head during the attempt on his life. He survived, but was paralysed. The groups aim is to improve and introduce sensible gun laws. They also seek to prevent ‘dangerous’ people from gaining access to guns. Their mission statement states,

We are devoted to creating an America free from gun violence, where all Americans are safe at home, at school, at work, and in our communities.

The Brady Campaign works within the political field to achieve these goals,

The Brady Campaign works to pass and enforce sensible federal and state gun laws, regulations, and public policies through grassroots activism, electing public officials who support common sense, gun laws, and increasing public awareness of gun violence.

The group does not just lobby for change it also helps the victims of gun crime and represents victims on court. Although the Brady Campaign is pro gun control it does not advocate a complete ban on all guns,

Brady believes that a safer America can be achieved without banning guns. We believe that law-abiding citizens should be able and keep firearms… we believe that those who do own guns ought to be held to the highest standards of safety. They should be well trained in the use of their weapons and they should be required to keep weapons secure, so that neither innocent children nor prohibited persons can get hold of them.

The group uses many shocking facts to highlight the problems with guns in America. In one section they list how many people have been killed by gun crime across the world,

In 2006, Guns murdered

18 in Austria

27 in Australia

59 in England and Wales

60 in Spain

190 in Canada

194 in Germany

10,177 in the United States

They also have a box at the top of the website that states how many American have been shot this year the number is currently, 23,204. The number shot today is already 104.

I feel the Brady Campaign is taking the right approach to getting America to support gun control. America is never going to support a ban on guns as they feel it is their right to own and use one, due to the Second Amendment. The group is left wing, but not so much so that it repels American in the middle of the political spectrum. Therefore by not advocating a ban on guns the group does not isolate itself. Many American support gun control, but would not be happy with a complete ban on firearms. With gun control being such a key, controversial, and highly debated issue and many gun cases appearing every day, see link below:

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/03/18/gunman-kills-mo-clerk-working-shift/

The Brady campaign still has a lot to lobby and campaign for, but has a good platform to do it from.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

The Green Party

The Green Party of the United States was created in 2001 from the Association of Green Parties and they are:


- Grassroots activists

- Environmentalists

- Advocates for Social Justice

- Nonviolent resisters

- Regular citizens who’ve had enough of corporate-dominated politics


The ‘About Us’ page on their website offers a clear description of their ideologies and explains that:

The Green Party of the United States is a federation of state Green Parties. Committed to environmentalism, non-violence, social justice and grassroots organizing, Greens are renewing democracy without the support of corporate donors. Greens provide real solutions for real problems. Whether the issue is universal health care, corporate globalization, alternative energy, election reform or decent, living wages for workers, Greens have the courage and independence necessary to take on the powerful corporate interests. The Federal recognizes the Green Party of the United States as the official Green Party National Committee. We are partners with the European Federation of Green Parties and the Federation of Green Parties of the Americas.

This is the link to their website:

http://www.gp.org/index.php

The Ten Key Values of the Green Party outline their stances on significant issues such as Grassroots Democracy, Social Justice and Equal Opportunity, Ecological Wisdom, Nonviolence, Decentralization, Community-Based Economics and Economic Justice, Feminism and Gender Equality, Respect for Diversity, Personal and Global Responsibility, Future Focus and Sustainability.

Their opinions on these issues are not far different from many other left wing groups we have looked at however unsurprisingly, based on their name, there is a much stronger focus on the environment. The Green Party supports

a sustainable society which utilizes resources in such a way that future generations will benefit and not suffer from the practices of our generation. To this end we must practice agriculture which replenishes the soil; move to an energy efficient economy; and live in ways that respect the integrity of natural systems

I was interested to find an opinion piece by Cynthia McKinney – 2008 Green Party Presidential Candidate - on The Independent’s website from this Monday 15/3/10. A link to the piece is below:

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/cynthia-mckinney-leaders-lack-of-respect-for-rule-of-law-makes-us-all-victims-of-911-1921451.html

I found this piece useful in offering the view of a prominent member of the Green Party on the Obama administration. However, I was surprised at quite how critical she is of Obama, considering the number of similarities between what his administration campaigned for and the Green Parties views.


Regarding our previous blog posts regarding US Senators, I should mention here that Ralph Nadar, who has run for President four times and twice with the Green Party, has been mentioned as a possible candidate for Senator in Connecticut.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Progressive Group(s)


I have posted two Progressive groups for this blog because both these groups have united together in an effort to highlight the importance of affordable heath care for ALL Americans.
Democracy For America (DFA) founded by Howard Dean (D) in 2004 is a grassroots progressive political action community working (as is stated on their website) to:
"Change our country and the Democratic Party from the bottom-up. [DFA] provide campaign training, organising resources, and media exposure so their members have the power to support progressive issues and candidates up and down the ballot." http://www.democracyforamerica.com/
Likewise the mission of Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC):
"Works to elect bold progressive candidates to federal office and to help those candidates and their campaigns save money, work harder and win more often. We also advocate for bold leadership on the most important and pressing causes." http://www.boldprogressives.org/
The link that I have posted below is from an article by CBS news that concerns an ad funded by DFA and PCCC members targeting moderate democrats such as Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont) for not supporting or including in his heath care bill a "public insurance option" a public option that he had previously been in favour of.
Baucus who is running the health care deliberations in a key Senate committee has already taking 1.7 million dollars in political contributions from the health care sector for the 2010 election cycle.
The ad that will air in Baucas's hometown of Montana as well as in Washington DC takes the case of Montana resident and family man Bing Perrine who has accumulated a $100,000 debt due to medical care for his congenial heart condition. Perrine states in the ad that if he had the option to buy into a public health insurance plan he wouldn't have been in so much debt and he poses the question to Baucus which is: "When you take millions of dollars from health and insurance interests that oppose reform and oppose giving families like mine the choice of a public option. I have to ask, whose side are you on?."
In my view this is a prime example of what DFA and PCCC want to avoid within government, that being, politicians like Max Baucus who talk the talk about affordable health care, but in reality they are not taking it seriously and therefore are surely not that interested in the welfare of working class Americans who are in desperate need for a liberal health care bill.





























































Tuesday, 16 March 2010

New York Times: The Tea Party and the Constitution, 12/03/10


'Tea-ing Up the Constitution'

I realise we have moved away from Tea Party happenings lately but this week I came across this article on the New York Times which talks about the significance of Tea Partiers adopting the Constitution as part of their ideology:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/14/weekinreview/14liptak.html?scp=4&sq=tea%20party%20constitution&st=Search

The author of this piece, Adam Liptak, notes that,

'It is, of course, hard to say anything definitive about the Tea Party movement, a loose confederation of groups with no central leadership. But if there is a central theme to its understanding of the Constitution, it is that the nation’s founders knew what they were doing and that their work must be protected. “I think it’s some loose, ill-informed version of originalism, but it’s plausible,' said Professor Kramer.'

This version of 'originalism' suggests that the Constitutional text should be interpreted today as it was when it was written.
I found the data quoted below very interesting. The conservative, individualist reading of the Constitution is obviously very popular in the U.S, echoing strong patriotic values similar to Tea Party Movement characteristics.

'Surveys conducted by Quinnipiac University indicate that some 40 percent of Americans say the Supreme Court should employ originalism in interpreting the Constitution; slightly more say the court should take account of changing conditions.'

A good point that this article covers is that when the Constitution has been interpreted in American history, it is most often than not shaped by changing public opinion not a recurring progressive left or right majority. Nathaniel Persily, in the article however, suggests that The Tea Party Movement doesn't just adopt a single public 'ism' but many,

“The Tea Party movement is interesting in that there is a combination of localism, nativism and populism that we’ve seen at various points in America.”

Maybe this collection of 'isms' is another reason why the TPM is so hard to define and situate in American politics.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)




http://www.aclu.org/

The American Civil Liberties Union is one of the most prominent civil and liberal groups in the USA. Its two branches collectively have funding of over $130,000,000 p.a. (figure for 2008, source: ACLU website), the majority of which (almost 90%, source: ACLU website – figure for 2008) is received from public donations and membership fees. It is a non-profit making organisation whose stated objective is ‘to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States’ and its mission is to: ‘continue to tackle the thorniest issues confronting our nation— racism, sexism, homophobia, religious intolerance, and censorship. The ACLU's mission remains realizing the promise of the Bill of Rights for all and expanding the reach of its guarantees to new areas’ (source: ACLU website). The organisation operates through litigation, legislation and community education.

Founded in 1920 by Crystal Eastman, Roger Baldwin, Albert DeSilver and Walter Nelles, the ACLU was the successor to the earlier National Civil Liberties Bureau - itself an offshoot of the American Union Against Militarism founded during the First World War (1914-1918) to oppose US involvement in the war and defend conscientious objectors. It currently has over 500,000 members (source: ACLU website).

Lawsuits brought by the ACLU have been influential in the evolution of Constitutional law (for list see ACLU website ‘Supreme Court’) as the ACLU provides legal assistance, and other support, in cases in which it considers civil liberties to be at risk. It is also engaged in lobbying elected officials and political activism. Although the ACLU has been critical of politicians and policies of both parties its ultra-liberal mandate aligns it far more with the Democrats than the Republicans. Its position on key issues is antithetical to social conservatism in every respect but it is also committed to protecting ‘individual freedoms’ (those words again) against overbearing government and it works toward supporting complete egalitarianism for every person. It is also involved in monitoring the US government’s compliance with international law on human rights and aims to protect non-citizens in that context.

The ACLU is active in promoting their position on (amongst others):
- Abolish the death penalty
- Liberalising laws on drug crime
- Pro-choice on abortion
- Preserving free speech
- Fighting discrimination against AIDs sufferers
- Protecting prisoner’s rights
- Ending racism
- Promoting religious freedom and maintaining separation between religion and state
- Anti technological surveillance
- Ending gender discrimination against women or gay/lesbian community
- Protect the politically disenfranchised (e.g. non citizens, illegal immigrants).

The ACLU is therefore the nemesis of the neo-conservatives – as Roy Moore (of So Help Me God fame) discovered. His vitriolic views on the organisation are personal as well as political as the ACLU famously brought the law case on the ‘Ten Commandments’ plaque which resulted in Moore being removed from office.

However, the organisation’s pro-individual/anti-government stance does not include a current remit to protect workers’ rights. This notable omission has evolved from the anti-Communist period which began in the 1940s and gained momentum throughout the Cold War (1945-1991). At the height of the US ‘collectivist’ period in the twentieth century (Progressive era to US entry into the Second World War in 1941), being a member of a socialist/leftist organisation was not demonised within American society. Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’ response to the Great Depression of the 1930s saw an unprecedented level of collectivism by the US government and labour movements involved in the implementation of the New Deal programmes.

In 1940, the ACLU formally banned communists from leadership or staff positions in the organisation and also took the position that it did not want communists as members. The board declared that it was ‘inappropriate for any person to serve on the governing committees of the Union or its staff, who is a member of any political organization which supports totalitarianism in any country, or who by his public declarations indicates his support of such a principle’. The purge, which was led by Roger Baldwin, himself a former supporter of communism, began with the ousting of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a member of both the Communist Party USA and the Industrial Workers of the World (source: ‘American Civil Liberties Union Records, The Roger Baldwin Years, 1917-1950: Finding Aid’, http://diglib.princeton.edu/ead/getEad?id=ark:/88435/rj430454b).

Ironically, the ACLU was originally formed by leftist activists specifically to protect aliens threatened with deportation, U.S. nationals threatened with criminal charges for their communist or socialist activities and agendas, and the rights of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and other labour unions to meet and organise. That this most liberal of American organisations continues to omit workers’ rights from its agenda is suggestive of the pervasiveness of the ‘classlessness’ of American ideology myth, and also the persistence of the exceptionalism exploited to promote anti-left sentiment as a counter to the USSR during the Cold War. A sentiment in which Cold War propaganda aligning socialism with Communism continues to impact mainstream response to federal intervention/ programmes of all kinds.

Response to Katey's Blog on Border Action Network

Sorry all. I tried adding this as a comment but was thwarted by blogger's character limit. My dislike of Blogger continues apace......

Really interesting blog Katey. I tried accessing your link to the BAN site but it's not working. I suspect Blogger is to blame but the website was easy to find on Google.

Immigration is a huge subject in the American context but the same kinds of issues/responses manifest in Western Europe too - including our own country as we know. Economics is at the heart of the debate as always. The tide moves firmly from relatively poor toward relatively rich in global terms.

This group is interesting as it is both collectivist (unorthodox in the US context) but also adopts the very American ethos of 'self sufficiency' in order to maintain its 'independence'. The home page states:

'One of the key building blocks of Border Action Network is the principle of self-sufficiency. To ensure self-sufficiency Border Action Network members pay annual membership dues. By paying dues, our members build the organization's ability to grow, and also guarantee that the members of Border Action Network have control of our campaigns and goals, not any outside funding source.'

An anti-collectivist principle which is very 'American' but also suggests that they are positioning themselves outside the political mainstream. Considering their mandate that would seem appropriate as their aims are antithethical to the Constitutional principles which govern US society. The heart of which is the 'US citizen' and his/her relationship to the nation/state/etc.

Having looked at the detail of the organisation and it's stated mandate:

'(BAN) works with immigrant and border communities in southern Arizona to ensure that our rights are respected, our human dignity upheld and that our communities are healthy places to live.'

However, the group's actions and causes are overtly geared toward the protection of cross-border illegal immigrants. I couldn't find contact names on the site (interesting in itself) but all the images are of people of Hispanic ethnicity which suggests that this group is predominantly Hispanic, may be supported actively by 'illegals' as well as legal immigrants and may also fear reprisal if identities were revealed. Note that their current campaign is against a proposed Arizona anti-illegal immigration bill which they summarise as:

'Russell Pearce’s SB1070 (and similar House version HB2632) is the most far-reaching anti-immigrant bill ever introduced in the Arizona Legislature. The bill rolls together seven bills that Pearce has tried to push through the last few years but failed. This year, because of the governor and make-up of the legislature, this bill is likely to become law very quickly. Among other things, the bill:


o Creates an additional state crime of trespassing and gives law enforcement the authority to arrest someone if they have probable cause to believe they are undocumented;
o Ties the hands of local law enforcement by forcing them to prioritize immigration enforcement over other public safety responsibilities;
o Prohibits drivers from attempting to hire day laborers for the purpose of employment;
o Criminalizes transporting, harboring or shielding anyone if the person knows or disregards the fact that they are undocumented;
o Allows law enforcement to use a ruse to entrap a business owner into hiring undocumented immigrants and violating our state employer sanctions law'.

All of which is aimed at controlling illegal entry from Mexico.

The dominant view within the USA is still governed by the cultural interest of the dominant group (white, nativist, Euro, Protestant) but African-Americans are equally anti-immigration for economic and nativist reasons. Although the conservative media scare-monger, the feeling amongst the majority of Americans citizens (including those from other ethnic/racial backgrounds) is firmly against immigration from South America - and particularly from Mexico - for both cultural and economic reasons. Much of this is governed by ignorance of the role such illegals play in the economy and birth-rate of the USA.

The historic justification on which residence rights are claimed for Mexican citizens in Arizona (i.e. Mexican-American War in 1848) may be morally right but such historic justification doesn't go far when matched against the collective view of those who have 'owned' the region for the last 160+ years. These states are recognised by the global community as part of the USA - which is, of course, why economic migrants from Mexico are drawn to them in the first place.

In terms of leftist tradition, this group is difficult to situate. They are small and very particularised in their objectives. Also, those objectives are inconsistent with the impulse of US specificity by virtue of their 'raison d'etre'. They support the cause of non-citizens 'human rights' without claiming any affiliation with the citizenship rights granted specifically by the Constitution. This positions them outside the US political field as the Constitution is very specific in determining who is a citizen. As you say, Amendment 14:

'All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside'.

The same dictionary entry you used is also very specific about what 'naturalized' means in this context. The first definition mentioned is:

'to confer upon (an alien) the rights and privileges of a citizen'.

It doesn't get much more specific than that.

Note that the group avoids mention of the Consitution, I suspect for this reason. Human rights is a global issue and I think this group is a good example for debating how the Consitution works in that context though.

Democratic Senator Harry Reid for Nevada


http://reid.senate.gov/index.cfm

I have chosen Democratic Senator Harry Reid of Nevada in that his ideals coincide with the notions of what liberalism is. The key term that (in my opinion) defines the ideology of the term is the words Collectivism in that its not about caring for the individual as such but rather individuals as a whole and I think that Reid demonstrates this as Senator of Nevada.

Born in a small mining town called Searchlight, Nevada where he still resides, Reid (as is stated on his biography page) grew up on the Nevada values such as hard work and opportunity and this is what he brings to Nevada as their Senator the position he has held for the past twenty-five years.

By navigating his website, one can read about the successful achievements that he has done for his native state that includes:

Environment: March 10th 2010 Reid named Solar Champion of the Year by Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) for his leadership in advancing the development of solar energy in Nevada and across the country. Reid has also allowed for A-Power Energy Generation Systems to build a wind turbine production and assembly plant in Nevada that will generate jobs within the industry for those in Nevada.

Jobs: As one can see from the above clip, President Obama's' signing of the Travel Promotion Act allows for private as well as public corporations within the state to generate money from tourists who visit the state. Although the well-known phrase "Whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" highlights the so called 'Sin City' lifestyle that occurs within the state, is making sure that money will be continuously pumped into the state by tourists that will continue generating jobs thus securing the welfare of his residents.

Native Americans: Harry Reid has worked alongside Native Americans in an effort to ensure their legal rights that include issues relating to Indian Wtaer Settlements, and Indian Gaming Regulatory Acts.

Other accomplishements include issues relating to education, transportation, and the environment and the list continues.

Harry Reid is respected by both parties in Washington:
'His reputation for integrity and fairness has given the small state of Nevada a powerful voice in Congress.'

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Leftist group 'Border Action Network'


California freeway sign near the Mexican border.


(EDIT : Sorry about the faulty link previously published in this post. Here is the working link: http://www.borderaction.org/web/index.php)

The leftist group I have chosen is 'Border Action Network', part of the coalition of the 'Open Borders Lobby', protesting a need for immigration reform in the United States and less control by the U.S. government in insisting the removal off 'illegal aliens'.
As we saw learnt in studying potential Republican 2010 candidates, immigration control is important to typical Republican, far right agendas. Limiting and resisting a continued influx of Mexicans and South Americans particularly is of major concern to the Right. Whilst Democrats realise this need to control immigration, the consensus is that it should not just be regulated but also managed effectively and respectfully; foreign relations being important.

Although the Border Action Network is not essentially a nationwide group, it is located dominantly in Southern Arizona, where illegal immigration is at its peak and where America fights constant pressure from desperate immigrants attempting to enter the country every day. Particularly appealing for improved human rights, Ban's website notes of the 'Twelve Political Principles' integral to their campaign:

1. Permanent Residency
2. Civil & Constitutional Rights
3. Workers Rights
4. Human Mobility
5. Family Unification
6. Education
7. Health Care
8. Healthy Communities
9. Dignified Housing
10. Civic Participation
11. Culture & Language
12. Dignity, Respect & Equality

BAN notes that these principles are applicable to human rights in America as a whole, but with closer attention it is clear that immigration is the overall theme. Reform and progressive initiatives are mentioned; features of democracy and liberalism. 'Permanent Residency' being the first principle, highlights a need for an end to the instability of immigrant 'drifters' within American society and that recognisable status should be allocated to them. Indeed, the fact that this group has surfaced in Arizona suggests that citizens within the state feel a responsibility to act on immigration issues because it the effects of bad policy is evident within every day life.

The Discover The Networks website that I came across describes BAN as follows,

BAN calls for unchecked, unregulated migration into and out of the United States. This objective is founded on the premise that North, Central, and South America were wrongfully conquered by European invaders, and that consequently the United States is, at its root, an illegitimate entity with no right to delineate borders or to impose migration restrictions on anyone.

This concept, of open borders and rights for people who are currently referred to as 'illegal citizens' would allow the increased mobility of South Americans into the United States. The manifestation of racism, ethnocentrism and xenophobia linked to immigration from these areas is evident today within the U.S., yet BAN explains that this is the case because of political stigma generated from anti-immigration Republican rhetoric. To some, the United State's treatment of immigrants may indeed seem hypocritical and reflective of a past where Native Americans faced also faced separation from their land, but Americans believe they have a culture to protect.

In the constitution itself, direct reference to the legislating of immigration is absent and only in Amendment 14, Section 1 to the Constitution is any hint of it apparent:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

A Conservative, individualist interpretation of this extract would suggest that because immigration is not mentioned it is therefore not permitted and that to become a U.S citizen one must have been born in the U.S. Another more Liberal interpretation would suggest that the mention of 'naturalization' insists that immigration is accepted. This can be supported by reminding oneself of the meaning of 'naturalised':

'to introduce or adopt (foreign practices, words, etc.) into a country or into general use'

Traditions of Immigration in American society and politics is dominated by the great movement of people from Europe to the U.S. in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The concerns that 9/11 raised about foreign agencies within the U.S. has caused an association of Immigration south of the border with terrorism and fear. BAN ultimately serves to protect the Civil Liberties that immigrants entering the U.S. rightfully acquire.

Also, I found this article about the funding of Left Wing groups (although bias) it is interesting. It could be said that funding by such groups as the Tides or Ford Foundations promote the First Amendment to the Constitution in facilitating groups to ultimately '... petition the Government for a redress of grievances.' These foundations are also tax exempt which made me question why so? Because government wishes to encourage grass roots, radical or community action?

Monday, 8 March 2010

The next Republican candidate

Hi everyone,

Thought this might be interesting. Here is a recent poll from the Guardian on who their readers think will be the next Republican nominee. I will let you see for yourselves. Link below.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/richard-adams-blog/poll/2010/mar/05/poll-republican-elections-2012-palin


Annie.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

John Kerry

I have chosen to look at John Kerry who is one of the senators from the state of Massachusetts. Kerry who ran for president in 2004, but was beaten by Bush has been a senator since 1984. He was born in Colorado, but later settled in Massachusetts with his family. Kerry is a strong Catholic his website states,

“Growing up there, his parents taught his the values of service and responsibility and the blessings of his Catholic faith, lessons John Kerry carries with him to this day.”

Kerry is a Vietnam veteran. He attended college at Yale, but then decided to join the fight in Vietnam,

“John Kerry Volunteered to serve in Vietnam, because, as he later said, “It was the right thing to do.” He believed that “to whom much is given, much is required.” John Kerry served two tours of duty. On his second tour, he volunteered to serve on a swift boat in the river deltas, one of the most dangerous assignments in the war. He was awarded a Silver Star, a Bronze star with Combat V, and three Purple Hearts.”

John Kerry’s website tells the reader that when John Kerry Joined the Senate he entered it with,

“John Kerry entered the Senate with a reputation as a man of conviction; He confirmed that reputation by taking bold decisions on important issues. He helped provide health insurance for millions of low-income children. He has fought to improve public education, protect our natural environment, and strengthen our economy.”

All quotes above from: http://www.johnkerry.com/pages/about/

Kerry has married twice both times to wealthy women. His current wife is Teresa Heinz Kerry and as you can tell by that name she is involved with the Heinz Corporation. In fact she is more than involved as,

“Teresa Heinz, who has lost her husband, Senator Richard Heinz, in a plane crash and had inherited his canned food and ketchup fortune.”

As stated above Kerry then went on to run for President against incumbent George Bush in 2004. Although the election was close Kerry eventually lost out to Bush 48% of the electoral vote to Bushes 51%. Kerry’s main problem was the label Bush attacked him on. Kerry was often referred to by Bush as someone who would ‘flip flop’ on important issues,

“And he was mercilessly attacked by the Bush campaign for allegedly changing his mind on major issues, including the war in Iraq.”

As Kerry is a democrat in Massachusetts he is considered a liberal,

“On Social issues, Kerry is generally liberal. He is regarded as “solid” by environmentalists, and is in favour of abortion rights and more action to improve healthcare. He backs civil unions for gays, but not gay marriages.”

All quotes and stats from above: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/3003306.stm

Here is a list of issues and where Kerry stands:

Abortion: Does not personally agree with abortion but believes it is a women’s right to choose.

Civil Rights: Strong on civil rights supports women getting equal pay and believed the patriot act abused people’s civil liberties.

Gay marriage: Does not personally believe in gay marriage but supports couples rights to have civil unions.

Quotes as saying “Chaney’s daughter, a lesbian, would say gay is not a choice” (Oct, 2004)

Businesses: Supports small business

Death Penalty: "Opposes death penalty except for post 9/11 terrorists" (July, 2004)

Environment: Supports the environment

Gun Control: Supports gun control

Heath Care: Wants health care changed

"Fight for affordable healthcare for all children" (Jun 2006)

Voting Record: Finally John is a loyal Democrat voting with the party ‘93.5% of 306 votes’. Sept 2007

All from: http://www.ontheissues.org/john_kerry.htm

You can apply liberalism to John Kerry as he does fight to protect the liberties of the people he represents. He supports minority groups, such as, women and fights to make sure they receive equal pay. He ia pro choice even though he does not personally agree with abortion. His stance on the death penalty, environment, and small businesses show his liberalist nature.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

What makes a Democrat? What makes a Republican?

Rather than comment on our individual posts this week I thought I would express a general observation which struck me as I read through the various blogs. The diversity of positions taken on so many issues amongst US politicians is such that it is difficult to determine how some political representatives identify with a specific party. Is this simply a product of the 'two-party' system? It is almost as if the USA is in need of a third party to fill the increasingly over-crowded middle ground between the extremes of the other two.

Also, the local specificity which creates the diversity of views expressed within a single political 'package' (be it presidential, senatorial or congressional) is very striking. It adds support to my suspicion that the Constitution assumed a continuation of the homogeneity which existed at the time of Independence and the political system created from that assumption is not able to fulfill the needs of a hugely expanded, diverse and geographically (and demographically) polarised population.

It also occurred to me that the almost 'machine-gun like' scattering of views is even more apparent in Congress than in the Senate. I am beginning to understand why deadlock is an increasing force in US political life.

Eugene (Gene) Taylor - Democratic Congressman - Mississippi




http://www.taylor.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=13&Itemid=71

Eugene (Gene) Taylor (House Representative - D-Mississippi) may appear an unusual choice for this week’s subject on prominent Democrats, but I have chosen him because he is so atypical for a ‘liberal’ (quotes used advisedly as you will see). What is so striking is his economic and social conservatism (as well as his location) – particularly on the issues which are often highlighted as separating the ‘liberal’ Democrats from the ‘conservative’ Republicans. He is therefore an example of how nuanced American politics has become and also of the importance of the ‘local’ in the U.S. political system. Although a Democrat, according to the Cook Partisan Voting Index, he represents one of the most conservative districts in the whole country (number 20 most Republican from a total of 435) but has still maintained his congressional seat since 1989:

http://www.cookpolitical.com/sites/default/files/pvivalue.pdf

In the context of the liberal versus conservative debate, Taylor is extremely conservative on most social issues:

- Pro-life (he is a Catholic)
- Anti legislation promoting gay rights
- Pro gun rights
- Pro death penalty
- Hard line on crime, drugs and immigration
- Generally pro environmental reform but anti Cap-and-Trade
- He is also considered ideologically against the separation of state and religion (http://www.issues2000.org/House/Gene_Taylor_Principles_+_Values.htm)

His stance on economic issues is more nuanced unlike his conservative attitude toward national security:

- Anti trade union
- Very protectionist (anti free trade)
- Pro a balanced budget so generally anti tax cuts
- Pro controlling campaign financing
- Pro political reform
- Generally opposed to Obama’s healthcare reforms but pro federal support for prescriptions, pro Medicare and pro dropping restrictions on health insurer competitiveness
- Very pro military spending and veteran benefits
- Pro security
- Pro government fiscal responsibility
- Pro business – so generally anti employee rights but pro raising the minimum wage,

He is also a member of the ‘Blue dog Coalition’:

http://www.house.gov/melancon/BlueDogs/Member%20Page.html

This is a Congressional group of conservative Democrats which acts collectively in order to provide a block of support to promote many of their shared views. It has become a political force to contend with as the group often votes as a ‘bloc’ and therefore may represent the difference between success/failure to enact legislation. It is also worth mentioning that this group has stated aims of acting for the benefit of bi-partisanship over ideology and often work as the ‘centre ground’ to create sufficient compromise to break deadlocks within the House.

However, the group receives a large percentage of its funding from the health care industry which suggests that the Blue Dogs general stance against healthcare reform may be more than just a representation of their voters’ preferences.

In general, therefore, he is more against ‘big government’ than for it
and more individualist than collectivist. His support of federal initiatives is very targeted toward those which reflect the preferences of his demographically specific electorate (white, working class, conservative). Given the extent of his conservatism, I am surprised that he hasn’t ‘crossed the floor’ so would be interested in examining why he retains his affiliation to the Democrats.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Republican incumbents not ‘Right’ enough

Hi everyone, I have found an interesting article illustrating the rise of the far right Republicans. It was written by Ewen MacAskill for the Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/mar/03/republican-forced-out-texas-activists

The race for governor of Texas was decided Tuesday and the just as in Massachusetts the incumbent lost. Kay Bailey Hutchinson who is a senator in Texas and was also governor was beaten by Rick Perry a far right candidate. MacAskill states that,

Hutchison is no moderate Republican and was sufficiently conservative to secure the backing of Dick Cheney, a former vice- president. But even she was outflanked on the right by Perry, who benefited from the wave of populist conservative anger.”

This shows the rise of the far right as not even right winged Republican incumbents are safe from this up roar from tea party activists. MacAskill suggests that this results as well as the one that occurred in Massachusetts is not a one off,

“The results suggest a shift to the right lies ahead in the Republican party both in congress and among governors."

"Moderate Republicans face being displaced by more rightwing candidates, backed by Tea Party activists and others who complain the Republican Party has betrayed its core principles."

These Tea Party voters do not just appose Barrack Obama and his agenda they also blame the Republican Party for their discontent. MacAskill continues to say,

“These righwingers oppose federal government spending under Barrack Obama, the proposed healthcare bill and immigration reform, and blame Republicans for failing to oppose the spending.”

This discontent is being felt all around America and Republicans are demanding change. With many votes coming up Republican candidates are fighting hard to keep their seats. MacAskill states that,

“The result in Texas is ominous for candidates such as the Republicans governor in Florida, Charlie Crist, who is trailing in the polls behind Marco Rubio, a Tea Party favourite. Even the Republican candidate in the 2008 presidential campaign, John McCain, is having to fight to save his Arizona Senate seat.”

It will be interesting to see in the coming months how these races turnout and the true effect of the Tea Party movement.

Annie.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Russ Feingold: Senator of Wisconsin


For this week’s blog I have decided to focus on Russ Feingold, the United States Senator for Wisconsin. No prizes for guessing why I picked him! Actually...I wrote that having chosen him because he was from Wisconsin, now I have discovered he is Jewish! Double reason to focus on Mr Feingold!

Russ Feingold was born in Janesville, Wisconsin (which is in the south) on March 2nd, 1953 and now lives in Middleton, WI. He went to University of Wisconsin-Madison and got a degree from Oxford University before studying for another degree at Harvard.

Feingold is a democrat as is his fellow Senator, Herb Kohl. His website explains that

‘In 1982, in his first try for elective office, Feingold defeated a long-time incumbent and was elected to the Wisconsin State Senate for the 27th District. Feingold was re-elected in 1986 and 1990. When Feingold first ran for the U.S. Senate in 1992, he won a tough three-way primary, and went on to defeat a two-term incumbent. Feingold was re-elected to the Senate in 1998 and 2004.’

Following a Wisconsin tradition of open government, something I thought was particularly interesting about Russ Feingold is that he (as promised in his original campaign for Senate) holds ‘town hall-style Listening Sessions’ in each of the 72 counties in Wisconsin annually. Up to now there have been nearly 1200 meetings held; something considered to be the ‘driving force behind Russ’s bipartisan legislative agenda’.

Before outlining some of the issues dealt with in Wisconsin I wanted to point out one in more detail which is the Campaign Finance Reform, something Feingold worked on with Senator John McCain. In his own words Feingold says that

‘I’m proud of the bipartisan legislation Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and I pushed through Congress in 2002 that banned one of the biggest loopholes at the time – the ability of corporations, unions and wealthy individuals to give unlimited contributions to people on both sides of the aisle. Since McCain-Feingold became law, soliciting, accepting and making unlimited soft money contributions is a federal crime - presidents can no longer charge big money contributors thousands of dollars to sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom and members of Congress can no longer solicit $500,000, $1 million, or more from special interests and then turn around and vote on a bill directly affecting those interests.

I wanted to make a point of this as it is clearly a significant reform and one that is particularly interesting based on its bipartisan nature.

I will now highlight some of the other issues in Wisconsin and Feingold’s stance on them (many more issues are featured on his website but these are ones I deemed most interesting/noteworthy):

- Agriculture: Very significant in Wisconsin aka the Dairy State - renowned for cheese production. Feingold is very vocal in his support for family farmers and protecting small farms.

- Consumer Protections: Emphasis on having a balance between large and small businesses with a focus on supporting the latter.

- Education: Doesn’t support the federalisation of education and believes each individual school district should be responsible for the assessment and everyday running of the classroom.

- Environment: ‘Russ played a key role in passing the historic Great Lakes Compact. The Great Lakes Compact, negotiated among the eight Great Lakes states and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec, regulates new water withdrawals and diversions that threaten lake levels and could destroy a major resource Wisconsin counts on for everything from food to jobs, and from power to recreation.

- Fiscal Responsibility: Worked with republicans to eliminate the federal deficit on becoming Senator in 1992 and is now a member of the Senate Budget Committee. He is continuing to try and ‘restore budget discipline’.

- Government Reform: In his 1992 campaign, Feingold promised not to increase his salary on election as Senator. He strongly opposes what he calls “backdoor” pay rises for members of Congress.

- Healthcare: An issue which is most frequently raised at Listening Sessions and Feingold says he strives to make healthcare available to all Americans.

On exploring Feingold’s views and having looked at opinions on his work; he appears to be a very well supported Senator who is especially effective at working in a bipartisan manner.

I found a link from The Post Crescent, a Wisconsin newspaper and I thought was interesting and relevant in relation to our discussions about filibustering.

http://www.postcrescent.com/article/20100304/APC0101/3040589/1979

Both Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl are quoted in the article agreeing that ‘selfish lawmakers, not Senate rules, are to blame’.

On consulting Cherie’s graph from last week, I noticed that Feingold is positioned next to Lincoln (Katey’s focus) as a far right democrat. His centrality on the graph didn’t surprise me, as Feingold seems to pay a lot of attention with his town hall-style meeting to hearing and working on the views of the people. This links in to liberalism which is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as

a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties; specifically : such a philosophy that considers government as a crucial instrument for amelioration of social inequities (as those involving race, gender, or class)’.

The way people’s views seem to be of prime importance to Feingold, and the way he works to acknowledge and address them in meetings (something I hadn’t heard of with other politicians) seems to display qualities of liberalism as defined by the above quote. Likewise, Feingold’s support for gay marriage, his pro-choice standpoint and opinions on healthcare and education all too display liberalist qualities.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Blanche Lincoln: Democratic Senator of Arkansas



I have chosen a Southern Senate Democrat because I wanted to analyse their ideology compared to typical Southern republican viewpoints. Blanche Lincoln was elected to the Senate on November 3rd 1998 when she was 38; the youngest ever to be elected in Senate history. Her official website also says how she,

'
... made history again on September 9, 2009, when she was tapped as Chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee. In the Committee’s 184-year history, she is the first Arkansan and the first female to serve as Chairman.'

She is a seventh generation Arkansan from a farm family and is active in policies that support rural communities; as Arkansas' population relies on farming and agricultural production she taps into 'small town working values' rhetoric and the importance of the family. Her website's home page further enforces her values with pictures of her with the armed forces, childrenand the elderly. Apart from her policies that connect with the 'roots' of Southern life, she is also active in new energy initiatives that President Obama has stressed are important. Her biography page reiterates this,

'Lincoln played a key role in brokering the compromise that led to passage of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008. Also known as the “farm bill,” this legislation provides more resources for nutrition, conservation, rural development, and renewable energy than ever before.'

It is evident that she recognises the need to continue such rural lifestyles within her region, but also envisage and construct an America that is not solely reliant upon oil reserves and instead adapting to new, clean methods of energy production. Within the South already, clean energy production is becoming part of the landscape; Sweet Water, Texas has been labelled by one BBC Documentary as 'wind farm world capital'. However, whether the South's smaller communities can adapt their way of life around such new technologies is a different matter.

In brief, here are some of the issues supported by Lincoln:

  • Agriculture - 'Arkansas is dependent on a healthy farm economy'. Her role as chairman of the Senate Agriculture committee makes her even more responsible for this.
  • Education - 'Education is not just another social program; it's a national investment in our most precious resource: children.' Immediately Lincoln denies that Education initiatives are linked to a socialist running of government, interesting.
  • Energy - 'Foreign oil is not a sustainable strategy...Most importantly I believe our country should focus on a long-term investment strategy in renewable and alternative energy sources, which will pave a road to energy independence.' Lincoln focuses more on the importance of America becoming 'independent' here than she does on the important of protecting the environment. She taps into typical Southern beliefs about American independence and anti-conservation.
  • Gun Rights - 'I support the rights of law-abiding citizens to purchase and own firearms.' To not hold this view in Southern politics could indeed damage the amount of votes Lincoln maintains. She obviously recognises the link between the South and strong gun right groups such as the NRA.
  • Health Care - '...to provide immediate relief for hard working Americans and find practical long-term solutions to our nation's health care challenges.' This website (the U.S. Economic Research Service) reports that Arkansas had a poverty rate of 17.3 percent in 2008, compared to Utah having 9.7 and Alabama at 15.9, Arkansas has one of the highest poverty rates in the U.S, after Mississippi (20.8). To secure the population of Arkansas, Health Care is integral to Lincoln's policy; a very Democratic characteristic.
  • Immigration - 'Our immigration system is broken. Without a doubt our top priority must be border security [...] address the millions of illegal immigrants living in our communities in a practical and realistic way.' Although she is not totally anti-immigration, she does recognise that America needs to tighten physical boundaries and that also America has a responsibility to act with immigrants already living in the country.
  • Taxes - '... working to build a tax structure that is fair and equitable for all Americans and one that helps our working families. I favor shrinking the tax code to reduce the role of the Internal Revenue Service.' This emphasis on the working family serves to represent Democratic yet Southern ideals. Reducing the role of the IRS would support Republican views of narrowing the scope of a 'big government'.
With relation to definitions of 'Liberalism', I found a good article from the New York Times, 'A Liberal Translation', by Timothy Garton Ash. Garton Ash notes that,

'
Over the last two decades a truly eccentric usage has triumphed in American public debate. Liberalism has become a pejorative term denoting — to put the matter a tad frivolously — some unholy marriage of big government and fornication.'

Indeed, this one definition of Liberalism would include Lincoln's support of Healthcare Reform, her view that Education is a NATIONAL investment and the initiatives of cleaner energy and a move away from oil production. Once associated more with 'freedom', the term is now associated with 'progress' to Democrats such as Hillary Clinton (see article above) - another defining term associated with America's history. Indeed, in a nation that is rapidly growing in population, progress is inevitable as resources run out, the gap between the rich and the poor widens and competition for employment grows.

Lincoln's support of gun rights (although minimal), agriculture policies and better tax controls echo the Right and the belief that the government should govern less. If Liberalism is also considered to represent individual liberty and equality, then it could be said that her position on gun rights maintains some kind of individual choice to own a weapon. It is not suprising that when consulting Cherie's graph, Lincoln appears at the top of the Democrat Senate scale (5 below Republican Olympia Snowe); a very far Right Democrat.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

'Republicans Must Be Responsive and Also Responsible'

This opinion based article by Peter Wehner of website Politics Daily takes as its focus the results of last week's CNN poll which asked 1023 adult Americans about their trust in federal government.

Wehner states that,
'56 percent of people questioned [...] say they think the federal government has become so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens. Forty four percent of those polled disagree. The survey indicates a partisan divide on the question: only 37 percent of Democrats, but nearly 7 in 10 Republicans, say the federal government poses a threat to the rights of Americans.'

Given that Obama's latest job approval rating on Gallup is fifty percent, this latest CNN poll suggests the instability of American citizens' trust in government and their association of Obama with big government threats. The height of the Health Care Bill within the media last week will of certainly affected the results of the poll conducted. Wehner goes on to say that,

'When Obama took office, trust in government was already low; rather than setting about to incrementally rebuild confidence, Obama made a fateful decision to exploit the economic crisis in order to enlarge the size, scope and reach of the state.'

Wehner's typically anti-Obama and anti-Health Care reform view do not however lead him into a patriotic Tea Party infused debate (like so many people are tapping into currently). He instead notes of the dangers of recent public anger and frustration in damaging original 'American' notions of governance which have defined progress in politics for centuries, 'the levels of mistrust toward government can also be corrosive and harmful to our nation. '
What is refreshing about this article is the author's belief that 'true' American politics will return in a Republican environment of responsibility and responsiveness.

'It is not enough to simply pour kerosene onto the bonfire. Republicans need public figures (like Gov. Mitch Daniels, former Gov. Jeb Bush and Rep. Paul Ryan) who can articulate an alternative view of government in a way that isn't simplistic, that isn't angry, or that doesn't appeal (as I worry Sarah Palin sometimes does) to cultural resentments.'

Wehner's disapproval of Palin suggests his lack of faith in the grass roots campaign of the Tea Party; that such movements are useful in venting federal government related anger but helpless in reclaiming confidence and support of a republican government, which could enhance a 2012 win.
Indeed, restoring confidence within the American people could prove successful in republican campaigns in the run up to 2012; a limited government rhetoric suggests more control of individual states and therefore more localised, community based action.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin is most famous for being John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 presidential elections. Palin gained many fans as she was seen by many as a hard working mum from a small town. Not a corrupt politician that had been in Washington for years. Palin was criticised and mocked during the election as her lack of knowledge on certain issues was exposed,

“The mother- of- five appealed strongly to women and her party’s conservative base. Her energetic, down- to- earth style helped rally support behind him. But she faced tough criticism over her lack of experience – something exacerbated by a series of gaffs.”

Quote found here http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7588542.stm

Despite a hard introduction it to the world of politics Palin is a front runner coming into the 2012 elections. She is still very much in the public eye and now works for Fox news. Palin is considered a social conservative therefore her views are as follows:

Abortion: Very much against abortion.

"Every baby is created with a future and potential." (August 2008)

Stem cell research: "Opposes embryonic stem cell research." (August 2008)

Gun control: Against any form of gun control.

"Life long NRA member & champion of right to bear arms." (February 2008)

Sex marriage: Opposes gay marriage.

"Non- support of anything but traditional marriage." (October 2008)

"No spousal benefits for same-sex couples." (July 2006)

Death penalty: Supports the death penalty.

"If legislature passed death penalty law, I would sign it." (November 2006)

Environment: Does not believe in Global warming.

"Drill, baby, drill." (October 2008)

"Bush is right: drill ANWR & develop our own supplies." (April 2008)

All from : http://www.ontheissues.org/Sarah_Palin.htm


As I have mentioned before Palin is very popular and this popularity puts her in a strong position for 2012. Kevin Connolly in a article written for the BBC, states,

"Mrs Palin’s book is a little light on ideology and big ideas but that probably does not matter very much in modern America where politicians run on their life stories and their ability to relate it to the lives of voters."

Connolly recognises Palin's ability to connect with others,

"Local business consultant Mike Crane who was waiting somewhere near the head of the line explained it to me. “She’s one of us,” he said simply. “We’re hard –working, 9-to-5 Joes and like her we didn’t go to the elite universities that other politicians went to. She understands America.”

This connection with voters from 'small town America' is very positive as these types of voters are on the rise. They are discontent with the way America is today and seek change. They want someone who they can relate to, someone like Palin with a background they can connect with.

"But the most compelling evidence of all that there is plenty more to come from Sarah Palin was in the nature of the crowd she drew here. Her followers do not merely agree with her, they love her and, while she may alienate other Americans in equal or greater numbers, that makes her a force to be reckoned with."

With growing support and media interest. I believe Palin is a still a front runner for the for the 2012 republican nomination.

All quotes above can be found at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/8367633.stm

Annie.