THE GROFF/ELLISON POLITICAL REPORT

Ole’ Boy Haters Strike Back …

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on June 29, 2008

A recent piece in Politico by Daniel Libit highlights the ongoing struggle between defining politics as a profession and ensuring that it’s a true change agent.  You’ll see:

Among the things that the proliferation of TV cable news has wrought is slackened standards for what constitutes a political strategist. Now used as a catchall tag for a whole host of people with varied — and often peripheral — backgrounds in electoral politics, the term has all but lost its meaning.

“I think it’s absurd,” says Ed Rollins, a bona fide strategist who has held high-ranking positions in numerous Republican presidential campaigns. “Everyone calls themselves a strategist. I have been doing this for 40 years, I know most of the players, and I go on these shows and think, ‘Who are these people?’”

“Slackened standards” can appear like code for issues some may have with the rising diversity in political perspective in modern broadcast news.  A subtle way to say: “There are a bit too many of these other folks coming in and playing our game.”

That said, let’s first address a concern about the horse race nature of political news coverage, with more focus on polls rather than candidate platforms.  The real problem is that there is more gossip than discourse in political news coverage, driven by the sound bite dynamic favored by cable news producers, hosts and anchors.  This isn’t completely their fault: typically, they only have several minutes at a time to either finish their thoughts, ask questions and move on to the next segment before commercial breaks set in.  We keep talking about the “24/7” news cycle – but is that statement really accurate when applied to the cable networks since a great chunk of that time is eaten away by advertisers.  Between a journalistic rock and need-for-information hard place, somebody has to pay the bills.  That’s the problem.  Let’s talk about that.

The good thing about the recent election cycle is that we’re seeing more of what’s different than the classic “standard.”  And, we all remember the standard: every major political talk show, every Sunday panel was populated almost exclusively with  middle-aged or senior to high-brow to white-hair White males who defined who knew what about politics.  It seemed as though no one knew or could discuss politics better than White males in suits.  Soon after, working to middle class Irish Catholics joined in, then White ethnics, followed by White females as a way to mix it up and stray from the stale, formulaic Anglo-Saxon Protestant format that dominated for so long; occasionally, for dramatic effect, an adventurous producer would book the few entertaining African American activists, preachers or “leaders” who could cause a stir and momentary jump in ratings – and they, too, were male for the most part.  Still, they were more ideologue than analyst.  To analyze the political landscape, you’d bring in your White guy “insiders.”

To a large degree, that is still the case.  Broadcast talk is still disproportionately unrepresentative; Black and Latino analysts are either tokenized or pigeon-holed into discussing “race” topics.  Certainly, pundits of color are a good group to access for that sort of info, but there are also quite a few experts within that pool who know just as much about topics such as foreign policy and economics.

And there is still a sense that the “ole boy” school defines American politics – which is one of the main factors behind public apathy and the low voter turnout (until recently) that we experienced for so many years.  The larger public doesn’t feel like a stakeholder when the broadcasted political conversation lounges in the ivory tower. But, we see more faces “of color” mixing it up in terms of presence and perspective.  And that’s a good thing – not a “slackened standard.”  Libit’s piece comes off like a veiled attempt to paint these new faces as “unqualified” simply because they don’t fit the mold or image of the traditional pol.

Diversity is not a great thing because it puts “different” or “color” in a room – it’s great because it offers a larger serving of diversity in opinion, thought and information.  We’ve seen enough of the old school cats like Ed Rollins above – clearly, he and others are a bit annoyed because they’re finally being challenged.  Because their conventional wisdom no longer rules.  We appreciate what everyone brings to the table – including Rollins.  But, how can we get a real sense of what voters think or what candidates will do if that analysis largely comes from the same vantage point?  Rather than hate on the future, step up your game and add something fresh to it.

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Walking The Tightrope

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on June 26, 2008

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama will be back on political tightrope over the next couple of days as people seek to understand today’s decision on gun control by the United States Supreme Court

The 5-4 decision outlawed the contentious Washington, DC gun ban law saying it violated the right to bear arms.  The city had argued that the limits on gun ownership was “reasonable.” 

As cities look to figure out how to deal with gun play in their communities, Obama will look to figure out how to reconcile his previous positions and statements with the Court’s decision and the issue of gun control.  Most Democrats representing cities, as Obama did in the state legislature in Illinois, back up their cities and Mayor’s in their efforts to limit guns on city streets.

Obama has tried to straddle that position with one that respects the second amendment as his campaign has expanded and grown.  Earlier this year CNN’s Leon Harris asked Obama about his position and he tried to support cities and gun owners, Obama repsonded, “I think it’s important for us to recognize that we’ve got a tradition of handgun ownership and gun ownership generally,” he said. “And a lot of people — law-abiding citizens — use it for hunting, for sportsmanship and for protecting their families. We also have a violence on the streets that is the result of illegal handgun usage. And so I think there is nothing wrong with a community saying we are going to take those illegal handguns off the streets, we are going to trace more effectively how these guns are ending up on the streets, to unscrupulous gun dealers, who oftentimes are selling to straw purchasers. And cracking down on the various loopholes that exist in terms of background checks for children, the mentally ill. Those are all approaches that I think the average gun owner would actually support.” 

That balance between supporting sportsmen and hunters and cities targeting illegal handgun ownership and massive gun shot incidents is an act the Republicans and their presumptive nominee Sen. John McCain will try and upset and Obama will have to find a balance as he walks the fine tightrope of gun control in America.      

 

Race Card…Again

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on June 26, 2008

And now Ralph Nader.  In some very bizarre comments in the Rocky Mountain News (click here for transcript and video) presidential contender and former candidate Ralph Nader said that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama was trying to “talk white” and that he wasn’t talking enough about issues affecting the “ghetto” in this campaign. 

We are baffled by Nader’s comments.  What was he trying to prove or exposure?  Or maybe it was a cheap ploy for attention?  Whatever the reason Nader’s comments were out of bounds and a cheap shot at someone who has proven that he can attend to issues specific to African Americans, and by the way poor whites, Hispanic and others, and engage the larger problems facing Illinois and America. 

Maybe it is news to Nader that Obama is running for President of the United States of America and not President of the Black People of America.  He is a candidate who happens to be African American who understands, like most African American elected officials under 50 years old, that attacking the larger issues of health care, education and economic stability will limit or eliminate the sub issues of “…Payday loans, predatory lending, asbestos, lead..” in Nader’s ghetto. 

Obama has shown that a person of color can run a national campaign on the larger issues and garner tremendous support from people of color who clearly have politically matured past the point of Nader’s old school bigotry.  A bigorty that pigeonholes African American candidates in this “ghetto” issue debate that separates the issues from their root causes, no access to health care, bad public education and lack of economic opportunities.  Issues by the way that also affect poor whites, women and Hispanics. 

We had hoped the campaign would be bigger than moments like this and maybe it will be, however, it seems that there will be people who are ready to reshackle African Americans despite the greatness of the time. 

The GOP’s Strong Arm with Oil …

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on June 23, 2008

Recent polls suggest that race may factor into Presidential election as much as age, and then it flips to show that age could be as much a factor as race. 

However, in reality, it will rest on the larger electorate’s perception of the economy and how that impacts our collective bank accounts.  Voters will react, rather emotionally, to whatever candidate or platform they deem prepared to address the challenges of slow growth, rising oil prices and ridiculous food prices.  Much of that is linked into an overall view that energy is the driving culprit: oil that is.

The GOP is making a rather smart play on that perception, particularly as Americans grumble over $4+ a gallon at every gas pump.  One could argue that lack of Bush Administration zeal for a solution is actually a somewhat deliberate political move to drive voter sentiment in favor of another Republican White House, particularly given the fact that the GOP is having trouble energizing its typically reliable base around the presumptive nominee while dealt the double blow of low popularity for its current head.   Less action helps to exacerbate the situation enough whereby a sudden political burst of willpower to drill domestically is seen as a saving grace.  One can’t help but feel a sense of political strong-arming until the electorate cries uncle.

Domestic drilling has been seen, up until recently, as an environmental catastrophe. What could be troubling is that any decision to now drill stateside is based on the pure emotion of a voting public being wrestled down by economic pressures. This latest drive by the Bush Administration to drill domestically – buoyed by a McCain reversal on the idea and greater political support from GOP-aligned think tanks, advocacy groups and other associations – could be extremely problematic for Democrats and Obama.   

You Think President Bush is Unpopular…

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on June 21, 2008

President Bush’s popularity is at 26%. The percentage  is an all time low. It is so low that pundits have wondered if presumptive GOP nominee Sen. John McCain can afford to spend time with the President.  Very rarely are they seen together let alone being pictured together.  McCain recently allowed the President to raise money for him but it was in a private fundraiser. 

It is clear that McCain has to handle the president with kid gloves, but how does the presumptive Democratic nominee handle Congress?

In the recent Gallup Poll, Congress raked in at a record low in popularity.  12%.  Yup, 12% of those surveyed have confidence in Congress.  12%.  Of course Congress includes both presidential nominees but Sen. Barack Obama’s party controls Congress.  The percentage is the lowest in the 35 years that question has been asked. 

It will be interesting to see if Congress’ lack of public confidence attaches itself to Obama or if his “change” message will overshadow Congress’ low popularity?  The irony in that ranking is that Democrats look to increase their majority in both chambers in part because of the unpopularity of the president.  Go figure. 

It is long thought that while everyone loves their member of Congress, they hate the institution.  If that is the case Obama won’t have to worry about the stink from Congress rubbing off on him and Democrats in Congress should be able to maintain their majority.  But at some point 12% popularity will catch up to you and everyone will realize that their member is the reason they hate Congress and throw them out.  If you don’t believe that just ask the incumbent Democrats in 1994 and incumbent Republicans in 2006. 

Is the Public with McCain?

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on June 19, 2008

The first polls are coming in on the question of lifting the 27 year old ban on offshore drilling and they will delight Sen. John McCain.  Rasmussen Reports released a poll today that 62% of those questioned agree that we should drill off our coasts, the McCain position, and 27% say we shouldn’t, Senator Barack Obama’s position. 

Currently drilling is forbidding off the coasts of America and only allowed in a portion of the Gulf of Mexico.

Rising gas prices, record costs for oil and rumors of five dollars a gallon petro have people very nervous and angry about what they are paying and they see no relief in sight.  This poll backs up efforts like American Solutions’ “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less” which now has over one million signatories.  

The issue is fast becoming the main topic of this campaign and if McCain can gain some traction on this issue he may be able to close the gap on Obama who leads major polls when voters are asked who can better handle the economy.  Congressional Democrats and environmentalists must be careful in their rabid opposition to the drilling.  Conservation, increased fuel efficiency and the development of energy alternatives are legitimate options but they will take years to implement and become effective. 

The irony is so will drilling offshore.  By most opinions it will take ten years to drill offshore and make that oil available.  The problem for the opponents of drilling offshore is the lifting of the ban and the beginning of construction of derricks makes it look like, in a tangible way, relief is at hand even if it ten years in the offing.  But ten or fifteen years from now a President McCain will have already retired to his ranch in Sedona, Arizona. 

Obama says No to Public Finance

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on June 19, 2008

Sen. Barack Obama, who has generated record amounts of funding from a grassroots movement, has decided to forgo public financing for this presidential campaign.  A decision that could cost him $85 million in public funding but open up other coffers. 

By opting out of the program Obama will be able to use an unlimited amount of money in his race against Sen. John McCain in a race that should be incredibly close.  In the fund raising race Obama has consistently out raised McCain and should be able to continue to do so and outspend him as well.  McCain, who has struggled in raising money, chastised Obama for being a “typical politician” and questioned Obama’s commitment to change.   

The decision is an historic one as Obama becomes the first major candidate to make this decision since the programs inception in the mid-1970’s. 

 

Is Obama Gore?

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on June 19, 2008

It has only happened twice in our nation’s history and only once in the last 100 years but it could happen in November.  What is it? The winner of the electoral college not also winning the popular vote. 

In the 2000 election Vice President Al Gore won the popular vote by over half a million votes but lost the electoral college vote to then Goovernor George W. Bush by a disputed 5 votes.  The last time that happened was in 1888 when Benjamin Harrison won the electoral vote but lost the popular count to Grover Cleveland by close to 100,000 votes. 

Some political pundits see some potential for that electoral anomoly to occur in 2008.  In an insightful article in the Politico Harry Seigel says that with the potential for record African American turnout in the south, but maybe not high enough for Sen. Barack Obama to win southern states, the mix for the “Gore/Cleveland” scenario is possible says Seigel, “…Obama racks up huge margins among the increasingly affluent, highly educated and liberal coastal states, while a significant increase in turnout among black voters allows him to compete — but not to win — in the South. Meanwhile, McCain wins solidly Republican states such as Texas and Georgia by significantly smaller margins than Bush’s in 2004 and ekes out narrow victories in places such as North Carolina, which Bush won by 12 points but Rasmussen presently shows as a tossup, and Indiana, which Bush won by 21 points but McCain presently leads by just 11.”  

There was a great deal of discussion after the 2000 election about the electoral college, but the disputed Florida result and subsequent Supreme Court decision overshadowed that talk about an overhaul of the process.  If that split happens again for the second time in eight years we wonder if the conversation will occur again and what may result from it. 

Of course there is the possible scenario the late NBC political moderator Tim Russert was pushing, a 269-269 electoral tie.  Now that would be interesting…

 

Is It Time?

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on June 17, 2008

The historic ascendancy of Sen. Barack Obama to the Democratic nomination for president has sparked a number of discussion about race and how far America has come and how far America has to go. 

Does the trailblazing step mean America’s long tortured journey toward racial equality had reached the promise land of Rev. Martin Luther King’s dream or is it just a much needed move in that direction?  That question probably won’t be addressed by election day November 4th or inaugural day January 21st so the discussion will continue long after this election has faded into history. 

However, on the ballots of Colorado and potentially in Arizona and Nebraska on November 4th an initial answer may be given.  On election day in Colorado and possibly in Arizona and Nebraska voters will be asked the question whether the state should engage in Affirmative Action programs? 

The age old question about the need and purpose of Affirmative Action will now be argued in a new light with the success of Obama.  In an intriguing article by Jonathan Kaufman of the Wall Street Journal the questions still draw heated arguments on both sides. 

But one can’t look at this campaign solely and say that Affirmative Action is no longer needed.  To do so would ignore the comments about Sen. Hillary Clinton and her historic run amidst sexism and the Obama climb among the thorns of racism, some of which came from within his own party.  One can’t forget the comments of Democratic party voters in Kentucky or West Virginia who said they would never vote for an African American and think it is time for Affirmative Action to go away, particularly in it’s current very narrow fashion. 

To dismiss racism to some backward, red-neck country hicks as the mainstream near lilly-white media seems intent on doing ignores the other signals put forth by America everyday.  There is no question that African Americans have made tremendous strides and maybe as the last Supreme Court ruling on the issue stated, Affirmative Action programs won’t be needed in 25 years, but until then programs that are race specific may still be needed.  Programs to urge qualified students of color to apply for college, to assist along with many other tools to diversify college campuses, target health challenges and high rates of various dangerous illness must be allowed to move forward.  The elimination of those efforts and many others clearly would solidify and press inequality into America’s bedrock never to be chiseled out and creating a permanent lower class made up of people of color and women who wouldn’t be able find avenues out of that situation. 

We know that Affirmative Action is not the only avenue, but clearly creating options that hard working and qualified people can take advantage of seems to make perfect public policy sense to us.   

More Outreach

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on June 17, 2008

The national polls continue to show a very close race for president between Senators John McCain and Barack Obama.  If the polls are correct or even close to correct every vote will count and every sub-group of voters will matter. 

Recent surveys show Obama and McCain splitting independents, Obama gaining some support from conservatives and McCain from Reagan Democrats.  Another group that the presumptive nominees will fight over will be the Hispanic vote.  A growing number of Hispanics will influence swing states like New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada. 

In an effort to secure that vote and potentially mend fences Obama will meet with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus tonight.  Obama did not fair very well with this voting bloc during the primaries and will need their vote to win those swing states and maintain blue states like California and New York.  The GOP has been comeptitive with Hispanic voters in recent elections and McCain because of his work in Arizona and stance on immigration may be able maintain that competitive status.