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Fri Mar 22, 2013, 09:10 PM

Friday Talking Points (250) -- Happy Sestercentennial Column!

Welcome to the 250th Friday Talking Points column!

If we had had our act together, we could have run some "looking back" or "best of" nostalgia today, but we in fact do not have our act together, and so we'll just have to muddle along with the usual weekly thing.

A lot happened last week, but most of the action took place over in Republicanland. Senator Rob Portman announced that -- after having thought the matter over for a mere two years after his son came out to him -- he would now support gay marriage. I suppose that's a little too snarky, though, especially since Hillary Clinton also announced her support this week. Better late than never, one supposes....

The sequester was set in stone for the next six months, so America is now going to learn what "budget cutting" really means. Paul Ryan doubled down on the slash-and-burn budgeting, and the House passed his budget for the next fiscal year, while the Senate is expected to pass a Democratic budget shortly. Neither will make it into law, but the conference committee should be interesting -- keep an eye on who gets named to that committee, as the membership will be crucial to shape any sort of deal.

Reince Priebus, chair of the Republican National Committee, put out an "autopsy" of the rotting corpse of the Republican Party's 2012 campaign. This led me this week to write one of the few columns where the title becomes obvious long before I figure out what to say in the text. Because, as has been pointed out before, when you remove the vowels from Reince's name, you are left with: "RNC PR BS," which summed up the contents of the "autopsy" perfectly. The continuing civil war within the Republican Party shows no signs of abating any time soon, so it'll be fun to watch for months to come, folks! Next up on the Republican battlefield: immigration reform. Watch the fur fly!

President Obama's off in Israel, which seems to be going well so far. No big summit news or anything, but nobody really expected any to begin with, so that's not really any surprise. Obama is slowly (very slowly) formulating a drone policy that will move some drone control to the Pentagon from the C.I.A., but that's not really much of a policy change on how we actually use them.

That's about it for this week, except for one amusing petition we can fully support, and urge you to as well. In fact, we've voiced this opinion before, starting back in FTP (189) (in the last talking point). Now, there is a new petition up on the White House site that everyone can sign. Here's the petition:

Since most politicians' campaigns are largely funded by wealthy companies and individuals, it would give voters a better sense of who the candidate they are voting for is actually representing if the company's logo, or individual's name, was prominently displayed upon the candidate's clothing at all public appearances and campaign events. Once elected, the candidate would be required to continue to wear those "sponsor's" names during all official duties and visits to constituents. The size of a logo or name would vary with the size of a donation. For example, a $1 million dollar contribution would warrant a patch of about 4" by 8" on the chest, while a free meal from a lobbyist would be represented by a quarter-sized button. Individual donations under $1000 are exempt.

Since the White House upped the bar which generates a response, the petition has a long way to go (it's just over 15,000 at this writing, it needs to get to 100,000). So click on over and show your support for this great idea! Sure, it'll never happen for various reasons, but it would be fun to see their response nonetheless.


We've got to at least give an Honorable Mention to John Hickenlooper for signing some very tough gun legislation in Colorado, proving that even the Mountain West -- traditionally a very gun-friendly region -- can lead the rest of the states on the path to saner gun laws.

But our real Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week is Elizabeth Colbert Busch, sister of comedian Stephen Colbert, who just won a primary for a special House election in South Carolina. This seat was open as a result of Jim DeMint pulling "a Sarah Palin" and walking away from the Senate to take a cushy job as "conservative emeritus" (or something). In any case, Busch won the primary handily, and will now take on Mark "hiking the Appalachian Trail" Sanford in the general election in May.

We wish Busch the best of luck, without knowing what sort of chance she's got of winning. If she does win, her famous brother is going to become a lot more interesting to watch, that's for sure (he's been campaigning for her already).

{Congratulate Elizabeth Colbert Busch on her campaign page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.}


Harry Reid disappointed many this week, none more than Dianne Feinstein, who might in fact be called the "most disappointed Democrat of the week" this week. However, Reid was just doing his job in this case, so we can't really fault him all that much.

Reid knows that DiFi's assault weapons ban simply does not have the votes to pass. So he stripped it out of the gun control legislation he'll be bringing to the floor. Reid will allow Feinstein's bill to be brought to a vote as an amendment to the main bill, so that a vote will be held (and fail). This will improve the chances for the other pieces of the legislation to move forward. It was a very pragmatic decision, and we don't have to like it, but it's also hard to see how doing it any differently would have been any better for the overall goal.

Also, we have two other candidates in the disappointing category this week. Whoever heads up the Veterans Administration seems to be doing a pretty weak job of processing claims from veterans returning from our wars, leading to years-long backlogs. Meaning Eric Shinseki deserves at least a (Dis-)Honorable Mention.

But our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week is environmentalist and billionaire Democratic donor Tom Steyer, who made a very ham-handed attempt to interject himself (and the Keystone XL pipeline) into the special Senate election in Massachusetts. Monday, he sent out public notice that if one of the candidates didn't swear that he'd oppose the pipeline (by "high noon" -- you can't make this stuff up, folks), then Steyer would spend a bunch of money in the other candidate's favor. Ed Markey, the candidate who would have benefited, strongly denounced such tactics (to his credit). Massachusetts is a state where outside money is not appreciated in their politics to begin with, it bears mentioning.

There's a political term for the tactics Tom Steyer just attempted to use, and that term is (or should be, at any rate): Norquistian. Signing "loyalty oaths" under threats of flooding the election with money is not exactly something a Democrat should be proud of. For his overreach and tin ear, and for trying to adopt the tactics of Grover Norquist, Tom Steyer is our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week.

{We could not find public contact information for Tom Steyer, sorry.}

[center]Volume 250 (3/13/13)[/center]

Welcome to our sestercentennial edition! That's a word that all Americans are going to become aware of in 2026, we assume. Has it really been 250 weekly columns since we started attempting to show Democrats that talking points are a tactic which can actually work wonders, if handled right?

Well, whether you've been with us since the beginning, or are reading one of these for the first time, we'd just like to thank everyone for their continuing support. We'd love to wake up one week and realize that this column is not even necessary anymore because Democrats had suddenly become as good as Republicans at keeping "on message" -- but we're not exactly holding our breath, if you know what we mean.

But enough of that, let's get on with it, shall we? We haven't done it in a while, but we're going to spend this entire week rubbing salt in the wounds of the GOP.

One change in policy? That's it?

First, an overall view of the Reince Priebus autopsy report.

"The Republican Party spent four months examining why they got shellacked in the 2012 election, and while they had some ideas on how to communicate better, there was only one policy change in the entire document -- support comprehensive immigration reform. That's all they could come up with? One thing to change about the entire Republican platform? Wow. Well, good luck with that, guys -- it's looking like you'll have to lose another few elections before you have a chance at winning another national election, I guess. What a missed opportunity...."

It's not the medium, it's the message

It doesn't matter what label's on the can, if what's inside is dogfood, then people just aren't going to be wild about eating it.

"Republicans did a lot of examining why they had problems getting their message out. All well and good. Communications can be crucial to success in politics. But even with the best messaging operation known to mankind, if the message is something the public doesn't like, it doesn't matter how well you communicate it, people are still going to reject you. Voters are not stupid. You can put all the lipstick you want on a pig, but it's still a pig. Republicans need to wake up and realize that it isn't so much how they're saying things, it is actually what is being said. Until they realize this, all the communications skills in the world aren't going to help."

Extreme and out of the mainstream

Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

"On issue after issue, in poll after poll, the Republican Party's position is seen as extreme. Large majorities of the public agree with Democrats on policy, meaning most Democratic positions are now the mainstream of political thought. Until Republicans begin speaking up against the extremists in their own party, they're never going to convince moderates and independents to vote for them. Most Republicans are terrified of the extreme wing of their party, and stay silent when some awfully nutty things are said by fellow Republicans. This hurts the party more than anything else, because when nobody is brave enough to disavow extremism, then extremism winds up defining the party. Even the RNC autopsy report admitted that the Republican Party is seen as too extreme on a host of issues. Until they modernize their party, the public will continue to see Republicans as extreme and out of the mainstream."

You've got to be for some things, too

Being against stuff is fun, but in the end it doesn't get you very far.

"The Republican Party has earned their reputation of just being against things. Anything Obama's for, they're against -- even ideas which were originally Republican ideas, like Obamacare. Republicans have for too long been defining themselves as what they are against -- immigrants, women's rights, minorities, education, science, just to name a few -- and spent precious little time defining what they are for, outside of more and more tax cuts for the uber-wealthy. Republicans have become the cranky party, yelling at the kids to get off their damn lawn, and this presents an awfully negative face to the public. When's the last time you heard a Republican described as 'optimistic' -- about much of anything? That's a big problem, right there."

Maybe the Supreme Court will save you

This one is counterintuitive, but it makes a lot of sense when you think about it.

"If I was a Republican who cared about expanding my party in the future, I would be fervently praying for the Supreme Court to declare gay marriage a constitutional right. By doing so, this would remove the issue altogether and Republican politicians could shrug and say 'nothing we can do about it now' and move on. That's really the only thing that's going to save them. Gay marriage is going to advance in this country, one way or another -- the writing is on the wall. The more Republicans fight it, the more of the youth vote they will give up, possibly forever. As those kids get older, there will be fewer and fewer extremists on the issue. Republicans are now tied to a policy that is guaranteed to shrink their future prospects. The only thing that can get them out of this trap is if an external force removes the issue altogether, so they don't have to talk about it anymore. If I were a Republican politician right now, perhaps thinking of running for president one day, I would be sincerely hoping the Supreme Court rules for gay marriage."

Stop the War On Women

The extremists are running riot on this one, in statehouses across the country.

"Women are not a minority -- they are actually the majority of the electorate. The more the Republican Party keeps up its 'War On Women' the more women are going to flee their party. Once again, this shows how the Republican Party seems to be locked in to shrinking their political chances for the future. Women don't just notice stupid comments about rape -- they also notice that the Republican Party's platform stands for banning all abortion even for rape victims. You can get better candidates, who don't say such stupid things, but that doesn't change the fact that the party actually stands for those stupid policies. Most women aren't stupid, though, and every time they see Republicans blocking a law like the Violence Against Women Act, they sit up and take notice. I'll believe the Republican Party is serious about changing things for the better when they start actually talking to women and listening to them -- instead of passing law after law telling them what they can and cannot do."

Here's an idea: support Puerto Rican statehood

I threw this one in, just because after a while you start to feel sorry for where the Republicans currently find themselves.

"OK, you want me to be positive? Here's an idea I'll hand for free to the Republican Party, which could go a long way towards convincing a lot of Latinos that they ought to consider voting Republican. While it is flying under the radar for most people, Puerto Rico is getting very close to deciding once and for all that they want to become one of the United States. Democrats haven't really picked up on this yet. And there are actually a lot of very conservative voters in Puerto Rico. So Republicans could lead the bandwagon and champion the cause of Puerto Rican statehood, and Democrats would be seen as playing catch-up, following the Republicans' lead. How's that for a game-changing idea? Republicans standing up for Latinos -- think that would make some inroads for the party in the Latino vote?"

[center]Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
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