Tag Archives: democrats

Fear and Loathing in Washington D.C.

Washington DC Capitol - HDR

“President Obama will negotiate with the Syrian butcher Assad and erase his red line, will capitulate to Vladimir Putin, and he will negotiate with the happy face of the killer regime in Iran, President Rouhani, but not with Republicans over issues all presidents have always negotiated over.”

That quote – from American conservative radio host/shame-free liar and propagandist Hugh Hewitt – encapsulates how far the U.S. has to go to overcome the most embarrassing and pathetic government shutdown in the history of the country. Not every conservative in the United States is as crazy or deluded as Hewitt, but enough are to where an angry, xenophobic, racially charged minority, belonging to one faction in one house of government, has been able to manufacture a government shutdown threatening to destroy the US and global economy unless the party opposite capitulates to their bidding.

The truth is, no American president has ever “negotiated” repealing a duly enacted law [the Affordable Care Act] whilst being blackmailed with the destruction of his government, or indeed with the destruction of the global economy. But this line of baseless rhetoric has become the new mantra of the Republican Party and their apologists: repeat the lie until enough Americans have been coerced that they [Republicans] are not singularly to blame for the disastrous impasses the country continuously finds itself in (e.g. sequestration, shutdown, debt ceiling, etc.). This isn’t just a minority problem – it’s a party problem. The American Tea Party may be [entirely] comprised of callous fools and disgraceful opportunists, but we’re mostly here because “moderate” Republicans have consistently folded to these vandals rather than stand up to them.

It’s important not to forget that Republicans manufactured the U.S. government shutdown for one reason and one reason only: to stop poorer Americans from getting health insurance funded by cuts to Medicare and the taxing of the richest Americans. Let’s also keep in mind that Congress itself passed the healthcare law in 2010; the Supreme Court then affirmed its constitutionality through its landmark ruling earlier this year; and the majority of Americans want it – as proven when they re-elected the President who signed it.

In a few weeks (or sooner), the shutdown/default crisis will long be over and maybe even forgotten. The federal deficit will in all likelihood continue to fall, and growth will probably resume. But the long-term inadequacies of the U.S. political system will continue to be exploited by the Republican Party, creating a sort of dystopic future for American politics. The American people put pretty much all of the blame of the shutdown/default crisis on the shoulders of Republicans, but conservatives can still expect to hold enough seats in the House come the 2014 midterm elections (mainly because of the way district lines are drawn. Republicans were lucky enough to have had a huge win at the state level in 2010, which coincided with post-census redistricting or gerrymandering). Democrats may very well win the White House again in 2016 with Hillary Clinton or Papa Joey B, but the Congress will probably remain the same, meaning we’ll see more shutdowns/threats of defaults before it’s all said and done.

I’ve been able to gauge the puzzled, incredulous looks of my international friends at the LSE – many of whom come from democratic countries – when they hear that an extremist minority party caused the “most powerful” democracy in the world to close up shop. I tell them that American politics, as constructed by James Madison (“father” of the Constitution), was designed with stagnation, derision, and polarization in mind. But the country’s founders couldn’t foresee something as inane as the Tea Party (and warned against political party’s altogether); they couldn’t possibly expect the damning practice of gerrymandering districts or the influence of special interest groups both in elections and public policy.

Mostly, I’ve had to tell my foreign friends that what they’re currently seeing and reading about is not at all what American politics was meant to be. But they better start getting used to it, because it’s here to stay.

Photo: Nicolas Raymond

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Could The Shutdown/Debt Ceiling Cost Republicans The House?

Because the American people are a fickle bunch, the usual order of things is that the sitting President’s party loses seats in the House during the midterm election. Conventional wisdom would then lead one to accept the points expressed by The New Republic and Real Clear Politics in their estimation(s) that it’s unlikely Democrats will overturn the Republican majority in 12 months. The rule has exceptions, of course. Clinton’s Democrats actually picked up a few seats in 1998, following Speaker Newt Gingrich’s 21 day government shutdown.

It’s been reiterated quite exhaustingly that one of the main reasons Republicans have been able to keep the House despite losing the national popular vote to Democrats by 1.5% is that they enjoy the considerable majority of gerrymandered districts. In short, Democrats needed to win the House by a margin of more than 7% to become the majority party.

Fast forward to today. If this WaPo/ABC news poll is any indication (and I’d like to think it is), the country soundly puts the blame of the shutdown and the upcoming debt ceiling disaster on the shoulders of the GOP.

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But while public opinion of the GOP might be very low, commentators have rightly noted that President Obama garners considerable blame (deservedly or not) for the current Washington impasse. That may be true, but luckily for the President and his party, Obama is not running for re-election in the next 12 months. That point led Public Policy Polling to conduct a set of district-level polls meant for ascertaining Congressional preference — which has, in the past, tracked the national vote pretty closely. So, PPP set out to survey 24 congressional districts held by Republicans, and asked voters there to chose between their current Congressional representative and a Democrat. Here are their results, plotted against last year’s election result:

It’s important to note that we’re talking about surveys taken during a government shutdown explicitly engineered by Congressional Republicans, but the results show that Democrats swung 23 races (below the red line) while Republicans held one race (above the red line). If the results hold (and I don’t expect them to), Democrats will win the House. Comfortably.

I say I don’t expect this to last because, well, Americans have the tendency to forget about things like the shutdown when it comes time to vote. The midterm elections are still a long away off to where Republicans can successfully coerce their constituents to re-elect them to the House. I do expect Democrats to pick up some votes, which is not totally inconsequential since they’d be able to force the chamber to actually vote on resolutions that Boehner refuses to allow.

The survey doesn’t take into account how voters will feel about House Republicans if the Government hits the debt ceiling, but given the plausible disaster that would ensue if such a thing were allowed to happen, when compounded with the shutdown and the [still] terrible sequester, these results could hold true to the midterm, and possibly even increase.

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These Quotes Should Really Worry You About The Debt Ceiling

House Speaker John Boehner

Let’s start with this doozy from freshman GOP Rep. Ted Yoho over the weekend: “I think we need to have that moment where we realize [we’re] going broke. If the debt ceiling isn’t raised, that will sure as heck be a moment. I think, personally, it would bring stability to the world markets.

Oh good, now we have a Congressman who actually believes that breaching the debt ceiling will bring “stability to world markets”. Because nothing says stability and confidence quite like defaulting on one’s debts and obligations.

These next two quotes can work in tandem, but only because they come from mutually exclusive positions:

House Speaker John Boehner on [not] raising the debt ceiling: “We are not going to pass a ‘clean’ debt-limit increase.”

And from the White House we have Treasury Secretary Jack Lew: “[Republicans] need to open the government. They need to fund our ability to pay our bills. And then we’re open to negotiation.”

So we have The White House refusing to sign anything but a clean increase in the debt-ceiling, and Boehner signalling his party’s intent to refuse to pass a clean increase in the debt-ceiling.

Compounded by the fact that Rep. Yoho is not the only member of his party to actually believe that defaulting on the debt-ceiling is a good thing — and good for the economy!! — and you start to wonder if these people can figure this out in the next 10 days. Probably not.

Photo: Medill DC

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Republicans Ready Themselves For Self-Destruction

Rep. John Boehner

According to Robert Costa over at the National Review, the Republican leadership has given up: Boehner will allow the lunatic tea-party bandits in the House to move a resolution to keep funding the government, save for Obamacare. And, once that falls apart in the Democratically controlled Senate, and the next step is a government shutdown, the Republican leadership will try/pray/hope/beg/borrow/steal enough votes from their party in order to keep the government open. If you’re looking for an apt word to summarise this, might I suggest “stupidity”.

From Costa:

Here’s how my sources expect the gambit to unfold: The House passes a “defund CR,” throws it to the Senate, and waits to see what Senator Ted Cruz and his allies can do. Maybe they can get it through, maybe they can’t. Boehner and Cantor will be supportive, and conservative activists will rally.

But if Cruz and company can’t round up the votes, the House leadership will likely ask Republicans to turn their focus to the debt limit, avoid a shutdown, and pass a revised CR — one that doesn’t defund Obamacare.

The really mind-boggling truth to all this is that everyone knows what the deal is here: the bill will survive the House and Tea partiers who have done a really amazing job convincing stupid people that Obamacare is a bad thing will have a day of celebration. Then Harry Reid will light the stupid bill on fire and toss it in the trash in the Senate. In the end, we’ll be right back where we started, only that much closer to a government shutdown.

And unless the Republican leadership — which has pretty much lost all leverage and control over the party — can convince the loons of the far-right to relent and pass a funding bill, the government will indeed shutdown. The silver-lining? If-and-when that happens, only one party will be to blame.

(Photo: Medill DC)

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Where Is The Anti-War Movement?

SF Peace Protest

Rosie Gray reports on a troubling trend we’ve been noticing here on Left and Center: as we gear up for yet another intervention, the anti-war Left is nowhere to be found:

Activists who turned out thousands of protesters during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq say they’ve been unable to effectively organize or raise money since the end of the Bush years, and that newer causes like drones have seized the space on the left once occupied by opposition to conventional warfare. And some acknowledge that the energy has leaked out of the movement because a Democrat is now in office. Though some groups have organized online petitions and some real-life protests, the antiwar crowd that was on fire before the war in Iraq has made hardly a dent in the conversation surrounding Syria.

Reihan Salam buys into the partisan angle:

Democratic success hasn’t just weakened the antiwar movement. Though the Obama administration has been criticized by environmentalists and civil libertarians for various failures, real and perceived, the energy behind these movements tends to wane under Democratic administrations, and not just because Democratic administrations are more likely to accept the legitimacy of environmentalist and civil libertarian claims. Similarly, conservative calls for fiscal consolidation and abortion restrictions have tended to be more muted under Republican administrations, though it is possible that this will change in the future.

So, it’s an interesting observation, but not entirely fair. Anti war movements take time to really gain traction, and it’s barely been a week since Obama first signaled his intent to intervene militarily in Syria.

Joshua Keating notes some other reasons why criticisms of the anti-war left may be premature:

…a major premise of the anti-Iraq movement was that the Bush administration was hyping the intelligence on weapons of mass destruction. Yes, Saddam Hussein had also used chemical weapons (with the U.S. government’s knowledge), but that was years earlier. In this case the attack happened last week and the photos of its aftermath are still being plastered on the news. You can argue that Assad’s use of chemical weapons is a bad reason to attack, but it’s harder to argue that the Obama administration is simply inventing a reason to invade a country it has been wanting to invade for years.

Then there’s the issue of casualties. There’s no discussion at the moment of ground troops in Syria, and so the likelihood of U.S. troops dying is less. Anti-war groups do obviously care about Iraqi or Syrian civilian casualties, but as they’ve learned in trying to organize opposition to U.S. drone strikes, it’s much harder to excite public passion when Americans themselves aren’t dying.

(Photo: Ed Johnson)

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What The Rest Of The World Thinks Of US

U.S Military Forces in Bosnia - Operation Joint Endeavor

Paul Waldman provides timely perspective on how the rest of the world feels about U.S. military action since 1963:

Some of these operations worked out very well, others didn’t. And just to be clear, this history doesn’t tell us whether bombing Syria is a good idea or a bad idea. But if you’re wondering why people all over the world view the United States as an arrogant bully, reserving for itself the right to rain down death from above on anyone it pleases whenever it pleases, well there you go. It doesn’t matter whether you think some or even all of those actions were completely justified and morally defensible. From here, we tend to look at each of these engagements in isolation, asking whether there are good reasons to go in and whether we can accomplish important goals for ourselves and others. But when when a new American military campaign begins, people in the rest of the world see it in this broader historical context.

If you take a longer look at the list he provides (and do some basic math), you’ll find that the United States has launched one significant overseas assault every three years since 1963 — or every 40 months. Kevin Drum laments how little of this resonates with the American people:

Too many Americans have a seriously blinkered view of our interventions overseas, viewing them as one-offs to be evaluated on their individual merits. But when these things happen once every three years, against a backdrop of almost continuous smaller-scale military action (drone attacks, the odd cruise missile here and there, sending “advisors” over to help an ally, etc.), the rest of the world just doesn’t see it that way. They don’t see a peaceful country that struggles mightily with its conscience and only occasionally makes a decision to drop a bunch of bombs. They see a country that views dropping bombs as its primary means of dealing with any country weaker than we are.

Considering the rate at which we’ve launched bombs against foreign states the past 50 years, we’re actually ahead of schedule for the next round. It’s only been two years since Libya.

(Photo: U.S. military forces in Bosnia — operation Joint Endeavor, by Expert Infantry)

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Republicans Were Invited To Attend And Speak At MLK Ceremony. They Didn’t Show Up.

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Before Bill O’Reilly took to the airwaves to argue that “no Republicans and no conservatives were invited” to the 50th Anniversary of MLK’s I Have a Dream speech, I was really struck that out of all the speakers and attendees, not one was a representative of the GOP. Could he be right? Did the MLK family along with democrats purposefully ban conservatives from having a place at such an important, national ceremony?

The answer is no. They were invited. Hell, they were pretty much ALL invited:

As many, many places had reported by yesterday evening, George W. Bush and his father were invited to the event, but declined for health reasons (Bush the Younger just had heart surgery). Jeb Bush was invited as the Token Bush, but also declined. John Boehner and Eric Cantor were invited to speak, but declined. John McCain was invited to speak even though he voted against Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and he also declined. Additionally, every member of congress was invited to attend the event.

Civil rights leader Julia Bond gave credit to Eric Cantor who actually did have somewhere else to be, since the leader tried to find a replacement speaker. The depressing part? He couldn’t. He couldn’t convince ONE conservative to take part.

(Photo: via wikicommons)

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Louisiana Republicans Unsure If Obama Was More To Blame For Katrina Response Than Bush

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So there’s a reason why a lot of people don’t take polling results seriously: a fair chunk of Americans are seriously deluded. In the latest survey done in Louisiana by the left-leaning Public Policy Polling, provided to TPM, Louisiana Republicans were asked, “Who do you think was more responsible for the poor response to Hurricane Katrina: George W. Bush or Barack Obama?”

The results were as follows:

    George W. Bush……………………..28%
    Barack Obama……………………….29%
    Not Sure………………………………..44%

More people think that Obama, who was a freshman U.S. Senator at the time of the storm in 2005, was more to blame for the response to the storm than the President of the United States. And nearly half of respondents just couldn’t decide.

(Photo: via wikicommons)

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Best Of The Week

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The most popular posts of the week both had to do with the saddening swell of violence and terror in Egypt this week: Violence Erupts In Egypt — Reactions & Analysis, and my follow up piece Egypt Quickly Descending Into Hell.

Other highly circulated pieces included Californians Use Less Electricity Than Everyone Else — Here’s Why; our brutal and effective Photo Of The Day: “Not All Violence Is Physical”; and whether or not it’s time to mark The End Of The Art Gallery?

Just a few recommendations, in case you missed them: Is Washington In A Post-Policy Moment?; my thoughts on why Obama’s Economic Approval Rating is so terribly dismal; Here’s How Little The Public Knows About The Deficit; and a small defense of Edward Snowden, Time To Give Credit Where Credit Is Due.

For good measure, also check out Rep. Steve King’s latest racist rant. Good luck with that Hispanic vote.

See ya!

Publius

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“A Traveling Circus”: Why The GOP Would Rather Skip The Debates

"With candidates like these, how can we lose?"

Yesterday the GOP — through RNC chairman Reince Priebus — threatened to pull 2016 GOP primary debates on NBC and CNN. The justification? CNN is set to air an upcoming Hillary Clinton documentary and NBC is putting out a Clinton mini-series. In letters to the chairman of NBC Entertainment and CNN’s president, Priebus argued that his party saw the programming choices of the two companies as “thinly-veiled attempt[s] at putting a thumb on the scales of the 2016 presidential election”, and would make sure that the networks lose out on sharing with millions of viewers just how far the GOP has to go to become moderate:

“If you have not agreed to pull this programming prior to the start of the RNC’s Summer Meeting on August 14, I will seek a binding vote of the RNC stating that the committee will neither partner with you in 2016 primary debates nor sanction primary debates which you sponsor,” Preibus wrote to the networks.

And later last night Priebus sat down with Fox’s Sean Hannity to defend the letters, stating that it was time for the GOP to “control the referees” in the 2016 primary race — seemingly since the 2012 primary race did nothing if not showcase all the bad the party had to offer:

“The fact that these folks, including many people that are at NBC, one of which is a major bundler for Barack Obama, would be surprised that we would actually exercise our own right to filter who deposes our candidates and who doesn’t,” Priebus told Fox News’ Sean Hannity. “I think I’m being very reasonable here.”

Priebus accused the last election cycle’s moderators of promoting the Democratic Party and characterized the 23-debate schedule in the 2012 campaign as a “traveling circus.”

“My point is this. We have to control the referees that we’re bringing into our playground,” he added. “Right now I can’t trust two organizations that are willing to spend millions of their own dollars in promoting a candidate that they know is gearing up to run for president.”

I’ve long thought that voters are much smarter than politicians, and the media, give them credit for, and know when they’re subject to political games meant to galvanize a base rather than accomplish anything of substance. Will NBC or CNN accede to Priebus’ demands? Probably not. Will the RNC pull the debates? Likely, yes, depending on the first question. What does that mean for the GOP? Simply this: seeing as how the Republican Party is no closer to moderation and rationalism than it was in 2012 when Paul, Gingrich, Bachmann, Perry, Santorum and Cain took to the podiums, Priebus is aiming for a win-win where the worst case scenario is that the networks pull the Hillary programs; the best case is that millions of people are kept from seeing what he himself codified as a “traveling circus”.

Make no mistake, the radicalism of the party — on display during the debates — pushed moderate Mitt Romney so far to the right that he couldn’t get back; and when he went up against moderate republican Barack Obama — yeah — during the actual race, he had no room to maneuver. Priebus isn’t mad about the Hillary programs, which incidentally will have almost zero-effect on the 2016 presidential race. He wants as few debates as possible, and he wants them as far away from the public eye as possible.

When the message is essentially the same as it was in 2012, and the players have changed in name only, can we really blame the RNC and Priebus for wanting to have as few debates as possible, across fewer mediums? I don’t think so.

(photo by Peter Stevens)

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Best of the Week

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I’ll be away for the weekend — taking a little vacation to celebrate my brother’s upcoming wedding — so we’re rounding up a bit early this time. The most popular post of the week was Some Russian Perspective for the American LBGT Community.

Other selected posts included The Economy of Low Expectations, Ben Stein Really Wants You To Appreciate Richard Milhous Nixon, Hawaii To Offer Its Homeless Population One-Way Tickets Back To The Mainland, Manning Found Not Guilty Of “Aiding The Enemy”, and finally the expected but still mind boggling Republicans Reject Obama’s “Grand Bargain” Tax Proposal Sight Unseen.

Thanks for reading, more next week.

Publius

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Republicans On Fixing The Voting Rights Act: “Aint Gonna Happen”

"Swing That Vote"

Some were hopeful that even after the Supreme Court absolutely gutted the Voting Rights Act by removing the preclearance provision, there was still a chance that Congress would rectify the law, like the justices intended. But after the pandering of happy talk was exhausted by members of the right, who came to understand that fixing the Voting Rights Act would effectively be a loss for Republicans in upcoming elections, it’s looking unlikely that a fix will happen:

“Ain’t gonna happen,” Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) said late last week, according to Roll Call.

A recent House Judiciary Committee hearing made clear that Republicans have little to no interest in reconstituting the Voting Rights Act. Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-TX) opened by emphasizing that even after the Supreme Court’s decision, “other very important provisions of the Voting Rights Act remain in place.”

At issue is the Voting Rights Act’s now-invalid Section 4, the formula used to determine which state and local governments must receive federal pre-approval before changing their voting laws. It was last reauthorized in 2006 by a 98-0 margin in the Senate and 390-33 in the House. But for Republicans, there’s a huge difference between allowing the renewal of a historic law for racial equality, and going out their way to reconstitute it now that the Supreme Court has thrown out part of it.

“Historically I fully understand why they addressed the situations they did,” Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), chairman of the Judiciary Constitution and Civil Justice subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over the issue, told reporters. “I am just of the opinion today that we should do as the court said and that is to not focus on punishing the past but on building a better future.”

There are some practical issues at play here too — many of the new jurisdictions that would be included in the revamped preclearance formula would fall within conservative dominated regions. But perhaps the best explanation for why Republicans won’t lift a finger to save the VRA is that without the preclearance provision, red states — already exemplified by Texas and North Carolina — have nothing standing in their way when they enact harsh laws that make it harder for blacks and Hispanics to vote. Republicans are now also able to gerrymander their districts in ways that alienate minority populations.

Some, like Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) knew which way the wind blowed as soon as SCOTUS delivered its ruling, “[a]s long as Republicans have a majority in the House and Democrats don’t have 60 votes in the Senate, there will be no preclearance.”

In the end, it’s all about race. Republicans can’t get the minority vote, and so they’d rather eliminate the minority vote all together — it’s really not that complicated. We’ll either have to wait for a Democrat controlled House and Senate — which won’t happen for the foreseeable future thanks to gerrymandering — or for the issue to be reconsidered in the Supreme Court.

Until then, get used to some good old fashioned racial discrimination.

(Photo: get-out-the-vote party, Smith Park, Jackson Mississippi – 2008, by NatalieMaynor)

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Bi-Partisan House Votes To Uphold NSA Surveillance Program

nsa-hq

The amendment brought forward by Rep. Justin Amash (R) aimed at defunding the NSA’s bulk collection of domestic phone records fell in the House of Representatives yesterday afternoon. Considering the joint efforts of the president, Republican and Democratic leadership, and the intelligence community, the vote itself was probably not too surprising. What was surprising, rather, was the manner in which the ayes and nays were recorded:

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I really can’t recall the last time 94 Republicans voted alongside 111 Democrats for anything. One thing was made clear yesterday: disagreements aside, both parties totally support the means by which the modern national security structure operates. And it seems like the American people are getting there too. According to this new ABC News/Washington Post Poll, a majority of Americans (53 percent) would support criminal charges brought against NSA leaker Edward Snowden, and 57 percent believe it’s more important for the government to uncover potential terrorist threats than respect personal privacy.

For now and for the foreseeable future, the NSA is here to stay.

(photo by flickr user Ryan Lackey)

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Poll: Huge Racial, Partisan Divide Over Zimmerman Trial

New findings from the Pew Research Center released today lays bare the huge divide along racial and partisan lines in the public’s reaction to the outcome of the Zimmerman trial:

The public is divided over the not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial and over the conversation about race that has surrounded it. The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted July 17-21 among 1,480 adults nationwide finds roughly as many satisfied with the verdict in the case(39%) as dissatisfied (42%), with nearly one-in-five (19%) offering no opinion.
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More broadly, 52% say race is getting more attention in this case than it deserves, while 36% say the case raises important issues about race that need to be discussed.

When broken down along racial lines, 86 percent of blacks said they were ‘dissatisfied’ with the verdict while 49 percent of whites said they were ‘satisfied’. 60 percent of whites, along with 68 percent of Republicans, thought that race was more prevalent during the trial than it should have been, while 78 percent of blacks and 62 percent of Democrats thought the opposite. Staying with the partisan divide: 61 percent of Republicans were satisfied with the verdict, and 68 percent of Democrats were dissatisfied.

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Eight Democrats Who Voted Away Food Stamps Received $6.3 Million From Farm Industry

One basic, unalterable truth about government is that with enough money, you can buy votes. Nowhere is this more blatantly true than the esteemed House of Representatives, whose members are pushed and pulled and operated like marionettes on a daily basis. Republicans and Democrats may not agree on much, but they both sure as heck love a good campaign contribution, and are willing to set aside pretty much every single principle they hold as human beings and legislators to get them.

That’s certainly the case with these eight, cowardly Democrats who joined House Republicans in voting down food stamps. Together, they’ve accepted a staggering $6.3 million in campaign contributions from the farming industry:

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Further solidifying the effect of money on voting patterns is the fact that the five Republicans who voted alongside Democrats to uphold food stamps have received little to no financial contribution from the same industry.

So now that you know the names of these money-run defectors, the only thing left to do is vote their disgraceful kind the hell out of office.

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