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Posts in "Centrist Politics"

May 21, 2014

Opinion Duel: CQ Roll Call Moderates Debate on Raising the Minimum Wage

In the third installment of The Purple Network’s “Opinion Duel,” Roll Call Editor-in-Chief Christina Bellantoni moderated a discussion with Charles C. W. Cooke, from National Review and The Nation’s Zoë Carpenter over the politically charged topic of increasing the minimum wage.

Carpenter contended that “even Republicans in the South” want the minimum wage raised to $10.10 an hour, but said that hike might not be enough. “There’s a lot of momentum” for legislative action, Carpenter said. Cooke took issue with the idea that raising the minimum wage would “lift people out of poverty” saying that most who currently make minimum wage are not below the poverty line. “When you’re looking at how to help people in need,” Cooke said, minimum wage is “often not the best way to do it.”

Carpenter and Cooke discussed whether labor unions and their influence have affected the debate and how the mid-term elections will affect any change this year.

Full story

May 14, 2014

Opinion Duel: CQ Roll Call Moderates Debate on Climate Change

climate change


In the second installment of The Purple Network’s “Opinion Duel,” Roll Call Editor-in-Chief Christina Bellantoni moderated a discussion with Charles C. W. Cooke, from National Review and The Nation’s Zoë Carpenter over the widely debated topic of climate change. Carpenter and Cooke discussed whether anything is being done to address climate issues and how this debate has shifted the political landscape. They also detailed the industry’s “big money” in politics and how it sways popular opinion.

Is the executive branch’s involvement in regulating energy standards the only way to change energy production? Led by Bellantoni, Carpenter and Cooke discuss. Watch below:

You can watch the first installment of “Opinion Duel,” discussing the Keystone XL pipeline, here.

The Purple Network is a partnership which strives to deliver content from all sides of the ideological divide to inform the whole spectrum of politically engaged thought leaders.

May 7, 2014

Opinion Duel: CQ Roll Call Moderates Debate on Keystone XL (Video)


CQ Roll Call is excited to offer the first installment of a new video series, “Opinion Duel,” created by The Purple Network. Roll Call has partnered with National Review and The Nation to bring you in-depth discussions of top political issues with more discussion than a short cable news segment. Representing the left, right, and center, each Opinion Duel program will feature an intelligent debate on key legislative issues between The Nation on the left, National Review on the right, and CQ Roll Call editors playing the important role of moderator.

In this first installment of the Opinion Duel, Roll Call’s Editor-in-Chief Christina Bellantoni moderated a discussion with Charles C. W. Cooke, from National Review and The Nation‘s Zoë Carpenter. Carpenter and Cooke discussed the interests surrounding the Keystone XL pipeline and whether President Obama has been active on the climate change agenda. Bellantoni lead the discussion with questions that allowed Cooke and Carpenter to offer differing sides of the political spectrum concerning the Keystone XL pipeline and the administration’s current delay of any resolution to the hot-button issue.

The Purple Network is a partnership which strives to deliver content from all sides of the ideological divide to inform the whole spectrum of politically engaged thought leaders.

Watch the engaging discussion below:

November 5, 2013

Ideology Isn’t Source of All Partisanship | Procedural Politics

Why do political parties in Congress sometimes fight, even when they agree? Is it like siblings who seem to quarrel over nothing — just the nature of the beast?

Frances Lee, a political scientist at the University of Maryland, agrees that a lot of the inter-party fighting seems senseless because it doesn’t involve deep philosophical differences. In her book, “Beyond Ideology: Politics, Principles and Partisanship in the U.S. Senate,” Lee writes, “The public perceives party conflict in Congress as ‘bickering,’ as excessive quarreling driven by members’ power and electoral interests.”

Political scientists, on the other hand, have “tended to interpret congressional party conflicts as evidence of members’ principled differences on the proper role and scope of government,” she writes.

Lee sides more with public perceptions that parties often spar just to advance narrow partisan interests, rather than giving voice to pre-existing policy differences in the larger political context. That only exacerbates and institutionalizes conflict. In their quest to win elections and hold power, she writes, “partisans impeach one another’s motives, question one another’s ethics and competence and engage in reflexive partisanship … rather than seeking common ground.”

Evidence of this can be found in instances in which the parties are in broad agreement on an underlying bill yet still engage in partisan combat. Lee’s analysis of the Senate reveals that “procedural votes on issues not involving ideological questions are just as intensely partisan as substantive votes on some of the most ideologically controversial issues in American politics.”

From my experience, the House is much the same. An example arose last month over House consideration of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act. The bill would authorize 23 water projects — dams, levees, canals, harbors, dredging and environmental restoration programs — at a cost of $3.1 billion over the next five years. It also would establish a new, non-congressional earmark process for selecting future projects.

The bill had nearly four dozen bipartisan co-sponsors and was approved on a voice vote from the 70-member House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Dozens of business, labor and civic groups endorsed the bill, as did the White House and bipartisan House leadership. With such a strong tailwind, it is little wonder the measure sailed through the House, 417-3.

And yet, before the vote, the special rule for the bill encountered partisan resistance. The Rules Committee had allowed one hour of general debate and 24 amendments — divided equally between the parties. However, 98 amendments had been submitted to the Rules Committee. Ranking Democrat Louise M. Slaughter’s attempt in committee to substitute an open amendment process was defeated on a party-line vote, as were attempts to make in order three additional amendments.

When the rule was called up on the floor, Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, who was managing the rule for committee Democrats, complained that the procedure blocked more than 70 amendments, “many of which were germane” — he said that “is not conducive to an open process.” The Florida Democrat then spent the balance of his time discussing something closer to home: Port Everglades, Fla., has been waiting 17 years for a report from the chief engineer of the Army Corps of Engineers on deepening its channels in anticipation of the new Panama Canal standards.

Near the end of the hour of debate on the rule, Hastings indicated that if the previous question on the rule was defeated (the only opportunity for the minority to amend the rule), he would offer a motion to make in order an amendment by Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., to authorize projects that received a final chief of engineer’s report within a year after enactment, thereby holding out hope for Port Everglades. Despite Hastings’ efforts, the previous question was adopted on a near party-line vote, with only two Democrats breaking ranks, and the rule was subsequently adopted with all but 48 Democrats opposing it.

This minor partisan dust-up on the rule didn’t affect the eventual overwhelming passage of the bill. Hastings didn’t follow through on his implied threat to force a vote on an open amendment process and instead confirmed former Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill Jr.’s axiom that “all politics is local.”

Nevertheless, the two procedural votes on the rule will be part of CQ Roll Call’s session-end tally of “party unity” votes (party majorities on opposing sides), as well as of ideological spectrum rankings of members. In the 112th Congress, 197 party unity votes on special rules alone (not counting other procedural votes) constituted 17 percent of all party unity votes — a significant exception to any ideology connection.

September 23, 2013

Averting Calamity Comes Down to Boehner’s Leadership Skills

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The health of the U.S. economy depends on the legislative skill — and the courage — of Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio.

It’s up to him to prevent a shutdown of the U.S. government at the end of this month and, a little later, the first-ever default on the national debt.

If he succeeds, he can prevent the economy from slipping back into recession — or, if we do default, possibly triggering a catastrophic new financial crisis.

But in the process, he will have to prove himself to be Master of the House — and may have to risk being toppled from office by furious tea party conservatives and their allied outside claques. Full story

September 9, 2013

Hate Congress? Blame the (Sharply Divided) Voters

An increasingly popular talking point for Democrats is that Republicans are responsible for the bickering, dysfunction and looming budget crises on Capitol Hill.

On its Web page, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee declares: “This Republican Congress is broken — too focused on obstruction and scoring points against President Obama.”

Some experts sound a similar refrain, heaping blame on Congress and particularly on the GOP for budget showdowns, stalled legislation and a public approval rating stuck in the teens.

Full story

July 30, 2013

Neither Supply-Siders Nor Keynesians Have the Answer for This Economic Crisis

Give President Barack Obama credit for at least trying to diagnose and grapple with the economic crises of our era — slow growth, widening income inequality and diminished upward mobility.

The deeper dilemma for him and the country is that his proposed solutions — largely, government stimuli of various sorts — aren’t working and might be inadequate to counter the huge forces at play: globalization, technological change and deterioration of social capital.

As Republicans and conservative economists delight in pointing out, economic growth under Obama — averaging 2 percent a year — is the weakest for any recovery since World War II and is slowing, not accelerating. Full story

July 16, 2013

GOP Faces 20 Years in Desert Without DLC-Like Moderation

In 1972, as left-liberals led the Democratic Party to a near-unbroken 20-year run of presidential-election disasters, the late, great New York Times columnist William Safire wrote that “nothing is more certain in politics than the crushing defeat of a faction that holds ideological purity to be of greater value than compromise.”

Safire’s comment was cited this March in a trenchant Commentary article by former White House aides Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner, “How to Save the Republican Party.”

Their piece focused on the steps the party should take to avoid a fate similar to the Democrats a generation ago, while noting that the GOP has lost four of the past six presidential elections and is in danger of losing more unless it turns toward the center, as Democrats did with the presidency of Bill Clinton. Full story

July 11, 2013

A Deal on Immigration Is Still Possible, if Both Sides Back Off

The chances passing a sensible immigration bill in this Congress appear to be next to zero. But, as with the endless search for Middle East peace, it’s a cause worth pursuing. And, conceivably, there’s a deal to be had.

The Senate’s comprehensive bill is a monstrosity compared to what an ideal bill would look like, especially calling for spending nearly $50 billion militarizing our border with Mexico to secure the votes of a measly 14 GOP senators.

Mexico is a friendly country, illegal immigration is at a 40-year low and the U.S. border patrol has been doubled and redoubled, but the Senate bill still calls for building a Berlin Wall, patrolling it with drones and re-doubling the border patrol yet again — and still the measure, according to the Congressional Budget Office, will reduce illegal immigration by only a third to a half.

And while they’d be instantly legalized, only half or less of the 11 million residents here illegally would be able to attain U.S. citizenship — after a 13 year wait! Full story

June 27, 2013

Supreme Court Has Done Its Job — and No More

Like it or not — and lots of people on the right and left don’t like it — the Supreme Court bumped the country into the 21st century with its affirmative action, voting rights and gay marriage decisions.

Conservatives detest the court’s moving the country toward “marriage equality” for same-sex couples and liberals condemn it for ending federal supervision of voting laws in the South and limiting racial preferences in university admissions.

Both sets of decisions are steps out of the past and into the future — but just steps, not leaps. The court is nudging the country in the right direction, not shoving it. Full story

June 11, 2013

Obama Must Take a Page from LBJ’s Leadership Book

Guess who wrote this:

“This Congress has gone further than any other within memory to replace debate and decision by delay and stultification.

“This is one of those moments when there is reason to wonder whether the Congressional system as it now operates is not a grave danger to the Republic.”

It’s not a contemporary critic lamenting the inability of today’s Congress and the Obama administration to solve any of America’s great problems or even process budgets, appropriations and nominations. Full story

May 21, 2013

A Centrist Party With Clout? Maybe Startup Cash Would Help

Michael Bloomberg, Howard Schultz and Peter Ackerman — meet Charlie Wheelan.

The mayor of New York (and proprietor of  the Independence USA PAC), the CEO of Starbucks and the financier behind the failed 2012 Americans Elect effort to nominate a third-party presidential candidate on the Internet are all rich guys clearly unhappy with polarized, gridlocked U.S. politics.

Wheelan, a popular Dartmouth public policy teacher, shares their dismay and has an idea for making things better that needs funding.

The idea is a Centrist Party. Yes, a third party, but one that’s focused — in the first instance, anyway — just on winning enough Senate seats to hold a balance of power in that body and using it to push an agenda of “pragmatic problem-solving.”

Wheelan argues that Centrist Party candidates could win Senate seats with just 34 percent of a state’s vote. Then, in a closely divided Senate, maybe as few as four Centrists could leverage their power to affect policy.

He figures that Maine independent Sen. Angus King would be the first Centrist. Under current circumstances — effectively, 54 Democrats, 45 Republicans and a Democratic vice president to break ties — it would take five more to hold the balance of power.

In the meantime, 17 states have one Democrat and one GOP senator — purple enough to offer hope to Centrists. The party would have to pick its targets, recruit good candidates, adequately fund them and provide national media oomph.

Wheelan has written a new book, “The Centrist Manifesto,” that spells out the need for a new party, its agenda and the means to get it rolling.

He’s also formed a 501(c)(4) and collected $100,000, but the effort clearly needs a Bloomberg.

There are definitely problems with the whole scheme, which I’ll get to. But Wheelan’s diagnosis of the country’s political woes is right on, his centrist agenda is utterly sensible, and it would appeal without a doubt to a plurality of voters.

He says there is a lot to like in the basic principles of both the Republican and Democratic parties: respect for free markets and skepticism of big government in the first case; a heart for the underdog and belief in public investment in the second.

“But Congress is not made up of politicians who represent the best of each party,” he writes. “The tragedy of American politics … is that these partisan Members have an agenda of their own that is a bastardization” of their basic principles.

Current Democrats are “too skeptical of business, too hostile toward wealth creation and overly abusive of America’s most productive citizens.” They have allowed unions and liberal interest groups to call the shots and think that a government program is the answer to every problem.

Republicans are split between traditional conservatives and “radical right wingers, as embodied by the Tea Party” which has “an almost pathological aversion to taxes and government” except when it wants to ban abortion and gay marriage.

The country’s serious problems aren’t being addressed because “our two political parties are increasingly dominated by their most vocal and extreme members” and the clash between them has moved the political system “from gridlock to paralysis.”

But the population is not extreme. In the 2012 exit polls, 41 percent of voters self-identified as moderate (versus 35 percent conservative and 25 percent liberal), and in the last Gallup poll, 39 percent of voters self-identified as independent (versus 28 percent Republican and 32 percent Democrat).

“These are people without a party,” says Wheelan. So he proposes to invent one.

The Centrist agenda he identifies is reasonably conservative on economic issues, favoring free trade, means-testing of entitlements and Simpson-Bowles-style debt reduction. Yet it also favors public investment in infrastructure, education and research.

It’s more liberal on other issues, favoring a carbon tax, same-sex marriage, comprehensive immigration reform and campaign finance reform. But Wheelan also advocates education reform and labor union cooperation with business.

Wheelan thinks gerrymandering renders it hopeless for the Centrist Party to run House candidates, and Electoral College difficulties make it hard to mount a presidential race. But he says Centrists could rule the Senate.

The problems include:

  1. The Centrists’ power would lie in the ability to obstruct and stifle the majority, at least threatening more gridlock, not less.
  2. While the Centrists want campaign reform, they’re hoping super PACs will pay the bills, at least initially.
  3. Even if — big if — the Centrists brilliantly maneuvered problem-solving legislation through the Senate, it could be stymied by a conservative House and a liberal president.

Still, I think it’s worth a try. If a dedicated group of moderate independents established a beachhead in the Senate, they could sponsor constructive legislation, get press attention, bargain collectively and even attract support from moderate Republicans and Democrats fed up with the status quo.

Lawmakers such as former Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, a moderate Republican, and former Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, a centrist Democrat, wouldn’t have to quit the Senate in frustration. They could switch.

Bloomberg’s PAC gave out $10 million in 2012. He’s going to spend lavishly this year to promote gun safety. Schultz persuaded 100 other CEOs to stop making political contributions unless the nation’s fiscal house got put in order. And Ackerman wasted $22 million on Americans Elect.

There must be hundreds of other rich people fed up with things as they are. If  they got the Centrists off the ground, I’d guess millions of small donors would join up and kick in, too.

We moderate independents can’t just keep grousing. We have to plant a flag someplace, sometime. This may be it.

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