Piecemeal, but in the right directionNathan Newman defends the "piecemeal" nature of measures like Maryland's Fair Share Health Care Act and Chicago's living wage bill for large retailers:
It is a perverse corporate trick to demand complete across-the-board regulation all at once as the condition for even experimenting with a reform. In fact, all industries aren't alike, so differential regulation often is needed. In fact, industries regularly go to government asking for exemptions from various regulations or for various tax breaks based on that exact argument. So while businesses regularly demands differential regulation to relax taxes or regulations, they claim "discrimination" when they are subjected to higher tax or regulatory responsibilities.That line of argument seems right when it comes to living-wage legislation, but I don't think it adequately justifies the FSHC Act, at least not in the same way as the Chicago bill. The FSHC Act accomplishes two political goals: 1) it takes Wal-Mart to task for its bad treatment of its employees, and 2) it strengthens the belief that health care is a right for all Americans. These are both laudable, but the Act's policy upshot is that it entrenches the employer-based health care system in America that has long been a major obstacle to making health care accessible and affordable to everybody.
Those who worry about "singling out" Wal-Mart or retail businesses or any subset of firms for initial reforms are fundamentally ignoring the whole history of progressive legislative change. It has inevitably been an incremental, piece-meal endeavor. The comprehensive laws people celebrate today are the product of decades of incremental amendments based on original piecemeal reforms.So celebrate the Chicago ordinance to raise wages for employees at large retailers. Yes, it's a piecemeal reform but that is the rock on which cathedrals of broader change are built. Liberals should remember their own history in understanding that basic fact.
If the Act builds up enough political will in Maryland that we pass some more comprehensive reform, such as occurred recently in San Francisco and Massachusetts (see Newman's own Progressive States Network for details), then the FSHC Act, whether or not it is upheld on appeal, will have had a positive influence. But I would rather that reform, even "piecemeal" reform, happen in a more linear manner.
Tsetse flies for Steele?As much fun as I've had slapping around Michael Steele, I worry that Larry Sabato (quoted by Jean Marbella) may be right about the ultimate consquences:
Still, Sabato doesn't expect any of the campaign foibles and missteps to have much effect on voters. Even Steele, he says, can probably recover from his current travails.
"The public has the memory of a tsetse fly," Sabato says. "No one will remember this by Labor Day."
It would help, of course, if the major Dem candidates did some drum-beating about Steele's pattern of dishonesty. Neither Cardin nor Mfume appear to be doing so. The party, for its part, has a neat little video on the subject.
(Hat tip to Dvora, via Paul, for the link.)
MovingSorry for the lack of posting. I and my girlfriend have been moving to College Park over the last few days. In the meantime, check out these items:
Peter Franchot steps up his attacks against Comptroller Schaefer.
It's always scorching in Washington, DC.
The trials and tribulations of Allan Lichtman.
Ben Cardin is (surprise!) not much of a people person.
Activists frustrate the bringing of wind power to Maryland. Gov. Ehrlich supports it in principle, but as usual, doesn't do much of anything about it.
Unlike national Democrats, Maryland Democrats are quite willing to talk about Iraq.
The Bridge of Steele keeps tumbling downMarc Fisher takes his turn at pummeling Michael Steele:
So much for his candidacy.
The Iraq war "didn't work." The Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina was "a monumental failure." Republicans in Congress have "lost our way."
Imagine the impact those comments would have made on Maryland's Senate race if Lt. Gov. Michael Steele had stood up in front of the cameras and presented himself as an independent Republican, someone who would go to Washington with his own ideas and the courage to go his own way.
Delivered straight up, Steele's remarks probably would have propelled him into the lead in the race to succeed retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes.
Instead, Steele made his move to distance himself from his party -- after all, he's running in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1 -- in a setting that reeks of politics as usual: a no-names, just-us-elite-insiders lunch with reporters in the back room of Charlie Palmer's steakhouse at the foot of Capitol Hill.[snip]
The Michael Steele who hangs out in Capitol Hill steakhouses is apparently a near Democrat who wants Marylanders to see him as the one candidate for Senate who will stand up to party leadership and connect with the pains and dreams of ordinary people. This Steele sounds so much like his opponents that I began to wonder -- job-sharing, anyone?
But the Steele who retreats to the comfort of WBAL wraps himself in a good old Republican cloth coat. "I've been quoted as calling the president my homeboy," Steele said on the radio yesterday, "and that's how I feel."
So much for independence.
Meanwhile, Bruce Godfrey is on to something when he says that Kweisi Mfume will be the primary beneficiary of Steele's gaffes, in that white liberals worried that Mfume won't be competitive in the general will now see that Steele, judging by his current behavior, is going to lose no matter what, so they can vote their consciences. But my concern about Mfume, I think, is still valid: that white moderates will abandon Mfume for the more "respectable" Steele, no matter how amateurish the latter's campaign may be.
Maryland's George WallaceSo says Progressive Maryland of Roscoe Bartlett. Oddly, they make no mention of Andrew Duck, even though they've endorsed him.
Sadly, Bartlett is not the only bastion of neo-Confederate activity in the 6th District. As recently as a month ago there was a Klan rally in Sharpsburg, near the Antietam battlefield. They're not representative of people in western Maryland by any means, but it's still troubling, to say the least.
What does the Comptroller do?Brian Morton argues that the recent antics of Comptroller William Donald Schaefer have overshadowed the office itself, and that the election campaign has, as a result, focused more on personality than on what the Comptroller actually does. Indeed, a look at the duties of the Comptroller reveals that it is, on the face of it, an unlikely locus of political drama, the resonance of tax collection in the American psyche notwithstanding.
However, I wonder if it might not be a good thing for the next Comptroller to become more than just an administrator (or a media sideshow), and take more ideological stances. Not in the sense of abusing the office in service of a political agenda, as we have seen often in the federal government these past five years, but legitimately using the powers of the Comptroller to influence policy. Peter Franchot, for example, says that he will fight for various progressive causes, such as expanding health care coverage and protecting the environment. And since the Comptroller, unlike the Treasurer, is elected by the people, it would make sense for the former to act in a more populist style when it come to the state's finances.
I don't know how exactly the Comptroller's office could influence policy at the level that Franchot talks about, (which would seem to be more the province of the General Assembly and the Governor), but it would certainly have the proper bully pulpit by virtue of the Comptroller's seat on the Board of Public Works. And, perhaps, he (or she) could foster a more constructive dialogue than the man currently holding the office.
Rodricks on BartlettDan Rodricks rightfully lambastes Roscoe Bartlett's vote against the Voting Rights Act, but his reasoning is odd:
Extending the Voting Rights Act would harm someone? It might have inconvenienced certain states with a long history of discrimination, but the greatest value was in the symbolic power of its affirmation -- particularly for the GOP. With those 33 votes against -- all Republicans -- they didn't exactly restore their image as the party of Lincoln. Way to go, Roscoe!
But the Voting Rights Act isn't mere symbolism. It's not as if we would reauthorize the Emancipation Proclamation as a way to commemorate the freeing of the slaves. As the ACLU painstakingly notes, voting discrimination is still an ongoing problem, of which the Florida fiasco in 2000 and Georgia's recent voter ID law are only the most egregious examples.
MD-Sen: Steele makes stuff upWell well well. Either Steele doesn't know the difference between "off the record" and "on background," or his claim that his comments weren't meant to be published is just plain made up.
RidiculousSteve Gilliard, who's done his share of Steele-bashing, on the runaway Republican:
Steele is a wimp and a moron.
First, he can't unsay that sh*t. It will dog him until November.
Second, he attached his name to it, and we know how the Bushies feel about loyalty.
Watch for his funding problems to explode. Because the people he's been raising money from do not like uppity negroes. And they will see this as going against the family.
MD-6: Bartlett says Nay to VRA
Yet another reason why people living in the 6th District should vote for Democrat (and Iraq War veteran) Andrew Duck. There's no reason why someone as reactionary on so many issues as Rep. Bartlett should continue to be part of Maryland's congressional delegation.
ChappelleOn a non-political note:
I've watched all of the "lost" episodes of Chappelle's Show that Comedy Central has been airing over the last few weeks, and I just have this to say: Chappelle was right to get out while he was ahead. They were funny, yes, but they lacked the brilliance that made the first two seasons so good. Now I need to see Block Party.
Persecution complexListening to Michael Steele's interview on WBAL, especially his strident denunciations of Dana Milbank for publishing his supposedly off-the-record comments, I find that Tom Schaller's prediction on TAPPED came very quickly true:
Steele loves to play the victim angle, so watch for him to try to portray himself as a casualty of a leak-happy liberal national media.
No-showHester Prynne on the run!
It seems that Michael Steele was going to be on the Marc Steiner show today; however, despite having been booked five weeks in advance, he bailed twenty minutes before he was to have come on, saying he had a previous engagement on another show -- namely, the Buzz on WBAL, a perhaps more comfortable forum for Steele. (It certainly is for Bob Ehrlich.) Of course, I don't believe his standing up WYPR had anything to do with his having embarassed himself in the national media the day before.
UPDATE: Steele on George W. Bush: "I've been quoted before as calling the President my homeboy, and that's how I feel."
Schaller on SteeleUMBC's Tom Schaller, who really needs to get his own blog and stop moonlighting on TAPPED and the Gadflyer, weighs in on the Michael Steele mystery dance:
If Steele now thinks he can use the episode to wink to Maryland voters that he really isn�t a Bush Republican, but rather his �own man,� he�s playing with fire. He will inevitably come off as a flip-flopping slickster who is trying to be too clever by half.
Drugs and moneyA PR firm working for Josh Rales (D), the millionaire candidate for U.S. Senate, paid a drug-treatment firm to bus in patients to a candidate forum last week and have them wave signs and wear t-shirts, according to the Washington Post.
ApostasyBruce Godfrey of Crablaw compares Steele's feckless attempt to distance himself from the GOP to Sen. Joe Lieberman's various Democratic apostasies and asks:
If Steele does not believe in the Republican Party, why is he running and why should any Republican activist anywhere in the country send him a dime? Why crowd the field out from Republican candidates who would lose, but not ruin party morale? And won't this ruin his chances for post-election wingnut welfare?
MD-Sen: Steele outedThere was a brief flurry of speculation in the blogosphere today (or yesterday, rather) over who was the unnamed Republican Senate candidate that made several harsh criticisms of President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq and Hurricane Katrina, as well as compared his party affiliation to a "scarlet letter". Brief, I say, because it wasn't long before staffers of Maryland's own Michael Steele named him as the would-be Hester Prynne.
Although the mystery is solved, Milbank's article is still a great read, as he seems acutely aware of the absurdity of having a secret airing of grievances taking place in a restaurant with nine reporters on hand. Sen. Bill Frist even comes up to Steele, shakes his hand, and says, "He's the best!" If Steele was trying to distance himself from the GOP, he did a very poor job of it.
The whole incident confirms my long-standing impression that Steele is simply not ready for prime time. Leave aside, for the moment, his conservative positions on many issues -- in the Milbank article, Steele voices support for constitutional amendments banning flag burning and same-sex marriage, as well as opposition to embryonic stem-cell research and a guest-worker program for immigrants. Such positions put him at a disadvantage in a strongly liberal state like Maryland; but the real problems of his candidacy are more fundamental.
From the made-up charges of being pelted with Oreo cookies in 2002; to his failure to denounce Bob Ehrlich's attendance of a fundraiser at an all-white country club; to his comparison, in front of a Jewish audience, of stem-cell research to Nazi medical experiments; to his difficulties holding on to campaign staff; to the fact that he's willing to take money from Bush and other top Republicans but unwilling to show his face with them -- all these things evince a lack of a quality all successful politicans have: the ability to forge coalitions. Steele, rather, seems to be alienating both members of his own party and key constituencies in Maryland; e.g., African-Americans and Jews.
Ultimately, he seems unable to control his own message. And if he's having a hard time representing himself, how much harder, then, will it be for him to represent the people of Maryland?
Double shotDouble shot from the Baltimore City Paper:
Brian Morton examines Bob Ehrlich's use of gender as a political weapon.
And Russ Smith skewers the Baltimore Sun's coverage of the Governor's and Senate races.
Where's Kai?WYPR has a good summary of the pro-developer v. anti-developer race for Frederick County Commissioner. Somehow, though, no Democrats are quoted by name, not even Kai Hagen, one of, if not the leading anti-developer voice in the race.
MD-Sen: Dickerson arrestedDavid Dickerson (D), a minor candidate for the U.S. Senate in Maryland, appears to have cornered the "accused rapist" constituency:
David B. Dickerson, 43, was charged Saturday with second-degree rape and second-degree assault, as well as a fourth-degree sex offense.
Anna Dickerson told police that David Dickerson slapped her July 21 and forced her to have sexual intercourse. Anna Dickerson described a history of such assaults dating to the beginning of the couple's marriage in Latvia in June 2005, according to court documents.
(via Josh Marshall.)
MD-Gov: Debates in negotiationMartin O'Malley and Bob Ehrlich both want a series of debates this fall, according to the Baltimore Sun. In particular, O'Malley wants seven (?) debates -- five for him and Ehrlich, two for Brown and Cox. The number seems a little excessive for a state election, but quantity will probably favor the Democratic ticket.