Voter discontent is a trend


What this article doesn’t touch on is the fact that there patterns and tendencies to American voters. Some of the big indicators that this current wave of voter discontent is part of a larger trend is the overall condition of the economy and the unpopular “war” against terror. Many presidents, such as Taft (R), Carter (D), and van Buren (D), were widely unpopular as a result of major events that took place while they were in office. As a result, voters turned against them and they lost support quickly.

This is how it goes in 2010 at the ballot box: old orders are upended, political lions become roadkill, chosen successors get left behind and the outsider, riding a wave of discontent, becomes the new front-runner.

In quick succession Tuesday night, the jittery inhabitants of Washington’s marble halls found three more reasons to worry about their staying power. Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, the Senate’s patron saint of resilience, was turned out in a Democratic primary in favor of an unwanted rival, Representative Joe Sestak, who had neither major union support nor White House support. In Arkansas, Senator Blanche Lincoln, a model of southern Democratic moderation, was forced into a primary runoff by a self-styled outsider, Bill Halter, challenging from her left. And in Kentucky, the Washington establishment’s chosen Republican Senate candidate, Trey Grayson, fell to the son of a libertarian outlier who carried the flag of another party. “I have a message, a message from the Tea Party, a message that is loud and clear and does not mince words: We’ve come to take our government back,” declared Rand Paul, son of Representative and former presidential candidate Ron Paul, upon winning by a double-digit margin. (See 10 races that have Democrats worried for 2010.)

In all three races, voters rejected the instructions of their own party’s leadership, as they have repeatedly this year in states as varied as Utah and Florida. Indeed, even before the polls closed, that leadership had mostly gone into hiding. President Obama traveled Tuesday to Youngstown, Ohio, just miles from the Pennsylvania border, where his chosen candidate, Specter, was struggling to get voters to the polls in the rain. But Obama, who once promised his “full support” of Specter, made no mention of the primary, choosing instead to tour an 85-ton electric arc furnace. “It’s just nice to get out of Washington,” Obama said. Vice President Joe Biden, a decades-long colleague of Specter who had also promised “full support” and rarely misses an opportunity to stump in his native Pennsylvania, spent his day in Iowa. (Read “The Price of Opportunism: Arlen Specter’s Tough Fight.”)

On Capitol Hill, Republican leaders also hid from the elephant in the room. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who had handpicked Grayson for his home state, made no mention of the election when he met with reporters in the Capitol. “Obviously the biggest item around the Hill this week is the oil spill in Louisiana,” McConnell said instead.

With less than six months to go before the midterm elections on Nov. 2, all signs are pointing to a tidal wave. Electoral railbirds, steeped in historical stats, point to the many bad signs for Democrats. In polls, Republicans and conservatives demonstrate much more enthusiasm than Democrats and liberals. The President’s approval rating is below 50%, and more registered voters say they expect to vote for Republicans than Democrats for Congress. “This is as favorable an election for Republicans, as hostile for Democrats, as any in recent memory,” says Mark Blumenthal, the editor of Pollster.com. (See 10 races that have Republicans worried for 2010.)

But Republicans have their own worries. In addition to anemic fundraising, the Grand Old Party faces a simmering insurrection in its ranks. Apart from the defeat in Kentucky, Utah Senator Bob Bennett, a moderate fixture of the Washington establishment since 1992, lost his bid for re-election two weeks ago, after his state party’s convention delegates revolted over his vote to bail out banks and work with Democrats on health care reform. In Florida, the once popular Republican Governor, Charlie Christ, recently abandoned his party to launch an independent bid after a more conservative challenger threatened to deny him a shot for the state’s open Senate seat.

This anti-incumbent mood pervades both parties, leaving open the possibility that the same wave that brought Obama into office in 2008 will undo his governing majorities in 2010. The one bright spot for Obama was a special election Tuesday night in Pennsylvania’s 12th district, where Democrats held on to a seat in a conservative district previously held by John Murtha, the big spending defense appropriator who died earlier this year. The seat was won by Mark Critz, a pro-life, pro-gun former Murtha staffer who opposes health care reform and overcame significant Republican spending. The victory demonstrated that Democrats still have hope for making Congressional races local, not national, affairs in the fall. (Read “Primary Tuesday: Sending the Bums the Right Message.”)

But this is scant consolation for those incumbents who have become less and less comfortable with each turn at the ballot boxes this year. On Tuesday afternoon, Specter, whose career has survived two bouts with cancer and two party switches, seemed his old fighting self. In an interview on MSNBC, the host suggested that his opponent, Sestak, was more vigorous. “You must be smoking Dutch cleanser,” Specter responded, in typical cantankerous fashion.

Just a few hours later, at a downcast concession speech in Philadelphia, Specter did not have much fire left to show. “It’s been a great privilege to be in the United States Senate,” he said of his 30-year career. “Thank you all.” And with that, he quickly left the stage.

by Michael Scherer, Time Magazine

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Boston City Council takes action on Arizona legislation


By Martin Finucane, Globe Staff

Joining a chorus of criticism nationwide, the Boston City Council today passed a resolution calling for the city not to invest in state or local government in Arizona, in protest over the state’s recently passed immigration law.

A brief round of cheers broke out in the chamber after the unanimous voice vote on the resolution this afternoon.

The non-binding resolution authored by City Council President Michael Ross and Councilor Felix G. Arroyo calls for the city “to the extent reasonable … not to participate in any business activities substantially connected with the State of Arizona and municipalities in Arizona.”

The resolution calls for the city to review its investments in Arizona state or municipal bonds and to review travel by city employees to Arizona for conferences and other official business, said Arroyo.

“As a city, we have long rejected the idea that racial profiling is sound public safety policy,” he said, calling it bad policy and an infringement on citizens’ constitutional rights. “And we decided we don’t want to invest in a state that believes otherwise.”

Ross said in prepared remarks that the vote would send “a message to other cities and states that laws like these are unfair to the people who have done as so many of our forefathers have done — come to this country legally to make a better life for themselves.”

Ross said he was “outraged when I heard about the Arizona law that requires anyone who looks ‘reasonably suspicious’ to be stopped and asked to prove that they’re a legal resident of the United States. The last time people were stopped and asked for papers in this country, it was during the era of slavery.”

No one spoke against the proposal, said Amy Derjue, a spokeswoman for Ross.

Councilors have reported a slew of angry calls over the resolution after area conservative talk radio shows urged listeners to call councilors. Immigrant advocates also phoned councilors urging them to support it.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s office didn’t immediately have a comment.

Arizona Governor Janice K. Brewer has said that the state is “acting responsibly to address a border security crisis that is not of our making.”

“The federal government’s failure requires us to act to protect our citizens, and we are doing just that,” she said last week, signing an amendment to the controversial bill that she said was intended to prevent racial profiling.

Arizona governor’s spokesman Paul Senseman, said that in Arizona both proponents and opponents of the law have come out against economic boycotts.

“It is clear that an economic boycott of Arizona would indiscriminately harm innocent people,” he said.

Since the vote, a number of entities have reacted negatively, raising concerns about the economic hit Arizona will take. The venerable African-American fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha decided to move its 104th general convention from Phoenix to Las Vegas. The Major League Players Association — 27 percent of whose members are Latino — condemned the action. The Phoenix Suns have also announced they will wear a jersey bearing the name “Los Suns” during a playoff game tonight in protest of the law.

Washington, D.C., New York and Los Angeles are considering measures similar to Boston’s.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.

America’s perception of Arizona’s Immigration Law


Update: On July 7th, Steven Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) discussed national immigration policy on C-SPAN. In the process, he explicitly points out that illegal immigrants fill the lowest paying jobs in the country, which means that they don’t compete against most Americans for work.

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According to the New York Times, most Americans agree that Arizona’s law will result in racial profiling. What is particularly curious about the article is that there is no talk of sympathy on behalf of the people who were polled. That gives the appearance there was little concern about the effects that would be felt by other races, which probably does not bode well for America’s image.

In addition, respondents also seemed to believe that crime would drop as a result of this legislation. Apparently, respondents seem to believe that if immigrants are scared into not reporting crime (of which even legal immigrants are worried about), then crime levels will drop. Think of things this way: just because fewer crimes aren’t reported doesn’t mean that crimes are suddenly not being committed.

A common complaint that was mentioned was how illegal immigrants are a drain on America. Specifically, respondents voiced concern over how illegal immigrants use public services, like the emergency room, without paying for their usage. Factually, that complaint isn’t entirely correct as illegal immigrants pay into Social Security but never see any of their money again as they do not get social security benefits.

Where do you stand on Arizona’s immigration legislation? Do you think that it causes more harm than good, or should the Federal government mirror Arizona’s stance?