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Giannoulias Web Ad: Really, Mark Kirk?

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Blake D. Dvorak

A new web ad from the Giannoulias campaign:


There are two issues here: The politics and the reality. On the former, the question is whether there will be still be enough anger out there (and there is anger) in November as there is in March. The Democrats gambled that pushing the bill through now would limit whatever political blowback might come six months from now. American memories being what they are (short), it's not such a bad bet as the GOP might think. But if elections are about getting your base out to vote, a bunch of pissed off Republicans is a better Get Out the Vote Effort than a bunch of marginally happy Democrats. (see Democrats in 2006 and 2008.) He just needs to counter all that talk about throwing the kids and granny to the insurance wolves with talk about how much this bill is really going to cost everyone.

The reality, however, is that this bill won't be repealed any time soon, even if the GOP captures Congress in November, and the party knows that -- and Rachel Maddow knows that. However many seats the GOP takes in Congress it will not have the 2/3rds majority to override the president's veto. This is all about November and electoral politics.

On Threats, Violence and Wingnuts

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Blake D. Dvorak

This has been all over the media recently:

Democratic Congress members are getting lessons from the FBI on how to handle threats such as several directed at their colleagues, including bricks hurled through windows and menacing obscenity-laced phone messages left for those who supported sweeping federal health care legislation.

Windows were shattered at four Democratic offices in New York, Arizona and Kansas and at least 10 members of Congress have reported some sort of threats, leaders said. No arrests had been made as of Wednesday, but the FBI is investigating.
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Democrats, liberal and the talking heads have wasted no time inflating these instances of threats and violence as emblematic of the anti-health-care movement overall, and Tea Partiers in particular.

It goes without saying that any mass political movement is going to attract its fair share of hotheads and wingnuts. Both parties are at constant pains to exclude the fringiest of the fringe from their tent, but the nutballs find a way to get in regardless. It shouldn't say anything about the very real concerns many Americans have about this massive growth of government intervention.

To be fair, however, both Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin have felt the need to comment on these threats. But that's because they know how badly even a handful of nutjobs can undermine the mission. In any event, a personal anecdote regarding wingnuts:

In the summer of 2004, as young journalist living in DC, I thought it'd be interesting to attend a huge anti-war rally parading through downtown Washington -- as a spectator, not a participant. And I mean huge -- tens of thousands of people streaming through the streets of the nation's capital.

In addition to genuine antiwar protesters, the usual fever swamp crowd was there: The Commies, the anarchists, the pro-Palestine folks, the eco-fanatics and the hippies. The posters of Che were ubiquitous, as were posters of Mao (yes, the butcher of 36 million people) and Arafat, and other far left luminaries. Quite a circus, and only a fraction had anything to do with the actual Iraq War. Again, movements bring out the loons.

But as I was strolling alongside the parade, enjoying the spectacle, I came upon two young guys on the sidewalk. They were standing there silently holding an Israeli flag between them-- protesting the protesters as it were. They weren't shouting or heckling. Their only provocation was the Israeli flag. Curious, I stopped to chat with them.

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For just the few moments that I took to talk with them at least half a dozen "peace" protesters walked by and spat on the flag and and at them, usually shouting "fascist" or "baby killer" or some such anti-Israel nonsense. Taken aback by this, I asked how long they had they been standing here. At least two hours, they said (it was a big rally), adding that they had had to hit up the nearby Starbucks several times to wipe the spit off their faces. One guy, they said, wearing the Palestinian head scarf, had tried to rip the flag out of their hands, and only let go when his fellow protesters forcibly led him away.

As we stood there chatting one protester with a camcorder came up to us.

"Are you Jews?" he asked us with a smile, camcorder in our faces. Yes, they said. "How does it feel to be descended from apes?" An odd comment. Aren't we all descended from apes?

"No. Jews have more ape DNA than any other human race," he explained, still filming. "You're filthy animals." He then laughed and went on his way, leaving us more perplexed than insulted.

After a few more minutes of chatting (and being spat on) I said goodbye to the two guys, adding that they were brave indeed to be standing there with an Israeli flag.

Next to nothing was mentioned in the media stories that night and the next day about this element of the protest. What was reported on were the tens of thousands who had turned out to protest the Iraq War. Well, that's not entirely true. Tens of thousands had turned out, but not all were there to protest the Iraq War, as I witnessed. But should the presence of the wingnuts, like the guy with the camcorder, have undermined the rally or the antiwar movement as a whole? Of course not. Opposition to the Iraq War was/is a legitimate position and doesn't make one a wingnut. The reporters who covered the rally understood this, even if I think they intentionally omitted what I had seen. If only the media and the pundits could apply a similar standard to the health care protesters, and the presence of wingnuts in their ranks.

But I'll say this: I've never seen more hate in my life than when I attended a "peace" rally.

Health Care Wars -- Senate Edition

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Blake D. Dvorak

The health care debate seems to have bumped Alexi Giannoulias' other woes off the front page for the moment (despite Laura Washington's incendiary column this week) and given the Democrat something with which to knock Kirk. Exhibit A is the campaign's new web video:


Which is not to say that Kirk is sitting back and taking it. His campaign has kept up the pressure on Giannoulias and his ties to Nick Giannis, posting a "Giannis Watch" to track "how long it takes Illinois Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias to answer questions regarding a $1.2 million loan made by Broadway Bank to Nick Giannis when Giannoulias was the bank's Chief Loan Officer." It's up to 14 days.

Also, Kirk released his first TV ad when the Voting Booth was on hiatus, so wanted to post it:


Health Care Thoughts

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Blake D. Dvorak

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Before The Voting Booth gets back to its regular focus on Illinois politics -- and as I continue to catch up after a week off -- first a few thoughts on the health care bill just passed:

1. Beware the first rule of politics. As I've mentioned repeatedly, the first rule of politics is that things are never as good, or as bad, as they first appear. Remember when Scott Brown miraculously won Ted Kennedy's old seat? Republicans and many pundits (and this blog) saw Brown's victory as a the Gettysburg of the Democratic majority: Obama, Reid and Pelosi had reached the extent of their domination of Washington and what was to follow was a slow but steady readjustment of the administration's and congressional Democrats' goals, all in an attempt to stave off mass defeats come November. Supposedly first on the chopping block: health care. Today, the president's health care bill is the law of the land.

This is not to say that those November defeats still won't happen for Democrats; it's that majorities matter; the power of the president matters; and in the end, one election is only one election. Two months ago, Democrats were in the dumps and Republicans were flying high. Yup, beware the first rule of politics...

2. GOP: Repeal It? Regardless of the Democrats' victory, it is not at all clear -- as the administration and Reid and Pelosi argued -- that the American public won't punish the Democrats in November over this bill. The Democrats' thinking goes something like this: Once Americans come to appreciate all the goodies in this bill, they'll embrace it as fervently as Medicare and Social Security. Maybe, maybe not. But that supposes a pretty dim view of the American public.

It's as if the virtue of a particular bill is based on its popularity. By that logic, giving out free cars to every American is good public policy because, well, Americans love free cars -- and woe to the politician who threatens taking away your free car. Similarly, there are a lot of goodies in this health care bill that Americans will no doubt love, but at what cost? To pay for this health care bill, spending will rise, as will taxes. All that nonsense about this bill cutting the deficit at no cost to the public is the very definition of selling snake oil.

Most Americans understand this, which is why public opinion of this bill is so low. Still, Democrats hope that once things kick in, it'll all be puppy dogs and ice cream. Get real. Most of the bill's goodies don't begin until 2014. The ones that do -- the pre-existing conditions mandate and the ability for children under 26 to stay on their parents' insurance -- start in six months. That is a very short amount of time for the public to embrace this bill and Republicans will be able to campaign on the "Repeal It!" platform successfully. In other words, the overall electoral outlook for Democrats come November remains very poor.

3. The paradigm shift. However, whatever happens in November, Democrats have scored a long-term victory. That's because the federal government is now intimately involved in health care, and once in, it's next to impossible to dislodge. Over time, this will be as accepted as Social Security. You don't hear any serious politician talking about repealing Social Security. They talk about reforming it; they talk about making it solvent; but never repealing it. Meaning, the debate is about how to manage government's involvement, not how to remove it. The same thing will happen to health care. 

And this was a primary objective of Democrats all along: To move the debate to their turf; to shift the paradigm from "should government manage health care?" to "how should government manage health care?". Which is why both sides fought so hard over something the president himself claimed wouldn't do a thing to 85% of Americans' health insurance. It was about getting government in the door, if only by an inch.

4. Taxes, taxes, taxes. Still, it's impossible to say when that acceptance will happen. Could be in a few years. Could be in 10 years. And until it does, Democrats could take multiple beatings at the polls. Because, unlike Social Security in the 1930s, this bill comes during a time of major budget shortfalls. The federal government, and the states, simply cannot pay for all the entitlements out there without a major increase in revenue. What form this will take or when it will happen is not clear. But it will have to happen.

Last night on Special Report w/Brett Baier, Charles Krauthammer made the prediction that the cost-cutting board, which is supposed to find out ways to make health care cheaper, will suggest a national sales tax to pay for all this. Krauthammer believes the board won't make this suggestion until after the November elections, but that it will likely dominate the 2012 presidential race. Conservative or liberal, one ignores Krauthammer to his peril, which means the president has asked his fellow Democrats to make a deal with the devil: Pass the bill, make history, shift the paradigm, but accept that fact that we will have to raise taxes on everyone. 

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