01/13/2012 10:03 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Friday Talking Points -- Run It Up the Flagpole

Happy Friday the 13th, everyone!

The last Friday the 13th of political note took place last year, when Ron Paul announced he was running for president last May (which we noted in FTP [167]). Nothing as momentous seems to have happened today, at least as of this writing, but there are still hours and hours to go, so we'll just have to wait and see, won't we?

Not a whole lot has been happening in Washington, due to Congress being out on one of their countless month-long vacations. Not a whole lot of Democrats have been in the news, either, since the Republican primary season is sucking all the oxygen out of the political arena right now.

President Obama's chief of staff quit, but this news wasn't as momentous as the departure of his predecessor, since Daley never went out of his way to personally insult the base of the Democratic Party in the way Rahm Emanuel routinely did.

What has been happening in a quiet sort of way is what I like to call "Flagpole Season." This is the time of year when the White House runs a few things "up the flagpole, to see who salutes" (as the saying goes), in preparation for the State of the Union address at the end of the month. Various policy ideas are trotted out to gauge reaction, and the ones that are received favorably will wind up in the big presidential speech to Congress. Today's news that Obama is considering consolidating some federal agencies is merely the latest in a series of policy proposals which will be steadily leaking out for the next week or so.

Over in the Republican clown show, I find it interesting that not a whole lot of people have latched onto a key story in the primary season so far: the disorganized nature of the Tea Party folks. While we were flooded with "Occupy Wall Street can't get their act together" stories at the end of last year, not many have picked up on the fact that the Tea Partiers are just as fractured.

Here's proof: who is the "Tea Party candidate" on the Republican side? There simply isn't one -- in fact, there are multiple candidates still vying for this role. If the Tea Party rank-and-file had coalesced around one single individual early on, we would currently be in a three-man race (Romney, Paul, and the Tea Partier). We aren't -- there are still six candidates in the race, being propped up by post-Citizens United super PAC money. So while the Tea Partiers were an undoubted force in the 2010 midterm elections, it seems they can't get their act together in 2012. I'm not sure what this means for the future of the Republican Party or the Tea Party faction, but it deserves more attention than it's been getting.

But enough idle speculation, let's get on with the show.


We truly wish that the rules allowed us to give some sort of award to Newt Gingrich's super PAC, because it's just been a joy to watch the circular firing squad taking place in South Carolina right now. The anti-Romney ads currently running will certainly provide fodder for the Obama team, later in the year, and it is rare to see Republicans savage each other in such a fashion. But the word "Democrat" in these awards precludes us from handing them out to the folks backing Newt, although (as we said) we would dearly like to thank them for their efforts in some humble way.

Elizabeth Warren deserves at least an Honorable Mention for the millions of dollars she raised last quarter to take on Senator Scott Brown up in Massachusetts. More power to her!

But this week's winner of the coveted Most Impressive Democrat of the Week award is Representative Allyson Schwartz, who is the woman most responsible for recruiting Democratic candidates to run for the House of Representatives in 2012. This is a low-profile job, for the most part, but it can indeed be a crucial one. So far, Schwartz has found 75 Democrats to run in open or Republican-held districts. Now, we haven't examined each and every one of these candidates, so this award may in fact be premature (we'll see what type of candidates they are, and how they do in the upcoming election), but we felt the effort itself deserved acclaim.

In the spirit of hoping her efforts pay off in a big and impressive way later this year, Allyson Schwartz is this week's Most Impressive Democrat of the Week award winner.

[Congratulate Representative Allyson Schwartz on her House contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]

It's been such a slow week that we are left without any real candidate for the Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week this week. As always, we may have just forgotten someone or some infamous Democratic blunder, so feel free to make nominations in the comments for a possible MDDOTW award.

Volume 193 (1/13/12)

Because, outside the Republican primary, it has been such a slow news week, we thought we'd offer up some talking points for Democrats to consider using to begin framing the general election -- things to point out that separate Democratic thinking from what appears to be the emerging (and quite radical) Republican Party platform (of those people not named "Ron Paul," at the very least).

We'll be revisiting this broad subject all year long, of course, and issues will likely come and go, or rise and fall in importance as time goes by. So don't see this as any sort of end-all be-all list, but rather merely a starting point to frame the opposition's beliefs in a very stark and easy-to-comprehend way.

   War with Iran, eight bucks a gallon

This one is a good place to start. Virtually all of the Republican candidates (Ron Paul excepted, of course) are all but promising this, out on the campaign trail. They do not go into detail, however, because the details are going to get very messy very fast if it happens.

Republicans seem to be trying to outdo each other in their rush to start another war -- this time, with Iran. I don't think America is exactly eager for another war in the Middle East, though. The thing to ask these Republicans is how exactly are we going to stop Iran from building a nuclear bomb, and even more importantly, at what cost? Iran is not Libya. They have buried their processing factories underneath mountains. So what, exactly, would a Republican president do to solve this problem? Bomb the mountain? What if it didn't work? Send in American troops? Nuke the mountain? Have any of these candidates really thought out the implications of what they are bragging that they'll do, if elected? Personally, I don't think American citizens are ready for another Middle East adventure with rosy promises of early and complete success. And I really don't think people are ready to pay eight bucks a gallon for gasoline for years to come to make it happen, either.

   Endless war

This is a more general point, but equally as valid.

The Republican Party seems to never be for ending a war. They were against ending our military presence in Iraq, and they are against pulling troops out of Afghanistan. After an entire decade spent fighting, Republicans still have no vision of any sort of end date for America's wars. In fact, Republicans seem to be a lot better at starting wars than finishing them.

   Deport them all?

The Latino vote is going to be a big factor in the 2012 election, and (as usual) Republicans are already shooting themselves in the foot on this front. So hammer the point home!

I've noticed that Republican candidates never seem to have an answer for what to do with the over ten million undocumented immigrants currently residing within the United States. They are eager to talk about bigger and higher fences on the border, but they get very quiet when the subject of what to do with the people who are already here is brought up. This is because they have largely agreed that the only acceptable answer is to deport over ten million people. Can anyone actually imagine what this would entail? How many buses, how many airplanes would it take to deport that many people? How would they be identified for such a mass deportation? I also notice that nobody ever mentions how much all of this would even cost -- how many billions of dollars would it take to physically remove such an enormous number of human beings from our country? The media usually gives them a pass on this question, but I'd like to hear -- very specifically -- what the plans are of each Republican candidate when it comes to the question of what to do with these millions of people. Because I think the answer is going to shock a lot of folks.

   Medicare vouchers

Remember Paul Ryan and his budget? The Republicans haven't forgotten. So point out what they're actually standing for, in plain language.

The Republicans running for president all seem to have nice things to say about the Ryan budget which passed the House this year. But nobody seems to ask them about the details, for some reason. The Ryan plan is to replace Medicare as we know it today with a system of vouchers. Granny would get a voucher, and be left to the wilds of the health insurance marketplace to fend for herself. This would result in her paying around six thousand dollars out of her own pocket -- each and every year -- that she doesn't have to pay today. A vote for a Republican is a vote to replace Medicare with vouchers -- and it's going to cost our seniors dearly in the future. Keep that in mind in the voting booth.

   Repealing gay rights

The last three of these deal with the Republican obsession with sex.

Republicans talk a good line on 'small government' and 'getting the government out of our lives' except when it comes to the sanctity of the bedroom. For some reason, Republicans want the biggest and most-intrusive government possible when it comes to sex. A vote for a Republican candidate is a vote for repealing all the gains gay rights have made in the past few years. Most of the candidates would bring back the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy, for instance. Is that really where we want to go as a country: backwards? Do we really want to start removing rights, rather than expanding them? I thought it was disgraceful when a Republican crowd booed a gay servicemember during a Republican candidate debate -- but I also noticed that not one of the candidates on the stage spoke up about such disrespect for our troops. Look for that sort of thing to continue under a Republican administration.

   War on contraception

The "right to privacy" goes back further than Roe v. Wade. It actually stretches back to another Supreme Court case -- Griswold v. Connecticut. Remind people what this means.

When Mitt Romney was asked in a debate about the right to privacy and overturning Griswold v. Connecticut, he responded by saying he didn't think states would ever consider banning contraception. This shows how out of touch he is with his own party, because there is currently a movement to pass so-called 'personhood' laws at the state level. These laws would have the result of making certain forms of birth control -- used by millions of American citizens -- flat-out illegal. Romney tried to laugh the question off as some sort of unthinkable situation, but this effort is already underway. I don't think Americans really want states to be able to ban contraception, and I think what is unbelievable is that Mitt Romney is unaware that his own party is attempting to do so on the state level.

   Rapists' rights

I've written about this one before. Like most of the rest of these talking points, all you have to do is take the Republican position to its logical conclusion, and lay it before the public to expose the ugliness.

I notice that this year the Republican Party seems to have taken the most extreme position on abortion imaginable: make all abortions illegal, with no exceptions whatsoever. Why the media doesn't ask them about the result of this stance is beyond me. I'd like to see these candidates asked a few questions, such as 'Would you really force an incest victim to bear a child that will be both her daughter and her sister?' The very idea is repugnant, but this is exactly what the Republicans would force such a girl to do. Even worse is the fact that Republicans are in favor of what would be a 'Rapists' Rights' law. If they had their way, rapists would be able to choose the mother of their children, secure in the knowledge that their victim would be forced to bring their child to term. Why are Republicans standing up for the rights of rapists, and trampling on the rights of rape victims? It just boggles the mind.

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