Have the culture wars flipped?

For years, Republicans used the culture wars to bludgeon Democrats as issues like abortion and gay marriage were used to rally their base.

Now we’re seeing Democrats get much more energized about these issues as Republicans have gone so far to the right on issues like abortion and contraception.

This election will provide an interesting test as to whether this strategy will work. Take a look at the Obama ad above calling out Mitt Romney for some of his more extreme statements he made on the subject of abortion.

Mitt Romney’s tax return problem

Ann Romney (L) introduces her husband, Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, at a campaign stop in Bethlehem, New Hampshire December 22, 2011. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES – Tags: POLITICS)

The folks at BusinessInsider.com point out that Mitt Romney’s biggest problem might be his tax returns. So far he has refused to release his tax returns and he reiterated that position in a recent interview with Chuck Todd.

Romney’s campaign team has clearly decided that the political risk of releasing the returns outweighs the potential problems of not doing so. No one knows for sure what the documents would say, but by the candidate’s own admission, the bulk of Romney’s retirement income from Bain has been from capital gains, which are subject to 15% tax rate.

That means that for the past 10 years, Romney has likely been paying a lower tax rate than most middle class voters. If this is the case, that information could be devastating to Romney’s presidential bid.

The issue of tax fairness is huge right now, and Romney might become the poster-child for that problem. Warren Buffet has famously come out strong on this, saying that it’s not fair that he pays a lower effective tax rate on his income than his secretary.

I think this is a huge problem for Romney. If he makes it to the general election, the Obama campaign and the Democratic PACs are going to hammer him on not releasing his tax returns. If that issue catches fire and he ultimately releases them, then the story is huge.

But it’s huge regardless of when he releases them. He might want to just get it out of the way and have a response ready.

Either way this one can be problematic.

Elizabeth Warren takes on the “class warfare” issue

Elizabeth Warren is a natural because she can articulate her philosophy in a way that connects with regular voters. Here she takes on the “class warfare” charge.

Scott Brown must be getting pretty nervous . . .

Elizabeth Warren – The Natural

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I was pretty happy to see Elizabeth Warren declare her candidacy against Scott Brown in Massachusetts, and after seeing her on television as a candidate I’m pretty confident she can win this race and be a huge asset for the Democrats.

A poll just came out showing her with a lead over Scott Brown, making up a huge gap in a short period of time after her announcement. This is just one poll, and it was taken when she was getting a lot of press, but she’s clearly getting the attention of voters in a positive way.

Watch the clip above, and regardless of your politics, you can see someone who has a passion for what she’s doing, and someone who enjoys politics and interacting with voters. That’s a huge asset, and it’s a characteristic you see in very successful politicians like Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. As I said in the title, despite the fact that she’s a Harvard professor, she’s a natural when it comes to connecting with voters.

Part of that stems from her message. The deck is stacked these days in favor of corporations and the wealthy, while the middle class and working poor get screwed. Her push for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau illustrates this issue. Banks and credit card companies want to confuse people with the fine print. The idea behind this agency is to simplify and standardize the process facing consumers when they purchase financial services, and it was fought like crazy by the big banks. Had we had an agency like this 5 years ago, we wouldn’t have had the avalanche of bad mortgages that led to the financial crisis. Warren pushed this agency when nobody thought it would ever get passed. President Obama supported it and with persistence they were able to get it into the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill.

I’ll be posting another video soon of Warren address the “class warfare” charges from Republicans. She’s a great advocate for the progressive philosophy and she’s going to be an asset for the Democrats.

This clips sums up Obama’s philosophy on politics and compromise

The story about Abraham Lincoln is powerful. I’ve grown weary of the left taking shots at this president when he doesn’t tow the liberal line 100%.

Also, his dig at the Huffington Post and their hysterical headlines is priceless.

Elizabeth Warren won’t rule out run for US Senate

President Barack Obama announces Richard Cordray (not pictured) as his nominee to be the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington on July 18, 2011. Obama was joined by Elizabeth Warren (C), Special Advisor on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. UPI/Kevin Dietsch

Elizabeth Warren just declined on MSNBC to rule out a run for the US Senate in Massachusetts against Scott Brown in 2012. She indicated that she’s been working 14-hour days for the past year to set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and that’s she’s very much wants to go home to Massachusetts and go on vacation with her grandchildren. Who can blame her.

This will, however, become a huge story if she decides to run. Scott Brown will be tough to beat, but Warren gives the Democrats a chance in a year where they will need pickups to keep control of the Senate. The decision by President Obama to appoint Richard Cordray to head the bureau instead of Warren will disappoint many liberals, but the left will be much better off with Warren as a candidate for Senator as pointed out by Ezra Klein.

One of the themes of the 2012 election will be the interests of corporations and the wealthy versus the interests of ordinary Americans. Obama is itching for this fight, and Warren will be a huge assets who will energize liberals and also appeal to independents.

The GOP’s Eric Cantor problem

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) speaks at the Faith & Freedom Conference and Strategy Briefing in Washington, June 3, 2011. REUTERS/Molly Riley (UNITED STATES – Tags: POLITICS)

The GOP discipline has completely broken down over the past week in the debt ceiling negotiations. All year they’ve been playing a game of Russian Roulette with the economy, trying to use a potential default to force massive spending cuts. In many ways the strategy worked well, as President Obama and the Democrats put just about everything on the table.

But, as usual, the ideologues are overplaying their hand, so much so that Mitch McConnell buckled under the pressure of the business community and basically said he’d let the president raise the debt ceiling without any cuts.

The guy at the center of all this is Eric Cantor, whose either too stupid or too ambitious to take yes for an answer. He can get massive cuts if he just includes some revenues in a deal, but instead he’s pushing the talks to the brink of disaster. Last night he also tried to imply that the President lost his cool in the last meeting, though all other accounts tell a different story.

Meanwhile, the polls are starting to shift in Obama’s favor with regard to the debt and the economy – at least when compared to congressional Republicans. That’s what happens when smarmy guys like Cantor become the face of the GOP.

Dana Milbank nailed it yesterday, even before Cantor’s latest performance last night in the negotiations where he again refused to budge.

He draws out the vowels in a style that is part southern, part smarty-pants. Had young Cantor spoken like this at his prep school in Richmond, the bigger boys may well have wiped that sneer off his face. Yet even then, Cantor was accustomed to having things his way. According to Cantor’s hometown Richmond Times-Dispatch, the quotation he chose to accompany his yearbook photo was “I want what I want when I want it.”

What Cantor wants now is power — and he is prepared to risk the full faith and credit of the United States to get it. In a primacy struggle with House Speaker John Boehner, he has done a deft job of aligning himself with Tea Party House members in opposition to any meaningful deal to resolve the debt. If the U.S. government defaults, it will have much to do with Cantor.

His antics from last night are being branded as childish, and the Democrats smell blood and are now taking direct aim at Cantor. Harry Reid is more than happy to negotiate now with Mitch McConnell who is desperate to avoid the potential catastrophe that he and other Republicans created.

They clearly thought Barack Obama would fold, but they were mistaken. Obama has called their bluff, and they look like panicked fools at the poker table.

Digging in their heels . . .

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, June 29, 2011. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES – Tags: POLITICS)

It looks like we’re heading for an ugly end game for the debt ceiling confrontation. Ezra Klein explains:

The best advice I’ve gotten for assessing the debt-ceiling negotiations was to “watch for the day when the White House goes public.” As long as the Obama administration was refusing to attack Republicans publicly, my source said, they believed they could cut a deal. And that held true. They were quiet when the negotiations were going on. They were restrained after Eric Cantor and Jon Kyl walked out last week. Press Secretary Jay Carney simply said, “We are confident that we can continue to seek common ground and that we will achieve a balanced approach to deficit reduction.” But today they went public. The negotiations have failed.

“The primary goal of President Obama’s presser, which just wrapped up, was obvious,” writes Greg Sargent. “He was clearly out to pick a major public fight with Republicans over tax cuts for the rich.” That’s exactly right. But he didn’t want this fight. He wanted a deal. And he wasn’t able to get one that the White House considered even minimally acceptable. After putting more than $2 trillion of spending cuts on the table, they weren’t even able to get $400 billion — about a sixth of the total — in tax increases.

Klein goes on to explain that things will likely get ugly. Both sides are digging in their heals, and only a crisis or market meltdown will get them to move. Perhaps something else will change the dynamic, like the proposal coming from Kent Conrad and the Senate Democrats, but that seems unlikely.

As Klein explained, Obama has been quiet because he was hoping for a deal. Now that the Republicans want a fight, they are going to get one. Nobody likes taxes, but the notion that we can’t have any new revenues, including closing corporate tax breaks, when we’re facing a $15 trillion debt is totally absurd. The polls are in Obama’s favor when it comes to increasing taxes on the wealthy.

That said, the GOP is currently run by the extremists in the Tea Party who won’t compromise on anything. It’s probably going to get ugly . . .

Liberals vs Conservatives

Here’s an interesting take on the battle between both ends of the political spectrum from a reader of Andrew Sullivan’s blog. Bottom line? Liberals are stuck in the 60s, while conservatives are stuck in the 70s.

Both sides are often saddled with their dogmas, and then the news media repeats these differences over and over again in 2 minute clips intended to offer “analysis.” It hurts the discourse in this country, and it’s boring as hell . . .

Game on . . .

President Barack Obama delivers a speech on the U.S. fiscal and budgetary deficit policy at the George Washington University in Washington, April 13, 2011. Obama proposed cutting ballooning U.S. budget deficits by $4 trillion over 12 years and called for talks with Democratic and Republican lawmakers to address the worsening fiscal woes. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES – Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS)

The 2012 election has begun. The Republicans have foolishly embraced Paul Ryan’s plan to privatize Medicare, and President Obama saw a huge political opportunity and took full advantage of it.

Obama’s speech the other day laying out his plan for deficit reduction put forward an impassioned defense of Medicare and the safety net.

Speaking of the Ryan plan, Obama explained:

It’s a vision that says America can’t afford to keep the promise we’ve made to care for our seniors. It says that 10 years from now, if you’re a 65-year-old who’s eligible for Medicare, you should have to pay nearly $6,400 more than you would today. It says instead of guaranteed health care, you will get a voucher. And if that voucher isn’t worth enough to buy the insurance that’s available in the open marketplace, well, tough luck -– you’re on your own. Put simply, it ends Medicare as we know it.

He then puts the proposed cuts in the context of Ryan and the Republicans proposing even more tax cuts for the wealthy.

They want to give people like me a $200,000 tax cut that’s paid for by asking 33 seniors each to pay $6,000 more in health costs. That’s not right. And it’s not going to happen as long as I’m President.

This vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America. Ronald Reagan’s own budget director said, there’s nothing “serious” or “courageous” about this plan. There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. And I don’t think there’s anything courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill. That’s not a vision of the America I know.

I’m still stunned that the GOP leadership was stupid enough to let Paul Ryan’s plan to privatize Medicare become the central plank in their push for deficit reduction. It’s political suicide for a simple reason – the health care entitlement is critical to the quality of life Americans hope to have in their senior years. Imagine a person who is 85 and sick having to shop for health insurance with a voucher! It’s ridiculous.

When you also consider that much of our deficit problems can be traced directly to the Bush tax cuts, it’s even more absurd the the Republicans would try to use the current debt crisis to justify this radical change in our safety net.

It’s a political gift to Obama and the Democrats, and Obama made clear with his speech that he fully intends to take advantage of it.

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