"Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you”

Pericles



Saturday, July 7, 2007

The 50 State Strategy - How Dems Can Win in 2018

The arcane process of congressional redistricting has always been a political and partisan process. But, as with so many of the power-grabbing assaults on our constitutional system of checks and balances and representational democracy, the Rove/DeLay Republican Party pushed the partisan power-grabbing to new lows.

The mid-decade redrawing of Texas districts made headlines when Austin's shrinking democratic caucus fled the state to prevent the Lone Star GOP from shoving a GOP-created plan down their throats. The subsequent manhunt included DeLay appropriating Homeland Security resources to search for the AWOL legislators. Ultimately, the controversy and allegations of a DeLay-led conspiracy to expand the GOP Texas congressional numbers contributed to the downfall of DeLay and, arguably the GOP's return to minority status in the 2006 midterm election.

With Democratic resurgence in Congress and redistricting fast approaching, are the Dems poised to solidify our newly-won majorities? Or can the GOP make a comeback by taking advantage of the nation's changing demographics in 2012? Right now, the GOP has a good shot at closing the narrow gap.

Join me below the fold as I look at the redistricting ahead (and as an added enticement, there's an interactive game to play!)

In anticipation of the comments that are likely to follow from the post, I will clarify what the goal of this diary is and what it is not.

* This is NOT about whether the Democrats deserve to win more seats in the House of Representatives. As this is a blog about electing Democrats, I assume we are still all working toward this goal.

* This does NOT debate the merits of redistricting reform, although I personally believe that removing the inherently partisan process from the legislative and executive branches would be a welcome reform to create a more responsive and open Congress. The post will assume that the current rules will remain in place for reapportionment.

* I will NOT be arguing in favor of a "tit-for-tat" approach to redistricting in 2011. Just because the Republicans played dirty, doesn't mean Democrats should follow suit when we have the upper hand (as we do in many states). Americans want and deserve a cleaner and more open federal government. I believe Democrats can build a sustainable majority on the strength of our ideas and leadership - or we should.

Therefore, this analysis will review how Democrats are currently positioned across the country and how they can achieve the goal of creating a strong, sustainable majority.

As resources, I used University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato's forecasts regarding which states are likely to see a change in the size of their congressional delegations. I also relied on the Census Bureau for historical information on the state legislatures partisan breakdowns, the National Conference of State Legislatures and Voting and Democracy Research Center's FairVote.com websites for current regulations and redistricing processes.

Now is the time to evaluate the reapportionment landscape as the politicians running in the current 2007-2008 cycle will be responsible for the Congressional reapportioning. Even with the Democratic pickups in the 2006 state legislative races, Democrats are weaker now than any decennial redistricting cycle between 1960-1990, when they held a significant advantage over the Republicans at the state level. The following table breaks out the partisan control of state legislatures since 1961:

YearDemsSplitGOP
196127615
197123916
198128615
199029119
2001161518


Current breakdown: Dems 23, GOP 16, Split 10

Prior to 1972, MN and NE did not have partisan legislatures. Nebraska's remains a unicameral, non-partisan legislature to this day.

Congressional redistricting is one of the most fundamental aspects of building and maintaining a political majority. This is something the Rove/DeLay Republicans were keenly aware of as witnessed by the Machiavellian mid-decade redrawing in both Texas and Georgia which suceeded in making Democratic incumbetns more vulnerable after the GOP won contol of the TX and GA legislatures. It's not a coincidence that The Peach State was one of the few states in the country where Democratic incumbents found themselves in close races - the redrawn districts diluted Democratic voting power while strengthening the GOP.

The New York Times recently reported on a powerful and fascinating new interactive game from the University of South Carolina that t illustrates how slight adjustments in how a population is divided can result in HUGE differences in partisan outcomes. Listen to the June 14, 2007 NPR story about the new game HERE.

The game starts out with the ominous quote from David Winston, a GOP cartologist who helped develop maps during the 1990 redistricting proposals:




"As a mapmaker, I can have more of an impact on an election than a campaign, [more of an impact] than a candidate. When I, as a mapmaker, have more of an impact than the voters, the system is out of whack."



I encourage you unleash your inner PoliSci geek, learn about your democracy and have fun at the same time. Check the game out at (requires Flash Player):

A Gamer's Guide to Redistricting.




The Current Redistricting Process

In 36 states, the legislature is responsible for redrawing the congressional district maps and in most the Governor wields a veto power over the new maps. There seven smallest states (VT, ND, SD, MT, WY, AK and DE) don't worry about Congressional redistricting, as they are represented by a single, At-Large member. There are seven other states (AZ, HI, ID, IA, MT, NJ, WA) that utilize a non-partisan commission to draw their maps, although both New Jersey and Iowa's legislatures do retain final approval power.

According to the Voting and Democracy Research Center's FairVote.com website, as many as 18 states have considered reforming the redistricting process in recent years. In both California and Florida - two huge states with expanding congressional representation, reapportionment reform ballot initiatives failed when put before the voters over the past two years. The question isn't resolved in the Golden State, as we are likely to see another proposal placed before the voters in either February or June 2008 primary elections. Voters in Ohio, a state with a shrinking delegation also rejected a proposal. In addition to these three large states the others that contemplated reforms this decade included Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

Anyone committed to electing more Democrats at the Congressional level should understand and familiarize themselves with the reapportionment process in their home state. Resources for all states can be found at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Clearly, this makes controlling state houses and legislatures around the country important during 2011. This means the 2007-2008 election seasons are the beginning of determining who controls the levers in the redistricing process.



In 2011-2012, nearly every political jurisdiction in the nation will adjust its legislative district lines based on new information provided by the U.S. Census. Political insiders know that the way legislative lines are drawn has an impact on who wins and who loses, often compounding our problems of uncompetitive elections and unequal representation. Unfortunately, the public often is not aware of this impact and typically plays little role in redistricting. Play our Redistricting Roulette to see a first-hand demonstration of the redistricting process.


A REGIONAL LOOK AT REAPPORTIONMENT 2010

To analyze where Democrats can use the redistricting process to create competitive or Democratic-leaning districts to expand their newly won majority in the House of Representatives, I will divide the country into five regions (Northeast, South, Midwest, Interior West/Central Plains, and Pacific).

It will come as no suprise that Democrats are weakest and most vulnerable in the South and Central Plains, dominant in New England, Mid-Atlantic and Pacific with the Midwest and Interior West as the true battlegrounds. The danger lies in Dixie. The Democrats control the fewest state legislatures (by huge margins in some states) in this region. The fact that the region could pick up as many as five or six seats in 2012 will likely mean the Republicans will pick up seats as the Congressional power base migrates out of the Midwest and Northeast (where as many as eight seats could be lost!)

The fact that the states projected to gain the most seats in 2010 {Texas (+3), Florida (+2), Georgia (+1)} are dominated by Republicans putting them in the ideal position to draw districts to add to the GOP column. Just as importantly, the Republicans have a seat at the table in the states losing seats {Ohio (-2), New York (-1), Pennsylvania (-1), Missouri (-1)}, which means they will be in position to protect their incumbents. If you don't think this is important, simply look at the difficulty the Dems had in winning in Ohio's GOP-drawn districts in 2006 - and understand the Pennsylvania GOP drew very favorable districts (the case was appealed to the Supreme Court)at the start of the decade, postponing Democratic victories in the increasingly blue Keystone State.

Let's make this as the starting point for the discussion: The Rethugs will be able to pick up five-six seats in the Sunbelt states of TX, FL, GA, AZ. Dems are guaranteed to lose a seat in MA (if the state loses one, of course), may lose one each in MO and OH, and will likely lose the Lousiana seat, resulting from the Katrina-related population loss in New Orleans. The demographic shift from Rust Belt to Sun Belt means Democrats need to be vigilant - and preparing now.

NORTHEAST: Dems Dominate but Little Room to Grow



Northeast (ME, NH, VT, MA, RI, CT, NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD & DC)
Current delegation: 68 D, 24 R
Electoral votes: 117 (21%)
Governors:
States Gaining/Losing Reps in 2012: MA, NY & PA likely to lose 1 each
State Legislatures: Dems control all but three chambers (DE- lower; NY & PA Senates)
Key States: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania


There really isn't much more room in this region for the Democrats to grow - and with the shrinking number of overall seats, the strategy here will be to pit incumbent GOPers against one another wherever possible. The Republicans still control the PA and NY Senate, which means they have the power to block such a maneuver. Winning control of both would help prevent any loss of Democratic districts. New Jersey has an independent bi-partisan commission draw up districts, diminishing the role of the elected officials. Overall, the regional representation is likely to remain overwhelmingly Democratic with the GOP losing one or two seats due to attrition.

MIDWEST: The Battleground Where a Majority Will Be Won or Lost



Midwest (OH, WV, IN, MI, IL, WI, MN, IA, MO)
Current delegation: 47 D, 47 R
Electoral votes: 112 (21%)
States Gaining/Losing Reps in 2012: IL, IA & MO likely to lose 1, OH could lose 2
State Legislatures:
Dems control IL, IA, MN, WV
Split: IN, MI, WI
GOP controls: MO, OH
Key States: Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Michigan


The evenly split Midwestern delegation is a very risky region for Democrats at this point. Ohio and Missouri's legislatures are still controlled by the GOP, making the loss of seats here a potential vulnerability. Holding on to the Governor's mansions in Jefferson City and Columbus will be critical, unless we can gain control of at least one chamber in each state. This will be a tall order, considering the GOP holds wide leads in all of these legislative chambers.

The Dems may have the opportunity to cut into the GOP districts in Illinois (current delegation 10D, 9R), Michigan (6D, 9R), Minnesota (5D, 3R) and Wisconsin (5D, 3R) but in order to do this, holding onto governorships and legislative control will be critical. The Midwest could swing either way - continue it's move toward the Democrats or seeing the GOP regain its footing and hold onto the seats it currently holds. If the latter occurs, the narrow Congressional majorities of the past 15 years are likely to continue through the next decade.

SOUTH: Population Shift Provides GOP Hope for the Future



South (VA, NC, SC, GA, FL, AL, MS, TN, KY, AR, LA, TX)
Current delegation: 56 D, 81 R
Electoral votes: 161 (30%)
States Gaining/Losing Reps in 2012: LA lose 1, TX gain 3, FL gain 2, GA gain 1
State Legislatures:
Dems control: AL, AR, LA, NC,
Split: KY, MS, TN
GOP controls: FL, GA, SC, TX, VA
Key States: Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Texas


As stated previously, the South is by far the weakest Democratic region. The party's rising fortunes in practically every other region of the country are offset by stagnation (at best) and retreat in quite a few Southern state capitols. The GOP has huge majorities in Florida and Georgia, the two fastest growing states in the region. Texas, South Carolina and Virginia present Dems serious obstacles as well. The party can retain its congressional majorities without gaining seats in the region, but it can ill afford to lose any more ground in Dixie.

The South is home to the only three 2007 gubernatorial races - and the Governors in LA, KY and MS will be the first chief executives of the fifty who will preside over the next decades reapportionment process. Legislators elected THIS YEAR in these states will be drawing the maps for the congressional battles in 2018 and 2020. This is why it's disappointing to read at Raising Kaine that Democrats failed to nominate candidates in more than a handful of Assembly and Senate Districts currently held by Rethus but that Dem Gov Kaine won in 2005. But, the good news in VA is that the state GOP has been engaged in cannibalistic infighting- and Dems stand a chance of winning control of the Senate.

INTERIOR WEST/CENTRAL PLAINS: Fast Growing Latino Population May Help Dems Climb in the Mountains



Interior West & Central/Plains: (OK, KS, NE, SD, ND, MT, ID, UT, WY, CO, NM, AZ)
Current delegation: 16,D, 26 R
Electoral votes: 68 (12%)
States Gaining/Losing Reps in 2012:
State Legislatures:
Dems control: CO, NM
Split: MT, NV
GOP controls: AZ, ID, OK, KS, SD, ND, UT, WY
Key States: Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona


This is essentially two regions - heading in opposite directions. Sparsely populated, the Plains and Mountains have been GOP red over the past 40 years, with few exceptions. The GOP is firmly entrenched in the Plains but their grip on the Interior West has loosened considerably in the past couple of years. David Sirota's recent diary about GOP land policy fragmenting the GOP coalition is one factor. The libertarian streak in the 'live and let live' west is uncomfortable with the theocratic brand of Southern Republicanism ascendant in recent years. The growing Hispanic community in AZ, NV, NM and CO and their revulsion of the GOP's nativist rhetoric of the past two years has politicized the fastest growing segment of the population. The politics of the Interior West means Democrats are likely to see incremental growth in this region.

PACIFIC: There's a Reason It's Called the 'Left Coast'



Pacific: (CA, OR, WA, AK, HI)
Current delegation: 46 D, 24 R
Electoral votes: 80 (15%)
States Gaining/Losing Reps in 2012: CA to gain 1 in 2010
State Legislatures:
Dems control:CA, OR, WA, HI
Split: AK
GOP controls:
Key State: California
Democrats are nearly as strong here on the West Coast as they are in the Northeast. At least this region is one that is growing and will likely pick up seats in decades to come. (Census Trivia - California has added at least one seat EVERY decade since it entered the union in 1849). Democrats strength on the environment and the growing Latino population in California (where they will comprise a MAJORITY by 2040) means the Republicans will have make significant policy adjustments if they hope to make gains in the region.


2010 OUTLOOK - important races 2007-08

All of the governors races will be critical as will the battle for control of the following state chambers (current breakdown in parantheses):
2007 Elections
Virginia Senate (17 D, 23R) Louisiana Senate (24 D, 15R), Kentucky Senate (16 D, 21R)
2008
New York Senate (29 D, 33 R) - and for those of you who think Bloomberg is our friend - this is where the NY GOP holds onto Congressional power - and Bloomer has been giving money to make sure they hold these seats!
Pennsylvania Senate (21 D, 9 R)
Michigan Senate(17 D, 21 R)
Ohio House (46D, 53R) Ohio Senate (12 D, 21R)
Wisconsin Assembly (47D, 52R) WI Senate (18D, 15R)
Missouri Senate (13D 21R)


The battle for Congressional control is already underway. The state legislative races are where the enduring majority will be won or lost. Let's help make the 50 State Strategy a victorious won by paying attention now.

Cross-posted at DailyKos and An Enduring Majority.

Melissa Etheridge - A CALL TO ACTION

Melissa Etheridge just finished performing her song from "The Inconvenient Truth" which was MUCH more than a song about global warming. She covered all the bases.

She urged Americans to awaken to the constitutional, political, social and environmental crises confronting the nation today.

Have I been sleeping?
I’ve been so still
Afraid of crumbling
Have I been careless?
Dismissing all the distant rumblings
Take me where I am supposed to be
To comprehend the things that I can’t see
Cause I need to move

I need to wake up
I need to change
I need to shake up
I need to speak out
Something’s got to break up
I’ve been asleep
And I need to wake up
Now

And as a child
I danced like it was 1999
My dreams were wild
The promise of this new world
Would be mine
Now I am throwing off the carelessness of youth
To listen to an inconvenient truth

That I need to move
I need to wake up
I need to change
I need to shake up
I need to speak out
Something’s got to break up

I’ve been asleep
And I need to wake up
Now I am not an island
I am not alone
I am my intentions
Trapped here in this flesh and bone
Oh I need to move

I need to wake up
I need to change
I need to shake up
I need to speak out
Something’s got to break up

I’ve been asleep
And I need to wake up
Now I want to change
I need to shake up
I need to speak out

Oh, Something’s got to break up
I’ve been asleep
And I need to wake up
Now

OR-Sen: Time for Mr. Smith to Leave Washington

Sen. Gordon Smith's recent approval numbers from Survey USA explain why the Oregon Republican is on every political observer's "Endangered Incumbent List" for the 2008 Senate campaign cycle.

Its important to note those dismal numbers were released BEFORE a recent spate of bad news for Gordo.

Recent developments have conspired against Smith successfully navigating his long-anticipated move toward the political center for the 2008 re-election effort. His meticulously manufactured moderate image (more on that a bit later) is fraying at an inopportune time. His close ties to the Dubya, Dick & Karl political machine are becoming a bigger liability with each passing week.

First, the WaPo resurrected the Klamath River salmon kill in their recent expose on FourthBranch Cheney. The water diversion (implemented behind the scenes by Cheney & Rove) resulted in the largest fish kill in US history. The devastating effects of the politically motivated diversion of water to aid ranchers and farmers still reverberate along the West Coast. The salmon fishery north of San Francisco has been practically shut down the past two summers. The economic and environmental devastation of the GOP 'win at all costs' philosophy and the revelations of Smith's role puts a serious dent in his carefully crafted moderate 'non-partisan' image.

Local Oregon blogs (Blue Oregon and Loaded Orygun) have seized on the reemergence of the story - and while the local media appears to be reluctant to report the details of Smith's role, the bloggers have dug in and look to be in it for the long haul. Loaded Orygun has filed FOIA requests to determine the extent of Smith's participation in the Rove/Cheney Klamath River Re-Election Coalition.

Public association with the politically radioactive FourthBranch Cheney would hurt in almost any state these days, but in Blue Oregon it could be devastating.

The War in Iraq - and Smith's inability to match his actions to his words could hinder his reelection effort. Smith made national headlines last December when he denounced the Bush/Cheney post-election Iraq troop surge, calling the strategy "criminal."

DECEMBER 2006: I, for one, am at the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way being blown up by the same bombs day after day. That is absurd. It may even be criminal. I cannot support that any more. I believe we need to figure out not just how to leave Iraq but how to fight the War on Terror and to do it right.

Brave words? Or politically calculated? My bet is on the latter. Smith saw the midterm results and understood steadfastly supporting the administration's Iraq policy was as safe as a Sunday drive through Baghdad with the top down and no military escort. If Smith was troubled about the administration's war policy, wouldn't you think he'd work to influence his Republican colleagues or the White House about changing the Iraq military strategy? After all, wouldn't a moderate work to bring the two opposing sides closer together?

Not if you're a Gordon Smith moderate.

In March, Smith - to his credit - was indeed one of two GOP Senators (along with Hagel) to vote in favor of bringing the troops home, but in February he had voted against allowing debate on the surge despite his December statement. And, when push came to shove during the May debate over tying Iraq funding to benchmarks, Smith failed to walk the walk to back up his talk, voting with the administration.

So, let's get this straight - Sen. Gordon Smith thinks the handling of the Iraq War may be criminally incompetent, but he's willing to provide indefinite funding?

Come again?

Maybe Smith's Webster's Dictionary defines a moderate as: "(n) a follower; a skilled contortionist; an individual who rarely takes a strong stand, but if he does mistakenly wander into the land of leadership, he quickly realizes he's exposed, reconsiders, reevaluates and reverses until he's once again lockstep with the majority opinion."

The Libby Liberation provided Smith another opportunity to show Oregonians his contortionist skills (I didn't know Mormons practiced yoga!). The president's decision unfortunately (for Gordo) came while the congresscritters were home covorting with their constituents. When local television outlet KATU asked Smith about his views on the president's amnesty for good ol'Scooter, Smith was clearly uncomfortable. It was as if he only partially memorized the GOP talking points (poor Scooter was the victim of an overzealous partisan prosecutor, oh, and by the way the president can do whatever he wants so leave -him- me alone!). Like a good moderate, he remembered to share the Plames' pain, too. Watch the interview here. You can almost smell his panic.

"It is a very serious thing to not tell the truth to a federal officer and why he would have gotten in that situation I don't know, because he was not guilty of the charge of the case. But the constitution gives the president the lawful right to commute or pardon, he's exercised that, every president before has done that. I would have preferred to see this run the full legal course but I know Scooter Libby and he's a very smart and as far as I know a decent guy and I just don't know what happened here. It's just sad...I feel bad for everyone, even the Plames who were affected by this case."

One more word about Smith's moderation - he's got a lifetime rating from the ACU of 74.5 (GOP Sen Arlen Specter has a 44 - that's a moderate, in my opinion) and an ADA 2006 voting rating of 15%. Smith's lifetime voting record reveals the "moderate" label is nothing more than a marketing tool - a slogan to make him more palatable to the average Oregon voter.

DC insiders and Oregon activists see Smith as vulnerable, but many of the high profile Democrats on the DSCC short list have declined to run. Each week, there are reports in the local media about DSCC Chair Schumer recruiting another potential candidate. Currently, he's got House Speaker Jeff Merkley in his sight (Merkley says he'll make an announcement by July 31st) and many others are contemplating runs.

But, really, why is Schumer still searching?

There's a capable and proven progressive already in the race. Activist and lawyer Steve Novick deserves serious consideration from the ITB (Inside the Beltway) Crowd.

Novick has the resume. From his website:
  • After stops in law firms in New York and San Francisco, Steve joined the Environment Division (then known as the "Land and Natural Resources Division") of the United States Justice Department in 1987. He brought successful lawsuits against polluters for violations of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. He also served as lead counsel in the notorious Love Canal case. On that case in 1995, Steve and his team negotiated a settlement in which Occidental Chemical repaid the taxpayers $129 million in cleanup costs and interest. Announcing the settlement, Attorney General Janet Reno said: "Today we celebrate a transformation of an environmental disaster called Love Canal into a success story .... It [the settlement] stands for the principle that when people make a mess, they should pay to clean it up."
  • Returning to Oregon, Steve worked as policy director for Tom Bruggere's 1996 Senate bid. He then served as chief of staff to the Democrats in the State Senate from 1997 to 1999. Subsequently, he was Executive Director of the Center for Constructive Citizen Action, which spearheaded the fight against Bill Sizemore's Measure 91, which would have cut the State budget for schools, health care and public safety by more than 20%.
  • In 2002, Steve was policy director for Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski in his successful campaign. From 2004 to 2006, he worked for Citizens for Oregon's Future, an organization dedicated to providing taxpayers useful, reliable information on tax and budget issues. In 2005, Steve developed a "balance the state budget" classroom exercise for high school students, which was used by social studies teachers in Creswell, Springfield, Salem and Portland. The students' work attracted significant media attention.

He's a true progressive - a voice needed in Washington, DC. On the important issues, he's got the right answers. The netroots is embracing him, recognizing he's got the right stuff to take on Gordon Smith. Oregon is not a state we need to run a "blue dog" to win.

In the two months since Novick announced his candidacy, he has raised almost $200K and announced the campaign's recent hiring of two new staffers. There's no doubt that Smith is going to be well-financed - he had over $2.8 million in the bank at the end of Q1, raising $747K during the quarter. Back in 2002, Smith raised over $5 million and spent over $5.5 million in his re-election effort, so the backing of the DSCC will be critical to suceeding in the general. However, let's allow Oregon voters to select the best candidate to take down Gordo.

After all, the next Senator will be representing Oregon.

Donate!?

Race Tracker wiki: OR-Sen.

Western Roundup - July 4th Recess Edition, Part I


House and Senate Races across the West are beginning to heat up a full sixteen months before election day 2008. Both Rep. Chris van Hollen (D-MD) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have been aggressively recruiting candidates across the region, hoping to create competitive contests across the region. Their efforts - and the expanding playing field in an anti-Republican national mood - is validating Dean's fifty-state strategy.

Today's roundup looks at developments in the Pacific Northwest, Nevada, Idaho & Montana.

ALASKA: Big Oil Scandals Greasing the Wheels for Democratic Victories?

Former State Rep. Ethan Berkowitz and Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich are each being pursued by the DCCC and DSCC to launch bids against Rep. Don Young & Sen. Ted Stevens, who are viewed as increasingly vulnerable due to ethics lapses and ongoing investigations discussed here last month.

Democrats seem to be seizing this rare opportunity. The DCCC included Young as one of 14 GOP incumbents targeted by campaign ads over the July 4th weekend. Whether its Begich or Berkowitz that opts to take on Young, the D-Trip is letting them know they're serious about investing the resources to win in the Last Frontier.

The Anchorage Daily News reports the two are coordinating their efforts and will announce their plans soon.


Begich, who cannot seek another term as mayor in 2009, and Berkowitz, who gave up his state House seat to run for lieutenant governor with Knowles last year, have discussed their options.
"Ethan and I met (recently)," Begich said. "We talked about what his interests are and kind of what I'm thinking. It's not a decision that I need to make today."


Coordinating Democrats? Now, there's a concept!

Race-tracker wikis: AK-Sen, AK-At Large

WASHINGTON STATE: Puget Progressives Pushing Forward

WA-08: 2006 Dem nominee Darcy Burner has been busy revving up her campaign to unseat Dave "Rubber Stamp" Reichert (she came within 2.5% of ousting him in '06). Likely to face a primary challenge, Burner has been working to recruit support from the netroots (posting over at DailyKos), and launching a new ad "Dave Reichert's Six Month Review" (a creative response to a late campaign ad many credit with providing Reichert the margin of victory in '06).

Burner's early legwork is garnering attention from local bloggers. From the right, they're dismissing Darcy - arguing her strategy to link Reichert to Bush's failed policies (and the Libby Liberation) will be ineffective. Didn't they all say last year the Democrats would be unsuccessful in turning the midterms into a national referendum on the Republican Party? They were wrong then, and their continued party line orthodoxy will result in further defeats. Reichert's seat is in serious jeopardy, IMHO.

Over at the Northwest Progressive Institute blog, they're lining up and urging progressives to support Burner, as she may face a primary challenge, as discussed in an earlier post.

Donate here to help Darcy as she works to turn the Seattle suburbs a deep progressive blue.

WA-07: Score one for the Constitution: On June 28th (before the Libby Liberation) Rep. Jim McDermott became the first congresscritter from the WA delegation to back Kucinich's impeachment articles in the House. Let's hope more members come back from the July 4th recess and have heard an earful from their constituents who've "Had Enough."

Race-Tracker wiki: WA-08

OREGON: Smith Squirms as Schumer Searches

OR-Sen: Gordon Smith, widely perceived to be a top-tier Democratic 2008 target, represents a Dem-leaning state where the electorate long ago grew weary of the Iraq war. Making matters worse for Smith is the voters' green sentiments which don't align with the national GOP's pro-business anti-environmental policies.

DSCC Chair Chuck Schumer has tried to recruit a top-tier challenger from the ranks of the Oregon House delegation has met with a series of 'no thank-yous.' In recent weeks, the media has reported Schumer approaching former Monmouth mayor Paul Evans and House Speaker Jeff Merkley about the DSCC backing their potential candidacies. Radio talk show host Jeff Golden is also rumored to be contemplating a run. He may have some difficulty overcoming the fact he was a cast member in a nudity-filled documentary, The Same River Twice.

While Schumer makes the rounds, a true progressive with a real chance of winning may already be in the race. Steve Novick has raised nearly $200K (a fraction of the amount likely needed to win this seat), has garnered the support of some netroots activists and is building the grassroots movement necessary to topple Smith. For more on Novick's nascent campaign see, "OR-Sen: Time for Mr. Smith to Leave Washington."

Race-tracker wiki: OR-Sen.

MONTANA: Big Sky Republicans Searching for Sanity

The Montana state GOP, once dominant, appears to be disintegrating in the wake of the Schweitzer and Tester Democratic victories.

The 2008 news for Republicans is of the "good news/bad news" variety. The good news is the party does have a declared candidate to take on Democratic Senator Max Baucus. The bad is the challenger is Lunatic Mike Lange and not Rep. Denny Rehberg, who opted out of mounting a challenge.

You may recall Lange, the GOP House majority leader who made national headlines for his obscenity-laced tirade against Gov. Brian Schweitzer, where he told the Democratic governor to stick it up his a$$!

Unless the NRSC can recruit another candidate, it looks like Loony Lange will be the GOP standard bearer in Big Sky country. Gotta be viewed as good news all around for Max Baucus.

Race-tracker wiki: MT-Sen.

NEVADA: The GOP on Defense as NV Turns Purple

NV-02 & NV-03: Both Jon Porter and freshman Rep. Dean Heller have been listed among the GOP's most vulnerable incumbents. That's not my opinion - it's the view held by the National Republican Congressional Committee, who listed both on the ROMP (Regain Our Majority Program) list (h/t to Las Vegas Gleaner) which solicits House GOP colleagues' financial support to assist the weakest links in the GOP corporatist coalition's re-election efforts.

Porter's Vegas-area seat is an evenly divided district (40-40 voter reg split) and his appearance here doesn't come as much of a surprise, especially following his 2006 squeaker - he won by 2 points. This seat is on everyone's radar as a battleground.

The real surprise is the 2nd District. The sprawling, rural district, which encompasses virtually the entire state outside the Vegas metro area, should be a SAFE GOP seat. Heller's lackluster performance has been unimpressive (even to conservatives), he's been targeted by green groups (previously posted here), and local blogs are chronicling Heller's every mistep. The fact this seat might be in play means the GOP is in trouble, deep trouble.

Race Tracker wikis: NV-02, NV-03

IDAHO: Genuine Contests in the Gem State?

Both Senator Larry Craig and Representative Bill Sali are attracting bi-partisan attention, as both are likely to face primary challengers. It remains unclear whether or not Craig will opt to run for re-election, but we do know Democrat Larry LaRocco is laying the foundation for a strong progressive candidacy in this scarlet red state.

LaRocco blogged recently over at DailyKos and is garnering attention with his "Working for the Senate" campaign. Since announcing in April, he's worked a shift as a garbage man and as an assistant in a local nursing home, showing Democrats are the party listening to the concerns of average working class voter.

All signs point to Craig opting to retire in 2008. He simply isn't acting like he wants the job any longer, as he has angered two powerful GOP voting blocs, veterans and anti-immigration groups. For more on the Idaho Senate contest see "ID-Sen: Larry Craig Alienates His Conservative Base."

Race-tracker wiki: ID-Sen.

ID-01: Idaho Republicans describe freshman Rep. Bill Sali as "an absolute idiot. He doesn't have one ounce of empathy in his whole frickin' body and you can put that in the paper."

Larry Grant, who came within 5 points of defeating Sali in '06, threw his hat into the ring on July 2, joining Rand Lewis in the Democratic primary to take on the "embarassment to Idaho" (another quote from Idaho Republicans - for more see Grant's 2006 campaign ad).

The NY Times (via CQPolitics) covered Grant's announcement, pointing to the narrow 2006 margin as evidence this could be a competitive contest. For more details on the 1st District Spud State skirmish see "ID-o1: Dems Salivating Over Ousting Sali."

Again, if the Democrats can make a strong run in Idaho GOP strategists have got to be losing sleep worrying about whether the 2006 debacle was simply a warmup for 2008.

Let's make their nightmares a reality by donating to LaRocco.

Race-tracker wiki: ID-01.

Still to come: New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming, Utah, Hawai'i, Colorado & California

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Public in Favor of Impeaching Cheney/Bush

A poll released today by ARG shows the American voter has had enough of the corrupt Bush Administration's endless assault on the rule of law. Was the overwhemlingly unpopular Libby Liberation the proverbial last straw?

According to ARG, 69% of voters disapproved of the commutation, with only 26% approving. This represents the hardcore GOP base, which appears to be shrinking with the release of every poll.

As to for the dreaded "i" word, 50% of voters support impeaching the FourthBranch (that's the Vice President for those not paying attention over the past month) with 46% in favor of impeaching Dubya. Will the Democrats finally listen to the will of the people?

Question:
Do you favor or oppose the US House of Representatives beginning impeachment proceedings against Vice President Dick Cheney?
7/5/07FavorOpposeIndecided
All Adults54%40%6%
Voters50%44%6%
Democrats (38%)76%24%-
Republicans (29%)17%83%-
Independents (33%)51%29%20%


Question:
Do you favor or oppose the US House of Representatives beginning impeachment proceedings against President George W. Bush?
7/5/07FavorOpposeUndecided
All Adults45%46% 9%
Voters 46%44%10%
Democrats (38%)69%22% 9%
Republicans (29%)13%86%1%
Independents (33%)50%30%20%

Compare the public polls regarding impeachment of Clinton during the L'Affair Lewinsky - and it's not even close. (h/t to Ana over at Time's Swampland blog) Back in 1998, only 25% of the public supported impeaching Bill Clinton. The GOP in Congress ignored the polls and paid a price in the midterm elections. Will the Democrats ignore the polls and pay a political price in 2008?

Manhattan Madness

It's been sixty years since a New York politician secured the presidential nomination of a major party when Thomas Dewey famously "won" then lost against Democratic incumbent Harry Truman in 1948. For three generations New York candidates have long been anathema to the mainstream American voter, with Gotham politicians viewed as too liberal and urbane for middle American tastes.

With the real possibility that Americans may enter the voting booth in November 2008 faced with a choice between two OR THREE(?!!) New Yorkers as the next president is yet more confirmation that 9/11 changed everything.

Of course, Rudy Giuliani is basing his entire candidacy on the "strong leader" image he garnered from the national role thrust upon him on 9-11. Running as a social liberal in a party dominated by religious conservatives, his candidacy would have been a non-starter without this "Strong On Terror" label.

While it remains to be seen whether his surprisingly strong early support from the party's evangelical voters can be sustained over the course of the campaign, some in the MSM are wondering whether his campaign can get all the way to the White House based on this one message. The Boston Globe ran an article this week, "Giuliani Watchers Wonder if He'll Overplay the 9/11 Card," in which pollster John Zogby states:

"He really defined leadership in the aftermath of 9/11, and that is something that is uniquely his own," said John Zogby , an independent pollster based in upstate New York. "But he does need a second act, possibly even a third act. This is where we get into uncharted waters."


Hillary's presidential ambitions certainly pre-date the terrorist attacks, but she also hasn't hesitated to use the tragic events to burnish her national security credentials, as witnessed in her statement during the second democratic presidential debate:

"I am a Senator from New York. I have lived with the aftermath of 9/11. And I have seen firsthand the terrible damage that can be inflicted on our country by a small band of terrorists who are intent upon foisting their way of life and using suicide bombers and suicidal people to carry out their agenda."
Both politicians' opportunistic (and crass, in my opinion) embrace of a national tragedy that ALL Americans experienced could come back to haunt them. Will Americans finally grow tired of politicians using the tragic events of 9/11 for personal political gain?

Maybe the one American Rudy should be most concerned about offending is the current resident of Gracie Mansion. After all, isn't Bloomberg the leader most responsible for rebuilding a wounded city? I wonder how he views Rudy's relentless and shameless use of 9/11 to advance his political career?

Who Do You Want in Charge of Your Money?

It appears the profligate spending habit the GOP developed while in power isn't limited to the federal budget. They can't manage their own money, either.

In 2008, the Democrats have dramatically reversed the long-time Republican fundraising advantage. Not only are the two leading Democratic presidential campaigns shattering records in 2007 (Obama's Q2 $32 million dwarfs the $17 million Giuliani, the leading Republican), the Republicans are burning through their money much faster than the Democrats, providing the Dems a huge early advantage.

The news that the McCain campaign has a meager $2 million Cash On Hand as of July 1 and the resulting massive layoffs means the Republicans are in deeper trouble than anyone could've predicted at the start of the year. The financial mismanagement isn't limited to McCain. Romney, the GOP first quarter fundraising champ, lent himself over $6 million to boost his fundraising total in the second quarter.

Disappointing fundraising in one quarter can become a downward spiral, as donors tend to want to back a winner, and will flock to the frontrunner. The GOP chaos means the Democrats are amassing a huge lead in the money race - one the Republicans are unlikely to close in this cycle.

The cash story isn't limited to the presidential campaign. The money is also pouring in to the national committees, too. Overall the Dems' national committees (pdf) (DNC, DSCC, and DCCC) have closed the gap - raising 73.6 million - with the GOP (RNC, NRSC, and NRCC), who raised $75.8 million. The real difference comes in the cash on hand category, where the Dems actually have $10 million MORE in the bank - $31.1 million vs. 21.1 million, as of June 1, 2007.

This is a huge change, one that bodes well for the Democrats. Exacerbating the situation for the GOP is the loss of the Congressional majority which further hinders the GOP's ability to attract donations from lobbyists and special interests trying to influence committee agendas. Additionally, the GOP donor base appears demoralized and seems to have made the decision that donating to their party isn't a smart investment in 2008. If you were a GOP donor, would you trust these guys with your money?

Thursday, July 5, 2007

GOP Insiders Disappointed with Freddy Already?

From today's Evans-Novak Political Report weekly "insider" email, Bob "Plamegate" Novak reports on a growing sense of unease within the GOP establishment about the 'yet-to-be-official' Fred Thompson presidential campaign:

Far more troubling are the fears among Republicans that there is less to Thompson than meets the eye. He could still seize the nomination and prove a disappointing candidate in the general election. In appearances across the country, from New Hampshire to South Carolina, his speeches have ranged from "pretty decent" to "quite underwhelming." He has not yet had the knock-out performance he will need in order to prove that he is worthy of frontrunner status.

Who might they turn to next, if Thompson continues to "underwhelm?"

Could Thompson pay the biggest political price for the Libby Liberation? Today's Boston Globe examines Freddy's self-proclaimed role as a "leaker" in the Watergate hearings. Will the country recoil from Thompson's partisanship? If the MSM is correct and the American electorate wants to move past all this bickering, Thompson's star may fade just as quickly as it burst onto the scene this year.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Had Enough? - A simple and brilliant idea

The Libby Liberation has ignited a firestorm among the liberal netroots community. For many, it's' the last straw. Will our elected Democrats understand the depths of the outrage? Other than Rep Conyers, who has scheduled hearings for July 11 and Rep Jesse Jackson, Jr's calls for impeachment, it looks like the leaderhip is going to give the Cheney/Bush Administration another pass.

But, for the many who have simply "Had Enough," Wes Clark, Jr has proposed a brilliantly simple protest campaign. He calls for all Americans who have "Had Enough" to gather every Sunday in their hometowns as a protest against the excesses of this administration.

The noise on the left is matched by a deafening silence among many GOP politicians, who appear to understand the precarious political position the president's snubbing of the judicial system - after all, this case was still under appeal - has put them in. The Las Vegas Journal Review quoted Rep. Jon Porter (R-NV) as distancing himself from the Libby decision,

"Though the president has the power to commute a sentence or pardon someone convicted of a crime, "doing so has the potential to tarnish a legacy," Porter said.
Bush decided Libby's penalty didn't fit his crime, but Porter said that decision is best left in the courts."

I'm not sure why the widely anticipated presidential commutation was the last straw for so many. Perhaps its the sheer audacity of this decision. Or, have we just simply had enough?

Can America survive eighteen more months of the Cheney/Bush interregnum? Will the constitution and federal government be restored? How much more damage can a President with an approval rating plummeting toward the "Mendoza line" really do in a year and a half?

As Elinor Clift said on the June 29th, 2007 "McLaughlin Report",

"I mean, he's still got, what, a year-and-a-half left in office. He can do a lot more damage, unfortunately. And the situation that he is presiding over so fitfully can also grow worse. And this is basically a requiem for his presidency."

What will this requeim look like? As the WaPo reported this week, in an article, A President Besieged and Isolated, Yet at Ease, "Bush has virtually given up on winning converts while in office and instead is counting on vindication after he is dead."

No longer constrained by public opinion, Bush unleashed for the next year and a half could have additional devastating consequences for America. Already, the Bush legacy will linger for many years, if not generations. It is this generation's resonsibility to confront this Cheney/Bush abuses.

America deserves nothing less on this, its 231st birthday.

Had enough?

Monday, July 2, 2007

Nancy, May I Have a Moment?

Madame Speaker,

When does the madness stop? What line must be crossed before the Democrats decide "enough is enough?" I've been a defender of your pragmatic approach and understood why you had long ago decided to take impeachment "off the table." It's time to reconsider that decision. Libby's liberation changed everything. I agree with your denunciation of Bush's action as stated on your website:
The President’s commutation of Scooter Libby’s prison sentence does not serve justice, condones criminal conduct, and is a betrayal of trust of the American people.
The President said he would hold accountable anyone involved in the Valerie Plame leak case. By his action today, the President shows his word is not to be believed. He has abandoned all sense of fairness when it comes to justice, he has failed to uphold the rule of law, and he has failed to hold his Administration accountable.

Honestly, words are not enough. In the 2006 midterms, Americans elected Democrats because they wanted to end this Administration's blatant abuse of power. As our leader, YOU are one of the few Americans who can uphold the rule of law. It is YOUR duty to defend the Constitution. YOU must hold this Administration accountable.

If you choose to take no action, you will have betrayed the trust of those who supported you. As one of your constituents, I expect you to do the right thing.

Respectfully yours,

A formerly loyal constituent

GOP Senate Retirement Watch - the Immigration Vote

Political observers are reading the tea leaves to determine which GOP Senators are contemplating retirement. In addition to Colorado Sen Allard, as many as seven more (nearly a third of the 22 seats they are defending in 2008) are rumored to be considering leaving Congress. They are: Cochran (MS), Craig (ID), Domenici (NM), Hagel (NE), Inhofe (OK), Stevens (AK) and Warner (VA)

Last week's immigration vote may have provided some clue as to who is calling it quits and who is gearing up for a campaign.

Of course, many of us will be watching the Q2 fundraising numbers as they become available in the coming weeks (the Senate still files paper reports, so they won't be immediately available as with House and Presidential amounts). If John Warner hasn't revved up the fundraising efforts over Q1 (when he deposited a grand total of $500), a retirement will be viewed as a near-certainty.

A look at how these Senators voted on immigration reform reveals two are likely to relinquish their seats, two others are gearing up for another run, while the plans of the remaining three remain too difficult to determine.

Leaving the Senate? Of the seven, only two (Hagel and Craig) voted for cloture. Both have already attracted primary challengers from the rightwing and this "YES" vote only serves to weaken them within the GOP base. I'd say this indicates both Senators are not planning reelection campaigns.

Stubborn Old Men: Domenici and Stevens, each tainted by scandal and ongoing investigations, voted against cloture. These votes represent a switch from their "YES" votes on the previous cloture motion. A reversal indicates they are being responsive to the demands of the conservative activists who are critical to their re-election efforts. Voting for cloture would have further weakened them back home, where both have watched their standing with the voters plummet in recent months.

Show Me the Money: Virginia's Warner is the third GOP Senator who switched his vote. Until we see his Q2 fundraising numbers, I'd hold off on making any prediction as to his 2008 plans.

The immigration votes don't provide insight into the plans of the remaining two, as both Inhofe and Cochran voted with the majority of GOP senators each time.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Independent Voters Revealed as "Anti-War Extremists"

Independent voters are often viewed as the decisive power brokers in national elections. The party who successfully courts these quintessential "swing voters," typically wins presidential elections. In 2006, an unprecedented 57% of self-described independents voted Democratic (this represents an 8 point gain over the 49% Kerry got in 04) handing control of Congress to our pals Nancy and Harry.

But independents are not a monolithic group. While many in the media and public view them as the 'moderate middle' searching for the noble compromise between two intractably feuding parties, this is simply NOT true. Independents (who make up 25-30% of the electorate) are located all along the partisan spectrum.

A recently completed Washington Post/Henry J. Kaiser Foundation/Harvard University survey profiling the independent voter's diversity was reported in Sunday's WaPo. The results are fascinating - and, despite what the MSM is saying, the independent voter agrees with the Democratic base when it comes to Iraq!

Political strategists and observers make a mistake by treating these voters as one voting bloc. The media, in their never-ending quest to simplify the complex, promote the "independents as moderate" meme, providing politicians cover and an excuse to govern without conviction. We've grown weary of the familiar refrain, "The Democrats can't move too far to the left and appease their "partisan" anti-war extremist base for fear of offending the all-important independents."

The full WaPo survey can be found here (pdf!!). The responses to the poll's three Iraq-related questions reveal that independent voters are aligned with the Democratic base and want action on Iraq.

The three critical questions:
#36/37: "All in all, considering the costs to the US versus the benefits to the US, do you think the war with Iraq is worth fighting, or not? Do you feel STRONGLY that way or NOT?

"NOT WORTH FIGHTING" Responses: Indies 67%, Dems 85%, GOP 28%, Overall = 62%

#38: "Do you think the goal of bringing stability to Iraq is still possible, or not?"

"NOT POSSIBLE" Responses: Indies 62%, Dems 73%, GOP 35%, Overall = 58%

#39: "Do you think (the US must win the war in Iraq in order for the broader war on terrorism to be a success) or do you think (the war on terrorism can be a success without the US winning the war in Iraq)? (answers rotated)

"WINNING IRAQ NOT NECESSARY" Responses: Indies 62%, Dems 70%, GOP 35%, Overall = 56%

On EVERY Iraq-related question, nearly 6 of 10 independents are in the "anti-war extremist camp."

It's time for the Democratic leaders to understand this and act. If they don't it's not only the Democratic base that will punish them, but they could find the all-important independents abandoning them, as well.


The Kaiser/Harvard poll uses cluster analysis to break down this diverse group into five distinct categories, the Disengaged (24% of indies), the Disillusioned (18%), the Dislocated (16%), Deliberators (18%) and Disguised Partisans (24%). The characteristics of each group are fascinating and reveal where the Democrats should focus their energies.

The Disguised Partisans. The Democrats within this group are indies mainly because they are frustrated and angry with the Democratic Party. The Post describes this group as:
"Walking and talking Democrats, these independents lean overwhelmingly toward the Democratic Party; two-thirds always or mostly support Democratic presidential candidates.
They are more tuned in to government and politics than rank-and-file Democrats, and 13 percent said they get a lot of information about politics from blogs (the most of any group)."
This group agrees with the Dems' progressive ideology and but there is danger lurking as 93% believe Iraq is not worth fighting. More than 75% indicating they would consider voting for an independent candidate in 2008, the risk of losing these voters increases with more Iraq capitulations.

The Dislocated: Socially liberal and fiscally conservative, 46% define themselves as "progressive." Clearly, this group leans toward Democrats (57% voted for Kerry, 60% voted Dem in 06), particularly in the wake of the recently deposed GOP Congress' uncontrolled spending. The way to keep these voters is to increase transparency - and it behooves Democrats to get out in front on the issue of earmarks. More than 8 in 10 view Iraq as not worth fighting. This group is more "anti-war" than the extremist base, too.

The Disillusioned: This group feels the system is broken and are not happy with either party. They're furious with Bush and Iraq. The WaPo defines says further:
"Bush and the war are crucial components of the disillusionment.
Three-quarters say the war in Iraq was not worth fighting and just two in 10 think it is still possible to stabilize the country.
Fifty-seven percent call Bush the worst modern president.
For 2008, this group leans Democratic, but high levels of disenchantment could keep them home. They would also welcome an independent candidacy."

The Deliberators: These are the true independent swing voters - and note: they make up less than 20% of the 30% of the independent vote! They swung HUGE between '04 and '06 elections, as Bush received 66% of their support and the Dems won 52% in the midterms. Even a majority of voters within this group (55%) do not feel Iraq is worth the cost. This group will support the party and candidates that show competence.

The Disengaged: Forget about 'em. They represent 3% of voters and don't tend to vote.

Independents are Democratic-leaning voters. They are opposed to the War in Iraq. These numbers reveal that moderation isn't what a majority of independents want. They crave leadership, particularly on Iraq.

Are the Democratic leaders listening?

"Crazy Weather We're Having" as the Planet Lurches Toward the Tipping Point

Barely a month goes by these days when a weather related story doesn't include a comment along the lines of "the worst/most powerful/deadliest/costliest event since weather records have been kept." June 2007 was no exception: Cyclone Ganu struck the Persian Gulf threatening the world's oil supply. Devastating wildfires in Tahoe blazed for days, reinforcing a frightening new reality; the California fire season now lasts year-round. Dozens of towns in Great Britain and Texas were flooded due to unprecedented torrential rains. In Pakistan, 800,000 people were displaced due to a severe cyclone this past week. When aid failed to arrive, riots ensued.

These are precisely the types of climatological events scientists - and Al Gore in his 1992 book Earth in the Balance - predicted would become commonplace as the planet's temperature rose. The costs of these disasters are staggering - both financially and socially. The flooding in Britain alone is estimated to exceed $1 billion pounds - and the rains haven't stopped yet.

Beyond the obvious fact that it's getting pretty expensive to do nothing about global warming, I wonder, is it too late to rescue the planet? Al Gore doesn't think so - and he believes you and I are the ones with the power to save the earth.

Gore, writing an Op-Ed piece titled "Moving Beyond Kyoto,"in today's New York Times, says the United States must step forward and provide the moral leadership needed to address global warming. And America must do it now. He begins:

WE — the human species — have arrived at a moment of decision. It is unprecedented and even laughable for us to imagine that we could actually make a conscious choice as a species, but that is nevertheless the challenge that is before us.

Our home — Earth — is in danger. What is at risk of being destroyed is not the planet itself, but the conditions that have made it hospitable for human beings.

Gore calls on the American people to stand up and demand action of our political leaders. He proposes a new climate treaty aiming to reduce global warming pollution by 90%. He sets a two-year timetable - he envisions this new agreement completed by 2009. The need is urgent and requires immediate action. A consensus can - and must - be built. He writes:

This is not a political issue. This is a moral issue, one that affects the survival of human civilization. It is not a question of left versus right; it is a question of right versus wrong. Put simply, it is wrong to destroy the habitability of our planet and ruin the prospects of every generation that follows ours.

On Sept. 21, 1987, President Ronald Reagan said, “In our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites all the members of humanity. Perhaps we need some outside, universal threat to recognize this common bond. I occasionally think how quickly our differences would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world.”

We — all of us — now face a universal threat. Though it is not from outside this
world, it is nevertheless cosmic in scale.

Can Gore finally build the global consensus needed to achieve his vision? Despite sounding this alarm for more than fifteen years, far too many Americans remain in denial about global warming's dangers. Many others - including this writer - have not made the adjustments in our daily lives necessary to reduce our individual impact on the planet. Too often, the change is "inconvenient." In many homes and businesses, simply recycling newspapers, bottles and cans is considered too much of a hassle. Now, I'm no scientist, but reducing global warming pollution by 90% would likely require changes the average citizen would view as going far beyond recycling and carpooling.

When then-Sen Gore wrote Earth in the Balance it was a powerful expose on how human activity in the industrial age had dramatically - and negatively - impacted the earth's ecosystem. As a result, the planet - and human civilization - teetered on the edge of catastrophe. Addressing the situation required political courage and leadership. Gore wrote back then:

I have become very impatient with my own tendency to put a finger to the political winds and proceed cautiously.... [E]very time I pause to consider whether I have gone too far out on a limb, I look at the new facts [on the environment crisis] that continue to pour in from around the world and conclude that I have not gone far enough.... [T]he time has long since come to take more political risks--and endure more political criticism--by proposing tougher, more effective solutions and fighting hard for their enactments.
Sadly, our leaders did not take brave political risks. Instead, Congress failed to even ratify the Kyoto Protocol. The American people were not asked to fundamentally change their living patterns. Rather, we drove bigger, less fuel-efficient cars on longer commutes to our McMansions filled with an ever-expanding array of energy consuming electronic gadgets. I hate to say this but sacrifice and moral leadership may be characteristics of bygone American generations.

The book was controversial and many political opponents dismissed Gore's warnings as unfounded hysteria. Gore was roundly attacked by big business and their lackeys in the Republican Party. A coordinated and well-funded campaign to debunk the theory of global warming was so effective that the term itself became ineffective. This is why "global warming" has been replaced by the more innocuous "climate change."

But, let's be clear, the failure to act has been bipartisan. Democrats have undoubtedly been more receptive to green positions and have favored environmental regulations, but our leaders certainly have not been the risk-takers Gore demanded them - and himself - to be.

While the politicians dithered and the populace consumed, the planet kept getting hotter.

And the tipping point - the moment from which there is no return - approaches, more rapidly than the scientists predicted in the early 1990s. The Arctic ice sheets are melting faster than any of the models forecast. There are indications the North Atlantic Gulf Stream current is slowing down, which could have catastrophic consequences on Europe's climate in coming decades. Weather has become more severe and extreme. Droughts are drier and longer. Hurricanes are more powerful and more frequent.

In order to avert catastrophe Gore observes, "individual action will also have to shape and drive government action." Apparently, he has lost his faith in the politicians providing the leadership necessary. He goes on, "Americans must come together and direct our government to take on a global challenge. American leadership is a precondition for success."

This Saturday, on 7/7/07, the Live Earth concerts will launch Gore's global campaign of "individual action." Every member of the listening audience - an estimated 2 billion people - will be asked to sign The Live Earth Pledge (you can sign it now if you care to). It's the first step in the three year global campaign to unite humanity against a universal threat - ourselves.

Let's hope we're not too late.