TPM Cafe: Opinion

When the anti-government rancher Cliven Bundy stepped before the cameras to “tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he also stepped into far-reaching and noxious American historical myths about self-sufficiency, race, and rugged individualism. Bundy’s actual words - delivered in a Western drawl by a man in cowboy hat and boots, against a backdrop of sagebrush and desert scenery – were mostly the same old “government makes people dependent” arguments that saturate the right-wing blogosphere and FOX News.

But there was something else embedded in Bundy’s observations about "the Negro" that bears mentioning.

Students of the history of the American West have long known that the strong, rugged individualists that populate our movies, TV shows, and myths always depended on government – to give them ownership of their farms and ranches, to subsidize private corporations like railroads for access to markets, for federal troops for protection from Indians, and federally funded dams and canals for irrigating their fields and sustaining their livestock and towns.

The idea that Bundy’s pioneer ancestors somehow made their fortunes (“built that”) without any help, before the invention of government assistance, the Bureau of Land Management or federal regulations, is preposterous.

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On the surface, a business decision by Google doesn’t have much in common with a pending court case involving women’s health. But both involve abortion, and both just might show a way to break out of the morass that the national debate has fallen into. When it comes to abortion, it’s far too easy to let emotion and assumptions take precedence. But here more than ever, it pays to take a step back and give the same respect to the evidence and facts as less sensitive subjects receive.

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As midterm elections grow closer and the battle for Congressional control heats up, the Democratic rallying cry of the Republican “War on Women” will likely continue to play a vital role in the Democrats’ attempt to retain control in the Senate. But Republican women are trying to combat this pervasive catchphrase with their own claim: we’re women and we’re Republicans; therefore there is no Republican War on Women. Unfortunately for them, simply being a woman doesn’t mean that you vote for women.

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Fans of the right to vote got two great pieces of news this week.

In Wisconsin, a federal judge has blocked a voter ID law that Gov. Scott Walker signed into law in 2011.

A few states away in Pennsylvania, meanwhile, the Commonwealth Court issued a new ruling against that state’s voter ID law, confirming an earlier decision that prevented the bill from taking effect.

In both cases, judges based their ruling on one basic fact: laws like these prevent a huge number of people from voting, without solving any real problem.

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A smartphone app could end the voting wars – but only if Republicans are willing to let all adult citizens vote.

Yesterday, a federal judge invalidated Wisconsin’s voter ID law.

While voter ID opponents, myself included, could not be happier, Judge Lynn Adelman’s words will not be the last on the issue. Both sides are gearing up for appeals that could go as high as the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, groups of Republican lawmakers will continue to push voter ID laws in other states, and Democrats and civil rights groups are organizing to resist them.

It does not have to be like this. Ironically, half the solution to the voter ID crisis is already law in Wisconsin. And the other half is sitting in your pocket.

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As we move into the heart of the 2014 election cycle, it’s not surprising that many Republican observers are predicting a 2010-style “negative referendum” on Barack Obama’s presidency in general and on Obamacare in particular, augering very well for Republican chances of a power-consolidating “trifecta” in 2016.

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When I think of the world’s worst boss, I think of Bobby in the movie Horrible Bosses, portrayed brilliantly by the actor Colin Farrell. Bobby is a business owner, and in his first major scene, dialogue between him and one of his company’s managers (played by the actor Jason Sudeikis) goes like this:

Bobby: "Oh yeah, we've got to trim some of the fat around here."

Kurt: "What do you mean by trim the fat?"

Bobby: "I want you to fire the fat people."

Kurt: "What?!"

Bobby: "They're lazy and they're slow and they make me sad to look at."

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It first appeared as an impassioned—if invented—attack on the Common Core State Standards. But at this point, “Common Core Syndrome” is really a description of the the truly bizarre politics surrounding the standards. Or, if that term doesn’t quite suit you, try this: the standards have been thoroughly captured by what David Brooks recently called “the ideological circus.”

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People who care about American democracy have recently been paying a lot of attention to new research by Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, which shows that for decades wealthy Americans and business interests have consistently gotten their way in public policy – even when their views conflict with what the vast majority of Americans want. These troubling findings have many observers asking urgent questions: Why do the rich have so much influence in politics? And is there anything we can do about it?

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