Posted on October 09, 2013 in Countdown

Tunisians Have Had Enough with Ennahda

Enoughda! No, that is not a spelling mistake - we know our title is a mouthful so we decided to combine the word enough and Ennahda (Tunisia’s ruling Islamist Party) because we thought it was funny. Well, and also because according to the latest Zogby Research Services (ZRS) poll, after two and a half years in power, Tunisians have had enough of Ennahda. Ennahda now has the confidence of only 28% of the population—and that 28% is almost exclusively comprised of Ennahda supporters. The Tunisia poll numbers bear striking resemblance to data from a poll of Egyptian attitudes toward the Muslim Brotherhood and Mohamed Morsi conducted back in May. Before Morsi was ousted on June 30th he and the Brotherhood also had a dismal favorability rating. But, unlike Ennahda, which has made a smart strategic move in agreeing to step down, Morsi would not relinquish any power. We all know how that ended - agree with it or not. Though Tunisia is not Egypt, it’s clear that Ennahda’s decision to step down willingly was surely influenced, at least in part, by seeing what happened to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Ennahda’s decision to relinquish power when it did was probably a smart strategic move to remain relevant in the long run. As we saw from the last ZRS poll, numbers as low and as skewed along ideological lines usually do not bode well for anyone, least of all the group with the 28%. 

McAuliffe, Cuccinelli, Arab Americans, and the Shutdown

As Just about every political pundit foretold, Republicans are bearing most of the blame for the government shutdown. In Virginia, especially in northern Virginia, where there is a high concentration of government workers –and guess who else: Arab Americans – Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli is finding that anger over the shutdown is having an effect on his campaign. According to a recent poll conducted by POLITICO, if Virginians were to vote today, 44% would choose McAuliffe and 35% Cuccinelli. We know, politics is a pendulum – one minute a candidate is up, and another they’re down in the polls. But what is interesting given the partisan battle over the budget is that in the same poll 62% of Virginians oppose the shutdown. McAuliffe has been leading Cuccinelli in the polls for a while now, but the shutdown seems to be increasing that margin in favor of the Democrat. Cuccinelli has tried to distance himself from congressional Republicans and the shutdown, but the voters are apparently unconvinced. About a month out from the election, the two candidates, both pretty unpopular, will need to shore up support where they can, and that includes the Arab American community. They have reached out to the sizable Arab American population in Virginia, especially in Loudon County and the northern part of the state. Last week, both candidates attended an Arab American candidates’ night in Tyson’s Corner. Well, seems like they’re going where the voters are, but in this hyperpartisan race, hyperpartisan bickering at the federal level could tip the scales in favor of the Democrat.

The Shutdown Continues … but Here Comes the Really Bad Part

The Federal Government remains shut down, and there’s no end in sight. Republican Congressmen who once said they favored a “clean” bill to turn the lights back on with no preconditions are now backsliding, although it still appears that the House of Representatives could pass such a bill – mostly with Democratic support – if Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) allowed it to come to the floor. He won’t, though, because he wants more “compromise” with the President over the Affordable Care Act. Again, this is the healthcare law that’s been on the books for well over three years, not a new proposal Democrats have and Republicans are resisting. But ugly as the shutdown is for federal employees and others, this manufactured crisis is now threatening something much more serious: the congressionally mandated debt ceiling, which must be raised by October 17 or the United States will default on its loan obligations. No serious person disputes that failing to raise the debt ceiling would have a catastrophic effect on the economy, not just of the United States, but of the world. And so, in a valiant effort to prove their lack of seriousness, some Congressmen are now arguing it wouldn’t be so bad. Speaker Boehner has been around long enough to understand the seriousness of the prospect of default, but he can’t seem to make up his mind on whether he’s willing to let the nation go over the brink. He is either executing a brilliant, political grand strategy that eludes us all – or he’s aimlessly flailing back and forth, trapped between his wiser instincts and his party’s patently irrational base. It would be funny to watch if the full faith and credit of the United States wasn’t at stake, but we are amused by the threat of Truckers blocking the Capital Beltway to arrest members of Congress.

When Peter King is Right

Congressman Peter King (R-NY) is not someone we usually call reasonable. When it comes to surveillance and blind support for invasive and ineffective spying tactics targeting our community, King is about as unreasonable as it gets. But putting surveillance aside, (believe us it’s difficult to do this) Rep. King makes a very reasonable argument against what he calls the ‘Ted Cruz Wing’ of the Republican Party. Ever since he railed against his own Party for not immediately voting on a $60 billion dollar relief package for victims of Hurricane Sandy back in January, Rep. King has been livid with Tea Party Republicans. Now, with the government shutdown and debt ceiling looming, Rep. King is speaking up again, taking the ‘Ted Cruz Wing’ of the Party head on. His main argument is rooted in thinking for 2016 and beyond. Rep. King says that Republicans have lost touch with the working class and are appealing to “the lowest common denominator” of potential voters. Rep. King may be right. Yes, we said it. According to Rep. King in an interview with POLITICO, the political landscape of his district in Nassau County, Long Island mirrors key states like Ohio and Pennsylvania who are comprised of “right-of-center Republicans” and “Reagan Democrats.” King says with the emergence of figures like Tea Party Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), Republicans are alienating key constituents in important states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. He may be trying to get more attention for himself and his district, but Rep. King certainly makes a valid point overall. Now, if only he would contribute in a positive way to the discussion on surveillance and national security.

The Supremes are Back

The Supreme Court’s new Term started this week, and they’re already hearing important cases. Tuesday the Justices heard argument in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, a challenge to federal campaign finance law that has the potential to pick up right where the landmark 2010 decision Citizens United v. FEC left off. McCutcheon is a challenge to a federal law limiting the amount one person can contribute to political candidates in an election cycle, and the challengers want to eliminate an old, conventional principle of campaign finance law: that contributions to candidates are subject to more regulation than independent spending. McCutcheon wants to get rid of that distinction, and the Court might be ready to join him and just allow open season for anyone – or any corporation – to spend as much as they want (three Justices are already on record as adopting that position). So in a few months, we just might see the annihilation of virtually all campaign finance regulations in the United States. The Court is apparently much more concerned with the right of rich people to spend money in elections than the right of voters to vote in them. Also on the docket this term are an immigration case relating to the rights of children to get visas through their parents, and cases on hot-button Supreme Court topics from affirmative action to abortion to separation of church and state. And although no case is on the docket yet, the Court will probably hear and decide a challenge to the provision in the Affordable Care Act that requires employers to offer health insurance coverage for treatments they morally object to. Gulp. Constitution junkies can also get excited about cases involving the President’s power to make recess appointments and the United States’ power to enter into and enforce treaties. Get psyched – the Supremes have returned!

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