US Election: Governor Romney’s not so big tent

Governor Romney’s calculation may well be that the voter will swallow the more unpalatable part of his agenda and flock to him anyway because of the economy

Can Governor Romney win the economic argument but still lose the election? Yes he can. Can Governor Romney win the popular vote but lose the election? Ask Al Gore. Yes he can. Can Governor Romney only discuss the fault-lines in the economy till the elections and refuse to discuss anything else? No he can't.

America is so polarised right now that no matter how the economy goes it is quite possible that the election will go down right to the wire. It will be decided in a few swing states by a handful of voters making up their mind on Election Day. And elections are won by coalitions, which was understood by Ronald Reagan, the most popular Republican President in the last half century. He built a coalition by believing in what is known as the big tent-the idea that all sorts and stripes of views are welcome in the party. And this big tent approach to politics also helped President Reagan in governing for eight years with the help of what is known as Reagan Democrats who crossed party lines to regularly vote with the Republicans.

Given the rise of Tea Party politics, partisanship and bitterness, it might not be possible in 2012 for Governor Romney to make the Republicans party into a big tent-but what about a "quite a big tent party" or a "reasonably big tent party?"  Doesn't Mitt Romney not need to reach out to more independent and moderate voters to seal the deal? How can the Republican Party have a litmus test for every issue? And only if you check the box on all the issues you are included and part of it, otherwise you are not. Ronald Reagan famously said that if someone supports me on four out of five issues then he is supporting me 80% of the time. So how a no taxes increase ever be a litmus test?

During the primaries when Governor Romney was taking particularly hard-line positions to counter Rick Santorum on the right, one of Governor Romney's advisors had said that the general election will require etch-a-sketch- a different type of approach and a different type of positioning. The time is now the Republican party needs to broaden their appeal. In an immigration speech last week Governor Romney changed his tone but obviously more is needed. He is not harping on the self deportation by immigrants which he talked about during the primaries and allowed for a way to green card for immigrants who joined the military. Governor Romney insists on opposing the Dream Act but it is for Florida senator Morco Rubio to come up with his own version of the Dream Act which makes the Republican party a  more palatable for the Latino voting public.

Mitt Romney also needs to show his sensitivity on women's issues. For instance on the issue of all public employers providing contraception as part of the health coverage he initially said he would not enter the bedroom of people and discuss what was going on inside. A usual democratic and liberal manoeuvre but quickly recanted big position and announced that he would allow an exception to faith-based organisations. Governor Romney needs to flesh out and discuss many of these issues in a manner that is more inclusive.
His calculation may well be that the voter will swallow the more unpalatable part of his agenda and flock to him anyway because of the economy. He might well be right but too many elections have turned out to be squeakers. It is a chance the best not taken.

One chance he has to broaden his appeal in his choice of a vice-presidential candidate-someone with a different background and someone preferably from a different wing of the party. This could be an undoubtedly help to widen his appeal without being too explicit about it. Be that as it may Governor Mitt Romney should not forget Ronald Reagan.
(Harsh Desai has done his BA in Political Science from St Xavier's College & Elphinstone College, Bombay and has done his Master's in Law from Columbia University in the city of New York. He is a practicing advocate at the Bombay High Court.)


Life Exclusive
Obama’s last move on illegal immigrants resulted in little change

Last year, the Obama administration tried to make it easier for some illegal immigrants to stay in the country. Few were helped. Will it be any different this time?

Last week, the White House announced what could be a big shift in immigration policy, exempting many young illegal immigrants from deportation in the short run.

But this wasn't Obama's first directive to extend protection to this group. A year ago, the administration ordered broader discretion in the prosecution of illegal immigrants. Among the factors to consider were age and manner of entry into the country, education status, military service, criminal history and family circumstances.

So how many immigrants have benefited from the now 12-month-old broader discretion?
Very few.

Under the June 2011 guidelines, U.S. Immigrations and Custom Enforcement personnel were directed to exercise discretion about deportations and to treat minors, the elderly, and some others with "particular care." The Department of Homeland Security ordered a review of 300,000 pending deportation cases.

One year later, only 4,300 cases have been settled through prosecutorial discretion, according to the latest DHS statistics. That's only 2 percent of all cases flagged for eligibility. Only 600 youth were granted a reprieve from deportation in the past year. Immigration lawyers have also reported inconsistent results under the broad guidelines.

In contrast, the Obama administration deported approximately 400,000 people between October 2010 and September 2011, a record number for the third straight year. (The DHS did not respond to requests for comment.)

Experts say last year's policy has resulted in little change precisely because authorities were given so much discretion.

The "memo was very broad," said Laura Lichter, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. "There were no hard and fast rules and there really can't be, because this isn't legislation, this is guidance to an agency on how to carry out its duties."

Obama's latest policy initiative lays out more specific criteria, but still gives authorities plenty of discretion.

Unlike the previous guidelines, youth who are eligible can come out into the open and request a reprieve from deportation for up to two years. The directive, which was unveiled by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, also requires the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to create a process in the next 60 days to process the applications.

"They tried to cut out some of the guesswork by inviting applications from people and putting down definitive markers," said Mary Giovagnoli, director of the Immigration Policy Center, a non-partisan research organization.

But immigration enforcement agents will keep the sole power to decide which immigrants are eligible to stay. They will also have the power to decide whether immigrants who've been allowed to stay for two years can get an extension. There is no appeal process, according to a list of frequently asked questions posted on the DHS website. In other words, despite the roiling debate about the policy announcement, it's not at all clear large numbers of young illegal immigrants may get to stay.

"I think there's a real danger that the current initiative could suffer some of the same problems" as the previous one, said Peter L. Markowitz, director of the Immigration Justice Clinic at Cardozo School of Law.

"Unfortunately, the history of prosecutorial discretion initiatives, both in this administration and prior ones, has been that they come in like a lion and go out like a lamb," said Markowitz. "When we get down to the implementation, they fall flat."



Public Interest Exclusive
Mobile companies will share your location data - just not with you

Who does your location information really belong to?


Cellphone companies hold onto your location information for years and routinely provide it to police and, in anonymized form, to outside companies.

As they note in their privacy policies, Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile all analyze your information to send you targeted ads for their own services or from outside companies. At least tens of thousands of times a year, they also hand cellphone location information to the FBI or police officers who have a court order.

But ProPublica discovered that there’s one person cell phone companies will not share your location information with: You.

We asked three ProPublica staffers and one friend to request their own geo-location data from the four largest cellphone providers. All four companies refused to provide it.
Here’s how they responded:

On releasing location data to you: “Verizon Wireless will release a subscriber’s location information to law enforcement with that subscriber’s written consent. These requests must come to Verizon Wireless through law enforcement; so we would provide info on your account to law enforcement— with your consent— but not directly to you.”

On responding to requests from law enforcement: “ Unless a customer consents to the release of information or law enforcement certifies that there is an emergency involving danger of death or serious physical injury, Verizon Wireless does not release information to law enforcement without appropriate legal process.” A spokesman said being more specific would “require us to share proprietary information.”

On releasing location data to you: “We do not normally release this information to customers for privacy reasons because call detail records contain all calls made or received, including calls where numbers are ‘blocked.’ Because of an FCC rule requiring that we not disclose ‘blocked’ numbers, we only release this information to a customer when we receive a valid legal demand for it.”

On responding to requests from law enforcement: “For law enforcement agencies, we release customer information only when compelled or permitted under existing laws. This includes, but is not limited to, circumstances under which there is a declaration from law enforcement of an exigent circumstance, as well as other valid legal process, such as subpoenas, search warrants, and court orders.”

On releasing location data to you: “Giving customers location data for their wireless phones is not a service we provide.”
On responding to requests from law enforcement: A spokesman from AT&T declined to specifically address this question.

On releasing location data to you:
“No comment.”
On responding to requests from law enforcement: “For law enforcement agencies, we release customer information only when compelled or permitted under existing laws. This includes, but is not limited to, circumstances under which there is a declaration from law enforcement of an exigent circumstance, as well as other valid legal process, such as subpoenas, search warrants, and court orders.”
As location tracking by cell phone companies becomes increasingly accurate and widespread, the question of who your location data actually belongs to remains unresolved. Privacy activists in the U.S. say the law has not kept pace with developing technology and argue for more stringent privacy standards for cell phone companies. As Matt Blaze, a University of Pennsylvania professor put it, “all of the rules are in a state of enormous uncertainty and flux.”

The Obama administration has maintained that mobile phone users have “no reasonable expectation of privacy.” The administration has argued against more stringent standards for police and the FBI to obtain location data. The FBI also says data collected by cell phones is not necessarily accurate enough to pose much of a threat to your privacy— for instance, in a strip mall, cell phone records may not show whether you are in a coffee shop or the apartment next door.

But that is quickly changing. Blaze said as the number of mobile phones continues to rise, cell phone companies are now installing thousands of small boxes known as microcells in crowded places like parking garages and shopping malls to enable them to provide better service. Microcells, he said, also enable the phone companies to record highly precise location data. While your phone is on, he said, it is constantly recording your location.

T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon and AT&T all refused to disclose how many requests from law enforcement they receive.

Our idea to test whether cellphone companies will give users their own location data came from a German politician who successfully obtained his data last year from Deutsche Telekom. Consumers in Europe have greater protections.






4 years ago

Take a look at how a tech startup has helped African communities in informal areas use GPS technology on their mobile devices to get and share proper street adresses with eachother.

sruthi sree

5 years ago

hi. my name is sreelakshmi. what is your name.

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