1. Let’s say that Barack Obama wins the election to the House that in reality he lost in 2000, but the rest of his career goes exactly the same–wins the Senate seat in 2004, the White House in 2008. This means he goes to Washington as an anonymous backbencher in 2001 instead of as a celebrity senator in 2005. This also means that he sees with his own eyes such things as Republicans breaking whatever House rules they like in order to pass the bills they want to pass, Tom DeLay outright bribing people to pass Medicare Part D, the GOP using the Iraq War Resolution and the Homeland Security Act as partisan cudgels in order to win the midterms. Does Obama still go to the White House with the theme song from The West Wing burning in his ears, believing that Republican politicians are decent, reasonable people you can do business with?
  2. Let’s say that Bill Frist doesn’t retire in 2006 and remains the Senate Republican leader in 2009-2010. Does he go all the way to maximal obstruction like Mitch McConnell did in reality, or does he just incrementally build upon what Senate Democrats did under Bush, which incrementally built upon what Senate Republicans did under Clinton, etc.

I think my answers are (1) far less so and (2) not as much as McConnell but more than just an incremental increase. After all, in the second case, McConnell would still have been the whip, and had a lot of influence.

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Well, at least one of them:

  1. Susan Collins’s final pretense at being in any meaningful way moderate.
  2. Dean Heller’s hopes at any chance of winning another term.
  3. Rand Paul eating humble pie and voting for the bill over some pretty unequivocal objections to the underlying nature of the bill (they’re a bit more specific and broadly philosophical and not just vague “concerns,” like the rest of them) so there’d be a bit of a climbdown, and he’d look a fool).

My guess is that (1) is least likely. Collins is sort of like Dianne Feinstein in that she rarely sticks her neck out to the right when the lights are on her (though in all fairness Feinstein has been quite a bit less horrible this term, she even supported that resolution against Saudi arms sales which astonished me, symbolic or not). Collins likes being a highly visible (if largely useless) Washington moderate, fawned over by the press and No Labels jagoffs. And while there’s no reason to believe that that crew would show her any less love if she voted for TrumpCare, I doubt Maine would send her back for another term. She’d be joined to Trump indelibly in 2020 (or in 2018 if she runs for governor) and Maine is I think the poorest blue state, lots of people who wouldn’t take kindly to such a vote. And I don’t think she wants to move onto the Joe Lieberman phase of her career yet. Collins also has strong leverage in that she could win as an indy if she wanted, in fact, that would make her much stronger if she did. GOP needs her more than she needs it.

My guess is that (2) is most likely for the opposite reason. Heller may well decide that he’s already screwed so why depart from being the party hack he is? After all, if he derails the bill, no wingnut welfare for him after he loses in 2018. Of course, if he thinks he has a chance he’d have to be crazy to vote for it, though then again, Tea Partiers can bring Sharron Angle out of mothballs for a primary challenge that this time she’d win. Heller’s one of these guys like Mel Martinez or that guy who held Ted Kennedy’s seat for a month after he died, just a boring party functionary who could never survive the loss of its support. Someone like Lisa Murkowski had the skill to win after losing her party’s nomination but that’s all Alaska politics, patronage and family ties and all that shit come into account. Heller has nothing similar to lean on. Without the party’s support he’s nothing. So he won’t jeopardize that.

As for (3), I really couldn’t gauge. They could lose Collins and Paul and still win, which may well be what it comes down to. Paul’s survived the worst McConnell has dished out before and standing on (insane) principle, damn the consequences, is part of the family brand. On the other hand, at the end of the day, all Republicans have a not-so-hidden hard-on for helping out their rich friends at the rest of our expense. So it’s hard to call.

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I’ll just repost this:

Pursuing well-off white suburbanites is one of those ideas that never pans out but never goes away. Democrats and their consultants see people who are well educated (true), often don’t have iron-clad culture warrior stances on the issues (also true) and who have some discomfort with the religious-populist orientation of the GOP (true again). Problem is that most of these folks (though certainly not all!) have been acculturated into a sort of aggressive selfishness in which social concerns are seen as “not their problem” at best, and certainly less important than paying as close to no taxes as is humanly possible. Obviously you tailor different messages for different audiences but in terms of reaching people whose essential attitude is “not giving a fuck about anything going on beyond their front yard,” it’s really hard to see how Democrats can edge out Republicans with this group.

Look, I hoped that the repellence of Trump and Handel would make it happen for Ossoff, but as they say, the fundamentals were not in his favor. Some wonder aloud at how Republicans only care about/can only do tax cuts, but it apparently doesn’t dawn on people that this is merely because they know their base well. I used to joke that the GOP could run Heinrich Himmler and he’d still get 80% of the GOP vote if he held the line on taxes. Not such a funny joke anymore, I grant you.

 

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Yeah, I’m more than tired of these “Trump voters like Trump” pieces, but the absurdity of this shows just how impossible it’s going to be for that fever to break:

“It’s very frustrating that he gets pushback on everything that he tries to do. It’s just everything. Everything,” said Debbie Maddox, 61, a retiree and Trump supporter from the Houston area who visited Trump Tower this month with her daughter and two grandchildren. “They just don’t give him a chance to do it, no matter what it is. He’s always wrong.” […]

“All of this stuff just makes you hate politics,” Maddox said. “All of it is just so negative. I don’t think I’ve heard so much junk during any other presidency.”

I guess I missed the part of the Obama presidency that was positive and where he didn’t get any pushback. In all fairness, of course, I did blink regularly during those eight years.

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It’s a bit hard for me to grapple with the idea of a top-level politician who is genuinely frightened of interacting with normal people as someone living in the USA. Sure, they often try to minimize random interactions in a lot of cases, but for presidential candidates, say, you’re expected to head over to shitty cafes in Dubuque and talk to people (Marco Rubio didn’t bother and he lost, in part because of it). And if you’re president, you’re expected to go to places where a disaster happens and hold peoples’ hands. (I expect Trump to be quite bad at this when it happens, incidentally.) I don’t blame politicians for wanting to avoid the public as much as possible–it can be random and unpleasant to no end whatsoever–but there are some times where you can’t, and being a good politician is knowing when you need to let people vent at you. Theresa May, again, is not a good politician, but just how bad and how cloistered and brittle a person she is is an ongoing surprise.

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I rewatched Midnight Run recently and it’s still great. It’s dated, but in more of a “fun time capsule” way than a “why did we think this was ever good?” way. But what’s most surprising to me is that Robert De Niro is actually pretty funny in it! After discussing this with the wife a bit, I came to the conclusion that this is largely because De Niro isn’t doing the “comedy” we’ve been seeing from him for quite some time, the no broad, hacky, physical stuff, the mugging. None of that to be found here, just sarcasm and witty asides. It’s really sort of like De Niro trying on a Bill Murray style of comedy, instead of the past two decades of his life that he’s spent trying to be Jerry Lewis to unfortunate results. And it’s great!

Additionally, I recently found myself watching The Untouchables for the first time in a very long time, and maybe it’s just the times we live in and purely my own sensitivities, but is he playing Al Capone as Trump? You tell me if I’m crazy, but it’s pretty uncanny:

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Tried to find some old YouTube favorites and they’re mostly all gone now. This one’s still up:

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I was going to write something about these latest atrocities but why bother. The gun nuts’ intellectual case remains nonsense, full of red herrings and truthy pabulum that can easily be dismissed. I caught a little bit of Tucker Carlson’s show yesterday and the “debate” on this was depressingly familiar. We need guns to fight against tyranny? Lots of other democracies have restrictive gun control laws, and our own history suggests the very opposite use for them in the hands they’re in is the more likely. Guns don’t kill people? Sorry but they do. What about knife control? Of course people are killed by stabbing, but guns make it so much easier. Unlike the NRA, I’ve read On Killing. I know a bit of the science of this. And I know The West Wing reared liberals feel like there’s a debate to be won here because their arguments are so weak, but the fact is that what fuels the gun issue is white reactionary paranoia and you can’t out-debate that. #NotAllRepublicans perhaps, but certainly the NRA folks are a critical group that Republicans can’t ignore and don’t choose to.

I’m a bit more bullish on something happening in the 10-15 year timeframe as it won’t be long before Millennials make up the fat middle of the population curve and who may well render white reactionary paranoia embarrassing and marginal (I’m not so sure of this as some but it’s not impossible), but in the meantime, there’s no point of timid proposals like background checks. Democrats should be calling out the real problem and hanging these attitudes on their enablers in the GOP. Doesn’t matter if 90% agree with these half-measures, it’s the other 10% that will never relent that drive it, and this is what people should be saying.

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