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I want to write a 2016 postmortem as much as you want to read one–getting punched in the groin by Manny Pacquiao would be less painful. But probably the best possible lesson to take from it is that Democratic politicians should be very hesitant to surmise on what voters will find disqualifying about a Republican candidate. I could name half a dozen elections off the top of my head that were winnable but that weren’t won because the Democrat in the race simply assumed that the Republican was too extreme/too unpalatable/too unprepared to win, and focused entirely around hitting the candidate with negative ads accentuating this. Admittedly sometimes it has worked! Harry Reid pulled it off in 2010. Terry McAuliffe essentially did it as well when he ran for Virginia governor in 2013. But it didn’t work for Creigh Deeds in 2009 for the same office, who ran against a guy who favored Old Testament marriage and later was convicted of bribery. It didn’t work for Bruce Braley in 2014 running for the Senate in Iowa, who had a different situation in some ways from Reid’s but also plenty of similarities–and he got beaten by an insane Bircher. (Not for nothing, but why didn’t Harkin go for one more term and then retire in a presidential year? He’s not even that old by Senate standards.) This pre-election TNR piece wound up being on the money: Democrats fielded some poor Senate candidates who relied too much on Trump disqualifying himself and wreaking downballot havoc, which is a double-bankshot that they really should have known better than to try. This really does seem to be a comfort zone/cultural thing: Democrats want to rely on the weaknesses of the Republican Party to an absurdly high degree, instead of relying on their own strengths. What baffles me is why anyone would choose it when better alternatives are on offer–Reid had no choice given how bad his polling was, but the others? It’s weak, passive strategy.

This is a longstanding fixation of this blog and I will admit that, in the heat of the campaign, Trump truly did seem like someone so obviously unacceptable that this would be one of the times that the strategy would work. But it didn’t work. So maybe don’t do it anymore, ever? Please?

P.S. As for other cultural changes that need to be made, my two cents would also include fixing an unbalanced preference for policy discussion over ideological argument (Republicans exclusively prefer the latter and Democrats almost exclusively the former–on some level, we do need people to make the argument for the state as a protector of rights and prosperity) and a distaste for populism that defies any sort of logic. (Telling that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren–the Democrats’ two best active politicians come January 21–were not the product of Democratic committees and party organizations.) I don’t even think it’s about fundraising–Warren and Sanders are excellent fundraisers! I remember back in 2008/2009 people saying that Obama would rebuild the party infrastructure in his own image. But let’s be honest, if he even tried, it was a miserable failure. Ultimately the Katie McGintys and Patrick Murphys of this cycle are the same sorts of bland, centrist candidates that Democrats ran in the aughts and got nowhere with. For all the talk of the Democrats’ “bench” and its lack of promise, the real problem strikes me as being that the party culturally is still geared around trying to find the next Evan Bayh, even though nobody wants the old Evan Bayh.

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I’m not apocalyptic by inclination. Every age has had all sorts of fears about the future and most of those have wound up being unfounded. And, also, a lot of the time it’s the stuff that happens with no warning–stuff that you can’t worry about–that causes the most trouble. Still, climate change is not an “easy fix” sort of situation, and its related side effects are going to be massive, and I do think that Syria is going to be just the first chapter of a continuing story:

Climate change is set to cause a refugee crisis of “unimaginable scale”, according to senior military figures, who warn that global warming is the greatest security threat of the 21st century and that mass migration will become the “new normal”.

The generals said the impacts of climate change were already factors in the conflicts driving a current crisis of migration into Europe, having been linked to the Arab Spring, the war in Syria and the Boko Haram terrorist insurgency.

Military leaders have long warned that global warming could multiply and accelerate security threats around the world by provoking conflicts and migration. They are now warning that immediate action is required.

“Climate change is the greatest security threat of the 21st century,” said Maj Gen Munir Muniruzzaman, chairman of the Global Military Advisory Council on climate change and a former military adviser to the president of Bangladesh. He said one metre of sea level rise will flood 20% of his nation. “We’re going to see refugee problems on an unimaginable scale, potentially above 30 million people.”

The response to the Syrian crisis has been less than inspiring–the West is undergoing a bout of race hatred unseen in quite some time as a direct response, down to the election-on-a-technicality of a protofascist U.S. President, and nationalist/authoritarian leadership in many other locales. And yes, this is tangled up to some extent with the terrorism question and other factors of globalization, but still. More than any other time we need wise, stable, openhearted leadership in the world, and it’s just not there. This is a real concern going forward.

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Even the most conservative Democrats are going to to all out against Ryan/Trump Medicare privatization. Recall that Trump actually did a little worse than Romney among Seniors according to exit polls. Didn’t win them by a huge margin. Losing a lot of them really could dynamite Republican support–recall that the last time the GOP went after their benefits, Democrats won the House the next year.

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More than any U.S. politician’s platform, Trump’s agenda on the economy resembles those of populist leaders abroad. In particular, the policies he has proposed are very similar to those of Dilma Rousseff, the former president of Brazil who was ousted from office in August.

As Trump has planned to do, Rousseff enforced restrictions on imports. She promised new spending on infrastructure and granted generous subsidies to corporations with the goal of stimulating the economy, especially manufacturing.

“It’s a very similar program,” said Riordan Roett, a political scientist at Johns Hopkins University and an expert on Latin America.

While there are a number of important differences between the Brazilian and U.S. economies, Rousseff’s policies arguably offer a cautionary example for newly empowered Republicans in Washington. The Brazilian economy is in a severe and persistent recession. Gross domestic product contracted 3.8 percent last year, according to the International Monetary Fund, which projects a decline of 3.3 percent this year.

Inflation accelerated to an annual pace of 10.6 percent earlier this year, according to the Central Bank of Brazil, and while prices are not increasing as fast as they were, the unemployment rate has climbed to 11.8 percent as of last quarter.

Inflation has been minimal for a decade or so, but a big uptick in it would be pretty threatening to the Republicans’ current oldster-centric coalition.

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Ben Carson running the Department of Housing and Urban Development is obviously an embarrassment. We can take as read that he lacks the grounding in issues and the management experience to handle the job, and is being picked solely because HUD is a place that has* to have a member of a minority running it. But the ultimate outcome is going to be with a secretary who doesn’t understand the job, it’s going to be run by staff with the guy nominally in charge hazily aware of departmental business and not particularly able to do much.

Then again, I expect much the same of the Trump White House.

* Doesn’t actually have to. Barack Obama picked a white guy.

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I think this Chris Cillizza piece is pretty astute generally, but I do think something needs to be said about this:

The idea of the media as the intermediary between Trump and the public — reporting on and analyzing his proposals, contextualizing his statements, fact-checking him (and the Democratic politicians opposing him) — is totally lost on him.  The media is to be judged solely on whether or not they, collectively, are being nice to the president.

Being “nice” to a president or simply writing down what he says is not the news media’s job. Most politicians know this — even if they would prefer that journalists be less adversarial and more willing to just sort of take their word for it. Trump is outside of that normal understanding of how presidents and the people tasked with reporting on them need to interact and understand one another.

Not sure why he’d think he could speak through the press to the public without any intermediary. Oh, right, because for most of the campaign they let him do just that. It’s a classic case of operant conditioning, as exemplified with the experiments with Pavlov’s dogs. He’s been conditioned to expect the unfiltered treatment and is confused and angered when he doesn’t get it.

[Updated to be less confusing.]

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Despite Hillary Clinton’s loss, I’m not really hearing much chatter about how North Carolina was one of the brighter spots for Democrats this election. But it was! Here’s why:

  • Democrat Roy Cooper is almost certainly going to be the state’s next governor.
  • Democrat Elaine Marshall will continue in her role as Secretary of State.
  • Democrats will control the state Supreme Court unless the GOP decides to pack it. This is a possibility that cannot be discounted, though at the moment it sounds as though it’s more likely not to happen, due to the undisguisable baldfaced partisan power grab nature of the move.

Admittedly, the GOP’s gerrymandered maps will provide legislative supermajorities, but with a majority-Dem Supreme Court, Democrats could just file suit in state court against discriminatory maps, as they did in Florida and Virginia in recent years. New maps could change things completely. And that–combined with the two elected officials named above winning–could put a crimp in future plans of voter suppression in the state. A lot could still go wrong, of course. But given the state’s closeness this year, it’s grounds for some hope.

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