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Here’s my take on how the Senate elections go:

2014 Senate


Recent polls do seem to indicate movement toward Braley in Iowa and (much more dramatically) toward Begich in Alaska, and I’m not buying the polls of Colorado as most seem to be modeling a 2010 style turnout (or even worse than that in some cases) in a different year with a different (i.e. vote by mail) system. I predict that both Louisiana and Georgia go to runoffs, and Kansas and Kentucky are the only ones that I’m really conflicted about. Probably tilted by the slightest margins to the GOP in both, but McConnell could really lose I think. In any event it will not matter if this all comes to pass, in terms of Senate control. Follow the link to play around with the map. Heck, make your own. It’s fun!

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I didn’t actually read what I’ll call the “Give us Jeb!” article in the Times, but I immediately and accurately guessed who the writer of it was sight unseen. Hint hint: It’s the guy who wrote six hundred fucking pages about Bush and Cheney last year. Keep this in mind.
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This is a propos of nothing in particular, but just in general, I really, really hope that by 2016 unemployment is sufficiently low that we don’t have to have a whole election where everybody promises jobs. It’s all lies, frankly. The right’s theory is basically that, by plying rich folks with huge tax cuts and other giveaways (and of course the other goodies, deregulation and the rest), they’ll respond by creating jobs. This is not merely ridiculous but absurd, as anyone who has ever worked in the private sector knows, businesses spend most of their time trying to cut jobs. Not even attacking it so much as saying this is the way it is: if you decide that government has no real role to play in protecting peoples’ jobs in general (and we don’t), then you have to accept that businesses will do all they can to cut them. It’s the bargain we’ve chosen to make as a society, plain and simple. Giving them more money has little to do with anything, it’s an answer to some other question altogether. On the other hand, Democrats have in the past had a very successful way of creating jobs through direct federal employment of the unemployed, but for many political reasons they are extremely reluctant to do this now. Even after 2008 with huge majorities in Congress and wide latitude to make economic policy, this was not really considered. And at this point, even the basic principle of stimulus is politically impossible at the federal level. So the answer has to follow the question indirectly, by growing the economy, or symbolically, with stuff like incentives to hire veterans. But the growth option has been stymied by the austerity regime we got in the Budget Control Act (i.e. the debt ceiling), as well as the Obama Administration’s puzzling unwillingness to name people to the Federal Reserve Board. I don’t even know if the Administration has cast the answer as being basically about growth. So even though this is still a big issue, neither party really has much of an answer here. So I can only hope that it improves despite our best efforts, so we can talk about something else.

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Apparently a new batch of episodes of the show have become available to Amazon customers. I’ll just say that I do like this show quite a bit. It avoids the main things that bug me about political TV shows/movies: you know, the introduction of unrealistic pulp elements (imagine a show about realtors that featured the level of murder, sexual perversion, deception and crazy schemes that political shows do, and then realize all that’s far more likely to occur in that setting than the same stuff with politicians who are constantly under the microscope), dumb “if only one honest person would just speak the truth, then we’d all be saved” type of arguments that let everybody off the hook, pro-third party pipe dreams. It’s basically a show about a couple of Republican senators who share a house in Washington, and manages to tell lively, economical stories that are funny and have a point. Solid storytelling, dialog and characterization, as well as pretty good production values that sell the D.C. setting. Admittedly, the show isn’t perfect and tries a bit to create fantasy wish-fulfillment Republican characters just a little bit (if it seems at all likely to you that a GOP Senator would intervene with business donors on behalf of employees who want to organize, I’ve got some McCain 2016 Intrade futures to sell you), but mostly it’s just a really amusing take on contemporary politics that I heartily recommend. New season is here.
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I’ve been meaning to write about this piece from a while back that argues against devolution. It’s a bit odd. For one thing, the two examples seem to confuse the very different ideas of devolution and secession. Having the blue states become part of Canada would not be an example of devolution, but one of secession. (So, for that matter, was the proposed Scottish referendum. Which failed in part because of promises of greater devolution.) While there are some domestic liberals who do favor secession (there’s a decent percentage in Vermont, at least), very few favor devolution (which is, after all, just a fancy word for enhanced federalism/less central control) so far as I can tell. Nearly all prefer federal to state power, and my guess is that post-2010, there would be significantly more liberal support for a unitary state (i.e. one without states) than an enhancement of the powers of individual states. The polling on this isn’t there but my guess is that it would be 3-to-1 with the public at least, and nearly unanimous among influential liberals. In any event, there has been zero support for the various devolutionary approaches that have been proposed in the past couple of years, such as block-granting Medicare. So the article comes off as baffling, arguing against a more-federalist liberalism that doesn’t seem to exist in any significant way, and has nothing to do with the specific examples raised.

A more relevant argument would have opposed the more provably real phenomenon of liberal secessionism. I don’t favor such an approach at this time, but it’s conceivable that at some point in the future, progressives might find it more enticing to create separate, smaller countries that could be enclaves of leftist politics. It’s not likely in the immediate future, but this country’s longstanding and ironic animus toward “bigness” could provide the basis for such a move, and if you disagree, then why is it that the first step in demonizing anything necessitates affixing the word “big” to it. You know, big government, big labor, big tobacco, big business, etc. I would actually be interested in reading some serious liberal arguments for and against this approach–my guess is that it would revolve around the anti-side arguing against hanging red-state minority members out to dry and appeals to mythos, and the pro-side invoking the lack of responsiveness of a very distant federal government and media as well as the poor people in blue states that should also be considered.

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This is a proper appreciation of an important figure. Also, it is a great excuse to remind y’all to watch The Falcon And The Snowman, as the toppling of Whitlam’s Labor government is a major plot point in that fact-based film about a top CIA analyst who leaked information to foreign powers. He was, in a lot of ways, a proto-Snowden. Great stuff.
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Ed Kilgore’s post on a particularly hackish National Journal profile of Joni Ernst brings to mind the question of why specific Republicans wind up becoming media darlings, while others do not. Sometimes it makes sense: John McCain is a very limited political talent, but as someone who has lifelong training in dealing with elites in the military and political worlds, it’s not surprising he has a very good understanding of how to cultivate them. But I have no idea why Joni Ernst has managed to enjoy such laughably favorable coverage or, conversely, what Bruce Braley has done to merit such poor coverage. I guess the media would rather tell the story of a plainspoken farmer and soldier–a veritable Cincinatus!–rising to power than a former trial lawyer who goes for the capillary and commits gaffes. And just off the top of my head, I can see why the media was more interested in pumping up truck-ridin’, nude photo-posing bad boy Scott Brown over a dull underachiever like Martha Coakley. Or, the ultimate example, plainspoken “outsider” George W. Bush over boring, sweaty Al Gore. But placing drama and narrative over substance is, while understandable, utterly unacceptable, and it happens often enough that Democrats should do everything they can to flag it when it occurs.