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Marco Rubio’s presidential quest ended tonight. Chait pens an appropriate eulogy:

Rubio’s conservative admirers bitterly observed that liberals mocked him because they deemed him a potent nominee. This was not wrong. Despite his inability to out-Trump Trump, who has captured his party’s id, Rubio has maintained high levels of favorability with moderate voters, especially Latinos. His substantive extremism would have proven a liability in  general election campaign, but it was entirely plausible to believe that Rubio could have smuggled his right-wing policies past the electorate by running on cheerful slogans and a winning smile. The potential to do so is why Rubio may well find himself atop his party’s ticket in a future election. In the meantime, his failure is a bullet dodged.

I disagree–I actually do not think we’ll be seeing any more of Marco. Rubio’s pitch was all about his youth and novelty. (This is to distinguish from his issue positions, which are not particularly related to that.) As I have stated before, his marquee issue of “innovation” is no less vacuous of an issue than what Trump talks about on a day-to-day basis, and Young Marco’s fantasy football obsession and hip hop fandom both seem like affectations to make him seem younger and hipper than actual components of a personality (recall that he does not know how to hold a football). This was all in lieu of substance. Rubio’s focus on his youth and novelty were clearly an attempt to get people to break their thinking habits on Republicans developed during the George W. Bush era, even though Rubio himself validates those habits by having identical policy inclinations and instincts as Bushian Republicans. It was a clever game, but then he ruined it by signing onto immigration reform and running a campaign just as devoid of substance as its message was. Rubio’s campaign was built on the assumption of dominating free media. He didn’t change the strategy when our age’s master of free media entered the race. It’s an open question whether it would have worked without Trump in the race. My guess is that it wouldn’t have. It was always going to be Trump vs. Cruz: Trump has the media, Cruz has the campaign infrastructure. Nobody else had anything that mattered–I guess Jeb! had money, but it couldn’t buy him anything of value.

In any event, I very, very strongly doubt the Rubot will respawn. Rubio’s calamitous decision to speculate about Donald Trump’s penis size wrecked his image among Republicans. Time may heal this wound, sure, but he never really had a base–even Floridians don’t much care for the guy. There’s nothing for him to build on for a comeback. If he ran again, what would the pitch be? He wouldn’t be new. He’d be even further from his negligible accomplishments in the Florida legislature. He’d also be further from his (in his party’s mind) error in judgment in backing immigration reform, but after being outside of public life for four years, that would become even more defining of his career than it is now. Without the helpful hand of endless media hype, the immigration reform flip-flop-flip will be all anyone remembers of Rubio circa 2020. It’s possible that Trump losing in November will give Republicans a case of road-not-taken and wonder what would have happened had they selected Rubio, perhaps, but without holding public office or having any real base, Rubio will most likely fade away quickly. Republicans nominating Rubio in 2020 would be akin to if Democrats had nominated Wesley Clark in 2008–for a moment he seemed like the solution to the party’s problems in 2004, but then he badly lost and everyone moved on. If Republicans want a fresh face in 2020, they will undoubtedly have fresher ones from which to choose.

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Something I remember reading way back in 2008 was about how Hillary Clinton potentially being president might actually make her less hawkish, because Reagan. I think this misses the mark considerably. It’s true that Reagan did practice more foreign policy restraint than his successors and substantially more than his critics thought he would, though in this the context matters greatly. For all eight of his years as president he faced a Democratic House (albeit one whose crucial votes were provided by conservative Democrats) that was extremely averse to foreign interventions, and regularly passed bills prohibiting specific interventions and actions that Reagan wanted to take (this being a very different time when Democrats, even a fair amount of Southern ones, were willing to be a real check on presidential warmaking matters and oppose foreign wars). Of course Reagan circumvented these laws whenever he could, because the presidency isn’t bound by Congress on defense matters of course. But in the last two years of Reagan’s term, in which Democrats retook the Senate and genial Tip O’Neill was replaced by hard-charger Jim Wright, he faced even tougher obstacles, including severe backlash over shabby circumvention of laws that led to Iran-Contra, some of which even came from his own party. It was, in retrospect, a weirdly contradictory time in which Americans wanted a lot of “national greatness” type rhetoric but clearly didn’t want any major foreign wars, hence why so many conservatives still talk about minor stuff like the Grenada operation or (especially) Reagan’s Libya bombing as proof that America was back! It’s silly but you can sort of see the contorted logic of it all. But Reagan was also the guy who declined Al Haig’s idea of getting directly involved in a proxy war in El Salvador after taking office (he ultimately did in Afghanistan, of course, though that action had bipartisan support) and withdrew troops from Lebanon after a marine barracks bombing. He also was willing to work with Gorbachev and worked on nuclear arms control with some sincerity. Reagan’s foreign policy wasn’t all that coherent, but it mostly made sense for the times: tough talk, occasional public pops alternated with public gestures of restraint, secret resourcing of various paramilitary groups and such. Neoconservatism is essentially built on the dual lie that Reagan’s foreign policy was (a) coherent and (b) all stuff like bombing Libya. Which it wasn’t. But it was tailored to the times.

Clinton would be taking over in a very different environment. The Democratic Party does not care much at all about stopping foreign interventions. Its elites tend to roundly favor them. Its base tends not to, but typically gives presidents of its own party the benefit of the doubt, or at least keeps quiet rather than make a damaging fuss. Republicans tend to support them unless opposing them hurts a Democratic president, and not even then do they always oppose them. The general public seems to be mostly scared and confused by all of this, ambivalent and unsure, weary of war but not really opposing war either. I’m not really sure the support for ground troops against ISIS is as strong as it seems, but it’s definitely a thing to be reckoned with. I’d characterize the present environment as one of apathy. I do think there’s a significant weariness and pessimism at play, but there’s also a continued outsized fear of terrorism, Islamophobia, and the (admittedly now decaying) remnants of three decades’ worth of unquestioned AIPAC/Israel Lobby propaganda floating around. Unfortunately for opponents of militarism, the Iraq disaster didn’t wind up being the fatal blow to hawkery that we’d hoped, at least not immediately. There is some solace in the fact that all polls show young people as being drastically less hawkish than our present Olds, the Silents and Boomers, so the long-term prognosis may be okay. But in the short term there’s literally no reason to believe that Hillary Clinton is not going to run the sort of aggressive, kickass American foreign policy that Silents and Boomers generally say they want. These are her voters, after all, and she is one of them. And if she was willing to lose the presidency once rather than abandon hawkery…

Also there’s this:

But many of Rubio’s hard-core supporters will return to the party of their roots: The Democratic Party.

That this is even a possibility strikes some as newsworthy. It shouldn’t. Hillary Clinton agrees with the neoconservatives on a number of foreign policy issues and, as Michael Lind points out, a lot else. Neocons were never fully onboard with the fiscal conservatism of traditional conservatives and libertarians, and they merely tolerated the social conservatism of the Religious Right, chiefly because that movement provided the necessary foot soldiers to help elect their preferred candidates.

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Another reminder that the Supreme Court is a terribly designed institution, and reforming it should be a top progressive priority. Even if there’s a liberal majority? Yes. Because it’s worth remembering that The Pelican Brief, despite being a shitty pulp novel, is actually an extremely plausible scenario: even if the next president cements a liberal majority on the Supreme Court, all it takes is one violent nut killing one person during the next GOP presidency to spoil it all. In our present, Trumpified/Bundified era, is this really that farfetched? Or, less violently, a Republican court-packing scheme? Why wouldn’t they? Because of their respect for the norms of American government?

All of which is to say that I see this as a good thing, especially if it leads to the eventual curtailment/elimination of judicial review of federal legislation. It’s not ideal not to have a check on the legislature. But it’s better than not having a check on the judiciary. Or at least, not one that is at all practical.

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I do get why liberals say things like this. I really do. And on the surface level they are correct: someone with the issue positions and philosophy of governance of Ronald Reagan circa 1980 running in today’s Republican Party would not do well. It’s a very fair bit of concern trolling, so far as it goes. But let’s be honest: if the actual Ronald Reagan were alive and lucid today, there is absolutely no way he wouldn’t be a Tea Party enthusiast bemoaning about the supposed evils of Planned Parenthood, the EPA, illegal immigration, etc., in spite of amnesty, the Montreal Protocol and his support of PP in the past. Yes, on these things and others, Reagan in the 1980s was superior to today’s Republican Party. But the political context was very different in his time, particularly within the GOP, and it’s unlikely he could have gotten much more than he did by adopting more right-wing positions on those issues. It does not therefore stand to reason that Reagan would have been a permanent embodiment of the politics of that moment in time. This is bad logic. Had his mind not deteriorated, it’s almost certain he would have continued as a public figure to drift rightward along with the party. I defy anyone to construct a plausible argument why he would not have done so. And saying that Barry Goldwater wound up mildly dissenting from orthodox Republicanism as an elder statesman proves nothing. Different people.

My real pet peeve is in acting like Reagan’s comparatively moderate positions stand in contrast to today’s Republicans. In reality, nearly all Republicans see themselves as continuing Reagan’s tradition and they’re not entirely wrong. It was Reagan, not Goldwater or even Nixon, who brought the “print the legend” element into the Right. Barry Goldwater was an honest man, Richard Nixon was a near-pathological liar. But Reagan was neither: he was a serial fabulist who could say the most ridiculous things–that Black Navy cook Dorie Collins ended racism by shooting down a couple of Japanese Zeroes over Pearl Harbor, say, or that he personally liberated concentration camps–with utter, soulful conviction. And then sometimes he’d just flatly contradict them or say he never said them, often with a complete lack of self-awareness (he was often fond of defending Hollywood as having fewer divorces than the American average, in spite of his own history). Rick Perlstein thoroughly deconstructs all this, as does Garry Wills, in their respective books. So if Reagan were alive and lucid today, it’s easier to imagine him as a Cruz man than a Kasich man, for whatever that distinction is worth. I’ve been seeing this argument ad nauseam for the entire decade, and it’s become a cliche. Time to retire it, I think.

(By the way, Wills’s book is amazing not only in its sophistication and content but also in that the author and publisher clearly had different ideas about what the book was about–Wills’s book is as searching, ambivalent and frustrated as can be in trying to understand Reagan, but the back cover seems to think it’s a Peggy Noonan-level hagiography. It’s one of the most hilarious disconnects ever. You can check the cover out through the link.)

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Image retrieved from the City of San Jose website.

I would actually go further than this and say that San Jose is not merely the country’s most literally forgettable city, it’s forgettable in every sense. As a lifelong Northern California resident (save my college years in the Central Coast, which I consider neutral territory in the eternal war between North and South, will it never end?), I’ve been to San Jose many times. There are some interesting things there: the old Spanish mission, the Winchester Mystery House, a nifty downtown Cathedral. It’s a fine day trip once in your life. But it’s not really that great a city, to visit or to live in. Urban planning is about choices, and some choices after being done cannot be undone. San Jose is a perfect example of bad choices dooming urban living. People often complain about airports being too far away from cities, but San Jose has the opposite problem and has its airport adjacent to downtown–no doubt convenient for financiers and tech executives wanting to quickly get to downtown hotels and conference centers, but obviously the #1 factor in hampering any sort of dense urban living downtown as skyscrapers tend not to be located next to airports for obvious reasons, not to mention the pollution and noise from it that make being downtown a less appealing option. In addition, downtown also includes the campuses of San Jose State University and the Exploratorium Museum, which if you know your Jane Jacobs writing on urban planning (and if you don’t, you should), serves to even further hamper urban living by turning large portions of the city into single-use dead zones. There are ways to do these things–Portland, Oregon has done a beautiful job of integrating PSU into downtown such that it just seems to be another piece of the puzzle. And cities obviously can have tourist-friendly sites of little interest to long-term residents while still not being tourist theme parks–sucky as Times Square is, it provides a containment solution for the least-adventurous tourists. San Jose gets so much of it wrong, though. It is not a dismal downtown like, say, Atlanta or Los Angeles, but pretty negligible. Beyond that, you have suburbs, and even significant “urban” neighborhoods outside downtown feel suburban. Just look at the picture. It’s a very suburban city, and quite a lot of the suburbs (particularly to the south) are quite ugly and forlorn. But, on the other hand, they’re also insanely expensive to live in, so there’s that.

Why would anyone go there? I find this amusing:

[V]isitors tour garages where tech companies were born, and go to visitor centers at the nearby headquarters of Google and, soon, Apple.

I actually wasn’t aware that Apple was moving closer to San Jose. I’m sure residents there are thrilled that their already absurdly expensive housing costs are about to get kicked up a couple dozen more notches. Anyway, this seems like such a bizarre thing to build a vacation around, but if it floats your boat, to quote the pope, who am I to judge? But it’s not really a mystery as to why San Jose isn’t a place people go to, or much think about. They fundamentally failed to create the conditions necessary for enjoyable urban living. In fact, they didn’t even try.

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Mini-Ted Cruz endorses Ted Cruz.
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I predicted back in December that Ted Cruz would be the Republican nominee. I’m not so sure of it anymore, but he’s kept it competitive so far and might finally be emerging as the non-Trump of choice. Though I don’t think he’s going to win Florida, let alone Ohio (Missouri remains a strong possibility), he’s bubbling back up again, and Trump doesn’t have any new discernible angle (I suppose he could try to sue to get Cruz off the ballot, maybe). Trump or Cruz is a real Sophie’s Choice to the Republican establishment, in the sense that it’s ultimately an irrelevant choice.

It seems insane to me that much of the establishment is pulling for a contested convention. Without brokers, I’m not sure how this avoids becoming a complete debacle if it happens. It’s true that the GOP has taken the nomination from someone who has rightly earned it before, but that time they had someone to give it to that nobody really disapproved of. Marco Rubio is no Dwight Eisenhower. Neither is John Kasich. Mitt Romney is like an anti-Eisenhower. Absent brokers, it’s easy to imagine the thing going from one ballot to another, delegates shuffling back and forth desperately with no plan and nobody in charge. After all that’s how it’s been up to this point, why should it stop now?

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