I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the Third Way organization has become supremely wingnutty in their own fashion. It’s a depressing read if you consider that way too many elected Democrats hold their assumptions as articles of faith (Ball mentions the interplay with the Clintons, though it’s much more extensive than that), and it adds a very strong data point to my gloomy thesis that professional Democrats learned absolutely nothing from 2016 and are just going to keep doing the same old shit they’ve been doing forever. It’s less depressing in that it shows that average Democrats aren’t really buying it anymore, which is something at least. Actually, that’s really good. It’s hard to see how these deregulators/war hawks/bipartisan fetishizers are finally driven from the palace, but you never know these days.

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Forget the buzzwords and all that. When you get down to it, here are the distilled pitches by the last two people to be successfully elected president:

  • Barack Obama: America is fundamentally good, as are its people. We have a lot to be proud of in our history, but also a few bad things, and by electing me, you’ll help set right one of those bad things.
  • Donald Trump: America is threatened by all manner of disgusting anti-Americans who want to wreck all the good things in our country, and I want to Make America Great Again (TM)!

On the most basic level–and since the American People understand pretty much nothing about policy, political philosophy, etc., this is the level at which we must operate–it must be admitted that these pitches are not entirely dissimilar. It’s not surprising that Obama’s more inspirational, inclusive vision did much, much better than Trump’s, but ultimately both are premised upon the idea that most Americans want to feel good about their country and its past. Obviously “American” means different things in each context, of course, and there are different shadings in there too. But it really isn’t a mystery as to why both men could find success in the same country! Obama managed to make a sort of passionate liberal patriotism flourish for a few years, which is often not really a default for most of us. It just felt good to have him in there, felt like anything was possible. Perhaps we were doomed from the start–sunshine and light didn’t get us the transformation that many of us wanted, and though there were gains during the Obama years, the transformational changes that a lot of people wanted from Obama never really happened. So Obama’s relevancy faded as liberals and leftists turned to more aggressive grassroots movements like BLM, which made white people in the Midwest freak out because it threatened their good opinion of their country, therefore Trump happened. Looking back I’m really not sure what could have been different. Obama was no cynic and truly did believe the hyper-positive things about America he often said. But that wasn’t enough to move us past racism and sexism and all the rest. Obama’s America would never have elected Trump.

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I still get my news from a RSS reader. People largely stopped using them in favor of social media probably around the time Google Reader closed down, but despite having a nominal presence on Facebook the idea of making it my normal portal into getting my everyday news and information was unappealing then as it is now. I can’t claim to having any intuition that Facebook would lead to anything as dystopian as Trumpism, but I just preferred to keep it as something I logged into every month or two. Honestly, since then, my determination has only increased given that Facebook’s algorithm makes a simple reverse-chronological view of this stuff impossible, and also there was that time where it destroyed everything. Americans are all too often seduced by novelty without properly appreciating what they give away, which is why I’m happy to be a Feedly Pro supporter. I don’t have an arbitrary, greedy gatekeeper between me and my news and blogs.

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Josh is much too nice here. Gen. Kelly is merely being a snob. We usually think of snobbery as the upper class looking down on the lower class for their lack of manners, education, etc., but there are many ways of being a snob. It’s ultimately just about deploying privilege to make others feel less than, and “you can’t ask a question unless you know a gold star family” is a pretty easy way of accomplishing that. Wealth and class are of course privileges but the absurd degree to which we fetishize the military in this country creates another sort of privilege that can be leveraged in the same way. Just imagine the head of the agriculture department refusing to take questions from non-farmers and not laughing. I don’t think the military’s main job is to “keep us safe” in any real way, but I do at least respect the professionalism it typically presents itself with and the risks that many of its members take. Kelly (and also another formerly universally respected individual, Gen. McMaster) seem to be doing all they can to undermine that professional image.

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I’m really torn on this debate. On the one hand, I don’t really think purity is affordable if you actually want to beat the Republicans, and Lemieux is right that the Bernie Sanders model isn’t downscaleable to the state senate level. But on the other hand, even apart from being associated with bad rich people with bad ideas who are donors, the real problem that confronts us is that picking candidates mainly by their ability to fundraise is a big problem because it keeps giving Democrats shitty candidates who lose winnable races. Money is important, but it’s ultimately only as good as the message it’s being spent on. And that message is, all too typically, focus-grouped garbage that moves nobody, often obviously an afterthought, which is the opposite of how it should work. Ralph Northam got pretty much universal party backing because he could raise money, but he has no consistent message, and, well

I keep coming back to the apparent reality that what Democratic consultants and political pros learned from 2016 was nothing. Not all areas are going to prefer a Democratic candidate who has Bernie-style views on economics and social issues, but numerically speaking not every Bernie voter could possibly be a democratic socialist. Picking a moderate who doesn’t really have any beliefs or values and then slaloming between impactless positive ads and “…but this Republican is really nuts!” is how things are done but it shouldn’t be. Find people who understand average people and who know how to tell a story first. There are probably even a few moderates who know how to do this!

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I have nothing to say about the Harvey Weinstein disgrace that nobody else hasn’t said better, but I thought this was really good.

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I voted for the top-two/jungle primary system back when it was proposed, not out of any desire for centrism or bipartisanship, but because I figured that this was the only way short of death that we could get rid of Feinstein. There was never any real way she was going to lose in a Dem primary. She’s bought her party support over the years, though there are some interesting new pockets of resistance. But in a two-Democrat general election, maybe. Greater turnout, for one thing.

I have to admit that the professional centrists/goo-goos do make me laugh. They thought this would make California politics more moderate, but outside of an odd case or two, it didn’t happen. It didn’t work because they don’t understand how voters think or make choices. The idea of the median voter as an informed, nonpartisan centrist–as beloved by these folks and the media (and, more tragically, the Democrats)–is that of a calculating moderate who identifies with neither side and carefully considers all the issues before rendering a verdict. But it’s a mirage. People just don’t have the time, and if they did, they wouldn’t spend it on that sort of thing. It’s a romanticized view, and frankly, using the mechanism to get a bad, not-so-progressive Democrat out in favor of a better one would be delicious. And while the media predictably echoes the professional centrists’ arguments because they share the same romantic view, it’s entirely plausible that the more liberal de Leon wins the Republican vote in an all-Democrat contest because he’s less well-known, and the only real hook of a contest they greet with apathy would be to humiliate Feinstein. Why not? The public saw John Kerry as super-liberal because he had that snooty patrician vibe (nothing against Kerry but he’s done with public life and we can admit it). In reality, of course, Kerry was the most conservative Democratic presidential nominee of this century, including Gore. These determinations rely much more on first impressions and intangibles anyway, not cold hard facts. Feinstein could well be considered more liberal because of how she conducts herself, as she’s got some of what Kerry did.

And make no mistake about it, Feinstein is terrible. An actual limousine liberal. Started her career as mayor by evicting elderly Japanese people from their apartments to make way for the fancy baubles that the rich wanted, and arguably just went downhill from there. Hillary Clinton took a lot of flak for appearing too comfortable around money and power–and it was not wrong to question that–but never in a million years would she have voted for any round of the Bush Tax Cuts. Feinstein is money and power. And Clinton genuinely did have a passion for women’s rights and spent a great deal of time and effort thinking about and working on how to protect their reproductive rights, political rights, labor rights, etc. The idea of Dianne Feinstein introducing a labor bill of any sort is hilarious. She’s pretty much everything wrong with politicians in that she only really cares about power and perks (unless you consider her crusade against the all-consuming national nightmare that is candy-appearing drugs essential work, and not an irrelevant dumb “tough-on-drugs” pander) and I should have known that her choosing to retire would be wishful thinking. (What’s she going to do anyway, lobby? Her husband is already a billionaire.) Feinstein vs. de Leon isn’t Hillary vs. Bernie, it’s Andrew Cuomo vs. Bernie. If de Leon breaks it down that way to Democrats, he’s got a real shot.

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I do enjoy most variations on that “but her emails” meme out there, but the dumber version of that that I can’t stand is “Thank God that war pig Hillary isn’t in the White House now!” Hillary Clinton was/is extremely hawkish. Just a fact. People who are antiwar had every right to be bothered by this (though it may be fair to criticize many who suddenly found this aversion with Hillary Clinton after how many years of not giving a shit what Obama did–I did notice a huge uptick in this sentiment around the web during the primaries, just sayin’). Even after losing a goddamn presidential nomination over this issue she chose to change not one bit–she repudiated the Iraq War but supported regime change in Libya, which was essentially a dime store Iraq War. She made her choices and it’s not wrong for people to value certain elements of her record above others, and it’s not right to shame reluctant supporters over something that almost certainly wasn’t decisive. I ultimately don’t actually believe that Trump really wedged anybody from Hillary on it. There probably were some people who trusted Trump’s denunciations of the Iraq War and all that but frankly if they trusted Trump on that, they probably trusted him on other stuff too. Trump’s foreign policy wasn’t “disruptive” to the Republican paradigm, it basically was the Republican paradigm, with a complete reliance on military force, a disdain for diplomacy, hatred of multilateral institutions and agreements, and a frankly paranoid worldview. Nothing really different from Dubya/Cheney in any meaningful way. This is why she was better even in that direction, if not wildly so. Clinton’s worldview is only situationally paranoid (see: Iran) and she does believe much more in diplomacy and multilateralism, but it wouldn’t have killed her to have taken just a single high-profile dovish stance once in her career and it just never happened. Again, choices.

Of course, I strongly doubt that Clinton would escalate with North Korea like Trump has. But people who make this argument let it escape down the memory hole that she wanted to seriously escalate in Syria with a no-fly zone. Maybe that would have happened, maybe not, but it was not a favorable contrast. Every day I wish that she’d won, and she would have been better than Trump across the board. But for people who don’t pay attention to this stuff obsessively, political pros really have to emphasize that your candidate is much better than the other candidate on every issue of policy, and while she was better on every issue, on some of them you really had to get into the subtleties to argue it. And a presidential campaign just isn’t about subtleties.

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