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With the Bernie Sanders challenge done in all but the most official of senses, it’s worth thinking about what the positives of the Clinton nomination might be from a progressive point of view. Here’s what I’ve been thinking of:

  1. Who better than a Clinton to bury Clintonism? In fact, who else could even do it? I’ve argued here before that the 2016 Democratic nominating campaign was one in which the party decided to close the book on Clintonism but still nominated a Clinton. I still think that’s kind of crazy. Still, it does have its advantages. The constituency for Bill Clinton’s politics is basically gone now–Appalachia is now thoroughly Republican, the South is mostly gone, liberals have become far more of a numerical factor in the DP than they ever have been–but institutionally many elected officials still act as though it’s a bridge to anywhere, and many people (most notably Bill himself) are touchy about getting called on the fact that the Clinton Era was basically a progressive dark age full of Faustian bargains and dispiriting disappointments that look worse and worse over time, and it’s likely this could lead to big divisions were it not for Clinton herself being the one to move on. It’s possible–even likely–that Clinton won’t be as aggressive in pushing progressive priorities than Sanders. But her adoption of many (though certainly not all) of those priorities moves the Democrats’ Overton Window to the left, and given that she has been endorsed by practically everyone in the party, the line of centrism will wind up a few ticks right of Bernie Sanders, which isn’t too bad in terms of an ideological consolidation.
  2. Her polarization has advantages. On the one hand, having a candidate who large chunks of the electorate (including Democrats) mistrust is a bad thing, for obvious reasons. But this can be a plus as well. President Obama has at times felt free to freelance in ways that have dismayed Democrats–various budget negotiations over a “grand bargain” come to mind, as obviously does the TPP trade pact. And certainly there’s foreign policy, where Obama has been quite a bit more hawkish than one may have wished, but has been able to get away with it by keeping some measure of restraint on things, excellent sales tactics, and the fact that his introduction as an Iraq War grants him a certain benefit of the doubt. Also, his remarkably scandal-free administration (aside from identity factors, certainly the most incredible aspect of his presidency, historically speaking) and reputation for honesty and integrity (among the non-wingnut elements of the populace) have helped. Clinton will undoubtedly have less room to maneuver in these respects. Her reputation (fair or not) is not one of unimpeachable integrity, and the social democratic movement of Sanders will have implications going forward, the most likely of which will mean that Clinton will need to stay close to her party and focus on maintaining its unity. If the TPP does not pass this Congress, I find it highly unlikely that Clinton would revive it, certainly not in her first term and perhaps never. That would mean putting herself on the wrong side of an 80-20 issue (or so) in a party context that is less than trustful of her and where Sanders’ ideas are arguably most popular. She is if nothing else a pragmatist, and to do this would be the opposite of pragmatism.
  3. Obviously foreign policy remains a big question and a troubling one: there’s no particular reason to believe that Clinton will pursue anything less than a fully hawkish course, and may be willing to go much further out on a limb than would be advisable. But if one assumes that polarization will mean a tiny persuadable center–particularly so for her–and a paramount need to rely on her party and keep them together, such a course would be hugely damaging to those goals. Obama has been confused and counter-productive on these issues, but Clinton seemingly lacks his reflective approach and implicit trust among Democrats to sell these goals, meaning that public support for these policies could well be lacking. And given these same factors, overreach and blowback could well discredit the ideas as well, as some are laughably bad in and of themselves. Relatedly, her neoconservative support could alienate Republicans from that group, which would be welcome news.
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This article (via Larison) makes for a good read as to why the EU has so few defenders, but I don’t quite agree with this:

All of which raises the question: what it is about the EU that does appeal to its supporters? But that question misses the point. This is not black magic – there is no secret subtext that only EU initiates can decipher. There really is nothing appealing about the EU. As a pragmatic, political arrangement, which has done terrible damage to whole nations, it is steadfastly rebarbative. Its supporters cannot be attracted to it. They see its flaws, the way it treats people, its flight from accountability. So, no, they’re not attracted to the EU – they’re repelled towards it, repelled by the sight of ordinary people being able to determine their political future, by the spectre of the democratic will, in all its grubby uncontrollability and aspiration. It is fear of people, not love of the EU, that makes Remainers’ hearts beat that little bit faster.

Certainly, the EU seems to place things over democracy in its goals. But the idea that there’s simply no reason for the EU’s existence other than some romanticizing about the European dream is nonsense. There’s a reason why it exists, a very good reason, though admittedly not one that makes politicians feel good about talking about it in such terms: money.

See, we have something here in America that’s similar: NAFTA. Granted, it doesn’t have all the same features: no new currency (notwithstanding Paulites’ insistence that we’ll all be shopping with Ameros soon), no customs-free travel zone or free movement between countries, and there’s no NAFTA commission that inks trade deals on behalf of the three countries that make it up. But it is a common free trade market like the EU, between three countries with deep economic and cultural ties. And it’s one of the most reviled features of American political life. Liberals hate it because it’s shipped hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs to Mexico (to poor-paying, dangerous, sexual harassment-infested maquiladoras), and it also allows for companies to just threaten a move to pacify workers and get what they want (Out Of Sight is indispensable reading on this subject). Conservatives have a more complicated relationship with it: the free-marketeers like it, but the base clearly doesn’t care for it, and they’ve become less willing to simply accept it after finding their new champion in Donald Trump. But nobody really loves it, in part because it directly benefits almost nobody and directly hurts lots of people. Comparing new free trade agreements to NAFTA has become a standard tactic for opponents of the agreements, showing just how hated it is, as if merely invoking the name of a two decade old treaty is enough win the argument. And, as Trump and Bernie Sanders showed this year, it increasingly is, and for good reason: the consequences of NAFTA were far worse than even the most pessimistic critic claimed back in the day. But of course, nobody in the government appeals to NAFTA as some expression of pan-North American solidarity. No, they promise, they won’t make those mistakes this time, though of course fixing the original ones is off the table (likely because Mexico can’t/won’t reform itself to enforce its own laws on labor and the environment, and even if it did, it would lose its appeal to corporations). And truth be told, while there are undoubtedly some benefits Americans receive from this arrangement, the cost has become increasingly seen as not worth it here.

Which brings us to the EU. It seems crazy to compare it to NAFTA. After all, the EU looks and acts like a government, it has elections and everything. But it’s a government obsessed primarily with economics: raising and spending money, policing how member states raise and spend money, facilitating the movement of goods and people to ensure people make the most money. It doesn’t really do foreign policy. Human rights are an afterthought. It might be moved to make a disapproving utterance when a member country effectively suspends democracy (Hungary) or moves to do so (Poland), but it doesn’t really do anything about it. It handles immigration–a government-y thing to do–but does so purely through the lens of maximizing positive economic activity, no other considerations considered or allowed. And while it does do some redistribution to poorer areas in Europe to develop them, the end goal there is so that they’ll ultimately make more money. The point of the EU is and always has been to make money for its members. What other things it does are oriented to that end. Granted, it’s not as evil as NAFTA is–improverished regions can get development grants that they wouldn’t otherwise get, and avoiding customs lines is wonderful–and despite being thoroughly elitist it does accept some limitations and tradeoffs in protecting people in crafting its regulations, which is more than can be said for some regulatory bodies and political parties you might name. But, on the other hand, you have what it did to Greece (irrelevant as that is to the UK, which is not on the Euro, but nevertheless). People who were sold on this institution as something analogous to the US federal government and that it would have that kind of relationship to its countries now seem to be mad that it clearly is not that at all: the federal government has not seen fit to spend multiple years humiliating, say, Florida for the crime of rebelling against it on economic policy. But that was never the case. It was always about building up Europe to challenge America economically. And I don’t think anyone would argue that it’s done a poor job at that at all. But Europeans are figuring out that this is really what it’s all about, that they’ve been lied to, and it’s causing a spot of bother.

Like I said, were I eligible, I would probably have voted Remain had I lived in the UK, in large part because there are tangible benefits to this arrangement for actual people that are nice, and in part because of the appalling tactics of the Leavers. While it’s possible to support Leave and not be personally racist, just like someone can support Trump and not be racist, throwing your lot in with those people makes a statement all its own. Validating those men and their tactics will lead nowhere good. Anyway, on the positive side, it is nice to have a day where another English-speaking country is being ridiculed for racism, xenophobia and a bullshitting media after nearly a year of it being us all the time. Nice to have a breather.

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This cannot be repeated enough: a plan lacking hard numbers is no plan, but Ryan is smart enough to know that a picture of himself cleaning a plate at a soup kitchen is worth more than actual numbers in a budget document to D.C. journalists who hate all that math shit anyway, getting as it does in the way of game-change theater criticism coverage of politics. Why talk about ten-year projections when you can talk about whether Marco Rubio is a handsome young Republican savior, or the handsomest youngest Republican savior? And there’s always this chestnut:

The same dynamic is also true of Ryan’s much-hyped plan to overhaul poverty spending. House Republicans need to cut hundreds of billions of dollars in spending for the poor, since doing so is the only way to reconcile their commitment to deep tax cuts, higher defense spending, and maintaining retirement benefits for people age 55 and up. But Ryan also needs to pose as an earnest friend of the poor, not as the champion of the upward income distribution his policies would actually bring about. So the “anti-poverty” plan relies on vague language and pixie-dust promises about rooting out unstated waste. “Many of the specific policy prescriptions aimed at addressing the problems identified in the paper were left out because members couldn’t agree on details such as how to prevent waste and fraud, according to aides,” report Kelsey Snell and Mike DeBonis.

Obviously, waste and fraud exist in every program, public and private. But there’s no better way of smoking out a fraud than if they can’t get any more granular than that. Ryan no doubt thinks that virtually all federal programs are “waste” so this does nothing.

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Basically, the only way Republicans deny Trump the nomination is if the RNC Rules Committee frees delegates from all obligations. Now we know who those people are and it sure doesn’t sound at all likely. Basically, “Dump Trump” was always a pipe dream, reminiscent of the line from Gorky Park about how implausible a lie is if the lie is that you’ll escape. Getting rid of the person who won the nomination fairly would fatally damage the reputation of the Republican Party (among its members–it has no reputation to ruin among the rest of us) and would give Trump every incentive to sabotage Republican chances in November. Trading a likely disaster for a certain one is not smart strategery, though these people still look to Bill Kristol for political strategy guidance, so…

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It would be pretty surprising if Brexit led to Irish reunification. But given the retreat of the church there and the increasing liberality of the Irish Republic, and Northern Ireland’s desire to remain within Europe, it seems at least conceivable in a way it hasn’t ever been before. You never know.

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Continuing with the below-the-presidential race theme, because sometimes you just need to not consider Donald Trump for a while, we recently saw some career-worst poll numbers for SCOTUS obstructor-in-chief Chuck Grassley. Doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to lose this time, as the article argues. But you don’t want to acquire the reputation of an obstinate partisan (let alone the most obstinate partisan) during a presidential election year in a blue state. This particular reach goal is getting increasingly within reach, as I’ve long thought it might be.

I try not to be unrealistically optimistic, but if Chuck Grassley comes anywhere close to losing this year, do you really think that less formidable 2010-wavers like Rob Portman and Pat Toomey can hang on?

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Interesting. A few months ago the idea of Rubio losing a Florida Republican Senate primary would have seemed ridiculous, but he proved himself to be such a paper tiger running for president that it doesn’t hardly seem crazy at all. I still tend to doubt it will happen, but given that he’s sunk far beneath even my own low opinion of the man by pretending that the Orlando shooting was anything to him other than a convenient pivot point to get into the race he swore he wouldn’t enter, I’ll be rooting for it.

 

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