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I liked Ed Kilgore’s post on politicians that just make a person see red. Here are a few for me, leaving aside the ones mentioned in the post and obvious ones, as well as people who no longer hold office (so no Lieberman, sorry):

  • Susan Collins and Scott Brown, both of whom pretend to be moderates but jump when the party says to, and who then turn around and bemoan the lack of bipartisanship in Washington. They are not usually called out on this. Collins at least is a self-made figure with an against-the-odds career and deserves some respect, while Brown is just some random shmuck who won the lottery in 2010 and proved himself to be an endlessly vain, self-mythologizing hack. I can’t tell you how much his year of disastrous choices and embarrassment has gratified me.
  • Rahm Emanuel. That’s right, this here’s a bipartisan list! Emanuel is embodiment with all that’s wrong with Democratic politics and, indeed, American politics. Emanuel runs the city of Chicago as a strongman for the one percent and barely even pretends otherwise. I’m not really sure that this is a viable political strategy even given this era’s increasing resemblance to the Gilded Age, though given how crappy the Illinois Democratic Party is, and how even bumbling and unpopular politicians like Pat Quinn seem to repel primary challenges there and get re-elected, we’ll just have to see.
  • Gavin Newsom. Once upon a time he was the Mayor of San Francisco, in which capacity he was barely able to keep the city running and unable to keep himself out of the tabloids, all the while setting back marriage equality with dumb stunts and smug statements. Then he ran for the position of Lieutenant Governor because nobody wanted it, and won it unimpressively. Now he’s made it known that he’s bored with the job and obviously just wanted it to move up in the future, which is pretty dishonorable if you think about it. I don’t entertain many ideals about politicians at this point but I don’t think it’s too much to ask that they actually find some honor and pride in being public service, that they see it as a privilege and their service as valuable. Newsom clearly does not. This is great:

    Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to shorten state employee workweeks should start with the Office of the lieutenant governor. Apparently, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom dislikes “boring” Sacramento so much, he only shows up to work there one day a week. Newsom dismisses his $160,000 government job as do-nothing, insignificant and irrelevant. Yet, voters felt he was a perfect fit.Looking at Newsom’s home page, the last entry was May 9, remarking on President Barack Obama’s support for same-sex marriage. Prior to that, Newsom had done or said nothing since Feb. 28. He has abandoned the job. For a guy who does and says so little, Newsom’s new job on Current TV is a conflict of interest with his elected office. California state employees shouldn’t moonlight on second jobs, particularly ones that compete with their day jobs. If Newsom doesn’t have enough to do as lieutenant governor, or feels the office is beneath him, he should resign his elected office. 

    I mean, on one level he’s right, his job is pointless. But it’s not like he didn’t know that when he ran for it. Newsom is one of the robots for whom the entire process is mechanical, a politician who gives the rest a bad name, who only cares about power and advancement fame and all the trappings. I will never vote for him so long as there are other Democrats on the ballot.

Who else?

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I wouldn’t say that:

The reforms are ingeniously simple. There is no more gerrymandering in California… District lines are now drawn by an independent commission to reflect actual community borders… Second, primaries are now multipartisan: the top two vote getters, regardless of party affiliation, face off against each other in the general election… Schnur and his colleagues may have actually created an electoral system that favors centrists rather than politicians who play to their party’s base.

The basic result of eliminating gerrymandering was to end Republican power in the state of California. This was inevitable. Absent Democratic hacks short-sightedly writing district lines solely to protect incumbents, gaining 2/3 of the legislature was fairly easy. And this has indeed ended the rancor and acrimony of partisan fights in Sacramento, but not because a new class of moderate officeholder has prevailed to seek bipartisan solutions. It’s because Democrats don’t bother fighting Republicans anymore because there is no need to, and no point in it. You could also fold in the 2010 voter-mandated removal of the 2/3 rule for budget passage as a clear precursor. By taking away considerable power from the state GOP, there suddenly was much less to fight about, and therefore less fighting. That is the obvious takeaway from the “California miracle” of the past year and a half, but unsurprisingly it isn’t being portrayed that way by Joe Klein.

And FYI, the top-two system hasn’t been much more than a sideshow up to this point, enabling the pointless spending of resources in intra-party standoffs, tying up money that could be better utilized than over ego-fests with minimal stakes. But one suspects that Washington pundits approve of that.

Lev filed this under: ,  

This article is seriously flawed, and continues a very annoying trend of explaining away bad candidacies as failing because of ideology where there are very few palpable ideological differences between the candidates. I don’t really see the case for Allyson Schwartz as a centrist martyr, even admitting that left-liberals might well have opposed her candidacy and criticized her associations and connections, it’s very difficult to argue that this is what destroyed her candidacy. That was probably her (and Rob McCord’s) campaign’s decision to save money by not answering Tom Wolf’s early and effective introductory ads. It’s often true that early spending in political races can wind up being an utter waste once people start paying attention, but this seems to be an exception to that rule. Voters didn’t really know any of the candidates in the field at first, and then they knew one, and liked him. While I suspect Wolf will be a poorer candidate than either Schwartz or McCord, Tom “Penn State” Corbett is pretty much doomed so it’s sort of academic. And none of the three is even close to a Bill de Blasio.

I get that there are those out there who weep for people like Schwartz and Christine Quinn, but let’s talk about the latter for a moment. The two women are similar but not in the ways the article says. The ideological divides between the candidates in the NY Mayoral field were ultimately fairly minute. de Blasio was a bit more liberal than the others but not by a whole hell of a lot. He didn’t even promise to fully abolish stop-and-frisk, lest we forget! The big difference there was that de Blasio simply ran a much better campaign. He released clear, detailed plans for the policies he wanted to pursue, policies that people liked. He created clear themes that represented a nuanced, accurate reading of the electorate: one that was conflicted about the Bloomberg years but that ultimately wanted to turn the page, while the other candidates (John Liu excepted) all presumed that the electorate wanted a kinder, gentler Bloombergism. And, importantly, de Blasio ran some of the best ads in recent history, which humanized and defined how the voters viewed him brilliantly, that used innovative and indirect ways to create his public image. Quinn, while undoubtedly a brilliant back-room brawler, paid insufficient attention to her image and thus was painted primarily as an unprincipled accepter of corrupt bargains, a Bloomberg lackey who was incapable of leading. She clearly thought that being Bloomberg’s heir apparent would be enough, while her opponents hammered every single compromise she made in order to get his support and destroyed her image. It’s entirely possible to imagine an alternate reality where de Blasio rather than Quinn wins the Council Speaker job, and de Blasio cooperates on term limits with Bloomberg to get his backing. But that’s beside the point. Quinn failed to put forward a case for herself and was outmaneuvered by a savvier, less-compromised pol. There are some aspects of ideology to the story but that’s by far the biggest fundamental difference. And, while the race isn’t over in Pennsylvania, it looks like the same thing happened there. This isn’t about ideology so much as image, and frontrunners being out of touch and assuming their fundamentals were much stronger than they actually were.

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The Problem

Not looking good for Sen. Mary Landrieu:

A new Southern Media & Opinion Research poll finds Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) leading the jungle primary for Senate with 36%, followed closely by Bill Cassidy (R) at 35%.

Key findings: Landrieu’s disapproval rating has risen from 28% to 58% in the last 18 months and 59% says they would rather have a new senator, even though Landrieu is now the chair of the powerful Senate Energy Committee.

Obviously, losing this seat is bad for Democrats, but the silver lining would be that Mary Landrieu will no longer be chairing any oil-related committees. Landrieu chairing the Energy Committee is in the long tradition of a generally progressive party giving control of key choke points to unreliable, non-mainstream legislators. Just think of staunch segregationist Jim Eastland and his twenty year reign atop the Senate Judiciary Committee, or Max Baucus’s repeatedly disastrous Senate Finance chairmanship, or the utterly bizarre choice to allow a legislator from a state owned by big banks (Tim Johnson, D-SD) to run the Senate Banking Committee, or so on. This stuff happens all the time. Considering the makeup of the Democratic Party, there is no earthly reason for Mary Landrieu to be running the Senate Energy Committee. There’s not even much of a political reason, as Landrieu is one of the few Democrats that still heavily relies on that industry. Allowing a frankly evil industry to destroy the planet in order to help keep a Senate seat just makes no goddamn sense at all. If that’s the price then it’s not worth it.

The basic problem seems to be that chairmanships in the Senate are still based almost entirely on seniority and are apparently never taken away, even if the person in question, say, is instrumental in pushing through the Bush Tax Cuts, or spiking broadly popular legislation to allow sexual abusers in the military to be tried for their crimes, or if the top foreign policy man in the Senate is an ignorant, corrupt hawk. This is a legacy from another time and a very different kind of Senate, and it really doesn’t make much sense in this day and age. In fact, when one considers that Nancy Pelosi actually bumped a dirty energy defender from heading the House Commerce Committee in 2006 and replaced him with Henry Waxman, the results were better than just leaving it up to pure chance–ACES (the climate bill) got passed through the House. Under the Senate system it perhaps never would have. This is one of those things that is endlessly infuriating but that few if any progressives ever seem to talk about. But it would be much easier to do than filibuster reform, you’d just need to get most of the Democratic Caucus behind a system in which committee chairs are chosen in election by committee members, and while I don’t support term limits for elective office, the fact that it was the most senior members of the Armed Services Committee who killed the sexual assault bill, they might make sense in this context. Republicans have used their own restrictions very strategically, effectively ending Arlen Specter’s vow not to block pro-life judicial nominees and Chuck Grassley’s interest in healthcare reform. One wonders why Democrats are so unwilling to do the same.

The right political move would be for Democrats not to send anyone to be on the “Benghazi! ’til 2017″ Panel, but let’s be realistic: that’s not going to happen. Five slots means five people–five politicians!–not getting what one would imagine would be some national television exposure, at least at first. And, to reiterate, we’re talking about politicians here. Just not going to happen. No way.

So the next-best option would be for Minority Leader Pelosi to pick the five most partisan, aggressive, left-wing Democrats in the House to be on the committee, and tell ‘em to be as rowdy and disruptive as possible. Interrupt, question everyone’s facts and motives, dismiss Republican assumptions as ridiculous. Republicans have been putting on the sober face since the announcement of this committee, being very careful to sensitively phrase what is essentially a fanatical and heavily political witchhunt as a sober examination to get “just the facts” and such. It seems extremely unlikely that this attitude would last long in the face of Democrats treating the thing as the farce that it is, challenging the assumptions and aims of the panel, and the whole thing would undoubtedly become the sort of political-theater fiasco that people just tune out. And after interest dwindles, just have all the Democrats resign from the panel and make it even more of a circus. This sort of thing could obviously backfire but I think it’s better than picking five Alan Colmeses to blandly dispute all this junk (which, let’s be honest, is probably what we’re going to get). There is the possibility here of putting the shoe on the other foot at least.

Anyway, off the top of my head, I think Raul Grijalva, Henry Waxman, Barbara Lee, and Alan Grayson would be obvious choices. Who would be the fifth? It continues to be a shame that Barney Frank is out of Congress, though probably the first time I wish Dennis Kucinich were still in the House.

Lev filed this under: , ,  

Via Atrios, a useful Venn Diagram:

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Lev filed this under:  


The main problem with Republicans’ pursuit of Benghazi conspiracy theories, aside from the problem that they can’t seem to decide if this is going to be a mainstream smash or a purely “for the fans” proposition like Fast ‘n Furious, is that the story we have pretty much adds up. The Watergate story did not add up. Why would a bunch of Cubans and a former CIA employee bug the DNC before an election where the only suspense was whether Nixon would win by a huge margin or an even huger margin? Lots of questions that led to more questions. Benghazi, though, adds up easily: there were a bunch of protests around the Middle East over a web video. There was a protest in Libya that killed some people. Intelligence officials assumed it was also about the video. It was not. Later they corrected themselves. There are obvious critiques to be made about the whole thing which are not positive, but as the starting point to unravel the entire Obama Administration it’s not going to work. Understandable (if incorrect) assumptions and inadequate security practices are not “the tip of the iceberg” necessarily, do not point to anything greater than what they are. There’s really no there there, and asserting there must be something more after a year and a half of intense interest is not really good enough for normal people to care.

I basically view the entire thing as a distraction, though I’ve been thinking that overall it has had a positive impact considering how many MSM hacks have damaged themselves trying to find The Truth About Benghazi. Annoying presences like Lara Logan, Jonathan Karl and Sheryl Atkisson have taken hits with zealous overpursuit of The Real Story, and since the GOP is going to keep going until HRC takes the oath in 2017, in all likelihood there will be more to follow. I fucking hope so. Nothing makes me happier than seeing the MSM step on a rake when racing to try to make conservatives believe they’re not biased, a pursuit which is as absurd, pointless, and endlessly irritating.

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