I have been super-busy recently and have had very scattered thoughts politically, but I do have a few crumbs:
- Lots of people have made the accurate critiques of the wisdom of giving surplus military hardware to places like Ferguson. I do remember that during my pre-2004 sorta-conservative days wondering why it was that all these suburban and small town/rural types were the ones so panicked about terrorism when the odds that terrorists will actually target them are essentially zero, assuming that al-Qaeda’s goal was to kill as many people as it possibly could. Exactly the wrong people were panicked. Now, of course, it seems like a pretty easy question to answer: tribalism*, id-centric thinking, paranoia, etc. all play their roles. If al-Qaeda ever get their fuck-up selves together to do another 9/11-style op it will be New York, LA, Chicago or Washington who will have victims, though if they were smart, attacking a place like Ferguson, MO, would cause a whole other level of panic that would suit their own ends perfectly. But that seems unlikely. In any event, I recommend adding this to the pile of things we’re talking about when we’re talking about Ferguson: the blatant tribal panic of the hinterlands.
- My basic take on Hillary Clinton is that she’d probably be a bit better overall on domestic policy than Obama–she comes from a generation of Democrats that sees public education as sacred, for one thing, while Obama’s a different story–and while she uses Republicans for her purposes she would go in knowing exactly what they are, rather than taking five-plus years to do this. But I have little doubt that she’d be a disaster on foreign policy. Maybe she’d be enough of a pragmatist to keep it in check, but she’s hardly encouraging me.
- Andrew Cuomo is an asshole.
- I’ll probably have to wait for four to five years until I get a real sense of Obama’s worked with Congress, you know, after all those folks start putting out their memoirs and talk to reporters. But I’d be willing to wager this was more typical than not.
- Speaking of the prez, at least the British press can assign blame over gridlock appropriately.
- The pro-life movement is the sleaziest in American politics, with no obvious second place. I’d argue that the oil/coal/gas and cigarette lobbies are vastly more principled by comparison. These folks simply have no scruples or restraint, plus they’re steeped in self-righteousness and utter moral relativism, an insufferable combination. Which is not to say that all pro-lifers are sleazy, etc. But for a group that occasionally gets respectful disagreement from liberals who are not “even the liberal” types, this is worth saying again and again. And the old adage about how great causes shouldn’t need to be sold with lies applies.
- The Pauls often are overrated by liberals–Rand Paul in particular doesn’t quite match up with what liberals wish he was (IMO, he’s a poor man’s Justin Amash). But he does have his uses.
- What’s different this time in Israel? Why now are the Chaits of the world buckling just a bit? Not because of what the government is doing, which is hardly new. Rather, the increasing feel that Israel is passing the point of no return with respect to (exploding) sentiments, unbridled nationalism, and suppression of dissent. As someone who at the same time scoffs at hyperbolic propaganda about how Israel is the “only democratic nation in the Middle East” or what have you (Turkey and Lebanon are an obvious rebuttal) but still also hopes that somehow the politics of a two-state solution can somehow work out, it’s enormously depressing. Netanyahu may well rule the country for another decade, but in the history books, he’ll be regarded as one of the greatest fools of all time. I’ve said it before and nothing has changed my mind.
- Amidst all this depressing shit, there are a few good things. Like a new Leonard Cohen album, soon. But in keeping with the mood:
* To be fair, I do believe liberals and conservatives are tribal, because humans are tribal. But liberals are in my experience a bit less so in general, and the ways in which it is expressed are vastly more subtle.
Since Cuomo’s Newtown-inspired gun law has just passed, it’s worth noting a few things about the governor’s supposed left turn. The NYT’s article notes this:
He proposed increasing the minimum wage to $8.75 an hour from $7.25 an hour, public financing of elections, tougher greenhouse gas standards, solar jobs programs, a $1 billion affordable housing initiative, grants for schools that extend school days and a 10-point women’s rights program that garnered loud applause for its provisions strengthening abortion rights laws and enacting equal pay legislation.
All of these are good things, and all are liberal things. That’s great! It’s great when Democrats pursue progressive policies, and Cuomo is doing so. However, the Times presents this like an ideological shift rather than a shift in emphasis, which there’s no real reason to believe it is. Cuomo isn’t proposing to undo the decisions that have so irritated progressive activists over the past few years. Additionally, the constellation of interests in New York politics is quite amenable to most all of these measures. Unlike, say, Governor Hickenlooper of Colorado, Cuomo isn’t really pushing his state appreciably to the left–Hickenlooper’s pursuit of modest gun control policies in very pro-gun Colorado is a much riskier move.
So, what does it matter? It matters quite a bit: it proves that Cuomo is a pretty good politician. He’s being unpredictable and difficult to pin down, that’s a good thing for any politician. He’s responding to the interests of his state, which is what politicians are supposed to do. And he’s earning himself a lot of press attention, which is good for him. He’s a good politician, that’s the takeaway.
Now, with respect to 2016, it’s impossible to say how it all goes. Many of the puzzle pieces have yet to fall into place. But still, Cuomo’s odds remain long. It’s easy to come up with quick reasons why the major interest groups in the Democratic Party would not be so into him: party regulars because of his handling of the State Senate debacle, environmentalists because of his fracking policy, labor because of his pension-hacking budgets, and so on. It’s difficult to see how he’d have any sort of advantage over the rest of the pack on minority support or with socially liberal groups–sure, he signed a gay marriage bill, but likely candidate Martin O’Malley has also done so. A business-only strategy is dicey enough for a Republican, and it is nearly impossible to imagine it being successful in a Democratic primary. Also, the great likelihood would be that Cuomo would not fare well in Iowa and would adopt a New Hampshire-Super Tuesday technocratic competence strategy, which would make it likely that the Iowa winner (and his most likely foil) would be a progressive populist in the style of Brian Schweitzer or Sherrod Brown. This is entirely subjective, but I suspect the days of settling for just good enough candidates are over in national Dem politics.
Because nobody with an interest in a strong Democratic Party is going to support someone who stood idly by while Republicans usurped control of the State Senate. It's not just liberal activists he'd have a problem with in a presidential run, it'd be party people too, which means there's no way it happens. Moderate Republicans pretending to be liberal Democrats is probably the future of blue state politics–there is a constituency for being pro-choice and pro-gay marriage while union-bashing and keeping tax rates on the rich low, even if it's not as large as Washington pundits might have us believe–but if Cuomo's goal is to one day become president he's seriously misplayed his hand here.
A few things for a Monday afternoon:
- I think this ought to refute the notion that Chris Christie seriously damaged himself for a presidential run by being chummy with Obama. Now that tons of Republicans are just dumping on Romney, it would seem that Christie’s mere snubbing of the man is hardly remembered anymore. I’m not much of a fan of his politics but I do think he’s about as smart and sharp as any politician out there in either party, and if he does something that seems like it would hurt him, it’s probably because you haven’t figured out the angle yet. Which, in this case, is simple: Republicans generally do not have much nostalgia for losing presidential candidates. No Republicans sit around thinking wistfully about how much better the late ’90s would have turned out if only Bob Dole had been elected president. Democrats do shit like that all the time–the deaths of George McGovern and Ted Kennedy occasioned endless amounts of “What if?” counterfactuals. But Republicans don’t think that way. Frankly, they tend not to think much of presidents they actually got elected for very long, a function of the party’s ongoing tilt to the right. Christie bet that the howls from the right would be forgotten by ’16, but that the new impressions made in the middle would more than make up for his statesmanlike conduct. He was wrong. The right’ll forget his “offenses” by ’13.
- Good on Pareene for noting the obvious here. My nightmare scenario for 2016 involves Andrew Cuomo winning the Democratic nomination with a big assist from Wall Street cash, then governing somewhere to the right of Bill Clinton. It’s important that the groundwork start getting laid to keep that from happening, and Cuomo’s mishandling of the situation with the New York Senate ought to make it much more difficult to get past a Democratic primary electorate. I simply don’t see how he can go far nationally if there’s doubt that he’s committed to electing Democrats and using power for progressive ends–certainly on the matter of public sector unions and taxes, he’s just a less abrasive Chris Christie.
- Interesting to see Marco Rubio coming on so strong and so soon for presidential buzz by basically endorsing intelligent design. I’ve written about him enough before, but my basic impression is that this guy comes off much more like Evan Bayh or Bill Richardson than Barack Obama, i.e. that on paper, he’s a very formidable candidate, but in America we don’t elect pieces of paper. But if he does win the GOP nomination, it’s worth noting that his resume doesn’t much resemble Mitt Romney’s (accomplished, massive public policy changes) or John McCain’s (many, many years in Washington), but rather it’s awfully close to that of George W. Bush’s (Bush family connections, image/character pushed to the forefront, kinder and gentler take on right-wing ideology). That selection would satisfy the most common definition of insanity, at least.
Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) suggested current Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is quietly encouraging talk of him as a presidential candidate in 2016 as “a way to build and accentuate power,” the Politicker reports. Said Spitzer: “Clearly you have somebody out there in Andrew’s case, I presume, who’s sparking the conversation. In his case it’s his dad. It’s a good co-conspirator in this game. On the other hand, you pretend that you’re not paying any attention, you’re only going to focus on doing the job because you don’t want to seem to want it.” He added: “But you want the chatter to continue because the chatter… is beneficial. It builds support, it permits people to join the team, it shows interest. In politics people measure you by what you think you will be next. And so the chatter is a way to build and accentuate power.”I generally don’t like to write about elections so far out, but since Obama vs. Romney isn’t exactly the most exciting thing going, why not? It does seem clear that Andrew Cuomo is positioning himself for a possible bid, and his record to date suggests that he’s going to work to appeal to the media, to financial industry folks, and other business types. He worked with those people in passing marriage equality in New York, and having a political career in New York means coming to some sort of understanding with finance (as having a political career in Texas means having some sort of accord with oilmen). His relatively conservative line on taxes is a reflection of this, as is his mild antagonism toward public sector unions, which goes over big with that crowd. He’ll have a hard time getting labor support after his pension reforms should he run. While the extent to which being from New York is still seen as “too liberal” to the rest of the country (it didn’t dog Hillary Clinton one bit, but she was a fake New Yorker to begin with), Cuomo has been pretty effective at portraying himself as pragmatic and nonideological, and is very popular as well. One could easily imagine him being the establishment candidate/frontrunner in 2016. (I’m assuming Hillary Clinton is telling the truth and doesn’t want to run.) A Cuomo candidacy would, however, likely play out in much the same way that other East Coast technocrat candidacies have–well-financed and “centrist” in outlook and rhetoric, winning handily in the New Hampshire primary but struggling in Iowa. There certainly would be an opening for a more folksy, populist, and forthrightly progressive candidate, someone who would clean up in Iowa. Elizabeth Warren would probably be a contender for this role should she win in November, but I’m not sure she’d be the optimal one. Warren in 2016 would be better-qualified than Obama was in 2008–bureaucratic experience such as hers is heavily underrated but is often extremely helpful for presidents wanting to exert control over the bureaucracy, and she’d have more time in the Senate than the current president did–but it would be akin to the tendency Republicans have of promoting talent too soon that Daniel Larison always harps on. (My guess is that she’d be a likely VP nominee for several candidates, though.) The best choice for the folksy populist role in 2012 would have to be Sherrod Brown, who offers several advantages to progressives. He’s quite a bit more liberal than Cuomo, but he comes from a state that is not known for liberalism, so he could pull off the John Edwards strategy that Edwards never quite could. He’s a skilled politician and campaigner who beat a reasonably popular incumbent like a drum in 2006, and he is in a strong position for re-election in 2012 despite enormous outside money arrayed against him. He has a ton of experience and a strong record. He’d likely be a stronger general election candidate anyway. The money component would be tricky–Cuomo would have lots, but Warren and Obama (in 2008) both managed to raise lots of cash on a mostly grassroots basis. Brown might be able to do that too. Progressives ought to try to push him toward a run. I honestly have no idea what direction Republicans will go in 2016–in the event that Mitt Romney wins, obviously, they’ll know. If he doesn’t, where they go next depends on the reaction to that loss. By 2016, some economic recovery is inevitable no matter how stubbornly our fiscal and monetary policies frustrate it, and that combined with demographic trends will make Tea Party politics considerably less appealing to the public than they are now. Whether any of this abates the Tea Party hold on the party I have no idea. So I couldn’t hazard a guess.
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