Waving magic wands: the myth of Democratic power

Pressing his ears against the commentariat’s din, Matthew Yglesias comes to obvious conclusions: only a Democratic majority in the Senate could have stopped the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation. Conversely, Mitch McConnell’s legislative genius, such as it is, consisted in whipping a bare majority. Even in those halcyon days of the sixty-vote filibuster over which Harry Reid presided, Barack Obama got nominees Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan confirmed not because a spirit of benign comity persuaded Susan Collins and Lindsey Graham to vote for them: the Senate confirmed them because he still enjoyed a fifty-plus Democratic majority that could’ve gummed up the works if it wanted to. Reid and Obama didn’t need Collins and Graham.  Continue reading

The way we live now

If in 2005 a friend had asked me to endorse a candidate with “socialist” somewhere in her literature I’d have looked nervously over my shoulder — this is Miami, and I’m of Cuban-American descent. Andrew Sullivan bewitched me. I was proud to use my lack of party affiliation as a demonstration of my freedom from the scrim of politics. But these are strange times. Living during the Obama and Trump years occasion unexpected nudges, encouragements, and, at last, the collapse of long-held assumptions.

A summa:

Looking back, it’s also striking that Crowley never actually won a competitive congressional election. He was slotted into a safe seat back in 1998 by his predecessor, who only officially retired too late to have an open primary competition for the seat, thus allowing Crowley to be crowned without really running. Crowley is well liked by his colleagues in the House, but he’s not particularly charismatic. And in retrospect, his decision to skip a couple of debates looks borderline catastrophic.

Ocasio-Cortez, meanwhile, is a young, dynamic public speaker in a city whose machine-oriented politics tends to toss up drab nonentities as its politicians. She had uncommon social media savvy, and cut a fantastic video while waging a campaign that did a brilliant job of both channeling long-simmering national progressive disgruntlement with the idea of Crowley’s eventual accession to the speakership and emphasizing her greater rootedness in the district as currently conceived.

Bring on Election Day.

The GOP war on the poor, part 44557

While y’all tittered about Melania Trump and her Coat of Smarm, the House reminded Americans that Paul Ryan and his GOP caucus despise the poor. Although putatively a “farm bill,” it’s a cruel piece of legislation written to exact work from people who already drop dead in exchange for a pittance from Washington:

The House farm bill would also tighten eligibility criteria under SNAP — changes that would result in some 400,000 households losing SNAP benefits. Thousands of children would also risk losing their enrollment in free and reduced-price school meal programs.

Republicans contend the plan would put people on a pathway to self-sufficiency. Democrats and anti-hunger groups say it would make it more difficult for millions of needy Americans to receive nutrition assistance, and also would invest in a state-run job training bureaucracy under SNAP that has yet to prove it helps people move out of poverty.

Whether bill survives in conference despite Pat Roberts of Kansas’ altruism remains a mystery. But concentrating on ephemera is a symptom of a Beltway pundit class that doesn’t have to worry about having enough money in their credit cards to buy cashews and lamb shanks. I warrant that Nicole Wallace will spend not a second discussing the implications of this bill on MSNBC this afternoon.

The honorable, stalwart Willard Romney

I’m late to the story, but Scott Lemieux wrote the sharpest squib about the announcement that Willard Romney, Scion of the Binder and Emperor of Bain and Father of Tagg, may run for the departing Orrin Hatch’s Senate seat in Utah:

A Republican senator who is a lockstep vote for Trump’s agenda and appointments and a lockstep vote against any attempt to investigate him will be replaced by a Republican senator who is a lockstep vote for Trump’s agenda and appointments and a lockstep vote against any attempt to investigate him but occasionally gives quotes to the media suggesting that he finds Trump vaguely distasteful.

Having returned to work, I couldn’t watch the phalanx of homeless conservative Trump victims who consume MSNBC air time. Do they consider Romney a man of principle or a vulture capitalist with handsome coif who governed Massachusetts as you might expect a Republican to do with a Democratic legislature? It’s called a rhetorical question.

Puerto Rico and imperial machinations

Ricardo Rosselló, governor of a U.S. territory where power, thanks to Hurricane Maria, remains out for 36 percent of the population, tried making nice with Congress; now, incensed by how the tax bill on the verge of passing will punish investors, he’s lashing out.

Rosselló is particularly irked over portions of the law that impose a 12.5 percent tax on “intangible assets” of U.S. companies abroad and a minimum of a 10 percent tax on companies’ profits abroad, meaning businesses with operations in Puerto Rico will pay higher taxes than their counterparts on the U.S. mainland. The measure in the GOP tax bill is designed to stop American companies from avoiding taxes by shifting profits overseas. But it would also apply to Puerto Rico because the island is treated as both a foreign and domestic entity under the U.S. tax code.

Speaking of scathing, Refugees International excoriated the Puerto Rican government and FEMA’s bungled coordination:

Comparing it with past natural disasters, such as the 2010 Haitian earthquake, the group found the U.S. response lacking. In Haiti, the group says 8,000 U.S. troops were deployed to the island within two days of the disaster. In Puerto Rico, it took 10 days for 4,500 U.S. troops to arrive. Central to FEMA’s problematic response, Refugees International says, is that the federal agency is designed to supplement local and state disaster response efforts. But in Puerto Rico, the group found, municipalities and the Commonwealth had “limited capacity and ability to respond.”

Fifteen days ago, I dined with the warm and marvelous parents of a Puerto Rican friend. From their smiles it was impossible for me to tell that at home they still had no power and didn’t expect restoration until March. Please ponder this revelation for a moment. March 2018. Puerto Ricans enjoy no respite from the tropical climate; it’s humid or less humid. The machinations of their government fascinate them not a bit. Whether the imperial capital located thousands of miles north shows little besides a mercenary interest in the territory it regards as a colony matters less than fresh hot coffee in the morning.

Starving the punditry class

“If we listen to those who wail that taking someone’s punditry gig and book contract is the same as if you “kill a guy,” Ana Maria Cox writes, “I suspect we’re in for a whole rash of reincarnation.”

Franken will leave the Senate quite alive, and with little threat (at this moment) of legal damage. He might have been denied “due process,” but that’s not because he won’t appear in front of the Ethics Committee, which will drop its recently opened investigation if he leaves the Senate; it’s because he’s not being criminally charged. His life won’t just not be over, it won’t even be ruined — he’s a wealthy man with many friends who show no sign of desertion. And I can’t see a man with Franken’s sizable talents and ego ever totally disappearing from the national stage.

I haven’t written much about the accusations, counter-charges, and resignations; I have nothing to add to matters that seem, to my eyes, self-evident. But watching even a nanosecond of cable news — I know, bear with me — creates the impression that losing a guest commentator spot on Chris Matthews’ show is the equivalent of the pillory post. I roll my eyes at Charles Pierce’s also self-evidently obvious warnings about asymmetrical warfare. Let fucks like Newt Gingrich and Hugh Hewitt whine about the Democrats’ moral high ground. Whether men in Congress accused of sexual assault wait for an ethics committee investigation (rigged against the victim, I know), resign, or endure a punishment that still leaves them comfortable doesn’t concern me. Now, if Dems want to play politics, they can let victims of sexual assault denounce the men in the GOP and their own party. The GOP doesn’t have a monopoly on swinish men. That’s, to use the jargon, a better look than imitating Ruth Marcus.

Overreacting to loss aka the Democratic way

Take care, Jon Ossoff! Patrick Murphy, Jason Carter, and Michelle Nunn are waiting in the bar.

When I posted about the Georgia Sixth race yesterday morning, I didn’t make a call — whatever for? For Ossoff to win a district in which Tom Price and Newt Gingrich had comfortably ruled since the disco era would have converted several Commie lib atheists. Ossoff’s eventual loss sucks. Losing sucks. But I’m not devastated: as weary as GA 6 might have been of Donald Trump, voters weren’t weary of being Republicans. “What motivated them, they said, were traditional Republican issues: taxes, government spending, and illegal immigration,” John Cassidy writes after studying exit polls. Scott Brown wasn’t elected to his special election until January 2010, months after that horrendous Tea Party summer. I’d forgotten that Dems won seven straight special elections in 2009-10 until Scott Brown’s victory. The South Carolina race results was even more interesting – the Goldman Sachs dude lost by a couple thousand votes! Meanwhile Ossoff ran on far left issues like debt relief, improving technology, and infrastructure repair — you can find those on pg. 456 of Das Kapital. So much for the barking of Blue Dogs. Yet Harold Ford, Jr., one of the few incumbent Democrats to lose a seat in 2006 because he was too obtuse to change his mind about gay marriage, still yammered about supporting the Iraq War, and supported intervention in the Terri Schiavo case — this man a few hours was on Morning Joe lamenting Democratic fealty to the abortion lobby. Finally, when presidents choose legislators for their Cabinet, they go to safe seats. I can’t stress this point enough. For all his imbecility, Donald Trump understood at least this.

We got work to do, and the Democratic National Committee needs to  reconsider shoveling millions at hopeless races when, again, the Goldman Sachs nominee exceeded expectations in the underfunded South Carolina race, but I’m optimistic about 2018. As Dave Wassermann notes, Democrats have cleared forty-six percent of the two-party vote in the last four special elections. Leave moderate Republicans alone. So-called moderate Republicans are polite because they have the patience to wait and name their price.

Ossoff v. Handel

Although a local poll shows a tied race between Jon Ossoff and Karen Handle in the Georgia Sixth election, a win for the Republican Handel wouldn’t surprise me. If Ossoff loses, I hope its effect is exfoliating: it should demoralize consultants who still think centrism wins. I suppose I understand the argument that in a GOP-dominated district a Dem candidate has to be wussier, but we should stop wooing Republican voters with diluted Republicanism and offer them liberalism. If the candidate loses anyway, at least we’ll know the half life of liberalism in GOP districts. The following reminds me of last November:

Superficially, Ossoff is going out of his way to avoid alienating such voters, stressing his economic moderation, distancing himself from Nancy Pelosi, and rejecting core lefty policy demands like single-payer health care out of hand.

But his path to Congress remains essentially similar to Clinton’s presumed path to the presidency — relying on the same “new majority” voters that put Obama in the White House. (Clinton only lost the Georgia Sixth by 1 point, which is one reason it has become such a nationally-watched race.) One strategy may wind up working better than the other, but the actual demographic composition of who turns out for Democrats is basically the same for Ossoff as it was for Clinton.

The national Democrats whom Ossoff hopes to join are belatedly awakening to the horrifying nature of what Mitch McConnell is doing with the Senate version of the House’s plan to kill poor people and the old.

At this point in the race, Ossoff’s $50 million haul is best on gas to drive voters to polling stations.

‘It’s not obstruction, it’s not partisan’

I guess Senate staff has been listening to my messages and emails:

enate Democrats are preparing to put Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks through a grinding confirmation process, weighing delay tactics that could eat up weeks of the Senate calendar and hamper his first 100 days in office.

Multiple Democratic senators told POLITICO in interviews last week that after watching Republicans sit on Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court for nearly a year, they’re in no mood to fast-track Trump’s selections.

But it’s not just about exacting revenge.

Democrats argue that some of the president-elect’s more controversial Cabinet picks — such as Jeff Sessions for attorney general and Steven Mnuchin for treasury secretary — demand a thorough public airing.

“They’ve been rewarded for stealing a Supreme Court justice. We’re going to help them confirm their nominees, many of whom are disqualified?” fumed Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). “It’s not obstruction, it’s not partisan, it’s just a duty to find out what they’d do in these jobs.”

Senate Democrats can’t block Trump’s appointments, which in all but one case need only 51 votes for confirmation. But they can turn the confirmation process into a slog.

Any individual senator can force Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to hold procedural votes on nominees. Senior Democrats said a series of such votes are likely for many of Trump’s picks.

I wasn’t as offended as many Dems and leftists were when then Minority Leader Blobfish vowed to make Barack Obama a one term president: I wish Bush II and Reagan had been one term presidents. What offends me is this phantom notion of comity that has hobbled Senate business since the threats to filibuster any civil rights bill. The president-elect is a man without grace, intellect, or curiosity. He ran the most grotesque campaign in American history. The country has already endured much. To regard Betty De Vos, Jeff Sessions, and Tom Price as normal nominees during a normal time requires accepting that fragments of melting icebergs should fall on our heads. Maybe that’s preferable.

‘Once we’re through we’ll stop Donald Trump!’

parallax-wall-2

Three dark-haired men, two with facial hair, sprint for a fence. “Once we’re through we’ll stop Donald Trump!” the one sporting wire cutters says. “Si, And Ted Cruz too!” the second chirps. Two of the men wear “Stop Donald Trump” t-shirts, colored red, white, and blue but thanks to the lighting and the non-acting recontextualized as a subversion of the American way, or what I’d call Americanism. “And Senor Mike Pape!” the clean shaven one says. His buddy thinks he misheard and holds up a roll of duct tape. This third dude explains that the Kentucky congressman “will help Ted Cruz repeal Obamacare.” His buddies’ eyes bug like black waiters in a 1940s film. They’ve got a new enemy: Mike Pape. They back away from the wall. Then an image of the Ted Cruz associate fills the screen: a blue shirted hunk of cassava with parted hair and the bland solicitousness of a Wendy’s manager. Mike Pape approves this message.

The petty racism would be offensive if it weren’t so craven. Unable or unwilling to outfit the men in sombreros and to write Speedy Gonzalez holee-frijoles dialogue for them, the ad’s creators hedge and cast actors who look as preppy as anyone’s neighbors, even in Kentucky. But the implication is sinister: these invaders look like your neighbors. They even speak without accents. I won’t link to the ad; find it yourself. But conservatives who claim they want to expand beyond their rural constituency are fooling themselves.