Swingin’ low

Pundits confuse or conflate swing voters and centrists. They’re not the same. Swing voters can believe we need stronger environmental policies that protect us from sea level rise, endorse robust protections for reproductive liberties, yet believe the national debt is a problem and that Hillary Clinton is a cold bitch; some of the vilest misogynists, in my experience, have been on the left. Continue reading

The peril of cable news misogynists

As we inch toward another presidential campaign in which the odds are even that several Democratic finalists for the nomination will be a woman, a woman of color, or both, Scott Lemieux worries about the presence of media misogyny, despite the exit of several notorious figures:

Mark Halperin was an early and highly influential Trump adopter, as well as someone who was on America’s “liberal” news network on a constant basis. It was apparently known by virtually everybody at NBC that Matt Lauer was a massive sexist asshole (not to mention, in an important and related point, a featherweight whose knowledge of public policy appears to be somewhere between Donald Trump’s and the NBC peacock’s) when he was sent onstage to badger Hillary Clinton about inane trivia before tossing softballs to his asshole misogynist buddy Donald Trump. And so on and so on and so on. Given that Democrats can’t and won’t stop running women for high office, this is a very serious problem and a big part of the story of how we ended up with President Trump.

Expect Kamala Harris or Kirsten Gillibrand to get The Treatment in eighteen months, especially if the Democrats pick up seats in the midterm elections as expected.

Who did what to whom

I’m not a fan of Scott Lemieux, but he at least grapples with the reality of door-to-door politics like his colleagues don’t. In light of recent “Joe Biden would have won talk,” another variant on the speculation around my preferred candidate Bernie Sanders, i.e. “Bernie would’ve won won Michigan,” he mentions enough hypotheticals that serve to confirm my suspicion: Donald Trump, the culmination of thirty-seven yeas of conservative Jacobinism, might still have beaten any Democrat anyway because the no-college white guy was lost forever:

Again, one fatal problem with any “Biden/Bernie/O’Malley woulda won” counterfactual is that they almost always involve ceteris paribus assumptions that are completely untenable. It’s superficially persuasive to say that “any Democrat would have gotten better media coverage than Clinton, that coverage (especially as catalyzed by Comey, who also may not have gone rogue against another nominee) probably cost Clinton the election, so therefore any other Dem nominee would have won.” Only of course you can’t hold everything else constant. Biden might have gotten generally more favorable media coverage than Clinton — but done worse in the debates, committed twenty other distracting gaffes, done worse with women voters, and narrowly lost anyway. You can’t construct counterfactuals that take away Clinton’s (very real!) liabilities but not her strengths.

Or let’s leave the media out of it. The key to Trump’s win was not attracting more white voters per se but trading college-educated white voters for white voters without college degrees but doing OK economically, a tradeoff that was useful on the Electoral College. The superficially persuasive case for Bernie is to say that he would have done better among the latter group and won. I think this is plausible, but. Paul observed recently that Virginia shows that the GOP can lose even more college-educated suburbanites than it’s already lost, but this cuts both ways — it was not inevitable that the GOP would lose as many as it already did in 2016. Bernie might have won; it’s also very possible that the candidate who labelled his left-liberalism as “socialism” would have done better than Macomb County than Clinton but worse in Oakland County and lost Michigan anyway.

When liberals push Democrats next cycle, they must realize that getting blacks, Hispanics, gays, and women excited about liberal policy will entice them to stay within the party. Give voters a reason to vote for you, win an election, and you’ll suddenly believe in democracy again. If you feel despair, get yourself a pet, or, better, volunteer at a phone bank.

Elections 2018, post-cockiness edition

One calendar year ago I was excited enough to amble around campus in a state of suppressed glee, a phenomenon I couldn’t attribute to having voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton a couple weeks earlier. Although I was under no illusions about the limits of ClLinton’s power and the adamantine resistance she would experience from a newly empowered Congress, I thought a majority of Americans would rebuke Trumpism. The reckoning came the next morning.

That was a year ago. Thanks to DNC chairman’s decision to concentrate on local races, liberals/progressives can claim a few substantial victories:

– First, opponents to the Medicaid expansion can’t say it hasn’t passed by democratic means. In fact, supporters of the federalist approach to sweeping legislation should delight in what Maine voters accomplished last night. The win wasn’t narrow: by a twenty-point margin despite the robust efforts by Governor Paul LePage. By my lights, what happened in Maine represents the first time the Affordable Care Act has been popular enough to triumph.

– Second, Danica Roeme! The transgender candidate beat archenemy Bob Marshall, a scion of conservative Virginia politics who treated Roeme as if she were a Cossack about to invade his town: he refused to call Roeme by her gender and, worse, circulated these kinds of fliers.

– Third, Democrats picked up two George House of Delegate seats that in 2016 were uncontested. In 2012, Mitt Romney won the district 54-44; last year, Donald Trump by 49-46.

In my own state, incumbent Rick Kriseman beat back his Republican challenger after one of the nastiest races in recent Florida political history.

Contest every local seat. Discuss health care. Link opponents to Donald Trump. Don’t waste time converting people who voted for the president not because they wanted coal jobs back or eliminating the capital gains tax but because they wanted to fuck with people who didn’t:

Del Signore said he’s been following politics far more than before because of Trump. Trump, he said, is just “more interesting.” So now he likes watching the news. “Ninety-nine percent of the time I watch Fox,” he said. “Sometimes I’ll be sitting there listening to all this Fox stuff, and I’ll say, ‘Maybe they aren’t right, maybe I’ll flip to CNN’—but every time I’ve found that Fox has been correct, and CNN is definitely fake news.”

A Catholic whose wife goes to church every Sunday, whereas he, “shame on me,” does not, Del Signore told me toward the end of our lunch that some people at church told his wife that Obama is the antichrist. “She comes home and tells me these things that they tell you in church,” he said. I asked him whether that’s what he thinks. “I don’t know,” he said. “Some people say that.”

If Obama, I asked, is the antichrist—whose arrival is said to precede the second coming of Christ—what would that make Trump?

“The savior?” Del Signore suggested.

America, ladies and gents.

Hillary Clinton has as much right to bore us as anyone in public life

The ponderous, politically tone deaf, and immune to improvisation Hillary Clinton discomfited me less than her husband did in the early nineties, so when she landed the nomination this Bernie supporter shrugged his shoulders and said the hell with it. After eight years of feeling spittle on my neck about Muslims in the Oval Office, death panels, socialized medicine, gun confiscation, and the First Lady snatching Chicken McNuggets out of my mouth, I knew the Republican Party would find or force a candidate to espouse every repellent idea about privatizing industry, coal, ISIS, and contraception. The GOP was hungry; we had sober, ponderous Hillary Clinton.

With another memoir, likely a ponderous, sober one, ready for publication, we’re going to see bipartisanship at last: the right and left will join forces in its prolonged disgust for Clinton. Paul Waldman is correct:

So let’s say this really slowly: It’s possible to simultaneously acknowledge that 1) Clinton made plenty of mistakes, and 2) there were egregious problems with the way the campaign was covered, problems that contributed to the outcome. Calling attention to the latter doesn’t negate the former.

And boy, were there ever problems with the coverage. Consider that the New York Times and The Washington Post struck a deal with Peter Schweitzer, the author of a book called “Clinton Cash,” for exclusive access to the material in the book, which alleged corrupt dealings at the Clinton Foundation. Even though Schweitzer’s particulars amounted to little more than a lot of nefarious insinuation without evidence of actual wrongdoing, the initial burst of front-page coverage the book received was enough to set off endless cable news chatter about the Clinton Foundation, all of it with the implication that Clinton was guilty of all manner of ethically questionable actions.

Really, she has as much right to bore us as Al Gore and John Kerry, and as much right to play Cassandra as Mitt Romney, whose letter criticizing Donald Trump after the Charlottesville murder got its requisite day’s worth of attention before disappearing without a trace. Newt Gingrich is allowed in any green room without a minder holding a spiked mace. Hell, for many years his implacable taste for revenge kept John McCain hale and hearty until his good luck ran out.

Let Hillary be.

Beltway wisdom

“Washington always wins,” Joe Scarborough repeats at least once a day on Morning Joe, like a Catholic murmuring a Hail Mary. He’s right in this sense: diseased with an incurable self-regard, the Beltway press now excuses its mistake in thinking like the rest of us that Hillary Clinton was going to win last fall by saying any Republican, including the Twitter addict in the West Wing, would have beaten a candidate as flawed as Clinton. She couldn’t win those Democratic strongholds in the north! She didn’t tell enough jokes!

The Democrats picked the wrong candidate—I was a Bernie Sanders supporter from spring 2015—but I suspect he might’ve lost anyway. It’s possible Pennsylvania and one other Dem stronghold won by Trump would have stayed in the Sanders column, but Trump might still have inched a squeaker of an Electoral College win instead of a solid one. Charles Pierce:

You want a textbook example of a thoroughly bad campaign, look to the Dukakis juggernaut in 1988, not the Clinton campaign of 2016, no matter what you’re hearing from people pitching books full of gossipy back-stabbing and obsequious resume-polishing. The fact is that the current spate of Clinton-bashing completely ignores one undeniable fact: Donald Trump was a helluva candidate. In fact, for the cultural and political context within which that election took place, he might have been a perfect candidate….

That Trump never paid a price in the eyes of his voters for that kind of meretricious goonery is the best evidence there is that, in 2016, anyway, he was in every sense a formidable political force. And, let it not be forgotten that he brought with him a Republican Senate, a Republican House, and massive gains out in the states as well.


Moreover, and I owe a hat tip to Scott Lemieux here, it’s likely in retrospect that Trump’s plan of action, while unconventional in the extreme and relentlessly eccentric, also was based in a kind of mad logic. There really was a big slice of the electorate, concentrated in states that were vital in the Electoral College, that was uniquely susceptible to Trump’s appeal. He and his people spotted it and campaigned accordingly. As Nate Cohn shows in the piece linked above, HRC performed about as well as could be expected among Democratic base voters and, as we said, she did win the popular vote by more than three million.

But Bob Woodward has no book out, so Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes will get several days’ worth of talk show bookings and shakes of the head from George Stephanopoulos.

What we lost when we lost Merrick Garland

Thomas Geoghegan ponders what we lost when Clinton lost the election, didn’t flip the Senate, and couldn’t get Merrick Garland confirmed:

By a five to four vote, gerrymandering of congressional districts would have been struck down. Even more than “money in politics,” gerrymandering decides who controls the House of Representatives. A center-left Court might have made a redistricting system based on independent, non-partisan commissions the law of the land.

Of course, a liberal Court, would have been likely to reverse Citizens United. More importantly, it might have revisited an earlier, even more pernicious precedent, Buckley v. Valeo, the 1976 case that established that money is a form of speech. Now, if the Democrats ever do regain legislative majorities and pass campaign finance reform — say, at some point in the next twenty years — a conservative Court will cite Buckley and Citizens United to strike it down.

At some point, a center-left Court might have declared education a “fundamental” right. In Rodriguez v. San Antonio School District, a 1974 case, the Supreme Court ruled five to four that no such right existed under the Constitution, meaning public school children in different districts had no claim to equal state funding. Forty years later, in a far different world, there is even more reason to declare education a fundamental right. The enshrining of a constitutional right to public education would have been monumental. But now? It’s out of the question.

Or consider race discrimination. The 1976 decision in Washington v. Davis held that laws with racially discriminatory effects don’t violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as long as they don’t have a discriminatory purpose. In 2001, in Alexander v. Sandoval, the Court applied the same reasoning to narrow minorities’ ability to sue under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. A liberal majority could have reversed those decisions and made it easier for victims of discrimination to have their day in court. Instead, a center-right Court will continue with the status quo, and may well dismantle what’s left of the Voting Rights Act.

If Geoghegan is sad, think of someone like me who has never known a liberal Supreme Court; hell, my earliest memory of SCOTUS was a photo that flashed during CBS Evening News‘ coverage of William Rehnquist’s confirmation hearings as chief justice of the Burger Court’s last year, in which eight men and one woman looked older than sequoia trunks rotting in the sunlight.

Basta. In politics, absolutes are a joke that God plays on pundits. Still, read that list of probabilities.

A Day Without Hillary

Here is my A Day Without Women post, titled A Day Without Hillary:

Most decisively, there was a sudden change in the net sentiment results that followed immediately after FBI Director James Comey released his Oct. 28 letter to Congress about a renewed investigation of Clinton emails. Immediately afterwards, there was a 17-point drop in net sentiment for Clinton, and an 11-point rise for Trump, enough for the two candidates to switch places in the rankings, with Clinton in more negative territory than Trump. At a time when opinion polling showed perhaps a 2-point decline in the margin for Clinton, this conversation data suggests a 28-point change in the word of mouth “standings.” The change in word of mouth favorability metric was stunning, and much greater than the traditional opinion polling revealed.

Based on this finding, it is our conclusion that the Comey letter, 11 days before the election, was the precipitating event behind Clinton’s loss, despite the letter being effectively retracted less than a week later. In such a close election, there may have been dozens of factors whose absence would have reversed the outcome, such as the influence campaign of the Russian government as detailed by US intelligence services. But the sudden change in the political conversation after the Comey letter suggest it was the single, most indispensable factor in the surprise election result.

This conclusion helps us to understand how it is possible that the polls were generally correct about a Clinton lead through most of the campaign, but nevertheless Trump still won because of a late October surprise.

I’m not sure to what degree I should trust Engagement Labs’ chief commercial officer, and this same fellow acknowledges that in elections this close any number of factors in concert can influence results; but that’s the point too. The Comey letter came at the right moment.

Liberal know-how, part 45

Politico occasionally posts worthwhile material, but not even this upteenth post mortem can avoid obtuseness. Why does the phrase “working class voter” need the adjective “white”? It has never occurred to these reporters that blacks and Hispanics are working class too — and they vote. Thomas Frank, author of books with subtle titles like Listen, Liberal and What’s the Matter with Kansas?, reminds the panel that many new Trump voters were recent Obama and Bill Clinton voters:

Frank: There’s a lot of these people that could easily be won back to the Democratic Party and, by the way, not by the Democratic Party denying the theory of evolution or siding with the NRA or something like that, but offering them a competing message that has to do with economics, appealing to them on their class interests.

And this is what the Democratic Party obviously used to do. This is not even hard to look up. This is very recent. You look at a place like Missouri. I grew up in Kansas City. And when I was a kid, Missouri was a very Democratic state. Harry Truman is from Missouri. Dick Gephardt is from Missouri. But you look at the map now, and Trump took every county except for St. Louis, Kansas City and the college town, Columbia. And it is a wipeout for Democrats out there. You go to these small towns, and there is no Democratic presence in these places….

…Frank: Small towns, all over America, boarded up, the businesses are all gone, the kids leave as soon as they can, the family farms are dying. OK, what do you do about that? Well, one thing that’s really easy is antitrust. You know, you start going after the agricultural monopolies. Every farmer I’ve ever met knows about these companies, and is furious about them. And those people—I mean, this is a very Republican cohort now—but, you know, you start talking about their one obsessive concern, and you might be able to win some of them over. You start going after Wal-Mart, which has destroyed the businesses in every small town in America. Do you remember when Barack Obama won Iowa over Hillary Clinton in 2008? It was a big surprise, a big shocker. And the way he did it was by promising to use the antitrust laws against agricultural monopolies, or that was one of the things that he said.

So what are Frank’s solutions? We need stronger unions. We need unions. But this need — this hope — is futile. Unions will never return to the days before 1981 or even 1947. Guy Cecil of Priorities USA has the better idea: the kind of grassroots effort that Reverend William Barber of North Carolina organized for Moral Mondays, whose canvassing eventually kicked Pat McCrory out of office (replacing him with a successor whom the legislature has nevertheless emasculated).

Forgive me, though, for shaking my head over one more liberal who knows what we have to do — including, I might add, yours truly.

The nature of ‘identity politics’

Thank you, Jacob T. Levy, for explaining why “identity politics,” that execrable term, didn’t cost Hilary Clinton the election:

Identity politics at its best, in other words, isn’t just a matter of being on some group’s side. It’s about fighting for political justice by drawing on the commitment that arises out of targeted injustice, and about having the intellectual resources to let us diagnose that targeted injustice. It lets us spot the majority group’s identity politics rather than treating it as the normal background state of affairs, and to recognize the oppression and injustice that it generates.

By all means, we should criticize identity politics when it goes wrong, as it often does in moments of symbolic, cultural, and campus politics. But there’s no source of political energy and ideas that doesn’t sometimes go wrong; goodness knows that a commitment to abstract philosophical principles often does. But a revitalized liberalism must be a vital liberalism, one with energy and enthusiasm. The defense of liberal principles—freedom of speech and religion, the rule of law and due process, commerce and markets, and so on—has to happen at least in part in the political arena.

Far from being discrete zones of occasionally intersecting enthusiasms, my politics and my identity are a praxis, defining my voting patterns, choice of profession, and hair style. No one asks white men to separate their biases and privileges from their voting habits, for not only would it be impossible but it’s who they are. Even when voting to strike down miscegenation laws or, say, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, always I get a sense that an elected official who is an ostensible ally is tapping his – usually his – foot and glancing at his watch, quashing an instinct to blurt, “OK, you got this done, let’s move on to more important things.”

Elections 2016 — let’s end this!

Martini glass in hand, courage in my heart, I’m ready to blog.

11:04. In my first legitimate shock of the evening, Russ Feingold lost his race in Wisconsin. The West coast is decided, which we know. North Carolina goes to Trump: 209-187.

10:41. Florida isn’t close. But Obama won enough in 2012, recall, that Florida wasn’t called for days. He didn’t need Florida.

10:30. Colorado called for Clinton.

10:23. Ohio called for Trump.

10:05. New Mexico called for Clinton.

9:56. Still waiting. Third glass of wine.

9:46. With 94 percent of the vote in Florida, it doesn’t look like she win it.

9:31. I’m not freaking out yet because (a) I’m not a freaking out person (b) I called Florida for Clinton but would not be surprised if it had gone Trump. What would chill me is if Virginia and Pennsylvania did. I was not one of those people who predicted an early evening. If I start hearing good news from those states and North Carolina and Virginia, then the tone of the broadcast will change.

9:26. The breakdown: Trump outperforming Romney in rural counties; these Republicans didn’t stay at home after all.

9:17. Florida still holding but at the moment not looking good. North Carolina, however, according to Jon King, has a “long way to go.”

9:07. People, remember: the biggest Democratic counties have the most uncounted ballots by far. Why? They have more ballots to count.

8:58. 53 percent of vote in Palm Beach County.

8:52. Close to a million votes still not counted. 16 percent of Broward reporting.

8:43. North Carolina too close to call: a difference of 68,000 votes. Georgia still too early to call. She’s running stronger in Broward than Obama at this point in the evening in 2012.

8:39. I apologize for lagging. Florida has me falling into my bourbon glass. Broward County vote still lagging.

8:31. Amendment 2, the medical marijuana amendment on the Florida ballot, passed comfortably.

8:16. Florida is in a death match. On CNN the vote totals keep flipping between candidates. In MIami-Dade she’s doing better than Obama; in small counties like Hernando County, Chuck Todd points out, Trump is up more than five points over Romney. But Palm Beach and Broward counties aren’t close to counting live votes. Calm down.

8:12. UGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH — MSNBC predicts Marco Rubio as winner

8:01. Cigarette Break #1. White college grads in Florida winning 61 percent — a slight upset. But Clinton has a 29-point lead with Hispanics. Meanwhile Pennsylvania: Clinton winning 50 percent of white college grads.

7:49. Chuck Todd to James Carville: “James, what does Bill Clinton think of losing the Bubba vote?”

7:45. WSVN-7 reporting that Miami-Dade and Broward’s Hispanic vote surpassed 2012’s totals.

7:42. Tucker Carlson of FOX Nwes, still a haircut in search of a head and brain, said he’s shocked the Hispanic vote isn’t higher.

7:37: CNN reports, according to Noah Rothman, that with 35 percent of the vote in Florida, Clinton “is out-performing Obama.”

7:32. Rob Portman wins, to no surprise, reelection in Ohio.

7:27. North Carolina’s bathroom bill “the last of the culture war battles.” Fuck you, Chuck Todd.

7:19: MSNBC has invited Rudy Giuliani to comment because they want to laugh at him.

7:18. Why the fuck does anyone care about “honest and trustworthy” after Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton? I don’t want a president in whom I’d confide my boy problems. Such a media question.

7:13. “Largest Puerto Rican diaspora ever,” avers Kerry Sanders of NBC. Get Out the Vote battle? What battle? Clinton people “bringing voters in cars,” Trump, well, nothing.

7:11. Champion social media watcher Ned Raggett sends me this tweet from Sean T at Real Clear Politics:

Sean T at RCP ‏@SeanTrende 26 minutes ago

This is going to be a short night.

7:05: Vermont called for Hillary Clinton, Indiana for Donald J. Trump. Georgia too close to call, Virginia too early to call. “Is it about class warfare? Is this how the modern campaign will be waged?” asks Nicole Wallace of MSNBC, formerly one of George W. Bush’s communications people, which meas she helped him talk.


Even if I didn’t live in the swingiest of states no way was I ever going to vote for Jill Stein. Presidents start wars, and if they don’t ask for congressional approval their national security councils and defense departments pay contractors (‘sup, Iraq!) or create paramilitary insurgencies (hi, Nicaragua!) to fight them. As a president during these circumstances Stein would be no different than Hillary Rodham Clinton if not worse: where Clinton has given the impression that she’ll refute generals Stein looks like she’d succumb to dangerous counsel; she hasn’t sounded the depths of what she doesn’t know. Clinton was a non-entity as secretary of state and at least in North Africa was foolish and precipitate; thousands of lives have been extinguished in Libya and Egypt for the sake of a hunch. But her decisions are her own. Meanwhile Stein’s speeches give the impression that subtlety offends her.

But foreign policy goals and farragos didn’t influence my vote two weeks ago. The time for a fully progressive candidate ended in March 2016. Bernie Sanders lost. He lost despite the machinations of a Democratic Party beholden to Clinton. He lost because he didn’t have the votes to become the nominee. Thanks to Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, #BlackLivesMatter, Occupy, and millions of men and women whose names I’ll never know, Hillary is not the same Clinton who ran in 1992 and, saints above us, 1996.

Should Hillary Clinton win and the Congress remain in the talon grip of the GOP, we will see a reprise of Barack Obama’s last four years: government by executive order, paid vacations for a legislative branch that would rather pay its share of taxes than return to their districts with a record of endorsing a Clinton initiative. Liberals worrying about what she and plutocrats chortled about in paid speeches needn’t; even if she endorsed legislation calling for the exhumation of Ronald Wilson Reagan for the purpose of a cadaver synod the Republicans wouldn’t budge.

But should Hillary Clinton win, the Environmental Protection Agency is safe. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration will have competent leadership. The executive branch will fix what it legally can with the Affordable Care Act. I’m afraid that in foreign policy – the one place where a president’s ambitions can run untrammeled – she will pursue such hooey as Arming the Kurds and Sending a Message to Vladimir Putin. The quasi war in Yemen continues.

In short, Clinton believes in government: a robust federal government that ensures equal protection under the law and, for better and increasingly worse, enforces American interests abroad. I wish Bernie Sanders had been the nominee. Clinton would be a competent hack for the next four years. Competence means preserving a system from encroachment. In other times she would be the conservative consensus choice — as indeed she is compared to Sanders.

Donald Trump is not the revolutionary, and I wish mandarins offended by the word “pussy” would relisten to Mitt Romney’s 47 percent remark, George W. Bush’s call for a constitutional amendment to protect marriage, and remember the eight years of Reagan. The party he theoretically heads has been populated by sans-culottes since January 1981. It’s hard for anyone not living in the United States — I don’t intend condescension — to understand how the GOP and its putative Democratic opposition since Ronald Wilson Reagan have perverted the idea of government: a sloth-like, cumbersome, unwieldy but reliable federal government to whose courts our citizens turn for equal protection under the law and whose seniors get Social Security payments once a month, hurricane or not, like clockwork. That’s how government is supposed to work.

Tight-lipped and defensive if not surly about public information; glamour-free; meticulous about greasing the machinery — that’s what a Clinton administration would look like. #I’mwithgov’t