Nancy Pelosi should stay

Instinctively obsessed with parity, the Washington press corps turns to classic boilerplate both-sidesism when covering what it thinks is a internecine bloodbath between House Democrats who ran against Nancy Pelosi as speaker and senescent reactionaries. Josh Marshall has the stakes exactly right:

First, I’m ambivalent about Nancy Pelosi becoming Speaker again. Turnovers in leadership are good. The dozens of new House Democrats converging on Capitol Hill this week visibly shows the power of generational succession. The Democrats’ current House leadership has been in place for more than 15 years, an extraordinary length of time by historical standards.


There’s a separate matter. Somewhat like Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi has been so consistently vilified and caricatured by national Republicans that she has become, objectively, a highly charged figure as the face of national Democrats. We can lament that, think it’s the product of things that are vicious and unfair. I do. But that doesn’t make it not true.


At the same time, there are very few people who understand the inner workings of the House, what caucus leaders do and what she managed to get done between 2007 and 2011 who don’t think she’s a legislative leader of extraordinary ability. She also has critical support from a broad array of the parties different factions, in and out of Congress. As important as anything, Pelosi is tough, something particularly important facing Donald Trump for the next two years.

From my vantage point in a moneyed suburb in unincorporated Miami-Dade County, it’s the fault of Pelosi, Hoyer, et. al. for not promoting a new generation of leaders who’ll replace their septuagenarian asses,a point also raised in Marshall’s essay. Otherwise the argument that Pelosi Must Go makes no sense. At this moment she’s irreplaceable. The smarter young guns who ran on replacing her should follow the lead of Alexandra Ocasio-Sanchez, who staged a protest at the minority leader’s office that strengthened her young-fresh cred.

So keep Nancy Pelosi. The most effective speaker since John W. McCormack is the only person tactically shrewd enough to exploit the awed contempt in which she’s held by the GOP (Paul Ryan and the rest attack her precisely because they understand how good she is at her job), not to mention the skills to pass legislation and reduce talking points to essentials. Let her serve one term as speaker with the promise of letting a younger replacement shadow her — I don’t care. But the moment requires a leader who understands the stakes.

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

It’s about time

After yet another Donald Trump supporter gets caught for being the grifter and charlatan he is, Elizabeth Warren’s latest policy proposal makes as much sense as the Pure Food and Drug Act:

In pursuit of ending “both the appearance and the potential for financial conflicts of interest,” Warren’s bill would prohibit federal lawmakers, judges, Cabinet secretaries and other senior congressional staff from owning individual stocks while in office. It would also bar all government officials from holding stocks the value of which might be influenced by their work in office.

“Enough of the spectacle of HHS secretaries and herds of congressmen caught up in insider trading schemes,” Warren said in the speech.

As an apparent alternative to individual stock ownership, the bill would create “conflict-free investment opportunities for federal officials with new investment accounts,” according to a synopsis of the bill obtained by CNBC.

“They can put their savings in conflict-free investments like mutual funds or they can pick a different line of work,” Warren said.

These accounts would be managed by the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, an independent agency established during the Reagan administration that boasts fewer than 300 employees.

She calls it the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act. Another provision: forcing candidates to release years of tax returns and thereafter should they win. Warren has a higher probability of passing on malaria than this bill passing Congress before November, but that’s the point: if Dems want, they can run on commonsense ways of dealing with systemic corruption, like they did in 2006 against K Street and Tom DeLay.

The ‘overblown’ fears of Democrats in Trump states

So polarized is our culture that I give Democrats no credit for Working Across the Aisle, not when doing so eviscerates Social Security/Medicare, turns voting rights into a noble idea in a textbook, and turns the First Amendment into a rapier to bury into the hearts of gay and lesbian citizens. In 2016, Donald Trump or more likely his strategists had a plan: increase turnout in a shrinking demographic, compensating with enthusiasm what it will lose in lives. Democrats must focus on their base too, but it’s an expanding one. In 2028 a Democrat seeking office won’t convert a Republican voter by supporting the gutting of reproductive rights; what the Democrat does is alienate other Democratic voters.

But the minds of party solons are not easily changed. In these minds it’s still 1988 and every Democrat is Mike Dukakis. While Chuck Todd delivers the conventional wisdom about Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana “boxed in” as Democratic senators in Trump states, voters have moved on. The essential Jane Mayer reports from the ground:

Nan Aron, the president of Alliance for Justice, a progressive group, who was also involved in the Thomas confirmation fight, agrees. “The conventional wisdom is that a vote against the nominee will hurt Democrats, but the reality that we’ve seen in the past is that it’s sometimes the right vote for Democrats politically. Votes for Thomas deflated the Democratic vote” afterward in some Senate races. As for this year, she says, “Look—Democrats in red states need the progressive base. You don’t need them staying home.”

On Saturday, two progressive groups—Demand Justice, a new organization focussed on judicial issues, and the Center for American Progress—planned to release a poll, conducted in the battleground states of Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, and West Virginia, that seeks to convey a similar message to vulnerable Democratic senators.

According to the poll, conducted by Hart Research Associates, Democratic senators may actually be better off politically, even in states that went overwhelmingly to Trump in 2016, if they cast votes against Kavanaugh. The polling data, which was gathered between June 30th and July 5th from about twelve hundred voters in those four states, are, of course, self-serving. But it makes the case that, if Democratic senators in conservative states frame their opposition to Kavanaugh clearly as a matter of conscience, based on one of three possible arguments, a majority of voters will likely accept and support the decision.

The thing is, Tester is doing okay. So is Joe Manchin. Among Democrats oly Manchin, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota voted for the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch last year; Tester, my boy Bill Nelson, and Claire McCaskill of Missouri, one of the other endangered Democratic senatorial candidates, voted no. Kavanaugh is as terrible if not worse than Gorsuch. If Nelson has a brains in that ancient skull, he’ll understand how a vote for a future member of this Fuller-era Supreme Court risks the lives of his Floridians. Hoping that the senior in Apalachicola may think, “Gee, isn’t Bill Nelson independent? Might as well vote for him” instead of, “Gee, isn’t Bill Nelson independent? Gonna vote for Rick Scott anyway” is like believing in tax cuts that pay for themselves.

The nonsense of originalism

I’m no lawyer but have always been interested in the Court as an institution: its history, personalities, decisions. I often get impatient with liberals when they decry “judicial activism” or conservatives when they regard a political document written over two centuries ago as inviolate. Isn’t it funny how originalism produces the most conservative results? Continue reading

On Democratic timidity

Without suggesting that the Democrats run Alexandra Ocasio-Cortezes in every district, Eric Loomis has theories about why party satraps are panicking:

They are scared of the grassroots taking over. They are scared of a left version of the Tea Party. They are scared of their now nearly two generations of received wisdom in the aftermath of McGovern’s loss (and then the disastrous campaigns of Mondale and Dukakis) being thrown out the window, long past their sell-by date. They are scared of bold policy proposals that challenge their carefully considered moderate stance that appeals to potential Wall Street donors.

Also up for ridicule: former Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson’s dismissal of the Abolish ICE movement.

CE is not necessary for federal law enforcement. It’s only been around for 15 years and it’s not as if we didn’t have a semi-militarized border before that. He says elections have consequences, but that’s precisely what the Abolish ICE movement is working for–getting politicians to say that we need to abolish the agency and make that policy a consequence of the 2020 elections and a rallying point in 2018. Johnson talks about how Abolish ICE is destroying the chance for bipartisan immigration reform. What planet is he on? How is that possibly going to happen? What is the constituency for that in the Republican Party? The prospects for a bipartisan immigration bill is not Democrats outraged that ICE is separating babies from their parents. It died many times before on the shoals of Republican racism an[d] now that ethnic cleansing is the official policy of the administration and congressional Republicans, there is no room for compromise.

In a few hours Donald Trump will announce, with the subtlety of a game show host, his newest nominee to the Supreme Court. When Donald Trump returns to Mar-a-Lago in 2020 or 2024 – a property inching below sea level, thanks to his administration’s public postures – the rest of us must deal with a Court on which John Roberts becomes the swing vote by default. The idea isn’t to encourage Ocasio-Cortezes in every district – the idea is to encourage bold leftism that forces voters to consider tossing decades of received thinking. A living wage and Medicare for all were concepts so outré that noted socialist Harry Truman supported them, but don’t tell Bret Stephens, mysteriously employed by the NYT and one of MSNBC weekday afternoon Cassandras. Now that voters have gotten a taste of him it’s possible that Doug Jones can campaign on healthcare for everyone in Alabama; I’ve no idea how the policy polls up there. The only way to find out is to stop acting like we’re Mike Dukakis.

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 stale myth of Robert Kennedy’s invincibility

We hate strongmen like Donald Trump and wish them overthrown with our own strongmen. MSNBC’s long cry over the memory of Robert Fitzgerald Kennedy in the last two days is an example of rare bipartisan comity; even Joe Scarborough admits that RFK inspired him to run for Congress and fight to cut deficits, eliminate the Department of Education, and cut the growth of Medicare – the things on which Democratic Leadership Council types based elections for years.

I appreciate Michael Cohen‘s puncturing of the hagiographic balloons inflated, with decent intentions:

Yet, the myth of Kennedy’s so-called black-blue coalition endures. Just this past March, the New York Times ran an op-ed arguing that Kennedy’s 82-day campaign in 1968 was one of “liberalism without elitism and a populism without racism” and boasted that he “was able to forge a powerful coalition of working-class whites and blacks . . . at a time when whites were far more bigoted than they are today.”

In reality, it was precisely Kennedy’s identification with black voters that hurt him among some whites. In polling done in California, the campaign found that the candidate’s greatest vulnerability with white voters is that they saw him as, in his own words, “the Negro candidate.”

Kennedy’s ’68 campaign, rather than offering an inspiring model for bringing white and black voters together, would instead provide a depressing preview of 50 years of racial politics in America. Most white voters supported civil rights legislation, but when the practical impact of these laws began to infringe on their privileges, they pushed back. As schools, neighborhoods, and workplaces were integrated, whites responded with palpable fear that advances for blacks meant less for them — and voted accordingly. Politics came to be seen as a zero-sum game, in which increasing government services and resources for one group meant taking it away from someone else. This became an effective fear-based message utilized by generations of Republican politicians, and it played out in almost identical terms during the 2016 campaign.

Evidence shows that Kennedy “evolved,” insofar as anyone does and when ‘evolution’ isn’t the realization that we can put our strengths and foibles in the service of noticing other people. But even if hadn’t wrested the 1968 nomination from Hubert Humphrey he would’ve lost against Nixon. Whether ratfucking would have sunk an RFK campaign in 1972 like it did George McGovern’s I don’t know; Nixon looked unbeatable then too, although perhaps Kennedy would not have made it such a landslide. White Americans had accepted the bullshit that liberals had Pushed Too Far with civil rights; they would have to deal with the cynical gestures of a Nixon signing the EPA into existence.

Studies in abjection, pt. 234

This is why Democrats lose.

Dear Mr. Soto:

Thank you for contacting me about President Trump, and his nominees for federal agencies.

President Trump has nominated Acting Director Gina Haspel to serve as the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

I will vote to support her nomination.

Gina Haspel has dedicated her life to serving her country and the brave men and women who work at the CIA deserve a career professional, like her, to lead them. She has publicly acknowledged that the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program should not have been undertaken and has vowed to uphold our nation’s laws and values in leading the agency. She also has earned the respect and backing of former intelligence chiefs from both the Bush and Obama administrations.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me in the future with issues that are important to you.

Bill Nelson

Nelson, the senior senator from Florida, will face Governor Rick Scott, who has $56 billion in his wallet and can repeat JOBS JOBS until he regrows hair on his head.