Tag Archives: Politics

Ranking reeking presidents

The latest presidential rankings suggest #metoo and a reckoning with the men’s prejudices affected several reputations, notably Andrew Jackson (out of the top ten and tumbling, thank the lord or Jon Meacham) and Woodrow Wilson’s (same). The late Poppy Bush, stretching his legs and aglow with the knowledge that obituary writers praised him as the Last Sane Republican, gets comfortable in the top twenty. Andrew Johnson remains as reviled as ever, perhaps more so as we re-examine the catastrophe of the abandonment of Reconstruction. Ron Chernow’s superb bio has rehabilitated Ulysses Grant’s reputation much as David McCullough’s did John Adams seventeen years ago. But why Warren Harding gets more shit than Calvin Coolidge (who actually did sleep while the fires were set for the burning of Rome) I’ll never know;  he needs the Meacham Treatment, I suspect. But what the bloody hell is George W. Bush doing above Chester Arthur and Benjamin Harrison?

At the bottom, chewing on James Buchanan and Franklin Pierce while trapped in ice, is the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Here is the aforementioned top ten: Continue reading

A case for Bernie Sanders

“[Bernie] Sanders is more banal than people think,” Vox‘s Matthew Yglesias writes in a surprising endorsement of the Vermont senator’s presidential campaign – surprising when remembering Yglesias as the voice of Democratic reasonableness. Perhaps this explains his stressing of Sanders’ banality.

Most of the fears about Sanders expressed by Democratic insiders — fears that have trickled into much of the mainstream media coverage of his campaign — are better understood as disputes with his followers than as real problems with the man himself.

His extremely online loyalists (themselves only a minority of his supporters, as with any candidate) tend to be both highly ideological and highly antagonistic. Some, including younger supporters, seem to lack a broader perspective on events. They are unrealistically optimistic about what a Sanders administration could achieve, unreasonably down on Sanders’s rivals, and simply lack appreciation of how small the differences within the Democratic field are, especially compared with the gaping void between essentially all Democrats and all Republicans under modern polarized conditions.

That said, a primary is about picking a nominee, not about picking whose cheering chorus you find most congenial on Twitter. Sanders has good ideas on the topics in which the choice between Democrats matters most, he has a plausible electability case, he’s been a pragmatic and reasonably effective legislator, and his nomination is, by far, the best way to put toxic infighting to rest and bring the rising cohort of left-wing young people into the tent — for both the 2020 campaign and the long-term future.

My opinions are well known. Sanders was too old last year. He is older this year. Nevertheless, he remained my #2 without competition, and the swiftness with which he recovered from a heart attack more of his fans should worry about impressed me. He also seems lighter on his feet. The Trump administration’s insouciance about assassinating Iranian officials served as a reminder that the Middle East remains a quagmire of bipartisan depths. Despite the insistence with which pundits have said the Boy Mayor and Warren have excellent “ground game” in Iowa, it’s Sanders who has seen record small donations and a consequent rise in polling. He forced me to give him a fourth look, damn him.

2019 as 1649

After coffee and before exercise, I spent a delightful ninety minutes yesterday morning and intermittently the rest of the day fighting rightist journalists, their minions, and sundry trolls on Twitter. I went after Erick Erickson, an unlettered windbag whose self-professed Christianity is unleavened by imagination and empathy — a redundant phrase, for empathy requires imagination. Infuriated by the New York Times’ 1619 Project, a prodigious journalistic feat about which amateur historians can argue in good faith; yet Erickson and his toadies, together with National Review editor Rich Lowry, questioned its very existence. Continue reading

The moral blindness of Andrew Sullivan

I once took Andrew Sullivan seriously. He inspired me to blog, may in fact have contributed significantly toward turning “blog” into a verb: an activity viable and necessary. Sometime in the early 2010s the compulsion shorted dendrites in his brain. He hates Donald Trump — so what, get in line. Because he defines himself as a moderate conservative, he writes columns at New York in which his resistance to the trans movement, reduction of substantive liberal theories about systemic racism to white-men-are-awful, and appeals to a fictional conservatism positing that Reagan and Thatcher would have gasped at the deformation of the modern GOP adduce his putative fair-mindedness. The tergiversation in his paragraphs — the ideological careening and habitual defensiveness — is an intenser ride than Space Mountain.

In the latest hodgepodge, Sullivan turns to the case of a woman who took to Twitter for help dealing with a teenaged son whom she suspects of flirting with white supremacist dreck online:

It reminds me of a fundamentalist mother stalking her son’s online porn habit. Doesn’t she realize that it is exactly this kind of pious, preachy indoctrination about “oppressive systems” that are actually turning some white kids into alt-right fanboys? To my mind, it’s a sign of psychological well-being that these boys are skeptical of their authority figures, that they don’t think their maleness is a problem, and that they enjoy taking the piss out of progressive pabulum. This is what healthy teenage boys do.

The problem? This is the tweet he chose to denounce. Guess why. It rhymes with “chiggered.” Yet a string of prefatory tweets present, shall we say, a larger view. The number of “subtly racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic jokes” to which her son is exposed terrify this woman. When shamed by authority figures, the young men’s response is to consume more garbage. Boys who grow up in moderate to progressive families are often the biggest offenders, she notes. “NOBODY seems to notice this happening — except, it seems, moms of teenage girls who see the bizarre harassment their daughters endure,” she writes. “And, of course, moms like me who stalk our sons’ social media.”

These points are lucidly phrased, the fear genuine. Yet for the sake of pillorying one of the right’s most loathed verbs, he brushes aside this mother’s worries, thus turning his case into a rake he steps on, continuously: he ignores her because she’s a woman, because he has no daughters; he ignores her because for Andrew Sullivan young men dabbling in puerile memes evinces their skepticism of authority figures. The anti-Semite and the online fag basher are as essential to shaping a healthy, pulchritudinous male imagination as Orwell and Montaigne. Enjoying quips at the expense of women is as harmless as fart jokes. Confront these teens, Sullivan warns, and risk — get this — further radicalizing them:

Subject young white boys to critical race and gender theory, tell them that women can have penises, that genetics are irrelevant in understanding human behavior, that borders are racist, or that men are inherently toxic, and you will get a bunch of Jordan Peterson fans by their 20s. Actually, scratch that future tense — they’re here and growing in number.

Save your complaints, readers. Piss off embryonic racists and you may turn them into full-bodied ones. We made our racist relatives into Trump voters. These conclusions rebound to the pecuniary interests of Andrew Sullivan: he can accept more cable TV talk show invitations to explain the subtleties of his, ah, unsullied fascination with majoritarian politics, then himself take to Twitter when critics attack him for holding the views he detailed in exquisite precision. We will never be rid of him.

The persistence of the McGovern myth

As 2020 and the Iowa caucus get closer, expect to see Rahm Emmanuel and Claire McCaskill types bemoan the leftward lurch of the Democratic Party. Expect allusions to George McGovern, whom the Democratic candidate establishment despises more than the GOP as an Eeyore, a symbol of failure as profound as the substitution of Swanson’s English Style Fish ‘n’ Chops for edible cuisine. Continue reading

The mystery of Pete Buttigieg

“With his air of decency and grab bag of gifted-and-talented party tricks, he doesn’t so much represent the will of the Democratic electorate but rather the aspirations of its educated elite, maybe especially those who see a shrinking market for their erudition,” Jay Caspian King writes in an appraisal of Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Point, Indiana beloved by the Morning Joe set. Continue reading

The politics of civility

Hours after her swearing-in as the new representative of Michigan’s 13th congressional district, Rashida Tlaib said the following to a crowd at a MoveOn event:

And when you’re son looks at you and says ‘mama, look you won, bullies don’t win.’ And I say ‘baby, they don’t’ because we’re gonna go in there and we’re gonna impeach the motherfucker.”

No sooner had these remarks gone viral that the Beltway pundit class’ brains oozed into their smoothies.  Continue reading

Blame everything on Newt

I read an insightful comment on Lawyers, Guns & Money this morning. To what degree, the reader asks, did the GOP’s victory in 1994 strengthen its radicalism? The comment:

The fact that they went for 40 years without ever holding it meant that they had to compromise on budgets and a vast range of measures. It’s interesting that the critical political function that the GOP excels at, obsessively focusing on judges, is one that doesn’t go through the House. It’s also interesting that a lot of their current anti-democratic focus has its strongest effect in the House. I might be wrong, but I bet the GOP remembers that 40-year run in the wilderness more strongly than Democrats do.

Imagine how Democratic policies would be affected if we couldn’t, for election after election after election, win the House? It would push us towards the centre, and this argument of whether we should compromise and accommodate the racists wouldn’t even be an argument — we’d have to.

During this postwar period of great strife and acrimony the Republicans controlled twice: 1946 to 1948, and as a result of the Ike landslide 1952-1954. They suffered devastating losses in the 1958 midterms. The Democrats lost few seats in 1962. The only significant setback for Democrats until Ronald Reagan ushered in a GOP-controlled Senate for the next six years were the 1966 midterms, the reaction against the Great Society. The insufferable encomia to George H.W. Bush and his putative moderateness failed to mention that to have any seat at the table Republicans had to compromise.

As the two parties sorted themselves in the nineties into voting blocs similar to parliamentary systems, turnover accelerated, which means that the GOP has even less reason to stabilize and why the Democrats have only in the last election cycle paid more than lip service to their left flank. Democrats, however, have a few years to go before they approximate the GOP’s inexorable purism. This won’t stop Beltway types from both-sides-ism, though.

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.