Tag Archives: Politics

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.

Joe Biden as nominee: a terrible f—— deal

“Morning” Joe and partner “Mika” Brzezinski is have evolved since the days when their MSNBC morning show turned into a Donald J. Trump telecenter in 2015-2016. They acknowledge the impacts of gerrymandering and James Comey’s FBI announcement on the 2016 election; they accept that the new Democratic coalition comprises women and people of color; they pay lip service to the environment; Scarborough gels his hair, keeps the sides shaved, and wears the occasionally chic sweater. Willie Geist, who looks like Michael Shannon playing Jason Isbell, has a quiet, mordant wit. Continue reading

Reflections of a Political Man, Part II

He had worse hair than any president since Nixon. “Worse” as in natural – a man with other things on his mind (John Updike, in his classist way, would go further: “closely modeled on the opossum fur of his beloved Arkansas”). He had a low rumbling laugh that suggested an acquaintance with mirth. Most impressively, he stank of sex; it was obvious to anyone with a cerebellum. Continue reading

Reflections of a Political Man

Besides chastisement in front of the class, Alex wasn’t allowed to Go Out and Play, my fourth grade class’ term for recess. Drawing a mustache on the vice president was an act of disrespect; that the Groucho face drag appeared on a Reagan-Bush ’84 campaign poster turned the defilement into an act of treason as perfidious as Alger Hiss’. Continue reading

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.