Sunday, January 15, 2017

THE RULES FOR DEMOCRATS BEGIN TO TAKE SHAPE, AND THEY'RE AS BAD AS YOU'D EXPECT

The Washington Post has generally done a good job covering Donald Trump, but what the hell is up with this story?
Trump-Lewis feud could be harbinger of new round of hyper-partisanship

A public feud between Donald Trump and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) seemed to jettison any lingering hopes that the inauguration would temporarily ease partisanship in Washington....

The incident has left Democrats and Republicans bracing themselves for yet another showdown between the president and his political opponents -- one that threatens to usher in a new era of the kind of crippling hyper-partisanship that often characterized the eight years of the Obama administration.
Oh, this feud is ushering in hyper-partisanship? Because it wasn't already happening? You mean -- just to take some examples from this week -- there was no hyper-partisanship in Senate Republicans' decision to hold an Obamacare destruction vote in the middle of the night, followed by a House vote to begin the dismantling in earnest, both of which were strictly along party lines? There was no hyper-partisanship in House Oversight Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz's vow to continue investigating Hillary Clinton's emails, or in the president-elect's tweet describing Clinton as "guilty as hell"?

Oh, right, I forgot: There's no hyper-partisanship when Republicans portray Democrats as people unfit to live in decent society and Democratic policies as willfully destructive -- it's only hyper-partisanship when, as Lewis did, Democrats push back, or otherwise assert themselves.

Meanwhile, over at The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof tells us who's fit to investigate Trump's Russia ties and who isn't:
The Senate Intelligence Committee has announced an investigation of Russian election meddling, and other Senate Republicans seem intent on pursuing the issue as well. That’s good: Democrats have little credibility investigating Trump, so it makes sense for Republicans to lead on this.

... the best disinfectant will be transparency. That means congressional inquiries, led by Republicans, and a continued F.B.I. investigation.
This is an extension of the long-standing unwritten D.C. rules on special-prosecutor partisanship. If a Democrat has to be investigated (see, e.g., Whitewater), then the prosecutor has to be a Republican -- otherwise, the investigation has partisan bias. And if a Republican administration has to be investigated? Well, think of Plamegate -- again, the prosecutor has to be a Republican (and in both cases there are accusations of liberal bias if the Republican doesn't seem Republican enough). Basically, it's always partisan if Democrats (or even moderate Republicans) are doing the investigating, by definition.

So I was going to chide Democrats for the tentativeness dsplayed in this Times story by Jonathan Martin, but, given the way things are going, I can understand why they might be skittish:
As the candidates for chairman of the Democratic National Committee gathered here for a forum on Saturday, they wrestled with a vexing question: how to confront the asymmetrical political warfare of President-elect Donald J. Trump.

Be strategic, the candidates advised, and do not take him up on every feud.

“If you try to go tweet-to-tweet with him, more often than not you’re not going to succeed,” said Thomas E. Perez, the secretary of labor, warning about going to “a knife fight with a spoon.”

Sally Boynton Brown, the executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party, invoked what she called “Psychology 101” for narcissists. Every response to Mr. Trump’s provocations, she warned, risks helping him “grow more powerful.”

And Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., said simply, “We’re going to need to be smarter than just talking about how bad he is.”

Yet just as the would-be leaders of the committee ... preached prudence and calculation in the Trump era, others in the party were responding with fury to the president-elect’s latest Twitter outburst.

Mr. Trump’s ridicule of Representative John Lewis of Georgia as being “all talk” set off outrage among Democrats....

The president-elect’s willingness to attack seemingly any and all comers -- Mr. Lewis is one of the few figures revered across party lines -- nearly every day makes him an even more difficult target for Democrats.
I agree that Democrats should stay on offense. I agree that they should attack Trump on issues. But is Martin seriously suggesting that it was a mistake to stick up for Lewis? Is Martin saying that it was strategically unwise to defend a fellow Democrat, and express outrage that a man of Lewis's bravery and moral standing was maligned?

I might argue that Democrats should have defended Lewis and gone on offensive regarding issues -- in fact, when Lewis said that Trump will be an "illegitimate president," he was going on offense on the issue of Trump's cozy ties to the Russians. But there's nothing wrong with just standing up for Lewis -- it would have been disgraceful if Democrats hadn't.

Regrettably, that's where we stand right now. Defending John Lewis is playing into Trump's hands. Attacking Trump on his Russia ties reeks of partisanship if it's done by Democrats. And partisanship truly begins only when Democrats fight back.

6 comments:

McSchwanger said...

Has anybody even tried going "tweet to tweet" with him? He is an idiot, after all. It wouldn't be terribly difficult for someone important in the Dem party to make him look stupid. But I dunno, Sally Brown says you shouldn't bother because it will only make him grow more powerful, so I guess we should...? Um...?

The failure of the Sally Browns and Pete Buttigiegs is that they know about the blatant double standard the media holds them to and they simply accept it. They play the part they're given and try to work within those rules, and of course they lose every time. How could they possibly expect to win? Perhaps if Democrats didn't play to their worst stereotypes all the time the media would have a harder time playing this game.

The "skittish" ones in the party (I think they prefer "pragmatic") will always wet the bed at the prospect of going on the offensive, and others in the party will listen to them, and that's a big part of why the Democrats are where they are now. We need to stop listening to them. Their suggestions have not been helpful for a long time. Fighting back (in the news, on social media or legislatively) isn't the best option, it's the only option.

mlbxxxxxx said...

I wish that the Dems would just accept that they are going to be crucified as hyper-partisan and just go ahead and do what needs to be done. Apparently, Obama played it cool RE: the Russians and Trump prior to the election because he didn't want to appear too partisan -- and he thought Clinton would win anyway. That whole calculation looks kind of pathetic in hindsight.

As a corollary to your rule about only Rs can investigate with integrity is the fact that the Republicans worry about the reaction of their right wing and adjust their behavior accordingly and the Dems also worry about the reaction of the republican right wing and act accordingly. Nobody seems gives a shit about what all we left wing "elites" want. It's a strange universe where one tail can wag two dogs.

Joe M said...

I think the reason for this double standard is related to what Donald trump was getting at when he said his wealth made him incorruptible and other republicans were when saying the same about the wealth of his ultra rich cabinet members. Basically they are saying that if a member of a weaker group gets into a position of power over a member of a stronger group, the weaker person will use that position to weaken the strong, rather than do what's "right."

You see this concept frequently in American history. Several early Virginia politicians said only the wealthy should hold public office; a poorer person would only use his office to enrich himself, but a rich man has no reason to. Trump almost said this point blank when comparing himself to "crooked" Hillary. Bill and Hillary were poorer politicians 40 years ago. Now they are rich, so this alone is taken as proof they are "crooked" and only out for themselves. Trump (allegedly) has no reason to enrich himself so of course he will do what's best for America. This resonated with a lot of swing voters.

You can also see this concept in early to mid 20th century arguments against women or blacks serving on juries. It was often said that these jurors would always rule against a white or male defendant no matter what the evidence said, just to weaken a member of these more powerful groups. Obviously only white male jurors would do the right thing.

There are dozens of other examples. When a white man accuses another white man of racial or gender discrimination, he is often taken more seriously in the media than a nonwhite or female accuser. When a Reagan-appointed judge who happened to be gay rule against California's gay marriage ban in 2009, his homosexuality was given as evidence that he couldn't be trusted in his ruling.

This applies to republican politicians accused of wrongdoing whether or not they are in office because they are a coalition of the (at least relatively) powerful. Democrats have more members of less powerful groups and are therefore under more suspicion for corruption from the media, which of course is made up mostly of members of powerful groups.

Ms. L.B. said...

A quick observation @McSchwanger: Elizabeth Warren has done quite well taking on Trump's tweets.

trnc said...

"Apparently, Obama played it cool RE: the Russians and Trump prior to the election because he didn't want to appear too partisan -- and he thought Clinton would win anyway. That whole calculation looks kind of pathetic in hindsight."

Lots of things look pathetic in hindsight. I have serious doubts that this would have cancelled out Comey's actions. Imagine if Obama had made a big deal about the intel on the Russians. Every story would have been that he was slinging around unsubstantiated stories just to help Clinton, and, oh, "How dare he politicize the IC this way!" And if Clinton had lost anyway because the same voters would have just blown this off as another example of corruption, all posts like this would be about how badly Obama screwed up by releasing the info with no evidence to back it up. And sourced from a foreign agent, to boot.

Obama wasn't playing it cool. He was doing his best to play within the Clinton rules during an election that almost everyone thought she would win.

Diane Rodriguez said...


First of all we must have a DCC head NOW!My preference is Perez. Actually Dean, but I think he gave up on getting through all the egos.

The Twitidiot has been successful in engaging and distracting. That's the problem, not so much that anyone tweets in response, but the Dems have no overarching repetitive narrative that nails the real problem. The Twitidiot brings enormous risk to the country, both internal and external. The dumpster fires should be treated as more evidence of security risks, not merely as single incidents requiring a targeted response. In addition, banging on the GOP as a whole for their chaos and "yes we support Trump, no we don't" can be useful. The GOP is quite desperate with their Dems-are-children approach. I think that can be effectively turned against them.

His narcissism can be useful, if there is a integrated plan, but you have to remember he is probably also a psychopath.