Thursday, April 05, 2018


Zandar directs our attention to a Politico piece by Jeff Greenfield.

Greenfield writes:
It’s Wednesday, November 7, 2018, and the Democrats have awakened to the taste of ashes in their mouths. Despite the poll numbers and the pattern of history, Republicans have somehow managed to keep their losses small enough to retain control of the House. They’ve even picked up a seat or two in the Senate.

How could this have happened? Was it the gerrymandered House districts, the flood of dark money from the Mercers and the Kochs, the suppression of voters in key states?

Maybe. But should that Democratic disaster come to pass, a good deal of the explanation would lie in an aphorism often misattributed to Voltaire: “I can take care of my enemies, but Lord protect me from my friends.” Some of the most damaging blows to Democratic hopes this year are friendly fire.
I agree that it's going to be tough for Democrats to win back the Senate (although a poll now has Democrat Phil Bredesen with a double-digit lead in the Tennessee Senate race, so who knows?). Democrats might not win back the House, mostly because of gerrymandering, possibly because circumstances we can't predict might motivate the Trumpers to turn out in November (though that doesn't seem to have happened in most of the recent special elections). However, a Democratic wave does seem to be building.

So what does Greenfield think will seal the Dems' doom? What are the things friends are doing that will harm them?
The most recent—and most harmful—came from John Paul Stevens, the retired Supreme Court Justice, who wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times in which he called for an outright repeal of the Second Amendment....

If you are a senator like Joe Donnelly, or Heidi Heitkamp, or Jon Tester, or Joe Manchin, or if you are a Democrat looking to unseat a Republican House member in a rural district, your opponent has now been given a powerful weapon to argue that “no matter what my opponent says, their heart is with one of their liberal-hero judges.” At best, you have just been given a 20-pound weight to carry on your shoulders.
I don't know where the 74-year-old Greenfield got the idea that the 97-year-old Stevens is a widely celebrated liberal hero. Do you know any typical Democratic voter who feels that way about Stevens? Ruth Bader Ginsburg, sure, but Stevens? He left the court eight years ago, he was appointed by a Republican president, and he's never been a folk hero, like Ginsburg on the left or Antonin Scalia on the right.

Also, that op-ed was published more than seven months before the midterms. Will anyone even remember it? I'd say it's already been forgotten in the wave of news about Facebook, Sinclair, Scott Pruitt, Roseanne Barr, Laura Ingraham.... Seriously, Jeff: It's 2018. We have multiple news cycles every day. This story was, metaphorically, fishwrap days ago.

But won't Republicans bring it up as proof that gun-control advocates are sworn enemies of the entire Second Amendment? I have news for you, Jeff: They already say that. They say that every time liberal suggest even a modest gun-control proposal. Everything we ask for is the first step on the slippery slope toward total gun confiscation and the torching of the Bill of Rights. That would have been true with or without the Stevens op-ed.

More from Greenfield:
The recent tweet that came from a Planned Parenthood chapter in Pennsylvania is the same kind self-sabotage.... So what did this Pennsylvania chapter offer during this precarious moment? In talking about Disney princesses, it tweeted: “We need a princess who’s had an abortion ... who’s pro-choice ... who’s an undocumented immigrant ... who’s actually a union worker ... who’s trans.” The tweet was deleted, but not before Fox News and other conservative voices had a field day with it.

Yes, it’s just a tweet by a local chapter, probably written by a young staffer, but what made it so inexplicable was that, whatever the author’s intent, it read like a provocation by a voice who assumed that every American embraced these hotly contested ideas. To someone at all uneasy about the cultural upheavals of the past decade, the tweet was evidence that their opinions are considered illegitimate, unreasonable, beyond the pale. And for Democrats in red districts who have to navigate these cultural minefields, the tweet made their journeys even harder.
This was never a major mainstream news story; I don't think it was even a multi-day story on the right. If it can't be ascribed to any figure in Democratic politics, and it wasn't a big when it happened, why should it matter to voters months after it happened? Greenfield even notes that Planned Parenthood has "the approval of a significant majority of Americans," a fact that's borne out by poll after poll. And when was representation in popular culture ever a burning electoral issue? Forget it -- this is meaningless now, and it will be meaningless in the midterms.

Finally, I’d add to this list what I call “magical cable news thinking.” My anecdotal sense is that countless liberals are drawn to the never-ending, numbing procession of TV panel after TV panel, all focused on the Mueller investigations and what they might yield. (Stormy Daniels has now become the second obsessive subject.)

... What matters—and what is overshadowed by the cable news coverage and in too many Democratic messages—is what the Trump administration is actually doing. For instance, the budget reluctantly signed by the president includes $540 million for the Gateway tunnel, to provide new rail service between New York and New Jersey.... Or take the administration’s decision to weaken the fuel-efficiency standards that car companies were supposed to meet, which would make the air we breathe less healthy. Or the way that the administration has diluted the ability of Medicaid to provide health care for working-class Americans.

These are the kinds of stories that a 24-hour news network ought to be covering extensively. They should also form the arguments that a party seeking a return to political power ought to be hitting, repeatedly and forcefully.
This would make sense if Democratic candidates were running on Mueller and Daniels exclusively. The reality is ... well, let's look at the "Priorities" page on the campaign site of recently victorious Democratic congressional candidate Conor Lamb:

Now let's look at the campaign site of Rebecca Dallet, who was just elected to the Wisconsin Supreme Court with the support of Democrats:
I’ve overseen both civil and criminal courts—making tough decisions to send violent criminals away, and rendered compassionate verdicts to give people a second chance.

In our courts, I see the challenges our neighbors face every day: I see moms like me working two jobs, but still not able to make ends meet. I see families losing their homes when a family member gets sick and the medical bills stack up. I see victims of violent crime, especially in our poorest neighborhoods, struggling to find a way as guns, drugs, and gangs devastate their community. And I see neighbors trying to get their lives back on track, but stuck in a criminal justice system that needs reform.....

I am prepared to fight and represent our values on day one.
Trump appears in a Dallet campaign ad, but she primarily ran on issues and values, not on an anti-Trump platform.

At Vox, Matt Yglesias looks at that Wisconsin race and other recent elections and concludes that "Democrats are holding Hillary Clinton’s gains in the suburbs while clawing back her rural losses." In the Wisconsin race, Yglesias writes, "There was ultimately no big strategic trade-off between chasing votes in highly educated Dane County and chasing votes in working-class rural areas." That tells me that Democrats already have MSNBC Mueller obsessives motivated and turning out, while they're campaigning to win other voters with talk about issues -- and it's working.

Could it stop working in November? Sure -- but not for any of the reasons Greenfield suggests.

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