Saturday, June 30, 2018


Dana Milbank thinks a reckoning is coming for the Republicans:
Now we have a Supreme Court nomination — the second in as many years — from an unpopular president who lost the popular vote by 2.8 million. The nominee will be forced through by also-unpopular Senate Republicans, who, like House Republicans, did not win a majority of the vote in 2016.

Compounding the outrage, each of the prospective nominees is all but certain, after joining the court, to support the eventual overturning of Roe v. Wade, which has held the nation together in a tenuous compromise on abortion for 45 years and is supported by two-thirds of Americans....

Republicans have been defying gravity for some time. As New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait reminds us in a smart piece, they lost the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections. Electoral college models show Republicans could plausibly continue to win the White House without popular majorities.

Because of partisan gerrymandering and other factors, Democrats could win by eight percentage points and still not gain control of the House, one study found. And the two-senators-per-state system (which awards people in Republican Wyoming 70 times more voting power than people in Democratic California) gives a big advantage to rural, Republican states.

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority has protected Republican minority rule. It gave the wealthy freedom to spend unlimited dark money on elections, while crippling the finances of unions. It sustained gerrymandering and voter-suppression laws that reduce participation of minority voters. And, of course, it gave the presidency to George W. Bush.

... how long do [Republicans] think they can sustain this? What happens when Roe is overturned?

The backlash is coming. It is the deserved consequence of minority-rule government protecting the rich over everybody else, corporations over workers, whites over nonwhites and despots over democracies. It will explode , God willing, at the ballot box and not in the streets.
It doesn't look as if it's coming via the ballot box anytime soon. As Milbank notes, an eight-point Democratic win in the overall House vote might not be enough for them to secure control of the House. Right now, Real Clear Politics says the Democratic lead is 5.9 points. FiveThirtyEight says it's 7.2.

It's possible that these polls are underestimating likely Democratic turnout. But even so, Democrats aren't likely to have more than a slim majority in the House. The best case in the Senate is a one- or two-seat majority, and that would require victories where they seem unlikely now, in Texas, for instance.

But let's imagine the rosiest scenario: Democrats win both houses of Congress this year. Trump struggles and is pinned down by the legal reckoning he's long deserved. Democrats sweep in 2020.

A proportional backlash would include not only a bipartisanship-be-damned crusade to enact an unapologetically progressive agenda. It would also include merciless gerrymandering in every state now controlled by Democrats. It would include anti-Republican vote suppression: the closing of polling places in white suburbs, along with efforts to identify GOP voters' habits and to create hurdles to voting based on those habits.

And even if Democrats could set in motion a process to overturn Citizens United -- which would probably require a constitutional amendment -- how could they reverse its effects? What process could give Democrats the built-in advantage Citizens United gave to Republicans?

In the foreseeable future, the pendulum is unlikely ever to swing as far to the left as it has to the right in recent years. So if it happens at the ballot box, it really won't be much of a backlash.

Friday, June 29, 2018


Scott Lemieux thinks Ramesh Ponnuru has identified President Trump's Supreme Court pick:
In picking a successor to Justice Anthony Kennedy, President Donald Trump has many fine potential nominees among whom to choose. The top contenders seem to be Amy Coney Barrett, Thomas Hardiman, Brett Kavanaugh, Raymond Kethledge and Amul Thapar, all of whom are well-respected conservative judges.

In my view, Trump should pick Barrett.

She is the youngest of the five top choices, which is a mark in her favor given that the nominee will have life tenure and Trump will want one who will leave a lasting mark on the law.
Lemieux writes:
She’s 46, shows every sign of being a reliable party-liner, and having a bunch of Democratic senators vote against a female nominee and having a woman write the opinion overruling Roe both present maximum trolling potential.
That all makes sense -- and there's even more potential for trolling. Last year, when Barrett was up for an appeals court seat, she was questioned in ways that stoked the conservative outrage machine:
One of President Trump’s judicial nominees became something of a hero to religious conservatives after she was grilled at a Senate hearing this month over whether her Roman Catholic faith would influence her decisions on the bench.

The nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, a law professor up for an appeals court seat, had raised the issue herself in articles and speeches over the years. The Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee zeroed in on her writings, and in the process prompted accusations that they were engaged in religious bigotry.

“The dogma lives loudly within you,” declared Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, in what has become an infamous phrase. Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, accused his colleagues of employing an unconstitutional “religious test” for office.
At the same time, news reports raised this issue:
... her membership in a small, tightly knit Christian group called People of Praise never came up at the hearing, and might have led to even more intense questioning.

Some of the group’s practices would surprise many faithful Catholics. Members of the group swear a lifelong oath of loyalty, called a covenant, to one another, and are assigned and are accountable to a personal adviser, called a “head” for men and a “handmaid” for women. The group teaches that husbands are the heads of their wives and should take authority over the family.

Current and former members say that the heads and handmaids give direction on important decisions, including whom to date or marry, where to live, whether to take a job or buy a home, and how to raise children.
I think Republicans would like to seat a judge who's under 50, who's an anti-choice female, and who's been vilified in a bigoted way (in their view) by Senate Democrats and the press. But last year she was being appointed to a seat on an appeals court. Only people who are very interested in politics and the courts paid attention. But everyone pays attention to Supreme Court picks. She's in a group that has handmaids? Not good, especially when it's for all the marbles and this is an election year. A lot of suburban moderate women are watching Season 2 of The Handmaid's Tale right now.

Also, there's the fact that Barrett wrote an article in 2003 in which she called Roe v. Wade an "erroneous decision."

Susan Collins insists that respect for precedent matters to her:
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said on Wednesday that she believes Roe v. Wade is settled legal precedent — and she believes judges should respect precedent.

"I view Roe v. Wade as being settled law. It’s clearly precedent and I always look for judges who respect precedent," Collins told reporters on Wednesday, referencing the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
That doesn't mean she'll vote to reject Trump's pick, whoever it is -- of course she'll vote yes. But they'll want to serve her up a nominee who's never expressed opposition to Roe out loud, and who piously insists that precedent is paramount and no firm conclusion on Roe has every crossed his or her (probably his) mind. Then Collins and Lisa Murkowski can blithely vote yes with a clear conscience.

So unless the Republicans' approach now is "Yes, we're dispensing with pretense and avowedly gunning for Roe," they'll pick a dissembler, not Barrett, who will have lost a High Court seat (though not an appellate court seat -- she was confirmed for that) by being too honest.


Charlie Pierce doesn't think we should talk about Mitch McConnell and Merrick Garland:

Yastreblyansky agrees:
I think Mr. P. is absolutely right on this one. There's nothing dumber or more self-defeating than "Well it was totally wrong and illegitimate when McConnell refused to allow a vote or even a hearing on Merrick Garland so now I want to do the same thing." There's nothing better, or at least nothing better available, than explaining in detail that Trump can't be trusted, and I mean seriously: I mean he will try to get a nominee who will be personally loyal to him, the way he tried to work Comey (and fired him when it didn't work out).
Their preferred arguments are good, and I'm in favor of using them -- but why not talk about the McConnell delay? It has the potential to be made into a meme.

President Obama announced Merrick Garland's nomination on March 16, 2016. The first hearing for Neil Gorsuch took place on March 20, 2017 -- 369 days later.

There's your meme: #369days. Chant it. Hashtag it. Make it a slogan and a logo.

If enough people use shout this, put it on signs, and add it to social media posts, the public will grasp it, because it's simple and memorable. The new nominee's confirmation process is being rushed. Why were #369days appropriate the last time?

Will it work? Probably not. Probably nothing will. But try everything.

And if your argument is that this will hold Democrats to the same standard the next time they get a pick, the obvious answer is: McConnell and the Republicans don't feel that way now, do they?

Thursday, June 28, 2018


(UPDATE: The suspect in custody is a man with a longstanding grudge against the paper -- more here. National politics is said not to be the motive.)

A gunman killed five people and injured others at the offices of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, today. It's not clear what the motive was, and the suspect has made an effort to avoid being identified.
One law enforcement source says the suspect is a white male in his 20s and didn't have identification on him. The suspect is refusing to identify himself. The suspect damaged his fingertips in an effort to avoid identification, a law enforcement source tells CBS News.
Was this political terrorism? We don't know. Mass shootings happen in this country for other reasons -- personal grudges, or sexual harassment taken to a deadly extreme.

On the other hand, this was reported just a couple of days ago:
Milo Yiannopoulos has started issuing reporters threatening messages when asked to comment for stories.

“I can’t wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight,” the right-wing nationalist told Observer over text message, in response to a longer feature in development about an Upper East Side restaurant he is said to frequent.

When asked to elaborate on who specifically had upset him, Yiannopoulos explained that the statement was his “standard response to a request for comment.”

Yiannopoulos also sent the message to The Daily Beast’s Will Sommer....
There's no evidence that the shooter was left-wing, and the shooting is being celebrated in some right-wing online forums, but Sean Hannity has already blamed Maxine Waters:
Within seconds of learning Thursday about a shooting inside the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland, Fox News host Sean Hannity laid blame at the feet of Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters.

“It's so sad that there are so many sick, demented, and evil people in this world,” Hannity told his radio listeners, in a clip first reported by Media Matters. “It really is sad. You know imagine you go to work and this is what you're dealing with today, some crazy person comes in... and I’m not turning this into a gun debate, I know that’s where the media will be in 30 seconds from now. That’s not it.”

“You know, as I’ve always said, I mean honestly—I’ve been saying now for days that something horrible was going to happen because of the rhetoric. Really, Maxine?” he asked, referring to Waters.

“You want people to create—‘call your friends, get in their faces,’ and Obama said that too. ‘Get in their faces, call them out, call your friends, get protesters, follow them into restaurants and shopping malls,’ and wherever else she said.”
We expect this from Hannity -- ideologue trolls gotta troll, right? But even if the culprit is a committed right-winger, I predict that some mainstream media commentators -- even some alleged liberals -- will join Hannity in laying some of the blame on Waters, because balance and bothsidesism must be maintained. Waters never urged violence, although it was widely reported that she did. She said,
Let's make sure we show up wherever we have to show up. And if you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd. And you push back on them. And you tell them they're not welcome anymore, anywhere.
She said nothing like what Yiannopoulos said. But to some media voices in the middle, she'll share the blame, even if the shooter despised her. The massacre will be the fault of everyone who's said an uncivil word about politics recently. Just watch.


I've addressed this subject before, but it keeps coming up:
President Trump ... once again railed against the “elite” at a campaign rally in Fargo, N.D., echoing comments he made last week at a rally in Minnesota.

“I hate it, I meet these people, they call it the elite,” Trump said Wednesday night.

“We got more money, we got more brains, we got better houses and apartments, we got nicer boats, we’re smarter than they are and they say they’re the elite,” the president said. “You’re the elite, we’re the elite.”

Trump went on to call the elite “stone cold losers.”

“Let’s call ourselves, from now on, the super elite,” he said.
Here's the clip:

I understand Jonathan Chait's reaction:
This is not, of course, how populism works. It trades on either cultural or economic grievance. One’s enemies possess all the privilege, and we the people must take it back. Once you have declared that you already possess the privilege, the whole basis for it disintegrates. While Trump performed perfectly well among the rich, most of his supporters are not rich (because most Americans are not rich) and would have trouble recognizing themselves in his portrait of lavish apartments and boats.

Trump does not have a clever strategy behind this new rhetorical tic. He is simply not intelligent or sophisticated enough to understand that, in politics, unlike the business world he came from, “elite” is a term of abuse.
And yet the crowd cheers, which tells me that the Trump fan base isn't motivated by economic grievance at all -- cultural grievance, yes, but not a feeling that the economy has given them a raw deal. Many of Trump's supporters are comfortably retired and happily collecting government benefits. Others are still working and doing just fine. And because they're Republicans, we know that they've never really resented the fact that the rich have much more wealth than they do -- they routinely vote for candidates who give huge tax cuts to the extremely rich, and they're fond of referring to wealthy people as "job creators," and as "makers" as opposed to "takers." ("No poor man ever gave me a job," they like to say.) I'm sure they like being called members of the elite.

But it wouldn't be good to be regarded as members of the bad elite, which is liberal and says mean things about guns when not encouraging black football kneelers and undocumented Hispanics and hijab-wearing Muslims to think they're just as good as regular people. That elite sucks!

Chait writes:
A key element of [Trump's] grift has involved selling people on the notion that they too can become rich if they buy Trump books or predatory “university” courses.
Obviously, his presidency is like that -- the great coal jobs aren't really coming back, he isn't actually going to provide everyone with better heath care for less money. But Trump's grift also includes the notion that if you're with him -- if you go to his casinos or eat and shop and Trump Tower -- you're elite already, thanks to the generosity of Trump, who unlike other elitists, shares his elitism with you. Trump has just extended that message to the political realm.

What's peculiar about this is that Trump is talking about the great unhealable wound in his life. He's always wanted to be accepted by the genuine elitists in New York, and they've never truly welcomed him. He's never gotten over that. But he turned that pain and resentment into a business strategy. And now he's weaponized it for politics.


Jan Crawford of CBS News last night:
Right now, there is one justice we know of for sure on the Supreme Court who would overturn Roe vs. Wade. That's Clarence Thomas. We don't know how the other three conservatives would vote.

Carrie Severino of the right-wing Judicial Crisis Network, on NPR this morning:
We only have one member of the Court who's even on record saying what he thinks about Roe vs. Wade, and Chief Justice Roberts himself is known for being an incrementalist. I just think that [it] is very premature to assume that anything like that's around the corner.

That's the spin: If there's a challenge to Roe, the votes of Alito, Gorsuch, Roberts, and the next justice are completely unknowable. We'll hear this a lot, even though it's transparent nonsense. We'll be called alarmists (yes, even by someone from a group absurdly named "the Judicial Crisis Network").

Roberts did pass up the opportunity to overturn the Affordable Care Act-- maybe he'd refrain from overturning Roe if he (or his mentors) feared that overturn might arouse anti-conservative voters, especially in the states, where the corpocrats Roberts serves are having their way almost unchecked. But this year's rulings suggest that none of the Republican justices fear a Democratic backlash at the polls anymore. So don't believe this future-is-unwritten nonsense. If there's a challenge, Roe is gone, and don't let them tell you otherwise.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018


Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the Supreme Court today. President Trump can now replace him with a young right-wing absolutist who won't even be an occasional swing vote. Mitch McConnell plans to get Trump's pick seated with brutal efficiency:
Senate Republicans plan to confirm a new Supreme Court justice to replace retiring Anthony Kennedy before the midterm elections, according to interviews with nearly a dozen Republican senators.

The Senate GOP is expected to execute a lightning strike confirmation despite their razor thin majority of 51 senators, which is effectively down to 50 as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) recovers from brain cancer. But because of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s rules change last year to push through Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, the GOP can unilaterally confirm a new justice without any Democratic support.....

McConnell told reporters that the nominee will be confirmed before this fall....

“The goal will be to get a conservative confirmed before the election,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), the No. 4 GOP leader.
Is it possible that Trump's pick won't be rubber-stamped?
Whether Republicans can jam through another Scalia or Gorsuch remains to be seen. GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are moderate on social issues and will have heavy sway in what’s sure to be a narrow vote. Murkowski declined requests for comment in a brief interview.

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) faces a difficult reelection in a swing state. And Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who is retiring, said that he and other senators won’t “rubber stamp” a judge just because it’s a Republican nomination.
But it's unlikely that they'll stand in Trump and McConnell's way, and even if they do, a number of red-state Democratic senators who are up for reelection will feel compelled to vote yes.

There don't seem to be any procedural tricks available to Senate Democrats in order to prevent this, so Rick Hasen is right -- there's only one thing left to do:
The only political hope here is for massive street protests, like we saw with the initial Trump travel ban to try to convince senators like Susan Collins of Maine or Lisa Murkowski of Alaska to vote no. It’s a long shot because we’ve seen these senators fold time and again. But it is worth trying.
Now, if you lived on another planet, you might imagine that protests would be taken seriously by the gatekeepers of our political culture. Chuck Todd, for instance, sees McConnell planning to rush this confirmation after he played stall ball for a year to keep Merrick Garland off the Court, and the hypocrisy is so obvious even Todd can't overlook it:

But we know what's going to happen if liberal interest groups take to the streets. A norm-shattering act of blatant hypocrisy that might hand decades-long control of the Supreme Court to a president who lost the popular vote and who's under investigation for colluding in election-rigging by an enemy country ... well, I'm sure Todd and others like him will think that's bad, but liberal demonstrators will be rude, and that's much, much worse. Surely we remember the backlash against the protestors who occupied the state capital in Wisconsin when Scott Walker and his army of Koch-bot legislators were fundamentally transforming the state: Golly, they were uncouth! And then they were so uncivil that they tried to recall the governor in a special election! Everyone just thought that was really not nice!

Yet it's all we've got. So let's get to it.


Fox News addict plans to appoint former Fox News executive:
Bill Shine, a former Fox News executive who was close to Roger E. Ailes, the network’s ousted chairman, is expected to be offered the job of White House communications director, according to two people familiar with the decision....

The move has not been finalized, but two people familiar with the decision said it was likely to be announced and that the president had offered him the job.
You'll read this about Shine:
Shine left Fox News in May of 2017 after women at the network reportedly circulated a petition demanding he be fired.

Shine reportedly told a female executive that the network’s pattern of sexual harassment was a “necessary evil.”
And this:
Shine left Fox News in May last year amid accusations that he helped cover up a number of sexual harassment allegations at the company.

In a 2016 lawsuit, former Fox News anchor Andrea Tantaros accused former Fox News star Bill O’Reilly and Ailes of sexual harassment, and Shine and others of looking the other way and pressuring her to drop her complaints. A judge ruled that the suit was covered by the arbitration clause in Tantaros’ contract.

In a subsequent suit, which was dismissed after a year, Tantaros accused Shine and others of using sophisticated hacking and surveillance techniques, in addition to “sock puppet” social media accounts, to monitor and harass her.

In April of last year, Fox News contributor Julie Roginsky accused Ailes of sexual harassment in a lawsuit, and accused Shine of retaliating against her when she refused or complained about Ailes’ harassment.

“Shine aided and abetted Ailes’ acts of retaliation and harassment,” Roginsky claimed in her suit, which was eventually settled.
All of which is bad enough -- but the details of another case are barely distinguishable from some Harvey Weinstein stories, with a bit of Eric Greitens thrown in for good measure. Here's what happened to Laurie Luhn, from the 2017 edition of Gabriel Sherman's Ailes biography, The Loudest Voice in the Room:
The story of Laurie Luhn, which New York reported in July 2016, is an example of how Ailes used Fox’s public relations, legal, and finance departments to facilitate his behavior. Ailes met Luhn on the 1988 George H.W. Bush campaign, and soon thereafter he put her on a five-hundred-dollar monthly retainer with his political consulting firm to be his “spy” in Washington, though really her job was to meet him in hotel rooms. (During their first encounter, Luhn says, Ailes videotaped her in a garter belt and told her: “I am going to put [the tape] in a safe-deposit box just so we understand each other.”) Ailes recruited Luhn to Fox in 1996, before the network even launched. Chet Collier, then his deputy, offered her a job in guest relations in the Washington bureau.

[Ailes's assistant Judy] Laterza, [Bill] Shine, and Shine’s deputy, Suzanne Scott, would take turns summoning Luhn for “meetings” in New York. (A Fox spokesperson said executives were not aware Ailes was sexually involved with Luhn.) Ailes and Luhn would meet in the afternoons, Luhn said, at hotels near Times Square, and Ailes paid her cash for sexual favors. She was also on the payroll at Fox—at her peak, she earned $250,000 a year as an event planner for the channel. But the arrangement required her to do many things that now cause her anguish, including luring young female Fox employees into one-on-one meetings with Ailes that Luhn knew would likely result in harassment. “You’re going to find me ‘Roger’s Angels,’” he reportedly told her. One of Luhn’s employees received a six-figure settlement after filing a harassment claim against Ailes.

By the fall of 2006, Luhn said, Ailes was worried that she might go public with her story or cause a scene of some kind. That’s when the Fox machine really kicked into gear. According to Luhn, Fox PR tried to spread a rumor to the New York Daily News that Luhn had had an affair with Lee Atwater (which she denies; Atwater died in 1991), a story designed to make Luhn seem promiscuous so that her credibility would be damaged. When Luhn had an emotional breakdown en route to a vacation in Mexico, it was Shine’s job to arrange to bring her home. Scott picked her up at the airport and drove her to the Warwick hotel on Sixth Avenue, where Luhn recalled that Scott checked her in under Scott’s name. (Scott denied this.)

Luhn later moved into a Fox corporate apartment in Manhattan, during which time, she said, Laterza and Shine monitored her email. (Shine denied this.) Luhn’s father says that Shine called him several times to check up on Luhn after she moved to California while still on the Fox payroll. Eventually, Shine even recommended a psychiatrist, who medicated and hospitalized her. At one point, Luhn attempted suicide. Through a spokesperson, Shine says he “was only trying to help.”

In late 2010 or early 2011, Luhn wrote a letter to [Fox general counsel Dianne] Brandi saying she had been sexually harassed by Ailes for twenty years. According to a source, Brandi asked Ailes about the allegations, which he denied. Brandi then worked out a settlement at Ailes’s request. On June 15, 2011, Luhn signed a $3.15 million settlement agreement with extensive nondisclosure provisions. The payment was approved by Fox News CFO Mark Kranz. The check was signed by David E. Miller, a treasurer for Fox Television Stations, Inc., a division run by current Fox co-president Jack Abernethy. “I have no idea how my name ended up on the check,” said Miller, citing standard company practice of signing checks and not asking questions. The settlement documents were signed by Ailes, Brandi, and Shine.


Congratulations to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old Democratic Socialist and former Bernie Sanders campaign staffer who defeated the #4 Democrat in the House, Joe Crowley, in a New York primary yesterday. It was an impressive win.

But will it, as The New York Times says, "reverberate across the party and the country"? Is Time's dire warning accurate?
The Democrats may have found a new rising star on Tuesday night, but adding a socialist to the Democratic caucus is unlikely to help the Midwestern Democrats’ efforts to pick off the 23 seats the party needs to capture the majority this fall.
In other words, are Democrats now in disarray? No.

Right -- Dave Brat beat Eric Cantor, then Republicans went on to sweep the 2014 midterms. Did Brat's win influence other elections? To pick one example, Maine voters who preferred the Republicanism of Susan Collins went on to vote for her in large numbers. She cruised to victory. Moderate GOP voters in Maine didn't say, "Well, I was planning to vote for Collins, but that Dave Brat in Virginia seems so radical." I'm sure most of them didn't even know who he was.

Midwestern Democrats are going to vote for Midwestern candidates. Hell, voters a few miles north of Ocasio-Cortez's district are going to vote their way as well. In New York's 19th district, where the House seat is currently held by Republican John Faso, the Bernieite candidate, Jeff Beals, finished fourth in the Democratic House primary; the winner in the district, which includes left-leaning Woodstock but also a number of rural, right-leaning small towns, was Antonio Delgado, a solid liberal who's far from radical. Local elections are, um, local.

Assuming that Ocasio-Cortez wins in November -- which is likely, because it's a solidly Democratic district -- the seriously lefty platform she ran on is now within the Overton window.

It doesn't make the entire Democratic Party a band of radicals -- fortunately or regrettably, depending on your point of view. But it helps move our political discussion to the left. Nothing wrong with that. But no, it doesn't change everything.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018


Here comes this guy again:
Michael Bloomberg is revving up to run for president in 2020, making him both the oldest and richest person to seek the job.

Bloomberg considered running in 2016 as an Independent, but sources tell CBS2’s Political Reporter Marcia Kramer that if he runs in 2020, he would run as a Democrat.
So that explains the $80 million he's reportedly planning to spend to help flip the House for the Democrats this year -- he's collecting IOUs. Naively, I thought he might be doing it for the good of the country.

Matt Yglesias thinks Bloomberg could win the nomination in a crowded field -- I assume because most of the candidates in the field will be solid progressives -- but there's such a thing as being so out of touch with the values of your party that you can't even take advantage of a split vote. Consider Bloomberg's message when he was pondering a run as an independent in 2016, as reported in January of that year by The New York Times:
His advisers and associates said he was galled by Donald J. Trump’s dominance of the Republican field, and troubled by Hillary Clinton’s stumbles and the rise of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont on the Democratic side....

If Republicans were to nominate Mr. Trump or Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a hard-line conservative, and Democrats were to pick Mr. Sanders, Mr. Bloomberg ... has told allies he would be likely to run.

... Mr. Bloomberg has lamented what he considers Mrs. Clinton’s lurch to the left in her contest against Mr. Sanders, especially her criticism of charter schools and other education reforms that he pushed as mayor and has continued to support since leaving office.
So Bloomberg thought Sanders and Clinton were too far to the left. Clinton's dangerous radicalism was ... opposing charter schools.

Recall also that Bloomberg endorsed Barack Obama in 2008, but then broke with him in 2010 because he believed Obama was waging a (gasp!) war on Wall Street:
New York mayor Mike Bloomberg is outraged by Washington's attack on his city's primary source of tax revenue. And he has lobbed in a tit-for-tat plan to hold Congress accountable, too.

Marcia Kramer, WCBS TV:

... The mayor was so upset about the move -- and a suggestion that Wall Street bonuses be put in escrow, which means the money wouldn't be spent here, wouldn't help the city economy -- he responded with a proposal of his own for members of Congress.

"Maybe we should hold back their salaries for a decade or so and see whether the laws they pass work out," Bloomberg said.
Pro-Wall Street, pro-charter schools ... um, he's not exactly an ideal fit for the modern Democratic Party.

Also, did I mention his unwavering support for stop-and-frisk?

And although he was mayor of a largely non-white city for twelve years, is he really going to have enough appeal to the Southern black women whose support in the early Super Tuesday primaries will decide whether his candidacy really gets off the ground?

Joe Scarborough and Chuck Todd would be over the moon if he ran, but I can't imagine where there'll be Democratic voter interest, except maybe in New York and surrounding states.

I guess he's welcome to try, but I think he'll be as out of step in 2020 as Joe Lieberman was in 2004.


On the day that the Supreme Court upheld the Trump administration's Muslim ban, let's turn the clock back to August 2016 and recall the words of then-Bernieite H.A. Goodman at the Huffington Post:
Jill Stein’s platform and value system correlate directly to the ideals Bernie Sanders championed in 2016. For Americans who refuse to abide by the political “extortion” of voting for Clinton because Trump is frightening ..., Ajamu Baraka and Dr. Stein represent a viable option....

Ultimately, Trump’s major policies would never get passed Congress. Specifically, Trump’s border wall, widespread deportations, and immigrant ban won’t achieve the 60 votes needed to defeat a filibuster by Democrats....

Will Donald Trump’s major policies get 60 votes in the Senate? Will a border wall, mass deportations, or a ban on Muslim immigrants get any votes from Democratic Senators, or even the votes needed from every Republican Senator?

Of course not....

None of Donald Trump’s major policy objectives­, at least the ones that frighten progressives the most, will get passed the Senate, even if they possibly get through (and even this is a stretch) the House of Representatives....

Therefore, the scare tactic regarding Trump ruling the nation with an iron fist, deporting families at will and banning immigrants, is nothing more than cheap propaganda. Trump will not be able to impose his will upon the American people, and most of his major policy ideas can be blocked by either Congress or the Supreme Court.
Goodman, of course, is a full-blown Trumper now. I wonder how many readers fell for the argument that Trump was not to be feared because none of this scary stuff could really happen.

For the record, the candidate Goodman was endorsing in August 2016, Jill Stein, got 31,072 votes in Wisconsin; Trump's margin of victory there was 22,748. Stein got 49,941 votes in Pennsylvania; Trump's margin of victory there was 44,292. Stein got 51,463 votes in Michigan; Trump's margin of victory there was 10,704.


UPDATE: I've closed comments for this post.


Amanda Marcotte makes some good points.

Trump, the abuser, is treated as "a force of nature" who can't be expected to refrain from abusing in response to our behavior. This template is also applied to Trump's supporters.

Trump voters escape criticism when they endorse Trump's abusiveness, and engage in abusive behavior of their own, because it's widely believed that we have done something terrible to them. We've taken away their jobs and filled their communities with opioids. (I don't have the wherewithal to do any of those things, but somehow they're my fault, because I'm an "elitist" liberal.) We mock their guns (even though they still have them, in abundance). We make them press 1 for English. (That's the least infuriating part of every phone tree I've ever been forced to use.)

These, we're told, are genuine provocations, so it's okay that Trump supporters rally around a president who's a hater. We made them do it.

We didn't make them do it. And many of them aren't suffering very much.

That's the illustration accompanying a very good Politico story on The Villages, a large community of retirees in Florida that reliably votes Republican in every election. These folks aren't struggling with poverty, addiction, or job loss -- they live in crime-free gated comfort. And yet they're furious. They love Trump and hate NFL football players, and they make Democrats who move in feel unwelcome. America hasn't done anything genuinely terrible to them -- they've lived great lives and are now having a lovely retirement -- but I guess it's presumed that we're responsible for their resentments, because we won't let them have everything they want.

Monday, June 25, 2018


I argued in the last post that being rude to members of the Trump administration might not be the wisest strategy for the left -- not because the Trumpers don't deserve it, but because the political establishment inevitably gets the vapors whenever people on the left violate decorum. This is an obvious double standard -- conservative behavior that's far ruder, and even actively menacing, is depicted as a mere display of healthy animal spirits on the part of salt-of-the-earth Americans with noble dirt under their fingernails. But those are the rules: The right is allowed to get away with this and the left isn't.

A lot of you don't like what I'm saying. I understand that. In that case, I urge you to try working the refs. I say this especially to anyone who writes or speaks for public consumption: Do what you can to make the mainstream media, and the Beltway establishment in general, defend the double standard. Point it out every chance you get. Write essays. Talk about it in podcasts. Change the subject from the behavior of Maxine Waters or that restaurateur in Virginia to the behavior of the media and the insider scolds -- ask them why Republican commentators, Trump voters, and Trump himself are allowed an infinite amount of insolence while only liberals and Democrats are scolded when they're not nice. Oh, and if you're a Democratic officeholder and you're prodded to condemn Waters, turn the question around ask why we have a president whose core philosophy is a rejection of civil discourse, but it's Democrats and progressives who are being condemned. We have a congressional Republican who retweets Nazis, but the greatest problem in America is, somehow, Congresswoman Waters. We had eight years of rank-and-file Republicans waving pictures of President Obama with a bone in his nose, we had Rush Limbaugh repeatedly calling a defender of birth control a "slut," but now we have a "civility crisis"? Why is it only a crisis when the people who are being attacked fight back?

Put them on the defensive. If we can't do that, we should expect unfair treatment.


So we're having a civility war. Here's the story from Politico:
Two senior Trump administration officials were heckled at restaurants. A third was denied service. Florida GOP Attorney General Pam Bondi required a police escort away from a movie about Mister Rogers after activists yelled at her in Tampa — where two other Republican lawmakers say they were also politically harassed last week, one of them with her kids in tow.

In the Donald Trump era, the left is as aggressively confrontational as anyone can remember.

What it means for 2018 — whether it portends a blue wave of populist revolt for Democrats or a red wall of silent majority resistance from Republicans — largely depends on one’s political persuasion. But there’s a bipartisan sense that this election season marks another inflection point in the collapse of civil political discourse.
The responses to this are falling into two categories: support from the left (see, for instance, Yastreblyansky yesterday) and tone-policing from both right and the center. I'm having a third reaction: Sure, I detest the Republican muckamucks who are being harassed -- but I think this is a war we probably can't win.

Consider a couple of passages deep in the Politico story:
As Republicans complain about the confrontations, Democrats say it’s a simple reaction to the president’s radical policies. It’s little different, they say, than what conservatives did to Democratic lawmakers during President Obama’s first midterm election, when town halls became spectacles of shouting over Obamacare.

“This is certainly nothing new,” Rep. Dina Titus, a Nevada Democrat, said in recounting her 2010 loss when tea party activists would use bullhorns when she would host “Congress on the Corner” events in front of grocery stores. “There was [also] a lady who followed me around everywhere ... I also recall that some of the tea party people spit on some of our members as they walked into the House to vote.”
Former Democratic Rep. Tom Perriello, who lost his 2010 reelection in Virginia and was an unsuccessful candidate for governor last year, said the atmosphere was more toxic eight years ago for elected officials, many of whom were subject to death threats.
Yes, and see what happened? Nobody cared, just as nobody cared in the first year of the Trump presidency when there were reports like this:
Democratic candidates in Iowa and upstate New York have dropped out of political races in recent weeks, citing physical threats and concern for their families’ safety.

Hours after discussing his bid for mayor in Binghamton, New York on local radio in April, Michael Treiman said he was emailed threats directed at his wife and children. The same evening, someone driving by his home yelled “liberal scumbag,” and hit him with a soda container while he was holding one of his toddlers....

Kim Weaver, an Iowan candidate for the House of Representatives, dropped out of the race on June 3, citing “very alarming acts of intimidation, including death threats.”
And this:
One caller says the Congress member should be lynched. Another leaves a voicemail promising, “You’ll be hanging from a tree.” Others used the n-word against him multiple times in the same message.

About two weeks ago, Rep. Al Green (D-TX) took to the floor of the House of Representatives and became the first House Democrat to formally request charges leading to the impeachment of President Donald Trump....

Since then, hundreds of calls, emails, and letters have flooded in, with dozens containing racial slurs or death threats. (Green’s staff has made three of the worst ones public here.)
And this:
Rep. Frederica Wilson received a warm welcome at the Capitol Wednesday, her first time back since death threats kept her home in Florida last week amid a feud with President Donald Trump....

Wilson said she remains undeterred after the death threats that followed her public feud with Trump and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. The spat started two weeks ago after Wilson criticized Trump’s call to a soldier’s widow and shared details of the call with media, after which the White House went after her.

Wilson said she now has increased security back home in her South Florida district....
When this happens to Democrats, our political culture doesn't regard it as a civility crisis. But when we cast civility aside, even in a non-violent, non-threatening way, it's deemed a national emergency.

Why? In part it's because Republicans have a far superior messaging operation, and far greater discipline. It's also because the right's top media outlets are nakedly partisan, while the "liberal" media becomes a collection of easily worked refs when liberals and Democrats breach decorum.

But I think it's more than that. In our political culture's (warped) view, incivility by the left is regarded as the work of the superior, dominant elite class, while rough treatment of Democrats by the right is the underdogs' revenge against the dominant class. Even the "liberal" media seems to agree on this. And this true even though, at this moment, conservative "underdogs" are defending the party that runs all three branches of government and represents the interests of corporate plutocrats.

Some of this recalls the 1960s and the subsequent backlash. In that era, the right said that left-wing demonstrators were cosseted children of privilege. When construction workers expressed their anger with these demonstrators, the hard hats were regarded as the Real Americans.

Those archetypes persist. Tea Party members who harassed congressional Democrats at town meetings in 2010 were Real Americans. Menacing and sometimes violent superfans at Trump rallies were Real Americans.

We're still seen as the spoiled brats from 1968.

Charlie Pierce offers this gloss on a Washington Post editorial about the recent restaurant incidents:
... Fred Hiatt’s Washington Post editorial page ... blurted out the most embarrassing single paragraph written about the events at the Red Hen. To wit:
We nonetheless would argue that Ms. Huckabee, and Ms. Nielsen and Mr. Miller, too, should be allowed to eat dinner in peace. Those who are insisting that we are in a special moment justifying incivility should think for a moment how many Americans might find their own special moment. How hard is it to imagine, for example, people who strongly believe that abortion is murder deciding that judges or other officials who protect abortion rights should not be able to live peaceably with their families?
... For the benefit of those people also living in Fred Hiatt’s Land Without History: abortion providers have been stalked. Their children have been stalked. Their places of business have been vandalized. And, lest we forget, doctors who perform abortions have been fucking killed! They’ve been gunned down in their clinics, in their kitchens, and in their churches. They have not been allowed to live peaceably with their families, Fred, you addlepated Beltway thooleramawn. They haven’t been allowed to live at all. I’m no expert, but I’m fairly sure that a bullet in the head is far more uncivil than a complementary fucking cheese plate. What is wrong with these people?
But that's how we view the two sides. Yes, attention is paid when an abortion doctor is actually shot, but the routine harassment at abortion clinics is widely ignored by insidery correct-thinkers, because the harassment is the work of salt-of-the-earth folk who eat in rural diners, and they Must Be Understood. But when the low-paid waitstaff and kitchen help at a small restaurant object to serving a key member of the president's staff whose job is to defend brutal policies, that's the Cultural Elite rising up. It's simply not acceptable.

So, yes, we have good reason to confront powerful Republicans -- it's speaking truth to power. But we'll never win doing it, because our political culture's arbiters think we're the powerful ones.


Thank you, Yastreblyansky, for doing great work while I was away.

I see that Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen of Axios believe President Trump is winning:
An odd paradox in defining this moment in politics: The more President Trump does, says and tweets outrageous things, the more his critics go bananas and the better he does in the polls....

Tune into Twitter, and you'd think the entire civilized world has turned against him. And yet:

* Gallup has Trump's approval at a new high since the beginning of his presidency: 45%. That's roughly the same as others at this point: Barack Obama (46%), Bill Clinton (46%), Ronald Reagan (45%) and Jimmy Carter (43%).

* Support among Republicans is 90% in Gallup, also a high.

* Among independents, he's up to 42% — tied for his personal best, and only the fourth week in his presidency that he has been at 40% or above.
Yes, but all those numbers came out last Monday, based on the previous week's polling, which was heavily influenced by the meeting with Kim Jong-un. As Nate Silver wrote that day:

On the other hand, I think two Trump critics got out ahead of the reality late last week. Charlie Pierce:
The week just passed has changed the calculations. The images from the border, and the White House’s fatheaded trolling of the situation, seems to have shaken up everyone in Washington to the point at which alliances are more fluid than they have been since January of 2017....

The country’s head is clearing. The country’s vision is coming back into focus and it can see for the first time the length and breadth of the damage it has done to itself. The country is hearing the voices that the cacophony of fear and anger had drowned out for almost three years. The spell, such as it was, and in most places, may be wearing off at last....

The migrant crisis is going to go down through history as one of the most destructive series of own-goals in the history of American politics.
Rick Wilson:
Once a president who stood astride the media narrative like an orange god, simultaneously captivating and revolting the nation’s press corps, Trump was no match for images of crying children torn from their mothers. His seemingly magical ability to change the subject vanished, and the arsenal of his weapons of mass distraction were duds. Everyone in Washington noticed. One House member spoke to me on background Wednesday night and said, “This mistake broke the spell.”

... The stories and the coverage combined two things; first, they exposed how gleefully the Trump Administration viewed the pain and fear of children. Second, they made Americans face what was being done in their name.
I'd love to believe that this moment is changing everything, but I don't see the evidence. Every poll shows that Americans oppose family separation, but there's also this, from a CBS poll of Florida, Arizona, and Texas:
Many voters place blame for the separation of families on the parents for trying to bring their children into the U.S. illegally. About half of voters believe parents are mostly to blame, a figure that rises to roughly eight in 10 among Republicans.

And reuniting the families doesn't seem to be a high priority for any group except Democrats:

I think what we'll see in this week's polls is Trump close to where he was prior to the summit. The people who love Trump -- or who merely like him but detest Democrats -- will stay in his corner. I think it will take a prolonged recession to "break the spell." Nothing he does will ever truly shock the conscience of heartland white America, because he's the captain of the team, and heartland whites are diehard team loyalists.


UPDATE: As predicted, Trump has gone from 45%/50% favorable/unfavorable in the Gallup poll last Monday to 41%/55% today -- exactly where he was three weeks ago.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

For the Record: Little Red Hen

The Red Hen.

There's been an awful lot of remarkable derp on the Twitter today, starting with the horrors unleashed on Sarah Huckabee Sanders by the 26-seat Red Hen farm-to-table restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, which sent her party away after consultations between the owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, and the staff:

“They had cheese boards in front of them,” Wilkinson said. Like any other family. The kitchen was already preparing the party’s main course. Wilkinson interrupted to huddle with her workers.
Several Red Hen employees are gay, she said. They knew Sanders had defended Trump’s desire to bar transgender people from the military. This month, they had all watched her evade questions and defend a Trump policy that caused migrant children to be separated from their parents.
“Tell me what you want me to do. I can ask her to leave,” Wilkinson told her staff, she said. “They said ‘yes.’ ”
Which, naturally, brought out the 101st Keyboard Incivility Combat Troops:

And eventually old David Axelrod himself:

And Judge Jeanine Pirro, too! You know how big she is on civility!

And this guy:

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

For the Record

Because I was afraid he might delete the original tweet:

Just to be clear, I am not opposed to the safety and security of US borders. I just think we've got that, and have had it since 1815. This is not a security issue. No terrorist has ever made it into our territory from Mexico (McCain kept insisting 9/11 hijackers entered from Canada, but he was wrong). They've all come by plane. Dangerous drugs, which often used to be snuck across in the desert or sent across wall barriers by catapult, now pass mostly through designated border control posts in legitimate-looking cars or arrive via the postal service. It might help our national security to have more immigrants to preserve our vital fruit and vegetable crops before we start having to import all our tomatoes and cucumbers, and ensure the avocado toast supply. It would help our national security to have more immigrants, period. Who's going to pay the payroll tax to keep us all alive when we're really too old to work? Don't talk to me about a few thousand people running away from gang violence in El Salvador, tell me about social security!

What Trump wants isn't for "the citizens of our country" or he'd pay some attention to the security of the thousands whose jobs depend on imported steel. All he wants ("We wants it!") is more excitement.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Getting Old


Kind of like the old bowling league. In these days of crumbling social institutions, emptying churches, declining volunteer fire departments and reading groups, when things start to fall quiet among the breakfast crowd at the Sweet Pie 'n' Bye, you can sense the 2016 nostalgia, and somebody's bound to say, "Say, why don't we call up the New York Times and tell them we're still Republicans? Maybe they'll send down that nice young Jeremy Peters!"

LEESBURG, Va. — Gina Anders knows the feeling well by now. President Trump says or does something that triggers a spasm of outrage. She doesn’t necessarily agree with how he handled the situation. She gets why people are upset.
But Ms. Anders, 46, a Republican from suburban Loudoun County, Va., with a law degree, a business career, and not a stitch of “Make America Great Again” gear in her wardrobe, is moved to defend him anyway.
“All nuance and all complexity — and these are complex issues — are completely lost,” she said, describing “overblown” reactions from the president’s critics, some of whom equated the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant children and parents to history’s greatest atrocities.
“It makes me angry at them, which causes me to want to defend him to them more,” Ms. Anders said.
What Peters didn't mention in his lede, or one of the things, as you might have heard by now, is that Ms. Anders and her husband, when they were living in West Virginia, were the founders of a Tea Party–type activist group, We the People of West Virginia-Jefferson County. He didn't think it was relevant:
That's a telling use of the word "source", the assumption that that's what people are complaining about, as if we're afraid she might give them a biased version of her own thoughts. What story does he think this is?

What story I think it's purporting to be is a kind of exurban anthropology, non-quantitative polling of the mood out there among the Trump voters, and the problem isn't that she used to support Rand Paul, but that she's no kind of typical voter but an insider (though Peters seems strangely unaware that Paul represents the Trumpiest of the standard Republicans, the most opposed to immigrants and unrestrained trade and military alliances, the most Putinist not to put too fine a point on it), not that he can't quote her as much as he likes, but that he should be letting us know, and it feels as if he's hiding it from us, not just by leaving out the Tea Party connection but also by emphasizing her lack of MAGA paraphernalia.

It also rouses the thought that the Times wants for some reason to be telling this story—about the Trump voters doubling down, not so much because they're in love with their man as because of these "overblown reactions" to things like herding small children into prison camps away from their parents and seemingly working to make the parents and children lose one another permanently—and goes looking for people to confirm it, not anthropological subjects to talk about how they feel but journalistic sources to yield up the narrative. I honestly can't understand why they would want to do that, tell me I'm just not cynical enough but I can't think of a cynical motivation that makes any sense to me.

Still, they keep doing it, and speaking of getting old, that's what this trick is doing.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Surrounded by the Pale

Via American Civil Liberties Association.

I'm obsessed with this map (h/t emptywheel), which is being promoted by the ACLU, to make an important point: There are parts of the United States where the Fourth Amendment doesn't fully apply, where the Customs and Border Patrol is authorized to establish checkpoints where they can stop and search anybody without a warrant, on "reasonable suspicion" of an immigration violation or crime, and of course in practice
Border Patrol agents routinely ignore or misunderstand the limits of their legal authority in the course of individual stops, resulting in violations of the constitutional rights of innocent people. These problems are compounded by inadequate training for Border Patrol agents, a lack of oversight by CBP and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the consistent failure of CBP to hold agents accountable for abuse.
It's just what sounds like a very small part of our enormous country, everyplace that's less than 100 miles from an external border, but it turns out that, as the map illustrates, that covers almost two thirds of the population. Thus the Constitution fails to protect most Americans, a pretty large majority, from these kinds of abuse.

But the map also dramatically corroborates all your suspicions about the craziness of American political geography, as you recognize what's in that 100-mile band: all of Michigan, New England (except a fragment of Vermont), New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, Florida, and nearly all of Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, California, and Washington; and how little there is in the vast interior. That "Flyover Country" they tell us about really is flyover country, in that nobody wants to go there, or has any reason to go there, with the exception of a dozen or so urban areas (themselves probably mostly in a 250-mile band, like Phoenix, Atlanta, Raleigh, Cleveland, I think Minneapolis, though not Denver or Dallas or Kansas City). Otherwise it's truly a kind of nowhere, dotted with tiny white-people shtetls, surrounded by the pale of settlement.

You could feel sorry for them, as the judicious newspapers are always begging us to do, with their isolation and lack of economic opportunity and increasing sense of representing a community in decay, but the thing is, the states with, say,  more than 1.75 representatives in Congress for every million people wield ridiculous amounts of political power! Maybe that's what's the matter with Kansas.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.