Friday, November 16, 2018


Let's see: After a midterm election in which the Democratic Party got a lot of women and non-whites elected, who got a front-page profile in The New York Times yesterday? This white guy:
One after another, the Democratic candidates in Ohio fell.

But there was Senator Sherrod Brown celebrating his re-election last Tuesday night at a hotel ballroom before a crowd of anxious revelers.

... his gravelly voice rasping out a crescendo, he made it clear where he thought his party could forge its path to success: his triumphant campaign, he said, was the “blueprint for America for 2020.” The revelers roared.

If his victory speech seemed to double as a calling card for a possible presidential run, there was good reason. Not only had Mr. Brown won his third term in this crucial battleground that President Trump claimed by eight points, he was the only major Democrat to win a statewide seat in Ohio....

Rumpled and unvarnished — with a fondness for sweatshirts, less so for ties — Mr. Brown would in some ways seem uniquely positioned in a party hoping to win back the Midwestern states that flipped to Mr. Trump. Throughout his political career, he has championed populist platitudes like the “dignity of work” that have resonated with working-class voters in all corners of Ohio....
And who gets profiled today, in a Sunday Magazine piece posted a couple of days early? This discredited Republican who's been with us forever:
“I mean, it’s not fun,” Susan Collins said, sitting in her Senate office on Tuesday. It was her first day back at work following last week’s midterm elections, and the Maine Republican was not quite radiating fresh-start and renewal vibes. “Death threats are not fun. Protests are not fun. Being mobbed — sorry, I know the media hates that word — being mobbed when I go to vote. I do not enjoy that at all. I find that exhausting.”

Returning senators of either party could echo Collins’s despair over the ruptured, strident and increasingly bellicose state of Trump’s Washington; they would also share her foreboding over what’s in store as subpoenas start flying, Mueller Time nears and the president swings into re-election rally mode, probably in the next week or so. But Collins, who is 65 and coming off two of the most punishing years of her Senate career, seems to be entering a particularly grim existential zone.
We're supposed to thrill to the prospect that the Democratic Party, now apparently a gynocracy (which, by the way, is fine by me), will be saved by this white dude in late middle age. We're also supposed to feel sorry for Collins because people right now are just so mean:
Collins has been maddening people across the political spectrum for years, of course; the main difference, maybe, is that people are just generally madder now.
I think the main difference is that the stakes are higher. Take away health insurance from tens of millions of people, or nahhh? Cement a 5-4 Kochist/theocrat majority on the Supreme Court for the next 35 years, and allow an accused rapist to be the fifth vote to effectively overthrow Roe v.Wade, or maybe hope (in vain) that a so-called pro-choice moderate might want to prevent that from happening?

The Collins profile is by Mark Leibovich, who can be incisive and smart. In this case, his clever writing trick is to mock Collins for her highly public pondering of weighty issues while also mocking the people who mock her for that:
She represents an almost quaint archetype of the solemn centrist who was always deliberating very carefully over something or other. Her close friend and former colleague Joseph Lieberman was a vintage exemplar of the breed, as was her fellow Maine Republican Olympia Snowe. But these kindred spirits are gone now, Trump has raised the stakes and patience for quaintness has long since expired. People mock Collins for being serially “troubled” or “saddened” by the latest Trump outrage but never sufficiently so to actually do something about it. They accuse her of fashioning a shtick as a free-agent vote because she loves the attention (as opposed to those other senators who hate attention).
See what Leibovich does there? He says that those who criticize Collins claim she does all this public brooding for the attention -- but doesn't every other politician like attention? But no one is angry at Collins because she likes attention -- what offends her critics is the moralizing followed by entirely predictable capitulation.

“It saddens me,” Collins, sure enough, told me. She was talking about last week’s election results, the fact that “the Democrats have moved further left and the Republicans have moved further right and the moderates are diminishing.” The election had brought the retirements or defeats of fellow members of the Senate Republicans’ Troubled and Saddened Caucus, like Jeff Flake of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee. Collins will soon say goodbye to two of her closest friends, the defeated Democrats Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. Heitkamp once described Collins as her “role model” — and lost her re-election bid by 11 percentage points.
The reference to the "Troubled and Saddened Caucus" suggests that Leibovich knows this is a phony posture -- but no, he's clearly saddened by the departure of the senators Collins considered her allies and soul mates. It's all your fault, you partisan bastards! Leibovich seems to be saying.

At The New York Times, these are the first heroes of the era following Trump's first midterms. And I know -- Sherrod Brown's not a bad guy. He's progressive on a number of issues. He might be a good presidential candidate -- if he were the nominee, I'd happily vote for him. But are these really the heroes for the moment?

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