Archive for Parties


Standing Ovation

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Photo by TJ Amos

Photo by TJ Amos

I’m an inside/outside player. On the outside, I get to throw stones at the Democratic Party on national blogs when I get a bug up my ass. On the inside, as someone who helps get local and statewide candidates elected, people think I bring something valuable to the table and they listen to me. And I have a national platform to take them to task if they don’t. But if I were on the outside completely, I’d just be another harping lefty activist who’s all sticks and no carrots. But since I’ve been doing field successfully for 7 cycles, I’m now an old guy and maybe even The Establishment. When George W. Bush arrived, I knew I needed allies to fight back, so I went to where I could find them in bulk in one convenient location. Do I agree with all of them on everything? Hell, no. But that was never the point. Strength in numbers was. When I got there, local politics was still a southern old-boys club. Now, I’m one of the people in charge. My chair and I and my “Moral Monday” arrestee state senator are from Chicago.

I do not understand the need among many progressives to bet it all on one spin of the roulette wheel with everything bet on black, or on the long bomb with time running out, or on who’s running at the top of the ticket in a presidential year. My job description doesn’t change depending on who’s at the top of the ticket. As long as someone from our side of the aisle wins and gives me the next three SCOTUS picks, I’m good. Some coattails would be nice as well. That’s just a part of why I don’t much care about the Bernie v. Hillary thing.

Last week I went to the funeral of a friend of mine who was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer just weeks before. People said he was too focused on helping the community to look after himself. Isaac Coleman was a Freedom Rider and a member of SNCC. Two years ago he was declared a local “Living Treasure.” The church was packed. They started the “service” by naming off groups he had worked with and asked people from those groups to stand. Some got to stand multiple times. The largest group was the local Democratic Party. Isaac was a fierce advocate for the right to vote. “Take five,” he would say, “and if you can’t take five, take ten.”

The very idea that as an activist you would bet so much on a single, big political race would have seemed alien to him. It is to me. The local needs are too great.

I live in a state taken over by a T-party legislature that has passed one of the worst voter ID bills in the country, drafted absolutely diabolical redistricting maps, passed HB2 as a get-out-the-vote tool, and launches regular legislative attacks against our cities where the largest block of blue votes are. President Bernie isn’t going to fix that for me. Neither is President Hillary. And not in Michigan or Wisconsin either. We have to beat them ourselves. Here, not in the Electoral College.

But friends on the left now talk about the Democratic Party the way conservatives talk about “the gummint,” as though it is some sort of monolithic beast with agency of its own apart from that of its voters and activists. I get it. That’s how it looks if your focus is Washington. It looks a mite different out here in the provinces where we’re fighting the border wars. Sometimes out here — and more regularly than every four years — we get to win. That’s what keeps us going. Because the battle never ends.

I work with some very good people and some very good Democrats. But I’m seeing smart, good-hearted (many new) activists who didn’t learn from 2008. They think ideology is what’s most important. Talk the nuts and bolts of winning — practical politics — and they see you as gutless, cautious, calcified, afraid to bet it all on black and lose dramatically, because grinding out yardage on the ground is selling out. (A Princeton historian addressed that in part on air last week.) Their focus is the Big Enchilada (the presidency) when the fights that have more immediate impact on their lives are more local. That’s not to say global warming and national issues are not important. But if you want to sustain yourself for the Long March, you need to drink in some local victories or you’ll burn out before getting there.

Isaac never did. At then end of the service, we all gave him a long, standing ovation.

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Essence of Limbaugh

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The Brookings Institution’s Robert Kagan examines the Donald Trump phenomenon. “It has nothing to do with the Republican Party … except in its historic role as incubator of this singular threat to our democracy.” In the Washington Post, Kagan writes:

And the source of allegiance? We’re supposed to believe that Trump’s support stems from economic stagnation or dislocation. Maybe some of it does. But what Trump offers his followers are not economic remedies — his proposals change daily. What he offers is an attitude, an aura of crude strength and machismo, a boasting disrespect for the niceties of the democratic culture that he claims, and his followers believe, has produced national weakness and incompetence. His incoherent and contradictory utterances have one thing in common: They provoke and play on feelings of resentment and disdain, intermingled with bits of fear, hatred and anger. His public discourse consists of attacking or ridiculing a wide range of “others” — Muslims, Hispanics, women, Chinese, Mexicans, Europeans, Arabs, immigrants, refugees — whom he depicts either as threats or as objects of derision. His program, such as it is, consists chiefly of promises to get tough with foreigners and people of nonwhite complexion. He will deport them, bar them, get them to knuckle under, make them pay up or make them shut up.

“Incubator” is perhaps the right metaphor for where Trump developed. Unless it was a Petri dish. But I too am not sure it was the Republican Party proper. Certain influential players, sure. Senator Joseph McCarthy, Senator Barry Goldwater, Lee Atwater, and Roger Ailes. Rush Limbaugh and a host of imitators for sure. I recall how creepy the appearance of Rush Rooms at restaurants was in the early 1990s. People could eat their lunches and not miss out on their daily Two Minutes Hate. They could share an experience validated by others. Only the Hate ran three hours a day. Would you like some ketchup with your Orwell?

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Friday the 13th projections

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Partisan Composition During the 2016 Legislative Session via National Conference of State Legislatures

Partisan Composition During the 2016 Legislative Session via National Conference of State Legislatures

Redistricting occurs again in 2021, so keep an eye on opportunities this fall to whittle away at the effects of the GOP’s REDMAP effort from 2010. The T-party takeover of state legislatures needs to be reversed. I mean, North Carolina? Wisconsin? Beuhler?

Over at Daily Kos, teacherken points to Benchmark’s weekly electoral map.

We are still pretty far out, of course. But if you are interested in knowing where (or even being where) the fights will be this fall, swing states bear watching. As much as congressional and senate races will draw attention, much of the real action these days is in the state legislatures. Presidential campaign heat in the swing states — coattails — can be a factor in how those state races play out. How the balance shifts in the states has much more of an immediate effect on the national trajectory than what happens in a gridlocked Washington, D.C.

As for the Electoral College, Harry Enten cautions at FiveThirtyEight, “Winning the national popular vote typically means winning the presidency; the Electoral College matters only in very close elections, and most of the time not even then.” National polling averages, he says, are what to watch for now.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : National, Parties
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I’d buy that for a dollar

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Department of Health and Human Services headquarters by the National Mall. Photo by Matthew G. Bisanz via Wikimedia Commons.

Moving left again:

[A]s she tries to clinch the nomination, Mrs. Clinton is moving to the left on health care and this week took a significant step in her opponent’s direction, suggesting she would like to give people the option to buy into Medicare.

“I’m also in favor of what’s called the public option, so that people can buy into Medicare at a certain age,” Mrs. Clinton said on Monday at a campaign event in Virginia.

Mr. Sanders calls his single-payer health care plan “Medicare for all.” What Mrs. Clinton proposed was a sort of Medicare for more.

Clinton was replying to a woman who as a small-business owner is contending with the cost of health insurance. The Wall Street Journal:

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A sternly worded letter

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Just weeks before North Carolina Republicans enacted their insta-infamous HB2 transgender discrimination law, I wrote that the M.O. of the extremist Republican Party is this: find the lines, cross them, dare people to push them back. Yesterday the U.S. Department of Justice pushed back:

RALEIGH — U.S. Justice Department officials repudiated North Carolina’s House Bill 2 on Wednesday, telling Gov. Pat McCrory that the law violates the U.S. Civil Rights Act and Title IX – a finding that could jeopardize billions in federal education funding.

The department gave state officials until Monday to respond “by confirming that the State will not comply with or implement HB2.”

This was not unexpected. When Republican legislators placed an anti-marriage equality amendment to the North Carolina state constitution on the 2012 primary ballot, then N.C. House Speaker (now U.S. Senator) Thom Tillis told the NCSU newspaper, “If it passes, I think it will be repealed within 20 years.” That assessment did not stop them. Amendment 1 did pass. A federal court declared it unconstitutional in two.

HB2 has been in place less than two months.

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Requiem for a movement?

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Donald Trump all but officially clinched the 2016 Republican nomination for president when Sen. Ted Cruz bowed out last night after a crushing loss in the Indiana primary. Bernie Sanders upset Hillary Clinton to keep his campaign alive, but because Democrats assign delegates proportionally, he gained little ground in the delegate chase.

Politico reports that Sen. Elizabeth Warren wasted no time in launching an assault on the presumptive Republican nominee, “hitting him with a blistering late-night tweetstorm in which she cast the presumptive Republican nominee as a racist with a dangerous authoritarian streak.” She defined the challenge ahead both for herself and the country:

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Like chickens in a bell jar

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Pretty soon Republicans won’t need to insist voters present photo identity cards at the polls. The will have trained “wrong thinking people” not to try. The New York Times reported on studies indicating how that works: people confused about how the ID laws work simply stay home:

“What voters hear is that you need to have an ID,” said Mark P. Jones of the Baker Institute, an author of the study. “But they don’t get the second part that says if you have one of these types of IDs, you’re O.K.”

Representative Pete Gallego, a Texas Democrat, lost his 2014 reelection bid by just 2,422 votes. This year he is asking voters if they have a driver’s license.

After Mr. Gallego’s narrow loss in 2014, researchers from the Baker Institute and the University of Houston’s Hobby Center for Public Policy polled 400 registered voters in the district who sat out the election. All were asked why they did not vote, rating on a scale of 1 to 5 from a list of seven explanations — being ill, having transportation problems, being too busy, being out of town, lacking interest, disliking the candidates and lacking a required photo identification.

Nearly 26 percent said the main reason was that they were too busy. At the other end, 5.8 percent said the main reason was lacking a proper photo ID, with another 7 percent citing it as one reason. Most surprising, however, was what researchers found when they double-checked that response: The vast majority of those who claimed not to have voted because they lacked a proper ID actually possessed one, but did not know it.

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Some things are timeless

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This was at the top of my news feed when I got home. Borrowing this wholesale from a Facebook post by Rick Perlstein:

One of the letters Senator Thomas McIntyre got in 1978 after voting for the Panama Canal treaties: “Quisling Traitor Senator McIntyre: Conservative Republicans have added your despicable name to the list of TRAITORS in our stench-producing Senate tainted by those on the Radical Left and representing your ilk. Your refusal to be swayed by either reason or eloquence indicates your leftist orientation…An awesomely large mass of information can be mobilized to invalidate your fuzzy left-wing thinking. Traitors of your gutter orientation abound in our corrupt Senate dominated by the scum and vermin of the Marxist Democrats/ Rest assured, Commissar McIntyre, that you will be classified as insidious and corrupt. Americans who care t stand u in your Marxist behalf are to be sledge-hammered as QUISLINGS and odious incendiaries. We will concentrate on your vicious leftist VOTING RECORD and your excessive loyalty to the liberal pig in the tainted WHITE HOUSE. My qualifications: Washington Unviversity postgraduate and honor student. You are unquestionably one of the most DISHONEST AND VICIOUSLY CORRUPT hucksters and charlatans in our thieving Senate controleld by vermin of your Far Left views. We will work assiduously to damn you in scathing terms. YOU ARE AIDING AND ABETTING your beloved communist cause. conservatives ARE BEING ENLISTED TO STOMP OUR WAY THORUGH OUR COMMUNIZING SENATE WHIHC DARES TO STAND UP TO ITS conservative betters. Rest assured that we deem you to be on THE same plane as the COMMUNISTS. You are vermin.”

Currently seeing similar sentiments (only with better spelling) among local T-party types over this:

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At Political Animal, Nancy LeTourneau comments on Rebecca Solnit’s essay on cynicism in Harpers. She writes that when Barack Obama entered the White House riding on a message of hope and change, that “the Republican strategy of total obstruction was designed to dampen all that with cynicism about the political process.” Cynicism about the political process is not in short supply in 2016. Hope is. But let’s not give Republicans too much credit.

Solnit writes:

Cynicism is first of all a style of presenting oneself, and it takes pride more than anything in not being fooled and not being foolish. But in the forms in which I encounter it, cynicism is frequently both these things. That the attitude that prides itself on world-weary experience is often so naïve says much about the triumph of style over substance, attitude over analysis.

Anyone who dares venture onto Facebook or Twitter these days knows the posture. Solnit continues:

If you set purity and perfection as your goals, you have an almost foolproof system according to which everything will necessarily fall short. But expecting perfection is naïve; failing to perceive value by using an impossible standard of measure is even more so. Cynics are often disappointed idealists and upholders of unrealistic standards. They are uncomfortable with victories, because victories are almost always temporary, incomplete, and compromised — but also because the openness of hope is dangerous, and in war, self-defense comes first. Naïve cynicism is absolutist; its practitioners assume that anything you don’t deplore you wholeheartedly endorse. But denouncing anything less than perfection as morally compromising means pursuing aggrandizement of the self, not engagement with a place or system or community, as the highest priority.

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Weak tea

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It will take more than fear of Donald Trump for Democrats to win this fall. They need a message. This article from Harold Meyerson after monumental losses in 2014 summed it up:

What, besides raising the minimum wage, do the Democrats propose to do about the shift in income from wages to profits, from labor to capital, from the 99 percent to the 1 percent? How do they deliver for an embattled middle class in a globalized, de-unionized, far-from-full-employment economy, where workers have lost the power they once wielded to ensure a more equitable distribution of income and wealth? What Democrat, besides Elizabeth Warren, campaigned this year to diminish the sway of the banks? Who proposed policies that would give workers the power to win more stable employment and higher incomes, not just at the level of the minimum wage but across the economic spectrum?

Bernie Sanders has focused on the banks this year, but Democrats as a party have failed so far to send a message to families working without a net that their concerns and anxieties have been both heard and felt, and that Democrats have a plan to address them. They need to forcefully answer the “cares about people like me” question.

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