It was a #BlueWave … no it was a #BlueRipple … it was a #RainbowWave …. it was a #CamouflageWave … it was none of those things, and all of those things.
In the sense that it was none of those things, the 2018 Midterms represented what has traditionally happened in midterms, especially the first midterm of a new President. The party in power, the President’s party — loses seats, and sometimes loses so many seats that they lose one or both Houses of Congress. It happened to Bill Clinton, the first boomer President, in 1994 during the Gingrich revolution. It happened to Barack Obama in 2010. Only in the peak era after 9/11 was this trend bucked. George W. Bush lost both houses of Congress in 2006. 2006 was the first midterm I was eligible to vote. I was in college and it was around this time I had decided to major in political science, chosen from among 5-6 other possibilities, all of which are still interests to this day. In its most basic terms, the Democrats were supposed to do well and pick up seats, and probably were supposed to pick up the House given the incredible weakness of the 2016 Trump victory (lost the popular vote by 2 percent, won the electoral college by less than 1 percent in three states, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin). Last month, all three of those states elected Democratic Governors, picked up down-ballot state legislative seats, and got to about even in their Congressional delegations.
In the sense that it was all of those things the Democratic Party finally began to achieve some of the victories and movements that this website, started in 2015, had hoped for and called for from the beginning. The party got younger in the House, building a bench and in one cycle going from the older party to the younger party in the House. Given that the Democratic Party is more dependent on youth votes, both from Millennials, the younger cohort of Gen X, and now the oldest cohort of Gen Z, we argued that this was bad optics, bad politics, and represented a failure to pass the baton on behalf of party elders. Through choice or through competition, this is beginning to change. Good. Matching that youth is the diversity of the younger cohorts of Americans. We now have more women in Congress than at any time in US history, and the big-tent, broad-based movements whether driven by opposition to President Trump or more ideologically-based movement-politics, organized, got the vote out, and won by a record-breaking 8+% in the generic ballot. Turnout was at a record pace and for those who began to doubt the health of our democracy, myself included, we gained a hard-earned reprieve and answer. Democrats turned out. Republicans also turned out. Americans turned out to vote and that’s a good thing. What also happened is “blue areas” got bluer, and “red areas” got redder. Independents, moderates, and suburban women swung heavily against the President. What does this mean for 2020 and what does this mean for the “Long Realignment”? Actually, not much.
Historically speaking (within the paradigm of the Sixth Party system and post-Southern Strategy and Dixiecrat exodus from the Democratic Party, a rather “Long Realignment” process in its own right) those same midterms of ’94, ’06, and ’10 were answered with Bill Clinton being easily re-elected, and Barack Obama being easily re-elected. The successor candidate to George W. Bush lost in what is the closest we can get to a modern day landslide (7+% win, the largest popular vote total in the last 30 years in a presidential election) to Barack Obama. I previously wrote in early 2016 how historically difficult it is for a “successor” candidate of the same party to beat a “challenger” candidate. Within the Sixth Party system it has only happened once in 1988 with the recently departed George H.W. Bush who succeeded Ronald Reagan with relative ease. It should be noted that while that was going on the Democrats still held Congress though (just as they have throughout much of the first half of the Sixth Party system, before mostly being the minority party in Congress post-1994).
I believe we’ve been in the midst of a “Long Realignment” out of the Sixth Party system and into the Seventh Party for some time now, but it’s been taking and will continue to take awhile. The reason for this is simple. Baby Boomers are a large and dominant generation, and they are slowly being replaced in the voting booths by another large and dominant generation, the Millennials (insert what they’re “killing” here ____). The result of this tit-for-tat, along with the relative movement within the recessive (relatively smaller, by timespan and demographic size) generations on each side of the dominant ones, will be but one of many demographic factors that determine the eventual nature of this “Long Realignment.” In the next two articles (two and three), I’m going to go into how this has been playing out so far via which states are “swinging” (from one election to the next) and which states are “trending” (over the long run) as well as states that are “bucking” against the general trend, for example, the country voted 2 percent more Republican in 2016 but states like Georgia, Arizona, Texas, and Utah voted less Republican and more Democratic relative to the general trend. That will be the focus of Part Two.
Part Three will focus on what history tells us about “demographics” (they matter, but only to a point), candidates (they matter, but not as much as they used to), and end with some conclusions and predictions about where things might go once we get to the Seventh Party system (spoiler alert: I think it will be either 2028 or 2032). I will also throw in some commentary about where the parties should go (in general: a place toward sanity and away from insanity).
For those reading this that are Democratic partisans: I believe it’s best for the party and the country for a large, diverse, and “big tent” field to debate it out throughout 2019 and the first two states atminimum. The reason for this is that it’s better for party building, especially in Iowa and New Hampshire, which will both be important states in 2020 for different reasons (a strong candidate in Iowa is insurance for not winning back either Wisconsin or Michigan, and a win in New Hampshire, as well as the Maine Congressional-district is necessary defense).
For those reading (congrats for jumping outside the “bubble“) this that are Republican partisans: winning re-election is Donald Trump’s best chance to avoid his mounting legal challenges, as the Presidency is the best protection money can buy. However, for him to win re-election at this point, there can be no recession between now and the 2020 election (we’ll see, although if your interested: here’s when I think it’ll hit), he can have no serious primary challenge (win or lose, a sitting President primaried by a candidate in his own party ends up losing in the fall, see Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, and remember that LBJ said he would not seek the Democratic nomination after Eugene McCarthy’s strong showing in the ’68 New Hampshire primary) and the 85 to 90 percent base has to hold, plus he has to grow on it or get back to his 2016 levels in the Upper Midwest. All three are plausible, but looking more difficult than a month ago. Historically, he has a greater than 50% chance of being re-elected, but I would put it right at 50-50 given the narrow 2016 victory. The “margin of error” is tight. Just like it was for 2016.
See you for The “Long Realignment” Continues …. Part Two. Where we’ll take a look at which states are trending, swinging, and what that means for the Electoral College (which is not going away any time soon, deal with it, learn the rules, they’re published well in advance).
Earlier this week we dispatched a field correspondent to get a behind the scenes look at the editorial development of the latest think piece dedicated to Trump/GOP supporters. This is an excerpt of what he/she found.
Author Michael Grunwald:
Have you glanced at that long think piece I sent you on Friday afternoon?
I did. The advertisers and the other staff members have some concerns.
Well…the first draft is something like eighteen thousand words. Most of the direct quotations consist of profanity mixed with racial slurs.
They’re conveying plain-spoken views of regular voters.
I get it. Present the unfiltered truth, ordinary Americans, strong convictions and all that, but advertisers are never going to accept something like this.
You told me to write about the honest opinions of Trump voters.
The clerical staff says that there are seventeen paragraphs in which your interview subjects either admit to or fantasize about committing hate crimes. What the fuck are we supposed to do with that?
I’m fine with substantial changes. If we have to censor some of the more inappropriate, ultra-nutty stuff, so be it. As long as the overarching theme remains…
Also, the risk management attorneys are asking for a separate meeting with you because based on your transcripts, you’re in possession of evidence that relates to dozens of felonies. You know that portion with the retired Marine and his girlfriend, where they brag about carrying pistols to fend off carjackers? Well, they’re wanted in three states for arson and attempted murder. The FBI says that they have a history of firebombing Mexican restaurants.
So you’re saying that I should rewrite substantial portions?
We’ll throw in some meaningless horse shit about demographics and economic anxiety. It’ll be fine.
That’s all for now folks, take care of yourself out there.
Earlier this spring while speaking with educators and mentors of mine who were visiting New York City from my hometown in the midwest, a voice called out to me “you live here?”
“Yes, ma’am, I do”, I replied. A politeness that does not leave me just because I’m in Urbania now, which is filled with politeness by the way, it’s just a different sort of politeness. And it’s politeness that demands awareness of impoliteness.
“I’m sorry” she quipped, meaning it as a joke and an insult. I did not take offense, other than to say that I liked living here and that I chose to live here. I was not aware that I am a person to be pitied for living where my family chose to settle.
In the same month, the long and destructive journalistic, or as he would prefer it to be called, “political analyst” career (i.e. his opinion) of Bill O’Reilly has gone up in flames, ending with a 25 million dollar pay check, because of course it did. Trevor Noah cleverly covered this occasion with a takedown of O’Reilly that has been done time and time again by Jon Stewart before him, but he brought something to the forefront that I think is revealing of my entire efforts to “pierce bubbles.”
Bill O’Reilly is and always was a caricature of what the American mind and spirit has become. Spewing rhetoric that divides us, spending more time on fighting against something than fighting for something. His world of make-believe American history, faux virtue-signaling, attempts to monopolize patriotism, and assassination porn became our own for many Americans as Fox News and other corporate media outlets became consumed by the “sensationalism and conflict bias.” And that’s what the real bias in the media has always been. O’Reilly pushed his fears of the “other” onto the American people on a nightly basis. His comically absurd story of visiting the famous Harlem restaurant Sylvia’s in my view, is the most striking example of his worldview, and what has increasingly become–a defining reason why we’ve become a nation of strangers.
I couldn’t get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia’s restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it’s run by blacks, primarily black patron-ship. … There wasn’t one person in Sylvia’s who was screaming ‘M-Fer, I want more iced tea. — Bill O’Reilly
O’Reilly had built his entire view of black culture and the capital of black America–Harlem, from stereotypes, hearsay, and never sought out sources that would disagree with his viewpoint because most of our mainstream political discourse has just been reduced to a Google search (i.e. google something to confirm what I already think and want confirmed). The rare times he sought out opposing viewpoints — O’Reilly would yell at them at the top of his lungs on his cable news or talk radio program.
Folks, we’re a nation of strangers in 2017 and we have been for some time. The United States of America is not just many different states but many different states of mind. And this is actually part of the reason why we’ve been so dynamic and vibrant historically. But this has always come with a steep price.
What this election has revealed to me and what subsequent events have revealed since is that our American political factions hold no respect for one another, and that this disrespect has reached the personal level.
If we make it through the next four years, I can only hope that both parties do something to remedy this, because until we have removed all of this type of rhetoric and basic lack of civility, decency, and respect from our systems, this nation will continue to be hopelessly divided.
If our two major parties are incapable of doing this, which is especially saddening and maddening when you factor in just how similar they are about the big ticket economic and foreign policy issues, then a viable new third party movement will be needed, not only to address the growing divide between the political and economic leaders and the people, but to also serve as mediator and bubble piercer between irrational appeal to D vs. R, American against American.
You cannot build a movement for the common people if you hold the common people in contempt. — ThomasFrank at the 2017 People’s Summit
Chicago, IL — This past weekend Jered Weber and I attended the 2nd annual People’s Summit. The first one in 2016, was held shortly after Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), went from a little known and self-described democratic socialist to the brink of the Democratic Party nomination. Taking on Hillary Clinton (D-NY), former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State in the first Obama administration, who had nearly every endorsement from Democratic elected officials and party leaders, as well as the support of corporate America, Sanders received 46% of the primary vote.
Assembling a coalition of millennials who had previously helped put then-Senator Obama over the top in the 2008 presidential primary and general election, progressives, independents, and populists, Sanders shocked the country, especially the donor and billionaire class by proving that in the Age of CitizensUnited, there was another way forward. There was another way to run a viable national campaign without having to offer fealty to the Super PACS, corporate lobbyists, and special interests holding the country back in the 20th century.
And what was remarkable to so many who flocked to the campaign, new and old, of all different generations and backgrounds, was that it was the ideas and message that mattered. It was the positivity of the campaign and its focus on the issues, and it was the remarkable consistency and authenticity of the candidate throughout the years.
Sanders repeatedly explained that when the people come together in common effort, they win. It was never about him, it was about a “future to believe in.” And we now know it was never about him because the campaign never ended, because ultimately, it was more of a movement than a campaign to begin with.
And that is where the People’s Summit comes in.
The People’s Summit is first and foremost, an Ideas Summit.
Not just ideas for the future of the country, but also ideas on how to fundamentally improve and outright save our democracy. Those critical of the People’s Summit only needed to give these ideas attention at the Center for American Progress and perhaps they would not have to get mad that not everyone is falling in line and “uniting.” Before moving on to an analogy for what to think about the People’s Summit, let me just say that no matter which route one prefers to moving this country forward, there is no need to come together on the issues, on party unity, or anything other than basic civility and decency because we still have three years to go. In other words–see you in 2020.
Bubbles need to be pierced, and introspection and national conversations must continue en masse.
Now onto how to think about the People’s Summit in terms of what it means for the future.
Each year movement conservatism (or what passes as that these days) has its annual ideas conference called the Conservative Political Action Conference, put on by the American Conservative Union. Think of it as a “State of the Movement” address to conservatives from all across the country. Upcoming elected officials and advocates often get heavily promoted and featured at the conference. In addition to think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and others, CPAC gathers all of the various grassroots conservative groups and organizations from around the country. Not being included almost serves as a statement that one is not “conservative” enough or not a “true conservative.”
CPAC operates very much like an ideas and state of the movement arm of the major American political party on the right–the Republican Party.
In 2003, recognizing the power think tanks, ideas conferences and so forth had in propelling the conservative movement to electoral victories through its political arm–the Republican Party, John Podesta founded the Center for American Progress, which is both a think tank and has an annual conference. There is no mystery that the annual CAP conference and its ideas are heavily attached to the Democratic Party. But while the Democratic Party was slow to jump on the think tank bandwagon and invest heavily in the think tank model in comparison to the GOP, its adoption of that model and investment in it represent the final shunning of its historical roots as the FDR “party of the people.” Consider this, CAP founder Podesta was national Chair of the Clinton campaign, Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton, and later counselor to President Barack Obama, made several versions of this sentiment throughout the 2016 election cycle:
For every working class voter we lose, we’ll pick up 2 or 3 professional class voters.
That’s the thing with the establishment or corporate Dems. I’m not much of an ideologue, I have a governing and leadership philosophy yes, but at the end of the day I have a healthy respect for facts. A respect that is lacking in so many political leaders and those who cover and follow our nation’s politics today. I’m fine with compromising. All democracies and constitutional systems require it. However, what incentive do people who do not like to compromise their belief systems have to follow a strategy that not only is not their views in key areas, but also does not and has not won? I submit these simple truths about where the party stands in terms of electoral strategy:
And I direct these six points of logic to the failed Podesta mentality from above and a similar mentality echoed by (permanent) Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), which stated that “for every working class vote we lose, we’ll pick up 2-3 moderate Republican voters.”
There are not enough professional class voters to form the consensus.
The ones who realigned from the GOP to the Democratic Party did so years ago.
The ones still in the GOP are rich and unpersuadable.
Working class voters are more numerous and more diverse than ever.
Some of them are even organized already, through this thing called collective bargaining.
You can’t build a party of the people if you have contempt for the people. You have to talk directly to the people about the issues, all the people.
Please note that when I say the working class I always mean that anyone who has to work for a living to keep existing. Many choose to work for a living and that is great, but their livelihood does not necessarily depend on it, and they likely have multiple streams of passive income.
Speaking of passive income, George Soros, a major funder of CAP and constant boogeyman that the right wing media likes to use to discredit policy agenda and goals, is not too different from the Koch brothers or any other member of the billionaire class engaged in electoral politics in the CitizensUnited age if one does not personally agree with George Soros. And that is the problem.
Neither party is seriously committed to taking on big, unaccountable, but organized money in politics.
If you are super-rich in America, or anyone really who can sit on their hands making millions in passive income revenue streams, and if your preferred party (whether Dems or GOP) does not win, you always have the other major party to protect your interests for the most part, with only a few exceptions.
It’s the same model. Controlled by the donor class, and dependent on the labor of others to keep itself in power both politically and economically.
I would argue the People’s Summit is an ideas conference, that allows for networking, learning, and updating on the “state of the movement”, similar to CPAC. As of now, it is without a political party attached to it, but I have no doubt, shall a viable third party arise in the next few years, it will be called the People’s Party and it will have started and spear-headed by the 5,000 or so people that have attended the Summit, and those that followed along online, etc.
The central organizing goal of the movement, like the Republican Party, the last third party to replace a major party before in the 1850’s with slavery, is the biggest moral issue of our time — economic inequality and the forces that continue to make it worse, organized big money in politics and legalized bribery and corruption.
A Future Beyond Party Labels and Endless Partisan and Media Sensationalism. A Future that is not just Resistance, but Beyond Resistance.
In the weeks to come, this website will be recommitting itself to trying to churn out regular content the best we can. Apologies if we miss the mark on that front, as we all have busy lives in addition to written commentary, podcasting, etc.
This weekend the third season of the Agreeing Loudly podcast will be on just one topic and prompt: the Third Party option.
In addition, I’m hoping to finish up three articles in a “state of” series on the nation, the Democratic Party, and the Republican Party.
If this coalition translated to the electoral college, which I understand is a big leap of logic this far out, but bear with me here, if that DID happen, you would not just see a Sanders victory over the most unpopular presidential candidate of all time (candidate Trump) but you could possibly see the first genuine popular vote AND electoral college landslide since 1988 (and to a lesser extent 2008).
My Constructive Criticism of the Summit.
First of all, folks at the summit of all stripes were amazingly self-reflective of what could have gone better not just for the movement, but also for the 2016 Sanders campaign for President.
My two points for potential improvements to next years Summit.
Get a vets or foreign policy-focused speaker to talk about and call for a national “Peace and Security” movement. There are massive levels of economic implications to our #ForeverWar policy that tie into the larger issues presented by the movement. The social and economic costs in caring for our veterans and veterans issues have been some of the best policy work that Senator Sanders has done, so it only makes sense to feature this going forward.
Reach out to Republicans concerned with the direction of their party, big money in politics, and the growing, unsustainable levels of economic inequality. Perhaps this one will be more controversial, but if we’re truly to talk to everyone, we have to mean it. And we see evidence every day, not so much amongst Republican political leaders but we do see it amongst the rank and file and they are growing uncomfortable with the Trump-led GOP. The GOP is dominated by the interests of the donor and billionaire class even more so than the Democrats most years, and disillusioned Republicans becoming former Republicans would be a key feature of any future coalition, especially in current red to light-red states.
The participants were divided on the question of a Third Party movement, but were engaged, passionate, and committed to the future no matter what — it’s an “All Hands on Deck” strategy for saving democracy for all and creating a 21st century economy that works for the many and not just the few.
Division is nothing new in this political age. Like the rest of the country, there was a split in views at the Summit. Progressives and populists committed to taking on the corporate state are divided on how best to achieve the desired results of taking on big money in politics and tackling the moral issue of our time–the highest levels of economic inequality in a century.
My unscientific observations of the sentiments is that the People’s Summit activists, organizers, leaders, and followers prefer starting a vital third party movement in this country. This is a sentiment I agree with more and more each day. However, for the time being, reforming the Democratic Party by taking it over seems to be the immediate goal and interest. A goal that has seen mixed results, winning some small battles early on, but losing the more high-profile battles like the DNC Chair election, California Democratic Party Chair election, etc. What is clear though is the ideas and message is winning over public opinion in America at-large. Significant portions of the speech last Saturday highlighted that.
And what is vitally true, is that we have now reached a 1955 William F. Buckley moment for progressives that this website had called for in 2015 and 2016 throughout the Presidential campaign as all of us ranted and raved about how badly the Democratic Party was going to bottom out in the coming years.
Progressives and populists have finally come to terms with the failure of the current model of the Democratic Party, and from this day forward–everyone knows that change will not come from the Democratic Party, change can only be brought to the Democratic Party. And the more and more party leadership grasps onto and protects their hold on power, even in the name of electoral viability (which is a ridiculous reason when you’ve lost nearly every election), the more and more power the movement, independent of any party control–will be. One way or another, the neoliberal and professional class consensus is over. And thank God for that.
I do not say these things lightly. After all, I am a member of the professional class in this country, but I also think that the younger cohorts of the professional class (Gen X and millennials, those under 45 or so) have far more in common (because of issues with student debt, broader acceptance of diversity, etc.) with the concerns of the working class (now more diverse than at any time in American history) than the concerns of the professional class consensus, whose obsession with incrementalism, education and innovation as a key to mitigating inequality (when in reality, it’s rationalizing it), and insistence that all problems can be solved from Harvard or Yale yard, Wall Street or Silicon Valley, New York City, Chicago, or Los Angeles, or by lawyers or financial service professionals, etc.
If the leadership of the party would rather go down on the Titanic, so long as they have a first class seat, then so be it. The overriding focus of the People’s Summit was not to re-litigate the 2016 election, but to movebeyond just merely resisting what the Trump administration is doing, because guess what? That only goes so far, both in practical day-to-day terms and in electoral terms.
Folks, the only way out of this is to win elections, and to win elections you need a party willing to adopt a better message. A message capable of capturing a large majority of the nation and turning out and inspiring more voters than at any other point in modern U.S. history, because there are significant obstacles in gerrymandering and voter suppression to overcome.
The ideas and message of the folks who attended the People’s Summit were not welcome at the CAP conference this year, so we took them to our own conference, in the same state where the last successful third party movement in America took off from, Illinois.
The Republican Party was founded as an abolitionist party to end the immoral practice of slavery in this country. Similarly, if neither major party takes seriously the issue of big money in politics and the fact that we are in a 2nd Gilded Age, then it is highly likely that the movement makes a clean break. But as of now, in practical terms, the prevailing consensus was that there is not enough time for 2018, and undecided about 2020.
One of the conference speakers Thomas Frank (writer, historian, and co-founder of theBaffler), put it best at the end of his most recent book “Listen, Liberal!” which was written almost as if he already knew the 2016 electoral result, even though it was published in the summer.
Direct solutions are off the table for the moment… Democrats have no interest in reforming themselves in a more egalitarian way. There is little the rest of us can do, given the current legal arrangements of this country, to a build a vital third-party movement or to revive organized labor, the one social movement that is committed by its nature to pushing back against the inequality trend.
What we can do is strip away the Democrats’ precious sense of their own moral probity–to make liberals live without the comforting knowledge that righteousness is always on their side. It is that sensibility, after all, that prevents so many good-hearted rank-and-file Democrats from understanding how starkly and how deliberately their political leaders contradict their values. Once that contradiction has been made manifest–once that smooth, seamless sense of liberal virtue has been cracked, anything becomes possible. The course of the party and the course of the country can both be changed, but only after we understand that the problem is us.
Happy Friday! Where to start, where to start? How about a Political Parrots teaser?
While there are questions about what President Trump’s transition team knew and when – now we know what Vice President Pence is busy working on. By the way “transition team” is code for Vice President Mike Pence. Bloomberg
Speaking of Pence…Did Sixpence None the Richer write the most 90’s song ever?
Breaking News: Baby Booms are more entitled than…well…everybody. Here’s the proof.Marketwatch
“Ladies and gentlemen. Boys and Girls. Dying Time is Here…” — Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
By Justin Norris
As we watch the slowing moving car crash that is the Trump administration, and as we watch the GOP in Congress react to said car crash, it is important to remember a few important points.
First, Trump was never popular with most of the GOP elite writ large. Not just in Congress, but across the nation.
Second, like much of the country, it is doubtful that the GOP political establishment believed Trump was going to win the 2016 election.
Third, The Republican civil war was, and is, real.
When you take these things into account it goes a long way towards explaining the peculiar predicament we find ourselves in today. There was no real plan, and the political establishment for both parties are playing it by ear.
To lend some context here, we should discuss the nature of governance in the American political system. As any student of American politics can tell you, eliciting lasting change within the separation of powers system is difficult under the best of circumstances. Because of how our system is structured there are numerous choke points throughout the legislative process for which bills can die. Indeed, the most likely outcome for any given bill is an unceremonious death. If one has any hope of getting bills enacted into law it requires large enough political coalitions in both chambers of Congress to circumvent the many different choke points, and then it must get past presidential action. And things have only become more difficult as political polarization has increased in recent times.
Since the political parties have become increasingly ideologically homogenous, and because the political parties have moved farther apart both ideologically and politically unified government has become critical for the political parties if they have any hope of enacting their agendas. This is why the GOP elites have been willing thus far to seemingly ignore anything approaching principles. They know this may be their only real chance to push through their agenda for some time. So like any good political opportunists, and most of the denizens of Washington are political opportunists, they know they would be fools to not at least try to take advantage of the hand they’ve been dealt.
This is precisely why folks like Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and much of the GOP rank and file in Congress have been willing to play along up to this point, and why most of them will continue to play along. They have their eyes on the prize.
Like all good cons, this includes a gamble. The GOP elite know that Trump is deeply unpopular. They also know that Trump is incompetent. They’re hoping that despite this they can get through much of their agenda before everything implodes. They hope that winning the legislative victories their political base so deeply craves will be sufficient to shore up enough political support as to withstand the likely backlash they will face in the 2018 midterm elections. And even if the majority does not survive the midterm, they will have at least moved the agenda forward and hopefully put some points on the board by making lasting policy changes.
As far as plans go in American politics this is not a bad one. Indeed, if these were normal times, and if this was a normal president, I’d say this plan would have better than fair odds of working.
But these aren’t normal times, and this isn’t a normal president.
Some people will read the preceding statements as partisan or ideological. I want to be crystal clear on this point. They are not. Yes, I absolutely have my own political preferences, but I am not discussing those preferences here.
If these were normal political conditions we would not have a sitting president with record low approval ratings for this point in a presidency. We are only a little more than 100 days in, and to date the president has fired an attorney general, fired a national security advisor, fired the head of the FBI, given code word intelligence to the Russians (in the White House no less), and if reporting is to be believed, the president is likely going to fire more members of White House staff by the end of the week. And these are only but a handful of the things that have happened thus far.
Within a little more than 100 days we have had John McCain, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, state in a public forum that things are starting to look a lot like Watergate. Jason Chaffetz, the epitome of political opportunism, and chair of the House oversight committee has gotten the Speaker of the House to sign on to a letter formally demanding that the FBI hand over all materials related to communications between former director Comey and the president.
This is not normal. Not by a long shot.
As previously stated, the Republicans in Congress knew Trump was inept. To be fair, Trump is, by all accounts a complete and total political amateur, so some ineptitude would likely be inevitable, even he had good instincts for governance. However, Trump has shown a shocking level of ignorance as it relates to the separation of powers system in general, and the nature of governance for the executive branch in particular. In other words, the GOP had no idea just how incompetent Trump really is. Nor did they know how petty and vindictive he really is. And they are all together unprepared to deal with it.
Another wrinkle in the plan is the lack of a plan. Since the GOP didn’t think they were going to win, they did not have any cohesive policy initiatives ready at the starting gate. Paul Ryan has had a list of talking points and unscored, half-baked, initiatives he has been selling for years, but none of them were ready for them to pull the trigger. This has left the GOP scrambling to cobble things together as they have gone. And the results have been disastrous.
Part of the reason the GOP was left flat footed stems from the nature of the GOP caucus in the House, and to a lesser extent, the nature of the GOP conference in the Senate. The GOP, especially in the House, has been fighting its own intraparty war for years now. Though it is cliché to say, the different party factions really do believe they are fighting for the soul of the Republican Party. For outsiders, the differences between the GOP factions may seem trivial, but for insiders they are deeply important, and within the more extreme factions there is a rallying cry for purity at all costs. In other words, there is a lot more disagreement among Republicans than many realize.
This conflict was apparent in the fight waged between House Republicans to get the healthcare bill through the House. The party nearly ripped itself to shreds getting the bill through to the Senate, and the resulting bill is so unpopular the Senate GOP essentially declared it DOA. And repealing and replacing Obamacare was supposed to be the easy part of the agenda. It will only get harder from there.
Despite this, the Republicans in Congress are still largely standing by the president, at least publicly, because they know they may not have this kind of opportunity again for some time. Trump may be deeply flawed but he is still the only viable political option they have at this juncture. But as the scandals deepen, and the drip, drip, drip of news stories continue, the likelihood of political derailment increases. And the longer this goes on, the harder it will become.
Which begs the question, what now?
As the public moves farther away from Trump, and as his unpopularity deepens, the likelihood that Trump will take the GOP down with him increases. The signs are already coming into place that the 2018 midterm elections could be disastrous for the GOP in Congress.
For example, despite flooding special elections with unheard of amounts of money Republicans have either narrowly held on to a seat that they normally carry by over 20 points, or the race has been forced into a runoff. The GOP will not be able to defend all of their districts this way in the midterm, and some analyses suggest that if the midterms were held today only between 100-150 ‘safe’ Republican seats could withstand the backlash.
Moreover, several credible polls have come out in the last two weeks suggesting that Democrats hold a double-digit lead in the so-called ‘generic ballot,’ a routine polling question asking respondents to either state their preference for who should run Congress or state which party they would vote for. One poll puts the gap at sixteen points. To put this in context, an eight to nine point gap often signals a defeat for the majority party.
However, the election is not being held tomorrow, and a week can be a lifetime in American politics, let alone almost two years. The Republicans have time, and unless things get worse, or even if they stay the same, the GOP in Congress will have little incentive to break away from the Trump administration for some time.
But what about Watergate? This is a question I’ve heard often in the last few days, and I readily admit that the comparison easily comes to mind. It is true that the Republicans in Congress turned against Nixon, and stood for the republic against their own president. However, it’s important to point out that the Republicans were the minority party at that time, and most Republicans did not turn against Nixon until the end, after two long years. Even still, some Republicans stood with Nixon to the bitter end. It is entirely possible that if Republicans controlled Congress the situation would have played out quite differently.
That being said, cracks are beginning to form. Some rank and file Republicans are openly discussing impeachment, and some GOP leaders are calling for more stringent investigations. But that’s all it is at this point, talk. If things remain as they are, and do not get worse, it is possible that the GOP will stick with Trump and take their chances in the midterm elections. But if things continue to get worse, which I think is likely, I fully expect more and more rank and file Republicans will break ranks and openly run against Trump because they want to try and save their seats. If things continue to get worse we will reach a point where congressional leadership will cut their losses and turn against Trump to try and salvage the party brand, if not the majorities themselves.
And this may not result in impeachment. At this juncture impeachment is a real possibility, which is not something I was willing to say two weeks ago, but I still don’t think it’s likely. At least not soon. I think it’s more likely that if things continue to deteriorate GOP leadership will cave and put together a bipartisan commission to investigate. If things get really bad they may move to appoint a special prosecutor. It is also possible that events will connive to take things out of their hands.
For example, the Justice Department could conceivably appoint a special prosecutor, or the different grand juries could deliver indictments. In which case the calculus for the GOP largely remains the same. Except now they have some additional cover, because they can point to the nonpartisan investigations and say, ‘we should not be hasty until the investigations conclude.’
However, I think it’s likely that most of the GOP’s legislative agenda is dead. Credible polling data consistently shows that a solid majority of likely voters are strongly opposed to Trump and the GOP legislative agenda. Solid majorities also favor thorough nonpartisan investigations. And as the media dedicates more time and resources to covering the cascading Trump scandals it will destroy any momentum behind legislative prerogatives, regardless of whether there is ultimately an independent investigation(s).
Given how egregiously the GOP in Congress broke from norms, protocol, and traditions during the Obama administration I don’t feel bad for them.
Unfortunately, as it was during the Obama administration, this is bad for the republic.
But if Republicans in Congress are indeed reaping what they have sewn then my response is this:
Beginning a new regular-to-semi-regular series on this website, an internet and news of the week round-up that will be graph-laden and told in a very ad-hoc manner. For the article and commentary news round-up, Pat Meacham has you covered.
Depending on your perspective, this week was either the beginning of Watergate Part II (dir. by Oliver Stone, I’m assuming….), or just another week of the “liberal conspiracy media” trying to ruin the Trump agenda. We’re not doing a very good job as a society of “piercing bubbles” so far, although I will continue nonetheless.
….while we’re on the subject of the future of U.S. public policy…
While we’re on the subject of President Obama, the following undermine GOP arguments that he spent too much during his administration.
So it looks like it wasn’t wild spending, but rather something else that has caused the new normal of sluggish growth. It certainly isn’t sluggish for the wealthy and big corporations….ah, the “job creator” class, what an utter myth.
Consumers create jobs for the most part and workers create value. And until even the so-called “capitalists” of this country understand that, we’re going to suffer from stagnant growth because…. the masses are nearly out of money because…. see below.
This has led to a distribution that looks like this….
There are some that will keep banging the drums for the “magic”, but most working people pounding pavement and trying to take care of their families know the truth–the link between effort and reward is gone and has been for some time.
Want to know what’s behind the actual American carnage and why none of 45’s and the far-right to Alt-Right cabal’s policies will work? Because there is a fundamental disconnect between the world that elites inhabit, and organized money protects, and the actual reality of what is going on and has been the trend in American life for some time.
And this is why the most relevant historical force in the 2016 Presidential election was not Donald Trump–but rather it was Bernie Sanders.
He has proven that small dollar donations can break the donor class monopoly of our political system, or at the very least has proven you can put up one hell of a fight and maybe next (demographically speaking) things will break your way. If it is not broken up, it’ll be hard for much of anything to be made “great”again, although I’d very much settle for “good” outcomes at this point.
Indeed, Mr. Norris was right. We are cursed to live (or fortunate to live?) in interesting times. Anyone who has been following developments between the Alt-Right and far-left clashing on college campuses lately, or developments like this can conclude that we are cursed to live in interesting times.
So I keep coming back to the Joker and “watching the world burn.”
There are those who have settled into the world as it is and those (overwhelmingly under 45) who are dreaming of the world as it should be. I think the common thread that binds a lot of millennials, most Gen-X’ers, and younger folks together will be our desire to “burn it down.”
The key difference will be what type of burn. At the outset I showed a “controlled burn” that farmers utilize to help the soil and rotate crops. I believe the controlled burn is far preferable to what the Alt-Right is and wants, which I will call the “moral hazard burn.”
Take care of each out there. And stay tuned for AgreeingLoudly and the Margin of Error.
The Scene and Setting: cultural treasure (in progressive-populist circles) Carson Starkey gets off-stage after introducing Bruce Springsteen to a crowd in San Francisco. The Bay Area is one of the thriving cultural centers of the People’s Republic of California, the first modern-day state to secede from the United States of America just after Trump’s re-election in 2020. He joins Troy Olson, on assignment from his home in Harlem to build diplomatic ties to the land with the 4th largest GDP in the world.
The Democrats have recently won complete control of all levels of government after the 2028 Presidential, Congressional, and State Elections. Carson and Troy reminisce on how it all happened.
So what just happened there? What’s your take Professor Starkey?
(note: Carson recently took a job at a Twin Cities area university, his favorite course is an elective on “American History as Told By the Music of Bruce Springsteen”)
Well, Hillary took a teaching job at Columbia, and avoided public endorsements, which allowed Seth Moulton to become governor of Massachusetts. Keith Ellison became Minnesota’s first black senator after Al Franken retired to become senior producer at Saturday Night Live. Tulsi Gabbard took legislating seriously, stopped surfing, and co-authored Medicaid-for-all w/ Kirsten Gillibrand.
You’re maybe giving too much credit to the winning team here. I attribute these historic wins for the Democrats to GOP incompetence. Who knew their policies would be widely disliked and disastrous for the country? Well… you knew.
That’s true. Life got hard for a lot of cable news viewers when they lost SNAP, WIC, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and minimum wage laws.
It also helped that rural monopolies by cable companies pushed prices to over $100 per month when they could have just had Netflix for $9 per month. Did these companies really think that no millennials would tell their parents to downsize in this area?
Right. Disastrous policies forced some hard choices on boomer parents. Some folks lost their Fox News fix.
The two-front war in Syria and Iran certainly didn’t help in the ’22 midterms (historicalnote: the first decent cycle per expectations in a decade for the Democratic Party). They should have pursued a draft but of course that would have led to even worse results at the ballot box.
The National Guard wasn’t ready. Also Republicans shouldn’t have run Dakota Meyer for President in 2024. His limited policy knowledge was surpassed only by Bristol Palin’s ugly bigotry.
They definitely over-estimated how much Trump had prepared the country for ugly bigotry… at some point people were going to get sick of it. It did not help that golden boys J.D. Vance was unable to beat Sherrod Brown for the Senate, and Tim Tebow was still trying to play professional sports (as of this writing: Tebow is under contract with the Las Vegas Raiders and is likely to be cut this fall)…
Sherrod Brown…forgot about him after he retired from the Senate to be a Supreme Court Justice. But we finally prioritized the judiciary.
(Continuing)… Donald Trump Jr’s failed term as Governor of New York didn’t help. Who knew New York state could do so much worse than Andrew Cuomo?
Lessons learned I suppose.
Speaking of Cuomo, worst presidential campaign in modern history? 2020. Wow. 5th in the Iowa Caucus.
He wasted 30 million dollars on campaign ads touting his fleet of collector cars. The donors were furious. But Cuomo moved to Goldman Sachs and soldiered on.
That’s a write-off for them made easy after the Supreme Court extended the privileges and immunities clause to corporations in the early 2020’s.
The DNC finally got out of the way of President Sanders, perhaps it was the overwhelming numbers and widespread misery.
I had my doubts if we were ever going to move on from a one party GOP state, especially after California became its own Republic. Which deep down had to burn many Texans because they didn’t get there first.
One of the few places capable of that course of action economically. Silicon Valley refused to relocate, it made sense. Regarding Texas, Governor Ted Cruz was unpersuasive.
Of course the downside to California leaving was that we were officially passed in GDP by China… but I imagine hysterical white people think it’s worth it. Demographic majorities for another decade or so.
That coal industry recovery never happened.
Didn’t need to. Trump correctly assumed that those voters would never vote for a Democrat anyway. The real question I have is–how long will these new majorities last and will they finally go after the needed big reforms?
Medicare-for-all would be a good escalation.
Let’s hope lessons have been learned. Now is the time. Although I have my doubts majority leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi will push hard enough for it.
Paired with universal basic income it may be hard. I suppose the revenue for those policies hinge on the corporate repatriation. Which Schumer and Durbin oppose with a bigger cut in the rates.
So admittedly, I was wrong about that “permanent” minority leader status. Apparently negative 30 favorability ratings nationally do not translate locally. Either way, it has been a lonely White House for President Sanders, not unlike Trump with the GOP.
The infrastructure is still not there, and he is not built for grandiose moments in the spotlight.
Fair point. The race is already on for who succeeds him. Do we swing back toward centrist-corporatist-neoliberals? A progressive heir? Does this growing Millennial Party that was willing to follow as long as Sanders got nominated but now is furious because they still have no place in electoral politics unless they run as Republicans bolt?
Larry David keeps making fun of Sanders, but it isn’t as funny as 2016.
Everyone looks old and tired. We’re bogged down in 4 fronts now (Afghanistan-Iraq-Syria-Iran), and despite the best efforts of the Sanders administration, we’ll soon enter our 29th straight year at war without a draft… it seems insane.
There’ll be some super attractive Iran War vet with a square jaw and two kids that runs against Tom Cotton. And progressives will soon be placated with Center for American Progress think tank jobs. The ebb and flow of the game I suppose…
So I guess we’ve answered the question. We’ll lose our majorities in the ’30 midterms, meaning we blow a redistricting year, and can look forward to President Tom Cotton. Or President Rubio because it’s now a tradition that we pick him to win. Like Chris Berman picking the 49ers vs. the Bills in the Super Bowl for 13 straight years.
It is fitting that his nickname is Boomer. BA in history from Brown in ’77, which of course leads to a major job in broadcasting for reasons. Meanwhile, no amount of doctoral degrees, community involvement, subsequent pounding of pavement was able to similarly convince the powers that be otherwise about the younger cohorts.
The first of what hopefully are many weekly (bi-monthly) updates promoting the latest episode of the excellent podcast The Margin of Error co-hosted by Allan Branstiter and Carson Starkey. In the future this website will be shamelessly, unapologetically, and proudly posting and promoting each episode, along with Bruce Springsteen music, and Jimmy Buffett retirement communities.
Hey, Carson — don’t ya think it’s time we have another installment of Conversations with the Ghost of America’s Future Past? Trump-era edition?
According to the Way Back Machine on the InterWebs, the Obama Administration had The Judicial Branch of the Federal Government on its website. While this could have been an oversight, rather than a deliberate political move, like the status of LGBT Americas, Climate Change, Health Care, and Civil Rights, I believe this is a deliberate attempt to delegitimize the Courts, which are the last vestiges in the way of one party fascist rule (in addition to the rights guaranteed us by the Constitution, which must be enforced each and every day by WE THE PEOPLE), and the basic decency and goodness of the American People and our communities.
It takes a long time for the Courts to change over. As you may know, the Supreme Court has had a right wing tilt for a generation or two, but the lower courts have turnover at a much faster pace. While an obstructionist GOP often blocked President Obama’s nominees to the Federal courts – he was able to appoint a total of 329 federal judges, including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sotomayer and Justice Kagan.
This legacy of judicial appointments also includes 55 Courts of Appeals judges, 268 judges to the District courts, and a couple dozen more to specialty courts under Article III (International Trade), Article I (Federal Claims, Tax Courts, Veterans Claims, Military Commission Review, Armed Forces), and Article IV Territorial courts.
This eight year legacy of judicial appointments, the day-to-day bureaucracy, and the majority of the American people stand in the way of significant parts of the Trump Agenda. We’ve already seen constant attempts to delegitimize the media (although they do a pretty good job doing that on their own), and I believe we’ll see more and more of this as long as District court judges stay executive orders, rule legislation unconstitutional, etc. This “battle of the Federal Government branches” mathematically can only last eight years, or even fewer than that.
Why? Because if we allow one party rule under this President and his administration for that length of time, the judges appointed will be far more favorable to executive orders like the one that swept across the nation this weekend.
This has been a dispatch from Publius – a Public Citizen of the “Sons and Daughters of Liberty” – writing from the island where Lady Liberty welcomes new Americans to the land of opportunity, holding a torch, which will burn a little less brightly if WE THE PEOPLE – do not do our duty in the years to come.