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Ralph Northam

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Lev filed this under:  

The former we knew, but as for the latter…fourth out of four. Ouch.

Look, the other candidates are treating Buttigieg as a fad, which may well be true. I hope so. But I worry. It remains the case that his pitch to be the nominee is absurd: no track record, no pertinent experience, no real accomplishments to tout. It does say something that these obvious deficiencies are made up for among old white Democrats with the smooth communication abilities and that ultra-braininess for which some Democrats have a persistent weak spot (think Adlai Stevenson, Gary Hart, etc.), but his actual proposals make it pretty evident that he doesn’t understand the political moment or what general election voters are going to respond to. His Supreme Court plan is “brilliant” in the sense that it’s complicated and hard to explain, but those qualities aren’t brilliant at all, the plan actually shows an overconfident overachiever who is way out of his depth, treating politics as a fun puzzle or thought exercise instead of as a deadly serious conflict over power and resources. Plus there’s that whole thing of a campaign whose ideas and especially its emphases are bought and paid for by donors to a degree unusual even within our corrupt system. That’s some Romney-grade plasticity there.

I can’t help but see Peter as little more than a would-be American Macron in waiting, someone blind to the failings of the elite due to his proximity to them, and someone whose case is fundamentally rhetorical and stylistic (and neoliberal). There’s no change agenda there. He still thinks the system works because, after all, it created him!

I give it six months before the riots begin.

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I remember way back during the George W. Bush years, the issue of torture was very much a thing, and the media spent a lot of time on the matter either coming up with euphemisms for it (I actually think the government came up with “enhanced interrogation techniques”) or coming up with rhetorical devices under which it was difficult to argue with using it (the ticking time bomb scenario, i.e. the 24 scenario), even though these didn’t reflect reality at all. There wasn’t much discussion about its effectiveness because that’s not what the media does at this point in time, even though that’s what it should do at all times. But even if it had done that, I’m not sure what it would have accomplished. Torture wasn’t ever really about extracting information, it was about punishing “bad” people. Of course, given how shambolic intelligence was generally, a lot of those people were wholly innocent, but they were still bad because they were Muslims and they thus a billion people shared collective responsibility for 9/11, an act of a few dozen individuals. Had the media done its job, it wouldn’t have “solved” the torture issue because it wasn’t about the facts. But it would have made it difficult to dispute that the conservative movement is to a large degree animated by harming people just because they happened to be born in the wrong place and the wrong time (in the conservatives’ point of view, anyway), and that’s not something that even the squishiest reactionary centrist can easily tolerate.

Something to keep in mind when Trump’s new war criminal buddies hit the campaign trail with him next year. Whatever else you can say about him, the man knows his base, and I strongly doubt that these folks will be booed off the stage even in military-heavy areas (particularly in military-heavy areas?). But I predict that this particular story will vanish within a few days and will never be heard from again. In some sense it will be old news, but it’s also news too uncomfortable to contemplate for our elites. It’s not exactly news that the conservative movement would favor going easy on “heroes” who commit war crimes, as anybody familiar with the My Lai massacre knows. But that was 52 years ago, back when things were supposed to have been different, or something.

I’m not sure what else to say about this. One political party thinks war criminals are cool and one doesn’t. BipartisanUnity!

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Mark Penn is now involved,?so that’s that. I guess he must be a good flatterer because I seriously don’t know what his pitch would have been: his big accomplishment was in helping Bill Clinton get re-elected amidst a booming economy, and then he lost an election that was only able to be lost because the main strategist was a complete incompetent who didn’t even know the most basic rules of how delegates were awarded. Even for a guy who likes to surround himself with washed-up scumbag incompetents like Rudy 9/11, it seems like a real stretch.?Or maybe it’s just about fucking with the Clintons to Trump.

Anyway, with Penn on board, I look forward to Trump’s imminent removal from office, due to Penn believing there are 120 senators or something.

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File this in “If I ran the world”.? In exchange for lavish compensation packages, top public company executives must, every ten years, (1) spend three months working in a minimum wage job, (2) live in an apartment they can afford as a minimum wage worker, and (3) send their kids to a public school close to the apartment they can afford as a minimum wage worker.

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Today Gordon Sondland directly tied both Donald Trump and Mike Pence to the Ukraine extortion scheme to investigate Hunter Biden. I doubt that it will move enough GOP Senators to remove either of them, let alone both of them, which is the only real satisfactory option here (because there’s no real way to say that the Ukraine mess is removable for Trump but not for Pence). One has to imagine that turning over the White House to a Democrat (in this case, Speaker Nancy Pelosi) would be a complete nonstarter among Republicans, and frankly, it’s not like I can blame them. I’d probably be doing the same thing in their position. The irony is that this would almost certainly be the best outcome for the GOP. Here are the arguments:

  1. A Pelosi presidency would last a bit over a year, which could well be long enough for the electorate to move on from Trump/Pence/Ukraine stuff. Depressing but almost certainly true. I remember January 2010 quite well and believe me, the various crimes of the Bush Administration were already not being talked about. A year is more than enough time for a few pro forma apologies and a shift toward pretending to care about deficits again to reset the deck for 2020. It’s not going to take much for the media and centrist Democrats whose belief in BipartisanshipUnity is as unshakeable as…well, the rich people who fund them, I guess.
  2. Removal would be a sign that “everything is going fine” and would gain the Republican Party a bunch of bipartisan praise and hosannas, without their even needing to pretend to any commitment to democratic norms or ideological changes. This would lead to serious guard-lowering among moderate liberals that could be exploited quite effectively by the GOP in the aftermath.
  3. A Pelosi presidency would be unsuccessful. She could certainly undo plenty of Trump’s Executive Orders and things like that, but with the Senate in Republican hands, she couldn’t pass any bills. She couldn’t confirm any judges. Republicans would refuse to work with her on any meaningful policy agenda. It’s doubtful she could even get suitable replacements confirmed for top Cabinet posts, so she’d either be stuck with a Cabinet full of Trump officials—which is hard to imagine—or everything would have to be acting Secretaries, thus cementing that as a new norm.
  4. Relatedly, Pelosi is ill-suited to act as party leader at this time. Back during her first speakership she seemed to be fairly evenhanded in terms of working with different wings of the party, but during the current speakership she has thrown in her lot so heavily with the party’s right, up to the point of making odd (and arguably inappropriate) interventions into the presidential race. Why do that when she might have to work with a Sanders or a Warren? And there was that gratuitous upbraiding of The Squad a few months ago, which seems like a few decades ago by now, admittedly. Whether this is due to donor pressure, anger at the youngs for not having respect or whatever, a Pelosi presidency would probably divide the party even more in advance of 2020, while unifying the GOP against her. A true recipe for success.
  5. Pelosi becoming president would remove her as Speaker. A succession battle could further distract and divide Democrats, and it’s highly likely that her replacement would be a less effective Speaker. The possibility of a Chuck Schumer type taking over the House is horrifying to contemplate—in both cases you have heavily neoliberal ideologies captured by big donors, but Pelosi is a master of the ways of the House and an effective tactician, and at least has some degree of mettle. Schumer has none of this and a (perish the thought) Hoyer-Schumer Democratic Party would be its most unappealing Congressional offering since the first George W. Bush term. It would be even more appalling should Republicans win in 2020. The only top Democrat with any Proven ability to fight the GOP and win would be gone come 2021.
  6. And finally, a Pelosi presidency would be a boon to the conservative media complex. Indeed, it would be the greatest one imaginable. With a Barack Obama, some preliminary work needed to be done to insure that this highly atypical black man would be perceived as wholly in line with the usual stereotypes (e.g. Jeremiah Wright meant that he hates white people and America, Bill Ayers meant he was a secret Marxist, etc.). With Pelosi, there would be no need for any of that. She’s?pret-a-porter. Ratings would go up everywhere, probably higher than ever, and let’s be real, the conservative media is where the real power lies and it does better when Democrats are president.

I suspect this reasoning will find zero traction with Senate Republicans, but it might be your best chance, guys. Really, I think the upsides outweigh the downsides. Give it a thought at least.

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In a very real sense they don’t, instead they like “Trump,” the state propaganda character who actually is a very stable genius, who is tough and always wins. Given that most conservatives venerate power and authority, which ultimately means presidents (unless they’re illegitimate usurper Democrats), there’s a strong motivated reasoning component to it as well. They want to see him as the tough manly man who cracks the bad guys’ heads, instead of as a doofus who lets everybody walk all over him. The odd thing about it is that Trump undercuts the state propaganda version all the time via Twitter, which reveals him as the crass, petty and fathomlessly needy idiot that he is. This is what differentiates him from his peers–I’m pretty sure Vladimir Putin isn’t firing up VKontakte and raving about the deep state and Alexei Navalny being a traitor and all that, in no small part because he doesn’t have to. It’s hilarious that the chief propaganda network is asking Trump to stop tweeting, presumably because they’re tired of having to work harder to create this image. Sorry, guys, no chance of that.

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Good for Louisiana and Kentucky for not electing toxic wingnuts to run their states. I always thought that the Dems would win both elections, though I never predicted this formally on the site, and this is a good thing to be sure. Particularly in Kentucky, the large numbers of ex-convicts who will soon gain the vote is a huge reason why the election result actually matters. Kentucky is really ridiculously Republican at this point in time so it probably won’t make one bit of difference, but who knows, it might, and it’s a good thing to do in and of itself. Louisianans will not lose the Medicaid expansion—or have it hacked to death with ridiculous work requirements—so that’s also a good thing.

The thing about it is that when you see articles asking about what it means, the unfortunate answer is: not much. Louisiana, West Virginia, and Kentucky are essentially the mirror image of Massachusetts and Maryland: states that are utterly reliable on a presidential level but that still often vote for moderate politicians of the other party for governor, as opposed to similarly solid states like Tennessee and California which never do. It’s what Nate Silver calls partisan elasticity. There are various reasons for why those states continue with this cross-party behavior but it doesn’t matter at all in terms of 2020 since they’re all safe states. It doesn’t say anything meaningful about Trump’s appeal with the base that he personally invested his time in Louisiana and Kentucky and lost both, any more than it said the same about Obama that Democrats lost governorships MA and MD in 2014 because of those patterns. In both cases it was partly cyclical factors and partly just awful candidates for the in-party. Indeed, the ability of moderate Republicans to still regularly win the Massachusetts governorship is most easily explained by state Democrats’ thinking that Martha Coakley was a good choice to run for the job. One hopes we’ve seen the last of her but I do still have nightmares sometimes.

Essentially, the 2019 elections don’t matter in terms of telling us anything about Trump that we didn’t already know. The Virginia elections showed that he’s still really fucking toxic in Northern Virginia and has no chance of winning the state in 2020, but the state voted for Hillary in 2016 so we probably already knew that. And in terms of the effects of the elections on the party, neither Andy Beshear nor John Bel Edwards is likely to become any sort of prominent national figure for the party given their overall views. So the relevance of the elections is pretty much entirely local, though in Virgnia’s case, forcing the issue on the Equal Rights Amendment could have some national repercussions. A fight over that could be useful for base mobilization after the impeachment process ends, though I have my doubts that self-styled “liberal feminist” Nancy Pelosi would see it that way, but that’s another post for another day.

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