Monday, October 19, 2015

Last Call For Sober Reflection

Matt Yglesias reminds us that outside the battle for the White House, the Democrats are getting the crap kicked out of them, and they have no plan for 2016 or more importantly, 2018.

The presidency is extremely important, of course. But there are also thousands of critically important offices all the way down the ballot. And the vast majority — 70 percent of state legislatures, more than 60 percent of governors, 55 percent of attorneys general and secretaries of state — are in Republicans hands. And, of course, Republicans control both chambers of Congress. Indeed, even the House infighting reflects, in some ways, the health of the GOP coalition. Republicans are confident they won't lose power in the House and are hungry for a vigorous argument about how best to use the power they have. 
Not only have Republicans won most elections, but they have a perfectly reasonable plan for trying to recapture the White House. But Democrats have nothing at all in the works to redress their crippling weakness down the ballot. Democrats aren't even talking about how to improve on their weak points, because by and large they don't even admit that they exist. 
Instead, the party is focused on a competition between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton over whether they should go a little bit to Obama's left or a lot to his left, options that are unlikely to help Democrats down-ballot in the face of an unfriendly House map and a more conservative midterm electorate. The GOP might be in chaos, but Democrats are in a torpor. 
The worst part of the problem for the Democratic Party is in races that are, collectively, the most important: state government. 
Elections for state legislature rarely make the national news, but they are the fundamental building blocks of American politics. Since they run the redistricting process for the US House of Representatives and for themselves, they are where the greatest level of electoral entrenchment is possible. 
And in the wake of the 2014 midterms, Republicans have overwhelming dominance of America's state legislatures.

Instead of saying that if we lose the presidency, we cede the entire country to the GOP (which would be true, they would control nearly every aspect of our government) we need to get the states back. It's fine to say "well nobody really has a plan for that" because that's true, but we need to get one and fast.

The descent from 2010 to 2014 has been precipitous. Obama's re-election was the only good news for the Dems, because right now only seven states are under Democratic control.

Seven.  Out of 50. The Republicans have complete control of 25 states, including swing states like Ohio, Wisconsin, Nevada, North Carolina, and Florida, and legislatures in Pennsylvania and Virginia.

We have to get the states back, or we're done. 2016 is vital for the White House of course, but if we lose any more state legislatures at this point, the Democrats are going to be relegated to a New England/California coastal party.

In a lot of way, we already are.  We sure as hell didn't vote in 2014.  If the same thing happens in 2018, the country's done.  This is the reality we live in: the GOP is one solid Democratic scandal away from running the entire country and it's entirely plausible that they get there.

Nobody believes the Democrats can get back to 2008 right now by 2016.  Hell, I don't think we can do that by 2024.

Now here's the sober reflection part.

We don't even have a plan. And maybe that *is* the plan.

You have to admit, the best way for the Dems to get back to 2008 was to be where the GOP was in 2004.  Sure it means destroying our economy again, and having the Democrats try to clean up, but breaking the government would be a lot faster than incremental change.

I'm not saying that's a good idea at all, it's horrible.  But I'm thinking that there are Democrats who like the idea, and it's the same ones who have been saying "We need to get working class white guys back!" for 35 years now.

I know Dems have a problem.  That's not the solution. Let's not play right into what will surely make this worse.

Never Get High On Your Own Supply

Chris Hayes famously made that Biggie Smalls quote in reference to Republicans believing their own talking points in 2012, and Greg Sargent believes they are right back in their own epistemic closure bubble in 2015 when it comes to Hillary Clinton.

What is the Republican theory of the 2016 election? Is it that the Democrats have developed a durable demographic advantage in national elections and that the GOP must nominate someone who can broaden the party’s reach beyond core constituencies, as Republicans concluded after the 2012 debacle?

Or is it increasingly that such demographic concerns can be tossed to the winds — that Hillary Clinton is such a flawed candidate that Republicans don’t have to worry too much about picking a standard bearer with broad general election appeal?

The Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein has a good piece today in which he posits the latter theory. Klein’s overall point is that the two parties are each making wildly different assumptions about next year’s contest — and that this has driven each party further into its own ideological corner, portending an unusually charged and intense general election battle.

Indeed, the GOP theory is that, just like Obama in 2012, there's no way that the electorate would possibly elect Hillary Clinton because everyone hates her, the polls show she's doomed, and that silly Democrats will nominate her anyway, leading to landslide losses in swing states. At this point, Republicans argue, the future of America is solely up to GOP primary voters to select the next President of the United States.  It doesn't matter how "electable" they are either...Clinton will be the Dem nominee and she can't win, so the GOP can pick anyone and they'll win easily.

It's a nice fantasy, frankly, but one that the GOP is now wholly invested in.

The Bully And The Little Brother

Ezra Klein has a point here: even if Donald Trump doesn't win the GOP nomination, he'll be remembered for taking out Jeb Bush.

Over the past week, Trump and Bush have been in an argument that basically boils down to the question of was George W. Bush president on 9/11/2001?

Trump insists that Bush was president both prior to and during the 9/11 attacks, and he was therefore at least partly responsible for the security failures that permitted the tragedy. And to Trump's credit, there is considerable evidence that George W. Bush was president on 9/11/2001.

Jeb Bush's position is harder to parse: he argues that his brother was only responsible for what happened after 9/11, suggesting, perhaps, that someone else bore the responsibilities of the presidency on 9/11/2001. Or, to be a bit kinder to his position, he argues that the measure of as president isn't whether something like 9/11 happens, but whether it happens again
The result is this absolutely brutal interview CNN's Jake Tapper conducted with Bush. "If your brother and his administration bear no responsibility at all," Tapper asks, "how do you then make the jump that President Obama and Secretary Clinton are responsible for what happened at Benghazi?"

Jeb looks absolutely terrible here, and he's letting Trump sucker him into this.  But Jeb doesn't have a choice: he can't not defend his brother's horrendous foreign policy record, even though it's largely indefensible. And so Jeb is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't.

On top of that, Bush, like Kevin McCarthy, gives away the game on Benghazi at the same time as Jake Tapper actually asks the right question here and Bush completely sticks his entire lower body into his mouth, let alone just his foot.  Not only does he make the Benghazi committee look like a bunch of fools, he also hurts his brother on 9/11 and the multiple times US embassy personnel were killed during Dubya's administration.

It's actually embarrassing how bad Jeb Bush is at this.  Didn't anyone in his organization think to come up with any real defense?  Or did they even bother, for as I've said, how do you defend the indefensible?

George W. really was the smart brother.


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