If the shoe doesn’t fit, why does it make you so comfortable?

It’s clearly unfair to lump Republicans together with the Tea Party—says a Republican outraged that anyone would criticize the Tea Party.

Vice President Biden said yesterday that the alternative to President Obama was the “Republican Tea Party.”  A leading Republican senator was outraged. But note how he expressed his outrage:

“I can’t imagine any elected official making fun of people becoming highly involved in the electoral process,” said Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) when asked to comment on Biden’s remarks. “I just don’t see how that’s healthy. And yes, I think people who might criticize people getting highly engaged in the electoral process — I think that’s problematic and I just don’t understand why one would perceive criticizing that to be a good thing” (emphasis in original).

In other words, Corker’s objection to being lumped in with the Tea Party consists in lashing out at, and weirdly portraying as an opponent of all civic engagement, anybody who criticizes the Tea Party.

I can’t think of a tag line for this better than Biden’s: “Don’t compare me to the Almighty, compare me to the alternative.”

What if the Republicans DON’T Take Back Congress?

Holding onto to Congress gives us a glimmer of a chance to effect the most positive change in US political culture in 30 years.

This summer and fall, the Democrats are playing defense — and that makes sense.  A rotten economy puts the majority party on the defensive, and retirements combined with the big victories in 2006 and 2008 means that we are mostly trying to hang on.

But it doesn’t get the base energized very well.  “Let’s try not to make our losses too big” really doesn’t inspire the faithful.

So let’s try looking at it another way — what if the Republicans DON’T take back the House and Senate this year?  What might that mean?

They have waged all-out war on the Democrats, on Obama, on American institutions of governance, on the economy, on common sense, on decency, on facts, and even on the Constitution.  They have their entire noise machine going full throttle.  And by far most importantly, they are massively helped by the greatest recession since the Great Depression, a recession they created and for which the voters are now blaming the Democrats.  This should be a piece of cake for them. So what if Nancy Pelosi still holds the gavel in January?

Put another way, we can think of this election as an opportunity — simply by virtue of maintaining control, we can begin the work of destroying Movement Conservatism in this country.  Not conservatism, surely; no one should want that.  Nor the Republican Party; no one should want that, either.  But the Conservative Movement — the nexus of shadowy (and not so shadowy) institutions, fake think tanks, insider pressure lobbies, 527s, Wednesday Morning Groups, astroturf organizations, talk radio gasbags, media echo chambers — that has done more to poison the political culture of this country for the last 3 decades, might show itself, much like the Soviet Union in the late 1970’s, to be superficially powerful but rotten at the core.

Consider the issue from the perspective of a conservative.  The Democrats have elected the first Black president, enacted universal health coverage, restored New Deal regulation in the financial sector, put together the biggest domestic spending bill in decades, openly supported gay marriage and made it stick — and even then, with all of the financial resources and institutional infrastructure, in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression, the Movement still cannot engineer a political victory.

Perhaps — just perhaps — conservatives might begin to consider that the Movement they have placed so much of their hope on might not be the way to go.  Perhaps — just perhaps — they might consider that actual argument based on actual facts might be a useful method of reaching the electorate.

Politicians often talk about bipartisanship, but how are you to achieve it?  Not in the first run through reason, or through compromise.  You do it by beating the crazies like a drum until they realize they simply cannot continue to survive as a political force until they recognize that reality exists.

No, I wouldn’t bet on it, either.  But if the GOP does take back either or both Houses of Congress, the Movement will see it as vindication.  If it fails, perhaps someone on the other side of the political spectrum will realize that it is time to change course.  Political scientists call this a “realignment.”  I favor the disease analogy: it might just be time to let the fever break.

Teachers’ Association President proves a point.

California Teachers Association president David A. Sanchez makes the strongest case he can for Tom Torlakson in the race for Superintendent of Public Instruction. Draw your own conclusions.

California Teachers Association president David A. Sanchez makes the strongest case he can in less than a minute for supporting Tom Torlakson for Superintendent of Public Instruction in today’s California primary election.

If you find this compelling, vote for Torlakson. If not, there is an alternative.

This isn’t likely to become moot after today: there will probably be a runoff for this nonpartisan office in November.

Wage slavery

With due respect to Mark (here and here), I think that Rand Paul’s real problems in 90-percent-white Kentucky will stem from the implications of his radical libertarianism for working-class whites, not African-Americans.

Jonathan Singer at mydd.com asks four questions that Paul couldn’t answer in a way that would make him both truthful and electable:

  1. Do you believe the federal minimum wage is constitutional?
  2. Do you believe federal overtime laws are constitutional?
  3. Do you believe the federal government has the power to enact work safety laws and regulations?
  4. Do you believe that federal child labor laws are constitutional?

Here’s where the Tea Partiers have made their mistake, and fallen into thinking they’re more popular than they are. Americans are “anti-government,” but not in the way that extreme libertarians are.  You can scare them with talk of pork, corruption, Big Government, welfare or debt.  You can’t win them over by taking aim at everything that protects them from being slaves of their bosses (namely, well, government—unless one prefers unions).  The position that private action, however deplorable, is not a fit subject for government action puts libertarians in the position of repeating simultaneously all the things that are wrong with the world and their resolute determination to do nothing about them. Yes, I know that some commenters will say the Constitution requires this.  But that will be all the more reason for most voters to stop listening to what Paul and his supporters say, with a sincere tone of subjective authority, about the Constitution.

(via J.P. Green at The Democratic Strategist)

GOP resurgent—in states with lots of whites.

The reason why Scott Brown’s victory can’t be blamed on low minority turnout is that Massachusetts has very few minority voters. The same true in the lion’s share of the states in which Republicans are now leading their senate races.

Stephen Ansolabehere and Charles Stewart III’s analysis in the Boston Review of Scott Brown’s Massachusetts victory contains many sobering points for Democrats.  Brown gained on Obama everywhere in the state, and while minority turnout was low, a huge turnout wouldn’t have beaten him.  But in tracing why a huge turnout wouldn’t have beaten him, the authors note in passing that a huge proportion of towns in the state are more than 95 percent white, and there are even a lot of precincts in Boston more than 85 percent white.  This got me thinking: is Massachusetts an unusually white state?

Answer: hell yes.  Non-Hispanic whites make up 79.2% of Massachusetts’ population, as opposed to 65.6% in the country as a whole.

I then wondered: are most of the eight states in which Republicans are predicting takeovers of Democratic Senate seats—namely Nevada, Colorado, Arkansas, North Dakota, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Delaware—also abnormally white?  Answer: also yes.  Illinois has about the same racial composition as the country as a whole (having way more Latinos than most people think).  Nevada is less white than the rest of the country.  But the other six states are substantially whiter than the rest of the country.  Five of those—all but Colorado—are at least ten percentage points whiter than the country.

Two points.  First, the President’s attempt to re-energize his base could succeed and still not save Democrats in these particular states.  Second: Harry Reid’s attempts to save his seat by appealing to Latinos through immigration reform have aroused a lot of attention and not a little Republican outrage.  So why haven’t many “mainstream” political commentators pointed out that these other senate races could go Republican on the crest of an unrepresentative wave of white voters?  Now, I realize that being white means that what one thinks and how one votes by definition have nothing to do with race.  But still.

By the way: the state with the highest percentage of nonwhites is, of course, Hawaii.

Two of the Good Guys: Perriello and Giffords

We need to support Democrats who are taking the courageous path.

The RNC has been targeting Congressional Democrats who represent GOP-leaning districts in a desperate attempt to stop health care reform.  Two of these Representatives are Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona and Tom Perriello of Virginia.  And recently, Giffords and Perriello told them to shove it: they are both voting yes.

Perriello might be my favorite member of Congress.  He represents Virginia’s 5th district, which covers much of the state’s southside, and has a cook PVI of R+5.  Not only did Perriello defeat the odious Virigil Goode in the 2008 elections, but he represents a particularly compelling brand of conviction politician: he worked as a human rights prosecutor in Sierra Leone and has founded a series of faith-based political activist organization, including Faithful America and 24 Hours for Darfur.

Giffords represents Arizona’s 8th Congressional District, which is sort of ground zero for nativist sentiment.  Her district borders Mexico, but she has resisted crude anti-immigrant bias and has called for a comprehensive immigration reform bill.  Recall that the Arizona GOP has brought us such winners as JD Hayworth, Matt Salmon, john Shadegg, Trent Franks, and Rick Renzi.  There must be something in the cactus juice.

Both Giffords and Perriello are endangered incumbents this year: Stuart Rothenberg listed Perriello as one of the most endangered house members this fall.  You know the drill.


John Murtha is Dead at 77

Murtha’s death is bad news for health care reform.

We didn’t need this.

I was no fan of Murtha, but he was a reliable vote for Nancy Pellosi when it came down to it.  He represented a slightly conservative Pennsylvania district that went for McCain in 2008.  The odds are slim that his replacement — who will be chosen via a special election, will support health care reform.

And no, that’s not shallow: millions of people’s lives depend upon health care reform passing.

Pelosi has shown an amazing ability to get votes when she needs them.  She will have to be even more wizard-like now.

What Does Adam Nagourney Do For a Living?

If every one of Nagourney’s stories are the same, then is he really doing anything?

For all I know, Nagourney is a very nice, intelligent and reasonable guy, but take a look at his piece today. Or rather, you don’t need to take a look at his piece today because it is exactly the same as all of his pieces: Dems in disarray, quote a GOP operative, quote a Dem operative, quote another GOP operative, end the story. He doesn’t mention that Dodd’s retirement strengthens the Dems until the 13th graf, and the greater number of GOP retirements until the 21st graf. I think he’s supposed the be the NYT’s national political correspondent, but if every story is the same, what exactly is he being paid for?

At least we didn’t get the series of anonymous quotes from “Democratic sources” expressing worry about one thing or another.  Jeez…

The Midterms: A Preliminary Game Plan

The Obama Administration needs to start preparing the ground for the November midterms. Here’s what it should do.

EJ Dionne has a typically smart piece at TNR about how the Democrats can avoid disaster in November’s midterms.  They will obviously lose some seats, but this doesn’t need to be a repeat of 1994.Richard Cohen, though, is worried that Obama is off his game, which bodes very badly for the midterms. 

It seems to me that while the administration has a lot of genuine achievements, it has created a huge political problem for itself by going out of its way to alienate its strongest supporters.  Theoretically, helath care reform will bring many back to the fold, but the inevitable compromises of the dysfunctional Senate have, if anything, dampened Democratic energy.

Usually, Presidents handle this problem by taking executive actions to shore up the base, but Rahm Emanuel seems to know only one play: tell liberals to STFU.  That might work sometimes, but not in a midterm.

What to do now?

1)      Obama should take some high-profile measures regarding Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.  He should publicly refuse to dismiss talented linguists who are gay, for example, on national security grounds.  He has the authority to do this.

2)      If and when there is a SCOTUS retirement, he should appoint someone who will unify the base and drive the Reps crazy while appealing to the center.  My own preferred option is Kathleen Sullivan, the former Dean of Stanford Law School, one of the leading constitutional scholars in the country, and openly gay.

3)      Strong moves on appellate judges.  No backing off.  Lots of action regarding up or down votes.  This will help build momentum for filibuster reform at the beginning of the 2011 session.

4)      Putting reimportation into the 2010 reconciliation bill, and other goodies.

5)      The head of Larry Summers on a platter; maybe replace him with Elizabeth Warren.

6)      STRONG pushes on very tough financial regulation, forcing the Republicans to defend the bankers.  The GOP has already said that it will oppose any unified Consumer Protection Agency.  Let them.

This isn’t hard.  It makes for good policy and good politics.  Whether Rahm understands that is a totally different question.

An electoral-college lock?

So says Sean Quinn, unless the Republicans start nominating candidates who can win moderate and independent votes: which given the current composition of the Republican primary electorate they can’t.

Sean Quinn says that, against a standard “base” Republican candidate, Democrats now own 269 electoral votes.

* 77 EVs on the Pacific Coast (CA, OR, WA, HI),

* 117 EVs in the Northeast (ME, NH, VT, MA, RI, CT, NY, NJ, DE, PA, MD, DC)

* 65 EVs in the Upper Midwest (MI, WI, MN, IA, IL),

* 10 EVs in the Mountain West (NM, NV)

So the Dems could lose Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Indiana, North Carolina and Colorado (and fail to pick up increasingly-competitive Arizona) and still manage to throw the election into the House of Representatives. (Quinn doesn’t do the arithmetic on likely EV shifts due to the 2010 Census, which at a glance look as if they might favor the GOP.)

That means, says Quinn, that the Republicans need to nominate a candidate who can appeal to moderates and independents. But there’s no way today’s GOP can nominate such a candidate.

Ergo …