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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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If the religious right only made up 10% of the American population instead of the 25% it actually does, we’d be Canada.


Cancel the mainstream media.


The Obamanauts wanted Kamala Harris to be the nominee because Harris had all the same ingredients as Obama: inspiring biography, historic first, Obamaesque rhetoric, safe incrementalism. One could very easily see how it would all have worked out but given that Harris’s campaign is essentially on life support now, so it clearly hasn’t. But why? I do think that the hype around Harris was too great, but honestly the entire thing seemed forced. The Obama moment was an organic thing, trying to commoditize and sell it again misses a lot of the peculiarities of the late Bush era that created that moment. Evidently Deval Patrick didn’t get the memo because he’s getting in the race and he’s going to talk about BipartisanshipUnity a lot and hope to unite the two wings of the party, etc., etc. It’s not going to work any better for him than it did for Harris. The issue of the Iraq War was the thing that allowed Obama to build that unified front within the Democratic Party by first convincing the left that he was on their side and then working toward the center (remember when he said Clinton was an unimportant president?), but there’s simply no comparable issue to that at this point in time. The two wings of the Democratic Party are coming at the problem from entirely different angles, as I discussed yesterday, and either the progressive left or the center is going to win the nomination and the other side is going to have to suck it up for a few months.

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It’s good to have faith in reason, discourse, and empiricism in the abstract, but the idea that reason will always prevail is legitimately an extremist view, certainly an absolutist one, and one belied by really any understanding of history. Sometimes people just aren’t going to agree and there’s no choice but to treat them as an obstacle. The irony is that, at this point, a not-insignificant obstacle to genuine progress occurring in this country is that faith in reason is held so deeply among a large number of Democrats that there’s no way to dissuade them from it. Faith in reason has become derp for party centrists.

Or to put it another way: if you truly agree with Biden that an epiphany for Republicans is just around the corner after Trump leaves and after that we can resume BipartisanshipUnity again, then it’s impossible to think of something that might dissuade you from that view. You’d think that Trump’s approval ratings among Republicans would be enough of an indication but no, they do have their theories. Indeed, by all indications, the party centrists take seriously all the furrowed brows and talk of things being “concerning” from establishment Republicans, who then do nothing meaningful to damage Trump (Condi Rice being the latest example). No doubt they’re buying up copies of that “Anonymous” book by the truckload, and they’re probably the only ones. To the party centrists, there already is significant Republican opposition to Trump, that it is visible and that it will finally bubble over any day now. Call them Trump Resistance Millennarians. The idea that the Republicans don’t meaningfully share their core values–or, really, do they value much of anything besides power and ideology–is unthinkable, and the anger at people who point out this fairly straightforward interpretation of the facts are treated with obvious hostility. This is, ultimately, one of the main drivers of Democratic centrism right now.

At some point, we have to admit to ourselves that there isn’t some magical unity candidate that is going to paper over these disagreements because it’s not just that Bernie wants the full loaf and Biden wants 3/8 and you can just find the midpoint. Kamala Harris basically tried to do that and it flopped terribly, which had something to do with trying to capture lightning in a bottle–basically, trying too hard to manufacture another Obama moment–but I also think that she couldn’t have succeeded no matter what because there really isn’t a way to square this. The dispute ultimately goes to core values, first principles, and the lived experiences of actual Democrats, which sharply diverge at exactly the point in age where the person in question would have memories of the Republican Party as an institution not wholly devoted to a horrible ideology, conspiracy theories, and wanton cruelty. We can blame Zuck for this to some extent, but as much the damn kids get raked over the coals for this it’s not as though the blame lies only with the Bernie/Warren folks. Given the decades during which we were assured by the Bidens of the world that Republicans would imminently moderate, that the electorate would reward modesty and incrementalism, that voters truly cared about the deficit, that the public would never elect Trump, etc., none of which happened, the centrist wing pretty clearly needs to grapple with their idea of La Règle du Jeu and rethink a lot of their assumptions. Alas in Joe Biden, they have a figure who is too vain and pompous to ever seriously rethink them.

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It’s strange that nobody is writing about what’s actually happening in the Democratic Party right now because it’s pretty interesting. What you essentially have is a collapse in the authority and respect of the current crop of elites among almost everybody born after 1975, quite a marked one in fact. This is a central part of the story with both Warren and Sanders. This has led to certain excesses (such as the belief that Medicare For All is a plausible outcome of the 2020 elections, that it has majority support, that enacting it would be easy, etc.), but in general it’s quite healthy that this is happening. The party elites have only themselves to blame for continuing to embrace a conventional wisdom that is often decades out of date at best, and then not reckoning with it when that conventional wisdom turns out to be wrong, which has led people watching to lose trust in which the “adults in the room” are telling them. There are plenty of examples but a recent one was impeachment, which Nancy Pelosi made about twenty arguments against before being swept up into doing, most of which centered on the potential for a backlash that never happened. She’s impeaching now but it’s not lost on many that what she predicted was flat-out wrong. Certain elites in the party (particularly one whose name rhymes with Marack Shobama) assured us that the enlightened U.S. of A. would never elect someone as toxic as Donald Trump as president, and then we did. The market-driven aspects of the Affordable Care Act were supposed to immunize it from Republican attacks, but they didn’t. Incrementalism was the only alternative because big ideas would breed resistance from the public, but incrementalism only bred apathy. Republicans were supposed to moderate imminently after Obama’s election because of teh demographics, but they didn’t. You can get away with making a mistake every now and then, but you can only seriously fuck up so many times before you lose all credibility and respect. This is where we are. What drives Warren’s and Sanders’s support is, to a large degree, a movement to get away from the Democratic certainties of 1996 and to actually fight for ideas and policies that ordinary Democrats give a shit about, and again, they’re right to do this. Incrementalism was a perfectly valid response to the status quo of 20 years ago, when we had peace and prosperity and a system that seemed to still be working. As of now, we have huge problems and the system is universally agreed to be broken. Incrementalism is an incorrect match to our current moment, but old Democrats keep insisting that there is no alternative. This is bullshit and it’s about time that we moved on from it.

Obviously, Joe Biden is a big part of this development. The loss of trust in “experts” was part of the story in 2016 too but it was a bit less developed because a lot of younger progressives were willing to give Hillary Clinton the benefit of the doubt given the difficulties she had gone through and the sexist treatment she had faced. With Biden, there’s much less of that. He functionally has no support from anybody 45 or younger in Iowa, which is an impressive achievement, and while the Iowa numbers are a bit worse than his national numbers among that group, that could well be less a function of “Iowa is unrepresentative” and more a function of “Iowa is paying a little closer attention than the general electorate.” In either case, getting ~10% of younger voters nationally (for the purposes of this post, 45 is not a young person really) is much, much worse than getting the 20-30% than Clinton regularly got among these voters, and it’s not hard to see why. Biden presents himself as an expert at politics and governing but when he keeps saying that Republicans will have their epiphany, he’s not making a careful case based on nearly a half-century of experience and expertise. He’s pulling it out of his ass based entirely on wishful thinking and motivated reasoning. It beggars logic and the lived experience of anybody too young to remember even the Tip’n’Ronnie days (which would, funnily enough, have to make a person around 45 to recall), and Biden doesn’t even bother to articulate why we should expect this. We just should, because those are just the rules of the game but also because if bipartisan dealmaking is a totally defunct mode of governance, Joe Biden is a totally obsolete figure whose skill set is completely obsolete. He is obsolete, of course. But Biden has metastasized this situation by simply not listening to the people who are raising these critiques, which just breeds more disrespect and contempt for himself and his buddies. Gonna be interesting to see how he handles, um, half of his party when he becomes president. We must have our Jerry Ford I guess.

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