How Democratic Women Won (And Lost)

Democrats eager to see more women in office had reason to celebrate after last night’s primary results. Pennsylvania, which currently has no women in its U.S. House delegation, is now almost sure to get at least three sworn in next year.

In the safely Democratic 4th and 5th congressional districts, state Rep. Madeline Dean and former school board member Mary Gay Scanlon, respectively, emerged victorious from their hotly contested fields. And in the bluish 6th, military veteran and first-time candidate Chrissy Houlahan ran unopposed, after her lone opponent, also a woman, dropped out after the district lines were redrawn by court order.

And while Democrats can’t be quite as confident about their general election chances in the swinging 7th, former Allentown City Solicitor Susan Wild beat back male challengers on her left and right flank to claim that nomination. Beyond Pennsylvania, in the redder 2nd District of Nebraska, nonprofit Continue reading “How Democratic Women Won (And Lost)”

A Bad Night For Crazy

You can’t blame Don Blankenship for believing an ad campaign christening the Senate majority leader as “Cocaine Mitch” and attacking him for “creating jobs for Chinapeople” would catapult him toward the West Virginia Republican Senate nomination. You can understand why Dennis Kucinich might think growling like a poodle and stiffly quoting “Uptown Funk” on Fox News would create a viral video moment and push him over the finish line to win the Ohio Democratic gubernatorial primary.

After all, stranger things have happened, and in very recent memory.

The data is admittedly still scarce, but voters appear to be signaling they have had their fill of crazy. They may still hate the establishment. An outsider businessman, Mike Braun, won the Indiana Republican Senate primary by mocking his two opponents as cookie cutter creatures of Washington. An ad from eventual West Virginia victor Patrick Morrisey depicted a mountain being dropped on the Continue reading “A Bad Night For Crazy”

Forget About Impeaching Trump

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s cryptic message to Donald Trump’s attorneys—that the president is being investigated but is not currently a criminal target—is certain to intensify talk of impeachment. As Princeton University professor Keith Whittington told the Washington Post in response to the news, while Trump could still become a criminal target, “The president’s personal risk is primarily on the impeachment front.”

But if Mueller believes that Trump needs to be held accountable for any violation of law, he cannot expect Congress to do the accounting. There is only one mechanism that has any chance of working, and it is not impeachment. It’s indictment.

Impeachment is a dead end because the congressional jury pool is tainted. Mueller has been systematically demonized for weeks by Trump and his allies. For example, earlier this week Fox News host Sean Hannity warned of a proverbial “civil war … if Robert Mueller is so Continue reading “Forget About Impeaching Trump”

Why Conor Lamb (Probably) Won

The results aren’t yet official, but Conor Lamb’s apparent nail-biter special election win in a Western Pennsylvania congressional district that two years ago favored Donald Trump by 20 points is an unmistakable good sign for Democrats heading into the November midterm elections. Republican Rick Saccone couldn’t be saved by Trump’s tax reform bill or $10 million in outside campaign cash. And there are more than 100 Republican-held House seats in districts less conservative than this one. Many incumbents in those districts will likely choose retirement over getting soaked by a “blue wave.”

No wonder Republicans are worried.

Yet the way Lamb won does little to help Democrats adjudicate the raging debate on the left over how should they run in November: as proud left-wing populists or relative moderates willing to reach across the aisle. The 33-year-old Marine vet, federal prosecutor and Allegheny County political progeny didn’t pick a side. Continue reading “Why Conor Lamb (Probably) Won”

Why the NRA Always Wins

Your burning outrage about the Parkland school massacre is already starting to flicker. The special counsel’s indictments of the Russian hacker operation, and President Donald Trump’s dizzying response to them, is competing for your attention (“This is code red” says New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman). And what’s that shiny object over there? A case for impeaching Justice Clarence Thomas? (“Drop everything and read this” urged HuffPost editor-in-chief Lydia Polgreen.)

Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association and its allies are maintaining their maniacal focus. Rush Limbaugh went on Fox News, right after an interview with several Parkland survivors critical of the gun lobby, to scold those who “bash the NRA” and insist the only solution to school shootings is “concealed carry in the schools.” The NRA’s 24-7 streaming network NRATV echoed the sentiment with the familiar refrain, “we need more good guys with guns.” Hosts complained that Continue reading “Why the NRA Always Wins”

The Clock Is Not Ticking on DACA

All of a sudden this week, Republicans are awfully impatient to get an immigration deal done. “This will be our last chance, there will never be another opportunity! March 5th,” tweeted President Donald Trump, referring to the day his executive order set the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. “The clock is ticking” warned Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on the Senate floor. “It’s this week or not at all,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, “We need to get it wrapped up by Thursday.”

First of all: What a callous sentiment to express regarding the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who have been left in limbo for years.

Second, the seemingly coordinated statements are designed to put Democrats in a vise. The Republican demand is: Either accept a deal to save DACA on our terms, and give those 1.8 Continue reading “The Clock Is Not Ticking on DACA”

Deficits Don’t Matter. So Why Are Democrats Complaining About Them?

The news that this fiscal year’s budget deficit is projected to jump 84 percent from last year and near $1 trillion was overshadowed, as so much news these days is, by developments in the Mueller investigation. But the shift on the national balance sheet may reshape the political battlefield, with Democrats eager to seize the mantle of fiscal responsibility and Republicans increasingly comfortable surfing their own wave of red ink.

During the Obama presidency, Republicans were fiscal Paul Reveres, warning of a “tipping point” of debt that would turn America into Greece. But as former vice president Dick Cheney once said, Ronald Reagan proved that in politics, “deficits don’t matter”—and Republican voters showed it again in 2016 by nominating Donald Trump, a candidate who christened himself the “King of Debt,” pledged to double what Hillary Clinton would spend on infrastructure and chastised opponents who wanted to cut Social Security and Continue reading “Deficits Don’t Matter. So Why Are Democrats Complaining About Them?”

Democrats Disagree on How to Respond to Trump. Is That a Problem?

Democrats had so much to say about Donald Trump’s State of the Union address last night, they couldn’t say it with one voice. It took four responses—five, if you count Maxine Waters’ cameo on BET scheduled for tonight—to capture the breadth of progressive thought on how to distill the party’s platform and message in advance of the 2018 midterm elections.

Not every response came with the Democratic Party’s stamp of approval. Rep. Joe Kennedy III gave the party’s official English-language response, with the Spanish-language honors going to Virginia state legislator Elizabeth Guzman. The unofficial responses came from the Working Families Party, who enlisted former Maryland Democratic congresswoman and current candidate for Prince George’s County Executive Donna Edwards, and from the technically independent Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The net effect wasn’t cacophony. Sanders and Edwards didn’t try to steal Kennedy’s spotlight, and waited until he finished (though they directly competed with each Continue reading “Democrats Disagree on How to Respond to Trump. Is That a Problem?”

Shutdowns Are For Losers

When congressional Republicans provoked two government shutdowns in 1995, the public held them responsible. When they shut down the government in 2013, Republican approval hit its lowest point in 20 years. In neither case did Republicans achieve their policy objectives.

Why are Democrats taking a page from a failed playbook?

Unless a deal is secured to extend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, several Democrats are threatening to block a bill that would keep the federal government open past Friday. Pushing the shutdown button would be an enormous and unnecessary risk for Democrats, one that could not only poison the prospects for an immigration deal, but also squander the momentum Democrats have generated in advance of this year’s midterm elections.

As of today, DACA is popular. Seventy percent approve of it, in a recent CBS poll. Shutting down the government to save a popular program is a Continue reading “Shutdowns Are For Losers”

Steve Bannon Was Never That Smart

In September 2017, previewing an address on economic nationalism to investors in Hong Kong, Steve Bannon predicted, “A hundred years from now, this is what they’ll remember: what we did to confront China on its rise to world domination.” The following month, the recently cashiered White House strategist declared “war on the Republican establishment that does not back the agenda that Donald Trump ran on.”

Such was the Bannon persona: a man with an intellectually grounded vision, a taste for confrontation and a will to win.

However, in November and December, when congressional leaders — with the help of lobbyists from “the swamp”—were writing a tax reform bill with provisions that many tax experts believe will incentivize the offshoring of American jobs to countries like China, Bannon and his Breitbart website didn’t confront China or the Republican establishment.

Instead of scouring the fine print and demanding language Continue reading “Steve Bannon Was Never That Smart”

What Will It Take To Beat Trump? The Case for a Generic Democrat

Democrats, still reeling from last year’s wipeout, have been embroiled in a debate over how to fix what went wrong in 2016. Should they tack left or center? Woo white working-class voters with an ambitious economic agenda or double down on the base by blitzing Donald Trump on bigotry? Prioritize health care? Inequality? Oligarchy? Democracy?

The Doug Jones upset in deep-red Alabama may have just rendered these debates irrelevant.

The Senate’s newest member did not embrace single-payer health care, free college or a $15 minimum wage. He did not swerve right on abortion and guns. In fact, he didn’t have any signature policy proposals at all.

What Jones did was take off the shelf the most pallid Democratic talking points—“ quality, affordable health care,” “college must be affordable,” “I believe in science,” “discrimination cannot be tolerated”—and campaigned with a pleasant, inoffensive demeanor.

He was boring. He was safe. He was Continue reading “What Will It Take To Beat Trump? The Case for a Generic Democrat”

For Doug Jones, Now Comes The Hard Part

As shocking as Doug Jones’ win may appear at first blush, it resembles two other recent upsets.

Just as the Alabama Democrat poached a long-held Republican Senate seat near the one-year mark of the Trump presidency, in January 2010 Republican Scott Brown killed President Barack Obama’s buzz by winning a Massachusetts Senate special election and succeeding the “liberal lion,” Ted Kennedy.

And just as Jones managed to defeat a scandal-tainted Republican in the Deep South, so did Louisiana’s John Bel Edwards in the 2015 gubernatorial election when he trounced David Vitter, who had admitted to frequenting prostitutes while in the Senate.

The challenge for Doug Jones is to be another John Bel Edwards, not another Scott Brown.

Giddy Democrats should be careful not to draw simplistic conclusions from this fluky win. Yes, it’s amazing that the pro-choice, pro-civil rights, pro-climate science Democrat put together a winning coalition fueled by African-Americans, Continue reading “For Doug Jones, Now Comes The Hard Part”

Clinton Should Run for Cotton’s Senate Seat

With rumors swirling that Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton will soon head for the CIA, another Senate race may be added to the 2018 list. The safe money is for an open seat in Arkansas to stay in Republican hands. But who thought Alabama would host a competitive Senate race? If Democrats can find a credible candidate, and unruly Republican voters again fail to take their nomination process seriously, anything could happen.

However, to call the Arkansas Democratic Party a shell would be an insult to turtles. There are no Democratic officials holding statewide office, nor any in the U.S. House delegation. Out of the 135 members of the Arkansas state legislature, only 33 – less than 25 percent – are Democrats. Not a single Democrat has yet stepped up to run for governor next year. The only Democratic Senate prospect that Arkansas Times columnist Jay Barth could come up Continue reading “Clinton Should Run for Cotton’s Senate Seat”

Why 2020 Will Be the Year of the Woman

One year after a Republican accused of sexual misconduct was elected president, and Democrats are the ones in turmoil about misogynistic behavior in their ranks.

Renewed media attention on sexual harassment and assault led to the twin New York Times and New Yorker exposés on Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood mogul and Democratic donor. But Democrats did not rally to protect one of their own, and his attempt to curry sympathy with a pledge to fight the NRA fell flat. The subsequent #MeToo phenomenon continues to upend the left-leaning political and media worlds, with accusations of inappropriate behavior ensnaring liberal darling Sen. Al Franken, dean of the House and single-payer champion Rep. John Conyers, Florida Democratic Party chairman Stephen Bittel, New Republic publisher Hamilton Fish, former New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier and Vox Media editorial director Lockhart Steele.

Even former President Bill Clinton, previously celebrated among Democrats for beating back Continue reading “Why 2020 Will Be the Year of the Woman”

Tax Reform Is Splitting the GOP. It’s Happened Before.

“If we fail on taxes, that’s the end of the Republican Party’s governing majority in 2018 [and] probably the end of the Republican Party as we know it,” Sen. Lindsey Graham warned last month. But Graham should have a bigger fear: Passing tax reform could be the end of the Republican Party’s governing majority and the end of the Republican Party as we know it.

Many Republicans are looking to Ronald Reagan’s 1986 tax reform for inspiration. President Donald Trump said in August that Reagan’s mix of reduced rates and brackets combined with revenue-raising loophole closures was “really something special” and a model to emulate. (He neglected to mention that in 1991 he called it an “absolute catastrophe for the country.”)

But while the Tax Reform Act of 1986 may have been the crowning domestic policy achievement of Reagan’s second term, it was an electoral snooze. Two weeks after Continue reading “Tax Reform Is Splitting the GOP. It’s Happened Before.”

The Democratic Circular Firing Squad Dodges a Bullet

Democrats tried pretty hard to lose the Virginia gubernatorial election. Yet they managed to win anyway, as the current Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam soundly defeated former Republican National Committee chair Ed Gillespie, and by a larger margin than what Hillary Clinton notched in the state last year. It was a blowout.

But once the thrill of victory fades, the sharp internal divisions that surfaced in the final days of the campaign won’t be easily set aside. Every skirmish among Virginia’s Democrats related to the big existential questions that remain about the Democratic Party’s national direction. And the precise way Northam won is unlikely to produce consensus among the squabbling factions.

Before assessing Northam’s tactics, it’s necessary to grasp just how much he was under siege from all sides.

Gillespie was pounding Northam as the candidate who would let illegal immigrant gangs run wild and give voting rights to convicted pedophiles. Continue reading “The Democratic Circular Firing Squad Dodges a Bullet”

What Trump Gets Right About Jeff Flake

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake abandoned his 2018 re-election campaign while insisting he would still fight to prevent President Donald Trump from warping the Republican Party’s traditional conservatism beyond recognition. He’s even teasing a possible presidential run in 2020 by refusing to rule it out whenever asked.

But if you’re a never-Trump Republican, don’t get too excited by the prospect of Flake saving the GOP, or blazing a new third party trail for his brand of kinder, gentler conservatism. The harsh reality is there is no political home for Flakeism – or, while we’re at it, Kasichism or Sasseism. There is no appetite for it in the GOP. There’s no sizeable market for a new political party in the Flake mold.

How do we know? On the same day as Flake’s announcement, the Pew Research Center released a new political “typology” report, which broke down the electorate into nine segments Continue reading “What Trump Gets Right About Jeff Flake”

What Trump Gets Right About Jeff Flake

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake abandoned his 2018 reelection campaign while insisting he would still fight to prevent President Donald Trump from warping the Republican Party’s traditional conservatism beyond recognition. He’s even teasing a possible presidential run in 2020 by refusing to rule it out whenever asked.

But if you’re a never-Trump Republican, don’t get too excited by the prospect of Flake saving the GOP or blazing a new third-party trail for his brand of kinder, gentler conservatism. The harsh reality is there is no political home for Flakeism — or, while we’re at it, Kasichism or Sasseism. There is no appetite for it in the GOP. There’s no sizeable market for a new political party in the Flake mold.

How do we know? On the same day that Flake announced he would leave the Senate, the Pew Research Center released a new political “typology” report, which broke down the Continue reading “What Trump Gets Right About Jeff Flake”

Memo to Mark Zuckerberg: So You Want to Be President …

You’ve road tripped to meet with real Americans in a quest to visit all 50 states. You’ve hired Barack Obama’s pollster along with his first campaign manager to advise your philanthropic fund. You’ve given a flat “no” to the question whether you are planning a run for president, but it’s hard to believe you’re not thinking about it. And if you are, you have a lot of work to do.

You’re not the only billionaire looking at Donald Trump and thinking: I’m smarter, I’m richer, I’m more likeable, I’m not colluding with Russia. If he can do it, so can I.

But it would be dangerous to assume that America is interested in electing just any ol’ CEO to be commander-in-chief. Putting aside the fluky nature of his victory sans popular vote, Trump didn’t suddenly emerge from the boardroom. He was in our living rooms for decades, had a well-developed Continue reading “Memo to Mark Zuckerberg: So You Want to Be President …”

Memo to Mark Zuckerberg: So You Want to Be President …

You’ve road tripped to meet with real Americans in a quest to visit all 50 states. You’ve hired Barack Obama’s pollster along with his first campaign manager to advise your philanthropic fund. You’ve given a flat “no” to the question whether you are planning a run for president, but it’s hard to believe you’re not thinking about it. And if you are, you have a lot of work to do.

You’re not the only billionaire looking at Donald Trump and thinking: I’m smarter, I’m richer, I’m more likeable, I’m not colluding with Russia. If he can do it, so can I.

But it would be dangerous to assume that America is interested in electing just any ol’ CEO to be commander-in-chief. Putting aside the fluky nature of his victory sans popular vote, Trump didn’t suddenly emerge from the boardroom. He was in our living rooms for decades, had a well-developed Continue reading “Memo to Mark Zuckerberg: So You Want to Be President …”