Down Goes Socialism

If you thought that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s upset primary win over Rep. Joe Crowley meant the Democratic Party was poised to go socialist, think again.

Last night’s largely Midwest primaries produced a near-shutout for the anti-establishment left. Ocasio-Cortez partnered with Bernie Sanders to make a series of splashy endorsements that, in the end, failed to clinch victories. And two leftist upstarts hoping to emulate Ocasio-Cortez, and defeat longtime Democratic incumbents, fell far short.

The most glaring defeat came in Michigan’s gubernatorial primary. This is the state where Sanders defied the polls and edged out Hillary Clinton, raising hopes that he had a magic touch in the Rust Belt. Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez tried to catapult the young and brash newcomer Abdul El-Sayed, who trailed in polls, endorsements and money to former state Senate Democratic leader Gretchen Whitmer. They could only nudge him up to second place, with 30 percent of the vote.

Continue reading “Down Goes Socialism”

Why the Smart Move for Never-Trumpers Is To Become Democrats

There’s a new debate inside the #NeverTrump movement about how to respond to a president they loathe and the Republican Party that loves him. Some #NeverTrump conservatives, like the New York Times columnist David Brooks and former Bush White House aide Reed Galen, are talking about creating a new third party. Others, like George Will and Max Boot, have become registered independents and are urging voters to put Democrats in charge of Congress this November, as a kind of temporary stopgap measure until the Republicans return to their senses. But according to speculation reported by POLITICO, former McCain 2008 chief strategist Steve Schmidt may go one step further: He’s reportedly thinking about signing up with a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, possibly former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.

No doubt Schmidt would get attacked for being an opportunist. But if you are a conservative, #NeverTrump, pro-immigrant, free-trading, anti-Putin defender Continue reading “Why the Smart Move for Never-Trumpers Is To Become Democrats”

Republicans Have an Alger Hiss Problem Named Mariia

Alleged Russian spy Mariia Butina was arrested just a few days short of the 70th anniversary of the last major accusation of Russian infiltration in America’s political system: when on Aug. 3, 1948, Time editor and ex-communist Whittaker Chambers publicly accused former high-ranking State Department official Alger Hiss of being a Soviet agent.

Rattled Democrats, including President Harry Truman, handled the fallout poorly, hesitating to distance themselves from Hiss and unwittingly feeding a conservative narrative that they were soft on communism.

Republicans are now having their own Alger Hiss moment. Butina’s alleged efforts to ingratiate herself with conservative movement organizations and the Republican Party shows that Russia’s interest in Trump is not an operation focused on one man. As explained in the Justice Department affidavit, in October 2016 Butina reported to her Russian mentor that Republicans “are for us” and Democrats “against.” This is not just about one Continue reading “Republicans Have an Alger Hiss Problem Named Mariia”

Unions Can’t Save Us Now

The Supreme Court just delivered a death blow to the labor movement, with its 5-4 ruling in Janus v. AFSCME. Democratic politicians and progressive policy architects now have to face a harsh reality: The path to middle-class prosperity will not be going through the nation’s union halls.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman once summed up progressive economic thought with the lede, “Once upon a time, back when America had a strong middle class, it also had a strong union movement. “ The left breathlessly touts every new economic paper offering further evidence that the widening wealth gap is correlated to the decline in unionization. Sen. Bernie Sanders and several of his Senate colleagues (and fellow presidential aspirants) are backing the “Workplace Democracy Act,” designed to boost unionization in part by giving workers the option of organizing via petition, or “card check,” instead Continue reading “Unions Can’t Save Us Now”

Ocasio-Cortez and the Establishment Can Still Be Friends

Are the socialist Jacobins on the verge of purging the corporatist Democrats out of the party establishment? As you probably already know, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, just ousted Rep. Joe Crowley, the fourth-highest ranked member of the House Democratic leadership, in New York’s 14th congressional district, deep blue territory covering parts of Queens and the Bronx.

Ocasio-Cortez’s victory is unquestionably a sign that democratic socialists are making significant inroads into the Democratic Party, and that deference to Democratic elders is nil among many in the party’s left flank. But let’s not over-interpret the results. Democratic socialism may be here to stay in the Democratic Party for the foreseeable future. But planting a socialist flag in Queens and the Bronx is far from proof it can fly in suburban Omaha or Houston.

It’s hardly the case that the Democratic establishment is running on empty. The Continue reading “Ocasio-Cortez and the Establishment Can Still Be Friends”

Republican Voters Say #MeToo

At the end of May, the campaign to become South Dakota’s next Republican governor was a 1-point race, with U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem clinging to a wisp of a lead over state Attorney General Marty Jackley.

Then the Noem campaign ran this ad.

The text on the screen introduces Laura Kaiser as a “victim of Sexual Harassment,” highlighting the term with subtle yet deliberate capitalization. No background music or graphic distracts from her devastating opening words:

“I don’t think Marty Jackley should be governor. I don’t think he should be the attorney general.”

The ad further explains that “after she reported it, she was demoted, transferred and lost her job” and that “Marty Jackley dismissed Kaiser’s claims.” Kaiser herself doesn’t let up, and accuses Jackley of being involved in illegal retaliation against her: “I don’t think he should be in a position of power when he Continue reading “Republican Voters Say #MeToo”

Democrats Should Hope Trump Cuts a Deal With North Korea

When President Donald Trump cancelled the June 12 summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, several observers on the left deemed the collapse inevitable. “This outcome was ordained by the incompetence of the president” said The National Memo’s Joe Conason, “[and the] dismissal of diplomatic procedure and advice.” “The debacle had been predicted by just about anyone with an experience of negotiating with North Korea,” wrote Julian Borger of the left-leaning Guardian, thanks to “gut decisions made by Donald Trump with minimal reflection and consultation.”

Then a week later, when Trump re-RSVPed to the summit, critics focused on the photo ops he is impulsively giving the North Korean regime, which craves the legitimacy they bestow. For example, former ambassador to South Korea and Iraq Christopher Hill complained the North Koreans have already “gotten the whole enchilada.”

But instead of pouncing on any setback Continue reading “Democrats Should Hope Trump Cuts a Deal With North Korea”

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”