Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Friday, February 12, 2016

Well, This Is Nice

Apparently, all that permissive, liberal education that's turning Millenials into squishy approval mongers is working.  My guess is that we have put a great deal of emphasis on education that extends beyond the Three Rs.  All the various education campaigns about smoking and birth control and alcohol abuse: they actually seem to be working.

I was having a parenting discussion with my luminous wife and our children's preferences for video that tend to involve people getting his in the testicle and such.  After arguing that slapstick and humor based on pain is as old as humor itself, I also said that repetition matters.  Modeling, too, but constantly repeating certain creeds, beliefs and truths eventually sinks in.  You won't see it in a year, just as these changes in youth behavior took two decades, but you will see it over time.

As a teacher and a parent, this might be the best news I've heard in months.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Meanwhile In Oregon

The FBI is taking out all the militia wingnuts Don Corleone style.

Can Bernie Win POC?

Matthew Yglesias thinks that Sanders can build on his victory in New Hampshire and start to erode Clinton's substantial leads among minority voters. I suppose there is some truth in that, as her numbers among minority voters have no where to go but down.

A few things Yglesias doesn't grapple with are the unique nature of New Hampshire and Clinton's relationship with Obama.

New Hampshire was made for Bernie both ideologically and geographically.  It was right next door to Vermont, and he is well known and liked there.  New Hampshire Democrats are a pretty liberal bunch, and Sanders probably would have won there, even if he had been from Oregon.  But the fact that he was from Vermont with an ideologically sympathetic electorate means that he was always going to win New Hampshire.  That doesn't mean he's guaranteed anything in Nevada or South Carolina.

One thing I think you will see is Clinton beginning to trot out Obama allies to support her.  It's already started.  She has tied herself to Obama as a way to subvert Sanders' appeal to minority communities.  By creating herself as Obama's heir - in ways that Sanders is not - she can remind African American voters in particular of her loyalty to Obama after a bruising primary in 2008.  This kind of echoes what I wrote yesterday.

Yglesias notes that minority communities - in the South in particular - tend to be risk averse.  Their status as minorities means they have to remember who their friends are and who has always been in their corner.  The Clintons pass that test.

Clinton's best friends right now are Elijah Cummings, John Lewis and Andrew Young in South Carolina and Harry Reid, Dana Titus and former Las Vegas mayor Jan Jones in Nevada.  Getting Julian Castro, Henry Cisneros, Ken Salazar and Bill Richardson out into Nevada would probably help, too.

I don't think Southern Blacks abandon Hillary.  But she might be vulnerable among Hispanics.

Sanders problem is getting vulnerable, risk-averse populations to take a gamble on him.  And he doesn't have much time to do that.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

My Unsolicited Advice For Hillary Clinton

There was an interesting moment in the last debate where Clinton said she wasn't part of the Establishment, because she would be the first woman president.  I could see where she was going with this - that's Clinton's primary problem, you can always see the calculations.

I think she should reframe that question and claim the establishment mantel.  Not the Establishment, but the Democratic Party Establishment.  Booman makes a good point that Clinton needs a plan to retake Congress.  She has the endorsement of Howard Dean, who last put together the strategy to win in every state.  While that coincided with the disastrous last years of the Bush Administration, Dean's 50 State Strategy was widely mocked in DC and praised at the local level.

Clinton should run on a platform to bring Democratic politics and resources into every state in the country.  She should take on the mantle of a life-long Democrat who has served the party and its constituencies for decades.  She's not going to out-liberal Sanders.  That's stupid.  And she won't win hearts with the idea of fighting a retrograde action to defend what Obama accomplished - however accurate that is.

But if she ran on the idea that Democrats need to be competitive in the South and West by empowering local parties and getting away from DC consults, she could win over voters in those states and solidify the distinction between herself and Sanders who's only been a Democrat for a few months.  This partisan identity will especially sell well in her core constituencies of minorities and older voters.  By claiming she will work towards winning back the House, she sets herself up again as the candidate who actually knows how things work.

Clinton won't excite the Millenials, but she could win back most of the Grown Ups.

New Hampster Post-Mortem

So, Bernie nailed it.  He won by over 20%, though that only netted him four additional delegates.  Unlike Obama's challenged to the Clinton Restoration, Sanders has very few Superdelegates and is unlikely to get many.

(Side note: Clinton needs to embrace being part of the Establishment, I'll write about that later.)

The GOP side was much more interesting.

Trump did what he needed to do, win by a large margin.  Kasich had a great night, but he also may have peaked.  I find Kasich the most appealing of the Republican field, which is a pretty good indicator that he won't win the nomination.

Cruz, I think, did all right.  New Hampshire is a terrible place for him, but he emerged with a couple of delegates.  He will, however, have to do much better in South Carolina.  Bush did well enough to keep plugging away, but as with Kasich, the map turns against him soon enough.

And the Ru-Bot... Who says debates don't matter?  (Actually, I've said that.  I guess I was wrong.)  He is on life support going into the next two contests.  Given the revelations that he tends to crack under pressure, it could be an interesting two to three weeks following the Rubio campaign.

Finally, Chris Christie should probably go back to Jersey.  The question is: where will his supporters land?  Stylistically, they should go to Trump, but I know a lot of moderate Republicans who really liked Christie.  Will they latch on to Bush or Kasich?

Sanders, Clinton And The Supremes

In 2007, the Supreme Court said that the EPA had to regulate carbon if it determined that carbon was unhealthy. The Obama Administration responded a few years ago with an ambitious plan to get states to set regulatory rules for cleaner energy production.  As Jon Chait frequently noted, this was a major under-the-radar reform from Obama that would have a tremendous and far-reaching impact on the future.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court - along predictably partisan 5-4 lines - postponed this ambitious attempt to kinda sorta save the planet.  The assumption now is that this plan will not be able to go into effect until after Obama leaves office.

What does this have to do with the race for the Democratic nomination?  Two things.

First, most political scientists give Sanders a very thin chance of winning a general election.  While Clinton has been hitting Sanders on some issues, her attacks have to be tempered in ways the GOP don't.  And Sanders appeal was perfectly matched for Iowa and New Hampshire.  Yesterday's decision points to the fact that perhaps the most significant effect of the 2016 election will be the composition of the Supreme Court.  If Sanders can't pull off his "revolution" (and, for the record: he can't) and loses the election, the President Trump will be able to nominate Judge Judy or John Yoo to the Supreme Court and the result will be absolutely disastrous.

Second, the EPA carbon emissions policy is precisely the sort of small, bureaucratic reforms that Obama has been limited to since 2011.  And whether Sanders or Clinton become President, that will be the extent of their ability to reform, too.  Should a Democrats win in November, they will be constrained by the same institutional padlocks that Obama is constrained by.  Clinton understands this - and maybe Sanders does, too, though he won't admit it.  Clinton is already ready to implement this sort of executive branch-based reform.  Sanders is depending on a magical unicorn of his "revolution" to sweep the country leftwards.

Sanders crushed it last night.  He exceeded his benchmarks.  But the bigger story may have come from the Supreme Court, by demonstrating what's at stake in this election.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

This Is A Must Read

What Does "Winning" New Hampshire Look Like

Primaries - especially the small early ones - are really about perception.  While the goal of primaries is to rack up delegates, the real goal is to force competitors out of the race.  Iowa winnowed the field and New Hampshire should do the same.

So what does "winning" in NH look like to each candidate?

On the Dem side, the result is a foregone conclusion.  Sanders will win. The question is what will the margin be?  And since NH is an open primary, will any Dems cross lines to vote, knowing that their primary is effectively decided?  Sanders has anywhere from a 9 to 26 point lead.  That's a huge variance.  But I'll split the baby and say that the over/under is 15%.  Sanders bests that, it's a big win.  Clinton bests that, she can take a moral victory.

The Republican side is more confusing.

Trump absolutely, positively has to win, and do so by more than 10%.  Frankly, you could make a case for 15%.  But the wife was at a Trump rally last night with her students, and there seems to be a fair amount "I've come to see the circus" rather than hardcore support.  So let's say 10% win.

Second place is where the contest is, and it looks wide open.  There are four candidates within spitting distance of each other: Cruz, Rubio, Kasich and Bush.  But Christie is seeing some movement in his direction, so let's include him.  Carson and Fiorina are toast.

Rubio, Kasich, Bush and Christie are all competing for the same votes: the Yankee Republican.  In other words: Not Crazy People.  If any one of those guys wins over the other two by more than 5%, that's immensely important for them.  Someone has to be the Main Street Republican, and it will come down to winnowing out the other guys to consolidate their support around a single candidate.  The problem the GOP has is that they haven't been able to rally around a single, doctrinaire conservative candidate, so the Trump/Cruz/Carson freakshow has lingered on.

It looks, however, if none of these guys will break free. Rubio's polling is eroding substantially after his Iowa bump and his disastrous debate performance.  Kasich looks good, but can Kasich win in the South?  Can Christie?  Can Bush win anywhere?

Meanwhile, keep an eye on Ted Cruz.  If the Yankee Republican vote splits four ways, Cruz could sneak into second place in a state where he has no business being competitive.  Nevada and South Carolina are much more amenable to him than New Hampster.

So:  Sanders/Clinton is a 15% over/under.  Trump has to win in double digits.  Cruz needs to come in second or a close third.  One of the governors or Rubio needs to separate from the pack.

Once again, the drama is on the Republican side.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Hell Week Is Upon Me

Evening meetings, a home meet, seeding meetings, the league tournament and a stack of grading that starts coming in tomorrow.

Long weekend was nice.

Now it's over.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Rubot Blows A Circuit

So, Marco, how was your night?  The worst campaign gaffes are those that reinforce your negatives.  If you screw up in a way that hits on your positives, it's unlikely to hurt you nearly as much as one that drives home the thing that voters worry most about you.  Clinton's speaking fees are probably more politically damaging in this regard with Democrats.  The email stuff, Benghazi...I don't think they have a huge impact on her, since they are so clearly smears.  But the large fees she got talking to Wall Street is going to be a problem for her.

What Rubio did last night, though, could be really damaging.  He has three essential weaknesses: He's young, he was a squish on immigration and he seems overly programmed.  He reinforced the first and third weakness in a huge way last night in his exchanges with Chris Christie.  And the errors were entirely self-inflicted.  Even after Christie nailed him on the programmed speech and the youth, Rubio kept stepping on his own dick.  Just as his greatest asset is his youth, his greatest liability is that he's just not experienced enough.

Last night made that point really clearly.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Hail, Caeser!

Took the fam to see Hail, Caesar!  Probably not the best idea to take two 11 year olds and a 14 year old to see a Coen Brothers movie.  Even the missus and a very bright student walked out scratching their heads.  OK, I walked out scratching my head, too.  Which is really the best part of a Coen film: deciphering what the hell you just saw.

Hail, Caesar! is a comedy, but only sort of.  Or rather it's a comedy with a few tremendous gags, but it's really just a prolonged joke without a real punchline.  The basic idea of the movie revolves around faith.  If faith is believing in something you can't see, then this move is about believing in what you can see.  Various faiths are tossed about in the course of the movie.  One of the great set-piece gags in a rabbi, a priest and patriarch and a minister debating the nature of Jesus with a studio exec.  There is a gaggle of communists - who are actually doing the nefarious things Joe McCarthy accused them of.  But for the protagonist, it is really about his belief in himself and his job and the movies they produce.

While he is tempted to hitch his wagon to technology and the future with a job at Lockheed that pays better and entails less work, Mannix ultimately has to decide what he believes in.  He's a devout Catholic, but his anguish in the confessional over small sins is belied by his immoral behavior in his job, which has no impact on him, apparently.  For all the "fixing" he does, he is working in the service of his faith.  And his faith is in the movies themselves - something you can see.

I worry that the film was sold as more Raising Arizona than A Serious Man, but while there are a few killer sequences, it's really not a side-splitting comedy, so much as an existential one.

Sing, Choir!

Al Giordano has a righteous rant.

I would only add that Progressivism, historically, encompassed a lot of different movements, but it generally desired to bring more democracy and more rationality to government.  Sanders represents the "more democracy" principles in his assault on money in politics.  Clinton represents the "more rationality" principles based on her entire career.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Progressive? Liberal?

Apparently the main fireworks last night was whether Clinton was a progressive or a liberal.  While Clinton has often taken moderate positions, the fact is that "moderate" really isn't a thing when it comes to policy.  You either advocate for progressive change, which makes you a liberal.  Or you advocate for the status quo, which makes you conservative.  Or you advocate for retrograde change, which makes you a reactionary.  Or you advocate for profound, immediate and complete change, which makes you a radical.

Jon Chait drew attention to this distinction, without noting that what Sanders is proposing is profoundly radical - or at least he didn't use that word. (It is worth noting that the modern GOP is no longer "conservative" but rather profoundly reactionary.)  Clinton has, of course, been considered fairly liberal for her entire life.  She was more "moderate" during her time in Arkansas and during the '90s, when that was called for.  But she was also a real pathbreaker, if you recall her 60 Minutes interview where she assaulted archaic gender roles and got pilloried for it. Because of the jobs she's held - health care reform, senator, secretary of state - she has constantly had to balance her liberal impulses with practical necessities.  Sanders simply hasn't had to do this.  He has been a gadfly his entire career, hence his independent status in Congress.

The only way to know if Sanders is truly unelectable is to nominate him and watch him lose.  But if we are going to nominate him, we need to understand that he is proposing a theory of American government that is profoundly radical in ways that extend far beyond attacking Wall Street or not.  And I think Sanders would welcome that label; he advocates for revolution.

But voters need to be clear what they are supporting, when they support Sanders. And what they are risking.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Sick And Tired Of The Damned Emails

This is one reason why I support Hillary Clinton.  The amount of shit that gets thrown at her is extraordinary.  Clinton (and really Obama, too) have been subjected to the sort of scrutiny and outright calumny that few other public figures have.

People say she's too guarded and defensive.

People are stupid.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Getting Berned

David Roberts apparently has to make a case of the obvious about Bernie Sanders: He simply hasn't been attacked.

Yes, Clinton is making points about how political change works and the impracticalities of Sanders' plans.  But that's what a primary is supposed to be about.  Clinton has largely held back from the sort of attacks that Sanders will face in the general election.  Roberts does a pretty decent job of running down how awful the attacks will be and how vulnerable Sanders is to them.

You thought Obama's "palling around with terrorists" was bad, because he went to a few parties where William Ayers was?  Just wait until they get their hands on people Bernie Sanders used to hang around with.

You thought the distortions over Obamacare were bad?  Just wait until they get their hands on true socialized medicine.

You thought the lies about Obama's tax increases were bad?  Just wait until they show how Sanders will actually raise taxes on everyone.

This goes to two points that have me supporting Clinton over Sanders.

The first is that the Sandernistas basically live in their own little bubble, where everyone would see the light if only someone made the case.  Everyone would support Sanders' policy solutions, because they are self-evidently superior to what we have now.  Except that they aren't self-evident to a broad swath - probably the majority - of Americans.  The bully pulpit is a weak institutional lever.

The second is that I just don't think Sanders is mean enough for American politics in 2016.  Clinton has been savaged for 25 years.  She is arguably the toughest person in American politics.  And while the GOP has been working for years to draw up her negatives with some success, they may have squeezed all the juice out of that particular apple.  Sanders will get hit from every side should he win the nomination, and with a vehemence that he hasn't experienced in Vermont.

Them's the fact, y'all.