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“Honest Conviction And Straightforward Argument”: For Democrats, The Right Lesson From 2014 Is To Be More Liberal

Republicans will probably take control of the Senate in the 2014 elections, according to the latest projections. It’s a grim result for liberals, particularly when you consider the likely consequences: the mountain of garbage legislation that will be dumped on the White House…the possible gutting of the Congressional Budget Office…the total halting of the confirmation process for judiciary and executive branch positions.

But if Democrats do lose, they must try to keep their cool, and refrain from sinking into the usual pessimism. Because make no mistake, centrist sellouts like Will Marshall are going to descend on the Democrats’ routed supporters and proclaim that the party must turn right to have a chance of victory in 2016. It’s critical that Democrats ignore these calls, not only because they betray a pathetic spinelessness, but also because they’re not even close to being true.

Here’s why Democrats are behind in 2014, in descending order of importance: 1) In the Senate, Dems are defending the 2008 wave election, which means they have to beat back challenges in 21 out of 36 seats; 2) Democratic voters are systematically less likely to turn out in midterm elections; 3) the House has been heavily gerrymandered to give Republicans a large handicap; 4) President Obama is fairly unpopular, especially in the states where the races are tightest. All together, Republicans have a significant advantage overall in a contest that will come down to turnout operations.

The bellwether for this cycle is the Senate race in Colorado, where the Democratic incumbent Mark Udall is slightly behind Republican Cory Gardner in a tight race. To his credit, Udall isn’t being cowed by Very Serious Person hand-wringing. He’s making a hard play to turn out the Democratic base (basically minorities and women), and isn’t backing off his strong anti-torture and pro-civil liberties positions, despite being viciously terror-baited for it.

This isn’t just a noble stand — it’s probably his best strategy as well. Though ObamaCare is basically working (especially the Medicaid expansion part), neither the law nor the Democratic Party are very popular in the state. A progressive agenda at the state level has led to an enraged rural backlash, and Udall has had setbacks in other areas (in particular, an utterly moronic endorsement of Gardner from The Denver Post). Playing to the center simply would have further alienated Latinos and women. It’s worth noting that in the 2010 Colorado Senate race, Michael Bennet eked out a surprising come-from-behind win on the strength of Latino turnout.

And while there isn’t much hard data to support it, I stubbornly hold to the premise that honest conviction and straightforward argument garner more support than today’s politicos, usually focus-grouped to within an inch of their lives, tend to believe.

That brings us to 2016. During presidential election years, three out of the four issues I outlined above will be neutralized: Republicans will have to defend more seats than Democrats, Democratic turnout will be at its highest, and Obama will not be on the ballot. The electorate will also be measurably less white than in 2012 due to demographic trends. Thus, there’s every reason to think that a Udall-esque strategy of turning out the base (as opposed to the traditional Democratic move of snidely dismissing the base in a “bid for the center”) will work quite well.

Additionally, when you look behind the advantage that Republicans hold, you find Democrats seriously contesting some races in some totally unexpected places. Alaska, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Georgia ought to be easy Republican locks, but have turned into competitive fights. Independent candidates have upended the races in Kansas and South Dakota — the latter is especially interesting, since the Democrat is running on a platform of unabashed economic populism.

Bottom line: don’t listen to the aging New Democrats. The 2016 election ought to be run on a confidently liberal platform.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, October 29, 2014

October 30, 2014 Posted by | Democrats, Midterm Elections | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Cheap Psychodrama Thrives”: Personality Politics And The Decline Of Political Journalism

Upon first venturing to write about politics 20 years ago, I held naïve views about political journalism. Specifically, I imagined that factual accuracy mattered as it did in the kinds of books and magazine pieces I’d written on non-political topics: opinionated, yes, but grounded in careful reporting.

Otherwise, why bother?

After 10 years, I became persuaded that the honor system supposedly governing journalists had broken down. “Claiming the moral authority of a code of professional ethics it idealizes in the abstract but repudiates in practice,” I wrote in Harper’s magazine, “today’s Washington press corps has grown as decadent and self-protective as any politician or interest group whose behavior it purports to monitor.”

And that was before Fox News.

Driven partly by cable TV celebrity, personality-based narratives rule. Politicians are depicted as heroes or villains in group melodramas as simplistic as any TV soap opera. Facts are fitted to the storyline. Cheap psychodrama thrives. The whole world’s a Maureen Dowd column.

Which brings us back to Harper’s and author Doug Henwood.  Because he finds her too close to Wall Street and too hawkish on foreign policy, Henwood evidently feels it his moral duty to blacken Hillary Clinton’s character. It’s not enough to say she voted for the Iraq War and favored bombing Syria. Henwood had to dig up “Whitewater” to prove her a liar and a cheat.

Then after I wrote a column pointing out that almost everything he’d written about that phony scandal was nonsense, Henwood began calling me bad names on social media. “Clinton towel boy,” was one.

So I posted the following on his Facebook page:

“I find it interesting that when confronted with several quite basic factual errors in his description of the great Whitewater scandal of legend and song, Doug Henwood’s response is name calling. That tells me pretty much all I need to know about him.

“However, it’s false to say that the late Jim McDougal’s savings and loan financed the Clintons’ Whitewater investment. He didn’t buy it until five years later. Another bank made the loan, for which both Clintons were jointly and severally responsible–meaning they’d have to pay it off regardless of what happened to McDougal or his other investments. Which they did. Whitewater cost the S&L nothing.

“It’s doubly false that ‘the Clintons, of course, were also investors in McDougal’s schemes.’ They had no other financial relationship whatsoever. That was the whole point of quoting the prosecutor’s closing argument in McDougal’s bank fraud trial: Convicting him depended upon convincing the jury that [he’d]…misled the Clintons about their investment and resorted to desperate measures to try to keep the bank afloat. In a word, they got conned.

“Regardless of one’s opinion about Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy ideas, those are the facts, available for about 18 years now. Henwood simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

Now if somebody took something of mine apart like that, I’d do my best to make them regret it. But Henwood can’t, because he was blowing smoke to begin with.

“What I don’t get,” he answered, “is why you’re so invested in doing PR for these [bleeps].”

Sorry, dude… not playing. Facts are facts.

Everybody makes mistakes. Professionals own them.

That wouldn’t be our Mr. Henwood. So let me add that almost everything he wrote about the Clintons in Arkansas reflects sheer incomprehension. Mostly, it’s what Joe Conason and I call “naïve cynicism,” in which a reporter innocent of basic political realities presumes corruption.

For example, he accuses Bill Clinton of a cynical ploy “aimed at distancing himself from traditional liberal politics” by not calling for a repeal of Arkansas’s right-to-work law. Shockingly, Clinton also failed to call for abolishing Razorback football and duck-hunting season.

Would it help to know that no Arkansas gubernatorial candidate has ever campaigned for union shops?

Henwood alleges that Clinton “went light on environmental enforcement,” covering the state in “chicken feces.” (Never mind that properly applied chicken litter is the best organic fertilizer on Earth, as my happy cows will attest.) Would it help to know that until Clinton wrestled the timber industry and Farm Bureau to the ground in 1985, Arkansas environmental agencies had virtually no enforcement powers?

Elsewhere, Henwood alleges that the Clintons schemed to earn the enmity of teacher unions. In vain, alas. But he left out town hall meetings Hillary held with educators and parents in all 75 Arkansas counties back in 1983 in support of her husband’s educational reforms.

No matter. Her efforts were pointless anyway, Henwood thinks, because real advances “would require a wholesale overhaul of the political economy…and the Clintons weren’t about to take that on.”

Ah, yes. Wholesale overhaul. If only Hillary had been willing to wave her magic wand, wiping away 200 years of history, abolishing the legislature and converting Arkansas into Connecticut.

But, you know, the witch is too selfish for that.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, October 29, 2014

October 30, 2014 Posted by | Journalism, Journalists, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Irreverent Remarks”: Lindsey Graham Promises Results For White Men

Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) principal focus is probably on this year’s re-election campaign, which he’s expected to win easily, though the senator has also begun hinting about his national ambitions and plans for two years from now.

And if the South Carolinian does become a serious presidential candidate, it stands to reason quotes like these will be a problem.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is toying with the idea of a presidential bid, joked in a private gathering this month that “white men who are in male-only clubs are going to do great in my presidency,” according to an audio recording of his comments provided to CNN. […]

The audio snippets were provided to CNN on Wednesday by two separate South Carolina Democrats who received the recordings from a person using an anonymous Gmail address. Graham confirmed the recordings in an interview Wednesday with CNN.

The senator also joked about Baptists who drink alcohol but don’t admit it, though it’s likely the “white men” quote will have a greater impact.

Context, of course, is everything in a case like this, and according to CNN’s report, Graham was speaking to an all-white audience earlier this month at an all-male club, which had invited the senator to deliver “irreverent” remarks.

“I’m trying to help you with your tax status,” Graham says in the recording. “I’m sorry the government’s so f***ed up. If I get to be president, white men in male-only clubs are going to do great in my presidency.”

He was apparently trying to be funny.

There will, of course, be plenty of time for 2016 speculation after the midterms, though I don’t think it’s too early to say that Graham would struggle in a crowded GOP field. Still, he recently talked with the Weekly Standard about his plans.

In a recent, hour-long interview, Lindsey Graham said if he is reelected to the Senate in November, he will begin exploring a bid for the presidency. […]

In our interview, Graham repeatedly spoke of the challenges that will face the next president because of the mistakes made under Obama. And he suggested that he might just be the one to fix them. “If I get through my general election, if nobody steps up in the presidential mix, if nobody’s out there talking – me and McCain have been talking – I may just jump in to get to make these arguments,” Graham said.

White men in male-only clubs will be delighted.

 

By: Steve Bene, the Maddow Blog, October 30, 2014

October 30, 2014 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Lindsey Graham, White Men | , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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