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“A Tale Of Two Parties”: Only One Party’s Establishment Was Already Dead Inside

Do you remember what happened when the Berlin Wall fell? Until that moment, nobody realized just how decadent Communism had become. It had tanks, guns, and nukes, but nobody really believed in its ideology anymore; its officials and enforcers were mere careerists, who folded at the first shock.

It seems to me that you need to think about what happened to the G.O.P. this election cycle the same way.

The Republican establishment was easily overthrown because it was already hollow at the core. Donald Trump’s taunts about “low-energy” Jeb Bush and “little Marco” Rubio worked because they contained a large element of truth. When Mr. Bush and Mr. Rubio dutifully repeated the usual conservative clichés, you could see that there was no sense of conviction behind their recitations. All it took was the huffing and puffing of a loud-mouthed showman to blow their houses down.

But as Mr. Trump is finding out, the Democratic establishment is different.

As some political scientists are now acknowledging, America’s two major parties are not at all symmetric. The G.O.P. is, or was until Mr. Trump arrived, a top-down hierarchical structure enforcing a strict, ideologically pure party line. The Democrats, by contrast, are a “coalition of social groups,” from teachers’ unions to Planned Parenthood, seeking specific benefits from government action.

This diversity of interests sometimes reduces Democrats’ effectiveness: the old Will Rogers joke, “I am not a member of any organized political party — I’m a Democrat” still rings true. But it also means that the Democratic establishment, such as it is, is resilient against Trump-style coups.

But wait: Didn’t Hillary Clinton face her own insurgency in the person of Bernie Sanders, which she barely turned back? Actually, no.

For one thing, it wasn’t all that close. Mrs. Clinton won pledged delegates by almost four times Barack Obama’s margin in 2008; she won the popular vote by double digits.

Nor did she win by burying her rival in cash. In fact, Mr. Sanders outspent her all the way, spending twice on much as she did on ads in New York, which she won by 16 percentage points.

Also, Mrs. Clinton faced immense, bizarre hostility from the news media. Last week Harvard’s Shorenstein Center released a report on media treatment of the candidates during 2015, showing that Mrs. Clinton received by far the most unfavorable coverage. Even when reports focused on issues rather than alleged scandals, 84 percent of her coverage was negative — twice as high as for Mr. Trump. As the report notes, “Clinton’s negative coverage can be equated to millions of dollars in attack ads, with her on the receiving end.”

And yet she won, fairly easily, because she had the solid support of key elements of the Democratic coalition, especially nonwhite voters.

But will this resilience persist in the general election? Early indications are that it will. Mr. Trump briefly pulled close in the polls after he clinched the Republican nomination, but he has been plunging ever since. And that’s despite the refusal of Mr. Sanders to concede or endorse the presumptive nominee, with at least some Bernie or Busters still telling pollsters that they won’t back her.

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump is flailing. He’s tried all the tactics that worked for him in the Republican contest — insults, derisive nicknames, boasts — but none of it is sticking. Conventional wisdom said that he would be helped by a terrorist attack, but the atrocity in Orlando seems to have hurt him instead: Mrs. Clinton’s response looked presidential, his didn’t.

Worse yet from his point of view, there’s a concerted effort by Democrats — Mrs. Clinton herself, Elizabeth Warren, President Obama, and more — to make the great ridiculer look ridiculous (which he is). And it seems to be working.

Why is Mrs. Clinton holding up so well against Mr. Trump, when establishment Republicans were so hapless? Partly it’s because America as a whole, unlike the Republican base, isn’t dominated by angry white men; partly it’s because, as anyone watching the Benghazi hearing realized, Mrs. Clinton herself is a lot tougher than anyone on the other side.

But a big factor, I’d argue, is that the Democratic establishment in general is fairly robust. I’m not saying that its members are angels, which they aren’t. Some, no doubt, are personally corrupt. But the various groups making up the party’s coalition really care about and believe in their positions — they’re not just saying what the Koch brothers pay them to say.

So pay no attention to anyone claiming that Trumpism reflects either the magical powers of the candidate or some broad, bipartisan upsurge of rage against the establishment. What worked in the primary won’t work in the general election, because only one party’s establishment was already dead inside.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, June 20, 2016

June 26, 2016 Posted by | Democratic Establishment, Donald Trump, GOP Establishment, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Don’t Cry For John Boehner”: An Old King Who Couldn’t Keep Up With The Palace Intrigue

Don’t cry for John Boehner, Washington.

Oh, no, the Ohioan doesn’t want to stay another day in the Capitol. The House speaker, who announced his resignation on Friday, had brought Pope Francis to address Congress. The soaring visit, a beautiful intermission for the city, represented the zenith of his career. His time as speaker has been a world of hurt – for President Barack Obama, too, who made a serious mistake in trying to work with Boehner early on.

Boehner clearly felt he could give no more. Besides, he’s 65, retirement age. Golf courses are out there. He’s always been more about politics than policy. Now he is like an old king who can’t keep up with palace intrigue. In a way, the pope, whom Boehner wept over, gave him spiritual permission to leave the fray.

For nearly five years, he was a strange bird flying through the halls, the House speaker who could not speak for his House Republican caucus. A rambunctious bunch, the right-wing element openly defied Boehner. He got no respect and as a result, accomplished next to nothing.

Not that Boehner’s a progressive – far from it – but he tried to keep order. The “conservative” rebels, a few degrees away on the ideological spectrum, were not having any sense or sensibility from their leader. In their latest great idea, they are flirting with shutting down the government of the United States over Planned Parenthood funding.

Look how well their government shutdown worked in 2013. The sequester, too, was a painful episode

The right-wing brigade also nurses fond hopes of getting rid of the Export-Import Bank, a perfectly good institution that more than pulls its weight.

The truth is, Boehner is a creature of the politics he practiced since the harsh days of Newt Gingrich’s speakership. He was an acolyte in that Republican Revolution of 1994, and this is what it’s come to: a houseful of angry white men in charge. More disarray is surely on the way.

Boehner, a jaundiced fellow, never took Obama’s outstretched hand. In the old school, when someone is elected president of the United States, it’s sporting to cut the guy some slack. No such luck. Over Obama’s presidency, Boehner refused to give ground on ending the Bush tax cuts, for starters. That set a hostile tone for other fiscal and budget issues.

Obama’s downfall with Boehner was believing he could charm him. That was never going to happen. Their was never any jovial Irish jokes between them, as there was between Republican President Ronald Reagan and Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill.

Just yesterday, the speaker started speaking some truth; on the CBS News show “Face the Nation,” Boehner called the destructive right-wing faction “false prophets.” His tongue set free, he got religion. Perhaps he’s darkly hinting, “Be careful what you wish for.” If so, he might be right.

At last, a few words about “the barkeep’s son.” Boehner is too often summed up that way. What’s so great about that? Boehner himself says he’s just a regular guy – this is true. We in the press should not romanticize him. Let’s also remember he has cultural streaks of a Southern good ole boy, coming from the cusp of Ohio that borders the South.

Don’t cry for me, John Boehner, and I won’t cry for you.

 

By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. Newsa and World Report, September 28, 2015

September 30, 2015 Posted by | House Republican Caucus, John Boehner, Right Wing | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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