"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Californication”: Sanders Taking A Free Ride On Other Peoples’ Character Defamation

Earlier today, I observed that if Bernie Sanders wins this Tuesday’s closed Democratic primary in Kentucky, “Sanders and his supporters will likely take advantage of a win here to promote the idea that there are still plenty of Democrats who aren’t comfortable with Clinton, and that the ‘Democratic establishment’ should agree to all of his demands at the Democratic convention even if he ultimately fails to win the nomination.” Speaking of primaries and the convention, what if Sanders manages to do the seemingly impossible, and actually pulls off an upset victory over Clinton in the June 7 California primary?

It is unlikely that Sanders would be able to defeat Clinton by a significant margin in the Golden State primary (which is open to Democrats and those who have no stated party preference), which means that even if he also wins (by presumably close margins) the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and North Dakota caucuses and the Oregon, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota and District of Columbia primaries, he will still come up short in the pledged delegate count. However, a victory in California, even by a close margin, would provide political momentum to Sanders and his supporters going into Philadelphia, where the self-professed democratic socialist plans to ask superdelegates to, in essence, void the votes of those who supported Clinton and declare him the Democratic nominee. MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki explained Sanders’s apparent thinking Tuesday night:

Sanders would certainly have the right to make his case to those superdelegates–but how strong of a case would that be? As MSNBC’s Chris Hayes suggested on May 11, the argument that Sanders should be declared the nominee because he currently performs better than Clinton in head-to-head polls against Donald Trump is rather questionable (it certainly doesn’t factor in the power of the right-wing noise machine).

I wouldn’t be surprised if Team Sanders tries to convince superdelegates that he would perform better against Trump in the general-election debates than Clinton would: Trump’s presence will guarantee that the debates will be ratings bonanzas, and the argument that the Democratic candidate must thoroughly dismantle the bigoted billionaire in these debates is compelling. However, can anyone seriously argue that Clinton cannot hold her own in debates?

I fear that the case for awarding the Democratic nomination to Sanders rests upon a dynamic that Paul Krugman explained a few weeks ago:

As I see it, the Sanders phenomenon always depended on leaving the personal attacks implicit. Sanders supporters have, to a much greater extent than generally acknowledged, been motivated by the perception that Clinton is dishonest, which comes — whether they know it or not — not from her actual behavior but from decades of right-wing smears; but Sanders himself got to play the issue-oriented purist, in effect taking a free ride on other peoples’ character defamation. There was plenty of nastiness from Sanders supporters, but the candidate himself seemed to stay above the fray.

But it wasn’t enough, largely because of nonwhite voters. Why have these voters been so pro-Clinton? One reason I haven’t seen laid out, but which I suspect is important, is that they are more sensitized than most whites to how the disinformation machine works, to how fake scandals get promoted and become part of what “everyone knows.” Not least, they’ve seen the torrent of lies directed at our first African-American president, and have a sense that not everything you hear should be believed.

What will Sanders say to voters of color who overwhelmingly supported Clinton, and who will obviously feel shafted if Sanders is successful in convincing superdelegates to hand the nomination over to him? I imagine that Sanders will simply quote Warren Beatty’s remarks to aggrieved African-American churchgoers in Bulworth: “So what are you gonna do, vote Republican? Come on! Come on, you’re not gonna vote Republican!”

If Sanders wins the California primary, even by a small margin, he will have earned the right to petition superdelegates for a redress of his grievances. However, something tells me that after he does so, he’ll still have grievances.


By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 13, 2016

May 16, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Sanders Supporters | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Legacy Of The Old Democratic Pre-Civil Rights South”: Reagan Democrats Of Kentucky, Oklahoma And West Virginia

To no one’s surprise, Bernie Sanders won the Democratic presidential primary in West Virginia yesterday and has so far picked up 16 delegates to Clinton’s 11. While that is not enough to change the trajectory of the race, it produced some interesting information.

As exit polls were released, there was some surprise in a couple of categories. Thirty-five percent of voters in the Democratic primary plan to vote for Donald Trump in the general election. Of those, 63% voted for Sanders. Similarly, a plurality of voters (41%) want the next president to be less liberal than Obama. Of those, 51% voted for Sanders.

Initially pundits attempted to ascribe these results to Clinton’s remarks in March about how she’d “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” But given that Sanders’ position on coal is the same as Clinton’s, that doesn’t seem plausible. Rye Spaeth provided some information that is probably more pertinent.

“No state has lower approval ratings for the president than West Virginia,” Philip Bump pointed out in February. And unlike embattled Democrats in West Virginia, Clinton has embraced Obama’s legacy and diverse coalition.

It is also worth noting that the population of West Virginia is 93% non-Hispanic white.

Nate Cohn provides some data suggesting that Reagan Democrats (a term that has been dismissed by a lot of people, including me) are actually a large part of the electorate in states like West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky (which holds its primary next Tuesday).

Coal County, Okla., is one of the most extreme examples. There, 80 percent of voters are registered Democrats, yet President Obama won just 27 percent of the vote in 2012. Mrs. Clinton has performed very poorly where the share of voters who are registered Democrats is much greater than the share of voters who supported Mr. Obama…

These conservative Democrats are a legacy of the old Democratic strength among white voters in the South, where many white conservatives nonetheless remain registered as Democrats.

Cohn provided this map to demonstrate.

The conservative registered Democrats helping Sanders have helped him elsewhere, especially Oklahoma

— Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn) May 11, 2016

These voters have tended to remain registered as Democrats and support local candidates like Sen. Joe Manchin in West Virginia. But they mostly resemble white Democrats of the pre-Civil Rights South. When it comes to presidential elections, they ensure that their states are firmly red. That’s a pretty classic definition of the term Reagan Democrat.


By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 11, 2016

May 13, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Big Coal, Reagan Democrats | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Unhealthy Dose Of Politics”: Gov Matt Bevin Is Letting His Dislike For The President Blind Him To The Success Of Kynect

The New York Times reports that Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has informed the Obama administration that he intends to shut down his state’s health insurance exchange. The move will mean that Kentuckians will have to seek health insurance from the federal exchange. The newly-elected Republican governor may also make changes to the state’s Medicaid expansion program. Both moves would fulfill promises that Bevin made on the campaign trail last year.

Health insurance exchanges were established by the Affordable Care Act to serve as a marketplace for individuals who are not covered by the employer-based market. While the law envisioned that these exchanges would be run entirely by the states, in practice there are only 13 state-based exchanges, including the one in Washington, D.C. The rest of the states rely, either in part or entirely, on the federal exchange,

Of the states that chose to run their own exchanges, Kentucky was doing well. The state’s exchange, known as Kynect, has in fact been lauded as one of Obamacare’s best success stories. The Washington Post reports that since it launched, Kynect has cut Kentucky’s uninsured rate in half. While some other states have struggled in their efforts to establish their own state-based exchange, Emily Beauregard, executive director of Kentucky Voices for Health, told the New York Times that “Kynect is working perfectly, and it’s been good for Kentucky.”

If the exchange had not been successful in reducing the state’s uninsured, Bevin’s plan would be justified. However, given Kynect’s effectiveness, Bevin’s plan to dismantle it makes little sense. His decision is driven purely by political motives and not with the welfare of his constituents in mind. Although the Obama administration has promised a “seamless” transition to for those who receive coverage through Kynect, there are still bound to be disruptions in coverage. For some, that disruption in coverage could be devastating.

Taking Kynect apart will also cost the state money. According to the Times, the previous governor’s administration estimated it will cost “at least $23 million” to shut it down. There’s also the question of unused grant money, approximately $57 million, which Kentucky might have to repay to the federal government. In contrast, leaving the exchange in place would provide consistency and predictability for its customers and allow the state to continue building on Kynect’s success, perhaps even lowering the state’s uninsured numbers further.

Unfortunately, Bevin is letting his dislike for the president blind him to the success of Kynect and its benefit to his constituents. Kynect has worked well for Kentucky, and the new governor should keep it in place.


By: Cary Gibson, Thomas Jefferson Street Blig, U. S. News and World Report, January 15, 2016

January 16, 2016 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, KyNect, Matt Bevin | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Hey, Democrats; Relax Already”: Reports Of Liberalism’s Imminent Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

The meme of the past week or two in my circles is that the Democrats are screwed. Not necessarily in terms of the presidential election, which, one year out, their front-runner is reasonably well-positioned to win. But everywhere else, from Congress on down to dogcatcher.

Matt Yglesias kicked this off over at Vox on October 19, arguing that while the presidency obviously matters, “there are also thousands of critically important offices all the way down the ballot. And the vast majority — 70 percent of state legislatures, more than 60 percent of governors, 55 percent of attorneys general and secretaries of state — are in Republican hands.” Democrats, he wrote, have no plan to do anything about this.

People panicked, and the Twitter cyclone hit. Then came Tuesday’s elections, which from Kentucky to Houston seemed to confirm the thesis. Then Lee Drutman followed up in Vox agreeing with Yglesias  and citing research suggesting that all this was happening because—how to put this politely?—low-information voters toward the lower end of economic spectrum vote according to an ideology that doesn’t align with their economic status. He means white working-class people who vote Republican. And on the website of Democracy, the journal I edit, Nathan Pippinger responded to Drutman by writing that Democrats are in trouble not because of “false consciousness among working-class voters, but because conservatives’ state-level policies helped to undermine the paths through which those voters might become more involved in the political process.” He means mostly unions. But he basically buys the future of “liberal disappointment.”

Wow. Is it really as bad as all that? No, it’s not. And here are the two main reasons why.

First: The party that controls the presidency for eight years almost always gets killed at the state level over the course of those eight years. And it stands to reason—if people are unhappy with the way things are going, which they typically are about something or other, they’ll vote for the out-of-power party.

So political scientist Larry Sabato has studied this question going back to FDR’s time and found that every two-term presidency (he’s counting things like the Kennedy-Johnson period from 1960-68 as a single two-term presidency) except one has taken a huge beating at the congressional and state levels. You’ve perhaps read recently that during Barack Obama’s term, the Democrats have lost 913 state legislative seats. That’s a hell of a lot, but it’s not that crazily out of line with the average since FDR/Truman, which is 576. Only Ronald Reagan managed to avoid such losses—the GOP actually gained six state legislative seats during his years, which was the time when the Dixiecrats and some Northern white ethnics started becoming Republicans.

Sabato’s piece, which ran last December in Politico, is even headlined “Why Parties Should Hope They Lose the White House.” You win at 1600, you start losing everywhere else. Granted the Obama-era losses are unusual. I’d suppose they’re mostly explained by the lagging economy and stagnant wages. Race has to have something to do with it, too, and Tea Party rage, and of course the fact that Democrats don’t vote in off-year elections. Indeed this last factor may be the biggest one, because the Democratic Party has become more and more reliant in recent years on precisely the groups of voters who have long been known not to participate as much in off-year elections—minorities, young people, single women.

So sure, it blows to look at a map like the one embedded in Yglesias’s piece and see all that red indicating total Republican control in some state capitals where that shouldn’t really be the case: Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio. And it blows harder for the people who live there, although obviously a majority of them don’t think so.

But I would make a couple quick arguments here. First, 2014 and especially 2010 were unique election years, with high unemployment in 2010 and high-octane right-wing fury in both. That flipped some state houses and executive mansions that will return to the blue column eventually, in more normal times.

Second, there are a lot of blue states that still elect Republican governors, whereas there aren’t many red states that will elect a Democrat. Three presidential-level red states have Democratic governors (Missouri, Montana, and West Virginia), and they’re about the only ones you could imagine doing so as you look down the list. Whereas nine blue states have Republican governors. Most of those governors are comparatively moderate, and it doesn’t really change the fundamental nature of Massachusetts that it elects a Republican governor some of the time.

But—the party affiliation of the man or woman in the White House does change the fundamental nature of the United States. And that brings us to my second reason why the Democrats aren’t yet finished. They have the presidency. What did Elvis Costello say—“don’t bury me cuz I’m not dead yet”? Well, you’re not doomed yet as long as you’re living in the White House.

Let me ask you this question. Assuming this Sabato correlation between White House control and losses at other levels holds up, how many of you Democrats reading this would take this deal: Democrats lose the White House next year and in 2020 in exchange for, say, 1) retaking control of the House of Representatives in 2022 and 2) picking up 576 state legislative seats over the next eight years?

I guess some Democrats would take that deal, but I think a small minority, and rightly so. Losing the White House means a 7-2 conservative Supreme Court majority for 30 more years. That could well mean, would likely mean, a decision in the next few years overturning same-sex marriage, and a dozen other horrors, from campaign finance to corporate power to religious issues to civil rights matters to a number of Fourteenth Amendment-related issues including Roe v. Wade. It means, combined with GOP majorities in both houses of Congress, God knows what legislatively; the end of the federal minimum wage? A flat tax, or at least a radically reduced top marginal rate? Entitlement “reform”? And don’t forget not just what they’d do, but what they’d undo. It means repeal of Obamacare, legislation that effectively rescinds Dodd-Frank, all of Obama’s work on immigration and carbon ripped to pieces, and on and on and on. And, you know, like, another war.

In the face of all that, I’m supposed to give a shit who the governor of Michigan is? Please.

The Democrats have only one problem in this realm. They have to get their people to vote in midterm elections. Period. That’s it. Now that isn’t easy to do; could take between 10 and 20 years. And it will cost a lot of money to do it right. But if it gets done and done right, then the red tide can be arrested, at least to the extent that Sabato’s numbers suggest. But anybody who’d rather give up the White House for control of eight more governors’ mansions and 11 more state legislatures needs his coconut examined. If bleeding at the state level is inevitable because of White House control, then let it bleed.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, November 7, 2015

November 9, 2015 Posted by | Democrats, Liberals, State Legislatures, Voter Turnout | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Look No Further Than The Governor’s Race In Kentucky”: The Superficiality Of The Republican Commitment To Racial Justice

Last night in Kentucky, Matt Bevin, a Tea Party-aligned Republican who unsuccessfully attempted to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last year, was elected the state’s second GOP governor since the end of the Civil Rights Movement.

Conservatives are understandably elated. Bevin ran rightward even by Kentucky’s standards. His political career has been forged in the conservative backlash to President Obama, and Bevin supports both federalizing Kentucky’s extremely successful state-based health care exchange, and rescinding the state’s Medicaid expansion, which has brought coverage to over 400,000 poor Kentuckians since 2013. As a candidate for Senate, where his vote would’ve counted, he supported the outright repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

But amid the euphoria over a victorious politician who wants to roll back the tide of social justice, conservatives are also celebrating their own perceived sense of racial enlightenment. Because though Bevin and most of his supporters are white, his running mate, Lieutenant Governor-elect Jenean Hampton, is black.

In Kentucky we see the general scope of Republican minority outreach in microcosm—the touting of a popular black figurehead juxtaposed against an unrelenting pursuit of policies that harm, and are unpopular with, black voters nationally.

The most apt symbol of this conception of racial tolerance is Ben Carson, who climbed out of poverty to become the most renowned black neurosurgeon in the world. He also sits well to the right of the median Republican primary candidate, which helps explain his surge in the polls. Last week, National Review’s Jonah Golberg wrote a column arguing that Carson is “even more authentically African American than Barack Obama, given that Obama’s mother was white and he was raised in part by his white grandparents.”

Goldberg interprets the fact that a person of such authentic blackness is a popular, conservative member of the Republican Party as a matter of deep significance, when in fact it confirms that the right’s commitment to racial justice has a deeply superficial quality. After a predictable backlash to the blackness scale he contrived, Goldberg revised and extended.

“The Democrats, MSNBC, Salon, et al,” he wrote, “are so invested in their narrative that the GOP is a racist cult that they have trouble dealing with the fact that Ben Carson—a black guy—is arguably the front-runner and certainly the most popular figure in the Republican field (and drawing most of his support from precisely the voters the MSNBC crowd is most convinced are the recrudescent racist heart of the conservative movement). Rather than celebrate this huge step forward in racial progress, or at least think about what it really means, they instead ignore it, dismiss it, or attack my ‘racism’ for pointing it out. Well, to Hell with that game.”

This would fatally undermine the liberal critique of racial politics on the right, if liberals argued that Republicans belonged to a segregated party that espoused hatred for minorities no matter their politics. Instead, Goldberg is celebrating tokenism on the scale of a national, ideological movement.

That Carson is black and popular among Republican primary voters is incontrovertible. It’s also largely beside the point. The question of why Carson is popular on the right is complicated, and surely in part related to his aforementioned conservative politics, his religious devotion, and his hypnotically avuncular demeanor. But it is just as surely related to the fact that Carson absolves conservatives of their coarse and patronizing view of black voters and political leaders. Carson attributes his unpopularity with liberals to the notion that he had the temerity to “come off the plantation.”

Needless to say, the fact that Republican voters like a guy who tells them that other black people—the ones who support Democrats—are like plantation slaves doesn’t harm the liberal critique of conservative racial politics at all. Nor does it cancel out or refute the existence of racism.

The Kentucky poor are now in limbo, though their position is tellingly strengthened by the fact that Kentucky is whiter than the median state. Beneficiaries of the Medicaid expansion there are whiter and more geographically dispersed than in other states. The prologue to their story may come from Arkansas, which declined to rescind its version of the Medicaid expansion, even after voters there replaced a retiring Democratic governor with a Republican.

So there is hope. But there’s also peril.  What distinguishes Kentucky is that its Medicaid expansion was undertaken unilaterally by outgoing Governor Steve Beshear. Though he softened his position during the general election, Bevin could rescind it on his own, without going to the legislature.

If he declines to do so, conservatives will consider it a great setback in their ongoing campaign against the national wave of Medicaid expansion, a campaign that has done disproportionate harm to low-income black people all over the country. And that says far more about the racial politics of their movement than the fact that Kentucky’s incoming lieutenant governor is black herself.


By: Brian Beutler, Senior Editor at The New Republic, November 4, 2015

November 7, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Matt Bevin, Medicaid Expansion | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

%d bloggers like this: