As the public’s attention starts to focus on the primaries of 2020—God, didn’t we just do this?—many Democrats are acting as if Donald Trump, who’s having a good day when his approval ratings stay in the 40s, would beat most of the field.
Nah. I mean, this whole column is based on a claim with no basis at all. Who, exactly, thinks Trump is unbeatable?
Maybe that’s because they’re still recovering from the shock of 2016. But maybe it’s more serious than that. If today’s Democrats can’t beat Trump, then maybe Hillary Clinton wasn’t as bad a candidate as her critics claimed. And if Clinton wasn’t the problem, then what was the problem? Such questions are behind a recent spike of debates on the left over Barack Obama’s record. More and more voices seem to be saying, either obliquely or bluntly, that Obama was a bad president.
As Charlie observes, the “more and more voices” are…David Sirota and Matt Stoller. Gee, if two hot takers who have despised Obama since the 2008 primaries and argued that liberals might be better off with Mitt Romney in 2012 think Obama was a bad president, we’re near a consensus!
Fewer things in this political moment are unintentionally funnier than people who 1)consider themselves brilliant political tacticians and 2)think that the path to the Democratic nomination is paved by arguing that someone with approval ratings north of 90% among Democrats was a terrible president. (Although exactly how much worse he was that William Howard Taft is apparently a matter of some dispute.)
It…and I know the magnitude of the claim about to make…gets worse!
This creates interesting alliances of left and right, ones that are less a union of extremes—a product of what political scientists call “horseshoe theory”—and more a union of dissent. A radical is not an extremist, necessarily. It’s someone who believes the fundamentals are flawed.
Oh, Christ, you know what’s coming. And it’s not “interesting.”
Many of these positions, welcome as they were within the Beltway, were out of sync with the mood of the country. In the 1990s, the radicals had been on the fringes, but that was no longer the case after 2008. An anti-war and anti-corporatist message sent Ron Paul riding surprisingly high in 2012,
1)LOL at the idea that Paul — who got a smaller share of the popular vote than Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich in the 2012 primaries was “riding surprisingly high.” 2)Even more LOL at the idea that Paul is anti-corporate.
It is true enough that Obama going easy on the financial sector in after the crash is one of the weakest spots of his record as a president. But the idea that the tea party represents an anti corporate response is absolutely laughable. The Tea Party literally catalyzed by a Wall Street stooge arguing that Obama was doing too much to help out distressed homeowners! This idea of a left-right alliance against corporate interests is pure fiction. The fact that the centerpieces of Trump’s domestic agenda is a massive upper-class tax cut focused on corporations should be a hint!
and a filibuster by Rand Paul in 2015 over the issue of drone strikes prompted even Democrats to deploy the #StandWithRand hashtag.
It is, last I checked, 2019. And there are still people trying to make Rand Paul into some kind of principled civil libertarian based on one filibuster that accomplished nothing. Oddly omitted as well is the fact that Trump has greatly increased the rate of drone strikes, without stopping Rand from standing by his man.
To state the obvious, the generic congressional Democrat has a much better record on civil liberties (and an infinitely better record on economic policy) than Rand Paul. But grading neoconfederate cranks on the most generous possible curve is EDGY, man.
And now, the punchline:
Radicalism deferred was radicalism intensified. Donald Trump is failing in countless ways, but he is, if nothing else, a radical—so much so that telling him he can’t do something makes him likelier to do it.
Well, if radicalism is defined by “acting like a particularly bratty 7-year-old [while slavishly serving corporate interests],” then Paul curiosity makes a lot more sense!