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Adieu, Pas Au Revoir

[ 31 ] March 16, 2016 |


This is the kind of local mobilization we need more of:

The political fallout from the Laquan McDonald case continued Tuesday when voters overwhelmingly denied Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez a third term.

Kim Foxx, a former chief of staff to the Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, won by a landside over Alvarez, 58 to 29 percent, with 82 percent of precincts reporting.


Alvarez faced a steep challenge following criticism for her decision to wait 400 days before announcing murder charges against a Chicago police officer who fired 16 bullets into McDonald, a Chicago teenager, in October 2014, killing him in the middle of a Chicago street. The case drew national attention, created a political crisis for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, forced the resignation of officials, including Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, and galvanized an activist community of primarily young people who took to the streets demanding reform for a system they perceived as protecting bad cops.

One important lesson progressives really need to take from the Tea Party: it takes a lot fewer votes to win a consequential state or local race than it does to win a presidential nomination. And the former two are very important!

…and, yes, also adieu Mr. McGinty. These defeats are crucial because the voters really need to counter the strong incentives that prosecutors have to cover up police misconduct.


Where We Are

[ 221 ] March 16, 2016 |


  • Bernie Sanders has run a valiant, historically consequential campaign. But barring force majeure, Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. The already nearly prohibitive delegate math just got considerably worse for Sanders, with New York, California and Maryland still on the table, and this time Clinton pretty much held her polling leads in every state with the possible exception of Illinois. Her lead in national polls is double digits and trending upward, in a context in Sanders would need win by substantial margins going forward. It’s over.
  • This is a useful explanation for why Clinton did so much better in Ohio than Michigan.
  • The Republican race is obviously more complicated. Trump is the only candidate who can win a majority of delegates, which means that the Republican candidate will either be Trump or someone who had to depose trump at a contested convention. Either way, this is Excellent. News. For. The. Democratic. Party, albeit with a downside risk horrible enough that one can’t be unambiguously happy.
  • Obviously, nobody is going to top Chris Mathews for the evening’s most molten take, but these are certainly solid entries.
  • Vote suppression in North Carolina.
  • More on the National Review‘s new war on the white working class.
  • An entertaining requiem for the hapless Rubio.

Let Me Type This Brilliant Idea On My Invisible Typewriter

[ 50 ] March 15, 2016 |

This man is paid millions of dollars a year to opine about politics:

Yes, clearly what the Democratic ticket needs is someone who favors massive upper-class tax cuts who is a fanatical opponent of reproductive freedom. After all, he sort of sounds like a nice guy compared to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz! Really hard to see any flaws in this plan.

The fact that the theater critic school of political journalism survived 2000 says a lot about the norms of American political journalism, none of which is good.

The Floridian Fred Thompson

[ 91 ] March 15, 2016 |


Evidently, for Rubio to win his home state tonight would have been a Bernie-in-Michigan level upset given the polling. But for him to lose Florida so badly it gets called at 8 sharp — that’s some impressive work.

Meanwhile, this very much helps to explain why the Party conspicuously failed to Decide in his favor. Between his burning former allies because he didn’t want to actually do his job and his baffling lack of a ground game in early states and…you have an impressively disastrous campaign.

Big Swing State Primary Open Thread

[ 325 ] March 15, 2016 |

Sam Wang explains why even if Trump loses Ohio — which seems likely — he still wins.

For obvious reasons, I’ve been re-reading Dan Carter’s superb The Politics of Rage.  This story of one of the legislators who ducked out of a vote seeking to amend the constitution to allow Wallace to run for a second consecutive term as governor (the amendment failed, which Wallace got around by having his wife Lurleen run instead, probably killing her in the process) seems applicable to other circumstances, including Donald Trump becoming the nominee of a major political party:

Another wavering senator also disappeared on the eve of the showdown; that man was last seen, said a colleague, “loading a case of scotch in the trunk of his car and heading south. He had not stopped driving or drinking until he reached a New Orleans “sanitarium,” where doctors reported he was in no condition to be moved.

…and, yes, as a commenter notes the Guardian is where to get your online results.

No Escape Might Help to Smooth the Unattractive Truth

[ 208 ] March 15, 2016 |

Photo via Christian Post.

Anybody remember Rand Paul? He is said to have been a candidate for the Republican nomination for president, although I can’t say I recall it. I was leafing through an old issue of Rolling Stone while waiting for my wife this weekend, and was amused to see one of Paul’s heroes, Rush lyricist/drummer Neil Peart, fail to reciprocate the affection in the grand tradition of Bruce Springsteen and Chris Christie:

Peart outgrew his Ayn Rand phase years ago, and now describes himself as a “bleeding-heart libertarian,” citing his trips to Africa as transformative. He claims to stand by the message of “The Trees,” but other than that, his bleeding-heart side seems dominant. Peart just became a U.S. citizen, and he is unlikely to vote for Rand Paul, or any Republican. Peart says that it’s “very obvious” that Paul “hates women and brown people” — and Rush sent a cease-and-desist order to get Paul to stop quoting “The Trees” in his speeches.

“For a person of my sensibility, you’re only left with the Democratic party,” says Peart, who also calls George W. Bush “an instrument of evil.” “If you’re a compassionate person at all. The whole health-care thing — denying mercy to suffering people? What? This is Christian?”

Part of this, I assume, is about growing beyond the dumb shit you believed when you were in your 20s. But this also about what a ridiculous comparative outlier the Republican Party is. Other liberal democracies have brokerage parties of the right whose elites are by and large, to ironically paraphrase Antonin Scalia, conservatives but not nuts.  Tories and Christian Democrats and Gaullists don’t sneer at the idea that the government should guarantee access to basic health care or provide for the poor or the idea that carbon emissions cause climate change. The idea that the faction that currently controls both houses of the American national legislature views the Affordable Care Act — still a less statist approach to health care than any other comparable nation — as such a grave threat to American freedom that they don’t merely oppose it but spent years developing increasingly ridiculous theories trying to destroy it in the courts and got these theories taken seriously by hacks in the federal judiciary is really quite astounding when you step back.  And it’s obviously closely related to the politics of the American south being an outlier.

Donald Trump Is Unfit to be President

[ 181 ] March 15, 2016 |

54Above: Same flavor, and at least you can wear them

I have been trying to alert the public about this terrifying aspect of the Donald’s background for a while, but needless to say Trump’s preference for well-done steaks is disqualifying. Indeed, it was a major oversight by the framers that they did not codify this in the qualifications clause. Plainly, someone who would casually destroy a good piece of meat lacks the judgment and concern for the public fisc necessary to be president. The man would probably create a major international incident by serving well-done steak and bread with margarine at dinners with heads of state. The man cannot be president.



Trump’s Pravda

[ 66 ] March 15, 2016 |


I, for one, am shocked that a media enterprise founded by Andrew Breitbart lacks integrity.

Today in Vote Suppression

[ 29 ] March 14, 2016 |


“Soft” Voter-ID laws are anything but:

For those facing difficulty voting, the onus of proof, administrative glitches, and worker error make voter-ID softening devices nothing more than weak attempts to deal with the original harshness of voter-ID laws. Further, these laws suck up voting-rights groups’ resources, sometimes quite significantly, which they use to fight for individual rights. They are also expensive for states and local governments to administer. A proposed Missouri voter-ID law is estimated to cost $17 million in its first three years. Meanwhile, the process of getting an acceptable ID remains onerous for some voters. And each fight threatens to disenfranchise a voter who cannot put up with the administrative hassle or worse.

It is hard to quantify just how many people are deterred from voting because of strict voter-ID laws or how many of those would have been able to take advantage of a softening device or exemption. But that’s not the point. A focus on aggregate numbers puts the emphasis in the wrong place, away from individual voters’ rights and dignity and away from the naked partisan efforts to discourage those voters. What courts should be asking is: Why is it constitutional to put new roadblocks in front of voters without adequate justification?

Given that any evidence of such laws preventing impersonation fraud or instilling voter confidence is essentially nonexistent, courts should stop trying to soften voter-ID laws and start striking them outright. Not because they will or won’t affect election outcomes, but because protecting each eligible voter’s right to vote is what’s paramount—not whether or not they have hands to sign the correct documents.

What is the Least Worst Case Republican Nomination Scenario?

[ 130 ] March 14, 2016 |


Yglesias is converted to Paul’s position, and like Paul makes a pretty convincing argument:

America’s liberals finally have a candidate they can wholeheartedly root for in the Republican primaries — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

There’s been incredible temptation to root for Donald Trump, whose unfavorable ratings are sky-high and whose candidacy is tearing the conservative movement apart, but it’s tempered by growing fear of what a Trump administration might actually look like. On the other hand, someone like a Marco Rubio is pretty scary in his own right, and much more likely to win a general election. And the basic reality is that given Republican Party control over Congress, any Republican administration is alarming to liberals, so fear of an electable Republican is palpable.

Enter Ted Cruz. Compared with the more mainstream Republicans in the vanishing “establishment lane,” he’s a much weaker general election candidate, running on a nakedly extreme platform and with plenty of intraparty enemies who’ll guarantee a steady stream of bad press.

And compared with Donald Trump he doesn’t offer any outlier downsides. He’s not particularly tapping into the darkest impulses of the American people. His ideas, though extreme, are vetted through the same conservative policy apparatus as everyone else’s. People who know him best don’t like him, nobody thinks he’s likely to win in November, and he’s the Republican Party’s last best hope to stop Trump. He should also be the liberal choice for anyone tempted to cross over in an open primary, or just for liberals sitting at home wondering who to root for.

A few points:

  • I don’t think there’s any question that a losing Trump campaign would be worse for the country than a losing Cruz one. Trump being a major party candidate likely means more violence and a further debasement of already fragile political norms. And the lesson that many Republican elites would take from a loss was that Trump lost because he wasn’t conservative enough. (They would try to say that about Cruz, but that’s obviously a tougher sell.)
  • Like most political scientists, I think that head-to-head polls at this point have very little predictive value, and I agree with Yglesias that once Democrats went to work on him Cruz would probably be almost as bad a general election candidate as Trump. If you do believe they have value, they show Cruz as being a significantly better candidate than Trump, particularly against Clinton. I don’t buy it, but if you do that has to be a part of the consideration of whether to root for him.
  • Not to be contrarian, but I think that whether a Trump presidency or a Cruz presidency would be worse is a tough call. The possibility of Trump transgressing constitutional norms  and inciting racially motivated violence is terrifying, and probably makes it worse in the short term. But in the long term, the likelihood that Cruz would work more effectively with a Republican Congress and produce an agenda including a health care system worse than the status quo ante the ACA, voter disenfranchisement, massive upper-class tax cuts, gutting the regulatory state, etc. etc. all with the formal veneer of “normal” politics is also terrifying. A Trump administration would likely mean an enduring neoconfederate Supreme Court majority if Breyer and/or Ginsburg leaves the Court. A Cruz presidency unquestionably would.
  • Obviously, my views on this aren’t a secret, but the consequences of either Trump or Cruz winning are so unconscionably bad that I will have even less patience than usual with people who take to major public fora to announce their HOT TAKE that since Hillary Clinton is an an inauthentic neoliberal and President Sanders would not unilaterally force Israel to dismantle the Palestinian settlements, Both Sides Do It and Tlinton/Crump and who cares really. You have sounder views on public policy than a major party presidential candidate in the United States. Congratulations! If you think expressing this is more important than harm minimization in this context, your self-flattery is deeply misplaced.

Beyond the 90s

[ 237 ] March 13, 2016 |


While in more or less agreement with the general thrust of Paul and Erik’s evaluations of Hillary Clinton as a candidate, I would say perhaps that they were being a little harsh. Clinton winning statewide election in a deep blue state by 12 and 36 points is hardly indicative of a great political talent, but it’s also something Martha Coakley failed to do not once but twice. She has huge flaws as a candidate that reveal themselves frequently, but she has her strengths. She debates well, the one thing she does better than Obama. And while I agree that there are ways in which Sanders matches up better with Trump, her 2000 Senate campaign showed one thing she’s good at is remaining calm while giving sexist opponents enough rope to hang themselves, and in terms of sexist bluster Trump makes Lazio look like a piker. And while it’s not really relevant to the general, I’d also note that as Marco Rubio and Jeb! Bush will tell you, locking up a ton of endorsements and scaring most of the viable candidates out of the race isn’t something that just happens. I would say that rather than Peyton Manning as substandard Super Bowl winning QBs go she’s more like the 2007 version of Eli Manning — far from my first choice to go into an important game with, and someone who too many times a year throws a terrible pick into triple coverage and ambles over to the bench looking like a paste-eating goober, but not without his virtues and capable of winning if things break right. And, whether the nominee is Clinton or Sanders, things certainly are breaking right for the nominee thanks to the infinite non-wisdom of the Republican primary electorate.

Still, on a visceral level I understand the impulse to see Clinton’s string of gaffes as being even more politically damaging than they are. They’re not just random mistakes. Bringing up Henry Kissinger’s positive evaluation sua sponte, raking in huge speaking fees from unsavory corporate interests while knowing you’re running for president, inventing an alternate history where the Reagans were admirable rather than unimaginably horrible on AIDS — they all reflect her near-complete immersion in a particular bubble of establishment non-wisdom. The world in which you boast about Henry Kissinger’s support is an all-too-familiar one, one in which Joe Scarborough and Mark Halperin are serious political analysts, Fred Hiatt is running a bang-up op-ed page, the world described by and reflected by This Town. And, of course, the massive substantive and political blunders that sank her 2008 campaign — voting to give an overconfident, inept president the authority to invade a country that posed no security threat to the United States, and putting her campaign in the hands on a transparent fraud and incompetent who was highly respected in the Beltway for his conservative pandering and being part of a winning presidential campaign it would have been nearly impossible to lose — also reflect this. Ideologically, she’s moving with the party and his running much more like Obama than her husband, but her instincts always seem aligned with the defensive crouch Democrats were in the 90s, the time in which “liberal” was a dirty word and Democrats felt the need to prove they were adult enough to govern by appealing to the wrong sort of crowd. Sanders has never been part of this bubble, and it really is highly appealing. It will be nice when the 90s in this sense are finally over.

And Then There Were Three

[ 62 ] March 13, 2016 |
UNITED STATES Ð DECEMBER 13: Paul Watford, nominee to be U.S. circuit judge for the Ninth Circuit, is sworn in before testifying at his confirmation hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011. (Photo by Bill Clark/Getty Images)

UNITED STATES Ð DECEMBER 13: Paul Watford, nominee to be U.S. circuit judge for the Ninth Circuit, is sworn in before testifying at his confirmation hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011. (Photo by Bill Clark/Getty Images)

Of this list, I would say the nominee should be Watford for the reasons stated here. But I’m guessing that it will be Srinivasan.

UPDATE: Dylan Mathews reports that 3 more are still in the running, including Jane Kelly.

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