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Pre-Open Thread Iowa Final Thoughts

[ 64 ] February 1, 2016 |

  • Because I need two more chances to be wrong, I will go chalk in terms of predicting the outcome. I think the concerns about Trump’s organization and the commitment of his supporters are far from trivial, but I think with Cruz trending in the wrong direction he won’t make up the gap. I won’t be shocked if Sanders pulls an upset, but the idiosyncrasies of the Iowa caucus that hurt her in 2008 work in her favor in 2016. I think she’s more likely to overperform the final polls than to underperform them.
  • It should also be noted that the Iowa caucus is a really terrible and indefensible institution. As with the electoral college, I don’t think any progressive would support it if designing a way of choosing a nominee from scratch — giving outsized influence to an unrepresentative state that uses vote-suppressing procedures is just a bad idea. And it’s more common to hear defenses of the Heartland Wisdom of the Iowa caucuses than it is to see affirmative defenses of the electoral college.
  • Silver’s rundown of the various scenarios is useful. Particularly since some of Cruz’s support seems to be leaking to Rubio I actually think that the best-case viable scenario for the Donald would be for Cruz to finish a close second to Trump and Rubio a very distant third. If Rubio does better than the final polls and Cruz worse, that pretty much finishes the latter and gives the former a shot if he can at least pull ahead of Jeb! and Kasich in New Hampshire and do well in South Carolina.  (These are, of course, very big ifs; it’s certainly Trump’s race to lose if he wins tonight.)
  • On a related note, the prediction markets now favor Trump.

If You Choose Not to Decide, Have You Really Still Made a Choice?

[ 82 ] February 1, 2016 |


As a follow-up to Paul’s post below Julia Azari makes a couple of interesting points:

My basic hypothesis is that the Republican Party network failed to coordinate to stop Trump or promote another nominee not because they couldn’t do it, but because they decided to let things unfold rather than try to control events. There’s a stronger conspiracy version of this theory, which suggests that elites might have used the channels by which they usually coordinate on a nominee to deliberately eschew coordination. The weaker version, which is the one I’m more comfortable embracing, suggests that this time party elites just didn’t bother.

I think there’s some truth in this, but I still prefer my subtle variation. I don’t think that the failure of GOP elites to coalesce around an alternative to Trump and Cruz represents a conscious decision not to decide so much as it reflects genuine disagreement about who the best alternative to Trump or Cruz is. There are certainly some influential Republicans in the stop-Trump camp. Rupert Murdoch’s media apparatus has been attempting to go after Trump and prop up Rubio with an almost comic lack of subtlety, and Cruz wasn’t wrong to think that he was being targeted Thursday. There are a lot of Republican influencers who agree with Murdoch that Trump would be a disaster, but if they don’t agree that Rubio is the best alternative, there’s not much they can do.

As they say, parties are a they, not an it (something that, it should be said, The Party Decides does recognize.) A lot of party elites might prefer any of Rubio/Jeb!/Kasich/Christie to Trump, but there’s nothing that can force them to decide between them. Nonetheless, if Trump wins, it clearly as (at a minimum) a serious anomaly for The Party Decides thesis.

This point is really interesting:

Finally, Trump is kind of a paradoxically perfect disjunctive presidential candidate. In the political time theory, the disjunctive phase is typically characterized by two problems: The different factions in the party can no longer be reconciled, and the priorities of powerful voices within the party can no longer be reconciled with the national mood and its policy imperatives.

Azari is talking here about Stephen Skowronek’s theory of political time and presidential authority (explained here.) I was actually thinking that Trump could be seen as the modern equivalent of a certain type of preemptive candidate: the apolitical war hero the Whigs used to throw up, or that the Republicans used to win two presidential elections during the New Deal era. When your party is the minority coalition, your best bet is to run someone without strong existing party attachments who could theoretically attract less committed members of the majority coalition.

I think in a sense we’re both right here, in part because under the current partisan alignment Skowronek’s model is finally losing a lot of its explanatory power. With the exception of Jackson/Lincoln each reconstructive president has had less of an impact than the previous one, and it’s not clear to me that any president can really be “reconstructive” in this context.

The bad news is that even if Republican party elites fail to stop Trump, this doesn’t mean that the Republican Party is on some level failing or about to crack up. It’s true that at the presidential level the Republicans are essentially at the preemeptive stage of political time; under normal circumstances it will be difficult for a non-exceptional candidate to win. But at the congressional level, they’re at the disjunctive stage (but have an advantage in the House anyway because of the way electoral rules favor Republicans.) And in many states, they’re a completely dominant coalition.

The Republican Party, in its current state, is a minority coalition that because of institutional structures is likely to control at least one federal veto point after most elections. And while all things being equal they will be a significant underdog in presidential elections, they only need to get lucky once to be able to impose some radical changes on American politics. Even if they Trump wins the nomination and is beaten badly by Clinton, the inevitable “Republican CRACK-UP” stories will almost certainly prove as wrong as they typically do.

Ted the Heartless Thompson Gunner

[ 124 ] January 31, 2016 |


A good question, that proves children are right to be repelled by Ted Cruz:

It happened at a Ted Cruz campaign event in Hubbard, a small town smack in the middle of the state. According to reports in The New York Times, The Washington Post and Politico, Cruz fielded a question from Mike Valde, a Democratic voter who had come to the event with a story to tell and a simple question to ask.

The story was about his brother-in-law, a barber named Mark. As Valde told it, Mark was a small business owner who worked so hard that he didn’t even take paid days off. But Mark was unable to afford health insurance until the Affordable Care Act became law. When it did, Mark bought insurance and then, when he started feeling ill, saw a physician — who promptly diagnosed him with cancer with no hope for recovery. He died last year.

He had never been to a doctor for years,” Valde said, reportedly on the verge of tears. “Multiple tumors behind his heart, his liver, his pancreas. And they said, ‘We’re sorry, sir, there’s nothing we can do for you.’”

The room fell silent, according to the Times’ account, and then Valde, who later told reporters that he was a Hillary Clinton supporter, posed his question: “Mark never had health care until Obamacare. What are you going to replace it with?”

Cruz offered Valde his condolences before launching into the same basic argument that Republicans always make. “Under Obamacare,” Cruz said, “millions of Americans have lost their jobs. Millions of Americans have lost their doctors, have seen their premiums skyrocket.” He pointed out that Obama had promised families would see average savings of $2500 from health care reform, and joked that he’d gladly encourage anybody who’d actually reaped such savings to vote for Clinton — a quip that drew laughter from the audience.

Valde, apparently less amused, kept at it. “My question is, what are you going to replace it with?” he said. Cruz responded that he’d get there, but first he wanted to talk some more about the “millions of stories on the other side” — people who’d had to give up their old plans and, as a result, ended up with higher premiums or co-pays, narrow networks of providers or some combination thereof.

Eventually Cruz suggested that if Valde’s brother-in-law couldn’t afford health insurance premiums previously, it was probably because government regulation had driven up the price — and that the best solution, at this point, was to wipe the slate clean and build a new health care system, one in which people could purchase coverage across state lines.

“Many people will quite literally die because of your policy preferences.” “[Lies ass off about effects of ACA.] “But what is your offer to the uninsured?” “Worthless junk insurance unregulated by Congress or state governments.”

In fairness to Cruz, it’s not like any Republican has a better answer. This is more unique:

The Cruz mailers have been widely condemned by Iowans. “I just wonder how many of these went out to people who might seriously believe they committed a violation or were embarrassed that their neighbors might know about their alleged voting record,” Braddock Massey, a Rubio supporter who lives in West Des Moines and received one of the mailers, said.

Donna Holstein, who was listed on one of them, was upset to learn that she had been given a failing grade and that her neighbors might be told whether she participates in the caucus. She told me that she has voted consistently but that she can’t this time because of a disability.

“I’m crippled, so I can’t go to the caucus,” Holstein said. She was not happy about being shamed in front of her neighbors. “That’s what you call a bully,” she said about Cruz’s tactics. “I wish he would quit.”

Given the target, it’s at times like this that God help me I can understand the basis of The Donald’s appeal:

“But he’s a liar,” he said. “He didn’t even put down on his financial disclosure forms that he borrowed money from banks at low interest loans, lower than you could get, lower than anybody could get.”

“I mean, look, Ted is a liar,” he added. “That’s why nobody likes him. This is why he doesn’t have one endorsement from one senator, not one. He works with these senators, he doesn’t have one endorsement.”


[ 47 ] January 31, 2016 |

I, for one, am outraged about the violation of the Sacred Equal Sovereign Dignitude of the NHL’s annual profit-taking exhibition game.

I’m going to guess that his kids are pretty proud of him.

“Can you even get a flight from Phoenix to Newfoundland?”

[ 98 ] January 31, 2016 |

John Scott’s account of the NHL trying to force him out of the NHL All-Star Game is richly entertaining:

“Do you think this is something your kids would be proud of?”

That was it, right there. That was the moment they lost me.

At first, when it became clear that I was going to win the All-Star fan vote, I understood the league’s position. They didn’t mince words — This is not a game for you, John — but I understood all the same. Honestly, on some level, I agreed.

In the beginning, at least, I just wanted the entire thing to go away. We were on a really fun run in Phoenix, and I was starting to feel like I was part of something. The Coyotes had been picked to finish dead last — but in the first half of the season, we’d surprised a lot of people. We were this strange collection of underdogs, and I fit right in. And I fit right in by doing what I do best: being a locker room guy, a no-nonsense guy, and a quiet yet effective enforcer.

One of the reasons I’ve made it as long as I have in the league is because I specifically know I’m not an All-Star.

So when they asked me to make a statement — nudging the fan vote in another direction and denouncing the John Scott “movement” — I did it without hesitation. I told the fans, “Listen. I don’t deserve this. Vote for my teammates.” And I was telling the truth.

But while I don’t deserve to be an All-Star, I also don’t think I deserve to be treated like I’ve been by the league throughout this saga. I’m an NHL player — and, whatever my set of skills may be, that I’m an NHL player is no accident. I genuinely believe that when I’m on the ice, or even just the bench, I make my teammates feel safe to do what they do best.

Does that make me an elite player? God, no. Am I going to be nervous as hell when I step onto the ice on Sunday — and I’m playing three-on-three, with Tarasenko whizzing by over one shoulder, and Toews putting the moves on me over the other? Of course. Will I be the worst skater in the game? I mean, probably.

But at the same time: this isn’t Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I’m not some random person off the street, and I didn’t win a golden ticket to “play hockey with the stars.” I won an internet fan vote, sure. And at some point, without question, it was a joke. It might even finish as a joke. But it didn’t start as one. It started with a very small pool, out of a very small pool, out of the very, very smallest pool of hockey players in the world: NHLers. That was the vote. A fan vote, an internet vote — but a vote from among the 700 or so best hockey players in North American professional sports.

And I’m one of them.

If the league thought this was an embarrassment, pretty much all of the players I’ve encountered have thought otherwise. I’ve gotten texts from so many guys saying the same thing: “You should go.”

And that didn’t happen because of the internet. I busted my ass to be one of them. I’ve skated every day since I was three years old to be one of them. I’ve persevered through Juniors roster cuts, Alaskan bus rides, Advanced Dynamics exams, and — yes — fights, to be one of them.

But I’m one of them. And that means a lot to me.

Scott’s role in the NHL — the one-dimensional enforcer — is postmaturely becoming an obsolete one. But that’s not the fault of the hard-working pros occupying the role. And while the campaign to vote for him as an All-Star captain was a little silly, it’s not nearly as silly as the league first making insulting phone calls and then pressuring his team to trade the guy 4,000 miles away to preserve the Solemn Integritude of a profit-taking exhibition game. (I mean, I’ve been an obsessive hockey fan since I have living memory. I watch a lot of hockey. I haven’t seen a second of an All-Star game since the first Bush Administration. This is actually the first interesting thing to happen to the All-Star game in, well, ever. If I had a Neilsen monitor I might actually watch it.) And note that the fans were already stripped of the ability to vote for anything but the captains, and to the extent that the John Scott movement represents a thumb in the eye to the many pompous sportswriters who demand that the fans have their vote taken away to preserve the Solemn Integritude of a profit-taking exhibition game I approve heartily.

…for a real Coyotes-related scandal, how about the possibility of Arizona taxpayers getting bilked for yet another stadium for the team with the second worst attendance in the league?

Jacques Rivette

[ 13 ] January 30, 2016 |


The French master died at 87. R.I.P.

Will Trump Cruz to the Nomination?

[ 189 ] January 29, 2016 |


My perception of the debate was that Ted Cruz was a disaster. Getting bogged down in procedural points with the moderators is a terrible idea, and as he really should know about himself Bill Murray-style dry humor is something he should never try to do ever. But since I’m not a Republican, I’m reluctant to assume that my views are in any way representative of the audience that counts. In an admittedly unscientific survey of early-state GOP activists, though, Politico finds the same thing:

More than 4 in 10 GOP insiders — given the choice of the seven GOP candidates on the stage, plus Trump — rated Cruz as the loser of Thursday night’s debate, citing his defensive posture on his past immigration stances and opposition to ethanol subsidies.

“He seemed plastic and insincere,” said one Iowa Republican, who, like all respondents, completed the post-debate survey anonymously. “The crowd clearly liked Gov. [Terry] Branstad a lot more than they like Ted Cruz.”

Since Cruz is counting on base enthusiasm and organization to pull out Iowa, this would appear to be Excellent. News. For. Trump. Admittedly, Cruz imploding early would be the best chance for one of the establishment candidates to stop Trump, but the fact that both Rubio and Jeb! were seen as having good debates will probably stop a clear alternative from emerging in New Hampshire. The ridiculous is really becoming more plausible.

And, yes, on a related note Cruz’s answer on healthcare was as silly and repellent and Rand Paul’s answers on abortion rights.

No, No, We Meant the Water Isn’t Safe For Us

[ 90 ] January 29, 2016 |

From the regime of the reasonable, moderate, and technocratic Rick Snyder:

The Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget decided to haul water coolers into the Flint state building in January of 2015 out of concern over the city’s water quality, a year before bottled water was being made available to residents, according to documents obtained by Progress Michigan.

Flint switched its water source from Detroit to the Flint River in April 2014, which is now known to have caused lead to leach into the city’s tap water. After two boil advisories were issued in August and September of 2014, the city sent residents a notice that the level of trihalomethanes (TTHMs), which can cause liver and kidney problems, had exceed federal limits, although they were told that it was still fine to use the water and no corrective actions needed to be taken.

But concerns raised over water quality were enough for officials in the state’s capitol of Lansing to decide to give state employees the option to drink bottled water from coolers, rather than from water fountains. Coolers were placed next to the fountains on each occupied floor, according to the documents, and were to be provided “as long as the public water does not meet treatment requirements.”

Whatever could explain it?

But Whether the Doctor Would Get the Death Penalty Would be Left to the States!

[ 76 ] January 29, 2016 |
Photo via Christian Post.

Photo via Christian Post.

Lemieux’s Law is that nobody in American politics actally cares about federalism. For a particularly good example, let us consider this from the Real Progressive Alternative in the race, Senator Rand Paul:

WALLACE: Just 30 seconds to answer my specific question. Do you favor the idea that abortion should be a states’ rights issue and if a liberal state wants to make it legal, that that’s their choice? Yes or no?

PAUL: Both. No, both the federal and a state approach. I have said that we could leave it to the states but I’ve also introduced a federal solution as well. So the federal solution would be the Life at Conception act which is an act that would federalize the issue.

But I’ve also said for the most part, these issues would be left back to the states. So there might be an occasion if we did overturn Roe v. Wade — Roe v. Wade nationalized the issue. If you had the court reverse Roe v. Wade, it would become a state issue once again.

So, to be clear, overruling Roe v. Wade would return the issue of abortion to the states. Except for the Life at Conception Act, which would seem to make abortion a homicide in all 50 states. To be Scrupulousy Fair, the bill (natch) says that “nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize the prosecution of any woman for the death of her unborn child,” because opponents of legal abortion don’t believe their own bullshit, they don’t believe that women are rational moral agents, or some combination of the two. So, in fairness, Paul would leave the question of whether women should be prosecuted for what are allegedly contract killings to the states. Feel the equal sovereign dignitude!

While we’re here, there was also this:

And the thing is, she can’t be a champion of women’s rights at the same time she’s got [Bill Clinton’s consensual affair with Monica Lewinsky] that is always lurking out there, this type of behavior.

I must say that I find the argument that a woman can’t be a feminist if her husband does something wrong to be not terribly persuasive.

Important Insights You Learn At A Republican Debate

[ 116 ] January 28, 2016 |


The Latest Adventures Of Richard Dawkins, SUPERGENIUS

[ 115 ] January 28, 2016 |

Did he tweet out an atrocious anti-feminist video made by the guy who started the harassment campaign against Zoe Quinn? Was he a dick about it afterwards? I think you know the answers to both of these questions!

St. Ralph Speaks, AmericansUnifyToElectACentristBillionaire Edition

[ 148 ] January 28, 2016 |


Guess who’s excited about a Michael Bloomberg candidacy? Why, the Most Principled Man In America With the Possible Exception of Nino Scalia, Mr. Ralph Nader:

This is the third presidential cycle in which he has contemplated such a run. So bold, given the two-party tyranny that heavily controls the ballot choices of voters.

Will he be BOLD! enough to ensure that a billionaire representing what are generally already massively overrepresented constituencies increases the chances that Donald Trump or Ted Cruz becomes president in exchange for no benefits whatsoever? (To be Scruplously Fair, gun control is an underrepresnted view on Capitol Hill, which would be relevant if a Bloomberg candidacy or presidency would do anything material to advance the cause of gun control.)

Rather, the problem is a deeply researched hesitation. Bloomberg wants to run only if he thinks he can win. He is not interested in making collateral points or pursuing causes that are not directly on the path to electoral victory.

“To give him his due, he is not as obscenely self-centered as I am.”

He governed a fractious Democratic city in a hands-on, largely bipartisan manner—showcasing a New York value—that is sought by people tired of gridlock and rancor.

If we could just get rid of these “parties” and the “disagreements” and the “bicameralism” and “seperation of powers” in the so-called “United States Constitution” and just allow a benevolent billionaire to rule over us like a God everything would be just fine.

He can talk about the needs of the tens of millions of urban dwellers more graphically than any of the present candidates.

1)”Graphically?” 2)”Okay, let’s talk. We clearly need a fourth Duane Reade by Walgreen’s on this block so people using the dedicated servant’s entrance next to the $400,000 wine cellars have less distance to walk when running errands.”

Although he has received criticism for his positions on civil liberties and poverty policies

His discussion of the needs of these citizens figures to be very graphic indeed!

he panders less than almost any national politician.

Well, that’s the most important thing. We certainly don’t want politicians “pandering” to, say, poor people or people who believe the Fourth Amendment remains in force.

With a large number of independent voters looking for winners, and party loyalties fraying on everything from privacy protections to criminal-justice -reform and health care

Party loyalties are, of course, pretty much less “frayed” than they’ve ever been. But I’m particularly amused by the idea that party loyalties are fraying over…health care. Yes, nothing says cross-cutting cleavages like an issue where partisan identity predicts Senate votes with 100% reliability.

The biggest variable Bloomberg faces is whether the two parties will nominate candidates he considers to be polarizing figures representing the extremes of each party: Donald Trump—or worse, Ted Cruz—and Senator Bernie Sanders

We’ll come back to the EXTREMIST Bernie Sanders in a second.

And viewing independent candidates as “spoilers” is to use a politically bigoted word, as if such challengers are second-class citizens. Everybody has a First Amendment right to run for office.

Ah, glad to see that Ralph hasn’t stopped humping his favorite non-sequitur. The zero people who have ever claimed that independent candidates do not have the right to run for office remain wrong, and you can’t preemptively prevent people from pointing out the foreseeable consequences of your actions.

Anyway, Nader’s Bloomberg-curiosity is no surprise. Of all the many terrible arguments advanced by Nader apologists, as I’ve said before surely the most pathetic is “See, there are LIBERALS and then there are LEFTISTS and Nader and his supporters are LEFTISTS who are just not part of the same political family as LIBERALS.” This unintended insult is actually unfair to most Nader supporters, who are left-liberals who voted for Kerry and Obama. But, to state the obvious, if you’re making distinctions between LIBERALS and LEFTISTS Nader is plainly the former, and nor is he a particularly left-wing liberal. The group of people who think that by voting for Nader they were sending a message for revolutionary change would make more attractive leads for marketers than Newsmax subscribers. Nader’s message was that Ralph Nader is awesome and American politics would be better if everyone would come together and agree that Ralph Nader is right about everything. It’s entirely appropriate that he finds the prospect of a Bloomberg campaign appealing.

And the comparison with Nader should remind one of the virtues of the EXTREMIST Bernie Sanders. Sanders is running within the Democratic Party; Ralph Nader is happy to do what he can to elect George W. Bush to feed his ego. When proposed legislation fails to meet his every expectation Nader wants it blown up; Sanders works to make it as good as he can and then votes for the compromise. Sanders, whatever the outcome of the primaries, is the real deal; late-period Nader is a complete fraud.

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