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Bloombergism is the Opposite of a Political Sweet Spot

[ 104 ] February 12, 2016 |


As I observed yesterday, one reason AmericansElectUnityNoLabels efforts are always trainwrecks is that the funders behind them are devoted to giving voters as little of what they want as possible.  “(Erskine Bowles, tanned, rested, and zzzzzzzzzz!) As David Dayen observes, a Bloomberg candidacy would be very much within this tradition:

I colorfully described that event eight years ago as “Wankstock” (three days of peace, love, and bipartisanship). It was perhaps the greatest example of the self-deluded fiction that the country is yearning for a centrist savior to bring everyone together through the power of persuasion and good old-fashioned common sense. In reality, this is a cover story for people with lots of money wanting to install one of their own in the White House to get rid of the pesky “public interest” side of political debates now and for good.

The hilarious conclusion to Wankstock came when the participants, at least on the Democratic side, ran away from the idea of supporting an independent Bloomberg candidacy. “I am a Democrat, and I will endorse a Democratic president,” said former Senator Gary Hart. Even the target audience for centrist technocracy wouldn’t commit to it.


An anti-teachers’-union, anti-gun, pro-nanny state, pro-Wall Street, pro-stop-and- frisk, pro-inequality, pro-immigration, pro-surveillance, pro-Iraq War neoconservative is almost surgically designed to repel practically every American voter on some level. Horse-race polls mean little at this point, but every one of them puts Bloomberg far back of the pack. That’s mainly because he’s virtually unknown to anyone who doesn’t write for or read a major media publication in the New York/D.C. area.

I just wonder whether he’d be joined on the ticket by Joe Lieberman, Matt Miller, or Ron Fournier.


How the Supreme Court Is Most Likely to Kill the Clean Power Plan

[ 39 ] February 12, 2016 |


Ian Millhiser has a good deep dive into the case that could be used to stop the Clean Power Plan. As we discussed in comments earlier in the week, I think this is the most likely route should Roberts decide to carry water for the climate change deniers that dominate his party:

Ironically, the biggest sign that the Court is poised to shift power away from the executive and toward the judiciary, however, is a case that was widely viewed as a triumphant victory for the Obama administration. The Supreme Court rejected an effort to destroy much of the Affordable Care Act in King v. Burwell. King, however, also indicated that Chevron may not apply at all to matters of “deep ‘economic and political significance.’” Thus, it’s far from clear that the Court will defer to the EPA when it launches a major effort to combat what may be the greatest looming crisis facing humanity.

The attack on the Clean Power Plan, in other words, could do far more than simply undermine this one set of regulations if it prevails in the Supreme Court. It could potentially place strict limits on federal agencies. In an era when gerrymandering and other redistricting factors make it exceedingly difficult for Democrats to capture a majority in the House of Representatives, such limits on agency action could render Democratic presidents virtually powerless. They would have little chance of gaining the congressional majority they need to govern, even if a majority of the nation supports their agenda, and would be hobbled by new limits on their power to enforce existing laws.

With all due respect to eventhehighly-compensatecoalcompanylawyer Larry Tribe, the constitutional arguments being made against the CPP are so embarrassingly stupid even the Roberts Court probably won’t go there. A statutory ruling that also ties the hands of federal agencies going forward, though, is exactly the kind of fake minimalism Roberts loves. As long as Republicans control the House, alas, the practical effect of a statutory and constitutional holding is identical. (I can’t wait for Scalia’s “but if the effects of this would be bad, surely Congress would act” routine at oral argument.)

Maybe Stop Trying To Give Your Constituents Mostly Stuff They Don’t Want?

[ 205 ] February 11, 2016 |

It’s easy to make fun of the primary voters that put Donald Trump in the driver’s seat for the Republican nomination:


The idea of Donald Trump as president does indeed seem like the premise of a too on-the-nose Hollywood satire. But it should also be emphasized that he’s closer to the views of the typical Republican voter than an orthodox conservative like Rubio:

One of the important underlying facts of American politics is that rich people tend to have more socially liberal and economically conservative beliefs than the country as a whole. The elite criticism of the structure of party politics usually boils down to demanding that the parties reflect elite beliefs even more closely than they already do. Hence the endless demands for a socially liberal third party that will reduce spending on retirement programs, or the fantasy that America is entering a “libertarian moment.” The truth is just the opposite: The underserved political market is voters who want less libertarianism. They oppose free trade, want to keep every penny of promised Social Security and Medicare, distrust big business, think immigrants hurt the country, and generally distrust the rest of the world.

Trump’s campaign initially emphasized his nativist position on immigration, which caused him to be identified with the Republican right. But Trump has repositioned himself increasingly as the candidate of the populist, disaffected center. Even though Trump has proposed a huge tax cut for the rich, he draws support from Republican voters who are most heavily in favor of raising taxes on the rich. (They have no other candidates to choose from within their party.)

Trump’s populism has slowly intensified. “I don’t get along that well with the rich. I don’t even like the rich people very much,” he recently said. “It’s like a weird deal.” He has proposed to let the federal government negotiate lower prices for Medicare prescription drugs, a plan horrifying to conservatives (and drug companies). Like other Republicans, he proposes to eliminate Obamacare and replace it with something undefined but wonderful. The reason Trump’s vague repeal-and-replace stance makes them so nervous is that he once advocated single-payer insurance, and he has emphasized, in a way other Republicans have not, the horrors of leaving people who are too poor or sick to afford insurance on their own. Trump’s shorthand description of the travails of the uninsured before Obamacare — people “dying on the street” — alarms conventional conservatives precisely because it captures the broad reality of the suffering that justified Obamacare in the first place, and which would intensify if the law is repealed. The Republican fear is that Trump’s vague promise to replace Obamacare with something terrific is not just a hand-waving tactic to justify repealing Obamacare. Their fear is that he actually means it. Trump’s populist positions may place him farther away from the Republican Party’s intellectual and financial vanguard, but they draw him closer to its voters.

People who put a lot of stock in BULLY PULPITING the OVERTON WINDOW have this narrative that even though reactionary Republicans have largely failed in their attempts at dismantling the New Deal, they’ve succeeded in moving public opinion to the right in ways that figure to have a long-term payoff. But the thing is that this isn’t true. 35 years after the election of Ronald Reagan, the agenda represented by the Paul Ryan budget remains massively unpopular among the public as a whole and unpopular even among Republicans. Republicans have remained competitive at the federal level in spite of, not because of, the positions taken by a typical Republican elected official. Republicans remained a viable national coalition after George W. Bush because the wars the base strongly supported and the Medicare expansion they wanted and the upper-class tax cuts they can live with were financed entirely by debt. Had Congress actually tried to finance stupid wars and upper-class tax cuts through massive cuts to popular federal programs, it would be a very different story.

What Trump is doing, in other words, is very politically shrewd. The mechanisms that Republican donors and reactionary ideologues can use to keep members of Congress and most presidential candidates in line — the money spigot, the threat of congressional primary electorates much more conservative than the typical Republican voter — don’t apply to Trump. Cruz and Rubio attacking Trump as a fake conservative is going to run into the problem that the typical self-described conservative voter has views more like Trump’s than Cruz’s or Rubio’s. Trump is in many respects a clown, but he’s also much more plausible insurgency candidacy than the typical dream of centrist pundits, someone who represents a small constituency that is already massively overrepresented. In many respects, Trump’s supporters are acting in a perfectly rational manner, which is why stopping him won’t be easy for Republican elites.

The Most Terrifying Editor’s Note In History

[ 70 ] February 11, 2016 |


Next up: the thrilling return of David Horowitz!

Camille Paglia’s incisive [sic] and iconoclastic [sic] writing on politics and pop culture has been part of Salon’s fabric from the beginning. Her always-provocative column appeared here regularly between 1995 and 2001, then once more from 2007 through 2009. We’re thrilled to announce that she will join us here again, on a biweekly basis, to discuss the presidential race, the culture world, and everything in between.

Ah, yes, her return in 2007. The reviews were ecstatic:

A cursory glance reveals:

Vicious insults to the English language: 3 (”enthused” is not a word, with good reason; “surfeited” means that there’s “more than enough”, you don’t then have to tell me; “drearily prolix” is the worst two-word phrase I’ve ever heard in my life, and I’ve read Camile Paglia.)

Points at which she demonstrates her ignorance of the difference between being interesting and being on a job interview: 3 (plugging her unreadable piece-of-shit book; then naming both publishers; finally, celebrating her ghastly old Salon column – which was, oh by the way, THE WORST THING EVER – with the air of Napoleon returning to Paris.)

Episodes of egregious self-aggrandizement: 1 (1940-present)

Moments of unintentional comedy: 1 (complaining that the blogosphere is “numbingly predictable and its prose too often slapdash, fragmentary or drearily prolix,” and then yammering on for another 50,000 words about how geocaching is the Promethean spectacle of Dionysian abandon on a field of mythic American post-feminist manhood and how Madonna has succeeded where Spinoza failed, or whatever.)

I can see God has more suffering in store for me, and so I say to Him, with steady chin and steely eyes, “Bring. It. On.” Seriously, I gather that someone somewhere actually reads this shit for reasons not related to masochism, and this person needs to sit down and figure out how their life got so disasterously off track. The ability to appreciate Camile Paglia is – like the ability to enjoy the show ‘24′ on any level at all – a sign of a diseased soul, which can only be cured by the generous application of John Tesh world music videos.

Now there’s someone Salon should be trying to lure out of retirement.

The punchline to her latest column, ostensibly about Sanders/Clinton but really about her as always:

The revolt of pro-sex feminists against the feminist establishment began with lipstick lesbians in San Francisco in the late 1980s and spread nationwide by the 1990s. I came into open conflict with feminist leaders after my first book, Sexual Personae, which had been rejected by seven publishers, was released by Yale University Press in 1990. Steinem, who obviously hadn’t bothered to read it, compared that 700-page tome about literature and art to Hitler’s Mein Kampf and said of me, “Her calling herself a feminist is sort of like a Nazi saying they’re not anti-Semitic.” That’s the way the feminist establishment worked—the automatic big smear.

For nearly 25 years, Hillary Clinton, with her simmering subtext of contemptuous bitterness about men, has been pushed along and protected by a host of powerful women journalists in print and TV, Steinem chums or sympathizers who have a lot to answer for. Charmed by Hillary in their exclusive dinners and private chitchats, they encouraged her presidential ambitions. But after two national campaigns, it should be obvious that Hillary has no natural instinct or facility for understanding and communicating with the public on the scale that the presidency demands. Sexism has nothing to do with it.

The first and last sentences of the final graf are an exhibition of self-refutation worthy of comparison to the true greats like Adler/Cannon.

Fewer Floppy Shoes in the Clown Car

[ 93 ] February 10, 2016 |


Chris Christie is out. Everything Anna Merlan says is true and more, but give him this — he materially improved the chances of a Democratic victory in November and gave me the greatest entertainment value possible out of a primary debate. (Admittedly, the latter is a low bar.)
Carly Fiorina is also out. Remember that brief period during which Fox News tried to make her a thing?

Ben Carson, conversely, is apparently going to stay in. And why not — if you’re running for president, metrics like “having no chance of winning” are relevant, but if you’re running a grift no need to stop until you’ve fleeced every possible rube and gotten their contact info.

And, finally, make sure not to sleep on Vermin Supreme. He could still surprise you!

The Stakes Are Raised Again

[ 41 ] February 10, 2016 |


As Erik alluded to earlier, the Supreme Court has stayed the Clean Power Policy while the D.C. Circuit considers legal arguments that are various shades of neoconfederate gibberish being asserted against them.  I have some thoughts on the matter.

The more I think about it, the more outraged I am about eventheliberal Laurence Tribe legitimizing these arguments.  Whether he’s doing it solely for the money or has become intrigued by Richard Epstein’s belief that the 5th and 10th Amendments enacted Mr. Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State and Utopia  and wishes to subscribe to his newsletter, given both how high the stakes are and how terrible the arguments are he really should be ashamed of himself.

…Plumer has more.

New Hampshire Open Thread

[ 297 ] February 9, 2016 |

I’m inclined to stay out of the predictions racket tonight — if the Maple Leafs can dump Dion Phaneuf’s contract and somehow get a second round draft pick back surely anything is possible. Some links:

  • Greg Sargent has a good deep dive into the issue of Clinton and bankruptcy. I think he’s right on both counts. On the narrow issue, I agree that if a (superfluous) yes vote on one version of a bill was necessary to get an amendment that made it better inserted, it’s a worthwhile tradeoff.  But the fact that such an egregiously anti-consumer statute was ultimately able to pass is about as good an example of Sanders’s structural critique of the American political process as you could wish for.
  • What’s much worse than the Donald using a sexist vulgarity is that his strong endorsement of torture was wildly received.
  • Which certainly isn’t to say that Trump’s sexism isn’t also meaningful.
  • Kilgore is good on what happens if the Rubiobot falls back in with the Governors.
  • The Rubiobot also malfunctions on same-sex marriage. (The fact that Rubio went with the “ask your legislators to change the law rather than the DICTATORS in BLACK ROBES” talking point in a state where the legislature in fact legalized same-sex marriage is extra awesome. Admittedly, this shell game is hardly Rubio’s alone.)
  • Ted Cruz wants Supreme Court justices who are human manifestations of the most recent platform of the Texas Republican Party.  The Alitobot rather than the Robertsbot, in other words, as the latter has been programmed to retain a shred of legal principle in a few high-profile cases.

Brown As An Anti-Integration Weapon

[ 31 ] February 9, 2016 |
Mrs. Nettie Hunt, sitting on steps of Supreme Court, holding newspaper, explaining to her daughter Nikie the meaning of the Supreme Court's decision banning school segregation.  Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division LC-USZ62-127042

Mrs. Nettie Hunt, sitting on steps of Supreme Court, holding newspaper, explaining to her daughter Nikie the meaning of the Supreme Court’s decision banning school segregation. Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division LC-USZ62-127042

My colleague Ryane McAuliffe Straus and I have a new paper out, “The Two Browns: Policy Implementation and the Retrenchment of Brown v. Board of Education.” As many of you know, de facto segregation of American schools is on the rise. Part of the reason for this is some crucial Supreme Court decisions, beginning in the early 70s with key votes provided by the 4 justices nominated by the Last Liberal President (TM) Richard Nixon, that essentially provided states with a roadmap for how they could maintain segregated schools with the approval of federal courts. This culminated with John Roberts’s famous Parents Involved tautology, “[t]he way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” In practice, this means that the Supreme Court is now more likely to use Brown to thwart integration than to require it.

One way of describing this is to say that Milliken and its progeny effectively overruled Brown v. Board. The argument we advance here is a little more complicated. One problem with Brown has always been that the Court never actually made clear what states had to do, a problem that was exacerbated by the paradoxical “all deliberate speed” standard of Brown II. In a sense, the Warren Court’s integrationist interpretation of Brown and the Roberts Court’s anti-intergerationist reading of Brown are both consistent with the letter of the original decision, even if the former is much closer to its spirit. One lesson here is that you can’t just look at whether precedents have been formally overruled when determining how much Supreme Court doctrine has changed. No Supreme Court justice has ever suggested that Brown should be overruled, but how the Supreme Court has interpreted Brown has radically changed since 1968. Conservative justices have no need to overrule Brown when they can actually use it as an anti-civil rights weapon.

The Most Offensive Thing Donald Trump Has Ever Done

[ 163 ] February 9, 2016 |


That’s it, Donald Trump is simply not qualified to be president:

Although, as always, given the constituencies he’s appealing to it’s pretty shrewd…

The Rubiobot Is No Poet And They Don’t Know It

[ 156 ] February 9, 2016 |


In light of the latest malfunction of the Rubiobot, some desperate hacks have come up with the idea that the Rubiobot is in fact engaged in a subtle literary technique. This is laughable on its face — the fact that he catches himself during the second “throat” should probably be the tipoff that this wasn’t a deliberate stylistic choice — but nothing is too laughable to make its way to a favorite Republican puke funnel:

He’s a poet like Shelley or Byron!

Dan McLaughlin provides the more hilarious version:

Yes, MLK repeating the same five-word phrase followed by different content each time for effect is exactly like Rubio repeating the same dumb 25-second point three times while being mocked by his debate opponent for robotically repeating his talking points, or for repeating the same talking point during a speech and recognizing your mistake halfway through. Rubio is truly an oratorical and literary genius:

That is not anaphora, because it is not the repetition of the first part of the sentence. This important difference explains why Dickens did not write, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” and why Churchill did not say, “We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, and we shall fight in … France.”

Nor is it part of some poetic device that makes sense if you watch the context of the speech, which I did, and which is just Rubio cycling through his standard stump lines rather than repeating them for some kind of literary effect.

And this is why Rubio visibly hesitates when he is about to say “throats” for the second time. It is the horrified panic of a candidate who realizes he has just done the one thing he desperately needs at this moment not to do.

It will be very meta to see desperate Republicans defend Rubio’s robotic reptition of dumb talking points with the robotic repetition of an even dumber talking point.

This Man Will Almost Certainly Win the New Hampshire Republican Primary

[ 121 ] February 9, 2016 |

Not a dime’s worth of etc.

Surely reasonable, moderate, thinking-person’s conservative Marco Rubio will save the party! Let’s see some reviews from his latest series of words next to each other:

Whatever frantic hackathon Marco Rubio’s programmers conducted after Chris Christie demagnetized their creation on Saturday night seems only to have made the existing problems worse, as the junior senator from Florida stumbled through his stump speech on Monday. Maybe try turning it off and turning it back on again?

Then again, when the words coming out of one’s vocabulator speech/sound system are so utterly meaningless, it would be difficult for all but the most advanced artificial intelligence to recall what even the most recent were.

And let’s dispel once and for all with this fiction that Hollywood is not trying to ram stuff down our throats.

Race-Baiting Hot-Taker of the Day

[ 30 ] February 9, 2016 |


Colin Cowherd. (Some context about Cowherd’s repeated race-baiting of Wall here.)

The good news is that sometimes you can grow broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public:

Take Colin Cowherd, whose July departure from ESPN was hastened due to his thoughts on Dominican baseball players. While Fox Sports suits have talked up the show’s viewership in press releases, the facts (per ratings data) reveal that between 50,000 and 60,000 people are tuned in on any given day. About twice as many viewers are choosing Chris “Mad Dog” Russo’s show on MLB Network—despite that channel being available in 18 million fewer homes. Other programs that beat out Cowherd during our ratings sample period: Fisher’s ATV World; Saltwater Experience; and Fishing with Roland Martin. All those air on NBC Sports Network, perhaps FS1’s most appropriate rival.

It’s even more grim for The Best Thing I Herd, a Cowherd “greatest hits” show. It rarely pulled even 20,000 viewers, and regularly lost out to programs like UFC reruns on Fox Sports 2 or La Ultima Palabra on Fox Deportes.

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