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Come Back, HA!, All is Forgiven


Dumb and Dumber (Screengrab)

It seems like HA! Goodman’s takes have become too hot for Salon. Apparently they’ve decided instead to serve the hot takes of Walker Bragman, which have essentially identical content but with a less charming brand of amateurism:

Nobody is acknowledging it yet, but in all likelihood the next president, be it a Republican or a Democrat, will have just four years to get as much done as possible before passing the torch to the challenger in 2020. Republicans have little hope of a two-term presidency (let alone winning in 2016) due to changing demographics, and a narrative shift that favors acceptance and diversity over traditional values, and Southern dominance. There is a realignment occurring in the United States the likes of which we have not seen since the Solid South became solid red.

SO, to get this straight, an inexorable law of changing demographics means that it’s inevitable that an incumbent Republican president (who logically shouldn’t been able to get elected in the first place, but moving right along) would lose in 2020 but also make it inevitable that a Republican challenger would win in 2020? This makes…less than no sense. Needless to say, it’s justified by the kind of useless junk history that can allow you to be granted tenure by Fred Hiatt:

Democrats, however, should be concerned for a different reason. The last consecutive two-term presidents from the same party were James Madison and James Monroe, who were both Democratic-Republicans. That transition occurred before the formation of our modern two-party system.

Our “two party system” is, of course, much different than the one that has prevailed for most of American history, in which regionally-based, ideologically heterogeneous brokerage parties have competed for national office. As recently as 1984, it was possible for a presidential candidate to carry 49 states in a presidential election. Trying to infer laws from patterns based on a party system that no longer exists is a complete waste of time. Old patterns just don’t apply to a new system in which more ideologically coherent parties are moving away from the center at an asymmetrical pace.

And even leaving this aside, Bragman is still bullshitting. Note how the argument is carefully worded so as to exclude the 5 consecutive presidential elections that the Democratic Party won in the 20th century. And note as well that the only Republican victories between 1932-1968 were won by an essentially non-partisan war hero who didn’t attempt to significantly disrupt the New Deal order. The Republican Party, to put it mildly, is not about to run the equivalent of Ike in either 2016 or 2020. So this argument is crap all the way down. Which is a problem, since the entire article rests on the premise that the Republicans have a roughly 100% chance of winning as challengers in 2020 and a 0% chance as incumbents.

The 2020 election is one Democrats cannot afford to lose. It is a census year, which means the future of the House will be determined for the next decade. It is also highly possible that at least two (or three) seats will open on the Supreme Court, given the ages of the justices—more than are likely to open between 2016 and 2020. If the Democrats do not win, the GOP will have a solid hold on government for at least another 10 years.

The 2020 elections are indeed crucial. Which makes it all the more important that Democrats win in 2016, so that the Democratic candidate will have the advantages of incumbency, so that a Democratic DOJ will be supervising elections, etc. etc.

The Democratic Party as a whole is moving to the left—albeit slowly. Elizabeth Warren would never have gotten elected in the ’90s, let alone become as influential as she has. It can easily be said that the Democrats are no longer the party of the Clintons (the New Democrats), and are instead, the party of Elizabeth Warren.

Indeed. But what people like Bragman fail to understand is that presidential nominees and presidents shift with their coalitions. If Bill Clinton became president in 2016 he would govern very differently than he did in 1995. As I’ve said before, nobody would think of Lyndon Johnson as a domestic policy hero had he been elected in 1952. Electing more Elizabeth Warrens to Congress is more important than the precise platforms being offered by the Democratic candidate for president.

All things considered, it is safe to call Clinton a neoconservative.

Yeah, not really so much,

Economically speaking, in spite of touting herself as a “progressive who likes to get things done,” Clinton is essentially a moderate Republican

Yeah, this is embarrassing.

She also has trouble convincing some people of her support for LGBTQ equality. It wasn’t until 2013 that she fully embraced same-sex marriage. Prior to that she believed that marriage was a “sacred bond between a man and a woman.” She also supported the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

See above — this is all completely irrelevant to anything. Barack Obama nominally opposed same-sex marriage when he came into office, and his justices still provided the necessary votes to strike down DOMA and state bans on same-sex marriage. On issues of LBGT rights, supporting Obama is in fact an object lesson in not letting wishes for perfection stop someone from supporting the vastly superior. Clinton’s judicial nominees would be identical, and she would not sign any legislation imposing legal disabilities on LGBT people. So, going forward, who cares what bad legislation passed over his initial opposition with veto-proof majorities her husband signed in 1996? It tells us less nothing about how Hillary Clinton would govern if elected in 2016.

She hasn’t even been consistent on gun control. Sure, Clinton talks a big game now about background checks and modest reforms, supporting President Obama in his executive actions. But in 2008, she was “Annie Oakley,” accusing Obama of being hostile to hunters’ rights.

Let’s leave aside the fact that if you look at these words next to each other you will note no actual substantive policy differences between Obama and Clinton and gun control. We have a Sanders-or-Cruz wanker attacking Hillary Clinton as being soft on the one issue on which Sanders has been consistently to Clinton’s right. A smarter Sanders-or-Cruz wanker would omit any discussion of gun control.

2) Let a Republican have four years. With a Hillary ticket, this scenario isn’t out of the question—especially if the candidate is Donald Trump, who can run on the fact that he donated to Clinton.

I don’t think Young Master Bragman quite gets how elections, you know, work.

There’s a cold logic in this move. In 2020, Democrats can run someone like Elizabeth Warren who excites the base. Coming off of four years with the GOP, a two-term presidency would be easily attainable with the added benefit that any economic downturns that happen between now and then would be blamed on Republicans.

This returns us to the central fallacy that underlies the article. If you assume that there’s no chance a Republican who won in 2016 could be re-elected in 2020, then a Republican winning in 2016 might be…well, it would still be awful given that much of the damage that Cruz/Ryan/McConnell did in that time couldn’t be undone, but it would be less awful. But this is a really, really stupid assumption. Another thing Young Master Bragman fails to understand is that a Republican Congress would immediately turn into (admittedly inefficient) Keynesians with a Republican in a White House. You can’t just assume an opportune economic recession will hit in 2020.

Also worth mentioning, people typically vote down the party line—which is good for Democrats, considering it is a census year. 2020 could see the Democrats take the presidency, the House and the Senate—and with the likelihood that two or three seats will open on the court, they’d control all three branches of government.

I see, people typically vote the party line, but Democrats would refuse to vote to re-elect President Hillary Clinton. Can’t see any flaws in that logic!

The downside to this option is that Senate Democrats would have to obstruct for four years.

Yes, I’m afraid Young Master Bragman really does think that a Republican Senate in the context of unified Republican government would keep the filibuster in place for Democrats to use for 4 years. In my experience, nobody has greater faith in the essential goodness of Republicans than people who criticize Obama and/or Clinton for having too much faith in bipartisanship. (Cf. also “of course there were multiple Republican votes for a trillion-dollar ARRA!”)

There’s also the high probability that liberals will lose one seat on the Supreme Court, as well as federal judge appointments—all of which be damaging.

“Apart from the trivial consequence of having John Roberts or possibly Antonin Scalia as the median vote on the Supreme Court, I don’t see what harm 4 years of unified Republican government could possible do. Why, maybe that nice, well-groomed Mr. Rubio will win the nomination! He seems so sensible! He would totally veto the Repeal Obamacare and Massive Upper Class Tax Cuts Act of 2017 in the unlikely event that the many congressional Republicans identical to Hillary Clinton don’t stop it first!” Is this guy for real?

“Bernie or Bust” is undoubtedly a controversial position, as many Democrats insist that if Hillary Clinton gets the nod, she should be elected president. This argument relies on the-lesser-of-two-evils mind-set; vote Hillary because she’s better than the GOP. However, with all things weighed and considered, it is clear that Clinton should neither be the Democratic nominee nor the president, and that her differences with her opponents are not so stark.

I’ll give him this: for your typical private-liberal-arts-college educated white guy from Long Island, the differences between Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz aren’t really so stark. Frankly, they’ll be able to see an upside from the latter.

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