The size of the tent doesn’t matter

FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten wrote a piece yesterday on Joe “I Vote With Donald Trump Two-Thirds Of The Time” Manchin (D?-WV) and his value, much evidence to the contrary, to the Democratic Party:

So I can see why progressives would be peeved with Manchin. But it’s sort of silly to compare Manchin to the median Democrat. He represents West Virginia! FiveThirtyEight’s “Trump Score,” which ignores party and instead compares how often members vote with Trump to how often we would expect them to based on Trump’s share of the vote in their state, shows Manchin as one of the Democrats’ most valuable members. Manchin votes for the Trump position occasionally, but he does so about 33 percentage points less than senators from similarly red states.

In other words, Manchin’s real worth to Democrats is that he’s a Democrat, because a Republican from West Virginia would probably vote GOP far more often. In fact, West Virginia’s other senator, Capito, has voted with Trump 100 percent of the time.

The use of the word “occasionally” to describe something Manchin does 67 percent of the time is…interesting phrasing, but I’m not here to argue about vocabulary. The big problem with this analysis is that it compares Manchin to Republican senators, who you would obviously expect to vote Trump’s way almost all the time. But Enten has adjusted for that, a bit: Continue reading

Sensible Centrism

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Rahm Emanuel is a Good Democrat:

In the first three weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency, mayors across the country became some of his most vocal opponents and vowed to fight his discriminatory executive orders. But there’s at least one city leader who wants to work closely with the new administration: Democratic Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

On Monday, Emanuel sat down with Attorney General Jeff Sessions to discuss “topics from public safety to public transportation.” According to the mayor’s office, Emanuel specifically asked for a federal crackdown on gun violence in the city.

“Public safety is a top priority for everyone, and over the course of the day the mayor reiterated his request for added federal resources including ex-offender programs, mentoring and increased federal gun prosecution in Chicago, as well as additional federal agents,” Emanuel spokesman Matt McGrath said of the meeting.

The request comes three weeks after Trump spewed false data about Chicago gun violence and threatened to send “the Feds” to “fix the horrible ‘carnage,’” and two weeks after the mayor replied, “Just send them.”

Instead of looking, say, at his punitive economic and social policies to try to find some answers for the wave of violent crime hitting Chicago’s south and west sides, the Democratic Mayor of Chicago would rather appeal to Donald Trump and his racist Attorney General to send in the feds and crack some skulls. Glorious bipartisanship, it truly is an end in itself.

The next time somebody asks you why liberals and leftists keep fighting with one another, one way you could explain it is to say that the people responsible for giving Chicago “Mayor Rahm Emanuel” are very angry that their 25 year stewardship of The Left in American politics is suddenly being called into question for reasons they can’t quite understand. That’s a pretty decent summary.

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Maybe the problem is your poll, not the people who answered it

These people are all living on borrowed time

Earlier today, this hit lefty Twitter:

HAHAHAHA, Jesus, what a bunch of blockheads, am I right? People immediately started having fun with this tidbit of information, and I’m sure there are 1500 word thinkpieces being typed up even now. Yours truly got in on the act, wondering what would happen to all the Disney characters under a Republican government (short answer: the cars from Cars are OK, but Bambi is riddled with .308 rounds and Nemo’s coral reef is dying thanks to climate change). Then PPP dropped this:

So, you know, 19% of Democrats also support bombing a place that doesn’t exist. So now this seems more serious–not in an “oh my God even the Democrats” way (hey, plenty of Democrats believe some pretty dumb stuff), but rather because 30% of Republicans and 19% of Democrats adds up to about 15% of the general public, and if you figure that independents are somewhere in the middle when it comes to blowing up cartoon Arab lands, then you’re looking at about 25% of the US electorate who are prepared to order airstrikes anytime they hear a word that sounds remotely “Muslim.” That’s goddamn terrifying, to be perfectly honest. As one sage mind put it:

But the more I thought about this, the more I couldn’t decide how I’d have answered a question that is fundamentally intended to highlight stupid people so that the rest of us (who are obviously not stupid, just ask us) can all have a good laugh ridiculing them. Is a non-stupid person supposed to answer “no,” or “not sure”? Does either answer actually tell us whether or not the respondent thinks Agrabah is a real place? How many of the people who said they would bomb Agrabah were laughing as they said it? PPP said they were just trying to have a little pre-holiday fun, and I’m all about fun, but to me this was so badly executed that it really stops being funny and kind of gets a bit aggravating.

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The difference that 8 years (and one career change) can make

Full confession: I didn’t watch much of the debate last night, because, well, frankly I didn’t want to. I watched the Penguins suck again, which in hindsight was the wrong choice, and then I tuned in to the debate towards the end. So apart from now being very aware that Jim Webb once killed a guy in battle

and is apparently still quite happy about it...

and is apparently still quite happy about it…

I didn’t get all that much out of the whole thing. Still, when has anybody in the internet age ever let not seeing a thing prevent them from producing quality content about it? Here are my debate thoughts: Continue reading

“How” matters more than “what”

Suddenly campaign finance reform is all the rage in the Democratic primary. Hillary Clinton is the latest to make the issue a key part of her pitch to voters, and I suppose that’s a good thing, inasmuch as we know that the heavy influx of private money into our political system is a very bad thing for American democracy. But, speaking just for myself here, as much as statements of principle are important, this is one issue where I can’t really get interested in your principles unless you tell me in detail how you plan to put them into action. After all, most people support campaign finance reform in principle, so if principles were all that mattered, we’d already have done something about the problem. But nobody has figured out how to get a bunch of politicians to vote against their own self-interest by doing something to get the money out of the system. Take Clinton’s plan:

“We have to end the flood of secret, unaccountable money that is distorting our elections, corrupting our political system, and drowning out the voices of too many everyday Americans,” Clinton said in a statement. “Our democracy should be about expanding the franchise, not charging an entrance fee. It starts with overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United Decision, and continues with structural reform to our campaign finance system so there’s real sunshine and increased participation.”

As Clinton has said before, her plan notes she would only appoint Supreme Court justices who would support overturning Citizens United. And Clinton reiterated her support for constitutional amendment to overturn the court’s decision, something that would be a longshot at best.

Yeah, you think? Continue reading

Chuck Schumer tries to have it both ways

Let’s get this out of the way: unless he actively whips votes against the Iran deal among Senate Democrats, Chuck Schumer’s decision to vote against the Iran deal is probably not going to derail the deal. I realize this would come as a major blow to The New York Times, whose breathless “Shaking Democratic Firewall” headline can sit right alongside its consistently garbage reporting on the negotiations in the Sloppily Biased Journalism Hall of Fame, but the bottom line is that Schumer was almost certainly going to be a “no” vote on this or any other Iran deal. Schumer gets big money from pro-Israel groups, many of which are aligned against the deal and have been pushing him to oppose it, his constituent base in New York City is probably opposed to the deal, and, look, the guy has been a pretty consistent anti-Iran vote for a while now.

Even with Schumer voting against the deal, however, the prospects for overriding an Obama veto are slim at best. In fact, you can make a case (like this one) that deal opponents might not even be able to get to 60 votes on a resolution to reject the deal, in order to get around a filibuster, let alone getting to 67 votes to override a veto. And in all the rush to declare the deal on thin ice because of Schumer, people seem to be ignoring the fact that there’s actually one Republican, Jeff Flake of Arizona, who may yet vote for the deal, which would make it even harder for opponents to kill it.

Where Schumer’s vote would have mattered is in the infinitesimal chance that he had decided to vote for the deal, in which case any drama about the final vote would have likely been over. But his opposition was expected, and the White House is reportedly more angry over the timing of his announcement, so early in the review period, than with his actual vote. Vox says that Schumer is “the only Democrat who could kill the Iran deal,” but it’s not even clear that that much is true, and if it is true it’s only true insofar as Schumer is prepared to really campaign against it. He’s offered no signal that he will, and his statement on Medium actually suggests that he will not. Continue reading

Aren’t all voters “real”?

The Democratic Party has many problems, to be sure. It’s gerrymandered out of winning control of the House anytime soon. It struggles to get a big part of its base to turn out in mid-term elections, let alone off-year elections, which means it struggles to hold on to the Senate and is utterly out to sea when it comes to winning governorships, control of state legislatures (which is both an effect and the cause of its gerrymandering problem), and offices at the local level. Democrats may start out with an edge in the Electoral College, but they’re playing catch up at virtually ever other level of politics. These are serious, long-term problems, especially the state-local weakness, that may not stop Hillary Clinton (or whomever) from being elected president next year, but will eventually start to threaten even Democrats’ ability to contend for the White House.

The Wall Street Journal (I know) reported on this problem pretty thoroughly today. If you’re paywalled and don’t want to bother getting around it, you can get a sense of what the piece is about from this Jon Schwarz piece in The Intercept (I know). Schwarz goes after Tom Daschle, who use to be the Democratic leader in the Senate but now prefers to give quotes to the WSJ about what the party should be doing, while instead of actually helping to do any of it, he spends his time lobbying for foreign governments. I want to say something about Daschle too, but specifically something he said to the WSJ. From their piece:

Democrats are quick to say they will rebound, just as the GOP bounced back from setbacks in 2006 and 2008. At the same time, some Democrats say the party can’t ignore its state-level defeats.

“We have a little bit of blue in the West Coast. A little bit of blue in the Northeast, and occasional blue elsewhere. But, boy, it’s a bright red map in all of those big, square states,” said former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle. “That’s where I do worry about recruiting and building a bench and finding ways to connect with real voters. We’re not doing a very good job of that.”

What does that mean, “real voters”? Does he mean that voters in “those big, square states” are somehow more “real” than voters in those blue areas on the coasts? Does he mean that the voters in the big square red states who do vote Democratic aren’t as “real” as the ones who vote Republican?

I honestly don’t understand what Daschle means there, but I know what it sounds like he means. Continue reading