Democrats

When Democrats are afraid to be Democrats

Alison Lundergan Grimes came off as a politician who couldn't trust voters to be adults.

Alison Lundergan Grimes came off as a politician who couldn’t trust voters to be adults. Photo: (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The Compass via The Week

Open warfare has broken out in the Democratic Party over just how much President Obama’s low approval rating led to a midterm drubbing, and whether the White House did too much, too little, or didn’t care, to reduce his drag on the ticket.

Republicans did everything but obtain search warrants to find out how close their opponents were to President Obama. Some guilt-by-association was inevitable, but instead of accepting it and then pivoting, a bunch of Democratic candidates hemmed and hawed, temporized and made themselves look silly.

When Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Kentucky Secretary of State running against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R), was asked by a newspaper editorial board whether she had voted for Obama, she said that because she was the state’s voting administrator, she wanted to uphold the principle of a secret ballot and didn’t want to set a bad example. Or something.

What she could have said was, Yeah. My party has a history of fighting for the middle class and I’m proud of that.”

As a self-professed Clinton Democrat, Grimes could then have talked about Republican obstructionism during the Clinton administration and how President Clinton ushered in record economic growth and prosperity.

Short, sweet, has the benefit of not mentioning the words “Obama” or “Democratic Party,” and answers the questions.

A week later, she flubbed the same question, a question she knew would be asked of her.

“I’m not going to compromise a constitution right provided here in Kentucky in order to curry favor on one or (an)other side or the members of the media,” she answered.

Her discovery of an unrecognized constitutional right gave Mitch McConnell permission to suggest that Grimes was deceiving voters about her record. It allowed him to shine a spotlight on the very weakness that Grimes was trying to deflect.

At the debate, here’s what Grimes could have said:

Yeah. I did. And let’s talk about votes. Let’s talk about records. Let’s talk about who’s associated with gridlock, with Washington not working, with an economy that won’t get off the ground.

Whatever Mitch McConnell did for the state a while back, he’s had almost 30 years to fix Washington. What happened in Washington happened on his watch. He hasn’t been able to stand up to President Obama for six years. When I agree with the president, I’ll say so. When I disagree, he’s going to hear it, too. And yes, President Obama has made mistakes. And we’re gonna hold him accountable.

But Mitch McConnell was up there, a stone’s throw from the White House, when the government bailed out the big banks and left homeowners under water. Failed to pass a minimum wage? That’s Mitch McConnell’s Republican Party. Failed to deal with the immigration crisis? That’s not on Barack Obama. That’s on Mitch McConnell’s Republicans. Republicans, under Mitch McConnell, threatened to take the country off a fiscal cliff. Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, financed two wars on the nation’s credit card. Government has grown beyond our wildest imagination. New entitlements? Mitch McConnell was in the Senate leadership. Doesn’t matter whether the president was named Bush or named Obama.

You want to talk about votes? A vote for Mitch McConnell is a vote for everything we hate about Washington. It’s a vote for a guy who can’t cut it. He’s got a proven record of doing nothing. He’s the epitome of why we’re in trouble today.

McConnell could have chosen any number of responses to this, but he’d be defending his record, not attacking Grimes for an association she made.

It was McConnell’s best insight that voters would blame Washington gridlock on the president and his party even if the president and his party were not its primary cause. That connection — Obama’s in power and Washington seems chaotic and out of control — was really hard to break. But the polling swings, even allowing for a Democratic oversampling, showed that voters were willing to give Grimes a chance to break that connection and make her argument.

Instead, she tried to draw attention away from what everyone already knew, and came off as a politician who couldn’t trust voters to be adults.

Her association with Obama was a weakness in Kentucky. It was there from the moment she jumped into the race. It was a given. Her non-denial denial of an undeniable truth gave everyone who watched it a headache. And it made Mitch McConnell look like a genius.

Candidates of both parties should learn from her fumble.

7 reasons the Democratic coalition is more united than ever

Hillary Clinton |Andrew Burton Photo

Vox

Last weekend, Ross Douthat penned a provocative column arguing that Democrats should be thankful for the super-star power of Hillary Clinton because without her the party could be in severe trouble. Much of the subsequent debate has involved speculation about likely possible outcomes of the 2016 general election, about which I think the best one can say is that it will probably depend on the objective state of the world over the next 18 months.

His more intriguing idea was a vision of a deeply divided Democratic Party that, absent the presence of a star candidate, would likely fall apart: “the post-Obama Democratic Party could well be the Austro-Hungarian empire of presidential majorities: a sprawling, ramshackle and heterogeneous arrangement, one major crisis away from dissolution.”

This, I think, is completely wrong. The Democratic Party could easily lose the next election, but the coalition as a whole is more durable and robust than it’s ever been for reasons that go much deeper than Hillary’s popularity.

1) Hillary seems inevitable because Democrats are united

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Edward Kimmel/Flickr

Hillary Clinton’s celebrity status and stature in the party combined with the lack of appropriately credentialed and charismatic alternatives put her head and shoulders ahead of the competition. But if the party faced a major policy divide, someone or other would emerge to champion it. Perhaps someone who would lose! But someone.

Today we have the opposite situation. It is impossible to mount a coherent anti-Clinton campaign because there is no issue that divides the mass of Democrats. If she were to unexpectedly decline to run, some other figure (perhaps Joe Biden, perhaps Martin O’Malley) would step into the void and lead the party on a similar policy agenda.

2) 2008 was about Iraq

Subsequent events have tended to obscure this, but the 2008 Democratic Primary was, among other things, a major argument about foreign policy. Hillary Clinton had supported George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, and Barack Obama had not. Obama’s appeal, obviously, stretched beyond this fact. But his core substantive argument against Clinton dealt with Iraq in particular and foreign policy doctrine more broadly.

Crucially, both sides of the argument agreed that an argument was taking place. Clinton hit Obama as weak and naive for his willingness to undertake direct negotiations with leaders of rogue states and charged him with being unready to keep the nation safe in an emergency.

The 2008 campaign directly echoed the 2004 primary between the less-compelling figures of Howard Dean and John Kerry. Many of Obama’s key primary-era foreign policy aides — people such as Susan Rice and Ivo Daalder — had been Dean supporters, and the arguments and recriminations between Obama-supporting and Clinton-supporting foreign policy hands were vicious.

That Clinton ended up serving as Obama’s Secretary of State makes this look a bit ridiculous in retrospect. But it seemed very important at the time.

The 2008 campaign directly echoed the 2004 primary between the less-compelling figures of Howard Dean and John Kerry. Many of Obama’s key primary-era foreign policy aides — people such as Susan Rice and Ivo Daalder — had been Dean supporters, and the arguments and recriminations between Obama-supporting and Clinton-supporting foreign policy hands were vicious.

That Clinton ended up serving as Obama’s Secretary of State makes this look a bit ridiculous in retrospect. But it seemed very important at the time.

3) The banking picture is muddled

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Valerie Jean/FilmMagic

Many intellectuals who care passionately about regulation of the financial services industry would like to believe the Democratic Party is deeply divided between a bankster-friendly establishment and its populist critics.

There is something to this, but really much less than the proponents of schism-ism think.

Crucially, the allegedly bank-friendly faction of the party doesn’t accept this account of where they stand.They see themselves as having shepherded a massive bank regulation bill through congress, and as constantly fighting on multiple fronts — inside bipartisan regulatory agencies, in the courts, at international meetings, in congressional negotiations — to get tougher on the banks.

And the financial services industry agrees! Ever since the Dodd-Frank debate began, the financial services industry has poured enormous sums of money into GOP congressional campaigns and the effort to beat Barack Obama.

People who follow the issue closely will know that there are some very real disagreements about the details of bank regulation. And there are some even realer disagreements about atmospherics, rhetoric, and overall feelings about the financial sector. And even Obama has, selectively, engaged in populist anti-finance rhetoric when it suits his purposes.

Broadly speaking a non-specialist voter is going to see that any plausible 2016 nominee is going to push for tighter bank regulation, will be opposed by the bank lobby, and probably won’t accomplish everything she tries for due to GOP opposition.

4) Everyone agrees on inequality

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David Shankbone/Flickr

Twenty years ago, Democrats were divided on the question of inequality with moderates largely accepting the Reaganite precept that some loss of equity was a reasonable price to pay for faster economic growth. Today, all Democrats think that inequality is out of control (heck, the CEO of Goldman Sachs thinks inequality is out of control) and that it should be addressed through tax hikes on high-income Americans.

Clearly, different people are going to differ on the details. But congressional Republicans have also made it clear that securing any tax hikes is going to be a very difficult political battle. Any Democratic nominee will try to raise taxes on the rich if she wins, and any Democratic President will end up in a huge fight with the GOP about it.

5) K-12 education doesn’t matter enough

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Jkrincon/Flickr

For an example of the kind of issue that does divide the Democratic Party, look no further than K-12 education. The Obama administration has pursued an “education reform” agenda that features calls for more charter schools, and for more linkage of teacher compensation and job security to test results. Many Democrats around the country agree with Obama about this. But many other Democrats around the country agree with teachers unions that this is entirely backwards, and there should be fewer charter schools and less reliance on test-based assessments of teacher quality.

This is the kind of tug-o-war with one faction pulling one way and another faction pulling the other way that really does tear a party apart.

Except it’s not an important federal issue. Not because education isn’t important, but because the federal government plays a relatively modest role in America’s K-12 education policy. The education divide can be quite explosive and state and local politics (witness the disputes between Bill de Blasio and Andre Cuomo in New York) but it just isn’t important enough on the federal stage to lead to a major schism.

6) Demographics aren’t destiny

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American Federation of Government Employees/Flickr

The much greater demographic diversity of the Democratic Party coalition may give it an illusion of fragility. Talk during recent primary campaigns of “wine track” versus “beer track” Democrats further amplifies that sense. But a look at the congressional caucus’ behavior reveals a party that is dramatically more united than at any time in the past hundred years. Defections come overwhelmingly from outlier legislators representing very conservative states like Arkansas or Louisiana.

What you would expect to see from a party torn apart by demographics is elected officials who put together very different voting records. But even though Jerry Nadler (Greenwich Village and the Upper West Side), Peter Welch (in Vermont), and Maxine Waters (South LA) represent very different people they vote in very similar ways. And you see that on most big issues Democratic Senators representing the contested terrain in the Midwest, Southwest, and Virginia vote together with those from the Northeast and the Pacific Coast.

Rustbelt legislators back Obama’s EPA regulations, and comprehensive immigration reform was unanimously endorsed by Democratic Party Senators. American politics is becoming more ideological, and the Democratic coalition is increasingly an ideological coalition that happens to be diverse (and, indeed, that upholds the value of diversity as an ideological precent) rather than a patchwork of ethnic interests or local machines.

7) American politics is getting nastier

Partisan_animosityAs a recent Pew report on polarization showed, completely apart from substantive policy issues both Democrats and Republicans are increasingly alarmed by the other party’s agenda. This alarmism in fact stronger on the GOP side, but it’s quite strong — and growing — on the Democratic side as well.

This seems like an unhealthy trend for the country, but it’s excellent news for party cohesion. Splits require not just internal disagreement, but a relatively blasé attitude toward the opposition.

None of this means that victory is somehow assured for Democrats in 2016 — far from it. But it does mean that the coalition is at no risk of collapse. The kind of electoral mega-landslides that happened in 1964 or 1980 where one party’s candidate gets utterly blown away simply can’t happen under modern conditions.

Poll: Republicans ‘Badly Damaged’ By Shutdown Battle

 

This is what happens to lemmings when they fall over a cliff due to mindless loyalty…

The Huffington Post

The Republican Party has been “badly damaged” by the government shutdown, according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Thursday evening, which finds public opinion souring on the GOP and some of its core positions.

Americans blamed Republicans over President Barack Obama for the shutdown by a margin of 22 percentage points, with 53 percent saying the GOP deserved more blame, and 31 percent saying Obama did. Approval ratings for the Republican Party and the tea party were at 24 percent and 21 percent respectively — both record lows as measured by NBC/WSJ.

Democrats aren’t wildly popular either. Obama’s approval rating is a marginally positive 47 percent, while the Democratic Party is at 39 percent, and congressional Democrats are at 36 percent.

A slim plurality of Americans say Obama should negotiate with Republicans, even before they agree to a deal that reopens the government or raises the debt ceiling. The president’s approval has remained stable since the shutdown, and there are signs that Democrats may get a boost from the shutdown’s political effects.

Voters were 8 points more likely to say they’d prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress over a Republican-controlled Congress, a 5-point shift toward the Democrats since last month. Support for the new health care law, the touchstone of the government shutdown, rose a net 8 points from September, while the belief that government should do more to solve problems was up 8 points from June.

“That is an ideological boomerang,” Bill McInturff, the GOP pollster who conducts the NBC/WSJ poll along with Democratic pollster Peter Hart, told NBC. “As the debate has been going on, if there is a break, there is a break against the Republican position.”

The poll found that 42 percent think the economy will worsen over the next year, nearly doubling since September, and nearly eight in 10 think the country is on the wrong track. The number who think the country is on the right track has fallen by half since September.

WSJ/NBC pollsters said the survey showed some of the most dramatic shifts they had seen in decades in public attitudes toward the well-being of the country, the direction of the economy and wider political sentiment, according to the Journal.

“What is stunning about these results is just how hard and how quickly public attitudes have landed on the shutdown,” said Hart, a Democratic pollster, according to the Journal. He said the poll showed “a broad disgust for the political system.”

The NBC/WSJ’s findings are largely in line with other recent polling, but with some differences. A Gallup survey released Wednesday found the Republicans’ favorable rating the lowest for either party since 1992. While an AP-GfK poll found the president, as well as Congress, taking a serious approval hit, other surveys found Obama’s approval either stable or down by 1 or 2 percentage points.

Polls on who’s to blame for the shutdown have generally shown Republicans being faulted most, but the margin varies, with some surveys last week showing the blame more evenly distributed.

The NBC/WSJ poll surveyed 800 adults by phone from Oct. 7 to Oct. 9.

 

Fifteen Differences Between Democrats And Republicans

According to…

Addicting Info

I’ve noticed over the years, there are some fundamental differences in the way Republican and Democratic politicians think. Here are just 15 examples.

Republicans fear that the government has too much control over corporations.

Democrats fear that corporations have too much control over our government. 

 

Democrats believe it benefits all of us to help the weakest and the poorest among us.

Republicans believe it benefits all of us to help the wealthiest and most powerful among us.

 

Democrats believe it benefits all of us to help the weakest and the poorest among us.

Republicans believe it benefits all of us to help the wealthiest and most powerful among us.

 

Republicans believe large corporations will always do what is best for the American people if the government stays out of the way. 

Democrats believe large corporations would disembowel you and sell your organs to the highest bidder if the government didn’t stop them.

 

Democrats believe everyone is entitled to health care regardless of their ability to pay.

Republicans believe everyone is entitled to jack squat if they can’t pay for health care.

 

Democrats believe too much of our money goes to crooked corporate executives who take government subsidies and pay themselves $80 million salaries. 

Republicansbelieve too much of our money goes to teachers who make $30,000 a year.

 

Democrats believe anything that helps the American people during a recession or a time of crisis is the true essence of patriotism.

Republicans believe anything that helps the American people during a recession or a time of crisis is the true essence of communism.

 

Democrats believe that we need to set high standards for clean air and drinking water.

Republicans believe that standards for clean air and water are burdensome over-regulation.

 

Democrats believe the President and Congress need to work together to create jobs during a weak economy.

Republicans believe that Congress should do nothing to create jobs and then blame the President.

 

Democrats believe that corporate polluters should be made to pay for the cleanup of their pollution.

Republicans believe that making corporations clean up their pollution is burdensome over-regulation.

 

Democrats believe our health care system exists solely for the purpose of making people healthy.

Republicans believe our health care system exists solely for the purpose of making a healthy profit.

 

Democrats believe Congress should be of the people, by the people and for the people.

Republicans believe corporations are the people.

 

Democrats believe that corporations have too much influence over Congress due to their lobbyists and huge campaign contributions.

Republicans believe the middle class has too much influence over Congress due to their voting and paying taxes.

 

Democrats believe we need to protect victims of corporate negligence by allowing Americans to file lawsuits against corporations.

Republicans believe we need to protect large corporations from lawsuits by Americans who’ve been victimized by them.

 

Democrats believe that the rich should be taxed more than the poor and middle class.

Republicans believe that the rich should be allowed to keep all their wealth, except for the millions in campaign contributions they give to politicians.

 

Democrats believe that too much money in politics produces corruption and destroys the American way of life.

Republicans believe that money and corruption in politics arethe American way of life.

 

These are just my observations from a lifetime of watching Democratic and Republican politicians. I’m sure some Republican will come up with their own clever list.