Rather Interesting Tuesday

[ Posted Tuesday, May 17th, 2022 – 15:45 UTC ]

Today is a big primary day, and it could perhaps be the most interesting in this year's election calendar. It's not officially "Super Tuesday," but it might at least be considered "Rather Interesting Tuesday." There are multiple close races to watch, there are both ideological battles and personality contests in both parties, and the punditocracy is going to go into high gear afterwards drawing all sorts of conclusions on a nationwide basis (on races that may in fact only be limited to very local issues, or the strengths and weaknesses of individual candidates). So it's going to be a big night, no matter what happens. But everyone should keep in mind that these are just the primaries -- which means a big win for one faction or another tonight might translate into a big loss for the party in November.

This isn't true everywhere, of course. There are primary races taking place in either deep blue or deep red districts or states that are, for all intents and purposes, the general election. Whichever candidate wins tonight in these places will be almost guaranteed to skate to victory in November. In many of these contests, winning an ideological battle means increasing one faction or the other's clout in the new Congress next year (or the governor's office). But there are plenty of other races where the general election race will actually be competitive, and in those the big question is going to be: "How extreme is too extreme?"

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Passion Versus The Establishment In Pennsylvania

[ Posted Monday, May 16th, 2022 – 16:27 UTC ]

It now looks like tomorrow's Senate primaries in Pennsylvania might just set up a very interesting race in November's general election. Because it is looking like we might wind up with two very passionate and non-conventional "from the people" nominees, one from the left and one from the right. So we will finally get to see a race in a very purple state (which could easily go either way in November) with a contest between a true MAGA and a real progressive, both willing to get down and dirty fighting for what they believe.

This is causing much consternation in both parties, it bears mentioning. Both the Republican and Democratic "establishment" wings are rooting for much more conventional candidates, ones that they see as far more electable than the wild cards. Right now it appears that this is a losing battle on the Democratic side, and on the Republican side it seems the contest is now between two separate MAGA candidates while the establishment choice seems to be lagging badly in third place.

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Friday Talking Points -- Overreach And Backlash

[ Posted Friday, May 13th, 2022 – 16:43 UTC ]

Of all the different types of cycle that exist in politics, the one of overreach and backlash is one of the most interesting. We may be about to see one of these cycles happen in very accelerated fashion (since it usually takes years or even a few subsequent elections to fully materialize), although since we're at the beginning of the cycle it is impossible to now know how it will all play out.

This cycle began with the leak of the Supreme Court draft opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito which would entirely overturn Roe v. Wade and send the question of abortion back to the state legislatures to grapple with. Conservatives have had this as a goal for at least four decades, so it was seen by many as the last step on a very long road.

But it's not a last step at all, because it will usher in an entirely new era of each state choosing what laws to accept when it comes to abortion. And like it or not, the whole "laboratories of democracy" theory will play out -- some liberal states will have extremely liberal abortion laws, some conservative states will have Draconian laws against abortion, and other states will choose some sort of middle route. This process has not only already begun, it has actually been going on for a long time, as states anticipated the possible end of the Roe era.

Republicans now have the "dog who caught the car" syndrome, though -- they have achieved their overarching goal and are now left unsure what exactly to do about it or what comes next. All of a sudden all those state-level laws are not just going to be vehicles for political posturing any more, they are going to directly affect women's lives. All of a sudden, things have gotten very real, because the courts will no longer save them from the worst of their own excesses. Their rhetoric is now going to become a new reality, in a matter of weeks.

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Where To Draw The Lines On Public Protests

[ Posted Thursday, May 12th, 2022 – 16:21 UTC ]

What is and what is not acceptable when it comes to public protest? This question has been growing for the past few years, and has come to the forefront with the leaked release of a Supreme Court draft opinion on abortion. So I thought it was worth exploring in general, even though (spoiler alert!) I do not personally have a clear answer or conclusion to that question.

I should state from the start my own biases. In general, I love political protest and even what I like to call "political theater." The People making their voices heard is a time-honored tradition, and getting the media's (and thus the public's) attention is always a tough thing to do. People who have never lived there or experienced it on a day-to-day basis usually don't realize how many protests happen in Washington D.C., since there are dozens (hundreds, even) of protests that happen every year that gain little-to-no coverage and are thus only seen by those who happen to walk by them (to D.C. residents and workers, protests are something to be mostly ignored and avoided, in the same way a native New Yorker dodges their way around the tourists gawking at how high the skyscrapers are). Getting your protest on the news is a true accomplishment for an activist, and creative ways to accomplish this have been the tactics of protesters for decades. But how much is too much? How far is too far?

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Trump Loses First Big One

[ Posted Wednesday, May 11th, 2022 – 15:56 UTC ]

Donald Trump likes to see himself as a kingmaker in the world of Republican politics. He's got a case to make -- candidates who gain his endorsement can indeed see a surge in support and even go on to win close races -- but he's also nowhere near as powerful as he'd like everyone to think. That was evident in last night's big loss for his chosen candidate in the Nebraska governor's race. Trump endorsed early, he actually rallied in the state for his anointee, and the guy still lost. Trump is facing a few other prominent losses in the weeks to come as well, in both Idaho and Georgia at the very least.

A week ago I wrote an introductory column to this year's primaries which specifically dealt with the relative importance of Trump-backed candidates losing. So I will attempt to view last night's contest through that lens, and answer the questions the article posed.

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"Ultra-MAGA"? Really?

[ Posted Tuesday, May 10th, 2022 – 14:58 UTC ]

President Joe Biden has rolled out a new moniker in the political lexicon: "ultra-MAGA." Unfortunately, this is probably a branding misstep, because while it is rather descriptive of the phenomenon Biden is trying to draw attention to (being a fanatical adherent of Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" philosophy), it seems more like a positive term a supporter would come up with rather than a slur an opponent would use. So far, I haven't seen either Donald Trump or any other Republican fully embrace the term, but it seems like it's only a matter of time before they do.

It's pretty easy to see how they would successfully flip this script. All Trump would have to do is champion it once, and the rest would follow naturally: "So Sleepy Joe calls Republicans 'ultra-MAGA' like it's some sort of bad thing? Well, I say to him you're damn right [Candidate X] is ultra-MAGA! He's more MAGA than anybody! That is a good thing, Sleepy Joe!"

To me, this seems pretty obvious.

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Democratic Free-For-All For Early Presidential Voting

[ Posted Monday, May 9th, 2022 – 16:01 UTC ]

The Democratic Party is in the midst of a minor revolution of the scheduling variety. Earlier, they announced that all states wishing to be early-voting states in the 2024 Democratic presidential primary campaign would have to submit applications to the national party -- and that there was no guarantee that the four who had previously held these prized spots (Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada) would continue to hold the same status in 2024. The applications are now in and the national party apparatus will consider the matter and announce their selections at the end of the summer.

A full twenty different entities have applied for what could reportedly be as many as five spots. I say "entities" because two of them are not states -- Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, and the more-nebulous group Democrats Abroad. Neither one of these has any vote in the actual presidential election (only states send electors to the Electoral College), but either would be an interesting signal of inclusivity.

All four previous early-voting states have applied, as well as the following 14 other states: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, and Washington.

So what are any of their chances? It's anyone's guess, really. But it's worth handicapping all the contenders, or at least weighing their relative merits and drawbacks. So I'm going to just dive into this free-for-all and offer up my thoughts on what I think the national Democratic Party is going to be thinking about, when they consider all these applications to be the earliest states.

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Friday Talking Points -- Time To Get Angry, Democrats

[ Posted Friday, May 6th, 2022 – 18:02 UTC ]

We're going to write our introductory weekly wrap-up in reverse this week (since it was a week for reversals). Then after we get the lesser political stories out of the way (in accelerated fashion), we'll get to the big bombshell scoop that drove the rest of the political world all week -- and will continue to do so for months to come.

So, as quickly as possible, let's run through the minor stories from the week:

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How Far Is "Too Far" For Today's Republicans?

[ Posted Thursday, May 5th, 2022 – 15:32 UTC ]

It is undisputable that Donald Trump plumbed new depths for what the Republican Party considers "too far" for their own politicians to go. Trump proved that no scandal -- sexual, financial, business-related, personal, factual, political, international interference in American politics, white national, conspiracy theorist, or insurrectionist -- was "too far" for him to go, at least with his own massive and committed base of supporters within the party ranks. Many other Republicans either now in office or running for office have taken this new low standard to heart, as GOP politician after GOP politician is caught in scandals that previously would have forced them to resign or be voted out of office the first chance the voters had. The big unanswered question is whether any standard (no matter how low) even remains within the party for anyone not named "Donald Trump." How far is "too far," these days, for Republicans?

Of course, there are really two standards at play here. The first is what the Republican Party thinks, and the second is what the voters think. We don't have a clear image of either one of these, at this point in the process, but it might become clearer as we wend our way through the primary and general election seasons.

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Now Is The Time For Democrats To Demagogue

[ Posted Wednesday, May 4th, 2022 – 16:22 UTC ]

The very first column I ever wrote (for the Huffington Post, I didn't actually start this blog until a year later) was titled "Democratic Demagoguery." It urged Democrats to take a page from the Republican playbook and learn how to viscerally present issues and their party's agenda, in order to get more voters to vote for them. It started off (you'll soon note that this was 2006, as some of the current "hot button" issues plainly show) with the following:

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