Radical? No, Actually It's Mainstream.

[ Posted Tuesday, July 13th, 2021 – 15:20 UTC ]

Can Democrats still be bold? We are perhaps on the brink of finding that out. Joe Biden campaigned as a total moderate, but has been sort of thrust into a historical moment when boldness might actually be possible -- and be rewarded. By the time he got into office, Biden had realized this and was already talking about being a "transformational" president rather than just a moderate caretaker.

The COVID-19 pandemic was what set the stage for all this bold action, and Biden has done an admirable job of delivering on his promises on this front. But the rest of his economic agenda is now on the verge of becoming reality as well, and if the lion's share of it passes, Biden will indeed bask in comparisons to F.D.R. and L.B.J.

Of course, it's not a done deal yet. We'll see, in the next few weeks, how the sausage gets made up on Capitol Hill. There are still plenty of things that could go wrong.

And of course, Republicans are going to fight tooth and nail to try to derail Biden's legislative train. They're already whipping up their base over the supposed evils of the Democratic agenda, in fact. And they plan to run their midterm campaigns next year on the theme of "saving America from radical leftists."

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Biden To Give Voting Rights Speech Tomorrow

[ Posted Monday, July 12th, 2021 – 15:08 UTC ]

Tomorrow, President Joe Biden is scheduled to give an address on voting rights. This could be a rather crucial speech, because it might signify how much political capital Biden is willing to expend over the issue. This might also signify the relative chances of whether the Democrats are going to do anything at all about it before the next election. Biden could just give a nice polite speech (but refuse to call for drastic action), or he could alternatively use the speech to lay out a series of actions he thinks Democrats should now take. Hopefully, it'll be the latter.

Biden is at his core a centrist, of course. But there comes a point when even the most committed centrist has to admit that the other party is just so dead-set against doing what is so obviously right that they need to be taken out of the equation in order to act. We are not only at that point, we've actually been here a while now.

Case in point: the Democrats in the Texas legislature just walked out for the second time to prevent a Republican voter-suppression law from passing. Some of them are reportedly going to fly to Washington to lobby Democrats -- by informing them of how the battle is going on the frontlines out there, in all the statehouses controlled by Republicans. The time for action on a national level is now, and this window is going to slam shut in the not-too-distant future.

And yet, some Washington Democrats still harbor the illusion that somehow 10 brave Republican senators are going to somehow be convinced to sit down and hash out a bipartisan bargain that would strengthen voters' rights in every state in the Union. Spoiler alert: they are not going to do so. Those ten Republicans just do not exist, period.

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From The Archives -- Arkansas Highpoint And Gangster Museum

[ Posted Friday, July 9th, 2021 – 17:01 UTC ]

I've been warning everyone for the past two Fridays that I was taking today off, so there will be no Friday Talking Points article today, sorry. Tune in next week, when we'll have a new one up as usual.

Since it's summer holiday time, though, I thought I'd re-run a vacation travelogue article I wrote in August of 2018. This article has nothing to do with politics at all, it was just a few days on the road winding our way towards the Netroots Nation conference in New Orleans.

The article contains a promise to post photographs of what is described, but it doesn't have a link to it, so if you want to see the accompanying photos (as well as a few Netroots Nation photos as well), check it out.

And I hope everyone's having a wonderful summer!


Originally published August 1, 2018

This is your humble narrator, checking in from the road. Today's column is nothing short of a travelogue, so if that sort of thing doesn't appeal to you, I would suggest you stop reading right now. There will be no political discussion, as I've been doing my best to ignore politics for the past few days while enjoying a drive down the middle of the country. Oh, and today's title is quite literal.

Which is as good a point as any to begin with. Our drive was not carefully planned, we just kind of wandered around. Sometimes this leads to disappointing experiences, and sometimes it leads to quite the opposite. It's a Zen sort of way to vacation, in other words. This time, it worked out wonderfully, as we stumbled across a largely-undiscovered gem.

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Campaigning For Second And Third Ranked-Choice Votes Can Be Crucial

[ Posted Thursday, July 8th, 2021 – 15:57 UTC ]

New York City finally has a presumptive mayor. That would be "mayor-elect," but since this was just the primary election, it isn't technically true (while being de facto true, since the Republican doesn't stand a chance in the general election). It took two weeks for the results (which still aren't completely final and certified) to be announced, though, which was due to the new "ranked-choice voting" (R.C.V.) system for citywide elections. I've long been a proponent of all kinds of experimentation to make the American voting system work better, and have already seen how ranked-choice voting can work just fine (or, to put it another way, that's what my far-flung correspondents in Maine and San Francisco tell me). So I wanted to take a deeper dive into the results, after the dust has settled a bit.

The biggest conclusion, after examining the full data, is that the multiple-choice nature of the ballot is far more important than most voters -- and most candidates -- have realized. Because it was the second, third, fourth, and fifth choices which proved decisive, in the end. There is a clear lesson for politicians campaigning in such contests: convincing voters to make you their second (or third, or whatever) choice might just be your key to victory. Of course, convincing voters to make you their first choice is always going to be the real focus, but some strategy for corralling voters who don't put you first is also of critical importance and should not be neglected.

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McCarthy's Dilemma

[ Posted Wednesday, July 7th, 2021 – 15:27 UTC ]

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has never been seen by anyone as any sort of profile in courage. The most common view of him, in fact, is that he's as spineless as a jellyfish. He has gotten to his position of power within the Republican Party largely by trying to be everyone's best buddy, but that's not exactly a core leadership quality, to put it mildly. And now he's in a pickle, because everyone is waiting to see what he's going to do about the House 1/6 Select Committee. My personal guess is that he'll figure out what the path of least resistance is and then embrace it. He's certainly done so before, so it's about all I expect from him.

The quandary McCarthy is now facing is that while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi quickly named her eight picks to the new committee (including one prominent Republican, Representative Liz Cheney), it is now up to McCarthy to suggest the other five members. Theoretically, he is supposed to pick five GOP members and submit their names to Pelosi for approval. I say "theoretically" because at this point it's not even certain that McCarthy will do anything.

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Achieving Herd Immunity, The Easy Way Versus The Hard Way

[ Posted Tuesday, July 6th, 2021 – 15:46 UTC ]

It's been a quiet week in politics. The type of quiet week that used to regularly happen when Congress was off on yet another of their multi-week holidays and not much was happening at the White House. Perhaps this August we'll even return to a real "silly season," where all the political reporters and pundits feverishly look for something interesting to write about. But after four solid years of a never-ending silly season ("insane season" would be more accurate), it's kind of quaint and normative to enjoy a week like this again, I must say.

President Joe Biden did give a short speech today on his vaccination effort. He had to admit that for the first time he had fallen short of one of his own self-imposed goals. America has not reached the mark of having 70 percent of all adults at least partially vaccinated, but we did at least get north of 67 percent by Biden's Independence Day deadline, which is pretty close.

Biden talked today about the efforts his team will be making from now on to reach the hard-to-get people who have not yet gotten their free vaccine shots. And he's got an uphill climb among certain slices of the population. But what I've been wondering from the start is how America will achieve the "herd immunity" level where the virus begins to just die out for want of unprotected victims. Note I said "how" there, not "if." We will get to herd immunity eventually, but it's looking like the last stretch might have to be done the hard way instead of the easy way. More on that in a moment.

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The Growing Political/Vaccine Divide

[ Posted Monday, July 5th, 2021 – 16:01 UTC ]

A divide has opened up in America, between states that have done a good job vaccinating as many of their citizens as possible and those who are falling behind. Many noted this disparity as Independence Day rolled around, when the country as a whole fell three points behind President Joe Biden's ambitious goal to get at least one vaccine shot into the arms of 70 percent of adult Americans. Hitting only 67 percent is still a monumental achievement (more than two-thirds), to be sure. But a lot of media focus was on the fact that many individual states have indeed reached the 70 percent goal, while others hadn't even gotten to 60 percent. But what was largely missing in all this commentary was the stark fact of the political divide.

To put it bluntly, blue states -- almost all of them, with only a few exceptions -- are doing a great job. All the states with the worst records are red states. There are a few in the middle (some purple states, some red states, and three bluish states), but this divide is so obvious and notable that it's kind of a mystery why more people haven't pointed it out.

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Friday Talking Points -- Happy Independence Day!

[ Posted Friday, July 2nd, 2021 – 17:57 UTC ]

Happy Independence Day! No, that heartfelt wish is actually not premature, as we pointed out years ago. The second of July is indeed the day American declared her independence from Britain. All the histories, all the traditions, all the celebrations get it wrong each and every year. No, really!

Here is what John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail, on the third of July, 1776:

The second of July 1776, will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.

So, as we said: Happy Independence Day, everyone!

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Will Trump Testify?

[ Posted Thursday, July 1st, 2021 – 15:42 UTC ]

There's a lot of news in the legal world today, so even asking the question: "Will Trump testify?" needs further specification. I am not asking whether Donald Trump will testify in the upcoming case against his namesake Trump Organization and its top financial officer, because it's pretty obvious he would never take the stand in a case like that. Instead, what I'm wondering is whether the still-forming House 1/6 select committee will try to subpoena Trump -- and if they do, whether he'd actually appear or (as is more usual for him) fight it to the bloody end in the courts.

I think the odds are heavily on Trump fighting it, since it really is almost a knee-jerk reaction from him for any sort of legal trouble. Trump is the master of slowing the justice system down to a glacial pace -- he's been doing so with some degree of success or another for decades. So why should this be any different? I also think the chances are better than not that the committee tries to talk to everyone else around Trump, but never actually comes out and subpoenas Trump.

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Who Will Sit On The 1/6 Select Committee?

[ Posted Wednesday, June 30th, 2021 – 15:40 UTC ]

The House of Representatives just passed a measure to create a select committee to investigate the 1/6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, and all the things which led up to it and fed into it. This will be a partisan undertaking, as the 13 members of this committee will be named by Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- and while she may be open to allowing up to six Republicans on it, she will also have the power to veto any suggestions made by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. It is looking like this committee will provide the most substantive and wide-reaching investigation into all the things which were allowed to go wrong. That's important, because America really does deserve to know the truth -- the whole truth -- about what happened that dark day.

Most House Republicans are incensed. But they simply have no leg to stand on. They really don't. In the first place, while a number of Republicans in the House voted for what would have been a much better way to handle this (a nonpartisan special commission comprised solely of people who were not sitting members of Congress), in the end this measure fell at least three votes short of breaking the inevitable filibuster in the Senate. So Republicans had their chance to get on board with a better way to do it, and they torpedoed this effort. Therefore, they have no real right to complain now about the select committee being "too partisan."

Secondly, one word puts the lie to the moral high road House Republicans are attempting to walk: Benghazi. Republicans, when they were in charge of the chamber, felt no compunction whatsoever to set up purely partisan committees to investigate something they thought would tarnish the leading Democratic presidential candidate -- indeed, over and over again. There were multiple investigations into Benghazi, please remember. The very same Kevin McCarthy even admitted that they were set up to worsen Hillary Clinton's chances of becoming president. And the exact same rules for naming members to the committee applied -- Pelosi (who was only the minority leader, back then) was allowed to put forward names, and McCarthy had the power to veto any of them. In fact, they copied this language exactly in the 1/6 measure, to make this point obvious. So all those House Republicans who now will flood the cable news airwaves with their faux outrage and indignation should immediately be reminded of Hillary Clinton sitting in front of a committee hearing for 11 hours straight, answering every rude and insulting question the Republicans could dream up. Because not until Donald Trump runs a similar gauntlet will things even begin to approach parity, on this front.

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