The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

How the parties aligned on urbanism

CityLab has a good take on how the Democratic Party became the party of cities in the US:

The story begins in the late 19th century, in the filthy, sweaty maw of the Industrial Revolution. To reduce transportation costs, industrialists had built factories in cities with easy access to ports. These factories attracted workers by the thousands, who piled into nearby tenements. Their work was backbreaking—and so were their often-collapsing apartment buildings. When urban workers revolted against their exploitative and dangerous working conditions, they formed the beginning of an international labor movement that would eventually make cities the epicenter of leftist politics.

While workers’ parties won seats in parliamentary European countries with proportional representation, they struggled to gain power in the U.S. Why didn’t socialism take off in America? It’s the question that launched a thousand political-economy papers. One answer is that the U.S. political system is dominated by two parties competing in winner-take-all districts, making it almost impossible for third parties to break through at the national level. To gain power, the U.S. labor movement had to find a home in one of those parties.

This set up the first major inflection point. America’s socialists found welcoming accommodations in the political machines that sprouted up in the largest manufacturing hubs, such as Chicago, Boston, and New York. Not all of the “bosses” at the helm of these machines were Democrats; Philadelphia and Chicago were intermittently controlled by Republicans. But the nation’s most famous machine, New York’s Tammany Hall, was solidly Democratic. As that city’s urban manufacturing workforce exploded in the early 20th century, Tammany Hall bosses had little choice but to forge an alliance with the workers’ parties.

Of course, the more axes on which the parties differ, the less tolerant they become. The cycle of polarization continues.

End the Crazy

Writer Jennifer Rubin argues that the Democratic Party needs to present the president as what he really is:

After all, Trump’s most defining feature these days is a frightful, manic personality more detached from reality than ever before.

We don’t need a medical diagnosis or the 25th Amendment to conclude Trump is crazy in the colloquial sense — cuckoo, nuts, non compos mentis, off his rocker, unhinged. Even Republicans who like the tax cuts or the judges at some level understand this is not normal behavior and, at key moments, feels downright scary.

Now, you might say that in the 2016 campaign Hillary Clinton and the entire Democratic Party made the case he was a mean, lying, cruel bully. People didn’t care and still voted for him (although to his chagrin, not a majority or even plurality of those who cast ballots). Why is this different?

This is crucial: It’s one thing to be mean and corrupt. His defenders say lots of politicians are. It is quite another to say he’s so erratic, so unhinged, so crazy that he sends the economy into a tailspin and risks international conflict (or capitulation to enemies such as Kim Jong Un, who Trump — crazily — believes likes him). Tying Trump’s unfitness to dangers to the country and to voters’ personal safety and prosperity should be a key objective for the eventual nominee.

Of course, fully a third of the country doesn't care that the president has gone off the reservation. They'll vote for him anyway. But the middle third of the electorate needs reminding why we can't allow this guy to have another four years in office.

Lunchtime reading

A diverse flock this afternoon:

Your coder will now resume coding his previously-coded code.

John Judis on the Democratic Party

The journalist believes we need to get our act together:

The main point I would make is this: even if you accept the fact that the candidates are currently trying to stake out pluralities among Democratic primary voters and not yet seeking to woo the greater public, they are not doing a very good job of it. And that really worries me.

I'm not so worried. We've typically had this sort of circus in the early stages of an election season, and with the actual event more than 15 months way, we've got time.

A frustrating time to be alive

Or, as Tom Lehrer once remarked, "I'm beginning to feel like a Christian Scientist with appendicitis."

The latest exhibit: how the press reacted to Robert Mueller's testimony on Wednesday. Adam Serwer:

In any other administration, in any other time, a special prosecutor, former FBI director, and decorated Marine testifying that the president of the United States was an unprosecuted felon who encouraged and then benefited from an attack on American democracy in pursuit of personal and political gain would bring the country to a grinding halt. But the American political press found Mueller insufficiently dazzling.

All of this, of course, was in Mueller’s report, which most members of Congress still have not read. The press, for its part, first accepted a false summary put forth by Attorney General William Barr, and then largely persisted in repeating his mischaracterizations, even after the bulk of the report was released.

On Wednesday, media outlets had the chance to get the story right. Instead, they largely chose to focus on Mueller’s performance instead of on his findings.

Andrew Sullivan saw in this, and in the Democratic leadership's refusal to hold President Trump accountable for his crimes, as fresh evidence that "the American constitutional system is failing on every level":

The system, it turns out, is not even strong enough to withstand one Trump term, let alone two. Trump intuited this in 2016, and if he wins reelection, as he now has a good chance of doing, what’s left of liberal democracy will be under acute duress.

The “extinction-level event” that I feared in the spring of 2016 is already here. Look around you. And it wasn’t even a fight.

Now, Sullivan has been a pessimist on almost every level for years. But both he and Serwer have a point that it looks like our side don't know how to fight this insanity.

Democratic Party strategy?

Adam Eichen bemoans the left's obtuseness in creating, sustaining, and funding a long-term strategy to regain power, the way the radical right has done for 50 years:

Republicans and their donors, on the other hand, got the message. In fact, not long after the memo was written, a handful of billionaires—including John Olin, who made his money in chemical and munitions manufacturing, newspaper publisher Richard Scaife, heir to Mellon fortune, and petrochemical scions David and Charles Koch—began to create an apparatus to shift politics rightward in much the way Powell outlined.

The realization of [Justice Lewis] Powell’s vision and America’s rightward shift did not happen overnight⁠—as Jane Mayer of The New Yorker exposed in her book Dark Money, the road to power took decades, with many disappointments along the way. But, from the formation of think tanks to legitimize radical economic viewpoints to the funding of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to create corporate-friendly, right-wing bill templates for state legislators; from corporate lobbying and targeted political campaign contributions to Astroturf political mobilizations; from the bolstering of the Federalist Society to reclaim the federal judiciary to the attacks on unions and education, the Kochs and their billionaire allies ultimately succeeded. And once power was obtained, they began rigging the system, via voter suppression and gerrymandering, to prevent Democrats from contesting elections on an even playing field.

What would such an electoral strategy look like?

Daily Kos election expert Stephen Wolf told TNR that, for maximum results, the Democrats should target the Texas State House, Florida State Senate, and both legislative chambers in Pennsylvania in 2020. Each of these chambers only require a handful of seats to flip to win Democratic control. Doing so, in the case of Texas and Florida, would block some of the worst and most devastating partisan gerrymanders of the next decade. Creating a Democratic trifecta in Pennsylvania, on the other hand, would open the door to a major voting rights expansion in a key swing state.

Similarly, Wolf suggests Ohio’s two Supreme Court races should be a priority, as a dual victory would give liberals a majority on the bench, providing the only vehicle moving forward to striking down GOP gerrymandering and voter suppression in the Buckeye State.

On the other hand, there may be a deeper problem. Our side wants to govern, not to rule. Our side believe in the back-and-forth of politics, the need for other voices to be heard, etc., etc. We always have. The fundamental difference between the right and left in the U.S. is the difference between closed and open. And those of us with open minds spend our energy thinking of how to solve real problems, not take power from the opposition. I'm not sure if that can change.

Because they're racists themselves

After a contentious session during which Speaker Pelosi was found out of order, the US House of Representatives voted 240-187 to condemn "President Trump's racist comments directed at Members of Congress." Only four Republicans joined House Democrats in supporting the measure.

We know the Republican Party has descended into white nationalism and outright racism. Individual Republicans can't criticize the president because they depend on his supporters to keep them in office. Meanwhile, all this nonsense detracts from the work of actually governing the country.

But remember: the Republican Party doesn't want to govern; they want to rule. And they will if we keep getting distracted from that simple premise.

More on the whack-a-mole White House

Yesterday David Frum wrote that every time the President sends out another outrageous Tweet, he's doing it to distract and divide his opposition. Josh Marshall extends the thought:

There’s a pattern: Outrage. Some still remaining levels of shock. Demands for apologies. Demands for denunciations from Republicans and for Democrats to do something. Each of these steps in the process makes sense and is inevitable and right. But taken together there is a Groundhog Day quality to it. It generates a unique form of literal and moral exhaustion. Haven’t we been through this storyline – the “Mexican” judge, “very fine” nazis? We know this. Right? We know this person. This is no different from a feral animal on its 10th attack.

Demanding denunciations, asking for Republicans officeholders to say it’s wrong, somehow gives them all too much credit. Better to say this is who you support. We knew this was him yesterday just as much as today and whether you express “deep concern” or even a more fulsome criticism hardly matters because you supported him and followed him yesterday and you’ll be doing exactly the same thing tomorrow. And because of that support, to voters, to everyone who isn’t a diehard in Trump’s camp the message should really always be the same: You have one chance to end this in 18 months and you have one chance to send a real message to every elected official who supports it. Everything else is just preening or deflection or playing again a record we’ve heard before.

Exactly. Our priorities as a party for the next 16 months are, in order: winning the White House; holding the House; keeping the Michigan, Minnesota, Alabama, and Virginia Senate seats; and picking up Senate seats in Colorado, Arizona, Maine, North Carolina, and Georgia.

We can win the table, if we hammer the Republicans on their deeply disturbed and dangerous party leader, as well as their ongoing efforts to enrich billionaires and keep everyone else in debt and close to poverty.

As one of my friends says, this isn't rocket surgery. We can do this. Let's stop getting distracted and start grinding the Republicans down.

Frum has it exactly right

President Trump's racist tweeting yesterday and continuing to bait the freshman progressives in the House of Representatives is an obvious attempt to split the Democratic Party going into an election year. David Frum worries that it's working:

Barred from expressing their rage against Trump through impeachment, progressive Democrats are turning their rage instead upon Pelosi. They blame her for stopping impeachment. They are now attacking her in increasingly racialized terms.

After Trump’s own Twitter eruption this weekend, the job of corralling the progressive Democratic caucus becomes that much more difficult. Trump and [Rep. Ilhan] Omar (D-MN) do not agree on much, but they do agree on this: Omar should be the face of the modern Democratic Party. Unlike Omar, Trump can force it to happen.

Trump is not playing 3-D chess here. He was probably just watching Tucker Carlson on DVR, and being plunged on tape delay into the same rage that Carlson had stoked in real time in the angry old men who watch him live.

Plan or no plan, though, Trump hit the Democratic Party at its point of vulnerability. He is driving it toward ever more radical outcomes...

Pelosi has been right at every move of this game. She is working to replace Trump at the ballot box, and she is working as best she can from the House to avoid mistakes that will help him and hurt the eventual Democratic presidential nominee.

Most of Pelosi’s party may well know and agree that she is right. But knowing and doing are two very different things. Trump is determined to make it impossible for Democrats to act on Pelosi’s knowledge—to break the discipline Pelosi has imposed on her party and to empower the Democrats who want to win Twitter today, rather than win the White House in 2020.

Let's not forget that Trump's outburst also had the result of turning attention away from his earlier palling around with child molesters.

Pelosi to AOC: Simmer down, kid

Jennifer Rubin lays out how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has dealt with, and delegated some of the dealing-with, freshman representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY):

If you did not catch it, Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, tweeted that the moderate Democrats were “New Southern Democrats. . . hell bent to do to black and brown people today what the old Southern Democrats did in the 40s.” That’s simply outrageous by any measure, especially considering that a healthy number of moderate members are nonwhite. Ocasio-Cortez’s staffer deleted that tweet, but his boss refused to take back her nearly equally obnoxious insinuation that Pelosi was singling her and her three colleagues out because they were not white. 

The moderate members want Chakrabarti gone, a not unreasonable request, given that he is threatening to launch primary challenges to some incumbents. If they want Ocasio-Cortez to completely capitulate, they could instruct their chiefs of staff not to deal with Chakrabarti, but it’s not clear they want to push it that far.

Pelosi is right in one regard: that Democrats’ “diversity is their strength.” Hardcore progressives can win in deep-blue districts and motivate their followers; moderates can win in swing areas. But the thing about a caucus or a coalition is that no one can promote themselves at the expense of and detriment to others. Now that this message has been delivered loud and clear, perhaps Democrats can return to their agenda and to their battle against Trump. For the good of the country, let’s hope so.

Also today, Andrew Sullivan slams the Democratic caucus for not being more aggressive fighting executive overreach (and corruption) while at the same time worrying that Jeremy Corbyn might become Prime Minister of the UK someday.