The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

About last night...

Gosh, where do we begin?

What last night showed, as clearly as day following night, is that the Republican Party simply can't win on the merits. And they know it. Yesterday demonstrated how effective their multi-year anti-democratic efforts have been.

Democratic candidates at each level in the aggregate won millions more votes than the Republican field. We lost three of our most vulnerable sitting Senators: Heidi Heidtkamp (D-ND), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), and Claire McCaskill (D-MO). Beto O'Rourke, the Democratic candidate challenging the odious Ted Cruz (R-TX), nearly won, coming within 220,000 votes out of 8.2 million cast. But we picked up a compensatory seat in Nevada. We broke Republican supermajorities in the legislatures of North Carolina, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, and flipped them entirely in Colorado, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Maine, and New York. We kicked out Republican governors by huge margins in Wisconsin and Illinois, won several others, and still have a fighting chance to elect the nation's first female African-American governor in Georgia.

I get Aaron Blake's complaint that it's a "bogus stat" that 12% more people voted for Democratic US Senate candidates than Republican ones. Except it's not. Democrats out-voted Republicans in 2016 and 2014 as well, even while returning Republican majorities to Congress.

Look at Georgia. The person responsible for counting votes, Republican Brian Kemp, was a candidate for governor, and he did everything in his power (some of them beyond his legal authority) to suppress the vote for his challenger, including purging 1.4 million voter registrations and suspending 53,000 more last month.

But also look at Kansas. Kris Kobach, who taught Brian Kemp everything he knows, and who tried unsuccessfully to bring his brand of voter suppression to the country at large, got handed his hat and shown the door. This, despite allowing Democratic-leaning Dodge City to put its lone polling place a mile from public transit, as just one example.

And look at Florida. Democrat Bill Nelson is exercising his right to a recount as sitting governor Rick Scott appears to have received only 35,000 more votes out of 8 million cast. But that's not the big story out of that state. No, the really big story, with consequences for the 2020 race, is that voters passed Proposition 4, re-enfranchising 1.5 million felons—most of whom are African-American—who have completed their sentences.

The Republican Party will try to spin yesterday as a vote of confidence in President Trump. They would do that if they lost by 30 million votes as long as they held the Senate and a couple of state houses. But be clear: between voter suppression, extreme gerrymandering, voter intimidation, and the Senate being specifically designed to protect minority and small-state rights, they have a lot less support than the election suggests.

Like the Afrikaaner National Party from 1948 to 1990, the Republican Party knows it can't win the argument, so it isn't even trying. Over the next few years we'll see them grab everything they can, and use every tactic they think of to hold onto power. They know their time is limited, but like every dying party in history (including George Washington's), they're not going to go quietly. As Trump has shown us, the GOP's strategy will be scorched earth until they finally disappear into dust like their predecessors, the Know-Nothings.

Let's use our new House majority to finally get answers about how much the Trump family has profited from being in office, about how cabinet secretaries are lining their pockets while handing our future to the industries they supposedly regulate, and about how the governing party is taking a match to liberal democracy in order to forestall their own irrelevance.

So let's keep up the fight.

Oh, and Chicago voted to ban plastic straws. I just...why?

A "sad, embarrassing wreck of a man"

That's how lifelong Republican George Will describes his party's leader:

Americans elected a president who — this is a safe surmise — knew that he had more to fear from making his tax returns public than from keeping them secret. The most innocent inference is that for decades he has depended on an American weakness, susceptibility to the tacky charisma of wealth, which would evaporate when his tax returns revealed that he has always lied about his wealth, too. A more ominous explanation might be that his redundantly demonstrated incompetence as a businessman tumbled him into unsavory financial dependencies on Russians. A still more sinister explanation might be that the Russians have something else, something worse, to keep him compliant.

The explanation is in doubt; what needs to be explained — his compliance — is not. Granted, Trump has a weak man’s banal fascination with strong men whose disdain for him is evidently unimaginable to him. And, yes, he only perfunctorily pretends to have priorities beyond personal aggrandizement. But just as astronomers inferred, from anomalies in the orbits of the planet Uranus, the existence of Neptune before actually seeing it, Mueller might infer, and then find, still-hidden sources of the behavior of this sad, embarrassing wreck of a man.

Kathleen Parker says "a cancer lives among us:"

Sure, he’s rude and crude, they’ve said, but he’s going to make America great again.

No, he’s not.

Nor was he ever, notwithstanding a column I wrote just before Election Day, saying that America would survive no matter who won. My optimism was based solely on faith in the U.S. Constitution and the inherent checks and balances prescribed therein. To be wrong would mean that the checks aren’t being applied when imbalances occur.

We are there.

When our chief executive, whose principal job is to defend both the Constitution and the nation against aggressors, stands alongside our chief geopolitical foe and betrays two of our most important institutions in the service of his own ego, he has dimmed the lights in the shining city on a hill and left the world a far darker place.

It’s often said that America is great because America is good. My faith in the institutions and the individuals who conferred upon us a singular role in the history of humankind is yet unshaken. But a cancer lives among us, and the good people of this country must be precise in its excision.

Those are Republicans. Democratic Party members haven't been so kind.

Should we pack the court?

Writing for New Republic, political scientist Scott Lemieux suggests that Democrats start playing constitutional hardball if the Republicans don't let us govern:

If the Democrats take over Congress and the White House in 2021 with Anthony Kennedy as the median justice—giving them a realistic chance of replacing him—it would be wise for Democrats to hold their fire, barring the Supreme Court serially striking down major legislation on specious constitutional grounds (which the decisions of the Obama era suggest is unlikely).

But what if Donald Trump is able to replace Kennedy, and, God forbid, justices Stephen Breyer and/or Ginsburg as well? There is no good outcome in this scenario. Republicans would have a hammerlock on a nine-member Court for decades. If Trump gets two nominees, this Court is likely to be well to the right of the current Roberts Court and likely to go to war with a Democratic Congress.

Even worse, the decisive nominations would be a product of a Republican Senate refusing to allow a president who won two majorities to fill a vacancy, and then confirming multiple nominees of a president who lost the popular vote by a substantial margin. Court-packing is bad, but allowing an entrenched majority on the Supreme Court to represent a minority party that refuses to let Democratic governments govern would not be acceptable or democratically legitimate, either.

For this reason, it would be very unwise for Democrats to rule anything out. They should be careful not to blow up the power of judicial review without good cause. But if desperate Republicans try to establish an anti-Democratic rearguard on the Supreme Court before they get swept out of office, Democrats have to leave all options on the table.

This reflects what we ancient D&D players know as the "Lawful Stupid" problem. Characters with lawful-good alignment run the risk of trying to do the right thing so much that they fail to do the necessary thing. Think: the Enterprise crew deciding not to save a planet because doing so would violate the prime directive. Or the Democratic Party continuing to assume the Republican Party will follow established political norms even when doing so would cause a temporary shift in power in the United States.

Democratic candidates know what they're doing

Greg Sargent this morning points out that my party's congressional candidates aren't running the campaigns that the popular imagination thinks they are, which is a good thing:

There’s a narrative about our politics right now that you constantly encounter on social and political media. It goes like this: Democrats are too obsessed with the Russia investigation, or with Stormy Daniels, or they’re just too focused on “not being President Trump,” and as a result, they aren’t articulating an affirmative agenda and risk getting caught flat-footed by Trump’s supposedly rising popularity.

But this narrative is entirely wrong, and two new pieces this morning help set the record straight.

The first article is by Nate Silver, and it puts Trump’s job-approval numbers in their proper perspective.

If Trump’s numbers are rising, they are only doing so inside a very narrow range that remains abysmally low. And don’t forget the polling that shows strong disapproval of Trump is running higher than strong approval, which could impact disparities in voter engagement.

The second piece is by Ron Brownstein, and it reports accurately on how Democrats are actually running their campaigns right now. As Brownstein notes, many Democrats think that their chances of winning this fall turn less on whether Trump gets further dragged down by scandal, and more on their ability to link the GOP’s tax cuts to its failed (but continuing) drive to roll back health coverage, which together amount to a deeply unpopular overall set of GOP priorities.

With Republican primary elections in Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, and North Carolina going on today, we may have even better data about how we're retaking the House in November.

On the other hand, Bruce Schneier notes that both parties' campaigns are dangerously nonchalant about IT security. Great.

Ides of March reading list

I'm writing a response to an RFP today, so I'll have to read these when I get a chance:

There were two more stories in my inbox this morning, but they deserve their own post after lunch.

Hell of a week

In the last seven days, these things have happened:

Meanwhile:

Can't wait to see what the next week will bring...

Long weekend; just catching up

Saturday and Sunday, the Apollo Chorus sang Verdi's "Requiem" three times in its entirety (one dress rehearsal, two performances), not including going back over specific passages before Sunday's performance to clean up some bits. So I'm a little tired.

Here are some of the things I haven't had time to read yet:

Other stuff is going on, which I'll report when I have confirmation.

On the radar today

I'm actually coughing up a lung at home today, which you'd think gives me more time to read, but actually it doesn't. Really I just want a nap.

Now I have to decide whether to debug some notoriously slow code of mine, or...nap.

Anti-liberalism on the left

Andrew Sullivan cautions the American left against turning into the very thing it hates about the far-right:

The idea of individual merit — as opposed to various forms of unearned “privilege” — is increasingly suspect. The Enlightenment principles that formed the bedrock of the American experiment — untrammeled free speech, due process, individual (rather than group) rights — are now routinely understood as mere masks for “white male” power, code words for the oppression of women and nonwhites. Any differences in outcome for various groups must always be a function of “hate,” rather than a function of nature or choice or freedom or individual agency. And anyone who questions these assertions is obviously a white supremacist himself.

Polarization has made this worse — because on the left, moderation now seems like a surrender to white nationalism, and because on the right, white identity politics has overwhelmed moderate conservatism. And Trump plays a critical role. His crude, bigoted version of identity politics seems to require an equal and opposite reaction. And I completely understand this impulse. Living in this period is to experience a daily, even hourly, psychological hazing from the bigot-in-chief. And when this white straight man revels in his torment of those unlike him — and does so with utter impunity among his supporters — there’s a huge temptation to respond in kind. A president who has long treated women, in his words, “like shit,” and bragged about it, is enough to provoke rage in any decent person. But anger is rarely a good frame of mind to pursue the imperatives of reason, let alone to defend the norms of liberal democracy.

Look: I don’t doubt the good intentions of the new identity politics — to expand the opportunities for people previously excluded. I favor a politics that never discriminates against someone for immutable characteristics — and tries to make sure that as many people as possible feel they have access to our liberal democracy. But what we have now is far more than the liberal project of integrating minorities. It comes close to an attack on the liberal project itself. Marxism with a patina of liberalism on top is still Marxism — and it’s as hostile to the idea of a free society as white nationalism is. So if you wonder why our discourse is now so freighted with fear, why so many choose silence as the path of least resistance, or why the core concepts of a liberal society — the individual’s uniqueness, the primacy of reason, the protection of due process, an objective truth — are so besieged, this is one of the reasons.

The goal of our culture now is not the emancipation of the individual from the group, but the permanent definition of the individual by the group. We used to call this bigotry. Now we call it being woke.

I'm not sure I completely agree with him, but I see some signs that he may be more right than wrong.

The answer to the right-wing's ascendance in American politics through obnoxious bigotry and inflaming feelings of identity-based resentment cannot be obnoxious bigotry and inflaming feelings of identity-based resentment. That's insane.

Well, they've done it again

The U.S. government has shut down its nonessential functions (including the President's vacation travel) because the ruling party can't play nicely with others:

The federal government shut down for the first time in more than four years Friday after senators rejected a temporary spending patch and bipartisan efforts to find an alternative fell short as a midnight deadline came and went.

Republican and Democratic leaders both said they would continue to talk, raising the possibility of a solution over the weekend. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said Friday that the conflict has a “really good chance” of being resolved before government offices open Monday, suggesting that a shutdown’s impacts could be limited.

But the White House drew a hard line immediately after midnight, saying they would not negotiate over a central issue — immigration — until government funding is restored.

Republicans resolved not to submit to the minority party’s demands to negotiate, while Democrats largely unified to use the shutdown deadline to force concessions on numerous issues — including protections for hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants.

So the Republicans control all three branches of government but couldn't avoid a repeat of their mistakes in 1994 and 2014.

As for my current project, we're fully funded, so we can continue working and getting paid. But about a third of our team are civil servants who are now on furlough. Let's hope that the Republican Party shows a little more willingness to make a deal with the minority over the weekend.