Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The establishment Democrats' conservative instincts

A number of considerations are shaping my understanding and expectations of the this midterm election year:
  • Democratic primaries are critically important for the direction of the party and whether or not the intensity gap with Republicans will be reduced. If progressives do well and a few conservative Dems like Diane Feinstein in California lose to progressive challengers, that will be an excellent sign on the policy and intensity fronts.
  • The "out" party that does not hold the White House typically loses Congressional seats in midterms.
  • Polls are showing a good likelihood that Democrats will retake the House in this year's elections. ( Seth Masket, A House forecast holds good news for Democrats Vox 02/12/2018)
  • October will almost certainly see a flood of sexual harassment allegations of varying degrees of substance against Democratic candidates as a result of the Senate Democrats' hasty defenestration Al Franken under the Gillibrand Standard ("We should not have to be explaining the gradations between sexual assault, harassment and unwelcome groping.")
  • Ginning up a war can give a President a burst in popularity. (See: Iraq, Invasion of, 2003)
  • Even aside from the unique features of the current occupant of the Oval Office and his professional wrestling style, Republicans are terrible and governing but good at campaigning.
The Democrats have some well-established bad habits. Chief among them an instinctive conservatism on economic issues and a bad habit of distancing themselves from "the left," aka, their voting base. Let's recall The One True Thing David Frum Ever Said: "while Republican politicians fear their base, Democratic pols hate theirs." (Gibbs on the Left FrumForum 08/10/2010)

Establishment Democrats will be sorely tempted to look at the current situation this way: We have a big possibility of cruising to a win in November. So we have to be cautious not to offend any Republican voters who would never vote for us anyway. Our base voters have no place else to go! And we need to keep courting big donors and stick to our strategy of relying heavily on the same media consultants who we're used to losing with. So we'll complain a lot about the deficit, which gives us something to complain about even though no actual voters care about it. And we certainly don't want to disturb any rich people by loose talk about rolling back Trump's bandits' tax cuts. Or talking about Medicare for all. Or, Lordy no, we can't talk about bloated military budgets because that would step on our Russia-Russia-Russia talking points and might disturb military-contractor donations.

David Dayen has an excellent essay on the politics of the deficit. And how badly the Democrats played it during the Obama Administration, although the title maybe isn't the best for it, The Big Budget Deal Isn’t Irresponsible The New Republic 02/13/2018:
[Fred] Hiatt [of the Washington Post] longs for the halcyon days of 2012–2013, when [Republican] House Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama came together in a bid to slash Social Security and other domestic spending, nearly destroying the country’s full faith and credit in the process. While Social Security survived, the Republicans’ failed attempt to hijack the debt ceiling to cut the deficit led to the sequester, a painful, mindless policy that capped discretionary spending automatically across the board, regardless of whether the program was useful or not.

The result was the lowest public investment in the United States since the demobilization after World War II. Budgets for serious needs like infectious disease outbreaks or public defenders for the indigent were reduced indiscriminately. The United States wasted the chance to use low borrowing rates to rebuild outdated infrastructure, one of the biggest missed opportunities in recent memory. The output lost by capping spending amounted to trillions of dollars in lost income and reduced economic growth.

This unquestionably denied work and prosperity to millions of people, simply to feed the irrational desires of people like Hiatt. Public sector jobs sagged under Obama more than any president of the past 40 years. And because public spending disproportionately assists poorer and more vulnerable Americans—an inverse of a tax code which largely benefits the rich—the historic cuts fueled income and wealth inequality. [my emphasis]
The Democratic Party paid dearly for Obama's bipartisan obsession and his economic conservatism.

And the establishment Democrats haven't given up those habits, as Cenk Uygur reports, Democrats: Progressives KEEP OUT 02/12/2018:

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