Archive for category National Politics

Presidential Temperament

The first substantive debate of the Republican primary has broken out between Scott Walker and Jeb Bush, over the Iran Deal.  Both Walker and Bush have denounced the deal, and called on Congress to reject it.  Walker, however, has said that he would nullify the agreement “on day one.”  Bush has called that position unrealistic, and arguing that a newly-sworn-in President wouldn’t be positioned to undertake such a potentially complex arrangement.

Bush has a point – the policy implications aren’t simple, and such a move would have to be part of a broader strategy.  That said, there’s no reason that a President-elect couldn’t get that into place before January 20.  He’ll have a good idea who his foreign policy team will be, and he’ll have been receiving intelligence briefings almost since election night.  If he puts his foreign policy advisors on the job now, they should be able to come up with a strategy by then.

More than anything, this confirms my own fears about electing Jeb president.  To be sure, Bush has a lot of assets as a potential president.  Unlike some on the right, I’ve never considered Bush to be “progressive” or “lefty.”  Anyone who paid the least bit of attention to how he governed in Florida would be hard-put to characterize him that way.  His own experience as governor, as well as his discussions with both his father and brother about what it’s like to be president have prepared him better than almost anyone else in the field to serve in the Oval Office.

That said, the two most important qualifications for the White House are temperament and judgment.  My own sense that Bush’s temperament, while it might have served well through the bulk of the 20th Century, is ill-suited the situation we find ourselves in.

In the past, periods of Progressive expansion have been followed by periods of consolidation.  The changes effected had be largely popular, even if the Presidents implementing them had not.  There was an incentive for the succeeding Republicans to be happy keeping things the way they were, and to execute the powers of the office in a relatively conservative way.  Coolidge, Eisenhower, and Nixon all followed that pattern.  Even Coolidge, who lowered taxes and reduced regulation, and referred to the more activist Hoover as “boy wonder,” didn’t succeed in legislatively rolling back any of Wilson’s 1913 “progress.”

Today, we don’t have that luxury – Obamacare will eat us alive, and our overseas situation will likely be the worst inherited by a President since at least 1981.  The EPA has grown into an unelected super-government, and along with its partner in crime, the Department of Interior, is depriving millions of Americans of the ability to make a living, or to better their lives.  Moreover, these changes are wildly unpopular.  The Iran Deal flies in the face of public opinion; Obamacare was the prime mover in the 2010 elections, and will only become more hated as tens of millions of Americans are forced onto Medicaid.

A Republican president will almost certainly have the backing of a strongly Republican House and Senate.  He will likely find state governments that remain overwhelmingly Republican.  It’s hard to imagine a better situation in which to devolve power back to the states and away from the executive.

The American people may be exhausted of drama, ready for a period of quietly being able to get on with their lives.  What they don’t realize is that neither our enemies abroad, nor our bureaucracy at home, are willing to grant us that.

Bush’s comments suggest that, rather than confront this opportunity head-on, he would maneuver cautiously, and likely end up ratifying most of Obama’s changes.  His temperament is one of caution, rather than boldness, at a time when boldness is called for.

Which is why judgment is temperament’s partner.

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Getting Your News From Facebook

There’s a reason I have a healthy Feedly portfolio.  Getting your news from Facebook can be hazardous to your knowledge.

Sunday morning, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker appeared on Meet the Press, and was asked – predictably – about gay marriage.  Here are two FB posts from two of my friends, one libertarian, and one a social conservative:

 

 

 

Neither FB friend was happy with what Walker allegedly had to say.

In fact, the reporting on both is shoddy, short, and lazy.

Taken separately, the comments appear to have come from two completely different people, and the headlines aren’t even reflective of the articles that they accompany.  (Click here for the City Pages article, here for the Hill report.)

Taken together, they form a coherent, reasonable response to a trap question.  Walker says, in effect, that he doesn’t want to get distracted by the question, he doesn’t think it’s important to most people, but that for people who are worried about the Supreme Court’s decision, there are a couple of routes they could take – a Constitutional amendment, or having the states back out of the marriage license business altogether, acting as a recorder.  Neither of those courses requires any sort of presidential action – Constitutional amendments do not require presidential signatures, and state-level action on marriage is obviously not a federal issue.  And indeed, Walker doesn’t actually endorse either course of action.

On the whole, it seems an admirable response, especially after 6 1/2 long years of a president who not only has an opinion about everything, but a desire to incorporate that opinion into the Federal Register.

But reading the headlines alone, you’d never know that.  And with FB’s increasingly silo-friendly algorithms, you’d likely never even know that the other article existed.

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What If a Republican Wins?

As opposed to 2012 and 2008, in 2016, the Republicans are blessed with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to presidential candidates.

We will see four or five well-rounded, successful governors who’ve proven they know how to make decisions and get re-elected, including Rick Perry, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, and Jeb Bush.  Throw in Chris Christie and John Kasich, too, if you like.

When the field is finally complete, virtually every candidate – with the exception of Donald Trump – will have something to offer, even those who have no hope of gaining the nomination.

Marco Rubio is the most impressive of the senators running, and seems to be a quick study with a broad range of knowledge.  Lindsay Graham has exactly one thing going for him – he’s serious about foreign policy – but even that’s something, and not nothing.  Rand Paul whose deep unseriousness about foreign policy is nevertheless matched by equal deep feeling about liberty issues, something more applicable to the domestic sphere.  Ted Cruz, for all of his lack of strategic thinking about the government shutdown, has argued and won cases before the US Supreme Court.  Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson know something about business and health care, even if neither has any business in the Oval Office.  Even Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, who are well outside my band-pass filters for acceptable presidential nominees, both have a talent for showing the interdependence of social and economic issues.

In some respects, this success is the outcome of a decades-long campaign by the national party to cultivate state legislative talent, and develop a strong farm system.  The results have been high-water marks in both percentages of Republican state legislators nationally, and governors.  Whether or not that farm system can be extended further down to the low minors of city councils and school boards remains to be seen, but that’s a topic for another day.

So what happens if a Republican wins in 2016?  Typically, the response would be to look to the field of governors for executive talent, at the risk of robbing the farm system of its leadership.  In some cases, that’s not a problem.  A President-elect Perry could pick Scott Walker for his cabinet, knowing there was a popular Republican Lt. Governor behind him, and likewise, former governor Perry doesn’t have anything to do with Texas government any more.

But in other cases, it could be problematic.  Many of the candidates are young, and in a position to run for Senate (or for re-election to the Senate), and accumulate experience and seniority.  Cabinet positions are rarely springboards for further elective office.

What the Republicans could use is some way of making use of all this talent without pulling them away from their day jobs, or foreclosing options down the line.  Is such a thing possible?  President Obama has made liberal use of so-called “Czars,” but for all the sturm und drang surrounding these appointments that require no Congressional approval, it’s unclear what actual effect they’ve had.  The real power continues to reside in the cabinet heads and the White House itself, which is as it should be.  But it’s also possible that, as in the case of Valerie Jarrett, more influence is being exercised behind the scenes than we know about.

Of course, actual elected politicians won’t do anything like that without credit.  Could such a system be formalized in the face of institutional turf-protections?  And is it compatible with limited executive authority?

Probably and I could see it taking a number of different forms.  The National Governors Association or the Republican Governors Association could be asked to elect regional representatives (if indeed they already don’t).  The NGA already has policy committees for federal relations; while those currently represent state interests, perhaps they could be given a higher profile, turned over the term-limited governors who are looking for public successes and Washington experience in advance of the next elective step.

The legislative side may be a little trickier.  The Senate was jealous of its privileges, at least before Harry Reid tried to turn it into an extension of the Executive Branch, and a healthy return to Constitutionality would have respect, if not encourage Congressional independence.  Committee chairmen don’t like being bypassed, and may well just ignore weak liaisons.  And in any case, Senators are largely Made Men in this operation, have no term limits, and can, if so inclined, grandstand their way to at least temporary prominence.  But if the president persists, access to the White House or the relevant bureaucracies, and insight into the regulatory processes, can create power independent of the committee gavels.  As in show business, Senators don’t have to like each other, they just have to work together.

These ideas hardly exhaust the possibilities, but they’re a start.  They’d take a president supremely confident in his own abilities to lead, not only his cabinet, but also people who ran against him for the job, and who still harbor ambitions of their own, and someone capable of keeping those personalities in line.

Add that to the list of necessary qualifications when you’re deciding who to support in the primaries.

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Will Hillary Clinton Be An American Pharaoh?

There hasn’t been a Triple Crown winner since 1978, when Affirmed and Alydar finished 1-2 in all three races?  Since then, there have been 13 horses who have won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, only to come up short in the Belmont.  This year, American Pharaoh will either become the 12th Triple Crown winner, or the 14th recent near-miss.

Why has it been so long – 37 years and counting – since a horse was able to pull off the feat?

In part, it’s because of the variety of circumstances a horse must win in.  The races are different lengths, with different-sized fields, often raced under very different conditions.

But it’s also because owners and trainers race the Belmont differently.  Instead of running the race straight up, they often gang up on the Triple Crown hopeful, forcing it not to be merely Secretariat, but also Seattle Slew and Affirmed.  It’s a bill that’s almost impossible to fill; no horse can run all-out for a mile and a half without running out of gas somewhere down the stretch.  Smarty Jones, possibly the best Triple Crown shot this century, may have been the victim of this sort of racing.

This year, Hillary might be vulnerable to a strategy where Republicans run at her like the competitors in the Belmont, rather than like the Derby, with different candidates showing her not just inferior to them on specific matters, but simply not credible at all.

In foreign policy,even supporters cannot name a single significant achievement, and she faces challenges from the Republicans both from the left (Rand Paul) and the right (everyone else).  Painting him as irresponsible and out of touch makes the other Republicans look more serious, without reinforcing herself against their criticisms.  The world is a messier, nastier place than it was when Hillary became Secretary of State.  Those candidates with foreign policy expertise or experience will have no trouble pointing out that Hillary either successfully enabled disaster, or ineffectively fought against it.

Personally, people already don’t trust her.  Already, her plans for summertime Foundation-linked events and publicity have been shelved. Between the emails and the Clinton Foundation (and Bill’s shell corporations), the sheer scope of corruption and irresponsibility is something that Republicans will be coming back to on just about every issue.  People may be distracted for a moment by Denny Hastert’s distress, but she’d better come up with something quickly when the parry to her every answer is, “Did you check your foundation’s donor list before answering that, Mrs. Clinton?”  Everyone in country knows that “You can’t prove anything” is the response of the guilty, the sort of thing Spiro Agnew might have said.

And consider what Hillary must assume is her trump card – “Don’t you want to see a woman president?”  Every step of the way, Carly Fiorina has shown a willingness to confront, outthink, and disarm a frankly hostile media.  Fiorina won’t win the nomination, but she’ll deny Hillary that easy trip down the backstretch that winners like to have.

Colorado has seen the “War on Women” movie in multiple elections, with decreasing effectiveness.  The irony is that it was used to elect Barack Obama, not Hillary Clinton.  The trope is starting to wear thin nationally, as well.  How ironic would it be if Hillary were unable to make use of it?

Even on her own side of the ledger, Hillary will have to face Democrats who excite the base, and remind them of what might have been.  It’s not uncommon for Belmont favorites to race other horses with the same trainer.  Owners hate that.  So will Hillary, because it will make her job of intervening in the Republican primary process that much harder.

Each of Hillary’s supposed strengths faces a challenge from at least one of the declared or likely Republican candidates.  It’s not a given, but maybe a probable twelve to seven, that kept on the defensive the whole time, and with no clear front-runner to target, Hillary won’t be able to do to the Republican nominee what Obama did to Romney – use early money to define him.

So the question remains: aside from the more obvious aspirations, is Hillary Clinton an American Pharaoh?

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Where Presidents Come From

Governors, mostly.

We go through this every four years, and I certainly was taken by surprise in 2008 when both parties nominated senators.

This year, so far, it’s all Senators and a former Senator and Secretary of State.  (More on that later.)  Rubio, Cruz, and Paul are all first-term Senators, and given our recent experience with a first-term Senator-as-President, people are understandably leery of electing another one.

If Obama were the only point of reference, I might agree with those who say the comparison is a false one, but the fact is, we don’t have a great record with first-term Senators.  Starting after the Civil War, we have Benjamin Harrison, Warren Harding, and John Kennedy.  Those were the only Presidents elected either directly from the Senate or with the Senate as their only national experience, and they were all first-termers.  (James Garfield was elected from the House, but he really didn’t get much of a chance.)  None of them left much of a record, although it’s possible that two of them, if they hadn’t died in office, might have been re-elected for all that.

Harrison was a one-termer, losing his 1892 rematch with Grover Cleveland.  Harrison had a terrible economy working against him, but then as now, Presidents got the blame or credit for that, probably too much of either.  It wasn’t even a sure thing that Harrison would be renominated, although the obvious candidate, James Blaine, was too ill to run.  True, the executive hadn’t grown to its current, gargantuan proportions, but it was growing into its own, post-Civil War, and was coming to be seen as more important than it had been, with civil service reform a major, multi-decade issue.

Harding’s tenure is mostly remembered for the Teapot Dome scandal, and indeed, his administration appears to have rivaled Grant’s for corruption, although like Grant, Harding hired poorly, rather than to have been on the take himself.  Richard Epstein, about 10 minutes in on this EconTalk podcast, tries to make the case for Harding’s administration, and certainly compared to the frenetic Wilson, he made good on his promise of a “return to normalcy.”  It’s possible a reassessment is in order.  But part of governing is hiring and management, and on that score Harding seems to have failed (with the exception of Mellon at Treasury, which is no small thing).

Kennedy has been canonized by his untimely death, but the fact is the golden haze is mostly misplaced.   He had relatively few domestic achievements, and repeatedly got rolled by Khrushchev – first at the summit, then in Berlin, and finally with the Cuban Missile Crisis.  He made up for it by getting us into Vietnam.

Obama’s been effective in getting some things past, but he’s had to make full use (and then some) of the powers granted the executive branch, and his only real legislative achievement came in large part because of a well-timed prosecution of Ted Stevens, and a variety of found ballots in Minnesota, which conspired to give him 60 votes in the Senate.  A Republican with real coattails in 2016 might pick up a couple of Senate seats, but given the map, is quite unlikely to get such a filibuster-proof majority to work with (although there’s always the chance that a Republican majority leader might follow the Democrat tradition and change the rules to suit his needs).

Of those who ended up President by succession, rather than election, two were legislators first, Truman and Lyndon Johnson.  We tend to think highly of Truman in retrospect, and much of that is based on foreign, rather than domestic policy.  Johnson, while a train wreck in foreign policy, and responsible for a vast expansion of the welfare and regulatory states (which is responsible for much of our current distress), could hardly be called ineffective.  He had spent decades in Congress, learning the ropes, and learning how to apply carrots and sticks, honey and vinegar, in proper proportion.  And of course, both were re-elected.

The last Secretary of State to be elected President was James Buchanan, a rank failure by any measure, inasmuch as the country split into two on his watch.  By that time, it was already becoming an uncommon path to the White House, although many had that ambition: Clay, Webster, Calhoun, Blaine, Seward.  Mostly, that was because the early Democratic-Republican Party established the office as the training ground for the Presidency, with Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and John Quincy Adams all moving directly from Foggy Bottom to the White House, and all directly in succession.  But Martin Van Buren would be the second-to-last one to make that move, and even then, he stopped off as Jackson’s second-term VP in-between.

He would be the last VP before George HW Bush to succeed the president he served in that role.  Nixon, Humphrey, and Gore all had close calls, but the only way most Veeps got to be chief executive was through succession, not election.

By far, the greatest number of presidents have been governors, and I confess that’s my personal preference.  Governors make decisions, senators make speeches.  Governors run offices, senators run their mouths.  There’s no place to hide as a governor, unlike Senate votes that can be calculated for effect, depending on who’s vulnerable on what issue.

Governors have to learn how to lead, how to work with legislatures, how to persuade, and what points to compromise on while advancing an overall agenda.  They have to make choices.  Effective senators do some of this, but are rarely in a position to have an overall view of where they want policy to go.

The good news is that Republicans have a deep crop of experienced governors waiting to enter the race – Perry, Walker, Bush, Jindal, Christie, Pence, Kasich.  That’s what happens when you build effective state machines, and when you focus on winning state legislative races.

While Hillary certainly has an imperial mentality, it’s unclear if she has an executive one.  And of the senators who’ve declared, only Rubio seems to have taken the time to truly educate himself on foreign policy.

As for me, I’m waiting for the governors.

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Democrat Unseriousness on Islamism – Again

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Cloud Cuckooland) has appointed Andre Carson (D-IN) to serve on the Permanent House Select Committee on Intelligence.

Rep. Carson is a Muslim, which in and of itself would not be problematic.  If, say, Dr. Zudhi Jasser or Dr. Qanta Ahmed were to be elected to Congress, I can’t think of a place where they should be more welcomed.

But Rep. Carson is no Dr. Ahmed or Dr. Jasser.  Rep. Carson is both a fan of and beloved by the Muslim Brotherhood’s political operations here in the United States.  Carson has a long history of associating with the Islamic Circle of North America and the Muslim American Society, both groups recognized by Egypt and the UAE as being part of the Muslim Brotherhood’s American political and influence operations.

The appointment comes a week after a set of bloody Islamist attacks in France, and less than a month after Egyptian President Sisi, whose country exists in a state of low-grade warfare against the Brotherhood, issued what amounted to a call for an Islamic reformation.

The appointment puts someone with close ties to America’s enemies on its most sensitive committee, and the one most directly involved with fighting that threat here and overseas.  Why on earth would you give someone like that access to a routine diet of sensitive operational and finished intelligence?

Given the fact that the mainstream media has mostly reported on the novelty of having a Muslim on the Intelligence Committee, the question answers itself.  Pelosi is looking to court a voting bloc, another of the Democrats’ increasingly incompatible identity interest groups in its increasingly unstable and incoherent coalition.  That is also helps to prove that America is no place for the oft-heralded, never-materialized backlash against Muslims.  Pelosi and most Democrats have long since acquiesced in CAIR’s and the MAS’s assertions that the worst thing about terrorist murders is that Muslims might be blamed for them.  What better way to prove that’s not the case than to put an Islamist sympathizer on the committee most responsible for overseering America’s conduct of its war on That Which Has Nothing To Do With Islam?

This is deranged.

It’s the equivalent of putting an actual Communist, say, Ron Dellums of California, on the Committee, or on the Pike Committee, the House’s equivalent of the Church Committee.  Oh, wait, they did that, too, back in the early 70s.
The Democrats have been fundamentally unserious about national defense for generations at this point.  It doesn’t bode well for the country when one of its two major parties derides missile defense as destabilizing, while putting a friend of the most civilizationally destabilizing force on the planet on the Intelligence Committee.

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Presidential Statements & Presidential Silence

I guess I’m glad the president finally condemned attacks on policemen with the same vehemence he usually reserves for Israeli housing construction.

One normally only condemns that which requires condemnation, something about which there exists doubt as to its moral status. When he finds it necessary to remind us that the cold-blooded murder of police officers is a bad thing, to whom, exactly, is he speaking? Not to me, nor to anyone I personally know. We already have no doubts on that score.  It means that there’s almost nothing he could say that would be strong enough.

Why has he put himself in this rhetorical box to begin with? No comment should be necessary. The only reason we were waiting for one from him is because he’s opened his mouth so many times, on so many other subjects, that to *not* say something here would carry its own weight.

That doesn’t even touch on the quality of Obama’s comments about the Cambridge Police, the New York Police, or the Ferguson Police, all of which have tended to assume that there was some police misconduct, even in the absence of credible evidence to that effect.

I think that people who claim that Obama is in large part personally responsible for either the police murders, or the environment that makes them acceptable to some people, are going too far. I do think he’s in some small part responsible.  People don’t talk unless they believe that their words will have some effect, Presidents especially so.  In the past, that meant that presidents weighed their words and the occasions for them carefully.

Not everything requires a presidential comment.  In this case, he’s got enough on his plate trying to manage the executive branch of the federal government without trying to be the country’s police commissioner, to be sure.

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Keystone XL 2015

Today, Harry Reid’s Senate committed one more act of legislative malpractice by failing to override a filibuster of the bill to move the Keystone XL pipeline forward.  The vote was taken for the sole purpose of giving political cover to nearly former Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who’s in a runoff election.  Much of her campaign has been based on her effectiveness in representing Louisiana’s interests.  Louisianans overwhelmingly support the pipeline.  But Harry Reid has willingly run interference for a White House that doesn’t want to make a decision, and risk alienating either the blue-collar wing or the environmental wing of its coalition. So the trick was to get to 59 votes, but not 60.

Apparently the Democrats thought Landrieu might be able to make some use of it.  I’m not sure what failure was supposed to prove, but the fact that it was done at all proves that Harry Reid, like Dorothy, had the power to do so all the time.  The message that comes through loud and clear is, “We’ll do anything to hold onto a Senate seat.”

Republicans have solidly supported building the pipeline, and will have no such aversion to embarrassing the White House, so it’s a fair bet that it will come up for a vote in the new Congress.  How will it fare?

On the surface, things look pretty good.  Supporters only need to get one more vote to move it to the President’s desk.  Can they?

We can safely assume that all 54 Republicans will vote for the pipeline.  So they need to find six Democrats to go along. Here’s the list of today’s Democrat aye votes:

Carper (D-DE)
McCaskill (D-MO)
Warner (D-VA)
Bennet (D-CO)
Casey (D-PA)
Donnelly (D-IN)
Manchin (D-WV)
Heitkamp (D-ND)
Tester (D-MT)

Begich (D-AK)
Hagan (D-NC)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Pryor (D-AR)
Walsh (D-MT)

Of the 14 ayes, five won’t be around for the next session, because they were or will have been voted out of office:

Begich (D-AK)
Hagan (D-NC)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Pryor (D-AR)
Walsh (D-MT)

That leaves these six:

Carper (D-DE)
McCaskill (D-MO)
Warner (D-VA)
Bennet (D-CO)
Casey (D-PA)
Donnelly (D-IN)
Manchin (D-WV)
Heitkamp (D-ND)
Tester (D-MT)

Only one, Colorado’s own Michael Bennet, is up for re-election in 2016, so he’s probably a safe bet to stay in the Yes column.  Gov. Hickenlooper’s reticence to take a position notwithstanding, Keystone remains popular here in Colorado.  All the other Democrats up for re-election in 2016 voted No, which tells you that Dems either think those are safe seats, or that people in those states will have forgotten this vote by then.  In any event, there’s little reason for them to change their votes to yes between now and 2016.

Casey, Donnelly, and Manchin all come from states with substantial coal production.  These are fossil-fuel friendly states, these guys are up in 2018, and none of them won their seats by being economic suicidalists.  McCaskill has been a vocal supporter of the pipeline in the past, as well.  That gets us to five, and leaves us with:

Carper (D-DE)
Warner (D-VA)
Heitkamp (D-ND)
Tester (D-MT)

Warner also comes from a coal-producing state, and that part of Virginia almost delivered the election to Gillespie this year.  Almost, but not quite.  Warner doesn’t need to run again until 2020, and his colleague, Tim Kaine, voted No.  Carper voted yes, but issued a pretty weasily statement back in 2013.  I wouldn’t count on him.

Honestly, I think either Tester of Heitkamp could stay as Yes votes, and largely for the same reasons – they’re Democrat senators in increasingly Republican states.  Montana just elected its first Republican senator in 100 years; Tester must be paying attention.  Rob Port sees the vote as bad news for Heitkamp.

If Reid does decide to run for re-election, he could be facing a stiff challenge from jaw-droppingly popular Governor Sandoval, who would likely make much of whatever arm-twisting Reid needed to do to keep 41 members in line.  On the other hand, he only needs to hold on to one of these senators, 2016 could be a good year for Dems, and it’s always more fun to be on the good side of a petulant Majority Leader with a long memory than on his bad side.

Still, it looks as though Reid could have his work cut out for him.

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Republicans – A State-Level Powerhouse on a National Scale

The Republicans are now America’s majority party at all levels of government, proving at least as adept as the Democrats in adapting to local conditions.

The facts are indisputable.  Republicans control nearly 2/3 of the governorships, will end up with 54 Senate seats, and a postwar high in House seats, possibly as many as 250.

The takeover of state legislative chambers has been breathtaking.  From the plugin below, you can see that it has been going on for some time, but really finished off the Dems in the South in 2010.

From its founding until 1994, the Republicans had really been a sectional party, able to compete effectively in the north and west, but locked out of the south.  In his four presidential elections, FDR won well over 90% of the vote in the Solid South.  (In none of those did the Republican nominee break 5%.  In 1944, Roosevelt fell below the 90% line, but the Republican Thomas Dewey finished third, behind the Southern Democratic Party, which didn’t actually nominate anyone.)

As the party moved south, it increasingly ceded the northeast to the Democrats, but the party was never entirely moribund there, either.

The price of this national success was something that the Democratic Party has been struggling with since its inception – the regions of the country are, in many ways, not very much like each other.  It makes governing as a party hard, because it creates a tension between the objectives of the national party and the desires of one’s constituents back home.  But it’s part of the design of our system that deserves to be celebrated, rather than denigrated.

The Democrats traditionally dealt with this problem by uniting around the one thing that every political party can agree on – staying in power.  So much so that they have come to stand for little else. They’ve been so good at uniting around power that, had it not been for Reconstruction, it’s almost certain that the country would have found itself with a Democrat president long before Grover Cleveland won the 1884 election.

Sometimes, a party is able to overcome that tension long enough to get things done.  The Democrats used a large House majority and 60 votes in the Senate to pass Obamacare, and promptly proved the limits of that strategy.  But on the flip side, I’m fond of pointing out that Jesse Helms couldn’t have won in Minnesota, and Rudy Boschwitz couldn’t have won in North Carolina, but they both helped pass the Reagan tax cuts.

The question is, now that they are a national party, can the Republicans find a reason for governing that unites these various regions? It’s a question they’re going to have to answer if they want to win the White House and actually govern.

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Foreshadowing 2016 with 1966

Many people are looking at who’s visiting Iowa and New Hampshire. Who’s campaigning for Senate and gubernatorial candidates is more interesting.

Obviously, for the most part, not Barack Obama, although Michelle seems to be in some demand. Gotta keep those policies off the ballot, after all.

Who is stumping for candidates? Mitt Romney. And Bill Clinton – not Hillary Clinton.

Why does this matter? One of the lessons I took away from Teddy White’s “The Making of the President 1968″ was that Nixon solidified his support in the party and his standing as a national figure by aggressively campaigning in the 1966 mid-terms for Congressional candidates. Almost all of them won.

Romney may or may not have enough left to make a serious run.

What’s more telling is that Bill is either the more popular or more influential Clinton, or both. Apparently, not even most Democrats are really Ready for Hillary, they’re just Nostalgic for Bill.

Don’t underestimate nostalgia.  Nostalgia for Bush I was largely responsible for putting his son in the White House in 2000, when people were tired of the Clinton Drama, on the ballot in the form of his Vice President.  But George W. didn’t have Hillary’s resume or long, long, long history in the national spotlight.  He may have found it useful to ride Clinton fatigue with his own relative novelty and memories of what it was like when adults were in charge.

The fact that Hillary, who has had decades – literally uninterrupted decades – to make her case to the American people, is having to do the same thing, should be a yellow flag to those who think she’s a done deal.

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