Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Clyburn Is Wrong About The Mueller Report Being A "Chapter Closed"


Last month, Chuck Todd's team at NBC News posed 10 questions that they were looking for Mueller to answer. Only 2 of the 10 were answered-- more or less-- in Barr's press release so I guess it will be up to Jerry Nadler, Ted Lieu, Jamie Raskin, Pramila Jayapal, David Cicilline, and the other Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee to get to the bottom of the questions.

The two that were answered were whether or not Trump would be-- as he certainly should have been-- subpoenaed and if any of the other crooked players who blatantly and indisputably lied to Congress would be charged. Trump wasn't subpoenaed, mooting that question. And Neither Trump Jr nor Erik Prince was charged with lying to Congress, at least not by Mueller, even though there is no denying that each did. Can the Judiciary Committee let that stand?

These are the other 8 questions NBC wanted answered:
Was there kompromat? Was President Trump compromised by his business dealings with Russia (including the Trump Tower Moscow)?

Did Paul Manafort really share 2016 polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik (who has ties to Russian intelligence)? And if so, what did Kilimnik do with it?

Who at the Trump campaign directed Roger Stone to get information about upcoming WikiLeaks disclosures against the Clinton campaign?

Did anyone in Trump’s orbit help WikiLeaks analyze/organize/curate its email dumps?

Did Trump know about the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer? And when did he know it?

Where do Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates fit into this investigation?

What about the NRA?

Why has Trump-- throughout it all-- obfuscated, attacked and misdirected as much as he has? In other words, why has he acted like somebody who has something to hide?
I hope it's not just going to be Rachel Maddow who tries giving us the answers to these very salient, crucial questions. Remember, the House voted 420-0 to release the report. I'd like to add another question myself: why wasn't the spider at the center of the whole collusion web, fascist billionaire Robert Mercer, who placed Bannon at Cambridge Analytica to run it for him and who financed the Trump data operation, ever questioned? I hope Nadler's committee will make up for the mistake.

I'm sure you've noticed, as everyone else in the country has, that Trump and the Republican Party-- from top to bottom-- appear to "have already won the narrative of the Mueller report without anyone even reading a full sentence from it." Democrats used to be better at this kind of p.r. game. Maybe the DNC needs to try to hire back John Neffinger as Communications Director.

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Democrats And Republicans About To Clash Majorly-- On Health Care For Americans


But we can't afford to expand health care

Trump is celebrating his possible victory-- we'll see what's true and what's not when the whole Mueller Report is released instead of just a GOP press release from Barr's office-- by kicking millions of poor people off healthcare. Again, through Barr, Trump had told a reactionary Texas appeals court (the 5th Circuit), he wants the whole Affordable Care Act shit-canned. CNN reported that that is "a major shift for the Justice Department from when Jeff Sessions was attorney general. At the time, the administration argued that the community rating rule and the guaranteed issue requirement-- protections for people with pre-existing conditions-- could not be defended but the rest of the law could stand."

Note: protection for people with pre-existing conditions is the single most popular part of the ACA and if Trump has it struck down, it will be another nail in his political coffin. Last night, Robert Pear reported for the NY Times that Pelosi is on the verge of unveiling a plan ro expand health coverage-- far from Medicare-for-All, but far better than what Trump is offering America. Pear pointed out that "Democrats won control of the House in large part on the strength of their argument that Congress needs to protect people with pre-existing medical conditions and to lower the cost of health care and that today she's "putting aside, at least for now, the liberal quest for a government-run Medicare for all single-payer system and unveil a more incremental approach toward fulfilling those campaign promises. Building on the Affordable Care Act, they would offer more generous subsidies for the purchase of private health insurance offered through the health law’s insurance exchanges while financing new efforts to increase enrollment."

Did Pelosi stab the CPC in the back over Medicare-For-All? 

She and her lieutenants will offer legislation that also reverses actions by Trump that "allow insurance companies to circumvent protections in the Affordable Care Act for people with pre-existing conditions. Insurers could no longer sell short-term health plans with skimpy benefits or higher premiums for people with chronic illnesses. She says the legislation will 'strengthen protections for pre-existing conditions, reverse the G.O.P.’s health care sabotage and lower Americans’ health costs.'"
The legislative package, put together by Ms. Pelosi and several House committee chairmen, builds on the health law that the speaker was instrumental in passing-- and that was signed by President Barack Obama almost exactly nine years ago. And it seems to answer a question facing Democrats since they took control of the House: How would they balance the expansive demands of their most liberal members with the needs of more pragmatic Democrats elected in seats that were held by Republicans?

Ms. Pelosi, the committee chairmen and many other House Democrats see the new legislative package as a more efficient way of achieving universal coverage, a goal shared by champions of “Medicare for all,” led by Representatives Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Debbie Dingell of Michigan.

Democrats said they would probably try to pass the legislative package piece by piece, with the first votes on the House floor expected in May. Some elements could win support from Republican House members and from the Republican-controlled Senate.

With their new proposal, House Democratic leaders hope to finesse the disagreements within their caucus and to focus public attention instead on the gulf that separates Democrats of all stripes from President Trump on health care.

In his latest budget request, Mr. Trump urged Congress again to repeal the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which has provided coverage to at least 12 million people newly eligible for the program. Mr. Trump attacked Senator John McCain last week, seven months after his death, for casting a decisive vote against repeal of the 2010 health law.

And in the economic report of the president, the White House boasted last week about how Mr. Trump had allowed small businesses and individual consumers to buy insurance plans that skirt many requirements of the Affordable Care Act, offering lower costs but fewer benefits.

Under a rule issued in August, Mr. Trump greatly expanded the market for sales of short-term insurance plans that do not have to cover prescription drugs, maternity care, drug abuse treatment or pre-existing conditions.

The House Democrats’ bill would turn back the president’s action by stipulating that short-term plans are included in the definition of “individual health insurance coverage” under the Affordable Care Act and therefore must comply with coverage requirements of the health law.

“These junk plans discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions,” said Representative Frank Pallone Jr., Democrat of New Jersey and an architect of the new legislation. “They deny access to basic benefits. They set arbitrary dollar limits for health care services, leading to huge surprise bills for consumers.”

“We passed the Affordable Care Act to rein in exactly these types of abuses,” said Mr. Pallone, who is investigating the short-term plan as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

The Affordable Care Act provides two main types of financial assistance to people of modest means buying private insurance: tax credits to help them pay premiums, and cost-sharing reductions to lower their deductibles, co-payments and other out-of-pocket costs.

The House Democrats’ bill would revise the law to provide more of both types of assistance.

In addition, the bill would make subsidies available to some working families who are now ineligible. The law, as interpreted by the Internal Revenue Service, bars subsidies to workers who have access to affordable employer-sponsored coverage for themselves-- even if the cost of coverage for the entire family is unaffordable. The House Democrats’ bill would eliminate this quirk in the law, sometimes called the family glitch.

...The package will also include a bipartisan bill offered by Representative Andy Kim, a freshman Democrat from New Jersey, that would provide federal money to states that want to set up their own insurance marketplaces but have yet to do so.

“With skyrocketing premiums in the federal marketplace, state-based exchanges have proven to be more effective at increasing the rate of coverage and lowering costs,” said Representative Brian Fitzpatrick, Republican of Pennsylvania, who helped write this proposal with Mr. Kim.

Karoli Kun is an editor at Crooks and Liars and a friend and colleague. She is just coming out on the other side of a serious health issue, which she details at C&L. "After six days in the hospital," she wrote last night, "doctors finally narrowed the cause to a carotid artery stenosis, a blockage likely caused by years of smoking and (also undiagnosed) high cholesterol. Last Monday, an excellent vascular surgeon performed surgery to place a stent in my carotid artery, opening it up and getting rid of the debris still left in that artery. The description of the procedure is terrifying, but it went without a hitch and is successful. I'm told I may have come out of the anesthetic growling 'Fck Trump' since he really is to blame for every bad thing. Going forward, I just have a lovely zipper on my neck now, but it’s a small price to pay to have the artery open and working properly.
In the aftermath, I am wearing a continuous heart monitor for the next 2 weeks to rule out atrial fibrillation as a cause. The doctors doubt it, but recommend it out of an abundance of caution.

I will likely be on medication for high blood pressure and blood thinners for the rest of my life. The side effects are a challenge but in the end it’s a small price to pay. Thursday I start physical and speech therapy to fix the remaining speech and fine motor skills issues, which are improving every day but still linger when I’m tired or talking too fast. I’m seeing a neurologist and cardiologist for follow-ups, and an ophthalmologist to evaluate vision changes and fix my glasses prescription.

The way I have been treated is the way everyone’s health care should be handled. From the moment I arrived at the ER through my surgery last week, Kaiser has been in charge of my healthcare needs. Not their bottom line: my needs. If I needed surgery, I got surgery. No fighting, no initial denials. If I needed a test, I got a test. If I needed a specialist, I got a specialist. This is how medicine should work: Doctors healing, health professionals and support staff healing, while the patient does not worry.

In all of my conversations with the health professionals treating me over the past 4 weeks, I realized that one of the reasons for my superior treatment is mainly because Kaiser really knows how to deliver health care, but also because California in particular has higher standards for health care professionals. Nurses, for example, cannot be responsible for more than 4 patients in a hospital. That means they’re available, less stressed, more attuned to their patients’ needs. Several of the nurses caring for me told me they moved here from other states where the standards are far lower in order to feel like they were able to do their best work. That suggests there should be national standards for health care delivery rather than letting some states race to the bottom and cheap it up. (Yes, the states they left were red states. Deep red states.)

Health care needs to be that way for everyone, not just lucky ones with good insurance in blue states. At this point, I don’t care how we get there but we have to get there. Soon.
Well, Trump sure isn't offering it-- and neither are Pelosi and her lieutenants. And Trump is also proposing cutting billions of dollars from Medicare and Medicaid (and Social Security). You know who is offering real healthcare to Americans, though, right?

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It's Bad Enough We Have Trump Threatening Democracy-- Now There's Cheri Bustos, A Dangerous Blue Dog At The DCCC


Eric Levitz's column in New York Magazine over the weekend, House Democratic Establishment Declares War On Democracy is exactly the kind of headline Pelosi, Hoyer and Cheri Bustos deserve. Their latest little trick-- under cover of the Mueller Report hysteria-- deserves lots of exposure so the Democratic grassroots starts to understand that when you contribute to the DCCC, you are contributing to the enemy. "The American political system," wrote Levitz, "is dominated by a two-party duopoly that uses its control over election laws to suppress challenges to its power. That statement might sound like Nader-ite agit-prop, but it is a plain fact, widely recognized by scholars of comparative politics."

He goes right to the heart of the problem-- the accountability to voters that each corrupt party's establishment tried to undermine. "[T]hanks to partisan polarization, most American voters live in congressional districts where there is no serious two-party competition... These conditions are decidedly less than ideal, from a democratic perspective. But they can nevertheless be reconciled (at least, to an extent) with competitive elections and government accountability-- so long as voters can vigorously contest power within each major party. A Democratic House incumbent representing a district in New York City will be all but invulnerable in a general election. But if Democrats encourage intraparty democracy, then that incumbent’s constituents will still be able to hold him or her accountable in a contested primary. Unfortunately for our republic, the House Democratic leadership signaled Thursday that it believes democracy has no place within the Democratic Party."

How do you liked dem apples? Bustos' DCCC, always stinking of corruption-- especially now that a Rahm Emanuel protégée is running the show again-- is making an early move to deter primary challenges against sitting incumbents. They're threatening to put Democratic Party-allied political firms out of business if they help Democratic challengers primary incumbents. As we saw over the weekend, dozens of current members were first elected by beating incumbents. It's an old trick they've been using, in a more sneaky way, for over a decade.
The new protocol, intentionally debuted early in the off-year before most campaign hiring begins, presents a stark financial deterrent to the country’s top firms that provide essential services ranging from polling to TV advertising to strategy. It could cripple would-be primary opponents’ ability to entice top talent to join their staff. The DCCC independent-expenditure arm doles out millions in contracts to consultants and drives more revenue toward them by connecting campaigns with vetted operatives.

“The DCCC is often times the gatekeeper for consultants to get to candidates, ” said Ian Russell, a campaign media strategist and former top official at the committee. “Unless you have a steady stream of income coming from another source, it would be very difficult to navigate the House world if you were shut out by the DCCC."

The DCCC's rationale for this move is straightforward: The organization exists to maximize the Democratic Party's chances of holding congressional majorities-- and since (all else being equal) incumbents are much more likely to win general elections than newcomers, protecting incumbents is a core part of its mission.
"All things," though, are never equal and this is more a bullshit excuse than an actual cogent rationale. It leaves out that in deep blue districts, where Republicans have no chance to win, it's a blessing to get rid of a sack of shit incumbent and replace him with someone better-- as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did with Joe Crowley last year. I think Levitz would agree with me on this. He wrote that "This argument may be coherent, but it is not credible. For example, if preserving majorities were its sole concern, the DCCC could discriminate against vendors who assisted primary challenges in competitive districts, while welcoming those that aided progressive insurgents in safe 'blue' ones. This isn’t an idle point. Two of the progressive groups that are currently recruiting 2020 primary challengers-- Justice Democrats and Data for Progress-- have declared their intention to target moderate [Levitz means "conservative"] Democrats in (relatively) safe districts, like Texas representative Henry Cuellar, and Massachusetts’s Stephen Lynch. You don’t need an across-the-board blacklist to protect Democratic majorities, only to insulate Democratic incumbents from intraparty competition."
What’s more, it’s far from clear that the DCCC’s policy will even succeed on its intended. The small-dollar donor armies that have freed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from the burden of fundraising-- and filled the coffers of Bernie Sanders’s nascent 2020 campaign-- aren’t going anywhere. And neither are progressive interest groups like NARAL Pro-Choice America, which backed Marie Newman’s attempt to oust pro-life Illinois Democrat Dan Lipinski last year. The DCCC can’t eliminate the demand for political operatives who are willing to assist left-wing primary challenges. And by limiting the supply, the Democratic establishment threatens to give a monopoly to its most ideologically committed adversaries, and thus, accelerate the growth of upstart firms like Grassroots Analytics and Data for Progress.

But all these considerations are secondary. The principal problem with the DCCC’s policy is that-- in a political system where interparty competition is already severely limited-- suppressing intraparty competition in all House races is an unforgivable infringement on democracy.

There is no equivalence between the two major parties’ attitudes toward democracy. And for supporters of self-government, there is no viable alternative to vying for power beneath Team Blue’s tent. But a Democratic Party that uses its market power to suppress electoral competition does not deserve its name.
Whaam! Pow! by Roy Lichtenstein

Yesterday, The Intercept ran a guest post by Monica Klein (no relation), a communications strategist and founding partner at Seneca Strategies, a consulting firm focused on progressive, diverse and female candidates. She's on the front line of the DCCC's and Cheri Bustos' newest assault against democracy. She wrote that six hours after the DCCC "announced that it was blacklisting firms that work with primary challengers, I met with a potential client who was considering a Democratic primary. The client told me that two consultants dropped out that morning-- and now the candidate may not run at all." For the DCCC-- mission accomplished!
The timing of the DCCC’s blacklist is not remotely coincidental. In the first quarter of an off-year, many potential candidates decide whether to jump into a race. If campaign staff dries up before day one, a once-daunting campaign can feel impossible.

This is precisely what the DCCC wants. The committee is hoping that these young women will stop contemplating challenges against Democratic incumbents. We can’t allow the DCCC to succeed and block these brave challengers.

Like many women in their 20s across America, I feel inexplicably hopeful and manifestly seen when I watch Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez take on the stale and insular political dynamics of Washington. We feel spoken for and welcome to speak when we see one of our own-- a young, fearless woman in fire engine-red lipstick-- transfigure politics from a bureaucratic, impervious institution for old white men into her own bully pulpit for affordable health care, green jobs, and living wages. We cannot imagine a Washington without her.
Goal ThermometerYou may recall that last cycle, Blue America was asking you to contribute to AOC's insurgent campaign. And then, on top of that, we used our Independent Expenditure money to help her in her long shot bid because we felt sure that if she could win it would do something really amazing-- replace one of Congress' very worst members with someone with the potential to be the very best member. And that potential is unfolding day by day before our eyes. This cycle we are busy drafting more great candidates to challenge lousy incumbents. If you click on the thermometer on the right, you can see who they are, where they're running and... if you want to, you can chip in to help their campaigns. With the help of blog readers like you, Blue America has been helping recruit and elect insurgent candidates since 2006. I have a feeling this is going to be a very big year for us. OK, back to the other Klein:
Ocasio-Cortez’s unapologetic energy in Washington cannot be separated from her decision to run against Joe Crowley in Queens, New York. Every action Ocasio-Cortez takes carries the same fearlessness that prompted her not to wait her turn. Our party desperately needs countless more Ocasio-Cortezes who won’t wait until their representative is done serving-- especially when these elected officials have stopped “serving” anyone but themselves and their donors. And we need a national party that encourages and supports firms that work with new progressive challengers.

Yet instead of embracing Ocasio-Cortez and the fresh path she has opened, the DCCC and other national “Democratic” organizations are wrapping their arms more tightly around the heavily white, male incumbent Democrats in Washington.

As astounding as Ocasio-Cortez’s meteoric rise was, part of the now-infamous story is how she did it with just grassroots volunteers and minimal campaign infrastructure. Imagine how many Ocasio-Cortezes we could have if the Democratic Party was supporting firms that work with progressive challengers-- instead of threatening us with extinction. There’s a reason why Ocasio-Cortez’s rise seems like a political fairytale to many of us. As consultants, we frequently see talented candidates struggle to gain momentum because of inadequate support. Yes, it’s possible to run a campaign with little paid staff and a team of tireless volunteers. But when your opponent has top-tier fundraisers, pollsters, and digital and communications support, you’re inevitably at a forbidding disadvantage.

For those of us who work in politics, launching a campaign can feel like second nature. But for potential candidates who are new to the political arena, experienced staff can provide a key guiding hand-- especially during those critical early months. Outsider candidates without political experience-- say, a former bartender or a public school teacher-- are precisely the types of leaders we need more of in Washington, and exactly the types of candidates who benefit the most from early campaign guidance.

In the past year alone, I’ve had clients return from meetings with national Democratic organizations dissuaded because they were told that they have no chance of winning and shouldn’t try. I’ve had clients threatened by New York’s Democratic establishment, their donors scared off and their campaign funding dried up. I’ve watched clients struggle to find talented staffers who are willing to work with a primary challenger-- and then mocked for making simple campaign missteps. Time after time, the leaders of the Democratic Party who purport to pursue a strong Democratic majority are throwing up roadblocks that make running a viable campaign near-impossible. Yes, there are the shining stars like Ocasio-Cortez who manage to break through. But imagine how many more potential candidates now won’t even try.

As campaign consultants, we must keep working with primary challengers-- lifting them up, connecting them to critical early resources, and providing the guidance and support they need to run a successful campaign. But the DCCC needs to do its part. Stop threatening firms with financial ruin if they work with Democratic incumbents and challengers alike. Instead of protecting ineffective Democrats, offer primary challengers access to the resources they need.

At a time when Democrats have largely failed to stir national political excitement, we should encourage reflection and promote debate within our own party. We should recruit and support primary challengers like Ocasio-Cortez across the nation. Yet the DCCC’s efforts to suppress primaries and punish firms for working with challengers accomplish the opposite.

Representatives who are effectively serving their communities should have nothing to fear from a primary challenge. On the other hand, throwing up ridiculous roadblocks and consulting bans is more telling than ever. The old guard of the Democratic Party is petrified-- because their record is flimsy, their vision outdated, and their bank accounts filled with corporate donations. This fear is the clearest signal we have that it’s time for a new generation of Democratic leaders. Bring on the primaries.
Shahid Buttar, a progressive activist and attorney in San Francisco is the Democrat running against Pelosi in 2020. Last he night be told me that "If Democratic incumbents did the job of representing their constituents, they would not need to fear primary challenges. Strong-arming consultants and staff by insisting on loyalty to party insiders reeks not only of machine politics but also corporate control. As an American who came to our country seeking freedom & opportunity, I believe very strongly that we should embrace democracy instead of running from it. Ultimately, if the centrist leadership is so afraid of the challenge we present, we'd invite them to contest a free & fair election. Unfortunately Democratic leaders appear content to repeat the tactics used by predatory monopolists to erect barriers to entry, undermining not only potential competitors like our campaign challenging Pelosi from the left, but also the competitive electoral process, and the voters denied a full spectrum of options as a result of their machinations."

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

Trump, a man so dumb and mentally dysfunctional that he loses debates with dead people.

Now if only McCain's hand would reach up, grab Trump by the throat, and pull him down into the ground.

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Monday, March 25, 2019

Who Is Beto? And Why Is He Running For President?


One of my friends called the other day and reminded me that I had first met Barack Obama when he was a state senator, soon after I had discovered that he wasn't an Israeli Irishman. He was running for the U.S. Senate and conventional wisdom said he had no chance at all. He was in 4th place in an 8 person race. Some friends and I put on a fundraiser for him here in L.A. where his presentation stunned everyone in the room. I recall that it cost $75 to get in. After he was done speaking, there was not a single flat surface in the house that wasn't taken by someone writing another check. He was just a state senator no one had ever heard of and you could hear the word "president" be uttered. (He went on to win the primary with 53% of the votes, his closest opponent, Illinois state Comptroller Dan Hynes, taking 24%.) The reason my friend brought him was because he wanted to ask me if I saw any resemblance between Beto and Obama. I thought about it for a moment before responding that they were both males.

I also got to know Beto a bit before he was in Congress. He was making the jump from the El Paso City Council to Congress-- successfully primarying a corrupt, conservative Democrat, Silvestre Reyes, a Pelosi crony. Blue America endorsed him and helped him win the primary. I like Beto, even if he's not what I had hoped for in a rockin' young congressman and even if he's sketchy on policy and-- as it turns out-- not as good, at least in practice, on the campaign finance reform issues he's always shouting about. Still... a nice guy, always willing to talk through policy differences in a respectful and open way, more than I can say for many politicians. But a president of the U.S.? I don't see it.

Yesterday, a couple of NBC reporters, Lauren Egan and Alex Seitz-Wald, wrote how Beto could be a threat-- to Biden on his right and Bernie on his left. They start by interviewing some old dumbbell ex-Republican worried about Biden and Bernie being old and Bernie being a socialist. Apparently Setz-Wald picked his typical man on the street who's no longer a Republican but still watches Fox News. "Beto's theme of bringing people together really resonates with me. This division is very unsettling," sayeth the idiot.

While Sanders' allies have worried that O'Rourke could eat into the Vermont senator's base of young progressives, Biden may end up being the one with the most to lose among mainline Democrats more concerned with electability than political revolution.

Instead of shoring up his progressive bona fides in the face of left-flank attacks, O'Rourke has emphasized a Biden-esque message of civility while making a case that he can win the White House by stumping in the very Midwest states that Biden allies argue "Middle-Class Joe" is most capable of carrying.

"Because he generates so much excitement, a lot of people think Beto is a real threat to Bernie Sanders," said Bill Press, a liberal talk radio host who has hosted meetings of Sanders' kitchen cabinet. "Actually, for that very reason, plus the fact that he's closer to Biden than Bernie on the issues, I think Beto's much more of a threat to Joe Biden."

"Some Democrats are asking: If you already have a more exciting, younger, centrist white male in the race, why do you need Joe Biden?" Press said.

...The core of O’Rourke's stump speech is about inclusion, sounding more like Biden, who has been dinged by the left for speaking warmly of Republicans, than Sanders or Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) who portray their campaigns as us-versus-them fights against a corrupt political system.

The former Texas congressman has repeatedly declined to call himself a "progressive," saying he doesn't like labels, and refused to adopt ideological litmus-test issues, like Medicare for All.

You can always count on a fool like Seitz-Wald to portray Medicare-for-All as an "ideological litmus-test issue," rather than as policy as crucial for the development of the country as Social Security once was. There were people just like him who had nothing to say about it beyond it being an ideological litmus-test issue. Time for more already familiar pablum from Beto:
"Let's make sure that before we are Democrats or Republicans, we see each other as Americans and human beings and treat one another accordingly," O’Rourke said in Cleveland, repeating one of his common refrains.

And O'Rourke, who draws comparisons to Barack Obama on the stump, is even challenging one of Biden's chief assets-- his association with the popular former president.

"People underestimate how difficult it is to run from the lead position," said Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis.

"The real challenge for Biden and Sanders," he continued, "is going to be how do they keep people energized and excited about their candidacy, which really puts the onus on their ideas. Whereas for new candidates like Beto and (Kamala) Harris, it can be about their candidacy and their ideas."

Older white voters who turned out to O’Rourke's events in the midwest nearly universally expressed fondness for Biden, but also concerns about the former vice president, even if they weren't fully sold on O'Rourke.
Beto's fans seem as superficial and vapid as he comes across on the stump. While I was putting this post together, I got an e-mail from Beto's slick, inauthentic campaign. "In just six days, we have a chance to do something really big together, Howard. Something important-- for our country and our campaign to elect Beto. Please stick with us for a few moments while we unravel this." What did they unravel? Just that Beto will continue to imply he supports Bernie's and Elizabeth Warren's issues-- which he doesn't-- in order to raise money from low-info voters on his mailing list.

Goal ThermometerSeitz-Wald quoted one of the infatuated Beto supporters, a woman named Carolyn Harryman, who came to Beto's first campaign event in Keokuk, Iowa, and said beating Trump is her biggest concern in 2020 "I think Biden is smart and a superb human being, but I think we need new ideas." A superb human being? The conservative old racist?

Seitz-Wald also dug up Sharon Quinn, a 70-year-old retiree from Scranton, Pennsylvania, Biden's hometown, worried what a run would do to the former vice president's family. "Trump will eviscerate his family, his past, everything. I think he could be an excellent secretary of state, or something like that. We have a lot of fear for him if he runs," she said. "Beto is a blank slate,” Quinn continued. "He has intellectual curiosity and authenticity that we're looking for." Yeah, Blank Slate For President. Nice bumpersticker! Or something like that.

The new Emerson poll of Iowa registered Democratic voters shows Beto still struggling to get out of the also-ran category. At 5%, he has less than half the support Mayor Pete has (11%) and also trails, Biden, Bernie, Kamala, Elizabeth Warren and even Cory Booker. Gillibrand is back at zero and Klobuchar has sunk to 2%. In terms of momentum, Biden has sunk from 29% to 25% since January, Bernie has climbed from 15% to 24% and Kamala sunk from 18% to 10%. At that point Mayor Pete was polling zero, so his sprint to 11% is pretty amazing. Among voters under 30, only Bernie has more support than Buttigieg. In head to head matchups, the only Democrats who would beat Trump in Iowa at this point are Biden and Bernie.

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Is It Too Late For Cory Booker? Or Too Early?


Cory Booker by Nancy Ohanian

I was never much of a Cory Booker fan. Before he decided to be progressive-- for whatever reason and for however long his commitment turns out to be-- he was an unabashed Wall Street whore, a charter school fanatic and a loony Zionist. (He may still be a loony Zionist.) But, you know what? He was elected to the Senate and-- with a couple of glaring exceptions (like his refusal to vote for Bernie's bill to allow pharmaceutical imports from Canada)-- he's run up an impressive voting record. Since being elected, his ProgressivePunch crucial vote score is a sterling 97.09%, the 4th best in the Senate.

So far, his campaign for the presidency hasn't made much of a splash. Polls usually find him trailing, badly, frontrunners, Biden, Bernie, Kamala and Beto, rarely getting even to 5%. But the media still treats him as a serious contender. Yesterday, Politico reporters Burgess Everett and Natasha Korecki, looked into his struggle to find himself in the context of the 2020 primary.

The party has moved left in terms of policy preferences and Booker-- like his colleagues Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand-- has mostly followed along, albeit tepidly. "At the end of January," wrote Everett and Korecki, "Cory Booker was emphatic in his defense of the filibuster. 'We should not be doing anything to mess' with it, he said. By springtime, the New Jersey Democrat had softened his stance considerably: 'That door is not closed.' As some of his 2020 competitors warm to dramatic reforms like eliminating the Senate’s 60-vote threshold and adding justices to the Supreme Court, the White House hopeful from Newark is plainly wrestling with whether to follow suit."

[Note: Bernie and Elizabeth Warren aren't followers; they're leaders. Status Quo Joe has always been on the side of holding back and opposing the will of the unwashed masses. The rest of the electeds in the race are somewhere in between. Booker? A natural centrist with the smarts to understand the grassroots of his part is populist and progressive.]
In an interview, Booker laid bare what he is grappling with: He’s been in the minority most of the time he’s been in the Senate and seen the power of the filibuster block the conservative agenda. And he’s worried that if Democrats make changes to the fabric of the Supreme Court, it will be exploited to potentially greater effect by Republicans in the future.

“You have to understand that a lot of these that are talked about: If we do it when we have the control to do it, they can do it again. What we need to find is real solutions that are sustainable regardless of who is president,” Booker said. “We should be careful about the traditions in this country and how we honor them.”

But his institutional loyalties are being tested by an activist base lurching left and a need to break out of the sprawling Democratic field where he registers in the low- to mid-single digits.

His ambivalence toward such explosive changes reflects Booker’s broader positioning in the 2020 race and within the Senate Democratic Caucus. The 49-year-old senator has a reliably liberal record, though he’s clearly to the right of Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and has worked closely with some Republicans to advance his priorities.

It’s a profile that could ultimately help him stand out among his 2020 counterparts-- if his bipartisan leanings and campaign of “love” can connect with primary voters eager to take down President Donald Trump.

In just the latest example of the party’s rapid shift, Booker-- long a pro-Israel stalwart-- is attending the AIPAC conference in Washington this weekend but only to meet with New Jersey constituents. Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Sanders (I-VT) are staying away entirely.

And in an appearance with Pod Save America last week, Booker expressed new openness to killing the filibuster and admitted the progressive podcast fires “a lot of people up” on the kinds of process reforms once discussed only on the fringes. He’s also sounding increasingly open to changes to the Supreme Court, like imposing term limits on justices.

Yet in the interview with Politico, Booker deemed the tit-for-tat among Democrats and Republicans that eliminated the filibuster on all nominations over the past few years as a “race to the bottom.”

“Are we going to turn the United States Senate into a majoritarian body like the House? Because I think if that’s the case there would be regret among 100 senators, regardless of the party,” Booker said. “Is there a way to get back to creating a body that deals by comity and serves the American purpose?”

The party’s energy is clearly concentrated among younger, more progressive activists. But more than 60 percent of the Democratic electorate most likely to vote in primaries is 40 and older, a statistical reality that potentially benefits a candidate who is viewed as more in the middle and focused on pursuing bipartisanship.

Though Booker brandishes a progressive form of politics and is eager to seize the spotlight at committee hearings, he’s also developed surprisingly close relationships with conservative Republicans like Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Tim Scott of South Carolina. He often cites those friendships on the campaign trail as evidence that he is the candidate able to heal a divided nation.

At the same time, Booker says that Republicans are “clearly” playing by a different set of rules than Democrats. And he seemed particularly miffed that the “blue slip” tradition of allowing home state senators veto power over appellate court nominees has officially been abandoned by the GOP.

“That just creates a certain sense with the Democrats: When we are in power, we’re going to double down and do the same thing at least,” Booker said, deliberating as he spoke. “That doesn’t mean … that we should somehow not try to balance the scales.”

Liberal groups argue their party’s most ambitious proposals-- not to mention counterbalancing the Supreme Court seat stolen from Barack Obama-- are impossible under current Senate norms and rules.

Activists say Booker is listening to them, even as he refuses to embrace their strategies just yet. For instance, Booker argues a Democratic Senate majority could use budget reconciliation to repeal the GOP tax cuts without gutting the 60-vote threshold for legislation. People close to Booker say he’s unlikely to be the first to explicitly endorse killing the filibuster or expanding the Supreme Court.

His stances track neatly with a record that leans left, with an occasional tack toward the center.

He routinely votes against Trump’s nominees, endorses the “Green New Deal” and “Medicare for All” and said he’d risk expulsion in his fight against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

But he also took weeks before declaring his eventual support for Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, drew flak for opposing a measure aimed at importing drugs from Canada and made liberals squirm way back in the 2012 presidential campaign when he called attacks on Mitt Romney’s old firm Bain Capital “nauseating.”

In the previous Congress, Booker worked closely with Trump aide and son-in-law Jared Kushner to reform criminal justice laws, while teaming with Grassley and Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham to try and protect special counsel Robert Mueller from being fired by the president.

No one would call Booker a moderate, but in the spectrum of the Democratic primary he falls somewhere in the middle. Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), who plays basketball against the former Stanford tight end, described Booker and his politics this way: A “smart son of a B.”

Jim Demers, a Democratic strategist and longtime New Hampshire activist backing Booker, called the senator a “pragmatic progressive.”

“Voters are frustrated, and they’re frustrated because the country is so divided,” Demers said. “He’s walking a fine line of espousing positions that are very progressive but also recognizing that when this election is over, a president has to get things done.”

Simply by virtue of how many Democrats are in the primary, there’s also a decent chance that Booker falls short and remains a senator for decades. For that reason, his GOP colleagues say he’s unlikely to be the candidate trashing the Senate as a campaign tactic.

“He’s a positive person who looks for the best in situations. And he is critical when necessary. But not critical as a way of simply attracting folks to a conversation,” Scott, the Republican senator, said of Booker.

It’s also not clear whether process reforms resonate with voters, anyway.

“In Iowa, how many people are going to vote on your position on the Supreme Court? … It’s probably a mistake to overhype the power of some of those process litmus tests,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), who is close friends with Booker. “Cory probably has a legitimate interest in trying to find a long term way for Republicans and Democrats to work together.”

There’s also some evidence that primary voters are leery of candidates who are moving too far to the left. In a recent Iowa poll where both Vice President Joe Biden and Sanders dominated the field, 44 percent of those surveyed said Sanders’ political views were too liberal. Meanwhile, 70 percent of the Iowa Democrats polled said Biden’s views were “about right.”

The same poll showed 42 percent believed Booker’s views were “just right,” with only 9 percent seeing him as “too liberal.”

“My sense is he is trying to distinguish himself,” said Brady Quirk-Garvan, former chairman of the Charleston County Democrats in South Carolina, who has endorsed Booker. “Booker is now saying: Here’s what is different and unique about me. Here’s what makes me uniquely qualified to be the nominee.”

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There IS A Difference-- But It's Not A Difference Between The Parties As Much As It Is A Difference Between Progressives And Conservatives


Pramila Jayapal and Eric Swalwell are both sponsors of Medicare For All and the Green New Deal. I bet voters all over the country would love to talk with them about those bills

Former Florida congressman Alan Grayson (D) was one of the people I consulted with when I was writing posts in the last few days about the GOP socialism malarkey and their campaign tactic of smearing the Democratic Party-- the McCarthyism Trump learned from his favorite lawyer, Roy Cohn-- with some kind of "new" red scare. "The remarkable thing is that anyone listens to it in the first place," Grayson told me. "We’re for universal healthcare, progressive taxation, free higher education and the right to choose, and against pollution and discrimination. They’re against 'socialism,' whatever that is."

Voters may have an idea of what it is-- accurate or not-- but gushers of GOP money will make sure every voter in every swing state is bombarded with a Trumpified version of what it is. Voters are too smart for that? OK, some are... but those voters are already supporters of Bernie's or of Elizabeth Warren's. Alexi McCammond, a reporter for Axios, looked at focus group results from swing voters in Wisconsin. Short version: voters don't know anything about what you read here at DWT. Basically, the participants-- eight Barack Obama/Donald Trump voters and four Mitt Romney/Hillary Clinton voters-- in Appleton, Wisconsin had never even heard of Medicare-For-All or the Green New Deal-- never heard of either! As McCammond explained: "These are Democrats' biggest policy staples heading into the 2020 presidential election. They're talking about them all the time, and the ideas are even being weaponized by the right to label the entire Democratic Party as socialists. But none of that is breaking through in this key battleground state."
Not a single person had heard of-- or could explain-- the Green New Deal.

...Nine of the 12 people said they'd heard almost no news at all about "Medicare for all" in the past several months.

Half of the participants had never even heard the phrase "Medicare for all" until they walked in the room that night in Appleton, Wisconsin... A majority of these swing voters have no idea which party is pushing the plan. Because of that, they don't view either the Green New Deal or "Medicare for all" favorably or unfavorably.

They're also unfamiliar with most of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. In fact, these swing voters know Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez better than all of the 2020 Democrats except for Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders.

The bottom line: Democrats might have an opportunity to capitalize on Trump fatigue in 2020 in this critical battleground state-- but they're a long way from winning over swing voters on the ideas that will define their campaigns.
The other day, a friend of mine was telling me he isn't feeling the Bern any longer. "All he says is the same stuff over and over," he complained. (He's leaning towards Kamala Harris.) Bernie is talking more about himself this cycle than he ever had before. Voters want that, want to know who they're going to consider voting for, what they have in common and if they can trust what the person is saying and advocating for. As far as talking about the same policies over and over and over. He can't do that enough. He can't stop. My friend is very smart and understands the Green New Deal and Medicare For All and supports both. Both he's far from typical of a Upper Midwest swing voter.

There are 106 members who have signed on as co-sponsors to Pramila Jayapal's new and improved Medicare-For-All legislation. They should all be holding town halls to discuss the bill with their constituents, especially in districts where the balance of power rests with swing voters. Examples of districts that fit that description with co-sponsors of the bill: PA-08 (Matt Cartwright), OR-04 (Pete DeFazio), CA-10 (Josh Harder), CA-25 (Katie Hill), AZ-02 (Ann Kirkpatrick), CA-49 (Mike Levin), CA-45 (Katie Porter) and PA-07 (Susan Wild). It's hard work. But if they are serious about the legislation and want to see the bill pass the House-- which is far from guaranteed-- they need to help their own constituents understand why they support it, assuming they all actually do support it and aren't just signing on as a co-sponsor to shut left-wing activists up, right Ann?

It's the same with the Green New Deal, AOC's resolution. Many independent voters don't know what it is-- if they've even heard of it. Trump has signaled clearly that the GOP has every intention in the world of demonizing its congressional supporters. Members in swing districts should be out talking with their constituents now not after GOP ads funded by the oil and gas industry start blanketing the airwaves. There are 90 co-sponsors and the ones in districts they need the most work are CA-49 (Mike Levin), FL-26 (Debbie Mucarsel-Powell), NY-18 (Sean Patrick Maloney), OR-04 (Pete DeFazio) and NY-03 (Tom Suozzi). What about the 85 co-sponsors? Maybe they should spread out. I'm sure candidates running in red districts would love to be events with them about the Green New Deal in their districts. Mike Siegel, a candidate running against Climate Change denier Michael McCaul, told me he would welcome Green New Deal supporters to his sprawling Texas district to explain the ramifications of the legislation to his voters, since the Green New Deal is one of Mike's top 4 platform planks. Eva Putzova (AZ-01), Audrey Denney (CA-01) and Kara Eastman (NE-02) would welcome the same kind of help in their districts. If we're serious about this stuff we've got to work to pass it, not just inside the marbled halls of Congress, but out on the hustings as well. 

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In Congress Beto O'Rourke Took Money from a Hedge Fund King Who's Sucking the Life from Puerto Rico. Will Beto Take His Money Again?


by Thomas Neuburger

Short and dirty. Via David Dayen, writing at the American Prospect (emphasis added):
What passes for much “campaign-finance” reporting in America typically follows the flow of cash from big bundlers to particular candidates, treating the whole thing like a competition over who “got” what rich person to invest in them. Rarely is the central question asked of how that rich person earned their money, and what effect that will have on the candidate’s outlook. In other words, it’s not just the power of Big Money, but what specific kind of Big Money, that often gets overlooked.

Yesterday presented a perfect example. Mark Gallogly, a founder and managing partner of Centerbridge Partners, indicated to friends that he would support former Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke as his 2020 candidate, according to CNBC. Gallogly is enthusiastically described as an “Obama bundler” who raised at least $500,000 for the former president in 2012.
So, what does Centerbridge Partners invest in? Something politely called "distressed debt" — the IOU's of entities that have no ability to repay.

To take an example involving humans, imagine someone who bought all the credit card debt of your nearly bankrupt brother — at pennies on the dollar — then tried in every way possible to force your brother to pay up. That's what "investing in distressed debt" looks like, and there are companies that do just that to living persons.

Now imagine investment firms that do this to whole countries. That's Centerbridge Partners. Its victims include the nation of Argentina ... and Puerto Rico. The plan is a good one — they purchase the bonds of these entities for pennies on the dollar, then use political pressure, including bought pressure from the U.S. government, to force them to make the bonds good at 100 cents on the dollar.
[Centerbridge Partners is] a $30 billion hedge fund. Those suffering from the after-effects of its strategies would describe Centerbridge as a “vulture fund.” It scoops up debt on the cheap, and uses whatever means necessary to force the troubled company or sovereign government to pay up. Centerbridge debtors include bankrupt utility PG&E, the country of Argentina, and Puerto Rico.
That's the kind of person Mark Gallogly is. Dayen again:
That any presidential candidate would even consider taking money from one of the vulture funds who participated in the Puerto Rican carnage is unthinkable to local activists. “Voters are watching, and they know that vulture hedge fund money is toxic,” said Julio López Varona from CPD Action and the Hedge Clippers coalition, which educates the public about the role of hedge funds in Puerto Rico and other areas. “They are seeking to get rich by making Puerto Rico poor. Any presidential candidate should know that Puerto Ricans in the diaspora can determine the election of the next US President and they will not support so-called progressives that take their money from those who have caused so much pain for our communities.”
Yet "Beto" O'Rourke has taken Gallogly's money before:
O’Rourke’s spokesperson, Chris Evans, did not respond to a request for comment on the matter, or whether the candidate would accept the bundled cash raised by a vulture fund giant. ... Then again, he did take $5400 in donations from Gallogly in 2018 for his near-miss Senate run, and over half of his $80 million haul in that race came from big donors.
Will the Hispanic-sounding white guy — Robert Francis O'Rourke is 4th generation Irish — take Gallogly's money again? As the original Mayor Daley used to say, "Youth wants to know."

So, I would imagine, would Democrat-leaning Hispanic voters in 2020.

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Is Status Quo Joe The Most Electable Against Trump? There's No Reason To Think So


Most Americans dislike-- or detest-- Donald Trump (57-39%) so it's not unreasonable to believe he will fail to be reelected next year, even though most sitting presidents are reelected. (In most of our lifetimes, only Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush were denied reelection.) Last year, nearly ten million more voters went for a Democrat in the House elections than for a Republican-- the biggest margin in U.S. history. There were 60,727,598 votes for Democrats (53.4%) and 50,983,895 votes for Republicans (44.8%).

The Democratic Party establisment and a lazy media call that a blue wave, rather than what actually was-- an anti-red/anti-Trump wave. There are reasons to believe the 2020 anti-red/anti-Trump wave will be much bigger. In 2018, Democratic candidates across the country had to tackle scores of locally popular incumbents with stellar records of constituent services that went back decades. In the presidential election next year, it will just be a Democrat against, arguably, the most hated man to ever occupy the White House. The 8.6% Democratic advantage in 2018 should certainly be a double digit advantage for the Democrat in 2020.

Hillary beat Trump by 2,868,686 votes-- 65,853,514 (48.2%) to 62,984,828 (46.1%). That margin can be explained by the results in the 3 biggest states: California, where Hillary had 4,269,978 more votes than Trump; Texas, where Trump's 807,179 vote margin was a severe underperformance (Romney beat Obama in Texas by 1,261,719 votes and even McCain's margin over Obama was 950,695); and New York, where Hillary beat Trump by 1,736,590 votes. Narrow, unexpected Trump wins-- for whatever reason (Russian interference or her lameness as a candidate)-- in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan gave Trump 46 electoral votes, without which Hillary would have won in the electoral college 273 to 258.

From Sunday's Fox News poll

Polling right now shows 2 top candidates, Biden and Bernie, with two more within striking distance: Beto and Kamala. A majority of Democratic voters tell pollsters their number one criteria in the primaries will be electability. Over the weekend, writing for The Atlantic, Peter Beinart didn't disagree with that premise, only that the pundits don't know how to gage electability. Polls in 2016 uniformly predicted Hillary would do better than Bernie against Trump. Those polls-- like the polls that had her sure she would be the first woman president in history-- were wrong. In the general election against Trump, Bernie would have certainly won Wisconsin and Michigan, both of which he won in the primaries and there are no states that Hillary won that he would have lost. Would he have won Pennsylvania? Iowa? Even Ohio? We'll never know. "Electability," wrote Beinart, "is extremely hard to predict. And when pundits discuss it, they often rely on unstated and dubious assumptions-- which usually lead them to predict that the most centrist candidate with the most establishment support is the person general-election voters will like best." That's how we wound up with the 2016 loser.

Beinart has a suggestion for journalists, the same one Chris Hayes made last month: "All this glib talk about electability has a cost. It leads commentators, often implicitly, to give “electable” candidates a pass when their policy views are fuzzy or flat-out wrong. So what should journalists do? It’s simple: Spend less time discussing which candidates can win the presidency and more time discussing what they’d do if they actually won."
To grasp how questionable much of the discourse surrounding “electability” is, consider the two candidates who, according to conventional wisdom, are considered best able to defeat Trump in 2020. The first is Joe Biden. The reason: As a Washington Post headline put it last fall, “Biden Appeals to Working-Class Whites Who Defected to Trump.”

But does he really? The evidence suggests that most of the voters who supported Barack Obama and then Trump are not Democrats who “defected” to Trump. They’re Republicans or Republican-leaning independents who “defected” to Obama and in the years since have grown ever more ensconced in the GOP. So it’s not clear that any Democratic candidate could lure many of them away from Trump next year.

Nor is it obvious that Biden would be best suited to doing so. Yes, his race and gender might prove an advantage. Yes, he might be harder to tar as a socialist radical. But Biden supported NAFTA and the Iraq War, and he’s been a Washington insider for almost a half century. In 2016, Trump voters expressed their deep pessimism about the state of the country by voting for radical disruption. If some have now lost faith in Trump, and thus grown even more disillusioned with politics than they were before, wouldn’t they look for a different species of disrupter, perhaps an anti-establishment populist such as Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren? Why go for the Democratic candidate who, more than almost any other, represents the pre-Trump status quo?

And even if Biden did prove better able to win back working-class whites than his competitors, could he rouse the Democratic Party’s African American and female base? The fact that his advisers are reportedly considering asking Stacey Abrams to be his running mate suggests that they themselves have doubts. But if choosing Abrams boosts Biden among women and people of color, why wouldn’t it hurt him among white men who backed Trump? Do these questions mean Biden is less electable than other candidates? Not at all. What they mean is that we really don’t know.

It’s the same with Beto O’Rourke. His boosters say he’s like Obama: appealing to moderate whites because of his unifying, upbeat message, but also rousing to progressives, who find him idealistic and inspirational. As one Democratic bundler told Politico, “He’s Barack Obama, but white.” But the white part matters. You can’t assume O’Rourke is more electable than Kamala Harris or Cory Booker without explaining how O’Rourke could match the epic African American turnout numbers that Obama elicited in 2008 and 2012, but that Clinton did not match in 2016.

Moreover, saying that O’Rourke would appeal to “moderate” or “centrist” whites glosses over a critical distinction: It depends on which “moderates” we’re talking about. O’Rourke’s cultural liberalism, pro-business background, and unifying, optimistic rhetoric might serve him well among the upper-middle-class Democrats and independents who admire Michael Bloomberg. But is a candidate who has backed Trade Promotion Authority and praised NAFTA best suited to winning back working-class voters in the industrial midwestern states that gave Trump the presidency? In a recent interview with Thomas B. Edsall of the New York Times, Paul A. Sracic, a political scientist at Youngstown State University, suggested that “O’Rourke’s vague, ‘We all need to come together’ message will not resonate with people who see life as a battle. Working class voters believe in pugilistic politics.” Why is Sracic’s take less plausible than that breathless Democratic bundler’s?

Anyone can play this game. Maybe Sanders is the most electable because his pugilism can win over anti-establishment, anti-corporate Trump voters while eliciting a vast turnout among Millennials? Maybe Warren is the most electable because she’s as passionate as Bernie but more substantive and less radical, and she’ll inspire women as well? Maybe Harris is the most electable because she can replicate Obama’s massive African American numbers while pivoting to the center in a way white candidates can’t? Maybe Booker is the most electable because his message is as positive and unifying as O’Rourke’s, but he’ll do better among African Americans, and his unabashed religiosity will prove a secret weapon with evangelicals?

All these narratives are superficially plausible, and all of them could be nonsense. No one knows. And by embracing some while dismissing others, journalists-- sometimes unwittingly-- create a double standard for evaluating candidates. It’s fine that O’Rourke is less substantive than Warren, political handicappers imply, because he’s better able to beat Trump, which is what matters most. Let’s not credit Sanders for opposing the Iraq War, which Biden supported, because it’s better to nominate a more hawkish Democrat who can win than a dove who will lose.

The irony is that many political commentators think it’s easier to have an informed opinion about electability than about policy. It’s actually harder. If you want to know which candidate was correct about deregulation or the Iraq War, or whose health-care plan will cover the most people at the lowest cost, you can talk to experts, assemble facts, and come to a reasonable conclusion. Deciding which candidate can best beat Trump is more like looking at someone’s zodiac sign and predicting his or her future. It may be a fun hobby, but it’s a distraction from useful work.

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