Some People Are Idiots

If you agree with this, I’m not sure we can be friends anymore.

But! If Hillary lost because progressives abstained from voting, it’s possible that Republican incompetence would be laid bare, and that they’d run the country into the ground over the next four years. If that’s what it takes to show the people that a leftist political revolution is the only viable way forward, it will have been worth watching Hillary bite the political dust. Come 2020, we could be looking at a landscape where progressive politics can finally gather enough momentum to sweep the country, and usher in a new era of FDR-esque reforms.

And unicorns and puppies! And flowers! And candy! Somebody please help me stop banging my head against this brick wall, please? My head really hurts.

Several things. First, this is morally offensive. Losing is never good. But the only thing worse than losing is doing it on purpose and being morally superior about it. Which ignores the real imoacts to real people that a Republican presidency will necessarily entail. Explaining to poor people, to women, to children, how you did it for the long term good of all is obscene.

Second, politics is not static. A GOP win – on a laydown, no less – would embolden conservatives and move the goal posts even further to the right. In many respects, we’re nearing a tipping point, where many people are close to giving up on the entire process of voting because of discouragement and roadblocks from new laws designed to impede voting. What kind of example does it set for progressive leaders to proclaim that it’s actuslly strategically good not to vote? That way lies disaster.

Third, you may not be, but I’m old enough to remember 2000. I still won’t watch the movie about the recount – I lived it, in agony and horror, watching Democratic politicos and lawyers make mistake after mistake in the process. The argument was that it doesn’t make a difference. It was proved horribly and fatally wrong then – what makes today any different? In fact, today it’s even more stupid to claim “there’s no difference” between Democrats and Republicans. The GOP has moved enormously and distinctly to the right, while Democrats have moved decisively in the opposite direction. For the first time, we’ve moved on health care. Democrats. We acted to stave off a depression. Democrats. We’ve acted to regulate the worst of the financial sector’s abuses. Democrats. We’re at least talking about racial discrimination, police abuse, economic inequality. Real things. All of that will be off the table with a GOP win. How does that help?

You can say it wasn’t enough or we need more and better. Fine. So your solution is to walk off the field? How would you feel if your sports team did that? “Hey, we’ll be back next year and with better players and then you’ll see how good we are.” You’d be horrified, and there is no human or moral component to that decision.

Fourth, the author looks at conservatives with envy. How does he think hard core conservatives got power? It only happened when they began to take over the GOP from the inside, little by little, over many years. We don’t do that. Progressives want results now, they don’t want to wait, and they look for magic bullets. Here’s one: hard, sustained work to move the politics of the Democratic Party where we want them to be.  

People who espouse this kind of screwed up thinking are pie in the sky purists. They don’t want to get their hands dirty with compromise, with reality, with having to settle for half or a quarter or even a tiny piece of a loaf. News flash: politics is a constant struggle to move the ball forward (it’s Sunday during football season, sue me) an inch at a time, little by little, bit by bit. And its protecting your accomplishments from being rolled back, even as you try to move forward. It’s agonizing and painful and draining work sometimes, and it can be a decade or a generation before you look up and realize just how much you’ve accomplished. It’s not going to happen overnight, and heightening the contradictions or throwing bombs is not going to change the reality of the process.

A confession: I’ve never (really, never) voted for a presidential primary winner in my entire life. Here’s my tale of woe: Fritz Hollings (don’t ask, I can’t or won’t remember), Gary Hart, Paul Tsongas (he won the Maryland primary in ’92), Bill Bradley, a pre-shithead John Edwards, and Hillary Clinton. That’s a long time that I’ve been sucking it up and supporting a candidate who at least initially wasn’t mine. It’s not that hard. Do the right thing. Work your ass off. You won’t become infected with any disease other than the one that most people reading this hopefully already have: a burning, itching compulsion to make the world a better place. Moral superiority has no place in the treatment of this condition.

I’ve never considered taking the actions this article espouses. Never. Support your party, snd if you don’t like the candidate, work harder next time to get a better one. But if you walk out in 2016, as far as I’m concerned, don’t bother coming back. And if you intend to run for office someday, you might as well slit your political throat and save yourself the trouble. Loyalty matters – not to me, or some other individual person, but to the ideals and the people we claim to stand for, those who need our help and need someone to fight for them.

Rant over. Almost time for football.

Republican Voters, Explained

Why are Donald Trump and Ben Carson, with zero years of holding elective office of any kind, leading the GOP field? Why are Jeb Bush and John Kasich and Chris Christie – popular GOP governors, past snd present – underperforming so badly? Why have Scott Walker and Rick Perry, also experienced governors, been dispatched from the race at such an early point? On the one hand, it’s funny to watch the guys we Dems once feared be sent home with the usual parting gifts. But on the other, we need to understand the process in the other side better, if for no other reason than that however crazy the Republican Party has become, they’re going to nominate SOMEONE.

I’m not a big fan of Chris Cillizza of the Post. I think he’s facile and too quick to jump on bandwagons. But I completely agree with his assessment of the state of mind of Republican voters earlier today. He cites a comment from a woman in a focus group of “hardcore Republicans.”

America doesn’t want a politician. We’re sick of career politicians. We did what we were supposed to do. We wrote the letters, we made the phone calls, and they did not listen, and we’re out to clean house.

It’s not that we don’t have people like this on the left. We all know the type, the purists who don’t want to accomplish 25 or 50 or 75 or even 90% of their goals. It’s 100% or bust. Compromise with evil is, well, evil. Realistic accomplishments are derided and denounced. 

The bad news for the few remaining sane Republicans is that the right wing analogues of our perfectionist leftists have taken over the asylum. Think about the left wing purity trolls that you know, and then picture them running the organizing meetings you go to, the party platforms, the primaries and the like. Think what that party would look like and how it would function. Then open your eyes, take a look at the GOP’s current situation, and thank the fates or Gaia or whomever you pray to that you’re not in that party.

Now let’s go kick the shit out of those poor unfortunate bastards, and have no mercy on their benighted souls as we dispatch them to political purgatory for, oh, let’s say the next 500 years. OK? Good, let’s get to it. 

BREAKING: Boehner To Resign From Congress

The New York Times has the story.

WASHINGTON — Speaker John A. Boehner will resign from Congress and give up his House seat at the end of October, according to aides in his office.

Mr. Boehner was under extreme pressure from the right wing of his conference over whether or not to defund Planned Parenthood in a bill to keep the government open.

And the House leadership suddenly gets a good deal less orange.

More as the story develops. I wouldn’t want to be the next Speaker, that’s for sure. Life expectancy will be about six months. If that.

Jefferson/Jackson

Kind of embarrassing to admit it, but until about two years ago, I didn’t even know that Jefferson/Jackson events were still held in some Maryland counties. Guess I’m just an elitist left-wing nutball guy from Montgomery County. Oh, wait – actually I am, minus the elitist, anyway.

For nearly a century, Democrats have honored two men as the founders of their party: Thomas Jefferson, for his visionary expression of the concept of equality, and Andrew Jackson, for his populist spirit and elevation of the common man.

Political candidates and activists across the country have flocked to annual Jefferson-Jackson Day dinners, where speeches are given, money is raised, and the party celebrates its past and its future.
But these time-honored rituals are colliding with a modern Democratic Party more energized by a desire for racial and gender inclusion than reverence for history. And state by state, Democratic activists are removing the names of Jefferson and Jackson from party gatherings, saying the two men no longer represent what it means to be a Democrat.

The moves in many states are not without their opponents.

The move to erase Jefferson and Jackson is not being welcomed by all Democrats. Some of them fear the party loses what has long been its unifying philosophy by removing the names of founders, whose virtues and flaws illuminated the way forward. And they worry that as the labor movement declines, cultural liberalism is beginning to eclipse a fundamental message of economic equality that brought about some of the party’s most important achievements, from the New Deal to Medicaid.

“What does the Democratic Party stand for?’’ asked Andrei Cherny, a Democratic writer and a former speechwriter for Bill Clinton. “Jefferson and Jackson and the ideas they stood for, spreading economic opportunity and democracy, were the beginnings of what was the Democratic Party. That is what unified the party across regional and other lines for most of the last 200 years. Now what unites everybody from Kim Kardashian to a party activist in Kansas is cultural liberalism and civil rights.”

What does the Democratic Party stand for? It represents its constituents – labor, women, racial and ethnic minorities, trial lawyers (yay!)’ liberals, and other groups. What it does not stand for is a couple of long dead white slave owners who are the antithesis of much of what the party seeks to accomplish today. History and tradition is all well and good, I clearly believe that, but traditions and symbols must change to meet the changing needs and meeting identity of the people – real people – that we as a political movement claim to stand for. I agree with this:

It’s good to see Democrats move away from Jefferson/Jackson dinners at the state level. There’s no real reason to tie the party to two long dead white slaveowning men who believed in white agrarian rule. I’m more ambiguous about dropping Jefferson since at least he had ideals modern Democrats can believe in, hypocrite as he may have been, as opposed to Jackson where there is nothing positive to remember. But fine. I’m significantly less concerned with the complaining of party elites that this move takes the party away from fighting for economic democracy.

Remind me how much regular voters in 2015 are moved to vote for Democrats because of Andrew Jackson’s position on white male democracy? Oh right, none. And even if past figures did help define a modern party publicly, Jefferson and Jackson don’t do that for Democrats. If we want to rename these dinners Roosevelt/Kennedy, fine. I’d rather it be LBJ but obviously that little Vietnam thing makes that impossible. But while I think historical memory matters a lot, it only matters if people actually remember the history. Normal people don’t care what these dinners are called. Politically aware liberals rightfully remember Jackson especially as a person who did awful things. But no one, and I mean no one, is going to assume the Democrats won’t support working people because they changed the name of elite party events to reflect someone less offensive than Old Hickory.

All this said, the odds that we will be getting rid of JJ dinners in Maryland are about equal to Larry Hogan getting a comprehensive independent redistricting plan passed into law. And for precisely the same reasons.

Pat Murray On WBAL

Yesterday, new state Democratic Party ED Pat Murray was on WBAL radio discussing a number of issues, including th upcoming 2016 elections, th 2018 gubernatorial cycle, and how the party intends to win back voters in places like Western Maryland and Dundalk. He also discussed his first exchange with Governor Larry Hogan, over Hogan’s “political correctness run amok” comments last week. Listen here.

Reaping What You Sow

Republicans are increasingly worried about the impact of Donald Trump on their efforts to be a serious political party and rehabilitate their image. 

The head of the Republican National Committee, responding to demands from increasingly worried party leaders, spent nearly an hour Wednesday on the phone with Donald Trump, urging the presidential candidate to tone down his inflammatory comments about immigration that have infuriated a key election constituency.

The call from Chairman Reince Priebus, described by donors and consultants briefed on the conversation and confirmed by the RNC, underscores the extent to which Trump has gone from an embarrassment to a cause for serious alarm among top Republicans in Washington and nationwide.

But there is little they can do about the mogul and reality-television star, who draws sustenance from controversy and attention. And some fear that, with assistance from Democrats, Trump could become the face of the GOP.

Later in the article, it becomes clear that Trump is reflecting, not creating, GOP bigotry and insanity on immigration and other issues.

At the same time, however, Trump is perhaps the most vocal part of a current of outrage on the right — both at the influx of people coming across the border and over proposals to liberalize the nation’s immigration laws.

“The fact that he is rising in the polls has something to do with tapping into an angst and anger, especially on immigration, that the other candidates have been unwilling or unable to harness,” said Reed Galen, a Republican operative based in California.

Democrats are doing a very effective job of force-feeding the GOP with Trump’s comments.

Meanwhile, the Democrats — led by their presumptive nominee — are doing all they can to make the rest of the GOP accountable for Trump’s words.

“I feel very bad and very disappointed with him and with the Republican Party for not responding immediately and saying, ‘Enough. Stop it,’ ” former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton said in an interview Tuesday on CNN. “But they are all in the same general area on immigration. They don’t want to provide a path to citizenship. They range across a spectrum of being either grudgingly welcome or hostile toward immigrants.”

My reaction? Pretty obvious, I think.

  

Young Republicans In Disarray

Things were apparently very bad in Maryland Young Republican-land, so much so that when a new board came in to power last month, an audit by the new treasurer showed some serious issues. 

Remarkably, the findings of the audit report were put publicly on Facebook by the treasurer, Eric Beasley, along with a link to the report itself.

On the one hand, I’m glad to see a Republican organization in disarray. On the other, I’m also happy to see any organization recover from what appears to be serious mismanagement over a number of years.

So bottom line – get better YRs, so we can proceed to kick your party’s ass in a fair fight. 

Andrews on Gerrymandering

I share former Councilmember Phil Andrews’ goals on redistricting reform, open primaries and public financing, but it’s not going to happen any time soon. Too many legislators just don’t want to take the risk of bucking the system to advocate for a more open electoral process.

Reforming gerrymandering is imperative, but not sufficient alone to bring about truly representative legislative bodies. In addition to eliminating gerrymandering, public financing of campaigns (used by Governor Hogan, but not available to state legislative candidates) to provide candidates with an alternative to big money from the wealthy and from PACs, and opening primaries to all voters comprise the trifecta of political reform that would produce a far more representative Congress and state legislature.

But it should happen, and it should happen now, because both parties in Maryland have a great deal at risk in the governor’s race in 2018. If the Democrats win back the position, GOP gains will likely be lost in the next map drawing exercise. If Larry Hogan is reelected, the carnage for Democratic incumbents in places like Anne Arundel County and elsewhere will be immense, conceivably threatening a functional if not actual Democratic House majority in 2022.
There’s a right-left axis of legislators that should come together to make this happen, but my sense is that it won’t happen because both sides see the prospect of ultimate victory following the 2018 election. The time for compromise – an independent redistricting process – is now, right now, before we get past 2016 and the battle lines are drawn for 2018. I still don’t think it will happen, but it should.

Planning A Comeback

The Maryland Democratic Party has a new chair, Bruce Poole, and a new executive director, Pat Murray. And now, reports the Post, the planning for winning back the governorship in 2018 has begun.

The task for Murray and Poole is to energize and refocus the party after stunning defeats that cost it the governorship and seven seats in the legislature last year.
One challenge they will face is bridging the gap between liberal Democrats in the Washington suburbs and Baltimore, and those from the outer suburbs and rural areas, where Gov. Larry Hogan (R) made inroads with independents and moderates by promising greater fiscal restraint and economic growth.

* * *

Despite the Democratic losses in last year’s elections, Maryland’s outer suburbs are experiencing an ideological shift that benefits the party, much the same way Northern Virginia has become less conservative with a growing and diversifying population.

Murray sees an opportunity to pick up votes in that environment.
“We have to raise the floor in the suburban and rural jurisdictions,” he said. “Every vote matters, whether it’s coming from a swing voter in Carroll County or a good base Democrat in Prince George’s County or Baltimore City.”

The article discusses some of Poole’s and Murray’s ideas. There are others as well, and the Party is going to need a variety of approaches to win in 2018. A loss in that election will leave the post-2020 redistricting in the hands of Republicans, which will be catastrophic for the legislative lansdcape for the next decade.

Red Line Rejection and Hogan’s Political Calculus 

While many Montgomery County politicos and advocates are jubilant about the decision to proceed with the Purple Line, folks in Baltimore are fuming about Larry Hogan’s decision to kill the Red Line project there.

Dashing Baltimore’s hopes for a long-anticipated east-west light rail line to improve its transit network, Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday that he will not build the $2.9 billion Red Line across the city.

“We are not opposed to public transportation. We are opposed to wasteful boondoggles,” the governor said. “The Red Line as currently proposed is not the best way to bring jobs and opportunity to the city.”

* * *

By eliminating the expense of the Red Line and scaling back the state’s share of the Purple Line, Hogan freed up hundred of millions of dollars he plans to use to undertake a significant shift in the state’s transportation priorities from public transit to road projects.

The governor announced $2 billion in highway spending, $1.35 billion of it new, as part of a long-range plan to give the state road system 57 percent of the transportation pie rather than the 45 percent share it received under Gov. Martin O’Malley. Hogan said he was keeping the promise he made to Maryland voters to make the state’s roads his No. 1 priority.

By deciding not to go ahead with the Red Line, the Republican governor is dealing a major blow to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who had hoped construction of the light rail project would bring a windfall of jobs and economic development.

Rawlings-Blake said she was “disheartened’ by Hogan’s decision.

“Although the governor has promised to support economic growth in Baltimore, he canceled a project that would have expanded economic development, created thousands of jobs, increased access to thousands more, and offered residents better health care, child care and educational opportunities,” she said.

The politics of this split decision are obvious. Hogan is seeking to splinter the Baltimore/Montgomery/Prince George’s Democratic base, delivering for the D.C. suburbs and snubbing Charm City. Even the “winning” Purple Line is going to result in a significantly increased county burden, probably in the neighborhood of $300 million combined for Montgomery County and Prince George’s counties during construction alone.

In the meantime, Baltimore is going to be rightfully seething, and any effort to provide direct or indirect financial assistance to offset the new local Purple Line costs will be laughed at by the powers that be in Baltimore’s state delegation.

State Del. Maggie McIntosh, a Baltimore Democrat who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said she was blindsided by the action.

“To say I’m disappointed by the loss of the Red Line would be an understatement,” said McIntosh, who brokered a deal with Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. a decade ago to get the Red Line planning started.

Maggie is not happy. Watch for the next legislative session to be a war from day one. Hell, the guns will probably start firing way before that.

Finally, both Baltimore – which has virtually no road improvement projects on the $2 billion goodie list laid out by Hogan yesterday – and the D.C. suburbs will get the privilege of paying their proportional share of the costs of road improvement all over the state.

Note the double standard. When it comes to transit, Baltimore gets nothing and DC gets added costs.

For road construction, the rest of the state gets not only projects paid 100% by the State, but also more – Hogan announced that he intends to restore the “traditional” formula whereby counties get 30% of all state transportation funding for their local needs, to be allocated as the counties see fit. Translation – more free money for everyone else, zero or close to it for Baltimore.

Politically speaking, Hogan was masterful. He split his opposition, funding transit in MoCo/PG, while sticking it to Baltimore. He will now extort more money from the two Purple Line counties, who won’t get any sympathy from their political allies in Baltimore if they’re looking to make up the increased costs with state funding in other areas. By killing the Red Line, Hogan also frees up the funds to spend vastly more money on road construction and improvement jobs, projects which disproportionately benefits the rural and growing suburban areas of the state that supported him in 2014.

So the Purple Line got the green light. After that, there ain’t a whole lot more good news to report. Jubilant Purple Line advocates would be wise to be sensitive to this fact.