Fallon’s “Panera theory” suggests Democrats do not have a plan

Democratic strategist and former Clinton press secretary Brian Fallon

Yesterday, Democratic strategist and senior advisor to the Priorities USA Super PAC opined on Twitter that “the path to retaking the House…runs through the Panera Breads of America.” He meant that Democrats should focus on affluent suburban districts that went for Romney in 2012 but showed substantial movement toward Clinton in 2016. The former press secretary for the Clinton campaign cited Georgia’s sixth-district special election, where Democrat Jon Ossoff will face a runoff in June but still got more votes than both of his Republican opponents last night. It’s important to note that Ossoff is talking about retaking the House, not winning the 2020 presidential election. In his interview with Jeff Stein of Vox, he acknowledges that Democrats should try to appeal to working-class voters then. But he seems convinced that his party should focus on moderate Republicans in 2018. Quote:

There’s no doubt in where you start in forming the target list — it will be those 23 districts that switched from [Mitt] Romney to Clinton that look a lot, demographically, like the one in Georgia tonight.

This strategy strongly resembles the one that Hillary Clinton pursued in the 2016 election, which she did not win. That rumbling sound you hear is Sanders Democrats across the country grinding their teeth. But as the interview progresses, Fallon explains that his remark only described one strategy among many—one he qualifies to the point of utter meaninglessness. It kind of sounds like he has no plan. Fallon’s overall message seems to be that the Democrats should keep doing the same thing they did last year, but win.

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Friday links! Two sides to every story edition

It’s funny how the controversies in American history invariably have two sides. Abolition versus slavery. Gold standard versus free silver. Stalwarts versus Mugwumps. It makes sense that our two-party system would lend itself to such dualities, but what if we ever ran into an issue that had more than two sides? For example, what if it were possible to believe these two contradictory statements?

  1. Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons on Syrian rebels was an unconscionable violation of both international and moral law.
  2. United States military intervention to remove him would not improve the lives of the Syrian people.

Obviously, this is just a thought experiment. You’re either against Assad or against military strikes; you’re for intervention or for chemical weapons. But what if there were some rupture in the fabric of American discourse that created a third dimension of argument? Come to think of it, what if there were a second political party? Today is Friday, and such are the flights of a fanciful mind: idle, useless, bound for a sharp reunion with the earth. Won’t you choose a side with me?

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Who will replace Ryan Zinke?

Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) visits a Special Forces parade in Helena.

Last week, increasingly real thing that happened Donald Trump tapped Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) to be his Secretary of the Interior. Assuming the Senate confirms him when it reconvenes in January, Montana will need to select a new representative to the US House. But whom? State law calls for a special election within 85 to 100 days of the seat being vacated. It also authorizes the governor to appoint an interim representative, but Montana Republican Party Chairman Jeff Essman said that was probably unconstitutional. Even though her party holds the governorship and the law is on her side side, Democratic Executive Director Nancy Keenana agreed with him. They’re not even going to make the Republicans file some kind of lawsuit. There will be no interim rep, as state Democrats have decided to give up a seat in Congress in the interest of…comity, I guess. I’m sure Republicans will repay the favor later.

It’s razor-sharp political instincts like these that have led some Democrats to suggest Denise Juneau as their candidate in the special election. I like Juneau, but she did lose a statewide campaign for the same office six weeks ago. Is there no one else? In this week’s column for the Missoula Independent, we examine the field—including Richard Spencer, who persists despite increasingly widespread allegations that his father is a broken tube of a chicken semen. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links!

Friday links! It’s the children who are wrong edition

children-who-are-wrong

Every time some recount widens Hillary Clinton’s margin of victory in the popular vote, the Democratic Party looks stupider. It’s one thing to lose to a game show host. Losing to a game show host even though more people voted for you really plants the flag atop Mount Fuckup. Now is the time for Democrats to turn on one another in recrimination and gnashing of teeth, but wait: Jonathan Chait says they have nothing to learn from their loss. The 2016 Election Is a Disaster Without a Moral, he writes in New York Magazine. The only lesson to be taken is “don’t run Hillary Clinton again.” Other than the thrilling moment when you realize the DNC might do that, this lesson sucks. Plenty of mistakes were made in the process of losing by getting 2.5 million more votes. But Chait blames the voters themselves:

If you listened to the political scientists, Hillary Clinton’s defeat was relatively predictable — winning a third term for a party is pretty difficult. Most of us believed that dynamic wouldn’t matter in 2016 because the Republican Party nominated a singularly unfit candidate for office. But it turned out this factor was cancelled out by Hillary Clinton’s almost equal level of unpopularity. To many people who follow politics closely, it was hard to believe that the voters might see the ordinary flaws of a consummate establishmentarian pol as equivalent to those of a raving ignorant sociopathic sexual predator. And yet.

Let me get this straight: “This factor,” by which you mean one candidate’s unfitness for office, was cancelled out by the other candidate’s unpopularity? Sounds like an election, dude. I agree it’s awful and surprising that Trump won, but to say it only happened because people hated the Democratic candidate more than him is to jam the snake’s tail into its mouth. Chait spends the next several paragraphs convincing the reader there’s nothing to be learned from the last election by limiting himself to describing it. When he dismisses Sanders as a “message candidate,” he draws attention to the lacuna haunting his whole nihilist project: maybe the lesson is that your candidate should have a clear message. Today is Friday, and the Democratic Party is free to spend the next 3.75 years deciding what its message might be. Won’t you fill the silence with me?

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Congress passes fiscal bill, averting reign of Satan

John Boehner and Harry Reid

John Boehner and Harry Reid go out for Indian food, spend hours looking for a Thai place they heard about, wind up going home and making quesadillas.

I spoke too soon. The House has passed a Senate bill to make permanent the Bush-era tax cuts for individuals making less than $400,000 a year and prevent large cuts to defense and military spending. It was ugly. Congress has not voted on a bill on New Year’s Day since 1951, when it approved spending for the Korean War. That adventure was a resounding success compared to what happened yesterday, when 151 House Republicans voted against a bill that required hail-Mary negotiations even to reach the floor. To give you an idea of what John Boehner had to contend with, here’s Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina:

I have read the bill and can’t find the spending cuts—even with an electron magnifying glass. It’s part medicinal, part placebo, and part treating the symptoms but not the underlying pathology.

Daniel Webster he is not.

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