Opinion | Get It Together- Democrats – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

After an effective 2018, the party is struggling.

David Leonhardt

By David Leonhardt

Opinion Columnist

The dome of the Capitol is reflected in a puddle in Washington last December.CreditErin Schaff for The New York Times

“The Democratic Party is having a rough summer so far:

  • Congressional Democrats have a weak, confusing message about Robert Mueller’s findings.

  • Congressional Republicans outfoxed Democrats on a border funding bill.

  • Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, needlessly criticized a group of young House progressives — and those progressives responded by accusing her, without evidence, of racism. (President Trump’s ugly remarks yesterday were a reminder of what actual racism looks like.)

  • Several top-tier Democratic presidential candidates have staked out unpopular positions on immigration and Medicare.

  • A few candidates who could have helped the party in other ways are instead running quixotic presidential campaigns. For example, Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana could have run for Senate, and the billionaire Tom Steyer could have financed voter registration drives.

  • An otherwise impressive Senate candidate who’s hoping to unseat Mitch McConnell — Amy McGrath, in Kentucky — started her campaign with an embarrassing flip-flop about how she would have voted on Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

I don’t want to exaggerate the impact of these events. Trump’s approval rating has moved up only about two percentage points in recent weeks, according to the polling from Real Clear Politics and FiveThirtyEight. Between 42 and 45 percent of Americans approve of his performance.”

Opinion | Scaling Wokeback Mountain – by Maureen Dowd – The New York Times

Bravo, Maureen Dowd. You go girl. She writes:

“Message: Pelosi is past her prime.

Except she’s not.

And then there’s the real instigator, Saikat Chakrabarti, A.O.C.’s 33-year-old chief of staff, who co-founded Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress, both of which recruited progressives — including A.O.C. — to run against moderates in Democratic primaries. The former Silicon Valley Bernie Bro assumed he could apply Facebook’s mantra, “Move fast and break things,” to one of the oldest institutions in the country.

But Congress is not a place where you achieve radical progress — certainly not in divided government. It’s a place where you work at it and work at it and don’t get everything you want.

The progressives act as though anyone who dares disagree with them is bad. Not wrong, but bad, guilty of some human failing, some impurity that is a moral evil that justifies their venom.”

Opinion | The Democrats’ Leftward Move – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

Too much? Or just enough?

David Leonhardt

By David Leonhardt

Opinion Columnist

Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Kamala Harris raised their hands when asked if their health care plans would abolish private insurance as Joe Biden looked on during a 2020 Democratic primary debate last week. Ms. Harris later moderated her position.CreditDrew Angerer/Getty Images

“After the Democratic debates last week, two of my more conservative colleagues — David Brooks and Bret Stephens — criticized the party for moving too far to the left for its own good. Many liberals reacted to the columns with either anger or disdain, saying that the Democrats don’t need to win over center-right elites in order to win the White House in 2020.

My own view falls somewhere in between that of my colleagues and their critics. On basic economic issues, I think Democrats have plenty of room to adopt a more progressive agenda. Substantively, that’s a smart agenda for an economy suffering from severe inequality and climate change. Politically, it fits with the populist, progressive views that most Americans hold on economic matters. Higher taxes on the rich, to take one example, are extremely popular.

But just because the Democrats have room to move to the left on some issues doesn’t mean they’re wise to move to the left on all of them. And I think the arguments — both substantively and politically — are much weaker for some of the policies Democrats are now pushing.

Free college for all ends up helping a lot of affluent families who don’t need help (as Pete Buttigieg has done a nice job of explaining). Trying to abolish private health insurance will lead to an epic political fight that will crowd out every other issue, including climate change. And abandoning the party’s traditional support for rigorous immigration enforcement would encourage more illegal immigration. (Here is a longer version of my thoughts about the Democrats’ strange new vagueness on immigration policy.)

I recognize that many progressives are to my left on at least one of these issues, and I respect their substantive arguments. But the political case strikes me as much weaker, especially on immigration and health care. Most Americans aren’t in favor of a more open immigration policy or the banning of private health insurance. And I’m skeptical that these issues are potent enough among occasional voters to inspire a turnout surge. The politics of free college are arguably better, but some polls suggest that it too is unpopular.

So I wonder: Are any of these priorities worth increasing the chances of President Trump’s re-election?”

David Lindsay:  I support all of the above.

Opinion | The Founders Would Gag at Today’s Republicans – By Timothy Egan – The New York Times

The cult of Trump has embraced values and beliefs that Jefferson, Washington and Lincoln abhorred.

Timothy Egan

By Timothy Egan,    Contributing Opinion Writer

“Kids in cages and tanks for the tyrant. After that dictator-friendly Fourth of July, it’s time for all true patriots to conduct a political gut check.

“Like many people, I’m worried about the Democrats. A majority of Americans are desperate for someone to dislodge the despot from the White House. And yet some Democrats are pushing policy positions — such as taking away private health insurance from more than 150 million people — that are deeply unpopular.

The smarter candidates will rethink this, and soon, or otherwise ensure that an awful American aberration is more than a one-off.

But as troubled as I am by the Democrats, I’m terrified of the Republicans. In numerous surveys of a party that has adopted the worst pathologies of President Trump, Republicans have shown themselves to be explicitly anti-American. The Founders would gag. So would Abraham Lincoln.”

“. . . . Trump has compared himself to Abraham Lincoln, which is like comparing a noxious weed to a redwood tree. When the anti-immigrant Know Nothing party was at its height in the 1850s, Lincoln had this to say: “I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. How could I be?” He continued, “As a nation, we began by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ We now practically read it, ‘all men are created equal, except negroes.’ When the Know Nothings get control, it will read ‘all men are created equal except negroes, and foreigners, and catholics.’” ”

David Lindsay:

Thank you Tim Eagan, for light and truth. Here is the most popular comment, which, along with many others, I endorse.

CD In Maine
Freeport, ME
Times Pick

Thank you Timothy Egan for your harsh characterization of the American South. I so often dream about the kind of nation the U.S. would be but for the outsized influence of southern culture on our government and politics, which has been a counter-force to the realization of the American ideal since the country’s birth. We would more likely resemble Canada or New Zealand. The Republican Party is now the political reflection of the worst of southern culture. The racism, militarism, paranoia, and anti-intellectualism that animates the Republican Party has a rich history in that region. There is no Trump without the South. I hate to generalize so broadly, but I am tired of a living in a nation where a senator from Kentucky rules the country. I am tired of being unable to implement sensible policy of the kind found everywhere else in the world because Wyoming has as many senators as New York. I am tired of pandering to uneducated rural voters because the electoral college disenfranchises millions of voters in blue states. I am tired subsidizing red states while they moan about the evils of a government that redistributes resources to them. But mostly, especially on July 4, I am tired of being told that I am the one who is “un-American.” I just want the Confederacy to go away, once and for all.

26 Replies1034 Recommended

Opinion | Hey  Democrats- What About the Senate? – By Michelle Cottle – The New York Times

By Michelle Cottle

Ms. Cottle is a member of the editorial board.

Mitch McConnell on the senators-only elevator at the Capitol.CreditDamon Winter/The New York Times

“Round 1 of the Democratic presidential primary debates is history, leaving the public with much to chew over. So many candidates. So many promises. So many governing visions for where to take the nation.

Here’s the stark reality: Regardless of who captures the Democratic nomination, and possibly the White House, next year, his or her grand plans will be for naught unless there is a shift in the United States Senate.”

David Lindsay:

Good essay. Here is my favorite comment so far:

LMG
San Francisco

Well, here’s the good news: the states Dems need to win the White House AND flip the Senate (and control state legislatures to control 2021 redistricting) ARE THE SAME ELEVEN STATES. Register a new Democratic voter in those states, and you’ve registered someone who will advance all three goals. Go to Swing left.org to learn about the eleven states and how to register voters in them even if you don’t live there.

10 Replies352 Recommended

Opinion | Let’s Ditch Mitch – By Gail Collins – The New York Times

Gail Collins

By Gail Collins

Opinion Columnist

O.K., throwing this one at you without warning: What’s your opinion of Mitch McConnell?

A) Spawn of Satan.

B) Sort of pitiful, what with having Donald Trump on his back.

C) Can we talk about how he looks like a turtle?

Definitely not the last one. It’s true that many Americans think of McConnell as turtle-like, due to his lack of anything resembling a chin.

But this is wrong on two counts. First, you shouldn’t tackle people you disagree with by making fun of their looks.

Second, it gives turtles a bad name. Turtles are great for the environment and everybody likes them. They sing to their children. You are never going to see a turtle killing gun control legislation.

Mitch, on the other hand, has a longstanding alliance with the National Rifle Association, which has shown its affection to the tune of about $1.3 million in support. Anything the N.R.A. dislikes never gets the chance to come up for a Senate vote. Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act is moldering away in a corner because the N.R.A. doesn’t want authorities taking guns away from domestic abusers.

It’s been another terrible year of mass shooting violence. One simple, very popular response would be to improve the background checks for gun purchases. It would at least show our elected officials care about the crisis.

Such a bill passed the House of Representatives and went to the Senate where it’s, um, laying around somewhere. “There’s a whole bunch of Republican support, but he won’t let it move to the floor,” said minority leader Chuck Schumer.

This goes on a lot. McConnell, who has near total control over what comes up for a vote, sits on things he doesn’t like until they smother. Farewell, immigration reform, Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation protecting Americans with pre-existing conditions, lowering prescription drug prices, protecting election security, restoring net neutrality.”

David Lindsay:  Thank you Gail Collins for a good piece. Also good comments. Here is one I found useful but daunting.

Denise
Louisville
Times Pick

I live in the same area of town as Mitch- the Highlands of Louisville, one of the most liberal neighborhoods in Kentucky. You can only imagine how painful it is to stand behind him at the local deli or in Kroger, knowing how responsible he is for this very real threat to our democracy. For all those who believe that removing him from power is simply a matter of telling Kentuckians that he hurts us more than helps us – oh how naive you are! His willingness to allow the movement against abortion rights to progress through his manipulation of the judicial system is enough for most KY voters to back him yet again. The real problem lies within the Senate. How is it that only the number of years one has served can give one man from such a small state as KY so much power? This debacle of McConnell reveals yet another weakness in our democracy. A man who can cater to singular interests of a small portion of society can retain his seat for decades. He doesn’t even acknowledge the letters, calls and emails those who disagree with him send. He doesn’t need us. His power is entrenched and Republicans at large know it. McConnell can be as deceitful, manipulative and hateful as they need because he faces no consequences. The system of designating power must change.

13 Replies1691 Recommended
x
David Lindsay: It is an irony that if we let the right overturn Roe V Wade, McConnell would probably lose his grip on the Kentucky electorate, and all the other great things McConnell is preventing could become the law of the land, or at least get a vote.
Are other option, is to make sure the Democrats take back the Senate, which removes McConnell from his leadership role.

Opinion | The Woman You Missed While You Were Paying Attention to Beto – By Mimi Swartz – The New York Times

Mimi Swartz
By Mimi Swartz
A contributing opinion writer.

May 9, 2019

“Well, well, well. Joaquin Castro dithered and then declined, but a tougher Texas Democrat has stepped up to announce a challenge to our ruby red Republican senior senator, John Cornyn, who has had a death grip on that office since 2002. The contender, M.J. Hegar, is a tattooed, three-tour veteran of the Afghanistan war who was shot down and wounded while serving as a medevac helicopter pilot.

That the “M.J.” stands for Mary Jennings, a 43-year-old woman — and a mother of two — is a variable that, in these who-the-hell-knows times, will either help defeat one of the whitest of older white men (Mr. Cornyn was almost as aggrieved as Brett Kavanaugh during the infamous Supreme Court hearings) or keep her candidacy from ever getting off the ground.

Most people inside and outside of Texas in 2018 were too delirious with Betomania to pay much attention to Ms. Hegar’s candidacy for a congressional seat. What they missed was a woman — and a vet — who started as a complete unknown and then lost by only three points to John Carter, a Tea Partyer and incumbent since 2003, in a previously incontestably red area that runs north of Austin and includes Fort Hood.”

Opinion | The Tawdry Trump-Nadler War – By David Brooks – The New York Times

By David Brooks
Opinion Columnist

May 9, 2019, 828
Image
Representative Jerry Nadler went “there,” declaring the nation is in a “constitutional crisis.”CreditCreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

“Our system of checks and balances requires that political leaders hold two opposing ideas in their heads simultaneously. If you’re a political leader, the first is that your political opponents are wrong about many things and should be defeated in elections. The second is that you still need them. You need them to check your excesses, compensate for your blind spots and correct your mistakes.”

David Lindsay:  Brooks has the clearest argument I have heard, as to why the Democrats should slow down, and not jump into impeachment. They should hold their fire, until they have tried to get Robert Muller to testify, and hear what he has to say. David Leonhardt has warned that impeaching Trump prematurely will make him a martyr, and empower and rebuild his crumbling party.

Opinion |  The Democrats’ Complexity Problem – by Tim Wu – The New York Times

“One bright area in these dark days of American politics has been a blossoming of bold and interesting progressive policy ideas, such as wealth taxes, postal banking (offering basic financial services to customers who might not otherwise have access to them) and breaking up the giants of the tech industry. In the spirit of fresh starts, progressives should now confront an even more basic challenge: their complexity problem.

In recent decades progressives have not prioritized making policies and programs easy for most Americans to understand, use and benefit from. Fixing this problem will mean overcoming a streak of perfectionism and a certain intellectual defensiveness, but it must be done if progressives are to make government popular again.

The Affordable Care Act is a good example of the complexity problem. Yes, it was an important policy achievement, and yes, many of its problems can be rightly blamed on industry resistance and Republican efforts to dismantle it.

But the act is also exceptionally hard to understand and discouragingly daunting to make use of. An emphasis on “choice” and “transparency” resulted in a law that only a rational-choice theorist could love. The act made health insurance more complicated, not less, which is one reason that such a high percentage of medical bills go to paying administrative costs, and why the Affordable Care Act is much less popular than it could be.

It used to be said that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged. Today she’s a liberal who tried to pay a babysitter without breaking the law. It is admirable that Democrats try to tackle society’s thorniest problems with the often unwieldy tools of government, but that is not an excuse for programs that are too complex for their own good.

The truth is that good public policy can actually be elegant and simple to understand, even when the social problem that it’s addressing is complex. Social Security, Medicare, bans on indoor smoking, the “do not call” list (when it worked) and public libraries are examples of government solutions that are easy to understand and to benefit from.

Avoidance of complexity and minimizing choices are hallmarks of good design, as we have learned from the technological revolution in user interfaces. The age of impossible-to-use computers and incomprehensible TV remote controls has given way to the sleek and intuitive interfaces offered by pioneers like Steve Jobs of Apple. What progressives most need now is not more brains, but better policy designers.”

Opinion | How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Won the Cohen Hearing – By Caroline Fredrickson – The New York Times

By Caroline Fredrickson
Ms. Fredrickson is the president of the American Constitution Society.

Feb. 28, 2019, 472
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez acted like a good prosecutor while questioning Michael Cohen, establishing the factual basis for further committee investigation. Credit Joshua Roberts/Reuters

“On Wednesday, Michael Cohen, President Trump’s one-time personal lawyer and “fixer,” testified in front of the House Oversight and Reform Committee about what he says are a variety of shady practices he participated in when working for the president. People around the country awaited riveting testimony, some going so far as to join “watch parties” in bars.

But like so many congressional hearings, the fireworks were quick to flame out. Even with the tantalizing opportunity to grill Mr. Cohen on the myriad ways his former boss most likely sought to evade the law and avoid his creditors, many members of the committee, from both parties, could not resist their usual grandstanding.

Consider the line of questioning from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. She asked Mr. Cohen a series of specific questions about how Mr. Trump had handled insurance claims and whether he had provided accurate information to various companies. “To your knowledge,” she asked, “did Donald Trump ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?” He had.

She asked whether Mr. Trump had tried to reduce his local taxes by undervaluing his assets. Mr. Cohen confirmed that the president had also done that. “You deflate the value of the asset and then you put in a request to the tax department for a deduction,” Mr. Cohen said, explaining the practice. These were the sort of questions, and answers, the committee was supposed to elicit. Somehow, only the newer members got the memo.”