Not ready to make nice

4 05 2017

So this is floating around Twitter as an example of Dem perfidy:

Interpretation? Pelosi could have stopped it, but instead she chose to let Trumpcare sail on through just so she’d be able to increase the chances for a Dem takeover of the House in 2018.

That House Dems, following the vote, taunted their Republican colleagues (in the same way GOPpers taunted them in 1993, after they voted in favor of tax increases) with a round of na-na hey-hey goodbye seems to confirm this view: they’re singing over people losing health care because they think it’ll benefit them!

Such horseshit.

One, there’s nothing Pelosi or the House Democrats could have done to have prevented the vote. Unlike those of the Senate, the procedural rules of the House give the minority no power to stop the majority. It might have been possible to delay matters for a bit (which Pelosi, thinking this would give the Republican leadership a better chance to round up those last few votes, declined to pursue), but if the leadership wanted the vote, they were going to get it.

So: stop bitching about Pelosi’s unwillingness to stop a vote she was in fact unable to prevent.

Two, talk of punishing Republicans for this vote is exactly what Pelosi and other House Dems should be doing.

Corey Robin, for his part, seems to think the idea of looking to punish Republicans for bad policy  is the exact same thing as encouraging bad policy, that seeking an advantage after a shitstorm is the same thing as whipping up that shitstorm.

No.

In fact, the Dems should be absolutely fucking ruthless about all of this. I and many others—including Robin—bitch about their tendency to collapse in a heap whenever they’re accused of not being nice; well, Pelosi don’t care about nice.

She stood on the floor of the House and warned Republicans against this vote, telling them “you have every provision of this bill tattooed on your forehead. You will glow in the dark on this one. So don’t walk the plank unnecessarily.”

And when that failed, she came back and reiterated

Well, let me just say that they have this vote tattooed on them.  This is a scar they will carry.  It’s their vote.  It’s not the Senate vote.  It’s their vote they are taking.

So that is really a poor choice, cowardly choice, I might add.  Why would they vote for it if they don’t think it’s worthy of support, but because the Senate will change it?  From what I hear the Republican Senators saying, they don’t have any interest in passing this bill as is.

And by the way, whatever happens down the road, the Members of the House Republican Caucus will be forever identified with the worst aspects of the bill they passed.

She didn’t encourage a vote in favor in order to heighten the contradictions, she didn’t say “vote for this terrible bill to help Democrats”; she said “Don’t do this, because if you do we will make you pay.”

And yes, make them pay with their House seats. Elect Democrats in place of Republicans.

How is this anything other than common sense?

But no, the puritans among us would have us believe that looking to unseat Republicans is evidence of a sell-out, and Pelosi’s unwillingness to commit seppuku, bad faith.

The only knives we on the left are allowed, apparently, are those we are willing to wield against each other.





Who knows, tonight, we may lose the battle!

16 12 2015

How about some numbers?

I’m a theorist, yes, but when it comes to elections, you gotta talk numbers.

So how about some numbers for Reichstag elections 1919-1932?

  • January 1919 (percentage of seats; bold are Weimar Coalition 1919-20; after 1920, parties in minority)
    • Social Democrats (SPD) 39%
    • [Catholic] Center (Z) 22%
    • German Workers Party (DDP) 18%
    • Nationalists (DNVP) 10%
    • Independent Social Democrats (USPD) 5%
    • German People’s Party (DVP) 4%
    • Others 2%
  • June 6, 1920
    • SPD 22%
    • USPD 18%
    • DNVP 15%
    • DVP 14%
    • Z 14%
    • DDP 8%
    • Bavarian People’s Party (BVP) 5%
    • Communists (KPD) 1%
    • Others 2%
  • November 30, 1923 (seats)
    • DDP +DVP + Z 168
    • SPD 103
    • USPD 83
    • DNVP 71
    • BVP 21
    • KPD 4
    • Others 10
  • May 4, 1924 (percentage)
    • SPD 21%
    • DNVP 20%
    • Z 14%
    • KPD 13%
    • DVP 10%
    • German People’s Freedom  Party (DFVP) + Nazis (NSDAP) 7%
    • DDP 6%
    • BVP 3%
    • Others 6%
  • December 7, 1924
    • SPD 27%
    • DNVP 21%
    • Z 14%
    • DVP 10%
    • KPD 9%
    • DDP 6%
    • BVP 4%
    • NSDAP 3%
    • Others 6%
  • May 20, 1928
    • SPD 31%
    • DNVP 15%
    • Z 13%
    • KPD 11%
    • DVP 9%
    • DDP 5%
    • BVP 3%
    • NSDAP 2%
    • Others 10%
  • September 14, 1930
    • SPD 25%
    • NSDAP 19%
    • KPD 13%
    • Z 12%
    • DNVP 7%
    • German State Party (DStP, former DDP) 3%
    • BVP 3%
    • Others 12%
  • July 31, 1932
    • NSDAP 38%
    • SPD 22%
    • KPD 15%
    • Z 12%
    • DNVP 6%
    • BVP 4%
    • DVP 1%
    • DStP 1%
    • Others 2%
  • November 6, 1932
    • NSDAP 34%
    • SDP  21%
    • KPD 17%
    • Z 12%
    • DNVP 9%
    • BVP 3%
    • DVP 2%
    • DStP 0% (tho’ still held 2 seats)
    • Others 2%

The November 1932 were the last free parliamentary elections; after Hitler became chancellor in 1933, the fix was in, so while elections were held that year, they were in no way free. Even then, however, the Nazis couldn’t manage a majority: they received only 43.9% of the vote in the March 5 elections.

A coupla’ things to note about these numbers (helpfully provided by Fuad Aleskerov, Manfred J. Holler, and Rita Kamalova in their paper, Power Distribution in the Weimar Reichstag 1919-1933; note that they go on to analyze those electoral results and various governing coalitions):

  1. These are parliamentary election results, which may or may not have been reflected in who was chosen as chancellor—and there were alotttttta chancellors in this period.
  2. As noted in a previous post (as well as in bold, above), the Weimar coalition didn’t rule past 1920.
  3. A number of parties in parliament were, in fact, anti-parliamentarian: the rightist Nationalists (DNVP) most notably early on, and the Communist KPD and fascist NSDAP later.
  4. The two Catholic parties kind of straddled the republican line: The Center party (Z) was decidedly anti-left, but also valued their ability to participate fully in government; they moved to the right by the end of the 1920s. The Bavarian People’s party (BVP) was more conservative (and, obviously, found its power base in Bavaria) throughout this period.
  5. Finally, and rather importantly, look at those figures for NSDAP: After the failed beer-hall putsch in 1923, Hitler vowed he would take power via ‘legal’ means. Yet in elections from 1924-28, they were a marginal force in politics—the Nationalists were the main representative of the right in parliament. It was only after the onset of the Depression did the Nazis’ electoral fortunes improve.

That last bit is rather important: absent economic crisis, it is not clear that the republic would have fallen, nor that the Nazis would rise to destroy it all.

It’s an incredibly complex matter, complexities which I’ve barely touched on here nor in previous (and likely, future) posts, and which I’m still sorting out myself, but whatever other elements contributed to the end of Weimar, it’s nonsense to conclude that the republic fell of its own accord.

~~~

In addition to the Aleskerov, Holler, and Kamalova piece, I also relied upon Richard Evans’s The Coming of the Third Reich and Detlev Peukert’s The Weimar Republic for various electoral and party information.





Looking for a moment that’ll never happen

22 03 2013

I have to stop before I start screaming.

This is my last post on support for/dissent from the Iraq war—not because there’s nothing left to say, but because I could bang on and on about this, digging out every last awful pro-war piece  by allegedly thoughtful conservatives and liberals (to say nothing about the bilge which burbled out of the pits of (neo-)conservatism).

And then I could howl some more about the backhand given toward those who were right and the shrug toward those who were wrong.

No, I have to let it go because otherwise I will never let it go.

Two last things. One, presidents matter. Two, protests don’t matter.

On the first point: It was a bit of a toss-off point I made the other night, that if the president decides to go to war, then nothing will stop him, but upon reflection, I think that I nailed it.

Are there any cases in which a president wanted publicly to wage war and was prevented from doing so by the Congress or the citizenry?

It’s possible that there were instances in which a president privately mulled war with his advisers but pulled up before going public, and it is possible that in those instances it was the prospect of public push-back which [were among the variables which] stalled him. But has a president ever decided publicly to commit troops to battle and not gotten his way?

I can’t think of any.

Which leads to the second point: Once the decision has been made to go public with the case for war, it’s too late for protests.

This doesn’t make protest any less necessary, but (we) dissenters have to be aware that we are protesting to save our own minds, to make ourselves visible to one another and to reassure one another that, in fact, we haven’t lost our minds.

As regards the path to war, however, we are as ants to a tank.

If we want to matter, then, the best we may be able to do is to mitigate the worst effects of the war, to aid veterans, to send money to civic and humanitarian organizations working in-country. To make public one’s own dissent, if only to remind one’s fellow citizens that it is possible to dissent.

Maybe it will matter, next time, behind the closed doors, as the president and his (or her) advisers ponder breaking into another country. Maybe.

Is there anything more than maybe? Probably not.

What, then, is to be done? If we want to stop war and protests won’t stop war, what is to be done?

This brings me back to the first point: Don’t elect presidents who want war, who hire advisers who want war, who  can’t be bothered to think about the agonies of war.

It’s not much; it’s all we’ve got.

~~~

h/t & general fuck-yeahs to Conor Friedersdorf; Scott Lemieux at LGM, Matt Yglesias, Charlie  Pierce, James Fallows (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), and everyone else who’s sunk her teeth into the backsides of the warmongers and won’t let go. [Removed link to MY because it was a mistake to have included him: he might now be truly sorry, but he was among the mongers.]





Between ideals and fact

26 01 2013

I said I wasn’t going to concern-troll the Republicans, right?

Well, what about concern-imp-ing? Concern-nixie-ing? Is it really concern-monster-ing if my recommendations apply to all political parties?

Whatever.  Here it is: Focus on governance.

Shockingly original, I know, but its obviousness has been obliterated in the past decade or so by Republican operatives (Karl Rove) so intent upon winning that they forget that winning is only the beginning, and not the end, of electoral politics.

I’ve described election campaigns as free-for-alls, governed solely by the standard of “what works”, i.e., solely by what increases the chances of winning. Another shockingly original insight: if you want to win, you have to concentrate on winning, full stop.

But after  you’ve won, you have to do something else: You have to govern.

Now, however distinct are the ways of the campaign from those of governance, it is worth considering whether a platform for governance can help you to win. Sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes all you have to do is remind the voters of what a great guy you are or what a great team you’re on and how terrible is the other guy or team. You go for fear or pride or collegiality (“I’d like to have a beer with that guy”) and don’t say much about the Eurozone crisis or CAFTA or the eligibility standards for SSI and bim bam boom, you’re in.

At some point, however, folks might wonder just what it is you plan to do once you’re in. A backbencher representative might be able to get away with platitudes and ideas to nowhere, but party leaders—governors, senators, presidents—have to do something. They have to govern.

If, therefore, you want your candidate or party to win, it might just help to have some ideas of how to govern. It’s not enough simply to say “there’s a problem and the other team caused it”; you have to offer solutions.

Edward L. Glaeser gets this. He’s an urban-conservative, and as such focuses on what can done to make things better. I disagree with both his analyses of and suggestions to fix the problems of urban life, but I really like that he grounds the symbolic appeals to conservatism in practical policy-making. I really really like that he thinks Republicans should engage in governance as something other than acts of arson, and that he doesn’t consider conservative policy-making a contradiction in terms.

He thinks Republicans should compete for cities, and points to what he sees as the accomplishments of Republican mayors as both reasons and guides for a GOP commitment to urban America. Focus on what we have to offer—what good we can do—he counsels Republicans, and go from there.

In other words, build an electoral strategy based on policy accomplishment, and you might just win.

Elections and governance are way too messy and contradictory for a simply Competence=>Victory equation to pan out (see: Michael Dukakis). Dirty tricks and fear-mongering and lies and money and error and passion and whole tangled nest of interests and reasons and desires will all play parts in electoral campaigns, as will the always-important backdrops of economic performance and unpredictable crises. Arguably, policy achievement might not play much of a role, at all.

And yet, it’s just possible that policy achievement might matter, perhaps even enough to cross that line from defeat to victory. There’s so much that can’t be controlled in elections; why not focus on what you can control, what you can do?

Unless, of course, you think it’s better just to control the elections so that you don’t have to worry about governing at all.





Mayan campaign mashup 2012: Wrap it up

11 11 2012

And so ends the election season.

A few last points before I lay this theme to rest:

1. Winning is nice. I’ll enjoy it while I can, because wins don’t last. (And for those who lost, don’t despair:  losing doesn’t last, either.)

2. I understand how and why it happened—Gingrich, Trump, Cain, Santorum, Perry, Bachmann—but I’m still amused that the Republicans nominated the man who lost to the man who lost to Barack Obama in 2008.

3. Similarly, while I understand why it happened, it seems to me that a man who made his fortune as a financier was not the best person to send into the ring in the midst of a shaky recovery from a savage recession. It could have worked—turnaround specialist!—but that’s not really what Romney did, and his political personality didn’t allow him to transcend the sense that he was the boss who fired you, not the boss who hired you.

4. I won’t diagnose the ills of  the Republican Party or recommend fixes because a) I am not a Republican and b) concern-trolling is annoying, and c) I’d rather put my efforts in trying to figure out a left-political program than a right-political program.

(And that, it seems, is necessary. Barack Obama deserved the votes of leftists not because he was leftist but because, unlike his opponent, he would at least inch us toward something better. Those of us on the left need continually to make sense of that something better, and to find effective ways to blunt policies which are decidedly not better, e.g., regarding secrecy, surveillance, and the drug war. Oh, and that whole capitalism and immiseration thing.)

5. That said, developing some sort of philosophy of or program for governance might be worth considering. “No!” is a slogan, not a platform.

6. It is entirely too soon to begin speaking intelligently about the chances for possible candidates in 2016. For those who might want to run, however, it is not, unfortunately, too soon to begin thinking about it, and in a year (and certainly in two) to begin working toward it.

That is among the many reasons I am very glad that I am not now nor will I ever be a candidate for president of the United States.

7. That presidential campaigns are multi-year endeavors is a pox on our polity.

Election campaigns and governance are not the same thing, and what is required to win in elections can be detrimental to good governance. To the extent that we are fully in an era of the permanent campaign bodes ill for said governance.

8. I take back nothing I said about the “everything goes” nature of presidential campaigns, and I expect that same sensibility to drive the 2016 race.

Now, that lying didn’t always work this campaign doesn’t mean it won’t be a part of the toolkit for future campaigns—although, again, smart tacticians will recognize when such lying is counterproductive. Romney was able to make deft use lies during the primary, but the Obama campaign was much swifter (first debate excepted) in rebutting those lies than were Romney’s fellow Republicans, which meant that lying should have been abandoned in favor of more effective tactics.

The Romney tacticians didn’t do so, which speaks poorly of their abilities.

9. To be fair to those same tacticians, however, the road to the White House is always steeper for the challenger than for the incumbent—that’s just how it is.

There’s plenty of easily-available information on the advantages of incumbency, as well as the role that a declining, advancing, or stagnant economy plays in the election. The US economy was/is still weak in 2012, but it is also clearly in recovery. The Romney campaign focused on the first part without taking account of the second, and thus were unable to shape a message which matched the reality.

10. How much campaigns matter is still up for debate, but in the face of uncertainty, it seems prudent to act as if the campaigns mattered more than anything.

Romney said in his concession speech that he and his staff “left it all on the field”, and I don’t doubt that. But it’s also clear that the Obama campaign was demonstrably superior in organization, especially in voter mobilization. Whatever Romney left on the field, Obama had more, and better.

And, of course, Obama was a good candidate. Yes, he was flat in the first debate, but that misstep was so magnified in part because it was so rare. Romney wasn’t terrible as a candidate, but as the challenger he needed to be much, much better than the incumbent. He was not.

~~~

Herein lyeth the end of the Mayan campaign mashup of 2012. May we all find some peace and comfort before the circus beginneth again.





Jumble sales are organized and pamphlets have been posted

28 06 2012

Did not expect that.

No, I didn’t know what the Supreme Court would do, but as a Professional Pessimist, it is my sworn duty to think the worst. And the worst did not come to pass.

Should I note here my pinko preference for a socialistic universal socialistic single-payer socialistic public socialistic health care socialistic plan? Okay, why not: I’da preferred a single-payer, Medicare-for-all, what have you, plan, but the Affordable Care Act seems to (only recently re-insured) me an improvement over the (former) status quo, a movement toward justice, and thus worthy of support on its own merits.

As to the politics, well, a win from the Supremes helps those who I want to win in November: it doesn’t wipe out all of the effort of the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats, and amongst the great majority of voters who are not yet paying attention to the election this decision sends the sorta-subliminal message of Obama as a winner.

Americans like winners.

In any case, I have nothing to offer on details of the constitutional interpretation or of the long-term consequences of the apparent limitations on the commerce clause, but I want to plant my flag on a particular patch of political pedantry: I am relieved that the Court upheld the law not just or even primarily because I like the law, but because I believe—strongly—that the Congress ought to be able to legislate. The Court is supreme over all other courts, but it is not and should not be supreme over the other two branches.

Now, insofar as I believe the Court ought vigorously defend the Constitution and believe it has a particular role in upholding the rights of minorities against encroachment by majorities, this seems an untenable position for me to take. Ah, hell, perhaps it is: how else can the Court defend the Constitution and minority rights without asserting its powers over and above those of the Congress and the executive branch? It would be suspiciously convenient for me to say that in case where the Court rules in favor of Guantanamo detainees, say, that they are merely preventing the other two branches from elevating themselves above the Constitution.

Yeah, way too convenient.

I guess I mean to say: Legislators should be free to legislate, political questions should be decided in the political arena, and those who pass the laws should not be able either to hide behind the Court or use the courts to accomplish in the judicial branch what they could not accomplish in the legislative.

Again, damned difficult balancing act, but I think the more we (citizens, legislators) rely on the courts to settle political disagreements, the less responsibility we require from those legislators. I think we ought to live with the consequences of who we elect to public office, and using the courts to buffer us from those consequences distorts the political process.

For similar reasons, I’m foursquare in favor of filibuster reform or even elimination: if we elect idiots and bullies to office, then we shouldn’t be surprised to see them pass idiotic and mean legislation. What’s the old line? We dance with the ones that brung us. Well, if we don’t like how they dance, maybe we’ll be a little more careful in choice of dates.

Oh, crap, this is all going off the rails, isn’t it? Let me put this another way: I believe in responsible government, in accountability, and as the justices of the Supreme Court are not accountable to us, then I choose to concentrate on the members of those institutions which are.

So: Yay for the Affordable Care Act! Yay for Obama! And yay for politics!





Wipeout, pt. II

3 11 2010

I am an ideologue.

No, not particularly happy to write that, and as quickly as I might state that that’s not all that I am, I also have to admit that it is also that I am.

I bring this up to consider the interpretations of elections. After the Republicans suffered reverses in 2006 and 2008, a fair number of activists blamed those reversals on the lack of conservative steadfastness. Had the GOPers only stuck to their guns, these folks said, we’d a-won.

Yeah, right, I thought.

But that same thought skittered around my mind in the lead-up to this election. If only the Dems hadn’t been so pusillanimous, election night would have been a bleed rather than a hemorrhage.

In my defense, I was thinking more about tactics, whereas the conservatives were thinking more about policy. I’m not a moderate, but I think welcoming moderates (and even conservatives) into the Democratic party isn’t a bad thing: I am most decidedly not a purist on political matters.

But that interpretation rather too conveniently lets me off the hook. I want the Dems to push hard, to ignore squeals about the supposed unfairness of maneuvering to enact their agenda, and I want that agenda to reflect my leftist views.

When you win, goddammit, you act as if you’ve won.

And when you lose, you obstruct and resist and dissent and do what you can to limit the damage likely to flow from the other side’s win.

That’s how it is, for Dems and GOPers, liberals and conservatives. Shut up about the process—really, SHUT UP. It’s terrific when you win and terrible when you lose and all your whining about fairness or rudeness or partisanship is just so much rote rot. If you truly think it’s unfair, then change the process; otherwise, shut up.

So that’s how I know I’m an ideologue: However annoyed I may be when political adversaries obstruct what I want done, I don’t think they’re wrong to obstruct. In fact, if they think they can best achieve their aims through obstruction, then they’re fools if they don’t obstruct.

That’s not cynicism; that’s smart politics.

And finally, I know I’m an ideologue because however fatigued or Machiavellian I may be, I do believe ideas matter, so much so that I find it easier to deal with those who actually want to do something—even if I hate that something—than those who want to win just to win.

Even I’m not that cynical.