Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Democrats in a Dark Place

Jonathan Gruber
"Politicians always think they have to reach people's hearts. They have to reach their minds."

--Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal

There’s been a noticeable shift in the American political landscape. Did you see how candidates from big-name families--a Democratic tradition from Roosevelt, Stevenson, Harriman, Kennedy, Jay Rockefeller and Jerry Brown to Nancy D'Alesandro Pelosi and Kathleen Gilligan Sebelius--went down last month? Jason Carter and Michelle Nunn in Georgia, Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky, Mark Pryor in Arkansas, Mark Begich in Alaska, Mark Udall in Colorado (“mark” him too), and last but not least, Mary Landrieu in Louisiana. Nothing worked in 2014 for Democrats who say, “I’m not Obama, I’m______.”

As political sage Stu Rothenberg wrote in Roll Call recently,
we have entered a period of parliamentary elections, where the parties stand for starkly different ideological agendas and where ticket-splitting, which follows from individual evaluations apart from party, is relatively rare.
The division in America is sharp, nearly complete, and even. So you thought Obama won big in 2012, a year in which Romney carried a majority of Congressional districts and Republicans held onto the House? Obama won by 4 million votes, 4% to be sure, but by 62 electoral votes. If 4 states--Florida, Ohio, Virginia, and New Hampshire--had gone for Romney instead, Obama would have lost.  And just a well-placed shift of 95,000 votes in those 4 states would have delivered the election to Romney.

Of course had that happened, half the country would have gone insane.  Romney losing by 3.8 million votes yet headed for the White House? Still, such an outcome remains possible because Democratic votes are so concentrated in minority-populated urban areas that the party cannot be comfortable about its chances either in the House or in the Electoral College. Win massively in California, New York, and Illinois and still lose? It happened before.

Is the current sharp partisan division good for America? Roman Lopez, in the conservative Federalist, wrote about how Jon Stewart successfully demonizes and degrades Republicans, making it difficult for his liberal audience to treat the opposing party seriously. Lopez argues that
in a political society we must come together to adjudicate public matters. We must talk, to figure out how we are to govern ourselves. That we live among one another forces us to engage with people and perspectives that we might not have known existed.
New York Times house conservative Ross Douthat (that other guy, David Brooks, isn’t) blames both parties for an unnecessary level of rancor in current politics. But Douthat seems more concerned about Democrats who deal with a bad economy by instead focusing on divisive identity politics in order to hold their minorities-unmarried female coalition together. In a warning to Democrats, Douthat posits that while
identity is . . . the most primal, reliable form of political division . . .history suggests that a “multicultural party” may always be at risk of being redefined as a grievance-based “party of minorities” that many minorities would prefer to leave behind. (And leadership matters, too: A protean figure like Barack Obama can put together a genuine rainbow coalition, but it’s not clear how many other politicians can do the same.)
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has sensed that Democrats have moved down a wrong path by focusing (2009 to present) on Obamacare rather than economic improvement. Compounding the Obamacare problem, since the election Jonathan (“people are stupid”) Gruber, an MIT professor who helped shape both Massachusetts’ Romneycare and Obamacare, has been as helpful to opponents of Obamacare as he has hurt Democrats.

David Nather, writing in the liberal Washington-insider publication “Politico,” honed in on Gruber’s single most damaging error--and one we spotted last August--he gave in a video the exact same explanation that conservatives plan to make in front of the Supreme Court next year of why only state exchanges (of which there are a mere 14) can subsidize Obamacare:
from January 2012, [Gruber said]: “If you’re a state and you don’t set up an exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits [i.e., their money].” Naturally, the quote from that video is right there in the petition to the Supreme Court—which calls Gruber “one of the Act’s architects”—and it’s a good bet that it will come up in the oral arguments. Michael Carvin, the lead attorney in the case, sums it up: “Gruber is Exhibit A that any English-speaking person knows what the subsidies language says.”
Ed Rogers, a conservative permitted to blog in the Washington Post, views Gruber, “made famous by his offensively blatant [video] revelations of the deceit behind the construction and passage of the Obamacare law,” as symbolic of the bad place Democrats find themselves in today:
the Gruber videos . . . perfectly crystallize the entire Democratic 2014 campaign.  That is, don’t admit what you really believe or what you will really do in government.  Say things that purposely deceive or at least misdirect the voters from your true intentions.  Anyway, Gruber isn’t just a bad episode.  He is a living example of what the Democratic Party has become.  In its simplest form, Democrats want to talk to the right and then govern to the left.
Yesterday, Rogers moved his denunciation of Democrats even further down the field, writing:
the Democratic Party is never accused of having a branding problem; is never exposed or criticized as a party for running deceitful campaigns or telling outright lies.  For whatever reason, the media refuses to see a common thread in how modern-day Democrats behave in the political arena, just like they refuse to see any connection between [Ferguson “racist” lies, Rolling Stone “rape” lies, and Lena Dunham “rape” lies] and the decay that exists within the left-wing of the Party’s base.  The media is quick to declare that Republicans and conservatives have systemic problems, but they ignore how morally bankrupt the Democrats and their core constituency have become.
Yes, we don’t like Democrats and their media pals just as much as Jon Stewart doesn’t like us. As for Obama’s presidency as a whole, we think in the words of Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness ): “Your strength is just an accident owed to the weakness of others.”

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