226 Comments

The Baileys are my neighbors (not literally, but I live in a suburb of a midsized midwestern city and yards had a 50/50 mix of Biden and Trump signs) and this is exactly right. They are concerned with inflation, their kids’ schooling, maybe how the hell they will pay for college or if it’s even worth it, spooked by CRT and put off by accusations of white privilege, but also spooked by J6-ers. They liked Obama’s positivity and wonder Why Can’t We All Just Get Along. They don’t like talking about politics with their friends and family because it just leads to fighting. They don’t watch Fox or MSNBC because it stresses them out, they like CSI and Yellowstone.

If any Democratic staffers would like to study abroad, they can come visit my ‘burb.

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Political drama stressing people out is a real thing. In a year that was sufficiently stressful, I literally could not watch the debates last cycle because it was horrible for my stress level and blood pressure. I'm a political junky and I would rather watch sports than cable news.

Part of the reason people select friendly news sources and forums is because they don't want to have there opinion mocked or demonized. Many of us are coming to the conclusion that it's not worth it.

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My sister and I had to have quiet conversations, that were almost like interventions, with a couple of family members by 2020. MSNBC addicts.

“Watching Trump news constantly isn’t helping the world, it’s only making you miserable. Other people don’t want to talk about Trump, to the exclusion of anything else. These people on TV are *trying* to keep you agitated.”

There’s absolutely nothing for a healthy person to gain by, say, reading Mary Trump’s book. I hate that I’m aware of its existence.

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I literally had to tell my mother 'stop talking about what Trump said or did today every single time I see you'. It was like an intervention

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I also have family members like that. One keeps going on about how we’re all doomed and when I suggest maybe he start trying to do something instead of spending 8 hrs a day watching MSNBC, they get mad at me and and say it’s impossible because the Republicans are evil and apparently have political superpowers. Then I suggest they stop paying attention to it if it’s useless and they can’t do anything about it and they get mad again and start on about how we’re doomed and I need to hear it. In seriously am at my wits end with relatives like that.

I don’t think MSNBC is as bad as Fox News but it’s definitely having a very negative effect on our society.

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Ugh these are my parents. They are just so bored.

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I've lived in places where the only available ISP was Comcast and I don't understand how anyone can take MSNBC seriously. Don't they already know that these are probably among the worst people in the country?

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Yeah, us political junkies who like getting riled up over this stuff as a hobby forget that people have other (healthier) hobbies.

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I wish I did. Can't...stop...reading...political...blogs...

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I picked up chess and put down Twitter.

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Yeah, I'm overwhelmed with the stress of politics. Just going to turn on the latest on Major League Baseball, spring training is just a few weeks away ...

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The Ohio suburb Baileys are really excited about Joe Burrow.

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WHO DEY!

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and, uh, maybe worried about whether Joe Burrow will be even walking in three years?

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The Homestead Act of 2022. We'll provide a free college education to the Bailey's children if they'll agree to move out West and take up ranching, like Yellowstone.

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You don't happen to live in the DSM suburbs, do you? Just described West Des Moines/Waukee to a T.

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Nope, Cincinnati (go Bengals!)

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I'm convinced Cincinnati, Columbus, Indianapolis, Omaha, and Des Moines are all the same city.

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I have driven through all of those cities, several of them many times (even saw a few concerts in Cincinnati some years ago). Cincinnati *looks* much cooler than those other places, is more enjoyable to drive through as a result. Has a much more distinctive feel. Fwiw.

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Not sure what direction you came from, but driving north on I-71/75 through the Cut in the Hill in Kentucky has to be one of the most impressive “sudden reveal” views of a downtown in the Midwest (or country?) https://www.reddit.com/r/cincinnati/comments/7ca1wh/took_this_photo_coming_down_the_cut_in_the_hill/

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founding
Jan 25, 2022·edited Jan 25, 2022

I've read many articles and think pieces about how the Republican leadership in the 80's-90's crafted their messaging to make sure their most right-leaning, often racist, flank stayed inside the party. The coalition among the Chamber of Commerce types, the libertarians and the blood-and-soil types was held together with rhetoric and messaging far more strident than where the middle of the party resided. The problem is the blood and soil types believed the rhetoric. After years of losses (in their view) that group was agitated, frustrated with 'sell outs', and thought they'd been lied to by the Bushes and Romneys, so enter Drain-The-Swamp Trump.

The Democrats seem to me, have a similar problem. The rhetoric used by Schumer, Reid, et al, has always been more strident and more left wing than their actual governing. So their most vocal left-wing activists internalized the messaging, grew frustrated (remember Occupy Wall Street?), organized into strong Progressive organizations and have effectively taken over the party. Biden embraces the "are you on the side of Democracy or Bull Connor" messaging around the voting rights bill; this article describes Schumer. So now we have both parties seemingly taken over by their most radical fringes.

The first party that moves away from those fringes without losing them altogether will win for a long time. Trump won't do it. DeSantis probably won't either. Biden said he would, but hasn't. Which party will find the person who will do so first?

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A lot of Democrats seem too busy criticising Republicans for caving in to their dead enders to notice they're making their way down a not entirely different slippery slope. Very unfortunate.

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There is a problem with this, to my mind: the effect of social media amplifying the most extreme voices makes it much harder, if not wholly impossible, for centralized party leadership to wrestle them back in the box.

I think we’re used to folks whose ideas having this much prominence being in charge, when the reality for most of the left is that they’re just the loudest people on Twitter.

The right is further down this slope in reality, but the Wokists and hard-leftists have a really loud Twitter game.

Even if either party does fully wrest the reins away from their extreme wings, they’re still going to be much louder than would have been possible in, say, 1960.

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I think it’s a big problem that ALL of our journalists are on there, and they all seem to care a bit too much about one another’s opinions there. It shows in their product.

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It has long been accepted as conventional wisdom that social media merely amplifies the most extreme viewpoints and that judging society off the non-representative sample that is social media leads one to false conclusions. Maybe that was once true, but I no longer think it is.

In my view, the amplification of extreme viewpoints has had the indoctrinating effect of normalizing those viewpoints. Social media has pushed the normative boundaries of political discourse such that hyperbole is the order of the day. Everything is a doomsday scenario. Just see Mitch’s “Nuclear Winter” remark or really any Democrats’ suggestion that not voting for the voting reform measures as they are currently written is tantamount to being against democracy. The latter is especially egregious as it has the effect of nullifying legitimate claims that some Republicans are trying to undermine or else circumvent American Democracy.

It’s not just the hard-leftists or Trumpiest Republicans engaging in this hyperbolic discourse. Maybe we started by amplifying the loudest voices, but that process has shaped us such that those loud opinions are held by a larger and larger share of the polity.

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Agreed. Everyone speaks in hyperbole and catastrophizes everything. Some things are really catastrophic like Trumps efforts to overturn the election, but that just makes it harder to convince people that other things aren't.

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I’d have to see some evidence that this is true. It seems vaguely plausible, but I can’t really see how we’d perceive the extremes growing larger differently from the same extremes talking more loudly.

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I can't say I have compelling evidence of causation, by my opinion is at least informed by objective trends and correlations. There is definitely ample evidence that extremes are growing larger and that it isn't just an issue of perception vs. reality.

There are many political models that point to rapid increases in polarization in the internet age (e.g. https://www.vox.com/2015/4/23/8485443/polarization-congress-visualization). While that may not be limited to social media, I think the same crucial aspects of the general internet are at work with social media, just on steroids.

A quick Google search turned up this research article (https://www.pnas.org/content/115/37/9216), which finds some (albeit not statistically relevant) evidence of a causal relationship between exposure to opposing viewpoints on social media and political polarization. I'm not going to call this a smoking gun in my favor, but I think it at least gets my assertion to the point of plausibility.

It's hard to find causal evidence pinning the blame on social media, but there is no denying that polarization has accelerated significantly as social media adoption has increased and misinformation campaigns have proliferated.

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Ten years from now if there hasnt been a civil war we will know it was the latter.

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Social science at its finest…

“Control group? Huh?”

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Matt has made the point is that Republicans (or at least Trump) did moderate their economic policy (mostly rhetoric, but some actual policy) while ramping up on the culture war stuff. Progressives seem like they are pushing hard on both the culture war stuff and the economic policy stuff. Combine that with Progressives moving much further to the left than Republicans to the right and for a country full of little c conservative voters and you get people willing to vote Republican even though many of them are clearly bonkers crazy.

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I wish I could super-like this comment!

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What exactly was the “strident rhetoric” that kept the blood and soilers inside the GOP tent? Are we talking the Willie Horton ad, or something more insidious?

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founding

Nothing more insidious than what passes for normal political rhetoric. See Lee Atwater's comments, self-deportations, tea party rhetoric, Willie Horton, talking a lot about illegal immigration while not supporting things like e-verify, etc... Similar to lots of examples on the D-side that have served to turn their left wing into a stronger voice than they would have been 10 years ago.

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But has anything about that strategy changed from what politicians did in the past? What has actually changed? Perhaps only our perception has changed because modern media projects the voices of the radicals in a way that didn't happen before?

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I don't know that a lot has changed, per se. But it seemed during the 80s and 90s as if a lot of people ("elites?!") understood that rhetoric like that was just rhetoric. Neither candidates nor relatively sophisticated voters took stuff like that literally. Problem is, you can only lie to people for so long before they realize they've been lied to (see the point about blood and soil types above). And I don't know whether people in general have become more credulous, whether it's a "bubble" thing reinforced by the ease of online communication, or it it's just motivated "reasoning." But the whole shading of the truth/lying thing on the part of electeds seems to have become a lot more cynical, and maybe the payoff is higher.

Certainly the media environment doesn't help (and the cycnicism there also seems to have become a lot worse). But it also doesn't help that there is little acknowledgement that we have hard problems to solve - not OMG climate emergency or end of democracy, but complicated and vexing issues like the ones discussed in yesterday's thread - and easy answers/slogans/feelings won't cut it. Politicians learned a long time ago (often from Democratic candidates who lost) that nobody wants to hear that stuff either.

I'm often reminded of an old New Yorker cartoon that has a sidewalk petition-wielder asking a passerby something like "excuse me, do you have a minute to talk about an issue that's been plaguing humanity since the dawn of time?"

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The voting rights debacle really is baffling to me. I’m what is probably their last year in full control of the government, Democrats spend the better part of a month campaigning around a bill that no one other than Democratic activists seems to care about. And it seems, I think even to the casual observer, that the bill never had a chance of making it through Congress.

This is what you use the president’s voice to do? Biden is finally front and center and he’s talking about Jim Crow 2.0? Again, was anyone other than Democratic activists persuaded that black people are in a situation, relative to voting, that should be compared to Jim Crow?

Just disastrous, and difficult to comprehend.

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The president tweeting about Jim Crow 2.0 while all anyone in swing states cares about is inflation. It's practically Republican fanfic

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Indeed. Perhaps he should use his Green Lantern ring and make inflation go away.

IOW, if inflation moderates, he'll be in much better position in November no matter what he tweeted way back in January. If instead swing state voters in November are still feeling the pain of inflation, he'll be screwed and his January tweet won't matter anyway.

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There is a chunk of Democratic activists who either don’t know - or don’t believe - the data on working class voters of all races shifting to the Republicans since 2012. They think that to the extent that Dems have underperformed it is entirely due to Republican malfeasance/ voting suppression. Given that, a focus on voting rights makes sense, even though it won’t really solve the problem. The sad part is that Democratic leaders that this group of voters respect - folks like Warren and Sanders haven’t been eager to correct them.

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Realizing you could easily change "There is a chunk of Democratic activists who either don’t know - or don’t believe - the data on working class voters" to "There is a chunk of Democratic activists who either don’t know - or don’t believe - any working class voters"

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The biggest problem with the voting rights bill is that they knew it wouldn’t pass, so even if the elements of it are all good things, it doesn’t make sense to say that democracy is doomed without it, because we still have to turn out the vote in November. Our only hope is that Republicans will also depress some of their own turnout via bureaucratic obstacles to voting (and who knows if enough of them die of COVID to make a difference in close races)

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Is the voting rights "debacle" really that important? Yep, it failed to pass, as do so many other pieces of legislation. But I suspect in a month, and certainly in nine months, we will barely remember it. I'm not sure why it had to be brought up for a vote, though sometimes you have to offer some of the more querulous parts of your coalition a bone to show that you at least tried.

But in the end, if some version of BBB passes, inflation moderates, Omicron is COVID's last gasp and maybe some decent bipartisan legislation, like an improved ECA, passes, the voters won't care about this failed vote come November.* (And if these don't happen, the Dems will lose no matter what).

And as for Biden's rhetoric, sure, somewhat over the top; not how I'd put it. But maybe there are parts of the coalition that need some tender care, and this helps and is otherwise not terribly costly. And again, I doubt most voters will remember or care about this in November, if they ever heard about it in the first place.

* Oh, and if the Court destroys Roe v Wade, and Biden shows Putin that America will not take the latter's invasion of Ukraine lying down (without risking American lives) and etc etc then this January vote will further disappear in the rear view mirror. Ultimately, things like this just don't matter electorally when much more important things are happening.

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Biden specifically promised to bring unity and healing to American government, and engaging in that kind of rhetoric around voting rights feels to many people like a betrayal of that promise.

I don't think one specific political decision will change many people's minds, but they all contribute to an overall negative "vibe" of dysfunction that hurts the party's overall brand.

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Or it feeds into the GOP's line that Biden is a puppet for AOC, something that seemed laughable to me 12 months ago but is feeling a little less laughable as he is unable to compromise on BBB and uses extreme rhetoric unbecoming of the presidency.

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On one hand, they are, yes, significantly and knowingly disadvantaged in getting into politics, getting represented. On the other hand, simply due to numbers, there are more white people in even worse situations.

The simple fact that Dems spent the last ~15 years late-night-interviewing/blogging/podcasting about how hard it is to do anything because the GOP is evil instead of at least doing something about it is the real WTF behind all this.

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Jan 25, 2022·edited Jan 25, 2022

Democratic interest groups have got a lot more detached from reality since Harry Reid was leader. It's Schumer's job to rise above that but he's only human. People scream at you enough, it has an impact. It doesn't have to be anything to do with a primary.

Good on Matt for giving Schumer some pressure back towards reality, but Matt seems increasingly out-numbered by people claiming that Bernie's agenda would win WV (as Bernie's staff director did this weekend), or that Democrats should talk about reparations, among many other acts of electoral self-harm. This isn't just the left; on the right flank, Sinema blocked prescription drug price reform, the most popular idea in US politics. It's a terrible environment to govern in.

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The idea that Bernie's agenda would win WV and other similar areas seems to be the biggest idea that prevents common strategic ground from forming within the party. I have a vague sense of how one could come to the conclusion that turning up the economic Leftism to 11 might work in some environments, but the data of American history does not look like that environment to me. Are progressives looking at the data differently, or are they becoming the Democratic version of the Bush era "create our own reality" advisor in Ron Suskind's article. I fear it's the latter.

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I don't know if people really believe some version of Bernie could win in WV this or it's an affectation... Either way, assuming some do believe it, I'd love if there was some objective measurement to explore how many people believe this and of that subset, how many are actually influencing/driving the decisions that policy makers, party officials, etc make.

Basically, is it a few loud Twitter people or is it having real influence in the current moment because the reality detachment is spread across a broad swath of influential people?

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I think some people believe that Bernie’s win in the WV primary in 2016 means working class WV voters support him, rather than face the fact that it was crossover Republicans and people who hated Hillary Clinton more than the devil himself that put Bernie over the top in that instance.

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Claiming that Bernie's agenda would win West Virginia is totally bonkers, of course, and suggests these people are so out of touch that one should never pay attention to them, but I do wonder if a Bernie agenda might help in, say, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania -- or maybe even Ohio. (What's the name of that senator from there. . . ?)

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Pennsylvania has a lot of voters with Eastern European ancestry. You can explain to them that “actually socialism is good” until the end of time and they will still refuse to vote for a self-proclaimed socialist because the authoritarian governments that controlled the countries theoir relatives lived in from 1945-1990 called themselves socialists.

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These kinds of arguments/explanations are always brought up (recently when pundits explained why so and so groups with so and so history voted Trump), but people who left Europe usually find it a blessing to leave behind the history baggage to a large part.

Currently in Poland and Hungary the same authoritarian tactics are used again, supporters of the regimes don't care.

The US is so so sooo far on the "right" (on the collectivist spectrum) that implementing a few basic "left" ideas (healthcare, childcare) wouldn't make those with European ancestry wake up at night sweating and expecting the black volgas, but would simply nod, that it was about time.

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Jan 25, 2022·edited Jan 25, 2022

It's leadership's job to get the left and right wing of their own party into the same room, and don't let them out until there's a compromise.

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Since politics is about **vibes** I will say the vibes of the Democratic party have gotten even more "Bailey" hostile than the policy. Maybe this is just me being on Twitter too much, but there seems to be pretty much no sympathy if a middle class person says certain aspects of their life are hard. Angie Schmitt for example has gotten a pretty horrible reaction just for saying remote school is really hard on moms. I know not every twitter user is a political actor but it does seem to reflect a pretty bad instinct within the Democratic partly/on the left to just dismiss the picayune concerns of average folks. The old (Bill) Clinton line was "I feel your pain," and I think the genius of this is he would empathize with everyone about their problems not just people with "legitimate" problems or very bad life circumstances. It's not like empathy is a zero sum game, so what's the point of cutting some people out of the circle of compassion except to be mean?

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I think it's a safe to say that the average progressive activist or staffer probably thinks the Bailey's are bad people and that catering to their views inherently hampers the party's attempts to help those Americans who actually deserve it.

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“there seems to be pretty much no sympathy if a middle class person says certain aspects of their life are hard”

While there’s simultaneously an infinite amount of anger ready to be deployed on behalf of upper middle class people who’ve been harmed by words.

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My idea for Democratic staffers is that they should all be required, as a condition of their jobs, to listen to 1 hour of local sports talk radio per day. Swing voters abound there. They don't typically talk politics in any direct way, but you do absorb a lot about their values by listening in for long periods of time.

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Mr. Speaker, I rise to support H.R. 3542, a bill that will impose criminal penalties and sanctions on the rogue organization known as the NFL should they not adopt new policies regarding overtime, at the very minimum in playoff games. The American people deserve better ...

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*laugh-cries in center-left Bills fan*

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Popularist!

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Dem staffers should also be forced to watch shows like NCIS and Chicago PD to get a sense of what normal people think about cops

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This would probably be successful in getting Democrats to campaign on banning sports talk radio. Just look at the (very unsuccessful) campaign to cancel Barstool, which is basically sports talk radio for a younger audience. Hearing Gino from Long Island's thoughts on Colin Kaepernick are not going to make the average progressive staffer more sympathetic to him.

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I've listened to my fair share of sports talk radio in my life and Barstool, like it or not, is at least 10x more "problematic."

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This essay reminds me of a long sequence in one of Robert Caro's Lyndon Johnson books, just after Johnson assumes the presidency, where he is trying to get a budget passed, and he has to get Sen. Byrd to move the bill. He knows there is no other option if he wants to move legislation. And Byrd says the bill has to be below $100B (at the time). For some reason Byrd believes holding the line on this will be a legacy achievement for him. So Johnson goes to the liberals and says, we've got to get below $100B, no gimmicks. And they are angry, but he convinces them. And they pass a budget with many of Kennedy's key goals.

From Caro's perspective, Kennedy's agenda was stalled because he wouldn't accept that Byrd had a veto. It got un-stalled because Johnson did immediately. It's strange that between Schumer and Biden, they couldn't see that they just had to cut a deal with Manchin. It seems like there is well-known historical precedent for it.

Johnson also strongly believes that winning legislative victories is the key to winning legislative victories: that he cannot afford to be weakened by losing, even on small issues (like a grain subsidy bill, if I remember correctly). The Biden administration doesn't seem to understand that either.

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Because FDR is the model in their heads, not LBJ, and they forget/ignore the margins he had

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I think Biden and Schumer both get it, it's just that Schumer (for the reasons Matt explains in the piece) doesn't want to act on that knowledge, and just as nobody can do anything without Manchin, Biden can't really do anything without Schumer. (Imagine if WH people went straight to Manchin with the bill Matt suggests without telling Schumer. It *could* work, but it would piss Schumer off mightily, and that might end up meaning it doesn't work.)

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Jan 25, 2022·edited Jan 25, 2022

One one level, that is a fair point.

But, I think the point of reading Caro is to understand the complexity of the job of president. Johnson made it his business to know that Byrd wanted to tell his grandchildren (literally) that he had kept the budget to $100B. Knowing what makes Schumer and Machin tick, what motivates them, what can be used as leverage to get the votes you need, that is the job if you want to move legislation. You need to know that blaming Machin publicly is going to backfire. You need to know that (perhaps) Schumer fears a primary from the left.

In fairness, the book is called "Master of the Senate" for a reason. But I had hoped that Biden would be closer to Johnson in his ability to manage the senate, and it seems he is closer to Kennedy. I think maybe Carl is right below, Biden imagined he was FDR, but he is neither FDR nor Johnson, and as a result he hasn't been as effective as I hoped.

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"...the O’Reillys became the Baileys to clarify that he wasn’t talking about a niche ethnic audience."

Well, thank god he's focused on real Americans, Anglo-Saxons, instead of those drunken Hibernian apes, with their potatoes, plagues, and papism. The Democratic party will never get anywhere if it keeps pandering to the latest wave of ignorant immigrant scum to wash ashore. O'Reilly indeed! No "O'Reilly" can ever speak for the godly conservative bedrock of our nation.

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I just read Sally Phipp's memoir of her mother Molly Keane, which I highly recommend. One takeaway from the book is there's a lot of Irish history and Irish-American history, which if you don't have Irish ancestors, you probably won't get. Molly Keane was a gifted writer and enjoyed a golden life in big houses, while the scullery maids were coming in through the back door. It's not surprising the inequality in Ireland, where the Anglo-Irish owned 95% of the land and all the best horses and foxhounds since the time of William and Mary, has had knock-on effects since the famine with the Irish diaspora in America.

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Croppies lie down!

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Gotta say, that strikes me as a step too far.

I don't speak for any ethnic niche, but that particular phrase seems pretty ugly to me.

There's good-natured teasing, and then there's "croppies" with a hard R, and I just wouldn't go there.

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As a proud descendant of croppies I'm taking the term back to deprive it of some of its power.

But I take your point.

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I should have been clearer.

In the US, anti-Irish discrimination is now only an historical curiosity, not a live threat. So, it's a subject for laughter.

But in Ireland itself (esp. N. Ireland), the Unionists are still marching to keep down the Catholics. It's harder to joke about ongoing oppression.

"Oh, croppies ye'd better be quiet and still

Ye shan't have your liberty, do what ye will

As long as salt water is formed in the deep

A foot on the necks of the croppy we'll keep

And drink, as in bumpers past troubles we drown,

A health to the lads that made croppies lie down

Down, down, croppies lie down."

Ugly stuff, like I said. And because Boris and Nigel wanted their payday from the Russian oligarchs, Brexit may now bring a renewal of the Troubles.

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For a year now, I’ve wondered—what’s happened to Schumer!? Was he always this bad? He’s no Harry Reid. Your column fills me with disappointment and growing anger. This feeling spills over to Joe Biden, and to the progressive zombie donor class that is *out of touch* with normie Democrats, independents and patriotic Americans.

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I literally emailed this post to Schumer’s office. (Hopefully they’re already subscribed.)

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He's probably Bob Saget.

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One thought and one question: first, where does the moniker of being politically effective come from for a Chuck Schumer? Outside of the campaign work, where I'd agree he has been very good at fundraising, candidate selection, etc. Where are the legislative coalitions, the shrewd decisions to hold things together, big legislative wins, etc? I just don't see it, and I fear that such a media-friendly Senator sees that love reciprocated in terms of constant descriptions of his shrewdness without much to point to as a track record (and even Matt admittedly falls in this trap, noting this piece was hard to write, his fondness, etc).

As far as a description of what's happening here: to use the Yuval Levin framework, Chuck Schumer is not a committed institutionalist I'd argue. Not to the Senate, not even really to the Democratic party as an institution. Instead of saying "given my role in this institution, what should I do now?", I think he is firmly in the camp of "given my ability to use these institutions as platforms, how can I take advantage of that?" And I think it shows especially now when the stakes are high. As a backbench member, it's easier to get away with that - when you are the Leader the party and the Senate itself has a hard time withstanding the negligent if not anti-institutionalist approach. For a counter example, you can use Harry Reid and (trigger warning) Mitch McConnell, who I think are both leagues apart in terms of leadership and balancing the broader commitment to the personal interest.

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founding

Nancy Pelosi has been amazing as well - figuring out how to get the entire caucus to pass some left priorities while avoiding the ones they won’t pass, and triggering the left to complain about her the entire time.

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Pelosi forced a doomed vote on cap-and-trade in 2010 when we still held a lot of seats in coal regions. She's generally good at her job but has had high-profile, preventable mistakes

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founding

Didn't that vote succeed? It was only Deepwater Horizon that prevented the Senate from passing a version of the bill that could then be reconciled, and that would have been a huge win.

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Succeeded in the House. Passing a politically unpopular bill in the House only for it to fail in the Senate is not a win for your vulnerable members. They walked the plank and got nothing for it.

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founding

But as I said, it was looking like it was on good track in the Senate too, until Deepwater Horizon made it an inappropriate time to do anything to oil companies.

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This, thank you. As far as I can tell, Schumer's primary accomplishment as caucus leader has been to get logrolled by McConnell (probably the most effective senate leader since Johnson) over and over again. I'm not even willing to credit him with preservation of the ACA: there was no serious chance of any D defections on that in the first place, and it all came down to John McCain's ego.

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So it was Schumer's fault that he couldn't get more Republicans to thwart McConnell's schemes, apart from McCain?

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founding

It's true that this is not a very good test - McConnell is clearly the most capable legislative party leader any party has had in decades, other than possibly Nancy Pelosi. But Reid was up against McConnell too (and also had the support of Nancy Pelosi), and managed to not have quite as many own-goals, as I recall.

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I'm not sure how much of that is really McConnell--when almost your entire caucus cares more about burning down the other guy than the good of the country, pure obstructionism is kind of playing on Easy Mode.

The most I can say for certain is that he hasn't played a good hand badly.

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founding

True, though I think McConnell was the first to recognize the electoral value of pure obstructionism. I seem to recall MattY writing a bunch of articles in 2009 saying that McConnell was silly for letting the Democrats write Obamacare entirely the way they wanted by opting for pure obstruction, rather than extracting some concessions out of them and letting a few Republicans vote for it. But in later years, it became clear that this was absolutely successful electoral strategy for Republicans, even though it meant they got less policy than they said they wanted - it just became clear later that they care more about winning and less about policy than we thought.

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I'm a little young to remember, but I wonder if you could make a case for Newt.

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Schumer has been Majority Leader for one year. It's actually been an amazingly productive year, given the 50/50 split: American Rescue Plan, infrastructure, a record number of judges confirmed. Let's see what happens the rest of this year as well before we form a judgment.

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I don't know if there was that much risk ARP wasn't ever going to happen and they (along with WH) chose to take a party line approach, so I don't give much credit there.

Infrastructure, it could be argued, was a case of bucking leadership and was an "in spite of, and not because of" issue when it comes to leadership. I think the reporting shows that leadership was generally furious that Sinema/Manchin and others "went rogue" to make their own bill without leadership and the White House steering.

It's not a final judgment, but I think these are all data points.

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I think there are maybe three currents that get conflated as Dem extremism:

1. Bernie economic leftism

2. Blogosphere/MSNBC/we’re at war with every Republican

3. Civil rights moral crusade

Lots of us (including me) are or have been part of all 3 at various times, but they have different dynamics, and we spend a lot of time fighting internally about which one is the most important. Biden won because he wasn’t Trump, but a lot of people wish it was more of #3 thing. And the moral rhetoric of #3 has an undeniable power, which sure has deranged some too-online people, but it also comes from a real place that really does motivate a lot of especially young voters (who Dems spent a LOT of time trying to reach), and pushing back on it with what feels like pragmatism is delicate. I don’t know what’s going on in Schumer’s head, but I bet for a lot of Dems it becomes a genuinely difficult argument from principle aside from other political considerations - in a way that’s qualitatively different from what “say no to your leftiest flank” used to be.

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I think this is a fair point. I also think the risk calculus is different- Bailey, the progressive post grad, is a risk that she might skip the election or vote third party. The Baileys might flip D to R. Each D->R flip is 2x as bad as a D->other flip.

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I enjoy basically all of Matt’s columns, but this one feels especially important. As a Schumer constituent, I’m going to encourage his office to heed it.

Of course, there’s approximately 0% chance I would support AOC in a primary over Schumer, so I guess I’m not who he’s worried about. Maybe I’ll have to give it a little bit of spin.

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I actually think confirming to Schumer's office that you would show up for him in a hypothetical Democratic primary would be useful as positive reinforcement. It is sometimes important for the "silent majority" to speak up every now and then.

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Talking to Congressional staff/interns answering phones, sorting e-mails, etc. about primaries and elections is awkward. They are not supposed to discuss that stuff.

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Jim Crow 2.0 is perhaps the worst political messaging possible. Really takes a Herculean effort to come up with something that brutal.

Like I am very concerned both that our democratic leadership averages 80+ and also that that is absolutely the best case scenario. The next generation of dem leadership is going to be insufferable.

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Jan 25, 2022·edited Jan 25, 2022

I sometimes watch congressional committee hearings - even the low profile ones - and they make the generational split really apparent. The older generation is partisan, but takes committee work somewhat seriously, talks to the witnesses, and is on-topic partisan. The younger generation only shows up, if they show up at all, to give unrelated monologues that I guess are for potential use in campaigns? Then immediately leaves.

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Oh! Having written this, I finally realized the point of the unrelated monologues. It's content for their social media feeds, of course. I am really getting old.

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Haha was about to say, they do it for the gram. Like can you please just go stand in front of some graffiti wings instead and let the policy wonks do real work.

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Welcome to the club!

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Wow, this is so depressing. I used to go to committee hearings for work (quite a while ago) and it's unfortunate, if not surprising, that they have become even worse. There was some of this kind of grandstanding back in the day, but at least on the boring issues on which I was focused, not so much...

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I almost feel like Schumer would be playing these issues better if he was from a reddish state like Reid. There is something about being from a totally blue state that skews your vision of the world. I’m from minnesota (almost always blue but almost always just over 50% blue, so half of us are Rs) and I went to school in California. People from California have this image of the Midwest and the rest of America as this backwoods filled with cave people and misanthropes lmao they really think the rest of the country is either barbaric or evil. It’s really freakin weird. I think having more of a right flank to defend would make him better at working on these problems for the caucus again. But then again 🤷‍♂️

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To be fair, Schumer has gone out of his way to stay in touch with upstate. NYC is so solidly blue and so populous that it distorts the reality that, geographically, NYS is quite politically heterogeneous. Unlike many of the people in my elite-college-bubble, Schumer definitely has talked to people like the Baileys.

But I agree that being surrounded by young staffers and DC types can probably make that experience feel distant. My dad grew up in Lake Placid and had many friends there, but in the decades since he's gone off the rails leftist and has now convinced himself that all his old friends are Q-pilled monsters, it's kind of terrifying.

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Thank you for writing this piece, Matt. I was confused as to why Schumer wasn’t taking more heat prior to the Voting Rights snafu, as he’s been bungling matters since at least the Trump impeachments (all, I believe, in the name of shoring up his left flank).

That said, how much of Schumer’s BBB failure is attributable to the Biden White House? It is my observation that presidents set the legislative agenda, while the controlling legislative body controls how much of that agenda comes to fruition. From the start, Biden made clear his aim was a “transformative presidency”. By setting such an aggressive starting point and proving unwilling to make concessions, did Biden set Schumer up for failure?

It was originally my assessment that such an aggressive starting point was a boon for progressive democrats. It allowed significant room for retreat while still producing major legislative wins. The fact that $1.5 trillion in spending was a compromise should have been viewed as a dream scenario by the Democratic Caucus and Biden White House.

Instead of getting progressives on board with this still impactful legislation, Biden has insisted on attempting to strong-arm Manchin and Sinema into helping him achieve dreams of transformative grandeur. Schumer played a role, but more of this governing catastrophe is attributable to Biden’s hubris, ineptitude, or some combination thereof.

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Really good point. The two career politicians, Biden and Schumer are really making a mess of things and the Democrats are going to pay dearly in the midterms.

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