151 Comments

I've moderated a few decent-size communities, so let me make the case for not giving second chances to users like that one:

Your goal here is to have a functional and productive community. A lot of that comes down to the most thoughtful 10% of commenters. It is very easy for someone who is obnoxious to drive off people from that 10%. By contrast, even if the obnoxious person gets reformed they're probably never going to be top 50%, much less top 10%. The benefit of giving them a second chance is that they might get better and stick around, but you probably don't want them to stick around even if they do tone the assholeishness down a bit. And the cost is the very high risk of driving away other, better people.

Also, there is basically zero chance that a user who leans in to being an asshole is going to be mollified by a temporary ban.

Remember, there's a human instinct towards forgiveness, but kicking someone out of your newsletter's comment section doesn't mean they aren't going to eat.

Expand full comment
author

I can see the logic of what you’re saying about zero tolerance. It seemed harsh to do a total ban with no warning but I’m open to your view of this.

Expand full comment

This case was also arguably multiple strikes with clear self-awareness. It's a bit different if someone plausibly acts in good faith but digs themselves into a hole.

Expand full comment
author

That’s a good point

Expand full comment

It is harsh, but it's also better for the community, in my experience. If every distinct asshole gets to make a few bad posts before getting banned, you end up with a lot of bad posts.

(My experience was in free communities, though; I would be less inclined to apply that strategy to paid-only comment sections.)

Expand full comment

Yeah, I think the subscription format makes it easier to give second chances. But only time will tell, right? Did anyone think there would even be ONE jerk willing to pay for the privilege?

Expand full comment

Zero tolerance, one-strike-you're-out, reduce the offender to their component electrons, is the only thing that works in the current climate. I speak from experience moderating. The offenders nowadays are no more likely to reform than any other Trumpscum is to realize that reality and their world are two different places. They're unreformable and should be done away with for the good of the community.

Expand full comment
Nov 18, 2020Liked by Matthew Yglesias

At FCC, former FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn gets Chair if she wants it (last name sound familiar? She’s Rep Clyburn’s daughter). Current Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel (Dem) gets it if Clyburn declines. That’s the word about town in communications circles.

Expand full comment
author

Good tips!

Expand full comment

Since even a 50-50 Senate won't be able to put the Fairness Doctrine into law, the next FCC has to reinstate it as a regulation. It's the only way to shut down the Right Wing Noise Machine, and doing that is the only way that the GOP begins it's one-day-at-a-time recovery and Biden starts to get anything done.

Expand full comment
author

I think this fairness doctrine stuff is way overstated. It would only apply to terrestrial radio and television and my guess is the modern Supreme Court would throw it out anyway.

Expand full comment

Yglesias finally unleashed, so he can bore everyone except us nerds! Yesss.

Expand full comment

For real. This is EXACTLY what I came here for!

Expand full comment

Same.

Expand full comment

I'm worried this message is going to be lost on most of the left. I've seen lefty twitter setting its hair on fire the last couple of days as rumors of staffing positions and cabinet appointments leak out. They seem primed to see Biden as a corporate sell out and jump at any news that confirms their priors. Reading a lot of the commentary, I also feel like they forgot that their people lost and somewhere along the way they mistook Biden for some liberal champion. He's going to appoint a moderate cabinet and hire a middle of the road staff. That's what he's promised the whole time. The idea that he'd suddenly put Bernie, Warren, etc into the cabinet was more scare tactics from the right then a real option.

Expand full comment
founding

If you want to help Ossoff and Warnock, volunteering to write letters to people who are qualified to vote, but might not, seems more useful than donating money: https://votefwd.org/

Phonebanking, and if you're local, door-to-door canvassing, will also matter. The campaigns have "I want to volunteer" signup forms on their websites. There is some speculation that Dems' reluctance to do door-to-door canvassing in the pandemic may have contributed to losing some marginal races, especially in the House. And really, as long as you wear your mask and you stay well back from the door after knocking/ringing, it seems relatively safe.

Expand full comment
author

The letter writing is a great idea. And yes if you’re local may as well try canvassing.

Expand full comment

Many good reminders here as to how power actually works in DC.

My only issue is with the last sentence. I was a donor to a large number of Democratic Senate races this year -- and all my candidates lost. I have begun to wonder whether campaign donations matter very much anymore. Such contributions assume there is a significant percentage of "persuadable" voters who can be reached through TV spots and other traditional techniques. But what if we are confronting a situation in Georgia (and elsewhere in the South and Midwest) where Republicans will vote Republican regardless of the size of Democratic campaign budgets and efforts to convince them to do otherwise? If you believe the survival of the world you know hinges on getting someone of your party a seat in the Senate, how effective will donations to the other party be? Just wondering'...

Expand full comment

I think of my ossof/warnock donations in a prisoner's dilemma context

* dem gives and a repub gives, we're both a little worse off

* dem gives and repub doesn't, perhaps dems are little better off

* dem doesn't give and repub does, perhaps repubs are little better off

* neither give, but it's politics so come on, obvi someone is putting in money

basically have to donate. my self interest is to be slightly marginally worse off in the wallet for potential gain than assured "non-stop constitutional crisis"

Expand full comment

The thing about those senate races is that they really did outrun Joe Biden by a good amount! Mcgrath lost Kentucky by 19 while Biden lost it by 26, and Harrison lost SC by 10 while Biden lost it by 12. We learned from those races that just having a ton of money isn’t enough to win a red state, but it just might be enough to put them over the top in a purple state!

Expand full comment

I tend to agree, particularly based off of the McGrath & Harrison performances.

I worked on a competitive and expensive campaign this year, and even though our airwaves were inundated with ads, I found from knocking doors and talking to voters that there started to be diminishing returns on their effectiveness. It's also really tough to break thru the very effective "my Dem opponent is a liberal socialist" messaging. I would be interested/heartened to know that one/both of them are making large investments into direct voter outreach, field, canvassing, etc. Far better use of their money (some of which was once mine!)

Expand full comment

Once more data are in and more analysis done, there's a story to be written about the relative effectiveness of "air war" (TV, radio, etc.) versus "ground war" (canvassing, relational outreach, etc.) (with digital somewhere in between). My belief based on the little available evidence is that the latter (a) may be better during election season and (b) seems much better outside of election season. I'd like the party to function with boots on the ground all-year, every year. Thus, my preference is to support ($$$) well-organized ground games and orgs that focus on voted identification and registration. In Georgia, that includes Fair Fight and others.

Expand full comment

Great read! This is the kind of stuff they should be teaching in high school civics.

Expand full comment

Yeah, that would be nice, but what a stretch! As a high school government teacher, it’s all I can do to get most students to name the three branches. I *hope* to impart a basic understanding of fundamental principles like separation of powers.

Expand full comment

"Part of the fun of a return to more blog-style content is the ability to be a bit whimsical even as our topics are generally pretty serious. " +1 for the return of Friday music post

Expand full comment

Yes--We need a 19-part series on how TMBG's Flood predicted today's politics.

Expand full comment

and bring back the important topics like "The link between bad weather and economic equality" https://slate.com/business/2013/05/wildling-egalitarianism-why-bad-weather-leads-to-more-economic-equality.html

Expand full comment

I did find this piece from Slate to be informative about how Joe Biden could play a little hardball of his own in staffing his cabinet, although I would be interested if there are any clear holes to it.

Especially with Dems in control of the House, the ability to recess appoint does seem pretty airtight to me.

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/11/mitch-mcconnell-cannot-veto-joe-biden-cabinet.html

To quote:

"The recess appointment clause, meanwhile, allows presidents to install “acting” officials while the Senate is in adjournment for at least 10 days. It too has been used regularly in the recent past: George W. Bush made 179 recess appointments, 99 of which were to full-time positions. Moreover, Biden can force the Senate into recess if McConnell attempts any blockade of his Cabinet. Under the Constitution’s presidential adjournment clause, if the Senate and House cannot agree on whether or not to adjourn, the president can adjourn Congress “for such time as he shall think proper.” With an allied speaker of the House, Biden can instigate an adjournment standoff, resolve it, and make his appointments in the interim."

Expand full comment

My big worry is while-as you say-I think there are tools available-certainly Trump has proved you can just bypass the confirmation process altogether-Joe already seems very reluctant to play any kind of hardball. TBH I sort of wish he was just a hypocrite on all this 'unity' stuff. It's going to be pretty hard to unify with a GOP party denying he even won the election

Expand full comment

I hate to turn this important post about the centrality of OMB and OIRA to regulatory policy into electoral speculation, but what is the optimistic case for Ossoff and Warnock in January? I will donate to them because I fully understand the "non-stop constitutional crisis" stakes, but I currently struggle to see the upside to their chances. Ossoff lost by two in the first round and one of the main reasons it went to run-off appears to be some random libertarian candidate. Democrats got fewer votes total in the special election race than Republicans. History shows that Republicans perform significantly better in Georgia run-offs (as designed). I don't buy that sowing doubt about the election results or ragging on Raffensperger will depress Republican turnout. Georgia is *trending* left but the underlying demographics don't favor Democrats. It is difficult to increase turnout among your base after you win a Presidential election. I really want to be wrong. I want someone to tell me Obama's memoir will boost Democrats' turnout to 98% and that Kelly Loefler will block traffic on a highway demanding the deep state release Q from federal prison. But barring a minor miracle, I don't see it happening in Georgia. Am I being too pessimistic/missing something? In one sense it doesn't matter, it all comes down to these two races, but I also want to be clear-eyed about how likely the non-stop constitutional crisis is.

Expand full comment
author

The biggest case for optimism is that the GOP is a bit riven by infighting (Trump pretending he won, Collins vs Loeffler) and their coalition has come to feature lots of low-propensity voters. If suburban resistance warriors stay engaged for one last fight they can win.

Expand full comment

History isn't destiny, and organizers in Georgia demonstrated that in 2018 and again in 2020. Voters are complex and do not always act in predictably partisan ways. We may be highly-engaged in politics and have consistent partisan leans, but most people do not. We don't know how important this election will be to people without Trump and Biden at the top of the ticket. Democrats and Dem-leaning orgs have invested heavily in educating voters on Vote by Mail, so Dem and dem-leaning voters may be more comfortable with the process now.

Expand full comment

I also am confused by the idea that there is any real possibility of the Democrats gaining control of the senate at this point, for all the reasons you mentioned. How can we be anything but skeptical of the Democrats' chances in Georgia after a general election like this?

Expand full comment

We can be optimistic about these races precisely because of the general election - the one where the Democrat won Georgia.

Expand full comment

An underrated issue under the radar is that of federal rulemaking. Agencies, under the purview of OIRA, have the power to make a lot of rules that greatly affect economic life, and sometimes even immigration (DACA, DAPA). This may be very important for Biden, especially if he doesn't have a Senate majority. The Chevron Doctrine states courts should give broad latitude to federal agencies to set rules.

Many conservative jurists, unhappy with the growth of the administrative state, most famously Gorsuch, think this gives too much power to agencies. I expect the Chevron Doctrine to be severely curtailed, especially with the current composition of the Court.

https://www.nclc.org/issues/gorsuch-expresses-openness-to-reexamine-chevron.html

Kavanaugh has also expressed a preference for reining in the Chevron Doctrine.

https://www.theregreview.org/2018/09/03/barnett-boyd-walker-kavanaugh-chevron-deference-supreme-court/

Expand full comment

My own experience in State government mirrors this. Statute only goes so far and inevitably must defer to technical rulemaking in the agencies. Huge determinants of how effectively policy moves forward are:

- How aggressively are middle- and upper-middle-manager types willing to interpret existing rules and set out new ones?

- How staunchly are agency heads willing to back the policy entrepreneurialism of those 'front line' policymakers?

This latter point then intersects with Matt's notion in the initial post: the political principal (e.g., POTUS and his inner circle in this case, a Governor or Mayor in others) will need to work effectively to align the agency heads with their own wishes here, and the political principal him/herself must ultimately be willing to bear any political risk for what happens.

I mean, there's money sloshing all over the place. It's about how much conviction folks are willing to have in getting it where they think it needs to go

Expand full comment

If you think the long term health of our democracy requires congressional supremacy over the executive branch - and the Trump administration is a powerful argument for that proposition - getting rid of Chevron deference is probably a good thing. There's no solid democratic justification for why Congress isn't required to vote on the regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations just as it does any other statute - the CFR is a set of shadow statutes issued by decree that just happen to be called "regulations". The justification for doing it the way we do is mostly an ends-justify-the-means argument: we want these regulations but our democratically elected legislature won't pass them, so it's better to do an end run around the democratic process and let the President rule by decree than not have them. That can work, until it all goes wrong with a more competent autocratic than Trump.

Expand full comment

Perhaps the fact that most developed democracies similarly delegate the details of regulations to the executive branch, which has the capacity for expertise, while the legislative branch works on broad overviews of what needs to get done?

Also, how is it an end run around our democratically process if these laws setting up the framework for the regulations were passed by the legislature in the first place?

Expand full comment

Most developed democracies are parliamentary systems, though, where the legislature is directly in charge of administrative agencies, unlike our system where often one party controls agency rulemaking and the other party controls Congress. That splits legislative authority between the two branches in a way that wasn't intended and blurs accountability. It doesn't seem like too much to expect Congress to at least give an up or down vote on proposed regulations that are supposed to fill in the details of a statutory scheme, before they take effect

Expand full comment

That just creates another (giant, honking) veto point in a system stuffed to the gills with them. I get the separation of powers point, but good god, not now.

Expand full comment

I don't see why it matters if it's a parliamentary system or a presidential system. If we have a law that is set up to tell an agency "Go figure out what's polluting our airs and waters, figure out a safe level, and then regulate to clean it up," why have Congress vote again on it?

Would you have a state legislature vote every time the state highway patrol purchases a new form of radar testing? Contracts out for new breathalyzers?

Having another vote by Congress either violates other principles in the constitution (no legislative veto) or requires another law to enforce a law, which is redundant.

Expand full comment

It matters who has final say over the content of regulations because it's about where the power is. The decades-long shift of power we've seen from Congress to the Executive is not healthy for democracy. And a lot of what's in the CFR is not about deciding what brand of something to purchase - it's straight-up legislating, which is what Congress is there for. Democrats have no principled reason to oppose having Congress sign off on regulations proposed by agencies. It's just based on a practical calculation dating back to FDR that it's easier to push through certain policies if Congress isn't involved. That may be a good short-term argument for getting through a crisis, but the long-term downside is it drains away governing capability from Congress and concentrates ever-more power in the hands of a small group of individuals at the White House.

Expand full comment

"It matters who has final say over the content of regulations because it's about where the power is. "

This is an assertion that needs some support to it. I could just as well say who determines the initiation of regulations is where the power is, as agencies are nothing without their delegated authority.

"The decades-long shift of power we've seen from Congress to the Executive is not healthy for democracy."

Again, an assertion without support. Setting aside questions on our democratic process (Gerrymandered House, Malapportioned Senate with a Filibuster, Distorted Electoral College), there is nothing anti-democratic to a system in which a popularly elected legislature passes laws that empower the popularly elected executive branch to fill in details.

"Democrats have no principled reason to oppose having Congress sign off on regulations proposed by agencies."

No, the principled reason is that it's redundant and stupid.

"It's just based on a practical calculation dating back to FDR that it's easier to push through certain policies if Congress isn't involved."

No, you can't just handwave and invent new regulations pushed by agencies without Congress's involvement. Anyone who is pushing the old canard of complaining about executive power dating back to FDR is outing themselves as a curmudgeonly conservative wanting to roll back the modern regulatory (and most likely welfare) state.

"but the long-term downside is it drains away governing capability from Congress and concentrates ever-more power in the hands of a small group of individuals at the White House."

Except that's not actually what happened. The expansion of the federal state during the New Deal triggered a response in which Congress expanded its governing capacity, streamlined committees of jurisdiction to improve oversight, and created even more authorities for new regulations in new agencies.

The actual drain in governing capability in Congress dates back to the Republican Revolution after 1994, because the idea of having actual professional staff who know what they are doing and can work to craft legislation was antithetical to Newt Gingrich and the conservative cause.

Expand full comment

That's a good point re Chevron, but I wonder what a post-Chevron world would really look like, and suspect it may look kinda similar to what we have now. I wonder whether it would just entail a return to Mead-style deference, because I do not see much judicial appetite to get the courts enmeshed in the weeds of complicated EPA emission standards. Also, in some ways, Chevron has become already gutted to the point where if a court wants to overturn an agency's regulation, it can easily elide Chevron and do so.

Expand full comment

Great post. One position I like to follow is who gets to be ambassador to Japan. American Japanese relations is obviously important but the ambassador doesn't really do much in terms of managing that and so instead it's historically been something of a "put someone out to pasture" job (although not under Trump). For example making HRC ambassador could be a good call as she could then host a bunch of sumits and stuff in Tokyo and Bill could play golf with the CEO of Toyota and the Emperor's nephew or whatever and the press wouldn't have to obsess over them anymore (because they are living in Japan). Win win!

Or you could give it to Rahm so he's not on TV anymore etc.

Expand full comment

Hillary as ambassador to Japan is a great idea. My favorite was Walter Mondale, who was Bill Clinton's ambassador to Japan

Expand full comment

I’m not the biggest Mayor Pete fan, but if the party is interested in raising the profile of young Democrats who could be potentially POTUS candidates in the future, giving him a more prominent position than Veterans Affairs may make sense. It would be nice to see some of the more prominent roles used to raise the profile of some younger Democrats instead of rewarding Ex-Senators.

Expand full comment

Yeah, it's also kind of a dangerous position for ambitious young pols to be in as the secretary is usually blamed if there's some big problem/fiasco regardless of it was their fault or not and VA problems often become big national stories. If I were advising Pete I'd probably give him Martha Daniels advice "You cannot lose, if you do not play" and tell him look for another job if he has future ambitions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHUawxgyW2A

Expand full comment

Speaking as a veteran who uses the VA, I'd like someone like Mayor Pete to come in and Straighten Things Out. He's the kind of guy who would do it with a smile on his face.

Expand full comment

How much use does donating to Ossoff/Warnock actually have? All the donating done to Senate candidates in the general election don't seem to have gotten us very far.

Expand full comment

It may be some small silver lining that it's pretty hard to influence an election with out-of-state donations.

Expand full comment

I think it is possible to overstate the case for how dire it would be if the Democrats don't control the Senate. The Republicans need to get stuff done too. Particularly with regard to things like agriculture which looms large in many red states. Leverage is where you find it.

Expand full comment

Do R’s need to accomplish anything though? It sure doesn’t seem like it (other than judicial appointments).

Expand full comment

I don't think I understand why Biden would want to "put a brave face on" and not admit that he can't do much without 50 Democratic senators. 1) Making the case that he needs Ossoff and Warnock in the senate seems like it would help their chances (Biden did win GA after all) and 2) if they don't win and everything is deadlocked forever, won't he want to direct blame to the Republicans controlling the Senate?

Expand full comment