The temptations of K Street are most dangerous to vulnerable members
"Some loser like me will be out there making the point that it doesn’t actually help women to replace Senator Popularist with a replacement-level Republican who supports much more severe abortion restrictions and also makes it impossible for Democratic presidents to get federal judges confirmed. "
I've thought a lot about why this reality seems so unintuitive to leftists, how people will tell me without blinking an eye that "Joe Manchin is the same as (insert Republican)", and I'm slowly realizing that this sentiment is partially coming from an ugly place of privilege.
The young left-leaning college grads (including myself) may have felt the mental and emotional exhaustion from the Trump years, but the reality is that most of us were not materially worse off in 2020 than 2016. We are not the demographic that heavily relies on Social Security, or Medicare, or unemployment benefits, or abortion clinics, so a lot of us can really afford to not care if Joe Manchin loses his seat to an actual Republican, as long as we can pat ourselves on the back that we sufficiently harassed the moderate Dems and stuck to our values. And that is sad, because for the vast majority of people who actually need social safety nets and government support, the difference between Manchin and an actual Republican is very, very real...
Important to crystalize here that an obstacle among others to John Bel Edwards for Red State Senate Races model is that for all the scornful invocation of the term, the revealed preference is many Democrats (including many of the "above the fray" types) genuinely care about the culture war, think the culture war is important, and would like to use politics to argue about cultural values and how they should be reflected in political leaders.
If there was a populist party, I would be in it.
I own guns, including AR’s and AKs, but support FREE mandatory universal background checks.
I want to text the fuck out of the rich.
I think we should be giving more people money.
Hell yeah to a wealth tax.
The child tax credit should not only be permanent, it should be raised significantly.
I believe in dialing back qualified immunity, and reforming police, but I want a lot more of them.
We need subsidized healthcare. I don’t know the details, but we need better.
Raise that minimum wage.
Stop woke speak. I cringe when I read the word “LatinX”
But I live in Boise, Idaho. Red state, blue city.
I am not sure it's fair to say the failures of 2009-2010 and the 2010 defeat were universally attributed to a lack of ideological purity by Democrats. I think some thought that, as radicals of any stripe will attribute failure to lack of purity, but I recall a mixed bag of takes ranging from "our relief efforts weren't obvious or effective enough" to an eerily similar to 2016 "the media focused on dumb things like death panels and incoherent town hall shouting". It seems obvious to me that the Biden administration is, in general, composed of those who see the 2010 defeat the result of not making it obvious they were "helping the shit out of people", and I would generally classify their major efforts so far as popularist.
The problem as I see it is less that there are zero popularist Democrats, but that those popularist Democrats really suck at getting attention. The media will always focus on the exciting radicals (AOC) or those willing to buck the party (Manchin now), and to your point, the donor/wonk/activist class fund their favorite pets and consistently fail to realize how badly they suck at politics.
I wish the media would cover and the general public could name the moderate Dems through which their (slim) majority was originally won and now rests. How can we shift the spotlight? Is it even possible?
One thing missing here is that I think the moderate Democrats sincerely believe in what they're doing. I don't understand what motivates Manchin, but I have no doubt that he's sincere when he says that he thinks a $15 minimum wage would be a bad idea, or that raising the corporate tax rate all the way to Biden's proposed level would be less good policy then his proposal.
Is there any data showing that defeated dems with moderate DW nominate scores get better gigs than defeated dems with more progressive scores? If not, perhaps the solution is as simple as shouting from the rooftops “you don’t have to sell out to cash in.”
“That doesn’t make much sense as a popularist stance, but it’s helpful to pave the way for a soft landing at Akin Gump, the highest-grossing lobbying firm in DC.”
Is the theory here that if Donnelly had the voting record of say Chuck Schumer or Dick Durbin he would not be able to score a plum lobbying job? Color me skeptical.
A caveat: I'm from, and live in, Montana. But it sounds like the closest thing to a popularist would be Jon Tester. Voted for Manchin-Toomey, left-wing on campaign finance reform, focuses his energy on veterans and local concerns like agriculture and state & tribal water compacts.
While I may not understand Sen Manchin's motives completely, I'm concerned with portraying them as fallback positions so he can go work on K Street if he looses. Taxing business income is really NOT the best idea in the world. Should we maybe do it now and try to trade off a future reduction for higher personal taxes rather than not invest in projects with high economic return at all?
Maybe, although it would help if we had higher confidence that the investment WOULD have high economic returns. I wish we were funding an infrastructure bank that could apply strict tests (including anti-NIMBY decision making on local recipients of funding).
JOHN 👏 BEL 👏 EDWARDS 👏 FOR 👏 SENATE
Well yeah. This has been obvious to me for decades. I watch the rurall county where I grew up go from mixed voting to 85 % Republican as the Dems took on more far-left policies and ignored economic issues. Regan and Clinton started the push that ignored unions and went for the college crowd, and it is worse now.
As a small dollar donor myself, giving Manchin money doesn't thrill me but if I felt like it was useful I'd do it. I gave McCaskill money, I gave Sinema money, Tester. Usually in an election year I look up the closest Senate races on 538 and spread it around.
But if Manchin and Sinema just steadfastly refuse to do anything that McConnell doesn't agree to, I don't know. I mean...I know we said at least witha Democratic Senate Biden could at least get nominees confirmed, but then Manchin opposed Tanden! Would a 50-50 split in the next Congress make Manchin more likely to deal or less? Indications are: less.
Surely there are lots of people out there in reddish states who (a) have the right package of views, (b) are politically talented, and (c) aren't interested in becoming DC lobbyists. Why can't those people rise to the top with greater frequency? It's a big country, there ought to be multiple John Bel Edwardses out there.
One possibility, other than lack of funding, is that it's a pipeline problem. Even *within* red states, there aren't many smaller jurisdictions with suitable electorates to cultivate candidates like this. For instance, there aren't many Democratic state legislators in Tennessee, but the few that exist are either corporate types or far left. There are few places where this talent can be developed.
I'm also reminded of the 2020 Senate race in Tennessee, where the state Dems wanted to run a "man of faith & Army officer" (description from his campaign website). No doubt he would have gotten stomped in the general election, but it was a candidacy that made sense for taking a longshot in a very red state. But he lost in the primary to a Sunrise endorsed Sierra Club activist.
"That spirit of pragmatism was born out of defeat in 2004 and it delivered successes in 2006 and 2008. Then there were some significant governance and political failures in 2009-10 that were wrongly attributed to a lack of ideological purity."
Dead on. Lack of ideological purity isn't a problem, but standing for something and having an identifiable agenda and worldview that people can wrap their heads around and are drawn too is important. That's muddled for a lot of Democrats.
Modest proposal: rich lefty activists should direct some of their resources to post-loss sinecures for moderate Democrats in purple electorates/states.
Tough post for me, as someone who is sincerely more economically conservative than the public. In particular, "a lot of the absolute most popular stuff you can do on economics is proposals that obscure costs with regulatory mandates" seems pretty scary, since it making means you're making decisions without counting the true costs (indeed, willfully blinding yourself to the true costs). Seems like a recipe for making a lot of bad decisions. Especially since IMO the natural endpoint of "lawyer-brain" is "no one is allowed to do anything, since doing something means you might do something wrong".
But I suppose the usual advice applies; politicians should just try and get elected, and people like me with unpopular views should try and make them more popular. Seems tough. Especially since plausibly the only reason libertarianism is even as popular as it is is the questionable anti-tax stuff and not the good pro-freedom stuff.