Saturday, September 21, 2019

What is Up With Minnesota Republicans and Antisemitism?

I know we all prefer to talk about she-who-must-constantly-be-named, but real talk: what is up with Minnesota Republicans and antisemitism?

First, there was 1st District Rep. Jim Hagedorn, who said Joe Lieberman's Iraq War boiled down to "Jew or Arab?" and accused his Democratic opponent of being "owned" by George Soros.

Then NRCC Rep. Tom Emmer, who holds down Minnesota's 6th District, sent out a fundraising letter accusing a triumverate of wealthy Jews (Soros, Michael Bloomberg, and Tom Steyer) of having "BOUGHT control of Congress" (when Minnesota Jews communicated their concerns that this echoed antisemitic verbiage, the response of the NRCC was essentially to tell them to get bent).

Now we have recordings of ex-Rep. Jason Lewis, until late of the 2nd District (and front-runner for the GOP nomination to take on Senator Tina Smith) claiming that Republicans (yes, Republicans) have "dual loyalties" to Israel and insisting that the "Jewish lobby" controls the Republican Party. He also raised concerns about persons who hold dual American and Israeli citizenship, falsely grouping John Bolton -- who's not Jewish -- into that category (gosh, I wonder what caused him to make that mistake?).

It almost makes you pine for the days of Michele Bachmann and her "chootz-pah" -- all she did was accuse American Jews of "selling out" Israel (and call for all Jews to convert to Christianity, though she did eventually apologize for that one).

For what it's worth, I haven't found any antisemitism in the record of the 8th District's Pete Stauber -- the only other Republican (alongside Emmer and Hagedorn) currently holding federal or state-wide elected office in Minnesota. So good on him, I guess (or maybe it's only a matter of time?).

Friday, September 20, 2019

If For Once You Do Succeed, Try Try Try Again

I don't want to say "this is the pathology of the Israeli left in a nutshell", because there are frankly too many pathologies to fit inside any one nutshell, but it absolutely deserves mention:
In April, Arab voters helped push left-wing Meretz over the 3.25 percent electoral threshold, saving it from total collapse. A key Meretz stronghold in the last election was Beit Jann. This Druze village in northern Israel is famous for having one of the country’s top-performing high schools and the former principal of that establishment, Ali Salalha, was No. 5 on the Meretz slate in April when the party won nearly two-thirds of the local vote — its best showing anywhere. But when he was moved down to an unrealistic spot on the Democratic Union list [which Meretz joined with], Salalha quit the party and voters in Beit Jann took their revenge at the ballot box on Tuesday: The Democratic Union barely captured 3 percent of the vote there.
"Hey, we had great success putting this local Druze star high on our ballot list! We probably should learn a lesson from that?"

"Absolutely! Quick -- demote him so far down he quits the party in frustration!"

Maybe lesson learned? Probably not.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Israel's Arab Parties are Kicking the Door Down

The second Israeli election of 2019 is now in the books. Ballots are still being counted, but we can be almost entirely sure that when all is said and done, the Joint List -- a unified bloc of Israel's Arab parties (plus the Israeli communist party, which represents both Jews and Arabs) will be Israel's third largest party. Right now, the JL has won 13 seats in the Knesset (Blue & White is in the lead with 33, followed by Likud with 31; the Sephardic-religious party Shas is in fourth with 8).

This is a superb showing for the Arab bloc, which overcame vicious incitement and suppression efforts, and they have not been hesitant to dunk on Netanyahu in celebration (when Netanyahu asked what ministerial positions Blue & White promised the JL, party leader Ayman Odeh replied "The Minister of Affairs of Sending You Home.").

And I think this is actually even a bigger deal than many are letting on. Historically, Arab parties have not sat in government -- both because they've refused and because the Jewish parties have refused to sit with them. It is unlikely that this will change this time around -- though there remains a chance that JL could support a Blue & White coalition from outside the government.

Yet we are starting to see some cracks. Labor has explicitly urged B&W leader Benny Gantz invite the Arab parties to the negotiating table to potentially join a coalition, and apparently Gantz and Odeh will be having a meeting. Whereas in April the Arab parties didn't recommend anyone for Prime Minister, now there are some indications they may back Gantz -- they've at least put out a list of commitments they want from Blue & White on issues ranging from restarting the Israeli/Palestinian peace process to fighting crime in Arab neighborhoods.

But the most likely outcome of coalition negotiations is probably a "unity government" with both Blue & White and Likud joining a few smaller parties. In that universe, the Joint List -- as the largest party not in government -- would become leader of the opposition; a position which, ironically, would give them unprecedented access and influence within Israel's government.

All of this --  the feting for coalitions, the potential kingmaker status, the position as presumptive leaders of the opposition -- is a result of one thing: Arabs turning out to vote. I've noted for awhile now that the "left" (or at least "not-right") bloc doesn't have a plausible route to power in Israel any more that doesn't go through the Arab community, and results like these will impress that fact on people's minds. Labor is starting to get it, Gantz is starting to get it, and the Arab parties themselves are certainly starting to get it.

And this is how change happens. Forget waiting for the majority feel magnanimous. Kick the door down and make yourself a political force to be reckoned with. Go back and read Carmichael and Hamilton's Black Power -- you make yourself into an indispensable voting bloc whose support is necessary to prevailing in a given election, and you can extract a lot of goods even in the most hostile society.

The Joint List is in a position of real power right now. They've earned it. Time to see how they use it.

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Non-Mismatch of Rich Kids

Paul Tough has a bracing article in the New York Times about how collegiate admissions practices systematically favor underperforming wealthy kids who can afford to pay full tuition, framed around efforts to reverse that trend at Connecticut's Trinity College (via).

The short version is that, outside an incredibly tiny slice of hyper-elite schools like Harvard, most universities need tuition dollars in order to make their budgets work (this would include very good schools like Trinity, ranked in the top 50 of U.S. liberal arts colleges). Poorer students, who need scholarship support, represent a loss of tuition dollars -- in effect, schools need to balance our the low-income students they admit with high-income tuition-payers, even in cases where the poorer student is on merit alone a better candidate.

The way this plays out in practice is usually match-ups between high-GPA/low-SAT poorer students versus low-GPA/high-SAT wealthier students, which are repeatedly resolved in favor of the latter. The high standardized test scores are viewed as at least balancing out the low GPA, so it isn't really a case of taking a less-qualified wealthier kid over a scrappier, smarter, but poorer candidate. But often, it turns out, these test scores are themselves an artifact of wealth -- they reflect nothing more than that the student can afford SAT tutors and knows how to "play the game". Once they get to college, they revert back to high school form -- relative underperformers, unmotivated, and not on the level of their peers.
When Angel Pérez arrived at Trinity and took a close look at the way the admissions office had been making its decisions, what he found left him deeply concerned. “We were taking some students who probably should not have been admitted, but we were taking them because they could pay,” he told me. “They went to good high schools, but they were maybe at the bottom of their class. The motivation wasn’t there. So the academic quality of our student body was dropping.” 
At Trinity, Pérez’s predecessors had been able to capitalize on a pattern that admissions officers say they often see: At expensive prep schools, even students close to the bottom of the class usually have above-average SAT scores, mostly because they have access to high-octane test-prep classes and tutors. 
“O.K., you’re not motivated, you’re doing the minimum at your high school,” Pérez explained, describing the students Trinity used to admit in droves. “You have not worked as hard as your peers. But you did the test prep, and you learned how to play the SAT game.” 
If you work in admissions at a place like Trinity was before Pérez arrived, SAT scores can provide a convenient justification for admitting the kind of students you might feel compelled to accept because they can pay full tuition. It’s hard to feel good about choosing an academically undeserving rich kid over a striving and ambitious poor kid with better high school grades. But if the rich student you’re admitting has a higher SAT score than the poor student you’re rejecting, you can tell yourself that your decision was based on “college readiness” rather than ability to pay. 
The problem is, rich kids who aren’t motivated to work hard and get good grades in high school often aren’t college-ready, however inflated their SAT scores may be. At Trinity, this meant there was a growing number of affluent students on campus who couldn’t keep up in class and weren’t interested in trying. “It had a morale effect on our faculty,” Pérez told me. “They were teaching a very divided campus. The majority of students were really smart and engaged and curious, and then you’ve got these other students” — the affluent group with pumped-up SAT scores and lower G.P.A.s — “who were wondering, How did I get into this school?
The whole article is great, but I highlight this section because it at least gestures at an issue I've been  flagging for years: the potential (but largely unremarked upon) "mismatch" of wealthy students being admitted to universities that they are insufficiently prepared for. The "mismatch" hypothesis was pioneered by Richard Sander as an objection to race-based affirmative action programs which, he contended, systematically place minority students at schools above their intellectual level and thus harm their putative beneficiary. The talented student who would be a great fit for and excel at the University of Maryland instead is admitted to Cornell, where he struggles mightily -- ultimately losing more than he gains.

It was an interesting argument, but I argued then and maintain now that it is one whose logic would apply across many other cases where students are admitted to colleges that are -- at least based purely on academics -- "reach" schools. Athletes are one obvious example, but wealthy students whose case-for-admission relies primarily on (a) their ability to pay and (b) goosed standardized test scores that are also primarily a function of ability to pay would be another. Yet parents, guidance counselors, advisers, employers -- nobody acts as if these students will be hurt if they are admitted to Cornell instead of Maryland. Indeed, the entire structure of the collegiate application system is premised on the opposite -- a mad rush to ensure they do get into the "best" school possible.

Maybe they're all deluded; though it's just as likely that they will instead benefit exactly as they anticipate -- optimistically, from being pushed and forced to find a new gear in themselves, cynically from the value of letterhead. This is the only article I've ever seen even gesture at the possibility that the wealthy admits are themselves being ill-served -- finding themselves in an academic environment they're ill-prepared for, regressing back to their high school mean, and wondering whether they really belong at all (elsewhere in the article, we're told that Pell Grant recipients -- a good proxy for low-income students -- have significantly higher graduation rates than the student body writ large, suggesting that they're on the whole a stronger cadre of students).

But really, the fleeting consideration of this possibility is the exception that tests the rule. Is anybody truly concerned that the wealthy kid who got into Trinity primarily because they could afford to pay full-freight will be damaged for life? We might (and probably do) have sympathy for the meritocracy-based arguments that say he shouldn't have been admitted, but are we really also going to act like the objection to this system is for his own good too? No, obviously. The circumstances where smart, qualified, but poorer students are denied admission to good schools in favor of less-talented, less-qualified, but wealthier candidates is wrong -- but not because it's actually to the disadvantage of the latter group.

If You Can't Blame Omar ... Well, Buckle Up and Try Again

The other day, a thread by a right-wing commentator named Robby Starbuck made its way onto my Twitter feed, whipping up hysteria about "Somalis" beating up and robbing White people in Ilhan Omar's district.

There are several problems with this, starting with the fact that none of the local coverage I've read says that the perpetrators are entirely or even primarily Somali, and moving onward and outward to the incredible allegation local street crime is generally national news and only isn't when the perpetrators are Black (hey, have you heard about the gang of White students who beat up a Black classmate in Florida? No? Somehow it missed out on its entitlement to being the lead story on the Washington Post!).

As it happens, I used to live a few blocks away from the area where these crimes occurred. Crime wasn't rampant, but it wasn't entirely unheard of -- especially crime of the "robbing drunk pedestrians leaving the baseball stadium and/or surrounding bars" variety, which by all accounts appears to be what happened here. It's not a race war, and the neighborhood isn't under siege. It's crime.

In any event, I noted that -- at least at the time of Starbuck's tweet -- most non-Minnesotans probably hadn't yet heard about the arson targeting a synagogue in Duluth,* probably because it occurred in Rep. Pete Stauber's (R) district and thus couldn't be pinned on Ilhan Omar.


Of course, I'm giving people too much credit, because of course now I am seeing folks doing the whole "what about the synagogue fire!" at Rep. Omar -- and yet not, strangely-or-not-strangely enough, Rep. Stauber. For the record, Rep. Omar tweeted about the Duluth arson -- which occurred 150 miles away from her district -- on September 10th, while Rep. Stauber (who, to reiterate, actually represents Duluth) did so on September 12th.

Believe it or not, I don't bring that up as a "gotcha" at Rep. Stauber -- politicians move at different paces and one can always play the "why didn't you speak up on this faster" game. I raise it because it should, by all rights, conclusively falsify the notion that Omar was anything but way out in front on this tragedy, and deserves nothing but credit on it.

But it doesn't matter. Too many people, including too many people in my community, have been driven utterly, completely, unjustifiably bonkers by Ilhan Omar. It's fine to disagree with her on policy -- I disagree with her on (some) policies, most notably her backing of BDS. It's not fine to drop in on her any time something bad happens to a Jew within a 4,000 miles radius and go "Well? Well!?!" You want to talk about "tropes", or "implicit bias", or "double-standards" -- start right there and take a nice long drink from the fountain. It is a constant, ever-present feature of the discourse around Ilhan Omar, and it should sicken us.

* Following an arrest of the suspect, a local homeless man, police say they do not believe it was a hate crime. Of course, it still was a devastating loss for the Duluth Jewish community -- which had ample reason to fear that it was a hate crime, and certainly is following the ongoing investigation with interest.

Israel's Future in an Illiberal World

This essay by Robert Kagan on the current illiberal trajectory of the Israeli state is absolutely outstanding. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Most columns which talk about Israel in conjunction with the rise of global illiberal nationalism basically are exercises in what Marx would've called "bourgeois moralism" -- calling for Israel to resist it (or to stop actively participating in it) because it's wrong. Now, unlike Marx I think there is a perfectly valid place for moralistic appeals. But it certainly opens itself up to a response from a certain sort of fellow, who deems him or herself a hard-headed realist, who knows that such high-minded ethical appeals have no actual purchase in the dog-eat-dog, every-nation-for-itself world of realpolitik. Israel has to do what's best for Israel -- same as every other country. If that means shedding democracy, or liberalism, or egalitarianism, well, boo-hoo for them.

Kagan's contribution is useful because it is expressly addressed to that sort of fellow, and I endorse it not because I agree with this outlook but because I recognize it is an important one that many people -- rightly or not -- hold.

Kagan's essay explores what Israel's status would be -- not what it ought to be, not what it should be if states were fair and just and nice, but what it would be -- in an illiberal world where America and other major powers were motivated primarily by a sort of insular, anti-cosmopolitan nationalism. In this world, bonds between nations would, where they form at all, be based on material concerns and the conveniences of power -- the world Charles de Gaulle imagined when he said "nations don't have friends, only interests." And the answer is that while in the immediate term Israel might find friends in the budding illiberal powers currently popping up -- from Trump to Orban to Modi to Putin -- in the long-term such a world would almost certainly result in an Israel isolated, alone, and -- at best -- abandoned to its own fate.

Historically, Israel viewed its own security and standing as a new and relatively fragile state as being intricately connected to its status as a democratic state and society that would be a member in good-standing of the liberal political order. In a world where Israel's neighbors had more people, more territory, more wealth, and more oil, the main factor that could bind any major power to the Jewish state is a perception of shared values.

But the decline of the post-Cold War liberal order (liberal America and the EU) and the rise of illiberal alternatives (e.g., China and Russia, but also Trumpism in America and right-wing populism in Europe and globally) has given Israel a choice in didn't have before. Today, Israel doesn't have to be liberal in order to gain the support from other global powers. China doesn't care if Israel is democratic. Russia hardly minds if Israel is repressive. And within the traditional seats of international liberalism, one sees rot from the inside -- from Trump's rise to the chaos over Brexit. A right-wing populist like Netanyahu doesn't lack for ideological allies in the international system.

Yet, Kagan warns, Israel is delusional if it thinks that an "America first!" America, no longer concerned with trifling things like "democracy" or "shared liberal values", will be a reliable ally ever outward into the future. Why would it? Insular nationalism by its very nature doesn't lend itself to establishing these sort of enduring, values-based bonds. It is facile to assume that America will simultaneously retreat from seeking to promote a vision of liberal internationalism yet will remain committed to the security and flourishing of small nations halfway across the globe whose very presence seems to alienate much larger and objectively more important countries. If shared values matter, Israel can argue the fact that it's a pariah among some many states is a case of hypocrisy, illiberalism, or outright hate, and that it'd be just plain wrong for America to give into it. But that refrain -- whether fair or not as an ethical matter -- is simply irrelevant if America's foreign policy is "America first!" Only in a world where international ethics matter can Israel appeal to ethics as basis of a stable diplomatic relationship.

Kagan draws a parallel to right-wing Polish nationalists, who somehow think that a US that chooses to abandon NATO will nonetheless maintain a special security commitment to Poland. Those figures are out of their minds: if America ceases to care about the NATO alliance, it will in turn cease to care about Poland -- if not immediately, then shortly thereafter. More broadly: if America is in the game only for itself, playing real power politics, eventually Israel will find itself cut loose as soon as its in the transient American interest to abandon it.
What makes Israelis think if the United States were to cease supporting the liberal world order and began shedding the alliances it created after World War II, that the only ally it would not shed would be Israel? (Amusingly, many Poles these days also seem to believe that if the United States pulled out of NATO, it would still maintain the security relationship with Poland.) And how would Israel fare in the kind of world that would emerge if the United States stopped trying to uphold the liberal order? Such a world would once again be a multipolar struggle for power and advantage, pitting Russia, China, India, Japan, Iran, the stronger European powers and the United States against one another — all with large populations, significant territories and vast economies. What would be the fate of tiny nations such as Israel in such a world, no matter how well they might be armed and no matter how advanced their economies? In today’s world, Israel is strong and successful. It outshines its weaker and less-developed neighbors. But in the world of self-interested sovereign nation-states, a world with no liberal community, Israel is a mouse surrounded by elephants, all clamoring for a piece of the Middle East. Historically, from the Romans to the Ottomans to the British and French, the peoples of the Middle East have enjoyed only such autonomy as the ruling empires granted them. Otherwise, they were pawns and victims in a much larger game in which they were hopelessly outmatched.  
Could Israel, with its few millions of citizens, surrounded by enemies on all sides, and no longer living under the umbrella of the United States’ global hegemony, rely on the support of European nations ruled by right-wing nationalists? 
The answer is simply: no. It cannot rely on the enduring backing of foreign nation's committed to their own brand of domestic ultranationalism (it is frankly bizarre that anyone with a modicum of knowledge about Jewish history could believe otherwise), and a world where Israel has thrown its lot with that crowd is a world that will rapidly become exceptionally dangerous for Israel. Kagan concludes:
The price Israel paid for being born into the liberal world order was that it would have to suffer liberal criticisms and be held to liberal standards. This may have been difficult and even, from Israelis’ perspective, unfair, but Israeli leaders have borne this burden for 70 years because they knew Israel had no choice, that there was no home for Israel except within the liberal world order. That many Israelis now believe they have a choice is a reflection of our times, but it is a dangerous illusion. Those Netanyahu campaign posters showing him shaking hands with Putin, Modi and Trump carry the tagline, “A Different League.” Indeed, it is. Good luck.
Good luck indeed. The world Netanyahu hopes to help build is a world where Israel one day -- and perhaps not a particularly distant day -- will find itself truly alone, truly cut-off, and if the worst comes without America or anyone else interested in bailing it out.

Friday, September 13, 2019

How To Be Honored By Conspiracy Theorists

There's a conspiracy theorist who periodically sends me emails. Today, for example, it was a sustained discussion about "dancing Israelis on 9/11" -- an oldie, but I suppose back at the top of the mind given the recent 10th anniversary.

These emails, though are not sent just to me -- he helpfully doesn't bcc his recipient list, so I can see exactly who else he thinks is worth targeting with messages insisting that the WTC attacks were a Zionist plot!

And what it list it is! It's just 18 people, but they include such eminent figures as Cass Sunstein, Larry Lessig, Mark Tushnet, Adrian Vermeule, Noah Feldman, Stephen Carter, Adam Winkler, Ekow Yankah ... and me! Me! In such august company! To even be included in the same (spit-flecked conspiracy-mongering) sentence as those luminaries -- I can't express what an honor it is. It's right up there with the time I discovered someone had created a troll website just to call me a "disgusting Zionist punk".

Focus on the positive, that's my motto.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

North Carolina Republicans Commemorate 9/11 in the Most NC-Republican Style Imaginable

It is the anniversary of 9/11, a somber occasion where Americans reflect with sadness upon one of the worst terrorist atrocities ever to have impacting our nation -- but perhaps also with a bit of hope, recalling the brief moment of patriotic unity that brought us together as one nation, indivisible.

Meanwhile, in North Carolina:
While many of their Democratic counterparts were attending a 9/11 memorial event, Republicans in the North Carolina House of Representatives took the opportunity Wednesday to override the governor’s veto of the state budget. Rep. Jason Saine (R) made the motion to reconsider the controversial budget, prompting chaos to ensue in the nearly half-empty chamber. House Democratic leader Darren Jackson said he was told by Republicans there would be no recorded votes that morning, leading him to tell his caucus that they did not need to be at the session. Speaker Tim Moore (R) ignored objections from the 12 Democrats—of 55 total—present, and allowed the vote to proceed.
The Democrats in attendance told reporters they did not all have a chance to vote. According to Jackson, their microphones were cut off.
It's no accident that North Carolina was the state where a GOP candidate was literally caught ballot tampering to try and steal a federal election. There probably isn't a state in the union where the Republican Party has grown more openly contemptuous of the democratic process than the Tarheel State (yes, I'd say they even beat Wisconsin).

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Takeaways From the NC-09 Special

Republican Dan Bishop defeated Democrat Dan McCready in a North Carolina special congressional election 51-49, keeping this historically conservative seat red (Trump won it in 2016 by 11 points). The special election occurred because the initial result in 2018, a narrow Republican victory (by a sub-1000 vote margin), was tossed out after massive voter fraud efforts were uncovered in support of the prevailing GOP candidate.

So, what do we make of it?

The highest tide of the "Blue Wave" has receded

2018 was always going to be a high-water mark for the Democratic Party. Just as the 2010 Tea Party backlash didn't presage a GOP victory in 2012, huge Democratic wins in 2018 doesn't necessarily tell us that much about 2020. A narrow Democratic victory in Wisconsin in 2018 translated to a narrow Democratic defeat in 2019, for example, and that bodes extremely ominously for 2020. And so too here: Bishop generally overperformed GOP 2018 numbers all across the district save Mecklenberg County (mostly suburban Charlotte) -- though he still dramatically underperformed Trump's margins. "Losing a Trump +11 district by less than a point" was the Democratic high water mark, and it receded to "losing it by two points."

The big question, then, is not whether Democratic gains would ebb after 2018, but by how much.

There are no moral victories, but there are data points

Commenting on a similar special election race in early 2018, I wrote that while there are no "moral victories" in politics, there are data points, and Democrats overperforming their 2016 margins by approximately 10 points is such a data point even when that still results in a narrow defeat. Some people scuffed because "a loss is a loss", but history vindicated the trend lines.

Since 2018, Democrats in special elections have outperformed Hillary Clinton's performance by approximately 5.5 points. That's not "crushing Blue Wave" territory, but it's certainly good news. It'd be enough to flip North Carolina blue, for example (and a 9 point swing, like we saw in this election, would do so decisively).

Sub/urban vs. rural continues to be the division of note

We sometimes speak lazily of "rural" as a synonym for "White conservative", but places like North Carolina ought remind us that there are plenty of southern locales with significant rural Black populations. McCready won Scotland County (population 36,000, 51% White) and Anson County (population 25,000, 49% White) by double-digit margins. But that's not surprising: Hillary Clinton won both those counties by double-digit margins too. Bishop's best county by far was not rural but exurban Union County, which he took by 20 points.

Nonetheless, when one looks at trend lines the sub/urban vs. rural divide certainly seems to be alive and well. Those blue-ish rural counties? McCready might have won them, but he barely improved on Clinton's numbers and was way behind his 2018 performance. By contrast, Mecklenberg County, which comprises parts of Charlotte and its suburbs, was the one place McCready overperformed: his 13 point margin beat his benchmark indicator by 4 points and obliterated Clinton's 47/50 defeat in 2016.

Meanwhile, a 20 point Republican victory in the exurbs of Union County sounds good until you compare it to Trump's 31 point margin in 2016. It was in rural areas, including those blue-ish leaning ones, that Bishop made up serious ground. Holding McCready to the same margins in Anson County that Hillary Clinton got is a big deal when Clinton lost the district by 11 and McCready lost by just 2.

From a strategic standpoint, there's different conclusions one could draw from this. One conclusion is that well-educated suburban areas are the wave of the Democratic future and liberal organizations should try to consolidate gains there -- if places like Mecklenberg go from light-red swing districts to double-digit Democratic strongholds, that's a disaster for Republicans in North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, and many other states besides. A different conclusion is that these areas aren't enough to win and McCready's failure to mobilize turnout in heavily African-American regions of his district shows that Democrats cannot take these voters for granted anymore. It does no good to run up the score in the suburbs if you lose the entire margin when reliably Democratic Black voters stay home.

Voter fraud works?

In the Atlantic, David Graham makes the provocative point that -- while we don't know if Dan McCready would have won the 2018 election had his Republican opponent not engaged in ballot tampering -- there's no question that it helped GOP chances even though he got caught. Republicans were always going to be better positioned to win here in a 2019 special versus in the 2018 blue wave (see "highest tide has receded", above). And so in that sense, the voter fraud move paid off. Hopefully that lesson isn't internalized.