Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Trendlines! (Almost) 50 State Edition

In politics as in anything else, one does not want to be caught fighting the last war. And so, reflecting on the last election, it's worth asking not where the states currently are on the red vs. blue continuum, but where they're going. What are the trendlines?

Note: A trend is just that -- a trend. A state can be "trending" blue but still be quite red, or vice versa. Nonetheless, I'm not including states that are, for lack of a better word, "boring" -- so overwhelmingly and consistently preferring one party or the other that it doesn't really matter of any side is marginally improving its prospects.

* * *

Alaska -- Blue: While still a pretty reliably Republican state, Democrats have been quietly making the last several congressional elections close. Rep. Don Young (R) may have served since 1973, but he hasn't gotten over 55% of the vote since 2012. An extremely robust independent streak (allowing, e.g., Lisa Murkowski to win a write-in Senate campaign) also makes Alaska a little more complicated than your average red bear.

Arizona -- Blue: Kyrsten Sinema's Senate victory caps off the official entry of Arizona into "purple" territory (strong performance on the House side too!).

Arkansas -- Red: Hey, remember how Bill Clinton was from Arkansas? That was a long time ago.

California -- Blue: California's leaned blue for awhile, but it wasn't that long ago that some Republicans could at least compete (remember the Governator?). Not today. The sweep of Orange County House seats cements the complete collapse of the Golden State's GOP.

Colorado -- Blue: It seems like Colorado almost leap-frogged over "purple" to go straight to "light blue". Cory Gardner has a massive target on his back come 2020.

Florida -- ???: Florida's a tough nut to crack. It was probably the purplest state to almost completely resist the blue wave this year -- the GOP performed about as well here in 2018 as it did in 2016. That's testament to (a) better-than-average performance among Latinos and (b) really cranking up the dial on rural Whites -- a good recipe for GOP success. The wildcard is the passage of Amendment Four, which significantly relaxed Florida's brutally draconian felon disenfranchisement laws. Most states, that wouldn't be enough to make a difference -- but Florida is close enough (and its felon disenfranchisement rates racially skewed enough) that it could matter.

Georgia -- Blue: Slowly but steadily, Georgia is getting competitive. But the emphasis is on "slowly". Brian Kemp's defeat of Stacy Abrams -- without even needing a run-off -- shows that there's still a ways to go before Democrats really put the Peach State in play.

Indiana -- Red: Obama managed to win here in 2008, but that seems like eons ago now. Indiana was always the most conservative of the rust belt states, but it's really tacked hard right over the past few cycles.

Iowa -- ???: Democrats won three of four House seats and almost managed to flip the fourth (a feat which, to be fair, reflects more on King's unique awfulness than any general Democratic competitiveness in western Iowa). But we lost what seemed to be a winnable governor's race, and rural midwestern states seem to be inching right. Hard to say which way the winds are blowing, but if you forced me to guess I'd say Iowa is more likely to get redder than bluer.

Kansas --- Blue: Again, it's a slow process, and not likely to show up on any presidential races anytime soon. But Democrats are starting to consistently compete in Kansas House races again, and, of course, we just took the governor's mansion.

Maine -- Red: Maine still has a decidedly blue lean. But its rural environs aren't as decisively blue as they used to be, and this is still a state that -- however flukishly -- gave Paul LePage two terms as governor.

Michigan -- ???: Michigan snapped back hard into the Democratic column in 2018, but it's still worth asking whether it will join a broader midwestern drift rightward. Debbie Stabenow's closer than expected Senate race against John James (she won 52-45) suggests that there's still plenty of fight left in Wolverine Republicans.

Minnesota -- Red: Republicans flipped two congressional seats from blue-to-red this cycle, and both were in Minnesota. They were washed out two Democratic gains in the suburbs, but there's no question Republicans have been consistently improving their performances here over the past few years. They may not be able to touch Amy Klobuchar, but one day Rep. Colin Peterson (D) is going to draw a real challenger and then it's quite likely Minnesota will have an even D/R congressional delegation.

Missouri -- Red: Time was Missouri was a national bellwether. No more: it's pretty firmly in the red camp these days.

Montana -- Blue: Jon Tester's best performance yet is buoyed by growth in the western -- and more liberal -- half of the state.

Nebraska -- ???: Democrats have been wondering if Omaha might give them an opening, but Kara Eastman actually did worse in her 2018 race against Rep. Don Bacon than Brad Ashford did in 2016. Yes, Ashford has the advantage of (one term of) incumbency, but 2018 was a much better year than 2016 was. The rest of the state remains ruby red.

Nevada -- Blue: The American west/southwest is probably the area where we're seeing the most decisive Democratic momentum, and Nevada -- where Harry Reid helped build a formidable Democratic machine -- is at the forefront of that. Like Colorado, Nevada seems to have jumped straight past "purple" and into "light blue".

New Hampshire -- ???: Like much of New England, New Hampshire seems to be consolidating blue a bit, but the Granite State in particular is notoriously politically volatile. Gov. Chris Sununu's (R) 53/46 re-election win was a bit closer than expected though.

New Mexico -- Blue: Of all the southwestern states, New Mexico has the longest standing blue roots, so in terms of "trend" it's probably moved less than some of its neighbors.

North Carolina -- ???: A few years ago, there was a lot of hope in the southeastern United States -- Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida -- as the big growth area for the Democratic Party. Looking back, it's been a mixed bag. The fact that the North Carolina legislature has gerrymandered itself to hell and back and has a questionable commitment to the entire concept of "democracy" isn't helping matters, but voters have put a kibosh on some of their worst instincts.

North Dakota -- Red: Do you know that Barack Obama kept North Dakota to a single digit margin in 2008? That feels like a long time ago. Goodbye Heidi Heitkamp -- you'll be missed.

Ohio -- Red: As non-college educated White voters have shifted red, things have gotten a lot harder for team blue in the Buckeye State. Sherrod Brown was a big bright spot in an otherwise dim Democratic performance this year.

Pennsylvania -- ???: "Pittsburgh in the west, Philadelphia in the east, and Alabama in the middle." Pennsylvania is tough to characterize. On the one hand, of all the "blue wall" Trump wins in 2016, PA was the most surprising, and Democrats performed well here in 2018. On the other hand, both the "Pittsburgh" and "Alabama" portions of Pennsylvania seem like the sort of places that could continue a red-ward trend -- albeit one perhaps offset by the bluing of greater Philadelphia.

Texas -- Blue: It's easy to overread Beto O'Rourke's performance this year -- which to my mind was equal parts (a) Texas getting bluer, (b) Beto being a really good candidate, (c) 2018 being a good Democratic year, and (d) everyone hating Ted Cruz. But still "a" is a real part of that story. I wouldn't characterize Texas as "purple" yet, but it's definitely moving in that direction. And importantly, Democrats are making serious plays in some of the suburbs.

Virginia -- Blue: The only southeastern state which has decisively taken a turn in the Democratic direction is Virginia. Virginia's DC suburbs are starting to catch up to their Maryland neighbors as deep blue pools, and Democrats are also performing decently downstate too.

West Virginia -- Red: No region of America has shifted more decisively towards the GOP than Appalachia, and no state is more Appalachian than West Virginia. Puts Joe Manchin's victory in perspective, though.

Wisconsin -- ???: Beating Scott Walker was sweet, and Tammy Baldwin had little trouble winning reelection to the Senate. But the midwest still seems to me to be a troublespot for the Democrats -- it's hard to imagine that if Minnesota is pivoting right, that Wisconsin will buck them and move left.

Philadelphia Police Department Sued for Antisemitic Discrimination

Two Philadelphia police officers are suing the department, alleging antisemitic discrimination.

In a nice bit of "THIS is what a Jew looks like!" communal pluralism, the Latina Jewish officer is the one making note of "jokes" about blowing up Israel and alleging retaliation for trying to take Rosh Hashana off, and the White (Russian) Jewish officer is the one who got hit with threats of deportation.

Hurray for Jewish diversity!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Anti-Pelosi Democrats are 2018's Stein Voters

The attempted rebellion of about a dozen and a half Democrats -- primarily "moderates" -- against Nancy Pelosi is a nice reminder that self-indulgent posturing in the service of self-destructive politics isn't just a feature of the progressive movement's left flank. Anybody can play!

There isn't any good reason for why Nancy Pelosi shouldn't be Speaker of the House, and the rebel faction has barely offered one other than some vague murmurings about "change" (I'm having flashbacks just writing that sentence). But the political calculations here are, if anything, even worse. Let's review:
  • Not to put too fine a point on it, but the broad argument that Nancy Pelosi is a weight dragging Democratic electoral chances seems to have been rather decisively falsified by our massive gains nationwide a few weeks ago.
  • Speaking of which, the political storyline with respect to the House should be "Democrats pick up nearly 40 seats in a crushing blue wave", followed closely by "Donald Trump is terrified of a House with subpoena power." But let's step all over that story in favor of yet another "Dems in disarray" narrative the media loves so much! Nothing says "the adults are back in town" like immediately collapsing into petty infighting!
  • The idea that the savvy political move right now in the Democratic Party is to step on perhaps the most prominent female elected official in the party in service of a tack to the center is ... let's go with "counterintuitive."
  • Even in swing districts, the number of independent voters who realistically are making their D-or-R voting decision based on whether Nancy Pelosi is speaker is charitably described as "trivial". And of that set, the number who will care about something as an inside-baseball-y as the vote for Speaker cannot be measured by any instrument known to man. Put differently: if someone is going to vote Republican because Nancy Pelosi is speaker, it's cute to think they'd make an exception for a Democrat who voted against Pelosi on the floor.
  • To the extent that anyone who promised to "not vote for Pelosi for speaker" needs a face-saving measure, the solution clearly is "vote for someone else in the caucus meeting". Then -- once you lose that vote by a predictably crushing margin -- say you've fulfilled your promise to "vote for someone else" and fall back in line like a good soldier. If that sounds too clever by half, keep in mind we are dealing with a hypothetical class of voters who who will hold a grudge over the House leadership vote for two years, yet apparently won't be influenced by or care about anything the House actually does over that time period.

Honestly, there's nothing more "Democrat" than a bunch of sanctimonious morons deciding that opposing Trump is way less fun than a few weeks of needlessly self-destructive intraparty fratricide. 

The only pleasant thing about this whole affair will be watching Pelosi crush the insurgents like bugs. See, unlike them, Nancy Pelosi actually does know how to play the political game.

Monday, November 19, 2018

What is This Strange Feeling of Hope I Have?

I've written a lot about Corbyn, and Corbynism, and the deeply toxic impact it's had on British (and particularly progressive British) Jewish life. There's so many depressing or negative emotions associated with that whole state of affairs, and I have to think over the course of the past few years I've articulated all of them in one form or another.

But one thing I don't think I've ever written -- but which I've felt for awhile now -- is my sense of inspiration.

Because as terrible as Corbynism has been for progressive Jews in the UK -- they haven't taken it lying down. They've rallied, they've organized, they've refused to be cowed. And they've won serious victories -- the adoption of the full IHRA definition being just one example. Yes, there are many -- many -- Labour activists who are still quite publicly and viscerally hostile to Jewish activity. But it's also the case that there are many Labour politicians who have boldly and uncompromisingly stood with the Jewish community -- obviously Jewish figures like Luciana Berger, but also prominent non-Jewish members like Sadiq Khan.

Faced with an emergent antisemitic tide in Labour, UK Jews dug in their heels and fought back. And if you compare the genuine resistance to antisemitism that we're seeing inside Labour to, say, the utter capitulation to racism that's characterized the contemporary Republican Party in the face of Trumpism, there's no question that the left comes out looking much better -- not because we've won the battle (or anything close to it), but because there actually is a battle. It hasn't been a steamroller, and we've given as good as we've got.

I'm inspired because in the UK there are far fewer Jews, who are far less interlaced in political and social life, than in the US. So if they can do it there, we can do it here. Yes, there's antisemitism on the left in America. But the Jewish community hasn't slunk away, and we haven't even stepped back from our posts as a core progressive constituency (79% of Jews voted blue in the midterms -- that's more lopsided than pretty much any other group save African-Americans).

If you're worried about the influence of Louis Farrakhan on the left, go ahead and do that -- but also be cognizant of the fact that, as much as certain figures in the movement have been utter failures on that issue, there's been a sustained, powerful firewall of progressive activists who have stepped up to the plate and who are -- again -- giving at least as well as we're getting. If this is a fight, then we're fighting -- and on Farrakhan-related questions, I dare say we're winning pretty decisively.

There's a fantasy in which the Democratic Party saw a group of left-wing activists hostile to Jews and immediately tossed us overboard, and then there's the reality where the Democratic Party has been remarkably robust in listening to Jewish concerns and holding the line against attempts to exclude us from the movement. It's not the case that antisemitism doesn't exist in the Democratic Party, but neither is it the case that when it manifests it riots unchecked. Jews speak out, and when we do it matters.

And here the comparison to the Republican Party couldn't be starker. I don't know if the RJC has even tried to object to, say, Soros conspiracy mongering by Republican officials -- but if it has, it's barely been a speedbump. You want to talk about a political movement which is scarcely even trying to fight antisemitism in its own ranks -- there's your mark.

Bizarrely, sometimes it seems like conservatives get more credit because Jews are so marginal in their movement that there are no "fights" about antisemitism at all -- if the Republican Party wants to run conspiracy theories about the globalist Jews corrupting the volk, nobody on the inside could stop them and nobody on the inside really tries to stop them. The progressive movement has visible friction precisely because there's resistance to internalized antisemitism that is virtually non-existent in conservatism. What sometimes seems like comparative placidity in the conservative ranks is a mirage -- it disguises an utterly routed state.

So I'm feeling weirdly good right now. Are there efforts within the left to marginalize Jews? Yes. But are Jews going to simply roll over and concede to them? Not bloody likely. And the most heartening part is -- experience has taught me that we won't be fighting alone, and we won't be fighting in futility. This is a battle we can win.