Sunday, November 29, 2020

America is a Center-Left Nation

For as long as I can remember, there has been a ritual declaration spoken after every election: "America is a center-right nation." It doesn't seem to matter who wins the election or by what margin; this refrain has become tantamount to a tradition among the pundit class, and traditions are not to be dispensed with lightly.

Yet I submit that it has been increasingly clear that America is, in actuality, a center-left nation.

Now, to some extent, this depends on what your baseline is. Compared to Sweden, we're still quite conservative. Compared to Russia, by contrast, we look a lot more progressive. But judging on the general spectrum of American politics, the fact is that Democrats have won the national popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections. A Republican has won a popular plurality twice in my lifetime, and one of those times was when I was two years old. Certainly, the margins aren't overwhelming, and it does not seem to be the case that even the median "Democratic voter" want the sort of full-throated left-progressivism that some activists would desire. But given a choice where their voices count equally, Americans have been relatively consistent in their preferences over the past few decades: they want to be led by Democrats -- not necessarily the most progressive wing of the Democratic Party, but Democrats. Hence: center-left.

It would be nice if, in between the seven and eight hundredth essay on what Democrats need to do to reach out to Trump voters, some time was spent by the media internalizing this state of affairs, and contemplating what it means for a GOP whose response to this reality has dispensed with the idea that it should be forced to do anything as crass as "win more votes" in favor of burrowing ever-deeper into anti-democratic quasi-authoritarianism.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Finding Agreement Suspicious

Here's a question for my loyal readers: Is there any position you can think of that you support but that, if you hear someone else supports it, you become more suspicious of them politically?

Perhaps intuitively that makes no sense. If you back a given stance, why would you look sideways at someone else who shares your view? But there are circumstances where I imagine it could make sense -- for example, when you have cause to believe most other people who hold your view do so for bad reasons, are using it as a stepping stone to enable policies you don't support, or that the view most commonly is a valid proxy for other positions one strongly opposes.

Imagine, for example, an African-American opponent of affirmative action, who believes that such programs engender White resentment while doing little to help the most disadvantaged in the Black community. Such a person might nonetheless conclude that most White opponents of affirmative action come to their opposition for other, less tasteful motivations, and so view them with political suspicion. If the person is generally liberal otherwise, they might recognize that most affirmative action opponents are politically conservative and that persons who loudly trumpet their opposition to affirmative action often are especially conservative (and even more especially-so on racial issues). Any of these could give cause to view your putative compatriots a bit askance.

One can imagine other circumstances as well. Someone who supports a ban on assault weapons but not a total prohibition on the sale of handguns might believe that many people who back the former do so in order to make the latter more palatable or feasible -- essentially a slippery slope argument. Where one has multi-peaked preferences (e.g., one prefers only an assault weapons ban > no gun ban > complete gun ban), then one might not want to empower who share your support for an assault weapons ban on the theory that they, unlike you, want  to go much further than that (see this article by Eugene Volokh for more on how these mechanisms work).

So I'll pitch the question again: Can you think of any policy areas where this applies to you? Positions that you hold, but where you're suspicious of most other people who claim to hold them? It's an interesting question, I think.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Who Does High Turnout Help?

For as long as I can remember, it has been accepted wisdom that Democrats benefit from higher turnout. This is the view that motivates "if we can just get more people off the sidelines, Democrats will win every election", as well as more pessimistic declarations of how Democrats fare in midterms, off-cycle races, and run-off elections in, oh, let's say, Georgia.

But is it true today? The 2020 election is giving me a bit of pause.

2020 was a big turnout year. We had record turnout -- the highest percentage in at least 100 years, in all likelihood -- and that's with COVID throwing a wrench in things. But while Joe Biden won, and won clearly in the national popular vote, it's not the case that the additional turnout was all a tidal wave of new blue voters. Trump, too, has shown himself to be a turnout machine for the red column. Texas is a good example, where Joe Biden added 1.4 million votes to Hillary Clinton's 2016 total, only to see Donald Trump roughly keep pace by stacking an additional 1.2 million votes on top of his performance in the prior election. That's a lot more people voting, but not a huge net gain for Democrats -- especially given the general "blue-ing" of the state that had been observed over the past four years.

So what's going on? One thing to consider is who the marginal non-voter is, and who they're likely to support if they do come out to the polls. Non-voters are likely less politically engaged and aware -- the classic "independent" voter (which is to say, low-information and ideologically incoherent), and probably exhibit less trust in and affinity towards American political institutions generally. In our current climate, it's far from clear that these aren't easier to for a Trumpist style populist politician to win.

More than that, though, is the issue of the broader realignment we're seeing in partisan identity. Historically, the case for Democrats being aided by high turnout has I think relied on the notion that Democratic voters skew poorer, and poorer voters are less likely to turn out, so the marginal vote gained by heightened turnout is more likely to be a Democratic one. But while it is not the case, contra some lazy takes, that Democrats are now the party of wealthy coastal elites, it is the case that the biggest divide between the parties right now does not track class but rather education. Democrats are overperforming among college-educated voters (of all economic backgrounds), Republicans do much better among those lacking a college degree (again, regardless of economic background). And highly-educated voters are a high turnout group -- they're likely to hit the polls even when other actors do not.

So it's quite possible that reductions in turnout could end up, counterintuitively, aiding Democratic candidates. You can imagine dividing voters into different turnout "tranches", where the highest tranche turns out in every election (that is, even in ones where nobody else votes), the ones below that in slightly more active races, the ones below that in moderately high turnout affairs, and so on down the line until the final tranche which never votes at all. If Democrats are disproportionately represented among the highest tranches, they'd be better served if elections remain low-turnout affairs, since they'd be the only ones showing up to the polls.

Again, this is just a hypothesis and an oversimplification at that. But I do think the education realignment may require adjusting some of our assumptions regarding who benefits from high turnout.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Does Trump 2024 Clear the GOP Field?

Donald Trump says he's seriously considering running for President in 2024. While you might think that's tantamount to a concession that he didn't win re-election in 2020, Trump was notorious for claiming that he'd run for a third term anyway because -- hey, why should the law stop him now?

Anyway, I'm curious: If Trump runs in 2024, does he clear the GOP field? On the one hand, it's hard to imagine that the Republican Party will want to go with the guy who lost the last election. And four years should, one hopes, be enough time to break the spell that Trump has cast over his party where virtually every Republican of note just crumbles into quivering jelly at the thought of standing up to him.

But still -- how does a prominent Republican run against Trump 2024? In 2016, they could and did call him a demagogue, a racist, an idiot, and an extremist. But of course, 2016 proved those are selling points for today's GOP voter, and nothing has changed in the interim. What has changed is that we've witnessed four years of prominent GOP figures kowtowing to Trump at every opportunity. After clambering over one another to see who can be the biggest Trumpist suck up, it's hard to see how they could attack Trump in the context of a primary campaign without looking ridiculous. What does Tom Cotton or Josh Hawley or Nikki Haley say to make the argument they're better than their Godhead figure?

Personally, I think someone should start a whisper campaign on Twitter that Trump was betrayed by the GOP establishment and that in 2024 he should run on a Trump branded third party. Of course his defeat wasn't his fault -- how could it be? Rev him up with paranoid conspiracism and let him wreak havoc on the right for a change. Could be fun to watch.

Republicans Are Trying Their Mightiest To Ring That Bell

 Shortly before election day, I argued that the right analogy to apply to the efforts of Republican judges to get Trump elected was not "thumb on the scale" but rather "the carnival game where you smack a target with a hammer and see if you're strong enough to win the bell." We're two weeks distant from election day, Joe Biden's victory has only gotten clearer since then, but what's gotten even clearer than that is how right I was regarding the metaphor (with the sole caveat that we can substitute "Republican political officials" for "Republican judges").

They really are trying their best to make the steal. It doesn't look like they're strong enough to actually ring the bell, but let's not in any way diminish that this is their agenda. We're going to stave off a frontal attack on our democracy, but it's shameful that it is even coming to this.

Saturday, November 07, 2020

How Does a Defeated Trump Affect the Georgia Race?

Barring a turnaround in North Carolina or a surprise upset from Al "Bear Killer" Gross in Alaska (and the latter does say he think he'll win after all the mail-ins are counted), the season finale of the horror series known as "2020" will be a royal rumble Senate two-fer in Georgia. Incumbent Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler will face challenger Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in a state that Joe Biden just squeaked out a victory in.

Other have written on the best positive strategy for Democrats to take in the race (pushing the "3 M" approach -- Medicaid expansion, minimum wage increase, and marijuana legalization). And it's well-known that Democrats have severely struggled in Georgia run-offs in the past. But right now, I'm curious how the shadow of a defeated Trump affects the dynamics of this race.

It is (as much as I hate to admit it) a truth that Donald Trump has been a big turnout booster for Republicans. Witness Texas, where Joe Biden swelled Hillary Clinton's vote tally by 1.4 million, but Trump managed to keep pace with 1.2 million additional votes of his own. Even without him at the top of the ticket, it's possible that Trump could boost GOP turnout in the run-off if he campaigned aggressively for the GOP ticket, feeding on resentment and spurious claims of voter fraud, inspiring red staters looking for vengeance and the need to head off a Democratic Senate majority.

But Trump is Trump, and he doesn't seem likely to react to defeat by working on someone else's behalf. He's going to be sullen and depressed and whiny, and I doubt he'll be much interested in intervening in the Georgia race at all. If anything, he might put Perdue and Loeffler into a tight spot by continuing to frivolously contest the validity of the election, forcing them to either actively disavow Dear (Fallen) Leader or come off like anti-democratic extremists.

More broadly, it is far from clear that Trumpists will continue to turn out once the aura of invisibility and the joy of "cry more libs" no longer can be guaranteed. It is wrong to say that Trumpism is dead in America -- it continues to be the dominant faction of the GOP, and that isn't likely to change anytime soon. But it is possible that Trumpists will find it difficult to replicate the enthusiasm Donald Trump inspired with their standard-bearer broken. Particularly if the GOP starts the fratricide before the run-off day, one could see a far more energized Georgia Democratic Party facing off against a demoralized, frustrated, "take my ball and go home" Georgia GOP. And that might give Ossoff and Warnock the space they need to pull what I still think would be an upset victory, and hand Democrats the Senate.

Friday, November 06, 2020

A 2020 Election Thank You

When Joe Biden secured the Democratic nomination for President, I had several friends declare that the race was over -- it was impossible that Biden could beat Donald Trump in the general election.

Not "it will be hard". Not "it will be an uphill battle". Not "it depends on how events develop over the next few months". Impossible.

Well, it did turn out to be hard -- perhaps harder than the last batch of polls suggested it would be. But it wasn't impossible. Because Joe Biden is going to be the next President of the United States.

Biden fought hard against an incumbent President and Republican Party who mobilized every tool, trick, and power they had -- legal and not -- to stay in office. It is hard to dislodge incumbent Presidents -- this is only the second time it has occurred in my lifetime -- and while it felt touch-and-go early on Tuesday evening (as we all promptly forgot everything we had told ourselves about the "red mirage"), when all is said and done Biden will have a thumping margin in the popular vote and most likely over 300 electoral votes. A pretty sizable victory, all in all.

So I think we should take the time to thank and to celebrate all the people who worked really hard to make this happen. Not just Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, though them too obviously. But the entire spectrum of the progressive community that came together to make today a reality.

The Black community, and particularly Black women, who have been the soul and the backbone of the Democratic Party for years. That includes great leaders like Stacey Abrams who poured her heart into making Georgia competitive. But it also includes everyday, rank-and-file men and women who did the yeoman's work of canvassing, ballot-counting, organizing, and most importantly, voting. They have displayed a faith in the American promise that the rest of us had no right to expect from them, and the margins they provided in cities like Atlanta, Detroit, and Philadelphia made the difference in this election. Thank you.

Bernie Sanders, who ran in the primary but was always crystal clear that once Joe Biden secured the nomination, he was all-in on supporting him as the only valid option for a presidential ballot. Thank you. And thank you to his supporters in "the squad", for whom Biden obviously wasn't their first choice, but still poured their energies into getting out the vote for him at the top of the ticket and Democrats down the ballot.

Thank you to the Latino and Latinas in Arizona, who organized to turn the land of Joe Arpaio into a state with two Democratic senators and whose electoral votes are in blue column. It was just a few years ago when Arizona was in the news as the nation's leader in grotesque, reactionary anti-immigrant and anti-Latino sentiment. The resilience of the Latino community in Arizona came to full fruition this year, and it is not going to fade anytime soon.

Thank you to the Jewish community, which stayed strong in the face of unprecedented antisemitism and violent threats from White Supremacists emboldened by this administration. We turned out more strongly for Joe Biden than we have for any presidential nominee in decades. We voted our values, and made clear that we are an integral part of America's progressive coalition.

Thank you to Katie Porter, who flipped a GOP-held seat in 2018, shined as an outstanding progressive leader in the House, and held her seat decisively in 2020. And thank you to Lucy McBath, who also flipped a GOP-held seat in 2018, has become a leader in fighting gun violence, and also held her seat by a wide margin this year. Our caucus is stronger with both of you in it.

Thank you to the Muslim community, which turned out strong for Biden, particularly in states like Michigan where it counted the most. Thank you to all the proverbial suburban moms who were rallying against Trumpism from day one. Thanks to all the activists at groups like Indivisible which created a movement and an energy that sustained many of us for these long four years.

And finally, thank you to the Democrats who *didn't* win in 2020. There were some seats that were big upsets in 2018 that we knew would be very hard to hold onto with Trump at the top of the ticket. Doug Jones, Joe Cunningham, and (it appears) Max Rose may not be returning to Congress, but they were great leaders who fought hard for progressive values. We owe them a debt too. Likewise, some challengers ran strong races but ultimately came up short. Some are identified as on the "progressive" wing, like Kara Eastman in Nebraska or Jaime Harrison in South Carolina; some are considered more "establishment", like Theresa Greenfield in Iowa or Dan Feehan in Minnesota. Regardless of where they fall on the party's ideological spectrum, they worked hard to make America better, and deserve our gratitude for trying.

Yes, we can wonder if it could have gone even better. Yes, we can mourn that we didn't get the decisive, overwhelming repudiation of Trumpism that was deserved. But still. Politics remains the long, slow boring through hard boards, and today was a day of progress -- always slower progress than we'd like, but progress nonetheless. And the many, many people who fought hard to make this result happen deserve gratitude and respect. 

This is a post that could go on forever -- there are so many we owe so much to, and I wish I could list every single one of them. But the broad point is this: We knew this would be a contest. We knew nothing was guaranteed. We knew there are no sure-things in politics. But those who said it was impossible were wrong. They were flat wrong. It was possible. We did it, together.

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Election 2020 Liveblog

Should I do this? No. But it's a tradition. And what are we without our traditions?

This post will be updated throughout the evening. Check in for breaking news.

[I've changed the format so the newest posts are at the top rather than the bottom. Oh, and all times are Pacific, of course]

***

4:12 AM: LOL I haven't slept at all. But I am feeling a bit more sanguine about Biden's overall chances. He's up in Nevada, Arizona, and Wisconsin, and I expect him to hold those leads. The math looks good for him in Michigan too. Those alone are enough to put him at 270, but Pennsylvania and Georgia are still basically toss-ups at this point, and North Carolina isn't wholly out of the range of possibility.

12:58 AM: I'm calling it a night. Praying for good returns from the cities of Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan (and North Carolina, while we're at it).

12:25 AM: It is flat wild that we could simultaneously be seeing a story of "Biden underperforms among Latinos" and "Biden overperforms in Arizona."

12:21 AM: Speaking of hovering right around 50%, Senator David Perdue in Georgia is floating at that mark. In his case, not cracking 50% would lead to a (non-instant) runoff against Democratic challenge Jon Ossoff. Georgia is one of the states where reports are there are a lot of mailed in Democratic votes still waiting to be counted.

12:05 AM: Susan Collins continues to hover right at that 50% mark, which matters because if she doesn't get an absolute majority it's an instant run-off. Now that won't matter if she's, like, at 49.9%, but the point is she doesn't necessarily win just because she holds a plurality.

11:59 PM: Iowa looked like there might be some good news at the end of the campaign season, but it didn't pan out. Democrats are down in three of the state's four House seats (they had gone holding three of four). In the open but D-held IA-02, Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks (that name though!) is up by less than 300 votes over Democrat Rita Hart. Republicans are winning by a larger (though not large) margin against incumbent Rep. Abby Finkenaeur in the IA-01, and are narrowly losing in their bid to unseat Rep. Cindy Axne in the IA-03. (Axne's continued national prominence is crucial to my crossword puzzlebuilding needs, so I'm especially glad she's winning her race).

11:18 PM: It's perhaps unsurprising that the big upset winners of an election in 2018 are both people who really deserve good things but also among the most likely to lose in 2020. We've already bade goodbye to Senator Doug Jones in Alabama. Rep. Max Rose hasn't conceded yet, but it's looking grim for him in the NY-11. And there was just a call in the SC-01 for Nancy Mace, who unseats Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham.

11:13 PM: Also in local California races, there was some campaign drama in a few state legislature races that may make them of general interest. Incumbent Democratic State Senator Scott Wiener weirdly became one of the faces of GOP conspiracy mongering, but he's leading fellow Democrat Jackie Fielder 59-41 (Fielder was challenging Wiener from the left, although Wiener was already pretty liberal). Meanwhile, rabid antisemite and all around whackjob Maria Estrada was rematching against State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, but Rendon once again is holding down the lead 57-43.

11:12 PM: Down in Los Angeles, challenger George Gascon, running a "progressive prosecutor" campaign, is leading incumbent District Attorney Jackie Lacey by a 54/46 spread. Both are Democrats.

11:07 PM: No call, but with 100% reporting Carolyn Bourdeaux (D) leads Rep. Rich McCormick (R) 51.2% to 48.8% in the GA-07. Nice D-to-R flip.

10:40 PM: Alas, Dem. Rep. Collin Peterson's luck finally ran out in the MN-07, a truly deep red district that he and he alone had any prayer of holding.

10:38 PM: Obviously a lot of states have a had wonky vote reporting patterns, but one of the weirdest has been Virginia. It's mostly flown under the radar because it's not competitive at the state level, but there are some important House races there where it's really clear some segment of the vote has not been counted yet. Dem Rep. Abigail Spanberger is not some shoo-in to hold her VA-07 seat, but she's not going to lose it by 20 points either.

10:36 PM: Hey! Mississippi voters approved a new, treason-less state flag!

10:34 PM: Remember that time Trump flat out told us his election strategy was to hope the race was uncalled on election night evening, then try to stop Pennsylvania from counting its votes? And now the race is uncalled on election night evening, and he's yelling about how its fraud for Pennsylvania to keep counting its votes?

10:24 PM: While Joe Biden is projected to take the NE-02's electoral vote, GOP Rep. Don Bacon still holds a narrow lead over challenger Kara Eastman. A hearty screw you to former Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford, who lost to Bacon, then, after his wife lost in the Democratic primary to Eastman, endorsed Bacon in what was clearly a fit of pique. Don't know if that ended up making the difference, but still.

10:21 PM: First year Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn (D-OK) has conceded to Republican challenger Stephanie Bice. I think we're likely to see a small GOP gain in the House -- not enough to flip the chamber or even come that close to it, but they'll net positive.

10:11 PM: Now I'm seeing the mood of commentators shift on both Wisconsin and Georgia, both are said to look more favorable for Biden.

10:08 PM: I've heard the scenario where Biden wins 270-268 based on the NE-02's one electoral vote described as the "Nebraska Cornwhisker", and I love that.

10:05 PM: Word is that Biden is looking good in Nebraska's second district (Nebraska allocates its electoral votes separately in each congressional district). That's actually a pretty big deal, as it alleviates some of the "tied election" scenarios which would have been a true nightmare (I mean, truer than the nightmare we're all living right now).

9:43 PM: Wisconsin is looking rough -- Biden doesn't absolutely need it, but it'd be a big help.

9:39 PM: Steve Bullock is still running about seven points ahead of Joe Biden in Montana. May not be enough.

9:35 PM: It's sobering to think how much rides on Democrats not just winning, but winning the trifecta, just to get to a place where "winning more votes" bears some casual relationship to "winning elections."

9:26 PM: This. Will. Be. The. Year! Exit polls suggest Jews went for Joe Biden by a 77-21 margin.

9:23 PM: While Minnesota has been called for Biden (and I think Tina Smith looks fine there too), there's another nail-biter shaping up in the MN-01 -- a rematch of one of just two D-to-R flips in 2018. Incumbent GOP Rep. Jim Hagedorn is up by about 1 point over Dan Feehan. Minnesota has lots of teeny-tiny counties so it's hard to get a bead on what's outstanding.

9:00 PM: There are reportedly two million mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania that still need to be counted, and these skew heavily Democratic. They're absolutely more than enough to tip the total over to Biden.

8:45 PM: Last year, California returns slowly shifted bluer after election day as mail-in ballots continued to flow in. If that's the case again, then Dems are in very good shape in some California House races. Several vulnerable incumbents from  the 2018 wave, such as Gil Cisneros and Harley Rouda, are currently ahead by decent margins. Moreover, Ammar Campa-Najjar is currently just ahead of former Rep. Darrell Issa, who is trying to hold this open seat for the GOP, and Christy Smith is ahead of GOP Rep. Mike Garcia in the rematch of the special election Garcia won to flip the seat less-than-one-term Democratic Rep. Katie Hill resigned from. But again -- it's hard to know exactly how tallies will flow in 2020.

8:39 PM: In local news, Berkeley City Councilor Cheryl Davila, who made some news after she tried to appoint Hatem Bazian as her emergency alternate, is currently down in her re-election race to Terry Taplin. However, no candidate is close to 50%, and I think Berkeley does some sort of ranked-choice instant run-off? Anyway, I'm not sure if this means she's lost or not -- but it's news.

8:35 PM: In addition to the presidential and senate calls, there's some good downballot news in Arizona. Hiral Tipirneni is holding a ~4 point lead over incumbent GOP Rep. David Schweikert. And Democrats are also currently ahead in the important, if somewhat obscure, Corporation Commissioner race.

8:28 PM: We're definitely not getting a full call tonight. Pennsylvania, in particular, looks like a total hot mess -- which is great, because it also ranks number one in "state most likely to be stolen outright by the GOP."

8:26 PM: I lay down for a few minutes, and when I get back up they've called Arizona for Biden. I should lie down more often.

8:03 PM: They're projecting a Mark Kelly victory in Arizona. And while Kelly is running slightly ahead of Biden, that call certainly gives caused for optimism on the presidential side too.

7:55 PM: Just so you know I'm not judging, the below message absolutely includes me.

7:47 PM: We spent literally months repeating, mantra-like, "it won't be over on election night, stay calm" and now we're still like everybody panic!!!!

7:45 PM: It looks like it will be GOP Senator Kelly Loeffler facing Democrat Raphael Warnock in the Georgia special Senate election run-off. My gut is that Warnock runs stronger against Loeffler, but run-offs in Georgia are tough.

7:42 PM: Over in Iowa, things remain unsettled. Democratic Senate challenger Theresa Greenfield is beating her marks in Linn County, but not quite reaching them in Johnson County.

7:39 PM: The big question in North Carolina is just how much of the outstanding vote tally is in Wake County, which is a massive Democratic stronghold.

7:32 PM: I guess the other state to keep on an eye on re: Trump's late Latino surge is Nevada.

7:28 PM: Checking in on Montana, Governor Steve Bullock, challenging for Republican Steve Daines' Senate seat, is currently leading, but looks to be slightly underperforming his desired margins in key counties. Still early there though (although the story of the evening has been late votes shifting GOP).

7:22 PM: I see Republican Nicole Malliotakis has declared victory in the NY-11, which means Rep. Max Rose (D) has been unseated. Rose was a huge upset winner in 2018, but it still stings -- he was one of my favorite first-year Reps.

7:13 PM: We might remember that Arizona slowly crawled into the Democratic column in 2018, but right now its early vote reports favor Joe Biden by a large margin. He's up by just under 10%, with Mark Kelly doing even better on the Senate side. Dems are also leading in the AZ-06, which would be a Dem flip.

7:09 PM: Republicans look to have flipped two south Florida House seats that Democrats won in 2018 -- riding on the strong GOP performance among Florida Latinos (Cuban and, from what I've heard, non-Cuban alike).

7:05 PM: Philadelphia officials say they won't be reporting any more mail-in ballot results tonight. As Matt Yglesias asks, do they have something better to do this evening?

7:01 PM: In the OH-01, Rep. Steve Chabot is clinging to a sub-1 point lead over his Democratic challenger. But while virtually all his turf in Warren County has reported, Kate Schroder (and Joe Biden, for that matter) still have plenty left in Hamilton County. Have I mentioned how gerrymandered to hell and back Ohio is, incidentally?

6:59 PM: And just as I write that, I see a call for Lindsey Graham in the South Carolina Senate race.

6:57 PM: Checking into the South Carolina Senate race, where Jaime Harrison appears to be running about 2 points better than Joe Biden. In Berkeley County, where his target is to lose by a 47/50 spread, Harrison is losing by ... 48/51.

6:54 PM: Digging more deeply into North Carolina, one bit of concern is that Union County, which is one of the few larger counties that's strongly pro-Trump, has barely reported at all. Trump probably will net 30,000 votes there.

6:49 PM:  Biden might well squeak out the win in North Carolina, which would be huge.

6:41 PM: Ohio continues to narrow, but it really does look like Biden has far more pockets of votes outstanding than does Trump.

6:36 PM: Sadly, in Kansas Barbara Bollier's numbers have receded quite a bit. With just about all of Johnson County reported, she's only winning 52/44. While that's absolutely a good result objectively for Democrats, it's short of the 57/40 benchmark she's shooting for.

6:31 PM: New Jersey votes to legalize marijuana.

6:30 PM: The AP results are coming in much faster than the New York Times, but the New York Times' site is so much easier to navigate. Frustrating on my end.

6:28 PM: We're definitely having at least one QAnon conspiracy theorist enter Congress (Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia), but there's a chance to stop a second one from joining her out of Colorado. In the CO-03, four points separate Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush from GOPer Lauren Boebert, who upset incumbent GOP Rep. Scott Tipton in the primary (Boebert is currently leading).

6:25 PM: In a race that only attracted attention very late, the AR-02 (centered around Little Rock) is currently razor-tight, with Rep. French Hill (R) up by less than 2 points over Democrat Joyce Elliot. Not altogether clear how the balance of remaining votes are distributed.

6:23 PM: Some places I'm currently feeling good about include Ohio(!) generally, and the IN-05 race specifically (where the Democratic challenger is currently down by a smidge, but appears to have a good chunk of votes in Indianapolis still outstanding).

6:15 PM: Seeing an early call for John Hickenlooper in Colorado, which would mark the first Senate flip of the night (though presumably Alabama will be called for Tommy Tuberville sooner rather than later).

6:05 PM: North Carolina keeps creep creep creeping along. But there are a couple of very interesting House races there too (in addition to two expected Dem flips, made possible by undoing an earlier GOP gerrymander). In the NC-09, better known as the district that had to redo its election after the GOP candidate was caught trying to steal it, incumbent GOP Rep. Dan Bishop is up only 1 point over Dem challenger Cynthia Wallace with a lot of Mecklenberg (a Dem stronghold) left to report. And in the NC-08, incumbent GOP Rep. Richard Hudson is leading Democrat Patricia Timmons-Goodson by just 2 in a race that saw some late spending.

5:59 PM: Right now, the place where the apparent late Latino swing towards Trump worries me most may be Arizona.

5:57 PM: The big question in North Carolina: how much of a boost will Republicans get in the walk-up vote?

5:55 PM: I think a lot of Democratic observers kind of mentally wrote off Ohio (at best, it was something we could retake in a landslide), but Biden seems to be doing very well there. Kind of the anti-Florida -- which perhaps goes to Biden overperforming among White voters and underperforming among Latino voters.

5:53 PM: Party-switcher Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R) is locked in a tight battle with Democratic challenger Amy Kennedy. He's up 2 points now with a little over half in. Definitely someone who I hope gets done in by karma.

5:51 PM: Fulton County, Georgia -- aka, Atlanta, a huge Democratic area -- is experiencing reporting delays due to a burst pipe in the building (... 2020, am I right?). Anyway, that probably has something to do with the depressed blue tallies in the Peach State.

5:46 PM: What's the matter with Kansas? I'll tell you what: Democrat Barbara Bollier is so far hitting her margin in Johnson County (Kansas City) -- she's up 59-41, her target is 57/40.

5:40 PM: In keeping with the generally early positive news out of Ohio, Kate Schroder is looking strong right now in her challenge to Rep. Steve Chabot (R) in the OH-01. She's up 9 with about half in, and if anything it looks like more of the bluer part of the district remains outstanding.

5:35 PM: At the moment, Biden is running about four points ahead of M.J. Hegar in Texas (or if you prefer, Trump is running about four points behind John Cornyn).

5:28 PM: The counterpoint to "Biden's woes are limited to Cubans in Florida" is if "Biden's woes are actually with Latino voters generally." We'll see!

5:25 PM: North Carolina is one of those states where apparently mail-in vs. walk-up votes are being tallied at different times, so I don't want to get ahead of anything in looking at the results (even though quite a bit of the state has reported, with Biden currently up 9).

5:21 PM: If you forced me to hazard a guess at this point, I'd favor Trump in Texas. It's purpling, but it's still not quite there yet.

5:16 PM: Texas looking agonizingly close again. In Williamson County (north of Austin), Biden is at 51/47, he was shooting for 49/48. In Dallas County, he's at 66/33, he wants 68/32.

5:09 PM: In expected but still happy news, "proud Islamophobe" Laura Loomer is going down in blazing defeat in the FL-21.

5:06 PM: The two big "don't panic" lines I'm seeing right now are (a) Trump's performance in Florida is driven by Cubans, who are a somewhat unique demographic without parallels elsewhere in the country, and (b) remember 2018, when Republicans overperformed in Florida, leading to much sadness early on election night, but it didn't reflect goings-on elsewhere in the country. Again, I'm feeling what everyone was feeling -- we wanted a first-round knockout and we didn't get it -- but I'm trying to stay level-headed.

5:02 PM: I wish there was something to look at right now other than Florida, but everybody else is at a crawl. Starting to see some projections that Trump has taken the state -- which, again, feels likely unless there's something disproportionate about what's been counted in Miami.

4:54 PM: Of course, that sort of thinking is exactly the sort of "analysis" that I feel like Florida has sprung every year, and it always breaks my heart.

4:53 PM: Putting aside the always-present "which ballots have been counted" question, I do wonder whether folks are overweighting Biden's apparent severe underperformance in Miami-Dade compared to his apparent overperformance in, e.g., Tampa and Jacksonville.

4:48 PM: Must we do this every time, Florida? Must. We. Do. This. Every. Time?

4:35 PM: Not to keep harping on the Miami numbers, but in everywhere but Miami Biden seems to be doing better than he'd hope. So what's the scoop down there?

4:29 PM: In the IN-5, Democratic candidate Christina Hale is up by about 6.5 points against Republican Victoria Spatz in an open GOP-held seat. Marion County (Indianapolis) is only about a third in, and it is a monster truck for Hale -- she's up 75-23 there.

4:25 PM: The Miami figures are also reflected in the FL-26 race, where incumbent Dem. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell trails by three to Republican Carlos Giminez. If you trust that the presidential numbers will improve for Biden, you probably think they'll improve for Mucarsel-Powell as well. If you think that they won't, well, that's probably one D-to-R flip.

4:24 PM: Just to add to the Florida panic -- Biden is far behind the numbers he'd want in Miami-Dade. Don't know if there's a story there.

4:18 PM: While we're waiting, a feel-good(ish) story about a Florida woman who voted for the first time since her drug possession conviction after Florida voted in 2018 to re-enfranchise ex-felons who've completed their sentence. It was a close thing, since Republican politicians (and judges) pulled out all the stops to try and block people like her from voting, but thanks to good progressive organization her fines were paid off and she was able to submit a ballot.

4:06 PM: The "good" news is that Florida is apparently one of the states that counts its votes fast, so we can perhaps make some decent projections. Several mid-sized Florida counties -- most of which are lean Trump -- have reported at least 70% of their vote, and my quick scan is that Biden is mildly overperforming his benchmarks in all of them. For example, in Lee County (Fort Myers), Trump is up 57/42, in a county that he won 58/38 in 2016 and where Biden is shooting for holding Trump to a 58/40 spread. But again, I'd urge a double-dose of caution -- first, because there might be differences in which votes are being counted, and second, because Florida.

4:01 PM: Every year Florida breaks my heart. And seeing a bunch of "look at the turnout numbers in Miami and Broward" tweets is less giving me cautious optimism and more giving me PTSD.

3:45 PM: A useful corrective regarding the USPS ballot delivery order controversy posted above (at 3:10).

3:41 PM: The one outside competitive play in Kentucky is the Lexington-centered 6th district, where Josh Hicks is challenging incumbent GOP Rep. Andy Barr. Interestingly, Hicks is running about 8 points behind Biden in Fayette County -- he's up 66-33 there. That's the blue part of the district, and unfortunately I don't have county benchmarks for this seat to know where Hicks needs to be in order to overcome undoubtedly heavy-red turf that hasn't reported yet in the more outlying areas.

3:38 PM: Kentucky will not be competitive. Certainly not at the Presidential level, probably not at the Senate level either. Nonetheless, certain parts of Kentucky may shed light on how other, similarly situated places may vote. On that score: With about half of the vote tallied, Joe Biden is currently leading in Fayette County (Lexington) 74-25. Hillary Clinton's margin there was 51-41.

3:32 PM: Different states are going to be reporting at different rates, and so it is important to heed Rick Hasen's warning to not use misleading framing like "leads in early returns" in states where we expect big disparities between early- and late-tallied votes (e.g., Pennsylvania).

3:14 PM: No real results yet, so instead we can speculate that Florida will go Biden on the strength of the "make Instagram about thirst traps again" vote.

3:10 PM: Federal court orders USPS to conduct a sweep for ballots still stuck in the system, postal service says "I would prefer not to." Fun!

3:03 PM: And we're rolling! Indiana and Kentucky are the first states to see polls closed. Not a ton of competitive races in those parts (sorry Amy McGrath), but there is a viable Democratic pickup opportunity in the open Indiana 5th.

Monday, November 02, 2020

Reluctantly Not Being Evil

In Texas, a federal judge has thrown out an effort by Texas Republicans to invalidate over 100,000 legally cast ballots down via "drive-up" voting procedures in Harris County, ruling that the plaintiffs lacked standing. That's rightfully the headline, and it certainly puts this judge ahead of his colleagues on the 8th Circuit, but buried in the middle of the story we read that -- had he found the plaintiffs had standing -- he would have enjoined any further (i.e., today's) drive-up votes from counting. In other words, he thinks the plaintiff's crackpot theory is correct on the merits, he's just bound by technicalities not to give them what they want.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court today reversed the 5th Circuit's decision that prison guards leaving an inmate in a cell overflowing with his own bodily waste and sewage deserve qualified immunity, concluding this was one of the rare instances where even general statements of law could provide fair notice that the relevant governmental conduct was unconstitutional. This is noteworthy on its own, as the Supreme Court virtually never intercedes to chide lower courts for being too willing to grant qualified immunity, but apparently this case was a bridge too far. Justice Alito concurred in the case -- which, again, puts him ahead of Justice Thomas, who dissented without opinion -- but wrote separately to chastise the Court for even taking the case, deeming it a matter of mere error-correction that was not worthy of the Court's time. Again, Justice Alito seems flatly annoyed that he was placed in a position where he felt compelled to be less of a schmuck than he'd like -- and anyone who voted for to intercede in Dunn v. Ray has permanently lost the ability to complain about the Court being too loose in hearing cases.

Sunday, November 01, 2020

A Tale of Two Protests

I don't know if I've said this before, but I think one of the key reasons why the public largely stayed supportive of BLM protesters in the wake of violent police responses is that they occurred just weeks after we all saw right-wing protests over COVID restrictions being met with sober police restraint.

When the far-right began swarming state capitals and government buildings with assault rifles and far-right insignia, screaming about their God-given right to not do the bare minimum to keep their fellow Americans uninfected by a deadly pandemic, the police by and large stood back. They didn't start shooting tear gas and pepper spray. They didn't wade in and start bludgeoning people. There were no mass arrests. And at the time, when all of that didn't happen, I think many more establishment-minded observers viewed that as proof of policing professionalism. "They're doing their job. They don't have to support a protest to defend a right to protest. Even when people are acting manifestly crazy, the police shouldn't escalate the situation. Kudos."

[Remember this photo?]

And then, immediately after, we had another round of protests: this time about the right of Black citizens not to be executed by armed agents of the state (or -- just as bad -- yahoo vigilantes who view themselves as proxy agents of the states). And the contrast in terms of the police response couldn't have been starker. Right after we had a demonstration of how the police could stay restrained in the face of protests if they wanted to, we saw a demonstration of how the police would unleash hell on protesters whose cause they did not endorse. It badly undermined the notion that any of this was about neutral principles of law, or difficult choices in hard situations. It was a choice.

Anyway, a pro-Trump caravan has stopped traffic on New Jersey's Garden State Parkway. But I haven't seen any reports that they've been tear gassed or maced -- probably because they're not presumed liberals marching to vote.

Everybody is seeing the difference. It's a choice.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

The Cycle of Republican Acquiescence To Authoritarianism

If, in 2014, you had told the average Republican they'd endorse what their party was doing from 2016 to 2020, they'd have been appalled. More than appalled -- they'd accuse you of suffering from a sort of derangement syndrome, of viewing the opposing party in such an implausibly demonic light that it rendered you unable to ascribe even a modicum of decency or principle to one's ideological opponents. From nominating a birther for president to the Muslim ban to trying to nullify legally cast ballots, the story of the past four years has been Republicans acceding to racist authoritarianism in cases where -- had it been pitched as a hypothetical prediction -- they'd have sworn up and down "of course we'd never do that!"

What is going on? The answer is straightforward, and it really does trace back to Donald Trump. Once Trump and his campaign endorses one of these illiberal and extreme actions, two things happen for Republicans deciding whether to endorse or oppose them:

  1. They're put in a position where opposing the action means standing up to Trump;
  2. They're on notice that some significant sector of political elite actors will endorse the decision -- it is no longer the province of the fringe or kooks.
The first factor matters because if there's one thing the last four years have made clear, it's that Republican politicians cannot and will not stand up to Donald Trump. You can find stronger moral backbones in a Bill Cosby Jell-O commercial than in the Republican political class these days. And the second factor matters because it suggests that the action in question may well succeed. It's easy to proudly disavow the thought of stealing an election when you know you won't get away with it. But once it actually becomes a live option, well, then it's a bit more tempting to jump onboard. And even if it doesn't ultimately succeed, the endorsement by a significant segment of mainstream political elites* provides moral cover after the fact -- it becomes the stuff of ordinary partisan dispute rather than an extremist power grab.

And of course, all of this dovetails with the GOP's personal partisan advantage. Put it together, and you have a recipe for Republican acquiescence, one we've seen over and over again for the past four years.

Will we see it once more if Donald Trump tries to steal the election? It's true that just because we've only seen grey ducks so far, that doesn't mean the next duck won't be white. But boy would I not count on the GOP breaking the cycle.

* One of the most frustrating things about how Trumpism has been covered is the refusal of many commentators to identify it as existing as part of elite (in the sense of highly-placed) mainstream (in the sense of carrying considerable public support) politics. When people try to criticize Trumpism, the response often is to act as if his views are "fringe" or "not respectable" or "out there", such that it's a form of nutpicking to even pay attention to them. But they're not fringe! They occupy the Oval Office! They're the dominant force in one of the two major political parties! Trumpism at the moment has far more power in both elite political institutions and mainstream political organizations than does, say, Colin Kaepernick. If you're looking to criticize views that have considerable public influence and purchase, Trumpism should rank far, far higher than whatever example of "performative wokeness" you're currently writing up your forty-fifth column on, and this would be obvious to anyone who remembers that places outside of Brooklyn exist.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Conservatives Think Trans Rights Are Their Wedge To Peel Off Democratic Voters

I made the mistake of donating money to a few campaigns this cycle, and now I'm bombarded daily with emails and texts which virtually all are variants on the theme "we're LOSING and it's your fault for not donating even more money." It is a bit interesting to see how they're varied to try and get you to click open the email though.

Anyway, 99% of these messages are from Democratic campaigns and operations, which makes sense given that I have to imagine everything in every database available to political operatives confirms I'm a liberal. But the other day I did start getting texts from someone who claimed to be a "Democrat working for APP PAC" claiming that Joe Biden is a monster. It gives a bit of a window into what message conservatives think will be most effective at convincing liberal-leaning voters to vote for Trump (or at least not vote for Biden). 

And the answer is: trans rights. All of the texts I've received from this outfit have been on transgender issues (perhaps needless to say, the claims in the messages are lies).

I think I'm going to write back and thank them profusely for sending me this message, claiming I was undecided before but now am firmly convinced to vote for Biden, and hoping that they take pride in knowing that at least one more vote is going to Joe Biden's camp.

Probably stupid of me to even engage, but I need something to pass the time.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Packing Preparation

I continue to think that adding more states is more likely to occur during the next Democratic administration compared to adding more Supreme Court Justices. But it will be controversial, and, following Machiavelli, anything especially controversial should be done at the very outset of one's tenure as a ruler.* What that means is we want any new state admissions to be part of H.R. 1 (which most people already expect to be a voting rights bill). And in particular, we want the new states set to be added to be ready to go on inauguration day.

This is especially important if we want to extend statehood beyond the most obvious candidate, D.C.. Puerto Rico is a complicated case because statehood has been actively debated there and remains controversial. But there seems to be relatively little discussion of statehood for other American territories, such as Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands. Yet if those territories also were ready to announce, on day one of a Biden administration, that they were applying for statehood, it would be much easier to roll them into a larger bill than trying to mobilize them on the fly.

*  Machiavelli also suggests delegating the task to an underling and then, once it's complete, executing him in a high-profile fashion. Not all of his advice is applicable to the modern day.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

2020 Predictions Post!

It's time to put my money where my mouth is! How do I think election 2020 will turn out? I'm going to list my state-level predictions for both the presidential and (competitive) Senate seats. How will I do? We'll find out election day -- or more likely, several weeks after election day!

Presidential (Biden 335 - Trump 203)

Biden: Arizona, Florida, Maine-02, Michigan, Nebraska-02, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin.

Trump: Georgia, Iowa, Ohio, Texas

Senate (Democrats net five seats)

Alabama: Tuberville (R) over Jones (D-inc) [R flip]

Alaska: Sullivan (R-inc) over Gross (D) [R hold]

Arizona: Kelly (D) over McSally (R-inc) [D flip]

Colorado: Hickenlooper (D) over Gardner (R-inc) [D flip]

Georgia-A: Perdue (R-inc) over Ossoff (D) [R hold]

Georgia-B: Warnock (D) over Loeffler (R-inc) in a run-off [D flip]

Iowa: Greenfield (D) over Ernst (R-inc) [D flip]

Kansas: Marshall (R) over Bollier (D) [R hold]

Kentucky: McConnell (R-inc) over McGrath (D) [R hold]

Maine: Gideon (D) over Collins (R-inc) [D flip]

Michigan: Peters (D-inc) over James (R) [D hold]

Minnesota: Smith (D-inc) over Lewis (R) [D hold]

Mississippi: Hyde-Smith (R) over Espy (D) [R hold]

Montana: Daines (R-inc) over Bullock (D) [R hold]

North Carolina: Cunningham (D) over Tillis (R-inc) [D flip]

South Carolina: Graham (R-inc) over Harrison (D) [R hold]

Texas: Cornyn (R-inc) over Hegar (D) [R hold]

Friday, October 16, 2020

Kicking and Screaming: Trump's Path on White Supremacy

Some Republicans, including Donald Trump, are exasperated that people say Donald Trump doesn't condemn White Supremacy. He has, they say, several times. But the crux of the problem was well on display in Trump's latest town hall, where he was asked whether he condemns White Supremacists and QAnon. On the former, he curtly intoned "I denounce White Supremacy" before proceeding to whine that the media isn't asking Joe Biden about antifa. On the latter, by contrast, he was more evasive:

“I hate to say that I know nothing about it,” Trump said. “I do know they are very much against pedophilia.”

Guthrie pressed Trump, describing the group’s delusions. Trump would not accept her description.

“What I do hear about it, is they are very strongly against pedophilia, and I agree with that,” Trump said.

Here we have a classic Trump maneuver. Asked about his various extreme-right supporters, he'll initially refuse to condemn them based on a supposed lack of knowledge, often paired with at least a tacit nod of approval (the only thing he's heard about QAnon is good). If people keeping harping on the issue, eventually he can be dragged -- kicking and screaming -- into a grudging denunciation; but then he simply repeats the game with his next collection of fascist and/or neo-Nazi hangers-on. This is what happened with David Duke ("I just don’t know anything about him", followed by "David Duke endorsed me? OK. Alright. I disavow. OK."), with the Proud Boys ("Stand back and stand by," followed by "I don’t know who the Proud Boys are", and then finally "I don’t know much about the Proud Boys, almost nothing, but I condemn that."), and now, one suspects, we're beginning a new cycle with QAnon.

This is why the "repeated denunciations" don't shut the door on these questions about Trump's White Supremacist supporters, nor should they. The amount of energy that has to be expended to drag out one of these denunciations, and the sulky tone once he finally does it, are themselves indicative. It's Corbyn-esque, in a way -- Jeremy Corbyn surely "repeatedly denounced" antisemitism, but the reason he had to do it "repeatedly" is because before, during, and in between the repetitions he made it beyond obvious that he'd rather do anything but denounce antisemitism. The sort of person for whom extracting these denunciations is like pulling teeth is the sort of person whose sincerity in making the denunciations is going to come under question.

Monday, October 12, 2020

The Man Who Presided over the Fall of the Supreme Court

When John Roberts was first starting as Chief Justice, I remember a lot of commentators describing him as an "institutionalist", someone who was deeply committed to preserving the Supreme Court as a respected, non-partisan fixture in American life.

So I wonder what he's thinking now.  John Roberts is on the cusp of being the man who presides over a Supreme Court whose basic public legitimacy has become so compromised that court packing -- long an obvious non-starter in American politics -- now feels close to inevitable upon a Democratic victory (indeed, in a different sense, has already begun under a Republican presidency).

It's not entirely the Chief's fault. But it's certainly more than one-ninth his fault. Under his stewardship, the conservative faction of the Supreme Court has grown increasingly emboldened in acting as essentially an arm of the political right, with a particular eye towards undermining voting rights in a nation where the GOP has lost the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections. Shelby County is the most egregious example, but the Court has hardly covered itself in glory in adjudicating elections controversies during this administration. At this stage in the game, Democrats are well-justified in worrying that the Supreme Court as its currently constituted (particularly with the soon-to-be rubber-stamped confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett) will not allow small-d or large-D democratic governance -- not because of anything in the Constitution, but because they've committed themselves to protecting perpetual minority rule.

The thing is, I do believe that -- in some non-trivial sense -- Chief Justice Roberts is an "institutionalist" in the way these commentators described, and that the loss of the Court's legitimacy is something he feels as a loss. It's not an act. But all that means is that he is a man who could not rise to the moment history placed him in.

Sunday, October 04, 2020

Paper By Ariel Univ. Scholar Rejected Over Whether Ariel is in Israel

This is a very interesting story that pulls me in several different directions.

The thrust of it is as follows: an academic at Ariel University, an Israeli institution in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, had a paper set to be published in the chemistry journal Molecules. As part of the publication, she needed to provide an address for correspondence, and she listed Ariel as being in Israel. The journal asked her to delete "Israel", the author refused, and the journal pulled the paper.

So a few things:

  • Obviously, there's something off-putting about papers on chemistry being (not) published not on the basis of chemistry, but based on geopolitical debates over the proper assignment of sovereign authority in the West Bank.
  • This does not appear to be a "boycott" of Ariel University or its scholars. The journal was willing to publish the article by the professor, with the notation that she taught at Ariel University, so long as it didn't claim that Ariel was in Israel.
  • The article indicates that some activists wanted the journal to go further and require that the address be formatted as "Ariel University, illegal Israeli settlement of Ariel, Occupied Palestinian Territory." But it doesn't look like the journal was going to demand that formulation.
  • Ariel simply isn't in Israel. That isn't me wearing my anti-occupation hat -- Israel has not annexed Ariel (unlike, say, East Jerusalem). So to some extent, the journal is simply enforcing a rule that statements in its journal have to be accurate. It's undoubtedly rare that this comes up with respect to correspondence addresses -- but this is one of those rare cases. The same rule should apply if a far-left writer in Israel proper tried to render her address as "Acre, Palestine". It would simply be inaccurate.
  • In some ways, the journal's proposal was similar to the long-standing American rule that persons born in Jerusalem have "Jerusalem" (rather than "Jerusalem, Israel") listed as their birthplace on their passport. This was famously litigated in the Zivotofsky case. One could argue it's more contentious there because Israel has annexed East Jerusalem (and has relatively uncontested sovereign jurisdiction over West Jerusalem). Ultimately, I'm not convinced that this solution was unreasonable under the circumstances.
  • How does one mail a letter to Ariel University? Must one put "Israel" in the address for the letter to arrive? Can one put "West Bank" or "Palestine" or leave that portion of the address blank?
  • I wonder if there was any explicit or implicit pressure on the author from her university (or the Israeli government) to refuse to accept the deletion of "Israel" from the address. Certainly, the Israeli government has been more than willing to punish academics whom it sees as insufficiently resistant to, or cooperative with, BDS.

Saturday, October 03, 2020

Nobody Expects the Muslim Trump Supporter!

There's a fascinating tidbit in a newly released poll about various religious groups' political opinions: Muslims and Jews hold very similar views about the presidency of Donald Trump. Specifically, for both groups his approvals are in the low 30s (30% for Muslims, 34% for Jews).

The poll is a bit dated -- it was apparently conducted in March just before the coronavirus lockdown, so certainly politics have ... evolved since then -- but it still raises a fascinating question: why does one never hear about Muslim Trump supporters? Compared to Jewish Trump supporters, who seemingly have an outsized presence in the media and in the public eye, one virtually never sees Muslim Trump supporters interviewed in the press, or internal debates within the Muslim community about Trump vs. not-Trump aired. (And it's worth noting that, unlike Jews, Muslims have historically been a lean-conservative voting bloc -- it was only after 9/11 and the immense wave of Islamophobia that poured out of the GOP that they shifted to the Democratic camp).

Why the disparity? Here are some hypotheses, which are just spitballs at this point:

  • Republicans are less likely to highlight Muslim support than Jewish support, which lowers the salience of their Muslim backing.
  • Despite their historically (and consistent) progressive voting patterns, there is a strong narrative that Jews are a politically conservative group (wealthy, White, entrenched and invested in preserving the existing order) which makes people assume that Jews are more conservative than they are.
  • The high-profile nature of Donald Trump's anti-Muslim actions (most notably the travel ban) makes it really hard for the media to imagine "Muslims for Trump" as a live phenomenon, whereas the high-profile nature of his (nominally, at least) "pro-Jewish" measures (e.g., the embassy move) makes it seem plausible that he'd garner a non-trivial proportion of Jewish support.
  • The major Muslim political organizations are decisively anti-Trump in a way that the major Jewish political organizations are not. Jewish Trump supporters have far more prominent positions within the institutional Jewish community than do their Muslim counterparts.
  • The media has less experience delving into the weeds of intra-Muslim communal splits, and so is less likely to pick up on smaller (but still extant) political factions.
Fortunately, I wrote a whole article on the distinctive political status of dissident minorities such as Muslim Trump backers (though I didn't address that example specifically). I'm not saying that it's good that such persons are completely ignored -- I'm curious as to what makes them tick! -- but I do think it's a good thing that our public dialogue does not treat them as if they're equally representative of the Muslim community when they're clearly not.

Thursday, October 01, 2020

Is Trump the Republican Jimmy Carter?

I had this strange thought the other night that Donald Trump might be the Republican equivalent of the Carter administration. That is, a failed presidency whose somewhat fluke-ish victory was a blip in an otherwise sustained period of other-party dominance.

The failed presidency part certainly checks out. There's a decent chance that Democrats, if they can win a 2020 trifecta, can sustain power for a long period thereafter (especially if they're smart enough to admit some new states). The demographic trends that made people (too) confident about 2016 still are in force, after all, and it's at least arguable that Trump was the last hail mary gasp of unadulterated conservative White male resentment as a driving electoral force.

The biggest difference is that while Carter was a wonderful ex-President, Trump undoubtedly will be every bit as wretched after being turned out as he was in office.

All that said, I can't help but be pessimistic about what can accomplished in a (knock on wood) Biden administration. That's not a knock on Biden. It's rather a reflection of the sober reality that it will take an inordinate and disproportionate amount of energy and resources by a Democratic administration simply to repair and remediate the mess Donald Trump has created, leaving little time focus on any genuine positive change. Just getting back to square one would be a massive accomplishment, let alone advancing the ball.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

What's the Point of Holocaust Education?

I'm generally averse to comparing things to the Holocaust or Nazism.

There are a variety of reasons for my reluctance, but one major component is that these comparisons often serve as a soft form of Holocaust denial -- minimizing the scope of the tragedy by analogizing it to events that, although perhaps also wrong, pale in comparison to systematic mass murder.

Yet a recent debate over a Jewish Democrats ad which explicitly draws a comparison between Trumpist America and 1930s Germany -- not, it must be said, the actual Final Solution -- has gotten me to thinking (JTA's headline suggests that this ad represents a turning point in the acceptability of Holocaust comparisons -- previously viewed as "off limits". But of course, right-wing Jews have been cavalierly tossing out Nazi comparisons for years now -- if anything has changed, it's that some liberal groups are playing too).

The ad was condemned by several prominent Jewish organizations, such as the ADL and AJC. But it also had some high-profile defenders, including ex-ADL chief Abe Foxman and prominent Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt. The latter often drew an important distinction between comparing what Trump is doing to Nazi extermination, on the one hand, versus the earlier stages of European fascism (anti-minority propaganda, railing against the lugenpresse, ripping down internal checks within the government, and so on). Certainly, the case for the legitimacy of the advertisement was significantly buttressed when President Trump instructed a violent far-right hate group to "stand back and stand by" -- raising the specter of his own group of stormtroopers standing at the ready to overturn the will of the electorate.

The thing is, the Jewish community has invested a lot of time, money, and resources into Holocaust education (both for Jews and non-Jews alike). One would think that the point of this education is to give us the tools to nip incipient fascism in the bud; not to more effectively bemoan a genocide after it has occurred. After all, much of our Holocaust education focuses on what occurred in the run-up to the Holocaust, that is, before the machinery of mass death began to move in earnest. What's the point of it all if those who have been taught aren't allowed to apply their insights?

Of course, even most cases of incipient fascism do not end up reaching the point of Auschwitz. But it is plenty bad to even travel part way down the path. My strong gut instincts cut against using Holocaust comparisons even in these cases -- there are other metaphors at our disposal. But I do want to know exactly what the ADL and AJC and like groups think the purpose of Holocaust education is, if not to use it in moments like this.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

How Leila Khaled's Second Hijacking Attempt Was Foiled

This is a gripping account from the pilot of El Al flight 219, which Leila Khaled and a partner tried to hijack in 1970. Khaled had already successfully hijacked an Israel-bound plane in 1969, and in this attempt they shot and severely wounded a flight attendant and pulled the pin on two hand grenades, seriously threatening the lives of remaining passengers and crew. The pilot's quick thinking (he had previously served in the Israeli air force) managed to allow Israeli security officers to regain control of the plane (though they were aided by a stroke of pure luck -- Khaled's grenades never went off).

Incredibly, I found out recently that a professional colleague of mine was on this very flight, along with her daughter. As she tells it, they were sitting a row behind Khaled when the hijacking began.

It's worth noting that Khaled not only has never repudiated her prior acts of terrorism, but she continues to extol them as the epitome of virtuous resistance. There are, in history generally and the Middle East specifically, plenty of people with dim chapters in their past who've gone on to do salutary or even heroic things. Khaled, though, as best I can tell, is remembered primarily -- by both her admirers and detractors -- for her role in terrorizing innocents, and has never really evolved politically beyond that.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

AOC Lookalikes

It's a good time to be an actress who looks like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. A bunch of shows have created characters that seemed like obvious plays on the prominent New York congressman. Ana Villafañe was a dead ringer for the congresswoman as a newly-elected councilwoman who ousted Kal Penn's out-of-touch incumbent on the ill-fated NBC sitcom Sunnyside. Ginger Gonzaga played a House Representative whose initials were "AYC" (and who had the sobriquet "Angry Young Congresswoman") on Netflix's Space Force. AOC has become more than an icon, she's become a character -- a contemporary show on politics seems to need someone like her on cast.

Given this development, it's interesting to see just what sort of character the AOC clones are generally portrayed as. From what I've seen, they tend to be:

  • Smart
  • Conscientious and hard-working
  • Idealistic
  • Aggressive and hard-charging
  • Somewhat prone to grandstanding
  • A little naive as to how politics actually works
Whether or not these represent an accurate portrayal of the real AOC is immaterial. It's interesting that this is part of what TV writers think viewers will recognize when they see a character who is clearly a riff on AOC.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

The Supreme Court Fight Probably Helps Trump

It depresses me (if it is even possible for me to become more depressed -- yup, turns out it is) that we have to immediately turn to the political implications of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death and the ensuing confirmation fight over her replacement. But we do. And, more depressing still, I think the beneficiary of this development on a political level is Donald Trump. Why? Three reasons:

  1. Historically, Republicans are more motivated by judicial battles than are Democrats. That gap might be narrowing, but it's not clear it's disappeared. But while this is the factor everyone cites, it's actually the smallest factor in my analysis.
  2. A Supreme Court fight is a "normal" political controversy, and Trump is helped any time politics feels like a "normal" Democrat vs. Republican fight compared to extraordinary events that are unique to him and/or 2020 -- most notably, the coronavirus debacle. Ginsburg's death is one of the few things that can muscle coronavirus out of the headlines not just for a day but for a sustained period of time.
  3. Ginsburg's death is a political shock, and that automatically benefits Trump given that he's ran consistently behind in the polls. Why? Think of it this way: suppose the Supreme Court fight has an equal chance of either causing Trump to gain or lose five points in the polls. The former puts him ahead of Biden. The latter -- well, a loss is a loss: there's no tangible difference between Trump losing by a small margin and him losing by a large margin. So really, it's a 50% chance of it helping Trump and a 50% chance of it making no difference -- which is to say, it averages out to helping Trump. Given the remarkable stability in Trump's polling averages, he might be willing to take the chance on a shock even if the odds it benefited him were less than 50% (this is why I briefly contemplated the possibility of Trump doing something truly wild to shake up the polls if he was lagging far behind, like tapping Tulsi Gabbard as his new VP). And again, I think the baseline odds that this benefits Trump are at least 50% if not higher.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Should Rest in Peace. The Rest of Us Have To Gear Up.

 Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has passed away after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

Surprising absolutely nobody, Mitch McConnell has already promised to fill the seat weeks before the election notwithstanding his own months-long obstruction of Merrick Garland's nomination in the last year of Barack Obama's presidency.

It's possible he won't be able to do it. A few Republicans have hinted they won't go along with the move -- Lisa Murkowski being the most vocal, but potentially also Susan Collins and Mitt Romney. I have to assume Martha McSally has already decided she's toast in November and is just deciding to do as much damage as possible in her remaining time in office, because she waited scarcely five minutes to come out in favor of a pre-election vote. The list of Republicans who are going to publicly and unapologetically flip-flop on "filling a SCOTUS seat in an election year" is quite lengthy, but Lindsey Graham stands out for especial brazenness as he has a clip where he specifically states to the camera "I want you to use my words against me" if Republicans try to fill a seat in election year 2020.

Hypocrisy charges likely won't matter. That doesn't mean you don't fight, but it does mean that victory or defeat has little to do with how hard Chuck Schumer fights. There's no magic bullet, no secret parliamentary trick that can defeat a determined GOP majority that wants to slam through Ginsburg's replacement on short notice ahead of the next election.

What we can do is change the personnel after the election.

I've been opposed to court packing for a long time. Even after Garland, where I thought there had to be some retaliation, I thought court packing was a bad idea -- it promises a cycle of retaliation that has no logical stopping point.

I'm having trouble holding that position now, and I can't imagine cleaving to it if the GOP replaces Ginsberg before inauguration day. The Republican has announced that the new rule is that anything that is formally within the rules is permissible, regardless of how many norms it shatters or double-standards it creates. Well, confirming a new Supreme Court Justice just weeks before election day is exactly as within the rules as court packing is.

All that notwithstanding, I think the real necessary move is adding new states. DC is the obvious one, Puerto Rico ranks up there too. My stance on this is well-known. What I like most about adding new states is that, unlike court packing, it is both political hardball and unquestionably correct as a matter of non-partisan political ethics. The idea that certain American territories should be completely and permanently disenfranchised from effective political representation is an anathema to any semblance of democratic legitimacy. And the fact that the Republican argument against statehood is "but we can't win places non-White people live in" does not deserve the dignity of a response.

But all of this depends on Joe Biden winning the Oval Office, and Democrats retaking the Senate. I don't have a ton of spare income, but I sent a few dollars over to Theresa Greenfield in Iowa (it struck me as right at the line of winnable but needing an extra push). Support whoever you can with whatever you can; it doesn't have to be money either. Bear down and get the vote out however you can.

Ginsburg can rest in peace. She's earned it. The rest of us, unfortunately, can't rest at all. It's time to gear up.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Involuntary Hysterectomies Reported in ICE Facilities

Two years ago, I wrote that the natural conclusion of the White nationalist fanaticism coursing through the Republican Party is forcing immigrant women to have involuntary abortions. With raging anti-immigrant sentiment going on about "demographics are destiny" and "anchor babies", there was little doubt that at some point this politics would arrive at its natural conclusion -- a full-out assault on the reproductive capacities of the immigrants who arrive on our shores.

Today, news dropped of a whistleblower report alleging mass hysterectomies -- without informed consent -- of immigrant women held in ICE detention. It's not precisely forced abortions. But it is a hair's-breadth of distance away. And the logic carries.

Roe, nominally at least, should protect women against this -- after all, Roe does not guarantee a woman's right to an abortion but rather a woman's right to choose. But we know how the right feels about Roe. And without respecting Roe as a safeguard, it is not clear what constitutional basis there is for a woman under the custodial authority of the state (such as prisoners or immigrants held in detention) to refuse a medical procedure if her wardens demand she endure it. When choice is taken away in one direction, it can be taken away in the other.


What Makes These Protests Different From All Other Protests?

I'm trying to figure out why this round of protests against police violence feels different, in terms of the public resonance it's having, than what came before. It seems every few days we get a new wave of breathless commentary about how the backlash is coming among White suburbanites in Wisconsin and ... so far, it hasn't manifested. It'd be wrong, obviously, to act as if the entirety of America is behind the protesters or anything like that, or if there aren't important divisions and controversies among people who generally do count themselves as supporters. But in the broad sweep of things, support has been far more robust than one might have predicted based on past history.

One candidate that stands out in my mind is that the latest round of protests, sparked by the police killing of George Floyd, occurred basically immediately after a different round of protests by mostly White right-wingers angry about mask-requirements and coronavirus lockdowns. Americans had just been swamped with pictures of heavily armed and kitted-out protesters getting right up in the face of police officers and screaming at them, as the officers stoically endured the assault. A lot of people remarked that the police would be a lot less stoic about this sort of thing if non-White people tried to pull it. And then, wouldn't you know it, we immediately got confirmation.

The response to the anti-lockdown protests was tangible proof that the police could, if they wanted to, respond to high-emotion and fraught protest situations without significantly escalating the situation. So when we saw how they responded to the Black Lives Matter protests occurring essentially at the same time -- indiscriminately using force, arresting journalists and lying about it, and more -- it really underscored that these were choices the police were making that were not inevitable byproducts of having a tough job and being in a difficult situation.

Of course, the differences in how some protests are treated compared to others is nothing that new under the sun when one takes the macrolens out. But the direct juxtaposition -- where one protest immediately followed the other, and the differences in the police response was so drastic and so visceral -- I think made a serious impact. Watching the police act like basically like a type of gang caused a lot of White observers who maybe had a basic faith in the general professionalism of the police to reassess their views. And that reassessment is proving stickier than I think many anticipated.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Why Is Minnesota Reddening?

In several places, I've seen folks say that Minnesota is state must likely to flip from Clinton to Trump in 2020.

Even for someone like me, who's generally confident about Biden's chance in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, it's hard to argue for an alternative (New Hampshire, maybe?). And Minnesota has hardly been some Democratic bastion over the past few years. It's had recent Republican Governors and Senators; in 2018 it was the only state where the GOP picked up Democratic-held House seats (two of them, in fact; off-set by two losses elsewhere in the state).

Yet for some reason, it still feels odd to me that Minnesota seems to be reddening. The Twin Cities are a redoubt of highly-educated urban professionals -- a demographic that ha turned sharply to the left in recent years. This doesn't mean it is a perfect progressive paradise (recall George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis), but to the extent that Minnesota's population is anchored around the Twin Cities and its suburbs, those are areas where Democrats should be performing better, not worse.

The answer to the riddle, I suspect, is that rural Minnesota took longer to go Republican than other rural areas. Collin Peterson has for 30 years held down a western Minnesota seat that is, by far, the Trumpiest in the country occupied by a Democrat. Until recently, Democrats were dominant in the "iron range" of northern Minnesota -- that region was where one of the two seats the GOP took in 2018 sat. It remains the case that Democrats remain solid in Minnesota's cities and are improving in the suburbs. But Minnesota's long tradition of prairie populism may finally be fading out, and that's made a bunch of historically blue voters finally swap to the GOP.

I don't, to be clear, think it will be enough for the GOP to win the state in 2020 (either at the presidential level, or in Jason Lewis' challenge to incumbent Democratic Senator Tina Smith). I do think that Collin Peterson's luck likely will run-out -- he's got a top-tier opponent and Trump's coattails are just too long to resist in a presidential year. And it's possible that Democratic gains in the suburbs will offset losses in rural locales.

But that's all just hypothesis at this point. Any other candidates for the apparent trend are welcome.

Monday, September 07, 2020

Leila Khaled, Academic Freedom, and Hypocrisy Traps

Some of you may have heard that Leila Khaled, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine who became (in)famous for a series of plane hijackings, was invited to speak at a roundtable event hosted by San Francisco State University (lest one think "roundtable" implies that Khaled represents one edge of a wide spectrum of views being aired -- no, that's not what is happening here). Unsurprisingly, inviting a known terrorist to speak at a university which only a few years ago settled a discrimination lawsuit filed by Jewish students is proving controversial. The University has stood behind the invitation, cited norms of free speech while emphasizing that permitting a speech to occur does not entail endorsing its content.

I'm a pretty staunch academic freedom absolutist, so in one sense this is not a difficult issue for me. Khaled was invited by a member of the university community in good standing, hence, she has the right to speak. I'd say the same thing about an invitation extended to anyone else. That doesn't mean the invitation is a good idea or even defensible one; it is entirely appropriate to subject it to withering criticism (there might be a narrow range of circumstances where it would be academically appropriate to converse with someone like Khaled -- a seminar on terrorism, or a history on Palestinian terror activities in the mid-20th century -- but again, this roundtable isn't that). There is a difference between what one has a right to do and what it is ethically proper to do; that distinction is essential to any notion of academic freedom, and is one I laid out and defended in my short essay "Academic Freedom vs. Academic Legitimacy".

Nonetheless, a skeptic might wonder whether this absolutist stance on free speech and academic freedom really would apply if a different faculty member or student group did invite, say, a "price tag" terrorist who had attacked Palestinian persons or property in the West Bank. How can we be sure that this alleged principle is being applied even-handedly?

The easiest way to do it would be to invite such a speaker to campus, and see what happens. But the problem with that is twofold. First, I don't want to invite someone like that to campus. I think it would be an abuse; an abdication of my responsibilities as a member of the academic community. Second, if I did invite them to speak, it would open me up to a hypocrisy charge insofar as I've publicly stated inviting someone like this to speak is contemptible and an abdication of one's duties as an academic leader. The consistency on the axis of legal right would be paired with a seeming inconsistency on the axis of moral responsibility.

So there's a trap. One wants to drive home the point that Leila Khaled's presence on campus as an academic speaker is exactly as legitimate as Meir Kahane's would be -- no more, no less. But one can't invite the likes of Kahane to campus -- it would be hypocritical, and one has no interest in presenting Kahane as a legitimate academic voice. But the sorts of speakers one does want to invite wouldn't present a parallel case to that of Khaled. Worse, to the extent they were presented as the "anti-Khaled", it might suggest that the spectrum of "legitimate" opinion runs from "pro-Palestinian terror" on one side all the way to "moderate Israeli" on the other.

It is possible that the only way to drive home the irresponsibility of hosting a Leila Khaled is to host another speaker who is as objectively indefensible and as alienating to students on "the other side" -- a potential detente via mutually assured destruction. But engaging in that sort of brinkmanship isn't really compatible with having a principled objection to inviting terrible speakers to campus. It's also not exactly a pathway of dispute resolution that's likely to yield a healthy university environment.

What can one do instead? I'm not sure. Ideally, one would see university-level condemnation (that, again, comes alongside recognition of the "right" to invite the speaker). There's also the possibility of being more creative in come up with responsive events. For example, many of the victims who were on the planes hijacked by Khaled and other members of the PFLP are still around -- a roundtable detailing their experiences would be very stimulating and offer a potent counternarrative to the Khaled event (I actually am part of a discussion group with one such survivor who had been on the plane Khaled hijacked along with her six-year old daughter. I won't repeat her story -- it's not mine to tell -- but it was absolutely gripping).

Ultimately, though, this is one of the problems with relying on norms. When they're abused or exploited, it's really hard to respond without setting off a runaway train in motion. There's little that can or should be done to stop the event at SFSU from occurring. All we can do, and should do, is be crystal clear at just how inappropriate it is.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Massachusetts Primary Results and Lessons

Massachusetts had its congressional primaries yesterday. I put down some predictions, and I'm decently pleased with my performance. I nailed Markey/Kennedy (I said Markey would win by around 10 points, and he won by a 55/45 margin). I got the winners right in the MA-01 and -08 races, but I thought both might be closer than they were. Rep. Richard Neal beat Alex Morse by a 59-41 margin (essentially the same spread as Ilhan Omar over Antoine Melton-Meaux a few weeks ago), and Rep. Stephen Lynch beat challenger Robbie Goldstein 67-33.

So what did we learn?

Begin with the Senate race. From what I saw, Markey overperformed in college-educated, relatively affluent and disproportionately White suburban centers while Kennedy's base was in working class and minority areas of the state. That actually isn't that surprising, given how progressive politics has been playing out over the past few years, but it does clash with some of the self-image of the progressive left which very much sees itself as being the voice of the most down-trodden. Take from that what you will.

Likewise, I'm beginning to see at least a few progressive activists say that their support of Ed Markey is proof that they're not purity-obsessed compromise-averse zealots, since, after all, Markey had his share of heresies in his history (the Iraq War vote being a major one). But he was improving, and he courted their support, and it was important that this sort of behavior be rewarded even if wasn't perfect. And I agree! That's a great lesson and one I hope the left internalizes!

But for now, it still seems to be a lesson that is at best inconsistently applied. There's an alternative universe, after all, where Ed Markey -- forty year congressional veteran, Iraq War supporter, backed by Chuck Schumer, Mike Bloomberg, and the DSCC -- is very much viewed as the quintessential "establishment" candidate who leveraged his insider advantages against the youthful upstart promising to shake things up and harken back to old school Great Society liberalism. Indeed, at the very start of the race that was the narrative Joe Kennedy was very much trying to push. It is to Markey's credit as a campaigner that he managed to turn this story on its head. But the fact is that Kennedy and Markey really don't have that different voting records from one another; and there are countless examples where "voting history akin to Ed Markey's" + "support from Michael Bloomberg" = "irrefutable proof of being part of the Deep Establishment". There's more than a bit of arbitrariness that Markey managed to avoid that label.

Perhaps the best thing Markey had going for him was that, orthodox Democratic voting record notwithstanding, he was warm and welcoming of the progressive wing of the party. There's a good lesson there too: being nice works! People like it when you're nice to them. That may seem banal, but there's a branch of progressive political activism that is very committed to the view that the only way to gain and wield political power is via incessant attacks and ruthless "shoot the hostage" bargaining ("the corrupt neoliberal Democratic Party won't listen to us unless we stop voting for them"). In reality, another good way to curry influence is to build good relationships with those you want to influence; and a good way to lose influence is to be openly antipathic to your nominal targets. This is why the Sanders strategy of "running against the Democratic Party in a Democratic primary" was doomed to fail. Markey, by contrast, built positive relationships both with the Green New Deal and "Squad" types, as well as plenty of more "establishment" oriented politicians. That paid off, big time. But once again, the lesson isn't being internalized -- check out the replies to Elizabeth Warren (who endorsed Markey) uttering some generic boilerplate niceties to Joe Kennedy after his defeat. One would think "having already won, there's no reason to actively antagonize a perfectly decent politician who just got 45% in her own state's primary" wouldn't be controversial. But you'd be wrong.

Finally, with respect to Kennedy himself, I stand by my initial assessment that his challenge was needless fratricide. Kennedy isn't a bad guy, and his record as a congressperson is perfectly solid. But there wasn't any clear reason for his campaign other than "I want to be a bigger deal than I am now", and that's not a good basis for a primary challenge. Once again, there should be a very strong presumption that Democratic Party energies are better spent fighting Republicans than other Democrats. Kennedy violated that presumption and so I'm glad he lost.

Over on the House side, I said that I thought Morse's "scandal" probably helped him more than it hurt him, but that this prediction wasn't really falsifiable. That remains true, but I think his wider-than-anticipated defeat does emphasize that the progressive-insurgent model really is struggling to gain traction outside dense urban districts. There's a good case that Stephen Lynch -- who's probably more conservative than Richard Neal and represents a far more urbanized district -- would make for a better target of progressive energies. The fact that Lynch didn't do that much better than Neal (taking 67% versus 59%) despite facing a far lower-profile candidate suggests there might be more room to run in the former district.

Lastly, there was one race, the 4th district primary (to replace Joe Kennedy) where I didn't venture a prediction because the field was a giant 9-way cluster**** and I didn't have time to even try to figure out what's going on. Election day verified that impulse -- the race hasn't been called, five candidates are in double-digits, and at the moment less than 1,500 votes separate first place (Jake Auchincloss, 22.4%) from second place (Jesse Mermell, 21.4%). Still, while the race hasn't been officially called, most observers seem to think Auchincloss -- who ran as a moderate and used to work for Republican Governor Charlie Baker -- will hold onto his lead and become the Democratic nominee.

Of course, a race this close immediately raises questions about what will happen come 2022. On the one hand, next cycle Auchincloss almost certainly won't benefit from a wildly fractured field splitting the progressive vote. On the other hand, he will benefit from being an incumbent. As Rashida Tlaib just showed, the entrenching effect of the latter can easily wipe away apparent vulnerability implied by the former even after a single election cycle. I suspect that once in Congress Auchincloss will work to lock down his progressive bona fides and will be able to hold onto his seat for awhile. But it is well within the realm of possibility that Joe Kennedy's ill-fated Senate run meant that a safe Democratic seat just got a much more conservative representative.