Tuesday, April 14, 2020

The Wisconsin Supreme Court Upset

Liberal challenger Jill Karofsky ousted conservative incumbent Justice Daniel Kelly, slicing the right-wing majority on the court to a 4-3 margin. The race was heated because state Republicans insisted that it must go on as scheduled in spite of the coronavirus epidemic making voting positively dangerous, then fought tooth-and-nail to make sure as many absentee ballots went uncounted as possible (they got an assist from the U.S. Supreme Court on that one). All this notwithstanding, Karofsky ending up winning by 10 points -- a frankly crushing margin given the history of Wisconsin statewide races and the fact that she was a narrow underdog. Some of the county data coming from this race -- Karofsky winning Kenosha County, for instance -- will undoubtedly make state Republicans very nervous about November (and it should).

For his part, Justice Kelly is best known around these parts for authoring perhaps the worst argument I've ever seen against affirmative action. It managed to standout for incompetence even in the hyper-competitive "comparing racial justice measures to slavery" arena, which truly is something.

Of course, the person Kelly replaced literally tried to choke out one of her colleagues, so he still might have been a step up given who came before. Fascinating place, the Wisconsin Supreme Court is. Anyway, I fully expect Judge Karofsky to continue that positive momentum and be a force for good and the rule-of-law in her tenure on the Court.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

What We Owe To Each Other: Democratic Unity Edition

The vast majority of Bernie Sanders primary voters intend to vote for Joe Biden in the general. Indeed, it isn't even all that begrudging: a majority of Sanders supporters view Joe Biden favorably. It is easy to be mislead by a loud, raucous, but ultimately small online minority.

Still, as the primary season concludes and we pivot to the general, we are seeing claims and counterclaims from the erstwhile Sanders and Biden camps regarding what each one now expects from the other. Sanders backers are demanding to be courted and that their vote be "earned". Bidenites are crowing about how they won and that anyone who doesn't back Joe come November is a fascist enabler.

As it stands, this is not a productive conversation. But as we emerge from another harsh primary, we should be think about what we owe each other in the service of unity and making Trump a one term president.

To that end, I suggest the following things we can reasonably expect out of each camp:

From Biden Supporters

  1. Do not promote the baseline expectation that Sanders voters will not end up voting for Biden in November. For one, as noted above it's not true. For two, it tends to create its own reality--the more the message is communicated that there is a gaping rift between Sanders voters and Biden voters, the more it becomes the truth. The more rhetoric we put out in the world that communicates mistrust and suspicion, the more the relationship will be characterized by mistrust and suspicion.
  2. Following on that, treat everyone who voted in the Democratic primary -- no matter for which candidate -- as being presumptively all on the same team, with everyone's contributions welcome.
  3. Do not gloat. Do not crow. Do not take joy in the defeat of Sanders or his faction. I don't care if it's to someone who two months ago was telling you to "bend the knee". Don't do it.
  4. Promote those elements of the Democratic platform that demonstrate the influence of the progressive wing and common ground within the party. This is a good example. Use it as outreach to the extent Sanders backers say they want an affirmative reason to vote for Biden. Things like paid family leave, universal healthcare with a public option, rejoining the Paris Accords, and the $15 minimum wage are all part of the Biden campaign now, and we should credit progressive activists for laying the foundation that made those mainstream in the Democratic Party.
  5. Do not run against Sanders. The primary is over. There is no good reason, particularly given whom Biden is running against, for why Biden or his supporters should engage in any performative hippie-punching.
  6. Nominate a VP who reasonably will be perceived as extending an olive branch to the Sanders faction. It doesn't have to be Nina Turner (and in fact it almost assuredly should not and will not be). But Stacey Abrams remains a good choice. There are, presumably, others. But don't double-down on a "moderate".

From Sanders Supporters

  1. Vote for Biden. Obviously. That's starkly put, but there really isn't room for hedging or caveating around this.
  2. Don't publicly mope about it. We know he wasn't your first (or likely, third) choice. But public expressions of sourness and unhappiness are contagious and depress turnout, and the corollary of "vote for Biden" is "do what you can to make sure Biden wins the race". Think of it this way: the only thing worse than having to vote for Biden to become President is having to vote for Biden and Trump still being President anyway.
  3. Following on the above: find something to be enthusiastic and cheerful about. It doesn't have to be Biden himself. It can be "Trump doesn't replace RBG". It can be the $15 minimum wage. It can be something else. Worst case scenario -- fake it. But find something, anything, that you can be passionate about that compliments the agenda of electing Joe Biden
  4. Do not impose "conditions" on your vote that boil down to "Biden must become Sanders". Instead, look for the elements of Biden's platform that are most likely to be harmonious with or complimentary to Sanders agenda, and focus on locking those down.
  5. Biden is the consummate party man -- his instincts are to do whatever is the conventional wisdom of the median Democrat. Take advantage of that by making your agenda items part of that conventional wisdom. It won't all happen at once, but there is a lot of room for real progress here.
  6. Do not look for reasons why efforts at outreach from the Biden camp are dishonest, disingenuous, or otherwise insufficient. Politics is the strong and slow boring of hard boards. Collect the carrots offered and lay the groundwork so that they can be cashed in come 2021.

On a lighter note, the need for Democrats to be cheerful and enthusiastic and united and optimistic brought to mind some old Boondocks comic strips way back from 2004.