Friday, December 04, 2020

I (Don't) Hart Election Challenges

At the moment, the margin in Iowa's second congressional district is a whopping six votes. Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks (again, that name!) holds the infinitesimal lead over Democrat Rita Hart in the open seat race, and has been certified the winner by Iowa election officials.

Hart has suggested she will forgo court challenges and instead take the race directly to the House. This, of course, puts Democrats in an awkward position. We've been harping on the sanctity of certified election results for weeks now in the face of completely unsubstantiated fraud claims by the Trump campaign. But now Democratic officials are being asked to overturn those certified results for their own benefit.

And look -- there's obvious differences between a race decided by tens of thousands of votes that isn't going to anywhere in a recount, versus one decided in the single digits. And moreover, Hart is not to my knowledge making any spurious claims about fraud -- she thinks a more rigorous counting process will pick up some ballots wrongfully discounted and push her into the lead (such inferences are rarely justified, but in the context of -- again! -- a six vote margin, they might actually bear out).

But still, the optics here are just terrible, and she's placing House Democrats in an awful position. Given the disappointing underperformance of House Dems this cycle, it's frustrating to lose a seat by such a tiny margin (and there's yet another House seat, New York's 22nd, which currently sits on a margin of less than 20 votes). Yet right now, more than ever, we can't be playing clever games with voting certification. Hart's decision to forgo court challenges and instead force the House to act is wretched politics, and I for one do not appreciate it.

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.