Paul Krugman on True Blue Populists

Paul Krugman sees the election as a win for economic populism:

Ever since movement conservatives took over, the Republican Party has pushed for policies that benefit a small minority of wealthy Americans at the expense of the great majority of voters. To hide this reality, conservatives have relied on wagging the dog and wedge issues, but they’ve also relied on a brilliant marketing campaign that portrays Democrats as elitists and Republicans as representatives of the average American.

This sleight of hand depends on shifting the focus from policy to personal style: John Kerry speaks French and windsurfs, so pay no attention to his plan to roll back tax cuts for the wealthy and use the proceeds to make health care affordable.

This year, however, the American people wised up.

True to form, some reporters still seem to be falling for the conservative spin. “If it walks, talks like a conservative, can it be a Dem?” asked the headline on a story featuring a photo of Senator-elect Jon Tester of Montana. In other words, if a Democrat doesn’t fit the right-wing caricature of a liberal, he must be a conservative.

But as Robin Toner and Kate Zernike of The New York Times pointed out yesterday, what actually characterizes the new wave of Democrats is a “strong streak of economic populism.”

Look at Mr. Tester’s actual policy positions: yes to an increase in the minimum wage; no to Social Security privatization; we need to “stand up to big drug companies” and have Medicare negotiate for lower prices; we should “stand up to big insurance companies and support a health care plan that makes health care affordable for all Montanans.”

Other views of the winning Democrats which dispute the claims that it took conservative Democrats to win were discussed here and here.

Bush’s Brain is Stupid


It turns out Karl Rove isn’t a genius after all. Newsweek reveals just how wrong he was about the 2006 election:

Rove’s miscalculations began well before election night. The polls and pundits pointed to a Democratic sweep, but Rove dismissed them all. In public, he predicted outright victory, flashing the V sign to reporters flying on Air Force One. He wasn’t just trying to psych out the media and the opposition. He believed his “metrics” were far superior to plain old polls. Two weeks before the elections, Rove showed NEWSWEEK his magic numbers: a series of graphs and bar charts that tallied early voting and voter outreach. Both were running far higher than in 2004. In fact, Rove thought the polls were obsolete because they relied on home telephones in an age of do-not-call lists and cell phones. Based on his models, he forecast a loss of 12 to 14 seats in the House—enough to hang on to the majority. Rove placed so much faith in his figures that, after the elections, he planned to convene a panel of Republican political scientists—to study just how wrong the polls were.

His confidence buoyed everyone inside the West Wing, especially the president. Ten days before the elections, House Majority Leader John Boehner visited Bush in the Oval Office with bad news. He told Bush that the party would lose Tom DeLay’s old seat in Texas, where Bush was set to campaign. Bush brushed him off, Boehner recalls. “Get me Karl,” the president told an aide. “Karl has the numbers.

Rove’s strategy of getting out the conservative base only worked in 2002 and 2004 due to fear created by 9/11. It was not a strategy which could work long term. Even Bush ran as a “compassionate conservative” in 2000 rather than running from the far right.

Smear tactics only work for so long. Sooner or later you have to produce.  Despite ignoring warnings and failing to act against al Qaeda before 9/11, and despite totally messing up the response after the attack, briefly the Republicans convinced the nation that they could do a better job of fighting terrorism. To quote a line commonly attributed to a Republican who would never be a  Republican today, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

The Democrats and the Big Tent

Michael Tomasky has an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times similar to the one I recently noted by Paul Waldman in the Boston Globe debunking the claims that this was a victory for conservative Democrats. In looking at the House, he notes that some claim the victories came from those who disagree with Pelosi on the issues:

But that’s not quite true. In fact, of the 27 Democratic candidates for the House who won outright Tuesday, only five can truly be called social conservatives. Far more are pro-choice, against the Iraq war and quite liberal. Why, there’s even a woman who was tossed out of a presidential event for wearing an anti-Bush T-shirt (New Hampshire’s Carol Shea-Porter), and a fellow who ran an alternative newspaper and who proudly supports affirmative action — in Kentucky, no less (John Yarmuth).

So the experts got it wrong again, which is really not so surprising given that what happened last week was quite nuanced. The Democrats moved to the center and to the left at the same time. In doing so, they became more like the hegemonic Democratic Party of old. And if, in 2008, it turns out that last week did in fact usher in an era of Democratic resurgence, it will be precisely because the party managed to sustain this left-center coalition and render the distinctions between the two groups less important.

Tomasky notes that the Democrats, unlike the Republicans, are a big tent party with diverse views:

In other words, the Democrats have a long, long history of disagreeing on social issues while agreeing for the most part on economic matters. And while I’m certainly not advocating a tent so big as to accommodate today’s reactionaries — who in any event are Republicans now — it is clearly the case that the Democratic Party has endured far more severe disagreements on social issues than those that face it now.

That sums up why I’ve supported the Democrats. While I think there is more diversity on ecomomic as well as social issues, the bottom line is that, even though there are times I disagree with Democrats, and some are far too conservative on social issues than I would like, in a two party system there is little choice between the Democrats and the party of the religious right.

New Congress To Block Old Agenda of the Religious Right

The Jewish Week notes that the Christian right’s agenda is in shambles and gives some specifics as to what the changes in Congress will mean:

Everyone agrees that the Evangelical right’s legislative agenda for the next session of Congress appears dead as a result of Tuesday’s Democratic House victory. That is a source of great satisfaction for mainstream Jewish groups; they strongly opposed several measures passed by the House last session that had the movement’s backing.

These include the Public Expression of Religion Act, which would stop judges from awarding lawyers’ fees to plaintiffs who win suits against the government for violating the separation of religion and state. Another bill passed last session would empower faith-based groups to discriminate on the basis of religion in hiring staff for government-funded social service programs such as Head Start.

Both bills are stalled in the Senate. With the change in control of the House, “passage of these bills now becomes much less likely,” said Richard Foltin, head of the American Jewish Committee’s Washington office.

Furthermore, he observed, with unsympathetic Democratic members taking over House committee chairmanships, the movement’s prospects for moving new legislation forward are dim.

Even in the Senate, where the victorious party remained uncertain, many noted the defeat of Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) as a devastating setback for the Christian right.

“He was the de facto leader of the social conservatives on the Hill,” said Marshal Wittman, a former official with the Christian Coalition now affiliated with the Progressive Policy Institute, a centrist Democratic think tank. “He carried their water on key issues. He was their most prominent advocate. And he was in the Senate Republican leadership.”

The article also reviews recent scandals among the religious right, as well as differences of opinion. Some are interested in other issues such as poverty where they can work with Democrats, while others only see themselves as part of the right wing:

“The bottom line is that the social conservatives will remain a powerful force within the Republican Party. … It’s unlikely they’ll have any significant relationship with Democratic leaders. Essentially we have one conservative and one liberal party. And the Evangelicals are part of the conservative party.”

Feingold Decides Not To Run–Kerry, Clark and Possibly Gore Remain As Anti-War Candidates

Russ Feingold has announced he will not seek the nomination for President in 2008:

In a letter posted on his political action committee’s Web site, Feingold said he was excited that Tuesday’s elections gave Democrats control of both chambers of Congress, giving them the chance to “undo much of the damage that one-party rule has done to America.”

“We can actually advance progressive solutions to such major issues as guaranteed health care, dependence on oil and our unbalanced trade policies,” he wrote.

Feingold is likely making a wise decision to concentrate on making a mark in the Senate, leaving open the possibility of running in the future when he is better known nationally. Remaining in the Senate is undoubtably more attractive now thanit was as a member of the minority party.

Since the Democrats took control of the Senate, I’ve been wondering if the prospect of being in the majority, with the power to run meaningful investigations again, would cause John Kerry to reconsider giving up a sure Senate seat for a risky second Presidential bid. Feingold dropping out could help solidify Kerry’s position as major opponent of the war among Hillary Clinton’s challengers. As long as Feingold was in the race, there risked being continued attention being placed on the IWR vote, overshadowing Kerry’s strong advice to Bush not to go to war. I’ve feared that Feingold would attempt to use the IWR vote, much as Howard Dean did, as a litmus test on one’s position on the war, again distorting the actual meaning of the measure. Even if Wesley Clark enters as an anti-war candidate, he has previously stated he might have voted for the resolution and that it was not a good litmus test as to a person’s position on going to war. Feingold’s dropping out is also likely to result in increased calls in the blogosphere for Al Gore to enter the race.

Studio 60 Picked Up For Full Season

Despite both mediocre ratings and all the rumors that it will be cancelled, E Online reports that additional episodes of Studio 60 have been ordered to complete a full twenty-two episode series. Reportedly the president of NBC supports the show and wants to give it time to build an audience.

In the past, many hit shows took time to find an audience but in recent years networks have been quicker to kill of shows if they didn’t do well immediately. Considering how weak NBC’s schedule has become compared to previous years this certainly makes sense. While not yet up to the quality of Sports Night or The West Wing, few people can write television like Aaron Sorkin and such a show about a Saturday Night Live type televisions show is likely to appeal to a wider audience than one about a sports show or the White House.

As for the earlier reports that Studio 60 was to be cancelled, it just shows once again that Fox News cannot be trusted.