Photo of the day

Who knew Indiana could be so scenic?  I guess Alan Taylor did with this Hoosier-themed gallery.  I do love the lead photo:

Three sandhill cranes fly together over a wetland area in Indiana. Every fall, thousands of migrating sandhill cranes visit the state’s marshes and wetlands, such as Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife Area. 

Marcia Straub / Getty

Americans are horrible judges of electability

The responses to this HuffPo poll, nicely written up by Ariel Edwards-Levy, are just nuts.  Yes, primary voters take electability into account when supporting candidates, but, apparently, they have no idea of actually assessing electability.  It seems to largely be a shortcut for “have I heard of this person.”  And, beyond that, I’m not even sure what.  The key chart:

Majorities of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters see Biden, Sanders and Warren as capable of defeating Trump in this No

This is ridiculous.  For starters, every single one of these people is electable if they get the Democratic nomination.  Every one (okay, maybe not Gabbard, but, maybe yes).  Yes, some are more or less electable than others, but the question is “capable of winning the general election.”  The idea that most of these people fail that test is beyond preposterous.  You may not know Deval Patrick, but I guarantee you if he had the Democratic nomination, he’s have a great shot at winning the general.  Same for John Delaney and same for Michael Bennet.  And, Andrew Yang for that matter.  And, there’s a pretty reasonable case that, given the nomination, all those names are more electable (by virtue of being able to win over the actual swing voters that exist) than Sanders.

The thing is, for virtually anybody, being the Democratic nominee gets you 90% of the way there.  Now, it is better to be Bernie and really excite the left but miss some disaffected Republicans?  Better to be Klobuchar and disappoint the left, but win over more people in the middle and maybe lose some votes for being a woman?  We don’t know.  I’d say based on existing evidence, there’s a much better case for Klobuchar, but it’s far from a certainty.  What I can say for certain is that, at least judging by polls like this, voters are horrible at judging who can win a general election.

On a very much related matter, I love this column from Paul Waldman for leaning into the uncertainty:

If you talk to the most passionate advocates for any Democratic presidential contender, they’ll tell you that their candidate will not just beat Donald Trump in the presidential election, he or she will destroy him. They each have their own theory about exactly why this will happen — Joe Biden will win working-class whites, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will energize young people, etc. — but they’re convinced that their candidate is the only one who doesn’t represent a huge risk of Trump winning reelection.

But it’s not too early to accept a fact about the general election, one that will not change no matter who the Democratic nominee is: Not only will this election be extremely close, it’s going to be nearly impossible to tell what will happen until Election Day.

That’s because the real uncertainty lies in this question: Who is the electorate actually going to be? We won’t know until they show up, or don’t, at the polls…

The more liberal Democrats believe they can expand the electorate by organizing and motivating young voters, single women, minorities and anyone else inclined to vote Democratic but who doesn’t always vote. Moderates like Biden and Klobuchar might pay some lip service to that idea, but their core strategy is to accept the composition of the electorate pretty much as it is but hope to convert some Trump voters and win a higher proportion of the small population of independents…

While polling can circle around questions of the electorate’s composition by asking people things like how certain they are to vote or whether they know where their polling place is, it’s extremely difficult to do with precision, not least because people routinely lie to pollsters to make themselves seem civically engaged. We just won’t know whether the efforts the parties have undertaken will work until Election Day.

Don’t like political uncertainty?  Get used to it till November 3.


President = dictator?

Hyperbolic?  A little.  But, sadly, only a little based on the absolutely preposterous arguments Republicans have been making in support of their hopelessly corrupt president.  I’m sure there’s lots of really good takes on this, but for now, Jonathan Bernstein is handy and his take is really good:

The president’s lawyers moved closer than ever to simply embracing the idea that the president can do whatever he wants. Alan Dershowitz even went so far as to argue that since presidents always think that their re-election is in the national interest, they cannot be legitimately impeached for any use of their powers of office to aid that re-election. This would have been good news for President Richard Nixon. And surprising news to pretty much everyone throughout U.S. history. [emphases mine]

It appears more and more that even if the House managers serving as the impeachment prosecutors are eventually allowed to call one or more witnesses, the trial will end after establishing the principles that the president may use the powers of the office any way he or she wishes to without constraint, and that presidents will no longer have any legal obligation to submit to congressional oversight. 

That said, future Congresses will still have plenty of weapons to use to fight back against presidential misbehavior. And it’s true that impeachment has never been a particularly strong congressional weapon. But now it will be weaker. Presidents will be emboldened, and the norm that the president’s party will exercise absolute fealty to the Oval Office, which has been building since the 1980s, will be even further strengthened.

The Republican Party, meanwhile, has fully surrendered to its least responsible members; not just Trump, but the worst of the House Freedom Caucus and its allies in the Republican-aligned media. There was a defense of the president available that involved accepting the overwhelming evidence that he had tried to use the powers of his office to force the government of Ukraine to help his 2020 re-election campaign, and declaring it not quite up to the level of impeachment and removal. Instead, the president’s team, with the support of most Republican senators and the apparent willingness of the rest to go along, staked out wild constitutional positions, used their time to throw mud (including flat-out falsehoods) at former Vice President Joe Biden and anyone else who gets in their way, and generally disgrace themselves. 

Believe me, I get the power of partisanship.  I get the power of power.  I get the power of electoral incentives.  But, damn, I have to admit I have nonetheless been surprised at Republicans’ willingness to utterly trash our constitutional system in support of this petty, incompetent tyrant.  Okay, I think that also means I don’t get the power of those things after all.  Or I just underestimate humans ability to debase themselves.  Ugh.

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