In Search of a Democratic Bogeyman

The stories non-Trumpy Republicans tell themselves.

Don’t miss TNB, the Thursday night livestream, only for Bulwark+ members. This Thursday it’s me, Charlie Sykes, Amanda Carpenter, and Mona Charen.

No both-sides bullshirt. No pulling punches. All #RealTalk.

Join now

1. The Future of the Democratic Party

A few weeks ago James Carville sat down with Bill Kristol to talk about the future of the Democratic party. In one aside, he mentioned a race he had his eye on:

There’s a race in Louisiana. It’s April 25th. It’s a runoff. And it’s actually going to say something. It’s a 60/30 percent Black district. A southern original district. And there’s a woman by the name of Karen Carter-Peterson, whose dad I knew was Ken Carter, is chairman of the Louisiana Democratic party, was in the state senate. But she’s running and she’s running as the Emily’s List, as the more woke candidate, et cetera, et cetera. And she’s running against a guy named Troy Carter, who’s on the New Orleans city council, he’s in the state house, he’s in the state senate. Kind of what you think he is. A good guy, nice guy. I talked to him for a long time. And he’s running as the bread and butter. And that’s going to tell you something . . . because they don’t have a lot of different issue positions. But I know she’s got Stacy Abrams and Donna Brazile and Emily’s List and all what you would expect.

And Troy’s got the mayor of Baton Rouge and the sheriff of this, kind of thing. But it’s going to be interesting to watch that race. . . .

The difference is it’s definitely a more woke, more national woke profile against a more Jim Clyburn working in the trenches kind of profile.

Well, the vote is in. And Troy Carter—the Clyburn-esque, traditional Democrat—won by 11 points.

Listen to marginal Republicans—the people who consider themselves outside of the Party of Trump—and you hear a lot of desperate attempts to construct a rationale for continuing to support Republicans.

They come up with all sorts of reasons. They’re concerned about debts and deficits! They like divided government! But the one I hear most is: Well, the Democrats are becoming a party of woke socialists and that’s just as bad as whatever the Republicans are now.

Except that . . . this isn’t true.

In the 2020 Democratic primary, the second place finisher from 2016—and so the presumptive front-runner—was an actual socialist. He was the best-funded candidate in the field and had the most extensive organization.

The normal, non-woke, center-left candidate beat him like a drum. And is now president.

The Democrats have unified control of the White House and Congress right now. In 2020 Republicans had warned that if this happened, Dems would pack the Supreme Court, institute socialism, and defund the police.

Let’s take a look.

Okay, that’s 1, 2, 3 . . . carry the 7, take the square root—yup. Still 9 justices on the Supreme Court.

How’s the stock market reacting to all the socialism we have up in this joint?

The stonks say: No socialism!

But surely the police have been abolished in keeping with all of the wokeness?

Oh. So the police are still a thing. Weird.

The Bulwark is 0.00% Fantasyland and 100% truthbombs. Stand with us.

Join now

Basically, most indicators show that what Democratic voters want, and what Democratic politicians are trying to enact, is: mainstream liberalism.

Troy Carter’s victory in Louisiana is one more data point in support of this proposition.

Do Democrats have a more radical progressive wing? Sure. But that wing is waning, not waxing. Look at the election results. Look at how Nancy Pelosi has managed her caucus.

Part of the reason the progressive wing of the Democratic party is receding is because they won: The entire country has become more liberal over the last 20 years. Both parties are in favor of big government. Both parties are against foreign interventionism. Gay marriage is fine with pretty much everyone. The vast majority of voters are in favor of entitlement spending to the moon.

On issue after issue, the Biden wing of the Democratic party now sits where most Americans sit.

If people want to keep voting for Republicans, that’s cool. But they ought to do it honestly, and not based on some elseworlds version of an imaginary Super Crazy Radical Democratic Party that is not currently governing America.

And while they’re at it, they ought to also have a clear view of who the actual, governing members of the Republican party are and what they seek to do.

One last thing: There’s a piece up over at National Socialist Greatness from a guy preening about not getting a COVID vaccine. It contains the most concise definition of modern conservatism yet written:

My primary reason for refusing the vaccine is much simpler: I dislike the people who want me to take it, and it makes them mad when they hear about my refusal. That, in turn, makes me happy. 

To put this in perspective:

  • 28 percent of Democrats are in favor of abolishing the police.

  • 40 percent of Republicans say they won’t get a COVID vaccine.

So let’s be real about which views are mainstream in which political party.

2. Law and Order

A fantastic email from reader/lawyer T. Greg Doucette about last Friday’s Triad:

Two small points to add:

(1) The Disney guy whining about his changed experience because people in full-sleeve costumes can have tattoos now? He's also the Chief Deputy District Attorney for Clark County, Nevada. These are the sort of people we have making decisions about how taxpayer money is spent on which criminal prosecutions.

(2) On the Carmageddon laws (see here if you don't get the reference), they're quite bad from a signaling standpoint but the ones I've reviewed so far don't substantively change how the law works. It's performative.

All of them provide immunity, but only where a driver "unintentionally" hits someone and only if they're "exercising due care" when it happens. But here's the thing: That's already how the law already works. The standard for negligence is accidentally injuring someone because you weren't exercising due care of a reasonable person in your same situation. The "magic language" legalese is that there was a duty of care owed by the driver, that duty was breached, and it caused the injured party's damages.

So the "immunity" exists in a theoretical sense, but can't kick in until the point of the civil lawsuit or criminal prosecution where it's determined whether the driver exercised due care—which are at the same points in time where we already have those determinations made (motion to dismiss / for summary judgment / trial verdict in a civil case, motion to dismiss / for judgment of acquittal / trial verdict in a criminal case).

It's all performative, convincing the MAGAland rubes that the laws are being rewritten to help them while nothing changes. It will almost certainly incentivize more attacks by people who consume news but don't read statutes. And IMO that makes it all worse than if the law actually was being changed.

3. Firestarter

A typically great Texas Monthly longread:

On the morning of March 1, Todd Lindley, a forty-year-old science and operations officer with the National Weather Service, walked into his office in Norman, Oklahoma, and sat down in front of his four computer screens. Lindley specializes in weather on the southern Great Plains, a mostly flat five-hundred-mile expanse that runs from Kansas to just below the Panhandle of Texas. That morning, on one of the screens, he noticed a storm system that meteorologists call a “midlatitude cyclone,” a pinwheel of clouds spinning counterclockwise over the open waters of the Pacific, two thousand miles away. Lindley wheeled his chair closer to that screen and typed a few commands on the keyboard. The computer projected that the midlatitude cyclone would reach the northwestern coastline of the United States by March 3, head toward the Rocky Mountains, and swoop down on to the southern Great Plains on March 6, bringing with it wind gusts of at least 50 miles an hour.

Lindley stared at his screen for several seconds. Then he murmured a single word. “Fire.”

For the past couple of months, Lindley had been worried about the possibility of a prairie fire sweeping across the southern Great Plains. After enduring several years of drought, the entire area had received a large amount of rain during the spring and summer of 2016, which in turn had produced an immensity of grass, three to four feet high in some pastures. Now, in these final days of winter, that grass was dormant and dry as hay. All that was needed to set that grass ablaze was a few sparks from an untended campfire, a passing train engine, a malfunctioning power line, or a cigarette butt thrown out a car window. 

Read the whole thing.