Maybe the Democrats Should Try Popularism
Plus: About Disney's “special privileges.”
The good news is that I am now officially double-boosted; the bad news is that I was out of it for most the day yesterday with the usual side effects. This may be reflected in today’s newsletter.
This comment is so revealing: “‘The Democrats are going to take care of the son of a bitch for us,’ Mr. McConnell said, referring to the imminent impeachment vote in the House.”
Ah, but as we know, the buck did not pass so easily.
If you read nothing else, make sure you check out this extraordinary story of rationalization, capitulation, and political cowardice in today’s New York Times: “‘I’ve Had It With This Guy’: G.O.P. Leaders Privately Blasted Trump After Jan. 6: In the days after the attack.”
The key line: “Yet none of the men followed through on their tough talk in those private conversations.”
No one embodies the stark accommodation to Mr. Trump more than Mr. McCarthy, a 57-year-old Californian who has long had his sights set on becoming speaker of the House. In public after Jan. 6, Mr. McCarthy issued a careful rebuke of Mr. Trump, saying that he “bears responsibility” for the mob that tried to stop Congress from officially certifying the president’s loss. But he declined to condemn him in sterner language.
In private, Mr. McCarthy went much further.
On a phone call with several other top House Republicans on Jan. 8, Mr. McCarthy said Mr. Trump’s conduct on Jan. 6 had been “atrocious and totally wrong.” He faulted the president for “inciting people” to attack the Capitol, saying that Mr. Trump’s remarks at a rally on the National Mall that day were “not right by any shape or any form.”
During that conversation, Mr. McCarthy inquired about the mechanism for invoking the 25th Amendment — the process whereby the vice president and members of the cabinet can remove a president from office — before concluding that was not a viable option. Mr. McCarthy, who was among those who objected to the election results, was uncertain and indecisive, fretting that the Democratic drive to impeach Mr. Trump would “put more fuel on the fire” of the country’s divisions.
But Mr. McCarthy’s resolve seemed to harden as the gravity of the attack — and the potential political fallout for his party — sank in. Two members of Mr. Trump’s cabinet had quit their posts after the attack and several moderate Republican governors had called for the president’s resignation. Video clips of the riot kept surfacing online, making the raw brutality of the attack ever more vivid in the public mind.
On Jan. 10, Mr. McCarthy spoke again with the leadership team and this time he had a plan in mind.
The Democrats were driving hard at an impeachment resolution, Mr. McCarthy said, and they would have the votes to pass it. Now he planned to call Mr. Trump and tell him it was time for him to go.
“What he did is unacceptable. Nobody can defend that and nobody should defend it,” he told the group.
Mr. McCarthy said he would tell Mr. Trump of the impeachment resolution: “I think this will pass, and it would be my recommendation you should resign.”
Discuss among yourselves: Given his comments about Trump, what are the chances now that McCarthy will become speaker if and when the GOP takes control of the House?
How about “popularism”?
I thought about including all of the recent polls, models, and projections for the midterms, but figured you’ve already been inundated with the grim news for the Democrats. Spoiler alert: It’s bad.
So perhaps this is good time to reintroduce Democrats to the concept of popularism. While some of the bright lights of progressivism are urging the party to double down on the politics that put them in their current hole, David Shor has a different, more radical idea: Why not run on issues that are actually popular with the voters who will decide the 2022 and 2024 elections?
Crazy stuff, I know.
Shor talked about it with Ezra Klein last year; and it seems timely… again.
The chain of logic is this: Democrats are on the edge of an electoral abyss. To avoid it, they need to win states that lean Republican. To do that, they need to internalize that they are not like and do not understand the voters they need to win over. Swing voters in these states are not liberals, are not woke and do not see the world in the way that the people who staff and donate to Democratic campaigns do.
All this comes down to a simple prescription: Democrats should do a lot of polling to figure out which of their views are popular and which are not popular, and then they should talk about the popular stuff and shut up about the unpopular stuff. “Traditional diversity and inclusion is super important, but polling is one of the only tools we have to step outside of ourselves and see what the median voter actually thinks,” Shor said. This theory is often short-handed as “popularism.”
As Klein writes, this “doesn’t sound as if it would be particularly controversial,” but it is.
There are folks who think that it doesn’t matter what Democrats say about anything because they are screwed anyway; and then there are the true-believers who continue to dominate the party.
Shor believes the party has become too unrepresentative at its elite levels to continue being representative at the mass level. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the people we’ve lost are likely to be low-socioeconomic-status people,” he said.
“If you look inside the Democratic Party, there are three times more moderate or conservative nonwhite people than very liberal white people, but very liberal white people are infinitely more represented. That’s morally bad, but it also means eventually they’ll leave.” The only way out of this, he said, is to “care more and cater to the preference of our low-socioeconomic-status supporters.”
Exit take: As this article by Alex Burns makes clear, spending massive amounts of money is not popular if no one notices.
Unlike the New Deal, however, this $1.9 trillion federal investment in American communities has barely registered with voters. Rather than a trophy for Mr. Biden and his party, the program has become a case study in how easily voters can overlook even a lavishly funded government initiative delivering benefits close to home.
Speaking of Popular
James Carville tells Greg Sargent that he was impressed:
“Enormously effective piece of communication,” Carville told me. “There’s really no comeback to it.”
Carville’s endorsement of this approach suggests how this McMorrow moment might push the stale “wokeness” debate in a more salutary direction. It might prod Democrats to rethink their responses to GOP attacks along these lines.
Disney’s “Special Privileges”
This is important. In retaliation for Disney’s opposition to his new law on gender education, Florida’s Ron DeSantis and his fellow GOPers are voting to strip Disney of the “special” legal status the company has enjoyed under Florida law.
WASHINGTON — The Florida Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would dissolve the special taxing district that allows the Walt Disney Co. to self-govern in its theme park area.
NR’s Charles C.W. Cooke (who happens to support the education bill, but thinks the retaliation is “misguided”) puts this in context. Republicans are arguing that “Walt Disney World is not ‘entitled’ to the setup it enjoys in Florida, that no law is guaranteed to ‘last forever,’ and that Disney’s special status, granted before 1968, was probably due for ‘reconsideration’ anyway.
As Cooke notes:
In a vacuum, these arguments are all defensible, but in context, they represent an extreme form of gaslighting. Until about a month ago, Walt Disney World’s legal status was not even a blip on the GOP’s radar. No Republicans were calling for it to be revisited, nor did they have any reason to. Yes, Disney isn’t “entitled” to its arrangement. But Disney wasn’t “entitled” to it in 2012, 2002, 1992, 1982, or 1972, either, and yet, amazingly enough, the legislature showed zero interest in rescinding it when given the opportunity on those occasions. That it’s doing so now is ugly. That it’s pretending that it’s doing so out of a concern for “good government” is grotesque.
Disney’s status is also not unique.
As it happens, Florida has 1,844 special districts, of which 1,288 are, like Walt Disney World, “independent.”
The Villages — where Governor DeSantis made his announcement about the review of Walt Disney World’s status — is “independent,” as are Orlando International Airport and the Daytona International Speedway.
Clearly, Walt Disney World is a weird place: It is the size of San Francisco, it straddles two counties (Orange and Osceola), and, by necessity, it relies on an infrastructure cache that has been custom-built to its peculiar needs. To claim that the laws that enable this oddity to work represent a “special break” is akin to claiming that the laws that facilitate special installations such as Cape Canaveral or the World Trade Center are “special breaks”: true, in the narrowest sense, but false when examined more closely.
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1. The Decay at the Claremont Institute Continues
Actually, it’s way worse than you can imagine. Laura K. Field brings the grim receipts:
The American Mind has made something of a habit of publishing pseudonymous writers: “Peachy Keenan,” “The Huntsman,” “Horatius,” “Rebecca,” “Privata,” and others. So it is, too, with the article worried about Western man’s sperm count—but its pseudonymous author, “Raw Egg Nationalist,” stands apart for having recently published a book with a Nazi publishing house. As in: a publishing house that is infatuated with Adolf Hitler.
A Daily Beast article from January referred to Antelope Hill as “openly fascist”; a blog that tracks reactionary racism labeled it “a white supremacist publishing company”; and Amazon has faced calls to stop selling its products. The Antelope Hill Twitter and Instagram feeds contain promotional material that playfully celebrates “uncle Hitler.” To celebrate Hitler’s birthday yesterday, Antelope Hill offered a discount on all its books, and an even bigger discount on a collection of Hitler’s speeches, with the cutesy discount code “birthday boy”:
2. Larry Hogan’s Successor May Be an Insurrectionist
What attracted Trump to Cox? For starters, the fact that Cox sought to impeach Gov. Hogan, a “Never Trumper” whom the former president never liked. The delegate’s impeachment attempt, premised on Hogan’s relatively mild COVID restrictions, lasted a grand total of six minutes.
Incredibly, the governor’s office responded to the proceedings with this: “This guy is known to be a QAnon conspiracy theorist. He’s got this weird obsession with the governor. Surprised it took this long, frankly.”
Indeed, Cox and his running mate, Gordana Schifanelli, have tweeted the QAnon hashtag #WWG1WGA. When asked about his use of the hashtag, Cox responded: “I support President Trump and General Flynn and that’s all my point was about.”