Discover more from The Bulwark
The Dobbs Backlash is Real
Plus: Democrats vs. Debt Forgiveness
“People think that the President of the United States has the power for debt forgiveness. He does not. He can postpone, he can delay, but he does not have that power.” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (who argued that loan forgiveness would require an act of Congress), July 2021
“I don’t think I have the authority to do it by signing the pen,” – President Joe Biden February 16, 2021
Ah, well, things change, especially in election years.
Let’s start with your daily must-reads:
“Archives asked for records in 2021 after Trump lawyer agreed they should be returned, email says,” Via the Wapo
“The Big Lie Messengers Who Carry a Badge and Gun,” Via Bolts
“Trump appears to concede he illegally retained official documents,” Via the Guardian
“Yes, It Was an Attempted Coup,” Via The Unpopulist
“Ken Paxton bucks legal precedent and secretary of state’s advice in letting anyone examine ballots right after elections,” Via Votebeat Texas
Morning Shots has already addressed the bad politics and bad policy of student debt forgiveness via presidential fiat. It’s hardly a surprise that conservatives are united in denouncing the deal to forgive up to $10,000 in student debt (and up to $20,0000 of debt for borrowers who previously received a Pell Grant).
But folks outside of the progressive Twitterverse may not get a sense of just how badly it is playing among some of their erstwhile allies — including Democrats in swing districts.
The headline in Politico’s Playbook sums up some of the blowback: “The centrist revolt against Biden’s student debt plan.”
Over at the Wapo, Megan McArdle provides a detailed critique of Biden’s “jaw-droppingly expensive plan for student loan forgiveness,” which she argues, is “actually going to make the problem of college costs worse, while increasing the political pressure for the government to shovel in even more subsidies.” The Post’s editorial board agrees: “Biden’s student loan announcement is a regressive, expensive mistake.”
Widely canceling student loan debt is regressive. It takes money from the broader tax base, mostly made up of workers who did not go to college, to subsidize the education debt of people with valuable degrees.
In the Dispatch, Brian Riedl puts the student loan erasure in context:
After all, if we have a moral obligation to relieve painful debts, why not start with mortgage debt ($11 trillion), auto loan debt ($1.5 trillion), or credit card debt ($860 billion)? Eliminating those debts would alleviate more suffering for more low-income families than student loan relief. Moving outside debt relief, why not spend those federal funds on health coverage for the poor, or tax credits for working families? Under no standard should upwardly-mobile college graduates be at the front of the line for expensive government assistance.
Not surprisingly, the GOP is united in opposition. But Biden’s move is also giving heartburn to Democrats. Josh Kraushaar reports in Axios, “Democrats running in battleground Senate and House races panned President Biden's student loan relief plan within hours of its release — a sign of fears that it could alienate swing voters in November.”
Sen. CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO (D-Nev.): “I don’t agree with today’s executive action because it doesn’t address the root problems that make college unaffordable. We should be focusing on passing my legislation to expand Pell Grants for lower income students, target loan forgiveness to those in need, and actually make college more affordable for working families.”
Rep. JARED GOLDEN (D-Maine): “This decision by the president is out of touch with what the majority of the American people want from the White House, which is leadership to address the most immediate challenges the country is facing.”
Rep. CHRIS PAPPAS (D-N.H.): “[T]his announcement by President Biden is no way to make policy and sidesteps Congress and our oversight and fiscal responsibilities. Any plan to address student debt should go through the legislative process, and it should be more targeted and paid for so it doesn’t add to the deficit."
Rep. SHARICE DAVIDS (D-Kan.): “It’s not how I would have addressed the issue.”
Rep. TIM RYAN (D-Ohio): “While there's no doubt that a college education should be about opening opportunities, waiving debt for those already on a trajectory to financial security sends the wrong message to the millions of Ohioans without a degree working just as hard to make ends meet.”
Sen. MICHAEL BENNET (D-Colo.): "In my view, the administration should have further targeted the relief, and proposed a way to pay for this plan. While immediate relief to families is important, one-time debt cancellation does not solve the underlying problem.”
And it’s not just the politicians. Here is President Obama’s former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors:
How bad is it? Even Bill Kristol is breaking bad.
Exit take: This is not the political winner the Biden folks thought it would be.
The Dobbs backlash
You may recall all of the confident punditry that assured us that the demise of Roe- v. Wade would not be a major factor in this year’s elections.
Well, no. The latest Pew poll shows that while the economy remains the dominant issue, “the issue of abortion has increased markedly in importance among Democrats following the Supreme Court’s decision ending the federal guarantee of a right to legal abortion in the United States.”
A majority of registered voters (56%) say the issue of abortion will be very important in their midterm vote, up from 43% in March. Virtually all of the increase has come among Democrats: 71% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters rate abortion as very important; fewer than half (46%) said this in March.
As Harry Enten notes, the results in the special election since Roe was overturned have a pretty clear message:
Since the high court decision, there have been four special House elections. The results share one thing in common: Democrats did better than Joe Biden in all of them.
Democrat Pat Ryan’s margin of victory in the special election for New York’s 19th Congressional District stands at a little over 2 points as of Wednesday afternoon. That’s better than Biden’s 1.5-point margin in the district in 2020. Ryan won by focusing his campaign on his support for abortion rights.
Although the 19th District race received most of the press, there was also a special election Tuesday for another upstate New York seat that tells the same Democratic overperformance story. Joe Sempolinski held the 23rd District for Republicans by a margin of about 6.5 points, as of Wednesday afternoon – President Donald Trump carried the seat by a little over 11 points in 2020.
All told, Democrats are averaging a 4-point overperformance in House specials since Roe was overturned. This is a 10-point shift from where they were on average before the ruling.
ICYMI: The Collapse of Reaganism
Charlie Sykes: Your book is an exploration of how and why Reaganism, which in the 1980s seemed to be the future — not only of the conservative movement, but of US politics more broadly — collapsed so quickly. And this may come as a
counterintuitive point. A lot of people think, 'Well, what we're experiencing now is a direct line from Reaganism.' But you would argue that Reaganism collapsed under the weight of this new culture. Talk to me about that.
Nicole Hemmer: Sure. So, one of the things that I think — because Reagan
looms so large mythologically on the right, and in American politics more broadly
— we forget the real Reagan, the Reagan who was very much a product of the
Cold War and whose politics were fundamentally shaped by the Cold War.
The sort of appeals that he makes to freedom and democracy are about combating
the Soviet Union. And so he embraces things like free markets and open
immigration, he proposes something in his 1980 campaign that's very similar to
the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.
And he has a kind of sunny optimism that he brings to his politics, not every corner of his politics, but he really did believe in this kind of upbeat, Big Tent conservatism.
By the time you get to the 1990s, you're dealing with something very different, the Cold War has ended. And so you have people like Pat Buchanan, who is a perennial presidential candidate, coming forward and saying, 'Actually, I'm not sure that democracy is necessarily the best way to run this country.' You have a politics that becomes almost instantaneously meaner and more media-oriented.
Hemmer: And you begin to see the rise of a Reagan-critical conservatism and
that takes a while to really take hold. I don't want to suggest that Reagan isn't in
the DNA of contemporary conservatism. But this much more media-based
democracy-skeptical. America First conservatism is getting underway in the
1990s in a way that I don't think we've fully appreciated until now.
You can listen to the whole thing here.
1. Charles Kesler Sees the Light
The Claremont Institute’s intellectual impresario belatedly admits his colleague John Eastman gave Trump bad advice. But Laura K. Field explains what he still can’t bring himself to say.
It must be said that any late concessions New Right intellectuals want to make to the truth of what happened in the 2020 election and on Jan. 6th are welcome. But what Charles Kesler and his intellectual confreres continue to avoid in their discussions of those events is the role they themselves played in fomenting the unrest that attended them. The consequences continue to buffet the country: Widespread distrust in electoral processes, especially among Republicans; a rise in militant and dehumanizing rhetoric, especially on the right; and the growing threat and reality of right-wing violence.
2. The Dugina Killing Aftermath
In today’s Bulwark, Cathy Young writes that the rabbit hole is deepening: Was it the Ukrainians? An FSB plot? Kremlin infighting?
Less than a week after the car bombing that killed Darya Dugina, the 29-year-old daughter of Russian ultranationalist guru Aleksandr Dugin and a rising far-right star, on a highway outside Moscow, the tale grows more twisted. There’s an alleged Ukrainian female killer named by the FSB (the successor to the Soviet KGB). There’s a ham-fisted attempt by the Kremlin to turn Dugina into a martyr. There are hints from members of Russian officialdom that retaliation could include assassinations in foreign capitals. And there are new revelations including an uncannily timed Telegram post by Dugin on the day of his daughter’s death.
Wisconsin politics explained in one image.