The last Democratic debate was a snooze fest. Aside from the pro forma Trump-bashing, this time over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the only memorable moments were former Vice President Joe Biden’s promise to pick a woman as his running mate and appoint a black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The high court nomination is blatant pandering to a key Democratic constituency. One might prefer he commit to considering candidates on their merits and legal experience rather than gender or skin color, but that would go against what it means to be a member of his party these days.
Of much greater interest is his plan for the vice presidency, an office he held for eight years under former President Barack Obama. Even though some will say otherwise, it’s not at all ghoulish to point out how, to put it subtly, the former vice president is bumping up against the upper ranges of the actuarial tables. If victorious, Biden’s ticket mate may end up occupying the Oval Office sooner than anyone voting Democrat in November might think.
The vice presidential candidate always comes under scrutiny, especially when the media starts probing for weaknesses that could hurt the top of the ticket. George McGovern’s chances in 1972, which were already slim to none, weren’t helped when the public learned his original running mate, Missouri Senator Thomas Eagleton, had at one time undergone electroshock therapy. Walter Mondale’s 1984 campaign against Ronald Reagan was hurt by ethical issues concerning the business affairs of his running mate’s spouse. And it’s generally agreed former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin did more to drag John McCain’s 2008 campaign down than she ever did to boost it up.Ads by scrollerads.com
Vice presidential choices matter, even if running against them is a nonstarter. Michael Dukakis found that out in 1988, when he warned about the possibility of “President Quayle” instead of focusing on George H.W. Bush’s vulnerabilities. Picking Al Gore helped Bill Clinton “pick the GOP lock” on the Electoral College in 1992, and eight years later, Gore was almost lifted into the White House by Florida voters who backed his selection of Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman for the No. 2 slot on his ticket.
Many political analysts are predicting that Biden’s pick will come from among the women who ran against him in the primary, most likely Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren or Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. Both, after all, were endorsed by The New York Times, and neither hit him too hard during any of the debates. They haven’t said anything particularly damaging that the media and GOP could exploit, and both have won office on their own.
Nevertheless, these analysts are wrong. Neither Warren nor Klobuchar helps Biden get any closer to the White House than he is now. The most important thing a running mate can do is deliver a state to the ticket that may be out of reach. Providing an ideological balance is nice but not usually helpful. Winning in a state you’re not expected to, as both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton found out in 2016, can be everything.
The Democrats have Massachusetts. And the progressives who bow to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders on every issue aren’t going to be any more persuaded to vote for Biden with Warren on the ticket. The one thing that unites most Democratic primary voters is the desire, some might call it an aching wish, to see Trump kicked out of office.
If the Biden campaign’s main theme is the need for a change at the top, ideology doesn’t matter. He’ll have the Democrats he needs. This is why Klobuchar, while she makes more sense than Warren, isn’t the right pick either.
Trump almost won Minnesota in 2016, but it hasn’t gone Republican since Richard Nixon’s re-election in 1972. It may be on the bubble; indeed, many GOP election experts think it is, but Klobuchar on the bottom of the ticket isn’t enough to guarantee it stays in the Democratic column. It’s a high risk–low reward pick that’s probably not persuasive enough, especially since African Americans, a key Biden constituency, have a problem with her that the GOP can exploit.
The Democrats also have California and, as Biden all but promised the next Supreme Court seat to Senator Kamala Harris, she won’t be the pick. Neither will Tulsi Gabbard, who endorsed him when she quit the race last week. He’s got Hawaii in his pocket.
Who does that leave? The smart pick, the one that helps Biden most and causes the most trouble for Trump is Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, whom most Americans met when she gave one of the more impressive responses to the president’s State of the Union address in recent memory.
Whitmer is a former prosecutor and former state legislator and, as a state chief executive, has vital leadership experience Biden lacks.
Biden has never been in charge of anything larger than a committee of the U.S. Senate. He can tout his experience with Obama all he wants, but he can’t get past the fact he worked for him, that the ultimate authority was always vested with someone else. Moreover, as someone who defeated her opponent in the general election, the statewide elected GOP attorney general, by 10 points she’s a proven vote winner in a state Trump needs to win re-election. And, as a bonus, her presence on the ticket would probably help keep Democrat Gary Peters, who is facing a stiff challenge from Republican John James that many expect him to lose, in the U.S. Senate.
Biden’s choice of running mate is the first major decision he’ll make. If he makes the right one, he may get to live in the White House. If he makes the wrong one, he hands his opponent an unexpected advantage that might lead to defeat.
And then there were two.
Thanks to South Carolina and Super Tuesday, the race for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination is between a candidate of the left and a candidate of the far left. The moderate, market-friendly, free-trade wing of the party has collapsed into nothingness. Clintonism is dead, long live the new left.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, whose come-from-behind and back-from-the dead win in South Carolina drove Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar out of the race, is widely considered to have been the big winner on Super Tuesday. True, he got more votes in 10 of the 14 states holding primaries that day but Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who took a third of the vote in California, also did exceptionally well.
The count as it now stands has Biden ahead but by only about 60 delegates. This is not, even given the way the remaining primaries and caucuses in the remaining states line up on the way to Milwaukee, so substantial a lead that it cannot be overcome.
This should give Biden pause. The combined vote for Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was bigger—outside the South anyway—than what Biden was able to draw. With Warren out and her vote presumably up for grabs, the calculations of future outcomes must be altered. The former vice president can no longer presume he’ll benefit from a split among primary voters who consider him part of the problem because he’s part of the party establishment.
One would think this would give the GOP pause as well, leading party leaders to think carefully about what President Donald J. Trump must do to secure a second term. Instead, they still seem to be counting on the vicious divisions among the opposition party to prevent the kind of unity needed to prevail in November.
This, to employ a shopworn but appropriate adage, is whistling past the graveyard. The turnout among Democrats participating in the 2020 nominating process is up considerably from 2016, suggesting the enthusiasm gap, which the Republicans hoped to benefit from, may not exist. Trump may have to fight to win.
To do that, he needs to have the kind of positive message that thus far seems to be eluding him. It will not be enough for him to define his opponent as so far outside the mainstream as to be unelectable—a strategy they are sure to use on Sanders and will try on Biden to see if it works. Trump is going to have to explain, to use his term, what he intends to do to “keep America great” in his second term. And, right now, with potential disaster seemingly around every corner, he’s not getting the job done. The fears connected to the spread of coronavirus are taking the markets and are poised to kick off a business contraction that could lead to a recession. If that happens, the president loses his principle talking point in favor of his re-election.
This may be why the scramble to respond to this entirely unexpected global crisis is being hyped by the mainstream, Trump-hating media as well as the Democrats but the epidemic is a reality the president and his campaign advisers must prepare to deal with. The fact he’s been right on many of the key points regarding ways to prevent the spread of the virus—by blocking incoming flights from China, by urging people to wash their hands repeatedly throughout the day, and his efforts to mobilize the free-market healthcare industry to get to work on a vaccine and a curative—isn’t helping calm people’s fears.
If you then add to all that the fact some people seem to have decided that since Trump appears to distort the truth its oaky for them to distort the truth in response and you have a recipe for disaster in the making, the kind that kills a re-election campaign in the cradle.
That the Democrats have moved so far away from the center in their drive to the left gives Trump and the other Republicans on the ballot in 2020 time to seize what historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., used to refer to as the “vital center” of American politics. Sanders and Biden will duke it out over whether real healthcare reform means ending private insurance and private health care in America—as some versions of the Medicare-for-All plan would do. The GOP, meanwhile, can step in with a reassuring message: not only will they preserve both, but also that what they’re prepared to defend what is, in fact, the best guarantor that the spread of a disease like the Coronavirus can be stopped before it becomes as lethal as the Spanish Flu, which killed so many Americans just over 100 years ago.
Despite what many analysts suggest, we’re a long way from clarity in this election. Sanders and Biden both have viable paths to their party’s nomination—and we still cannot discount the possibility a third candidate will emerge from a convention deadlock that could make for a whole new ballgame. The problem for Trump is that he must prepare for all these eventualities, while still performing the duties of his office which, to be candid, is a bigger challenge for him than the Mueller investigation or impeachment. The reason for this is simple: from here on out he’s at the mercy of “events” which, as former British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan once observed, are the thing most likely to take a government off the course chosen by its leader.
Column: How a flight to safety helped the former vice president
On the day before the South Carolina primary, the stock market finished its worst week since the global financial crisis of 2008. Fear of Bernie Sanders and of coronavirus had investors panicked. They wanted safe returns. Bond yields fell to record lows.
The flight to safety was not just economic. It was also political. When the future looks grim, you turn to the familiar. And there aren’t many politicians more recognizable than a man first elected to the Senate when Richard Nixon was president.
South Carolina was Joe Biden’s last defense. It held. Credit congressman Jim Clyburn with the assist. His February 26 endorsement was powerful—and more decisive than Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s backing of Sanders last October. Biden trounced the field in the Palmetto State, winning 48 percent to Sanders’s 20 percent.
The first signs of a Biden coalition of black voters, suburban women, and moderates became visible. These are the same people who returned the speaker’s gavel to Nancy Pelosi in 2018. After South Carolina, the non-Sanders vote consolidated behind Biden. And on Super Tuesday he pulled ahead in the delegate count.
Biden is too old to be called “the comeback kid.” He needs another moniker. Let’s call him “the comeback gramps.”
His achievement is something to behold. Not since 1992 has a candidate vaulted into frontrunner status after losing the first contests by such stunning margins. And circumstances were different 28 years ago. Back then, Iowa went to local hero Senator Tom Harkin. New Hampshire chose neighboring Senator Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts. Both men enjoyed homefield advantage.
Bill Clinton didn’t have a victory until Georgia and South Carolina. Whereupon his spin room went into action, persuading the media that the Arkansas governor was the “comeback kid.” Clinton was 45 years old at the time.
The bloom of youth left Biden long ago. And, for a while it seemed, so did any chance of becoming president. He placed fourth in Iowa. He came in fifth in New Hampshire. He finished a distant—light-years distant—second in Nevada.
Bernie Sanders and his red brigades threatened to sweep all before them. What saved Biden and the Democratic Party was panic. Worries over socialism, over handing the election to President Trump, but also over the invisible contagion whose global spread appears to be unstoppable.
Biden is not unstoppable. He’s had a great week. But it is not a straight line from here to the White House. For one thing, Sanders is still in the race. The slim possibility remains that he could deny Biden a majority of the 1,991 delegates necessary to win on the first ballot of the convention. That would complicate matters. And widen the Democratic divide.
Biden’s resuscitation was contingent on discrete events. Who knows what the situation would look like today absent Bernie’s striking momentum, Bloomberg’s flameout, Clyburn’s endorsement, South Carolina’s place on the electoral calendar, and the appearance of coronavirus? There is plenty of time for further developments. Not all of them will play to his advantage.
Biden is not a strong candidate. His brain and his mouth never seem to be in the same place at the same time. He hasn’t given a satisfactory answer to the question of what his son Hunter was doing on the board of a Ukrainian gas giant. He suffers from the brand confusion of a septuagenarian Washington insider calling for change. He has a habit of making bizarre and rude comments—to his own supporters. His agenda is vague at best and regressive at worst.
He promises a return to the status quo ante Trump. For many people, that’s enough. For how many? In which states? Biden is the secure choice, the comforting presence, the genial (if slightly out of it) grandpa you like to have around. You turn to him in threatening times not because of what he has done, but because of who he is. That is why Barack Obama put him on the ticket after Russia invaded Georgia. It is why so many Democrats chose him on Tuesday.
Threats recede. Panic fades. Good times return. And you are left with grinning, affable, ordinary, unexciting, flawed Joe Biden. Who might not be a safe bet after all.
It’s been a week and people are still fretting over the president’s most recent address to Congress. That’s unusual. State of the Union addresses are usually forgotten as soon as they’re over, dismissed as a lot of hot air and bluster that will not affect events as they move forward.
Not the president’s latest. Democrats are still complaining. To be fair, they’re on the money when they say it seemed more like a political rally than an official state occasion, but what did they expect? Donald Trump is a promoter at heart and a reality TV star, and he used every rhetorical device at his disposal to take his message right to the American people.
It worked, and well. If you have any doubt, consider the number of people who don’t like Trump still whining about it. The louder and longer they complain, the better things went for the president, something his post-speech bump in his approval rating demonstrates. For the first time, Democrats may be having to face the possibility that they’ve been farther out on a limb than is safe.
Consider that the enduring image of the speech, the one firmly fixed in voters’ minds, has nothing to do with Trump or his presidency or any of the made-for-TV moments involving his guests in the gallery. The one thing people remember, the one thing they see in their heads when they think about the speech, is the look on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s face when she ripped her copy into pieces as soon as he was finished.Ads by scrollerads.com
The best thing the Democrats have going for them headed into the next election is how unlikable, how obnoxious the president can be. As I’ve written before, he’s a living, breathing reminder to the rest of the country why they dislike New Yorkers so much. All the opposition had to do was sit there and smile, and they’d be favored to win in 2020.
Thanks to Pelosi, that advantage has, at least for the moment, been lost. She gave it away because of her self-righteous belief, shared by far too many in her party’s leadership, that most of the country hates Trump like she does.
“Flyover Country,” as the coastal elites deride it, is not San Francisco, Chicago or New York. You don’t have to look at the 2016 electoral map to see which candidates won what counties to see that. And that, at least in the current system, matters because that’s how we elect presidents. You can’t win just by running the numbers up in the major cities controlled by one party. You must win in Utah and Iowa and Alabama too.
The Republicans are having a field day with the footage of Pelosi tearing up Trump’s address. She tore up, they say, the story of a reunited military family. Of a little girl given a chance for a better future by an opportunity scholarship that will get her out of a failing public school. Of a 100-year-old newly promoted Air Force veteran who served his country faithfully in three wars over 30 years—even while it was doing him disservice after disservice because of the color of his skin—and of his grandson who wants to soar into the stars.
The Democrats are complaining that’s unfair. It’s not. Those stories were just as much a part of the speech as Trump’s list of his administration’s accomplishments, which she and her fellow party members write off as “lies.” They’ve gotten away with that for so long they’ve forgotten they need to address the opposition rather than ignore it.
Pelosi and company thought they had the upper hand. They’re coming to realize they don’t—and they don’t know what to do about it. No less than Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor emeritus who used to be the go-to guy for the official liberal position, has defected to Trump and is calling for Pelosi’s head, along with that of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. This is neither incidental nor inconsequential. And, when coupled with top political consultant James Carville‘s recent comments about how silly (or a word to that effect) the presidential candidates’ platforms are, should be sending up red flags all over the place.
Republicans, meanwhile, need to prepare for the moment—which should happen right after New Hampshire—for the Pelosi and company to realize they just might lose, and lose big, in 2020. If they do, things could get ugly.
The President answers his white-shirted enemies
The 2020 State of the Union address had all the elements of a Shakespearean drama. The setting was filled with tension and made for television. The primary picture showed the hero flanked on his right by his loyal acolyte, Vice President Mike Pence, and on the left by his archenemy, the little old lady of the Left, Nancy Pelosi, as he eloquently, at times even poetically, told America what he had accomplished with the responsibility the voters had given him while his enemies had been trying to destroy his presidency.
And it was quite a list! He has enhanced every facet of America’s welfare – from repatriating American manufacturing for both economic and national security reasons, to job creation, trade treaties, rebuilding the military, upgrading veterans’ health care, protecting our borders, to encouraging respect for the law enforcement community, protection of the right to bear arms, to the right to life of the unborn, the rights of parents to choose the education of their own children, to the fight against opioid addiction, human trafficking, and many more issues.
Half the room went wild – while the other half sat stoically on their hands, grim-faced and cold-hearted. They were represented symbolically by the action of the little old lady of the Left, as she sat in full view of the audience and the camera. Watching her was fascinating. Most of the time, she sat there with a slight scowl on her face, occasionally shaking her head at some statement by the speaker. Her torture had started when the President ignored her out-stretched hand after he handed her a copy of the speech. (One could hardly blame him for refusing to shake the hand which has tried to kill his office, his reputation, the rest of his life.) He was not going to forgive and forget this sworn enemy.
After that, she steadfastly avoided standing to applaud each remarkable achievement being noted, frequently squirming, sometimes trying to get Mr. Pence’s attention – which was also ignored.
Then came the salutes by Mr. Trump to a series of individuals. First, she hesitated; then she realized that she was not against these heroic people; so, she jumped up and applauded. Thereafter, she could be seen each time trying to decide whether to join the room or not.
One “not” was the President’s attention to a two-year-old child who had been the first survivor of a premature birth at 21 weeks. A poignant moment not shared by Grandmother Pelosi.
In the end, she stood and ceremoniously tore her copy of the speech in half in full view of the camera — and the nation. A fitting end by a hateful woman toward this hated man.
Indeed, the most impressive feature of the entire Democrat party in that hall last night was the tangible hatred demonstrated toward the President and all he stands for — and, by extension, all those people who stand with him.
This attitude was crystalized by the President’s attention to Rush Limbaugh, who was sitting in the gallery next to First Lady, Melanie Trump. Limbaugh announced last Monday that he has been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.
When Mr. Trump announced the presentation to Mr. Limbaugh of the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the popular, but visibly astonished, 69-year-old broadcast pioneer, some of the Democrats started shouting, “No! No!” Their hatred might be understood since the younger ones were raised by liberal parents who considered Rush Limbaugh the archenemy of all that was sacred to them. But there is no denying that he is the most listened-to radio host of all time and the “father” of a whole new genre called “conservative talk show hosts” (of which this writer is one). It was not the time or place to demonstrate against this stricken giant.
In all, the 2020 State of the Union speech by President Donald John Trump was perhaps the most riveting, dramatic and exciting speech of its kind in recent memory, if not in American history.
Postscript: In the ultimate irony, the first Democrat response featured the Governor of Michigan, whose theme was that the Dems get things done, while the Republicans just talk. After 75 minutes of listening to the President give us a list of “promises kept” which may be the longest and most comprehensive list of actions by any president in American history in contrast to the “Do-Nothing” Democrats. She exemplified the fact that the Dems simply cannot seem to hear anything this President says.
If and when the race narrows to the strongest candidate in each ‘lane,’ Democrats will be forced to focus on the only questions that really matter to them.
Sure, anything can happen, and pundit predictions are hardly worth the pixels that deliver them. But if I were phoning my bets overseas to PaddyPower, I’d buy Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden and short Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg. The four-person race looks set to become a two-person race in the near future, and I think the dynamic will be self-reinforcing. Biden vs. Bernie: a race for the ages — and the aged.
Biden has basically stayed at the top of the heap since he entered this race. He’s done so despite substandard fundraising and no cheering section in the media. Many Democrats detest the fact that he is leading. They worry about his verbal slip-ups and his politically incorrect statements. They don’t want the Democratic standard-bearer in 2020 to be a man old enough to remember doing deals with segregationists, much less one who seems proud of that history. They fear that he would become the party’s Bob Dole, a past-his-prime senator who got the nod through sheer seniority, unable to take on the energetic, if sleazy, incumbent. Yet while he’s been attacked by younger, hungrier, more diverse candidates, Biden has maintained his dominant position among African-American voters and kept a healthy plurality of the older Democrats who turn out in primary elections. And front-runners have a tendency to sweep through divided fields.
Standing in his way is Bernie, who is surging two weeks before Iowa, in striking distance of the lead there and, according to one reliable poll, holding a decent lead in New Hampshire. Part of his national surge is his increased performance among non-white voters.
I’d bet on the field to narrow to these two for two reasons.
First, there’s a tendency for the top-polling candidates going into Iowa to overperform in the final results, because the caucusing process ultimately forces supporters of low-performing candidates to cast their votes for stronger ones. Second, the possibility of Bernie’s winning may drive a stampede toward Biden or vice versa.
The emergence of a head-to-head race between Biden and Sanders would immediately clarify the choices for Democrats.
One septuagenarian — Sanders — has recently suffered a heart attack. The other septuagenarian — Biden — frequently seems to have senior moments in the middle of his sentences. A race between these two could eliminate age as a relevant dynamic, leaving clear questions of electability and ideology on the table.
And what then? On one side there is Biden, the more moderate Democrat who scares nobody by design — he’s framed his entire campaign as a return to normalcy — but doesn’t excite progressive activists. On the other side there is Sanders, whose has argued in recent debates that he is electable because he has the backing of a large, young, grassroots movement whose enthusiasm will become contagious. The viability of one could drive the viability of the other.
After many pointless hours debating the ins and outs of Platonic health-care reforms that will never be implemented and many pointless minutes worrying about personality, a Biden–Sanders clash would focus the race on the only questions that really matter to Democrats: Should the party move to the left or to the center? Do the necessary voters in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin want a major revision to the American economic model, or do they merely want a Democratic candidate who connects with them on the gut level, who won’t call them deplorable?
Those are debates worth having, and Democrats may have them sooner than you’d think.
It is arguable that foul, fetid, fuming, foggy, filthy Philadelphia is already so messed up that it can’t be made much worse, but some new City Councilmen are going to try. From The Philadelphia Inquirer:
by Laura McCrystal | Updated: January 6, 2020 | 5:00 AM
A younger, more liberal City Council is coming to Philadelphia.
Council members will take their oaths of office Monday at the Met Philadelphia, where Mayor Jim Kenney also will be inaugurated for a second term.
Poverty, gentrification, gun violence, education funding, and cleaning up environmental hazards in city schools are among the issues likely to take center stage in 2020. That’s according to interviews last week with several of the 17 new and returning members. Although Council members did not offer many specifics on bills they plan to introduce, they said there’s new energy and political will to focus on those issues.
“Council seems to be coalescing around those critical needs,” said Councilmember-elect Jamie Gauthier, who upset longtime incumbent Jannie L. Blackwell to represent the Third Council District in West Philadelphia. “And I think that’s because of what we’re hearing from people in neighborhoods and because we’re looking at the hard numbers.”
At the end of the last Council session, lawmakers enacted the first changes to the controversial 10-year tax abatement for new construction in almost two decades. And Council President Darrell L. Clarke has convened a special committee to address poverty, with an ambitious goal of reducing the number of Philadelphians living in poverty by one-quarter, from about 400,000 to 300,000, in the next four years.
Let’s get real here: the City of Brotherly Love has been governed by the Democrats for decades upon decades. Bernard Samuel, who left office on January 7, 1952, was the last Republican Mayor of Philadelphia. Put another way, George VI was still King of England the last time Philly had a Republican leadership.
The new Council will be younger and more progressive, as four newcomers take office. Councilmember-elect Kendra Brooks of the Working Families Party won an at-large seat long held by Republicans, one of two effectively set aside for candidates outside the Democratic Party. She will be joined by three new Democratic colleagues: Gauthier and at-large members-elect Katherine Gilmore Richardson and Isaiah Thomas.
Now, what do these new members want to do? Kendra Brooks wants to impose rent control, because, naturally, cutting the profits of landlords is going to make them invest more money into their properties. Helen Gym wants to reduce the 10-year developmental tax abatement to produce additional tax revenue to go into ‘affordable housing,’ because of course developers will want to build more affordable housing if it makes them less money. Jamie Gauthier wants to change zoning laws to ‘require affordable housing’ in new developments, because it just goes without saying that reducing the values of higher end housing by building lower-end housing next to them will generate increased profits and encourage developers.
Philly is a city in which the unions have a stranglehold over construction: while it’s possible to try to build with non-union labor, pickets and other union harassment impose all sorts of additional costs. Thus, the price of construction is higher than it might otherwise be, and the ‘progressive’ councilmembers want to lower profit margins even more.
Misses Gym and Brooks have made statements that they’d like to impose a local version of the ‘Green New Deal’ on the city, which can only increase costs on everybody, a kind of silly way to combat poverty.
Liberals have held almost total control in Philadelphia for decades, but liberal policies haven’t helped much, and the city has “lost 600,000 population since 1950, 70,000 in the last decade alone,” according to a Wharton School paper from 2017. People have been fleeing the city, because the Democrats’ policies haven’t worked. The city has a consistently high crime rate, which the City Council is attempting to solve by hiring the aptly-named Danielle Outlaw, formerly the top cop in Portland, Oregon and a Deputy Police Chief in Oakland, California — which has the Pyrite State’s highest crime rate — as Police Commissioner. Under Commissioner Outlaw’s tenure in Portland, that city had a crime rate significantly above the national average. Combine that with District Attorney Larry Krasner, who hates the police and doesn’t pursue supposedly petty offenses, and it’s a prescription for even more disaster.
Well, let’s just call it an experiment. The voters took a liberal local government, and pushed it even further to the left. Only time will tell whether Philadelphia gets better or gets worse. But it makes me glad that I no longer pay taxes in Pennsylvania.
It’s official. Black Lives really don’t Matter. At least not inside the Democratic Party.
For a party so thoroughly obsessed with race, it is amazing just how white they are.
If you were one of the Americans who declined to tune into last week’s Democratic debate, you missed just how thoroughly white the party of Barack Obama has become.
There was one candidate white as the snow drifts of Minnesota, two white socialists from the Northeast, a bumbling white former vice president and a white billionaire. And then a white mayor of a university town in Indiana.
The only drop of pigmentation on the stage came in the form of businessman Andrew Yang, who also happens to be the least insufferable of the bunch. Actually, Mr. Yang can be downright interesting at times and seems like he is at least trying to be honest when he speaks — something you cannot say about anybody else presently running for the Democratic nomination.
Obviously, the vast, vast majority of normal Americans have long ago moved on from paying any mind to such irrelevant nonsense. But the Democratic Party remains obsessed with race and making everything about race. So, if we are going to judge anyone by those standards, we should start with the Democratic Party.
Adding actual injury to insult, one of the dazzlingly white Democrats on the stage last week actually spent her entire white-privileged adult life pretending to be a woman of “color” to take advantage of programs designed to help actual people of color overcome past inequalities.
Part of me really hopes that Sen. Elizabeth Warren wins the nomination so that political opposition researchers can dig up all the deserving people who were denied opportunities at Harvard so that Ms. Warren could play cowboys and Indians.
Nowhere do Democrats’ pandering claims about Black Lives Matter ring more hollow than in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Gov. Ralph Northam remains in office despite his sordid history of wearing blackface, dressing up as — or alongside — a Ku Klux Klan member and calling himself “Coonman,” which many perceived as a racially motivated pejorative. Such a scandal would sink any politician.
But Ralph Northam? The leader of the Virginia Democratic Party? Nope.
Turns out, if you really don’t give a rip about all your party’s platitudes about racial sensitivity and how Black Lives Matter, you can do whatever you want and never pay a price. Also, it helps to be utterly shameless.
Nobody is prouder of this than Mr. Northam himself.
“I am the leader of this party,” he bragged in an interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch as the anniversary of his blackface scandal drew near.
“Virginians have stuck with me and I am proud that they have,” he said, modestly, without providing evidence for such a claim.
“If you look at my life, at least my adult life, it’s been one of service,” he said. By “adult life,” Mr. Northam presumably meant his post-blackface life.
A lot of people are dunking on Michael Moore for declaring that he now represents the center of the Democratic party, and they’re enjoying it, and they ought to. But he might not be completely wrong in that self-assessment, and it’s both a statement about him and a statement about the Democratic party.
Put aside everything you can’t stand about Michael Moore for a moment. (I know, it’s a lot.) But Moore’s political vision has always had a strong populist streak that aligns a lot with elements of the 2016 Donald Trump campaign. His 1989 documentary, Roger and Me was all about Moore’s anger that General Motors was ending production of automotive parts in factories in Flint, Mich., while increasing production of parts in Mexico. Moore sees America’s corporate class as a bunch of selfish, greedy snobs who show little or no appreciation for the workers that enable their profits or the country that gave them their opportunities. That leftist view of 1989 feels pretty mainstream three decades later — and not just in the Democratic party.
In July 2016, Michael Moore shocked many of his allies by predicting that Donald Trump would win the presidential election. Moore’s assessment is eerily prescient, warning his political allies that working-class voters in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin felt “abandoned by Democrats who still try to talk a good line but are really just looking forward to [vulgar euphemism] with a lobbyist from Goldman Sachs who’ll write them nice big check before leaving the room. What happened in the UK with Brexit is going to happen here.”
He also warned about Hillary, whom he said he personally believed had gotten a bad rap, but “nearly 70 percent of all voters think she is untrustworthy and dishonest. She represents the old way of politics, not really believing in anything other than what can get you elected. That’s why she fights against gays getting married one moment, and the next she’s officiating a gay marriage.” Finally, he reminded people about the unexpected victory of independent Jesse Ventura in 1998: “Minnesota is one of the smartest states in the country. It is also filled with people who have a dark sense of humor — and voting for Ventura was their version of a good practical joke on a sick political system. This is going to happen again with Trump.”
Moore’s a progressive through and through, but he periodically reveals a seething disdain for the hypocrisies and phoniness of the Democratic party’s elite leadership class. And you get the feeling that while Moore isn’t opposed to woke culture and the various crusades that rile up the Twitter Left, he would prefer a Democratic party much more focused on improving the quality of life for America’s working class. He’ll never make a film about how “Latinx” should replace the term “Latinos.”
Meanwhile, certain kinds of Democrats are nearly extinct — pro-life Democrats (other than Louisiana Governor Jon Bel Edwards) pro-gun Democrats, the kinds of reformers who used to make up the old Democratic Leadership Council. Democrats to the right of Michael Moore are fewer, and Democrats to the Left of him are more numerous. He stood still; the party moved around him.
Pundits who spend their time on cable news wondering why so many Americans have tuned out their “country over party!” talk need look no further than at an excellent piece in today’s New York Times, in which Trip Gabriel correctly describes the turn of events that led to Ralph Northam keeping his job as governor of Virginia:
Party officials and analysts in Virginia said Mr. Northam owed his political survival to fortuitous events as well as his own efforts.
Just days after the surfacing of Mr. Northam’s 1984 yearbook photo — with one figure in blackface and another in Ku Klux Klan robes — the lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, was accused of sexual abuse by two women, which he denied. Before the week was out, Attorney General Mark R. Herring acknowledged he had worn blackface as a college student.
With the state’s top three Democrats compromised, the desire to force them from office and make way for the Republican next in line lost appeal to many in the party.
This is exactly correct. Effectively, the Democratic party and its allies took the view that the alleged bad behavior of one top Democrat was terrible and should lead to immediate resignation, but that the alleged bad behavior of all the top Democrats was worth ignoring in case the Republican party gain an advantage. Or, to put it mathematically, Democrats in Virginia decided that one was a bigger number than three. Had Northam been the only top Democrat who was embroiled in scandal, he’d likely have gone. But, because all of them were embroiled in scandal, doing something about it “lost appeal to many in the party.”
Later in the piece, Gabriel makes it clear that, for many Virginia Democrats, the issues were simply more important:
“The liberal groups that should have continued to put pressure on Governor Northam for this scandal made the political calculation that it was better for their self-interest to shut up about it,” said Will Ritter, a Republican strategist in the state.
Whatever doubts that lingered with Democratic voters about state leadership were largely banished in the summer, when the governor called the Legislature back to Richmond to pass gun restrictions after a mass shooting in Virginia Beach on May 31.
I read the calls for Northam’s resignation, many of which accused the man of no less a crime than having reopened the wounds of slavery, segregation, and the Civil War. It is interesting to learn that these infractions can be forgiven if one organizes a symbolic special session on a hot-button issue.
Why do so many people stick with Trump despite his terrible behavior? Why won’t Republicans put “country over party?” Why is the specter of the other side so powerful relative to the realities of one’s own? Virginia Democrats know the answers to these questions. And they ain’t pretty. I wish devoutly that it were not, but this is the age we live in, and its failings are by no means limited to one side.
Column: Education, immigration, and densification
So this is what it feels like to live in a lab experiment. As a native Virginian, I’ve watched my state come full circle. The last time Democrats enjoyed the amount of power in the Old Dominion that they won on Tuesday, I was entering middle school in Fairfax County.
In 1993 the governor was a Democrat, one of two U.S. senators was a Democrat, Democrats held 7 of 11 House seats, and Democrats controlled both the House of Delegates and the state Senate. Next year, the governor will be a Democrat, both U.S. senators will be Democrats, Democrats will hold 7 of 11 House seats, and Democrats will control both the House of Delegates and the state Senate. Hardly anything has changed. Except for the Commonwealth itself.
President Trump so dominates the popular imagination that every election result is described in relation to his job approval and conduct in office. Trump is unpopular in Virginia, and suburban voters are eager to rebuke him at the polls. But the story of this particular Democratic winning streak is less about Trump than it is about long-running demographic and cultural transformation. He catalyzed changes decades in the making.
The former capital of the Confederacy is now a hub of highly educated professionals, immigrants, and liberals whose values are contrary to those of an increasingly downscale, religious, and rural GOP. Democrats continue to benefit from the shift in the college-educated population toward progressivism. Not only are Republicans increasingly bereft of a language in which to talk to these voters. They may be incapable of doing so. The two sides occupy different realities.
Virginia has followed broader trends of enrichment, immigration, and densification. John Warner’s election to the U.S. Senate in 1978 was an early sign of the Republican revival in the South. The election of 1993, which brought George Allen to the governor’s mansion, was a preview of the Republican Revolution the following year. In 2000, Allen joined Warner in the Senate.
For the next year, the governor and both U.S. senators were Republicans. Then Mark Warner won the governor’s mansion, then Jim Webb defeated Allen, then Warner replaced Warner (confusing, I know), and except for a brief appearance by Governor Bob McDonnell, Democrats have held all statewide offices since.
Over the last 29 years, Virginia has become wealthier, more diverse, and more crowded. The population has grown by 42 percent, from 6 million in 1990 to 8.5 million. Population density has increased by 38 percent, from 156 people per square mile to 215. Mean travel time to work has increased from 24 minutes to 28 minutes. The median home price (in 2018 dollars) has gone from $169,000 to $256,000. Density equals Democrats.
The number of Virginians born overseas has skyrocketed from 5 percent to 12 percent. The Hispanic population has gone from 3 percent to 10 percent. The Asian community has grown from 2 percent to 7 percent. In 1990, 7 percent of people 5 years and older spoke a language other than English at home. In 2018 the number was 16 percent.
If educational attainment is a proxy for class, Virginia has undergone bourgeoisification. The number of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher has shot up from 25 percent of the state to 38 percent. As baccalaureates multiplied, they swapped partisan affiliation. Many of the Yuppies of the 80s, Bobos of the 90s, and Security Moms of the ’00s now march in the Resistance.
Nationwide, “In 1994, 39 percent of those with a four-year college degree (no postgraduate experience) identified with or leaned toward the Democratic Party and 54 percent associated with the Republican Party,” according to the Pew Research Center. “In 2017, those figures were exactly reversed.” Last year, college graduates favored Senator Kaine over challenger Cory Stewart by 20 points.
All of these developments are more pronounced in the most important part of the state: northern Virginia. Fairfax County has grown from 800,000 people to 1.1 million. The percentage of foreign-born residents has gone from 16 percent in 1990 to 31 percent in 2018. The number of Hispanics has more than doubled from 6 percent to 16 percent. The number of Asians has almost tripled from 8 percent to 20 percent.
Slightly less than half of Fairfax County residents held a bachelor’s degree or higher in 1990. Now that number is 61 percent. The median home price has gone from $225,000 to $535,000. In 1992, George H.W. Bush and Ross Perot won a combined 58 percent in Fairfax. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won 64 percent of the vote.
When I was growing up, Loudoun County was considered a rural area disconnected from the rhythms of the Beltway. In the years since, its population has exploded from 86,000 people to 407,000. The percentage of foreign-born residents has gone from 6 percent to 24 percent. A county population that was 3 percent Hispanic and 2 percent Asian is 14 percent Hispanic and 20 percent Asian. The percentage of the county with a bachelor’s degree or higher has gone from 33 percent to 60 percent. Loudoun is the richest county in America. Fairfax is second. In 1992, Bill Clinton won 35 percent of the vote in Loudoun County. Twenty-four years later, his wife won 55 percent.
As Virginia has moved into the Democratic column, the state Republican Party has become more populist, more nationalist, and more culturally conservative. The dwindling number of Republicans who spoke the language of suburbia could not escape their party’s national reputation for hostility to immigrants and opposition to progressive ideals. A similar process occurred in states like California, Colorado, and Nevada. It may also be underway in Arizona and Texas (!).
Virginia became a blue state as the world celebrated the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The political development of the Commonwealth is emblematic of America in the post-Cold War world. The Republican Party found it no longer could count on unwavering support from the upscale college-educated white voters who once made up its base. The cultural churn produced by a migrant-driven, globalized, information-based economy gave suburban America a different population, with a different structure of values, which looks upon social conservatives as ambassadors from Mars.
The GOP has a path to the presidency and to congressional majorities. But it does not go through my old Virginia home.
Bill package includes federal rent control, welfare for illegal immigrants and ex-cons
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren endorsed a Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) policy proposal that includes taxpayer-funded welfare benefits for illegal immigrants.
Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal, dubbed “A Just Society,” calls for nationwide rent control and bans the federal government from denying welfare benefits based on an individual’s immigration status and previous criminal convictions. Warren became the first Democratic presidential candidate to endorse the plan, calling it “just the type of bold, comprehensive thinking we’ll need” to make “big, structural change.”
Ocasio-Cortez is considered to be “one of the most important endorsements in America,” and Warren’s immediate support of her latest policy marks another attempt to win the freshman congressman’s nod of approval. Warren’s quick embrace of Ocasio-Cortez’s plan is the latest sign of the social media superstar’s policy impact on the Democratic presidential field.
Neither Ocasio-Cortez nor Warren returned requests for comment.
Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal, consisting of six separate bills, calls for the expansion of welfare. Bills three and four make it illegal for the federal government to deny welfare benefits to ex-convicts and illegal immigrants. The legislation does not address how to pay for the rising cost of welfare, nor does it explain how it would accomplish its goals.
“It’s been really hard for me to find housing. I have the money to move places and stuff, but they deny me for my felony history. It’s not right,” a man with a face tattoo said in the legislative package’s announcement video.
Ocasio-Cortez’s second bill, titled “The Place to Prosper Act,” calls for federal rent control by imposing a 3 percent national cap on annual rent increases. Similar legislation has failed at the local level amid concerns that such policies increased housing prices while limiting supply. A recent study by the American Economic Association found that San Francisco rent control policy “drove up market rents in the long run, ultimately undermining the goals of the law.” The Council of Economic Advisers found that in 11 metropolitan areas with housing regulations, deregulation would reduce homelessness by an average of 31 percent. More than 80 percent of economists surveyed by the University of Chicago in 2012 found rent control to be bad policy.
Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal also includes an official poverty guideline that accounts for “new necessities,” such as internet access, while the fifth bill creates a “worker-friendly score” based on union membership and other factors that would be used to evaluate or award government contracts.
The last bill in Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal establishes health care, housing, and healthy food as government-provided rights.
All major Democratic presidential candidates quickly supported the Green New Deal, including Warren, Sanders, former vice president Joe Biden, and South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg.
To date, only Warren has endorsed “A Just Society.”