Monday, August 13, 2018

A Voice from the West

While I don’t have a ton of GOP sources in West HoCo, I am fortunate to know Clive Hammerjets*.

Clive, while not a Republican himself, could best be described as possessing a set of beliefs that are unobjectionable in more conservative circles, somewhat akin to Jack’s from Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest,” as revealed in his conversation with Lady Bracknell:

LADY BRACKNELL.  …What are your politics?

JACK.    Well, I’m afraid I really have none.    I’m a liberal unionist.

LADY BRACKNELL.  Oh, they count as Tories.  They dine with us, or come in the evening, at any rate.  Now to minor matters…

Clive knows a number of Republicans from out there, socially, and his take-away is that more than a few local GOP activists are viewing 2018 as a lost cause – and are taking the opportunity to look out for their own personal/political interests.  They may say the right things in public, or to each other’s faces, but behind closed doors (and after a pop or two) they are disparaging certain Republican office-holders/seekers (so much for Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment, eh?) and are focused on calculating what is best for them, as individuals, in 2018, 2022 and beyond.

Does this mean that a significant percentage of Novotny voters – eager for change - might take a pass on casting a ballot for Senator Bates in November?  The District 5 primary got ugly, and some Republicans are not thrilled at the prospect of Yungmann being their standard-bearer on the Council (much less him holding onto the seat for four years…or longer).  Can Ziegler and Bolen ride a Blue Wave over Kittleman and Miller in 9A? Flanagan’s primary GOTV operation looked creaky, and the smart money is on Watson to knock him out in 9B.    

Of course Republicans have demonstrated a tendency to be fissiparous in the past…but they usually fall in line for General Elections.  I am not 100% certain this will be the case across the board in HoCo in 2018.  This means strong candidates such as Katie Fry Hester, China Williams and the aforementioned Natalie Ziegler, Steven Bolen, and Courtney Watson are operating within a climate favorable for Democrats this cycle.  We must make the most of these opportunities.  Hard work and compelling messaging are vital success components.  And a divided, Trump-led GOP definitely helps.

Coming up soon: we will turn to the East for another look at District One.

In solidarity.

* Possibly not his (or her) real name. 


Thursday, August 9, 2018

F Troop

I leave town for a few days and all sorts of shenanigans break out. I was planning on spending the day figuring out how I can become the publisher of Aruba Today (“Aruba’s ONLY English newspaper”) within two years but that is going to have to wait.  Thanks.

Let’s focus on the Ben Jealous f-kerfuffle for a moment.  For a moment is all it deserves.

The more important story surrounding the campaign is the continuing trickle of the defectors known as “Democrats for Hogan.”  History will not remember them kindly, if at all. More on them later. That said, most Democrats (dare I say “real Democrats”) are enthusiastically supporting the Jealous-Turnbull ticket.

Turning to the core of the question recently posed by the reporter, the query which elicited an authentic if somewhat inelegant reply, neither Ben Jealous nor his campaign could be described as “socialist.”

If you fundamentally accept a capitalist framework, as Jealous (a venture capitalist himself) does, it’s hard to argue that he is a socialist…unless one is being obtuse. A more fitting descriptor would be “social democrat.”  At the risk of being reductive (and for the sake of brevity and accessibility), we can define a social democrat as one who believes that increased public control/oversight of certain services and industries…within the bounds of a capitalist economy…is a good thing.  The Nordic countries are the best representations of this model, where so-called “mixed economies” with strong welfare states exist within small-l liberal democracies.  They share certain features, such as universal health care systems and heavily subsidized public education programs.  In this regard, Medicare-for-All proposals fall within such a framework.  Of course Jealous is talking about enacting such a policy in Maryland apart from whatever transpires nationally.

A working definition of socialism, if I may borrow from Clause IV of the 1918 constitution of the UK’s Labour Party (which is not a socialist party, but one with socialists in it) involves a commitment… “to secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.”

So while social democrats and democratic socialists may be close on whatever political spectrum you may wish to employ, there is a fundamental difference. Social democrats wish to reform capitalist systems to remove inequities wherever possible whilst democratic socialists want to replace capitalist structures with a competing economic system that centers on “common ownership.” 

Most of the present-day confusion about these terms stems from the fact that the Democratic Socialists of America (many of whom are really social democrats, including Bernie Sanders) has received so much media attention in recent years.  Meanwhile, there is no organization of any consequence in the United States that is waving the social democracy banner.    

Since Ben Jealous allied himself with Sanders, who is closely associated with the label “socialist” in the public consciousness although the Senator’s own history reveals a distancing from that descriptor  - check out this link:  - I suppose the fundamental question raised by the reporter isn’t completely out of line.  From an optical perspective, the campaign’s communications on this point could and should have been better.  That said, if people (notably Democrats) are using this as an excuse to chastise Jealous and consider voting for Hogan, well, they need to fucking grow up and think about what is really obscene: the f-word or policies that hurt the most vulnerable among us.

In solidarity.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

No Ticket! Taking the Long View...

From the Uber-Yurt of S. MacCune

Apparently Mr. Well-look-it’s-Alberto-Salazar-over-here was too busy to pen today’s column.  So I find myself pinch-hitting (again). To complete the sporting theme, I am writing from a recliner situated not so far away from the Folgefonna Summer Ski Center, a mere 19 km from Jondal Centre in glacier-country, Norway.  I haven’t seen this much white powder since I helped produce Theatre of Pain.

Oh, and Spartan Considerations also told me to avoid talking about sports too much, what with the O’s and their tribulations.  After moving Machado and Britton, what's next?  Is Dan Duquette going to re-sign Pete Harnisch?

Getting back on track…like any true professional, I have one eye on 2020 and a sinking feeling about how the Democrats might blow it.

After three consecutive two-term presidencies and a sitting “Chief Executive” who could be described, mildly, as a Know-Nothing with fascistic tendencies, this should be an electoral slam-dunk for the Party of the People (also a great read from Jules Witcover).  Especially when a fair number of Republicans – and not just talking heads – are nervously eyeing the exits.

Then it hit me.  More precisely, Congressman Anthony Brown’s “voice of caution” on impeachment hit me.  Now, Colonel and former LG Brown is not a timid man.  He served his country for almost three decades in the Army, which included a tour of duty in Iraq in 2004.  His awards speak for themselves.  His personal courage is both admirable and well-documented.   

As a politician though, Mr. Brown via his recent remarks is exhibiting the same sort of inclination to “play it safe” that helped relegate the Democratic Party, at the national level, to the electoral wilderness for much of the ‘80s.    

Combined with the notion that a third of the GOP could be convinced to bolt (probably closer to 10%, 15% tops) and that Independents could be persuaded to break 55%-45% for any “reasonable” Democrat (read: centrist/corporatist establishment-type), I realized how the Democrats could miss the opportunity:

A “National Unity” ticket.

With Galloping Centrism all the rage in certain parts of the country, including
(from what I hear) Howard County, MD…this idea, on its surface, seems bold and would appear to be a combination that would compel Trump to rely on mobilizing to almost unheard-of levels an increasingly marginalized base of nationalist conservatives and what political strategist Kevin Phillips once described as “middle American radicals.”

But really, such a ticket would be a manifestation of ultra-caution born of a sense that the electorate would not be prepared to handle a 100% full-tilt progressive combination.  At the core is the misconception that the Democrats are not “Middle America” enough and that we would need a GOPer in the #2 position to serve as a link to non-coastal elites.  This is wrong-headed all around, but I can envision some strategist making the case in the summer of 2020.  He or she will rant about potential volatility amongst “swing constituencies” in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania (which in this scenario will be white women who are self-described moderate/moderately conservative Republicans or Independents).  She or he will opine that the Democratic nominee could “put it away” in those and perhaps a couple other states by making a “bold choice” for the “good of the country” that expands the playing field.  270 here we come…         

But how many Republicans would really walk away from Trump and vote for a Democratic Presidential candidate, even one running with a Republican VP?  I estimate far too few.  Simultaneously, the Democrats would lose their ability to compare/contrast most effectively as any GOP running-mate would likely share Mr. Trump’s views on a range of issues…which would no doubt dispirit a sizable percentage of the D base.   And who would it be?  Sasse? Flake?  Kasich?  Corker?  Scarborough?  Who among them is a mortal-lock to help change the electoral math?  How could a Harris or Brown or Holden or Klobuchar or Landrieu or Sanders or Warren (to name a few) square their political beliefs with such a choice?  How would the Democratic Convention react to such a move?  How would the media cover it? Hint for the last three questions: not easily, not favorably, and as Democratic weakness, respectively.

The last time a National Unity ticket was tried, the country was in the midst of a Civil War…and we ended up with President Andrew Johnson (for numerous articles on Donald Trump – Andrew Johnson comparisons, just Google the relevant search terms).

So while some folks deemed to be “sensible” might start touting such a proposal following the mid-term elections, just bear this in mind:  such a pairing may make a great story for a day or two, but ultimately it will weaken the ticket’s positioning, anger many Democratic activists who believe that an All-D ticket can win, and it won’t peel away nearly enough Republicans or swing over as many Independents as proponents of such a maneuver will claim.

Yes, hypotheticals on top of hypotheticals, but someone has to be noodling on such matters.

Time to hit the slopes…before they hit back.  There’s a tagline for you.