Vox's Ezra Klein wrote a good piece of analysis Monday about how unpredictable politics has become. He notes that the four surprising political developments we've seen in the last few months—Speaker of the House John Boehner resigning from Congress, and Scott Walker dropping out of the presidential race early while figures such as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders were ascendent—were totally unpredictable.The conclusion he draws is this:
So here's a hypothesis — raw, incomplete, and potentially incorrect — for why politics has been so surprising this year: The tools that party insiders use to decide both electoral and legislative outcomes are being weakened by new technologies and changing media norms. And so models of American politics that assume the effectiveness of those tools — models that weight elite opinion heavily, and give outsiders and insurgents little chance — have been thrown off.
I think there's something to this, especially in understanding how Donald Trump has become the embodiment of this unpredictability. It's not a stretch to say the Republican base has long been more conservative than the party elites, and this is especially true of Republican primary voters. Despite this, for a long time, Republican voters have been convinced by various structural voices who are more more liberal than they are—donors, party leadership, the media etc.—that they have to accept a candidate who is deemed "electable" rather than conservative.
The post-Reagan track record of GOP nominees is basically a rebuke to conservatives: George H.W. Bush raised taxes and gave us David Souter; Bob Dole was the consumate insider and moderate; George W. Bush created a new entitlement and a new cabinet-level federal agency and let debt spiral out of control; at times John McCain seemed almost ashamed to campaign on conservative ideas or push back against Barack Obama's "historic" candidacy; and Mitt Romney's history as a health care technocrat couldn't convince voters he was in actuality "severely conservative," as he (awkwardly) put it.
Not one of these five post-Reagan candidates have left conservative primary voters feeling like the GOP reflects their priorities. Essentially, party elites have managed to shift the Overton Window on the Buckley Rule, i.e. "Be for the most right, viable candidate who could win" too far to the left. And thanks to Trump, GOP voters have woken up to this fact and are not happy about it.
Obviously, money is big part of the model that "weights elite opinion heavily" in choosing candidates. At the end of the day, people who write checks are betting on some quid pro quo, so electability is a lot more important to them than the burn-it-all mentality of the GOP base right now. Tonally, Trump is both channelling that anger and presents himself as being above the moneyed donors and interests that control politics, and that is understandably appealing to conservative voters right now. With Trump leading the race, the base is holding the donor class hostage because we have finally reached a moment where the media are so splintered and people are so ticked off that the normal campaign rules don't apply. GOP donors can no longer coalesce around a preferred front runner, buy millions in ads in Iowa in August, and set the narrative through the caucus in January.
So we end up in this weird moment where Jeb Bush raised $100 million right off the bat based on his perceived inevitability (and yes, family connections), but he may have his major donors bailing on him after the next few polls. For once, the donor class is left looking to figure out how the Buckley Rule affects them—who will play ball with them, but still looks electable enough to the irascible Republican rabble. Say what you want about Trump—and I will, thank you very much—but we all owe him a debt of gratitude for helping break the system and making GOP voters realize the best way to effect change is to say what you think and vote for what you want, structural voices be damned. I hope Trump goes down eventually because he'd be a disaster as the GOP standard-bearer. But I do hope that Trump goes down in a blaze of glory, because there's a lot of value in his campaign if you look at it—with apologies to Aaron Sorkin—as one giant angry speech to the donor class and GOP elites:
And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves the GOP. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that campaign trail, you need me on that campaign trail. Voters use words like liberty, jobs, and values. Voters use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline.
In just a few years, Washington Post wunderkind Ezra Klein has made himself the go-to journalist whenever the NPR-totebag set wants to understand a complicated policy issue. In particular, he’s established himself as arguably the leading health care pundit, thanks to his tireless efforts blogging and reporting. Far too many reporters, young and old, are lazy, and to Klein’s credit he works hard. Of course, if your job were to come up with explanations for why Obamacare is working, you too would end up busier than a beaver in a lake of espresso.
In Tunisia, a street vendor set himself on fire, antigovernment protests followed, and Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the country. In Egypt, liberal opposition groups chanted “Freedom, Freedom” in rallies beginning January 25, and by week’s end Egypt’s authoritarian president Hosni Mubarak was wondering whether his 30-year reign was about to come to an end. Even in Yemen, protesters took to the streets seeking to destabilize the 20-year-old regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
We are on Day Two of JournoList revelations at The Daily Caller.
Yesterday, we found out that liberal bloggers don't like conservatives, that writers employed by The Nation think America has the blood of millions of innocents on its hands, and that both would have liked to convince the media to ignore the rantings of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright in favor of covering Obama's policy press releases. Spencer Ackerman's call to smear conservatives as racist to distract from the Wright story was notable for its candor and naked partisan motivation, removing the veil of moral authority from liberals' cries of racism.
Today we learn more about mainstream players at national outlets, which is the more interesting part of the JournoList. Among the ideas that raise less objection than they should— wishing in graphic detail to witness the death of Rush Limbaugh and using the federal government to shut down a cable news network one doesn't like.
Did Ben Smith bury the lede in his article on the Washington Post's left-leaning online presence ("Washington Post shifts leftward online")? According to Smith's account, Weigel was hired by editors who thought he was a conservative who would provide "balance." And he was hired on the recommendation or their liberal blogger Ezra Klein. Klein, for his part, says he "presented [Weigel] to the paper simply as the best reporter on the subject."
So why would Post editors have thought Weigel was a conservative? Did Klein wrongly leave them with that impression?
Meanwhile, pundits are busily trying to figure out the Slaughter Rule, a procedural measure by which the House could "deem" the Senate health care bill passed without actually voting on it. If this sounds confusing, that's because it is.
Even liberal blogger Ezra Klein writes that "this is all about plausible deniability for House members who don't want to vote for the Senate bill, although I doubt many voters will find the denials plausible." Why doubt? A negative public reaction to the health care vote is a near certainty. The question is whether the reaction fades before November.
This is Paul Ryan's moment. If national security or social policy were at the center of debate, the Wisconsin congressman wouldn't be nearly as prominent as he is today. But President Obama wants to reshape the American economy and welfare state so that it looks more like a Western European social democracy. And since fiscal policy is Ryan's specialty, he's become the GOP point man when it comes to entitlements and health care. I continue to get emails from readers applauding Ryan's performance at the health care summit a week ago. Type Ryan's name into Google search and the fifth prompt that comes up is "Paul Ryan for President." (Ryan says he won't run in 2012.)
A lot of people have been looking to find someone to blame for President Obama's failures: the Constitutional order, the right-wing noise machine, the dull, dim-witted American people. Funnily enough, one person rarely seems to get fingered.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said this morning: "In its present form without any changes I don't think it's possible to pass the Senate bill in the House.... I don't see the votes for it at this time." (More quotes from Pelosi here.)
Legislative battles sometimes produce unlikely victims. After clashing with Republicans for months, Democrats appear poised to win a major partisan victory on health care.
Yet while triumph could be imminent, some liberal lawmakers and pundits want another scalp. Get rid of the Senate filibuster, they say. It’s an outmoded procedure that allows a minority of 41 votes to stop legislation.