Tip Your Hat

Jack Balkin gets at something I was trying to address the other day: the collapse of Reagan’s three-legged stool and its benefits for the Democratic party.

Bush’s failed presidency has left the Republicans scrambling to reconstitute the Reagan coalition. The wide range of different candidates– from Giuliani to Romney to McCain to Huckabee to Paul– offer different solutions. We don’t yet know how the coalition will be reassembled, and under whose leadership. However, as of the day of the New Hampshire primary, it looks like putting it back together will be a tall order. And although the eventual nominee will try to assume the mantle of Ronald Reagan– and, equally important, not the mantle of George W. Bush– the Republican party will have been changed forever by the events of the last eight years.


And that is why, if, like many Americans, you think that change is coming, and you think that this is a good thing, you should tip your hat to George W. Bush and his eventful presidency. For if Ronald Reagan was the Great Communicator, George W. Bush is the Great Destroyer of Coalitions.

We don’t know for sure how this is going to turn out–but the sheer unpredictability of the Republican side of this primary is testament that something new is afoot. (Though why do people keep pretending that neither Michigan nor Nevada have primaries coming up on the same day or before the South Carolina primary?) If I had to bet, I’d bet either that Romney gets the nod but that the Republican bigots stay home, or that Huck gets the nomination which results in a lot of what I called the "competence corporatists" heavily supporting Dems. In either case, resulting in low Republican turnout and, barring Cheney pulling OBL out of a hole or something similar, a comfortable Dem win.

What makes Balkin’s post worth reading, though, is the way he ties this into Bush the failure.

If 2008 turns out to be a pivotal election, defining a new political era, it is important to give credit where credit is due. Two key reasons for the change will be the crackup of the coalition of the dominant party of the era, the Republicans, and the almost complete political failure of George W. Bush and his chief political adviser, Karl Rove. Let me begin with the second reason, and then move to the first. Read more

Missing the Party

Let me start this post by throwing out some assertions.

  • The most interesting question about New Hampshire, IMO, is not whether Obama beats Hillary or whether Mitt survives against McCain. It’s whether Obama has a greater draw over Independents than McCain, which thereby deprives McCain of any victory there.
  • In her very gracious concession speech the other night, Hillary seemed genuinely thrilled by the huge Democratic/female/youth turnout (even after bitching about Obama’s direct appeal to "out-of-state" students for several weeks beforehand), even as she seemed to be recognizing how failed her strategy in Iowa had been.
  • Mitt Romney won handful of delegates today, and regardless of what happens in NH, will go onto MI, a state where several buildings in Lansing bear his Daddy’s name, to compete against a guy who had a huge victory here in 2000.

All of which is my preface to saying that the pundits are (for the most part) dealing with a much too flat conception of what this primary is going to look like, seeing only the intra-party competition, and they’re not seeing that we’re already thick into a competition between the two parties that may well have real ramifications for the outcome.

That said, let me go back to the beginning and explain what I mean. The press has largely assumed that McCain, the "maverick" who won in NH in 2000, stands to be the non-Mitt there this year. That assumes, of course, that the Independents (and even the Republicans) who turned out for McCain in 2000 will turn out for him again and it assumes that McCain’s prime contestant is Mitt. Now, ignore the fact that NH is a pretty solidly anti-war state and McCain is up there threatening a hundred year presence in Iraq. The bulk of the press still seems to be ignoring an unstated contest between Obama and McCain for Independents. Chris Bowers reads it right, IMO, when he suggests,

No momentum for McCain and Huckabee whatsoever. Obama is sucking up all the air right now, and probably the New Hampshire independents that McCain needed. Read more

emptywheel’s Quickie Analysis

Many of you no doubt disagree. But I’m not crying about an Obama victory (then again, I wouldn’t have been crying about an Edwards or Clinton win, either).

But here are the details that I think are most important.

Crazy, record turnout–reportedly well over 200,000. And reportedly, perhaps two-to-one for Dems, compared to the Republicans.

Crazy, record turnout among youth.

Crazy, record turnout among women (MSNBC just announced that Obama actually beat Hillary among women).

I don’t care who you support–this crazy record turnout is nothing but a huge win for Democrats.

(Four years later and I still sound like goddamned Howard Dean, bless his soul.)

And among Republicans? Some 45% voted against corporatist America. Add that to Edwards’ turnout, and you’ve got a solid majority sick of government by the corporation, for the corporation…

Update: One more point. It’s been decades since I took a math class. But by my calculations, 29% of 220,000 (Hillary’s results) is significantly more than 34% of 120,000 (Huck’s results), right? If my math is correct, we just elected three Presidents to one for the Republicans.

Obama Still Running Third among Republicans?

There’s been some hand-wringing among Democrats about the New Year’s Eve Des Moines Register poll, which showed Obama polling 32% of the vote with strong support from a surprising (and arguably unrealistic) number of Independents participating in the caucus. The WaPo did an entire article suggesting Obama may win the caucus because he’s got cross-over appeal.

The senator from Illinois received a jolt of momentum late New Year’s Eve, when the Des Moines Register’s final Iowa poll showed him leading Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) by 32 percent to 25 percent, with former senator John Edwards (N.C.) at 24 percent. But just as striking were two findings that suggest Obama may be succeeding at one of the riskiest gambits of his Iowa campaign, an aggressive push to persuade non-Democrats to participate.

The survey found that more newcomers than regular participants could turn out on Thursday: Overall, 40 percent of likely Democratic caucusgoers identified themselves as independents, the poll said, double the percentage from 2004, and 60 percent said they would be attending a caucus for the first time. Both groups preferred Obama.


Chief Clinton strategist Mark Penn disputed the poll, calling the Register’s turnout model "unprecedented" and "out of sync with other polling done in the race," including several recent surveys that showed a statistical dead heat. Edwards spokesman Eric Schultz called the Register model "at odds with history."

And folks in left blogtopia (h/t Skippy) now wonder whether, if Obama succeeds, it will constitute a sabotage of the Democratic process.

Perhaps it’s because I live in Michigan, where in 2000 a bunch of Democrats voted in the Republican primary to keep McCain in the Republican primary for another couple of days, and where the NRA played a significant role in giving John Dingell the win over Lynn Rivers in a heated 2002 might-as-well-be-the-General-election primary battle. But I’m not so bugged about Independents and even Republicans crossing over to vote in Iowa’s Democratic caucuses. In the case of Iowa, if they’re willing to give up what would be more significant input into the Republican nomination to vote for Obama, so be it. Read more

Executive Privilege

A number of people have pointed to Charlie Savage’s great article on the responses of Presidential candidates to a bunch of questions about executive power. I’m really glad Savage asked these questions, as I’ve presented forms of these questions (specifically as it related to the underpinnings of Bush’s illegal wiretap program, which was put into place under Bill Clinton) to Hillary’s campaign and gotten no response.

That said, most of the questions either explicitly or implicitly ask candidates whether they repudiate certain of Bush’s acts, so I’m not sure they help Democratic voters distinguish between primary candidates. The exception is the question on Executive Privilege. Here are the Democrats’ answers on the the question addressing executive privilege.

Does executive privilege cover testimony or documents about decision-making within the executive branch not involving confidential advice communicated to the president himself?


With respect to the “core” of executive privilege, the Supreme Court has not resolved this question, and reasonable people have debated it. My view is that executive privilege generally depends on the involvement of the President and the White House.


I fundamentally believe that our constitutional system depends upon each branch striving to accommodate the interests of the other, and the President should seek to accommodate legitimate congressional requests for information. I also believe in an open transparent government that fulfills its obligation to share as much information as possible with the public. But it is settled law that certain limited "communications made by presidential advisors in the course of preparing advice for the President, come under the presidential communications privilege, even when these communications are not made directly to the President."


I support the constitutional separation of powers and the doctrine of executive privilege, as guided by judicial review. Unlike the current president, however, I will not invoke executive privilege merely to advance partisan ends. Read more