Josh Marshall helpfully pointed us all to a Focus on the Family radio interview of Mark Levin (author of Men in Black: How the Supreme Court is Destroying America, the latest right-wing bestseller) by James Dobson. Talk about a fair and balanced discussion…. it’s like listening to a couple of McCoys covering a Hatfield family reunion.Josh went right to the money quote near the end of the broadcast, when Dobson quotes some nameless minister who compared the white-robed men of the Ku Klux Klan to the black-robed men of the federal bench.And that’s vintage Dobson, who loves phony analogies depicting himself and his fellow extremists as brave souls defending themselves and the human race against totalitarian tyranny. A few years back, in a bout of self-pity about being “persecuted” by gay rights activists, Dobson took to comparing himself to Dietrich Bonhoeffer and other “Confessing Church” victims of Hitler. Now, apparently, he’s a Freedom Rider risking violence from the Klan.Any day now, I expect to see Dobson at some Save Tom DeLay rally leading a horde of lobbyists and cultural warriors, arms linked, in a heart-felt rendition of “We Shall Overcome.” The whole Dobson-Levin conversation is an eye-opener for those, like me, who haven’t quite had the stomach to digest the Latter-Day Right’s view of the U.S. Constitution. Levin is a real piece of work, and it is not good news that his bestselling book may provide hundreds of thousands of readers with their only exposure to constitutional law. Unless I am missing something, he seems to object not only to recent Supreme Court opinions, but to Marbury v. Madison, the landmark case that established the right of judicial review 202 years ago.Levin’s mastered the trick of stringing together every generally acknowledged constitutional abomination since then–Dred Scott, Plessy v. Ferguson, Korematsu v. The United States–and breezily identifying them with Roe v. Wade, which creates a nice litany of “black-robed masters” enabling “slavery, segregation, internment and abortion.” His “solutions”–term limits for federal judges and a congressional veto of Supreme Court decisions–would, of course, require either constitutional amendments or armed revolution, but that doesn’t trouble Levin. At one point, he says “we can’t get our hands on the Supreme Court, but we can get our hands on elected officials.” Nice turn of phrase for a legal beagle, eh? But then again, in addition to being a best-selling author, Levin’s now a radio talk show host.The other really striking thing about the Dobson-Levin “interview” is exactly how far the Souderization of Justice Anthony Kennedy has gone. God, they hate this appointee of Ronald Reagan so much more than the “liberals” on the Court. With his usual stance of posing as a victim of those he is attacking, Dobson says: “Anthony Kennedy scares me;” Levin seems to posit Kennedy as at the center of a “cabal of radical leftists” who are literally taking over the country at the behest of “moral relativists” and one-worlders.This duo’s reasoning is something to behold. Dobson slips effortlessly from yammering about “lifetime appointees to the Court” to blasting Florida Circuit Court Judge George Greer, the Devil Figure in the Right’s view of the Schiavo case. I suspect Dobson knows Greer is an elected judge who won a new six-year term just last year, but hey, can’t cut those judicial murderers any slack, can you?After all, when you’re fighting today’s black-robed Klan, you have to fight fiery cross with fiery cross.
TDS Strategy Memos
Latest Research from:
By Ed Kilgore
Pouring over the details of the gubernatorial recall election in California, some significant patterns emerged, as I noted at New York:
The overwhelming defeat of the effort to recall California governor Gavin Newsom was a big victory for a Democratic Party that has had its troubles lately. With the margin of victory for the “no on recall” campaign roughly doubling the already-robust advantage shown in pre-election polls, the earlier scare that the recall threw into the ranks of the Golden State’s dominant party dissipated entirely. With about three-fourths of the expected vote now counted, “no” leads “yes” by a 63.8 to 36.2 margin (which could get even larger if the usual pattern of last-cast mail ballots leaning Democratic manifests itself once again).
The “no” vote was remarkably close to Joe Biden’s performance in California in 2020 (he won 63.5 percent). Given the extreme partisan polarization that underlay the recall vote (exit polls showed 89 percent of self-identified Republicans voting “yes” and 94 percent of self-identified Democrats voting “no”), that means the partisan patterns of the presidential race were reduplicated to a remarkable extent in a non-presidential special election, where Democrats often experience a “falloff,” particularly when they control the White House (and in this case, the governorship). That’s great news for California Democrats, and not a bad sign for Democrats nationally, who are bracing for the midterm losses the “White House Party” typically suffers.But in assessing the implications of the results, it’s important to look back at what happened down ballot in California in 2020, while looking ahead to the most critical 2022 battleground, the fight for control of the House. Of the 13 net House seats Republicans gained in 2020, four were in deep-blue California. There is no likely path for Democrats to hang onto House control in 2022 without flipping some or all of those lost seats in one of their strongest states.
Precisely because of the reduplication of the 2020 patterns, there’s really nothing about the recall returns that suggests Democrats are sure to claw back some House seats in California. Two of the four seats Republicans flipped in 2020 (with Asian-American women Young Kim and Michelle Steele as candidates) were centered in Orange County. While “no” won in Orange, the recall race there was closer than the Biden-Trump contest of 2020. A third battleground seat was the one Republican David Valadao won in a very competitive section of the San Joaquin Valley. The recall improved on Trump’s 2020 performance in every county in his district (e.g., Trump won 55 percent in Kings County, but “yes” on recalling Newsom won 63 percent). These results could reflect an intensifying alienation of this heavily agricultural area from Sacramento’s environmental and water-supply policies. Or it could reflect a drop-off in Latino turnout that could spell disaster for Democrats in close 2022 races. Either way the recall numbers should give pause to Democratic optimism about midterm House races.
One study of 2020 returns in California showed Latino turnout trailing non-Latino turnout by about 10 percent. One mail-ballot tracker for the recall showed the turnout gap between Latinos and non-Latino white voters swelling to 20 percent. Youth turnout for the recall was also terrible, exit polls suggest. Yes, these are constituencies that are difficult to mobilize in special elections. But that’s also true of midterm elections, which is a problem Democrats in California and elsewhere need to solve.
The bottom line is that Newsom won the Democratic and Democratic-leaning elements of the California electorate by strongly encouraging partisan polarization via his lavishly funded campaign. This was the obvious smart strategy in this heavily Democratic state. It’s less clear the same strategy will work wonders downballot for Democrats in 2022, which they probably will not have a big financial advantage and shifts in public opinion away from the presidential winner may have settled in, as they did for the last three presidents. Even if Democrats hang onto their monopoly of statewide offices and their super-majorities in the state legislature, any failure to make progress in House races could contribute to the much-dreaded moment when Californian Nancy Pelosi hands over her gavel to Californian Kevin McCarthy, and the Democratic trifecta that gives Biden a chance to implement his agenda comes to an end.