I’m not much in the habit of reading the RNC’s web page, so I’m glad Josh Marshall gave a heads-up about the special cavalcade of quotes defending Karl Rove that went up on the site today.Each of these quotes has its own special taste of unintended humor, but there are two big howlers running throughout: (1) Senate Democratic criticism of the silly little business about Rove is detracting from all the big, important things the GOP is trying to do for The People; and (2) Democrats are unaccountably and without provocation acting partisan.The “tempest in a teapot” argument, made most explicitly by Orrin Hatch, is certainly interesting. If true, the Rove allegations involve (a) a deputy White House chief of staff, and the president’s acknowledged political guru, with enormous access to classified information; (b) a possible felony violation of federal law; (c) an act compromising our national security, and motivated by personal spite, as part of a larger coverup of information related to the invasion of Iraq; (d) a deliberate leak in an administration where leaking is a far worse sin than, say, gross incompetence in office. This certainly sounds as important to me as the so-called agenda of the Senate Republican leadership, which at present is focused on a semi-filibuster of stem-cell research legislation. But it’s the second claim that’s really mind-blowing: that those bad, partisan Democrats have gone medieval on that poor, respected civil servant Karl Rove. This is just bizarre. Whatever you think of the man, it’s incontrovertible that Rove has devoted his entire political career to a strategy of partisan and ideological polarization. He’s also been deeply and consistently implicated in a long series of truly savage “politics of personal destruction” campaign tactics, and has evinced a sort of giggling adolescent pleasure in those dark arts. The idea of Karl Rove as a victim of partisanship is sort of like the idea of Ken Lay as a victim of corporate malfeasance. He may or may not be guilty of the specific allegations against him in the Plame outing, but give me a break: you have to really go through the looking glass to consider him an innocent lamb among the wolves. Rove is one wolf who dare not don sheep’s clothing.
TDS Strategy Memos
Latest Research from:
By Ed Kilgore
Watching an intra-Democratic argument on voting rights strategy intensify in Washington, I offered some advice to both sides at New York:
There has been an underlying disagreement within the mostly Democratic coalition favoring voting rights that was nicely captured in this New York Times report on Friday:
“A quiet divide between President Biden and the leaders of the voting rights movement burst into the open on Thursday, as 150 organizations urged him to use his political mettle to push for two expansive federal voting rights bills that would combat a Republican wave of balloting restrictions … In private calls with voting rights groups and civil rights leaders, White House officials and close allies of the president have expressed confidence that it is possible to ‘out-organize voter suppression,’ according to multiple people familiar with the conversations.”
Both sides in this argument are partly wrong. Those who expect Joe Biden to force the For the People Act or the John Lewis Voting Rights Act through the Senate via some major revision in the ability to filibuster are probably expecting the impossible. Yes, perhaps if Biden personally and insistently and abrasively lobbied Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema to abandon her very consistent defense of the filibuster, up to and including encouragement of a primary challenge to her when she is up for reelection in 2024, she might decide her current and very insistent independent-maverick “branding” isn’t going to keep working for her. But Joe Manchin? He would be thrilled to get attacked by a Democratic president or Democratic advocacy groups for insisting that he won’t support voting-rights measures unless at least some Republicans support them. His state is so very red that the threat of a primary challenge to the sole remaining successful West Virginia Democrat is a laugher.
Short of a nuclear attack on West Virginia, it’s hard to identify anything Biden might do to Manchin that wouldn’t run a high risk of backfiring. And he does need Manchin on the reconciliation bills Democrats are using to get around the filibuster to enact Biden’s social and economic agenda. It’s just too bad voting-rights bills don’t qualify for reconciliation.
Yes, it is intensely frustrating that Biden cannot bring himself to come out forthrightly for filibuster reform, but it probably doesn’t matter since it is not happening unless the Democratic Senate Conference gets bigger, making senators like Manchin and Sinema irrelevant on the subject. So at some point voting-rights advocates need to focus on that goal.
At the same time, White House claims that Democrats can “out-organize voter suppression” are partially wrong as well. Yes, restrictive provisions like voter-ID requirements, limits on voting by mail, and even voter-roll purges can be countered and perhaps overcome by intensive efforts to educate and energize the voters Republicans are trying to keep from the polls. But you cannot out-organize a partisan gerrymander, or a law that lets election officials or state legislators overturn the outcome of an election after votes are cast.
Voting-rights advocates will eventually have to play the cards dealt to them by the system as it currently exists. That means refraining from too much anger aimed at Democratic pols who have little choice but to concede defeat on some legislation and concentrate on legislation (i.e., those reconciliation bills with many items vital to the people whose voting rights are also under attack) they can enact with no margin for error in the Senate and little in the House. At the same time, Biden and his staff and Democratic “pragmatists” in Congress should never for a moment be cavalier about the legislative obstacles they face in defending democracy itself. They may have to accept a tactical defeat on voting rights in this Congress. But they should never, ever, give up on making it happen later if not sooner.