So yesterday’s cloture vote against the Alito confirmation didn’t work out that well. Scanning the comment threads of some of the really big left-of-center blogs last night, I didn’t have to go too far to discover there are some really, really angry folks out there. But here’s the deal, now that this particular deal has gone down:You can focus on the 19 Democrats who voted for cloture, or focus on the 40-odd Democrats who are going to vote against the actual confirmation today. You can read the whole Alito story as one of Democratic disunity, weakness and perfidy, or you can read it as a high-water mark of unity in the face of a confirmation that was never seriously in danger, in a U.S. Senate with a Republican ten-vote margin. You can look around for villains, blaming the failure of a too-little, too-late filibuster effort on some sort of DLC plot (yeah, our influence with senators like Inouye and Rockefeller and Dorgan and Conrad is well-known, and it’s a good thing we have no links to Bayh or Clinton). Or you can just accept that it just wasn’t going to happen no matter what anybody did, especially at the last moment, and note the remarkable unity of Democratic organizations (including the DLC) in opposing Alito. You can, if you wish, channel your disappointment and anger into an effort to purge Democratic senators in primaries, or you can realize our biggest problem is the limited quantity of Democratic senators, not their “purity” or willingness to make every fight in the Senate the fight of their lives. You can consider the glass half-full, or more than half-full, or you can pour it all out.And in making each of these choices, remember there are plenty of folks out there with the motive and the means to trumpet the colture vote into a disaster for the Democratic Party. It’s a free country, and a free party, so do whatever your conscience dictates, but do it pretty soon, because there are many other political fish to fry, and as a party, we have to (with apologies to the organization by that name) move on.
TDS Strategy Memos
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By Ed Kilgore
I read a Thomas Friedman column this week that really required a smackdown. So I supplied one at New York:
How much political capital should Democrats invest in a probably doomed effort to save the political career of Liz Cheney? Earlier this week, Never Trump Republican Linda Chavez penned a column urging Wyoming Democrats to take a dive this November in order to give the incumbent a chance to survive as an independent, assuming (as it safe) that Cheney will be purged in her own party’s primary. And now, in an apparent coincidence, in comes New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman suggesting a far more radical step by Democrats to align themselves with the small slice of Republicans who follow Cheney’s example in repudiating Donald Trump. He wrote:
“Is that what America needs in 2024 — a ticket of Joe Biden and Liz Cheney? Or Joe Biden and Lisa Murkowski, or Kamala Harris and Mitt Romney, or Stacey Abrams and Liz Cheney, or Amy Klobuchar and Liz Cheney? Or any other such combination.”
Friedman phrases this as a question, but clearly he thinks it’s a good idea given the “existential moment” America would face if Trump is allowed to regain the presidency in 2024. It’s a bit of a loaded question, too, since it postulates that nothing short of a previously unimaginable “sacrifice” by Democrats and Never Trump Republicans alike can stop Trump — and that it would, in fact, succeed in stopping Trump.
I certainly agree that Democrats dumping Kamala Harris to give their vice-presidential nomination to a conservative Republican who opposes legalized abortion and is a militarist by conviction and heredity would be a “sacrifice,” to put it very mildly. It would also be very, very weird. Friedman cites the recent establishment of a mind-bending coalition government in Israel to thwart Bibi Netanyahu as a development comparable to what he is suggesting. But as he acknowledges, Israel has a parliamentary system in which multiparty coalitions are the rule rather than the exception. A presidential system in which parties invariably run separate tickets for the top job is another thing altogether.
The U.S. has had exactly one example of multiparty fusionism in a presidential election. In 1864, in the midst of the Civil War, Republicans nominated Democrat Andrew Johnson of Tennessee — then serving as U.S. military governor of Tennessee — to run with Lincoln on a “Union” ticket. The experiment did not turn out well, beginning with Johnson’s drunken inaugural address in 1865 and continuing with the racist solidarity he exhibited toward ex-Confederates after Lincoln’s assassination, culminating in his impeachment and near removal from office. There are important reasons politicians sort themselves out into major parties, which should be apparent in an era of polarization over issues other than the scofflaw behavior of Donald Trump.
Is the threat of Trump’s return to the White House the equivalent of the U.S. Civil War? Not in itself, I would contend, though that horrific development could lead eventually to grave conditions comparable if not equal to a civil war. The premise that a Biden-Cheney fusion ticket would uniquely doom Trump to failure is even more dubious. There has never been much evidence of a mass following for Never Trump Republicans, and such as it is, it is mostly composed of people who would (and did in 2020) gladly vote for Biden and Harris. The baleful effect that replacing Harris with Cheney on the ticket would have on Democratic turnout could easily offset or exceed the alleged benefits of bipartisan and trans-ideological fusion.
So Democrats should say thanks, but no thanks, to Friedman for the idea of submitting their party to some sort of unwieldy and unnatural coalition of national salvation, so long as there is the slightest possibility of beating Trump the old-fashioned way. Liz Cheney deserves great respect for the courage she has shown in defying Trump at the expense of her own career, and if Biden is reelected with her support, perhaps she deserves an ambassadorship, a minor Cabinet post, or a major sub-Cabinet position. But she has no business being at the top of the line of succession to a Democratic president.