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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

At The American Prospect, Robert Kuttner shares some ideas about “Turning the Debt Ceiling Crisis Against McCarthy’s Republicans: Biden needs to play serious hardball, or he will get rolled.” As Kuttner writes, “Biden could announce that he is not going to play the Republicans’ game and relitigate spending that has already been approved by Congress. The Republicans would contend that this breaching of the legislated debt ceiling is illegal, and appeal it to the high court….Over to you, Court originalists. Does the Court want to be responsible for ordering a default on the U.S. Treasury bonds that anchor the world’s financial markets?…The other way for Biden to play the kind of hardball that the situation demands is to emulate Bill Clinton’s successful evisceration of then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1995. Gingrich was the first Republican leader to play games with shutting down the government….When Clinton refused to agree to budget cuts demanded by Gingrich in November 1995, the Speaker threatened not to authorize an increase in the public debt, and forced a shutdown of the government that lasted five days. A second shutdown, beginning December 16, lasted 21 days….But polls suggested that the public blamed the Republicans. It was Gingrich who blinked first, and the episode was the beginning of the end of his Speakership….The lesson for today: By refusing to play, Biden would signal that if Kevin McCarthy wants to tank the world economy by allowing the U.S. to default on Treasury bonds, that’s on him….McCarthy, given his deal with the far-right Freedom Caucus, would not blink first. But the 20 or so moderate Republicans, who were willing to vote for McCarthy as Speaker and accept his rules package, might well decide that enough is enough. Peeling off a few Republicans to vote for an increase in the debt ceiling without crippling cuts would have the further virtue of moving the House closer to a de facto House governing coalition of Democrats and sane Republicans….Both versions of this strategy have risks. But allowing McCarthy to call the tune, forcing disabling budget cuts and humiliating Biden’s presidency, has even greater risks.”

In a Facebook post, Drew Westen, author of “The Political Brain” and founder of Westen Strategies LLC and co-founder of Implicit Strategies, says what he really thinks about Attorney General Merrick Garland’s law enforcement regarding the January 6th coup attempt/riot in the U.S. capitol. An excerpt: “His behavior is never explicable in terms of political or legal reasoning, although he couches it that way and believes his own rationalizations….I wrote about this personality style and why it can be so dangerous in Democratic politics 15 years ago in The Political Brain, years before Garland began obsessively collecting affidavits as the seditionists collected AR 15s….Appeasement in the face of real threat is psychologically motivated complicity, driven by cowardice, whether conscious or unconscious. Appeasement only emboldens a bully or a psychopath, who understands it to be a sign of fear, not virtue. Somehow, two new democracies, Peru and Brazil, knew what to do in the face of sedition. They rounded up the seditionists, including those in high places, and put them where they were no longer dangerous, in prison. In so doing, they not only followed the law but shaped public opinion and frightened co-conspirators and would-be accomplices after the fact, so that the vast majority of Brazilians today, for example, believe one narrative, the truth, that the attack on their institutions was an attack on their democracy that cannot be tolerated. Like other obsessional personalities, Garland is a concrete thinker, who cannot understand meta-messages, particularly meta-messages that send emotional signals. He does not understand how light or no sentences for seditionists after waiting months or years to act sent the signal that sedition was not a serious crime, and that allowing them to create an alternative narrative for two years was not only going to split the country in two but would put the seditionists in charge of a House of Congress that would then investigate the DOJ’s investigation of them. Had he been appointed to the Supreme Court, he would no doubt have been the swing vote with the conservatives half the time out of a false sense of “fairness.” Fairness to fascism is no virtue. #NoBallsNoBrains.”

In “Biden world giddy at MTG, Gosar, and Boebert being placed on Oversight” at Politico, Christopher Cadelago, Jordain Carney, Nicholas Wu and Jonathan Lemire write: “House Republicans’ installation of some of their most incendiary conservatives on the Oversight Committee is sparking an unexpected feeling inside the White House: unbridled glee….The panel tasked with probing Biden policies and actions, as well as the president’s own family, will be stocked with some of the chamber’s biggest firebrands and die-hard Trumpists — including Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) — ideal figureheads for a White House eager to deride the opposition party as unhinged….No administration wants to feel the heat of congressional investigations, and Biden’s team is no different. But privately, the president’s aides sent texts to one another with digital high fives and likened their apparent luck to drawing an inside straight. One White House ally called it a “political gift.”….The jubilation was tempered, somewhat, by Democrats on the Hill who expressed more apprehension about the posting….“The English language runs out of adjectives to describe the debasement, cynical debasement of the whole process these appointments represent,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), a senior Oversight panel member, said in an interview. “And it is, I think, a huge black mark on Kevin McCarthy….“[W]ith these members joining the Oversight Committee,” White House oversight spokesperson Ian Sams said in a statement, “it appears that House Republicans may be setting the stage for divorced-from-reality political stunts, instead of engaging in bipartisan work on behalf of the American people.” I think the high-fivers are right. Degrading the Oversight Committee that much is an unexpected gift to Dems, who will surely make the most of it.

So how are Americans feeling about U.S. military support of The Ukraine? Cooper Burton and Zoha Qamar explore public opinion on the topic at FiveThirthyEight, and write: “December polling from Morning Consult found that only 41 percent of voters were “very concerned” about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, down from 58 percent who said the same in March of last year. The same poll showed a decline in the share of voters who felt that the U.S. has a responsibility to protect Ukraine from Russia, from 47 percent in March to 40 percent in December. …Americans are still largely supportive of some sort of aid to Ukraine, though. In a preelection November poll from TIPP Insights, 68 percent of registered voters said it’s important for the new Congress to direct assistance to Ukraine. And in a YouGov/CBS News poll released earlier this week, 64 percent of adults said they preferred their representatives to support U.S. aid to Ukraine rather than oppose it….A Beacon Research/Shaw & Co. poll conducted in December for Fox News showed that 40 percent of registered voters felt the U.S. was doing “about the right amount” to help Ukraine. An additional 26 percent thought it should be doing less; only 29 percent felt the U.S. should be doing more. The Morning Consult poll showed similar numbers, but it also showed that support for aiding Ukraine has slipped since the spring: In March, only 12 percent of registered voters felt the U.S. was doing too much to halt the invasion, but that number had risen to 24 percent in December….The cooler support for more aid may be due to a growing partisan divide on the issue. In the YouGov/CBS News poll, a narrow majority of Republicans (52 percent) wanted their representative in Congress to oppose aid, whereas 81 percent of Democrats wanted theirs to support it. A mid-December poll from CivicScience also showed a wide partisan gap, with 83 percent of Democrats supporting military aid to Ukraine versus 53 percent of Republicans. At the beginning of the war, though, support among Republicans was almost as high as it was among Democrats: In March, another YouGov/CBS News poll showed that 75 percent of Republicans and 80 percent of Democrats supported sending weapons and supplies to Ukraine.”

2 comments on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Martin Lawford on

    Two bad things will happen if you charge Congressmen with sedition and have them arrested for voting in way you dislike. First, their constituents will conclude that you are denying them representation by their elected representatives and they will be 100% correct. Second, the electorate will assume that the Congressmen who voted in the way you do like did so under coercion. Third, when the opposing party regains power, as sooner or later they will, they will charge you with sedition for voting in a way they dislike. You will have no right to object since they are merely following your example.


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