MLB Could Fix Their Blackout Problem, But…

Apparently MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred hates TV blackouts as much as the fans do. He says the top priority of the league right now is “reach.” He is concerned that not enough people can watch baseball.

I’m kind of having trouble believing him. There are a lot of games right now being shown behind paywalls. They don’t have to be. You also have MLB’s own blackout rules on local market games for their own service. ESPN Sunday Night Baseball is available on most cable and streaming services, but you have to pay for that. I’m short, it costs money to be a baseball fan in your living room, let alone if you want to go to games.

When baseball was the top sport in America, all you needed in the early days was a radio to listen, or later a TV with an antenna. That is over and long gone, and not really to any improvement in the experience of the fans. Now you pay for what you want to get, and pay handsomely.

Good luck changing this though. Between the league wide TV deals and “home market” TV deals negotiated by the teams, every team in the league has $100 million in gross revenue before they even start. Bigger teams like the Dodgers or Phillies have even more. While viewership has dropped, networks and streaming services will pay for this because it increases their negotiating power with each other and consumers. More importantly advertisers will pay to be on during games because they know the viewers had enough money to purchase television to begin with, so they probably can afford their products too. In other words, the money is too good to break up the racket. Sure, MLB could negotiate deals that don’t have paywalls and blackouts, but they’d get less money for that deal.

In other words, don’t hold your breath.

Blame Democrats for What They’re Actually Bad At, Not Roe

I’ve been quite frustrated by the progressive-left’s reaction to the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. Blaming the Democratic Party for five Republican appointed judges, confirmed by Senate votes almost entirely from Republicans, doing damage to the constitution is insane. All three Democratic appointees to the bench opposed this madness. Joe Biden’s lone appointee hasn’t been seated yet. I get it, you want him to react as angrily as you are, but you knew that wasn’t him when he ran. Besides that, Presidents shouldn’t compel the most angry among us to converge on the Capitol to enforce our will- we saw that in the last Presidency. The guy appointed a pro-choice judge to join the court this Fall. He just doesn’t have the power to do more. As he has said, he would need more pro-choice members of Congress to codify Roe. He’s right. Presidents can’t lead revolutions.

There are two rather clear and obvious critiques that could be made about Democrats based on what I said though, and both criticisms would be fair. First off, maybe our reliance on “the system” doesn’t work. The majority of the country supports Roe and gun laws, as does the President, Speaker, and Majority Leader of the Senate they elected. The court still just struck down popular precedent on both, and there’s not a damn thing the President can do about it within our system. One could argue that it’s at least partially a lack of real support that gets you here, but one can’t deny that most of the country did vote for the popular position and the system flipped them the bird anyway.

The second critique I’d not only support, but agree with, is that we’re here in part because the Democratic Party is not overly good at doing the thing it’s supposed to do- win elections. Since Clarence Thomas was appointed to the court, supplying the first anti-Roe vote from this crew, Roe has been under constant assault because Republicans have controlled the levers of power. I’m the last 30 years, Republicans have controlled the House for two-thirds of that time, and the Senate for 16.5 years (a bare majority). While much has been made of the two actual legislating months or so that the Obama Presidency also had a 60 seat majority in the Senate, people forget the multiple independent members and pro-life Democrats he had in those coalitions. The state level is even worse- for example Democrats have not held the Pennsylvania Senate since 1994, and they actually have held the New York Senate for less time than the GOP has in those 30 years.

Democrats simply don’t win enough elections to govern in America. When you say there aren’t enough votes to overturn the filibuster and pass Democratic initiatives, you’re implicitly acknowledging that. Yes, having a moral pluralistic party to start with makes this harder, but it’s a party’s job to figure that out. Is the Democratic messaging bad? Does the consultant class that dominates the campaign committees fail to understand how best to reach voters? Do they spend poorly? Do the major donors and independent expenditures that dominate the conversation in the party fail to talk about things that matter? I think it’s fair to question any tactical decisions the party and their supporting organizations have done over the past few decades. Republicans win more elections than we do. That’s not opinion, it’s objective fact. I’m hesitant to put it on people like the Biden-Harris ticket, who managed to win, but I didn’t see many defenses of Bill Clinton or Barack Obama after losses, so you almost have to.

It’s one thing to acknowledge that there are boundaries to what elected officials can do with their powers. I’m reminded though that when LBJ told MLK Jr. he lacked the political capital to do more on Civil Rights, King’s response was to tell his inner circle it was their job to go out and get it for him. I don’t think marches and protests are going to move today’s GOP, but clearly the Democratic Party needs a jolt of something to go get the seats it needs. If the punditry and majority of polls this year are right, Republicans are about to roll them this year, like 2010 and 1994. Accepting quick boom to bust political cycles is not acceptable. Some self-examination is more than a little fair.

Why Republicans Get Their Way

I was discussing the overturning of Roe with a very unhappy friend this weekend and she said something interesting to me- “It seems like the Republicans are a lot better at getting what they want than us.” It struck me as right, but not as obviously as it sounded.

Republicans enjoy a variety of structural advantages in our current political system. One is that their voters are better distributed geographically than Democrats. Their voters also show up more consistently in non-Presidential elections. It is legislatively easier to get rid of regulations and cut taxes than it is to create new programs. Frankly if your ideology is just to cut taxes and appoint judges, that’s easier than navigating a bureaucracy to help those who need it. In short, their voters are more patient and consistently vote, and most of what they want is easier to do.

None of this is a satisfying answer though on the issue of ending Roe. This was a major achievement and took a lot more than structural advantages to get done. This is at a minimum a little bit bigger of an achievement than Obamacare was for Democrats, it was a cause that took generations, and really the only recent victory of this magnitude may very well have been the election of President Barack Obama as our first black President. It is a victorious culmination for an entire movement (though I’d warn them that victories like this often bring about a vicious backlash). The eldest of their votes to overturn Roe came from an appointee of 30 years ago and five Presidents ago. In that time span the GOP Presidents appointed six judges to the high court while only winning three of the eight elections since the appointment of Clarence Thomas. Yes, the GOP has held the Senate a slim majority of the last 30 years, but they mostly built this dominance over the court despite electoral results, not necessarily because of them alone. They simply are better at wielding power when they get it.

The best explanation for why the GOP can deliver a large victory like overturning Roe, despite its unpopularity and the fact they are not currently in power lies in the difference between the two parties voters- Republicans built a coalition of single-issue and single-cause voters. Sure, the pro-life movement and the pro-gun movement poll under water with the population at-large, but voters don’t vote that way. The majority of people who vote based on those two issues singularly in every election vote their way. The same can be said of people who want massive deregulation of the market, ending gay marriage, subsidies for fossil fuels, and tax cuts. Most voters base their vote on the one or two things they care about most, not some evaluation of how the whole party platform impacts all of society. If you come into their party because of one issue, they hope you’ll eventually become a disciple of the rest, but that’s really not that important. They understand that if you’re a pro-life voter, you’re probably voting Republican in 2022 and so they simply need to deliver.

The truth is that the Democrats could never run their party that way. Even if 90% of Democrats believe in expanding access to health care, a clean environment, and police reform, there are boulevard sized divides over how to do it and how far to go. It is nearly impossible to keep everyone together on rhetoric, let alone legislative text. Do we want to expand the ACA or go to full single payer? Defund the police or reform them? Safe, legal, and rare abortion or abortion on demand? The truth is that Democrats are left to try and build a coalition big enough to beat the GOP’s collection of single-issue voters, and need some very different voters to come together in order to win. These people have very different overall pictures of the America they want.

Some of this comes down to Republican operatives in DC simply doing a better job. They’re far less worried about process and getting everyone to the table to gum up the wheels. Some of this all just goes back to who they are. The NRA generally probably agrees with the pro-life movement on abortion, but they’re there to get their way on guns. Everybody in their party has a lane. It’s easier to win when you generally speak with one voice.

A Sad Day for America, A Sad Day for the Supreme Court, a Sad Day for Law

The American legal system has no ability to enforce it’s own law, no real inherent claim to it’s own legitimacy. It has power because we respect it’s legitimacy and the rest of our government abides by their rulings. If we get down to it, rule of law exists because we have precedent, so we accept there is a framework beyond base opinions of nine people on the high court giving us edicts based on their own opinions. Once you remove that framework, you simply have tyranny by any five people on the bench. It doesn’t matter if they are liberal or conservative, the other half of America is going to struggle to accept that.

In the past 24 hours the Supreme Court has overruled precedent twice to rule that the states are incapable of regulating conceal carry gun laws but they are capable of regulating the right of women to abortions. In both cases they have abandoned precedent, but for entirely different rationalizations. It makes no common sense. They are arbitrary. The court has done great harm to itself as an institution. It has harmed respect for our law.

In the President’s remarks today, he noted that there is no executive action that can undo this ruling. He is right. Presidents have no special powers to make laws, only the act of enforcement is within their power. You do not want to live in a country where Presidents decide law by fiat and pick and choose what to enforce. President Biden was right to say today that Congress should pass a law to codify Roe. I think we all know that the current Congress cannot, it is far too closely divided and one of it’s two parties will vote nearly unanimously against it. This leads to the third, and most correct thing the President said- the most powerful response to this action is to vote. You get the government you vote for. You had five judges, all appointed by Republicans and almost entirely confirmed by Republicans, who took today’s action. If you elect Republicans, or just don’t show up to vote against them, this is what you will get. You can certainly say Democrats are not perfect on the issue, or that you don’t like that they have a few pro-life members in Congress, but here’s reality- all three Democratic appointed judges dissented with today’s opinion, and there would be no less than two more judges there agreeing with them had Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump in 2016. Democrats have been losing elections in America for most of my lifetime. That’s how we got here.

None of this process talk does the issue justice though. For the last 50 years women had a constitutional right, and today that was taken away from them. The state has no fundamental reason to regulate reproductive rights of women other than a political preference for control. The autonomy to make their own reproductive decisions has improved health outcomes for women and allowed women to leave their homes for the workplace. The right to make their own decisions on pregnancy and contraception has allowed women to make great advancements in our society. Yes, there are tens of millions of pro-life women that live pro-life lifestyles in this country, but the point is that they get to decide so, not the government. It is impossible to gauge the 50 year impact today’s decision will have with precision, however it is very easy to listen to those impacted by this decision today and gauge the impact on them. For poor women in conservative states, their autonomy is simply gone today. Even for some affluent women, their real world ability to make their own decisions has virtually vanished. Those directly impacted don’t need to wait and see about this ruling. They know today.

If you think this is the end of this court’s rights grab, you’re sorely mistaken. Judge Alito attempted to do intellectual gymnastics in saying his ruling was limited just to Roe and not other rights covered under the right to privacy. Judge Thomas didn’t even attempt this, instead writing in his concurrence that the court should now look at contraception, gay marriage, and other areas of law that fall under the right to privacy. Any halfway intelligent person can realize that if Alito says Roe was wrong because it was not a clearly enumerated write in the 14th Amendment, he and his four colleagues can’t argue differently about interracial marriage, same sex marriage, contraception, or really any other personal right previously protected under this rationale. In short, we’re now on a slide to a pre-1960’s America where the state can and will make moral decisions for the individual.

The court not only delegitimized itself today, it harmed half it’s own population. Three judges appointed by a President unpopularly elected and four judges appointed by one term Presidents took a right away from a majority of the population. Five judges decided to throw precedent out the door multiple times this term. The stability of our law has been removed by five activist judges. Yet all we can do under our system is vote out as many elected officials who agree with these five justices as possible. Yelling louder doesn’t fix it. Our options are limited.

It’s a sad day in America.

Yes, Juneteenth is Worth Celebrating for Everyone

Across America on Sunday millions of people celebrated Father’s Day. For the second year in our history we also recognized Juneteenth as a Federal Holiday. Both holidays just happened to fall on the same day this year. For some, that apparently put them in competition.

As I watched sports teams, politicians, and companies put social media posts up about Juneteenth and Father’s Day on Sunday, I noticed a trend in the Juneteenth comments- people complaining that “it was Father’s Day,” and that’s all that should have been acknowledged. Why? Was there any reason to not celebrate both? Was there any reason to not be able to acknowledge two great things at once?

Juneteenth is a holiday we should have been celebrating for over 150 years at this point. The end of slavery, arguably the worst thing America has ever done, is worth celebrating for all of us. That the good guys won the Civil War and ended the “peculiar institution” in the South is a good thing. If it happens to fall on the same day as the day we picked to celebrate the great men that made our lives possible, good. There’s no reason to not be happy about both.

There’s no real alternative to Biden or Harris for Democrats in 2024

The year was 1946 and things weren’t going so well for President Harry Truman. His party got beaten so badly in the midterm that his fellow Democrats were even floating that he should resign, not just not run in 1948. Truman resisted those calls and was elected President in 1948. In 1979, President Carter faced criticism from within his own party and also managed to at least beat back a primary challenge in 1980 from Ted Kennedy. Presidents Clinton and Obama faced critiques from within their own party after midterm beatings. Basically, Presidents don’t lose re-nomination in the Democratic Party.

If Joe Biden wants to run again in 2024, he’ll be the Democratic nominee for President. There is no one in the Democratic Party with the standing, fundraising prowess, broad support within most wings of the party, and pathway to the nomination. Yes, President Biden has definitely seen some slippage in the polls, even within his party. No, he’s not beatable in any sane campaign. The scorched earth campaign anyone who beat him for the nomination would have to run would be utterly divisive and disqualifying in a general election. A serious primary challenge, from literally anyone you would like to mention here, would leave the party unelectable and in ruins. The Republicans would use the attacks and wreckage to damage that person out of the gate.

None of this means President Biden should or should not run in 2024. He’ll be 82 years old. His polling numbers are objectively awful right now. He could recover, as Presidents Clinton and Obama did (or not, as Carter). There’s a decent chance that in early 2024 Covid is well in the rear view, interest rate hikes halted inflation, and job creation is booming- in which case Biden will be putting the GOP to bed with a beating in November. He also could get lucky and get to run against someone weak like Ron DeSantis. There’s at least a decent argument that he’s politically damaged though, or that his age is such that he should consider retiring. But we just don’t know about any of that in the Summer of 2022.

For the sake of the nonsensical though, let’s entertain the idea that he doesn’t run. If there is a vacancy to be filled on the ticket, I’d there a realistic world where Kamala Harris isn’t the Democratic nominee? My answer is that it is unlikely. What damage would the Democratic Party do to it’s most faithful voting block, Black women, to deny the first Black woman to serve as Vice-President the nomination to succeed her boss? I won’t totally deny the possibility of another candidate that may be popular with Black voters (aka- Senators Booker and Warnock, maybe Mayor Adams, or even *gasp* Hillary again) being able to win the nomination and credibly unite the party against Trump or a similar GOP nominee, particularly with the VP’s polling numbers looking rough. Again though, which of the names I just mentioned is likely to try it or do it credibly? Every Democratic Vice-President from Truman forward has ascended to the Democratic Presidential nomination. Now we’re going to entertain denying it to her in favor of what would likely be a white candidate such as Warren (lol), Sanders (for real?), or Buttigieg (who to his credit is doing everything right to be nominee, someday) that is far less popular with Black voters right now? Even if everyone made up afterwards and said the right stuff, a very small drop in raw Black voter turnout or in the percentage of said voters voting Democratic would be enough to destroy Joe’s entire margin of victory from 2020. Vice-President Harris is almost as likely as President Biden to win a 2024 primary fight to begin with, and the train wreck necessary to stop her might even be more damaging than a primary challenge to the President.

The only two times a sitting Democratic President faced a credible primary challenge in the last century were 1968 and 1980. Both times, Democrats lost the general election. Both of those elections contributed to the fall of the party as the dominant political party in this country post-1994. Running a primary against Joe Biden would be a stupid and likely fruitless fool’s errand. Running a primary against Kamala Harris could do generational damage to the party. I’d certainly never say absolutely never, but I personally have almost no appetite for this talk.

You Mean Vince McMahon Had An Affair? The Horror…

There are some people who you know are not pillars of moral example, and Vince McMahon is one of them. The WWE (formerly WWF) owner made his money selling you fake wrestling as entertainment. We allegedly know (make of that what you will) that they encouraged steroid use among the talent. CTE is a problem their performers deal with. They had evening gown matches between women, had one of their biggest stars drink beer on the show, and had McMahon himself speak of his sexual prowess on the air, often. If you watched pro wrestling for moral guidance, that’s probably worse than if you thought it was real.

You’ll be shocked to find out that the WWE CEO that once had a storyline about having an illegitimate midget child has apparently had an extramarital affair with an employee and paid her off to sign an NDA. I know, you’re shocked. Setting aside that adultery and sleeping with employees aren’t good things, what’s the story here? According to the reports the affair was between consenting adults and McMahon paid her out of his own money, not company money. Their is no accusation of any crime there, just poor judgment. Of course the Deadspin article suggests that McMahon will have to sell the company. Why exactly? This is certainly not good behavior that we applaud, but it’s neither criminal or overly shocking. A guy that made millions on smut happened to also be a womanizer and adulterer? I’m failing to see something here.

There is a solution to behavior you object to- don’t buy from the people going it. Just as I thought Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky was not our concern, I don’t really see the story here, unless there is more to it. If McMahon used his power and authority to force her into something, or to create a hostile work environment, you’re in different territory. If he just had an affair, as the accusations read, so what?

Joe Biden vs. the Democratic Party

If Joe Biden wasn’t the Democratic nominee in 2020, Donald Trump would still be the President of the United States. He was literally the only candidate in the field that could both turn out enough Democrats and still reach the political middle enough to win states like Pennsylvania and Michigan. Everyone else, literally everybody else, would lose. That was true then. It might very well be true now.

Uncle Joe’s poll numbers are sagging a lot though right now and no combination of January 6th hearings and gun bills are seeming to fix them. It turns out gas and food prices trump theoretical plans. Until that changes, I doubt the President’s standing changes, even if he has very little control over these things.

What’s interesting though is that while Democrats are probably heading for losses this year, Democrats on the campaign trail are doing better than Joe Biden or even generic Democrats are. Senator Warnock is running even in Georgia, with Stacey Abrams behind just beyond the margin of error, while the President is -16. In Pennsylvania, Democrats lead in early polling for Governor and Senator, while the President is down double digits (I think the poll is flawed). Polling in Nevada and Arizona matches up with these numbers too. Repeatedly, Democrats on the ballot beat the President in the battlegrounds, the opposite of what we saw in 2020.

The popular internet theory, or at least on the Twitters, will be some sort of Bernie/Warren vs. Biden proxy fight, but that is not really grounded in any kind of fact. Yes, there are definitely some leftist voters angry that perhaps President Biden has not enacted the Build Back Better provisions of his platform, or hiked the minimum wage (both of these take acts of Congress), or forgiven massive amounts of student debt (but he has and is), or that he hasn’t signed some massive climate change bill. There are also “resistance” Democrats mad that Trump isn’t in prison yet too. Most Presidents eventually reach a polling point where they poll a bit below their victory number (in his case 51%), because they can’t deliver everything. Biden is well below that though, and there is little evidence in polling or election results so far in 2022 that this is being driven by left-activist driven anger. Biden’s low approval seems to mostly be driven by malaise within his own political base- rank and file Democratic voters, the less ideological types. What are they unhappy about? One would guess that it’s the same as the general population- high gas prices, inflation, and general kitchen table anxiety. If this was a left-wing revolt, Democrats like Jim Clyburn, Shontel Brown, and Dina Titus would have been defeated by their far-left challengers. They weren’t.

This suggests two fairly interesting potential outcomes in the political future. First off, it suggests that while Democrats are likely to lose the House (the body where more members are viewed “generically” by the public), 2022 may not be an absolute wipeout in the Senate or in House races where members have a unique brand. Number two, it suggests that Biden would probably still defeat a primary challenge from his left, and could even be re-elected if the economy improves. While I give you this positive news, I’ll also give you the inverse news too. The Democratic electorate is clearly more divided and willing to turn against Democrats they don’t live than the Republican electorate is.

All of this, for what it’s worth.

My Very Low Expectations for the January 6th Committee Hearings

I have very little expectations for the January 6th hearings, no matter what production wizardry the committee pulls to make them more interesting. Committed Trump loyalists aren’t going to believe anything they say, even if the testimony came from Ivanka’s mouth. Ultimately the Justice Department isn’t (and shouldn’t) charging Trump with anything unless it’s a virtual lock he will be convicted- an acquittal would help the guy. The reality was always that 90% plus of the arrests for the terrorist attack on our Capitol would always be low level people, with the slim possibility some Trump aides got mixed in here too. The ultimate reality was that random “Proud Boys” and “Boogaloo” members were always taking the fall on this, because ultimately the actual “constitutional crisis” never came to pass- Biden was elected by the electoral college that night, regardless of how ugly it got. Yes, frankly it’s more important the ring leaders go to jail, but that was never likely.

So what exactly am I hoping for out of this? Not much. I don’t see many people moving politically because of these hearings. People watched the Capitol riots on live TV and still a third of the country either doesn’t think it’s a big deal or thinks it was fake. I’m not sure what question Liz Cheney is going to ask to change their mind. In the end I think the price of gas is going to matter a lot more to the upcoming elections than this. While some hope that like the Watergate hearings these hearings will simply stun people into demanding action, that’s overly hopeful.

My chief hope from this committee is that they can produce a report by January 3rd that offers the Justice Department a kind of “soft indictment” to guide their investigation. I don’t think this ever reaches Donald Trump himself, but you never know. If not, it is what it is at this point. Charging him with no chance at conviction is pointless.

The Last Foo Fighters Shows?

Few musician deaths hit me like Taylor Hawkins. It was sad when Charlie Watts or Tom Petty died, but both were from generations before me. Cobain’s suicide happened when I was young. Weiland and most of the other 90’s guys who died had long standing, well documented personal demons. Yes, Hawkins had suffered from previous substance abuse issues, but the Foo Fighters drummer both seemed to be in a much happier place at this point and seemed to be “from this generation.” As we learned, addiction battles are for life, and they can torture anyone- including major rockstars.

When Hawkins died, I wondered if that would be the end of the band. They quickly canceled their 2022 tour, as the band appears to be devastated. It’s not like Dave Grohl or anyone else in the band “needs” the money. No one said anything about it being the end, but it felt like it could be. Taylor Hawkins is to the Foo Fighters as Joe Perry is to Aerosmith.

Obviously I was hoping it wasn’t the end of the band, but you prepare for the worst. Well, out of the sadness, some good news has arrived- two September Taylor Hawkins tribute concerts, one in London and the other in Los Angeles, put on by his family and the band have been announced. It’s not a rescheduled tour, but it is at least confirmation that sadness will not be the final act of one of the all-time great rock bands. There are still questions, like who will be the drummer? Of course those questions do not need to be answered for these shows. Dave Grohl can always do it himself, and honestly could probably convince almost any major drummer to come play two shows with him. I wouldn’t be all that shocked if he talked Ringo Starr into showing up in London. The shows will be great, of that I’m certain, but will anything come after. We just won’t know for a while.