Our Disgusting, but not Unprecedented, Closed Doors

If you read me regularly, you probably know how I feel about AOC- I am not a fan. I think she is ignorant to much of reality, not serious about legislating, craves attention, and generally over the top in her rhetoric. I don’t hate her, I think it’s at least admirable that she is all of these bad things in defense of “the little people.” I just think she is a better packaged version of her awful mentor, Bernie Sanders.

So in our warped reality that we live in, of course I agreed with AOC’s characterization of the government as running “concentration camps” for migrants being picked up at our border. We are keeping people who’s only “crime” was seeking asylum in our country (their human right) in detention centers on the site of our infamous former Japanese internment camps from World War II. I may not be a fan of AOC, but objectively I don’t see how you can say she’s wrong. This administration is setting up internment camps, running ICE raids around the country, banning Muslims from traveling in and out of our country, and closing off ports of entry for asylum seekers. At the same time we’re cutting foreign aid to poor countries in our hemisphere, ignoring our responsibilities to treaty partners, and ignoring human rights abuses in places like Syria. The United States is not just failing to speak with moral clarity, we’re making sure to do the opposite.

I’ve heard people say they don’t recognize our country anymore. They must not study history much. My great-grandparents came to Ellis Island from present day Slovakia in 1922 and 1923. Literally months after my great-grandmother and her eldest daughter arrived in America, the Immigration Act of 1924 was passed, closing Ellis Island and other ports of entry, setting quotas based on nationality and race, and providing funding for targeted enforcement. Asian immigration was largely banned. Italians, Jews, Greeks, Poles, and Slavs were largely banned because the quotas were set based on a 30 year prior census- 1890- for the purpose of keeping America white. The law existed unchanged until 1952, and wasn’t fully replaced until 1965.

Let’s also not pretend we haven’t been brutal to “outsiders” before. African-Americans obviously faced slavery and Jim Crow, not to mention systemic racial oppression since. The “Trail of Tears” treatment of Native Americans is a dark chapter in our country’s history. Of course, the Japanese internment camps I mentioned above were terrible. We turned away Jewish asylum seekers during World War II and it’s run-up as well. What’s going on at our Southern border isn’t exactly “new.”

I don’t like AOC or people who spend all their time “blaming America”- I think this country is far more great than it isn’t. We’ve done some amazing things as a nation and countless nations around the world hold us up as an example. Let’s not lie about our past, or present, in the interest of defending bad behavior. Xenophobia regularly pops up throughout our history, usually with ugly consequences. Ripping children away from their mothers and putting them in concentration camps is not out of character.

Our government is currently arguing in court that children in detention do not need soap, toothbrushes, beds, and blankets. We’re detaining people seeking asylum in our country for the sake of protecting children. We’re putting detention sites on the former site of Japanese internment camps, an ugly moment in our past. While I find AOC to be annoying and generally a net-negative in our government, I don’t think she’s the person we should be yelling at right now.

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Re-Alignment

I registered to vote in 2001, as a Democrat. Michael Bloomberg was a Republican, no one was discussing whether or not demographic politics were destiny or not, and Donald Trump beating a Clinton or a Bush for President seemed like a total joke.

The two parties are changing quickly, right before our eyes. The Republican Party of 2001 was very different than 2019. Gone are the aristocratic Bush types at the top. Gone is the globalist view of military engagement and global trade from the Bush days, and in it’s place is Trump isolationist policy. The Republican Party is now a cultural identity party for “traditional” America, stressing nationalism, law and order, and aggressive anti-elitism. They’re both longing for a cultural America that is traditional, but also calling into question the last 80 years of globalism in American foreign policy. This is a far cry from the Republican Party of Bush- a neoconservative foreign policy, pro-big business (which they still mostly are in policy, but not as much rhetoric.), and theocratic morality politics.

The Democratic Party is basically on another planet too. Bill Clinton’s moderation politics are taking a beating from the activists. “Safe, legal, and rare” to describe abortion policy would almost be disqualifying in a primary. The party has moved a solid step left on everything from taxes to guns, from abortion to criminal justice reform, on health care to LGBT rights. Would a Democrat reiterate Bill Clinton’s pronunciation that “the era of big government is over” in a 2022 State of the Union? Would they even consider a balanced budget, such as Clinton oversaw, as a positive? While the reality is that the Democrats have not really moved crazy left as a practical matter, the rhetoric has shifted dramatically. The Democratic Party is abandoning much of the strategic practicality of Clinton and Obama for more ideological, direct appeal to what it sees as it’s base.

Perhaps that is the biggest shift in American politics over the past 18 years- who each party views as it’s base. When I started in politics in 2002, the Rust Belt man in a Ford pick-up truck was a Democrat, or at least a swing voter. The wealthier suburbs of Philadelphia were moderate Republicans. Now that’s switched. For all the talk of rural Republicans and urban, more diverse Democrats, perhaps those changes are minor compared to the exchange of blue collar whites to Republicans, and educated, white collar whites to Democrats. The Democratic Party is now more Starbucks, the Republicans more Dunkin (for the record, I love both.). The Democratic Party is adapting to a coalition of white collar suburban white people joining African-Americans and most every other group that is considered a minority. The Republicans, under the colorful rhetoric of Trump, are welcoming blue collar, lower middle class, Rust Belt whites to their billionaires and traditionalists.

The biggest driver of the political shifts is the way the two parties now view America’s place in the world. Donald Trump’s new base has driven the Republicans away from international trade deals, rhetorically against cheap foreign labor, to want out of NATO, to want to withdraw from treaties such as KORUS, and to want out of conflicts in places like Syria and Afghanistan. The basic tenet of the Trump doctrine is “why are we paying for it” with regards to the world, and for a desire to spend that money at home. Just as dramatic is the shift on the Democratic side. The Democratic Party is suddenly the party of free trade, foreign intervention in places like Syria, and arguing for at least a more liberal border. Republicans are increasingly uninterested in international collaboration with allies like Canada, South Korea, and our traditional EU allies. Democrats aren’t feeling so great about collaborating with nations they see as against their values, such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, or Italy. This shift has had impacts both in foreign and domestic policy.

All of this has left some people out of place in their own political parties. Michael Bloomberg, mentioned above, has gone from a Republican, to an independent, to a Democrat. The Blue Dog Democrats are virtually gone away, while there aren’t pro-choice Republicans in Congress anymore. Those pieces of their coalitions have left them, eliminating the base of support for most of those members. They’ve gradually lost primaries to more ideological candidates, and lost general elections because their own voters abandoned them.

The major question for the future is if the left-right divide will break down- will the Bernie voters and Trump voters eventually link up? Both are populists that want to shock the system. One took over their party, the other has not been able to so far. Could they eventually all be in the Republican camp if Democrats continue to reject populism?

We are living through a realignment in our politics that is changing both coalitions. The political parties are not what they were when I registered. If you had told me in 2001 that a Republican President would be for isolationist trade and foreign policies, and that I’d oppose that President like I do, I would not believe you. So imagine America by 2040.

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I saw her today at the reception, a glass of wine in her hand. I knew she was gonna meet her connection, at her feet was her footloose man.

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Today’s GOTV playlist:

  1. The Rolling Stones- You Can’t Always Get What You Want
  2. Aerosmith- Dream On
  3. Aretha Franklin- R.E.S.P.E.C.T.
  4. Meek Mill- I’mma Boss
  5. Peter Tosh- Legalize It

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The best part of GOTV? Everybody either is slacking off or trying to be the next James Carville. Nobody seems to just stay in their lanes, do their job, and follow directions.

Hence, it’s 11:16pm and I’m writing this.

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Today’s candidate of the day is Rachel Hunt. Rachel is the daughter of a four-term former Governor of North Carolina, a fighter for quality public education, better jobs, and better health care. Rachel wants to make Raleigh work again, for the average people. Donate to help her here. Volunteer here.

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Looking at the Governor’s Mansions, This May be where Democrats make their biggest gains on Tuesday. Despite probably not winning back Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, or Maryland, Democrats are poised for huge victories.

By my count, I favor Democrats in Maine, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Florida, New Mexico, and Nevada, for a pick up of 9 seats, giving them 25 Governor’s Mansions to 24, with 1 independent. I’m not conceding defeat for Democrats in Georgia, Kansas, South Dakota, and New Hampshire too. It’s going to be a good night for Democrats at the state level.

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Is anyone cooler than Joel Embiid? He had another monster game, with 39 points, 17 boards, and 2 blocks in a win over Detroit. He did so against Andre Drummond, who is actually pretty good. Then he went on social media and dogged Drummond everywhere he could.

The Sixers don’t look like a championship team yet to me, but Embiid looks like he improved- yet again. That’s crazy.

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No feeling bad for Patrick Corbin. The Diamondbacks lefty is about to get paid. With Clayton Kershaw and Cole Hamels getting 3/$93 million and the option year at $20 million respectively, Corbin would seem to be heading towards $25 million a year and five or six years.

Cheers to that.

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Today was Baconfest up in Easton. I’m not there. It’s safe to say I’m jealous.

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There are 15 days left until the 2018 midterm elections. The national narrative seems to be heightened interest in voting this year- potentially on both sides, which may mean blunted Democratic gains. The other part of this narrative is Trump’s rising approval. It seems that some folks are buying into a counter, Republican wave that negates much of the Democratic wave.

I think people are missing the main point here- not all enthusiasm is equal. As Nate Silver put it on Twitter, even above average Republican interest for a midterm would get crushed if Democratic interest in voting hit low-end Presidential levels, and vice-versa. This means that the question is, a.) is Democratic interest in this election truly extraordinary, and b.) does it extend beyond the base?

More after the jump…

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I’m not that interested in this World Series. I am, but I can’t be. I didn’t pick the Red Sox or Dodgers to win. I pretty much despise both. Both fail the “Yankees test”- do I like when they beat the Yankees. If I’m happy to see the Yankees beat a team, I don’t like that team. That’s the case for both here.

For what it’s worth, Chase Utley doesn’t tip my allegiance to the Dodgers at all- he’s not playing. I also don’t think Southern California should even have sports, no one cares there. On the other hand, I can’t cheer for MassHole franchises or anything Curt Schilling likes.

Just kill me already.

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This 2018 Election is not a base election for Democrats. This is not to say Democrats should totally abandon their base, it’s to say that their base can’t do much more for them. Democrats hold pretty much all the African-American based and majority-minority based seats. Democrats dominate urban areas that tend to have unmarried and non-white, Democratic voting women. Motivate your base all you want, this election is about educated, suburban white people. How they vote seems to determine this election.

The good news is that white voters appear to be separating along educational lines. The latest NBC/WSJ polling is showing a dramatic divide- college educated white men are narrowly breaking Democratic, while non-college educated white men are going Republican by 40%. College educated white women are giving Democrats a lead of over 30%, while non-college educated white women give the GOP a narrow lead.

The good news for Democrats? College educated whites are who lives in swing districts.

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I feel like I missed out majorly on a life experience by not getting up to the Smokey Mountains with my family the past few days. My family and extended family were up in Plumtree, NC for a few days. I intended to go see them. Work made it impossible to go up to Grandfather Mountain.

Themes the breaks!

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I love that state legislative elections are centering around the basics- education, health care, taxes, clean drinking water, and infrastructure, again. None of these national distractions. Nothing divisive, really. These issues effect us all, and reflect genuine disagreement.

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Today’s candidate of the day is Dan McCready, the Democratic candidate in NC-9 for Congress. Running in a seat Republicans have held since the era of JFK, McCready is exactly the kind of candidate who could win in Southern North Carolina.

Dan’s race could be key to who controls the House. You can donate to him here. You can volunteer here.

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For every revolution, there is a counter-revolution. I said this yesterday, but I applied it to modern American politics. Apply it to some other revolutions and events though for a minute. The failure of the Articles of Confederation, Shays Rebellion, and the acceptance of English Common Law were all pushback against the American Revolution. The Reformation was a counter-revolution against the revolution that made the Vatican the center of the Western World. The sexual revolution of the 1960’s directly lead to the rise of the moral majority. The Magna Carta didn’t last long after it’s revolutionary signing. Revolutions always welcome a response. While we don’t always celebrate that response, it is often times very popular.

And it can lead to some dark places.

And What Will Become of Them?

In the days since John McCain’s funeral there have been two pressing questions: what will become of the (former) Republican “Establishment” and who will represent it? In the era of Donald Trump, who will take up McCain’s cause and fight to make America a leader in the world order, while upholding the cause of mainstream conservatism at home? What Republican will be the “maverick” that makes deals in the Senate, such as McCain-Feingold? Who among the Republicans will be the check on Trump’s wilder impulses, as McCain was on repealing the Affordable Care Act and opposing the cozying up of this White House to Putin’s Russia? There is some hope for Ben Sasse to serve that purpose. There is a sense that Mitt Romney could serve in that role, assuming he is elected to the Senate this Fall.

My honest assessment is that the real answer to these questions is no one, and that the GOP of McCain that we all imagine, it no longer exists. You can hope that a McSally, Romney, Sasse, or whoever else you want will be the savior, but you’ll probably be disappointed. We have seen would-be critics from Lindsey Graham to Marco Rubio, all the way over to Ted Cruz, all fold like cheap suits. We have seen Republicans with the spine to fight back, the Jeff Flakes and Bob Corkers of the world, end up falling in line when it’s time to vote, and choose to retire, rather than take Trump on. Even Rand Paul loves Russia now. Those who choose to fight Trump, like Mark Sanford, end up decimated in Trump’s wake. Maybe Mitt Romney will choose to fight Trump on a couple of issues, but it won’t be any real, constant resistance. As much as we have romanticized the McCain-Trump feud, it only existed on select political issues. It’s not as though McCain opposed Gorsuch, or voted against tax cuts.

There’s a reason George W. Bush is off painting pictures and John Boehner is driving on some highway singing “Zippidy Doo-Dah” for Labor Day– the Republican Party created a monster it’s old guard can’t control. From Ronald Reagan’s racist overtones of launching his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi to Dubbya running against gay marriage in 2004, the GOP stoked the flames of closet racism to win elections for a couple of generations and wondered how Trump happened. Paul Ryan’s talk of “makers and takers” and Newt Gingrich and Ronald Reagan beating on “welfare queens” created a sense of victimization in the GOP base. You can’t absolve the last couple of generations of Republican leaders for the current state of the party. With the rare exception of McCain, the rest of the GOP refused to tamp down the fires of birtherism during the first African-American Presidency.

I will grant the generation of McCain, the Bush Family, and the Doles that I think they were by and large above the real grotesque racism and bigotry that currently rules the GOP. I think Trump largely does disgust them. While I think they were complicit in creating the conditions for Trump, I agree that they couldn’t foresee this. Even so, the Trump movement is having no mercy on their brand of Republicanism. History will largely show them being overrun by it.

The reason that old-line conservatism is losing to Trumpism is because Trumpism is actually who their base always was. All the talk of “small government” and neoconservative war didn’t mean what they thought it meant to their base. The culture wars of God, gays, and guns wasn’t just a ploy to the Republican base. Men like Donald Trump knew that, while Mitt Romney did not. In the face of a more global, more diverse, more intellectual world, a huge chunk of America wanted someone like Donald Trump- someone who would oppose feminism, “the browning” of America, campus intellectuals, and an America that didn’t seem to value “their” way of life anymore. The motivating factor in conservative politics is stopping the liberal vision of America’s future. Nothing more, nothing less. If it takes giving rich people tax cuts to secure the funding for electoral victories that give them conservative judges and a White House that halts the changing world, the Republican base will take it. They will endure lies, corruption, and hypocrisy to defeat the liberal vision of America. Donald Trump promised them to reverse the Obama course in absolute, culture driven terms, and he didn’t dog-whistle about it. That’s why he owns the GOP now.

So as I said above, there is no new McCain coming, to the extent there ever was one. The “Republican Establishment” is dead, to the extent it ever existed, and it stands no chance against the blue-collar, white politics of Trumpism. What will become of them? At best, not much. At worst, ruin. One can hope the GOP’s future is the “younger” Republican libertarian ideals, which at least give lip service to a less bigoted party. I’m not betting the house on that right now.

The Mistaken Connection of Ideology and Partisanship

Many political observers are decrying the “polarization” of our politics. The feeling is that the two parties are becoming more ideological, both in Congress and the electorate. By confusing ideology and partisanship, we are doing ourselves no favors. While ideological movement in the parties is questionably happening, partisan movement towards nearly tribalism is clearly impacting our politics every day.

I have no doubt of the ideological differences between Mark Meadows and Charlie Dent, but I would argue there is very little difference in their partisanship. Dent was an open moderate ideologically, one who criticized Trump even. Dent was also an 85% Republican vote in the U.S. House, meaning the difference between he and the ultra-conservative leader Meadows was about one in ten votes in Congress, or less. One could argue the same on the Democratic side using Elizabeth Warren and Joe Manchin in the Senate. While activists would point to obvious differences between the two, it’s important to note that both have been pretty solidly Democratic votes in the Senate against Trump, including the major votes like health care. It’s important to understand there are differences between moderates and the liberal and conservative wings of their respective parties, but it’s important to not over-state them- the gap is only one or so votes out of ten, which adds up to a small hand full of votes over the life of each Congress.

Partisanship is the dominate factor in our Congress right now, more so than ideology. Members of Congress stay loyal to their parties in Congress, regardless of whether they represent safe or in-danger seats. The main reason for this is that voters, regardless of their ideology, don’t often reward bi-partisanship. Occasionally this isn’t true, when an issue of general consensus comes up, but these are increasingly rare. With so much demographic sorting going on, the two political parties want different things. We really don’t “all want the same things in the end,” as many people like to say. The two parties have different priorities and views of the world, and so there’s less and less to do together. With gerrymandered districts making most Congressional races about the primary, where bi-partisan work is *mostly* frowned on. Even a moderate legislator is smart to vote with their party almost all of the time.

This does not mean that John McCain is Rand Paul now, it just means that they’re going to vote together almost all the time. For all the ideological kicking and screaming about Hillary and Bernie in the 2016 primaries, it’s important to note that they voted together about 90% of the time in Congress. It also does not mean that they’re ideological matches though either. There are substantive ideological differences in both parties. A potential Senator Mitt Romney viewsthe world far different than Donald Trump, even if he ends up voting with him regularly. Reverse their roles and you would get a very different government, even if the policy overlap would be substantial. The ideology gap is real.

Even ideology isn’t what it used to be though. The Blue Dogs on the Democratic side and the “Rockefeller Republicans” on the Republican side are mostly gone. Southern white Democrats are basically a historical artifact, while the California Republican Party is literally so weak in the legislature there that they don’t have to show up for work for business to go on. With such past forces of moderation gone, the internal gaps in the parties are smaller than before. The debates in the Democratic Party are over what role the government should play in health care, not if they belong involved. How much should the minimum wage rise? Republicans have similar debates over what shade of red their policies should take, not if they should be red. The terms “conservative Democrat” and “liberal Republican” are mostly dead.

Ideological divides now generally are about the degree of compromise one should accept, and on what issues. “Berniecrats” want no compromise on leftist economics, while Hillary backers aren’t interested in compromise on social issues. Ideological fights break out when discussing if Senators or Congressmen should break from partisan orthodoxy to support home state commerce interests, such as Bernie Sanders voting with the NRA on guns or Cory Booker voting friendly to pharmaceutical producers. Ideological disputes are now mostly about whether party orthodoxy can be adapted and amended for local interests of the electeds.

It does is all no good to confuse partisanship and ideology, or their effects on our politics. Voters are generally not rewarding attempts at bi-partisanship in 2018 elections- they don’t see much common ground. The question of ideology is different though. While some purists, such as Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, are winning primaries, we’re seeing plenty of pragmatists win too. This doesn’t mean Conor Lamb and Gretchen Whitmer will be “Republican-lite,” it means they’re going to bend on the issues their constituents demand it on. It means a Senator Romney is probably going to criticize Donald Trump, while being a fairly reliable vote. Voters seem to like moderating, reasonable ideology, but still expect you to vote with your party, usually. These are the fault lines in American politics in 2018, and we’d all do better to understand them correctly.

Donald Trump, Impeachment, and the American Right

Donald Trump is in a lot of trouble. Ultimately speaking, he’s in serious jeopardy of being indicted and tried after his Presidency. His company and his Foundation have probably broken laws. His campaign almost certainly operated in a conspiracy with Russia to win the election, which is illegal, based on the statements of he and his son. He has probably used the powers of his office to obstruct justice. Many close associates of Trump’s are now facing prison. The situation for the President is full of peril.

This is probably the point where I remind you that none of that is likely to make a difference in your life. The only thing of impact to the public that can happen to Trump is his removal from office. That can only happen by his being defeated in 2020, or impeached and convicted in Congress before then. It’s too early to tell about 2020, but it is likely to be another cliffhanger finish, given how close 2016 was. That leaves the impeachment process, and the many pitfalls that Democrats could encounter along the way. Looking at them, I don’t believe Trump will be removed from office early, based on what we know.

The first step towards impeaching Trump is Special Counsel Robert Mueller issuing a report that details specific crimes that he believes Trump committed. For historical reference, the Starr Report leading to impeachment on Bill Clinton wasn’t issued until his second term, so we may be pretty far away. Then the House Judiciary Committee would draw up articles of impeachment, hold hearings on them, and have to vote them out. This step in the process really can’t begin until next year, and would probably require a Democratic House Majority to even have a chance. Only then would the full House consider impeachment, and again, a Democratic Majority is a pre-requisite to even consider that. After all of that, you get a Senate trial where 67 votes are needed to convict and remove Trump. There will not ever be 67 Democrats to push this. In other words, at some point Democrats will need some Republicans to hold Donald Trump accountable, as President.

So I guess I’m saying Trump is in real personal trouble, but the Trump Presidency is safe and secure as long as he’s sporting 90% support from Republicans. I suppose it is possible at some point that Senate Republicans will decide it’s in their self-interest to remove Trump, provided that Mike Pence is in no real trouble, and that their base turns on Donald Trump for some reason. What would that reason be though? Conspiracy with Russia? They’ve rationalized that. Crude conduct with women and paying hush money for cover-ups? They quite literally don’t care. Tax cuts for the rich and huge deficits? They’ve always supported that. Latino kids in cages? They think they shouldn’t be here in the first place.

The things that activist Democrats hate about Donald Trump are what his voters like about him. The societal change the left wants is what the Trumpers support, and what makes the “American Middle” squeamish. A large portion of the voters who will probably vote to give Democrats a Congressional majority are probably conflicted on the cultural issues that divide us, and will mostly be voting against Donald Trump for poor performance in office, not diametric opposition to his vision. The most offensive issues about Trump, to the left- his cheating and covering up affairs on his wives, his nationalistic view towards immigration, his “traditionalism” on social issues in general- are exactly the kind of things that probably make him safe from removal. Those in the “pink hats” hate him for it, those in the “red hats” love him for it.

Donald Trump is a reflection of the world view in Conservative America, and for that reason, Republicans in Congress won’t turn on him. Obviously things change, and something could change the calculus. That’s unlikely though. As a result, impeachment is really unlikely too.

It’s Time to Re-Think Who “Won” the Cold War, Civil Rights Movement, and World Wars

It’s 2018, and Germany has a roaring economy, universal health care, and an impressive infrastructure. China is building a world order that doesn’t center around us. France, the United Kingdom, and Canada are adjusting to life without an absolute alliance with us. Russia interfered in our elections, got away with it, and is being rewarded with Presidential summits. We have a President who is a reality TV star, who bankrupted a casino, and who tweets in all caps, LIKE THIS!

You’d have to pardon anyone wondering out loud if the story of American Exceptionalism that came out of the 20th Century was a myth.

While Europe built strong social-safety nets, Asia innovated, and Russia put their energy into mastering the internet, the United States built the largest military industrial complex in the world. While America built up corporate profits, built up a credit bubble, slashed taxes for the wealthy, and increased the income inequality gap, Germany went in the opposite direction, in a span of less than 30 years. While America assumed the success of the 1950’s and 60’s Civil Rights Movement, the electoral polarization that came from it became bad enough that Russia preyed on our racial tensions in interfering with our 2016 elections.

At the end of the 1980’s, the Berlin Wall came down, the Soviet Union was in collapse, and China was “modernizing” their economy towards capitalism. Kids were taught about the progress that had been made by the Civil Rights movement in school. The 1990’s were a period of remarkable, broad-based economic success in America. The United States was considered the world’s greatest military superpower, and used that power and influence in places like the former Yugoslavian republics. We were instrumental in peace agreements in the Middle East, even bringing the Palestinians and Israelis together in the Clinton years. It seemed as though America had defeated the evil of the world, and was creating a peaceful, prosperous world order.

The 21st Century has to make us ask questions- children in cages, Iraq, white nationalists coming out of the shadows, Russian hacking of our elections, mass shootings with no government reaction, Abu Ghraib, tens of millions uninsured, massive student debt, Gitmo, sham summits with foreign dictators, no action on climate change, a massive bank meltdown, and so much more. Is the United States still making progress? Does our federal budget and government match our values? Have we made the right choices on how to spend our dollars? How did we squander the booming economy and budget surpluses we ended the 90’s with? How did we end up with a crumbling infrastructure, school shootings, a health care system that leaves millions behind, no plans for clean energy development and energy independence, white nationalists in the streets, school students testing out rather mediocre against other countries, but the largest military budget in the world, by leaps and bounds?

It is clear now that things were not quite what they once seemed, at least to me. It’s clear to me that our priorities for spending our collective dollars were wrong. It’s clear to me that Germany, who lost both World Wars, is set to be in a much stronger position moving forward than we are, 100 years after World War I. It’s clear to me that China has become far more effective and innovative at solving societal and global issues, without matching us in bombs. It’s clear that 30 years after the Cold War, Russia is effectively meddling in our elections, and causing America to damage itself. It’s clear to me that the successes of the Civil Rights movement have given way to a tyranny of the majority, where resentment and re-segregation is happening both politically and in regular life. It is entirely fair to me that we question how America spent it’s capital, it’s hard-earned global power. Rather than enriching our people, building a strong, stable society, we enriched the few and built a strong country for yester-year. Obviously in the short term, we have to defeat Trump, and get his ilk out of power. In the longer term, we have to reconsider our entire paradigm, ditch our toxically polarized politics, and reconsider the decisions and actions we’ve taken with our great power.

American Politics 2040

Things change. The trajectory of things change. Nothing is set in stone that has not happened yet. This does not mean that you can’t take an honest look at your current trajectory and figure out where you are going. America could use that right now, but it’s leadership is simply unwilling or incapable of doing so. After the 2016 election, we need to really consider where it is we’re headed.

The Republican Party of Reagan and Nixon is changing, morphing before our eyes. They will become a more hard-line nationalist party, one that identifies heavily as white and traditional. They are still for low taxes and de-regulation, but are a more populist party that can support government “welfare” for those who they deem as “American.” They want to back away from being the world’s active superpower, particularly on matters of climate change and trade policy, and instead pursue a more isolationist world view on those matters. They are certainly not George W. Bush in his view of American leadership, instead agreeing more with Vladimir Putin’s regionalized powers view of the world. They reject the 20th Century, post World War II “western order” with our traditional allies in Western Europe, in part because they reject the globalist view of those countries. They’ll spend big on defense, but not to play “global policeman.” The Republican Party is becoming an “America First,” hard borders and isolationist economics party, one that embraces white identity and traditional values, is pro-military spending, dismantles collective safety nets in favor of arbitrary ones, and who opposes taxes and regulations to protect the public.

Democrats are on a trajectory that is quite different. The Democrats are becoming a fully globalist party. Global trade, collective action with our Western allies on global issues, a pluralistic identity, a more open immigration policy, and a very science driven policy process are some of the hallmarks of the Democratic future. Democrats are embracing more socialistic concepts and collective actions and solutions. Democrats embrace a more active global voice, a softer “national identity,” particularly on matters of race and language, and more integration with the world.

Over the next twenty years or so, the two parties will battle over this “America First,” traditional-nationalist view of the world, versus a more globalist, collective, Civil Rights driven world view. Election cycles will be volatile, and leadership will change more often. Primaries will push both parties more clearly into their corners. The current divisions in this country will be more stark. The need for money in our campaigns, along with gerrymandering and voter sorting, will produce more “pure” parties in terms of their differences and positions.

About twenty years from now, half of America will live in eight states. The most important two data points in determining if a state, district, or county is red or blue will be:

  • The percentage of non-white voters. This is fairly simple, straight forward, and easy to understand. If there are a large percentage of African-Americans, or certain groups of Latinos or Asians, you can expect Democrats to do well. If not, expect it to be red. The exception comes out of the second point-
  • The existence of major metropolitan markets that are “winning” in the global economy. If you have a New York or San Francisco, you’re blue. If you have a failing regional urban market or ones that are too small, you’re red. This is they key delineation point among white people. White people in large, successful urban places like Philadelphia or Washington are usually Democrats. White people in white collar suburbs near those kind of markets are swing voters who will lean left. White voters everywhere else are trending the other way. The higher education and earning white people will live in the bigger, successful job markets, and trend Democratic.
  • What does this mean in the long haul? By 2040, I have these states as blue:
    • New York
      New Jersey
      Massachusetts
      Delaware
      Maryland
      DC
      Virginia
      Georgia
      Illinois
      Texas
      New Mexico
      California
      Hawaii

    If you’re trying to think out loud on how many electoral votes that is, it should be about 220. Assuming Democrats win all of the Senate seats in these states, it’s 24 (If DC isn’t a state). Interestingly, these states should have just under 200 House seats, under my math, meaning the “friendliest” branch of the government for Democrats to win elections might be the House.

    What other states could be in play? Well, you’re looking for one of two things- major metropolitan areas that are attracting new economy jobs, and non-white voters. You need some sort of coalition between non-white voters and white voters who are “winning” in the 21st Century economy. What states have this?

    • North Carolina- I almost put this state with the group of blue states, because of the “Research Triangle” and Charlotte areas, but there are large rural swaths in this state that can and will probably keep it competitive. This will become to Democrats what Pennsylvania has been, a “must have,” in order to win.
    • Florida- I’m not overly bullish on Florida’s long term prospects for Democrats, in part because the Latino population is simply less liberal leaning than those in the West- in part because they come from different places and are less connected to the immigration issue. Florida will remain a competitive state though, because it is diverse, and has the Miami and Tampa areas that fit the bill as metropolitan areas.
    • Pennsylvania- Pennsylvania will not be the Democratic lock for national candidates that it was from 1988 through 2012, but it’s not going the wrong way completely anytime soon. Why? Philadelphia is a giant market, and to a lesser extent the Allegheny County (Pittsburgh area) will remain relevant. The state won’t remain cleanly “blue” though because Northeast PA is increasingly behaving like Central and Northwest PA already were. Democrats need to dig into the Lehigh Valley and Pocono regions in order to win statewide contests in the future. The polar opposition behavior of the rest of the state will make those areas the key.
    • Minnesota- In 2016, one of the under-reported stories of the election was how Minneapolis-St. Paul and their suburbs had to bail Democrats out. That is looking like the new norm. With some of the “generation Mondale” Democrats leaving the more rural Congressional seats, Democrats are at risk of atrophying further in those parts of the state. The “Twin Cities” will increasingly be pitted against more rural, conservative areas in competitive races.
    • Connecticut- How is Connecticut a swing-state in 20 years? I’m not very bullish on Democrats future hopes in New England right now. If you look right now, Democrats only hold two of the six Governorships. They could lose Connecticut this year. The region is very white. The only state with a mega-market in it is Massachusetts. What keeps this state from going away from Democrats? Suburban New York and Boston voters. Higher education centers and highly educated voters. Hartford. Even with those things, New England is quite white and not huge fans of taxes. Expect this state to be competitive.
    • Colorado- Put this state next to North Carolina as a state that I almost made Blue. Educated millennial voters have moved to metro Denver at a fast clip. The Latino vote should grow in Colorado moving forward. Even so, it’s a “Denver vs. the world” effect out there. In large sections of the state, Democrats probably won’t be overly competitive. This state, like Pennsylvania and Minnesota, will constantly come down to turnout in their largest metropolitan market. Denver isn’t as large as Philadelphia, so their margin of error will be a little smaller. Fortunately the state’s demographics are a little better than Pennsylvania’s in 20 years. It will still be a battle.
    • Nevada- There’s Las Vegas and the “rest of Nevada.” Democrats aren’t going to win much in rural Nevada, meaning their margins in Clark County will need to continue to decide elections. Democrats should continue to win the Las Vegas market, but they don’t win it as crazy big as one might think. Lots of older white people live in Clark County, which narrows the margins. Democrats are held up by a sizable Latino voter shares and organized labor’s considerable strength in Las Vegas. If Republican sabotage of labor weakens Vegas labor, this state may be red. Labor’s strength may decide this state’s political future.
    • Washington- If you remove the Seattle market from Washington, it’s already red. That divide probably won’t lessen in years to come. As long as Seattle remains a destination for young workers, Washington will remain blue. Still, this state’s political future will entirely ride on Seattle’s turnout, so it’s not a safe bet in twenty years.
    • Rhode Island- Either Rhode Island will continue to perform like a well-educated Boston suburb, or it will perform like an extremely white, Catholic state. Like Connecticut, I like the chances of Democrats better in the southern part of New England than the north. I still think Democrats will have to fight for it.
    • Oregon- Take everything I wrote about Washington, and put Portland in the place of Seattle. While this state is traditionally liberal, it’s also largely rural and white, which I’m predicting to be the data points that matter. Can Portland keep it Blue? Maybe. It’s not a lock though.
    • Vermont- How can I put Vermont here? The home of Bernie Sanders as a swing state? Well, there’s a few things to consider here. First, they have a Republican Governor right now, which isn’t terribly odd for them. Second, it’s very rural. Third, it’s a very pro-gun state. Vermont’s perceived liberalism may not be as “baked in” as others think, especially as the parties shift. Burlington is not a mega-market that can keep Vermont “blue” on it’s own.
  • So how important are those states in 20 years? About 125 electoral votes worth. 22 Senate seats worth. Another 100 or so House seats. If Democrats do well in these states, they can cobble together Electoral College victories and small House majorities. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a Senate majority between these states and all the ones in the base.
  • What this means of course, is that Democrats will need to keep several states competitive enough to win sometimes that I did not put into this mix. Perhaps Arizona will belong in this group, or Mississippi, or South Carolina, none of whom are on my current list. I’m not bullish on the current trajectory of Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Ohio- mostly because their major urban markets have seen major population declines, and I am not certain they can overtake the declining returns of national Democrats in their more rural areas- but Democrats will need to compete in them and occasionally win to build governing majorities. I should include New Hampshire and Maine here, two rural, white New England states that don’t feel like they trend with us in this re-alignment. These states moved far towards the Republicans in Trump’s 2016 win and have Republicans as Governors currently. Even so, Democrats probably can’t check out on them.
  • Obviously trends can change. The middle-aged and elder Trump voters and their brand of politics will begin dying during the next 20 years, and young Republicans could make the party more libertarian. That may calm some of the white-nationalist rhetoric- though I’m doubtful, and I know that doesn’t drastically change their policies. The internal Democratic fight- of identity vs. ideology- isn’t over yet. Things can happen. Changes will happen.
  • No matter how much I shift things though, I keep coming back to the same two definitive data points- non-white voters and major metropolitan, global marketplaces. No matter how I apply those, the future for Democrats, on the current trajectory, is threading a needle in every election. The Democrats may never lose another popular vote for President in this country, but have many repeats of 2000 or 2016 in the future. Because Democrats win many of their House seats with more than 75% of the vote, even in a country where the majority want a Democratic House, Democrats May never see majorities the size of the one they had in 2009-10. Because half the country will live in eight states in 2040, and most of the non-white votes will be in those states, the Senate may very well simply exist to thwart the desires of the nation’s majority through a safe, conservative Senate Republican majority.
  • Here’s the part though that is most concerning. The open antipathy between the bases of the two parties may create a situation in the future where the minority of the country, the rural white states, rules with an iron fist over the majority of the country in those eight big states. I’m not sure if it will rise to the level of apartheid South Africa, or Saddam’s Iraq, but the Trump era must make you concerned about it. If “owning the Libs” is the motivating factor of the Republican Party, rather than governing an increasingly diverse country and improving outcomes for even those across the partisan divide, our union will be severely tested in ways not seen since the Civil War. That’s a dark future to look forward to.
  • Politics Ain’t Working in America

    Sixteen years ago this month I got involved with politics and the Democratic Party. Politics were pretty different then. Republican moderates held more urban seats, and Blue Dog Democrats held rural seats. George W. Bush was reaching out to Latino voters as best he could, and his electoral results showed that it was helpful. Democrats were still competing in Missouri and in the parts of Western Pennsylvania not calling themselves “Pittsburgh.” Wyoming Republican Senator Alan Simpson worked with Democratic President Bill Clinton, while Democratic Senator John Breaux worked with Republican President George W. Bush. I guess I’ve now been involved long enough by age 35 to opine for the old days.

    None of that stuff is remotely relevant in 2018. There was no Alan Simpson for Barack Obama, and there sure as hell isn’t a John Breaux for Donald Trump. Frankly, that kind of bi-partisanship gets you primaried out of office in 2018. The interest groups basically run the two parties, which has forced most elected officials into their ideological corners. Gerrymandering and outside money force ideological conformity that didn’t even exist fifteen years ago. Bi-partisanship is essentially dead, not that the era of Donald Trump is really making anyone long for it anyway. Trump’s existence is to troll his opponents, and some of his supporters even will tell you they don’t care if he got Russian help- at least he stopped Hillary. I think most Democrats would tell you we don’t care how we beat him in 2020 either, it’s a moral imperative at this point.

    More than anything though, the changes in our politics are about sorting. Democrats have lost almost all of their rural seats in Congress, besides those that are majority-minority, and are essentially an urbanized party now. Save for a few urban enclaves like Staten Island, the Republican Party doesn’t exist at all in urban America. Congressional elections are decided in suburbia now, but neither party’s messaging really reaches them- because most Congressmen represent gerrymandered, base districts, and fear primaries. These voters often find themselves disgusted and disinterested in politics, and end up just voting against one side of the other. The overwhelming majority of districts are decided ahead of time, the other districts are full of disgusted voters, and we wonder why Congress can’t get much done? We used to think we all had the same goals, and different routes there. That’s just not true anymore. The America each side wants is no longer the America the other side wants.

    From a political standpoint, we can work around this- the majority rules. Whoever wins the election does what they want and governs for their side. Of course, this constantly leaves the minority party’s voters discontent with America. It leads to fluctuations in policy as Congress and the Presidency go back-and-forth like a yo-yo. A Democratic government passes a comprehensive health care bill in the ACA, and the succeeding Republican Congress and President do everything they can to sabotage that bill. A functional, consistent government that works is nobody’s goal. Achieving ideological victory is the motivator for Congress.

    America’s great achievements- the interstate highway system, landing on the moon, Civil Rights legislation, and others- were bi-partisan, collective victories. That seems like pie-in-the-sky now. While I think both sides have become very ideological, I have to say I don’t assign equal blame- today’s Republicans literally questioned Barack Obama’s citizenship, and generally treat Democrats, particularly minorities, as lesser or non-citizens, and question their patriotism. In this kind of environment, things don’t get done. Infrastructure crumbles. Thirty or forty million people don’t get health care. Our students fall to the middle of the pack in education outcomes. A broken immigration system doesn’t get fixed. Our children get mowed down by madmen with machine guns. Common-sense energy policy that protects our environment can’t get passed. Just partisan fixes that favor major funders of the majority party can pass. Problems can’t get solved.

    Our constitutional system was not drawn up to deal with a country literally divided along identity lines. Racial, gender, urban vs. rural, education, and other divisions have created a country where we don’t have shared goals. Globalism has moved so many of the good jobs to population clusters, or big cities. Self-sorting among the people has made a situation where most of the Democrats are in the big cities, and most of the Republicans live in exurban or rural areas. Our federal system, particularly the electoral college and Congressional re-districting, gives one side an advantage on the other. In twenty years, half the country will live in eight states. We are heading towards a divided society not unlike those in third world countries, or at the worst case scenario, apartheid-era South Africa. If we continue on this path, Donald Trump may end up being the calm before the actual storm.