Dems have a damaging, protracted fight on their hands

Cross-posted from Redstate.

I have a couple of thoughts about the impact of yesterday’s blowout by Barack Obama over, primarily, Hillary Clinton. The Nutroots, who hate Clinton anyways, are already touting Obama’s win as a "new generation tak[ing] charge". And there’s some logic to that. As if to emphasize that point, Hillary was standing there with Madeline Albright, Bill Clinton, Terry McAuliffe, and Wesley Clark, all Dem leaders from the 90s, almost a decade ago. The Dems picked generational change, and Hillary is touting "back to the future." The establishment wants their power, and they are going to fight for it. Both the length and the brutality of the fight help the GOP in November.

This morning I talked to Danny Diaz, the RNC’s Communications Director and he correctly pointed out that there aren’t that many differences between the Democrat candidates on the major issues. They are "all for higher taxes, a huge government healthcare plan, surrendering in the War on Terror, and defunding our troops."

The upshot is that the Dems are going to have a long primary with two very well funded candidates. The Clintonistas will only give up their power when it is taken from their cold, dead hands. I mean, can you imagine her losing one more race and dropping out? They will tear up Obama, and he will respond tearing her up. And everything that they do will reinforce why Democrats and independents don’t like her. At the same time, both are going to have to run to the left. As Danny pointed out, "the longer it goes on and more liberal positions that they are forced to embrace, the better for us in the general."

Regardless of the question of who we face, our chances in the general just got a lot better. In all cases, the Democratic base will be more split up, and the candidates will be damaged by the nastiness.

Huckabee, affluents, and the future of the GOP

Seemingly every day, there is a new piece by a high-profile Republican/conservative attacking Mike Huckabee for being some sort of "big government" conservative or even liberal. Today, it was Bob Novak. I’m not going to quibble on the points, although I would point out that in Northern Virginia, where I sit, raising taxes to fund education and roads is pretty popular among Republicans and the local Chamber of Commerce.

Is Mike Huckabee going to be President? No. Does he represent something about the future of the GOP? I think so. Recall what David Brooks said about George Bush and his compassionate conservative agenda:

while some Republicans argue that big government conservatism started under George W. Bush and that the G.O.P. was in decent shape until Bush ruined it, this is a total myth. In fact, it was Bush in 1999 who single-handedly (though temporarily) rescued the Republican Party. He did it not by courting Republican interest groups, but by coming up with something new. On July 22, he delivered a speech in Indianapolis in which he explicitly distanced himself from Washington Republicans and laid the groundwork for compassionate conservatism.

The point here was that Bush could pick up working class voters. It is now a truism that he succeeded in spades here. The Bush-Rove plan for domination was to split Hispanics and African-American voting blocs, with immigration reform and religious outreach, respectively. Note that this is a rehash of what the Reagan campaign tried in 1980. (How many WASPs were on Reagan’s Connecticut Committee in 1980?) The possibility of success was demonstrated by "Angela Williams" in John Harwood’s recent WSJ piece on the changing demographics of party identification.

Patrick Ruffini
sees a slightly different side to this:

Bush’s message was at least coherent. It was a savvy tactical response to Republicans constantly getting cut up by the rhetorical meatgrinder of the Clinton presidency. In time, people would come to appreciate the President’s plainspoken and direct approach to politics, in contrast to Clinton’s prevarication. And he was remarkably successful at doing what he set out to do. Eight years later, no one thinks of the Republican Party as stingy Scrooges eager to starve grandma. …

What Bush did in domestic policy was redefine a wayward party by triangulating in a sort of Clinton-Blair “Third Way” mold.

As a comparative point, there was more going on than a Clinton-Blair phenomenon. The Anglosphere left all have no made the same jump. In Canada, the Liberals went center-right on economics. The Australian Labour Party just won an election by trying to blur economic issues. In some sense, with the collapse of global socialism and communism, all the parties have moved to the right. Also, as these societies have grown wealthier, the issue mix has changed.

Harwood’s piece illustrates the flip-side of the problem, and gets to our broader point. Where do we go for adding more votes? One option is to try to get back some of the affluents that Harwood describes us losing and yesterday’s Washington Times describes the Dems picking up.  As Ross Douthat points out, "[t]he socially-liberal upper-middle class is large and growing larger." However, I think he makes a compelling argument that these people are lost to us, ultimately:

[M]ost of the northeastern and West Coast suburbanites the GOP has lost aren’t just social liberals – they’ve become liberals, flat-out, as issues like crime and taxes have lost their salience and the Democratic Party has moved to the middle on economics.

Big business will suck up to Democrats. The hedge funds and private equity are getting all the love out of Chuck Schumer that they need. And, as David Ignatius points out, Hillary is no leftist, even though Hillary is no Bill. And, as Greg Mankiw pointed out, even the Rangel "Mother of all Tax Hikes" is no class-warfare dream.

So, I think, that the other option is to try to dig deeper into the working class. Huckabee’s overt populism is one approach. John McCain’s slightly more low-key populism, on economic issues, combined with a more rabid anti-Washington populism is another strategy and, perhaps, a more likely endpoint than Huckabee’s approach. However, Huckabee does open a window to that future.

In any case, I suspect that the continual attacks on Huckabee aren’t going to be so threatening. First, his voters probably don’t care. As Richard Land said about Duncan Hunter, "A lot of evangelicals are probably sympathetic to his protectionist arguments."  Second, his response that he spent money on school and roads can be pretty compelling to a bunch of Iowa farmers, if he manages to get his message out. And third, I wonder how many of the super-rich Club for Growthers are left? How many i-bankers participate in Iowa caucuses anyways?

Now, this has focused on Huckabee’s economic message. There is an interesting question about Huckabee’s message on moral issues. My gut is that Huckabee follows the breezes in the evangelical community.

Dem debate: Townhall questions

An Iraq veteran family asks about "the rush to war in Iran." Of course, Drudge links to a story on Iran:

The way to do that is to not ratchet up the winds to war here. A lot of people voted for that … a serious, serious mistake. It convinced the rest of the Muslim war that this is a war against Islam, not a war against Iran.

Clinton:

I oppose a rush to war. Started speaking about it back in February.

Obama:

We should not take steps towards increasing troop presence in Iraq.

Richardson:

End military contractors. Reform our military.

Edwards:

This administration has done more than abuse the Patriot Act. … We are going to take the steps to restore the profiling. Stop the illegal spying in America. … Closing Gitmo. No more secret prisons. No more renditions. … No torture will be tolerated in the United States.

Richardson:

I’m the only one who has addressed immigration directly. … I am the first governor to declare a border emergency because the federal government wasn’t doing its job stopping drugs and illegal immigrants.

Social Security.

Clinton:

I am for getting back to fiscal responsibility. We have long-term challenges with social security. Now we have a crisis in Medicare. … I want to move back towards fiscal responsibility. … We have to have a bipartisan commission.  … If you lift the cap completely, it is a $1t tax increase.

Obama:

Only 6% of Americans make above the cap. … This is the kind of thing that I would expect from Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani. … This is the top 6%, not the middle class.

What qualities must the appointees to SCOTUS have. Dodd:

A balanced sense of justice. Not just there as academics. Have a clear record. … Demonstrated that ability to be fair. I don’t necessarily believe in applying litmus tests. … I would not want justices to be appointed who would overturn Roe v Wade.

All would implement a pro-choice litmus, which various emphases.

Then I got bored with the questions.

Dems debate notes: Journalist questions

They ask Clinton about illegal immigration. The question cites other candidates saying that she doesn’t answer questions.

The American people know what I have been fighting for 35 years…. Fighting for issues for women and minorities, workers and families.

They ask Obama to whip Clinton:

Senator Clinton is a great politician. … Politics of parsing. … Straight answers to touch questions. Not what we have seen from Senator Clinton: drivers licences. Two weeks to get a clear answer. … Need a different kind of politics. … They don’t feel that Washington is listening to them…. Listening to the American people to get things done.

Clinton responds:

Taking strong positions. Obama’s plan would leave 15m people out of health care. Fighting this battle against the special interests for more than 15 years… We can have more a different kin of politics, but the special interests aren’t going away. The Republicans aren’t going to stop fighting.

Obama responds:

The only difference between Senator Clinton’s plan and mine is that no one has mandated. … People would love to have health care, … but they can’t afford it. … That’s what they are looking for. That’s what they deserve.

Clinton responds:

Senator Obama’s health care plan doesn’t come everyone … children’s health care plan. … He does not mandate the kind of coverage that I do. … There’s a big difference between Senator Obama and me.

They ask Edwards to way in:

The issue is whether we have a president who can restore trust in the American people. … Senator Clinton says she will end the war. She also says that she will keep combat troops in Iraq. … On Iran, she voted with Bush and the neo-cons. … …. …. She says that she will bring change to Washington, when she will not speak against a system that is corrupt….

Clinton responds:

I respect all of my colleagues on this stage. We are all Democrats. … What I believe is important is that we put forth what we stand for. I have been active for 35 years. … When Senator Edwards ran in 2004, he wasn’t for universal heatlh care. … We need to put forth a positive agenda for America. …

They ask Biden. Not an impressive dude:

The American people don’t give a darn about what we are talking about here tonight. They worry about their children are going to run into a drug dealer tomorrow. …. mortgages, Iraq… Who among us understands how to deal with Pakistan, … Georgia, … Passing the Violence Against Women Act, Passing the crime bill.,

Next question to John Edwards about changing positions:

It is different to say two contrary things at the same time to different people. In Washington, she said she would vote for the Peruvian trade deal. In Iowa, she told a bunch of union workers that she wanted a moratorium against trade deals. …

Dodd. Surprised at just how angry Edwards is:

There is a shrillness to this debate. The American people want results… They wonder if anyone in Washington is paying attention. … If we waste time on the shrillness of this debate we lose teh American people.

I am Bill Richardson, I am the governor of New Mexico. It seems that John wants to start a class war. Barack wants to start a generational war. It seems that Senator Clinton doesn’t want to stop the Iraq war. I just want to give peace a chance …. end the war … energy independence … Let’s stop going after each other on character and trust.

Support Dem nominee. Everyone is for that? Not that loon Kucinich. Now immigration. They ask Obama:

They are justified in feeling frustrated. … The reason that Americans are feeling concerned is that they feel like their jobs are slipping away. … Will make sure that we the kind of border security we need. … Employers have more of a chance of getting hit by lightening than being investigated. … Once again be a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.

"On the issue that apparently tripped up Senator Clinton … You apparently support illegal aliens getting drivers licenses." Who supports drivers licenses for illegals? "This is the kind of question that is available for a yes or no question." The question assumes comprehensive immigration reform is not possible. Obama ducks. Edwards: No. Dodd: No. Obama: Yes. Clinton: No. Richardson: Yes and I did it. Biden: No

Education. Performance pay in education. What’s wrong with that. Dodd:

Every other question depends on having the best educated generation ever.

Richardson wants a chicken in every pot. Clinton supports "school based merit pay."

They ask Biden about Pakistan:

I do not think that we should maintain the same aid we are giving. … Move from a Musharraf policy to a Pakistan policy. … Significantly increase our economic aid. …

Richardson:

I would condition the assistance to Musharraf. … Unless you restore the constitution, have elections in January, end the state of emergency, allow Bhutto to run, reinstate the supreme court, … fight the terrorists.. It is not about what Halliburton wants in Iraq. .. Our strength as a nation is about our values. …

Edwards says nothing (except nukes)

Human rights more important than national security. Richardson says yes. Obama says not incompatible. Dodd says national security. Clinton does too.

Kucinich is crazy. "Hello. Hello."

Is General Patreaus correct in talking about more security in Iraq: Richardson:

The surge is not working.  …  [can Richardson say the world "mental"]

Obama pledges to get combat troops out in 16 months.  [but 100k troops forever]

John Edwards:

We got something we don’t need. We got NAFTA. … replace corporate republicans with corporate democrats. …

Clinton:

NAFTA did not do what many had hoped. … NAFTA was a mistake to the extent that it did not deliver what was promised. That’s why I have called for trade time out.

Dodd:

We are in a global trade environment

Obama supports Peru. Opposes CAFTA and South Korea. "Why hasn’t the United States supported the same rules as Japan." "

If you are not behaving properly … If you are not looking out for American workers.

China is supposed to look out for American workers? That is their problem?

Richardson on energy:

The future is renewable. … Turn Yucca Mountain into a national laboratory. … 30% of our electricity renewable. … American people sacrificing a little bit. [applause line]

Clinton. Piling on line.

I am not playing the gender card. I am playing the winning card. … They are not attacking me because I am a women. They are attacking me because I am ahead. … It is clear from women’s experiences that from time to time there are impediments.

Edwards:

Senator Clinton defends the system, takes money from lobbyists, etc. … But every one of us should be held to the same standard.

Righty blogs: Activism versus media management

Jon Henke, currently with the Fred Thompson campaign and previously with Senator Mitch McConnell and former Senator George Allen, weighed in on the discussion about the role of righty-blogs. He said:

I think these compositional sociological explanations for the differences between Left and Right in the blogosphere and activist communities are over-complicated and unnecessary. The dominance of the Left online is not a permanent phenomenon. It is a reflection of the cyclical fact that the Left is angry, unified, surging and being effectively supported by people and organizations with long term strategic goals. They have a common cause, a unifying vision and a raison d’etre.

The Right does not.

I am pretty sure that Jon and I agree on all of this, but I want to clarify something. The sociological explanation is about activism. The structure is about managing the media. One is, in the end, a project of giving activists the tools to express their ideas, passions, etc. The other is, to some extent, a mechanical framing and outreach. Let’s look at some examples.

The Center for American Progress has a daily email. The audience for this email is Hill staffers, the press, and bloggers. It has a main article. And it has a little blog summary. The links are to a Media Matters blog (Glenn Greenwald), Think Progress, TPM Muckraker, (the 3 wings of the lefty online messaging apparatus) and a defeatist blog on Iraq.

I don’t know what the distribution is on this, but we do know that CAP is targeting the media. So they are driving media eyeballs to these blogs, raising their profile among the people who have the power to reproduce the message. And, even if they don’t actually reproduce this message, the persistent framing will have some impact.

Imagine if the right had a similar thing. A daily email with the top-line message from the right. It would contain links to milblogs that actually explain what is going on on the ground in Iraq. Explanations of the good things that the Bush administration is doing. Links to good information on the Democrats’ current legislative proposals, like a $3.5b tax increase. Links to corrupt things that Democrats are doing around the country. All in one place. And easy for the media — and bloggers — to consume. Over a year or so, this would totally reshape the blogosphere. And, frankly, this might facilitate the growth of new blogs that are more media savvy.

And we would have a separate set of emails for activists of different varieties. Probably a little more shrill. A little more closely targeted to interest groups, etc. Redstate is working on that second one. Some of the groups like AFP, FRC, RTL, etc., could also do this.

But no one is working on the first one. Heritage could, perhaps, but its focus is, legitimately, on the Hill. Rob Bluey is one person, not the 5 or 10 that it would take to implement this on a daily basis. And — this is where I say something controversial — perhaps Heritage represents the old coalition, headed by Ed Meese and a bunch of Reagan era people and grounded in the conservative movement of the 70s.

This wouldn’t take a lot of money. It wouldn’t take that many staff, but it would take smart people. And willing donors.

Clinton’s dishonest foreign policy

The Democrats talk about restoring America’s role in the world. Hillary Clinton, in particular, talks about her ability to do so. Of course, for all of her husband’s post-White House international fame, it is worth remembering how low his international reputation was. This was a guy who used his veto of a UN Secretary-General as a domestic political issue in 1996. This is a guy who signed international agreements with no chance of passing, just to preen for the media. The world understood at the time.

Now Hillary Clinton is trying to remind the world why they hated the Clintons. She wants to submit international treaties to 5-year reviews. If she doesn’t like them she wants to walk away from them.

Hillary Clinton, frontrunner for the Democratic party’s presidential nomination, on Monday said that all US trade agreements should be evaluated every five years and, if necessary, amended.

The process should start with the North America Free Trade Agreement, which was the signature trade pact of her husband, Bill Clinton, when he was president.

Don’t these people realize that international trade is now the fundamental building block of our foreign policy? Don’t they understand that our trade relationship is why our relationship with Europe will be good over the long term?

The Europeans have a new term for this kind of politics. Schroederism. After Gerhard Schroeder’s embrace of totalitarian Vladimir Putin and attack of the United States for domestic political reasons. (of course, maybe he just wants a paycheck)

I certainly have a lot of disagreements with the Bush administration on foreign policy, especially on tone. But Clinton’s dishonesty and irresponsibility remind me of why I am a Republican.

See also Dan Drezner, who also gets it.

Politics of UAW strike

Now there are plenty of interesting things to say about the economics of the UAW strike. But let’s talk politics.

What are the Dem candidates going to do? Does John Edwards run to join the picket lines? Does Hillary Clinton, confident in her primary victory, stay lukewarm? Or, sensing that she needs the votes of those struggling factory workers in Ohio, feel forced to say something?

What are the implications for the calendar debate? Doesn’t this put Michigan even more at the forefront of the debate?

What about the fact that the Democratic Party is going upscale? I suspect that the anger in the new upper-middle class progressive voters isn’t going away. But do they really want a full-throated rally against globalization?

UPDATE: Marc Ambinder asks the UAW. They say, basically, that this is tactical not strategic, and the strike should be very short.

Obama’s troop levels

It has been clear that the anti-war left is quite angry with the establishment of the Democratic Party. Today, Barack Obama tried to rally the anti-war left to his side. He wants to withdraw combat troops. From USA Today’s blog:

"The best way to protect our security and to pressure Iraq’s leaders to resolve their civil war is to immediately begin to remove our combat troops. Not in six months or one year — now," Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama plans to say this afternoon, according to excerpts sent to reporters this morning by his campaign.

What does combat troops mean? Earlier in the year, I was told by an Obama staffer that their plan invovled about 100k troops staying in Iraq. General Patraeus has a picture (that plenty have pointed out has problems). But in that picture, "Leading" maps approximately on to "combat troops".  Perhaps about half of the 170k in Iraq now. So Obama is proposing to start removing troops now… And stopping at 100k.

How different is that really from the Patreaus plan?

On a deeper level, what is the anti-war left going to do when they realize that even the anti-war top-tier candidate is closer to Bush than the anti-war left? While the Republicans have plenty of problems going into 2008, the Democrats have a big one. They are continuously out of touch with their base on Iraq.

On a deeper level, it is going to be harder and harder to tell the difference between Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Mitt Romney on these issues, as Jim Geraghty has pointed out. If Romney is the nominee, which is, at least, very plausible, what are the Democrats going to do if they can’t differentiate on Iraq?

So? Or who is the information economy candidate (or party)?

So, it is the day after labor day, and I am catching up on the news, including some big labor endorsement news from John Edwards, via Marc Ambinder:

In Pittsburgh this morning, ex-Sen. John Edwards will proudly receive the endorsement of the United Steelworkers and the United Mineworkers of America, giving him the largest bloc of union endorsements so far.

USW claims 1.2M current members and retirees, including nearly 9,000 in Iowa.

Perhaps it is because I just read Nick Gillespie’s great review of Matt Bai’s new book, but I have to ask one question. So?

I mean, isn’t the modern economy an information (capital) and services (the new labor) economy? Is John Edwards the candidate of yesterday’s economy? Shouldn’t the debate be about how to maximize the upsides of today’s and tomorrow’s economy while minimizing the downsides, including transition? Who will be the candidate of tomorrow’s economy? When I asked this question several thoughts occurred to me.

First, the answer should be, at least on the GOP side, Mitt Romney, if only because of his experience as a VC. But he is not pushing those issues and is instead pushing his more corporatist worldview and pandering to the base. Perhaps in tribute to the problems faced by the GOP, the questions that we debate in the primary are not of interest to the general electorate. The Dems debate healthcare and getting out of Iraq. We debate tax reform proposals that are mostly DOA and staying in Iraq.

Perhaps the more interesting question is which party is the party of the information economy and in what way? Historically speaking, the GOP was the party of economic innovation during the last fundamental shift in our economy, the industrial revolution. Certainly our voters were northern industrialists and their employees. But on a policy level our issues were larger than that. We were the party of the Homestead Act, of national railroad and canal infrastructure, etc.

Clearly in an information (and services) economy, the primary form of capital is human capital. Now revolutionary productivity increases are coming through management, education, etc., not industrialization and mechanization. Shouldn’t the GOP be on the side of encouraging and facilitating those radical increases in productivity? Of developing and maximizing human capital through education?

Have there been any proposals offered on education by candidates on either side? I don’t think that I’ve seen any, but I’ve missed a lot. Reviewing websites from Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama, there are commitments for more accountability (Romney) and teachers (Clinton), but nothing of any substance.

Shouldn’t this be the question?