Thursday Evening Open Thread: Monetizing the Klown Show

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(Jack Ohman via GoComics.com)
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John Cassidy, economics reporter for the New Yorker:

Nobody should be expected, or forced, to keep up with every detail of the G.O.P. primary, especially when, Lord help us, we still have more than eight months to go until the Iowa caucuses. At this stage, the important thing to remember is that there are really two spectacles taking place: a high-stakes horse race for the Republican nomination, and a circus held on the infield of the track. Although the events run concurrently, and are ostensibly geared toward the same end, they shouldn’t be confused with one another. One is a serious political contest. The other is a sideshow, designed to amuse the spectators, give the media something to cover, and further the ambitions, varied as they are, of the participants…

From the link, John Wolfson at the New Yorker, on “Running for President to Build Your Brand“:

The 2016 G.O.P. field is bursting with candidates who have practically no chance of victory. Sabato’s influential Crystal Ball report, which tracks political races across the country, currently counts nineteen potential candidates for the Republican Presidential nomination. Twelve of them have no shot at winning, Sabato said, adding, “and I’m being generous to some of the other seven.” (His generosity does not extend to a perennially rumored candidate whose name is absent from the list. “We couldn’t include Donald Trump and live with ourselves,” he said.)…

Why are so many experienced people lining up for a race that they cannot possibly win?…

For a number of the candidates… the chances of actually securing the nomination don’t appear to factor into the decision to run. It is now so easy and so lucrative to mount a campaign for President that, even given the current historically crowded field, it’s a wonder that still more people aren’t running. “The primary process is a spectacle now, and that’s a relatively new development,” Sean McKinley, a Ph.D. student in the politics department at Brandeis University who researches the rewards of unsuccessful campaigns for President, said. “There are increased incentives for people to run, and there are fewer downsides, so why wouldn’t you run?”

McKinley researched Presidential races between 1976 and 2008, and found that losing candidates benefitted enormously simply from having run. Senators who had only narrowly won earlier elections suddenly found themselves retaining their seats by comfortable margins, despite not having shown well in the Presidential race…

Participating in the public-speaking circuit has emerged as an especially profitable side benefit of running for President… For many similar candidates, McKinley said, “the only thing they really had on their C.V. was that they had run for President. So if you’re a politician reaching the end of your career, and maybe you haven’t earned as much as you could have in another field, maybe you consider running for President to raise your profile for the speaking tours.”…

“Campaign finance is going to continue to change the shape of politics, as people realize how permissive the laws are,” McKinley said. He expects that we’ll see even more candidates running in future elections. “There are very few rules left. You may have to solicit money from only a couple dozen people.”…

Apart from the neverending grift, what’s on the agenda for the evening?



A Hard Shove To The Left

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is gearing up for a new national progressive agenda based on what he’s been able to do so far in the Big Apple, and he’s expected to announce it next week.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, using his muscular perch to try to nudge the national Democratic Party to the left, next week will unveil a 13-point progressive agenda that he hopes will be the left’s answer to the Contract with America, which helped propel Newt Gingrich and the Republican revolution of 1994.

On Tuesday, de Blasio will hold a 3 p.m. news conference outside the U.S. Capitol with labor leaders, Democratic lawmakers and liberal activists to unveil his “Progressive Agenda to Combat Income Inequality.”

The manifesto includes the ideas of economist Joseph Stiglitz and dozens of other leaders and thinkers consulted by the de Blasio team.

Among the planks is a universal pre-kindergarten program, DeBlasio’s signature policy since he took office on Jan. 1, 2014. Other elements are aimed at helping working people ($15 minimum wage) and working parents (paid family leave), and proposals for “tax fairness” (increasing the tax on carried interest, a huge issue for private equity).

De Blasio convened a group of a dozen national progressives at Gracie Mansion on April 2, and they discussed ideas for addressing income inequality. Among the advisers present was John Del Cecato of AKPD Message and Media, who made de Blasio’s campaign commercials, including the famous “Dante” ad.

Then the conversation extended to others — economists, elected officials and activists.

De Blasio advisers say that more than 60 big names have signed on, including Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.); Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.); Marian Wright Edelman and Howard Dean; national labor leaders; and actors Susan Sarandon and Steve Buscemi.

Rolling Stone has a preview of de Blasio’s new drive in the forthcoming May 21 issue, which has a 7½-page spread, “The Mayor’s Crusade: Bill de Blasio is trying to remake America’s biggest city — and he doesn’t plan to stop there.”

I’m actually very glad to see a concerted effort to push the Overton window to the left. Right now American politics seems to consist of “And how shall we choose to punish the poors this time around, m’lord” and a big effort to reframe the entire debate is way overdue.

The pushback on this is going to be enormous, but putting these issues into the 2016 arena is absolutely necessary.

More of this, please.  This is how we can help get both more and better Democrats elected at the state and national level.



NOT Good News for John McCain

According to a PPP poll released yesterday, Arizona conservaturds have a raging hate-boner for RINO John McCain, and the right god-bothering, anti-immigrant, gun-fondling primary opponent could pick the bitter old anger muffin off:

John McCain’s troubles with conservatives have him in a whole lot of trouble for reelection next year. Even among Republican primary voters just 41% approve of the job he’s doing to 50% who disapprove. Only 37% of primary voters say they generally support him for renomination, compared to 51% who say they would prefer someone ‘more conservative.’

[snip]

In a lot of ways this is reminiscent of the 2012 Senate race in Indiana. Richard Lugar- like McCain- had enough popularity across party lines that he was going to be pretty safe if he got into a general election. But when conservatives rooted him out of office in the primary and Democrats had a solid candidate lined up, the Democrats picked up a surprising victory. It’s unclear who will challenge McCain in the primary and what Democrat might sign up for the general but at this early stage the conditions appear somewhat Indiana-like.

Here’s hoping the AZ GOP finds its very own Richard “Squeee! Rape Babies!” Mourdock to take down McCain. Not only would that NOT be good news for McCain, it would leave a gaping hole in the lineups of the crappy Sunday poli-hack shows and leave Lindsey al-Graham flying solo as a sad little wingman.



Open Thread: Rev. Huck-ster Jumps Aboard the Klown Kar

This guy, I’m gonna have no trouble whatsoever mocking. Mike Huckabee’s the evangelical version of Donald Trump. He’s just ‘in the race’ to market his brand, and within a few months (if not weeks), he’ll return to officially dividing his time between Fox News and amenity-valuable speaking tours. Ben Jacobs reports for the Guardian:

… The former Arkansas governor, who announced his candidacy for the White House on Tuesday, has long been viewed as a mainstay of the evangelical wing of the Republican party. Huckabee, who finished second in the 2008 Republican presidential primary, hosted his own television show on Fox News and has been one of the most vocal proponents of conservative viewpoints on abortion and same-sex marriage.

But, to some in the conservative movement who are far more concerned about economic issues than social causes, Huckabee is anathema.

Perhaps Huckabee’s biggest intraparty political opponent over the past two decades has been the Club for Growth, the powerful pro-business Republican Pac. As Dave Weigel at Bloomberg News noted, Huckabee has feuded with the group since a 2001 battle over a congressional primary in north-west Arkansas, and the battle has continued since then…

Huckabee faces a crowded path to the GOP nomination in a field with more than a dozen candidates, including Rick Santorum, a fellow populist-leaning social conservative who finished second in the 2012 GOP presidential primary, as well as others, like Ted Cruz and Scott Walker, who fit similar niches…

Huckabee, Santorum, and Walker are all competing for what Mark Ames labelled the Spite Voters: Read more



Dr. Carson Falls Among Bad Companions

I usually take glee in the antics of every new candidate added to the GOP clown car, but today’s announcement in Detroit just makes me cringe. Dr. Carson is a genuinely gifted pediatric neurosurgeon, and his story has been an inspiration to a great many young people — “a Black man who became known for his intellect, not for telling jokes or shooting basketballs.” It’s not that he doesn’t “deserve” to run, or to be considered as a respectable candidate; it’s just that I can’t understand why the game is worth the candle to him. It’s not a career step up (insert old Pearly Gates joke ‘on the weekends, God entertains himself up by pretending he’s a neurosurgeon’), he doesn’t need the money or the social validation, he doesn’t have to prove himself against a family legacy of wealth and power. He doesn’t even have a book to sell — if anything, this campaign has already damaged his public standing:

Some black pastors who were Carson’s biggest promoters have stopped recommending his book. Members of minority medical organizations that long boasted of their affiliations with him say he is called an “embarrassment” on private online discussion groups.

“Has he lost his sense of who he is?” said the Rev. Jamal Bryant, a prominent black pastor in Baltimore, where Carson lived for decades when he was director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. “He does not see he is the next Herman Cain.”…

Time calls him “The GOP’s Accidental Candidate for President“:

… Candidates often profess ambivalence about seeking the presidency as a way to mask their ambition. It seems reasonable to take Carson at his word.

Running for office, Carson told TIME early last year, “has never been something that I have a desire to do.” In the months since, he’s been repeating this disclaimer to anyone who asks, even as he crept closer and closer to jumping in. “It continues to be something that I don’t want to do,” he told Newsmax last spring. Asked a few weeks back how he’d feel if his campaign failed, Carson told the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons: “Actually, I would say ‘Whew!’, because it’s not something I ever really wanted to do, and the only reason I’d consider it is because there’s so many people across the nation clamoring for me to do it.” Read more



Monday Evening Open Thread: May the Farce Be With You

Happy Stars Wars Day, I guess?

Besides the weird conflation of popcult and politics — just like every night, Pinky! — what’s on the agenda for the evening?



All the King’s Horses…

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Endtimes for the Outlaw Jersey Whale (ht: TBOGG):

Mr. Christie, the governor of New Jersey, consulted with advisers, adjusted his jet-black suit and gamely walked onto a stage before 300 guests eating yogurt parfait and almond croissants. He recited statistics about Social Security and Medicare costs and projected the air of a man thoroughly unbothered by the swirling legal drama back in New Jersey, which he left unmentioned.

But behind the scenes, his aides, his allies and even his wife were mobilizing, working the phones and blasting out memos to supporters, trying to hold on to whatever chance Mr. Christie had to make a run at the presidency, according to interviews.

Over the next few hours, Mary Pat Christie called donors, trying to offer reassurance that everything was still on track and encouraging them to read her husband’s speech on overhauling the federal entitlement system.

Mr. Christie himself, joined by top aides, reached out to longtime financial supporters, like the billionaires Kenneth Langone and Stanley Druckenmiller, to talk through what he saw as the limited scope of the indictment.

And Mr. Christie’s political action committee emailed talking points for loyal backers to deliver to the news media, framing the guilty plea of David Wildstein, a former Christie ally, and the indictment of the governor’s former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, and his appointee, Bill Baroni, as a moment of vindication.

“Key messages,” the talking points read. “Today’s announcement reinforces what the governor has said since Day 1.” Mr. Christie, they said, “had no knowledge or involvement in the planning, motivation, authorization or execution of the decision to realign lanes on the George Washington Bridge.”

In call after call, they squeezed whatever optimism they could from an ugly day, calling the legal charges the “best possible outcome in a bad situation.”

But amid the bustle, there was an absorption of a new reality for the governor and those closest to him: that his bid for the White House seems increasingly far-fetched. A political team long characterized by its self-assuredness now sounds strikingly subdued, sobered and, realistic about his odds.

In two dozen interviews over the past 24 hours, many of the most trusted allies and advisers to Mr. Christie acknowledged that winning the Republican nomination required a domino-like series of stumbles from his rivals and an unlikely breakthrough for him.

They used gentle descriptions like “in a different place” to describe how Mr. Christie had fallen from the high of his re-election in 2013: unpopular at home, limping near the bottom in national Republican polls and lacking the money and momentum of his competitors.

I was always worried about Christie, because he could pass himself off as not crazy, unlike the rest of the GOP. Fortunately, his hubris and petty bully boy act wasn’t just something he did for show, it was his defining characteristic. In 2017, Chris Christie will be known as that asshole crooked former Governor of New Jersey, not Mr. President, and that is a good thing.