Late Night Open Thread: The Klown Kar Kavalcade Rolls Onward

If they weren’t quite so malevolent, and didn’t have so much money to waste, I could almost feel sorry for these guys. In the NYTimes, “G.O.P. Donors Seek to Narrow Field of Presidential Candidates to One“:

Dozens of the Republican Party’s leading presidential donors and fund-raisers have begun privately discussing how to clear the field for a single establishment candidate to carry the party’s banner in 2016, fearing that a prolonged primary would bolster Hillary Rodham Clinton, the likely Democratic candidate.

The conversations, described in interviews with a variety of the Republican Party’s most sought-after donors, are centered on the three potential candidates who have the largest existing base of major contributors and overlapping ties to the top tier of those who are uncommitted: Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida and Mitt Romney.

All three are believed to be capable of raising the roughly $80 million in candidate and “super PAC” money that many Republican strategists and donors now believe will be required to win their party’s nomination.

But the reality of all three candidates vying for support has dismayed the party’s top donors and “bundlers,” the volunteers who solicit checks from networks of friends and business associates. They fear being split into competing camps and raising hundreds of millions of dollars for a bloody primary that will injure the party’s eventual nominee — or pave the way for a second-tier candidate without enough mainstream appeal to win the general election…

Problem is, guys, nobody likes your “favorites” — not even you, if you’re gonna be honest. Maybe you should do something semi-honest for the first time in your miserable lives, and simply start bidding against each other for independent Repub voters’ ballots. Hey, it worked in the British Parliament back when England had an Empire…

Speaking of unloveable candidates, my cold heart is thrilled to hear that Willard Romney is still making life harder for “his” party…

Many donors said they believed that Mr. Romney was likely to wait until late summer to decide whether to enter the race, while Mr. Christie could make a decision much sooner. That could leave elite bundlers — already jockeying for status and rank within the campaigns’ likely finance operations — in an awkward position if Mr. Romney does not run.

“When you get that call” to commit to Mr. Bush or Mr. Christie, said one prominent Republican fund-raiser, “the answer to that question is yes.”…

They’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse!



Set That Big Tent On Fire

Daily Beast columnist Michael Tomasky has given up on the South after 2014 as far as Congress goes, and is tired of the Dems spending good money on races they will never, ever, ever be able to win.  Yes, NC, VA, and Florida are necessary for the White House, but…

At the congressional level, and from there on down, the Democrats should just forget about the place. They should make no effort, except under extraordinary circumstances, to field competitive candidates. The national committees shouldn’t spend a red cent down there. This means every Senate seat will be Republican, and 80 percent of the House seats will be, too. The Democrats will retain their hold on the majority-black districts, and they’ll occasionally be competitive in a small number of other districts in cities and college towns. But they’re not going win Southern seats (I include here with some sadness my native West Virginia, which was not a Southern state when I was growing up but culturally is one now). And they shouldn’t try.

My friend the political scientist Tom Schaller said all this back in 2008, in his book Whistling Past Dixie. I didn’t want to agree with Schaller then, but now I throw in the towel. He was a man ahead of his time. Look west, Schaller advised the Democrats. And he was right. Now it’s true that many states in the nation’s heartland aren’t winnable for Democrats, either. Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah will never come anywhere close to being purple. But Colorado already is. Arizona can be. Missouri, it’s not crazy to think so. And Montana and South Dakota are basically red, of course, but are both elect Democrats sometimes. (Did you know that both of Montana’s senators right now are Democrats?!) In sum, between the solid-blue states in the North and on the West Coast, and the pockets of opportunity that exist in the states just mentioned (and tossing in the black Southern seats), the Democrats can cobble together congressional majorities in both houses, under the right circumstances.

This is the crucial argument that the Left has had on the future of the Democrats: which is better, more Democrats, or better Democrats?   I’ve long been a proponent of more Democrats (Howard Dean’s 50 state strategy) but considering how quickly that has disintegrated in just 8 years, leaving the GOP with the biggest House majority they’ve had since Hoover, I’m going to say that “more Democrats” isn’t going to cut it.  The 50 state strategy isn’t going to work anymore in Alabama or West Virginia or (and let’s face it) Kentucky.

But it’s not just a question of numbers. The main point is this: Trying to win Southern seats is not worth the ideological cost for Democrats. As Memphis Rep. Steve Cohen recently told my colleague Ben Jacobs, the Democratic Party cannot (and I’d say should not) try to calibrate its positions to placate Southern mores: “It’s come to pass, and really a lot of white Southerners vote on gays and guns and God, and we’re not going to ever be too good on gays and guns and God.”

Cohen thinks maybe some economic populism could work, and that could be true in limited circumstances. But I think even that is out the window now. In the old days, drenched in racism as the South was, it was economically populist. Glass and Steagall, those eponymous bank regulators, were both Southern members of Congress. But today, as we learned in Sunday’s Times, state attorneys general, many in the South, are colluding with energy companies to fight federal regulation of energy plants.

It’s lost. It’s gone. A different country. And maybe someday it really should be.

And that’s where Tomasky loses me.

Giving up on the South 100% is a recipe for repeating the last six years forever. It’s the ultimate emoprog copout, not to mention it erases the political power of millions of people of color and treats us as what, hostages with Stockholm Syndrome, not to mention that there are millions of poor white voters in the South too.

But we do need a new solution.  We need better Democrats AND more Democrats, and giving up on the South and handing it over to the GOP for the next 20 years only assures more of the country-destroying insanity we’ve seen since 2009.

The Tea Party is not going to magically go away once Obama leaves office.  We need to fight back on this crap and give people a reason to vote FOR Democrats and not just against the GOP. It’s hard to say “we can’t give up on the South” when Southern Democrats have given up on the Dems.  But at the same time, running Republican-lite candidates to win Blue Dog seats only hurts the Dems across the board.

So is the fight now “Since Southern Democrats told Obama to go to hell, what should we do to keep them?” The answer will define the party for the next generation. In 2014, “They’re not Republicans!” was only good enough for what, 16% of the voting public to get off their asses and vote. We’ve got to try something else, and now.

Something like “Let’s run actual Democrats as candidates”.

Sorry.  We gave the Alison Grimes and the Mary Landrieus a shot, and they failed miserably. They ran as Republicans and ran away from Obama and I spent months trying to convince anyone in earshot that this was the only way.  The empirical evidence is in, and Blue Dogs are done for.

But that doesn’t mean “Dump the South” unless you want more years of wondering why a Democratic president can’t get anything done with a GOP Congress.



La Koch-a Nostra

As Team WIN THE MORNING points out, in a post-Citizens United world, the Koch brothers have figured out the game more quickly than everybody else in either party and they’re playing it even more skillfully. Why bother with buying national party machinery when you can just bring your own people in to run things?

The Koch brothers and their allies are pumping tens of millions of dollars into a data company that’s developing detailed, state-of-the-art profiles of 250 million Americans, giving the brothers’ political operation all the earmarks of a national party.

The move comes as mainstream Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, are trying to reclaim control of the conservative movement from outside groups. The Kochs, however, are continuing to amass all of the campaign tools the Republican National Committee and other party arms use to elect a president.

The Koch network also has developed in-house expertise in polling, message-testing, fact-checking, advertising, media buying, dial groups and donor maintenance. Add mastery of election law, a corporate-minded aggressiveness and years of patient experimentation — plus seemingly limitless cash — and the Koch operation actually exceeds the RNC’s data operation in many important respects.

The Koch operations are the most important nonparty political players in the U.S. today, and no one else is even close,” said a top Republican who has been involved in the last eight presidential campaigns.

Two years ago the Kochs worked with the Drive The All New Reince Priebus and ended up with Mitt Romney, somebody that even they didn’t have enough money to buy the White House with.  This time around, the plans seems to be to just cut out the RNC middleman and exercise that free speech directly with your own party apparatchiks.

Heading into 2016, the Koch network — under the auspices of Freedom Partners — has in many ways surpassed the reach and resources of the RNC. And, unlike the party, it isn’t bound by rules requiring it to maintain neutrality in primaries. Though the network has yet to engage in primaries, that could be the next logical step in its progression from apolitical think tank consortium to aggressive privatized political machine.

The best president money can buy, tanned field-tested, and ready. Of course this is the logical endpoint of “private sector solutions to public sector problems” and all that messy democracy crap, right?



Three things to start with

We talked about how some enterprising political party could put together an economic agenda that could include something more than the Earned Income Tax Credit and that agenda might include a discussion about why so many people who should be entitled to overtime pay don’t get any.

I started thinking about overtime pay because my middle son, who barely talks at all, went into a long, detailed explanation a couple of weeks ago on why he was working additional shifts and hours and EXACTLY what that means in terms of what he will make the next pay period. Overtime he understands. This is also true in my law practice. I can have someone in front of me who answers questions with “yes” or “no” but if we’re looking at their pay record they become very engaged and can tell me at length when and why they picked up the hours with the higher wage. They’re the expert. They are happy to explain it to me.

So overtime would be a good thing to talk about and another good thing to talk about might be why so many people who should be employees are being told that they are independent contractors.

Many workplace experts say a growing number of companies have maneuvered to cut costs by wrongly classifying regular employees as independent contractors, though they often are given desks, phone lines and assignments just like regular employees. Moreover, the experts say, workers have become more reluctant to challenge such practices, given the tough job market.
Companies that pass off employees as independent contractors avoid paying Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance taxes for those workers.
One federal study concluded that employers illegally passed off 3.4 million regular workers as contractors, while the Labor Department estimates that up to 30 percent of companies misclassify employees.

This is Richard Cordray in 2010. Cordray was the Ohio AG when this was written but is now the head of the CFPB. Cordray chose to portray this as a fairness issue with one group of employers playing by the rules and another group gaining an unfair advantage by flouting the rules. That’s one way to do it. I’m an employer and I don’t think it’s fair if I follow the rules and other employers don’t. I bet I’m not the only one who would see it that way.

“It’s a very significant problem,” said the attorney general, Richard Cordray. “Misclassification is bad for business, government and labor. Law-abiding businesses are in many ways the biggest fans of increased enforcement. Misclassifying can mean a 20 or 30 percent cost difference per worker.”

From the employee perspective, one might focus on this:

This is an even more striking comparison in 2014. The Social Security wage base is expected to increase from $113,700 for 2013 to $117,000 for 2014. That’s not the only thing to keep in mind, of course, but it does suggest that it can be shortsighted to turn down employee status. Apart from tax law, employee status carries a host of nondiscrimination laws, pension and benefits laws and wage and hour protections that apply to employees but not to independent contractors.

So minimum wage, overtime and real employees rather than misclassified “independent contractors”. Nearly everyone has a stake in that discussion and has some personal experience with it.



Open Thread: Well, She’s Got the Name Recognition…

Sure, many of us who follow politics even though we’re not paid for it, plus a very vocal segment of those who are, find the very idea of a Hillary 2016 campaign shopworn and boooorrrrring. Per Martin Longman, at the Washington Monthly:

I think we political junkies operate with certain assumptions that we internalize after a while. We’ve had it in the back of our minds for years now that Clinton will run, will likely win the nomination, and should be heavily favored to win the presidency. We have good reasons for making these assumptions, but having internalized them long ago takes the novelty and excitement of having a female president out of the picture. Far from feeling like some path-breaking moment in American history, it seems more like a very boring and predictable outcome.

The midterms reiterated for us the importance of excitement and interest in the elections to driving Democratic turnout. Barack Obama was able to provide that in a way that Al Gore and John Kerry simply were not. Hillary seems like she is somewhere in between. She isn’t as charismatic as Obama or her husband, but she isn’t crushingly dull, either. Her fan base does include some very strong enthusiasts which we simply didn’t see with Gore and Kerry. She’s somewhat better at riling up the base.

And, when the time comes and the opportunity is finally at hand to make a women the most powerful political leader on the planet, there will be a real sense of novelty and possibility and potential for progress. I just don’t know how strong it will be…

Dave Weigel, at Bloomberg Politics, has a post explaining his tweet(s):

…[T]he latest CNN/ORC International poll… conducted right before Thanksgiving with a sample of “1,045 adult Americans,” finds the former secretary of state far ahead of the Democratic field in a national ballot test. Clinton’s at 65 percent support among Democrats, followed by Senator Elizabeth Warren at 10 percent, Vice President Joe Biden at 9 percent, Senator Bernie Sanders at 5 percent, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Governor Deval Patrick and (the only candidate so far exploring a bid) former Senator James Webb at 1 percent, and Governor Martin O’Malley with support too low to calculate….

It’s just a national test, but the story’s identical in the states—Clinton with swollen leads in New Hampshire and Iowa. In Iowa her numbers are better than twice as high as they were at this point in that cycle, when a war-skeptical Democratic electorate was desperate for another choice. You see why the discussion among the chin-strokers is about whether Clinton can remain so aloof from voters and still win the nomination. The press wants a race, and the left wants a race, but the Democratic electorate isn’t sure that it needs one.

Voters — that undernourished segment of the American electorate — were desperate for CHANGE in 2008, which worked to then-Senator Obama’s advantage. The GOP tried promoting Willard Romney as the CHANGE candidate in 2012, but the people who bothered to go to the polls weren’t convinced (that we needed it, or that Romney represented it, or both). A big part of the 2016 equation is going to be whether Hillary Clinton — assuming she runs — will be perceived as carrying on President Obama’s agenda. And whether the voters we can drag to the polls decide they want that agenda carried forward, as well. But as the first “serious” female contender for the Oval Office, she does have a positive CHANGE metric that can’t be denied.

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Apart from the eternal “horserace” campaign, what’s on the agenda for the evening?



Late Night Open Thread: The Winnowing Continues

Yes, I’m being sarcastic, but “news”. It’s official, per the Washington Post — we won’t have Rob Portman to kick around in 2016:

… The Ohio Republican, a seasoned politician and favorite of the GOP establishment, could have made a credible contender for the White House. But Portman said that with the new Republican majority in the Senate, he sees “a real opportunity over the next two years to break the gridlock in Washington.”…

Portman has considerable cachet within the Republican establishment. As vice chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee over the past two years, Portman helped recruit several star Senate challengers. Popular with major party donors, Portman raised millions of dollars for the party’s Senate efforts and enhanced his national finance network. He also played an important role in bringing the 2016 Republican National Convention to Cleveland.

Portman has been considered a reliable conservative on most issues, although last year he reversed his position on same-sex marriage, which put him out of step with his party’s orthodoxy. Portman decided to support same-sex marriage after his son, Will, told his parents that he was gay.

Cynical translation: He’s made himself unpalatable to the GOP “base” (in every sense) primary voters, but the Permanent Party still holds a hope he might deign to serve as VP to whichever bombthrowing loon draws the lucky top card.

Speaking of vice-presidential prospects, sounds like Martin O’Malley is picking up his game, per the Baltimore Sun:

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski told a group of Hillary Clinton supporters gathered in Baltimore County on Monday that Maryland would provide a “groundswell of grassroots” support for the former Secretary of State should she decide to run for president in 2016.

“We need Hillary,” the Maryland Democrat and Senate Appropriations Committee chairwoman told about 100 people gathered at Goucher College for a fundraiser organized by the Ready for Hillary PAC, the group laying the groundwork for her possible candidacy…

Not mentioned by Mikulski or anyone else on stage was Martin O’Malley, Maryland’s outgoing governor who is also weighing a run for president in 2016. The fundraiser was expected to draw several other high profile Democrats — many of whom have worked closely with the O’Malley administration for years — but only Mikulski showed…

Early signs of support for Clinton among the congressional delegation that knows O’Malley best demonstrates the challenge the governor faces as he contemplates a possible White House run. Polls in early primary states show Clinton eclipsing O’Malley, despite his repeated appearances for congressional and gubernatorial candidates in the run up to this year’s midterm elections…

And back on the “Right” (wrong) side of the aisle, the Talivangelicals are fighting with the Glibertarians, again/still, per Dave Weigel at Bloomberg Politics:

… “Online gambling websites are preying on every kid with a smartphone or a tablet,” warned Huckabee. “This is frankly one of the most important topics that I don’t hear anybody talking about.”

It’s very likely that Huckabee believes this. It’s also simply true that he’s endorsing Sheldon Adelson’s lobbying stance… the Coalition [to Stop Internet Gambling] is an Adelson front group, as has been known for most of 2014. Its less-than-secret mission is to bring social conservatives like Huckabee—and his viewers—into the trenches, to pass the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, ban Internet gambling, and thereby direct more profits to brick-and-mortar casinos. Like—oh, let’s just pick one at random—the Venetian.

Huckabee’s fresh enthusiasm for this cause sets him against his eternal intra-Republican Party enemies, the libertarians—or, as he calls them, the “faux-cons.” Opposition to the online gambling ban has been fomented and endorsed by the likes of FreedomWorks, Grover Norquist, Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty (through president John Tate), and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “This bill allows the federal government to take a heavy hand in regulating the Internet, opening the door for increased Internet regulation in the future,” those groups’ leaders said in a letter to legislators this year…

Upon this topic I think we can all agree: Root for injuries.



Open Thread: Deval Patrick Is Not Running in 2016

Chuck Toad really wants that ‘Conventional Wisdom Stenographer of the Year” Village Media Idiots award, doesn’t he? (As Malia Obama phrased it: “Sad.”) Via the Atlantic:

Outgoing Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has ruled out running for president in 2016, putting to rest speculation that an end to his gubernatorial career meant that he had his eye on the White House.

“I’ve thought about it, but no, I can’t get ready for 2016,” Patrick said on NBC’s Meet The Press. “This is the first elected office I’ve held, and it has been two really challenging, fun term. But I didn’t run for the job to get another job, just to do this job.”…

Patrick, who led the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division from 1993 to 1996, suggested that Eric Holder’s ability to bring a federal civil rights case [in Ferguson] will be hampered by the higher burden needed for federal charges. “It will be very difficult,” he said. “It’s very important I think, that DOJ is investigating it and I know that Attorney General Holder has been urging that investigation and will drive it through to conclusion.”

Of course, Patrick only said he couldn’t “get ready for 2016“, so we’re free to speculate on future campaigns…
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Apart from speculation, what’s on the agenda for the evening?