Monday Evening Open Thread

All the leaves are brown, and the sky is grey…

Anything on the agenda that isn’t depressing and/or infuriating?

Open Thread: Could Not Happen to A More Deserving Party

But seriouslyNYTimes, “For Republicans, Mounting Fears of Lasting Split”:

The Republican Party is facing a historic split over its fundamental principles and identity, as its once powerful establishment grapples with an eruption of class tensions, ethnic resentments and mistrust among working-class conservatives who are demanding a presidential nominee who represents their interests.

At family dinners and New Year’s parties, in conference calls and at private lunches, longtime Republicans are expressing a growing fear that the coming election could be shattering for the party, or reshape it in ways that leave it unrecognizable.

While warring party factions usually reconcile after brutal nomination fights, this race feels different, according to interviews with more than 50 Republican leaders, activists, donors and voters, from both elite circles and the grass roots.

Never have so many voters been attracted to Republican candidates like Donald J. Trump and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who are challenging core party beliefs on the economy and national security and new goals like winning over Hispanics through immigration reform.

Rank-and-file conservatives, after decades of deferring to party elites, are trying to stage what is effectively a people’s coup by selecting a standard-bearer who is not the preferred candidate of wealthy donors and elected officials.

And many of those traditional power brokers, in turn, are deeply uncomfortable and even hostile to Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz: Between them, the leading candidates do not have the backing of a single senator or governor…

The issues animating grass-roots voters — opposition to immigration, worries about wages and discomfort with America’s fast-changing demographics — are diverging from and at times colliding with the Republican establishment’s interests in free trade, lower taxes, less regulation and openness to immigration.

The fractures could help a Democrat win the White House if Republicans do not ultimately find ways to unite, as one candidate, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, warned last week.

The divide was evident at a recent Greenville, S.C., gathering of bankers and lawyers, reliable Republicans who shared tea and pastries and their growing anxieties about where their party is going. In a meeting room near the wooded shore of Furman Lake, the group of mostly older white men expressed concern that their party was fracturing over free trade, immigration and Wall Street. And they worried that their candidates — mainstream conservatives like Jeb Bush — were losing.

“It’s all really hard to believe that decades of Republican ideas are at risk,” said Barry Wynn, a prominent Bush donor at the meeting…

One can but hope, she said piously. Now, if it weren’t for just one pesky little problem on our side…

Open Thread: Ted Cruz, Hoist by His Own Wet Fart

Dana Milbank, in the Washington Post, “Ted Cruz gets burned by the birther fires he stoked”:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) last week made his latest appeal to the U.S. nativist fringe by naming Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) as a national co-chairman of his presidential campaign. King, called a “courageous conservative” and “incredible leader” by Cruz, is the anti-immigrant hard-liner who spoke of Mexican immigrants having “calves the size of cantaloupes” and who was a prominent birther.

Raising raised questions about President Obama’s birth certificate, voiced doubts that Obama had been born in the United States, floated the idea that Obama’s birth announcement in Hawaiian newspapers may have been placed “by telegram from Kenya,” and alleged that Obama “was not raised with an American experience.”

So we’re entitled to savor some schadenfreude now as Cruz himself gets caught in the birther web. Donald Trump’s questioning of Cruz’s status as a natural-born American and, therefore, his eligibility to be president is rough justice. Cruz, like Trump, has stoked the fires of resentment and xenophobia, so it’s entirely fitting that he gets burned…

Like Cruz foe John McCain (the 2008 Republican presidential nominee said Cruz’s eligibility is a “legitimate question”), Democratic leaders have been happy to see Cruz twist in the wind. “I do think there is a distinction between John McCain being born to a family serving our country in Panama and someone born in another country,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said Thursday…

Of course this charge is going nowhere, except to the wilder fringes, but — as in the famous LBJ anecdote concerning a whispering campaign that his opponent enjoyed sexual congress with barnyard animals, “We can make him deny it.” Read more

Open Thread: Points to Bernie Sanders (Seriously)

As the Washington Post reports it:

TOLEDO, Iowa — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told a passionate town hall questioner here that he would not use former President Bill Clinton’s sex scandals against presidential primary opponent Hillary Clinton, citing his refusal to run a negative, personal campaign…

That answer echoed what Sanders had always said about the scandals that dogged most of Clinton’s presidency. In 1998, as a re-elected congressman from Vermont, Sanders condemned Clinton’s behavior while chastising Republicans for investigating it.

“Forty-three millions of Americans have no health insurance, millions of senior citizens cannot afford their prescription drugs, and this House is going to send to the Senate for a trial, to go month, after month, after month, where Bill Clinton touched Monica Lewinsky?” Sanders asked rhetorically, as he announced his vote. “Bill Clinton acted deplorably in his personal behavior, but what the American people are saying loudly, and clearly, is ‘let’s get on with business.'”…

As a candidate, even as Clinton has moved ahead in the polls, Sanders has consistently refused to attack Clinton personally, focusing instead on their divergent approaches to taxes, education, banking, and economic fairness. For 18 years, Democrats have criticized Republicans for their pursuit of Clinton and obsession with his sex scandals. In the last few months, conservatives have resurrected the stories of women who accused Clinton of sexual assault, but were not found credible by the long-running independent counsel’s investigation.

But in Toledo, no one apart from the lone questioner wanted to make hay of that…

More at the link, including video. (And of course that “lone questioner” does not sound at all like a Republican ratfvcker, does he?)

Open Thread: “Loki Does Not Rule in Asgard”

The ephemeral-we-all-hope success of the Trumpster has Ross Doubthat reduced to shouting comic-book Wagnerism at the uncaring skies. No, seriously — the quote in my title is from his NYTimes explanation of “How Donald Trump Loses”:

… Yes, Trump leads all the national polls, and he keeps busting through what look like ceilings. But (unlike Dean) he doesn’t lead in Iowa, and his ceiling there looks very stable: He’s been hovering around 25 percent since September, and he’s never broken 30 percent.

He does lead in New Hampshire, but there, too, his poll numbers have been relatively flat since August, and he tops out around 30 percent. Likewise South Carolina, where his polling has hovered in the 30 percent to 35 percent range since he grabbed the spotlight last summer.

There is no credible scenario in which a consistent 30 percent of the vote will deliver the delegates required to be the Republican nominee. So for Trump to lose, he doesn’t actually have to collapse; he just has to fail to expand his support. And in the states where candidates are actually campaigning, voters are paying the most attention, and the polling screens for likely voters are tightening, he hasn’t expanded his support meaningfully since he first climbed into the lead.

Foolish pundit that I may be, I don’t think he will. Instead, I think that Ted Cruz will continue to consolidate evangelicals as Ben Carson fades, and someone (probably Marco Rubio) will eventually consolidate the moderate-conservative vote — which is currently splintered among five candidates in New Hampshire, but which if it were consolidated would very easily beat Trump’s total in that state…

Think about it this way: It now looks very likely that Cruz will beat Trump in Iowa, at which point Carson’s campaign will be pretty much finished, and Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum will disappear — and with Cruz suddenly ascendant, he’s likely to pick up their supporters, pushing him up to Trump-like levels in the national polls…

…[I]f we treat New Hampshire as a plausible template for outcomes in those states, then Trump needs Rubio and Chris Christie and Jeb Bush to all stay in the race and for all of them to keep winning exactly 15 percent of the vote; then and only then would his 30 percent be sufficient to prevail…

Which is not to say that in that scenario the establishment candidate will win. Trump is a genuinely disruptive force, and if his coalition holds together it could make genuinely unlikely outcomes — Cruz as the most right-wing nominee since Barry Goldwater, a battle on the convention floor — far more plausible than they would have been without him.

But disruption doesn’t get you to the 1,236 delegates required for the nomination. Loki does not rule in Asgard. And Donald Trump isn’t going to be the Republican nominee.

… As long as Sanctorum and Hucksterbee give up graciously after getting out-organized in Iowa, rather than hanging on to (a) promote their own grifts non-campaign careers, and (b) punish Cruz for stealing “their” Talibangelical base. And if someone with enough influence explains to Carson that his God was only funning with him, so he needs to go back to working the inspiration circuit. And then Rubio, Jeb, Christie & Kasich play rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock to find out which three graciously withdraw, preferably before the New Hampshire primary but certainly in advance of ‘Super Tuesday’ in the South. (As per the top tweet, Fox News seems to be pretending that Rand Paul is the fifth Beatle, but only devout glibertarians have the strength of will to pretend Little Prince Rand is a potential 2016 winner.) And even then, Donald Trump has to resist the urge (& his followers’ urging) to go third-party as The Voice of the People (possibly with attached reality show!).

Among the many things Young Ross failed to learn, in all his years of hanging around rich and well-educated (or at least conspicuously-educated) people, is that the Trickster never goes away. Sure, Loki isn’t sitting at the head of the high table in Asgard… but then, there’s rumors that Loki was around before Odin raven-clawed his way to the top of that bloody Nordic heap, and his folklore outlasted the All-Father long after the Christians claimed a theistic monopoly. Whether or not he gathers the ‘right’ delegates in the ‘correct’ fashion — whether or not he gets bored with his Celebrity Victory Campaign Tour as the shine wears thin and the media find newer playtoys — Donald Trump will be making the Permanent Republican Party unhappy at least through October, and probably for some time after that. There are certainly ways to beat him (and more ways for him to beat himself), but pretending that some kind of Natural Law requires him to shuffle off-stage before the final aria is just… Doubthat-level silly.