Thursday Morning Open Thread: You Get Back What You Give

Yeah, after last night’s post, I pretty much hadda. Murphy the Trickster God is mighty and manifold, but ‘subtle’ is not among His primary characteristics.

But to keep it positive, here’s Robin Givhan, in the Washington Post, “Michelle Obama wanted to gain the public’s trust. So she started with a garden”:

The occasion was the opening evening of Leading Women Defined, a private gathering of supremely accomplished black women organized by Debra Lee and BET aimed at networking and uplift. The former first lady has made a number of appearances since last spring — mostly to audiences on the lucrative convention speaking circuit, with attendees numbering in the thousands. This was a far more intimate crowd, perhaps a hundred women. And as Obama spoke, they responded with knowing nods and understanding smiles and the occasional exhortation of support…

During the wide-ranging conversation, Mrs. Obama, wearing the Gucci map-print dress that was such a hit when she wore it on “Ellen” in 2016, looked back on her 2008 campaign learning curve and how she came to realize that her enthusiasm and passion could easily be turned into angry, scolding sound bites. “I couldn’t count on my husband’s campaign to protect me; I had to protect myself,” she said. “They were using me like I was a candidate and supporting me like I was a spouse.”

“I had to learn how to deliver a message,” she added, noting that often meant not being so passionate and speaking with an ever-present smile. And here the audience murmured understandingly, because they all knew what it means to be called angry when really you’re just emphatic…

Once in the East Wing, she spent a year sussing out the lay of the land, strategizing and readying herself to roll out her “Let’s Move” healthy living initiative. She also grappled with the public’s expectations and with her new role as “the spouse.” With two Ivy League degrees and a résumé that included executive positions in hospital and city management, she was dismayed that people seemed to question whether she could handle being first lady. “You’re shocked that I could do this job?” she said with a wry chuckle…

“The garden was a subversive act,” she said. “It was the carrot. You can’t go in with guns blazing until people trust you.” And there could be no reprimanding. No finger-wagging. Because she knew that her finger-wagging, a black woman’s finger-wagging, would be both amplified and resented.

So she gave herself a bit of advice: Put down your finger and pick up the garden hoe. “What’s more innocent than a garden?” Mrs. Obama said.

She spent a lot of time visiting D.C. public schools during her White House tenure, then followed up by inviting the students she had met to the White House. “The second touch or third touch is when they start believing it’s real,” she said. It’s when kids start to believe that what you’ve said matters and that they, in fact, matter.

Recently, her days have been taken up with her memoir, which will be published in the fall. “Becoming” aims to explore how her ordinary childhood prepared her to do extraordinary things — the power of the ordinary. It’s about her parents, Fraser and Marian Robinson, about growing into her role as first lady and continuing to evolve — and about refusing to place herself last, which is not just an act of self-love but is also a public, civic, political obligation…

RWNJ “American Priveledge” Open Thread — Everybody JUMP!

Another reminder: We Democrats just have to work harder at organizing, because we lack that lemming instinct which makes astroturfing the GOP so easy and profitable. Political scientist David A. Hopkins, “Why The “Liberal Tea Party” Doesn’t Exist (And Why Some People Think It Does)”:

Matt Grossmann and I explained in Asymmetric Politics why the Democrats are much less vulnerable to ideological purification campaigns than Republicans are, and we summarized our argument in this piece for Vox Polyarchy. Part of the story is that the American left simply lacks much of the institutional infrastructure that promoted and sustained the Tea Party rebellion on the right, such as powerful ideologically-driven media sources, interest groups, and financial donors. (The number of politically active leftist billionaires is….not large.) But it’s also true that many Democratic voters simply don’t think of politics in ideological terms or prize doctrinal fidelity over other qualities—such as perceived electability, group identity, or ability to deliver concrete policy achievements—when making their choice of candidate.

So if there isn’t much evidence of a “liberal Tea Party,” why is anybody talking about it? One reason is that the assumption of party symmetry is deeply entrenched in the minds of many political observers, who expect any trends on one partisan side to inevitably appear in comparable form on the other. Another is the well-documented tendency of media coverage to frame stories in ways that emphasize conflict, or at least the possibility of conflict (“if it bleeds, it leads”)… A third is that Republicans, facing a poor electoral climate this year, have adopted the talking point that their fortunes will be salvaged by a raft of extremist opponents nominated by far-left Democratic primary electorates.

But there’s something else at work here as well. Purist leftism, to the extent it exists in America, is especially concentrated in the circles—metropolitan, professional, well-educated, highly internet-active—in which many media members themselves travel…

Put simply, the online left is not representative of the Democratic Party. Visitors to local Democratic caucus or committee meetings in most parts of America will find that the public employees, union officials, trial lawyers, nonprofit association administrators, and African-American church ladies who actually constitute the party’s activist backbone are, by and large, neither preoccupied with ideological purity nor in a state of rebellion against its current leadership. And though the election of Donald Trump has surely angered and energized the Democratic base, there’s no particular reason to think that anti-Trump sentiment will lead to an internal ideological transformation….

Which, again: This has been true of the Democratic Party, and its GOP counterpart, at least back to the days of Finley Peter Dunne ragging on the McKinley administration’s kleptocrats. Dems are better at compromising than at enforcing ‘party discipline’… which is why, among so many other reasons, we’re not Republicans!

Saturday Morning Open Thread: Nancy Pelosi, Warhorse


*This* bullshit, again. Jonathan Chait, at NYMag, “Nancy Pelosi Is Good at Her Job and She Should Keep It”

Would a different Democratic leader prove less of a liability? Probably for a while, yes. Republicans have spent years building up Pelosi as a hate figure, and a newer and less familiar Democratic leader would take longer for Republicans to promote as a target of fear and loathing. It’s also possible that a Democrat who was either from a less famously progressive locale than San Francisco, or not female, would be less threatening to some socially conservative voters. (The latter point is the most fraught: Do Democrats really want to let irrational fear of powerful women dictate their choice of leaders?) It is true, though, that deposing Pelosi would have at least a temporary messaging benefit in some tough districts this fall.

But the cost of throwing Pelosi over the side would be high. She has been an extraordinarily effective caucus leader. When Democrats last held the majority, she shepherded into law the most aggressive spate of liberal reforms since the Great Society: an $800 billion fiscal stimulus, health-care reform, Dodd-Frank….

Pelosi’s Democratic critics include both the left and right flanks of the party (which is itself a sign that she occupies its center). Attacks on her leadership try to simultaneously attack her as too moderate and too liberal, in an attempt to cobble together both irreconcilable strands. In part to cover up the incoherence of the criticism, the complaint is often expressed in vague generational terms. She is too old, and ought to give way to the new generation. (Whether this new generation will be more moderate or more liberal is a question that can be filled in as one desires.)

Yet there is zero sign Pelosi’s age has impeded her work. She has not lost her persuasive talents: Pelosi effectively rallied the party to unanimously oppose the Trump tax cuts. If some Democrats had supported the measure, Republicans could have touted its bipartisan nature, which would in turn help reduce its unpopularity. Instead the health care and tax cuts have been a millstone around Republican necks. (Republicans initially tried attacking Conor Lamb for opposing the tax cuts, but abandoned that message, a telling concession in a heavily Republican district.) Last month, Pelosi delivered an eight-hour speech defending the Dreamers, standing the entire time, in heels, without a break, a feat of stamina I could not have matched at any point in my life. It may have been a stunt to display her vitality, but it was a convincing one.

Replacing Pelosi as leader would create the ephemeral benefit of forcing Republicans to rotate in a new cast of villains to star in their attack ads — MS-13? hippies? antifa? — until they could build up the name-ID for her successor. It would bring the significant downside of firing an elected official who is extremely good at her extremely important job.

PA Open Thread: Sow the Windbag, Reap the Fartcloud

Of course, the Repubs prefer to blame… well, anything other than the obvious:

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PA-18, Once Again: Change of Plans!



PA Special Election Pt. III (& Re-counting?)

The Repubs are scrambling to explain that the margins are so narrow as to make this election meaningless, and also Conor Lamb is practically a Republican anyways, and besides the district is due to go away come November. So… looking good for Sen. Lamb, so far!

Tuesday Morning Open Thread: Down to the Wire in PA

If Accuweather is to be believed, the Pittsburgh area is far enough inland that only “flurries” are predicted today. I’m partisan enough to hope it discourages the elderly FOX-watching voters, but not their Democratic neighbors…