Election 2020 Open Thread: “But Is the Media America Ready for A Nerd President?”

Peter Beinart’s article is not as silly as the headline makes it sound. “Braininess Is Now the Brand”:

Among the biggest surprises of the Democratic presidential campaign so far are the rise of Pete Buttigieg and the resurgence of Elizabeth Warren, both of whom, according to a new Des Moines Register poll, have moved into a virtual tie for second place in Iowa with Bernie Sanders. In many ways, the Buttigieg and Warren phenomena are distinct: Buttigieg promises generational change; Warren is almost 70. Buttigieg emphasizes his success in a conservative state; Warren stresses her willingness to challenge corporate power. Buttigieg has become a darling of the big donors whom Warren eschews.

What unites them, and separates them from Sanders and Joe Biden, is their unabashed intellectualism. Both have made braininess central to their political brand. And it’s working—a fact that offers a window into the changing culture of the Democratic Party…

It’s not unusual for Democratic presidential candidates to have impressive resumes. Bill Clinton is a Rhodes Scholar; Barack Obama was the president of the Harvard Law Review. Cory Booker and Julián Castro attended Stanford; Amy Klobuchar went to Yale. In fact, every president since Ronald Reagan has been a product of the Ivy League.

What’s new is that Warren and Buttigieg are leaning into their credentialed intellectualism rather than worrying that it will make them appear elitist….

As late as 1994, according to the Pew Research Center, voters who had graduated from college were 15 points more likely to identify as Republicans than Democrats, and voters with graduate degrees were almost evenly split between the two parties. By 2017, college graduates’ partisan leanings had flipped: They now favored Democrats by 15 points. Among Americans with graduate degrees, the shift has been even starker. The Democratic advantage, which stood at two points in 1994, had grown to 32 points by 2017.

As a result, the educational composition of the two parties has diverged. From 1997 to 2017, the share of registered Republican voters who finished college stayed the same. Among Democrats, it rose by 15 points. This shift has influenced the way the two parties see education itself. In 2010, Democrats were seven points more likely than Republicans to say that colleges and universities have a positive effect on America. By 2017, they were 36 points more likely…
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Saturday Morning Open Thread: Cartoon Villains

(Mike Luckovich via GoComics.com)
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(Signe Wilkinson via GoComics.com)
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(Non Sequitur via GoComics.com)
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(Drew Sheneman via GoComics.com)
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Election 2020 Open Thread: The First DNC Debate Lineups Have Been Released

Surprise! Ain’t nobody happy about the results — a phrase which may be Tom Perez’s epitaph. Per the Washington Post:

Former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the two leading candidates in early Democratic presidential polling, will share the stage later this month as the party holds its first back-to-back nights of debates…

Joining Biden and Sanders on the second night will be Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), Sen. Michael F. Bennet (Colo.), South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, Rep. Eric Swalwell (Calif.), author and spiritual guru Marianne Williamson and technology entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

The group debating on the first night will include Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), former Obama Cabinet member Julián Castro, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, former congressman John Delaney (Md.), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), former congressman Beto O’Rourke, Rep. Tim Ryan (Ohio) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.).

The DNC had sought to divide the field in such a way that one debate would not appear more important than the other. The announcement Friday drew immediate questions about whether the organization had succeeded.

Night two includes four of the five candidates who are averaging at least 7 percent support in a Washington Post average of national polls over the past month — Biden, Sanders, Harris and Buttegieg. Night one includes Warren, who stands at 12 percent in recent national polls, while all other candidates that night hold less than 5 percent support…

NBC said candidates were divided into two groups, depending on whether they were polling above or below 2 percent. Random drawing from both groups resulted in assignment to either the first or the second night, with a goal of including a mix of higher-polling candidates and lower-polling candidates both nights.

Ill-judged cutoff percentage, IMO. (Of course, were it left to me, getting onstage would’ve required polling at least 3%, so… ) Politico is very excited, of course:

By splitting the Democratic presidential field’s top-tier candidates into two groups and dividing them evenly across two stages for the year’s first primary debates, the Democratic National Committee had hoped to avoid a repeat of the Republican Party’s “kiddie table” spectacle of 2016.

It got a stacked deck, anyway…
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C.R.E.A.M. Open Thread: The McConnell-Chao Marriage Is *Mutually* Profitable

Guess it’s nice for the GOP senators who’ve handed their balls over to Mitch to know that, should his Russian funding ever dry up, he won’t be reduced to peddling his memoirs to support his lifestyle:

The Transportation Department under Secretary Elaine Chao designated a special liaison to help with grant applications and other priorities from her husband Mitch McConnell’s state of Kentucky, paving the way for grants totaling at least $78 million for favored projects as McConnell prepared to campaign for reelection.

Chao’s aide Todd Inman, who stated in an email to McConnell’s Senate office that Chao had personally asked him to serve as an intermediary, helped advise the senator and local Kentucky officials on grants with special significance for McConnell — including a highway-improvement project in a McConnell political stronghold that had been twice rejected for previous grant applications…

The circumstances surrounding the Owensboro grant and another, more lucrative grant to Boone County, highlight the ethical conflicts in having a powerful Cabinet secretary married to the Senate’s leader and in a position to help him politically. McConnell has long touted his ability to bring federal resources to his state, which his wife is now in a position to assist.

Chao’s designation of Inman as a special intermediary for Kentucky — a privilege other states did not enjoy — gave a special advantage to projects favored by her husband, which could in turn benefit his political interests. In such situations, ethicists say, each member of a couple benefits personally from the success of the other…

(Much more at the link. As with so many similar one-man pork projects, the money seems to have drained away on ‘showpiece’ architectural projects that benefited a small cadre of connected businessmen without providing much assistance to the voters who really needed some help.)

The power couple isn’t particulary covert about their money-spinning prowess. Bess Levin, at Vanity Fair:

Last week, the New York Times reported that the secretary tried to bring family members to government meetings with Chinese officials, despite said family members having major financial entanglements in China. Last month, the Wall Street Journal found that she’d made a $40,000 profit on her stake in Vulcan, the nation’s largest construction materials supplier, despite having promised—over a year ago!—to divest from the company, on whose board she sat…

Cole linked to the NYTimes article when it appeared, but seriously: Can you imagine the outrage if a Democratic Senator’s wife did anything like this?

Ms. Chao is the top Trump official overseeing the American shipping industry, which is in steep decline and overshadowed by its Chinese competitors.

Her efforts on behalf of the family business — appearing at promotional events, joining her father in interviews with Chinese-language media — have come as Foremost has interacted with the Chinese state to a remarkable degree for an American company.

Foremost has received hundreds of millions of dollars in loan commitments from a bank run by the Chinese government, whose policies have been labeled by the Trump administration as threats to American security. The company’s primary business — delivering China’s iron ore and coal — is intertwined with industries caught up in a trade war with the United States. That dispute stems in part from the White House’s complaints that China is flooding the world with subsidized steel, undermining American producers.
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Saturday Morning Open Thread: “Electability”


The Washington Post‘s Alexandra Petri is a national treasure:

The 2020 election is lurching toward us like a malfunctioning robot, and I think we must ask ourselves: Can we risk nominating a man for president?…

Male presidential candidates are noted for their inexplicable and sudden desires to do irrational things, such as assassinate Alexander Hamilton, create the Bull Moose Party or be John Edwards. And once they’re in office, this behavior continues. Sometimes, for no reason, a man will decide to throw himself a Teapot Dome Scandal or a Bay of Pigs, or decide to do things to the Philippines that we have yet to adequately reckon with as a country.

Not all men are Jacksons or McKinleys or even the fellows responsible for keeping Jackson’s loathsome visage on our twenties. But having to battle the presumption that they are will waste voters’ energy — energy better spent being genuinely excited by a candidate!…

… When Americans look to the person in charge of their government, they should not just think of everything in the past that has gone wrong. There will be another time to attempt the noble trial of seeing whether this country can handle a 45th man as president, after Grover Cleveland twice and — Warren G. Harding! I mean, honestly, Warren G. Harding!…

Also, Josh Marshall dares to dream — “The Alternative Scenario: Trump Loses and It’s Not Even Close”:

Start with the most obvious fact: President Trump is the most consistently unpopular President in at least a century. He has not had a net positive approval rating for his entire presidency and has durably had approval ratings in the low 40s, sometimes dipping down into the 30s.The consistency of his unpopularity rather than its depth is what sets him apart. Other presidents have been that low and even gone on to win reelection. None has been that low for his entire presidency. That suggests a strong ceiling he cannot get above. For any other President we’d recognize this as a massive reelection warning sign. It’s really no different or shouldn’t be any different with President Trump.

The intensity of opposition is even more telling. Polls routinely show that well over 50% of voters say they will definitely not vote for him for reelection. A Quinnipiac poll from a week ago found that Trump had a 41% approval rating while 57% disapproved of him. More significantly 54% said they would “definitely” not vote to reelect him. A January Marist poll had the number of definite nos at 57%.

Could people change their minds? Of course. But this is a measure of the steepness of the climb. Trump needs to get all the undecideds and then peel off a significant number who say there’s no way they’d ever vote for him. That’s hard.

These are again, massive warning signs for reelection defeat.

Of course we know from bitter experience that a Republican President can lose the popular vote by a significant margin and still be elected President. But they can’t lose by that much. Maybe it’s 2 or 3 percentage points max to lose the popular vote and win the electoral college. But not more than that…

Personally, even I don’t really buy it. I assume it will be a tight race and the winner of Wisconsin will be the next President. But sometimes it makes sense to step back and look at data, albeit imperfect, which is separate from our hopes and fears. It’s like what pilots are trained to do in stormy weather or difficult flying conditions: ignore what you feel or see and just watch the instruments. The best summary is this. If you look at these numbers and set aside the name Trump and all the aura – negative and positive – that surrounds him, you would say the electoral beatdown scenario is significantly more likely than even a narrow victory for the President…