Wednesday, July 17, 2019

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In the go-go Age of Trump, one can’t wait for Friday to do the traditional week-in-review of lessons learned.

What do we know now that we didn’t know on Sunday?

1. Trump has been so normalized when it comes to racist statements that he can apparently say anything and (to a large extent) get away with it. 

My take: Only four Republicans in the House voted to condemn his words. A Reuters poll taken after Sunday’s provocations saw no decline in Republican backing.  The Wall Street Journal’s ed board, which stylizes itself as principled, has an editorial  focusing on Pelosi’s words, moving on from Trump’s.

“To Republicans, Trump is simply saying: ‘Hey, if you don’t like America, you can leave,” [Michigan academic  Vincent] Hutchings said. “That is not at all controversial. If you already support Trump, then it’s very easy to interpret his comments that way.”

2. Kevin McCarthy symbolizes better than anyone how Republicans have dropped any pretense of being publicly willing to call the president out when he has violated the values of the Party of Lincoln. 

My take: The House minority leader’s reaction to Trump’s racist statements?

“This is more from their base. It’s about politics, and it’s unfortunate. We should get back to the business of America.” 

I wrote yesterday that the same old song and dance would not suffice at the leadership press conference at which McCarthy said this.

I. Was. So. Wrong.

The same old song and dance is defined as deflect, defend, and deny, and McCarthy’s words were the epitome of that.  Mitch McConnell was basically the same.

Here is cynicism and the Party of Trump personified in a different way by a man who considers himself to be decent and reflective of American values, South Dakota Republican Senator John Thune:

“The thing I think we’ve learned from experience with this president and the administration is that the news cycle changes pretty quickly. I don’t expect we’ll be talking about this [much longer]”

3. Business leaders have largely decided that it isn’t in their bottom-line interest to speak up for the values in which they believe if it means publicly crossing the man who might be president until 2025.

My take: Tuesday’s silence from Fortune 500 CEOs, who are concerned with trade deals and budget moves out of the Beltway, was more deafening than a Sleazy Joe concert. Anthony Scaramucci, not a Fortune 500 CEO (but he knows many), became the semi-exception which fully proved the rule, when he suggested the president is “turning into a racist.”

4. Nancy Pelosi’s surefootedness has been undermined a bit.

My take: By violating House rules in the language she used to criticize the president, Pelosi created an opening for deflect/defend/deny that altered the trajectory of the coverage away from “the president said horrible things” to “our two national political tribes are feuding again.”  And the dynamics that had her and Team Squad fighting are not going away, so there are more tests to come.  Also: impeachment is back in the air, despite Pelosi’s best efforts to squelch those attempts.

5. Race relations and attitudes are still a big divide in America.

My take: Did we actually re-learn that in the last 96 hours? No, but it remains the case that we need to remind ourselves of this sad and tragic fact every chance we get, as we push for a more perfect Union.  If Trump wins re-election, the lack of unity, as measured in our national political rhetoric, polls, and the daily lives of the people of the United States, will surely only grow more pronounced.

6. Schumer’s support for the study of slavery reparations symbolizes the hard political reality that Trump is counting on to win another four more years.

My take: Democratic leaders in Congress and the party’s presidential candidates continue to take positions on race, health care, and immigration that are not broadly popular outside the core base.  The party has moved to the left, no doubt. The country in some ways has moved to the left, no doubt.  The attitudinal and demographic changes are powerful.

But the president has crudely achieved his goal: the political views of The Squad are now almost surely going to be front and center in the fall of 2020.

The two most important reactions to that simple fact are clear: Trump is delighted about this and Speaker Pelosi is not.

Per the New York Times: “It is the kind of fight that the president relishes. He has told aides, in fact, that he is pleased with the Democratic reaction to his attacks, boasting that he is ‘marrying’ the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party to the four congresswomen known as ‘the Squad.’”

From the same Times story, listen to Pat Buchanan, who knows of what he speaks: “Rather than let Democrats in the primaries choose his adversary, Trump is seeking to make the selection himself.”

And if the election is seen as a choice between Democrats like Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Ms. Omar, Mr. Buchanan added, “Trump wins.”

Mr. Buchanan said he envisioned a scenario in which the battle for the Democratic nomination becomes, in part, a referendum on these four women. “The Democratic candidates will be forced to choose in the coming debates as to whether to back the four,” he said, “or put distance between themselves and the four.”

And Charlie Sykes says this in Politico to the Democrats: “This ugly stuff may well backfire. Trump could lose the popular vote next year by a larger margin than in 2016. But he could still win the Electoral College if he holds Reluctant Trump Voters and the swing voters who sampled the Democrats in 2018.”

7. The fights of this week are about race, to be sure, but they are undergirded by economics and the president’s ability – currently unmatched by Pelosi or any of the leading Democratic presidential candidates – to make his tribe feel like he has a vision to include them in the future of America’s economy and societal order.

My take: Middle- and working-class economic anxiety is still quite real; check out this poll.  Even as the president brags on the Trump Economy, he knows his chances of gaining re-election involve winning the “who’s side are you on?” argument with the eventual Democratic nominee.  Picking the fight he did on Sunday, he believes, gives him a better sense of doing that. Although they consider what the president said to be cynical and disgusting, some smart Democratic strategists do not disagree.  Trump might end up winning both the battle and the war, as horrible as that seems in light of the methods he used.

In other news:

Pelosi and Steve Mnuchin are schedule to have yet another private talk about the budget and debt ceiling again Wednesday.

My take: The old, iron rule applies to White House-Hill talks (“nothing is decided until everything is decided”). Pelosi is acting like everything could be decided today.  That would be rational and in the interest of both parties.

The Wall Street Journal says the hold-ups are on veterans funding, spending off-sets, and the concern that Mnuchin doesn’t actually speak for his boss.

 I have zero choice but to say: only time will tell.

Watch for the 8am ET release of a new Qunnipiac poll on the presidential race and California.

My take: The two keys: what has happened to Joe Biden’s Golden State standing, and whether Kamala Harris has moved up from the third-place home state perch she has previously occupied.

Big Four


At Iowa forum, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Julián Castro show the contrasting health care visions in the Democratic field.

Kirsten Gillibrand rolls out plan to protect and expand Social Security prior to Iowa forum.

In Iowa, Joe Biden rolls out new plan for rural America.
Ahead of Iowa forum, Kamala Harris releases plan she says would reduce prescription drug costs.

New Hampshire

New polls suggest a 2020 N.H. primary toss up as Biden’s lead shrinks.

N.H. incumbent Democrats haul in the campaign cash.

New Hampshire to end ‘pay to stay’ for inmates.

South Carolina

Sanford mulls 2020 bid, but observers question his motives.

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