With help from the Democrats, moderate GOP House member loses primary to right-wing crazy

The Democrats are inserting themselves into Republican primaries in a bid to promote more extreme GOP candidates so the more moderate Republicans — and, presumeably the more electable Republicans — will not be the ones to face the Democrat in the general election.

It worked bigly in one U.S. House primary in Michigan:

Democrats this year have tried to interfere in multiple GOP primaries, using ads that appear to be attacks on more extreme candidates as a way to subtly promote those contenders. The idea is to line up opponents who the Democrats believe to be more easily beatable in the general election.

But Tuesday’s vote was the first in which the closeness of the outcome — Trump-endorsed challenger John Gibbs won with 52 percent of the vote, according to unofficial returns — suggested that the Democrats’ meddling may have tipped the results.

Now, Democrats will see whether their high-stakes gambit to take out Rep. Peter Meijer will win them the seat in November. Regardless of what happens, critics say the attempt to boost Gibbs is reckless and undermines Democrats’ argument that they are the party upholding democracy.

“It’s cynical and dangerous,” said Richard Hasen, a UCLA law professor and director of the Safeguarding Democracy Project. “We know that the Trumpian wing of the Republican Party is doing a lot to undermine people’s confidence in the fairness and integrity of elections. The idea that Democrats would be willing to gamble on electing more of these people because they think they’ll be easier to beat in the general election really is playing with fire.”

Meijer was one of the few principled Republicans left in the House, as long as you define “principled” loosely by the metrics of the current Republican Party. However, he only voted with Democrats 38% of the time. That is not a great number. He was courageous on some of the big questions — impeachment, holding Bannon in contempt, forming the Jan. 6 commission, etc. But most of the time — and this should be the paramount consideration — he voted exactly as you’d expect a billionaire Republican to vote.

Meijer was one of the few principled Republicans left in the House, as long as you define “principled” loosely by the metrics of the current Republican Party. However, he only voted with Democrats 38% of the time. That is not a great number. He was courageous on some of the big questions — impeachment, holding Bannon in contempt, forming the Jan. 6 commission, etc. But most of the time — and this should be the paramount consideration — he voted exactly as you’d expect a billionaire Republican to vote.

Losing a moderate Republican vote is a loss in today climate, no doubt. But losing a Republican and gaining a Democratic vote would do far more good in the House than saving Meijer’s congressional career.

Acting as election spoilers is hardball politics the way the Republicans have played politics for decades. Republicans have even promoted straw third-party candidates in general elections to siphon away liberal and moderate votes from Democratic candidates.

Sometimes it’s worked. Sometimes it has not.

I certainly don’t fault Democrats for trying trying to match the (far more numerous) cynical ploys of the Republicans, although if it backfires in this Michigan race and the crazy Republican is elected, there will be loads of Monday morning quarterbacking.

If the Democrat wins, all the better.

However, just to inject a bit of scary realism into the debate, Democrats have lost the last six elections in the district. The margins of GOP victory in all those races weren’t blowouts, but they weren’t super close either.

If I were the Democrat making the decision to meddle in this race, I’d definitely be torn.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Defeated Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) who lost his GOP primary Aug. 2.

Democrats put their money into the campaign of a hard-right GOP gubernatorial candidate who just won his primary in Maryland

Republican voters in Maryland — a state where Trump lost 2-to-1 in the last election — have selected in this week’s primary a MAGA kook, rather than the staid, pro-business acolyte of wildly popular outgoing GOP Gov. Larry Hogan.

QAnon nut Daniel L. Cox will now run against a Democrat who will not have to work very hard to make themselves more palatable than Cox. (Final results of Democrat primary still not in.)

As a side note, Democrats spent a lot of money on a spoiler tactic of getting Republican Cox elected, in a move that brought pooh-poohing from the tennis-and-martinis set writing the Washington Post‘s house editorials:

In today’s political landscape, his fringe views are not a joke; they are a menace. Last year, he arranged three buses to convey his constituents to the Jan. 6 rally that Mr. Trump had promised would be “wild” and that became, by design, a blood-spattered insurrection. At the very moment that violent rioters stormed the Capitol, beating and injuring scores of police officers, he tweeted that Vice President Mike Pence was a “traitor” for refusing to reject the certification of the election. As a mouthpiece for the Trumpian lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, Mr. Cox has positioned himself squarely as an enemy of democracy.

Maryland Republicans have made their choice — for a candidate described by Mr. Trump as “100 percent MAGA.” They made it despite the availability of a stark alternative, Kelly M. Schulz, a close political ally of term-limited GOP Gov. Larry Hogan. She served in his Cabinet for nearly the entirety of his eight years in office, first as labor secretary and then, until January, as commerce secretary. In turning their backs on Ms. Schulz, primary voters spurned a pro-business pragmatist in the mold of Mr. Hogan, whose moderate Republicanism and contempt for Mr. Trump have made him one of the nation’s most popular governors. His stratospheric approval levels might easily have helped propel Ms. Schulz, whom he warmly endorsed, to the governorship. She could have been the first woman to hold the job.

By contrast, Mr. Cox moved to impeach Mr. Hogan, a governor of his own party. He got no serious support in that gesture from either party — a indication of how he is regarded by his colleagues in Annapolis.

Democrats are delighted to have Mr. Cox on the ballot, and they played a part in his win. The Democratic Governors Association spent $1.2 million on advertising and mailers designed to elevate Mr. Cox, calculating that he would be easy prey in November. That assessment is probably accurate. Nonetheless, if by some remote chance it is wrong and some unforeseeable chain of events leads to Mr. Cox moving into Government House in Annapolis, Democrats will rue their cynical action.

Democrats would be stupid not to use the tactic of trying to get a spoiler Republican candidate on the ballot in some elections where it makes sense. Republicans do it all the time. In fact, Republicans run actual straw candidates all the time in order to gum up Democratic primaries.

Not to pile on President Biden, whom I will ultimately support if he becomes the nominee. But he has long traveled in the rarefied environs of the kinds of charity events where you rub shoulders with the owners and very top echelon of the Washington Post. He belongs to an era where the right kinds of people belonged to the right kinds of clubs and sent their kids to the right kinds of schools.

Places where a sitting president might play a couple rounds of genteel golf with the executive editor of the Post and the opposition leader in the U.S. Senate, and hammer out a “gentleman’s agreement” about how to advance important legislation in ways that benefits both parties and, possibly, the American people.

Mind you, it was still all, to use the Post’s word, “cynical.” Just not overtly so. Everyone went along to get along. In public.

Times have changed, of course. The Republicans stole at least one Supreme Court seat. They regularly play the part of Lucy to the Democrats’ Charlie Brown, as the GOP keeps yanking that football at the last second, leaving the Democrats flat-footed. Cynical isn’t even their fallback position. They lead with it.

So, good for Maryland Democrats for playing politics the way they should be played in 2022.

Yes, the spoiler candidate gambit might backfire now and then, although the performative hand-wringing by the Post about it happening in Maryland’s governor’s race is silly unless the Democratic candidate, whomever that ends up being, does something truly shocking and immoral before the general election.

You can read the rest of the WaPo editorial here.

GOP primary winner Cox on primary election night.

Why can’t the Democrats ever repeal unpopular GOP tax cuts?

Writer David Dayen has an excellent article up over the TAP that examines what the headline calls “The Impossible, Inevitable Survival of the Trump Tax Cuts.”

In the next presidential election [after Trump], I surmised, all Democratic candidates would have to do is to say “I will repeal the Trump tax cuts,” and that could finance most if not all of their ambitions for their first term. There were $3 trillion in unpopular giveaways to the wealthy just waiting to be re-channeled into important priorities on energy and environment, health and family care, housing and transit, and more.

Presumably. In that TNR piece, I also wrote that, “unfortunately, when Democrats get into power they suddenly get cold feet about repealing their predecessor’s bills.” I pointed to the Bush tax cuts, which were similarly loathed by almost all of the Democratic coalition (though not unanimously, as the Trump tax cuts were). On two separate occasions in the Obama administration, Democrats could have let the tax cuts expire and overhauled the tax code, potentially building new programs in the process. They first extended them all and then made them permanent except for the rates at the very top. A vice president by the name of Joe Biden conducted the latter negotiations, and got fleeced by Mitch McConnell, to the indignation of Democrats in the Senate.

Still, it seemed like reviving the post-Trump tax cut period had a better opportunity for success. While the Bush tax cuts had a few benefits for the middle class, the $3 trillion identified in Trump’s plan pretty much all went to the rich. And they ended up panning out even worse than promised. They cost at least $1.9 trillion, not the $1.5 trillion initially claimed. And the promises about the tax cuts paying for themselves and spurring investment were similarly proven untrue. They were highly unpopular and easily and accurately depicted as a sop to the country’s owners, the rich and the powerful.

Sure enough, during the 2020 election cycle, the Democratic presidential candidates targeted the Trump tax cuts. They all put out exciting plans that were, they assured us, fiscally responsible, because the tax cuts would be repealed. Progressive groups that tried to influence the Democratic agenda kept piling on more and more ideas, but the Trump. tax cuts were big enough to bear the weight.

The Democratic Party, however, was not.

Good article. Read it if you get time.

It’s sad that the Democrats have been so spineless on this issue. If they do not inspire fervent support and turnout in 2022 and 2023, it will be, in some key ways, their own fault.

America is in such an existential crisis with the rise of the activist Supreme Court and fascist Right, that I do not feel comfortable saying in 2022 that it’s time to teach them a lesson and sit an election or two out.

The problem with doing that is that I am a white guy who is not poor and does not need to borrow money, go to school, raise kids by myself, etc. Much of the mischief that will emanate from Republicans if they gain control of all three branches of government will not affect me terribly in the beginning.

But the people and issues I care about socially and politically — women, young people, the poor, the extremely aged, the environment — will be in the crosshairs. My sitting out an election, at least for the time being, is a betrayal of those people and issues.

This is what happens when your White House is populated by well-to-do Dem centrists who are insulated from the damage wrought by Republicans

Joe Biden still outperforms Trump in most head-to-head polls, but that is not stopping a majority of Democrats in the latest New York Times poll from saying they would like to have someone else at top of the national ticket for 2024.

Just 26% of Democrats said they would prefer Biden as their party’s candidate, with 64% saying they want to see someone else head the ticket, according to The New York Times/Siena College Research Institute survey of registered voters.

While that finding is potentially very bad news for the 79-year-old incumbent’s reelection hopes, the poll has even worse news for Biden when it comes to younger Democratic voters and for how all voters see the country’s direction.

A whopping 94% of Democrats who are less than 30 years old said they want someone besides Biden to be their nominee, the survey found.

The president’s age and job performance were the top reasons cited by Democratic respondents why they wanted a candidate other than Biden to be the party nominee. Thirty-three percent cited Biden’s age, while 32% cited displeasure with the work he has done while in the White House.

Just 13% of voters of all kinds say the United States is “on the right track,” while 77% said it was “headed in the wrong direction.”

Yes, a substantial part of progressive inaction on Capitol Hill can be tied to Sens. Manchin and Sinema, not President Biden. He can’t do much when two Democrats are sabotaging every effort at truly progressive legislation. That can only be rectified with the election of two more Democrats who might make Sinema and Manchin irrelevant.

And much of our current malaise can be tied to unforeseen pandemic side effects.

But Biden and his administration — along with many centrist Democrats — seem to lack a sense of urgency about the existential threats facing the country and, in particular, its young people.

This administration is largely run by people who are not apart from Washington, but of it. They travel in the insulated world of legislators, aides, policy analysts, lobbyists and political consultants. Even the interns tend to come from the rarefied environs of Newport, Chevy Chase and Wellesley,

These are not people who, should someone they know need an abortion, could not find one locally or be unable to travel somewhere to get a safe one.

These are primarily not people who will be saddled with education debt for the rest of their lives, if they have any education debt at all.

These are not the people who are one paycheck away from not being able to pay their rent.

These are people for whom being paid to work from home can be a reality, rather than just being laid off and not getting any money at all.

The same is true of the Republicans, probably even more so.

But the difference is that I voted for the Democrats because they acted as if they, largely populated at the top by well-to-do types, understood that they would be the proxies for everyone who is poor and voiceless and desperately trying to keep their heads above water.

That they would run an administration that understood the urgency of the moment and would work to fashion a bold economic populist agenda that might even attract disaffected working class folks who’ve been voting Republican.

But the Biden people have instead acted pretty much like who they really are: people whose next job is always just an election away. If Biden loses they will all land on their feet with another campaign, another elected official, another lobbying gig, or another highly paid consultancy.

They have been timid and careful and calculating to the point of inaction.

I’ll vote for him if he’s the nominee again because if Trump gets one more term, the future will be far more bleak and awful than it would be otherwise.

But I want to vote for someone again. Not just against Trump and the Republicans.

Click on image for full results of New York Times/Siena College poll.

A huge mental health win for Biden and the Democrats

It’s de rigueur to blast the Democrats in Washington as a bunch of timid do-nothings, Some of that is well-deserved. But the recent passage of a gun control law was not celebrated as much as I thought it would be once people actually realized what it does do, rather than what it doesn’t.

Admittedly that law doesn’t do enough. But it did close some important loopholes partially responsible for the flood of illegal guns from gun-permissive states like Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan into gun-restrictive states like Illinois. (Poor Illinois — and Chicago — have the bad luck to be surrounded by states with few real controls on guns. Chicago’s gun problem is largely a surrounding state problem, even as Republicans sneer at Chicago for its astronomical rate of gun violence despite having gun control laws with teeth.)

But, the gun-related provisions in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act of 2022 aren’t the only story. The bill included “the biggest single expansion of mental health care in American history.”

That’s a huge deal. You’ll never hear this on Fox News, however:

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act has been framed as a gun reform, but perhaps a more fitting frame for the law is as the biggest single expansion of mental health care in American history—and the biggest expansion of Medicaid—with a few gun provisions.

To be sure, packaging the two together makes both gun reform and mental health advocates uncomfortable. The overwhelming majority of people with mental illness will never commit a violent act, though statistics show that they’re more likely to be victims. Tying mental illness with gun violence only stigmatizes it, reducing the likelihood that people who need care will get it. But gun rights activists see mental illness as a convenient distraction from the fundamental issue driving gun violence—the guns themselves.

Getting Republican participation on any gun law reform, though, required that the two be linked. And any investment in our anemic mental health care system—whatever the pretext—should be welcomed. So the new law leverages Medicaid to vastly expand America’s mental health infrastructure through a system of Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics, or CCBHCs, and school mental health investments.

This piece in The New Republic goes on to say:

The law’s massive investment in mental health care didn’t just happen over the course of a few weeks. It was the product of nearly a decade of slow, methodical planning. Stabenow and GOP Missouri Senator Roy Blunt had been co-sponsors of the bill reauthorizing community health center funding—consistent federal dollars to support community clinics—when Stabenow proposed a similar approach to funding mental health care. Until that point, mental health clinics were forced to operate on grants that they simply couldn’t rely on. “On the behavioral health side of things, it [was] all stop and start. It [was] all grants that go away,” Stabenow told me.

She approached the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA, to design quality standards for the proposed mental health centers that would eventually become CCBHCs. These included 24-hour psychiatric crisis services and integration with physical health services. Stabenow and Blunt eventually co-sponsored a 2013 bill that was signed into law the next year by President Obama. The Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Act initially allocated $1 billion to fund a demonstration project across 10 states. The program offers enhanced Medicaid reimbursements to cover 80 to 90 percent of the start-up and operating costs for CCBHCs meeting SAMHSA standards.

The results were impressive. According to Stabenow, there was a 60 percent reduction in jail bookings stemming from mental health crises, a 63 percent reduction in mental health emergency room visits, and a 41 percent decline in homelessness.

In a country that has chronically underfunded mental health care, this is a landmark development.

Rates of mental health issues in incarcerated individuals.

Is Biden making a deal with McConnell to appoint an anti-choice judge to the federal bench in Kentucky?

News of the possible deal has many Democrats apoplectic:

News of the arrangement broke after the White House told the Democrats, Gov. Andy Beshear and Rep. John Yarmuth, that they intended to nominate Chad Meredith to a judgeship in the Eastern District of Kentucky.

Both men went public with the news, talking to the Louisville Courier-Journal on the record. The newspaper first reported the potential nomination deal Wednesday. Yarmuth told the paper “it’s clear” the arrangement was part of a deal with McConnell.

Biden’s press office didn’t return TPM’s request for comment about the potential nomination, and the Courier-Journal reported Friday that the White House has repeatedly declined questions about the story – saying only, “we do not comment on vacancies.”

Democrats are stumped, even outraged, by the news, which came less than a week after the Supreme Court’s conservative majority, which McConnell helped engineer, overturned Roe v. Wade and stripped away the constitutional right to an abortion.

“This is some bullshit,” Senate candidate Charles Booker tweeted. “Why you would pick him to fill a federal vacancy when you’re a Democratic president is beyond me,” Yarmuth said.

The exact nature of the potential deal Biden has apparently struck with McConnell is unknown. The Courier-Journal reported Thursday, citing Yarmuth, that “the presumption is that with Meredith’s nomination, McConnell would agree not to hold up future federal nominations from the Biden White House.”

Could be true. Could be not true.

But I cannot imagine that any deal with McConnell, who stole a Supreme Court appointment from President Obama, can be morally or politically justified. But this would not be the first time that McConnell has played the Democrats for his own ends.

You can read more here.

Is Mitch McConnell playing the Democrats again?

Can Democrats keep Georgia blue?

If you listened to the so-called “liberal” media, Democrats have already lost the Senate, the House and the White House.

The media had Los Angeles turning red before all the votes were counted and, lo and behold, it turned out to be a progressive sweep in LA races. The stories about a “conservative sweep” in LA ran front page, top of page. The follow-up stories where journalists and editors apologized for jumping the gun and being so wrong? We were lucky if they ran at all.

Which brings us to Georgia.

Eli Day over at TAP has a good article that notes that local Democrats, especially Stacey Abrams — with her considerable organizing skills and clout — are out to prove the centrists wrong in the same way they were wrong about the two Senate seats in 2020 that turned Georgia blue:

For Georgia progressives, the task is mobilization. First, they must convince voters these races will have real consequences for people’s lives. More importantly, they must convince people to stick around and build popular power that will last longer than individual politicians, who come and go.

“We understand that if we don’t have a vehicle for the multiracial working class … then we won’t make the progress that we need to make even as we become a purple state and then trend blue,” Britney Whaley, the Southeast regional director for the Working Families Party (WFP), who’s based in Georgia, tells the Prospect.

It’s an increasingly common progressive argument: Voting for the “right” people isn’t enough. Most Americans have seen how corporate lobbyists swarm Congress after every election to block virtually anything good. The only way to make politicians reliably do things for ordinary people is through organized public pressure, progressive ones included

“The approach is just to, quite frankly, keep it real with people,” Whaley says. Instead of focusing solely on candidates, they’re pitching voters on “the power of us. The power that we have if we take collective action.”

IN A STORY ON GEORGIA’S POPULIST HISTORY, I boiled the remarkable 2020 and 2021 victories down to two core elements: aggressive outreach to Georgia’s younger and more diverse voters, plus plain economic populism that spoke to people’s desire for a fair and equal world.

The first half is well known. Back in 2014, Stacey Abrams began an uphill crusade to convince Democrats that they could win the state by tapping into the growing numbers of unregistered young people and people of color with a slightly more progressive message.

Few Democrats listened in the 2016 campaign. As Greg Bluestein writes in Flipped: How Georgia Turned Purple and Broke the Monopoly on Republican Power, Abrams and other local Georgia leaders practically “begged Hillary Clinton’s campaign to take the state seriously” in 2016, but their pleas fell on deaf ears.

Four years later, nothing was the same. Abrams’s strategy, plus suburban nausea with Trump, pushed Joe Biden to victory.

Then in the runoff elections in January 2021, Warnock and Jon Ossoff sent Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler packing.

Whether national Dems do their part this time around remains to be seen.

Look, national Democratic organizers do a lot of good work. They really do. But like all national organizations they tend to think they know better than the locals how to organize local campaigns. Stacey Abrams proved them wrong.

You can read the rest of the TAP article here.

From the home page of the Working Families Party.