Resistance to Trump Is Making Strange Bedfellows

Republican senator Mike Lee of Utah attends the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, March 3, 2016
Republican senator Mike Lee of Utah attends the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, March 3, 2016 (Gage Skidmore)

Democrats in the United States are heaping praise on Republican senator Susan Collins for taking a stand against her party’s health care reforms.

The praise is deserved. Collins, a centrist Republican from Maine, refused to support a plan that would have taken health care away from millions of low-income Americans while making it cheaper for the wealthy.

But it’s too bad the left doesn’t extend the same gratitude to conservative purists who joined her.

None of the other supposedly moderate Republicans in the Senate supported Collins in her fight against the rushed effort to replace Obamacare. They all caved to right-wing pressure.

Mike Lee of Utah, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Jerry Moran of Kansas and Rand Paul of Kentucky held firm. Read more

In Defense of Democratic Centrism

Former American secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York attend a political event in New York City, April 4, 2016
Former American secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York attend a political event in New York City, April 4, 2016 (Hillary for America/Barbara Kinney)

In Current Affairs magazine, Nathan J. Robinson takes issue with the centrism of America’s Democratic Party.

The idea that Democrats can win elections by reminding progressives they have nowhere else to go and reassuring conservatives they won’t go after big business is a dead end, according to Robinson:

For one thing, it doesn’t work. Unless you have Bill Clinton’s special charismatic magic, what actually happens is that progressive voters just stay home, disgusted at the failure of both parties to actually try to improve the country.

This is the left-wing version of the Ted Cruz philosophy: that you can win national elections by mobilizing your base instead of appealing to the center.

The evidence (PDF) is against it. (Also see Scott Alexander.)

A few fanatics might hold out if Democrats nominate too centrist a candidate, like Hillary Clinton, but the majority will make the rational decision and vote for the lesser of two evils, as many Bernie Sanders supporters did in November. Read more

Democrats Need Not Obsess About the White Working Class

A Donald Trump supporter listens to a speech in Washington DC, January 19
A Donald Trump supporter listens to a speech in Washington DC, January 19 (James McNellis)

Democrats in the United States have obsessed about winning back working-class whites since these voters left the party to elect Donald Trump last year.

Even Ruy Teixeira, the author of the “emerging Democratic majority” thesis which holds that ethnic minorities, women and postindustrial workers will ultimately shift the balance of power away from the white working class, tells New York magazine that Democrats cannot ignore the group.

They may be a shrinking demographic, but he points out they still hold power. If Democrats can’t retain a reasonably solid, if minority, level of support among low-income whites, their electoral arithmetic falls apart, Teixeira warns. Read more

Arizona or Ohio? Two Paths for Democrats

A tramcar makes its way through downtown Phoenix, Arizona, May 24, 2009
A tramcar makes its way through downtown Phoenix, Arizona, May 24, 2009 (Christopher White)

NBC News has a longread about what went wrong for Democrats in 2016 and how they can become competitive again nationally.

The report, written by Alex Seitz-Wald, touches on many of the issues we have written about since Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election in November: how the white working class in big industrial states abandoned Democrats; how the concentration of liberal and progressive voters in cities and coastal states has made it harder for them to win majorities in the Electoral College and the Senate.

Seitz-Wald argues that, unless they decide to muddle through, Democrats must choose whether to take what he calls the “Ohio path” or the “Arizona path” to address these problems. Read more

Goodbye, Mr President

American president Barack Obama walks through a hallway of the White House in Washington DC, August 8, 2013
American president Barack Obama walks through a hallway of the White House in Washington DC, August 8, 2013 (White House/Pete Souza)

I wasn’t a fan of Barack Obama eight years ago, when we started the Atlantic Sentinel. It unnerved me how many people, especially here in Europe, fell over themselves to praise the new president and I disagreed with his policies.

Now I’m sad to see him go.

It’s not just that the Democrat looks like a paragon of grace and wisdom compared to his Republican successor, although Donald Trump’s shortcomings in both areas are profound.

It’s that I’ve become less right-wing and Obama was a better president in his second term than in his first. Read more

The B+ Presidency of Barack Obama

American president Barack Obama talks with advisors at the White House in Washington DC, September, 18, 2015
American president Barack Obama talks with advisors at the White House in Washington DC, September, 18, 2015 (White House/Pete Souza

The faded signs of “Hope and Change” still linger in the attics and closets of millions of Americans. I still have my old campaign t-shirt; I worked the phone bank in 2008 in Arizona, where ubiquitous caller ID screens let people decide if they were going to thank me or shout at me before they even picked up. “We ain’t no Democrats,” declared one woman, in what sounded like all caps.

A presidency whose base was inspired by a spiritual approach to politics, whose spiritualism promised a complete 180 from George W. Bush’s bloody wars and backward cultural practices, and who seemed transformational at the time, can be subject to exaggeration and projection. All Americans of age have a story about Barack Obama: he is the 9/11 of our political landscape, a seminal change that both changed so much and yet changed so little.

Evaluating Obama as a geopolitical leader demands a strict litmus test, though. How much did his presidency secure his nation state? How much did he stabilize it?

At the end, Obama was less of a transformation geopolitically than a transition: an essential step onto something else not yet realized. Read more

Party Asymmetry in the Age of Trump

Matt Grossmann and David A. Hopkins, Asymmetric Politics: Ideological Republicans and Group Interest Democrats (2016)
Matt Grossmann and David A. Hopkins, Asymmetric Politics: Ideological Republicans and Group Interest Democrats (2016)

Regular readers of the Atlantic Sentinel will be familiar with Matt Grossmann’s and David Hopkins’ theory of asymmetric politics. I’ve referenced their thesis to argue why Hillary Clinton, not Bernie Sanders, was the proper Democratic candidate in 2016 and how Republican anti-establishment sentiment wrecked American politics.

Now they have put their theory in a book, which goes into greater detail and explains how this asymmetry between the parties manifests itself in other areas, like the media and policymaking. Read more