Friday, November 07, 2014

Cruising the Web

Peggy Noonan chastises Barack Obama's reaction to the election results.
Common sense says a chastened president would acknowledge the obvious—some things aren’t working, he has made some mistakes—and, in Mr. Obama’s case, hit the reset button with Congress. Reach out, be humble. Humility has power. It shows people that you have some give—you get the message, you are capable of self-correcting.

That is not what he’s doing. The president is instead doubling down on hostility, antagonism and distance.

What a mistake. What a huge, historic mistake, not only for him but also for his party.

In his news conference on Wednesday, Mr. Obama was grim and grudging, barely bothering to hide suppressed anger. “Republicans had a good night.” He was unwilling to explain or characterize what happened. “I’ll leave it to all of you and the professional pundits to pick through yesterday’s results.” He took no personal responsibility: The people sent a message and it is that Washington must work “as hard as they do.” He was unwilling to say what went wrong, why his party’s candidates didn’t want him near them on the trail. His answers were long, filibuster-y, meant to run out the clock. It was clear the White House wanted to say he met with reporters for more than an hour. He did. At one point he tried to smile but couldn’t quite pull it off; it came across as a Nixon-like flexing of the rictus muscles. (I tried to describe it in my notes. “Hatey” was the best I could do.)

There were airy generalities—“This town doesn’t work well”—and a few humblebrags: “I have a unique responsibility to try and make this town work”; “I’m the guy who’s elected by everybody.”
Instead the President continues to threaten executive action in the face of Republican warnings of how that would "poison the well."
It is confounding—not surprising but stunning, unhelpful and ill-judged—that the president is instead going for antagonism, combat and fruitless friction.

This is not just poor strategy, it seems to me to be mildly delusional. Chris Matthews erupted on MSNBC: “There’s something in this guy that just plays to his constituency and acts like there’s no other world out there!”

That’s true. And deeply strange in a politician. It’s as if he doesn’t think he has to work with others, he only has to be right. I think Mr. Obama sees himself as a centrist because he often resists the pressures of the leftward-most edge of his base. Therefore in his imagination he is in the middle, the center. If he is in the middle of a great centrist nation, how can they turn on him? The answer: They are confused. This is their flaw, not his. He’s not going to let their logical flaws change his game.
And continuing down this path will just hurt his party even more for 2016.
Once again the president is doing his party no favors.

This is no way to run a railroad. The president here is doing what he has been doing for a while, helping Republicans look good. That is an amazing strategy for a Democratic president to adopt.
But it has always been all about him and he doesn't really care about what comes after him. He is Louis XV - "Après moi, le déluge".

Brendan Nyhan warns analysts not to overinterpret the election results. He points out that historically, midterm elections don't tell us a lot about the following presidential election results. The real effect, he points out, will be on the pool of candidates available to run in the future.

Ignoring that advice, Matthew Continetti analyzes how Tuesday's results hurt Hillary Clinton. Just imagine what would have happened to the GOP if they'd fallen short this week.
If the GOP had failed to capture the Senate, the loss would have been more than demoralizing. It would have led to serious discussion of a third party. Donors would have reconsidered whether their spending was worth the reputational cost. Candidate recruitment efforts would have stalled. Republican voters would have asked why they bother to show up. The Republican circular firing squad, always a problem, wouldn’t use conventional weapons. They’d use ICBMs.
And the results do not demonstrate a real desire for more Clinton-Democrats.
This year, several candidates ran explicitly as “Clinton Democrats.” They tried to associate themselves with fond and gauzy memories of a better time. They lost. Arkansas—the birthplace of Bill Clinton, the test tube of Clintonism—became a GOP stronghold. Tom Cotton defeated Mark Pryor by 17 points. The Clintons’ star power, such as it is, was overwhelmed by the Republican wave of discontent and anger at liberal incompetence.

The Clintons aren’t gods. They are human beings—extremely, terribly, irredeemably flawed human beings.

Their specialty: Mitigating Democratic losses among whites without college degrees. In 2014, the Clintons couldn’t stop the bleeding. Republicans won the white working class by 30 points. And it will be difficult for Hillary Clinton to reduce this deficit over the next two years.

That is because of her problematic position as heir apparent to an unpopular incumbent. Her recent talk of businesses and corporations not creating jobs illustrates the dilemma: She has to identify herself with her husband’s legacy in Elizabeth Warren’s left-wing Democratic Party, while dissociating herself with the repudiated policies of the president she served as secretary of State. Has Clinton ever demonstrated the political skill necessary to pull off such a trick?

A failed president weighs heavily on his party. He not only drags it down in midterm elections such as 2006, 2010, and 2014. He kills its chances in presidential years. Think Hubert Humphrey. Think John McCain.

The McCain-Clinton comparison is worth considering. Both would be among the oldest presidents in American history. Both are slightly at odds with their party: McCain on campaign finance and immigration, Clinton on corporatism and foreign policy. Both lost the nomination to the presidents they sought to replace. Both campaigned for rare third consecutive presidential terms for their parties in the cycle after those parties lost Congress.

CNN looks at what Obama can do with or without Congress. Of course, that presupposes that he will act within the limits of what the law allows a president to do.

Voters of faith are still an important part of the Republican coalition.

One West Virginia delegate lost his election to the state legislature to a 17-year old girl.

Howard Kurtz gives his explanation of why the media were surprised by Tuesday's results. They were too focused on the Democrats without studying what the Republicans were doing and were too dependent on polls.

Rich Lowry explains how the Democrats are "the tired party."
Obama gives every impression of believing if he had been given the opportunity to barnstorm around the country giving the same speech outlining the same laundry list of old chestnuts — the minimum wage, green energy, infrastructure — it might have turned out differently.
Electoral rebukes of this magnitude usually cause some reaction in their recipients. An invigorating policy departure. A new tone. A surprising staff shake-up. No, the president made clear in his post-election news conference, it will be more of the same, only more so. Given multiple opportunities, he refused any memorable characterization of Tuesday night’s results, like thumpin’ (George W. Bush after 2006) or shellacking (Obama after 2010). He wasn’t getting drawn into that game, although wallopin’, spankin’, thrashin’ and whoopin’ were all still available.

Eliana Johnson explains how Larry Hogan won in deep-blue Maryland.

The marriage gap trumped the gender gap.

Heather Wilhelm picks up the Wife of Bath's tale and explains what women really want.

The Democrats lost the middle class and that is devastating to their dreams of "an emerging Democratic majority."

Charles Krauthammer proposes a reasonable agenda for the congressional GOP of measures that they can pass rather quickly on Day One, often with Democratic support, and send on to Obama. If he vetoes the bills, then they'll have an agenda to run on in 2016.
The 2014 election has given the GOP the rare opportunity to retroactively redeem its brand. The conventional perception, incessantly repeated by Democrats and the media, is that Washington dysfunction is the work of the Party of No. Expose the real agent of do-nothing. Show that, when Harry Reid can no longer consign House-passed legislation to oblivion, Congress can actually work.

Pass legislation. When Obama signs, you’ve shown seriousness and the ability to govern. When he vetoes, you’ve clarified the differences between party philosophies and prepared the ground for 2016.

Tuesday’s victory was big. But it did nothing more than level the playing field and give you a shot. Take it.
George Will also has some recommendations of bills that the GOP could pass right away.
Such measures may be too granular to satisfy the grandiose aspirations of those conservatives who, sharing progressives’ impatience with our constitutional architecture, aspire to have their way completely while wielding just one branch of government. But if, as is likely, the result of Congress doing these and similar things is a blizzard of presidential vetoes, even this would be constructive. The 2016 presidential election would follow a two-year demonstration of how reactionary progressivism is in opposing changes to the nation’s trajectory. Congressional actions provoking executive rejections would frame the argument about progressivism. And as Margaret Thatcher advised, first you win the argument, then you win the vote.