The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Democrat Eric Holder Decides Not to Run for President

Eric Holder at the Human Rights Campaign dinner in Washington, September 15, 2018 (Reuters/Yuri Gripas)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Eric Holder decides he doesn’t want to run in 2020; Democrats start talking up Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for mayor of New York City in 2021; an argument about NeverTrump, CPAC, and what it takes to get conservatives to listen; and a stray thought about America’s most embarrassing governor and offseason football.

Shocking News: A Democrat Decides He Doesn’t Want to Run for President

Former Attorney General Eric Holder isn’t running for president. Man, that decision came fast . . .  and furious.

His decision is a shame, because he had a lot of good options for slogans, such as, “Vote for me, you nation of cowards.” Or, “As president, Eric Holder will send our hopes to the moon, our dreams to the stars, and our guns to Mexico.”

You may recall that in October, while urging people to vote for Democrats in the midterms, Holder declared, “Michelle [Obama] always says, ‘When they go low, we go high.’ No. No. When they go low, we kick them.” He later clarified,” When I say we kick them, I don’t mean we do anything inappropriate, we don’t do anything illegal, but we have to be tough and we have to fight.” It’s always nice to see the man who was the nation’s chief law-enforcement officer belatedly recognizing that he shouldn’t imply an endorsement of assault.

Announcing that he won’t run, Holder writes:

For too long, Democrats have lost sight of the state and local races that shape the day-to-day lives of the people we serve. With state legislatures set to begin drawing new voting districts in 2021, what happens in those races over the next two years will shape the next decade of our politics. Our fight to end gerrymandering is about electing leaders who actually work for the interests of the people they are supposed to represent. I will do everything I can to ensure that the next Democratic president is not hobbled by a House of Representatives pulled to the extremes by members from gerrymandered districts.

Holder can reasonably say that he was busy running the Department of Justice and hunting down dangerous menaces like James Rosen at the time, but it’s obvious that the Democrats “lost sight of the state and local races that shape the day-to-day lives of people” during the Obama presidency. It’s also clear that the gerrymandering that bothers Democrats today was practiced by Democrats in many states for decades — Obama drew his state legislative district lines himself back in 2001. Back then, it was just old-fashioned politics, but now it’s an unconstitutional menace.

The rest of Holder’s op-ed is the usual blather, but it sometimes veers into amusingly contradictory blather: “Our next president should prioritize the healing of the nation — and not be hesitant in identifying all forms of bias and discrimination, nor be meek in seeking their elimination. Americans must recognize each other as partners and not adversaries.” If you are seeking to eliminate any action or statement you deem a form of bias or discrimination, you are inevitably seeing some other Americans as adversaries. This is calling for confrontation and unity simultaneously.

Holder also lies about the sorts of things an attorney general shouldn’t lie about, claiming that Republicans have done “nothing to protect our electoral system from another foreign attack.”

The efforts by the Department of Homeland Security to ensure the safety and integrity of the 2018 elections were unprecedented. The U.S. military took down a Russian troll farm on Election Day 2018 and kept it out of commission for several days afterwards. After the midterms, the Director of National Intelligence found “no intelligence reporting that indicates any compromise” of election infrastructure that would have changed vote totals.

This is fearmongering aimed at undermining public faith in the election results. And as for all of those efforts by Moscow leading up to the 2016 election, it’s just a shame that the Department of Justice was asleep at the wheel as the threat of Russian hackers and disinformation was building in 2014 and 2015. Hey, who was running the place back then?

Ocasio-Cortez Just Arrived in Congress — Now Democrats Think She Should Run for Mayor?

New York City Democrats are already buzzing about whether Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will run for mayor in 2021.

Many new members of Congress learn, to their disappointment, that the job involves a lot more drudgery than it appears from the outside.

Being a leader of a political movement is a lot easier, fun, and more lucrative. I don’t know if I buy Michael Cohen’s claim that Donald Trump never expected to win either the GOP nomination or the presidency, but I can see Trump seeing the bid as all upside — even if he lost in the primaries, he promoted his brand, fed his ego, and ensured he could become a major player, maybe even kingmaker in GOP politics in the future. If he lost in the general, he would make Hillary’s life miserable by constantly claiming that voter fraud and votes from illegals had denied him the win.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez may want political power, but again, it’s way less glamorous than it looks in the movies. Power in the legislature generally comes from being there a long time, building up a vast network of allies (which requires playing nice with others, including members of your party who don’t align with your views, which does not appear to be AOC’s forte) and doing your homework about the legislative process, your fellow members, and what kinds of policies can fly and which ones can’t — again, not her specialty. It took McConnell and Pelosi decades to get where they were; judging from the rhetoric about the Green New Deal, Ocasio-Cortez thinks that the world ends in eleven years.

As the reality of life in the House of Representatives becomes clearer, Ocasio-Cortez could conclude between now and the 2020 primary that part of her wouldn’t mind being defeated and becoming a martyr to the cause of True Progressivism, establishing a narrative that she was unjustly taken out of office by a sinister cabal of The Establishment, Dark Money, Big Capitalism, and Neoliberals. (“And don’t forget the Jews!” — Ilhan Omar.) Out of office, she can get that lucrative book deal, the MSNBC (or HBO or Showtime or Netflix) contract, set up the totally-not-a-superPAC “activist organization,” sit on the boards of the right nonprofits and corporations eager to purchase some Woke Points, maybe even establish the Ocasio-Cortez Foundation. We would hear the inevitable (extremely debatable) argument, “I can bring about more change from outside the system than I can from within.”

And she would probably be much happier doing that than attending lots of hearings in the House for the next decade. AOC is a celebrity, which doesn’t really lend itself as well to governing as many people think. Obama found it harder than he expected. Trump’s learning his hard lessons. Arnold Schwarzenegger learned it with great difficulty. Sarah Palin, Cynthia Nixon . . .  the celebrities who made their political careers work had generally left their old celebrity life behind and had faded into “Oh, hey, it’s that guy” status: Reagan, Bill Bradley, Al Franken, Sonny Bono, Fred Thompson, Jack Kemp, Steve Largent, J.C. Watts.

NeverTrump and CPAC

There’s an argument out there that NeverTrumpers or Trump-skeptics always were liberals in disguise, and that Trump’s appearance on the scene just caused the masks to slip.

That’s generally nonsense, particularly coming from supporters of a guy who wrote big checks to Democrats for years, described himself as pro-choice, endorsed a slew of gun-control proposals — from the Oval Office! — never met an infrastructure spending proposal he didn’t like, who has no interest in reforming entitlements, who’s running up the national debt at an early Obama-era pace, and all the other ways that Trump ignores or works against traditional conservative priorities.

But there are a few glaring cases where Trump prompted previously self-identified conservatives to jettison almost all of their past stances. In the Trump era, the Washington Post’s Jen Rubin changed her view on the Paris Climate Accord, moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, the Iran deal, tax cuts, welfare, energy, and gun control. (I’m old enough to remember in 2008 when she was the columnist most enthusiastic about Rudy Giuliani.) Max Boot wrote a whole book about how he realized he had been wrong about everything about conservatism all along.

Complete reversals like this fuel the perception that NeverTrumpers or Trump-skeptics are all in various stages of the journey that Rubin and Boot made — “Whoops, never mind, it turns out I didn’t really believe all this stuff that I spent the first decade(s) of my career writing about, forget all that, let me explain to you how terrible conservatives are.” David Brock made a pretty lucrative and powerful career out of this move.

This is all building up to the fact that if you’re launching a self-described conservative magazine, you probably want to avoid sending one of your writers to CPAC to write a piece with the tone, “Look at these wacky conservatives, who would ever want to be one of those people?” The audience can get that from The New RepublicThe NationMother JonesAmerican ProspectVanity FairRolling StoneEsquireThe New York Review of Books, SlateSalonNew YorkThe New YorkerHarper’sThe Advocate, most of The Atlantic, and I haven’t even gotten past the magazine rack yet, never mind the newspaper columns.

I mean, “CPAC is the bad place”? That story was tired the first time Stephen Glass made it up. When your opening observation about the entire conference is to remind readers that Ollie North was involved in Iran-Contra — yeah, no kidding. It’s been litigated.

Sure, CPAC’s a circus — I mean, literally, they had stilt-walkers a few years ago. Steve Schmidt compared it to “the bar scene in Star Wars” a few years back and that seemed like silly hyperbole until some group decided to get attention by having their staff dress up like stormtroopers and other Star Wars characters.  We’ve been discussing and debating this for years. The ACU and sponsors concluded that the circus elements and faces familiar from Fox News get people to buy tickets more than policy-wonk panels and movement staffers trading business cards. I’m not a huge fan of that trend but I can’t begrudge the organizers doing what they need to do to keep butts in the seats. They promise a show, and they put on a show. I may think conservatism’s “governing wing” is getting undervalued and less attention than the “entertainment wing,” but that doesn’t mean that the conservative movement doesn’t need an entertainment wing in the modern political and media environment.

Mocking CPAC from the outside — metaphorically and literally — is a pretty clear statement that the institution sees itself as outside of the movement as represented by the folks inside the convention center. Publications are free to make that choice, but they should keep in mind that’s where the rest of the Left is standing, too. If you want to be seen as distinct from the Left . . . act distinctly from the Left!

ADDENDA: Part two of my conversation about the New York Jets offseason is now posted. I’ve changed my mind on Le’Veon Bell, I’m wary about Antonio Brown, and I fully expect to hate the new uniforms being introduced in a few weeks.

Judging from the reaction to this Tweet, there is still a hunger for better answers about Ralph Northam’s yearbook photo. If he didn’t put it there, who did? If he’s not one of the people in the picture, who are they? A month later, and the only account of Northam wearing shoe polish to look like Michael Jackson in a dance contest came from Northam himself.

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