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Politics & Policy

Grab Some Popcorn; Political Infighting Has Begun

The Capitol building in Washington, D.C. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Mid November brings a cavalcade of nasty fights among former allies, from the conservative grassroots to Republicans on Capitol Hill, to the Democratic primary, to leftists in the media world.

Your Scorecard for Today’s Ugliest Internal Political Slugfests

Often on the Three Martini Lunch podcast, the day’s news cycle will bring news that one person or faction that Greg Corombus and I don’t particularly like is fighting with another person or faction that we don’t particularly like, and we have to decide whether we want to label it “good news.”

These days, the news is all disagreeable factions trying to tear each other apart. It’s the Iran-Iraq War, Aliens vs. Predator, referees vs. Antonio Brown. Pull up a chair, pop some popcorn, brew some coffee or grab an alcoholic beverage of your choice, but don’t sit too close. All of these fights are going to get messier than the front row of a Gallagher stand-up act.

The New Alt-Right vs. Turning Point USA

You may have seen some brewing discussions about white nationalist Nick Fuentes and his movement of “Groypers,” itching for a fight with Turning Point USA and various GOP officials and conservative campus speakers.

Turning Point USA is a pro-Trump group that tries to organize campus activism but that periodically steps in it.

You may recall Candace Owens’s infamous assessment of the Third Reich: “If Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, okay fine. The problem is he wanted, he had dreams outside of Germany. He wanted to globalize. He wanted everybody to be German.” Or you may recall the protest that encouraged students to wear diapers in public to protest “safe spaces” on campus, the comparison of Hillary Clinton to herpes, a rhetorical excess that was too much even for Fox News, or complaints from other conservative student groups that TPUSA was taking credit for their events.

Still, whatever Turning Point USA’s flaws are, they pale in comparison to the “Groypers,” who are basically the answer to the question, “what if the alt-Right wasn’t so open-minded and cuddly?” This crowd is fans of the usual “jokes” about the Holocaust and accusations of people being “Shabbos goy race traitors.” They’ve disrupted speeches by representative Dan Crenshaw and Ben Shapiro, as well as Donald Trump Jr. (Notice these guys act like disrupting somebody else’s speech is some sort of grand victory — a trait they share with the angry campus leftists. These are forces that can spoil and destroy but cannot create and build.)

You have to feel for Charlie Kirk, Candace Owens, and the rest; there’s always somebody behind you who’s younger and angrier and itching to accuse you of selling out to “the Establishment.” Welcome to “the Establishment,” guys, you’re probably going to find it way less opulent than you expected.

Kamala Harris vs. Democratic Primary Voters

Kamala Harris has concluded that the combination of racism and sexism is what’s holding back her presidential campaign . . . from getting support from Democratic primary voters.

HARRIS: Electability. You know, essentially, is America ready for a woman and a woman of color to be president of the United States?

REPORTER: America was ready for a black man to be president of the United States.

HARRIS: And this conversation happened for him. There is a lack of ability or a difficulty in imagining that someone who we have never seen can do a job that has been done 45 times by someone that is not that person.

Now you know, Democratic primary voters, if you weren’t so racist and sexist, you would be supporting Kamala Harris. The rest of us are appalled and horrified by your bigotry. Because that’s the only possible explanation for preferring another candidate, right? It’s not like Kamala Harris could possibly have any flaws as a candidate that would make you prefer someone else.

Amy Klobuchar vs. Pete Buttigieg and Sexism

Senator Amy Klobuchar, discussing Buttigieg on Sunday: “Of the women on the stage — I’m focusing here on my fellow women senators, Sen. (Kamala) Harris, Sen. (Elizabeth) Warren and myself — do I think that we would be standing on that stage if we had the experience that he had? No, I don’t.”

Look, I know this year’s Democratic primary debate stages have been crowded with all kinds of longshots, no-hopers, and assorted weirdos, but surely at some point Klobuchar noticed Marianne Williamson conducting her séance onstage.

No,“two-term mayor of South Bend” is not a particularly impressive stint in elected office, but how different from that is a four-term congresswoman from a safe district (Tulsi Gabbard) or former mayor and Secretary of HUD (Julian Castro). Andrew Yang’s never been elected to anything in his life, nor has Tom Steyer. And Joe Sestak’s resume has titles like “three-star vice admiral,” “commander, U.S.S. George Washington carrier strike group,” “Congressman,” and “guy who ended Arlen Specter’s political career,” and he’s never even smelled the debate stage.

What the comments from Klobuchar and Harris demonstrate is that Democrats, obsessed with identity politics, have now reached the point where they don’t know how to argue with each other without resorting to accusations of racism or sexism. While every presidential campaign is an exercise in self-delusion — “I alone can fix it!” — Harris and Klobuchar are so deeply in denial about their own shortcomings as presidential candidates that they’ve chosen to recast the party’s primary voters as the villain in their narrative. They could have saved this country, if only those stupid, racist, sexist voters hadn’t gotten in the way.

The Mainstream Media vs. the Overtly Progressive Press

Jack Crosbie, recently laid off from Splinter, wonders why progressive political publications are struggling in a time of an energized “Resistance”:

Salonstruggling for years, was forced in May to sell its assets to undisclosed owners for just $5 million. In September, ThinkProgress, one of the longest-running sources for progressive news online, was abruptly shut down by the liberal think tank behind it, Center for American Progress, as the Democratic machinery circled its wagons for the 2020 election. That was that: no more lefty blogging. Splinter followed the next month, ceasing publication in the middle of a Democratic presidential primary pitting two of the most progressive presidential candidates ever, including one democratic socialist, against the poster child for outdated centrism. Deadspin, which had for years incorporated irreverent, left-wing takes on politics, pop culture, and anything else its deranged writing staff chose to write about, was told to “stick to sports,” which promptly collapsed the site.

Traditionally, publications aligned with a particular political side tend to thrive when their side is out of power. Victory breeds complacency; defeat makes partisans want to know what those jerks in power are trying to get away with now that they’re in office. Readership increases, advertisers are impressed by the circulation numbers and web traffic and buy more ads, etc.

Allow me to spitball an explanation: At a time when the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, and many other “mainstream” media institutions are consistently, fervently, and relentlessly focused on Trump and almost entirely opposed to him, maybe progressives feel like they’re getting their fill from those sources and are less interested in those overtly progressive media sources. Crosbie sees a world of difference between Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post and those struggling progressive media institutions, but that distinction just isn’t as clear to most readers. He also warns that the media is responding to the Trump era with a “retreat into a shell of flavorless, craven impartiality,” which will leave everyone from MAGA hat-wearers to just about every major newspaper columnist and network commentator gasping . . . where?

The Democratic Party’s Centrists vs. Leftists

Damon Linker is a usually interesting left-of-center writer over at The Week. I say usually because Linker speculated back in 2014 that National Review was doomed because of Michael Mann’s lawsuit. (The latest update on that seemingly eternal lawsuit is here.)

Today Linker spotlights something that seems obvious but was strangely unspoken until now: A Democratic party big enough to include the philosophies of both Michael Bloomberg and Bernie Sanders is a party that is so broad it can’t easily stand for much of anything.

The Democrats need, all at once, to get white Midwestern conservatives to return to the party after they either switched to Trump or stayed home in 2016, and inspire a level of enthusiasm among black voters that approaches what they felt when Obama was running, and keep white urban and suburban liberals engaged enough that they both show up to vote for the party’s nominee a year from now and refuse to back a third-party candidate from the socialist left if Biden gets the nomination or one from the plutocratic center if Sanders or Warren do.

Given a choice, those not-so-centrist centrists are preferable; they at least recognize that businesses need to exist, that employment is better for people than nonemployment, that there’s a limit to how much the government can tax people before an intense backlash at the ballot box, and that lots of people hate the scapegoating that inherently comes along with identity politics. But there’s a lot of insufferable preening that comes with the Democratic party’s establishment donor class, a group of fabulously wealthy people who act like they simply inadvertently stumbled into their fortunes while intending to build a better world and who are never sullied by anything so gauche as the desire to make more money and keep more of what they earn. With these folks, you see a lot of slogans like, “we’re investing in a movement, not in a company.” (That one’s for a venture capital firm investing in cannabis.) They invest in an environmentally friendly “cutting-edge regenerative grazing operation” that works great as long as you accept that it always costs more money than it generates. They work in tall office towers with security guards and wonder why anyone would need to own a gun. They live in gated communities and find the idea of border fencing inherently xenophobic; San Jose residents saw no problem with chanting “build a wall” to keep the homeless out of their neighborhood, and in Ingleside in San Francisco County, they’ve actually started building walls to keep the homeless out. (Trump received less than 10 percent of the vote in that county.) Democratic centrists live with a certain set of advantages that they can only perceive in registered Republicans.

Hillary Clinton vs. Reality

Oh, why not, if the Democratic argument for 2020 is going to be “2016 never should have happened,” let’s literally rerun history and see if it turns out any differently a second time around: “Hillary Clinton on Tuesday declined to rule out launching a future presidential campaign after her two failed bids, saying “many, many, many people” were pressuring her to enter the race.”

There is exactly one person in the world who we know, with absolute certainty, is capable of losing a presidential election to Donald Trump.

House Republicans vs. Rudy Giuliani

Look out for that bus, Rudy! “Top House Republican sources tell Axios that one impeachment survival strategy will be to try to distance President Trump from any Ukraine quid pro quo, with Rudy Giuliani potentially going under the bus.”

Gee, isn’t it terrible that Giuliani went rogue like that, giving the president such bad information and communicating a quid pro quo that the president never intended! Oh, how unfortunate. This is the worst freelancing misbehavior by rogue low-level employees since that IRS office in Cincinnati.

ADDENDUM: One last fight, which is GOP complaints about the impeachment fight, against the data. House Republicans and their committee staff were able to ask a lot of questions of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the member of the National Security Council who’d participated on the July 25 call. They may not have liked the answers, but they were given plenty of time to question the witness: ‘About 44 percent of the transcript is made up of questions or answers from Democratic members or staff. About 41 percent is from the Republicans. The remaining 15 percent was discussion and objections.”


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