Making the click-through worthwhile: The Ohio special election shows Democrats don’t have to worry about their get-out-the-vote efforts in 2018, a stunning report about who’s getting farm subsidies and from where, and some deep thoughts about the “Deep State” and why Americans perceive sinister foreign influences in their political debates.
The Ohio House Result Should Make Republicans Nervous
The morning brings news that Republican Troy Balderson edged out Democrat Danny O’Connor in the special election in Ohio’s 12th congressional district. President Trump immediately boasted that he turned around the race.
This is whistling past the graveyard. Ohio’s 12th, which includes communities north and east of Columbus, has been a traditionally heavily Republican district; Trump won it by eleven in 2016, and previous incumbent Pat Tiberi usually won by a two-to-one margin. Balderson and O’Connor will meet in a rematch in November.
You’re going to hear a lot of breathless analysis of this special House election, but the basic outlines of November haven’t changed much since what we saw in Virginia and New Jersey last November. The Democratic base is roused. They will come out to vote. A side effect of that “own the libs!” “Democratic tears are delicious!” antagonism is that it does the job of Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts for them. Maybe it’s worth it.
Look at it this way. In 2016, 112,638 turned out in this district to vote for the Democratic congressional candidate, Ed Albertson. Yesterday, 99,820 voted for Democrat O’Connor. Democrats got roughly nine out of every ten Democratic-leaning presidential-election-year voters to come out for a mid-August special election!
By comparison, a whopping 251,266 voted for Tiberi in 2016, and just 101,574 voted for Balderson last night — meaning about four out of every ten GOP-leaning presidential-election-year voters came out for the special election. Balderson hung on just because of the district’s demographics.
Right now, you’d have to conclude that the Democratic base just wants it more than the Republican one. If that pattern keeps up, forget it. There will be no drama on Election Night 2018. It’s just a question of the size of the new Democratic House majority.
This isn’t the result of some great new micro-targeting gizmo, or a jarring advertising campaign, even a particularly great crop of Democratic candidates. This is primarily driven by a Republican president who is in the headlines every single day and who finds some new way to jab and poke at voters who didn’t vote for him in 2016 and voters who have spent his presidency convinced he is Beelzebub.
There’s a great irony to this: Remember when conservatives thought Trump might be eager to work with Democrats on an infrastructure bill, imposing tariffs, raising the debt ceiling, and other areas where they thought his agenda might overlap with the Democrats? Maybe some working-class whites are drifting over to the GOP, but a lot of suburban women are heading to the Democrats. Chuck Schumer boasted at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia in 2016 that his party would come out the winner in that trade, but it didn’t work out the way he expected. But maybe those Trump voters aren’t so motivated if he isn’t on the ballot.
Can Republicans have an okay 2018? Sure, but a highly-motivated Democratic base, and a president who alienates demographics that had once been open to the GOP means there just isn’t much room for error.
You Won’t Believe Who’s Receiving Taxpayer-Funded Farm Subsidies . . .
Who wants to read about farm subsidies?
Scratch that — who wants to read about farm subsidies going to residents . . . of America’s most densely populated cities? OpenTheBooks.com has collected all of the data about the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s farm subsidies in a new report, and . . .
[Residents of America’s five largest cities] received nearly $17 million in farm subsidies over a three year period, including Chicago ($7.7 million), Miami ($4.5 million), New York City ($2.8 million), Los Angeles ($1.6 million), and Philadelphia ($309,000). In Washington, D.C., more than 350 recipients received $1.7 million in fiscal year 2017 farm subsidies.
Some of this stems from the legal owners of farms residing in cities far from their actual agricultural operations. But at some point, it seems fair to ask that if you’re living comfortably, or well beyond comfortably, why do you need the taxpayer money to help keep your operation going?
The report found that in fiscal year 2017, “$4.8 million in farm subsidies flowed to the upper-middle class elites in America’s most expensive zip codes. Recipients in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood received $139,080 and $94,090 over the last three years, respectively . . . Billionaire businessman Glen Taylor — the owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves NBA team — received $116,502 in federal farm subsidies for his egg and dairy farm in Iowa. Additionally, twelve members of Congress collected up to $637,059 in subsidy payments last year alone.”
Back in 2015, then–Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said his department would be cracking down on subsidies to landowners who aren’t really farmers.
“The reality is that this has been a loophole that has been utilized by folks in [business] partnerships to allow for many, many, many people to qualify as actively engaged [in farming] when in fact they might only be engaged in a conference call or in a very narrow sense participating in decision-making in a farming operation,” Vilsack said. “We will close that loophole to the extent that we can.”
In 2013, the Government Accountability Office pointed to one common, troublesome practice: As much as $590 million was being paid in farm subsidies annually to so-called general partnerships, in which multiple individuals could claim to participate in the management of a single farm.
“I think you’ll probably see a lot of folks who in the past have been in an office in, say, a big city who had an interest in a farming operation for tax purposes who will not be getting the benefits that they got before,” Vilsack said.
The OpenTheBooks report found . . . Vilsack received $14,324 in fiscal 2017 through the Crop Rental Program.
Deep Thoughts about the Deep State
Ever since the “Deep State” entered the American-political lexicon, I’ve chuckled a bit because it was commonplace in discussions about Turkish politics back when I lived there from 2005 to 2007. And for what it was worth, from my limited understanding of the Turkish government and politics during that time, it was a pretty valid concept. Both the Turkish government and its political parties had a lot of secret factions and shifting alliances and hidden agreements and forces operating behind the scenes.
Today in NRO, Bruno Maçães, a senior nonresident fellow at the Hudson Institute, argues that over the past decade, American politics has grown to resemble that of these not-quite-Third-World not-quite-First-World countries:
What has been taking place in the U.S. since the 2016 elections would look strikingly familiar to Turks or Egyptians. Some episode or other of foreign involvement in the democratic process is reported. That is bad enough as far as it goes, but it gets worse. Once the fatal virus of suspicion enters the political bloodstream, it will never leave. Foreign involvement as such becomes a political strategy. The different sides in the political contest will strive to win not by developing better policies but by turning their opponents into traitors and quislings.
If you think the problem is Trump, think again. The forbidden fruit has been bitten. How could we go back? Why would Republicans refrain from lobbing the same accusations of foreign meddling against Democrats in the future? And why would foreign powers not attempt the same tactics again, now that they have seen how easy it is to sow chaos and discord? Trump did not bring this situation with him. He is in fact the product of a new world where voters in the U.S. feel increasingly vulnerable to influences from the outside — influences which can no longer be managed or controlled as they were in the past.
The thing is, we already had accusations that “shadowy foreigners are influencing the presidential candidate,” from Bill Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign and Chinese money, to the claim that the Bushes were too close to the Saudi royal family. We remember all of the accusations that “neocons” and their Israeli allies were dictating foreign policy in the modern Republican party. In 2008, the Obama campaign website allowed donors to use largely untraceable prepaid credit cards, raising questions about whether foreign citizens were donating to his vast campaign war chest. “Manchurian Candidate” is one of the most tired attack lines against any presidential candidate.
At some point, a candidate’s having a different perspective became synonymous with it being a suspiciously foreign perspective.
ADDENDA: Watching late-night comedy shows can leave you dumber, as last night Stephen Colbert called Jonah Goldberg a “Trump ally.”