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How Democrats and Republicans Switched Sides on Immigration

How Democrats and Republicans Switched Sides on Immigration

The KKK burns a boat called the USS Viet Cong in Santa Fe, Texas in 1981. Gulf Coast fishermen were angry over the resettlement of Vietnamese refugees.

Ronald Reagan dreamed of an open border with Mexico and Republicans loved it. This isn’t some notion he scribbled down secretly in a journal. It isn’t a quiet longing he muttered to a biographer. Reagan actually said “open the border both ways” on the campaign trail in 1980. In a primary. His comments came in the midst of a national immigration panic over waves of refugees arriving from Vietnam and Cuba.

Reagan, like Republicans of the era, embraced an expansive vision of America, an optimistic and confident understanding of our place in the world. Reagan saw our border as an obstacle limiting the reach of a colossus, not a castle to protect vulnerable cowards. The man who stood at the Berlin Wall and taunted a dictator believed a world with fewer barriers was a world Americans would dominate. That was the Republican Party I joined as soon as I was old enough to vote.

On the other side was the Democratic Party. Jerry Brown spent much of his first term as California Governor battling measures to settle Vietnamese refugees in his state. Leftist icon, George McGovern said, “I think the Vietnamese are better off in Vietnam.” Ralph Nader’s neurotic consumer group, Public Citizen, warned that refugee children were bringing diseases. Senator Robert Byrd insisted on more screening to keep out “barmaids, prostitutes, and criminals.” Republican President Gerald Ford, in an angry jab at Brown, personally traveled to San Francisco in 1975 to welcome a planeload of Vietnamese orphans.

Today, our two parties have reversed their positions on trade and immigration, as they have on many other issues. Some leadership figures, like Jerry Brown, have been in public life long enough to have played a key role on both sides this one issue. What changed?

The short answer is that members of America’s perennial third party, Southern Conservatives, executed a tectonic shift in the late 20th century from their former alignment with the Democratic Party to the GOP. That shift, which began at the top of the ticket in the 60’s and slowly penetrated down to the precinct level by the late 90’s, changed the composition of both parties. That pivot, paired with decline of the Cold War global order, has scrambled the poles of our political alignments in ways we still haven’t fully appreciated.

That short answer still leaves us a bit confused. How does a pivot in the Old South explain the pressures that pushed Jerry Brown, a California progressive, from 1970’s anti-refugee demagogue to 21st century advocate for the undocumented? Unraveling that conundrum presages a struggle unfolding inside the Democratic Party now, as it absorbs a younger, more liberal generation of affluent white voters.

Why did Jerry Brown in 1975 build his national profile around anti-immigrant hysteria? Brown wasn’t merely the Governor of California. He had big, national plans. To achieve those goals he meant to balance to the three dominant forces in the Democratic Party at the time, the anti-war left, big labor, and the hyper-conservative Democrats of the Solid South. Immigrant-baiting presented a chance to unite all three in a way that wouldn’t be possible today.

Labor leaders dominated the infrastructure of the DemocraticParty. They had inherited a deep skepticism of both trade and immigration from the fight to unionize the nation’s labor force. The Sanders wing of today’s Democratic Party still retains this tradition. Capital owners in the late 19th century regularly used pools of penniless new immigrants to break organization efforts in their factories. Despite the fact that many if not most union members were from recent immigrant families, that experience left them feeling threatened by new migrants. The notion that immigrants “take jobs” may not have been empirically true, but migrants had in fact been used consistently to weaken the bargaining and organizational power of labor. Labor voters’ reticence toward this new wave of immigrants was deeper than mere bigotry, but bigotry was enough to keep it alive.

Anti-immigrant demagoguery was an excellent way to attract union support while retaining some pull with Southern Conservatives, restive and angry over the party’s embrace of desegregation. Vietnamese refugees were beginning to arrive on the Gulf Coast, stirring waves of KKK activity. As a child, this was the first time I saw the KKK out in force, working to destroy immigrant fishermen around Port Arthur, Texas. Immigrant panic was perfectly configured to act as a proxy for the region’s simmering racial resentments.

Democrats’ most frustrating challenge at the time was balancing the interests of these two groups with the demands of anti-war and civil rights activists. What tipped the balance for the progressives was the character of this refugee wave. A large percentage of these refugees had ties to the South Vietnamese government and military, a prospect that cooled the hearts of an audience otherwise attuned to social justice issues.

There were bigots in the Republican Party, but that party’s larger composition muted their influence. Business and commercial interests sitting at the heart of the party were increasingly global in outlook, driven by the competition for trade. Republican Cold War hawks saw America’s attractiveness as a destination for immigrants as a bright contrast with our enemies who were forced to build walls to keep their people in place. Though it’s hard to imagine this today, the GOP’s geographic core in the 70’s was Southern California, Illinois and New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. These were the country’s main centers of trade, business and of course, immigration. Among Republicans at the time, enthusiasm for global business and Cold War posturing were enough to tamp down the influence of their racists. It was politically safer for a Republican than for a Democrat to embrace a pro-immigration platform in the Seventies.

Political parties, like any other institution, are moved by their inputs and incentives. We tend to imbue them with moral or relational qualities which they don’t actually possess. As the membership, funding, and interests of a party change, their positions also change, though often with considerable lag due to inertia. The Iron Law of Oligarchy tends to slow institutional transformation, sometimes building up pressures toward change that can burst rather suddenly.

Take the Southern Conservatives out of the Democratic Party and weaken the influence of organized labor, and Jerry Brown circa 2016 faces institutional pressures very different from those he navigated in the Seventies. After signing California’s “sanctuary state” bill into law last year, this is what today’s Jerry Brown had to say about undocumented migrants, “It’s time to just chill, recognize the fact that they’re here. They are human beings. They have families.”

With the unifying force of the Cold War lost and the flight of the Dixiecrats into the Republican Party completed, our two party system has crumbled into an incoherent mess. Republicans are now the party of white racist paranoia. The GOP’s center is no longer the Northeast and the Pacific West, but Dixie and its sympathizers in the big empty middle of the country.

Democrats still pivot around a much-weakened axis of organized labor and social justice progressives. An affluent rising generation of educated urban and suburban whites are linking up with refuseniks from the GOP’s former business coalition out in a political no-man’s land. Uncomfortable with the cult hysteria sweeping the Republican Party, they remain an awkward fit with the Democratic Party’s traditional farm and labor priorities. Further complicating the picture is the relative conservatism of the Democratic Party’s black and Hispanic base, who quietly chafe at their limited range of political expression. How will Democrats balance the affluence of a white, urban progressive movement centered in places like New York and Silicon Valley with its embedded tradition as a party of labor interests, anchored around the industrial Midwest? We live in interesting times.

What we’re likely to see emerge first is an accelerated decline in both parties’ relevance. Political parties have lost much of their internal coherence as outside groups assume a larger role in political activism. Their persistence at the national level is itself an open question as the struggle to assemble coalitions across an increasingly diverse population. No party lasts forever, and these two may be reaching a necessary evolutionary breakdown.

In the meantime, it would be helpful to remember that political parties are not immutable. Thirty years ago David Duke, Rick Perry and Roy Moore were Democrats and Elizabeth Warren was a Republican. Not so long ago Democrats were the Party of Jim Crow and Republicans were the Party of Lincoln. Life moves pretty fast.


    1. Thank you Mary, not only for linking the NY Times article but for all the hard work that you and others have put in. The portrayal of Texas as being split into a Houston – Dallas – Austin – San Antonio triangle and then the rest of the state is pretty much right on. It is typical of many states. It is particularly true of the Left Coast states and several of the Mountain states.

      All I can say until the polls close tomorrow night, Is that this does appear to be a transitional election not only for Texas but for the entire nation. If Beto does win, then we will definitely know that it is. Regardless, we’ll have to get on to the next hurdle in 2020 and the other various roadblocks between now and then. In the meantime thanks for your work from the great Pacific NW. I hope to be able to report good news from our corner on Wednesday; I do think Schrier in the WA 8th CD will win. There’s been a lot of GOTV and door belling going on. People are participating from Seattle.

  1. I agree with your analysis, and honestly, as a Bernie supporter, I think the Dems are weakening their coalition by going all in on immigration, because everyone from blue collar workers worried about “Mexicans taking my job” to tech workers worried about “H1Bs taking my job” are a lot less pro-immigration than the official Dem position.

    One thing your analysis should take note of is the voting proclivities of the immigrant groups. Vietnamese (and other SE Asian) refugees were supported by Republicans because the new immigrants aligned with Republicans (they were staunchly anti-communist). They were opposed by Dems for similar reasons. Indeed, Orange County, CA, ground zero for Vietnamese immigrants, was staunchly Republican since the 70s *because* of the big Vietnamese population (along with conservative whites), which only recently started becoming Democratic. But even now, in OC, it’s common to see Republican Vietnamese local elected officials, state assembly members, etc.

    Just take Republicans’ outcry about Haitian refugees while welcoming Cuban refugees with open arms: they’re both brown and poor, but Haitians tend to become Democrats, while Cubans tend to become Republicans (e.g. Marco Rubio and Rafael Eduardo Cruz). Fidel Castro opened his prisons and sent actual murderers and rapists into Florida, where the Republicans welcomed them, while Trump demonizes Haitians, Mexicans, etc. who are merely trying to escape economic conditions. An extensive understanding of history is not always needed when simple vote counting suffices.

    Dems aren’t above this: I think there’s some truth to the fact that Dems see ongoing Hispanic immigration as a long-term political win, with an actual focus on its policy effects as secondary to its political benefits. See them counting on Hispanics to finally deliver Texas to the Dems without the Dems actually having to do the hard work of examining their policy platforms.

    I definitely see Latino and African American populations chafing under the Democratic big-tent: they are socially conservative, economically more blue collar, and usually taken for granted by Dem candidates (most of the 10% of evangelicals who are Democrats are Black and Hispanic). Rahm Emmanuel declined to run for re-election as Chicago mayor because there was credible evidence that he might lose if the jury verdict in the Laquan McDonald shooting case exonerated the police. I think he was surprised how upset African Americans would be that he concealed the video evidence for months until a judge ordered him to release it. I’m not surprised that he’s surprised.

    Even now, most white and Asian groups in Chicago think of the appalling homicide rate as a problem “localized to a few areas” and so not really as big of a problem as Trump and the national media make it out to be. African Americans in Chicago are well aware that even Democrats care less about a black kid getting shot in the south side than a white adult getting carjacked in Lincoln Park. That Dems care a little bit more than a crazy wingnut who’s secretly glad one more black child is dead is of little comfort.

    It’s one of the reasons even though I’m a staunch Democrat and an Asian Indian immigrant, I firmly believe Asians should always have one foot in both parties: classic coalition political theory teaches you that whoever is the swing vote wields far more power and influence than whoever is the reliable vote. It’s why Mexican immigration is a hot-button issue, while H1B immigration, which is concerned with Asians coming in and equally “stealing our jobs”, has a strong bipartisan consensus in support of it. (It’s also why liberals like me chafe with Dems ignoring us and bending over backwards for centrists like you Chris 🙂 ) This ironic lesson should be taken to heart by new minority groups not keen on becoming the next Dem doormat.

    1. WX, I know your point is not that Democrats are as “bad” as Republicans, but, just in case anyone feels that way, read on. There are evil minds working in secret to make control and subvert any effort to hold DJT accountable under the rule of law.

      Reported last night on Rachel Maddow this finding from CREW that discloses the secret, long-term scheme to protect DJT, beginning with putting Kavenaugh in place and book-ended by controlling the Mueller Investigation. This combination reflects a very deep plan to protect Trump through any means necessary. Democracy is truly even more imperilled than I imagined.

  2. On the topic of hearings. I would love to be in the room when Trump screams “what do you mean I have to turn over my taxes!” When the onion masquerading as a business that is Trump Inc starts getting peeled, fur will fly.

    Once layers of dirt start getting peeled back, DJT will have to play defense. I do not see that lasting long.

  3. Guess no one around here is old enough to remember Barry Goldwater, but to me, that’s when all this mess got started. Not with Goldwater himself, he didn’t have a racist bone in his body, he was just an honest conservative. But he attracted to his presidential campaign a whole raft of white southern Democrat dissidents who were outright racists. The first thing they did when BG won the nomination was take over the RNC, with an Alabaman named John Grenier in command. He summarily fired everyone who had any ties to the moderate camp (Rockefeller/Scranton, etc). I was a young researcher there at the time, and somehow survived. But it wasn’t pleasant.

    We should remember, though, that Goldwater’s meager success (5 states, as I recall) was primarily in the deep south. And that was the beginning of the sea-change that this piece describes. It didn’t happen overnight. Gradually, luminaries like Strom Thurmond officially joined the GOP, But the internationalists in the GOP continued to dominate the agenda for a number of years — Nixon (via Kissinger) and his opening of the doors to China; Ford (as Chris noted in welcoming Viet orphans); then Reagan and Bush.

    I was happy to be associated with all of these leaders (indeed I served in mid-level positions under each of them). But something happened after 9/11. What was it? McCain got defeated, but (Palin aside), I figured that was sort of a cyclical, natural event, the Dem’s turn at bat. But it was apparently more than that — was it Obama and his race? or Trump and his demogogic skills? What? But Chris’s premise is correct: the internationalist party of which I was a member is no more. I has been replaced by the reincarnation of — in its leader’s own words of just yesterday: the Know Nothings.

    1. I look forward to more of your “inside” observations, Joseph. Being there, in the room, where decisions are hammered out among key players is a unique perspective. I hope you will post more often.

      We who follow politics closely depend upon credible, intelligent journalists to stay current and to more deeply understand the nuances of events and words. The link below is a good example of the shallowness empty rhetoric offers in juxtaposition to real actions being planned. It’s no wonder so many Americans are so totally turned off by the charade in our elected officials.

      I am grateful for this blog and the insightful reporting our hard-working media are doing.

      1. Gee, thanks, Mary, but I was just a “bit player” and sure kept a low profile back in ’64. I was also on the Platform Committee staff at the National Convention in SF, (chaired by Centrist Congressman Melvin Laird of Wisconsin), and it was taken over by the conservative faction. You don’t really want to know the “inside” skivvy of what these guys did once they got full control. Just one story will suffice:

        The Chair of the RNC was a somewhat honorific position and had been occupied by many people over the 20+ years that a very competent lady named Juanita Shields had served as secretary to the Chairman. Shortly after the arrival of the new crew (John Grenier et al.), Juanita went to lunch one day, returning to find her belongings in the hallway and that she had been summarily dismissed. Effective immediately, along with her storehouse of historical knowledge. That’s when we knew it was hardball.

    2. Ah, Uncle Barry… Rest assured he hasn’t been forgotten.

      This was my first Thanksgiving Post on my blog at the Houston Chronicle in 2009. It got archived here sometime later.

      I hope you’ll hang around here. It would be great to hear some stories from the rise of the far right in the 60’s.

      Here’s a later piece on Goldwater’s civil rights legacy.

      1. Less we forget this old GOP insurgent, here’sGingrich’s story in the November Atlantic. As the author points out, Newt presaged the changes that now are standard fare for Republicans.

        “In Trump, Gingrich has found the apotheosis of the primate politics he has been practicing his entire life—nasty, vicious, and unconcerned with those pesky “Boy Scout words” as he fights in the Darwinian struggle that is American life today. “Trump’s America and the post-American society that the anti-Trump coalition represents are incapable of coexisting,” Gingrich writes in his most recent book. “One will simply defeat the other. There is no room for compromise. Trump has understood this perfectly since day one.”

        Read on.

  4. I apologize for the derailment, but thought this was very interesting followup to Chris post about tech employees and tech companies driving social change. This is a litmus test on whether tech companies are truly different. There will be nothing today, but would be VERY interesting to see how many of the employees that walked out are still working at Google consequence free in 6 months.

  5. “The man who stood at the Berlin Wall and taunted a dictator believed a world with fewer barriers was a world Americans would dominate. That was the Republican Party I joined”

    And you assumed that America dominating the world would be a goal to admire. Sheesh.

    1. Yes.

      I’m a bleeding heart liberal, recent immigrant, anti Iraq War, etc, etc. In short, I meet every criteria for the type of people usually dismissed as Anti-American. But I’ll be the first to say this world was a better place during the short interval between the fall of the Berlin Wall and 9/11, thanks to American dominance. Was it better when the USSR and the US were a trigger-finger away from blowing up the entire world? Would it be better if Communism won and Joe Stalin and his flunkies carried out yearly purges of millions of people?

      Pax Americana was a real thing. The defeat of Soviet communism, the rebuilding and protection of European democracies with the Marshall Plan and NATO, the creation of a pacifist Germany and Japan (two countries that for centuries were frequent sources of aggressions and misery in their respective continents), even the restructuring of Asia-Pacific relations around bilateral ties with the U.S. rather than a multi-polar, disorderly competition among traditional enemies who never trusted each other, these were all astounding successes of American dominance. Of course there were plenty of failures (e.g. our botched 100 years in S. America), but overall, IMHO, post-WWII America was an impressive force for good around the world, and far, far better than the alternatives.

      Of course, all this changed after 9/11. As the saying goes. We used to serve as an example for the rest of the world. Now, we serve as a warning…

  6. How do you reconcile your statement “Political parties have lost much of their internal coherence” with the commonly accepted theory that the political realignment of the last 40 years has made the parties more ideologically consistent? I think it would be hard to reject the idea that the parties have become more ideologically consistent (conservative Dems have largely become Republicans and liberal Rs have largely become Dems) but I suppose you could be saying that that ideological consistency hasn’t overcome other forces making the parties less unified in other ways.

    1. Equating internal coherence with ideological consistency in the current Republican Party ihas become antithetical. Chris explained how both parties have evolved in their ideology over time which makes the progression more understandable but no less acceptable. When party ideology is sacrificed for unbridled power, the only constant is complete forfeiture of principle. More striking is Republican’s abdication of free markets, deficit reduction, and united opposition to Russia. Everything else is sacrificed for financial control and the power that includes. The final straw for me this year (so far!) was the Kavanaugh charade but it is hardly the only or last abandonment of principle we will see from this party and president. In its rush to achieve political dominance, The Republican Party no longer attempts to hide their motives.

      But, we, the people have a choice: accept this behavior or end it. I’m in the latter camp.

    2. The ideological extremism we see from the two parties is entirely consistent with the breakdown in “internal coherence” in the parties. Back in the days when our political parties, and all of our public institutions, were able to hold more centralized power, it was easier to build more relatively pragmatic political agendas. With the breakdown of centralized power and organization, the only way to mobilize followers is with appeals to fear and extreme rhetoric.

      Our two political parties are no more ideologically consistent than they’ve ever been, in fact they are more ideologically inconsistent, erratic and frankly bizarre. What they is extreme and passion-driven, with no room for thought, nuance, compromise or pragmatism, but all of the discipline delivered by their former hierarchies has been lost. The only discipline remaining comes from donors, at least until some form of political middle emerges to punish the extremes.

    3. More consistent? You do know that Jesus was a socialist right 🙂 ? I don’t see the Republican platform being all that consistent with the teachings of Christ. For that matter, financial deregulation decimates red states like Alabama and concentrates power and wealth in blue cities like NYC and SF. Doesn’t sound all that consistent to me…

      At any rate, ideological purity is the last cohesive power when the ability to deliver actual tangible gains is gone. This is why the most ideologically pure parties are the Greens and Libertarians, two parties so pure, they’re utterly ineffective.

      1. Exactly WX… One of my favorite sayings to live by is “you can be ‘correct’, or you can be ‘effective’.” Any dispute that requires negotiation, from the most basic office deal to the highest of national politics, requires pragmatic sacrifice of something…. if you are so utterly convinced you have to be “correct”, your simply can’t be “effective” in moving things forward. The Greens and LP are the quintessential examples of folks who so fervently believe that they are 100% “correct” (and on many things, they may well be… I like lots of things from both platforms), that they are 100% ineffective.

  7. Excellent article, Chris. Your description of the evolution of the two parties, pretty much conforms to my experience. Except, Mr. Nixon drove me out of the Republican party. I returned from the ‘Nam in 1966 and I started University in 1967 after a year at a JC. By that time I realized that the government was feeding the nation a lot of BS that did not at all conform to what this pair of boots on the ground observed in-country. Then Nixon came in and expanded the war. Essentially, it was the R’s pro-war stance that forced me out of the party.

    Additionally, I had observed how Reagan governed in CA. He cut infrastructure spending and generally cut a lot of meat and investment, rather that fat. His terms as governor were not very great for CA and from the time he became governor CA began to decline.
    When he became President following that same program, I had enough with the R’s and have never went back.

    During that period Dan Evans was the Republican Governor of WA and WA welcomed the Vietnamese refugees. Our Secretary of State was sent to CA to welcome the first plane loads of refugees and ask them to come to WA. Dan was basically a Rockefeller R and did not fit in the Reagan R party.

  8. A reading recommendation:

    Ben Hunt is both a former finance guy and a former academic and, just by reading his work, a clear movie buff, history and philosophy reader, and all around information addict. Epsilon Theory is his attempt to build a new approach to finance in what he calls The Golden Age of the Central Banker. I don’t want to unwrap all of his writing on that specific matter for now, except to say I’m not reading his notes to learn about investing and I’m not recommending anyone here does unless it interests them.

    What I’m recommending it for is his overall analysis of metanarratives and what they mean to humans as eusocial creatures, and he breaks down things like evolution, information theory, game theory, linguistics, and finance in quite understandable terms — and helps you see how they apply to ‘What’s happening?!’ globally regarding markets, populism, etc.

    Particularly a wider sense I’m starting to get from reading through his notes are that the federal government got very used to speaking-as-signalling rather than explaining what they genuinely think, maybe even so used to it that they can’t tell the difference anymore:

    “My sense is that if you talk to a professional in any walk of life today, whether it’s technology or finance or medicine or law or government or whatever, you will hear a similar story of hollowness in their industry. The trappings, the facades, the faux this and faux that, the dislocation between public narrative and private practice … it’s everywhere. I understand that authenticity has always been a rare bird on an institutional or societal level. But there is something about the aftermath of the Great Recession, a something that is augmented by Big Data technology, that has made it okay to embrace public misdirection and miscommunication as an acceptable policy “tool”. It’s telling when Jon Stewart, a comedian, is the most authentic public figure I know. It’s troubling when I have to assume that everything I hear from any politician or any central banker is being said for effect, not for the straightforward expression of an honest opinion.”

    Now think about Señor Naranja dropping into the middle of that. His opinions are dumb, uneducated, poorly considered, solipsistic, ignorant, and usually the exact opposite of a workable solution to a real problem, BUT: they’re straightforward expressions of his honest opinion. And I don’t mean honest as in truthful, I mean honest in that he believes them, rather than believes that other people will believe he believes them.

    Whereas every Democrat and most Republicans running don’t say anything to express their opinion, everything they say is a signal to the people they hope are listening. That’s why so many people insist 45 is running a game of seventy-dimensional chess: literally everyone else is running a game of sixty-nine-dimensional chess, so obviously if this guy is winning, this guy has to be doing it a higher level than them.

  9. Is the Arizona senate race a case in point? The Democratic candidate, Kyrsten Sinema, as close to a true centerist as one might find these days, as she votes with the Republicans over 60% of the time, so at the very least, not a hard core “lefty”. Naturally, Republicans are trying to paint her as a left-wing extremist, Communist and even a “traitor”. Democrat in name, she is running as an “Arizona independent”, whatever that means.
    Her Republican opponent, Martha McSally, was once also considered a moderate; in 2016 she distanced herself from Trump, but by 2018 was so afraid of being “primaried” that she embraced him, even changed her campaign style to be more abrasive and less “politically correct” (dropping “F-bombs” and the like). She even pulled her support and cosponsorship of a DACA bill that she had sponsored since April 2017, and flip-flopped on a lot of issues to be more in line with Trump. (Now votes with him and his party at about a 97% rate.) Democrats are painting her as a liar and right wing extremist (the more accurate of the mud-slinging, actually, since she has become a Trump-bot).
    If there truly is a majority in the center, wanting to avoid extremes of the right or left, and people actually reviewed both voting records, Sinema should easily win this election, but it is rated as a “toss-up”. I think the voters are as confused about what the two parties represent as the parties themselves are. At this point I think people will vote like they are cheering for their favorite football team, as the majority are poorly informed and easily lied to, so will stick with what is comfortable, imagining their team/party being what it was 10-20 years ago.

    1. There is also the very real deep red history of AZ that both candidates are dancing around. That’s why it’s so refreshing to see a candidate like Beto O’Rourke. He is definitely a long shot but if a few candidates like O’Rourke and Sinema were to win, the message of encouragement to other future candidates (and to party leadership if they read the tea leaves) would be huge.

  10. Perhaps apropos with some of the departures from tradition in the Democratic party, see this long, good article: “Gavin Newsom, the Next Head of the California Resistance”

    “I started out in the middle and I’ve moved . . . ” He caught himself. “I don’t know if more to the left. The more educated I become, the more I become a social-justice warrior about systemic racism. But I’m still a passionate free-enterprise Democrat. And I’m like Jerry—you’ve got to balance budgets, too.” He pointed, putting the world on notice: “That’s going to disappoint a lot of people.”

    I have my own skepticism of Gavin. I don’t think he had a particularly successful San Francisco mayorship, not being a good “details guy,” and he bungled his personal life somewhat odious fashion, and he hasn’t held much responsibility since then. However, it has been a long time, he’s gotten older, and is for a long time now a family man. FDR was also a very vague man at the outset, with his own defects in several regards. I guess we’ll just have to see. At least he has sensible values, which I no longer take for granted.

      1. I agree FDR was very short-sighted about Black Americans, but Eleanor was most definitely sensitive and informed. This woman went into the communities and informed herself and tried to influence Franklin in the development of a safety net for the poor. I have great admiration for her and for the fact that at least FDR listened to her and acted on many of her ideas. She was a force.

  11. A very interesting history lesson Chris. But I don’t know how much relevance it has with the fascist regime in place today.

    Below is a tweet today by the puppet tyrant. Though all sane people realize this all lies, it does not change the fact that the puppet tyrant is setting up the situation to justify ordering the military to shoot refugees.

    “The Caravans are made up of some very tough fighters and people. Fought back hard and viciously against Mexico at Northern Border before breaking through. Mexican soldiers hurt, were unable, or unwilling to stop Caravan. Should stop them before they reach our Border, but won’t!”

    1. Christ on a cracker. Damn, I didn’t see that. What f’g comic book is that guy reading?

      Gonna be writing more about this soon, but the end game probably starts next week. There will be a lot of fur flying, but I don’t think we’ll have the Orange Fuhrer to kick around much longer. When he’s gone, none of these problems leave with him. Someone will still have to do the work of assembling winning coalitions and forging a direction for what we can expect will be a fractured and probably violent country.

      I wrote this piece as a reminder that the immigration position taking shape in the Democratic Party has a lot less Democratic support than most people believe. If it’s a good direction (I think it is), then it will only make it into practice through alignment with some folks who aren’t solidly Democratic today.

      1. I like to think I am a rational thinker (for a liberal (-:) and I understand what you are saying about immigration. I thought GWB’ “Pathway to Citizenship” was a good start. It didn’t get any traction with Republicans. Then, in 2013 there was a bi-partisan Senate immigration bill that I thought was a good start. Speaker Boehner wouldn’t bring it to the floor of the House. I agree with the need for border control and a legal process. But it needs to be attainable without waiting decades and it must not be “gamed”. Canada has a temporary work program that seems to function pretty well. I also support legalization of Dreamers – you know, the former children who were brought in illegally through no fault of their own.

        So, what is the problem? Why can’t we reach sensible agreement on an immigration reform bill? It is stated that immigration is the number one issue for Republicans for the mid-term election. Is there no middle ground, no rational beginning plan possible? This issue goes beyond party and it can only be resolved by bi-partisan agreement. Any undertaking as large as this will be imperfect but to totally shut it down is not only cruel, it is dumb. What I hate is to see this crucial issue tossed around for political gain. It’s too important.

      2. The biggest problem in the way of immigration reform – the two biggest blocks of opposition to authentic immigration reform are now split into leadership in both parties. On one side you’ve got organized labor, with Sanders as its figurehead. On the other of course is the drunk-uncle bigot block in the GOP. Neither party has a clean, enthusiastic attachment to immigration reform, which helps explain why it went nowhere over the past fifteen years regardless which party was in power.

      3. Just as with health care reform, immigration reform and gun safety are going to have to be led by we, the people demanding change and electing people who have the courage and make the commitment to follow through on their pledges to their constitutents. If they don’t, let’s bust this 90% incumbency re-election rating to hell and back. I’m tired of this.

      4. I think we will need a bipartisan coalition to take on immigration reform. Cobble together enough people from both sides to get that done. Currently one side, the GOP has staked their strategy on division and immigration is a biggie wedge issue. If they get soundly repudiated in several elections they may abandon that strategy and try to actually accomplish something. Immigration reform may bring in some new voters to their coalition as Hispanics and Blacks are very socially conservative.

      5. “but the end game probably starts next week. There will be a lot of fur flying, but I don’t think we’ll have the Orange Fuhrer to kick around much longer.”

        I’m definitely curious to see why you think this, as I both enjoy reading your thoughts both in terms of analyzing / understanding things that are going on and also the entertaining speculative fictions of future downfalls that may or may not happen and, if they do, may not look much like how you write them; but also I’m curious why you think this as my reading is precisely the opposite, for two reasons:

        1) 45 will fall once he is no longer capable of controlling the narrative. My Facebook news feed is alive with debates about whether or not an executive order to drop Birthright Citizenship can be constitutional against the 14th Amendment. It doesn’t matter whether he can or can’t: the discussion about it means he controls the narrative.

        2) People, especially government and private institutions, are coming around on his foreign policy, especially as regards China. I can go into more detail if needed but I don’t know how much that debate will help with the scope of this particular discussion thread.

      6. I would add a third point to your list, Aaron: the economy. Wages are up 2.9% and unemployment below 4%. The richest of folks got theirs and a tight labor market is helping working people. Right now wage increases are outpacing inflation even though health care is a huge problem for millions. So many people vote with their pocketbooks….Of course, we are one bad decision away from throwing it all away but who cares when their pocketbook is fatter?

      7. The only thing that will dislodge Trump is an assault on his businesses. That assault probably starts in earnest next week on two fronts.

        If Democrats succeed in taking the House as expected, there will be nothing whatsoever for them to do next year but launch investigations. That also happens to be the favorite BS activity of Congressfolk everywhere.

        On the other front, with the midterms behind us the Special Counsel now has a great deal more freedom to act. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some indictments next week, and perhaps the announcement of a grand jury subpoena of the president. I do expect that the SC will be relatively cautious. He will perhaps confine his indictments to the narrow question of obstruction of justice. If he does, then the rest of the burden will fall on Congress. However, assuming a Democratic Congress with Republican control of the rest of government, you can expect them to be singularly focused on the president.

        None of this would matter if Trump were an ordinary president with purely political concerns, but he’s not. There are hostages that his opponents can now take – his family and his businesses. If his businesses were legitimate then perhaps he could still protect them, but their survival hinges on their secrecy. Losing the capacity to keep his business dealings secret destroys their value for his investors.

        Plus, back your question about the narrative – just wait till you see what happens when people get a realistic sense of the family’s net worth, which was probably only in the tens of millions when he got elected and has declined since. Never in Trump’s life have we seen a credible independent assessment of his net worth that he did not directly influence.

        Once his vulnerabilities start to unfold, everyone but the most strident cultists will turn on him. This story has been played over and over from Mussolini to Gaddafi to the Malaysian Prime Minister. Lose Congress next week and he’ll be fighting to stay out of jail until he’s dead.

      8. And Chris, for anyone that thinks my suggestion was hyperbole re: the puppet tyrant setting up the military to machine-gun the refugees, this is a quote from an Politico article today:

        “I will tell you, anybody throwing stones, rocks, like they did to Mexico and the Mexican military, Mexican police, where they badly hurt police and soldiers of Mexico, we will consider that a firearm,” Trump said during an announcement that his administration next week would release a “comprehensive” executive action on immigration that will include changes to the asylum-seeking process.

      9. @ Chris:

        Yes, your description matches the other narratives you share. I’m just concerned because I’m not in any way confident that Congressional investigations into 45 or his family will amount to snuff, pretty much because of your own line:

        “That also happens to be the favorite BS activity of Congressfolk everywhere.”

        One of the reasons 45 was able to step into the political vacuum is because that political vacuum was created by nonsense show trials like Clinton’s famed 16 hour Benghazi testimonial. The Republicans clipped the political theatre straight off any non-fiction roots and let it float in pure fantasy, allowing a situation where a man unmoored from the grounding everyone else is desperately grasping at could simply own, because his head’s been there his whole life.

        Well the thing about that decoupling is that it also means that if the Democrats use that political theatre, the Republicans have already shown it to be a sham. The same as the Republicans pretty much literally went down a laundry list of their most extreme complaints about Obama and packaged them all in a single man for the Democrats to then voice the exact same complaints, thus making the complaints themselves seem like a matter of partisanship, the show trials of the Democratic House will be interpreted by Republicans and right-of-center independents the same way the Benghazi investigation was treated by Democrats and left-of-center independents:

        Bullshit that Congress loves to pull when it can’t do nothing.

      10. Trump is in a very unusual situation, something we’ve never seen before, because he’s held onto his businesses and kept them secret. Congress investigated the living Beejeezus out of Reagan over Iran-Contra and never made a dent, but Reagan wasn’t also trying to obtain financing to hold onto his hotels. Democrats can take hostages that normally wouldn’t be available.

        As just one example, Kushner still has to find a buyer for his stupid tower at 666 Park Ave. He just got a shady $1bn cash infusion from Brookfield, but that’s only enough to keep them from losing the property. What if someone re-opens the dormant investigation into Brookfield’s overseas bribery and explores possible money laundering in that $1bn deal? If a Congressional investigation uncovers the drug dealers, Russian oligarchs, and other shady characters who’s money was probably plowed into that lease, does Kushner have to surrender the $$$? Brookfield might not pull out of the lease, but what does that do to the potential field of buyers for 666 Park?

        See how that works?

        All of the Trump properties are money-losers without constant new injections of cash. The family doesn’t have any successful businesses. That new cash comes in to be washed in secret. If it isn’t secret, or more to point, if it becomes the opposite of secret, the entire “business” empire craters very quickly, because it’s burn rate is spectacular.

        I don’t senior think Democrats understand any of this, but the instinct to dig around in Trump’s business will be strong, since they’ll have nothing else to do. They’ll be hundreds of blind squirrels digging for nuts in a nut packing plant. Hard to imagine how they could fail, though if anyone could fail here it would be the Democrats.

      11. Aaron-
        You don’t need to prove anything against Trump. You just have to make his funding sources go away. And to do that, you don’t have to put anyone in jail. Just launch a few probes and people who value secrecy will scatter. Trump’s not the only shyster around who’s willing to launder money for scumbags and criminals, after all.

        Imagine you’re a drug dealer with a billion dollars to launder. You could go through your old buddy Jared Kushner, and risk that some staffer on the House investigations committee starts asking questions and files a few subpoenas, or a cub reporter at the WashPo with dreams of being the next Woodward or Bernstein starts digging through all the phony corporate documents you file in Delaware. Even if neither ever finds anything, or gives up before getting the real truth, why risk it? Wouldn’t you rather funnel your billion dollars through some other guy in Panama / Cayman Islands / Isle of Man / London / NYC / Dubai / (the list goes on) and not worry about being woken up by a 60 Minutes anchorperson knocking on your door “wanting to ask a few questions”?

        The amount of sunlight needed to get these cockroaches to scatter is very, very small (in fact, many of them have already scattered, which is why Kushner is currently having problems, even without a Dem Congress). If the Dems can manage to do that, it’ll be enough to bring the entire Trump “Empire” down. And for a guy whose entire psyche is built on his so-called business riches, being poor is a fate worse than death.

        (Unfortunately, just like after a nuclear war, the cockroaches will still survive. But at least Trump’s empire, built on their backs, will be gone).

  12. The changing nature of the parties has left a lot of people disaffected, like myself. My belief in either party is at an all-time low. I can’t possibly side with the Trump people. I just cannot. But the Dems do not inspire me with confidence, either. I like the idea of a new party emerging for old centrists like myself. A common sense party. Is that possible?

    1. I tend to think a “centrist” party is a bit of a pipe-dream. In our first past the post, 2-party system, any winning political party to be a broad coalition. By necessity, they will include both centrists and extremists/ideologues.
      The goal always has to be to capture as much of the center as possible, while not splitting your coalition and losing the most active, fervent supporters on the ideological edge (who are the most reliable voters, donors, etc.). The only extremists you would ever want to expel from the party, are the ones so toxic that they cause you to hemmorage the middle. So I think the ideal is a party largely led by its centrists, but that still throws enough bones to its extreme wing to keep them engaged in the coalition. Both our current major parties have failed at this challenge (to be fair, I’m not sure its possible for it to succeed indefinitely, and likely will always occur in fits and starts as the extremists get more/less fed up with the moderate parts of the party).
      The GOP failed by giving most its leadership/power to its extreme wing, but even more inexplicably it also embraced the most toxic racists/misogynists/kleptocrats, etc. We can only hope that as this has become blatantly apparent, enough of the middle abandons them to punish them electorally.
      The Dems did the opposite. They failed to throw enough bones and give enough voice to the lefty extreme such that their coalition lots its dynamism and most dedicated folks, who failed to show up in 2000 and again in 2016, sinking their more moderate Presidential nominee. My fear is the Dems will over-correct, but as long as GOP refugees like myself stay involved and keep the moderate voice present in the party, maybe we can somewhat contain the expected over-correction. We’ll see.
      It really leads to a couple plausible scenarios. In one, the GOP gets pummeled in a few elections over the next decade, and reforms (or is replaced by a new conservative party) that can once again compete for the center… with the deplorables maybe struggling along on the ignorable fringes. In another scenario, the left of the Dems get pissed off or over-represented, and the Dem party fractures… In the good scenario the middle becomes the “new right”, and the Bernie-wing becomes the “new left” while the GOP deplorables just die off/go away. But in the bad scenario, the fractured left therefore still is unable to out compete the deplorables, and we continue to see the most toxic right folks winning elections.

    2. Half the problem is unscrambling just what the heck words like “liberal,” “moderate,” and “conservative” mean these days because it seems like the definitions (and each group’s positions) change every week. What are the overarching world views motivating each group? Are the differences over ideas and identifying problems or the specific solutions and frameworks to deal with those problems?

      The other half of the equation is not so much defining positions on certain topics as setting priorities. The big Sanders v Clinton primary fight was not really moderates v progressives but whether the priority should be on economic issues v cultural issues. For instance, what issues define whether someone is Democrat, Republican or other, and what issues do not? If you’re pro-life, but for socialized medicine, pro-police, but pro-immigration, what do you identify as?

  13. Two progressive black candidates for Governor in Georgia and Florida are in a dead heat. The south’s old feudal culture is breaking down. If we changed the South we change the nation. If not this time then soon change will come. Among younger Trump voters I know most are deciding they made a mistake. Old ones seem more entrenched. But they are dying off. Trump is turning off the demographics that is growing while riling up the one dying. I still think what Lifer wrote about was correct. I just think his timing was off. Trump was blow back from having our first Black President. And some black swan events, think Russia and Comey. It is looking like in 2018 the GOP will lose the House and in 2020 the Senate and Presidency.

    In Florida Amendment 4 looks like it will pass. Restoring the right to vote for felons who mostly are minorities will tilt Florida blue I believe. The new South is rising and the old dying.

    1. Whether or not Gillum and Abrams win, I think “the old South” has already lost. There’s naturally tons of talk here in Atlanta and nationally about all the old tricks the establishment is getting up to to keep people from voting. What I’m seeing on the ground and from local coverage of the campaign (and what I’m not really seeing reflected yet in national coverage) is that people aren’t scared anymore. Peopke are reading up on their rights and trading tips in voting lines, groups of African-American voters are traveling with lawyers, a large number of people are putting in the extra mile to connect people with rides, etc. The Abrams campaign in particular is really pushing early voting because, if shenanigans are afoot, then there will be time to recognize them and deal with them as opposed to a mad scramble on Election Day. The narrative is flipping from “They’ll make sure my vote won’t count, so why bother?” to “They wouldn’t be bothering to do these things to us if they didn’t think we could win.” I’m reminded a lot of Chris’s recent discussion of the effects of power. Now that the fear and intimidation are gone, what’s left doesn’t seem so imposing.

    2. True about the South but really North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia only. Virginia is now a blue state, but North Carolina will only be blue in waves (2008) in the near term. Georgia is farther off from being purple. Florida will remain purple – voting R or D depending on the national environment. The big prize is Texas but I don;t see that going blue for at least 25 years.

      But the trade off is not good. Even if you are able to make NC, VA, and GA permanently blue in the near term, that is only 44 EV’s in the Electoral College. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota are trending Republican as those states’ populations get whiter. That’s 56 EV’s. That’s a net loser.

      1. There are an estimate 1.5 million felons in Florida. They are about 49% black non Hispanic, 13% Hispanic and 38% white non-Hispanic. Florida state wide races are usually close. Restoring felon’s right to vote will definitely change the Politics in Florida.

      2. “Restoring felon’s right to vote will definitely change the Politics in FL…” unless they decide to hang with the biggest unindicted felon of them all…DJT…who will this group of people most likely support? Would they vote if they could?

    3. I’m a little late coming in, but I think Stephen’s scenario is largely on target. In the key states of FL, NC, VA & GA, the electorate is rapidly changing. Those states all have significant urban centers. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe FL has implemented redistricting reform. That along with restoration of felon’s right to vote will make a big difference. GA has Atlanta, NC has the research triangle and Charlotte, and of course there are the DC suburbs in VA. These urban centers are going to change those states. I believe that when they begin flipping, it will happen quickly as it did in CA.

      Hopefully, TX will join the march into the 21st Century soon.

      Regarding the Great Lakes’ states, I really do not believe that in the long run they are going to become Republican. All those states have major urban centers and major research universities. Those urban centers and research universities are going to start to pull those states into the 21st Century quite rapidly. I’ve seen this happen often in the West. In the Mountain states of AZ, CO, NV and a lesser extent UT, the major urban centers are pushing those states in a purple direction. WA and OR are good examples, Both states are divided by the Cascades Curtain. East of the Curtain the states are similar to the other Mountain states. But the major urban centers in the West have made those states blue. A similar phenomenon is beginning to happen in ID with Boise, but that has a strong Mormon influence, so will follow a similar course as Salt Lake City. Currently, the Great Lakes states are early in the transition process from the industrial economy. Pittsburgh is beginning to change the complexion of Western PA. Of course, Philadelphia in the East is firmly anchored in the Eastern cosmopolitan area. Furthermore, 45 has proven so bad that more highly educated people are leaving the Republican Party in droves. All the countervailing trends will begin to overwhelm the Trump cult soon. I believe that the 2018 election will be the beginning.

      1. Florida used citizen constitutional amendments to jump over politicians and special interest to get reforms done.Undoing Gerry Gerrymandering was done that way. Although the League of women voters had to sue to force the GOP controlled state government to obey the law. Similarly felon voting rights will be on the ballot this time. Maybe when Gillum wins the lawsuit will not be necessary this time.

  14. Third party in the making? Interesting historical narrative. The evolution of political philosophy is a “tell” about the shallowness of convictions and changing social and cultural mores. Would that we had more and better choices, could return to a time when one voted for the “best” candidate regardless of party, and had candidates who demonstrated political independence from party dictates. “Would”…a big word. Mid- terms will illustrate if apathy and ignorance prevail. I shudder to think of the consequences for Democracy if voter turnout doesn’t support change, even recognizing turning this ship around will take time, it has to at least begin.

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