Why Senior Democrats Love Donald Trump

Many of the voters who rallied in 2018 to halt the erosion of their democracy are puzzled by Democrats’ reluctance to resist. Why are Democrats so passive and cautious in holding administration officials accountable for obvious crimes? A glass-house dilemma certainly plays a role, but there’s an even larger force at work here which Democratic voters refuse to acknowledge, and therefore fail to fight.

A previous post outlining the personal motives of old-line Democrats drew a furious response on social media. It might be helpful to explore the matter in more specific terms. For tenured Democrats, the folks who survived the party’s contraction and prospered over the past few decades, the Trump Era is a golden age of wine and roses, in which their jobs have never been easier or more secure. They are in no hurry to see it end.

Why are senior Democrats dragging their feet on impeachment? Why are they pressing their voters for patience? And vitally, what tools are they counting on to grind their pesky new young colleagues into compliance? For an answer, take a close look at the two-year budget just approved, without controversy or fanfare, by this otherwise deadlocked Congress. And to understand why this budget matters to Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership, let’s examine the dynamics that toppled one of Pelosi’s senior lieutenants and placed her most irritating critic in Congress.

Freshman Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won a surprise victory in a solidly Democratic seat against a long-time incumbent, Joe Crowley, by running on a very progressive national platform. Crowley’s campaign emphasized the money he brought back to his New York City district. In an era of budget scarcity in Washington he secured steady millions in funding for anti-graffiti campaigns, after-school programs, support for 9/11 first responders, and most importantly (by far) almost a billion in loosely defined “security funding” for local transit.

Crowley fed the local Democratic machine and expected to be fed in return. When the machine failed him he was very angry, and its leaders in Washington were concerned. They are fighting back and if Democrats don’t quickly drop their illusions about the power dynamics in their own party, these machine Democrats will steamroll the progressive wing as they’ve done many times in the past.

By virtue of AOC’s strident progressive rhetoric, she’s often imagined as an icon of the lower class, a plucky fighter for the marginalized. That may be true on some level, but she made it to Congress by mobilizing an affluent young generation busy gentrifying some of New York’s coolest neighborhoods. It wasn’t poor people who sent AOC to Congress. Her rise was fueled by an influx of voters into New York’s 14th District who, at least nominally, don’t care about government contracts, and aren’t counting on their Congressman to provide them and their friends with public jobs, or federally funded slots as community organizers.

AOC, along with other new Democratic representatives from more affluent districts, is about to face a challenge. Can she hold her coalition together and win reelection if Nancy Pelosi puts the cash-squeeze on her district? In other words, has the Democratic Party moved fast enough to expand its base beyond poorer districts, organized around a culture of government largesse, or will AOC be forced to play ball to keep the money flowing?

That brings us back to this new budget.

Since the 1970’s, Democratic politicians have faced growing difficulty getting money sent home from Washington. That pressure intensified to critical levels in the 90’s, when a Republican Congress and a weak, compromising Democratic President started applying serious constraints on federal largesse. Across Nancy Pelosi’s entire career, representatives with a talent for prying cash out of an increasingly stingy Washington have been stars within the party, while progressive standouts were moved to the margins.

Delivering a rousing speech on social justice, environmental protection, education reform, or healthcare for all might get you on TV. Making deals to send money back home got you elected and promoted. Chances are, you’d never heard of Joe Crowley before AOC defeated him, but he was one of the most powerful figures in Washington. He didn’t waste energy tickling liberal hearts with passionate speeches. He found out what local community organizers needed in order to hire more people (voters) for their homeless relief thingy or their school something or other assistance program and he made sure they got it. He found out what local business interests wanted and got their priorities funded.

Across the poorer reaches of what used to be a poor, minority-dominated district, this Irish guy got rich and powerful channeling government cash to his voters and friends. There were thousands of voters in the NY14 who owed their jobs to the money he doled out to a kaleidoscope of community organizations. More importantly, there were powerful contractors, developers, and “legitimate businessmen” who depended on him to keep money flowing through contracts. They made sure their employees knew about it, and made sure Old Joe got his cut.

Crowley, like most other senior Democrats, didn’t give a good goddamn about progressive priorities and probably couldn’t name three of them. It wasn’t his job. High-minded rhetoric is for the suckers.

After decades in which every dime squeezed from Congress was a chore, Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell have opened the floodgates. A new budget signed with little fanfare in August promises an unprecedented surge of federal spending. Most importantly of all, it kills off the hated sequester which had stifled the growth of discretionary spending. Senior Democrats have never, at any point in their careers, experienced this largesse. Their job, the real one – bringing money home to their districts – has never been easier. But there’s a catch.

McConnell and the President agreed to these terms on the condition that the budget allocations are “deemed.” This new spending has been approved in principle, but the actual disbursements will be broken into a dozen or so subsequent bills addressing each area of the government. To put it another way, McConnell has offered Democrats the deal of a lifetime, but he’s holding that deal hostage to subsequent votes, especially next year. If he gets upset over something, he could obstruct spending in specific areas.

Trump’s lifeline, in a graph.

This arrangement puts enormous pressure on the House Speaker to play ball. What will Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic leadership care more about, immigrant children who don’t vote being sent to concentration camps, or the priorities of senior donors, and the leaders of crucial community groups in their districts? We already know the answer. The real question is, can a new generation of Democratic leaders from less machine-dominated districts resist the Speaker’s priorities? History suggests that the answer is no, but times are changing.

One of the consequences of the Democrats’ expansion into suburbs and more affluent areas is that they’ve acquired, for the moment, a set of voters who aren’t moved much by offers of government contracts or government-funded jobs. How long can this last, and how much power can they wield? Will AOC continue to win NY14 if Pelosi blocks funding for key community groups in her district? Can she hold the line if the trucking, construction, waste management and other contractors who depended on Crowley to bring home the loot see their paychecks slashed?

For all the talk about Republican cowardice, Democrats need to take a hard look at their own. Democrats are dragging their feet in the fight against Trump because their leaders are getting everything they really want from this administration. If idealistic Democratic voters continue to keep their heads in a rhetorical fog while their leaders sell them down the river, can they really blame Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump?

54 Comments

  1. Some conservative arguments for impeaching Trump:

    https://www-m.cnn.com/2019/09/25/opinions/trump-transcript-conservative-case-for-impeachment-zelizer/index.html?r=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cnn.com%2Fsearch%3Fq%3DZelizer%2B

    They are all good- logically and morally sound. The problem is that they’re going to resonate with sane, honorable conservatives, people like Chris, who don’t have many current GOP office holders in their ranks. Ted “vote your conscience” Cruz isn’t grokking this.

  2. The gossip from former Senator Jeff Flake is that there are 35 GOP Senators who would vote to convict and remove Trump if only they could do it in private. I don’t recall what the official rules say, but I doubt they could have that option. It certainly illustrates what cowardly, pathetic wimps we have representing us in the Senate. But it’s also an opportunity, because it’s a source of anti-Trump sentiment to be tapped. Is it going to be easy? Hell no! Is there any idea how to exploit it? Not yet, but as WX said, we can’t predict all of what the investigation is going to uncover, and how it’s going to play. Already the polls are shifting up in favor of impeachment. This will be a stay alert and be ready to improvise situation.

    Flake is true to spineless form in saying that he doesn’t favor impeachment.

  3. Keeping in line with Chris’ story about the old school Dem machine and their addiction to big $, we have this story:

    https://www.cnbc.com/2019/09/26/wall-street-democratic-donors-may-back-trump-if-warren-is-nominated.html

    What a bunch of treacherous, selfish assholes. They can see the damage Boss Tweet is inflicting on America, but their goddamned tax cuts matter above all else. What, they’d have to make do with just 3 yachts? Fuck these people. I’d love to see Warren in the White House in spite of them.

  4. So, when the Dem’s go though a few months (or 12) of histrionics, and proceed with impeachment proceedings on the tyrant, and the firewall known as the senate does what everyone knows they will do, exactly what will the playing field look like?

    The tyrant’s cult will be unmoved. The Dem’s will once again demonstrate their impotency, and why they are losers to the core. The fascists will be further emboldened to rig the election, or use even more brazen methods.

    What will have changed, other than crystallizing further the views between the two enemies? Those that think the situation when this is done, as opposed to a bullet now, are hopelessly naive.

    1. If the Dems put out compelling evidence and the Senate ignores it, Collins, Gardner, Ernst, Tillis, and McSally most likely are looking for another line of work after 2020. Making the GOP vote yea or nay on open corruption does matter.

      Why are you even mentioning the trump cult? The only attention they merit is monitoring them for indications that any of them ate plotting domestic terrorism. They aren’t worth engagement, but the millions of newly minted voters and sporadic voters are.

      1. You seriously believe that in many of the Senate races that this kind of corruption is an issue, even with the voters? Many of these senators, even in swing vote states, would use their “No” vote as a campaign tool.

        And as for the tyrant’s cult, yeah, they don’t matter, in so much as their views will not change, ever. The tyrant was right. He could shoot someone on 5th Ave and he would still not be impeached.

        But bottom line, what is a better scenario?
        Weigh 3 possible outcomes, and tell me which is better, and more likely (#1 has pretty much a zero chance at this point):

        1. The tyrant is dead, with the religious fanatic in charge.
        2. The Dem’s go all Don Quixote, and this thing gets killed by the Senate, and the tyrant is actually emboldened, knowing there is nothing he can’t do that will get him kicked out, while the Dem’s look like bumbling fools, again. Americans hate a loser, no matter what the situation.
        3. The Dem’s do go all in, and somehow this turns 2% of the voters towards The Dem’s, at which point the election is just rigged more.

      2. Dins-
        I enjoy reading your posts because of their dissenting views, but if you want to argue your points more forcefully, you need to actually make a cogent argument for them. You present no evidence or argument for why your 3 scenarios are the only ones we should consider.

        There’s an old rule that I learned in philosophy class: when someone presents a limited set of options for you to choose from, realize that the answer lies outside the set, and figure out why the person is trying to hide it from you.

        Your set of 3 scenarios, from which you ask us to pick which is better, is just such a trap. It’s up to you to tell us why you think those are the three most likely scenarios. Otherwise, two can play at this game. How about you choose which scenario among these is worst?
        1) A bunch of republicans finally grow a spine and the President finally *is* impeached and removed from office (or forced to resign)
        2) Fewer republicans grow a spine, but enough do that weakens McConnell’s unified power which he depends on for everything from legislation to judicial appointments
        3) Neither of the above happens, but just the impeachment in the house energizes the Dem base enough to win the 2020 elections.

        Here’s my take: I honestly don’t know what will happen with an impeachment process. I’ll agree that the chances that enough Republicans peel away to actually remove Trump is low. But beyond that, everything is a wild card. It’s entirely possible that actually drawing up the articles of impeachment, and going through a real examination of Trump’s crimes might wake up enough Americans that we have a money laundering Russian controlled tyrant as our leader and we’re very close to becoming a banana republic if we don’t remove him. Or it may not. I wouldn’t be surprised either way.

        But sometimes you do have to do what’s right. Impeaching Trump is the correct thing to do. We had enough evidence to do it years ago, but that’s water under the bridge. Regardless of the practical results, it’s the right thing to do, and that’s why I support it.

      3. Very well said WX. It can be very easy to get caught up in all the political calculations, and overlook basic right and wrong. If you can’t find a reason to impeach the most brazenly corrupt president in history, you might as well take impeachment out of the Constitution, because it’s merely vestigial. There is no guarantee that impeachment will produce the results we want. But I will say unequivocally that not impeaching, especially in light of this fresh example of corruption, is craven surrender. Trump is a bully and a spoiled brat who was never told “no” when he should have been. It’s long past time to stand up to the bully. It’s time to shout “NO!” and to keep shouting “NO!” as long as we can and for as long as it is needed.

      4. WX, I agree that my prose needs work. I will endeavor to be more coherent in my arguments.

        That being said, of course the tyrant SHOULD be impeached. He SHOULD be executed for treason.

        But the reality is that the Dem’s are simply not competent enough not to utterly botch this.
        They looked like chumps after the Mueller Report.
        They looked like spinless chumps countless times when the tyrant and his cadre gave, and continue to give, them the finger with regard to demands for answers and documents. (Lewandowski being the latest, as of today).

        The odds are much much higher that the Dem’s will fumble this into a victory for the tyrant and his legions rather than weaken him, going by past performance of the Dem’s.

        Remember all the talking heads who were high-fiving each other when the Dem’s took back the House, and how they would slow down the tyrant then? How is that working out?

      5. You’re contradicting yourself there Dins, because all the flubs you mention were the result of the Dems being too timid. Actually doing impeachment is the opposite of that. Yes, they could screw it up, but that’s not a given. As WX said, there are other possible outcomes.

        As for what resulted from the Dems taking the House last year, how about the GOP NOT being able to quash this whistle blower’s report, NOT being able to pass another tax cut for the rich, NOT being able to try to kill the ACA again, NOT being able to force through any other regressive legislation. It’s not a whole loaf, but it’s not nothing either. Because if 2018 we have a better chance for more in 2020 and 2022. It’s obvious you think that’s futile, which can certainty become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Plenty of us don’t, and we’ll be in the political trenches next year.

    1. I am disappointed that the ten incidents of obstruction identified in the Mueller Report aren’t included. Emoluments should be included as well. Pelosi is probably looking at the short legislative schedule but it concerns me that she is narrowly focused on the Whistle Blower allegations. My mama told me: “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

      DOJ AG Barr is a major problem. It is unfortunate that our Justice department is part of the cover up and suppression circle. This expands exponentially the potential for obstruction from far more than the president.

  5. Watching all this unfold, I am still gobsmacked at what a total dim bulb Trump is. He really thought that releasing a transcript was going to mollify Dems who had been demanding the whistleblower’s complaint? He really thought he was a success at the U.N.? He really thought a phone call to Pelosi was going to makes this go away?

    The is is the Peter Principle on a tanker car of steroids and a metric ton of HGH.

  6. Chris,

    For what it is worth, I agree with Democrats doing self reflection and we should be pointing out areas that need improvement.

    Hopefully, we can soon get past the overwhelming concern about getting Trump out of office.

    While Trump didn’t shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue, this latest is getting close.

    Here’s to self-impeachment!

  7. EJ

    I feel that you can tell a lot about a society by which crimes are punished and which are merely shouted about.

    Violation of the emoluments clause? No action. Sexual assault? No action. Witness payoffs via a personal lawyer? No action. Concentration camps? No action.

    Going after the son of a wealthy, connected man? Impeachment.

    1. That is an excellent point. Bernie Madoff will die in prison. Trump was able to buy his way out of the TrumpU scandal. If you didn’t know the socioeconomic status of the two sets of victims, you could still guess accurately.

      It does piss me off royally that all the things you mentioned have not received the consequences they deserve. I can hope for long term political and cultural damage to the GOP and the religious right, and I’ll do what I can to make that happen.

      1. EJ

        In fairness, I drafted it at five paragraphs, but the final version only came out at three.

        You’re a marvellous long form writer and I feel certain that reading three thousand of your words is more pleasurable than three paragraphs of mine.

  8. YOU ARE STILL DOING IT

    YOU ARE ALL BUYING THE BIGGEST GOP LIE
    The parties are NOT NOT NOT NOT “the same”

    The Dems may not be “whiter than white” – but they do throw out villains when found out

    The Republicans have stopped even thinking about throwing out the villains – it now appears to be a REQUIREMENT

    Every time you say or think “They are Both BAD – you move closer to a GOP tyranny

    The WORST Dem politician may be bad – not what you want in your family – but they are BETTER than the best GOPPER

    1. From the previous piece:

      We are struggling to understand the dysfunction in our political system partly because of a mental glitch. Our minds try to convert the inputs around us into stories about villains and heroes. Politics rarely works that way…

      and

      There are no good guys and bad guys, there is only a single, unified fabric composed of incentives and punishments. If Marco Rubio owed his job to Democratic donors and voters in California, he’d be backing a completely different agenda, and getting his credit card bills paid by a different collection of moneyed interests. Changing this arrangement requires more than selecting different representatives.

      That attitude of hostility toward internal criticism does nothing whatsoever to undercut the Republicans. The people who lose power and potential from that blank-check attitude toward our untouchable good-guys are aspiring reformers like Warren and AOC. Everyone on either side with an investment in the system as currently composed is happy to have partisans remain partisans. The less people are willing to consider nuance in their own favorite politicians, the harder it is for anyone to initiate any meaningful reform.

      Kinda reminds of that old piece about how Donald Trump is just Marion Barry for white people. When people feel trapped by identity, with no political alternatives, they are unwilling to hold their allies accountable.

      https://www.forbes.com/sites/chrisladd/2017/01/27/trump-is-the-white-marion-barry/

      1. There are no good guys and bad guys, there is only a single, unified fabric composed of incentives and punishments. If Marco Rubio owed his job to Democratic donors and voters in California, he’d be backing a completely different agenda, and getting his credit card bills paid by a different collection of moneyed interests. Changing this arrangement requires more than selecting different representatives.

        YOU ARE DOING IT AGAIN!!!
        THAT IS THE BIGGEST GOP LIE
        and you are falling for it AGAIN

        When you are in a hole the FIRST STEP is STOP DIGGING

        You can complain about the other guys sins later

        AFTER you have got rid of the REAL EVIL

        You are equating Hillary’s Emails to Bush’s war crimes – they ARE NOT THE SAME

      2. Here’s what I think you’re missing.

        It’s not enough to pick a side. If you stop there then you’ve only ensured that you’ll get a marginally better outcome than if you’d picked the other side. Your representatives in that arrangement will have no incentive to deliver anything for you beyond merely shielding you from the predations of that nasty “other.” And lacking any incentive, you’ll almost never get capable representation.

        Politicians love an enemy, the nastier the better. That’s what Republicans LOVED Osama bin Ladin and the Taliban, and that’s why Democrats LOVE Donald Trump. An enemy helps win support, money and votes while hardly trying. Retaining an enemy lets you hold those votes without having to do the hard work of delivering anything. Enemies trap your supporters, doing your work for you, and enemies make it hard for anyone on my team to hold me accountable for abuses or failures.

        Pelosi is in no hurry to be rid of Donald Trump, and in even less of a hurry to uncover his financial crimes. Democrats are positively terrified of what would happen if financial shenanigans became the central issue in the public narrative.

        Politics is not about winning elections. It’s about wielding power. Sometimes the biggest obstacles to our best interests are on our own side. I can say this from experience.

      3. EJ

        Something I’ve noticed in the difference between Right-wing and Left-wing people is that the Right tend to believe in individual responsibility while the Left tend to believe that people act in ways dictated by society. If a person steals, the Right will probably assume that person is a bad person and that if they were in a different circumstances they would likewise behave badly, whereas the Left will probably assume that a different person placed in the same circumstances will probably likewise behave badly.

        If you accept this model, then a Left-wing response would be that Congress behaves according to the circumstances of wider society; if we reform that society, Congress will behave differently. This reform may be difficult without a reformed Congress, of course: fortunately, reform is a gradual process and not a light switch. Bringing down late capitalism will solve both problems.

      4. “Pelosi is in no hurry to be rid of Donald Trump, and in even less of a hurry to uncover his financial crimes.”

        With that in mind, I hope her 180 degree turn has some very damning evidence behind it. I could wish that Trump would be taken down for all the egregious things that EJ has noted above, but if picking on a fellow member of the privileged caste is the bullet in the smoking gun, so be it. We’re not going to go anywhere on vital issues like addressing corruption and dealing with climate change until Trump and his enablers are out.

        As an aside, this very much reminds me of how the GOP has exploited the abortion issue for political gain.

      5. EJ If individual responsibility is a characteristic you attribute to those on the right, then they are abject failures. One only has to look at our current political morass and the complicity of republicans in their refusal to uphold their “individual responsibility to their oaths of office and the Constitution to see the shallowness of this assignation.

    2. “The WORST Dem politician may be bad – not what you want in your family – but they are BETTER than the best GOPPER”

      There are plenty of us who will “vote Blue no matter who” next year, who have declared the GOP to be dead to us. But we’re not going to be blind to problems in the Dem party. Step one in cleaning house is to toss out Trump and his enabling toadies. But if we then just declare victory, pat ourselves on our backs, and stop paying attention, we’ll have corruption issues plaguing us from the other side. The next would be authoritarian is taking notes, and this person won’t be as stupid and incompetent as Trump. This person could be a left-winger just as easily as a right-winger. We’ve got bugs in our system that need patches, and a limited time window to do it.

    3. Duncan-
      You’re making the same mistake, just from the other extreme. Just because Dems and Republicans are not exactly the same doesn’t mean they’re diametrically different either. Everything is a spectrum. Yes, the Dems are significantly better (or at least different) in many ways than Republicans. But there are also many ways in which they are the same (sometimes in good ways, sometimes in bad).

      Recall that only a single Senator, Russ Feingold, voted against the Patriot Act. The vast majority of Dems voted to renew it as well. Large chunks of the deregulation of Wall St. occurred under Clinton.

      As for self-dealing, corrupt Congressmen, look at William Jefferson (D-LA). The guy was busted by the FBI with literally a refrigerator stuffed with cash, along with accepting $100,00 in cash from a witness wearing a wire. House Democrats didn’t care. You know what Nancy Pelosi and Dennis Hastert (Republican Speaker of the House at the time) were outraged about? That the FBI dared to raid Jefferson’s Congressional office (something later found perfectly legal by the courts). A certain FBI director by the name of Robert Mueller had to threaten to resign to get the White House off the FBI’s back and allow it to continue the investigation.

      And after he got busted? He still won re-election. It took months for Pelosi to finally ask Jefferson to step down from his committees, which he refused to do. And the CBC (Congressional Black Caucus) staunchly supported him until the end (which came after he was finally lost re-election in 2008).

      So to recap: a Democratic Congressman was recorded on tape accepting cash in a suitcase from an FBI undercover witness. The FBI then discovered $100k in cash stuffed in a fridge in his house. His lame explanation had something to do with a Nigerian Vice President (I’m not making this up). No one, Dem or Republican cared. They only got involved when the FBI raided his Congressional office, and then, they intervened on the side of the Congressman, asking how dare the FBI raid the offices of an esteemed elected official? Facing a massive national outcry in an election year, Pelosi and the Dems finally stripped him of his committee memberships, although not without facing a howl of protest from the CBC that Jefferson was being mistreated. And those Democratic voters, who are so much better than Republicans? They re-elected him in 2006 anyway.

      (To be fair, he finally did lose re-election, although not in the Dem primary, but to a Republican in the general election in 2008, and then he was prosecuted by the FBI and thrown in prison in 2009, after he was already out of office).

      Thinking that there’s nothing in common between Dems and Republicans is as blinded and harmful as thinking there’s no difference between them.

    4. Duncan,

      A broken faucet. Someone is trying to fix the leak with a rusty spoon. Chris sez, “That spoon can’t fix the leak. Also, it’s rusty.” The other person gets frustrated and says, “The spoon isn’t ruining the linoleum, Chris! Stop blaming the spoon!”

      The GOP is the problem. The Democrats are not only not the tool to fix it, they’re the structurally compromised wrong tool to fix it.

  9. I’m confused about two things.

    I kinda thought funnelling money into districts was explicitly the job of representatives. It’s how they represent their district. I guess the clarification would be a paraphrase from one of your earlier posts, that the difference between a representative democracy and a kleptocracy is that in the representative democracy the hospital actually gets built*?

    The other confusion is, if Nancy Pelosi** can strongarm representatives of various districts based off of where funds flow and to what parts of that district, why can’t she basically say, “No money for districts with interment camps for children. Want the funds, cut that shit out”?

    * Finer nuances to be debated regarding how expensively the hospital was built, how well, whether it was a truly competitive bid, whether a truly competitive bid was possible, etc.

    ** I think what you’re basically saying is that Nancy Pelosi is metonymy for the full architecture of the ‘political machine’, so basically what I’m saying in this sentence is the Democrats who want to virtue signal.

    1. First this:

      ***I kinda thought funneling money into districts was explicitly the job of representatives.***

      The Founders would be reaching for their guns. That’s a fair understanding of how everyone viewed the role of Congressmen in our great age of clientelism, from about the Civil War until the 60’s, but it was never good. It declined some with Nixon-era reforms in the Democratic Party, then slid away significantly as Congress came under the control of an ideologically driven party, the GOP, in the 90’s. Now we’re within striking distance of having Congressional representation that actually considers themselves responsible to the country they are supposed to serve. That would be nice. That’s what happens when you evolve beyond simple clientelism into policy-driven politics. I’d love to get there.

      Second, Nancy absolutely could shut off key grants to Congressmen she was upset with in either party. I don’t have a specific example, because people don’t casually talk about that sort of thing while that person is in power, but there are lots of examples from Tip O’Neill, Lyndon Johnson and Denny Hastert. Don’t piss off the speaker if you want your appropriations to remain in the bill.

      Thing is, that power works best when you don’t have to use it. But more importantly, relatively few Republicans care about those grants. They’re getting their campaign funding and their sweetheart deals from people who mostly want to see government disappear.

      Also, keep this in mind. Unlike in the bad old days, almost all of that money that’s being shunted back to the districts goes toward something at least marginally useful. Chances are there’s a community service group for homeless people or battered women in your area, and the odds are very good that they depend at least in part on a grant from the feds. That dense network of poorly accountable “community service organizations” are a great place to give campaign volunteers an extra income, or steer contracting dollars to donors. However, if you proposed to simply wipe them out people would get hurt. It’s a complicated picture.

      I wouldn’t say that Pelosi is a metanym, exactly, any more than every other representative is. Thing is, as I’m learning from reading memoirs of low-ranking Nazis, people tend to be moved by their environment. A system places demands, and actors in those systems do their best to bring positive outcomes within their perceived (or actual) constraints. Pelosi is in a position to crack open this system like an egg, but she absorbed its lessons for so long that I don’t think she even perceives this as an opportunity. I’m convinced that she’s as much a creature of this system as McConnell or Trump or that sad bastard Mitt Romney.

      1. “The Founders would be reaching for their guns. That’s a fair understanding of how everyone viewed the role of Congressmen in our great age of clientelism, from about the Civil War until the 60’s, but it was never good.”

        You’re one of the few people who could lead with “The Founders (Praise Be Unto Them) intended…” and I would believe you have some context, so an explanation of how they intended budgets to be appropriated would be nice.

        For me it makes sense as roughly currently practiced. The whole Congress sets the budget, the House appropriated the budget by district because they are (roughly, inefficiently) proportioned by population and represent far more localized specific needs. Senators meanwhile fight for state and interstate funding. What’s not intended there?

        And yeah, I know the “would rather government die” conservatives of Texas and such, but, as you pointed out, those concentration camps are funded by the government. Their funding can be cut.

  10. EJ

    Reading this, I’m reminded of the fall of the Soviet Union, and in particular the riots and protests of the early Gorbachev era, before perestroika properly arrived. The corrupt old guard suddenly had to deal with an upswelling of idealists, and the resulting conflict led not to the defeat of either faction but to the weakening and collapse of the entire society.

    The poets say that that old age and treachery can always defeat youth and fire. Let’s see.

      1. I keep thinking that Americans across this nation should be rioting in the streets in reaction to this president and the complicity of the republicans in Congress.

        As regards Speaker Pelosi, as politically flawed as she is, or Chuck Schumer, My disgust with the republicans is far greater. They are absolute hypocrites and derelict in upholding their responsibilities to their oaths and to the Democracy they are elected to respect. Let’s not divert attention from the fact thst in another time, republicans joined with democrats to pursue impeachment against a sitting president. There have been so many shocking revelations during this president’s tenure that one wonders if justice will ever be achieved. Will the Ukraine debacle be the straw that breaks the camels back?

        The whistle blowers revelation was filed August 12. It has taken almost six weeks for word to leak because the whistle blower
        Law wasn’t allowed to work. Unless this individual has an actual recording of the trump telephone conversation, what assurance can anyone have that whatever trump releases will be true and un-redacted?
        So, as disappointing as i am with the pitiful manner in which Pelosi et al have managed this situation, let’s keep our focus on the cretin in the White House and those in his party and his administration who have obstructed any effort from
        Democrats to lawfully investigate alleged criminal acts by this president.

      2. My one comment is that the present situation bears no similarity to Chicago in 1968. That was the first presidential election in which I could vote. At that time I was a recent Vietnam veteran and was a sophomore at the Univ of Washington in Electrical Engineering. Believe me the intensity at that time was much higher than anything at present. Even so the intensity continued to build until it peaked following the Kent State Massacre in 1970. The nation was as close to anarchy and rebellion than many realize. Afterwards as more troops were withdrawn from Vietnam things began to calm down. But Nixon did get the message.

        The political milieu at that time was a lot different from now. There is no comparison.

  11. Thanks Chris for this more detailed explanation. I’m very curious to see what happens next. Pelosi just announced she is ready for an impeachment “inquiry” … I guess that will calm the requests for a while without going full impeachment. But I don’t think she will be able to resist it before 2020, because at some point she will have to worry about getting primaried by progressive gentrified San Francisco voters who won’t put up with this anymore.

    A little off topic:
    I’m trying to figure out what to make of George Conway. At first I thought it was some publicity stunt, but following his twitter for the past 3 months, he really appears to go for Trump’s demise. What’s in it for him? I have a hard time believing it is just some “duty for the country”. If that were the case I feel like he would have divorced his wife by now. Or are the Conway’s just hedging their bets? (50 % pro trump – 50 % never trump)

    1. I’ve heard speculation that KellyAnne is the leaker. It would explain much.

      As for the inquiry, you have to have one and do it right if you’re going to make a serious impeachment case (and you should be in it to win it if you take that step). I’m too young to have clear memories of Watergate, but the history I’ve been reading tells me that public support for impeaching Nixon was initially low, but as the hearings produced solid evidence, the tide turned. Sadly the tipping point was easier back then, as there were GOPers willing to put country over party. This batch is truly between a rock and a hard place. No sympathy, but they’re likely harder to flip.

      I don’t doubt that Nancy Pelosi would rather have not done this, but the truly smart politicos know when to cut bait. Trump’s insistence on pushing the boundaries may have finally overshadowed his usefulness.

  12. Some of the flippable House districts the Dems ate targeting may not play along with the old system. I’m thinking in particular of my district TX-22. It’s one of the most diverse places in the country with a lot of highly educated voters. The current GOP Rep (Olson) has seen the writing on the wall and is gittin’ while the gittin’s good. There will be quite the battle for the seat. While there are multiple Dems in the race, Sri Kulkarni is the strongest and most likely the nominee. There are 6 Rs in the running. One of them is a most obnoxious Trump suckup, Kathaleen Wall. She tried for TX-2 in 2018, and her horrid ads ruined my Winter Olympics viewing. I confess to much schadenfreude when she failed to make the runoff after burning $1 mil of her own $. But I’m also perversely curious to see if she’s dumb enough to try the same approach in TX-22.

    I’ve had several conversations with Sri, and I can tell you that he’s very intelligent and very decent. I hope that if he gets into Congress he will be an independent thinker and not get sucked into that patronage system. I know that plenty of people have started out with great promise, even done good things, but fallen to temptation, but what can you do other than keep putting promising new blood into the system?

    1. Same here in the Chicago suburbs. And WX has mentioned in previous comments the changing tide in Chicago. More affluent voters are mostly unaware of the old machine and have nothing to gain from it. But those voters, and their reps, are new to this system. All the senior figures come from the old school where the machine still rules.

      Who’s going to win this fight? I can promise you this – it won’t be the side who have their heads up their asses, believing in fairy tales.

      1. Chris,

        I definitely think AOC, Ilhan Omar, et al are the Democrats believing in fairy tales. Not because they’re reformers, but because they — like the Tea Party folks — only have to worry about being primaried. After that, they’re in such safe seats they barely have to campaign for the November elections.

        Now, the new crop of largely suburban Democrats who flipped once-solidly-red districts are the ones who have no such luxuries. They know they have to perform for the voters who took a chance on them, or else they’ll be one-term wonders. As you’ve pointed out, these new voters for the Democrats are largely affluent and disconnected from the old Democratic machines.

        I don’t think these new Democratic Representatives were at all interested in impeachment, not because they weren’t interested in justice, but rather because their voters were not interested. But many of them, like Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill in NJ, have national security backgrounds and take the President leaning on foreign leaders to get dirt on domestic political opponents very seriously.

        Do you think these new suburban Democrats will be interested in going after the corruption not only of Trump & McConnell but also of Pelosi and Crowley? That’s the question to which I don’t have an answer, upon which so much else will depend!

    2. I feel like many of the women actively working for the Dems now — and there are LOTS of women — are in some ways like nuns in training.

      They’re learning from the Dems and using their structures where they can. But they don’t seem to give a fudge about things that matter to the old-timers.

      Last weekend I was at a big, contentious Dem meeting. The issue causing the unrest didn’t matter to me because I couldn’t see how either side of the issue would help me get out the vote in my precinct.

      (I think I rolled my eyes.)

      Other new chairs, like me, shrugged at one another. But significant resources will be spent on the winning side. Maybe this is a small example of what Chris is talking about.

      Nuns, however, should never be underestimated. They’ve worked in the straight and narrow for a long time and don’t see why others can’t do that, too.

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