Friday, January 21, 2022

Stupid analogies department


Sorry, this is kind of childish.

What on earth is going on at The Times? Their attitude toward the Biden presidency is getting downright venomous, as in this latest "Political Memo" by the Times's Nate Silver ersatz, Nate Cohn:

Biden as a New F.D.R.? Try L.B.J.

The president’s agenda — big progressive change — has placed Democratic priorities over the voters’ desire for practical help on the pandemic and inflation.

Venomous and dumb! It's peculiar enough to start with this dichotomy between Johnson as (bad) "progressive" grinding his ideological axe in the people's faces vs. Roosevelt as (good) "centrist" just doing the practical stuff people wanted, as if Roosevelt had done all his planning on the basis of those stupid "most important issue" polls instead of gathering his Brain Trust during the campaign from the most systematically leftist thinking going on at the time outside the actual socialist parties, to design a huge and transformative program of social insurance, regulation of banking and securities industries, and strictly socialist public works programs, based on stringent structural analysis of the economy and ideas for remodeling it through central government planning. Has Cohn ever read a book about the New Deal?

It’s not so much Mr. Roosevelt’s New Deal as Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society. One launched an era of Democratic dominance; the other brought that era to its end.

Analogously to the Biden administration how, exactly? Joe is bringing an era of Democratic dominance to an end? Which era would that be? The one begun by Prime Minister Pelosi in 2018? Are the eras really getting shorter or am I just getting older?

And was it really Johnson's dogmatic leftism that doomed his administration? Hardly. The Great Society programs—Medicare and Medicaid, the Economic Opportunity Act, and the founding of the Housing and Urban Development department were popular with the public and passed on a bipartisan basis, and so were the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts (outside the white vote in the segregated South, representing a much smaller minority than the overall conservative minority of today). It was in his first year as president, following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and after introducing his civil rights and Great Society legislation and passing quite a bit of it, that Johnson won a landslide victory in his own presidential election.

The most unpopular aspect of the Johnson administration was its least progressive aspect, the Vietnam War, thrust on him by the rigid Cold War orientation of the Kennedy security team, who confused the USSR and China in the same way the Bush administrations confused Shi'ite and Sunni, and operated similar kinds of deceit, which grew not so much because Johnson was inclined that way as because he lacked confidence in his own grasp of foreign and security policy and trusted Kennedy's "best and brightest" more than he should have done. Nixon didn't win the 1968 election by offering to "repeal and replace" Medicare or rousing the population against voting rights for Black people—he had no quarrel with either of them. He won it with his "secret plan" to end the war and his treasonous backdoor dealing to prolong it.

Looking at Roosevelt's first year, it has a lot more in common with Biden's than you might immediately think. Like Roosevelt, Biden ran for office at a time of devastating economic crisis and developed an elaborate program in association with a kind of brain trust of his own experts, representing a wide range of views and a wide range of subject matters, from Andy Slavitt and Anthony Fauci to Jared Bernstein and Gabriel Zucman, ready to hit the ground running in his first hundred days, as he did, with the welter of executive orders and the American Rescue Plan in early March. And let's mention that these measures have worked to recover the economy, though they haven't stopped the virus from mutating (I'm of the opinion that there is some blame to spread, to the NIH and CDC, that is Fauci and Walensky, for making the focus on vaccine so exclusive that they completely forgot about rapid testing for so many crucial months). They've worked so well that Americans can't stop buying things, creating little shortage crises and driving up prices on all that good stuff (a problem I'm certain the Federal Reserve has well in hand—by this fall there'll be more danger of recession than inflation, and I think the Fed measures are mild enough to avoid that).

The big difference, which is also the key difference between Biden and the first year of the Johnson administration, isn't in the White House at all, but on Capitol Hill, where the consequence of Nixon's Southern strategy, having southernized the Republican Party to the point where virtually all the old-style liberals have been purged, and Mitch McConnell's obstructive genius, have turned Congress, especially the Senate, into a helplessly clogged drainage ditch. Roosevelt and Johnson both had huge Democratic majorities in their first years, as well as many reasonably liberal Republicans to reinforce them against the balking of Southern Democrats. Biden has no wiggle room whatever, as we saw this week when his voting rights proposal died under the stupidity of those two obstreperous senators.

That was actually a bit of progress, by the way, as Sarah Binder points out in the Washington Post today: There were no possible maneuvers by which Schumer could have gotten the voting rights package passed, but the ones he chose did make the filibuster more likely to get killed next time.

First, most moderate Democrats, even those who had previously opposed filibuster reform, voted for this week’s proposed exception — including Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.). That’s likely because of the rise in what political scientist Steven Smith calls the “new radical Republicanism,” fostered by GOP leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Support for filibuster reform is likely to grow as the minority increasingly uses the filibuster to deadlock the Senate, rather than to build bipartisan compromise.
Second, each time a majority “goes nuclear,” as eliminating the filibuster by majority vote is known in D.C., it’s a little less politically costly for the next majority to follow suit. Since the Senate first created the cloture rule in 1917, when the Senate changes its rules, it has almost always been in the direction of reducing the procedural power of the minority and expanding majority parties’ power to pursue their agendas.

As a friend of ours remarked,

That's where we are right now, in January, and moving on to the advertised next phase, where Biden puts together a somewhat "popularist" reconciliation package that Manchin and Sinema will sign on to (along with some smaller bills that they won't), and which will put swing voters in the kind of better mood they were in in 1934 and 1964.

And pay no attention to the snorting from The Times, because they don't know what they're talking about. I can't promise you this strategy will win, but it's the only one that has a chance, and the chance is actually looking better after Monday's lost battle.

Also, I should have mentioned this:

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