Monday, November 7, 2022

Election Eve

So here we are, helplessly watching MSNBC and clutching the arms of the chair, and feeling a compulsion to type in what the great anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski called a "diary in the strict sense of the term"—

I wish people had realized, back in mid-2021, that 40 years without significant inflation didn't mean it was gone forever, and just maybe sent out some warning that it could happen, not necessarily that it would, and if it did it would probably take some time to beat it back and it wasn't going to be fun. The whole conversation got politicized so quickly in the antics of the Republicans and Joe Manchin trying to stop the Build Back Better plan. It would have been useful if Team Transitory had just said something like, "It's true, some of this stuff might put some upward pressure on prices, and if it does we'll have to deal with that if it does—but worrying about it is no reason not to do the stuff we need to do now, to keep people alive..." To have some kind of preparation, and regular reports from Biden and Yellen, to clarify that Democrats and the Federal Reserve were in fact getting ready for it, just in case, being responsible even though they weren't expecting it, because if it did happen it wasn't going to be easy.

Because Team Transitory may have been right in principle, as I still think they were, but they weren't reckoning with the forces of stupidity and chaos as represented in the person of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, throwing energy markets into turmoil with his mad imperial project in Ukraine, and turning the worldwide issues of wild post-COVID consumer demand in confrontation with broken supply chains into a full-blown worldwide inflation crisis. Oh, and Treasury and the Fed really were prepared, though I think it would have been better if they'd started raising interest rates earlier and at a slower pace. They just really should have been bragging about it, in advance.

I also wish Democratic candidates. particularly House candidates, and more particularly incumbent House candidates, and still more particularly incumbent House candidates branding themselves as "moderate" oe "centrist", had not been so scared of being associated with the unpopular Joe Biden (and the possibly even more unpopular Speaker Nancy Pelosi) as to minimize their own accomplishments in one of the most productive congressional majorities in history going back to 2019 but especially in their response to the COVID emergency, where too many of us progressives have been focused on all the wonderful things they failed to do, thanks to Senators Manchin and Sinema and the filibuster rule.

But it's an extraordinary record all the same, and "centrists" seem to prefer not to talk about it at all, and I don't think it's doing them any good. 

Tim Ryan running for senator in Ohio emphasizing his conflicts with Pelosi (in contrast to James D. Vance's "ass kissing" of Donald Trump, where he can accurately cite Trump as an authority) may know what he's doing, but House members Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria in Virginia, the one emphasizing her "moderateness" with respect to civil rights and the other her work on holding Donald Trump accountable from her perch on the January 6 committee (which has been great, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that), or Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and his obsessive focus on the SALT tax exemption are missing something essential. Progressives like Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, aren't having any trouble in their constituencies, but Spanberger and Luria and Gottheimer are in very tight situations, while New Jersey's Tom Malinowski (a favorite of mine not just because he shares the name of a great anthropologist, and maybe less a "moderate" than a person generally focused more than is normal on foreign relations), regarded by pundits as the most endangered of all (because of the brutal 2021 redrawing of his district), is going door to door telling voters what Democrats have been doing over the past four years, and is looking pretty good at this point.

All that said, I am getting more and more sanguine, not just because the party's greatest campaigner, President Barack Obama, agrees with me on that last point—the message that the Biden administration has really done an extraordinary amount of work with the help of a mostly Democratic Congress—and has been pressing it all around the country. The extraordinary early voting numbers I was calling attention to the other day have gotten bigger, and especially big in states where there is a key Senate contest and abortion rights are literally on the ballot in the form of a referendum initiative: Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, North Carolina, Florida all have abortion on the ballot, and all have a really enormous amount of early and absentee votes.

That's important too. Not so many people cite abortion rights as the number one issue as did in the summer immediately after the Dobbs decision, but it remains important, especially to women, and women turn out at higher rates than men. Which is where you start to see possibilities of upsets in the House races as well.


Something is really going on that the most important media from the viewpoint of the pundits (Axios and The New York Times) are missing. I'm not saying Democrats are going to hold the House (I've already stated my view that taking the House under the lame-ass leadership of the pride of Bakersfield, Rep. Kevin McCarrthy, is maybe the worst thing that could happen to the Republican Party), but I'm really convinced whatever happens tomorrow, however weird it may be, will not be anything like a Red Wave.

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