Not that I want CT to go all-US-elections, all the time. But one more post.
I think Dems are resting a bit too easy on ‘the Republicans really screwed it up for themselves this time.’ (A lot of Dems are not resting easy at all, but some are being a bit smug and complacent about Republican problems and disarray.) In the modern era, every Presidential contest should be a 51-49 nailbiter – even a hanging-chad-biter – by rights. I would say this one is shaping up more 65-35, to the Dem’s advantage. (I’m talking about odds of winning, overall, not predicting vote percentages.) But that still gives the Reps a 1/3 chance of shooting the moon: controlling Congress, the White House and the Supreme Court. So ‘Republicans screwed the pooch’ and ‘Dems staring down barrel of defeat and devastation’ are both true, and should be held true together. Which is why the President should do what he can to confirm anyone – even a moderate conservative – to the Scalia seat in the next year, as insurance against dire, downside risk. In this thread someone suggested Obama should nominate Richard Posner and I realized, to my own mild surprise, that I would be quite happy with that result, all things weighed and balanced and considered. I’ll take a Posner in the hand over the threat of another Scalia on the bench. I’m a moderate squish.
The reason is basically this: there isn’t anything I think we might get otherwise, which a Reaganite like Posner would squash. But I do think there are ultra-right radical results we might get, which a Reaganite like Posner would squash. The Supreme Court isn’t going to be a site of left-wing judicial activism, but it might be a site of right-wing judicial activism. So shutting down the latter, at the cost of foreclosing the former, is optimal. Erecting a Reaganite firewall against Ted Cruz is a sound Dem strategy.
But, lest you accuse me of being a moderate squish, another thought. I don’t think Hillary is more electable than Bernie. I think Bernie is more electable than Hillary. Therefore, squishes like me, freaking out about that 35% chance that the Republicans will run the table, should support Bernie on sheer safety grounds if nothing else. Being a pragmatic trimmer does not mean being most electable. There’s a reason the Whigs haven’t been doing so well in elections for some time. ‘Millard Fillmore’ is not a name to conjure with. (I also like Bernie better on substance, by the by, but if I bought Hillary’s argument that she is more electable, I would support her for that.)
There is polling data that supports this, but, being a philosopher, I’ll do it fake a priori style.
The Republican nominee is most likely to be Trump, and overwhelmingly likely to be Trump or Cruz. The establishment lane is just a pile of burning wrecks.
It seems crazy that Trump could win in the general but, then again, no one has gotten rich betting against him so far.
Suppose the rules have changed. How might they have, such that Trump is a threat not just to the GOP establishment but to Dems in the general? Answer: conservatives and establishment GOP-types all hold their noses and pull the lever for him, because negative partisanship means they fear any Democrat worse. Trump does badly among minorities but maybe no worse than Romney. (Hey, when it comes to numbers that awful, the GOP might just start humming Kris Krisofferson: “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” And a lot of people apparently were huge “Apprentice” fans. Go figure.) And – this is the key – Trump blows a victory-sized hole in Democratic white working class support. Basically, Sean Trende turns out to have been right, after all, even though it sounded far-fetched back in 2013. That is, the strange phenomenon we’ve seen in the GOP primary – actual economic class divisions emerging – just continues right on into the general. It turns out: there’s nothing the matter with Kansas anymore. Ergo, Trump.
I still don’t think this is likely but I think it the likeliest unlikely scenario on which Trump beats whomever the Dems put up. IF there’s any way for Trump to win it – huuuuuuge IF – this is it. To put it another way, this is the only scenario likely and foreseeable enough that Dems can preemptively do anything practical to forestall it. And the way to do that would be to nominate Bernie, not Hillary. If anyone can counter Trump’s claim to be the authentic, unbought friend of the ordinary working stiff, it’s Bernie, not Hillary.
There are tons of other reasons why Republicans could win. Maybe it will be Rubio, crazily enough (post-Rubiobot meltdown. Two months ago, I was sure it would be Rubio.) Or some weird Katrina-grade event. A Scandal. A really, really bad economic collapse at the worst possible time for Dems. Collectively, all that is more likely than Sean Trende being ultimately vindicated, via Trump. But there is really nothing to be done about the black swans we can’t see. The one thing Dems can do anything about is preemptively shore up their working class flank – their white male working class flank, to be very specific – against the outside but distinct possibility that Trump is about to burn a hole in it. Who is more likely to hold onto the Dems’ existing stock of white male working class votes, Bernie or Hillary? Bernie.
Does Bernie have some debilitating downside, that offsets this anti-Trump vaccine quality? Not that I see. If it turns out that he does awfully with minorities – African-Americans – and Hillary does great, maybe what I just said is wrong. Because maybe then African-American turnout would be perilously depressed in the general. We’ll know better after South Carolina. What else? He ain’t gonna get donations from Wall Street. But he seems to be doing ok with the small donors.
Things I’m genuinely confused about.
What if Bloomberg got into a Trump/Sanders race? He’d be a spoiler, but which way? I confess I have no idea.
Why doesn’t Cruz do worse in polls concerning hypothetical match-ups? He seems like the worst candidate for the Reps. He seems like he was cooked up in a lab to demonstrate their Demographic disadvantages at the present time. His whole strategy seems to be to drive up enthusiasm, hence votes, among conservative groups already voting in such high numbers that it’s hard to see them going much highly, while accomplishing no outreach. But, honestly, he is basically tied with both Hillary and Bernie in hypothetical match-ups. And he’s not an idiot. He knows what he’s doing, so I can’t see him adopting an obviously hopeless strategy. I don’t understand it.
Anyway, Posner for Supreme Court, Bernie for Prez.
UPDATE: It came up immediately in comments, and I should have mentioned it. Yes, Posner is 77. But I think he’d take the job. And his age is actually a plus, insofar as it lowers the stakes. We aren’t talking about locking this seat up for decades.