In a memo that was helpfully leaked to Politico, a super PAC supporting Lamb argues that because “primary voters don’t yet see Fetterman as the liberal he is,” Lamb’s candidacy is in danger unless something changes. Future Republican attacks on Fetterman are tested, and does “defund the police” (something Fetterman doesn’t support) make an appearance? You bet it does.
The super PAC’s analysis is simple: Lamb is more centrist than Fetterman; Fetterman is winning because people don’t understand that; eventually they will, even if it doesn’t happen until the general election; so primary voters have to be persuaded to get with the program now and back the centrist in the race.
The trouble is that while the Pennsylvania Senate primary might involve ideology, it isn’t just about ideology. With all due respect to Conor Lamb, he’s pretty indistinguishable from a thousand congressional candidates who have come before: clean-cut, solid résumé, just the kind of person you picture when you think “congressman.”
Fetterman, on the other hand, stands out, from his imposing stature (6-foot-8) to his tattoos to his sartorial choices (he’s one of those shorts-in-the-winter guys) to his unashamed advocacy of issues such as marijuana legalization. Might his liberalism be a vulnerability in a closely divided state? It’s possible, but it’s also possible that his long record of concern for people in distressed areas of the state will help him win votes in places many Democrats don’t. Some people love Fetterman because of who he is, and some people don’t.
In other words, it’s complicated.
Now let’s consider another Democratic member of Congress arguing for the supposed magical electoral potency of centrism, Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Florida. Murphy recently announced that she won’t be running for reelection; while Florida’s redistricting process is still underway, there’s a good chance her district is going to be redrawn to be much more Republican, which would have made it difficult for her to win.
In a recent interview, Murphy offered what has become a familiar lament from centrists: that more liberal members were making her life difficult and endangering the party more generally. She takes the tactical disagreement over whether it was better to join the infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better bill together, and turns it into evidence of the extremism of the left.
That’s despite the fact that you could argue that Murphy got her way in that controversy, and the more progressive members were proved right. The bills were severed, and just as progressives warned, once the infrastructure bill was passed, centrists (in particular Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia) turned around and killed the BBB.
And there’s no evidence that the passage of the infrastructure bill has boosted Democrats’ electoral prospects.
Murphy talks about the importance of letting members “vote their district,” which no one disagrees with — except for the fact that in her case, there was no reason to believe that Murphy’s constituents opposed the BBB. (Poll after poll showed widespread support for the key elements of the bill.)
Might Republicans have found a way to turn Murphy’s district against it? Maybe. But that has to be weighed against the consequences of failure, which includes a party base dispirited by Democrats’ failure to pass the bill that embodied most of their domestic agenda. In other words: It’s complicated.
Furthermore, it isn’t as though Murphy discovered some foolproof formula for electoral success, and this gets to something deeper about how congressional politics have changed in recent years.
In 2020, Murphy won her race by 12 points, while Joe Biden won her district by 10 points. That narrow difference could be explained by dozens of factors. And congressional results and presidential results have been converging over time. Incumbency isn’t the advantage it used to be, and moderation often doesn’t matter because voters are so focused on the national picture. Which isn’t at all irrational: If you’re a Republican yet you kind of like your Democratic congresswoman, it still makes sense to vote against her if it increases the chances that your party will take back the House.
Obviously, the closer races are and the more attention they get, the more small things can make a difference. But even if it were true that all else being equal, having a reputation as a moderate might help, all else is never equal.
And “moderate” isn’t just a button you can push, after which everyone in your district or state will have a perfect understanding of who you are and how you’re situated in relation to their own beliefs.
Murphy clearly believed that severing the BBB from the infrastructure bill — which led to the BBB’s demise — was a way to push that magical button, but if doing so contributed to a sense among her constituents that Democrats can’t get things done to improve their lives, it would almost certainly have cost her more votes than it won her.
Meanwhile, Lamb has discovered that reminding everyone he’s a moderate is taking him only so far. The argument between centrists and liberals might never be resolved, but don’t believe anyone who tells you the answer is as simple as these moderates believe.
Parliamentarians kick off return to House of Commons with debate on child care
The economy was top of mind for members of Parliament as they returned to the House of Commons Monday, with the Liberal government kicking off the new sitting with a debate on child care.
Families Minister Karina Gould tabled Bill C-35 last December, which seeks to enshrine the Liberals’ national daycare plan into law — and commit Ottawa to maintaining long-term funding.
The federal government has inked deals with provinces and territories in an effort to cut fees down to an average of $10 per day by 2026.
During a debate today, Gould said all parties should support the bill, and the national plan has begun saving families money.
But Conservative MP Michelle Ferreri said the plan is “subsidizing the wealthy” while failing to reduce wait times for child-care spaces and address labour shortages in the sector.
Ferreri told MPs that the Conservatives would be presenting “strong amendments” to the legislation.
The debate comes amid concerns about a possible recession this year, with both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre saying their focus will be on the cost of living.
But Poilievre’s Tories may have little room to manoeuvre in the legislature.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh told reporters upon his return to the House of Commons that he does not believe there is any room to work with the Conservatives during the upcoming sitting.
Instead, the NDP says it plans to push the Liberals to fulfil the terms of the parties’ confidence-and-supply agreement, such as the planned expansion of federal dental care.
Under the deal signed last March, the NDP agreed to support the minority government on key House of Commons votes in exchange for the Liberals moving ahead on New Democrat policy priorities.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2023.
Premier Heather Stefanson announces new cabinet Monday
Manitoba’s premier is set to shuffle cabinet after her finance minister said Friday that he’s stepping down, following a list of Progressive Conservative caucus members who have announced their intentions to leave provincial politics.
Heather Stefanson will unveil her new cabinet at a swearing-in at 11 a.m. Monday at the legislative building in Winnipeg.
CBC Manitoba is livestreaming the news conference here, on Facebook and on CBC Gem.
Finance Minister Cameron Friesen announced Friday that he is stepping down to run for a seat in the House of Commons.
Friesen’s decision was the latest in a series of recent similar announcements.
Four other cabinet ministers — deputy premier Cliff Cullen, Municipal Relations Minister Eileen Clarke, Government Services Minister Reg Helwer and Alan Lagimodiere, minister of Indigenous reconciliation and northern relations — have said they will serve out their terms but not run again.
Roughly one-third of the 36 Tory caucus members elected in 2019 have either quit in the last two years or have said they will not run again in the provincial election scheduled for Oct. 3.
A number of those announcements came earlier this month.
The governing Tories have been trailing the Opposition New Democrats in opinion polls for two years, especially in Winnipeg, where most legislature seats are.
Biden Classified Documents Discovery Has Flummoxed the Political Press – Esquire
You have to hand it to our elite political press corps, as long as “it” is a scorpion or a nice ball of buffalo dung. When they get together to prove that they’re above partisan politics and the petty concerns of democracy, they do a great job of it, while simultaneously making a dog’s breakfast of the really important stuff. From NBC News:
An equal number of Americans — 67% — say they are as concerned about classified documents found at President Joe Biden’s residence and former office as they are about those found at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, despite clear differences in how the two men responded to these discoveries[…]The poll finds an American public that’s equally concerned about the discovery of classified documents found at Biden’s and Trump’s homes, even though the current president and ex-president handled their situations in different ways. (Biden and his lawyers have argued that they turned over these classified documents — from his time as Barack Obama’s vice president — as soon as they were discovered and have cooperated with investigators, while Trump failed turn over all requested documents and has lashed out at investigators.)
The gates to Wonderland open wide about halfway through that passage, which taken as a whole is a perfect roadmap for a profession that seems completely adrift. For example, the dependent clause “even though the current president and ex-president handled their situations in different ways” is a kind of crossroads. The story can go two ways: The correct one is to explore why this important difference has come to naught in the public mind; the one that leads over a cliff—the one taken by NBC—is to cite the data and then throw up its hands, as though this statistical result is the enigmatic pronouncement of some ancient oracle. This leads us down the hellbound trail to…
…Biden and his lawyers have argued that they turned over these classified documents — from his time as Barack Obama’s vice president — as soon as they were discovered and have cooperated with investigators, while Trump failed turn over all requested documents and has lashed out at investigators….
It seems almost quaint to point this out, but the circumstances under review do not have their basis in anything Biden’s lawyers “have argued.” They derive from the fact that they are the circumstances that actually happened. Nothing recently has demonstrated the complete inadequacy of journalistic norms and customs to deal with the global threat of the former president* as clearly as the alchemical formula that turns undisputed facts into something that lawyers “have argued.” Democracy dies in nuance, as this NBC poll clearly indicates but dares not say outright.
And how did we get here? Luckily, Peter Baker of The New York Times inadvertently provided a precise diagnosis the other day:
The cases are markedly different in their particulars, as has been noted repeatedly. Mr. Biden has cooperated with the authorities, inviting them to search his home, while Mr. Trump defied efforts to recover documents even after being subpoenaed, prompting a judge to issue a search warrant. But they are similar enough that as a practical matter Democrats can no longer use the issue against Mr. Trump politically, and investigators may have a harder time prosecuting him criminally.
Baker’s assertion about prosecutions is beneath idiotic. Trump would be prosecuted—assuming he ever is—because he actively conspired to keep from doing everything that the Biden people did, as Baker explains prior to running his argument over his own feet.
Then along comes David Axelrod at 10,000 feet to finish the job.
“I feel it’s likely that when the probe is done, the Biden case will wind up being one of unintended mistakes — carelessness but not willful defiance of the rules or law,” said David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama. “The Trump case is much different and more serious. But in the court of public opinion, those lines may now be blurred.”
Lines are blurred. Clouds are gathering. Doubts are raised. And American democracy blunders blindly further off down the road to dangerous irrelevance.
Charles P Pierce is the author of four books, most recently Idiot America, and has been a working journalist since 1976. He lives near Boston and has three children.
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