Much of our media still treat the GOP as the “party of ideas.” Even if they have none. (More)

“They have no message, no plan, no leaders”

That’s not some wingnut raging against Democrats as “the party of no ideas” in his local paper. Instead, it’s left-wing darling Michael Moore:

Never mind that Hillary Clinton ran on the most progressive platform in Democratic Party history. It didn’t matter. After she gave a speech on her plan to make college more affordable, reporters wanted to know just one thing: what did she think about the God-King insulting Megyn Kelly?

Small wonder, then, that last month’s Washington Post/ABC poll found that 52% of American voters, including 55% of independents, think “The Democratic Party just stands against Trump.”

“Innovative conservative policy ideas on every front: health care, taxes, unemployment, social policy, you name it”

Meanwhile, Republicans remained or, at worst, was “becoming again the party of ideas”:

For years, a bunch of right-of-center reformers – including yours truly, but most prominently Yuval Levin, Reihan Salam, Ross Douthat, Ramesh Ponnuru, and others – have been promoting innovative conservative policy ideas on every front: health care, taxes, unemployment, social policy, you name it.
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[Senator Marco] Rubio in particular is fascinating. He is a political animal, not a policy wonk, and has been licking his wounds after his immigration push. Rubio has clearly concluded that in today’s GOP, the way to gain political advantage and position himself for the presidential primaries is to propose new, serious, innovative policy ideas.

That sure worked out well for him. He dropped out of the race in mid-March with just 169 delegates, after winning only one county in the Florida GOP primary. Yeah, his home state.

“It’s his only real position … He is obsessed with Obama”

The winner was, of course, this guy:

In interviews with BuzzFeed News, six top European government officials who’ve had firsthand dealings on the international stage with Trump and his administration describe a president regarded even by allies as erratic and limited, and whose perceived shortcomings are compounded by the ongoing chaos beneath him in the White House.
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On one level, the officials said, he is something of a laughing stock among Europeans at international gatherings. One revealed that a small group of diplomats play a version of word bingo whenever the president speaks because they consider his vocabulary to be so limited. “Everything is ‘great’, ‘very, very great’, ‘amazing’,” the diplomat said.

But behind the mocking, there is growing fear among international governments that Trump is a serious threat to international peace and stability.

“He has no historical view. He is only dealing with these issues now, and seems to think the world started when he took office,” a diplomat told BuzzFeed News, pointing to Trump’s remarks and tweets about defence spending. “He thinks that NATO existed only to keep the communists out of Europe. He has a similar attitude in Asia-Pacific with Japan, ignoring that the US basically wrote their constitution.” During his presidential campaign, Trump called out Japan to pay more for the security US provides, including for hosting the US troops in the country. Japan’s constitution restricts its military options.

They also believe Trump’s foreign policy is chiefly driven by an obsession with unravelling Barack Obama’s policies. “It’s his only real position,” one European diplomat said. “He will ask: ‘Did Obama approve this?’ And if the answer is affirmative, he will say: ‘We don’t.’ He won’t even want to listen to the arguments or have a debate. He is obsessed with Obama.”

Former right-wing talk show host Charlie Sykes wrote much the same for the New York Times:

In a lamentably overlooked monologue this month, Mr. Limbaugh embraced the new reality in which conservative ideas and principles had been displaced by anti-liberalism. For years, Mr. Limbaugh ran what he called the “Institute for Advanced Conservative Studies.” But in the Trump era, he told his audience, he has changed that to the “Institute for Advanced Anti-Leftist Studies.”

With Mr. Trump in the White House, conservative principles were no longer the point. “How many times during the campaign did I warn everybody Trump is not a conservative? Multiple times a day,” Mr. Limbaugh said. “How many times have I told you: ‘Do not expect Trump to be a conservative? He isn’t one.’”

He went on to emphasize that the campaign was not about conservatism, because that’s not what Mr. Trump is about.
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Mr. Trump’s most vocal supporters don’t have to defend his specific actions as long as they make liberal heads explode, or as Sarah Palin put it so memorably, “It’s really funny to me to see the splodey heads keep sploding.” If liberals hate something, the argument goes, then it must be wonderful and worthy of aggressive defense. Each controversy reinforces the divisions and the distrust, and Mr. Trump counts on that.

For many in the conservative movement, this sort of anti-anti-Trumpism is the solution to the painful conundrum posed by the Trump presidency. With a vast majority of conservative voters and listeners solidly behind Mr. Trump, conservative critics of the president find themselves isolated and under siege. But, as Damon Linker noted, anti-anti-Trumpism “allows the right to indulge its hatred of liberals and liberalism while sidestepping the need for a reckoning with the disaster of the Trump administration itself.”

And it has been a disaster. Job growth is down 20%. Polls show U.S. prestige is plummeting, hardly surprising when the so-called president behaves like a random Twitter troll so often that entire swaths of our government have taken to ignoring him. The National Review’s Alexandra Desantis blamed the God-King for the GOP’s health care debacle, but the plain fact was that – for all their so-called “innovative ideas” – Republicans had seven years to work up a coherent alternative to the ACA and came up with nothing.

Indeed Politico Magazine’s Bruce Bartlett wrote in June that the God-King is the result, not the cause, the GOP’s utter lack of ideas:

For those conservatives who were tempted to embrace a “wait-and-see” approach to Trump, what they’ve seen, time and again, is almost unimaginable.

And yet as surprising as this all has been, it’s also the natural outgrowth of 30 years of Republican pandering to the lowest common denominator in American politics. Trump is what happens when a political party abandons ideas, demonizes intellectuals, degrades politics and simply pursues power for the sake of power.

But his power displays have fallen flat and U.S. News’ John Stoehr writes today the God-King’s supporters are starting to notice:

Finally, after the Republicans failed to repeal and replace Obamacare, and after seven months in which the president has not enacted one major piece of legislation, it has become clear to even his most ardent supporters that the president is not as strong as he makes himself out to be. Indeed, even fellow Republicans are smelling blood. Just 31 percent of Americans, according to CNN, approve of his handling of health care. In other words, it’s becoming clear: the president is weak.
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It’s hard to overstate the challenge of overcoming a negative public image. Basically, leaders don’t recover. Fair or not, Jimmy Carter was seen as weak. Though he did a lot to restore public trust after Watergate, it wasn’t enough. This is especially important to a man like Trump, whose brand is strength. It takes just one thread for a public relations apparatus to unravel.

If and when it does, it unravels quickly. After all, a weak president will do what he can to demonstrate he is not weak. Case in point, the president’s Twitter feed. And the more he attempts to demonstrate he is not weak, the more he deepens the impression that he’s weak.

Oh yeah … ideas….

“This damn civil war between the Sanders and Clinton wings of the party”

Meanwhile, in Iowa:

In the midst of a new national debate on transgender soldiers serving in the military, voters in Southeast Iowa were seeing their TVs inundated with campaign ads about transgender bathrooms. Their target was Phil Miller, the Democratic candidate in the House District 82 special election, who had voted on the school board to keep in place a policy on transgender students using the bathroom of their gender identity. But the local issue took on a national feel following President Donald Trump’s tweets indicating that he would enact a ban on transgender soldiers serving in the military.
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But it didn’t work. At all. And the strategy may have actually severely backfired given Miller’s convincing victory that outpaced even Barack Obama’s levels of support in the district.

Miller defeated Republican Travis Harris last night by ten points, 54% to 44%, far better than Democrats’ most optimistic hopes. That’s a swing in favor of Democrats of 32 points, given that Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the district by 22 points. And it’s even an improvement over Obama’s 2-point margin of victory over Mitt Romney in the district in 2012.

Daily Kos’ Carolyn Fiddler notes that this is a trend, not an exception:

Both the Democratic win in Iowa and the over-performances in Missouri provide additional data points supporting the irrefutable trend of Democratic success in special elections held since Trump’s election. Democrats have not only wrested four seats from Republicans, but they’ve also outperformed Democratic presidential numbers from just last fall in 24 out of 31 contested congressional and state legislative elections. Tuesday’s results bring Democrats’ improved performance average to 13 percent – sure to be an unlucky number for Republicans if they can’t improve their electoral fortunes this cycle.

Even so, No More Mister Nice Blog’s Steve M. is uneasy:

Because while Democrats have a golden opportunity to make big gains in upcoming elections, at a time when much of the public is recoiling from the Trump presidency and the GOP Congress’s heartless agenda, I’m starting to believe that the closer the office is to the top of the food chain, the less likely it is that Democrats will win it the next time around. State legislative seats? I think Democrats can win a lot of those. Congressional races? I have a fair amount of hope, but I’m less confident than I am about the local races.

President? I think that could be the hardest win.

The reason is this damn civil war between the Sanders and Clinton wings of the party.

Maybe so. But there’s another way to see that ongoing debate.

“In order to break the cycle, at some point we need to articulate our own vision and promise of politics”

It is, at its core, a debate about ideas, as The Stranger’s Heidi Gross reports:

Nobody wants to read about socialists.

My boss tells me so the day before I’m scheduled to fly to Chicago to cover the national convention of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), which recently became the largest socialist organization in the United States since the 1940s.

DSA’s membership has swelled to 25,000 since the election of President Donald Trump, more than tripling its ranks in a single year. New members tend to be young, fed up with centrist Democrats, and very good at Twitter. With all this fresh interest and attention, the big challenge facing the group is proving they’re more than a well-branded online phenomenon and turning their growth into real political change. The question for DSA as its members headed into the group’s annual convention: How exactly do they plan to build a new American left where basically everyone else has failed before?
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“When people look at DSA, they should be thinking about the value that it would give to a broader progressive movement to have a strong socialist pole in it,” Bhaskar Sunkara, a DSA member and founder of socialist magazine Jacobin, tells me, “and not thinking about what it could mess up. It’s a pretty reasonable, pragmatic organization.”

The question facing DSA is not who they plan to run for president in 2020 to “spoil” the Democrats – the group “will almost without a doubt not put up an independent candidate,” Sunkara says – but how they use their newfound enthusiasm now. A small socialist organization is better positioned to phone-bank for a city council candidate or knock on doors in support of Medicare for All than do presidential campaign work. And there’s a lot of local work to be done before 2020.

The spoiler question is an oversimplification, just like the assertion that leftists who critique both Republicans and Democrats see “no difference” between the two. It’s possible to believe the Democratic Party has failed to deliver on policies that sufficiently address the failures of capitalism and to still see that Trump is a worse prospect.

“I think the consensus within DSA – I don’t think I’m being provocative to say – is that if you’re in a swing state, of course you vote for the Democrat in the presidential cycle,” Sunkara says. “We’d rather be in opposition under a Democrat than a Republican.”
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“Our project is less about being a short-term electoral spoiler or anything like that. It is to build an alternative pole, alternative opposition, because you can’t beat the right by just allying with the center if the center is alienating people and fueling that right itself,” Sunkara says. “In order to break the cycle, at some point we need to articulate our own vision and promise of politics.”

Yes, when Sunkara and other ‘far left’ voices articulate those visions, ‘mainstream’ Democrats argue about details. And yes, sometimes those arguments shed more heat than light. But the Democratic Party’s vision is growing wider, and that expansion has been at the left side of the spectrum. A case in point: many Democratic leaders are now discussing how a single-payer or similar universal health care system might happen.

Proposing a sweeping vision and then nit-picking the details is exactly what “a party of ideas” should be doing. It won’t be easy, and it won’t always be polite. There’s an old adage that disagreements get most heated when the differences are narrow, and we’ll see that play out.

Because we are “the party of ideas.”

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Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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Good day and good nuts