How Pelosi Won (Again)
She’s good at the job and understood the political context. Her opponents, not so much.
Second, while congressional leadership battles are usually personal and hinge on relationships within the caucus, this time seemed a little different. I suspect (and I’d love to see evidence from experts) that the relationships Pelosi called upon within the national party network were far more extensive than what was available to, say, Tip O’Neill or Sam Rayburn when they were in similar positions. Also, it sure seemed like there was real grass-roots support for Pelosi, possibly organized by the same people who have energized the resistance and who drummed up turnout in the midterms.
Another interesting angle is Pelosi’s public perception. Her first speakership, from 2007 to 2011, was not much celebrated by the news media. But a combination of the big midterm victory and the internal challenge to her leadership produced a kind of Ginsburgization of her, both in the traditional press and on social media. Here O’Neill again offers a useful comparison: Although the news media had generally dismissed him as a fossil by the 1970s, in his final years as speaker he ended up being recast as a kind but wily grandfather.
Ed Kilgore/New York:
Democrats Won Big With a Key Demographic of Trump’s Base During Midterms
Back before the elections, the Cook Political Report’s Amy Walter drew attention to this issue, noting research showing a bigger gap in Trump approval ratings between evangelicals and non-evangelicals than between groups divided by gender or class (defined as education levels). She suggested that fact should point Democrats towards some largely undiscussed opportunities:
White evangelical women without a college degree give Trump a 68 percent job approval rating, while those with a degree give him a much lower, though still positive 51 percent approval rating. Meanwhile, Trump’s approval among white, non-evangelical women without a college degree is 35 percent, just five points higher than the 30 percent approval rating he gets from white, non-evangelical college-educated women …
First, stop assuming that all white, non-college voters are core Trump supporters. Trump’s base is evangelical white voters, regardless of education level. Second, white non-evangelical, non-college women are the ultimate swing voters.
Now with the benefit of exit polls, we can check to see if Walter’s hypothesis checked out. Ron Brownstein demonstrates that it did:
LA Times (my bold):
Trump increasingly isolated as aides leave, friends flip and investigations advance
Several others close to the president, granted anonymity to speak openly about conversations with him, said Trump already senses diminishing respect and worries about losing support from powerful financial donors and Republican lawmakers as his legal and political troubles worsen.
Greg Sargent/LA Times:
Trump is digging the GOP in deeper. And there’s no bottom in sight.
The Post reports that Trump’s threat to shut down the government to secure the wall funding he craves has created a “nightmare scenario” for congressional Republicans, who feel boxed in by Trump’s demand. In his meeting with Democratic leaders, Trump claimed that a package containing $5 billion in wall funding can pass the GOP-controlled House — an assertion that was supposed to pressure Senate Democrats to agree to help get it through the Senate. Democrats have offered a continuing resolution that would spend $1.3 billion on border security but with restrictions against spending it on Trump’s wall.
But as The Post report notes, House Republicans are balking at voting on the $5 billion Trump wants, because it faces certain rejection in the Senate. What’s more, some Republicans don’t even know if it would pass the House. Why? Politico offers this remarkable explanation: “There’s also a concern that the GOP’s moderates, many of whom feel that their losses hinged on Trump, will feel zero need to take a final stand on the wall.”…
We don’t know where all of this will end up, but it is obvious that Trump’s legal travails are deepening. And it’s hard to foresee a scenario in which it doesn’t get harder and harder for Republicans to defend him.
Barring unforeseen events, both of these ongoing narratives appear likely to continue placing Republicans in an increasingly difficult position. If the legal case against Trump advances, standing by him could prove increasingly damaging for Republicans, and Trump may increasingly fall back on his base as his eroding bedrock island of support. That, in turn, may prompt Trump to dig in harder behind his base-pleasing, ethno-nationalist agenda, pulling the party further toward a deeply unpopular set of positions — as we’re now seeing with the histrionics around the wall.
Why would all of this get better before it gets worse?
Hmmmm. Who said it wouldn’t pass the House? To the president’s face? On live television? Oh yeah. Madame Speaker.
THREAD RE INDICTING PRESIDENT. Trump’s defenses to campaign finance [are] crumbling rapidly, particularly after AMI admission. I predict the only thing he has left is idea sitting President cant be indicted. This thread fleshes out aspects of that, expands on NYT.[21 tweets]
Pat Robertson’s Truth, or Why Kleptocracy and Theocracy Make Good Bedfellows
This is a decades-old sordid story, but [researcher Anna] Massoglia’s new finding bringing it back into the spotlight serves as a good reminder that theocracy is often kleptocracy’s handmaiden—or is it the other way around? The National Prayer Breakfast that Butina used to gain influence for Putin’s kleptocratic Russia is a project of the elite fundamentalist Christian group known as the Family or the Fellowship, and has been attended annually by U.S. presidents since President Dwight Eisenhower. The Cold War paved the way for the rise of today’s Christian Right, and their cultivation of close relationships with brutal dictators is nothing new.
Putin, for his part, has achieved remarkable success in cultivating the American Christian Right by recasting post-Soviet Russia as a conservative, religious country, transforming it into the global standard bearer for so-called “traditional values.” But like Mobutu, both Trump and Putin are known for corruption. The right-wing Christian ideologues who support them don’t mind so long as they are able to aggressively pursue their own agenda, and sometimes they are equally corrupt. While head of the Christian Coalition, an organization founded by Pat Robertson, Ralph Reed was happy to work closely with Jack Abramoff. Today, Robertson’s CBN has an unusual degree of access to Trump, who thrilled CBN’s target audience by following through on his promise to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Fortunately, the ugliness of this is now on display in a way that is damaging white evangelicals’ reputation with the American public, and that will hopefully ultimately lead to the sidelining of the Christian Right from American politics.
Sarah Grant, Chuck Rosenberg/Lawfare:
The Steele Dossier: A Retrospective
The dossier compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele remains a subject of fascination—or, depending on your perspective, scorn. Indeed, it was much discussed during former FBI Director Jim Comey’s testimony in front of the House Judiciary Committee on Dec. 7. Published almost two years ago by BuzzFeed News in January 2017, the document received significant public attention, first for its lurid details regarding Donald Trump’s pre-presidential alleged sexual escapades in Russia and later for its role in forming part of the basis for the government’s application for a FISA warrant to surveil Carter Page.
Our interest in revisiting the compilation that has come to be called the “Steele Dossier” concerns neither of those topics, at least not directly. Rather, we returned to the document because we wondered whether information made public as a result of the Mueller investigation—and the passage of two years—has tended to buttress or diminish the crux of Steele’s original reporting…
These materials buttress some of Steele’s reporting, both specifically and thematically. The dossier holds up well over time, and none of it, to our knowledge, has been disproven.
But much of the reporting simply remains uncorroborated, at least by the yardstick we are using.