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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, January 06, 2016

 

Not a dime's worth of difference?

by Tom Sullivan

A couple of articles bring to mind the "lesser of two evils" argument one often hears on the left. That is, from someone who refuses to vote strategically for a candidate they perceive as the lesser of two evils rather than for someone who better represents their (the voters') true views and aspirations. Or to stay home in protest. Long term, they'd argue, that is voting strategically — if there is ever to be hope of moving the country's needle left. (Although Peter Beinart argues that's already happening.)

It seems many Republicans and Democrats face a similar "lesser of two evils" dilemma this year.

Both Ted Cruz and Donald Trump "send shivers down GOP spines," blares a Politico headline:

One growing worry about Trump or Cruz, top party officials, donors, and operatives across the country say, is that nominating either man would imperil lawmakers in down-ballot races, especially those residing in moderate states and districts.

“At some point, we have to deal with the fact that there are at least two candidates who could utterly destroy the Republican bench for a generation if they became the nominee,” said Josh Holmes, a former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “We’d be hard-pressed to elect a Republican dogcatcher north of the Mason-Dixon or west of the Mississippi.”

He says that like it would be a bad thing.

The GOP's gubernatorial candidates could also be harmed by having either Cruz or Trump atop the ticket in November, as well as Republican candidates for Senate and House.

At Political Animal, Martin Longman believes that with Cruz or Trump the GOP has locked itself into a questionable base mobilization strategy that hasn't worked in the last two elections, and barely worked in 2004:

But, if you’re stuck with base mobilization as your strategy, you have to at least mobilize your base. Who’s going to do that besides Cruz or Trump?

As I see it, their goose is cooked and their only hope is some kind of Black Swan situation where everything goes to shit at just the wrong time for the Democrats.

But you can’t bank on that, and if it happens, it probably doesn’t matter who the Republicans have nominated.

Meanwhile, Democrats face a slightly different problem. Charlie Pierce caustically explains:

As all good, authentic progressives know, there only is one thing to do in the election year just dawning upon us. You vote for Bernie Sanders in your state's primary election and then, if (somehow) he is not nominated, you pack up your outrage and sit out the general election, so that someone like Ted Cruz gets elected and proceeds to Heighten The Contradictions. The reason for this is that There Would Be No Real Difference between President Hillary Rodham Clinton and President Tailgunner Ted Cruz and that, after four (or eight) years of the latter, the country will be ready to elect progressive heroes all over the country, and to put Unicorn J. Sparklepony into the White House.

Actually, that's not what I'm hearing from Bernie activists in my neighborhood, although I'm sure Pierce has heard that in his travels. They are also worried about the Supreme Court. Consider Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Pierce writes, quoting from the pretzel logic behind some of Scalia's thinking on the Constitution, the First Amendment, and religion. (The Constitution requires Americans to honor God, apparently.) Pierce suggests,

But, like I said, there's not a dime's bit of difference between a president who would not nominate another Scalia, and a president who would nominate three of them. So feel free to exercise your purity of conscience, while you still have a right to do so.

What's stunning about the Bernie phenomenon is how lefties disillusioned with Obama's stymied presidency are ready to fall in love all over again with electing someone to the White House who they're sure will deliver sweeping change from Washington this time. I'm over that. I'm looking to the down-ticket races and worried more about which of the Democrats will be better at energizing Democratic voters to help me where I live. But I'm right there with Pierce on the Supreme Court.