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April 16, 2016


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I am far more worried about what happens in a Clinton presidency. The situation in Brazil feels like it has too much of a parallel to what happens here.


Republicans have become such fireeaters that they're not really going to respect any norms. If the Supreme Court is off the table, what about Fifth Circuit Court? What about appointees to State, Defense? Will we face regular debt ceiling debacles?

Hilary Clinton may well triangulate her way out of a base of political support, as Dilma has done post re-election.

In the background, two factors

1) In the face of continued elite refusal to allow the masses to gain any social or bargaining power (in the name of deficit reduction, inflation, or any other excuse that people would buy), the economic potential is going to continue to shrink, and it wouldn't take much to cause outright economic shrinkage. An increasingly bad economy (in the sharp sense) is quite likely to increase political engagement in all sorts of ways.

2) Republican misgovernment at state and local levels is forcing the Party to become ever more ideologically rigid, as well as depending on racism, nativism, homophobia, and sexism. They couldn't pivot after the presidential loss of 2012, and now is probably ever more dependent on voting shenanigans for power, and will probably have to contend with more Trumps in the future. They are really likely to decide that they need to be anti-Hilary to the max in order to consolidate Republican power in favor of the traditional leadership.

Hilary, in the face of that pressure, is not likely to be deft in tacking to the wind...The AIDS quote at Nancy Reagan's memorial is pretty much exhibit A of trying to appeal to "moderates" at the expense of the base. She is not likely to have that skill for performative decency that Obama has excelled at, which convinces enough people that she is working sincerly and hard at dificult tasks--Bush the Elder syndrome.

I wonder to what degree US politics begin to resemble Brazil as our political institutions fracture, parties become weak vehicles for brand name politicians, corruption rises, the quality of governing outcomes decline and economic/social elites become too entrenched for any government to oppose even with popular backing.

I'm already worried about scandals. Obama has run an astonishingly clean administration -- at the Cabinet Secretary / Agency Head / senior executive appointee level, it's arguably the cleanest of modern times, and you could make a case for cleanest ever. That's partly the man's style, partly also a rational prophylactic in the face of relentless Republican hostility. And he's also shown a ruthless willingness to throw problematic appointees under the bus: Eric Shinseki, where are you now?

That last doesn't mean he's cut people loose as soon as they started being political liabilities. (A truly ruthless President might have yanked Eric Holder early on.) It also doesn't mean he always got it right -- firing Shirley Sherrod was probably a mistake. But on the whole, over seven years and dozens of high-level appointees, his instincts have been astonishingly good.

So back to Clinton. I don't see any sign that she has Obama's eye for talent. On the other hand, I do see a dismaying tendency towards circle-the-wagon loyalty and doubling down. So we end up with a President whose picks are all over the board, and then who at best spends political capital trying to defend the indefensible, and at worst gets sucked into some idiotic scandal that blights her whole administration. "Nixon in a pantsuit" is probably an exaggeration, but it's an exaggeration in a broadly correct direction IMO.

Doug M.

I think Clinton is a superior candidate to Bernie Sanders, that she would be a better President, and I voted for her, but I'm now wondering if I made the wrong choice, simply because Clinton's popular-approval numbers are headed south at such a rate that by fall she may be incapable of beating either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz.

The majority of Americans hate her. Absolutely hate her. I'm not entirely sure why, and a large part of it is probably sexism and decades of propaganda, but life isn't fair and Democrats may have doomed themselves by voting for her.

Sanders' public goodwill would undoubtedly fall were he nominated, but it's starting from a higher place.

"life isn't fair and Democrats may have doomed themselves by voting for her."

Barring the unexpected -- someone gets shot, a massive scandal explodes, the economy collapses -- Hillary looks on course for a ~150 EV win in November. At this precise moment, the interesting question isn't whether she'll win, but whether she'll have coattails.

Again, stuff can change. But right now Hillary curb-stomps both GOP candidates.

Doug M.

yeah, there was a poll in *Georgia* that showed her kicking both Trump and Cruz in the furniture. where are you getting this stuff, MMcI?

She's doing well against them now, mostly because everyone hates Trump and Cruz even more than they hate her.

I'd be a lot happier if I saw any evidence that she was actually gaining absolute popular support, rather than just not losing it quite as fast as her competitors. As it is, one of these guys gets a sudden burst of respectability for some reason and it's all over.

I don't know. I finally realized that one of the things that's been freaking me out is that the horizontal scale on Huffington Post's "Hillary Clinton Favorable Rating" aggregator graph goes all the way back to 2009, so the downward slope of the line since 2013 is compressed and it looks really alarming.

But it still bothers me that some recent CBS and NBC/WSJ polls actually have her favorables in the low 30s. That's approaching Trump/Cruz territory, and it suggests that her leads over them could be more precarious than they look.

... not to put you on the spot, MMcI, but I've seen you online for quite some time now, and I honestly don't think you separate your own tendencies to gloom from the data in politics. That's understandable, given your participation online during the wretched W years, but I don't think those instincts are serving you in good stead at this point in time. Self-calibration is important! Do you know what profession, as a group, has excellent self-calibration skills? Weather forecasters.

Keep in mind: what on Earth could give Trump, possibly the most loathed man in American presidential politics since Jefferson Davis, a burst of respectability? And Cruz has even a worse stink, but at the level of the institutional party. He openly suspects that his institutional support will evaporate at Cleveland if Trump is stopped, and he'd be right.

Lately I've also been interacting quite a bit with Berniacs who are in the depression phase of grief and spinning these sorts of doom scenarios.

...and it's true, the events of 2000-2008 left me with an essentially catastrophist theory of politics.

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