An Update on the Race for the Democratic Nomination

Just added an update to my Democratic Contenders post, but given how many of you read via RSS or other similar method, I thought I would post the update separately as well.


I added Buttigieg and Gabbard to the list of those running for reasons other than to win, and removed the handful of people who have formally announced that they do not intend to run.

As of today, it seems to me that Biden isn’t likely to be a legitimate contender, both because I don’t think he really wants to run and because I think Kamala Harris will crush him should he choose to. She is to me the very clear front runner as of this moment, and barring some kind of screw up, she is the one most likely to win the whole thing.

Gillibrand has been surprisingly quiet since announcing, and although it is obviously still very very early, it seems to me that she’s going to have a very hard time getting traction so long as Kamala Harris maintains the perception that she’s going to be hard to beat.

Warren….is who she is? I love her as my Senator. I think she’ll be a powerful force for good in the campaign. But no way do I think she wins the nomination. I thought that before she formally announced, and I think it much much more so since.

Tulsi Gabbard unexpectedly threw her hat into the ring, which is bizarre given her truly bizarre past, and it’s all quite predictably gone sideways very quickly (see, for example: Not only is she not going to win the nomination, she’s not likely to make it past the spring, and now she’s got a DailyKos-backed primary challenger to boot. Which is great, because she is truly awful

Schulz, the Starbucks dude, is out there pretending to be a disaffected Democrat preparing to run, but no way he sees this through to the end, and anyway, he’s really just a disaffected moderate Republican confused about how partisanship works in American politics. The fact that he hates what the REpublican Party has become does not even remotely mean he is a Democrat, or that he will appeal to Democrats, or that his influence will somehow help Trump get elected. That’s all very backwards.

Beto is making exactly the kinds of noises that a person who doesn’t want to run but feels sort-of-but-not-really compelled to , so while I’m making predictions, let me put myself down as him formally announcing he will NOT run sometime in late-Spring.

And hey….why not go all in. If I had to bet money today, I’d either go with Harris-O’Rourke or Harris-Hickenlooper.

Howard Schultz opposes Democratic priorities because he isn’t a Democrat. This is supposed to be a threat to Democratic chances how exactly?

People have this all wrong. Schultz isn’t going to run as a Democrat because he isn’t a Democrat. He says so himself when he tells you that he opposes nearly every major policy the Democratic Party stands for. Schultz isn’t a Democrat. He’s a pre-Trump Republican in the mold of a William Weld or a Jeb Bush or a W Bush prior to 9/11. You know, a “fiscally conservative but socially liberal” and “free markets forever” sort of guy.

If he were to stay in the race — which he almost certainly will not — he will function as the equivalent of as what we now call a “Never Trump Republican,” except that because he’s confused about how our institutional structures work, he’d call himself an “independent.” Which is fine. It’s just branding, after all.

So Democrats, stop fretting. He almost certainly won’t run for real, but if he does, he will get the handful of votes from voters who cannot vote for Trump but also would never vote for Democrats, because Democrats want things that he and his fellow Never Trumpers abhor.

Alternative hypotheses welcome, so long as they include an explanation of Steve Schmidt’s role in Schultz’s new organization. Schmidt worked for McCain and for W, among others, and comes with an extensive set of ideological and political pre-commitments.

The politics of the shutdown as a model for thinking about the politics of impeachment

Think back 72 hours. How sure was everyone that the shutdown would go on for weeks, if not months? How sure was everyone that Republicans would dutifully hold the line and never leave Trump’s side, because his “base” was incapable of seeing reality? Until 24 hours ago, it seemed like it all might never end, right?

And then, all of a sudden, the cracks in the dam spread, and the entire thing burst. Things hit a tipping point, and all at once, what had been unthinkable became real.

All human systems are complex systems, and all complex systems exhibit nonlinear, non-zero-sum, emergent behaviors. All of them. Things are impossible one day, commonplace the next. So it was with the shutdown, and so can it be with impeachment.

What James Madison has to say to us about the politics of the shutdown

As you read Fallows’ take on the shutdown from James Fallows and his readers, keep in mind James Madison’s institutional design:

Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.

A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.

And now, to James Fallows’ readers:

Donald Trump became accustomed to Congressional servility over the last two years; and he clearly expected to extort the same attitude going forward, as if the Republican defeat in the 2018 elections never happened….

It was necessary to demonstrate to Trump and his supporters that conditions have changed, and that the governing process is going to be different — including the futility of attacking government itself as a means of achieving political goals.  That lesson will be essential for future issues, including appropriations bills and the debt limit.  


Mitch definitely doesn’t have Trump’s political survival as his top priority. He has his own political survival as his top priority.


Beto Asks: “Do I need to be back in the arena?”

Looks like he’s walking himself to a NO, at least for the moment. Because as hard as running for senator in Texas is, running for president is exponentially harder. And this time around, the party’s going to have way too many good people running.

If I were him, I’d start talking to Kamala Harris about becoming her surrogate, angling my way towards as VP or cabinet spot. Because he’s young, and he’s got plenty of time to move on up from where he’s starting. And in the meantime, I’d get someone smart to ghost write a book for me so that I could live off the proceeds while building my brand. If I were him, that’s what I’d do.

“There is no reason to overthink any of this. Trump himself surely is not. He will not fix any of it, of course; that’s not what he does.”

This is some top.quakity snark. Here’s just a small taste of it. Go read the whole thing:

If he appears to be confronting an emerging truth that makes him look bad with a flailing childish insistence that Actually The Opposite Is True, it’s because he is. If it looks like he’s numbly ventriloquizing the rancid words of one of the aspiring genocidaires tasked with writing his more high-flown addresses, it’s because he is. If it appears that he is taking some cruel promise made idly at some point in the past and then spinning stupid stories to justify seeing that promise through, it’s because that is just what he’s doing. Trump repeats the same five or six phrases like a defective Teddy Ruxpin not because he’s trying to brainwash or brand but because he can only hold like 175 words in his head at one time and is just kind of mushing the button that seems most appropriate for the situation over and over again.


The next time someone on the left advocates for term limits, remind them of what Pelosi did this week

Trump and his team have almost no political experience. Pelosi has a lifetime of it. You think Noble rookies could’ve done this? Seriously?!? C’mon y’all.

With experience comes wisdom, and with wisdom can come progress. Remember what experience got you the next time someone starts advocating for term limits.

UPDATE: I wrote this prior to learning that Pelosi got a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in the CR. That. Is. AMAZING.

The Big Picture: a back channel to coordinate with the people using property stolen by an adversarial government to tilt an election

Josh Marshall:

All the specifics are less significant than the big picture: Roger Stone ran a backchannel between the Trump campaign and Wikileaks, exchanging advance notice, requests for particular kinds of documents, suggestions to the campaign about messaging directions and more. Critically, this continued long after it became clear and widely assumed, if not proven, that Wikileaks was peddling out documents and emails that had been stolen by the Russian intelligence services.


Always worth repeating: this was all happening in plain view, making it obvious even in real time. All you had to do was follow along closely and it was there for you to see.

And of you don’t yet believe, remember that there are still dozens of shoes yet to drop.

Directed by Whom?

Marcy Wheeler:

The most important detail — by far — in the indictment reveals that a senior Trump Campaign official “was directed” to contact Stone about what else was coming from WikiLeaks.

I suspect that the senior Trump Campaign official was Rick Gates, though that’s a guess (Bannon is the very senior official named later in the indictment). The indictment doesn’t say, “directed by whom.”

And that, I think, is why Stone was arrested before dawn rather than permitted to self report, and why Stone was charged with obstruction plus five counts of false statements plus witness tampering (the latter of which carries real time).

This is an effort to get Stone to reveal who that “whom” was, and whatever follow-up contacts he had with that “whom.”

As this news unfolds, remember that Manafort makes an appearance in court today. This timing almost certainly is NOT coincidental.

It’s Roger’s time in the barrel!

CNBC offers a quick summary that include an appearance by Bannon!

Trump associate Roger Stone arrested on 7 counts, including lying to Congress, in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe

• Roger Stone, a longtime political advisor to President Trump, has been arrested in Florida.

• Stone faces seven counts, including witness tampering, obstruction of justice and making false statements to Congress.

• The indictment alleges that Stone had been in contact with top-ranking Trump campaign officials about efforts to leak damaging information about Hillary Clinton just before the 2016 election.

• According to a person with direct knowledge of the matter, one of the senior officials who reached out to Stone was Steve Bannon, who served as CEO of the Trump campaign during the election’s final stages.