Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Christmas edition

Jonathan V Last/The Bulwark:

2024 Is Democracy’s Moonshot

Like it or not, a crisis is coming. But we are facing it on good ground.

Just objectively speaking, the forces of stability are actually in a strong position.

The pandemic is over. I don’t think we appreciate this enough. COVID was so traumatic that we’ve memory-holed how unstable and deadly a place America was in four years ago.

The economy is strong. Forget the attitude surveys. If you were handed reams of economic data you would come to two rock-solid conclusions:

(1) The American economy is in a good place: Low unemployment, bottom-led wage growth, increasing household wealth, solid GDP growth.

(2) Relative to the rest of the world, the American economy has performed marvelously. Every advanced economy would trade places with us in a heartbeat.

We are not involved in any wars. The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are over and our troops are no longer in harm’s way. This gives America extra freedom of maneuver in dealing with our adversaries because we no longer have active conflicts leaching away our political will on a daily basis.

We are certainly involved in Ukraine, Gaza and other places but that’s not at all the same thing.

Steve Almond/WBUR:

Joe Biden’s drama-free White House is America’s most under-appreciated Christmas gift

Whatever the reasons, I can’t help but think of Biden and his economic team, toiling away without much fanfare, like Santa and his elves. Whether or not you support him, it’s worth acknowledging a few of the gifts Santa Joe has tucked under our tree this year.

A holiday meal sans masks. COVID hasn’t gone away; it’s now endemic. But thanks, in part, to Biden’s aggressive push to vaccinate the public, 2023 brought the end of the national emergency phase of the pandemic.

More buying power. For all the hyper-ventilating about inflation in the conservative media, Biden and the Federal Reserve have managed to engineer the “soft landing” once thought impossible. The result? Wage growth is now outpacing inflation.

Cheaper prescription drugs. As part of the Inflation Reduction Act, Biden took the fight to Big Pharma and capped the cost of insulin at $35 per month. By allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices directly, the law will eventually lower the price of numerous additional drugs.

A reminder of how Democrats always, always, always fret, from New York Times (September, 2011):

Democrats Fret Aloud Over Obama’s Chances

And in a campaign cycle in which Democrats had entertained hopes of reversing losses from last year’s midterm elections, some in the party fear that Mr. Obama’s troubles could reverberate down the ballot into Congressional, state and local races.

“In my district, the enthusiasm for him has mostly evaporated,” said Representative Peter A. DeFazio, Democrat of Oregon. “There is tremendous discontent with his direction.”

Democrats feared Mitt Romney and—uhm—Rick Perry, according to that piece. Meanwhile:

Same as all the other polls, (I) too early for predictive value and (II) basically tied before the campaign gets started in earnest, but not where it matters most. If that bothers you, see the New York Times piece above from 12 years ago.

USA Today with a headline we should be reading more often, because it’s true:

Donald Trump faces many signs of potential political trouble; here are a few of them

Here are some of the things that can and will happen to Trump as he pursues the presidency again.

Adverse court rulings

The potential of legal trouble is all around Trump, and could pop up any time..

Falling poll numbers; rising rivals

Trump’s GOP rivals warn that his continued legal woes will eventually wear out voters who might start to consider alternatives…

Bad voter reaction

The ultimate bad sign for Trump would come from voters.

Des Moines Register:

Why does Trump keep saying migrants are ‘poisoning’ America? Many GOP caucusgoers like it

The poll found that 42% of likely Republican caucusgoers are more likely to support Trump for his “poisoning the blood” comments; 28% said they are less likely to support him; and 29% said it does not matter.

The poll, conducted by Selzer & Co., has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

That includes respondents of all age and income levels. It also includes married and single caucusgoers and those with children under 18, as well as likely caucusgoers from all four of Iowa’s congressional districts.

Pluralities of men and women both say their support increases, with 45% of men and 38% of women saying they are more likely to support Trump after hearing him say illegal immigrants are “poisoning the blood” of America.


House GOP traps itself in impeachment box

Republicans are barreling toward an impeachment vote, still short of a majority. But if they skip one altogether, it might look like failure to the base.

Much of the House GOP has tried to keep the question of a full-scale removal vote at arm’s length, despite the course they’ve charted toward formal articles of impeachment. It’s not hard to see why: They’ll start the election year with only a three-vote majority, which could shrink even further, and 17 incumbents who represent districts Biden won. Plus, Democrats are almost guaranteed to unanimously oppose impeachment.

All that means a vote to recommend booting the president from office would be highly risky.

Wall Street Journal:

Prices Fell in November for the First Time Since 2020. Inflation Is Approaching Fed Target.

Spending and personal income rose, as Americans’ confidence in the economy rebounded

The Federal Reserve is winning its fight over inflation, boosting Americans’ spirits and offering greater reassurance that the U.S. economy can avoid a recession while bringing prices under control.

The Fed’s preferred inflation measure, the personal-consumption expenditures price index, fell 0.1% in November from the previous month, the first decline since April 2020, the Commerce Department said Friday. Prices were up 2.6% on the year, not far from the Fed’s 2% target.

New York Times:

What Went Wrong for Ron DeSantis in 2023

The Florida governor entered the year flush with cash and momentum. In the months since, internal chaos and Donald Trump’s indictments have sapped even his most avid supporters.

“I don’t think it’s fair,” Mr. DeSantis said. “But it’s reality.”

He was talking about Mr. Trump’s predicament. But he could just as easily have been talking about his own.

Boxed in by a base enamored with Mr. Trump that has instinctively rallied to the former president’s defense, Mr. DeSantis has struggled for months to match the hype that followed his landslide 2022 re-election. Now, with the first votes in the Iowa caucuses only weeks away on Jan. 15, Mr. DeSantis has slipped in some polls into third place, behind Nikki Haley, and has had to downsize his once-grand national ambitions to the simple hopes that a strong showing in a single state — Iowa — could vault him back into contention.

For a candidate who talks at length about his own disinterest in “managing America’s decline,” people around Mr. DeSantis are increasingly talking about managing his…

“He lacks charisma,” [New Hampshire voter] Mr. Scaer said in an interview later. “He just doesn’t have that.”

If the great promise of the DeSantis candidacy was Trump without the baggage, Stuart Stevens, a top strategist on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, said that what Republicans got instead was “Ted Cruz without the personality.”

Cue the “Never Back Down” jokes about the DeSantis campaign backing down.

Matt McNeil and Cliff Schecter:


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