Trump Is Waging War on the GOP. He’s Winning.

if you’re looking for confirmation bias—and by all accounts, that’s the mode of analysis our president prefers—there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the only thing the Trump administration needs is More Trump.

.. the Trump clones did well. Sure, Corey Stewart and Kris Kobach lost. But Trump can tell himself that Virginia is a Clinton state he doesn’t need and that he couldn’t lose Kansas in 2020 if he tried. In important states—tossups he has to have for reelection—the Trump clones won. In Florida and Georgia, Ron DeSantis and Brian Kemp ran as Mini-Trumps. And not only did these two win, but they beat the kind of young, progressive minority candidates that the Democrats are itching to put up against Trump in two years.

.. Trump skeptics took a thumping. Barbara Comstock, Mia Love, Mike Coffman—all of those uppity conservatives who voted for Trump when they had to, but refused to bend the knee? Gone, gone, and gone. And in case you doubt how crucial this was to the president, he spent several minutes of his postelection press conference naming and shaming the Republican losers who did not sufficiently “embrace”—his word, he used it five times—him.
.. Because, as everyone knows, Carlos Curbelo would have held on to Florida’s 26th District—which is 72 percent Hispanic and 50 percent foreign-born—had he gotten on board with Trump’s plan to sign away birthright citizenship. Cuck got what he deserved.
.. The gains in the Senate are even better. Not only did Republicans add to their number, they did so while subtracting people, such as Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, who never showed the same level of discernment as Beautiful Ted. The result is a bigger, Trumpier majority, which, by extension, will put even more pressure on the one or two remaining Republican senators who have been reluctant to embrace the president.
.. So if, for instance, the president needed the Senate to confirm a judge or a new attorney general, or—and we’re just spitballing here—vote on a trial of impeachment, then Trump is in a much stronger position.
.. for all the talk about how Trumpism is a reaction to leftism and social-justice warriors and political correctness, the truth is that it is principally an intra-party fight. 
.. And like the Maoists, the Trumpers aren’t really interested in picking a fight with the other superpower. They’re much more concerned with controlling the near abroad—which is to say, the Republican party. That’s why they tend to focus their hatred on Republicans and conservatives who decline to get on board, rather than on Democrats and liberals. Jeff Flake is the enemy; Kamala Harris is just a random nonplayer character.
.. Always remember that Trumpers—the people who believe in him, not the remora fish looking for their bits of chum—care very little about the left. Their real opponents are other Republicans. Seen from that perspective, Tuesday’s vote was a huge success. Because for Trumpers, it’s never a binary choice. Wherever a Trump-skeptical Republican was running against a Democrat, Trumpism couldn’t lose.
.. In the final weeks of the midterm campaign, 4 percent looked like the most important number in politics: unemployment was under it and GDP growth over it. This was, economically speaking, as good as it gets, and most political professionals thought Republicans should be running on these numbers.
.. Yet Trump decided to close the election with American Carnage 2. He obsessed about the caravan that was winding its way to our southern border. (No one seems to have asked why they wouldn’t be deterred by the Wall that Mexico paid for.) Trump ordered 5,000 troops to the border. Then the number was 10,000. Then 15,000. Then he said he was going to order these soldiers to fire on anyone who threw a rock in their general direction, even though the caravan was still a thousand miles away. The president ran an anti-
immigration ad so vile that Fox News—the network whose journalists appeared onstage at a Trump campaign rally—pulled it off the air.
.. In short, Trump looked at our fat, happy days of peace and prosperity and decided to run on fear, division, and chaos. And he was right.
.. In politics, as in every other facet of life, you must always consider opportunity cost. And yes, it’s possible that some other closing message from the president might have produced marginally better electoral outcomes for Republicans. But maybe not. At the very least, the president’s gambit did no great harm. There was no big break against Republicans. Most of the races went according to form.
.. The caravan worked. Sticking with Brett Kavanaugh was smart. There was no price for playing “false flag” games with the attempted mail-bombing of Democrats. No apologies, for anything, ever.
.. Those are the lessons of 2018 and the doctrines that will shape the war of 2020. You can understand why Trump looked across the country on Tuesday night and tweeted, “Tremendous success tonight. Thank you to all!” He was smiling. The GOP caucuses in both the House and Senate will be even more friendly to him than before. His enemies have been crushed beneath his feet.
.. The problem with getting rid of Love and Curbelo and Comstock is that it gives Democrats control of the House. Trumpism may not be interested in Democrats, but Democrats are interested in Trump. And now they have subpoena power.

.. Once a new speaker is sworn in, the Democrats will be able to investigate and call witnesses and poke and prod the administration in ways we can foresee and ways we cannot. There are, for instance, reports that the president’s son expects to be indicted. If that comes to pass, any attempt by the president to protect him will face scrutiny with the force of law behind it.

.. The White House and its surrogates have announced that they welcome Democratic overreach and are prepared to make war against congressmen who push investigations. Trump expressly threatened potential investigators in his press conference.

.. But the kinds of Democrats willing to take the hardest line against Trump will be from the safest districts. Trump can’t hurt them. And, moreover, getting to overreach means enduring an awful lot of pain during the initial-reach. Clinton and the Democrats benefited from Republican overreach in the 1998 midterm elections. The experience was not terribly pleasant for them.

.. There are other problems on the horizon. The Democrats who won on Tuesday—Jon Tester, Joe Manchin, Tim Kaine—tended to be more centrist. The party’s progressive stars—Beto! Andrew! Stacey!—were wiped out, leaving Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sitting forlornly in the corner with her movie-star cheekbones, glamorous jackets, and lost dreams of a socialist-Democratic future. This does not mean that Democratic voters will choose a nominee who is in step with mainstream politics in 2020. But these losses make that possibility more likely. The lesson has been taught, and all Democrats have to do is learn it.

.. There’s even the possibility that Democrats may look at the midterms and the caravan and learn a lesson about immigration. They’re never going to outbid Trump on nativism, but they don’t have to. All they have to do is convince a small share of marginal independent voters that they’re not secretly for open borders and that they do take illegal immigration seriously. If you can’t do that while maintaining your liberal base, then you don’t belong in professional politics. It’s not a heavy lift.
.. The other problem for Trump is that the numbers don’t look especially good for him. It is difficult to imagine external circumstances being better for Republicans two years from now—you can’t really top “no major wars and 4 percent.” So the macro-environment will either be equivalent or worse.
.. In 2016, he got the second-smallest share of the popular vote (46.1 percent) of any Republican since 2000. He ran 3 points—which is a lot—behind Republicans in the House popular vote that year. And in the 2018 midterms, he pulled the Republican share of the House popular vote down to his own 2016 level, to what is likely the third-smallest percentage for Republicans since 1994
..  Trump won in 2016 because even though he ran behind most congressional Republicans, their turnout was enough to pull him over the line. Over the last two years, Republicans have been pulled backward toward him, not the other way around.
.. The good news for Trump and his Republicans is that they won’t have to beat the ’27 Yankees. They just have to beat whomever the Democrats put in front of them.
.. for Trump in 2020, there cannot be a Morning in America campaign. There will be no 48-state mandate that realigns American politics for a generation. At best, Trump can hope to radicalize Democrats into nominating a weak contender and then gamble that the country is closely enough divided to give him a chance of drawing to an inside straight, again. This is not a crazy strategy. It might even be the best move available on the board.All of which means more chaos, more apocalypse, more carnage. More Trump.

The Center Is Sexier Than You Think

The story of the 2018 midterms isn’t Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York’s 14th District, Ben Jealous in the Democratic gubernatorial primary in Maryland and a leftist surge. Or, rather, that’s just one narrative, eclipsed by the less cinematic triumphs of less progressive Democrats. They’re by and large winning the primaries in the swing districts that might actually turn from red to blue. They’re the stars of their party’s mission to erect a barricade against the worst of Donald Trump.

.. Without doubt, Ocasio-Cortez’s ouster of Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary delivered an important message about entrenched politicians disconnected from their constituents. But when she gets to Congress, she won’t be replacing a Republican. She’ll be a new Democrat (and yes, a new kind of Democrat) in a seat that the party already holds and wasn’t going to lose. And she’ll almost surely be outnumbered by Democratic newcomers who waged more moderate campaigns in areas of the country where that’s the safer tack.

The real story out of these Democratic primaries isn’t left or right — it’s women,” Dave Wasserman, who analyzes House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, told me. Additionally, he said, he has been struck by the consequential role of candidates’ biographies, sometimes captured in compelling campaign videos, like Ocasio-Cortez’s, that go viral.

.. he doesn’t see many politicians like Ocasio-Cortez. “They’re mainstream Democratic candidates,” he said. “They’re more running against Republicans and against the tax and health care bills than they are running to reshape the Democratic Party.”

.. NPR found that pragmatism is winning out over progressivism in the key races that will decide control of Congress.”

.. While only a minority of candidates endorsed by progressive groups like Justice Democrats and Our Revolution had won their primaries, more than three-quarters of those endorsed by the more centrist New Democrat Coalition had.

.. On the same day that Ocasio-Cortez generated front-page headlines by beating Crowley, much less progressive Democratic newcomers came out on top in crowded primaries in New York districts that are currently represented by Republicans and are high on the party’s red-to-blue wish list.

Macron-Trump, a Friendship That Must Deliver

I hear that they speak all the time. Trump follows Macron’s labor-market reforms and calls to congratulate him. The first state visit of his administration will be Macron’s to Washington next month, a special honor for “a great guy.” The French president is Trump’s best friend in Europe ..

.. Both understood the fact that voters were bored as well as angry, mistrustful of the liberal consensus, angry at globalization’s predations, restive for grandeur, thirsty for the outspoken rather than the dutiful warnings of experts.

.. Both men came from nowhere, mavericks hoisted to the highest offices of their lands by a wave of disgust at politics-as-usual. They are, in their way, accidents of history, thrust to power at the passing of an era. Longing for disruption produced these two disrupters.

.. Macron, who at 40 could be Trump’s son, has honed a grandiose theater of the center, thereby giving centrist politics new vigor at a time of extremist temptation. He’s tough on immigration because he knows his survival depends on it. Trump’s is the theater of the zigzagging bully, nonstop noise often drowning out meaning. For both men, movement and action are essential.

.. Gaullist pomp, shunned by Macron’s predecessor, is back. If that’s what it takes to defeat the racist National Front, bring it on. Macron celebrated his victory last year with an address to the French people at the Louvre, greeted Putin at Versailles

.. “It’s not ‘Make France Great Again’ — except that it is, sort of,” a French friend observed.

Should Democrats Embrace the Center or Abandon It?

Over the next six months, Democratic voters will be asked again and again whether their party’s candidates should hew to the center or move to the left.

How voters answer that question will help shape the strategic plans of the dozen or more Democrats jockeying to beat President Trump in 2020.

.. “Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health,” Perez said in a statement. “That is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state.”

.. Does the path to victory lie in mobilizing the liberal base — by taking explicitly left-wing stands on immigration, as well as gun rights, universal health care, the minimum wage, racial justice and so on?

.. Or is the widespread hatred of Donald Trump — at least among Democrats — sufficient to turn out progressive and minority voters, which would make undecideds the constituency that must be more actively wooed?

.. “Democrats Can Run the Conor Lamb Strategy Over and Over” read the headline of an article by Jonathan Chait in New York magazine:

There are a lot of Conor Lambs out there. Very early in the election cycle, Democrats recruited candidates with nontraditional backgrounds, especially in the military, who would appeal to voters in red districts.

.. No way, Bob Mosher argued in a Rolling Stone essay, “Why Democrats Should Worry About Conor Lamb’s Victory.

“The real message of Lamb’s campaign basically boiled down to this: ‘Look at what a fine young normal white fellow I am!’ ” Mosher wrote. The “clamor for centrism,” according to Mosher, risks

deflating the Resistance, turning off nonwhite voters, and dampening the turnout that Democrats should be able to expect in November, given the level of Trump animus across the country.

.. The evidence suggests that the balance of power among these voters is shifting to the left.

.. In 1976, conservative Democrats were a significant force within the party, making up 27 percent of its supporters. By 1992, their share fell to 24 percent, still a factor to be reckoned with, providing a crucial source of support to Bill Clinton.