Hey Democrats, Ya Got Trouble

The caucus-night mess in Iowa comes as the president is on an unlikely roll.

Monday night’s tabulation meltdown at the Iowa caucuses was an utter and unmitigated disaster.

The incompetence was jaw-dropping. Iowa Democratic Party leaders reportedly didn’t train the 1,800 precinct captains how to use the app that they promised would speed up the counting of votes and provide more transparency. They didn’t run a full-scale test in which captains all sent full data sets from their caucus sites in the same hour. Nor did they test the backup phone system to confirm it could handle hundreds of simultaneous calls. And they’d been warned there were problems.

After this debacle, the only way Iowa can keep its privileged status in the presidential selection process is if the responsible state Democratic Party leaders commit hara-kiri. Even then, it might not be enough. How angry must the Democratic candidates be about the time, money and effort they threw into Iowa, only to see it end in this indecisive mess? And what about volunteers who sacrificed months for someone they believe in?

It doesn’t help that, as of Wednesday evening, the results are still a muddle. The first-place finisher will get a smaller percentage of the vote in Iowa than any previous caucus winner and Iowa’s 41 pledged delegates (out of more than 3,000 at the national convention) could be split among a record five candidates.

With 87% of precincts reporting, Bernie Sanders trails Pete Buttigieg in “state delegate equivalents,” a fancy term for each candidate’s share of state convention delegates. Both will likely end up with 13 national pledged delegates from Iowa. Still, they led the field and, by beating expectations, Mr. Buttigieg has picked up a little momentum.

Meanwhile, former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg had a good night by avoiding the farce entirely. If Mr. Bloomberg, who isn’t competing in early states, has any shot at the nomination, then Joe Biden’s campaign must collapse before Super Tuesday on March 3. Mr. Biden wasn’t expected to win Iowa, but running a dismal fourth hurts.

Since Mr. Biden also isn’t projected to do well in New Hampshire next week, his poor Iowa performance raises the stakes for the Nevada and South Carolina contests later this month. If the former vice president does badly there—especially if he loses the Palmetto State—then his campaign is finished. Watch to see if Mr. Biden’s poor showing in Iowa dents his national polling as the most electable Democrat.

Another winner Monday night was President Trump. The bigger the Iowa mess, the worse the Democratic field looks. That stink won’t last, but Mr. Trump is also coming off several weeks of mostly good news. He signed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. The Chinese approved the first phase of a trade deal. His surprise Super Bowl ad highlighting criminal-justice reform in an emotional, personal way unsettled Democratic operatives, portending an electoral play for not only African-Americans but also disaffected suburbanites.

Then came impeachment. As this column forecasted, because Democrats refused to take up the patient work of persuasion and instead bludgeoned and insulted the jury, the process will cost Democrats among independent voters.

The president also keeps getting good news on the economy. It plugs along at a decent pace, with unemployment at a 50-year low, more vacant jobs than job-seekers and wages rising for workers rising faster than for managers.

The Jan. 15 Gallup poll found 62% of Americans saying the economy is “excellent” or “good” and 59% saying it’s “getting better.” This boosted Gallup’s economic confidence index to its highest level since October 2000. A Jan. 23 ABC/Washington Post poll also found 43% were “very” or “somewhat worried” about maintaining their standard of living, compared with 63% in January 2016, a year before Mr. Trump took office. This led 56% to approve of his handling of the economy, up 10 points since last September. It’s no wonder, then, that Gallup’s latest poll awards the president a 49% job-approval rating, his highest since taking office.

Mr. Trump is also receiving help from his opponents. Until her party settles on a presidential nominee, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is the country’s highest-profile Democrat. Unfortunately for the party, she recorded a minus-15-point favorability rating in the Jan. 29 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. She didn’t help matters by childishly ripping up her copy of the president’s State of the Union speech on camera, which dominated the post-speech coverage and overshadowed the official Democratic response.

Mr. Trump is on a roll, but there are 271 days left before Election Day. His supporters should remember: What happens the first week of February won’t decide what happens the first Tuesday of November.

American History as Told by AOC

The latest brainstorm from the New York freshman: The New Deal was racist.

But SXSW’s 2019 rock star was Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who filled 3,200 seats in the Convention Center Saturday. Notably, the Green New Deal advocate didn’t arrive in a Prius or on one of the ubiquitous scooters that clog Austin’s streets during the festival. She came instead in a gas-guzzling SUV.

.. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez dealt at length with America’s pervasive racism, declaring, “The effort to divide race and class has always been a tool of the powerful to prevent everyday working people from taking control of the government.” America’s leaders also helped “racial resentment to become legitimized as a political tool.”She and Ms. Gray agreed that Mr. Trump is a racist, of course. But so was President Reagan, who in 1976 criticized a Chicago woman for bilking the welfare system for $150,000 a year. That attack was “rooted in racism,” according to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, even though the woman in question was white.

Even more astonishing, the New York freshman representative declared Franklin D. Roosevelt a bigot, saying “the New Deal was an extremely economically racist policy that drew literal red lines around black and brown communities and basically it invested in white America.”

According to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, the New Deal “allowed white Americans to have access to home loans that black and brown Americans did not have access to.” By doing so, it “accelerated . . . a really horrific racial wealth gap that persists today.” Yet studies show that FDR’s Home Owners’ Loan Corp. did not discriminate against African-Americans, and the gap between black and white homeownership remained around 20% from 1900 to 1990, though ownership levels increased for both groups.

This attack on FDR exhibited another theme of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s appearance—the ubiquity of conspiracy. Just as FDR’s New Deal secretly discriminated against “black and brown Americans,” dangerous forces are subverting our country today.

For example, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez told the crowd America’s “norms and systems and electoral system” are “dominated by special interests and dark money and rules of seniority.” Because the rich have “taken away all the guardrails of a responsible society,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said, “it doesn’t feel good to live in America today.”

Furthermore, “We should be scared right now because corporations have taken over our government.” Nor do these businesses want to help themselves and the community; under capitalism, “we seek and prioritize profit and the accumulation of money above all else and we seek it at any human and environmental cost.”

Our economic system is also “based on scarcity,” which corporations have made “artificial.” So “we are driven to work 80 hours a week when we are being the most productive at any point in American history.” If the profits weren’t “skimmed off and given to a billionaire,” we would “be working the least amount we’ve ever worked”—Marx’s promise of old. The crowd applauded as she excoriated the 540 American billionaires who stole our money.

The Cynicism of Georgia’s Stacey Abrams

Ms. Abrams has claimed that Mr. Kemp unlawfully purged 1.5 million voters from the rolls, put 53,000 new registrations on hold, created long polling lines on Election Day, and misplaced provisional ballots. She says her “accusations are based entirely on evidence.” Let’s take a look.

.. The 1993 National Voter Registration Act, passed by a Democratic Congress and signed by President Clinton, requires states to keep voter lists “accurate and current” by identifying persons who died or moved, using “uniform, nondiscriminatory” procedures.
.. Georgia’s law to comply with the federal act is similar to Ohio’s, which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld this year. It works like this: If the U.S. Postal Service’s change-of-address list shows a Georgia voter has moved or is no longer at his address of record, the state sends him a postage-paid confirmation reply card. It there’s no response for 30 days, the voter is considered “inactive,” but can still vote if he wants.
.. Then there’s the charge of holding up registration applications. This involves the state’s “exact match” law, which requires the last name, first initial, date of birth and other simple information on voter-registration applications match the information in the Social Security database or the Georgia driver’s-license file. If they don’t match, the prospective voter is notified online and by mail, and given 26 months to correct any discrepancy.
.. Meanwhile, he can vote by presenting a valid ID that is “a substantial match” with his application. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld a similar law in Florida.
.. Ms. Abrams herself may be responsible for many of the botched voter applications. Before running for governor, she led a $12.5 million registration drive that paid her $442,000 over three years for serving as its part-time leader. Despite ample resources, Ms. Abrams’s efforts relied on paper forms, not online registration or electronic forms. As a result, many applications contained mistakes or fraudulent signatures.
.. Ms. Abrams’s complaints about long lines at polling places and mishandled provisional ballots are also misplaced. County election boards, not the secretary of state, decide on poll closures, set the number of voting machines, and handle provisional ballots. These local officials are in many cases Democrats, and Ms. Abrams carried the three Atlanta-area counties—Fulton, Cobb and DeKalb—with the most closures, the largest numbers of machines withdrawn from service, and the bulk of provisional-ballot problems.
.. As a rising star on the Democratic left, Ms. Abrams drew millions in donations from the Soros family and billionaire hedge-funder Tom Steyer, as well as campaign appearances by Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama and many of the party’s 2020 presidential hopefuls. She lost anyway.
.. Ms. Abrams now cynically claims she’s a victim of election fraud motivated by bigotry. Even in this ugly period of American politics, trying to use defeat in a close election to create racial resentment stands out as dangerous and corrosive. Ms. Abrams’s suit, Fair Fight Action v. Crittenden, is unlikely to have a happy ending. And damaging the state’s reputation won’t help her win future races, no matter how much she says she loves Georgia and wants to serve it. Sometimes you should exit gracefully.

How Steve Bannon just defeated Trump

Former judge Roy Moore’s victory over Sen. Luther Strange was a sign of just how extreme Republican rank-and-filers have become. Moore, who believes biblical law should override the Constitution, beat Strange 55 percent to 45 percent. Contrast that with the 2006 gubernatorial primary in which then-Gov. Bob Riley trounced Moore by a margin of 2-to-1.

.. “What Donald Trump has done,” said Republican pollster Whit Ayres, “is embolden the Roy Moores of the world.”

.. Trump was so embarrassed by his chosen big guy’s big defeat that he deleted earlier pro-Strange tweets

.. Trump seems to think that his support base is so loyal to him that it will follow him anywhere. Bannon would beg to differ. He threw his all behind Moore’s candidacy to show that Trump’s movement is attached even more to a rebellious right-wing ideology than it is to the president himself.

.. “What’s going on is bigger than Trump, and he is just a vehicle.”

.. The good news for Bannon is very bad news for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who put millions of dollars behind the campaign to defeat Moore

.. Among other things, he has said that

  • parts of America are under Muslim sharia law;
  • suggested that the 9/11 attacks happened because the country had forsaken God’s “word and trust”;
  • said of Russian President Vladimir Putin: “Maybe he’s more akin to me than I know”;
  • and likened homosexuality to bestiality.

.. Advocates of a major undertaking on behalf of Jones see this as precisely why taking on Moore would be worth the gamble. Jones could do in Alabama this year what Republican Scott Brown did in a 2010 special election in Massachusetts

.. A Jones win would also cut the Republicans’ already tough-to-manage Senate majority to a bare 51 seats.

.. At an election eve Moore rally, Bannon called out McConnell and Karl Rove, President George W. Bush’s top political adviser, by name.

.. “Your day of reckoning is coming,” Bannon declared.

..  The message from Alabama is clear; he and his party have unleashed forces they cannot control.

Trump Can’t Win the Blame Game

Like any president, he’ll be judged by his results. So far, he’s failed to deliver much.

.. Mr. McConnell said the president had shown “excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process.”

This is accurate. Mr. Trump frequently says things like “We are moving very quickly” (referring to health care, on Feb. 27), “We are going to have tax reform at some point very soon” (April 12), and that his administration’s infrastructure plan will “take off like a rocket ship” (June 8).

.. Blaming others may be cathartic for Mr. Trump, but it weakens the presidency and inhibits his agenda.
.. So where are the administration’s focused efforts to use the presidential megaphone to explain the GOP agenda and persuade voters? An early-hours tweet may enthuse true believers, but 140 characters won’t sway most Americans and may even repel them.

Where are the speeches explaining the plan to replace ObamaCare and why it would be better? Where are the Oval Office addresses on why tax reform would produce better jobs and bigger paychecks? Where are the choruses echoing the president’s arguments for an infrastructure bill? They are nowhere to be found.

Missing also are the administration’s legislative proposals, such as an actual infrastructure bill. Although the White House website touts a trillion-dollar price tag for Mr. Trump’s program, it devotes just 314 words to outlining its provisions. As a reference point, that is fewer than half the words in this column—not enough for a major piece of legislation.

America’s Future Is Texas

With right-wing zealots taking over the legislature even as the state’s demographics shift leftward, Texas has become the nation’s bellwether.

Texans see themselves as a distillation of the best qualities of America: friendly, confident, hardworking, patriotic, neurosis-free. Outsiders see us as the nation’s id, a place where rambunctious and disavowed impulses run wild. Texans, it is thought, mindlessly celebrate individualism, and view government as a kind of kryptonite that weakens the entrepreneurial muscles.

We’re reputed to be braggarts; careless with money and our personal lives; a little gullible, but dangerous if crossed; insecure, but obsessed with power and prestige.

.. Texas has been growing at a stupefying rate for decades. The only state with more residents is California, and the number of Texans is projected to double by 2050, to 54.4 million, almost as many people as in California and New York combined. Three Texas cities—Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio—are already among the top ten most populous in the country.

.. For more than a century, Texas was under Democratic rule. The state was always culturally conservative, religious, and militaristic, but a strain of pragmatism kept it from being fully swept up in racism and right-wing ideology. Economic populism, especially in the rural areas, offered a counterweight to the capitalists in the cities.

.. In 1978, Bill Clements became the first Republican governor of Texas since Reconstruction. To help him reach constituents, Clements hired a young direct-mail wizard named Karl Rove, who became a central figure in Texas’s transformation from blue to red. Rove attributes the change to the growth of the suburbs and the gradual movement of the rural areas into the Republican column: “They went from being economic populists, who thought the system was rigged against them by Wall Street, to being social and conservative populists, who thought that government was the problem.”

.. Moderate and conservative Democratic politicians followed the voters to the Republican Party. Rick Perry, for one, served three terms in the Texas House as a Democrat, and even campaigned for Al Gore in his 1988 Presidential run, before changing parties, in 1989. In 1994, Texas elected its last statewide Democrat. “It was a complete rout of a political party,”