Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

This is reprinted from a post from last February ...

It all reminds me of a line from a famous, or rather infamous, memo Pat Buchanan, then a White House staffer, wrote for Richard Nixon in, I believe, 1972 when their idea of the moment was what they called 'positive polarization'.

At the end of this confidential strategy memo laying out various ideas about how to create social unrest over racial issues and confrontations with the judiciary, Buchanan wrote (and you can find this passage on p. 185 of Jonathan Schell's wonderful Time of Illusion): "In conclusion, this is a potential throw of the dice that could bring the media on our heads, and cut the Democratic Party and country in half; my view is that we would have far the larger half."

And there you have it. Tear the country apart. And once it's broken, our chunk will be bigger.

Apropos of the <$NoAd$>moment.

In an article at Foxnews.com on possible Supreme Court nominations, C. Boyden Gray, former counsel to the first President Bush said the following about the filibuster rules in the Senate ...

As it stands today [Democrats] can block [a nominee] ... But I also believe that the president and majority leader may well decide to change the rules given the elections ... The president has a very strong political support, potential support, for asking for and getting this change.

What does this mean exactly?

Certainly, a reelected president with an expanded senate majority has a lot more <$NoAd$> leverage to get his judicial nominees confirmed. There's no getting around that. And it will be very difficult for Democrats to hold their whole caucus together to stymie a judicial appointment with a filibuster. Moreover, the 60 vote rule, on the merits, is subject to a lot of very valid criticism.

But what is it about the president's victory on Tuesday that provides a moral authority or logic to changing the rules under which nominations are now approved?

This is a critical difference.

Democrats have to deal with the fact that President Bush is now no longer a minority president, however slim his majority may have been. They also need to contend with his expanded senate majorities.

But this is what I fear will be a growing pattern in this second term: an effort to use a narrowly secured majority not only to govern, even govern aggressively, but to make institutional changes that strip away the existing powers and rights of large minorities. These formal and informal checks and balances constitute the governmental soft-tissue that allows our political system to function.

An earlier example of this was the DeLay double-dip redistricting from last year. I believe we'll see much more. And it's a pattern that everyone should be watching closely.

Take a look at Ed Kilgore's take on the post-election intra-Democratic party issues at his NewDonkey website. For those of you who don't know, Ed is the Policy Director of the DLC.

"I think a large part of the public likes the conservatives' theme music. Now they will be tested on whether they like the lyrics."

-- Barney Frank, Brookline TAB, Nov. 4th, 2004.

After the Massachusetts court decision in favor of gay marriage, I remember writing that though this was good for civil rights, we should not fool ourselves into thinking that it's anything but bad for the Democratic party. I thought I'd written that in TPM. But when I used the TPM search engine yesterday I couldn't find it using the obvious keywords. So it's possible that I wrote it somewhere else or even in a private letter. Who knows ...

In any case, over the last 7 or 8 months I think I managed to convince myself that this wasn't the case, which was obviously wrong.

Let me start by making an important distinction. Recognizing that a certain position cost a lot at the polls is not the same as saying the position should be discarded for political reasons. I know that on the surface it may seem that way. But they're not the same thing. And it's foolish to ignore these realities if you're going to make any headway at coping with them.

As many other have already noted, Rove and Co. cleverly managed to get anti-gay marriage initiatives and referenda on the ballot in a number of key swing states. And that seems to have played an key role in mobilizing 'peripheral' evangelical and culturally conservative voters.

Once they were at the polls, of course, they voted for George W. Bush.

Looking back over the week before the campaign I realize that I should have been more attentive to the reports I was picking up from readers about a wave of push-polls or robo-calls on the gay marriage issue -- some hitting the issue itself while others dug deeper and insisted that the issue was really whether homosexuality would be 'taught in schools' and so forth.

This issue clearly had potency without a phone-call campaign. But that added to it. The decision to get the initiatives on the ballot, followed by a carefully orchestrated campaign of push-polls and the like amounted to a effective campaign pincer movement. And it was one that, to be honest, I think fairly few on the Democratic side even saw coming. Gay marriage -- and the whole cluster of issues that surround it -- became the sub rosa issue of the campaign.

It may have provided Bush with the crucial turnout boost on the right that allowed him to remain in office.

Memory hole watch: the LA Times has the first interviews with soldiers who watched as looted dragged away those high-grade explosives from the al Qaqaa munitions complex.

As an oft-times critic of her, let me highly recommend Maureen Dowd's column in this morning's Times. And we'll be saying more about 'reaching out' to Red State voters.

In his commentary today, Marshall Wittman says: "Organization is fine - ideas and message are far superior."

Lest there be any doubt, I entirely agree. It is simply that I think the two work in tandem and each galvanizes and augments the other.

There's a lot of talking to done about this, haggling, gnashing of teeth, some shouting too. The point of my earlier discussion wasn't stand-pat-ism. Improvement is always possible and necessary. And Democrats are still recovering from various social and political developments stretching from the 1960s straight through to the 1990s. It is, simply, also important to distinguish between the present moment and 1984 or 1972, though many would like to portray this in those terms.

Needless to say, we'll talk much more about this.