The Hysteria Meter: Summer Edition

I had to close the internet last week a few times because it just got to be way too much. I get that the algorithms are designed to feed into rage and hysteria. It's just a general byproduct of social media these days, but sometimes, it gets to be a little much. Especially lately, so let's look at the HYSTERIA METER of late June and early July:

1. The Biden Thing:  I was torn when I first heard about the debate schedule. On the one hand, I've always thought that the Commission on Presidental Debates was a festering pile of horseshit designed to shut out and an all third party candidates to preserve the duopoly as much as possible. (If you can get to 270 electoral votes on paper, you get an invite to the first debate. 15% in the polls get you to the second debate should be the rule.) On the other hand, I didn't know why they were scheduling debates before the convention until it actually happened. You have a debate in June because if you're 81 and people are concerned about your age, a competent debate performance stamps some of those concerns down- a bit. But you've actually got to have a good night to make that work and Biden... did not have a good night.

I didn't bother watching, because I didn't want to watch two old men yell at each other for two hours on national television. 

So, what happens now? I think the next week or so will probably be telling-- if the leaks continue and someone finds a graceful exit for Biden (because I don't think anyone has done that so far-- at least not an exit door he's willing to walk through) he could be persuaded to take it. If he's not gone by next week or plans aren't in place to have him stand down at the Convention and throw it to Harris, then we're Ridin' With Biden whether we like it or not.  (Also: of course, Biden is meeting with the Democratic Governors and insisting that he's in it to win it-- that's what you say right up until the moment you don't.)

(Someone on Twitter pointed out that Bob Dole ran in 1996 and no one expected him to win, so they let him run a dignified Presidential campaign and shifted the money and resources to down-ballot races. If Biden is here to stay, Democratic Donors should probably do that.)

If it's Harris, then it's Harris. I don't think it will be anyone else and it would (theoretically) solve a lot of problems for the Democrats if it is her. First of all, it dispenses with the 'but she never won a primary' argument. She gets to put herself in front of the American people unburdened by the context of what has been to see what they have to say about it. Pretty sure that checks that box. Second of all: if she wins, then congratulations, you've beaten Trump and retain the White House. If she loses, then it probably fatally damages her chances in 2028, because who nominates someone who lost to Trump?

Would I vote for Harris? Probably. She's closer to 50 than 80 and I think that fact alone is going to be attractive to a lot of normie voters. 

2. The Chevron Thing: So, the Supreme Court overturned Chevron Deference and everyone lost their damn minds about it. If you're on the Right, congratulations, then this is a blow to the administrative state you've been waiting for. If you're on the Left: calm the fuck down.

Do I think this is great? Maybe. I think it could cut through a lot of self-imposed red tape (and make tying up housing projects, transit projects, any kind of project through endless NEPA reviews a lot harder to do) but I also see the argument that it could allow corporations to say (and this is a TikTok metaphor that I don't agree with) put more lead in Lunchables. But also, remember the baby formula shortage? I don't know if it's just FDA regulations preventing the importation of formula from Europe and not some stupid-ass tariff, but if it is the former and not the latter, then there's really no excuse for a formula shortage ever again, right? 

The point is: there is potential bad with this decision, but there's also potential good. Don't like corporations getting away with polluting the air/water/land? Write a clear relatively unambiguous law against it and it suddenly becomes a lot harder to wriggle out of it.

Chevron has been around since 1986. The Republic stood for a long time before that without it and it will stand for a long time after it. If the general subtext to this decision is the judicial branch telling the legislative branch to get up off its ass and actually legislate, I'm okay with that. A legislative branch that isn't a supine rubber stamp to the executive is something that is sorely needed in our democracy at the moment. Maybe instead of impeaching the President over some bullshit every other fucking year, Congress can write some laws, instead?

3. The Immunity Thing: WHAT DID YOU EXPECT THEM TO DO? SCOTUS was never going to give Trump or any other President absolute immunity nor were they going to deny that any immunity exists. The real concern about this ruling is that to me, it seems like it's the judiciary that's going to get to decide what is and isn't an official act and that's a lot of power they've quietly taken for themselves. Plus, it didn't exactly clear the decks for Trump either. SCOTUS remanded a lot of the case back to the lower court to decide the question of what was and wasn't an official act and presumably, that would get back to them on appeal, if they saw reason to take the case at all. No, they didn't make Trump a King. No, Trump can't order Seal Team Six to assassinate a political rival. (Pretty sure that would violate this, thus rendering it unofficial, to me.) Again: it was a mixed bag. Was it good for Trump? Kind of. Was it good for Biden and other former Presidents? Quietly, yes- because it means that Trump, should he win, can't go after Biden once he's out of office either. 

This was about what I expected them to do. None of us should be crazy about the potential power the judiciary grabbed for themselves here, but honestly, some kind of immunity was always going to be preserved.

4, The UK Elections: In the last few days before the election there was legit talk that Labour and Keir Starmer could be elected with the biggest majority since 1832, which is ludicrous. There was even more talk about the Conservatives being totally wiped out and the Liberal Democrats forming the official opposition, which would have constituted a major realignment in British politics.

That didn't happen. It was still the worst result for the Conservatives (just about) ever. Liz Truss became the first (former) Prime Minister since Ramsay Mcdonald to lose their seat and plenty of other Conservative big-wigs went down as well. 

The thing is... I do think this election was about 14 years of Conservative rule, the mess that is Brexit, COVID parties and dozens of other things and I think- in fact, I know- people were fed up. Alistair Campbell and Rory Stewart have a podcast whose clips float up on my TikTok feed a lot and they were talking about a curious lack of enthusiasm for Labour and I do think that this was less about, 'Man, I can't wait to get Keir Starmer and Labour in charge' and more about 'Fuck these Tory Twats I want to see them consigned to the wilderness for a generation.' And that dynamic is... potentially problematic for Labour. I feel that Starmer is fairly pragmatic and if his government can push policies to right the ship, clean up the Brexit mess, and get the economy moving in the right direction for everyone, then I think they'll be okay and the next election there might be less of an enthusiasm gap for them.

I don't think they should confuse the size of the majority as a rubber stamp for them either. Yes, it's big- it's Tony Blair big, but their vote share didn't tick up all that much. Reform came in second place in about 100 seats, so they're lurking. And the SNP has tied itself in knots over a variety of issues- not just gender recognition, but there are dangers of getting in the weeds with overly left-wing issues as well. (The next Scottish elections just became interesting as well.)

If I'm grabbing for the big fish, it's making the House of Lords a proper upper chamber and introducing proportional representation to it in time for the next election. That may produce unintended consequences you don't like, but PR for the Commons absolutely will produce consequences you (as Labour leader) probably won't like. Plus, if you can get it done, then you will have managed to do some thing Prime Ministers have been talking about since Gladstone. That's not a bad legacy, by any stretch of the imagination. 

'We'll see': this is my general theory of the UK elections. There is an opportunity here and if Starmer and Labour can get some good stuff done it could pay off for them, but they've got to deliver the basic goods. If they can't do that, then we'll be back to Conservatives again-- probably in coalition with Reform.


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