Carla Marinucci has a profile of Mickey Kaus and his self-serving vanity campaign against Barbara Boxer for US Senate in today’s San Francisco Chronicle. While the article is a good overview to Kaus’s beliefs, it doesn’t fully explain that he is a marginal figure – at best – within the Democratic Party, and misses a chance to really get at the heart of the US Senate race. It’s a race that isn’t about the center, but about turning out the base.
Marinucci’s article seems to suggest that Kaus is an example of trouble Boxer is having with moderate Democrats. The problem, as anyone who is familiar with Kaus would know, is that Kaus is not at all a representation of a “moderate Democrat.” He is a garden-variety right-winger who makes a name for himself by claiming to be a Democrat, getting media attention for his totally unfounded claims that the modern Democratic Party is too far to the left because they don’t share his values.
Mickey Kaus doesn’t represent anyone or anything other than Mickey Kaus. He has no base – at all – in the Democratic Party. Democratic voters aren’t flocking to him or his ideas because they simply do not share his ideas, no matter where on the Democratic spectrum from center to left said voter falls.
Much more over the flip.
Mickey Kaus shows how out of touch with reality – and the Democratic Party – he is in these quotes reported by Marinucci:
“It’s clear that the unions own the Democratic party – and it’s going to be a disaster unless that changes,” says Kaus, 58, a longtime blogger for online magazine Slate.com and author of “The End of Equality,” which urges a rethinking of liberalism.
Instead of “chasing after the Latino vote” and pushing for public “card check” elections intended to make it easier for workers to join labor unions, he said his party and Boxer – whom he calls an “old-style pol, through and through” – should deal with issues that affect the everyday lives of working Californians.
“Do the vast majority of Californians want to do away with the secret ballot in union elections? No,” he said. “And the huge number of voters here don’t want immediate amnesty for undocumented immigrants – until the border is secure.”
Where to begin? If unions “own” the Democratic Party – a debatable proposition given the languishing Employee Free Choice Act – then that ownership has paid rich rewards for Democrats, who currently control the federal government and most of the state government. Pelosi won Congress and Obama won the White House with strong support from unions.
They also won with strong support from Latinos. Kaus is well known for his anti-Latino sentiments, which are out of step not only with reality, but with Democratic electoral success. “Chasing after the Latino vote” has produced Democratic dominance of nearly every election in California, for state or federal office, since 1996. The only exception is Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has resisted his own party’s anti-Latino demands and in both 2003 and 2006 did well with Latino voters.
Kaus’s electoral prescription is one of permanent minority status for the Democratic Party. His political analysis is laughably inaccurate. So why does he continue to get attention?
Kaus claims to be a “lifelong Democrat” but he is attacking two groups – labor unions and immigrants – that have been at the core of the Democratic Party for nearly 200 years. It’s clear that his claims to being a Democrat are only made out of convenience, made only so that he can inhabit his niche as a right-wing Democratic concern troll.
That’s the role he’s playing here. Now it’s not Marinucci’s fault for simply repeating Kaus’s absurd, evidence-free claims. But she does err when she uses Kaus and others like him to argue Boxer is having problems with moderates:
Kaus’ campaign against Boxer, who has been called one of the Senate’s most liberal members, is a longshot in blue California. But his bid underscores challenges for California’s junior senator….
Patrick Dorinson, who writes the cowboylibertarian.com blog, said besting Boxer is near “Mission Impossible,” but such messages connect with moderate Democrats and the 1 in 5 state voters who declined to state a political party in their voter registration.
There are many flaws with this interpretation. The first and foremost is that people like Kaus and Dorinson are not at all representative of California Democratic voters. Instead they are right-leaning folks who want to undermine progressives and liberals in the Democratic Party, and have consistently failed to do so.
Polls show the reasons for their failure, and disprove the “Kaus represents Democratic dissatisfaction with Boxer” theory. A March 2010 USC/LA Times poll showed 67% of Democrats had favorable views of Boxer, with only 17% having unfavorable views and only 8% having “very unfavorable” views.
On immigration, 60% of Democrats said immigration had a positive impact on the country, and 50% said illegal immigration had a positive impact. Not exactly fertile ground for Kaus’s anti-immigrant message. Democrats strongly support a path to citizenship and border enforcement, both core elements of the current Democratic Congressional approach to the issue. Further, Democrats view immigrants from Latin America very positively in the same numbers as white Californians – between 60% and 70% of Dems and whites say such immigrants “work very hard” but reject claims they “end up on welfare” or “increase the crime rate.”
When it comes to decline to state voters, their views on immigration are similar to those of Democrats. The percentages of DTS voters supporting a path to citizenship and rejecting attacks on public benefits for immigrants are almost exactly the same as for Democrats. Here again, Kaus seems deeply out of touch with the mainstream of California.
I don’t fault Marinucci for wanting to write a story about Kaus that gives him a chance to air his views. But she should have refrained from implying that his views have any significant support among California Democratic or DTS voters, because the evidence is very clear that they don’t.
From that, it follows that although Boxer faces a close race for her re-election, she can count on strong support from California’s Democrats, and maintains an important lead among California’s DTS voters. Boxer’s problem isn’t that she’s losing the center, but is instead the same problem faced by Democrats across the country – a lack of enthusiasm from the Democratic base.
That lack of enthusiasm isn’t there because the Democrats are too liberal, but because they’re too slow to act and produce the changes voters expected in 2008. If Boxer can mobilize Democrats and independents to turn out in November in large numbers, she will have little problem winning re-election. Whether she can do so doesn’t depend on whether she’s seen as moderate, but whether she is seen as effective.
The same USC/LA Times poll showed strong support for health care reform, and combined with Boxer’s votes in support of the stimulus and her strong stand in support of good financial regulation, there is every reason to believe she’ll be able to show voters she has indeed been an effective agent of change in Washington DC. And that is what will fuel her re-election bid.
That suggests the deepest flaw with Marinucci’s article, then, isn’t just that she doesn’t see how marginal a figure Kaus actually is. It’s that she’s repeating the frame that to win this Senate election, one must capture the middle. Most indications are that Boxer’s already done that – the real task is to drive the base to the polls. That is the true story of the 2010 election.