Contradictory Readings in the Tea Leaves

Sheridan          It’s a tough time to be a commentator, pundit, or general political wizard.  It must be like walking a tightrope.  They know it’s scary when they start walking the wire and have to wonder if they’ll made it to the other side.

Take for example a long piece in the press about the continuing popularity of Senator Bernie Sanders and the nonexistent coattails his candidates have shown in recent elections, including the fact that only about 40% of Our Revolution picks have prevailed.  Days later I’m talking to friends in the Bay Area and a Sanders star and Richmond Progressive Alliance stalwart is giving long time Democratic Obama and Clinton operative Buffy Wicks a wild run for her money in a state assembly race.  Given Wicks refusal to endorse the statewide ballot initiative allowing cities wider discretion over rent control, that hot button issue could be her undoing.

An even bigger hole was punched in the “conventional wisdom” when Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, a 28-year old former Sanders organizer in Queens and the Bronx, upset the 10-term Congressman Joseph Crowley, the fourth ranking Democrat in the US House leadership who coveted a shot a being Speaker and upsetting Nancy Pelosi if the Democrats win control in the midterms.  Not only was Cortez advocating single payer health but she called for dismantling the entire Immigration and Customs Enforcement apparatus going to the heart of the beast.

A chart in the Times also measured increased voter turnout by Democrats so far in elections in twenty key Congressional districts that could flip the House.  Before the celebration starts while the game is still underway, it is worth noting that the increased turnout is lower than what the Republicans registered when they wrested control in 2010 in rebellion against Obama.

And, that’s the problem if “premature certainty” creeps in now when the tea leaves are so muddled.  Take immigration where the hard line and hard-hearted Trump-Sessions hateration and escalation on the border and its policy of family separation and child incarceration drove a wedge through the right and united the American people in drawing a line on fundamental values.  A poll cited by the Washington Post is a good example of the perils of prediction:

A new Economist/YouGov poll showed that 54 percent of Americans disapprove of separating families who cross the border illegally. But only 19 percent support “releasing the families and having them report back for an immigration hearing at a later date” — the approach now endorsed by every single Senate Democrat. By contrast, the poll found the most popular policy — supported by 44 percent of Americans and even 49 percent of Democrats — is “holding families together in detention centers until an immigration hearing at a later date.” And it found that 46 percent also support Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy of arresting and prosecuting anyone who crosses the border illegally.

See what I mean.  Politics is not simply a blunt instrument swinging one direction.  We can’t hope to win only talking to ourselves.  It must drive the pundits crazy, but for the rest of us, it’s a reminder to look before we leap and make sure we have people behind us before we jump.

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