Return of the Technocrats? Or Sinking in the Swamp?

Policy wonks are seeing a refreshing return to the normal order. Some believe that's a bad thing.

At WaPo, reporters Annie Linskey and Ashley Parker examine the first few days of the Biden administration in “Return of the technocrats: Biden aims for ‘normal’ after four years of tumult.”

After discussing the flurry of Executive Orders already signed, the proclaim,

The technocrats, in other words, are back — complete with their return to regular order and aspirations of rigorous monotony.

The whirlwind of activity, both public and private, was part of a planned launch of Biden’s presidency that began in late April — before he had formally clinched the Democratic nomination — designed to showcase Biden’s promise to restore what he and his aides view as normalcy to the White House.

“They are running normal policy processes,” said Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “For those of us who’ve been in Washington a long time, it is the normal policymaking process that we’ve been familiar with for a long time. And that, from our perspective, seems to produce better, more informed policy.”

But if Biden and his team view his mantra of “Build Back Better” as a lofty goal, many Republicans see it as a return of the swamp. Former president Donald Trump’s rise was fueled by voters who viewed Washington as a town of bureaucrats and elites removed from the struggles of their daily lives — and who appreciated Trump’s disdain for the usual way of doing things.

“I’m not sure what a new normal looks like, because I think the Trump way of doing things and his nonpolitical approach has a certain appeal to voters, and that’s going to have to be part of this new normal,” said Neil Newhouse, a Republican pollster.

Referring to Biden’s relatively staid Twitter feed, Newhouse joked, “Are we still waiting for his first tweet? Many Americans are used to right now communication by Twitter. I think some people actually miss that.”

Neil, a founding partner of the most important Republican polling firm, was my late first wife’s employer and remains a friend of the family. And I’ll certainly defer to his expertise as to the pulse of the 47 percent of the electorate who preferred another Trump term.

I can’t imagine most Americans care much one way or the other about process per se. But, certainly, they care about what policies are made and how it affects their lives. To the extent that elites are acting as puppetmasters without regard for its impact on regular people, it’ll obviously backfire.

Granting that my social circles are elite* by this standard, most of the Trump supporters I know did so despite the tweets rather than because of them. While some enjoyed Trump’s pugnaciousness, most cringed at the volume and, especially, the crassness.

Beyond that, I can’t imagine many are longing for a President and administration that constantly feeds them lies and misinformation. It’s one thing to shoot from the hip, saying what you mean, and occasionally getting out over your skis as a result. It’s quite another to actively mislead the public that you’re elected to serve.

Moreover, while Trump himself engaged the public—or, more accurately, his core supporters—via Twitter on a constant basis, the administration as a whole largely did not. The Pentagon and State Department, in particular, all but stopped their daily press briefings. For that matter, while Trump was quick with a tweet, he essentially stopped giving press conferences.

As for me, a policy wonk, it’s not surprising that I like a return to professionalism. In contrast to all the attention given to Elizabeth Warren’s “I have a plan for everything” approach, this was wildly underreported:

Biden tapped former senator Ted Kaufman of Delaware on April 22 to run his transition. He pulled in several others, and what started as handful of trusted Biden advisers ballooned to a staff of more than 400 paid transition employees by Jan. 20.

An additional 1,000 volunteers also helped in a number of ways, including vetting potential hires — a mammoth task that involved more than 8,000 interviews.

Guided by Biden’s speeches and remarks on the campaign trail, they turned the candidate’s public decrees and promises into legislative language. When Biden delivered his major economic speeches over the summer, they took the text and broke it down into separate executive orders and tracked what he was promising on the first day, first week and first 100 days.

[…]

Proposals were drafted and then vetted by multiple rounds of attorneys, including career lawyers inside the Justice Department. Two major pieces of legislation were put together: one for coronavirus relief and another on immigration.

There was also an employee handbook for the transition. “There is no transition without a successful campaign” was one quote from the book. Another focused on tone: “No egos, no drama, no task too small for anyone. We have each other’s backs.”

Their work accelerated once Biden was elected, with transition officials contacting interest groups in key players in Washington, making over 3,500 calls to organizations, according to a transition official.

The groups included the typical constituencies that are part of the Democratic coalition including labor unions, civil rights organizations and women’s groups. But they also targeted those more typically aligned with the GOP.

“Uniting America is not about just giving speeches — it’s not even about announcing policies,” Kaufman said. “It’s about getting down, doing the hard work and talking to members of Congress, talking to governors and talking to people in normally Republican areas.”

Bradley, whose group has commonly aligned with Republicans, called it “a highly organized, I would say very efficient process.”

“It removes multiple layers of uncertainty or confusion,” he said. “We may not always agree with the direction that they’re going, but at least you have a sense of understanding it and that is exceptionally helpful to the business community — just knowing how policy is unfolding.”

This is how governing is supposed to be done. Not only are the policy experts working on the details, but it’s being vetted by lawyers and legislative staff for legality and viability. Otherwise, it’s just pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking.

Contrast this with four years ago.

Not only had the Trump team done precious little transition work in the months ahead of his surprising victory, but he then blew it up entirely and started over in the weeks after. Indeed, there was never a point in his administration where things were as organized as Team Biden was from Day 1.

Now, competent execution of a policy vision that you hate is arguably worse than amateurish execution of one you favor. Except that, because of the sheer incompetence of the team he surrounded himself with, most of Trump’s signature policies were slapped down in court precisely because of that incompetence. He could easily have gotten away with the travel ban, exclusion of illegal immigrants from the Census, and countless other policies his critics hated had his team simply done the work of jumping through the necessary legal hoops.

Beyond that, the combination of professional administration and his own natural instincts has me thinking it’s possible—not likely, but more than sheer wishful thinking—that Biden can break through the long cycle of partisan gridlock.

Biden’s nominees also have been making the rounds, such as a visit by treasury secretary nominee Janet Yellen with the National Association of Manufacturers executive committee.

It was “a very candid, open, frank conversation,” said Jay Timmons, the group’s president.

Timmons, who was once the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said that Biden’s approach has been “refreshing.”

It helps that he’s known Biden since he was a Senate aide two decades ago. “In Joe Biden, you have just a decent human being,” Timmons said. “He’s willing to listen to all points of view.”

The outreach provided an early benefit when these right-leaning groups, including the Chamber, NAM and the Business Roundtable issued statements on Jan. 4 urging members of Congress and others to accept Biden’s electoral college victory.

That happened in some cases after the Biden transition team reached out asking for the help, according to a business lobbyist familiar with the effort who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private talks.

“They expressed their concerns about the road that we were going down and where that might lead, which were, frankly, concerns that a lot of people in the business community shared,” the lobbyist said.

The Biden team’s message was clear: “Folks speaking up would be helpful,” the lobbyist recalled. “A lot of folks in the business community were happy to.” Biden’s transition team confirmed the outreach to business groups, but noted that in some cases business organizations proactively asked how they could help.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki has highlighted the support for Biden’s coronavirus relief package from business groups, saying there has been an “outpouring of support” for various parts of the package “from everyone from Bernie Sanders to the Chamber of Commerce.”

Aside from his sheer decency and his decades of relationships across the aisle, Biden is enough of a pro to understand the situation he’s in. Yes, he won by more than 7 million votes; but, again, 47 percent preferred the other guy even despite more than a quarter-million dead from a pandemic under his watch by Election Day. Yes, his party took the Senate and retained the House. But the margins are razor thin and very likely to flip in two years.

So, rather than trying to ram everything down people’s throats, he’s building bridges ahead of his announcements. He’s actually asking those who would be his most well-heeled critics for their input before announcing his agenda to see where there’s common ground.

But the Biden team’s concerted effort to revive some of the basic traditions of past White Houses also has its risks. Washington trying to work together can look an awful lot like elites palling around, or the overly clubby atmosphere that gave rise to the early enthusiasm for Trump’s candidacy.

So, I think this misframes the problem.

There is, indeed, a sense that “elites” of both parties are looking out for their fellow elites, the wishes of the common folk be damned. Yes, it helped fuel Trump in the 2016 primaries but it was also the impetus for the rise of Bernie Sanders, one of the least natural politicians imaginable, as a serious challenger to Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side. It’s the main appeal of Elizabeth Warren, too. Going further back, it was a major component of the Tea Party movement.

Elites in both parties—and, again, I include myself in this—spent decades extolling the virtues of “free trade” with too little attention to the impact on blue collar workers here. While I was an opponent to massive bailouts of the big banks, auto companies, and the like, there was bipartisan consensus that they were Too Big To Fail. And, while there were differences in approach, Democratic liberal interventionists and Republican neoconservatives got us in a lot of unpopular wars for thirty years, spending trillions of dollars of the taxpayers’ money with little return on investment.

Still, while there was long an “elite consensus” on the big issues, the last four years have demonstrated rather clearly that “uncivil war” isn’t the solution. If we assume the other side is evil, we can’t even come together on matters—like a global pandemic—that should be completely above partisan politics.

Alas, competence, hard, work, and decency on one side won’t overcome the inertia that has been built up over three decades overnight. This is still a thing:

And key Republican senators have already expressed skepticism, if not outright opposition, to Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief proposal.

“President Biden is talking like a centrist, he is using the words of the center, talking about unity, but he is governing like someone from the far left,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in a video message Friday.

“He has ordered more executive fiats than anyone in such a short period of time — ever. More than Obama, more than Trump, more than anyone,” Rubio said, referring to the flurry of executive actions Biden has signed.

I, too, have argued against governance by executive fiat. But I opposed it when Trump—and, indeed, when George W. Bush, for whom I twice voted—was doing it, too. If you only demand fealty to process—or to fiscal discipline—when the other side is in charge, it’s not principle but tactic.

I welcome Biden’s attempt to govern in a style we haven’t seen since, arguably, George H.W. Bush. I would prefer a return to governance by compromise and persuasion rather than brute force. But I don’t expect him to unilaterally disarm, either.

_________________

*”Elite” is damned near meaningless because different people mean different things by it. It’s being used in subtlety different ways in the WaPo report. On the one hand, it’s shorthand for “the rich.” I’m not elite in that sense, even though I’m more affluent than most. Sometimes, it means “the powerful,” which overlaps with but isn’t the same as “the rich.” I’m not in that group, either. Other times, it means “well-educated folks,” particularly those with careers that are primarily intellectual. I’m in that latter group.

FILED UNDER: Government, Joe Biden, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    *”Elite” is damned near meaningless because different people mean different things by it. It’s being used in subtlety different ways in the WaPo report. On the one hand, it’s shorthand for “the rich.” I’m not elite in that sense, even though I’m more affluent than most. Sometimes, it means “the powerful,” which overlaps with but isn’t the same as “the rich.” I’m not in that group, either. Other times, it means “well-educated folks,” particularly those with careers that are primarily intellectual. I’m in that latter group.

    I am sick to death of that word and propose we retire it except for when talking of sports.

    Instead we should use phrases like “the obscenely rich,” and “people who know wtf they are talking about,” or “people who get shit done.” Also, we should never use it for bureaucrats who just follow the law or Congressmen and Senators which include such guiding lights as Louie Gohmert and Tommy Tuberville who lets face it, whatever else they are, “elite” is not among them.

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  2. CSK says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    I, too, would like to see a moratorium on the word “elite,” along with “rally,” “hoax,” and “witch hunt.”

    I would also like to add that, since the time of Sarah Palin, “elite” has come to mean “anyone who speaks and writes the English language properly.”

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  3. Scott F. says:

    I welcome Biden’s attempt to govern in a style we haven’t seen since, arguably, George H.W. Bush. I would prefer a return to governance by compromise and persuasion rather than brute force. But I don’t expect him to unilaterally disarm, either.

    “Governance by compromise and persuasion” requires truth and openness from both parties. So when Marco Rubio (!) states that Biden is governing from the far left just 2 days into his term, the esteemed senator from Florida can just shut the hell up.

    In his inaugural address, Biden spoke of unity, but he made an very important distinction. He noted that in past times of national unity, in the face of war and economic strife, “enough of us came together to carry all of us forward.” I think that’s about right and I’m confident that Biden will work that way. He’s not going to work to win over all 47M of Republican voters and the politicians who cater to them – the Rubios can be and should be written off as liars and obstructionists. But, if “enough” Republicans can be persuaded to finally chose to work for “all of us” and not just their narrow interests, then the governance of compromise is possible. If we see governance by executive fiat, it must be recognized it won’t be due to Biden’s administration.

    8
  4. Sleeping Dog says:

    To paraphrase Kevin Williamson from a few weeks ago in his nod to WFB, the governing and business leadership will be the class of Harvard 97 or look a lot like the Harvard class of 97 and not the Q-shaman character. Except for the lowest political offices, politicians are by definition among the elite (I agree we should banish the word) and so are most business owners. These are silly arguments.

    1
  5. steve says:

    “most of the Trump supporters I know did so despite the tweets rather than because of them. While some enjoyed Trump’s pugnaciousness, most cringed at the volume and, especially, the crassness.”

    Most of the Trump supporters I know loved what he did and said. Trump alienating half of the country was one of the reasons they voted for him. They really believed that he never lied. That he was areal Christian. That God sent him to lead them. I think that at an intellectual level you realize what a cult has evolved around Trump, but at some gut level I dont think you quite accept it.

    Steve

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  6. James Joyner says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Oddly, Tommy Tuberville was rather elite—as a football coach. As a Senator, he’s an embarrassment.

    @Scott F.:

    But, if “enough” Republicans can be persuaded to finally chose to work for “all of us” and not just their narrow interests, then the governance of compromise is possible.

    I hold out a sliver of hope that’s possible. The parties are incredibly sorted right now and the incentives to compromise that used to exist aren’t there. But I think it’s still possible to compromise on an issue-by-issue basis.

    @Sleeping Dog:

    the governing and business leadership will be the class of Harvard 97 or look a lot like the Harvard class of 97

    Maybe at the staff level. At the decision-maker level, it’ll be more like 87. Or, sadly, 67.

    5
  7. MarkedMan says:

    Tommy Tuberville was rather elite—as a football coach

    It tells you all you need to know about why the State of Alabama is in the bottom five of virtually every measure of success when you realize they chose as their Senator a not very bright and financially inept con man whose sole talent was telling college kids how to play a game.

    3
  8. James Joyner says:

    @steve:

    I think that at an intellectual level you realize what a cult has evolved around Trump, but at some gut level I dont think you quite accept it.

    As noted in the OP, my observations are based on educated professionals who stuck with the party through Trump, not the rank and file.

    1
  9. CSK says:

    @MarkedMan:
    In Alabama, being a college football coach makes you the elite of the elite. It doesn’t elsewhere. I doubt one out of fifty could tell you who coaches either the UMass or Boston College football teams.

    4
  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Scott F.: @James Joyner:

    But I think it’s still possible to compromise on an issue-by-issue basis.

    As soon as somebody does, they will be labeled a RINO and far right wackos will begin to line up to primary them. We all know that in today’s gerrymandered districts centrists don’t have much of a chance, Liz Cheney being a possible exception to that rule only because you can’t gerrymander a state.

    Not that she is a centrist or anything, just an apostate.

    4
  11. Michael Cain says:

    When used by a conservative, elite means liberal (in the modern American definition of that term). The school teacher drawing down a miserable salary, living in a trailer park, but volunteering for progressive causes and voting consistently for Democrats is “elite”. Ted Cruz (Princeton and Harvard Law) and Josh Hawley (Stanford and Yale Law), both knocking down Senators’ salaries and perks, are not. The Koch brothers, who grew up wealthy, got post-graduate degrees from MIT, and are big patrons of the arts in New York City and Boston, are not.

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  12. “I’m not sure what a new normal looks like, because I think the Trump way of doing things and his nonpolitical approach has a certain appeal to voters, and that’s going to have to be part of this new normal,” said Neil Newhouse, a Republican pollster.

    I expect that “government should run more like a business” polls well also.

    The problem is that a lot of things that poll well aren’t true.

    I realize that this creates a very real political problem, but I don’t like the framing in the quoted article because it makes it sound like a patently problematic thing is just “one side” of the argument.

    (I also cringe at the idea that Trump was “nonpolitical” as a) I don’t know how anything any POTUS does is “nonpolitical” and b) he was actually extremely partisanship, just at times unconventionally so) and helped drive deeper divisions in the national consciousness).

    6
  13. gVOR08 says:

    From the quoted article –

    Washington trying to work together can look an awful lot like elites palling around, or the overly clubby atmosphere that gave rise to the early enthusiasm for Trump’s candidacy.

    This statement is wrong. It’s wrong because of the passive voice. What matters is that it CAN BE MADE to look like palling around. And that’s why your hopes that Biden can break through partisan gridlock will be dashed. Republicans need division and gridlock to win. Their only hope of defeating Obama in 2012 was to make his first term a failure, America be damned. And nothing has changed. If Biden does what we all hope: beat COVID, salvage the economy, restore alliances, deal with AGW, improve healthcare, etc. he (or Harris) will be re-elected. And that must not be allowed.

    I can’t imagine many are longing for a President and administration that constantly feeds them lies and misinformation.

    Right, no voter consciously wants to be lied to. But decades of GOPs and FOX make it clear they want to be told that what they want to hear, and to be told that it’s true.

    Your friend Newhouse exemplified the approach.

    I think the Trump way of doing things and his nonpolitical approach has a certain appeal to voters

    Every damn thing Trump did, from the Muslim ban to downplaying COVID, was political. GOPs have corrupted the meaning of “elite”. Newhouse is corrupting the meaning of “political”. What he’s saying is that normal governance and real populism are “political”, but GOP faux “populism” is somehow authentic and not “political”.

    The only see three ways gridlock ends. Maybe the GOPs see that Ds are successfully financed by non-transactional small donations, jettison the Billionaire Boys Club, and become an actual populist party. Maybe some major issue comes up that splits the BBC into warring factions. Or the GOPs win big in the midterms and build on Trump’s work until over time we cease any pretense of real democracy.

    Back to my first paragraph. Our current state of affairs did not just happen. This is the result of many decades of Movement Conservatism. It didn’t have to happen. There are villains in the story.

    12
  14. CSK says:

    @Michael Cain:
    Absolutely true. I would add to your list so-called RINOs such as Romney, Murkowski, aqnd, frankly, any Republican who isn’t totally on board with Trump.

    His fans call Trump “the blue collar billionaire” under the delusion that he’s one of them. (Oddly, he is one of them in the sense that he’s a boob and a churl.) Sadly, they’ll never realize that Trump despises them because they’re not part of the haut monde, to which he’s always desperately wanted to belong.

    5
  15. Moosebreath says:

    @James Joyner:

    “I hold out a sliver of hope that’s possible.”

    As the saying goes, hope is not a plan. And @OzarkHillbilly: has it right. There are no Republicans who are willing to compromise, whether or not they believe it to be in the best interest of the country, because they know it means the end of their time in office and is therefore not in their best interest.

    4
  16. Sleeping Dog says:

    @James Joyner:

    Point accepted with the comment that the mid term future is the class of 97.

    @CSK:

    Does UMass still have a football team?

    @Moosebreath:

    “There are no Republicans who are willing to compromise” offer an alternative.

    Fixed that.

    1
  17. gVOR08 says:

    @CSK:

    Sadly, they’ll never realize that Trump despises them

    That is what is so frustrating. Trump just sees them as rubes to be played. If we could have come up with some way to get the base to understand what Trump thought of them, Biden would have gotten the votes of everyone except James “educated professional” friends. And, as always, it ain’t just Trump. The whole GOP “party in government” sees them as rubes waiting to be plucked.

  18. JohnMcC says:

    I seem to frequently quibble about language. So may I suggest that the word for Mr Biden’s transition project is actually ‘bureaucratic’. Which is the proper way to conduct a government of course.

    The alternative method of conducting a Presidency is properly ‘heroic’. It describes conducting government as an act of immense ‘will’. Facts and procedures be damned.

    And we know where THAT goes.

    1
  19. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    Very funny. 😀 Yes, it does: The Minutemen. BC’s team is The Eagles.

    P.S. I had to look up both.

  20. CSK says:

    @gVOR08:
    Well, Sarah Palin got them all roused up for someone like Trump. But it goes back to Pat Buchanan and his “peasants with pitchforks” speech.

    Unlike some of us, who’ve known exactly what Trump is since the 1980s, the Trumpkins knew him only from his tv show, where he presented himself as a bold, decisive executive. (Or at least I assume that’s how he presented himself; I never watched the damned thing.) And they attributed all the bad (true) things that were said about him to fabrications on the part of “enemies of the people” (i.e. Never Trumpers).

    Since they’ve merged their identities with Trump’s, how can they abandon him?

    6
  21. Sleeping Dog says:

    @CSK:

    I honestly thought that UMass was one of the New England/northeast corridor schools that dropped football due to the cost of the program, not to forget how difficult it makes to meet the equal access requirements under Title IX

  22. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    I think The Minutemen are a pretty fair moneymaker for UMass, although nowhere in the league of The Crimson Tide. They’d have dispensed with them otherwise.

  23. Scott F. says:

    @James Joyner:

    I hold out a sliver of hope that’s possible. The parties are incredibly sorted right now and the incentives to compromise that used to exist aren’t there. But I think it’s still possible to compromise on an issue-by-issue basis.

    With all due respect, I just don’t think it is true that BOTH parties are incredibly sorted now. The moderates won the argument in the Democratic Party primaries and all the service Biden has offered the progressive wing is in on positions that poll favorably across the country. The incentives to address the pandemic, the economy, climate change, and even wealth inequality don’t derive from catering to the Democratic base. They are “carry us all forward” objectives and any characterization of them as radical or far left is disingenuous.

    (The Democrats are concurrently pursuing some positions of identity equality and immigration that may be polarizing, but there are momentous opportunities for compromise in everyone’s interest that are clearly front burner for the Biden administration.)

    So if your sliver of hope has any chance of becoming real governance, it is important to be explicit about where the intransigence is and what is behind it. It‘s the AZ GOP that has censured prominent members of their party like Gov. Ducey and Cindy McCain for acknowledging Trump‘s defeat in their state and it‘s the GOP House members pushing to remove Liz Cheney from leadership because she voted for Trump’s impeachment.

    5
  24. Michael Reynolds says:

    The elite Trumpists hate is called reality. They can’t say that, obviously, but that is the underlying problem not just for Trumpists but for all Republicans. Reality is the problem because Republican ideology is bankrupt. Nothing Republicans claim to believe (or the things they really believe) actually works in reality.

    There is no there, there. The intellectual cupboard is bare. Cut taxes for the rich? Balance the budget? Federalism? Small government? Cut regulation? Trickle down? Um…. What else? Hmmm? Any other platitudes?

    The things Republicans actually believe fare even worse. White supremacy? Paternalism? Heavily-armed white people?

    Republicans have been wrong on every single social issue, starting with Civil Rights, proceeding through women’s rights, gay rights, trans rights. Each time the Left pushes their social issues agenda Republicans predict doom, and yet, doom never appears. Remember how abortion would bring down God’s wrath? Remember when women in the military was going to be a disaster? Remember how gays marrying would lead to people screwing their pets? Remember when legalizing weed would create a nation of junkies? Go back through all the Republican scare tactics on social issues and in each case the prediction turns out to be bullshit.

    Do the same exercise with Republican economic predictions and you get the same result: Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.

    Republicanism is an empty vessel. Trumpists tried to fill that void with fear and hate. The thing is, reality has a strong Democratic lean. Reality makes us stronger because we were right, we are right, and Republicans whether Trumpists or not, are simply wrong.

    9
  25. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Hey now, gay marriage causes hurricanes, this is a well known fact.

    5
  26. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: I watched The Apprentice for 3 or 4 seasons. It was fairly interesting in terms of the types of people who were willing to compete for a chance to become a short-term employee of Trump Enterprises (a dubious prize if ever there was one). Trump never struck me as a genius as much as a self-promoting bloviator, but the thing I was most impacted by was what he imagined he was going to get for the various projects that he featured on the mini commercials that introduced the “challenges.” Manhattan Island was an entirely different world from what I live in. I couldn’t imagine people being willing to pay several millions of dollars to buy what amounted to smallish–even for a po’ ignint cracker who lives in a 400 sq. ft. studio–units in rehabbed apartment buildings/hotels.

    I always thought he was just blue skying the ROIs he was citing. Nobody could be stupid enough to pay $5 million for a 4th floor apartment or $60 million for the penthouse in the same building. People who have that kind of money are more careful with it. Or so I thought.

    3
  27. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    I’ve never been able to figure out who buys Trump’s real estate, other than Russian mobsters, post 1991. As for the other things he’s branded–the vodka, the steaks, the board game, the airline, the magazine, etc.–they’ve been dismal failures. How do you lose money promoting gambling?

    The people who want the crap he’s peddled can’t afford it, and the people who can afford it won’t buy it.

    1
  28. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    You hadn’t looked at Manhattan real estate listings, which are now down from the peak. The interesting thing is that many if not most of those condo are sold to individuals for which the property is a second or even 5th home. Something you have Manhattanites complaining about are condo buildings that are allegedly sold out, but the windows are dark most of the time.

    1
  29. DrDaveT says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    What else? Hmmm? Any other platitudes?

    “Personal responsibility”
    “Moral majority”
    “Law and order”
    “Compassionate conservatism”

    3
  30. Jay L Gischer says:

    I think “I don’t want higher taxes” and “That stuff isn’t worth paying for” are solid things to base a political identity on. However, Republicans are facing a situation where there are multiple proposed programs that have a majority support, if not a large majority. So higher taxes and more spending are in the future, unless they can somehow gather electoral support.

    So they do that with an unending carousel of ideas that work for one, maybe two, electoral cycles. Then on to the next one. If they ever run out of such things to scare voters with – they lose.

  31. Kurtz says:

    I watched part of the HBO doc, The Swamp. I turned it off quickly, because the beginning of it was focused on Matt Gaetz. He sleeps in his office while making $174k a year, which puts him somewhere around the top 10% of incomes for the country. He claimed it was so he can work all the time. Sounds pretty swampy to me.

    Oh, and he’s the fourth generation of his family to win public office. Also pretty swampy.

    Sorry, the GOP is 100% composed of swamp creatures. The Dems are only somewhat better, but they don’t constantly crow about it.

    1
  32. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Oh, and @James Joyner? Tommy Tuberville was NOT elite. He was good. But when it comes to elite, he isn’t even in the same class as Nick Saban.

    TT:
    Championships

    1× SEC (2004)
    1× The American (2014)
    5× SEC Western Division (2000–2002, 2004–2005)

    NS:
    Championships
    7 National (2003, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2017, 2020)
    9 SEC (2001, 2003, 2009, 2012, 2014–2016, 2018, 2020)
    1 MAC (1990)
    13 SEC Western Division (2001–2003, 2008, 2009, 2012–2018, 2020)

    Not even in the same hemisphere.

    (I notice a discrepancy in the above tabulations from wikipedia, but am too lazy to verify the exact years. Suffice it to say, Saban is head, shoulders, waist and half his damn thighs above Tuberville.)

    2
  33. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kurtz: He sleeps in his office while making $174k a year, which puts him somewhere around the top 10% of incomes for the country. He claimed it was so he can work all the time.

    From what I have gathered, DC rents are pretty steep, and it is common practice for Congress critters to shack up together for the purposes of saving money. As much as I despise Gaetz and I know the lazy sob doesn’t work half the time, I can easily see him being house poor having bought a 3,000 sq ft, 6 bedroom 4 bath home in a swanky Florida neighborhood just so he can impress people which leaves him needing to stretch the $174 K nut to make ends meet.

    $174K would make me very comfortable, but my 1400 sq ft home on 12.5 acres of hill and holler is paid off. Most congressmen and women feel the need to impress people. Anybody who thinks my life style doesn’t quite measure up can go fuck themselves.

    1
  34. Kurtz says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Sure. I know DC rent is steep. But his income is ~60% higher than the median income in the DC metro area.

    The central point is that he IS the swamp:

    4th generation politician

    uses his taxpayer funded office to sleep, which is 100% different from finding roommates

    Mysteriously got his license reinstated before a year elapsed from the date he refused a breathalyzer test. His own attorney admitted he refused it though he denies he refused it.

    The DUI charges were dropped by the state attorney, Republican Steve Meadows

    Racked up 16 speeding tickets in 15 years, though this is a bipartisan issue in Florida

    He complains about ‘elites’ taking advantage of normal people yet he is the poster child for maximizing privileges unique to government service.

    Sorry, he is indefensible.

    3
  35. James Joyner says:

    @CSK: Nebraska’s Tom Osborne is the only other example I can think of who went from college coach to big-time politics. It’s much more common for former athletes.

    1
  36. James Joyner says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Suffice it to say, Saban is head, shoulders, waist and half his damn thighs above Tuberville.

    Oh, no question. The only college coach in the same conversation with Saban is Bear Bryant, and it’s not even that great a conversation anymore. Saban is simply the more successful coach of all time and he’s doing it in the most competitive era.

    But to say that Tuberville, who spent almost 20 years as a head coach at four different major programs, isn’t an elite coach excludes almost anyone who has ever coached football from the category.

    I hesitate to call myself “elite” given that I didn’t get my PhD from a top program and don’t teach at one of the most prestigious schools. But, from the standpoint of ordinary folks, someone with a doctorate who does what I do is an “elite.”

    Which, again, speaks to the utility of the term. It means different things to different people in different contexts.

    1
  37. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @gVOR08: Because I’m an aficionado of old movies, the relationship between Trump, his aspirations, and his base brought to mind a scene from The Unsinkable Molly Brown, in which the Browns host a party for the Denver haute monde. Molly’s father and his crude friends show up and make a mess of the whole affair. That’s the nature of Trumpism as a political movement.

    1
  38. Paine says:

    My life briefly intersected with Tommy Tuberville’s when I started a job at Texas Tech just as he was on his way out the door. From what I heard, he wasn’t a very popular figure in Lubbock.

  39. Winnie Sipprell says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    Tuberville needs to take a class
    On the Constitution. He doesn’t even know what the branches of government are, let alone how they operate.

    1
  40. de stijl says:

    @CSK:

    I know U-Mass as a Pixies song.

    Off Trompe le Monde.

    It’s educational.

    I likely bought that first week it was released back when you had to go to a store. In that sense I’m an elite.

    Even then I knew Kim Deal was the star and Black Francis was a blowhard.

    Still love The Pixies to this day.