I have been writing on the front page here at MyDD for four and a half years, and was commenting and posting diaries on the site for a long time before that. My blogging has slowed down a bit in recent months as I have pushed to finish up law school -- I took my last final yesterday, and graduate on Friday -- and worked to help get my professor, Goodwin Liu, confirmed to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Not long after graduation, I will be starting up studies for the bar exam, which will undoubtedly take up a great deal of my time. The amount that I will be able to post on this site may wane a bit more before it begins to wax again.

It is funny, though. Bob Brigham tweeted the following yesterday:

BobBrigham The blogosphere is getting old when you remember MyDD'er "quiting" blogging (not effectively) for law school. Now done. Go @jonathanhsinger

As it turned out, my initial intention to sharply curtail my blogging during law school clearly didn't pan out -- or at least not until these final few months of my time in Berkeley. Which is all to say, while I'm guessing I won't be posting much in the next couple months leading up to the bar exam, my intentions have not always panned out in this regard. So on to the next post...

NBC News: Elena Kagan Tapped for Supreme Court

Minutes ago on MSNBC, Pete Williams reported that Barack Obama has selected Solicitor General Elena Kagan to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens on the United States Supreme Court. If confirmed, Kagan would be just the fourth ever woman to serve on the high court. More as we hear it...

UPDATE by desmoinesdem: The Above the Law blog saw several "clues" over the last few days that the president would pick Kagan.

Constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald laid out a devastating case against Kagan last month, and he supplemented that on Sunday with more links and commentary.

[UPDATE by Jonathan]: A couple quick points I'd like to hit on:


  1. Some might hit Kagan for not having prior judicial experience. It's worth noting, however, that more than a third of Supreme Court Justices in history (38 of 111) have come to the high court without any prior judicial experience. It is also worth noting that Kagan would have come to the court with such experience had Senate Republicans not blocked her confirmation to a lower court more than a decade ago.


  2. Some say that Kagan doesn't have a paper trail, or that she hasn't written anything monumental. I haven't read everything she has written, but I do know that her seminal administrative law article, which was named the year's best article by the American Bar Association’s Section on Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice, is taught in law schools.

More thoughts later...

Blumenthal Continues to Post Major Leads in CT-Sen

The Cook Political Report continues to call the Connecticut Senate race currently competitive, only leaning towards the Democrats, and The New York Times wrote last night about concerns that the presumptive Democratic nominee in the race, Richard Blumenthal, is simply another iteration of failed Massachusetts Senate candidate Martha Coakley. But apparently there's a group of folks who disagree with these sentiments: The actual voters of Connecticut. Here's Rasmussen:

Democratic Senate hopeful Richard Blumenthal continues to pull in over 50% of the vote and hold a double digit lead no matter who he’s matched against.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Connecticut finds Blumenthal leading Linda McMahon, former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, by a margin of 52% to 39%.

The longtime state attorney general collects 55% of the vote when matched against former GOP Congressman Rob Simmons who earns 32% support.

Peter Schiff, a high-profile Wall Street investment banker, trails 54% to 29%.

Don't trust Rasmussen Reports? Concerned that it is too liberal leaning?, which aggregates all available polling, gives Blumenthal continuing large leads against Rob Simmons, Linda McMahon, or Peter Schiff, the three leading Republicans in the race. Yet apparently Blumenthal is in dire straights, and this race remains currently competitive. Okay...

Voters Don't Like Tea Partiers

The findings of a new ABC News/Washington Post poll:

Among registered voters, 15 percent say they’d be more likely to support a candidate for Congress who’s associated with the Tea Party movement – but 24 percent say they’d be more apt to oppose such a candidate. Focusing on strong sentiment produces a similar result: Just 9 percent are “much” more likely to support a Tea Party candidate, vs. 17 percent much more likely to oppose one.


Among all Americans, 34 percent say the more they hear about the Tea Party the more they like it, but 43 percent instead say the more they hear the less they like it.

The media continues to be fascinated by the group of ardent conservative Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents who form the base of the GOP -- the type of people who still approved of George W. Bush back when 70 percent or more of the nation disapproved of the job he was doing as President -- but when it comes to actual voters, it turns out that there isn't nearly as much interest. And if there is interest, it's not positive. Many more say they're likely to oppose than support at Tea Party-backed candidate than support one. Many more say the more they hear about the Tea Parties the less they like them. Perhaps it's time to stop the fascination with this exceedingly overly covered group?

Harry Reid Goes On-Air on Healthcare Reform

Take a gander:

You can see the whole bevy of ads here through YouTube. From my vantage, they do a good job of explaining the tangible benefits of healthcare reform legislation in a compelling way, one that actually speaks to specifics and individuals. And considering that a whopping 81 percent of Nevadans do not believe that the healthcare plan put forward by Reid's top GOP challenger Sue Lowden (bartering for care) is a "realistic way to reduce medical costs," it's probably not a bad idea for Reid to hammer away on the issue.

Bushes and Clintons

Today's Politico has a piece on the presidential aspirations of Jeb Bush, who some say would be a leading contender were it not for his last name (leaving aside, of course, whether he would have ever been Governor of Florida in the first place had it not been for his last name). But one part of the article particularly stood out to me:

Alex Castellanos, a longtime GOP consultant who worked on Bush’s gubernatorial campaigns and is still in touch with his old client, argued that the family brand could be rehabilitated for Jeb just as it was for Hillary Clinton after her husband’s presidency.

I'm not at all sure what Castellanos is talking about. In what way was the Clinton brand "rehabilitated" by Hillary Clinton? In what way was it in need of rehabilitation?

Look through the polling. I have. Every single poll during the waning days of the Clinton administration found the 42nd President to be wildly popular. Just how popular? A 66 percent approval rating in the final NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of the Clinton presidency. A 66 percent approval rating in the final Gallup poll. A 64 percent approval rating in the final CNN/Time poll. A 61 percent approval rating in the final Pew poll. A 68 percent approval rating in the final CBS poll. A 62 percent approval rating in the final Fox News poll. These were numbers requiring "rehabilitat[ion]"?

What did George W. Bush's numbers look like now? A 33 percent approval rating in the final ABC News/Washington Post poll in January 2009. A 31 percent approval rating in the final CNN poll. A 34 percent approval rating in the final Fox News poll. A 27 percent approval rating in the final NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. A 34 percent approval rating in the final Gallup poll. A 24 percent approval rating in the final Pew poll.

Look even more recently. The latest polling from ABC News and The Post finds 59 percent blaming George W. Bush for the current economic woes in the country, and just 25 percent blaming Barack Obama.

Notice any difference between the Bush brand in 2009-2010 and the Clinton brand in 2001?

What's more, look at Jeb Bush's national numbers. They're old. But they aren't good.

But if the GOP genuinely thinks Jeb Bush is the way to success in 2012, and that he will be embraced after George W. Bush's presidency in the way that Hillary Clinton was embraced after Bill Clinton's presidency, all the better for them.

McCain Approval Drops Net 27 Points

It turns out turning hard to the right might not actually be great politics.

55% of voters disapprove of McCain to just 34% who give him good marks. When PPP polled Arizona in September he was at a positive 48/42 approval spread, so he's dropped 27 points on the margin since that time.

Looking into the internals (.pdf) of the poll, it's quite clear that John McCain's pandering to the hard right isn't really buying him any friends. Since the fall, McCain's approval rating among Republicans has fallen from 65 percent to 48 percent -- yet now more Arizonans overall view McCain as too conservative (35 percent) than too liberal (28 percent). Although McCain still leads in a head-to-head against Democratic Tucson city councilor Rodney Glassman, he is now under 50 percent despite the fact that the vast majority of Arizonans, like me, are unfamiliar with the Democratic candidate. How McCain manages to navigate this mess is yet unclear to me.

Progressive Populism on the Rise

I have written a bit on what I call "progressive populism" -- the trend we have seen in the country that, like its conservative cousin, comes from a deeply seated anti-elite and anti-establishment sentiment, but which is unique in that its manifestations are less anti-government than opposed to powerful interests. As seen in Oregon earlier this year, this trend led to the first income tax increase approved by voters in 80 years, one directed at the wealthy and at corporations. Now word comes from SurveyUSA, via Swing State Project, that voters in Washington are exhibiting the same kind of progressive populism in a strong way:

A proposed initiative would create an income tax in Washington state on people making $200,000 per year and on couples making twice that. It would also cut the state's portion of the property tax by 20%, and end the business and occupation tax for small businesses. Do you support? Or do you oppose? This proposed initiative?

Support: 66 percent
Oppose: 27 percent

This measure, which would increase revenue while not raising taxes on the middle class, earns strong support across the board from the Washington electorate -- not only from Democrats (75 percent of whom support the initiative) but also from Independents (63 percent support) and even Republicans (57 percent support). Remarkably, the initiative draws support even from self-described Conservatives, who support the measure by a 50 percent to 45 percent margin.

I have said it before -- including in the halls of the West Wing: Progressive populism works. If the Democrats hope to be tap into some of the clear unhappiness of the electorate, rather than letting that discontent sweep them out of office, they would be well served to read these numbers and learn that while voters are definitively in an anti-establishment mood, they are not necessarily in an anti-government one, and, what's more, their unease about the current economic climate might actually compel progressive, rather than conservative, change if framed effectively.

Not a Bad Contrast for Harry Reid

Josh Marshall writes:

So on the one side you have Harry Reid, a key architect of comprehensive Health Care Reform, the product of decades of activism, in all its messiness and policy complexity.

And on the other you have Sue Lowden, who thinks bartering livestock and other commodities for health care services from doctors is a way to rein in spiraling health care costs. (If you think that's an exaggeration, take a minute and watch this video.) There's no end of comedic possibilities thinking through the logistical and logical difficulties of managing co-pays and long-term care and drug costs in chickens and other barter payment. But step back and give it a serious look and ... well, this is this woman's take on confronting medical inflation. It's funny and also sad. But as a contrast it's stark and painful.

There is no doubt in my mind that this is going to be a tough race for the Majority Leader, Harry Reid. Any way you slice it, the odds aren't great that he wins another term in the Senate. Anti-incumbent sentiments are running deep within the electorate this cycle, and Reid is hands down the most prominent incumbent in the country this year to be facing a competitive race.

And yet. Sue Lowden, the candidate who was supposed to be it for the Republicans, has made herself a laughingstock in just a few short days. When I first heard her talking about bartering for healthcare, I assumed that she had just mistaken the word for bargaining down prices, which seems to be one of the positions taken by Republicans these days (not all that dissimilarly to how Democratic Congressman Hank Johnson said Guam might physically tip over when he presumably meant that it would hit its metaphorical tipping point). But, as noted by JMM, Lowden appears to be fully embracing the idea that Americans should be bringing chickens to their doctors. 

Voters can stomach a lot of statements from candidates (one need not think too long to remember instances of candidates getting elected despite having said some pretty remarkable things). But this might be one of those comments -- especially when repeated by the candidate herself -- that makes voters think twice. At the least, Lowden's bartering position takes the Nevada Senate race out of the realm of campaigns solely about the incumbent to one in which voters will actually consider the plusses and minuses of both candidates -- one who delivered on the promise of healthcare for 31 million Americans while reducing the long-term deficit by more than $1 trillion, the other a candidate who thinks Americans should pay their doctors in livestock. And that simply is not good news for Lowden and the Republicans.

Unpopularity of SCOTUS Citizens United Decision Approaching Constitutional Amendment Levels

Earlier this year, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court handed down the Citizens United decision wiping out restrictions on corporate expenditures in American elections -- a decision that could open up the door to foreign money flowing into campaigns in this country. As it turns out, according to a Quinnipiac poll out today, voters are not at all happy with the decision.

Voters disapprove 79 - 14 percent of the Supreme Court's January ruling removing limits on the amount corporations and unions could spend attacking or boosting political candidates, with consistently strong opposition across the political spectrum.

These numbers largely jibe with data released earlier this year by Pew, which found 68 percent of Americans disapproving of the decision, while just 17 percent approved. With margins like these, it is not out of the realm of possibility that a constitutional amendment seeking to overturn the decision is out of the question.

But looking more broadly, it is interesting to see the damage the decision has inflicted on the Court. Just last summer, Quinnipiac found the Supreme Court to have a +40 net approval rating, with 62 percent of the country rating the high court positively and just 22 percent rating it negatively. Today, however, the Court's rating has fallen dramatically to just +16 (49 percent approve / 33 percent disapprove) -- a statistically significant fall for the institution. It turns out that conservative judicial activism isn't actually popular with Americans.


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