Their view: Political turkeys of the last 12 months

Jonathan Bernstein - Guest Columnist | November 25th, 2017 1:21 pm

It’s been a tough year for those of us who call ourselves political junkies. That’s not to say, however, that we haven’t had our share of fun or that we have nothing to be appreciate. One pledge: In composing this item, I had no contact with former Russian Ambassador Kislyak. Never met him. He’s certainly not in the room right now as I type this. Nyet! Here’s the list of what political junkies can be thankful for in the last 12 months:

Special elections! The chance to play jaded hipster for all true political junkies. First we can be the only kid in the class who knows about, say, the epic GA-6 battle between Karen Handel and Jon Ossoff, then we can dismiss them as less important than “everyone” thinks. Even better — while y’all are focused on House specials, we can dig deep into the state legislative versions. I still do think “by-election” is a better name for them, though.

Wacky candidates — such as the (probably?) married couple running against each other for the Montana U.S. Senate seat up next year. Even if they’re not the all-time wackiest Montana candidates.

C-SPAN, especially when it picks up local news feeds from foreign elections. Love it. Also love when it sticks with an event after the speeches are over, so we can soak in the handshakes and the ambient noise. The very best C-SPAN. I’ll say it again: Brian Lamb is a hero of the republic.

Side players in political scandals. Big scandals invariably provide us with third-tier players who are, well, a hoot and a half. The leading Trump/Russia character so far: Carter Page.

Cronies, hangers-on, and generally unqualified and incompetent people. The administration is filled with them and it is undeniably terrible for the nation. For political junkies, though, there’s plenty to enjoy. I’ll nominate Sebastian Gorka’s dissertation for the prize among this group.

The Senate Class of 2012: I still think the senators up for re-election for the first time this year were an unusually promising group, and they’ve collectively had a pretty good first term. We’ll miss Jeff Flake, who will leave Ted Cruz and Deb Fischer as the only Republicans. Some of the Democrats are at risk, but collectively Chris Murphy, Mazie Hirono, Joe Donnelly, Angus King, Elizabeth Warren, Martin Heinrich, Heidi Heitkamp, Tim Kaine, and Tammy Baldwin remain a formidable group. Together, there’s very little dead wood among these twelve Senators.

Election day and election night information: I’ll highlight in particular the fine work by Daily Kos Elections, and by Decision Desk HQ.

Dan Drezner’s epic twitter thread about White House staff talking about the president as if he was a toddler. Also: Chuck Grassley’s twitter feed and Clair McCaskill’s twitter feed. And that thing where there’s always a perfect old Donald Trump tweet to undermine whatever the new Donald Trump tweet says.

Ridiculous lists of presidential candidates to argue about years before the election. Not saying they’re a bad thing (and no one, least of all me, will ever again be able to laugh at anyone who includes seemingly preposterous candidates) — journalists should cover the invisible primary. Still, while I won’t make the mistake of saying that Mark Cuban, Oprah Winfrey, and The Rock are impossible, I’m not putting my money there. But I will enjoy debating it.

And a blast from the past: We’ll always have James Traficant. Beam me up!

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Jonathan Bernstein

Guest Columnist

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics. Readers may email him at [email protected]


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