This article is part of the Opinion Today newsletter. You can sign up here to receive the newsletter each weekday.
Spend some time reading political writers on Twitter, and you may come across “Dems in disarray.” It’s become something of a joke among certain political analysts — a reference to the fact that pundits almost always say that the Democrats are in shambles.
The joke appears to date from a 2005 “West Wing” episode that included a (fictional) cover of Time magazine with the phrase. It received new life thanks to a March 2006 New Yorker piece by Hendrik Hertzberg, the first two paragraphs of which each began, ironically: “The Democrats are in disarray.” Sure enough, those disarrayed Democrats retook the House of Representatives later that year.
The idea lives on in the Trump era. The contemporary versions of it include: Progressive activists are pulling the party too far to the left. The Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren wing of the party is at war with the Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama wing. And the party lacks any strong leaders or strong 2020 presidential contenders.
My advice is to channel Hertzberg and to view all the angst skeptically. The Democrats are by no means assured of retaking the House or the Senate in November. To do so, they will need to win a lot of tough races this year. But so far, the party is doing almost exactly what it needs to be doing. (As for 2020, there is still plenty of time for leaders to emerge.)
“We’re now six states in,” Bloomberg View’s Jonathan Bernstein writes, referring to the number of states that have held 2018 primaries so far, “and if there’s any sign that Democrats are either plagued by a dysfunctional overreaction to Trump or are having real difficulties handling the surge in new candidates, I’m not really seeing it.”
They’ve avoided nominating unelectable candidates, Bernstein notes. They aren’t engaged in destructive internal fights. And they aren’t so focused on President Trump that they leave voters thinking that Democrats stand for nothing.
On a related subject: The recent article in the journal Democracy by Lara Putnam and Theda Skocpol remains the best overview of the new progressive movement that I’ve read.
Russia. The latest revelations about payments to Michael Cohen, a longtime Trump lawyer, look like a big deal. Here are a few pieces — in addition to a Times editorial — that do a nice job of putting them in context:
Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo: “This is money, more or less directly from a top Russian oligarch with close ties to Vladimir Putin, putting money directly into a shell company controlled by Donald Trump’s bag man and fixer. The collusion is real and high level. We’re finding the money trail.”
Tarini Parti, BuzzFeed: “At least two of President Donald Trump’s close allies made use of a relatively new way of influence peddling that’s arguably swampier than traditional lobbying, with little to no disclosures and regulations — and watchdog groups believe others in his orbit could be operating under the radar using similar tactics.”
Jonathan Chait, New York magazine: “In the waning weeks of 2016, when the intelligence community and many politicians were passing around terrifying reports about Donald Trump’s links to Russia like samizdat, the frightening possibility arose that the sanctity of the United States government might be compromised in a way no living American had experienced…. [Now] that paranoid, absurd belief seems to be creeping closer to reality than seemed possible even in those dark postelection days.”