A Flea in the Fur of the Beast

“Death, fire, and burglary make all men equals.” —Dickens

Progress, Boston Red Sox v. Capitalism Edition

by evanmcmurry

Ben Cherington must read this blog and its long-running complaint about ballclubs sinking all their money into overpriced slugger salaries:

We knew when we made the Dodger trade, when we moved (Adrian) Gonzalez, that we would have to try to find a way to replace that offense, and as we got into the offseason we understood that was probably going to have to come from a combination of guys and maybe not one guy. (via)

Many guys as opposed to one guy? That’s not how baseball works.

Cherington has already offloaded three of Theo Epstein’s obscenely-paid players; of them, Gonzalez was the only one potentially worth a blockbuster contract, but even still his salary was so stratospheric that it’s hard to imagine a single player’s performance living up to its value (no player’s does). So while Cherington is still stuck with Dice-K and John Lackey, both Epstein acquisitions, he’s showing a proclivity for the smarter, mid-range contracts of the mid-2000s Sox—in other words, he’s acting like Epstein before Epstein started handing out contracts the size of a small nation’s GDP to anyone who was on the market that year.

Lessons In Negotiating

by evanmcmurry

From Greg Sargeant:

The basic fact remains that Dems have made a substantial proposal, while Republicans haven’t. Dems have meaningfully detailed what they want, and Republicans haven’t. Republicans keep telling us that Obama must show “leadership” by detailing the spending cuts the White House is willing to accept, and that the Dem proposals are not “serious” because they have yet to do this. But how are we supposed to know what will count as “serious” spending cuts, if Republicans won’t detail what they want? It’s doubly curious that Republicans refuse to do this, given that they keep saying the 2012 election gave them a mandate for cutting spending.

Look, this is just a sucker’s game. What Republicans really mean when they demand that Obama “lead” is that they want him to propose bigger concessions up front so Republicans can denounce them as insufficient — which they would do no matter what he proposed — pulling the debate further and further in their direction.

Just like during the Romney campaign, we’re in a weird netherworld in which Republicans think detailing what they want is the compromise. They think they’re being bipartisan just by engaging in negotiations.

The Ballad Of Liberal Super PACs

by evanmcmurry

I’ll eat crow and admit that I was wrong* for mocking Priorities USA over its relatively weak fundraising. Priorities arguably won the election for Obama by running early ads in midwestern swing states that cemented Romney’s image as a vulture capitalist. Romney never shook the label, and lost every relevant state. Priorities, of course, did this with .0000Rove the amount of money of the right’s cabal of PACs.

Still. The effectiveness of the left’s Super PACs—not, as Molly Ball points out, limited to Priorities USA, as liberals gained from equally-shrewd Super PACs on down-ballot races (bye, Allen West!)—is not an argument in favor of Citizens United. From Ball’s article:

At first, Bond said, the group worried that its members would recoil from the embrace of Citizens Unitedthat the super PAC represented. But they found exactly the opposite…

Both Workers’ Voice and the Credo super PAC focused on ground organizing and eschewed paid advertising. They saw their ability to use data-based, person-to-person campaigning as an asymmetrical advantage against better-funded groups on the right. But another super PAC on the left, Priorities USA, focused on using television ads to discredit Mitt Romney; despite being massively outspent by GOP groups, including the $300 million-plus raised by Karl Rove’s Crossroads groups, Priorities has been widely cited for its superior effectiveness. Its ads helped cement the image of Romney as a corporate raider that would prove such a liability in the general election.

I don’t see much in there that can’t be explained by the particulars of the election cycle. Republicans ran historically weak candidates who lost gimme races; Obama is a peerless and unprecedented fundraiser; Mitt Romney (who?) was a dope of a candidate ripe for broad caricature; etc. Change any of these conditions, and the advantage of the left’s microtargeting Super PACs drops considerably. Then you’re left in a game of who can raise more money, a game that I think Democrats are going to find a lot harder once Obama is no longer their candidate. Even if they do find one who can compete with Obama—and Hilary Clinton probably could—this sets a precedent that Democrats can only nominate candidates with superhuman fundraising abilities. That not only narrows the field considerably, but seems to undermine the populist bona fides of the party. Fundraising is supposed to be the means, not the end.

Ball notes that nobody on the left has softened toward Citizens United, despite the surprising turn of events that they were better able to exploit the ruling. If so, the push to repeal should be loud between elections. The more the Democrats benefit from CU, the less moral leverage they’ll have in fighting it, and the less certain groups within their party will want to.

* Not morally wrong, just incorrect.