Benjy Sarlin Profile picture
Policy editor at @NBCNews. I cover elections and their consequences. Take it off Twitter at
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12 Apr
@JHWeissmann Yeah, the case isn't "McConnell didn't do anything," it's that there was a world where Trump might be forced into political exile right now while McConnell is restoring the party to his version. Instead trends Trump launched are arguably accelerating
@JHWeissmann But you also have to look at the other side of the ledger. 2009-2016 McConnellism also laid the groundwork for everything Biden is doing so far, ignoring GOP votes to try to pass gigantic bills that pay off every D constituency instead.
@JHWeissmann So if the result ends up: You empowered Donald Trump, who transformed the party into something antithetical to your version, and your bet to blockade Obama led to the biggest progressive legislative bonanza since LBJ, I think that's a pretty mixed bag here
Read 4 tweets
22 Mar
One issue here is that what we're talking about when we talk about "border security" changed. The 2013 framework was about D's trading legalization for more patrol, fence, work checks. But today's debate is largely about asylum seekers, which was not a major concern at the time.
Before the first child migrant crisis, D's had a simple formula: Give R's any amount of money for border security, no matter how absurd, in exchange for path to citizenship. But walls and patrols don't address the current q, what do you do with people legally requesting to stay.
You do not have a right to cross the border illegally just to work, but you do have a legal right to go to the border and try to claim asylum. The answer to how to deal with that issue at every step of the way is far more complex and divisive.
Read 5 tweets
16 Mar
One wrinkle of filibuster debate worth considering. One reason McConnell never budged on legislative filibuster is there weren't many GOP priorities that could get 50 votes. In fact, not many priorities, period. They didn't even use every reconciliation bill available. BUT...
...if Democrats were to ditch the filibuster, there would be ENORMOUS pressure on GOP from base to come up with a list of 50-vote bills and whip R votes, if only as punishment to D's. They could essentially invent the demand to pass these bills, if only as a lib owning exercise.
This doesn't necessarily happen without D's ditching the filibuster first. McConnell would just as soon avoid many of these issues. But you may have a Trumpier majority with new room to act on abortion w/ SCOTUS, to name on example, and the last moderate holdouts potentially gone
Read 4 tweets
12 Mar
The Rubio argument here isn't exactly "it's a worker's party now!" material. It's more: Unions are mostly bad, but we don't like their boss's social politics, therefore let's hold bosses hostage by threatening to withhold our usual opposition to unions.…
There's virtually no discussion of what the Amazon workers are demanding here. You could read the op-ed and come away thinking they were protesting the LGBT book issues on Fox this week. Just a weird dance between two stories connected only by Republicans mad at Amazon.
These are all links embedded in Rubio's op-ed article. Check out the images tied to Rubio's grievances with Amazon, and the linked story describing the workers' grievances. The connection between them is.....?
Read 5 tweets
11 Mar
One year ago, speculating Trump would come around to Democratic calls for stimulus checks because he could put his name on them
Reviewing takes from the Last Normal Day is fun. Sure enough, Biden won with a suburban surge, absorbed ideas from activists on the left along the way, and his first bill was much more progressive than his D critics expected
Previewing the weird world that would continue for another 8 months: Democrats constantly offering to pump money into the economy in an election year and Trump strangely ignoring them
Read 4 tweets
11 Mar
Reading between the lines, the easiest path seems to be using revenue to offset things they’d like to make permanent (child tax credit, ACA subsidies) and declaring the infrastructure/climate part a long term investment. But still a lot to work out for one bill.
The thing is there’s only so much low-hanging fruit on revenue, even for Democrats. So if you do a strict infrastructure/climate bill and use it all up, you’re left with a lot of stuff they’d like to extend that would have to go into a big expensive bill next.
The one near-guarantee here is bipartisanship is not gonna happen. But Manchin already seems to be signaling that won’t keep him from a bill once it becomes clear R’s won’t join in. Everything feels like kabuki around that point.
Read 4 tweets
5 Mar
So this finding gets to something that might apply to several other D priorities. Unlike other partisan fights, D's and R's disagree more on the scope of stimulus rather than the underlying concept. That makes it easier for D's to outbid R's and then argue for their position.
Looking at other attempts by R's to compete with D's on policy, R's could run into same problem in upcoming fights. You want to give out tax credits to workers and parents? Okay, D's will propose bigger ones. You want infrastructure? D's will definitely outbid you there.
Similarly, R's say they want a higher minimum wage? D's clearly aren't united on $15, but they can almost surely outbid R's.
Read 4 tweets
5 Mar
NEW: I wrote a little in today's @MTPFirstRead how the Ghosts of 2009 are driving Dems to go BIG BIG BIG on Covid relief -- even as there's mounting evidence the $1.9 trillion is more than needed…
You saw today's jobs report, which rules. State budget pictures are improving. New economic forecasts look sunnier. Shots are in arms. Even some Biden allies wonder if $1.9 trillion is overkill given the numbers. @JStein_WaPo had a good roundup on this.…
Economists can debate whether $1.9 trillion (and $350b for state/local aid) is too much given the data.

But Biden isn't just looking at data, he's looking at the Senate. One bad roll of the actuarial dice and their ability to pass more stimulus is gone.…
Read 7 tweets
2 Mar
NEW: The Affordable Care Act is getting one of its biggest overhauls in a decade, and it's barely a blip on the political radar.

Here's what's going on and why it's so quiet this time.…
The biggest ACA change would address one of THE core complaints about the law since passage: The "subsidy cliff" that leaves middle class customers with huge premiums if they don't qualify for federal aid. Now premiums would be capped at 8.5% of income.…
One reason ACA changes in COVID bill are generating little drama?

No one's spending money to stop them.

The health industry, from insurers to hospitals to doctors, love it. It's more money for them with no price controls or taxes. All cake, no spinach.…
Read 6 tweets
16 Feb
The key is the information environment on the right, which elected leaders have shown no interest in addressing. You could have predicted on 1/6 itself the exact combination -- false flag conspiracy, whatabout XYZ, procedural technicality -- that would soon bring voters back.
The below tweet turned out to be inaccurate in two ways. One, he lost his Twitter feed, negating the premise. Two, according to Rep. Herrera Beutler, he was already spreading false flag conspiracies mid-attack, not the next morning.
Read 4 tweets
12 Feb
Were Haley to rise to the top of the polls, Trump would be watching it 24/7 on cable, getting jealous of the attention, and inevitably he would say and do outrageous things to get the spotlight and then demand she affirm it all as a loyalty test. This is Trump 101.
Think of the chyrons. “CAN HALEY MOVE THE GOP PAST TRUMP?” “WILL HALEY REPAIR TRUMP’S DAMAGE WITH THE SUBURBS?” He wouldn’t just sit around for it.
This is all granting the assumption he doesn’t run himself, in which case you can guess from the @TimAlberta story what he’ll be bringing up about Haley.
Read 4 tweets
11 Feb
Cruz warned of a "consistent pattern of inciting violence" in April 2016. Why? Trump warned there would be "riots" if GOP delegates didn't hand him the nomination. Supporters were threatening to confront delegates in their hotel rooms to back him up.…
Cruz was clear-eyed in 2016 that Trump could use the threat of violence by supporters to try and overturn an election, in this case a party one. He also criticized him for inciting rally violence earlier.

He wasn't alone among senators! Then they forgot.…
Read 6 tweets
9 Feb
For about 24 hours, Graham was in full ditch Trump mode, leaving behind a long trail of quotes. Then he snapped back almost instantly along with others who got in front of their skis criticizing him, most notably Nikki Haley.
Nikki Haley really went under the radar with this:

Jan 6 on Fox: “He was badly wrong with his words yesterday. And it wasn’t just his words. His actions since Election Day will be judged harshly by history."

Jan 26 on Fox: "At some point, I mean, give the man a break!"
"Judged harshly by history" got downgraded to, quote, "not his finest" in the second appearance.
Read 4 tweets
5 Feb
I wrote a little about how Mitt Romney's child allowance is part of a broader trend. With both the Trump-era right and D's of all stripes pitching voters on direct cash benefits, the GOP doesn't have much of a working vocabulary to oppose them…
Ironically, Romney's own famous "47%" remarks were about how conservatives don't like "lucky duckies" with no income tax bill because they get too many refundable credits. Trump proposed sending them a tax return that said "I WIN" instead. That was the end of that.
Similarly, Trump has popularized the idea that just about everyone should get $2,000 checks. But that also makes it harder to attack monthly checks without work requirements as anti-work "welfare," which Rubio and Lee have argued.
Read 7 tweets
1 Feb
Is "Biden quietly pursues enormous policy moves, but country moves on to other stories and Trump continues to drive political coverage" the best case scenario for Democrats in terms of politics/policy outcomes?
At some point some Biden policy is going to drive a big backlash, but it's also possible almost his entire ACA plan could get folded into a COVID bill and barely anyone will notice at this rate, let alone R's.
Another way to frame this thread about Biden's effectiveness is whether 15% of the country going "Oh, BIDEN is president now, riiiiight" is useful to Dems and how long it can last
Read 4 tweets
29 Jan
The country is acutely aware this month how messageboard culture and conspiracies drive people to hurt themselves. Now there's a board culture premised on overnight riches while also pushing true believers to lose money to stop a shadowy enemy. Your alarm bells should be blaring.
The whole point of cons is convincing the marks they're in on it. Imagine Qanon, but you can profit off the rubes' stock positions instead of just selling them YouTube ads while telling them they're part of a revolutionary movement exploiting other rubes.
"But what about [name Wall Street practice?]"

Sure, make whatever point you want about it! I'm not arguing with any of it.

But the default response to the conspiracies right now tearing up the country is: "So you think POLITICIANS and the MEDIA are honest?" It's an easy trick.
Read 5 tweets
29 Jan
Read my brother’s reporting. It’s a fun populist story on the surface, but real people are going to be badly hurt who can’t afford it while the villains in their story will be just fine.
There’s an obvious fairness issue to the Robin Hood restrictions that fires people up and produces takes on the many problems in the economy. But those are abstract points being paid for with ordinary people’s money and amateur options betting is not a substitute for change.
People are glomming onto individual Reddit posts to pretend that everyone is going into the GME push out of altruism and expects to lose money. But the WSB culture is about get rich quick schemes and the house always wins on those eventually.
Read 5 tweets
15 Jan
NEW: Some Democrats in Congress are worried their colleagues might kill them…
IT HAS COME TO THIS: Traumatized lawmakers are openly worried that far right colleagues might hurt them — not rhetorically, not politically, in the literal sense of the word.

It’s important to note there’s NO evidence. But it’s a crisis in relations.…
Multiple Democrats are demanding investigations into suspicions — again, not substantiated — that members aided rioters. At least one R voiced similar fears. They’re scared of Q radicalization. And they’re terrified of getting COVID from anti-mask members.…
Read 4 tweets
13 Jan
The thing is it seems both extremely impractical and symbolically upsetting to have them there. But they need to have a real conversation about the fact members are worried their own colleagues are potential threats to their lives then.
Yeah the metal detectors are pretty far downstream from the fact members are accusing unnamed colleagues of scouting for the insurrectionists…
The repeated theme over and over today is that members are scared of their far right colleagues in a very real and physical sense, not metaphorically. This is going to be the actual unity issue moving forward.
Read 5 tweets
12 Jan
I've mentioned how there's no stated mechanism for R's who want Trump gone by 2024 to make it happen, they just kinda pass the buck.

Cheney's what that might actually look like: A wing of the GOP *explicitly* dedicated to purging his influence who can organize around that goal.
Before the party breakdown was, a large explicitly pro-Trump wing, maybe a half dozen explicitly Trump-skeptical or anti-Trump, and then a large amorphous wing that was also explicitly pro-Trump but people largely assumed they were lying.
That was not a formula for non-Trump R's to confront the fact he's the dominant figure moving forward. Unless they could name their cause and objectives, they would be continuously outflanked and bullied by pro-Trump R's. Indeed that's what happened with the EC votes.
Read 4 tweets
12 Jan
To this scenario @DouthatNYT describes: You don't even need some dramatic crack-up for R's to run aground. If the looming Trump threat keeps the 2020 D coalition together and even small percentages of Trump R's stop turning out, that alone is a huge issue.…
The most recent source of D strength is that they have an intensely engaged suburban base that also is more affluent and this powering record-breaking fundraising. For R's, it's a fired up rural/small city vote. It's close, but as of *right now*, this is a winning formula for D's
Post-2020 Gerrymandering can help R's take back House in 2022 even without making significant gains in popularity. But a Trumpier House could also accelerate the same problems that cost them the 2020 elections in WH and Senate. And no sign he's going anywhere in all of this.
Read 4 tweets