Thanks to Ethan Strauss for interviewing Steve Kornacki, who election watchers and TV owners might recognise. He is the maps guy with lots of records-based and numbers-based analysis on NBC. Ethan claimed he is uber-objective, but I went in prepared to find something that proved otherwise to pounce on quickly. I have heard such claims before. I was counting up the red-flags: Comes from Groton, MA, a very liberal town next to where my father lived most of his life, just over the border from NH; guest hosts on Chris Matthews, Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow; gay now living in Manhattan; former political editor at Salon. And Strauss calls himself a substack liberal - look, I like those guys a lot. We learn a lot from that crew. I have a few on my sidebar. But in so many ways they are still quite liberal, more than they necessarily see. Especially, there are often cultural signals they are not (yet) alert to that telegraph their tribal beliefs. So his say-so of Steve's objectivity I held at arms length. I did grudgingly note that among all the liberal publications that Kornacki has written for, there was also Wall Street Journal and the New York Post.
Yet I have to give him credit. The red flags tell you what his beliefs probably are, but you wouldn't know it from his content. You can tell that looking at the data and the history with a cold eye is something of a fetish for him. He reminds me of the Democratic analyst David Shor, often hated by Democrats for telling them truths they don't want to hear. Kornacki's the book The Red and the Blue, comparing Newt Gingrich's and Bill Clinton's careers of remaking their parties seems unsparing in assessing the bare facts of both.
He started winning me early, but asserting things that I have maintained I remembered from the 1990s for years, which have been remade in political memory. He is very clear that the day after elections, the media has its own narratives of what was supposed to happen, and immediate unreflective interpretations of what happened instead, how they pretty much knew it all along, and what it means - especially for media and media figures - going forward. This more than influences what they see in the politics, because it is wishcasting their own futures and secondarily, wishcasting their politics. He notes the invisible influence of C-Span that changed everything. Few people watched it, but those who did watched it a lot, and remembered, and could refer back to the record later. He remembers that the Democrats owned the House, the Republicans usually owned the White House from 1968-1992 and everyone thought this was immovable, but the 1994 midterms changed everything. For the first time they were nationalised, and since then have become gradually culturalised, tribal.
So he doesn't think that the Dobbs decision was the driver of the 2022 mid-terms. There were states that were very solid counter-examples. It was about Trump, and we learned that he remains very popular, but this doesn't carry over to people he endorses much at all. As little as I follow it, my impression is that even at his worst Trump was motivated strongly by Americanism, America First as he saw it, and however much he liked attention he had that as a core belief. I don't think that's true anymore. That is much vaguer now. His only issue is himself and who he wants to punish for not being loyal to him. The residue of his previous instincts might have some good results in another Trump presidency, but we would have to count on victory allowing him to change his focus now that he couldn't be re-elected.
That's not new with presidents, BTW. When they are running for a second term their opposition always says things like "If you think Nixon/Reagan/Clinton/Bush/Obama was conservative/liberal before, you are going to see all restraints thrown off if he is elected again." And then it never happens, because they are used to a certain type of appeal, and have the same places they will compromise and places they won't. They have the same idea of who their friends are and who their people are, and they govern accordingly. so if Trump is elected, I expect him to spend a of of his time baiting his opponents and creating smoke-and-mirrors around any legal issues.