but her emails

An Assault on Reason and Reality

Donald Trump: An American in Name Only, Part 2

By now it should be overwhelmingly clear that Donald isn’t exactly a gifted reasoner.  His meandering thoughts and nonsensical arguments — if one can even give his ramblings that label — show a man incapable of basic rationality who largely bases his points of view off a world that doesn’t at all resemble reality.

In doing so, and given his voice’s volume, refusal to backtrack on his obvious lies, and now his position as president, Donald Trump parlays his shortcomings into those of the nation.  Whenever someone commands 46 percent of the vote and a base so rabid it ignores all words that don’t fawn in favor over their hero, that person has a frightening ability to shape the thoughts of others and to fundamentally change what a broad swath of the population believes.

Donald is doing just that.

Reason

“But her emails” has become a popular joke on the left precisely because it’s seemingly all Trump supporters and voters know how to rebut an argument.  Trump led them to believe that Hillary Clinton’s emails somehow showed a nefarious character secretly working to undermine American greatness by putting service members lives at risk, allowing foreign powers easy access to classified information, and exposing a woman, paradoxically, both so incompetent and yet so conniving and plotting as to have a private server.

Never mind that the Clinton email case never deserved the attention it received.

Never mind that Vice President Mike Pence used a personal email for work during his tenure as Indiana’s governor.

Never mind that Trump transition officials acted carelessly with sensitive information.

Never mind that Trump himself blurted out highly classified information to a foreign adversary simply to brag about all he’s told.

It doesn’t matter because Clinton had a personal email server and deleted 33,000 emails.  (Of course, they don’t realize she deleted personal emails.  That takes thought to understand.)

This is called “whataboutism,” a propaganda technique used to point out another side’s shortcomings, often when unable to defend your own point of view.  It perfectly describes how Trump and his supporters rationalize their beliefs.  Rather than defend Trump or his policies on their own terms, lawmakers and supporters simply say “well, what about [x]?”

(Interestingly, conservative outlets have already risen to the defense of whataboutism, a further example of the intellectual dishonesty and atrophy in the Trump-supporting right.)

We see this throughout the “healthcare” debate: No supporter of Trumpcare bothers to defend the policy on its merits; they instead say “what about Obamacare?  It’s completely failed.”

Trump himself frequently resorts to whataboutism on his Twitter account, ignoring and failing defend his shortcomings but saying “what about her emails?” or “what about Clinton receiving a debate question?” or “what about Obama?”

Those are neither arguments nor reason to support a politician and his policies.  But when actions, beliefs, and the president are so indefensible, it becomes natural to simply abandon reason and instead cling to Soviet propaganda techniques that arise only from being on the wrong side of history.

Reality

Trump’s campaign speeches — and even his “American carnage” inaugural address — painted a dying America beset by crime, riddled with terrorism, and at risk of losing its sovereignty to…someone, or something.  These speeches managed to convince supporters that the United States was burning and that we needed a strongman — even, perhaps, a slight authoritarian — to crackdown on those destroying this country in order to revive civility and American greatness.

The world Trump described and which his supporters began to see does not exist.

His speeches of imminent doom find no support in the reality of American life yet by continuing to push demonstrably false outlooks, Trump’s creating an alternate world in which he and his supporters live.  He then crafts — and his voters adamantly support — disastrous policies designed for another world, policies that are disastrous for our reality.

Take the murder rate.  Trump constantly says murder is at a 40 year high.  That’s simply not true.

murder rate

Or illegal immigrants, who Trump, in his very first speech as a candidate, labelled as “rapists” and “criminals.”  But that’s also not true.

Illegal immigrants have a lower rate of crime than the native population.

The reason for that should be clear: Always at risk of deportation, committing a crime would make such an action a near certainty.

Similarly, Trump and his supporters view sanctuary cities as liberal hellholes devoted to protecting illegal immigrant criminals.

In reality, sanctuary cities encourage undocumented immigrants to turn to local law enforcement without fear of deportation.  That makes communities safer.

Or take terrorism.  Trump sees an America at constant threat of being attacked by “radical Islamic terrorists” and wants to ban all Muslims from entering the country.  His most deplorable supporters simply want to ban Islam, no questions asked, and either deport or kill the Muslims living in America.

But terrorism hardly qualifies as a threat.  You’re more likely to die from furniture than you from a terrorist.likelihood of dying from terrorism

probability of terror attack

But that doesn’t stop Trump and his supporters from irrationally fearing 1.6 billion people, a feat of which people are capable only if they live in an alternate world.

Conclusion

Trump’s delusions and his supporters’ susceptibility to the rhetorical appeals of a demagogue leave all too many voters and American citizens ignoring reason and reality.  The dangers for democracy and our country cannot be overstated.

Politicians and voters no longer try to defend candidate or policy merits.  Instead, they point to a bogeyman and scream “WHAT ABOUT HER?!?!”  This requires no reason and no understanding of the issues at hand.  It leaves people vulnerable to irrational fears and biases that lead to unenlightened and wholly irrational decision making.

Similarly, creating and supporting policy based on lies endangers us all.  It forsakes addressing real problems with addressing non-existent ones contrived by a power-seeking candidate and which often wrongly vilify or target minority populations (scapegoats for the nation’s problems).  Policy comes from hate and fear rather than a desire to better our current reality.

And so we must resist these types of appeals.  We must truly rationalize our support for a candidate or policy with real arguments.  We must reach out to those caught up in a cult-like faction and try to return them and their thoughts to reality.

We must end this senseless and disastrous war on reason and reality.

donald trump free press

Donald Trump and The Free Press

Donald Trump: An American in Name Only, Part 1

President Donald Trump holds very few patriotic or American beliefs – unless ignorance and obtuseness now define the American character.  His principles don’t originate from natural rights or a devotion to liberty.  They stem from a malicious character hooded in hate, versed in vengeance, and shrouded in stupidity.

For a man whose oath of office calls for him to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States,” Trump deviates from the words and rights enshrined by our founding document at every twist and turn of his volatile presidency, a continuation of his assaults on the Constitution and democratic norms that so defined his campaign (and, embarrassingly, appeal).

Of all constitutional protections, Donald J. Trump has most assailed a First Amendment right integral to the creation of our country and its preservation: The free press.  We cannot understate the vital importance the free press plays in maintaining a healthy Republic.  Voters unversed in issues and unaware of candidate beliefs and character cannot be expected to make informed decisions.  Transparency, a fundamental democratic tenet, withers without a hounding press that demands information from officials, elected and otherwise, and holds administrations to account.

Perhaps Thomas Jefferson said it best.

“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”

Trump’s disdain for the press knows no bounds.  He frequently dismisses valued news organizations as “fake news” simply because they publish articles critical of him and his presidency.  However, for all of his verbal attacks, and angry early-morning or late-night tweet tirades, Trump cannot point to specific instances of actual “fake news.”  The president, on whom the burden of proof falls, fails the first step of constructing a persuasive argument – supporting his assertion.

Most recently, Trump’s pointed to a retracted CNN article as evidence that network spews nonsense designed solely to degrade him.  But that obviously misses the mark.  CNN retracted its story and issued a humbling apology which the story’s subject accepted.

Three employees then resigned, a clear sign of journalistic integrity and accountability that demonstrates CNN commitment to providing its readers and viewers with the truth.  Its admission of error actually boosts its credibility: Rather than wrongly standing by its story and acting defiant in the face of evidence, it took actions to resolve a wrong and correct the record.  That’s integrity and the exact opposite of how a “fake news” network would react when confronted with its mistake.

Trump doesn’t realize that (or he does, but his frustrations with critical coverage still provoke him into fits of uncontrollable rage in which he lashes out with little regard for the deleterious effects he has on public discourse and the institutions that make democracy possible).

Instead, he retreats into the dens of Sean Hannity, Alex Jones, or Breitbart.  The former recently denigrated himself into the pits of hell by peddling the nonsensical and wholly debunked conspiracy relating to DNC staffer Seth Rich’s murder, alleging – without proof and in the face of official police statements and findings – that the Clintons had him murdered.  Fox, for its part, has done little to ensure its viewers and online readers understand that Hannity’s delusions, as with all delusions, fly in the face of all evidence.

Alex Jones, on whose show Donald Trump has spoken and who Trump called shortly after winning the presidency, lambasts 9/11 as an “inside job,” believes the government carried out the Sandy Hook shooting, and fervently promotes every other lunatic conspiracy imaginable.  His outlet has no integrity, no accountability, and no regard for the truth.  If anything should be classified as “fake news,” it’s InfoWars.  That doesn’t stop Trump from enjoying its content.

And, lastly, Breitbart News markets itself to white nationalists in an effort to corner the news market for avowed racists.  Its content either fabricates information or distorts in such a sensational way that context fades to oblivion and instead bestial and tribal mental processes control the brain and bring bigotry to its forefront.  Breitbart operates with racial motive and cares little for nuance or truth, especially truth that in any way undermines its nationalistic and borderline segregationist outlook.  Trump frequently tweets and praises the outlet.

Clearly, Trump doesn’t actually take issue with fake news (though he does enjoy hanging fake Time magazine covers in his golf resorts).  He takes issue with critical coverage.  Sean Hannity, Alex Jones, and Breitbart all wax poetic about the president and so Donald Trump ignores their journalistic malpractices and endorses their products.  But the likes of CNN, the New York Times, and Washington Post bother with the press’s actual purpose – guarding our liberty to ensure our Republic (to paraphrase Jefferson).

We must treat his actions seriously.  Trump’s vitriolic rhetoric – rhetoric echoed by his staff, favorable media outlets, and, most shamefully, some members of Congress – causes millions to, at best, doubt the press and, at worst, fall into the same derisions while simply ignoring information needed to understand the country and world.  This Trumpian assault hurts the country by undermining its bedrock.  It promotes ignorance and willing stupidity.  It’s an effort to subvert democracy to the statements of a deranged demagogue.

 

bernie sanders frontrunner

Is Bernie Sanders the 2020 Democratic Front-Runner? Not Yet.

Elizabeth Warren’s presence means there is no early front-runner.

Vox’s highly talented Matt Yglesias wrote a provocative and persuasive piece explaining why he believes Bernie Sanders stands as the Democrats’ 2020 front-runner.  To be sure, Sanders has a lot going for him: The 2016 runner-up has established a national brand with high name ID, rabid supporters willing to donate and volunteer, and a continued foot in the political circuit as he tours the country holding rallies for like-minded politicians and in hopes of advancing his primary legislative goal, universal healthcare.

However, Sanders also suffers from lasting animosity churned up during the 2016 campaign.  A number of Clinton supporters blame Sanders, at least in part, for Donald Trump’s upset victory.  They chastise him for not leaving the primary in the early spring months and not working hard enough to prevent his supporters from either staying at home or casting a third-party ballot on election day.  These critics hold some truth — Sanders should have eased himself from the national stage following Super Tuesday — but other points miss the mark.  Regardless, tensions exist.

But on top of lasting 2016 anger, old-age (he’ll be 78 come 2020), and policy ideas still to the left of many Democrats, Sanders is not the 2020 front-runner for one simple reason: Elizabeth Warren.

Warren running would complicate matters for Sanders

Naturally, we don’t yet know whether Warren will run, but her actions show someone interested in running for president.  She’s become a constant thorn in Trump’s side and has released a book and traveled the country promoting it.  Her standing among Democrats remains quite favorable.  From Warren’s actions stems “nevertheless, she persisted,” a ready-made slogan for Warren allies to promote a nascent candidacy.

Warren endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016, but largely remained aloof of the primary.  As such, she earned no hatred or ill-feelings from members of the competing camps.  That would work to Warren’s benefit if Democratic primary voters hope to put 2016 behind them.

Building on that point, Warren could be seen as a compromise candidate.  Warren’s considered more moderate than Bernie Sanders, though her congressional voting record actually places her to the left of the proclaimed democratic socialist.  She appeals to the fervent Sanders supporters; more moderate Democrats would likely prefer her to Sanders and be willing to accept her as an alternate to more establishment Democrats such as Cory Booker or Kirsten Gillibrand.

If Warren runs, she would fracture the Sanders coalition while also putting pressure on moderates.  Her lane would be that of compromise: Peal voters from the middle and wings.  By nature, that would preclude any one candidate from becoming a front-runner as the ideological lanes would become blurred as the moderate, left, and compromise candidates draw similar numbers.  Sanders would be especially hurt as the party’s left-wing does not yet claim a majority of primary voters — unity would be essential to mount a victorious campaign.

Without Warren, Sanders would be the front-runner

Should Warren choose not to run, Sanders would indeed be the front-runner.  His lane would be clear from notable challengers.  The logic also works the other way — if Sanders decide to forego another run, Warren would assume front-runner status, largely by virtue of name ID (Biden would pose another challenge, but his centrism would likely alienate too many voters despite his endearment to the party).

It should be no surprise that two years before the 2020 campaign enters its first leg we have no front-runner.  Nor will we have one until early 2019 when Warren, Sanders, and others decide whether to jump into the race.  Until then, jockeying will continue as party leaders try to establish their brand and win the invisible the primary.

america decline

The Decline of a Nation

 

Demagoguery destroys nations.

America.  Conceived under tyranny and borne by patriots fighting for freedom and liberty.

Its ideals – our ideals – ring through our founding documents.  Our Declaration of Independence boldly states that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The Constitution recognizes fundamental and natural liberties destined to remain ever untouched by the corruption of mischievous faction.  These rights, to be heralded above all, constrained government and set forth the vision of our nation: A state dedicated to the equal liberty of all its residents.

declaration of independence

To be sure, our nation has not always lived up to its ideals.  The tree of liberty has been occasionally watered with the blood of citizens fighting for righteousness and always with an eye towards expanding liberty, both within and outside our country.

But now our country finds itself in unchartered territory.  For once, the denigrating forces of demagoguery have consumed enough voters to find itself in the Oval Office.  This presents dual problems for the country.

First, Donald Trump’s gross incompetence and actions motivated solely by animus, whether at racial or religious minorities or those who dare criticize him, threaten the global order and the continued democratic traditions here at home.  His political career started by alleging incorrectly that the country’s first black president was born in Kenya, not the United States.

While campaigning for president, he called for a complete ban on Muslims entering the country; claimed that challenger Ted Cruz’s further had been involved in the JFK assassination plot (another lie); called for Hillary Clinton to be jailed; and continuously railed (incorrectly, again) that outside forces would collude to steal the election from him.

national enquirer cruz oswold
Trump pushed this obviously false story in hopes of hurting Ted Cruz’s presidential bid.

Now, as president, he’s wrongly furthered the notion that 3 to 5 million ballots had been cast illegally.  He called Russian interference into the 2016 election a “witch-hunt” and “hoax.”  His tweets and virulent diatribes against the media as well as other foundations of our democracy threaten long-standing democratic mores and encourage millions of voters to live in willing ignorance.

Secondly, and intimately related to the dangers Donald Trump himself poses, his core supporters fervently embrace and believe all that Trump says – and only what Trump says.  That endangers democracy as the only person who can reach and influence millions of Americans is Donald Trump, a man whose lies as president already near 1,000.

trump fake news
Not one Trump supporter can actually explain why CNN is “fake news.”

These supporters have, by and large, foregone the values that make America great.  They care little about the Constitution or the democratic norms that have long brought success to our grand experiment.  Fundamental freedoms and liberties mean little so long as their abrogation benefits Donald Trump.  Charlie Sykes best described the phenomena when he decried conservatism’s morphing into an ideology that abandoned principles to instead annoy liberals.

Trump supporters lust for, or seeming desire, authoritarianism led by Trump (who many proclaim to be the “God Emperor”).  Demagoguery’s potent appeal leave many inebriated from the violent, ignorant, and condescending rhetoric from a man whose cult of personality attracts the constitutionally and ideologically ignorant.  And to them, Trump can do no wrong and his actions need not be motivated by the pursuit of constitutionalism or constitutional rights.

Bizarre propaganda.
Bizarre propaganda.

Now, their fervent belief that press critical of Trump is at best “fake news” and at worst, as adviser Kellyanne Conway put it, “unpatriotic.”  That precludes them from learning about policy, truly judging Donald Trump’s character, and challenging their fanaticism.  Instead, they turn to the likes of Fox News, which has portrayed itself as a de facto state media outlet, often ignoring information or revelations that would hurt Trump while attacking liberals or Democrats in a (succeeding) effort to further tribalize political divisions.

This leaves the country with increased polarization driven not so much by ideology but by different sets of facts and different truths, as irrational and impossible as that may be.  It’s possible these voters cannot be reached by any outlet with integrity.  Would that extend to Democratic politicians or activists?  Probably.  Divisions, then, may be insurmountable.

Such a phenomenon, of course, is neither new nor confined to Trump supporters.  Factions motivated by demagoguery have arisen throughout American history.  Democracy has long been known to suffer from a demagoguery problem, but America has largely remained safe from such forces due to a fervent belief in natural rights and our Constitution – democratic mores, in the worlds of Alexis de Tocqueville.  But as mentioned above, those democratic mores seem to be disappearing, perhaps as collective memories of the horrors perpetuated by illiberal and autocratic regimes fades.

The far-left also suffers from such a problem.  Democratic socialists and their even more radicalized comrades similarly distort history and facts to abandon constitutional rights and advocate instead for a revolution – democratic or otherwise – to change the regime.  They, however, number far fewer than those on the Trumpian right and so, for now, pose less a threat to our democracy’s success.

Socialism, of course, has never worked.
Socialism, of course, has never worked.

And so we see ourselves in the midst of our nation’s decline.  Liberties, rights, and democratic behavior becomes increasingly unimportant to large swaths of the population interested only in promoting their tribe (in this case, Donald Trump).  We’ve been here before and we’ve already emerged a stronger nation.  But it’s always taken a national emergency or collective, bipartisan action, the likes of which seems unlikely in this highly polarized time.

The best remedy may be a return to fundamental American values.  We must promote natural rights and use our history as a common building block to unify the nation and return political discourse to how we can best collectively protect and further these liberties to all Americans.

lindsey graham donald trump

What’s Wrong with Lindsey Graham?

The warmongerer somehow applauds the Commander-in-Chief for his uncertainty, volatility, and utter ignorance.

Senator Lindsey Graham prided himself in being an outspoken Donald Trump critic throughout the 2016 election, primary and general. He routinely slammed Trump for his position on immigration, proposed Muslim ban, and general attitude towards the military, partisan competitors, and democratic norms. But then Trump became president and Graham changed his tune.

Graham prides himself in extensive foreign policy knowledge. His outlook, though hawkish, often has sense: A strong – and constitutional – response to Bashar al-Assad’s war crimes and increased manpower in the fight against ISIS would be go for the world. Effective foreign policy, however, cannot be carried out when the administration has no clear message or outlook.

The Madman Theory

The madman theory of foreign policy does not work. Trump has stumbled onto this practice likely without realizing it; his gross incompetency and lack of foreign policy understanding – a fact he demonstrated time and again during the campaign – leads to his administration often issuing conflicting remarks about crises or other happenings and operating without a clear vision for the role and America’s place in it.

This uncertainty and volatility driven by Trump’s frightening ability to change his mind within hours, given that he sees a picture or two, hurts America’s image and creates a less stable world. Adversaries, fearing spontaneous reaction from Trump, have every reason to stockpile arms so they can retaliate to the unexpected. It’s a form of insurance – you never know when Trump may launch a strike against your country, so it’s best to have the weapons ready to retaliate in a meaningful way. North Korea’s already following this strategy.

kim jong un madman
Do we want out president to adopt the same foreign policy theory as this dictator?

Resultant Arms Races

Basic game theory teaches us that a military buildup in one country leads to similar actions in neighboring and adversarial states; research and history tells us that arms races make violent conflict more likely. In other words, Trump’s instability and unpredictability ignites a logical chain reaction that risks global conflict.

Why, then does, Lindsey Graham support such uncertainty and applaud the conflicting foreign policy lines offered by different members of the Trump administration?

Party Before Country

Perhaps Graham hopes that Trump’s instability will lead to war and through that war, despotic regimes in Syria, Iran, and North Korea will be overthrown. Perhaps Graham doesn’t understand the potential ramifications of pushing North Korea into further developing its weaponry (a true worry as South Korea and Japan could easily be his with even rudimentary nuclear weapons). Or perhaps Graham hopes that by praising Trump’s foreign policy decisions – even those announced on Twitter or which actively undermine the maneuverings of his Secretary of State or Ambassador of the United Nations – might help Graham join the cabinet if ever there’s a staff shakeup.

Understanding motives, of course, proves no easy task. Graham’s actions, though, undermine his campaign posturing as a continuing thorn in Trump’s side, a voice of reason emerging from the cacophony of a party kowtowing to its adopted leader. He’s rewarding and encouraging behavior that makes America less safe. If he cared about good foreign policy, Graham would be a close ally of Rex Tillerson or Nikki Haley and would constantly pressure the administration to better coordinate with its foreign policy speakers – those who at least understand the value of a discernible American position and who don’t recklessly bumble about on Twitter deriding happenings they don’t understand.

In short, Graham’s praising a madman who doesn’t understand foreign policy and whose actions undermine our interests abroad. He’s returning the respect, credibility, and admirability he earned on the campaign trail when he bothered to call out Trump’s actions. Graham has now receded into the typical and destructive Vichy Republican position: Bow to Trump and challenge him on nothing. Reward recklessness and pray for the best.

trumpcare medicaid cuts

Trumpcare Medicaid Cuts – It’s Going to be “Yuge” and Disastrous

Trumpcare Medicaid cuts will leave 15 million without insurance.

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign laid out two simple healthcare promises: No cuts to Medicaid and coverage for all.  The healthcare bill he wholeheartedly endorses, despite considering it “mean,” breaks both pledges in one fell and disastrous swoop.

Trumpcare Medicaid cuts total $880 billion (that’s $880,000,000,000), money which, by and large, will flow to the rich through tax cuts, a type of reverse-Robinhood that if enacted would defy the presumed laws of politics (that broad social welfare programs that deliver obvious benefits cannot be rolled back).

Furthermore, Trumpcare’s Medicaid cuts will throw 15 million off insurance, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.   7 million more would lose insurance for other reasons.  In total, some 22 million individuals will lose insurance under Trumpcare, leading the CBO to project that around 50 million Americans — around 15 percent of the nation — will be uninsured within the next decade.

This, of course, violates a promise then president-elect made: “We’re going to have insurance for everybody.”  So he proclaimed in a Washington Post interview where he touted putting the finishing touches on a healthcare plan that ultimately failed to deliver on his promises to his voters and the country.

Trumpcare Medicaid Cuts

But that’s not all.  Trumpcare Medicaid cuts may well force senior citizens out of nursing homes.  700 rural hospitals at risk of closing may be pushed into bankruptcy.  These hospitals by and large help older, poorer, and sicker individuals who, due to Trumpcare, will likely be unable to afford health insurance and unable to receive emergency treatment due to close hospitals.

The New York Times’ Upshot found that Trump’s own voters — those who placed their faith in the uncaring demagogue; who truly believed Trump when he claimed he would leave no American behind, least of all his base — would suffer most from Trumpcare and its Medicaid cuts.

So, not only does Trumpcare violate two major Trump campaign and post-Election Day promises, it does so at the expense of older, poorer Americans, those who by and large supported Trump and pushed him to electoral victory.

Trumpcare’s Medicaid cuts are going to be yuge, and they’re going to devastate a number of Americans.  Trump’s willing to screw tens of millions of Americans and break his word simply to cut his own taxes.

2017 elections

The 2017 Elections Bode Well for Democrats

Democrats made large gains in the 2017 elections

The 2017 elections have seen a large swing to Democrats vis a vis their results just one year ago.  Special House of Representatives elections held in ruby-red, long uncompetitive districts have seen Democrats come tantalizingly close to major upsets.  While Democratic wins remain elusive, victories only tell half the story: The near-20 point swing towards Democrats in the 2017 elections indicate that 2018 may very well be a landslide year.

Chart 1 shows that the Republican margin in each district fell, on average, by 17.7 points.  Democrats dramatically improved upon their 2016 House showing, due in part to an energized base, an unpopular Republican president, and a national swing to Democrats, as evidence by congressional generic ballot polls.

2017 elections
Chart 1: Though Republicans won, the 2017 elections show a definitive trend away from Republicans.

Kansas 04

Donald Trump clobbered Hillary Clinton by 27 points (60-33) in the 84 percent white district.  Since 2002, the closest congressional race saw the Republican candidate win by 22 points.  Clearly, Democrats are traditionally not competitive in this R+15 state.

Yet Democratic candidate James Thompson lost to Ron Estes, then the Kansas State Treasurer, by only 6.8 points, a dramatic turnaround from both the 2016 presidential and congressional results.  Overcoming a 15 point structural disadvantage would be incredibly difficult — clawing back some 9 points and forcing high-profile Republicans to make campaign appearances deep in the GOP’s heartland shows that Donald Trump’s historically low approval among the American people can make competitive safe seats.

Montana At-Large

Montana has a weird dynamic: It happily elects Democrats as senators and governors, but opts for Republicans at the congressional and presidential level.  Since the state has one district, the constituencies are the same at each level.  In 2016, it elected a Democratic governor while overwhelmingly voting for Donald Trump and then Representative Ryan Zinke.

Thus, when Greg Gianforte, who lost the gubernatorial race in 2016 decided to try again in the 2017 elections, he stood as the overwhelming favorite.  His opponent, Rob Quist, had no political experience and was not a particularly gifted candidate.  But the race soon tightened, prompting Donald Trump Jr to venture to the state in hopes of propping up the millionaire Republican.

On Election Day eve, the race took an unexpected twist when Gianforte assaulted reporter Ben Jacobs.  This act of violence threatened to tilt and already close contest to the Democrat, but Gianforte survived due in large part to the early vote: Around 2/3 of Montanans had voted before the incident.  A poll taken on Election Day showed movement towards Quist, but not enough to overcome the already-cast ballots.

Still, the race showed Democratic competitiveness well away from diverse urban centers, which, along with the KS-04 results, portends a diverse House battleground in next year’s midterms.

South Carolina 05

The race to replace for House Freedom Caucus member Mick Mulvaney flew under the national radar.  Mulvaney won the district by 21 points in both 2014 and 2016; Trump underperformed Mulvaney but still won by 18 points, better than his numbers from South Carolina as a whole.

Yet Democratic challenger and political novice Archie Parnell nearly pulled a dramatic upset, falling just shy of defeating state representative Ralph Norman.  Parnell benefitted from the race remaining local, allowing the candidates to compete without millions from outside groups being spent or with visits from high-profile officials.  The non-nationalized race shows an energized Democratic base and a Republican base in need of massive investments in time and money to be driven to the polls.

Georgia 06

The most expensive House race in history drew extraordinary national attention and saw a campaign season last longer than many countries’ national elections.  Democrats pinned their hopes on former congressional aide and documentarian Jon Ossoff whereas Republicans opted for Secretary of State and former gubernatorial and senatorial candidate Karen Handel, a well-known politician.

For once, high turnout hurt Democrats.  Ossoff failed to improve on his Round 1 results because turnout in the R+8 district that in 2012 voted for Mitt Romney by 23 points.  He did, however, dramatically improve upon his 2016 Democratic predecessor, meaning he attracted some Republican support to pull 48% of the vote.

When a heavily Republican district experiences general election level turnout for a special election, Democrats suffer.  The other 2017 elections show that Democrats are energized to vote — lower turnout in GA-06 likely would have meant Republicans staying home.  Instead, Republicans spent tens of millions of dollar and sent Trump administration officials to the district to spur turnout.  And given there are more Republicans than Democrats in GA-06, it follows that more voters would mean more Republicans voting for Handel.

What do the 2017 elections mean for 2018?

The 2017 elections may leave some Democrats discouraged, but they needn’t be.  Across the board swings towards the party coupled with high base turnout and lagging Republican turnout indicates that 2018 will be a swing year.  If the 2017 elections Democratic swing is applied to all districts, Democrats will walk away from the midterms with a hefty majority.

Of course, such a pronounced swing is unlikely to happen.  But the results largely echo the aforementioned generic congressional ballot polls.  Taken together, Democrats — as of this writing — may well see a 6-10 point swing across all House districts.  That would be enough to make them the majority party.  Furthermore, the competitiveness of the 2017 elections in a diverse swarth of districts shows that Democrats will have many battlegrounds in their quest for 2018.

Conclusion

Don’t be discouraged by losses.  Recognize the political environment and the pronounced swings to the Democratic Party.  Be encouraged for the midterms.  Keep organizing, mobilizing, and persuading.  These results point to a great election ahead.

georgia's sixth district

Georgia’s Sixth Special Election Prediction

Ossoff the Slight Favorite in Georgia’s Sixth

My model projects that Jon Ossoff will receive 50.14% of the vote on Tuesday’s special election, which, when factoring the model’s margin of error, translates to a 51.00% chance of victory.

The model relies on a few variables — Donald Trump’s low approval rating, generic congressional polling the currently favors Democrats, Georgia sixth’s partisan voter index (PVI) as calculated by the Cook Political Report, and 2016 district presidential election results.

georgia 6 2016

This aligns with recent polling that has Ossoff a couple of points ahead of Republican challenger Karen Handel and with analyst consensus that Ossoff heads into the election as the favorite.

Ossoff has raised more than $23 million in his attempts to win the seat vacated by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price who, in 2016, won the district by 23 percentage points and once held by Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.georgia 6 education

Georgia’s sixth congressional district is the most-educated district to be represented by a Republican; it has transitioned from a Republican safe seat to the most obvious example of evolving political coalitions: As the educated become increasingly Democratic, suburban districts throughout the country now offer Democrats a narrow pass to the House majority.

georgia 6 race

An Ossoff victory in Georgia’s sixth would be a further example of a national shift towards Democrats that could lead to a strong midterm showing in 2018 unless President Donald Trump improves his presidential approval rating.  It might also scare Republicans from similar districts long unworried about reelection races (other vulnerable Republicans may be encouraged to retire if Ossoff wins).  At its extreme, an Ossoff win might push Republicans into taking a harder stance on Trump and the man scandals surrounding his presidency.

Of course, that the race is competitive and has become the most expensive House race in history points to new national battlegrounds and Trump-caused problems for Republicans.  A victory or narrow Ossoff loss doesn’t change that; a victory would, however, drive media coverage and hand Democrats a much-desired win for their resistance movement.

democratic socialism

Democratic Socialism: A Disastrous Ideology

Democratic Socialism must be avoided

What is Democratic Socialism?

Bernie Sanders’ surprisingly resonant campaign introduced a new phrase into our political lexicon: Democratic Socialism.  The phrase seeks to rhetorically touch up “socialism,” an ideology rightly associated with death, despair, and disaster.  Democratic socialism, however, is a catastrophe wrapped in a seemingly innocent movement.  Tt should be avoided and shunned at all costs.

Democratic socialism strives to combine the forces of democracy with social ownership of enterprise — in other words, it hopes to establish a socialist system.  Preceding “socialism” with “democratic” doesn’t modify socialism.  Socialism’s goal is itself democratic in theory: Centralized ownership benefits the masses rather than those with capital (capitalists).  The phrase “democratic socialism” solely seeks to distinguish this vision from the Soviet Union’s Marxist-Leninism, not modify socialist goals.

Similarly, “social ownership of enterprise” amounts to no less than the nationalization of industry and the centralization of production.  Only by the government owning the means of production could enterprise ever achieve social — ie, democratic; ie, lay — ownership.

So democratic socialism offer socialism, but by a better name.

And socialism, of course, does not work, for it quickly descends into despotism while destroying economies.

bernie sanders democratic socialism

Descent to Tyranny

History proves that statement: All socialist experiments led to autocratic, repressive states that deprived their citizens of natural rights. Democracy itself tends towards self-destruction through demagogues who subvert constitutions and strive for self-serving authoritarianism.  Democratic socialism would remove the republican safeguards that prevent demagogic takeover while increasing the riches of office — subvert the constitution, establish unilateral government control, and enjoy the spoils of all nationalized industries.

In other words, the leader, or leading party, has every reason to bend the economy to their desires.  Tyranny of the minority ensues, with the beneficiaries of the centralized system fighting the majority of the population, necessarily involving coercive forces and a seizure of rights (and wholly destroying the democratic socialist vision).

Destruction of the Economy

Even in the idealized world in which the government remains true to democratic virtue and does not succumb to natural human desires to enrich oneself, socialism — and so democratic socialism — falls short of all stated goals.  It destroys the economy by ignoring human nature.

All socialist societies dream of eventual classlessness (which, combined with the abolition of private property, amounts to communism) with the centralized means of production that supposedly serves the (democratic) masses.  It ignores market forces in place of government-decided prices and output (it is impossible for the government to determine optimal quality and price; in attempting to do so, it will be surely be swayed by some minority — a further imposition of minority tyranny as a select few decide the availability of goods for general purchase).

Without incentives and with central planning, the economy quickly stagnates.  Human nature requires incentives to spur productivity and innovation.  Without the ability to reap rewards for hard work — with the government guaranteeing an outcome — worker productivity and the standard the living decline precipitously.  Output then declines, which either forces prices to rise (as they would in a market) or the government subsidizes consumers and producers to maintain a certain price level, straining government coffers and causing debt to spiral, or a government-enforced price (without supplying subsidies) quickly leads to scarcity when production halts as its cost quickly outstep income.  Either way, the economy tumbles and the standard of living plummets.

democratic socialism
The revolution thrust Cuba into abject poverty.

Conclusion

Democratic socialism is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  The phrase itself does not modify its fundamental belief in a socialized economy.  Socialism always seeks to be democratic, but because of human nature — because of demagogues and the ease with which a corrupted socialist state can be used to enrich oneself — always descends to tyranny.

The economy similarly suffers.  Central planning ignores incentives, and thus human nature.  Historically and theoretically, socialism leads to dramatic declines in the standard of living.  Only pain and suffering increases.

And so democratic socialism must be avoided.  Democratic socialists must be spurned.  Those seeking to overhaul the economic system into one that has never once worked must never gain power.

Socialism Doesn’t Work

Learn from History

How soon we forget.  How quickly collective memory fades.  How poorly schooling covers recent history.

How shameful that the country’s youngest voters gravitate towards an economic theory that has never once worked.

Voters between 18 and 29 years of age view socialism – which has resulted in countless failed experiments that doomed countries and resulted in millions of death – more favorably than capitalism.

socialism doesn't work

This aligns well with the recent Democratic primary: Self-proclaimed “democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders dominated among young leftists whereas Hillary Clinton thrived with middle-aged and older liberal Democrats better versed in the fatal conceit of socialism.

What is socialism?

Socialism, which involves the government centralizing, nationalizing, and controlling the means of production, never works in practice.  The Soviet Union should be the most glaring example of socialism’s discontents.  While the USSR never implemented true communism – they settled for a derivation of Marxism, further perverted by despotic repression – it fully implemented collectivism.  And its economy utterly failed.

An initial postwar boom driven by massive fiscal investments in heavy industry – economic growth can be attained even in collectivist environments when enormous resources are thrust upon a given sector; however, that growth is neither efficient nor sustainable – led to epic economic stagnation that the Soviet Union tried to alleviate through market-based reforms.  In other words, the world’s greatest socialist experiment turned to capitalism to salvage its state (and, in the end, it still could not).  This also says nothing of the unfathomable human cost, both in terms of death, poverty, and suffering, that accompanied the failed endeavor.

Real-World Socialism

Incentives matter and under true socialism, with government owning property and the means of production, there are no productive incentives.  Individuals have no reason to innovate or search for profit – a quest that does create jobs and drives down costs while boosting the standard of living for a nation and all its inhabitants.  China, though ostensibly socialist, has realized the need for incentives and thus has implemented many market reforms.

Communist Cuba has entirely failed, resulting in unspeakable poverty and a continuing flood of refugees escaping the villainous regime.

Venezuelan socialism has destroyed the once-vibrant Latin American country.

Scandinavian countries, often touted as socialist successes, are not, in fact, socialist.  Sweden and Finland are among the world’s most competitive countries.  Socialism spurs no competition (and competition drives employment and high standards of living).  Denmark, which Bernie Sanders esteems as the dream socialist state, takes offense at such a label and prides its market economy.  Another tidbit: the public services provided by Denmark are not exemplary, Denmark has privatized many infrastructural elements, and there’s much doubt about the welfare state’s sustainability.  Denmark’s welfare state doesn’t replace the (labor) market – it furthers it.

Socialism vs. Social Welfare

Perhaps favorable views of socialism stem from ignorance

Socialism is not a robust welfare program, but rather the centralization and state-ownership of the means of production.  Government controls capital and industry; the economy is planned centrally with no regard to individual desires, profit incentives, or human capital.

Welfare is not socialism.  A social safety net through services such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and the Earned Income Tax Credit provide for seniors and the poor, helping the latter compete – and hopefully thrive – in a robust labor market.  Welfare is not about stripping from individuals the means of production but rather by helping labor market entrants and ensuring an equal starting (but not finishing) ground for all.

The younger generations who favorably view socialism may well confound the two concepts.  Couple this with fading collective memories of the Soviet Union’s economic failure, massive human toll, and ultimate dissolution, and today’s youth may yearn for a theoretically appealing – but in reality appalling – economic program.  The Great Recession and general income stagnation makes many lust for change of any sort.  Unfortunately, critical thought rarely accompanies such lust.

Capitalism is imperfect, no doubt.  But capitalism – and capitalism only – has led to remarkable economic growth and a breath-taking rise in our standard of living.  It’s produced wealth unimaginable just 200 years ago and product creation in so rapid a pace that the size of a computer dropped 99 percent in just four decades, while simultaneously becoming many orders of magnitude more powerful.

Embracing an economic ideology that has always failed over markets and competition is simply foolish.  Today’s left must not ever embrace socialism.