All posts by Remy Smith

Polish Independence Day Neo-Fascist Demonstrations

History fades more with each passing day as all generations — but especially the youngest — let lessons from the past slide as immediate grievances gain salience.  Across the globe, illiberalism has surged in nationalist movements, threatening the existing developed-world regime of democratic values and human rights for all regardless of immutable characteristics.  Democracies have backslid to quasi-authoritarianism; other nations see far-right movements represented in parliamentary bodies and in presidential run-off elections.

In Poland, a country witnessing an erosion of liberal values at the hands of a right-wing populist party that’s curtailed only by mass demonstrations on the streets, the far-right movement has gained favor among neo-fascists angry at refugees and Islam.  Their anger defies Polish history and shows pure and revolting hatred and a fascination — a lust — for the repressive regime that conquered and pillaged the country just 78 years ago.

During celebrations for Poland’s independence day, some 60,000 far-right marchers descended on Warsaw, throwing red-smoke bombs and carrying banners whose venom belonged in a celebration of Nazi Germany’s conquest of the state.



polish independence day
Warsaw, 2017 or Warsaw, 1939?

These proclaimed nationalsiists marched a “white Europe of brotherly nations” and a “Pure Poland,” a “white Poland.”  They demanded that “refugees get out.”  Others carried flags depicting a 1930s extreme-right symbol.

Some also carried banners depicting a falanga, a far-right symbol dating to the 1930s.

The evilest of them hung a banner reading “Pray for Islamic Holocaust.”



These protests faced no official condemnation.  “State broadcaster TVP, which reflects the conservative government’s line, called it a ‘great march of patriots,’ and in its broadcasts described the event as one that drew mostly regular Poles expressing their love of Poland, not extremists.”

The Interior Minister called it a “beautiful sight” and remarked that the government was “proud that so many Poles have decided to take part in a celebration connected to the Independence Day holiday.”

poland independence day



Polish history is one of repression.  It only reemerged as a sovereign state in 1918 after European powers divvied it up to satiate expansionist desires and remained free for only 21 years before Nazi Germany’s invasion started the Second World War.

Nazi Germany initially placed Polish Jews in ghettos, leaving them to suffer from illness and die of starvation, walled off from the rest of civilization with bridges connecting disparate parts of the ghetto.  Warsaw’s ghetto trapped more than 400,000 Jews, with 7.2 people per room.  300,000 Jews in the Ghetto died from bullets or gas; 92,000 others perished from hunger or hunger-related diseases.  Another 250,000 went from the Ghetto to death camps.

Three million Polish Jews — 90 percent of the nation’s Jews — perished during the Holocaust.

This is the history Poland’s far-right marchers glorify.  The symbols they borrow, the words they chant, come from a Reich determined to wholly exterminate an entire religion.  And yet, despite the genocide committed within Poland’s borders, too many in Poland support an Islamic holocaust.

Too many Poles ignore this history and embrace ideas they don’t understand to express their irrational anger at a religion foreign to them, and so therefore scary.  History fades and dies, because of it, people might, too.



roy moore molestation

The GOP is Rotten to the Core

Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, the twice-former Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court (removed on two occasions for refusing to follow the rule of law), and avowed theocrat allegedly molested a 14 year old girl when he was 32 and predatorily pursued relations with a 16, 17, and 18 year old.  These accusations, all tightly sources and well vetted by the Washington Post, should end any politician’s campaign and public career.  Pedophilia has never been accepted by respectable Americans, but for many in the GOP — the same GOP that endorsed and voted for a president 16 women accused of sexual assault and harassment — such actions do not come with consequences.  They come with continued support and a renewed attack at a press that holds power accountable.  Without a doubt, the GOP is rotten to the core.

Following the revelations, a number of high-ranking Republicans denounced Moore and said “if the accusations are true, he must step down.”  This phrase has a hole the size of Texas: Allegations about improprieties made 30 years ago have little chance of being proven true in a court of law and exactly no chance of being “proven true” to any degree of legal satisfaction in the month preceding Alabama’s election.  Republicans use this weaselly phrase to appear against Moore without actually calling for his campaign to end and for him to pay penance for past sins.  As Mitt Romney correctly pointed out, while the burden of proof certainly does not fall on Moore from a legal standpoint, from a political standpoint, do Republicans and voters really want to support a man accused of molesting a minor?



Unfortunately, Romney’s largely alone in these sentiments (others, such as Jeff Flake and Rob Portman have expressed similar sentiments).  Many others found it satisfactory to simple express disgust with the accusations — much the same way that these Republicans offer ceaseless “thoughts and prayers” after gun massacres, but then avoid even the simplest solutions to help the problem.

John Cornyn, Senate majority whip, proved his feckless leadership and detestable values by refusing to withdraw his endorsement of Moore after the Washington Post story.  That a Republican would endorse Moore after his legal improprieties and disdain for the Constitution shows a true lack of judgment and an obvious ambivalence for the rule of law, but avoiding the best opportunity to right a wrong further proves that many in the Republican Party will tolerate any behavior as long as the political actor can help cut taxes for the likes of Donald Trump.  Is the moral and political degradation of a nation worth a tax cut for your donors?



More despicable still have been the responses from local Alabama Republican leaders.  Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale reached out to each county chair and asked for reactions to the story.  Responses shock the conscience and should make any respectable human nauseous.  Here are some of the responses.

It’s strange to defend molestation by pointing out the 14 year old — a young high schooler approached by a 32 year old man — didn’t explicitly not consent to sexual advances.  It’s stranger still to overlook this depraved action simply because he doesn’t want a Democrat (who prosecuted members of the Ku Klux Klan for murdering young black girls) from holding office.



Sexual abuse can be ignored if it keeps the Senate seat in Republican hands.  (And, of course, the story couldn’t possibly be true because the Washington Post wrote it, yet another example of how Trump’s “fake news” rhetoric has consequences more serious than the foolish president can begin to understand.)

He sincerely wanted to have relations with underage women.



When partisanship inures you to sex crimes, you have a problem.

Christian conservatives they are not.

With these defenses of a possible sex crime — of saying they would support and vote for Moore even if it were legally proven that he committed a crime — it’s little wonder Moore defiantly denounced the story and even fundraised off it.



This is today’s GOP.  It’s rotten to the core.  Officials and voters overlook or even condone bigotry and sexual abuse.  They don’t care about the Constitution and have no mind for policy.  They just want to keep Democrats out of office and will support anyone — literally, anyone — capable of doing that.

It’s time for the party to disband.

trump cult

Irrational Trumpkins

Donald Trump’s election depended on bigotry aided reinforcing cycle of ignorance.  As a candidate, Trump race-baited constantly and lied ceaselessly yet with such repetition that those with only a marginal attachment to politics and the facts of a nation came to believe his confidence and opted to forego even the slightest independent analysis or fact-checking that might prevent them from falling prey to a demagogue.  Trump’s ignorance begat an ignorance that spread unchecked to others through the course of normal human interaction and a frank unwillingness to put forth any effort in casting an informed and rational ballot.

These voters often deluded themselves into assumed respectability by claiming, or at least intimating, that if Trump failed to enact his various outlandish promises, they would cease to support him.

But because man — and especially Trump voters — is an irrational creature who logic usually bypasses, these presumed intentions haven’t materialized.  And they won’t.  Bigotry won’t let them.



Trump Voters, Uncensored

Politico reporter Michael Kruse ventured into Trump Country, Pennsylvania to interview some of the president’s original supporters to learn of their thinking a year from Election Day.  His findings should sober us all.

A year ago, Johnstown, PA residents gave Trump a timeline to fulfill his promises.  “Six months to a year,” catering company owner Joey Del Signore told Kruse.  “A couple months,” said another.  “He’s just got to follow through with what he said he was going to do.” All had the same undertone: “or else.”

How things change in a year.  Whereas one resident insisted she wouldn’t vote for Trump again if he broke promises, when asked a year into a so-far failed agenda, she remarked, “Support Trump? Sure,” she said. “I like him.”

Others recognize no change with the Trump presidency.  We “didn’t see any change because we got a new president.” They remain infatuated. “He’s our answer.”

Could anything cost Trump their support?

“Nope.”



Embracing Tribalism

To no one’s surprise, reasons for Trump’s support have nothing to do with policy.  Racial grievances — shrouded bigotry and its more obvious cousin — rally much of Trump’s core base to him.  They have no commitment to limited government or conservative (what we once thought of as conservative) philosophy.  Ideology falls to populism’s curse: Vilification of an ever amorphous “other.”

“His supporters [in Johnstown], it turns out, are energized by his bombast and his animus more than any actual accomplishments. For them, it’s evidently not what he’s doing so much as it is the people he’s fighting. Trump is simply and unceasingly angry on their behalf, battling the people who vex them the worst—“obstructionist” Democrats, uncooperative establishment Republicans, the media, Black Lives Matter protesters and NFL players (boy oh boy do they hate kneeling NFL players) whom they see as ungrateful, disrespectful millionaires.

And they love him for this.”

They love him for the fights he picks, not the policies he promotes.  He channels their anger and legitimizes it; no longer must they hide their inner hatred — Trump accepts it and encourages it.  In him, they saw a ringleader, the reverend of resentment.



Infallible

Like most men carrying Gods message, Trump can do no wrong.

“Everybody I talk to realizes it’s not Trump who’s dragging his feet. Trump’s probably the most diligent, hardest-working president we’ve ever had in our lifetimes. It’s not like he sleeps in till noon and goes golfing every weekend, like the last president did.”

Trump has already gone golfing at least 73 times (his staff tries to hide these outings) with an estimated cost to taxpayers of $77 million.

Deceived, but why?

“Ninety-nine percent of the time I watch Fox.”

De facto state media helps.

Others recognize the grim outlook for coal and surely must be able to read reports such as that issued by BMI Mining, which projects coal to grow year over year, but not because of “an expectation for President Donald Trump to revive the sector and our longer-term view out to 2021 remains decidedly downbeat.”

Still, with irrational exuberance, one Johnstown business owner expects a 30 percent jump next because of Trump’s “pro-business mood.”

Moods don’t grow the economy.



Others simply love the idea of mining jobs magically returning because it absolves them of effort.  “Some of the later-in-life blue-collar workers who are still here can be loath to learn new trades. ‘We’ve heard when working with some of the miners that they are reluctant because they’re very accustomed to the mining industry,’ said Linda Thomson, the president of JARI, a nonprofit economic development agency in Johnstown that provides precisely the kind of retraining, supported by a combination of private, state and federal funding, that could prepare somebody for a job in Polacek’s plant. ‘They really do want to go back into the mines. So we’ve seen resistance to some retraining.’”

These core Trump voters don’t mind his childlike tweets that proudly display his authoritarianism.  They appreciate how he’s handling North Korea, even though Trump’s irrationality increases the chances of a nuclear conflict.



Policy Failures Mean Nothing

And as further proof of their ambivalence towards policy, none care that the Trump agenda has fallen on its face because many don’t know Trump has utterly failed to get legislation passed.

“He’s kept his promises.”  Which ones?

“Border security.”  There’s no wall.  “No fault of his.”

“Getting rid of Obamacare.”  It still exists.  “Well, he’s tried to.”

“Defunding Planned Parenthood.”  Nope.  “Not his fault again.”

Should Trump be blamed for, eg, his failure to repeal the ACA on day 1, as he promised?

“I’m not going to blame him.  Absolutely not.”

A great businessman, an accolade these supporters wrongly apply to Trump, accepts responsibility for failures and owns shortcomings.  Trump doesn’t and voters don’t hold their fashioned “chief executive” of the country responsible for anything.



Bigotry

Trump has succeeded in his culture war.  From defending the Confederate statues that glorify traitors who fought for slavery to defending an authoritarian conception of patriotism, Trump has played racial prejudices perfectly.

Black athletes protesting police brutality during the national anthem really irks Trump supporters.

“As far as I’m concerned,” one said, “if I was the boss of these teams, I would tell ’em, ‘You get your asses out there and you play, or you’re not here anymore.’ They’re paying their salaries, for God’s sake.”

“Shame on them,”another told Kruse. “These clowns are out there, making millions of dollars a year, and they’re using some stupid excuse that they want equality—so I’ll kneel against the flag and the national anthem?”



The Declaration of Independence told us 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.”  To Trump supporters, this lines ring true unless you’re a black athlete.

In case you had any doubts opposition to such protests stemmed from racial animus, let Trump supporters dispel it.

“Well…I hate to say what the majority of them are….”  Others happily finished that sentence.

“The thing that irritates me to no end is this NFL shit.  I’m about ready to go over the top with this shit.”

The NFL is “niggers for life.”

“For life,” his wife added.

So the cult speaks and in their uncensored words we hear the true call of Trumpism and its not ideology, commitment to American ideals, or patriotism.

It’s bigotry.



trump att time warner merger

Vengeance from the Oval Office

The vast — too vast — powers of the executive branch provide unscrupulous actors with the ability to punish dissidents through a variety of contrived regulatory methods.  President Donald J. Trump, in whom opposition always recognized a decidedly authoritarian bent, has just the vindictive streak that makes an overbearing executive so dangerous: As Politico reported, Trump’s Department of Justice threatened to black the proposed AT&T and Time Warner merger unless they offload CNN.

Trump’s war on the free press knows few bounds.  He’s wrongly labelled critical reports as “fake news,” a concept he completely fails to grasp but in whose rhetorical repetition he’s found great success (foreign leaders now use the same technique to mask crimes against humanity), and constantly undermines a democratic institution needed to provide an informed electorate.  Now that fight bleeds over from words into economic livelihood.

“The only reason you would divest CNN would be to kowtow to the president because he doesn’t like the coverage,” Politico‘s source said. “It would send a chilling message to every news organization in the country.”



The New York Times reported in July that the White House had discussed using the pending merge as “a potential point of leverage over their adversary” — ie, CNN.  An American administration views CNN and the press as its adversary and wants to hold up a merge of its parent company to exact concessions from the outlet.  How would we respond to this in another country?

While there are economic reasons to oppose the merger — some fear concentration of power as a result — this thinking does not emerge in reported administration hesitation and dissatisfaction.  In fact, the new DoJ antitrust chief stated, prior to his nomination by Trump, that he didn’t see the merger as a “major antitrust problem.”  Now that he’s beholden to Trump, his views have changed.



Those connected to the Trump world, though outside of government, have suggested using the deal remake CNN.  As Politico noted, “Trump’s longtime associate Roger Stone suggested in a tweet last month that a ‘house cleaning’ of CNN personalities like Don Lemon, Jake Tapper and Ana Navarro will take place once AT&T completes its acquisition of Time Warner.”

This is a political incursion into the free market that shows Trump’s willingness to use coercive state powers to punish administration critics.  That, of course, is authoritarianism.  Regulatory powers should never be wielded as a weapon to bully into submission any individual or outlet that has a platform with which to criticize the president.  De facto censorship and plain bullying has no place in democratic America.



populism

Poisonous Politics

Populist insurgencies in both major parties threaten democratic norms through the vilification of certain population subsets.  For the Republicans, the party best unifies over racial grievances and fears — candidates, most notably Donald Trump and even one-time establishment favorites such as Ed Gillespie, prey on fears of America’s changing color and tie minorities and immigrants to crime and economic anxiety.  Democrats have long toyed with coalitions against the wealthy, though overt vilification of the rich has been avoided.  Now, however, socialist tendencies lead today’s left to blame all problem’s on the wealthy and propose radical policies against a small population subset, similar in vehemence to Republican efforts against minorities.

Republican Vilification of Minorities

Republican vilification of minorities began in earnest with Richard Nixon’s “southern strategy,” which succeeded in breaking the Democratic stronghold in the Sold South after the party pushed and passed civil rights legislation.  Nixon’s overtly racial campaign helped realign the South and welcomed to the GOP society’s most racist and hate-filled individuals, such as Strom Thurmond and the ardent supporters of Theodore Bilbo.



Racial grievance then largely flew under the radar, but always emerged when Republicans worried about electoral success or needed to rally its base for any given purpose.  Welfare queens, the ever-looming menace of gang violence, campaigns centered around toughness on crime always had a racial undertone.  George H. W. Bush’s infamous Willie Horton ad clearly shows the willingness of otherwise respectable politicians to race-bait for electoral purpose.

From Blacks to Immigrants

Recently, Republican race-baiting has shifted from African Americans to other minorities, especially immigrants and Muslims.  The themes remain largely the same, but with the addition of “economic anxiety.”  Economic anxiety stems from the loss of American manufacturing due in part to trade, but mostly from the computer and the upheaval of the economy as a result (transitioning from a manufacturing economy to a service one).  For many, though, economic anxiety simply makes more legitimate underlying dislike for immigrants.  Candidates and believers tie economic anxiety to immigrants — legal and illegal — by claiming those entering the country take jobs from “hardworking Americans,” despite this being an economic falsehood.



Latino gang violence also prevails in race-baiting campaigns as do tough on crime proposals related to terrorism — meaning Muslims.  It’s little surprise that Republicans don’t center their law and order rhetoric around white men who commit massacres but rather the rare instance of violent illegal immigrant crime or the deplorable acts of terrorism by a deranged individual.  They tap into racial grievances and fears by explaining society’s continued change — a change many Republican voters dislike immensely — on those not native to country; on those of different races and religions that don’t necessarily align with the white, evangelical vision for America too many in the Republican base hold.  It also panders to these voters by telling a relaxing lie: Your problems are not your fault — they’re caused by outsiders with different skin tones and beliefs.  You are not to blame.

With Donald Trump’s election, this insidious yet usually underlying force in Republican politics came to the forefront and now, feeling empowered, racial grievances unify the Republican Party more than does ideological commitment to a limited government.  The stoked and cultivated fear that Republicans likely assumed they could control now defines the party.  Hence true Republican ideologues now must court Republican voters through overtly racial messages, such as attacking sanctuary cities based on false premises, accusing professional athletes who kneel in protest of police brutality of disrespecting the flag and country,  and vowing to preserve public monuments that idolize those who waged war against the Union simply to protect a system of human bondage.  Racial grievances no longer exist in the Republican background as a force that can be exploited but only with shame.  It now dominates the party.



Democrats and Vilification of the Rich

Democrats are moving in a similar populist direction.  Socialist tendencies within the party, led by self-proclaimed democratic socialist Bernie Sanders, leads to vilification of the rich, another small group that a mob-like majority can easily come to view as the enemy.  In fact, it’s the vilification of the rich and the possibilities for “democratic excesses” to threaten their property rights that led the Founding Fathers to call a constitutional convention to strengthen the federal government.  State legislatures, increasingly occupied by men the Founders considered rabble, pitted the poor against the wealthy and provided equal rights only to some.

While the Democrats have long toyed with class-based issues and often campaign on raising taxes on the wealthy to fund greater social programs, rhetoric has never slipped into obvious vilification of the highest socioeconomic class and hatred has never even simmered.  This lack of development comes largely from weak class connections in America.  Rarely have those with similar economic interests from disparate parts of the country united behind an economic or ideological platform that would pit their interests against those of the wealthy.  That’s because race has often divided or defined coalitions.  Poor blacks and poor whites don’t unite largely because poor whites from certain areas of the country have a predisposition to bigotry and support racial rhetoric more than class rhetoric.

The Democratic Party has now largely lost those not committed to full racial equality and so its internal coalitions and power structures no longer have to contend with the interests of bigots.  Near unanimity in the race issue has allowed class-based grievances  to surge into prominence with clear divisions between the party’s moderate and liberals who don’t favor class warfare and the leftists who seem eager to bring redistributive issues and anger to the party’s forefront.



Leftists want to vilify and blame the rich for stagnating wages and resultant economic inequality.  They view the wealthy as having an outsized influence on government, so outsized, in fact, that many claim America has devolved into oligarchy.  Large corporations control institutions and conspire to keep everyday Americans down.  Sinister forces of an economic elite cause all of our problems, from war to climate change and poverty.  The growing contempt and anger for the wealthy has led to a socialist resurgence that applies the same rhetoric as do Republicans that blame minorities for society’s woes.

Populism’s Poison

Populism within both parties threatens political discourse and the norms of our society by blaming minority groups for all issues facing the country.  These movements inspire hatred, fear, and disgust for forces they believe work to undermine America’s greatness and degrade our country into a Third World society or an evil oligarchy.

Democracy and politics don’t work when groups blame minorities for all problems.  Tribalized majorities unified by hate rather than ideological belief does not lead to enlightened policy.  It doesn’t lead to rational politicians leading the country dispassionately.  It leads to demagogues who manipulate these fears to gain personal power (and often wealth) while eroding democratic norms and backsliding our democracy through authoritarian calls tolerated because these calls target a vilified group.

Both parties must expel from their ranks such populist anger and instead work towards unified moderation that addresses the real issues in our society without condescending to tempers and passions.



l'etat c'est trump

L’Etat, C’est Trump

Donald Trump has an authoritarian understanding of presidential power.  He thinks he has

the unilateral authority to enact sweeping policy legislation, declare war on nations, and steer the federal government in the direction his hypocritical and ignorant mind feels best.  In short, he believes l’etat, c’est Trump — that Trump is the state.

This has been Trump’s clear governing philosophy from his inauguration, but rarely has he explicitly stated the extent to which he believes he can — or should — control the government.  In a recent interview with Laura Ingraham of Fox News, Trump sadly remarked “the saddest thing is that because I’m the president of the United States I’m not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department, I’m not supposed to be involved with the FBI, I’m not supposed to be doing the kinds of things I would love to be doing and I’m very frustrated by it. I look at what’s happening with the Justice Department, why aren’t they going after Hillary Clinton with her emails and with the dossier and the kind of money…?”



In other words, Trump thinks that, by virtue of being president, he should control every action of the entire executive branch.  As the head of state and government, Trump believes he should dictate what the FBI investigates and how the DoJ operates; justice naturally flows from the singular authority at government’s apex.  Such a conception of presidential power is entirely monarchical and authoritarian.

He went on to add that “a lot of justice…[is] tied up forever in the court system.  You look at some of the cases that are going on forever and you have them dead to rights? Now, the justice system has to go quicker and it has to be, really, stronger and fairer.”  Justice should move at the speed of what Trump deems proper.  Rights, so Trump’s answer implies, do not come from nature and are not enshrined by the Constitution and should be curtailed at his direction.  Too many rights block administration of what Trump considers justice.

Trump’s next morning tweets continued this theme of ignoring the political insulation of the FBI and DoJ and the existing notions of fair justice as he called for his political appointees to investigate Hillary Clinton and the Democrats, a truly authoritarian idea.  As the state, Trump believes he should have the ability to call for investigations and, angry that he can’t, he does the next best thing: Urges investigations against dissidents, putting the FBI and DoJ in an impossible situation by either opening politically-motivated investigations over non-scandals or ignore the president who can summarily dismiss them.  If can’t openly control the state’s actions, he tries to coerce certain behavior.



Where he does have flexibility, Trump seizes it.  Foreign policy provides presidents with their best ability to act unilaterally as Congress, especially the Senate, has ceded much policy power to the president.  Trump’s an irrational actor and has failed to appoint many key State Department positions.  He’s tangled with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and undermined his job by directly contradicting Tillerson’s statements and tweeting, on numerous occasions, on the futility of North Korean diplomacy.

Undermining the Secretary of State and taking diplomatic tools off the table while weakening the State Department through vacancies doesn’t matter because, as Trump says, “I’m the only one that matters because…that’s what the policy is going to be.”  He has monopoly over foreign policy and no one else matters, not the chief diplomat, not the thousands of consulate and embassy staffers, not the scholars and wonks in Foggy Bottom, no one.

L’etat, c’est Trump.

Or so he thinks.



donna brazile

Donna Brazile is a Hack

After any failed presidential campaign, operatives reposition themselves to avoid being or appearing wrong — to keep prominence, respect, and power, they naturally want to be on the right side of every campaign decision, or at least make others believe they stood against the tide and fought for hindsight’s best strategy.  Donna Brazile is no different.  Her ethical shortcomings during the campaign rightly cost her a job with CNN; her poor leadership at the DNC and the bizarre strategy she pushed should cost her respect within the party.  But it probably won’t matter because of her revisionist and ironically titled forthcoming book, Hacks.  This effort to recast herself after a botched campaign shows that Donna Brazile herself is in fact the hack.

False Rigging Claims

One of the book’s most explosive claims is that the DNC rigged the primary through a joint fundraising agreement with the Hillary Clinton campaign that let the latter have de facto control over hiring and strategic decisions.  This claim seem unsupported by contemporary reports of the joint fundraising agreement and the text of the agreement itself (made available by WikiLeaks).  As an officer of the party, Brazile should have made herself aware of any subtext or unspoken agreements about the fundraising venture to make sure nothing underhanded happened.



In fact, Donna Brazile’s claims about the 2015 joint fundraising agreement seem very similar to the text of the 2016 agreement signed after Clinton won the nomination and her campaign assumed control of the national party apparatus.  Without supplying further documentary proof, it remains entirely possible that Brazile’s account simply mistakes (or deceitfully confounds) the two agreements.  *UPDATE* NBC reports that the memo on which Brazile based her claims of “rigging” pertained to the general election, not the primary, a routine move as candidates assume control of party structures after their nomination.  Brazile lied about the memo’s contents.

Her claims of the DNC tilting or “rigging” the primary simply by an alleged scheme in which the Clinton campaign could veto strategic action by the DNC has no basis in reality.  The national party does little and is fairly weak — observers often overstate its importance (campaign committees such as the DSCC and DCCC control most of the money and political activities carried out by the party).  Without the Clinton campaign’s support, a bankrupt DNC couldn’t have done anything and, even if it had the money, what could it have done to rig a primary to favor either candidate?

The best means by which a primary can be rigged are the rules.  But the DNC approved the 2016 primary’s rules in 2014 and most of those rules carried over from 2010.  Similarly, the idea that a small group of individuals could somehow control 50+ primaries and caucuses as well as the voting inclinations of tens of millions is absolutely ridiculous (even if some of those officers emailed each other about supporting Clinton over Bernie Sanders).  Brazile’s claims of a rigged primary simply tap into lasting anger in an attempt to ingratiate herself with that wing of the party.



Such an overture is needed because Brazile caught flack for leaking Democratic primary debate questions to the Clinton campaign, another instance which Sanders supporters claimed as evidence of “rigging.”  This, too, is a senseless claim as none of the few questions Brazile gave to the Clinton campaign appeared verbatim, Clinton never sought the questions in advance (Brazile simply handed them over), and campaigns that prep extensively for debates can predict the questions with a high amount of accuracy.  They don’t need leaks to prepare for what’s coming (and leaked questions do not cause tens of millions to vote for a candidate).

Regardless, this ethical impropriety rightly resulted in CNN firing Brazile and Brazile losing respect among much of the politically inclined.  It’s little surprise that to improve her image among the insurgent Sanders wing, Brazile needed to embrace their “rigged” rhetoric and appear on their side.

Donna Brazile’s Revisionist History

Brazile made other revisionist claims that either show a bad memory or the underhanded actions of a hack trying to be on the right side of history.  In her phone call to Sanders about alleged (read: non-existent) “rigging,” Brazile claimed to say that “I did not trust the polls…I told [Sanders] I had visited states around the country and I found a lack of enthusiasm for her everywhere. I was concerned about the Obama coalition and about millennials.”



When polls tightened in September, Brazile, then interim leader of the DNC, went on CNN and expressed her confidence in a Clinton victory.  It’s true this might not reflect her actual beliefs — no party leader will go on national television to express belief that her candidate will lose — but Brazile’s electoral strategy showed she truly believed her words.  As Politico reported, Brazile held millions the Clinton campaign transferred to the DNC, DSCC, and DCCC and had the committees buy airtime for minority voter turnout in places such as Chicago and New Orleans.

Donna Brazile never doubted that Clinton would win the Electoral College.  She feared Clinton would lose the popular vote — polls never showed that being a likely outcome — so she had the DNC spend millions in non-competitive states to drive minority turnout.  Had Brazile actually worried about voter enthusiasm, she never would have squandered millions on states with certain outcomes.  She would have directed resources to Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Florida.

Actions backed up her contemporary words about faith in Clinton’s ultimate victory but undermine her revisionist argument that she foresaw an enthusiasm gap that would cost Clinton the election.  Clearly, Brazile’s rewriting the past to appear correct even though her decisions at the time represented a major strategic blunder.



The false and confusing claims as well as the revisionism show Donna Brazile has little interest in helping the DNC unify and move forward.  Rather, she wants to reposition herself as a Sanders ally, one who stood up to the entrenched Clinton interests and tried to salvage the Clinton campaign.  Doing so keeps her prominent and indicates that she thinks Sanders will be a major force in 2020.  Naturally, a political operative at heart, Brazile wants to gain the favor of those who she believes will control the party for years to come even if she has to lie to do so.

With falsehoods stated and history changed, Donna Brazile reveals herself as nothing more than a hack.


You can purchase Donna Brazile’s book by clicking on the image (I do not recommend it).  PoliticalEdu may receive a commission from such purchases; they help maintain the site.

donna brazile hacks

trump authoritarian

Trump Calls for the DoJ and FBI to Investigate Hillary Clinton

Following Donna Brazile’s wildly revisionist and entirely wrong allegation that the Hillary Clinton campaign took over the Democratic National Committee and somehow wielded its power over an impotent organization to rig an election whose rules date back to 2010, Donald Trump unsurprisingly took to Twitter to attack these falsehoods (and to spread some of his own).  But his tweets took a dark turn when he called for the Department of Justice and the FBI to investigate Clinton for alleged dishonesty — though no dishonesty occurred and, of course, dishonesty isn’t a crime.  These calls are explicitly authoritarian and that we’ve become inured to Trump’s rhetoric shows just how far our democracy has backslid since Trump first declared his presidential candidacy.



The Clinton campaign signed a well-documented and widely publicized joint fundraising agreement with the DNC wherein the campaign agreed to keep the financially insolvent organization afloat.  Bernie Sanders’ campaign signed a similar agreement just three months later.  Trump himself had a join fundraising venture with the Republican National Committee and the same money laundering and campaign finance laws (words that should not be capitalized) of which he wrongly accuses Clinton could, in his apparently ideal society, be said of him.

Misunderstanding of the law aside — Trump’s an ignorant fool who dumbs down society through his reckless tweets and routine spreading of false information while calling all information remotely critical of him “fake,” which has consequences of which he cannot begin to fathom — he’s explicitly calling for a federal investigation into a political opponent (a defeated one, nonetheless) and tacitly hopes law enforcement jails a leading administration dissident.





This isn’t how democracy works.  The FBI announced Clinton did not act illegally with regards to her emails; Uranium One is one of the most laughably dumb scandals ever proposed by a party infatuated with Hillary Clinton; “Podesta” means nothing and is just a name, not an issue; the server circles back to the aforementioned innocent emails; and there is no “plus, plus….”

Trump wants his political appointees and hires to target opposition leaders over non-scandals — and, even if ever so slightly scandalous, not remotely close to illegal behavior.  Imagine conservative reaction had President Barack Obama urged Loretta Lynch to investigate Mitt Romney for any contrived bullshit.

Imagine if Obama urged Lynch to investigate Trump’s tax returns!  Conservative outrage would rightly dominate weeks of political coverage because this is not normal.  But now right-wing media, acting as a state propaganda outlet, simply echoes these calls and promotes inane conspiracies about the opposition during widely-watched prime-time TV shows.



Republican officials reuse to comment on Trump’s tweets despite their direct attack on democratic norms — ie, the norm that the in-power party won’t use its position to harass and investigate the opposition when no cause to do so exist.  Their silence, defeaning, as silence so often is, lets Trump continue his authoritarian rhetoric that millions of wide-eyed supporters accept, internalize, and spread to their social network.

Voters take cues from elite actors.  When these elite actors simply let slide authoritarian rhetoric and arguments, voters come to accept it.  Americans have a weak connection to liberal democracy, partly because it’s messy and slow.  A demagogue such as Trump can easily prey on existing authoritarian undertones to undermine faith in democracy and the democratic norms that underpin our society.  He’s had great success at doing this with the press.



Imagine seeing this in another country.  How would we — how would you — react if a far-right party in Germany gained power and then called for federal investigations into Angela Merkel or other centrist parties?  I have to imagine it would chill you at least a little bit.  Trump’s actions should do the same.  We have a long history of liberal democracy and institutions designed well to withstand someone like Trump.  But as the Founders understood, democratic faith and continuance comes from the people.  When they stop believing in those norms, liberal democracy will slowly wither.

That we have muted outrage to Trump’s continued authoritarian tweets shows just how far our democracy has backslid since his emergence on the national stage.  We simply shrug off authoritarian calls as the angry ramblings of an overwhelmed old man.  To protect our democracy, we mustn’t do that.  We must demand that elected officials condemn Trump’s remarks and urge more to make speeches similar to Jeff Flake’s in which he condemned Trumpism and stood for the values that truly matter to a free and democratic society.


To learn more about authoritarianism, see Timothy Snyder’s “On Tyranny.”

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the party decides

A Party Should “Rig” Its Primary

There’s been much hoopla over allegations that the Democratic National Committee “rigged” the primary for Hillary Clinton, thus somehow denying Bernie Sanders a chance at winning the nomination.  This allegation, supported by the likes of Elizabeth Warren and Donna Brazile, is categorically false (and those who believe in the vast conspiracy cannot point to hard pieces of evidence showing otherwise).  That isn’t to say a party shouldn’t “rig” its primary — it absolutely should.  The national committee of all parties should tilt the scales to benefit a desired candidate who the party’s most dedicated stakeholders believe will best serve the party and country’s interest in the short and long run.

Presidential nominations are, by there very nature, party affairs.  It’s a discussion largely among loyal partisans (though a number of — too many — independents also influence these decisions) about the ideological direction of the party.  The nominee will be the leader of the party regardless of election result.  Presidents obviously lead their parties for at least four years (and often eight or more); general election losers still have a say in their parties direction and some retain prominent positions in government or even run for president again.  Parties have a natural interest in selecting a candidate who can harness temporary desires, move legislation towards the party’s ideal point, and still continue to lead whether in victory of defeat, for years to come.



The party itself has a vested interest in the party’s anointed leader.  Nominees and presidents essentially take over the national committee for years at a time and can either strengthen the central committee through a mix of patronage and dedicated fundraising (much of which the central committee then gives to state parties) or it can leave the party structure neglected as it withers in debt and falls into disarray.  This might incline some party actors to favor a former Democratic senator, First Lady, and Secretary of State from a family whose patronage and fundraising abilities helped keep the DNC afloat over, say, a candidate who never bothered to formally align with the Democratic Party until running for president.

Changing the primary rules offers parties their best opportunity to “rig” an election, and even in doing so, the changes made would not salvage the candidacy of its preferred candidate should the voters find that candidate repugnant.  Rule changes to maintain the party’s influence in nominating affairs include closing primaries to only those affiliated with a specific party, shortening the primary calendar to keep a high number of candidates in the race through the convention, increasing the number of superdelegates, and unbinding regular delegates elected through primaries (eliminating all caucuses).



Each of these changes increases the likelihood of an open convention — a convention in which no candidate has a majority of total delegates so candidates and their delegates must reach some nomination consensus.  This is how parties routinely selected presidential nominees until the McGovern-Fraser reforms that essentially removed parties from the selection process.

An open convention forces consensus and often the consensus candidate that emerges is a moderate voice with governing experience, not a threat to the party or country’s health.  Perhaps the most notable example of a consensus candidate is Abraham Lincoln, the first choice of few but the second choice of a great many.  Such delegate brokering, often led by party regulars and officials, would likely keep political hobbyists or other demagogues out of power.  A brokered Republican convention in which Donald Trump had only 42 percent of the delegates might not have selected him, choosing instead a candidate acceptable to both the far-right and moderate wings (someone like Scott Walker, Haley Barbour, or Mike Pence).



Preventing the likes of Donald Trump from winning the presidential nomination should be a party’s number one priority as that individual has the power to destroy the party itself while degrading the country and its institutions.  Voters have done fairly well at avoiding such populist temptations, have made flirtations in the past and now show a willingness to dally with far left or right ideologies.  This trend towards demagogic populism furthers the need to reinsert parties into nominating affairs.

It’s a non-intuitive proposal and one with which many will disagree, but in the long-run, avoiding unqualified candidates who manipulate voters’ emotions to serve themselves at the expense of the party and country benefits us all.  Let parties “rig” nominations.


For more on presidential nominating contests and the party’s role in them, see “The Party Decides,” which you can purchase by clicking the image below.

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Elizabeth Warren and Donna Brazile are Wrong

 

Both Elizabeth Warren and Donna Brazile have declared the 2016 primaries “rigged” in Hillary Clinton’s favor.  This claim is entirely false and can only be made by those with political motives, whether rekindling popularity among the Bernie Sanders wing of the party or practicing revisionist history to shift society’s memory away from ethical improprieties that reflect poorly on Brazile, but not the the Clinton campaign.

Warren’s incorrect agreement that the DNC “rigged” the primary follows an explosive — at least to those not politically trained — excerpt from Brazile’s forthcoming book in which she reveals that the Clinton campaign used its Hillary Victory Fund to keep the DNC financially afloat in return for controlling a number of its operations.

That’s not new information, it’s not shocking information, and it in no way “rigs” an entire primary.  In August 2015, the DNC publicly announced its joint fundraising venture with the Clinton campaign — a remarkably poor way to hide the information Brazile claims is a bombshell.  Just three months later, Bernie Sanders himself signed a similar agreement with the party (to which he never belonged until he sought the presidency).



So Brazile’s Super Explosive Report That Changes Everything™ reveals no new information, but does rekindle the ignorant passions that rally those angered, without reason, at the DNC.  We can only hope Brazile, who noted in the book her desire to get to the bottom of the alleged “rigging,” didn’t expend money or resources to find a document of which all knew in 2015. (*UPDATE, November 3, 7:25p* NBC reports that the memo Brazile cites as “rigging” only pertained to the general election, a routine procedure worthy of no debate and certainly not evidence of non-existent “rigging.”)

Furthermore, in absolutely no way does a campaign trying to control party operations rig an election.  The party organization itself does not fall under campaign control until delegates select a nominee.  Up to that point, the party’s national committee is pretty impotent: It (wrongly) doesn’t choose favorites and even if certain staff members voice their desire to see one candidate elected over another, they can do nothing about it.

No DNC operatives hit the ground during the primaries to campaign for or against a candidate; the DNC spends no money on ads to boost or deride presidential aspirants; the party itself does little — and it almost always does little.  Fixation on the DNC and RNC largely misses the mark because those committees have little actual power or campaign prowess.  Most actions and funds go to campaigns or the national party’s committee arms (eg, the DCCC or RNSC).



The party does, however, decide the primary’s rules.  This represents the best method by which the party can “rig” a primary.  If an early favorite controls the rulemaking process and, for instance, moves the largest and most expensive states to the beginning of the primary calendar and makes the winner-take-all, then that would be rigging the primary by pricing out competitors and ensuring early momentum goes exclusively to the frontrunner.  Controlling the rule making process is one method by which Donald Trump can fend off a primary challenge in 2020.

But the Clinton campaign had not “infiltrated” the DNC (to borrow Brazile’s parlance) at the time of primary rule approval.  This happened back in 2014 and those rules by and large carried over from the ones to which the party agreed in 2010.  Moreover, the rules as they stand actually favor insurgent candidates.

Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina currently begin the primary season.  All are small states and relatively cheap television markets (New Hampshire’s a bit tricky as campaigns sometimes need to buy air time in the Boston television market to best reach New Hampshire voters), so underdog candidates are not priced out of competing.  Iowa’s caucus system favors populist candidates able to forge an intimate connection with the voters — caucuses and primaries differ rather dramatically in demographics with the former being far less democratic.  State demographics also favor factional candidates able only to appeal to certain races (IA and NH being overwhelmingly white whereas SC has a large African American constituency).



This calendar actually favored Bernie Sanders and enabled his continued presence in the primaries.  He performed best in smaller, caucus states with few minorities — exactly the demographics of the first two states (IA and NH), conveniently those which generate the most news coverage and which can decide momentum moving forward.  Had the calendar started with a diverse sect of states, Sanders would have lost each one by large margins and been written-off even by his most ardent supporters.

Far from the DNC “rigging” the primary for Hillary Clinton, the rules carried over from 2010 (agreed to in 2014) allowed Sanders to stay in the race and appear competitive.

Both Elizabeth Warren and Donna Brazile are wrong and while I cannot be sure of their motives, the most obvious — a political ploy to retain 2020 favor and an effort to revise history after an ethical embarrassment, respectively — point to weak characters willing to lie to angered partisans.  The Democratic Party doesn’t need the continued fabrication of alleged “rigging” hanging over its head.  It needs to rebound in strength to wage a strong midterm fight.  Enough with the lies.