Category Archives: Democrats

Institutional Combat and Republican Takeover in the Reagan Era

An in-depth look at Democratic entrenchment, the Republicans offensive, and institutional combat.

The election of 1932 forever changed the course of American politics and American society. 1932 ushered in an era of liberal feelings, expanding government, and an all-together Democratic entrenchment. For the next four decades, the government continued to expand its role and a strong system of benefits (welfare) was created and expanded, primarily through Presidents Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Johnson. Since the 1930s, the Democrats have become entrenched in Congress and government agencies, allowing the New Deal, New Frontier, and Great Society programs to stay in place and fight the Republican offensive of the 1980s. Though the Republicans were (and so far are) unable to remove the programs and strip away the welfare system, they were successful in creating intense institutional struggles that have become the focus of politics and many discussions throughout the nation. Moreover, continued institutional combat stops the two parties from acting in the best interests of America – rather, the two parties act in fashions deemed best to bring down the other.

Following the onset of the Great Depression, Democrats were entrenched in Congress for six decades. This was possible thanks to the New Deal coalition, which included labor unions, farmers, the elderly, southerners, Jews, Catholics, and, of course, liberals. The New Deal coalition was formed because the general populace was seeking a change from the failed laissez-faire policies of Republican Presidents Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover. Roosevelt offered hope and new ideas to help the country escape the throes of depression. His policies of government intervention in the private markets on behalf of citizens were quite popular throughout the country and allowed for the coalition to remain intact. Such a far-reaching and inclusive coalition kept the Democrats in Congress for close to 60 years, and in the Presidency for 36 years (asides from Eisenhower, whose policies would be considered somewhat liberal today). Though FDR intended for the New Deal programs to temporary, he soon made them “permanent features of the American governmental system” (84). Being the dominant party in Congress and controlling the Presidency for numerous terms allowed the Democrats to create many social welfare programs, thus becoming entrenched in the domestic state.



Democratic entrenchment in Congress and in the Presidency allowed them to gain a firm footing in “federal social service[s], labor and regulatory agencies, and government bureaucracies and nonprofit organizations on the state and local levels that help administer national social programs” (81). At first, it was easy for the Democrats to maintain control because a liberal Congress and Democratic president allowed for safe passage of agency funding. Even when the White House was run by a Republican, Democrats are able to maintain high levels of influence and control on the aforementioned government agencies and subsidiaries. This is due to those who work in the agencies, bureaucratic networks, and administrative capabilities. Individuals who work in the agencies are generally “committed to these organizations’ goals” and are “commit to the public sector”, a trait generally found in Democrats rather than Republicans (82). Bureaucratic networks let Democrats establish links directly with voters, which played a key role in the creation of Democratic voting tendencies amongst “unionized workers and ethnic minorities” as well as “some middle-class homeowners, professionals, and members of the business community” (83). In these ways, agencies are able to resist efforts “by Republican presidents to redirect or limit their activities” (84).

By the 1960s, the Democrats were reeling and became “fully dependent on its base of power in the domestic state” (88). Perhaps the biggest challenge to the New Deal coalition was the Democratic support of civil rights for African-Americans. While Northern Democrats were “sympathetic to the plight of the blacks” (88), southern conservatives (who voted Democratic out of tradition) were not. Civil right legislation passed in the New Frontier and Great Society caused a party dealignment, with Southern Democrats slowly leaving the party to vote Independent or Republican. Blacks soon replaced white Southern Democrats. Federally funded community development corporations, community action centers, and neighborhood service centers “provided an institutional framework through which blacks could be organized to provide local political support for [Great Society] programs” (90). When blacks go out and vote, Democrats almost always win. However, the struggle for liberals is getting African-American citizens to vote, a problem President Obama was able to solve through his nationality and focus on Get Out The Vote initiatives.

During Lydon Johnson’s presidency, the conflict in Vietnam escalated into a war. Due to this, liberals within the administration and throughout the country “launched a full-scale attack on the national security establishment”, seeking to “subject the military-industrial complex to stricter external control” (91). This attack was successful in cutting defense spending throughout the 1970s. However, Democrats were charged with weakening national defenses to a critical level following the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Republicans were thus able to gain support in the South and West among those who had a stake in defense spending, hence further challenging the New Deal coalition.

The 1968 Democratic National Convention saw numerous changes designed to show the party’s racial acceptance as well as to pass reforms for primaries and campaign finance. Considered by many to be the biggest change, a new rule required that “delegations to future national conventions be composed of blacks, women, and youths in a ‘reasonable relationship to their presence in the population of the state’” (93). Another platform agenda was encouraging states to use open primaries and caucuses in order to limit the “slate-making efforts of party organizations” (93). The Common Clause group sought campaign finance laws that would include limitations on individual contributors. These proposed reforms by the liberal Democrats steered the party in the direction of middle-class citizens and racial minorities. However, this came with the destruction of the local party organizations, leaving the Democrats even more “dependent upon their bastions within the domestic state” (94).



After a few years and elections of political turmoil, following Nixon’s demise at Watergate and the failure of the Carter administration, Republicans were successful in winning back the presidency in 1980 and began to implement an agenda with an idea of undermining Democratic strongholds and dismantling the social welfare programs. In order to curtail the Democratic entrenchment, Republicans used a mixture of tax reductions, domestic spending cuts, and deregulation. Doing so “diminished the Democrats’ ability to achieve their policy objectives…and provide benefits to groups allied within the party” (103). Significant tax decreases resulting less money for the government and a ballooning annual deficit. To remedy this, a number of domestic spending cuts ensued, putting domestic programs under pressure by cutting of funding (the Anaconda plan). New programs could not be created and funding levels for existing programs were always at risk of being cut. Republicans also sought to deregulate key industries, including transportation, energy, and finance, which limited regulatory agencies as they were not “able to intervene against business on behalf of groups disadvantaged by market process” (106). Deregulation also helped business break with labor, weakening the unions and thus the Democrats. Through these means, the “Republican Offensive” was successful in damaging the Democratic entrenchment; however the election of Bill Clinton in 1992 prevent the destruction of Democratic control.

As the Republicans undermined the “capacities of institutions” (107) controlled by Democrats, they also began to weaken the Democratic social base and New Deal coalition, focusing on business, the middle-class, blue-collar workers, and white southerners. Republicans were able to take business from the Democrats with Reagan’s promises of cutting “costly social programs”, weakening the “influence of labor”, and deregulation. These promises lured businesses to the right, where many of them remain today. In order to win over the middle-class, conservatives “attempted to convince” them that they weren’t “beneficiaries of federal expenditure programs”, but rather “taxpayers” (110). They were successful in creating an issue out of taxes; there was a 21% increase in voters who identified taxation as a problem between 1976 and 1984 (111). By focusing on the aspect of taxation rather than benefits, Republicans were able to lure away middle-class voters with promises of lower tax rates, stealing another block of the Democrat’s New Deal coalition. Republicans won blue-collar workers by stressing “moral and religions convictions” as well as patriotic appeals (114). In addition, Republicans subtly used the issue of race to win over blue-collar workers (115). The race issue, as well as moral convictions and beliefs – such as abortion – , helped Republicans win the votes of white Southerners, who were mostly Evangelicals. By taking these voting groups, Republicans were successful in dismantling the New Deal coalition.



Republicans also made popular bounds with their national security platform and monetary and fiscal policies. The first Reagan term saw the “largest peacetime military buildup” (117). Doing so let Reagan claim the Republican Party was the one of power, both domestically and abroad. It has been acknowledged that the Department of Defense is a Republican entrenchment. While the Reagan administration’s policies led to a soaring national debt, the decline of the dollar, and a growing trade deficit, his policies made it impossible for Democrats to campaign on their core issue: entitlement programs. Since there was a large deficit, it was impossible to run with idea of creating new domestic spending programs, hence hurting Democratic candidates. All in all, national security and monetary and fiscal policies by Republicans strengthened their institutional standing and their capacities of governance all while weakening the Democrats.

Unfortunately, rather than serving the people, the two major political parties have come to use the institutions of government as a means of battling the other. For example, budget deficits via tax cuts were used as a Republican weapon to prevent new spending programs that would have benefited many people throughout the country. Luckily, the debt was financed by foreign governments who sought to capitalize on the high interest rates used by the Federal Reserve to tame inflation. Democrats responded by passing the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act to try and pressure Reagan into tax increases. They also pursued protectionism as a means of cutting off the foreign investment that financed the burgeoning debt. This political fighting hurt the country as markets were sent into a flurry of panics, culminating in Black Monday. In national security, the Reagan administration spent huge sums of money to appear powerful and make Americans think that Republicans were the party of power. Coupled tax decreases, Reagan managed to run extraordinarily high deficits, resulting in the aforementioned disempowerment of Democrats. Federal courts of expanded their powers by “rescind[ing] the abstention doctrine” and by “creat[ing] new rights” (147). Socially, institutional combat deprived America of health care reform when a Republican Congress blocked the Clintons’ health care plan. Impeachment charges, ironically led by Newt Gingrich, were brought on Clinton despite his lack of breaking any formal law. Clearly, rather than focusing on how to best help Americans, the two major parties instead focused on how to damage the other.

Overall, institutional combat and struggles between the two major parties deprives the country of a governing body devoted to advancing policies best suited for the progression of societal well-being. Ever since the Democratic entrenchment of Congress, the presidency, and other agencies in the 1930s, Republicans have sought a way to demean the Democrats and shift the country right. This manifested itself in 1980 after New Deal coalition slowly disintegrated and the Democrats found themselves in a crisis, per se, with a crumbling base and a number of issues that seemed bound to destroy the party – among them national security and the military, as well as growing inflation caused by ample government spending. The reestablishment of the Republican Party has only served to worsen institutional combat as now the two sides are on equal grounds from which to wage political war. As long as institutional combat continues, little will be accomplished by the government and the general populace will suffer as a result.

hillary clinton don't go away

Stop Telling Hillary Clinton to Go Away

It’s Ridiculous to Try to Silence Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton’s out with a new book, “What Happened,” and, unsurprisingly, she’s received immediate backlash for daring to put pen to paper.  Many simply want the former presidential candidate who lost a shocking and disappointing race to Donald Trump to simply go away, fade into the night.  That’s utterly ridiculous and hypocritical.  Hillary Clinton, the first female presidential nominee for a major party, is a Democratic leader and has every right and reason to speak bluntly and openly — an honesty that many thought she lacked during the primary, but now want her to shove that honesty up her…wherever — about the campaign and politics in America.

A former presidential nominee who won more votes than any white man in United States history, the first woman to nearly become president, a Secretary of State, U.S. senator, and First Lady has every right to speak about politics.  Full stop.  Losing should not muzzle an individual, especially one who has committed her life to public service and helping others.  No one asked John Kerry to fade into obscurity after his 2004 loss; Al Gore continued to be a loud liberal voice following his defeat; Harry Truman opted to avoid defeat in 1952 by not running, but remained a steady Democratic force (the 1952 lose, Adlai Stevenson, ran again in 1956 and 1960).  Many rightfully idolize Clinton.  She’s a role model to women everywhere — her actions have inspired countless to pursue public office.  There’s absolutely no reason to shut up a party leader and hero.



Clinton’s book shows humility and, above all, honesty, a trait which many claimed she lacked, leading to countless vicious character assaults.  Yet when Clinton opens up and shares her true thoughts — thoughts or reasons with which any reader may disagree, but honest ones nonetheless — critics hypocritically turn Clinton’s honesty against her.  At what point does incessant character nagging become obsessive?  Deride her proclaimed lack of honesty; harangue her clear honesty because suddenly it has no place in public discourse as it may sow discontents within the party.

While it’s true that Clinton’s book may rehash or reopen some party wounds from the 2016 election, right now is the perfect time to have a dialogue about the direction of the Democratic Party and how it can better handle nominating affairs and unity thereafter.  The midterms are 14 months away’ the 2020 presidential election, 38.  Who do we harm by debating whether Bernie Sanders hurt Hillary Clinton?  When the party’s grappling with a strong centrist block and a insurgent (far) leftist movement, oughtn’t we at least consider how the appeals play or open divides within the party that could hamper general election chances?  And, if we agree we need those conversations, shouldn’t we do so now rather than in the months leading up to a general election against a bigot like Donald Trump?

Critics arguing Hillary Clinton should simply go away employ little logic — they disparage the honesty presented by a long-time party often mocked for privacy and overly scripted behavior while accusing her of  weakening the very party they sought to overhaul and tear apart as it became overwhelmingly apparent their favored candidate would not emerge from the primaries victorious.  Clinton should not shut up.  She should not go away.  She, and every Democrat, should continue to speak as she feels fit, helping the party come to grips with the election, understand its mistakes, resist Donald Trump, and, ultimately, strengthen itself for the tasks the lie ahead.

hillary clinton's what happened
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obama trump voters

Why Clinton Lost, Part 1: Obama-Trump Voters

8.4 Million Obama-Trump Voters

Obama Voters Abandoned Clinton

President Barack Obama won two elections with a robust and resilient electoral coalition that propelled him to easy wins throughout the Midwest.  His coalition, resilient though for him, did not remain intact for Clinton.  According to the American National Election Study, 13% of Trump voters cast a ballot for Obama in 2012.  That amounts to around 8.4 million individuals.[1]  By comparison, of Clinton’s voters, only 4% voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 (totaling around 2.5 million people).

Makeup of Clinton/Trump Voters by 2012 President VoteObamaRomney
Clinton77%4%
Trump13%66%

Extrapolating those numbers to individual states and adjusting for state swing from 2012 to 2016 yields the following Obama-Trump voter estimates and compares that to Trump’s margin of victory.[2]

Estimated Obama-Trump VotersTrump’s Margin of Victory
Iowa 182,024 147,314
Michigan 449,036 10,704
Ohio 545,985 446,481
Pennsylvania 481,434 44,292
Wisconsin 253,924 22,748

In each state, Obama-Trump voters more than account for Trump’s margin of victory (though, again, see the caveats).  Even accepting flaws in these estimates, it’s readily apparent that a sizable number of Obama voters had to flee from the Democratic Party: How else would Iowa have swung 15 points; Ohio, 11; Michigan, 9.7; Wisconsin, 7.7; and Pennsylvania, 6.1?

These gains came predominately from the white working-class.  A pre-election survey in Pennsylvania found that of Obama’s white working-class voters, some 18 percent planned to vote for Trump over Clinton.  In Iowa, Obama won the white working-class by around 3 points in 2012 whereas Clinton lost it by 20 just four years later.  Macomb County, Michigan, went to Trump by 11.5 points but Obama by 4.  Trump took Erie County, Pennsylvania, by 2 points.  Obama won it by 17.



The exact reasons Clinton failed to retain white working-class voters who supported Obama continue to be debated.  Cultural and economic anxiety quickly come to mind, as does Donald Trump’s demagoguery, critical rhetoric aimed directly at this sprawling constituency.  Regardless of why the white working-class abandoned the Democratic Party, this instance of the Obama coalition’s partial collapse spelled disaster for Hillary Clinton as the voters with which she aimed to replace them simply did not reside in swing states.

Coming soon: Part 2 – An Inefficient Electoral Coalition

————————————————————————————————————————-

[1] Such survey results do come with caveats: Respondents routinely misremember (or lie) about for whom they voted in the preceding election.  In this case, 58% of ANES survey takes claimed to have voted for Obama in 2012.  Obama only received 51% of the vote.  Research posits that individuals tend to say they voted for a socially acceptable answer – in this case, that means saying they voted for Obama (who has a high approval rating) where in following 2004, more claimed to have voted for John Kerry than for George W. Bush.

[2] These numbers suffer from the same drawbacks explained above.  Furthermore, these are just estimates and may well be off (this is also single-party crossover; the numbers don’t look at Romney-Clinton voters).  I tried to account for partisan swing by treating the 13% of Trump’s voters who cast a ballot for Obama as a baseline adjusted upwards based on how much the state swung to the Republican Party in 2016.  That means states with the largest GOP swing is estimated to be home to more Obama-Trump voters than that state’s share of the nation’s total voting population.

a better deal minimum wage

A $15 Minimum Wage is a Terribly Misguided Policy

A $15 Minimum Wage Will Create Dramatic Regional Inequality

Liberals and progressives hope to eliminate society’s inherent inequalities in hopes that all who call this country home have the equal opportunity to compete and thrive in the free market.  As such, the government should not interfere in the market when doing so would necessarily create inequality.  Far too many on the left fail to realize that endorsing a $15 minimum wage increases regional inequality by favoring those who live in low cost of living areas over expensive cities.

Different towns, counties, and states have dramatically different costs of living.  $1000 in Boise goes much further than $1000 in San Francisco because Boise is cheap – its rent is a fraction of San Francisco’s.  Why, then would the federal government, when crafting a national minimum wage, treat the two as equals?  Let’s break this down to see how a $15 minimum wage increases regional inequality by favoring Boise residents.

LocationLiving WageLiving Annual Salary$15/hr SalaryBirthplace Bonus
Boise$10.34$21,505 $31,200 $9,695
San Francisco$16.13$33,553 $31,200 $(2,353)

By virtue of birth and location of employment, a Boise resident would be $12,000 better off than a San Francisco resident if the federal government implemented a national $15/hr minimum.

That means two identical minimum wage workers, one in Boise and one in San Francisco, have dramatically different standards of living.  The Boise worker is relatively affluent whereas the San Francisco struggles to pay living expenses; this means, implicitly, that the government values the Boise resident $12,000 more than the San Francisco resident.  And Boise isn’t even the nation’s cheapest locale.

Liberals should not stand for such inequality made possible solely based on where one lives.  The two workers act no differently; they demonstrate no different abilities or work ethic and yet they are paid, in real terms, substantially different sums simply because the government ignores the cost of living when dictating economic outcomes.



A Better Solution

Ideally, the minimum wage should be left to cities, counties, and states.  That, however, is not entirely feasible: Republican-controlled states often refuse to raise the minimum wage.  It takes initiatives for citizens to force the government into acting.

If the federal government decides to enforce a living minimum wage, as well it should, then the legislation must account for economic variances across the nation.  Rather than proclaiming one wage for the country, a hypothetical bill should read “the minimum wage for any given town or city shall not be lower than that town or city’s previous year’s living wage, as determined by the Bureau of Labor statistics, multiplied by one plus the expected inflation rate.”

Such legislation would ensure that all areas have a living wage without erroneously assuming nationwide cost of living unanimity.  This creates no regional inequality while ensuring that all workers can subsist on their wages.

Liberals must stand against the government creating inequality; thus, liberals should be against a $15/hr national minimum wage.

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.

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.

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.

tulsi gabbard

Tulsi Gabbard is a Tyrant Apologist

Tulsi Gabbard Has No Place in Washington

Tulsi Gabbard should face a primary challenge.  She is no liberal, certainly no Democrat, and while she masquerades as a progressive, her record speaks otherwise.  In fact, Gabbard’s actions reveal that she is a renegade with a cause celebrated only by tyrants.

The congresswoman’s secret trip to Syria perfectly exemplifies her foolishness and affability to brutal authoritarianism.  She failed to alert government leaders that she would visit a country with which we do not have diplomatic relations; upon her return she refused to say whether she met with strongman Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (it turns out she did, which, given that her positions are dramatically at odds with U.S. foreign policy, might have run afoul of the Logan Act); now, she won’t disclose who funded the trip, signing and submitting incomplete ethics forms.  Her conclusion from the trip?  The war-criminal should remain in power as only his repressive regime can restore order to a region his undemocratic, illiberal actions helped destabilize in the first place.



Gabbard went to Syria on a “fact-finding” mission.  Why, then, did she allow the trip to be curated entirely by government figures?  Why did she allow to accompany her two of Assad’s henchmen, who hail from a virulently anti-Semitic party with a history of fascism?  After viewing a Syria portrayed solely from the government’s point of view, Gabbard returned with renewed belief in Assad’s beneficence – an American falling victim to Assad’s propaganda (the same propaganda used by dictators throughout the world to portray democratic societies as tyrannical or otherwise flawed and repressive).

In case you’re wondering, yes, this is the same Bashar al-Assad who dropped chemical bombs on his own people.  Yes, it’s the same Assad whose massacre of Aleppo generated thousands of refugees and gave us images of the war-torn city and injured children that tug at one’s heartstrings.  She, like Vladimir Putin (Assad’s ally in Aleppo’s slaughter) and Donald Trump, wants to see the same Assad that brutally cracked down on all dissent, on those aligned – however loosely – with perceived opposition remain at Syria’s helm.



It’s little wonder that Steve Bannon, alleged anti-Semite and former executive at white nationalist site Breitbart, takes a fancy to Gabbard: Like Trump, her foreign policy inherently views Islam as a terrorism problem and her solutions involve maintaining dictatorial regimes.  For her part, Gabbard, the lone House Democrat to vote against a resolution condemning Assad for his crimes, also bucked her party by refusing to sign a letter urging Trump to fire Steve Bannon, a senior adviser who nihilistically views war with China as inevitable and already thinks we’re in a global conflict with Islam.

Gabbard’s populist roots – the aspiring child of demagoguery – find her favor in the White House even while lending legitimacy and support for authoritarian regimes.  What proclaimed progressive can look into the eyes of a refugee and say “I stand with your oppressor?”  Our leaders need to stand up to dictators and urge democracy’s shining light to spread across all corners of the globe (and this does not necessarily entail military force, though presenting that false choice bolsters Gabbard’s weak arguments).  At a time when the White House wants to strengthen tyrants – when far-right European parties a step removed from power wish the same – authoritarian apologists must not walk the halls of Congress.



Hawaiian voters must hold Tulsi Gabbard accountable for her actions and undemocratic (and certainly not progressive) viewpoints.  Someone – a real Democrats who understands the intricacies of the 21st Century economy and who believes that a (small-l) liberal world order in which a society of states exists without the repressive hand of dictators promotes stability and peace – must primary challenge Tulsi Gabbard.

democrats 2020

Democrats 2020: Who Might Run?

For Democrats, 2020 comes with a wealth of options.

With no heir apparent and no clear national leadership, many politicians — and even some political hobbyists — will run for the Democrats’ 2020 presidential nomination.  The list of potential candidates includes a handful of representatives, many senators, a sizable number of current Democratic governors, as well as other (long-standing) party leaders.

Of course, not all will run or catch fire with the primary electorate.  Some may spend years courting Democrats for 2020 aspirations only to see little party and activist support, forcing the potential candidate to abandon his or her plans.  Others may have a bleak outlook, but will run anyway in hopes of getting lucky.

The table below lists potential candidates for Democrats in 2020.  Aspirants are listed by current position (in order of strength); the last column provides a subjective initial standing, to be updated at various points in time.

Democrats 2020 Potential Candidates

RepresentativesSenatorsGovernorsOther Party LeadersPolitical Hobbyists
Seth MoultonElizabeth WarrenJerry BrownJoe BidenMark Cuban
Keith EllisonBernie SandersTerry McAuliffeJason KanderOprah Winfrey
Joaquin CastroCory BookerAndrew CuomoGavin NewsomTom Steyer
Tim RyanKirsten GillibrandJohn HickenlooperMartin O’MalleyHoward Schultz
Tulsi GabbardTim KaineJay InsleeXavier BecerraMark Zuckerberg
Sherrod BrownJohn Bel EdwardsDeval PatrickSheryl Sandberg
Kamala HarrisTom WolfThomas PerezGeorge Clooney
Mark WarnerSteve BullockAntonio VillaraigosaCaroline Kennedy
 Michael BennetDan MalloyJulian CastroJamie Dimon
Amy KlobucharMark DaytonEric Garcetti
Chris MurphyJack MarkellMitch Landrieu
Al FrankenJay Nixon
Brian SchatzAlan Grayson
Chris van Hollen



Top 15

1. Elizabeth Warren

elizabeth warren 2020

Pros: She leads early polls, is viewed quite favorably by Democrats, and has strong name recognition.  Furthermore, she’s a thorn in Trump’s side, ensuring she stays in the national dialogue.

Cons: If she and Bernie Sanders run, the Democratic Party’s left-wing will be divided, perhaps preventing both Warren and Sanders  from seizing the nomination.

2. Bernie Sanders

bernie sanders 2020

 

Pros: Rabid support among his base and a proven ability to raise vast amounts of money.  Sanders has emerged as a leading voice in the party that could help him in the Democrats’ 2020 race.

Cons: Many Clinton supporters partially blame Sanders  for her 2016 loss.  Such lasting animosity could divide the party and lead to a faction bitterly fighting a Sanders candidacy.  He might also be too far to the left of the party to clinch the nomination.

3. Joe Biden

joe biden 2020

 

Pros: Loved by all and has long expressed interest in again running for president.

Cons: He’s old and the Democrats’ 2020 choice might want to contrast with Trump’s age.  Biden has run for president multiple times and has never gained traction.  Might be too moderate for a party quickly moving leftward.



4. Cory Booker

cory booker 2020

 

Pros: Young, energetic, and frequently discussed as a 2020 candidate.  Has strong initial name ID and already has die-hard supporters.

Cons: Already has enemies who view him as too close to large corporations.  Not yet polished on the stump or as a candidate (his first Senate campaign inspired few).

5. Terry McAuliffe

terry mcauliffe 2020

 

Pros: Proven fundraiser, hails from a swing state, and clearly wants it.  Would be a strong candidate from the right wing of the party.

Cons: A close Clinton ally, many view McAuliffe as overly friendly to businesses and all too moderate.

6. Kirsten Gillibrand

kirsten gillibrand 2020

 

Pros: Loved by many, would quickly gain many endorsers from the Senate, and is positioned well as compromise candidate that splits moderate and left-wing wants.

Cons: Not yet nationally known and hasn’t indicated an interest in running.



7. Tim Kaine

tim kaine 2020

 

Pros: Swing-state senator and former governor; nationally known from the 2016 campaign.  A folksy gentleman with an impressive record of public service and someone who could campaign on ending the imperial presidency — an important contrast to Donald Trump’s actions and views of the executive.

Cons: Moderate, an uninspiring campaigner, and doesn’t seem to have a desire to be president.

8. Jerry Brown

jerry brown 2020

 

Pros: Successful governor of the nation’s most populous state.  Track record of getting things done.

Cons: Old, has run for president multiple times and fizzled during each campaign.  Might be considered too centrist/bipartisan.

9. Sherrod Brown

sherrod brown 2020

 

Pros: Young, populist, represents a swing state, is quite liberal.

Cons: Not well known and has a tough 2018 reelection that would hamper his maneuverings in the Democrats’ 2020 “invisible primary.”

10. Kamala Harris

kamala harris 2020

 

Pros: Young, energetic, and already a strong voice in the Senate where she has earned the accolades of many liberals through her tough questioning in Senate hearings.

Cons: Inexperienced — come 2020, she won’t have served a full term in the Senate.



11. Mark Warner

mark warner 2020

 

Pros: Swing-state senators continuously in the news as the ranking member of the Senate Intel Committee.  Wealthy and can raise money.

Cons: Potentially too moderate; couldn’t rally establishment support in the early days of the 2008 invisible primary.  Might instead strive for Senate leadership.

12. Seth Moulton

seth moulton 2020

 

Pros: Youthful and liberal.  Focused on driving an economic message.

Cons: Not a faithful colleague — quickly turns on Democrats who lose, offering lousy campaign analysis and distorting happenings.

13. Keith Ellison

keith ellison 2020

 

Pros: Appeals to the Sanders wing of the party.

Cons: No longer an elected official and has a past that will attract many oppo dumps.  Is Muslim, which unfortunately might hurt him in a general election.

14. Jason Kander

jason kander 2020

 

Pros: Ran one of the best 2016 Senate campaigns.  Loved by many.  Youthful and energetic; a continued voice in the party with a strong social media presence.

Cons: Lost his one statewide race.



15. Mark Cuban

mark cuban 2020Pros: Wealthy.  Might Democrats want a loud-mouthed businessman of their own to take on Trump?

Cons: Brash and cocky political novice.

 

safe spaces

Illiberal Leftists

The Far-Left and Far-Right Have All Too Much in Common 

Far too many liberals and Democrats forget that authoritarianism is a horseshoe.  The extremes of both ends of the political spectrum tend towards totalitarianism wherein the state suppresses, to the best of its ability, the viewpoints of dissidents and critics.  This can be done in many ways – governments can pass laws forbidding contrarian speech, condone violence and physical retribution against those speaking in opposition, or it can discriminately apply frivolous labels meant to “poison the well” or otherwise taint the perspectives of those who stand against empowered group.  All of these methods serve the same end purpose: Monopolizing thoughts and ideas.

While it is of course easiest to pursue any of these avenues while in the majority and holding the seats of power, plural or minority factions can embrace the latter two means of muzzling nonconformists in efforts to squelch opposition and create a homogenous group.  Donald Trump has, throughout the course of the past 18 months, encouraged violence against protesters and applied meaningless and incorrect monikers to outlets and individuals who disagree with him.  See how he and his supporters deride the “mainstream media” as “fake news” or dismiss liberals as “libtards” or “communists” or “treasonous insurgents.”  Many (but not enough) have railed against such labelling and suppression of ideas, especially when it comes to the media as the news organizations help educate a wanting electorate.  But what Democrats, facing the brunt of this well-poisoning, seem to ignore is that such silencing also occurs in their own ranks

College campuses have been the focal-point for leftist censorship, and rightly so.  Students care too much about “microaggressions” and other slights to feelings and, as a result have sought to curtail free speech and free expression.  But these illiberal sentiments continue once students descend from the ivory towers.  Leftists, those on the fringes of the Democratic Party and liberalism, continue the college belief that speech with which they disagree – or speech which they find, in any way, racist, sexist, or condescending – should be banned.  How is that any different from the illiberal ideas of Trump, who blacklisted outlets critical of him, or his supporters, who want to see constitutionally-protected speech (such as flag-burning) outlawed because they disagree with the argument being presented?



These leftists also love to quickly and easily dismiss speakers with different views.  Innumerable speakers have been disinvited from schools because of potentially offensive viewpoints.  Not even liberals are immune from leftist censorship: When the illiberal left is faced with disagreements from Democrats or other liberals, they don’t try to have a dialogue or come to an understanding with the other party.  Rather, the illiberal left condemns critics as “racist” or “condescending” or “intolerant.”  Many antagonists are simply ignored by virtue of being a “straight white man” (I’ve been told my opinions or use of logic aren’t welcome because I’m white and rationality is somehow, and I kid you not, a racial construction).  Suddenly, immutable characteristics, rather than being something to defend and protect, are reason to dismiss opinions and thoughts just because they hail from a historically privileged demographic.

And so, by labelling as “racist” or “intolerant” or “bigoted” those who bother to disagree with the far-left, leftists alert other leftists than a speaker or writer is to be ignored.  It is de facto censorship within a community, creating an ideological echo-chamber and the makings of authoritarianism should the faction ever somehow come power.  Much as Trump and Trumpian thought is a cancer on conservatism, leftists and leftist thought are quickly becoming a leech on liberalism of which Democrats must be wary lest they follow the Republican Party down the road of authoritarianism.