Category Archives: Democrats

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.



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.


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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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donna brazile rigged primary

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.



virginia election

Virginia’s Gubernatorial Election Has Big Consequences

Next week’s Virginia gubernatorial election has many important consequences, including whether a disgraced man running a race-baiting campaign will assume leadership of an increasingly blue state, but one that many voters and watchers overlook: The results may well determine whether Virginia changes its method of electoral vote allocation.

Republicans stung by Virginia’s swing to a blue state — it voted for a Democratic president in each of the last three elections after not having done so a single time since 1964 — want to take electoral votes away from future Democratic victors by ending the winner-take-all system.  Instead, they want to allocate electoral votes by congressional district, which only Nebraska and Maine do today.

The winner of each of Virginia’s 11 congressional districts receives an Electoral Vote with the remaining two votes going to the statewide winner.  This policy is nothing more than an effort to benefit future Republican candidates by taking a handful of votes away from likely Democratic victors and giving them to the statewide loser.  In close elections, always a likelihood given the mix of swing states, this could be decisive, especially if Republicans in Democratic Minnesota succeed in passing similar legislation.



Had this legislation been in effect during the 2016 election, Donald Trump would have won six electoral college votes to Hillary Clinton’s seven despite Clinton winning the state easily.  Barack Obama also would have seen some five or six votes lost to Mitt Romney (Democrats would have benefited in the years prior).  That Republicans push this policy now rather than a decade ago when Virginia seemed reliably red shows they foresee losing the state in future presidential elections and want to bolster their candidate.  It’s not about accurately reflecting the statewide vote, as Republicans have claimed, because they obviously showed no concern for Democrats earning electoral votes even as George Bush won the state.

Switching to proportional allocation of electoral votes makes sense, but only if all states embrace such a reform (otherwise, it hurts the statewide winner and could potentially deny her enough votes in the election).  However, any such change to proportional allocation should not be done by congressional districts.  As we all know, gerrymandering plagues congressional districts (as does geographic clustering), so attempts to proportionally allocate electoral votes based on congressional district results falls well short of fairness.  Trump won 44 percent of the Virginia vote but 54 percent of its congressional districts.  Proportional allocation must be done at the statewide, not congressional district, level (and with a threshold requirement).



Virginia has yet to enact such a blatant Republican power-grab because it has a Democratic governor.  The measure passed the Election Subcommittee along party lines, which portends well for Republicans: They have a nearly 2/3 majority in the House of Delegates and a one-seat majority in the state senate.  But they don’t control the governorship and the governor can veto the measure.

If Ed Gillespie wins the election, Republicans will control the state legislature (the senate is not up for election this cycle) and can pass its desired measure by whipping the party into line.

This election has lasting influence on the nature of the GOP, the Republican majority in the House of Delegates, and controlling 2020 redistricting.  It also may well determine whether Virginia helps statewide Republicans losers — that is, Donald Trump — in the next presidential election.

Go vote!



clinton russia collusion

No, the Clinton Campaign Did Not Collude with Russia

Upon the Washington Post’s report that the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee helped pay for the Steele dossier, right-wing media went into a frenzy declaring that the Clinton campaign, and not Donald Trump, colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election.  Such claims are complete hogwash.  The Clinton campaign did not in any way, shape, or form collude or have connections with Russia, a fact so stunningly obvious that any claims to the contrary shows the extent to which the right-wing apparatus has engaged in Orwellian DoubleSpeak simply to defend a president all know to be dangerously unit for the job.

These orgies of accusations, whose participants include Donald J. Trump, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Fox News, Sean Hannity, the National Review, the Federalist, Jeb Bush, and the Wall Street Journal editorial board, ignore that the Washington Free Beacon — a conservative publication — partnered with Republican megadonor Paul Singer to fund the dossier during the primaries.

They also ignore reports last year that Democrats took over the dossier project after Trump won the Republican nomination.  No new information, just confirmation of previous reports and a pretty evident event: Many in Washington knew of some opposition research into Trump that included Russian improprieties — why would the Clinton campaign not pay a firm to probe for information?



Opposition Research is not Collusion

I should emphasize “pay a firm to probe for information.”  The Clinton campaign hired Fusion GPS to conduct opposition research on Trump.  Fusion GPS then hired former British spy Chris Steele for the investigation.  Steele collected raw intelligence; that obviously included speaking with Russians.  Undoubtedly, many of these Russians, speakingly disconcertingly freely, likely had lines fed to them by the Kremlin, whose efforts to influence our election and voters (of both parties) has been well documented.

But that’s not collusion (except, perhaps, in the delusional world of those who truly believe everything 1,200 time liar Donald Trump says).  Collusion involves a secret agreement or cooperation for some deceitful purpose — say, agreeing to meet with Russian agents after they promise dirt on your political opponent, which Donald Trump Jr did.  Hiring a firm for opposition research and then that firm hiring a spy and then that spy conducting routine raw intelligence collection is not by any means collusion.

Did the Clinton campaign coordinate responses with Russia?  Did it directly go to Russian operatives in hope of collecting dirt on Trump?  Did an agent of the Clinton campaign beg a de facto Russian outlet for hacked Trump emails (Cambridge Analytica, a Steve Bannon production with funding from alt-right Robert Mercer, solicited Clinton’s emails from Russian puppet Julian Assange).  The answer to all of these questions is a resounding no.



A Lack of Logic

Let’s also walk through the wholly foolish logic of those claiming Clinton/Russia collusion:

  1. Fund the bombshell dossier
  2. Say nothing about
  3. Let Russia hack your emails
  4. Lose election in large part because of leaked emails hacked by Russia
  5. Profit!

It’s utterly bizarre and entirely nonsensical that people think the Clinton campaign would break all sorts of laws and arguably commit treason to coordinate with Russian and then not use the document during the campaign to win the election.  How does that make sense?  Like all of the right-wing attacks, it doesn’t.

Paying for opposition research is not collusion.  By not stretch of the imagination is it collusion.  These new attacks, conveniently emerging in the same week as special counsel Robert Mueller’s first indictment, are only misinformation driven by stakeholders of the Trump administration who will go to any lengths to defend their Great White Hope — he who will take healthcare from millions and cut taxes on the wealthy all while enabling the GOP’s most racist and deplorable faction.




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biss for governor

Why I Don’t Support Daniel Biss for Governor of Illinois

I Cannot Support Biss for Governor

Daniel Biss has made a splash in Illinois – especially in Chicago’s north shore – because of his progressives policy pronouncements and avid social media use.  While certainly a committed and respectable servant, I do not support Daniel Biss for Governor because, on top of promoting misguided policy such as a statewide $15 minimum wage even when that would create inequality within the state and likely lead to layoffs in cheap areas downstate, he willfully promoted a democratic socialist.

Democratic socialism is a dangerous ideology.  It wraps a failed economic platform inside the cozy phrase “democratic” to make it more palatable — it’s sort of like using bacon to make any nauseating food seem edible.  Sure, you get bacon, but you’re also eating garbage.

And with democratic socialism, socialism’s modifier belies danger.  Socialism has never once worked in the history of mankind.  Only poverty and death have followed experiments in the popular control of resources and production.



(Democratic) Socialism Doesn’t Work

Democratic socialists blame these failures on the imposition of socialism from an elite that sought only enrichment and did not act out benevolence.  They think that by initiating socialism through collective action — through the democratic embrace of their ideals — all will embrace socialism and the economy will thrive.

That, of course, ignores the impossibility of ever using democracy to determine the socially optimal ownership and distribution of resources.  It similarly overlooks the fundamental economic issues that will forever cripple socialism: Eliminating incentives destroys the will to work, decreases efficiency, and leads to an economy that stutters, gasps, and crashes.

Socialism, too, invites tyranny as the spoils of the state increase.  An individual or faction able to gain power have at their disposal the means of the economy.  They can receive bribes or kickbacks in return for lucrative government contracts that define the economy; they can skim from a bloated treasury; they can distribute the means of economic production to themselves and their cronies.  This only worsens problem societies already face with malicious actors trying to use the state for personal enrichment.  With more spoils come more bad actors.



Not a Party for Those Who Embrace Failed Ideologies

But the Biss for Governor campaign saw it fit to put a democratic socialist on its ticket as Lieutenant Governor (eventually dropping the candidate because of his views towards Israel, not his fervent love for sugar-coated [expletive]).  Daniel Biss himself, after a botched vetting job that resulted in embarrassment for the haphazard campaign, decided to elevate the far-left to a position of local and perhaps statewide prominence despite the danger’s of the foolish ideology.

And that’s why I cannot support Biss for Governor.  His eagerness to empower socialists and to promote socialism cannot be supported, even were I to agree with some of his other policies.  Yes, the socialist has since left the ticket, but the stain on Biss remains clear: He’s willing to embrace a destructive and ultimately tyrannical ideology that should have no place in modern America.

As Republicans should do to candidates who endorse or further Trumpism, I will do the same for the Democratic Party and not support Biss for Governor.





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.