Category Archives: GOP

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.

congressional republicans trump

Republicans: It’s Okay to Oppose Trump

Really.  You Can Do It.

Congressional Republicans have, throughout Donald Trump’s norm-destroying presidential campaign and four-month presidential tenure, managed to stand by his side, offering weak defenses for his petty, dangerous, and abusive actions.  They stick with talking points Trump himself dispels in tweets or interviews.  They run from reporters when reporters question them about the most recent Trump scandal.  They bend over backwards to protect and defend a man best understand as a low-information voter.

But why?  Why do congressional Republicans continue to shield Trump?

Trump, of course, has no interest in the Republican party.  He has no interest in conservative policies, save slashing taxes on the wealthy so he and his children can further avoid paying their civic dues.  There’s no doubt that Trump is indifferent to the very real plight of many Americans.  It’s easy to understand Trump’s desire: Self-enrichment.

Unlike his predecessors, Trump refused to release his tax returns.  Nor did he divest from his business interests (and neither has Ivanka, a handbag designer who finds herself tasked with overseeing foreign policies that affect countries – namely, China – in which she has extensive business interests), resulting in doubtless foreign and domestic emoluments clause violations.

Trump visits his own properties every three days in an effort to drive up their value and membership costs as members would have the chance to see and speak with the President of the United States.

Why defend this behavior?  Why demean yourself to protect a man acting out of self-interest?

Republicans, are you scared of Trump’s bite?  I assure you, his teeth are weak and while his bark may be loud, those who fail to speak softly rarely carry a big stick.

Take, for instance, his attitude towards the House Freedom Caucus.  After his firth healthcare bill failed, he angrily took to Twitter and viciously attacked HFC members.  But just a few weeks later, he directed Paul Ryan and other legislative leaders to give the HFC everything it wanted in the healthcare bill.  Trump entirely conceded, despite his vitriol.  There were no repercussions – they got everything they wanted.

Do you fear being primary challenged?  You shouldn’t.  Trump only received 42 percent of the competitive primary vote and no congressional candidates who contort themselves to fit his mold have succeeded.

It must not be forgot that while Trump may now be popular with Republicans, he barely skated by in the primary, receiving only a plurality of the votes and not topping 50 percent in states until his competitors dropped out.  He’s not popular when given another conservative choice.

This is further proved by Trump-esque congressional candidates all failing to win.  A Trump wannabe primary-challenged Paul Ryan and though he earned the ardent support of Breitbart and alt-right members everywhere, Ryan utterly vanquished him in the primary.  Kansas Republicans had an opportunity to choose a Trumpian candidate to run for a recently vacated House seat, yet they demurred.  The Trump wing of the party may have seized the presidential nomination, but it is unable to overthrow sitting representatives and senators.  You have nothing to fear.

The Constitution Matters.

It’s time to put the Constitution above your party.  Trump has abused his power by firing the man leading an investigation against his campaign because that man refused to swear loyalty to the president.  He endangered US sources and future intelligence acquirement by sharing highly classified information with a foreign adversary – an adversary that meddled in our election to boost Donald Trump!  He routinely breaks norms and undermines faith in democratic institutions by, for instance, comparing our intelligence agencies to Nazi Germany, accusing (with no evidence or semblance of credibility) his predecessor of illegal wiretaps, and diminishing the very necessary free press by referring to it as “fake news,” rhetoric which serves only to promote willful ignorance among his base.

Our Republic depends on congressional Republicans checking Trump’s power.  Why let him abuse and consolidate power; right now, all that’s stopping Trump from fundamentally challenging our system is his easy distractibility and fundamental incompetence.  But why rely on that?  Why not proactively work to defend the government created by the Founding Fathers?

You swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States.  So do so.  Don’t let a chauvinist brought to politics only by hobby and hopes of boosting himself undermine the very document you claim to treasure and have promised to defend and protect.

It’s okay.  You can do it.

jason chaffetz donald trump

Jason Chaffetz is the Worst Person in Congress

Dereliction of Duty Spawned by Rabid Partisan Allegiance

Jason Chaffetz is a surprisingly unscrupulous man.  Charged with the awesome role as the House Oversight Chairman, he’s extended his power in a decidedly partisan – and entirely unprincipled and wasteful – manner.  Chaffetz launched numerous high profile investigations into Hillary Clinton’s emails, charity, and alleged Benghazi…something (Republicans are never quite clear on what Clinton supposedly did wrong surrounding the tragedy).  All of these investigations, which cost taxpayers millions of dollars, yielded zero evidence of any improprieties or political ammunition effective on any aside from the nation’s most ignorant (so much for fiscal conservatism).  Even after the election, on Inauguration Day, Chaffetz, in a crude message, announced that he will continue the fruitless and politically motivation witch hunt into Clinton’s affairs.  Based on this irrational activity and clear desire to throw his political power into nothing-burgers, surely Chaffetz would jump at the opportunity to use his committee to investigate actual improprieties.  Right?

Wrong.  President Donald Trump’s innumerable scandals have already shrouded his young presidency in doubt and an air of illegitimacy.  Just a few weeks into his tenure, his approval rating dropped to 35 percent, lower than President Barack Obama’s at any point in his 8 years, and the lowest approval rating at this point in a presidential term since such data collection.  Trump’s scandals range from Russian interference in the election – a small act of war – to constitutional violations (Trump has violated both the foreign and the domestic emoluments clauses) worthy of impeachment.  Yet when asked whether he was concerned with Trump reaping financial rewards from unconstitutional behavior, Chaffetz responded, with a shrug: “He’s already rich.  He’s very rich. I don’t think that he ran for this office to line his pockets even more. I just don’t see it like that.”

That from the same individual who’s squandered taxpayer dollars trying – and failing – to prove that the Clintons used their charity, which literally saves millions of lives, to benefit financially while Hillary led the State Department.

It also demonstrates Chaffetz’s shocking ignorance and total inability to grasp the personality of his party’s leader – that, or a willful ignorance since his investigation could endanger Donald Trump’s presidency.  Trump, of course, acts only to “line his pockets even more.”  Back in 2000, Trump claimed that “it’s very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it.”  And he did just that.  The Trump campaign solicited and accepted millions of dollars from the working and middle class; they then took that money and paid Trump-owned firms and businesses millions of dollars.  After his victory, the pattern continued as Trump took the unprecedented action of refusing to fully divest from his sprawling web of businesses.  This has led to him and his companies reaping millions in benefits because of Trump’s position as president.

Trump’s DC hotel – his continued ownership of which violates its leasing agreement – has attracted an incredible amount of foreign business.  For instance, the Bahrain embassy held a lavish celebration at Trump’s DC hotel a few weeks after Trump’s surprise victory, likely spending millions at a venue from which Trump continues to profit.  Now, Trump has reversed an Obama-era stipulation that Bahrain must improve human rights conditions before purchasing US fighter jets.  President Trump, months after receiving a large windfall from a foreign government hosting an event at his property, made it easier for that foreign government to purchase fighter jets, human rights concerns be darned.  This is the exact type of dubious dealing that the Founders sought to curtail with the Foreign Emoluments Clause.  It’s a textbook constitutional violation, one that ought to be investigated by Jason Chaffetz’s committee, but one that won’t be because Chaffetz figures it couldn’t possibly harm us or the world if Trump becomes a little richer while in office.

Similarly, when asked about Jared Kushner’s family “exploring a $400 million deal with a Chinese company while he serves as a foreign policy adviser to the president,” Chaffetz determined that, too, does not merit an investigation because “I don’t see how that affects the average American and their taxpayer dollars.  Just the fact that a staff person’s family is making money? It’s not enough.”  Never mind that we’ve already seen kickbacks from the Trump administration to those who give him money (not to mention that Trump’s executive order that seeks to make legal his desired Muslim ban conveniently excludes countries in which he owns property).  Never mind that Kushner, a largely unsuccessful businessman thrust into the real estate limelight because his father was jailed, would see an extraordinary windfall from this deal at exactly the time he’s advising the president on how to proceed with North Korea and an increasingly regionally dominant China.

This amounts to a clear dereliction of duty.  Jason Chaffetz, who hounded Clinton for much less, frivolously spending taxpayer dollars as he did so, refuses to investigate Trump’s clear constitutional violations and extraordinary conflicts of interest that entangle Trump’s top advisers.  These conflicts risk America’s interest being put behind the financial interests of those running the executive branch.  It is precisely Jason Chaffetz’s duty to investigate such violations and conflicts to ensure that the executive branch works for Americans, not the solely the Trump clan.

Jason Chaffetz is a scoundrel, a weakling whose word means little and whose principles – or lack thereof – shaped a man motivated by partisan animosity, not love for country or a patriotic sense of duty.

 

 



trump joint address

Deceit and Demagoguery in Trump’s Address to Congress

President Donald J. Trump’s address to the joint session of Congress reeked of demagoguery and deceit, the two defining characteristics of his rise to power.  Through the speech, Trump appealed to base, bestial emotions, preying on tribal instincts to pit his base – the white working class – against those with different backgrounds and skin colors.  His emphasis on “radical Islamic terrorism,” perhaps the most emphatic phrase he uttered, broke with Barack Obama and George Bush’s administration as well as the wishes of his national security adviser, Lt. General H.R. McMaster.  Steve Bannon’s rhetorical triumph centers the terrorism debate on Islam rather than other issues surrounding individual decisions to renounce humanity and risks alienating valuable Muslim allies.  There’s a reason Obama, Bush, and countless national security officials eschew the label.  (Such phrasing also runs into immediate conflict with Trump’s denunciation of antisemitism that headed the speech – antisemitism, when acted upon, is terrorism and yet its perpetrators are not labelled “radical Christian terrorists”).

Furthermore, Trump, who began his campaign by labelling a large percentage of a subset of immigrants “rapists,” devoted a portion of his address to vilifying illegal immigrants by spotlighting some of their crimes.  Such blatant race-based demagoguery — Trump clearly sought to increase favor for his ineffectual border wall and ramped-up deportations by strengthening the implicit connection between illegal immigration and deadly crime – is the 1988 Willie Horton campaign ad in speech form.  It also renounced statistics.  Immigrants, legal and illegal, tend to have lower rates of crime than the native-born population.  That is lost on Trump (or, he doesn’t care).

Deceit, too, defined the speech.  Misleading the public on the economic and criminal consequences of (illegal) immigration fell far short of Trump’s biggest moment of deceit: His portrayal of the botched Navy Seal raid in Yemen.  Trump, who earlier in that day blamed his generals for the failed raid, told Congress that the raid yielded crucial information about al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).  He then spoke directly to the widow of Ryan Owens, a Seal killed in the raid, and complemented her and Owens’ valor and bravery; after a long and deserved applause for the widow, Trump remarked how Owens smiled down from heaven because he “broke a record” for sustained applause.  Such disrespect for the hero – most, Navy Seals especially, have not even a fraction of Trump’s astounding vanity – becomes more abhorrent as one reads about the raid.  Administration officials admit that information seized is not “actionable” or “vital”; Trump reportedly authorized the raid without having read intelligence reports.  He chose not to remain in the Situation Room during its occurrence.  And yet Trump, who so clearly botched his first counterterrorism effort, stood at the dais and lied to Congress and the American people about the raid.  He lied to a widow and then used her as a prop in his speech.

Demagoguery and deceit should have no role in American politics, especially not in the White House.  And yet those two words so perfectly describe Trump and his admittedly authoritarian appeal.  America deserves a better leader – Trump, lest he want to further erode the presidency and our standing in the world, should change his behavior, immediately.

georgia special election

Georgia’s Special Election is a Special Chance to Win a House Seat

Georgia’s Sixth Congressional district, which includes Atlanta’s northern suburbs, offers those opposed to Donald Trump the first opportunity to flex electoral muscle.  Hillary Clinton lost to Trump in the district by a little more than one point, though Tom Price — the self-serving, unethically profiteering congressman — easily won reelection.  He’s now in the cabinet, resulting in a special election where Democrats, energized an impassioned by Trump, could flex electoral muscle.

Moreover, this will be the first chance to test changing party coalitions.  Georgia’s sixth congressional district is highly educated and pretty white, a demographic long in the Republican column but thanks to Trump’s general idiocy and outstanding ignorance has been migrating to the Democratic Party (Clinton, according the New York Times’ Upshot, likely won whites with a college degree).  If Democrats hope to win the House in 2018 — a daunting task — they will need to win suburban sunbelt districts such as Georgia’s sixth.

The upcoming election, therefore, provides a dual test: Can Democrats turn resurgent activism to ballot box results and will Trump’s lunacy drive educated whites from their long-time home in the Republican Party?  All Democrats should go all-in on this race.  It would be the first clear electoral rebuke of un-American policies, telling the Vichy GOP that they will be held to account for their unwavering (and inexplicable) support for a National-Populist.

Don’t tune out and get discouraged.  This Georgia special election is a unique opportunity to see a clear result from resistance.  We need your activism and volunteering more than ever to begin flipping districts and making inroads to a traditionally red state.  It can be done and, should we accomplish this feat, other Republicans will likely be forced to moderate their tone and distance themselves from Donald Trump lest they too find themselves kicked out of a once-safe seat.

We’re fighting for this seat — help us win.

rex tillerson marco rubio

Expect Nothing from Vichy Republicans

Rex Tillerson, President Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, received the Russia Federation’s highest award possible for a foreign national. He opposed, and continues to oppose, sanctions on the belligerent and repressive state. For some reason, he refuses to call Vladimir Putin — who assisted Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo’s massacre and destruction — a war criminal. And yet he will soon be America’s top diplomat.

At a time when the CIA, the FBI, and the NSA all agree that Putin ordered Russian operatives to aide Trump’s election through email hacks, leaks to Julian Assange, and the dissemination of fake news (conclusions with which the president disagrees, decrying the leaks as akin — I kid you not — to Nazi Germany), Putin’s puppet will sit in the Oval Office and his buddy will be a few blocks over in Foggy Bottom.

Senators from both sides of the aisle recognize Russia’s threat and they decry Putin’s attempts to sway our election and undermine faith in democratic institutions across the globe. They recognize that Putin wants a neo-imperial Russian Empire that reclaims lands lost in Europe and the Caucasus. The legislators know that through leaks portrayed as sinister and fake news that encourages ignorance while delegitimizing elected governments help elect far-right authoritarian administrations amenable and not threatening to Putin’s increasingly dictatorial state.

And yet, despite all that, (Vichy) Republican senators will not oppose Tillerson’s Secretary of State nomination. The likes of John McCain and Lindsey Graham — two Russia hawks — expressed fear about Tillerson’s Russia connections and his refusal to support actions that might challenge new Russian aggression, but they will vote for him. McCain is obviously no longer a Maverick; Graham seems hell-bent on losing the respect some of bestowed upon him for his outspoken criticism of Donald Trump. Once they fold here, on one of their dearest issues, why should we believe they and their likes will oppose Trump on any grounds?

It’s not just McCain and Graham. At least 51 Republicans, knowing quite well the extent of Russian influence on our election, will vote for Putin’s friend, adding to the Trump administration’s already worrisome Russophilia. This only continues the shameful Vichy Republican streak of refusing to steadfastly condemn or stand up to Donald Trump since the fateful day he came down Trump Tower’s escalator to begin a campaign of ignorance and division.

Vichy Republicans will not stand up to Trump. They will offer no opposition even when they realize it is warranted and necessary. These unprincipled lawmakers — by no means statesmen and women — fear only his wrath and resultant electoral retribution. Sadly, they are not motivated by the country’s interests, just their own. Do not expect responsible acting — do expect to hold them responsible in 2018, 2020, and 2024.

vichy republicans

Vichy Republicans

Republican elected officials claim to be leaders.  They claim to believe in American values and principles.  They claim to believe in the betterment of our beloved country.  They claim, above all, to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.

So, when an authoritarian-minded, conning fraudster, demagogic charlatan whose cult of personality and policy beliefs (insofar as he actually holds coherent policies) define him as a proto-fascist, rose to power, what did these alleged leaders do?

The people charged with protecting and promoting our collective interests cowered in fear, unable to muster the courage needed to confront the short-fingered vulgarian.  Republican officials allowed, condoned, encouraged, and empowered the very figure our Founding Fathers warned could create a constitutional crisis or otherwise destroy our Republic.  The Republic for which the GOP leaders claim to stand.

Trump’s Reich – from his blatantly anti-Semitic language that has motivated and mainstreamed neo-Nazis to his belligerent rhetoric towards Muslims – has turned once respectable elected officials into Vichy Republicans acting as puppets controlled by the strongman.  They may claim independence from the Fuhrer and argue they will effectively control his agenda, but what in their utter and complete acquiescence to his rise makes us believe their statements of legislative control?

These pawns of the Fuhrer had their opportunity to take on their party’s cancer before he became its central node.  But instead they watched in denial, claiming repeatedly that he simply could not and would not win.  Except they did nothing to ensure their prophecy came true.  The Vichy Republicans let their organization get overrun by a man with values antithetical to the Constitution.  They let what could have been the mischief of a small faction become a major force in American politics who know-nothing nativist mischief will continue to hound our politics and nation for years to come.

Vichy Republicans overlooked the labelling of an entire subset of people as rapists.  They issued hollow statements when the Fuhrer announced that his administration would ban all Muslims from entering the country.  And while the condemned the Cheeto Jesus’ assertion that a judge’s ethnicity meant he could not do his job, the Vichy Republicans still vowed to support, vote for, and campaign with the nominee.  Actions have always spoken louder than words and these Vichy Republicans made clear that while our Founders decried the electoral appeal of demagogues, defying one and risking electoral backlash simply would not be a high priority.

And so these Vichy Republicans have abandoned the principles of their party and the values of our country.  They succumbed in terror to an existential threat to the Republic.  They have no ideology except that of self-preservation.  They are puppets of an ignoramus Fuhrer.

Fascism doesn’t come to America solely from a family aspiring towards a First Reich.  It comes through the sheer cowardice of anointed leaders; it comes from their utter and total willingness to accept a man whose ideas they have labelled as un-American and unconstitutional.  It comes from leaders who put preservation over betterment of the country.  Vichy Republicans are but enablers, not men and women of principle and respectability.