Democrats – Ghost in the Machine http://www.ghostinthemachine.net Haunting the Web Since 1999 Sat, 25 Feb 2017 18:27:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 Trump. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/next-time-america-eat-a-snickers/ http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/next-time-america-eat-a-snickers/#comments Mon, 14 Nov 2016 16:11:43 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=22254
Hello all, reposting this from Facebook, with a few minor edits and embedded links.

Ok, so, we’re five days out from this election now, and two months before Trump takes office, and here’s where we are.

This morning, the president-elect took to Twitter to attack the press (again), and then told an easily-disprovable lie about his stance on nukes, one that even Breitbart, run by his blatantly anti-Semitic campaign head — now his chief strategist — wrote about.

As of this writing, he has also said nothing about the emboldened hate attacks happening all over America now. Speaker Paul Ryan, when asked by Jake Tapper about them, just shrugged and said those aren’t Republicans doing those. (Ryan, for his part, is busy plotting the end of Medicare.)

Meanwhile, the President-Elect has tried to move the trial on his fraudulent business practices at Trump University, because being president-elect is too hard. (Spoiler: the job gets harder after January.)

Despite this apparent busy-ness, the President-Elect *has* taken the time to openly complain about protestors, so that’s speech, press, and assembly — three of your five first amendment freedoms, already getting challenged.

In the first five days.

When asked about the President-Elect’s many ethical conflicts-of-interest at the moment, Rudy Giuliani, who’s apparently up for Attorney General, said “Those laws don’t apply to the president.”

(Note: Giuliani also wants to “fix” cybersecurity — trust me, that’s not going to be in the direction of your privacy.)

Newt — yes, he’s back too — is calling for a new House Un-American Affairs Committee. Yes. HUAC. You’re not reading that wrong.

Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway today, when asked about Harry Reid’s rightfully angry press release about the new president, said the former Senate Majority Leader should “be very careful about characterizing someone in a legal sense.” In other words, she threatened to sue and/or imprison the political opposition.

Across the pond, Putin is telling Trump to withdraw NATO forces from Eastern Europe, while Britain is putting more long-range missiles there to protect it. However you feel about Russia or NATO — I would think Republicans are very divided on this point at the moment — this is the type of situation where things can very quickly spiral out of control if a steady hand is not at the till.

A steady hand is not at the till.

All of which is to say, we have to start recognizing what is happening here, and plan accordingly. People my age have had a good run, but the shit has finally arrived.

There are many good articles floating around right now about the election. One of the best, imho, is this one. Step one: Believe the autocrat.

It doesn’t do any good to hope Trump somehow turns out to be a closet lefty, or is just content to play Don the Builder and invests massively in infrastructure. That’d be great (tho’ his version of infrastructure — prisons, pipelines, walls — may not be your version.) I hope so too – that’d be the best case scenario at this point. But there’s also a lot of bargaining going on, and we’re all going to have push through the steps here and get to action.

I don’t want to tell you how to get involved, donate, volunteer, or organize — that’s up to you. Some of us are more privileged than others in that regard. But make a list of the things you are going to do to stand against what’s coming, because it sure does seem to be coming.

A few other thoughts on the inter-Dem recrimination happening at the moment, which I think is good and necessary to move forward. As others have pointed out, in the UK after a losing election, the party leadership usually quits. We need strong Dem leaders right now in the field. But we also need the people who failed here to be held accountable. No more failing upward or pundit tenure.

There’s obviously a lot of back and forth right now about whether Clinton lost because of racism or sexism or economic anxiety, Comey or WikiLeaks or just a terribly run campaign. The answer here to me seems to be…yes? Many of these things are not at all mutually exclusive. She lost the Electoral College in a handful of places, and a lot of things could’ve changed that — no Comey, or more money/visits in Wisconsin, or a media that wasn’t disastrously bad at figuring out what stories merit continuous coverage, or a message that better resonated with working white people.

I will say that I helped write a book with Bill Press this past January, Buyers Remorse, about how Barack Obama failed progressives in many ways, and I think it definitely holds up now. If his administration had addressed the foreclosure crisis in a way that was less banker-friendly and more people-friendly, or if he hadn’t continued building out Dubya’s extra-constitutional foreign policy of surveillance and kill-strikes, we’d be in a better place right now.

That being said, and as others have pointed out, Obama in 2012 also ran much better on the Rust Belt front, aggressively pointing out that Romney and Bain Capital were giant hypocrites that hated the auto bailout and took people’s jobs. (Mike Pence, FWIW, was against the auto bailout too.) Clinton did some of this with Trump’s outsourcing and whatnot, but the overarching message of the campaign was “he’s a deplorable human being.” Which he is, but clearly that didn’t matter for a lot of people.

In any event, Trump pulled his voters and Clinton didn’t pull hers. That was the difference. There was no massive white surge to Trump. He got the people who would vote for any Republican, and enough in a select few states in the middle who were angry about how things are going. That’s it. This isn’t a Reagan landslide. It was a close election with terrible turnout where many people disliked both candidates, and Republicans, as always, were more motivated to show up.

There’s been a lot of talk about how Dems need to pop their elitist bubble and talk to white working class people again. This is definitely true to an extent. But, by all that is good and holy, that doesn’t mean turning Trump voters into some sort of exotic Heartland “real Mur’ican.” Nor does it mean meeting fools halfway on the racist, sexist nonsense. I grew up with a lot of these folks — they don’t think they’re racists and get offended when you call them thus, but then go on to say and post deeply racist things.

As @theshrillest pointed out on Twitter, saying Clinton lost solely because of racism/sexism is like saying a plane crashed because of gravity. Both are real and pervasive, especially in the 99% white enclaves that went for Trump, and that’s how it is.

So for God’s sake let’s not lose our nerve on these issues and look for a Jim Webb type to save us. Let’s do a better job of conveying the true story about who the real villains are here — not poor people of color, struggling every single day, but the rich white assholes who now control every single facet of the federal government, and will use it as a trough.

Bernie clearly was much better at this sort of thing, and as someone who supported him, I’m more than a little annoyed that various people on our side were telling us to ignore what the polls were telling us back then. But that is water under the bridge, and we have a tsunami right in front of us.

Let’s get it sorted, let’s hold the people who failed our party accountable, and let’s get ready to fight. Because, again, the shit is here. This is not a drill.

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The Unbearable Whiteness of Trump. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/the-unbearable-whiteness-of-trump/ http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/the-unbearable-whiteness-of-trump/#comments Mon, 18 Jul 2016 18:30:44 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=22245
“Republicans’ great strength is their appeal to white voters, who are still far and away the nation’s largest demographic group. It’s served them quite well in congressional elections…And they’d be winning at the presidential level, too, if they could just increase their level of support among whites by a tantalizingly small amount. Indeed, if Trump is able to increase the GOP share of the white vote by 5 percentage points more than Romney won in 2012, even while holding the strong minority vote for Obama that year steady, the mogul would win handily.”

Remember how I wrote that Trump is already drawing dead because of lack of minority support? As my college friend Shawn Zeller points out in CQ Roll Call, and on the eve of an RNC that promises to go Full Wackadoodle, Trump’s team appear to be aware of the math and are leaning into it, hoping to grow the (old, angry) white vote as a share of the total. “Offending Latinos might even be a good electoral strategy, Frey says: ‘The older white population has a hard time dealing with changing demography, and wedge issues like immigration play well.'”

A good electoral strategy, perhaps, but terrible for the polity…and I still don’t see Trump pulling it off. So he has to grow the overall white vote by 5 percent over 2012 — but he’s running far behind Romney with white women and is still polling egregiously with Latinos. Even notwithstanding Clinton’s iffy approval numbers, it’s a longshot at best. I’ll stand by my earlier prediction: Trump’s gonna lose, handily.

Update: Or, perhaps not.

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The Sit-In to Nowhere. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/the-sit-in-to-nowhere/ http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/the-sit-in-to-nowhere/#comments Fri, 01 Jul 2016 16:18:34 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=22208
“Every child knows that rule number one in fighting the dark side is to not succumb to the dark side. This week, it seems, Democrats and liberals have forgotten this lesson. In attempting to one-up their Republican rivals, they have employed two tropes usually found in the conservative playbook: trampling on civil liberties and demonizing the poor.”

In TNR, Clio Chang surveys the irritating wrongness of House Dems’ recent sit-in. See also Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor in Jacobin, Alex Emmons and Zaid Jilani in The Intercept, and Alex Pareene in Gawker: As Pareene says, “The move is fantastic political theater. It’s also a tremendous waste of popular support and activist energy in support of a measure that isn’t just ineffective but also actively offensive.

Honestly, this is why people can’t stand congressional Democrats. There are many, many positive actions we could take to reduce gun violence in America — banning assault weapons and armor-piercing bullets, closing the gun show loophole, funding for CDC gun violence research, mandating gun safety classes with licenses.

So what do Dems do? They almost stumble into the right thing by (finally) taking a stand on universal background checks. But then they instead make the centerpiece of their precedent-destroying gambit — and just wait until the GOP is conducting sit-ins during the Clinton administration — a stupid, racist, and unconstitutional terror watchlist that has no gun violence prevention benefit whatsoever, except as a political stunt. (Apparently, attempts to include an assault weapons ban were nixed at the very top.)

If this is what Clinton means about getting back to the “spirit of 9/12”, no thanks. We don’t need another wasted decade of useless pandering and war on terror capitulation from the ostensible left. And let’s be clear: John Lewis, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie — they’re all at fault on this one. For shame.

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Catching Up: Clinton & Bernie. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/catching-up-clinton-bernie/ Wed, 08 Jun 2016 17:22:57 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=22152
And now, the Democrats. First, congrats to Hillary Clinton on locking up the Democratic nomination last night. As with Obama in 2008, she basically had it in hand several months ago — Bernie losing Massachusetts on Super Tuesday was an early indicator of trouble, and he was effectively drawing dead by mid-March (after Illinois/Ohio/Missouri.) Nonetheless, taking the pledged delegate lead with big wins in California and New Jersey last night made it official. By any measure, Clinton won fair and square, and with a more decisive lead than Obama in 2008.

As my friend and Columbia colleague Niki Hemmer pointed out, regardless of what you think of Clinton herself, that’s a big effin deal: her nomination represents another step forward in a long struggle for equality and justice in America, one that runs from Abigail Adams’ “Remember the Ladies” to Seneca Falls in 1848 to the battle for suffrage and beyond. (While I harbor some reservations about Clinton, which we’ll get to in a moment — in short, #imwithher, but I really wish #shewasmorewithus — I was tickled to think of how ecstatically Jane Addams, Florence Kelley, Grace Abbott, and my other dissertoral compadres would’ve reacted to last night’s news.)

Whatever Clinton’s many faults, it’s long past time we caught up to the rest of the world and elected a woman to our highest office. This isn’t about tokenism: Studies have repeatedly shown that having more women in political office has a salutary impact on politics. When women — 51% of the population, but still only 20% of Congressreach 30% of a governing body, new issues get an airing — issues like women’s health and America’s embarrassing lack of quality work and family policies. So, regardless of my own hesitations about Secretary Clinton, I do think her being our nominee — and, in a few months, our first woman president — will have a positive impact on the country, independent of anything else she accomplishes in office.

All that being said…Margaret Thatcher was a woman too, and look how that turned out. So let’s get to the problems here.

As longtime readers know, I covered Secretary Clinton’s candidacy extensively in 2008, from auspicious beginnings through all the sordid shenanigans that followed. I had hoped she would have run in 2016 as a better, wiser candidate. Alas, people don’t tend to change all that much.

The signs of trouble were there from Clinton’s opening townhall in June 2014, when she came out of the gate arguing, among other things, paid maternity leave is just too gosh darn hard, Edward Snowden pals around with terrorists, I’ll let you know later where I stand on Keystone, I couldn’t come out against Iraq because I heart the troops etc. etc. From the start, Clinton emerged as the same triangulating centrist and unrepentant foreign policy hawk we saw in 2008.

Then, to knock out Bernie Sanders’ surprisingly strong progressive insurgency, Clinton resorted to many of the same sort of kitchen-sink, whatever-sticks attacks that made her so unappealing in 2008. So, for example, she tried to run on his Left and his Right at the same time: On one hand, she’s the “progressive who gets things done”…but, oh, by the way, single-payer is “never, ever” going to happen. Her campaign declared Bernie’s “tone” was unacceptable, all the while working mightily to slather him in the blood of Sandy Hook kids. (Remember: eight years ago, she was so absurdly pro-gun that Obama was calling her “Annie Oakley.”)

Meanwhile, Clinton publicly embraced Henry Kissinger, who really should be rotting in a jail somewhere, and showed no repentance for her hawkishness in Iraq, Libya, and around the world. (Trump’s disastrous temperament notwithstanding, that bizarre clip of Clinton’s luxuriating in Qaddafi’s demise doesn’t speak highly of hers either. Shades of her calling for Nader’s head back in 2000.) On Israel, she’s established a position to the right of Trump. As noted above, she’s derided single-payer as the Impossible Dream. She’s also now declared that huge campaign finance contributions aren’t in fact corrupting, which blows many progressive arguments against Citizens United out of the water.

In sum, she doesn’t seem particularly progressive for a “progressive that gets things done.” But, of course, we already knew this. It wasn’t like Clinton was any kind of progressive champion during her years in the Senate. Instead, she spent her time trying to criminalize flag-burning and tsk-tsking Grand Theft Auto with Joe Lieberman. (Before that, as we’ve all been reminded throughout this cycle, it was “superpredators” and welfare reform.) And now #we’re (stuck in the middle) #withher.

Moving on, one of the more annoying memes this season has been “zomg Bernie Bros!” — i.e. Clinton surrogates’ continual insistence that Bernie somehow invented Internet trolls, and is at best indifferent to, and at worst malevolently orchestrating, a marauding army of sexists that march under his banner. Firstly, anybody who’s Internetted over the years knows these asshats have been around since the CompuServe days — they’re a ubiquitous cancer of the Web, not a Bernie-inspired battalion. (Trust me, there’s some terribad Clintonistas out there also.) Second, in all honesty, the internecine Democratic fighting this year has been relatively tame compared to 2008, when Mark Penn was busy trying to “other” Obama into electoral oblivion. (Tho’ it probably seems worse to many more people Because Twitter.) And third, the only Democratic campaign that’s been documented as trying to weaponize trolling this cycle is Clinton’s, through David Brock’s brazen, FEC-flouting “Correct the Record” initiative.

Speaking of trolls, Clinton’s most hackish and obnoxious supporters in the media (Joan Walsh, Peter Daou, Jamil Smith, Amanda Marcotte, to name a few) have once again tried to wield sexism as both sword and shield, and argue that Bernie’s solely the candidate of angry white men. (This too is a holdover from 2008 — eight years ago, the kerfuffle was over “Obama Boys”.) But saying it doesn’t make it so. In fact, it takes a willful blindness, if not outright dishonesty, not to see where the Clinton/Bernie divide has really fallen in 2016.

Despite every attempt to make Bernie’s support primarily about race, sex, or income, all the polling has made it clear since before Iowa that the great chasm between Clinton and Sanders supporters is age. This pattern emerged in the earliest states and has held through until the end: Pre-California polling had Latinos under 50 breaking Sanders 2-to-1. America’s largest Arab community (in Michigan) also went 2-to-1 for Bernie, putting him over the top there (which, by the way, puts the lie to Michael Tomasky and others’ stupid contention that only privileged people back Bernie.) The African-American vote has been more closely split, but Bernie still won over half the under-30s nationwide. And women under 30 chose Bernie over Clinton by 30 points. In total, Bernie even beat out 2008 Obama among voters under 30.

There’s a lot of reasons for this, I think, many of which I talked about in my post about Obama’s youth support in 2008: “To many older liberals and progressives, who’ve experienced one dismal setback after another since the heydays of the New Frontier and Great Society, the Clintonian brand of cautious pragmatism often seems the only viable approach to moving the country forward. Put simply, you get burned enough times, you stop using the stove. This time, irony isn’t the shackles of youth, but of their parents.”

These trends have been compounded by the Great Recession and slow recovery since 2008. While Obama et al spent years fretting about the deficit, we failed an entire generation who graduated into a world of unpaid internships and few-to-no decent jobs. This has consequences. On one hand, more young people are living with their parents than living with a partner for the first time since 1880. On the other, the broken economic system and its attendants, like grotesque inequality, have made Millennials even more amenable to lefty policies and politics. Socialism isn’t the epithet the GOP (and DLC) would make of it anymore, and the left-wing of American social and political thought, which has been hacked off several times over the past century, is regenerating anew, and beginning to test its strength.

And that’s a good thing. It gives me great hope for the future. A stronger, more vibrant left means a wider Overton window, more progressive possibility, and an end to the learned helplessness and soft bigotry of low expectations that too many of today’s scared, insipid Democrats have tried to instill in voters. (“It’s not us! It’s Newt/Bush/Frist/Boehner/Trump!”) Bernie may have made some dumb arguments along the way, and these last campaign throes, as per the norm, aren’t looking pretty. (I’m with Favreau on this one: Gutting Bernie anonymously to Politico to set up your next gig is quintessential DC-asshole behavior.) But he pulled off something altogether amazing this year. Up against a “inevitable” candidate with every possible institutional advantage behind her, a 74-year-old Socialist still ended up winning 23 states(!)

Bernie may have come up short in the end. But, if nothing else, he’s put the Democratic Party on notice: A rising generation wants more from them from now on. The same tired GOP-lite camouflage, and a non-refundable, means-tested tax credit in every pot, aren’t going to get it done anymore. Let’s hope the next President is listening, and that she doesn’t take her left flank for granted.

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Catching Up: Trump & the GOP. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/catching-up-trump-the-gop/ http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/catching-up-trump-the-gop/#comments Fri, 03 Jun 2016 16:32:32 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=22110
“If this isn’t the end for the Republican Party, it’ll be a shame. They dominated American political life for 50 years and were never anything but monsters. They bred in their voters the incredible attitude that Republicans were the only people within our borders who raised children, loved their country, died in battle or paid taxes…Their leaders, from Ralph Reed to Bill Frist to Tom DeLay to Rick Santorum to Romney and Ryan, were an interminable assembly line of shrieking, witch-hunting celibates, all with the same haircut – the kind of people who thought Iran-Contra was nothing, but would grind the affairs of state to a halt over a blow job or Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube…And when Trump came along, they rolled over like the weaklings they’ve always been, bowing more or less instantly to his parodic show of strength.”

In the wake of Donald Trump’s nomination, Rolling Stone‘s Matt Taibbi gleefully tramps the dirt down on the Grand Old Party. “Th[e] avalanche of verbose disgust on the part of conservative intellectuals toward the Trump voter, who until very recently was the Republican voter, tells us everything we need to know about what actually happened in 2016.”

At this point, the world doesn’t need any more bloviating and/or hot takes about the 2016 horse race — it’s already a cottage industry. And my hope going forward, in the “be-the-change-you-want-to-see-in-the-world” sense, is that GitM political posts will focus on policies over personalities. But, in the interest of old times and catching up on recent events, let me make a few points about that ubiquitous carnival bunker, reality TV buffoon, and now Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump.

1. First, Trump is dangerous, but he’s not a Fascist. Trump, we’re hearing from various corners, is the incipient American Mussolini that Upton Sinclair forewarned about in It Can’t Happen Here, and the notion of his becoming president represents an existential threat to our Democracy. This “America’s worst nightmare” view of Trump is well-encapsulated by Rob Beschizza’s Lovecraftian, creepy-cool Trump-as-cenobite jpgs on Boing Boing, like the one above.

Don’t get me twisted here: A Donald Trump presidency would be a catastrophic disaster for America. However liberal he was until very recently, he has made the calculated decision to run as an openly racist authoritarian, and exploit white anxiety like he’s the second coming of George Wallace. And, true, even if he isn’t a Fascist himself, he’s got white nationalists all happy and energized, and would do until the trouble gets here. But an actual, honest-to-goodness Fascist? No, not really.

Why make this distinction and even try to defend a jackass like the Donald on this point? Because I think it’s important to recognize that:

2. In all too many ways, Trump is just your average Republican. As Taibbi points out in his piece above, Trump is the natural, even inevitable outgrowth of the Republican Party that we’ve been dealing with for the past several decades. The Andrew Sullivans of the world would have us think that we’ve reached this shameful point in our politics because we’ve become just too gosh-darned democratic. Um, no. A better explanation for Trump’s rise is the 2007 August Pollak cartoon above, which I originally posted here in 2010:

In other words, Trump is basically just pitching what the GOP’s always been selling — he’s the evolutionary Pat Buchanan. “Frankenstein’s monster” isn’t quite the right analogy here, because the Republicans didn’t “create” Trump, exactly. Rather, Trump is a con man who, seeing the grift at work over the years, decided to execute a hostile takeover of the GOP’s flim-flam operation.

Let’s take Trump’s open racism, which is vile, indefensible, repugnant…and pretty much par for the course from the GOP. Ever hear of the Southern Strategy? Or consider Saint Reagan. In 1976, the Gipper ran on reining in “welfare queens” and in 1980, he sang the praises of “state’s rights” (wink, wink) within spitting distance of the 1964 Chaney-Schwerner-Goodman murders. His successor, George H.W. Bush — the nice, statesmanlike Bush — won his election mainly by threatening a black rapist on every block under Dukakis. Just last cycle, those compassionate conservatives Romney and Ryan were happily dogwhistling about “takers,” “makers”, and the 47%.

(Dems aren’t immune to this sort of pitch either, of course. It wasn’t for nothing that, when he wanted to show he was a different kind of Democrat in 1992, Bill Clinton campaigned at a prison on Stone Mountain of all places. This picture from that event explains the optics of that ridiculousness all too well.)

Same goes for the authoritarianism. For a good half-century now, Republicans have gone out of their way to paint themselves as strongmen father figures who keep ‘Murica safe, and Democrats as bleeding-heart, touchy-feely wimps that are soft on communism, crime, and/or terror. We all remember George W. Bush strutting around an aircraft carrier in military fatigues while his campaign had John Kerry windsurfing like a brie-eating, Swift Boat surrender monkey. When his dad H.W. wasn’t race-baiting with Willie Horton in 1988 election, he was insinuating his opponent looked like a girly-man in a tank. Just this year, we had sneering Ted Cruz promising he would “carpet-bomb” Syria “back to the stone age.”

The point being, racism, authoritarian brow-beating, and catering to white grievance has been the GOP’s bread-and-butter for decades. Trump’s brand of evil is their brand of evil. The Donald just gave up the dogwhistle.

But that’s not all he gave up, and this is where the Trump candidacy gets interesting, and where he may spell doom for the GOP as currently constituted.

3. Trump is remaking the GOP as a right-wing populist party. As it turns out, the Republican base doesn’t seem to much care about all the faith-based tenets of GOP economic orthodoxy — trickle-down, tax cuts, loosening government regulations, etc. Nor do they see programs like Social Security, Medicare, or universal health care (tho’ not Obamacare per se) as seedbeds of socialism in the republic. Even a lot of the usual culture wars stuff — “New York values” and all that — didn’t really resonate. If any of this did, that ad I linked above would’ve done much more damage to Trump’s candidacy at the start.

Instead, the GOP base seems to be motivated by Buchananism these days: the (correct) sense that the system has been rigged against them — stagnant wages, blue-collar jobs getting outsourced/downsized, the rich getting away scot-free with everything from not paying taxes to destroying the American economy — and the (deeply incorrect) feeling this is the fault of minorities and outsiders. On one hand, as the saying goes, “when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression,” which is why so many white people whine ridiculously about reverse racism. On the other hand, they are being screwed over, just like everybody else, by rampant inequality, a disappearing middle-class, and an eroding social safety net. Some (though by no means all) Trump supporters are feeling that pressure particularly acutely.

In any event, like southern Populists of old (Tom Watson comes to mind), Trump wrestled power away from the GOP Bourbons by tapping into the economic and racial grievances of angry whites, but then chose to blame minorities for those problems. It’s an age-old trick that got him through the white-people-only primaries, but, as I’ll get to in a moment, it will be his downfall in November.

Still, even after he gets his hat handed to him in a few months, Trump’s ascension could well mean a very different GOP from now on — less “conservative”, more nationalistic. While the freak show types who obsess over public bathrooms will always have a home in their little tent, there may well be less talk of Big Guvmint going forward, and more railing against free trade and outsiders. (But, if they maintain their current trajectory, even that will likely only buy them a decade or two.)

4. Trump found the exploits in our broken system. For one, the reason he could run as a right-wing populist at all is because he never needed Adelson or Koch money (in the primaries at least.) He didn’t need to grovel before rich people like the Rubios and Walkers of the world because he was already rich. And so he could voice opinions that are taboo to the monied class — bashing free trade, for example — and still remain competitive. In the Citizens United era, Trump eliminates the middleman (tho, again, he’ll need more money from now on.)

And, of course, Trump gamed the broken fourth estate like there’s no tomorrow, garnering $2 billion in free media as of March 2016 simply by being a loudmouth, racist, (and thus click-baity) douchebag. (Ten Dumb Things Trump Said Today – You Won’t Believe Number 4!) CNN in particular has been covering him like he’s the OJ trial unfolding on a missing Malaysian plane. And now that he’s the actual, honest-to-goodness nominee, the media will normalize every nonsense thing that comes out of his mouth — even flagrantly racist bunkum — all in the spirit of Fair and Balanced.

As I said back in 2011 of Trump and at various other times, this is what our broken, High Broderian “both sides” punditocracy does. It’s the same reason we have Paul Ryan, easily as much of a huckster as the Donald, among us these days, and why we get stories like (I kid you not) “Paul Ryan’s Greatest Weakness: Is He Too Smart To Be President?” Er, no, J.R., he’s not.

Anyway, the real upshot here, after the next several months of sturm und drang, is that:

5. Trump is going to lose quite badly. The thing is, ever since they embraced the Southern Strategy, the GOP has been playing with a dwindling demographic deck. Republicans like Lindsay Graham and Chuck Hagel have ben sounding the alarm for 15 years now. Here’s Graham in 2004: “If we continue to lose 90 percent of the African American vote — and I got 7 percent — if we continue to lose 65 percent of the Hispanic vote, we’re toast. Just look at the electoral map.” Here he is again in 2012: “The demographics race we’re losing badly. We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.”

Graham is right. The Californication I talked about after the 2010 midterms is, at least in presidential years, becoming inexorable. Last time around, Mitt Romney won white people by 20 points (59-39)…and still lost handily. The electorate is even less white now than it was then, and will only grow more so. Even Karl Rove concedes that white people alone can’t get it done anymore.

So, what did the GOP do? Their only possible chance in 2016 was to open the party to people of color — maybe a Rubio or Cruz could’ve gained some headway there, tho’ I doubt it. Instead, like alcoholics to the bottle, they chose to double down yet again on angry white people. Donald Trump is the inevitable result of their demographic implosion.

In any case, to be elected president in November, Trump would have to perform even better among whites than Romney did. That doesn’t seem likely. Trump’s numbers are horrible with women. He doesn’t seem to believe in using 21st century GOTV efforts. He’s extraordinarily thin-skinned and always one or two steps away from a campaign meltdown. And, if anything, his constant racism will energize Latinos and other minorities to come out against him in force.

I’ll go ahead and lay down a marker: This election is not going to be close. In fact, it’s going to be a shellacking. There’s only two conceivable ways, as I see it, that Trump could eke it out. There could be some sort of catastrophic event leading up to the election — a major terrorist attack or financial collapse or somesuch. Or the Democrats, for some reason, decide to choose a really, really unpopular candidate to run against him. And neither of those are going to happ…

Well, shit.

(Nah, he’s still going to lose.)

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The Harsh Light of Cromnibus. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/harsh-light-of-cromnibus/ Tue, 30 Dec 2014 19:10:24 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=21866
“One of the frustrating things about covering American politics from a vaguely left-liberal perspective is that many of the left-left theories turn out to be true, or true enough. You try to point out to the street protesters and tenured Marxists that things are more complicated than Noam Chomsky and the late Paul Sweezy would have you believe, and, all too often, it turns out they aren’t much more complicated. The richest 0.1 per cent really is getting richer and richer while most Americans see their living standards stagnate. The C.I.A. really did torture people in secret prisons overseas, and the N.S.A. has just received authorization to carry on gathering all of your phone records. The big banks and corporations really do run Washington—or, at least, that’s how it seems on this chilly December day.”

As the terrible-idea-filled, regulation-gutting “CRomnibus” became law earlier this month — thanks to a tag-team lobbying operation by Barack Obama and Jamie DimonThe New Yorker‘s John Cassidy laments what it means for American democracy: Namely, the banks clearly write the laws. “‘It’s morally reprehensible,’ Sherrod Brown, the Ohio Democrat, told reporters. ‘They’re saying government bailouts are back.'”

By the way, if the bad news is too much to handle these days, there was one silver lining to the godawful CRomnibus: Crom may laugh at the four winds, but it does alright by space. Otherwise, well…

]]> America’s Moral Collapse. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/americas-moral-collapse/ http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/americas-moral-collapse/#comments Tue, 30 Dec 2014 17:26:50 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=21849
There are many reasons why I post less frequently at GitM these days, and a lot of them are the usual prosaic stuff — life is good, the days are very busy, my garrison isn’t going to build itself. But among them also is, quite frankly, it’s sometimes hard to see a purpose to it anymore, at least in GitM’s current incarnation. Case in point: this month’s CIA torture revelations.

Like countless others, I have been railing about the Bush-era CIA torture regime here for over a decade now. So this isn’t a breaking story. Still, the recent Senate Report — which the “most transparent administration in history” fought tooth and nail to buryably covers all we’ve known to date, and includes a number of horrifying new revelations.

For example, so it turns out that we — you and I — paid foreign governments $300 million to construct and maintain our dungeons.

We — again, you and I — also paid two psychiatrists $80 million to come up with more devastating torture techniques. (And their contract was originally for $180 million!)

These two assholes got on the payroll after Al Qaeda higher-up Abu Zubaydah was captured. Zubaydah was then waterboarded over eighty times, mainly so he and others would corroborate the false positive, demanded by Iraq War architects, that Iraq was involved with Al Qaeda.

We also tortured people for not calling CIA officers “sir,” or having a stomachache.

We even tortured our own informants.

We anally raped detainees with pureed hummus, causing anal fissures and a rectal prolapse due to “excessive force.”

We also may have raped detainees with dogs. And it sounds like a child was raped in our custody as well.

Another detainee froze to death during his Room 101 session.

Naturally, the CIA tried to cover all this up. First, they blatantly lied about the efficacy of their torture regime. (And, since it cannot be said enough, particularly in the wake of the CIA’s Zero Dark Thirty propaganda: Torture does not work.)

Then, they — with the full and active complicity of both the Bush and Obama administrations — blocked the American people from seeing the evidence of their depravities, including destroying torture tapes, repeatedly lying to Congress, and hacking into Senate computers.

And, still, over a decade later: Even though the Constitution bans torture, even though it is a crime to lie to Congress, even though it is explicitly a crime NOT to prosecute torturers, Nobody Has Gone To Jail — well, except the whistleblower.

And on top of everything else, Americans approve of all of this by 2-1.

So, what is there to say? The illegality here is black and white, the crimes abhorrent, the moral corruption pervasive…and yet we all just collectively shrug. The sad and hilarious thing about The Onion‘s recent minotaur video — “That hungry half-man, half-bull kept us safe from the terrorists!” — is this is basically the world we live in now.

Makes me sick, m*therf*cker, how far we done fell.

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Now as Ever, GOP-Lite Won’t Work. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/2014-midterms/ http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/2014-midterms/#comments Tue, 18 Nov 2014 20:07:09 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=21812
“On Tuesday night, a lot of Republican-ish candidates got crushed by the official Republican candidates, confirming yet again that a gutless, wincing version of one kind of politics always loses to the robust one. Nobody first starts drinking Diet Coke because they think it tastes better, and the only people who keep drinking it are the ones who’ve drunk nothing else for so long that actual flavor seems weird. Why vote for someone hesitantly and semi-apologetically tacking toward the right when you can just vote for someone who goes balls-to-the-wall rightward and is damn proud of it? At least that person gives off the sense of actually enjoying his own beliefs.”

THIS. Part of the upside of being newly off-the-Hill is I can escape a bit further from the dreariness of much of current politics, so no absurdly-belated, long midterm post this year. Besides, The Guardian‘s Jeb Lund has already well-articulated where I am on all this: Give people a choice between a Republican and a Republican and the Republican will win every time:

“[W]hether the Democratic Party stands for anything is a perfectly valid question at this point. On a macro level, a party that is already thoroughly militarized and corporatized — and largely indifferent to Main Street whenever it poses a conflict with Wall Street — offers little alternative to the other party that already celebrates that.”

Sure, the ground in 2014 always heavily favored the GOP: This was a six-year midterm, Class 2 year, and the seats up for reelection swung heavily Democratic six years ago, in that faraway, hopey-changey time of 2008. Still, when you have a party that hardly, if ever, has the courage of its convictions anymore, coupled with a President who seemed at times to be actively trying to discourage the base, little wonder that the lowest turnout since 1942 brought forth another shellacking. As Richard said, a withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy.

So, yeah, bad times for the Democratic brand, and no mistake. The good news is the long-term story hasn’t changed: Republicans are still drawing dead, demographically speaking, even though they’ll probably hold the House until at least 2020 due to gerrymandering (and now, thanks to these 2014 results, will likely be able to hold the Senate for the first two years of the next presidency.) And, even better, Americans strongly supported progressive positions two weeks ago, be it on the minimum wage, marijuana, or misdemeanors.

But Dems can’t just assume the government will eventually devolve to them by fiat. We’re going to have to quit thinking the endless “but the other team is crazy-pants” blather will carry us over the top, and actually put up candidates that will stand for something other than GOP-lite camouflage. Of course, our 2016 standard-bearer is, at least at the moment, undoubtedly Hillary Clinton, sooo…I’m sure everything’s going to work out great.

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Then the Rich Got Richer. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/then-rich-got-richer/ Wed, 01 Oct 2014 20:03:21 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=21716
“Through midcentury, when times were good economically, most of the benefits trickled down to the bottom 90 percent of households. Then came the Reagan era and actual trickle-down economics. Suddenly, the benefits started sticking with the rich. Since 2001, the top 10 percent have enjoyed virtually all of the gains.”

As making the rounds of late, a devastating graph of rising income inequality in America, “post-trickle-down”. “This isn’t a totally new story. But it is a vivid and visceral illustration of what we’ve basically known to be true for a while.”

Along the same lines, Mother Jones is posting a new chart on income inequality every day this week. “In the past few years, we’ve heard a lot about overtaxed ‘job creators’ and freeloading ‘takers.’ But consider this: As the income rates for the wealthiest have plunged, their incomes have shot up.”

If it’s any consolation, presumptive 45th president Hillary Clinton has recently talked to friends and donors in business about how to tackle income inequality without alienating businesses or castigating the wealthy.” Er…sorry, that’s not going to get it done.

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We Thought It Was So Reckless. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/we-thought-it-was-so-reckless/ Fri, 12 Sep 2014 19:42:40 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=21667
“Destroying what Obama calls the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant won’t create an effective and legitimate Iraqi state. It won’t restore the possibility of a democratic Egypt. It won’t dissuade Saudi Arabia from funding jihadists. It won’t pull Libya back from the brink of anarchy. It won’t end the Syrian civil war. It won’t bring peace and harmony to Somalia and Yemen. It won’t persuade the Taliban to lay down their arms in Afghanistan. It won’t end the perpetual crisis of Pakistan. It certainly won’t resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

ISIS, oh ISIS – What drives us to you is what drives us insane: In Reuters, Middle East expert Andrew Bacevich has some serious doubts about a military solution to the newest Big Bad (who, let’s remember, are a threat at all precisely because of all the weapons we’ve already dumped in the area — Gee, it’s almost like our always getting involved makes everything worse.) “Rudderless and without a compass, the American ship of state continues to drift, guns blazing.”

He’s not alone. While they’ve been highly complicit in the collective freak-out over the past few weeks, the media — as welcome returning blogger Dan Froomkin notes — are starting to get skeptical too. “Allam notes that Yemen and Somalia are hardly examples of success; that the new Iraqi government is hardly ‘inclusive’; that training of Iraqi soldiers hasn’t worked in the past; that in Syria it’s unclear which ‘opposition’ Obama intends to support; and that it may be too late to cut off the flow of fighters and funds.”

Keeping in mind that Obama himself seems to think this is all a terrible idea, let’s recall what we’re really dealing with here, via the very worthwhile “War Nerd,” Gary Brecher: “ISIS, compared to any of the groups on that list, is about as scary as your neighbor’s yappy Shih Tzu: all noise and no teeth. Let’s just sober up, for Christ’s sake, and remember we’re talking about a half-assed Sunni militia that couldn’t face up to Assad’s mediocre Syrian Arab Army and still hasn’t found a way to occupy Sunni Iraqi towns that were outright abandoned by the Army, left totally undefended.”

Along the same lines, see Brecher on ISIS’s initial advance back in June:

“Actually, topography has everything to do with what’s gone well or badly for ISIS. in this latest push. If you know the ethnic makeup of the turf they’ve taken, their ‘shocking gains’ don’t seem so shocking, or impressive. After all, we’re talking about a mobile force — mounted on the beloved Toyota Hilux pickup truck, favorite vehicle of every male in the Middle East — advancing over totally flat, dry ground in pursuit of a totally demoralized opponent. In that situation, any force could take a lot of country very quickly…So this isn’t the second coming of Erwin Rommel by any means. Everything has conspired to push the Sunni advance, from the lousy opponent they’re up against to the terrain, which is a light mechanized commander’s dream.

Flat and dry is how a mechanized force commander wants his ground — and believe me, you haven’t seen flat and dry until you get to Iraq. Once you’re south of the Kurdish mountains, you’re on a dried mudflat…This is, after all, Mesopotamia, a land literally built by the sediment of the Euphrates and Tigris. It’s river mud, but nice and dry because very little rain falls,..On ground like that, any force with good morale and enough fuel could advance as quickly as the Sunni have. It’s the Bonneville Salt Flats of insurgency, the place you go to set new speed records.”

The point being, we have to stop losing our minds and letting a hysterical media and the same gaggle of Neocon pricks who’ve been wrong about everything for two decades get us involved in every opportunity to make war in the Middle East. Are ISIS a bunch of Bad Men? Undoubtedly. But that doesn’t make them an existential threat to the republic. So how about we all take a deep breath before, yet again, expending ever more blood and treasure in the region?

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No Labels — Only Roadkill. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/no-labels-only-roadkill/ Tue, 29 Jul 2014 20:56:49 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=21538
It was the dream of a bunch of wealthy and bored coastal elites who’d determined that the biggest problem facing America was ‘partisanship,’ and that the answer was to give up ‘ideology’ and instead pursue a ‘centrist’ agenda composed mainly of moderately conservative budget reforms and gimmicky demonstrations of bipartisan comity. The fact that ‘centrism’ itself is as much an ideology as liberalism or conservatism didn’t matter – the cause was righteous, and the donations were plentiful.”

Building on this recent piece by Meredith Shiner, Simon Maloy eviscerates the quintessentially Beltway idiocy of No Labels. “Their stated intention is to be high-minded ‘problem solvers’ in Washington who will cut through the gridlock, but most of what they do is silly and self-defeating, and most of the money they raise is spent on promoting themselves.”

See also this worthwhile May 2012 post at Driftglass, where I found the handy historical graph above: “The Big Lie of Centrism is the Magic Lie. The Philosopher’s Stone of lies which has transmuted dozens of mediocre hacks into Very Wealthy and Serious Persons…The Maginot Line of the Beltway Media can withstand any assault as long the Big Lie of Centrism remains intact.”

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Continued Injuries and Usurpations. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/continued-injuries/ Fri, 25 Jul 2014 17:19:09 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=21503
Recent dismal developments on the War on Terror/Civil Liberties Front:

(1) “The court found Poland violated its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights to prevent torture, ensure the right to liberty, and properly investigate allegations a crime had been committed on its territory.”

The European Court of Human Rights finds that Poland harbored one of the CIA’s infamous black sites — perhaps this is one of the old Soviet compounds? “[S]imilar cases have been lodged with the court in Strasbourg against Romania and Lithuania.”

(2) “The five Americans whose email accounts were monitored by the NSA and FBI have all led highly public, outwardly exemplary lives. All five vehemently deny any involvement in terrorism or espionage, and none advocates violent jihad or is known to have been implicated in any crime, despite years of intense scrutiny by the government and the press.”

Paging J. Edgar: The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain, with help from Edward Snowden, uncover NSA and FBI surveillance of prominent, upstanding Muslim-Americans. “In one 2005 document, intelligence community personnel are instructed how to properly format internal memos to justify FISA surveillance. In the place where the target’s real name would go, the memo offers a fake name as a placeholder: ‘Mohammed Raghead.'”

(3) “Emblazoned with the crests of 19 agencies, it offers the most complete and revealing look into the secret history of the government’s terror list policies to date. It reveals a confounding and convoluted system filled with exceptions to its own rules, and it relies on the elastic concept of ‘reasonable suspicion’ as a standard for determining whether someone is a possible threat…individuals can be watchlisted if they are suspected of being a suspected terrorist, or if they are suspected of associating with people who are suspected of terrorism activity.”

Also in The Intercept, Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux explain the absurdly broad net that is the terrorist watchlist. “There are a number of loopholes for putting people onto the watchlists even if reasonable suspicion cannot be met.”

(4) “Nearly all of the highest-profile domestic terrorism plots in the United States since 9/11 featured the ‘direct involvement’ of government agents or informants, a new report says…rais[ing] questions about the US criminal justice system’s ability to respect civil rights and due process in post-9/11 terrorism cases.”

And in The Guardian, Spencer Ackerman expounds on the FBI’s apparent excessive leaning on entrapment to conjure up terror cases. “‘In some cases the FBI may have created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals by suggesting the idea of taking terrorist action or encouraging the target to act,’ the report alleges.”

Torture, rendition, secret prisons, spying on Americans, surveillance policies that are obviously, woefully ripe for abuse…We are six and a half years into the administration of a president who promised us definitively this nonsense would end. And yet, virtually every day, we hear of a new outrage, and the only official response seems to be Lock Up the Messenger. So when are we going to get an accountability moment here?

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Altered State. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/altered-state/ Fri, 25 Jul 2014 15:33:56 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=21491
“I am puzzled by this late-middle-age politicization. During the time I was a newspaper reporter, I didn’t participate in elections, because I didn’t want to vote for, or against, the people I covered…But since leaving newspapers, I have again and again found myself shifting to the left in major areas such as foreign policy and domestic economic policy.”

Er…welcome to the reality-based community? In a piece for Politico, and after citing examples ranging from Banksters to Blackwater and Torture to Citizens United, author and journalist Thomas Ricks nevertheless wonders why he finds himself moving to the left. “Not long ago, when I mentioned my unease to an old friend who is a Pentagon official — not in a political job but a professional one — he surprised me by confessing that he was feeling the same way.”

Don’t fret, y’all — If you’re angry about all of this and then some, it just means that you’re human and are paying attention.

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A Wasted Opportunity. | So Now What? http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/wasted-opportunity/ http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/wasted-opportunity/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 20:09:40 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=21472
“The task facing the makers of the Obama museum, however, will be pretty much exactly the opposite: how to document a time when America should have changed but didn’t. Its project will be to explain an age when every aspect of societal breakdown was out in the open and the old platitudes could no longer paper it over — when the meritocracy was clearly corrupt, when the financial system had devolved into organized thievery, when everyone knew that the politicians were bought and the worst criminals went unprosecuted and the middle class was in a state of collapse….It was a time when every thinking person could see that the reigning ideology had failed, that an epoch had ended, that the shitty consensus ideas of the 1980s had finally caved in — and when an unlikely champion arose from the mean streets of Chicago to keep the whole thing propped up nevertheless.”

In Salon, Thomas Frank laments the wasted opportunity of the Obama years. “Why, the visitors to his library will wonder, did the president do so little about rising inequality, the subject on which he gave so many rousing speeches? Why did he do nothing, or next to nothing, about the crazy high price of a college education, the Great Good Thing that he has said, time and again, determines our personal as well as national success? Why didn’t he propose a proper healthcare program instead of the confusing jumble we got? Why not a proper stimulus package? Why didn’t he break up the banks? Or the agribusiness giants, for that matter?”

Frank’s piece is definitely a bit overwritten, with its “mausoleum of hope” and all. That being said, I’m on board with his central thesis, as I’ve said several times before. (In fact, I was glad to see when fixing the old archives lately, that however hopey-changey I felt in 2008, I was more measured in my writing than I remembered, bringing up the ominous example of Herbert Hoover in my post-election post and wondering what the heck was going on within two weeks of Obama’s inauguration.)

Also, to get a sense of what a bad place our party is at these days, just look at Kevin Drum’s ridiculous response to this Tom Frank piece. Drum, mind you, is the official blogger of Mother Jones, named after the famous labor leader. And he writes: “It’s easy to recognize this as delusional…Because — duh — the hated neoliberal system worked. We didn’t have a second Great Depression. The Fed intervened, the banking system was saved, and a stimulus bill was passed…As for Obama, could he have done more? I suppose he probably could have, but it’s a close call.”

A close call? C’mon. As I responded on Twitter: “And all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. This neoliberal horseshit would’ve made Mother Jones blanch. This piece sidesteps O’s GWOT record. 2. It ignores O’s penchant for starting negotiations where they should finish. 3. It presumes filibuster reform impossible. 4. It ignores that financial crisis response grew inequality. And so on.”

And, remember: This fatalistic “Americans are all centrists anyway, Obama did all he could” shrug is coming from the house blogger of one of our foremost progressive journals. It’s pathetic. This is yet another example of we progressive Democrats no longer having the courage of our convictions.

See also this very worthwhile Salon piece on Zephyr Teachout’s challenge to notorious douchebag Andrew Cuomo, by my friend and colleague Matt Stoller, which talks about this exact same phenomenon.

“The basic theory of the ‘New Democrat’ model of governance is that Wall Street and multinational corporate elites produce wealth through the creation of innovative financial practices and technology, and that Democrats should then help middle class and poor citizens by taxing this wealth, and then using some of it to support progressive social programs…This method of running the economy has become so accepted among Democratic leaders that writers like New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and Vox writer Matthew Yglesias now argue that there simply is no alternative…

“There is a hunger in the Democratic Party for making the party serve the interest of regular voters, not the rich. In 2008, liberal Democrats decisively broke from the Clinton legacy and voted for Barack Obama, with his mantra of hope and change. Obama, however, stocked his administration with Clinton administration officials like Larry Summers, Tim Geithner and Janet Yellen. A joke going around Democratic circles after the election was that ‘Those supporting Obama got a president, those supporting Clinton got a job.’ Obama broke with the Clinton name, but brought the Clinton intellectual legacy, and Clinton’s Wall Street-backed machine, into governance…”

“The potentially transformative message of the Teachout-Wu campaign is that the problem is not solely one of personalities or tactical political approaches. Rather it is that the New Democrat model itself, and the Democratic party establishment, is fundamentally at odds with the party’s traditional liberalism…Teachout and Wu are trying to place the citizen at the center of policy. They do that through their proposals for public financing, for antitrust, for social insurance, infrastructure and labor.”

Without vision, the people perish. If we ever want to see the real and positive change that Americans were promised back in 2008, we progressives have to stop acting like we have no other option than to fall into line behind the leftiest of the centrists and clap harder for every occasional, diluted-to-all-hell scrap they throw our way. There’s more to life than Rockefeller Republicanism, and it’s not like we don’t have excellent historical templates to borrow from. We need to dream bigger, stop thinking the status quo is all there is, and push back.

Are Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu going to knock out Andrew Cuomo, a guy who’s quite obviously the poster child for everything that’s wrong with our party? Alas, probably not. But one does not always fight because there is hope of winning. And New York in 2014 is as a good a place as any to start the long uphill slog of taking back our party.

Update: Right on cue, the NYT delves into Andrew Cuomo’s hobbling of the state ethics commission. “[A] three-month examination by The New York Times found that the governor’s office deeply compromised the panel’s work, objecting whenever the commission focused on groups with ties to Mr. Cuomo or on issues that might reflect poorly on him.”More here.

Meanwhile, Blake Zeff thinks Cuomo may have met his match in US Attorney Preet Bharara. “[Bharara] has not only taken possession of the files from the corruption-fighting Moreland Commission that Cuomo recently closed down as part of a budget deal, but has also publicly floated the possibility of investigating the governor’s alleged meddling in its investigations.”

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The Crisis That Wasn’t. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/the-crisis-that-wasnt/ Tue, 22 Jul 2014 18:28:25 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=21466
“It’s hard to escape the sense that debt panic was promoted because it served a political purpose — that many people were pushing the notion of a debt crisis as a way to attack Social Security and Medicare. And they did immense damage along the way, diverting the nation’s attention from its real problems — crippling unemployment, deteriorating infrastructure and more — for years on end.”

In the NYT, Paul Krugman reviews the waning of the deficit witchhunt. “I’m not sure whether most readers realize just how thoroughly the great fiscal panic has fizzled — and the deficit scolds are, of course, still scolding.” Of course they are. Now would be the time for embarrassment, if the Simpson-Bowles types out there were capable of it.

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When Simon Met Carcetti. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/when-simon-met-carcetti/ Tue, 22 Jul 2014 17:41:43 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=21458
“He still hates ‘The Wire’ with a taut fury. I suggested he might watch it some years from now, when there was less at stake. I am still no fan of some of his policies, especially with regard to the drug war and the use of mass arrest…We searched for common ground and landed eventually on The Pogues, a band beloved to us both…At one point, we both lamented the death last year of Pogues guitarist Phil Chevron and sang some lyrics to Chevron’s magnificent ‘Faithful Departed.'”

On his blog, The Audacity of Despair, David Simon recounts his recent impromptu sit-down with Governor Martin O’Malley aboard the Acela. “As the train neared Baltimore, the governor suggested that perhaps we both suffered from Irish — or as I know the joke, Jewish — Alzheimers. As he explained, ‘That’s where you…’ ‘…only remember the grudges,’ I finished.”

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Same Old Hillary. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/same-old-hillary/ http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/same-old-hillary/#comments Wed, 18 Jun 2014 21:36:48 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=18809
While working this week on my semi-regular project of fixing the archives around here (something I’d like to complete before GitM’s 15th anniversary in November, but it’s slow, tedious going), I came across this line, from a post on the very first Election 2008 debate back in May 2007:

“As for Clinton, well, it’s not entirely her fault, I guess — unlike Obama, she’s been with us for a decade and a half now, and is nothing if not a known quantity. But she came across to me as the same cautious, methodical, triangulating centrist she’s shown herself to be over the past fifteen years in public life, and it’s getting harder to imagine myself being anything but underwhelmed by her as a candidate in the general election.”

Of course, the 2008 primaries thereafter grew quite heated, and, suffice to say, I didn’t think HRC accorded herself very well. So instead of the cautious, methodical, triangulating centrist we knew, I and millions of others took a gamble on Hope and Change…and ended up with a cautious, methodical, triangulating centrist regardless.

So here we are six years later, with an American electorate that has moved demonstrably to the left, and the former Secretary of State and presumptive Democratic nominee just held her first almost-a-candidate townhall on CNN. And what have we learned so far about the all-new, tanned, rested, and ready, 2016 iteration of Hillary Clinton?

1) She thinks Edward Snowden pals around with terrorists. “I think turning over a lot of that material—intentionally or unintentionally—drained, gave all kinds of information, not only to big countries, but to networks and terrorist groups and the like. So I have a hard time thinking that somebody who is a champion of privacy and liberty has taken refuge in Russia, under Putin’s authority.”

2) Her favorite book is…the Bible. “[T]he Bible was and remains the biggest influence on my thinking. I was raised reading it, memorizing passages from it and being guided by it. I still find it a source of wisdom, comfort and encouragement.” Edgy!

3) She won’t take a position on Keystone. “‘I can’t respond,’ she said…’This particular decision is a very difficult one because there are so many factors at play.'”

4) She was actually against the Iraq War last time around, but just couldn’t come out and say it because she supports the troops. “[I]n fact, in the Democratic Party at that time, the smart political decision, as so many of my colleagues did, was to come out and say ‘Terrible mistake, shouldn’t have done it,’ and you know blame the Bush administration. I had this sense that I had voted for it, and we had all these young men and women over there, and it was a terrible battle environment…So I felt like I couldn’t break faith with them.”

5) By the way, those troops should still be in Iraq right now. “When — President Bush decided, before President Obama became president, that we would leave Iraq in 2011, the United States would end its combat mission, unless the Iraqi government agreed to ask us to stay, under the same conditions that we have all around the world. It’s called a status of forces ingredient. I was involved in a lot of the efforts to come up with what our offer would be. And we made such an offer to then Prime Minister Maliki. And he would not accept the status of forces agreement…[W]e knew Iraq would be quite dangerous for a long time, unpredictable, at the very least — you have to have the host government, in this case Iraq, say, OK, here’s what we want…We didn’t get that done. And I think, in retrospect, that was a mistake by the Iraqi government.”

6) She won’t come right out and endorse paid maternity leave in America. “I think, eventually, it should be, but, right now, we’re seeing some — some very good proposals being implemented in other parts of the country, so that we have answers…I don’t think, politically, we could get it now.” By the way, you know who else doesn’t have paid maternity leave? Lesotho, Papua New Guinea, and Swaziland. That’s it.

7) She won’t come right out and say racism may be a factor in anti-Obama sentiment. “Well, I know that — I don’t want to — I don’t want to say that I verify that, because that would be generalizing too broadly. I believe that there are people who have trouble with ethnicity, with race, with gender, with sexual orientation, you name it. And therefore, they are not developing a reasoned opinion — even if it’s an opinion in opposition, but they are a reacting on a visceral stereotypical basis. And that’s unfortunate.” YES, Madam Secretary. The answer here is “YES.”

8) Her family is apparently shielding wealth from the estate tax, a tax both she and the former President support. A common move among 1%’ers, but nonetheless one that doesn’t inspire confidence.

And so on. Secretary Clinton has moved left on immigration (though she wouldn’t badmouth Obama’s draconian deportation policy), on marijuana (though she said medicinal marijuana “needs more research” and gave the “let the states lead the way” hedge on decriminalization), and on gay marriage (she came out in support…last year.) In all of these, she’s lagging behind the country as a whole, much less the Democratic Party.

TL;DR: Secretary Clinton is still, indisputably, the same cautious, methodical, triangulating centrist as ever. And yet, for some reason — even though it’s hard to think of a single solitary stance she’s taken that would move our party in a new and progressive direction — she’s not only the party of the left’s presumptive standard-bearer — For all intent and purposes, she’s running unchallenged!

Politics these days is depressing, and no mistake.

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The Grifter Prince. http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/geithner-con-artist/ Thu, 12 Jun 2014 17:30:18 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=18641
“Geithner is at heart a grifter, a petty con artist with the right manners and breeding to lie at the top echelons of American finance at a moment when the government and financial services industry needed someone to be the face of their multi-trillion dollar three card monte…After reading this book and documenting lie after lie after lie, I’m convinced that there’s more here than just a self-serving corrupt official. There’s an entire culture, of figures at Treasury, the Federal Reserve, in the entire Democratic Party elite structure, and in the world of journalism, a culture in which Geithner is seen as some sort of role model.”

A late addition to this recent and well-deserved pile-on: Friend and fellow congressional staffer Matt Stoller writes in Vice on Geithner’s Stress Test and the “Con-Artist Wing of the Democratic Party.” “The task of reclaiming democratic power will involve making work at Geithner’s Treasury a black mark on a resume, an embarrassment and a shameful episode…Americans are not stupid, and they saw what Geithner, as the head economic official in a Democratic administration, did.”

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Geithner: Wrong on Everything http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/geithner-wrong-on-everything/ Fri, 16 May 2014 19:09:00 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=18576
“At every turn on housing — on mass refinancing, on principal reduction, on leverage for homeowners in the bankruptcy process, on forcing banks to write down mortgages, on a modern-day HOLC–the evidence points to Tim Geithner preferring whatever option put the least pressure on banks, rather than actually helping ordinary people. He made far more excuses to do nothing than any effort to make a difference…In fact, the programs were never meant to help homeowners, designed only to ‘foam the runway’ for the banks, to spread out foreclosures and allow banks to absorb them.”

In the wake of Tim Geithner’s new rehab book tour — currently being aided and abetted by Wall Street’s usual court stenographer, Andrew Ross Sorkin — Dave Dayen says not so fast. “I don’t have to just focus on housing; this is indicative of Geithner’s worldview, which sees protecting the financial system at all costs as the only thing that matters.”

Yves Smith has also ably eviscerated Geithner’s game of “Three Card Monte”: “The entire edifice of the piece is a sleight of hand…The focus on TARP (and to a lesser degree, Lehman) allows Sorkin to omit mention of actions that were clearly Geithner’s doing…The bigger point, which is not lost on the public, was there were plenty of other options for saving the system. The one chosen, that left the banks largely unreformed and no one of any consequence punished, was clearly just about the worst of the available options, unless, of course, you are, like Geithner, a banker.”

And here’re economics and finance professors Atif Mian and Amir Sufi: “Whatever reasons he had for opposing assistance to underwater homeowners, a careful evaluation of the policy effects was not among them. The evidence is pretty clear: an aggressive bold attack on household debt would have significantly reduced the horrible impact of the Great Recession on Americans. The fact that Secretary Geithner and the Obama administration did not push for debt write-downs more aggressively remains the biggest policy mistake of the Great Recession.”

Noam Scheiber has his say in TNR: “[The article] inadvertently highlights something deeper about Geithner, which is the shocking extent to which he’s accepted financialization of the economy as a benign, even admirable, development. The people who spend their days shuffling trillions of dollars around the globe are really just like you and me, except with nicer offices. They deserve the same sympathy and respect, notwithstanding their abysmal track record. That blinkered view colors pretty much every one of Geithner’s utterances as he makes the rounds hawking books.”

Also of note: Geithner doesn’t seem to understand how Social Security works, and, in classic #ThisTown fashion, he — the Secretary of the Treasury! — just parrots the same ignorant Beltway line about zomg out-of-control entitlements as all Very Serious People™ do. To wit, from Geithner’s book:

“I remember during one Roosevelt Room prep session before I appeared on the Sunday shows, I objected when Dan Pfeiffer [a senior advisor to the Obama White House] wanted me to say Social Security didn’t contribute to the deficit. It wasn’t a main driver of our future deficits, but it did contribute. Pfeiffer said the line was a ‘dog whistle’ to the left…code to the Democratic base, signaling that we intended to protect Social Security.”

And here’s the LA Times’ Michael Hiltzik: “But let’s get to the nub. Does Social Security ‘contribute to the deficit’? The answer is, bluntly, no. By law, it can’t contribute to the federal deficit, because Social Security isn’t allowed to spend more than it takes in. Those who claim — as Geithner has at one point or another — both that the program contributes to the deficit yet will be forced to reduce benefits to retirees once its trust fund is depleted are trying to have things both ways: The reasoning behind the threat of reduced benefits is that Social Security can’t engage in spending money it doesn’t have, i.e., deficit spending. Pick one, fellas. If it can contribute to the deficit, then there’s no reason to cut benefits.”

So is there’s anything positive about Geithner’s rewriting of history here? Well, the Sorkin piece does include this telling anecdote: “At another point, [Geithner] cheerfully relayed a story that also appears in his book about the time he sought advice from Bill Clinton on how to pursue a more populist strategy: ‘You could take Lloyd Blankfein into a dark alley,’ Clinton said, ‘and slit his throat, and it would satisfy them for about two days. Then the blood lust would rise again.'”

Could somebody please tell me again why I should be excited about Hillary 2016?

Update: Sheila Bair offers her take. “On his book tour, to explain the need for bailouts, Tim has used a clever analogy of a pilot trying to land a plane that is on fire and in the back, sit the terrorists who started it. He argues that the pilot can’t leave the cockpit to put them in handcuffs. He first has to land the plane. The problem with this analogy is that the plane landed at the end of 2008. And let’s face it, instead of handcuffing the terrorists, we escorted them to the executive lounge.”

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“Ronald Reagan’s Benghazi.” http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/reagans-benghazi/ Fri, 16 May 2014 18:17:12 +0000 http://www.ghostinthemachine.net/?p=18570
“Around dawn on October 23, 1983, I was in Beirut, Lebanon, when a suicide bomber drove a truck laden with the equivalent of twenty-one thousand pounds of TNT into the heart of a U.S. Marine compound, killing two hundred and forty-one servicemen…Six months earlier, militants had bombed the U.S. embassy in Beirut, too, killing sixty-three more people, including seventeen Americans…In September of 1984, for the third time in eighteen months, jihadists bombed a U.S. government outpost in Beirut yet again. President Reagan acknowledged that the new security precautions that had been advocated by Congress hadn’t yet been implemented at the U.S. embassy annex that had been hit.”

As Republicans continue to lose their minds over Benghazi, to the detriment of all, The New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer puts things in perspective by going back to Beirut ’83. “If you compare the costs of the Reagan Administration’s serial security lapses in Beirut to the costs of Benghazi, it’s clear what has really deteriorated in the intervening three decades. It’s not the security of American government personnel working abroad. It’s the behavior of American congressmen at home.”

See also: the Dubya record on diplomatic attacks — there were over a dozen of ’em. I know complaining about GOP hypocrisy these days is like complaining about the weather. But honestly, what an egregious waste of time this is.

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