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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.)
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:
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…
(Nah, he’s still going to lose.)
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 bury — ably 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.
Another detainee froze to death during his Room 101 session.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”