Saturday, February 06, 2016
I admit that I like some of Bernie Sanders' proposals - especially a single payer national health program which would put America among other advanced nations and likely slash healthcare costs in the long run - but I still worry about his electability. Apparently the GOP and the right wing also doubt that he could win in a general election and hence their insidious efforts to turn Democrats and liberals against Hillary Clinton. Yes, they hate Hillary and have done so for many years, but their calculation appears to be that she'd be more difficult to defeat in November. The last thing we need is a GOP victory in November! A piece in the New York Times looks the right's agenda. Here are highlights that ought to make progressives and liberals take pause and not allow themselves to be played for fools by right :
“You expect different from a Clinton?” one person responded on Twitter. And from another: “Did you need another reason not to vote for Hillary Clinton?” Lost in the response was the source of the offending tweet. It was not another environmental organization or even a liberal challenger to Mrs. Clinton. Instead, it was a conservative group called America Rising PAC, which is trying, with laserlike focus, to weaken the woman who almost everyone believes will be the Democratic Party’s candidate for president in 2016.For months now, America Rising has sent out a steady stream of posts on social media attacking Mrs. Clinton, some of them specifically designed to be spotted, and shared, by liberals. The posts highlight critiques of her connections to Wall Street and the Clinton Foundation and feature images of Democrats like Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, interspersed with cartoon characters and pictures of Kevin Spacey, who plays the villain in “House of Cards.” And as they are read and shared, an anti-Clinton narrative is reinforced.America Rising is not the only conservative group attacking Mrs. Clinton from the left. Another is American Crossroads, the group started by Karl Rove, which has been sending out its own digital content, including one ad using a speech Ms. Warren gave at the New Populism Conference in Washington last May.Information travels at warp speed on social media, it is sometimes difficult to know where that information comes from, and most people like to read things with which they agree. The result, said Ken Goldstein, a professor of politics at the University of San Francisco who specializes in political advertising, is something more sophisticated.The tactic is making for some awkward moments online. The A.F.L.-C.I.O. sent to its more than 60,000 followers an America Rising tweet praising its president, Richard L. Trumka, for a speech that was seen as challenging Mrs. Clinton on economic issues, only to take it down a few hours later, saying it was a mistake.Laura Hart Cole of Verbank, N.Y., whose father, Philip A. Hart, was a senator from Michigan and a liberal icon, was shocked to learn that she had, like Mr. McKibben, shared the meme from America Rising on Twitter. Republican groups, she said, “have a history of sleazy tactics.”Conservative strategists and operatives say they are simply filling a vacuum on the far left, as well as applying the lesson they learned in 2012, when they watched in frustration as Mitt Romney was forced to expend time and resources in a protracted primary fight.Few Republicans are more familiar with that nightmare than Matt Rhoades, who was Mr. Romney’s campaign manager. He founded America Rising . . . . The group’s original goal was to compete with American Bridge, the Democratic opposition research group, but its focus under Mr. Rhoades has been to subject Mrs. Clinton to an ordeal similar to Mr. Romney’s.“The idea is to make her life difficult in the primary and challenge her from the left,” said Colin Reed, America Rising’s executive director. “We don’t want her to enter the general election not having been pushed from the left, so if we have opportunities — creative ways, especially online — to push her from the left, we’ll do it just to show those folks who she needs to turn out that she’s not in line with them.”Steven Law, president of American Crossroads, said the goal was simply to erode what should be her natural core of support.“It can diminish enthusiasm for Hillary among the base over time,” he said. “And if you diminish enthusiasm, lukewarm support can translate into lackluster fund-raising and perhaps diminished turnout down the road.”This year, Zac Moffatt, a co-founder of Targeted Victory, a right-leaning political technology firm, who handled Mr. Romney’s digital operation and has worked with groups like America Rising and American Crossroads, laid out the strategy in a memo to several clients.Other groups are also using micro-targeted advertising to inject their content into the Facebook and Twitter news feeds of “liberal Democrats,” environmentalists and declared supporters of Ms. Warren, among others.And even some of those unhappy with Mrs. Clinton, like Joel Gombiner of Brooklyn — who posted the “Did you need another reason?” response to the Twitter message shared by Mr. McKibben — think the conservative groups may be outsmarting themselves.“They view this as a means of weakening the Democratic Party and weakening the chance in a presidential election,” said Mr. Gombiner, 26. But “that’s the whole point of a democracy, that the arguments make you stronger.”
My response? I think I will put a Hillary bumper sticker on my car this morning. Anything involving Karl Rove, et al, cannot be good for America.
Once again gay friendly bills that would have protected LGBT Virginians have been effectively killed by Republicans in the House of Delegates. Thus, gays can marry on Saturday and be fired on Monday because of their sexual orientation - a situation that no doubt warms the ice cold heart of Victoria Cobb and her fellow hate merchants at The Family Foundation, one of the foulest organizations in Virginia. The only good news is that the same committee tabled anti-gay bills as well, apparently seeking to shield House Republicans from having to take a recorded vote that could come back to haunt them in 2017. The irony is that a vast majority of Virginians support non-discrimination protections for LGBT Virginians - many don't realize they do not exist in Virginia - as do Virginia's leading businesses. But sadly, the power of the Christofascists in the Virginia GOP has not been broken and hate, bigotry and the embrace of ignorance remain the hallmarks of the party. Metro Weekly looks at the wrongs done to LGBT Virginians yesterday. Here are highlights (when is the media going to stop using the euphemism "social conservatives" and call these people out for what they are, the Christian Taliban?):
A Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee voted 5-2, along party lines, to table a number of LGBT-related bills this week, shuffling them off to the Code Commission for further review and analysis.The move, which was done for eight bills, regardless of whether they espoused a pro-equality or anti-equality viewpoint, allows lawmakers in the Republican-dominated House to avoid taking a firm position on LGBT issues for the rest of the 2016 session.Voting to table the bills and send them on to the Code Commission also allows Republican lawmakers to placate social conservatives who demand that all Republicans adhere to anti-gay orthodoxy while also giving them political cover by avoiding an on-the-record vote that could prove unpopular with a general electorate or a majority of their constituents. Polls have consistently shown that super-majorities of Virginians support nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people.Among the bills that were sent to the Code Commission and are not likely to be brought up for the remainder of this year’s legislative session were six bills granting protections in public employment, private employment, housing and public accommodations, as well as a measure that would have banned the practice of LGBT conversion therapy on minors.From the anti-gay side, the subcommittee also referred to the Code Commission two bills submitted by Delegates Bob Marshall (R-Manassas, Manassas Park, Sudley, Bull Run) and Dave LaRock (R-Hamilton, Lovettsville, Berryville) that attempt to define gender in terms of biological sex only. Marshall’s bill seeks to nullify any pro-LGBT federal policies, rules or regulations dealing with discrimination that were either passed or came into effect after Jan. 1, 2012. LaRock’s bill seeks to prohibit the commonwealth or any subdivisions from adopting policies that treat gender identity discrimination as sex discrimination, regardless of any federal ruling on the issue.These delegates refuse to acknowledge what the majority of Virginia has long believed: protecting LGBT Virginians is not only the right thing to do, but it’s what is best for the overall success of the commonwealth.“Our hope now is the broad Republican support in the Senate will provide the bipartisan support needed to properly and accurately represent Virginia’s people and the Code Commission will take these issues into serious consideration in the upcoming year,” added Parrish.The House subcommittee also approved two other bills from Marshall and Del. Mark Cole (R-Fredericksburg, Hartwood, Remington), respectively, putting them up for consideration by the full committee, and, later, potentially the full House.Marshall’s approved bill seeks to circumvent and overturn several school board policies — such as ones that passed this past year in Fairfax and Arlington counties — that prohibit discrimination against LGBT students, staff, teachers or other employees. Marshall’s bill would explicitly bind the hands of school boards from passing any such policy unless the General Assembly had passed a similar policy.Cole’s bill, meanwhile, directly targets transgender restroom use in public facilities in any government building or school in the commonwealth. Under the bill, transgender people would only be allowed to use the restroom consistent with their biological sex. The bill would also make it harder for schools to provide alternatives to restrooms or changing facilities for transgender students. Cole’s bill received much criticism, particularly in its initial form, which was interpreted as potentially requiring teachers and administrators to check students’ genitals before allowing them to use the bathroom.
Friday, February 05, 2016
As detailed in my upcoming February column in VEER Magazine, this year's General Assembly session has seen a raft of anti-gay, anti-transgender bills introduced by Republicans. As is the norm with Republicans, the misogyny is cloaked as protecting "religious freedom." Thankfully, Gov. McAuliffe has promised to veto the bills should they make it out of the legislature. Pro-gay bills were introduced by Democrats and two have actually passed the Virginia Senate with 6 Republicans supporting them. Sadly, the bills will likely be killed in the Republican controlled House of Delegates. As a piece in The Advocate argues, Indiana hasn't learned from its religious freedom bill debacle last year. The same argument applies to Virginia Republicans. Here are article excerpts:
In one, foul sweeping gesture of rejection, the Indiana legislature this week killed our best chance of securing equal protections for LGBT Hoosiers this year. The bill, SB 344, was a measure that, while flawed in its current incarnation — with amendments advocates were working to insert — would have prohibited discrimination at the state level. Indiana lawmakers’ unwillingness to move this bill through the legislative process reflects a special kind of stubbornness. They have not learned from last year, when the prospect of a law that would open the door to discrimination against LGBT Hoosiers unleashed backlash that the state is still feeling today.
Last year, the fight played out in plain sight of the entire nation. Governor Mike Pence and the Indiana legislature passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) bill, which would allow someone to claim that their religion gives them a right to undermine nondiscrimination laws. Prominent allies like Salesforce, the NCAA, Angie’s List, Gen Con, and others spoke up and said that discrimination against LGBT people was not only wrong but bad for business. Some even said they would stop investment in Indiana.Here in Virginia expect a reprise of Indiana's preference for hate and bigotry rather than equality for all citizens.
The national pressure forced lawmakers’ hands into adding a welcomed (though incomplete) “fix” that said the RFRA couldn’t be used to discriminate against LGBT Hoosiers in housing, employment, and public accommodations.
The climate was tense but a victory of sorts was won. For the first time, the majority of the country, including the business community, was united in saying that discrimination against LGBT people is wrong and we must put a stop to it. Better yet, the country was vocally on our side.
[C]ome the 2016 legislative session, lawmakers were angry they had lost both on the RFRA and marriage equality fronts. Perhaps they thought the country wasn’t watching this time. Whatever the reason, rather than moving forward in the direction of the nation and in line with the majority of their constituents and businesses, they introduced “non-discrimination” bills riddled with carve-outs, . . .
There was renewed hope that perhaps an affirmative non-discrimination bill would at long last prevail. SB 344 passed out of committee hours later. Unfortunately, it didn’t go far.
To the rest of the country, may they heed the lessons learned from Indiana and know that we’re watching and assuming ready position. At the end of the day, all we’re fighting for is a fair playing field, one in which everyone can pursue a life of their choosing free from discrimination.
One of the biggest problems with politics today is the mainstream media's refusal to ask hard questions, engage in investigative journalism such as that displayed in the movie Spotlight, and do more that simply mouthing the lies and extremism coming out of the mouths of politicians, especially Republicans. Equally dangerous is the media's preference to jump on a story line and move it forward regardless of whether or not it bears any resemblance to the truth and/or reality. Had the media done its job, the Iraq War and all the disasters that it precipitated could have been avoided. As a piece in Salon points out, another case in point is the myth that Marco Rubio is a moderate Republican. He's not, yet the media continues to support the lie. Here are column highlights:
The press wrote this script a very long time ago: Senator Marco Rubio could become the favored establishment candidate in the Republican Party primary as party elites search for answers to the insurgent campaigns of outsiders Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz.
That note has been hit especially hard in the press since the Trump circus arrived on the campaign trail last summer: The GOP is hoping for a tempered, pragmatic savior who can appeal to mainstream voters and help Republicans avoid disaster come November.
But what happens when the facts change but the script does not? What happens when a so-called Establishment candidate like Rubio starts espousing ugly, divisive rhetoric that’s synonymous with the darker regions of Fox News and the Republican Party? What happens when he adopts radical policy positions that just years ago would have been seen as borderline even for AM talk radio? (i.e. Outlawing abortions even for victims of rape and incest.)
I don’t think there’s any doubt that, overall, Rubio has benefited from very generous press coverage. Whether it’s the sweeping conclusion that he’s a “charismatic” communicator, the media happily running with his campaign’s spin that it essentially won in Iowa by finishing third, or the press’ steadfast refusal to delve deeply into the senator’s questionable finances, . . .
To me, establishment sounds like a placeholder for “moderate.” And in the case of Rubio, that’s a complete myth.
By placing the Florida senator in that wider establishment lane, pundits and reporters seem to suggest that he’s somehow part of a pragmatic Republican wing (does that even exist?) that practices common sense conservatism; that he’s separate and above those outlier disrupters like Trump and Cruz who embrace more political chaos.
But just because an extremist coats his divisiveness in “optimistic” language, doesn’t mean the campaign press should play along and portray him as something he’s clearly not.
A unifier? Rubio walked away from his one stab at establishment legislating with the immigration reform bill that he, as part of the Gang of Eight, helped shepherd through Congress. But quickly finding himself out step with a rabid Republican base that’s adopted anti-immigration as its defining litmus test, Rubio sprinted so far to the right on this issue that not only does he oppose his own reform proposal, he’s connecting the issue to the rise of ISIS.
There may still be an establishment candidate lurking in the Republican field who can try to save the party from its own extremism, but based on the media’s apparent definition of Establishment, Rubio isn’t that person.
Thursday, February 04, 2016
Much of the insanity of the current presidential campaign contest on both sides of the political aisle stems from white American's facing up to the changing demographics sweeping the country and the horrific betrayal of the middle class by an economic system increasingly stacked in favor of the 1% that has sucked up all of the increased wealth over the last few decades. On the Republican side, the candidates are cynically - as has become the GOP norm - using racism, nativism, and right wing Christian religious extremism to dupe angry Americans into supporting policies that will only make wealth disparities worse, not better. On the Democrat side, the battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders is about how to right the wrongs done to the middle class, rebuild the nation's infrastructure, and end the scandal of America's still inadequate health care system. A piece in the New York Times looks at this internal debate and conflict. Here are excerpts:
[F]ormer President Bill Clinton . . . . attributed much of the anger that’s present in the electorate to anxiety over a changing demographic profile of the country, but then said: We are going to share the future. The only question is: What will be the terms of the sharing?
This idea of negotiating the terms of sharing the future is an expansive one, on both ends of the ideological spectrum, but it also seems to me to be an internal debate white America is having with itself.Much of the energy on both the left and the right this cycle is coming from white Americans who are rejecting the direction of America and its institutions. There is a profound disappointment. On one hand, it’s about fear of dislocation of supremacy, and the surrendering of power and the security it provides. On the other hand, it’s about disillusionment that the game is rigged and the turf is tilted. It is about defining who created this country’s bounty and who has most benefited from it.White America is wrestling with itself, torn between two increasingly distant visions and philosophies . . . .
America has a gauzy, romanticized version of its history that is largely fiction. According to that mythology, America rose to greatness by sheer ruggedness, ingenuity and hard work. It ignores or sidelines the tremendous human suffering of African slaves that fueled that financial growth, and the blood spilled and dubious treaties signed with Native Americans that fueled its geographic growth. It ignores that the prosperity of some Americans always hinged on the oppression of other Americans.Much of America’s past is the story of white people benefiting from a system that white people designed and maintained, which increased their chances of success as it suppressed those same chances in other groups. Those systems persist to this day in some disturbing ways, but the current, vociferous naming and challenging of those systems, the placing of the lamp of truth near the seesaw of privilege and oppression, has provoked a profound sense of discomfort and even anger.Indeed, the current urgency about inequality as an issue is really about how some white Americans are coming to live an experience that many minorities in this country have long lived — structural inequity has leapt the racial barrier — and that the legacy to which they fully assumed they were heirs is increasingly beyond their grasp.Inequality has been a feature of the African-American condition in this country since the first black feet touched this ground.Last month, the MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes tweeted: “This campaign is starting to feel more and more like a long, national nervous breakdown.” For white America, I believe this is true.
While it annoys me to no end that Hillary Clinton set her self up for the ongoing e-mail "scandal" - if she knew she was going to run for president why give the Republicans a toe hold? - I have always suspected that others have similarly utilized private e-mail while holding the position of Secretary of State or similarly sensitive positions. Now, my suspicions have been confirmed by a piece at MSNBC that lays details of out how both Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice utilized private e-mail while conducting official business during their tenure under the Bush/Cheney regime. The take away? The Congressional Republicans and GOP presidential candidates are using Hillary's shortsightedness to fuel a political witch hunt. Here are highlights:
When the political world’s interest in Hillary Clinton’s State Department emails was near its peak, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza defended the media’s fascination with the story. “Democrats, ask yourself this,” Cillizza wrote in August. “If this was a former [Republican Secretary of State] and his/her private e-mail server, would it be a ‘non-story’?”As a rule, I continue to believe that’s a smart way for political observers to look at every story. If the situations were reversed, how would you react to a controversy? If the accusations targeted someone you detest, as opposed to someone you like, would you see the story as legitimate?Cillizza’s question wasn’t really a hypothetical. We learned nearly a year ago from a Politico article that former Secretary of State Colin Powell “also used a personal email account” during his State Department tenure. Several months later, MSNBC found that Powell conducted official business from his personal email account managed through his personal laptop.“But wait,” Clinton’s critics in the media and Republican circles protest, “what about emails that were later deemed to include sensitive information?” NBC News reports today that both of the Bush/Cheney-era Secretaries of State fall into the same category.None of this is to suggest Powell or Rice’s office is guilty of wrongdoing.State Department officials have determined that classified information was sent to the personal email accounts of former Secretary of State Colin Powell and the senior staff of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, NBC News has learned. […]In a letter to Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy dated Feb. 3, State Department Inspector General Steve Linick said that the State Department has determined that 12 emails examined from State’s archives contained national security information now classified “Secret” or “Confidential.” The letter was read to NBC News.The political salience of news like this, however, is that Clinton’s critics would like voters to believe she’s at the center of some damaging “scandal” because of her approach to email management. These new details suggest Clinton’s practices were fairly common, and unless Republicans and the media are prepared to start condemning Powell and Rice with equal vigor – an unlikely scenario – it’s starting to look like this entire line of attack lacks merit.Or as the NBC News report put it, the new findings “show that past secretaries of state and senior officials used personal accounts to conduct government business and occasionally allowed secrets to spill into the insecure traffic.”As for Chris Cillizza’s question – if were talking about a former Republican Secretary of State, would it be a “non-story” – it would appear the answer is, “Yep.”Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, said in a statement this morning, “Based on this new revelation, it is clear that the Republican investigations [into Clinton’s emails] are nothing more than a transparent political attempt to use taxpayer funds to target the Democratic candidate for president.”
Today's Republican Party is a train wreck that ought to be sending chills down the spines of rational Americans. Sadly, much of the mainstream media is doing little or nothing to expose the GOP insanity or to challenge the ugliness of the policies advocated by the top GOP presidential candidates. The GOP was launched on its path to insanity by the welcoming of Christofascists - a group that is by definition irrational and motivated by fear and hatred of others - with FOX News, a/k/a Faux News, and right wing talk radio ratcheting up the level of the insanity. The mainstream media assisted by default by never challenging hate merchants (e.g., hate group leader Tony Perkins is still invited to give "Christian views" with no disclosure of or challenge of his white supremacists ties) and providing a platform for the dissemination of lies and deception. As a piece in Salon notes, the media is still aiding and abetting extremism. Here are highlights:
The political chattering class is largely obsessed with the “horse race” aspect of the Iowa caucuses (which historically have not done a very good of predicting the eventual Republican presidential nominee) and what the results there portend for New Hampshire and beyond. The dominant narrative is that the winnowing process has begun and that Trump, Cruz and Rubio represent three distinct parts of the Republican Party’s electoral coalition. From this perspective, there are various “lanes” to the presidential nomination for the leading Republican candidates.
However, such a focus risks obscuring as much as it reveals about the Republican Party’s policies, specifically, and movement conservatism, more generally. . . . this outcome indicates a Republican Party that is cannibalizing itself internally, where no clear front-runner had truly emerged, and whose candidates are largely much more alike than they are different.
A focus on the horse-race narrative and an obsessive parsing of the differences between the 2016 Republican presidential primary candidates . . . . is potentially very dangerous because it risks overlooking the extreme, radical and dangerous right-wing policy proposals that unite the field.
Almost all of the 2016 Republican presidential primary candidates share the following beliefs:
1. That the United States should bomb and kill many thousands of innocent people in the Middle East and elsewhere in order to supposedly stop the spread of ISIS and other terrorist organizations.
2. Torturing suspected terrorists—even though such acts are both immoral and ineffective in retrieving actionable intelligence information—is acceptable.
3. “God’s law” should supersede the United States Constitution.
4. They are anti-science and do not believe that global warming is a real, scientifically proven, empirical fact.
5. Tax cuts for the 1 percent and the American oligarchs should be expanded and protected while the social safety net and workers’ rights are further limited.
6. The Affordable Care Act should be reversed, and action that will result in millions of Americans being left without insurance and forced to seek aid and assistance from private charities.
7. Muslim Americans should be tracked by a national database as suspected “terrorists.”
8. Basic government functions should be privatized and protecting “the commons” should be made the responsibility of profit motivated corporations.9. Women should be denied the basic human right of making their own reproductive health choices.[M]ovement conservatism seeks to undo the consensus politics of the World War II and post-World War II era because it views the great successes of the New Deal, the Great Society and the civil rights movement(s) as a threat to the excesses of unrestrained capitalism and white male power.
10. They are “law and order” racial authoritarians who support police thuggery and brutality against black and brown Americans, the poor and other marginalized groups.
The GOP’s activist base is extremely out of sync with the mainstream of American public opinion; the party has dragged the Democratic Party to the right; the right-wing news entertainment complex has created a state of epistemic closure for its public that is immune from fact or reason, thus the latter advocates for politically untenable goals; and the Republican Party’s candidates are left beholden to the most extreme elements in their own party…even as those policy positions are unpopular among the majority of American voters.
[T]he news media and the American public are still left with the fundamental question of how one of the country’s two institutional political parties could be left after the Iowa caucuses with three front-runners who are, respectively, a proto-fascist, a Christian theocrat and an Ayn Rand neoliberal who wants to privatize all aspects of public life while simultaneously waging war on the poor and working classes.
Worrying about “lanes” and paths to victory for Republican presidential candidates does nothing to address such basic and fundamental problems.
Washington Post sums up the competing attractions of Clinton and Sanders. Here are excerpts:
The Democratic contest is far more subtle [compared to the GOP circus] and, as a result, intellectually interesting. The obvious contours of the race are defined by Hillary Clinton’s identity as a moderate progressive and Bernie Sanders’s embrace of democratic socialism.But there is less distance between Sanders and Clinton than meets the eye. Their sharpest programmatic differences (other than on Sanders’s mixed gun-control record) are over his sweeping ideas: breaking up the largest banks, establishing a single-payer health-care system and providing universal free college education. These disagreements are closely connected to their competing theories of change.Clinton believes in change through incremental steps: toughening financial regulation, building on Obamacare, expanding access to scholarships and grants without making college free for everyone. One-step-at-a-time reform is the best way to reach a larger goal, she believes. And proposals that are too big are doomed to fail — politically for sure, and probably substantively as well.Thus her signature critique of Sanders. “In theory, there’s a lot to like about some of his ideas,” she says, and then the hammer falls: “I’m not interested in ideas that sound good on paper but will never make it in the real world.”Sanders, by contrast, has long believed that the current configuration of power needs to be overthrown (peacefully, through the ballot box) to make progressive reform possible. It’s why he focuses so much on breaking the corrupting power of big money in politics. He believes that loosening the Republicans’ grip on working-class voters requires initiatives that will truly shake things up, and that only the mobilization of new voters will change the nature of representation in Washington.Sanders added: “The Republican Party right now in Washington is highly disciplined, very, very well-funded, and adheres to more or less the Koch brother position. You’re not gonna change them in Washington. The only way that they are changed is by educating, organizing, and what I call a political revolution.”Now here’s why so many Democrats like both of them: Most share Clinton’s view that gradual reform is the most practical way forward. But most also agree with Sanders that even moderately progressive steps will be stymied if money’s influence is left unchecked, if progressives do not find new ways of organizing and mobilizing, and if so many white working-class voters continue to support Republicans.Call it the dialectical primary: Democrats are searching for a synthesis between reform and revolution.
Wednesday, February 03, 2016
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As regular readers know, one thing that drives me to distraction is the myth of American exceptionalism, a myth most loved by Republican politicians but also foolishly embraced y Democrats as well. The truth is that America is becoming increasing less than exceptional unless one uses ranks for gun violence and the percentage of the population of an advanced that lacks health care coverage. Now, America ranks 28th in educational attainment and life expectancy is declining unlike in other advanced nations. An article looks at how American states were compared to foreign nations based on educational levels. The map they compiled is above. Actually, Virginia did fairly well in relative terms, no doubt because of the high education levels in Northern Virginia. Here are article highlights:
Americans like to think they’re the best when it comes to just about everything, when measured against other nations. While we’re certainly the richest, most freedom loving, and pretty much the bodyguards for the poor and defenseless, we’ve known for years that we’re certainly not the smartest country on earth.Recently, we ranked 28th when it came to math and science scores, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).We’re really smart, people. Just not the smartest. And we’re working on it.We thought it would be cool to align each state’s educational attainment to a country of similar intelligence.We used the U.S. Census to get the numbers on each state’s high school graduation rate, and then compared those numbers to the education index of each country in the world, provided by the United Nations Development ProgramMany things stand out. For instance, most of the northeast – considered the ‘smartest’ region in the United States – is very similar to Europe’s education levels.
Note how the states that are GOP strongholds fared. It actually strikes me as accurate, especially when one looks at the Deep South. Embracing ignorance does not make "America great again."
I complain often about what has happened to the Republican Party, a party that I once strongly supported. Now, it is like insane asylum peopled by white supremacists, right wing religious fanatics, and spittle flecked racists who are furious about their waning white privilege and the demographic changes sweeping the country. As a piece in The Daily Beast underscores, the current vile state of the GOP traces back to opportunistic members of the party establishment like Karl Rove that welcomed in the ugliest elements of American society for short term election victories. Now, the swamp fever ridden party base has hijacked the GOP and the so-called party establishment seems powerless to stop the monster it has unleashed. Enter Donal Trump and Ted Cruz who like a cancer are moving to kill the Republican Party for perhaps a generation. The piece has dome great quotes from Lindsey Graham, a/k/a the Palmetto Queen, who is on target as to the problems facing the GOP and the menace posed by Trump and Cruz. Here are some article highlights:
When asked to assess the presidential prospects of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, Sen. Lindsey Graham famously said, “It’s like being shot or poisoned. I think you get the same result, whether it’s quick or takes a long time.”
Republicans breathing a sigh of relief because Cruz beat Trump in Iowa are rejoicing at the prospect of being poisoned. They may have dodged a bullet, but there’s a long-term critical condition they can’t afford to ignore.
Because Cruz and Trump do not represent different visions of the Republican Party so much as different manifestations of the same kind of conservative populism that gets weak-kneed watching a strongman preach with fact-free certainty from the right side of the “us vs. them” divide.
These Crump voters see incivility and inexperience as political assets. Their candidates are proudly dividers rather than uniters, channeling white populist anger at undocumented immigrants and Muslims as well as President Obama. Amid the emotional blurring of church and state, social-issue litmus tests have moved so far right that libertarians need not apply. The Crump coalition constitutes a majority of the Republican field right now. And they can’t win a general election.
The rise of Cruz and Trump are symptoms of a larger problem in the GOP, a problem of their own making. Because the Republican Party systematically purged its center-right, it doesn’t have the ballast to withstand Wingnuts anymore.Trump’s strength in national polls, where he still leads by double digits, was spurred by fear-mongering over illegal immigrants, Fortress America promises to build a border wall, and a proposed ban on Muslim travel to the United States
And while conservatives might be relieved by the Iowa results, Ted Cruz does not represent a return to normalcy in the GOP. Despised by his Senate colleagues, his chief accomplishment is shutting down the government, leading a coalition that his fellow Republican Devin Nunes memorably described as “lemmings with suicide vests.”
In contrast to Trump, Cruz is the darling of the conservagencia, because he reflects their beliefs. He is a card-carrying member of the sub-generation that grew up with the conservative catechism, a steady diet of right-wing texts offered up by his father.
The rise of Crump is a result of the RINO-hunting that narrowed the base to the point that the Grand Old Party can be easily hijacked by a small but intense group with little interest in winning general elections and even less interest in governing.
The current mess began when mandarins of the conservative movement insisted that the two parties should be cleanly divided on ideological lines. This began the process of marginalizing people who loudly espoused libertarian views on social issues or a more centrist approach to creating winning coalitions. Their efforts were reinforced by the rise of partisan media and the rigged system of redistricting, which has virtually eliminated competitive general elections from Congress.
Not so long ago, each party fielded a diverse coalition, with progressive Republicans from the North balanced by conservative Democrats in the South. A byproduct was a degree of stability in the system: Divided government was not by definition dysfunctional government because bipartisan governing coalitions could always be created, birthing everything from the Marshall Plan to the Interstate Highway System to civil-rights legislation to welfare reform.But as geographic and ideological polarization took hold, those coalitions became more difficult to build. By the start of the 21st century, Karl Rove’s play-to-the-base strategy became the rage, arguing that a razor-thin win was as much of a mandate as a landslide. The red state versus blue state mantra meant that the centuries-old centrist New England Republican tradition was almost extinguished within a decade after running the region as recently as the 1990s.
Whatever unhinged anger came out of the protests was more than tolerated with a wink and nod by Republicans who felt they could harness the fury into election victories and then channel it into something constructive once in control of Congress. But the mob quickly set the tone, creating conditions where elected leaders needed to pander to the outer reaches of politics to avoid their own primary challenges. Center-right senators were the first to bite the dust, condemned as heretics to the cause.
Another measure of the creeping Crump cancer is the rise of Marco Rubio as the much-spun savior of the center-right. This “establishment” voice was a Tea Party insurgent six years ago. His rhetoric is optimistic and inclusive, but he continues to resist marriage equality and deny climate change, while abandoning his own immigration overhaul bill and opposing abortion even in cases of rape and incest. This is center-right only by the standards of the Crump era.
Speaking to The Daily Beast from Manchester, New Hampshire, Sen. Lindsey Graham was typically blunt in his assessment . . . . . “Our party’s got nuts again on immigration, and Trump started this. Trump’s position on immigration’s insane. . . . . . every problem we’ve had, Trump has made worse.” The Republican path to victory means reaching out to women as well as Hispanics, according to Graham. “Name one person who’s been more insulting to women than Donald Trump. When it comes to abortion, I’m pro-life. [But] very few people support the idea of no exception for rape and incest. That will define Rubio and Cruz with young women… that you can have no exceptions for rape and incest, and sell it with a smile, you’re kiddin’ yourself.”
Given the growing diversity of the American electorate and you have a disaster brewing whether Trump or Cruz is the nominee. Both men are underwater in support from independents, women, blacks, Hispanics, and suburban voters.
It’s time to stop pretending that the Crumps’ polarizing populist appeals represent ideas or ideals as much as channeling inchoate rage at changing demographics. The always thoughtful former Bush aide Pete Wehner recently wrote, “If Mr. Trump heads the Republican Party, it will no longer be a conservative party; it will be an angry, bigoted, populist one.”
But that prediction also serves as a diagnosis of the GOP’s predicament, which Trump and Cruz have only revealed. The problem will persist and lead to more general-election losses until the base of the party is broadened. Until then, the Republican primaries will look and feel like a fatalistic circus. As Senator Graham told The Daily Beast, “that’s what so stupid about this thing. It’s like buying a ticket on the Titanic after you see the movie. You know how it ends.”
As one whose biggest fear is a GOP win in the presidential election in November, I am dismayed at Hillary Clinton's campaign to date which has yet to energize many in the Democratic base, especially younger voters. She is by far the best qualified candidate based on her experience, but she cannot seem to find an electrifying message that will turn out voters in November to block a GOP nightmare for the country. A column in the New York Times looks at this issue and problem. Here are excerpts:
Late Monday, as the unfinished vote count suggested the slimmest of victories for Hillary Clinton, she stepped to a microphone, flashed an Oscar-worthy smile of triumph and told supporters that she was “breathing a big sigh of relief.”She wasn’t. She isn’t. And she definitely shouldn’t be.But Iowa demonstrated, yet again, what a flawed and tarnished candidate she is. And on the Republican side, the caucuses augured the possibility of a retreat from the party’s craziness and the rise of an adversary, Marco Rubio, who could give her trouble in a general-election matchup.She should have trounced Sanders. Yes, he communicates authenticity to an electorate ravenous for it and has given potent voice to Americans’ economic angst. But little in his Senate career suggests that he’d be able to turn that oratory into remedy.President Obama clearly prefers Clinton. And in a poll of Democrats showing up for the Iowa caucuses, well over half said that they wanted someone who would continue Obama’s agenda — which is the precise pledge that Clinton has been making over the last few weeks — while only about one-third said that they preferred someone more liberal.Even so, Clinton appears to have edged out Sanders by mere decimal points. How to explain it?Perhaps with the sturdiest truism of politics: Elections are about the future. And so much about Clinton screams the past.A rally of hers that I attended in Iowa last week actually began with a highlights reel of Clinton through time, including plenty of footage from the 1990s. . . . The retrospective underscored her extraordinary experience. But nothing in her subsequent speech looked forward as stirringly as those images looked backward.It’s the language of drudgery and duty rather than inspiration, and she can sound as if she’s collecting on an i.o.u. and asking voters to complete her trajectory rather than begin one of their own.Bill Clinton may well garner applause, but every time he stumps for her, it’s an implicit promise to revisit yesterday, not to chart tomorrow.For months Democrats have been heartened by the absurdity with which Donald Trump infused the Republican primary and by the prospect of him or Ted Cruz as the party’s nominee. But his second-place showing could be his twilight, and Rubio’s strong third-place finish supports the scenario that he’s the one.He poses a bigger threat to Clinton. He understands that she, like Jeb Bush, is an awkward fit for the national mood, and he’d try to take advantage of that. He leans hard on his youth. He talks about a new generation.Clinton needs to persuade voters that as much as they’ve seen of her, she can still lead them to a place they’ve not yet seen. She hasn’t succeeded, and she slogs on from Iowa much as she did eight years ago: with more to prove than to savor.
I have had many react with revulsion to Ted Cruz's win in the Iowa caucuses and the man in general. Cruz is proving to be precisely the type of lying sleaze bag that goes hand in hand with those who constantly profess their religiosity as demonstrated by the directive sent out to his minions to spread the lie before the caucus voting began that Ben Carson would be dropping out of the presidential race. The good news about Cruz is this: more than 2/3 of Republicans did not support him. Better yet, as a piece in Vox lays out, he is likely un-electable - he's sort of a national level Ken Cuccinelli who is loved by the foulest elements of the GOP base and viewed with horror by everyone else. Here are highlights from Vox:
The Republican Party establishment has a bad case of Trump-Induced Terror these days, but there's an even more plausible candidate in the race who's running on an even more unelectable agenda. May I introduce to you Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
People know that Cruz is extreme. But few people fully recognize exactly how unpopular the Cruz policy agenda is likely to be once it is exposed to the light of day.
In an era when no politician of either party wants to cut retirement benefits for current seniors or raise taxes on the middle class, Cruz has quietly stumbled into proposing a gigantic tax increase on middle-class retirees. The media hasn't noticed yet, and liberal groups don't seem all that eager to point it out — perhaps because they're hoping to save their ammunition until after Cruz is actually the nominee. Cruz's appeal is rooted in his deep understanding of the GOP base and sophisticated grasp of the modern media landscape. But he's never run in a meaningfully contested general election of any kind, and trying to do so on an anti–middle class, anti-elderly policy agenda is extraordinarily unlikely to succeed.
If you're not paying close attention, Cruz's tax plan can just look like a more extreme version of every other Republican tax plan — a big, budget-busting tax cut for the wealthy. But in reality, it contains an idea so obviously politically toxic that his entire agenda for selling it seems to be to obscure the fact that he's proposing it.
But let's be clear: Cruz is calling for a 19 percent federal sales tax that would apply to all purchases of goods and services made in the United States. This is possibly the single least voter-friendly idea one could imagine.
His "business flat tax" is a sales tax, not a corporate income. And it's a 19 percent sales tax, not a 16 percent one.
Replacing large swaths of the existing tax code with a high national sales tax is so politically ridiculous that most people are probably completely unaware of the argument for doing it.
To liberals, this is a terrible idea, because it means that the lion's share of the benefits of Cruz's plan would flow to the small number of people rich enough to be deriving a significant share of their income from investments. Ten percent of the population owns almost 85 percent of the financial assets in the United States, while the bottom 75 percent of the population owns less than 4 percent.
Cruz's sales tax would, on its own, be a devastating blow to the finances of poor and middle-class Americans. But Cruz largely neutralized that by eliminating payroll taxes and endorsing a significant boost to the earned income tax credit.
The downside is this will leave a $3.7 trillion hole in the federal budget over 10 years.
But the true political disaster of the Cruz plan is its impact on the elderly. Retired people, by definition, don't work. They are not paying payroll tax, and they will not gain any money from an increase in the EITC.
On average, the elderly pay less than 9 percent of their income in taxes, and they spend more than 100 percent of their after-tax income. Cruz's proposed 19 percent tax on that consumption would hammer this group, especially its lower-income members. No politician in American history has ever been so crazy as to propose a 19 percent cut in Social Security benefits, but Cruz's tax plan would have an even more adverse impact on retirees' living standards.
[G]iven the modern-day Republican Party's reliance on the elderly vote, it's a total disaster. Cruz deserves kudos, to an extent, for following his ideological commitments where they lead him regardless of the political implications. But it's a completely unworkable electoral strategy.
Trump as nominee would certainly be a risky (and probably disastrous) leap into the unknown. But Cruz as nominee would be a leap into something we've actually seen quite clearly before in 1964 and 1972 — a factional candidacy by a senator from the fringe of his own party caucus who gets drubbed on Election Day.
Read the entire piece.
Tuesday, February 02, 2016
In Iowa Marco Rubio was prostituting himself to the far right Christofascists big time in an effort to win over the evangelical vote. Now, with a strong third place finish, his prospects look improved and some of his big money backers may be more inclined to hand over more financial backing. One major player that Rubio may need to placate is billionaire Paul Singer who is a strong proponent of same sex marriage and gay rights. A piece in Forward.com looks at the dilemma that may soon face Rubio. Here are excerpts:
In an election cycle dominated by mega-donors, Sheldon Adelson, the brash, pro-Israel Las Vegas casino mogul, has become the symbol of powerful billionaires courted by candidates for their game-changing financial support.
But out on the East Coast there is another, quieter Jewish mega-donor drawing attention among Republicans: Paul Singer, the New York hedge fund billionaire, philanthropist and political player who is betting on Marco Rubio as the candidate able to lead his party back to the White House.
Now, with Rubio’s strong third-place finish in the Iowa caucus, Singer’s early backing for the Florida senator looks more important than ever for the ballast it has given his bid—and the influence that the early backing is likely to give Singer.
Singer is described as calculated and methodical, mainstream in Republican terms, and with surprising liberal streaks lining his strong fiscal conservatism. He is also known for his caution in political giving.
Moreover, Singer is anything but a single-issue donor. In fact, some of the issues close to his heart can at times seem difficult to reconcile. But Singer manages to be both a major donor of a Republican Party shifting gradually toward the right and a prominent champion of gay and lesbian rights without losing his political sway.
In other news, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the petition of the Virginia GOP to stay the lower federal court ruling redrawing Virginia congressional districts. While the Court will hear arguments in the case next month, the refusal to grant a stay of the lower court ruling often can signal that the petitioning party is likely to lose the case on the merits. The ruling leaves Christofascist pander Randy Forbes of the 4th District with a dilemma of whether to run for re-election in his current district which may change significantly or move his residence and run for the open seat in the 2nd District. The Washington Post looks at the development. Here are article excerpts:
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied a request from Republican members of Congress to put on hold an election map that gives Democrats a chance to pick up a seat in this year’s election.
The ruling is the latest in a series of decisions triggered last year by a panel of federal judges who said Virginia’s map illegally packed African American voters into one district at the expense of their influence elsewhere.
Last month, the judges sought to change that by imposing a map that increases the number of African American voters, who reliably vote for Democrats, in a district that stretches from Richmond to Norfolk. It is represented by Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R).
Democrats viewed Monday’s decision as a sign that the June primary will take place under the new lines.
It also increases the pressure on potential congressional candidates who are considering running in the newly drawn districts.
Forbes is reportedly considering a run for the seat currently held by Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.), who is retiring in 2017. State Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico) has said he would be interested in running for the district currently represented by Forbes.
Because of the special nature of redistricting challenges, appeals from three-judge panels go directly to the Supreme Court.
With the results in from Iowa - a state that is no longer remotely representative of America demographically or culturally - one thing is clear: the establishment wings of both the GOP and the Democrat parties are seeing their king/queen makers challenged. There is a great deal of anger and desire for change amongst voters, but their seems to be little concern, especially on the right, as to who can bring in logical and rational change. In Iowa, the lack of rationality should comer as no surprise given the large number of evangelical Christians who are by definition in my view, irrational. Their desires for a quasi-Christian theocracy and a return to the social norms of the 1950's is simply not acceptable to most Americans. A piece in Mother Jones looks at the insurgencies in both major political parties. Here are highlights:
[B]oth major political parties were on the verge of hostile takeovers. By night's end, the Democratic establishment and Hillary Clinton had apparently held the threat at bay—barely!—with the former secretary of state seemingly defeating Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-professed democratic socialist channeling populist ire, by a small number of votes in what was almost a tie. On the Republican side, Sen. Ted Cruz, a nemesis of the GOP establishment, prevailed in Iowa the traditional way by rounding up evangelical and social conservative voters, and Donald Trump, the reality television tycoon, placed a close second (28 to 24 percent) with his they're-all-losers schtick—meaning that half of Republican voters rebelled against their party's poohbahs.
But this convenient, soundbite-friendly description of what's going on is too easy an explanation, for the supposed outsider energy in each party is different, particularly when it comes to Trump.
Let's start with the Dems. Sure, Sanders called for smashing up the big-money establishment and implied (strongly!) that Clinton, a Washington insider who has pocketed campaign cash and speaking fees from Wall Street, was part of the corrupt system. Not to take anything away from Sanders' populist message and his campaign's delivery, but he was able to take advantage of—that is, speak to—a pre-existing and ever restless ideological bloc within the Democratic primary electorate: progressives. . . . . 44 percent of Democrats call themselves liberals. This number has been on a steady rise since 2000, when only 29 percent claimed that label. So as several Democratic strategists have pointed out to me in recent weeks—including those backing and not backing Clinton—Sanders began with a big potential base to tap.
Sanders had an opening to present himself as this year's true progressive model and a cool alternative to the ideologically-suspect and baggage-heavy Clinton. Voila! He made a connection with a major Democratic subset that has always been there. Forget about Iowa for a moment—especially now that this unrepresentative event is done—and look at the average of the national polls in the Democratic race. Clinton leads Sanders, 52 to 37 percent. Sanders' take is darn close to that 40-percent mark long associated with the progressive wing.
Cruz did something similar to Sanders: he appealed to an ideological bloc that pines for a champion. With the collapse of Ben Carson, who at one point led the GOP pack in Iowa, Cruz, who fielded an effective on-the-ground organization, was able to consolidate much of the social conservative vote.
Just as there is a progressive base in the Democratic Party, there is a conservative foundation in the GOP, and those right-wing heroes of yesteryear won the Republican presidential contests (respectively in 1964 and 1980) by rallying the conservative grassroots within the GOP. . . . .
Cruz adopted this model, and he fared well in a state that has in recent years rewarded Republicans who appeal to the religious right. He's an outsider in Washington, but not within this historical framework.
Trump's play was not to become the leader of the party's conservative wing. He's been waging a cultural revolution, not an ideological rebellion, within the GOP. His main argument, such as it is, is not that the government is too big, but that everyone in government—and just about everyone who doesn't agree with him—is stupid. And he's a winner. (Well, at least until Monday night.) With his campaign, the political is the personal. His policy prescriptions, if they deserve to be called that, do not hew to a clear ideological line.
Trump is a protest candidate protesting...just about everything, as he peddles bigotry by pushing a ban on Muslims entering the United States. He's not playing to the ideological voters of the GOP, but to the angry ones. His target audience: people who resent pushing 1 for English and 2 for Spanish. And I'm guessing many of these people have spent the last eight years detesting President Barack Obama, suspecting he's some kind of secret Muslim, Kenya-born socialist who has a clandestine plan for destroying the United States of America. This hatred of Obama has been encouraged and exploited by leading Republicans who gained power in Washington with the tea party. These establishment GOPers giggled with delight as their mad-as-hell voters rushed to the polls, . . . . . They fed the beast. But that only created hunger for more hatred.
Enter Trump, who first auditioned for this role as a birther.. . . . The infuriated GOP voters who had bought the Republican propaganda that Obama has destroyed the United States gobbled all this up. . . . . They are looking for a venter-in-chief who is as furious as they are and who promises that he and the nation will win, win, win.
The GOP unleashed the dogs of resentment and rage. And a bombastic, arrogant, demagogue billionaire shouted to them, "Follow me, not those louts in Washington." Trump's takeover of the GOP was going smoothly until Cruz, who has also tried to capitalize on right-wing resentment, bested Trump in Iowa, and Marco Rubio, a tea partier turned establishment favorite, came within 3,000 votes of bumping Trump to third. Now Trump's going to have to try harder.
After Iowa, the Democratic Party and Clinton are facing a fierce ideological challenge from an unlikely and previously underestimated source, while the Republican old guard is confronted by Cruz's traditional assault and Trump's unconventional attack. It's the season of disruption.
Monday, February 01, 2016
The Iowa caucus results are not yet fully in and other than Jeb Bush crashing and burning, all that is known is that Trump and Cruz are neck and neck - a choice in my view for the nation between a bullet to the head or cyanide poisoning. But some in the Hillary Clinton campaign believe that it is time to plan for how to counter and attack Donald Trump should he be the GOP presidential nominee. Politico looks at the Clinton plans to counter Trump and turn his demagoguery against him, especially the his business dealings that he doesn't want voters to focus upon. Here are article highlights:
It’s tunnel-vision time for Hillary Clinton as she battles Bernie Sanders here — but she’s casting some serious side-eye in Donald Trump’s direction.
After months of laughing off Trump — and assuming his ascent would propel the Republican Party to a 1964-style wipeout — her campaign and its allies have begun to steer time and resources into framing lines of attack against the blustery billionaire, even if there’s still considerable confusion over how to attack 2016’s top-of-the-food-chain predator.
The emerging approach to defining Trump is an updated iteration of the “Bain Strategy” — the Obama 2012 campaign’s devastating attacks on Mitt Romney’s dealings with investment firm Bain Capital, according to a dozen Democratic operatives and campaign aides familiar with the accelerating planning inside Clinton’s orbit. This time, Democrats would highlight the impact of Trump’s four business bankruptcies — and his opposition to wage hikes at his casinos and residential properties — on the families of his workers.