Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Doug Jones Gives Dems Some Hope

Let's not mince words, what happened in Alabama Tuesday was stunning. A Democrat won a U.S. Senate election for the first time in 25 years. Let me repeat that in case you missed it. A Democrat won a U.S. Senate election for the first time in 25 years.

This isn't Virginia. This is one of the reddest states in the country, surpassed only by Wyoming, Montana, Mississippi and the Dakotas. There are more black people in Vermont than there are Democrats in Alabama. Okay, I'm being facetious but you get the point. Nobody saw this coming. Based on the recent polling - the Fox News poll notwithstanding - it was shaping up as your typical, run of the mill win for Republican Roy Moore.

But Doug Jones had other plans and, for the second time in just over a month, Democrats had a good outcome in an important election. Unlike Ralph Northam's win in Virginia, however, this victory will have a profound impact on the balance of power in Washington for at least the next three years.

So how did this Jones pull this off? Well, first off, he had a little help. Moore wasn't just a flawed candidate, he was radioactive. Exit polling showed Republican turnout was down from previous elections. Apparently even in a state that could give the Beverly Hillbillies a run for their money, people had a problem voting for a pedophile. But while it was a bad night for Moore, it was a devastating night for Donald Trump and Steve Bannon. Both gave full-throated endorsements to the former judge and now both have a ton of egg on their faces.

But the real story here wasn't Trump or Bannon, it was Jones. In short, he ran a perfect campaign. He didn't just play to his base, like so many Democrats tend to do, he made a concerted effort to reach out to voters in the most conservative parts of the state. Like Northam in Virginia, Jones sliced into the margins in those districts that Republicans need in order to prevail and that, more than anything else, was what pushed him over the top.

The lesson here for Democrats is that it's possible to walk and chew gum at the same time. You don't have to compromise on your core principles to win an election. Not once, despite mounting pressure, did Jones ever abandon his stance on a woman's right to choose. But while Jones stood his ground, he made an appeal to moderate Republicans in the state that, if he were elected, he would work with both parties to find common ground. The result was that he won independents by nine points.

Compare and contrast how Jones and Northam beat their Republican opponents with how Hillary Clinton lost to her's. Clinton did the exact opposite. She rarely, if ever, ventured out of her comfort zone. Her campaign focused almost all its energy on turnout in traditionally blue areas of the country, hoping to replicate what Barack Obama had done in both his election victories. So arrogant were they that they didn't even bother to visit Wisconsin.

We all know what ended up happening. Clinton was unable to duplicate Obama's margins and she lost the election. Yes, she still won the popular vote, but her unwillingness to at least make an appeal to rural voters was what allowed Trump to run up the score in those areas. That's how Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania went red. A visit here, a visit there and Hillary might've been in the White House, James Comey or no James Comey.

If Democrats are smart - I'll give you a couple of minutes to stop chuckling ... okay, done? - they'll take a long, hard look at what happened in Alabama and Virginia and commit it to memory. Good candidates, like good sales people, make their pitch to as many people as possible, because in the end it's about expanding your market or, as was the case with Jones and Northam, your pool of potential voters. Jones didn't turn a single red county blue, but he did enough damage in those counties to deprive Moore of a victory.

If Democrats have any hope of retaking the Senate in 2018, they will have to do it by not only holding serve in ten states that Trump won, but also by flipping two states where there are a lot of moderate Republican voters: Arizona and Nevada. Identity politics may have given them two huge electoral wins in 2008 and 2012, but it came at a terrible cost. Today the Democratic Party is more isolated politically than at any time since the Reconstruction era. Republicans control two thirds of the governorships and state legislatures, as well as both houses of Congress and the White House.

Turning that around will not be an easy task, but, thanks to Doug Jones and Ralph Northam, Democrats now at least have a road map that they can use to take them back to the promise land.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Masochistic Media

Patient says to the doctor, "Doc, it hurts when I do this."
Doctor replies, "Then stop doing that."

 - Henny Youngman

Oh, if only somebody could convey the simplicity of that old joke to every media outlet and newspaper in the country, maybe then we'd stop having incidents like the one that occurred in the White House briefing room where Sarah Huckabee Sanders doubled down on Donald Trump's assertion that the media is fake.

"There's a very big difference between making honest mistakes and purposefully misleading the American people, something that happens regularly. You can't say that it's an honest mistake when you're purposefully putting out information that you know to be false. Or when you're taking information that hasn't been validated, that hasn't been offered any credibility, and that has been continually denied by a number of people, including people with direct knowledge of an instance."

This line of attack from this administration is one they've repeatedly employed since the campaign started more than two years ago. This latest assertion has to do with two incidents in which errors in a story were uncovered and corrections were made, which, in spite of what some might believe, happens from time to time in journalism. But Trump has made it his life's mission to claim that these aren't just errors; they're deliberate attempts by a biased and malicious media to destroy him. Apparently reporting on the outrageous things that come both from his mouth and his twitter account is biased.

Twice this year I have implored the media to "pull the plug" on this president; to stop showing up at his press briefings and rallies. Back in July I wrote, "Nowhere is it written that the press and the media have an obligation to be this president's megaphone to the world."

Throughout his disgusting and deplorable career, Trump has been a media whore. He loves being in the spotlight. Good press, bad press, it’s all the same to him. So long as his name is in circulation that’s all that matters to him. The one thing he can’t deal with is being ignored. It drives him nuts.

Have you ever wondered why, despite his vocal condemnation of the so-called liberal media, Trump gives so many interviews to The New York Times? Or what about his obsession with being Time magazine's Man of the Year? Do you think he gives a shit about whether he's Breitbart's Man of the Year? He may love Steve Bannon but, apart from giving him lip service, he seems ostensibly unaffected by anything that gets written in that rag.

Yes, he may publicly proclaim "Fox and Friends" the best cable show on the air, and he's dry-humped Sean Hannity's leg so many times, it's a wonder Hannity doesn't have a limp. But take a closer look at his tweets and the fact is he spends most of his time fixating on CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, The Washington Post and the aforementioned Times. He behaves more like a jilted lover who's trying to get back at his ex-girlfrind than an aggrieved party that has been wronged. This president hates being rejected and the more he hears the word no, the more it gets under his skin.

So maybe it's time for the ex-girlfriend to stop returning his calls. Perhaps change phone numbers or even addresses. Maybe the only way he gets the message is if the media stops playing along with his sick and twisted game. Jesus, even masochists know when to cry uncle.

There is nothing to be gained from continuing to give this man a platform. Indeed, just the opposite. By going along for the ride and engaging in a senseless back and forth banter with his propaganda minister, the risk becomes even greater that more and more people may decide this is nothing more than a he said / he said pissing contest. And once that gets engrained into enough people's heads, it's over.

The secret to Trump's success has always been his ability to bring people down to his level. He has done that brilliantly all his life. The reason he's in the White House is because he dragged both the GOP and the Clinton campaign through the mud and they willingly obliged him every step of the way. And now with the Mueller investigation closing in on him, this master manipulator is setting the stage for what will be the biggest heist of his adult life: the capture of the American republic.

Think about it. He already owns the Republican Party; his minions believe everything he says; and he has systematically decimated every agency and department in the federal government. All of it by design. The only thing standing in his way is the Fourth Estate. If you want to know what can happen to a "free"press that is unable to say no to power, take a good look at Russia. In that country, the press is little more than Putin's puppet.

The media cannot allow that to happen here. So, again, I say, enough is enough. Trump loves walls, so put one up between you and him. Starve this beast before he gets too big. Pull the plug on his ass while the plug still belongs to you. Do it now while you still can; while there's still a country left.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

A Wake Up Call for All Men

Al Franken and John Conyers did the right thing by resigning, as did every Democrat who called for both men's resignations. I realize Franken comes from a blue state and Conyers from a blue district, so this wasn't exactly a profile in political courage. The real test will come when a senator or congressman from a red or purple state or district is forced out. And, trust me, that moment is coming. It's only a matter of time.

But that's not the point here. If the only lesson that comes out of the resignations of Franken and Conyers is that Democrats do the right thing only when it's in their best interests, then they are missing the bigger picture. Holding people accountable for their actions shouldn't be a partisan issue; it should be axiomatic. And given how pathetic the GOP's response has been towards both Donald Trump and Roy Moore, it is crucial. If Democrats want to make the case for why they should be trusted with the reigns of power in 2018, they need to have what Kirsten Gillibrand rightly calls a "zero tolerance" for such behavior.

I have read Ruth Marcus's piece in The Washington Post and, I'll concede, she raises a valid concern. There certainly could be a "rush to judgment" and "one size fits all" punishment for these offenders. Indeed, Franken addressed that concern on the Senate floor when he said it was ironic that he was stepping down while Trump was still in the White House and Moore was running for the Senate with the support of his party. But with all due respect to Franken and his supporters, you don't get brownie points for only being a PG-13 sex offender, any more than someone charged with manslaughter can argue he isn't Charles Manson and expect to get off. You do the crime, you do the time. Period!

But let's put politics aside for the moment and acknowledge that what we are witnessing is truly historic and unprecedented. In my 56 years on this planet - 38 of them as an adult - I've never seen anything remotely like it. This isn't just about a few women who were violated having the courage to come forward and tell their stories; it's much bigger than that. Don't get me wrong, their stories are genuine and heart wrenching and need to be told. But they pale in comparison to the cultural shift that is going on in the country.

Let's be honest. This male-dominated society that we live in has for too long enabled the sort of behavior that allowed men like Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer to flourish. It wasn't just that they were predators who preyed on women; it's that for years they operated with impunity while the very system that coddled them turned a blind eye. Imagine the audacity of a man thinking it was appropriate for him to parade around naked or in his shorts in front of a female employee; or forcing a female intern to have sex with him or carry his child; or sticking his tongue into a woman's mouth; or groping a teenager in his car; or referring to a female co-worker as sweetie or honey; or commenting on how sexy she looks in a particular outfit and thinking he's only paying her a compliment. Imagine the depravity of such men who not only think such behavior and language is acceptable, but count on the complicity of an institution that shields them from any sort of accountability.

Well that institution appears to be crumbling before our very eyes. The old-boy network that for too long ignored the deviants within its ranks is being shaken to its very core, and I say "Amen." It's about time someone had the courage to take a pick axe to this misogynistic fellowship of misbegotten Neanderthals. For Christ's sake, we are in the last couple of years of the second decade of the twenty-first century, not the middle of fifth decade of the twentieth. Mad Men was supposed to be a show about how men treated women in the 1950s; it wasn't supposed to be an instruction manual for how they should be treated today.

This is a time for all of us, as men, to look in the mirror and examine our own actions and pre-conceived notions about women. The problem I have with Marcus's analysis is that it lets too many of us off the hook. Few men ever graduate to the level of a Weinstein, a Trump or a Moore, but there are plenty of us who have pushed the envelope in other ways. Maybe we didn't manipulate a women into having sex with us, but how many times have we laughed at an off-color comment or joke and thought, "What's the big deal?" The inherent flaw in a sliding scale metric is that it ignores a basic fact that the Weinsteins of the world in all likelihood started off as a "What's the big deal?" offender. No doubt Franken still thinks the picture of him with is hands over Leeann Tweeden's breasts was a just a joke gone wrong. For a 13 year-old, maybe, but not for a grown man.

The fact that Franken, or any man, could find humor in such a photo is the real problem here. Misogyny isn't just confined to those men who commit sexual assaults or brag about grabbing a woman's "pussy" in an interview. Those are the easy ones to spot. It's the cultural morass that we must look at. Because until we begin to change our way of thinking as men, we will continue to foster the development of future Roy Moores and John Conyers.

I know a thing or two about this. I have made no secret of the fact that for years I was a drunk. Today I am sober and I attend meetings to make sure I stay that way. Addiction has all kinds of levels from casual to chronic. The term gateway drug refers to a substance that while not necessarily addictive on its own, often leads to other substances that are. Sexism is no different. If we don't nip bad behaviors in the bud at the onset, they can lead to other, far-more destructive ones. At some point in their earlier lives these predators got the message that what they were doing was harmless, nothing more than men being men. If only there had been someone in their lives who had the courage to say "No, this is not harmless, it's not ok, it's wrong to objectify women," I suspect the lives of many a victim would've been vastly different.

So to Ruth Marcus, I say, thanks, but no thanks. I'm going with Kirsten Gillibrand on this one. Zero tolerance is the only way. It's time for all us as men to own who we are and what we may have done. The time for rationalization and enabling is over. No more excuses, no more mulligans. Enough women have been scarred by our collective ignorance. These predators grew up in our ranks; we must do everything within our power to ensure they are not replaced by future ones.

It will be difficult, but then nothing worthwhile is ever accomplished easily. Years ago we laughed at jokes about race and homosexuality, and now such humor is considered off limits. And that is a good thing. If we can change with respect to those topics, then we can certainly change with respect to this one.

It starts right now with me, with you, with the guy at work or friend at a ballgame. Being a man means more than just being born with a particular set of genitalia; it means having the maturity and self-awareness to treat people as human beings and NOT as objects.

Look, none of us are angels. In my faith, we are taught that all fall short of the glory of God. But that does not give us license to disrespect one another or willfully ignore the sins of another man. There will be an accounting for those of us who do such things, believe me.

For my part, I consider the events of the last few weeks to be a wakeup call of sorts. I have done some serious soul searching and found areas of my life that I am not satisfied with. The lust that I have carried in my heart has clouded my judgment considerably. And while I am grateful that I am no Harvey Weinstein or Donald Trump, I am painfully reminded of that famous phrase, "But for the grace of God go I."

My prayer is that all men, whoever and wherever they may be, might take this time to reflect on their lives and pledge to be better husbands, boyfriends, bosses, coworkers, associates, etc... The women in their lives deserve nothing less.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Will Al Franken Pay the Price for Bill Clinton?

The recent revelations about the sexual misconduct of Harvey Weinstein have, for all intents and purposes, served as the catalyst for a litany of women to come forward and tell their stories. Over the last couple of weeks, men from the entertainment industry to the media to both major political parties have been implicated in one scandal after another.

The latest of these scandals involves Minnesota senator Al Franken, who, while on a USO tour in 2006, was accused by Leeann Tweeden of sticking his tongue in her mouth during a rehearsal for a comedy skit. Later on in the tour he posed for a picture in which he mock groped her breasts while she was asleep on a plane. The former is sexual assault; the latter a sick and juvenile stunt. Both acts have triggered an ethics investigation that at its worst could lead to Franken's expulsion from the Senate and at the very least could seriously damage his career.

As a man, I am sickened by Franken's actions. No, they do not rise even remotely to the level of the atrocities of Roy Moore or actor Kevin Spacey. Ivanka Trump is right: there IS a special place in hell for people who prey on children and Moore and Spacey are headed there. But Franken is hardly a choir boy here, and his defenders must stop trying to rationalize his conduct. And, while we're at it, they should also stop "slut-shaming" Tweeden. She is the victim here, not the perpetrator.

It does not matter what she did for a living, what type of clothing she wore or didn't wear, or how long it took her to come forward. If you'll recall, Moore's accusers waited in some instances almost 40 years before breaking their silence. You can't have it both ways, people. Victims of sexual abuse face a myriad of obstacles when disclosing their accounts, from the shame they feel over what happened to the flack they often face from their peers. The tactics being employed by Moore's lawyer underscore just how difficult it is and why so many women choose to remain silent. As progressives, we should be championing these women, not humiliating them. I personally don't give a damn whether you're a fan of Franken or not, whether you agree with his policies or not. He does not get preferential treatment simply because of his political views or affiliations. He is accountable for his actions whether there is a D next to his name or an R.

And that leads me to a sensitive topic for Dems: Bill Clinton. I voted for the man twice and, on balance, he was a very effective president who did a lot for women's rights. But there's no way to dance around this anymore: he was a sexual predator. No, he was not nearly as hideous as the groper in chief currently occupying the Oval Office, but to exempt him from the same accountability that we demand from Trump and Moore is part of the problem.

I give Kirsten Gillibrand a lot of credit for having the courage to speak out. Whether you agree with her or not that Clinton should've resigned after the Monica Lewinski scandal broke, the point is that Democrats chose politics over principles when it suited them in '98. While Clinton did get impeached, as his supporters point out, he was impeached for lying about the affair, not having it. The inability of Democrats to do the right thing back then - particularly the feminist movement which went to the mat for him - indirectly set the stage for Trump's eventual rise to power. When you blur the lines of decency for self preservation, you deserve what you get.

And that's why it wouldn't surprise me one bit if Al Franken ends up being a sacrificial lamb here. Nineteen years ago Democrats swept their president's shortcomings under the carpet. There was always going to be a day of reckoning for that lapse in judgment. With the prospects of Moore getting elected despite the charges against him and the likelihood he will be expelled by his own party from the Senate, Democrats will be hard-pressed to make sure their side of the aisle is as clean as possible. Whether it's fair or not, Franken will pay the price Bill Clinton didn't. He will either be forced to resign or he will be expelled. And his colleagues will not lift a finger to help him.

The good news for Dems is that doing the right thing here, unlike back in '98, won't cost them anything. The governor of Minnesota is a Democrat and will undoubtedly appoint a Democrat to fill the vacancy until a special election is held. And since a Democrat would be favored in that election, the Party would not lose any seats in the Senate. And even more importantly, Franken's removal would allow Democrats to run as a zero tolerance party in 2018, a stark contrast to the Party of Trump and Moore.

Don't think that thought hasn't crossed Chuck Schumer's mind once or twice since Tweeden went public. With the recent successes in Virginia and the Philly burbs, Dems have some momentum going into the midterms. The last thing he needs is a distraction that can derail his plans to retake the Senate, or at least keep the GOP from adding to its majority. If jettisoning Franken helps him reach his goal, it'll be the easiest call of his political career.

To those who would say this is yet another example of false equivalence run amok, I would say two things: One, I agree; two, it's irrelevant. You don't tell the cop that pulls you over for speeding that you were only going 15 miles over the limit. When you're best argument begins and ends with "But he's not Roy Moore or Harvey Weinstein," you know you're swimming up stream. Franken's biggest crime may have been poor timing, but timing is everything, especially in the age of Trump.

Look, does Al Franken deserve a better fate? Yes. Will he get one? Probably not.


Since this piece was put to bed another woman has come forward charging that Franken groped her. The alleged incident took place during a photo shoot at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010. If true, this would be the second incident of sexual misconduct Franken has been involved in, this one while a sitting senator.

While we still don't have all the details - there's a chance this claim might not be legit - this much we do know: Franken is a marked man. With the revelation that now Charlie Rose has been accused of sexual misconduct and suspended indefinitely by CBS, we can expect more of these allegations to surface over the next few weeks and months. I suspect that by the time the dust settles, a lot of men are going to fall by the wayside, victims of their own perverted sense of power.

One thing is for sure: there's no way in hell Bill Clinton would've survived this were he president today.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Dems Get An Early Christmas Present

Ok, I was wrong. Ed Gillespie didn't win Tuesday. In fact, he got his ass handed to him. When the final votes were tallied, Ralph Northam won Virginia. In fact, he won it going away. Apparently, Trumpism without Trump isn't a winning ticket after all.

Combined with the well anticipated pickup in New Jersey by Phil Murphy, this was a good day for Democrats. They retained control of a valuable governor's mansion in a crucial swing state that Hillary Clinton won last year and flipped another in an albeit VERY blue state. That's a net gain of one.

So how did it happen? And where do Democrats go from here?

First, it cannot be overstated enough that while Virginia is technically a swing state, it has been trending blue over the last few elections. Bob McDonnell in '09 was the last Republican to win in the state, and that had more to do with the fact that a Democrat - Barack Obama - was in the White House than McDonnell's talent as a politician or executive. Both its senators and current governor are Democrats. And while the majority of the state is geographically red, the largest population centers are clearly in blue counties. It's more a mid-Atlantic state than a southern one. In fact, it almost resembles a mini New York.

Secondly, this election reminded me a lot of the one that took place four years ago when Democrat Terry McAuliffe beat Republican Ken Cuccinelli. There you had two candidates who left a lot to be desired and, in the end, the one with less baggage won. Indeed, Northam's margin of victory was greater than McAuliffe's. Gillespie tried to pawn himself off as Trump lite, when in fact he was nothing more than a former Washington lobbyist who once worked for George Bush. His disgusting ads notwithstanding, the Republican base was simply unimpressed with him and the election results showed it. As to whether there was a Trump effect or not, the exit polling from Virginia was most revealing. Immigration, a core issue for Trump during the campaign, was least important among voters. Number one was healthcare.

Third, turnout was uncharacteristically high for an off year election, especially in the suburbs, where Northam performed much better than Clinton last November. This is very good news if you're a Democrat. Typically, Republicans wipe the floor with Democrats in midterms. If they can somehow replicate this turnout next year, their prospects of retaking the House look pretty good.

Lastly, the real story Tuesday wasn't the gubernatorial election, but the Virginia House of Delegates, where going into the election, Democrats needed to pick up 17 seats to gain a majority. As things stand now, they've picked up 15 of those seats with 3 races still too close to call. Even if they fall short, the gains they've made will be enough to send a strong message and to give Northam a chance at governing.

So where do Democrats go from here? Well that depends on two things: One, whether they can finally put 2016 behind them and move on; and two, whether they can formulate a winning strategy that will give them a chance at regaining their majority in 2018 and winning back the White House in 2020. The jury is still out on the former; but so far as the latter is concerned, Ralph Northam may have provided them with something of a road map.

As I mentioned earlier, Northam was hardly your idea of Mr. Excitement. In fact, he was Al Gore, only more boring, if that's even possible. But on the issues, as well as on ideology, Northam not only survived a primary challenge from his left, not to mention a snub from grumpy old Bernie Sanders, he managed to reclaim the center from Republicans. And that's important, because of the 23 Democratic senators up for reelection next year, five are in deep red states Trump carried. I can assure you the liberal wing of the Party isn't very popular in North Dakota or Montana.

One of the two great myths about the 2016 election is that Hillary lost because of her policy positions. Actually she lost because of her flaws. Had she not had so many of them, she more than likely would've beaten Trump. Ralph Northam is NO liberal; in fact he's what we used to call a centrist, before it became a four-letter word among Democrats. Well, center-left politics, as it turned out, was just what the doctor ordered. In fact, if you look at the election results in the suburbs of Philly, especially in Delaware County where Democrats outperformed Republicans for the first time in over a century, it proved to be the perfect tonic.

The other great myth was that Trump won because he was a conservative. The fact is he was an anti-establishment populist who ran against both parties and won. The answer to his brand of populism isn't a hard-left approach, but a more reasoned, disciplined, rational approach. Northam may have been as interesting as watching paint dry, but he made a lot of sense to people who have grown weary of the identity politics that so many Democrats have been employing over the last few elections. If the Party wants to win back Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin in 2020, it would behoove it to appeal to voters who aren't black or Hispanic by letting them know they have nothing to fear by voting D. Not every white male who voted for Trump is a racist.

The way to beat Trump is not to continue to belittle his voters, as so many Democrats seem intent on doing, but by giving some of them a better vision for the future. The opposite of fear isn't more fear; it's hope. If Democrats want to be known as a big tent party, they need to make room under that tent for everyone, even those people who don't necessarily fit the mold.

Throughout the campaign, Northam resisted the urge to make this election about Trump, much to the chagrin of many Democrats. As it turns out, he was right. By sticking to the issues that mattered most to voters, he avoided the same trap that every one of Trump's Republican primary opponents and Hillary fell into. Trump's big advantage is to drag every one down to his level. Northam was having none of that, and if Democrats know what's good for them, they would do well to follow his lead.

But for now, Democrats should bask in the glow of this victory. They finally have some wind in their sails. What they do with it is, of course, up to them. There's a lot more work that has to be done to ensure that this marvelous moment doesn't become yet another in a long series of what ifs.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Why Gillespie Will Win on Tuesday

The RCP average shows the Virginia gubernatorial race a virtual tie going into next Tuesday's election. In less than a month, Republican Ed Gillespie has gone from trailing Democrat Ralph Northam by 6.5 points to trailing him by a mere point. Worse for Northam, of the last three polls taken, two show a tie and one shows Gillespie up by 3.

If you're worried, you should be, and not just because of the recent polling. Of the last three elections, two of them showed the Democrat underperforming the polling average. For instance, in 2014, Democrat Mark Warner beat Gillespie by less than a point, despite an RCP average that showed him ahead by almost double digits. And in 2013, Democrat Terry McAuliffe beat Ken Cuccinelli by a mere 2.5 points, 3.5 points below where he was projected to win. Only the 2016 presidential election lived up to expectations. The RCP average showed Clinton ahead of Trump by 5.3 points going into the election; she wound up beating him by 5.4 points. Given that this is an off-year election, if the trend holds, Gillespie should win by around 2.5 points.

It isn't just the fact that Democrats tend to underperform in non-presidential election years that makes me pessimistic; my main concern is what I've been seeing throughout the country and, if I'm right, Democrats could get their clocks cleaned in next year's midterms. The cultural polarization that has been sweeping the country is now all but complete. What Trump managed to pull off on a national level last November has trickled down to the state and local levels. There is virtually no purple left in the country. The cities remain blue; everything else is solid red.

While Trump is very unpopular on a national level, the regions of the country where he is popular - mostly the rural areas and exurbs - geographically outnumber the rest of the country by a wide margin. Even more disturbing is that while Democrats poll well in the cities and modestly well in the suburbs, Republicans are polling consistently stronger everywhere else.  That is the main reason Democrats lost both the South Carolina and Georgia special elections this year. Put succinctly, there just aren't enough Democratic votes in blue counties to offset the Republican votes in red counties.

A breakdown of the last three elections underscores the problem Democrats have. In 2016, Clinton got 64 percent of the vote in Fairfax County and won the state by 5.4 points. By comparison, Warner in 2014 and McAuliffe in 2013 got 57 percent and 58 percent of the vote respectively in Fairfax. Both eked out narrow victories in their elections. In my opinion, Northam needs to get at least 60 percent of the vote in Fairfax this Tuesday or Gillespie will win.

Virginia, for all intents and purposes, has become this year's bellwether election. If the Dems hold it, even if by a narrow margin, they can use the momentum to go forward into next year's midterms. But if they lose it, all bets are off. Call me a Debbie downer, but I think the latter is in the offing.

The Civil War In the Democratic Party

"Welcome back, my friends, to the primary that never ends." - Michael Tomasky

"Just when you thought it was safe to focus on 2018..."  - Peter Fegan

By now the bombshell revelation by former DNC Chair Donna Brazile that the Clinton campaign was in cahoots with the DNC and ostensibly ran it has sent shockwaves throughout the political world. It not only reopens a wound that was finally starting to heal, it threatens the Democratic Party's chances at having a successful midterm next year and retaking the White House in 2020.

Let's cut to the chase. It doesn't matter what dire straits the DNC was in - $24 million in debt or $24 in debt - there's no way to sugar coat this. This scandal - and it IS a scandal - just reinforces everything Bernie and his supporters have been saying about Clinton and the DNC: the debate schedules, the fundraising mechanisms, the resources that were allocated, the whole ball of wax.

If you are a Hillary supporter and you seriously believe that all this is much ado about nothing, you're sadly mistaken. True, there's no direct evidence that any of the DNC's efforts actually cost Sanders the nomination. Pundits have gone over this time and time again. He just didn't have the votes to win. His platform and his positions, despite having wide appeal among younger and more progressive voters, didn't resonate with a majority of registered Democrats. He didn't lose by a little; he lost by a lot.

But that is hardly the point. Like all the scandals that have plagued Hillary throughout her political career, it is the perception of wrong doing that, once more, has done the most damage. There was a clear conflict of interest in having someone like Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was an avid supporter of Clinton, in charge of the party apparatus. That isn't just bad optics, it's profoundly poor judgment that left a bad taste in the mouths of millions of people; some of whom I'm sure took out their frustrations by staying home last November.

Now before we go dragging Hillary off to prison, as Donald Trump has publicly called for, let's get a grip shall we. Yes, what Clinton and the DNC did was wrong and inexcusable. But it is equally wrong to continue the lie that Trump told repeatedly on the campaign trail that the Democratic primary process was rigged. As I said above, there's NO evidence whatsoever that Bernie was robbed of the nomination. To state otherwise, as Elizabeth Warren did, is irresponsible.

Yes, in retrospect, Bernie was right about the unrest in the Rust Belt states and the Democratic Party should've heeded his warning about the growing threat. But Bernie lost fair and square. He and his supporters need to except that fact and move on, just like Hillary and her supporters need to except the fact that she ran a lousy campaign, and that, more so than Comey's October surprise and/or Putin's interference, was what cost her the election. In fact, Hillary should change the title of her new book from "What Happened" to "What Happened?" because it's clear she still doesn't get it.

And getting back to Bernie, I would also point out that he has made it abundantly clear over the years just how much contempt he has for the Democratic Party. Yes, he ran for the Party's nomination, but, apart from having his name on the ballot, he had no skin in the game. He wanted all the perks without any of the responsibilities. Not that it justifies what she did, but at least Hillary raised money for the DNC; Bernie didn't raise so much as a cent. It's more than just a little hypocritical to claim you were treated unfairly by a club you technically don't belong to.

Bernie's supporters are quick to point out that he caucuses with the Democrats despite his philosophical differences. Big deal; so does Angus King, another independent. The difference between King and Bernie is that King hails from Maine, where being an independent is a birthright, not a political gimmick. I've been to both states and they are as different from each other as day is from night. In Maine, it's not uncommon to see Democratic towns electing Republican mayors and vice versa. In Vermont, there are two types of people: progressives and those who think that Deadheads are too mainstream. You can probably squeeze the total number of Republicans in the state into a single Ben and Jerry's.

If you need more proof that Bernie is no team player, he has decided not to endorse Democrat Ralph Northam in the upcoming Virginia gubernatorial race against Republican Ed Gillespie. This is typical of Sanders. When he doesn't get his way, he takes his ball and goes home with it. Now you know why I said he would've made a lousy president. Stunts like this.

Look, here's the deal. The 2016 election is over. Bernie lost the nomination, Hillary lost the election and a racist, xenophobic, misogynistic would-be dictator is president. The issue before us should be how to rectify that outcome, not how to relitigate it. But we can only do that if the Hatfields and the McCoys stop feuding. So long as Bernie's supporters still insist that their guy was robbed and Hillary's supporters keep harping on the three million more votes she got, Trump and his supporters are going to keep on winning.

A maniac with the impulse control of a toddler has the nuclear launch codes. Common sense would dictate that any petty squabbles be put aside for the sake of the country and the planet. Both sides need a come to Jesus moment.

And right now would be as good a time as any.