Friday, March 31, 2017

Democrats Shouldn't Waste Their Mulligan on Gorsuch

Golfers call it a Mulligan, named after the golfer David Mulligan who, after slicing a shot on his first tee, replaced his ball with another. He originally referred to it as a "correction" shot, but later amended it to say it was a Mulligan. The term stuck and today it is widely understood by most people as a do-over. There's only one catch: you can only use it once. Once employed, it's gone; no more Mulligans, no more do-overs.

I've been thinking a lot about the Neil Gorsuch nomination and Eric Segall is right: Democrats should not filibuster him. He's going to get confirmed regardless of what they do. As Segall adroitly observed, "Leaving the filibuster on the table is the best strategy for people taking a long view of the future of the United States Supreme Court." In other words, Dems shouldn't waste their Mulligan on this nominee. Segall quotes Rick Hasen, a professor at the University of California at Irvine:
Democrats hold a pair of twos. They don’t have much they can do. Triggering a fight over the filibuster will gain attention, but Democrats can only do it once. The Gorsuch nomination restores the balance of power on the Court to the position it was in before Justice Scalia’s death. 
Imagine if in a year or so Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, or Kennedy leave the Court. Then things get MUCH worse from the point of view of progressives. Then Roberts becomes the swing voter and there goes affirmative action, abortion rights, etc. If you think things with the Supreme Court are bad for progressive now they can get much, much worse.
Better to save the firepower for that fight. It is possible that Senators like Susan Collins would be squeamish about such a nominee, and they might not vote to go nuclear. At that point, people can take to the streets and exert public pressure.
I've never been one to shy away from a fight and, let's face it, Democrats need to show their base they can put up a good one. But there's a difference between a fight and a massacre. With the Trump Administration imploding before our very eyes, Democrats will have plenty of opportunities to thwart his agenda, or the agenda of a President Mike Pence if to comes to that, which it very well might. What they can scarcely afford is to gift-wrap a victory for Mitch McConnell, who you can bet the ranch will go nuclear if push comes to shove.

The GOP just suffered a humiliating defeat on healthcare. They will pull out all the stops to get one in the win column. Democrats should let them have this round by voting for cloture on this nominee. They can still vote against him on the floor of the Senate. Gorsuch will get his 52 votes and be confirmed. Progressives will scream bloody murder and threaten primary challenges on all the DINOs who "caved."

The point is the filibuster will still be in Chuck Schumer's back pocket for him to use on the next Supreme Court vacancy or, dare I say it, another hair-brained healthcare scheme. Remember, if the House passes a bill and the Senate parliamentarian concludes it doesn't qualify under the reconciliation rules, the only thing stopping Trump from signing it into law will be eight Democratic senators; the exact number needed to get to the magical 60-vote threshold.

But if McConnell invokes the nuclear option, there goes the Affordable Care Act and, while we're at it, just about every fucking thing progressives care most about. Nothing will be able to stop the GOP from enacting its agenda on the country. Just wait until they start on their beloved tax reform. You thought Reaganomics was a joke? You ain't seen nothing yet.

Look, I know this hurts. This seat was stolen. Period! By all accounts Merrick Garland should be sitting on the bench right now hearing cases. His nomination never made it to a vote thanks to McConnell. But let's not make Garland out to be Thurgood Marshall. As I've said before, he's what we refer to as a center-right conservative, as opposed to what passes for conservative in this country nowadays.

If progressives are going to lose their shit over the loss of a center-right seat on the Supreme Court and, even worse, force Democrats to fight wars they cannot hope to win, four years from now this nation will be completely transformed and the biggest challenge Republicans will face is not bursting into uncontrollable laughter at the sight of their good fortune.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Trumpty Dumpty Has A Great Fall

Let's be clear here. The failure to pass what the GOP comically referred to as a healthcare bill in the House was a devastating defeat for the Party. Do not for a moment believe either Paul Ryan or Donald Trump's claim that Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer were to blame here. The fault lies clearly and completely with the Republicans.

First of all, not one Democrat was invited into this process. From the beginning Ryan and Republican leadership, along with the White House, decided that they were going to ram this bill through the House and, magically, Mitch McConnell was going to get 51 out of 52 Republican senators to vote for it, knowing that it would lead to the repeal of a law that, despite its inherent problems, has broad appeal across most of the country and which many Republican governors were reluctant to back.

Secondly, Ryan, with the largest majority his party has had in the House since the Great Depression, could not get a simple majority of his own conference to vote for a bill that would've fulfilled a promise Republicans have been making for the last seven years: to repeal Obamacare. It was, ironically, the Freedom Caucus and its 37 members that did this bill in, not Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats. Fancy that.

And lastly, this defeat proves what we've known for quite some time: that, much like the dog who finally catches the car, Republicans discovered they can't drive the damn thing. Eight years of saying "No" to everything President Obama wanted has ostensibly turned them into an opposition party only with no vision or ability to govern. They are purely reactive, beholden to a fanatical base that threatens them with primary challenges if they don't listen to them and constrained by the political realities of what would happen if they did.

It is the ultimate quagmire, and I for one do not pity them for a minute. You don't burn the house to the ground and have the audacity, as both Ryan and Trump did, to blame the fire department for responding too late. While Democrats are certainly no angels, without them and Obama, millions of people would not have access to affordable healthcare.

Flawed though the ACA may be, it was at least an honest attempt to address a major problem, and all Republicans did was sit in a corner sucking their thumbs and acting like little brats. Well now they have the one thing they've haven't had since 2006: complete control of the federal government, and much like what happened when George Bush was in the White House, Republicans can't seem to get out of their  own way.

But while Democrats may be crowing over the humiliating defeat of the GOP, I would caution them against being too cocky. Michael Moore is right when he says this is not the time for Democrats to "gloat" or "throw a party." For one thing, Republicans are hardly done with their attempts to repeal the ACA. They may lie low for a while licking their wounds but, trust me, they'll be back to try again. Know this much: when it comes to obstinance and determination, the GOP has no competition.

And that's why Democrats need to make the case not just for preserving the ACA, but improving it. If its flaws are not corrected, the likelihood is that the law will inevitably fail. What we know is this: Insurers are pulling out of markets, small businesses and many middle-class families continue to incur rate hikes that are becoming increasingly alarming. Voters will not care who shot the baby next year when they go to the polls; they will want to know who tried to save it. If Democrats make the mistake of simply taking the contrarian view of the GOP here, they run the risk of being lumped together with them and a golden chance of possibly retaking the House and Senate will go by the wayside.

Democrats must not become the next party of "No" like the Republicans were for eight years. That doesn't mean they should roll over and play dead; what it does mean is that they must learn how to pick their fights. And this is one fight they must wage and win, not with platitudes, but with actual ideas. They have a tremendous opportunity to prove to voters that they can come to the table with real solutions that can make people's lives better.

There was a time when watching Republicans commit political suicide worked brilliantly for Democrats. It allowed them to retain control of the Senate for a time and keep Mitt Romney out of the White House. That time has come and gone, along with the White House. Even with a president as incompetent and unpopular as Trump, Democrats will have a long road to hoe if they are to regain the trust of the American electorate.

This would be a good place to start.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

America on the Precipice

"Yesterday I felt truly embarrassed. The 'leader of the free world' just sat there, awkwardly, waiting for Trump to shake her hand." - George Takei

George wasn't the only one embarrassed. To tell you the truth, I was flabbergasted. I've never seen anything like this in my lifetime, not even from Nixon. And believe you me that guy was about as antisocial as it got.

But this took the cake. A sitting president behaving like a spoiled brat, refusing to shake hands with a world leader. Even 9 year olds don't act this way. BTW, take a gander at the above picture of Angela Merkel. That look says it all. She knows she's standing next to an asshole, and, sadly, the rest of the world knows it too.

And that is the real and present danger here. For beyond the mere ridiculousness of Trump's antics, lies the underling problem that poses the greatest threat to the United States. Donald Trump isn't merely a buffoon who gets lampooned on Saturday Night Live, as the President of the United States, he is the face of America to the entire world. And right now that face has a lot of egg on it. He hasn't just diminished his own reputation abroad, he has diminished the very office he occupies.

It isn't just our allies who are now beginning to realize that this man is a putz; our foes are starting to realize it too. One of those foes, North Korea, launched four ballistic missiles two weeks ago that landed in the Sea of Japan, less than 200 miles off of Japan's northwest coast. And while there is no evidence that the North Korean's have the ability to launch an ICBM, it is only a matter of time before they do. When that happens, the entire west coast of the United States will be open to a nuclear attack.

If this manchild can't handle even the most basic of presidential duties, such as being cordial to his guests and not engaging in reckless conspiracy theories that even his own party knows are bullshit, how in the world will he be able to handle a real crisis like the threat of a nuclear attack from North Korea? How would he react if Vladimir Putin decided to invade Eastern Europe? Based on Trump's comments about NATO, Putin may well feel that he has a green light of sorts to take back what many Russians feel was stolen from them after the breakup of the Soviet Union. And, God forbid, what would he do if the government of Pakistan were to fall into the hands of the Taliban and all those nuclear warheads that were aimed at India suddenly were aimed at us?

I can't even begin to imagine what the consequences might be, but know this much: one of these scenarios is likely to play out during the course of the next four years. You know it, and I know it. The scary truth is that not only is this president not prepared to handle any or all of these crises, he has shown no inclination to even learn about how to deal with them. Never in the history of the United States has there been a president with less intellectual curiosity than Trump. To put it in computer terms, it's as though his auto save feature isn't working.

Not only is he bereft of any capacity to learn, he is contemptuous of anyone or anything that challenges his preconceived notion of reality. He calls the media fake news for reporting facts he doesn't like; he berates the intelligence community for alerting him to threats that contradict his administration's stances; he accuses the former president of wiretapping him to divert attention away from a Congressional hearing that is looking into his campaign's ties to Russia. Donald Trump isn't just living in his own private Idaho, as it were; he's the emperor of Trumpland, where he is always right and everyone bows down and worships at his alter.

America first? More like America alone. Because that is the likely outcome that awaits this country if this president doesn't grow up and act the part he was elected to do. This isn't rocket science. If George W. Bush could do it, then Trump has no excuse.

America stands at the edge of the precipice. At stake are decades of alliances, partnerships and treaties that have defined what we refer to as the West. The wave of nationalism that is currently sweeping across Europe and which was primarily responsible for the Brexit vote in Great Britain and Trump's election here, is threatening the very stability of the European Union. Right now Merkel might be the only thing standing in the way of a fractured continent. The last time that occurred, an entire world was at war.

Since the days of the Truman Doctrine, America has taken the lead role in the spread of democracy throughout the world. Not all of those efforts were successful. Both the Korean and Vietnam Wars, as well as our presence in the Middle East, continue to serve as painful reminders that interference in the affairs of other nations, even with the noblest of intentions, can have profound consequences for millions of people.

But on the whole, the latter half of the 20th century was a golden age for the United States. We outlasted the Soviet Union and saw NATO expand its influence in Europe. Eschewing the isolationist tendencies that defined pre-World War II America helped establish an empire that was the envy of the world.

I say "was" because all that is now in jeopardy. Donald Trump and his Minister of Propaganda, Steve Bannon, do not accept an America that is actively engaged in the world. Rather they see an America that looks inward and withdraws from the world. This "we take care of our own" mindset, I should point out, is not a new phenomenon in American politics. Many on the Left, including Bernie Sanders, share a similar vision. But we are now seeing it come to fruition in this administration. And it could not have come at a worse time.

With the Middle East in turmoil, an ever-increasing Russian threat in Europe and a very unstable and volatile situation in the Korean peninsula, now, more than ever, the world needs the United States to lead the way. Instead the Trump Administration peddles in conspiracy theories at home and insults its closest allies abroad.

These are very perilous times both for the nation and the globe. What is required is the steady hand and sound judgment of a mature and responsible president; not the machinations of a megalomaniac with an inferiority complex.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Oprah for President? Are You Shitting Me?

Normally I don't pay much attention to the talking heads that propagate the cable news shows. The last time I heard something come out of their mouths that made sense I didn't have a gray hair on my head. For the record, I started going gray in my early 30s, 25 years ago.

But sometimes I hear something so completely asinine that I just can't let it slide. So who was the lucky dimwit who set me off? None other than Van Jones, a CNN correspondent who most days manages to stay under the radar. But of late, Jones has said a couple of things that make me wonder if he might have suffered a brain aneurism.

The first came after Adolph Trump's joint address to Congress, in which der Fuhrer managed to go a whole hour without making a fool of himself. According to Jones, Trump "became president of the United States" that night. You'd think that would be enough humiliation for one man, but Jones really outdid himself this week.

In an interview on "Watch What Happens," Jones said this:
“For real. Listen, I’m telling you. I love a lot of the Democrats. I love Kamala Harris, who’s coming up in California. I love Cory Booker, who I’ve known for 20 years. This new Joe Kennedy, the third coming-up, redheaded Kennedy kid. He’s awesome. But it takes a superstar to beat a superstar. I think if Oprah Winfrey ran, she’d win all 50 states. It’d be a wrap.”

Are you shitting me, Van? Are you out of your fucking mind? Hillary got her ass kicked in the Midwest and your remedy is to run a billionaire, talk-show host for president? Sure, why not? While we're at it, why don't we tap Arnold Schwarzenegger for VP? Oh, wait, we can't. He wasn't born here. Shucks, I'm disappointed. I was so looking forward to him turning to Oprah on stage and saying, "You're so beautiful, you're so fantastic"

Sometimes I think I must be trapped in an episode of The Twilight Zone. Democrats have an approval rating just slightly north of a used-car salesman and shit-for-brains thinks that a talk-show celebrity is going to restore the Party to glory. Jesus, some people just can't smell the caffeine.

Okay, people, gather round and listen up. You too, Van. If you want to win back the White House, here's how you do it. Go to Wisconsin, go to Michigan, go to Iowa, go to Ohio and go to western Pennsylvania. Talk to the people who voted for Trump and find out what makes them tick. And listen to what they have to say, the way Bernie Sanders did in his town hall in West Virginia last week that was broadcast on MSNBC. What you don't do is dismiss them like Hillary and the majority of the Democratic Party did.

These people don't need your condescension or your pity. They aren't looking for a TV celebrity. They're looking for someone who actually gives a shit about what they're going thru; someone who can relate to their everyday struggles. And it ain't Oprah. Nor is it Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer. It's high time Democrats accept the fact that while San Francisco and New York are beautiful and culturally diverse cities, neither is held in high regard in the heartland. And that goes double for Hollywood. Even I, as a progressive, have just about had it with movie stars mouthing off. Robert De Niro might be the greatest actor of all time - Raging Bull is among my favorite movies - but when he said that he would consider leaving the country if Trump won, he was no different than Rush Limbaugh saying he would leave if Obama got reelected. Stupid is as stupid does.

And speaking of great artists, I love Bruce Springsteen and consider him to be among the greatest rock stars of the past four decades, but John Mellencamp is from Indiana. Would it kill Dems to make a call to his agent the next time they hold a rally? If you're trying to appeal to a particular geographic region of the country, wouldn't it make sense to include people from that region at your events? You may think Katy Perry is a great pop star - and maybe she is - but personally I would've chosen someone like Miranda Lambert to perform at the Democratic Convention. I may not be much of a country music fan - I kinda stopped listening to it in the mid-80s - but to the millions of people who call the middle of the country their home, it is the only music worth listening to.

Last month the Democratic Party tore itself to shreds over who was going to be the next DNC Chair. Tom Perez finally got the job and progressives blew a gasket. Meanwhile, this past November, in a vote that actually meant something, House Democrats decided to keep Pelosi as Minority leader over challenger Tim Ryan of Ohio. Who's Tim Ryan? He represents Ohio's 13 district which includes Youngstown and Akron, and which barely went for Clinton last November. The district is 84 percent white and is loaded with blue-collar workers; the same ones who voted heavily for Trump.

This is what Ryan said after his defeat:

"It is clear as we learn more about the outcome of our elections that we're ignoring crucial voices that deserve to be heard. The people I represent in Northeast Ohio and the tens of millions of workers across our country are proud to be called blue collar. Democrats must adopt a progressive economic message that focuses on large, direct infrastructure investments, affordable health care, portable pensions, and public-private investments that promote advanced manufacturing."

Now here's a guy who gets it. He's actually paying attention, unlike his party. You sometimes get the feeling that if Democrats had been in command of the Titanic on the evening of April 14, they'd have been more concerned with the breakfast menu than the ice warnings. Even foolish people occasionally have an epiphany. Not these morons. Here's my strong recommendation: whoever wins the Democratic nomination in 2020 should seriously consider this guy as their running mate.

The paradox in this tragedy is that while Democrats may be unpopular across the country, progressive initiatives continue to poll very well. That only underscores what I've been saying for quite some time: it's not the message, it's the messenger. If Democrats ever manage to find the right messengers to deliver their message, they would find a most receptive audience.

One thing is certain: this insistence on dancing with the stars isn't going to defeat Donald Trump. If anything, it'll all but guarantee him a second term in office.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

How Should Democrats Approach the GOP Healthcare Plan?

Well, for starters, let's stop calling it a healthcare plan, because what it really is a bastardized version of the Affordable Care Act. It keeps all the goodies that poll real well, like prohibiting insurance companies from denying you coverage for a pre-existing condition and allowing your kid to stay on your insurance plan until he or she turns 26. That's where the good news ends, however.

The GOP plan removes the individual mandate that basically paid for the ACA and replaces it with a 30 percent surcharge payable to insurance companies if you let your coverage lapse, which basically means if you get laid off and you elect not to pay for Cobra, you're fucked.

Next up on the Von Ryan Express is Medicaid. It's phased out by 2020. Instead states will be given block grants that they can distribute as they see fit. And if the amount is insufficient to cover all those who may need it, oh well. That's the price you pay for freedom and liberty.

Next to go are the subsidies, well, as it turns out, not all of them. Under the GOP plan, the top 2 percent receive $275 billion in tax breaks that they can use to buy all kinds of wonderful things like yachts, investment property, politicians, etc... The working poor? They're shit out of luck. Under the GOP plan, they would get tax credits which won't be nearly enough to cover the cost of even a modest healthcare plan. In other words, most of them will be forced to forgo getting insurance. It's probably just as well. I mean, with all those poor people covered, what would the emergency rooms do?

At the risk of sounding repetitive: elections have consequences and this is one of them. But on to the question I posed: how should Democrats approach this bill from hell? For the time being they should do nothing. Just sit back and watch the GOP duke it out. It'll be fun seeing Republicans tear their hair out over this bill, just like Democrats did back in '09. If you recall there were several "moderate" Democrats who ostensibly hijacked the bill and wouldn't let it out of committee until the public option was taken out.

We are already seeing the beginnings of what will be a blood letting of sorts brewing in the Senate. Assuming the bill passes the House, and that's still up in the air thanks to the Freedom Caucus, you have two intransigent camps in the upper chamber who are sure to muck things up: On the Right are Rand Paul and Ted Cruz who are demanding an outright repeal of the ACA and consider the Ryan plan Obamacare Light. They have vowed to vote "No." Then there are the "moderates" like Rob Portman and Lisa Murkowski who are objecting to the Medicaid provision. Both realize that their states could be devastated if the GOP plan became law.

In case you weren't counting, that's four senators out of 52. That leaves dear old Mitch McConnell with only 48 potential "Yes" votes, assuming there are no further defections. And it is highly likely there will be others. The GOP may be 40 years behind the times but they're not stupid. They know full well that once Obamacare is repealed and this new law takes over, they will have their names attached to it. They also know what happened to Democrats in the 2010 midterms after the ACA passed and was signed into law by President Obama. They want no part of that nightmarish scenario. They've already gotten an earful from their constituents in town halls. Can you imagine the fury that will be awaiting them this summer if they vote to repeal?

With the prospect of 14 million people losing healthcare coverage in 2018 and up to 24 million losing it by 2026, if I'm the Democrats, I'd grab a comfortable chair, get some popcorn and enjoy the carnage. Why on Earth would they want to get entangled in this shitstorm, especially when Republicans have been praying for this moment for seven years? Now that it's here, let them have their civil war. Let them find out just how "complicated" healthcare is. Let them deal with the real-world consequences of trying to come up with a law that pays for itself that doesn't screw over millions of people. Good luck with that, Paul.

But after the civil war is finally over and the GOP comes to its senses and realizes that it will need Democratic support in order to get 50 votes in the Senate, what then? Well, that depends on what Republican some up with. Assuming Ryan throws the Freedom Caucus under the bus and McConnell is willing to do the same with his conservative faction, I would then dip my toe into the water.

I'd insist on the following: 1. Leave Medicaid alone, 2. Drop the ridiculous tax break for the wealthy and 3. Keep the subsidies for the working poor intact. Those would be my starting points. Make sure that McConnell knows that no Democratic senator will vote "Yes" unless they see those concessions in the bill. He may not need 60 votes to repeal the ACA, but he'll sure need 60 votes for a replacement. If he balks, tell him to have a nice day and you'll see him at next year's midterms.

It may not come to that. What is more likely is that Portman, Murkowski and a few other brave souls will reach out to Chuck Schumer and form a partnership of sorts. Perhaps a new gang of eight that will box McConnell in and force Ryan's hand. I may be pipe dreaming a bit, but I actually think a few of the more lucid GOP senators could be persuaded to save the ACA; maybe even fix the flaws in it, of which there are many.

Democrats may have more leverage here than they realize. While the Far Right has been chompin' at the bit to get rid of Obamacare, the fact is that, like any other entitlement, once imbedded into the society, it is almost impossible to extricate. Frankly, the political will for a repeal just isn't there. Ryan and McConnell know that. That's why they're fast-tracking this bill. They know the longer this process goes on, the less likely their prospects at repealing Obamacare will be. In fact, I predict that if we go into the summer and the ACA is still on the books, it is probably here to stay, warts and all.

Note: An earlier version of this post said that 26 million people could lose health insurance by 2026. The actual number is 24 million. I have corrected the error.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Dems Should Heed Bernie's Warning

Bernie Sanders, in an interview in The Huffington Post, had some strong words for Democrats, and in typical Bernie fashion, he didn't hold back.
"The truth is, and I think anyone who objectively assesses the situation has to appreciate, that the model the Democrats have followed for the last 10 to 20 years has been an ultimate failure."
Know what? He's right. Much as it may pain them to admit, the flight plan the Party has been using over the last couple of decades has resulted in a crash landing. The unmitigated disaster that was the 2016 election was a long time coming.

Zach Carter cites some disturbing statistics that corroborate Sanders' assessment. Over the last twenty years Democrats have gone from winning roughly half of the country's 3100 counties in presidential elections to winning just 15 percent. That is an alarming trend that if not corrected will inevitably lead to political extinction.

And yet, to hear the leadership, you'd think that everything is just peachy keen. The problem, they insist, is simply a matter of turnout and getting more of their base engaged. However, it wasn't a lack of turnout that led to Hillary Clinton's loss. Clinton got her base to the polls, yet still lost to Trump. For Carter, the problem was one of geography not demographics. The Party focused their attention - and messaging - almost exclusively on large urban areas while virtually ignoring the millions of people in the less populated regions of the country. The belief was that Clinton's margins in the cities would carry her over the finish line. Not only did that not happen, the strategy cost them a shot at the Senate as well. Carter explains,
Running up the score in population centers isn’t helping much with down-ballot contests either. As culturally liberal people move away from suburban and rural communities and concentrate themselves in cities, they’ve increased the Democratic Party’s margins in already blue areas — but decreased them in swing suburban, exurban and rural districts. At the same time, Republicans have aggressively gerrymandered many previously competitive districts, redrawing them to neutralize Democratic votes. Those two factors make it extremely difficult going forward for Democrats to win the U.S. House of Representatives, where they’ve shed 69 seats since 2008, or state legislatures, where they’ve ceded more than 900 seats over the same stretch, without revitalizing their position in exurban and rural America.
You didn't need to be a rocket scientist to conclude that apart from the Northeast and west coast, the Democrats got crushed. Indeed, if you subtract those two regions, the total number of states they won not bordering on an ocean was five. Four years ago that number was ten. In 1996, it was sixteen. The truth is most of the central part of the country has become a sea of red. What used to be an electoral map that was defined by North vs. South is now an electoral map defined by urban vs. rural. And rural is winning.

It may be a hard pill for Democrats to swallow, but it's looking more and more like Barack Obama, far from being the rule, appears to have been the exception. His two impressive wins in 2008 and 2012 stand in stark contrast to the two losses by Al Gore and John Kerry that proceeded him and the epic collapse by Clinton which followed. Just look at these numbers:

In 2012, Obama carried 26 states and won 332 electoral votes; in 2016, Clinton carried just 20 states and ended up with 227 electoral votes. While Clinton won the popular vote by almost 3 million, the bulk of that margin came from deep blue states like California and New York.

Apologists for Clinton point to the fact that she lost Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin - and with it the White House - by a combined total of 82 thousand votes. But the fact is Obama won all three of those states in 2012 by a combined total of 962 thousand votes. That's a difference of just over a million votes. To make matters worse, Obama won Ohio, Iowa and Florida by a combined total of 334 thousand votes, while Clinton lost all three by a combined total of 540 thousand votes; a difference of 874 thousand votes. All told, Clinton got almost two million fewer votes than Obama in the all-important swing states. That's not a close shave, people, that's a wipeout.

So now what? With a midterm election staring them in the face, what are the Democrats' plans? If the last two midterms are any indication we could be looking at a slaughter. Already you can hear the bean counters at work. The Republicans will drop the ball on their efforts to repeal Obamacare and Trump will continue to push the envelope until he either gets impeached or his party invokes the 25th Amendment. When that happens, the Democrats will come to the rescue like Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders.

We've seen this movie before and it never ends well. If the Democratic Party really believes that the American electorate will come back home like some prodigal son, I've got some bad news for it. Turns out Democrats are even less popular than the GOP and - even more humiliating - Trump. So says a poll conducted by Suffolk University. Want to know who's the most popular politician in the country? It's Mike Pence. That's right, Mr. religious liberty is number one with a bullet. Right behind him is Il Duce. The only thing keeping Democrats out of the cellar is Clinton herself and Congress as a whole. When you're only saving grace is that you're ahead of the person who lost to the most racist, xenophobic presidential candidate in history and the worst legislature since the founding of the Republic, you should be ashamed, not gleeful.

But Democrats seem oblivious to these facts. They dismiss any and all criticism and remain intransigent. Shaun King of The Daily News writes,
At a time when Donald Trump is the least liked President ever measured at this point in his first term, the Democratic Party has found a way to be even less liked than him. This is how Donald Trump wins a second term. This is how congressional Republicans win the next midterm elections. This is how conservatives not only maintain their current power from coast to coast, but also expand it. 
Huge grassroots movements, made up of millions and millions of people, are fueling the fight for a $15 minimum wage, fighting back against fossil fuels and the Dakota Access Pipeline, fighting to end fracking, fighting to remove lobbyist money from politics, fighting to end senseless wars and international violence, fighting for universal healthcare, fighting for the legalization of marijuana, fighting for free college tuition, fighting against systems of mass incarceration, and so much more. But mainstream Democrats aren’t really a central part of any of those battles, and, to be clear, each of those issues have deep networks, energized volunteers, and serious donors, but corporate Democrats virtually ignore them.
And almost as important as the message is the messenger. Face it, Clinton may have made a very good president, but she was a flawed candidate who ran a lousy campaign. Her strategy appeared to be to have her cake and eat it too. Her affinity for hedging her bets on issues like the minimum wage and TPP made her look like a hack and left a bad taste in many voters' mouths. And she was despised in the Rust-belt region where Trump was able to steal many blue-collar workers from the Democratic column.

Perhaps steal is too strong a word. The truth is that Clinton never really put up a fight for them. The consensus within her campaign and most of the party was they would probably lose Ohio, but prevail in Wisconsin and Michigan. The sheer arrogance of such thinking is what led to Democrats losing in 2016, and it will likely be the reason they lose again in 2020. Identity politics may have given Democrats huge margins in urban American, but it resulted in a shrinking electoral map across the country.

You'd think that faced with such dire news the Democratic Party would want to change how it goes about attracting voters. You'd think that, but you'd be wrong. Far from changing tactics, the Party seems hell-bent on doubling down on its failed strategy. They seem determined to "write off" rural America altogether.

It is astonishing in this day and age for a major political party to not even make a play for voters; to ostensibly forfeit them to the opposition party. Yet that is exactly what the Democratic Party has decided to do. And the sad truth is they don't need to do this. Democrats can win in these regions if they put some effort into it.

Obama managed to do so twice; shit he even won Indiana in '08. Not even Bill Clinton did that. And he did it by crafting a message that was inclusive, not exclusive. It may have sounded corny at the time, but when Obama said "There are no red states or blue states, just the United States," he was resonating with voters all over the country who were fed up with being labeled as strictly liberal or conservative.

Joe Maxwell understood what Obama was trying to do. Who's Joe Maxwell? He's the political director for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) who was almost singlehandedly responsible for killing a right to farm bill in Oklahoma that, if passed, would've ostensibly shielded Big Ag from any and all environmental regulations. The "No" vote passed by 20 points, astonishing given that Trump won every county in the state.

Maxwell is a Democrat, but that hardly matters, because, like Obama, he has discovered how to communicate with his constituents on their level, and he some advice for his fellow compadres. "Democrats don’t have to throw out their values. Democrats don’t even have to abandon their issues. It’s about how you frame it. It’s about connecting with people and showing them how your ideas fit with their values."

Zach Carter says that "Maxwell's brand of politics looks beyond the poll-tested analytics that dominate Washington." He goes on to further explain:
Even the best mathematical models are only useful at a particular snapshot in time. They treat voters as static data points, rather than human beings capable of changing their minds. A model might focus on the number of Democrats registered in a district to predict the party’s performance in an upcoming race. But models can’t explain how to create more Democrats in that district.
I cannot stress this enough: the Democratic Party MUST find a way to reconnect with this part of the country; their future as a political force depends on it. No, they will never win Oklahoma, or for that matter Nebraska, or Idaho, or Montana, or the Dakotas. That's not the point. You don't craft a message based simply on appealing to a constituency that already supports you, anymore than a business would come up with an advertising strategy that would target a segment of the market they already serve. You grow your business by growing your market share.

Blue-collar workers once called the Democratic Party their home. That isn't the case anymore. Trump gave them a song and dance which they bought. But more to the point, he paid attention to them, told them they were getting screwed and promised to do something about it. And while we all know Trump is a con artist who will never deliver on his promise, the lesson for Democrats could not be plainer.

In business, if you want someone to buy your product, you have to give them a reason to do so. It is no different in politics. Votes are earned, not given. Bernie understood that; Hillary didn't. It's time Democrats started earning their votes.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Comey Finally Grows A Pair

No doubt it may seem like too little too late up in Chappaqua, but FBI Director James Comey finally put Donald Trump in his place. Responding to Trump's ridiculous claim that Barack Obama wiretapped his penthouse suite at Trump Tower, Comey asked the Department of Justice to "publicly refute" the claim saying it is "false and must be corrected."

Nobody knows exactly how the DOJ will respond to Comey's request since Attorney General Jeff Sessions, himself under scrutiny for lying under oath about two meetings he had with a Russian ambassador, has recused himself from all matters concerning alleged Trump campaign connections with Russia. But one thing is for certain, Comey's rebuke of this president, extraordinary on its merits, underscores the precarious position both the justice and intelligence communities in this country find themselves in. Trump, through his constant attacks, has undermined their credibility. And if there's one thing the FBI loathes more than a liberal Democrat, it's politicians making a mockery of their profession.

Frankly, I'm pleasantly surprised at Comey's ballsiness. I didn't think he had it in him. It's about time someone other than one district court judge and an entire circuit court stood up to this maniac. And if I'm the Democrats, I'd stand down for a couple of days to see how this plays out. They may still despise what Comey did last October - to be honest, so do I - but right now, he's their best hope against Trump and they need him. It is doubtful that the DOJ will recommend a special prosecutor, which means the fate of the country may well be in the hands of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

It's too early to tell whether Comey's testicular fortitude is a passing phase or whether it is a harbinger of things to come. Trump hasn't even been in office two months and already he has managed to alienate virtually every agency and department in the Federal government. Now he's gotten under the skin of Comey and his agents.

The dominos may already be starting to fall for Trump. His goal may be the destruction of the administrative state, but that administrative state, as we may soon find out, has teeth and it is finally starting to bite back.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Once Again the Media Is Falling for the False Equivalence Argument

Well that was nice while it lasted. For a couple of days, the media was all over the story of Jeff Sessions' meetings with the Russian ambassador; that is after they spent pretty much all of Wednesday falling over themselves complementing Der Fuhrur on his State of the Union Address. For the last time, pinheads, just because he managed to stand upright for an hour without making a jackass of himself doesn't mean he's presidential. Even 9 year olds can behave themselves for an hour. Christ, wake up!

There is no doubt that Sessions committed perjury. His lame excuse that he thought he was referring to any meetings he may have had as a surrogate for the Trump campaign are lame at best. For one thing, Sessions never qualified his answer when he said he "did not have communications with the Russians." For another thing, the second meeting with the ambassador took place in September in Sessions office. By that point it was widely known that the Russians had hacked both the DNC and the Clinton campaign servers. Are we to seriously believe that a senior member of the Armed Service Committee met with the Russian ambassador and DIDN'T discuss the hacks? Does Sessions believe we are that stupid?

Evidently so, because that is the exact response both he and the Trump Administration have been peddling ever since the story broke. Sessions didn't mention the meetings because they had nothing to do with the campaign. Nothing to see here, please move along. Well the media, for a few days at least didn't move along. They pounced on the story like a dog going for a bone and wouldn't let go. As a result, Sessions was forced the recuse himself from any potential Justice Department investigation into the Administration. I was actually starting to feel hopeful that the media was finally doing its job.

And then...

Then, Adolph, I mean, the Donald tweeted a picture from 2003 of Senator Chuck Schumer with Vladimir Putin eating donuts in a New York gas station. Below the picture were the words, "We should start an immediate investigation into @SenSchumer and his ties to Russia and Putin. A total hypocrite!"

Right, because a public meeting with Putin is the same as clandestine meetings with Russian intelligence officials in an attempt to swing the results of a presidential election. I always do my best espionage while eating a Krispy Kreme.

It was a ridiculous assertion that any reasonably intelligent person would've instantly spotted. Unfortunately, the media fell for it. Like that same dog who pounced on the bone earlier, they became easily distracted by Trump's dog whistle and started giving it equal time. Soon anybody who may have had a meeting with the Russian ambassador became the story. From Claire McCaskill to Nancy Pelosi, Trump surrogates were out in full force demanding an investigation into those meetings. And the fair and balanced media went along for the ride.

I can't decide whether I'm angry at the media or just flat out embarrassed for them. I've long ago stopped being surprised at their inability or refusal to be journalists. Ever since their epic lay down over the buildup to the Iraq War, I've had zero expectations of them. But their coverage of this president from the day he announced his candidacy has been disgraceful, even for them. Trump received roughly a trillion dollars worth of free advertising, and in return for their generosity he treated them like garbage. You'd think that would be a wakeup call, but no. Like a spouse suffering from battered wives syndrome they keep coming back for more. At least Kevin Bacon had the satisfaction of being allowed to join a fraternity as compensation for getting his ass paddled in Animal House. All these clowns get is egg on their faces.

Thank God for The New York Times and The Washington Post. They continue to publish leaks from this White House and from intelligence officials over the Administration's ties with Russian officials. Trump and his lackeys - one of them David Nunes, House Chair of the Select Committee on Intelligence - can threaten the leakers all they want, it won't deter them. Unlike the media, these brave souls know full well what the stakes are. They know they're working for a lunatic and they've decided to do something about it. Bravo for them. They are setting an example of what true patriots look like and what their duty is.

If the media had any pride or self respect, they'd follow suit. But unfortunately pride and self respect are two words that are seldom if ever associated with this industry. And that, sadly, is a scandal almost as big as the one enveloping this administration.