Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Buyers' Remorse? Or Trumpy-the-Clown Can Do No Wrong?

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Will Americans suddenly like obstructionism now that it's coming from the Democrats rather than from Republicans? Or will they agree that the collection of misfits and rogues Trump has been nominating for office are beyond the pale and really do need to be stopped? Or will Americans think the GOP needs to be taught a lesson for what they did to President Obama's nominations, particularly Merrick Garland? Or... is the plan to obstruct Trumps' nominees-- a plan that can only end in Trumpy-the-Clown victories-- going to further alienate the public from government and make them hate it more, something that always serves the long-term strategies of conservatives, who strive to make the public distrust and dislike government? You know the answer already-- in a deeply divided nation, all of the above will prove true, dividing the nation even more deeply.

Sure Democrats say it isn't just about revenge-- something Trump voters can at least understand-- but that some of Trump's "more controversial Cabinet picks-- such as Jeff Sessions for attorney general and Steven Mnuchin for treasury secretary-- demand a thorough public airing." Who says Sessions is "controversial?" Not the people of Alabama. Not voters who elected Trump. Of course the Democrats should "demand a thorough public airing," but why announce it as some kind of strategy that re-focuses the argument away from Sessions? Sherrod Brown: "They’ve been rewarded for stealing a Supreme Court justice. We’re going to help them confirm their nominees, many of whom are disqualified? It’s not obstruction, it’s not partisan, it’s just a duty to find out what they’d do in these jobs."
The tit-for-tat between the parties looks like it's here to stay.

“I’m not into retribution. I really think public service should be more than that,” said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat. “But they’ve set a pretty harsh standard.”
Republicans are betting that "the public" doesn't care about the Democrats' complaints-- and, at this point, they're probably right. Only 11% of Trump voters wish the election could be a do over and they could not vote for him. 23% say they would have voted for Bernie Sanders if they had the chance. But when that 11% number turns into 50%, that's when the public won't be buying into lies promoted by Michael Flynn about Hillary child sex rings in the back of DC pizzerias and maybe buyers' remorseful be strong enough for the public to rally behind the flawed and unattractive Democratic Party alternative.

Now... as Darren Samuelsohn reported for Politico yesterday, too many Americans just don't even care that Trump has more conflicts of interest than every president before him combined. That's what McConnell and Ryan are counting on to push their their toxic agendas. Republicans, he wrote, are "dismissing Democratic threats of investigations and ethicists’ calls for divestment out of a belief that the political landscape has shifted. Voters rewarded Trump in part on the idea that success in business will equal success in government, and Republicans are therefore unwilling to encourage the president-elect to put distance between the Oval Office and Trump Tower, or between himself and the children who serve him as trusted advisers." Newt Gingrich suggest the Democrats "get over it."
[P]olitically, Trump and many Republicans sense he is insulated from the heat Democrats intend to bring. He said as much himself last month amid a wave of news accounts and Democratic congressional oversight requests demanding closer scrutiny of his finances. “Prior to the election it was well known that I have interests in properties all over the world. Only the crooked media makes this a big deal!” Trump posted on Twitter.

...Almost daily, Trump’s critics fire off letters demanding action or introducing resolutions with little chance of picking up speed. They’re circulating op-eds and news articles written by local and national news organizations that have seen their own power wane. They’re circulating petitions and videos on MoveOn.org and jamming congressional phone lines.

“It’s asinine,” Chris Wilson, a GOP strategist who ran the data and analytics shop for Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, said of the Democratic attempts to confront Trump on his conflicts of interest.

“If there was a situation that came up in which later there was a true conflict of interest, that created a dangerous national security situation, the problem is now nobody would believe them... They’re just jumping into it so quickly and on such a stupid issue that it’s almost embarrassing to watch.”

Trump, of course, hasn’t been sworn in yet-- so much of what’s happening now lives very much in the realm of the hypothetical.

...At least for now, the early polling shows a divided county that’s still coming to grips with the complexities of the Trump conflicts. A CNN survey released last month found almost 60 percent of respondents saying they didn’t think Trump was going far enough with indications that he would hand over control of his company to his children. Another poll, taken before Thanksgiving by Politico/Morning Consult, had more than six in 10 respondents welcoming Trump’s children playing a large role in running their father’s company. But less than a third said they were willing to accept the idea that Trump’s family would be involved in his administration.

Democrats and a smattering of GOP voices are demanding Trump sell his whole business outright, moving his assets into a “blind trust,” like other recent presidents did, where he has no clear insight into his investments and therefore can’t direct policy in a way that would yield personal profit. What’s more, they insist Trump needs to remove his children from the White House and no longer include them in his transition planning and in meetings with foreign officials and other people who will be involved in his government decision making.

Trump’s supporters, however, see little reason to make such dramatic changes.

“You can’t take Trump as a name and a $10 billion system and hide it. It’s just stupid,” Gingrich said. He’s urging Trump to turn the company over to his children and establish a panel of three to five people who meet monthly and review the company’s activities “and make sure in no way it’s being used to the advantage of Trump.”

Republicans who fought Trump during the campaign saw the same signs among voters-- the conflict issue isn’t one they cared much about.

“His brand perception as a successful businessman was too strong,” said Tim Miller, a former Jeb Bush spokesman. “If we had a full year and put big money behind it, could we have changed that? Who knows? But during the small window we were working in, we saw no movement.”
And with a hack hyper-partisan Republican, Jason Chaffetz, chairing the House Oversight Committee, it's pretty clear that there will be no serious investigations into Trump's conflicts, like a concerted attempt it whitewash them. There's already a wikipedia page for this-- and Trump's conflicts of interest are already regular fodder for the late night comedy shows.

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Monday, December 05, 2016

Media Takes a Crack at Critiquing Itself, Sort of, at the National Press Club

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- by Skip Kaltenheuser

Thursday night, Dec. 1st, the National Press Club in Washington, DC put up a panel discussion, The Trump Victory and 2016 Election-- What the Media Got Right & Wrong. A promising title, it filled every seat. I expected much would be made of media lost in a labyrinth of echo chambers, unable to dodge the bull-headed minotaur of Clinton surrogates, but I was wrong. Other than pesky polling, there wasn’t as much “why” in the journalists’ analysis as hoped. Or of what they got wrong. You can watch a video of the panel above.

Uncertain I could attend that night, early in the day I sent the panel written questions I’d welcome their consideration of. Two of the panelists were from the Washington Post, so among my questions was a request for comment on the Harper’s article by Thomas Frank, Swat Team, in which Frank noted a sustained editorial drumbeat throughout the primaries against Bernie Sanders that took its rhythm from Clinton campaign talking points. Another request was for comment on a Washington Post article that uncritically amplified the nonsense of an incognito organization-- my money’s on ? and the Mysterians. This group, Propornot.com, cries tears for a couple hundred online outfits the incognito’s claim are Ruskie tools.

I was disappointed that neither request found takers, as both relate to the why of what the media got wrong. To be fair, the panel allocated time to questions from the floor and I didn’t get one in before the clock ran out.

By the way, there is a Rootstrikers petition to give the Washingon Post a piece of your mind. Would I be shocked if the whole damn list of stooges and useful idiots was a hoax to see who’d take the bait of Russian caviar, if they’d get a big fish like the Washington Post? No. But it’s probably too much to hope for.

At the end of this post are excerpts of issues I sent to the panelists, on which I’d welcome any comment. The issues drifted into something of an essay, but they might form the bones of a good discussion in the future.

Though there wasn’t a great deal of introspection as to the why, there were still some good offerings. CNN Politics Senior Digital Correspondent Chris Moody gave an interesting account of a smart idea CNN had, to have him travel around with a crew avoiding campaign professionals, experts and strategists. Instead, they traveled in a Winnebago for a month, from New York City to Las Vegas.

Speaking with regular folks wherever they found them, then news crew soon picked up that for undecided voters, it wasn’t the normal response of "I like this candidate or that one." It was indecision over whether they could stomach voting for either one. Many people were honestly struggling right up to election day. Among those Moody spoke with were ranchers near the Mexican border, who were getting the brunt of immigrants passing through, as policies drove them from populated areas to rural areas, while government claimed it had solved the problem. They’d been very frustrated for a long time.

There were many besides ranchers who expressed similar disillusionment with government not working for them. A lot of people simply concluded that whatever Trump stood for, he was different, he was change, so what did they have to lose? Though surprised when watching the returns, Moody was no where near shocked. If I had cable, Moody is someone I’d look forward to.


Another item of interest, regarding the ubiquitous presence of Trump in media throughout the primaries, some of it has a simple explanation. Bookers lining up guests on shows would call all of the primary candidates. Often all but one would reject interview requests, and that one was Trump. And Trump was ever-ready on the dial to call in and hijack a program.

Also of note was RNC National Spokeswoman Lindsay Walters account of the strategy of the Republican ground game. They delved deep into data showing where Trump and get-out-the-vote troops had to focus to catch "unallocated voters" in areas in which Clinton was ahead. Areas that with a change of wind Trump might be in striking distance if he could reach and appeal to the unallocated voters still adrift, who might then be turned out to vote. So in the areas it most counted, the vaunted Clinton ground game operation got caught from behind.

Mike McCurry responded to a question of why Hillary didn’t put the email controversy to bed right away. McCurry, former Clinton White House Press Secretary and presidential debate commission co-chair, said it simply wasn’t in the Clintons mental makeup to believe that anyone would attribute mischievous motives to them. They think it’s self-evident that they act in the interest of the American people, and that people would understand that. They believe people would discount anything that raises questions about their own integrity and truthfulness. They don’t understand perception, the perception of negativity.

McCurry is known to be an honorable guy, and he knows the Clintons well, so he might be accurate that that’s really how they thought people would think.

But I have a difficult time wrapping my head around it. Of course, it doesn’t get to why the curious behaviors happened in the first place. And if, after all they have experienced, the Clintons were really that confident that people wouldn’t really think anything untoward might underlie their decisions and motives…what can one say? Victims of their own echo chamber?

Margaret Sullivan is media columnist for the Washington Post and was previously the public editor of the New York Times. I was surprised to see the emphasis she tried to put on the Comey letter’s impact, and heartened to see McCurry and the Post’s Abby Phillip put the letter’s cha-cha in what I view a more realistic perspective, as just another of many things in motion out there. Walters said RNC analysis showed that trends showing Trump rust belt gains were already in place.

From Phillip’s observations, a greater bellwether was how late in the game the Clinton campaign increased spending in Wisconsin and Michigan. Phillip noted the Clinton campaign realized they were losing momentum in the upper Midwest before the Comey letter came out.

One of the panel observations that had resonance: Media was too easily distracted by shiny things to look at-- tweets, for instance-- instead of insisting on more of a focus on the issues, on the details beyond the tweets. Tweets are easy.

Another impression that lingers is how meaningless campaign message themes ultimately are, which doesn’t mean the better ones won’t have an effect. "Stronger Together" didn’t fly as well as Bill Clinton’s “Bridge to the 21st Century.” But according to McCurry Bill Clinton was very frustrated coming up with a message. Clinton’s bridge slogan didn’t appear until Bob Dole said he wanted to build "a bridge to the past." After that, Clinton turned it to the future and sought out every bridge he could walk across.

I tried to get at the media’s tunnel vision in an early June post on why Hillary would be a far weaker candidate, including with independents, than Bernie.

In another post I gave an example of government’s soft treatment of wayward bankers that the public would see as a major fail, of the fix being in for privileged insiders.

Saturday I attended an Irish wake for John Patrick Cosgrove, age 98, a former president of the National Press Club who was an Irish force of nature and a class act. JFK came to Cosgrove’s 1961 inauguration, where Cosgrove made the President join the club and pay dues in full before entering. Cosgrove was sworn in by Chief Justice Earl Warren.

Attendees at the wake included many elder journalists with impressive institutional memories of how Washington works, and who understand the importance of shunning the herd instinct that underlies many of journalism’s shortcomings. I doubt many of them would have been as manipulated by either Trump or Clinton as so many journalists were this campaign.

FYI, issues I’d hoped would get more play from the press club panel, from a note I sent:


Dear Ms. Sullivan and panel members,

I'm not sure I can make it to the presentation, but I'd welcome any thoughts you'd offer on the following matters.

I've a theory on why so much of the mainstream media got the election so wrong. I believe you have to go back to the Democratic primaries to catch media's early derailment, as the media also got most of the significance and power of the Sanders campaign wrong.

My thinking is that much of media abdicated journalism early on to essentially sign on to the Clinton campaign, treating Hillary as inevitable, as the presumptive nominee from the git-go, and odds-on electoral college victor.

Once in that echo chamber, journalists adopted the Clinton campaign viewpoint wholesale. We now know from WikiLeaks how chummy the campaign was with a number of key journalists, including those attending the campaign's off-record cocktail parties.

Related to that, I would welcome any comment on Thomas Frank's Harper's article, Swat Team, in which Frank analyzed Washington Post coverage, particularly editorials, and found a clear pattern of grinding down Sanders with Clinton campaign talking points.

Even now, the Clinton campaign and a number of journalists seem hell-bent on blaming everyone else for the electoral college loss, but not blaming a highly flawed candidate and an arrogant campaign goofing around in Texas and Arizona, bragging about the coming blowout, instead of tending to the wounds of the Rust Belt.

Related to the deflected blame game, I'd welcome comment from the panelists on the Washington Post's uncritical article on a mystery organization's list of 200 online sites run by people who are either Putin stooges or useful idiots. I'm quite familiar with some of those sites, and the ones I know of, including Naked Capitalism, are nothing as described. How could such nonsense be passed along to readers without an investigation of those behind the website? It's not for nothing Joe McCarthy comes to mind to a number of critics of the Post article.

This gets to another related issue, how much of media has discredited itself to the point of people wanting to raise the middle finger to a media busy jamming the Clinton influence machine down our throats as much as the public wanted to raise the middle finger to the perceived political establishment.


Think of the media pile-on, from the Sabbath Gasbags to editorial writers, on Trump when, joking or not, he welcomed Russian hacking. I even heard the word "treason" bandied about, and musings on prosecution. But no thinking person reading and listening to the media reaction believes that Putin or anyone else waits outside America's Internet door like Dracula, unable to enter until Trump invites them across the threshold. There was something of the boy who cried wolf there.

Why wasn't more focus on the veracity and implications of the WikiLeaks emails? Instead we heard distress over doctored emails, with no examples forthcoming. This kind of drumbeat contributed to the belief that news organizations were not giving the public straight info, that they didn't trust the public to make up its own mind.

If you'd like a specific WaPo example, I recall an essay by Dana Milbank, lauding the superiority of Clinton for the Democratic party because unlike the well-meaning Bernie, with his quaint collection of little contributions, Clinton was also raising Big Money for down-ballot candidates. When it was revealed that this was something of a scam, that the Clinton campaign was clawing back the money for its own use, often before state organizations got a whiff of it, I don't recall even an "oops" from Milbank. But I might have missed it, because sooner or later one quits reading the predictable.

So that's my theory: much of key media organizations, of journalists and editorialists, were so vested in the echo chamber promoting a Clinton victory that they didn't fully grasp the public's disdain toward politicians earning vast fortunes solely because of their vaunted public service. Media didn't realize the public, including in the flyover states, easily understood that the only way for the Clintons to earn fortunes of that size is by the sale of influence.

Media also missed the extent of the anger at banks over their ongoing damage to so many families, banks becoming inseparable from the Clintons who deregulated them and who continued to benefit from bank patronage. The media didn't understand that the public instinctively knew that the Clintons were unlikely to bite the hands that lifted them into the oligarchy. The media didn't understand the anger at Eric Holder and the revolving door, of failure to prosecute even bankers who laundered money for violent drug cartels. The public was ready to make a statement, a protest, the only way it could, even if the result was Trump.

It's also hard to ignore the WikiLeaks revelation of the Clinton campaign's early objective of having Trump become the easy-to-beat Republican nominee, and not to wonder at media mostly averting its gaze during the Republican primaries from Trump's connections to Roy Cohn and other unsavories. Ratings and page reads appeared to take prominence over close study of worrisome material on Trump available for decades.

In any case, I give great credit to the media echo chamber, and the public's adverse reaction to it, for landing us in Trumpville.

Thanks much for considering these matters and for any comments at the press club. If I can't make the event, I'll look forward to catching it online later.

Best fortunes with your intriguing and important topic.

Sincerely,
Skip Kaltenheuser

John Cosgrove delivering a National Press Club membership card to President John F. Kennedy in 1961

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Special Congressional Election In Georgia Is Not As Open-And-Shut As It Would Have Once Been

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Price and Ryan-- these 2 want to end Medicare

Georgia doesn't have any swing districts. The state's 14 congressional districts are gerrymandered up to pack Democrats huge numbers of Democrats into 4 districts. John Lewis' 5th (metro Atlanta-- D+32), Hank Johnson's 4th district (mostly DeKalb County east of Atlanta plus Rockdale County and parts of Gwinnett and most of Newton counties-- D+21), David Scott's 13th district (the mostly African-American suburbs southwest of Atlanta-- D+16) and Sanford Bishop's 2nd district (Macon, Columbus and Albany- D+6). By packing so many Democrats intro just 4 districts, Republicans have free rides in 10 districts... or have had free rides.

Something interesting was going on in the wealthy white suburbs north of Atlanta this year, GA-06, Tom Price's district. The PVI is R+14 and in 2008 McCain beat Obama 59-40%. Four years later Romney beat Obama 61-37% in these Fulton, Cobb and DeKalb county towns. These year, however, it was a little different. Price won reelection handily-- 61.6-38.4%, having raised $2,225,897 and spent $2,220,447. His opponent, Rodney Stooksbury spent... nothing. Zero. Really; look:




And in past races, even with Democrats spending a little money-- nothing competitive, but something-- Price did better. 66% in 2014, 65% in 2012. In fact, until this year, 65% was his lowest-ever win. This year, Hillary's suburban strategy that failed her in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin and Michigan actually worked pretty well-- albeit pointlessly-- in the Atlanta area. She fought Trump to a virtual tie-- 47.7% to 47.5%. The numbers aren't all available yet to be able to figure out why so many wealthy Republicans in Chamblee, Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, and up the Georgia 400 to Alpharetta abandoned Trump-- either staying home or actually voting for Hillary. In the primary, the district went for Rubio, not Trump. That doesn't suddenly make GA-06 a swing district, of course, but...

Price is going to resign to take the job of destroying Obamacare and Medicare in the Trump administration (officially, Secretary of Health and Human Services). As soon as Price resigns-- presumably when he's confirmed after a bloody battle in the Senate-- the governor will announce a special election within 30 days. Everyone, regardless of party, runs on one ballot and, presuming no one gets over 50%, there's a run-off between the two top vote-getters. One Republican, state Sen. Judson Hill, has already declared. Another dozen Republicans (literally 12) are sniffing around and a few are very likely to run, including 3 other state senators, 3 state Reps (one of whom is Betty Price, Tom's wife), former Secretary of State Karen Handel, who has huge name recognition because of campaigns for Governor and the U.S. Senate, and a wealthy Trump crony, jeweler Bruce LeVell. There is also a Democratic state Rep interested in running, Scott Holcomb, and an ex-state Rep, one-time Georgia Tech quarterback, Taylor Bennett, who was just defeated, narrowly, last month.

Is this a race worth contesting? Definitely. Is it a race worth the time and effort and resources of Democrats from outside the district? Possibly. We're going to look at it more closely. And there are some obvious possibilities that could make this a winnable seat, not least of which will be a vicious primary among the Republicans. Holcomb, age 44, is widely considered a rising star in the Georgia Democratic Party and he was just reelected convincingly, 59.2-40.8%, winning in both the DeKalb and Gwinnett parts of his district.

GA-06 voters will have a chance to caution Trump and the Republican Congress to not make an extreme moves in dismantling the health care system. Polling shows that even GOP voters are not eager for Paul Ryan's, Mike Pence's and, of course, Tom Price's stated intentions to disembowel the country's health care system. If GA-06 elects a Democrat to replace Price, the message would send a chill through an already jittery Republican conference. This might be the right district to step up to the plate for the whole country. Here's a CNN interview with Holcomb:



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The Democratic Party's Scourge: Identity Politics

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Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog-AZ)-- the worst of the worst

Since 1964 more women have voted in presidential elections than men. In 2008, for example, 70.4 million women voted, compared to 60.7 million men. That's a big difference. 65.7% of eligible women voted but only 61.5% of eligible men. In the last House there were 84 women out of 365 members-- 22 Republicans (8.9% of their party) and 62 Democrats (33.0% of their party). Statistically, it's odd that over half the members of Congress aren't women. In the out-going Senate 20% of the members are women-- 6 Republicans and 14 Democrats. Starting next month, that percentage goes up to 22%-- 5 Republicans and 17 Democrats, including 4 new ones, Kamala Harris (CA), Tammy Duckworth (IL), Catherine Cortez Masto (NV) and Maggie Hassan (NH). There still hasn't been a woman president, although several women are prominently mentioned as 2020 candidates, starting with Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar. I want to see a woman president and I'd certainly support Elizabeth Warren with everything I could muster. The other two... not so much.

I know for me, for the sake of justice, if two candidates were exactly equal on the issues and on every other measurement scale from courageousness to electability-- something virtually impossible-- I would vote for the woman.

I'm gay. I'm proud that the highest lifetime crucial vote score of any member of Congress is Mark Pocan, a gay man. His ProgressivePunch score is 98.95. Does he rock! Unfortunately, the single worst voter of all members being returned in 2107 is also gay-- Arizona Blue Dog Kyrsten Sinema, whose lifetime score is a an abysmal 36,63. And Sinema isn't the only LGBTQ person at the bottom on the garbage pile. Sean Patrick Maloney, currently making a bid for chairman of the DCCC, is not just a married gay man but also a New Dem Wall Street whore and the proud owner of 5th worst voting record score (45.19) among Democrats.

I don't vote for people based on identity politics. I know many people do. I was asked by a reporter recently why the heavily backed state Senator Isadore Hall was beaten by the relatively unknown Nanette Barragan in a South L.A. congressional district. I would have loved to have said that she is a progressive reformer and he is a corrupt conservative. She is and he is-- and I'm sure there were some voters who made up their minds based on that, though probably not enough to swing the election. This election probably swung because over 70% of of the people in CA-44 are Latinos and they registered and voted in record numbers-- inspired by El Presidente-elect Señor Trumpanzee-- and probably didn't know much about down-ballot candidates Nanette or Isadore but did recognize a Latino name and an Anglo name.

In California's Dem vs Dem Senate race, Kamala Harris beat Loretta Sanchez almost two to one-- 6,495,907 (62.4%) to 3,918,486 (37.6%). Harris was the heavily-backed establishment candidate and Sanchez was viewed as an interloper. No one really knows where Harris stands politically but people assume she's vaguely progressive. Sanchez is a Blue Dog who was endorsed by Darrell Issa and tried appealing to Republicans. Harris won every single county in the state, which may be a first. Sanchez was reasonably competitive in some tiny deep red Republican counties with meaninglessly small populations but she was racking up real votes in 6 sounties-- Kern (48.9%), Kings (47.0%), Madera (49.9%), Fresno (49.0%), Merced (47.7%) and Tulare (47.2%)-- which have big Latino populations but without strong Democratic establishment control of those populations. Many of those people voted for Sanchez because they didn't know squat about anyone but Trump and identified with her name.

At Salon over the weekend, Conor Lynch, addressed the albatross around Democrats' neck: identity politics.
The kind of self-serving identity politics that we saw from the Clinton camp during the Democratic primaries leads into what has been the most contentious debate among Democrats and progressives since the election: Whether the party has become too preoccupied with the politics of identity and political correctness, while straying too far from a class-based politics that addresses the structural inequities of capitalism. Not surprisingly, the debate has been full of deliberate misinterpretations.

Consider how various news outlets reported on comments made by Sanders on his book tour last week while discussing diversity in political leadership. “We need diversity, that goes without saying,” noted Sanders, who was responding to a question from a woman asking for tips on how to become the second Latina senator, after this year’s election of Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada. “But it is not good enough for someone to say, ‘I’m a woman, vote for me.’ That’s not good enough. What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industries.”

From this comment, the New York Times reported that Sanders had said “Democrats need to focus more on economic struggles and less on the grievances of minorities and women,” while the popular liberal website Talking Points Memo posted the misleading headline: Sanders Urges Supporters: Ditch Identity Politics And Embrace The Working Class. These reports are both founded on a false dichotomy pitting economic justice and civil rights against each other.

It is extremely troubling that appealing to young people, people of color, women and working-class whites is perceived as an either/or question, or that “economic struggles” and the “grievances of minorities and women” are seen as mutually exclusive. In reality, economic struggles and civil rights are deeply interconnected. Women and people of color, for example, are much more likely to suffer disproportionately from poverty and economic inequality, while young voters who care deeply about social issues are currently facing crushing student loan debt, a subpar job market and low social mobility.

This illustrates the real problem with modern liberalism. Not that it is too preoccupied with promoting diversity or ending all forms of discrimination-- there is really no disagreement on the left that these are vitally important goals-- but that these efforts and achievements are often used to mask or divert attention from the deeper structural problems of our economic and political systems.

The fact that Goldman Sachs has been a leader in promoting diversity and inclusivity in its workforce, for example, should not comfort anyone when the same firm committed massive fraud leading up to the financial crisis and is still led by the same CEO, who recently entered the billionaire’s club. When Hillary Clinton gave her notorious $225,000 speeches for Goldman Sachs, it is reported that she lavished praise on the firm’s diversity and the prominent roles played by women in its internal hierarchy. She did not, however, talk about Goldman’s role in exacerbating the financial crisis or the way the firm committed massive securities fraud and reaped billions of dollars in profit, let alone the fact that none of the firm’s top executives faced any criminal prosecution for their misdeeds.

This is the liberalism that failed to stop Trump. This is the liberalism that self-servingly exploited identity politics to protect an establishment candidate whose severe flaws were evident long before the 2016 campaign began. This is the liberalism that must be overcome, and the sooner the better.
I voted for Obama in 2008 because he was black. I knew his less-than-admirable record in the Illinois state legislature and in the U.S. Senate and he wasn't my kind of candidate. But he wasn't terrible either, just OK. But, I felt it would be worth giving him some slack because even if he didn't turn into a president as great as his rhetoric, he would be a much-needed inspiration for millions of young children of color. In 2012, though, I voted for Jill Stein.


Barbara Lee is one of the most inspiring members of Congress. Is it because she's from Oakland? Is it because she grew up in El Paso? Is it because she's black? Is it because she's a woman? Those are things that may have all contributed to why I respect and admire her so, but the reason why I respect and admire her isn't because of those factors. It's because of her record-- her voting record and her courageousness. Sanford Bishop (Blue Dog-GA) is black too. He's also one of the worst and most corrupt members of Congress. There are reasons to vote for people and reasons to oppose people. It's not because of their race, their nationality, gender, religion or what team they root for. People have records; get to know them before you vote. Being a Republican probably means a candidate is horrible. Being a Democrat doesn't mean the opposite. At least half the Democratic members of Congress aren't even worth voting for-- and that number continues to grow.

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Why Targeting Corporate Democrats in the Age of Trump Is a Good Thing (for Democrats)

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Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer. Will he lead a loyal opposition to Trump or a disloyal one? How many Democrats will collaborate in the Age of Trump?

by Gaius Publius

If Democrats do not succeed at being seen as the nation's rescuer, someone else will. And that will definitely not be good ... for Democrats.

Inside the DC Beltway the following is becoming a "what everyone knows to be true" kind of statement. From The Hill (emphasis added):
Dem blame game rages over Clinton loss

Almost a month after Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump, recriminations are still flying among liberals and Democrats.

At least one prominent Clinton loyalist has turned his fire on Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), arguing that the left-winger’s challenge wounded the former secretary of State ahead of her general election campaign.

Sanders partisans, meanwhile, say that he would have been a better candidate than Clinton to win over an electorate hungry for change.

Both sides express concern that re-litigating the primary battle could be a distraction, wasting energy that would be better spent resisting President-elect Trump.

But even if all sides agree in theory on the need to focus on Trump, not everyone is ready to leave the primary in the past. [...]
In what casts itself as a news piece (and largely is), one "given" stands out. That given: "Both sides express concern that re-litigating the primary battle could be a distraction, wasting energy that would be better spent resisting President-elect Trump."

First, that's not a true statement, or if it is true, it's true only if the group covered by "both sides" includes just those connected to the benefits side of the Democratic Party ecosystem; the people with a vested interests (career; income) in not shaking things up too much, the winners no matter which party is in office.

Second, even though the statement is not true, its opposite — that some people argue strongly for a shake-up within the Party — is not presented. That is, the author's statement is presented benignly as part of the background, part of the "what everyone agrees on" or "knows to be true," for the rest of the news the piece covers — that people within the Party infrastructure are still fighting about who's at fault for Clinton's loss.

The statement, in other words, has a propagandistic goal; it's meant to prevent something from happening.

Draining the Other Swamp

Let's look at the other side of this "given," a side where people are saying that re-litigating the primary isn't a distraction, but part of what has to happen, and a side where that's a good thing.

The fact that people are litigating this battle is obvious, especially if one looks at Sanders supporters and partisans, instead of simply interviewing named Beltway insiders and a "Democratic strategist who requested anonymity." There are plenty of people on the left who want to drain the Democratic swamp too, if you bother to look for them.

Instead of just finding those voices, however, a task easily done, I want to look instead at the benefits of Sanders supporters and progressives pursuing such a strategy. The following is from a nicely argued piece in Truthout by Mark Engler. He starts by asking the obvious question, that it may be true that attacking corporate Democrats now — his example is the recent sit-in at Chuck Schumer's Senate office — is the wrong thing to do. Or as Engler puts it, "After all, isn't that attacking the wrong side?"
Why Targeting Corporate Democrats Is Part of the Fight Against Trump

On November 14, six days after the election of Donald Trump, some 40 young people walked into the office of New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, calling on the senior lawmaker to step aside in his bid to be Senate minority leader. Carrying a banner that read "Wall St. Democrats Failed Us," they argued that Schumer, who has received more than $3 million in campaign contributions from the securities and investment industry in the last five years, was exactly the wrong figure to lead the opposition to Donald Trump. When the senator refused to meet with them, the protesters sat on the floor to barricade the office, filling the halls of the Hart Office Building with protest songs. In the end, 17 were arrested.

Asked about the purpose of the protest, organizer Yong Jung Cho stated, "The establishment Democrats have failed the American people. The establishment Democrats failed to stop Donald Trump." Another leader, Waleed Shahid, added that the group, #AllOfUs, would continue to target Democratic senators "who don't do anything they can to filibuster Trump's legislation that promotes his hatred or his greed."

At a time when so many people are furious at Donald Trump and terrified of his agenda, some will ask why these activists are targeting leading Democrats. After all, isn't that attacking the wrong side? [emphasis added]
It's a fair question and deserves an answer. Two related questions that should also be considered are these: Can this strategy produce a good result for progressives? Can this strategy produce a good result for Democrats? Let's look at each.

A Lesson from the Iraq War Protests

Engler begins his defense of this strategy in an unlikely place: "A look at the history of social movements under hostile governments provides a counterintuitive answer."

Consider the Iraq War protests of 2002-2003. These protests, which produced million-person rallies in cities around the world, are largely considered today to be failures, and even at the time were viewed by many to be lost causes. After all, the war went on as scheduled despite the marches, and the Bush administration felt in no way constrained by them.

Yet these protests had an effect — on the Democratic side. It made support for the Iraq War toxic for Party insiders, an effect that would prove quite powerful later on, affecting Clinton in 2008, for example, and also Clinton in 2016 when viewed in the context of her support for war in Libya.

Engler (emphasis added):
[A]rguably the most profound effect of the anti-war movement was not felt inside the Republican White House, but instead inside the Democratic Party. This dynamic is noteworthy for anti-Trump protesters. The movement succeeded in turning the party's base against Democrats who had supported Bush's invasion, and it made strong anti-war stances into the pragmatic position for politicians concerned about their political futures.

Before it commenced, a large number of Democratic officials were fully complicit in facilitating the Iraq War. In the fall of 2002, a majority of Democratic Senators -- 29 out of 50 -- joined the Republicans in voting to empower Bush to launch an invasion. Mainstream Democrats such as Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden likely believed that a "no" vote would expose them to criticism of being unpatriotic or soft in the "war on terror," and that an anti-war stance would come back to haunt their future political prospects.

Grassroots organizing played a vital role in turning this reasoning into a huge miscalculation -- making opposition to Bush the safe bet for Democrats and ensuring that centrists such as Clinton would grow to regret their Iraq War votes.
That dynamic then — that the massive anti-war protests made it imperative that Democrats who wanted a future in the Party and the nation's governance moving forward not be complicit with Bush — is exactly the dynamic that's coming into play now. Politicians and others in the Democratic ecosystem, if they value a future in the post-2017 Democratic Party, should be very careful to not be complicit with Trump.

And that only happens if the Democratic Party base and strongly progressive activists hold them noticeably and painfully accountable now.

Defeating Trump Requires Draining Both Swamps...

...because both swamps are fed from the same sewer, the flow of money from the top .01 percent. Engler again:
At a time when Donald Trump has risen to the presidency by railing against the Washington establishment and upending the traditional rules of politics, the Democratic Party's propensity for compromise and triangulation only plays into his hands. The only hope for unseating Trump and minimizing the damage of his agenda will be to fight his racist right-wing populism with a progressive vision. ...

In the short run, this will require pressuring fickle and opportunist politicians to stubbornly oppose and filibuster White House extremism, even at the risk of being labeled obstructionist by critics. In the longer term, it will involve creating an effective opposition in the Democratic Party to ensure that Trump's next opponent will not be another establishment candidate, deeply compromised by ties to corporate America.
Note that this is not an angry vision or a reactionist one — a vision reacting to Sanders' loss out of pique or sting. It's a vision that says the only hope of defeating what's being called "Trumpism" (more on that term later) is to defeat all that it stands for — not just racism, nativism, anti-Islam-ism; but also the "rule by the rich"-ism that feeds the both parties' version of the Washington insider swamp.

Haim Saban and Sheldon Adelson

On that, a simple comparison. Is the anti-Islamist racism of powerful  Democratic Party donor Haim Saban any different than the anti-Islamist racism of powerful Republican Party donor Sheldon Adelson? Don't take the question as a theoretical one. Saban is using his sledgehammer influence with the corporate Democratic Party today to make sure that the next DNC Chair — a critical position going forward if used right — is not held by a Sanders-supporting Muslim.

And he's using anti-Muslim smears to do it. The Intercept:
This smear campaign against Ellison received a major boost Friday night when the single largest funder of both the Democratic Party and the Hillary Clinton campaign, the Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban, said at the Brookings Institution, a part of which he funds: “If you go back to his positions, his papers, his speeches, the way he has voted, he is clearly an anti-Semite and anti-Israel individual.” Saban added: “Keith Ellison would be a disaster for the relationship between the Jewish community and the Democratic Party.”
That's what "throwing your weight around" looks like. About Saban and Adelson:
Last year, he briefly teamed up with GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson to sponsor an effort to counter university boycotts and divestment from Israel’s occupation. “When it comes to Israel, we are absolutely on the same page,” [Saban] said of Adelson. “When it comes to this, there is no light between us at all.”
Make no mistake; this kind support for Israel — using U.S. power to put a nation of seven million people, mostly of one religion, in absolute charge of a region of 350 million, mostly of another religion — is a blueprint for disaster, and yes, deep deep racism.

Rescuing the Nation from Trump

But let's set the battle for the DNC chair aside for a moment. This kind of fight, if it replicates itself throughout the Party, and especially if it engages the "base" to the extent that the base was engaged during the run-up to Bush's Iraq War, is exactly what the Democratic Party needs to succeed ... not just as a party, but as a rescuer in the Age of Trump.

Because if Democrats do not succeed at being seen as the nation's rescuer, someone else will. And that will definitely not be good ... for Democrats. Those who care about the Democratic Party might want to care about that.

GP
 

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Does Trump Stand For Something?

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As you can see from the twitter time stamps, El Presidente-elect Señor Trumpanzee only got-- at most-- 6 hours sleep, probably less. He was up whining about Alex Baldwin's acting ability late Saturday night and then six hours later he had apparently chopped up some Adderall, snorted it and was off and running threatening American companies with 35% tariffs if they manufacture their products abroad, something that is going to be very popular with his voters and with Bernie's voters but probably not that popular with Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, their respective conferences or, for that matter, the Trumpanzee Cabinet.



Evan McMullin, who's become something of the voice of mainstream conservatism in opposition to Trump, called Trump's tariff threats "incredibly unwise and will discourage companies from creating jobs in the US in the first place. This is not a recipe for growth... And again, this is the approach of an authoritarian. Forget about the rule of law. Forget Congress's constitutional role in lawmaking." He then went on the slag off Mike Pence (after his silly appearance on This Week defending Trump's tweet storm) as Trumpanzee's "enabler in chief & we can expect him to continue to play that role. But other Republicans must stand up."

I'm not sure when other Republicans will but it's worth noting that Harvard Professor Robert Lawrence was right on top of it back in March when he called out Trump's hypocrisy on this very issue for PBS. Is Trump going to slap a tariff on all the products Ivanka manufactures overseas too? "Trump," he wrote at the time, "castigates American companies like Apple, Ford, Carrier and Kraft that use their brands to sell goods in the U.S., but produce them in other countries. Indeed, he appears to be so outraged by the practice that he proposes a 15 percent tax on companies for outsourcing jobs and a 20 percent tax for importing goods. More recently, he has spoken of a 45 percent tariff on Chinese imports... Yet despite these deep convictions, when it comes to his own businesses, Trump doesn’t exactly walk the walk."
[M]any of Trump’s businesses are based not on risking his money and directly creating employment in the United States, but in licensing his brand to help others sell their properties and products. As is now well known, the Trump brand has been used to sell casinos, condominiums, hotels and golf courses at home and abroad, as well as steaks, vodka and a “university” education... But for exploring whether he puts his moniker where his mouth is when it comes to trade, it’s the branch of the business labeled merchandise that merits closer attention.

In a recent debate Marco Rubio mentioned ties. But the ties made in China are just the tip of the iceberg. What about Donald J Trump sports jackets, cufflinks and eyeglass frames? All made in China. Inexpensive Donald J Trump shirts? Made in Bangladesh. More expensive Trump shirts? “Imported.” The Trump brand also has a more feminine side-- the Ivanka Trump brand. And where are the dresses, purses, shoes and other accessories that reflect Trump’s daughter’s taste made? Of the 838 Ivanka products advertised through the site, none appear to be made exclusively in the U.S.; 628 are said to be imported and 354 made specifically in China.

If you are an American economist like myself who believes that international trade is good for the U.S., there is nothing wrong with what the Trumps have been doing. Indeed, he and his daughter have been providing Americans with products they want at relatively low prices. But how do you reconcile a business model based on importing with professions of deep belief that manufacturing should be brought back to America? Trump argues he has no choice, since foreigners have made their products so cheap by manipulating their exchange rates. But then how do you explain the utter contempt he has expressed on the campaign trail about others who outsource when he is doing exactly the same thing? If Trump won’t buy Oreos on moral grounds, why should any moral person, following his example, buy Trump-branded merchandise?

For a “premium brand,” the prices of Donald Trump merchandise seem within the reach of the typical American. Suits at $250, sport coats at $125, though the ties are somewhat steep — typically around $65. But as president, Trump proposes to add 20 to 45 percent to their cost.

It is obvious that consumers, already hard pressed by weak income growth, would see their buying power further constrained. But many would also discover their jobs are threatened. Our economy is currently deeply linked to the rest of the world, and millions of U.S. workers are employed in companies that sell imported goods and use imported components in the products they manufacture in the USA. Trump’s tariffs would wreak havoc with global supply chains and force many companies to reduce employment. In addition, foreigners would undoubtedly retaliate against our exports as they would be entitled to do under our trade agreements. Think about what a trade war would do to investment and employment. But who knows? If the Trump presidential seal graces the products that are sold under the Trump brand, perhaps the average American will still buy what he is selling.
Justin Amash (R-MI) tweeted a demeaning response to Trump's tweet-storm: "This would be a 35% tax on all Americans—a tax that especially hurts low-income families. Maybe the slogan should be #MakeAmericaVenezuela." Over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal reported on a potential dustup between Trump and free-traders in the Ryan camp chugging down the road in this direction. Trump will have Bernie on his side in this one-- and the American people and it will be an opportunity for him to tame Ryan-- if Ryan is foolish enough to go toward with him over it. Brody Mullins wrote that "setting the stage for what could be the first clash between President-elect Donald Trump and Congress, House Speaker Paul Ryan and some congressional Republicans are raising concerns about a provision in a bill that would require the use of American-made iron and steel for U.S. water infrastructure projects. The bill, which provides billions of dollars in federal funding, initially included a requirement that federal money could largely only be used to buy U.S.-produced iron and steel. In recent days, Mr. Ryan and other Republicans have begun raising objections, saying the requirement would pick winners and losers among U.S. companies and shouldn’t be included in the final legislation."
“We will have two simple rules when it comes to this massive rebuilding effort: Buy American and hire American,” Mr. Trump said at a rally Thursday evening in Cincinnati. “Whether it is producing steel, building cars or curing disease, we want the next generation of innovation and production to happen right here in America and right here in Ohio, right?”

On Friday, a spokeswoman for Mr. Ryan said the final version of the bill was still under discussion. Congress hopes to approve the bill next week before leaving town for the year.
I guess Obama could sign it and save the Republicans from a potentially serious bloodletting. Jerry Nadler: "A lot of Republicans have historically opposed Buy in America. This is one of a number of areas where we’re going to see the Republicans [who] go along with general Republican doctrine and [those who side with] Trump are different on some things."



Have the Democrats offered a coherent response to Trumpism? Stirling Newberry reminded us Sunday morning that "the neo-Democrat only cares about the rich people's mess, the rest of us will go slowly downhill." Former policy advisor to Grayson and to Bernie, Matt Stoller let loose a now famous Tweet-storm over the weekend that stands as a powerful critique of the Democrats' inability to copy with Trump, who he equates with "a pre-1930s Republican, uniting farmers, workers, and big biz behind tariffs and anti-immigration walls," at least rhetorically. "What people don't get is that the Dem Party he's facing is NOT the party of the New Deal. It is NOT the party of the people anymore. The party of the people was assaulted in the 1970s and killed over the next 20 years by the neoliberals. It died with Clinton's election. I documented the underlying ideological change here, from an anti-monopoly party to a pro-monopoly party.

"You can see this everywhere if you look. The leaders of the party are from NY and SF, the centers of concentrated monopoly capital. The revolt in 2010, 2014, and 2016 was largely rural. These were the final revolts that started in the early 1980s. Carter and Volcker wiped out farms en masse. Farmers in 1979 tried to shut down DC with tractors over high interest rate policies. Reagan, Bush amplified the financial concentration trend, and Clinton took it global. Obama in 2008 largely ran against this. Obama's campaign in 2008 was organized AGAINST monopoly. He said he'd renegotiate NAFTA. He beat Clinton in Iowa going after big ag.

"But he governed consistent with the ideology of the neoliberals. He broke his promises to stop this concentration. The foreclosure fraud epidemic caused mass suffering. The failure to jail any bankers were unjust. But they were part of a vision. This vision was that of technocracy, or a set of credentialed people who are smarter and better than you making key decisions.

"Deplorables, or fake news, or voters as ignorant are ideological statements-- part of this vision of people as incapable of self-gov't. But this vision is NOT consistent with populism. It conflicts w/corruption as conflicts of interest, revolving door, privatization. Geithner, for instance, cheated on his taxes. Banks close to him saw a stock price boost when he was appointed. He ran a foreclosure program designed to steal money from people and hand it to banks under the guise of helping avoid foreclosures. People who think that Trump was appealing to the working class solely based on their ignorance are ignorant of this track record.


"Until people are willing to internalize the policy framework of Clinton and Obama, they cannot rebut the arguments from Trump. Because fundamentally, Trump's pitch is that the rule of law is a joke and that having a strongman on your side is all that matters. This is now the attitude of the financial and business elite. That law is for little people. They can just hire smart lawyers. It is ALSO how the Clinton and Obama frameworks were organized. There is a difference though b/n them and Trump. The way that neoliberals deliver social justice is through the dole, or what we call Obamacare, transfer payments, job training. This is a variant of humiliating people with charity. It is explicitly not what the party of the people was about. Paul Krugman's "Let them eat transfer payments" is the slight of hand he always plays with events like Carrier. They are voting against their self-interest. But their self-interest isn't the dole! They want jobs! They want self-government.

"Trump is pitching not self-government, but a wall to protect them against neoliberals and a strongman to mock their enemies. It's not really what they want. Trump was not popular. But it's their version of the neoliberal deal of symbolic racial diversity. The ignorance is a choice, a choice that your facts don't matter. Just like you've decided that foreclosures/offshoring doesn't matter. The thing is, neoliberalism and Trumpism are BOTH incompatible with self-government, except among a select few. Few want either. Until we can recognize that it is concentrated financial power-- monopoly-- extending power over all of us, we will dance to their tune.

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Sunday, December 04, 2016

The Democratic Party Establishment Desperately Needs Reform-- Instead It Got More Schumer, Pelosi And Hoyer

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Friday night Bernie was at Dominican University in Marin County, ostensibly to promote his new book, Our Revolution: A Future To Believe In. In launched right into an attack against the Democratic Party establishment, blaming party elites for creating the environment in which Trumpism could thrive. His point, not unlike Thomas Frank's in Listen Liberal, is that Democratic Party leadership abandoned the working class and offered them nothing with which to address the severe economic dislocation brought on by the globalization the elites had embraced.

Bernie told the crowd that he looks "at this election not as a victory for Mr. Trump, who wins the election as the most unpopular candidate in perhaps the history of our country but as a loss for the Democratic Party." To Bernie, as it has always been, the defeat of the Democratic Party was all about their unwillingness and inability to address gross economic inequality. He had no interest in the critique of Trumpism that blames the phenomenon on racism, sexism or the rise of the alt-right. "I don’t believe that at all,” he told the overflowing crowd. "I think a lot of people ended up holding their noses and voting for Trump because they are in pain... There are a lot of people in our country who are hurting and they are hurting very, very badly. The political establishment is not hearing their pain; the financial and economic establishment could care less about their lives; and the media establishment is not dealing with the reality of their lives... and along comes Mr. Trump."

He attacked Obamacare from the left-- for leaving out millions of people, for overly expensive prescription drugs and for prohibitive deductibles that puts insurance out of reach for many struggling families. He talked about an increase in drug addiction and stagnating life expectancy for the poor and that, in the end Trump would disappoint the people who turned to him to solve these problems. Trump's own tendency towards oligarchy will make things worse for working people-- much worse.

What does he want to do? Easy: "transform the Democratic Party from a party led by a liberal elite to a party led by working people and young people and people who really want to transform society." He is trying to rally Americans not beholden to Wall Street.

Shaun King is a Bernie-oriented reporter for the New York Daily News. Last Wednesday he wrote a scathing piece on the Democratic Party leadership that I've been trying to work into a DWT post. It doesn't go after the party elites from the same direction Bernie prefers (economically) but King's analysis is no less crucial. A Senate staffer clued him into the soft bigotry of Senate leaders. Here we've talked a lot about the not so soft bigotry within the ranks of the House Democratic leadership, particularly Steve Israel who has enforced his ugly racist diktat as head of the DCCC, namely that African-Americans should not be candidates for Congress except in black-majority districts. But King didn't have obscure grubby little hacks like Israel in his sights, but Democratic Senate leaders.

“They are all so phony,” the staffer told me. “Every time I hear any of the Democratic senators, including my own boss, talk about diversity, I cringe, because it’s all one big lie. That they’ve been allowed to enjoy this reputation as a party that values diversity, while doing next to nothing of substance to align their actions with their words, is expert-level deception.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

The staffer went on to detail a private network of conversations being held by staff members of color in the U.S. Senate which they half-jokingly call the “Underground Railroad.”

“Democrats in the Senate use demographics as their excuse for the fact that they only have one African-American member in their ranks. They’ll tell anyone who listens that they wish this wasn’t the case and to the untrained ear, it sounds true. It isn’t. The Senate looks just the way want it,” the staffer told me.

I must admit that I had also bought the lie-- hook, line, and sinker-- that only two current U.S. Senators out of 100, Cory Booker, a Democrat, and Tim Scott, a Republican, were black because state by state demographics just made it too hard for African-Americans to win statewide elections.

“No, that’s not it. Of course demographics are a factor in every election, but the Senate looks the way Senators want it to look. Let me prove it to you.”

What I learned next made my jaw drop.

“Do you know how many black Chiefs of Staff exist in the Senate? The whole Senate? One. Out of one hundred chances they had to hire a black chiefs of staff, they hired just one African-American,” the staffer said in disgust.

“But hold up, hold up,” the staffer continued. “I haven’t even given you the punchline yet. Guess who the one black Chief of Staff works for?”

“Who?” I asked-- having no idea what the answer was.

“Tim Scott,” the staffer replied. “The lone black chief of staff in the entire United States Senate works for South Carolina Republican, Tim Scott. His office may be the most diverse in the entire Senate.”

It was like a punch to the gut. It’s one thing for the elected officials in one of the most important halls of government in our nation to be just 2% black-- that could be blamed on voters or demographics or fundraising, but the fact that only one U.S. Senator has hired a black chief of staff, and that senator is a Republican, is an indefensible choice.

It doesn’t stop there.

According to a recent study from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, of the 336 senior staff positions in the U.S. Senate, 0.9% of them are held by African-Americans. That’s three people.

This is inexcusable and it has a devastating impact on the positions and priorities taken by senators themselves.

“When Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were shot and killed by police in Minnesota and Louisiana, I practically begged my boss to issue a statement. My request fell on deaf ears,” the staffer said.

It’s no wonder the Senate has done so little of substance on issues that truly matter to black folk.

The lack of diversity in the U.S. Senate is so severe that it was called “one of the world’s whitest workplaces” in a scathing critique authored by The Atlantic’s Russell Berman. Berman also highlighted how the online magazine, Diversity Inc., “the nation’s worst employer for diversity.”

“We’re pissed,” the staffer said referring to the small but close-knit community that has formed among staffers of color. “Many of the interns and junior staffers of color come from a generation where we really don’t suffer in silence. We’re here to make a difference and this type of soft bigotry from the Democratic Party needs to be exposed.”

...Yeah, Donald Trump’s a bigot, but Senate Democrats aren’t far behind.




This morning, Glenn Greenwald wrote at The Intercept that "ever since he announced his candidacy to lead the Democratic National Committee, Keith Ellison, the first American Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress, has been the target of a defamation campaign that is deceitful, repugnant, and yet quite predictable. At first expressed in whispers, but now being yelled from the rooftops by some of the party’s most influential figures, Ellison is being smeared as both an anti-Semite and enemy of Israel" And that smear, Greenwald writes reveals much about Washington. "Ellison is a mainstream liberal Democrat... What makes him such an easy and vulnerable target for smear campaigns such as the one Saban and the ADL are pursuing is that he is Muslim-- a black Muslim to boot... If you’re a Democrat, it’s easy to embrace the language of anti-Islamophobia when it comes to condemning Donald Trump and other Republicans. It’s more difficult, but more important, to do so when that poison is coming from within the Democratic Party itself. One of the few silver linings of the ugly Trump rhetoric on Muslims can and should be (and has been) a unified rejection of this sort of toxicity, regardless of where it comes from. Democrats who are sincere about wanting to oppose anti-Muslim bigotry can do so by defending Keith Ellison from these incredibly ugly, baseless and defamatory attacks."

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Virginia Special Elections-- January 10

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Rocky Holcomb (R) and Cheryl Turpin (D)

Virginia has a Democratic Governor, Terry McAuliffe, an overwhelmingly Republican House of Delegates (66 Republicans to 34 Democrats) and an almost evenly split state Senate (21 Republicans to 19 Democrats). Virginia Republicans are notorious for outrageous gerrymandering and unless the Democrats either retain the governor's office-- McAuliffe can't run again next year-- or win a Senate majority, the Democrats will be screwed there once again after the 2020 census. Keep in mind that statewide-- so no gerrymandering--the Dems do great. Both U.S. senators are Democrats. In 2012 Tim Kaine ousted George Allen 1,944,992 (53%) to 1,758,857 (47%) and in 2014 Mark Warner was reelected against Ed Gillespie 1,073,667 (49%) to 1,55,940 (48%) in a very Republican year. Obama won the state both times-- 53-46% against McCain and 51-47% against Romney. Hillary just beat Trump 1,916,845 (49.9%) to 1,731,156 (45.0%). And all three constitutional offices are held by Democrats, Governor Terry McAuliffe, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring. It's just the gerrymandered state legislative districts and congressional districts that are so dire for Democrats.

So here's the lay of the land. State Sen. Donald McEachin was elected to Congress, opening up the 9th senatorial district, which covers all of Charles City County and parts of Henrico and Hanover counties and part of the city of Richmond (Shockoe Bottom and Shockoe Slip, Court End, Capitol Square, Jackson Ward, parts of the Fan District, Carytown, Windsor Farms, Brookland Park, Ginter Park and Washington Park). The district is so blue that Republicans don't even run there. In 2014 Mark Warner took 72% of the votes there.-- the same percentage that Obama got over Romney in 2012. McEachin was reelected last time he ran with 90%. Del. Jennifer McClellan is the Senate candidate to replace McEachin and it's pretty much a done deal. So, an easy Democratic hold.

The other Senate seat, the one the Democrats really need is probably out of their grasp-- the 22nd district. It encompasses part of Lynchburg and all of Amherst, Fluvanna, Goochland, Prince Edward, Appomattox, Buckingham and Cumberland counties and a small sliver of Louisa County. It's very red. In 2014 Gillespie beat Warner 57-40% and in 2013 Cuccinelli beat McAuliffe 54-38%. Romney beat Obama 56-44%. State Senator Thomas Garrett beat Jane Dittmar for the open congressional seat 58.3% to 41.7%, Robert Hurt having decided to retire. So the state Senate seat is probably a GOP hold. In the 2011 race for the seat, Garrett beat Democrat Bert Dodson 58.1% to 41.8%. This time Goochland County Supervisor Ken Peterson is competing with Richmond attorney Mark Peake for the Republican nomination. Yesterday former Fluvanna County Sheriff Ryant Washington won the Democratic nomination at a district caucus. It's the most important of the 3 special elections for a Democrat to win but it would be really tough, some would say impossible.

The most competitive race is for a very swingy red House of Delegates seat in Virginia Beach, where Del. Scott Taylor (R) beat Shaun Brown, a Berniecrat (62-38%) when Scott Rigell decided to retire from Virginia's 2nd congressional district. Republicans have had better turnout in the district and have usually been winning it-- but never by much. Romney edged Obama by a handful of votes but it was basically a 49-49% tie. Gillespie beat Warner 50-47% and Cuccinelli beat McAuliffe 48-46%. On the other hand, Tim Kaine beat George Allen 51-49%. So this is definitely a pick-up opportunity for Virginia Democrats, who will be represented by public school teacher Cheryl Turpin against Rocky Holcomb, an intelligence officer in the city sheriff's office. Holcomb graduated from Regent "University," which is in the district. Turpin went to real schools, Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia.

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