Thursday, September 19, 2019

Conservatives Like Trump And Biden Don't Back The Idea Of Free College, But New Mexico Is Moving Ahead Anyway


Maggie Toulouse Oliver is New Mexico's Secretary of State and currently the progressive candidate for the U.S. Senate seat Tom Udall is retiring from. This morning she told me, in a statement, that "As a single mom who is still paying off student loans-- and has taken on additional loans to pay for my oldest son's college education-- I know how much this innovative plan will help New Mexicans. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is leading where Washington has failed. I look forward to bringing the lived experience of a single mom who worked her way through college to the U.S. Senate. And I look forward to taking bold New Mexico ideas, like universal free college tuition, with me to D.C. so that we can improve the lives of all American families."

You know how states are supposed to be the petri dish of innovative government? Yesterday, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that the state will pay the tuition for all students at New Mexico's 29 public two-year and four-year colleges. Bernie's platform in action! (Needless to say, Republicans and Status Quo Joe oppose these kinds of plans.) New Mexico will use revenues from oil production to pay for the program. Simon Romero and Dana Goldstein broke the story yesterday for the NY Times, emphasizing the universality of the plan and dubbing it "one of the boldest state-led efforts to expand access to higher education. The move comes," they wrote, "as many American families grapple with the rising cost of higher education and as discussions about free public college gain momentum in state legislatures and on the presidential debate stage. Nearly half of the states, including New York, Oregon and Tennessee, have guaranteed free two- or four-year public college to some students. But the New Mexico proposal goes further, promising four years of tuition even to students whose families can afford to pay the sticker price."
“I think we’re at a watershed moment,” said Caitlin Zaloom, a cultural anthropologist at New York University who has researched the impact of college costs on families. “It used to be that a high school degree could allow a young adult to enter into the middle class. We are no longer in that situation. We don’t ask people to pay for fifth grade and we also should not ask people to pay for sophomore year.”

By some measures, the tuition initiative will be the most ambitious in a growing national movement. College costs and student debt have emerged as major issues in the Democratic presidential primary, with two of the leading contenders for the nomination-- Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren-- promising to make all public colleges and universities free. Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has a more limited proposal to eliminate community college tuition.

So far, states, not the federal government, have led the way-- sometimes out of a hope that a more educated work force would attract businesses and improve local economies. As of 2018, 17 states had programs promising free college to at least some students, according to an analysis by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Most of those programs cover tuition only at two-year institutions.

...Like the New York program, the New Mexico plan would cover only tuition, not living expenses, and the funds would be available only after a student drew from existing state aid programs and from federal grants.

But the New Mexico proposal does go further than New York’s Excelsior Scholarship in two regards: It is available to all students, regardless of family income, and it includes funds for adults looking to return to school at community colleges.

“This program is an absolute game changer for New Mexico,” Governor Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “In the long run, we’ll see improved economic growth, improved outcomes for New Mexican workers and families and parents.”

Officials contend that New Mexico would benefit most from a universal approach to tuition assistance. The state’s median household income is $46,744, compared with a national median of $60,336. Most college students in the state also come from relatively disadvantaged backgrounds; almost 65 percent of New Mexico undergraduates are among the nation’s neediest students, according to the state’s higher education department.

The new program in New Mexico would be open to recent graduates of high schools or high school equivalency programs in the state, and students must maintain a 2.5 grade point average. In contrast to other states, like Georgia, that have curbed access to public colleges by unauthorized immigrants, New Mexico would open the tuition program to all residents, regardless of immigration status.

Carmen Lopez-Wilson, the deputy secretary of New Mexico’s Higher Education Department, said the program would benefit about 55,000 students a year at an annual cost of $25 million to $35 million. She added that the state was trying to bolster its higher education system, which endured spending cuts of more than 30 percent per student from 2008 to 2018.

“We’re giving money directly to students,” Ms. Lopez-Wilson said. “This is the best way to begin rebuilding the infrastructure of higher education in New Mexico.”

Ms. Lopez-Wilson said the relatively low cost of the program reflected low tuition costs in the state, with many students already receiving forms of assistance. Other states that have less extensive tuition assistance proposals are spending far more.

A year of tuition at the state’s flagship campus, the University of New Mexico, costs $7,556 for state residents. At the state’s largest community college, Central New Mexico Community College, tuition costs are generally less than $3,000 per year.

New Mexico already has some of the lowest debt rates for graduates of four-year colleges. In the class of 2017, they owed $21,237 on average, compared with a national average of $28,650, according to the Institute for College Access & Success.

...[B]oth chambers in New Mexico are controlled by Democrats, and while fiscal conservatives still have considerable sway in the state, legislators have already shown willingness recently to increase spending on public education. State and federal spending on early childhood programs, including prekindergarten, is climbing to $546 million this year in New Mexico, a $135 million increase from the previous year.

In a departure from the belt-tightening after the 2008 financial crisis, New Mexico also gave raises to public-school teachers and the faculty and staff of the University of New Mexico this year.

The free-tuition plan points to the shifting political landscape in New Mexico, traditionally a swing state that was up for grabs by both major parties. It is now emerging as a bastion of Democratic power in the West, standing in contrast to other large oil-producing states controlled by Republicans. At the same time, an oil boom in the Permian Basin shared by New Mexico and Texas is lifting the state’s revenues.

In some ways, the burst of interest in free public college is a return to the nation’s educational past. As recently as the 1970s, some public university systems remained largely tuition-free.

As a bigger and more diverse group of undergraduates entered college in recent decades, costs rose, and policymakers began to promote the idea of a degree as less of a public benefit than a private asset akin to a mortgage, according to Professor Zaloom, of N.Y.U. Many states raised tuition, and students became more reliant on grants and loans.

“We should be looking at the examples from our own history,” Professor Zaloom said. Free college educations from the University of California, the City University of New York and other public systems, she added, have been “some of the most successful engines of mobility in this country.”
Goal ThermometerWhen we first endorsed Eva Putzova, one state over in Arizona, she told us she supports "fully publicly funded education from pre-K through college for all. Education is the great equalizer and foundation of any prosperous, civil society. Today, college students are $1.3 trillion in debt. This is a huge burden on them as they start their lives after school and enter the workforce.  We managed to provide a debt-free education to veterans after World War II, and to the baby boom generation as well. In 1969, in Arizona, annual tuition was $272 and one could earn that working in a minimum wage job for 1 month. Today's students in Arizona have to work for more than 6.5 months to pay for their year in college. Imagine what we could achieve if we approached education in a spirit of solidarity: today's graduates working and paying taxes which would allow a new generation to benefit from the same education they once received. Just like healthcare, education should be a right, not a privilege."

This is also of great concern to Milwaukie, Oregon mayor Mark Gamba, the current progressive challenger for the Oregon congressional seat held by conservative Blue Dog Kurt Schrader. It's one of the issues he's running on. "Our current system of secondary education here in America largely sets young people up for failure while theoretically setting them up for success," he told me last night. "Young adults coming out of college with massive debt can’t afford to take a job that pays poorly even though it might be the right stepping stone to the career they’ve always dreamed of, instead they are required to find a job that pays them well enough to keep up with their debt payment. It didn’t used to be this way, it shouldn’t be this way and it isn’t this way in many of the countries we compete with on the world market. Rather than a system of education designed to enrich bankers, we should have a system of education designed to have the most well-educated population in the world. That’s why I’m a strong proponent for free public college education for anyone carrying a decent GPA out of high school."

Jennifer Christie, the progressive candidate in an open Indiana congressional district in the suburbs north of Indianapolis, got back from walking the UAW picket line last night and wrote me that she "worked very hard to pay for my own college education and to pay off every single penny of my student debt. I had sleepless nights working 2nd and 3rd shifts in a nursing home to pay for my tuition while I was in school. I graduated with honors in both Chemistry and Biology... two degrees paid for mostly by me. I was the first to graduate from college in my family. So why do I support free college tuition? Because I know what a college degree did for me. Because we have tough problems to solve and education fosters innovation. Because it was so hard to fund it by myself. Because I don’t want my kids to have to do what I did. Because a simple tax on Wall Street speculation would pay for it. Because we bailed out Wall Street. Now it’s time for Wall Street to return the favor for my kids and yours. It will be the best investment they’ll ever make!"

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

On Monday, Putin's Fist Puppet took time off from spending our hard earned tax dollars cheating at one of his nearly bankrupt golf resort/massage parlors and took his traveling circus of hate to beautiful Albuquerque, New Mexico. There's nothing new to report except some whining on behalf of a "Supreme" Court "judge" who probably took his oath by placing his penis on the Bible. There was also the fact that the corporate media didn't broadcast the whole rambling, fact-challenged, two hour "Castro without a beard" thing on seemingly every channel like they did when they wanted to help get him elected in 2016. No doubt the fact that they didn't will contribute to his ever-growing hate for them. "Me! Me! The camera should be on me! 24 hours a day! This is MY show!

" The crowd? Same, of course. Same pathetic, brainwashed Red Hat=Hatred critical thinking-challenged Neo Nazi sympathizers who dream of a "Belsen For Brown People" and place their hopes in a freak who could not care less about them either.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Urgent Culture For A Foot-Dragging Congress


The Warmth of Other Suns exhibit

-by Skip Kaltenheuser

Two Washington exhibits, terrifyingly timely for the stark options before us, demand attention from the recently returned 116th Congress. The Warmth of Other Suns, an exploration of the plight of migrants and refugees, at the Phillips Collection, departs Sept. 22nd. The David H. Koch Fossil Hall-- Deep Time, at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum is, like its fossils, here for the long haul. Connect the troubling dots between the two exhibits. Understand the coming Tsunami of climate refugees if the pressures driving it aren’t arrested.

A thirty-five million dollar contribution landed the late David Koch’s name on the Smithsonian exhibit. On the contributors’ plaque, his status is equal to the US Congress. That’s fitting. He should also be on plaques for offices of many in Washington for whom David and Charles Koch paved their way.

Snap of top of contributors' plaque for Fossil Hall

The impressive exhibit fills in parts of the last 4.6 billion years some might have missed, from mass extinctions to fossil fuel formation, to disappeared myriads of species from mankind’s sprawl.

Snap of the Young Koch Brothers Horsing Around

There’s authentic angst over scientific institutions accepting funding from controversial figures like the Kochs, given their role institutionalizing denial of mankind’s climate impacts.

But here David Koch’s funding is a teachable moment. His contribution is minuscule next to vast, often murky fortunes the Kochs spent over decades, building a seamless web of anti-regulatory strategies, organizations and well-placed minions-- twisting federal and state governments and even the judiciary-- in lockstep with denial of fossil fuels cooking us.

Some might criticize the exhibit’s message on greenhouse gases as too light, too scattered or too dwarfed among crowd pleasers like a T-Rex munching a Triceratops. In messaging, points can be shaved many ways. But take the museum at its word that donors didn’t determine content. The exhibit is an eloquent statement on mankind’s impacts.

Snap of video at Fossil Hall

Those taking time to fully absorb the exhibit should feel hair rising on the back of their necks. Of millions walking through every year, many will pause at a multimedia presentation of polar ice-core evidence. A line of atmospheric carbon dioxide rockets like a Roman candle, rising temperatures riding shotgun. Ponder mass extinctions from toxic gases belched from fissures in Siberia, or from an asteroid whack, creating new forks in the road. Sea life starts from scratch. Dinosaurs morph into birds. But absent an abracadabra asteroid, major changes follow very long time lines, as do successful adaptations of flora and fauna. Visitors realize the children many have in tow won’t speedily evolve into Aquaman.

Snap of video in the Warmth of Other Suns exhibit

For the Phillip’s The Warmth of Other Suns, the second part of the title is Stories of Global Displacement. That’s the key phrase for holding both exhibits in mind. Widely varied works from around the world convey a visceral grasp of desperate people struggling to improve family prospects, not just for bettered lives, but often for survival.

Warmth of Other Suns exhibit

People on the move emerge beyond statistics. One sees their commonality with six million African-Americans who migrated from a Jim Crow South, with midwesterners who fled the horrors of the Dust Bowl, with the multitudes moved through Ellis Island. Contemplate the many thousands recently perished, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Arizona desert; the stilted, malnourished lives of children in occupied lands and internment camps.

Warmth of Other Suns exhibit

This art is important. What kind of people will we be if we’re so overwhelmed we lose our capacity for empathy, if desperate people become invisible? That, one fears, is a quicker evolution. How much precious time will be squandered on the folly of walls as people start moving in unimagined numbers because of a failure to decisively act on climate?

Snap of video from the Warmth of Other Suns exhibit

The creation of climate refugees is already underway from drought, failing crops, water shortages and punishing heat waves from India to Australia. They already include many people heading north from Central America.

The Warmth of Other Suns exhibit

How vulnerable is a human population that doubled in a mere forty-six years, nearing eight billion? No wonder that, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, in the last two decades the rate of carbon dioxide increase has been 100 times faster than prior natural increases. Vast numbers, including those in most of the world’s mega-cities, live by rising seas.

Snap of video in the Warmth of Other Suns exhibit

A heating climate isn’t an expressed theme in the Phillips exhibit, but there is an undeniable connection between diminishing resources and fewer viable human habitats to civil strife and the tensions that seed oppression and war.

Taken together, these two very different exhibits pound home the message that the unthinkable can happen. Environments can collapse and with them civilizations. Bellwethers are on the gallop: buzzsaw hurricanes, record heat, melting Arctic ice, thawing permafrost, oceanic heat waves, toxic algae blooms, dying corals, acidifying oceans. The Amazon under assault. What surprise natural phenomena is mankind lighting the fuse for that will double-team us?

These are not timid times. Timid solutions need not apply. There is no breather for political leadership to avert its gaze, to turn bold plans to mush to jockey campaign contributions. Mankind is up against it. Stop pretending otherwise.

Snap of video in the Warmth of Other Suns exhibit

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Citizen Mike-- A Child Molester... Republican State Senator Was Arrested Yesterday


UPDATE: State Senator Citizen Mike (R-PA) resigned today.

Lebanon, Pennsylvania sits in the Lebanon Valley and is the county seat of Lebanon County. It's a red hellhole and part of Pennsylvania Dutch country. In the 2016 primaries, Trump scored more votes (13,490) than Hillary (4,529) and Bernie (4,482) combined. In the general, Lebanon County was landslide country for Trump: 65.9% to 30.3%. Two years later, the Lebanese were as stupid and bigoted as they were in 2016 and all in for Trumpism. Neo-fascist candidate for senator, Lou Barletta, beat incumbent Bob Casey there-- 60.7% to 37.4%-- and Scott Wagner, who barely won 40% statewide, beat Gov. Tom Wolf 57.2% to 41.1%. Entirely within the 9th congressional district, Lebanon was all in for Republican Dan Meuser with an R+28 performance. Since 1888, the only time is backed a Democrats was in 1936 (FDR). Lebanon County was one of only four counties in Pennsylvania to vote for Barry Goldwater in 1964. There are 44,228 registered Republicans (53.68%) and 27,646 registered Democrats (33.55%). Lebanon County is 94.46% white. You get the picture, right?

Last year, state Senator Mike Folmer was reelected in district 48 against Democrat Lois Herr 60,357 (62.9%) to 35,545 (37.1%). The district includes all of Lebanon County and small parts of Dauphin and York counties. Since the district's creation in the 1960s, it has only elected Republicans. Folmer was arrested on sexual abuse and child pornography charges yesterday. "We are shocked to learn tonight of the allegations made against Sen. Folmer," Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said in a joint statement. "We will fully cooperate with law enforcement regarding this deeply disturbing matter. Given the severity of these charges, Senator Folmer is immediately being removed as Chair of the Senate State Government Committee. Further action in response to these charges will be taken up by the Senate Leadership in the coming days."

So, aside from being a garden variety, family values Republican, who is Folmer? Well... born and raised in Lebanon, he went away for college and graduated from Grace College & Seminary, an evangelical Christian "college" in Winona Lake, Indiana. He started in politics as a Democrat but soon saw the light and joined the GOP. Last year he opposed a bill to lift a legal block preventing victims of child abuse from suing their abusers or the churches they were part of. He's also an anti-Choice fanatic and gets an "A" rating from the NRA.

His excuse for sending and receiving child porn? He says he's been dealing with some personal problems/issues. He's been freed on $25,000 bail.

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A Senate Without Mitch McConnell, Would Be A Much Better Senate, A Much Better America


This is the picture you can win

Yesterday we started a contest to win a copy of this beautiful print above, Nancy Ohanian's Congressional Terrorist. We're asking readers who would like a chance to win it to contribute to Betsy Sweet's campaign on this page by 6:00 PM (ET). One person who donates-- any amount-- will be randomly selected to win the print. Why? Because if Betsy replaces Susan Collins in Maine's Senate seat next year, that will be one giant step towards excising the evil that defines the driver of that truck in the picture... Moscow Mitch, the embodiment-- in some ways even more than Trump-- of all that's wrong with American politics.

Yesterday, Bob Moser went into details of what exactly is wrong with Mitch McConnell is an essay he wrote for Rolling Stone: Mitch McConnell: The Man Who Sold America. Moser wants to know if "after 40 years of scorched-earth politics and bowing to special interests, will Mitch McConnell finally pay the price?" Don't we all want the answer to that?

Fittingly enough, it was hot as blazes in Kentucky when Mitch McConnell slunk back home for Congress’ annual summer recess. One week earlier, Robert Mueller had testified that Russia was meddling in the 2020 U.S. elections. McConnell, the Senate majority leader, responded by shooting down Democrats’ efforts to bring two election-security bills to a vote-- bills that McConnell, in his familiar fashion, had previously sentenced to quiet deaths after they passed the House. In the hailstorm of opprobrium that followed, McConnell had been tagged by “Morning Joe” Scarborough with the indelible nickname “Moscow Mitch.” The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank called him a “Russian asset.” Twitter couldn’t decide whether he was #putinsbitch or #trumpsbitch. The Kentucky Democratic Party was selling red “Just Say Nyet to Moscow Mitch” T-shirts, emblazoned with an image of the senator’s jowly visage in a Cossack hat, as fast as they could print them up.

McConnell would undoubtedly have preferred to cool his heels in his Louisville home and let the storm subside. But he couldn’t afford that luxury. The biggest political event of the year in Kentucky, the Fancy Farm Picnic, happens on the first Saturday every August, and McConnell knew he had to show his face and speak. Fancy Farm, a 139-year tradition in the tiny western Kentucky town (population 458) it’s named for, is simultaneously one of America’s most charming political gatherings and one of its most brutal... Last summer, after months of waving through President Trump’s judicial nominees, McConnell opened his remarks with a typically pointed jab-- “Father, I’ve been preparing for my visit to the parish by performing as many confirmations as I can”-- then stood back, his thin lips curling up slightly into the look of smug satisfaction that happens whenever he’s gotten one over on the liberals.

This year, it was no use. Even before “Moscow Mitch” became a thing, Kentucky Democrats were smelling blood. McConnell has been unpopular in his home state for years, but his approval rating plunged in one poll to a rock-bottom 18 percent-- with a re-election campaign looming in 2020. In January, he had raised red flags among Republicans and -Democrats alike when he took a key role in lifting sanctions on Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a Putin ally under FBI investigation for his involvement in 2016 election-meddling; three months later, Deripaska’s aluminum company, Rusal, announced a $200 million investment in Kentucky. A billboard funded by a -liberal group was subsequently erected on a busy stretch of I-75: “Russian mob money . . . really, Mitch?”

More recently, reports emerged that McConnell’s wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, had set up a pipeline in her department to funnel grants to Kentucky to lift her husband’s political prospects. And as Trump’s trade war with China escalated, uncomfortable old stories began to recirculate about how McConnell “evolved” after he met his future wife in the early Nineties, going from being a fierce China hawk to a potent ally on Capitol Hill. Chao’s father, James-- a Chinese American shipping magnate and close friend of former People’s Republic dictator Jiang Zemin-- gave McConnell and his wife a huge gift in 2008 that boosted the senator’s net worth from less than $8 million to nearly $20 million. While “Beijing Mitch” doesn’t have quite the same ring as his new moniker, McConnell’s change of heart on Russia was hardly without precedent. (McConnell declined to comment for this story.)

Plus, McConnell made an unusual blunder in July. When a group of former coal miners suffering from black-lung disease caravaned to Washington to ask the senator for help, he met with them for only two minutes, leading to terrible headlines. As Fancy Farm got underway, coal miners in Harlan County were holding a protest that made news throughout the state. Their company had declared bankruptcy without warning and was refusing to pay their final paychecks, and the miners were blocking the tracks to prevent rail cars from shipping $1 million worth of the coal. As the protest stretched into late August, the site became a 24-hour encampment, attracting activists and food donations from around the country, and was visited by nearly every Kentucky politician except McConnell. Practically every story featured the miners cursing the senator. “He’s not pro-coal,” said miner Collin Cornette. “I don’t even think he’s pro-Kentucky.”

Not surprisingly, Democrats and progressive activists swarmed Fancy Farm this year, hopelessly outnumbering the Republicans. Even with a closely contested governor’s race in the offing, most folks came to taunt their senior senator and revel in his troubles. You can’t blame them: For almost four decades, McConnell has been ruthlessly mowing down his opponents with big-money negative campaigns and transforming the GOP into the state’s dominant party. And while many Kentuckians once took pride in having such a mighty mover-and-shaker in Washington, they’ve become increasingly appalled by what he’s done with his power: ensuring that big donors have undue influence in elections, turning Congress into a strictly partisan battlefield, and serving as the indispensable wingman for Trump. The crowd is teeming with Cossack hats and homemade signs with messages like “Putin for senator-- cut out the middle man.” Before the speechifying, I run into Bennie J. Smith, a civil-rights activist and jazz musician making a long-shot bid for the Democratic nomination to unseat McConnell, and he assesses the mood: “I’d say the crowd is pretty evenly divided the way Kentucky is: Some don’t like him, and some hate him.”

... “After suffering under Barack Obama, we are roaring back,” he seems to be saying. “I saved the Supreme Court for a generation by blocking President Obama’s nominees, and now the Washington liberals responded by targeting me. They handpicked Amy McGaffe-- I mean, McGrath,” he continues, delivering the kind of line aimed at his leading 2020 opponent that usually gets the Republicans cheering. But they can barely hear, and the “Moscow Mitch!” chant is only growing louder. As McConnell’s six allotted minutes go on, his jowls redden; his voice cracks and rasps as he gestures toward the baying Democrats, offering a preview of his 2020 campaign message. “They want to turn America into a socialist country,” he says. “Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell are not going to let that happen. That’s why I call myself the ‘Grim Reaper.’ I’m killing their socialist agenda.” When he finishes, he flashes a cheeky thumbs up toward the Democrats.

In one sense, it’s vintage McConnell: defiant, sarcastically cutting, smugly self-satisfied. But the fury of the crowd has rattled him. After a few more speakers, McConnell makes a stealthy exit out the back, avoiding reporters and detractors to speed back to Louisville. But this summer, trouble follows him everywhere — and the aftermath of Fancy Farm will only add to his woes. This is the day of the El Paso massacre, and the archprotector (and benefactor) of the NRA will soon be besieged with calls to bring the Senate back into session to pass background checks and a red-flag law. His normally crack campaign team will make matters worse as the news comes in from Texas, tweeting out a photo of a graveyard they’d erected in a corner of Fancy Farm, with tombstones bearing the names of all the Democrats he’s defeated, along with McGrath and Merrick Garland, the Obama Supreme Court nominee McConnell infamously blocked. The next morning, to add injury to insult, McConnell will take a tumble and fracture his shoulder on his patio.

For so many years, McConnell has seemed maddeningly invincible. But now, just a few years after achieving his lifelong goal of becoming Senate majority leader, it appears that every political sin the man has committed on his relentless march to power is coming back to haunt him at once. He has welcomed infamy, and now it has arrived on its own terms, bringing with it a previously unthinkable possibility: Could 40 years’ worth of devil’s bargains finally be catching up with Mitch McConnell?

For all the damage he’s inflicted on American democracy, for all the political corpses he’s left in his wake, Mitch McConnell has never betrayed an ounce of shame. To the contrary, like the president he now so faithfully serves, McConnell has always exuded a sense of pride in the lengths to which he’s gone to achieve his ambitions and infuriate his enemies. Unlike Trump, however, McConnell, 77, has always been laser-focused on politics. At age 22, when he interned for Sen. John Sherman Cooper, a genteel Republican of an era long gone, McConnell determined to not only follow his mentor’s path but to surpass him and become Senate majority leader. “It dawned on me early-- let’s put it that way,” he told Jonathan Martin of the New York Times. Most senators dream of the White House; all McConnell ever wanted was that gavel, that particular form of power.

...[I]n the political world of Mitch McConnell, convictions and campaign pledges were fungible things, easily tossed aside. Throughout his career, as the Republican Party veered right, and then further right, McConnell moved with it. “It’s always been about power, the political game, and it’s never been about the core values that drive political life,” John Yarmuth, Kentucky’s lone Democratic congressman, told Alec MacGillis, author of the 2014 McConnell biography The Cynic. “There has never been anything that interested him other than winning elections.”

...Just as he’d originally run as a pro-choice, pro-labor, pro-civil-rights Republican, McConnell had a long history of calling for removing big money from politics. In 1973, not long after he was elected chairman of the Jefferson County Republican Party, he’d written an op-ed for the Courier-Journal calling for “truly effective campaign finance reform”-- lowering contribution limits, mandating public disclosure of donors, even capping how much a candidate could spend in a race. He’d later laugh this off, claiming he’d been “playing for headlines” to distract folks from the Watergate scandal. But in 1987, midway through his first term, McConnell floated a constitutional amendment to end what he called the “millionaire’s loophole”-- the ability for wealthy Americans to spend limitless money on their own campaigns.

The proposal went nowhere, and in his second term, McConnell made a 180-degree turn and set himself down a path to becoming the most outspoken and influential opponent of campaign-finance restrictions in American history. At the same time, he began to master the art of tactical obstructionism. Democratic Sens. David Boren and George Mitchell had proposed a bill that included both spending limits and public financing for campaigns. While some Republicans were hesitant to speak out against a measure designed to tamp down on corruption, McConnell took the lead, blocking the bill by reviving the use of the filibuster, which still carried unsavory associations with segregationist efforts to block civil-rights measures in the Sixties. “Filibustering is sometimes presented as an obstructionist tactic by its opponents,” McConnell would later say, “but in my view, if legislation as awful as this bill is brought up for consideration, there is a duty to obstruct its passage.”

...Contrary to popular recollection, McConnell didn’t utter his infamous quote-- “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president”-- until the eve of the 2010 midterms. In his book, McConnell insisted the reporter took the quote out of context, twisting it into something unpatriotic and cynical. But then, just a few paragraphs later, he wrote about the Tea Party revolution: “To my great delight, it seemed as if we were moving in the direction of holding Obama to one term.”

At first, McConnell’s Senate minority-- with just 40 Republicans-- was too small to block Obama at every turn. When his dispirited colleagues met in the weeks before Obama’s inauguration, McConnell rallied them around a strategy: Stick together as a bloc and use parliamentary maneuvers to filibuster, or at least delay, every major piece of legislation the president proposed. Some Republicans were worried about the political repercussions of obstruction, but McConnell convinced them if they could deny the president victories, his popularity would wane-- the public would come to blame him, not Congress, for the failures. To show the way, McConnell led the opposition to Obama’s efforts to close Guantanamo Bay, both denying him the chance to fulfill an important campaign promise and reviving questions about Democrats’ toughness on foreign policy.

McConnell wheedled and cajoled waffling senators to prevent a single Republican vote from being cast for Obama’s biggest legislative priority, the Affordable Care Act, ensuring that its passage would be seen, and debated in the future, as a strictly partisan affair. But the most enduring legacy of McConnell’s strategy would be his dramatic break with tradition on the president’s judicial nominees. While only 68 nominees had been denied confirmation over the previous 40 years, Republicans successfully filibustered 79 nominees during Obama’s first term alone.

McConnell was too much of a Washington operator to be considered a hero of the new right-wing insurrection inspired by the shock of a black man’s presidency. He privately fumed about the tea partyers who ousted establishment Republicans in primaries. But McConnell, the onetime moderate whose real ideology was now anybody’s guess, had become, in the words of The Atlantic’s James Fallows, “the most effective purely partisan figure” in modern times.

McConnell’s work finally paid off in 2014, when Republicans won the Senate and made him majority leader at last, but he could not control the broader consequences of the upheavals his quest for power had set in motion. His all-out war on Obama’s agenda, his transformation of the Senate into a hyperpartisan arena, and his devious obstructionism helped set the table for Trump-- and, simultaneously, conceivably, for McConnell’s own downfall.

McConnell was hardly bowled over by the idea of Trump as president. “It’s pretty obvious he doesn’t know a lot about the issues,” McConnell dryly remarked during the 2016 campaign. After Trump won, Washington reporters rubbed their hands in glee, keeping watch for signs of high-level clashes between the spectacularly ill-matched Republican leaders. The closest they came to a satisfying public “feud,” though, was in the aftermath of the failure of Republicans’ alternative to Obamacare in the summer of 2017, when Trump blamed McConnell and vice versa. But after McConnell bit his lip and declined to join the chorus of condemnation over Trump’s appalling response to the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, then teamed with the administration to pass the president’s first budget bill over strong conservative objections, the two began singing from the same hymnal. By 2018, at a rally in Kentucky, they were praising each other to the skies. “Aren’t we proud of President Trump?” McConnell proclaimed. Trump called McConnell “one of the most powerful men in the world,” and lauded him as “Kentucky tough”-- which would become the slogan for McConnell’s 2020 campaign.

Most of all, Trump came to appreciate the “big, beautiful present” McConnell had given him by leaving scores of judicial seats open for the new president to fill, delighting Trump’s evangelical base and giving him something to brag about during his rocky first year. McConnell never stopped giving the president gifts-- passing tax cuts for wealthy Americans, declaring the “case closed” on collusion with Russia in the 2016 elections while the Intelligence Committee was still investigating, and refusing to bring election-security bills up for a vote. Almost single-handedly, McConnell, while reportedly continuing to “abhor” Trump’s ignorance and lack of discipline, gave the administration legitimacy, along with a record to run on in 2020. McConnell’s efforts have led some to liken him to Hindenburg, the German president who enabled Hitler’s rise. Asked about the comparison, McConnell scoffed, “To expect Republican elected officials not to try to achieve as much as they possibly can . . . out of pique over presidential behavior is nonsense.”

While McConnell’s role as Trump’s chief accomplice has made him the archvillain of Democrats nationally, he is detested back home for broader reasons. At Fancy Farm, one of the folks I meet is Jen Thompson, an artist and farmer from Paducah who’d come to holler at McConnell-- but admits she’d once been a supporter. “I’m 47,” she says. “When I was first able to vote, in 1996, I voted for Mitch. He was already getting powerful in Washington, and I bought into the idea that he could do a lot of good for us. But eventually it dawned on me, like a lot of people, this guy really doesn’t give a crap about us. He’s all about stockpiling his own squirrel-nut factory for his winter. Public records are public records, and you can see how his trajectory has gone toward wealth. Back home, I’m still making the same amount of money I was making! I think he’s got a real good chance of being booted this time.”

She was getting at something that explains McConnell’s dismal approval rating in Kentucky-- and that could cause him fits in his run for re-election next year. When he last ran, defeating Secretary of State Alison Grimes by 15 points in 2014, McConnell had plenty of power in Washington, but nowhere near the national notoriety he’s achieved since becoming majority leader and handmaiden to Trump’s agenda. The more power he’s accrued, the more folks back home are inclined to wonder: How come Kentucky isn’t reaping any benefits from it?

The Democrats competing to challenge McConnell next year say they plan to pound that question home. “While McConnell has gone from being one of the poorest senators to one of the richest, he has left Kentucky behind,” says Broihier, the newspaper editor who’s running a grassroots campaign. He ticks off some grim statistics: “We’re 47th in poverty, 44th in employment, 43rd in education. We’re number five in diabetes and teen pregnancy. We’re number one in pollution from [coal] plants. If the measure is what you’ve done for your constituents, it’s a pretty easy case to make.”

The early front-runner for the nomination, Amy McGrath, plans to hammer that message home as well. “Mitch McConnell has been in office 34 years now,” she says, “and for many people in Kentucky, their lives have not only not gotten better, they’ve gotten worse. He’s let our signature industries like tobacco go away, without any plan for replacing the lost jobs. He’s known the coal industry would decline, for decades, and now we have an entire region, eastern Kentucky, where there’s not a lot of opportunity. And it’s easy to see why: You go 30 minutes outside of Lexington to the east, you lose cellphone coverage. Businesses might want to come here, but you know what? They come, they see there’s no infrastructure, and they turn right around and leave.”

McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot who fell just shy of unseating a Republican in Congress last year, has raised buckets of money-- $7 million in the first six weeks of her campaign, demonstrating the other challenge McConnell will be facing next year: Democrats nationally are dying to throw money at anyone who might be able to unseat him.

In his past two campaigns, McConnell outraised his opponents by $10 million and $12 million, an almost insurmountable advantage for even the most appealing candidate to overcome. It’s unlikely that he’ll enjoy that kind of edge in 2020. Ditch Mitch, a PAC founded by Ryan Aquilina, a digital strategist for progressive campaigns, has already raised $3 million to supplement the Democratic effort to oust McConnell. “We see ourselves as a necessary complement,” Aquilina says, “considering that McConnell is going to raise jumbo-jet cash and spend it all going negative.”

McConnell’s opponent in 2020 will surely make an issue of where his campaign money comes from, too-- since it’s almost exclusively from corporate donors from outside Kentucky. Only nine percent of his haul in the most recent fundraising came from individual donors back home; the vast majority, as usual, derived from a roster of big corporate interests-- including United Parcel Service, the Blackstone Group, Eli Lilly & Co., and the private-prison GEO Group.

“This is a winnable race, if you try to make it catered to Kentuckians,” says Matt Jones, the popular host of Kentucky Sports Radio who’s also considering a run. “This is a blue-collar, anti-establishment state. People are religious, but they’re not Bible Belters. There’s a long history of fighting for workers’ rights here. People say voters aren’t going to go for Trump and then vote for a Democrat down-ballot. But that’s misunderstanding Kentucky.” Aquilina agrees: “The reason people voted for Trump here is the same reason they hate McConnell.”

Which means McConnell won’t have the luxury of distancing himself one iota from the president between now and next November; Trump’s approval ratings in Kentucky are more than 20 points higher than his own. As demonstrated by his hasty dismissal of those election-security bills in July, the senator has no choice but to keep himself tethered to Trump and hope to ride his coattails-- a situation that, for a control freak like McConnell, cannot be comforting.

That’s what it’s come to for Mitch McConnell. Four decades of clawing his way to power, by any means at his disposal, and now his political life, which is his only life, ultimately rests in the hands of the most erratic character ever to occupy the Oval Office. No one can doubt that McConnell will run a campaign, as always, that is lavishly funded and equal parts savvy and cutthroat. But the conditions, created largely by the senator himself, are ripe for a reckoning. And if it comes, it will be an ironic and fitting denouement to one of the most destructive political careers in American history.

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Is The Democratic Party More Than Just A Vehicle For Careerist Politicians? AOC Endorses Marie Newman Against Lipinski


On Monday I asked my Twitter followers if it is enough for a candidate to just be a Democrat fighting a Republican. A slight plurality said no. Only 16% said "yes, for sure," and another 25% said they would vote for the garden variety Democrat but not contribute to their campaign. Comments including statement that there is no love for conservative Democrats who vote like Republicans, very much what I hope DWT readers will agree with. Last year, just before the Illinois congressional primary, NY Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns wrote that as the primary season was revving up, some Democrats were grappling with the question of what it means to be a Democrat. They began by looking at the tight primary between reactionary Blue Dog incumbent Dan Lipinski and progressive challenger Marie Newman, "When," they reported, "Representative Daniel Lipinski, a conservative-leaning Democrat and scion of Chicago’s political machine, agreed to one joint appearance last month with his liberal primary challenger, the divide in the Democratic Party was evident in the audience that showed up. Mr. Lipinski’s outnumbered supporters were the diminished lunch-pail Democrats that once dominated his Southside district. Those of his rival, Marie Newman, came from the party’s ascendant coalition-- young progressives and women like Elizabeth Layden, a Patagonia-clad teacher who explained her opposition to Mr. Lipinski in blunt terms.
“Because he’s a dinosaur, ’cause he’s a phony, ’cause he’s a Republican who claims to be a Democrat,” said Ms. Layden, 49, who has been making phone calls and knocking on doors to help unseat Mr. Lipinski, a seven-term House member, in the primary race this month. “Hello, women’s rights, and hello, my reproductive rights. Get out of my uterus.”

...[T]he backlash to President Trump’s divisive politics has also fueled a demand by the party’s progressive wing for ideological purity and more diverse representation, a tension that could reshape what it means to be a Democrat.

“This is part of the reason Donald Trump won,” Mr. Lipinski said in an interview, adding, “Democrats have chased people out of the party.”
Martin and Burns walked write into that with their establishment mindset that refers to "ideological purity" when talking about a Blue Dog who is vehemently anti-Choice-- not a little anti-Choice, but all the way, crazy insane, viciously, violently anti-Choice-- anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant, anti-healthcare. Dumping Lipinski isn't about ideological purity; it's about defeating a right-wing ideologue who consistently opposes core Democratic Party beliefs and values. Lipinski is very much the enemy, even if he still has a "D" next to his name. (On the ProgressivePunch website, he has an "F" next to his name.)
Lipinski was bequeathed his heavily Polish and Irish district in Chicago around Midway Airport and the South Side by his father, William Lipinski, a former ward boss and representative. The two Lipinskis have held the so-called Bungalow Belt seat for 35 unbroken years.

...Yet there are still elements of the fish-fry-Friday voters, the Catholic demographic that political veterans here still call “white ethnics.”

Wearing a Notre Dame hat and standing apart from the attendees at the candidate forum was Jack Nevin, an Illinois Department of Transportation employee who as a child attended the same parish as the Lipinski family and now lives in suburban Lemont.

“I’m a pro-life guy, born and raised Catholic,” said Mr. Nevin, by way of explaining why he was backing the incumbent. “Win or lose, he’s standing up for his beliefs.”

Ms. Newman used the forum to lash Mr. Lipinski for being out of step with the district, a drumbeat that prompted him to claim she was fomenting “a tea party of the left” that was pushing liberal “fantasies.”

But it is Mr. Lipinski who is testing just how much today’s voters in the Democratic primary contest are willing to accept in a safe seat. In addition to his deviation from orthodoxy on abortion and gay rights, he also opposed the Affordable Care Act and until recently did not support a $15 minimum wage or offering legal status to children brought to the country illegally.

“I am running with the district. I’m not voting against the district,” Ms. Newman said.

Her energetic campaign has drawn the support of a host of Washington-based progressive groups, some of which are funding attack ads and mailers against Mr. Lipinski. And she has lured Representatives Luis V. Gutiérrez and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois to oppose their colleague, a rebuke that has angered some moderate Democrats.

Representative Kurt Schrader of Oregon, who leads the political arm of the centrist Blue Dog caucus, has complained to the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee about the intervention of Ms. Schakowsky and said he would seek a rule change so that members like her who have formal positions on the committee cannot oppose incumbents. “That’s just wrong, and we’re going to change that,” he said.
The Oregon scumbag, Schrader, who now has a strong primary opponent of his own in Milwaukie mayor Mark Gamba, started the move to protect endangered right-wing incumbents that turned into the Cheri Bustos rule that has torn the DCCC apart. Bustos, another reprehensible Blue Dog at the time-- she's switched to being a just as putrid New Dei now-- decreed after taking over the DCCC that any consultant or vendor who works for a challenger to any Democratic incumbent would be blacklisted by the DCCC. (Her entire team has since been fired for racism and homophobia and the DCCC barely exists any longer other than as a contribution vacuum and as Bustos' private political machine. When dozens of caucus members demanded she be fired, she only escaped with her job by agreeing to seek psychiatric help to deal with her own racism, which the DCCC called "insensitivity."

"But," continued Martin and Burns, "the Washington contretemps are just a stand-in for a much weightier debate about the future of the party. Mr. Lipinski, who makes no apology for opposing the health law, has embraced donations from anti-abortion Republicans helping fund a super PAC in his favor and says it is Ms. Newman’s ardent support for abortion rights that is 'extreme' for the district. Ms. Newman is careful to focus on economic issues and inveigh against 'the Lipinski dynasty.' But what animates her campaign are matters of identity that are galvanizing Democrats in the Trump era well beyond Chicago... 'We need to have more diversity across people of color, gender and types of folks,' Ms. Newman said. 'We can’t have all millionaires, billionaires, businesspeople and doctors in Congress.'"

Yesterday, a year on, The Times didn't have the anti-progressive, pro-establishment Martin and Burns update the story but turned to reporter Carie Edmondson instead. The headline was very different too: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez To Back First 2020 Challenger To Sitting Democrat. The story ran early in the morning and before noon AOC had endorsed Marie Newman. "We live in times that demand courageous action," wrote AOC to her supporters, "and those times demand a Democratic Party that is willing to deliver the change that working Americans deserve. But to achieve those ends, we need the Congressmembers who represent deep blue districts to be pushing us towards progressive change, not advancing a Republican agenda... 14-year incumbent Dan Lipinski has enacted a corporate-funded vision of our party, one that has harmed our communities and discouraged working people from participating in politics. While sitting in a D+6 seat in a time of crisis for working families, Lipinski has opposed Medicare for All, and accepted thousands of dollars from lobbyists, large corporations, and the fossil fuel industry. That’s why I’m excited to endorse Marie Newman’s campaign for Congress, and help Chicagoland elect the progressive champion it deserves. Like me, Marie believes that health care is a human right and that families belong together. Together, we will pass a Green New Deal that repairs our infrastructure, revitalizes our workforce, and retrains our workers for a just transition to a post-carbon economy... Where Marie is a proud supporter of universal access to abortion and birth control, Dan Lipinski has a troubling record of curtailing women’s fundamental human rights, and has worked to defund hundreds of women’s medical clinics, all while raking in donations from anti-women’s rights fundraisers. Where Marie has stood with immigrant communities for years, Lipinski refused to vote for the DREAM Act until after her 2018 primary challenge. With the coming threat of climate change, we simply cannot allow for fossil-fuel-funded politicians and their corporate donors to dictate the future our children and their grandchildren will inherit-- especially in a deep blue Democratic district that Hillary Clinton won by 15 points in 2016. Marie Newman is the only candidate in the race refusing corporate PAC money, and the only one we can trust to put working people over profit. While Marie is the clear progressive choice, her race will be anything but easy. Dan Lipinski has a war chest of corporate money, given to him by wealthy donors who want to keep things just the way they are. His status as a 14-year incumbent gives him all types of advantages, like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s decision to blacklist anyone who works for Marie’s campaign... But we know that when big organizing goes up against big money, it’s the people who come out on top in the end. When we knock doors, make phone calls, and talk to our neighbors, we can elect representatives who really represent us, and we can build the world we want to live in. The future of the Democratic Party is in our hands. It starts by electing Marie Newman." She signed her letter "Pa'lante, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez."

Edmondson wrote that AOC's "high-profile support amounts to a powerful seal of approval, telegraphed to her legions of ardent liberal fans, on behalf of Ms. Newman, and a reflection of the zeal of the party’s progressive left to leverage its nascent power to continue targeting sitting Democrats... 'Marie Newman is a textbook example of one of the ways that we could be better as a party-- to come from a deep blue seat and to be championing all the issues we need to be championing,' Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview. Of Mr. Lipinski, she said: 'The fact that a deep blue seat is advocating for many parts of the Republican agenda is extremely problematic. We’re not talking about a swing state that is being forced to take tough votes.' [Lipinski] has repeatedly expressed his concerns that it is 'detrimental' for the party to push out conservative lawmakers."
“This campaign is about putting someone in place that is in alignment directly with the district on issues like affordability for the middle class and working families, the Green New Deal,” Ms. Newman said in an interview on Monday, adding that she and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez “share some very similar values.”

But the move also reflects a careful political calculus by Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, a Bronx Democrat. She came to Congress vowing to take down any Democrat she considered insufficiently progressive, but has, until now, refrained from taking on any of her fellow incumbents directly. In challenging Mr. Lipinski, she is targeting an incumbent Democrat, but one who has broken sharply with party orthodoxy, and has already lost the support of some of his other Democratic colleagues.

The House Democrats’ campaign arm in April formally broke committee business ties with political consultants and pollsters who sign on to work for primary challengers, infuriating progressive Democrats. The blacklist, Ms. Newman said, “was a very expensive issue for a while on my campaign.”

Progressive groups and lawmakers, however, have still flocked to support Ms. Newman. Representative Ro Khanna of California, and two Illinois lawmakers, Representative Jan Schakowsky and then-Representative Luis V. Gutiérrez, broke with party leadership in 2018 to endorse Ms. Newman, and Mr. Khanna renewed his endorsement this year. Representative Cheri Bustos of Illinois, the chairwoman of House Democrats’ campaign arm, canceled a fund-raiser in support of Mr. Lipinski in May after facing a backlash from the left.

Ms. Newman has also won the support of two candidates in the Democratic presidential primary, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Ms. Warren last week announced twin endorsements of Justice Democrats candidates, backing both Ms. Newman and Jessica Cisneros, who is challenging Representative Henry Cuellar of Texas.

Ms. Cisneros, who was recruited to run against Mr. Cuellar by Justice Democrats and is described by some as the next Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, has yet to win the endorsement of any sitting House Democrat.

“We are so proud that Marie Newman is the first Justice Democrat of this cycle to receive an endorsement from Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,” said Alexandra Rojas, the executive director of Justice Democrats. “The momentum is growing in our movement to make the Democratic Party fight for solutions as big as the problems we face and create a party that fights for its voters, not corporate donors.”

Until this week, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez had largely focused on helping incumbent freshmen lawmakers, like Representative Joe Neguse of Colorado, a well-liked freshman and member of Democratic leadership whom she will support at a fund-raiser in Boulder this week. In April, she rallied around some of her colleagues who flipped districts President Trump won in 2016, encouraging her Twitter followers to donate to their campaigns.

Goal ThermometerMs. Ocasio-Cortez said that she would continue to assess whether she would weigh in on other primary challenges, but that she had no interest in intervening in competitive races that could tip the balance of power in the House.

“If we’re going to make these changes, they need to come from safe blue seats,” she said.
As of today, Blue America has endorsed 10 progressive candidates taking on reactionary Blue Dogs and New Dems. You can contribute to any or all of their campaigns by clicking on the thermometer above, the same thermometer that helped raise campaign contributions for AOC and Rashida Tlaib in 2018. So far this cycle, there are the candidates we're trying to help-- and their opponents:
AZ-01- Eva Putzova v Tom O'Halleran (Blue Dog)
CA-16- Kim Williams v Jim Costa (Blue Dog)
GA-13- Michael Owens v David Scott (Blue Dog)
IL-03- Marie Newman v Dan Lipinski (Blue Dog)
IL-11- Rachel Ventura v Bill Foster (New Dem)
MA-08- Brianna Wu v Stephen Lynch (New Dem)
NY-05- Shaniyat Chowdhury v Gregory Meeks (New Dem)
NY-16- Jamaal Bowman v Eliot Engel (New Dem)
OR-05- Mark Gamba v Kurt Schrader (Blue Dog)
TX-28- Jessica Cisneros v Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog)

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Trump Sneaks Around California, Hiding From The Voters-- Like A Thief In The Night


I was supposed to have dinner with a friend at Nerano, a small, low-key, out-of-the-way restaurant in Beverley Hills tonight. But we cancelled the reservation and moved our destination to a Turkish restaurant, Kismet, on the East Side instead. Our goal wasn't about cuisine-- although Kismet is amazing, especially the marinated feta-- but to get as far away from the Trumpanzee Circus on the West Side. He was at a mystery dinner last night and a mystery breakfast today.

Southern California activists wanted to protest Trump's two appearances in Beverly Hills. But they couldn't. The locations are top secret. No one knows who the hosts are or where the receptions are. The voters will be kept away. It was the same kind of thing, according to Wall Street Journal reporters Rebecca Ballhaus and Chad Day yesterday. "Three years ago," they wrote, "an uproar among company employees forced the chief executive of Intel Corp. at the time to cancel an event for candidate Donald Trump at his Atherton, Calif., home hours after the plan became public. On Tuesday, the president is set to return to the Bay Area for the first time since his election-- and no one will say who is hosting him. Campaign aides and advisers cited security and privacy concerns and noted violence that arose from protests during Mr. Trump’s previous trips to the area as they declined through Monday evening to disclose the host of the fundraiser the president will attend. Donors invited to the event—whose tickets cost up to $100,000 per couple—weren’t told in advance where the fundraiser is or who is hosting it. Instead, they were told to arrive at a parking place in Palo Alto, from which they will be transported to the event."

It's hilarious to see Trump sneaking around California from mansion to mansion to collect money from the super-rich in person, while avoiding actual voters. Trump is certainly the most hated and reviled occupant of the White House in modern history-- more hated than Nixon. California isn't exactly Trump territory. In 2016 Hillary beat Bernie in the Democratic primary, but even in losing, Bernie won more votes than Trump did in his win. Bernie took 1,502,043 votes to Trump's 1,174,829. In Silicon Valley's Santa Clara County, Bernie had almost double the number of votes Trump did-- 70,468 to 35,568. And in Los Angeles, it was shocking:
Bernie- 434,656
Trumpanzee- 179,130
In November, Hillary slaughtered Trump statewide and in both counties where he's sniffing around for campaign cash. Statewide she beat him 7,362,490 (61.6%) to 3,916,209 (32.8%). That's right, Trump didn't even get a third of California's votes. And it was far worse in Santa Clara and Los Angeles counties. In Santa Clara, Hillary beat him 73.8% to 20.9% and in Los Angeles County it was 71.4% to 23.4%. (Trump got less than 10% in San Francisco.)

Third-rate celebrities (and former celebrities) who support Trump include Jon Voight, Andy Garcia, Heather Locklear, Dean Cain, Laura Prepon, Angie Harmon, Vince Vaughn, Adam Sandler, Joe Pesci, Kurt Russell, Chuck Norris, James Woods, Charlie Sheen, Margaret Hamilton, George Hamilton, Jessica Simpson, Owen Wilson, Jaclyn Smith, Cheryl Ladd, Sela Ward, Kevin Sorbo, Patricia Heaton, Bruce Willis, Kanye West, Tom Selleck, Clint Eastwood, Stacey Dash, Roseanne Barr, Hulk Hogan, Tila Tequila, Fran Drescher, Sylvester Stallone, Gene Simmons, John Ratzenberger, Robert Davi, Kirstie Alley, Kelsey Grammar, Jesse James, Gary Busey, Wayne Newton, Lou Ferrigno and gay porn star and former Republican congressional candidate Antonio Sabato, Jr.

Monday night, the Trumpanzee Hate Circus was in New Mexico, where Trump got distracted by a fly and... just generally made a fool of himself by condescending to Hispanics.
The president's pitch to Hispanic voters seemed to silo them off from the rest of the electorate, including the rally crowd ("We love our Hispanics"). It featured an assertion that they had a greater understanding of the source of the drug problem than other Americans. And it included a section in which Trump wondered how CNN contributor Steve Cortes could be Hispanic even though, the president said, he appeared to be of Northern European descent.

“He happens to be Hispanic, but I never quite figured it out because he looks more like a WASP than I do,” Trump said of Cortes, who was in the audience.

From the stage, he asked Cortes: "Who do you like more, the country or Hispanics?” Cortes appeared to mouth “country,” to which Trump replied: “I don’t know. I may have to go for the Hispanics, to be honest with you. We got a lot of Hispanics.”

Trump later said Hispanics should support him and his efforts to build a border wall because they understand the roots of the drug problem better than other voters.

"And at the center of America's drug crisis, this is where the Hispanics know it better than anybody, people said, 'Oh, the Hispanics won't like a wall.' I said, 'I think they are going to love it,'" Trump said. "You know why? Because you understand it better than other people, but at the whole center of this crisis is the drugs that are pouring in, and you understand that when other people don't understand it."

“Nobody loves the Hispanics more,” Trump told the crowd. “We love our Hispanics, get out and vote.”

Red, white and green “Latinos for Trump” signs littered the crowd, with a directive to text “VAMOS” to the campaign number on the back. New Mexico’s population is nearly 50 percent Hispanic, according to the Census Bureau... Trump's disapproval rating among Hispanics stood at 79 percent in a Pew Research Center poll last month.

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