Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Let's Talk Money-- Campaign Cash In Wave Elections


In 2010 Democrats had been in control of Congress for two terms and they were loaded with campaign cash. Democratic incumbents outspent Republican challengers-- sometimes by immense margins, double, triple, three times, four times... Let me show what I mean. In 2010 Jim Oberstar-- first elected in 1974-- was the longest-serving member ever of House from Minnesota. He was chairman of the Transportation Committee, a ready source of fat campaign contributions and He thought Republicans would like him because he was anti-Choice and pro-gun. He had won every reelection with more than 60% of the vote, some with over 70%. In 2010 he spent a massive $2,223,357 to Republican challenger Chip Cravaack's $630,728. Cravaack beat him 48.2% to 46.6%.

The Democrats lost 63 seats in that GOP wave. Melissa Bean was a crooked New Dem-- corrupt through and through. She spent $2,451,348 against the crackpot wing nut who was challenging her, Joe Walsh, who spent $602,803. He beat her. Ike Skelton was a power in the House and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, a perfect place to suck in tons of cash. He was first elected in 1977 and, like Oberstar, he was anti-choice and pro-gun, not very inspiring for Democratic voters. But he had the cash. He spent $3,107,552 to Vicky Hartzler's $1,351,176, but his Missouri district gave Hartzler 50.4% of the vote and Skelton just 45.1%. John Adler was a Blue Dog and a big Wall Street suck-up in New Jersey. He spent $3,285,638 to Republican challenger Jon Runyan's $1,518,073. Runyan won 50-47%. And so it went around the country-- Rick Boucher defended his seat $3,325,898 against GOP challenger Morgan Griffith, who spent barely over a million and Griffith won. Longtime Blue Dog incumbent Allen Boyd lost his Florida district-- in a 54-41% rout-- even though he spent $3,814,064 to his opponent's $1,290,929. Mark Schauer spent $3,261,651 to keep his Michigan seat but Tim Walberg beat him with $1,647,379. Another crap Democrat, Chris Carney, desperately tried to cling to his northeast Pennsylvania seat bye spending $1,657,586 to Republican Tom Marino's $704,457 but Marino wiped him out 55.2% to 44.8%. And on and on. That was the red wave of 2010.

In 2006, the exact opposite had happened. It was a blue wave and Republicans outspent Democrats-- and lost their seats to challengers without much money. The GOP lost 30 seats, including those of power houses like Natural Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo in California. Pombo spent $4,629,983 to Democrat Jerry McNerney's $2,422,962 and McNerney beat him 53-47%. Nancy Johnson had been first elected to Congress from Connecticut in 1982. She was the top Republican on the honey pot Ways and Means Committee and she spent $5,095,844 to hold her seat. Chris Murphy beat her with $2,486,251. Same happened in New Hampshire where grassroots activist Carol Shea-Porter raised only $360,380 compared to GOP incumbent Jeb Bradley's $1,111,590. Charlie Taylor (R-NC) was a rich banking criminal connected to the Russian Mafia-- all the way back in 2006-- and his spent $2,530,580 of his own for a total of $4,171,482 against a Democrat who spent $1.8 million. The Democrat beat him 54-46%.

I'm sure you get the point. In wave elections the biggest money spender won't necessarily be reelected. But the political establishment doesn't understand that-- not the DCCC, the NRCC nor the stenographers masquerading as political pundits who vomit out their brilliant insights. The conservative Texas Observer did a story yesterday about the 2018 midterms. It focussed on one thing-- how well the Democrats were doing in the money chase. I'm glad they are, but that isn't why they're going to win. Democrats need enough money to get their messages out but they also need to connect with voters and if they do what old-fashioned, ignorant organizations like DCCC and EMILY's List insist they do-- sit on the phone and beg for money from strangers all day, everyday-- they'll miss and opportunity to do what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez just did. As of the June 6 FEC reporting deadline, she had spent $206,936 and Crowley spent $3,426,424. All that money... all that power... all those endorsements (AFL-CIO, SEIU, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, Kirsten Gillibrand, Chuck Schumer, Andrew Cuomo, Hakeem Jeffries, Eliot Engel, Mark Pocan, Maxine Waters...) couldn't save him. While he was schmoozing with powerful people, she was talking to ordinary voters. She was a waitress one year earlier and she beat him 15,897 (57.5%) to 11,761 (45.5%). He was already in elective office when her mother was giving birth to her. She didn't spend her time begging for money; she spent her time talking with voters. It's not what the DCCC or the DC establishment likes to see in candidates.

Back to that Observer article: "For the first time in 25 years," they noted, "Texas Democrats are running in every one of the state’s 36 congressional districts. And the latest federal campaign finance reports, released Sunday, show these candidates are bringing in money at unprecedented paces and in unexpected places. Many Republican incumbents who’ve seen their elections in comfortably red districts as preordained are now faced with the prospect of actually campaigning. That’s good news for the national Democratic Party’s takeover strategy for the U.S. House, which hinges in part on upsets in Texas’ moderating suburbs. For starters, Democratic candidates are doing well where they need to be doing well. In the three GOP-held congressional districts that Hillary Clinton won in 2016 and that the national Democratic Party has targeted as part of its strategy to win back the House-- Pete Sessions’ Dallas-area district, Will Hurd’s Southwest Texas district and John Culberson’s West Houston district-- the Democratic candidates each raised more than $1 million in the latest quarter, all outraising their GOP incumbent opponents."

Playing the money game is mostly a loser's game for Democrats anyway. After the Citizens United decision, all the Republicans need is a nice bribe from a monster like Adelman and any advantage for the Democratic candidates fundraising efforts is nullified. That's why grassroots campaigning is so crucial. Adelson just contributed $30 million to Ryan's SuperPAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund. Then there are the Kochs and that neo-Nazi family on Long Island (the Mercers) and lots of other-- from Elon Musk (don't buy another Tesla), Hushang Ansary, Doug Deason, Steve Cohen, Jim Simons, Paul Singer, Joseph Craft and Art Pope, to the Ricketts, Obendorfs, and Uihleins-- and happy as pigs in shit for the mega-million dollar tax cuts they got.

Goal ThermometerDemocrats on the right and Democrats on the left are all doing pretty well raising money for their campaigns this cycle. But the smart ones, unburdened by insistence from the DCCC and the Beltway's tired consultant class that candidates spend all their time on the phone, have a wave election advantage. I asked some of the progressives who won their primaries and haven't been embraced by the DCCC, about how this dynamic is playing out in their own races.

Dayna Steele has an advantage that few other candidates do. Because she was the most popular rock dj in Houston for so many years, people who might not otherwise even want to hear out a Democrat, are eager to meet her and listen to what she has to say. She's raised money money than any Democrat has in this district in decades, but never at the expense of meeting with the people who live in the 36th district. This morning she told me that "Team Dayna is running a professional campaign like no other Democrat has since this district was created. We assembled a strong team with prior experience, identified more than the anticipated win number of voters, and are using every avenue possible to contact these voters and talk to them, including a large and growing number of committed volunteers. I have said since the very beginning that if I was going to do this right, it had to be boots on the ground every single day, touching voters, and discussing the issues that are important in the district - health care, Internet access, and Harvey recovery. No Democrat ran in 2016 and the Green Party candidate got 11% of the vote that year without campaigning or resources. That right there strongly implies people are looking for a change. The voters are here. We simply need to reach them and we are."

Jesse King is running in a tough red district but she's fighting as hard as Alexandria Ocasio did. Her campaign just announced that in the last quarter it had raised over $300,000 breaking the fundraising record for any Democrat to ever run there. All in all, she's raised over $780,000 and has $54,000 more in cash-on-hand than Lloyd Smucker, her Trump enabling opponent. Refusing all corporate PAC money, her average contribution is $35.83. Her campaign has over 23 volunteer-led regional teams across Lancaster and York counties, all of which run door-knocking and phone banking efforts and just went over 100,000 calls and door knocks! Since launching in July 2017, she's held or attended over 100 public events like rallies and town halls. Smucker hasn't held a public, in-person town hall since he was elected. "Working people in South Central PA aren’t interested in another career politician who doesn’t show up for constituents but collects big checks from corporate PACs," she said. "We’re refusing all corporate PAC money and spending our time talking to folks in every corner of the district about how to build an America for all of us. And that’s why we’re seeing this groundswell of support from small-dollar donors. Some Washington insiders assume this district isn’t competitive because voters historically vote Republican. But we’re having thousands of honest conversations with voters about our hopes for our country and our families. And that’s inspiring people to vote with their values, instead of just on party lines."

"I come from a grassroots organizing tradition, and I'm running my campaign with a similar approach," said Mike Siegel, Democratic nominee in TX-10. "I've raised about $190,000 to date, and we've spent almost all of that on field organizers and canvassers and literature delivered directly to voters. Folks in the rural areas tell us they haven't seen a Democratic nominee in 40 years. And they have specific needs that I can fight for: access to rural hospitals; access to internet broadband; support for public schools. Meanwhile, they know that the incumbent, Rep. McCaul, doesn't care about regular folks and the issues they are facing. I can win this race without raising a million dollars-- I just need organizers. My next two hires will be a Spanish-speaking labor organizer and an African-American graduate student from an historically-black college in the District. We are going to reach out to every community that has been left behind by McCaul and the corporate power structure. I don't need TV ads or expensive consultants to do this work. I just need boots on the ground, so me and my team can meet with each small-town mayor, each pastor, each local advocate on the issues that matter. This is a "small d" democratic campaign, and we can win. You may not know it from reading the national news, but my opponent is only considered a nine point favorite. And he's done plenty-- giving himself $40 million in tax cut benefits, seeking cuts to Social Security, backing family separation-- that will convince voters it's time for a change."

Kendra Fershee is the progressive Democrat running in the northern third of West Virginia (WV-01), where Bernie beat Hillary in the primary and then Trump beat her in the general. Kendra has raised barely over $100,000, but if it keeps coming in at that pace it will be enough to get her message out and power her volunteer-based operation. "I'm running a classic grassroots campaign," she told us. "It's more personal, less expensive, and far more effective at reaching voters than a paid media driven campaign. I also rely on social media to communicate with people who may not have been engaged in politics in the past. In order to win this race, I'm going to need to engage people who have lost faith or interest in politics, find new voters, and get activists fired up to help. That's what we did during the primary, which I won even though my opponent out raised me ten to one, outspent me six to one, and was expected to win by every pundit and news source in West Virginia. We put ten thousand miles on my car, knocked on three thousand doors, and hand wrote six thousand postcards. We were proud of those numbers, but the best number-- despite the huge money deficit-- was that I won by more than nine points. That's a clear indication that what is happening right now is big. We shocked a lot of people in West Virginia in May, and we're going to shock the entire country in November. My incumbent opponent is not connected with voters the way we are-- he's far too entrenched in DC to do that-- and he's fumbled several attempts to use social media to fire up his voters. Whatever grassroots efforts he will have will be bought and impersonal. People are done with wealthy, out-of-touch representatives. They want real people-- parents of kids in public schools, people who work for a living, people who are relatable and genuine-- representing them. Grassroots worked for us in May, it is going to win in November."

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Ronald Reagan Must Be Spinning In His Grave But Will Trump Cost The GOP Congressional Seats? In Utah?


Utah is a very red state-- but it isn't exactly a Trump red state. The PVI is R+20 but in 2016 Trump only wound up with 45.5% of the vote. That's right More Utahans voted against him than for him. Hillary won the biggest county in the state, Salt Lake-- 175,863 to 138,043 (with McMullin pulling 79,880. Shocking as it may sound to people who aren't aware of Utah politics, Trump only took 33% of Salt Lake County. and in the 4th Congressional district-- where incumbent Republican Mia Love is considered vulnerable in November, Trump pulled 39% of the vote. Now that he's president, he's even less popular than he was in 2016. His popularity has sunk precipitously.

Robert Genrke, a columnist for the Salt Lake Tribune is no Trump fan to begin with. His column Tuesday was addressed to Utah favorite son Jon Huntsman, who served as ambassador to China under Obama and who Trump appointed ambassador to Russia in 2017. The paper's owner and publisher is Paul Huntsman, brother of Ambassador Huntsman. Salt Lake's Fox affiliate asked if Huntsman would resign after the Señor Trumpanzee contradicted his assessment of Russia as a "malign" actor on the world stage? Huntsman assessed the Kremlin on Fox News Sunday: "trying to influence other elections, not only our own but those in Europe, tampering with the Brexit vote, funding nefarious political movements within Europe. The list goes on and on and on." His daughter Abby, an anchor on the Fox News Channel told him that "No negotiation is worth throwing your own people and country under the bus."

Gehrke's column, Come home, Ambassador Huntsman, your country needs you, is what everyone in Utah is talking about. Gehrke addressed him directly: "Ambassador Huntsman, you work for a pawn, not a president. It’s time to come home."
As Utahns, many of us were a bit stunned last year when you accepted the job as U.S. ambassador to Russia, but your explanation made sense: It was a role you took on, much like your tenure in China, out of a deep sense of duty.

But that duty is to your country and the best way now to serve your country is not by holding on to some title and being the emissary of a president who doesn’t share your values, or American values, for that matter.

It’s by resigning immediately and speaking out against a president who attacks our allies, gives comfort to our adversaries and undermines our moral standing, our commitment to democratic ideals and our interest in human rights every time he opens his gaping mouth.

For Trump to simply accept at face value Putin’s assertion that Russia played no part in the plot to meddle in U.S. elections is a tragic disservice to the U.S. intelligence community, those diplomats who work in your office, and the integrity of our democracy and justice system.

“I have great confidence in my intelligence people,” Trump said (which he has demonstrated again and again is a lie). “But I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

Was his denial stronger and more powerful than the unanimous assessment of the entire U.S. intelligence community-- the CIA, the FBI, the National Security Agency, the director of national intelligence-- as well as the Senate Intelligence Committee, which all agree Russia meddled in the elections??

Was it stronger than the charges laid out in shocking detail just three days ago by Trump’s own Justice Department that a dozen Russian military and intelligence agents orchestrated the hacking of Democratic computers, compromised election offices and stole voter data, and worked with WikiLeaks to release damaging information?

...Ronald Reagan must be spinning in his grave.

Mr. Ambassador, members of your own Republican Party are condemning Trump’s shameful sellout of our country.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) said Putin “gained a tremendous amount” from Trump’s validation. “I would guess he’s having caviar right now,” Corker said.

“I would never thought I would see the day when our American president would stand on the stage with the Russian president and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ).

Your friend, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called it “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said the soccer ball Putin gave to Trump should be checked for listening devices and never allowed in the White House.

...To remain silent and continue to serve this president would be complicity in the undoing of our nation and its status as a world leader.

Come home, Mr. Huntsman. Your country needs you.
Mia Love's district includes the southern part of Salt Lake City plus the city's southern suburbs, like West Jordan, South Jordan, Riverton and shoots south through Lehi and Nephi as far south as Moroni, Spring City and Yuba Lake. She and Blue Dog Ben McAdams are all tied up in the money-raising race. As of the June 30 FEC report she had $1,233,151 in the bank and he had $1,249,035. And in the latest polls they are in a statistical tie. Will Trump hurt Love's reelection chances. McAdams told the media that he joins "Utahns of both political parties in expressing my frustration over what transpired in Helsinki. By interfering in our election, as all of our intelligence agencies have concluded, Russia attacked our country and our ideals. While we must find a way to live with our enemies, we should never confuse our adversaries with our allies. And we must resist Russian attacks with all the tools at our disposal. Democrats and Republicans should stand shoulder in this. Patriotism knows no party."

Love, like Republicans in tight races everywhere in the country, was clearly on the defensive and unable to defend Trump. In fact, she went as far as she could to distance herself from him: "Despite what was stated at today's summit, there is no question that Russia meddled in the 2016 election. Both the Intelligence community and the House Intelligence Committee have demonstrated that fact. Unfortunately, Russia continues a long and persistent track record of hostility towards our nation and values. There's a reason that I, as a Member of Congress, have consistently voted to sanction Russia for its behavior. President Trump must understand that the world counts on our nation to set the tone and hold thugs accountable. Today he failed to do so."

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Midnight Meme Of The Day


by Noah

The baby has landed! Traitor Don the Diaper Don returns from his Fabulous European Vacation. That, of course, is very unfortunate for the future of America. Apparently, it could have been avoided. We missed a golden opportunity. A sign seen at the London protests read:
Dear America, We have your president. If you do not send us $150,000,000 in unmarked bills by Friday 5 pm BST, we will allow him to return to you.
If only we'd known in time. Raising $150,000,000 in the cause of saving our country and the world would have been a piece of cake. 50 million patriotic people sending $3.00 each? 30 million patriotic people sending $5.00 each? Not a problem!

Meanwhile, his handler says "Mission Accomplished."

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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

How Does A Democrat Run In West Virginia? And How Does A Democrat Get Reelected?


Ojeda and Manchin

WV-03-- the southern third of West Virginia-- had two populist landslides in 2016. First Bernie beat Hillary by over 20 points and, in many counties got more votes than Trump did on the same day in the GOP primary. Then, in the general, the 3rd was Trump's biggest district in the state. He beat Hillary by a shocking 72.5% to 23.3%. The PVI of West Virginia is R+19. The PVI of WV-03 is R+23. But this cycle a Democratic state senator, Richard Ojeda, is leading in all the polls. Huh? Yeah. He picked the presidential candidate voters there backed both times-- Bernie in the primary and Trump in the general. and he's been very tight with arch-conservative U.S. Senator Joe Manchin who won every single county in the district last time he ran.

I first heard from the Ojeda campaign last April and I was... confused. He voted for Trump? They wanted a Blue America endorsement. His platform looked good and he was fighting-- fighting HARD-- for the teachers in their strike. Several teachers union members told me he was fighting harder for them than any other elected official. But I needed him to explain the Trump vote before we could endorse him. He never did-- and we never endorsed. I'm still rooting for him to win-- just not raising money for him. Those are two different things.

My question has always been the same-- my responsibility to Blue American contributors-- how will he vote when he gets to Congress? Like Joe Manchin? Like Bernie? I don't know. He says he's lost faith in Trump. OK, that's good. I don't know a single Democratic candidate running for Congress who has any faith in Trump.

Ojeda seems to be confused too. He says different things to different audiences. Talking to conservatives he said "When you hear about illegal aliens getting benefits and you have people here starving to death and can’t get nothing, it’s just a slap in the face. When you start talking about bringing in refugees and when they get here they get medical and dental and they get set up with some funds-- what do we get? So when people hear Donald Trump saying we’re going to take benefits away from people who come here illegally and give them to people who work, that sounds pretty good." But when he addresses progressives he says that his policy regarding immigration is that "open arms is what we should be all about. Let’s show people love regardless of where they’re from." Still, even during this interview, Ojeda made not one criticism of the policies, deregulations, corporate tax cuts, and war policies Trump has initiated. So I don't know. The DCCC added him to their Red-to-Blue list and, believe me, if he was a die hard Bernie populist-- in a district like that-- there would be no chance that that would have happened. The DCCC hates populists (more than they hate Republicans).

Yesterday, Evan Halper," writing for the L.A. Times called him a "fiery populist" and contrasted him to his political mentor, Manchin, who they dubbed "a business-friendly centrist"-- Contrasting paths toward a Democratic resurgence in West Virginia. "A cauldron of populist anger, the 47-year-old Ojeda breaks most every rule the Democratic consultant class has laid out for winning back coal country," wrote Halper. "He is nowhere near the playbook of West Virginia’s Democratic U.S. senator, Joe Manchin III, the folksy centrist and on-again, off-again President Trump ally who many in the party see as one of the last hopes for steering Democrats back to power in Appalachia."
Both Ojeda and Manchin are-- at least for now-- defying conventional wisdom by leading in polls in places where the 2016 election results suggest Republicans should be far ahead. Trump won this state by nearly 42 points. He won Ojeda’s district by nearly 50. A recent poll by Monmouth University showed Ojeda six points ahead of his Republican opponent, Carol Miller. Manchin holds a similarly sized lead in recent polls.

Their campaigns reflect two very different paths Democrats are testing as they seek a way back to relevance in white, working-class communities that abandoned the party for Trump, and where support for the president remains strong.

Both candidates are keenly aware that a poll-tested policy agenda alone won’t cut it here. For all their differences, their campaigns display at least one belief in common: Sharp instincts for the identity politics of the region will be needed to cut Trump’s coattails short in the upcoming midterm. It’s a point that many party activists in coastal Democratic strongholds struggle to comprehend at a time when Democratic candidates feel intense pressure to take up the talking points of the Resistance.

Ojeda voted for Trump. West Virginia politicos generally agree Manchin’s biggest career misstep may have been endorsing Hillary Clinton.

Manchin has spent the last 18 months trying to make amends with his electorate. He endeared himself to Trump enough to warrant consideration for the post of energy secretary. When Trump, instead, nominated Rick Perry of Texas for the job, Manchin introduced him at the Senate confirmation hearing.

Ojeda, for his part, has soured on Trump since the election, but it irks him that party leaders remain perplexed about how a fiery progressive like him could cast a ballot for the New York billionaire.

It’s simple, Ojeda said: The economic vision the Democrats offered for Appalachia was insulting and hopeless.

“You can’t take a coal miner making $95,000 a year, the only work in these parts where you can support a family without having to hold down three jobs at once … and tell them you can make minimum wage or we can give you job training for jobs that don’t exist in West Virginia,” Ojeda said during an interview at his threadbare office in his hometown of Logan.

Sure, he said, Trump’s promises were overblown. “But when one person says we will train you in something that does not exist here, and another person says, ‘I can keep coal alive, I can help you maintain the job making $95,000 a year and help you take care of your wife and children,’ what are you going to do?”

...“This is not about the message, it is about the messenger,” said Robert Rupp, a professor of history and political science at West Virginia Wesleyan College. “He is one of us. Even if voters don’t like what Ojeda is saying, they like where he stands.”

The message is a form of in-your-face populism stylistically similar to Trump’s, but different in the targets of his anger.

“We have to stop letting people come in here and make millionaires and billionaires of themselves off of West Virginia while West Virginia remains poor,” Ojeda said, as he launched into one of his signature indictments of big energy and big drug companies.

“You deploy to other countries and fight this nation’s wars because you have this sense that maybe these people can enjoy what we have in America because we are the greatest. And then you retire one day and you return and realize it was all a bunch of garbage. It was a lie.”

That populism marks a turnabout from West Virginia’s tradition of electing less volatile politicians, like Democratic Sens. Robert C. Byrd, John D. Rockefeller IV and also Manchin, valued for their ability to work within the system. Now, the system no longer works for most voters here.

Ojeda, a first-term state senator, shot onto the radar of labor leaders last year after unflinchingly taking up the cause of West Virginia’s teachers, who went on a strike that rattled school systems nationwide. He is angry that as teachers struggle to pay rent, energy companies eager to extract the state’s massive deposits of natural gas balk at an extraction tax that could be used to boost their pay.

As his community reels from the opioid crisis, he says to any politician “helping or protecting big pharma while they are killing our people, you are a murderer.” He blames feckless legislators beholden to drug interests for delaying implementation of a medical marijuana law Ojeda muscled through the Legislature.

In his own, more measured way, Manchin is also seizing on healthcare. The potential unraveling of the Affordable Care Act by Republicans and a more conservative Supreme Court is a key campaign issue for him in a state where 800,000 people have preexisting conditions, and most of them can’t afford insurance without government help.

“If insurance companies can go back to playing the games they played before, they can decide the fate of most of West Virginia,” Manchin said Wednesday at a Washington conference held by the Economic Innovation Group. “Whether they can buy insurance, afford insurance or whether they are one illness away from catastrophic ruin. These are the things we deal with.”

But the senator made clear his frustration with his own party, a theme that plays well at home. He recalled how Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) asked him after Trump’s election, “What happened to the West Virginia Democrats?”

“I said, ‘Not a thing. They want to know what happened to the Washington Democrats,’” Manchin said.

When the ringing of his mobile phone interrupted Manchin, fellow panelist Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) joked that the caller was probably Trump. Not skipping a beat, Manchin replied that it probably was.

Manchin, who is running for reelection against West Virginia attorney general Patrick Morrisey, is sitting on an impressive campaign war chest. Money is a bigger problem for Ojeda. His race against Miller, a wealthy Republican legislator expected to have considerable resources, is fast becoming a test case of how far modern grass-roots fundraising can take an unconventional candidate.

Help has also come from an unexpected place: Silicon Valley. Last year, as his campaign got underway, Ojeda found himself at a Palo Alto wine bar, pitching his vision to tech innovators at an event sponsored by the People’s House Project, a political action committee established by the journalist Krystal Ball to boost working-class Democrats running for office. Ball worked with Rep. Ro Khanna, the Democrat who represents much of the Silicon Valley, to introduce Ojeda to the tech world.

“That trip was unbelievable,” said Ball. “Richard had been all over the world with the military, but he had never been to California. He got in a room with these tech lawyers and entrepreneurs and executives and said, ‘I don’t know why you don’t think we have smart people in West Virginia.’

“These were progressive people who saw themselves as open-minded and not bigoted. They realized they had a lot of stereotypes about what West Virginians are like.”

Khanna, who has been travelling to coal country in an effort to build economic and political alliances, said Ojeda has a message the rest of the party should listen to.

“We default to the same platitudes and talking points people have been running on for the last 20 years,” the congressman said in an interview. “Party leaders can learn from [Ojeda]. Here is someone doing well in a part of the country where we have not been doing well.”
I know how Manchin is going to vote when he's reelected-- like a moderate Republican, just the way he's been voting. I still don't know how Ojeda's going to vote. No one does. I'm not even sure if he knows himself. It sure will be interesting to see though. As of the June 30 FEC filing deadline, he had raised $514,796 and Carol Miller had raised $463,818-- although $205,400 of that had come right out of her own fat bank account. The most recent poll, late June by Monmouth, shows Ojeda beating her among likely voters 47-41% or, if the Blue Wave hits West Virginia, 48-39%. And then we'll all find out how he'll be voting.

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Lenin-Trump Doctrine by Chip Proser

According to the law, the federal crime of treason is committed by a person “owing allegiance to the United States who... adheres to their enemies, giving them aid or comfort.” Misprision (abetting) of treason is committed if a person “having knowledge of the commission of treason conceals and does not disclose” the crime."

Trump has certainly captured more than a quick news cycle. His treason on TV-- who ever heard of that-- isn't going away soon. Even before the Helsinki thing happened, Ryan Lizza, in an essay, Vanishing Point for Esquire focussed in on one of the key questions: "As the GOP increasingly comes to resemble a personality cult, is there any red line-- video tapes? DNA evidence? a war with Germany-- President Trump could cross and lose party support? 'Very doubtful,' say a dozen GOP members of Congress stuck hard behind the MAGA eight ball."

Mark Sanford (R-SC) went out of his way to say-- and seemingly out of the blue-- that he's not comparing Trump to Hitler, which is exactly what he was doing. "Like any good conservative," wrote Lizza, "Sanford has studied and reveres Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, the philosopher-economist’s 1944 account of how dictators take over democracies. Sanford is "worried about America’s political dysfunction, Trump’s 'strongman' affinities, and where that combination could lead. He also brings up the fall of Athenian democracy. 'In part this is not a new movie,' he concluded. 'This is a replaying of a script that’s played throughout the ages, but with incredibly ominous possibilities if we don’t recognize the dangers of the themes that are now at play within American society.'"

Right after the press conference former CIA director John Brennan said flatly that the event was "nothing short of treasonous." When have you seen a tweet like this before?

Brennan, as you know, never worked for Trump. Dan Coats does. Coats, a former Republican senator from Indiana, was appointed by Trump to be Director of National Intelligence, in other words, the guy who oversees all the U.S. intelligence services. After Trump said he believes in the Russian intelligence services as much as the U.S. intelligence services. This is what the idiot blurted out: "My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others. They said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia." Coats' reply:
The role of the Intelligence Community is to provide the best information and fact-based assessments possible for the President and policymakers. We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security.
He didn't offer an opinion on whether or not Trump is a Russian operative and if he's guilty of treason. But what do you call this that Trump babbled yesterday? "I don’t see any reason why it would be Russia who hacked the opposition party. I have great confidence in my intelligence people. But I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today."

I wonder what Leonard Lance (NJ) will say. He was one of the only Republican congressmen Ryan Lizza found who was-- on the record-- willing to say there is a red line for him over which Trump could not cross and still expect his support: "Personal collusion by Trump with the Russians during the campaign."
Conservative Trump critics fear becoming the next Sanford and stay quiet—what Flake and others call the “don’t poke the bear” mind-set. Meanwhile, many of the moderate anti-Trump Republicans are leaving office. Congressman Ryan Costello, a Republican from Pennsylvania who decided to quit (redistricting gave him a bluer constituency), said, “If I were running for reelection, every single time that I saw on the TV screen that the president was going to hold another rally, I’d be like, ‘Oh, fuck!’ Because he’s going to say fifty things that aren’t accurate.”

Sanford has started to think seriously about what he should do now to contain the forces he says Trump has unleashed. “I came back to Congress worried primarily about debt, deficit, and government spending,” he told me. “This thing, though, given my own personal experiences, has begun to crowd into that space, to say this is a bigger and more clear and present danger to the republic than even the debt and the deficit that I thought was the end of the world.”

I asked Sanford: If he really believed what he said about Trump, shouldn’t he too support a Democratic takeover of the House or Senate? He paused for a long time, perhaps wondering how Friedrich Hayek might answer.

“I don’t know,” he finally said. “I mean, everybody’s going to come up with their own remedy as to what you do next. I wouldn’t say that’s mine.”

But he wouldn’t rule it out.

“I’m not there at this point,” he said. “Let me just take one day at a time.”

Thomas Friedman is pulling his hair out of his head: Trump and Putin vs. America. Is that not an accusation of treason? "My fellow Americans," he wrote, "we are in trouble and we have some big decisions to make today. This was a historic moment in the entire history of the United States."
There is overwhelming evidence that our president, for the first time in our history, is deliberately or through gross negligence or because of his own twisted personality engaged in treasonous behavior-- behavior that violates his oath of office to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Trump vacated that oath today, and Republicans can no longer run and hide from that fact. Every single Republican lawmaker will be-- and should be-- asked on the election trail: Are you with Trump and Putin or are you with the C.I.A., F.B.I. and N.S.A.?

...Putin unleashed a cyberattack on America’s electoral process, aimed at both electing Trump-- with or without Trump’s collusion-- and sowing division among American citizens.

Our intelligence agencies have no doubt about this: Last week, America’s director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, described Putin’s cybercampaign as one designed “to exploit America’s openness in order to undermine our long-term competitive advantage.” Coats added that America’s digital infrastructure “is literally under attack,” adding that there was “no question” that Russia was the “most aggressive foreign actor.”

I am not given to conspiracy theories, but I cannot help wondering if the first thing Trump said to Putin in their private one-on-one meeting in Helsinki, before their aides were allowed to enter, was actually: “Vladimir, we’re still good, right? You and me, we’re still good?”

And that Putin answered: “Donald, you have nothing to worry about. Just keep being yourself. We’re still good.”
I guess when he eventually needs to, Trump can fly off to Moscow and ask for asylum-- though not soon enough for me or anyone I know. Meanwhile, Paul Ryan wants to be really clear-- wellllll.... he wants to be clear enough to not cause a landslide against Republicans in November, but not clear enough to anger Señor Trumpanzee:

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What Will Progressives Who Get Elected To Congress This Time Do Differently


For most candidates for Congress-- and incumbents-- the economics of politics is about how to access money to keep their careers moving ahead. For the new breed of Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the economics of politics has more to do with how to finance the Bernie policies they're espousing and that their supporters are clamoring for. Getting the new breed Dems all on-message with that kind of economics would be huge. If you don’t know what you’re capable of achieving, you can’t advocate for it. A bold, progressive agenda demands a complementary economic framework. Yesterday Ocasio sent this message to her supporters in the Bronx and Queens and across the country:
When we want to spend trillions of dollars on a foreign war, Republicans find money for it.

When we want to subsidize oil and fossil fuel companies with billions of dollars, Republicans find money for it.

When we want to give a 1.5 trillion dollar tax break that disproportionately helps the wealthy elite, Republicans find money for it.


Medicare for All can’t happen because we can’t find the money to pay for it. We can’t have tuition-free college because it’s too expensive. A federal jobs guarantee could never happen because it just costs too much.

Time to dispel that narrative, because here’s the reality-- we can afford to give working people the quality of life they deserve. It’s not about cost, it’s about what we choose to prioritize.

...You know what’s even more absurd? The implication that these programs don’t create far more value than their cost anyway. Investing in our working and middle class communities has incredible returns.

Helping everyone access higher education gets us the workforce we need to compete in the 21st century. By almost every measure, Medicare for All would reduce the total amount our country spends on it’s privatized alternative. A Green New Deal would create hundreds of thousands of new, high-paying jobs too!

The real formula for economic growth has been known for decades-- we get it by investing in everyone, not by giving more money to the top 1% and big corporations, which only exacerbates economic inequality nationwide.

It’s not about cost-- it was never about cost. It’s always been about protecting the status of the wealthy elite in our nation.

It’s time that the rest of us got our fair share.
This has been the message of MMT, a message that Bernie's chief economics advisor Stephanie Kelton has been explaining for years, to a largely confused and uncomprehending Democratic Party establishment. Perhaps that new breed of Democrats-- once they get into Congress-- can help them understand it. As Ryan Grim wrote Monday morning, Ocasio-Cortez "is exploring forming a 'sub-caucus' of progressives in the House that would be willing to vote as a bloc to leverage their power, she said in a recent podcast interview. Progressives in Congress have been watching Ocasio-Cortez closely for clues as to how she’ll navigate the unwieldy chamber that is the House of Representatives, where she is expected to arrive after the November election. The interest in her includes the personal-- Will she endorse a primary challenge against me?-- as well as the institutional. Progressive Democrats are excited to have a telegenic spokesperson carrying their message, but some have expressed private concerns that she may look to organize a bloc of Democrats who could eclipse the Congressional Progressive Caucus in prominence."

The co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Mark Pocan, whipped-- aggressively and sometimes quite dishonestly-- against Ocasio during the election. He's moved the CPC in a very, very New Dem direction, even endorsing middle of the road New Dem politicians against progressives in primary battles. Most of the members of the CPC are the best members of Congress, but the caucus itself has become... less than it was. Maybe Ocasio and other new hard-fighting progressives can counter the slide. That said, Grim points out that "Ocasio-Cortez has been insistent that she has no intention of burning the party to the ground or stoking needless internal rifts, preferring instead to persuade her colleagues to move in a more aggressively populist direction.“'As unapologetic and strong as I am in my messaging and my beliefs, my style is that I’m a consensus-builder,' she said on the podcast. But she is at bottom an organizer, and if persuasion doesn’t work, and the caucus isn’t maximizing its influence, she has made clear that she is aware of the tools at her disposal."
In a recent interview on Jacobin’s podcast, recorded after the election, Ocasio-Cortez floated the idea of a bloc of progressives who would stick together to demand stronger legislation.

The current CPC, made up of 78 members, is too amorphous to act as a united bloc, which saps it of its strength, Ocasio-Cortez argued. It’s the same rationale that conservatives who built the powerful Freedom Caucus three years ago used when they broke away from the larger Republican Study Committee, the GOP equivalent of the progressive caucus.

“The thing that gives the caucus power is that you can operate as a bloc vote in order to get things done,” Ocasio-Cortez told Daniel Denvir, host of Jacobin’s “The Dig.” “Even if you can carve out a sub-portion, a sub-caucus of the progressive caucus, even if you could carve out that, even a smaller bloc, but one that operates as a bloc, then you could generate real power.”

  If Democrats wind up holding a slim majority in future Congresses, a progressive sub-caucus wouldn’t need many members to tip the balance, since leadership would need all of them on board to move forward. “If you can even carve out a caucus of 10, 30 people it does not take a lot, if you operate as a bloc vote, to really make strong demands on things,” she said.

What Ocasio-Cortez is floating-- a progressive mirroring of the Freedom Caucus-- has been flirted with in the past in Congress. Congressional Black Caucus members have at times voted as a bloc and extracted concessions, but the CPC has been much quicker to blink.

The problem-- if it can be called one-- is that progressives, even those at the edge of the party’s spectrum, are much less willing to shoot the hostage than ultra-conservatives, a point made by multiple members of the CPC who The Intercept spoke to about the Ocasio-Cortez idea. Ideologically, conservatives who broadly oppose government spending, or the government in general-- it is, according to Ronald Reagan, “the problem”-- have less of an issue with shutting down the government or rejecting legislation. Republicans tend to look to roll things back, while Democrats, in the ideal, are trying to build things up. And very few Democrats are willing to reject a small amount of progress because it isn’t enough.

...The number of Democrats who might be willing to take a firm stand and credibly threaten to oppose legislation if it’s not strong enough is small, likely fewer than 10 at the moment, including progressives such as Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna, or Jamie Raskin. But more Democrats will be arriving next year who may take a more aggressive tact.

Rashida Tlaib, who is running to replace Rep. John Conyers Jr. in Michigan’s 13th Congressional District, could be one of those. “What’s clear is that a label, like ‘Democrat’ or ‘progressive,’ doesn’t speak nearly as loudly as actions, and that we cannot give folks a pass when they have the right label but aren’t taking action to make the lives of working families better,” said Andy Goddeeris, a spokesperson for Tlaib, when asked about the Ocasio-Cortez plan. “When we send Rashida to Congress, she’s not going to be afraid to tell the folks in her own caucuses when they’re selling out the people. But I think she would ideally like to see a consensus built among progressive legislators. Standing together in support of bold, unapologetic policy in service of working-class people is what’s necessary to fight back against the right wing.”
So I'm guessing, based on policy agendas, that the bloc Ocasio is hoping to help put together would include more than just her and Rashida Tlaib and include men and women who have already won primaries, like Kara Eastman, J.D. Scholten (IA), Randy Bryce (WI) and Jess King (PA), as well as progressives still fighting to win primaries, like Kaniela Ing (HI), James Thompson (KS), Brent Wilder (KS), and Matt Haggman (FL). I might as well mention at this point, that no matter how many progressives get elected, the DCCC has fixed the primaries so severely-- with no push-back from the Progressive Caucus-- that, overall, the new Democratic conference will be much more conservative than the current one. The DCCC has made sure that there will be lots more Blue Dogs and New Dems-- from Jeff Van Drew (NJ), Max Rose and Anthony Brindisi in New York to Cathy Manning and Dan McCready in North Carolina, from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, working furiously to counter anything progressives like Ocasio and Tlaib try to do.

Bernie and Alexandria are doing a United For America rally in Wichita for James Thompson on Friday. Wonder why? I was talking with him the other day. There's little chance you'll something like this from a garden variety congressional Democrat: "One thing is clear," said Thompson: "we must revamp our broken immigration system to reflect our country's values. ICE is currently operating under the guidelines and policies of the Trump administration. Congress has failed to provide proper guidance in handling immigration in the United States, which allowed President Trump to step in and fill that void with his own racist and inhumane policy interpretations. Here in my district in Wichita, Kansas, ICE is allowed to operate without any apparent oversight because they lease privately owned property. Public officials are not allowed in and protesters are prevented by the police from protesting at the sight because of the lessor’s ownership interests. The government will not even admit that ICE uses the facility as a detention center despite people being released from there once their ICE bond is paid and released. Unless those within ICE find the political courage to say enough is enough and we will no longer follow immoral and inhumane orders, ICE will need to be disbanded in favor of a completely new immigration system. Otherwise we run the risk of renaming an organization with the same organizational culture that does nothing to prevent the atrocities we are seeing. We, as a society, are in danger of losing fundamental virtues that made us quintessentially American such as compassion, empathy and dignity. WE CAN DO BETTER. WE MUST DO BETTER."

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Mirror, Mirror On The Wall, Who's The Trumpiest Of Them All?


Do we need more like this in Congress?

Georgia is lousy with white Trumpists-- especially outside the Atlanta Metro, where Hillary did even better than Obama had. Trump won the state's 16 electoral votes 2,089,104 (51.05%) to 1,877,963 (45.89%). Even during the Republican primary, Trump won every single one of Georgia's 159 counties except 4 in the Atlanta Metro plus Clarke County (Athens), all of which were won by Rubio. In the general, 6 rural counties Obama won in 2012-- Baker, Dooly, Early, Peach, Quitman and Twiggs, swung over to Trump. White rural Georgia is still Trump Country, even if his favorability has sunk significantly in the suburbs and among minorities.

Jenna Johnson,writing for the Washington Post, used the Georgia GOP gubernatorial runoff primary to demonstrate how 2018 candidates are mimicking Trump's worst characteristics on the campaign trail. She started her report by pointed out that "In last week’s debate between Georgia’s Republican candidates for governor, policy was quickly abandoned as Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp lit into one another with a familiar slate of accusations. Kemp called Cagle a liar at least a dozen times. Cagle accused Kemp of conspiring with another Republican to release a recording of an 'out of context' private conversation. Kemp accused Cagle of spreading 'fake news' to Georgians, and Cagle repeatedly refused to apologize for saying what he says."

The two very right-wing candidates argue of who's Trumpier, bicker "over which of them has supported the president for the longest or who would most warmly embrace the Trump agenda" and have both started acting like the repulsive jackass themselves, "using some of his nastiest campaign tactics." But, unfortunately, Georgia isn't the only place this is happening.
In races across the country, other Republican candidates-- and some Democrats-- also are branding their opponents with unflattering nicknames, tweeting in all caps, refusing to apologize for things that politicians once apologized for, being proudly politically incorrect, circulating false information, calling their hometown newspapers “fake news,” releasing damaging information about their opponents and generating controversy to get headlines, even unflattering ones. A Republican candidate for California’s state legislature, copying Trump’s foray against President Barack Obama, has even launched a birther movement, demanding proof that his Democratic opponent is a legal citizen of the United States.

“Trump’s style was such a departure from anything we were used to seeing in a presidential campaign-- his willingness to just go all-out and criticize heavily someone, call them names and engage in schoolyard talk,” said Kerwin Swint, a political science professor at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. “Candidates this year are more willing to go there out of a sense that a precedent has been set or that it works or why not do it in my race.”

But it’s unclear if the tactics will work for many candidates other than Trump, who had a cache with his voters unmatched by most seeking office.

“I don’t like when candidates overly emulate the president. There’s only one Donald Trump,” said Harlan Z. Hill, a conservative consultant working on several midterm races who is also involved with Trump’s 2020 campaign. Hill said he gets frustrated with candidates who use gimmicky nicknames like the president does.

“My biggest problem with this is that it sort of reflects a wider problem in the Republican Party right now, where people are paying lip service to the Trump movement, the America First movement,” he said. “They really don’t understand it, so they’re just emulating the superficial aspects of it. I think voters see right through that.”

But it can be difficult for voters to know whether candidates are emulating Trump out of belief or ambition.

Former soap-opera actor [and gay porn star] Antonio Sabato Jr.-- who spoke at the 2016 Republican National Convention and is now running for Congress in Southern California-- has called for Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), a Trump nemesis, to be locked up because he believes she is a “hustler of hate” who “wants to tar and feather anyone different from her.” In Indiana, Trump-endorsed Senate candidate Mike Braun cast his primary opponents as “Todd the Fraud” and “Luke the Liberal.” Iowa Republican Party Chairman Jeff Kaufmann has nicknamed a Democratic congressional candidate “Absent Abby,” in hopes of drawing attention to her statehouse attendance record. Meanwhile, the Maryland Democratic Party has nicknamed Republican Gov. Larry Hogan “Hidin’ Hogan” while accusing him of hiding his conservative positions.

Some of the Trumpiest candidates-- the sort who were early supporters of the president’s campaign and decided to run for office themselves-- aren’t making it past the Republican primaries.

In northern Ohio’s 16th Congressional District, state lawmaker Christina Hagan was inspired by Trump’s 2016 victory to run for Congress, but she lost the primary to the Republican establishment’s favorite, former football star Anthony Gonzalez. One of Hagan’s commercials featured the same out-of-context footage of people rushing a Moroccan border that Trump used in one of his anti-illegal immigration campaign commercials. She also tweeted a news article about a suspect with a name similar to her opponent’s who had been charged in connection with what she called an “illegal immigrant drug ring”-- ignoring calls from fellow Republicans who asked her to delete the tweet.

In New York’s 11th Congressional District, which includes Staten Island, former congressman Michael Grimm challenged Republican Rep. Dan Donovan but lost the primary. Grimm labeled his opponent “Desperate Dan” and “Dishonest Dan,” and compared his own felony conviction for federal tax fraud to the ongoing investigation into whether the Trump campaign worked with Russia in 2016, a probe Grimm considers unfair and politically motivated.

The Trumpiest candidate in the Georgia governor’s race was Michael Williams, a state senator who was one of the few elected officials in the country to endorse Trump in 2015. In the final days of the primary campaign, a struggling Williams received a burst of local and national attention for driving a “deportation bus” around the state, sparking a string of protests. It was a stunt that surprised some of Williams’ supporters, who compared it to Trump purposely generating controversy so that he could dominate the news.

Williams finished last in the primary, even losing the county where he lives. Cagle earned the most votes but not enough to become the party’s nominee, so he and Kemp face a runoff on July 24. A poll released by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News on Friday shows Kemp with a slight lead.

Voter turnout for primaries is often low-- and it’s often even lower for runoff elections, especially those held in the dead of summer. Local strategists and political scientists say that voters who do show up will likely be the party’s most loyal and most conservative members. That explains why Kemp has done so many ads featuring his guns and pickup truck, which he claims in a southern drawl could be used to “round up criminal illegals.” And it explains why Cagle is now catering to the far-right edge of the party.
They're probably the only Republicans in the country who are pissed off that Sacha Baron-Cohen didn't interview them for the upcoming show he did about insane bloodthirsty Republicans advocating arming toddlers in kindergarten. It's worth watching-- released just a couple of days ago, three-and-a-half million people have already watched the YouTube version.

“It’s literally been hilarious to watch” said Seth Weathers, a former state director for Trump who worked on Williams’ campaign, describing what he said was Cagle’s transformation from moderate to Trump mimic.

“Just be who you are,” he said, adding: “No one is Trump.”

Soon after the May primary, Cagle met with one of the Republicans he beat, Clay Tippins, for a frank conversation that he hoped would lead to an endorsement. Tippins recorded the conversation and has been releasing parts of it. First came audio of Cagle saying that a bill providing public funding for private schools was “bad public policy” but he supported it to prevent a rival from gaining financial support from charter school supporters.

Last week, Kemp’s campaign released a snippet it had received from Tippins in which Cagle says that the GOP primary came down to “who had the biggest gun, who had the biggest truck and who could be the craziest.”

Kemp says that Cagle was trashing conservative voters with the comment, comparing it to Hillary Clinton describing Trump’s supporters as “deplorable.” Cagle’s aides said he was pointing out how crazy Kemp has made this race.

By way of timing, the audio controversy echoed the release in the presidential contest of a 2005 Trump interview with Access Hollywood in which he bragged about grabbing and kissing women without their consent.

Although Trump weathered that crisis, the polls here have tightened. Cagle recorded a new commercial last week that was staged to look like a Trump rally. He stood in front of an American flag, surrounded by supporters, and yelled out his beliefs to a cheering crowd.

“I’ll never apologize for outlawing sanctuary cities or stopping liberals from taking the values that make our country great,” he said, lines familiar to any Trump rally veteran. “The time for conservatives getting kicked around is over.”

Cagle tweeted out the ad with a claim that his opponent was “in cahoots” with the media to push “fake news.”

In the Thursday night debate, many of the buzzwords reflected 2016: “Colluding.” “Lies.” “Never going to apologize.” “Hypocrite.” “Despicable.” “Fake news.” After the debate, it continued as the candidates answered questions from reporters.

“Casey Cagle’s getting to be like Hillary Clinton now,” Kemp said. “He’s gone after my ‘crazy’ supporters that have guns, trucks and chain saws. He’s saying I’m colluding, and he’s saying I’m sexist. That’s the same thing that Hillary Clinton said about Donald Trump. I think Georgians know better.”

Minutes later, Cagle complained with a line that could have come straight from Trump. No one could hear about his record as Georgia’s lieutenant governor, he said, because “the only thing that my opponent can talk about is a tape-- a tape!”
Of course, after Trump's horrifying display of treasonous behavior in Helsinki yesterday-- and with even allies like Fox, seeming to turn on him (albeit not ass-licks like Hannity or Carlson)-- how soon will it be before GOP careerist candidatess start to realize that being the Trumpiest candidate is a hinderance not an attraction? This is how Jonathan Swan and Mike Allen put it at Axios early this morning:
Trump sucking up to Vladamir Putin after the summit in Helsinki yesterday was such an unbelievable, indelible moment that many deflated White House officials didn’t even bother to defend or explain it.

...A former senior White House official, who worked closely with Trump, immediately texted us: “Need a shower.”

One of Trump's own former National Security Council officials texted: “Dude. This is a total [effing] disgrace. The President has lost his mind."

CBS Face the Nation anchor Margaret Brennan, who was in the audience, told AP she was messaging some U.S. officials during the speech who said they were turning off the television.

...Jeremy Bash, former chief of staff at the Pentagon and CIA, told Brian Williams on MSNBC: "Ronald Reagan won the Cold War. Today's Donald Trump lost the post-Cold War for the United States of America."

...Newt Gingrich, one of the most vocal Trump backers among establishment Republicans, tweeted: "President Trump must clarify his statements in Helsinki on our intelligence system and Putin. It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected-- immediately."

Republican congressional leaders said they believe the intelligence community.

Drudge, usually a Trump champion, bannered: "PUTIN DOMINATES IN HEL."
Smart Democratic congressional campaigners jumped on this immediately, contrasting themselves with Republicans foolish enough to stand with Trump's treasonous lunacy. Harley Rouda is running for an Orange County seat against Putin's favorite congressman. Rouda's statement to the media last night: "Dana Rohrabacher has once again proven that he's unfit to lead. In interviews today, he has apologized for Vladimir Putin's attack on our democracy during the 2016 Presidential election. He has insulted the patriotic, diligent men and women of the U.S. intelligence community by impugning their work. And finally, he has gone to the radical extreme to suggest that the U.S. has committed crimes far worse than Russia's despicable attack on our election. Dana's actions today may play well in Moscow, but they aren't befitting a member of Congress who swears to serve the Constitution and to defend our nation against all adversaries."

Progressive Democrat JD Scholten makes the point that his opponent, Steve King (R-IA) was Trumpy when Trump was just some "reality" show TV host. "King," he said, "is one person who actually make Trump look tame. He's tweeted at Trump for not going far enough or fast enough on things like immigration and abortion. Steve King was the Donald Trump of the political world even before Trump was elected."

Goal ThermometerThomas Guild is the progressive organizer and Berniecrat in Oklahoma City who I thought about immediately when I saw Jenna's Johnson's piece in The Post, since his opponent is such a pure Trumpist. He agrees. "Steve Russell," he told me this morning, "carries water for Trump on virtually every issue. Russell voted for the Trump tax cuts that benefit the wealthy and big corporations while blowing a huge $2.2 trillion hole in the national debt. He ran as a deficit/debt hawk and now has voted to add many trillions to the national debt and exponentially expand deficit spending for as far as the eye can see. I guess we will have to demote Russell to the rank of fiscal tweety bird (apologies to you-- tweety-- I’ve always liked your cartoons). Trump is a nemesis to the LGBTQ community and Russell has offered legislation to explicitly discriminate against individuals and companies doing business identified as LGBTQ. Trump has pursued questionable and racist policies and Russell has dragged his feet on important issues of equity like strengthening voting rights under federal law. Both Russell and Trump would likely break out the champagne and spontaneously jump for joy if Trump’s next SCOTUS appointment casts the deciding vote to overturn the longstanding precedent Roe v Wade, that protects women’s health and privacy and their right to make their own intimate personal decisions free from governmental interference. As they say in the Sooner State if it acts like a duck, and walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, it must be a duck! What do you have to say about that Mr. Russell-- Quack! Quack!!"

Last word on the efficacy of trying to be the Trumpiest candidate in town-- Former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman addressed Trumpanzee directly: "Mr President, you should be ashamed. To deny your own country and government in favor of a foreign leader whose country has, for decades, tried to undermine the United States is irrational and dangerous. Please step down, you are not fit to lead this great nation." Still no comments from Casey Cagle or Brian Kemp yet.

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Blue America Endorses An Inspiring New Candidate-- Meet Matt Haggman (FL-27)


I want to introduce Blue America's newest endorsed candidate, Matt Haggman in Miami-Dade, the 27th district, from which Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is retiring. The only reason this very blue seat has remained in Republican hands for so long is because Debbie Wasserman Schultz has done everything in her once- considerable power to undermine and sabotage any Democrat who has gone up against Ros-Lehtinen, an old crony of hers from when they both served in the Florida state legislature and worked together to gerrymander the state in a way that helped the GOP and, of course, Wasserman Schultz. She's now a largely reviled and powerless character and Ros-Lehtinen realized without Debbie working for her behind the scenes-- Debbie's no longer even allowed behind the scenes-- she'd better retire with grace. The district has a PVI of R+5 and Hillary beat Trump there 58.5% to 38.9%, the biggest, bluest margin in any Republican-held district in the entire country.

Goal ThermometerThis cycle, predictably, a boatload of Democrats jumped into the race. Since then many of them dropped out, leaving it a contest basically between progressive Matt Haggman and two garden variety Democrats, Clinton-era throwback Donna Shalala and moderate state legislator David Richardson. All have raised approximately the same out of money. Shalala and Richardson, though, are both self-funders who each dropped over half a million dollars of their own money into their campaigns. Yep... seat buyers. Clearly the best of the three candidates, I asked Matt to introduce himself to DWT readers with a guest post. If you like what he has to say, please consider contributing to his campaign-- by clicking on the Blue America 2018 congressional thermometer on the right.

Why We Must Change In Big Ways, Not Small
by Matt Haggman

I’ve never run for elected office before. But last year I decided to quit my job and run for Congress.

Before the last presidential election I believed America would never elect a person who said and did the things that Donald Trump said and did. I believed America today would never elect a bully, a liar, someone who preyed upon our worst fears and sought to divide us to win. We might come close to electing such a demagogue as president, but at this stage in our country’s history we would never actually do it. We had come too far to take such a clear and destructive step backward. America today was, I thought, different. I was obviously wrong.

Eight years after the most hopeful moment in our politics in my lifetime, we now were at the very bleakest moment. The better angels of our nature had given way to the most base sensibilities. A presidency built on hope had been followed by one built on our worst fears.

How we respond is, of course, critical. Years from now we will each be asked, what did you do when a president was elected who declared the press the enemy of the state, instituted a Muslim ban, ripped immigrant children away from their parents? Each of us is answering that question in our own way. For me, I’m answering by running.

But I would argue even more is at stake than standing up against a rogue and duplicitous president.

To me, what is required in Congress today is dramatic overhaul. Not incremental tweaks but deep and widespread change. This needs to be more than simply retaking the House but a moment of renewal in our politics in which we chart an entirely new path, and practice our politics in entirely new ways.

Even as Donald Trump’s election was a call to action and even as we must ensure that Trump’s America doesn’t become the new normal, Trump’s election revealed something else. Namely, it revealed that our political system is badly broken.

For years our politics have been stuck. Friends intent on driving social change have long given up on politics as the place to do it. They’ve focused their efforts in community activism, entrepreneurship, arts, education (my brother has worked as an 8th grade public school teacher the past decade), rather than try to make a dent in the messy and ineffective world of politics. Trump’s election served notice that the rupture is complete. Something is deeply wrong with our entire political system. Indeed, the sad truth is that while Trump is a cause of our political dysfunction, he is also a symptom of it.

At the time of Trump’s election I was Miami Program Director at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Before that I was a journalist for almost a decade, most of that time at the Miami Herald.

During my nearly six years at Knight Foundation I launched an effort focused on propelling Miami’s entrepreneurs and civic innovators as a way to expand opportunity and drive community engagement. The effort resulted in thousands of jobs, spawned myriad new leaders and, most important to me, created a new sense of possibility in Miami.

We aimed to lift up the entire community, supporting the launch of dozens of programs ranging from The Idea Center at Miami Dade College, supporting student entrepreneurs at the largest and most diverse college in the U.S., to the creation of the Black Tech Week and Women Innovating Now LAB Miami, supporting black and women founders.

I loved the work, and it’s hardly finished in Miami. But, for me, the presidential election interrupted all of that. Instead, I submitted my resignation, packed up my office at Knight Foundation, and drove home. There, sitting on my couch in my living room, I started calling friends. “I have a crazy idea,” I told them, “I’m running for Congress.”

As I’ve set out on my first campaign-- building a plane while flying it, I’ve often described it-- much has shaped my thinking. From growing up in Cambridge, Mass. in Speaker Tip O’Neill’s district, being a product of public schools, attending college in New Orleans at Tulane University, working as a journalist at the Miami Herald. But what I want to focus on here is the work at Knight Foundation helping propel entrepreneurs, small business owners and community leaders in neighborhoods across Miami.

At its core, that work focused on investing in and empowering people, helping entrepreneurs honestly assess challenges and think in new ways to solve them, while building trust and establishing core values across the community. And, most of all, the work thrived on an ethos of helping people disrupt-- in big, transformative ways-- the normal way of doing things.

To me, all of this is required in our politics today. We need wrenching, system-wide change. And we, as candidates, can’t just aspire to it, but have the courage to live it.

Change must really mean change

It’s for that reason that my campaign is refusing to accept any donations from political action committees, federal lobbyists or special interests that often play an outsized role in Florida politics like the sugar and energy industry. Instead, our mantra is people, not PACs.

My belief is that if we can get people elected who are funded purely by individuals, then it’s one step closer to getting a Congress that is working in the public interest rather than the corporate or special interest.

Consider that polls show that more than 80 percent of Americans-- more than 8 in 10-- want universal background checks for gun sales. Yet, there is zero movement on legislation in Congress to establish universal background checks. To me, there is one explanation: how congressional campaigns are funded.

Once in Congress, I would support legislation banning contributions from PACs and lobbyists. Furthermore, support legislation that increases transparency on political contributions of all kinds and begin the process of passing a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

But, to me, the key is not to wait. For too long we have seen well-meaning candidates who say we must have campaign finance reform but become beholden to the very system they pledge to change.

Meanwhile, this needs to be a moment when we not only change the way we fund elections, but have the courage to let new leaders emerge from the bottom ranks of Congress to the very top. Now, more than ever, we need new leaders and fresh voices. But solely electing a host of fresh-faced members to Congress this Fall is not nearly enough.

That’s why when I was asked in May by a Miami Herald reporter, if elected to Congress, would I support House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi to continue leading the party, I responded, “No, it’s time for a new day.”

My response was not meant to detract from the years of great service Leader Pelosi has given to the party. She is a trailblazer who is responsible for some of the biggest successes of the Democratic Party in the past fifteen years.

Experience and institutional knowledge are, of course, important. But if the Democratic party doesn’t see voters’ frustration with both its current leadership and our politics today, we will have missed an historic opportunity to chart a new path at a pivotal moment.

If elected, I would also push for reforms that allow members of Congress to move up the ranks quicker. For instance, establish term limits for committee leadership posts. With this change, members will be able to move into leadership roles faster and groom future speakers.

In sum, the “Blue Wave” must not only result in a Democratic majority in Congress, but new leaders at all levels too. If it doesn’t, my hunch is that this surge could ultimately resemble the last Democratic wave in Congress, which was short-lived and unsustainable.

Throwing out the playbook

Yet, this is just the start of the broad change that is needed. We need to move away from the campaign formula that candidates are told to follow. Namely, focusing on a specific set of Democratic voters, sticking to selected Democratic poll-tested issues, and then spending most of our waking hours raising money.

Back in 2012, when my Knight Foundation colleague Ben Wirz and I first sketched out our plan to help build Miami’s startup and entrepreneurial community, we established principles to guide us.
Build networks from the bottom up
Diversity as a core strength
Entrepreneurs over institutions
Fund experiments first, then scale
Don’t reinvent if we can import
Learn as we go
This was built on a model of constant community engagement. Every other week we held a coffee open to the entire community. Anyone could come (we didn’t extend invitations or decide who could attend) and conversations were purposefully open-ended with nothing off limits for discussion. The result was a regular platform for people to share ideas, aspirations, complaints, fears-- whatever.

Our thinking was that we didn’t have the best ideas, the community did. Furthermore, the best solutions are reached when you listen and have the courage to embrace good ideas no matter where they arise. And that the greatest impact is achieved when the most diverse range of people are included-- after all, innovation is built on a diverse range of people and ideas connecting and colliding.

Thinking back on it now, I see how different it is from how we are told to run for political office. Rather than opening ourselves up to as many people possible, we choose to connect with a select few who regularly vote. Rather than being open to myriad ideas and solutions, we read from poll-tested position papers. Rather than seeing diversity and inclusion as a critical value, it’s viewed as a nice thing.

For our campaign, our approach is to start with the voter and work backwards. We’ve built a campaign fellows program powered by more than 60 people who, along with me, are visiting voters in all 245 precincts across Florida’s District 27. Currently, we have hit 220. We’ve hosted meetups and coffees open to all. We also have tried an online site called UpVote where we ask people to identify what solutions they prefer. This is only a start.

I know that listening, or even changing one’s mind after hearing a better idea, rather than presenting one’s self as having bold ideas and clear convictions isn’t typically rewarded in today’s politics. But we should start to try. Change occurs from the bottom up. Washington has not been able to find the solutions to our most pressing problems, listening more closely and more widely across our neighborhoods may prove better.

Investing in people and thinking different

My approach at Knight in supporting entrepreneurs wasn’t to make direct investment in businesses. Instead, it was to create an ecosystem of resources across the community that people could choose from to better build the ideas and solve the problem most important to them. This included programs that provided mentorship, connection, learning, access to funding, and fostered a greater sense of community.

Examples include Endeavor, a non-profit which provides mentorship and support to help entrepreneurs scale ventures. eMerge Americas, an annual conference in Miami uniting entrepreneurs across the Americas. LaunchCode and Girls Who Code, each making learning to code more accessible and, in the case of Girls Who Code, taking aim at the yawning gender gap in technology. Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp and programs, which I mentioned earlier, like The Idea Center at Miami Dade College, Black Tech Week, Women Innovating Now LAB, with a particular focus on black, Hispanic and women entrepreneurs.

Our mantra was that talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not-- and that must be changed. Creating a network of resources that invest in people across the community from the bottom up was our way to try.

It’s time our politics took the same approach. And, while at it, it’s time to start matching the scale of the challenges we face with the size of the solutions. For too long, we’ve operated under the assumption there are things we cannot do. That needs to end.

Matt and his wife at the Women's March-- the day he decided to run for Congress

I mentioned earlier that years from now we will each be asked what we did in response to a destructive and irresponsible Trump presidency. But an equally important question is, what did you at a time when the opportunity and income gap is wider than it’s been since the great depression; when getting an education resulted in so many going deeply into crippling debt; when we seemed helpless to confront gun violence; when quality, affordable healthcare remains a challenge for way too many families and prescription drugs remain artificially and cruelly high; when the planet continues to warm and sea levels rise; when entrepreneurship and business creation remain at decade lows; when the era of mass incarceration continues unabated; when public transportation remains abysmal for too many here in South Florida who lose hours each day commuting to work or school; and when there is such deep-seated mistrust in our politics.

It's a long list. But that’s why we need a new approach which is both honest about what is required and unafraid to embrace solutions that actually have a shot at solving the problem.

That’s why I am for Medicare for All, importation of prescription drugs and allowing Medicare to negotiate reasonable drug prices, universal pre-K, refocusing on improving public education, free tuition in community colleges and public universities, high-speed internet into every home, revamping our criminal justice system, raising the minimum wage to $15, increasing federal funding for public transportation, piloting a federal jobs guarantee. Taken together, this would begin to address the searing the opportunity gap in our country, while expanding opportunity and stirring job creation.

Not only that, hastening the transition to an economy powered renewable energy. Indeed, my moonshot goal is for South Florida-- a region threatened by sea level rise-- is to be the first metropolitan area to do it. We are a long, long way from there today. But if we can muster the resolve, this is a change that will not only safeguard the environment and make us more resilient, but increase jobs and drive our economy.

Meanwhile, we must get back to celebrating that we are-- and always will be-- a nation of immigrants. My wife’s family came to this country in 1966 from Cuba. They found a country that welcomed them with open arms and gave them a shot. We need to get back to being that America. Comprehensive immigration reform includes a pathway citizenship for the undocumented, fighting for Dreamers and those with Temporary Protect Status, cleaning up a cumbersome visa process, and abolishing ICE.

Lastly, no one will believe Congress is really serious about change until we pass gun safety reform. This includes universal background checks, an assault weapons ban and a ban on high capacity magazines, among other changes.

This is a tall order. But the truth is that we are at a crossroads. We need a new direction in our politics focused on solving problems with an open mind that is grounded in common sense, champions our diversity and engages the entire community. The response must allow for experimentation and cannot be top down. But it also can’t be incremental. To do it, in my view, we will need many new leaders in our politics.

We can’t expect the same approach and the same people to deliver a different result.

In President Obama’s farewell address he warned that we can’t take democracy for granted. It “falls on each of us to be anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy,” he said. What the speech said to me is that, yes, America is a special place-- but it is special because generation after generation have continually stepped up and engaged in making it so even as there are setbacks, sometimes dramatic setbacks, along the way.

Now is that time for us.

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