Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Dennis Prager-- Still Crazy After All These Years


Robert Mueller by Nancy Ohanian

Right-wing propagandist Dennis Prager and I were born a few months apart and we lived near each other in Brooklyn. I went to James Madison High School; he went to the nearby Yeshiva of Flatbush on Avenue J., as did a number of other crackpots like Meir Kahane and Abraham Foxman (as well as non-crackpot, fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi), Like me, he washed up in L.A. where he worked as a radio presenter, first doing programs about Judaism and eventually just standard Republican Hate Talk Radio, albeit from a Jewish perspective. His bigotry and racism are couched in his phony-baloney Old Testament persona. Yesterday he wrote a deranged column for National Review attacking conservatives who haven't acquiesced to the golden pig Señor Trumpanzee.

It's part of his shtik to say he's trying to understand conservatives who are still opposing Trump, who Prager hasn't figured out is an existential threat to democracy and to America. "I have concluded," he wrote, "that there are a few reasons that explain conservatives who were Never-Trumpers during the election, and who remain anti-Trump today." He has a different existential battle rattling around in his crazy head.
The first and, by far, the greatest reason is this: They do not believe that America is engaged in a civil war, with the survival of America as we know it at stake.

While they strongly differ with the Left, they do not regard the left–right battle as an existential battle for preserving our nation. On the other hand, I, and other conservative Trump supporters, do.

That is why, after vigorously opposing Trump’s candidacy during the Republican primaries, I vigorously supported him once he won the nomination. I believed then, as I do now, that America was doomed if a Democrat had been elected president. With the Supreme Court and hundreds of additional federal judgeships in the balance; with the Democrats’ relentless push toward European-style socialism-- completely undoing the unique American value of limited government; the misuse of the government to suppress conservative speech; the continuing degradation of our universities and high schools; the weakening of the American military; and so much more, America, as envisioned by the Founders, would have been lost, perhaps irreversibly. The “fundamental transformation” that candidate Barack Obama promised in 2008 would have been completed by Hillary Clinton in 2016.

To my amazement, no anti-Trump conservative writer sees it that way. They all thought during the election, and still think, that while it would not have been a good thing if Hillary Clinton had won, it wouldn’t have been a catastrophe either.

That’s it, in a nutshell. Many conservatives, including me, believe that it would have been close to over for America as America if the Republican candidate, who happened to be a flawed man named Donald Trump, had not won. Moreover, I am certain that only Donald Trump would have defeated Hillary Clinton.

In other words, I believe that Donald Trump may have saved the country. And that, in my book, covers a lot of sins-- foolish tweets, included.

The Never Trump conservative argument that Trump is not a conservative-- one that I, too, made repeatedly during the Republican primaries-- is not only no longer relevant, it is no longer true.

Had any Never Trump conservative been told, say in the summer of 2015, that a Republican would win the 2016 election and, within his first few months in office, appoint a conservative to the Supreme Court; begin the process of replacing Obamacare; bomb Russia’s ally Assad after he again used chemical weapons; appoint the most conservative cabinet in modern American history; begin undoing hysteria-based, economy-choking EPA regulations; label the Iranian regime “evil” in front of 50 Muslim heads of state; wear a yarmulke at the Western Wall; appoint a U.N. ambassador who regularly condemns the U.N. for its moral hypocrisy; restore the military budget; and work on lowering corporate tax rates, among other conservative achievements-- that Never Trump conservative would have been jumping for joy.

So, why aren’t anti-Trump conservatives jumping for joy?

I have come to believe that many conservatives possess what I once thought was a left-wing monopoly-- a utopian streak. Trump is too far from their ideal leader to be able to support him.

There is also a cultural divide. Anti-Trump conservatives are a very refined group of people. Trump doesn’t talk like them. Moreover, the cultural milieu in which the vast majority of anti-Trump conservatives live and/or work means that to support Trump is to render oneself contemptible at all elite dinner parties.

In addition, anti-Trump conservatives see themselves as highly moral people (which they often are) who are duty-bound not to compromise themselves by strongly supporting Trump, whom they largely view as morally defective.

Finally, these people are only human: After investing so much energy in opposing Trump’s election, and after predicting his nomination would lead to electoral disaster, it’s hard for them to admit they were wrong. To see him fulfill many of his conservative election promises, again in defiance of predictions, is a bitter pill. But if they hang on to their Never Trumpism and the president falls on his face, they can say they were right all along.

That means that only if he fails can their reputations be redeemed. And they, of course, know that.

But there is another way. They can join the fight. They can accept an imperfect reality and acknowledge that we are in a civil war, and that Trump, with all his flaws, is our general. If this general is going to win, he needs the best fighters. But too many of them, some of the best minds of the conservative movement, are AWOL.

I beg them: Please report for duty.
Matt Lewis responded to Prager's bullshit at the Daily Beast this morning. "A common denominator for Trump backers," he wrote, "might be a belief in an apocalyptic future-- lacking their Trumpian savior, of course. Likewise, Never Trumpers did not see a Trump loss as the end of America. But that is only one of the differences that separate the pro-Trump conservatives from the Never Trumpers... Conservatives who are viscerally turned off by the Trump cult of personality prize things like the rule of law and balance of powers. Part of what this means is that the idea of a ruling class repels us. We believe the maxim that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and we instead celebrate the system and institutions that check the accumulation of power. We see dissent as patriotic. We see the messianic impulse of some Americans as a very dangerous tendency. We believe that it’s not healthy to put politicians on a pedestal. We believe you should respect your leaders and pray for them-- but not to them... [H]e works for us. And we shouldn’t ever let him forget it."

Jonah Goldberg, another right-wing asshole writing in yesterday's National Review took offense. "I’m not going to try to psychoanalyze Dennis’s motivations here," he wrote. But I will say that this essay reads more like an effort to affirm what a talk-radio audience wants to hear than a good-faith effort to understand and persuade conservatives that he claims to admire. If Dennis is truly interested in persuading the very diverse group of conservative Trump critics on the right, my advice would be to call them on the phone and ask them why they-- we-- say what they say and do what they do. Insinuating that conservative thinkers and writers are vain elitists who are betraying their cause by not becoming spinners (never mind soldiers) is not, to my mind, the best way to persuade them-- or me-- of anything."

I wonder if Prager will bring Goldberg a matzo brei laced with arsenic.

What's not to like?

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Let’s All Send This Simple Poll Back To Trump! It’s The Patriotic Thing To Do!


-by Noah

Filling out this official Republican Party poll will only take 3 minutes of your time and you will have the satisfaction of having thrown a little jab at a Republican today. Just think of whatever goon in the White House who gets the results and has to share them with the new communications director or whomever.

The poll came in my email today. I get all sorts of things from Repugs in my email: things that just make you shake you’re head. Quite some time ago, I deliberately put myself on a few Republican mailing lists in order to see what kind of emails the kooks get. Call it an effort to understand.

This poll is called "The Mainstream Media Accountability Survey." It comes from the Trump-Pence "Trump Make America Great Again Committee." It’s a classic textbook example of an organization creating a poll and sending it only to those who they think will give them the exact answers they want. Once the results are in, you will hear things like "Our latest polling shows that most Americans back us, support Trump, etc. blah, blah, etc. etc."

Most importantly, the questions in the poll reveal the increasing paranoia of the Trumpanzee crowd. It’s a very defensive poll and it’s clearly part of the White House effort to counter the reality of daily revelations of their treachery towards America and 99.5 % of its people. It seeks to place blame elsewhere.

The questions have a real, as Bill Maher would say, "whiny little bitch" quality. You might even come to the conclusion that Trump wrote the questions himself or that they came directly from his tweets. Regardless, the questions reveal that republicans are in an obvious an ever-deepening bunker mentality. It’s a mentality that is acting like quicksand. The more they thrash around in it, the deeper they sink.

So, let’s be great Americans and help them out! Let’s help them sink as much as we can! Some are already jumping ship but we can throw some cinderblocks or some lead weights to the rest.

Will we affect the majority answers at the end of the day? Doubtful. After all, the repugs have sent this poll to a very large list of republicans. But, we can still confuse them and dig at them and disturb at them. Maybe we can even push them a little closer to the glorious day when they crack up completely (as if they hadn’t before they applied for their jobs). How? Well, the more progressives that answer this poll, the more the poll skews away from the expected percentages they are seeking.

Answering this poll from a progressive viewpoint and sending it to the republican bunker is our assignment for today! Have a poke at the bear! The Russian bear. We can all do our little bit to "Make America Great Again."

And there are already polls out about what the public thinks about Trump's deranged attacks on the media. This is from last week's Quinnipiac poll:


Profile In Cowardice: Rodney Frelinghuysen


Frelinghuysen doesn't do town halls... he goes to pancake breakfasts

When the deranged body slammer won the Montana special election, Wall Street-owned former bankster Steve Stivers (R-OH), the head of the NRCC-- the GOP's version of the DCCC-- said, "Nancy Pelosi and liberals in Washington were rejected again" but that "the best way for Greg to thank them would be to apologize for his actions, and I am glad he has done so." Jessica Wehrman, writing for the biggest newspaper in Stivers' district, the Columbus Dispatch, asserted yesterday that "Stivers knew that his job protecting the GOP’s House majority would be tough. But there’s no way he could’ve known he was signing up for this. Saddled with a polarizing president, Stivers, 52, also faces the perils of history: Midterm elections during a president’s first term historically have been lousy for the House majority party. The party has struggled to unite on issues such as health care. And Democrats, galvanized by Trump, have shown up to protest at town hall meetings of congressmen, often boisterously."

One of the seats Stivers will have to protect is the central New Jersey seat held by Rodney Frelinghuysen who was first elected in 1994 and has never had a serious electoral challenge. The scion of a long political pedigree going back to the American Revolution-- although several of ancestors fought on the British side against the Americans-- and of two sources of great wealth-- Proctor and Gamble and Ballantine beer. Frelinghuysen, an inbred goof-ball who was a spoiled, poor student and has had everything handed to him on a silver platter, normally wins reelection with between 60 and 70% of the votes. Congressman Frelinghuysen's net worth-- though he never worked a day in his life-- is over $50 million. His worst performance was last year (58%), when Trump's toxicity in the affluent New Jersey suburbs dragged him down. Romney had beaten Obama in the R+6 district 53-47% but Trump underperformed, taking the district narrowly, 48.8% to 47.9%. Next year Frelinghuysen is likely to face well-liked, well-financed and very much admired Assemblyman John McKeon. Over the weekend, a NY Times article by Nancy Solomon highlighted why Stivers is concerned about Frelinghuysen and his ability to hold onto his seat.

Frelinghuysen got a ton of really bad press in his district a couple of weeks ago for complaining about a political activist to her boss. The woman, a senior vice president at the bank, was forced to resign, primarily because the damage Frelinghuysen, as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, could do to the bank. Frelinghuysen will have to explain his behavior to the House Ethics Committee and-- more importantly0-- to angry voters in Morris, Essex and Passaic counties. Solomon write that "Singling out a lone constituent-- and being caught doing so-- suggests, perhaps, a feeling of disquiet. 'It seemed a particularly meanspirited and vengeful thing for Congressman Frelinghuysen to do-- a man who never had a reputation of being that kind of a bare-knuckles fighter,' Rutgers political science Professor Ross] Baker said. 'I think he senses that the ground is shifting from under him.' Solomon's point though is that Trump’s election and the Republican hold on Congress are forcing a confused and weak Frelinghuysen to choose between the party’s crackpot far right leadership and more moderate suburban constituents back home. And then the kicker:
Frelinghuysen’s response to Mr. Trump’s budget proposal has been lukewarm, and he opposed the first House Republican health plan. But, reportedly threatened with losing his chairmanship, he went along with conservatives and supported the House health plan’s second version.

Back home, Mr. Trump’s election has given rise to NJ 11th for Change, a group that has held weekly protests at Mr. Frelinghuysen’s office, jammed his phone lines and called on him to hold a town-hall meeting, which he has refused to do.

He did recently hold a telephone call-in event, which allowed him to cut off callers when they disagreed. His frustration showed. “For people who have jammed our lines and made it difficult for us to meet our constituent needs, it would be nice for you to back off,” Mr. Frelinghuysen said at one point.

Mr. Frelinghuysen’s 11th Congressional District, which includes Morris County and parts of Essex, Passaic and Sussex Counties, is what New Jerseyans call Republican horse country. It is one of the richest and most highly educated districts in the country, and the estates in Mr. Frelinghuysen’s hometown, Harding Township, make it one of the 25 richest ZIP codes in America, according to Forbes magazine.
Perfect district for Rodney Frelinghuysen XXIV (or whatever number he is) but antipathy for Trump and the crap Ryan is doing in Congress are an especially terrible match for the well-educated 11th district. Worse yet, as his party has come more and more under the thrall of neo-Confederate radicals in the House, ole Rodney himself has moved further and further right politically. No more Mr. Mainstream Conservative. He's got a nut-case voting record now. "Frelinghuysen," wrote Solomon, "once supported abortion rights but in recent years has voted to limit access to abortion. He also opposes gun control, gay marriage and regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions." This is not where most voters in NJ-11 stand. Ex-Governor Tom Kean is insisting that Frelinghuysen, "despite his voting record, is still a moderate." How is someone a "moderate" if their voting record is extreme right? One House staffer from New Jersey put it bluntly: "Frelinghuysen has no integrity at all... He sold out whatever he once believed in so he could get-- and then keep-- his committee chair... It's kind of sad. He ought to retire. In fact, there are a lot of rumors that he's doing a Hamlet routine about it a couple times a week."

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Even More Hated Than Trump?


Have you heard "Tin Foil Hat" by Todd Rundgren and Donald Fagen yet? That's it above-- a beautifully-produced homage to Señor Trumpanzee's manifest unfitness for office, on Rundgren's new collaboration album, White Knight. Rundgren, who a couple of weeks ago warned Trump fans to avoid his shows because they will find them offensive, said that "Tim Foil Hat" was driven by his and Fagen's "common frustration with what happened in the recent election."
He's coming down the escalator
With a girl from east of here
He wants to make the country greater
We've got nothing left to fear

Because the man in the tin foil hat
Is sitting on the throne tonight
It kinda feels like coup de tat
But it's gonna be great, tremendous, amazing and all that

'Cause the man in the tin foil hat
Is tweeting like a teenage girl
He puts the Pluto in plutocrat
It's gonna be a yuge yuge yuge new world

He hasn't got the time for losers
Unless they do as he commands
He's writing checks to his accusers
With those tiny little hands

Because the man in the tin foil hat
Is sitting on the throne tonight
It kinda feels like coup de tat
But it's gonna be a yuge yuge yuge new world

'Cause the man in the tin foil hat
Is gonna drain the swamp tonight
And fill it with up with alternative facts
It's gonna be great, tremendous, amazing and all that

'Cause the man in the tin foil hat
Is tweeting like a teenage girl
He puts the Pluto in plutocrat
It's gonna be a yuge yuge yuge new world

Because the man in the tin foil hat
Is sitting on the throne tonight
It kinda feels like coup de tat
It's gonna be great, tremendous, amazing and all that
That said, Jonathan Chait had a good question-- and answer-- in the new New York: What’s Less Popular Than Donald Trump? Pretty Much Everything Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell Are Doing. And that's literally true. Polling is consistently showing Trump very unpopular-- 39.7% popularity according to the Real Clear Politics average-- but Ryan and McConnell even more unpopular and their legislative proposals more unpopular still. Look at these Favorable/Unfavorable ratings from the new Quinnipiac Poll (last week)
Paul Ryan- 27/54%
Mitch McConnell 15/47%
Congressional Republicans- 21/70%
Trumpcare- 20/57%
"For all the extensive legal jeopardy Donald Trump already faces in his very young presidency," wrote Chait, "it is striking that the greatest source of political jeopardy for both him and his party is not his possible Nixon-esque crimes but his Paul Ryan–esque health-care plan. Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey, while unpopular, is far less so than the health-care bill whose House passage he celebrated in the Rose Garden on May 4. One poll found 39 percent support for the Comey firing, which is twice the level of support for the House Speaker’s evisceration of the Affordable Care Act. Democrats running in special elections in Montana and Georgia have emphasized the House Speaker’s legislative handiwork over the president’s high crimes and misdemeanors." Ryan's toxicity is rising precipitously and his support can be expected to drag down Republican House candidates who support him, especially on health and budget issues.
The Republican Party that Trump hijacked last year has treated its freak-show president as the single weak point in its unified control of government. Its leadership has concluded, accordingly, that its best strategy is to ignore Trump’s antics and carry out its agenda. “If we don’t keep our promises, then we’re going to have a problem” in the midterm elections, Ryan said recently. What the party has not come to grips with is the reality that the promises themselves are a problem.

Trump made extravagant campaign pledges-- that he would not cut Medicaid, that he would take care of every American’s health-insurance needs, that it would be “so easy”-- and saddled his congressional party with the task of carrying many of them out. But it was not Trump who chose the design of the American Health Care Act. That was Ryan. The thrust of Ryan’s plan is to finance a tax cut benefiting mostly a very small number of wealthy investors by reducing or eliminating health-insurance subsidies for millions of people. There was never a political universe in which a plan like this was going to fly.

The Republican health-care bill indirectly led one incoming member of Congress to commit assault. Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs attempted to ask Republican candidate Greg Gianforte about a Congressional Budget Office report that concluded that the bill (which Gianforte had privately praised in a call with lobbyists, while waffling in public) would increase the number of uninsured by 23 million. Furious with the question, Gianforte allegedly grabbed Jacobs by the neck, slammed him to the ground, and demanded he leave the room. Obviously, Gianforte’s combination of rage and personal entitlement bears the major portion of blame for his crime. But the spark that set him off was the need to avoid being pinned down on his party’s domestic-policy priority. It is remarkable that Ryan could not write a health-care bill that a candidate could openly endorse in a state Donald Trump won by more than 20 points.

The other major item on Congress’s docket-- sweeping tax cuts-- are only incrementally more popular. During the campaign, Trump proposed a tax-cut plan that would confer about half of its benefits upon the highest-earning one percent. Ryan proposed a plan that would confer approximately all of its benefits upon that sliver. (To be precise, the richest one percent would get 99.6 percent of the money, according to the Tax Policy Center.) Whatever bill Congress hashes out will blend those two ideas, which is not conceptually difficult but poses its own problem: Americans overwhelmingly support higher, not lower, taxes on the rich. Given that the American Health Care Act also cuts taxes for the rich-- the highest-earning 0.1 percent of households would enjoy an average tax cut exceeding $200,000 a year-- the combination of the two bills would be quite astonishing. They would expose millions of Americans to the suffering, terror, and financial risk of lacking access to regular medical care while lavishing additional riches on a segment of the economy that has pulled away from the rest of America over the past four decades.

To think of Trump’s scandals and buffoonery as a “distraction” from the congressional party’s agenda misses the nature of the relationship between the two. When the agenda is this unpopular, distraction is no hindrance. The more significant dynamic is an escalating sense of time pressure. The party Establishment has decided to extract as much value as it can from Trump before his presidency collapses, or until the midterm elections deprive them of control of the House.

Ryan has experienced the Trump era as a series of humiliations. During the campaign, he formally endorsed his party’s nominee while attempting to signal moral discomfort with his bigotry and confessions of sexual assault. Ryan had an image to uphold: clean-cut, idealistic, wonky. Trump forced him to abandon the pose and reveal himself as a transactional politician with a conventional partisan bottom line. He would put up with anything, anything at all, if there were tax cuts, Medicaid reductions, and lax regulation of business.

“Ryan’s new strategy to hold back on Trump,” notes Politico, “is a shift for a man many Republicans fashioned as the moral compass of the party of Lincoln.” The most revealing word in that sentence is “fashioned,” in the past tense. That Ryan’s iconic status as moral compass for his party no longer pertains is simply taken as a given by a news media that once treated him reverentially.

Ryan’s Senate counterpart, Mitch McConnell, is one of the few Republican politicians who have escaped Trump with his reputation unscathed. That is because McConnell never pretended to be anything loftier than he was. His calculations, as always, lie right on the surface. “What the administration is doing, not only am I comfortable with it but I think the vast majority of Republicans in Congress feel that this is a right-of-center presidency, which is what we had hoped,” McConnell told Reuters. “If you look at what the president is actually for, it strikes me as indistinguishable from what a President Jeb Bush or a President Marco Rubio would have been advocating: deregulation, tax reform, repeal and replace of Obamacare, judges like Neil Gorsuch.”

To be sure, on health care McConnell enjoys the benefit of following Ryan, who exposed himself to the contradictions between his party’s glib promises and the bitter reality of unpalatable trade-offs. McConnell may face a similar reckoning, but he has drawn some lessons from Ryan’s unhappy experience. He has conducted his health-care negotiations with even more secrecy than Ryan did-- not only avoiding any hearings but confining the negotiations to a coterie of loyalists who have not leaked any details. While Ryan promised quick passage of his bill, McConnell has not committed himself to a specific timetable or even predicted success. If he cobbles together support from 50 senators, he will spring a quick vote. If not, he will let the idea disappear quietly and move on to the relatively less difficult work of tax cutting.

Trump won the election in part because he seemed to depart from his party’s traditional profile. He would leave Medicaid alone, he would fund a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan, he attacked Wall Street. As president, he has abandoned all those positions. That abandonment may be the necessary price for inducing a congressional party that distrusts him to close ranks behind him in the face of mushrooming scandals. If Republicans are going to cover for Trump’s misdeeds, they are damn well going to get some benefit out of it. His corruption is the price they pay for their agenda, and their agenda is the price he pays for his corruption. It is not so much that Trump is dragging down the party as that both are dragging each other to the bottom, and neither side has any reason to let go of the other.

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What Is Today's Democratic Party Offering The Working Class?


The GA-06 special election is June 20th-- three weeks from yesterday. And yesterday was the first day of early voting there. The ad up top was just put up on local TV to the tune of $500,000 by Pelosi's SuperPAC. Or more important, who is it speaking to? Who is it not saying a word to? Patrick Ruffini had an interesting post up yesterday at FiveThirtyEight: Black Voters Aren’t Turning Out For The Post-Obama Democratic Party. Before we get into his post, which has a lot to offer, let me over a simplistic short version: concerted, unconstitutional Republican efforts at voter suppression aimed at African-Americans has been working well. Ryan's SuperPAC and other shady GOP entities are outspending the Democrats massively, as they did in Montana. But with this kind of race, Democrats don't have to go toe-to-toe on spending, not if they have a superior ground game or field operation and can get out the vote.

And this:

Ruffini's post starts off with the reminder that GA-06 is "nearly 10 percentage points more Republican than the nation as a whole" but that Democrats have something else to worry about June 20-- turnout trends.
In 2016, turnout among whites was up across the country, and in highly educated areas like the 6th District in the suburbs of Atlanta. This redounded to Democrats’ advantage. At the same time, black turnout was down precipitously, from 66 percent in 2012 to 59 percent in 2016. This black-white turnout gap continued in the first round of Georgia’s special election, where the Democrats got impressive turnout levels from all races and ethnicities-- except African-Americans.

Lower black turnout in 2016 might be explained as a reversion to the mean after that group’s historic turnout for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. It’s possible that Clinton could never inspire black turnout the way the first African-American president could. But even if this shift is more of a return to the old status quo, Democrats will still have to grapple with these turnout levels going forward, and there are powerful lessons we can learn from the party’s failure to raise or maintain previous black turnout levels in 2016. Painting Trump as a bigot did not motivate more African-Americans to vote, in 2016 or in the Georgia 6th. Hope and shared identity seem to be much more effective turnout motivators than fear.

Elections are decided by two chief factors: Who turns out and which candidate they vote for. It’s been pointed out that turnout alone did not decide the 2016 election-- and that the key factor in Trump’s success with groups like the white working class was not that he got way more of them to the polls than Mitt Romney did, but simply that he won a much higher share of their votes.

But if there was one area where Democratic turnout was undeniably weaker in 2016 than 2012, it was among African-Americans-- and this is borne out in my own analysis of the 2016 voter files, which consisted of comparing actual 2016 turnout to pre-election modeled turnout expectations. While most of the conversation around electoral demographics has focused on the growing Latino population, African-Americans are still the most electorally influential nonwhite group because they make up a larger share of the voting population both in the U.S. overall and in swing states in particular. And for Democrats, the influence of black voters is further amplified because, as a group, they vote for Democratic candidates by such large margins. Clinton won about 66 percent of Latino voters, compared to Trump’s 28 percent; she won African-American voters 89 percent to 8 percent. Turnout among Latino voters is rising, and this is good news for Democrats, especially as African-American turnout has fallen. But the difference in the margins by which these two groups lean Democratic means Democrats need to work twice as hard to net the same number of votes from the Latino community as they could from the African-American community.

We saw last year how lower engagement among African-American voters is a serious problem for the Democrats, as black turnout declined nearly uniformly across all the swing states in 2016:

Turnout did not decline equally among all parts of the African-American electorate. The dropoff was particularly steep among men, and especially young men. Across the swing states for which we have voter files, turnout among black men aged 18-29 was 22 percent lower than 2012 levels, while it rose 7 percent among white men in the same age group. Age aside, we also see steeper differences in turnout rates along gender lines among African-Americans than any other racial group.

The post-Obama Democratic Party may be less able to count on black voters turning out at Obama-era levels, forcing it to become more reliant on whites with a college degree, Hispanics and Asians.

Indeed, on April 18th in Georgia, black voters did not necessarily join their white counterparts in a surge of Democratic enthusiasm against Trump. Compared to turnout levels in the 2014 midterms-- which, like this special election, was an off-year election where Democratic enthusiasm was low and Obama was not on the ballot-- black Democratic turnout in Georgia’s 6th lagged around 10 points behind that of white Democrats, though black voters still turned out at a higher rate than Republicans as a whole did.

As in 2016, the Democratic coalition in the Georgia special election relied somewhat less on African-American votes, gaining numbers instead through higher-than-expected turnout from the district’s fast-growing Hispanic and Asian populations. Nonwhite voters make up a smaller share of the 6th District’s electorate than Georgia’s as a whole, but the trends shown below are consistent with ones we saw in many states in a post-2016 review of voter turnout.

Democrats may partially solve their midterm turnout problem before they repair the cracks in their Electoral College strategy. In 2018, Democrats may be able to win over and turn out the kinds of white voters who showed up for them in Georgia’s 6th-- educated, left-leaning, but usually unlikely to vote in midterms-- even as “the resistance” fails to appeal to the African-American community that has been a major element of Democrats’ traditional base. But that strategy is more limited in 2020, when marginal voters are concentrated in African-American and other nonwhite communities, and no candidate has shown an Obama-like ability to reach them.

You can't see the video of Grayson, just above, too often. He addressed a very basic problem of the Democratic Party brand and how careerists thinking more about their own career trajectories instead of the people they're supposed to be serving have strayed very far from the values and ideals of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Rahm Emanuel and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Pelosi, Hoyer, Crowley and the rest of the losers can take their asinine identity politics with them when they exit. Jeff Stein had an important post at Vox Monday morning, Tired of losing the Rust Belt, new Democratic group has strategy to un-Pelosi the party. We'll see what Krystal Ball's new PAC-- the People's House Project-- turns into, but she says the aim is "to give progressive candidates in the Midwest and Appalachia a new form of support that isn’t dependent on the Democratic Party's coastal financial elite." OK, sounds good; they went public yesterday. Stein points out that the GOP has been successfully running attack ads tying Democratic candidates to the party’s coastal and culturally elites.
Ball and the House Democrats behind the People’s House Project say they’re determined to shake that image. They’ll try to fundraise for the PAC’s candidates, recruit candidates that fit the bill, and give them a slogan to use to try to distinguish themselves from the national party. “It will allow them to say, ‘I’m a different kind of Democrat,’” said Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), one of the House Democrats backing the project, in an interview. “It’s hard to convince people around here sometimes how toxic our brand is. But, clearly the brand is damaged, and we need to see if something else can work.”

So far, three House Democrats from the two regions targeted by the PAC-- Ryan, Michigan’s Dan Kildee, and Kentucky’s John Yarmuth-- are supporting the People’s House Project.

The two House Democrats interviewed for this story emphasized that they view the project as complementary, rather than in conflict with, the existing Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Similarly, they stressed that they don’t intend for the new organization to serve as a rebuke to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. (Ryan ran against Pelosi for minority leader in December 2016 and lost.) “This has to be a movement with a lot of hands rolling in the same direction,” Kildee said in an interview.

But Ball was more willing to directly attack the Democratic Party’s leadership in the House-- and cast the new effort as an attempt to break with it. Some political analysts say Democratic candidates are weighed down by what the Cook Political Report calls the “Pelosi Factor.” In the home stretch of several House elections, including Thursday’s Montana race, Republicans have deployed images of Pelosi in attack ads to go after their Democratic opponents.

“She’s an impediment to every House Democrat in the country except for a few coastal enclaves,” Ball said in an interview. Candidates running under the People’s House Project will be able to say they’re of a different cast than Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Ball said.

“This gives us a chance to go straight into the heartland with an economic message,” said Kildee, who like Ryan stressed that he doesn’t view the effort as contradictory to Pelosi. “We have really not led with an economic message that transcends the whole spectrum of voters who would benefit from Democratic policies.”

Obviously Ball, Ryan, Kildee, Yarmuth and the rest working on this project aren't the first to understand the problems. Who knows, maybe it's time to stop obsessing about "the white working class" and just talked about "the working class."

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

An End To Gerrymandering?


Antonin Scalia once wrote that "Political gerrymanders are not new to the American scene" and noted there were allegations that Patrick Henry attempted, unsuccessfully, to gerrymander James Madison out of the First Congress. With today's technologies, though, Patrick Henry would have absoluetely been successful and Bernie Sanders, Chuck Schumer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Norman Coleman, Carole King, Andrew Dice Clay, Chris Rock and I might have gone to a high school named for Calvin Coolidge (who was president when the school opened).

In recent times, conservatives on the Supreme Court have been pretty much OK with gerrymandering. The recent North Carolina case was so egregiously and obviously racist, though, that two of them voted with the liberals and struck down North Carolina's indefensible congressional map. Monday, Ariane de Vogue, CNN's Supreme Court correspondent, reported that the Court may be about to change directions and rein in the excesses Republicans-- and some Democrats-- have gone to in recent years to drawn patently ridiculous districts that are strictly about politicians' careers and not at all about the people who live in them.

"A state may not use race as the predominant factor in drawing district lines, unless it has a compelling reason," wrote Elena Kagan for the majority in the North Carolina decision. "The ruling," wrote de Vogue, "was a victory for Democrats and civil rights groups who had challenged the North Carolina maps arguing that they unnecessarily packed African-Americans into two districts. This made it easier for African-Americans to re-elect incumbents to those two seats, but diluted their votes in surrounding areas.

But it's the next step the Supreme Court takes that could really change the game. Here's why:"
The Supreme Court has a standard limiting overreliance on race in map-drawing except under the most limited circumstances. But it has never been successful in developing a test concerning a much thornier issue: partisan gerrymandering.

"The court has said that too much partisanship is illegal," said Justin Levitt, a professor of law at Loyola Law School. "But it hasn't yet decided how much is too much."

But that could soon change, and Justice Anthony Kennedy's vote-- as it is on so many other issues-- could be key.

"For most Americans, it's obvious that our elected officials shouldn't be able to punish voters based on what party they prefer," said Levitt. "A Supreme Court decision setting limits on drawing districts for partisan advantage would substantially change the way that local, state, and congressional districts are drawn after the next census."

In most states, the maps are drawn after all by the party in power after each census, meaning neither party has a guarantee of controlling the districts indefinitely. But given U.S. House districts generally survive for 10 years-- or five elections-- the impact on policy and government is substantial.

Levitt and others believe that the legislators in charge of drawing the maps have gone to new extremes impacting voters' right to fair representation under the First and Fourteenth Amendment.

In the coming days and weeks, the court will deal with two separate cases about partisan gerrymanders. The issue deeply divided them back in 2004 in a case called Vieth v. Jubelirer.

The conservatives on the court felt that the issue should be handled by the political branches. But Kennedy at the time was unwilling to bar all future claims of injury from partisan gerrymanders.

The court recognizes, for instance, that the map-drawing process is political, and that there will always be a certain amount of partisan politics involved. After all, it is politicians drawing political lines.

..."The justices have struggled to figure out where to draw the line between acceptable partisan influence and an excessive influence that burdens the right to vote," said Danielle Lang of the Campaign Legal Center.

"Essentially, the court has not yet settled on a rule to determine the 'how much is too much' question," she said.

Lang's group is behind one of the cases making its way to the court. She represents Wisconsin Democratic voters who are challenging district maps. Democrats claim that the maps discriminated against Democratic voters by diminishing the strength of their votes.

Last fall, a divided three-judge panel in Wisconsin held that the redistricting plan "was intended to burden the representational rights of Democratic voters throughout the decennial period by impeding their ability to translate their votes into legislative seats."

The court accepted the plaintiffs' standard based in part on the new work of political scientists who used voting data to calculate the amount of bias against one party or another in the maps.

The formula is called the Efficiency Gap.

"We proposed a standard that uses political science quantitative measures-- a new standard that has never been presented to the courts before," said Lang. "The court endorsed the use of those measures as evidence of the harmful effects of partisan gerrymandering."

Wisconsin state Attorney General Brad Schimel blasted the ruling and the standard. "Our maps are lawful and constitutional under any standard," he said in a statement.

Justices are also looking at another challenge to the North Carolina map that alleges an illegal partisan gerrymander.

A lower court denied a partisan gerrymander claim, but left the door open to future claims if plaintiffs did propose a standard. Supreme Court justices discussed the pending case behind closed doors last week.

Marc E. Elias, who served as the general counsel for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, is the lead lawyer in the case.

"Having been told last week that they can't engage in illegal racial gerrymandering, Republican legislators may now face a case in which they can't illegally use partisanship," Elias said in an interview.

"This will hopefully, finally, lead to truly fair redistricting throughout the country," he said.
We asked Wisconsin state Senator Chris Larson what's been going on in his state with the partisan GOP gerrymandering. He told us that "In Wisconsin, Republicans have followed the national trend of using all their ill begotten power to seize more power for themselves. Everyone knows they famously went after working class unions and teachers to diminish their political strength. Few, however, may know that on the very day of the first round of recall elections against state senators, Governor Scott Walker signed into law the gerrymandered maps that locked their legislative power into place. These maps are so bad they were drawn behind closed doors of a private law firm where senators had to sign secrecy oaths just to see them. Staffers even physically damaged the hard drives to try and prevent the public from seeing what they were up to in drawing these maps. What they drew has allowed Republican control of Wisconsin's legislative branch despite elections where more voters voted for Democratic candidates across the state. Thankfully, a federal lawsuit, Whitford v Gill, was launched to challenge the extreme gerrymander that violated the constitutional rights of Wisconsin citizens. Whitford won a trial court verdict to overturn the maps and the case is heading to the U.S. Supreme Court. If the justices uphold this decision, it won't just lead to Wisconsin having fair maps and a more level playing field, it will break one of the biggest tools Republicans have used to suppress the will of voters across America."

Writing for the Washington Post a little of 3 years ago, Chris Ingraham noted that "Democrats won in nine of the 10 most-gerrymandered districts. But eight out of 10 of those districts were drawn by Republicans. This speaks to the notion that the point of gerrymandering isn't to draw yourself a safe seat but to put your opponents in safe seats by cramming all of their supporters into a small number of districts. This lets you spread your own supporters over a larger number of districts. And the way to do this is to draw outlandishly-shaped districts that bring far-flung geographic areas together. North Carolina's 12th district, which holds the title of the nation's most-gerrymandered, is a textbook example of this: It snakes from north of Greensboro, to Winston-Salem, and then all the way down to Charlotte, spanning most of the state in the process. North Carolina Republicans really outdid themselves in 2012. In addition to the 12th district, there's the 4th, which covers Raleigh and Burlington and snakes a narrow tentacle all the way south to pick up parts of Fayetteville. And then there's the 1st District, which covers a sprawling arbitrarily shaped region in the northeastern part of the state. All three of these seats were won by Democrats in 2012. Overall, the North Carolina GOP's efforts paid off handsomely. Based on their statewide vote share you'd expect North Carolina Democrats to hold about seven seats. But they won only four. This is because an outsized share of the state's Democratic voters were shunted off into the three highly-gerrymandered districts above."

He claimed at the time that the two worst states for gerrymandering were North Carolina (R) and Maryland (D). "Republicans," he wrote, "drew Congressional boundaries in six of the 10 most-gerrymandered states. In addition to North Carolina, Republicans drew district boundaries in Louisiana, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Alabama. Democrats drew districts in West Virginia and Illinois, in addition to Maryland... Again, the payoff for Republicans is in the makeup of the state's delegations: In those six states, Republicans picked up about 11 more seats than you'd expect from simply looking at the parties' vote shares."

He pointed to PA-07, the gerrymandering of which we just covered a week ago, as an example of a district that needs to be redrawn rationally. Look at that ridiculous map drawn to protect Patrick Meehan.

UPDATE: When Politicians Pick Their Voters

This morning, the NY Times ran an editorial about the dreadful situation in North Carolina, urging the Supreme Court to overturn overly partisan gerrymandering, as well as racist gerrymandering. "With a partisan gerrymandering case likely to hit the court’s docket next term," wrote the editors, "the justices should finally set clear limits on the practice. The need for those limits is growing only more urgent as voter data and computer-mapping technologies become more sophisticated, and politicians become more brazen in their efforts to protect their power."
During the last three election cycles, the study found, Michigan, Pennsylvania and North Carolina have consistently had the most extreme bias, accounting for seven to 10 extra Republican seats among them. In North Carolina, Republicans hold 10 of 13 congressional seats, even though the statewide vote is roughly split. In Pennsylvania, which Donald Trump won by less than one percentage point, the Republican advantage is 13 to 5.

These three states, along with Ohio, Texas, Virginia and Florida, all share one feature: one-party control of the redistricting process. The study found that this was the most likely culprit behind the bias, for two reasons.

First, there was significantly less bias in states that entrusted mapmaking to the courts or to independent commissions, or that gave Democrats and Republicans shared control over the process. Second, the researchers found little to no effect from neutral factors known to skew seat distribution-- like the tendency of Democratic voters to live closer together in cities, thus wasting more votes than Republicans, who tend to be spread over a wider area. In the states with the worst partisan bias, voters are distributed fairly evenly.

The bottom line is that politicians can’t be trusted to draw maps that fairly represent their constituents, and they won’t willingly give up the power once they have it. So it’s up to the courts to step in and set clear rules.

At least three justices believe otherwise. In a strongly worded dissent from last week’s ruling, Justice Samuel Alito Jr., joined by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Justice Anthony Kennedy, argued that the right place to resolve partisan gerrymandering disputes was in the political arena. Otherwise, Justice Alito said, the courts will “be transformed into weapons of political warfare,” inviting “the losers in the redistricting process to seek to obtain in court what they could not achieve in the political arena.”

But that’s precisely the problem. How are “the losers” supposed to fight on a battlefield that the winners have systematically tilted against them?

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Cory Booker Always Tries To Put His Donors First-- At Least When He Can Get Away With It


He's gone on to bigger and far better things now, but an old friend of mine used to work for corporate shill Cory Booker (D-NJ). Right after Booker was on CNN's State of the Nation Sunday indicating he's not onboard with the idea of impeaching Trump, my friend, the ex-staffer, called me and said that Booker has been in bed with the Kushner family for his whole career and that they've given him-- and helped him raise-- a fortune. Ivanka and Jared have even hosted fund-raising events for his campaigns. I tweeted what he told me and was immediately attacked from the peanut gallery demanding to see "proof." It would take another 24 hours for the kind of second-hand "proof" (scavenger sites like The Hill and Politico) slow-witted random Twitter followers want to see. So now it's "official." Although by Sunday evening David Sirota had already tweeted this for the skeptics:

click to read all about it

And I followed with a response to the weak post in The Hill:

Sirota's piece for the International Business Times must have made Booker wish he had never opened his trap about Kushner without disclosing the financial connections. Most Democrats who have had anything to say about Kushner's foibles are demanding his national security clearance be revoked, at least temporarily, 'til we figure out what the hell is going on. Not Booker. "Asked if supports revoking Kushner's security clearance," wrote Sirota, "the New Jersey senator said: 'I think we need to first get to the bottom of it. He needs to answer for what was happening at the time. It raises very serious concerns for me. And that could be a potential outcome that I seek, but I want to understand, at least hear from Jared Kushner, as well as the administration, about what was exactly going on there.' Booker also pushed back against those calling for Trump's impeachment, saying, 'I'm not going to rush to impeachment.'"
Kushner and other donors affiliated with Kushner Cos. delivered more than $41,000 to Booker's Senate campaign in 2013, according to data compiled by Politico reported that Ivanka Trump hosted a fundraiser for Booker during that election.

In 2009, Jared Kushner also gave $20,000 to Booker's Newark mayoral ticket "Booker Team for Newark," New Jersey campaign finance records show. That year, Booker attended the wedding of Kushner and Ivanka Trump.

Booker has in the past made headlines taking stances at odds with others in his party. During the 2012 election, for instance, Booker defended the private equity industry and slammed Barack Obama's campaign for attacking then-Republican nominee Mitt Romney's private equity firm, Bain Capital. More recently, Booker cast a pivotal vote against Democratic legislation to allow Americans to buy lower-priced prescription drugs from Canada.
He has a good voting record-- an "A" from ProgressivePunch-- but clearly fails leadership and political courage tests. Let's hope the media stops the silly babble of him being on anyone's presidential ticket.

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Big Win For Automatic Voter Registration In Illinois-- Is Maine Next?


The Illinois legislature was working on Monday-- and in a very bipartisan way. The House has 67 Democrats and 51 Republicans but the vote on Robyn Gabel's Automatic Voter Registration bill was 115-0. The Senate had already passed i-- also unanimously. (It had passed last year as well but was vetoed by Gov. Bruce Rauner (which is exactly what the grotesque Jersey slob did when the legislature in his stated passed it last year), claiming their could be fraud. His concerns were addressed in the current wording of the bill. The new law will add over a million new voters to the rolls in Illinois.
SB1933 reforms current registration laws so that whenever an eligible Illinois resident applies for, updates or renews a driver’s license or state ID, he or she will be automatically registered to vote or have their registration updated, unless they opt out. It also creates a similar program for other state agencies, such as the Department of Human Services and Department of Natural Resources.

...“Automatic voter registration, as passed this year, will allow technology to help make our elections more secure, more efficient, and more open to all citizens of Illinois,” said Rep. Fortner [R]. “This bill will create a seamless process for citizens to register and keep their registration up-to-date as they move. At the same time, it respects the privacy of those in the system and those who choose not to participate.”

Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) and Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston) first introduced the proposal in 2015, which passed in both the House and Senate with broad bipartisan support before Governor Rauner issued a veto.

 “I am proud that my colleagues in the House voted to bring automatic voter registration to Illinois, making voter registration more modern, efficient and accessible to all eligible voters,” said Rep. Gabel. “This legislation is a model of bipartisan cooperation and I urge Governor Rauner to sign it into law.”

“We retooled parts of this plan based on suggestions from both sides of the aisle. There’s no plausible reason Gov. Rauner shouldn’t sign it the moment it lands on his desk,” Sen. Manar said. “If he is serious about modernizing Illinois government and saving money for taxpayers, then automatic voter registration is an excellent way to do both.”
Oregon was the first state to pass Automatic Voter Registration (2015) and the increase in voter registration has been huge. California followed several months later and in 2016 West Virginia, Vermont, Connecticut, Georgia, DC and Alaska passed it as well, Alaska in a referendum. This year Colorado approved it, as did Nevada-- although, again, a Republican governor (Brian Sandoval) vetoed it.

Almost every state in the Union has an Automatic Voter Registration bill pending this year except for 11 states controlled by the Republican Party: Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, both Dakotas, Wisconsin, Kansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, North Carolina and New Hampshire. Bob Brady (D-PA) introduced federal legislation that would automatically register ever eligible American citizen to vote in federal elections but no Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors, dooming it until 2018 when Democrats are likely to win back control of the House.

Meanwhile, the great state of Maine may be next to pass this. It won in the House last Thursday 74-68, all the Democrats and independents plus one Republican in favor and the rest of the Republicans opposed. Shenna Bellows is the sponsor in the state Senate which is scheduled to vote today. She needs to get one Republican to vote with the Democrats to pass it. It's a bill, though, that Governor LePage, who opposes expanding the franchise, is pretty certain to veto. How do I know? Well, in the early 1970s Maine passed same day voter registration and the second LePage and the Republicans took control of the state government they repealed it. We asked our old friend Shenna, who was the chair of the successful drive to overturn LePage's and the GOP's repeal of same day registration, how she plans to persuade a Republican to help pass automatic voter registration today.

"Every person who supports democracy in its truest form," she told us last night, "understands that voting is foundational to democracy. In an era of voter suppression and the rise of grave threats to our democracy, it becomes all the more important that we champion measures that increase voter participation and empowerment. That’s the goal of LD1232, Maine’s automatic voter registration bill, which passed the Democratically controlled Maine House of Representatives last week and is pending for a vote in the Senate. One would think it would be unanimous. Constitutional rights shouldn’t be a partisan issue. One would hope that a Governor looking to his legacy would sign it. Alas, we’ve been down this road before. Not only has Republican Governor Paul LePage vetoed numerous measures that would have benefitted the people of Maine, he’s actively campaigned against voting rights. Indeed, he was a leader in a 2011 voter suppression effort when Republicans controlled the legislature and repealed Maine’s election day registration law, a law that had been on the books for almost forty years. The people rose up in 2011. We passed a so-called “people’s veto” to restore same day voter registration via ballot measure. Governor LePage and his allies may block automatic voter registration by veto, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have options if he does. We have principle and politics on our side."


An amendment has made the bill into a study. Shenna just got back to us with the wording: "This amendment replaces the bill with a resolve directing the Secretary of State to study the implementation of automatic voter registration. The Secretary of State is required to submit a report to the Joint Standing Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs by March 1, 2018." Very disappointing for everyone who was inspired by the unanimous vote of approval in Illinois yesterday.

More Update: Worse yet, it failed.The Dems were not united. Senate Democrats Bill Diamond and Dawn Hill voted against it. And the Republicans were united against it. It failed 20 to 15 in a Senate that has 18 Republicans and 17 Democrats. Because the motion was "ought not to pass" the vote itself was on the merits of the actual underlying bill, not the study. Terrible news.

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"Everyone Ends Up Dead On The Floor"-- Welcome To The GOP Congressional Mindset


I've been meaning to mention that hilarious story about the hundred 8th graders from South Orange, New Jersey visiting Washington on a school trip who refused to pose for a picture with Speaker Ryan.
Close to 100 8th graders refused to take a photo with the Speaker and instead sat in a parking lot across the street. Speaker Ryan then took a photo with the remaining class and posted it to his Instagram.

"I can’t take a picture with someone who supports a budget that would destroy public education and would leave 23 million people without healthcare,” Matthew Malespina, a student at the school, told his local newspaper, the Village Green.

Others grounded their decision in their aversion to Trump.

“I didn’t want to be in [the picture] because he believes in most of what Trump believes in,” a fellow student, Louisa Maynard-Parisi, told the Village Green.

Parents were torn about whether the kids should have sat out on the photo. Ryan was a "legitimately elected official," one parent wrote, and they would have been offended if conservative students had done the same thing to President Obama.

Matthew Malespina's mother, on the other hand, couldn't have been more proud.

"I am proud of my son and all the other students who chose to respectfully not to participate in the photograph with Speaker Ryan.”
Molly Ball's story at 6AM Monday in The Atlantic, at least for Ryan and his Republican cronies in Congress, was less hilarious. They control the House, the Senate and the White House and should be abletoimpose their agenda on the nation. But, instead, everything seems tone falling apart, or, as Ball put it, "a ceaseless, disorienting swirl of scandal, 120 days of self-inflicted chaos and crisis." And if consistent polling is to be believed, dozens of them-- including Ryan-- are going to lose their seats in the rapidly approaching 2018 midterms.

At a press conference Lyin' Ryan was asked what was his view on the idea that Republicans might be better off with the vice president, Mike Pence, in the White House instead of Trump, Ryan shook his head in exasperation. "Oh, good grief," he said. "I’m not even going to give credence to that."

“But your members are saying that!” the reporter said. Republican members of Congress were buzzing about this idea, openly wondering, as the presidential mess threatened to consume their careers and priorities, whether it might be possible to remove the president and move on.

Congress, Ryan insisted, was perfectly capable of doing its job. “I know people can be consumed with the news of the day,” he said, as though a potential impeachment were the latest celebrity scandal, or the time everyone was up in arms for 24 hours about avocado toast. “But we are here working on people’s problems every day. We have all these committees that do different jobs, and our job is to make sure that we still make progress for the American people, and we’re doing that. It’s just not what we’re being asked about.”

Ryan listed more accomplishments underway—streamlining the Pentagon, sanctions on Syria, workforce-development programs—and insisted the House could “walk and chew gum at the same time.” But Trump’s troubles have cast a long shadow over the 291 members of his party in the House and Senate, who see their agenda going up in smoke in what is generally a presidential party’s most productive year.

A flawed, unpopular health-care bill is stalled in the Senate, the president’s budget proposal has been dismissed out of hand, and hope is fading for other priorities such as tax reform and infrastructure. “How do you pack all that in?” Senator John McCain asked last week, adding, “So far, I've seen no strategy for doing so. I'm seeing no plan for doing so.” One Republican congressman suggested that what was needed was for the president to throw “a temper tantrum” to get lawmakers to act-- this congressman happened to be named Brat.

Meanwhile Democrats sit back and watch it burn, with no small amount of schadenfreude, and the Republicans who never liked Trump see their worst predictions fulfilled. “You bought this bad pony. You ride it,” the anti-Trump consultant Rick Wilson tweeted recently. A staffer to a Senate Republican who did not vote for Trump told me, “We didn’t have high expectations, so we’re not disappointed. We tried to warn you.”

But Paul Ryan, with his long-cultivated persona as the party’s resident idealist, has always had high expectations. He watched last year as Trump ate his party; now he must watch as the president consumes his dreams. “Paul wants to govern, he’s trying to get what’s possible to get done, and he’s got a lot of credibility on the line,” Ryan’s friend Jimmy Kemp, the son of the late former Representative Jack Kemp, told me. “He’s been working on these issues for so long.”

Kemp, who wrote in Ryan’s name on his presidential ballot, described the speaker as burdened but steady. “He’s frustrated and it’s wearing on him, but he’s not throwing in the towel,” he said. “He just has to answer questions about so many things he doesn’t want to answer questions about.”

For the Republicans running the government, Capitol Hill has become a workplace with extremely poor morale. The moderates fear for their careers, while the conservative true believers see little to hope for. When the liberal magazine Mother Jones credited Representative Justin Amash of Michigan with being the first Republican to raise the possibility of impeachment, the office of Representative Carlos Curbelo of Florida called to request a correction: Curbelo had gone there first.

But for the most part, his party has not openly turned on Trump. What would be the point? Behind closed doors, a longtime House Republican staffer told me, a few lawmakers still wholeheartedly defend the president; among the rest, there are differing degrees of fatalism. One group thinks it is possible to fight through the crisis, while another is resigned to “a long slow death,” as this staffer put it, potentially culminating in a Democratic-controlled House beginning impeachment proceedings in 2019. “This is like Reservoir Dogs,” the staffer said. “Everyone ends up dead on the floor.”

...It has become a Capitol Hill cliché lately that the days feel like weeks and the weeks feel like years. Lulls in the news feel ominous, and you never know what is going to happen. Tempers are fraying: the GOP’s congressional candidate in Montana’s special election last week tackled a reporter for pressing for his position on health care (and still won the election). “There is total weirdness out there,” Representative Mark Sanford of South Carolina said after the Montana incident. Trump, Sanford said, had “unearthed some demons.”

...Washington’s turbulence has yet to redound to the benefit of Democrats, and the Montana victory soothed some Republican nerves. But one GOP lobbyist wondered to me whether longtime members of Congress might soon take the opportunity to retire if the situation doesn’t improve. “You finally have united Republican government, and this is as good as it gets? Why bother?” he said. “A malaise is setting in.”
Ileana Ros Lehtinen (R-FL) has already announced she's retiring-- from a nice blue Miami district not even the DCCC is likely to lose (they they seem to be already trying hard to)-- where Obama beat Romney 53.0% to 46.3% but where Hillary eviscerated Trumpanzee 58.6% to 38.9%, el Señor's worst performance in the country in any GOP-held district. But Ros-Lehtinen is probably not the only Republican looking to retire as Trump and Ryan make a shambles of their party. The Cook Report, which is rarely accurate about this kind of stuff, listed a dozen senior Republicans they claim may be on the verge:
Don Young (AK)
Vern Buchanan (FL)
Mario Diaz-Ballart (FL)
Fred Upton (MI)
Frank Lobiondo (NJ)
Leonard Lance (NJ)
Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ)
Pete King (NY)
Patrick Meehan (PA)
Charlie Dent (PA)
Jaime Herrera-Beutler (WA)
Dave Reichert (WA)
The list is making the rounds in DC but from talks I've had with reliable GOP staffers, it's as silly as most of the nonsense coming out of Cook. And not included is a Republican who probably actually is retiring at the end of the current term: Science Denier-In-Chief Lamar Smith of Texas.

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