Thursday, November 30, 2017

There Are No Safe Republican Seats In 2018-- PA-16


PA-16 is another of those bizarrely gerrymandered congressional districts courtesy of a Republican legislature that shouldn't be in the majority. Pennsylvania is a 50/50 state, perhaps with a slight Democratic lean. The state's PVI is EVEN, although the districts were drawn to yield 13 Republican seats in Congress and just 5 Democrats instead of 9 from each party. The state House has 121 Republicans and 82 Democrats and the state Senate has 34 Republicans and 16 Democrats. How pathetic is that? And it yields districts like PA-16 which winds in and out of counties to pick and choose between voters from Coatesville in Chester County, through Lancaster County (its heartland) and then serpent like through Sinking Spring and West Wyomissing to incorporate Reading, the county seat of Berks Co., watering down the impact of Democratic voters in the state's 5th biggest city and keeping the heavily blue area from making either PA-06, PA-07 or PA-15 (any of which being where Reading more naturally belongs) from a Democratic seat.

But because of that part of Berks County being included in PA-16, a wave election becomes a danger for the Republicans. The PVI is R+5 and Trump won the district 51.0% to 44.2%. In 2012 Democrat Aryanna Strader-- with virtually no money and no support-- won the Berks portion of the district 65-30% against long-time incumbent Joe Pitts. They were virtually tied in the Chester part of the district and blood red, backward Lancaster County gave Pitts his massive margin. He won that year with 58%. In 2014 he won against Democrat Tom Houghton with the same margin and then announced his retirement. The current congressman, Lloyd Smucker, won 167,698 (53.9%) to 132,969 (42.7%) against corporate Democrat Christina Hartman.

This time the DCCC senses PA-16 is winnable and Lloyd Smucker is vulnerable if the wave is big enough. There are 4 Democrats vying for the nomination: Christina Hartman again, Gary Wegman, John George and a hard-fighting progressive, Jess King. Last cycle the DCCC and Pelosi's House Majority PAC kicked in modestly for Hartman-- $470,650-- while her campaign spent $1,147,203 to Smucker's $1,453,232. This cycle, the DCCC is clearly favoring Hartman and, as of the September 30 reporting deadline she had raised $171,941 to Smucker's $405,612. Although John George and Gary Wegman raised almost nothing, Jess King managed to bring in $104,575. That kind of money-- plus the strong progressive messaging and the energy of the Bernie movement. From her issues page:
I will fight for the following:

To make sure that every American who wants a job will have one that pays enough to support a family and live a good life.
To provide excellent education to all Americans through tuition-free public college and quality public school.
To pass Medicare-for-All and ensure that every American-- no matter how rich or poor-- has access to the medical care we need.
To treat the Earth as our home and reject pipelines and extractive industries that enrich oil and gas executives while leaving our land and water permanently polluted.
To raise the minimum wage because no one who works a full-time job should have to live in poverty.
To end the corruption of our politics. We’ll tell the corporate lobbyists and billionaire donors that politicians will not be bought and sold anymore.
To take care of our neighbors struggling against the epidemic of opioid addiction and create a path to rehabilitation-- not criminalization.
To protect undocumented Americans and provide a humane path to citizenship for all who call America home
To support Puerto Rico in resolving the debt crisis and empowering its residents to decide their future.
Christina Hartman has a typical bullshit DCCC website. It proclaims that "It's time for new energy and fresh ideas." The website has neither. In fact, there is no issues page at all, something the DCCC strongly advises. (John George has a website too but it's a website of someone running for the Board of Education or PTA president. And Gary Wegman, a dentist, has a Facebook page instead of a website.)

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Donald J. Trump: Abomination-- Moral And Otherwise


Yesterday's NY Daily News editorial was a doozy: Donald Trump is a madman: The President's Wednesday Twitter spasm confirms what many Americans have long suspected. "After his latest spasm of deranged tweets," wrote the editors, "only those completely under his spell can deny what growing numbers of Americans have long suspected: The President of the United States is profoundly unstable. He is mad. He is, by any honest layman’s definition, mentally unwell and viciously lashing out." The British Parliament was debating Trump's crackpot tweets yesterday too! But the Daily News hit the Trumpanzee nail right on the head:
Some might say we are just suffering through the umpteenth canny, calculated presidential eruption designed to distract the nation from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, or perhaps from unpopular legislation working its way through Congress.

Quite possible. But Occam’s razor, and the sheer strangeness of Trump’s behavior, leads us to conclude that we are witnessing signs of mania.

Early Wednesday morning, Donald Trump or whomever was manning his Twitter account retweeted, seemingly at random, three videos of supposed violence against Christians by Muslims.

At least one of those was long ago debunked. The words of the tweet spread to Trump’s 43.6 million followers referred to a violent young man pictured in a video as a “Muslim migrant.” The perpetrator appears to have been neither a Muslim nor a migrant.

Trump is broadcasting discredited hate videos even as he now tells multiple people in his inner circle that the real, verified Access Hollywood video in which he boasted of grabbing women “by the pussy”-- words for which he has already publicly apologized-- was falsified.

By engaging in the little Islamophobia-fest, Trump amplified the handiwork of a leader of Britain First, a fringe, far-right political movement that is the rough equivalent of America’s white nationalist alt-right.

Trump wasn’t done. Just before 7 a.m., he urged the nation to “boycott Fake News CNN”-- the nation’s most powerful person targeting a media company that happens to be locked in a legal fight with his own Justice Department over a merger.

Then, upon learning of the firing of NBC’s Matt Lauer for workplace sexual harassment, came the real unraveling.

“When will the top executives at NBC & Comcast be fired for putting out so much Fake News. Check out Andy Lack’s past!” he tweeted, aiming unhinged ire at the network’s news boss.

This is a day after North Korea fired what was, by all accounts, an ICBM. During a week when Congress is in the throes of delicate negotiations on taxes and the budget.

And before our eyes, the President is spinning in a Tasmanian devil’s rage about American news networks.

There was more.

The President of the United States just casually accused a congressman-turned-TV-host of murder because an intern died in his Florida office in 2001.
And about that tax bill... it looks like serial Trump enablers Bob Corker, Ben Sasse, Jerry Moran, Jeff Flake, probably Susan Collins and John McCain as well, are all, once again, buckling under to the man each of them has called a dangerous madman and giving him his deranged tax legislation that is completely based on a tissue of lies. Also buckling: Ron Johnson (R-WI), Steve Daines (R-MT) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). All that trickle down nonsense Trump, Ryan and McConnell have been spouting was horrible enough on its face, but now that lies are becoming more and more apparent.
Major companies including Cisco Systems Inc., Pfizer Inc. and Coca-Cola Co. say they’ll turn over most gains from proposed corporate tax cuts to their shareholders, undercutting President Donald Trump’s promise that his plan will create jobs and boost wages for the middle class.

The president has held fast to his pledge even as top executives’ comments have run counter to it for months. Instead of hiring more workers or raising their pay, many companies say they’ll first increase dividends or buy back their own shares.

Robert Bradway, chief executive of Amgen Inc., said in an Oct. 25 earnings call that the company has been “actively returning capital in the form of growing dividend and buyback and I’d expect us to continue that.” Executives including Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey, Pfizer Chief Financial Officer Frank D’Amelio and Cisco CFO Kelly Kramer have recently made similar statements.

“We’ll be able to get much more aggressive on the share buyback” after a tax cut, Kramer said in a Nov. 16 interview.

U.S. voters disapprove of the Republican tax legislation by a two-to-one margin, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Nov. 15, and corporate promises to return any windfall to investors aren’t helping the White House sales effort. The Trump administration has appeared flummoxed. At a Nov. 14 speech to the Wall Street Journal CEO Council by Trump’s top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, the moderator asked business leaders in the audience for a show of hands if they planned to reinvest tax cut proceeds. Few people responded.

“Why aren’t the other hands up?” Cohn asked.

...The White House released a paper last month predicting that cutting the corporate tax rate to 20 percent would would increase average household income by $4,000 to $9,000. Other economists have questioned that claim.

But CEOs more often tout the benefits of the legislation for shareholders. Corporations are most likely to pay down debt and repurchase shares with the proceeds from a “tax holiday,” according to Shin’s Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Research survey of companies, conducted in July. Only 35 percent of companies said they would use the money for capital expenditures.

...[T]here is also outright opposition by some corporate leaders, who cite concerns including increased economic inequality and the bill’s impact on the national debt.

Starbucks Corp. Chairman Howard Schultz, Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett and BlackRock Financial Management Inc. Chairman and CEO Larry Fink have all publicly criticized the legislation. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein said this month that with the economy at nearly full employment and growing at 3 percent, now isn’t the best time for tax cuts.

And John Bogle, founder of Vanguard Group, said Tuesday that the Republican tax plan is a “moral abomination” in part because companies will hand over the proceeds to shareholders.

“One of the flaws is that corporations are putting their shareholders ahead of the people that built the corporation,” he said at an event in New York sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations.
Bernie used the idea of "moral abomination" yesterday too-- and with good reason:
For the past 40 years, the financial and political elite of this country have rigged the tax code to redistribute wealth and income to some of the richest and most powerful people in this country. The result: we are moving rapidly toward an oligarchic form of society in which the top 1 percent is doing phenomenally well, the middle class continues to decline and 40 million Americans are living in poverty. And it will probably not surprise you to learn that just as our tax code benefits the wealthiest people in this country, it also benefits some of the largest and most profitable corporations in the world with a myriad of tax breaks, deductions, credits and other loopholes. As a result, one out of five large profitable corporations today pays nothing in federal taxes.

The current Republican “tax cut” bill, paid for by the Koch brothers and other billionaire campaign contributors, continues the push to make the rich richer at the expense of everyone else. It would raise taxes on middle class families making $75,000 a year or less and would throw 13 million Americans off of health insurance. And it would do all of these things to provide permanent tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans and profitable corporations that ship American jobs to China while moving their American profits to the Cayman Islands.

But let's be clear. This legislation goes well beyond taxes. Its ultimate goal is to radically transform American society and the role that government plays in the lives of the working families of our country. This legislation will increase the deficit by at least $1.5 trillion over ten years. Mark my words. If passed, the Republicans will then rediscover the "deficit crisis," and push aggressively for massive cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education – higher education in particular-- nutrition, affordable housing and more. They will seek to undo every major piece of legislation passed in the last 80 years designed to help working families, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor.

This is the Republican plan. Huge tax breaks for the rich and powerful. Massive cuts to life and death programs for the middle class and working families of our country.

This is not moral. This is not what the American people want. This is not what our country and our pledge for "liberty and justice for all" is supposed to be about.

That is why I am going on the road this week to talk directly to working people in Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania about this disastrous piece of legislation. If we stand together-- black, white, Latino, Asian American, Native American, male and female, young and old, gay and straight-- we can defeat this horrific bill. But I need you to make your voice heard as well. We need to stand together.

...Today in America, more than 40 million Americans, including 20 percent of all children, live in poverty. Many in extreme poverty. Almost 28 million Americans have no health insurance. Millions of bright kids can’t afford to go to college without facing a lifetime of debt. Seniors and disabled veterans are struggling to stay alive on inadequate Social Security checks.

Despite all of that pain, the greed of the billionaire class in this country knows no limits. No. We will not allow them to take away from those in need in order to give a trillion dollars in tax breaks to the very rich. Here’s a radical idea for my colleagues in the Republican Party: instead of just listening to the rich and powerful few in this country, maybe just maybe Congress should listen to the majority of the American people who want a fair tax system.

Maybe just maybe corporate tax reform should start by preventing profitable companies from sheltering profits in tax haven countries like the Cayman Islands.

Here is something you may not know:

A 2008 Government Accountability Office report found that 83 of the Fortune 100 companies use at least one offshore tax scheme to lower their taxes. A 2016 study found that one of every five large, profitable corporations paid no federal income taxes at all in 2012.

The practice of stashing profits in places like the Cayman Islands has become so absurd that one single, five-story office building there is now the official legal “home” to more than 18,000 corporations! Our tax code has essentially legalized tax dodging for large corporations.

We must stop this bill. We must stop the Republicans from moving this country into an oligarchy.

And that starts with all of us standing up, fighting back and making our voices heard. Three weeks ago progressives from coast to coast ran for office at the local and state level-- and they won. We have to continue that progress and build on that momentum.
Trump, he says, "wants to divide us up by the color of our skin, our gender, our religion, our sexual orientation or our country of origin. He wants us fighting with each other while Wall Street and the billionaire class laugh all the way to the bank. Our job is to bring our people together around an agenda that creates an economy and government that works for all, not just the 1 percent. Defeating this terrible piece of legislation will be an important step forward. This bill is a moral abomination."


Political Correctness Strikes Again-- Literature


Sonia Levitin is a German American novelist, artist, producer, Holocaust survivor, and author of dozens of books. Her books Incident at Loring Groves” won the Edgar Allan Poe Award and The Return received the American Library Association's Best Book for Young Adults. Sonia was born in Nazi Germany. Being of Jewish descent her family managed to escape. Levitin wrote several novels as an immigrant in the U.S., including Journey to America and Silver Days, recounting the story of German Jewish refugees who fled the horrors of the Holocaust. Over the course of the last year, I spoke with her on and off about a book she was working on that involved two subjects I had some experience with-- Afghanistan and late 1970's San Francisco punk rock. Her book was about Afghan refugees living in the Bay Area at that time. But the book hasn't been published. She told me why and I asked her to write a guest post today because there's an important message in her experience.

Cultural Appropriation?
-by Sonia Levitin

Strange things, indecent things happen when boundaries become blurred and almost obliterated. Everyone is free to broadcast any criticism, however damning it might be, without providing any source, without reasoned argument or civil discourse.

Thus, the phrase “cultural appropriation” was hurled at me by an editor as she rejected my new novel, Comes The Morning. The main characters are refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq and Malaysia. The problem is, they are Muslims and I’m a Jew. Furthermore, I’m white. The editor liked the book very much. But she explained that she could not publish it because all hell would break loose. She and I would be accused of “cultural appropriation.”

I had to look it up. Cultural appropriation is the use of elements of a culture (ethnic or religious) different from one’s own. The implication is that I cannot possibly understand or portray the life experiences of a Muslim, an Asian or African person. Furthermore, how dare I enrich myself by telling their story, exploiting their misery?

Whereas in the past decade or two, editors and educators were soliciting books of cultural diversity, today’s requirement is different. Books of cultural diversity are fine, but they must be written by a member of that group, usually a minority in the Western world. Most assuredly, the author should not be white.

Somehow this notion has pervaded the political arena on both sides and reached the daily newspaper, albeit on the back pages like a recent op-ed piece in the New York Times, In Defense of Cultural Appropriation. (June 14, 2017; reprinted below)

When I read this piece it confirmed what my editor had told me. I was crushed and heartsick. My response in a letter to the editor was published the following week. It gave me some sense of satisfaction until several weeks later at a luncheon with friends, when someone asked what I am working on now. I spoke about my novel in progress, about refugees from the Middle East, their terrible journeys and the difficult adjustment to life in America.

A woman I had just met spoke up. “If you write that book,” she said, “of course you can’t make any money on it. It would have to be non-profit.”

Earlier she had told me that she was working for a non-profit group in support of the beleaguered Yazidis. I presume she was drawing a salary, just as the surgeon who operated on me for breast cancer was incidentally making money on “my misery.” I assured the woman that novelists don’t usually make much money, unless their novel becomes a popular movie. But it wasn’t really about money. It was about the idea that a white person cannot really understand the feelings of a person of color, or one who prays differently, one whose culture invites or prohibits different behaviors.

The key lies in that word, “different.” This new, encroaching pattern of censorship demands that each of us must remain in the tight cocoon of our own kind. If that were true, how many books would be lost to us, how many that changed our thinking and therefore changed the world? Harriet Beecher Stowe would not have dared to write Uncle Tom's Cabin, the novel that, according to President Lincoln, was instrumental in abolishing slavery. It is said that when Lincoln met Mrs. Stowe he bent down and gently asked, “Are you the little lady who caused this great war?”

I don’t think Mrs. Stowe planned to start a war. She just wanted to inform and sensitize people to the evils of slavery. Just so, hundreds, thousands of books have been written about social evils, and many have changed the world. Moreover, most of them are fiction, not text books with dates and statistics. Non-fiction books provide valuable information. But they do not touch the heart. And it is from the heart, the deep empathy that the novel provokes, that people are made to reflect, even to change.

If I cannot write a novel about modern day refugees from the Middle East, who will speak for them? “Let them write their own novels,” the detractors shout. I have read several wonderful books written by people born and raised in Afghanistan, Iran, Iran and parts of Africa. But they are few in number. Most, like the refugees I interviewed, couldn’t possibly write about their experiences. Having recently arrived in the U.S., they are overcome by grief and traumatic stress. They have to eke out a living. When would they have the time or the will to write about their experiences? Such novels usually appear at least a decade after the catastrophe, as after WWII and beyond, when desperation has been replaced by a kind of acceptance and broader understanding. Today’s refugees include engineers, doctors and attorneys from large cities, with university education. But they also include a vast number of people who were simple vendors or shop keepers or factory workers. Nearly half the women, as well as many of the men, are illiterate. How can they write a novel?

Beyond this, many of the refugees I interviewed were afraid of reprisals. All had relatives still living in the old country, under the harsh and dehumanizing conditions of powerful militias and dictators. As with any group of immigrants, they want to keep a low profile. Best not to advertise the abuses of our own culture. “They” will come after us all the more. “They” will conclude that we are all alike, especially in the ways that threaten the dominant the community.

For my novel I interviewed many recent refugees. Of course, all were alike is some ways, yet again, each was different. Two of the women wore the hijab. One mother urged her little girls to come out to greet me with kisses. One woman wore jeans and boots and drove a shining white Toyota. An older lady did not leave her home without her husband or a son. She spoke no English.

In some ways all my visits were alike. The entire family greeted me. The world refugee agencies made the initial contact and usually provided an interpreter. I was seated on the sofa, with everyone gathered around expectantly. Smiles and nods are a universal language. And I began with my own true story. “I was born in Germany during the Nazi time. We are Jews, and we were persecuted and driven out. Most of my family were murdered.”

I told them, “I want to tell your story, the real story, because most people only know what they see on television, soldiers armed with automatic rifles, bombed out houses, hundreds of people fleeing with bundles on their back. I want to make it personal. Because when it’s personal, people can feel the pain. They understand the loss. They know what it took for you to come here, and what it means for you to live in a land where you are a stranger.”

I promised them that I would not reveal their names. “I’ll create composite characters, weaving together the true stories that you tell me. I won’t put anybody in danger.”

Somehow, an exchange of glances among the family settled it. And they began to talk, usually the younger ones, already familiar with this new language. I heard more stories than I can possibly render in a single book, but they filled me with amazement at man’s inner strength and resilience. One woman’s brother had been publicly hanged with a wire cable. Another told of a cousin whose son’s severed head was delivered to his doorstep, a punishment and a warning for those who dare to work with the enemy. (The father went insane and never recovered.) One boy, age seventeen, who I’ll call Haji, had never revealed his story to his foster family, and they were told not to ask questions. Haji’s foster sister sat with us for several hours. And gradually the story came out. To repay his father’s gambling debt, the boy had been sold at the age of twelve as a “dancing boy,” a prostitute. He did not have to tell me the particulars. I had done research about this now illegal tradition, which is still being practiced. The boys are costumed to look like women, an invitation to rape. Haji finally escaped, returned home to look for his family. They had all vanished.

Could I possibly understand and convey such a narrative? Of course I could and I would do it now, not years from now, because it’s happening now and the story needs to be told.

Amid all the different stories there were similarities, a stoicism that did not allow tears. An in-bred sense of hospitality always included refreshment served on the best china by the woman of the house. I was given a lavish breakfast of eggs, cheese, olives and pita bread. One woman served both Turkish coffee and tea, along with home-made pistachio tarts. Another provided large hunks of cake infused with cherries.

We talked about the present and the future. Those who were able were working two or three jobs. Haji was enrolled in a special English class besides being tutored every day. He was elated that he had just gotten a job at Taco Bell, and he was on the soccer team, their “secret weapon.” I asked Haji how he time for all this. He said, “It is better to stay busy, not to think.”

After each interview, we parted with more than just smiles. Handshakes all around. Sometimes a hug. A non-verbal understanding. They asked to receive a copy of the book when it is published. Of course I would send them.

But the critics, who have not yet read a word of my book, and the agents and editors who are sorely afraid for their positions, won’t let it be published.

There is a recent case in point, a raging controversy over a book that hasn’t been published yet. I obtained a copy when I became aware of the sudden frenzy over the book, criticisms by people who had not even read it. The Young Adult book, American Heart, is written by Laura Moriarty, a prize winning author. The story is an action adventure set in a future time, with the U.S. rounding up and incarcerating all Muslims in detention camps in the Nevada desert. (Sounds familiar?) In the story a 15 year old girl, through personal circumstance, is moved to help a fugitive Muslim woman professor trying to escape and join her husband and child in Toronto. The Muslim woman, Sadaf, has a bounty on her head. As they travel through many obstacles, the reader gains some perspective on Muslim culture vs. the political scene, rendered without preaching but in the context of the story.

American Heart is due out in January 2018. Before publication, publishers customarily send out many bound galleys to review media, including the very prestigious Kirkus Review magazine. A starred review from Kirkus is cause for celebration. Kirkus gave American Heart a starred, glowing review written by a young Muslim woman. Almost immediately came the outcry. GOOD READS, an on-line review site, began to display comments and ratings from among its thousands of subscribers, condemning the book in vicious terms. Their rants are on line for everyone to savor.

“Fuck your white savior bullshit!”

“You’re profiting off people’s pain.”

“No, I haven’t read this, but I’m giving it one star…because the idea of a fiction where Muslims are in concentration camps and a couple are saved by a 15 year old white girl is completely revolting to me.”

“Fuck this book and fuck everyone who thought it would be a good fucking idea.”

So much for literary criticism.

Here’s an opposite reaction. “I haven’t read this book, but I’m giving it five stars to piss off the people who gave this book one star without having read it.”

Now, back to the glowing Kirkus review with the star. The objection and arguments about the book became so widespread and vicious that Kirkus decided to pull the review, to erase the star, and to prevail upon the reviewer to produce an alternate review, less favorable, problematic, perhaps a turn-off for the potential reader.

Editors took note. Agents shivered over their new, unsold manuscripts. For all concerned, it is easier, less problematic, to file them in a drawer, preferably in a locked cabinet. Because words matter. Indeed, they do. Let’s wait, they say, until the publishing world comes to its senses. It’s just a phase. It will blow over, you’ll see.

Blow over?

The assault on writers and publishers is an assault on our democracy, which can only flourish in an atmosphere of open debate. Every voice needs to be heard. Every experience needs to be shared. The task of the writer is to tell the truth as he sees it, to appraise the society and render the possible consequences of its present day excesses. But warnings of danger are uncomfortable and often unprofitable. So books with unpopular or controversial themes are banned. Or they are aborted. Story tellers are silenced, even when their protagonists cry out against injustice and blind hatred.

The message from the detractors is clear. If you are white, outside the Judeo-Christian faiths, don’t intervene. Don’t try to “save” anyone but your own. Even if your intentions are good, wait for them to tell their own stories. Wait until….?

New York Times, Letter to the Editor
June 24, 2017

As an author of numerous books that deal with people from cultures different from my own, I am appalled at the suggestion that one can write only from one’s own specific experience. This defies the idea that there is a basis for mutual understanding, that we can bridge our difference, that we can and must approach one another as possessing the same fears, desires and loves.

Isn’t my human perspective broad enough and compassionate enough to enable me to express the grief of a Sudanese slave? Do I have to be black to render the experience of a black African teenager who risks her life to return to her Jewish roots in Israel?

I have written about Chinese people, Danes, the French, Swiss and Russians, trying to tear down the walls between us. Now my heart aches at the realization that in this “cultural appropriation” phase we are once again building walls between peoples.

We are censoring all artistic works that derive from the creative mind and the soul of the artist, whose race and culture happen to be different from her subject, while the very impetus and purpose of art is to reveal, to be a bridge, to depict our common humanity.

As a writer, I urge other writers and artists not to go gentle into this abyss.

Sonia Levitin, Los Angeles

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Will the Democratic Party Finally "Get Right" on Trade?


Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama discuss exiting from NAFTA in the 2008 Cleveland debate

by Gaius Publius

The mainstream wing of the Democratic Party, it seems, has not learned the lesson of "job-killing trade deals" since the last election. But all is not lost on the subject trade. If Trump gets his way — yes, this is a positive story about a Trump policy — the country may see the end of something that should never have been started in the first place.

The Trump administration is threatening to kill NAFTA. Will the threat succeed? Will Democrats as a group find a way to benefit if it does, or will they make matters worse for themselves? Let's take a look.

Trump, NAFTA and the Democratic Party

There are several moving parts to this story, and it's important to keep them straight. Those parts are:

     • The Trump administration really does want to alter much of the NAFTA trade deal — and for the better. This is one campaign promise he appears to mean to keep.

     • Pro-corporate "free trade" groups like the Chamber of Commerce are strongly opposed to many or most of the changes the administration is proposing.

     • A stalemate over Trump's NAFTA proposals may force the president to terminate NAFTA entirely by invoking Article 2205.

     • Trump does indeed have unilateral authority to do this, despite critics who claim he doesn't and despite the act of Congress that enabled NAFTA in the 1990s.

     • If Trump cancels NAFTA, it will be a VERY GOOD THING for the country. Everyone who supports the good of the country should applaud.

     • Pro-"free trade" Democrats — meaning most of them, especially the pro-corporate Clinton and Obama wings — may try to save NAFTA under the guise of "Resistance" to Trump.

     • Or not. Thus the crux of the problem for mainstream Democrats.

In the interest of brevity, I'm going to quote just briefly to support these main points. But don't be confused — this is a very big deal, and it deserves lengthier supporting analysis than most readers may have time for.

Trump Is Trying to Improve NAFTA, and the World of Money Is Opposed

About the first two points above, consider this from Politico in October. Note the strong reaction against the administration's proposed improvements for NAFTA (my emphasis throughout):
Chamber calls many Trump administration NAFTA proposals 'dangerous'

The largest U.S. business group strongly urged the Trump administration Friday to withdraw a number of "highly dangerous" proposals in talks to renegotiate NAFTA and warned that pulling out of the pact would have disastrous consequences for many states that backed President Donald Trump in the election.

"Today, we’re increasingly concerned about the state of the negotiations," John Murphy, senior vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told reporters. The comments come a few days before the United States will host Canada and Mexico for the fourth round of talks on renegotiating the nearly 24-year-old pact.

The Chamber has expressed concerns about certain proposals in previous trade agreements, but never on as many proposals as are currently under consideration in the NAFTA talks, Murphy said.

Many businesses, large and small, are concerned about the effects that many of the Trump administration proposals or planned proposals would have on trade. Those at issue would reduce Canada and Mexico's access to the U.S. government procurement market, create a new domestic content provision for autos and tighten regional content requirements, and automatically terminate the agreement after five years unless all three countries agree to renew the pact — known as a sunset clause. ...

"I would say the vast majority of the U.S. business and agricultural community opposes these proposals broadly and emphatically," Murphy said.
The short list of proposed changes above should give a sense of the scope of the administration's proposals. There are other proposed changes as well, many just as troubling to folks like the Chamber of Commerce.

Confirmation that Trump may be serious comes from the WSJ (subs. required). If you click through, ignore all the pro-"free trade" editorializing in the language of this report and focus on the data it contains:
The politics of trade are shifting in Washington. In the 1990s, a Democrat in the White House, Bill Clinton, worked with free-market Republicans in Congress to open the world trading system to Mexico and China. [Notice the glorifying language, despite this.] Now a White House Republican, Donald Trump, hopes to work with trade skeptics among the Democrats to reverse that trade liberalization. It is too soon to say whether Mr. Trump will succeed. But if he does, it will be in alliance with people like [Sen. Sherrod] Brown, a leading voice among Democrats in the Senate against free trade agreements written in the past three decades.

Already Mr. Trump has halted the steady liberalization of trade that began with President Franklin Roosevelt and continued in Democratic and Republican administrations. In his first working day in office, he pulled the U.S. out of a 12-nation Pacific trade pact, even though the other nations continue working to complete a deal. In a recent speech in Vietnam he warned Asian powers that the U.S. wouldn’t “be taken advantage of anymore” in trade deals.
There's quite a lot of concern among those with money — from the standpoint of the public, drowned out by "Trump-Russia!" headlines — that he really is serious about this.

A Stalemate May Force Trump to Withdraw from NAFTA

Talk of the administration's desire to pass pro-populist changes to NAFTA isn't just talk. One can find articles excoriating them for it, or downplaying their efforts, in mainstream venues like Politico and the LA Times, all in response to Trump's single August comment that "I think we'll end up probably terminating NAFTA at some point." 

That threat is being taken, or presented, as either just a "war of words" or just a negotiating ploy. Those interpretations may still be right. But nothing has changed since that August pronouncement, signaling a remarkable consistency perhaps in an otherwise inconsistent administration.

Trump Has Unilateral Authority to Withdraw from NAFTA

If Trump does feel forced by this stalemate to withdraw from NAFTA, can he? Article 2205 of the NAFTA agreement clearly says he can:
Article 2205: Withdrawal

A Party may withdraw from this Agreement six months after it provides written notice of withdrawal to the other Parties. If a Party withdraws, the Agreement shall remain in force for the remaining Parties.
And if you listen to the video at the top, you see that candidates Clinton and Obama both agree that this is well within the president's authority. (At the time, both were saying that threat of withdrawal was a good thing.)

Global Trade expert Lori Wallach of Public Citizen Trade Watch, writing to her list, explains more fully:
Many people have asked me about whether Trump could withdraw from NAFTA solo. The answer is yes. And, because of provisions in NAFTA’s implementing legislation and the 1974 Trade Act, his doing so would terminate Congress’ 1993 approval of NAFTA and allow Trump to proclaim tariffs levels back to WTO ‘most favored nation’ levels. And as a Washington International Trade Association panel two weeks ago featuring pro-NAFTA folks, including a former Asst. USTR, agreed a court challenge of withdrawal would not likely succeed.
She continues, citing her analysis memo (pdf):
• A U.S. president has authority to notify other signatories that the United States is withdrawing from a trade agreement. Doing so, for instance by triggering the Article 2205 six-month notice to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), would end U.S. international law obligations under the pact. That alone would terminate some terms, such as U.S. consent to investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), which are not covered in NAFTA’s implementing legislation.

•  Withdrawing from NAFTA would also terminate Congress’ approval of the pact and elements of its implementation. The NAFTA Implementation Act Article 109(b) cancels Congress’ approval of NAFTA and terminates five key provisions implementing aspects of it with respect to any country that withdraws.

• A president also has authority to switch [reverse] terms of trade – tariff levels – with Mexico and Canada without further congressional action. The Trade Act of 1974 Section 125 automatically terminates trade agreement tariff concessions in one year, but also provides presidents proclamation authority to revert tariff rates to World Trade Organization (WTO) Most Favored Nation (MFN) levels immediately with respect to any trade partner and any agreement if the United States withdraws or the pact terminates. With respect to Canada, the president could choose to extend duty free treatment by reversing the suspension of the 1988 U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

• In sum, absent congressional action via veto-proof majorities to alter the NAFTA implementing bill’s automatic sunset terms and the two existing congressional delegations of tariff authority to the president, not only can a president end U.S. international law obligations under NAFTA, but doing so would cancel Congress’ approval of the agreement and key elements of the implementing bill.

• NAFTA proponents have suggested that notice to withdraw from NAFTA would face legal challenges. It is unclear what party would be “injured” by such action in a manner that would provide standing to bring such a claim. However, even assuming that hurdle could be overcome, the likely outcome would either be a court declining to adjudicate on the basis that this type of issue is a “political question” or a ruling in support of unilateral presidential termination, given past practice and precedent.
If the standoff gets as far as unilateral NAFTA termination, expect Trump to dig in his heels and if necessary, defend his action in court. If he does that, expect him to win.

Note the deadline — NAFTA commitments are ended six months after the president declares them cancelled. That clock starts with the act of withdrawal, and runs even while the matter moves through the courts.

Though Cancelling NAFTA Will Be Good for the Country, Expect Most Democrats to Oppose It

This is where the actual rubber meets the actual road, and the above heading is my evaluation. I don't think anyone has forgotten the fight over Fast Track, during which pretend-progressive "free trade" Democrats like Ron Wyden and Earl Blumenauer shepherded TPP-enabling legislation to the floor, even while pretend-progressive leaders like Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi tried to appear to be opposed or neutral regarding it.

Nor have many voters forgotten Barack Obama's desperate, all-hands push to pass TPP even after his preferred presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, had finally come out against it. The push to pass TPP lasted until Trump was elected and the big money forces in Washington were forced to throw in the towel.

The mainstream (pro-corporate) media is pushing for NAFTA to remain as written — or be made worse — by incorporating elements of TPP into it. For example, the WSJ article linked above regularly uses terms like "trade skeptic" to describe opponents of what it glowingly calls NAFTA-style "free trade" and "trade liberalization." Earlier articles covering the Fast Track fight almost always described Democrats like Ron Wyden as "pro-trade" (not "pro-corporate-friendly trade") and opponents as "anti-trade"as though they hated trade in general — a blatant mischaracterization that crosses well into blatant propaganda.

The WSJ article also makes an early point of how marginal and alone Sen. Brown is on this issue, and how strong the pressure from Democrats is against him: "Mr. Brown opposes Mr. Trump on almost everything other than trade and is under pressure from his party’s liberal wing [sic] not to cooperate with the White House on any issue." (By "liberal wing" the Journal means the Chuck Schumer corporate wing — another blatant mischaracterization.)


The near-term bottom lines in this story are several; they're also interesting. If Trump does pull the U.S. out of NAFTA, expect Democrats to be put on the spot, perhaps by design. At which point we should be asking these questions:

Will Democrats support NAFTA as the 2018 election approaches?

If they do, how will they couch their support? The country hated TPP by the time it died, though elites kept pushing it. The old pro-TPP rhetoric clearly didn't work then. Can it be effective now?

Will Democrats come up with a new story to convince suffering workers that NAFTA is now somehow good for them? Or will they just fall back on "Trump...Russia!" and hope no one will notice?

Will Sherrod Brown stay strong in his support for pulling out of NAFTA, if it comes to that, or will he fold to Party pressure?

Will other Democrats support him as this matter moves to a decision?

If so, which ones?

Much to watch for, and much that hangs in the balance. This is one of the major stories in the run-up to 2018. Expect none of your favorite "Trump-Russia" newscasters to cover it though — you'll have to do that for yourself.

As for long-term bottom lines, there is just one: The Democrats have a chance to decide, again, which side of the Real Resistance — the war against Rule by the Rich — they are on. Will they help mitigate the suffering of the American people, or continue to help worsen it?

Do mainstream Democrats have the courage to make this their slogan?

As I've written many times, this is one of our twin, approaching, inevitable tsunamis. The war against the wealthy will not end until one side finally wins, or until the global climate tsunami makes it moot. If mainstream Democrats, who still control the Party, are determined to remain on the wrong side of it, the consequences for the country will be nothing short of disastrous, a rolling civil war that seems destined never to end. A war that, in their arrogance, they will have fed.

Crossroads. We seem to be stuck at one.


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When Will People Start Referring To The GOP As The Party Of Felons?


Make America Great Again

I was pretty shocked how the Senate Democrats allowed Trump to slip Sago Mining Disaster mass murderer and Putin operative Wilbur Ross into his cabinet without much of a fight. He was confirmed as Secretary of Commerce on February 27, 2017, 72-27 with x Democrats-- Michael Bennet (CO), Sherrod Brown (OH), Tom Carper (DE), Bob Casey (PA), Chris Coons (DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (NV), Joe Donnelly (IN), Tammy Duckworth (IL), of course Dianne Feinstein (CA), Maggie Hassan (NH), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Tim Kaine (VA), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Claire McCaskill (MO), Bill Nelson (FL), Gary Peters (MI), Brian Schatz (HI), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), John Tester (MT) and Mark Warner (VA)-- joining every single Republican to confirm him. Conservative Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who remembered what ole Wilbur had done in his state, joined progressives like Bernie, Elizabeth Watten, Tammy Baldwin, Jeff Merkley, Al Franken, Mazie Hirono, Tom Udall and Ed Markey in voting NO.

What happens when, instead of protecting the government from predators-- like Wilbur Ross, not to mention Señor Trumpanzee and the rest of his cabinet-- the predator become the government? That's one of the essential questions in the aftermath of Putin helping Trump to gain the presidency.

So... speaking of crimes against humanity in West Virginia... Who remembers Massey Energy monster Don Blankenship? It was just 7 years ago we noted that "Massey Energy Co.'s sprawling Upper Big Branch mine, which is operated by serial bad faith players Performance Coal (a Massey front company history of violations for not properly ventilating highly combustible methane gas) is half an hour south of Charleston, West Virginia. Yesterday afternoon a massive explosion of the kind Performance has never been properly punished for, killed at least two dozen workers in the mine. Following 8 years of lax enforcement of safety rules from the Bush administration-- if you can equate no enforcement with "lax"-- Massey has been fined $382,000 for repeated serious violations at Upper Big Branch as Labor Secretary Hilda Solis worked to fix the concerted damage corrupt conservatives have done to mine safety. The company's CEO, Don Blankenship, has neither committed hari kari nor been lynched-- or even arrested. He did offer some p.r. hack's crafted condolences though: 'Tonight we mourn the deaths of our members at Massey Energy.' Am I saying billionaire Blankenship should be executed for murder? Well... he should get a fair trial." We kept writing about Blankenship until he was finally sentenced to a year in prison-- but not for murder. He's too rich for that. The wrist slap is for "conspiring to violate federal mine safety standards."

Like Mikey Suits, Blankenship is now out of prison-- and running for office. He's running for the U.S. Senate against Joe Manchin. He filed on Tuesday-- as a Republican, of course. The GOP already has two high-profile candidates in the race, Congressman Evan Jenkins and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

Blankenshit said he considered himself a political prisoner because the jury pool in Charleston was biased against him, the prosecution was politically motivated and the trial was controlled by rulings unfair to the defense. He recently wrote that Manchin has blood on his hands because he failed to "successfully advocate for effective mine safety regulations."

Welcome to the GOP kakistocracy

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Midnight Meme Of TheDay!


-by Noah
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. -George Santayana
Now that the U.S. $enate is back from yet another of their vacations, the Republican majority, led by Mitch the Treason Turtle, is striving to rid the nation of Obamacare and Medicare via the Trump/Republican Tax Scam so they can take that money from us while raising both our taxes and our insurance premiums. They will then hand out the money picked form our pockets to their benefactors in the top 1%. They slyly and cynically call their scam Tax "Reform" and try to sell it to us as such. So, anytime you hear, see, or read words from any corrupt maggots in the political world, the media world, or from crackpot Trump supporters that support this scam, keep the words of today's meme in mind. The goal is the same, as are the methods used to dupe the gullible and easily manipulated among us. Only the corporate masters and their handmaidens in the well paid off $enate win. The rest of us are to be slaves or serfs indentured to the banks and corporations more than ever before.

The Trump/Repug Tax Scam amounts to trickle down economics of massive steroids. How'd that work out previously? It's piracy and we are the ones to be raided.

Now, really. Do you really want to see the $enate's richest man (that would be Mitch McConnell) gloat and smile ever again? I wouldn't. In fact, I wish I could make his smile utterly toothless. But, alas, I'm not allowed to do such a wondrous thing. The world is an unjust place. I will just have to hope that Mitchy doesn't get the votes to pass the big scam. I have my Mitch the Treason Turtle voodoo doll at the ready. I'm using a nail gun this time.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

New Contender For Worst DCCC Recruit Of The Cycle: Jeff Van Drew (NJ-02)


Once Frank LoBiondo announced he wouldn't be running for reelection, no one doubted that grotesquely corrupt right-wing Democrat Jeff Van Drew would jump into the race. He's the perfect DCCC candidate-- disgustingly bigoted, Republican-lite, corrupt as you can be without going to prison... when the DCCC chieftains see Van Drew they think they're looking right into a mirror. And, of course, imagine voters will be clamoring to elect him. Van Drew is a sordid piece of crap-- exactly what makes the Democratic Party-- at the very best-- the lesser of two evils.

NJ-02, the southern 5th of the state, stretches down the coast from Little Egg Harbor through Atlantic City to Cape May and west through Millville and into the exurbs south of Philly and east of Wilmington. Obama beat McCain there 53-45% and beat Romney 54-46%. It was the wrong kind of district for Hillary though-- and Trump beat her 50.6% to 46.0%. The 2015 PVI of D+1 slipped to a less friendly, but very winnable, R+1. The DCCC has been screwing up NJ-02 since 1994 when Democrat Bill Hughes retired and Frank LoBiondo won the seat. In 2014 Hughes' son, Bill Jr. ran and lost 62-37%. The DCCC ignored the race and LoBiondo outspent him $2,425,940 to $756,354. Last year the DCCC ignored the district again and let Dave Cole die on the vine. He spent $127,386 to LoBiondo's $1,627,038 and got the same 37% of the vote. But the DCCC-- along with George Norcross, the fount aof all corruption in South Jersey-- has been hoping all along to recruit state Senator Van Drew. He was described accurately by as "one of the most conservative Democrats in the state Legislature. He's an NRA fanatic and an anti-gay zealot who was one of the few Democrats in the legislature to vote against marriage equality. That's the stinking pile of crap the DCCC recruits. Would they recruit an anti-Black candidate to win seat? An anti-Semite? We already know they're completely comfortable recruiting anti-Choice candidates.

Van Drew is the Vice Chair of New Jersey's Senate Environment Committee. In 2013 he was one of the only Democrats in the state legislature with a lower environmental ranking from the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters other than the execrable Donald Norcross-- a crooked Machine pol whose first vote after being elevated to the House was to back the Keystone XL Pipeline. Norcross' score was 59% and Van Drew's was 68%. Clean Water Action rated Van Drew a 22%, lowest of any New Jersey state Senator.

And Van Drew has more right-wing tendencies than just being a kiss-up for developers and other anti-environment special interests. He was the only Democrat in the New Jersey state legislature, for example, to get an A from the NRA, outscoring a pack of Republicans. This is the record of this "Democrat," seen by the DCCC as a reason to recruit him for higher office:
In 2010, Van Drew sponsored a bill to allow residents to carry handguns.

In 2011, he appeared with Steve Lonegan (who was there in his capacity as State Director of Americans for Prosperity) to rally support for a bill to repeal cap and trade, and expressed his support for nuclear power and fossil fuels. Also in 2011, Van Drew sponsored a bill to abolish the seven-day waiting period before shelter animals could be killed. And of course, he was one of those Christiecrats who voted to cut public workers’ pensions and benefits.

In 2013, he broke with the Democratic leadership on gun control and marriage equality.
There's also an African-American progressive woman, a union member, running-- Tanzie Youngblood. Naturally, the DCCC is ignoring her. When they look at her they don't see themselves in the mirror.

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Are Ballot Initiatives The Way To Get Around Partisan Gerrymandering?


I remember, many years ago, someone suggesting that California-- the biggest blue state-- and Texas-- the biggest red state-- both dump gerrymandering simultaneously. Texas wasn't paying any attention and eventually California went ahead on its own and legislated that district lines would be drawn by a non-partisan commission. Texas is still one of the half dozen or so most corruptly-gerrymandered states in the union-- along with North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin.

When Obama and Holder announced last year that they would devote some of their post-administration energy to curing gerrymandering, I was heartened-- until I learned that they hired tragic DCCC hack Kelly Ward, who loses at everything she does, as their organization's executive director. Nothing Kelly Ward is involved with has any chance of succeeding. Maybe, I thought, this can be revisited in a decade when Ward moves on to the next organization she can ruin. Then, yesterday, I saw an interesting piece in The Hill by Reid Wilson, Gerrymandering opponents turn to ballot initiatives to redraw lines. Ward and her National Democratic Redistricting Committee aren't part of it, so... there's hope. It's all about using citizens' ballot initiatives to overcome resistance by Republican lawmakers and governors.
Supporters of a proposal to create a nonpartisan redistricting commission in Michigan say they will turn in more than 400,000 signatures by the end of the year. They need 315,000 of those signatures to be valid in order to qualify for next year’s ballot.

In Ohio, a coalition of organizations is in the process of collecting the 305,591 valid signatures they need to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot.

And in Colorado, another coalition plans two ballot initiatives-- one that would reform congressional redistricting, and another to reform legislative redistricting.

Efforts to get initiatives or constitutional amendments on the ballot are underway in Missouri, South Dakota and Utah.

Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson (R) has created a task force to study a nonpartisan redistricting plan, which could turn into a ballot drive as well. Bipartisan study groups of legislators in Maryland, Indiana and Louisiana are all taking initial steps toward formulating a proposal.

Each initiative is unique to its own state-- Utah’s and Ohio’s would each create a seven-member commission, South Dakota’s a nine-member commission, and Missouri’s plan would use statistical modeling for new district lines.

But all would strip the power to draw favorable district lines, the practice known as gerrymandering, from partisan legislatures who zealously guard their ability to craft preferred terrain.

“The thinking has been-- it’s easier to get this done through initiatives than through legislatures,” said Michael Li, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program. “Lawmakers are loathe to give up the power to draw boundaries, particularly their own boundaries.”

The good-government groups that back reform hope to increase competition in legislative and congressional elections. Democrats who support reforms believe a less partisan process would bolster their hopes of reclaiming control of the House of Representatives in the next decade.

...[That imbecile loser I mentioned above] Ward said her group is evaluating the ballot measures, which are by necessity different in each state.

“Not all reforms are created equal, and what works in one state might not work in another state,” Ward said. “We look at it from a customized, state-by-state approach.”

Many of the initiatives are using California as a model given passage in 2010 of Proposition 20. That initiative, funded by conservative billionaire Charles Munger, gave the power to redraw district lines to the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, a group of 14 members-- five Republicans, five Democrats and four independents.

The California measure required the commission to draw districts that united so-called communities of interest, whether those are cities or counties. Several of the proposed initiatives have similar requirements: The Ohio proposal would require a commission to limit the number of counties that are divided between districts, as does a legislative proposal that has earned bipartisan support in Pennsylvania’s legislature.

California was also the first state to give independents a voice in the process, a practice several of the new initiatives are emulating.

Other states are also considering giving each side the power to veto unfavorable maps, a tool to ensure compromise and competition.

Under that system, “you can’t approve a map wholly over the objections of the other party, and that in itself tends to produce fairer maps,” said Li, of the Brennan Center.

Others are looking to Arizona, where voters approved a redistricting commission in 2000. The Supreme Court upheld that commission, which values competitiveness as a desirable quality when drawing new maps, in 2015.

Li said many states are now considering symmetry, or ensuring that a party wins a share of seats proportionate to their statewide vote total, in drawing new districts. That would target states like Virginia, where Republicans hold seven of 11 congressional districts even though Democrats have won most recent statewide elections.
Tom Guild, the progressive Democrat running for Congress in the Oklahoma City district, is a long-time member of the Brennan Society and very serious about finding a way to put a stop to gerrymandering. "We need to end gerrymandering so that voters pick their congresspersons and state legislators, instead of politicians picking the voters who can vote for or against them when they stand for election or re-election. I support efforts at the state level in Oklahoma and other states to legally create nonpartisan redistricting commissions and efforts to do the same at the national level, which is admittedly more difficult and unwieldy. Until we take the power to essentially rig elections in advance by virtually guaranteeing the election of candidates from one party or the other in congressional and state legislative races our representative democracy will remain screamingly unrepresentative."

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Voters Don't Want To See Ryan OR Pelosi As The Next Speaker-- Are We Helpless To Guarantee That?


Most voters want them both gone already

The most current generic congressional vote polling-- by Fox News, NBC/Wall Street Journal, PPP, ABC/Washington Post, Quinnipiac, NPR?Marist, Reuters/Ipsos, and Economist/YouGov-- show the Democrats outpolling the Republicans by, on average 9.6%. Ironically, the poll with the worst news for the Republicans was done by Fox. Among registered voters 50% would like to see Democrats leading Congress and just 35% would prefer to see Republicans running Congress after the next election. That same Fox poll also shows the Democratic Party with a 51%/44% favorable/unfavorable rating while the Republicans have a 40%/55% favorable/unfavorable rating.

John Rogers, the monkey the House Republicans hired to run their version of the DCCC, the NRCC, told The Hill that Republicans would benefit from the years-long attempts to use Nancy Pelosi against Democratic congressional candidates. He admits that the NRCC's main weapon to try to hold onto the House is by making every race about her. "In reality," he said, "next fall is going to come down to whether or not you want to reinstitute Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House."

It's true that the Republicans have become a one-trick pony with that narrative and have every intention of using it again, the way they used it against Jon Ossoff in Georgia this year. Ossoff wads an extraordinarily weak and pointless candidate-- a real DCCC special-- and it was predictable that he would be vulnerable to that kind of idiotic attack. The DCCC doesn't seem capable of the kind of single-minded aggressiveness it takes to turn the tables on the GOP by making Ryan into the kind of villain the Republicans have made Pelosi into. The irony there is that Ryan is already more disliked nationally than Pelosi is-- even after years of Republican slander against her!

Ryan's unfavorable rating is now at 49.3%, compared to Pelosi's 48.7%. When questioned about the GOP efforts to tie Democratic candidates to Pelosi, a DCCC spokesman responded that "Speaker Ryan is increasingly unpopular as he forces the most vulnerable House Republicans to walk the plank on jacking up healthcare costs and increasing middle-class taxes to fund handouts for the rich and large corporations. The midterms will be a referendum on Republicans, and it’s clear that they are failing to come to terms with that reality."

But some of the GOP incumbents most closely tied to Ryan-- take Sean Duffy in Wisconsin as an example-- aren't even being targeted by the DCCC which can't see further than going after Republicans in districts Hillary won. What makes that one-dimensional strategy even more pathetic is the horrifying DCCC recruiting, which focuses on everything people hate about Democrats-- particularly their ties to Wall Street and their wishy-washy Republican-lite stands.

I reached out to several campaigns to ask candidates and campaign managers what they plan do about the NRCC threat. Most wanted to keep it off the record. You can see why from this response from one of the best and most admired campaign managers in the country: "I respect Pelosi, " he told me this morning, "but it's time for her to pack it in-- past time. She's hurting the party's chance to decisively win the midterms and put a check on Trump. I know it's not fair, but the Republicans have succeeded in demonizing her, especially with independent voters... We're going to have to tell our voters that we don't want her or Ryan as Speaker.. We feel bad about equating them both but not even Democrats in [our district] want to see her back with the Speaker's gavel... I agree with you that Hoyer and Crowley would be much worse party leaders but most voters have never heard of either one of them and the Republicans can't use them against candidates... unless they read some obscure blog like yours."

Goal ThermometerTom Guild is Oklahoma City knows he's definitely going to face a barrage of ads conflating him with Pelosi. He doesn't seem worried. "Because of the extreme dysfunction in Congress today," he told me today, "I’m going to wait and see who the candidates for House Democratic Leader/Speaker are before deciding which person to support. It would be hard to do worse than Paul Ryan has done as the leader of House Republicans. I want a progressive who can pass an increase to the minimum wage, single payer health care, a massive infrastructure bill to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure while creating millions of good paying jobs, direct and hasten the transition to renewable energy sources, and invest in America before looking for new overseas military adventures. I will take this decision seriously and am not in anyone’s hip pocket. Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio (or his closest living iteration in Congress)? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you."

Katie Hill has obviously thought this over, but is it enough? She told me that "From the very beginning, I have been clear that my loyalty is and will always be to the people of the 25th district-- not to party, not to donors, not to corporations or special interests. We know the Republicans will use every line of attack they can think of, but I am indisputably a political outsider and a homegrown candidate, not someone brought in by the Democratic party to run in this district. The voters of the 25th have been getting to know and trust me through our videos and through my presence in the community. They know I am honest and straightforward, and not afraid to stand up to anyone who tries to back me into a corner or do wrong by our community-- no matter who that comes from. I consider that trust sacred and will always honor it. I know my community will understand that, and will not be fooled by the RNC trying to equate me to or pretend that I am beholden to anyone else."

James Thompson, currently running for Congress in a Kansas rematch, has a very different perspective on this than anyone else because he just went through the experience a few months ago. "I ran for Congress in the 4th District of Kansas in the very first Special Election after Trump was inaugurated," he told us. "The DCCC claims they did not help my race because they did not want to 'nationalize it.' Yet, as soon as I received the nomination from the Kansas Democratic Party to run for Congress, the Republican Party 'nationalized' the campaign by immediately tying me to Leader Pelosi, saying she hand-picked me and that I was her puppet. Ron Estes and the Republicans in Kansas, led by the KOCH brothers ultra-conservative political machine, never met a lie they didn’t like. I had never met, nor even spoke with, Nancy Pelosi and yet was being branded like a bull with her unpopularity here in Kansas. She sure never helped my race, and the mere mention of her name hurt my campaign. The same ads used against Ossoff, were used against me by simply switching out his picture for mine. The night of the special election, Leader Pelosi called and offered her condolences for my loss. She was warm, friendly and sympathetic and I greatly appreciated her taking the time out of her busy schedule to call me. While I respect her as a person and her accomplishments as Speaker of the House, her time in leadership needs to end for the good of the Democratic Party. With better leadership from the party, we may have been able to harness the progressive wave sweeping the country and possibly win some of the Special Elections. The Democratic Party needs an infusion of new progressive leadership like Keith Ellison and Ro Khanna. Regardless of whether it is true, Republicans will brand every Democrat with the Pelosi brand in hopes of sinking campaigns in 2018 with the mere mention of her name. New leadership needs to take over and lead the fight for a 50 state strategy. If Leader Pelosi is still in office when I get to Congress, I will vote for new leadership that will ensure the Democratic Party fights in all 50 states."

One of our best congressional candidates: "Off the record, I'll be frank and say I think we need new leadership, I'm just not sure who." Another great congressional candidate who asked for anonymity told me "Off the record, I do not want Nancy Pelosi anywhere near my campaign. Thanks, but no thanks. She is toxic." Another candidate knows exactly who he wants to replace Pelosi and I think he'll be announcing it soon.

David Gill, the Blue America-backed candidate in the central Illinois district held by Ryan puppet Rodney Davis, is certainly not going to vote for Ryan (if he's even still in Congress when Gill gets there in 2019). He told us that "If the Republicans try to attack me as a lapdog for Mrs. Pelosi, we will laugh and let voters know how utterly ridiculous that is. I defeated her chosen candidate in the primary of 2012, and I am in the process of trying to defeat her chosen candidate in the 2018 primary. Additionally, no U.S. House candidate in Illinois history has ever collected more signatures for an independent Congressional campaign than I did last year. Those 11,000+ signatures will make it very clear to voters that my votes in Congress will not be dictated to me by Mrs. Pelosi or anyone else."

Jared Golden is running for the Maine seat held by Trump rubber stamp Bruce Poliquin. He's the Majority Whip of the state legislature and he has a clear understanding about how legislative bodies work. One of his primary opponents happens to be straight out of Pelosi's coterie of super-wealthy elites. And he didn't mince any words. "It’s time for a new generation of leaders in Washington. My support will go to the leader that shows me they care about and understand the priorities of working class people-- it’s got to be someone serious about rebuilding an economy that doesn’t leave small rural states like Maine behind. I want to serve with leaders that demonstrate they have the courage to fight for progressive values and the ability to work across the aisle to deliver results. We need service-driven leaders who will do what’s best for this country and I believe that’s to fight for the great majority-- working and middle class people."

Derrick Crowe, the Blue America-endorsed candidate in the Austin-San Antonio district Lamar Smith is giving up, told us that "Jon Ossoff lost because he refused to fight for key progressive values, concern-trolled government spending like a Republican, and didn't live in the district. His campaign also lacked message discipline and kept throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what would stick. When that's the campaign you run, you let the other side define you, and you don't sufficiently inspire your base to close the gap for you. To put it mildly, that's not the campaign we're running here in TX-21. A vote for me is a vote for a clear set of progressive values that puts us on the side of the working class against corporate power and the billionaires. Anyone who wants my vote for Speaker of the House will have to demonstrate that they are the best vehicle to advance those values in Congress."

Jenny Marshall, the progressive Democrat running for the Piedmont seat Virginia Foxx occupies toked us that "People are looking for a person that can relate to the everyday struggles of average Americans. They need to know that their representative is not bought and paid for by corporate interests. We are separating ourselves from candidates who do not support like progressive issues like single payer health care, campaign finance reform including eliminating corporate donations to campaigns. These issues are important for our communities and they need to know that they have a strong choice that supports what they need."

Doug Applegate has a similar perspective-- as well as some creepy Pelosi candidate backed by big money in his primary. When I asked him if Issa and the GOP Machine will try to conflate him with Pelosi, he laughed and said, "You’ve got to be kidding me. Since nearly beating Darrell Issa after the DCCC came in late in the race only 67 days before election day 2016, corporate and establishment Democrats have only indicated that the last person they want to join their club is a Marine Colonel. While Dem Hill members insist they won’t endorse until after the primary, multiple conservative Democrat Congressmen endorse Mike Levin whose corporation received an 'undisclosed payment/investment' from Exxon in the summer of 2016. Despite that bump from the biggest carbon fuel producer, Levin still insists that he’s an environmental lawyer.  As a former Clinton aide and Qualcomm heiress, a crowbar couldn’t pry Sara Jacobs away from moneyed corporate Democrats and Pelosi. I’m not a corporate Democrat; I’m not an establishment Democrat. I’m a Marine Colonel who will fight for change, for a new labor movement, for single payer healthcare, for public preschool to public university regardless of parental income, for ending oil subsidies that will free market forces to reach 100% renewable energy by 2027 and for real change. The only label you will ever stick on me is 'he’s a Marine Colonel who will fight like hell for change.'"

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