Saturday, August 31, 2019

How Blessed We Are To Live In A Decent And Democratic Age Where Such Things Could Not Possibly Occur


To be honest, it's hard to understand why anyone still supports Trump-- and nearly 40% of voters do. But it always makes me ill to read that Jews do. Not many, but some. I've always been fascinated that there were actually Jews who voted for Hitler. Something like 24% of Jews voted for Trump. Far fewer Jews voted for Republicans in 2018 but there really should be no Jews-- other than Sheldon Adelson-- who vote for him in 2020. My grandmother used to tell me Jews valued education more than other groups so they were "smarter." (Roland, my closest friend, teaches school in Compton and he says Latinx immigrant families value education more than any other group, although you always hear how much Chinese families do and Indian families and...)

Same for gays, right? Latinx? women?

Anyway, Jews shouldn't be voting for fascists. If if they're not Einstein, how smart do you have be to understand how dangerous that is? Yesterday, the New Yorker published a film review by Anthony Lane that, for the most obvious of reasons, caught my attention: The Hour Of Reckoning Descends In Mr. Klein. It is about a restored version of the 1976 film, Mr. Klein, by Joseph Losey, starring Alain Delon (as Monsieur Klein).

Klein is a Jewish name. I was shocked when I found out that my father, for business purposes when I was a child, used the name Kent. The Mr. Klein, Robert Klein, living in German-occupied Paris, played by Delon, is a Roman Catholic from Alsace, and something of a passive anti-Semite. Lane explains that Klein is "an art dealer who lives in style on the Rue du Bac, on the Left Bank. His apartment is stacked with pictures, and he himself is a kind of objet d’art, lounging in a sumptuous robe with green and gold stripes as if posing for a portrait. Outside, he wears a well-cut suit, with an overcoat and a hat, which he lightly tips, as etiquette demands, to those he greets. He might easily have slipped from the pages of Proust, and it’s only proper that Delon went on to play the Baron de Charlus, one of Proust’s most formidable characters, in Swann in Love (1984). As for Losey, he toiled in vain, for years, to refashion In Search of Lost Time for the cinema."
If Proustian manners persist, in the era of Mr. Klein, they resemble elegant clothes draped over a sickly body. Folks still frequent the cabaret, relaxing with cocktails or champagne, but the audience is dotted with German officers, in uniform, and the entertainment features an actor masked as a cartoon Jew, who lurches offstage to much applause. Klein is there, too, with his girlfriend, Jeanine (Juliet Berto), doing his smiling best to enjoy the show.

This urge to accommodate oneself to new conditions, however unsavory, and perhaps-- should the opportunity arise-- to take advantage of them is visible throughout the film, and all the more galling for being couched in courtesy. Witness Klein, at the start, doing business with a Jewish customer who wants to sell a seventeenth-century Dutch painting, presumably in readiness for leaving France while he still can. A little haggling ensues, and Klein gets the painting for a pittance. (Its subject is a gentleman, clad in black, holding up a flask that contains a golden liquid. Could it be urine? Is he another monitor of the human species?) Though Klein would never put the matter so crudely, he is reaping a tidy profit from the persecuted. He floats above their woes.

Not for long. One day, a copy of a Jewish newspaper is left at his door. Klein is dismayed, and he presents himself at the offices of the paper, calmly explaining that, as a non-Jew, he should not have received it. Proceeding to the Préfecture de Police, he learns that there is a second Robert Klein: a welcome relief for our hero, for what is more easily resolved than a case of mistaken identity? The trouble is that he is now a figure of interest to the authorities. His very attempt at clarification has trapped him in the machinery of state, the workings of which the film invites us to watch-- the long black Citroëns sliding out of police headquarters, in convoy, or the wall-size map of Paris on which the corralling of undesirables can be plotted, district by district, when the hour of reckoning descends.

Like Orson Welles, Losey was a Wisconsin boy who spent much of his adult life in exile. What drove him abroad, in 1951, was the House Un-American Activities Committee, and the accusation-- quite correct, not that he or anyone else deserved to be blacklisted, let alone hounded out-- that he had Communist sympathies. (In 1935, he went to Russia, and attended a parade in Red Square. “The old boy up there was Uncle Joe,” he recalled. “It was impossible to think of him as other than warm, lovely.”) In common with many of those who profess a revolutionary faith in the betterment of mankind, Losey could be mean and difficult toward individual souls, and his rancor was compounded by ill health. On his birthday, during the shooting of Mr. Klein, his asthma was so bad that Delon had to blow out the candles on the cake.

The miracle of the film is that Losey had the imaginative guts to probe his own fears and failings. To have one’s mail opened by the F.B.I., as he did in America, is to be schooled in paranoia-- ideal training for the creation of Klein. The governing theme of the tale, Losey claimed, was indifference, “the inhumanity of the French towards sections of their own people.” Hence the vital presence of Delon, one of the most pitiless of stars. Because he is a natural hunter, notably as the assassin in Melville’s Le Samouraï (1967), it’s deeply discomfiting to see him dwindle and pale, for once, into the hunted. So caustic, in fact, is the atmosphere of Mr. Klein that his beauty seems to peel away, a loss unthinkable to the audiences who swooned over him in The Leopard (1963). Klein has no eyes for anyone but himself and his alter ego, and those eyes are the color of a winter sea.

He is hardly the first person, it must be said, to fall victim to a predatory glitch. “Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning.” So runs the first line of The Trial, lit by Kafka’s terrible clairvoyance. Hitchcock, of course, preferred the comedy of errors, and the bellboy at the Plaza, in North by Northwest (1959)-- who calls out for “George Kaplan” and gets Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) instead, thus unleashing the rest of the story-- foreshadows the page, in Losey’s film, who strolls among the diners at La Coupole, in Paris, exclaiming “Robert Klein!” But which Klein is being summoned to the telephone? Could both be at the restaurant? It’s no surprise when our Klein, like Thornhill, decides to turn detective, and to pursue his other self.

Sleuthing takes him to a number of destinations. One is a seedy refuge in Pigalle, with rat droppings on the floor and a lone bullet, left in a drawer; another is a château in the countryside, with snow on the ground and a highborn family in residence. The lady of the house (Jeanne Moreau), we gather, is the lover of the second Klein, though she confuses the issue by visiting the bedroom of the first. Our man also travels to Strasbourg to see his aging father (Louis Seigner), whose outrage at the suggestion of Jewish blood in the family’s veins is all too revealing. “We’ve been French and Catholic since Louis XIV!” he cries out. (Losey offered the part of the father to Fellini. No luck.) Strewn across the film are a handful of clues, which lead us to suspect that the other Klein is a member of the Resistance-- that he is as brave and as principled as Delon’s Klein is slippery, suave, and hollow. In one haunting sequence, the two of them speak on the phone. Yet I continue to wonder, viewing the movie again, if the gallant Klein truly exists, or if the art-loving, morally compromised Klein merely needs him to exist. Maybe we all dream of a better half, who could somehow atone for our sins.

So do we actually see the double, face to face? Never. The closest we get is a glimpse of a hand, supposedly his, raised aloft and waving, like that of a drowning man, in a crowd that is swept along at a Paris velodrome. By now, it matters not a jot, in the bureaucracy of terror, which Klein is which, for the roundup of Jews is under way, and the trains are waiting. One of the final images, in Losey’s icy labyrinth of a film, is of children being forcibly torn from their parents by officers of the law. How blessed we are to live in a decent and democratic age where such things could not possibly occur.

If Biden is elected-- God forbid-- he will pardon Trump and his family instantly-- you know... so the country can move on (to nothing). Let's hope he, at least, doesn't pardon Stephen Miller.

Moving a little closer to home, I came across a post This is How Holocausts Happen, How Nations Lose Their Humanity by John Pavlovitz yesterday that I want to share. "Populations don’t become monstrous overnight," he wrote. "Nations don’t abandon humanity in a single moment... generational human rights atrocities don’t form in an instant or in a vacuum. Corporate sickness is never sudden. There is always a slow, deliberate, almost imperceptible pattern:
The metamorphosis of a people, begins with an opportunistic leader who understands the power of weaponized fear, who feeds them a steady diet of the things that terrify them: misinformation, fake emergencies, and abject lies all designed to create an urgency in them and to make them feel hopelessly assailed.

He or she creates for these emotionally-vulnerable people a necessary enemy; an encroaching threat to tangibly embody the nightmares they have made in their heads—someone to go to war against, to take back their country from—someone he or she can save them from.

The manipulator begins to dehumanize and vilify this group with otherizing language, with ever more caricatured stereotypes, with phony statistics and manufactured stories and edited news; painting the picture of human beings they begin to see as less than human.

Finally, on top of the terror and the untruths and the ghost stories, they wield the greatest weapon people have in the arsenal of systemic discrimination: religion. They wield faith. so as to actually make those they manipulate believe that their mission is not just important or right, but holy-- that they are being obedient to God while eradicating human beings.

In that state of frantic, perpetually terrorized self-righteousness, they begin to allow everything. They begin to justify all manners of cruelty, all denials of care, all acts of violence—because they are purifying and protection their divinely-curated country.

Once this happens; once ordinary, rational, decent, even compassionate people begin to lose their ability to see the humanity in front of them-- it’s too late to help them see clearly.

This is how holocausts happen... These are the first steps down a road that at the beginning seems unthinkable.

...We have every historic ingredient in place to abandon the best of ourselves and to become something monstrous, something History records as yet another shocking failure of the center.
How does it turn out? Or how does John think it will turn out? It's a lot easier to go to his website and read the whole post that is to teach yourself French to understand all the subtitles in Mr. Klein.

You think Republicans aren't instinctively as anti-Semitic as they are xenophobic, racist and anti-everybody else? Forget it! Yesterday's NY Post ran a story about how the Rockland County GOP GOP plotted to scare voters with the idea of a Jewish take-over... with this ad:
Numerous Rockland County Republican elected officials in February previewed the controversial video put out by the party that critics have branded as anti-Semitic for warning of a “takeover” by the Hasidic Jewish community, The Post has learned.

The early look at the digital attack ad-- some six months before its public release-- shows that the targeting of the ultra-orthodox community was a well-thought-out, deliberate strategy, sources said.

No one in the room objected to it, a GOP source who attended the February meeting told The Post.

“The video was introduced by Lawrence Garvey [the county GOP leader] and played in front of a room of 20-35 people. The entire video was played with Ed Day [the Rockland County executive] there,” the source said.

“We were told we are raising money for the county legislators’ races and unveiling a strategy and we saw the video then. I thought it was a bad strategy,” the source said.

But the source didn’t raise an objection at the time.

The GOP’s “A Storm is Brewing” video blames Hasidic Jews for housing over-development in the suburban county.

“Aaron Wieder [a Rockland County legislator]and his Ramapo bloc are plotting a takeover,” it says.

The caption of the video also says: “The stakes have never been higher. The future of our County, our communities, and our homes hangs in the balance of this year.

“If they win, we lose!”

The Rockland County GOP took down the video Thursday following a firestorm of criticism-- including from the Republican Jewish Coalition, state Attorney General Letitia James and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“This video is absolutely despicable. It is pure anti-Semitism, and should be immediately taken down. The Rockland County Republican Party is an embarrassment and has no place associating itself with our party,” the RJC said in a tweet.

County Executive Day on Friday denied he had anything to do with the video.

“This is not my video and it was not my place to approve or disapprove of anything produced by the Rockland County Republican Committee,” Day said in a statement.

“I have already issued a clear, unequivocal response to this video, answered numerous inquiries from my constituents and in point of fact, played an integral role in making sure it was taken down.”

But sources point out that campaign literature and ads that Day put out for his 2017 re-election campaign included the same language used in the discredited party video.

“Now those who threatened our way of life have registered thousands of new voters looking to takeover Rockland and undo the work we’ve done. A STORM IS COMING ….,” the Day 2017 campaign piece said.

One of Day’s ads in that race warned, “A Storm is Brewing in Rockland.”

Rockland County Dems said the video ad posted on Facebook was just the latest anti-Jewish smear by Republicans.

[All three of the spectacular illustrations on this page were created by award-winning artist and frequent DWT contributor Nancy Ohanian and can be purchased through her website.]

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Film "Official Secrets" Points to a Mammoth Iceberg


by Sam Husseini

Two-time Oscar nominee Keira Knightley is known for being in "period pieces" such as Pride and Prejudice, so her playing the lead in the new film Official Secrets, scheduled to be release in the U.S. this Friday, may seem odd at first. That is until one considers that the time span being depicted-- the early 2003 run-up to the invasion of Iraq-- is one of the most dramatic and consequential periods of modern human history.

It is also one of the most poorly understood, in part because the story of Katharine Gun, played by Knightley, is so little known. I should say from the outset that having followed this story from the start, I find this film to be, by Hollywood standards, a remarkably accurate account of what has happened to date. "To date" because the wider story still isn't really over.

Katharine Gun worked as an analyst for Government Communications Headquarters, the British equivalent of the secretive U.S. National Security Agency. She tried to stop the impending invasion of Iraq in early 2003 by exposing the deceit of George W. Bush and Tony Blair in their claims about Iraq. She was prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act-- a juiced up version of the U.S. Espionage Act, which has in recent years been used repeatedly by the Obama administration against whistleblowers and now by the Trump administration against Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange.

Gun was charged for exposing-- around the time of Colin Powell's infamous testimony to the UN about Iraq's alleged WMDs-- a top secret U.S. government memo showing it was mounting an illegal spying “surge” against other U.N. Security Council delegations in an effort to force approval for an Iraq invasion resolution. The U.S. and Britain had successfully forced through a trumped up resolution, 1441 in November 2002. In early 2003, they were poised to threaten, bribe or blackmail their way to actual United Nations authorization for the invasion. See recent interview with Gun.

The leaked memo, published by the British Observer, was big news in parts of the world, especially the targeted countries on the Security Council, and effectively prevented Bush and Blair from getting a second UN Security Council resolution they said they wanted.

U.S. government started the invasion anyway of course-- without Security Council authorization-- by telling the UN weapons inspectors to leave Iraq and issuing a unilateral demand that Saddam Hussein leave Iraq in 48 hours-- and then saying the invasion would commence regardless.

It was the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, where I work (, Norman Solomon, as well as Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg who in the U.S. most immediately saw the importance of what Gun did. Dan would later comment: “No one else-- including myself -- has ever done what Katharine Gun did: Tell secret truths at personal risk, before an imminent war, in time, possibly, to avert it. Hers was the most important-- and courageous-- leak I’ve ever seen, more timely and potentially more effective than the Pentagon Papers.”

Of course, we didn't know her name at the time. After the Observer broke the story on March 1, 2003, we at put out a series of news releases on it and organized a sadly sparsely attended news conference with Dan on March 11, 2003 at the National Press Club, focusing on Gun's revelations and Dan calling for more such truth telling to stop the impending invasion.

Even though I followed this case for years, I didn't realize until recently that our work helped compel Gun to expose the document. I didn't know till a recent D.C. showing of Official Secrets that Gun had read a book co-authored by Norman, published in January 2003 which included material from as well as the media watch group FAIR that debunked many of the falsehoods for war and was published in January of 2003.

Said Gun about the period just before she disclosed the document: "I went to the local bookshop, and I went into the political section. I found two books, which had apparently been rushed into publication, one was by Norman Solomon and Reese Erlich, and it was called Target Iraq. And the other one was by Milan Rai. It was called War Plan Iraq. And I bought both of them. And I read them cover to cover that weekend, and it basically convinced me that there was no real evidence for this war. So I think from that point onward, I was very critical and scrutinizing everything that was being said in the media."

Thus, we see Gun shouting at the TV to Tony Blair that he's not entitled to make up facts, so the film may be jarring to some consumers of major media who might think that Trump invented lying in 2017.

But Gun's immediate action after reading critiques of U.S. policy and media coverage is a remarkable case for trying to reach government workers, handing out fliers, books, having billboards outside government offices, to encourage them to be more critically minded.

I honestly didn't fully appreciate the value of the exposure as much as Dan and Norman did at the time. To my mind, the lies were obvious, We debunked Bush administration propaganda in real time-- see an overview of our work that I wrote to Rob Reiner when I learned of his then-upcoming film, Shock and Awe. But Gun's revelation showed that the U.S. and British governments were not only lying to get to invade Iraq, they were engaging in outright violations of international law to blackmail whole countries to get in line.

It's funny to read mainstream reviews of Official Secrets now-- they seem to still not fully grasp the importance of what they just saw. The trendy AV Club review leads: "Virtually everyone now agrees that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was a colossal mistake based on faulty (at best) or fabricated (at worst) intelligence." Well, "mistake" is a serious understatement even with "colossal" attached to it for something so fervently pursued and you just saw a movie about the diabolical, illegal lengths to which the U.S. and British governments went to get everyone in line for it. So, no "fabricated" is not the "worst" it is.

Gun's revelations showed before the invasion that people on the inside, whose livelihood depends on following the party line, were willing to risk jail time to out the lies and threats.

Other than Gun herself, the film focuses on a dramatization of what happened at her work; as well as her relationship with her husband, who happens to be a Kurdish gentleman from Turkey-- with the British government attempting to get at Gun by moving to deport him. The other key focuses in the film are her able legal team at Liberty and the drama at The Observer, which published the NSA document after much debate.

Observer reporter Martin Bright, whose stellar work on the original Gun story was strangely followed by things like predictably ill fated stints at organizations like the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, has recently noted that very little additional work has been done on this key case. We know virtually nothing about the apparent author of the NSA document-- one "Frank Koza." How prevalent is this sort of blackmail? How exactly is it leveraged? If the U.S. government does this sort of thing, why would they wait till the last minute? Does it fit in with allegations made by former NSA analyst Russ Tice about the NSA having massive files on political people?

Observer reporter Ed Vulliamy is energetically depicted getting tips from former CIA man Mel Goodman. There do seem to be subtle but potentially serious deviations from reality in the film. In the movie, Vulliamy is depicted as actually speaking with "Frank Koza," but that's not what he originally reported: "The NSA main switchboard put The Observer through to extension 6727 at the agency which was answered by an assistant, who confirmed it was Koza's office. However, when The Observer asked to talk to Koza about the surveillance of diplomatic missions at the United Nations, it was then told 'You have reached the wrong number'. On protesting that the assistant had just said this was Koza's extension, the assistant repeated that it was an erroneous extension, and hung up."

There must doubtlessly be many aspects of the film that have been simplified or altered regarding Gun's personal experience; notably absent from the film are the roles played by her parents, which I believe are considerable. A memoir from her would be a valuable historical document. A compelling part of the film-- apparently fictitious or exaggerated-- is the apparatchik of GCHQ security questioning Gun to see if she was the source, recounting her ethical and educational background, particularly that she was raised largely outside of Britain.

One similarity between this and Knightley's other work is its distinct Anglocentrism. Gun's revelation had the biggest impact on several non-permanent members of the Security Council members, in all likelihood, especially Angola, Cameroon, Guinea, Pakistan, Mexico and Chile. I've seen very little about what exactly happened in those countries and in those delegations. The most is probably know about Mexico, which was represented by Adolfo Aguilar Zinser. After the invasion, he spoke in blunt terms about U.S. bullying-- saying it viewed Mexico as its patio trasero, or back yard-- and was compelled to resign by Vicente Fox. He then, in 2004, gave details about some aspects of U.S. surveillance sabotaging the efforts of the other members of the Security Council to hammer out a compromise to avert the invasion of Iraq, saying the U.S. was "violating the U.N. headquarters covenant.” In 2005, he tragically died in a car crash.

Official Secrets director Gavin Hood is perhaps more right than he realizes when he says that his depiction of the Gun case is like the "tip of an iceberg," pointing to other deceits surrounding the Iraq war. His record with political films has been uneven till now. Peace activist David Swanson derided his film on drones, Eye in the Sky. In a showing of Official Secrets in D.C., Hood depicted those who backed the Iraq war as now having been discredited. But that's simply untrue. Now leading presidential candidate Joe Biden-- who not only voted for the Iraq invasion, but presided over rigged hearings on it 2002-- has recently repeatedly falsified his record on Iraq at presidential debates with hardly a murmur. Nor is he alone, those refusing to be held accountable for their Iraq war lies include not just Bush and Cheney, but John Kerry and Nancy Pelosi. Biden has actually faulted Bush for not doing enough to get United Nations approval for the Iraq invasion. In fact, as the Gun case helps show, the legitimate case for invasion was non-existent and the Bush administration had done virtually everything both legal and illegal to get United Nations authorization.

Most everyone attempts to distance themselves from the Iraq invasion, but it has effectively enveloped our culture. The wars it spawned, as in Syria, and Iraq itself, and arguably elsewhere, continue with minimal attention or protest. The U.S. regularly threatens Iran, Venezuela and other countries. The journalists who pushed and propagandized in favor of the Iraq invasion are prosperous and atop major news organizations-- the editor who argued most strongly against publication of the NSA document at The Observer, Kamal Ahmed, is now editorial director of BBC News. After the U.S. and Britain failed to get a second resolution before the invasion, they got a resolution after the invasion effectively accepting the U.S. as the Occupying Power in Iraq (UNSCR 1472) on March 28, 2003; see news release on the same day-- "U.N.-- Accessory After the Fact?"

Documents leaked by Edward Snowden and published by The Intercept in 2016 boasted of how the NSA “during the wind-up to the Iraq War ‘played a critical role’ in the adoption of U.N. Security Council resolutions. The work with that customer was a resounding success.” The relevant document specifically cites resolutions 1441 and 1472 and quotes John Negroponte, then the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations: “I can’t imagine better intelligence support for a diplomatic mission.” (Notably, The Intercept has never published a word on "Katharine Gun.")

Nor were the UN Security Council members the only ones on the U.S. hit list to pave the way for the Iraq invasion. Brazilian Jose Bustani, the director-general of the international Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. was ousted in an effective coup by John Bolton in April of 2002. Bolton of course is now National Security Adviser.

The British government-- unlike the U.S. government-- did ultimately produce a study ostensibly around the decision-making leading to the invasion of Iraq, the Chilcot Report in 2016. But that report-- called "devastating" by the New York Times-- incredibly made no mention of the Gun case. See release from 2016: "Chilcot Report Avoids Smoking Gun."

Thus, Official Secrets refers not only to the Official Secrets Act, but also to the actions of so many who revere officialdom and abide by the decorum of not acknowledging clear truths that would show the brutal face of the authorities.

Spoiler: After Katharine Gun's identity became known, we at the Institute for Public Accuracy brought on Jeff Cohen, the founder of FAIR, to work with Hollie Ainbinder to get prominent individuals to support Gun. The film-- quite plausibly-- depicts the charges being dropped against Gun for the simple reason that the British government feared that a high profile proceeding would effectively put the war on trial, which to them would be nightmare.

Some have said that what Gun did was ineffectual, that it didn't stop the invasion. Some have said the same about the quasi-global Feb. 15, 2003 protests against the invasion. It's an absurd, rotten notion. The solution to some truth telling not being enough to stop the war, as Dan Ellsberg would put it, is more truth telling. The solution to some powerful protests not being enough to stop the war is more effective protests. Had there been coordinated global protests beginning in September 2002 for example, rather than February 2003, that could well have made all the difference. If other numerous government officials had done what Gun did, and spoken the truth when it mattered most, that could have made the difference.

And, as these wars and lies continue, it still may.

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Affordable Housing Is Becoming A Crisis In California-- Don't Expect GOP Hacks Like Tom Lackey To Be Part Of The Solution


Los Angeles doesn't have any Republicans in its congressional delegation any longer-- and there's only one left in the delegation it sends to the Assembly in Sacramento, Tom Lackey of Palmdale (AD-36). His name is an apt description. The Antelope Valley seat stretches from southern Kern County through the northeast corner of Los Angeles County and into northern San Bernardino County. There are 9% more registered Democrats than Republicans in the district, but that number is deceiving because there are more Independents than Republicans and they tend to lean right.

Goal ThermometerThere are 3 relatively viable Democrats in the race, two conservatives, Steve Fox (a reactionary who lost to Tom Lackey the last 3 elections) and Johnathon Ervin (who hasn’t won an election despite trying 3 times for City Council and once for State Senate). As of today, Blue America is endorsing the progressive in the race, Eric Ohlsen. Eric enlisted in the Coast Guard right out of high school. After this service he enrolled in L.A. City College and ran up $30,000 in student debt. His wife and her family are from Palmdale and that's where they settled. Today he works as a producer and is an unabashed progressive which he believes gives him the best chance of winning over independent voters and beating Lackey. He's a booster of the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. He feels he can not just pinpoint the problems that his neighbors care about but that he has the solutions to deal with them.

One of the big ones in the Antelope Valley is an affordable housing crisis that is kicking in all over the region. I asked Eric to introduce himself by talking about that specifically. If you like what you read, please consider contributing to his campaign by clicking on the Blue America state legislative thermometer above. As you can see, he's the only Californian on the list.

California’s Housing Crisis
by Eric Ohlsen

Housing costs continue to increase faster than income levels. The financial strain pushes too many good citizens further and further toward the fringes. While there is no magic policy pill that will solve California’s affordable housing crisis, as a State, and a community, we desperately need to find solutions. That means changing the way we approach the problem as a whole.

First, let’s start at the state level with Proposition 13. Because of Prop 13, both commercial and residential properties are only reassessed for tax purposes when they are sold. So owners pay property taxes based on the value of the property when they acquired it, not at its current market value. The problem with this is that a municipality’s revenue does not reflect the rising costs of its operations, and must therefore cut costs any way possible in order to account for annually increasing shortfalls. And the easiest budgets to slash are social services and education. Prop 13 was a bill that was sold to the public in a way that sounded good at the time, but has ultimately had far too many unintended consequences. It has hamstrung local governments and deprived them of necessary civic revenue, forcing cuts to important social services including affordable housing initiatives.

Another unintended consequence of Prop 13 is on construction of new housing. The city still has the same costs associated with new construction, but not the same revenue. So now cities are forced to work around those costs by passing them onto the developers in the form of up-front fees that must be paid before construction. This additional burden of up-front costs drives up the initial investment and makes it more difficult for developers to build much needed housing throughout the state. This exacerbates the problem of housing shortages and rising home costs to everyone. Also, the front-loaded development fees that cities have become increasingly reliant on, favor large-scale housing developments and shopping malls.

There are currently efforts underway to treat commercial property different than residential property, which has become known as “split roll.” By enacting the split roll, nothing would change for residential properties, but businesses would have their properties reassessed to market values every three years or less and these commercial properties would still be taxed at their value plus 1 percent. These additional funds would help communities across the state pay for much a much needed upgrade in our educational system, fund social programs, affordable housing initiatives, and rebuild civic infrastructure. In short, it will give our communities the resources they need to thrive.

Rent control solutions are also an option, such as AB 1482, which recently passed the State Assembly, and caps rent increases at 7 percent plus inflation. But this legislation falls woefully short because it not only does not go far enough, but it also lacks any renter protections. What good is rent control if a landlord can evict a tenant without any just cause, only to raise the rent as much as they want with the tenant gone? We can and should do better than this, but it is at least one direction where we can find progress.

Next, let’s look at local solutions like Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). CDBGs are allocated to social service programs locally and can be used in very specific ways targeted to the individual needs of the community, for example, subsidized housing or maintaining the stock of affordable housing in the area. CDBGs can also be used to keep small business real estate more affordable, which creates jobs and retains locally owned businesses.

Another local solution to help address California’s housing shortage is to amend zoning ordinances to ease restrictions on second dwelling units. While from a State level these units do not require additional reviews or hearings to build, many local municipalities have restrictive city ordinances in place that create a barrier to secondary dwelling units on a property. These units are beneficial to a community because they increase the supply of affordable housing, increase the urban density, and help homeowners with financial stability. Zoning ordinances can also be amended to account for the development of “tiny house” communities which have been successfully used to help the chronically homeless, but also as an alternative housing solution in other areas.

Finally, and most urgently, let’s look at the housing crisis from the street level. Immediate action must be taken to give help to our most vulnerable neighbors. Those with the greatest housing needs can be helped through expanded programs for subsidized housing. These programs can be paid for in part by the proposed changes to Prop 13 and can help our neighbors now, before they face the devastating effects of homelessness. We can also work to make the system easier to navigate for those in need by continuing to improve the coordination of services through L.A. County’s “No Wrong Door” policy. This helps people to avoid getting swept up in bureaucracy and to find their way to the help they need.

These are all specific things that can be done to help ease the crisis of housing costs in California, but I think that the biggest change has to come with how we approach this problem as a whole. We need to seek out a comprehensive solution rather than treating the problem as an afterthought. This is a problem that impacts literally every Californian and solving it must be seen as a priority by legislators and not some secondary or tertiary problem. We must demand a bolder approach from our State Legislature.

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Trump's Agenda-- And Personal Insecurities-- Are Hammering Rural Voters From Every Angle


Jason Butler is the newest candidate Blue America has endorsed. He's running for a North Carolina seat (NC-02) that is about half suburban and half rural. The incumbent, George Holding, is just a good-for-nothing corporate shill and Trump rubber-stamp and enabler. Butler was fuming the other day because Holding had voted against HR 265, this year's Agricultural and Rural Development Appropriations Act. The Act includes:
Appropriates $1.3 billion to the Agricultural Research Service for salaries and expenses (Title I).
$2.8 billion for guaranteed farm ownership loans
$1.5 billion for farm ownership direct loans
$1.9 billion for unsubsidized guaranteed operating loans
$1.5 billion for direct operation loans
$37.7 million for emergency loans
"Trump," said Butler, "doesn’t seem to understand that he’s not on a television show any more-- this is a real life reality show and he’s killing the American farmer with his reckless ego competition with the Chinese. That’s because he’s completely out of touch with the reality of hard working Americans. He’s lived in a penthouse his whole life. His local minion, George Holding, is no different. Holding recently voted against that Agriculture and Rural Development legislation which allocates desperately needed funds to agencies which directly assist our American farmers. Half of Holding’s district is rural farming communities. It seems these two won’t stop at anything until all the wealth in America belongs to the rich."

The Nebraska Corn Board and the Nebraska Corn Growers Association sent out a scorching press release this week-- and it was Trump who got scorched. Trump did very well in Nebraska in 2016. He won 91 of Nebraska's 93 counties and beat Hillary 495,961 (58.75%) to 284,494 (33.70%). It was even better for Trump in the most rural counties. The massive 3rd congressional district takes up over three quarters of the state and is bigger than New York state. It is 86% rural. Trump won NE-03 with 74.9% of the vote, one of his biggest wins anywhere in the country. Those corn farmers bought into the Times Square hustler hook line and sinker. "As harvest approaches after an extremely difficult year for agriculture," wrote the Nebraska Corn Board team, "many Nebraska corn farmers are outraged by the Trump administration’s lack of support for the American farmer. The Nebraska Corn Board and the Nebraska Corn Growers Association call upon the administration to fulfill its promises and to abide by the law and uphold the integrity of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)." NE-03 isn't going to abandon Trump in 2020. He'll win that district and ridiculous closet queen Adrian Smith (R) will be reelected to Congress. But NE-01 is probably lost to Trump and NE-02 is teetering.
President Trump’s administration continues to erode the RFS by granting 31 unjustified refinery waivers, destroying demand for corn and ultimately choosing to bail out the oil industry rather than helping American farmers. Corn farmers are already suffering from ongoing trade disputes, uncertain weather and continued low prices.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this,” said David Bruntz, chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board and farmer from Friend. “All we’re getting is lip service. At one moment, we think President Trump is on our side, and then the refinery waivers come through. It’s truly a slap in the face. Farmers are hurting and it just keeps getting worse.”

Along with undermining the RFS, the U.S. has made little progress in trade. A new deal between the U.S., Mexico and Canada still has not been reached and tensions continue to escalate between the U.S. and China.

“Many of our corn farmers have stood with Trump for a long time, but that may soon change” said Dan Nerud, president of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association and farmer from Dorchester. “Trump needs to uphold the law and his commitment to our nation’s corn farmers by making the RFS whole and bringing trade agreements to the finish line.”

Nebraska Corn urges you to stand up for our state’s corn and ethanol industries by telling the Trump administration to stop stripping the RFS. Rural America is under attack and now is the time to act.
Goal ThermometerOne of the few congressional districts as Trumpified as NE-03 is the equally rural south east Missouri district occupied by-- what a coincidence-- another closet case, Jason Smith. Progressive activist Kathy Ellis is taking him on this cycle and this morning she told me that "In the past year, Missouri has seen a 96% increase in farm bankruptcies. Our local economy is suffering in the 8th District, and while Jason Smith visits farmers and takes pictures on his 'farm tour,' he isn't working towards any real, sustainable solutions for our agricultural economy. Perhaps Rep. Smith could have less photo opps and instead ask farmers what they'd like to see change in the district. They know best, and Smith has continually ignored them to instead be a rubber stamp for Trump's damaging policies."

J.D. Scholten is running in the Iowa equivalent on NE-03, Steve King's beleaguered IA-04. The district is 75% rural and gave Trump a 60.9% to 33.5% win over Hillary. Last year, though, rural communities were beginning to catch on. J.D. made a persuasive, progressive case against Trump and King and-- with no help from the DCCC whatsoever-- came close to winning, holding King down to just 50.4% of the vote. Of the 39 counties in the district, J.D, won 5 and fought King to a tie in 5 others. J.D. won the first, second, third and fifth most populated counties: Story, Woodbury, Cerro Gordo and Webster and came within a tiny handful of voters in some of the most rural farming counties in the state, like Buena Vista, Hamilton, Winnebago, Greene, Emmet and Audubon. The soy bean farmers in these counties know Trump has destroyed the soy bean market forever and that it's never coming back. They voted for Trump and he ruined their lives.

J.D. told us that "King has left behind the renewable fuel folks for years. It didn’t shock anyone when he endorsed one of the biggest anti-ethanol folks in D.C., Ted Cruz, for president in 2016. The corn growers and the renewable fuels industry are looking for solutions and leaders. If we are going to get carbon-neutral or decarbon, renewable fuels are a part of that equation. But instead, Trump’s EPA is rewarding oil giants like Exxon Mobil and Chevron with RFS waivers, saving them hundreds of millions of dollars while corn growers and folks who work in the renewable fuels industry are struggling just to get by. Trump and his cronies like King will keep lining the wallets of the oil industry at the expense of our farmers."

Audrey Denney's opponent is Trump enabler Doug LaMalfa in the northeast corner of California, one of the most rural districts in the state. Today she told us that "the Trump Administration policies are directly hurting farmers all over the country. According to the American Farm Bureau, farm bankruptcy filings for 2019 through June were up 13 percent from 2018 and loan delinquency rates are on the rise. North State farmers are asking for trade policies that expand markets and immigration reform that helps them get the labor they need. Congressman LaMalfa-- a farmer himself-- has failed to be an advocate for the industry he represents. I’ve worked in agriculture education my entire career and can’t wait to fight for North State farmers and ranchers when they send me to DC."

But rural support for Trump isn't just about soybeans and corn. In his Washington Post column yesterday, Michael Gerson wrote about why white evangelicals should panic. "Much white evangelical support for President Trump," he wrote, "is based on a bargain or transaction: political loyalty (and political cover for the president’s moral flaws) in return for protection from a hostile culture. Many evangelicals are fearful that courts and government regulators will increasingly treat their moral and religious convictions as varieties of bigotry. And that this will undermine the ability of religious institutions to maintain their identities and do their work. Such alarm is embedded within a larger anxiety about lost social standing that makes Trump’s promise of a return to greatness appealing... But this is not, by any reasonable measure, the largest problem evangelicals face. It is, instead, the massive sell-off of evangelicalism among the young. About 26 percent of Americans 65 and older identify as white evangelical Protestants. Among those ages 18 to 29, the figure is 8 percent. Why this demographic abyss does not cause greater panic-- panic concerning the existence of evangelicalism as a major force in the United States-- is a mystery and a scandal. With their focus on repeal of the Johnson Amendment and the right to say 'Merry Christmas,' some evangelical leaders are tidying up the kitchen while the house burns down around them."

Gerson further explains that there is, ironically, an allergic reaction to the religious right. One of the main rationales for the very existence of this movement was to assert the role of religion in the public square in America. And, instead, what’s happening in that very movement has actually driven an increasing share of Americans out of religion. This alienation preceded the current president, but it has intensified during the Trump era.
If evangelicals were to consult their past, they would find that their times of greatest positive influence-- in late-18th-century and early-19th-century Britain, or mid-19th-century America-- came when they were truest to their religious calling. It was not when they acted like another political interest group. The advocates of abolition, prison reform, humane treatment of the mentally disabled and women’s rights were known as malcontents in the cause of human dignity.

Today, far too many evangelicals are seen as angry and culturally defensive, and have tied their cause to a leader who is morally corrupt and dehumanizes others. Older evangelicals-- the very people who should be maintaining and modeling moral standards-- have ignored and compromised those standards for political reasons in plain view of their own children. And disillusionment is the natural result.

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Democratic Congressional Leadership Is Almost As Out Of Touch With America As Republican Leadership


Yesterday, New York Magazine published an excellent essay by Eric Levitz, Here Are 7 ‘Left Wing’ Ideas (Almost) All Americans Can Get Behind. It reminded me, once again, of the MLK/Bernie meme above-- and of the argument about how words like "moderate," "mainstream," "centrist" and "fringe" and "radical" are used by always-compromised political writers. Towards the very end of his essay, Levitz suggests that the Democratic leadership-- Pelosi, Schumer, Biden, Steny Hoyer, Cheri Bustos, Tom Perez...-- "comport themselves as cowardly, poll-driven opportunists." They never actually lead; they follow. For a democracy to function effectively it is absolutely essential that party leaders be changed very regularly. Our leaders aren't and our democracy doesn't.

"The Democrats’ 2020 primary fight," wrote Levitz, "has featured many pitched battles over policy questions. But every debate over Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, tuition-free college, or any other intraparty wedge issue has been colored by a meta-argument over the meaning of 'political pragmatism.' There are a wide variety of nuanced positions in the latter dispute. But one prominent line of argument among putative moderates is that Democrats mustn’t stray too far left ideologically, lest they alienate the great unwoke masses of middle America. After all, both chambers of Congress systematically overrepresent conservative areas (the Senate gives every state equal representation, and the average state is roughly 6 percent more Republican than the nation as a whole). Progress is possible, but only if Democrats pursue it on tip-toe and in baby steps." How sick is that? Levitz doesn't believe a word of it. If he did, I wouldn't be even reading his stuff, let alone re-publishing it.

He continued: "A prominent leftist counter to this is that public opinion is both more progressive-- and more malleable-- than the centrists like to pretend. Ambitious, easy-to-understand policies like Medicare for All are actually more broadly popular than Obamacare-esque technocratic tinkering. In this view, the true constraint on radical reform isn’t the inveterate conservatism of the American hinterland, but the outsize influence of concentrated capital; “moderates” just use deference to public opinion as a false alibi for craven capitulation to their corporate paymasters. As a bought-and-paid-for mouthpiece of the bleeding-heart bourgeois press, I’m professionally obligated to inform you that the truth is somewhere in the middle. America’s electoral institutions really are biased against the left. Both polling data and historical experience suggest public opinion is a genuine obstacle to the realization of many progressive goals. Medicare for All polls better than the Republican approach to health care-- and, under certain framing, enjoys majority support. But when surveys spotlight the policy’s implications for the tax code and the availability of private insurance, that support tends to decline precipitously. And the experience of single-payer campaigns in Colorado and Vermont lend some credence to those poll results. There is some reason to believe that most Americans would support single-payer if the totality of the policy’s consequences were made absolutely clear to them (i.e., that they would likely see an overall decline in their cost of living and enjoy stable access to their preferred providers). But there’s also reason to question whether reformers could succeed in giving voters such clarity, especially given how well-resourced their opposition’s messaging campaign is certain to be. Separately, many of the Democratic left’s ideas for redressing injustices that primarily afflict a minority of the population appear to be unambiguously unpopular-- abolishing ICE, enfranchising current prisoners, and paying reparations for slavery (and/or other forms of anti-black discrimination and expropriation) all poll terribly. None of this necessarily means that Democrats shouldn’t support single-payer or other controversial policies. Obamacare had a negative approval rating when it was passed, and likely cost many congressional Democrats their jobs. But it also appears to have saved more than 19,000 lives. The point is simply that, on many issues, the left’s adversaries aren’t merely special interests but also mass opinion. On other issues, however, progressives are right to think that the people aren’t their problem. Most voters aren’t rigorously ideological. The median American does not judge a policy by how it comports with her abstract theory of the role of government, but rather, by how well it lines up with her personal intuitions about fairness and which social groups the policy seems to benefit. For this reason, many ostensibly “left wing” or even “radical” policy ideas are actually popular with voters in both parties. On occasion, a red-state electorate will spotlight this fact by voting to expand Medicaid, strengthen unions, or raise the minimum wage. More often, though, the breadth of latent support for ambitious progressive reforms is obscured by the outsize influence that well-heeled interest groups and partisan elites have in determining which ideas are taken seriously enough to poll or debate. Happily, Data for Progress (DFP) is working to change that. In recent years, the progressive think tank has conducted large-sample, neutrally worded national polls of various left-wing policies, including many that had yet to register in mainstream discourse. DFP then applies state-of-the-art demographic modeling techniques to estimate the likely level of support for said policies in every state and district in the country. This week, in a collaboration with Democratic data firm Civis Analytics, DFP released new poll numbers on 15 different progressive policies-- including seven that are both very “left wing” by the standards of Beltway discourse and popular in all, or nearly all, 50 U.S. states. Here’s a quick rundown of the seven things all Democrats should be comfortable saying on television:

First a personal note: I smoked my first joint in 1963, when I was 15. Eventually it became a kind iff sacrament in my teenage religion of "Otherness and Independence." An even more important sacrament came later: LSD. It's not addictive, except spiritually. When I noticed rednecks were smoking pot and dropping acid, I decided to to stop. I didn't want to be in a club with them. I'm all in for it being legal though.
1) Weed should be legal.

Although legalizing marijuana is (something close to) a consensus position among 2020 Democratic candidates, Democratic legislators in many blue states are still dragging their feet. And on this front, ideology (and/or interest-group organizing)-- not public opinion-- is the obstacle to change. DFP’s poll is far from the first to find that ending weed prohibition is popular. But its survey nevertheless suggests that mainstream discourse hasn’t absorbed just how high the American public is on legal ganja: According to the think tank’s findings, legalizing marijuana isn’t just a majoritarian position in all 50 states, it’s a majoritarian position with Trump voters in 49. Which is to say: In every U.S. state but Mississippi, a majority of voters who support Donald Trump also support bringing weed off the black market (and even in the Magnolia State, 48 percent of Trump voters are 420-friendly).

What makes these findings especially impressive is that the wording of the DFP/Civis survey explicitly frames marijuana legalization as a Democratic policy, and provides Republican counterarguments to it:
Some Democrats in Congress are proposing a policy where marijuana possession would be legal for those at least 21 years old. Additionally the sale of marijuana would be legalized, taxed, and regulated. Funds from the marijuana taxes would go towards education and healthcare. Democrats say this would save taxpayers money in marijuana enforcement, keep people out of jail for simply possessing marijuana, and provide much needed tax dollars for education and healthcare. Republicans say marijuana is dangerous and its legalization will foster a culture of dependency and addiction. Additionally, Republicans suggest this would prove a public safety hazard leading to thousands of deaths as more people would use marijuana while driving. Do you support or oppose this policy?
2) Workers should have representation on corporate boards.

Over the past two years, the Democratic Party’s most progressive senators have backed the idea of requiring large corporations to set aside a share of seats on their boards (proposals range from 33 to 40 percent) for their employees’ elected representatives. In other words, they’ve proposed forcing companies to give their workers some say in how profits are allocated. This arrangement, widely known as “worker co-determination,” is prevalent in Western Europe and a pillar of Germany’s economic model. Historical evidence suggests that, had workers’ representatives been in every corporate boardroom in January 2018, the Trump tax cuts might have actually trickled down to workers’ paychecks (instead of pooling in wealthy shareholders’ bank accounts). As a policy that both challenges managerial supremacy within the firm and would likely redistribute significant sums from capital to labor, worker co-determination is arguably a “far left” policy by American standards. It is also has a net-positive approval rating in every single congressional district in the United States.

3) The credit-card interest rates are too damn high.

Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have introduced legislation that would cap interest rates on credit-card debt at 15 percent per year. Data for Progress did not mention the names of the proposal’s co-sponsors in its poll of the policy. But it did inform respondents that “Republicans say this will hurt the economy … [W]ithout the ability to charge large interest rates, financial institutions will be unwilling to lend, and consumers will lose the ability to use credit cards when they most need it.”

Despite this partisan framing, capping credit-card interest rates attracted not just majority but supermajority support in all 50 states. The policy is most unpopular in Wyoming, where only 68 percent of voters support AOC’s vision for financial reform.

4) Government officials shouldn’t be allowed to own stocks or become lobbyists right after leaving office.

Elizabeth Warren has proposed barring members of Congress from owning individual stocks or becoming lobbyists for years after leaving office. Given that even Trump has pretended to disapprove of the “revolving door” between Capitol Hill and K Street, it is perhaps unsurprising that this proposal is popular in every state.

5) The government should directly finance the development of new drugs, and then allow the breakthrough pharmaceuticals to be sold cheaply without a patent.

The high cost of prescription drugs in the U.S. has prompted complaints from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. And yet, only the most left-wing members of Congress have called for tackling the underlying problem: the way America chooses to finance pharmaceutical research and innovation. At present, the United States incentivizes drug companies to develop new cures by awarding innovation with patent monopolies; which is to say, by letting pharmaceutical firms price gouge for years before their new wares hit the free market. This is less than ideal for multiple reasons. For one, these patent protections tend to be needlessly generous, awarding Big Pharma longer periods of exclusivity than necessary to stimulate research. For another, since innovation is rewarded with a monopoly rather than a direct reward, this system does little to incentivize research into drugs that aren’t hugely profitable, either because they treat rare conditions or because they cure users with a single dose.

A better way to incentivize pharmaceutical innovation and drastically reduce the cost of new prescription drugs would be for the federal government to maintain a prize fund that awards developers of therapeutically valuable new medicines with a giant, onetime payment, on the condition that their science immediately enters the public domain, making the novel treatment available at generic rates. This proposal, championed by Bernie Sanders, has majority support in 48 states.

6) All workers should be able to take up to 12 weeks of paid time off following a serious medical injury or childbirth.

Providing U.S. workers with the kinds of paid-leave benefits that are standard in Western Europe is a longtime goal of American progressives. But some Democrats have balked at the challenges of financing such a policy. New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s FAMILY Act would fund 12 weeks of leave for new parents or the infirm with a modest increase in payroll taxes. Since this would constitute a tax increase on the middle class, Hillary Clinton declined to endorse Gillibrand’s legislation in 2016. But when DFP ran the policy by the American people in a survey question that mentioned the 0.2 percent payroll-tax hike and Republican arguments against the idea, the response was net positive in every state but Wyoming.

7) There should be a Green New Deal (of some sort).

Some previous polling has found broad support for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s signature framework for climate policy, which combines ambitious goals for emissions reductions with a commitment to giant expansion in public employment and various other social democratic reforms. That said, in some of these surveys, a “Green New Deal” has not been clearly defined, while others have shown support for the policy withering under Fox News’ “scrutiny.” The Data for Progress poll, however, describes the concept of a Green New Deal in significant detail:
Some Democrats in Congress are proposing a Green New Deal bill which would phase out the use of fossil fuels, with the government providing clean energy jobs for people who can’t find employment in the private sector. All jobs would pay at least $15 an hour, include healthcare benefits and collective bargaining rights. This would be paid for by raising taxes on incomes over $200,000 dollars a year by 15 percentage points. Democrats say this would improve the economy by giving people jobs, fight climate change and reduce pollution in the air and water. Republicans say this would cost many jobs in the energy sector, hurt the economy by raising taxes, and wouldn’t make much of a difference because of carbon emissions from China. Do you support or oppose this policy?
A 15-point increase in the top marginal tax rate, combined with the state-mandated suppression of a major industry-- and the establishment of guaranteed federal employment for every American out of work-- is borderline Leninist by the standards of D.C. discourse. And yet, DFP found net-positive support for the policy in 44 states (albeit with relatively high percentages of voters opting for “I don’t know”).

Data for Progress found other ambitious progressive policies above water overall (such as lead removal), and other center-left ideas that command support in every corner of the country (such as extending the New START treaty). But the seven findings above struck me as most notable.

Taken together, DFP’s past year of polling on the “new progressive agenda” suggests the popularity of any given policy has little to do with its ideological “extremity,” as measured by conventional definitions of left and right. But it also indicates that the American public is most broadly receptive to a specific category of left-wing ideas-- namely, ones that do not require major middle-class tax increases or touch on hot-button “culture war” issues. Thus, reflexively deferring to majoritarian opinion would pose significant constraints on progressive policy-making. Of the 15 proposals in DFP’s latest survey, six called for raising taxes on households earning over $200,000, and you can only go to that well so many times. Although there is reason to think the U.S. has excess fiscal space, it’s still almost certainly the case that progressives cannot fund a Nordic-style welfare state with taxes on the affluent alone. Meanwhile, there is no way of redressing racial injustice in the U.S. without advancing policies that offend red America’s sensibilities.

That said, even if Democrats were to comport themselves as cowardly, poll-driven opportunists, there’s still an awful lot that they could accomplish. For decades now, American liberalism has shied away from restructuring inter-firm relations between labor and capital, favoring an emphasis on taxes and transfers over policies that would redraw lines of ownership and authority within corporations. And yet, DFP’s survey on worker codetermination-- and recent polling from YouGov and the Democracy Collaborative on worker wealth funds-- indicates that there is broad, bipartisan support for helping American workers seize (a bit more control over) the means of production. A comprehensive agenda for rebalancing power within firms would arguably do more to reduce inequality than many more controversial posttax redistribution schemes. To the extent that moderate Democrats’ ambitions are tempered by fear of alienating conservative voters-- as opposed to terror of offending high-dollar donors-- they should consider expanding worker ownership and control of corporations to be the height of pragmatic “problem solving.”

Only 94 of 235 Democrats in the House-- 40%-- have signed on as co-sponsors to AOC's H.Res. 109-- the framework for a Green New Deal. Except for the candidates completely controlled by the DCCC-- to the point where the DCCC writes their positions-- virtually all the candidates running for Congress this cycle are behind the Green New Deal. It points to exactly why geriatric leaders need to be switched out-- in general, more frequently, and more immediately, right now... before it's too late for the planet. Pelosi wanted her legacy to be that she was the first woman speaker and that she passed Obamacare. Instead it will be that she funded Trump's concentration camps and helped destroy the planet. She's done enough damage. Sorry, but anyone in San Francisco who votes for her is complicit.

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