Sunday, October 25, 2020

Trump Is The Worst President In History-- And The GOP Deserves To Die With Him... But That Doesn't Automatically Make The Democratic Party Worth Anything



This morning, the NY Times editorial board asserted that Trump destroyed the Republican Party. They're wrong. The craven, spineless politicians who represent the party destroyed it. Then they claim "'Destroyed' is perhaps too simplistic, [and] Trump accelerated his party’s demise, exposing the rot that has been eating at its core for decades and leaving it a hollowed-out shell devoid of ideas, values or integrity, committed solely to preserving its own power even at the expense of democratic norms, institutions and ideals." OK, now they're talking. Pity they didn't throw the Democratic Party under the same bus; it would be just as accurate.

The Times bemoans the passing-- it really hasn't passed and it won't-- of the GOP because we won't have a "strong center right [party that] can co-opt more palatable aspects of the far right, isolating and draining energy from the more radical elements that threaten to destabilize the system." And yet that is precisely what the Democratic Party has turned into-- a center right party co-opting aspects of the far right (i.e., the GOP). These editors define the Republican Party that we see today as having an "ideology [that] has been reduced to a slurry of paranoia, white grievance and authoritarian populism. Its governing vision is reactionary, a cross between obstructionism and owning the libs. Its policy agenda, as defined by the party platform, is whatever President Trump wants."

With his dark gospel, the president has enthralled the Republican base, rendering other party leaders too afraid to stand up to him. But to stand with Mr. Trump requires a constant betrayal of one’s own integrity and values. This goes beyond the usual policy flip-flops-- what happened to fiscal hawks anyway?-- and political hypocrisy, though there have been plenty of both. Witness the scramble to fill a Supreme Court seat just weeks before Election Day by many of the same Senate Republicans who denied President Barack Obama his high court pick in 2016, claiming it would be wrong to fill a vacancy eight months out from that election.

Mr. Trump demands that his interests be placed above those of the nation. His presidency has been an extended exercise in defining deviancy down-- and dragging the rest of his party down with him.

Having long preached “character” and “family values,” Republicans have given a pass to Mr. Trump’s personal degeneracy. The affairs, the hush money, the multiple accusations of assault and harassment, the gross boasts of grabbing unsuspecting women-- none of it matters. White evangelicals remain especially faithful adherents, in large part because Mr. Trump has appointed around 200 judges to the federal bench.

For all their talk about revering the Constitution, Republicans have stood by, slack-jawed, in the face of the president’s assault on checks and balances. Mr. Trump has spurned the concept of congressional oversight of his office. After losing a budget fight and shutting down the government in 2018-19, he declared a phony national emergency at the southern border so he could siphon money from the Pentagon for his border wall. He put a hold on nearly $400 million in Senate-approved aid to Ukraine-- a move that played a central role in his impeachment.

So much for Republicans’ Obama-era nattering about “executive overreach.”

Despite fetishizing “law and order,” Republicans have shrugged as Mr. Trump has maligned and politicized federal law enforcement, occasionally lending a hand. Impeachment offered the most searing example. Parroting the White House line that the entire process was illegitimate, the president’s enablers made clear they had his back no matter what. As Pete Wehner, who served as a speechwriter to the three previous Republican presidents, observed in The Atlantic: “Republicans, from beginning to end, sought not to ensure that justice be done or truth be revealed. Instead, they sought to ensure that Trump not be removed from office under any circumstances, defending him at all costs.”

The debasement goes beyond passive indulgence. Congressional bootlickers, channeling Mr. Trump’s rantings about the Deep State, have used their power to target those who dared to investigate him. Committee chairmen like Representative Devin Nunes and Senator Ron Johnson have conducted hearings aimed at smearing Mr. Trump’s political opponents and delegitimizing the special counsel’s Russia inquiry.

As head of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Mr. Johnson pushed a corruption investigation of Mr. Biden’s son Hunter that he bragged would expose the former vice president’s “unfitness for office.” Instead, he wasted taxpayer money producing an 87-page rehash of unsubstantiated claims reeking of a Russian disinformation campaign. Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, another Republican on the committee, criticized the inquiry as “a political exercise,” noting, “It’s not the legitimate role of government or Congress, or for taxpayer expense to be used in an effort to damage political opponents.”

Undeterred, last Sunday Mr. Johnson popped up on Fox News, engaging with the host over baseless rumors that the F.B.I. was investigating child pornography on a computer that allegedly had belonged to Hunter Biden. These vile claims are being peddled online by right-wing conspiracymongers, including QAnon.

Not that congressional toadies are the only offenders. A parade of administration officials-- some of whom were well respected before their Trumpian tour-- have stood by, or pitched in, as the president has denigrated the F.B.I., federal prosecutors, intelligence agencies and the courts. They have failed to prioritize election security because the topic makes Mr. Trump insecure about his win in 2016. They have pushed the limits of the law and human decency to advance Mr. Trump’s draconian immigration agenda.

Most horrifically, Republican leaders have stood by as the president has lied to the public about a pandemic that has already killed more than 220,000 Americans. They have watched him politicize masks, testing, the distribution of emergency equipment and pretty much everything else. Some echo his incendiary talk, fueling violence in their own communities. In the campaign’s closing weeks, as case numbers and hospitalizations climb and health officials warn of a rough winter, Mr. Trump is stepping up the attacks on his scientific advisers, deriding them as “idiots” and declaring Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top expert in infectious diseases, a “disaster.” Only a smattering of Republican officials has managed even a tepid defense of Dr. Fauci. Whether out of fear, fealty or willful ignorance, these so-called leaders are complicit in this national tragedy.

As Republican lawmakers grow increasingly panicked that Mr. Trump will lose re-election-- possibly damaging their fortunes as well-- some are scrambling to salvage their reputations by pretending they haven’t spent the past four years letting him run amok. In an Oct. 14 call with constituents, Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska gave a blistering assessment of the president’s failures and “deficient” values, from his misogyny to his calamitous handling of the pandemic to “the way he kisses dictators’ butts.” Mr. Sasse was less clear about why, the occasional targeted criticismnotwithstanding, he has enabled these deficiencies for so long.

Senator John Cornyn of Texas, locked in his own tight re-election race, recently told the local media that he, too, has disagreed with Mr. Trump on numerous issues, including deficit spending, trade policy and his raiding of the defense budget. Mr. Cornyn said he opted to keep his opposition private rather than get into a public tiff with Mr. Trump “because, as I’ve observed, those usually don’t end too well.”

Profiles in courage these are not.

Mr. Trump’s corrosive influence on his party would fill a book. It has, in fact, filled several, as well as a slew of articles, social media posts and op-eds, written by conservatives both heartbroken and incensed over what has become of their party.

But many of these disillusioned Republicans also acknowledge that their team has been descending into white grievance, revanchism and know-nothing populism for decades. Mr. Trump just greased the slide. “He is the logical conclusion of what the Republican Party has become in the last 50 or so years,” the longtime party strategist Stuart Stevens asserts in his new book, It Was All a Lie.

The scars of Mr. Trump’s presidency will linger long after he leaves office. Some Republicans believe that, if those scars run only four years deep, rather than eight, their party can be nursed back to health. Others question whether there is anything left worth saving. Mr. Stevens’s prescription: “Burn it to the ground, and start over.”
Goal ThermometerSick of this? But don't buy into the concept of backing the lesser of two evils in politics? The Democratic Party sucks-- not as bad as the GOP-- but too much to support? Well, until the morning, Blue America hadn't opened our anti-DCCC page, which helps support progressive candidates that the DCCC is starving for resources while they support their Blue Dogs and New Dems from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- the Democraps. Access it by clicking on the Cheri Bustos thermometer on the right. Every two years the crooks among the Democratic Party establishment elites persuade you toehold your nose and vote for their shit candidates because they're better than the Republicans even shittier candidates. How you going to ever break out of that cycle? If you're in a New York district offering you Anthony Brindisi, Max Rose or Sean Patrick Maloney, support candidates from other districts in your state-- say Jamaal Bowman, Dana Balter, AOC for example. The DCCC wants you to back Jackie Gordon on Long Island but she's been endorsed by both the Blue Dogs and the New Dems and that tells you exactly what kind of a member of Congress she's going to make. He may live an hour away but, put your energy behind Mondaire Jones instead. But you live in Oklahoma and there are no good Democrats-- just reactionary quasi-Republican Blue Dog Kendra Horn? Texas isn't that far away-- and you can do the country-- the Democratic Party-- a lot of good by backing progressive stalwarts like Julie Oliver and Mike Siegel. Trade in Kendra Horn for Julie and Mike-- deal of the cycle!

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Trump Family Corruption-- Unprecedented



Who didn't know that the presidential election would devolve into a question about whose family is more corrupt and disgusting/ Democrats don't want to consider that Biden's family is hideous and Republicans don't want to consider that Trump's family is far more hideous-- and I'm certainly not talking about Ivanka being a closeted lesbian, which is so awesome and the least hideous thing I've ever heard about her. [Although I do want more information about why Donald, Jr. hates Barron. That seems beyond the pale, doesn't it?] No, what I'm talking about is the familial corruption. The video above is useful and so is this Dan Alexander piece in Forbes, Forbes Estimates China Paid Trump At Least $5.4 Million Since He Took Office, Via Mysterious Trump Tower Lease. There are so many bits and pieces, deciphering them all and weaving them into an overall narrative will be a journalist-- and, more importantly, a judicial-- cottage industry for years to come.

And who didn't know that Jared was a beard?

It should have been a warning to every viewer of the Thursday debate when Trump asserted that "I don’t make money from China," that hand his spawn were no doubt on the take. And I have no doubt that it goes way beyond Alexander's revelation that he "collected millions of dollars from government-owned entities in China since he took office. Forbes estimates that at least $5.4 million has flowed into the president’s business from a lease agreement involving a state-owned bank in Trump Tower.
The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China signed a lease for space in 2008, years before the president took office, paying about $1.9 million in annual rent. Trump is well-aware of the deal. “I’ll show you the Industrial Bank of China,” he told three Forbes journalists touring Trump Tower in 2015. “I have the best tenants in the world in this building.”

Trump moved from the skyscraper to the White House in 2017, but he held onto ownership of the retail and office space in the building, through his 100% interest in an entity called Trump Tower Commercial LLC. That put him in an unusual position, given that government-owned entities in China hold at least 70% of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. Suddenly, a routine real estate deal became a conduit for a foreign superpower to pay the president of the United States.

The arrangement posed legal concerns, since the U.S. Constitution prohibits federal officials from accepting “any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state” without Congressional approval. Ethics experts, who have often focused on the president’s hotel in Washington, D.C., argued that the president would be in violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause from the moment he took office.

On January 11, 2017, Trump and his team held a press conference inside Trump Tower, not far from the office of the Chinese bank. Trump’s lawyer, Sheri Dillon, claimed that routine business transactions are not violations of the so-called Emoluments Clause. But she also said the president planned to donate all foreign government profits at his hotel to the U.S. Treasury. The next month, first son Eric Trump, who had just taken over day-to-day operations of his father’s business, told Forbes the donations would come from “all the properties.”

Perhaps Eric Trump meant all hotel properties, because it sure doesn’t seem like the Trump Organization handed over all their profits from the deal with the Chinese. The Trump Organization reportedly donated a total of $343,000 to the U.S. Treasury in 2017 and 2018, Trump’s first two years as president. Yet, a document connected to Trump Tower suggests that over those same two years, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China was set to pay about $3.9 million in rent. Operating profit margins inside the building are an estimated 42%, which would suggest that the deal yielded $1.6 million of earnings over those two years. Even if you only count roughly 70% of that money as coming from the Chinese government, it still adds up to $1.2 million-- or more than three times what the Trump Organization reportedly gave to the Treasury.

The lease was set to expire on October 31, 2019, according to a debt prospectus filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. In 2018, the state-owned bank agreed to a new lease in a different office building nearby, suggesting it might leave Trump Tower. But then, the bank decided to stay in the president’s building anyway. “They are keeping a couple of floors,” Eric Trump confirmed onstage at a business conference in October 2019.

The new arrangement is somewhat murky. Contacted Friday morning, a spokesperson for the Trump Organization initially said that the bank had “consolidated with their other offices in New York.” When told that Forbes might publish that statement, the spokesperson then seemed to confirm that the Chinese bank was in fact maintaining space in the building: “They’ve exited the vast majority of their space in Trump Tower.” The website for the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China still lists an address inside Trump Tower.

Trump has other financial connections to China. The New York Times revealed Tuesday that the U.S. president has a bank account in China. His daughter, Ivanka Trump, received 41 Chinese trademarks from the time she was appointed a White House adviser in March 2017 to April 2019, according to an analysis of documents. The review also showed that the trademarks Ivanka applied for after her father’s inauguration got approved about 40% faster than those she sought out beforehand.

You want to see the swamp drained for real?

Remember when Trump campaigned on draining the swamp? That was a joke then because Trump is and has always been the swamp. Yesterday Josh Dawsey, Rosalind Helderman and David Farenthold reminded Washington Post readers that we're living through the most corrupt presidency ever. They noted that "during his four years in office, Trump has taken few steps to clean up Washington. He has instead presided over a norm-shattering expansion of private interests in government. The government has had to spend money at Trump’s private hotels as his family has traveled around the globe. Trump sidestepped rules that had been designed to prevent nepotism, allowing his son-in-law to serve in a top government role. He has touted companies run by supporters and allies who received government contracts. His administration has allowed former lobbyists to serve in jobs in which they have oversight of policies that affect their former employers... [T]he president has worsened Washington’s profiteering culture in nearly every way."
“The whole administration has taken Trump’s tone-- self-dealing, self-enriching, enriching your friends and families-- that’s smart, if you listen to Trump,” he said.

...Rich contributors have long had access to elected officials in Washington, but as president, Trump has dropped any pretense that they should not be afforded special treatment.

Donors and others seeking access appear routinely at his private clubs in Florida and New Jersey, where they have buttonholed the president on the patio or golf course.

The ability of outside favor-seekers to influence Trump has at times worried administration officials. A group of Mar-a-Lago members sought to shape the direction of the Department of Veterans Affairs, as the former VA secretary detailed in a book. Donors attending fundraisers at his Bedminister club weighed in on the GOP tax bill, according to people familiar with internal discussions.

Meanwhile, lobbying firms that can claim access to Trump’s inner circle have thrived.

Barry Bennett, a 2016 Trump campaign adviser and lobbyist for foreign interests, said business for him was booming before the coronavirus pandemic.

The president’s attacks on the swamp have been effective in one way, he said: “To the extent that Washington is less popular, and people are more angry at their government, that’s been the effect of the Trump presidency.”

When Trump launched his presidential bid, he distinguished himself from rivals for the Republican nomination by saying he would fund his own campaign, eschewing the support of donors who he said corrupted the political system by seeking favors in exchange for their contributions. The argument proved powerful with voters.

“I will say this--  [the] people [who] control special interests, lobbyists, donors, they make large contributions to politicians and they have total control over those politicians,” he said at a Republican primary debate in March 2016. “And frankly, I know the system better than anybody else and I’m the only one up here that’s going to be able to fix that system, because that system is wrong.”

He likewise termed super PACs, which can accept unlimited amounts of money, a “disaster.” “They’re a scam,” he said at a debate in October 2015. “They cause dishonesty.”

Trump unveiled the phrase “drain the swamp” in a speech in Green Bay, Wis., in October 2016, wielding it as a weapon against Democrat Hillary Clinton, who was benefiting from a network of wealthy donors that she and former president Bill Clinton had cultivated over four decades.

“There were a lot of Democrats that Trump may not have beaten with that message,” said Charles R. Black Jr., who has worked as a Republican lobbyist and consultant for nearly five decades. “The message worked-- but it worked especially because of who she was.”

It was quickly a hit with Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters, entering the lexicon of call-and-response cries at his signature rallies. It remains one of the most popular chants and resonant messages, campaign aides say.

“We’re going to go to Washington. We’re going to drain the swamp,” Trump said at a North Carolina rally in 2016. As the crowd picked up the chant-- “Drain the swamp! Drain the swamp!”-- Trump explained that when he first heard the phrase, he hated it. He thought it was “hokey.” But then he said he noticed how crowds responded.

“The place went crazy,” he said, adding: “Now I love the expression. I think it was genius.”

By then, Trump’s original promises to use his own wealth to power his campaign had crumbled.

He ultimately reported spending $66 million of his own money on his winning campaign, only a small portion of the more than $564 million he raised by the end of 2016. By July 2016, he began appearing at fundraisers for a super PAC supporting his election.

Trump made no pretense of self-funding his 2020 campaign. Instead, he spent four years attending closed-door events for his wealthiest supporters, raising millions of dollars for his campaign and the America First super PAC.

Some of the country’s most powerful individuals have lent their properties for Trump’s gilded fundraising events, from the California hillside mega-mansion of Oracle founder Larry Ellison to the Hamptons beachfront palace of hedge fund manager John Paulson. The entry fee for some: as high as $580,600 a person, with much of the money flowing to the Republican National Committee, which as a party committee can accept large contributions. Many of the events are at Trump’s private clubs or hotels, where donors both contribute to his campaign and stay or dine at his properties.

Donors have gotten access not just to Trump at these events, but also to a range of senior Cabinet officials such as Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Trump advisers such as Peter Navarro, Kellyanne Conway, Bill Stepien and Corey Lewandowski, invitations show.

While his predecessors typically kept their remarks at donor events short and scripted, Trump speaks loosely and profanely-- even discussing sensitive military operations and vulgarly describing political foes.

...The ability of high-dollar donors to shape Trump’s views was put into sharp relief earlier this year, when onetime Trump supporter Lev Parnas released recordings of events.

In the recordings, one donor could be heard proposing the president hold a summit meeting with Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, at a South Korean golf course he owned. Another donor, who owns a Canadian steel company, pushed Trump to limit steel imports to the United States.

Parnas and his business partner Igor Fruman, who were working with Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, urged the president to recall the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, whom they viewed as unfriendly to interests of a new natural gas company they had formed.

“Get rid of her! Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow,” Trump could be heard immediately instructing an aide after the two made the request.

Parnas, now a sharp critic of Trump, has been charged with campaign finance violations and defrauding investors in his company. He has denied wrongdoing. Parnas said it was widely understood by donors that they were paying for face time with Trump.

“Everyone knew that about Trump-- all it took was that one minute, if he liked it,” he said. “It was okay to spend a million dollars on a dinner. Because that dinner could make your whole life.”

...Overall, Trump has largely failed to fulfill the pledges he made in his Green Bay “drain the swamp” speech. He had promised he would push Congress to pass a five-year lobbying ban into law so it could not be lifted by a future president. But he never proposed such legislation. Nor did he ask Congress to impose a similar five-year lobbying ban on its members, as he had promised he would in 2016.

In addition, he never tried to seek to “close all the loopholes” used by former government officials who get around registering as lobbyists by calling themselves “consultants” and “advisers.” And he never acted on his pledge to stop foreign lobbyists from campaign fundraising-- and in fact, has benefited from their financial support.

As his promises to curtail lobbying have faded, Trump allies who can offer insight to private interests have flourished.

“People who know how Washington and the administration works, those people are always going to be valuable,” Bennett said.

...[A] report compiled by Public Citizen in March 2018-- only 14 months into the administration-- found that 133 former lobbyists had been appointed to the Trump administration. They included 60 who had lobbied within two years of joining government and 35 of those former lobbyists were appointed to oversee the specific topics about which they had previously lobbied.

Last year, ProPublica found that at least 33 former Trump administration officials had found ways to essentially lobby after leaving government, despite the supposed five-year ban on such activities. Some styled themselves consultants and advisers-- the kind of end run around the rules that Trump once railed against.

“It’s a meaningless piece of paper that was just put out to live up to the ‘drain the swamp’ promise,” Holman said of the executive order. “No one takes it seriously.”

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Abandoned By The DCCC 2020



With a tiny handful of exceptions-- basically Kara Eastman in Omaha, Joyce Elliott in Little Rock and Dana Balter in Syracuse (who is running in a D+3 district)-- Cheri Bustos and her DCCC have once again decided to spend all the big money primarily on corporate-friendly conservative candidates backed by the Blue Dogs and New Dems. To say movement candidates don't get a fair shake from Bustos, would be the understatement of the cycle.

Sri Kulkarni is a good example. He's running in TX-22, Tom DeLay's old district in the suburbs south and southwest of Houston, primarily Fort Bend County with a chunk of Brazoria and a sliver od Harris. With a PVI of R+10, Trump beat Hillary there 52.1% to 44.2%. Kulkarni lost to Republican Pete Olson in 2018-- 152,750 (51.4%) to 138,153 (46.5%), a good showing but not as good as Beto O'Rourke had. Olson is retiring now and it makes sense for the DCCC to chase the district. Kulkarni, though is an extremely flawed candidate on many levels. We'll just mention one: he's been endorsed by the Blue Dogs and New Dems. The Blue Dogs have been known to reject conservatives who they don't view as conservative enough. They see Kulkarni as right up their alley.

Kulkarni has outraised Republican Troy Nehls $4,863,231 to $1,532,299. But the big spending is the district is coming from the DCCC and Pelosi's House Majority PAC and from Kevin McCarthy's Congressional Leadership Fund. As of last week, the DCCC and Pelosi had spent $5,749,664 slamming Nehls and bolstering Kulkarni. Meanwhile McCarthy had put $5,692,407 into slamming Kulkarni and bolstering Nehls. Those are signals that the committees are serious about backing candidates. Corporate conservatives like Christy Smith (CA), Carolyn Bourdeaux (GA) and Amy Kennedy (NJ)-- all endorsed by the New Dems-- have also been benefiting from mega-DCCC independent expenditures. Progressives? Nope; with a couple of exception-- just peanuts that send a very different signal.

Goal ThermometerWe've just re-activated Blue America's Abandoned by the DCCC ActBlue page, which you will find by clicking on the thermometer on the right. These are progressive candidates who won their primaries and each is on the verge of flipping a red seat blue-- without any real help-- or in most cases, without any help-- from the DCCC, which endlessly whines that progressives are "too liberal" for the districts they're running in.

I spoke with a movement candidate who looked over the list of the DCCC favorites. He said, "I think we can persuade some of them to vote progressive at least some of the time." OK, better than nothing, but what about candidates you don't have to persuade, leaders like Jamaal Bowman, Mondaire Jones, Beth Doglio and Cori Bush who have already proven that they don't need any persuading?

I'm thinking this is going to be the last Blue America ask before the election. So please read what history of ideas professor-- and Riverside County progressive candidate-- Liam O'Mara told me about what's behind the DCCC abandonment of progressive candidates.
"The idea that I am 'too progressive for the district' is rubbish... We currently have the best early return rate of any Democrat in recent memory, and that follows a primary cycle that saw more votes to the Dems than any previous primary in ages. Right now FiveThirtyEight gives my campaign a better chance of flipping the district than they've seen yet, and a higher chance of flipping the seat than quite a few candidates in the long list of candidates the DCCC is spending on. Progressive-populist leaders used to dominate in the most socially conservative corners of the country, because more people vote their wallets and their hopes than anything else. To say that we are out of touch with the needs and wishes of the electorate is to surrender preëmptively to Republican control and Republican arguments... when what we ought to be doing is standing out there and winning over hearts and minds. The Democratic party needs to stop focussing on safely blue seats and start trying to win people over... and we can't do that with tepid, half-baked conservatism."
The Florida Democratic Party never looked seriously at the north-central Florida district centered on Gainesville, but this year, after Ted Yoho announced his retirement, 27 year old Adam Christensen has made a real race out of it. If he win, the DCCC will be in shock-- especially because he's the kind of independent-minded progressive that the establishment fears. "The DCCC hasn’t spent a penny on this race," Christensen told me. "They wrote it off a long time ago and refused to even look our way. Even without their help we have managed to raise more money than anyone who has ever run here, all from small dollar donations, and have brought an 'unwinnable' within the margin of error. If we had $100,000 more this race would be over. It is the best Return-On-Investment of any race in the  country and would winning it would flip Ted Yoho’s R+9 district. So if anyone wants to make a good investment Florida CD-3 is about as good as you can find."

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The Pandemic Is Powerful Enough To Swing An Election-- But How Will It Impact Partisan Realignment?



"... And I Won't Lose One Voter" by Nancy Ohanian

Many people wonder if, aside from Herman Cain (RIP), Trump rallies have been killing off his followers? And now we know. In a report from USA Today late Friday night, Erin Mansfield, Josh Salman and Dinah Pulver wrote that coronavirus cases surged in the wake of President Super Spreader's visits. New cases in the U.S. are spiking like crazy. Friday there were a record-setting 81,210 new cases-- many in rural, Trump-worshipping areas. And deaths are way back up again-- especially in Texas, Florida and Tennessee. Over 20,000 cases per million in any locale is considered an out of control pandemic. There are now 18 states with over 30,000 cases per million and two-- North and South Dakota-- with over 40,000 cases per million. There are no places on earth-- other than postage stamp sized quasi-countries like Qatar and Aruba-- that are worse COVID hellholes than the Trumpistani states of North nd South Dakota.

Mansfield, Salman and Pulver reported that as Trump "jetted across the country holding campaign rallies during the past two months, he didn’t just defy state orders and federal health guidelines. He left a trail of coronavirus outbreaks in his wake. The president has participated in nearly three dozen rallies since mid-August, all but two at airport hangars. A USA Today analysis shows COVID-19 cases grew at a faster rate than before after at least five of those rallies in the following counties: Blue Earth, Minnesota; Lackawanna, Pennsylvania; Marathon, Wisconsin; Dauphin, Pennsylvania; and Beltrami, Minnesota. Together, those counties saw 1,500 more new cases in the two weeks following Trump’s rallies than the two weeks before-- 9,647 cases, up from 8,069." Now, those three states are COVID-disaster areas. Friday's new cases (and the number of cases per million residents):
Minnesota +1,711 (23,027 cases per million residents)-- 13 new deaths on Friday
Wisconsin +4,378 (32,714 cases per million residents)-- 42 new deaths on Friday
Pennsylvania +2,258 (15,283 cases per million residents)-- 34 new deaths on Friday

"Although there’s no way to determine definitively if cases originated at Trump’s rallies," the trio of reporters wrote, "public health experts say the gatherings fly in the face of all recommendations to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The earliest post-rally spikes occurred even as the nation’s overall case counts were in decline from a peak in mid-July. When U.S. cases started climbing in mid-September, Trump did not alter his campaign schedule but continued holding an average of four rallies a week.

He stopped first in Minnesota, where Blue Earth County’s coronavirus growth rate was 15% before Trump’s rally, but grew to 25% afterward. Three days later, he was in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, where the coronavirus growth rate jumped from less than 3% before his visit to more than 7% afterward.

Even in states where cases were already rising, the spikes in at least four counties that hosted Trump rallies far surpassed their state’s overall growth rates.

In two counties, it was more than double: Marathon County’s case count surged by 67% after Trump’s visit compared to Wisconsin’s overall growth rate of 29% during the same time. In Beltrami County, Minnesota, it swelled by 35% compared to the state’s 14%.

...[E]xperts all agreed that holding large rallies during a pandemic interferes with efforts to contain the virus and can make things worse. This is why officials in at least five states, including two with Republican governors, voiced concerns or issued warnings in advance of the president’s rallies.

“I would ask the president, for once, to put the health of his constituents ahead of his own political fortunes,” Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said on Sept. 25. Trump has held three rallies in the state since then.

Campaign events where people gather together cheering and screaming can carry the virus far through the crowd, said Shelley Payne, director of the LaMontagne Center for Infectious Diseases at the University of Texas. Then those infected will take the virus back to their families, friends and coworkers-- fanning an outbreak in the community.

“This is true of any respiratory virus; when you’re near people in close contact, you’re going to spread the virus,” Payne said. “And rallies are particularly problematic.”

Campaign rallies fall within a category the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention labels “highest risk” for the potential to spread the virus that already has claimed the lives of more than 222,000 Americans.

...Political experts say the guideline-defying events are part of a strategy by the Trump administration to downplay the seriousness of the virus ahead of the election. It has divided the nation over wearing masks and taking the necessary precautions to contain the virus.

“It’s a trade-off between doing what’s right for public health or what benefits re-election,” said Todd Belt, professor and director of the Political Management Program at The George Washington University. “And over and over, the greater concern for this White House is re-election.”

From conservative Christians with tucked shirts and dress shoes to bikers with long beards and leather, hundreds of Trump supporters waved flags, held signs and donned the red caps as they descended on the small town of Bemidji, located in Beltrami County, Minnesota.

Despite the 250-person limit for gatherings in the state, throngs stood shoulder-to-shoulder as they waited in long lines, cheering on the commander in chief and greeting others as if the global pandemic did not exist. A mix of locals and those who traveled hundreds of miles, the scene at the September rally has played out in small towns across America where Trump has a stronghold.

Charter buses packed full, merchandise vendors lining the streets and counter protests nearby, the spectacles have marked Trump’s campaigns and presidency.

But many of these towns don’t typically draw these types of crowds-- and the aftermath is now evident in their COVID-19 cases.

Between mid-August and mid-October, Trump has visited small and mid-sized communities in major swing states with county populations ranging from 47,000 to 310,000.

They also have largely been in conservative communities that in many cases have resisted mask-wearing and social distancing efforts.

...The campaign includes a disclaimer on rally ticket requests stating that guests “assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19.”

...Following Trump’s COVID-19 infection, 57% or registered voters say they are very or somewhat confident in Biden to handle the public health impact of the coronavirus, while 40% express that level of confidence in Trump, according to the Pew Research Center. Biden held a narrower lead on his support over the outbreak in June.
Trump isn't holding these rallies in deep red states that he considers "in the bag"-- like West Virginia, Idaho, Alabama, Mississippi, North Dakota, Arkansas, Wyoming and Tennessee. No, he's holding them in swing states where he thinks he needs to motivate his base to turn out on election day. Let's go back to the three states where he should be charged with negligent homicide and look at the polling average in each:
Minnesota- Trump down by 6.0 points
Wisconsin- Trump down by 4.6 points
Pennsylvania- Trump down by 5.1 points

And that brings us to Nicholas Lemann's much-discussed essay in Friday's New Yorker, The Republican Identity Crisis After Trump. Lemann explores if, post-Trump, "economic insecurity and inequality [are] powerful enough to blow apart the boundaries of conventional politics... An ambitious Republican can’t ignore Trumpism. Nor can an ambitious Democrat: the Democratic Party has also failed to address the deep economic discontent in this country. But is it possible to address it without opening a Pandora’s box of virulent rage and racism?"
The Republican Party has long had a significant nativist, isolationist element. In the Party’s collective memory, this faction was kept in check by “fusionism,” a grand entente between this element and the Party’s business establishment. The best-known promoter of fusionism is the late William F. Buckley, Jr., the theatrically patrician founder of National Review and an all-around conservative celebrity. Buckley tried to keep anti-Semites and conspiracy theorists out of the conservative movement, but he was not a standard Chamber of Commerce Republican. His first book attacked liberal universities, his second defended Joseph McCarthy, and in 1957, when Dwight Eisenhower was sending federal troops to integrate Little Rock Central High School, he wrote an article titled “WHY THE SOUTH MUST PREVAIL.” Buckley helped define American conservatism as a movement that supported free-market economics and internationalism and welcomed serious intellectuals, including former Communists such as James Burnham, Frank Meyer, and Whittaker Chambers.

Fusionism brought these views together into what seemed for a long time, at least from the outside, to be a relatively workable political coalition. Philip Zelikow, a veteran Republican foreign-policy official and one of hundreds of prominent members of the Party who vigorously opposed Trump in 2016, said, “World War II, followed by nearly World War III, brought the United States into an unprecedented world role. And a vocal minority didn’t accept it. They don’t like foreigners. They think they’re playing us for suckers. There were a lot of Pearl Harbor and Yalta conspiracy theories that we’ve forgotten about. This group concentrates overwhelmingly in the Republican Party.” For a long time, it was kept in check. Now, in Zelikow’s view, it has grown in prominence and become less deferential to the business wing of the Republican establishment, and is “close to being the most influential element in the Party.”

...In American politics, white nativism and racism tend to rise in conjunction with economic distress. Quite often, liberal economic reforms have been achieved at the price of compromises with politicians who were anything but liberal on race. The greatest triumph of liberalism in American history, the New Deal, entailed a bargain with the segregationist South in which the Jim Crow system remained firmly in place. In the twenty-first century, rising economic discontent among working-class whites has often caused them to lash out at people from other groups. Albert Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville, and a leader of the religious wing of the conservative movement, told me, “There’s an anxiety. A world is being demolished before your eyes. It’s an instinct that things aren’t going as they should. The world is coming apart. Somebody has to say no.”

Trump’s Republican opponents in 2016, who had been living in a world created by the Republican donor class, didn’t see that the Republican coalition had been shattered. After Obama defeated Mitt Romney in the 2012 election, Reince Priebus, then the head of the Republican National Committee (who later followed the familiar trajectory from Never Trumper to Trump enabler to Trump exile), commissioned an inquiry to find out what had gone wrong. The resulting report, known in Republican circles as “the autopsy,” noted a significant decline in the Latino vote for Republican Presidential candidates since the George W. Bush high-water mark, in 2004, and urgently called on the Party to reaffirm its identity as pro-market, government-skeptical, and ethnically and culturally inclusive. Romney would have carried Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada if he had replicated Bush’s share of the Latino vote. The Republican establishment, and most of the 2016 Republican Presidential field, accepted the autopsy as revealed truth.

This left an opening for Trump to ignore a series of supposedly inviolable Republican bromides. He didn’t talk about the need for limited government or for balancing the federal budget. He didn’t talk about the United States as the guarantor of freedom worldwide. He didn’t extoll free trade. He didn’t court the Koch brothers. He did not sign the no-new-tax pledge that the conservative organizer Grover Norquist has been imposing on Republican Presidential aspirants for decades. A new book, Never Trump, by two political scientists, Robert Saldin and Steven Teles, asserts that Trump was opposed by more officials in his own Party (the Never Trumpers of their title) than any Presidential nominee in recent American history. Nonetheless, he got more votes in the Republican primary than any Presidential candidate ever has. Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker, who in the nineties laid some of the groundwork for Trump’s rise by establishing hot-blooded attack as the dominant Republican leadership style, told me, “He won because he’s a dramatically better politician than anybody believed. A substantial part of the country felt demeaned. Talked down to.” Gingrich, who was among the first prominent Republican politicians to endorse Trump, has written two glowing books about the “great comeback” that the President’s agenda represents.

...Trump’s key insight in 2016 was that the Republican establishment could be ignored, and his primary campaign pitched only to the Republican base, which no longer believed in the free-market gospel, if it ever had. There would be no penalty for violating any ironclad rule of traditional Republicanism. Mike Murphy, a veteran Republican consultant who was affiliated with Jeb Bush in 2016, said, “Trump was a perfect grievance candidate, at a time when Republican voters wanted to blow up the system. I did Arnold Schwarzenegger-- he was what Hollywood people call a ‘pre-awareness title.’ People thought Trump was all over the place on Republican-base issues like guns and abortion, and that would do him in. But he hit this note of resentment. He was ‘politically incorrect’-- critical of Obama in crude terms. There was definitely a racial subtext.” He went on, “He was very George Wallace. And then there was the strongman thing: Juan Perón in an orange fright wig. He spoke to a fifty-two-year-old shoe salesman in a dying mall in Parma, Ohio. He has those voters in his head.” Charles Kesler, a conservative political scientist and the editor of the Claremont Review of Books, one of a small number of Trump-sympathetic intellectual journals, said much the same thing: “It’s a confession of the disrepair of the Republican Party that he won that race. He shouldn’t have won that race. It revealed the inner hollowness of the Party.”

Nobody pretends that President Trump pores over detailed policy briefs. By all accounts from reporters and from Administration defectors, what you see (tweets, rallies, enmities, palace intrigue) is what you get. Even though Republicans controlled the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the White House for two years, Trump failed to achieve his most loudly voiced campaign promises from 2016, such as building that big, beautiful wall and making Mexico pay for it, getting Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and undertaking a major infrastructure-building program. He is running for a second term without having produced any formal platform. What he did accomplish is a surprisingly conventional Republican program: substantial tax cuts, a vast rollback of federal regulations, large increases in military spending, and the elevation to the federal bench of more than two hundred judges with lifetime tenure, including, most likely, three avowedly conservative Supreme Court Justices.

Trump signed into law a cut in the corporate tax rate from thirty-five per cent to twenty-one per cent-- far lower than what Reagan was able to get. Glenn Hubbard said, “Jeb would have given you the tax cut. I know because I wrote it. Trump just doubled it.” In 2017, Julius Krein, an up-and-coming conservative intellectual and a former Trump supporter, founded a magazine called American Affairs. He told me, regarding Trump’s economic accomplishments, “Laugh if you want, but he ran on an ambitious agenda, which ran counter to the entire consensus. And in office he did almost nothing for anyone aligned with the 2016 campaign. The donors are driving the bus.” Trump’s racially charged rhetoric has remained constant from his first campaign through his time in office, but, in policy, foreign affairs is the one area where the Trump of the campaign and the Trump of the White House are truly aligned. His hostility toward alliances and treaties has led him to withdraw from the Paris climate accord and the Iran nuclear deal. He has enacted punitive restrictions on immigration. He constantly attacks NATO and other international organizations.

The best explanation I’ve heard for the difference between Trump as a candidate and Trump as the President goes back to fusionism. Governing requires filling thousands of jobs at the highest levels of the federal government with people who know what they’re doing, and also having shovel-ready policies in dozens of specific areas. Trump and most of his closest aides had no government experience and no developed policies. Reagan was elected sixteen years after Barry Goldwater’s forty-four-state defeat, in 1964. The conservative movement had used that time to develop a governing infrastructure. As Reagan took office, the Heritage Foundation (established in 1973) released the thousand-page Mandate for Leadership, which included hundreds of detailed suggestions for conservative policies that Reagan could enact.

There was no manual like that detailing the program Trump ran on, and no economic-policy experts ready to enact it. “This was a case where the dog caught the car,” Oren Cass, a young conservative activist and thinker who dislikes both Trump and the Republican establishment, told me. Trump’s motley crew included people like Stephen Bannon, Corey Lewandowski, and Paul Manafort, who hadn’t previously worked in government, or even had leading roles in prominent Republican campaigns. Stuart Stevens, Romney’s senior strategist in 2012 and a Never Trumper, told me, “These are evil people. They don’t have a sense of right and wrong. The people Trump attracts—these are damaged people. These are weird, damaged people. They are using Trump to work out their personal issues.”

Yet the establishment’s governing machinery was still running apace, so there were plenty of appointees and policies available from congressional staffs, think tanks, and lobbying organizations—all funded by the Republican donor class. The establishment is set up to supply the Presidential officials who supervise the career civil servants (also known by Trumpists as “the deep state”) in federal agencies. A few distinctively Trump appointees-- Stephen Miller, on immigration, and Jared Kushner, on the Middle East-- pushed through policies that no traditional Republican would have put into place. Otherwise, appointees without previous connections to Trump but with deep connections to the Party’s libertarian wing have put in place an enhanced version of the standard Republican program.

The result has been an odd mix of traditional Republican policies and Trumpian rhetorical flourishes. It’s hard to tell whether Trump believed in what his Administration was doing or if he was merely focussed on how to square it with his personal branding strategy. Cliff Sims, a White House aide who left in 2018, is the author of Team of Vipers, arguably the most revealing of the half-dozen tell-all Administration memoirs. In the book, Sims describes a scene from 2017, in which Trump is on the phone with Paul Ryan and Kevin Brady, the Republican members of Congress who were primarily responsible for the tax-cut plan. Trump says, “I think I’ve got a great name for this bill-- it’s going to be really cool. We need to call it ‘The Cut Cut Cut Act,’ because this is a tax cut. When people hear the name, that’s what we want people to know.” (The bill became law under the name Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.)

It’s also hard to tell whether Trump is truly an economic nationalist or merely a crony capitalist. He railed against TikTok, a Chinese-owned company, demanding that it sell its U.S. division, but then approved a deal that would permit Chinese control to continue and would also benefit two American companies, Walmart and Oracle, the latter of which has a major Trump contributor as a top executive. The Administration’s misadventures in Ukraine appear to have involved attempts to get the head of Naftogaz, the national gas company there, replaced by someone who would agree to import liquefied natural gas from the United States. Whatever is really going on, it’s clear that Trump in office is far less economically populist than he claimed to be while he was campaigning for his first term.

...As Trump has outsourced economic policy to the establishment, he has outsourced social policy to the evangelicals. Years before he launched his Presidential campaign, some instinct led him to create an alliance with the religious wing of the Republican Party. Nearly twenty years ago, he formed a public relationship with Paula White, a popular televangelist who preaches the "prosperity Gospel," and who has said that she guided Trump toward active Christianity. Since at least 2011, Trump has been appearing at the American Conservative Union's annual Conservative Political Action Conference, a large gathering of activists from the Party base. In 2016 and 2017, Trump released lists of potential Supreme Court Justices, all of them demonstrably acceptable to both wings of the Republican Party, the evangelicals and the libertarians, and then made appointments only from those lists. (He released a second-term list this year.) He selected Mike Pence, an evangelical Christian who had strong support from the Koch brothers and from other major Republican donors, as his Vice-President. As President, Trump has issued a number of executive orders that evangelicals approve of, such as one that rescinded a provision of the Affordable Care Act which required health-care providers to offer birth control. "He actually did what he said he'd do," Albert Mohler told me. "It's the oddest thing."

...Trump is far too bizarre to be precisely replicable as a model for the generic Republican of the future. That raises the question of where the Republican Party will go after he leaves office. The jockeying for the 2024 Republican nomination is already well under way. Did Trump's ascension represent a significant change in the Party's orientation, and, if so, will the change be temporary or lasting?

Among the Republicans I spoke to, some of whom will vote for Trump and some of whom won't, there are three competing predictions about the future of the Party over the coming years. Let's call them the Remnant, Restoration, and Reversal scenarios.

Most of the 2016 Republican Presidential candidates accepted the post-2012-autopsy argument that the Party, with its overwhelming lack of appeal to nonwhite voters, was in a demographic death spiral. Trump ran a campaign that seemed designed to appeal only to whites-- indeed, only to whites who didn't like nonwhites. That worked well in the Republican primaries, and well enough in the general election for Trump to eke out a victory that would have been impossible without the Electoral College system. He also did slightly better with minority voters than Romney had, though minority turnout was significantly lower than it had been in the two elections when Barack Obama was the Democratic nominee.

Could somebody else use the Trump playbook to win a Presidential election? Those who believe in the Remnant scenario think so. It would require extremely high motivation among Trump's base-- mainly exurban or rural, actively religious, and not highly educated-- along with a strong appeal to affluent whites, continued modest inroads with minority voters, and a low turnout among Democrats. If a politician were able to tap into the deep antipathy toward élites in the Trump heartland, he could compensate, at least in part, for the demographic decline of white voters. In the years between the elections of 1996 and 2016, the Democratic Party lost its voting majority in about a thousand of the three thousand counties in the United States-- none in major population centers. Trump carried eighty-four per cent of the counties.

...The Remnant strategy entails relentless attacks. It rests on the idea of an outpowered cohort of traditional Americans who see themselves as courageously defending their values. The obvious candidate to carry out a high Trumpist strategy in 2024 would be Donald Trump, Jr., who is an active speaker in Trump-admiring circles and in the past two years has published two books that excoriate liberals. Several other potential Republican candidates, most notably Senators Tom Cotton, of Arkansas, and Josh Hawley, of Missouri, have demonstrated that they see Trump's success as instructive. Between them, Cotton and Hawley have two degrees from Harvard, one from Yale, and one from Stanford, but both have been steadily propounding populist and nationalist themes. The forty-year-old Hawley, who is only two years into his first term and is the youngest member of the Senate, is a relentless Twitter user, frequently targeting China, Silicon Valley, and liberals who are hostile to religion. Like Trump in 2016, he almost never argues for less government, and often calls for programs to help working people. In the summer of 2019, he gave a speech at the National Conservatism Conference denouncing "a powerful upper class and their cosmopolitan priorities" which, he implied, had gained control of both parties. There is also Tucker Carlson, of Fox News, who, like Trump in 2016, has no political experience and a large television audience. He offers up ferocious attacks on élites almost nightly. Charles Kesler told me that, no matter who wins, the Claremont Institute, which publishes the Claremont Review of Books, is going to start a Washington branch after the election, to devise Trumpian policies: socially conservative, economically nationalist.

Under the Restoration scenario, if Trump loses, Republicans, as if waking from a bad dream, could recapture their essential identity for the past hundred years as the party of business. They could revive a Reagan-like optimistic rhetoric of freedom and enterprise; resume an internationalist, alliance-oriented foreign policy; and embrace, at least notionally, diversity and immigration. One veteran Republican campaigner with Restorationist leanings says that, if Trump wins,"it'll blow up the Republican Party. In the 2022 election, we'll have an epic disaster-- a wipeout of epic proportions" Instead of Trumpism, "economic growth with an emphasis on character, and treating the Democrats as opponents and not as the enemy, is a way forward for the Party." Many Never Trumpers would feel comfortable again in a Restorationist Republican Party. Restoration could entail a conventionally positioned Presidential candidate, such as Mike Pence or Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, if it's possible for them to shake off their close association with Trump. But the most discussed Restorationist candidate is Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and a former U.N. ambassador. Haley is the child of immigrants from India (one a professor at Voorhees College, a historically Black college, the other a schoolteacher who started a successful business selling clothing and accessories from around the world) and the sister of a military veteran. She achieved the rare feat of serving in the Trump Administration without either going full Trumpist or falling out with the President. She left, evidently on good terms with Trump, shortly after it emerged that she had accepted rides on private planes from businessmen in South Carolina. She was given a starring role at Trump's renomination convention, this past August.

...The Reversal scenario, though perhaps the least plausible, is the most threatening to the Democratic Party. The parties would essentially switch the roles they have had for the past century: the Republicans would replace the Democrats as the party of the people, the one with a greater emphasis on progressive economic policies for ordinary families. Some Reversalists have praised Elizabeth Warren; criticizing Wall Street and free trade is pretty much a membership requirement. Michael Podhorzer, who works at the A.F.L.-C.I.O., sent me a chart he had made that showed the vote in congressional districts, ranked by median income, from 1960 to today. For most of that time, districts in the bottom forty per cent of income were far more likely to vote Democratic. But by 2010 the lines had crossed-- perhaps because of the financial crisis and the Great Recession, perhaps because of the Presidency of Barack Obama-- and today poorer districts are far more likely to vote Republican and richer districts are far more likely to vote Democratic. The ten richest congressional districts in the country, and forty-four of the richest fifty, are represented by Democrats. The French economist Thomas Piketty has produced a chart showing that for highly educated voters, who were once mainly Republican, the lines started crossing back in 1968. In 2016, Trump carried non-college-educated whites by thirty-six points, and Hillary Clinton carried college-educated whites by seventeen points. Could Republicans become the working-class party, and Democrats the party of the prosperous? That would bode well for Republicans because, especially in a time of rising inequality, there aren't enough prosperous people to make up a reliable voting majority.

The Democratic Party appears confident that it has the abiding loyalty of minority voters at all income and education levels, and that it dominates the metropolitan areas where a growing majority of Americans live. The coming majority-minority, decreasingly rural country will be naturally Democratic over the long term. But there are holes in this argument. Because minorities are younger than whites and are also less likely to be U.S. citizens, the electorate could remain white-majority for decades. Richard Alba, a sociologist who has written a book called The Great Demographic Illusion, which challenges the idea of a rapidly arriving majority-minority America, estimates that in 2060, which is as far into the future as the Census Bureau projects, the electorate will still be fifty-five per cent white. (It was seventy-three per cent white in 2018). And minority voters-- especially Latinos, who will be the largest group of minority voters in the 2020 election-- may not remain as loyally Democratic as they have been in recent elections, especially if the Republican Party has a leader who doesn't race-bait. Black and Latino Democratic voters are substantially less likely to identify as liberal than white Democratic voters are. They are also more likely to be actively religious, and to pursue Republican-leaning careers such as military service and law enforcement.

...The Reversalists believe that the Democrats' embrace of market economics, and their establishment of a powerful business wing of the Democratic Party, especially in Silicon Valley and on Wall Street, during the Clinton and Obama Administrations, has left them vulnerable to an attack from a new, socially conservative and economically liberal strain of Republicanism. Reversalists oppose the Republican donor class. Several have abandoned donor-funded libertarian and neoconservative think tanks like Cato and the American Enterprise Institute, disillusioned with the Party's indifference to the concerns of middle-class and working-class voters. Oren Cass, one of the leading Reversalists, has founded an organization called American Compass, which is trying to formulate policies that would appeal to members of the base of both parties. "What we're talking about is actual conservatism," he told me. "What we have called 'conservatism' just outsourced economic policy thinking away from conservatives to a small niche group of libertarians." Culturally, Reversalists present themselves as champions of provincialism, faith, and work, but they aim to promote these things through unusually interventionist (at least for Republicans, and for centrist Democrats since the nineties) economic policies. Steven Hayward, who calls himself a reluctant Trump supporter, said, "It's amazing to me the number of conservatives who are talking about, essentially, Walter Mondale's industrial policy from 1984. The right and the left suddenly agree. Reagan was very popular with younger voters. Younger people then had come of age seeing government failure. Now young people have come of age seeing market failure."

...Many Democrats will surely see this vision of the future of the Republican Party as fanciful. Isn't the Party controlled by ferociously right-wing billionaires? Aren't Republican-base voters irredeemable white supremacists who have been bamboozled by Fox News and televangelists? But the Democrats' coalition is no less unnatural than the Republicans'. A political system with only two parties produces parties with internal contradictions. The five most valuable corporations in America are all West Coast tech companies-- enemy territory, in today's Republican rhetoric. The head of the country's biggest bank, Jamie Dimon, of JPMorgan Chase, is a Democrat and a Trump critic. There was a stir in Republican circles in 2018, when a conservative journalist eavesdropped, on an Amtrak train, on a long phone conversation that Representative Jerry Nadler, of the Upper West Side, was having. Nadler complained that Democrats were attracting voters who were like the old Rockefeller Republicans-- liberal on social issues, conservative on economics. That's who lives in a lot of the wealthy older suburbs-- formerly Republican areas that are now Democratic. And the Democrats' minority voters differ enough on measures such as income, education, ideology, and religion that some of them could potentially be tempted to join a Republican Party that wasn't headed by Trump.

Trump has already changed the Republican Party. Its most hawkish element-- hawkish in the Iraq War sense-- has gone underground, if it still exists. The same goes for publicly stated Republican skepticism about Social Security and Medicare. One must be hostile to China, and skeptical, to some degree, of free trade. Especially since the arrival of the pandemic, it's hard to find a true libertarian in the Party-- at least among those who have to run for office. In the future, according to Donald Critchlow, a historian of conservatism who teaches at Arizona State University, "the advantage would go to a candidate who is Trump without the Trump caricature. An old-fashioned Chamber of Commerce candidate would not do well. We're in a new situation, in both parties. Everything's up for grabs." A senior Republican staffer who has Reversalist sympathies says, "Trump isn't good at a twenty-first-century policy agenda," but that work can go on without him. "If he loses, we'll have a massive argument in the Republican Party. Some will say, "He's a black swan." To me, the lesson is: he correctly diagnosed what was going on. Let's apply that to conservative economic policy. To me, what's up for grabs is the working-class vote. Not just working-class white-- working-class. Does what the President tapped into have to be racial? Can it be about what neoliberalism has done to the country?"

Trump's genius is to command attention, including the attention of people who dislike him. That makes it tempting to think that, when he's gone, everything he stands for will go with him. It probably won't; elements of Trumpism will likely be with us for a long time. Which elements, taking what form, in the possession of which party? Such questions will be just as pressing after Trump as they are now.
The Great Depression was electorally equated with the Republican Party for at least 20 years and the mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic is going to make Trump's Republican Party this generation's Herbert Hoover's Republican Party. So... Lemann is a really smart guy, but his frame may be cockeyed here.

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!



by Noah

Sunday Thoughts:

God is nowhere? My, how churches have changed! They really seem to be reaching out, even to atheists now. Should I reconsider?

Oh wait! I get it. God's a real nowhere man, sitting in his nowhere land, and making all his nowhere plans for nobody. Always remember: Penis mightier than the sword!

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Saturday, October 24, 2020

Iowa-- A Bellwether Of The COVID Election?



Obama won Iowa both times he ran (53.9% to 44.4% in 2008 and 52% to 46.2% in 2012) but 4 years later Trump slaughtered Hillary by almost 10 points there-- 800,983 (51.15%) to 653,669 (41.74%). On the right is the 2016 state map by county and on the left is the 2008 map. That's some turn-around! But don't be surprised if the 2020 map looks more like 2008 map than the 2016 map.

And yet... 2 years later, Iowans were already starting to go south on Trump. Although Republican Kim Reynolds beat a weak Democratic opponent in 2018 (50.3% to 47.5%), the state's one Democratic member of Congress, Dave Loebsack won his seat 54.8% to 42.6%, while 2 of the 3 Republican members of Congress lost their seats to extremely weak candidates, Abby Finkenauer unseating Rod Blum 51% to 45.9% and Cindy Axne beating David Young 49.4% to 47.2%. Even the one Republican who was reelected, Steve King, in the reddest part of the state, had a close call, almost losing to J.D. Scholten 157,676 (50.4%) to 147,246 (47%).

This year Governor Reynolds-- luckily for her-- in not on the ballot, but Senator Joni Ernst is-- and she's down by nearly 2 points in the Real Clear Politics polling average. Their polling average shows Biden ahead of Trump 47.2% to 46.4%. And a new Monmouth poll of the congressional districts, shows Finkenauer and Axne headed for reelection, Finkenauer by 8 points and Axne by 9 points. With Loebsack retiring, the GOP is making a play for his seat-- but isn't getting anywhere. Democrat Rita Hart is beating Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks, 49% to 43%. And in the red 4th district, Randy Feenstra knocked King out in the primary but is locked in a tight race with J.D. Scholten (48-42%, with Scholten rapidly closing the gap).

Iowa has been hit hard by the pandemic and most people understand exactly who to blame: Trump and his puppet governor, Kim Reynolds. On Friday, the state reported 1,111 new cases, bring the state's total to 112,928-- a horrendous 35,793 cases per million Iowans. That's the 7th worst in the country! Writing for the NY Times yesterday, Trip Gabriel and Astead Herndon reported that Reynolds' resistance to a mask mandate is doing in the GOP in Iowa. "As Iowa set a record for patients hospitalized with Covid-19," they wrote, "Gov. Kim Reynolds appeared at an indoor fund-raiser for the Republican Party this week, just days after joining President Trump at one of his huge rallies in Des Moines, where she tossed hats to the clamorous crowd. At neither event were social distancing or face masks high priorities. The rally last week defied guidelines by the White House’s own health experts that crowds in central Iowa be limited to 25. Iowa’s governor is not on the ballot next month. But her defiant attitude toward the advice of health experts on how to fight the coronavirus outbreak, as her state sees a grim tide of new cases and deaths, may be dragging down fellow Republicans who are running, including Mr. Trump and Senator Joni Ernst."

Older voters, in particular, have abandoned the GOP in droves because of the risk Trump and Reynolds are needlessly subjecting them to by ignoring public health professionals.
“Our older Iowans-- many have not been able to leave their homes because they do not feel safe,” said Representative Cindy Axne, a first-term Democrat who represents Des Moines and southwest Iowa. “If you go into a grocery store, the large majority of people are not wearing masks.”

Ms. Axne added that disappointment with the governor’s handling of the virus was lifting Democrats like her who are on the ballot this year. “Voters know we’re standing up to keep their families safe,” she said.

...Reynolds has called mask mandates “feel-good” actions and refused to issue a statewide directive, unlike Republican governors in such states as Texas and Ohio. At the same time, she has blocked municipalities from enforcing their own mask edicts. Iowa was one of only a few states that never imposed a full stay-at-home order, and it let restaurants, bars and hair salons reopen earlier than most places. Still, the hospitality and retail sectors are struggling because consumers have not fully returned.

Pressed in September if she would consider a mask mandate as cases began to rise again, Ms. Reynolds said, “Nope, not going to happen.” She said she trusted Iowans, armed with data about the virus, to make their own decisions.

...A survey by the Des Moines Register and Mediacom in September showed a plurality of Iowans, 47 percent, disapproved of Ms. Reynolds’s handling of the pandemic, 15 percentage points worse than the number who disapproved in June. For the first time since Ms. Reynolds, 61, became governor in 2017, more Iowans said the state was on the wrong track than headed in the right direction, according to the poll.
Daniel Deitrich is currently on tour with Vote Common Good. He isn't from Iowa; he's from South Bend, Indiana and grew up in an evangelical community and served a local evangelical church there... until they took exception to his spiritual-political outspokenness-- epitomized by this epic song, "Hymn For the 81%," a reference to the 81% of evangelicals who voted for Trump in 2016.

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Foreign Correspondent: What Bolivia Can Teach the U.S. About Fair Elections-- The South American Nation Sets An Example Of How To Undo A Coup



-by Reese Erlich

Imagine the following nightmare: The US faces a close vote in the presidential election. Trump claims voter fraud and seeks backing from the nation’s military, who then stage a coup to keep him in power.

Farfetched? The Trump Administration already did it in Bolivia last year.

In October 2019, officials in Washington, D.C., orchestrated phony claims of election fraud by Bolivia’s socialist government. The military forced the winner, President Evo Morales, to flee the country. It then installed an ultra-right regime that carried out civilian massacres and arrested opponents on trumped up charges.

But the people of Bolivia never accepted the coup regime. On October 18 this year they voted overwhelmingly to elect Luis Arce Catacora of the leftist Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), the party founded by Morales. Arce easily surpassed conservative, former president Carlos Mesa and far-right candidate Luis Fernando Camacho.

Thomas Field, associate professor Global Security and Intelligence at Arizona’s Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, tells me the US can learn from Bolivia’s 2019 election. The coup leaders claimed fraud based on a preliminary count and rejected the final count that included late reports from rural areas.

“You have to wait until all the votes are counted,” he says. “Late votes matter.”

In Bolivia, opposition parties accepted the 2020 election results, even the ultra-right wingers. Trump, however, has refused to agree to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses.

“If the far right in Bolivia is more democratic than Trump,” Field says, “we’re in deep trouble.”

Earlier elections

During a 2008 trip to Bolivia on assignment for NPR’s Latino USA, I covered attempts by right-wingers to oust Morales through a referendum. But he defeated the effort and was later reelected president three times.

In October 2019, Morales ran for a fourth term. The official vote count showed he beat his closest opponent by just over 10 percent. In response, the Organization of American States (OAS) insisted that a major discrepancy between the preliminary quick count and the final tally showed Morales couldn’t have won. The opposition claimed fraud.

The military backed street demonstrations in middle- and upper-class neighborhoods, and forced Morales to resign. He fled the country and took exile in Argentina.

But the OAS attack on the elections quickly fell apart. As two election specialists wrote in the Washington Post, “the statistical evidence does not support the claim of fraud in Bolivia’s October [2019] election.”

Jake Johnston, a senior research associate at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C., wrote an eighty-five-page analysis of the 2019 elections.

“The OAS grossly misrepresented the facts,” he tells me in an interview. The organization manipulated the data in order to reach “a political conclusion aimed at justifying the removal of a democratically elected president.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, US Ambassador to the OAS Carlos Trujillo played a key role in “steering” the OAS “to report widespread fraud and pushed the Trump Administration to support the ouster of Morales.”

U.S. role

The ruling elite in Washington has long opposed the socialist policies of Bolivia for economic and geopolitical reasons. The MAS government established close relations with Cuba, Venezuela, and other leftist governments in Latin America. Bolivia is rich in natural gas and contains 70 percent of the world’s lithium, a key mineral used in electric car batteries.

MAS sought to break the traditional model of foreign corporations extracting minerals and shipping them abroad. Morales wanted to generate jobs by manufacturing lithium batteries and started a pilot project to make electric cars.

After the coup, however, the regime wanted to return to the old extractive model and wooed Elon Musk, founder of the Tesla electric car company. Musk publicly supported the coup.

In a twitter exchange, Musk wrote, “We will coup whoever we want! Deal with it.”

Socialism in Bolivia

MAS, which was first elected in 2006, produced impressive economic gains. Extreme poverty dropped from 36 to 17 percent. The socialists introduced a universal old age pension program and cut unemployment by 50 percent.

Bolivia went from being the second-poorest country in South America to a lower-middle tier country, according to an analysis by the World Bank.

For the first time in Bolivia’s history, the country’s Indigenous people saw significant economic improvements and steps towards political empowerment. In 2009, a new constitution provided rights for the country’s thirty-six Indigenous groups, including equal status for their judicial systems and government courts.

International election observers agreed that the October 18 vote was free and fair. All of the ballots were counted in public, according to Leonardo Flores, an official election observer and member of the US-based group Code Pink. The vote tally was posted publicly at all precincts, allowing for a quick count of the ballots.

“These elections are much more transparent than in the US,” Flores tells me in a phone interview from the capital city of La Paz.

Arce won a decisive 55 percent of the vote, a 21-point lead over his closest rival, Carlos Mesa.

2020 elections

MAS won the election, according to Bolivia expert Field, by mobilizing its strong, traditional base and picking up support from those disgusted with the coup regime.

The coup leaders carried out brutal massacres against the opposition when they came to power in 2019, and gave security forces immunity from prosecution.

“It will go down in history as one of the most brutal regimes in decades,” Field says.

Flores adds, “This was very much a vote against fascism and a vote for socialism.”

Flores notes that MAS is not a traditional political party because it works closely with grassroots unions, peasant associations, and neighborhood groups-- all of which promise to keep pressure on the new MAS government to maintain progressive policies.

Flores describes a recent meeting in which members of the Women’s Alliance criticized what they considered the demobilization of the social movements prior to the coup. Leftist street demonstrations had largely stopped during the Morales presidency, the women said, but, as one activist put it, “We will be willing to go to the streets now.”

Serious problems ahead

The new government faces serious problems when it comes into office next month. The country is reeling from an international recession, low commodity prices and a spreading coronavirus pandemic.

MAS will have to revamp the institutions that provided unemployment, welfare, and pensions.

President Arce promises to re-nationalize key industries as a means of raising government funds. “We need public companies and also solid tax revenues to guarantee all the social programs we have,” he said in April.

Meanwhile, Flores hopes people in the US learn the lessons of Bolivia.

If Trump tries to stay in power despite losing the election,  Flores says, “Lawsuits and speeches by Democratic Party leaders” won't be enough. “You have to organize and take to the streets.”


Reese Erlich’s Foreign Correspondent column appears every two weeks. Erlich is an adjunct professor in International Studies at the University of San Francisco. Follow him on Twitter, @ReeseErlich; friend him on Facebook; and visit his webpage.

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Despite Cheri Bustos, Some Progressives May Win Seats On November 3-- But Dozens Of Wretched ConservaDems Will For Sure



The bell is tolling loudly now-- and the Republicans finally-- albeit too late-- hear it, as their pollsters and operatives tell them that Democrats are turning out more low-frequency and newly registered voters than Republicans are. Marc Caputo and Zach Montellaro report that the early vote lead for Democrats is massive. As of yesterday, 52,718,496 people had already voted 36,518,179 by mail and I16,200,317 in person. "Democrats," they wrote yesterday, "have opened up a yawning gap in early voting over Republicans in six of the most crucial battleground states — but that only begins to tell the story of their advantage heading into Election Day... [T]he turnout disparity with new and less-reliable voters has forced Republican political operatives to take notice."

Democrats are ahead of Republicans by 10 points in Florida, 16 points in Arizona, 24 points in Michigan 14 points in North Carolina, a crazy 46 points in Pennsylvania (where a million and a half people have already voted) and 22 points in Wisconsin. Republicans better hope for sunny weather on November 3rd.

And this is not just about Biden. Even the DCCC is waking up to the fact that this is going to be the biggest wave since the DCCC's top IE recipient, Harley Rouda, was still a Republican. They're spending real money in districts that Trump won big in 2016, although exclusively on behalf of their conservative candidates with substantial spends being made for right-of-center (like Cheri Bustos herself who is working furiously to re-make the Democratic Party into an even more right-of-center, pro-corporate party) candidates like Dan Feehan (MN), Kathleen Williams (MT) Christina Hale (IN), Hiral Tipirneni (AZ), Jill Schupp (MO), Sri Kulkarni (TX)... each of whom has been endorsed by the Wall Street owned-and-operated New Dems.

Even without any help from the DCCC, progressives in similar districts-- like Mike Siegel and Julie Oliver in Texas, Audrey Denny and Liam O'Mara in California, J.D. Scholten in Iowa, Nate McMurray in New York, Jon Hoadley in Michigan and Adam Christensen in Florida-- also have good shots at winning "impossible" districts. You can contribute to their campaigns here.

The slowest, most cautious prognostication outfit in the biz, Cook, now rates 17 Republican-held seats as tossups, which is safe to interpret that Democrats will win just about all of them:
AZ-06- David Schweikert (R+9)
CA-25- Mike Garcia (even, but with a Democratic voter registration advantage)
IL-13- Rodney Davis (R+3)
IN-05 Susan Brooks (open) (R+9)
MI-03 Justin Amash (open) (R+6)
MN-01- Jim Hagedorn (R+5)
MO-02 Ann Wagner (R+8)
NE-02- Donald J Bacon (R+4)
NJ-02- Jeff Van Drew (R+1)
NY-02- Peter King (Open) (R+3)
NY-24- John Katko (D+3)
OH-01- Steve Chabot (R+5)
PA-10 Scott Perry (R+6)
TX-21- Chip Roy (R+10)
TX-22- Pete Olson (Open) (R+10)
TX-24- Kenny Marchant (Open) (R+9)
VA-05- Denver Riggleman (Open) (R+6)
They also identify 15 GOP-held seats to be what they call "lean Republican" and some of these are also very likely to flip blue
AK-AL- Don Young (R+9)
AR-02- French Hill (R+7)
CA-50- (Vacant) (R+11)
CO-03- (Open) (R+6)
FL-15- (Open) (R+6)
MI-06- Fred Upton (R+4)
MT-AL- (Open) (R+11)
NC-08- Hudson (R+5)
NC-09- Bishop (R+7)
NC-11- (Vacant) (R+9)
NY-01- Lee Zeldin (R+5)
PA-01- Brian Fitzpatrick (R+1)
TX-03- VanTaylor (R+13)
TX-10- Michael McCaul (R+9)
WA-03- Jaime Herrera Beutler (R+4)
So what could go wrong? THe voters could figure out that the DCCC recruited the most putrid roster of candidates in history. But I doubt the voters care. They're just totally driven by animus towards Trump and his enablers. By the way, do you feel inspired by Matthew Grimm's song and video up top?

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