Posts Tagged ‘Election 2018’

The geography gap

November 14, 2018

The difference between Republican and Democratic voting in urban and rural areas has grown to the point where it is almost as great as the difference between non-white and white voters

In 2018, Democrats swept the cities by a huge majority, carried the suburbs by a small majority and were wiped out in the rural areas.  Even though the rural areas are smaller in population, the Democrats will have to figure out ways to carry them if they want to win the Senate and be sure of winning the Electoral College.

And it’s no use for Democrats to complain about the Constitutional requirement that every state have two Senators, which allows thinly-populated rural states to dominate.  That is the one provision of the Constitution that is un-amendable (Article V).

In theory the Electoral College, which is based on combined Senate and House representation, might be changed, but ratifying an amendment to the Constitution requires approval of three-quarters of the states and even introducing one is extremely difficult (Article V again).

LINK

A Split Decision in a Divided Nation by Bruce Mehlman for Mehlman-Castagnetti business analysts.

Republicans Tighten Their Grip on Farm Country by Tom Philpott for Mother Jones.  [Added 11/19/2018]

To Win Rural America, Dems Must Lean Into Progressive Policies by Matthew Hildreth for Daily Yonder.

Why Pelosi is the big winner in the mid-terms

November 7, 2018

Nancy Pelosi is the big winner in the 2018 election campaign.  Her faction remained in control of the Democratic Party, despite a progressive insurgency, and then went on to win a majority in the House of Representatives.

She’ll become Speaker of the House again, making her the highest-ranking Democratic elected official.  This is a better outcome, from my standpoint, than a Republican victory in the House races would have been, but it means that the House will not become a forum for proposing changes for the better.

Pelosi has said that she will try to restore “pay as you go” budgeting—which means no big infrastructure program and no Medicare for All.

Nancy Pelosi

It opens the door to another “grand compromise” proposal, in which Democrats offer to cut back on Social Security and Medicare for future retirees in return for repeal of recent tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.

Control of the House gives the Democratic leadership an opportunity to challenge the Pentagon budget and some of the ongoing wars, since all appropriations bills must originate in the House.

There might be some resistance to supporting Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen, but otherwise I expect Democrats in Congress to keep on voting for whatever military spending Trump asks for.

There is a fundamental structural problem in American politics, which is that there are three main political factions trying to operate through a two-party system.  One is the right wing, represented by Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell.  Another is the center, represented by Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton.  The third is the left, represented by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

The Trump Republicans now dominate their party.  Centrist opponents to Trump have been driven out.  The Pelosi Democrats are still the dominant faction in their party.  The Sanders Democrats have not been crushed and may yet win in the long run.

The problem is, from my standpoint, is that even Bernie Sanders is not a peace candidate.  He is not as bloodthirsty as Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, but he has never questioned the overall goal of U.S. worldwide military domination or considered how to shift from a war to a peace economy.

So long as the United States is on a permanent war footing, the resources won’t be available to meet the nation’s real needs.

On the whole, the country is somewhat better off—less badly off—than it was before the election.  But Donald Trump still controls 2.5 of the three branches of government, and his opponents need a better vision than putting things back the way they were in 2014.

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Progressives play on a field tilted against them

October 31, 2018

Progressives face unfair handicaps in American politics today.  The playing field is tilted against them.  Their opponents are dealing from a stacked deck.  Their path to victory is narrow and perilous.

There’s nothing to be gained by complaining about this.  Instead progressives have to figure on ways to win against the odds—which has been done before and can be done again.  Here’s what they are up against:

>The Supreme Court has an anti-progressive majority.  Given the ages of the incumbent justices, this is likely to be locked in for a generation or more.

But this was also true during the Progressive era of the early 20th century and the New Deal era of the 1930s.  Progressives in 1913 pushed through the 16th and 17th Amendments to the Constitution, which allowed Congress to enact an income tax (previously declared unconstitutional) and requiring direct election of Senators, previously elected by state legislatures.

President Franklin Roosevelt failed in his proposal to change the makeup of the Supreme Court by enlarging it, but Congress does have the power to change the structure of the judicial system and the jurisdiction of the various courts.  I personally wouldn’t want it to come to that, but this would be a “nuclear option” if all else failed.

>The Electoral College and the Senate give over-representation to thinly-populated states, where anti-progressive forces rule.  The provision that each state has two Senators is the one provision of the U..S. Constitution that is un-amendable and it makes reform of the Electoral College a practical impossibility.

There’s nothing to be gained in complaining about this.  Progressives will have to carry their message to the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain states.  The people of these states suffer at the hands of agribusiness monopolies and exploitative mining companies.  Progressives ought to have ideas to change this.

>Gerrymandering and voter registration purges block the democratic process.  This was part of a strategy called RedMap, implemented in 2010, to diminish voting by African-Americans, young people and others likely to vote Democratic.

So far federal judges have overruled some of the more blatant attempts to rig elections, but this will become less likely to happen now that there is a right-wing majority on the Supreme Court and Mitch McConnell and the Republicans push through appointments of right-wing judges.

The consolation here is that these tactics only work to tilt the balance in close elections.  The task of Progressives will be to get majorities too large to counteract, then to use their new power to reverse vote-rigging.

>Voting machines may be tampered with.  The solution to this is paper ballots, hand-counted in public.

>Progressives are fighting the power of big money.  Wall Street and Silicon Valley money flows mostly toward establishment Democrats, oil company and defense contractor money flows mostly toward establishment Republicans.  The Supreme Court has struck down restrictions on campaign spending, and is unlikely to change back.

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Will the Democrats make a difference this time?

October 30, 2018

Donald Trump is a bad presidenteven worse than I expected him to be.  So it will be a good thing if Democrats can gain control of the House of Representatives, leaving Trump and the Republicans in control of only 2.5 of the three branches of government.

The trouble with the Democrats is that they regard Trump’s election in 2016  as a black swan kind of event that nobody could have foreseen and wouldn’t ever happen again. This means that their vision is limited to raging against Trump and not to moving the country forward.

The November-December issue of Mother Jones—a magazine I subscribe to and admire because of its excellent investigative reporting—contains three articles that illustrate the Democratic lack of vision.

The first is an interview with the war hawk Max Boot on why he switched from Republican to Democrat.  I think there is something wrong with the Democratic Party if its leaders feel comfortable with somebody like him.

The second is an article praising the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for freezing out progressives and recruiting candidates on the basis of their ability to raise money. This is supposedly the way to success—despite continuing Democratic losses since 2008 while following this policy.

The third is an article by Kevin Drum quoting polls that indicate that Trump voters are motivated by racial anxiety, not economic anxiety, but that Trump’s racial views are unpopular with the country at large.  Drum says Democrats should campaign on both economic issues and racial justice issues (which I agree with), but the logic of his argument is that only racial justice issues matter.

What I take away from the three articles is that none of these writers think the Democratic Party needs to change.  All its leaders need to do is to remind people of how bad President Trump is.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi says that if the Democrats regain the majority, she’ll push for a “pay as you go” budget.  Under Obama, this kind of talk meant a “grand bargain” in which the Democrats agreed to cutbacks in Society Security and Medicare in return for somewhat higher taxes in the upper income brackets.

Pay-as-you-go is certainly incompatible with a big infrastructure program or Medicare for all, both of which the country needs.

I don’t think the Democrats will get anywhere trying to reverse the results of the 2016 elections.  I don’t think they will get anywhere trying to reverse the Brett Kavanaugh appointment to the Supreme Court.  I don’t know what the Mueller investigation may ultimately turn up, but I don’t think Russiagate is a winning issue for Democrats.

The American people want medical care that doesn’t put them at risk of bankruptcy.  They want access to higher education that doesn’t put them at risk of lifetime debt.  They want a trade policy that benefits American workers.  They don’t want unending war.  They don’t want a tiny wealthy elite capturing an ever-greater share of U.S. income.

Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan don’t offer them any kind of realistic hope.  But what do the Democrats offer?

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Americanism and ‘taking a knee’

August 25, 2018

Rep. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso, Texas, is a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, running against incumbent Ted Cruz, an extreme and unpopular right-winger.

He was recently asked whether he thinks NFL football players who kneel during the national anthem, in order to protest police brutality against black people, are showing disrespect to the nation and to veterans.

O’Rourke gave a great answer, which was straightforward, respectful of the questioner and ended:

I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up, or take a knee, for your rights anytime, anywhere, any place.

He is financing his campaign with small donations and does not accept PAC money, but seems to be out-raising Cruz.  I admire the way he campaigns.  I’d like to think he could win.

LINKS

What Democrats can learn from Beto O’Rourke’s viral speech on patriotism and peaceful protest by Chris Riotta for The Independent.

Beto O’Rourke: Ted Cruz’s Punk-Rock Problem by Tessa Stuart for Rolling Stone.

Meet the Kennedyesque Democrat Trying to Beat Ted Cruz by Abigail Tracy for Vanity Fair.

Does Beto O’Rourke Stand a Chance Against Ted Cruz? by Eric Benson for Texas Monthly.

The big thing that Thomas Frank overlooks

July 31, 2018

Thomas Frank is one of my favorite writers.  I like his books.  I like his magazine articles.  I enjoy watching videos of his speeches and interviews.  But there is one thing he doesn’t quite get.

His basic idea is that the Democratic Party is losing because it has abandoned the American working class and the policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.   The leaves them vulnerable to the fake populism of Donald Trump and the right wing of the Republican Party.

Democrats rely on African-Americans, Hispanics and educated professionals of all races reacting against President Trump’s appeal to prejudice against African-Americans and immigrants.

That’s not enough, Frank writes.  Democrats need to stand up for working people of all races—provide free college tuition and Medicare for all, enforce the anti-trust laws and renegotiate NAFTA and other pro-corporate trade treaties.

All this is true and important.

Frank’s mistake is to think that the reason top Democrats are pro-corporate is that they fail to understand their situation.

Shortly after the 36th minute in the video above. he says that the reason the Clintons and their allies have abandoned American labor is that the signature achievement of their generation was to their successful revolt against the New Deal, and nobody will disavow their generation’s signature achievement.

If they really don’t understand, it is because, as Upton Sinclair once put it, “it is hard to make a man understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

The wealth and power of the Clintons, like that of the Obamas, is based on their allegiance to Wall Street and the corporate elite.  If they had advocated breaking up the “too big to fail” banks or prosecuting financial fraud, they wouldn’t get six-figure lecture fees from bankers and hedge fund managers.

On a lower levels of government, there is the revolving door between Congress and regulatory agencies on the one hand and Washington lobbyists, law firms and regulated industries on the others.  Neil Barofsky, whose job was oversight of the TARP bailout program, was warned that if he did his job too zealously, he would lose the chance of a good post-government job.  He’s not the only one.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee supports a whole ecology of fund-raisers, pollsters, media specialists and campaign consultants who depend on a system whereby candidates concentrate on raising money and spending it on designated funds.

So it’s not just a matter of waking up to what’s really going on.  It’s a matter of people knowing which side their bread is buttered on.  Or, as the Japanese might say, nobody willingly lets their rice bowl be broken.

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A working man runs without big money backers

November 27, 2017

Randy Bryce, an iron worker who has never held public office except in his union, is running for Congress against Speaker of the House Paul Ryan in 2018.

The odds are against him.  Ryan beat his Democratic opponent by 35 percentage points in 2016.

But Bryce has raised more money – $1.74 million – than any other Democratic congressional candidate at this point, and it’s all or mostly in donations of $22 or less.

Times are changing.   Nowadays you can run for office and have a chance to win, without being a rich person and without being beholden to rich people.

LINKS

When a Political Endorsement Actually Means Something – Bernie Sanders and Randy Bryce on Down With Tyranny!

Can “the Iron Stache” really take down Paul Ryan? by Tim Murphy for Mother Jones.

The hollowness of the Democratic campaign

July 10, 2017

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, as part of a fund-raising e-mail, asked donors to vote on which of the following they prefer for the next DCCC bumper sticker.   They illustrate what’s wrong with the Democratic Party.

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What’s noteworthy about these slogans is that they are almost empty of content.  They only point they make is that Democrats are not Republicans.  This actually is the main Democratic talking point.

The middle two refer to an incident that most voters have probably forgotten or didn’t notice in the first place.   Also, in the context of present-day American politics, Resistance as a political stance is a defense of the status quo.   It doesn’t offer a path to anything better.

To show what I mean, here are meaningful slogans.

END THE WARS! DEMOCRATS 2018

DEFEND THE BILL OF RIGHTS! DEMOCRATS 2018

PUT AMERICANS TO WORK! DEMOCRATS 2018

HEALTH CARE FOR ALL! DEMOCRATS 2018

HANDS OFF SOCIAL SECURITY! DEMOCRATS 2018

I have a much longer list of issues in mind, but you get the idea.

Of course the present leaders of the Democratic Party would never adopt such slogans, and not just because they would open up so many incumbent Democrats to charges of hypocrisy.

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