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Tuesday, January 16, 2018


Oh Sarah

by digby

In this moment of growing feminist awareness and solidarity it would be a mistake to think that everything has changed:

During a White House event on Tuesday entitled “A Conversation with the Women of America,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders advised women to ask their husbands and boyfriends to buy them jewelry. And things got even stranger from there.

Sanders plug for jewelry came after she introduced a woman named Sharon who told panelists — including White House staffer Ivanka Trump and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao — that she’s a business owner.

“I’m a jewelry store owner of more than 20 years in the Atlanta area, so I’m ecstatic about the tax reform bill,” Sharon said, at which point Sanders jumped in with some advice.

“Give your husbands, your boyfriends her contact information,” Sanders said, with Ivanka Trump adding, “We’re going to have to send some people your way… my secret skill, matchmaking.”

Women can buy their own jewelry these days. Maybe Sarah hasn't heard.

The next thing you know, Sarah's going to be holding Tupperware parties in the West Wing. (Not that there's anything wrong with selling Tupperware. Just that Huckabee Sanders probably ought to stick to her own business...)

In case you were wondering:
Since taking office, the Trump administration has taken steps to stop monitoring the wage gap, worked to dismantle legislation that prevents sex and gender discrimination in education, and made it easier for employers to stop covering contraceptive coverage, among other measures that have made life more difficult for women.


Listen up, racist Trump voters: you personally need immigration

by digby

If you persist in this inane demand that the country be purged of immigrants (and no new ones allowed) you're going to destroy yourselves. And you're going to take the rest of us with you.

Ron Brownstein smartly points out that us old white people depend upon younger immigrants to help finance our Social Security and Medicare. I know you conservative Trump voters all think you'll win the lottery and that the government put's your Social Security payments in a special envelope and then gives it back to you when you get old but that isn't really how it works. That isn't how any of this works:

The irony in President Donald Trump's hostility to immigration, expressed again in reports of his vulgar comments about Africa and Haiti last week, is that in appealing to the racial and cultural resentments of his political base he is directly threatening their economic interests.

The equation is unmistakable: as America ages, the older and blue-collar whites at the core of Trump's electoral coalition in 2016 need more working-age immigrants to pay the taxes that fund Social Security and Medicare.

Without robust immigration, each American worker will need to support substantially more retirees in the future than workers do today. And that will greatly increase the pressure for either unsustainable tax increases or biting benefit reductions in the federal retirement programs that the older and blue-collar whites central to Trump's support rely upon so heavily.

Trump's hostility to immigration ignores one of the central dynamics of 21st century American life: an increasingly non-white workforce will pay the taxes that support Social Security and Medicare for a rapidly growing and preponderantly white senior population.

"As every baby boomer retires over the next 15 years, we are going to need many more of these (diverse) young people to take their place," says William Frey, a demographer at the center-left Brookings Institution.

Because the US largely shut off immigration between 1924 and 1965, today's senior population is preponderantly white. Frey has calculated that three-fourths of all Americans 55 and older are white. Those older whites were the cornerstone of Trump's coalition in the 2016 election: whites over 45 gave Trump over three-fifths of their votes, and provided a majority of all the votes he received, according to exit polls.

Frey and other demographers project the white share of the senior population will decline very slowly over the coming decades-even as the total number of seniors explodes. The Social Security Trustees have forecast that the number of seniors receiving Social Security and Medicare will grow from about 48 million today to 86 million by 2050. That's an increase of nearly 40 million.

Though many Americans incorrectly think of the programs as a kind of massive 401(k) where their earlier taxes pay for their own later benefits, Social Security and Medicare are funded by what amounts to a generational compact. Each generation of workers, through their payroll taxes, funds the benefits for retirees at the same time. As the number of seniors increases, that means the US needs to increase the number of workers if it is to keep a sustainable balance between those receiving benefits from the programs and those paying the taxes that support them.

Because of the underlying child bearing and aging trends among native-born Americans, that won't be possible without immigration.

Frey has calculated that from 2000 through 2016 the absolute number of whites younger than 15 -- and not just the share -- declined in 45 of the 50 states. (The only states that increased their population of whites under 15 over that period were Utah, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Carolina and Idaho.) Over those years, the total number of whites younger than 15 fell by nearly 6 million, Frey found, while the number of Hispanic, Asian and mixed race kids increased by about seven million. (The number of young African-Americans slightly declined too.)

Like other demographers, Frey projects that the 2020 Census will find that non-white kids represent a majority of all Americans younger than 18; kids of color are already a majority of all K-12 public school students.

What these numbers make clear is that, whatever Trump does to restrict immigration, there is no cavalry of white kids coming to fill the jobs that the mostly white baby boom is vacating.
Non-white young people-reinforced by future immigrants-will drive almost all of the workforce's future growth, according to widely respected projections by the non-partisan Pew Research Center.

In a detailed forecast last year, Pew examined the trajectory of the prime working-age population -- that is, ages 25 to 64 -- over the next two decades. Strikingly, it found that over that period the number of prime working-age adults whose parents were both born in the US will actually decline by over eight million. But Pew projects that loss will be offset by increases in the number of both prime-working age adults who are either the children of immigrants (13.5 million), or future immigrants themselves (17.6 million).

Looking further ahead, Pew has calculated that under current levels of immigration, the workforce will increase by about 30 million people through 2065-virtually equal to the increase in the senior population over coming decades. Almost all of that workforce growth will come from immigrants and their children, which Pew projects to account for fully 88% of the nation's total population increase over that period.

A growing workforce would ease the fiscal pressure that the expanding senior population will impose on Social Security and Medicare. But Trump's efforts to reduce legal immigration would consign the U.S. to virtually no growth in the workforce, Pew projects. Trump has endorsed legislation from Republican Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia, two attendees at last Thursday's explosive White House meeting, that would cut the total level of legal immigration in half. Pew projects that under that level of future legal immigration, the size of the workforce will remain virtually stagnant over the next half century.

If the workforce remains essentially unchanged while the senior population grows by 40 million, each worker will be required to fund 80% more seniors than they do now. That demographic imbalance represents a political tourniquet that will inexorably increase pressure for cuts in Social Security and Medicare -- a prospect that polls show are anathema to the older and working-class whites Trump relies on.

"We shouldn't be shutting the door on this (immigration)," Frey says. "Trump ... is really putting us in a very difficult situation demographically and also economically in the future."

Yet Trump, like many congressional Republicans and conservative commentators, almost always portrays immigrants as economic, cultural and security threats. From the outset, Trump's coalition has been centered on the voters -- primarily older, blue-collar, evangelical and rural whites -- most uneasy about the growing number of immigrants and demographic change more broadly.
Voters who supported deporting all undocumented immigrants represented a minority in almost all the Republican primaries in 2016 -- yet provided a majority of Trump's votes in almost all of those contests.

Pew Research polls last year found that the strongest predictors of warm feelings toward Trump were agreement with the ideas that the growing number of immigrants "threatens traditional American customs and values," that Islam is inherently more violent than other religions and that growing diversity overall was bad for the country.

In the general election against Hillary Clinton, Trump won 26 of the 30 states with the smallest share of foreign-born residents and lost 16 of the 20 with the most. And in a national NBC/Wall Street Journal poll last September, Trump voters from 2016 were nearly five times as likely as Clinton voters to say immigration weakens, rather than strengthens, the nation.
In his repeated appeals to nativist sentiments, and his multiplying efforts to reduce immigration and remove immigrants (such as those from El Salvador), Trump may indeed be reflecting the racial and cultural anxieties of many of his voters. But the principal economic impact of slashing immigration as deeply as Trump is seeking would be to destabilize the federal retirement programs that are indispensable to those same voters. With his systematic offensive against immigration, Trump is feeding the prejudices of some of his supporters -- while threatening their ability to keep food on the table when they retire.

Yet another reason why racism is stupid and self-defeating as well as being immoral and un-American.




by digby

Luke Russert used to call Senator Joni Ernst the crown jewel of the GOP caucus:

ERNST: He is standing up for a lot of the countries that — where we have seen some —

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Name a few. Could you name a few?

ERNST: Yeah, you bet. Norway is one them.


ERNST: No, well, okay, how many of you think — you know, you laugh, but folks, who borders Norway?


ERNST: Russia.

She too is a stable genius.


QOTD: Trump wishing he could use "tough measures"

by digby

Ok, he didn't say that exactly. But it was clear. Speaking to a woman's group today he said this about illegal drug use:

"And it's a worldwide problem. Some areas take care of it through very, very tough measures. We don't. We're not prepared to do that -- I guess -- they say --as a country."

It was obvious that he didn't agree with those who say that the US isn't prepared to use "very, very tough measures" against drug users.

He has told his pal Philippine strongman Rodrigo Duterte that he thinks he's doing it "the right way"

You remember what that is, right?

A few weeks ago the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography was awarded to a freelance photojournalist named Daniel Berehulak for a multimedia report that was published in The New York Times in December called "They Are Slaughtering Us Like Animals." It documented the deaths of 57 homicide victims in the Philippine government's brutal campaign against drug users and dealers. The photographer had this comment upon winning the prize:

The story is indeed important. Those photographs document the grotesque campaign of terror in the Philippines, which experts believe has left more than 7,000 people dead in less than a year from extrajudicial killings at the hands of police and vigilantes.

The Philippines is currently run by President Rodrigo Duterte, who won the election last June after his final campaign speech, when he said, "Forget the laws on human rights; if I make it to the presidential palace, I will do just what I did as mayor [of the coastal city of Davao]. You drug pushers, holdup men and do-nothings, you better go out because I'd kill you." He kept to his word, telling his police forces the day after he was sworn in, "Do your duty, and in the process, [if] you kill 1,000 persons, I will protect you." Last September Duterte proudly compared himself to Adolf Hitler:
Hitler massacred 3 million Jews. Now there is 3 million, what is it, 3 million drug addicts [in the Philippines], there are. I'd be happy to slaughter them. At least if Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have [me]. You know, my victims, I would like to be all criminals, to finish the problem of my country and save the next generation from perdition.

Duterte admitted to being a murderer, and not in the abstract sense of being a leader who orders killing by others. He says he has personally pulled the trigger. As the New York Times reported in December:

“I killed about three of them because there were three of them,” Mr. Duterte told reporters at a news conference in Manila, the capital. “I don’t really know how many bullets from my gun went inside their bodies.”

“It happened. I cannot lie about it,” he said in English.

The remarks followed comments he made on Monday, when he told business leaders that as mayor, he had patrolled the streets on a motorcycle and killed criminal suspects in order to set an example to his police officers.

None of that stopped President-elect Donald Trump from chatting up Duterte after the election, telling him that he was going about his war on drugs "the right way." And last Saturday night the White House released a statement that the two men had had another "very friendly conversation," in which they had talked about regional security and "discussed the fact that the Philippine government is fighting very hard to rid its country of drugs." (That's one way of putting it.) It said that "President Trump enjoyed the conversation and looks forward to visiting the Philippines in November" for the East Asia Summit meeting.

Then the statement said that Trump had invited the admitted murderer and Hitler admirer, Rodrigo Duterte, to the White House.

The visit hasn't materialized. But Trump did yuck it up with pal on his Asia trip last fall. He admires him.



The Candy Man Can't

by digby

I wrote about "the candy man", House majority leader Kevin McCarthy for Salon this morning:

On the eve of the Martin Luther King holiday, President Donald Trump visited Trump International Golf Club for his usual weekend promotional appearance at one of his properties. He stopped off to assure the gathered press that he is not a racist:

Standing next to Trump in that clip is his newest BFF and chief enabler, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. McCarthy was present in the infamous White House "shithole" meeting, but has not weighed in on what exactly he saw and heard. Unlike the Hawaii state government Trump extols in that comment, the president has refused to take responsibility for the international furor resulting from his reported actions. Trump needn't worry that McCarthy will tell the truth because of personal integrity or lack of loyalty. But he ought to be a little bit concerned that his pal will let something slip inadvertently. They don't call him Kevin "Loose Lips" McCarthy for nothing.

McCarthy first came to national attention when John Boehner resigned from the speakership and he was assumed to be the heir apparent. He is a prolific fundraiser and had worked his way up through the leadership hierarchy the old-fashioned way -- by doing favors for his fellow Republican congressmen. Unfortunately, McCarthy is not as well known for his judgement or intellect, and he made one of the most memorable gaffes in congressional history. He appeared on Sean Hannity's Fox News show and said that he was developing a "fight and win strategy" and used this as an example:

Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought.

Setting aside the neologism, McCarthy effectively admitted that the endless Benghazi investigations were political. Not that everyone didn't know that already, but you can't have the prospective speaker of the House admitting that he is persecuting a rival for political gain. It's a bad look, and it cost McCarthy the job.

More recently, McCarthy was reported to have made a stunning gaffe in June of 2016, telling a group of fellow congressmen: “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump." The first name mentioned refers to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a fellow California Republican who is known to be a vocal Putin apologist.

When word of this comment was leaked to the media last May, McCarthy at first denied saying it -- until he was played a recording of the event, which also featured Speaker Paul Ryan swearing everyone in the room to secrecy. Here is The Washington Post's account:

Before the conversation, McCarthy and Ryan had emerged from separate talks at the Capitol with Ukrainian Prime Minister Vladimir Groysman, who had described a Kremlin tactic of financing populist politicians to undercut Eastern European democratic institutions.

News had just broken the day before in The Washington Post that Russian government hackers had penetrated the computer network of the Democratic National Committee, prompting McCarthy to shift the conversation from Russian meddling in Europe to events closer to home.

Some of the lawmakers laughed at McCarthy’s comment. Then McCarthy quickly added: “Swear to God.”

Like Trump, he doesn't seem to have learned discretion. Unlike Trump, he knows how to curry favor with important people. Indeed, that seems to be his one talent.

Trump either doesn't know about that Putin comment or has chosen to forget about it, because McCarthy has become one of the most powerful Trump enablers on Capitol Hill. He apparently decided that being in league with a man he suspects of being on Putin's payroll is just part of the job of majority leader. According to a new profile by Josh Dawsey and Robert Costa in the Post, he has taken to it with relish.

They recount the astonishing little anecdote that McCarthy once observed that Trump, like many six-year-olds, only likes the pink and the red Starburst candies, but none of the other colors. So McCarthy got a staff member to buy some in bulk and put the president's favorites in a jar with McCarthy's name on it. They apparently have been chatting on the phone regularly since the campaign and often watch movies together where they both talk all the way through. Trump calls him "my Kevin."

At the recent GOP Camp David retreat to talk about the impending midterm elections, McCarthy was lauded for his ability to communicate with Trump using colorful pictures and big charts to show him the lay of the land in this crucial year. He urged the president to do all he can to raise money for Republicans. There is no word about whether McCarthy also whispered in the president's ear that no Republicans actually want him to campaign for them, but it's unlikely. If there's one thing that sycophantic courtiers understand better than anyone, it's that you never let on that the sovereign is unpopular.

There are more and more Republicans joining Trump's court these days, apparently operating on the assumption that their own parochial interests are best served by making him successful, or at least by manipulating him for their own ends. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., is tying himself in knots trying to pretend that he hasn't become a fawning yes-man. in a naked attempt to manage the unmanageable, and that has not completely betrayed the independent truth-teller image he's tried to build over the last few decades. It's not working for him.

Meanwhile, McCarthy is actually helping Trump destroy the GOP's chances of holding on to its majority by forcing his own California delegation to vote the party line, in a state that is itching to unseat as many of its remaining Republicans as possible. In just the last few weeks, two longtime GOP congressmen from rapidly diversifying districts in the Southern California suburbs, Reps. Darrell Issa and Ed Royce, announced they would not run for re-election. Both districts are now viewed as likely Democratic pickups, and they're not alone.

Trump has a 22 percent approval rating in California, so you might think Golden State Republicans would be more vocal in their condemnation of Trump and the draconian policies he's proposing. So far they haven't been. Tara Golshan at Vox calls this "The McCarthy Factor," meaning that the fundraising powerhouse constantly assures his delegation that he's got their backs, no matter what. Issa and Royce lost their faith in McCarthy's ability to protect them from a big blue tsunami next fall. Of California's 53 House seats, only 14 are now held by Republicans, seven of those in districts that Hillary Clinton won in 2016.

McCarthy's seat may not be in danger, but his delegation -- like the entire Republican caucus -- could be a lot smaller next year. Unless his strategy of feeding pink Starbursts to a historically unpopular president turns out to be genius.



Bannon to the Grand Jury

by digby

It may not have been
the smartest timing for Trump to destroy Steve Bannon and tweet publicly, “now Sloppy Steve has been dumped like a dog by almost everyone. Too bad!”

Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, was subpoenaed last week by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, to testify before a grand jury as part of the investigation into possible links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

The move marked the first time Mr. Mueller is known to have used a grand jury subpoena to seek information from a member of Mr. Trump’s inner circle. The special counsel’s office has used subpoenas before to seek information on Mr. Trump’s associates and their possible ties to Russia or other foreign governments.

The subpoena could be a negotiating tactic. Mr. Mueller is likely to allow Mr. Bannon to forgo the grand jury appearance if he agrees to instead be questioned by investigators in the less formal setting of the special counsel’s offices about ties between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia and about the president’s conduct in office, according to the person, who would not be named discussing the case. But it was not clear why Mr. Mueller treated Mr. Bannon differently than the dozen administration officials who were interviewed in the final months of last year and were never served with a subpoena.

The subpoena is a sign that Bannon is not personally the focus of the investigation. Justice Department rules allow prosecutors to subpoena to the targets of investigations only in rare circumstances.

On Tuesday, Mr. Bannon testified behind closed doors before the House Intelligence Committee, which is also investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Mr. Bannon did not address reporters before entering the proceeding on Tuesday, and a spokesman for Mr. Mueller and a senior White House lawyer did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Mr. Mueller issued the subpoena after Mr. Bannon was quoted in a new book criticizing Mr. Trump, saying that Donald Trump Jr.’s 2016 meeting with Russians was “treasonous” and predicting that the special counsel investigation would ultimately center on money laundering.

After excerpts from the book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” were published this month, Mr. Trump derided Mr. Bannon publicly and threatened to sue him for defamation. Mr. Bannon was soon ousted as the executive chairman of the hard-right website Breitbart News.

Some legal experts said the subpoena could be a sign that the investigation was intensifying, while others said it may simply have been a negotiating tactic to persuade Mr. Bannon to cooperate with the investigation. The experts also said it could be a signal to Mr. Bannon, who has tried to publicly patch up his falling-out with the president, that despite Mr. Trump’s legal threats, Mr. Bannon must be completely forthcoming with investigators.

Prosecutors generally prefer to interview witnesses before a grand jury when they believe they have information that the witnesses do not know or when they think they might catch the witnesses in a lie. It is much easier for a witness to stop the questioning or sidestep questions in an interview than during grand jury testimony, which is transcribed, and witnesses are required to answer every question.

“By forcing someone to testify through a subpoena, you are providing the witness with cover because they can say, ‘I had no choice — I had to go in and testify about everything I knew,’” said Solomon L. Wisenberg, a prosecutor for the independent counsel that investigated Bill Clinton when he was president.

Bannon's the first insider to receive a subpoena.

He wasn't in the campaign during the period when Jr and Kush were eagerly accepting meetings with Russians offering to help them beat Hillary Clinton. But he was involved in everything that happened toward the end of the campaign, the transition and the first nine months of the campaign.

And Bannon was heavily involved in the Mercer operation which was bankrolling the data mining operation and Cambridge Analytica.

He's been abandoned by everyone. He's got nothing to lose.



He's backsliding

by digby

This Axios report assumes that the Trump White house had somehow improved over the past year which comes as news to me. But if that's so, it didn't last:

After a triumphant end to 2017, White House sources tell Axios that they see a dangerous pattern forming for this year: a backslide into bad habits of the chaotic early days of the Trump presidency.

White House officials had a solid game plan for January: do a long tax-cut victory lap, avoid a government shutdown and swing a DACA deal. Instead, Trump became preoccupied with a gossipy book and the treachery of Steve Bannon, made repeated bizarre public statements about his mental health, misrepresented crucial national security legislation, and sent immigration talks down a “shithole.”

Tax reform focused everyone. With its passage, there's now a bit of a vacuum that has been filled with fighting these wild fires.

Trump has been newly consumed by the kind of grievances that make some Rs cringe and regret their silence. 

"What is the White House about right now?” asked a source close to Trump. “I don't know.”

Chief of Staff John Kelly still has his orderly system firmly in place — there has been no let-up. But the Kelly bubble and schedule restrictions leave the President with more Fox time, and time for tangents.


These three recent events have alarmed some senior administration officials:

Trump's "shithole" (Or was it "shithouse"?) comment that was promptly leaked to the media. You had House Speaker Paul Ryan denouncing it; one Republican in the room (Sen. Lindsey Graham) effectively confirming it; and others, like Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue, saying Trump never said what he was reported to have said.

Trump's over-the-top response to Michael Wolff's book. When most people had moved on, Trump was still ranting about the book, publicly and privately. He continued to tweet about Wolff, which only served to further highlight the material in his book and drive more sales. He remains livid about it. 

Trump's loose tweet — which he was pressured to walk back — in which he misrepresented and publicly trashed crucial national security legislation (FISA) just before the House was due to vote on the bill.

Why this matters: Kelly has worked wonders to impose process over what was an insanely chaotic and dysfunctional West Wing. He never promised to tame Trump's Twitter feed. But he had previously noted with satisfaction to aides that there'd been less of the wild, policy-affecting tweets that distinguished the early White House days.

Republicans inside the administration and on Capitol Hill are becoming increasingly alarmed by the prospects for the 2018 midterms. The White House political operation is still considered lightweight, and officials are still scratching around to fill the external-facing Office of Public Liaison

They got a quote from on of his toadies saying he loves to shake things up and that the public loves it because he was sent to DC to "disrupt" which is cute. And they want to send him on the road to "sell his tax cuts" which they seem to think is really helpful. If he had any discipline it might, I suppose.But put him in front of a crowd and he'll be talking about shitholes within minutes.

He cannot change. The Trump White house is reverting to its natural state.


Clarifying our values

by Tom Sullivan

The #Resistance locks progressives into a confining frame. An energizing one, perhaps, but restrictive nonetheless. With Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2018 behind us and the first anniversary Women's March ahead, and with the next volley from a president dishing red meat for his base coming as surely as the sun rises, perhaps it is time to clarify who we are rather than simply protest what we stand against.

Ed Kilgore offers an anecdote from Rev. William Barber II's book, The Third Reconstruction:

Not long ago I was a guest on Real Time with Bill Maher, with one of America’s most prominent atheists. Wearing my clerical collar, I realized that I stood out among his guests. So I decided to announce to Bill that I, too, am an atheist. He seemed taken aback, so I explained that if we were talking about the God who hates poor people, immigrants, and gay folks, I don’t believe in that God either. Sometimes it helps to clarify our language.
One could say the same about what makes America great. If American greatness means slamming the golden door to fellow human beings, to refugees from places the sitting president considers "shitholes," then I am not an American either.

Kilgore continues:
Recapturing the language of morality from conservatives remains one of Barber’s chief preoccupations. It is often jarring to progressives accustomed to a less fraught rhetoric of gradual social and economic progress to hear someone describe contemporary conservatives as deeply immoral people who are motivated by greed and who are making a mockery of their professed religious convictions. But while the Moral Movement was fully underway before Donald Trump executed his takeover of the GOP and the conservative movement, it now seems even more appropriate to describe the right as seized by a frenzy of immoral greed when it’s headed by the great narcissist and business pirate whose campaign was fueled by cultural resentments and hatred of “losers.” But Barber won’t let Republicans hide behind Trump:
Trump is a symptom of a deeper moral malady. And if he was gone tomorrow or impeached tomorrow, the senators and the House of Representatives and Ryan and McConnell and Graham and all them would still be there. And what we have found, Amy, when we look at them, no matter how crazy they call him or names they call him or anger they get with him, it’s all a front, because at the end of the day, they might disagree with his antics, but they support his agenda.
We are called to better things. The last president, a man not born to wealth or the privilege of whiteness, had a clearer sense of who we are. Nancy LeTourneau excerpts Barack Obama's speech at the Edmund Pettis Bridge:
For we were born of change. We broke the old aristocracies, declaring ourselves entitled not by bloodline, but endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. We secure our rights and responsibilities through a system of self-government, of and by and for the people. That’s why we argue and fight with so much passion and conviction, because we know our efforts matter. We know America is what we make of it.

We are Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea – pioneers who braved the unfamiliar, followed by a stampede of farmers and miners, entrepreneurs and hucksters. That’s our spirit.

We are Sojourner Truth and Fannie Lou Hamer, women who could do as much as any man and then some; and we’re Susan B. Anthony, who shook the system until the law reflected that truth. That’s our character.

We’re the immigrants who stowed away on ships to reach these shores, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free – Holocaust survivors, Soviet defectors, the Lost Boys of Sudan. We are the hopeful strivers who cross the Rio Grande because they want their kids to know a better life. That’s how we came to be.

We’re the slaves who built the White House and the economy of the South. We’re the ranch hands and cowboys who opened the West, and countless laborers who laid rail, and raised skyscrapers, and organized for workers’ rights.

We’re the fresh-faced GIs who fought to liberate a continent, and we’re the Tuskeegee Airmen, Navajo code-talkers, and Japanese-Americans who fought for this country even as their own liberty had been denied. We’re the firefighters who rushed into those buildings on 9/11, and the volunteers who signed up to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.

We are the gay Americans whose blood ran on the streets of San Francisco and New York, just as blood ran down this bridge.

We are storytellers, writers, poets, and artists who abhor unfairness, and despise hypocrisy, and give voice to the voiceless, and tell truths that need to be told.

We are the inventors of gospel and jazz and the blues, bluegrass and country, hip-hop and rock and roll, our very own sounds with all the sweet sorrow and reckless joy of freedom.

We are Jackie Robinson, enduring scorn and spiked cleats and pitches coming straight to his head, and stealing home in the World Series anyway.

We are the people Langston Hughes wrote of, who “build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how.”

We are the people Emerson wrote of, “who for truth and honor’s sake stand fast and suffer long;” who are “never tired, so long as we can see far enough.”

That’s what America is.
What we face today is a resurgence of the old aristocracies we thought subdued, people who believe their wealth and/or (white) bloodlines entitle them to count more than their neighbors. If the president's comments are not convincing, perhaps his and his party's opposition to conducting an accurate 2020 census is.

In an interview last weekend, Kathrin Levitan, author of "A Cultural History of the British Census," told With Good Reason that when the British first proposed conducting a census, landed elites opposed it. They saw its democratic implications:
Landed elites basically said, we don't think there should be a census because the census suggests everyone is worth the same amount. It suggests that every person is valued the same. And that was not the way they understood social hierarchy in 18th century Britain. ... They saw the census as having dangerous, equalizing implications.
It was ever so with royalty, their vassals and loyal peasantry. We Americans who believe in equality and not just the rhetorical veneer of it have a duty to proclaim it even more loudly than we condemn racism and ethno-nationalism. Who we are is a more powerful counter to who they are.

* * * * * * * *

Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Flake = Trump 

by tristero

Jeff Flake is getting attention again from the mainstream media for "standing up to Trump." He's obviously positioning himself as the "serious" alternative in 2020.

This country needs someone who is inarguably opposed not just to Trump's style (which is easy) but Trump's agenda (which Republicans like this guy find impossible).

By contrast, Sanders votes Trump 14% of the time. And Warren votes Trump even less, less than 11% of the time. Those are truly serious alternatives in the Senate to Donald Trump. 

You don't like Trump? Don't vote for Flake.  If Flake really wants to oppose Trump and Trumpism, he'll stop voting for the Trump agenda. 

Given a choice, Trump or Flake? Neither. On policy, they're nearly identical. 


AmeriKKKa First

by digby


This is your America, Republicans. It's on you. Are you PROUD???



The fine art of unraveling right wing BS

by digby


For anyone who has been following the right wing counter-narrative on the Russia investigation which most recently has been focused on the idea that high ranking members of the FBI were actively working against Donald Trump, possibly with the help of Russian agents through the nefarious Christopher Steele.

It's very convoluted and completely absurd, since it was obvious that if the FBI had its thumbs on the scale it was on behalf of Donald Trump not against him. Anyway, last week a right winger who calls himself a journalist named John Solomon published an article that was picked up by Drudge and Sean Hannity and was then sent all over Bizarroworld in which he claims that the notorious emails sent between FBI agent Strzok and his girlfriend, FBI lawyer Page prove that they were leaking damaging information about Trump to the press.

The Huffington Post's Ryan Reilly and Nick Baumann debunk the whole damned thing here and it's not easy because the whole damned thing is so ridiculous in the first place.

The reason this is important is because the traitorous Republicans in the congress, led by such patriotic heroes as Lindsey Graham, are using their offices to push this sort of nonsense into the legal realm and it's a dangerous abuse of power. We don't know yet if they will succeed in creating some sort of parallel investigation to counter the Mueller probe and attempt to equalize Trump's crimes but they've got people pushing for it. It's a cynical ploy to make Dear Leader happy and throw some Clinton meat at the ravening crowd that wants to see her drawn and quartered just so they can prove they did the right thing by voting for this cretinous imbecile.



Trump's Roy Cohn vs MLK

by digby

Here's a fascinating story by Gil Troy in the Daily Beast about Trump's mentor Roy Cohn (which should have disqualified Trump for the presidency all by itself) and his lawsuit against Martin Luther King ... for slander:

It began with a heartbreakingly familiar American ritual—a white cop shooting a black kid, who may or may not have been armed. The historian Michael Flamm, in his authoritative, compelling look at the Harlem riots that followed in that sizzling summer of ’64, writes reasonably, that “What happened on July 16 at 9:20 am in front of 215 East 76th street was unclear and contested, both then and now.”

What is clear is that a white, off-duty New York City policeman, Thomas R. Gilligan, while running an errand, heard a “commotion,” ran out, and ended up shooting a 15-year-old African-American, James Powell. Gilligan and the white adult witnesses on 76th Street claimed Powell slashed at Gilligan with a knife—cutting his hand—and that Gilligan identified himself as a police officer. Most of the kids on the street, who had attended summer school with Powell, saw no knife and heard no identification.

“This is worse than Mississippi,” one young woman shouted, as three hundred furious students started trashing Yorkville. The violence spread to Harlem, then to Bedford-Stuyvesant. Six nights later, one rioter was dead, 118 were injured, 465 had been arrested. Looting caused a million dollars’ worth of damage.

Legally, Gilligan was exonerated. The Grand Jury refused to indict. The Manhattan District Attorney’s detailed 14-page report explained why—with the DA brandishing Powell’s knife at a press conference. Morally, the Congress of Racial Equality, CORE, nailed it. It should have been a “minor, indeed comic street incident,” with a highly decorated, 6-foot-2, 200-pound World War II vet and cop on the job for 17 years subduing a 122-pound teen with a three-and-a-half-inch knife. CORE’s counter-report on the incident concluded: “Policemen should not shoot boys half their size.”


The Long Rise and Fast Fall of New York’s Black Mafia
Photograph of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. standing between Dr. Benjamin Spock and Monsignor Rice of Pittsburgh at the Solidarity Day Parade in which participants marched from Central Park to the United Nations on April 15, 1967.
Exploring Martin Luther King’s Connection to New York City

Recy Taylor’s Baby Brother: She Was a Fighter Before #MeToo
Nerves were already raw that summer—even before temperatures hit the 90s during New York’s week-long riot. On June 21, racists murdered three civil rights activists from Mississippi’s Freedom Summer—James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. Officials would only find their corpses on Aug. 4. On June 28, the militant Malcolm X founded the Organization of Afro-American Unity, while asking, “who ever heard of angry revolutionists all harmonizing ‘We shall overcome… suum day’ while tripping and swaying along arm-in-arm with the very people they were supposed to be angrily revolting against?”

Yet on July 2, Lyndon Johnson signed the transformational Civil Rights Act of 1964. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, the same day James Powell died, the conservative Barry Goldwater accepted the Republican presidential nomination, declaring: “Tonight there is violence in our streets, corruption in our highest offices, aimlessness among our youth, anxiety among our elders and there is a virtual despair among the many who look beyond material success for the inner meaning of their lives.”

Flamm notes that beyond inaugurating the 1960s’ “long hot summers,” the Harlem riots, the civil rights activism, the Goldwater nomination, and the great American crime wave, would nationalize local crime as a hot political issue. The “new racial dynamic… would drive a wedge between the civil rights movement and many white liberals… The image of the black rioter now joined the symbol of the black criminal, which had deep roots in American history.”

Amid such tension, and given New York’s centrality in American consciousness, an all star team of civil rights activists mobilized. Martin Luther King of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and James Farmer of CORE joined local activists including the great Harlem rent striker Jesse Gray, and William Epton of the more obscure—and radical—Harlem Progressive Movement. They bombarded Gilligan with their eloquence, creativity, and wrath. Some alleged that Gilligan ended up in a mental hospital. Others distributed three thousand copies of a poster proclaiming: “WANTED FOR MURDER,” Gilligan was pictured in uniform above the contemptuous label: GILLIGAN, THE COP.

It’s ironic that King was sued for slander. While he wanted Gilligan suspended, he came to New York on a “peace misson” championing non-violence. King felt caught. Extremists like his eventual co-defendant in the slander suit, William Epton, a “Burn Baby Burn” Maoist, were shouting: “We’re going to have to kill a lot of cops, a lot of the judges, and we’ll have to go up against their army.” And many Harlem leaders resented importing this outsider from Atlanta. King would say, characteristically: “I call upon all Negro and white citizens of goodwill to continue to struggle unrelentingly but nonviolently against the racial and economic oppression that face our country.” The Harlem Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, who said he started agitation for equality “before Martin Luther King was in diapers,” snapped: “No leader outside of Harlem should come to this town and tell us what to do.”

Beyond his usual Gandhi-esque approach, King feared that black violence would get Goldwater elected. And five months before he won the Nobel Peace Prize—and four years before his assassination—he was not yet considered a saintly, nonpartisan figure. Allegations that he was a Communist hounded him. Meanwhile, Roy Cohn’s occasional cross-dressing playmate, the FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, was trying hard to crush King.

Still, Gilligan—represented by Roy Cohn of Saxe, Bacon & Bolan—lumped King and Farmer with Epton, Gray, and the Harlem Progressive Movement. By the time he was 27 in 1954, Cohn was nationally famous and broadly loathed as head hatchet-man and chief counsel to Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy’s anti-Communist witch-hunt. In private practice for the next three decades, Cohn continued tarnishing his reputation. Even his devoted client Donald Trump would tell Vanity Fair's Marie Brenner: “All I can tell you is he’s been vicious to others in his protection of me. He’s a genius. He’s a lousy lawyer, but he’s a genius.”

When he died in 1986, Cohn was disbarred, owed $3.18 million in back taxes and had experience as defense lawyer and defendant, having been “tried and acquitted three times in Federal court on charges ranging from conspiracy to bribery to fraud,” The New York Times reported.

Still, Cohn’s bullying made him a formidable lawyer. “My scare value is high,” he boasted. “My area is controversy. My tough front is my biggest asset. I don’t write polite letters. I don’t like to plea-bargain. I like to fight.”

There's more at the link. It's fascinating. Things have improved but not nearly enough.

I'm sure you recall that Trump was recently reported to have been angry that Jeff Sessions wasn't performing as his protector in the Department of Justice, lamenting "where's my Roy Cohn?"


For your convenience, a compendium of Trump's racism

by digby

I hit on some of these in my Salon piece this morning but this is nicely laid out by the New York Times, which points out that Trump has been obsessing about race for over 40 years:

Here, we have attempted to compile a definitive list of his racist comments – or at least the publicly known ones.

Trump’s real-estate company tried to avoid renting apartments to African-Americans in the 1970s and gave preferential treatment to whites, according to the federal government.

Trump treated black employees at his casinos differently from whites, according to multiple sources. A former hotel executive said Trump criticized a black accountant: “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. … I think that the guy is lazy. And it’s probably not his fault, because laziness is a trait in blacks.”

In 1989, Trump took out ads in New York newspapers urging the death penalty for five black and Latino teenagers accused of raping a white woman in Central Park; he argued they were guilty as late as October 2016, more than 10 years after DNA evidence had exonerated them.

In 1989, on NBC, Trump said: “I think sometimes a black may think they don’t have an advantage or this and that. I’ve said on one occasion, even about myself, if I were starting off today, I would love to be a well-educated black, because I really believe they do have an actual advantage.”

He uses the gang MS-13 to disparage all immigrants. Among many other statements, he has suggested that Obama’s protection of the Dreamers — otherwise law-abiding immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children — contributed to the spread of MS-13.

In December 2015, Trump called for a “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” including refusing to readmit Muslim-American citizens who were outside of the country at the time.

In June 2017, Trump said 15,000 recent immigrants from Haiti “all have AIDS”and that 40,000 Nigerians, once seeing the United States, would never “go back to their huts” in Africa.

At the White House on Jan. 11, Trump vulgarly called for less immigration from Haiti and Africa and more from Norway.

An 'extremely credible source' has called my office and told me that @BarackObama's birth certificate is a fraud.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 6, 2012

He spent years suggesting that the nation’s first black president was born not in the United States but in Kenya, a lie that Trump still has not acknowledged as such.

Trump called Obama (who was editor in chief of the Harvard Law Review) “a terrible student, terrible.”

Obama has admitted that he spends his mornings watching @ESPN. Then he plays golf, fundraises & grants amnesty to illegals.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 16, 2014

Trump frequently claimed that Obama did not work hard as president.

Trump falsely claimed that President Obama “issued a statement for Kwanzaabut failed to issue one for Christmas.”

He often casts heavily black American cities as dystopian war zones. In a 2016 debate with Hillary Clinton, Trump said, “Our inner cities, African Americans, Hispanics are living in hell because it’s so dangerous. You walk down the street, you get shot.” Trump also said to black voters: “You’re living in poverty; your schools are no good; you have no jobs.”

He frequently offers false crime statistics to exaggerate urban crime, including about Oakland, Philadelphia and Ferguson, Mo.

Just out report: "United Kingdom crime rises 13% annually amid spread of Radical Islamic terror." Not good, we must keep America safe!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 20, 2017

He is quick to highlight crimes committed by dark-skinned people, sometimes exaggerating or lying about them (such as a claim about growing crime from “radical Islamic terror” in Britain). He is very slow to decry hate crimes committed by whites against dark-skinned people (such as the killing of an Indian man in Kansas last year).

He frequently criticizes prominent African-Americans for being unpatriotic, ungrateful and disrespectful.

He called Puerto Ricans who criticized his administration’s response to Hurricane Maria “politically motivated ingrates.”

He called some of those who marched alongside white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., last August “very fine people.”

After David Duke, the former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, endorsed him, Trump was reluctant to disavow Duke even when asked directly on television.

Trump hired Steve Bannon as his campaign head and later White House chief strategist. Under Bannon’s leadership, the website Breitbart made white nationalism a central theme. It featured a section, for example, on “black crime.”

Trump endorsed and campaigned for Roy Moore, the Alabama Senate candidate who spoke positively about slavery and who called for an African-American Muslim member of Congress not to be seated because of his religion.

Trump pardoned – and fulsomely praises – Joe Arpaio, the Arizona sheriff sanctioned for racially profiling Latinos and for keeping immigrants in brutal prison conditions.

In the 1990s, Trump took out advertisements alleging that the “Mohawk Indian record of criminal activity is well documented.” At the time, he was fighting competition for his casino business.

In a 1993 radio interview, he suggested that Native Americans in Connecticut were faking their ancestry. “I think I might have more Indian blood than a lot of the so-called Indians that are trying to open up the reservations.”

In a November 2017 meeting with Navajo veterans of World War II, Trump mocked Senator Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas.”

Trump today: "Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty." Fascist code for "Jews"— Ben White (@morningmoneyben) October 13, 2016

Trump has trafficked in anti-Semitic caricatures, including the tweeting of a six-pointed star alongside a pile of cash. He has also been reluctant to condemn anti-Semitic attacks on journalists from his supporters, and he echoed neo-Nazi conspiracy theories by saying that Hillary Clinton “meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends and her donors.”

In a White House meeting with a Korean-American intelligence analyst briefing him on Pakistan, Trump wondered aloud why she was not working on North Korea policy.

Trump once referred to a Hispanic Miss Universe as “Miss Housekeeping.”

At a June 2016 campaign rally, Trump pointed to one attendee and said: “Oh, look at my African-American over here. Look at him.”


The age of Fire and Fury

by digby

Der Spiegel:

"Fire and Fury" is the title of the new exposé of Donald Trump's first year in the White House. The tome has only been out for a few days, and yet it has already established itself as one of the books of the year. Even we journalists find ourselves describing the book's contents as "indescribable" and "unfathomable." Can the world's most powerful man really be dumb, senile and addicted to television as the book claims? He spends his early evenings watching three televisions in his bedroom? Eating a cheeseburger and tweeting all the while? An entire White House teetering between hysteria and chaos? And yet, it's still the journalist's job to describe the indescribable and fathom the unfathomable.

Our latest cover story explains how "Fire and Fury" came to be and whether, and the extent to which, it approaches the truth. Most importantly, however, it delves into the consequences for an America and a world that have been confronted with a nuclear-armed fool who is likely to remain in office for some time to come, who is neither mentally nor psychologically suited for the job - apparently also not physically, either, given how late he starts the working day and how early he ends it.

That, unfortunately, is precisely the point: Humanity as a whole is being set back just because of one single person. The achievements of decades - the fight against a climate disaster, against the nuclear threat, for equality between men and women, between blacks and whites and so on and so on. Where is the world supposed to start again if it manages to survive Donald Trump?

It's the big reset, isn't it? And it's being done with no planning or forethought, just chaos and crossed fingers that we come out the other side. So far, American institutions have been rattled, but they're more or less holding together. The Republican Party is the first to come apart, with most of the membership throwing aside everything they ever purported to believe in to join this aberrant American leader. But it was hanging by a thread for a while, which created the conditions that led to this situation in the first place. At this point it's hard to know if it's just the last gap of a political party or the beginning of the end of a nation.



The GOP dives head first into the white nationalist shithole

by digby

I wrote about the shithole comments and the policies underlying it for Salon today:

If you happened to take a breather over the past few days you may have missed that Donald Trump told the DACA negotiators last Thursday that he didn't like the compromise they'd come up with because he didn't want any immigrants from "shithole countries" in Africa and wondered why we couldn't just have immigration from places like Norway. The firestorm from those remarks is ongoing, with Senate Republican henchmen like Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and David Perdue, R-Ga., going on the Sunday shows and cravenly changing their stories about the meeting from "I don't recall" to "nope, he never said it."

This has now become one of Trump's loyalty tests: which Republicans are willing to ignore the fact that the emperor is running around without his pants on. Of course he said it. There are probably not more than a handful of Americans who doubt it.

This is a man whose racism, xenophobia and nativism stretch back 50 years. In the 1970s, Donald Trump and his father were named in a housing discrimination suit against Puerto Ricans and African-Americans and had to operate under a consent decree. He ranted for years against policies that forbid police brutality, particularly in communities of color. This is a man who told associates he didn't want black accountants because they were "lazy" and testified against Native American gaming by saying that tribal negotiators "don't look like Indians to me."

During the course of Trump's presidential campaign he famously slagged Mexicans and Muslims as criminals and terrorists. Since then he has stood up for Nazis and neo-Confederates and called black football players who knelt during the national anthem "sons of bitches." The New York Times reported that he recently said "Haitians all have AIDS" and that if we allowed Nigerians to come into the country they'd never go "back to their huts."

This is the man who made his name in right-wing politics by elevating the lunatic-fringe conspiracy theory of birtherism into the mainstream.

So all these Trump loyalists who want to clutch their pearls and insist that he could never say anything so racist as "shithole countries" are making fools of themselves.

Unfortunately, the destruction of the Republican Party's tattered credibility isn't our biggest problem. The futures of the nearly 800,000 Dreamers who face mass deportation because of Trump's reversal of the DACA program are hanging in the balance. Trump's administration is also planning the mass deportation of nearly 250,000 Salvadorans, along with tens of thousands of Hondurans, Haitians and others, all of whom have been legally living in this country for many years, and many of whom have American children.

Unfortunately, Republicans are no longer just feigning horror at undocumented immigrants or those here with legal but temporary status to salve their insecure white base. They are following Trump down the white nationalist rabbit hole, head first.

Republicans are now pushing for changes to legal immigration the likes of which we haven't seen since the the 1920s. (Apparently, we have finally located the era when Trump believes America was last great.)

The Los Angeles Times noted the abrupt GOP shift from a party that had traditionally made a sharp distinction between support for illegal and legal immigration, arguing that the latter was an important contribution to the economy and American cultural vitality. This wasn't particularly partisan or controversial until recently, except among the far-right fringe. Now such mainstream leaders as the aforementioned Cotton and Perdue are pushing extremist legislation, backed by Trump's malevolent adviser Stephen Miller, to slash the number of immigrants allowed into the U.S. each year and end all family reunification policies. Trump has adopted this policy in the form of one of his fatuous mantras: "End chain migration!"

I recall writing scathingly here at Salon about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's foray into this issue during his ill-fated presidential campaign, after Walker conferred with then-Sen. Jeff Sessions and came out saying he was in favor of curtailing legal immigration. That seemed to be a huge mistake and was instrumental in alienating him from his benefactors, David and Charles Koch. A number of GOP senators, including Rob Portman of Ohio, rushed to the microphone to denounce this idea, saying, "As a party we've always embraced immigrants coming here legally, following the rules, and it's enriched our country immeasurably. It's who we are. It's the fabric of our success."

That was in August of 2015, when nobody dreamed that Trump would be president and Sessions would be attorney general two years later. They obviously didn't know that Sessions and his apprentice Stephen Miller had written a white nationalist manifesto the previous January that was waiting to be taken up by any racist demagogue who wanted it. Walker flamed out early, but Trump picked up his torch and ran with it.

It was called the "Immigration Handbook for the New Republican Majority," and it proposed a virtual halt to all immigration, legal and illegal, claiming that it is the cause of poverty, wage stagnation and the decline of the middle class. It's a classic example of far-right populist misdirection, which explicitly references the racist and draconian Immigration Act of 1924, aka the National Origins Act and Asian Exclusion Act, claiming that the legislation "allowed wages to rise, assimilation to occur, and the middle class to emerge."

Today is the national holiday to commemorate the life and achievement of Martin Luther King Jr. As is so often the case, he left us with the perfect words to express the American ideal that Trump is throwing into that hole in the outhouse.

This is from King's famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail":
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.
President Trump does not agree. And he and the white nationalists who follow him now dominate one of America's two major political parties.



Even the true believers are going wobbly

by digby

I keep hearing that Trump and the Republicans think he has some kind of magical powers that will give him a big win in 2018. His congressional sycophants certainly seem to think so.

Maybe so. But let's admit that if he wins it will be because magic is real or they cheated. There is not way that the following numbers indicate a midterm win for the president's party:

One year into Donald Trump's presidency, Americans feel more positive about the economy but not as good about the state of the country overall -- and the latter is closely tied to views of the president.

By a two to one margin, more say that the country is doing well economically than that it isn't. But three in four Americans say the country is divided, six in 10 don't have much confidence in the U.S. political system and six in 10 say racial tensions have increased. The president's strongest backers believe things are going well, but his opponents -- who have grown increasingly opposed to the president over the year -- say things are not. Overall, the number of Americans who say having Donald Trump as president makes them feel "pessimistic" is higher than it was a year ago.

A year ago, this study began analyzing four groups: the strongest of Trump backers (whom the study labeled "believers"); another set of those who support the president on the condition that he delivers what they want (the "conditionals"); a group opposing the president for now but willing to back him if things change, (the curious) and those who are firmly opposed (whom the study labels the "resisters.")

Overall, the movement we have seen over the year is a slow shift away from Mr. Trump, and we have that movement across the four groups: the believers, the conditionals, the curious and the resisters.

The number of believers has shrunk (from 22 percent to just 18 percent) and the number of strong opponents "resisters" has grown -- from 35 percent to 41 percent now. In that regard, President Trump's first year in office looks a bit like a tale of what might have been, as those who began the year looking for a reason to support him have instead become increasingly opposed.

The president's supporters now believe the country is "run for the benefit of all the people." Two-thirds of his strongest supporters now feel like they have more of a voice in what happens in America. But opponents say the country is being run "for the benefit of a few elites."

The president's approach and how he handles himself appeals to his supporters as much as economic matters. Mr. Trump's supporters back him more for "being a different kind of president" and for "taking on the establishment" than for cutting their taxes. Three in four supporters like the way he conducts himself personally. The president's strongest backers prioritize political fights, such as investigating Hillary Clinton, as one of their top things he should do in 2018, but this is the only group that thinks so, and his more conditional backers do not agree. Only the president's strongest backers view him as a role model -- more than eight in 10 do. More than half of his conditional supporters do not see him that way.

For Mr. Trump's opponents, 70 percent say a big reason they don't support the president is that he's disrespected people like them, and most don't like his policies. Support and opposition to the president connects to whether or not people feel like they have a voice in what happens in the country. Mr. Trump's strongest supporters feel they do, and his most ardent opponents (the "Resisters" – who make up four in 10 Americans) feel they have less of a voice now than they did. Fifty-five percent of Americans think Donald Trump's response to criticism is that he just argues with those who disagree, but the resisters (73 percent) view Mr. Trump as trying to suppress the views of those who disagree with him.

A majority of Americans -- whether they like or dislike the president's behavior -- feel that what you see is what you get with Mr. Trump: most say he acts the same way behind the scenes as he does in public.

On foreign policy, most Americans would prefer the U.S. work and negotiate with other countries, while Mr. Trump's strongest backers say the president should do what's best for the U.S. no matter what others think, rather than compromise with other countries. Conditional supporters are more mixed on this. His backers believe that threatening North Korea makes the North afraid to attack the U.S., whereas others think doing so only provokes North Korea into a war.

Overall, most Americans say that building infrastructure like roads and bridges should be the highest priority for the Trump administration in 2018. This is the case across all four support groups.

Looking far ahead to the 2018 elections, most Mr. Trump detractors, perhaps unsurprisingly, say they would consider voting for a Democrat for Congress this November. However one-third would also consider voting for a Republican who is independent of the president.

Three in four Americans think if the Democrats took Congress, their priority would be to impeach Mr. Trump, as opposed to cut deals with him. But people who think Democrats would work with President Trump are more inclined to vote for a Democrat than people who think they would prioritize trying to impeach the president.
Trump's immigration comments called "inappropriate" by most

A year ago, this study began analyzing four groups: the strongest of Trump backers (whom the study labeled "believers"); another set of those who support the president on the condition that he delivers what they want (the "conditionals"); a group opposing the president for now but willing to back him if things change, (the curious) and those who are firmly opposed (whom the study labels the "resisters.")

On the issues looming now, most Americans -- 70 percent -- favor DACA. Among Mr. Trump's backers, a slim majority support it. But in a sign of how much they want the border wall built, most of his backers are in favor of cutting a deal on DACA to get the wall funded. Resisters are overwhelmingly opposed to such a deal.

The wall and deportation of illegal immigrants remain top priorities of his strongest backers. Fewer of his conditional supporters see these as top priorities.

More than eight in 10 Americans, re-contacted for this survey after Mr. Trump's comments about U.S. immigration from African countries and Haiti, said they had heard about them, and three-quarters (76 percent) say the remarks were inappropriate. Almost all Democrats, nearly 8 in 10 independents and 45 percent of Republicans say so as well.

Race plays a role in explaining views of the president. Many African Americans feel the president works directly against people of their racial group, and many feel like they have less of a voice in what happens in America now. Large percentages of Mr. Trump's opponents -- and African Americans in particular -- feel he has disrespected people like them. Two-thirds of Trump backers think he works for their racial group.


"Mom and pop" go to Washington

by Tom Sullivan

"A lot of mom and pop candidates," said one trainer at last weekend's first Democratic Candidates Conference outside Washington, D.C. The #Resistance has spawned a lot of new interest in local, state, and federal politics, and many first-time candidates came to learn what filing for office had got them into. Unlike Netroots Nation's spectrum of progressive advocacy groups, DemCanCon drew a more focused crowd of 250 candidates, staff, and organizers from 24 states and Canada.

Convention organizer Andy Millard ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2016 against Republican Patrick McHenry in North Carolina's 10th Congressional District. Millard explained to attendees that he wished someone had told him in the beginning all the things he'd learned by the end of his campaign. Not simply the campaign-craft Wellstone teaches, but the nuts and bolts. Hence the conference in Silver Spring, MD addressed digital media, volunteer recruitment, staffing, data management, early voting strategies, and perfecting a stump speech.

Fundraising is serious business. Perhaps more serious than newcomers anticipate. Flipping a congressional seat will take 200,000 votes and $3 million dollars, veteran campaign manager Mario Piscatella advised candidates in one break-out session. It is a system those "mom and pop" candidates want to change. But one they'll have to first beat to have that opportunity.

Maryland's new public financing law, however, opened the floodgates for 29 candidates to file for Montgomery County's June 26 primary for four at-large seats on County Council. Several candidates attended the conference. There are six more weeks until the filing deadline.

Andrew Metcalf writes for Bethesda Beat:

At-large candidates using public financing must raise at least $20,000 in individual contributions of $150 or less to qualify. And they must do it 45 days before the primary election.

More than a dozen at-large candidates have filed paperwork with the state Board of Elections to use the public financing system.
DemCanCon arrives on the heels of the federal court ruling against Republican-drawn congressional districts in North Carolina. Maryland's Democratic gerrymandering, though less "surgical," poses its own challenges for Democrats running in districts safe for Republicans. And no thanks to the Democratic Party's mapmaking in Annapolis. Gerrymandering safe districts for Democratic incumbents over here disenfranchises Democratic voters over there. It doesn't matter which party does the gerrymandering. Someone's democracy is compromised.

In heavily Democratic counties such as Montgomery, however, the primary is the de facto election, Maryland candidates said. But while safe districts mean easy wins for incumbents, they mean skills atrophy at the local level.

State and federal candidates attending from outside Maryland offered their perspective on the health of their local and state party organizations. Assuming they got through their primaries, how well-organized were their local committees to help them get out the vote in November?

The question generally drew a pregnant pause, a sigh, and perhaps an eye roll.

One blue-state congressional race staffer described his state organization as "a hot mess," and county organizations in the district had little more to offer his candidate. A state House candidate from the Midwest explained that members of the local county committee were typically over 70 years old. The local county chair had held that position for 25 years. Attendees from Indiana to New York told similar stories.

One story I offered was about visiting a rural county a week ahead of Election Day as part of a congressional campaign. The field director asked local party officers where they stood in their preparations, what else they needed to do, and what help they might need from the campaign.

"We're done," they said. They saw us looking at each other sideways.

"We called through the phone list and put out the signs," they continued. "You want us to do ... more?"

Candidates and staffers who heard that story were dumbstruck.

But if you are not in a swing state, and especially if you are in a rural county not in a swing state, Barack Obama is not parachuting in a team from Michigan Avenue to show you how to coordinate a months-long, high-energy Get Out The Vote program. Neither is the DNC, the DCCC, or the state party. Governor's races don't set up out there, nor Senate races. That part of the party ecosystem is sorely degraded, several attendees confirmed. And many of them are running out there.

It's not that local committees can't do more. They simply don't know what more looks like. Many have never been exposed to it and no one is teaching them.

Almost no one.

Anthony Flaccavento, an organic farmer running in the Democratic primary in Southwest Virginia's rural 9th Congressional District, won the stump speech contest. It is his second campaign in a red district. With that experience under his belt, this time Flaccavento started five months earlier.

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Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Sunday, January 14, 2018


Hoekstra in dutch in the Netherlands

by digby

Journalists in other countries don't just say "oh, ok" when a politician lies to their face:

The newly-appointed U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands, Pete Hoekstra, has finally admitted that he was wrong to say that there were “no-go” zones in the country where Muslim youths were burning politicians and cars.

Hoekstra, a former Republican congressman from Michigan, told a conservative group in 2015 that the “Islamic movement” had plunged Europe into chaos and that cars and politicians were being set on fire. “Yes, there are no-go zones in the Netherlands,” he said.

When interviewed last month at the U.S. Capitol by the Dutch news program Nieuwsuur, Hoekstra completely denied making the remarks, calling it “fake news” — despite his entire speech being captured on video.

But the controversy did not die down. When Hoekstra held his first press conference at the Netherlands he was greeted by question after question on his fake claims about “no-go zones” in the country.

“Everybody there had one question: That crazy statement you made, are you going to withdraw it,” Dutch political reporter Roel Geeraedts told the Washington Post. “We were not getting answers so we all kept asking it.” The remarkable back-and-forth was captured on video.

The idea of European countries having “no-go zones” in their major urban areas is a common conspiracy theory of the far-right, who believe that there are neighborhoods within cities like London, Paris and Brussels where Sharia Law is enforced and the government has no authority. These claims have repeatedly been found to have little basis in fact.

The State Department issued a statement apologizing for Hoekstra's remarks. No word on when they're going to apologize for Donald Trump's entire presidency.