Bernie Sanders Wishes He Had The Opportunity To Run Against Trump (And So Do I)

sanders-conan

The nomination of Hillary Clinton by the Democratic Party in 2016 was among the worst blunders in the history of politics. She was the about the most status-quo candidate possible in an election where voters wanted change, representing everything which is most reprehensible in our political system. She was shown to have engaged in serious corruption in a year in which voters wanted reform, but many partisan Democrats continue to ignore the well-established evidence against her. It was clear Clinton would have difficulties with young voters, independent voters, many Obama voters, Sanders voters, swing state voters,  and voters in rust belt states. (Yes, there is considerable overlap in these groups, and it should have especially been obvious that many of those who voted for Obama in 2008 or Sanders in 2016 were doing so because they did not want Hillary Clinton to become president).

Beyond Clinton’s corruption and being wrong on virtually every major decision in her career, Clinton is terrible at running political campaigns. She is totally out of touch with the voters, and her political instincts are awful. She could not beat Obama in 2008, and could not have won the nomination in 2016 if the party insiders hadn’t cleared the field for her, in a system already rigged to favor a centrist over insurgent candidate, and then further intervened to support her when there was an unexpected challenge. The failure of the Democratic Party to pay attention to the desires of the voters resulted in the election of Donald Trump.

Bernie Sanders had double digit leads over Trump while Trump and Clinton were close in head to head polling. If Bernie Sanders was the nominee, Democrats, not Republicans, would have won the voters who wanted change. Sanders could get the young, independent, swing state, and rust belt voters to turn out for him in far larger margins than Clinton could. Sanders would have addressed issues of concern to voters while Clinton ran a dreadful campaign which never gave voters a reason to vote for her  beyond gender and the feeling that it was her turn. Sanders would have spoken to the press to get out his message, while Hillary Clinton avoided them as much as possible. With Sanders, there would have been no scandals, and no problems raised by being investigated by the FBI. Only partisan Democrats could think that she was exonerated after being exposed for conducting unethical and reckless behavior, and lying about it to the American people, because she was not indicted.

Bernie Sanders appeared on Conan (video above) and, while too modest to say he would win, showed that he regretted he did not have the opportunity:

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont on Tuesday said he wished he had the chance to run against Donald Trump.

In an interview on “Conan,” Sanders said that while he was unsure whether he would’ve defeated Trump, early hypothetical head-to-head matchups showed him far ahead.

“What the polling showed that early on was all the polls nationally and statewide, I was beating him by much larger margins, much more than Secretary Clinton, but you know, then you go through a three-month campaign,” Sanders told host Conan O’Brien.

“All I can tell you Conan: I wish to God I’d had the opportunity. I would’ve loved to have run against him,” he added.

During his appearance Tuesday night, Sanders also ruminated on the nature of Trump’s election victory. He suggested that Trump used rhetoric to inflame racial and ethnic tensions but successfully branded himself as an outsider who could relate to many voters’ frustration with established industries.

“What Trump managed to do was convince people that he was the antiestablishment candidate at the time when people really are not happy with the economic establishment, the political establishment, and the media establishment,” Sanders said. “I think, sadly, much of what he said will not be true — he will not keep his word.”

He added: “Not everyone who voted for Trump is a racist or a sexist or a homophobe. There are a lot of people who are hurting very badly. They saw him as a glimmer of hope. That’s why they voted for him.”

Today’s attempt in the House to replace the establishment candidate also failed, but the challenge did show signs of growing discontent over the failures of the Democratic Party under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi:

Pelosi easily beat Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), a seven-term lawmaker who launched an upstart bid to lead House Democrats two weeks ago in response to the party’s disappointing November election results and concerns that Democrats have become out of touch with working-class voters in key swing states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio.

But Pelosi’s margin of victory, 134 votes to 63 for Ryan, signaled a large degree of discontent with her leadership after 14 years atop the caucus and, more broadly, with the Democratic policy agenda that many lawmakers say has grown stale. While she cleared her self-declared margin of victory, a two-thirds majority, many Democrats were stunned that almost a third of the caucus was willing to vote for a backbench lawmaker with no major policy or political experience.

Many were left wondering whether a more seasoned Democrat could have actually toppled Pelosi, with several privately suggesting these next two years would have to be Pelosi’s last as leader. Ryan’s 63 votes marked the largest bloc of opposition Pelosi has faced since winning a deputy leadership position 15 years ago that set her on a course to become the first female House speaker.

Being “out of touch with working-class voters” is only part of the problem. Democrats are also out of touch with liberal voters, including many younger potential voters, on foreign policy, mass surveillance, civil liberties, and social/cultural issues. A Republican-lite party has little constituency beyond those content with voting for the lesser evil.

Trump Sides With Clinton In Opposing First Amendment Rights

flag-burning

Issues were generally ignored during the 2016 election campaign, with media coverage concentrating on what atrocious things Donald Trump has said and the latest revelations in the Clinton scandals. The media generally ignored how both major party candidates are very far right on First Amendment issues. The First Amendment has finally come under discussion in response to a tweet from Donald Trump (which appears to be in  response to a story Trump saw on Fox):

Trump tweeted: “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”

This puts Donald Trump to the right of Antonin Scalia. As I noted following his death, this was an issue where Scalia sided with civil libertarians.  Scalia has voted for a Supreme Court decision which ruled that the First Amendment protected the right to burn the American flag. In contrast, Hillary Clinton has sponsored legislation to make flag burning a felony.

This puts Trump on the same side of Hillary Clinton, once again showing how Trump and Clinton are far more alike than many partisans supporting either candidate will ever admit. As is often the case, Trump has found a position somewhat to the right of Clinton’s by bringing up loss of citizenship. Both the prohibition on flag burning and the suggested penalty of loss of citizenship are unconstitutional.

It is a shame that an entire election went by with so little discussion of how both candidates hold positions which are extremely conservative with regards to civil liberties. Democrats will probably criticize Trump for this while ignoring that their candidate was not all that much better. We are screwed either way when elections turn into a contest based upon lesser-evilism.

Civil Liberties Groups Urge Obama To Curtail Government Surveillance Following Trump Victory

trump-constitution

After the revelations of NSA surveillance my concern, along with others such as Daniel Ellsberg, was not that we were already in an Orwellian totalitarian state, but that the infrastructure for a police state was being developed. In 2013 Ellsberg warned:

Obviously, the United States is not now a police state. But given the extent of this invasion of people’s privacy, we do have the full electronic and legislative infrastructure of such a state. If, for instance, there was now a war that led to a large-scale anti-war movement – like the one we had against the war in Vietnam – or, more likely, if we suffered one more attack on the scale of 9/11, I fear for our democracy. These powers are extremely dangerous.

Civil libertarians now fear another development which risks the progression to a police state–the election of Donald Trump. Even those who trusted Obama with these powers recognize the dangers of abuse under Trump. Politico reports:

Tech and civil liberties advocates are imploring the Obama administration to rein in the government’s massive surveillance apparatus before President-elect Donald Trump takes office, fearful he will carry out his campaign promises to register Muslims, spy on mosques and punish companies that offer Americans unbreakable encryption.

But many national security experts and former administration officials say the effort is almost certainly doomed to fail. “I don’t know how you tie the king’s hands in just the weeks going out,” said Michael McFaul, a former ambassador to Russia under President Barack Obama.

And some civil libertarians blame Democrats for being too content to allow President Barack Obama to wield the sweeping, post-Sept. 11 surveillance powers he inherited from George W. Bush, rather than rolling them back so that no future president could use them.

“We shouldn’t be relying on the benevolence of the leaders put in power after an election to ensure that people’s privacy and civil liberties are protected,” said Neema Singh Guliani, a legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union.

“You have a situation where the executive branch has control of a surveillance apparatus that is unparalleled in history,” said Trevor Timm, a surveillance critic and head of the activist group Freedom of the Press Foundation. “And because the Obama administration either retained the right to use a lot of these unprecedented powers, or expanded them, they are now in the hands of somebody who many people consider to be a madman.”

…Hoping to head Trump off, civil liberties, digital rights and watchdog groups are pleading with Obama to take a series of actions to weaken the surveillance state. Those include releasing classified inspector general reports and the secret legal rationales behind the government’s spying efforts, which could help advocates challenge Trump in court. Some also urged Obama’s team to purge the NSA’s databases of some of the information they hoover up, wiping out reams of data that are focused on foreigners but incidentally drag in details on an unknown number of Americans.

Thirty advocacy groups banded together this week in a letter telling Obama to take action, writing: “No less than our shared legacy of a vibrant democratic government is at stake.”

…Obama came into office vowing to “revisit” many of these powers, but privacy advocates believe he has largely failed to do so. While the president has regularly spoken about the need for greater checks and public oversight of the system, he has defended the powers themselves.

“This may go down in history as President Obama’s most consequential mistake,” Timm said.

Civil libertarians have been concerned about the danger of abuses under Donald Trump, but the degree of government surveillance placed civil liberties at risk regardless of whether Trump was elected. Other than for Trump’s xenophobia, Hillary Clinton’s views on civil liberties and the surveillance state are not all that different from those of Donald Trump.

There is one benefit to Trump as opposed to Clinton winning–Democrats will be far more likely to protest abuses under Trump than they would protest abuses from Clinton. Many partisan Democrats have been whitewashing her record and excusing her extremely conservative views on First Amendment rights. Those of us who protested the growth of the surveillance state under both Bush and Obama were often ignored by Democrats when Obama was president and they thought he would be succeeded by Clinton. The election of Donald Trump is opening more eyes to the danger of such powers in the hands of the president.

How About A More Meaningful Pardon–Ed Snowden

obama-pardon-turkey

Barack Obama has fulfilled the tradition of pardoning a turkey for Thanksgiving. Before he leaves office he should make a more meaningful pardon and honor the American tradition of individual liberty and privacy. Pardon Edward Snowden.

Trump Continues To Express Contradictory Views In New York Times Interview

trump-ny-times-interview

With Donald Trump often expressing contradictory views, sometimes in the same speech, we will not really know what a Trump administration will be like until we see what they actually do. In the meantime we continue to get some clues, such as in his interview with The New York Times (full transcript here).

Reading this, and other  recent statements from Trump, makes me believe he is non-ideological, has not thought very much about the issues, and often reflects the views of the last person he talked to. This provides hope that Trump can be persuaded to change his mind in areas where his statements have been contrary to fact, but also gives more reason to be worried about those he has appointed to his administration so far.

One area where he has altered his view to some degree is climate change:

JAMES BENNET, editorial page editor: When you say an open mind, you mean you’re just not sure whether human activity causes climate change? Do you think human activity is or isn’t connected?

TRUMP: I think right now … well, I think there is some connectivity. There is some, something. It depends on how much. It also depends on how much it’s going to cost our companies. You have to understand, our companies are noncompetitive right now.

They’re really largely noncompetitive. About four weeks ago, I started adding a certain little sentence into a lot of my speeches, that we’ve lost 70,000 factories since W. Bush. 70,000. When I first looked at the number, I said: ‘That must be a typo. It can’t be 70, you can’t have 70,000, you wouldn’t think you have 70,000 factories here.’ And it wasn’t a typo, it’s right. We’ve lost 70,000 factories.

We’re not a competitive nation with other nations anymore. We have to make ourselves competitive. We’re not competitive for a lot of reasons.

That’s becoming more and more of the reason. Because a lot of these countries that we do business with, they make deals with our president, or whoever, and then they don’t adhere to the deals, you know that. And it’s much less expensive for their companies to produce products. So I’m going to be studying that very hard, and I think I have a very big voice in it. And I think my voice is listened to, especially by people that don’t believe in it. And we’ll let you know…

SHEAR: Just one quick clarification on the climate change, do you intend to, as you said, pull out of the Paris Climate …

TRUMP: I’m going to take a look at it.

On the one hand, he does admit to at least “some connectivity,” which is an improvement over his history of denial of the human role in climate change. He also shows what I believe is the bottom line for many Republicans. They choose to deny climate change as they see it as bad for business. To them, a change in their business models would be bad, while liberals are more encouraged by the prospects of stimulating the economy with measures to change to more environmentally sound processes. Advisors such as Myron Ebell and Bob Walker make it less likely that we will see action by Trump on climate change.

Trump appeared willing to soften his views in some areas, but not where it might jeopardize his business concerns:

SHEAR: You’ve talked about the impact of the wind farms on your golf course. People, experts who are lawyers and ethics experts, say that all of that is totally inappropriate, so I guess the question for you is, what do you see as the appropriate structure for keeping those two things separate, and are there any lines that you think you won’t want to cross once you’re in the White House?

TRUMP: O.K. First of all, on countries. I think that countries will not do that to us. I don’t think if they’re run by a person that understands leadership and negotiation they’re in no position to do that to us, no matter what I do. They’re in no position to do that to us, and that won’t happen, but I’m going to take a look at it. A very serious look. I want to also see how much this is costing, you know, what’s the cost to it, and I’ll be talking to you folks in the not-too-distant future about it, having to do with what just took place.

As far as the, you know, potential conflict of interests, though, I mean I know that from the standpoint, the law is totally on my side, meaning, the president can’t have a conflict of interest. That’s been reported very widely. Despite that, I don’t want there to be a conflict of interest anyway. And the laws, the president can’t. And I understand why the president can’t have a conflict of interest now because everything a president does in some ways is like a conflict of interest, but I have, I’ve built a very great company and it’s a big company and it’s all over the world. People are starting to see, when they look at all these different jobs, like in India and other things, number one, a job like that builds great relationships with the people of India, so it’s all good. But I have to say, the partners come in, they’re very, very successful people. They come in, they’d say, they said, ‘Would it be possible to have a picture?’ Actually, my children are working on that job. So I can say to them, Arthur, ‘I don’t want to have a picture,’ or, I can take a picture. I mean, I think it’s wonderful to take a picture. I’m fine with a picture. But if it were up to some people, I would never, ever see my daughter Ivanka again. That would be like you never seeing your son again. That wouldn’t be good. That wouldn’t be good. But I’d never, ever see my daughter Ivanka…

This is one of, if not the only, core belief which is likely to guide the actions of Donald Trump in office.

Trump was confronted with the charges of racism and anti-Semitism surrounding Steve Bannon in light of his work at Breitbart:

DAVIS: You hired Steve Bannon to be the chief strategist for you in the White House. He is a hero of the alt-right. He’s been described by some as racist and anti-Semitic. I wonder what message you think you have sent by elevating him to that position and what you would say to those who feel like that indicates something about the kind of country you prefer and the government you’ll run.

TRUMP: Um, I’ve known Steve Bannon a long time. If I thought he was a racist, or alt-right, or any of the things that we can, you know, the terms we can use, I wouldn’t even think about hiring him. First of all, I’m the one that makes the decision, not Steve Bannon or anybody else. And Kellyanne will tell you that.

KELLYANE CONWAY: 100 percent.

TRUMP: And if he said something to me that, in terms of his views, or that I thought were inappropriate or bad, number one I wouldn’t do anything, and number two, he would have to be gone. But I know many people that know him, and in fact, he’s actually getting some very good press from a lot of the people that know him, and people that are on the left. But Steve went to Harvard, he was a, you know, he was very successful, he was a Naval officer, he’s, I think he’s very, very, you know, sadly, really, I think it’s very hard on him. I think he’s having a hard time with it. Because it’s not him. It’s not him.

I’ve known him for a long time. He’s a very, very smart guy. I think he was with Goldman Sachs on top of everything else…

He was also asked about his support from neo-Nazis:

UNKNOWN: Mr. President-elect, I wanted to ask you, there was a conference this past weekend in Washington of people who pledged their allegiance to Nazism.

TRUMP: Boy, you are really into this stuff, huh?

PRIEBUS: I think we answered that one right off the bat.

UNKNOWN: Are you going to condemn them?

TRUMP: Of course I did, of course I did.

PRIEBUS: He already did.

UNKNOWN: Are you going to do it right now?

TRUMP: Oh, I see, maybe you weren’t here. Sure. Would you like me to do it here? I’ll do it here. Of course I condemn. I disavow and condemn…

Trump will remain under close scrutiny in light of Steve Bannon’s past work, and others on the far right who support him. He is also being watched closely by several civil liberties organizations.

He also backed down slightly on torture:

HABERMAN: And on torture? Where are you — and waterboarding?

TRUMP: So, I met with General Mattis, who is a very respected guy. In fact, I met with a number of other generals, they say he’s the finest there is. He is being seriously, seriously considered for secretary of defense, which is — I think it’s time maybe, it’s time for a general. Look at what’s going on. We don’t win, we can’t beat anybody, we don’t win anymore. At anything. We don’t win on the border, we don’t win with trade, we certainly don’t win with the military. General Mattis is a strong, highly dignified man. I met with him at length and I asked him that question. I said, what do you think of waterboarding? He said — I was surprised — he said, ‘I’ve never found it to be useful.’ He said, ‘I’ve always found, give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better with that than I do with torture.’ And I was very impressed by that answer. I was surprised, because he’s known as being like the toughest guy. And when he said that, I’m not saying it changed my mind. Look, we have people that are chopping off heads and drowning people in steel cages and we’re not allowed to waterboard. But I’ll tell you what, I was impressed by that answer. It certainly does not — it’s not going to make the kind of a difference that maybe a lot of people think. If it’s so important to the American people, I would go for it. I would be guided by that. But General Mattis found it to be very less important, much less important than I thought he would say. I thought he would say — you know he’s known as Mad Dog Mattis, right? Mad Dog for a reason. I thought he’d say ‘It’s phenomenal, don’t lose it.’ He actually said, ‘No, give me some cigarettes and some drinks, and we’ll do better.’

It is good to see that he listened to the view that torture is not effective. It is discouraging to see that he then said, “If it’s so important to the American people, I would go for it.” Hardly a position which respects either the facts or ethics. Torturing prisoners because “the American people” want it, even if it is of no benefit, is hardly a defensible position.

Sanders And Warren Chosen For Democratic Party Leadership Positions

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks at the California Democrats State Convention in Anaheim, Calif., on Saturday, May 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Chuck Schumer, as expected, has been elected to succeed Harry Reid as Senate Minority Leader.  The Democrats need to stop being a Republican-lite party if they are going to get more people to turn out to vote for them, and Schumer is not the person to bring about such a change in direction. At least there was some good news with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren being included in the Senate leadership. The Hill reports:

Sanders was named chairman of outreach during a closed-door Senate Democratic caucus meeting Wednesday morning.

In the role, Sanders will be in charge of reaching out to blue-collar voters who flocked to President-elect Donald Trump this year.

Sanders told reporters that he has a “heavy responsibility to help shape the priorities of the United States government.”

“I’m going to do everything that I can to make sure that the budget that leaves the United States Congress is a budget that represents the needs of working families and a shrinking middle class and not billionaires,” he said.

Elizabeth Warren was formerly a strategic policy adviser and has now been named vice chair of the conference.

The addition of Sanders and Warren to the leadership will give stronger voices to progressive economic views, but it is not clear how much influence they will actually have. I would also like to see signs that the Democratic Party planned to take a stand against military interventionism and mass surveillance, and in defense of civil liberties. Having Schumer as minority leader is not reassuring on these issues.  The Intercept recently described why Schumer is a poor choice for leader. Among the reasons:

  • He possesses the same impressive political acumen as Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, sagely explaining “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.”
  • Schumer’s done more than anyone except Bill and Hillary Clinton to intertwine Wall Street and the Democratic Party. He raises millions and millions of dollars from the finance industry, both for himself and for other Democrats. In return, he voted to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 and voted to bail out Wall Street in 2008. In between, he slashed fees paid by banks to the Securities and Exchange Commission to pay for regulatory enforcement, and eviscerated congressional efforts to crack down on rating agencies.
  • Schumer has long been the Democrats’ point man in efforts to craft a bipartisan deal to slash taxes on multinational corporations.
  • Schumer voted for the Patriot Act in 2001, and sponsored its predecessor, the Omnibus Counterterrorism Act of 1995. During a Senate hearing, Schumer explained that “it’s easy to sit back in the armchair and say that torture can never be used. But when you’re in the foxhole, it’s a very different deal.” In certain cases, he said, “most senators” would say “do what you have to do.” Schumer also defended the New York Police Department’s surveillance of Muslims across the region, which Trump has cited as a national model.
  • In October 2002, Schumer voted for the Iraq War by giving George W. Bush authority to invade. In a speech explaining his vote, Schumer warned of Iraq’s imaginary yet “vigorous pursuit of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.”
  • Schumer voted against Barack Obama’s deal to limit Iran’s ability to enrich uranium and potentially develop a nuclear weapons program.

The Democrats have done poorly in recent elections in which they did not have Barack Obama on the ballot, including the 2010 and 2014 midterms elections. They faced further setbacks as a result of choosing Hillary Clinton to be the nominee as opposed to having a fair nomination fight.

I have often said that this was an unusual election between two terrible candidates, with the party which loses the presidency likely to do better in the long run–assuming they learn from their defeat. Ron Elving of NPR has made an argument similar to what I have been saying as to why the Democrats might be better off with Clinton losing. He began by describing how Clinton would not be able to get very much done with Republicans controlling at least the House. I would add that, as unpopular as Clinton is now, she would probably be even more unpopular during the 2018 and 2020 elections. Elving went on to argue:

So we are imagining an uphill struggle for a Clinton re-election, especially given the outlook for Congress and the races in the states. And a defeat in 2020 would be disastrously timed for Democrats, because 2020 is also the date of the next census. The national headcount will launch the next round of redistricting, as the last was launched in 2010. If triumphant in that decennial year, the GOP could look forward to another decade of running downhill in most congressional and legislative elections…

So stop and think about it. Democrats simply cannot expect to move legislation again until they can regain control of Congress. And all signs are that it will take a Republican president, and voter dissatisfaction with a Republican president, to make the Democrats truly competitive in congressional races again…

So that builds pressure on 2020, a fortuitously numbered year that could be the next hinge in our political history. That could be an advantageous case of timing for the Democrats, a great year for a comeback for all the reasons it would have been a disastrous time for a punishing rejection.

All of this is mere projection, and it may not ease the pain of a narrow loss in a presidential election. But it paints a realistic picture of what would have come next. And for Democrats, the prospect of losing the presidency in 2020 would clearly be worse.

What Democrats have to do is adjust their thinking and their time frame. They should stop trying to maintain what they won the last decade (mostly in 2006 and 2008 while George W. Bush was still in the White House) and start thinking about how a Republican president can help them rebuild. They need to go back to the base and raise a new pyramid from the ground up, with a new generation of candidates and activists and motivators. There need to be new approaches to issues, new messages to take to the disaffected.

Having Clinton in the White House would probably lead to bigger Republican gains in 2020, including in the state governments which are responsible for redistricting. A Trump presidency is likely to result in the Democrats doing better in 2018 than if Clinton was president. It is unlikely they can retake control of the Senate with more Democrats up for reelection, but they will be in a better position to potentially take control of Congress and the presidency in 2020. They also have a far better chance to win victories in state elections without Hillary Clinton dragging down the Democratic Party, with votes for state government often being based upon the voters’ view of the president.

The question is whether Democrats can take advantage of the opportunity presented by the Republicans having Donald Trump in the White House, and being  responsible for what happens in light of their complete control of government. Listening to Sanders and Warren is a start in the right direction. We will not be happy with what comes out of the government for the next four years, but if the Democrats had won with Hillary Clinton we would probably be faced with a turn to the right under Clinton, and a more sustained turn to the far right after the probable Democratic loses in 2018 and the crucial 2020 election.

Civil Libertarians Preparing For Trump Presidency

bill of rights

One of the many discouraging features of the 2016 election was that both candidates had extremely conservative views regarding civil liberties. Now that Donald Trump has been elected, civil libertarians are preparing for the challenges we are likely to face. Elias Groll has this warning in Foreign Affairs: When Trump Takes Control of the Justice Department, Be Afraid:

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump threatened to sue those who crossed him: the scores of women who accused him of sexual assault, the journalists who wrote critical stories about him, and even the Republican National Committee over how it awarded delegates. He will enter the Oval Office on Jan. 20 as arguably the most litigious president in history.

And now, Trump will have vast influence in shaping the U.S. Department of Justice and FBI — and many of the powerful post-9/11 policies that tested America’s legal system by pitting security concerns against civil liberties.

The Justice Department has long prided itself as a fiercely independent agency, with many career prosecutors outlasting any one presidential administration. But even some of the most controversial DOJ alumni now worry how Trump will pursue his vision of justice.

“He thinks all kinds of crazy things about prosecutions,” said John Yoo, a Berkeley law professor who, while serving at DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel in 2002 and 2003, helped write legal justifications for aggressive interrogation methods that critics call torture. Those memos have since been rescinded.

“I don’t think he has a very good sense of how our law enforcement system works,” Yoo told Foreign Policy.

During the campaign, Trump distinguished himself by his volatility, his vindictiveness, and a desire to strike back at his enemies, qualities that may have served him well in the rough-and-tumble world of New York real estate.

But critics fear Trump will harness the Justice Department to pursue political prosecutions against enemies and otherwise trample civil rights. He will enter the White House after 15 years of presidents — Democratic and Republican — who have wielded nearly untrammelled executive power to conduct investigations, war, covert action, and surveillance operations.

“We are faced with a situation where Trump is going to inherit extremely broad powers that are subject to no meaningful oversight by the other two breaches,” said Jameel Jaffer, the director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.

I already noted the day after the election that the American Civil Liberties Union is already preparing to respond to violations of civil liberties under Trump.

President-elect Trump, as you assume the nation’s highest office, we urge you to reconsider and change course on certain campaign promises you have made. These include your plan to amass a deportation force to remove 11 million undocumented immigrants; ban the entry of Muslims into our country and aggressively surveil them; punish women for accessing abortion; reauthorize waterboarding and other forms of torture; and change our nation’s libel laws and restrict freedom of expression.

These proposals are not simply un-American and wrong-headed, they are unlawful and unconstitutional. They violate the First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and 14th Amendments. If you do not reverse course and instead endeavor to make these campaign promises a reality, you will have to contend with the full firepower of the ACLU at every step. Our staff of litigators and activists in every state, thousands of volunteers and millions of card-carrying members and supporters are ready to fight against any encroachment on our cherished freedoms and rights.

One thing is certain: We will be eternally vigilant every single day of your presidency. And when you leave the Oval Office, we will do the same with your successor as we have done throughout our nearly 100 years of existence. The Constitution and the rule of law are stronger than any one person, and we will see to that. We will never waver.

Amnesty International wrote that Trump’s Poisonous Rhetoric Must Not Become Government Policy:

Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, said: “President-elect Trump has provoked grave consternation at many points throughout his election campaign, and raised serious concerns about the strength of commitment we can expect to see from the United States towards human rights in the future. He must now put this behind him and both reaffirm and abide by the United States’ obligations on human rights, at home and abroad.”

Margaret Huang, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, said: “In the lead up to this week’s election, the United States has witnessed disturbing and, at times, poisonous rhetoric from President-elect Trump and others. This rhetoric cannot and must not become government policy. The xenophobic, sexist and other hateful remarks made by Trump have no place in government.

“President-elect Trump must publicly commit to upholding the human rights of all without discrimination. From internment camps to the use of torture, we have seen disastrous results when those we elect to represent us flout the United States’ obligations to uphold human rights. All who have been elected today – from the executive office to city council – should bear these lessons in mind.”

Freedom of the Press Foundation calls Donald Trump an “enemy of press freedom.”

Donald J. Trump, now the official President elect, is an enemy of press freedom unlike any we have seen in modern presidential history.

In the past 18 months alone, he has threatened to sue newspapers or journalists over a dozen times and said he will attempt to “open up libel laws” as president to make it easier to take newspapers to court. He has attacked and insulted members of the media almost daily and blacklisted countless news outlets over the course of his campaign. He has blamed “freedom of the press” for a terrorist attack in New York and has said the press has “too much protection” under the First Amendment. And much more.

In short, before he even has taken office, he has waged war against the free speech protections guaranteed under the Constitution at a truly historic pace.

We may be in for the biggest press freedom fight of our lives for the next 4 years. The fight may be hard, and it may be long, but we want you to know: Every threat, every lawsuit, every subpoena, every prosecution, we will be there holding Trump accountable and upholding the First Amendment.

More at BuzzFeed and Hit and Run.

America Rejects Clinton And The Establishment

nope

In an election in which both candidates were dreadful, unfortunately only one could lose. Democratic Party leaders rigged the system to nominate the one candidate who could not even beat Donald Trump. If the Democratic Party was democratic during the primaries we could have woken up today to a President-elect Sanders and a Democratic Senate. Instead, in a year in which the voters wanted change, the Democrats picked the most conservative, establishment choice imaginable. Clinton would have been the best president that money could buy. That is a key reason why she lost. Clinton epitomizes everything which is rotten in our system, and in the end that mattered more than even the racism, xenophobia, and shear idiocy of Donald Trump.

We have seen many versions of Donald Trump over the years, and hopefully we will see one of the better versions of Trump in the White House.  He has been inexcusably racist, but has also sought the support of minorities. While he offers no concrete plans for accomplishing these things, he has differed from Republican orthodoxy in expressing support for providing health care to all, preserving Social Security and Medicare, and rebuilding infrastructure. The extreme social conservatism he has expressed as a candidate may have been motivated by political expediency and hopefully will be abandoned. Many past Republicans have appealed to the religious right to get elected, and ignored them once in office. While Trump often appears dangerously incoherent on foreign policy, he could conceivably be an improvement over the neoconservative interventionism of Hillary Clinton. Better relations with Russia could be a favorable outcome of a Trump presidency, not something to oppose as Clinton has. Trump has even supported an end to the drug war in the past, but that was not heard during this campaign.

Even if Trump does turn out to be more moderate than he has been as a candidate, we will see a turn to the right and many undesirable outcomes of his presidency. However, we would also see a sharp turn to the right with Hillary Clinton, who might have been the lesser evil, but who also could have done more harm. Partisan Democrats ignore how much conservative Bill Clinton’s record actually was.This year they fooled themselves into thinking both that Hillary Clinton is a progressive, and that she is not corrupt. They fell for the claims in their echo chamber and sold their souls in the hopes of winning, and did not even wind up with an election victory.

A Clinton presidency would have meant a return to Cold War relations with Russia, and probably surrogate hot wars–at the very least. Clinton has already indicated a willingness to entertain a grand bargain which would cut Social Security, comparable to how the Clinton’s “reformed” welfare. While she would keep abortion legal, she would also probably make it more rare, having indicated a willingness to cooperate with Republicans to enact further restrictions on its availability. Her far right views on civil liberties, and her support for an increased role of religion in public policy, should have been alarming to more on the left.

This would have been a sad day regardless of who won the presidency. The one good thing to come out of this is that there is now hope that the Democratic Party will not remain under the control of neocons and DLC conservatives like Clinton and Kaine. It has been discouraging to see Democrats justify, and even defend, Clinton’s conservative record. Even worse, many have ignored the overwhelming amount of evidence of corruption on Clinton’s part, and how both Clintons have used their government positions to amass great personal wealth. Lack of an indictment is not a sign of innocence. It is an example of  how rotten the system is, and a Clinton victory would have further institutionalized such corruption.

Democrats deserved to lose by nominating Hillary Clinton, but the failure of the party establishment provides an opportunity to change leadership and reform the party. We are already seeing Clinton supporters blaming Bernie supporters, Stein supporters, Russians, the FBI, misogyny, the electoral college for Clinton’s defeat. They blame everyone except those who deserve the blame: Democrats who rigged the nomination for a candidate who is unfit to be president, and of course Hillary Clinton.  Clinton is both unfit to be president, and she ran a terrible campaign. Her message basically consisted of claims of “it’s my turn” and attacks on Donald Trump. She offered very little in terms of a positive message to support her. Trump’s message that the system is corrupt and needs change resonated far more.

While Trump won as the change candidate, much of the change he offers is not the kind of change we need. We must keep a check on Donald Trump. Fortunately our system does provide mechanisms to do so. The chances of doing so are greater if Democrats now defend liberal principles and do stand up to him when needed. They must behave more as they did during George Bush’s second term, and not as they did during his first. The ACLU is already preparing to challenge Donald Trump if he goes through with his promises which would restrict civil liberties.

There are Americans who want better than what both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have offered. It is looking like a majority might have voted for Clinton over Trump, with most voters not liking either choice. While more voted for third parties than in the past, the number was still small. Unfortunately most people only saw the choice as Trump or Clinton, so many voted for the only change candidate they saw–but did not necessarily agree with his positions. They voted for the wrong type of change, but still change. At least we end the election with a result few would have predicted–the defeat of both the Clinton and Bush families.

Leaked Clinton Recording Reveals Her Views On Sanders Supporters And The Left

never-hillary2

Hillary Clinton has tried very hard to keep what she says to fundraisers secret, but leaks are inevitable. In a leaked recording, Clinton revealed a low opinion of Sanders’ supporters. “Clinton confesses to feeling ‘bewildered’ by those to her far-left and far-right in the election,” showing a lack of understanding of the issues which have led to opposition to her from many on the left. From Politico:

Hacked audio of a conversation between Hillary Clinton and donors during a February fundraising event shows the Democrat nominee describing Bernie Sanders supporters as “children of the Great Recession” who are “living in their parents’ basement.”

Speaking at a Virginia fundraiser hosted by former U.S. ambassador Beatrice Welters, Clinton says in a clip released by the Free Beacon that many of her former primary opponent’s supporters sought things like “free college, free health care,” saying that she preferred to occupy the space “from the center-left to the center-right” on the political spectrum.

Clinton failed to recognize that many of us not only do not live in our parents’ basement, but oppose her for being a warmonger, for being far right on civil liberties, for being too conservative on social/cultural issues, and for her unethical behavior, along with the economic issues stressed by Bernie Sanders.

As The Intercept pointed out, Clinton has been inconsistent in public statements as to where she falls on the ideological spectrum, having claimed to both be a progressive and a centrist at various times. In this recording she stated, “I am occupying from the center-left to the center-right.” Actually authoritarian right would be a more accurate classification. Her statement provides further confirmation that Clinton is the candidate of the neoconservative status-quo. As I discussed yesterdayfifteen years after the 9/11 attack we are in a state of never-ending war, with growth of the surveillance state and lack of respect for civil liberties and privacy. Hillary Clinton would further institutionalize the horrors of the Bush years. Her conservative mindset and lack of understanding of opposing viewpoints makes her unlikely to change. We are likely to see a further move to the right as occurred under Bill Clinton.

The Awful Choice Of Trump Or Clinton Making Third Parties More Acceptable, Even To Establishment Newspapers

third-party

Both political major political parties nominated candidates who are unfit to be president, along with opposing many of the principles which supporters of each party had claimed to have supported. While many Democrats expressed objection to Clinton in the primaries, most appear to be falling in line, willing to ignore the fact that their nominee supports much of the agenda of George W. Bush which they had recently opposed. More Republicans are willing to stick up for principles in opposition to Donald Trump. Some, especially neoconservatives, are backing Clinton who, after all, is one of them. A growing number are showing a willingness to actually challenge the duopoly and back Gary Johnson.

Hillary Clinton has benefited from this in receiving the endorsements of multiple Republican as well as Democratic  newspapers. Once again, that it is no surprise that many Republicans have endorsed Clinton as she is essentially one of them in thought and behavior. A growing number of newspapers, realizing that neither Trump nor Clinton is ethically fit to be president, are endorsing Gary Johnson. Yesterday I mentioned The Detroit News, a newspaper so Republican that we called it The Nixon News in a previous era in the Detroit area. They wrote, “Donald Trump is unprincipled, unstable and quite possibly dangerous. He can not be president.” On Clinton they wrote, “character matters. Her career-long struggles with honesty and ethics and calculating, self-serving approach to politics trouble us deeply.” They defended supporting a third party candidate in writing, “We anticipate our decision not to support either of the major party candidates will bring charges that we are throwing away our endorsement. Our contention is that an endorsement based on conscience is never wasted.”

The Week also reported that Gary Johnson has received the endorsements of the New Hampshire Union Leader, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Winston-Salem Journal, and The Caledonian-Record along with an additional one today. While he received some endorsements in the primaries, they note that no newspapers have endorsed Trump for the general election.

The Chicago Tribune  described Donald Trump as, “a man not fit to be president of the United States. ” They also reject Clinton, partially out policy disagreements (seeing her as more liberal than she actually is based upon how she campaigned against Bernie Sanders), along with “serious questions about honesty and trust.” They also defended the choice of a third party candidate:

We reject the cliche that a citizen who chooses a principled third-party candidate is squandering his or her vote. Look at the number of fed-up Americans telling pollsters they clamor for alternatives to Trump and Clinton. What we’re recommending will appeal less to people who think tactically than to conscientious Americans so infuriated that they want to send a message about the failings of the major parties and their candidates. Put short:

We offer this endorsement to encourage voters who want to feel comfortable with their choice. Who want to vote for someone they can admire.

The same principle applies to those of us who plan to vote for Jill Stein as opposed to Trump or Clinton.

USA Today also had an editorial calling Donald Trump “unfit for the presidency.” It is a sign that they recognize that Clinton has flaws of her own that they could not actually take the step of endorsing her. While some on the editorial board were willing to support her, others felt differently, leaving open consideration of a third party candidate:

Other board members have serious reservations about Clinton’s sense of entitlement, her lack of candor and her extreme carelessness in handling classified information.

Where does that leave us? Our bottom-line advice for voters is this: Stay true to your convictions. That might mean a vote for Clinton, the most plausible alternative to keep Trump out of the White House. Or it might mean a third-party candidate. Or a write-in. Or a focus on down-ballot candidates who will serve the nation honestly, try to heal its divisions, and work to solve its problems.

Whatever you do, however, resist the siren song of a dangerous demagogue. By all means vote, just not for Donald Trump.

Voting for a major party candidate this year means either an unacceptable choice such as Trump or returning to the horrors of the Bush years. While some newspapers find that an acceptable alternative, I do not. Fifteen years after the 9/11 attack we are in a state of never-ending war, with growth of the surveillance state and lack of respect for civil liberties and privacy. Hillary Clinton would institutionalize the horrors of the Bush years, probably with the support of many Democrats who show a lack of concern for liberal principles, leaving few of us to protest. It is totally unpredictable as to what Donald Trump would do, but it seems as foolhardy to trust him with the powers of the presidency as it would be to trust Clinton based on her record. This leaves voting for a third party as the only ethical choice. Both Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are preferable to Trump and Clinton regarding the warfare/surveillance state, with Stein being preferable to those on the left when comparisons are made on additional issues.