Matt Taibbi On How The Democrats Need A New Message

Matt Taibbi used the victory by Greg Gianforte in Montana to review what is wrong with the Democratic Party. If this was just a loss in Montana it could easily be ignored as a case of people in a deep red state voting for party regardless of how awful the candidate was. The real message is how often the Democrats have lost:

The electoral results last November have been repeated enough that most people in politics know them by heart. Republicans now control 68 state legislative chambers, while Democrats only control 31. Republicans flipped three more governors’ seats last year and now control an incredible 33 of those offices. Since 2008, when Barack Obama first took office, Republicans have gained somewhere around 900 to 1,000 seats overall.

There are a lot of reasons for this. But there’s no way to spin some of these numbers in a way that doesn’t speak to the awesome unpopularity of the blue party. A recent series of Gallup polls is the most frightening example.

Unsurprisingly, the disintegrating Trump bears a historically low approval rating. But polls also show that the Democratic Party has lost five percentage points in its own approval rating dating back to November, when it was at 45 percent.

The Democrats are now hovering around 40 percent, just a hair over the Trump-tarnished Republicans, at 39 percent. Similar surveys have shown that despite the near daily barrage of news stories pegging the president as a bumbling incompetent in the employ of a hostile foreign power, Trump, incredibly, would still beat Hillary Clinton in a rematch today, and perhaps even by a larger margin than before.

Tabbi next ran through a long list of excuses the Democrats give for losing and correctly dismissed them:

The unspoken subtext of a lot of the Democrats’ excuse-making is their growing belief that the situation is hopeless – and not just because of fixable institutional factors like gerrymandering, but because we simply have a bad/irredeemable electorate that can never be reached.

This is why the “basket of deplorables” comment last summer was so devastating. That the line would become a sarcastic rallying cry for Trumpites was inevitable. (Of course it birthed a political merchandising supernova.) To many Democrats, the reaction proved the truth of Clinton’s statement. As in: we’re not going to get the overwhelming majority of these yeehaw-ing “deplorable” votes anyway, so why not call them by their names?

But the “deplorables” comment didn’t just further alienate already lost Republican votes. It spoke to an internal sickness within the Democratic Party, which had surrendered to a negativistic vision of a hopelessly divided country.

Things are so polarized now that, as Georgia State professor Jennifer McCoy put it on NPR this spring, each side views the other not as fellow citizens with whom they happen to disagree, but as a “threatening enemy to be vanquished.”

The “deplorables” comment formalized this idea that Democrats had given up on a huge chunk of the population, and now sought only to defeat and subdue their enemies.

Many will want to point out here that the Republicans are far worse on this score. No politician has been more divisive than Trump, who explicitly campaigned on blaming basically everyone but middle American white people for the world’s problems.

This is true. But just because the Republicans win using deeply cynical and divisive strategies doesn’t mean it’s the right or smart thing to do.

After further discussion, Taibbi got to his main argument that Democrats have no message other than to attack Republicans:

They’re continuing, if not worsening, last year’s mistake of running almost exclusively on Trump/Republican negatives. The Correct the Record types who police the Internet on the party’s behalf are relentless on that score, seeming to spend most of their time denouncing people for their wrong opinions or party disloyalty. They don’t seem to have anything to say to voters in flyover country, except to point out that they’re (at best) dupes for falling for Republican rhetoric.

But “Republicans are bad” isn’t a message or a plan, which is why the Democrats have managed the near impossible: losing ground overall during the singular catastrophe of the Trump presidency.

The party doesn’t see that the largest group of potential swing voters out there doesn’t need to be talked out of voting Republican. It needs to be talked out of not voting at all. The recent polls bear this out, showing that the people who have been turned off to the Democrats in recent months now say that in a do-over, they would vote for third parties or not at all.

This is a far more realistic look at politics than we saw from Hillary Clinton last week when she called third party voters crazy, as she repeated her long list of excuses for losing. Personally I think it would have been far crazier to vote for a corrupt warmonger like Clinton or a xenophobic racist like Trump than to vote based upon principle for a third party.

Clinton is the most obvious example of a politician running with no message, beyond her gender and claims that it is her turn. This was most clearly seen at the end of the race, when she finally realized her mistake of not campaigning in states like Michigan where she was vulnerable. When Clinton finally realized at the last minute that she was in trouble, both candidates started advertising heavily. Trump’s ads contained promises of jobs while Clinton’s ads attacked Trump’s character without giving any good reasons to vote for her. Even if Trump’s promises lacked substance, it should come as no surprise that his message was more effective.

Clinton’s entire candidacy highlighted how the Democrats have no message and stand for nothing these days. Many people voted for the Democrats because of opposition to the policies of George W. Bush. Now the Democrats were running a candidate who backed all the worst features of the Bush agenda, especially support for military interventionism and a hostility towards government transparency. In 2007 Clinton attacked members of the Bush administration saying, “Our Constitution is being shredded” over their support for the surveillance state and use of private email. Now we had Hillary Clinton spending over a year lying about her own violations of policy written to promote transparency and mocking freedom of speech. Wikileaks even revealed how little difference there was on economic views between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush.

Democrats have been repeatedly losing by running as a Republican-lite party and refusing to stand for anything. Democratic rules since the loss by George McGovern have been rigged to support a more conservative candidate, and in 2016 the Democrats further intervened to clear the field for Clinton. The irony is that rules initially written with the intent of providing winning candidates gave them a candidate so bad that she could not even beat Donald Trump, and were used to prevent the nomination of a surprise candidate who showed he could win. Democrats failed to understand how the world has changed since 1972, and that the old left/right linear political spectrum no longer applies. At least Bernicrats now have some victories on the local level which are showing that a Democrat with a message does have a chance of beating Republicans.

More Bad News For Trump On Travel Ban, Russia Probe, And GOP Health Care Plan

There was yet another round of bad news for Donald Trump the last couple of days. This includes a federal appeals court refusing to reinstate Trump’s travel ban. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond ruled that this was a violation of the First Amendment’s ban on government establishment of religion:

“Then-candidate Trump’s campaign statements reveal that on numerous occasions, he expressed anti-Muslim sentiment, as well as his intent, if elected, to ban Muslims from the United States,” Judge Gregory wrote. He cited, as an example, a 2015 statement calling for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our representatives can figure out what is going on.”

The travel ban is far more about prejudice than effective defense against terrorism. Donald Trump continues to show that his policies are counterproductive, most recently with police in the U.K. not wanting to share information with the United States due to leaks. Of course the biggest leaker of intelligence information in the Trump administration is probably Donald Trump himself.

There was additional bad news. Jared Kushner is reportedly under scrutiny by the FBI in the Russia probe. There are no specifics as to what his role was but the inclusion of Kushner is consistent with my suspicions that any misconduct by high administration officials will most likely turn out to be financial. Despite partisan claims, those involved with the investigation have consistently stated that there is no evidence of any collusion between Trump and the Russians with regards to meddling in the 2016 election. Without such collusion, any Russian meddling becomes of far less significance, representing the type of activity which both the United States and Russia has engaged in for decades. Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign showed how the Clinton campaign initiated a strategy to blame Clinton’s loss on others, such as Russia, within twenty-four hours of her loss. 

While no crimes have been proven on Trump’s part before being elected, there has been a suspicious pattern of cover-up–and most likely obstruction of justice with the firing of James Comey. Evidence of this was further increased this week when news came out that Trump had attempted to get two top intelligence officials to help him block the FBI investigation. The Washington Post reported:

President Trump asked two of the nation’s top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, according to current and former officials.

Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election.

Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the requests, which they both deemed to be inappropriate, according to two current and two former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private communications with the president.

Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans also received bad news this week when the Congressional Budget Office released their scoring of the House health care bill. Their report indicated that repealing ObamaCare in this nature would result in twenty-three million people losing health care coverage over ten years, and that many people with pre-existing conditions would find health insurance either unavailable or affordable.

FCC Will Not Take Action Against Stephen Colbert For Anti-Trump Monologue

Conservatives love to censor free speech, and late night talk show hosts who make fun of Republicans are a common target. This includes the attacks on David Letterman in 2009 when conservatives falsely accused him of making a joke about Willow Palin while she was a minor. Conservatives probably like his successor, Stephen Colbert, even less. Colbert tends to be much more political than Letterman. This includes this rant against Trump in his monologue following Trump’s interview with John Dickerson:

Mr. Trump, your presidency — I love your presidency. I call it ‘Disgrace the Nation.’ You’re not the POTUS — you’re the BLOTUS. You’re the glutton with the button. You’re a regular ‘Gorge’ Washington. You’re the presi-dunce, but you’re turning into a real prick-tator. Sir you attract more skinheads than free Rogaine. You have more people marching against you than cancer. You talk like a sign language gorilla who got hit in the head. In fact, the only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s c**k holster. Your presidential library is gonna be a kids menu and a couple of ‘Jugs’ magazines. The only thing smaller than your hands is your tax returns. And you can take that any way you want.

Video of the full monologue follows:

Conservatives complained about the line, “the only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s c**k holster” (with the potentially offensive word bleeped out when the show aired). Complaints were filed with the FCC, which reviewed Colbert’s monologue and found no violation of their rules: “Consistent with standard operating procedure, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau has reviewed the complaints and the material that was the subject of these complaints. The Bureau has concluded that there was nothing actionable under the FCC’s rules.”

It was not expected that the FCC would take action against Colbert as it gives a lot of leeway between 10 pm and 6 am. Taking action against comedians mocking Trump would have a chilling effect on freedom of speech.

The election of Donald Trump has been great for the ratings of the late night talk show hosts, and has benefited the more political hosts such as Colbert as opposed to previous ratings leader Jimmy Fallon. Deadline reports:

Colbert’s CBS Late Show will win the 2016-17 TV season in total viewers – CBS’ first win over NBC’s The Tonight Show in overall audience with a season-long host since the 1994-95 TV season. The qualifier excludes the 2009-2010 TV season when NBC replaced Conan O’Brien with Jay Leno midway through the season.

Democratic Party Stronger Without The Clintons

The 2016 election was unique in which, while their partisans might not realize it, each party would be better off if their candidate lost the presidential election. Both parties had horrible candidates, and each party would pay a price if their candidate was president. The damage to the Republican brand since Trump has been elected has been obvious. This distracts from noticing the benefits to Democrats from not being dragged further to the right by DLC Democrats such as the Clintons.

Democrats have misread recent politics in seeing Bill Clinton’s victory as evidence that the path of the Democratic Leadership Conference was the way to win. In reality, Bill Clinton won due to his own personal political skills, not by his desire to turn the Democratic Party into a Republican-Lite Party. The Clinton/DLC philosophy too conservative and out of date in the 1990’s, and it is even less relevant to the 21st century. Democrats lost off year elections in 2010 and 2014 by running as Republican-Lite and refusing to stand for anything. This culminated in nominating Hillary Clinton, who managed to lose to Donald Trump.

While Clinton partisans will never agree, polling data and the election results presents a pretty strong case that if the Democrats had nominate Bernie Sanders instead of Clinton they could have won the White House, and probably taken control of the Senate. The Democratic establishment has totally misread the mood of the country and were misled by an out-dated left/right linear political spectrum, failing to see that many independents would vote for Sanders, but not for Clinton.

While the Democratic establishment still desires to exclude Sanders, others are giving him credit for revitalizing the Democratic Party. Buzz Feed editor Ben Smith writes, While You Were Watching Trump, The Democratic Party Changed: Bernie Sanders lost the primary but reshaped his party.

“What happened in the presidential campaign is that Bernie ran explicitly in support of a Medicare-for-all approach” — a simple framework for single-payer — “and what the politicians saw is that voters were fine with that,” said Vermont Rep. Peter Welch, a longtime advocate of single payer.

“It’s inclusive and it doesn’t get us into the identity politics divisions that are problematic,” he said. “It gets us into inclusive politics.”

And if Sanders made single-payer safe for Democrats, Trump’s extremely unpopular foray into health care policy with the American Health Care Act has created a new landscape. Democrats’ blend of private-sector structures with government money and incentives, Obamacare, never became truly popular. A Republican version of that hybrid system, tilted toward the markets and away from guarantees, isn’t popular either.

“Then the default becomes, well the private market doesn’t work, the next thing is single-payer,” said an insurance industry executive close to the politics of the issue, who noted that the CEO of Aetna recently shocked the industry by calling for a serious debate about what single-payer would look like. (To the insurance industry, it could look like a new sluice of predictable revenue.)

“This is probably going to be like what happened with Republicans on immigration,” the insurance industry official said. “You may even have a bigger swath of Democrats who are not for single-payer but the single-payer group is becoming so outspoken that other voices are muted.”

It remains to be seen whether the Democratic Party will really change for the better, but there was little or no hope if a politician as conservative as Hillary Clinton had won and had the opportunity to shape the party. While she claims at times to be a progressive, she is a “progressive” who fights for conservative results. Clinton was hardly progressive when she supported making flag burning a felony, censoring video games, supported restricting freedom of speech to fight terrorism, defended the use of cluster bombs in civilian areas, supported parental notification laws, making abortion rare (a statement which stigmatizes women who have abortions and plays into GOP attempts to restrict abortions), leaving gay marriage up to the states (a position she finally changed but lagging behind the country tremendously), the Patriot Act, the discriminatory Workplace Religious Freedom Act, working with the Fellowship in the Senate to increase the role of religion in public policy and undermine the principle of separation of church and state, opposed single payer health care, opposed needle exchange programs, supported a hard line on the drug war, promoted increased government secrecy, supported going to war in Iraq war based upon false claims of a connection between Saddam and al Qaeda (without even bothering to read the intelligence material made available for members of the Senate), pushed for military intervention in Libya and Syria, and resuming the Cold War with Russia.

If Clinton was president, far too many Democrats would be rationalizing and defending Clinton’s views and actions. Instead, the defeat of Clinton opens the door for a more liberal Democratic Party. It also increases the chances of Democratic gains in 2018. If Clinton had been elected, we would probably see a continuation of Democratic loses in Congress and state governments. Instead there is talk of a possible Democratic wave in 2018. For many matters, the state government has more day to day impact on our lives than the federal government. For those of us who saw our state governments get taken over by Republicans since 2010, the defeat of Clinton gives hope of throwing the Republicans out.

With Trump in the White House, we have terrible policies, but also massive opposition to him. Plus with Trump in the White House, we have the added benefit of seeing the Republican president being the subject of scandals and possible impeachment, instead of the inevitable scandals to be seen under Hillary Clinton. The manner in which she spent the last couple of years repeatedly lying about the email and Foundations scandals should provide additional warnings about what could be expected with Clinton in the White House.

Donald Trump has been a terrible president, but it would have been a disaster regardless of who won. At least there is now  hope for a better future.

Donald Trump’s Ominous Parallels To The Rise Of Authoritarianism

The firing of James Comey by Donald Trump is yet another example of Donald Trump varying from Democratic norms. It is a disturbing case of a president working to destroy our system of checks and balances, demanding a pledge of loyalty from someone in a position designed to be independent of such political pressure.  I posted several opinions on this act yesterday, often from the perspective of comparing Trump’s actions to Richard Nixon’s acts to obstruct justice during the Watergate investigation.

There are even more ominous parallels which can be drawn. Donald Trump has already expressed a disturbing degree of admiration for dictators.  Vox looked at the firing of James Comey from the perspective of people who have studies the rise of authoritarian leaders. Some excerpts:

“Trump has talked like a would-be authoritarian since day one. … This is the first clear warning sign that he’s attempting to [act like one].”

Those are the words not of a Democratic political operative or a fringe liberal Trump critic, but of Yascha Mounk, a respected scholar of democracy at Harvard, reacting to Preisdent Trump’s abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey…

To people who study the rise of authoritarian leaders, just those facts alone are terrifying.

“This is very common — in semi-authoritarian and authoritarian regimes,” Erica Chenoweth, a professor at the University of Denver, tells me. “Purges, summary firings, imprisonment: These are all things that authoritarian leaders do when they attempt to rid themselves of rivals within government.”

Comey’s firing, these political scientists say, fits a pattern that’s very common in democracies that collapse into authoritarianism in the modern era. It’s not that the elected leaders in these countries set out to become an authoritarian, per se. It’s that they care about their own power and security above all else, and do things to protect their own position that have the effect of removing democratic constraints on their power.

One of the first steps in this pattern is weakening independent sources of power that can check the executive’s actions. Like, say, the director of your domestic security service who just happens to be investigating your administration’s foreign ties.

Trump “has what you might think of as autocratic tendencies, which were probably perfectly normal in the business world but are very problematic in the political world,” says Sheri Berman, a professor at Barnard College. “What he would like to do is eliminate all sources of opposition to him — indeed, even sources of criticism of him — and he’s willing to do pretty much anything to do that.”

When most people think about the collapse of democracy, they think about the Nazis, or maybe a military coup. In both cases, a leader comes to power with the explicit goal of taking a democratic system and replacing it with an authoritarian one. They then immediately pass laws banning dissent and use force to shut down all sources of political opposition.

That actually doesn’t happen very much anymore. Outright fascist movements were mostly discredited after World War II, and data on military coups shows a clear decline in their frequency since a peak in the 1960s.

But in the past 20 years or so, we’ve started to see a new kind of creeping authoritarianism emerge in places around the world — something that, in the wake of Trump’s recent actions, now has ominous parallels to the United States.

Leaders in these kinds of countries — Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey, and both Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela — don’t come into power and immediately dissolve the legislature and get rid of elections. What they do is corrupt those institutions, slowly and over time, rendering legislatures powerless and elections not truly competitive.

“It looks the same from the outside — there’s elections, there’s a judiciary, there’s a bureaucracy,” Berman says. “But the sort of power centers within those things, the people who populate them, have changed dramatically, so that … the substance of true democratic competition, true power competition, no longer exists.”

The vital first step toward this kind of “soft authoritarianism” is unified control over every key part of government. That starts with personnel: You can’t corrupt a judiciary staffed with impartial judges, or suborn election officials who are truly committed to running free and fair contests.

Instead, you need to fire people at key pressure points and replace them with cronies, or weaken the institution’s formal abilities to the point where it can’t really provide effective oversight…

There’s a reason FBI directors don’t get fired. The bureau handles, among many other things, criminal investigations involving the executive branch, so its leader needs to be as nonpartisan and clear of influence as possible. That’s why FBI directors have 10-year terms and are generally asked to stay on by new administrations, even if the director was appointed under a president of the opposing party…

“I don’t think we’ve crossed any bright lines distinguishing authoritarian systems from democratic ones,” Jay Ulfelder, a political scientist who studies the rise and fall of democracies, tells me.

The issue, instead, is the precedent that this sets for the Trump administration. If Trump’s firing of the man who’s investigating him successfully neuters the FBI and slows down its investigation of the Trump-Russia ties, that’s one less check on his power going forward. If he gets a clear message that the checks on him when he grabs for power are pliable, how far will he end up pushing the envelope?

The article also points out that Democratic institutions in this country are much stronger than in other countries mentioned which have fallen into authoritarianism, although it is of concern that many Republicans in Congress appear willing to go a long with Trump for partisan gain. The degree of protest over Trump’s actions around the country since his inauguration is also a hopeful sign.

Brian Beutler also addressed this topic:

The firing of James Comey has restarted a conversation about the vulnerability of public institutions in America that had gone largely dormant.

Before Tuesday, one of the most remarkable things about Donald Trump’s presidency was how sturdy it had shown competitor institutions, and the larger system of checks and balances, to be. Courts have beat back his power grabs; media, for all its flaws, has been more skeptical of the claims and actions of the Trump administration than of any administration in recent history. Civil society organizations have flourished, and a vital protest movement has both slowed the GOP legislative agenda, and forced some Republicans in Congress to expect a measure of accountability from the White House.

For those who were relieved by this, Comey’s firing should be a frightful awakening from complacency.

The immediate threat of the Trump presidency wasn’t that he would sap the public of its civic-mindedness, or intimidate judges and reporters into submission with his tweets. It was to the institutions under his control—the ones within the executive branch—and particularly those with meaningful independence from political actors in the White House. Because the path to neutralizing or coopting external institutions runs through corrupting internal ones…

If Trump gets away with firing Comey—if Republicans let him nominate any director he wants; if they resist the pressure to insist on appointing a special prosecutor, or to convene an investigative body; if they squash inquiries into the firing itself—he will read it as permission to run amok. As The Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein wrote, Trump’s “appetite for shattering democratic constraints is only likely to grow.”

Absent consequences, Trump will rightly feel liberated to appoint whomever he wants to run the IRS when the current commissioner’s term expires later this year. More alarmingly, he will know that he can get away with ordering a crackdown on voting rights or investigations of his political enemies. And, perversely, these are the reasons he is more likely to prevail. How many Republicans who entered the devil’s bargain with Trump for policy victories wouldn’t expand the terms to encompass electoral ones? Friends of Trump win elections and everyone else is at his mercy. Trump was reportedly upset that Comey did not pledge loyalty to him, and was charging ahead with an investigation that Trump finds threatening. When loyalty and corruption become job qualifications for political appointees, the president will have the power he needs to stifle protest leaders, judges, the free press, and political rivals. He won’t even have to make threats.

Once Again, The Data Shows Clinton Lost Because Obama Voters Backed Trump Over Her

When people have taken a serious look at the data available related to the 2016 election,  similar findings keep coming up. Hillary Clinton did not lose because of Russia, misogyny, James Comey, Bernie Bros, or Jill Stein voters. In March I noted data which showed that Clinton lost because of white working class voters who previously voted for Obama but shifted to Trump. Democratic Party strategists looked more data, and came to the same conclusion. McClatchy reports:

Many Democrats have a shorthand explanation for Clinton’s defeat: Her base didn’t turn out, Donald Trump’s did and the difference was too much to overcome.

But new information shows that Clinton had a much bigger problem with voters who had supported President Barack Obama in 2012 but backed Trump four years later.

Those Obama-Trump voters, in fact, effectively accounted for more than two-thirds of the reason Clinton lost, according to Matt Canter, a senior vice president of the Democratic political firm Global Strategy Group. In his group’s analysis, about 70 percent of Clinton’s failure to reach Obama’s vote total in 2012 was because she lost these voters.

In recent months, Canter and other members of Global Strategy Group have delivered a detailed report of their findings to senators, congressmen, fellow operatives and think tank wonks – all part of an ongoing effort to educate party leaders about what the data says really happened in last year’s election.

“We have to make sure we learn the right lesson from 2016, that we don’t just draw the lesson that makes us feel good at night, make us sleep well at night,” Canter said.

His firm’s conclusion is shared broadly by other Democrats who have examined the data, including senior members of Clinton’s campaign and officials at the Democratic data and analytics firm Catalist. (The New York Times, doing its own analysis, reached a similar conclusion.)

Greg Sargent reviewed polling data and further connected this to economic concerns:

“[Hillary] Clinton and Democrats’ economic message did not break through to drop-off or Obama-Trump voters, even though drop-off voters are decidedly anti-Trump,” Priorities USA concluded in a presentation of its polling data and focus group findings, which has been shown to party officials in recent days.

The poll found that Obama-Trump voters, many of whom are working-class whites and were pivotal to Trump’s victory, are economically losing ground and are skeptical of Democratic solutions to their problems…

A sizable chunk of Obama-Trump voters — 30 percent — said their vote for Trump was more a vote against Clinton than a vote for Trump. Remember, these voters backed Obama four years earlier.

There was brief mention of  Clinton’s“high unfavorable ratings,” but it appears they might be paying too little attention to this key factor. Polls have shown that Clinton is distrusted. There have been numerous stories during the campaign cycle about how she used her political positions to obtain personal wealth, between her influence peddling as Secretary of State and her Wall Street Speeches. This would be expected to alienate those voting based upon economic anxieties, and reinforce the view that the Democratic nominee was not offering solutions to their problems. These people previously voted for Barack Obama, and showed they would support Bernie Sanders. They were not willing to vote for Hillary Clinton.

While there is no doubt that Clinton lost many Obama voters over economic concerns, I do wonder if other problems are missed due to not being represented in the polling data released per the above link. Going beyond economics, during the Bush years, and going into Obama’s presidency, the conventional view among Democrats was that Bush and the Republicans are evil for going into Iraq, restricting civil liberties to supposedly fight terrorism, and decreasing government transparency. Hillary Clinton’s record here is virtually indistinguishable from George Bush’s, and now the Democratic establishment says: Don’t listen to purists on the left who object to Clinton’s support for war in Iraq, Libya, and Syria, along with a resumption of Cold War style hostilities with Russia, her support for restricting civil liberties to fight terrorism, and her hostility towards government transparency. We must unite to fight the evil Republicans.

Democrats have a serious messaging problem, including but certainly not limited to economics.

Hypocritical Attacks On Sanders From The Clinton Camp

I supported Bernie Sanders for the 2016 presidential nomination. As will probably always be the case, this was because he was the best choice available, not because I agree with him on all matters. One major area where we differed  was in Sanders’ stressing economic matters, while my support for Sanders was more heavily influenced by opposition to Clinton-style military interventionism and on social issues. Despite the manner in which Sanders prioritized economic issues, he did have strong liberal positions in other areas, including being more liberal than Hillary Clinton on abortion rights.

I have my doubts about Sanders campaigning for an anti-abortion candidate in Omaha, but this has no bearing on wanting to see the Democratic Party move in the direction of Sanders as opposed to moving to the right with Hillary Clinton and her supporters. In contrast, many Clinton supporters are using this as yet another reason to attack Sanders.

I understand the problems some Clinton supporters have with Bernie Sanders campaigning for a candidate with Heath Mello’s position on abortion. However, I would have more respect for their position if they didn’t support a candidate like Hillary Clinton who supported greater military intervention in Iraq, Libya, and Syria, pushed for a resumption of cold war tensions with Russia, has supported suppression of civil liberties to supposedly fight terrorism, introduced legislation to make flag burning by protesters a felony, opposed same-sex marriage until this was no longer a position which she could survive with politically, sided with Republicans in blocking legislation to ban cluster bombs in civilian areas, has supported mass incarceration and remains hawkish on the drug war, opposed needle exchange programs, opposed programs to distribute free condoms to reduce the spread of AIDS, worked with the Fellowship while in the Senate to increase the role of religion in public policy, has strongly opposed government transparency, supported the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, has engaged in influence peddling, has opposed single-payer health care, ran as a “pro-gun churchgoer” in 2008, has supported restrictions on abortion herself, and has repeatedly acted to protect the corrupting influence of money in politics.

It is rather hypocritical that they can ignore all of this with Clinton, but now demand ideological purity from Bernie Sanders. Fighting the Republican attempts to restrict reproductive rights is important, as are the other issues I mentioned above. Considering how conservative Hillary Clinton is on foreign policy, First Amendment issues, and social/cultural issues, and how she has spent much of her career undermining liberal goals, nobody who supports Hillary Clinton is in any position to criticize Sanders over campaigning for Mello.

Support For Marijuana Legalization At All Time High–Both Major Party Candidates Out Of Step With The Country

CBS News reports that a record number of Americans support legalization of marijuana:

A recent CBS News poll shows support for legalizing marijuana is higher than ever.

Sixty-one percent of Americans think marijuana use should be legal, a five-point increase from last year and the highest percentage ever recorded in this poll. Eighty-eight percent favor medical marijuana use.

Seventy-one percent oppose the federal government’s efforts to stop marijuana sales and its use in states that have legalized it, including opposition from most Republicans, Democrats, and independents.

Sixty-five percent think marijuana is less dangerous than most other drugs. And only 23 percent think legalizing marijuana leads to an increase violent crime.

Despite this, neither political party represented the views of Americans on this issue. Hillary Clinton has always been a hard line supporter of the drug war, supporting mass incarceration about as much as she has supported killing around the world in the actual wars she has backed. She even had her daughter spread an off the wall message that marijuana is killing people (which Chelsea later walked back). Even when Clinton tried to play down how much her views were out of touch with the rest of the country, Wikileaks showed that her private position remained strongly opposed to legalization.

Donald Trump personally has been as inconsistent and incoherent on drug policy as on pretty much every other issue. Regardless of Trump’s personal views, the Trump administration is starting out with an extremely hard line view, led by Jeff Sessions.

This is just one of many ways in which both major parties were out of step with the views of most Americans, and how the views of Clinton and Trump were not all that far apart. The two major parties failed in proving satisfactory candidates on this and many other issues. In contrast, both Jill Stein (Green Party) and Gary Johnson (Libertarian Party) supported an end to marijuana prohibition. Similarly, both Clinton and Trump support continued interventionism in the middle east, expansion of the surveillance state, and restrictions on civil liberties to supposedly fight terrorism. Third party candidates Stein and Johnson, although quite different in other areas, also had similar views in opposing the status quo on interventionism and restricting civil liberties.

Something is terribly wrong with a system which limited us to a choice of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in terms of major party candidates.

SciFi Weekend: Homeland Finale; Doctor Who; Sherlock; Victoria; Orphan Black; Sense8; Star Wars The Last Jedi; The Magicians; Supergirl; The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel; Big Little Lies

While not as good as the first season (a very high bar), Homeland finally figured out how to reinvent itself and become an excellent show again this season. When the series had a female president-elect, there was no question that they were playing on the thought that Hillary Clinton would have been elected last November. While the used the idea of a female president, she clearly was not Hillary Clinton. For most of the season it appeared that this was a far better choice for the first female present. Rather than being a warmonger and strong proponent the surveillance state like Clinton, President-elect Keane supported seeking peace in the middle east and was no fan of the Patriot Act. The series also dealt heavily with fake news and influencing public opinion.

The finale had an all too realistic warning. (Spoilers ahead). Shocked by an assassination attempt involving portions of the deep state, Keane snapped (as Dick Cheney may have when carried down to safety during the 9/11 attack). Like Donald Trump, President Keane went to war with her intelligence community, but to a far greater degree. She was no longer the anti-Clinton, expanding the Patriot Act and rounding up innocent people based upon metadata from NSA surveillance, including Saul Berenson. A right wing talk show host spoke of how President Keane broke her promises–somewhat like how real right wing talk shows are now talking about how Donald Trump has broken his promises to them. The name of the episode: America First.

Variety discussed the series with showrunner Alex Gansa. The interview was done before the finale and therefore does not include the surprising conclusion, but does discuss how the season was relevant to real world events:

“Homeland” storylines usually reflect real-world headlines in some way. What surprised you this year about how your show dovetailed with real events?

The most surprising and alarming coincidence was that the very thing we had posited a year ago in February — that is a President-elect in an adversarial relationship with her own intelligence community – actually came to the fore after President Trump got elected was just a coincidence of epic proportions. Frankly that was the biggest surprise second only to the fact that Donald Trump got elected in the first place. That dynamic – a newly elected President at war with her intelligence community was really the fulcrum that the entire season hinged on. The fact that it played out in the real world on the national stage was shocking to witness. There were some other (developments) that made us go back into some episodes to retrofit them.

Can you give an example?

The whole idea of fake news and propaganda – that seemed to take on a much more prominent role as we moved into our story. The one major thing we went back in and changed was introducing our Brett O’Keefe character much earlier than we intended. He was originally scheduled to be introduced in episode eight. But we went back in and did some reshoots and new scenes to introduce him in episode two…

You were clear all along in the lead-up to season six that “Homeland’s” female President-elect was not meant to be a thinly veiled Hillary Clinton. But were you concerned about that choice after Trump pulled off his upset win?

Absolutely. There was a moment we all just slapped our foreheads and wondered if the show was going to be irrelevant from that point forward. However, the story of the President-elect in an adversarial situation with her own intelligence community, that certainly wouldn’t have been Hillary Clinton. She was an establishment candidate. She was front and center of American foreign policy for years. …In a crazy way, the show would have been more irrelevant if Hillary would have been elected. The fact that Donald Trump and his team were in such a contentious relationship made the show feel current and contemporaneous. We lost on the gender but we certainly gained on the dynamic.

There has been a lot of news going into the season premiere of Doctor Who. As it has been sixteen months since a regular episode, Yahoo TV has the above catch-up guide.

Peter Capaldi has already filmed his regeneration scene. Steven Moffat has discussed the regeneration:

“With Matt I had a sort of idea that his entire run should be in the pre-math of a battle he’s having at the end of his life,” Moffat told RadioTimes.com exclusively at the BFI and Radio Times Television Festival this weekend (see video below). “But with Peter I wasn’t quite sure. I wasn’t sure for a long time whether I’d be writing him out or whether he’d be carrying on with [new showrunner] Chris Chibnall.

“That fits his Doctor, though,” the screenwriter went on, before hinting that this less mapped-out path would be echoed in Capaldi’s regeneration.

“His Doctor feels sort of impulsive and in the moment and would do something reckless that you wouldn’t expect. That suits me.

“And I mean, you can overstate the difficulty of planning a finale for a Doctor. In the end, any Doctor Who story has such catastrophe going on in it, that he could be the one that gets the rock on his head.

“But I think I’m really happy with what we’re doing for his finale. I’m just working on it now. It’s quite early. I should be further through it, but there you go.”

Moffat has also said he will be working on another show with Mark Gatiss.

Normally when Doctor Who is on, the lead item of SciFi Weekend is quite frequently a review of the current episode. Because of the holiday weekend, I have moved up this week’s post to Saturday, before this season’s premiere episode has been shown. I still might add a full review as a separate post rather than waiting until next week, depending upon both available time and how much the episode warrants it.

The Telegraph ran a story entitled, Steven Moffat talks the future of Sherlock and possible recasting. Of course, while scheduling Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman might be difficult, the show would never be the same with a different cast. Fortunately Moffat agreed:

Speaking at London’s BFI and Radio Times Television Festival, Moffat revealed: “Neither Benedict, Mark or Martin are against doing more Sherlocks. We have a great time making them, it’s a very, very nice bunch of people and we enjoy our reunions very much… [but] we’d never want to do it if we didn’t think we could do it as well as we used to.

“It also means, we’ll come back to it when we feel we’ve got the right idea. It could be off the earth quite a long while now. But I would be surprised, as I’ve said before, if we never made any more Sherlocks.”

Along with concerns over future stories, Moffat and Gatiss also have the busy schedules of their two stars to contend with: both men entrenched in the Marvel universe, as well as their multitudes of additional projects. It lead to Moffat being asked whether he would ever consider a recast.

“Absolutely not,” he was quick to reply. “You can admire great cinematography, a great score, great writing, great direction, great production. You can admire all those things, but you only fall in love with people. And the people you fall in love with are Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.

“You cannot replace them. They are the magic, they are the show.”

Speaking of recasting, while The Crown plans to recast Claire Foy and Matt Smith after the second season as their characters age, Victoria will be moving more slowly through the 1840’s. Therefore there are no plans yet to recast Jenna Coleman.

BBC America has released a longer trailer for the fifth and final season of Orphan Black, which returns on June 10.

Netflix has released the above trailer for season 2 of Sense8, which will become available on May 5. The description:

From renowned creative geniuses Lana Wachowski, Grant Hill (“The Matrix,” “Cloud Atlas”) and J. Michael Straczynski (Clint Eastwood’s “Changeling,’ “World War Z”), Sense8 is centered around eight characters, from different parts of the world, who experience a violent vision, and soon find themselves mentally connected by the experience. They become connected, able to see and talk to each other as though they were in the same place, with access to each other’s deepest secrets. Not only must the eight adapt to this new ability and to each other, they must figure out why their lives are now in jeopardy. In Season 2, dark forces continue to track the cluster of eight connected characters. The sensates will learn more about BPO, the secret organization searching for their cluster and others like them, and will work to protect themselves from this organization that is out to hunt and kill them.

The above teaser has been released for Star Wars: The Last Jedi which will be released December 15. More at Entertainment Weekly.

Syfy has finally announced that The Magicians will be renewed for a third season. Grace and Frankie has also been renewed by Netflix.

Calista Flockhart will be returning for the final two episodes of Supergirl this season. She was written out of the show after two episodes as a consequence of the show moving production to Vancouver. Tyler Hoechlin will also return as Superman.

Manu Bennett (Slade Wilson/Deathstroke) will be returning for the season finale of Arrow.

Gotham plans to “introduce the idea of Harley Quinn” in the Season 3 finale.

The pilot for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has received excellent reviews, so it is no surprise that Amazon has picked up this series from Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino. The only surprise is that Amazon has already picked it up for two seasons, which could keep Amy Sherman-Palladino busy if the rumors come true of a second season for Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life. The summary for her new series:

The series, written and directed by Sherman-Palladino, stars Rachel Brosnahan (House of Cards) as Miriam “Midge” Maisel, a 1958 New York City woman who has everything she’s ever wanted—the perfect husband, two kids, and an elegant Upper West Side apartment perfect for hosting Yom Kippur dinner. But her perfect life suddenly takes an unexpected turn and Midge discovers a previously unknown talent—one that changes her life forever. She charts a course that takes her from her comfortable life on Riverside Drive, through the basket houses and nightclubs of Greenwich Village as she storms the world of stand-up comedy…a course that will ultimately lead her to a spot on Johnny Carson’s couch.

In addition to House of Cards, Rachel Brosnahan also appeared as Abby Isaacs in the WGN series Manhattan.

Big Little Lies completed the events of  novel it was based on in its first season, but that might not keep it from getting a second season. It certainly is plausible–and there is precedent for this. The Leftovers was better in its second season, after its first season completed the novel it was based on, and early reviews suggest the third season might be even better. HBO was certainly not going to stop filming Game of Thrones when it caught up to the published novels.

Do The Democrats Have A Death Wish?

The Democratic Party not only lost the fight over who would fill Antonin Scalia’s Supreme Court seat, but they might also be conceding defeat for the future. Talking Points Memo quotes Senator Ed Markey:

“When the Democrats return to the majority and capture the presidency, which we will, that day is going to arrive, we will restore the 60-vote margin,” Markey told MSNBC’s Katy Tur. “We will ensure that, for the Supreme Court, there is that special margin that any candidate has to reach because that is essential to ensuring that our country has a confidence in those people that are nominated, rather than just someone who just passes a litmus test.”

Do Democrats secretly wish to lose?

Assuming that he isn’t saying this for political posturing without any intent to do so, and that his views are representative of the party, this makes no sense. Why allow the Republicans to confirm Justices with only 51 votes, but then go back to requiring 60 votes to confirm liberal Justices to undo the harm caused by the Republicans?

Maybe Markey wants to stand up for principle, but if so there are far more fundamental liberal principles which the Democratic Party has repeatedly compromised on than the view that a Supreme Court Justice should require sixty votes for confirmation. Maybe this could be reconsidered at some future point should the Republican Party return to sanity, but this is not the time to make such a decision. In the meantime, perhaps the Democrats should stick to principles on matters such as defending civil liberties and reversing the surveillance state. Perhaps they should fight to avoid repeating the mistakes of the Bush years in intervening in the middle east. Instead we have Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer supporting Trump’s airstrikes in Syria, and other Democratic leaders including Howard Dean attacking Tulsi Gabbard who has been promoting peace.

Of course we should not be surprised, considering how the Democratic establishment rigged the 2016 nomination for Hillary Clinton, who both was to the right of Antonin Scalia on civil liberties, and favored far more extensive, and dangerous, intervention in Syria than the attack by Donald Trump. Of course that was also another example of the Democrats showing an inability to win, in nominating the worst possible candidate to run against Donald Trump. If you are going to rig a party’s nomination, at least do so for a candidate who can win–unless you have a death wish.