Michael Moore Predicts Donald Trump Will Be Reelected

Michael Moore, who is currently doing a one man show to take on Donald Trump, is getting a lot of coverage today for predicting that Donald Trump will be reelected in 2020. His prediction is carrying some weight primarily because he had predicted that Trump would win in 2016 based upon winning in the upper midwest. Moore predicts that “he will win those electoral states as it stands now.”

It is of course way to early to predict the 2020 election. It is far from certain he will be able to win the midwest if he is unable keep the promises he kept, and not even certain he won’t be impeached before then.

Moore was basing his argument upon winning those states and the electoral college, calling it being re-appointed as opposed to reelected. I wonder if his real point was to draw attention to opposition to the electoral college and pitching the National Popular Vote interstate compact as a way around the electoral vote.  This would create an agreement among states to award their electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote regardless of how their state voted.

Just as it is far from certain that Donald Trump can win the same states he won in 2016, it is also not certain that Clinton would have won if the vote was based upon the popular vote in 2016. Trump based his strategy on the electoral college, concentrating his campaign on those states which could (and ultimately did) provide an electoral college majority. In contrast, Clinton tried more to run up the popular vote, and ignored crucial states in the electoral college.

If the 2016 election was based upon the popular vote, Trump would have used a completely different strategy, primarily involving campaigning in populous blue states which he ignored because they were worthless in the electoral college. While he could never win in New York and California, he could have pulled in significantly more votes than he did by campaigning there, and in other blue states he ignored. He also might have run up the vote more in more in Texas and other red states to increase his popular vote total.

Beyond changing to winning by the popular vote, Moore concentrated his strategy on getting back Obama voters who voted for Trump and those who voted for third party candidates:

 “Eight million Obama voters voted for Trump. We just need to convince a few of them–hold out our hand and bring them back. Can we do that? I think we can do that,” Moore says. “You know, there were seven-and-a-half million that voted Green or Libertarian. I think we can convince a few of them to come back. We don’t need to convince a whole lot here.”

At least he didn’t repeat the bogus argument spread by Clinton supporters last week blaming supporters of Bernie Sanders for Clinton losing.

While it is possible that by 2020 Trump will be unelectable, at the moment I do not see very good signs that the Democrats are on the right track to win should Trump’s popularity improve. The way to beat Trump is not to primarily attack his faults (regardless of how bad they are). Hillary Clinton already tried this, and lost. The Democrats need to show that they stand for something and can offer something better, and not just a return to the old Bush/Clinton status quo. So far they are failing to do this.

Clinton Apologists Distort Poll Data To Make False Claim That Sanders Supporters Cost Clinton The Election

Hillary Clinton and her supporters have the irrational view that it makes sense to blame those who did not vote for her for her loss, failing to understand that this is how politics works. Any candidate can claim they would have won if enough people who did not vote for them had decided to vote for them, and it is the fault of the Democrats if they ran a candidate so terrible that she could not even beat Donald Trump. Clinton supporters are now twisting recently released polling data to blame supporters of Bernie Sanders for Clinton’s inability to beat Trump.

Some like Newsweek are running the data under the unsupported headline, Bernie Sanders Voter Helped Trump Win And Here’s Proof.  The Washington Post looks at the data more objectively under the title Did enough Bernie Sanders supporters vote for Trump to cost Clinton the election? They report that, “Two surveys estimate that 12 percent of Sanders voters voted for Trump. A third survey suggests it was 6 percent.”

The article further states, “the most important feature of Sanders-Trump voters is this: They weren’t really Democrats to begin with.” In other words, Bernie Sanders brought in non-Democratic voters, while Hillary Clinton could not win the support of these voters. This is a difference between Sanders and Clinton which we were well aware of during the primaries.

In looking at the voters who went from Sanders to Trump, also remember the PUMAs. This six to twelve percent of Sanders voters is rather small compared to the number of Clinton voters who voted for John McCain in the 2008 general election:

Another useful comparison is to 2008, when the question was whether Clinton supporters would vote for Barack Obama or John McCain (R-Ariz.) Based on data from the 2008 Cooperative Campaign Analysis Project, a YouGov survey that also interviewed respondents multiple times during the campaign, 24 percent of people who supported Clinton in the primary as of March 2008 then reported voting for McCain in the general election.

An analysis of a different 2008 survey by the political scientists Michael Henderson, Sunshine Hillygus and Trevor Thompson produced a similar estimate: 25 percent. (Unsurprisingly, Clinton voters who supported McCain were more likely to have negative views of African Americans, relative to those who supported Obama.)

Thus, the 6 percent or 12 percent of Sanders supporters who may have supported Trump does not look especially large in comparison with these other examples.

This certainly blows up the arguments of Clinton supporters based upon some expectation of party loyalty with more Clinton supporters than Sanders supporters going over to the Republicans.

I am actually not surprised by this. After all, Hillary Clinton’s views are far more in line with the Republicans than liberal/progressive Democrats. Many backed her based upon gender without any serious understanding of her views. Therefore a Republican ticket like McCain/Palin wouldn’t be very far from Clinton ideologically, and would allow them to vote for a female candidate. Core Sanders supporters are far more progressive than Clinton and those voting for a non-Democrat might  consider  candidates such as Jill Stein, but did not have a major party candidate who was similar to them ideologically as Clinton supporters did. This left a smaller number who would vote Republican in 2016.

On the other hand, the left/right political spectrum does not explain the choices of all voters. Again, this data shows that there were voters who Bernie Bernie Sanders could win away from the Republicans, but Hillary Clinton could not. This was one of the reasons Sanders would have made a better general election candidate.

The data in this poll alone does not prove that Sanders would have beaten Trump, but other data available does suggest this. Sanders typically polled about ten points better than Clinton in head to head polls against Republicans. Sanders did better in the rust belt states which cost Clinton the election in the electoral college. Sanders was not involved in scandals as Clinton was, and there were no emails which showed matters comparable to what was released about Clinton by Wikileaks. It makes no sense for Clinton supporters to blame James Comey, Wikileaks, and Russia for Clinton losing, but deny that not being affected by these matters would make Sanders a stronger general election candidate.

In an election this close, virtually any difference might have changed the election result–including perhaps Clinton not making the many mistakes she made throughout the campaign. If all the Sanders voters who voted for Trump had voted for Clinton she theoretically could have won. On the other hand, there  were even more people who voted for Obama in the previous election but voted for Trump.

As with the vast majority of election analyses I have read, they did not even look at the degree to which being a neoconservative war monger might have affected the actions of voters, with one study earlier this summer suggesting that it was her support for endless war which cost her the election. Despite his many faults, Trump did outflank Clinton on the left on both trade and foreign policy (although Trump was far too incoherent on foreign policy for many of us to consider backing him based upon this, even if we could have overlooked his racism and xenophobia).

The key factor in any analysis is not that something different might have allowed Clinton to win, but that running against a candidate as terrible as Donald Trump, Clinton was so close that these factors allowed her to lose. If Clinton was running ten points better against Trump (as Sanders had), then Russia, James Comey, and even the loss of some votes to Trump would not have cost her the election. Barack Obama was able to win despite losing far more Clinton voters to Republicans because he was a stronger candidate to begin with.

Donald Trump is president because the Democrats picked a horrible candidate who then went on to run a terrible campaign. No amount of spinning poll results will change this.

Donald Trump Fails The Country In Refusing To Stand Up To White Supremacists

The hatred and violence seen in Charlottesville this weekend raises the question of whether Donald Trump will ever stand up to his white supremacist base. His statement about the violence has been criticized by many for failing to call out the white supremacists and identify the evil behind the event. The Dallas Morning News stated in an editorial that, Amid the violence in Virginia, President Trump failed in a test of leadership:

Unfortunately, what we witnessed Saturday in Charlottesville, Va., revealed the ugliness of America. What’s worse is that in its aftermath, President Donald Trump had an opportunity to show real leadership but couldn’t bring himself to do it.

White supremacists, in a protest billed as a “Unite the Right” rally, gathered to rail against the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a city park. The protests started out peacefully but as the day went on, fights broke out between the white supremacists and counterprotesters, including Black Lives Matter activists, faith leaders and the anarchist group Antifa…

Once police dispersed most of the crowd, a Dodge Challenger plowed into a crowd of protesters, hurling people into the air, killing one and injuring 19 others. The driver put the car in reverse, sped backward and managed to escape before being arrested later.

At a time when such ugliness took place in the hometown of founding father Thomas Jefferson, Trump had a golden opportunity to condemn the violence and speak out against the white supremacists and white nationalists, many of whom supported him in the election against Hillary Clinton. The country needed the leader of the nation to forcefully call out these ugly — and un-American — interests.

There is no room for violence from any group, including Antifa. But on this day, it was all about white supremacists, neo-Nazis and white nationalists.

The best President Trump came up with is to say, “We want to get this situation straightened out in Charlottesville. And we want to study it. And we want to see what we’re doing wrong as a country.” He also blamed “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.”

The country needed to hear the president specifically condemn white supremacists and make clear to them that while they have a First Amendment right to express their views, their hatred and bigotry run counter to the values of the United States. There will be no toleration of violence.

On Saturday, President Trump failed his country.

Chris Cillizza called Trump’s statement incredibly unpresidential:

What Trump failed to do is what he has always promised to do: Speak blunt truths. The people gathered in Charlottesville this weekend are white supremacists, driven by hate and intolerance. Period. There is no “other side” doing similar things here…

There are moments where we as a country look to our president to exemplify the best in us. They don’t happen every day. Sometimes they don’t happen every year. But, when they do happen, we need the person we elected to lead us to, you know, lead us.

Trump did the opposite today.

While Donald Trump failed his country in  his response, others from all sides of the political spectrum did far better. Barack Obama quoted Nelson Mandela in a series of three Tweets: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion … People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love…For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Republican Senator Cory Gardner specifically called out Trump for failing to speak out against white supremacism. He Tweeted: “Mr. President – we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism.” Marco Rubio also stated that Donald Trump needs to clearly denounce white supremacists in Charlottesville.

Ted Cruz had this statement on Facebook:

It’s tragic and heartbreaking to see hatred and racism once again mar our great Nation with bloodshed. Heidi’s and my prayers are with the loved ones of those killed and injured in the ongoing violence in Charlottesville. The First Amendment protects the rights of all Americans to speak their minds peaceably, but violence, brutality, and murder have no place in a civilized society.

The Nazis, the KKK, and white supremacists are repulsive and evil, and all of us have a moral obligation to speak out against the lies, bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred that they propagate. Having watched the horrifying video of the car deliberately crashing into a crowd of protesters, I urge the Department of Justice to immediately investigate and prosecute this grotesque act of domestic terrorism.

These bigots want to tear our country apart, but they will fail. America is far better than this. Our Nation was built on fundamental truths, none more central than the proposition “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Update:

Trump Backtracks And Blames Both Sides, Including Alt-Left, For Charlottesville Violence

Donald Trump Further Inflames Situation In North Korea

The conventional wisdom regarding North Korea has been that Kim Jong Un is crazy. While that very well may be the case, we are now in a strange situation where it is not clear which nation has the crazier leader. Trump made this threat: “He has been very threatening beyond a normal state, and as I said, they will be met with fire and fury, and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.” There has been received with universal criticism that it only inflames the situation. It also turns out that this was an improvised statement by Donald Trump. The New York Times reports:

President Trump delivered his “fire and fury” threat to North Korea on Tuesday with arms folded, jaw set and eyes flitting on what appeared to be a single page of talking points set before him on the conference table at his New Jersey golf resort.

The piece of paper, as it turned out, was a fact sheet on the opioid crisis he had come to talk about, and his ominous warning to Pyongyang was entirely improvised, according to several people with direct knowledge of what unfolded. In discussions with advisers beforehand, he had not run the specific language by them, though he had talked over possible responses in a general way.

The inflammatory words quickly escalated the confrontation with North Korea to a new, alarming level and were followed shortly by a new threat from North Korea to obliterate an American air base on Guam. In the hours since, the president’s advisers have sought to calm the situation, with Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson assuring Americans that they “should sleep at night” without worrying about an imminent war.

USA Today summarizes some of the international reaction. In reviewing past crises, another report in The New York Times reports how there is little precedent for such a statement. Others in the government are now busy attempting damage control. Jonathan Chait wins best headline award on the topic with, Ignore Our Crazy President, U.S. Government Tells North Korea.

Of course not everyone is critical of Donald Trump. In perhaps the scariest headline on the topic, The Washington Post reports, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un,’ evangelical adviser says:

Texas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, one of President Trump’s evangelical advisers who preached the morning of his inauguration, has released a statement saying the president has the moral authority to “take out” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“When it comes to how we should deal with evildoers, the Bible, in the book of Romans, is very clear: God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary — including war — to stop evil,” Jeffress said. “In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un.”

Trump’s statements most likely come from his lack of understanding of how to carry out the duties of the presidency. Kim Jong Un’s actions are in some ways more rational, if you look at his motivation based upon retaining absolute control over North Korea, regardless of how much suffering he causes.

There are multiple reasons which originally motivated North Korea to develop nuclear weapons, including both witnessing the effects of nuclear weapons in nearby Japan and the devastation their country suffered in the Korean War. However these events happened before the current leadership was born, and more recent events appear to be motivating them to further develop the nuclear weapons and refuse to compromise. North Korea has claimed that they need to preserve their nuclear program because of the example of how Saddam was overthrown after he gave up his weapons of mass destruction and Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed after he surrendered his nuclear weapons. Such examples make it unlikely that Kim Jong Un will back down in the face of sanctions.

It is now well known how George Bush lied us into the war in Iraq. The regime change in Libya orchestrated by Hillary Clinton has been a similar disaster, with Barack Obama calling it one of the biggest mistakes of his presidency. A report by the U.K. Parliament showed that this war, like Iraq, was also started based upon lies. The situation we now face in North Korea is yet another of the consequences we face for the reckless interventionism of neocons like Bush and Clinton. On top of this, the crisis must be dealt with by a president who appears to be clueless as to how to respond.

Update: The Washington Post points out one of Ronald Reagan’s contributions to the problem with the invasion of Grenada:

In October 1983, the United States invaded Grenada. The Kim family regime that controls North Korea saw this invasion as an early warning sign: If the United States could perceive even a small spice island as a threat, so too could it eventually train its sights on North Korea. Without an effective deterrent, any regime perceived as a threat would be little match for American military might.

It wasn’t just Grenada’s size that caught the Kim family’s attention. Grenada, a country of only 110,000 people that is known primarily for producing nutmeg, had significance for the North Korean leadership in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Kim Il Sung, grandfather of North Korea’s present-day leader Kim Jong Un, viewed the new Grenadian socialist government headed by Maurice Bishop as brave revolutionaries directly fighting U.S. imperialism in the Caribbean. Kim Il Sung also sought the help of recently decolonized nations like Grenada in international forums, as a way to undermine South Korea’s legitimacy abroad and garner support for a North Korean-led reunification of the two Koreas…

Joint Chiefs Ignoring Trump Transgender Ban As Twitter Not Part Of Chain Of Command

Why are Republicans so obsessed with other people’s genitals, who they have sex with, and which bathroom they use? The latest example was Donald Trump’s proclamation via Twitter that transgender individuals will not be allowed to serve in the military. Of course the Constitution does not provide for changes in policy via Tweets, and neither Congress nor the Joint Chiefs of Staff were prepared for this. Not surprisingly, they are insisting upon following the conventional change of command before making such changes. CNN reports:

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, including chairman General Joseph Dunford, were not aware President Donald Trump planned to tweet a ban on transgender service members, three US defense officials told CNN — the latest indication that top military leaders across all four service branches were blindsided by the President’s announcement.

For now, Dunford has informed service members that there will be “no modifications to the current policy until the President’s direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidelines.”

“In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect,” Dunford wrote in a memo to the military that was obtained by CNN. “As importantly, given the current fight and the challenges we face, we will all remain focused on accomplishing our assigned missions.”

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said Thursday that, to date, he has not received “directives on implementation” for a ban and learned about the President’s decision through the media.

We will work through the implementation guidance when we get it and then we’ll move from there,” he added while speaking at the National Press Club.

Maybe next Donald Trump will Tweet that Obamacare has been repealed and leave it at that, satisfying himself with no actual changes affecting anyone else.

Trump Tweeted that the military “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.” Conservatives have complained about the cost of surgery for transgender members of the military, although not all even undergo surgery. Military Times reports that the “Defense Department spends 10 times as much money on Viagra and other erectile dysfunction medications than it spends on healthcare services for transgender troops.”

USA Today also noted this, along with comparisons of the cost of transgender surgery to the cost of Donald Trump’s trips to Mar-A-Lago:

A report for the Pentagon last year found that transition-related care would cost between about $2.4 and $8.4 million per year — less than 0.14% of the military’s medical budget.

That’s roughly the cost of four of Trump’s trips to Mar-A-Lago, GQ noted, even using a conservative estimate of $2 million per trip. And it’s way less than the $84 million spent on Viagra and similar meds by the Department of Defense in 2014, as others also said.

With cost not providing a good justification for this policy change, late night comic James Cordin had another explanation:

At this point, it just seems like Trump wants to do the opposite of everything Obama did. He is like, “Oh, Obama pardoned a turkey on Thanksgiving? Well I’m going to slaughter a turkey with a chainsaw on the front lawn.”

Vogue noted the lack of Ivanka Trump’s influence on Donald Trump in an article entitled, Look, It’s Time to Collectively and Officially Give Up on Ivanka Trump. They think that there are people who still think that Ivanka Trump is of any value in stopping her father? Really?

Clinton’s Popularity Continues To Decline, Possibly Affecting Democratic Voter Enthusiasm

Democrats lead in the generic Congressional polls, but there are warning signs for Democrats. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that by a 52 to 38 percent margin voters want Democrats to control Congress to be a check on Trump. However, 65 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning adults say they are “almost certain to vote,” only 57 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters say they are likely to vote.

There are probably many reasons why Democratic-leaning voters are less likely to vote, but the damage to the Democratic brand caused by the nomination by of Hillary Clinton in 2016 cannot be underestimated. For those who have voted Democratic in protest against the policies of the Bush administration, it was a great disappointment to see the Democrats nominate a candidate with essentially the same agenda. The undemocratic manner in which the party establishment essentially picks the nominees, despite the charade of a primary system, creates further disenchantment with the party. As bad a choice as Donald Trump was, at least he was nominated due to beating the establishment candidates in a year in which many voters from both parties did not want another Bush/Clinton, with the Republican establishment accepting the decision of its voters.

Normally losing candidates do better in the polls after the election. With Donald Trump doing such a terrible job and dropping in the polls, if she followed traditional patterns Hillary Clinton should be seeing a boost in her support. Instead a Bloomberg National Poll shows that Clinton’s support has declined and that she is even more unpopular than Donald Trump.

This is not based upon opposition to the party in general  as Barack Obama and Joe Biden’s popularity has increased since they left office, and Bernie Sanders has become the most popular politician in the country.

The poll doesn’t provide reasons for Clinton’s further decrease in popularity. Just losing to a candidate as terrible as Donald Trump further highlights how weak a candidate she was, with reports such as those in Shattered providing further confirmation. I would also bet that many people expressed positive views of Clinton in the context of an election campaign against Donald Trump, but now that the campaign is over have no reason to hide their distaste for her.

Clinton’s actions following her loss give additional reasons for an already unpopular politician to now receive even less support. Her frequent statements blaming others for her loss, while downplaying the serious mistakes she made, shows her lack of character. While her far right wing views on civil liberties has received too little attention, her call for Congressional action against fake news, which amounts to censorship of material critical of her, is alarming in light of her long standing support for restricting freedom of speech and dissent.

Clinton’s anti-Russia hysteria, going well beyond what has been proven in the investigations to date, might be fooling some Democratic partisans, but is alarming to others. Clinton does not benefit politically from the revelations involving the Trump administration and Russia when fear of world war with Russia was a motivating factor for some who voted for her. A recent study suggests that her ultra-hawkish views might have played a significant role in her loss. News out of Syria provides further reason to oppose Clinton, considering her push for greater interventionism, even to the point of risking direct conflict with Russia.

Clinton has been out of step with more liberal voters on other issues, including economics, trade, the drug war, and health care policy. While many Democratic leaning voters support a single-payer system (as promoted by people including Bernie Sanders and Al Gore), Hillary Clinton also showed she was out of step in campaigning against  Medicare-for-all.

It is hard for many independents, along with principled Democrats, to be enthusiastic about the Democrats after nominating a candidate which so many dislike for good reason. The attacks on liberals and progressives opposing Clinton from partisan Democrats, showing a gross lack of respect for the basic principles of democracy in thinking that those who oppose her had some obligation to vote for her, further alienates potential Democratic voters. If Democrats are to expand their base and win elections, they need to show more respect for the views of those who oppose their move to the right.

Democrats have done poorly in 2010, 2014, and again in 2016 after moving to the right and running as a Republican-lite party. Bloomberg reports that Democrats are again looking at promoting more conservative candidates in 2018, failing to learn that voters see no reason to turn out to vote for candidates who do not stand for anything. The Democrats should do well in 2018 in response to the Trump disaster, but they also appear capable of pulling defeat again out of what should be sure victory.

Over 2000 Civilian Deaths From Trump’s Air War In Less Than Six Months

Donald Trump said before he was inaugurated that he would “bomb the shit” out of ISIS. This is one of the few promises he has kept, and the consequence is a marked increase in the number of civilian deaths compared to under Barack Obama. The Daily Beast, in a study conducted with the watchdog organization Airwars, reports:

Civilian casualties from the U.S.-led war against the so-called Islamic State are on pace to double under President Donald Trump, according to an Airwars investigation for The Daily Beast.

Airwars researchers estimate that at least 2,300 civilians likely died from Coalition strikes overseen by the Obama White House—roughly 80 each month in Iraq and Syria. As of July 13, more than 2,200 additional civilians appear to have been killed by Coalition raids since Trump was inaugurated—upwards of 360 per month, or 12 or more civilians killed for every single day of his administration…

A number of factors appear responsible for the steep recent rise in civilian deaths—some policy-related, others reflecting a changing battlespace as the war enters its toughest phase. In one of his first moves as president, Trump ordered a new counter-ISIS plan be drawn up. Second on his list of requests were recommended “changes to any United States rules of engagement and other United States policy restrictions that exceed the requirements of international law regarding the use of force against ISIS.”

In short, Trump was demanding that the Pentagon take a fresh look at protections for civilians on the battlefield except those specifically required by international law. That represented a major shift from decades of U.S. military doctrine, which has generally made central the protection of civilians in war…

Though the U.S. military had shifted to such annihilation tactics—a change cited with glee by the Trump White House—Mattis claimed there have been no updates to U.S. rules of engagement. “There has been no change to our continued extraordinary efforts to avoid innocent civilian casualties,” he told reporters.

When Airwars asked the Department of Defense whether, once implemented, the new plan was expected to lead to more civilian casualties, officials did not answer the question and only pointed to Mattis’ remarks.

Yet beginning in March 2017—the month after Mattis handed over the new plan—Airwars began tracking a sharp rise in reported civilian fatalities from U.S.-led strikes against ISIS. In part this was due to the savagery of the battle for Mosul. But in Syria—where almost all strikes are American—likely civilian fatalities monitored by Airwars researchers increased five-fold even before the assault on Raqqa began.

There is much more detail in the full report.

This report is consistent with  a recent UN report cited by Reuters of ‘Staggering’ civilian deaths caused by US-led air strikes in Syria.

In comparing the number of civilian casualties since Donald Trump took office to those under Barack Obama, it should also be considered that Hillary Clinton had supported much greater military intervention in Syria than under Obama, which would probably have also lead to an increase in civilian deaths. There is no way to compare what the number of deaths would be under Clinton compared to Trump.

Last week I looked at a report on the failures from the U.S. war on terror. Another recent study suggested that her support for greater military interventionism might have cost Clinton the election.

Cutting Through Trump’s Game of Distraction

Guest Post by Sandra

It’s hard to tell if Trump and his administration really have an agenda. He won the presidency being “anti-everything,” but this “rage against the machine” attitude doesn’t really offer much as a guiding principle for policy making. This lackluster approach combined with the drama surrounding the Russia investigation, the President’s attacks on the media and his empty threats about North Korea give the impression of chaos and disorder, and subsequently, of inaction.

This can be seen clearly by the repeated failure of the new health care bill. Trump’s only promise was to repeal “Obamacare,” putting himself in line with this “anti-everything” approach, but because he and his advisers have no real plan for an alternative, the bills being drawn up in Congress are downright awful, leading them to stall and generating doubt about whether something will ever get done.

However, this illusion of inactivity does not tell the whole story. Things are getting done, albeit slowly, but more concerning, they are getting done with very little public attention. Without drifting too far into conspiracy theories, we have to wonder if this wasn’t the plan all along. We’re seeing a clear case of Noam Chomsky’s “anti-politics.” The happenings of Washington are so repulsive to the ordinary citizen that many are turning their backs on Washington, paving the way for corporate power to advance quietly in the background. Here is something the current government has done, the consequences of which should be concerning for those interested in preserving democracy.

The Financial CHOICE Act

Remember the 2008 financial crisis? Of course. Who could forget it? Well, after decades of deregulating Wall Street, the world paid a heavy price, and the response by the Obama administration was to push through new regulations to make sure nothing like that could ever happen again. The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, more commonly referred to as Dodd-Frank, was born from this idea. It includes countless new regulations for banks to prevent them from making overly risky loans that could lead to instability.

If you haven’t seen it already, the film The Big Short gives an entertaining, although disturbing, version of the events leading up to the crash, and if there is one big takeaway, it’s that the lack of oversight on the banks was a huge driver of what turned out to be the largest financial crisis since the Great Depression. The film is available on Netflix, which you can access even if you’re restricted by location.

However, the Dodd-Frank bill is not perfect. It includes over 20,000 pages of regulations, and it makes some pretty black and white distinctions among banks. Specifically, it outlines rules for banks based on the value of assets, not the level of risk. This has led many smaller community banks to speak out against the bill, saying it prevents them from being able to expand their business because they have to dedicate so many resources to regulation-related paperwork. Others say this is what the bill was supposed to do—limit risky loans—but others say it goes too far. Regardless, it is clear Dodd-Frank could use some reform.

And so Trump and his Republican House reformed it by passing the Financial CHOICE Act. In general, the bill is modest. It reduces some of the red tape banks need to cut through to grant loans, making it easier for them to provide capital to interested borrowers. But the concerning part of the bill is the reduction of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). This agency was created from Dodd-Frank and serves as a way for consumers to file complaints about banking fraud, to get information on the practices of other banks and to correct errors in reporting (specifically credit reporting).

In the new bill, the CFPB will be prohibited from banning “abusive” products, and it will have an entirely new leadership structure (a bipartisan committee of five people). Given the current state of Washington politics, the word “bipartisan” could easily be replaced with “do-nothing.” It’s hard to imagine the agency having any real direction without clear leadership from the top.

While Republicans are claiming the Financial CHOICE Act is a way to reduce unnecessary government regulation to help community banks, it’s hard to see how reducing the reach of the CFPB does that. One of the main reasons the 2008 crisis happened was that banks were able to operate largely in secret. They were using seriously questionable tactics, but no one was looking over their shoulder until it was too late. Had an agency like the CFPB existed during this time period, perhaps the damage would not have been so bad.

Reforming the CFPB and the Dodd-Frank bill shows a willingness in Washington to slowly drift back to the days where darkness clouded the banking industry, allowing it to do as it wishes while ordinary citizens bicker over daily controversies. The bill still needs to pass the Senate, but all signs point to a similar approach, and since Republicans have the majority, there might not be much hope of stopping it.

It is not a big leap to say we are in this political predicament because of the 2008 crisis. The consequences of decades of growing inequality and stagnant wage growth were unleashed with the banking collapse. Millions saw their futures disappear in a matter of minutes, and the anger arising from this has polarized even more what was already a divided country. But the answer to this is not more bank deregulation. However, with so many distractions going on in Washington, it is easy to see why this issue has not received much attention, but the potential consequences of this critical first step by Wall Street to return to the glory days of deregulation should be more than enough cause for concern. Much like a magician, Trump is using this “anti-everything” strategy to keep people focused elsewhere so that corporate America can continue its infiltration into politics and its seemingly endless expansion of power.

What do you think of the Financial CHOICE Act? Is it needed reform or a way to return power to the already mighty banks? Let us know by leaving a comment in the section below.

About the Author: Sandra is an alternative news blogger who focuses largely on politics. She is concerned the circus that Washington has become distracts us too much from the important issues. As such, she frequently writes about things such as bank regulation, internet privacy and security, and corporate power, as she considers these to be fundamental issues that few are talking about.

Clinton Adviser Mark Penn Advises Democrats To Move Back To The Center

While some Democrats realize that the party has to change course, former Clinton pollster and adviser Mark Penn has some especially dumb advice in an op-ed entitled Back to the Center, Democrats. It is hard to determine exactly what he means considering that his candidate lost in 2008 (and again in 2016 without his help) for going to far to the center, if not actually the right. Besides losing in 2016, the Democrats also lost in 2010 and 2014 due to running as a Republican-lite party. For many Democrats, moving back to the center might make them more liberal than they are today.

The general strategy of Democrats has been to move to the right, but slightly less so than the Republicans, and then say everyone has to vote for them or else the right wing crazies in the Republican Party will take over. Since 2008 that strategy has been a failure. Perhaps such triangulation and moving to the right helped Bill Clinton, but I suspect he won more because of his personal charisma than his conservative policies.

While Penn believes that the Democrats have moved too far left on most issues, he does believe that the Democrats have the upper hand with Obamacare. While Obamacare was a huge improvement over what we had before, it did not go far enough, and a growing number of Democrats are realizing that Bernie Sanders was right in proposing a single payer plan–which Hillary Clinton campaigned against.

The Democratic Party remains divided over its direction. As I discussed yesterday, some establishment Democrats are seeing the need to look toward new leaders such as Bernie Sanders, while others want to cling to the past.

Maybe Mark Penn has done us a favor in writing this once again as even many more establishment Democrats realize that when Mark Penn recommends something, the wisest course is to do the opposite. Former Obama speech writer Jon Favreau tweeted, “Zero Democrats who matter care about what Mark Penn says or does, unless he decides to work for your opponent. Then, lucky you.”

Alex Pareene, politics editor at Fusion, responded with a post entitled, Mark Penn’s Bad Column Also Makes No Goddamn Sense. Sarah Jones wrote Don’t Listen to Mark Penn at The New Republic. Martin Longman wrote Mark Penn Has Some Really Bad Advice at Washington Monthly. Philip Bump debunked Penn’s article in writing Breaking: The Democratic Party is different now than it was in 1995.

Noam Chomsky On Bernie Sanders, Democrats, Russia, And Donald Trump

“There’s good reason to suppose that Sanders would have won the nomination had it not been for shenanigans of the Obama-Clinton party managers.”–Noam Chomsky

The New York Times has an interview with Noam Chomsky which is primarily about Donald Trump. I found his discussion of the Democratic Party and Bernie Sanders to be among the more interesting portions. Following is an excerpt:

Take the success of the Bernie Sanders campaign, the most remarkable feature of the 2016 election. It is, after all, not all that surprising that a billionaire showman with extensive media backing (including the liberal media, entranced by his antics and the advertising revenue it afforded) should win the nomination of the ultra-reactionary Republican Party.

The Sanders campaign, however, broke dramatically with over a century of U.S. political history. Extensive political science research, notably the work of Thomas Ferguson, has shown convincingly that elections are pretty much bought. For example, campaign spending alone is a remarkably good predictor of electoral success, and support of corporate power and private wealth is a virtual prerequisite even for participation in the political arena.

The Sanders campaign showed that a candidate with mildly progressive (basically New Deal) programs could win the nomination, maybe the election, even without the backing of the major funders or any media support. There’s good reason to suppose that Sanders would have won the nomination had it not been for shenanigans of the Obama-Clinton party managers. He is now the most popular political figure in the country by a large margin.

Activism spawned by the campaign is beginning to make inroads into electoral politics. Under Barack Obama, the Democratic Party pretty much collapsed at the crucial local and state levels, but it can be rebuilt and turned into a progressive force. That would mean reviving the New Deal legacy and moving well beyond, instead of abandoning, the working class and turning into Clintonite New Democrats, which more or less resemble what used to be called moderate Republicans, a category that has largely disappeared with the shift of both parties to the right during the neoliberal period.

Elsewhere in the interview, Chomsky said that, “The most important issues to address are the truly existential threats we face: climate change and nuclear war.” At the end he criticized those who see alleged Russian  hacking as being “the political crime of the century.”  Chomsky said:

The effects of the crime are undetectable, unlike the massive effects of interference by corporate power and private wealth, not considered a crime but the normal workings of democracy. That’s even putting aside the record of U.S. “interference” in foreign elections, Russia included; the word “interference” in quotes because it is so laughably inadequate, as anyone with the slightest familiarity with recent history must be aware…

Is Russian hacking really more significant than what we have discussed — for example, the Republican campaign to destroy the conditions for organized social existence, in defiance of the entire world? Or to enhance the already dire threat of terminal nuclear war? Or even such real but lesser crimes such as the Republican initiative to deprive tens of millions of health care and to drive helpless people out of nursing homes in order to enrich their actual constituency of corporate power and wealth even further? Or to dismantle the limited regulatory system set up to mitigate the impact of the financial crisis that their favorites are likely to bring about once again? And on, and on.