The Democrats Screwed Up In Nominating Clinton, But Now Have An Opportunity To Rebuild

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The loss of an election thought to be a sure bet for the Democrats has inevitably led to questions as to the future direction and leadership of the party. The loss by Clinton provides the opportunity for the party to finally break free of the strangling influence of the Clintons. The system which was designed to move the party to the center may have helped Bill Clinton win in 1992, but left the party with a candidate too out of touch to win in the 21st century. The Clintons kept the party in the past ideologically, and the corruption of Bill and Hillary, who used their influence to build their own personal fortunes, made it suicidal for the party to nominate her against a candidate who, although himself very highly flawed, was running against the corrupt system.

It is far too early to predict who will lead the party in 2020, but Juan Williams has quoted the conventional wisdom at The Hill:

Democrats need a revived party with a strong leader, as well as a clear message that allows them to stand as the loyal opposition to Trump Republicans.

One way to find the leader is to consider the best Democrat to run against Trump in 2020. International Business Times last week listed six names for the job: Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio); Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro; New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo; Clinton’s running mate Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.)…

In a Facebook post last Wednesday, liberal filmmaker Michael Moore urged activists to “take over the Democratic Party and return it to the people,” because “they have failed us miserably.”

“Any Democratic member of Congress who didn’t wake up this morning ready to fight, resist and obstruct in the way Republicans did against President Obama every day for eight full years must step out of the way and let those of us who know the score lead the way in stopping the meanness and the madness that’s about to begin,” Moore wrote.

The progressive populist wing of the Democratic Party, as currently led by Sanders and Warren, has a real opportunity in the coming months to execute a hostile takeover of the Democratic Party, just as Trump took over the Republicans last year.

Ben Kamisar has a longer list, with further information on some of the potential candidates for 2020. The more immediate question is over who will lead the Democratic National Committee. Keith Ellison has formally announced his candidacy, with support from Bernie Sanders as well as some party insiders including Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer.

It is essential for Democrats to understand how huge a blunder it was to nominate Hillary Clinton, rather than blaming others as Clinton is, in order to avoid making the mistake of running Republican-lite candidates. You can’t blame James Comey for Clinton’s loss without recognizing that this ultimately comes back to show how serious a mistake it was to nominate a candidate who was involved in such a serious scandal. It was like nominating Richard Nixon after the Watergate scandal broke, but many Democrats continue to pretend she has not done anything wrong.

While many Democrats are in denial, some pundits are trying to open their eyes. Thomas Frank (who has previously written about the conservative policies under Bill Clinton), pointed out why the nomination of Clinton brought about the election of Donald Trump:

Why, oh why, did it have to be Hillary Clinton? Yes, she has an impressive resume; yes, she worked hard on the campaign trail. But she was exactly the wrong candidate for this angry, populist moment. An insider when the country was screaming for an outsider. A technocrat who offered fine-tuning when the country wanted to take a sledgehammer to the machine.

She was the Democratic candidate because it was her turn and because a Clinton victory would have moved every Democrat in Washington up a notch. Whether or not she would win was always a secondary matter, something that was taken for granted. Had winning been the party’s number one concern, several more suitable candidates were ready to go. There was Joe Biden, with his powerful plainspoken style, and there was Bernie Sanders, an inspiring and largely scandal-free figure. Each of them would probably have beaten Trump, but neither of them would really have served the interests of the party insiders.

And so Democratic leaders made Hillary their candidate even though they knew about her closeness to the banks, her fondness for war, and her unique vulnerability on the trade issue – each of which Trump exploited to the fullest. They chose Hillary even though they knew about her private email server. They chose her even though some of those who studied the Clinton Foundation suspected it was a sketchy proposition.

To try to put over such a nominee while screaming that the Republican is a rightwing monster is to court disbelief. If Trump is a fascist, as liberals often said, Democrats should have put in their strongest player to stop him, not a party hack they’d chosen because it was her turn. Choosing her indicated either that Democrats didn’t mean what they said about Trump’s riskiness, that their opportunism took precedence over the country’s well-being, or maybe both.

Frank Bruni also wrote that The Democrats Screwed Up:

Democrats need to understand that, and they need to move past a complacency for which the Clintons bear considerable blame.

It’s hard to overestimate the couple’s stranglehold on the party — its think tanks, its operatives, its donors — for the last two decades. Most top Democrats had vested interests in the Clintons, and energy that went into supporting and defending them didn’t go into fresh ideas and fresh faces, who were shut out as the party cleared the decks anew for Hillary in 2016.

In thrall to the Clintons, Democrats ignored the copious, glaring signs of an electorate hankering for something new and different and instead took a next-in-line approach that stopped working awhile back. Just ask Mitt Romney and John McCain and John Kerry and Al Gore and Bob Dole. They’re the five major-party nominees before her who lost, and each was someone who, like her, was more due than dazzling.

After Election Day, one Clinton-weary Democratic insider told me: “I’m obviously not happy and I hate to admit this, but a part of me feels liberated. If she’d won, we’d already be talking about Chelsea’s first campaign. Now we can do what we really need to and start over.”

While he is right that nominating Clinton was a mistake, he still failed to understand the mood of the electorate, seeing Joe Biden as opposed to Bernie Sanders, as the best choice for the Democrats. While Biden would also have done better than Clinton, he was still not the ideal candidate for a change election.

Clintons Destroy Democratic Party (Again) Leaving Opening For New Leadership

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Bill Clinton lost a long-standing Democratic majority in Congress when he was president, and now Hillary Clinton has destroyed the Democratic party once again. Fortunately this does provide an opportunity we would not have had if Clinton had won. Under Clinton, the Democratic Party would be Republican-lite and hard core Republican/Neocon in further growing the warfare/surveillance state. Democrats have seen their power in both Congress and state governments dwindle over the past eight years as voters saw no reason to vote for their Republican-lite candidates as opposed to the actual Republicans. Seeing the voters reject Hillary Clinton, a consequence of choosing the wrong candidate, is finally leading to progressive Democrats fighting for control of the party. The Hill reports:

The Republican civil war was supposed to start this week.

Instead, a ferocious struggle has erupted on the left over the smoldering remains of the Democratic Party.

Liberals are seething over the election and talking about launching a Tea Party-style revolt. They say it’s the only way to keep Washington Democrats connected to the grassroots and to avoid a repeat of the 2016 electoral disaster, which blindsided party elites.

Progressives believe the Democratic establishment is responsible for inflicting Donald Trump upon the nation, blaming a staid corporate wing of the party for nominating Hillary Clinton and ignoring the Working Class voters that propelled Trump to victory.

Liberals interviewed by The Hill want to see establishment Democrats targeted in primaries, and the “Clinton-corporate wing” of the party rooted out for good.

The fight will begin over picking a new leader for the Democratic National Committee.

Progressives are itching to see the national apparatus reduced to rubble and rebuilt from scratch, with one of their own installed at the top.

Howard Dean is running for DNC Chair but anyone foolish enough to think that Hillary Clinton was an acceptable candidate for a major political party lacks the judgement for the position. Bernie Sanders is backing Keith Ellison. Many Clinton supporters are backing Jennifer Granholm. I might have accepted this in the past, but someone who has frequently defended Clinton’s unethical behavior would now be a poor choice.

Politico reports that the fight for control of the Democratic party extends to states with strong support for Bernie Sanders.

The revolution is back in business.

Supporters of Bernie Sanders’ failed presidential bid are seizing on Democratic disarray at the national level to launch a wave of challenges to Democratic Party leaders in the states.

The goal is to replace party officials in states where Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton during the acrimonious Democratic primary with more progressive leadership. But the challenges also represent a reckoning for state party leaders who, in many cases, tacitly supported Clinton’s bid.

“I think the Bernie people feel very strongly that they were abused, somehow neglected during the primary process and the conventions,” said Severin Beliveau, a former Maine Democratic Party chairman who supported Sanders in the primary. “In Maine, for instance, where Bernie got 70 percent of the caucus vote, they are emboldened and in effect want to try to replace [Maine Democratic Party chairman] Phil Bartlett, who supported Clinton.”

Bernie Sanders wrote of his plans to continue to fight in The New York Times:

I will keep an open mind to see what ideas Mr. Trump offers and when and how we can work together. Having lost the nationwide popular vote, however, he would do well to heed the views of progressives. If the president-elect is serious about pursuing policies that improve the lives of working families, I’m going to present some very real opportunities for him to earn my support.

Let’s rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and create millions of well-paying jobs. Let’s raise the minimum wage to a living wage, help students afford to go to college, provide paid family and medical leave and expand Social Security. Let’s reform an economic system that enables billionaires like Mr. Trump not to pay a nickel in federal income taxes. And most important, let’s end the ability of wealthy campaign contributors to buy elections.

In the coming days, I will also provide a series of reforms to reinvigorate the Democratic Party. I believe strongly that the party must break loose from its corporate establishment ties and, once again, become a grass-roots party of working people, the elderly and the poor. We must open the doors of the party to welcome in the idealism and energy of young people and all Americans who are fighting for economic, social, racial and environmental justice. We must have the courage to take on the greed and power of Wall Street, the drug companies, the insurance companies and the fossil fuel industry.

I hope Sanders also addresses issues such as opposing interventionism, scaling back mass surveillance, and defending civil liberties. These are issues where Bernie is on our side, but which he does not emphasize as much as economic issues. Yesterday I did look at some who are continuing to fight for civil liberties should Donald Trump infringe upon them.

A loss in a general election does not have to be devastating for a political party. Republicans returned to power quickly after Gerald Ford lost to Jimmy Carter. They also used their time in the wilderness after Barry Goldwater’s loss to build a new coalition based upon principles, although unfortunately the wrong principles. The Democratic Party now needs to do the same and rebuild as a party of principle to win back the presidency and state governments in 2020, in time for the next round of redistricting. The Democratic Party very well might become stronger, and at least more principled, in response to the defeat of Hillary Clinton.

Re Wikileaks and Clinton: If There Was Ever Any Doubt That Thomas Friedman Is Still A Wanker…

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Thomas Friedman has long been considered a wanker by many of his left for his centrist views and support for the status quo, including his support for the Iraq war. In 1992 Duncan Black called him the “one true wanker of the decade.” Alternet followed up with a look at ten of his dumbest “big ideas.” He has shown that he is still a wanker in supporting Hillary Clinton based upon the revelations in the email released by Wikileaks.

Wikileaks did reveal that Clinton is a centrist who is hostile to liberal and progressive viewpoints and a supporter of free trade, but that was no surprise. She has spent most of her career as a DLC Democrat and nonconservative working to undermine liberal goals, promote military interventionism, and move the country to the right.

From an ideological viewpoint alone, this might be understandable as Friedman prefers centrist, pragmatic politicians who will not upset the status quo, and who support globalization and free trade. If this is all that Wikileaks revealed, then I might understand his viewpoint, even if disagreeing on many policies.

While it is no surprise that Friedman is happy with this aspect of the Wikileaks releases, he shows no concern for the dishonesty demonstrated. It is one thing for a candidate to campaign as a centrist and promote their viewpoint. It is far more dishonest when the candidate campaigns as a progressive in response to a primary challenge from the left, when it is doubtful she has any intention of keeping her promises. The unethical behavior demonstrated, especially the exchange of “benefits in return for gifts” involving the Clinton Foundation, is even more unsavory. I would hope that journalists should be concerned about such dishonesty in a politician even when she shares their views. The same could be said about many Democrats who are willing to overlook anything Clinton does because she is their candidate.

Apparently this is all one more example of the cozy relationship between the Clinton campaign and the press, also exposed in in the leaked email. This is also seen in contributions from journalists to the Clinton campaign.We have seen how little attention the press has paid to Wikileaks releases on Clinton compared to Trump’s sexual scandals.

Can we count on these journalists to adequately question Clinton’s arguments over matters such as going to war? It is rather scary to have someone as corrupt and dishonest as Hillary Clinton likely to be elected president in a few weeks, while the news media shows such little interest in her actions.

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

third-party

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Donald Trump Too Dishonest To Take Down Crooked Hillary

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This year’s election probably has the two most dishonest and corrupt major party nominees in recent history. It now seems like it is becoming a regular event for Newsweek to expose more dishonesty on Trump’s part. This week’s issue reports on Trump violating the embargo against Cuba:

 A company controlled by Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, secretly conducted business in Communist Cuba during Fidel Castro’s presidency despite strict American trade bans that made such undertakings illegal, according to interviews with former Trump executives, internal company records and court filings.

Documents show that the Trump company spent a minimum of $68,000 for its 1998 foray into Cuba at a time when the corporate expenditure of even a penny in the Caribbean country was prohibited without U.S. government approval. But the company did not spend the money directly. Instead, with Trump’s knowledge, executives funneled the cash for the Cuba trip through an American consulting firm called Seven Arrows Investment and Development Corp. Once the business consultants traveled to the island and incurred the expenses for the venture, Seven Arrows instructed senior officers with Trump’s company—then called Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts—how to make it appear legal by linking it after the fact to a charitable effort.

It is questionable if this will hurt Trump among his supporters, but it could have an impact in Florida. Those supporting both Trump and Clinton no longer seem to care about the dishonesty of their candidate. However, with Clinton moving back into a small lead over Trump after this week’s debate, this does make it harder for Trump to get away with regaining momentum with his planned attacks on Clinton for her corruption. Jonathan Chait writes:

Donald Trump’s campaign is signaling that its new, post-first-debate message will be an attack on Hillary Clinton’s finances, under the catchphrase “Follow the money.” This is probably Trump’s most fruitful avenue of attack. The Clinton Foundation has created appearances of a conflict of interest, and the Clintons’ policy of accepting speaking fees from any source as long as the check would clear the bank has tarnished her image, and months of bashing at the hands of Bernie Sanders left her branded in the mind of many young liberals as a handmaiden of Wall Street.

And yet the notion that a voter ought to support Trump over Clinton on grounds of financial ethics or transparency is insane. Trump is corrupt on a world-historic scale. Andrew Prokop’s summary merely skims the surface of a career that has left hardly any rule or norm of business conduct un-violated. It is not only Trump’s history of misconduct, or even his ongoing abuse of his foundation for personal gain, but his astonishing promise, if elected, to continue to abuse his power to enrich himself by having his children manage his branded business that he will enhance via public office.

Even if none of that were true, it remains the case that Trump has shattered modern precedent by refusing to disclose his tax returns. How on Earth can a candidate run on the slogan “Follow the money” while stonewalling any questions about his own money? The only possible context in which this makes sense is a myopic, context-free focus on Clinton’s ethical shortcomings, combined with the assumption that Trump’s dangerous lunacy amounts to some kind of independence from big moneyed interests.

This does downplay the magnitude of Clinton’s corruption, but the key point here is that Trump is far too dishonest himself to successfully run against Clinton based upon ethics. This is rather fortunate for Clinton, and is one of the reasons why she is able to remain ahead of Trump, but would probably be trailing any other Republican candidate.

In some ways Clinton’s corruption is worse than Trump’s. I would rank her abuse of a cabinet position to make money to be more of an issue than Trump’s dishonest business practices. A politician who enters into ethics agreements made due to concerns about corruption, and then violates them as Clinton did, should not be considered for any further government positions, especially president. The bottom line is that both Clinton and Trump are too dishonest and corrupt to be fit to be president.

For for first time ever I agree, to a certain degree, with The Detroit News on its assessment of presidential candidates. Their editorial says, “Donald Trump is unprincipled, unstable and quite possibly dangerous. He can not be president.” On Clinton they write, “character matters. Her career-long struggles with honesty and ethics and calculating, self-serving approach to politics trouble us deeply.”

While it would be unrealistic to expect a newspaper as conservative as The Detroit News to endorse Jill Stein, I give them credit for endorsing a third party candidate such as Gary Johnson. Their defense of endorsing a minor party candidate can apply to either:

We anticipate our decision not to support either of the major party candidates will bring charges that we are throwing away our endorsement. Our contention is that an endorsement based on conscience is never wasted.

Democrats Should Have Paid Attention To Warnings About Clinton Before Handing Her The Nomination

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I had been arguing for many months before the Democratic nomination that it was very risky for the Democrats to nominate Hillary Clinton. In addition to her many other faults, I argued that the email and Foundation scandals would greatly impair the ability of the Democrats to win the presidency, and would also likely also greatly decrease their chances of winning control of the Senate. Clinton apologists both denied the significance of the scandals, and denied that it would have any bearing on the election. For a while it appeared that it didn’t matter. While Clinton would probably be well behind any other Republican, she had been able to lead Trump (and as of now I think she will still pull it off). However, while Clinton doesn’t understand why she isn’t far ahead, her lead is now precariously small. A single gaffe, an unexpectedly decent performance by Trump in the debates, another revelation from Wikileaks, or any number of other items could now shift the election to Trump. Plus the Democrats’ chances of taking control of the Senate have dropped tremendously.

There are multiple reasons for this, but an op-ed by Thomas Patterson in the The Los Angeles Times provides further evidence  that I was right with my warnings in largely blaming the email scandal should Clinton lose:

If Hillary Clinton loses the presidential election in November, we will know the reason. The email controversy did her candidacy in. But it needed a helping hand — and the news media readily supplied that.

My analysis of media coverage in the four weeks surrounding both parties’ national conventions found that her use of a private email server while secretary of State and other alleged scandal references accounted for 11% of Clinton’s news coverage in the top five television networks and six major newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. Excluding neutral reports, 91% of the email-related news reports were negative in tone. Then, there were the references to her character and personal life, which accounted for 4% of the coverage; that was 92% negative.

The author underestimates the importance of the email and other scandals, and gives Clinton far too much credit for her record considering that she has been wrong on virtually every major decision of her career,only to admit she made a mistake years later. Between the email and Foundation scandals, Hillary Clinton has been found to have violated policy with regards to using a home server rather than a government email system, failed to turn over email for archiving which was sent over personal email, destroyed over half the email falsely claiming it was personal, and failed to disclose all donors to the Clinton Foundation as she agreed to prior to her confirmation.

The State Department Inspector General report showed that Clinton not only violated the rules in effect, but that she failed to cooperate with the investigation and tried to cover up her actions.  FBI Director James Comey further showed how she acted irresponsibly, and how many of the statements she has made in public and Congressional testimony over the past year have been false. Clinton unethically made rulings on multiple occasions regarding parties which contributed to the Foundation and/or made unprecedented payments for speeches to Bill Clinton. I’ve previously discussed the Clinton Foundation scandals in greater detail, including here and here. I’ve recently noted how both fact checkers and ethicists viewed the scandals and Clinton’s violations of the ethics agreements which she entered into before becoming Secretary of State, while Common Cause called for an independent audit of the Clinton Foundation well before her nomination.

There was good reason for the media to cover this story. Clinton predictably made it worse for herself as she tried to coverup information, resulting in facts slowly coming out from news cycle to news cycle. She further made matters worse by lying about the matter, and then repeating the same lies when confronted by the fact checkers. This is what caused the story to remain dominant in the news. Plus, regardless of whether it is a good thing, we knew before Clinton was nominated that the media prefers to cover scandals as opposed to complicated matters of policy. As Patterson also wrote:

In today’s hypercompetitive media environment, journalists find it difficult to resist controversies. Political scientist W. Lance Bennett explored this phenomenon around Trump’s 2011 allegation that President Obama was not a native-born American. Trump’s “birther” statements were seized upon by cable outlets and stayed in the headlines and on newscasts for days. Veteran CNN correspondent Candy Crowley even interviewed Trump, who was then not a political figure at all. She justified it by saying on air: “There comes a point where you can’t ignore something, not because it’s entertaining …. The question was, ‘Is he driving the conversation?’ And he was.” In truth, the news media were driving the conversation, as they have with Clinton’s emails.

Nominating Hillary Clinton with all her baggage would be like the Republicans nominating Richard Nixon after  knowing about his role in Watergate. It was a remarkably foolish thing to do, and the Democrats now risk paying the price. In contrast, Bernie Sanders polled far better than Clinton did against Donald Trump and other potential Republican candidates. He very likely would also have won the Democratic nomination if not for a system heavily tilted towards helping Clinton and stopping insurgent candidates. Plus if Sanders were the nominee, there would be no scandals to dominate the campaign, and we would definitely be talking about issues.

Warnings For Democrats If Clinton Is Nominee

Sanders Clinton

Bernie Sanders has an op-ed in The New York Times warning that Democrats Need to Wake Up after the Brexit vote in Great Britain:

The notion that Donald Trump could benefit from the same forces that gave the Leave proponents a majority in Britain should sound an alarm for the Democratic Party in the United States. Millions of American voters, like the Leave supporters, are understandably angry and frustrated by the economic forces that are destroying the middle class.

In this pivotal moment, the Democratic Party and a new Democratic president need to make clear that we stand with those who are struggling and who have been left behind. We must create national and global economies that work for all, and not a handful of billionaires.

As an aside, if Sanders is going to lecture the Democrats on policiy, I’d also mention the argument in Truthout that “the Sanders “Revolution” Must Take on the Permanent War State.”

Of course Sanders prefers to deal with the economic issues and, despite the importance of responding the warfare state, economics and trade will probably have more of an impact in this year’s election, possibly hurting the Democrats. As Matthew Yglasias warns, “Clinton is personally and politically tied to Bill Clinton’s administration in the 1990s and to Barack Obama’s administration more recently, both of which sought to advance a free trade agenda.” He points out that one problem Clinton has is that nobody believes her:

Clinton’s problem: Does anyone believe this?

The problem with Clinton’s preferred line of attack is it fails to pass the basic “does anyone actually believe this?” test.

The stated reasons for Clinton’s opposition to the TPP didn’t make any sense and were immediately panned by observers such as Vox editor in chief Ezra Klein as smacking of opportunism. Having come out against it, Clinton will in all likelihood follow through and scuttle the agreement.

There’s no question that her position is based upon opportunism. It is far from certain that she will actually scuttle the agreement if elected.

While things can change between now and November, and neither major party nominee is yet official, Clinton has a considerable advantage over Trump. Trump already is far behind Clinton in organization, fund raising and, most importantly, public support. Plus Clinton starts out with the Democratic edge in the electoral college She will probably win if scandals and legal action don’t stop her. Democrats should be concerned.

With the most recent revelations (here and here), Chris Cillizza writes that, Hillary Clinton’s email story continues to get harder and harder to believe.

The latest batch of emails suggest that Clinton’s filter to decide between the personal and the professional was far from foolproof. That these emails never saw the light of day before Monday — or before a conservative legal advocacy group petitioned for their release — opens up the possibility that there are plenty more like them that Clinton chose to delete but shouldn’t have. And it provides more fodder for the Republican argument that Clinton appointing herself as judge, jury and executioner for her emails was, at best, a very, very bad decision and, at worst, something more nefarious than just bad judgment.

…this email to Abedin — which came at the start of her four-year term in office — suggests a bit more active agency than Clinton has previously let on. “I think we need to get on this asap to be sure we know and design the system we want,” doesn’t strike me as Clinton simply wanting convenience and following the instructions of her IT people on how to make that happen. It reads to me as though Clinton is both far more aware of the email setup and far more engaged in how it should look than she generally lets on publicly…

For a candidate already struggling to convince voters she is honest and trustworthy enough to be president, stories like this one are deeply problematic.

While I generally agree with his assessment, I would also point out in response to the title that Clinton’s story was already quite obviously a bunch of lies from the time of her first response to the scandal.

Even if Clinton can sustain her rather impressive lead over Trump, this does not mean everything is fine for he Democrats.  Taegan Goddard warns that Clinton Is a Drag on Congressional Candidates:

The new NBC News/Wall Street Journal confirms what we observed earlier this month: Despite the tremendous unpopularity of Donald Trump and of congressional Republicans, there doesn’t appear to be a wave forming which would give Democrats a chance to take control of the House.

The generic congressional ballot actually shows voters deadlocked over which party they would prefer to control Congress, 46% to 46%. The RealClearPolitics average shows Democrats ahead by just one point on the generic ballot.

This indicates the problem for Democrats goes beyond gerrymandered congressional districts and poor recruitment efforts. The problem is that Hillary Clinton is nearly as unpopular as Trump. While she may be favored in the presidential race, she’s also weighing down congressional candidates…

I wonder how many voters will split their ticket this year, having qualms about whichever candidate they vote for in the presidential race. Many might want to see the other party control Congress to place checks on the president. Far more might vote against this year’s winner in two years.

Bernie Sanders has continued his campaign based upon the argument that he does better than Clinton in the head to head polls against Trump. As Clinton has an excellent chance of winning despite her narrower margin, Sanders might have a stronger argument that having him head the ticket would be better for all the down ticket candidates. Sanders can expand the Democratic Party, while Clinton could do long term damage to it.

New York Times Asks Clinton To Show Voters Those Transcripts

Clinton Transcripts

While I bet that Hillary Clinton will claim that this is just part of the vast right wing conspiracy against her, The New York Times called on her to release the transcripts of her paid speeches to Goldman Sachs, and debunked her excuses for failing to do so:

Mrs. Clinton, Show Voters Those Transcripts

“Everybody does it,” is an excuse expected from a mischievous child, not a presidential candidate. But that is Hillary Clinton’s latest defense for making closed-door, richly paid speeches to big banks, which many middle-class Americans still blame for their economic pain, and then refusing to release the transcripts.

A televised town hall on Tuesday was at least the fourth candidate forum in which Mrs. Clinton was asked about those speeches. Again, she gave a terrible answer, saying that she would release transcripts “if everybody does it, and that includes the Republicans.”

In November, she implied that her paid talks for the Wall Street firms were part of helping them rebuild after the 9/11 attacks, which “was good for the economy and it was a way to rebuke the terrorists.”

In a debate with Bernie Sanders on Feb. 4, Mrs. Clinton was asked if she would release transcripts, and she said she would “look into it.” Later in February, asked in a CNN town hall forum why she accepted $675,000 for speeches to Goldman Sachs, she got annoyed, shrugged, and said, “That’s what they offered,” adding that “every secretary of state that I know has done that.”

At another town hall, on Feb. 18, a man in the audience pleaded, “Please, just release those transcripts so that we know exactly where you stand.” Mrs. Clinton had told him, “I am happy to release anything I have when everybody else does the same, because every other candidate in this race has given speeches to private groups.”

On Tuesday, Mrs. Clinton further complained, “Why is there one standard for me, and not for everybody else?”

The only different standard here is the one Mrs. Clinton set for herself, by personally earning $11 million in 2014 and the first quarter of 2015 for 51 speeches to banks and other groups and industries.

Voters have every right to know what Mrs. Clinton told these groups. In July, her spokesman Nick Merrill said that though most speeches were private, the Clinton operation “always opened speeches when asked to.” Transcripts of speeches that have been leaked have been pretty innocuous. By refusing to release them all, especially the bank speeches, Mrs. Clinton fuels speculation about why she’s stonewalling.

Her conditioning her releases on what the Republicans might or might not do is mystifying. Republicans make no bones about their commitment to Wall Street deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Mrs. Clinton is laboring to convince struggling Americans that she will rein in big banks, despite taking their money.

Besides, Mrs. Clinton is not running against a Republican in the Democratic primaries. She is running against Bernie Sanders, a decades-long critic of Wall Street excess who is hardly a hot ticket on the industry speaking circuit. The Sanders campaign, asked if Mr. Sanders also received fees for closed-door speeches, came up with two from two decades ago that were not transcribed: one to a hospital trade association, and one to a college, each for less than $1,000. Royalties from a book called “The Speech,” Mr. Sanders’s eight-hour Senate floor diatribe against President Obama’s continuation of Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy, were donated to the nonprofit Addison County Parent/Child Center in Vermont.

The hazards of Mrs. Clinton, a presidential hopeful, earning more than $200,000 each for dozens of speeches to industry groups were clear from the start. Mrs. Clinton was making paid speeches when she hired consultants to vet her own background in preparation for a run. If they didn’t flag this, they weren’t doing their jobs.

Public interest in these speeches is legitimate, and it is the public — not the candidate — who decides how much disclosure is enough. By stonewalling on these transcripts Mrs. Clinton plays into the hands of those who say she’s not trustworthy and makes her own rules. Most important, she is damaging her credibility among Democrats who are begging her to show them that she’d run an accountable and transparent White House.

It is a repeat of Clinton’s refusal to release her email as Secretary of State until she had no choice (minus the over fifty percent which she destroyed).

Anecdotal reports from those who have been at her speeches in various news reports suggest that she did express a level of support for the big banks which would be very embarrassing if they came out during her primary battle with Bernie Sanders, amplifying the differences between the two. We an only imagine the specifics. Counterpunch has posted the transcript of  a “leaked” speech (actually satire). Here are some excerpts:

Previous generations of Americans built this economy and a middle class on a collective illusion: that they do productive work, this creates wealth, and that this builds the economy. We all know how misguided that is. We know that it’s really due to your investing, credit, and economic stewardship, that they have been able to work at all, that they are able to put food on their tables. It’s due to you and other banking, trading, investment houses that we have an economy that works at all. You are why we are a truly 21st century economic power.

… I—contrary to populist, hysterical demonizing–firmly believe that what you do is essential and critical: you help allocate our investment, direct our economic development, hedge risks, and create power, policies, and alliances in ways that make our country stronger, richer, more powerful, more innovative, competitive, and yes, more “democratic”. You underwrite our elections and our political process—taking on the huge cost of enabling democratic dialogue at its biggest, broadest capacity. Your tireless work adds true value, and without you, we would still be struggling helplessly against industrial powerhouses in Asia and across the world trying to compete with them on the level of industry, technology, innovation, and hard work, at which they would beat us hands down. It’s your financial innovation, your speculative tools, which allow us new ways of creating value without sweat or struggle, that gives us the competitive advantage. It’s this vision, this technological innovation, this financial wizardry, this is what makes America great and powerful.

We must lower incomes for low-value working schmucks, so they give up on any notions of a middle-class life. But more than that, we must reduce the slick, unsustainable bigotry of expectation: the profit-sucking cage of entitlement, expectation, and imagination. We must drive income down steadily and siphon that surplus wealth to you, the captains of finance, so that we can build a strong economy that is innovative, powerful, that acknowledges and rewards your acumen…

And that will be my mission, from the first day I am president to the last. I…

I will get up every day thinking about you, the hard-working Wizards of Finance, Lords of Capital, Economic Giants of Innovation, Noble Titans that make us strong and powerful!

..Government has to be smarter, smaller, more focused on supporting speculative investments than the convenient politics of justice, and be a better servant of the private sector. Washington has to be a better steward—servant–of your power!  The media has to respect you! Please, let’s get back to making decisions that pay due deference to power and money!

That’s what I’ll do as president. I will seek out and welcome any good idea that is accompanied by a large check!

We can be certain that Clinton did not use these exact words in her actual speeches, but it might capture what she was thinking. We will not know what she actually said unless she releases the transcripts.

Dana Milbank Is Wrong–Nominating Sanders Is The Rational Choice For Democrats

Bernie Sanders Large Crowd

Dana Milbank repeated the establishment line in a column fallaciously entitled, Democrats would be insane to nominate Bernie Sanders.

I adore Bernie Sanders.

I agree with his message of fairness and I share his outrage over inequality and corporate abuses. I think his righteous populism has captured the moment perfectly. I respect the uplifting campaign he has run. I admire his authenticity.

And I am convinced Democrats would be insane to nominate him.

Hillary Clinton, by contrast, is a dreary candidate. She has, again, failed to connect with voters. Her policy positions are cautious and uninspiring. Her reflexive secrecy causes a whiff of scandal to follow her everywhere. She seems calculating and phony.

And yet if Democrats hope to hold the presidency in November, they’ll need to hold their noses and nominate Clinton.

Milbank dismissed the evidence that Sander would do better against the Republicans than Clinton:

Sanders and his supporters boast of polls showing him, on average, matching up slightly better against Trump than Clinton does. But those matchups are misleading: Opponents have been attacking and defining Clinton for a quarter- century, but nobody has really gone to work yet on demonizing Sanders.

Milbank ignores how Clinton and her surrogates have already been launching right-wing sounding attacks against Sanders. Despite this, Sanders does better than Clinton against Republicans in national polls. More significantly in terms of winning the general election, Clinton does poorly with independents and in the battle ground states.

Right wing attacks on Sanders won’t be any different from right wing attacks on Obama, who they already claim is a Marxist Socialist, and a foreign-born Muslim, who will be sending the black helicopters out any minute now to take away their guns and put them in FEMA concentration camps.

Milbank also ignores the importance of turn out. Republican attacks on Sanders will primarily appeal to Republican voters–not people who would ever vote for Sanders. However both Sanders own campaigning and Republican attacks will motivate Democratic leaning voters to turn out. It is Sanders, not Clinton, who has been exciting voters for the past several months, and inspiring many new voters to get involved.

There are traditionally two ways to win an election–motivate your base to turn out in high numbers or win over independents. Sanders can do better than Clinton at both. Plus he can get votes from people who have not voted for the major political parties in the past.

Plus as a general rule of thumb, it is best not to nominate the candidate whose practices are the subject of an active FBI investigation. A Clinton candidacy, assuming she is not indicted, will be dominated by talk of scandal, most likely suppressing the Democratic vote and energizing the Republicans.

Milbanks admits that voters must be willing to hold their nose to vote for Clinton, but what makes him so sure that they will do so as opposed to staying home? Running on the argument that “my candidate is bad, but yours is even worse” is not how to win an election. Voters want to vote for something, not just vote for the lesser of two evils.

With all their faults, at least Republicans are willing to stand for something, even if the wrong things. Republicans don’t worry if their candidates are too extreme, and they reject those who they consider to be Republicans In Name Only.

Many Sanders supporters back him primarily because of the economic issues which have dominated the campaign. Many of us became active in the blogosphere in response to the abuses of the Bush administration. We are not going to be excited by a Democrat who advocates the same neoconservative foreign policy, has supported the same types of restrictions on civil liberties and expanded power for the Executive Branch, and who as actively worked to increase the role of religion on public policy. She has been a hawk on the drug war. While better than the Republicans in agreeing with the scientific consensus on climate change, she is so indebted to the petroleum industry that her environmental policies have not been much better.

This is hardly a record to get people who vote based upon principle, as opposed to party affiliation, to get out to vote for Hillary Clinton. No wonder Milbank realizes we would have to hold our noses.

Democrats, and some of their supporters in the media, think Democrats need to hide from principles and run candidates who are Republican-lite. They never get the lesson, no matter how often that results in the Democrats losing.

Fortunately not everyone agrees. The Nation gave one of their rare endorsements to Sanders and The Washington Post also ran a recent op-ed by arguing that Bernie Sanders is the realist we should elect.

Many of the pundits agree — this is a choice between head and heart. If Democrats think with their heads, they will go with Hillary; with their hearts, with Bernie.

But this conventional wisdom clashes with the reality that this country has suffered serial devastations from choices supported by the establishment’s “responsible” candidates. On fundamental issue after issue, it is the candidate “of the heart” who is in fact grounded in common sense. It wasn’t Sanders’s emotional appeal, but his clearsightedness that led the Nation magazine, which I edit, to make only its third presidential endorsement in a primary in its 150-year history.

For example, foreign policy is considered Clinton’s strength. When terrorism hits the headlines, she gains in the polls. Yet the worst calamity in U.S. foreign policy since Vietnam surely was George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. Clinton voted for that war; Sanders got it right and voted against. Clinton has since admitted her vote was a “mistake” but seems to have learned little from that grievous misjudgment. As secretary of state, she championed regime change in Libya that left behind another failed state rapidly becoming a backup base for the Islamic State. She pushed for toppling Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war and lobbied for arming the Syrian opposition, a program that ended up supplying more weapons to the Islamic State than to anyone else. Now she touts a “no fly zone” in Syria, an idea that has been dismissed by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as requiring some 70,000 troops to enforce, and by President Obama as well. People thinking with their heads rather than their hearts might well prefer Sanders’s skepticism about regime change to Clinton’s hawkishness.

The worst economic calamity since the Great Depression came when the excesses of Wall Street created the housing bubble and financial crisis that blew up the economy. Clinton touts her husband economic record, but he championed the deregulation that helped unleash the Wall Street wilding. The banks, bailed out by taxpayers, are bigger and more concentrated than they were before the crash. Someone using their head — not their heart — would want to make certain that the next president is independent of Wall Street and committed to breaking up the big banks and shutting down the casino. But Clinton opposes key elements of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) rational reform agenda for the banks, and her money ties to Wall Street lead any rational observer to conclude she’s an uncertain trumpet for reform.

Americans continue to suffer from a broken heath-care system that costs nearly twice per capita as those in the rest of the industrialized world — with worse results. Obama’s health reforms have helped millions get health care — particularly through the expansion of Medicaid and by forcing coverage of pre-existing conditions. But millions continue to go without care, millions more are underinsured and unable to afford decent coverage, and even more are gouged by drug companies and insurance companies that game the system’s complexities. Eventually the United States will join every other industrial nation with some form of simplified universal care. Sanders champions moving to “Medicare for all.” Clinton has mischaracterized his proposal, erroneously claiming it would “basically end all kinds of health care we know, Medicare, Medicaid, the Chip Program. It would take all that and hand it over to the states.” She says she would build on Obamacare but has yet to detail significant reforms that would take us closer to a rational health-care system. Sanders supported Obamacare but understands we can’t get to a rational health-care plan without leaders willing to take on the entrenched interests that stand in the way. It isn’t romantic to think that it is long past time for the United States to join every other industrial country and guarantee affordable health care for all…

In the face of the Sanders surge, Clinton supporters have resorted to the “electability argument”: that Sanders can’t be elected because he’s too far left. Put aside the irony of Clinton dismissing the electoral viability of someone she might lose to. Clinton has inevitable baggage of her own that raises doubts about her electoral prospects. And Clinton’s decision to present herself as the candidate of continuity in a time of change is problematic.

Clinton’s closing ad before Iowa makes her central argument clear: Trust her. She’s experienced and committed. She’ll keep Republicans from taking away the progress we’ve made. Sanders’s ad makes his argument clear: Trust yourself. Come together, take back the country and make this nation better. The first appeals to the head; the latter to the heart. But even the most hard-headed pragmatist might think the latter has as good a chance at getting elected and a better chance of forcing change than the former.

Update: Washington Post Editorial Board Spreading Fictions About Bernie Sanders

Donald Trump Is A Wimp And A Loser

Trump Iowa Screen Grab

Donald Trump once again leads the Republican polls (although I discussed the poor predictive value of polls in primary battles yesterday). Some pundits, such as David Brooks, say he will not win. Nobody seems sure exactly what to make of Donald Trump. For a change, I will evaluate him as he has been evaluating his opponents. Based upon his behavior this week, this means that Donald Trump is a wimp and a loser.

Donald Trump told CNN that he would not do their next debate unless the paid him $5 million, to be contributed to charity. CNN refused to pay. Trump then backed down–a sign of a loser.

Trump refused to release his medical records, as the other candidates are doing. Three hours after an article came out criticizing him for this, Trump backed down. Again, the sign of a loser.

As I’m looking at this from the perspective Donald Trump might take, I won’t get into the hubris of thinking that a network would pay him to be in a presidential debate, or that he does not have to release his medical records like the other candidates. Such behavior is to be expected when you are an egomaniac.

Jimmy Kimmel has looked into what to expect from Donald Trump’s medical records, including a very revealing endoscopic trip through the body of Donald Trump: