A New Wave Of Anti-Russia Hysteria Based Upon Questionable Information

We are seeing another wave of anti-Russia hysteria following an article in The Washington Post which makes unproven claims of Russian tampering in the presidential election. The claims continue to receive increased attention because it feeds into the attempts of Democratic partisans to blame the loss on factors other than the fact that they picked a highly flawed candidate, who then went on to run a terrible campaign.

The arguments against Russia are quite reminiscent of the false claims about Iraq in the lead up to that war. The hysteria is helped by the possibility of a grain of truth to the claims. It is not uncommon for governments to try to influence politics in other nations, with the United States having a long history of this. Hillary Clinton attempted to meddle in the Russian elections against Putin, and some degree of retaliation would not be a surprise. Russia had additional motivation to oppose the election of a warmonger such as Hillary Clinton out of the belief, which has considerable justification, that the election of Clinton would lead to the resumption of Cold War style hostilities between the United States and Russia, at the very least. The desire by Clinton’s neoconservative allies for nation building in Russia gave even further incentive.

This hardly means that Russia rigged our election as some are now saying. Regardless of what the Russians did, the FBI has found no clear link between Donald Trump and Russia. The closest we have had to a rigged election in the United States was in the nomination of Hillary Clinton by the Democratic Party.

Of course the possibility of hacking by Russia should be investigated. The press should also pay more attention to the actual revelations about the Democratic Party in the leaked email, along with the history of United States meddling in the affairs of other nations.

Glen Greenwald debunked the latest round of anti-Russia hysteria in an article entitled Anonymous Leaks to the WashPost About the CIA’s Russia Beliefs Are No Substitute for Evidence:

The Washington Post late Friday night published an explosive story that, in many ways, is classic American journalism of the worst sort: The key claims are based exclusively on the unverified assertions of anonymous officials, who in turn are disseminating their own claims about what the CIA purportedly believes, all based on evidence that remains completely secret.

These unnamed sources told the Post that “the CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system.” The anonymous officials also claim that “intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails” from both the DNC and John Podesta’s email account. Critically, none of the actual evidence for these claims is disclosed; indeed, the CIA’s “secret assessment” itself remains concealed...

Needless to say, Democrats — still eager to make sense of their election loss and to find causes for it other than themselves — immediately declared these anonymous claims about what the CIA believes to be true, and, with a somewhat sweet, religious-type faith, treated these anonymous assertions as proof of what they wanted to believe all along: that Vladimir Putin was rooting for Donald Trump to win and Hillary Clinton to lose and used nefarious means to ensure that outcome. That Democrats are now venerating unverified, anonymous CIA leaks as sacred is par for the course for them this year, but it’s also a good indication of how confused and lost U.S. political culture has become in the wake of Trump’s victory.

Among the key points he discussed was that “no rational person should blindly believe anonymous claims of this sort — even if it is pleasing to believe such claims.” He started this argument by pointing out that “CIA officials are professional, systematic liars; they lie constantly, by design, and with great skill, and have for many decades, as have intelligence officials in other agencies.”

Marcy Wheeler  looked at some of the contradictions in the news reports, reminding us of what happened when we failed to question the misinformation prior to the Iraq war:

Some senior US official (often code for senior member of Congress) says this is the consensus view. Another senior US official (or maybe the very same one) says there are “minor disagreements.”

Remember: we went to war against Iraq, which turned out to have no WMD, in part because no one read the “minor disagreements” from a few agencies about some aluminum tubes. A number of Senators who didn’t read that footnote closely (and at least one that did) are involved in this story. What we’re being told is there are some aluminum tube type disagreements.

Regardless of whether Russia was involved in the release of the Wikileaks email, and there is no evidence so far that they were, the argument that this is what caused Clinton’s defeat ignores the multiple other problems with both the candidate and her campaign. Juan Cole wrote, No, America, it wasn’t Russia: You did it to Yourself:

I don’t doubt that the Russian Federation employs hackers and PR people to influence public opinion and even election outcomes in other countries. So does the United States of America. But I am skeptical that anything the Russians did caused Donald Trump to be president.

It wasn’t like Trump was a Manchurian Candidate, a stealth plant in the US body politic who would only be operationalized once elected.

Trump was in plain view. He had all along been in plain view. His hatred for uppity or “nasty” women, his racism, his prickliness, his narcissism, his rich white boy arrogance and entitlement (apparently even to strange women and other men’s wives), his cronyism and his fundamental dishonesty were on display 24/7 during some 18 months of the campaign, and it wasn’t as though he were an unknown quantity before that.

Americans voted for him anyway. Slightly more Americans voted for him than for a respectable person like Mitt Romney. No Russians were holding a gun to their heads. And they knew, or should have known, what they were getting.

By a “black swan” fluke, a few tens of thousands of the Trump voters were distributed differently, state by state, than the McCain and Romney voters; and in some key states like Michigan Sec. Clinton did not do as well as Obama had, even if she was beloved in California and New York…

Nor did any Russian hacking related to Wikileaks, if that is what happened, prove decisive. Clinton’s own polling people found the big turning point was when she called Trump voters a “basket of deplorables.” Americans don’t like being talked down to, and had already gotten rid of Romney for the same sin. The spectacle of Clinton taking hundreds of thousands of dollars to give a speech to the people who put them out of their homes in 2008-9 also turned many of them off so that they stayed home, while another section of them decided to take a chance on Trump. He will screw them over, but from their point of view, they worried that she might have, as well. Trump was promising to stop the hemorrhaging of jobs via protectionism, whereas everyone understood that Sec. Clinton’s first instinct was to do TPP and send more jobs to Asia.

Donald Trump Is Least Popular President-Elect In Modern History

A Pew Research Center survey shows what was expected after a campaign with the two most unpopular candidates in memory. Donald Trump is the least popular president-elect in modern history. Even George W. Bush, who like Trump failed to win the popular vote, received a 50 percent approval rating in a country which was divided 50:50. Trump is well below this with an approval of only 41 percent.

A majority also disapprove of his cabinet choices and appointments by a 51 percent to 40 percent margin. This is hardly surprising in light of appointments including Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn at NSA, Ben Carson at HUD, and Betsy DeVos at Education. It says something when one of his least objectionable choices is someone known as Mad Dog (James Mattis at Defense).

The poll found many of the same negatives which came out during the campaign:

…many of the same doubts and concerns that voters expressed about Trump’s qualifications and temperament during the campaign are evident as he prepares to take office. Just 37% of the public views Trump as well-qualified; 32% of registered voters described Trump as well-qualified in October. Majorities continue to say Trump is reckless (65%) and has poor judgment (62%), while 68% describe him as “hard to like.”

In addition, more than half of the public (54%) says that Trump has done too little to distance himself from “white nationalist groups” who support him, while 31% say he has done the right amount to distance himself from such groups; 6% say he has done too much in this regard.

And despite all this, the Democrats managed to come up with a candidate who still managed to lose to Trump. There are many reasons why Clinton was such a terrible candidate, all of which were predictable. It also came as little surprise that Clinton ran such an awful campaign, concentrating on personal attacks and avoiding discussion of issues. As people saw Clinton as being as terrible a person as Trump, and were supplied with plenty of confirmation of this with her behavior during the campaign, personal attacks on Trump were not enough to win the election. Perhaps Clinton should have discussed major issues such as Medicare, which the voters had little knowledge of. Pew found:

Overall, only about half of the public (51%) has heard a lot (12%) or a little (39%) about a proposal to change Medicare to a program that would give future participants a credit toward purchasing private health insurance. About as many either have heard nothing (48%) or don’t know (1%).

Instead Clinton gave no reason to vote for her beyond her gender and it being her turn. This left the race as an unpopularity contest among two incredibly unpopular candidates.

Media Coverage Of Election News & Credibility Of Media Outlets

figure-1-general-election-768x351

A  report from Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy analyzed news coverage during the 2016 election found that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump received  coverage that was “overwhelmingly negative in tone and extremely light on policy.”

While supporters of either candidate can find plenty in the analysis to argue that their candidate was treated unfairly by the press, both candidates had such major negatives that this is not unexpected. While Clinton did receive more negative coverage, this was largely driven by a coverage of a scandal in progress. Both old news and news driven by Donald Trump’s bizarre acts did him almost as much harm.

Some are complaining about the amount of coverage of Clinton’s scandals, but Democrats should not be surprised that this would be the result of nominating a candidate in the midst of a major scandal. It was as if the Republicans had nominated Richard Nixon after the Watergate scandal broke. Clinton is the one who violated the rules in effect, and then repeatedly attempted to stonewall the press and lie about her actions. Therefore I am not impressed with the claims that there is a false equivalency between Clinton’s negatives and Trump’s. Democrats should have know better to nominate a candidate with the negatives of Hillary Clinton, which have been well known for quite a long time.

When both candidates are unfit to be president, that is precisely the message which should come from the media coverage. Arguments over which scandals are worse are secondary.

My complaint about media coverage pertaining to the email scandal is not the amount of coverage but that the media concentrated too much on the question of indictment for mishandling classified information, leading some Clinton apologists to mistakenly equate a lack of indictment with exoneration. While the more dramatic aspect, this was not the major issue.

This was far more a matter of government transparency, with the classified information only being one portion of the scandals. Rather than concentrate so much on the question of whether Clinton would be indicted, which I never thought was going to happen, more attention should have been paid to the State Department Inspector General Report which showed how Clinton violated the rules, tried to cover-up her actions, and failed to cooperate with the investigation.

It is typical for the media to concentrate more on negative aspects of candidates and on the horserace. In most years I would be more critical of the media for this, but this year the candidates are largely to blame. Donald Trump was generally contradictory and incoherent on most policy matters. Clinton would chose her policy views based upon what was most politically expedient that day, and avoided the media as much as possible. I would have liked to see the media cover issues more, but the media dislikes complex issues at any time. They are even less likely to discuss them when the candidates are rarely doing so in a coherent manner.

The media’s concentration on negative news does distort how some issues are seen. As the report noted: “Although the nation’s economy has steadily improved since the financial crisis of 2008, one would not know that from the tone of news coverage. Since 2010, news stories about the nation’s economy have been 2-to-1 negative over positive.” This did benefit an outsider and “change” candidate, but here too, the Democrats have only themselves to blame. They had a far stronger candidate in Bernie Sanders to capitalize on such feelings, but preferred to rig the system for the most anti-change establishment candidate possible.

The report also points out that “negative news erodes trust in the press, which is now at its lowest level in the history of polling.” This leads to consideration of a Morning Consult survey which looked at trust in the media, and broke it down on party lines. The results are summarized in this table:

media-credability

The major differences here are in how credible Fox is seen to be, with The Wall Street Journal showing a comparable but less severe partisan divide. Any consideration of the credibility of The Wall Street Journal should take into consideration the tremendous difference between its news pages and the opinion pages, which take far greater liberties with the truth.

There is far more agreement that I might have predicted with other news outlets. Democrats trust MSNBC more then Republicans, but the difference is not all that great.Both Democrats and Republicans rank Huffington Post and Breitbart fairly low, with some degree of the expected partisan difference. I find it encouraging that only 26 percent of Republicans find Breitbart to be credible, placing it below MSNBC, NPR, and Huffington Post. It is notable that Democrats find The Onion to be more credible than Beritbart, but Republicans do not.

A Probably Futile Attempt To Stop Trump In The Electoral College

Everyone was upset when Donald Trump said he might not accept the results of the election. Now that he has been elected, there are those who do not accept this and are trying to block his election in the electoral college. One roadblock is laws in some states which require electors to vote for the winner of their state. Electors in Colorado are challenging this:

Two presidential electors in Colorado are heading to court Tuesday to try and boost their extreme long-shot gambit to stop Donald Trump from officially being elected president when the Electoral College votes on Dec. 19.

Democratic electors Polly Baca and Robert Nemanich are filing suit in federal court to overturn a state law that forces them to support the winner of Colorado’s presidential popular vote, in this case Hillary Clinton. But a successful bid, they say, would undermine similar laws in 28 other states, empowering Republican electors in those states to reject Trump.

In the legal filing, obtained by POLITICO, lawyers for Baca and Nemanich argue that Colorado’s statute is flatly unconstitutional because the Founding Fathers intended presidential electors to have free will when casting their votes — and to consider the popular vote as merely advisory.

“Plaintiffs are entitled to exercise their judgment and free will to vote for whomever they believe to be the most qualified and fit for the offices of President and Vice President, whether those candidates are Democrats, Republicans, or from a third party,” they argue in a brief signed by Denver attorney Jason Wesoky.

Regardless of what happens with this suit, it is highly unlikely that Trump will be prevented from becoming president. While laws such as those in Colorado are somewhat of a roadblock, I suspect it would actually be hard to enforce such laws. The real problem here is that it is Democratic electors who are making the most noise about a challenge in the electoral college. Some are engaged in a probably futile attempt to get the support of Hillary Clinton, who has no real incentive to see her electoral vote count decrease. Their goal is to switch votes to John Kasich, seeing him as a less objectionable Republican than Donald Trump. This might have a long shot chance at working if Republican electors were joining them, but it makes no difference in the end if Democratic electors vote for Kasich rather than Clinton.

Some are urging Republican electors to vote for Clinton over Trump. It is even less likely they would support Clinton as opposed to another Republican.

So far there is one Republican elector who is saying he will not vote for Trump:

A Republican member of the Electoral College from Texas said Monday that he won’t cast one of his state’s 38 electoral votes for Donald Trump because “I am here to elect a president, not a king.”

Dallas paramedic Chris Suprun previously indicated he would support Trump. But he now says the president-elect’s postelection attacks on the First Amendment and the country’s electoral process, as well as the billionaire businessman’s continued promotion of his brand and business interests overseas, changed his mind.

The loss of his electoral vote will not prevent Trump from being elected, even if he should convince a handful of other Republican electors to take the same action. If enough electors do vote for Kasich over Trump to prevent him from reaching 270 electoral votes, in theory the House of Representatives could then choose Kasich over Trump to be president, but is is questionable if this would actually occur.

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

sanders-conan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bernie Sanders and Spike Lee Discussed The Election

bernie-sanders-spike-lee2

The Guardian features a conversation between Bernie Sanders and Spike Lee about the election. Spike Lee started out by describing what Sanders was up against in running for the Democratic nomination:

SL I want to thank you, though. Because what you did is great. And reading this stuff that’s coming out – the revelations about Wasserman [Debbie Wasserman Schultz, former chair of the Democratic National Committee, who during the campaign leaked emails shown to be biased against Sanders in favour of Clinton] and Donna Brazile [interim DNC chair, who gave Clinton a heads-up on questions in advance of a CNN debate], whom I know. Cheating goes both ways, huh? [Laughs.]

BS Well, you know. We took on the entire establishment and that’s what happens. But we have some enormously difficult times now. We gotta go forward, and I look forward to working with you to make that happen.

They discussed how some people voted for Obama and then voted for Trump this year:

BS Well, I think a number of people who voted for Obama once, or twice, voted for Trump. And I think the issue is that there are millions of people in this country who voted for Trump but do not accept… I’m not going to deny for a second that there’s a lot of racism and xenophobia and sexism out there; there certainly is. But there are a whole lot of other people who are just really, really hurting. They’re working two or three jobs, they’re worried about their kids, they can’t afford to send them to childcare or to college. And Trump comes along and says, “I’m a champion of the working class.” And he’s a good showman and a good entertainer, and people believed him.

But our job now, it seems to me, is in three areas. Number one: to fight him tooth and nail in any movement toward racism, xenophobia, sexism, trying to divide our country up. And number two: if he is at all sincere – and we will see if he is – in developing programmes to create jobs and raise wages, I think we should work with him. But I’ll tell you what also concerns me, not just for this country but the planet, is this guy thinks that climate change is a hoax. Well, let me tell you, it ain’t a hoax. Climate change is real, and if we don’t transform our energy system, the planet we leave for our kids and grandchildren may not be a pretty place.

This led into how Clinton managed to lose the election. It came down to Clinton’s attitude of entitlement, and a failure to present a case as to why she should be president–or as Mark McKinnon put it at The Daily Beast, she failed to tell a story. She thought the election was hers, and tried to run out the clock:

SL Excuse me, if I may, sir; you know I love sports. I’ve seen it too many times, when a team thinks they’ve got it all won, just wrapped up, and you see players go down the sideline and start celebrating, and then they reach the goal line and fumble. The Clintons – and I’m not asking you for a comment; this is my opinion – thought they had it won. And what do the great coaches always say? Keep playing until there is no time on the clock! And it seems to me the Clintons were celebrating before the day was up.

BS [Mirthlessly.] Ha.

SL It was not Hillary Clinton’s birthright to be president of the United States of America! And Trump, he played it like he was going to keep going at this until the whistle blows, until time has run out.

BS Right. You’re right. Now, no one can deny that Trump was holding three or four rallies a day, he was running all over this country, working 20 hours a day. And that’s the truth. But I think that speaks to, Spike, something that goes beyond Hillary Clinton. It really goes to the very nature of the Democratic party.

SL The DNC!

BS That’s right. And it calls for the transformation of the Democratic party, and making it clear it’s going to be a party that brings together blacks and whites and Latinos and women and gays, and everyone else. But it’s also going to be a party…

SL Would you say that it’s a shambles, now, Senator – the DNC?

BS Yes. Yes. And I am supporting…

BS Yes. I think we need a house-cleaning. I think the DNC needs an entirely new direction. I think it needs leadership, and I think it needs to be very clear about the fact that it stands with working families and is prepared to take on the billionaire class and Wall Street, and corporate America, and the drug companies and the insurance companies. People are hurting. And we need a programme that stands with working families and brings people together.

SL Were you ever offered the VP position, sir?

BS No. Absolutely not.

SL Would you have taken it?

BS Er. Probably, yes. But that’s again looking through the rear-view mirror.

If Clinton had chosen Sanders to be her running mate she probably would have won as many of those who voted for Obama in the past but had stayed home, voted for Trump, or voted third party would have voted for a Clinton/Sanders ticket in the midwest states which Clinton narrowly lost. Instead, many saw the choice of Tim Kaine as further evidence that Clinton was sticking with the centrist/conservative DLC philosophy and was ignoring the left. Now that we do have Trump coming into the White House, the next question was about where we go next:

SL [Long silence.] Hmmm. This is a rhetorical question, but I just want readers to understand this, very clearly. Where do we go? Where is the hope?

BS OK, here is where the hope is. The hope is to understand that the Democratic party has stumbled very significantly in the last number of decades. It’s not just this election, Spike, as disastrous as it has been. It is the fact that the Republican party controls the Senate, controls the US House, controls something like two-thirds of the governor seats in this country, and that the Democrats have lost over 900 state legislature seats in the last eight years. What that tells me is that the Democratic party has got to very fundamentally rethink who it is and where it goes. It has to shed the current situation where it’s a party of the liberal elite, a party of wealthy people who give substantial sums – we can use that money, that’s fine, but it must reidentify itself as a party of working people. Whether you’re black, white, Latino, there are millions of people today who are working longer hours for lower wages, and they’re seeing almost all new income and wealth going to the top 1%. The Democratic party has got to say we are on the side of the 99%. Our party is not about having fancy fundraisers, it’s about going into union halls, veterans’ halls, farm communities, the inner cities. It has to bring people together around the progressive agenda and make government work for all of us and not the 1%. That’s why I’m supporting Keith Ellison [as prospective chair of the DNC].

SL Who?

BSKeith Ellison. Of Minnesota.

SL Oh, yes. He’s the Muslim brother, right?

BS Yes. He’s a very good guy, and he’s the co-chair of the house progressive caucus. Very progressive guy. And I think Keith understands that the future of the Democratic party is a grassroots party. So I’m going to be supporting him and shaking up the Democratic party.

SL Let me ask you another question. The coalition that Obama got, that put him in office – did the Clinton campaign think it would automatically win [those people] without having to work? I don’t understand it. Because I did not feel the energy there was for Obama – even for you – for Hillary Clinton. I respect the woman, but the enthusiasm wasn’t there.

BS I think nobody would argue with you on that. What we have seen is that in 2008 Obama ran a historical campaign where the turnout was extraordinarily high: enthusiasm in the minority community, strong support in the white working class, and that carried over in 2012. But in 2016, what we saw – I think your point is quite right – it would be hard to suggest that the people of this country were enthusiastic about the Clinton campaign. There was not the energy we have seen in the Obama campaign, and what ended up happening was voter turnout was low. She won the black community overwhelmingly, but turnout was low. She lost a lot of white, working-class people. That’s just the fact.

The Democrats have lost badly in 2010, 2014, and now in 2016 when they ran as Republican-lite. They will need to rebuild at the grassroots, and they will need to stand for something.

Insight Into Two Top Trump Advisers: Jared Kushner & Steve Bannon

jared-kushner-forbes

While we approach Donald Trump’s presidency with some dread, at least this stage is more interesting than it would be if Clinton had been elected. Rather than what would be a fairly predictable list of old Clinton cronies, Wall Street insiders, and the interventionist foreign policy establishment, we are seeing people new to politics. While Donald Trump is new to politics, he has a long public record. Perhaps the key member of the next administration that we know the least about is his son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Kushner out-smarted the old Clinton political experts, and pulled off a victory in the electoral college with both less money and no political experience. Forbes has interviewed Kushner. The full article is worth reading, but here is an excerpt to show how Kushner changed how political campaigns are run to take advantage of social media and ideas from Silicon Valley:

“I called some of my friends from Silicon Valley, some of the best digital marketers in the world, and asked how you scale this stuff,” Kushner says. “They gave me their subcontractors.”

At first Kushner dabbled, engaging in what amounted to a beta test using Trump merchandise. “I called somebody who works for one of the technology companies that I work with, and I had them give me a tutorial on how to use Facebook micro-targeting,” Kushner says. Synched with Trump’s blunt, simple messaging, it worked. The Trump campaign went from selling $8,000 worth of hats and other items a day to $80,000, generating revenue, expanding the number of human billboards–and proving a concept. In another test, Kushner spent $160,000 to promote a series of low-tech policy videos of Trump talking straight into the camera that collectively generated more than 74 million views.

By June the GOP nomination secured, Kushner took over all data-driven efforts. Within three weeks, in a nondescript building outside San Antonio, he had built what would become a 100-person data hub designed to unify fundraising, messaging and targeting. Run by Brad Parscale, who had previously built small websites for the Trump Organization, this secret back office would drive every strategic decision during the final months of the campaign. “Our best people were mostly the ones who volunteered for me pro bono,” Kushner says. “People from the business world, people from nontraditional backgrounds.”

Kushner structured the operation with a focus on maximizing the return for every dollar spent. “We played Moneyball, asking ourselves which states will get the best ROI for the electoral vote,” Kushner says. “I asked, How can we get Trump’s message to that consumer for the least amount of cost?” FEC filings through mid-October indicate the Trump campaign spent roughly half as much as the Clinton campaign did.

Just as Trump’s unorthodox style allowed him to win the Republican nomination while spending far less than his more traditional opponents, Kushner’s lack of political experience became an advantage. Unschooled in traditional campaigning, he was able to look at the business of politics the way so many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have sized up other bloated industries.

I wonder who will get the movie rights to this story.

While Kushner’s political views are not clear, he does not appear to be a doctrinaire conservative. The anti-nepotism laws written after JFK made Bobby Kennedy his Attorney General might prevent Kushner from having a formal role in the Trump administration. I think we are better off with Trump continuing to listen to Kushner and hope this can be circumvented. Even if he cannot have an actual position, Trump will probably continue to receive advice from him.

During the interview Kushner defended Steve Bannon from accusations of being anti-Semitic based upon the hate speech often found at Breitbart. While this is hardly enough to make Bannon look acceptable, there was another sign today that Bannon might be more complex than he is portrayed. IndieWire reports that previously Bannon had been involved in the distribution of independent films which differ from the world view he is now involved with:

Ten years ago, Bannon oversaw the distribution of independent films released by Wellspring Media, a company that supported a wide range of international cinema as well as gay-themed and other “transgressive” titles. Movies acquired and released under his tenure include the experimental LGBT documentary “Tarnation” and “Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry,” a pro-Kerry documentary that opened during the 2004 election. According to one insider who dealt with Bannon at this time, he directly approved and often supported several of these films with great enthusiasm.

It’s a history that raises fascinating questions about the newly minted White House staffer’s motives: Did Bannon, whose alt-right allegiances have turned him into a leading proponent of nationalism, shelve his personal beliefs for the sake of perceived business opportunities? Did those beliefs — and a tolerance for the hate groups drawn to the alt-right movement — come later? Or does he, as so many have theorized about the president-elect, only believe in himself?P

Hopefully we will see a new version of Bannon in the White House, but this will not negate all of the hate speech he has spread in more recent years. The same can be said of President Trump as compared to candidate Trump.

Sanders And Warren Chosen For Democratic Party Leadership Positions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

donkey

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.

Note To Mark Zuckerberg On Facebook And The Treatment Of Supporters Of Bernie Sanders

zuckerberg

There has been a lot of controversy over how Facebook handled matters during the past election campaign. Mark Zuckerberg responded to some of these issues in a Facebook post here. He concentrated on how Facebook handles the posting of “fake news.” Some of us who supported Sanders used the opportunity to respond to Zuckerberg in the comments on related matters as, while possibly the actions of individual employees and not “official” Facebook policy, Facebook often intervened unfairly on the side of supporters of Hillary Clinton. I posted this comment:

Please also look at how Facebook handles intervening in political arguments and your policies on restricting access.

During the primary campaign we had a lot of problems with Clinton supporters launching personal attacks on Sanders supporters. We would respond to defend ourselves, the Clinton supporter would then file a complaint, and the Sanders supporters would be restricted from Facebook use. Attempts to contact people at Facebook and explain the situation invariably went unanswered.

With the size and influence of Facebook, you have a responsibility to ensure that these matters are handled fairly, and for there to be due process for those whose access to posting on Facebook is being restricted.

There were comparable issues with entire Sanders sites being temporarily shut down.

My comment can be found here. I’m posting this on some Sanders groups in the hopes that adding “likes” for my comment will increase the chance that it gets Zuckerberg’s attention. If  you are reading this on Facebook, click through to the blog post for the links. In scanning the comments, I have also found some other similar comments. Please “like” them as well if you come across them, and add your own.

I had a previous blog post on the shutting down of pro-Sanders Facebook pages here.

This is primarily a matter of fairness as to how Facebook users are treated but also has major implications for the country. The election of Donald Trump came about because of how the Democratic establishment pushed through the nomination of Hillary Clinton, a weak candidate who was probably the only major political figure who could not win a general election campaign against Trump. Those who pushed for the nomination of Clinton over Sanders helped make possible the eventual victory by Donald Trump.