Democrats Dreading Damage From Clinton Book Tour

Hillary Clinton has become the Democrats worst nightmare. She managed to run a campaign which was so poorly run that she could not even beat a candidate as terrible as Donald Trump. Now her actions, and the actions of her most fanatic supporters like Peter Daou, threaten further damage to the party. Politico writes, Democrats dread Hillary’s book tour: Reliving the 2016 nightmare is the last thing the party needs right now, many say.

Democratic operatives can’t stand the thought of her picking the scabs of 2016, again — the Bernie Sanders divide, the Jim Comey complaints, the casting blame on Barack Obama for not speaking out more on Russia. Alums of her Brooklyn headquarters who were miserable even when they thought she was winning tend to greet the topic with, “Oh, God,” “I can’t handle it,” and “the final torture.”

…“Maybe at the worst possible time, as we are fighting some of the most high-stakes policy and institutional battles we may ever see, at a time when we’re trying to bring the party together so we can all move the party forward — stronger, stronger together,” said Rep. Jared Huffman, a Democrat who represents a Northern California district. “She’s got every right to tell her story. Who am I to say she shouldn’t, or how she should tell it? But it is difficult for some of us, even like myself who’ve supported her, to play out all these media cycles about the blame game, and the excuses.”

In a tweet late Tuesday night, Huffman pleaded with Clinton to stop blaming Sanders for her loss, as she partly does in the book, according to excerpts that leaked ahead of its release. Huffman said the tweet had gotten a lot of “likes” from his colleagues — albeit in private conversations with him.

“There is a collective groan,” he said, “whenever there’s another news cycle about this.”

The Hill similarly reports, Clinton’s score-settling frustrates Democrats.

Clinton says that Sanders’s attacks did “lasting damage” to her general election hopes. She accuses him of “paving the way” for Trump to cast her as a corrupt corporate stooge deserving of the nickname “Crooked Hillary.”

Sanders brushed off Clinton’s criticism in a Wednesday interview with The Hill, saying it’s time for Democrats to “look forward, not backward.”

Not everyone was so charitable. Even some of Clinton’s allies have grown weary of her insistence on re-litigating the 2016 campaign at a time when the Democratic Party is looking to forge a new identity in the age of Trump.

“The best thing she could do is disappear,” said one former Clinton fundraiser and surrogate who played an active role at the convention. “She’s doing harm to all of us because of her own selfishness. Honestly, I wish she’d just shut the f— up and go away.”

…Those daunting challenges have some Democrats fuming at what they view as Clinton’s petty post-election score settling.

“None of this is good for the party,” said one former Obama aide. “It’s the Hillary Show, 100 percent. A lot of us are scratching our heads and wondering what she’s trying to do. It’s certainly not helpful.”

My response to her attacks on Bernie Sanders were posted here. Besides attacking Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton has attacked Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and the DNC in post-election statements and in her book, further burning bridges with Democrats.

Excerpts from Clinton’s book repeat the same type of bogus talking points we have heard, and dismissed, from Clinton supporters for months. It doesn’t help matters that the book is coming out at the same time that Peter Daou has started a Clinton propaganda site (Verrit.com) which has received a tremendous amount of mocking. (I have posted about it here and here). It is packed with talking points in the format of the graphic here, except I added my own message.

Politico Magazine was even harder on Verrit in an article entitled This Pro-Hillary Website Looks Like North Korean Agitprop: Peter Daou, the prickly pro-Clinton operative, has launched a propaganda rag so shameless it would make Kim Jong Un blush.

Who would buy stock in a twice-defeated presidential candidate?

If the candidate under question is Hillary Clinton, that zealous buyer would be Peter Daou, one-time rocker, seasoned political blogger, former campaign adviser to John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, ambitious litigantpropagandist and internet entrepreneur. A couple of days ago, Daou launched his self-funded Verrit.com, a slavishly pro-Clinton site (endorsed by Hillary!) to carry on her failed crusade.

The derision greeting Verrit is so universal it inspires sympathy for Daou, as Gizmodo, the Washington PostOutlineNew RepublicNew YorkThe Ringer and others have broken its back with their snap judgments. “Verrit, a Media Company for Almost Nobody,” read one headline. “No One Asked for Verrit, But Here We Are,” stated another. “What Is Verrit and Why Should I Care? (Unclear; You Shouldn’t.),” said a third. “Peter Daou Continues to Embarrass Hillary Clinton,” asserted the best in show…

As Daou’s Verrit manifesto puts it, the site hopes to become the trusted source for the 65.8 million voters who cast their ballots last November for Clinton and who seek verified “facts” they can use to argue politics. In theory, everybody needs a cheat sheet. In practice, the Verrit method is cringe-worthy. The headline to one early Verrit borrows from the literary methods of Kim Jong Un’s North Korea to assert, “Hillary Democrats Are the Heart and Conscience of America.” Does anybody outside of the Daou re-education camp really think this way?

When it comes to criticism, Daou isn’t just a snowflake. He’s a snow squall, equating most criticism of Clinton (or criticism of Daou) with the desire to erase Clinton and Clintonites. Early this year, he telegraphed his irrational partisanship by tweeting that anybody tweeting “Bernie would have won” in his timeline would earn “an instant block” from his account. “Useless and baseless conjecture. Betrays someone unfocused on the challenge ahead,” Daou continued.

His is a reductionist world where evidence of misogyny and sexism can be deduced from almost any political discussion of Madame Secretary. When Verrit launched, it inspired not only a mudslide of negative reviews but an ugly denial-of-service attack on his servers. From this rocky reception, Daou didn’t extract the perennial lesson that politics ain’t beanbag. He didn’t cinch up and concede that political passions will cause folks to overheat. Instead, he flew to Twitter and raged in all caps, “PEOPLE ARE STILL TERRIFIED OF HILLARY. PEOPLE STILL WANT TO DESTROY HILLARY. PEOPLE WANT TO SILENCE ANYONE WHO SUPPORTS HER.”

Terrified? Destroy? Silence? I’d love to see the serial numbers on those “facts.”

As the New Republic’s Sarah Jones pointed out, Verrit’s early shilling for Clinton easily veers into propaganda when it posts headlines like “Sanders and the Mainstream Media Helped Put Trump in the White House.” Such headlines present Clinton as a victim, denying her any agency, and blaming all of her failures on the press and Bernie Sanders. To dwell on this Verrit for just one more beat, is it safe to say that somebody out there is still terrified of Bernie, that somebody out there still wants to destroy Bernie, and that somebody wants to silence anyone who supported him.

All of these attempts to cover up Clinton’s failures are not fooling the majority of Americans. As Politco also reports on the latest polls, Trump hits new low in public opinion — but he’s still beating Hillary Clinton.

Just 36 percent of those reached by pollsters said they have either very or somewhat positive feelings about Trump, 2 points lower than in the poll’s June iteration. But at 36 percent, Trump still finished 6 points higher than Clinton, his 2016 Democratic opponent, about whom just 30 percent of respondents said they feel either very or somewhat positive.

If Clinton had just stayed quiet after the election, she might have had a chance to avoid becoming even less liked than Donald Trump.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump Support Falls With Increased Speculation That Trump Will Be Impeached Or Resign To Avoid Prison

Donald Trump’s unwillingness to consistently take a stand against white supremacists might have been the last straw placed upon an administration which is both failing to have its agenda passed and which is under investigation. He is losing support from members of his own party. There is increased talk about the possibility of impeachment or even his resignation.

First Read summarized the position which Trump is in:

The president’s job approval rating hovers between 35 percent and 40 percent. Key American corporations have withdrawn from his business-advisory councils after the response to Charlottesville. He’s regularly lashing out at members of his own party. His top advisers are calling up liberal publications — and letting loose. Forty percent of Americans want him impeached, according to a new poll.

And we’re on the 210th day of his time in office (without a major legislative accomplishment under his belt, and with a special counsel already investigating him and his team).

Here’s the thing: We have no idea how this all plays out for President Trump and his administration. We’ve seen Trump survive past controversies (Khizr Khan, Access Hollywood), but he no longer has an opponent/foil like Hillary Clinton.

We’ve seen past presidents (LBJ, Nixon, Clinton) endure their share of turbulent times, but it’s never come this early in a presidency. And we’ve never seen so many members of the president’s own political party openly criticize him, but still vote for his agenda most of the time.

Using the words “uncharted waters” has become a bit cliché during the Trump Era — everything has been so different. But there also are no better words to use right now. And the turmoil comes at a pressing time: escalating tensions with North Korea, a debt ceiling that needs to be raised, and midterm elections that are right around the corner.

The Fix reports on how Republicans are unwilling to appear on not only NBC but Fox to defend Trump:

Congress is in recess, but Republicans are in hiding, apparently unsure how to answer questions about President Trump’s response to last weekend’s violence in Charlottesville — and unwilling to try.

“We invited every single Republican senator on this program tonight — all 52,” Chuck Todd said on MSNBC’s “MTP Daily” on Wednesday. “We asked roughly a dozen House Republicans, including a bunch of committee chairs, and we asked roughly a half dozen former Republican elected officials, and none of them agreed to discuss this issue with us today.”

That’s about 70 rejections altogether, and other news anchors had the same experience on Wednesday — even on Fox News.

“Our booking team — and they’re good — reached out to Republicans of all stripes across the country today,” Shepard Smith told his viewers. “Let’s be honest: Republicans often don’t really mind coming on Fox News Channel. We couldn’t get anyone to come and defend him here. Because we thought, in balance, someone should do that. We worked very hard at it throughout the day, and we were unsuccessful.”

With support so low, a story from the Brookings Institute (and reprinted by Newsweek) speculates that, Trump Is Just Six Senate Votes From Impeachment.

At some point in 2019 (if not sooner) a Republican Senator may walk into the Oval Office and say to President Trump: “Mr. President, we don’t have the votes,” at which point the Trump presidency will end in a resignation or a conviction in the Senate.

This scenario actually occurred forty-three years ago this summer when Republican Senator Barry Goldwater walked into the Oval Office and told Republican President Richard Nixon that they didn’t have the votes in the Senate to save his presidency.

Following impeachment in the House, a trial takes place in the Senate. Conviction requires two-thirds of the Senate and by my count there are already twelve senators who have shown a willingness to take on the president when they believe he is in the wrong.

If you add that to the forty-eight Democrats in the Senate (who have shown no inclination to work with this President), Donald Trump could be six votes away from conviction in the Senate…

The article goes on to list Republican Senators who have been critical of Trump. Of course being unwilling to publicly defend Trump, or even to criticize him, does not necessarily mean they would vote to remove him from office. Even if these Republicans would support removing Trump from office, this would also require a majority in the Republican controlled House, and winning over six additional Republican Senators. This could be complicated by many Republican voters still sticking with Trump.

Tony Schwartz, who c0-wrote The Art Of The Deal with Trump, is repeating his earlier predictions that Trump will resign, possibly by this fall. I have a tough time seeing Trump resigning, but Schwartz does know Trump about as well as anyone outside his inner circle. It is conceivable that he could resign, as Schwartz predicts, as part of a deal to avoid going to prison as the investigations against him proceed. Schwartz also Tweeted, “Trump’s presidency is effectively over.”

Trump Distrusted By Three Fourths Of Americans Per CNN Poll

 

Support for Donald Trump continues to fall in the latest CNN poll, with his approval at its lowest point and three fourths of Americans saying they can’t trust most of what they hear from the White House. From CNN:

Six months into his presidency, Donald Trump’s overall approval rating stands at its lowest point in CNN polling, while three-quarters of Americans say they can’t trust most of what they hear from the White House.

Overall, 38% say they approve of Trump’s handling of the presidency, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, with 56% saying they disapprove. Just one other newly-elected president has held an approval rating below 50% at this point in his presidency since modern polling began: Bill Clinton, whose approval rating stood at 44% at this point in 1993.

Enthusiasm breaks against Trump by a 2-to-1 margin. Nearly half in the new poll say they strongly disapprove of Trump’s handling of the job (47%), while just a quarter say they feel strongly positive about Trump’s performance (24%)…

The poll finds widespread doubts about the veracity of information coming from the White House. Only a quarter of Americans (24%) say they trust all or most of what they hear in official communications from the White House, while more (30%) say they trust “nothing at all” that they hear from the President’s office. (Even among Republicans, only about half say they can trust most of what they hear from the White House.)

…He gets a mixed 48% approve to 47% disapprove rating on national security, and Americans are also divided on his handling of the economy (47% disapprove to 45% approve). On just about every other issue tested, majorities disapprove of Trump’s work, including on health care policy (62%), foreign affairs (61%), immigration (55%) and helping the middle class (54%). Nearly half (48%) disapprove of his handling of taxes while just 34% approve.

Looking back over the first 200 days of Trump’s time in office, just 36% say they consider it a success, and 59% consider it a failure. Both Barack Obama and George W. Bush were viewed as successful at this stage of their presidency by most Americans (56% for Bush, 51% for Obama).

These results are similar to other polls. Politico notes:

A recent Quinnipiac University poll showed Trump’s approval rating at 33 percent. A Gallup poll reported it was 36 percent. However, the Quinnipiac poll found a 76 percent approval rating among Republicans.

Looking at just examples from today’s news as to why the Trump White House cannot be trusted, The Guardian reports how the federal government is censoring the term “climate change.” The Washington Post reports on propaganda television shows coming from the White House, giving fake economic statistics. Last week Donald Trump compared an Afghanistan policy review to the renovation of upper-crust restaurant the 21 Club. Now Trump has been exposed for also making up the renovation story.

Related:

Donald Trump Claimed To Have Received Two Phone Calls With Praise–Neither Really Happened

The Democratic Leadership Has Failed To Give A Good Reason Why Their Party Should Continue To Exist

In followup of yesterday’s post on the struggle of the Democratic leadership to revamp their party by coming up with a new slogan, Chuck Schumer has an op-ed in The New York Times on The Better Deal. As I quoted Nancy Pelosi in saying yesterday, this “is not a course correction, but it’s a presentation correction.” Democrats who turned out to willingly vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016 will be pleased, but only a major course direction will satisfy those of us who did not. This offers little to win back the votes of those of us who did not vote Democratic in 2016. That includes those of us who voted third party, and the even larger numbers who crossed over and voted for Trump over Clinton or stayed home.

These proposals leave the Democrats as a party which stands for nothing. At least they didn’t mention Russia. Unfortunately this also didn’t really discuss  health care. It is like trying to steal Bernie Sanders’ agenda while ignoring Medicare-for-all or actually getting big money influence out of politics.

Beyond this, the problem comes down to thinking they can substitute a new slogan for real policies or ideas. They hardly inspire confidence when the principles of one election, to the limited degree they express any, are ignored in the next. Running on social issues alone was not enough (especially when led by a socially conservative presidential candidate), but that does not mean they should ignore liberal social issues now.

Those of us who voted Democratic because of outrage over policies of George W. Bush are hardly going to be enthusiastic about a party which nominated a candidate who supported the worst abuses under Bush–neoconservative interventionism, restrictions on civil liberties, and increased government secrecy.  Nor is there any offer to reform the undemocratic nomination rules which make the mockery out of the primary process, making it little different than picking the nominee in the old smoked filled rooms.

The new slogan has been received with considerable derision. Jonathan Allen compares the new Democratic slogan, “A Better Deal: Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Wages” to the pitch from Papa John’s, “Better Ingredients. Better Pizza.” Except the Democrats failed to add better ingredients.

First Read has a more serious but equally devastating criticism of Schumer and Pelosi in asking, “Can Democrats promise a ‘Better Deal’ with the same leaders in charge?”

The one thing that Democrats do have going for them in 2018 is that Donald Trump will (probably) be sitting in the White House, and Hillary Clinton will not be on the ballot. Hillary Clinton’s popularity has fallen even more than Donald Trump’s. FiveThirtyEight showed how the nomination of Hillary Clinton cost the Democrats not only the White House, but Congress:

Clinton’s unpopularity turned out to be a key factor in 2016 congressional races. Unsurprisingly, people who had a favorable view of Clinton primarily voted for Democrats in House races, while people with a favorable view of Trump primarily voted for Republican candidates. But among the 19 percent of voters who had an unfavorable view of both presidential candidates, House Republican candidates won by a margin of 30 percentage points. (Some voters may have cast a ballot for a Republican House candidate in the belief that a House controlled by the GOP would balance Clinton’s power after what most Americans thought would be a Clinton win.)

Not having Clinton on the ballot should help Democrats pick up seats in 2018, but it is likely to be a dead cat bounce, and perhaps more limited than Democrats hope, if the Democrats do not come up with more of a reason to attract voters than opposing Trump. It might be best if the Democrats could get out of the way and allow a new party to take over as a the true opposition and resistance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Both Political Parties Have Abandoned Principle

The 2016 election was a low point in our politics, with each party totally abandoning principle. Donald Trump ignored key ideas of the conservative movement, while Hillary Clinton became the establishment neocon candidate, running for George W. Bush’s third term. Newspaper columnists have noted this, with each party vulnerable to criticism for a lack of principles.

At Politico, Bruce Bartlett wrote Trump Is What Happens When a Political Party Abandons Ideas:

…conservatives—who, after all, believe in liberty and a system of checks and balances to restrain the government to its proper role—have plenty of reason to be upset by those actions Trump has taken that transcend our traditional right-left ideological divide. He’s voiced not only skepticism of NATO, but outright hostility to it. He’s pulled America back from its role as an international advocate for human rights. He’s attacked the notion of an independent judiciary. He personally intervened to request the FBI to ease up on its investigation of a former adviser of his, then fired FBI Director James Comey and freely admitted he did so to alleviate the pressure he felt from Comey’s investigation. For those conservatives who were tempted to embrace a “wait-and-see” approach to Trump, what they’ve seen, time and again, is almost unimaginable.

And yet as surprising as this all has been, it’s also the natural outgrowth of 30 years of Republican pandering to the lowest common denominator in American politics. Trump is what happens when a political party abandons ideas, demonizes intellectuals, degrades politics and simply pursues power for the sake of power…

One real-world result of the lobotomizing of conservative intellectualism is that when forced to produce a replacement for Obamacare—something Republican leaders had sworn they had in their pocket for eight years—there was nothing. Not just no legislation—no workable concept that adhered to the many promises Republicans had made, like coverage for pre-existing conditions and the assurance that nobody would lose their coverage. You’d think that House Speaker Ryan could have found a staff slot for one person to be working on an actual Obamacare replacement all these years, just in case.

With hindsight, it’s no surprise that the glorification of anti-elitism and anti-intellectualism that has been rampant on the right at least since the election of Barack Obama would give rise to someone like Trump. Anyone who ever read Sinclair Lewis’ “It Can’t Happen Here,” which imagined a fascist dictator taking power in 1930s America, recognizes that Trump is the real-life embodiment of Senator Buzz Windrip—a know-nothing populist who becomes president by promising something for everyone, with no clue or concern for how to actually accomplish it. Windrip was“vulgar, almost illiterate, a public liar easily detected, and in his ‘ideas’ almost idiotic,” Lewis wrote. “Certainly there was nothing exhilarating in the actual words of his speeches, nor anything convincing in his

While  I might not agree in all of his goals, Bruce Bartlett did express ideas as to what he wants the Republican Party to represent. The Democratic establishment lacks such a vision. Hillary Clinton’s campaign suffered from never being able to express a good reason why she should be present beyond the mistaken view that it was her turn. Democrats have lost every special election, most recently in Georgia with a centrist campaign which failed to stand for anything. Their strategy is limited to attacks on Trump, and raising hysteria about Russia which has gained no political traction.

Dan Baltz wrote in The Washington Post that Beyond opposing Trump, Democrats keep searching for a message:

The loss in last week’s special congressional election in Georgia produced predictable hand-wringing and finger-pointing inside the Democratic Party. It also raised anew a question that has troubled the party through a period in which they have lost ground political. Simply put: Do Democrats have a message?

Right now, the one discernible message is opposition to President Trump. That might be enough to get through next year’s midterm elections, though some savvy Democratic elected officials doubt it. What’s needed is a message that attracts voters beyond the blue-state base of the party…

History says a president with approval ratings as low as Trump’s usually sustain substantial midterm losses. That could be the case in 2018, particularly if the Republicans end up passing a health-care bill that, right now, is far more unpopular than Obamacare. But Trump has beaten the odds many times in his short political career. What beyond denunciations of the Republicans as heartless will the Democrats have to say to voters?

Though united in vehement opposition to the president, Democrats do not speak with one voice. Fault lines and fissures exist between the ascendant progressive wing at the grass roots and those Democrats who remain more business-friendly. While these differences are not as deep as those seen in Trump’s Republican Party, that hasn’t yet generated a compelling or fresh message to take to voters who aren’t already sold on the party.

Hillary Clinton, whose rhetoric often sounded more poll-tested than authentic, never found that compelling message during her 2016 campaign. She preferred to run a campaign by demonizing Trump and, as a result, drowned out her economic platform. This was a strategic gamble for which she paid a high price…

The long-running debate over the Democrats’ message probably will intensify as the party looks to 2018 and especially to 2020. It is a debate that the party needs. Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, writing in the American Prospect, sees a problem that goes beyond white working-class voters to those within the Democratic base who also were left behind by the post-2008 economic gains. He argues that the party’s problem is with working-class voters of all types, not just whites.

Greenberg has long been critical of the tepidness of the party’s economic message and puts some of the blame on Obama. He believes the former president’s economic message in 2012 and 2016 focused on progress in the recovery largely to the exclusion of the widespread pain that still existed. “That mix of heralding ‘progress’ while bailing out those responsible for the crisis and the real crash in incomes for working Americans was a fatal brew for Democrats,” he argues.

For progressives, the answer to this problem is clear: a boldly liberal message that attacks big corporations and Wall Street and calls for a significant increase in government’s role in reducing income and wealth inequality. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has been aggressive in promoting exactly that, as he did during the 2016 campaign, with calls for a big investment in infrastructure and free college tuition at public colleges and universities. He has said he intends to introduce legislation he calls “Medicare for All.”

Unfortunately, as has been the case in many articles of this nature which point out the lack of a message from the Democrats, Baltz ignored some key matters. Americans have become so accustomed to the wars started under George Bush and continued under Barack Obama that this was barely mentioned during the campaign. Even worse, Hillary Clinton has backed far further military interventionism than has been supported by Barack Obama–or George Bush and Dick Cheney.

It is sad that Reaganite Bruce Bartlett wrote that conservatives “believe in liberty and a system of checks and balances to restrain the government to its proper role,” but we see little concern among Democrats regarding these matters. Democrats don’t even think of opposing the increase in government surveillance and restrictions of civil liberties in the name of supposedly fighting terrorism. Neither major party candidate had any respect for First Amendment liberties, and Clinton has a far right record in backing restrictions.

With neither party standing for anything, we are seeing an unprecedented degree in dissatisfaction with both major parties, with a recent icitizen poll showing that, “seven in 10 Americans believe the two major parties do not represent them well and that a third party is necessary.” While Hillary Clinton calls third party voters crazy, showing a disdain for democracy in attacking voters for being unwilling to vote for her, this might be the only principled option unless the major political parties are reformed. One of the most vile arguments from establishment Democrats is that we must vote for the Democrats as lesser of two evils to stop Republicans while ignoring the evil promoted by their own party. This is a sick argument to say that we should have voted for a corrupt war monger like Clinton, endorsing her wars, right wing views on the First Amendment, and economic policies, while ignoring how she has used government positions to amass a fortune through influence peddling. Voting for the lesser of two evils over the years has only led to increasing how evil the nominees of both parties are.

Russia Not Working As Political Issue For Democrats

It looks like, unless new evidence should arise, the Democrats need to change their strategy of counting on attacks against Donald Trump based upon Russia to improve their political fortunes.  A  Harvard-Harris Poll reported by The Hill shows that sixty-two percent believe that there is no hard evidence of collusion between Donald Trump and Russia to alter the results of the election.

This does not mean there is no concern over the issue: “On the question of collusion, 52 percent said they don’t believe Trump coordinated with Moscow to influence the 2016 presidential election. But 54 percent said they believe Trump’s associates may have been involved.”

There are results in this poll which both supporters and opponents of Trump would be happy with. It does appear from this and other polls that a majority think that Congress should be dealing with other issues but do support the investigation by Robert Mueller:

Fifty-six percent of voters said it’s time for Congress and the media to move on to other issues, compared to 44 percent who said the focus should stay on Russia.

But other surveys have found strong support for the special counsel investigating the Russia probe. A Harvard-Harris survey released last month found 75 percent support for former FBI Director Robert Mueller’s investigation.

There is evidence in the Harvard-Harris survey that voters are taking the investigations seriously: Fifty-eight percent say they’re concerned by allegations of obstruction of justice against Trump, with the same number worried about possible dealings between Trump and the Russian government.

I have to disagree with the majority here. Considering what the Republican Congress is likely to do if not distracted by Russia, such as the terrible health care bill, I think that anything which interferes with the Republicans in pursing their agenda is a good thing. Plus there is  benefit to a Congressional investigation in addition to an investigation by a special counsel. An investigation by a special counsel is centered on actions which can lead to prosecution, and the details of their investigation might never become public. A Congressional investigation can be involved with investigation of all pertinent acts, including potentially unethical behavior which might not lead to actual indictment, and such a report should be made public. Of course there are also concerns regarding the reliability of any Congressional investigation with a Republican majority.

At this time there is far more evidence of possible obstruction of justice and potential financial irregularities than of collusion to tamper with the election results.It is also doubtful that Russia actually had any meaningful impact on the election. Earlier this week Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in his Congressional testimony: “To my current knowledge, the Russian government did not through any cyber intrusion alter ballots, ballot counts or reporting of election results.”

Russia remains suspected of being responsible for hack of DNC material leaked by Wikileaks but this only led to the release of information about Clinton and the DNC which was already widely suspected, and often already demonstrated by other sources. The alleged fake news and other propaganda attacks from Russia were probably trivial compared to all the noise already present in the media and on line. The claims of some Clinton supporters that anti-Clinton sentiment was a creation of Russian propaganda totally ignores the strong opposition to the Clintons on both the right and left which existed long before Russia allegedly tried to tamper in the election results. Russia certainly is not responsible for numerous bad decisions made by Clinton and her campaign which contributed to her loss. Shattered revealed that Hillary Clinton developed the strategy of blaming Russia for her defeat withing twenty four hours of her loss.

In the investigations of Donald Trump and his administration, obstruction of justice and  financial impropriety currently look  like a much more significant avenue for investigation than collusion to alter the election results. It is also worthwhile to look at any risks of future hacking of elections, regardless of source, to improve cyber-security in the future. If they want to break their current losing streak, Democrats also need to develop a better strategy than talking about Russia and avoiding principles.

Shattered Provides Insight Into How Clinton Doomed Her Campaign Over The Email Scandal

Chris Cillizza recently wrote about  a new study by a consortium of pollsters which showed how damaging the email scandal was to Hillary Clinton. While overall his article is worth reading, I am puzzled by the title and wonder if perhaps someone else had written it: Hillary Clinton’s ’email’ problem was bigger than anyone realized. Yes, the email problem was a major reason for Clinton’s defeat, although if this didn’t exist I suspect that many other things in Clinton’s history, and flaws in her character, would have served a similar role in destroying her campaign. However, contrary to the title, many realized how damaging this could be to Clinton from the start. For example, back in March of 2015 I had a post entitled Clinton’s Use Of Private Email Suggests Democrats Need To Consider A Plan B For 2016. Initially other liberal bloggers also expressed concern at the time, but unfortunately partisanship replaced reason for many over the subsequent months. Many partisan Democrats would argue with my posts, claiming that Clinton had done anything wrong and denying that it would have any effect on the election. In retrospect, it is clear that my many warnings as to how dangerous it would be to nominate Hillary Clinton turned out to be correct.

Clinton has blamed the press, along with others such as Russia and James Comey, for her loss. Cillizza countered the argument that the media was responsible for dwelling on the email scandal:

This study will be used by liberals as evidence that the media’s unnecessary focus on Clinton’s email server cost her the election.

I’d agree that Clinton’s email server played a decisive role in deciding the election. But I wouldn’t agree with the idea that the media is responsible for it.

After all, it was Clinton who never seemed to grasp the seriousness of the issue and how it eroded the public’s already shaky confidence in her. Her inability to do those things meant she was never able to put the story behind her. And then the Comey announcement came, which undoubtedly surged the issue back to the top of many voters’ minds.

Whatever the reasons, when people thought of Clinton in the final weeks of the race, they thought of her emails. And that was a very bad thing for her.

The roots of the problem can be seen in Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign. My most recent post on excerpts from the book showed how Clinton had devised the strategy of blaming others for her defeat within twenty-four hours of her election loss. Chapter 4 of the book dealt with the roots of the scandal and how Clinton was doomed by her own character flaws. This could be seen with her similar reaction to losing in 2008:

In the summer of 2008, years before her private e-mail server became a campaign issue, Hillary learned about the power of digital snooping. At the time, she was conducting an autopsy of her failed bid against Barack Obama, and she wanted an honest accounting of what had gone wrong. So she instructed a trusted aide to access the campaign’s server and download the messages sent and received by top staffers.

She believed her campaign had failed her—not the other way around—and she wanted “to see who was talking to who, who was leaking to who,” said a source familiar with the operation. Her political director, Guy Cecil, had talked with members of the media from his campaign account. Her chief strategist, Mark Penn, was a tyrant. And far too many of her minions had fought for turf and status rather than votes.

Prizing loyalty most among human traits, Hillary was unsettled by these acts of betrayal. So as she dragged staffers into meetings in Washington to assess what had gone wrong, disloyalty and dysfunction were seldom far from her mind. The men and women she met with, apparently unaware that she had access to their e-mails, were amazed that a woman who had been traveling the country in pursuit of the presidency had such a detailed grasp of the machinations at the campaign’s command center in the Washington suburbs.

Having used other’s email against them, Clinton did not want to risk that her own emails could be reviewed. While on one level this was understandable, it was also a clear violation of the rules for cabinet officials when Clinton became Secretary of State in 2009. When this scandal broke, she did not realize what a threat it would be to her candidacy. When it did become a problem, she once again placed the blame on others, as opposed to taking responsibility for her own actions:

While Hillary spent a lot of time calculating risks, she was often a terrible judge of how her actions could backfire and turn into full-blown scandals. When news of her private e-mail server first surfaced in the New York Times on March 2, 2015, she looked at it as the campaign’s first wave of “choppy waters” rather than the tsunami that it would become.

It’s not that she failed to understand that more negative press was on its way, or that she might have a legal problem on her hands. But her response, and that of her team, reflected an epic underestimation of an existential threat to her candidacy. At times, under the stress of an unrelenting feeding frenzy of reporters, Republican lawmakers, and federal investigators, Hillary and her advisers would lose faith in one another’s judgment and competence. The candidate would blame her staff for failing to contain the damage, and, privately, they would fault her for failing to take the steps necessary to do that…

Of course, Hillary should have been angry with herself. She’d taken actions that could have prevented her records from becoming public during a presidential run, and the maneuver had backfired badly. But Hillary instead turned her fury on her consultants and campaign aides, blaming them for a failure to focus the media on her platform. In her ear the whole time, spurring her on to cast blame on others and never admit to anything, was her husband. Neither Clinton could accept the simple fact that Hillary had hamstrung her own campaign and dealt the most serious blow to her own presidential aspirations.

That state of denial would become more obvious than ever to her top aides and consultants during a mid-August conference call. Benenson, Grunwald, Margolis, Anzalone, Podesta, Mook, Abedin, and Schwerin were among the small coterie who huddled in Abedin’s mostly bare corner office overlooking the East River at the campaign’s Brooklyn headquarters. Hillary and Bill, who rarely visited, joined them by phone.

Hillary’s severe, controlled voice crackled through the line first. It carried the sound of a disappointed teacher or mother delivering a lecture before a whipping. That back end was left to Bill, who lashed out with abandon. Eyes cast downward, stomachs turning—both from the scare tactics and from their own revulsion at being chastised for Hillary’s failures—Hillary’s talented and accomplished team of professionals and loyalists simply took it. There was no arguing with Bill Clinton.

You haven’t buried this thing, the ruddy-cheeked former president rasped. You haven’t figured out how to get Hillary’s core message to the voters. This has been dragging on for months, he thundered, and nothing you’ve done has made a damn bit of difference. Voters want to hear about Hillary’s plans for the economy, and you’re not making that happen. Now, do your damn jobs.

“We got an ass-chewing,” one of the participants recalled months later.

Hillary came back on the line to close the lecture. It was hard to tell what was worse—getting hollered at by Bill or getting scolded by the stern and self-righteous Hillary. Neither was pleasant. You heard him, she admonished. “Get it straight.”

It was an astonishing moment—and one that would stick in the minds of Hillary’s aides for the rest of the campaign—for two reasons. First, Hillary was already inaccessible to most of her own staff, preferring to communicate through Abedin. So, a phone call featuring both Hillary and Bill was a real rarity. But more important, the scapegoating tone and tenor revealed that the Clintons were either living on another planet or at least having emotional and intellectual difficulty coming to terms with the reality that only Hillary was culpable and only Hillary could turn things around.

Hillary’s aides didn’t need to wonder why her economic message wasn’t breaking through. It wasn’t rocket science. She hadn’t told the truth to the public about her e-mails, and she was under federal investigation.

On the ground in Iowa, the e-mail scandal was hurting her ability to build a volunteer organization. “We’re asking someone to give a bunch of their time. All they’re hearing is how untrustworthy she is,” said one campaign official. And it was death among actual caucus-goers. “We saw it in all the research. It was a slow burn. The caucus electorate, any primary electorate, is disproportionately watching cable news. And it was every day for six months.”

Beyond giving caucus-goers pause and hampering her volunteer-recruitment efforts, the scandal appeared to tamp down the willingness of Hillary supporters across the country to lobby friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter. “There’s a social cost to supporting Hillary,” one of her aides said. The e-mail issue “made it weird and costly for people to be for her.”

The problem for Clinton was that the scandal wasn’t viewed as an isolated event. It reinforced Clinton’s well-deserved reputation for dishonesty, and seeing herself as above the rules which others must adhere to:

That dynamic played right into the hands of Sanders, who held himself out as an honest change agent and tweaked Hillary here and there on her lack of transparency—a theme that hinted at the e-mail scandal, questions about the Clinton Foundation, and her refusal to release transcripts of the private paid speeches she’d given to Wall Street banks before the campaign. When Hillary had been advised by some allies not to speak to banks before the campaign, one confidant said, her response had been “They’ll hit us on something.”

The e-mail story and the Wall Street speeches illustrated the contrast Bernie was trying to draw with Hillary—he was honest and she was corrupt—and they were giving ever more oxygen to a once-quixotic Sanders campaign…

When voters were asked to describe her with a single word, “liar” was the one most frequently used. A lot of that came from Republicans, but it had a psychic effect on Democrats who had looked at her as the party’s likely nominee.

Over the course of the summer, the confidence of party insiders had been replaced by a degree of paranoia that nearly matched Hillary’s own outsize phobia. She was convinced that leaks of information had helped doom her 2008 campaign. In reality, the leaking and disloyalty were symptoms, not the cause, of the dysfunction in her first run for the White House. As long as she was seen as the prohibitive favorite to win the primary and the election, Democrats would fear being branded traitors or leakers. But if she wasn’t going to be in a position to reward or punish them, they had no reason to worry about whether they were rated as ones or sevens on her loyalty scale. After the 2008 campaign, two of her aides, Kris Balderston and Adrienne Elrod, had toiled to assign loyalty scores to members of Congress, ranging from one for the most loyal to seven for those who had committed the most egregious acts of treachery. Bill Clinton had campaigned against some of the sevens in subsequent primary elections, helping to knock them out of office. The fear of retribution was not lost on the remaining sevens, some of whom rushed to endorse Hillary early in the 2016 cycle.

This time, nothing was coming easy: her campaign was under fire every minute of every day. Worst of all, it was the candidate herself who was responsible for the initial e-mail blunder, and she and her husband were still intractable on the question of when she would apologize, if ever…Hillary had been prescient about external threats to her campaign…But when it came to her own behavior—to the threat she posed to herself—she’d been incapable of gauging its gravity and reluctant to avail herself of the only option for fixing it. Too little, too late, she’d now tried to address it.

Clinton told a long series of lies to try to cover up her violation of the rules and unethical behavior, but they did not save her. It is debatable whether a quick confession of guilt and apology would have changed anything, but by repeatedly lying and giving excuses for her behavior, Clinton helped keep the story alive until November.

This all culminated in James Comey’s letter shortly before the election. The impact of this is debatable as Clinton’s support started dropping before it was released, and if it did hurt Clinton she deserved the blame violating the rules and creating the need for the FBI investigation of her actions. At the time Barack Obama was publicly supporting her out of party loyalty, but privately he had a different attitude:

Obama had been briefed on the Comey statement, seemingly just the latest turn in an unfolding story he’d kept up with from the Oval Office. And, of course, he’d been asked about the e-mail issue more times than he would have liked. Publicly, he toed the company line and said he knew Hillary wouldn’t intentionally mishandle information—and he believed that. But inside the secluded confines of the West Wing, he confided his true feelings. He couldn’t understand what possessed Hillary to set up the private e-mail server, and her handling of the scandal—obfuscate, deny, and evade—amounted to political malpractice. He wanted his friend to win, and yet she was exhibiting, again, some of the very qualities that had helped him defeat her in 2008. It was a classic unforced Clinton error, and he couldn’t believe that she and the people around her had let it happen. When would they learn?

He said nothing of this to Hillary. When he scratched his head or rolled his eyes, he did it in the privacy of the West Wing.

I have previously posted excerpts from Shattered  here,  here,  here, here, and here and have discussed why Clinton lost in multiple additional posts. Also see the excerpt I have posted from Insane Clown President: Dispatches from the 2016 Circus by Matt Taibbi on Hillary Clinton, which provides further insight into why Hillary Clinton should not have run for president in 2016 in light of the manner in which she used her political influence in an unethical manner to make money.

Poll Shows More Voters Supporting Impeaching Trump; Health Care Puts House In Play

Public Policy Polling’s latest survey shows that only 40 percent of voters approve of the job Donald Trump is doing, which is better than the 36 percent approval in the latest Quinnipiac poll. For the first time PPP shows more voters (48 percent) in favor of impeaching Trump than are opposed (41 percent).

There is also bad news for Republicans as PPP found that health care has put control of the House in play:

Democrats now have a 49-38 lead overall on the generic Congressional ballot, up from 47-41 a month ago. Even more notable though is that among voters who say they’re ‘very excited’ to turn out in the 2018 election, the Democratic lead balloons to 27 points at 61-34. The outcome of lower turnout midterm elections often hinges on which side is more engaged, and Democrats have the clear advantage at this point on that front- 63% of their voters say they’re ‘very excited’ about voting in next year’s election, compared to only 52% of Republicans who say the same.

The American Health Care Act has been a complete disaster politically for Republicans.  Only 25% of voters support it, to 52% who are opposed. Even among Republican voters there’s only 49% support for the measure, while Democrats (76%) are considerably more unified in their opposition to it. Voters say by a 20 point margin that they’re less likely to vote for a member of Congress who supported the AHCA- just 27% say they’re more likely to vote for a pro-AHCA candidate, compared to 47% who are less likely to vote for one.

The health care debate has left Congress with a 15% approval rating and 68% of voters disapproving of it. Paul Ryan (25/59 approval) and Mitch McConnell (21/55 approval) are both very unpopular individually as well.

The current health care debate is also stoking new found respect for the Affordable Care Act. By a 53/27 spread, voters say they prefer the current ACA to the new AHCA. And just 29% of voters say they want to repeal the Affordable Care Act at this point, to 64% who would prefer to keep it and make fixes as necessary.

In other topics polled, only 37 percent support Donald Trump’s decision to fire James Comey, with 48 percent opposed.

This came before the latest controversy to affect Trump with stories that he divulged classified intelligence to Russian officials. This is particularly embarrassing for Trump after all of his calls to lock up Hillary Clinton for her mishandling of classified material as Secretary of State.