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.

The Democrats Are Hopelessly Lost

After terrible showings in the 2010, 2014, and 2016 elections, the Democratic establishment is looking for a solution. The Washington Post reports that they are going to announce a new slogan:

Completely sapped of power in Washington, top leaders of the Democratic Party now believe that the best way to fight a president who penned “The Art of the Deal” is with an economic agenda that they plan to call “A Better Deal.”

The campaign-style motto, panned by some liberal activists as details began to trickle out ahead of the Monday rollout, is designed to revive a party desperate to win back at least some control next year. The push comes months earlier than most campaign-year sales pitches begin — an acknowledgment of the need to shore up public opinion of the Democratic Party in the faster pace of modern politics.

Nancy Pelosi remains one of the captains of the sinking ship, saying this “is not a course correction, but it’s a presentation correction.” No, the Democrats need a full fledged course correction. The Democratic Party’s answer for the Titanic would be to find a better way to talk about the iceberg before hitting it.

At least there was one bit of sense in the article:

“When you lose to somebody who has 40 percent popularity, you don’t blame other things — Comey, Russia — you blame yourself,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in an interview previewing the new plan. “So what did we do wrong? People didn’t know what we stood for, just that we were against Trump. And still believe that.”

Unfortunately the new slogan still sounds like they are against Trump but otherwise stand for nothing. As Mahablog says, “The Democratic Party is like your unhip parents trying to be cool, and failing.”

The Democrats took the wrong lesson out of their loss. The conventional wisdom is that they lost because they concentrated on social issues as opposed to economics, but that is a misreading of their problem. They compromised so much on social issues with a socially conservative candidate such as Hillary Clinton that they had no chance to build a winning coalition on social issues. That does not mean that they should abandon liberal social issues entirely.

Just as they now look to abandoning social issues, they gave up on opposing neocon interventionism and support for civil liberties in 2016 with a candidate who was far right wing on both, throwing out their previous advantages over the agenda of George W. Bush. Democrats need to learn to walk and chew gum at the same time. Instead they focus on one voter group while giving others no reason to support them, and don’t even do a good job with the group they are focusing on.

The new slogan sounds like a watered-down copy of Bernie Sanders’ agenda. The Hill points out that Bernie Sanders is keeping the door open for 2020. Unfortunately the article points out that establishment Democrats oppose him, both because of Sanders being an independent, and as he is on their long list of people to blame for Hillary Clinton losing an election she should have been able to win. Establishment Democrats complain that Bernie Sanders is an independent and not a Democrat. In contrast, Sanders supporters complain about far more consequential matters, such as the Democratic establishment picking their nominees with an undemocratic process, the Democratic establishment choosing a neocon warmonger as their last nominee, and the Democratic establishment being in the pocket of corporate money.

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

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Thin Ice; The Handmaid’s Tale; Catastrophe; American Gods

Thin Ice had the most complete story so far this season, but the highlight of the episode remained the relationship between Bill and The Doctor. The episode dealt serious matters including racism and class, but it was the meta discussion of time travel and the Doctor which was most interesting.

The Doctor and Bill continued in their rules of tutor and pupil with Bill asking questions throughout the episode, also providing an opportunity to give some comments on the show in Moffat’s final season. This was Bill’s first real trip into the past and, being well-aware of science fiction tropes, Bill asked what the “rules” are. “You travel into the past. There’s got to be rules. If I step on a butterfly it could send ripples through time that mean I’m not even born in the first place and I could just disappear.” Her concern was that, “Every choice I make in this moment here and now could change the whole future.” The Doctor replied with justification for the often careless manner in which he interacts with the past in pointing out that this is, “Exactly like every other day of your life. The only thing to do is to stop worrying about it.”

Except for poor Pete, written out of history, and even deleted from the memories of viewers and from recordings of the last two episodes. We haven’t seen anything like this since Cold Blood in which Rory was sucked into a crack in the universe and erased from history. Perhaps Pete will return, possibly as another Auton duplicate, as Rory later did.

There was also repetition of the Doctor being a bit of a thief, along with his his limited control over the TARDIS: “I told you, you don’t steer the TARDIS. You reason with it… and successfully most of the time… She’s a bad girl this one. Always looking for trouble.”

Bill had more serious questions and observations. She noted that “Regency England, a bit more black than they show in the movies.” The Doctor replied, “So was Jesus. History’s a whitewash.”

She realized that there was a lot more to the Doctor than a university professor after seeing his lack of a response to the death of a child. She asked him how many people he has seen die, and then how many he has killed. He had no specific answers. He did say, “I’m 2,000-years-old and I’ve never had the time for the luxury of outrage.” I wondered how long it would be until Bill saw through that lie, and it occurred later in the same episode.

The Doctor had fun with Bill beyond his reference to Pete. He allowed her to watch the lights because she was having fun, and then mentioned seeing lights as a side effect of time travel. Later he told her to let him do the talking because she has a temper. Moments later he slugged  Lord Sutcliffe (also showing his capacity for outrage).

Of course the Doctor wasn’t entirely cold about the death of the boy. He just has seen enough to know when he can and cannot do something. His overall view was more humane: “Human progress isn’t measured by industry. It’s measured by the value you place on a life. An unimportant life, a life without privilege. The boy who died on the river, that boy’s value is your value. That’s what defines an age. That’s what defines a species.”

The episode took place in the Frost Fair of 1814, the last in a series of actual events when the the River Thames froze over. Being 2000 years old (or actually older if the events of past seasons are taken into consideration), and prone to hanging out on earth, it is no surprise that the Doctor was there before. A Good Man Goes to War reveals that he was there with River Song, with Stevie Wonder performing:

River: It’s my birthday. The Doctor took me ice skating on the River Thames in 1814, the last of the great Frost Fairs. He got Stevie Wonder to sing for me under London Bridge.
Rory: Stevie Wonder sang in 1814?
River: Yes, he did, but you must never tell him.

(As a totally irrelevant aside, Stevie Wonder was once dining at the same restaurant I was at while traveling to Washington, D.C.)

There was an old Companion Chronicle audio story in which the first Doctor, Vicki and Steven visited the Frost Fair of 1814. The Doctor also promised to take Clara to the Frost Fair in The Caretaker (and actually did in a novel) The Doctor’s lack of interest in rules of time travel in his discussion with Bill is consistent with his lack of concern for returning to the same place–which would be forbidden in other time travel stories. This includes the breaking of time in the Legends of Tomorrow season two finale.

Bill did verify that her trip did not brake time, and Doctor Who has already established that humans have an incredible tendency to forget the extraordinary events depicted on the show. Bill used Search-wise.net for her research–a site which actually exists for television purposes.

The Doctor and Bill returned to the Doctor’s office in time for tea, but Nardole figured out that they had been traveling in time when he saw their change of clothing. He did not appear to figure out out that he had no chance to win the coin toss. For the sake of continuity, he did make reference to how he was reassembled between The Husbands Of River Song when he was decapitated and The Return Of Doctor Mysterio. He returned to the vault where we learned that someone or something inside was knocking, perhaps the Master, except that he knocks four times. Knocking also foreshadowed a past regeneration.

The Handmaid’s Tale premiered on Hulu, with the first three episodes being released. The show displayed a very bleak future in which Christian fundamentalists have established a dictatorship. This would be more plausible in a Muslim country, especially considering recent events in Turkey. It seems more plausible here, and  especially timely, after the election of Donald Trump, with the lack of respect for reproductive right’s and a woman’s right to control her own body taken to even more horrifying extremes. (To be objective and nonpartisan, Democrats cannot totally place the blame on Donald Trump and Republicans for rightward movement in this country considering their lack of concern in nominating a candidate such as Hillary Clinton who has a terrible history on First Amendment issues, including separation of church and state. While obviously Clinton would never support the mistreatment of women in this manner, her work with The Fellowship while in the Senate did help facilitate the goals of the religious right in increasing the role of religion in public policy.)

Elisabeth Moss does an excellent job as Offred (presumably given this name as she belongs to Fred), who is forced to conform outwardly. The totalitarian society shows how those without power being under constant surveillance, appearing to have no chance to rebel, or even safely be themselves with others. Inwardly it is a different story: “My name is Offred, and I intend to survive.” Her internal thoughts provide necessary relief from the overall story. There are also breaks from the main narrative to see how America went in that direction. Martial law was initiated, supposedly on a temporary nature in response to a terrorist attack, and later women were prohibited from having money or holding jobs.

The supporting cast also does an excellent job, especially Alexis Bledel (renamed Ofglen, following the same pattern), who managed to portray with her eyes alone the horrors of what she was exposed to in the third episode. Yvonne Strahovski is also excellent. 

Showrunner Bruce Miller discussed changes in the television show from the novel, including what happened to Ofglen (with spoilers for the third episode):

You take the character of Ofglen (Alexis Bledel) in a different direction very early on in the series. Can you talk about the decision to have Ofglen forcibly undergo genital mutilation surgery and how that changes things for her character moving forward?
Miller:
In the book, Ofglen just disappears and we hear that she killed herself. There’s no real way to confirm that. This was just one of those cases where you just follow your curiosity and you say, well, what happened to her? And I was fascinated by the idea, personally, of seeing how some of the institutions were being reproduced in Gilead. And the institution of the criminal justice system seemed fascinating in a world with institutionalized sexism and misogyny and biblical laws that were being taken literally. So that kind of lead us down a path of, OK, if I want to see how all of those things go, it would be very interesting to follow those things to the end. And making the decision about the female genital mutilation was really just kind of a practical discussion. A world that happened by accident is different than a world people created on purpose and here, Gilead is a world they created on purpose. There’s motive behind it, human motive. So what we’re trying to do is say, OK, what would they do to someone like Ofglen? They don’t want to kill her or send her away. They want to maintain her fertility as part of their reproductive system and their focus on that. So how would they try to control her?

And also taking into account, Margaret Atwood has said many times and we’ve certainly took on this adage, that nothing should happen in the show that doesn’t happen in the world. We don’t want to make up cruelties just for the sake of doing it. Then it turns into pornography. It turns into violence. It’s commentary and it helps you understand the world if you take things that happened in the world. Female genital mutilation is certainly something that happens all over the world. The difference here is that it doesn’t usually happen to white girls, but it does happen all over the world. We spoke to the U.N. and we spoke to the councils they sent us to about how it happens and why it happens and what it’s used for and how it’s done. We took it really seriously. We didn’t want to do it for shock value, even though it’s very shocking. You want to do it because it seems like the thing that Gilead would do. It’s a difference in the book, but it’s also something that takes place out of Offred’s point of view, at least in the show and also in the book. So we felt like we weren’t straying so far because it was something that could have happened in the world of the book and could have happened to somebody else. But anything we did that was not in the book or anything we changed, we were incredibly serious in those discussions about why to change things.

He also discussed how timely the series is:

A lot has been said about how timely the series is. Do you feel any concern that, given the current state of our society, The Handmaid’s Tale might hit a little too close to home for many viewers who would rather avoid facing these ideas head-on?
Miller:
I’m not worried. I hope it hits a little too close to home for viewers who are feeling anxious, because I think there are some great lessons to be learned, which is that the world can change in big ways and we should be very mindful of keeping an eye on our freedoms. As in the show, we see in the flashbacks, how in big and small ways the world can change and the things that we say and the things people say, they’re going to end up mattering in people’s personal lives and that we live in a country where we enjoy lots of freedoms and that those freedoms are not to be taken for granted.

The other thing is that if it does hit close to home, it also offers some really good examples of what to do. Offred is in an incredibly difficult circumstance, and yet she finds ways to express herself, she keeps her sanity, she keeps her heart alive. She also pulls levers of power. She manipulates the people around her to both increase her chances of survival, but also to build some sort of life. She makes connections with people even when they’re scary. I think in a way that’s inspiring. If Offred can do that in that situation, maybe we can do something in this situation. I think Margaret said it in the book, which is, “just do something.” And hopefully you walk away with that. And the other part is that there is a part of doe-eyed optimism on my part, when you look in the flashbacks, the world is so jarringly different. Our messy, noisy world where people are kissing in public and on their iPhones and stuff, you learn to appreciate it, or at least I did. Spending so much time in the fictional world of Gilead, you learn to appreciate how nice it is to have a messy, noisy world and what a pleasure that is. So if you walk out of there going boy, we actually have a good thing going even though it annoys us sometimes, that’s the nerve you want to hit, which is people saying, “Oh, actually there are some good things. Let’s fight to preserve them.” As opposed to, “Things are sh–ty, let’s just throw up our hands and abandon them.

While there were changes from the book, he also discussed how he consulted Margaret Atwood in an interview with Time:

The show definitely expands on what’s happened in the book. You get more backstory. You get to see what happens from the perspective of other characters. How did you decide what to expand and why, and did you discuss those decisions with Margaret Atwood at all?

Everything’s been a conversation with Margaret. It’s very unusual with something this iconic that you would have the author still living. Margaret is an expert in her own way of seeing this particular piece of work adapted: It’s been a play, opera, movie. So she had a lot of experience with what things need to change for different forms for this story. Where I might have had trepidation changing things because of my affection for the book, she certainly did not.

If we changed something, we did it thoughtfully and for a reason. We discussed the repercussions of each change with Margaret. It’s been a very active conversation back and forth. And I’ve been through the story a lot. We’ve picked it apart in the writers’ room. Elisabeth, in particular, has been through the book and educated herself to the nth degree. She’s memorized whole sections of it. So we took great care, and most of the changes we’ve made were actually extrapolations: Taking a thing that was a sentence in the book and turning it into a whole episode.

While Handmaid’s Tale is a must-see show this season, it is disturbing and bleak. My wife and I found that comic relief was necessary after watching three episodes. Fortunately Amazon has released the third season of Catastrophe. If  you haven’t seen this, I recommend going back to the start. Each season takes under three hours to watch. It is sort of like doing You’re The Worst with older, but still highly flawed people, and setting it in the U.K.

For the benefit of those who watched the second season, the events at the end of the final episode have considerable impact as the third season began. A similar formula was used, with an event at the tend of the final episode of the third season likely to have further ramifications in the fourth. Fortunately the series was renewed for both a third and fourth season at the same time, so we will see where this goes.

Sadly, the series has become of significance for science fiction. Carrie Fisher reprised her role as Rob’s mother in an episode which ironically dealt with death and loss. This was the role she was filming before flying from London to Los Angeles the day she had her fatal heart attack. A tribute to Carrie Fisher was attacked to the episode.

The highly anticipated premiere of American Gods is on tonight. (Gillian Anderson in the above picture.) Bryan Fuller and Michael Green discussed the show with Uproxx:

The novel tackles just about every Big Theme there is: politics, religion, modernity, sexuality. Do you two think about America in these grand terms as well?

Fuller: It’s hard not to think of America in grand terms in the current political climate because the country has shit the bad. We’re facing a violent time of great crisis, and that calls into question what we believe in, where we’ve placed our faith, how we navigate the secular and the search for something more meaningful. Then there are those who are not searching, because they’ve made up their minds that they’ve experienced the extent of the world that they need to, and have no cause to look further. That’s so limited and narrow of an approach to living, so you’ve got to challenge people on what they believe. Challenge the conservative Christians who don’t understand the concept of Christianity, or else they’d never pair those two words together.

Green: The book is sexual, and that’s nothing we’d ever shy away from, but we wanted to make sure our depiction of sexuality would be relevant to the show. Where nudity becomes dicy for me, as a viewer, is when it’s cuttable. That’s the definition of ‘gratuitous,’ when it doesn’t need to be there to enhance enjoyment of the show. And that’s not the show we set out to make. We wanted all the sexuality to be grounded in character, so you can’t tell Bilquis’ story without the scene. We wanted to do the scene between Salim and the djinn with fidelity to the book, but also give a graphic depiction of gay sex that no one could say wasn’t beautiful. We wanted to show the majesty of this religious experience mediated by sex, and put it beyond judgement from those viewers who usually feel uncomfortable with same-sex depiction.

American Gods is a finite work, but the nature of TV is that when something’s going well, people want more of it. What do you think about the future of this project? American Gods has an end; does the show have one as well?

Fuller: I think the show should have an end, but that does not mean the show cannot spawn other shows that live on beyond the scope of American Gods. If we were to secure the rights to Anansi Boys, that would be our first choice for a spinoff. We love Orlando Jones and what he brings to the mythology of this series, and we love the story of that book. We’d love to get our hooks into that and branch that off if this show ends up being successful.

Den of Geek also has an interview with Bryan Fuller which tied it into contemporary politics:

Thinking about Mr Wednesday, the figure of the con man has scarcely felt more relevant to US politics.

[Laughs. Loudly]

And to the US Media.

Well, you have a con man who is saying ‘let’s make the gods great again’.  There is a certain angle of that story that is much more resonant and relevant now than it was prior to the election in November. Being in post and watching those episodes as we’re cutting and putting them together was an interesting experience – to be watching the show before the election and then watching the show after the election and realising just how resonant it has the potential to be in that climate. Particularly as an immigration story, since both the Trump election and Brexit were platforms of anti-immigration and fear of the other and exploiting that fear in citizens, it feels like we are inadvertently tapping into a conversation that we need to have and continue to have as we figure out a way to celebrate differences and not condemn them.

This story is a ripe opportunity for social comment.

Absolutely.

In particular the idea of people being whipped up into a war whose only purpose is to further the power of a couple of individuals…

It’s tragic on one level and then on another level it’s an opportunity to take a look at where we are. Sometimes you have to take a step backwards to move forwards. It feels like with both Brexit and the Trump election, we’re two nations taking a step backwards. As disappointing as it was to see hatred and fear rule the day for both of us, it was a great disappointment to say the least, it makes it even more vital and important for us to encourage conversations and also to encourage the fundamentals of listening to somebody. That’s the biggest issue, certainly what’s happening in America, is the unwillingness to listen to somebody else’s point of view.

That’s something that I love to do, even if I violently disagree with somebody, I’m fascinated with how they’ve come to their decisions. Talking to people in the States who voted for Trump, and not wanting to shut them down, like, oh my gosh, you are supporting somebody who has bragged about sexual assaults and has a clear disdain for many groups of people, but instead wanting to find a common ground because what I think all of us found in both of our situations was that everybody made up their mind and there was nothing that was going to change them regardless.

Hypocritical Attacks On Sanders From The Clinton Camp

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

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

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

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

Trump and Republicans Escalate War Against Planned Parenthood And Women’s Health

Republicans love to use rhetoric such as talking about small government and freedom, but their real goal is to use big government to impose their religious views upon others. Maybe deep down Donald Trump even realizes that these actions by the religious right are morally wrong, as the usually loud mouthed president signed a bill targeting Planned Parenthood in private. CNN reports:

“President Donald Trump privately signed a bill on Thursday that allows states to withhold federal money from organizations that provide abortion services, including Planned Parenthood, a group frequently targeted by Republicans.

“The bill, which the usually camera-friendly President signed without any media present, reverses an Obama-era regulation that prohibited states from withholding money from facilities that perform abortions, arguing that many of these facilities also provide other family planning and medical services.

“The bulk of federal money Planned Parenthood receives, though, goes toward preventive health care, birth control, pregnancy tests and other women’s health services. Federal law prohibits taxpayer dollars from funding abortions and Planned Parenthood says 3% of the services it provides are abortions.

Republican who support such measures cannot claim to be for either liberty or small government. This also contradicts all their rhetoric about keeping government from getting between patients and doctors.

Republicans Out Of Step With Majority On Transgender Bathroom Laws

Texas is considering following North Carolina in passing conservative legislation regarding transgender bathroom use, but Republicans remain out of step with the majority of the country in caring about which bathroom people use. Reuters reports:

Fifty-three percent of the Americans surveyed oppose laws requiring transgender people to use bathrooms that correspond to their sex at birth, according to the national poll by the Public Religion Research Institute.

The survey showed that 39 percent of respondents favored such laws, and almost one in 10 of the 2,031 adults surveyed in February by telephone had no opinion.

The issue of transgender bathroom rights has become the latest flashpoint in the long U.S. battle over lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

Significant partisan divisions remain, the survey found. While 65 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of independents oppose laws limiting transgender bathroom rights, 59 percent of Republicans support the laws, according to the poll. Thirty-six percent of Republicans oppose them.

“This is a case where it really is Republicans kind of pulling away and being more of an outlier to the rest of the country,” said Robert P. Jones, chief executive of the Washington-based group.

Public opinion also has gone heavily against conservative Republicans on same sex marriage with  63 percent in support, increased from 52 percent in a 2013 poll. Even a majority of Republicans under the age of 50 support legal same-sex marriage.

Trump Executive Orders Include Expanding Global Gag Rule On Abortion & Reinstating Black Site Prisons Closed Under Obama

Donald Trump’s use of executive orders have confirmed the worst fears about what we would see from a Trump presidency. Everyone who is aware of the policy assumed Trump would reinstate the global gag rule which, since Reagan, has been in place under all Republicans and reversed when Clinton and Obama were in office. This prohibits American foreign aide to organizations involved in providing abortions. What we did not anticipate, and most did not even realize immediately, was that Trump expanded this policy considerably. Michelle Goldberg did notice this and wrote in Slate:

In the past, the global gag rule meant that foreign NGOs must disavow any involvement with abortion in order to receive U.S. family planning funding. Trump’s version of the global gag rule expands the policy to all global health funding. According to Ehlers, the new rule means that rather than impacting $600 million in U.S. foreign aid, the global gag rule will affect $9.5 billion. Organizations working on AIDS, malaria, or maternal and child health will have to make sure that none of their programs involves so much as an abortion referral. Geeta Rao Gupta, a senior fellow at the United Nations Foundation who previously served as deputy executive director of UNICEF, gives the example of HIV/AIDS clinics that get U.S. funding to provide antiretrovirals: “If they’re giving advice to women on what to do if they’re pregnant and HIV positive, giving them all the options that exist, they cannot now receive money from the U.S.”

This makes Trump significantly worse than George W. Bush regarding the gag rule. Bush at least did specifically exempt support for an AIDS program, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) from the global gag rule:

Scott Evertz, who served as director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy under George W. Bush, tells me, “It would have been impossible to treat HIV/AIDS in the developing world as the emergency that PEPFAR said it was if the global gag rule were to be applied to the thousands of organizations with which those of us involved in PEPFAR would be working.” Evertz offers the example of a standalone health clinic in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. Would the U.S. have to certify that it never referred any of its patients to an abortion provider before enlisting it in the fight against AIDS?  “The notion of applying the global gag rule to them would have made it impossible to implement the program,” he says.

Other executive orders involve building the border wall and curtailing immigration, limiting Obamacare, backing the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines, and Trump is now reportedly preparing an executive order which would reopen “black site” prisons closed under Obama. The New York Times reports on the later:

The Trump administration is preparing a sweeping executive order that would clear the way for the C.I.A. to reopen overseas “black site” prisons, like those where it detained and tortured terrorism suspects before former President Barack Obama shut them down.

President Trump’s three-page draft order, titled “Detention and Interrogation of Enemy Combatants” and obtained by The New York Times, would also undo many of the other restrictions on handling detainees that Mr. Obama put in place in response to policies of the George W. Bush administration.

If Mr. Trump signs the draft order, he would also revoke Mr. Obama’s directive to give the International Committee of the Red Cross access to all detainees in American custody. That would be another step toward reopening secret prisons outside of the normal wartime rules established by the Geneva Conventions, although statutory obstacles would remain.

Mr. Obama tried to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and refused to send new detainees there, but the draft order directs the Pentagon to continue using the site “for the detention and trial of newly captured” detainees — including not just more people suspected of being members of Al Qaeda or the Taliban, like the 41 remaining detainees, but also Islamic State detainees. It does not address legal problems that might raise…

Elisa Massimino, the director of Human Rights First, denounced the draft order as “flirting with a return to the ‘enhanced interrogation program’ and the environment that gave rise to it.” She noted that numerous retired military leaders have rejected torture as “illegal, immoral and damaging to national security,” and she said that many of Mr. Trump’s cabinet nominees had seemed to share that view in their confirmation testimony.

“It would be surprising and extremely troubling if the national security cabinet officials were to acquiesce in an order like that after the assurances that they gave in their confirmation hearings,” she said.

Presidential Campaign Gets Even Sleazier

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It is bad enough that the election campaign has become dominated by stories of Donald Trump sexually assaulting women. Now the National Enquirer is preparing to run a story on Hillary Clinton:

Hillary Clinton is a secret sex freak who paid fixers to set up illicit romps with both men AND women!

That’s the blockbuster revelation from a former Clinton family operative who is sensationally breaking ranks with his one-time bosses to speak to The National ENQUIRER in a bombshell 9-page cover story — on newsstands Wednesday.

The big question is whether they have any evidence of this. Before entirely dismissing the story, we have to keep in mind that they turned out to be right about John Edwards.

Even if the story turns out to be true, there are two key differences between this story and the stories on Donald Trump. First, we have multiple reports regarding Donald Trump, with some people corroborating the stories, and with Trump’s own statements lending credibility to them. Secondly, as far as we know, any actions Clinton is going to be accused of are consensual, in contrast to some of the stories about Trump.

There have been claims that Hillary Clinton is a lesbian from conservatives for quite a long time, without evidence. If the Enquirer does provide evidence to confirm this, it is not all that terribly significant as long as the story is only about consensual sex. We certainly can’t blame Hillary for cheating on Bill. However, it would be an interesting footnote to Clinton’s history of opposition to same-sex marriage until it became politically more convenient to change her view, and Bill’s history of running an anti-gay ad when politically convenient, but this type of hypocrisy is hardly unique from politicians.

Americans Support Legal Abortion & Marijuana

Abortion Sign

Recent polls have shown that voters want the government out of their personal business, including support for keeping abortion legal and for legalized marijuana. The Hill reports on a poll on abortion rights:

Political candidates, consultants and the media generally misunderstand the politics of abortion rights. They tend to believe either that most voters oppose abortion or that the anti-abortion base is larger than the abortion rights base. But neither is true.

A recent nationwide poll by Ann Selzer (declared “The Best Pollster in Politics” by FiveThirtyEight), commissioned by the Public Leadership Institute, proves that voters overwhelmingly support abortion rights both in general and when asked about specific reproductive rights policies. In addition, the poll shows that those who “strongly support” abortion rights substantially outnumber those who “strongly oppose” it.

Our poll found that by a margin of 69-to-27 percent, American voters approve of the constitutional right to abortion established by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade. This result is similar to many polls over the years that have found Americans approving Roe by margins of 2-to-1 or greater.

Another poll from the Pew Research Center shows strong support for legalization of marijuana:

The share of Americans who favor legalizing the use of marijuana continues to increase. Today, 57% of U.S. adults say the use of marijuana should be made legal, while 37% say it should be illegal. A decade ago, opinion on legalizing marijuana was nearly the reverse – just 32% favored legalization, while 60% were opposed.

The shift in public opinion on the legalization of marijuana has occurred during a time when many U.S. states are relaxing their restrictions on the drug or legalizing it altogether. In June, Ohio became the 25th state (plus Washington, D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico) to legalize marijuana in some form after Gov. John Kasich signed a medical marijuana program into law. This November, Americans in nine states will vote on measures to establish or expand legal marijuana use…

By more than two-to-one, Democrats favor legalizing marijuana over having it be illegal (66% vs. 30%). Most Republicans (55%) oppose marijuana legalization, while 41% favor it.

These polls show that, of the major and minor political candidates, Hillary Clinton, Jill Stein, and Gary Johnson side with the majority on supporting abortion rights, while Donald Trump is on the wrong side.

Jill Stein and Gary Johnson are the only candidates who consistently side with the majority on ending marijuana prohibition. Donald Trump has spoken of legalization in the past, but is hardly consistent on this. Hillary Clinton is the most conservative candidate on drug policy, having been a hard-line supporter of the drug war. This puts her views to the right of both the nation and the majority of her own party. While Clinton has tried to soften her position at times during the campaign, one of the leaked Wikileaks emails showed that her private position remains one of hard-line opposition to ending prohibition.

Donald Trump And The Hypocrisy Of The Religious Right

trump-grab-them-by-the-pussy

One of the many strange aspects of this election has been how Donald Trump has won over the religious vote. While Trump never appeared to have much interest in religion in the past, Hillary Clinton is one of the most religious politicians in public life. She spent her years in the Senate working with The Fellowship, supporting an increased role for religion in public policy. However, while generally conservative on social and cultural issues, she fails the right wing litmus test on reproductive rights. This is clearly a far greater sin to the religious right than Donald Trump’s admitted abuse of women.

As I noted yesterday, the release of the tapes in which Trump discussed his abuse of women led to the condemnation from many Republicans, but at least one representative of the religious right did not alter his support for Trump: “One of Trump’s most prominent social-conservative supporters, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, told BuzzFeed’s Rosie Gray: ‘My personal support for Donald Trump has never been based upon shared values.'”

Buzzfeed found another representative of the religious right who continues to back Trump:

“Voters of faith are voting on issues like who will protect unborn life, defend religious freedom, create jobs, and oppose the Iran nuclear deal,” Faith and Freedom Coalition president Ralph Reed said in an email to BuzzFeed News. “Ten-year-old tapes of private conversation with a television talk show host rank very low on their hierarchy of concerns.”

Asked if he had any comment on the tape itself and if he was definitely standing by Trump, Reed said, “I think the statement is self explanatory.”

Ben Carson also defended Trump:

“Dr. Carson believes that people can change and be better,” Carson aide Armstrong Williams told BuzzFeed News in an interview. “You know, these things happen. I’m sure somebody could find a video of Bill Clinton talking like this — are we gonna say Bill Clinton was the same person as president that he is today? Obviously not.”

Armstrong continued, “People commit adultery. It happens. Ministers. Heads of state. Everyday people. People are human, they do human things. It’s nothing unusual that somebody committed adultery on their spouse. Women do it. Men do it. Should we be shocked by it? No.”

…He concluded the interview by saying, “Hey, the flesh can be weak, my man.”

While it is possible that Bill Clinton has also talked like this, it is worth remembering, as Buzzfeed pointed out, “Republicans frequently argued in the ’90s that Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky was disqualifying in part because presidents should be held to a higher moral standard.”

Several Republicans, including Senator Mike Lee of Utah and Jon Huntsman have called on Trump to drop out of the race. While this is unlikely to happen, I have previously posted some interesting links in this post on the ramifications of a candidate dropping out.

I think that Trump already had little chance of winning the election (unless something major happened which was favorable to him). The tape therefore probably won’t change the presidential election result. However it does put the entire GOP in a bigger hole. Previously it looked like the nomination of Clinton seriously hurt the chances for the Democrats to take control of the Senate. That might now be a possibility again.