Matt Taibbi On How The Democrats Need A New Message

Matt Taibbi used the victory by Greg Gianforte in Montana to review what is wrong with the Democratic Party. If this was just a loss in Montana it could easily be ignored as a case of people in a deep red state voting for party regardless of how awful the candidate was. The real message is how often the Democrats have lost:

The electoral results last November have been repeated enough that most people in politics know them by heart. Republicans now control 68 state legislative chambers, while Democrats only control 31. Republicans flipped three more governors’ seats last year and now control an incredible 33 of those offices. Since 2008, when Barack Obama first took office, Republicans have gained somewhere around 900 to 1,000 seats overall.

There are a lot of reasons for this. But there’s no way to spin some of these numbers in a way that doesn’t speak to the awesome unpopularity of the blue party. A recent series of Gallup polls is the most frightening example.

Unsurprisingly, the disintegrating Trump bears a historically low approval rating. But polls also show that the Democratic Party has lost five percentage points in its own approval rating dating back to November, when it was at 45 percent.

The Democrats are now hovering around 40 percent, just a hair over the Trump-tarnished Republicans, at 39 percent. Similar surveys have shown that despite the near daily barrage of news stories pegging the president as a bumbling incompetent in the employ of a hostile foreign power, Trump, incredibly, would still beat Hillary Clinton in a rematch today, and perhaps even by a larger margin than before.

Tabbi next ran through a long list of excuses the Democrats give for losing and correctly dismissed them:

The unspoken subtext of a lot of the Democrats’ excuse-making is their growing belief that the situation is hopeless – and not just because of fixable institutional factors like gerrymandering, but because we simply have a bad/irredeemable electorate that can never be reached.

This is why the “basket of deplorables” comment last summer was so devastating. That the line would become a sarcastic rallying cry for Trumpites was inevitable. (Of course it birthed a political merchandising supernova.) To many Democrats, the reaction proved the truth of Clinton’s statement. As in: we’re not going to get the overwhelming majority of these yeehaw-ing “deplorable” votes anyway, so why not call them by their names?

But the “deplorables” comment didn’t just further alienate already lost Republican votes. It spoke to an internal sickness within the Democratic Party, which had surrendered to a negativistic vision of a hopelessly divided country.

Things are so polarized now that, as Georgia State professor Jennifer McCoy put it on NPR this spring, each side views the other not as fellow citizens with whom they happen to disagree, but as a “threatening enemy to be vanquished.”

The “deplorables” comment formalized this idea that Democrats had given up on a huge chunk of the population, and now sought only to defeat and subdue their enemies.

Many will want to point out here that the Republicans are far worse on this score. No politician has been more divisive than Trump, who explicitly campaigned on blaming basically everyone but middle American white people for the world’s problems.

This is true. But just because the Republicans win using deeply cynical and divisive strategies doesn’t mean it’s the right or smart thing to do.

After further discussion, Taibbi got to his main argument that Democrats have no message other than to attack Republicans:

They’re continuing, if not worsening, last year’s mistake of running almost exclusively on Trump/Republican negatives. The Correct the Record types who police the Internet on the party’s behalf are relentless on that score, seeming to spend most of their time denouncing people for their wrong opinions or party disloyalty. They don’t seem to have anything to say to voters in flyover country, except to point out that they’re (at best) dupes for falling for Republican rhetoric.

But “Republicans are bad” isn’t a message or a plan, which is why the Democrats have managed the near impossible: losing ground overall during the singular catastrophe of the Trump presidency.

The party doesn’t see that the largest group of potential swing voters out there doesn’t need to be talked out of voting Republican. It needs to be talked out of not voting at all. The recent polls bear this out, showing that the people who have been turned off to the Democrats in recent months now say that in a do-over, they would vote for third parties or not at all.

This is a far more realistic look at politics than we saw from Hillary Clinton last week when she called third party voters crazy, as she repeated her long list of excuses for losing. Personally I think it would have been far crazier to vote for a corrupt warmonger like Clinton or a xenophobic racist like Trump than to vote based upon principle for a third party.

Clinton is the most obvious example of a politician running with no message, beyond her gender and claims that it is her turn. This was most clearly seen at the end of the race, when she finally realized her mistake of not campaigning in states like Michigan where she was vulnerable. When Clinton finally realized at the last minute that she was in trouble, both candidates started advertising heavily. Trump’s ads contained promises of jobs while Clinton’s ads attacked Trump’s character without giving any good reasons to vote for her. Even if Trump’s promises lacked substance, it should come as no surprise that his message was more effective.

Clinton’s entire candidacy highlighted how the Democrats have no message and stand for nothing these days. Many people voted for the Democrats because of opposition to the policies of George W. Bush. Now the Democrats were running a candidate who backed all the worst features of the Bush agenda, especially support for military interventionism and a hostility towards government transparency. In 2007 Clinton attacked members of the Bush administration saying, “Our Constitution is being shredded” over their support for the surveillance state and use of private email. Now we had Hillary Clinton spending over a year lying about her own violations of policy written to promote transparency and mocking freedom of speech. Wikileaks even revealed how little difference there was on economic views between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush.

Democrats have been repeatedly losing by running as a Republican-lite party and refusing to stand for anything. Democratic rules since the loss by George McGovern have been rigged to support a more conservative candidate, and in 2016 the Democrats further intervened to clear the field for Clinton. The irony is that rules initially written with the intent of providing winning candidates gave them a candidate so bad that she could not even beat Donald Trump, and were used to prevent the nomination of a surprise candidate who showed he could win. Democrats failed to understand how the world has changed since 1972, and that the old left/right linear political spectrum no longer applies. At least Bernicrats now have some victories on the local level which are showing that a Democrat with a message does have a chance of beating Republicans.

Clinton Continues To Blame Others And Claims To Be Part Of The Resistance

Hillary Clinton continues to blame James Comey and the Russians for her loss saying, “If the election had been on October 27, I would be your president.”

In an election this close, it is certainly possible that changing anything which hurt Clinton could have changed the outcome, but that misses the point that Clinton put herself in this situation. She made many mistakes, which Nate Silver acknowledged when he said that the Comey letter probably cost her the election. More importantly, the letter and Wikileaks only harmed Clinton because of her actions.

James Comey would not have been investigating Clinton in the first place if she had not grossly violated the rules regarding email and  hadn’t handled classified information in a careless manner. The investigation further hurt Clinton as Comey’s report demonstrated that she had repeatedly lied in her public statements about the matter. This gave further credence to her reputation of both seeing herself above the  law and of being dishonest. She further hurt herself when she repeatedly lied about what James Comey had reported.

The Wikileaks releases of hacked email hurt because it verified criticism that the DNC had violated its own rules in rigging the nomination for Clinton, and in showing Clinton’s dishonesty. There has been absolutely no evidence that anything released by Wikileaks was not accurate information.

Hillary Clinton should never had been nominated by a major political party considering the scandal she was involved in, and her refusal to answer questions about it honestly. If the scandal exploded shortly before the election, which could have happened in a number of other ways if not for the Comey letter, don’t blame the messenger. The fault belongs to Hillary Clinton and those who supported her for the nomination.

David Axelrod responded to Clinton’s excuses:

“It takes a lot of work to lose to Donald Trump,” Axelrod told CNN on Wednesday. “Let me tell you, he was the least popular presidential candidate to win in the history of polling.”

…Axelrod called the 2016 race a “miserable slog” and said nobody in America wants to relive it “except the combatants who keep going back to it.”

“She has a legitimate beef because Comey’s letter was instrumental I think in her defeat, so in a narrow sense she is right about it,” Axelrod said.

“But Jim Comey didn’t tell her not to campaign in Wisconsin after the convention. Jim Comey didn’t say don’t put any resources into Michigan until the final week of the campaign,” he continued.

“And one of the things that hindered her in the campaign was a sense that she never fully was willing to take responsibility for her mistakes, particularly that server.”

Axelrod then offered a piece of advice for Clinton.

“If I were her, if I were advising her, I would say, ‘Don’t do this. Don’t go back and appear as if you’re shifting responsibility.’ … She said the words ‘I’m responsible,’ but the — everything else suggested that she doesn’t really feel that way,” he said.

“And I don’t think that helps her in the long run, so if I were her I would move on.”

Even if Comey did cause a drop for Clinton in the polls, she is responsible for how she campaigned, including in the final days of the campaign. For example, Clinton made serious mistakes in Michigan, as I have previously discussed. Plus, in the final days, when both candidates advertised heavily, Clinton was outsmarted yet again by Trump. I saw ads from Trump with promises (regardless of how dishonest) that he could create jobs. The ads I saw from Clinton were based on personal attacks against Trump, but gave no reason to vote for her. Her negative campaign against Trump, even if generally factually true, backfired against her. Hillary Clinton very well could have blown the election in the final days without Comey’s letter or Wikileaks.

Clinton has also received a lot of criticism over this interview on social media. Williams Rivers Pitt mocked Clinton’s assertion on Facebook:

“If the election was on October 27th, I would be your president.”

— Hillary Clinton, today.

And if we had ham, we could have ham and eggs, if we had eggs. Apologies for the pesky constitutional Tuesday-in-November requirement, or that your own glaring weaknesses as a candidate came forcefully to bear in their most effective moment. Worked out great for all of us.

Go away.

I subsequently responded to another statement made by Clinton in the same interview:

“I am now back to being an activist citizen and part of the resistance.” –Hillary Clinton

No Hillary, 2016 was all about Americans forming a resistance to you. This includes the economic issues which dominated the campaign, and the Bush/Clinton policies which have put this country into a state of perpetual warfare and accelerated the growth of the surveillance state.

Donald Trump was elected because the two party duopoly only gave him as an alternative to you. While defeating the Bushes and Clintons was important, Trump was the wrong answer. Now we need a resistance to both Trump and Clinton.

Update: American Association for Public Opinion Research Casts Doubt On Clinton’s Claims That James Comey Cost Her The Election

Three Reports Demonstrate How It Was A Horrible Mistake For Democrats To Nominate Hillary Clinton

Since Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump, many Clinton supporters and partisan Democrats have blamed her loss on sexism, Russia, James Comey, and even Barack Obama. They repeatedly fail to acknowledge that the real problem was that Hillary Clinton was a terrible candidate who ran a terrible campaign. Of course the exact same thing could be said about Donald Trump, but when two terrible candidates are running, only one can lose, and Clinton was even more out of touch than Trump. With many Democrats failing to acknowledge why they have lost badly in 2010, 2014, and now 2016, and some even speaking of nominating Clinton again in 2020, it is important for Democrats to face reality. Three recent studies shed some light on the election.

While perhaps not the most consequential, the most interesting was an experiment to look at sexism performed by Maria Guadalupe, an associate professor of economics and political science, and Joe Salvatore, “a Steinhardt clinical associate professor of educational theatre who specializes in ethnodrama—a method of adapting interviews, field notes, journal entries, and other print and media artifacts into a script to be performed as a play.”

After watching the second televised debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in October 2016—a battle between the first female candidate nominated by a major party and an opponent who’d just been caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women—Maria Guadalupe, an associate professor of economics and political science at INSEAD, had an idea. Millions had tuned in to watch a man face off against a woman for the first set of co-ed presidential debates in American history. But how would their perceptions change, she wondered, if the genders of the candidates were switched? She pictured an actress playing Trump, replicating his words, gestures, body language, and tone verbatim, while an actor took on Clinton’s role in the same way. What would the experiment reveal about male and female communication styles, and the differing standards by which we unconsciously judge them?

…Salvatore says he and Guadalupe began the project assuming that the gender inversion would confirm what they’d each suspected watching the real-life debates: that Trump’s aggression—his tendency to interrupt and attack—would never be tolerated in a woman, and that Clinton’s competence and preparedness would seem even more convincing coming from a man.

While Salvatore and Guadalupe were surprised at the results, I was not. Audiences did not like the character portraying Hillary Clinton, even when played by a man. The entire argument based upon sexism, with Clinton supporters finding absurd ways to blame any disagreement with Clinton on sexism, has always been absurd.  This is especially true on the left, where many opponents of Clinton had initially backed Elizabeth Warren, and some wound up voting for Jill Stein. Those on the left who opposed Hillary Clinton also object to Bill Clinton and other DLC Democrats for similar reasons, regardless of gender. For many, the choice of a running mate as conservative as Tim Kaine was the last straw. There are many reasons to oppose Clinton based both on her policy positions and her gross ethical misconduct in using her position to exchange influence for wealth which have nothing to do with gender.

Wesleyan Media Project study elaborates on what I have discussed previously on how Clinton ran a poor campaign, including in states such as Michigan which cost her the election. They noted that Clinton’s loss came from states in which she did not advertise until the last week. When I did start seeing ads for Clinton in Michigan, I questioned the judgement of her campaign. While Trump was advertising with promises (regardless of whether he could keep them) of creating more jobs and a brighter future, Clinton’s ads were based upon personal attacks (even if valid) against Donald Trump. The Wesleyan Media Project study showed that  “Clinton’s message was devoid of policy discussions in a way not seen in the previous four presidential contests.” They found that this strategy may have backfired badly.

Throughout the campaign, Clinton gave little reason to vote for her beyond her gender and it being her turn. Her own negatives, both on her record and her character, despite the denials of partisan Democrats, where on a level comparable to those of Donald Trump. It is no surprise that third party candidates Jill Stein and Gary Johnson did three times as well against Clinton and Trump than they did against Barack Obama and Mitt Romney four years previously.

Finally, Huffington Post ran yet another article making a case that the letter from James Comey cost Clinton the election. Many factors were involved in the loss, and it is simplistic to blame it on a single factor, but to blame it on Comey is actually an admission that it was a mistake to nominate Clinton.  There would have not been a criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton if Clinton had not violated the rules regarding handling email, as documented in the State Department Inspector General report, and then go on to repeatedly lie about the situation. This included her lies about the initial FBI report.  Clinton’s statement that, “Director Comey said my answers were truthful” was the first lie listed by Glenn Kessler (listed in no particular order) in his listing of The biggest Pinocchios of 2016. Hillary Clinton’s frequent lies during the campaign negated any advantage she might have had over Donald Trump, who has also shown very little regard for facts or reality.

I argued before the nomination that it would be a mistake for Democrats to nominate Clinton in light of the email and Foundation scandals. Beyond the details of these scandals, this emphasized Clinton’s dishonesty. An argument might be made that the coverage of Clinton’s scandals distracted from discussion of the issues, except for the fact that Clinton’s own campaign avoided discussion of the issues.

The lesson here is that it was a mistake for the Democrats to nominate a candidate who acted improperly in her last major government position, including grossly violating the ethics agreement she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State, and was already distrusted by voters before the nomination.

Democrats were lucky to come as close as they did in the 2016 election with a candidate as weak as Clinton, and would have probably lost by a far greater margin if not for the many problems with Donald Trump. Running Republican-lite candidates have also cost them control of Congress and many state governments in the 2010 and 2014 elections. Democrats were in a strong position during the Bush years, but squandered this by moving as far right as the Republicans of circa 2002 on far too many issues, and engaging in exactly the same types of unethical behavior as they have attacked Republicans over. Democrats had an alternative in Bernie Sanders in 2016 who could have both motivated voters to turn out for him, and brought in the votes of many independent voters. By rigging the system for a more conservative candidate such as Clinton, and ignoring her major ethical failings, very likely cost Democrats both the White House and control of the Senate.

Trump Continues To Receive Criticism For His Attacks On The News Media

Donald Trump’s attack on the media as an enemy of the American people has received widespread criticism. Carl Bernstein has called Trump’s attacks on the media worse than those which came from Richard Nixon:

“Trump’s attacks on the American press as ‘enemies of the American people’ are more treacherous than Richard Nixon’s attacks on the press,” former Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein said Sunday on CNN.

Trump’s comments — made publicly, whereas Nixon attacked his enemies in private — brought to mind “dictators and authoritarians, including Stalin, including Hitler,” Bernstein said.

He immediately walked back a comparison to the Nazi leader, while doubling down on the comparison to Nixon.

Bernstein — whose reporting of the Watergate break-in and coverup helped bring about Nixon’s resignation — said Trump’s rhetoric is potentially more dangerous than Nixon’s attacks on the news media.

“There is no civic consensus in this country like there was at the time of Watergate about acceptable presidential conduct,” Bernstein said on “Reliable Sources.”

“Trump is out there on his own, leading a demagogic attack on the institutions of free democracy,” he said. “We are into terrible authoritarian tendencies.”

“We’re not enemies of the American people,” Bernstein said on CNN. “In fact, we’re the last resort of the American people to a dictatorial and authoritarian-inclined president.”

Even Fox was critical of Trump, with Chris Wallace saying he crossed the line:

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace cautioned his colleagues and the network’s viewers Sunday that President Trump’s latest attack on the media had gone too far.

“Look, we’re big boys. We criticize presidents. They want to criticize us back, that’s fine,” Wallace said Sunday morning on “Fox & Friends.” “But when he said that the fake news media is not my enemy, it’s the enemy of the American people, I believe that crosses an important line.”

The “Fox & Friends” anchors had shown a clip of Trump recounting that past presidents, including Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, had fought with the press. They then asked Wallace whether Trump’s fraught relationship with the media was a big deal.

In response, Wallace told his colleagues that Jefferson had also once written the following: “And were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

Context was important, Wallace said. All presidents fight with the media, but Trump had taken it a step further in making them out to be “the enemy,” he added.

“Yes, presidents have always had — and politicians have always had — problems with the press. They want good press. The press doesn’t always give it to them,” Wallace said. “But what Jefferson [was saying] is, despite all of our disputes, that to the functioning of a free and fair democracy, you must have an independent press.”

My previous post on this subject quoted John McCain in criticizing Trump, along with other comparisons to Richard Nixon.

John McCain isn’t the only Republican who has been critical of Donald Trump recently. The Wall Street Journal has a story on how Justin Amash, a libertarian-leaning Congressman from Michigan, has emerged as “Leading Critic of Fellow Republican Donald Trump.”

President Donald Trump’s “constant fear-mongering’’ about terrorism is “irresponsible and dangerous.’’ He needs to “stop attacking the legitimacy of the judiciary.’’ He picked an attorney general with “anti-liberty” positions on surveillance and police seizure of property…

Mr. Amash says his opposition is based on principle, as a libertarian concerned about government overreach and adherence to the Constitution. While many Republican lawmakers hold similar beliefs, Mr. Amash has been an especially outspoken proponent of smaller government, even on issues—such as reducing surveillance—where his views put him out of step with the more mainstream elements of the GOP.

Betsy DeVos Joins Donald Trump’s Bizarro World Cabinet

Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Education secretary today, joining Donald Trump’s Bizarro World cabinet despite the lack of any experience in education beyond lobbying against it, along with massive conflicts of interest. I imagine the next step will be to replace public education with vouchers for Trump University.

I have previously posted some background information on Betsy DeVos for the benefit of those who have not been here in Michigan to observe her major contributions towards moving the state towards the right and damaging public education. This includes How Betsy DeVos Used God and Amway to Take Over Michigan Politics from Politico Magazine, and a letter from fellow graduates and students of Calvin College opposing her nomination. In addition, The Washington Post had A sobering look at what Betsy DeVos did to education in Michigan — and what she might do as secretary of education:

President-elect Donald Trump has made a number of controversial cabinet nominations already. But none seems more inappropriate, or more contrary to reason, than his choice of DeVos to lead the Department of Education.

DeVos isn’t an educator, or an education leader. She’s not an expert in pedagogy or curriculum or school governance. In fact, she has no relevant credentials or experience for a job setting standards and guiding dollars for the nation’s public schools.

She is, in essence, a lobbyist — someone who has used her extraordinary wealth to influence the conversation about education reform, and to bend that conversation to her ideological convictions despite the dearth of evidence supporting them…

Largely as a result of the DeVos’ lobbying, Michigan tolerates more low-performing charter schools than just about any other state. And it lacks any effective mechanism for shutting down, or even improving, failing charters.

We’re a laughingstock in national education circles, and a pariah among reputable charter school operators, who have not opened schools in Detroit because of the wild West nature of the educational landscape here…

What Detroit needs are better, high-quality choices — public, charter, whatever.

But DeVos and her family have stood in the way of improving what we have. They’ve stood for the charter industry and its middling results, over our kids.

I’m certain she’ll try to make the nation’s charter landscape look more like the chaos we face here in Detroit, and less like it does in states like Tennessee or Massachusetts or Maryland — all much better performers who have tighter reins on charter creation and proliferation.

Her lobbying hasn’t been good for Detroit, or Michigan.

It won’t be good for the nation.

My prediction about Trump University above is only a slight exaggeration considering the conflicts of interest DeVos has been involved with, including Neurocore, a company with a reputation for using high pressure sales tactics to sell unproven treatments for ADHD. The Hill has posted The ethics case against Betsy DeVos:

As former ethics counsels to Presidents Obama and George W. Bush, we’ve reviewed more than our share of ethics filings for cabinet nominees. Seldom have we seen a worse cabinet-level ethics mess than that presented by Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s choice for education secretary.

Her extensive financial holdings present significant—and unresolved—conflict of interest issues. She also failed to provide the Senate with accurate information about her involvement with outside organizations. We have regretfully come to the conclusion that these concerns disqualify DeVos for that cabinet position.

…DeVos’ failure to meet even minimum standards leaves us with no choice but to speak out.

For example, DeVos intends to maintain the $5 million to $25 million she and her husband have invested in Neurocore, a biotech company that claims to have “helped thousands of children” with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Neurocore is listed with its logo and a link to its website along with several other investments on a website operated by Windquest Group, an investment company owned by DeVos and her husband…

In her hearing, DeVos also made claims than strain credulity. For example, she was asked under oath about tax filings that listed her as vice president of the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation. The Prince Foundation, established by her parents in 1989, reportedly made significant contributions to anti-LGBT groups over the years, including at least $5 million to conservative religious groups that support conversion therapy.

DeVos denied that she had that role at the Prince Foundation, and when confronted in her hearing by Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) with actual forms indicating she was an officer, DeVos attributed it to a “clerical error”—one that persisted for 17 years.

Betsy DeVos fits in this cabinet purely based upon her opposition to the government programs her department deals with, and a history of massive contributions to Republican candidates. It is certainly not due to any qualifications in education.

Two Republican Senators Express Opposition To The Confirmation Of Betsy DeVos

Living in West Michigan, I opposed the political agenda Betsy DeVos long before she hit the national stage. (I also opposed her husband’s candidacy for governor of Michigan in 2006.) I opposed her even before her nomination hearing where she showed insufficient knowledge of education policy, and stood up for guns in schools for protection against grizzly bears. Therefore, while I fear it will not be enough to block her appointment, I am happy to see that two Republican Senators have announced plans to vote against her. The Hill reports:

GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski in back-to-back speeches on the Senate floor announced Wednesday that they would oppose Betsy DeVos’s nomination to be Education secretary…

“I come to the floor to announce a very difficult decision that I have made, and that is to vote against the confirmation of Betsy DeVos to be our nation’s next secretary of Education,” Collins said from the Senate floor.

Collins specifically pointed to DeVos’s “lack of familiarly” with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, saying she was “troubled and surprised.”

Murkowski, speaking after Collins, said she had too many concerns to back DeVos.

“I have serious concerns about a nominee to be secretary of Education … who has been so immersed in the discussion of vouchers,” Murkowski said.

Politico ran the story under the headline DeVos In Trouble but also reported:

But Republicans said privately that Collins and Murkowski waited to announce their opposition once the rest of the votes for DeVos were locked up. They said that the rest of the GOP is firmly behind DeVos.

“She has the votes and will be confirmed,” said a senior GOP aide.

DeVos needs a simple majority on the Senate floor, and there are 52 Republicans. If there is a tie, Vice President Mike Pence will be the deciding vote. That would make history: According to a list provided by a Democratic aide, a vice president has never broken a tie on a Cabinet confirmation vote.

For further background on Betsy DeVos I recommend the article  How Betsy DeVos Used God and Amway to Take Over Michigan Politics from Politico Magazine. Even here in conservative West Michigan, thinking people realize she is the wrong person for the job–even many of her fellow graduates of Calvin College. MLive recently reported on Why 1,000 Calvin College alumni, students oppose Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary. A letter protesting her appointment included four main points:

1. No background in education

While many of us were inspired by our time at Calvin College to make education a professional commitment, Mrs. DeVos was not. She has never worked in any educational institution as an administrator, nor as an educator. If the position of the Secretary of Education requires the individual to have an intimate knowledge of the tools used by educators, which we believe it does, Mrs. DeVos does not qualify.

2. Lacks commitment to public education

Many of us entered Calvin College directly from Christian high schools and spent our entire elementary and secondary school years in these institutions, as did Mrs. DeVos. While we appreciate the opportunity to thrive and learn, as provided by these educational systems, we recognize that the vast majority of K-12 students are educated in the public school system. Because of this, we believe that any individual who is nominated to be Secretary of Education should have a strong commitment to public education, which Mrs. DeVos does not.

3. Limited to advocacy, campaign contributions

We believe that Mrs. DeVos’s commitment to education is limited to her advocacy of, and financial contributions to, religious and charter schools. Having the financial resources to promote one’s ideological point of view, and endorse elected officials who share that ideology, is not equivalent to the preparation that comes from being an educator or educational administrator.

4. Unwilling to support public school funding

Finally, in the first day of her confirmation hearing, Mrs. DeVos indicated a lack of support for federal policies regarding educational systems that receive public funding. This is especially concerning given that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Title IX, which ensure that all students’ educational experiences are free of discrimination that impedes learning, are not of value to Mrs. DeVos.

“Our undergraduate education prepared us to be engaged and informed citizens who support public servants who seek to serve effectively and competently. This is precisely why we oppose the nomination of our fellow alumna, Betsy DeVos, for the position of United States Secretary of Education,” according to the letter.

Clinton Mistakes In Michigan Show Why She Lost, And Would Have Made A Poor President

Hindsight is easy, but in retrospect there were plenty of clues that Clinton would lose Michigan, and the general election. Before the primaries, I noticed an unusual amount of enthusiasm about Bernie Sanders, including from people who are not normally very vocal about politics. Sanders went on to upset Clinton. I saw no signs of enthusiasm for her campaign. I saw a lot of Sanders bumper stickers, a fair number of old Obama bumper stickers, and even a few old Kerry bumper stickers into November. I saw exactly one for Clinton, and that wasn’t until later in November after the election. I know of a street, and I mean one single street, which had a number of pro-Clinton yard signs around where I live. While I had signs up for Kerry and Obama in the past three elections, my yard sign from this election can be seen in the picture above.

My antipathy for both major party candidates was shared by others. An unusual number of patients started talking to me about voting for third party candidates (without first hearing of my plans). It was notable to see Clinton rush to Michigan in the final week of the campaign after she earlier had a double digit lead. I questioned her strategy when I saw her ads. Those which I saw solely concentrated on personal attacks (even if valid) against Donald Trump, in contrast to the ads from Trump making promises (regardless of their credibility) of jobs and a brighter future. If someone was already on the fence despite weeks of news about the vile things Trump had said, it was clear which ads had a better chance of sealing the deal.

Such anecdotal experiences are not enough to safely predict an election, but Politico reports on multiple errors by the Clinton campaign in Michigan. I fear that the same attitude seen by the campaign would have been reflected in the type of presidency we would have seen if Clinton had been elected. These included failing to listen to the views of others, and to utilize volunteers from the SEIU:

Turn that bus around, the Clinton team ordered SEIU. Those volunteers needed to stay in Iowa to fool Donald Trump into competing there, not drive to Michigan, where the Democrat’s models projected a 5-point win through the morning of Election Day.

Michigan organizers were shocked. It was the latest case of Brooklyn ignoring on-the-ground intel and pleas for help in a race that they felt slipping away at the end.

“They believed they were more experienced, which they were. They believed they were smarter, which they weren’t,” said Donnie Fowler, who was consulting for the Democratic National Committee during the final months of the campaign. “They believed they had better information, which they didn’t.”

The SEIU was not the only union which the Clinton campaign ignored. While the strength of labor in Michigan might have declined in recent years, to ignore the UAW in Michigan sounds like an inexcusable mistake:

Clinton never even stopped by a United Auto Workers union hall in Michigan, though a person involved with the campaign noted bitterly that the UAW flaked on GOTV commitments in the final days, and that AFSCME never even made any, despite months of appeals.

The anecdotes are different but the narrative is the same across battlegrounds, where Democratic operatives lament a one-size-fits-all approach drawn entirely from pre-selected data — operatives spit out “the model, the model,” as they complain about it — guiding Mook’s decisions on field, television, everything else. That’s the same data operation, of course, that predicted Clinton would win the Iowa caucuses by 6 percentage points (she scraped by with two-tenths of a point), and that predicted she’d beat Bernie Sanders in Michigan (he won by 1.5 points)…

Michigan operatives relay stories like one about an older woman in Flint who showed up at a Clinton campaign office, asking for a lawn sign and offering to canvass, being told these were not “scientifically” significant ways of increasing the vote, and leaving, never to return. A crew of building trade workers showed up at another office looking to canvass, but, confused after being told there was no literature to hand out like in most campaigns, also left and never looked back.

“There’s this illusion that the Clinton campaign had a ground game. The deal is that the Clinton campaign could have had a ground game,” said a former Obama operative in Michigan. “They had people in the states who were willing to do stuff. But they didn’t provide people anything to do until GOTV.”

The only metric that people involved in the operations say they ever heard headquarters interested in was how many volunteer shifts had been signed up — though the volunteers were never given the now-standard handheld devices to input the responses they got in the field, and Brooklyn mandated that they not worry about data entry. Operatives watched packets of real-time voter information piled up in bins at the coordinated campaign headquarters. The sheets were updated only when they got ripped, or soaked with coffee. Existing packets with notes from the volunteers, including highlighting how much Trump inclination there was among some of the white male union members the Clinton campaign was sure would be with her, were tossed in the garbage…

Most importantly, multiple operatives said, the Clinton campaign dismissed what’s known as in-person “persuasion” — no one was knocking on doors trying to drum up support for the Democratic nominee, which also meant no one was hearing directly from voters aside from voters they’d already assumed were likely Clinton voters, no one tracking how feelings about the race and the candidates were evolving. This left no information to check the polling models against — which might have, for example, showed the campaign that some of the white male union members they had expected to be likely Clinton voters actually veering toward Trump — and no early warning system that the race was turning against them in ways that their daily tracking polls weren’t picking up.

People involved in the Michigan campaign still can’t understand why Brooklyn stayed so sure of the numbers in a state that it also had projected Clinton would win in the primary.

“Especially given what happened in the primary,” said Michigan Democratic Party chairman Brandon Dillon. “We knew that there was going to have to be more attention.”

With Clinton’s team ignoring or rejecting requests, Democratic operatives in Michigan and other battleground states might have turned to the DNC. But they couldn’t; they weren’t allowed to ask for help.

State officials were banned from speaking directly to anyone at the DNC in Washington. (“Welcome to DNC HQ,” read a blue and white sign behind the reception desk in Brooklyn that appeared after the ouster of Debbie Wasserman Schultz just before the July convention)…

Nor did Brooklyn ask for help from some people who’d been expecting the call. Sanders threw himself into campaign appearances for Clinton throughout the fall, but familiar sources say the campaign never asked the Vermont senator’s campaign aides for help thinking through Michigan, Wisconsin or anywhere else where he had run strong. It was already November when the campaign finally reached out to the White House to get President Barack Obama into Michigan, a state that he’d worked hard and won by large margins in 2008 and 2012. On the Monday before Election Day, Obama added a stop in Ann Arbor, but that final weekend, the president had played golf on Saturday and made one stop in Orlando on Sunday, not having been asked to do anything else. Michigan senior adviser Steve Neuman had been asking for months to get Obama and the first lady on the ground there. People who asked for Vice President Joe Biden to come in were told that top Clinton aides weren’t clearing those trips…

“I think it’s true, they executed well. I think it’s true that the plan was accomplished,” said a former labor leader in the state. “But the plan was not the right plan.”

While they clearly failed to use the right plan to win in 2016, Clinton supporters are ignoring their mistakes and placing the blame on external factors such as James Comey and Russia. In a race which turned out so close, many factors could have change the result, but it makes far more sense to place the blame both having a flawed candidate and the many mistakes made during the campaign. The same close minded thought processes seen in the campaign could be seen in Hillary Clinton throughout her life, leading Clinton to having been wrong on virtually every major decision of her career. While his appointees and many statements from Donald Trump make me fear a very poor outcome from his presidency, this is still an open matter. Hopefully Bill Gates is right in his optimistic prediction. Clinton’s history of poor judgement, both on campaign strategy and public policy, makes it very doubtful she could have been a competent president.

Nate Silver Defends The Recounts Advocated By Jill Stein

jill-stein-recount

It is doubtful that the recounts which Jill Stein has pushed for in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania will change the election results. Despite this, Nate Silver has made the following case as to why this is beneficial, calling it more of an audit than a true recount:

The first proviso: Let’s not call it a “recount,” because that’s not really what it is. It’s not as though merely counting the ballots a second or third time is likely to change the results enough to overturn the outcome in three states. An apparent win by a few dozen or a few hundred votes might be reversed by an ordinary recount. But Donald Trump’s margins, as of this writing, are roughly 11,000 votes in Michigan, 23,000 votes in Wisconsin and 68,000 votes in Pennsylvania. There’s no precedent for a recount overturning margins like those or anything close to them. Instead, the question is whether there was a massive, systematic effort to manipulate the results of the election.

So what we’re talking about is more like an audit or an investigation. An investigation that would look for signs of deliberate and widespread fraud, such as voting machines’ having been hacked, whole batches of ballots’ intentionally having been disregarded, illegal coordination between elections officials and the campaigns, and so on. Such findings would probably depend on physical evidence as much or more than they do statistical evidence. In that sense, there’s no particular reason to confine the investigation to Wisconsin, Michigan or Pennsylvania, the states that Hillary Clinton lost (somewhat) narrowly. If the idea is to identify some sort of smoking gun indicating massive fraud perpetrated by the Trump campaign — or by the Clinton campaign, or by the Russian government — it might be in a state Clinton won, such as New Hampshire or Minnesota. Or for that matter, it might be in a state Trump won fairly easily, like Ohio or Iowa.

A second “condition” is that the burden of proof for claims of a fixed election ought to be high. That’s because there’s enough evidence for there to be a clear presumption against theories of massive vote-rigging…

In many ways, undertaking an audit of the election results is tantamount to performing a test for a rare but potentially fatal disease. You want to weigh the probability of successfully detecting an anomaly against the invasiveness of the procedure and the chance of a false positive result. Oftentimes, the risk outweighs the reward. For instance, many experts warn against mammograms for women in their 40s because the underlying risk of breast cancer is low for women of that age and the rate of false positive tests is high, causing undue stress for the patients and subjecting them to further tests and operations that might be harmful.

What are the costs of an election audit? Running them will cost several million dollars, but that’s fairly trivial in an era of billion-dollar campaigns. Instead, since these audits aren’t routine — although maybe they should be — the cost is mostly that they could undermine the perceived legitimacy of the election and the longstanding norm toward uncontentious transitions of power from one president toward the next. Which might be more persuasive … if Trump hadn’t spent the weekend peddling a conspiracy about how he thought the results were rigged in Clinton’s favor because millions of people had voted illegally…

Ultimately, though, I’m in the information business. An audit very probably won’t detect a conspiracy, but it will reveal information about our voting systems. FiveThirtyEight and most other American news organizations are founded on the premise that more information is better, even if it risks being misinterpreted. I’ve never questioned that premise more than I have over the course of this election. But over the next four years, we’re all going to have to get used to an environment in which nuggets of insight come buried in mounds of misinformation. An audit is as good a place as any to start.

Plus there is a certain satisfaction in seeing Donald Trump get upset over the recounts after he has claimed before the election that the election was rigged, and more recently claimed that he was only denied a victory in the popular vote due to voter fraud. Bernie Sanders called this claim “disgraceful and unfounded nonsense.”

One thing we are learning is that there are road blocks interfering with the recounts. The most complicated of the three is Pennsylvania where Stein is both filing suit and trying to obtain a recount through a rather complicated procedure:

To initiate a statewide recount through the courts, the Stein campaign must sufficiently prove that there was a strong probability of election fraud in Pennsylvania.

But with that high bar for the Stein campaign to meet, the campaign is also hoping to initiate a recount through another route, with Pennsylvania voters in every precinct submitting affidavits to their precinct clerks asking for recounts in their respective precincts. So far, the Stein campaign said, they had successfully gotten 100 precincts to make the requests — a fraction of the necessary 9,163 voting precincts.

Further complicating the effort, the Pennsylvania Department of State noted that some of the precincts are in counties that had finished certifying their election results, closing the five-day window for petitioning precincts to hold recounts.

Stein is also filing suit in Wisconsin after the Wisconsin Elections Commission refused the hand recount she requested.

Carly Fiorina Takes Pandering To A New Low During Rose Bowl

The Rose Bowl got peripherally involved in politics for second reason, in addition to the skywriter who wrote “Trump is Disgusting” over the Rose Parade. Carly Fiorina showed that she might be the worst panderer of all among politicians. Before the Rose Bowl, in which Iowa played against Stanford, Fiorina tweeted: “Love my alma mater, but rooting for a Hawkeyes win today.”

She is saying she is rooting against her own school to pander to Iowa voters. It is one thing to live in a state and extol its virtues (even if we don’t really believe the candidate believes what they are saying), or even alter their accent depending upon where they speaking as Hillary Clinton does. It is a little more questionable ethically, but not unexpected, for a candidate to alter their positions based upon regional issues. However, to betray one’s school in such a manner will fool nobody and is far more likely to result in distrust and contempt than support.

I know several alumni of my alma mater’s rivals at Ohio State and Michigan State. I don’t expect them to do anything but support their teams and they don’t expect me to do anything but support Michigan. Needless to say, responses on Twitter were overwhelmingly negative.

And congratulations to Jim Harbaugh on his tenth win of the season, the first of many bowl victories in the Citrus Bowl, and a possible top ten finish in his first year back home in Ann Arbor.

#goblue

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder Says He Will Veto RFRA Legislation

Rick Snyder

Following the uproar over the RFRA legislation in Indiana, the legislature has added LGBT protections, but some are arguing that the protections are not sufficient. At least we should not have to worry about this in Michigan. While the far right does dominate the legislature, Governor Rick Snyder wants to stay far away from anything which will interfere with economic recovery in Michigan. Snyder has announced that he will veto the legislation–and this would not be the first time the Republican governor has gone against the will of the Republican legislature.

Snyder first won the Republican nomination for governor with the help of Democrats who realized he would be far preferable to Tea Party Republicans like Pete Hoekstra going after the nomination in 2010, in a year in which it looked inevitable that a Republican would win. Unlike many other Republicans, Snyder prefers to stay away from conservative social issues. He recently received coverage for the Michigan economic recovery in The Wall Street Journal. Of course, being The Wall Street Journal, the article gives the credit for the economic recovery to Snyder, ignoring the important contributions from the Obama recovery nationally, and Obama’s actions to save the auto industry. While the article is correct that Snyder is no Scott Walker, it also ignores that he has conflicted with labor in capitulating to the legislature in signing right to work legislation.

Despite these flaws, the article is correct in pointing out important distinctions between Snyder and other Republicans, such as refusing to sign Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, and Snyder is currently pushing for a ballot proposal to increase the sales tax. This is to be used to repair roads, with Snyder arguing it is more economical in the long run to maintain good roads. Snyder also pushed for Medicaid expansion in Michigan when many Republican governors opposed it and has vetoed Republican legislation related to concealed weapons and voter ID. On the other hand, besides signing right to work legislation, Snyder has signed legislation placing restrictions on abortion rights. With this mixed record, it is good news to hear that Snyder plans to veto RFRA.