Democrats Need The Right Policies, Not Just A New Slogan

Despite a decade of losing while standing for little other than being slightly more moderate than Republicans, Democrats have concentrated on cosmetic changes such as seeking the right slogan. Their latest, rather unoriginal, idea for a slogan is to “drain the swamp.” In contrast to relying on slogans, Samuel Moyn  professor of law and history at Yale, has written that Democrats need to look at the right policies.

Writing in The Guardian, Moyn noted an op-ed in The New York Times saying liberals “come off as judgmental scolds” and alienating potential voters. Remedying this is only part of the solution:

…policy matters much more than politeness. The trouble with American liberalism is not the rhetoric, the selling or the advertising; it is not even the product to sell, as if politics were marketing. Rather, liberals need to forge policies that allow Americans to identify or imagine common interests. The problem is not the bait chosen to lure voters but the whole idea of politics as fishing – as if voters across the country are suckers to be lured into one camp or another. Perhaps liberals, searching for a path forward into the hearts and minds of voters, need to pay heed to Missouri’s state motto: not “rule me more nicely”, but “show me”.

In looking for the “right policies,” Moyn mentions income inequality, as well as another which I have often noted has been receiving far too little attention, “ending the endless war on terror.”

The last two presidents of the United States have each been elected as antiwar candidates, even though each went on to govern militaristically. An antiwar coalition in the making – starting with proposals to drastically reduce America’s counterproductive use of force abroad – is likely to be powerful in future elections too. But liberals will have to give up their concessions to the national security state and their fears of coming off as unpatriotic in order to exploit this opportunity.

Rather than nominating an anti-war candidate, the Democrats nominated one of the most hawkish politicians in recent history in 2016, with one analysis showing that this did hurt Clinton in the general election. While well below the vote of the major party candidates, Jill Stein (Green Party) and Gary Johnson (Libertarian Party) received around twice as many votes as their parties received four years previously. Others do not vote as they do not see either major political party as being worht voting for. A major party which took up an anti-war platform could likely pull in many voters who are reluctant to vote for either party at present.

I am pleased to see Moyn recommend ending the war on terror, but I also have one other wish. Liberals need to concentrate more on fundamental liberal principles of individual liberty, and keeping the government out of the private lives of individuals. We currently have a huge contradiction in our politics with the Republicans claiming to be the party of freedom and limited government, while frequently advocating policies of greater government intrusion in the private lives of individuals. This is largely because of an inconsistency on the part of Democrats. Republican voters might be more willing to accept support for reproductive rights if described as part of an overall platform of supporting individual liberty. Of course this only works if Democrats are consistent and avoid nanny state policies, or a health care plan dependent upon an individual mandate, which was one reason for Democratic losses in recent years.

Despite Their Gestures, Democratic Candidates Continue To Take Corporate Money

Democratic candidates  increasingly feel like they must swear off corporate contributions, but Zaid Jilani at The Intercept shows that this might just be a cheap gesture. He writes:

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS, D-Calif., became the latest lawmaker to swear off all donations from corporate political action committees, telling a radio host in mid-April that she made the move after being asked about it at a town hall by a constituent.

Harris joins five other senators who have vowed not to take corporate PAC contributions: Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J.; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.; and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. …

Swearing off corporate PAC money can be one positive step a lawmaker can take towards reducing the corrupting influence of money on politics. But it’s far from enough.

The reason is that money from PACs – corporate or otherwise — comprises a relatively insignificant portion of these senators’ campaign contributions, raising the question of whether curtailing donations from corporate PACs will really make a difference. Critics think it doesn’t, noting that the bigger threat of influence comes from wealthy donors who don’t funnel their cash through PACs. But for politicians looking to seize on public discontent with the influence of money on politics, the decision makes for an effective messaging ploy.

Michael J. Malbin, a campaign finance researcher at Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, pointed out to The Intercept that Harris has received only a small amount of her total campaign funding from PACs. “However, she also received many of her itemized contributions from individuals whose income is derived from their work as corporate executives,” he said.

Benjamin Page, a long-time researcher of political decision-making at Northwestern University, agreed. “Refusing to take corporate PAC money makes a nice symbol, and I suppose we should give it some credit.  But far more money comes from wealthy individuals,” he wrote in an email. “That is much more important, and I believe it tends to corrupt both the Republican and the Democratic party.”

OpenSecrets, a project of the Center for Responsive Politics, tracked and categorized PAC donations between 2013 and 2018. The data reveals that most of the senators who’ve sworn off corporate PAC money received more from large individual donors — donors giving $200 or more, who can be regular people but also corporate executives and lobbyists — than from PACs in that time period.

  • Cory Booker: 10.37 percent of Booker’s campaign funding has come from PACs, 76.40 percent of which is from business PACs. By contrast, 72.12 percent of Booker’s campaign funding is from large individual donors.
  • Maria Cantwell: Just 0.62 percent of Cantwell’s campaign funding has come from PACs of any kind. In contrast, 73.61 percent of her campaign funding has come from large donors.
  • Kirsten Gillibrand:6.95 percent of Gillibrand’s campaign funding has come from PACs. Of this proportion, 65.73 percent is from business PACs. Meanwhile, 62.15 percent of her fundraising has come from large individual donors.
  • Kamala Harris: 4.89 percent of Harris’s campaign fundraising has been through PACs; 41.07 percent of this total has been from business PACs. By contrast, 64.99 percent of her campaign funding has come from large donors. (Though the OpenSecrets analysis covered a five-year period, in Harris’s case, it only goes back to 2015, when she first ran for U.S. Senate.)
  • Bernie Sanders:1.73 percent of Sanders’s funding has come from PACs. Of that, 7.27 percent is from business PACs. 17.70 percent of his funding has come from large individual contributors.
  • Elizabeth Warren: Just 1.4 percent of Warren’s campaign money has come from PACs. Of that, 12.91 percent is from business PACs. Large individual donors made up 29.72 percent of her campaign funding.

These figures make clear that the senators are giving up relatively little money by swearing off donations from corporate PACs — it just isn’t a very big portion of their overall campaign funding. Which raises the question: Is it really possible that the system is being corrupted by sums of money this small? If not, then politicians — and the voters they’re looking to win over — need to look closer at how big money is corrupting Washington.

There are further examples of how corporate influence is not diminished by this gesture, with Kirsten Gillibrand being just one example:

UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS Boston professor emeritus Thomas Ferguson is one of America’s leading academics who studies the influence of money in politics; he is the brain behind “the investment theory of party competition,” which says that politicians are essentially driven by donors, their true political base.

He doesn’t think much of senators disavowing corporate PAC money. “It’s an absolutely cheap gesture that means nothing, that’s why they do it,” Ferguson said in an interview. He pointed out that corporations can also run their money through the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and that these senators haven’t disavowed the comittee’s backing.

A close look at Gillibrand’s and Booker’s top donors makes clear just how little it matters when senators swear off corporate PAC money. Gillibrand’s 11th-largest donor is Morgan Stanley, which did not give a penny of its money to Gillibrand through a PAC. Instead, Morgan Stanley employees donated $40,425 to her campaign committee as individuals. Of the $814,463 that she has received from the securities and investment industry, just $70,500 came from PACs.

Gillibrand was one of the Democratic senators who voted down an amendment that would have broken up Wall Street’s largest banks in May 2010. Jeff Connaughton, an aide to then-Sen. Ted Kaufman, D-Del., who co-wrote the amendment, noted dryly in his book that an Obama administration Treasury official later boasted that if the administration had supported the amendment, it would have passed, but because they didn’t, it didn’t. Speaking about the amendment four years later, Warren noted that it “had bipartisan support, and it might have passed, but it ran into powerful opposition from an alliance between Wall Streeters on Wall Street and Wall Streeters who held powerful government jobs. They teamed up and blocked the move to break up the banks.”

This was contrasted with how Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have raised money:

A better path to limiting the influence of big money is for senators to simply develop a small donor base that supplants large donors of any sort, Ferguson said. “Let them say they won’t take money over, you know, a particular limit — $500, $750, whatever you like,” he suggested.

Page agreed. “What we really need from candidates is reliance on small donations, if possible, as was done by Bernie Sanders and (to a lesser extent) Barack Obama,” he wrote to us.

In that regard, Warren and Sanders deserve an honorable mention, as they are the only senators in this group of six who got the majority of their campaign funding from small individual contributors since 2013. Nobody else comes close.

It’s easy to imagine lawmakers getting swayed by a pool of donors from a big bank or fracking company who give them $2,000 donations; it’s less easy to imagine that if the politicians build a donor base of people throwing in relatively small amounts, that they’d fall under pernicious influence.

(The Onion had an amusing article on this topic in 2016, with the headline: “Bernie Sanders Clearly In Pocket Of High-Rolling Teacher Who Donated $300 To His Campaign.”)

Nancy Pelosi Defends Party’s Intervention In Primaries As Progressives Protest

The tape released this week of a Democratic Party leader trying to get a progressive to drop out of a Congressional primary has raised far more attention to the issue. The tape was initially posted by The Intercept and I also posted it here yesterday.

Nancy Pelosi has further angered progressives by speaking out in support of this practice. The Washington Post reports:

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) defended her party’s electoral operation on Thursday, after a candidate in a contested Colorado primary released audio tape of Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) urging him to quit the race.

“I don’t know that a person can tape a person without the person’s consent and then release it to the press,” Pelosi told reporters at her weekly news conference. “In terms of candidates and campaigns I don’t see anything inappropriate in what Mr. Hoyer was engaged in — a conversation about the realities of life in the race as to who can make the general election.”

…The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has thrown its weight in the race behind Jason Crow, an attorney and veteran running a more center-left campaign than Tillemann, who supports universal Medicare and other planks of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) campaign platform. In the December conversation, Hoyer told Tillemann that “a decision was made early on by the Colorado delegation” to back Crow, and that it would continue to do so.

“Staying out of primaries sounds small-D democratic, very intellectual and very interesting,” said Hoyer, according to the tape. “But it was clear that it was our policy and our hope that, early on, try to come to an agreement on a candidate that we thought could win the general, and to give that candidate all the help we could give them.”

While Nancy Pelosi rationalize this as “the realities of life,” as I pointed out yesterday, this long-standing strategy has been a disaster for Democrats. The claim that more conservative candidates are more electable has not held up. The Democratic leadership has a terrible record of choosing more “electable” candidates. They lost control of both houses of Congress and around 1000 state seats in state legislatures in a decade based upon this misconception. The ultimate example of how the party’s strategy conflicts with reality came when they violated the party’s by-laws to rig the nomination for Hillary Clinton, the one candidate who could not even beat a candidate as dreadful as Donald Trump.

While we have known that this has been an issue for some time, including in a Texas Congressional race this year, having the taped evidence has also led to the loudest protests I have heard so far from progressives within the Democratic Party. USA Today reports:

Progressive groups that support Tillemann are going ballistic over what they say is yet another example of establishment Democrats meddling in primary elections.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee says it’s raising money for three candidates, including Tillemann, that the DCCC has pressured to drop out.

“There is a battle for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party, and Steny Hoyer and his corporate cronies already lost,” said Stephanie Taylor, PCCC’s co-founder.

Democracy for America Executive Director Charles Chamberlain called for Hoyer to resign or “be removed” from House leadership.

“We saw what happens when Democratic Party leaders put their fingers on the scale in primaries in 2006 through 2016, when we lost nearly 1,000 elected offices up and down the ballot,” he said.

Democratic Leader Caught On Tape Trying To Force Progressive Candidate Out Of Congressional Race

The Democratic leadership, including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, have shown they are not our allies as they repeatedly attack the left, have purged progressives from the DNC, and attack more liberal and progressive candidates who are often more in tune with the voters. The Intercept secretly recorded Steny Hoyer, the second highest ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, trying to pressure a progressive candidate, Levi Tillemann, to drop out of a race. They described Tillemann as “an author, inventor, and former official with the Obama administration’s Energy Department.” From their account:

He focused his campaign on clean elections, combatting climate change, “Medicare for All,” free community college, and confronting economic inequality and monopoly power. Another candidate for the nomination, Jason Crow, a corporate lawyer at the powerhouse Colorado firm Holland & Hart and an Army veteran, meanwhile, appeared to have the backing of the Democratic establishment, though it wasn’t explicit. In November, it became clearer, as Crow was named by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to the party’s “Red to Blue” list, which the committee specifies is not an endorsement but does carry symbolic weight.

With Hoyer in Denver, Tillemann met the minority whip at the Hilton Denver Downtown to make the case that the party should stay neutral in the primary and that he had a more plausible path to victory than the same centrism that Coffman had already beaten repeatedly.

Hoyer, however, had his own message he wanted to convey: Tillemann should drop out.

In a frank and wide-ranging conversation, Hoyer laid down the law for Tillemann. The decision, Tillemann was told, had been made long ago. It wasn’t personal, Hoyer insisted, and there was nothing uniquely unfair being done to Tillemann, he explained: This is how the party does it everywhere.

Tillemann had heard the argument before from D.C. insiders and local Democratic bigwigs, all of whom had discouraged him from challenging the establishment favorite. The only difference was that for this conversation, the candidate had his phone set to record.

The secretly taped audio recording, released here for the first time, reveals how senior Democratic officials have worked to crush competitive primaries and steer political resources, money, and other support to hand-picked candidates in key races across the country, long before the party publicly announces a preference. The invisible assistance boosts the preferred candidate in fundraising and endorsements, and then that fundraising success and those endorsements are used to justify national party support. Meanwhile, opponents of the party’s unspoken pick are driven into paranoia, wondering if they are merely imagining that unseen hands are working against them.

Hoyer bluntly told Tillemann that it wasn’t his imagination, and that mobilizing support for one Democratic candidate over another in a primary isn’t unusual. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., chair of the DCCC, has a “policy that early on, we’d try to agree on a candidate who we thought could win the general and give the candidate all the help we could give them,” Hoyer told Tillemann matter-of-factly…

In races in Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Texas, Nebraska, California, and beyond, progressive candidates are finding that the DCCC has mobilized support for moderate candidates with access to early campaign cash at the expense of progressives. As we’ve reported, many first-time candidates are told by the DCCC that before they can even be considered, they have to perform the “rolodex” test to show they can raise $250,000 or more from the contact list on their phone.

In February, the DCCC made the unusual move to release opposition research, the term of art for political dirt, against activist Laura Moser, who the party viewed as too liberal to win in the 7th Congressional District of Texas, a Houston-area seat. The strategy, however, appeared to backfire. Moser placed second in the Texas Democratic primary, meaning she’ll have a shot at the nomination in the May 22 runoff…

To a certain extent, people like Elizabeth Warren and people like Bernie Sanders have been ostracized by the party, and they have been marginalized by the establishment to the extent that is possible,” says Tillemann. “But the fact of the matter is that the people are crying out for genuine leaders, and the people are crying out for a solution to inequality and systemic injustice, and to the extent that I am fighting for those solutions, then I think there will be a powerful constituency for that.”

I’m proud to be on the side of truth,” he added. “I’m proud to be on the right side of democracy, and I’m proud to be on the right side of free and fair elections.”

The recording could be heard in the video below, which also has animation added:

This practice calls into question whether there is any point in liberals and progressives to support the Democratic Party if they are ignoring small-d democratic principles to promote more conservative candidates? They appear to want either conservative businessmen or ex-CIA agents. As Jimmy Dore pointed out, out of 102 competitive Democratic Congressional primaries in 2018, “44 involve candidates with a military-intelligence or State Department background, with 11 districts having two such candidates, and one district having three.”

Putting ethics aside, it isn’t even good politics. The claim that more conservative candidates are more electable has not held up. The Democratic leadership has a terrible record of choosing more “electable” candidates. They lost control of both houses of Congress and over 1000 state seats in a decade based upon this misconception. The ultimate example came when they violated the party’s by-laws to rig the nomination for Hillary Clinton, the one candidate who could not even beat a candidate as dreadful as Donald Trump.

(more…)

Hillary Clinton Falls To New Low In Poll–Fewer Have Positive View Of Clinton Than Trump

The Democrats received an electoral gift in 2016 with an opponent as terrible as Donald Trump. They could have probably nominated a name taken at random from the phone book and beaten him. Instead the Democrats rigged their nomination for the one politician in American who was worse. Since losing the election, polls have repeatedly shown Clinton’s approval to be even lower than Trump’s atrociously low approval rating, and the streak continues. The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds those with a  positive view of Clinton at a new low of 27 percent, with Donald Trump at 35 percent.

The Wall Street Journal has this analysis:

Right before the election, the share of people who viewed Hillary Clinton unfavorably was 10 points larger than those with a favorable view of her, according to the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll — a bigger gap than any other recent losing presidential candidate. Our latest poll is a reminder of just how unusual a figure Mrs. Clinton is in terms of her unpopularity.

Historical WSJ/NBC polling shows that recent losing presidential candidates — Mitt RomneyJohn McCainJohn Kerry and Al Gore — experienced post-election declines in positive sentiment. But Mrs. Clinton’s dropoff is a bit steeper–her positive rating is at a new low of 27%, compared with 52% who have a negative opinion. That spread of 25 percentage points is greater than President Trump’s, who is under water by 18 points.

Her negative numbers make her something of a natural target for Republicans who want to associate their opponents with her as the party heads into a potentially difficult midterm election this fall. In doing so, they have managed to put some vulnerable Democrats in states Mr. Trump easily won, like Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Claire McCaskill of Missouri, on the defensive. That was driven home last month when Democrats took distance from comments Mrs. Clinton, attending a conference in India, made about middle-American Trump voters.

The question is how much of a factor she will really be in 2018. It’s important to keep in mind that “she’s not on the ballot,” Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducted part of the April poll, told me. He said that there are many “ticked off Democrats who might not like her, but given [Mr. Trump is] the incumbent … he’s the focus of most of their anger.” People in our poll who view both Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton negatively help illustrate this thinking. In 2016, these voters — those who we negative on both Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton — preferred a Republican Congress; now, they, like other voters, say they prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress.

They are probably right that the key factor here is that Clinton is not on the ballot. Having Donald Trump in the White House will probably hurt Republicans far more this year than objections to Hilary Clinton. This poll should remind Democratic candidates of the need to keep Clinton away.

Ed Schultz Says MSNBC Fired Him For Supporting Sanders And Suppressed Coverage Of Sanders

During an interview last week, Ed Schultz said he was fired from MSNBC due to his support for Bernie Sanders. As should not come as a surprise to anybody, Schultz also said that MSNBC was “in the tank for Hillary Clinton.”

Schultz discussed how MSNBC tried to suppress coverage of Bernie Sanders. Schultz had planned to cover Sanders’ campaign launch on May 26, 2015 but was told five minutes before air time by MSNBC President Phil Griffen and told, “You’re not covering this.”

Schultz described Griffin as “a watchdog” and said that Griffin exercised considerable control over what he could report at MSNBC. Schultz had a far more favorable description of RT, where he currently anchors a show, saying that RT has not attempted to control what he says as MSNBC had. He said that MSNBC had suppressed coverage of Sanders until he was doing too well in the race to ignore.

Schultz further discussed how the Democratic nomination was rigged for Clinton, and how MSNBC assisted her:

“I think the Clintons were connected to [NBC News chief] Andy Lack, connected at the hip,” Schultz said. “I think that they didn’t want anybody in their primetime or anywhere in their lineup supporting Bernie Sanders. I think that they were in the tank for Hillary Clinton, and I think that it was managed, and 45 days later I was out at MSNBC.”

“I thought it stunk,” he added.

This pro-Clinton bias was not limited to NBC and MSNBC. Schultz also noted how Democratic National Committee member Donna Brazille, formerly at CNN, had leaked debate questions to Hillary Clinton.

Firing Ed Schultz was only part of MSNBC’s attack on the left, and failure to follow journalistic standards, out of their support for Clinton. Immediately after the election stories on MSNBC were blaming Jill Stein for Clinton’s loss. This was based upon the false argument that Stein’s voters would have voted for Clinton if Stein was not on the ballot. (Personally I would have voted for another anti-war candidate such as Gary Johnson as opposed to voting for a warmonger such as Clinton if Stein was not on the ballot–and there is evidence that Clinton’s pro-war views harmed her in the election). They also ignored the much larger number of former Obama voters who voted for Trump as opposed to Clinton in 2016.

MSNBC has subsequently been pushing Clinton’s unproven claims blaming Russia for her loss. FAIR.org (Fairness And Accuracy in Reporting) has criticized their reporting on Russia. MSNBC has also been caught misrepresenting testimony from the Department of Homeland Security to promote conspiracy theories that Russia was responsible for Trump beating Clinton.

A portion of the interview with Ed Schultz is in the video above and the full podcast is available here.

Bernie Sanders Encourages Progressive Candidates At Training Conference

Bernie Sanders was the keynote speaker last week at a four day conference for the training of progressive candidates. ABC News reported:

Sanders’ legacy political organization, Our Revolution, partnered with the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) to host the conference and the organizers were excited by the number of signups. According to event representatives, 70 percent of the conference attendees were actively running in 2018 — 64 percent of them in districts President Donald Trump won in 2016. The group was noticeably diverse too: 55 percent women, 40 percent people of color and 82 percent who have never held political office…

Like Sanders’ team, the PCCC is known in Washington and political circles for talking openly about — and fundraising on — divisions in the Democratic Party between Progressives focused on economic populism and more centrists. Even in the era of Trump, when Democrats have largely unified in their opposition to this White House, a major theme of the conference was that Democratic candidates should not shy away from campaigning hard to the left, even if that means bucking advice from some Democratic Party officials.

“Any old blue just won’t do,” Nina Turner, the president of Sanders’ legacy political organization, Our Revolution, said introducing Sanders. “I am talking about ‘Bernie blue.’”

Several of the attendees lamented that Democratic Party officials had, they thought, handpicked more mainstream candidates around the country or advised folks to temper progressive platforms. At one point, PCCC co-founder Adam Green asked the crowd if any of them had been encouraged to run more to the center and half the hands in the room seemed to go up.

Mark Gruenberg had more on Sanders’s speech for Mint Press News:

Sanders was greeted with a roar, repeated chants of “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!” and interrupted frequently by applause and cheers—and occasional laughter for his jibes at the GOP, centrist Democrats, and political consultants. He also stated money is useful and needed, but that it’s no substitute for shoe leather.

“Watch out for consultants,” he warned. “There’s a large group of people, particularly here in Washington, who make zillions of dollars and often their advice is conservative, and wrong. Trust your heart.

When I was first elected as mayor of Burlington [Vermont], I defeated a five-term mayor because I literally knocked on thousands and thousands of doors. The most important thing is face-to-face contact,” he said.

“Do not spend your entire lives raising money, as some here would have you do.”

Sanders, even more than the other speakers, pointed out that on issues, the country is increasingly with the progressives, including the issues he raised in his 2016 Democratic presidential primary campaign. Those ideas, such as Medicare for All, $1 trillion in infrastructure spending, free tuition at public colleges and universities, and the wipeout of college debt, were considered radical then.

Many in the Democratic Party, he claimed, waved them aside, or worse. But now, for example, his Medicare for All bill has 16 Senate Democratic co-sponsors and the $15 minimum wage—the Dems at the time were stuck on $10.10—now has 30 U.S. House sponsors. And he said the latest opinion poll shows 59 percent support for Medicare for All.

By contrast, a wide range of attendees reported consultants advising them not to run on progressive planks, not to campaign for the minimum wage increase or Medicare for All or gun control measures and—in some cases—not to even put a (D) on their signs. The attendees rejected that advice.

But it’s not just the GOP standing in the way of the progressives. In some cases, it’s the Democratic establishment. Just as in the close Lipinski-Newman congressional primary on Chicago’s Southwest Side and suburbs, Nevada 4th District hopeful Amy Vilela is taking on the state’s Democratic machine constructed by retired U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid…

“The establishment wants, #1, to push tax cuts for millionaires and a war agenda. And #2 is to tell you ‘politics are too complicated for you, so don’t get involved.’” And Republicans’ “idea of a good election is nobody votes and big money dominates.”

“But if you look at what my colleagues are doing, you realize anybody can run for anything. Just look at the president of the United States and know that you know more than he does on his best day,” the senator drolly said, to laughter from the crowd.

That prompted him to set a goal for the group: A vast increase in turnout this fall.

“Four years ago,” in the important 2014 off-year election, “we had the lowest turnout since World War II, 37 percent” and the GOP won big, he explained. “If we can go out and increase turnout of young people, people of color, and working people, by giving them hope, and get that up to 50 percent, virtually every single one of you will win your election,” he predicted.

More Evidence Facebook Helped Trump Beat Clinton, And It Had Nothing To Do With Russia

There has been a lot of question as to whether Russian  activities on social media were responsible for Donald Trump winning. This does not appear likely as the Congressional testimony revealed that information from Russian Facebook pages accounted for “less than 0.004 percent of all content — or about 1 in 23,000 news feed items” on Facebook. Over half the ads were not even seen until after the election, and many had nothing to do with promoting Trump over Clinton. The Russian purchased Facebook ads also targeted deep blue states over battleground states or the rust belt states which cost Clinton the election.

It is also questionable whether people changed their votes from arguments seen on social media, with many people seeking out similar viewpoints and resisting those they disagree with. If Facebook was a benefit to Donald Trump, it was probably due Facebook embedding their employees in the campaign to assist in the use of advertising, as I discussed in January. The Clinton campaign did not take advantage of such assistance, which was likely to be far more helpful to Trump than the amateurish Russian ads.

We have now learned more about how the Trump campaign utilized Facebook more effectively from a paper obtained by Bloomberg News:

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has boasted often that it made better use of Facebook Inc.’s advertising tools than Hillary Clinton’s campaign did. An internal Facebook white paper, published days after the election, shows the company’s data scientists agree.

“Both campaigns spent heavily on Facebook between June and November of 2016,” the author of the internal paper writes, citing revenue of $44 million for Trump and $28 million for Clinton in that period. “But Trump’s FB campaigns were more complex than Clinton’s and better leveraged Facebook’s ability to optimize for outcomes.”

The paper, obtained by Bloomberg and discussed here for the first time, describes in granular detail the difference between Trump’s campaign, which was focused on finding new donors, and Clinton’s campaign, which concentrated on ensuring Clinton had broad appeal. The data scientist says 84 percent of Trump’s budget asked people on Facebook to take an action, like donating, compared with 56 percent of Clinton’s…

Trump ran 5.9 million different versions of ads during the presidential campaign and rapidly tested them to spread those that generated the most Facebook engagement, according to the paper. Clinton ran 66,000 different kinds of ads in the same period.

Using Facebook more effectively is more likely to have helped than the Russian ads did. However, some will always find a way to get back to Russia. The article raises the question, “Did Russian operatives give the Trump campaign a list of names to include or exclude from advertising that was running on Facebook?” Based upon how amateurish the Russian ad campaign was, it is rather doubtful that Russia had such information. It is far more likely that other sources available to a political campaign provided any list of names. This could include sources normally available to major political parties, or possibly Cambridge Analytica.

Politico On “How the Bernie Wing Won the Democratic Primaries”

While there have been many negatives since the 2016 election, including both the presidency of Donald Trump and the Democratic establishment falling into McCarthyism and Cold War Revivalism, one good result was a weakening of the hold by the Clinton/DLC faction on the Democratic Party. A Clinton victory would have probably meant watching the Democrats pushing conservative candidates who would go down to defeat by even more conservative Republicans. Instead we are seeing a chance for more liberal and progressive candidates to run.

Politico has already declared the left to be the winners this year in an article entitled, How the Bernie Wing Won the Democratic Primaries. Here are some excerpts (quoting of which, as usual, does not indicate complete agreement):

In state after state, the left is proving to be the animating force in Democratic primaries, producing a surge of candidates who are forcefully driving the party toward a more liberal orientation on nearly every issue.

These candidates are running on an agenda that moves the party beyond its recent comfort zone and toward single-payer health care, stricter gun control, a $15 minimum wage, more expansive LGBT rights and greater protections for immigrants.

In the surest sign of the reoriented issue landscape, they’re joined by some of the most prominent prospects in the 2020 Democratic presidential field—Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris among them—who are embracing the same agenda.

According to data compiled by the Brookings Institution’s Primaries Project, the number of self-identified, nonincumbent progressive candidates in Texas spiked compared with the previous two election years. This year, there were nearly four times as many progressive candidates as in 2016. Meanwhile, the number of moderate and establishment candidates remained flat for the past three elections in Texas.

Even in Illinois, where the Democratic Party holds most of the levers of power, the data tell a similar story: There were more progressive candidates this year, the Primaries Project reports, than moderate and establishment candidates, by a count of 25 to 21…

The party’s ascendant left is coming after everybody, regardless of the outcome in Lipinski’s race. Progressive energy is pulsing through the primaries, most notably in the proliferation of Trump-backlash grass-roots groups like Indivisible, Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress that are teeming with activists inspired by Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign. There’s no comparable counterweight within the establishment…

These progressives aren’t necessarily sweeping races up and down the ballot. But they are winning enough of them—and generating enough grass-roots pressure—to continue driving the party leftward.

In Texas, a greater percentage of the progressive candidates either won or advanced to a runoff than the percentage of moderate and establishment candidates who did. In Illinois, the success rate between the wings was about equal. Five moderate or establishment candidates won their primaries, compared with three progressives.

Many on the left will question whether Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Kamala Harris truly embrace the same agenda, but as politicians they definitely see the need to at least give lip service to a more progressive agenda than Hillary Clinton did, despite her weak attempts to modify some of her conservative positions.

As is so often the case with articles which cite issues backed by more progressive candidates, I am also disappointed that nothing is said about Democrats opposing American interventionism and the neoconservative foreign policy which was promoted by their last presidential candidate. Nor was anything said about scaling back the surveillance state, restoring civil liberties lost as a consequence of the “war on terror,” or ending the drug war. It is as if the Democratic Party has stopped trying to dismantle the deleterious policies of George W. Bush.

If the victory is being called a victory by the “Bernie Wing,” in articles such as this, I hope that Bernie Sanders speaks out more on these issues. He has often taken the correct side, even if he has not stressed such issues. Sanders initially ran as an insurgent candidate to raise the economic issues which were more important to him, not expecting to win the 2016 nomination. Now that his wing has a chance of taking over the party, and winning elections at all levels, I hope that he does devote more time to these issues.

Five Reasons Not to Feed the Russian Troll Hysteria

The claim that the 2016 election was stolen due to the actions of Russian trolls is one of the most absurd political arguments ever made. As I’ve noted previously, the Congressional testimony revealed that Russian Facebook ads and Tweets represented a minuscule amount of their traffic. Material from Russian pages accounted for “less than 0.004 percent of all content — or about 1 in 23,000 news feed items” on Facebook. Half of it was not seen until after the election, much of it was not supporting Trump over Clinton, and much of it was hilariously unconvincing and amateurish. Phillip Bump added that, rather than targeting the battleground states, ads were concentrated in states such as New York and Texas which had no impact on the election results.

The claim that Russia stole the election based upon their actions on social media is harmful as it gives establishment Democrats an excuse to resist reform. It plays into the hands of neocons who desire regime change in Russia, with their claims about Russia being no more truthful than their claims about WMD in Iraq. It is also an attack on freedom of speech, and has led to McCarthyism from establishment Democrats who claim that criticism stems from support for Putin.

Reason has produced the above video on 5 Reasons Not to Feed the Russian Troll Hysteria.  They also summarized the arguments:

1) Russian trolling was a drop in the bucket.

2) Russian trolls were not very sophisticated.

Russian trolls supposedly had the Machiavellian know-how to infiltrate the American political system, but their social media posts don’t look very sophisticated. The posts often featured broken English and puzzling topic choices. A postpromoting a “buff” Bernie Sanders coloring book, for instance, noted that “the coloring is something that suits for all people.” Another post showed Jesus and Satan in an arm wrestling match under this caption: “SATAN: IF I WIN CLINTON WINS! JESUS: NOT IF I CAN HELP IT!” The post generated very few clicks and shares.

3) Russian troll rallies apparently did not attract many participants.

The indictment makes much of pro-Trump and anti-Clinton rallies instigated by Russian trolls, but it does not say how many people participated. The New York Times reported that a Russian-organized rally in Texas opposing Shariah law attracted a dozen people. An anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rally in Idaho drew four people. Attendance at other rallies was similarly sparse.

4) Russian trolling probably didn’t change anyone’s mind.

Broken English aside, the social media posts were not qualitatively different from content created by American activists, and they seemed to be aimed mainly at reinforcing pre-existing beliefs and divisions. The Russians might have gotten a few Trump supporters to show up at anti-Clinton rallies, but that does not mean they had an impact on the election.

5) Russian troll hysteria depicts free speech as a kind of violence.

The Justice Department describes the messages posted by Russians pretending to be Americans as “information warfare.” But while the posts may have been sophomoric, inaccurate, and illogical, that does not distinguish them from most of what passes for online political discussion among actual Americans. The integrity of civic discourse does not depend on verifying the citizenship of people who participate in it. It depends on the ability to weigh what they say, checking it against our own values and information from other sources. If voters cannot do that, maybe democracy isdoomed. But if so, it’s not the Russians’ fault.