Thursday, February 22, 2018

Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

I've often said in my posts that FOX "News" is a modern day equivalent of Tokyo Rose. For those younger readers that may not know who Tokyo Rose was (due to cuts in education and censored textbooks no doubt), Tokyo Rose was a "radio personality" who broadcast out of Tokyo during World War II. Her role, was to essentially sweet talk American and Australian military personnel into believing that, not only were the allies losing the war but they would be rewarded if they laid down their weapons and surrendered. Even swearing allegiance to Emperor Hirohito was, at times, suggested. Tokyo Rose offered an extremely twisted reinterpretation of things occurring in both naval and land battles, even events leading up to the war. If you believed Tokyo Rose, you would wonder why you were fighting. You might have even thought that it was us who had attacked Japan's navy on December 7th 1941. The whole Tokyo Rose thing was aimed at lowering the morale of the troops and weakening the war effort against Japan. It was propaganda put out even in hopes of influencing our political leaders to stop fighting Japan.

Sound familiar? Substitute Russia for Japan and the likes of Sean Hannity for Tokyo Rose and you pretty much have it. Throw in Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh and fellow traveling accomplices like Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and the rest of their party for good measure, but FOX "News" is their epicenter. It is their oracle, their oracle of bullshit, treasonous bullshit. Whether it's crackpot Nunes memos, Seth Rich conspiracies, birtherism, Hillary's emails, or, more pertinent to this post, Robert A. Mueller's investigation of Russian influence in our elections, chances are damn close to 100% that the talking points of any Republican politician, Republican voter, or Putin apologist stem from there. If you factor any Russian internet bot "sources" into the conversation, it just becomes a "which came first, the chicken or the egg" scenario. Does it matter? No, because, no matter what the nonsense, FOX "News" is the bigger funnel through which all of this bullshit gets to the larger amount of our gullible, naive, and hate-run fellow citizens.

Notice that I didn't mention Donald J.Trump. I only omitted him because comparing him to Emperor Hirohito would be a grave insult to Emperor Hirohito.

So what set me off about FOX "News" this time? It was their coverage of Friday's announcement that Robert Mueller had issued 13 indictments of people involved in the engineering of swaying public opinion in favor of Comrade Trump in the 2016 election. Their spin was a thing to behold. Tokyo Rose would have been gleeful.

I watched FOX "News" on Friday and Saturday. I know you ask why, but I do it out of morbid curiosity, and so you don't have to. It's not a strictly a morbidity thing. It's just that deranged people and how they got there almost fascinates me. I watched because I wanted to see just how they would twist or ignore such a momentous story. The United States of America has been attacked by a foreign adversary and the evidence of the severity keeps mounting up. Meanwhile our so-called "president" says nothing. I knew how pro-American news outlets would react. The question in my mind was exactly how would FOX "News" react. I wasn't surprised. They sank even lower.

The only question left about FOX "News" now is can we really call them treasonous since they are owned by an Australian and a Saudi or does the visibility and weight of the Tokyo Rose-speak outweigh that? I vote for the later. It's obvious. The majority of those who work at FOX "News" and those who deliver the message are Americans. They are doing the work of Russia but they are Americans. They may think others are prime targets for arrest and deportation (or more) but maybe they should look in the mirror.

The goons on FOX twisted the indictment story so heinously it was breathtaking. What the Mueller indictments actually mean went basically unmentioned. To FOX "News," the indictments somehow showed, in true opposite world fashion, that our fake president is now vindicated. They enveloped the indictment story in their ongoing Nunes conspiracy and, most despicably, tied it to the horrific murders of 14 students and 3 staffers at Parkland Florida's Stoneman Douglas high school which had occurred just 2 days before. Keep in mind that this is the same channel that has been pushing their Nunes conspiracy and anti-law enforcement conspiracies for months. They tied the shootings into those conspiracies to create one all-encompassing super vomitous conspiracy by saying that the Parkland Florida high schoolers who are vocally protesting the shootings are only doing so because Democrats are paying them to do so; George Soros and Tom Steyer, no doubt. Think how deranged and downright evil you have to be to go there in the service of your twisted agenda. And, how dare they protest! All of this was done in order to assault the credibility of the Mueller investigation and protect our apparent Manchurian president.

To FOX and fellow travelers, the indictments were not a reason to discuss what to do and what Señor Trumpanzee should do in response to the attack on our country; they were just all part of a conspiracy to get at their boy Putin, er, Trump. It's obvious that FOX "News" and Comrade Trump don't want us to respond at all, certainly not by imposing the sanctions or investigating how we might defend this country from further attacks.

Just imagine if FOX "News" and wacko social media had existed during World War II. FOX "News" viewers might not even know what actually happened at Pearl Harbor. A Trump version of FDR (sorry Franklin) would have not given his stirring "Day of Infamy" speech. There would have been no Jimmy Doolittle raid on Japan. No Rosie the riveter. No battle for Guadalcanal or the Philippines. Half the country would be speaking Japanese and half would be speaking German. If that's what we really want, we should all probably sign up for Russian language lessons right now. If it isn't, then we need to start having a lot of trials and convictions. Oh, and by the way, Tokyo Rose was an American.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Time For A Late Night Spy Mystery? When Will Mueller Nail Kushner-in-Law?


I don't think it would surprise anyone to hear that Paul Manafort-- Trump's original campaign manager and the likely Putin connection-- is going to prison. But Mueller seems to be ramping up the pressure on him, probably to turn on other, higher up Trump associates. Reporter Jason Leopold broke another piece of the story Monday night. It starts with $40 million in "suspicious" financial transactions (likely looted from Ukraine). "The vast web of transactions," wrote Leopold, "was unraveled mainly in 2014 and 2015 during an FBI operation to fight international kleptocracy that ultimately fizzled. The story of that failed effort-- and its resurrection by special counsel Robert Mueller as he investigated whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to interfere with the 2016 election-- has never been fully told. But it explains how the special counsel was able to swiftly bring charges against Manafort for complex financial crimes dating as far back as 2008-- and it shows that Mueller could still wield immense leverage as he seeks to compel Manafort to cooperate in the ongoing investigation."
Last week, Mueller’s team told a judge that it had evidence Manafort committed bank fraud, and news organizations have reported that the special counsel may be preparing additional charges."
The ultimate goal? The goods on Kushner and Monday evening CNN reported that "Mueller's interest in Jared Kushner has expanded beyond his contacts with Russia and now includes his efforts to secure financing for his company from foreign investors during the presidential transition, according to people familiar with the inquiry." That would be China. And the Arabs.

The theory is that Kushner was the go-between with the analytics operations that were helping the Russians target specific counties, precincts and people to steal the election.
US officials briefed on the probe had told CNN in May that points of focus related to Kushner, the White House senior adviser and son-in-law of President Donald Trump, included the Trump campaign's 2016 data analytics operation, his relationship with former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and Kushner's own contacts with Russians.

Mueller's investigators have been asking questions, including during interviews in January and February, about Kushner's conversations during the transition to shore up financing for 666 Fifth Avenue, a Kushner Companies-backed New York City office building reeling from financial troubles, according to people familiar with the special counsel investigation.

It's not clear what's behind Mueller's specific interest in the financing discussions. Mueller's team has not contacted Kushner Companies for information or requested interviews with its executives, according to a person familiar with the matter.

During the presidential transition, Kushner was a lead contact for foreign governments, speaking to "over fifty contacts with people from over fifteen countries," according to a statement he gave to congressional investigators.

...Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is cooperating with the investigation, attended some of Kushner's meetings with foreign nationals. Under his plea deal, Flynn is obligated to tell Mueller's investigators everything he knows about these meetings.

Last year, Trump said he would view any investigation of his or his family's personal finances as a "violation" by Mueller that crosses a red line. A personal familiar with the investigation who supports Trump suggested that the expanded inquiry falls outside of Mueller's purview. Mueller is authorized to investigate links between Trump associates and Russia as well as "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation."
So why can't Kushner get a security clearance, despite a White House job that demands it? Reportedly he's been asking or top secret documents than anyone else in the Trumpist Regime. Also reportedly, the FBI has reason to believe that foreign governments can exercise influence over Kushner by investing, indirectly, in his family business, which is foundering. Qatar and China are two. But what about Russia?

Labels: , ,

When Will Trump's Life Catch Up With Him? Meet Rachel Crooks, An Ohio Legislative Candidate


Blue America didn't endorse Rachel Crooks because of her Trump saga. We endorsed her because she's running on a Bernie-like platform and seemed to us in a position where she could flip an Ohio state legislative seat from red to blue. The Trump saga will help her do that by bringing her some attention from the media. Like the Washington Post this week. Eli Saslow's story, date-lined Tiffin, Ohio, is powerful and compelling. and I hope it helps bring Rachel the campaign money she needs to get her platform out to voters in the 88th district (parts of Sandusky and Seneca counties). "There were 19 women in all," wrote Saslow, "who made public accusations of sexual misconduct, or 'The Nineteen,' as they had come to be known on T-shirts and bumper stickers. Most had come forward with their stories after Trump launched his presidential campaign in 2015, and the experiences they described having with him spanned five decades. They claimed Trump had 'acted like a creepy uncle,' or 'squeezed my butt,' or 'eyed me like meat,' or 'stuck his hand up under my skirt,' or 'groped with octopus hands,' or 'pushed me against a wall,' or 'thrust his genitals,' or 'forced his tongue into my mouth' or 'offered $10,000 for everything.'"
In response, Trump had called the accusations against him “total fabrications” based on “political motives” to destroy his campaign and then his presidency. “Nothing ever happened with any of these women,” Trump tweeted once. “Totally made up nonsense to steal the election. Nobody has more respect for women than me!”

One woman accused Trump of assaulting her in the middle of a commercial flight after they met as seatmates in the 1970s. Another said it happened in a conference room during the middle of a job interview. Another, a journalist for People magazine, said Trump forced his tongue into her mouth as they finished an interview for a feature story about his marriage to Melania. The list of accusers included a reality-TV host, a runner-up on The Apprentice, a yoga instructor, an adult-film star and several women who had competed in Trump’s beauty pageants: a Miss New Hampshire, Miss Washington, Miss Arizona and Miss Finland.

And then there was Crooks, who had never been on reality TV, never drank alcohol, never met anyone famous until she moved from her childhood home in Green Springs to New York City in the summer of 2005. Nobody else in three generations of her family had ever seen the appeal in leaving Green Springs, population 1,300, but nobody else was quite like her: striking and self-assured at 6 feet tall; all-state in basketball, volleyball and track; the high school salutatorian and “Most Likely to Succeed.” She wanted to backpack across Europe, earn her doctorate, work in high-end fashion and live in a skyscraper that looked out over something other than an endless grid of brown-and-green soybean fields. “New York is where you can make things happen,” she had written to a friend back then, and a few weeks after graduating from college she persuaded her high school boyfriend, Clint Hackenburg, to move with her.

They rented a room in a cheap group house way out in Bay Ridge, and she took the first job she could find on Craigslist to pay rent, at an investment firm in Trump Tower called Bayrock. Her secretarial tasks were to make coffee, water the two office palm trees, polish the gold-trimmed mirrors, straighten the tassels on the Oriental rug at the entryway and sit at a mahogany welcome desk to greet visitors who came through the glass front doors.

She found the work mindless and demeaning, but all around her was the promise of New York. There was Oprah Winfrey, filming a TV show next to the two-story Christmas wreath in the main lobby. There was George Clooney, strolling past the office. There was Trump, an occasional business partner with Bayrock, standing right outside the glass doors every few days with his bodyguard as he waited for the elevator to take him back to his $100 million penthouse on the 66th floor. She remembered that sometimes he looked in and smiled at her. At least once she thought she saw him wave. “If you’re working in that building, you’ve got to at least meet him,” Hackenburg told her, and after five months Crooks finally got up from her desk and went out to say hello. It was early in the morning, and the office was mostly empty. She walked toward Trump, who she remembers was standing by himself in the small waiting area near the elevators. She held out her hand, intent on introducing herself not as a fan or as a secretary but as a business partner.

“Mr. Trump, I wanted to say hi, since our companies do a little work together,” she remembered telling him that day, and then, before she understood what was happening, she remembered Trump becoming the second man ever to kiss her.

“Fiction,” was what Trump’s campaign called her story when Crooks first told it publicly in 2016. “It is absurd to think that one of the most recognizable business leaders on the planet with a strong record of empowering women in his companies would do the things alleged,” the campaign said.

But Crooks’s version of that day was prompting more and more questions in her mind. Why did she sometimes feel as if he was still holding her in place? Why had she spent so much of the past decade recoiling from that moment-- back behind the receptionist desk, back inside of her head, back home to the certainty and simplicity of small-town Ohio? It was just a dreadful kiss, or at least that’s what she kept trying to tell herself to quiet the confusion that had grown out of that moment, turning into shame, hardening into anxiety and insecurity until nearly a decade later, when she first started to read about other women whose accusations sounded so much like her own. Kissed at a party. Kissed in a dance club. Kissed during a business meeting. Kissed while attending a Mother’s Day brunch at Mar-a-Largo. “For the first time, I started to think it wasn’t my fault for being clueless and naive, or for something I did wrong in seeming that way to him,” Crooks said in one of her first public statements about Trump in 2016. Maybe together with the other accusers their stories had power, Crooks thought. Maybe, if the accusations alone weren’t enough to hold Trump accountable for his behavior, the women could force the country to pay attention with better messaging and greater theatrics.

Late in 2017, Crooks agreed to join several accusers for television interviews and news conferences in New York. “A call to action,” the invitation read, because their goal was to demand a congressional investigation into Trump’s alleged sexual misconduct. Crooks wrote herself some reminders for effective public speaking: “Use detail and repetition.” “Make it personal.” “Focus on solutions.” She volunteered to speak first, squared her shoulders and then turned to face the cameras with the poise of the athlete she had been.

“By now all of you are probably familiar with my story,” she said before beginning it again. The 24th floor. His lips coming toward hers. His hands holding her in place until the elevator arrived to take him upstairs. “Feelings of self-doubt and insignificance,” she said.

“I know there are many worse forms of sexual harassment, but doesn’t this still speak to character?” she said. “I don’t want money. I don’t need a lawsuit. I just want people to listen. How many women have to come forward? What will it take to get a response?”

The response that came was waiting every day on Crooks’s computer, so one morning back home in Ohio she woke up and walked downstairs to her laptop. The front door was locked, the shades were drawn, and she sat next to the dog she had recently bought with hopes that a pet might help reduce her anxiety. She navigated to Facebook. “Good morning, Rachel!” read a greeting at the top of her page, and then she clicked open her messages.

Goal Thermometer“Very unbelievable story,” read the first. “Try and get rich some other way.”

“You ignorant, attention seeking cow.”

“Nobody would touch you, especially not Trump. You look like a boy. A gun to your head would be good for our nation.”

She had tried changing the privacy settings on her Facebook page and logging off Twitter, but there was no way to barricade herself from so much hostility. It came into her email inbox at the tiny college in Ohio where she worked as a recruiter of international students. It came when she walked her dog around the block or took her nephews trick-or-treating. “So may stares and weird comments that give me social anxiety,” was how she explained it once to a friend, because now each interaction required a series of calculations. Two thirds of people in Seneca County had voted for Trump. Ninety-four percent of Trump supporters told pollsters that their views were “not impacted” by the sexual harassment allegations against him. So Crooks wondered: Did the majority of her friends, co-workers and neighbors think she was lying? Or, even worse in her mind, did they believe her but simply not care?

“An honest, timeless, values-first community” was how one tourism slogan described Seneca County, and Crooks had always believed those things to be true. Her father had worked 39 years as a mechanic at Whirlpool and then retired with a decent pension. Her sister was raising four children in the same converted farmhouse where Crooks had grown up. Everybody in town knew her family-- four generations of Crooks clustered within a few square blocks-- so a local newspaper had interviewed community members about Crooks’s allegations against Trump. “A fine, wholesome young girl,” her high school volleyball coach told the paper, and that seemed to Crooks like the most Ohio compliment of all. But then the story ended and the comments began, and Crooks kept reading because she knew some of the commenters, too.

“I’m a friend of the family. She’s lying.”

“If he was going to make a move on a woman, it wouldn’t be her!”

“We know Trump has class, so why would he waste his time on some average chick like this?”

In her “values-first” community, it now felt to Crooks as if politics had become a fissure that was always deepening, the facts distorted by both sides, until even her own family no longer agreed on what or whom to believe. Her parents and sister supported her, even if they disliked talking about politics. Her grandmother, a staunch conservative, hugged Crooks after reading the original article about Trump’s harassment in the New York Times but then sometimes talked admiringly about Trump. Another of her relatives was often posting laudatory stories about the president on Facebook and dismissing many of the attacks against him as purely political, until one day Crooks decided to email her.

“Your candidate of choice kissed me without my consent,” Crooks wrote, and then she began to wonder whether there was some way to tell her story, or some piece of evidence, that could change her relative’s mind. During one news conference, she had asked Trump to release the security videotapes from the 24th floor that day, but he never responded. She had not heard from him, or anyone representing him, since she came home from New York. “What can I ever do to prove this happened and that it impacted my life?” she said.

Maybe the proof was the email she had sent to her mother, from the Bayrock office in New York, at 1:27 that afternoon in 2006: “Hey Ma, my day started off rough…had a weird incident with Mr. Trump.”

Or the email she sent a few hours later to her sister at 3:05 p.m.: “I must just appear to be some dumb girl that he can take advantage of… ugh!

” Or the email she sent a few days after that to another relative: “Ah yes, the Donald kiss… very creepy man, let me tell you!”

Or the recorded conversation between Trump and Billy Bush on an Access Hollywood bus late in 2005, months before Crooks says she met Trump by the elevators: “You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful women. I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”

“By all means, have your opinions,” Crooks wrote to her relative instead, because more and more she believed no version of her story could bridge the widening divide.

“It makes me ill, to be quite honest with you... when my own family members not only vote for but publicly defend this person,” she wrote. “For my own sanity, I will not engage you further on this.”
She has an issues page on her campaign website. On healthcare, for example, she wrote "Access to healthcare is a right, not a privilege. I have never understood why two people going to the same doctor might pay vastly different amounts for the same service. It’s a broken system, and we deserve better. Especially because the opioid epidemic has taken hold of our state, and Ohio leads the nation in accidental overdose deaths. We can’t go back to a time when preexisting conditions held people back from receiving care-- from preventive services to life-saving treatments. And we need to maintain Medicaid expansion so that our neighbors and friends, regardless of their income, have access to health care. But we must take a step further and fix our system so it works for everyone."

Labels: , , ,

Battle Ground Dallas-- Texas And Its People Are So Much Better Than Their Politicians


Redistricting takes place at the beginning of every decade, after the census. But in 2002 Republicans won control of the Texas legislature for the first time in 130 years. They immediately set about redrawing the state's congressional districts-- absurdly in many cases-- to send more Republicans and fewer Democrats to Congress. AT the time, Democrats held 17 seats to the Republicans 15. Tom DeLay, then House Majority Whip, oversaw the legislative takeover and then the gerrymandering. After the 2004 election, the Republicans he'd 21 seats and the Democrats 11. One of DeLay's tactics was to carve up Democratic areas-- Austin being the most obvious-- to dilute Democratic votes. Among DeLay's Democratic targets were Max Sandlin (who he replaced with Louie Gohmert) Charlie Stenholm (defeated by Randy Neugebauer), and Martin Frost (one of the top Democratic House leaders and DCCC chair). A Jewish conservative, Frost was a top Democratic rainmaker and was considered a possible future Speaker. He was probably DeLay's #1 target. His district included parts of Dallas, Fort Worth and Arlington. DeLay redrew it by taking out Democratic-friendly areas of Fort Worth and Arlington and putting in rich, white Republican suburbs around Dallas. While Al Gore won the old district in 2000, the new boundaries would have given George W. Bush a huge 68% landslide. The new district was specifically redrawn for right-wing state Rep Kenny Marchant, who still occupies it today. Frost's home in Arlington was shifted into a heavily Republican district, represented by 10-term incumbent Joe "oily Joe" Barton. Frost decided to seek re-election in the newly redrawn 32nd District, which included some of the district he represented from 1979 'til 1993. It didn't work; he lost by 10 points to Republican Pete Sessions, who still holds the seat.

Goal ThermometerThe Republicans have had to gerrymander the district again to exclude an exploding Latino population around Irving and Grand Prairie. DeLay and then Republicans in the legislature  ten years later didn't take the rapid changes in demographics seriously enough. In 2016 Hillary, who had no expectations of winning in Texas, took TX-32 by 2 points, 48.5% to 46.6%. Sessions, who didn't even have a Democratic opponent in 2016, is suddenly a top Democratic target. This morning Gloria Steinem announced her endorsement of Lillian Salerno. "Lillian," she wrote, "is the perfect woman to bring real life to Washington. She worked her way through college and law school, made a life's work out of finding people jobs, and knows what it is to be the single mother of three. It’s so important to elect a leader like Lillian to Congress-- we need more women’s voices speaking up for paid family leave, equal pay for equal work, and policies to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. Texas only sends 3 women, out of a delegation of 38, to Washington right now. This is shameful! Texas women deserve true representation in government. The current representative for Lillian's district, Pete Sessions, voted against the Affordable Care Act, voted to cut Planned Parenthood funding, and even voted against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Women need someone in Congress fighting for them and their families, not actively working against them.

Today there are 7 Democrats vying for the party nomination, including 3 who have raised over 6-figures: Clinton centrist Ed Meier, Obama centrist Colin Allred and independent-minded progressive Lillian Salerno. Blue America has endorsed Lillian and with that primary coming up so quickly-- 2 weeks from tomorrow-- I want to reintroduce her and make another appeal, asking you to help her fund her get-out-the-vote efforts. (You can do that by tapping on the Blue America Turning Texas Blue Again thermometer just above on the right. Meanwhile please take a look at a guest post Lillian wrote:

Defying The Alarming Trend Of Growing Corporate Power
by Lillian Salerno

In 1994, at the height of the AIDS crisis, in which I lost several friends and a beloved employee to the disease, I started a manufacturing company in Little Elm, about 35 miles north of Dallas, to produce the first-ever automatically retracting syringe to eliminate the risk of nurses contracting HIV through accidental needle sticks. The syringe received rave reviews from nurses, hospital executives and public health officials, a major grant from the National Institutes of Health and robust private investment. But when my partners and I tried to sell it to hospitals, we were told time and time again that even though it was a better product-- a lifesaving product-- they weren’t able to purchase it. The primary supplier of syringes, which controlled 80 percent of the market, structured an arrangement with a vast network of hospitals that essentially closed our industry to new firms for good, and the entire rural community of Little Elm suffered as a result.

I thought my story was a unique, that I picked a rotten industry to enter and had to fight hard as a small business just to stay alive. I was so caught up in my own fight for so long, I didn’t see the bigger picture until some years later. Like many, I was inspired by candidate Barack Obama’s rhetoric to restore power to the people, and I entered his administration aiming to fight for small business, to give those farmers and entrepreneurs the government support that the FTC and DoJ wouldn’t to give to me.

When I began to meet with America’s family farmers and entrepreneurs, a painful familiarity began to set in. Suddenly, I began to realize that the medical device industry wasn’t especially rotten, but rather that monopoly had become standard in the American marketplace. Early on, I remember in the drive back after a disheartening meeting with a small business owner, I asked a friend, “what is the government doing about this?” she looked at me and laughed. I realized that I was the government, and while I could help with some auxiliary issues, I didn’t have the power to tackle the structural issue of monopoly. Truth be told, I learned that there wasn’t much of an appetite to take on monopolies in the Obama administration. The candidate who I believed would defy the alarming trend of growing corporate power fell in line.

The consequences of growing corporate concentration are wide-ranging and dramatic. New research shows (Declining Labor and Capital Shares by Simcha Barkai) that around the average worker would be making around 14,000 dollars a year more if the economy was as concentrated as it was 30 years ago. But nowhere are the effects more visible than in America’s family farms and small-towns. Corporations dominate local economies to such an extent that people are unable to start their own businesses or sell into markets. These mega-corporations impede on worker’s freedom to take their labor elsewhere for better pay, they impede on the family farmer’s right to fair pay and access to market. Small town’s no longer have the power to shape their own economic destinies, which were once vigorously protected by federal antimonopoly laws.

Evidence on monopolies impact on small towns can be seen from data on economic recovery. From 2010 to 2014, 60 percent of counties nationwide saw more businesses close than open, compared with just 17 percent during the four years following the 1990s slowdown. During the 1990s recovery, smaller communities-- counties with less than half a million people-- generated 71 percent of all net new businesses, with counties under 100,000 people accounting for a full third. During the 2010 to 2014 recovery, however, the figure for counties with fewer than half a million people was 19 percent. For counties with less than 100,000 people, it was zero.

How did we get here? After the Great Depression, the government used antimonopoly laws to keep markets open and fair for smaller, independent businesses-- in other words, to keep mom-and-pop shops open and Main Street buzzing. These were businesses run by people who cared about and understood their communities, that kept wealth circulating locally, that created the vast majority of new jobs and that were often the source of game-changing innovation.

But in the 1980s, folks in power decided bigger was better, and conventional political wisdom followed suit. For the federal officials charged with protecting competition, that meant that cheap consumer prices trumped all other values, including the preservation of American jobs, open and competitive markets where innovation could flourish, and maintaining level playing fields for start-ups and small businesses. To this day, when government officials evaluate mergers, it’s considered a good thing when they result in job losses-- because that means, in the twisted reasoning we still use, gains in economic efficiency. The hard-working Americans turned out on the street corner to look for new jobs are the human sacrifices to the insatiable beast of corporate concentration.

It is a myth that the economic challenges that family farmers and small-town America face are caused by forces largely outside our control, like globalization or improvements in technology. We have the ability to help restore competition and economic vibrancy in rural America and beyond. The government has the authority to ensure markets are once again open and competitive so that communities have a chance to shape their own economic destinies.

Small town’s aren’t defined by the major corporations that sell in franchised retailers. Small town’s aren't corporate mega-farms. Small towns are the mom and pop stores and the local restaurants, the family farmers and small manufacturers willing to employ someone in the community who’s fallen on hard times. Small towns are unique ecosystems of small businesses and family farmers and if monopoly power keeps growing unchecked, small towns will lose their identity.

Labels: , , , , , ,

How A Good Candidate Becomes A Better Candidate-- By Running For Office


Perhaps you remember that last year Kathie Allen was one of the first Democrats after Trump was installed who took on the difficult task of running in a special election in a red, red district, in her case Utah's 3rd Congressional District, the seat that Jason Chaffetz was abandoning. The district is 90.5% white, 10.2% Latino and just 0.6% Black. The Utah County portion of the district is one of the reddest counties in America and it proved impossible for Kathie. It proves impossible for any Democrat. Hillary took only 14% of it. In 2012 Obama took 10%. We're happy Kathie is running for an open state Senate seat this year-- and we're happy Utah County isn't part of it!

The Utah state Senate is comprised of 29 senators, and only 5 are Democrats. Her district was held by a moderate Republican physician who resigned in December to take a regional post in the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

  Goal Thermometer45% of state Senate 8 lies within CD-03 where Kathie spent 2017 campaigning. And she won that part of the district by 16 points. This is probably the most easily flipped state Senate seat in Utah. And Blue America endorsed Kathie for that seat today. Please consider clicking on the ActBlue thermometer for state legislative seats on the right and contributing to her campaign. In her new race, she will benefit from the great name recognition she got last year from TV ads, billboards, and publicized debates. We have many reasons to be optimistic about flipping this seat. A pressing need she has right now is to collect 2,000 signatures to insure her place on the ballot. Although she have a good base of volunteers, signature collection is slow, painstaking work. She told me yesterday she's trying to accelerate the process by hiring professionals to collect them full-time. We want to help her do that. Before is a fascinating guest post she wrote that I urge you to read. You can check out her Facebook campaign page and follow her on Twitter @kathieallenmd.

The Evolution of A Progressive
by Kathie Allen

Last year, I took on the enormously difficult task of running for Congress in the 3rd Congressional District of Utah, for the seat vacated by Jason Chaffetz. When Chaffetz was still in the race, he made a series of tone deaf comments, which I mocked on Twitter. His most egregious remark was when he said that people had to make tough choices and forego that "shiny new iPhone" so that they could pay their health insurance premiums. My responding tweet indicated that, indeed, people do have to make difficult choices-- and it suggested that people consult my CrowdPac funding page for a better choice of Congressional representative. That tweet got my Congressional campaign off to a roaring start. I earned about $500,000 in just a few weeks and still hold the fundraising record on CrowdPac for most money raised in a day.

In my case, money came in long before I had really had time to crystallize my views on various issues. I hadn’t even definitively made up my mind to enter the race when FEC rules dictated that I file due to the influx of donations. It took time for me to sort out my priorities. As a physician, I knew that healthcare would be a major focal point, but I started out with a much more "moderate" stance than where I landed.

For more than 25 years, I had been active in my state's medical association, the Utah Medical Association. Like a lot of organized doctor groups, it tends to be reactive rather than proactive. As I went through various positions of leadership within the organization, I tried to be a voice for progress and I tried to be very patient. Sometimes it would literally take decades for me to see the issues I care about finally addressed. Some of my physician friends were far less patient. In trying to advocate for universal healthcare, we would inevitably be labelled with the S word-- socialist. There could hardly be a more repellent term to some of these stodgy old doctors primarily interested in protecting their own turf and income. A lot of my progressive colleagues left this organization in frustration long before I did.

Thus, at the beginning of my campaign, I was reluctant to use terms like "universal health care" and "single payer." I'd been conditioned to expect a huge backlash. I was also running in a gerrymandered district where most of the votes came from Utah County, one of the most conservative in the nation. I thought that my message had to be tempered to this constituency.

But last summer was a time of upheaval for U.S. healthcare. We saw the inexorable efforts to repeal the ACA. People lived in fear that they would lose their coverage altogether, or that it would go back to being unaffordable with the reinstitution of "pre-existing conditions." It was in this environment that I decided to launch a series of my own healthcare townhalls. One of our speakers was Dr. Joe Jarvis, a conservative Republican. His power point show clearly demonstrated how much waste we have in our inefficient and expensive system. Dr. Jarvis showed step-by-step how healthcare cannot be considered a "commodity" and how it does not respond to market forces. I also wrote my own op-eds on healthcare reform, went to numerous rallies, and debated with people on social media. All of these interactions helped embolden me. I came to advocate for universal health care without apology or ambivalence.

In the same way, my view on legalizing medical cannabis swung from a "maybe" to a strong "yes." As a physician I knew how to look up the most current research, and I became persuaded that the evidence was strong that medical cannabis is effective for chronic pain and for childhood epilepsy. More evidence is coming in all the time that suggests additional uses-- for PTSD and depression, for example. The opioid crisis in Utah continued to worsen throughout 2017. Every week 5 Utahns died from accidental overdoses related to them. I knew that we could have additional tools with which to manage chronic pain if medical cannabis were legalized. As I witnessed this scourge, it reminded me of what it was like to live with someone with an opioid addiction, namely my physician father. I wrote an op-ed about how his addiction affected my life, and it was published in the Deseret News and can be read here.

There is a ballot initiative circulating to put legalization of medical cannabis before the voters on the November ballot. The people driving the initiative became exasperated with the slow pace with which our legislature embraced the data, and decided to appeal directly to voters, 70% of whom favor legalization.

It is this discordance between what the citizens of Utah want and what our state legislature does that induced me to run for a state senate seat. We have a record number of ballot initiatives this year, aiming to expand Medicaid, institute a fair redistricting advisory board, legalize medical cannabis, and increase state spending for education. We have no female physician and no Democrat physician in either house of the legislature. There are only 5 Democrats out of 29 in our Senate. And my race, in district 8, is said to be the most flippable. District 8 is completely contained within the boundaries of Salt Lake County, which tends to be much more progressive than the rest of the state. And, I have a proven record-- 45% of this Senate district was within my congressional district race just last November. I won this 45% by 16 percentage points! I definitely moved the needle in Salt Lake County, almost tying my Republican opponent who went on to win. Fortunately, the most conservative elements of Salt Lake County are not part of Senate district 8. The demographics of the remaining 55% are similar to the 45% I won a mere 3 months ago. This is not Trump country.

I did pay a price for some of my progressive views. I sought the endorsement of the Utah Medical Association. During my candidate interview I stated that I was in favor of universal healthcare and medical cannabis. Despite my having won an award from the UMA for my prior activism, they chose to endorse my opponent, a non-physician Republican who was in favor of letting the free market decide healthcare. That was the last straw for me, ending my long membership in the UMA. It's not easy being on the vanguard of change!

Labels: , ,

Who's Going To Win In November?


Meet Democraps Jon Ossoff, Conor Lamb and Andrew Janz

170 members of the American Political Science Association who specialize in presidential history participated in an annual poll that ranked every U.S. president. Trump displaced one-termer James Buchanan-- a pro-slavery Democrat from Pennsylvania-- as the nation's worst president. It was obvious from the second Putin installed him in the White House that he would wind up as the worst president ever... but this fast? In an interview yesterday on C-SPAN, historian Douglas Brinkley said "Trump represents kind of a dark underbelly of America." Richard Florida was less specific but tweeted yesterday that "In many ways, the US no longer qualifies as an advanced nation." The point he's been making since Trump took over is that this will ultimately limit ability America's "ability to attract global talent & improve its economic competitiveness."

The new Quinnipiac poll was released yesterday-- a birthday present for me. "American voters say 53 - 38 percent, including 47 - 36 percent among independent voters, they want the Democratic Party to win control of the U.S. House of Representatives this year. Voters say 54 - 39 percent, including 51 - 38 percent among independent voters, they want the Democrats to win control of the U.S. Senate this year." (That's the generic balloting people have been foolishly fretting about over the last month. That Democratic lead is 15 points. Is that why Florida Republican Tom Rooney announced he's retiring yesterday? Or wa sit because Vern Buchanan's lost a state legislative race last Tuesday to an unknown Democratic women in a district not all that far from Rooney's district? Or is because Rooney is still nauseated by Trump?

Not everybody is (nauseated by Trump). [Before we get back to Richard Florida, let me mention that last night Linda Belcher flipped the reddest district a Democrat has won since Trump got to the White House. Kentucky's state House District 49 (Bullitt County) gave Trump a colossal 72% of the vote in 2016. But yesterday voters helped Linda jturn it blue, winning the support of more than 68% of voters. How's that for a swing-- 86 points?] Now, back to Richard Florida. Last week he wrote a post on his blog, The Geography of Trump's First-Year Job Approval. "Trump’s average first-year approval rating," he noted "sits at a lowly 38 percent-- the worst of any president since Gallup started measuring presidential job approval in 1945. But this overall average belies huge variation in that approval rating across the 50 states, according to a recent Gallup poll based on surveys conducted throughout 2017. Indeed, Trump’s approval rating reaches above 60 percent in West Virginia and above 50 percent in 11 other states, including the Dakotas, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Alabama, and Oklahoma... [T]here is a broad Trump approval belt across the Plains, Appalachia, the Deep South, and parts of the Midwest, and a broad disapproval belt on the coasts and in New England, as well as in states like Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Illinois, and Minnesota... [T]his jagged geography of Trump’s approval rate mirrors the fundamental contours of America’s long-standing political, economic, and cultural divides."
Opinions of the president reflect the fundamental cleavage of class, which has long divided Americans along political as well as economic lines. Trump’s approval is overwhelmingly concentrated in less affluent, less educated, more working-class states. It is positively associated with the share of workers in blue-collar working-class jobs (0.76), and negatively associated with income (-0.72), wages (-0.79), education (measured as the share of adults with a bachelor’s degree and above, -0.86), and the share of workers doing knowledge, professional, or creative work (-0.72).

Contrary to the idea that support for Trump is a function of rising unemployment, there is no statistical association between Trump’s approval rate and a state’s unemployment rate. The conventional wisdom suggests that Trump’s rise was bolstered by those losing out from America’s gaping inequality. However, the data complicates that story. Approval of Trump is actually higher in states with lower levels of income inequality, approval being negatively correlated with the Gini coefficient measure of income inequality (-0.40). On the other hand, states with higher levels of inequality are much more likely to disapprove of Trump, with a positive correlation between income inequality and the share of people who disapprove of Trump (0.38).

Approval and disapproval of the president powerfully track America’s widening spatial divide. Approval is concentrated in less urbanized states, while disapproval is concentrated in denser, more urbanized ones. Trump’s approval rate is negatively correlated with two measures of urbanity: the urban share of population (-0.52), and to an even greater extent, the urban share of a state’s total land area (-0.62). (Interestingly, neither Trump’s approval nor his disapproval has any statistical connection to the overall population size of states.) Another dividing line is the car. Approval of the president is positively associated with the share of commuters who drive to work alone (0.45).

...Despite his record low level of overall approval, President Trump retains considerable support in traditionally conservative states in the Plains and Deep South and in parts of the Midwest. Trump’s approval rating is not a break with the past; its geography both reflects and reinforces the basic fault lines of class, geography, race, and culture that have long divided this country. If anything, Trump’s support has deepened America’s persistent red-blue divide.

All of this fits the pattern of Trump’s support as being premised on what Ron Brownstein, my colleague at The Atlantic, has aptly dubbed the “coalition of restoration”-- a geographically concentrated band of working class, white, suburban, and rural support that is bent upon restoring a bygone America.

This political backlash not only signals a more reactionary political agenda, it is also an agenda for economic retreat, undermining key pillars of America’s economic growth and rising living standards. “The much bigger, long-term danger is economic rather than political,” I wrote of the rising tide of conservatism in less prosperous states back in 2011. “American politics is increasingly disconnected from its economic engine. And this deepening political divide has become perhaps the biggest bottleneck on the road to long-run prosperity.”

This is far more the case today.
Not unrelated, the aforementioned Ron Brownstein wrote for CNN yesterday about the places that will decide the 2018 election. He wrote that control of the House will depend on what he calls "red pockets, Romneyland, and blue-collar blues."
Red Pockets

The clearest opportunity for Democrats is the relatively few remaining Republican-held districts in blue metro areas with large populations of college-educated whites, and in many cases substantial minority and youth populations as well. These are places crowded with voters who tilt toward liberal positions on social issues and recoil from Trump's volatile persona, particularly the way he talks about race.

The renewed visibility of gun control issues after the horrific Parkland, Florida, massacre could provide Democrats another lever in these districts, since the Republicans in them have almost universally voted with the National Rifle Association to loosen gun regulations in recent years.

These "red pockets" include the four seats Republicans control in Orange County -- the districts held by Mimi Walters and Dana Rohrabacher and the open seats that will be vacated by Darrell Issa and Ed Royce -- as well as their sole remaining seat in Los Angeles County, held by Steve Knight.

Others that fit this description include the seats in the western Chicago suburbs held by Republican Peter Roskam and in the eastern Denver suburbs held by Mike Coffman; the three suburban Philadelphia seats held by Ryan Costello, Mike Fitzpatrick and Pat Meehan (who has announced he will not seek re-election amid a sex scandal); the northern Virginia seat held by Barbara Comstock; two open seats in New Jersey as well as the one defended by Rep. Leonard Lance; Lee Zeldin's seat in eastern Long Island; the suburban Minneapolis seats now held by Jason Lewis and Erik Paulsen; the Seattle-area seat that Dave Reichert is leaving; as well as the Miami-area seat being vacated by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and the nearby seat held by Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

Though Romney carried many of these seats-- often narrowly-- in 2012, Hillary Clinton won all of those listed above in 2016 except for the seats held by Lewis and Fitzpatrick, which Trump won by eyelash margins. These resemble the places where Democrats showed the most dramatic gains in 2017, for instance in their sweep of legislative seats and the huge margins they generated in the governor's race in northern Virginia.

Compounding the GOP's vulnerability, the new congressional map the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued Monday, after earlier ruling that the current district lines represented an impermissible gerrymander, strengthened the Democrats' hand in all three suburban Philadelphia seats.

For Republicans, the key in these booming districts will be whether the good economy helps them recapture voters recoiling from Trump's personal behavior. One complication is these blue-state upper-middle-class suburbs are among the most likely losers from the GOP tax plan, which limits the deductibility of mortgage interest and state and local taxes. Democrats are highly unlikely to win back the House without maximizing their gains in the red pockets.


The next bucket of seats is demographically similar to the red pockets but politically distinct because they are in metro areas that lean much more reliably toward the GOP.

I call this group of seats Romneyland because they are filled with voters who resemble Romney demographically and ideologically: professionals and corporate middle managers who want a president who will shrink government and even pursue a center-right social agenda, but also exude professionalism and decorum.

Romney won virtually every seat in this category in 2012. In 2016, Trump lost ground relative to Romney in almost all of them, though the residual Republican strength was great enough that he still carried many, albeit often narrowly.

The districts in this bucket include the Omaha-area seat held by Don Bacon; the seats in suburban Houston and outside Dallas held by John Culberson and Pete Sessions, respectively; the two suburban Atlanta seats held by Karen Handel and Rob Woodall; David Young's seat outside Des Moines; the Tucson-area seat Martha McSally is vacating to run for the Senate from Arizona; the Lexington, Kentucky-area seat held by Andy Barr; the seats outside Detroit that Dave Trott is vacating and Mike Bishop is defending; and Kevin Yoder's seat in suburban Kansas City, Kansas.

These seats are not immune from the forces threatening the Republicans in the red pockets: Handel, for instance, only narrowly survived last June's special election in Georgia, though her predecessor Tom Price had carried over 60% of the vote there as recently as 2016.

But as Handel's slim victory over Democrat Jon Ossoff showed, Republicans have more of a cushion in these places than in the red pockets. That's partly because more of the white-collar whites in them are social conservatives than their counterparts in the Democratic-leaning metro areas.

Blue-collar blues

The third key test for Democrats is the districts I call "blue-collar blues." These are the blue-collar, exurban, small town and rural seats in states that generally lean Democratic.

These include Republican seats held by John Faso, John Katko and Claudia Tenney in upstate New York; Mike Bost, Rodney Davis and Randy Hultgren in downstate Illinois; the northeast Iowa seat of Rod Blum; Bruce Poliquin's northern Maine district; and the Central Valley, California, seats of Jeff Denham and David Valadao.

These seats present an especially revealing test for Democrats. Former President Barack Obama carried almost all of them at least once and many of them have elected Democratic House members in the recent past. But House Democrats were routed in these places in the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections under Obama, and almost all of these districts turned further toward Trump in 2016.

The 2017 results in Virginia and Alabama showed Democrats almost completely failing to crack the GOP's hold on blue-collar and rural voters. But some Democrats argue that terrain is much tougher for the party in the South than in the Northeastern and Midwestern states where these competitive House seats are concentrated.

Democrats see an opening in polling, such as the 2017 average of Gallup's daily approval ratings for Trump, that shows a significant erosion in his support across the Rust Belt among working-class white women, even as he remains very strong among blue-collar white men. Converting that female disillusionment with Trump into votes for Democratic congressional candidates is likely the key to seriously contesting the "blue-collar blue" seats.

One early test will be March's special election in the heavily blue-collar southwestern Pennsylvania district that Republican Rep. Tim Murphy has vacated: Democrat Conor Lamb, a former Marine, is running competitively against Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone in a district Trump carried by nearly 20 percentage points.
The Democrats' advantage: in like a lion, out like a Lamb

There he's wrong. Conor Lamb, as we mentioned yesterday, is a truly shit candidate, wrong for the district, wrong for the energy of the day, perfect for the Beltway Democratic establishment and nothing more. Trump-hatred may swing the district towards the Democrats somewhat but Lamb and his campaign are fighting that swing with every move they make. Candidates and campaigns matter. The more garbage candidates like Jon Ossoff and Conor Lamb the DC Democrats nominate, the safer the Republican majority will be. Yesterday, Lamb shot himself in the foot again. This from him... in a district he might have had a chance to win if he had won back the union vote: "I think [$15 an hour] sounds high based on what I’ve been told by many small business owners in our area. I would rather see something that was agreed on by both sides." Republicans already have their candidate. The Democrats desperately need one.

More candidates, for example, like Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA), who happened to mention this to me today: "The Democrats must deserve victory. We should contrast a politics of restoration with a politics of preparing the nation for the future. And we should have candidates run on a bold platform of a $15 minimum wage, Medicare for All, regulating magazine clips and an assault weapons ban, supporting net neutrality, making college debt free as Robert Reich has proposed, and strong antitrust enforcement. These policies have broad support among people and particularly younger voters. We need a clear contrast and to stand for a substantive agenda to win."

I'm not 100% sure what category Austin Frerick's Iowa district would be in, but I asked him to take a look and he sent me a note saying that "Folks in Romneyland to those in the blue-collar blue areas loves our economic concentration message. Who doesn't want fair, free, and competitive markets? Only the robber barons of this era don't like this message. It just takes courage to stand up and say enough is enough and refuse that dirty money." As you can probably guess, he's more like a Ro Khanna candidate than from the confused Ossoff GOP-lite school.

UPDATE: How To Win In A Trump District

David Gill has a prescription: "Even in my district (IL-13), which Trump carried by 5 points, voters will respond to a message from a Democrat that actually addresses their concerns-- that's why I came within 0.3% of victory here in 2012, while all other Democrats have lost here by 50 to 60 times that margin. My message of single-payer healthcare, a $15/hour minimum wage, and tuition-free access to public higher education & trade schools resonates with voters here, whether they consider themselves left, right, or somewhere in between. If I can once again get by the corporate-funded establishment Democrats in the primary, as in 2012, I have little doubt that I can succeed in November."

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

Even after Friday's 13 indictments, Kremlin Agent, Donald J. Trump refuses to defend America against Russia's cyber war on the core of our alleged democracy itself, a war he well knows Russia will step up later this year and in 2020. First, he brazenly asked for Russia's help during his campaign by asking for Hillary's emails, and we know now there is much, much more. More recently, he has refused to put the sanctions of Russia into place, even after they were voted on and approved by Congress. He took an oath to protect and defend the United States and the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic.

This isn't just appeasement. It is dereliction of duty, if one wants to be soft and polite. It's far worse if one wants to be realistic.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Pelosi, The Fate Of The Democratic Party... Stuff Like That


When people ask about Republican gains in generic polls I always point to Republican losses in deep red legislative districts in Missouri, Oklahoma, Florida, Wisconsin...-- what Vanity Fair's Abigail Tracy reported as a potential harbinger of the legendary blue wave in the 2018 midterms that could rob of the G.O.P. of its majority in the House—and possibly, the Senate. Get ready for a big reversal of fortune next month. On Trump's electoral toxicity, she wrote that "since he ascended to the Oval Office, Donald Trump has maintained a vice-like grip on the base of the Republican Party. And yet, while Trump’s popularity has largely proven to be non-transferable, his flagging approval rating-- which, despite a recent uptick, is still hovering in the low 40s-- augurs suppressed Republican turnout and heightened energy on the left in the midterms. So Republican candidates are facing an impossible strategic choice, one that is to some degree independent of the president’s approval rating or any economic factor: tack toward Trump, and potentially lose the center, or forgo Trumpian red meat and watch the base stay home."
“What you do when you appeal to that 33 percent is you peel off another 50 percent of the voters who will go, ‘Fuck you, I will crawl over broken glass to vote against you because you are a goddamn Donald Trumper,’” Rick Wilson, a G.O.P. strategist and vocal Never Trumper, told me, adding that without Clinton, Trump “has to stand on his own two feet.” And although Trump won’t be on the ballot in 2018, every Republican candidate this fall will be viewed as a Trump proxy. Meanwhile, Democrats will have the luxury of focusing their energy elsewhere. “They get to do that because they’re out of power. That’s a big advantage to them,” the Republican strategist told me. “They let the national environment take care of it and they run on issues that are local and important.”

...A string of Democratic upsets in conservative strongholds in special elections since the New Year have opened G.O.P. eyes to the challenge. Last month, Democrat Patty Schachtner secured a nine-point victory in a contentious battle for a state Senate seat in Wisconsin’s 10th District, which Mitt Romney and Trump won by 6 points and 17 points, respectively. Trygve Olson, a G.O.P. strategist who previously managed campaigns in the district, warned on Twitter, “A wave is coming . . . This a suburban-rural district. If the G.O.P. is losing WI-10 lookout!” Even Republican Governor Scott Walker took to Twitter to express his concern about the seat flip. “Senate District 10 special election win by a Democrat is a wake up call for Republicans in Wisconsin,” he wrote.

Republicans were similarly rattled by the Democratic performance in two Missouri special election races. Democrat Mike Revis edged out his opponent by three points in Missouri’s 97th District, which Trump won by 28 points and Romney won by 12 points. Strategists have also noted a trio of elections for bellwether seats in Florida-- the state’s 40th Senate District in Miami-Dade, the St. Petersburg’s mayoral race, and Florida’s 72nd House District-- in which Democrats triumphed. “This is beyond a trend. The results are in. Republicans have a real problem in this state,” Tom Eldon, a Democratic pollster who surveyed the race, told Politico.

...While the political environment may seem primed for a blue wave in the fall, anti-Trump sentiment alone won’t be enough to flip the House. And, fortunately for Republicans, Democrats have struggled to coalesce around a party message. “The mood might help get a few points, but you still have to close the deal on things that are important in your own communities,” Schale said in reference to tight Congressional races, drawing on Jon Ossoff’s special congressional election loss in Georgia as evidence of the limits of anti-Trump enthusiasm on the left. “One of the reasons he lost was he was just another guy who happened to be a Democrat. . . . Ossoff, for all the money he raised, is still a young guy who didn’t have a lot of currency in the district and the race turned on national issues. That wasn’t good enough to close the deal.”
The Republicans are literally running millions of dollars of TV ads in southwest Pennsylvania against Conor Lamb. Lamb outraised Saccone $557,551 to $214,675 but that's chump change in this super-nationalized race. Trump's SuperPAC, Ryan's SuperPAC, the NRCC's SuperPAC and a couple of Dark Money neo-fascist operations-- 45 Cmte and Ending Spending-- financed by anti-American billionaires have flooded the airwave with ads trying to persuade PA-18 voters that Conor Lamb, an inept, nearly worthless Ossoff-like candidate is just Nancy Pelosi in a man's suit. The DCCC has already fled the field and not a single ad has run tying Saccone to the even more unpopular Paul Ryan.

Last week, writing for The Atlantic, Russell Berman asked if the GOP's successful demonization of Pelosi will be what prevents the Democrats from taking back the House. "[A] small group of restive Democrats is gunning for Pelosi," he wrote. "They’re maneuvering in public, and recruiting support behind the scenes, to force her departure. They want to set off a generational shift for Democrats that they believe is long overdue. And their efforts-- joined to the familiar attacks from Republicans, who have made them the linchpin of their bid to retain the House-- are calling Pelosi’s political future into question just as she sits on the cusp of regaining power... If Pelosi’s considerable talents and accomplishments are undeniable, so is her enduring unpopularity."
Pelosi has been a favorite piñata for Republicans from the moment she stepped onto the national stage. The formula of tying just about any Democratic congressional candidate to Pelosi’s record, words, or merely an unflattering image of her face may be stale, but that Republicans keep coming back to it election after election is evidence that it’s effective. Pelosi’s Democratic critics quickly blamed Jon Ossoff’s defeat in Georgia on that tried-and-true tactic. “Nancy Pelosi is not the only reason that Ossoff lost. But she certainly is one of the reasons,” Representative Filemon Vela of Texas said at the time.

And like an army gift-wrapping its battle plans and air-dropping them over enemy lines, Republicans have told Democrats exactly what’s coming this fall. Their ads against Conor Lamb, the candidate running in the next hotly contested House special election in Pennsylvania in March, have starred Pelosi-- despite the fact that Lamb has vowed not to vote for her. “She’s our secret weapon,” Trump let slip during a speech in Ohio, drawing knowing laughter from the crowd. “I just hope they don’t change her. There are a lot of people that want to run her out.”

Pelosi’s allies see a barely-concealed sexism in the Republican strategy, and they argue that it’s no more or less effective than any effort to demonize a political leader. As far back as 1980, Republicans ran ads targeting then-Speaker Tip O’Neill. Democrats did the same to Newt Gingrich, and they’re likely to try to take aim this fall at Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, who polls show are just as widely reviled as Pelosi, if not more.

To a greater degree than presidential candidates, congressional leaders have their public image defined by their political opponents. Their job is less to inspire than to govern, to translate lofty promises into tough compromises. There are no gauzy ad campaigns on their behalf to counter the attack ads or tout their personal accomplishments; voters outside San Francisco rarely see Pelosi in soft focus, as a mother of five and a grandmother of six. “Maybe she should have launched a more aggressive personal public relations campaign to create an image,” Lawrence said. “But I don’t really think that’s important to her.”

In private, Pelosi tends to shrug off the attacks. She’ll flick at her shoulder as if swatting away a fly. “I’ve never seen her upset by it,” Lawrence told me. “She’s been in this business since she was in sundresses in grammar school. She understands the nature of this business. She’s very unsentimental about the business of politics.”

...There has been an undercurrent of Democratic discontent with Pelosi for years. When the party was in the majority, it generally came from Blue Dogs, who fretted that her liberal image was toxic in their conservative districts. Others chafed at her centralized leadership style. Now, however, the opposition is more generational, coming from a cadre of more vocal members-- Ryan, Moulton, Vela, and Kathleen Rice of New York, among others-- who are younger and in most cases newer to Congress and looking to advance. [Berman was probably unaware that they are also all conservatives from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, esp[ecially Long Island slime-bucket Kathleen Rice, one of the most venal Democrats in Congress.]

In interviews over the last several weeks, they acknowledged Pelosi’s strengths and accomplishments, conceding that she was not wholly to blame for the constant barrage of GOP attacks against her. But, these Democrats say, Pelosi sometimes makes it too easy for Republicans by bungling the party’s message or by making an offhand remark that goes awry. They winced when, during an appearance in November on Meet the Press, she referred to Representative John Conyers as “an icon” while the party was trying to get the long-serving Michigan Democrat to resign following allegations of sexual harassment. Rice said Pelosi’s comments “ceded the moral high ground” and set women and the Democratic Party back “decades.”

More recently, Republicans have mocked Pelosi’s arguably over-the-top rhetoric about their new tax law, which she compared to “Armageddon” in the days before it passed Congress. When Pelosi dismissed as “crumbs” the $1,000-plus bonuses and tax cuts going to the middle class, the GOP quickly put the comment in ads characterizing her as out-of-touch with working people.

 “Great leaders know when it’s time to step aside, and I obviously have been calling for her leadership team to step aside,” Rice told me. “I think it would be advantageous to us if that were made clear before the election.”

Pelosi, she told me, “has her reasons for staying, but at some point, it’s up to the caucus to decide.”

Privately, however, Pelosi’s critics in the caucus are far less diplomatic.

“For us to go into this election with her as our leader is absolute insanity,” one House Democrat told me on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly about Pelosi. “No one in their right mind would think this is a good idea. I just think she is putting her own personal interests in front of the caucus’s. And if we don’t win the House back, it is going to be because of her. These districts are hard enough to overcome, and to overcome with an anchor around our neck is political malpractice.”

In an effort to force the issue, this member of Congress is personally advising Democratic candidates to say that they won’t vote for Pelosi as speaker. If enough potential majority-makers rule out supporting her in the crucial first vote on the House floor, she would effectively have no path back to the speaker’s chair.

So far, however, just two Democratic candidates in competitive districts have done so: Lamb in Pennsylvania, and Paul Davis, a former gubernatorial nominee who is running for an open seat in Kansas.

Among more junior House Democrats, there is frustration not only with Pelosi but with the entire senior leadership team, including Hoyer, 78, and Clyburn, 77, who have blocked the paths of younger, ambitious members for more than a decade. Some of them are pushing for the party to join Republicans in adopting term limits for top committee slots, a sore spot for veterans in the Congressional Black Caucus for whom the color-blind seniority system was once the only assured way to accumulate power in Congress.

Pelosi’s allies tend to dismiss her internal critics as a small-but-vocal chorus of attention-seekers. But in the fall, a member of her leadership team broke ranks: Representative Linda Sanchez of California, who as vice chairwoman of the caucus is the fifth-ranking House Democrat. In an appearance on C-SPAN, she called for each of the top three-- Pelosi, Hoyer, and Clyburn-- to transition out. “They are all of the same generation, and, again, their contributions to the Congress and the caucus are substantial,” Sanchez said. “But I think there comes a time when you need to pass that torch. And I think it’s time.”

Then there is the freighted question of who might replace Pelosi whenever she does step aside.

Hoyer, her former rival, has long wanted a shot at the top spot, and he has given no indication of having given up on that goal. He is well-regarded across the caucus and has defeated challengers before, but he’s a year older than Pelosi, more moderate politically, and would be an odd choice for a party that has grown more diverse and moved farther to the left in the last decade. In the event that Pelosi steps down, Democrats close to Hoyer view him as someone with the necessary experience to serve as a bridge to the next generation of party leaders, according to a Democrat familiar with those conversations. Whether the caucus would go along with that kind of transitional plan, however, is unclear.

The top contenders now figure to include Sanchez and Representative Joseph Crowley of New York, a Queens powerbroker who is chairman of the caucus. Both have made no secret of their desire to move up, and Crowley briefly considered challenging Pelosi in 2016. The same goes for Ryan and Moulton, who have also not ruled out long-shot bids for president in 2020. Representative Adam Schiff of California is another possibility, having used his post as the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee to become the party’s leading voice on the Russia investigation and a fixture on cable news-- and drawing Trump’s ire in the process. Schiff also owes his newfound prominence almost entirely to Pelosi, who as party leader had sole discretion to elevate him on the committee.
Again, no mention that Crowley is the single most corrupt Democrat in Congress-- the conduit for Wall Street bribes to the caucus-- as well as the former leader of the right-wing New Dems. Adam Schiff, after his district was redrawn to include seriously left-wing parts of L.A. (Hollywood, Silverlake, West Hollywood and Los Feliz) gave up his membership in the Blue Dogs and became a nearly as conservative rotten New Dem. Members who serve with Moulton in committee tell me it's like serving with a Republican.

I've been very critical of Pelosi for a very long time. Is she better than Hoyer, Crowley, Rice, Moulton, Ryan, Schiff? Yes, a million times better. Why is it that the mainstream media always talks about garbage members as possible replacements? Why not Mark Pocan? Why not Ted Lieu? Why not Pramila Jayapal? Why not Ro Khanna? Who feeds these shitbag congressmembers to the media as the only choices if Pelosi retires? Thank God they at least stopped talking about Wasserman Schultz as an heir.

Gaius sometimes reads these posts before they get published. Now and then he suggests fixes to outrageous typos, Today he suggested something more important: "I would ask, why is it that none of the congressmembers named above is putting her or his name 'out there'-- in bold Sanders-like fashion-- as a caucus choice? Of course they won't win. But popular opinion can't coalesce around a hat that's never in the ring, that's always waiting for 'just the right time'? Worse, it makes these progressives seem compliant, or careerist, or frightened. Makes it look from the outside that 'bold progressives' may never think it's the right time to openly challenge for Party leadership. If people ever get that idea, support for them will fall."

Labels: , , , , , ,