Archive for Presidential Race


Not there yet on education

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Photo by Josconklin [CC BY 3.0], via Creative Commons.

Democrats’ platform draft contains a plank on education that leaves Diane Ravitch with doubts. It reads in part:

Democrats are also committed to providing parents with high-quality public school options and expanding these options for low-income youth. We support great neighborhood public schools and high-quality public charter schools and we will help them to disseminate best practices to other school leaders and educators. At the same time, we oppose for-profit charter schools focused on making a profit off of public resources. Democrats also support increased transparency and accountability for all charter schools.

Days ago, Ravitch wrote at her blog:
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Fear and loathing in Trumpmerica

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George Saunders has a lengthy piece in the New Yorker based on months of up-close observation of the Trump phenomenon. Rally after rally of interviewing Trump supporters and Trump protesters. It’s a fascinating series of vignettes telling a tale of the simmering anger gripping much of America:

Where is all this anger coming from? It’s viral, and Trump is Typhoid Mary. Intellectually and emotionally weakened by years of steadily degraded public discourse, we are now two separate ideological countries, LeftLand and RightLand, speaking different languages, the lines between us down. Not only do our two subcountries reason differently; they draw upon non-intersecting data sets and access entirely different mythological systems. You and I approach a castle. One of us has watched only “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” the other only “Game of Thrones.” What is the meaning, to the collective “we,” of yon castle? We have no common basis from which to discuss it. You, the other knight, strike me as bafflingly ignorant, a little unmoored. In the old days, a liberal and a conservative (a “dove” and a “hawk,” say) got their data from one of three nightly news programs, a local paper, and a handful of national magazines, and were thus starting with the same basic facts (even if those facts were questionable, limited, or erroneous). Now each of us constructs a custom informational universe, wittingly (we choose to go to the sources that uphold our existing beliefs and thus flatter us) or unwittingly (our app algorithms do the driving for us). The data we get this way, pre-imprinted with spin and mythos, are intensely one-dimensional. (As a proud knight of LeftLand, I was interested to find that, in RightLand, Vince Foster has still been murdered, Dick Morris is a reliable source, kids are brainwashed “way to the left” by going to college, and Obama may yet be Muslim. I expect that my interviewees found some of my core beliefs equally jaw-dropping.)

Saunders documents the rallies he attended so we didn’t have to. Out of this, a fuller picture emerges of Trump supporters:
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Can you hear us now?

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“Out of touch” is a perennial criticism of candidates from both major parties. The Brexit vote in the UK was an exercise in politicians misreading their voters. This year, however, the presence of Donald Trump and His Amazing War Chest leaves Democrats at risk of developing a false sense of security. It doesn’t help that FiveThirtyEight predictions favoring Democrats just get rosier. But as I said last September, so long as the T-party controls state legislatures and the Congress, who Democrats elect as president won’t much matter.

From where many of us sit, the presidential race is a distraction unless the Democratic candidate sends sends us lawyers, guns and money, and provides coattails for our state-level candidates. Talk of landslides just worries me that Democrats will stay home and our local candidates will suffer. If voters are going to come out in November for a contest between two candidates with high disapproval ratings, they will need a reason, something to vote for.

That’s why op-eds like Sarah Eberspacher’s in the Guardian give me pause. She cautions against the tendency on the left to write off white, male, blue collar voters like those from her rural Illinois hometown (or here on the edge of Appalachia) as racist, sexist, and uneducated:

The Democratic party – and by that, I mean the party gatekeepers with power to wield media influence, which worked out great for the Brexit vote – are writing off those hardcore racists as an overblown minority that is making more noise than they can translate into votes. But overlooking “regular Joe” moderate voters like the ones who filled my childhood could be our undoing.

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Enforcing norms of reciprocity

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Reducing human decision-making to a binary this or that choice turns humans into Flatlanders with no other dimensions to their thinking. So the rush to explain last week’s Brexit vote as simple xenophobia or stupidity is rankling. (Don’t get me started on the complaint that people voted against their best interests.) A flush of articles examines the human psychology that led to it.

Time magazine quotes Drew Westen (“The Political Brain”):

“There’s a very legitimate reason to be concerned about immigration,” says psychologist Drew Westen of Emory University. “Unfortunately ISIS has given would-be fence-sitters the permission to vote out of some combination of conscious or unconscious prejudice or bias.” That hardly means that pro-Brexit Britons acted out of racism; it does mean that people who do traffic in racism had more power to influence voters than they would have had in more peaceable times.

Writing for Scientific American, Julia Shaw cautions that the Leave camp mirrored Donald Trump’s appeals to fear undercut the brain’s ability for rational decision-making:
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To Veep or not to Veep?

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The idea of Sen. Elizabeth Warren joining Hillary Clinton on the Democratic presidential ticket leaves me uneasy, as much as I would enjoy the show. Warren brings real progressive chops to a presidential campaign that could use it with the electorate in an anti-establishment mood. Plus, she brings a lot of her own star power. Warren proved yesterday in Ohio she can sure wow a crowd as Clinton cannot. And brother, can she get under Donald Trump’s skin. From the Guardian:

Warren laid into the presumptive GOP nominee, characterizing him with a now familiar line as a “small, insecure money-grubber who fights for no one but himself”.

“I’m here today because I’m with her,” she said, as Clinton stood by her side. “She doesn’t whine. She doesn’t run to Twitter to call her opponents fat pigs or dummies.

“Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States because she knows what it takes to beat a thin-skinned bully who is driven by greed and hate.”

And the crowd goes wild.

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Super-delicate situation

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Video by Full Frontal.

Democratic members of the Congressional Black Caucus are vehemently opposed to abolishing so-called superdelegates from the presidential nominating process. Setting the stage for a possible confrontation, the CBC sent a letter to both the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders campaigns, Politico reports:

“The Democratic Members of the Congressional Black Caucus recently voted unanimously to oppose any suggestion or idea to eliminate the category of Unpledged Delegate to the Democratic National Convention (aka Super Delegates) and the creation of uniform open primaries in all states,” says the letter, which was obtained by POLITICO. “The Democratic Party benefits from the current system of unpledged delegates to the National Convention by virtue of rules that allow members of the House and Senate to be seated as a delegate without the burdensome necessity of competing against constituents for the honor of representing the state during the nominating process.”

The letter from Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina provides some personal history on how the present nominating process developed since 1972. He makes three key points for consideration before the party makes changes regarding unpledged delegates. (Superdelegates, Clyburn notes, is a pejorative term found nowhere in the rules):

Let me be clear, our delegate selection process
is not rigged. It is transparent to the public and open
for participation for all who wish to declare
themselves Democrats. There are three questions,
however, that we should all ask ourselves as we
approach the 2016 Convention and consider whether
or not to allow the continuation of unpledged

Number (1), Do we want to force party leaders
and elected officials to compete against their
constituents and party activists for delegate
slots to our national conventions?

Number (2), Do we wish to force our elected
officials to jeopardize their candidacies by
declaring their presidential preferences in the
middle of their campaigns?

Number (3), Should we expect party leaders
and elected officials to give unbridled support
to presidential nominees they had no role in

For newcomers to the process this stuff is pretty weedy. However, one comment from the Politico column gets at why the CBC will fight to retain unpledged delegates (emphasis mine):

“The superdelegate system is not perfect but it has worked for us quite well over the years and frankly the superdelegates have never needed to cast any superdelegate votes to alter what the voters did during the primary elections,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver. “Never. That’s not the case this year either. The concern many of us have, of course, is that our numbers would shrink in terms of having influence over and involvement with what happens at the convention.

The Hispanic Congressional Caucus stands with the CBC, Cleaver says.

I have not walked in the shoes of a black voter, especially one from the South. But I have seen enough to know that black Democrats view procedural matters like this through very different eyes. One anecdote may illustrate that.

So speaking of weedy, annual precinct meetings here occur either at the polling place where the precinct normally votes or at an alternate publicly accessible location nearby. But getting access to community centers, libraries, etc. for the meetings on a set day and hour once a year is problematic, putting many party meetings in conflict with community groups’ scheduled monthly meetings. It’s a chronic problem. So at a state convention a couple cycles ago, a (white) delegate proposed modifying state party rules to allow meetings to be held in people’s houses. Seemed innocent enough.

Black delegates erupted in protest (mostly older women). How many of their friends would feel welcome attending their annual meetings at a strange house in a strange (possibly white) neighborhood? No way, they argued. Such a change would suppress participation among their community. They insisted — no, demanded — the existing rules be kept in place. Only neutral, public locations for the meetings. The proposed change failed.

It was a real eye-opener (and not the last). Their lived experience gave them a very different perspective on what appeared at first to an older, white male to be an innocuous request. I got schooled.

For what it’s worth.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Wicked Witch of the West: You cursed brat! Look what you’ve
done! I’m melting! melting! Oh, what a world! What a world!

Reaction is coming in swiftly to The Self-Immolation of the Republican Party by Matthew Continetti, editor of the Washington Free Beacon, son-in-law of the ever-incorrect Bill Kristol, and author of “The Persecution of Sarah Palin.” Continetti would like to nominate the Republican Party for a Darwin Award for nominating Donald Trump for president. As the party melts down, Continetti writes:

It’s a joke. All of it: his candidacy, the apparatus of propaganda and grift surrounding it, the failures of governance and education and culture that have brought us to this place. What disturbs me most is the prospect that Donald Trump is what a very large number of Republican voters want: not a wonk, not an orator, not a statesman, not even a leader, really, if by leader you mean someone who persuades and inspires and manages a team to pursue a common good. They just want a man who vents their anger at targets above and below their status.

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No intelligent life

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Sketch of a “spaceship” creating crop circles, sent to UK Ministry of Defence circa 1998. via Wikimedia Commons.

“Writing about a Donald Trump speech is like trying to describe the whiplash,” Jim Galloway wrote in the Atlanta Journal Constitution when Donald Trump visited town back in February. Trump was back again yesterday. George W. Bush was the U.S. president who thought Africa was a country. Now comes candidate Donald Trump who thinks Belgium is a city.

Andrew Stroehlein lives in Brussels.

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He’s not gonna take it anymore

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So now Donald Trump’s campaign has revoked the press credentials of the Washington Post because the paper called him out for suggesting President Obama is somehow complicit in the mass shooting in Orlando. (The Post staff responded with mocking tweets.) Because the president won’t use the words “radical Islamic terrorism” to describe these incidents, Trump implies (as a lot of right wing commentators do) that there is “something going on” with the president. This is the gilded King of Comb Over’s idea of subtlety.

Charlie Pierce had this to say about Obama’s response yesterday:

That is the great blessing of having a president whose big bag of fcks is empty and gathering dust up in the Residence. His great gift in the first place was to be the chillest president who ever lived, and that was when he was trying to find his way out of the mess the last guy left behind.

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He’ll fix the problems with all the dead crops

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Interspersed with Dave Weigel’s dispatches from the Libertarian National Convention in Orlando, a clip from Idiocracy came across the Twitter feed yesterday and for some reason it wouldn’t get out of my head after that. From Think Progress:

Speaking to an audience in California on Friday, presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump told the crowd “there is no drought” in their state.

Trump claimed there isn’t a real water shortage. Instead, he said, state officials are intentionally denying water to farmers in the middle of the state — choosing to reroute the water to the ocean to protect an endangered California fish called the delta smelt.
“It is so ridiculous where they’re taking the water and shoving it out to sea,” Trump said. “There is no drought. They turn the water out into the ocean.”

TPM continues:

Trump said that if he were president, he’d have a simple solution.

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