Archive for Parties

Jul
20

Reality show trial

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Soon after Republicans nominated reality TV star Donald J. Trump for president last night, New Jersey governor and failed Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie conducted a reality show trial for Hillary Clinton in prime time. It might have been less creepy if some faux cardinals burst onto the stage armed with soft cushions. But no, there was only one, soft Chris Christie repeating debunked allegations against Cinton and asking the mob(?) in the coliseum, “Guilty or not guilty?”

The theme for last night was Make America Work Again. Nobody seemed to speak to it. They were too busy attacking Hillary Clinton.

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Jul
10

More to it than platforms and candidates

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The Twitter thread yesterday from the DNC’s platform committee meeting in Orlando was pretty entertaining. There was a lot of passion from the Bernie Sanders delegation. The debate on fracking was particularly heated. Filmmaker Josh Fox (Gasland) spoke in favor of language to ban the practice:

The Orlando Sentinel reports:
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Jul
05

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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Jul
02

Warren broadens her attack

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Last Saturday’s post addressed ways to disrupt commercial the forces undermining our democracy. Ways to restore balance to the Force, if you will. Today, please look at Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s speech to New America’s Open Markets meeting. Warren attacks consolidation itself, not just in finance but across industries including the tech sector, as an anti-competitive trend that must be stopped by more hard-headed regulation.

Earlier this week I mentioned Warren’s roll as principled antagonist for all the right corporate lapdogs in Congress. Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism echoes those thoughts in response to Warren’s Open Markets speech:

Warren is continuing to be a thorn in the side of powerful interests. And even though bona fide progressives are disappointed on her support of our misadventures in the Middle East, and her general fealty to feckless Team Dem positions outside her particularly interests, the concentration of economic power and the resulting high corporate profit share of GDP is a big part of why capitalists are partying while workers struggle. Warren is taking on a central topic that is starting to mainstream traction. Even if Warren falls well short of being the Great Progressive Hope, it’s a mistake to disregard how she uses her bully pulpit to undermine a key justification for the rise of inequality in our society: that the operation of markets is always and ever virtuous and therefore outsized pay and profits are justly earned. The more monopolist wannabes are seen as parasites, the better off we will be.

Paul Glastris writes at Washington Monthly:
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Jul
01

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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Jun
30

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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Jun
29

Just a change of conservative

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Via Paulette Mitchell Lein at Readeatlive blog.

So there were runoffs yesterday in South Carolina. This stuck out:

COLUMBIA — Voters fired a backlash against Statehouse incumbents in runoff elections Tuesday as a string of veteran lawmakers were tossed out of office, including controversial Spartanburg County Republican Sen. Lee Bright, who made gender bathrooms and defense of gun rights a cornerstone of his last months in office.

[…]

Bright, who is also known for his failed bills to track refugees resettling in South Carolina and to limit which bathrooms transgender individuals can use, lost to former state Rep. Scott Talley, a favorite of both Gov. Nikki Haley and the S.C. Chamber of Commerce. Both had been critical of Bright’s over-the-top stances.

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Jun
26

Tired of feeling like roadkill?

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Matt Taibbi last week took on the “lesser evilism” of a Democratic Party that seems to believe “all people who fall within a certain broad range of liberal-ish beliefs owe their votes and their loyalty to the Democratic Party.” He sees lesser evilism (think of it as a variety of TINA – There Is No Alternative) resulting from a party structure dependent on large-money donors. Often, the banks Taibbi has dissected like a cadaver:

This is why the thinking within the Democratic Party has gotten so flabby over the years. It increasingly seems to rejoice in its voters’ lack of real choices, and relies on a political formula that requires little input from anyone outside the Beltway.

It’s heavily financed by corporate money, and the overwhelming majority of its voters would never cast a vote for the nut-bar God-and-guns version of Republicanism that’s been their sole opposition for decades.

So the party gets most of its funding without having to beg for it door to door, and it gets many of its votes by default. Except for campaign-trail photo ops, mainstream Democrats barely need to leave Washington to stay in business.

Still, the Democratic Leadership Council wing of the Democrats have come to believe they’ve earned their status, by being the only plausible bulwark against the Republican menace.

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Jun
23

“You’ve got to stand for something if you want to win”

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The 2014 midterm elections were a disaster for Democrats across the country. Appearing on Meet the Press afterwards, former DNC chair Gov. Howard Dean complained about their lack of message, “Where the hell is the Democratic party? You’ve got to stand for something if you want to win.”

It takes more than that. You’ve got to demonstrate you are willing to fight for it too.

Yesterday, some Democrats finally did. By sitting down for over twelve hours to demand a vote on “no fly, no buy” gun control legislation. In the wake of the Orlando shootings, they’d had enough:

Georgia congressman John Lewis deployed a strategy from his days as a civil rights activist and coupled it with social media to stage a dramatic sit-in Wednesday on the House floor with his fellow Democrats to force a vote on gun control — and disrupt political business as normal well into the night.

[…]

“Sometimes you have to do something out of the ordinary, sometimes you have to make a way out of no way,” said Lewis, one of the last living icons of the civil rights movement. “There comes a time when you have to say something, when you have to make a little noise, when you have to move your feet. This is the time. Now is the time to get in the way. The time to act is now. We will be silent no more.”

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Jun
20

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
delegates:

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
selecting?

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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