Let Camelot Rise Again

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Yesterday during the day, I heard Tom Brokaw seem to infer that the Democratic Party’s decision to have Rep. Joe Kennedy III give the Democratic response to the State of the Union as looking backwards. I have to admit, he seemed to have a point- JFK was elected President 58 years ago. Rep. Kennedy’s Grandfather was assassinated 50 years ago this years. Ted Kennedy has been gone from the U.S. Senate eight years now. The allure of Camelot, perhaps, is yesterday’s news.

Then I listened to Joe Kennedy III’s speech, and well, Tom Brokaw got it wrong. While 2020 may be a bit premature for Kennedy to run for President, but I saw the makings of a future national leader. He spoke with the moral compass of his famous grandfather, RFK, and with a strong grasp of policy issues facing our nation. They got the backdrop right, getting him out of Washington, DC to give the speech. He seemed to relish the moment of being the official response to the President’s first State of the Union.

The Kennedy brand seems poised for a solid comeback. Now far enough removed from the “dynasty” fears of the 1960’s, and far enough removed from some of the scandals that followed RFK’s death, the country is ready again. Congressman Kennedy’s uncle Chris is running for Governor in Illinois, and while his star might not be as bright as Joe’s right now, he would be the most significant victory for the famous political family in nearly a quarter century. Even if he fails though, Joe Kennedy appears ready to carry the flag for the family of President John F. Kennedy.

I, for one, am rooting for Joe. It’s not that I don’t want new names and leaders to emerge, it’s not that at all. I want the greatness that Kennedy’s represented to rise again. I want the hope, and the genuine positive feelings people felt in them to rise again. I want the moral, liberal leadership that Robert F. Kennedy to rise again. I want the sense of enchantment that the country felt from Camelot to rise again. America could use some leadership it respects to rise up. I have hope that Joe Kennedy III could be that leader.

The speech:

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The State of Our Union is Bad.

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Tonight, Donald J. Trump will give the “State of the Uniom” to Congress. That seems a lot more fitting than it should be. To imply we are a UNION is to imply some level of unity. The hellfire that is American civic life has no unity. Our politics are resorting ever increasingly towards tribalism, our institutions failing to act, and the pulpit of our leadership being used to feed propaganda and lies to the public. One might imply Donald J. Trump caused this. I would argue he is the symptom.

Our institutions don’t work. Our Congress is incapable of addressing national issues, unless those issues benefit the wealthy in cash form. Tax cuts and spending cuts happen, but rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, raising wages, and guaranteeing access to health care are expenses that are “out of the question.” Our national debt is used as an excuse to not invest in our people, but is rarely an issue when it comes to paying government contractors and cutting taxes. Meanwhile millions of Americans face deportation after the expiring Dream Act, millions lack health insurance, and millions lack basic housing. Our Congress is broken.

Our courts show more interest in protecting the rights of capital than the people. They hoist freedom of speech protections on corporations and shadow political groups, while not always protecting access to the ballot. Our high court is predictably partisan, and is willing to protect their party any chance they get. Our lower courts are increasingly packed with younger, ideological, incompetent judges who lack experience. Our trial courts can’t be accused of fairness or justice, from a purely statistical view, towards people of color. Our judiciary is not fair or impartial, but increasingly it is broken.

Our press is under assault, from our President, no less. An institution that should be progressive, just by demographics (reporters are largely college educated), practices in false equivalency to give regressive voices “fairness” for lies about things so broad as trade, climate change, and even our justice system. In return for the unfettered ability to spew propaganda, Trump and his allies call actual news reporting “fake news,” and question it’s veracity next to paid mouthpieces like Tomi Lahren. Even under this abuse, even as the demagogue calls their legitimacy into question, they report lies as facts. This didn’t just start, by the way- just look back at the Iraq War.

Our social movements no longer unite us at all, but are used to further divide us. Yes, Civil Rights and the anti-war movement of the Vietnam era divided America, but our divides today are essentially walls between us. As Black Lives Matter rose to question the treatment of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement, they were called anti-cop. As MeToo rose to highlight sexual assault and harassment towards women in our society, questions have risen as to whether or not they are simply seeking revenge against all men. When Occupy Wall Street rose to highlight income inequality, many questioned if they were just anti-capitalist anarchists, intent to destroy American prosperity. American elections can easily be predicted now, based on demographic turnouts. Our ability to discuss our differences have been drowned out by cable news formatting. Gender politics are deepening every passing week. Open racism is more accepted than it has been at any point in my life. The idea of genuine social progress is actually a debatable thing. We seem hopelessly divided.

The haves are doing better than ever, our have nots are doing even worse. Our new tax code was better to those with yachts than those seeking to write off their state and local taxes. The corporate tax cuts were made permanent, the middle class tax cuts phase out. The pay roll tax declines in it’s ability to fund Social Security and Medicare with each passing year since President Reagan signed the current version into law. The minimum wage hasn’t been increased in over a decade, federally. Union membership becomes less common every year. Billionaires can increasingly buy elections through Citizens United. Our President brags of his pace in deregulating our economy. We are sliding towards oligarchy.

And yes, there is our President. He is ignorant on policy matters. He is a racist. He is most certainly a sexist. He is seeking to manipulate our Department of Justice into working for him. He calls entire continents “shitholes.” He equates Nazis with regular protestors. He pays off porn stars for affairs. He golfs instead of working. He attacks reporters on twitter. He wants to build a wall along our southern border. He breaks up American families. He bans religious groups from coming here. He insults entire regions of the world with inflammatory policy decisions. He supports pollution. He is a bad man. I could go on. And on. And on.

I’m not even scratching the surface here. I’m not mentioning Russia invading our democracy, our falling standing in the world, the protectionist scourge driving our economic policy right now, or the multiple wars we remain engaged in. This American carnage threatens our very quality of life, our way of being. It must end, we need leadership now. It is leadership we lack though. Our President, our Congress, our civic way of life is rotten right now.

This American carnage is killing us. The State of our Union is bad. Rotten. Terrible.

My Top Ten Phillies Prospects List

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At the end of each January, good news rings in my head- “Spring Training is coming!” There’s nothing better than the return of baseball to me, but sadly I’ve only once been to Clearwater for the Grapefruit League season (2011). This year, Spring Training fever has been delayed a little bit, in favor of Super Bowl fever, but baseball is my main love, in the end.

The 2018 Phillies should be a better team than the 2017 version. Some of the top young prospects in the organization have now arrived. Some are about to. Even so, the main intrigue in the Phillies universe, at least for one more Spring, is in the prospect world. Last year I went to 42 professional baseball games, and approximately half of them were minor league games. I expect that to be the case again. I spent a lot of time watching minor league games on TV too. With all that baseball, I was bound to have a top ten prospects list. Here is my version of that Phillies list:

  1. J.P. Crawford-SS- Philadelphia- A tough first half of 2017 dropped Crawford from being nearly the top prospect in baseball to the 30’s in most rankings. I think they’re all getting it wrong. Crawford actually impressed me, even in his struggles, holding up his fine defense and gifted plate discipline. The Phillies probably moved Crawford along a little fast, but his second half in AAA was so good that he got a September call-up, and played well enough that he is the likely Opening Day Shortstop of the big league club now. I still a first division starter, if not better, in Crawford.
  2. Sixto Sanchez-SP- Clearwater- So this guy is basically the consensus arm to watch. He’s one of the few prospects I haven’t seen live, but I’ve watched plenty of him to see the talent. He has a legitimate power fastball, with movement. He’s got breaking stuff that is electric. He’s got stuff, lots of stuff. This Summer could be a lot of fun to watch.
  3. Franklyn Kilome-SP- Reading- So Kilome’s control and command might not be finished products. Even so, I see this Summer as the Summer he leaps forward. Kilome can throw a baseball very fast. He’s lanky, and deceptive. His breaking stuff is capable of being MLB stuff. At the least, I see a back end of the bullpen arm. At the most? He could arrive for 2019.
  4. Scott Kingery-2B- Lehigh Valley- So, Kingery is the top rated second baseman on MLB Pipeline. The guy I saw is a really, really good player. He’s a plus hitter, has a good glove, and has plus speed. Even so, I think some have jumped ahead of themselves in over-rating Kingery. Yes, he hit a bunch of home runs, in Reading, where everyone seems to hit a lot of home runs. His power numbers came back to Earth in AAA. Does this mean he isn’t the future at second base? Of course not. I just am not as completely convinced he’s a dramatic upgrade on Cesar Hernandez, let alone worthy of comparisons to 2008 Chase Utley. He’s absolutely a future MLB starter type, and maybe even a star, but I want to see how 2018 gets started before we crown him. Even so, be excited.
  5. Mickey Moniak-CF- Lakewood- So people were rating the 2016 #1 overall pick as the top guy in the system, in some corners. He got off to a good start in Lakewood, but then tailed off badly as the season went on. I haven’t given up on his sweet swing though. Moniak was playing his first full season of professional baseball. He was playing against mostly older players, players with college experience. Growing pains were to be expected. Expect Moniak to bounce back fine.
  6. Jorge Alfaro-C- Philadelphia- Alfaro tailed off after a fast start in AAA. He had some concerning splits in his slash line, especially in his OBP. Even with his plate discipline issues, Alfaro’s ability keeps him on this list. He has plus power and a great arm, the kinds of tools that could make him an elite starting catcher. Still though, since he’s out of options, he will have to improve his shortcomings in Philadelphia. If things work out though, he’s got elite talent.
  7. Adonis Medina-SP- Clearwater- He doesn’t throw 100 mph, and he’s not the kind of big frame you expect in a top of the rotation guy, but Medina has three pitches and guys don’t hit him hard. He probably projects in the mid-to-back-end rotation range, but he continues to defy expectations at each level.
  8. Adam Haseley-CF- Clearwater- Last year’s top pick out of Virginia could move fast this Summer. He went from Rookie League to Williamsport, and from Williamsport to Lakewood in his first partial year in pro ball. Like Kingery, he’s a top talent from an elite college program, so we may see very quickly if he is going to work out. His first year suggests he will hit his way to the majors in short order.
  9. Jhailyn Ortiz-OF- Lakewood- Ortiz was expected to hit for power when the Phillies signed him at age 16. He hit .302 this past Summer though at Williamsport, and the 19 year old seems ready to make the jump to full season. His talent still suggests special capabilities ahead.
  10. Jojo Romero-SP- Clearwater- The lefty throws four pitches for strikes, and he’s had solid success early. This is a big year for him to prove that his early success was real.

CLOSE BUT NOT QUITE- Enyel De Los Santos- SP- Reading, Thomas Eshelman-SP- Lehigh Valley, Cornelius Randolph-OF- Clearwater.

A Realist’s Ode to Hillary

Part of me wants to be happy for her. She appears at a Broadway showing of Hamilton, they give her a standing ovation. Her husband introduces her as a Grammy Winner at a Fleetwood Mac event, the crowd goes nuts. She shows up at the actual Grammys, reading “Fire and Fury,” and she steals the show. In some ways, it’s poetic- the woman who took 25 years of public ridiculing and shaming, on everything from her husband’s policies to her being “over prepared,” is finally being applauded and cheered. She’s finally the former First Lady, U.S. Senator, Secretary of State, and first ever woman nominated for President by either party, the woman who won the popular vote with an inspiring 65 million votes. The feminist movement we all hoped would push her to the White House, finally broke out in her political memory. Hillary’s finally the patron saint of a big chunk of American liberals, and that’s both cool and well deserved. We may even find out she was robbed of the Presidency by Russians, voter suppression, James Comey, and severely biased news coverage (oh, wait…).

There is something absolutely maddening though about the cult of Hillary that still exists, especially for someone who was on the campaign. She was the best candidate running. In fact, I think she would have been the best President of my generation, even with my undying love for Bill and Barack. But she’s not the President, and that’s because she lost the election. Did the stuff I mentioned above perhaps tip the election against her- I obviously believe so. Did her campaign let it get so close? Yes. I keep going back through and asking myself the why’s. Why did she get that private server? Why didn’t she go to Wisconsin? Why did she think the only places that existed in Pennsylvania were Philadelphia and Pittsburgh? Why did Bill Clinton think it was a good idea to have a meeting with Attorney General Lynch on a plane tarmac? Why didn’t she hit Bernie earlier and try to knock him out before he could damage her? Why did she buy into myths about demographics being destiny, and that they were the reason Barack Obama won? Why was an algorithm setting her campaign schedule? Why did the field program skip persuasion? Why, why, and why? I could go on all day. I love the woman and think she would have been a great President, but the campaign left so many questions that I often find myself frustrated while I watch Donald Trump’s daily blooper roll that we call a Presidency.

I was not originally a Hillary Clinton fan in 2008, in fact I really questioned why she should be our nominee over more experienced people like Chris Dodd and Joe Biden early on. As the race wore on though, I became an admirer, and joined her campaign in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, basically for the price of food, gas, and a bed to sleep in. I then moved on to Ohio, where they gave me a real paycheck, and I served as her Deputy Field Director for Early and Absentee voting. The whole experience was draining. Our team in Horry County, South Carolina was the only team in the state that had a good primary day- it was the only county she won in the whole state against then-Senator Barack Obama. My month in Ohio came as Obama’s campaign dropped more than a dozen victories in a row on us, and every Tuesday was a nightmare, as we dealt with loss after loss, and I saw the long, sometimes teary-eyed faces of colleagues who had put their lives into her Presidential hopes. Ohio was an awful, grueling, gritty campaign experience, one that I must confess was not usually all that enjoyable. She did win the state though, and I celebrated election night right where one might expect an Ohio staffer to- a bar in Pittsburgh. I was done with the 2008 campaign, and I went home after that, eventually even working for President Obama. I loved Hillary, I wanted her to win, but it was just done for me. I would spend the next six years hoping she would try again, because I felt she would do the job well. President Obama did win, he did hire her as Secretary of State, and she did the job well.

So along came 2016, or should I say 2015, when she entered the race for President again. I wanted to work the campaign at first, but after seeing what was available to do at the time, I really wasn’t looking to run all over America again. So I stayed in Pennsylvania, and I raised money for the campaign. It was all small donations, and I’m betting was only a couple grand, but it’s what I could do. The campaign was frustrating to watch from the start, with negative coverage and questionable decision making. Even friends in Brooklyn seemed less than receptive to constructive criticism, and things just never felt right. I went to some primary states, most notably New York, to help with get-out-the-vote, and the outcome was never really all that close or in question, but things just never felt easy. The media coverage was negative. The campaign plan seemed like it targeted “too narrow” of a vote. She seemed to not even contest the places she had been winning in 2008– as though she was a different candidate.

I spent a couple of days of the convention in Philadelphia, and the bug bit me again. I didn’t care where I had to go, I was down for it. So I made some calls, and started interviewing with states, and by the time Labor Day rolled around, was going to North Carolina for GOTV. I ended up being brought on quicker for internal reasons I won’t discuss here and now, and off I went. The people I worked with were actually really awesome, talented, inspiring people. I met some people I really liked down there. The people I worked for were people I’d run through a wall for again in a future race. I made some deep, last connections down there, and got to spend the final seven weeks of the election in the Outer Banks. The campaign though, because of factors beyond anyone I was dealing with’s control, was a bit of a mess. The field program seemed to assume there were no persuadable voters, it seemed rigidly set to the plan, even if the data was contradicting it, and it seemed like the organizing principle was quantity- not quality. Despite the fact that my 15 counties had been a very close swing area in both 2008 and 2012, I never saw Hillary, and only got Chelsea in to campaign three days before the election (on the final day of early vote). Number crunchers were driving the ship from Brooklyn, rather than some of the amazing pastors, community leaders, and organizers I had on the ground telling me what they thought we needed to do. The entire experience was rather frustrating, and I guess I should have seen how the ending would go- a group of my organizers and volunteers crying or in shock, sitting in a hotel room in Elizabeth City. Things looked so good in the first week of early vote, but there were signs in the last two weeks of how things were turning. By the final days, the KKK was actively out campaigning, which should have been a sign of the changing mood in rural North Carolina.

Without commenting on the talent of the people I worked with, which I think was probably about a wash, I do think the 2008 Hillary Clinton campaign would have smoked the 2016 one. It was more nimble, it was more flexible to the conditions on the ground, and it’s appeal was far more broad. In 2008, Hillary Clinton simply lost to a once-in-a-lifetime talented candidate in Barack Obama. In 2016, Hillary lost 101 electoral votes across Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Florida, and Arizona by a grand total of roughly 457,000 votes. Against a guy who had a skeletal ground game, a lack of message discipline, and less money spent on ads. There is no doubt that Trump marketed himself well, and understood his base, but I can’t help but feel like it should not have ended up this way. This brilliant woman deserved a better campaign. America deserved better, after all, more of it voted for her. Like I said, it’s majorly frustrating.

Let’s be honest though- “but her emails.” Did we ever really have a chance? Let’s be honest with ourselves…

 

 

I wish the above was a joke, I really do. These tweets pretty much tell the story though. Her opponent in the November Election was literally a racist, old, ignorant, incapable imbecile who literally bankrupt casinos (how?) and didn’t pay his contractors. He is somehow the candidate of the working class though. Part of this is the inadequacies of her campaign. More of it is the garbage you saw above. The problem is, that garbage is all from January 29th, 2018, over a year after her former opponent took office as President. It’s never going to change, which is why we basically have to move on.

This week’s controversy over a staffer (who I vaguely know) accused of sexual harassment not being fired in 2008, at Hillary’s discretion, is par for the course again. Should Hillary be getting this scrutiny from this? No, of course it’s being blown up. Her response though was somehow so inadequate that it left people on all sides being upset. Should she have just said she made a mistake in judgment towards a staffer who she knew and trusted? Yeah. Could she have done that? Look at the tweets above and tell me she would have been treated fairly. Seriously, look at that. If Hillary announced that she had the cure for cancer, that would be debated on equal par with Donald Trump being able to read complete sentences off the teleprompter tonight at the State of the Union. The false equivalency that was 2016 was totally mishandled by Hillary and those closest to her, but that also doesn’t change that she probably got the worst treatment from the press in the history of American electoral politics. I know though, but her emails…

My take on Hillary is that she was a giant of her generation, a figure for history that will be judged very kindly. As a Presidential candidate, she will be a far more revered version of Al Smith (the first Catholic nominee for President, by the Democrats in 1928), a trailblazer who lost, but who’s opponent ended up being a disaster in office, and a candidate who’s candidacy opened the door for a future woman to break the glass ceiling, in a similar way to the relationship between Al Smith and JFK, some 32 years later. She’ll get high marks overall for her time as Secretary of State, and history will be much kinder to her very progressive record as a U.S. Senator from the state of New York. I think she earned that positive space in history, as someone who America battered and blamed for everything from her husband’s infidelity, to the Iraq War, to our own ignorance in electing Donald Trump. Time will be on her side, history will be much more kind.

But hot damn, we’re all left her wondering “what if”…

Why Tom Brady Won’t Be Visiting the White House in 2018

A few years ago, after the Patriots won the Super Bowl over the Seahawks, Tom Brady turned down the opportunity to visit the White House, at the invitation of Barack Obama. That’s his right, so no one can blame him for that. He went when Donald Trump invited him in 2017. I don’t think he’ll get the opportunity to make that decision in 2018.

Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of his time, and maybe of all-time. His Patriots opened as one of the larger favorites in Super Bowl history, giving 5.5 points to the Eagles. The Eagles will play in this Super Bowl without the best quarterback in football this year, Carson Wentz, as well as without future Hall-of-Fame offensive lineman Jason Peters, electric return man Darren Sproles, and star linebacker Jordan Hicks, among others. If you’re lazy, you’ll assume the outcome from that. How in the world did this team get here?

Well, that’s the point, and that’s been the point, going back to when I told you to not count the Eagles out, after Wentz went down. The Eagles lost several Pro-Bowl level players and still went 13-3 in the regular season. They still beat the Atlanta Falcons, the reigning NFC Champions. They still beat the Minnesota Vikings, who possibly had the best defense in football this season. Here they are, in the Super Bowl. What’s that tell you about this roster? What can you make of a team that is 15-3 and in the Super Bowl, with all of those injuries? That’s a pretty good squad, right?

Here’s some facts about this game:

  • From the start of the second quarter in the Giants game (Week 15), the Eagles defense has surrendered five touchdowns. That’s 5 TD’s in 19 quarters.
  • Jay Ajayi and LaGarrette Blount, behind an offensive line with two All-Pro first teamers, present one of the most dominant rushing attacks in the league.
  • New England’s defense has greatly improved since week one. It still gave up twenty points to Blake Bortles.

What’s all of this mean? Brady is certainly better than Foles, and Gronk is some sort of other-worldly creature, but if you stop there, you’re missing the point. The defense Brady and Gronk will face is one of the very best in the NFL this season, and the offense the Eagles will put out on the field probably has about the same number of question marks as the defense they are facing. Both teams have kickers who can steal points from far away at the end of a half. Both teams are reasonably well coached too.

The hottest unit on either team going into this game is the Eagles defense. They will carry that through the Super Bowl. I don’t think they’ll shut down Brady like they did Case Keenum, but I do think they’ll remain on a roll. Will their offense give them enough points to win? After watching what they did to the Vikings, my answer is yes.

The Intersection of the Indians and 2018

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The Indians announced today that they will no longer use the “Chief Wahoo” logo on uniforms after the 2018 season. From the New York Times:

The Cleveland Indians will stop using the Chief Wahoo logo on their uniforms beginning in 2019, according to Major League Baseball, which said the popular symbol was no longer appropriate for use on the field.

The logo has long been the source of anguish and frustration for those who consider it offensive, outdated and racist, but for many of the team’s fans it is a cherished insignia — a divide that has played out at all levels of sports in recent years with teams featuring such nicknames and insignias. Most universities have stopped using Native American nicknames, while other teams like the Washington Redskins in the N.F.L., for example, have resisted growing pressure to do so.

Chief Wahoo, a cartoonish caricature of a Native American that has assumed several forms over the years, first appeared on the Indians’ uniforms in 1948. In recent decades various groups across North America have appealed to the team to renounce the logo, to no avail. But over the past year the commissioner of baseball, Rob Manfred, has pressured Paul Dolan, Cleveland’s chairman and chief executive, to make a change.

The Cleveland Indians are not the only team with a Native American team name and/or logo in major sports. Obviously the Washington Redskins are the most famous and controversial, but one could also throw in such famous team names and mascots as the Atlanta Braves and the Florida State Seminoles. They have all faced varying levels of protest, and they have responded in different ways.

I must confess that I have a Native American aunt, who has never brought the issue up to me, and is ironically married to a Washington Redskins fan. With that said, I’ve also given the issue very little critical thought. On the one hand, I don’t think naming teams after Native Americans, or individual tribes, should be in any way offensive. On the other hand, that’s not what’s happening in many of these cases. The word “Redskins” is not a name of a tribe, it’s a derogatory term for Native Americans. The Chief Wahoo logo is not a depiction of an actual Native American, but rather an exaggerated cartoon. On the other hand, I don’t see any reason at all that you can’t name Florida State as the Seminoles, or Chicago as the Blackhawks, provided that you are properly depicting them from a historical standpoint. There’s obviously a fine line between paying homage to the first Americans by naming teams after them, and offensively depicting them in manners that don’t do them justice.

As for Chief Wahoo- I think the team probably got this right. It took pressure from MLB and Native American activists, but they got to the right answer. Chief Wahoo was drawn up in 1932, and frankly the stereotypes of that time are largely not acceptable today. I don’t put their hat on the same level as the Washington Redskins being named after an actual slur, but that doesn’t mean they are wrong to act on the matter.

Now excuse me while I go hide my “Palmer Indians” little league hat.

Sorry- But if You Want a Lasting Democratic Majority, You’re Going to Have to Engage Republican Voters

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In 1992, Bill Clinton was elected President, along with solid Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. Congress had been solidly Democratic basically since FDR, and Clinton went about governing the first two years, as he had been elected to. His approval was actually very good throughout most of the two years, and he would go on to a commanding re-election, but in 1994 the Democrats lost both chambers of Congress with a dramatic thumping. In the years since 1994, Democrats have held the House of Representatives for just four out of twenty-four years (4 of 24). The Senate side has been slightly better for Democrats, with them holding control for 9.5 years out of 24.

For the better part of the last quarter century, Congress has been a Republican institution. Democrats have shown they could win a couple of wave elections during a very, very unpopular war and economic crash, but that’s about it. The result has been that for just two years each in the Presidencies of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, Democrats were actually able to govern. While Democrats have won the popular vote for President in every election since the Cold War ended, except for 2004, it has been the Republicans who have presided over the actual business of governing this country. Presidencies are great, but Congress is where governing happens.

As a veteran of the Hillary campaign, one of my chief beefs with our leadership from that campaign was the geography of our campaign- that is, that our candidate continuously visited the large metro areas, and did not spend as much time out in the suburbs or in small cities as past Democratic nominees. Hillary Clinton never stepped foot in northeastern North Carolina, the traditional swing area that I worked for her, and neither did her husband (he was quite popular in the area). She never went to traditional Democratic strongholds in Pennsylvania like Allentown, Wilkes-Barre, State College, Reading, or Bethlehem. There is the whole Wisconsin story, which is pretty famous now, about her not going at all. How much do candidate visits actually matter? More so when you don’t do them, especially when the opposition’s line against you (in both the primary and the general) is that you are an elite who doesn’t care about the everyday people in these places. That sentiment did Clinton in with some of these swing state voters. While Hillary carried all of the suburban Philadelphia counties, and carried a traditionally unbeatable 400,000 vote margin out of Philadelphia itself, she lost Pennsylvania. She saw a 40,000 vote swing against her in Luzerne County (Wilkes-Barre), a 15% swing against her in Lackawanna County (Scranton), a fall from a 15% win to a 900 vote win in Monroe County (the Poconos), and became the first Democrat to lose Northampton County (Easton and Bethlehem) since 1988, by 5,000 votes. All of those counties have a Democratic Congressman. All of those counties voted for Barack Obama. And John Kerry. Three of them were for Al Gore. And Bill Clinton.

There is a certain comfort for Democrats in the urban core, particularly in national races. The fact of the matter though, is that Democrats do better when they get beyond their safe havens. While Hillary lost North Carolina by under 200,000 votes, Roy Cooper was elected Governor, and Josh Stein Attorney General- both campaigned across the state. While Hillary lost Pennsylvania by just over 40,000 votes, Josh Shapiro was elected Attorney General, Eugene DePasquale as Auditor General, and Joe Torsella as Treasurer. Our obsession with our “blue” enclaves has a serious impact on our ability to win statewide elections, but it’s even more pronounced in Congressional and state legislative races, where the governing actually gets done. Democrats have close to maxed out the cities for seats in Congress. You can find one or two seats left in the New York Cities of the world, but you can’t find the 24 we need to win back the House in 2018. The road to the majority does not go through the places where our base vote lives.

Fortunately for the short-term Democrats, 2018 is shaping up as a potentially good year. The President has several senior aides under indictment or headed to jail, his approval has consistently been below 40%, and we have an enthusiastic female base that might just barely give us back the House on their own, organically, if we don’t stop them. There are 23 seats that Hillary won who have a Republican House member (and about 5-10 she lost with a Democrat), and an increasing list of retiring Republicans in somewhat vulnerable seats, which should give us an opportunity to win the House, this year. Suburbs in Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Alabama gave Democrats solid wins in 2017, fueled by disapproval of Trump. The short-term is good for us, thanks to just being on the wrong side of 2016.

If we do win the House in 2018, standard logic is that we should be able to hold it in 2020. The GOP was able to hold their new majorities in 1996 and 2012, even as they lost Presidential elections, and Democrats held their majority fine in 2008 after the 2006 wave. Of course it’s worth noting that Democrats then lost their majority in 2010, and 2022 could be a similar election if we are successful in defeating Trump in 2020.

Here is the simple fact: whether it’s beating Trump in the electoral college in 2020, or building a lasting Congressional majority, the road to doing so is not bleeding more votes out of our base. This doesn’t mean stop registering new Democrats in our strongholds, this doesn’t mean throw the base under the bus on policy issues, and it doesn’t mean to talk about some new message that we don’t have yet, that will supposedly change voters minds. First and foremost, it means be present in more places, in more communities. Second, it means running authentic candidates for the communities they are running in. Third, it means centering the conversation at a district level, not a national, one-size-fits-all approach. Finally, it means talking about more, if not all, of our platform, and not just the things our insiders want to see. You see, you have to offer people things they are interested in, if you expect to get their vote. We have stuff for suburban voters to like.

There is a resistance to some of these ideas though. There are Democratic activists (just look at my Twitter) who are both absolutely opposed to bothering with any Republican voters at all, but also to trying to embrace the Bernie-left. They have a math problem. Democrats are almost assured of 48% in national elections, going back to Bill Clinton in 1996, every Democratic nominee has received at least 48%, and we’ve won Congress just twice. Our base of votes can’t build us a durable majority right now. It’s not big enough.

Their response usually centers around people who are not voting now. End voter suppression, register more people, cater to our base, they say. Those are all good things, I don’t oppose a single one of them. There is a chance that if we do that, we win in 2020, although it is not an absolute lock- again, Hillary hit her metrics in the Philadelphias of the world, while still losing. Trying to expand the base more could win us back the White House, so it’s good, but it’s also the right thing to do. I support it. It will not build us a durable, lasting majority.

If you bring in a bunch of new voters in Democratic areas, they will probably be Democrats. If you bring in a bunch of new voters in Republican areas, they will probably be Republicans. Voter registration is great, but it’s not magic. Demographic trends tend to stay true with new voters, as they are with existing ones. Unless there is some magic way to only bring new people in from one area (it’s called targeting), there’s not a real advantage to it. If we target right, we can add tens of thousands of new voters- in already blue districts. There are about 190 solid Democratic districts in this country, and this strategy will make them even more solid. That doesn’t get us to a lasting 218 seats in the House though.

In the end, the way forward for Democrats is we have to persuade someone. The Berners say this should be the white working class voters who began leaving us after Civil Rights, but frankly, that’s not workable. You’re not going to bring in people diametrically opposed to your base and think that coalition can last. White collar suburbanites main issue with us is taxes, but they are bothered by the blatant racism coming from our President. The truly poor white voter, making under $30,000, voted for Hillary in 2016, and could be a group with targeting for growth, but it’s not entirely that simple. Not persuading any group to come over is not really an option for Democrats though, if winning a majority in the majority of the seats is the goal here.

The solution is probably in the portion of the electorate who voted for Trump but had misgivings. His low point in approval was 32%, he’s currently sitting around 37%, and he got 46% in the 2016 Election- so there is a small pocket of people who picked him because they didn’t pick her. There’s no love there for either party, probably just opposition to taxes that out-weighed concerns and dislike for Trump. For a lot of Democratic activists, targeting these people is sacrilege. In reality, they’ve yet to show a better idea.

Regardless of who, in the end the point is that Democrats must grow beyond their existing base. A nation in which we are assured 48% and they are assured 46% yields consistent Republican majorities in Congress, which has lead to a consistent chipping away at the values Democrats hold dear. Being willing to lose, just so you can hold purity in your views, is the height of privilege. People who are suffering don’t get that option. As the party who is supposed to represent them, neither do the Democrats.

Skol? **** ‘Em, Go Philly.

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Today would have been my grandfather’s 88th birthday. Like me, Richard Wilkins Sr. was a Philadelphia fan, four for four, and I often times look back on what that must have been like in his lifetime when judging what it’s like for me. I find it was probably frustrating. For whatever reason, we seem to keep passing our fandom down though.

Philadelphia sports were tough when my grandfather was young. It took 50 years for him to see the Phillies win a World Series, the only he’d see. The Eagles won three NFL titles, all by the time he was 30. The Sixers and Flyers added a few too. All told, Philadelphia won a title roughly every 8 years of his life.

Frankly, I’d take that ratio. I was a month old when the Sixers won in 1983, and I wouldn’t see another champion until the 2008 Phillies won. I’ve lived through four Phillies World Series, of which they won one. The Sixers have been in two NBA Finals, with the only win coming in my infancy. The Flyers have lost four Stanley Cup Finals in my life, winning none. The Eagles? This is NFC title game six. They have one win, and they lost the Super Bowl that year. Technically I’ve seen a title every 17 years. In reality? It’s been worse.

There is no tortured fanbase like the Eagles. It’s been 58 years since they won an NFL Championship. That was not a Super Bowl, as the Cowboys, Giants, Redskins, and other local fanbases let us know. The die-hares spend every August calling into WIP, predicting it will be their year. They watch as it never is. Neighboring cities like Baltimore, New York, Pittsburgh, Washington, and Boston get their day. Eagles fans are left with memories of Fog Bowl, Ronde Barber, Jake Delhomme, and even SpyGate.

Tonight as this game kicks off, I sort of know the drill- how can back-up Nick Foles beat the elite Vikings defense. How can this time be different for a blue-collar fanbase that gets picked on for their strong home field advantage. This should be the fifth time I watch the Eagles lose an NFC Championship game. Ask the media. Ask Vegas. Ask the Super Bowl ads with career scrub Case Keenum already in them.

But while we’re waiting for kick off, if you’re cheering for #Skol, and you’re not from Minnesota (or a long time fan), you can go **** yourself. It’s time for this Bird Gang to get it done.

The GOP on DACA- The Japanese Internment Camps of Our Time

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The Republicans in Congress are about to shut down the government because they don’t want to pass DACA. To be clear, that is the only real way to read this situation. Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House, and between them, they can’t bring themselves to pass DACA into law. They have a solid majority in the House, but they have only 51 Senators, meaning they need 9 more Democrats to get this government funding bill. Democrats demanded CHIP funding (children’s health care) and DACA (Differed Action for Childhood Arrivals) in exchange for help getting to 218 House votes and 60 Senate votes. Republicans are incapable of making the deal, basically at this point because of DACA.

What DACA does and doesn’t do is critical to understanding this issue. DACA deals with 800,000 undocumented immigrants out of the estimated 11-12 million undocumented immigrants in this country. The key terms of being eligible for DACA:

  1. You arrived here as a child, essentially saying you were too young to make your own decision to come here, or act as your own agent.
  2. You’ve been here more than 5 years as of the dates set in the programs. You’ve been here long enough to be a part of our society.
  3. You have no felony convictions, no “major” misdemeanors, or any combination of three misdemeanor convictions. In other words, you’re not a criminal element making trouble in our society.
  4. You’re working or going to school here. You’re a productive member of society.
  5. Program eligibility was set as of 2012, so you couldn’t have come here since then thinking you’ll get DACA protections.

In other words, these people came here as children, they’ve lived here for years, they’re law-abiding citizens, they’re productive, and they didn’t come here since the program started, looking for amnesty protections (in fact, this means they’ve been here considerably longer than 5 years at a minimum, at this point). These are basically people who had no criminal intent, and are productive in our society.

Here’s the worst part- these DACA program members stepped out of the shadows and handed over their personal information when they applied for the protections. So now that we’re going back on the promise of protection, we’re using the information they handed over in trust to our government to deport them.

Why are we doing something so inhumane? Basically because Tom Cotton and David Perdue seem to have won out over Lindsey Graham in the battle to influence the President on this subject, and the President then killed a bi-partisan deal to handle DACA. They did this because they want to pass some white nationalist immigration bill that stops a lot of legal immigration from non-European nations, because their base of support wants to keep America “white.” Of course, Donald Trump who promised to build a wall along our Mexican border is eager to stand with them.

We are going to kick Americans out of their home country and send them to countries they have never really known to appease a bunch of white nationalists. We’re going to do so despite the fact that these people are productive members of our society. We’re going to do so using the information they willingly provided to our government. It will take generations to regain the trust of people in immigrant communities. It will ruin lives. It will break up families. It will please people who still believe in a “dominant race” theory of nationalism.

Now I know how decent people felt about the Japanese Internment camps in World War II.