Earth Day- Our Beautiful Earth

Today is Earth Day. It’s worth noting that while climate change is the most clear and present danger, there are plenty of other issues facing us:

  • A potential mass extinction in the oceans.
  • A Brazilian government open to cutting down the rain forests.
  • Poaching continuing to endanger many species around the planet.
  • Major issues with plastic killing marine life.
  • Pollution causing many diseases, including asthma.

The battle for our planet is not just about climate change, despite the consensus in the scientific community about it’s seriousness. There are so many other important issues facing our environment, regardless of your political stripes. These issues are having an impact on our air, water, food, and health, right now. These issues were not always political. Richard Nixon, for example, created the EPA. This is not an issue that needs to divide us.

It does though, and that is idiotic. Every great species we kill, every puff of black smoke we breathe, every piece of plastic in our ocean, every drop of dirty water we drink, it all has an effect on us. This isn’t about being a tree hugger, or hating business, or anything else- it’s about loving the beautiful planet we have. It’s about fishing in your favorite stream, hiking your favorite trail, and taking pictures of your favorite wild animal- we’re all in this together. Your planet is the only one you have, and with basic regulation, the only one you need. Protecting our planet is not a left-right issue, but a rare good-bad one that reveals a lot about us- like it or not.

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The Likely Outcome of Impeachment

It was over a decade, but John McCain’s percentage of the vote should be familiar to you- he got 46% of the vote. McCain is generally viewed as an honorable, if flawed man, but had to run against the tides of history- an unpopular war, an economic meltdown, an imbecile running mate, a historic opponent, and most of all, an unpopular President from his own party. Four years later, Mitt Romney had to run against a popular President, with a growing economy, and he managed to bump his performance up to a whopping 47%. In 2016, the Republicans nominated a reality TV star that got caught on video saying “grab ’em by the pussy,” who had bankrupt casinos and stiffed contractors, and was hardly someone that should have appealed to Evangelical voters- he got elected President with 46% of the vote. I’m not a gambling man, but if I was, I would not take the under on Donald Trump getting 46%. It appears to not matter who the GOP nominates- they are getting 46%. Bank it.

It’s this reliability and stability in the GOP’s electorate that allows them to stick by their leaders, regardless of what happens. The Republican Party almost ceases to exist in some of the biggest states in the country, namely California and New York, but their stranglehold on “red” states, and even their enclaves in “swing” states remain solidly in their hands. Even as Democrats spent millions of dollars telling the country how bad Trump was in 2016, it did nothing. Republican voters stuck by him. No matter how terrible he is, he’s better than the alternative, to them.

So you’re going to have to excuse me saying this- no Republicans are coming to the Democratic position on impeachment. Zero. That’s even more clear in the Senate, where Democrats would need at least twenty Republican Senators to cross over and vote to convict. There are not twenty Republican Senators who would be considered “endangered” right now, in fact there are at least 34 that could credibly say the politics in their states favor backing Trump. In other words, you enter the impeachment process with no pathway to convicting the President.

What about the argument that the hearings could change that dynamic? I direct you above, to the part where I told you this President said of women that you can “grab ’em by the pussy,” and the video was released nationally, and he was elected a month later. Exactly what do you think could be said about Donald Trump to diminish him among the 46% that would vote for a turnip to be President, if it were the Republican nominee? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. There is no low, no embarrassment that would change their minds. Nothing. And knowing that, there’s no Republican members of Congress to move. Even for the few you’d flip trashing him, you’d lose others.

What of the argument that the hearings could galvanize Democratic voters? It’s hard to prove either way. What I do know is that we spent 2016 exposing his fraudulent behavior, his vulgarity, his lack of knowledge, and every bad trait that Trump has, and we got 48% of the vote- a lot, more than he had, but not enough. There are limits to how motivating the negatives on Trump are, even to Democratic voters. At least that’s what history tells us.

What harm could impeachment do? When Watergate began in 1972, it wasn’t a broadly popular investigation, nor was Nixon unpopular, but it grew into a movement that eventually pushed him out of office. Not every investigation takes that route, of course. Iran-Contra ended as a dud, having no sizable impact on any election, and largely not sending the principles to jail. The Whitewater investigation into Bill Clinton did end in impeachment, which in turn actually caused the Republicans to lose seats in the 1998 midterm, serving as the modern political argument against impeachment. While Democratic activists passionately want to impeach Trump, the rest of the electorate sits solidly (34-48%) against it– even as they give Trump the lowest approval in that poll of his Presidency. The political will for impeachment isn’t there, and the past shows it to be risky to push through that.

There is a solid argument that says the Democrats must do the right thing, for history, for the rule of law, and for our constitution. Of course, the tricky thing is what “the right thing” is? If there is truly no pathway to conviction of Trump in the Senate, if impeachment may politically help him, is it “the right thing” to impeach the President? Is the possibility of a second Trump term, possibly with a Republican House, and the probability of more Supreme Court appointments worth it? Even if we assume his guilt, which I do, what’s the value in impeaching him with no chance to convict. Yes, it might make me feel good, but what’s that do for the people Donald Trump is actively hurting every day he is in office? Is it worth risking RBG’s seat on the Supreme Court? Risking four more years of inaction on climate change? Risking more children in cages? What risk is too much to pursue something that is almost certain to fail?

Politics can be emotionally unsatisfying much of the time. I have concluded that the odds of removing Donald Trump from office, at this time, are approximately zero. I have also concluded that there is no way to fail at removing the President without paying a political price. It would feel better to impeach Donald Trump, and the Mueller report does show that he deserves it, but I think it’s a losing idea. I’m not against holding hearings, subpoenas for documents, and keeping the door open for impeachment in the future. I think going into that today though is a fool’s errand.

Here’s the good news though- there is another way to remove Donald Trump from office- beating him in 2020. If Hillary Clinton has just received 49% instead of 48% in 2016, she would have probably (assuming they weren’t just more base, blue state votes) won at least four more states, and been elected President easily. She did that against incomparable negativity aimed her way, from the primary season through Election Day. She did so despite the fact that attacking Trump largely did not work. If the Democrats spend half as much time building up their potentially electable candidates as they do looking for a way to make impeachment happen, they absolutely can beat a President who’s approval is at -18%. We can win in 2020. We should win in 2020. We have to win in 2020. It’s really the only way forward.

There’s No Actual Bernie Momentum, So What’s Actually Going On?

Hit pieces on Neera Tanden. Declarations of “victory” over Fox News. Accusations that Democrats are “agonizing” over how to beat Bernie. Even reporters threatening twitter users with “doxxing” for criticizing their work on Bernie:

https://twitter.com/regwag2003/status/1118287071104372736?s=21

Yes, this is real life. It’s not even one incident.

https://twitter.com/katierogers/status/1118239852720533505?s=21

I keep asking myself the same question- why the f**k does the press keep covering for this guy? Like, I come to all the normal “white bread” answers that leave me unsatisfied- they’re hyper educated big city kids that think socialism is cool, they despise the overly secretive “Clinton Washington” crowd, they think the system is broken, etc. I just find that answer quite unsatisfying. This guy gets a pass for his lack of achievements in Congress, his lack of realistic details in his plans, his creepy essays, his lack of a job until he was 40, his hiring a Putin stooge, his bad votes on immigration, guns, and the crime bill, and everything else, from so many reporters. The answers for why this happens fall flat for me. Even things like the investigation into his wife bankrupting a for-profit college, Bernie’s hypocrisy on millionaires, and Bernie failing to vote for Russian sanctions get less ink than Hillary’s e-mails, and always come with caveats. It’s like they’re a part of his press shop. It couldn’t be that Bernie is nothing but an angry, old grifter. Never.

Their advocacy has changed in the past few days, as I noted above. It’s not just advocacy for ole’ Bernard- it’s offensive aggression on his behalf, particularly coming out of the New York Times. It’s an actual effort to enforce a view of the race that isn’t true- the myth that Bernie Sanders has momentum and is the front-runner to be the Democratic nominee. To be clear, he has a chance to win the nomination, provided the field stays divided. He raised the most money in the first quarter, just as he out-raised Hillary Clinton in 2016- but his $18 million haul is not overwhelming and crushing when compared with Kamala Harris $12 million, Beto O’Rourke’s $9 million plus, Pete Buttigieg’s $7 million, or even the $6 million of Elizabeth Warren and $5.2 million of Amy Klobuchar. All of these candidates are less known, and in their first national run. As the field begins to narrow in the coming months, all can improve. On top of this, Bernie trails former Vice-President Joe Biden in nearly every poll, and has seen roughly half of his 2016 support evaporate in the last three years. He’s a front-runner, he might win if he never has to get 50%, but Bernie Sanders has no particular momentum, or recent strength that should back up his supposed “momentum.” All of this reporting is a myth.

So- why? Honestly, I have no idea. I’d love to know why @NYTLiz, @kenvogel, and @katierogers are all racing to aid Bernie right now. Of course they’ll call it a ridiculous accusation. Who would ever question their intentions?

Since Bernie’s Visiting My Home, Let Me Welcome Him…

Bernie Sanders will be about fifteen minutes from my home tonight, in Bethlehem, PA, where I went to college, doing a town hall on Fox News. Given the “help” that the “Bernie Bros” gave me in helping build up a Twitter following of 10,000 people, help received in the form of being put on a hit list and targeted for harassment, I feel like the least of things I could do for ole’ Bernard is to welcome him to the swing area of one of the key swing states, the Lehigh Valley.

Let’s dispense with some of the basic buzzwords we know are coming from Senator Bernard. Yes, the Lehigh Valley was the epicenter of a generation ago’s working class America. Bethlehem Steel, Mack Trucks, and Ingersoll-Rand did employ tens of thousands of people, many of whom were off the boat Catholic Europeans (white working class for those of you new to this.). Thanks to the Steelworkers, UAW, and many of the other major industrial unions that make up the Building Trades unions, thousands of middle class households had a good living. All of those companies are gone though, and while strengthening unions is still a key part of our politics here, other things matter too. What other things? Well, for one, immigration reform is important to our growing Latino population, and to the growing tech industry here (we have over a half dozen colleges). Bernie May want to avoid that subject though, since he voted against immigration reform when he had a chance. The main point though is that there’s bigger issues to us than bringing back yesterday’s economy for the Lehigh Valley, we’ve moved on. Even most of our union members are working on 21st century projects that fit a community that is progressing with the world- so talk to us about that.

We know we’re also going to get a large helping of “Medicare for All,” free college, and “Green New Deal” talk. All are noble ideas, but trouble voters in a swing district suburban area like this. These middle class voters wonder if the tax hikes associated with his Medicare for All plan will be larger than their current costs of premiums, deductibles, and co-pays, not whether or not the total cost is bigger or smaller for our macro-economy. The thousands of people employed by Lehigh Valley Hospital and St. Luke’s hospitals, two of our region’s largest employers, wonder if their jobs will survive under his revamped system, as do all of the folks working in the health insurance industry around here. As I said above, we have over a half dozen colleges and universities in this area, and the employees there wonder what will happen to them if Senator Bernard’s plan for tuition-free college passes. Many, many people in the Lehigh Valley commute to work in North Jersey, New York City, and Philadelphia, almost all by car, and wonder what will change under Sanders’ climate policies, or how he would fund a massive investment in mass transit from this region to those hubs, to get people off the roads. Will Bernie address these concerns tonight? Of course not. He’ll broadly talk about making the economy “fair,” which to these people sounds like they’ll get the shaft when the details get sorted out. He’ll stay at thirty-thousand feet with the details on funding, talking about “taxing billionaires” and cuts to Defense spending and corporate welfare, all great places to start, but folks around here know that’s not enough to get the job done. In short, Bernie will appeal to his base with red meat, and not to most of the people of this swing area of a swing state.

With all of that said, it should serve as no surprise that Bernie’s track record here isn’t so great, politically speaking. In the 2016 Presidential primary, Bernie lost Northampton County (50-47) and Lehigh County (52-47), as well as neighboring Monroe (53-46), despite the fact that Clinton struggled in the region and never even visited during the primary or general election. Not one significant public official on the Democratic side- the Congresswoman, our long-time State Senator, either county’s Democratic County Executive, any of the four major mayors, the District Attorney and Controller in Northampton County, or any of the state representatives in the region have endorsed Bernie in 2016 or 2020. Most of the unions that he will speak about a lot tonight, also backed Hillary in 2016. Bernie has not had much appeal here. Early national and Pennsylvania polling show Joe Biden handily beating Bernie here, and show Bernie’s support as being almost cut in half since 2016. People are waking up to the sham he is.

It’s time to be honest about who Bernie is- he fashions himself as a European style leftist, but really is just a critic of the Democratic Party that lacks substantive answers. It’s all “30,000 feet,” it’s all just about pointing out the compromises Democrats make to get things done, and it’s all preaching to the choir about what he’d do, with no realistic plans to get there. I’m glad he’s campaigning to my home area, but there’s all of a zero chance I’ll support him.

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Bernard.

About Tiger

To the extent I give a damn, Tiger Woods is important to golf. I was too young when Jack fell off, and none of the kids who have come after Tiger have become true superstars. Yes, Mickelson has been great, but he’s folded up in more majors, and Phil is just less interesting. Tiger is just the most interesting thing golf has had for many years. This was true when he was winning U.S. Amateur titles. It was true over the last decade when he fell off the radar. It was true yesterday. Tiger’s longevity of relevance, that he even was relevant in the 90’s, is the thing that makes him most rare in sports.

To be clear, I’m not really a big Tiger fan. His image as a perfect, Disney “good guy” in his younger years was a complete fraud. I don’t really care that he was cheating on his wife, more so just that he portrayed himself as the opposite. The DWI he took for pills wasn’t overly endearing either. I’m not anti-Tiger Woods, but the hero celebration after yesterday was nauseating at best.

Of course, in an era of disappointments for stars and leaders, perhaps Tiger Woods is the hero we need and deserve. We know his faults, we know what’s phony about him, and we’ve watched it all play out in real time. We watched his personal life implode, his dirty laundry aired, and jokes made at his expense. We watched his knee injury, and then watched his bad back destroy his game. We watched him go from dominant to irrelevant, to back to winning a major. It’s not like Tiger is unique of course, but Jordan’s gambling, Bonds PED use, and Brady’s various cheating episodes always came with caveats- most typically being their “alleged” nature. None of that went on with Tiger. He was exposed, torn down, and made into a full-scale villain.

In a society where we’re all literally flawed people, absolutely none of us are perfect, I can see why people responded warmly yesterday to Tiger winning the Masters. We’d all like to believe we can come back from our flaws too. Tiger Woods doing it gives hope to a lot of other people. Flawed as he is, maybe that is Tiger Woods role now.

Thoughts and Prayers, 4/15

Happy Monday, April 15th, 2019. I’m feeling a more rambling post today, so here we go. Let’s touch on a bunch of things.

  • Easter weekend is one week away. At one time in my life, this was one of the busiest weekends of my year. There was a time when I never missed church. In fact, at one point in my life I was an altar boy. Now my elder relatives basically implore me to attend my church. That would be the same church that used to have three masses every weekend, and the 9am mass had well north of 100 people every week. Now there’s just a Sunday, 8am mass with 15 people. I blame the church (Catholicism at large) for many of it’s own problems, but I also find the situation kind of sad. Many of the lessons I took from church were good things that society could use. Unfortunately the shame and disappointment in the church’s failings win out.
  • I slept through a tornado warning last night. Yes, one seems to have touched down in Scranton, but apparently all of Eastern Pennsylvania was under a warning. I’ve lived in Iowa a few times, where tornadoes have been known to be deadly. I guess I didn’t learn much.
  • Thursday was Wawa’s 55th birthday. What a glorious day for anyone in the Philadelphia “sphere of influence.” I did get my free coffee, at the Mt. Pocono Wawa on 115, and made sure to post it on social media. Whether I’m in the Tampa area, the Jersey Shore, center city Philadelphia, or College Hill in Easton, I love me some Wawa.
  • Pope Benedict was already my least favorite Pope in my lifetime, but that angry old man’s letter blaming homosexuality for pedophilia in the church only cemented my dislike for him. To be clear, homosexuality and pedophilia are not the same thing, or even loosely related, or frankly related at all. The priests that molested children didn’t do so because they liked men or women, they did so because they are sick individuals. His argument that the “sexual revolution” of the 1960’s is to blame for this disgrace on the church is little more than an attempt to pass the buck. Women and homosexuals living openly sexually is not to blame for the men of the church abusing their power and harming children. Full stop.
  • I know a lot of my fellow Hillary alums and fans are not going to want to hear this, but Democrats need to cast a wider net for votes in 2020 than she did, and no, that doesn’t just mean we do that with people who didn’t vote. There are a lot of people in the Democratic Party who would like to believe that Barack Obama was elected through “the rising electorate,” and therefore that the future pathway forward is “demographic destiny,” but they are not correct. It is worth noting that both in 2008 and 2012, Barack Obama ran incredibly strong in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa, winning them all by fairly substantial margins both times. The demographics of those states didn’t change much, and yet Hillary Clinton lost all of them but Minnesota, which she very narrowly won. The excuse of many Hillary loyalists is to simply say they are all racists, and that the way forward is to turn out more of the base. That won’t work. So much of that “rising electorate” is confined to “blue” districts in “blue” states that they won’t tip enough states. Hillary did fine holding the line in Virginia, Colorado, and New Mexico, despite some drop off among base turnout in 2016. We’ve found Florida, North Carolina, and Arizona as all possible, but tough nuts to crack so far. The reality is that Texas and Georgia stayed red, even in a great cycle like 2018. We’re going to have to appeal to some of the Obama-Trump voters, or at least non-voters that are not absolute locks to always vote Democrat if they vote. We did this well in 2018. We mostly rejected far leftist candidates in swing districts of the Rust Belt, and instead ran on things like health care, education, housing, and infrastructure, with practical plans to improve on the status quo. A grounded strategy of appealing to the public’s needs in swing states is the only way to beat Trump.
  • I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about the younger me. Namely, how I interacted with people who I actually liked in my younger years. People who are different than me. I’ll probably expand on this in another post, but I wish I had been more aware as a teenager. I wish I had been more aware of how life must have felt for them. I probably could have been a better friend.
  • The Phillies are 9-5, first in the NL East, after a week that felt disappointing. They went just 3-3, got destroyed twice, and gave away a big lead in a game. Odubel failed to run a ball out, Gabe tried closing a game with Edubray Ramos, Nola gave away a lead, and Eflin got shelled by the Marlins. You know what though? I’ll take it, first is first. Sure beats the last several seasons.
  • I posted an article to my Facebook about how Democrats are more likely to unfriend someone for differing political views. A lot of people took this as a positive thing- it is not. At the point where politics is all consuming, and you can’t co-exist with people of different viewpoints, politics has failed you. If every Democrat is an anti-American socialist, and every Republican a racist, we’re pretty much dead as a country.
  • Sixers-Nets game two tonight. Joel gave his team a nice lift, and Jimmy Butler was awesome, unfortunately no one else really played in game one. Let’s hope Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris are present tonight, and maybe J.J. Redick is a little helpful. Otherwise, this series will be shockingly done.

About the Presidential Race, 4/10

I think we’ve almost got the whole 2020 field- really! At this point, we’re waiting on Terry McAuliffe, Steve Bullock, and Michael Bennet to make their decisions, but really we’re all mostly waiting on Joe Biden to shake things up- one way or the other. Stacey Abrams and Seth Moulton still sit on the periphery as possible candidates for now.

While I’ve been watching very closely, I haven’t picked my final horse yet. There are 19 current candidates, and frankly it’s hard to see this race not hitting 20. I do have some generalized feelings though, so I figured I’d share them.

I Really Like a Lot of Candidates

I pretty much knew that I loved several candidates from the jump. I already had made up my mind that I felt positively about Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Joe Biden before this campaign (add Sherrod Brown here too, though he ultimately didn’t run.). I had more than a strong hint that I liked Julian Castro too, which hasn’t changed. Jay Inslee’s commitment to fighting climate change has made a fan of me. Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke have built strong followings in a hurry, and I am impressed by their charisma. John Hickenlooper’s record as Governor of Colorado has surprised me in a positive way, relative to how he’s been sold so far. That’s ten candidates I can already give a positive grade.

There are others whom I am not necessarily negative on, I just don’t have enough information yet to make a decision. Tim Ryan is always someone I liked, but I soured on a bit for his opposition to Nancy Pelosi as Speaker. His recent entry is too new for me to judge yet. John Delaney is a fairly wealthy former Congressman who is self-funding, and running towards the middle. I don’t see his pathway if Joe Biden enters, but it’s hard to judge until then. Wayne Messam is a very interesting Mayor of Miramar, Florida, but he hasn’t generated a ton of coverage yet. Andrew Yang and Marianne Williamson come from outside of the government world, but like Messam aren’t getting much coverage. Eric Swalwell is an impressive Congressman, but he just entered this week, and so I have no feelings yet. I haven’t passed much judgment on these five so far.

This leaves Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Mike Gravel in the category where I’m less than supportive. My feelings towards them are not all the same, so let me address them individually.

  • Mike Gravel- The former Alaska Senator is commendable in some ways, particularly for reading the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional record in his Senate tenure. With that said, a lot of time has passed since those days, as has a mostly unnoticed 2008 campaign for President. Gravel pretty much freely admits he’s not running to win this nomination, so it’s hard for me to be excited.
  • Kirsten Gillibrand- If I voted entirely on issues, I could probably like what Gillibrand is saying now. The problem there is her career has put her on both sides of everything from guns to immigration. Evolution is fine, but it gets to be a bit of a stretch. While I believe Al Franken should have been afforded a Senate Ethics Committee investigation, I don’t blame Gillibrand at all for voicing her opinion on that. I do hold Gillibrand’s about face on Bill Clinton against her though. After a two decade relationship, working in the Clinton Administration, working in major allied law firms, having Bill and Hillary campaign and advocate for her House and Senate candidacies, for her to “evolve” and say President Clinton should have resigned over the Lewinsky affair was a bridge too far. You don’t turn on your mentors the moment they aren’t popular and useful anymore. Even so, her campaign positions are admirable, and while I’m not a fan, I feel better about her than I did before she entered.
  • Tulsi Gabbard- Gabbard is another candidate I was out on from day one. I’m unhappy with her 2016 decision to quit the DNC to endorse Bernie and call the process “rigged.” I could get over that though. What I can’t get over? Gabbard’s advocacy for Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad. It is one thing to oppose military intervention in the Syrian Civil War, it’s another thing to say he hasn’t committed war crimes against his people. In Gabbard’s defense, her campaign has laid out a desire to curb war spending in America, which has given her ideological consistency and clarity that I can respect. I’m just not forgiving advocacy for a bad guy.
  • Bernie Sanders- Absolutely not. Does Bernie have a few aspirational ideas that aren’t bad? Sure. I can’t say I generally agree with him though on the policies for right now, nor does his record suggest to me that he has any plan to enact his plans, much less pass them through Congress. I cannot forgive his 2016 behavior either. The guy’s not a Democrat, and he’s shown us that. There’s no way I’d support him to be the nominee in 2020.

So that’s my feelings on the candidates. So how about…

The State of the Race-

Polls really don’t mean much until Joe Biden either enters or exits the race, because he’s the undisputed polling leader. In the race’s current construction, with him as a probable candidate, the race is far different than if he doesn’t. If 30% or so of the electorate suddenly were free agents, that would shake things up, and probably dramatically change the current polling order.

What does matter is money though. There is no argument that Bernie raised the most in the first quarter. Kamala Harris also had an impressive quarter. Beto O’Rourke did pretty well as well, and Pete Buttigieg did fairly well. Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and Cory Booker all did well enough to compete, but have to keep up their pace.

What’s more important than cash raised though is burn rate. Bernie spent $4 million of his $18 million despite not being in the race very long. Warren spent 80% of her money raised, but still came out with a deceptively impressive cash on hand number by transferring Senate campaign funds. Can they sustain their spending rate? Meanwhile, while Klobuchar came in behind them, she only spent about 20% of her cash, and transferred more over from her Senate campaign. Watch the cash on hand, and the burn rates, when evaluating early fundraising.

In a race where most of the candidates are similar on issues, I’m watching who has the strong operations. Lean campaigns that raise respectable money, while remaining competitive in the polls, impress me. This is part of what has made “Mayor Pete” seem serious to operatives so far- he’s sustaining a competitive campaign without spending much.

Nobody is Perfect

Just about every candidate has some flaws in their candidacy. Some seem overblown, others concerning, but really none are disqualifying to me, unless I said so above. I’m not looking for perfect, or to be inspired, or to make history. I just want to elect a competent President.

This means I’m looking for an electable nominee. Some candidates, like Biden and Klobuchar, have solid arguments about their electability- but it’s anecdotal so far. Candidates need to prove that.

This Ain’t 2008

Because everyone in the field is trying to raise their money from the “grassroots,” rather than traditional bundling, the debate is more leftward than the country at-large, and it is favoring candidates with less experience and record. That may very well be a good thing in the end. It might also spell defeat for the Democrats. The 2008 process pushed us towards an electable nominee, this one may very well push us towards one that appeases our base, and no one else.

Conclusions

I’m going to stick with an upbeat outlook here. I absolutely love 3-4 candidates, like around 10, and could accept 15-16. That’s a good field. In the end, I want a nominee who can win though, and that is what will matter to me. I can give a bit on ideology and/or excitement, as long as they can beat Donald Trump. That’s what matters.

The Out of Touch Activists

The New York Times pretty much summed up my feelings about politics in an article out today- the activists are out of touch. They are not representative of the general public, voters in either party, or any form of a majority. It should be no wonder that the public is so turned off by politics, when politics are being driven by people outside of the mainstream.

The case they lay out is pretty clear- a large majority of Democrats are not like the activists online. Most Democrats watch less cable news, don’t share political articles on social media, are less college educated, less white, and far more moderate than the activists driving the party debate. It’s why more Democrats want the party to be more moderate, rather than moving left. It’s why most Democrats, especially African-American Democrats, didn’t want the Governor of Virginia to resign over his racist med school yearbook photo, even as almost every national Democrat called on him to do so. It’s why most Democrats think “PC Culture” has gone too far, even as the activists don’t agree. There is a clear disconnect.

People in politics think everything we do is pretty important- voters don’t. They don’t pick their party or it’s candidates on a checklist of issues, but often on cultural values and a sense of who will basically fight for them. In short, it’s not all that ideological for most voters, but rather perceived self-interest. It’s why issues like health care really drive voters passions, but many social issues don’t. It’s why attacking new programs for the subsequent tax increases usually works.

So why is our political system driven by a minority of voters? The answer lies in one of the illustrations in the article, asking if you have donated to a campaign in the last year- and 45% of activists said yes, far ahead of the rest of voters. It’s money. Campaigns are very expensive, and giving is restricted by campaign finance laws. The only way to get the money to get your message out is to appeal to the hyper motivated activists, and the interest groups they are members of, if you want the outside money to come in that is necessary in major campaigns.

I wrote last week on how the Democrats are losing the online game, saying they treat it like an ATM. The truth is, all of politics is being treated like an ATM. The GOP treats public policy as an ATM to reward their big donors, Democrats treat their activists like the ATM. Neither is all that representative of America as a whole, and America doesn’t love either- hence the big swings in control of Congress in each midterm. As long as campaign finances control our politics though, get used to it.

How the Democrats are Losing the Online Game

Tell the truth, how many fundraising e-mails did you delete this weekend? For me, it got so bad that I unsubscribed from close to a dozen e-mail lists. Back in the dark ages when I was in college (2002-2006), I got myself on every e-mail list I could. It felt like I actually got information about the 2004 Presidential candidates back then. That’s not what e-mails are used for on political campaigns in 2019.

Democrats now view digital campaign organizing, e-mails, and even their website as an ATM. In the wake of McCain-Feingold and the Citizens United Supreme Court Decision, Democrats face a real challenge in keeping up financially with the right-wing financial machine. They’ve exasperated that by ingesting the poison pill rhetoric that all lobbyists and political action committees (PACs) are terrible, and we can’t take their money. The Bernie purity rhetoric, and even President Obama’s a generation ago, puts Democrats behind the eight ball. So what’s been the answer? Go grassroots. Ask for $27 over and over again. We still can’t keep up, but it’s worth a shot. Pledge to take no PAC money or federal lobbyist money at all- even from unions, Planned Parenthood, or Environmental groups- to try and motivate activists who have little understanding of campaign budgets to fund your campaign.

The net result is a million micro-messages from every group and candidate on the left to try and motivate you to give some cash. It turns into annoying white noise. It works fine for interest groups in DC, who do the best in this messy void, but leaves everyone else all over the map. It leads to the “Democrats have no message” meme.

What about the Republican Party? They don’t have quite the same issues. In 2016 everyone knew that the Trump message was “Make America Great Again,” and “Crooked Hillary.” Hillary Clinton was a criminal that would take the America you and your descendants built away from you, and give it to “other” people, but Donald Trump would stop that and restore it to you. Yes, they did field, television, and mail to get that message to you, but on a far scaled down level from what Mitt Romney and John McCain has done. They understood that the race would be decided at the margins, so they went cheaper and more straight to the point- they talked to you online. Sure, maybe some GRU guy in Moscow was giving them an assist, but don’t underestimate what the GOP did. They were getting 20 impressions on your brain through Facebook, for the price of one TV ad, at a far more efficient clip too. They hit their audience directly with one simple, straight forward message- Make America Great Again. The whole right-wing took part.

So what’s going to happen in 2020? Look no further than this week’s Wisconsin election for the State Supreme Court. Democrats narrowly lost, despite hitting their turnout targets across the board. Republican turnout simply spiked. What was their message? Socialism. It didn’t matter if it was the Koch funded groups, the NRA, or religious conservatives, they simply told you the Democratic “socialists” are coming to take what you want away from you. They’ll take your guns, your church, and your tax dollars, and give America to those “others.” They will spend hundreds of millions of dollars into digital ads on the internet that tell their voters to fear Democrats, because socialism.

As the really smart friend of mine that does digital campaign work explained this to me yesterday, I realized just how messed up the Democratic Party is on digital. We’re trying to use the internet to finance our campaigns, while they’re using it to poison the Democratic brand. It’s a mismatch. If no one in the Democratic Party figures this out soon, it could be too late- and Donald Trump could be basking in “four more years” chants.

Finding Your History

I recently started piecing together my family tree on ancestry dot com, and so far I’ve found a lot. There have been frustrations, like knowing nothing at all about my mom’s paternal family or the relative roadblock I’ve run into on my dad’s side when I get a generation or so back into the old country, but that’s relatively minor comparable to what I’ve found. My tree now has 137 people, and ties back to several countries in Europe.

I’ve always known about my father’s maternal family, in part because my off-the-boat great-grandmother was alive until I was nine. Among the things I’ve found out though in the past year or two was that she was on one of the final boats into Ellis Island in 1923, just before the Johnson-Reed Act passed (Immigration Act of 1924), choking off most immigration into the country. It also had never occurred to me that she was naturalized as an American citizen in 1942, at the height of patriotic fever during World War II. It started to make more sense though when I realized that our village of Udol (formerly known as Ujak), in present day Slovakia, was a part of the Austria-Hungarian Empire when she was born in 1903, and my great-grandfather had fought for them in World War I, on the side of the Axis. Between the “communist hysteria” that Eastern Europeans faced at that time, and his having fought on the other side of the First World War, getting naturalized probably felt very important for them to show they were Americans. On the bright side of that, my father could get Italian citizenship because of my great-grandfather.

Despite the road block that sat on my mother’s paternal side, her mother’s side of the family turned up a mountain of information. I was able to turn up deep roots in New York and New Jersey, including really deep family roots in the Woodstock area of Ulster County. I could trace family ties back to Colonial America, including in the Revolution period. What I found on the American side wasn’t the shocking part. I was not surprised by my ties back to “old country” Germany, just that they went back into the 1600’s. I was surprised to learn I have relatives from the Netherlands, specifically from Holland and Amsterdam, although that made sense with my New York City roots. I also seem to have heritage in Switzerland too, which surprised me. I even found one distantly great-grandmother from France.

The part that blew my mind though was my British blood. I seem to have a lot of relatives from the Yorkshire and Derbyshire areas on my mom’s side. I was even more shocked when I was able to tie them as far back as the 1400’s. In digging through, I was able to find my English ancestors petitioning the crown on grievances, both in America and Great Britain. Reading back through the history astounded me. I also came to realize that not all of my ancestors were members of the Church of England- meaning some of them likely came here for the “religious freedom” that is such a part of our American history.

I’ve always known I was a bit of a Euro-mutt, but I still learned a lot in all of this. To my knowledge, my father’s paternal side is still 50% Polish/Lithuanian and 50% Hungarian. My father’s maternal side traces back to present day Slovakia, but that region is Carpathian-Ruthenian, meaning most people there are mixed Slovak, Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, and Hungarian. My mom’s paternal side is mostly a mystery to me, but I’ve always been told it’s German and Italian. I now know my mother’s maternal side is heavily British and German, with a bit of Dutch, Swiss, and French mixed in. I almost can claim enough flags to guarantee myself being happy at the end of the Euro every time.

I guess I’m as old American as it gets.