Dividing Lines

The political order is breaking down right in front of us. While DC is immersed in ideological battles, we’re seeing traditional liberalism and conservatism morph right in our eyes, you have cultural liberals arguing for free trade, cultural conservatives railing against billionaires, and moderates on both sides picking and choosing amidst the carnage.

This is not to say there aren’t still more traditional left and right, or even extreme left and right. That still exists. The main point is that there are new politics emerging, like a spring blooming from the Earth. In the aftermath of 2016, there are new coalitions forming, some good, some bad.

Americans aren’t satisfied with their political choices. This is why 42% self-identify as independent. It’s why more radical voices are rising on the left and right. It’s why people who lack credibility (Trump, Bernie, AOC) are gaining followings. People want to hear what they want to hear, not what is “possible” or “electable.” It’s why talking about the cost of something, or Congressional viability, or details of a plan haven’t derailed some of the frauds and grifters who have risen in our politics. Nobody cares about what’s wrong with their lies.

The only way out of this hellscape is vision. Someone will have to put something real, appealing, and truly good for people’s lives on the table. Tax subsidies for Amazon to bring minimum wage jobs to Queens aren’t exciting, even if they’re an upgrade for people who need more income there. Activists will sabotage that every time, because there’s no real joy in it. People want their standard of living improved. They want opportunity. The only way to stop them from dumb ideas is to offer good ones.

Advertisements

Income Assistance for those “Unwilling to Work,” Cow Farts, Killing the Airline Industry, and Placating Some Folks

Call me cynical- I don’t believe AOC’s botched roll out of her “Green New Deal” was a mistake. The Justice Dems poster child and former Bernie Sanders organizer has promised to “lean in” to an oncoming “war” in the Democratic Party, complete with primaries across the party. She’s been clear that she’s not willing to compromise with anyone, on much of anything. Her response to Democrats that want to repair Obamacare instead of overhaul the system for Medicare for All was very telling:

There are lots of questions to be answered on Medicare for All, and plenty of good reasons to look at other alternatives that get you to universality, or at least better than you have now. AOC isn’t willing to look at them though, and the reasoning has been hiding in plain sight for a long time now- her goal is eliminating any moderation within the Democratic Party. Why, you ask? Because AOC and Bernie Sanders aren’t radical or extreme anymore if everyone agrees with them.

Take the Green New Deal resolution AOC has been leading the charge on along with Senator Markey. There is nothing extreme about putting forward an actual bill (not a Resolution) to combat climate change, develop green energy, and create millions of jobs- in fact it’s smart policy on every level. During the roll out the details were a bit hazy, but the concept is so good that old pros like Markey wanted to join AOC’s cause. So did some of the party’s Presidential candidates too. It seemed like a good idea, not just harmless.

Then of course, came the details. They weren’t so good. The “FAQs” (frequently asked questions) weren’t signed off on by anyone else, and didn’t match the actual resolution. There was talk of income assistance for “those unwilling to work,” a Republican messaging wet dream. Then there was talk of cow farts. Yes, really. And yes, there was mention of eliminating airline travel. Yes, she uses planes regularly. And yes, they included language saying nuclear energy is off the table. It was an ugly “screw up,” one they even tried to claim was doctored- it wasn’t.

There are pretty decent arguments to be had for universal income, cutting back consumption of red meat, cutting back flight traffic, and not making nuclear energy central to our energy future- and nowhere near universal support for doing anything. I doubt that Democrats want to campaign on eliminating the union jobs in the nuclear sector, ending steak and burger consumption, closing airports, and giving tax dollars to “lazy people”- which is exactly how Donald Trump and Republicans will label those ideas, while spending millions of dollars to tell swing voters in Michigan and Pennsylvania just how radical Democrats are. Presented this way, you can’t build majority support for any of it. That’s even more true among swing voters.

So why release this? If you want to believe it was an honest mistake, have at it. Of course, you’re being willfully ignorant though. Why release anything to accompany the actual resolution, which was pretty clear on it’s own? FAQs can be helpful to the press, sure, but why did a draft version exist with a bunch of things not in the actual resolution? Their FAQs describe what might as well have been a different resolution altogether, so why was this draft written in the first place? How was the office staff so incompetent as to release the wrong version? I mean really, they’re calling for a massive overhaul of our energy policies and economy as a whole, but they can’t use a Congressional website correctly? If they’re truly just incompetent in this case, that should worry you too.

All of this leads me to the conclusion that they’re actually not incompetent, this wasn’t a mistake, and this was the plan all along. The idea was to have the entire Democratic “establishment” get behind the ideas that some would call “radical”- because if everyone agrees with AOC (and of course Bernie), then you can’t call them extreme or radical anymore. They’re now the mainstream. Their ideas are mainstreamed by the endorsement of them coming from the rest of the Democratic Party. Try arguing to the press that these other Democrats “didn’t sign onto that,” because they signed onto the actual resolution instead. It’s muddled messaging at best, and impossible at worst. Lefty activists will ask why they oppose the Green New Deal. The press will drag them into the weeds. The GOP will mock them over the details in the FAQs and call them radicals.

Inevitably AOC will eventually endorse her old boss Bernie, in part because she agrees with him, and in part because he’s a nice placeholder until she’s eligible to run herself. When his opponents try to label him as unelectable and extreme, she’ll trot out to his defense and not that they agreed with him, on this and other matters, such as health care. Trump will elevate her in the debate as a representative of the Democratic Party of 2020, because he sees her as vulnerable among the voters he needs. She’ll embrace that image. Everyone will be forced to pick sides. Being that so many Democrats are embracing her now, it will be tough to get back the space later. Welcome to being pinned in the corner.

Re-Alignment

I registered to vote in 2001, as a Democrat. Michael Bloomberg was a Republican, no one was discussing whether or not demographic politics were destiny or not, and Donald Trump beating a Clinton or a Bush for President seemed like a total joke.

The two parties are changing quickly, right before our eyes. The Republican Party of 2001 was very different than 2019. Gone are the aristocratic Bush types at the top. Gone is the globalist view of military engagement and global trade from the Bush days, and in it’s place is Trump isolationist policy. The Republican Party is now a cultural identity party for “traditional” America, stressing nationalism, law and order, and aggressive anti-elitism. They’re both longing for a cultural America that is traditional, but also calling into question the last 80 years of globalism in American foreign policy. This is a far cry from the Republican Party of Bush- a neoconservative foreign policy, pro-big business (which they still mostly are in policy, but not as much rhetoric.), and theocratic morality politics.

The Democratic Party is basically on another planet too. Bill Clinton’s moderation politics are taking a beating from the activists. “Safe, legal, and rare” to describe abortion policy would almost be disqualifying in a primary. The party has moved a solid step left on everything from taxes to guns, from abortion to criminal justice reform, on health care to LGBT rights. Would a Democrat reiterate Bill Clinton’s pronunciation that “the era of big government is over” in a 2022 State of the Union? Would they even consider a balanced budget, such as Clinton oversaw, as a positive? While the reality is that the Democrats have not really moved crazy left as a practical matter, the rhetoric has shifted dramatically. The Democratic Party is abandoning much of the strategic practicality of Clinton and Obama for more ideological, direct appeal to what it sees as it’s base.

Perhaps that is the biggest shift in American politics over the past 18 years- who each party views as it’s base. When I started in politics in 2002, the Rust Belt man in a Ford pick-up truck was a Democrat, or at least a swing voter. The wealthier suburbs of Philadelphia were moderate Republicans. Now that’s switched. For all the talk of rural Republicans and urban, more diverse Democrats, perhaps those changes are minor compared to the exchange of blue collar whites to Republicans, and educated, white collar whites to Democrats. The Democratic Party is now more Starbucks, the Republicans more Dunkin (for the record, I love both.). The Democratic Party is adapting to a coalition of white collar suburban white people joining African-Americans and most every other group that is considered a minority. The Republicans, under the colorful rhetoric of Trump, are welcoming blue collar, lower middle class, Rust Belt whites to their billionaires and traditionalists.

The biggest driver of the political shifts is the way the two parties now view America’s place in the world. Donald Trump’s new base has driven the Republicans away from international trade deals, rhetorically against cheap foreign labor, to want out of NATO, to want to withdraw from treaties such as KORUS, and to want out of conflicts in places like Syria and Afghanistan. The basic tenet of the Trump doctrine is “why are we paying for it” with regards to the world, and for a desire to spend that money at home. Just as dramatic is the shift on the Democratic side. The Democratic Party is suddenly the party of free trade, foreign intervention in places like Syria, and arguing for at least a more liberal border. Republicans are increasingly uninterested in international collaboration with allies like Canada, South Korea, and our traditional EU allies. Democrats aren’t feeling so great about collaborating with nations they see as against their values, such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, or Italy. This shift has had impacts both in foreign and domestic policy.

All of this has left some people out of place in their own political parties. Michael Bloomberg, mentioned above, has gone from a Republican, to an independent, to a Democrat. The Blue Dog Democrats are virtually gone away, while there aren’t pro-choice Republicans in Congress anymore. Those pieces of their coalitions have left them, eliminating the base of support for most of those members. They’ve gradually lost primaries to more ideological candidates, and lost general elections because their own voters abandoned them.

The major question for the future is if the left-right divide will break down- will the Bernie voters and Trump voters eventually link up? Both are populists that want to shock the system. One took over their party, the other has not been able to so far. Could they eventually all be in the Republican camp if Democrats continue to reject populism?

We are living through a realignment in our politics that is changing both coalitions. The political parties are not what they were when I registered. If you had told me in 2001 that a Republican President would be for isolationist trade and foreign policies, and that I’d oppose that President like I do, I would not believe you. So imagine America by 2040.

In Virginia, View Post-Trump Politics

Like most people, I was horrified by the med school yearbook photo of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. Let me correct that- like most political people. While nearly every major Democrat in Virginia and America has called for Northam to resign, as well as some Republicans, Northam is still living in the Governor’s mansion in Richmond. He’s totally unmoved by the calls for his head. Even after his disaster of a press conference on Saturday, he’s still in office.

So what the hell are we going to do about it? Already the story is being pushed off the front pages, first by the Super Bowl, and now by the State of the Union. More people will announce 2020 Presidential bids, further burying the story. Soon, it will be forgotten outside of Virginia, then even inside. Northam can’t run for re-election anyway, and he will become less and less relevant. What are you going to do about it? Impeach him? Why would the Republicans go along with that, and make his Lt. Governor an incumbent Governor for 2021? They’ll argue he committed no crime- and they’re right. Even if we assume Northam is a full blown racist/Ku Klux Klan man currently, that’s only socially objectionable, not criminal. The picture is incredibly offensive and unworthy of a public official- but what are you going to do about it?

And how about that Lt. Governor, Justin Fairfax? On Friday night, he was the darling of the American left, which of course meant the Republican Party wanted to destroy him. By Sunday night an old accusation of sexual assault was pushed out into the open against Fairfax. Sure, there was nothing but the accuser’s word against his, but Republicans took absolute glee in noting the similarity in this case and that of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Even worse, some are noting that national Democrats shoved Al Franken for a lesser set of accusations, but aren’t pushing Fairfax out. Is any of this fair? No. Are the cases the same? No. It really doesn’t matter to these folks.

But does any of this matter? I guess it depends who you ask. Remember that just about a month before the 2016 Presidential Election the “Access Hollywood Tape” dropped against Donald Trump, where we could hear him say he could “grab ’em by the pussy,” talking about women in general. Against a backdrop of many sexual assault accusations, many assumed he was finished. National Republicans (not for the first time either) called on Trump to drop out. There were open talks about removing him from the GOP ticket. What did the outrage, in many cases for Trump, actually matter? It didn’t. He kept running. He won. In fact, his vote share (46%) was higher than his personal approval, average polling, or really any poll was showing him. Trump simply soldiered on, and all we can tell from the data is that more people were willing to vote for him than we had envisioned beforehand.

In Ralph Northam we see someone adapting to the post-Trump norm, while in Al Franken we don’t. Trump bet that the public didn’t care that he was a bad guy. Northam seems to be taking that same bet. Franken took a throwback to the pre-Trump days, when shame could push a politician out. The idea was that your first act towards forgiveness was to go away. Ralph Northam seems to get that if he resigns, he’s gone for good. Like Trump, he’s betting that people will move on. My guess is that if it works, you are seeing the new norm.

In Justin Fairfax, you are also seeing a challenge to the new norms. Republicans learned in the Franken case that the Democratic Party wanted to be “zero tolerance” on sexual impropriety, and that Franken left because of that. They don’t have the same level of proof in the case of Lt. Governor Fairfax, and so far they have been less successful. If they fail in this case, perhaps this doesn’t become the norm.

In the age of the internet and changing standards of what is and isn’t accepted, I suspect this current mess in Richmond is going to be common for a little while. Perhaps society will eventually become more forgiving of past transgressions and accusations, perhaps they will be even less so. It seems very clear to me though that if Northam survives this week as Governor, he probably survives his term. If he survives his term, the tradition of resigning amidst scandal will be the latest casualty of the Trump world. Right now, I’d probably bet on that.

All the Things No One Will Say on Howard Schultz

If you watch too much cable news, you might think “Centrist Independent” Howard Schultz is likely to be our next President. He’s been on every channel, he has top tier surrogates like Steve Schmidt talking for him, Donald Trump is attacking him on Twitter, and Democratic talking heads are angry that someone would dare run as an independent and call them too liberal. It’s all more than a bit dishonest. Howard Schultz, despite all of his money, is not likely to do much better than Teddy Roosevelt (1912), Strom Thurmond and Henry Wallace (1948), George Wallace (1968), John Anderson (1980), Ross Perot (1992&1996), Ralph Nader (2000), or Gary Johnson and Jill Stein (2016) did in their losing third party candidacies. Roosevelt and Perot were plenty rich, but couldn’t buy votes. The one thing both of them can share with Nader and Stein though is that many people blame them for the outcome.

I’ve said I don’t think Schultz should do this, despite agreeing with some of the points he’s making. Donald Trump tweeting attacks at him was incredibly validating. It’s not that I’m sure Schultz would hurt one party more than the other, it’s the mere possibility that he could possibly help Trump. Donald Trump is attacking Schultz because a third party candidate could lower the threshold he needs to reach to win in the key states, and Trump needs that with his low poll numbers. Donald Trump’s 46% in 2016 was very low for a Presidential candidate, and his approval has never been that high again. Trump may need to be able to win with 42% or lower in 2020. He’s tweeting that he hates Schultz, but privately he loves him.

The Democrats don’t deserve a badge of honor here either. Hillary Clinton got 48% in 2016, Barack Obama got 51% and 53% in his two victories. If you genuinely believe that Howard Schultz is likely to play spoiler, you probably believe Schultz is going to knock the Democrats below Hillary’s number. That means you think the 2020 nominee will be less capable than Clinton, run a worse campaign than Clinton, AND that their message will resonate with less voters than Hillary’s did, let alone President Obama’s. If you believe Howard Schultz is going to pick off moderate Democrats, you’re basically proving Schultz’s point that the Democratic Party is too liberal. Given how important this election is, if you realize this now, wouldn’t it be more productive to do something about it than go on TV and complain about this guy? Perhaps there is more doubt in the DC crowd than they let on.

Then there’s Schultz, Steve Schmidt, Bill Burton, and everyone else associated with this campaign- they’re all too smart to believe what they’re saying. They know that the 40% of the public that call themselves independent aren’t all centrists. I actually don’t believe these guys are trying to play spoiler, I think they all genuinely dislike Trump. I think they made a self-interest decision that could endanger the election. They decided that a rich, white, moderate businessman that thinks AOC is a bit nutty isn’t going to win the Democratic primary voters over, because they’re simply more liberal. So they’re going to skip the primary and just run in the general election. They see votes to grab from all sides. There are some centrist independents. There are “Never Trumpers” in the GOP. There’s even the chunk of Trump voters that fall between his hardcore base of 33% and his 46% 2016 performance. They also see a moderate wing of Democrats who are increasingly isolated in their own party, people who are terrified of Trump, but find the party’s left to be ridiculous. How many of the low-affinity partisans can they grab from both sides? They’ve probably determined enough to compete. If it’s not enough to win though, there’s a better than decent shot they would spoil it for one side or the other. They either are in denial of that, or more likely know that saying so would hurt their case.

I find some of what Schultz is saying to be refreshing, but I find almost all of what everyone is saying on his candidacy to be dishonest, including himself. In normal times, I’d be very willing to debate if the Democratic Party is a responsible political party, but when Donald Trump is siding with Neo-Nazis and the Kremlin I think we have to focus on the real problem at hand. The coverage he’s getting needs to focus on the low likelihood that he can win, what his real pathway is, and the very real possibility that he ends up throwing the election one way or the other.

A Bold, New World View, Part 11- Regionalism Still Matters

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.

Read Part 3 here.

Read Part 4 here.

Read Part 5 here.

Read Part 6 here.

Read Part 7 here.

Read Part 8 here.

Read Part 9 here.

Read Part 10 here.

Who is the Democratic base? This has been the central debate between Hillary and Bernie supporters since 2016. Hillary supporters largely argued that women and African-Americans, and most specifically African-American women, as well as Latinos, made up the “base” of the Democratic Party. Bernie supporters argued that the base were the most feverish ideological leftists in the party. I think Hillary supporters were wrong only in being overly general. I think Bernie supporters are just wrong. The Hillary “base” is slightly too small, unequally distributed, and ignores regionalism. The Bernie coalition is just not a majority, and probably never will be.

I don’t believe either political party has what amounts to a national base. Different political issues animate different regions of the country, and the demographics change dramatically. Even within regions there can be dramatic shifts from places like North Philadelphia to suburban Willow Grove, just minutes into the suburbs. Democrats can’t “nationalize” the question of their base. To be fair, Republicans can’t either, even though their demographic of voter is mostly the same everywhere.

Hillary’s defined base worked well enough to win the nomination, largely because it worked in the South. Hillary had a lot of success in 2008 in the west by winning the Latino base there. Hillary walloped President Obama in the Rust Belt states because she won the “labor/working class” demographic, the same people she lost badly to both Bernie and Trump in 2016. Every region of the country has it’s own “base Democratic” voting block. There are overlapping issues of economic fairness and access to opportunity, but the animating issues change. Labor issues are huge in Wisconsin, but voting rights are huge in Georgia. I can’t imagine a Democratic nominee opposed to either one, but the fight at this point seems to be over which set of issues get to be center stage.

What about the Republican Party though? Right-wing populism dominates in Appalachia and the South, energy issues in Texas and much of the Plains and Southwest, while tax cuts in the North. Rather than fighting over whether the tax cuts for their Northeast donors should take precedence over union busting in Wisconsin, or a border wall for Arizona and Kentucky, they just say all of the above. If their Wyoming Congresswoman wants to talk guns and energy exploration while their Massachusetts Governor talks tax cuts, they’re fine. A national nominee from the GOP will be expected to cut taxes, appoint conservatives to the judiciary, spend on the military, protect gun rights, and be tough on immigration- even though these positions make no sense together at times.

Regionalism also does a lot to explain elected official behavior too. Bernie Sanders famously was less tough on gun manufacturers than Hillary fans wanted. Cory Booker is more pharma friendly than many Midwestern members of Congress, but many of them are friendly towards agribusiness in a way he doesn’t have to be. Members of Congress represent the people who elect them, in fact all elected officials do. For that reason, almost no one has a 100% partisanship score in Congress. It would be nice to be ideologically pure, but most American voters aren’t ideological.

It is a fun, but almost always overlooked fact that the United States has no national election. Even Presidential elections are really 50 individual state elections (plus DC), where you have to win the electoral college, not the popular vote. Inevitably, the concerns of your district or state will occasionally trump the ideological concerns of your party. If you want to stay in office very long, you’d be best to hear that warning.

On Howard Schultz

I’m a Howard Schultz fan, I think what he did with Starbucks was amazing. I think he’s absolutely qualified, as much as anyone really is, to be President. I agreed with parts of what he had to say on 60 Minutes last night. If he runs for President as an independent though, I don’t believe he can win, and I’d be voting for the Democratic nominee.

Howard Schultz target audience is me- people who don’t like AOC, Bernie Sanders, and other leftists popping up in the party right now. I agree with him that they haven’t thought through how to finance Medicare for All, debt free college, and other “big” ideas they have. I might disagree with him on whether or not we should still do a major health care plan (the national debt doesn’t negate the need), and I think Schultz is too cozy to policies that favor the wealthy on a number of issues, but he’s basically not a far cry off from the positions of many more moderate Democrats, or even for that matter liberals in the mold of Hillary Clinton. He’d be 10,000% better than Donald Trump.

There are ethical and tactical problems with what Schultz is proposing though. Let’s start with the obvious tactical one though- independent candidates and third party candidates can’t win. The best performance in modern memory was Ross Perot’s 19% in 1992, which netted him exactly zero electoral votes. He was the last independent or third party candidate to get into a debate with the two major nominees. What is more likely to happen is a repeat of 2000 and 2016- where the third party candidates get more votes in the decisive states than the popular vote winner loses those states by, and essentially contributes to electing a President who got less votes. This seems even more likely in 2020, where the Democrats could be nominating someone more progressive, another woman, possibly an LGBT person, a Latino, or an African-American. People who would otherwise vote against Donald Trump would see Schultz as a viable alternative to whatever makes them uncomfortable about the Democratic nominee. This is particularly true when he’s telling them he’ll be a uniter from the middle, which makes the 10% of the country that are actually swing-voters feel good about themselves.

From a tactical standpoint, running third party is a dead end path. Who makes election laws? Usually partisan appointees or partisan legislators. Ballot access can be incredibly hard for independent candidates, even harder than for third party candidates, throwing into doubt his ability to even make the ballot. Once on the ballot he would face structural disadvantages. Voters are creatures of habit, and in some states, their habit is voting straight ticket- in Pennsylvania, for instance, Schultz would start tens of thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of votes behind both party nominees simply because it’s a habit for older voters. Then there’s exposure issues. Schultz would be running without the network of donors and staffers that major party nominees just have, making it that much harder, and personally expensive, to get out his message. He’d have a problem getting on the debate stage even, as a more partisan than not commission on Presidential debates would decide what threshold he would have to reach to get into each debate.

All of that is the tactical- what about the moral issues that strike against Schultz? Michael Bloomberg has reportedly decided to run as a Democrat in 2020, despite the fact he’s not a perfect ideological fit there. I hate to even cite him, but Donald Trump’s decision to run as a Republican in 2016 put him up against the ideological tilt of that party on a number of issues. Why is Howard Schultz under the impression that he should jump the line? Why does he think he should skip the primary? Why does he believe he should get on that debate stage without taking on the process in either party. He’s wealthy enough to easily finance a primary in either party- and there are people who would vote for him. There are the Steve Schmidt breed of #NeverTrump’ers in the GOP, which wouldn’t be enough to win, but could make a point. On the Democratic side, a well-funded moderate may just beat the excessive field of progressive candidates splitting up that vote. While everyone seems to think the left is resurgent in the Democratic Party, Bernie Sanders lost to Hillary Clinton by over 15%, even with all the misogyny and other issues she faced. Why does Howard think he should get a free pass to the general election, when no one else does?

Let’s also be realistic for a moment, the rosey picture Howard Schultz is painting of his America will not happen. Who will be his Congressional allies he works with to pass his agenda? The House Democratic leadership, under Speaker Pelosi? The Senate Republican leadership, under Leader McConnell? The Senate Dem Leader, Chuck Schumer? I mean really, who’s going to carry his legislative water in a two-party Congress? Who would politically benefit? What’s more likely is legislative chaos, where the divided Congress passes legislation in their house that they like, and dares him to take a position one way or the other. Rather than dead-middle ground pragmatism ruling Washington, a Schultz Presidency would probably induce incoherent policy that counteracts itself.

I say all of this as someone who actually likes Schultz politics more than I don’t. I think he’s smart, practical, and a big improvement on this President. There are voters like me in Iowa and New Hampshire. If Howard Schultz wants to run for President against Donald Trump, he should go meet them and run for the Democratic nomination. The folly in believing there are actually 40% of Americans who will end up voting for a third, dead in the middle option could have disastrous effects. It would most likely re-elect Trump. Schultz should run as a Democrat and convince us that he’s the best option to defeat Donald Trump. That is really what will matter.

Ya’ Don’t Say…

Donald Trump will be very beatable in 2020, but that doesn’t mean that he will lose. Democrats have had a lot of success at his expense so far, but 2018 was an election largely about Donald Trump. Republicans won similar elections about Barack Obama in 2010 and 2014, while Democrats had similar success in 2006, and Republicans also did in 1994. Like 2018, the midterms of 1994 and 2010 were first midterms for the sitting President- just two years after, both Presidents Clinton and Obama were re-elected. Once the Presidential election begins, it’s not enough to just oppose the incumbent President, it never works that way. Democrats will have to put something forward that is broadly acceptable to the majority of voters in the swing states. There are signs that the Democratic base doesn’t really want to go along with that.

If you went by Twitter activism, everyone on the left is for impeachment. In fact, they’re for it to the point that they passionately defended Rep. Tlaib for saying “we’re going to impeach the motherf*cker.” How does America feel about impeachment? In the latest Washington Post poll, 55% do not support impeachment, 40% do. Don’t mistake that as a public dying for letting Trump off the hook, the poll showed strong majorities for the Democratic House launching investigations into Trump on Russia, his businesses, and all of the other allegations against him. The poll showed 50% with just some or no confidence in the outcome of the Mueller probe, and 48% expecting Democrats to go too far in their investigations. In other words, the country is not yet convinced of impeachment or indictment for Trump, even though they don’t like him, and want investigations.

Within the Democratic base, there is definitely a taste for progressive change within the government and the country. Within the larger Democratic Party, there appears to be more of a taste for competency. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal pilling of Democrats found majorities of the party’s older voters and college educated, younger base wanted competence over shaking up the government. They found that the party’s younger, more diverse, less college educated base voters don’t feel the border is secure in that same poll. In other words, the broader Democratic Party has a lot more differences in opinion than the activist base does. They’re also not looking to remake society all that much either.

Then there is Joe Biden, the least popular man on Twitter. If you read Twitter activists, Joe Biden should retire. His past gaffes, his age, Anita Hill, being a white dude, and the Crime Bill are just the leaders among his sins, and he is hopeless to survive them in this primary. There is a reality though- and we saw it in the December Quinnipiac Polling. Biden has a 53/33 approval to disapproval rating. His rating with Democrats on the whole was 84%. African-Americans gave him a strong 73/12 split. Young people loved him, and old people. Latinos approved of him by large margins. Biden was even popular with white guys and non-college educated whites. I’ll tell you though, he would lose most Twitter polls.

This is not to say that Democrats should rule out impeachment, ignore real concerns among their base, or nominate Biden in 2020. It’s to say that Democrats should not get caught only listening to the echo chamber of their base. The country does not like Donald Trump, as is evidenced by his 40.5% approval, and his paltry 46% of the 2016 vote. Like 2016 though, Trump could over-perform his approval and squeak out an electoral college win if the Democrats speak all towards their base, and not towards the voters that will decide the election, or even their own broader party. In 2018, the Democratic Party did a great job of messaging towards the majority of voters, on issues like increasing wages and protecting Medicare. The real question is whether the post-landslide victory of 2018 version of the Democratic Party can listen to the voices of the whole country, or those that get a lot of coverage on TV?

A Bold, New World View, Part 10- How Our Politics Have Shaped the Future

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.

Read Part 3 here.

Read Part 4 here.

Read Part 5 here.

Read Part 6 here.

Read Part 7 here.

Read Part 8 here.

Read Part 9 here.

I think back to my earliest days as a voter, and the events that were shaping my politics at the time. I was 17 when the Supreme Court awarded George W. Bush the White House. I was 18 when 9/11 happened. Locally, I was 19 when Bethlehem Steel finally went under. I was about the same age when the Iraq War Resolution passed Congress. Enron was going under for corporate fraud. Then there was the ugly, bigoted 2003 and 2004 fight over marriage equality. It didn’t get better as I aged into my early-20’s. Hurricane Katrina, Abu Ghraib, the meltdown of the Iraq War, and finally, the economic collapse of 2008 all happened before I was 26. In the course of a decade, maybe my most formative decade, the American judiciary and our electoral system, foreign policy and the Pentagon, our whole government, institutional Christianity, and corporate America all were made to look foolish, incompetent, and evil. This was difficult to process, as it ran against so much that I grew up thinking, but process it I did, with millions of others my age. It should be no wonder millennials, and the “Gen-Z’ers” who followed, are more liberal than past generations.

It’s not just headlines though that have pushed “the kids” to the left. Looking at the results of those events, there has been a real world impact on us. Home ownership, marriage, even having kids has been a slower, more difficult process. Good luck finding a job with health care and a pension. Many 30-somethings that fought in Iraq and Afghanistan lost limbs or came home with PTSD. New Orleans may have permanently lost a huge chunk of it’s population. The opportunities that were a given for our less educated parents and grandparents aren’t there for us. Instead we have the gig economy, student loan debt, and a constant struggle to survive.

It almost should be no shock that there are young people who love Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other politicians like her on the left- they are promising something diametrically different. While her ideas aren’t totally fleshed our, who the hell cares? If the status quo appears to be an abject failure, and feels like an abject failure, then it is an abject failure. Given the political options young people see as available, they’re making the choice that seems to make sense to them.

What exactly are our political options in 2019 anyway? The Republican Party’s last act in control of both houses of Congress and the White House was to shut down the government to build a border wall to keep Latinos out. In other words, the Republican Party has given up on governing, and only really wishes to enhance corporate profit and appease elder bigotry. The Democratic Party has essentially split into two- on the one side are “establishment” Democrats that want to govern responsibly, on the other side are more leftist Democrats that want to oppose the status quo and Republicans at nearly all costs. It would stand to reason that if your current situation is awful, “responsibility” isn’t your main concern, right or not.

Of course, some of the upheaval of this moment has produced great things too. Our first African-American President, our first woman nominee for President, our first Muslim women in Congress, and our first Native Americans in Congress are all examples of barriers falling. The traditional paradigm of white men in public office is folding on the behalf of non-traditional candidates. Who can blame the young folks for voting for something new? Growing up in a world of corporate greed, religious bigotry, inept government, terrorism, and fraud will make you question the leaders you’ve had.

I do not join in the optimistic view many on the left have of the world that millennials and Gen-Z will create. I’m not a big believer in the diametric change that many of my fellow millennials do. I get why it’s happening though- our fathers and grandfathers showed us an inability to lead our society in a responsible, moral way. Telling those that bare the price to be responsible is a bitter pill to swallow. Our elders decision to elect Donald Trump May have made it completely unacceptable.

Fact, Fiction, and the Terrible Two’s for Trump, Marchers, Candidates, and MAGAts

Well, the Trump Presidency is two years old as of yesterday at noon. That means that, God willing, we’re past the halfway point. Of course the weekend had plenty of drama, with a bunch of white, Catholic kids from Kentucky having an altercation with a Native American elder in Washington, an incident that went viral on social media. Donald Trump did some ignorant tweeting too, and Mike Pence compared him to MLK. You can’t make this Presidency up.

At the halfway mark of the Trump Presidency, I’m pretty comfortable calling it a failure. He’s the worst President of my lifetime, and that includes Reagan and Dubbya. The man is ripping the country apart at the seems, unleashing division I’ve never seen before. It’s bad. It’s really bad.

I’ve come to two other basic conclusions at this point on Trump:

  1. He’s a stone cold lazy moron. I’m not telling you to underestimate him, he’s the greatest marketer in the world. I’m saying that’s all he is though- a basic conman who sells his grifter schemes to people who are desperately looking for something to latch onto. Donald Trump was never a good businessman, he bankrupt a casino for God’s sake. He is ignorant on economics, ignorant on foreign affairs, ignorant on basic civics and the workings of government, ignorant on societal change, and ignorant on the challenges facing working people. He’s notable ignorant moron because he’s stupid, but because he’s lazy, narcissistic, and detached from the people. He doesn’t want to learn about foreign policy, and things like why America defends the Kurds. He doesn’t want to learn about economics, and see how global trade is necessary for our consumers and businesses, let alone what actually should be reformed in the global market. The man is a basic “Trust Fund Baby” type, ignorant to the world in his old age, but completely sure he’s an expert in everything, because he’s rich and famous. He’s a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe, and ignorant to all the social sciences, basically because he’s intellectually lazy and arrogant.
  2. He wishes he was an autocratic dictator and actually effective fascist, but instead he’s an ineffective buffoon. Can we be honest for a moment- Trump wishes he could run America like Putin, or Erdogan, or MBS, or any other foreign leader that has close to absolute power in their country. The real reason Trump defends Saudi Arabia over the Kashoogi murder is that he wishes he could pull that off. But he can’t, which is why I stop short of some of the hyperbole about fascism with Trump. First, and by a thread, our Democratic institutions have held up against his worst excesses so far. We were able to elect a Congress that put Nancy Pelosi in his way before he could get into a full scale roll back of the Bill of Rights. Second off, Trump is too stupid to be Putin. He drives staff and advisers away who challenge him, the exact kind of people effective leaders need to enact their agendas. He’s a narcissist. He’s too greedy and proud to navigate the complications of governing. It’s why not one mile of wall got built in his first two years, or why they couldn’t repeal the ACA, or why so many of his directives and policies got knocked down in courts. The man is a buffoon. This is not to say he’s not doing major damage. An idiot with power can do lasting damage to Democratic norms, the federal workforce, the judiciary, international relations, immigration law, and lots of other areas. What I’m saying is the reason we’re not actually seeing death camps, journalists being killed, and ethnic cleansing is everything I wrote under number one has made him an ineffective executive.

The byproduct of Trump’s two years in office was seen this weekend in the “Right to Life” Marches, the Women’s Marches, and even the Indigenous People’s March. Activism, and passions, are at an all-time in America. I could use this space to write about my general distaste for Linda Sarsour and some of the other organizers of these marches, but to do so is to totally miss the point- this is the point of a society that has a First Amendment in it’s constitution. That millions of women took to the streets to declare their political being is a good thing. In fact, even though I disagree with their policy point, the pro-life marchers taking to DC is a good thing. Our government of elites can be detached from the people, and it’s good when the people make sure they can see and hear us. If the only positive out of Trumpism is a more animated public, that’s not a small victory.

Of course, this has also brought us an unprecedented incivility in our discourse. Trump’s gutter language, his calls for opponents to be locked up, his flagrant disregard for the law and well being of others, has brought us to this point. It’s a point where high school kids attempt to belittle a Native American elder, where Nazis march in our streets, and yes, where Congress members call the President a “mother f*cker,” out of pure frustration with his government. Trump’s hate empowers more hate, and prompts an equally angry response. It creates a race to the bottom, as frustration builds among all of those newly politically active people on all sides. Trump’s language tells his supporters than it’s ok to hate, ok to look down on marginalized people, ok to treat people of different views as pond scum. And guess what? The MAGAts, in their red hats did. The Covington Catholic boys are just the latest, and frankly not nearly the scariest visualization of this. And what does this induce on the other side? For me, frustration. Hence, I’m referring to them as “MAGAts.” For millions of others though, it’s fear. They wonder if they still can belong to this society. They wonder if they can physically stay here. Now based on what I wrote above, I do think some of the fears about Trump are hyperbole. It’s easy for me to reason it all out though, I’m not the target. I’m a white, straight, Catholic male, from suburbia. For many other people, reason goes out the door when their rights, their freedom, and their lives are called into question in open rhetoric, from their President.

It is in this environment that extremism thrives. Confirmation bias starts taking hold when people are angry, hateful, or afraid. Extreme policy positions, without any actual plans or thought, become popular. Grifters, loons, and hatemongers rise up in our politics. Anti-semitism has creeped into the left, Neo-Nazis are being accepted on the right. Extreme, radical ideas are suddenly accepted as legitimate to debate. The door is wide open once it’s cracked open an inch.

It is important that our 2020 Presidential candidates see through this mirage, this moment, and see it for what it is. Our political discourse right now is not what most of America is. At most, somewhere between one and two percent of America was marching in the streets this weekend. The other 98% just aren’t there. That’s not to say they’re happy- most of them didn’t vote for Trump (he got less votes, with 46% of the vote), and they just summarily kicked Trump’s party out of control in the Congress. I’d go further and bet 99% of the people at the marches don’t want the country ripped apart by our political divisions we are suffering. Donald Trump is President because of the luckiest of breaks in the electoral college that gave him a win with 3 million less votes. It’s important that our candidates for President not lose site of an obvious truth- this is not who we want to be. We’re better than Donald Trump. We’re better than our politics. We just need a leader who can help us realize that again.