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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Facebook Could Destroy Democracy

The Daily Escape:

Pond, Greenville County SC – February 2020 photo by Ninjiteex. It’s rare to see snow in SC

On Facebook, Wrongo mostly reads the posts of friends who are involved in showing dogs at AKC events. People who show dogs skew older and female, and thus, so do Wrongo’s Facebook friends. Many share a constant amount of pro-Trump (dis)information.

So, Wrongo tried a week-long experiment, letting some of those posters know that their posts were factually incorrect. Let’s focus on one, a picture of a very young Bernie Sanders being hauled away by police:

The photo’s caption says:

“In 1963 Bernie Sanders was arrested for throwing eggs at black civil rights protestors. This is the side of Bernie that CNN and the fake news media don’t want you to know”

The picture is real, the caption is false. Sanders was actually protesting police brutality and segregation, and was arrested for “resisting arrest”. Facebook has now taken down the post, but it was up for over a week.

When Wrongo told friends that their posts were false, everyone deflected, and minimized their intent. One, a fervent Trumper, said, “I just wanted to post a picture of him when he was young”. Never mind that this photo is available all over the internet with the simplest of searches, all with the correct reference.

Despite a week’s worth of trying, no one was willing to delete a false post. Many of these people post disinformation six or more times a day, so it was an exercise in futility to try and make these “friends” admit the truth about their posts, much less show any awareness about their biases.

This is a small example of what McKay Coppins wrote in his Atlantic article, “The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President.” As an experiment, Coppins signed up at many pro-Trump social media sites, and soon was deluged with alternative facts: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“What I was seeing was a strategy that has been deployed by illiberal political leaders around the world. Rather than shutting down dissenting voices, these leaders have learned to harness the democratizing power of social media for their own purposes—jamming the signals, sowing confusion. They no longer need to silence the dissident shouting in the streets; they can use a megaphone to drown him out. Scholars have a name for this: censorship through noise.”

All of this is helped by Facebook’s excellent micro-targeting tools. They allow an advertiser to slice the electorate into narrow and distinct niches and then reach them with precisely tailored digital messages. More from Coppins:

“An ad that calls for defunding Planned Parenthood might get a mixed response from a large national audience, but serve it directly via Facebook to 800 Roman Catholic women in Dubuque, Iowa, and its reception will be much more positive.”

The results can be overwhelming. The Trump campaign runs hundreds of iterations of ads. In the 10 weeks after the House of Representatives began its impeachment inquiry, the Trump campaign ran roughly 14,000 different ads containing the word impeachment.

No one has the bandwidth to sift through all of them, and then call them out.

It gets worse. Coppins says that the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign have compiled an average of 3,000 data points on every voter in America. They have spent years experimenting with ways to tweak their messages based not just on gender and geography, but on whether the recipient owns a dog or, a gun.

Raw Story quotes former Rep. David Jolly (R-FL) saying that Donald Trump intentionally wants America to be anxious: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“I had a colleague that was in a meeting in the Roosevelt Room and….he heard Trump say, ‘Have you ever seen the nation so divided?’ My colleagues and others said, ‘No, we haven’t.’ Trump said, ‘I love it that way.’’

He thinks this how he’ll be re-elected!

Last Sunday, Walter Schaub, former director of the US Office of Government Ethics had a remarkable tweet thread on this, saying: (emphasis and brackets by Wrongo)

“…we’re in a dangerous new phase of Trump’s war on democracy. What do we do now?

….the greatest threat we face is despondency. The enemies of democracy…want you drowning in hopelessness. A hopeless populace is a helpless one. To that end, a hostile foreign power set up an infrastructure to weaponize social media against you.

Compounding the assault on your senses, he [Trump] also wields a corrupted government, which follows his lead in disseminating lies to sow confusion…

In the face of this psychological warfare, our most urgent mission—our civic duty—is to reject despondency. Everyone has a bad day, so we may need to take turns leading the charge. But our job as citizens is to resist the temptation to spread defeatism on social media.”

You said it, Walter!

We gotta keep hope alive.

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Monday Wake Up Call – February 17, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Looking west at sunset with Merced River in foreground, Yosemite NP, CA – 2019 photo by OlafIowa

“The general culture is often stupid or evil, and would vote out God in favor of the devil if he fed them back their hate and fear in a way that made them feel righteous”  -Charles Frazier, from his book, Varina, Pgs. 328-329

We’re living in the terrible present, an unprecedented time when Trump can say “Make me!” and we can’t, although Democrats have been trying since 2016.

That we’re in the middle of a “put the oxygen mask on your democracy first” emergency is shown by all that the Trump administration has done since his impeachment acquittal. Democracy is dying right in front of us, and in broad daylight. And the people trying to kill it are making no bones about it to the rest of us.

In this primary season, people are fighting over which Democratic presidential candidate will be the best at beating Trump, but that’s the wrong question. Strategically, Democrats win if they hold the House and take back the Senate. With both Houses of Congress, Trump will be neutered, even if he wins. If the Democrat wins, and the Party holds both Houses, passing progressive legislation becomes possible.

So the real decision is which candidate will have the best coattails.

That brings us to doctrinal purity tests. Most Democrats see the purity test as a doctrinaire standard of ideological purity. In 2016, Hillary Clinton objected to Bernie Sanders’s saying in a primary debate that she didn’t measure up as a progressive. Clinton argued that according to Sanders’s criteria, even Obama wouldn’t measure up, “because he took donations from Wall Street.”

Democrats must overcome their obsession about who is the most progressive, or who isn’t progressive enough. Otherwise, the Party will go into the November fight disunited.

In a column last week, Wrongo talked about Democrats’ disunity in the presidential elections of 2000 and 2016. But we can go back to an earlier event, the campaign of George McGovern in 1972. Nixon shellacked McGovern by a 23-point margin in the popular vote, carrying 49 states.

McGovern was a progressive who called for tax reform. He proposed payroll tax-funded single-payer healthcare. He was for a form of guaranteed income called a “Demogrant” of $1,000 per year for every adult, regardless of income, as an alternative to Nixon’s complicated means-tested welfare overhaul plan. Yang’s plan is similar to McGovern’s

Many Democrats failed to support McGovern, thinking he was too liberal. After McGovern’s defeat, Democrats began running towards the center, even though “the center” has moved further and further to the right with each presidential election.

We’ll have to play hardball to defeat Trump in November. But to play hardball, one must first have balls, something Democrats haven’t shown in a very long time. It’s not surprising that despite winning the popular vote in 6 of the last 7 presidential elections, Dems have little to show for it politically.

Consider that two of the top 2020 contenders include Bernie and Bloomberg, who aren’t Democrats, and have at times, held the Party in clear contempt. Think about where we are: Biden couldn’t beat Obama or Hillary in 2008. Sanders couldn’t beat Hillary in 2016. Hillary couldn’t beat Trump.

Is it logical that either of Biden or Bernie could win in 2020?

Wrongo isn’t sold on Bloomberg. Criticisms of other candidates are as least as applicable to Bloomberg:

  • Biden and Sanders too old? Bloomberg is just as old
  • Biden too gaffe-prone? Bloomberg feasts on his own foot frequently
  • Sanders health a concern? Bloomberg also had a heart attack and the same operation to treat it
  • Sanders’s commitment to the Democratic Party? Bloomberg has actually bankrolled Republican office holders at the state and federal level
  • Biden and Klobuchar too conservative? Bloomberg is more conservative
  • Klobuchar an evil boss? Don’t read Bloomberg’s management philosophy. It’s best if you aren’t a woman

For Bloomberg, maybe it’s as Cyndi Lauper said: “Money changes everything”.

Still, after the disaster of 2016, there are people who will sit on their hands and let Trump be re-elected, rather than support a Dem they find ideologically impure.

You probably don’t remember the 1972 campaign clearly because you were too young, but 2000 wasn’t enough? 2016 wasn’t enough?

Wake up America! The best candidate is the one with the longest coattails.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – February 16, 2020

It is clear that Trump, aided by attorney general Barr, is using the power of the Justice Department to investigate and persecute his enemies, and intervene in the judicial process to help his friends.

This isn’t acceptable. It’s out of bounds. It’s unethical and it’s un-American. This is what autocrats do.

Trump didn’t like the jury decision that convicted his buddy Roger Stone, so he’s attacking the jury foreman on Twitter. This woman now has the president of the US gunning for her.

This has never happened before. We live in a country that is supposed to protect our rights. That doesn’t just happen. It requires all of us to demand that our institutions do not abuse their power.

Some of you would love to check out mentally, and let Trump and Barr slide. But our privileges come with responsibilities. Are we willing to stand up for the Constitution? Are we willing to stand up for America? On to cartoons.

America knows the truth about Trump and Barr:

Barr’s investigations could become a moving target:

Our future:

Dems are in training for November:

Biden looks for answers:

And he gives Dems a heads up:

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Saturday Soother – Bill Barr Edition

The Daily Escape:

Peyto Lake, Jasper NP, Alberta CN – 2019 photo by TheMilkMan26

America needs a Trumpectomy, and that won’t happen until January 2021. The problem is that Trumpism is like a metastasized cancer, and maybe even excising Trump won’t be enough to cure the country.

When the story broke that AG William Barr had intervened in the sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone, most of the country was in an uproar. Career DOJ prosecutors left the case, and most of us were angry and in disbelief that Trump was directing the DOJ’s case along with his accomplice, AG Barr.

The Justice Department was also in disbelief. NBC News’ Ken Delanian reported that Department of Justice employees almost walked out en masse on Wednesday over Barr’s actions. Barr responded to the criticism from inside and outside the DOJ by telling ABC News that Trump’s constant tweets “make it impossible for me to do my job.” The first blush reaction to Barr’s statement was that Barr was complaining about Trump getting in his grill.

A much more realistic (and troubling) take is that Barr is defending his action as “perfect”, and the only reason that he’s taking flack is a completely unrelated tweet from Trump.

Barr’s criticism of Trump is about as real as professional wrestling. He’s a fan of executive power, and too aware of Trump’s personality to have done this without coordinating with the White House.

And if that wasn’t enough, the NYT reported on Friday that Barr assigned yet another outside prosecutor to scrutinize the DOJ’s criminal case against Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser. This is yet another case of political interference by the DOJ into the work of its own career prosecutors.

Flynn pleaded guilty, but at the start of the sentencing phase, he hired a new attorney, Sidney Powell, a darling of the right wing media, who is also a FOX contributor. She is contesting his guilty plea.

Barr said just the other day that he would not be bullied or swayed for political reasons, and would only act in the name of maintaining the highest judicial standards. Now, the question for Barr is: How did he pick the Stone and Flynn cases for the DOJ to pursue?

Flynn’s judge, Emmet Sullivan, wrote a 92-page opinion in December laying out why the things that Barr just hired another counsel to second-guess won’t affect Flynn’s guilt. Why is the entire Right wing is going to the mats to defend Flynn, a guy who was secretly on Turkey’s payroll while acting as Trump’s NatSec advisor?

Their hero is a guy who was selling out the US for $600K.

It’s important to remember that Flynn, Manafort, and Stone broke the law repeatedly. Barr is working to undermine our judicial process on their behalf. Now, you can prosecute the bad guys, but don’t mess with the president’s friends. Do that and you’ll be out of work, or worse.

This of course, changes how prosecutors will do their jobs.

Successfully performing the Trumpectomy will be an all hands on deck effort. We can’t give up hope. Wrongo returned from his military service in 1969, and protested the Vietnam War until it ended in 1975.

We need to resist Trumpism until it ends. Let’s close with two excerpts from Thomas Merton’s “Letter to a young activist”, written during the Vietnam War in 1966:

“This country is SICK, man. It is one of the sickest things that has happened. People are fed on myths, they are stuffed up to the eyes with illusions. They CAN’T think straight. They have a modicum of good will, and some of them have a whole lot of it, but with the mental bombardment everybody lives under, it is just not possible to see straight, no matter where you are looking.”

Sound familiar? Merton goes on to say:

“Vietnam is the psychoanalysis of the US. I wonder if the nation can come out of it and survive. I have a hunch we might be able to. But your stresses and strains, mine, Dan Berrigan’s, all of them, are all part of this same syndrome, and it is extremely irritating and disturbing to find oneself, like it or not, involved in the national madness.”

We’ve been here before, and with huge voter turnout, we can beat Trumpism.

We really need today’s Saturday Soother. To help you begin, let’s brew up a mug of Kona Bourbon Pointu Laurina, ($62.50/8oz.). Wrongo know that’s expensive, but use some of your Trump winnings to buy it from Hula Daddy, an artisanal coffee grower in Kona, Hawaii.

Now put on your headphones and listen to “21st Century USA” by the Drive By Truckers from their new album “Unraveled”. This isn’t designed to soothe you, but to fire you up:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Can Democrats Unite Behind One Candidate?

The Daily Escape:

The Great Western Divide, Kings Canyon NP, CA – photo by enigmo81

Let’s recall a statistic from the New Hampshire primary (NH) exit polling: 15% of Democratic voters said they wouldn’t support the Democratic nominee unless it was their first choice. This has echoes of the 2016 presidential campaign when the divisions between Hillary and Bernie carried over to unwillingness on the part of some Bernie supporters to vote for Hillary in the General Election.

Many of their votes went to the Green Party’s Jill Stein. Vox reports that:

“In Michigan, Clinton lost by less than a percentage point, a deficit she could have recovered from with half of Stein’s votes. Again in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, where Clinton lost by one point, Jill Stein’s votes would have covered her loss. Had Clinton won all three states, she would have won the election.”

And remember the 2000 election. That year, the Green Party’s candidate was Ralph Nader, who earned 97,488 votes, in Florida, swinging the election to GW. Bush, who won Florida by less than 600 votes.

So will 2020 be another time that Democrats self-immolate? Can Democrats agree to back one candidate with enthusiasm? Can Dems unify to insure huge turnouts that carry the House and Senate as well?

Let’s talk turnout. It’s been underwhelming. The total of Democrat voters in the 2020 Iowa caucus was 172,669. This is almost the same number of voters who turned out in 2016 when Hillary and Bernie were battling it out: 171,109. That’s about 70,000 less than the turnout in 2008 for Hillary vs. Obama.

Doesn’t seem that Iowa showed much Democratic enthusiasm.

In NH, more than 296,000 Democrat votes were cast. This exceeded the 287,542 that voted for Obama and Hillary in 2008. However, there are more eligible voters today than in 2008. That year 29% of the electorate voted in the Democrat primary, while only 26% voted this time.

It gets worse. NH allows crossover voting in primaries. Wrongo lived in NH for 12 years, and on occasion, voted strategically for candidates he had no intention of voting for in the General Election. Charlie Pierce noted this post last Sunday from the NH Journal:

“Bill Kristol, founder of the conservative Weekly Standard magazine, confirmed to NH Journal that he is part of the effort, which involves tens of thousands of New Hampshire voter contacts and a six-figure budget. Kristol said:

“Yup. I’m happy to have joined with some others to help remind New Hampshire independents, who might be accustomed to voting in the Republican primary, that this year, they may be able to make more of a difference by voting for a responsible and electable candidate in the Democratic primary….”

Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report calculates NH independents responded to Kristol’s prodding, and some helped Buttigieg and Klobuchar:

Is this Democratic field causing less than expected turnout? What can turn this around? Wasserman’s colleague, Amy Walter, tweeted this:

“Dear Democrats: there is no ‘perfect’ candidate. There never is…”

It’s early in the primary marathon, but the signs are not good. Weak candidates, little enthusiasm, and a significant minority who is unwilling to say they’ll back the nominee, regardless of who it is.

And there’s been more than the two examples of disunity mentioned above. We have to go back to 1972 and the campaign of George McGovern. Nixon shellacked McGovern by a 23-point margin in the popular vote, carrying 49 states.

After McGovern’s defeat, Democrats began running towards the center, even though “the center” has moved further and further to the right with each presidential election.

For the past 40 years, party leaders and mainstream pundits have invoked McGovern’s name. In 2004, Howard Dean was the new McGovern. In 2008, Barack Obama became the new McGovern. Now in 2020, many think Bernie Sanders is McGovern. From Martin Longman:

“In 1972, we were told that the newly lowered voting age would bring out a surge of youth voters for McGovern. But only half of 18-21 year olds turned out to vote and 48% of them voted for Nixon. In any case, it wouldn’t have mattered if they’d all turned out and voted heavily for the Democrat. Without party unity, McGovern had no chance.”

We’re again hoping for the youth vote to drive turnout, and bring voter enthusiasm. What are the odds? Democrats are on a high risk course, when based on the midterms two years ago, the Party was pretty cohesive. What’s the reason to weaken the coalition that won the 2018 midterms?

Democrats need to think about how to drive their candidates toward agreement on a set of policies and eventually, on a candidate who can unify the Party.

Remember that regardless of who becomes the nominee, that candidate will be running on the most progressive platform of any major party in the past 40 years.

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Post-Primary Thoughts

The Daily Escape:

Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, CA – photo by valledweller33. The canyon floor is 4,500ft below its rim.

Everything is BS until the people vote. Unlike in Iowa, New Hampshire (NH) declared a primary winner on the same day. One way to look at the results is:

  • The three main moderate candidates took 52.6% of the NH vote: (Buttigieg, 24.4% + Klobachar, 19.8% + Biden, 8.4%)
  • Two main lefty candidates took 35.2 % of the vote (Sanders, 25.9% + Warren, 9.3%)

Bernie was the winner, followed closely by Mayor Pete. Amy Klobuchar, who finished third, was to Wrongo’s thinking, overpraised by the pundits. She finished 5th in Iowa, a state next door to hers. Now she has both 5th and 3rd place finishes, and the media says she’s got a real chance.

Contrast that with Elizabeth Warren, who finished 4th in her neighboring state of New Hampshire, and 3rd in Iowa. So why are the media saying Klobuchar is a serious candidate, and Warren is a loser?

Biden, though, is toast. He’s nearly out of money and if he can’t finish better than 5th, he should go to the sidelines. The parade has passed him by. He looked like a man running on empty, a fine fellow, a good man, but a man of the past, who often seemed to be wondering what was going on.

Despite all of the above, there are two winners coming out of NH: Klobachar and Bloomberg. For Klobachar, she has an upside. She’s raised her profile, but she has virtually no support in Nevada and South Carolina; she may have trouble reaching the 15% threshold for delegates in both.

OTOH, Super Tuesday includes her home state of Minnesota which may be an opportunity for a win.

Klobuchar could easily make a strong vice president with her strength in the Midwest and in the suburbs. Alternatively, she could become the first female majority or minority leader in the history of the US Senate.

Bloomberg is the other NH winner. No one coming out of the NH primary looks to be able to build beyond their narrow base of support. Ron Brownstein concludes in The Atlantic:

“So far, none of the candidates has built a coalition that reaches broadly across the party. Instead, each is confined to a distinct niche of support that is too narrow to establish a commanding advantage in the race.”

The NH primary exit polls said 63% of voters were motivated to vote because of anger at Trump. The scariest statistic in the exit polls was that 15% said they will not vote for the Democratic presidential nominee unless it’s their candidate. This demonstrates the schism between the left and moderate wings of the party.

Many Dems think that Bloomberg would be the best center-left candidate, due to his resume and his money. But he isn’t for the purist lefties, and he’s spending tons of money on the Super Tuesday contests.

The problem with Bloomberg’s spending is that getting to 15% in the polling (with no votes yet cast for him) has already cost him $300 million. How much will it cost to get to 50.1% of Democratic delegates? Beyond that, can he buy the all-important turnout?

Let’s move on to this week’s reason for anger at Trump: His undermining of the federal judicial process.

The DOJ’s prosecutors in convicted Trump buddy Roger Stone’s case filed sentencing recommendations for his guilt in witness tampering. They asked for seven to nine years in prison. Trump tweeted thatThis is a horrible and very unfair situation. “ And Attorney General Barr reacted by overriding his prosecutors and changing that recommendation to three to four years.

Of course the whole case was unfair to Stone — the judge actually allowed witnesses to testify at his trial! That’s a huge no-no in Trumpworld.

All four prosecutors on the case have now left the case over the DOJ’s overriding their recommendations, and one resigned from the DoJ.

This isn’t simply about sparing a Trump crony a long prison sentence, Trump has the power to pardon him at any time. Stone’s judge is Amy Berman Jackson, who also has the Paul Manafort case. Manafort, like Stone, withheld evidence, and decided to face a jury that then convicted him.

Stone’s sentence will now be decided by Judge Jackson, who may have some thoughts about these shenanigans. She may also have some thoughts about Stone having posted her picture on social media with a crosshair over it.

This is a bad look: Trump weighs in, and all of a sudden, the DOJ says “let’s change the deal”.

Most Americans would look at that and say ”it just doesn’t look right”. The DOJ is just Barr’s cover Trump’s butt department now.

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Turnout Must Be the Democrats’ Election Strategy

The Daily Escape:

St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans, LA – December 2019 iPhone photo by Wrongo

So, what’s the Democrats’ 2020 campaign strategy? As usual, they can’t decide. Should they run to the center, again following a “Blue Dog” strategy that will sound a lot like Republican-lite? Should they go big, calling for structural change that expands health care and grows the middle class? Or should they simply run against Trump?

Which of these, or which combination of these strategies, are winners?

Ask any pundit, and they will say that Trump won Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania by appealing to white, working class voters who abandoned the Democrats based on Trump’s economic populist messaging. This makes all Dem strategists say the Democratic presidential nominee must run as a centrist.

That was true in Ohio in 2016, where Trump managed to win 50% of the votes. In the others, he won with pluralities. Trump “won” Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan with 47.22%, 48.18%, and 47.5% of the vote, respectively. Why? Because five times the normal number in those states cast their ballots for someone other than Trump or Clinton. In this polarized era, the average vote that goes to a protest ballot is about 1.5%. In 2016, in Wisconsin, 6.2% of voters cast protest ballots.

Most of those third party voters should have been Democratic voters—they were disproportionately young, diverse and college educated—but the Clinton camp made no effort to activate them in the general election.

Instead, Hillary Clinton ran her campaign by trying to appeal to Republicans and the few Republican-leaning independents appalled by Trump. She chose a bland white man, Tim Kaine, as VP. Her messaging and ads were policy-lite. And in the end, most of those voters stuck with the GOP.

Rachel Bitecofer, a 42-year-old professor at Christopher Newport University Virginia, says that there are no swing voters, and that it’s useless to design a campaign to appeal to them. Crazy, right? We should take her seriously because she nailed, almost to the number, the size of the Democrats’ 2018 win in the House.

Bitecofer’s theory is that today’s elections are rarely shaped by voters changing their minds, but rather by shifts in who decides to vote. She says the real “swing” doesn’t come from voters who choose between two parties, but from people who choose to vote, or not. The actual percentage of swing voters in any given national election according to her analysis, is closer to 7% than the 20% most of the media thinks are out there.

Bitecofer’s view of the electorate is driven by Alan Abramowitz’s concept of “negative partisanship,” the idea that voters are more motivated to defeat the other side than any particular policy goals. Abramowitz says that American politics has become like bitter sports rivalries, where the parties hang together mainly out of sheer hatred of the other team, rather than a shared sense of purpose. Republicans might not love the president, but they absolutely loathe his Democratic adversaries.

Bitecofer says that negative partisanship makes the outcome of our elections highly predictable.

For what it’s worth, Bitecofer’s model has a yet-unnamed Democrat winning 278 electoral votes with 68 electoral votes still rated toss-up. From Bitecofer:

“In short, the 2020 presidential election is shaping up as a battle of the bases, and the Democrats’ base is simply bigger. When their demographic advantage combines with an enthusiasm advantage and heightened party loyalty fueled by negative partisanship, they hold a significant structural advantage. Turnout in 2018 was about 12 points higher than 2014 turnout and higher than any midterm in decades…. It is not infeasible that turnout in 2020 will exceed 65%.”

This means that Democrats have to harness the anger of Democrats, and that is more important than using policy to energize them, and then TURN THEM OUT.

Wrongo isn’t sure what to think about this. Intuitively, the “bitter sports rivalry” makes sense. But at the 30,000-foot level, hers may just be another plea for driving higher turnout.

As Bitecofer sees it, we shouldn’t be thinking about the Democratic or Republican “base.” Rather, there are Democratic and Republican coalitions, the first made of people of color, college-educated whites and people in metropolitan areas; the second, mostly noncollege whites, with a smattering of religious-minded voters, financiers and people in business, largely in rural and exurban counties.

She may be right accidentally, rather than because her model is great. But focusing voters’ anger at Trump is better than saying that “Trump voters are stupid” (or racist, or deplorable)and  seems smart.

Huge turnout is key. Voter turnout in 2016 was around 50%. If that can be increased by 10-15%, all things become possible for the Democrats.

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Monday Cartoon Blogging – February 10, 2020

The New Hampshire debate is behind us, and the primary election is tomorrow. So what happens next? Do we move on towards November’s election and leave impeachment in the rear view, or does Congress “refresh the screen” and continue the investigations?

It’s one thing to run for president on “anyone but Trump”. It’s completely different for House Democrats to attempt more investigating while running for Congress. There are 31 House Democrats representing districts where Trump won in 2016. Most of them voted for impeachment, and they would probably be unhappy with further investigations.

Only one presidential candidate is willing to take on further investigations, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). But, at this point, do any of the current crop of Democratic contenders appear capable of beating Trump?

We should remember that doing that requires someone who can win Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Or alternatively, flip Florida and North Carolina. Running up the vote tally in New York and California are meaningless. Maybe it’s time to take a ride in the limo that’s double parked out on the street:

Steve Bannon was on Bill Maher’s “Real Time”. He said that if the Dems consider running a Republican like Bloomberg, it shows how debilitated the Democratic Party is. He may be right. And they may have to.

Mayo Pete eclipses Biden as the leading Moderate:

Trump made a mockery of the Medal of Freedom:

Trump’s post-acquittal firings brought a visit from Abe:

Pelosi wasn’t the only one who ripped it good:

America saw what they did:

Senate Republicans’ logic:

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Saturday Soother – Acquittal Edition

The Daily Escape:

View from the top of Mt. Baden Powell in the Los Angeles National Forest – February 2020 photo by David Dodd

(Sunday cartoons will appear on Monday)

Is the game of investigating Trump over? What are the arguments for continuing to pick at this wound? This is a political calculation only. It no longer matters who said what in Ukraine, regardless of the damage caused by Trump. That ship has sailed.

It’s time to focus on the 2020 election, particularly on the House and Senate races. Focusing on winning those elections, and particularly on holding the House while winning a majority in the Senate, requires that the Democratic Party deal with its current schism. The Party is messily divided between social liberals who are for reform of capitalism along with Medicare for All, and free college, and moderates who wish to tack back towards the middle of the road.

The question that Democrats have to deal with is which of these two poles can make it a majoritarian party in 2020 and beyond?

This dilemma faced the Republicans only a short time ago, when the Tea Party threatened to split the GOP in two. Those cracks remained evident until Trump came along and united them in a way that today makes them seem more like a cult than a political party.

In some ways, Democrats are like the American Whig party was in the early 1850’s, when it could no longer bridge the gap between the Whigs of the northern industrial states and the Whigs of the southern farming/slavery states. It was an irreconcilable dilemma, and in short order, the party simply ceased to exist, only to re-emerge as the Republican Party in 1856.

The Democrats have been trending this way since LBJ forced southern Democrats to vote for/against the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Later, the formation of the Democratic Leadership Council in 1985, founded in part by Bill Clinton, pushed the Democrats rightward.

The “Left Party” that is trying to emerge from the current shambles of the Democratic Party could be more properly defined as a reactionary movement. An attempt to return to the days of the New Deal and the rise of the middle class.

In that sense, Wrongo is a New Deal Reactionary. The New Deal was a good deal for most of us. We should want our New Deal back again.

The question on the table is: Which half of the divided Democratic Party should New Deal Reactionaries support? Is it the Sanders/Warren half, or the Biden/Bloomberg/Buttigieg half of the Party? If it’s Sanders, can we get a New Deal Revival, but no Recreational Socialism to go along with that?

Can the moderate/ConservaDems realistically be counted on to bring back the New Deal? We see that ConservaDems are willing to strap on their running shoes and do 3 miles in the morning, because “no pain no gain”. But somehow, once at work in the House or Senate, they claim that the hardship doesn’t make sense economically, so why even try?

The answers to these twin questions: Whether the Party can be re-united similar to the way Trump united the GOP, and which half of the Party should attempt that unification in November 2020, will determine the arc of our democracy for decades to come.

It was a terrible week, and now we need a break from “all acquittal, all the time”. That means it’s time for our Saturday Soother, a brief window when we can forget about the outside world and concentrate on breathing slowly and relaxing mind and body.

Let’s start by brewing up a vente cup of El Salvador Finca el Cerro Natural ($22.99/12oz.). The roaster, Virginia’s Red Rooster Coffee says it tastes of strawberry and tangerine zest with a viscous mouthfeel.

Now, grab a seat by the fire and listen to Anna Netrebko perform “Solveig’s Song” from Peer Gynt’s Suite No.2, live with the Prague Philharmonia conducted by Emmanuel Villaume in 2008:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Trump’s Sweet Little Lies

The Daily Escape:

Owens River, Owens Valley, CA – 2020 photo by AndrewHelmer. Owens is the deepest valley in the US.

A few thoughts about the SOTU. First, should we have minimum standards of conduct and language in our society? If so, should the president reflect them? Or, have we finally reached peak SOTU=STFU?

Trump wouldn’t shake Pelosi’s hand. Pelosi tore up her courtesy copy of the SOTU speech after Trump finished speaking. Both were empty gestures of contempt. Pelosi later explained to reporters that she tore up the speech because it was “manifesto of mistruths”. Twitter was ablaze, using hashtags like#NancytheRipper. The right predictably reacted. Here’s Jonathan Turley’s tweet:

“Pelosi’s act dishonored the institution and destroyed even the pretense of civility and decorum in the House. If this is the Speaker’s “drop the mike” moment, it is a disgrace that should never be celebrated or repeated. In a single act, she obliterated decades of tradition.”

Some (Nikki Haley) said that Pelosi was dishonoring the last surviving Tuskegee Airman and a service member’s reunion with his family. Some are calling for a one-way return to civility. Why is it that calls for more grace and more respect for tradition only operate in the Democrats’ direction?

Some always point out that we can give the OFFICE respect without giving the person respect. That’s an important distinction, one Wrongo supports, and one not made during the Obama era by Republicans.

Heather Cox Richardson sums up the evening:

“Trump….went on to play the game show host turned autocratic ruler. In the course of the speech, he developed the theme that he, the president, could raise hurting individuals up to glory. He promoted an older African American veteran to General. He awarded a scholarship to a child who had previously been unable to get one. He had Melania award the Medal of Freedom to talk show host Rush Limbaugh….He reunited a military family. Contrived though all these scenarios were, they made him the catalyst for improving the lives of individuals in ways to which we all can relate. It was reality TV: false, scripted, and effective.”

It was Trump’s Oprah moment: You get a scholarship! You get a medal of freedom! Juan Guaidó, you get Venezuela! If he had asked the audience to look under their seats for envelopes, Trump’s night would have been indistinguishable from an Oprah show.

But the worst was honoring Limbaugh: A horse’s ass recognized by a jackass. It may replace what to Wrongo’s thinking was the worst Presidential Medal of Freedom, Trump’s award to napkin economist Arthur Laffer. He of the 40-year proven failure of economic theory, the Laffer curve. But now and forever, America will have honored Rush, who the right-wing media will hereafter describe as the stoic hero facing a terrible death.

The media’s other narrative will be: Nancy, the Nasty Bitch.

The WaPo again did yeoman’s work fact-checking Trump’s lies in the SOTU speech:

“Many of these claims have been fact-checked repeatedly, yet the president persists in using them,”

He repeats them incessantly to wear down the media, and to exhaust the rest of us. He hopes that we’ll accept his version of reality.

If you knew nothing about the last three years of Trump’s presidency, the picture he painted sounded pretty good. If you have paid any attention at all, you know that the country was being snowed under with an avalanche of lies and half-truths.

His was a long, tedious exercise in election-year pandering and demagoguery. The president’s record of accomplishments is thin, so he had to pad it with hyperbole and outlandish claims.

Let’s close with a musical interlude. Here’s Fleetwood Mac’s video of their hit “Sweet Little Lies”, an appropriate tune for Trump’s manifesto of mistruths:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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