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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Saturday Soother – July 27, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Bear Creek Trail, Ouray, CO – 2019 photo by pickleskins

Wrongo didn’t watch the Mueller testimony, thinking that the outcome was pre-ordained. Given the millions of words that have been written to analyze his performance, and the largely weak tea now being brewed by House Democrats, there are two questions before us: First, should Democrats have relied so heavily on Muller to make a case against Trump? And second, what will the House Democrats do now?

The first thing we learned was that Mueller is showing his age, and that, if Robert Mueller is the mastermind of the Deep State coup that Trump alleges, he’s failed miserably.

Throughout Trump’s presidency, Democrats have grasped at one straw after another that was going to magically remove Trump from office. The Access Hollywood tape. The Stormy Daniels revelations. The likely violations of the Emoluments Clause. Racism. And, of course, Mueller Time.

Pursuing all of these have kept Trump off-balance, but no one should have expected any of them to bring him down. We now live in a no-rules time. The bar gets lowered with every outrage Trump perpetrates, and there is limited ability on the part of the average American to follow the House Committee’s parsing of the Mueller investigation’s facts.

Pelosi needed Mueller to ignite public opinion and provide her support for beginning impeachment proceedings. And, yet, Mueller in his testimony wouldn’t support except indirectly, Congress’s asking him to help them act on his report.

Wrongo has long believed that the FBI is a reactionary element in our society. It isn’t difficult to believe that Mueller had little intention of teeing up Trump for the Congress.

Moreover, the GOP has decided there’s absolutely nothing wrong with accepting intelligence support from foreign governments, provided their Party is the beneficiary of that help.

Pelosi knows the ONLY LEVERAGE that Dems have politically is their majority in the House of Representatives. It would be political malpractice to risk losing that. Sacrificing the majority in the House, even for the good of the country, could leave Dems on the moral high ground as usual, but with zero political power.

And we know that as of today, winning the presidency in 2020 looks like a 50/50 proposition. Mueller’s performance should make a lot of potential Biden and Bernie supporters think twice about trying to elect yet another senior citizen, regardless of their prior political experience.

Enough for this week! It’s time for a Saturday Soother. You’ve followed the news, so you know that we all need a break to forget about politics for a while. To help you on the path to forgetting, let’s start by having a tall glass of cold brew coffee. Today, let’s try Wandering Bear Straight Black cold brew ($30 for a 96 oz. box) from NYC’s own Wandering Bear Coffee. The brewer says their coffee is decadently bold, but surprisingly smooth. The box fits in your fridge, and pours like a tap. Good times!

Their slogan is that cold brew = life. Wrongo is far from in agreement with that.

Now, settle back in a comfy chair and listen to CPE Bach’s “Cello Concerto in A Major“, performed live by cello soloist Monika Leskovar, accompanied by the Zagreb soloists. Wrongo and Ms. Right heard the New Baroque Soloists play this piece on Friday in Washington, CT, with the wonderful Samuel Magill as cello soloist:

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

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Marist Poll Points Towards Winning Democratic Policies

The Daily Escape:

Sunrise, Castle Reef, Montana – July 2019 photo by xzzy. Not to be confused with Capitol Reef NP, in Utah.

Yesterday, Wrongo showed an analysis of possible voter turnout by gender and age, and the implications for 2020. Overnight, a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll shows how it may be possible to craft policies that appeal to those groups, among others.

The poll was conducted from July 15 to 17, after the president’s tweets about the four Democratic congresswomen. It surveyed 1,336 adults largely (68%) by mobile phone, and has a margin of error of ±3.5%.

Some of the top line results: By a 53%-to-39% margin, Americans said they would definitely vote against Trump. That compares with the 54% of American voters who actually didn’t vote for Trump in 2016, an insufficient number to win the Electoral College. Trump did better among independents. A third of which said they would definitely vote for him, while 54% say they definitely won’t.

But, let’s focus on a few topics that had majority female support. Overall, 59% of women disapproved of the job that Trump is doing, compared to 52% of all respondents. And 62% of women said they would “definitely not vote for him”, substantially higher than the poll’s average.

All isn’t roses for the Democrats with women. When asked “do you think the ideas being offered by the Democratic candidates running for president would generally move the country in the right/wrong direction?” Women only gave the Democrats a 52% “right direction” tilt. Overall, Americans split 46%-to-43% on whether Democrats would take the country in the right or wrong direction, within the margin of error in the poll. Much of that may be due to unpopular policies offered by the current crop of candidates.

Here’s a list of the most popular policy proposals by Democrats:

  • 89% say requiring background checks for gun purchases or private sales is a good idea
  • 70% support offering Medicare for all as an option alongside private health insurance
  • 67% are in favor of regulating prescription drug prices
  • 64% are for a pathway to citizenship for immigrants in the US illegally
  • 63% support legalizing marijuana
  • 62% favor Increasing taxes on those making more than $1 million
  • 57% are for banning assault-style weapons
  • 56% support raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour

There are a few issues that are very unpopular, even with Democrats:

  • 26% are for a guaranteed universal basic income of $1,000 per month
  • 27% favor providing reparations for slavery
  • 27% support decriminalizing illegal border crossings
  • 33% support offering health insurance to illegal immigrants
  • 41% are in favor of doing away completely with private health insurance

People are split on giving free college tuition at public colleges and universities (53% said it’s a good idea, 43% said it’s a bad idea.

Overall, independents said they were not impressed with the direction either President Trump or Democrats want to take the country at this point. Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion at Marist College, said:

“They’re not willing to grant President Trump reelection, and yet they’re not persuaded by Democrats at this point.”

Showing that Democrats are not truly happy with their choices for president, 82% of Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents say they have not yet made up their mind on who to support in the Democratic primary. A majority (54%) say they want a nominee who can beat Trump, rather than one who shares their position on most issues (42%). That’s up 13 points from last month when 47% said they wanted someone who shared their position on most issues versus 46% who said they wanted someone who has the best chance of beating Trump.

Turning to the other side, Trump’s primary support comes from white males, Gen X (ages 39-54) and evangelicals. When asked if they would definitely vote for Trump in 2020, 66% of evangelicals, 51% of Gen X and 47% of white males said yes. That’s quite the weird coalition.

BTW, just 23% of Gen Z/Millennials (ages 18-38) said they are definitely voting for Trump.

As we said yesterday, Democrats have a chance to present a set of policies that will appeal to women and the youngest voters, in addition to their base. The field of 20+ has certainly reviewed the NPR/Marist Poll results at this point. Maybe a few are rethinking their stance on eliminating private insurance, or offering insurance to illegal immigrants.

It’s still early, and this poll is just another snapshot. The true picture will emerge in a few months.

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Can Dems Energize Voters in 2020?

The Daily Escape:

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone NP, Wyoming – July 2019 photo by dai_yue

How did we come up with such an uninspiring field of Democrats? Wrongo understands that November 2020 is a long way off, but pundits have been saying that Trump has a lock on the Electoral College, and that the Democrats are in total disarray. What to do?

From Tom Sullivan:

“Democrats don’t need to run for president on better policy, though they have that. Their candidate needs to generate excitement among traditional nonvoters….from the top of the ticket to the bottom, they need to give nonvoters something to vote for.”

When we scan the current 20+ Democratic presidential nominees, none are truly charismatic. Some have an easily understood message: Bernie focuses mainly on improving the economic lot of poor and working people, but he’s lost 9 points in the average of polls since late April. Why?

Warren has been the policy wonk among these candidates, and her ratings have improved to the point where she’s basically tied with Sanders, but both still lag Biden.

OTOH, Trump’s approval rating is now about 43%, the highest since the opening weeks of his presidency. A couple weeks before the 2016 election, Trump’s favorability rating was at 35%. Despite all of Trump’s outrages, his commitment to walling off his base from inroads by Democrats seems to be working. The current political wisdom seems to be that he has 2020 in the bag, as long as his base of Deplorables sticks with him in the states that matter.

So, should Dems be ignoring Trump and focusing on policy?

The Dem’s strategy should be to write off Trump voters; they are beyond reach. A few may be susceptible to the health care and jobs agenda, but most will prefer Trump’s anti-immigrant message. Second, we need to tell the unvarnished truth about the wrong Trump has caused. Focus on healthcare and jobs, but make it very clear that Trump has spent as much time and money paying off porn stars as he has spent thinking about how you’re going to pay your hospital bills.

We need to focus on the 50%-60% of Americans who aren’t for Trump, and energize them so that they turn out. Let’s look at two sub-sets of that majority: young voters and women voters. Vox explains how younger voters made the difference in 2018:

  • Young people drove voter turnout increases. Nearly 36% of 18- to 29-year-olds reported voting, a 16% jump from 2014, when only 20% of the youngest voters turned out to the polls. Adults ages 30 to 44 also increased voter turnout by 13%.
  • Voter turnout increased more among voters with college degrees than among those without. Voters with more education have historically had higher voter turnout, and that impact was even greater last year.
  • More urban voters (54% of citizens) voted compared to those who live outside of metro areas. That’s in sharp contrast to 2014, when slightly more people in rural areas voted than those in urban areas, by 44% to 42%.

Most important, in 2018, more women (55%) turned out to vote than men (52%). Here’s a chart:

Turnout among younger women was higher than among young men. That flipped with voters 65+, where more men cast ballots than women. The future of voting is apparently female.

For Democrats to win, they have to engage the Democratic base, including women and young voters.

In 2008, Barack Obama gave nonvoters a reason to register and vote. He won the youth vote nationally, 67% to 30%, with young voters proving a decisive difference in Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio, according to Tufts’ Center for Research and Information on Civic Learning and Engagement.

Did young people register and turn out in 2008 and 2012 because of Obama’s policies? No, they did it out of passion for someone who seemed to embody a better, more hopeful future.

So, Dems should leaven their policy messages with a pivot to Trump’s unfitness: Democrats are fighting for pre-existing conditions. Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s inciting of neo-Nazis and racists at his rallies is unpresidential.

We know what we’re doing, and Donald Trump is a total disaster” can’t be that difficult to get across. How about: “Send him back“? Will either be sufficient to overcome the lack of charisma of the Dem’s likely candidate?

Time will tell.

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Monday Wake Up Call – July 22, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Grinnell Glacier Overlook, Glacier NP, Montana – 2019 photo by e_met

Americans don’t like geopolitics. Columns about the world situation have been Wrongo’s least-viewed since the start of The Wrongologist blog in 2010. Today may be time for Americans to wake up, and think about our evolving and dangerous situation with Iran.

You know the basics: The US pulled out of the Iran Nuclear Deal in 2018. We reinstituted sanctions, the most important of which came into effect in November 2018, covering sales of oil and petrochemical products from Iran.

Since then, Iran has found it difficult to sell its oil, since the payments would be cleared through a vehicle called SWIFT, which is the payments backstop of the international trading system. SWIFT provides a network that enables more than 11,000 financial institutions worldwide to send and receive information about financial transactions in a secure, standardized and reliable environment.

No one wants to buy oil, and settle the deal through SWIFT because the US will become aware of the deal, and penalize the bank(s) or companies that worked with Iran. Another payment system is emerging, INSTEX, which will circumvent US sanctions, but it may be too little, too late, given the precipitous impact sanctions have had on Iran’s oil sales.

Things have now heated up. First with the seizure of an Iranian-flagged oil tanker by the UK in Gibraltar two weeks ago. It was ostensibly on its way to deliver oil to Syria, and the US asked the UK to seize the ship. What followed was tit-for-tat: On Friday, Iran seized a UK flag oil tanker in the Straits of Hormuz.

The US media is calling Iran seizure an unprovoked “attack” on a British flagged ship. Britain justifies its Gibraltar action as just keeping the sanction regime in place.

Here’s where things become dangerous. The neocons in Washington and in the media are seeking immediate and tough action, portraying Iran as an imminent threat to free trade, and to the West’s oil supply. Trump regrettably, is ignorant of Iran and Middle East history, and may not have the ability to avoid employing military force.

There is a dangerous delusion within the Trump /Bolton/Pompeo National Security team: They believe we are so militarily dominant that Iran will not dare fight us.

That is a strategically dangerous place to land. Our best option is to resolve the current tanker seizures with diplomacy. The UK and Iran could agree to resolve the situation and release the respective ships. All other options involve shooting and possibly, a military escalation involving others, including China and Russia.

If key Iranian infrastructure is targeted, nobody really thinks Iran will sit passively, and let us attack critical targets.

Iran has a robust, if not totally modern, military that could engage in counter strikes on US/UK targets in the Middle East. That would certainly involve our naval assets in the Persian Gulf. Now, suppose US aircraft are downed inside Iran (Iran has Russia’s S-300 antiaircraft system, but not the newer S-400). Trump would come under intense pressure to escalate. Any US pilots that survived being shot down, would give Tehran a big bargaining chip. Would Trump bargain, or would he continue to fight?

Iran would be damaged, but it would survive. The religious leadership’s hold on Iran would be strengthened. Trump’s political fortunes could take a hit from that portion of his base that is against foreign entanglements, as well as the other 60% of America.

The DC neocons are certain we can bomb Iran into submission. That is a fantasy, just as it was in Vietnam and Iraq.

All indications are that the Iranians aren’t going to cave. They’ve proven for decades to be very pragmatic. They may choose to talk. If Trump is smart, he’ll take a sit-down with the Iranians before things get out of control, and before the DC neocons and their Israeli friends push things beyond a point of no return.

He might get a deal that looks suspiciously like the Obama Nuclear Deal. Then, he can come back and claim he got the best deal ever, a deal only The Donald could get!

If he sticks to his “I have to win, I have to be seen as beating the other guy” as his game plan, we are in for a long, dangerous summer.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – July 21, 2019

We’ve just celebrated a monumental American achievement that happened half a century ago. The courage, commitment and science that landing on the moon required hasn’t been helpful here on earth in order to cleanse the darkness in human hearts.

Our president has no interest in addressing that problem. He doesn’t see it as a problem, but as a tool to be exploited. That’s reminiscent of what movie president Andrew Shepherd (“The American President”) said about his reelection opponent, Bob Rumson:

“We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you that Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things, and two things only: making you afraid of it, and telling you who is to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. You gather a group of middle age, middle class, middle income voters who remember with longing an easier time…”

(hat tip: Tom Sullivan)

Why can’t our real president think and speak like that?

Mix that thought with what The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer said about the “send her back” chants at Trump’s rally:

“If multiracial democracy cannot be defended in America…it will not be defended elsewhere. What Americans do now, in the face of this, will define us forever.”

Time’s up America. On to cartoons.

Would we get to the moon if we were starting today?

2020 will tell if this is our future:

Trump’s strategy:

Hear the big lie often enough, and you may just believe it:

Who’s legit?

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Saturday Soother – July 20, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Castle Geyser, Yellowstone NP – 2019 photo by suprememaddy

Guess what? He’s not sorry. From TPM:

“Not even 24 hours after telling reporters that he was “not happy” with the “send her back” chant against Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) at his reelection rally earlier this week, President Donald Trump on Friday seemed to be more onboard with the widely condemned message.”

Here’s a series of Trump’s Friday tweets:

Then this:

And finally:

Actually, he attacked four, not three, Congresswomen, and now, more racist attacks against Omar. He started this when he tweeted last Sunday that they should “go back” to the countries they supposedly came from, despite all four being US citizens.

But, the GOP wants you to believe that there isn’t a single racist bone spur in his body.

The “chant” will now magically break out at all of his future rallies. He’ll pretend to stop it but, what can he do? His people just love him too much for him to stop. Then, the GOP cheerleaders will flood the media with enough bad faith arguments to confuse the issue, and lower the heat, and Trump will move on to the next outrage.

This is the pattern. First, Trump says something so abhorrent that most of us lose our collective minds. Then, he doubles down. Then, we see some opprobrium from the media, from all Democrats and a very few Republicans. Trump then quiets down for a few hours, and in a week or so, we’ve moved on to the new normal. This week, our new normal is “send them back.”

We’re going to spend the rest of our lives dealing with narratives by the opposition about how Trump isn’t who he so obviously is. We’ll spend years hearing that what he said isn’t racist. His supporters see their chanting, and Trump’s incitement as innocent trolling. They think it’s all a game, and that he’s just playing his part in owing the libs.

Wrongo has had enough for this week, and so have you. We desperately need some Saturday soothing. Let’s start by brewing up a cup of Rukera Kenya ($21.20/12 oz.) from the old reliable JBC coffee roasters in Madison Wisconsin, who have been featured here many times before.

Now staying indoors and away from the heat that is gripping most of America, listen to Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński perform ”Vedro con mio diletto” from the opera “Il Giustino” by Antonio Vivaldi.

Wrongo and Ms. Right first heard a countertenor live on Broadway at the show, “Farinelli and the King”, in 2018. The voice of Farenelli was performed by Iestyn Davies, and it was magical. Today, Orliński is performing in a live recording made in July, 2017 from Lix-en-Provence:

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

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Take Away Trump’s Legitimacy

The Daily Escape:

Wildflowers at St. Marys Lake, Glacier NP – July 2019 photo by zjpurdy

Wrongo arises from his sick bed to discuss Trump’s war on the four Democratic Congresswomen. Saying “America, love it or leave it”, or, “Go back where you came from” are almost as old as the country itself.

Love it or leave it” was a popular bumper sticker during the late 1960s. It was aimed at the anti-Vietnam War protesters who claimed that America was wrong to be fighting in Vietnam. The slogan possessed an internal logic. If you really hate where you are, why don’t you go someplace else?

The reality is that wanting policy change isn’t the equivalent of hating your country. Nixon and his supporters said that the (largely) student protesters believed that America itself was evil. That justified the slogan for the right, and we saw it everywhere.

Fighting for policy change today is perfectly acceptable. It says nothing about your love of country. Despite Trump’s shouting, dissent in no way equals hate of country.

By using “Go back where you came from”, Trump is tapping into one of the old reliable political tools, the fear and vilification of immigrants and their descendants. He’s using deeply entrenched roots in American history: Why don’t you just go back where you came from?

Or, as Trump’s North Carolina crowd said, “Send her back”. Send her back doesn’t just apply to Rep. Ilhan Omar. It means your black neighbors, the Guatemalan family at church, and the Hmong kids your son plays soccer with. It means your Indian co-workers; it means the Chinese couple in the park.

But it doesn’t include any of the roughly 580,000 illegal migrants from Europe.

From the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798 to “No Irish Need Apply” signs in the 1830s, to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, America has loved to hate immigrants. They were not only seen as competing for jobs, but as threatening the social, cultural and political order. Even in the 1830s people thought that they were taking jobs that should belong to Americans, and that they clung to their native language and refused to assimilate.

Sound familiar?

And once we stopped allowing Chinese immigrants, some of the jobs denied to the Chinese were subsequently filled by Mexicans. They were also viewed as different, clannish and hard to assimilate.

It’s good to remember that the US government has rules against saying to its workers “go back where you came from”. Here’s a quote from the Equal Opportunity Commission’s regulations:

“Examples of potentially unlawful conduct include insults, taunting, or ethnic epithets, such as making fun of a person’s foreign accent or comments like, ‘Go back to where you came from,’ whether made by supervisors or by co-workers…”

Isn’t Trump a government supervisor? Sure, but these rules don’t apply in Republican administrations. Robert Kagan in the WaPo:

“Trump has given us a binary choice: Either stand with American principles, which in this case means standing in defense of the Squad, or equivocate, which means standing with Trump and white nationalism. It doesn’t matter how you feel about Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). The truth is, they have done nothing and said nothing about the United States or about an ally (in this case, Israel) that has not been done or said thousands of times.”

Now, he’s going up against the entire Democratic Party. They’re quoting him directly. And the pit bulls at Fox News are saying that calling him out is grossly unfair.

It’s time for Democrats to stop debating Trump about whether he’s a racist. They simply need to keep saying it. Every day. Until November 2020. Along the way, which ever Democrat is nominated should say they have no intention of debating the liar and racist Trump. He doesn’t deserve the dignity and respect that the debate forum implies.

Instead, the Democratic nominee should buy time on all networks including Fox, and on all social media outlets in 5, to not-longer-than 10 minute pieces. In each, they can point out what Trump said he would do, and what actually happened.

Think how it might work for domestic policy: Trump gutted Obamacare with no plan for helping the people who lost insurance. His tax cuts helped corporations and the 1%, while doing nearly nothing for the rest of us. His tax cuts also blew a hole in our budget. He’s weakened our education department, and our environmental regulations.

The candidate would then present the solutions. Clearly, without the need for any ninety second rebuttals by the liar and racist Trump. The GOP will say we’re not following the rules, but Trump never follows “rules” of presidential behavior, why should Democrats?

He’s already proven that he will say anything (and possibly do anything) to get elected.

Stop legitimizing him.

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Megan Rapinoe

The Daily Escape:

Going to the Sun Road, Glacier NP – 2016 photo by Wrongo

Megan Rapinoe, after the Women’s Soccer Team ticker tape parade in NYC on Wednesday:

“This is my charge to everyone: We have to be better. We have to love more. Hate less. We got to listen more and talk less….It’s our responsibility to make the world a better place.” https://t.co/7LJHPDVRm9 pic.twitter.com/5s5OuS4Gsx

— CBS News (@CBSNews) July 10, 2019

America knows by now that Megan Rapinoe is the outspoken co-captain of the USA Women’s Soccer team. She was the high scorer in the Women’s team’s march to their fourth World Cup victory. She’s also the person who said earlier in the tournament that she would not visit the White House if Trump extended an invitation.

Trump responded by criticizing Rapinoe on Twitter. He later congratulated the team on their win, but also vacillated on whether the team would be asked to visit. On Monday, Rapinoe said the team would visit Congress, but not the White House, even if Trump asked.

On Tuesday, Public Policy Polling conducted a poll about “Megan Rapinoe vs. Donald Trump, 2020”. It said:

“We found that Rapinoe gets 42% to 41% for Trump.”

The new poll numbers are humorous, if not dispositive. After all, she’s not running for president. But she has some of the leadership concepts down:

When asked by CNN’s Anderson Cooper what she would say to Trump, Rapinoe looked into the camera and said, “Your message is excluding people. You’re excluding me, you’re excluding people that look like me, you’re excluding people of color, and you’re excluding Americans that maybe support you.”

Rapinoe is openly gay. She’s advocating for equal pay for equal work for women. Like AOC, she’s Trump’s equal on twitter. The back-to-back World Cup champion added:

“we need to have a reckoning with the implications of Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan, because “you’re harking back to an era that was not great for everyone – it might have been great for a few people, and maybe America is great for a few people right now, but it’s not great for enough Americans in this world….You have an incredible responsibility as the chief of this country to take care of every single person, and you need to do better for everyone…”

More from Rapinoe to CNN’s Anderson Cooper:

“I don’t think anyone on the team has any interest in lending the platform that we’ve worked so hard to build, and the things that we fight for, and the way that we live our life – I don’t think that we want that to be co-opted or corrupted by this administration,”

Rapinoe accepted an invitation on behalf of the team from Democratic lawmakers, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), House Speaker Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). She added:

“This is such a special moment for us, and to be able to sort of leverage this moment and talk about the things that we want to talk about and to celebrate like this with the leaders of our country is an incredible moment….So yes to AOC, yes to Nancy Pelosi, yes to the bipartisan Congress, yes to Chuck Schumer – yes to anyone else that wants to invite us and have a real substantive conversation, and that believes in the same things that we believe in.”

She’s a proud American who understands that despite Trump wanting to go back in time, it’s never again going to be 1953 in America. These women aren’t ornamental, they’re not trophies.

They win trophies.

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Trump Still Wants His Citizenship Question

The Daily Escape:

Sandia Mountains, New Mexico – 2019 photo by cameforthegames

On June 27, the Supreme Court held that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s March 2018 order directing the Census Bureau to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census questionnaire could not go forward. At the time, we all thought that there would be no such question on the census.

Now, that’s no longer true.

“President Trump and Attorney General William P. Barr began working to find a way to place a citizenship question on the 2020 census just after the Supreme Court blocked its inclusion last month, Mr. Barr said on Monday, adding that he believes that the administration can find a legal path to incorporating the question.”

More from Barr:

“I felt the Supreme Court decision was wrong, but it also made clear that the question was a perfectly legal question to ask, but the record had to be clarified…”

The ruling left open the possibility that the citizenship question could be added to the census if the administration came up with a better rationale for it.

Here’s a way to look at what the Administration means: The Supreme Court said we couldn’t do this. Our reasoning was stupid and insulting. So now, we have to come up with something better. Yeah, we said it was too late for that, but we’re working on a brilliant new reason.

And you shouldn’t make anything of the fact that the lawyers the DOJ had working on it just quit:

“Barr also acknowledged that the career Justice Department lawyers who had worked on the census question had little appetite to continue on the case after Mr. Trump inserted himself into the process…. The Justice Department announced a day earlier that it was replacing them, a nearly unheard-of move.”

On Monday, the plaintiffs in the case asked a NY judge to block the DOJ lawyers’ withdrawal because they did not demonstrate “satisfactory reasons” for the change. On Tuesday, the judge denied the request, except for two DOJ attorneys.

Barr also said that the Trump administration would soon reveal how it plans to add the question, but he wouldn’t detail exactly how it would be justified.

On Monday, Speaker Pelosi announced that she intended to schedule a full House vote “soon” to hold Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for defying subpoenas for documents related to the census question. This had been recommended last month by the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

If Barr goes forward, the question will be provisionally added, and a new time clock for the case starts again.

But, Trump may have screwed the pooch. He admitted that the whole point was to favor Republican redistricting, which was exactly what his lawyers have said is not the case, because that’s unconstitutional. Trump said we need the census citizenship question for many reasons:

“Number one, you need it for Congress — you need it for Congress for redistricting,” he said Friday. “You need it for appropriations — where are the funds going? How many people are there? Are they citizens? Are they not citizens? You need it for many reasons.”

Trump apparently doesn’t realize that America bases redistricting on the population of the district, not the citizens in the district. Yet, there’s still a strong possibility that his question will be part of the census.

In the case mentioned above, four Supreme Court justices said they would vote for literally any position the administration takes on the issue. And a fifth vote (Chief Justice Roberts) searched in vain for any possible fig leaf that would allow him to join them. When he couldn’t, he sided with the liberals.

Americans should be outraged that the Trump administration willingly engaged in an illegal action, and then lied about it in federal court. They should be outraged that four members of the Supreme Court thought that was just fine. The Chief Justice thought it could have been fine, had they come up with a less blatant pretext, which he invited them to provide. Any Chief Justice worthy of the title would have simply ruled that the process couldn’t be salvaged.

The big story here isn’t the census question. It’s the DOJ’s legal team refusing to continue working on the case. This is unprecedented, and a really big deal.

The most plausible explanation for their quitting is that they told the Supreme Court it had to decide by June 30th, or the question couldn’t be included. If they now have to go back to SCOTUS, they would have to admit that was a lie.

We have to hope that the administration’s malevolence will be ruined by their incompetence.

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Can Democrats Be Republican Lite in 2020 and Win?

The Daily Escape:

Bowman Lake, Glacier NP – June 2019 photo by TheChariot77

We’re facing multiple crises over the next few years that require big policy fixes. Climate change is an existential threat, and the consequences of inaction far outweigh the risk of doing too much, too soon in trying to solve it. Education, healthcare, and housing costs are growing in unsustainable ways, and threaten to leave large swathes of Americans behind. The under-investment in our infrastructure is approaching a point of no return. The toxic combo of immigration, income inequality and political division could lead us into a second Civil War.

When we look at both Party’s candidates for 2020, do any of them have ideas that can solve these problems? Trump offers nothing to address them. A few of the Democrats running for the nomination have big ideas, and a few newbies in Congress have big ideas of their own.

The question is, will the Establishment Democrats prevent the candidates from offering big ideas to American voters?

In a prescient article in the WaPo, “Haunted by the Reagan era”, Ryan Grim made the point that older Democrats, like Pelosi, Schumer and Biden were scarred by past defeats, and subsequently, have attempted to placate their Republican opposition. From Grim:

“It’s hard to overstate how traumatizing that 1980 landslide was for Democrats. It came just two years after the rise of the New Right, the Class of ’78 led by firebrands like Newt Gingrich, and it felt like the country was repudiating everything the Democrats stood for. The party that had saved the world from the Nazis, built the modern welfare state, gone to the moon and overseen the longest stretch of economic prosperity in human history was routed by a C-list actor. Reagan won 44 states….”

It also happened in 1972, when Nixon swamped the liberal Democrat, George McGovern, 49 states to one. More from Grim: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“When these leaders plead for their party to stay in the middle, they’re crouching into the defensive posture they’ve been used to since November 1980, afraid that if they come across as harebrained liberals, voters will turn them out again.”

Maybe it’s political PTSD. For younger politicians like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), this is a strategic error. For the young Democrats, Republicans shouldn’t be feared, they should be beaten.

But, Joe Biden is leading the polls for the Democratic nomination. He, like the other Establishment Dems, assume the voters won’t agree with them on fundamental change. They think that Democrats only get elected by avoiding riling up the conservative silent majority, or, at least, the majority of those who actually turn out to vote. From David Atkins:

“They hew to the late 20th century perspective that the wisest course lies in not making change too quickly, or giving any political party the power to make sweeping changes. This status-quo philosophy is part of why America hasn’t made any major changes to its economic or political structures since enacting Medicare in the 1960s.”

They believe this, no matter how much polling shows that voters increasingly reject conservative precepts. More from Atkins:

“Voters swept Barack Obama and the Democrats into unitary control of government in 2008, and got for their trouble a too-small stimulus and a relatively minor adjustment to the healthcare system. Voters… swept Donald Trump and Republicans into unitary control of government in 2016, and for their trouble got a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans….And when neither party has total control of government, practically nothing happens at all.”

So, should the Democrats run to the center in 2020? Hillary lost doing precisely that in 2016, but the Dems took back the House in 2018 mostly by winning centrist districts, including many that had voted for Trump in 2016. The Establishment Democrats want to hedge their bets, protecting a status quo that, in the medium-term, may prove very dangerous to the country.

The Dems won 2018 in part by promising to reign in Trump. Once in control, Pelosi took all substantive actions off the table, opting instead for a series of small, politically-irrelevant investigatory gestures.

Those who voted for them have to wonder: If this all that they’re going to do, why give them the power?

Sanders and Warren are old enough to be Establishment Dems, but they are true progressives. Neither Warren, nor Sanders is a once-in-a-generation superstar like Barack Obama. Assuming none of the current pack of nominees are like him, the question is whether the Dems on the extreme left, or the center-left, are more likely to turn out enough voters to carry Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and possibly, Florida.

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