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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Is Insurrection Brewing in Our Cities?

The Daily Escape:

Mt. McLoughlin, Cascades Range, OR – photo by kayalfainart. Unclear if that’s another mountain in the background, or Godzilla peeking at us.

…and in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people, the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.” ― John Steinbeck, “The Grapes of Wrath

This could be written today, because new grapes of wrath could again be harvested.

Think about the grim future ahead for today’s high school and college graduates. With 40 million unemployed, jobs will be scarce. Wages will be stagnant. Many of those 40 million may be out of work for quite a long time, as will many of the new grads. Many families will go hungry.

Add to that the people who are protesting the killing of George Floyd. This uprising involves a direct challenge to police power, along with a clear challenge to political power as well. That’s visible in Trump’s militarized reaction to Constitutionally-guaranteed protest.

We’re experiencing confusion and tension that has put many cops on edge at a time when their goal should be de-escalation, not escalation. There have been an untold number of similar incidents in the past where police officers have been exonerated in cases of seemingly obvious abuses of power.

That has led America to understand that its police forces can act with almost total impunity. As Wrongo has said earlier in the week, historically, this has hurt black and brown people the most. Here’s a chart that shows American’s current attitudes towards the police:

Source: Morning Consult

People may finally be fed up. There’s the tension over the pandemic, and the economic pressures it’s created. And there’s Trump, who seems only capable of pouring gasoline on what is already a bonfire.

The militarization of American law enforcement, already a massive problem, has been taken to the extreme by Trump. He thinks nothing of brutalizing a crowd of protesters so that he can be filmed walking across the street to wave:

“…an upside-down Bible in front of a church he rarely attends and whose leaders and congregation work against the policies he trumpets.”

Trump has threatened to use the US military to put down protests, even if state leaders do not want the US military in their states. Secretary of Defense Esper has spoken of a need to “dominate the battlespace” (he subsequently recanted) in reference to something that is not a battle, and that involves civilians, not a hostile enemy.

Our military is monitoring protests in multiple states, including flying drones over Minneapolis.

On Monday, Washington DC saw a bizarre “show of force” with helicopters hovering much lower than permitted over crowds of peaceful demonstrators. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Milley, was patrolling near the White House in his camouflage uniform.

On Tuesday night, troops of the 82nd Airborne Division, 10th Mountain Division and 1st Infantry Division arrived at Joint Base Andrews near Washington DC.

But who would they be fighting against? These tactics — mass arrests, tear gas, rubber bullets, intentional and unconstitutional attacks on peaceful demonstrators and journalists — are familiar, because they’re the tactics employed by authoritarian governments all over the world in response to local insurrection.

But, is what’s happening in our cities an insurrection?

Replacing the police with the military would only escalate the situation. Violence begets violence. But creating more “resistance” may well be the Trump Administration’s plan.

Let’s agree that there was unnecessary violence and property damage in many cities. Facebook and Twitter are ablaze with comments saying that a massive show of force is absolutely necessary to put down the insurrection.

Out of nowhere, GOP politicians from local to federal levels are singing a chorus of “Antifa” is a terror group, and the primary cause of the problems on the streets of America. Antifa, short for anti-fascists, describes an amorphous group of people whose political beliefs lean far left, and do not necessarily conform to the Democratic Party’s platform.

The problem with Trump’s claim that it’s a terror group is that it doesn’t have central leadership, according to federal law enforcement officials. Worse for Trump is that many of Antifa’s Twitter accounts turn out to be run by fascists in Europe.

“Antifa” is vapor in the US, and recognizing it as some defined group is a joke that has been taken seriously only by America’s Right.

Painting disparate punk assholes as some kind of formal group is ridiculous and counterproductive.

We desperately need to get the twin problems of the coronavirus and the nationwide civil disobedience behind us.

These infections need to be cured.

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First Person Report: Boston’s March for George Floyd

The Daily Escape:

Boston, May 31, 2020 – all photos by Kendall Lavoie

(What follows is a first person report by friend of the blog, Kendall Lavoie. She, her fiancé and a few friends drove from western Massachusetts to show support for George Floyd at a demonstration in Boston.)

Eight years ago, when Trayvon Martin was murdered, my eyes were opened to how cruel and unjust the world can be for people of color, especially in this country. Every year since then there have been multiple instances of unpunished police brutality, many lives lost, and still no progress or real change.

When I saw the video of George Floyd being killed in the street I was filled with sadness, anger, and a drive to do something.

Yesterday, we haphazardly constructed signs that we decorated with our slices of free speech, gathered medical supplies, and headed to Boston to join our fellow citizens in need. We wore PPE and tried our best to socially distance, which is difficult in a crowd, and we will be self-quarantining for 14 days as a result of the contact we made yesterday.

When we arrived in Boston, we first joined an early march along the streets to the Boston Common. We listened to people talk about how they felt while we knelt in the gravel and grass. Some quotes from the early march include:

“Don’t let this moment be fleeting. You gotta live this shit as a lifestyle.”
“Why is my color a crime?”
“This is a movement of us, all of us.”
“True allies that are out here today willing to put their health on the line, that’s what makes this different- everybody had to take a risk to be the fuck out here today.”

 

We marched to the State House and peacefully stood outside for a bit, and then dispersed and went our separate ways.

The late march started at 6:30 in Dudley Square. The amount of people who showed up was just incredible- almost the entire time I couldn’t see the front of the crowd or the end of it. Community support from residents and businesses was amazing throughout, motorists showed their support despite being blocked by our marching at times, and there was a real sense of people coming together for change.

We marched toward the Common once again for about an hour and a half. I heard one man say:

“This is the proudest I’ve been of my city in a long time. Look at all these people, they actually care.”

The sun set while we sat in the Common and made our way up the steps to the State House once again. Some started setting off fireworks, and others climbed the fence and architecture in the front of the statehouse. Aside from a few people who threw trash over the fence (and were immediately called out by the rest of the protesters with the chant “stop throwing shit”), we were completely peaceful. We weren’t blocking traffic as there were no civilian cars at this point, and later when there were, we made a pathway for them to get through.

The crowd began to thin out as people went home, and we decided to give it a few more minutes before we headed back to the car. We started handing out our medical supplies since it looked like we wouldn’t be needing them, and maybe others would want them for later protests.

That’s when the Boston PD sent three cruisers speeding into the crowd. No warning, I just turned to my right and people were running and screaming. The first one sped past, and the second one was inches from me. I actually hit the third with my sign out of instinct to “push” it away from me because it was so close.

This was a blatant baiting tactic to incite the violence that ensued. I was angry, the people around me were angry, we started chanting “THIS WAS PEACEFUL!” and some started throwing things over the fence. When they sent the cruisers back through, they got blocked this time and the National Guard came out of the State House and began firing rubber rounds into the crowd, striking one girl in the ankle who we helped, and another in the ribs.

On another pass through, a protester threw a frozen water bottle at the side mirror of a cruiser and it detached. The back window was shattered by another flying object. People threw their milk jugs at the cruisers and the National Guard sent an armored car through the crowd.

The crowd fractured and began to move off in different directions. We walked down the side of Boston Common where a garbage fire burned in a barrel and many had embedded their signs in the wrought iron fence. Police were in full riot gear, and in the distance smoke billowed from something large burning, which we later learned was a cop car.

We crossed the street and a girl stood there rubbing her face and crying. She had been pepper sprayed, saying she was too close to the perimeter as she was trying to videotape a man being beaten in the corner by police. This 18-19 year old girl apologized profusely for seeming to inconvenience us as we poured milk in her eyes. Her friends stood by her and helped her find her phone and we parted ways.

Another man down the street had someone guiding him because he had been tear gassed, but refused our help. Farther, we came to a street where police were surrounding a girl on the ground. People were shouting and I started recording, getting closer so she wouldn’t be alone. The police came at us with wooden batons and pushed us back. The girl was helped up and stood at the edge of the crowd crying and demanding to know the name of the cop who pushed her down, breaking her box of belongings and dragged her across broken glass. I didn’t get the name or badge number of the officer because he refused to turn around, but another officer retrieved her box of things and we left as they radioed in to “come wipe down the street.”

We helped get glass out of her ankle and gave her a bandage. We gave her the badge number of one of the officers, in hopes that she could get the other one via that, somehow. The man who assaulted her refused to identify himself and is paid by tax dollars.

While we were helping her, squads of police cars flew past us down the street. In the distance we could hear popping, and I’m still unsure if it was fireworks or rubber rounds. We walked an hour back to the car, checking in with people on the way who let us know where to avoid as we did the same.

We learned later that the police had shut down the T after demanding that everyone go home.

As we drove home, I tried to process what I had just been a part of. I’ve always supported police. I was raised with the mantra, “don’t talk to strangers… except for police.” They were always heroes, always there to protect me, and the bad ones were negligible in comparison to the greater good. After last night my opinion has changed.

I saw how my fellow Americans are treated by police when they try to protest peacefully for their rights. I saw how the Boston Police Department acted like cowards and used their vehicles as weapons. And I saw the power that people can wield when they come together.

We won’t stop until they stop, WE DEMAND CHANGE NOW. Get out there and do something about it!!!

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Police Violence

The Daily Escape:

Fall sunrise at Crystal Lake, near Ouray, CO – photo by Ryan Wright

Wrongo is now certain that 2020 is the worst year for America since 1968. Why? We have had riots in 140 cities. 40 million are unemployed, and the Death rate from COVID-19 has reached 106,003. Here’s a map of where protests have occurred in the past few days:

We have a national problem of civil disobedience leading to rioting and looting. Note the number of states (in yellow) that have already activated the National Guard. We should assume that the number of cities with protests will probably grow.

Let’s talk briefly about policing in America. After the Ferguson uprising in 2014, we were astonished at the militarization of the police. We also started paying closer attention to the number of police killings in the US, but since there was no central database, independent groups started to compile them.

Cities and towns introduced new policies designed to reduce police violence, starting with police wearing body cameras. But according to the Police Shootings Database, police in America killed more people in the US in 2019 than in 2015, and the number has risen every year since 2017.

If police killings are increasing despite widespread public attention and local reform efforts, shouldn’t we be asking why?

Minneapolis, like most other cities, has a civilian review board, but it didn’t prevent Chauvin from killing George Floyd. In fact, the review board had failed to impose consequences for any of the eighteen previous complaints made against Chauvin. This shows how little these review boards are doing to change behavior.

Can change happen through the ballot box? Minneapolis implies that voting isn’t enough: Minneapolis has a progressive mayor and a city council composed entirely of Democrats and Green Party members. But it doesn’t prevent out-of-control racist cops from killing people. The glue holding this broken system together is police unions.

From Eric Loomis:

“That our police are openly fascist is finally becoming apparent to a lot of liberals who really didn’t see it that clearly before…..The police are openly declaring war on the nation. They are raising their fascist flag instead of the American flag. They are blinding good journalists. It is completely unacceptable…”

Loomis specializes in labor unions and labor issues. He says that it is in the public’s interest to force the police unions to give up the blank check for violence that they currently have. The two concepts that should be written out of the union contracts are arbitration in discipline cases, and qualified immunity.  Qualified immunity is a concept in federal law that offers government officials immunity from harms caused by actions they perform as part of their official duties.

Because of qualified immunity, police act like the laws don’t apply to them. This is a legal obstacle blessed by the Supreme Court that’s nearly impossible to overcome when the police violate our Constitutional or civil rights.

Despite that, blanket immunity shouldn’t absolve cops of responsibility for violence. Since they are state actors, the burden of proof should be on them to prove their violence was justified, not the other way around.

In many cases, the police unions are also run by bad people. In Chicago, the police union just elected as president a cop who has been reprimanded several times and is currently stripped of his police powers.

Minneapolis’s police union has a hard line and controversial president, Bob Kroll, who said that George Floyd had a “violent criminal history” and that the demonstrations were part of a “terrorist movement.”

Minnesota AG Keith Ellison blasted Kroll on “Fox News Sunday”:

“…he operates as sort of an alternative chief who, I think, undermines good order in the department.”

These are the kinds of people that rank and file police all across America want protecting them. That shows something about the true character of the rank and file.

Cities should pull the records of every cop with a double digit number of excessive force complaints and fire them. Force the unions to sue and then litigate it every step of the way. Make them defend the indefensible.

America needs stronger mayors, town councils and district attorneys who can be for “law and order” and also for protecting the rights of citizens who are swept up by day-to-day policing. We can have stronger public servants by voting them in.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms says just that in this video, which everyone can see here:

As an aside, Mayor Bottoms looks to Wrongo like an excellent choice for the Democratic VP.

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Saturday Soother – May 30, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Cactus flowers, Devils Bridge, Sedona, AZ – May 2020 photo by sooperb4d

It’s hot and muggy at the Mansion of Wrong. Today we received our usual daily visit from a momma turkey and her eight chicks. Some are already able to fly for short distances, while the smaller ones just jog along.

This morning, Wrongo was thinking that he’d never expected to have to live through something as tumultuous and dangerous as 1968, but here we are. We’ve got:

  • A Plague killing people in every state
  • Economic collapse (potentially on the scale of the Great Depression)
  • An incompetent incumbent president who will say anything in order to win re-election
  • Heavily armed yahoos complaining about having to wear masks, or that they can’t get haircuts

But rather than talk about those four things, America’s talking about a racially based killing in Minneapolis that has morphed into an urban dystopia. Hennepin County finally brought charges against a cop who murdered a man in public with dozens of witnesses. That has incited urban violence. Second, Trump called for the looters in Minneapolis to be shot, tweeting:

“Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts,”

We will assume control? Does Trump think he has the right to invade Minnesota? And that wasn’t the worst of his tweet.

You may know by now that the other phrase was notorious in the civil rights movement. It was used in 1967 by Miami’s police chief at the time, Walter Headley, after he sent police dogs and officers armed with shotguns into Miami’s black neighborhoods in what he called:

 “…a crackdown on…slum hoodlums….We don’t mind being accused of police brutality.”

Headley claimed that Miami had not experienced “racial disturbances and looting” because he had put the word out that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Headley thus elevated stealing to a capital crime punishable by death without due process. And now Trump is advocating the same thing.

Some are saying that Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter has taken a courageous stand against Trump, that Dorsey is standing up for all of us. CNN reports:

“…Trump has angrily complained this week about social media companies, repeatedly accusing them of censoring conservative voices and going as far as to sign an executive order Thursday seeking to limit their power. But data from Facebook, the world’s largest social media company, pours cold water on the assertion that conservative voices are being silenced.”

Here’s the data:

The red bars represent conservative sites. CrowdTangle, the company that made the chart, says that in the last month on Facebook, Trump has captured 91% of the total interactions on content posted by the US presidential candidates. Biden has captured only 9%.

Trump and the Republicans repeatedly accuse Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms of bias, saying that they are the villains in the culture war the GOP uses to excite the conservative base.

The dispute is about whether Twitter has the right to disagree with and respond to the president. As a private company, it obviously does have that right. The chilling part is that the president and his advisers think otherwise.

Wrongo started by talking about 1968, the year that Nixon won the White House, running on a law and order message. He split the vote with George Wallace and Hubert Humphrey. That was 52 years ago, and a few things have changed. From Paul Campos:

“For one thing, the current president is somebody who makes George Wallace look like a statesman. For another, the country is much less white. (As a percentage of the total population, white non-Hispanics have declined from about 85% of the population to 60%).”

Nixon in 1968, like Trump in 2020, clearly exploited racial tensions, but a crucial distinction: Nixon wasn’t in power at the time of the 1968 elections. We’ll have to see whether Minneapolis helps or hurts Trump in November.

Time to take a break from our worst year in 52 years, and calm ourselves with a Saturday Soother. There is more yard work to do on the fields of Wrong, but we’re starting with a cold brew coffee from Greater Goods roasters in Austin TX. Food & Wine named them the best coffee in Texas in 2019. Their cold brew is called “Connections” ($15/12 oz.) and features the sweet, chocolatey goodness of beans sourced from Colombia and Brazil.

Now settle back and listen to the Tedeschi Trucks Band play a stunning live version of “Midnight in Harlem“, written by Minnesota band member Mike Mattison. Stay for the fantastic slide guitar solo by Derek Trucks:

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

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Monday Wake Up Call – May 4, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Flathead River with Mission Mountains in background, MT – photo by Jay Styles

Can the Republicans force the economy to open? Bill Barr thinks so.

“Justice Department officials have spoken on conference calls with leaders of conservative groups, who have flagged individual cases as worthy of the department’s review. Some cabinet officials have signaled that they back the effort by participating in private calls with conservative allies, according to multiple people involved with the calls.”

The COVID-19 outbreak sparked many states and municipalities to order their citizens to stay at home and businesses to close in order to slow the spread of the illness, and to protect the public, but do the states have the authority to do it?

According to the Incidental Economist:

“Terms like isolation and quarantine have legal meaning, and relate to the government’s powers to act in the public’s interest. Isolation is a targeted approach for individuals already diagnosed with a disease while quarantine restricts the movement of individuals or groups exposed to an illness, some of whom may not be sick.

Both strategies restrict the movement of individuals and are considered a severe deprivation of liberty.”

Last Friday, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Grisham (D) quarantined the town of Gallup, at the request of the city’s mayor, because the city is a COVID-19 hotspot. Grisham invoked New Mexico’s Riot Control Act. The order shuts down all roads to and from Gallup.

We can expect that this will lead to legal battles over whether governors can close individual American cities.

Last week, AG Barr issued a memorandum directing an effort to monitor state and local shutdown policies. Barr wrote: (emphasis by Wrongo)

 “We do not want to unduly interfere with the important efforts of state and local officials to protect the public…But the Constitution is not suspended in times of crisis.”

Actually, it has happened many times before.

  • Both GW Bush and Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus.
  • John Adams helped pass the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, those four laws “restricted the activities of foreign residents in the country and limited freedom of speech and of the press”.
  • FDR built internment camps and imprisoned Japanese Americans.
  • Woodrow Wilson presided over the passage of the Espionage Act followed by the Sedition Act. People couldn’t say anything: “…insulting or abusing the US government, the flag, the Constitution or the military.” Violators could receive 20 years in prison.

And now, Barr barges in. Since Wrongo isn’t a lawyer, we’ll have to leave the arguments to those who are qualified. But it seems that in the past, all the Constitution-breaking has been done by presidents, not governors. What we have is a federal vs. state powers question.

So far, the DOJ has intervened in only one case, a “religious freedom” complaint, a lawsuit by a Baptist church in Greenville, MS.

Conservatives are perfectly willing to be inconsistent. They are champions of “states’ rights” until the state in question happens to lean blue. Speaking of inconsistency, remember that it was Trump who when asked why he wasn’t going to issue a nationwide ‘shelter in place’ order, said that it was up to the states.

The Trump administration delegated responsibility to the states with one hand, yet allows the DOJ to threaten governors with legal action. We also have religious conservatives who seem to forget the basis of Christianity, and are willing to put their neighbors at risk. Finally, there is a worrying increase in right-wing civil disobedience (while carrying weapons) that could easily ignite a real civil problem.

Once again, shopping is patriotism. Legitimate fear is unconstitutional. This isn’t unprecedented. After 9/11, GW Bush told everyone to go out and shop. Shopping is apparently how Republicans show their love of country.

Taken together, we as a nation have truly lost our way.

Wake up America! Insist that by November, the states have prepared well enough that it is safe to vote in huge numbers to get these birds out of office.

To help you wake up, let’s listen to Bruce Springsteen and his wife, Patty Scialfa playing two songs from their home studio, “Land of Hope and Dreams” and “Jersey Girl”. This was part of the Jersey 4 Jersey benefit for the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund.

This is dedicated to daughter Kelly, a former Jersey girl who can use a pick-me-up. Remember, dreams will not be thwarted!

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

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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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Saturday Soother – January 11, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Road in Yosemite after rain – December 2019 photo by worldpins

Did we just avoid a war, or was a future war thrust upon us? You have to go way back to find a time when the thought of an overseas conflict united Americans behind the plan.

Today, all we have are questions about which war we consider to be a war worth fighting. Certainly it wouldn’t be a war on climate change, or vote suppression, or spiraling health care costs. Those aren’t considered just wars in today’s politics.

One Party is always willing to fight the other when the topic is intervention in the Middle East. Doug Collins, the mouthy Republican Congress Critter from Georgia, who’s willing to self-promote on any TV channel, went on Fox (Lou Dobbs) to criticize Democrats:

“They’re in love with terrorists. We see that they mourn Soleimani more than they mourn our Gold Star families, who are the ones who suffered under Soleimani. That’s a problem.”

That led Preet Bharara, former US Attorney, to clap back at Collins: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“No American is “in love” with terrorists or “mourns” the death of that Iranian general on an airstrip in Baghdad. Many of us do, however, mourn the death of decency, honesty and reason here at home.

I realize that you are a politician and that hyperbolic, hyperpartisan claptrap is the unfortunate fashion of the day. But even allowing for the new normal of nastiness in political rhetoric, your casual slur of countless good Americans hits a new bottom. Americans can, in good faith, differ about the legality or efficacy of killing Soleimani. That doesn’t make them unpatriotic or lovers of terrorists. It is hostility to differences of opinion that is un-American.”

More:

“You are a pastor, an attorney and a sitting member of Congress. Therefore, the evidence would suggest you should know better. To utter such garbage, which you know to be false and defamatory, goes against all the training and teaching you must have received. But you got your cheap shot across, and perhaps that’s all that matters to you.”

Iraq War veteran Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill) chimed in about what Collins said:

“I’m not going to dignify that with a response. I left parts of my body in Iraq fighting terrorists. I don’t need to justify myself to anyone.”

Collins then recanted:

“Let me be clear: I do not believe Democrats are in love with terrorists, and I apologize for what I said earlier this week.”

But, even though Collins appeared on Fox on Friday morning, he didn’t apologize. Instead, he later apologized on his Twitter feed, which has less than 300k followers.

Let’s give Preet the last word: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“…I am not making some old and familiar naive call for a return to “civility” in our politics. I don’t have much hope for that….I just want people like you to knock off the worst scurrilous nonsense…..If we are going to come together, protect the homeland and heal the hearts of people who have suffered the scars of terrorism, we need our leaders to do better than lazy trash talk.”

Collins was deployed as a Navy Chaplain to Iraq in 2008, so he knows better. He’s certainly seen Democrats die fighting terrorists. Yesterday, Wrongo said Democrats can’t let Republicans slide, they need to be called out when they are wrong, like Bharara and Duckworth just did to Collins.

Sometimes, Wrongo wonders if all this is happening because he didn’t forward at least a thousand Facebook messages to ten people. If so, Wrongo apologizes, America!

Time for all of us to de-stress from the first week of the new decade. Let’s hope most weeks are calmer than what we just lived through. To help calm things down, it’s time for our Saturday Soother!

Start by brewing up a mug of Panama Esmeralda Geisha Natural ($19.95/4oz.). Wrongo knows that’s expensive, but the stock market had a great week, even if Gen. Soleimani didn’t, so you can afford it. It’s from Paradise Roasters in Minneapolis.

Now, grab a seat by the window and listen to something soothing. Today, we hear Beethoven’s “Für Elise” played on glass harp by Robert Tiso. The score was not published until 1867, 40 years after the composer’s death. And it may not have really been dedicated to Elise:

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

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – October 27, 2019

Wrongo and Ms. Right will be heading back to the US on Monday morning, so this is the last post from London. The news from America was both typical and troubling again this week. But let’s start with a UK-based cartoon from the Financial Times that drives home the point about how long it’s taking to negotiate a Brexit deal:

Meanwhile, back in the USA, the GOP Congress Critters who broke into the hearing were simply following orders:

What happens when you have the best lawyers:

New White House Ukraine strategy:

Let’s send healing thoughts to Jimmy Carter, who broke his pelvis this week:

Nice message from London:

October 2019 iPhone photo by Wrongo

It occurred to Wrongo that the diversity in England is due at least in part to being the headquarters of the British Empire, followed by being a part of the EU for what is now 47 years. With Brexit, those who voted “Leave” wish for a country that is less diverse.

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Dateline London

The Daily Escape:

Tower Bridge, London – October 2019 iPhone photo by Wrongo

Wrongo and Ms. Right got to England on Monday. As in our last visit in 2017, much remains under construction, roads as well as buildings, which makes it difficult to get around except by the Underground. It is possible to walk to many destinations more quickly than to go by taxi.

It is clear that the Brexit debate dominates the news and daily discussions, even that of ordinary people. Wrongo spoke with an Italian immigrant who has been working in London for six years. He is very worried that he will become an illegal under a final Brexit deal, even though that isn’t part of the current deal’s language. Several business people were pro, or con, about Brexit, based totally upon their personal economic interests. Everyone seems to be looking at the possible Brexit from very narrow economic perspectives. Sound familiar?

Today, we saw the play “Two Ladies“. It’s about the wives of the French and American presidents who are sequestered for their own safety during a summit conference that is deciding whether the US president will get the support of Europe to attack an unnamed terrorist country. The American First Lady is modeled on Melania Trump, the French First Lady on Brigitte Macron. This sets up some prurient interest in the personal stories of each. However, the real focus of the play is on what power these two women have to influence their husbands, and if they do have that power, how their influence could best be used to terminate the political situation that looks as if it will certainly lead to war.

Sophia is the American First Lady. She’s a Croatian ex-model that her rich, rightwing husband treats as a trophy. Helen, an English former journalist, is the wife of the French president. She is significantly older than her husband, over whom she used to exert much political influence.

You can see the opportunity these women provide for a play ripped from the headlines. Several Americans spoke about how the play was “not favorable to Republicans“. It seems to Wrongo that we can no longer look past our political sensibilities to see value in a story that starts with two women who have mutual loathing, but who develop a mutual understanding based on a common problem: the lack of respect the world shows them when a bad decision involving world peace are being taken by the husbands they barely respect.

Two Ladies” has played to sold-out audiences, despite not being particularly well-reviewed by the London critics. No US Broadway producer has so far been willing to bring it to the US.

Wrongo suspects that the idea of women trying to bond over the idea of ending war, while trying to be relevant by “being in the room” (as Alexander Hamilton says in “Hamilton“), would find an audience in NYC.

We also saw Ian McKellen, (the legendary British actor most known to Americans as Gandalf), in a one-man play that is a retrospective of his acting life.

McKellen, 80 years old, is in great shape, and has great comedic timing. There are many laughs along the way. Some complained about the acoustics in the old theater where it is playing, saying it was hard to hear McKellen.

But Americans left this show saying that McKellen (who is gay) talked too much about his gay experience. Whilst he spoke on the topic briefly, it’s not like he started listing his favourite categories on twinkpornvideos.xxx. These few Americans had traveled far from their suburban enclaves, only to be triggered by an elderly man’s lifestyle.

Wrongo wonders about people with such delicate sensibilities. They seem to be the same people who have no difficulty being dismissive of those who speak English poorly. They are vocal in their suspicions of people from different religious backgrounds. A few think that some racists are also good people.

They’re sure that most people on welfare don’t deserve to be there.

We have a centuries-long tradition of public events designed to entertain and inform us, to make us think, to add to our experience and collective understanding.

Everyone knows that.

And people must be responsible for protecting themselves if they feel they shouldn’t be exposed to the broad and deep culture of America. That can’t become our collective responsibility.

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