UA-43475823-1

The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Some Thoughts on L’affaire Comey

The Daily Escape:

Cathedral Cove, New Zealand – photo by Niels Holm

For the past few days, it has been “All Comey, all the time”, both in America and around the world.

You can count Wrongo as one of those who thinks that Comey made some huge mistakes trying to position himself after his take-down of Hillary Clinton, and her self-inflicted email disaster. You can also count Wrongo as thinking that Hillary’s loss was mostly her own fault. That means that you can also count Wrongo as agnostic regarding whether the Russians were behind the hack into the Democratic National Committee, or that their intervention was because they wanted to help Trump win the election.

Democrats argue that Trump and/or members of his administration are “soft on Russia”. Democrats have adopted a neo-con worldview that just a few years ago, they would have hated: That policies are either pro-America or pro-Russia. And, it’s in that pro-Russian box that Democrats are trying to stuff The Donald.

This makes Democrats blind to the possibility that people (even Trump!) could genuinely believe that it’s in America’s interest to be friendlier to Russia. That we could cooperate on certain issues without being agents of Putin. Perhaps you remember that Obama said just that in his first term.

So let’s turn to Comey’s firing. Thursday’s NYT had a complete listing of members of the House and Senate and their reaction(s) to the firing. And yes, if you went back a few years to Republican calls for special prosecutors to examine Democrats, the script was flipped, with most Dems then taking the position that Republicans are taking today.

It’s the kind of game that has become acceptable in today’s Washington swamp.

Wrongo isn’t happy with Comey’s performance as FBI director, but we now stand on the edge of a precipice without him. He ran into trouble because AG Loretta Lynch had to recuse herself during the Clinton email investigation. That led to his free-lancing, and his inexplicable testimony. Then AG Sessions had to recuse himself from any Russia-related investigation. And shortly thereafter, the tempo of the investigation changed, and Comey needed someone to approve additional resources for the Russia investigation. The WSJ reported:

Comey started receiving daily instead of weekly updates on the investigation, beginning at least three weeks ago…Comey was concerned by information showing possible evidence of collusion.

Now, the firing of Comey opens up the FBI and the DOJ, by custom and tradition an agency that is independent from politics, to outside political control, to a new director forcing a reduction in funding or other resources critical to the investigation.

Ostensibly, the issue isn’t the fact that Comey was fired. It’s about the timing. In turn, that is directly linked to the fact that the FBI is investigating Trump. Most think that the FBI Russia operation was breathing down the neck of the Trump campaign and their operatives. They think that the Comey firing is an effort to slow down, or wind down, the investigation prematurely.

The question is, will the new FBI director do either of those things? Wouldn’t the FBI agents involved in the investigation revolt/go public if a new director defunded the effort, and/or reduced the commitment to it? And the FBI is not running the investigation by itself. Their investigation is overseen by prosecutors. We heard this week that there is a grand jury. We hear that they’re issuing subpoenas. That’s not being done by the FBI. It’s being done by prosecutors in the DOJ.

And that’s where the ball sits. The American people have to rely on AG Jeff Sessions, who may be recused, but who guarantees that? Or it rests with Deputy AG Ron Rosenstein, who is in the job for a couple of weeks. Or it rests with a to-be-appointed FBI Director. Bloomberg is reporting that Trump is considering former Congressman and former FBI agent Mike Rogers, who is far too political, or former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who is all hat and no cattle.

There are hundreds of thousands of stories and millions of words being written about this. Trump shouldn’t expect this to go away.

In fact, he should publicly support getting to the bottom of it, rather than acting like Richard Nixon. That didn’t end well.

Some music: Here are the Waifs, an Australian blues/rock band formed in 1992, fronted by two sisters, doing “Crazy Train”. It’s the train America is on right now:

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

Facebooklinkedinrss

Monday Wake Up Call – April 24, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Bald Eagle with Great Blue Heron – photo by Bonnie Block

(The Wrongologist site was hit by a Denial of Service attack on Sunday, April 23. If you had difficulty accessing the site, Wrongo apologizes. We are working with the hosting company to sort it out, but the problem may continue until the end of day today.)

Congress returns today. They will try to pass an increase to the Debt Ceiling before the April 28th funding deadline. After that, at least a partial government shut-down looms.

The Republicans are not in agreement about their stance on the extension. The Orange Overlord complicated the negotiations by saying that he wouldn’t sign a Debt Ceiling increase unless it contained funding for the Wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for.

Consider the exchange between Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday and Trump Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. Mulvaney said that it was the Democrats who are guilty of “stunning” obstructionism because they will not negotiate on a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Wallace noted that President Trump had offered Democrats a deal: If you fund the border wall, payments to Obamacare would not be cut. Wallace:

You are holding hostage health insurance for millions of lower-income Americans.

Mulvaney replied:

Actually, what I would say is they’re holding hostage national security…

Then he brought up obstructionism by Democrats:

The Democrats will oppose everything that this president wants to do, which is stunning to us, especially when we are offering them something they want in return.

Wallace countered:

You’re saying, ‘give us what we want. And if you don’t, we’re going to cut off funding that would provide health insurance for millions of lower income Americans’.

The laugher was that Mulvaney’s logic is that Trump is trying to build a border wall to protect millions of low income Americans who may lose their health care benefits in the trade-off.

So Mexico won’t pay for the wall, and Republicans don’t want to pay for the wall either. They would prefer that Democrats agree to pay for Trump’s wall to give the GOP cover for those Republicans who won’t fund Trump’s ghastly promise of a wall.

On the obstructionist claim, everyone knows that the Republicans made obstructionism an eight-year strategy when Obama was president. Now, Mulvaney’s pearl-clutching about obstructionism can’t possibly sound legitimate to anyone other than people who watch Fox News. We need to remember that it was the Republicans who picked the 100th day of the (now Trump) administration for last year’s Continuing Resolution that funded the government, to expire. The idea was to make Hillary Clinton look bad after she won, and then couldn’t get a Debt Ceiling increase passed without Republican help.

It never occurred to them that if the Republican nominee won, that he wouldn’t be able to get much done without support of Democrats.

So it’s time for Republicans to wake up, and pass a Debt Ceiling increase. After all, they control the House, Senate and White House. It is their job to avoid a government shutdown.

To help them wake up, here is the UK group Stone Foundation, a modern UK soul band with a tune from their new album, “Street Rituals”. The song is “Your Balloon is Rising”, featuring Paul Weller formerly of the punk rock group The Jam, and later, Style Council.

Here is “Your Balloon is Rising”, a blue-eyed soul tune that allows Weller to show all of us that he still has it:

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

Facebooklinkedinrss

Monday Wake Up Call – March 27, 2017

The Daily Escape:

(Many Glacier, Glacier National Park, August 2016 – photo by Wrongo)

What’s next for the White House? Many are saying that the collapse of the Republicans’ failed effort to pass Trumpcare demonstrated that the ideological cleavage within the House and Senate Republicans will not be easy to overcome. This could make it more difficult for Trump to get much of his agenda passed in the immediate future.

Trump wants to move on many things, including tax reform and passing a budget, but the biggest challenge facing Republicans is the Debt Ceiling. The clock started ticking on the need to raise the debt limit, because it already expired on March 15th. That was a “soft” deadline, since the Treasury department can fire up a well-used arsenal of “extraordinary” measures to delay a reckoning, meaning that Congress can take until the early fall to enact a debt ceiling increase.

More time may not mean that a solution will be forthcoming, since the main adversaries to increasing the debt ceiling are the same people who helped derail Trumpcare. The House Freedom Caucus and their allies in the Senate have in the past, expressed a willingness to let the country default, rather than increase the level of the Treasury’s debt.

Since they were able to face down Trump on health care, they may well be emboldened to stand up to the president and Congressional leadership again on an issue that is so close to their hard hearts.

If America were to default on its debts, Trump would be presiding over the Bananaization of our Republic, and our ability to lead in the world would be eclipsed. Wrongo plans to write more about this in the future, but it will take real management by Trump to head this off, at a time that his management skills have been called into question.

So far, he has shown himself to be little more than a salesman for his ideas.

The famed management guru Peter Drucker, who wrote about management for corporations, non-profits and governments, at one point wrote management rules for presidents, in a 1993 article for the WSJ:

It’s hard to imagine a more diverse group than Bill Clinton’s predecessors in the American presidency — in abilities, personalities, values, styles and achievements. But even the weakest of them had considerable effectiveness as long as they observed six management rules. And even the most powerful lost effectiveness as soon as they violated these rules.

Wrongo has condensed Drucker’s management rules for presidents for your convenience:

  • What Needs to be Done? Is the first thing the President must ask. He must not stubbornly do what he wants to do, even if it was the focus of his campaign
  • Concentrate, Don’t Splinter Yourself. There usually are half a dozen right answers to “What needs to be done?” Yet unless a president makes the risky and controversial choice of only one, he will achieve nothing.
  • Don’t Bet on a Sure Thing…Roosevelt had every reason to believe that his plan to “pack” the Supreme Court…would be a sure thing. It immediately blew up in is face – so much so that he never regained control of Congress
  • An Effective President Does Not Micromanage…the tasks that a President must do himself are already well beyond what any but the best organized and most energetic person can possibly accomplish
  • A President Has No Friends in the Administration…they are always tempted to abuse their position as a friend and the power that comes with it
  • Sixth rule? Harry Truman advised JFK: “Once you’re elected, stop campaigning”

(h/t Barry Ritholtz)

Just how many of these rules does Trump follow, and how many does he violate? Discuss.

Perhaps if he followed all of them, the country would avoid Trumageddon, be less divided, and get a middle of the road agenda enacted.

So here’s a wake-up call for Donald Trump and his advisors: FOCUS!! To help them wake up and get focused, here is the Canadian group Bachman Turner Overdrive with their big hit (#12 in the US) from 1973, “Takin’ Care of Business”:

Wrongo used to take the 8:15 in to the city. Working from home is a major improvement.

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

Sample Lyrics:

And I’ll be taking care of business (every day)
Taking care of business (every way)
I’ve been taking care of business (it’s all mine)
Taking care of business and working overtime, work out

Facebooklinkedinrss

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – February 19, 2017

President Trump is engaged in an open war on the US press. While he can’t be impeached for that, it is time to recognize what he intends: His plan is to neutralize what is our most vital check on authoritarianism. If he succeeds, it will still be called the “free press”, but we will hear only the official story from the White House. Our media must change its game, or democracy will die. Right now, its Trump’s facts first, and THE facts second, if at all. This is a battle the public must make certain Trump loses. Only 47 months to go…

Trump’s press conference was all we needed to know:

The Westminster dog show was controversial in some circles:

There were leaks on both coasts last week:

Netanyahu met with the Donald:

Betsy DeVos hit the ground running:

The conclusion after one month in office:

But it’s a tiny handbasket.

Facebooklinkedinrss

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – February 5, 2017

Another Orwellian week. We have a Supreme Court nominee who joked in his yearbook that he was president of a “Fascists Forever” club in prep school (its just a JOKE, why are you so upset at a joke?), the GOP redefined “repeal and replace” Obamacare to “repair” and “replace”. There was a botched special ops raid by Trump in Yemen that he later blamed on Obama. And Fox News gave helpful instructions to the hive:

The article is called: “How to behave in the age of Trump? Five essential lessons for Republicans”. Their guy did win, but even patriotic, heterosexual Conservatives aren’t always going to buy everything that the Orange Overlord is selling, without some instruction. Here are a few of Fox’s commandments:

1 . Don’t help the Democrats

We get it, maybe you don’t like Trump…maybe you are not certain he is a real conservative…Maybe you are right…But this is not about you. The Democrats are busily marginalizing themselves by being shrill, caustic, and vulgar. Give them room to do this…

  1. Show Restraint

Don’t take potshots…One more tweet on the oddity that was the first press briefing by the press secretary helps no one…See point number 1, do not help the Democrats.

  1. Give the Trump Presidency a Chance to Succeed

Trump had no chance of winning. So now, the same line of thinking holds that he has no chance of being a successful president…Every Republican needs to accept this truth — you need him to succeed, for the good of the country, and the party.

Having been the vocal, disrespectful minority for a considerable time, it stands to reason they might not yet know how to deal with success.On to humor.

Hypocrisy was on full display by Mitch McConnell:

Gorsuch’s nomination proves that the GOP knows nothing about irony:

The National Prayer Breakfast showed Trump at his best:

Trump’s call for allowing religion in politics is Islam tested, Ayatollah approved:

Trump fails in his first use of our military in Yemen:

The reality of Super Bowl parties:

 

Facebooklinkedinrss

Is It Legitimate To Say Trump’s Not Legitimate?

“As our case is new, we must think anew and act anew”Lincoln

Everybody’s been talking about the dust up between Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and Donald Trump. Lewis’s statement that Trump is not a legitimate president obviously hit our Overlord-elect in a soft, squishy spot, and he immediately lashed out at Lewis.

Advocates from both sides rushed to defend their guy’s actions. Lots of people are saying “not my president”, which doesn’t necessarily imply illegitimacy as much as disapproval, but many like the sound of saying Trump is illegitimate:

  • There are misguided people who sincerely think that Trump wasn’t elected in a fair election, that votes were somehow stolen from Hillary Clinton, despite the lack of evidence to support that contention.
  • There are others who think the result was unfairly influenced by outside forces ranging from the FBI here at home, to foreign governments, principally Russia. If you believe that FBI Director Comey’s actions were illegitimate, or that Russia intervened, you could conclude that the result may be illegitimate.

But, most think the election results reflect what happened in the voting booth; that the outcome was how people voted, and Trump won according to the rules.

Charles Blow in the NYT defined two types of legitimacy: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

It is true that Donald Trump is, by all measures of the law, the legitimate president-elect and will legitimately be inaugurated our 45th president on Friday…There simply is no constitutional or statutory mechanism to nullify the installation of an elected president based on election influencing, even by a hostile state actor. The framers of the Constitution had no way of anticipating digital warfare being used in a propaganda attack. The Constitution was ratified before electric lights were invented.

But there is another way of considering legitimacy, another test that his election doesn’t meet: That is when legitimacy is defined as “conforming to recognized principles or accepted rules and standards.”

Here, [John] Lewis and his fellow believers are on solid footing.

Trump overreacted to Lewis, saying that John Lewis’s Congressional district is poverty stricken, and all Lewis does is talk, Trump is simply wrong on the facts. Lewis’s district includes a combination of prosperous and less prosperous bits of Atlanta. From Atrios:

But basically this is Trump’s view that all black people live in hellholes and all urban areas not within 15 feet of his golden palace in the sky are hellholes…Which is fine, he’s entitled to his preferences. But 70 years on this Earth and it seems like he’s seen his penthouse, some golf courses, the occasional glance out his limo window, and that’s it, other than 24/7 cable news. Strange life, given his resources.

Charles Blow reminds us: (brackets and emphasis by the Wrongologist)

[Trump is] A lecher attacking a legend; a man of moral depravity attacking a man of moral certitude; an intellectual weakling attacking a warrior for justice…Trump attacks Lewis as, “All talk, talk, talk — no action”; Lewis, who repeatedly thrust his body unto the breach for justice, who was arrested, beaten and terrorized, including during the time that young Trump was at his well-heeled schools, receiving draft deferments from the Vietnam War.

In fact, one of Trump’s five deferments was in 1965, the same year as the Selma marches and “Bloody Sunday,” during which Lewis was struck so violently by a state trooper wielding a billy club that Lewis’s skull was fractured.

Let’s stop focusing on whether the Overlord-elect is “legitimate”.  The important thing is that we now have a president who wants to help Putin destroy the European Union. He wants to dismantle NATO, tear up the Iran Nuclear Agreement, and confront China.

At home, we will lose the ACA. There will be malicious surgery to Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid. Corporate and personal income taxes (at least for the wealthy) will go down. (In fact, the rash of corporate commitments to build new production facilities in the US may be in anticipation of a corporate tax deal). We may see a Value Added Tax (VAT) of 20%-30% to pay for it all. VAT’s fall disproportionately on the middle and lower classes.

There will be ideologically-driven Supreme Court appointments as well.

It is worth emphasizing that Trump has the most conservative Senate and House since at least 1930. Part of the reason he is dangerous is that the restraint centrist Republicans once placed on Republican Presidents is largely gone.

America’s center and left are so weak, they can’t stand against the programs that conservative Republicans, the Tea Party and the alt-right coalition that will govern us, are now preparing.

The question shouldn’t be whether Trump was elected legitimately, that ship has sailed.

But how will we derail his program?

Facebooklinkedinrss

Monday Wake Up Call – June 6, 2016

We know that D-Day was June 6, 1944, but what does the “D” in D-Day, stand for?

Apparently, this is a frequently asked question by visitors to The National WWII Museum. But the answer isn’t simple. Disagreements between military historians and etymologists about the meaning of D-Day abound. Here are two explanations:

In Stephen Ambrose’s D-Day, June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II, Ambrose writes:

Time Magazine reported on June 12 1944 that ‘as far as the U.S. Army can determine, the first use of D for Day, H for Hour was in Field Order No. 8, of the First Army, A.E.F., issued on Sept. 20, 1918, which read, ‘The First Army will attack at H-Hour on D-Day with the object of forcing the evacuation of the St. Mihiel salient.’ (p. 491)

In other words, Ambrose reports the D in D-Day stands for “Day.” But In Paul Dickson’s War Slang, he quotes General Eisenhower:

When someone wrote to General Eisenhower in 1964 asking for an explanation, his executive assistant Brigadier General Robert Schultz answered: ‘General Eisenhower asked me to respond to your letter. Be advised that any amphibious operation has a ‘departed date’; therefore the shortened term ‘D-Day’ is used.’ (p.146)

It’s an enigma wrapped inside of a mystery. A continuing enigma is the lack of accountability by both our elected officials and our state and national bureaucrats. Today’s travesty was reported in the UK’s Guardian:

Despite warnings of regulators and experts, water departments in at least 33 cities used testing methods over the past decade that could underestimate lead found in drinking water.

These tests are taken annually and sent to the EPA in Washington. The 33 offending cities were in 17 different states. Of the cities, 21 used the same failed water testing methods that were used in Flint MI. Additional findings:

  • Michigan and New Hampshire advised water departments to give themselves extra time to complete tests so that if lead contamination exceeded federal limits, officials could re-sample and remove results with high lead levels.
  • Some cities denied knowledge of the locations of lead pipes, failed to sample the required number of homes with lead plumbing or refused to release lead pipe maps, claiming that would be a security risk.

Since the Flint water crisis erupted last year, school districts from coast to coast have stepped up testing of fountains and sinks. From Newark to Boston to Detroit, city after city has reported elevated levels of lead in the water of some educational buildings. The Portland OR schools have the problem and the school district has been aware of it for years. But the federal government doesn’t actually require most schools to test, so few do.

Apparently, the federal EPA has known since 2001 that its testing guidelines were weak. They are working on “long-term revisions” to its lead and copper rule, which are expected in 2017. Or sometime.

From Ian Welsh:

No regulator worth its salt, who is doing their job, could have missed entire States and large cities cheating, because any regulator worth its salt does its own audits and testing.

Republicans do not see this as a problem. Yes, there have been apologies, but no federal funding to remediate the problem. In fact, Fitch Rating Service estimates that capital costs to replace the nation’s lead water service lines could exceed $275 billion.

Republicans expect Mr. Market to take care of issues like this, once we privatize our water supply.

After all, aren’t invisible hands already cleaning the lead from the brains of America’s children?

It’s the miracle of market self-regulation.

Time for a wake-up call for all who think that business as usual is acceptable for our aging infrastructure, and in the case of our water supply, our poisonous infrastructure. Let’s look back to a time when America could do great things, even if it cost real dough. In 1977, we sent the Voyager I and II interstellar satellites off into space with a record of the things we thought made Earth unique. The music we sent was picked by Carl Sagan. This link lists all of the music we sent into the cosmos. One of his picks was by Blind Willie Johnson, “Dark Was the Night”, which has no lyrics, but creates a mood of loneliness. Here is “Dark Was the Night”:

This song will likely last longer than the human race. It’s doubtful that Blind Willie ever thought THAT was gonna happen.

What isn’t gonna happen is that our politicians decide on their own to be accountable to the rest of us.

Facebooklinkedinrss

We’ve Had Threats To Our Constitutional Rights Before

The Past Is Never Dead, It Is Not Even Past” – Faulkner

Does this sound familiar?

They called for imprisonment of Americans who came from a foreign country. They called for shutting down immigration from certain countries and deporting the immigrants already here. They were for stifling dissent against a looming foreign war by calling the anti-war protestors traitors. They passed laws that curtailed several rights granted in the Bill of Rights.

An administration worked hard to “sell” a war to the American people.

This is not America in the post-9/11 period, it was during World War I, not during Iraq, or our current battle against ISIS.

And it occurred while a progressive Democrat was in the White House.

On April 6, 1917, Woodrow Wilson delivered his war message to Congress. The US, Wilson said, was to embark upon a crusade to “make the world safe for democracy“. Unfortunately, Wilson’s administration gave rise to the greatest attack upon civil liberties (up to that time) since the passage of the Sedition Act in 1798.

Wilson had two problems. First, the citizenry had to be mobilized behind a war effort that did not involve a direct attack on the US. Second, he felt a need to guarantee our internal security against both real and imagined enemies. To solve the first problem, in April, 1917, Wilson established the Committee on Public Information (CPI), under the leadership of George Creel, a respected progressive. The Committee’s job was to convince citizens that the war was righteous, and to educate all Americans about American war goals.

Writers turned out “true” stories concerning what the Germans planned to do to America; speakers toured the nation delivering anti-German talks. Movie audiences thrilled to “Pershing’s Crusaders” and came by the thousands to hate the enemy by watching dramas such as “The Kaiser, the Beast of Berlin.”

Congress also enacted laws that curtailed our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of speech and press. Shortly after Wilson’s war message, in June, 1917, the Espionage Act was passed. This made it a crime to make false reports which would aid the enemy, incite rebellion among the armed forces, or obstruct recruiting or the draft. In practice, it was used to stifle dissent and radical criticism.

In October, 1917, another law required foreign language newspapers to submit translations of all war-related stories or editorials before distribution to local readers.

In May, 1918, the Sedition Act bolstered the Espionage Act. It provided penalties of up to 20 years imprisonment for the willful writing, uttering, or publication of material abusing the government, showing contempt for the Constitution, or inciting others to resist the government. Under this Act, it was unnecessary to prove that the language in question had affected anyone or had produced injurious consequences. In addition, the Postmaster General was empowered to deny use of the mails to anyone who, in his opinion, used them to violate the Act.

In October 1918, Congress passed the Alien Act, by which any alien who, at any time after entering the US was found to have been a member of any anarchist organization, could be deported.

Volunteer organizations sprung up, dedicated to discovering alleged traitors, saboteurs, and slackers. The volunteer groups were hyper-patriotic, and were often responsible for violations of civil liberties, although the government made no real attempt to discourage or limit their activities.

With the quiet consent of the Department of Justice, the American Protective League’s 250,000 civilian members—many of whom wore official-looking badges reading “Secret Service”—undertook vigilante actions against supposedly disloyal socialists, pacifists, and immigrants; they engaged in domestic surveillance operations; and raided businesses, meeting halls, and private homes in an effort to uncover pro-German sympathizers. As a result, force became the order of the day.

Somewhere during the fight to make the world safe for democracy, Americans lost their tolerance, compassion and mercy, and much of their democratic ideals.

Does this sound familiar?

The various Acts of 1917 and 1918 helped destroy what remained of the left wing in America. Victor Berger, the first socialist elected to Congress, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for hindering the war effort. Eugene V. Debs was sentenced to 10 years in prison for making an anti-war speech.

On November 11, 1918, the Allies and Germany signed an armistice: the war was over.

The American public had shown a willingness to tolerate and even to participate in censorship, mugging, imprisoning, harassment, and forced deportation of Americans who didn’t agree with them.

Given where we are today, it could easily happen again.

Don’t bet against it.

Facebooklinkedinrss

Preparing for Trump

Yesterday was Super Tuesday. The results will tell us lots about the state of the Democratic Party, but despite the outcome on Tuesday, Democrats have a variety of issues worth thinking about heading into the general election this November. In this primary cycle, Democratic primary voters just aren’t showing up. Democrats in 2016 primaries are only voting at two-thirds of the rate that they did eight years ago. All told, about 1.18 million Democrats across those first four states went to the polls in 2008. Just under 870,000 showed up this time. That’s 26% fewer voters engaged.

But, you’d think that Sanders, who’s message is a political revolution, could energize the disaffected in great numbers, but it just hasn’t happened. Perhaps it is the right message, but the wrong messenger. And no evidence of a “political revolution.”

Yet Trump is doing just that. GOP turnout in primaries is up 24% over 2008. It is a safe bet that if The Donald is the GOP nominee, there will be a big Republican turnout in November.

There are other concerns: With the Sanders vs. Clinton contest, the Democratic Party is also at risk of imploding, right along with the GOP in its tussle with Trump.

Sanders is seen as unusually honest for someone who’s been a politician for much of his life, and he advocates a refreshingly anti-establishment view on core issues that matter to an increasing number of Americans. These include American militarism, Wall Street bailouts, a two-tiered justice system, the prohibitive cost of college education, healthcare insecurity and a “rigged economy.”

OTOH, Hillary is committed to a third Obama term and incremental change. She has been forced by Sanders to move left, and is paying lip service to some of his issues. Once the general election season begins, it is likely that Hillary will be the candidate for America’s political status quo, vs. the radical alternative of Donald Trump.

Bernie’s supporters understand this, and may or may not go compliantly into the voting booth to elect Hillary, despite the terrifying prospects of a Trump presidency.

Tea Party Republicans understand that the GOP Establishment offers them little. And more and more rank and file Republicans have come to the same conclusion, which is precisely why the GOP nomination is now Trump’s to lose.

Democrats are teetering on the same precipice. The Dem Establishment, this time represented by Hillary, offers weak tea. The Sanders wing could easily sit this one out, and by late summer, when polls show that Hillary is in a death struggle with a political novice, political pundits will be tripping over each other to write about the death of the Democratic Party.

Democrats are in a bind. They want progressive politics, but offered by an Establishment leader.

Dems are always looking for that. In 2008, they selected Obama because he represented change and empowerment for average people over Hillary, the Democratic Establishment candidate. People wanted something new and different. Obama’s presidency wasn’t a failure, unless Democrats accept nothing less than ideological purity from their presidents.

Or, look back at recent presidential elections. Oh the glee among Democrats in 2001 when GWB won the nomination. It was gonna be a cakewalk for Mr. Democratic Establishment Al Gore. Gore did win the popular vote, but lacked an influential brother in Florida. With Establishment candidate John Kerry in 2004, his vote for the Iraq war was his downfall. How do you run successfully against an incumbent when you agreed with the incumbent’s major disaster? Saying you were “for it before you were against it” was an epic fail. Kerry never figured that out, and lost.

The 2008 election was easy for not-quite Establishment Obama, since the GOP was badly wounded by the GWB administration and GOP Establishment McCain lacked the personal horsepower to defeat him.

If 2016 is an Establishment Clinton v. an anti-establishment Trump, some of the Establishment GOP may choose sit it out. There is a small possibility they could go full anti-McGovern, as Establishment Dems did in 1972. If anti-establishment Sanders is the nominee, the GOP Establishment will find a way to make a deal with Trump, and the Dem Establishment probably won’t do enough to prevent Sanders from losing.

If the US economy hits a rough patch before November (and there are several reasons to expect that), Clinton as the Establishment nominee could be dead meat. Sanders, OTOH, could end up a stronger candidate because of it. We also need to remember that Donald Trump is not an ideologue. He brings no core convictions to the table, other than ego, so he will continue to say whatever works with his fans.

Will a Trump win kill America? That depends on whether our country’s immune system, that body of informed citizens who are engaged, and who bother to vote, can effectively fight the infection.

Facebooklinkedinrss

Angry Men Now a Political Force

The spin after the SOTU was about how angry voters are, and the political opening that creates, despite the genuine good news on the economy. Here is Mr. Obama from the SOTU:

Most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some narrow interest.

We can’t change the fact that some people are angry, but this article from the Washington Monthly by Andrew Yarrow points to some stunning facts about how men in particular have been left by the wayside of American life:

At least 20% of the nation’s 90 million white men have been pushed to the sidelines, either retreating or storming out of the mainstream of American life. They are not the men you see at work, who play with their children, go out with their wives or partners, are involved in their communities, and earn a living to save for their children’s education and their own retirement. What they do doesn’t register in…the gross domestic product…

Yarrow continues:

We know that they are out there. But they don’t fit old stereotypes of failure, so we’ve had trouble coming to grips with who they are or naming the problem. Parts of their stories have garnered significant attention, but we don’t see that what have been treated as separate problems are closely related.

Here are a few statistics from the article that merit your attention:

• Today, fewer than seven out of ten American men work; in the 1950s, nine out of ten worked.
• Since the 1970s, inflation-adjusted incomes for the bottom 80% of men have fallen, with the most dramatic declines occurring among the bottom 40%, most of whom do not have a college education.
• Today, just half of men are husbands; in 1960, three-fourths of men were married.
• As Barack Obama leaves office, only two out of three children live with their fathers; when John Kennedy was elected President, nine out of ten children lived with their fathers.
• Today, 43% of 18-to-34-year-old American men live with their parents (compared to 36% of millennial women); in 1960, about 28% lived at home.
There are 36% more women in college than men, whereas in 1970, there were about 35% more men than women in college.
Men are 50% less likely to trust government than women.
• In recent years, there has been a roughly 20-point gender voting gap, with white men being much more likely not only to vote for Republicans but to express disillusionment and anger toward government; until about 1980, men and women voted roughly evenly for Democrats and Republicans.

The point is that a lot has gone wrong for many white men, a demographic that once was the epitome of privilege and high expectations. And while politicians discuss stagnant wages, broken families and inequality, few notice, much less talk about the probable linkages between these issues and the impact of angry males on our politics.

Some may be thinking that this is a manufactured issue. After all, men still out-earn women, and they still hold most of the CEO and board–level jobs. And none of this white male angst should obscure the continuing struggles of women and people of color, including men of color. African-American and Latino men have had it worse than white men for a very long time.

But we ignore any group’s anger at our peril. The Bundy Brigade’s antics in Utah and Oregon is just one recent example. Many men are mad as hell, and their anger is often turned on scapegoats: Government in the case of the Bundys; Muslims, immigrants, African Americans, and Latinos in the case of others.

In 2016 we are seeing several presidential candidates feeding from the trough of this anger. Playing to the inchoate anger of a sizable minority of white men who have been benched economically, or who simply left the field, is a dangerous demagoguery, one that only benefits the demagogues.

Facebooklinkedinrss