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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Four More Years of Reality TV?

The Daily Escape:

Calf Creek Falls, Grand Staircase Escalante NP, UT – 2019 photo by Foobucket

The question is, how will we avoid four more years of Trump? The simple answer is electing a Democrat as president in 2020. And looking at 2020 presidential polling from 538, Biden is up big against the rest of the Democratic field, and in some polls, wins head-to-head vs. Trump.

The average of polls by 538 makes it pretty clear that Biden’s the frontrunner. They also have a good summary of the key state-by-state polling, which isn’t quite as good for Biden, but, it doesn’t show any other candidate as particularly strong. Biden is +21 on the Democrats in Iowa, Sanders is +6 over Biden in NH, and Biden is +36 in SC. In CA, Sanders is +1 over Harris, although a new, smaller Quinnipiac survey of 484 registered voters has Biden leading at +8.

None of this is reason to jump on the Biden Express. Frontrunners at this stage can win but many don’t, as we outlined here.

Wrongo thinks that Biden is a vulnerable frontrunner, but a path to victory for Biden is emerging: Since his announcement, he’s getting more cable media coverage than all the other Democratic candidates combined. The problem for most of the non-Biden candidates is that they are, like Biden, running to “restore” the Obama coalition. That group includes Cory Booker, Beto O’Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, and Amy Klobuchar.

The question for these candidates is how to differentiate themselves from Biden: all are younger, and all are less left-leaning than Sanders and Warren. But few have gained traction.

One small thing that people forget about Biden is that he introduced the Comprehensive Forfeiture Act that has enabled cops to steal more from Americans via Civil Asset Forfeiture than robbers can. Apparently, Biden continues to support it.

Here are Jamelle Bouie’s “electability” arguments for Biden:

“The case for Biden’s unique electability rests on his overall popularity as vice president to President Barack Obama and his particular appeal to the blue-collar whites who backed Trump in the 2016 election. Fifty-six percent of Americans said they had a favorable view of the former vice president in a February Gallup survey, including 80 percent of Democrats. A more recent poll, from CNN, shows Biden leading Trump in a hypothetical matchup, 51 percent to 45 percent. That same poll shows Biden losing blue-collar whites by just 13 percent, a better margin than his competitors’ and a huge improvement over Clinton’s 37-point deficit against Trump in 2016.”

Sounds good, but Jamelle Bouie also says:

“Biden, like Clinton, is extremely vulnerable to Trumpian forms of faux-populist attack. He is a 36-year veteran of Washington who backed the Iraq War, cultivated close ties with banks and credit card companies and played a leading role in shaping the punitive policies that helped produced mass incarceration…..Trump can slam him on these issues and sow division among Democratic voters. It’s how he won in 2016…”

Also, Anita Hill. Bouie also points out that like Biden, Hillary Clinton was widely admired by the public at the start of her campaign. In 2012, 65% of Americans said they had a favorable view of her. This, of course, did not last. By November, 2016, Clinton was the second-most unpopular nominee in history, next to Trump.

Biden’s front-running in the polls shows just how nervous moderate Democrats are. Their sole objective is to win the White House. The 2016 election should have been a wake-up for Democrats, but a lot of them really believe that everything back then was OK, except that Trump was elected.

Dems also think that once Trump’s gone, everything will be “restored” to the status quo ante. That’s a fantasy. Trump won because Republicans and quite a few Obama Democrats liked his policies and his rhetoric. Many of them will likely vote for him again in 2020. Besides, the GOP controls the Senate.

Biden isn’t Wrongo’s favorite candidate. That person will be the one most likely to expand the Democratic base by much more than the 80,000 votes in PA, WI, and MI that cost Hillary the 2016 election. That candidate will have long coattails that keep the House majority and can bring the Senate into play.

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Monday Wake Up Call – May 6, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Torres del Paine NP, Chile – 2016 photo by Andrea Pozzi

After our granddaughter’s graduation in PA (summa cum laude), we had a few wines and beers, and talk turned to politics and the mess America is in now. Son-in-law Miles, (dad of next week’s grad) asked a very good question. “Is now really the worst of times? What about when Martin Luther King was assassinated?

Wrongo immediately flashed back to JFK’s assassination. He was a DC college student when JFK died. But his focus wasn’t on the loss of a president, or what that meant to the country. His focus was on what the loss of JFK meant personally.

That changed in 1968 with the assassinations of MLK and RFK. Wrongo was in the Army, stationed in Germany when Dr. King was killed. There was great tension in the enlisted men’s barracks. For a few days, it took a lot of effort in our small, isolated unit to keep anger from boiling over into outright fighting between the races.

By the time we lost RFK, it was clear that the Vietnam War would drag on, killing many of Wrongo’s friends. But, Wrongo’s job was to defend America from the Russians, with nuclear weapons if necessary.

It was difficult to see how or when Vietnam would end. It was hard to imagine Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, or Robert McNamara doing much to stop young Americans from dying in Asia.

The year 1968 also included the Tet Offensive. Mark Bowen in his book, Hue 1968, says:

“For decades….the mainstream press and, for that matter, most of the American public, believed their leaders, political and military. Tet was the first of many blows to that faith in coming years, Americans would never again be so trusting.” (p. 507)

When Americans finally saw the Pentagon Papers in 1971, they learned that America’s leaders had been systematically lying about the scope and progress of the war for years, in spite of their doubts that the effort could succeed. The assassinations, Vietnam, and Watergate changed us forever.

Our leaders failed us, it was clearly the worst of times. We were in worse shape in 1968 than we are in 2019. Back then, it felt like the country was coming apart at the seams, society’s fabric was pulling apart. Then, May 4th 1970 brought the killings of college kids at Kent State, which was probably the lowest point in our history, at least during Wrongo’s life time.

Last week, we acknowledged the 49th anniversary of America’s military killing American students on US soil. We vaguely remember the Neil Young song “Ohio” with its opening lyrics:

“Tin soldiers and Nixon coming, we’re finally on our own…”

That’s why the decade from 1960-1970 was the worst of times. We got through it, but we have never been the same.

In 1968, we saw that change can arrive suddenly, fundamentally, and violently, even in America. Bob Woodward spoke at Kent State last week, on Saturday, May 4th. He offered some brand-new information about Nixon’s reaction to the student shootings: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“In a conversation with his chief of staff H.R. Haldeman in September 1971, Nixon suggested shooting prisoners at New York’s Attica Prison riot in a reference to the Kent State tragedy. “You know what stops them? Kill a few,” Nixon says on a tape of the conversation.”

Woodward continued:

“We now know what really was on Nixon’s mind as he reflected…on Kent State after 17 months….Kent State and the protest movement was an incubator for Richard Nixon and his illegal wars.”

Woodward meant that what was coming was a war on the news media, creation of the “Plumbers” unit to track down leaks, and attempts to obstruct justice with the Watergate cover-up.

Many of us see 2020 shaping up as another 1968. Some see Nixon reincarnated in Trump.

We haven’t faced this particular set of circumstances before, so we can’t know just how it will go. Will it be worse than the 1960s, or just another terrible American decade? Is it the best of times, or the worst of times?

Are we willing to fight to preserve what we have anymore?

Wake up America, you have to fight for what America means to us. Constitutional liberties are under attack. The right to vote is being undermined. Extreme Nationalism has been emboldened.

To help you wake up, listen once again to “Ohio” by Neil Young in a new solo performance from October, 2018. He’s added some documentary footage and a strong anti-gun message:

You may not know that Chrissie Hynde, the future lead singer of The Pretenders was a Kent State student, and was on the scene at the time.

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

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Financial Industry Buys Politicians

The Daily Escape:

Tulip time, Skagit Valley, WA – 2019 photo by Karen Randall

Yesterday, we talked about how the Democrats might ultimately need Wall Street money for the 2020 presidential election. Now, we learn from Americans for Financial Reform (AFR), a consumer interest group, that Wall Street spent at least $1.9 billion on political campaigns and lobbying during the 2018 mid-term elections:

“The figure, which includes contributions to campaign committees and leadership PACs ($922 million) and lobbying expenditures ($957 million), reflects a massive rush of pro-industry nominees and legislation over the last two years, at a time when the biggest banks made $100 billion in profits for the first time.”

That was the largest-ever amount for a non-presidential year, outstripping the total of $1.4 billion, in the 2013-14 election cycle, by 36%.

The 63-page report, “Wall Street Money in Washington”, uses a special data set compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics on behalf of AFR in order to provide a more precise look at financial services industry spending. The data excludes spending by health insurers, who work to influence a different group of issues than do US banks.

The data also doesn’t include “dark money” that goes mostly unreported, so the actual sums of Wall Street spending are likely to be much higher.

The report breaks its findings down by Campaign Contribution and Lobbying:

Campaign Contributions:  Individuals and entities in the financial sector reported making $921.8 million in contributions to federal candidates for office during the 2017-18 election cycle.

Of the $519.6 million in party-coded contributions by individuals and PACs associated with finance, 53% went to Republicans and 47% went to Democrats. About $402.2 million in additional cash flowed from financial sector contributors to candidates through outside groups.

Lobbying: The financial industry reported spending a total of $956.8 million on lobbying in calendar years 2017 and 2018. This spending only got the financial sector to third place. The “Health” sector was second, spending $1.12 billion, and “Miscellaneous Business” which comprises companies and trade associations, was first, spending $1. 02 billion. “Miscellaneous Business” includes the US Chamber of Commerce, which spent $189.4 million.

And which politicians got the money?

In the House, Republicans did very well, with Former Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) leading the way. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), now the House minority leader, and Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), now the ranking member on the House Financial Services Committee, both benefited from Wall Street largesse.

The freshman class in the House, including first-term Democrats, had substantially less reliance on money from Wall Street than those Democratic incumbents who won re-election. Another report that AFR co-authored on small-dollar contributions found that 17% of money contributed to the Democratic freshman came from small donors, compared to 9.4% for incumbent members.

In the Senate, the data underscores how money moved to members who supported the industry’s legislative goals. Overall, spending favored Republicans. But the industry gave significant amounts to Democratic Senators who helped get S. 2155 passed, which was a significant rollback of the Dodd-Frank regulations.

Wall Street gave heavily to the Democratic senators who supported the bill and were up for reelection in 2018, mostly from states that Trump won in 2016. One Dem who won in 2018, was Jon Tester (D-MT); others, including Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) did not win.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) won after she supported the legislation as a House member.

But, not all top Senate Democratic recipients of Wall Street money did the industry’s bidding. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) opposed S. 2155.  He was the only Democrat in Ohio to win statewide office in 2018.

Who spent the most? The top five donor companies and trade associations in the financial sector were:

  • National Association of Realtors — $144,716,676
  • Bloomberg LP — $96,481,469
  • American Bankers Association — $25,769,494
  • Paloma Partners — $25,575,800
  • Citadel LLC — $20,596,381

You can see a list of the top 20 donors here. It is easy to see that turning down Wall Street funding could put a big dent in the Democratic nominee’s spending plans for 2020.

It also seems clear from yesterday’s reporting that Wall Street Democrats might bolt to Trump if the 2020 nominee is Sanders or Warren. A decision to reject Wall Street funding could hand Trump a very large gift.

The money spent by the financial services industry won’t be any lower in 2020 than in 2018. We’ll just have to wait and see if the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee rejects their support.

OTOH, this money helps Wall Street rig the system in its favor, largely by buying the support of politicians who will help insulate them from accountability.

Does any Democrat have the guts to reform capitalism?

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Will Dems Develop a Winning Message?

The Daily Escape:

Lady Liberty from the water – June, 2015 photo by Wrongo

Joe Biden kicked off his run yesterday by saying that he’s for the middle class, and against Trump. CNN is reporting that Biden now leads the field with 39% of voters supporting him. Sanders is second with 15%. Warren is third with 8%, and Buttigieg fourth with 7%.

It’s good to remember that there are still 551 days to go before the 2020 election. Here are a few other past poll leaders with 551 days to go: Hillary Clinton led the Democratic primary by 9.1% in 2008. In the 2008 GOP primary, Giuliani led by 12.4 points. In the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton once led by 56.6 points. In the 2016 GOP primaries, Jeb! Bush led by 1.2 points. All of them lost.

The biggest issue for Democrats right now is squaring the circle on their message. The leading Dems don’t divide neatly by labels. Some are Republican lite, some are very progressive. All have to articulate policy and show charisma, while working to garner enough delegates to win the nomination.

Let’s discuss two issues: First, are they really going to run against Wall Street? Are they going to take campaign funding from the financial services industry? As Wrongo said last week, there is an inherent tension in the current funding strategy of the Dem candidates. They all are targeting small donors in order to demonstrate substantial grass-roots support. But, the nominee will need to raise more than $1 billion for the general election, and it’s doubtful that individual donors have such deep pockets.

That means they will eventually have to turn to PACs and corporations in order to win.

But Sanders and Warren have pushed the party to the left on Wall Street and capitalism. NY Mag had a piece describing a meeting among Wall Street Democrats, who are unhappy with the field. They dislike Sanders and Warren, and when they strategize, the financiers’ primary goal is to find a Democrat who can both deny either of them the nomination, and also beat Trump:

By evening’s end, multiple donors walked away planning to write checks to three or four or five candidates — hoping they stay relatively moderate — rather than going all in on any one. Among the committed Democrats on Wall Street, this wait-and-see, as-long-as-it’s-not-Bernie-or-Elizabeth posture has become the norm.

Can the Democrats win without Wall Street’s money? Will the current crop of candidates walk away from their promise to take on the financiers, in order to beat Trump?

Asking for a friend.

Second, what will their message be on the economy? Trump is presiding over a late-stage economic boom. By November, 2020, Trump will be able to claim credit for the longest period of uninterrupted growth in American history. How will Democrats counter a Republican argument to stay the course?

The best possible message may be: That big corporations aren’t paying their fair share (as opposed to more taxing of the rich). That too much of the prosperity that working people create stays with the corporations. That the cost of both health care and education are too damn high.

Just this week, the WaPo asked voters, “Do you think the economic system in this country mainly works to benefit all people, or mainly works to benefit those in power?”

  • 60% of all respondents said it benefits those in power
  • 66% of independents said the same thing
  • 81% of Democrats agreed as well

Regardless of how strong the economy is for the next 19 months, Americans are sure to remain discontented with the economic dominance of the powerful. The NY Mag Intelligencer says the Dems should focus on Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania: (brackets by Wrongo)

We know that this tiny subpopulation leans left on economic issues and tends to resent the rich. We also know it leans right on immigration and tends to resent “illegals.” When Barack Obama and Mitt Romney [made] the 2012 election a referendum on whether rich business owners earned every penny they have, a critical mass of Midwestern swing voters broke for the Democrats. When Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump agreed to make 2016 about whether rapid demographic change was making America “Stronger Together” — or less great than it used to be — they broke right.

In 2012, Barack Obama told an “us versus them” story about class conflict. Sanders, Warren and Biden are doing that right now. A message that says “the rich have rigged our economic and political systems to their advantage” is an immensely popular message.

If Democrats don’t run on it in 2020, it won’t be out of concern for alienating voters, it will be out of concern for alienating Wall Street.

Let’s close with a tune in honor of May Day. Here’s Sierra Boggess singing “The Lusty Month of May” from Camelot, performed at BBC Proms 2012.

Your May mileage may vary:

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

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – April 28, 2019

In an interesting column in the Cook Political Report, Amy Walter notes: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“…one way to look at the 2020 Democratic primary contest was to think of it as a battle between those candidates who wanted a ‘revolution’ versus those who want to see more of a ‘restoration.’ The leaders of the ‘revolution’ wing, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, aren’t running to simply replace President Trump, but to bring serious, structural change to the country. This week, the leader of the ‘restoration’ wing — Vice President Joe Biden— announced his candidacy. To Biden, it’s not the system that’s broken as much as it is the person in charge of the system who is broken.”

She goes on to quote Biden’s first campaign video:

“I believe history will look back on four years of this president and all he embraces as an aberrant moment in time,”

Biden says he’s only running because of Trump. The revolutionaries would be running even if another Republican was in the White House. Walter points out that makes Biden like many of the Democratic candidates who ran for Congress in the 2018 mid-terms. They weren’t politically seasoned like Biden, but they were similarly moved to run by Trump’s presidency. More from Walter: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“And, like Biden, most of those Democratic congressional candidates emphasized not a radical change but a check; a check on Trump’s presidency and his policies. But, most of those candidates were also running in suburban, swing districts where a message of moderation was a winning strategy. Biden is running to win in a much more diverse and ideologically fragmented primary contest.”

She says that most of the 20 candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination are closer to the ‘restoration’ wing than the ‘revolutionary’ wing of the Party. And she closes with:

“To me, the big question for these next few months is if Biden will take the fight directly to the revolutionaries in a way the other candidates have not…..Now, he has a chance to pivot to the offense. And, to reset the rules and terrain of the game that have, until this point, been set by Bernie Sanders. Let’s see if — and how — he does it.

Interesting viewpoint as we sail on toward the first Democratic primary debates on June 26-27. BTW, 16 candidates have qualified for inclusion, showing that the bar was set far too low. On to cartoons.

Biden’s also running against himself:

Mueller called Trump “Individual 1”. Here’s to 10-20 in 2020:

Warren’s policies cause concern among the 1%:

Dems face a quandary. Trump will be happy with whichever they choose:

Trump will stonewall responding to subpoenas all the way to 2020:

Trump also has a yuuge grey wall:

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Politics Friday

The Daily Escape:

Dun Briste Sea Stack – 2010 photo by John Coveney. The Stack shows 350 million years of sediment. In 1981, scientists found the remains of a medieval house, walls, cultivation ridges, and a corn grinding stone on the top. Must have been a tough commute.

We may be over-emphasizing the Mueller report. From Politico:

“The Mueller report may be consuming Washington — but it barely registers for vulnerable Democrats meeting voters outside the Beltway. In a half-dozen town halls from California to Connecticut this week, swing district Democrats fielded few — if any — questions about special counsel Robert Mueller’s nearly two-year probe, even as it threatens to dominate the party’s summer agenda.”

This is called a “District Work Period” for the House, and many members are conducting town halls. Politico reports that:

“Livestreamed events by Reps. Antonio Delgado (D-NY) and Jahana Hayes (D-CT) began with Mueller briefings, but quickly pivoted to education funding and local pollution and mostly stayed there.”

More from Politico:

“I’ve been very surprised by how few people brought [Mueller] up since I’ve been back,” said Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) after two weeks back in his suburban Twin Cities district.”

No one brought up the Mueller report at Rep. Abigail Spanberger’s (D-VA.) town hall in her district west of Richmond:

“In the big spectrum of everything, people are still deeply concerned about prescription drug prices….People are still deeply concerned about the opportunity to get their kid’s education. They’re wanting to see Washington focused on immigration reform.”

Rep. Josh Harder of California told Politico he had “10 times the amount of interest on issues like health care, immigration and student debt than on impeachment or investigations into Trump.”

Wrongo’s Congressperson, Jahana Hayes along with Antonio Delgado, are members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Hayes’ roughly 90-minute event focused more on the Green New Deal and education spending.

So, it’s good to realize that the attendees at town halls may be more representative of the country than what we see on MSNBC, PBS or FOX.

Normal people aren’t political junkies.

In other political news, Joe Biden declared he’s running for the Democratic 2020 presidential nomination. The NYT says that he’s starting with $0. This raises the question of funding strategy. Sen. Sanders and Sen. Warren have sworn off attending high-dollar fund-raisers to bolster their populist credentials. Most others have said that they will not take PAC money.

Some top Obama fund-raisers are lining up with Sen. Kamala Harris and Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who are trying to have it both ways. From the NYT: (brackets by Wrongo)

“Unlike [Sanders and O’Rourke], Mr. Biden does not have an at-the-ready list of hundreds of thousands of contributors to ply for small donations. He must rely heavily, at least at first, upon an old-fashioned network of money bundlers….who can expedite dozens, if not hundreds, of checks for $2,800 each, the legal maximum an individual can contribute in the primary.”

This raises two questions. First, Biden has been a poor funds raiser in the past. He was near the back of the fund-raising pack in his 2008 presidential primary run. He raised $8.2 million from individual donors in 2007; while his competitor, Barack Obama, raised more than $100 million during the same year.

The Times says Biden felt that he couldn’t raise the tens of millions of dollars necessary to compete against Hillary Clinton in the 2016 race. That was one reason why he decided in 2015 not to run.

A second point is that whoever wins the Democratic nomination for president will need to raise tons of cash. It is doubtful that individual donors can provide the $1 billion or so it will probably take to defeat Trump. If the nominee can’t rely solely on individual donations, he/she will need money from PACs and Corporations.

This is the inherent tension in the current funding strategy of the Democratic Party.

Biden will go after big donors, and he’s likely to succeed. He was the VP for 8 years, and he has deep ties to moneyed donors and big companies, many of which are incorporated in his home state of Delaware. The rest of the field has a choice to make: They can criticize Joe for taking corporate donations, but ultimately, the Democratic nominee will have to turn to the big “bundlers”, along with corporations and PACs to win the election.

Their current strategy runs the risk of making the ultimate Democratic candidate look cynical at a time when the candidates want to appear authentic, believable, and on the side of the little guy.

The NYT says that Biden has to raise $100,000/day from here to Christmas to match what Sanders has already raised. We’ll see if he’s up to it this time.

It’s gonna take lots of money to stand out in a field of 20 candidates.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – March 24, 2019

What you missed in Friday’s news about Robert Mueller wrapping up the Russia investigation was that Trump announced the appointment of Stephen Moore, a conservative economic pundit as a member of the Board of the Federal Reserve.

Moore is a doofus. There’s no bigger example of a so-called “economist” failing his way upwards than Stephen Moore as Jon Chait points out: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Stephen Moore’s career as an economic analyst has been a decades-long continuous procession of error and hackery….Moore’s primary area of pseudo-expertise — he is not an economist — is fiscal policy. He is a dedicated advocate of supply-side economics, relentlessly promoting his fanatical hatred of redistribution and belief that lower taxes for the rich can and will unleash wondrous prosperity. Like nearly all supply-siders, he has clung to this dogma in the face of repeated, spectacular failures.”

Wrongo hastens to remind everyone that the Fed is in charge of MONETARY POLICY, not Fiscal policy. Moore only holds a Master’s degree in Economics. There are many, many examples of Moore’s hacktastic pseudo-expertise in economics. Slate reports that Moore: (brackets by Wrongo)

“Predicted that Bill Clinton’s tax hikes would bring disaster (they didn’t), that George W. Bush’s tax cuts would bring prosperity (they didn’t), and that Barack Obama’s policies were setting us up for ’70s-style stagflation (they didn’t)….He and supply-side guru Art Laffer were also key advisers behind Kansas’ fiscally and politically disastrous tax cuts. In spite of his own track record of [consistently] failed predictions, he has disparaged Keynesian macroeconomics as ‘witchcraft.'”

He’s recently called for Trump to fire the entire Fed board. Moore has blamed the Fed’s rate increases over the past year for slowing economic growth, and recently called on the Fed to begin cutting rates. He helped draft Trump’s tax proposals while working as an economist at the Heritage Foundation.

Stephen Moore is a joke in the economics profession. This should go well. On to cartoons.

Barr holds the key to what we learn about the Mueller investigation:

Stop calling them White Nationalists, alt-Right or Populists. These people are White Supremacists:

Funny how most Christians in the US don’t obey the Ten Commandments, but consider the Second Amendment a must follow:

What is evident from attacks on Black Christian churches, Synagogues, and Mosques in the US, and now in NZ, is that RW extremists are increasing their attacks. They are citing Trump as their “guiding light”, while Trump continues to play down their involvement:

Biden looks like a candidate, but some wonder about his age:

George and Kellyanne Conway see Trump differently. Will their relationship survive?

Trump says free speech for conservatives is great, missing the point about our free press:

Rep. Devin Nunes sues Twitter because of a satirical account called “Devin Nunes’s Cow”. As of today, more people follow the fake cow that mocks Devin Nunes, than follow Devin Nunes:

 

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Who’s Electable?

The Daily Escape:

Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada – 2019 photo by trolleg

Ultimately, that question will be about Donald Trump vs. whichever Democrat is chosen as the Party’s nominee in 2020. Today, it’s a way to try to make a cut from among the 15+ Democrats that have announced their intention to seek that 2020 nomination.

Wrongo talked last week about the landscape of the 2019 primaries, saying:

“The internet is full of comments about which of the 14 are most worthy, and plenty of hot takes on who can’t win vs. Trump.”

We know that in past presidential elections, a few candidates always emerge early as having the ability to “excite the voters”. The press starts to say that “this one might have a chance”. It works out sometimes, as it did for Bill Clinton vs. Paul Tsongas and Jerry Brown, or Barack Obama vs. Hillary Clinton. Both Clinton and Obama had charisma, which their opponents lacked. What hasn’t worked so well is being a policy wonk or having a bulletproof resume. Every candidate has a resume, a story to tell about themselves, but some try to parlay long careers in politics to the winner’s circle.

Think about Nixon and his resume squeaking past Hubert Humphrey, also with a long resume in politics. GHW Bush took his long resume to the White House for one term. The idea is that you can’t ask voters to look ahead while looking backwards at the same time. For Baby Boomer politicians, there are things in the rear-view that aren’t pretty, or even relevant today.

This is Joe Biden’s problem: When you’re challenging the status quo, ahead is the only winning direction. For another Boomer, Elizabeth Warren, her political resume is short, so less baggage in the 2020 primaries, and more new ideas.

It isn’t totally clear how the electability equation works. The media’s biases have a lot to do with deciding who gets the early buzz. It should be pretty simple to sort them into electable/not-electable categories, but think about Obama in January 2008: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Senator Barack Obama’s victory in Iowa has improved his standing within the party on a critical measure: his electability. The percentage of Democrats who say he would be the strongest candidate against the Republicans has more than doubled in a month, to 35% from 14% in December.”

So today, we have no idea who is electable, and probably won’t know until after Super Tuesday (March 3rd), when 54% of Democratic primary votes will have been cast.

And does anyone have a reliable metric for “electability”? We can’t really say that John Kerry was un-electable. Hillary was chosen FOR her (supposed) electability, as opposed to the (supposedly) “un-electable” Bernie Sanders.

The GOP have usually played the most electable hand. That gave them Bob Dole, George Bush 43, John McCain and Mitt Romney as candidates. Only one winner among them.

Ultimately, are we capable of analyzing “electability”?  We want it to be useful and true, but is it? The media and the pundits think that moderate political views make a candidate electable, but it’s really more like charisma and authenticity.

At this point Wrongo wants to give a brief plug to Pete Buttigieg. He’s met the Democratic National Committee’s threshold of 65,000 individual donors, which means he’ll be included in the Democratic primary debates. He’s 37 and gay. He’s a Harvard and Oxford grad who served in Afghanistan and speaks Arabic. All of that probably signals to Establishment Democrats that he’s un-electable.

Wrongo thinks he has charisma and authenticity, along with very rare smarts. Here’s a quote from a Buttigieg profile in the New Yorker:

“If you thought in terms of the effects of public policy on millennials, he said, you began to see generational imbalances everywhere. The victims of school shootings suffered because of the gun liberties given to older Americans. Cutting taxes for the richest Americans meant that young people, inevitably, would have to pay the bill. Climate policy, he said, was the deepest example of the imbalance…”

Buttigieg may be strong in the Mid-West, and may be able to bring out non-voters. Non-voters were the biggest cohort in 2016. Many don’t vote because they don’t believe any of the candidates will make things any better. America needs a candidate that is committed to meeting increasingly desperate needs. Maybe Buttigieg would bring non-voters to the polls.

And haven’t Baby Boomers done enough to screw up both America and the planet?

Maybe we should give a Millennial a shot. At least for Vice-President.

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Saturday Soother – March 16, 2019

The Daily Escape:

More California poppies – March, 2019 photo by West Coast Aerial Photography

The horror in New Zealand, Manafort’s sentencing, and both Houses of Congress voting to end Trump’s emergency declaration. The vote tally was 59-41, not enough to override a veto. Moments after Thursday’s vote, the president tweeted a single word: “VETO!”, and has now he’s done just that.

We head into the weekend with 13 Democrats declared as running for the Party’s nomination. Another, Joe Biden, may announce this weekend. The internet is full of comments about which of the 14 are most worthy, and plenty of hot takes on who can’t win vs. Trump.

Wrongo’s hot take is that the 2020 presidential election will be determined by a handful of states. Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida were all lost last time around. Any Democratic candidate can win the same states as Hillary won last time. We need to be asking ourselves is: “Who has the best chance to win in those four states?”

Your choice may be different from Wrongo’s, but this must be a prime consideration. We all know that the presidential election isn’t about who wins the most votes. It’s about who accumulates the necessary number of electoral votes, and that path leads through the four states above.

So the challenge for the Democratic Party nominee is: How are you going to convince people in the above states to vote for you?

In the meantime, pundits are talking about a brokered convention. They’re assuming that no single candidate will garner a majority of votes through the primary process. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has set the system up so it’s difficult to win an outright majority if there is a large field of candidates, since there are no winner-take-all contests.

Instead, the delegates are awarded proportionately by congressional district and statewide vote. That means in a large field, the first place winner is unlikely to get close to 60% of a state’s delegates. To get any delegates at all, a candidate must receive at least 15% of a state’s votes.

It’s too complicated to go deeply into this, but there are lots of votes up for grabs in the early primaries. Brookings has this:

“Fifty-four percent of all pledged delegates will be chosen in the first five weeks of the primary season, mostly from four states — California, Texas, Ohio, and Michigan. An additional 10 percent of pledged delegates will be chosen one week later — nearly all from Florida and Illinois. One candidate with a big lead in name recognition or with a small band of intense supporters could wrap up the Democratic nomination based on the votes of a tiny share of voters and do so before primary voters have had much time to get acquainted with the candidates.”

This means that, assuming Kamala Harris will win California, and Beto O’Rourke will win Texas, catching them could be difficult. And if no one else breaks the 15% barrier in either state, it could be a pitched battle between just them all the way to the convention on July 13-16 2020 in Milwaukee.

Wrongo thinks Bernie will break 15% in a few states, and possibly be the spoiler for these two new faces of the Party.

Some think that if no one gets a majority before Milwaukee, that favors Biden, who will most likely, hold the majority of the DNC’s Super delegates, who can vote after the first ballot. OTOH, Biden has to prove he has the ability to get more than 15% in several states to merit their votes on the second ballot of the convention.

These primary contests used to reduce the field quickly, since it was very difficult to raise money from the big donors if you lost Iowa and New Hampshire. But, money is easier to raise via social media than it used to be. And social media can keep a candidate in the news even without huge TV expenditures.

There are now 485 days left until the Democrat’s convention, and a lot will happen between now and then. Buckle up!

Time for your Saturday Soother. In honor of St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow, we break from our usual format of coffee and classical music. Let’s start by getting into a comfy chair, and listen to the Hooligans (the Irish Hooligans, not the Bruno Mars band) perform the Bluegrass classic, “Whiskey for Breakfast”:

As we all know, breakfast is the most important drink of the day. Now pour a nice snifter of Irish whiskey. Wrongo has 8 different Irish whiskeys in the pantry, and recommends Bushmills 21 Single Malt (~$230/750 ml). Enjoy its notes of toffee, honey, spiced fruit and dark mocha.

Sample Lyric:

Lord preserve us and protect us,
We’ve been drinking whiskey ‘fore breakfast

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

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Who Will Blink First?

The Daily Escape:

Maui, 2013 – photo by Wrongo

Sometimes you get the right person for the job:

“Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Wednesday she will block President Trump from delivering the State of the Union address in the House chamber on Jan. 29. In a letter to Trump, Pelosi said she would not move forward with the legislative steps needed for the address to take place:

‘The House of Representatives will not consider a concurrent resolution authorizing the president’s State of the Union address in the House chamber until government has opened,’ she wrote.

Pelosi’s move comes just hours after Trump informed her in a letter that he would move ahead and deliver the address at the Capitol on that date, essentially daring the Speaker to scrap his plans.”

This is why the election of House Speaker truly mattered. Dems should have assumed that whoever got the job would be immediately tested by Trump. When some Dems moved to replace Pelosi in December, the possible shutdown and test of a new Speaker was on the horizon. If another Democrat had been elected Speaker, don’t you think Trump would have already gotten his Wall money?

Someone’s gonna blink, and soon. Trump’s support looks like it’s beginning to crack:

“Overall, 34% of Americans approve of Trump’s job performance in a survey conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. That’s down from 42% a month earlier and nears the lowest mark of his two-year presidency. The president’s approval among Republicans remains close to 80%, but his standing with independents is among its lowest points of his time in office.”

Trump has similar numbers in the latest CBS poll:

“Seven in 10 Americans don’t think the issue of a border wall is worth a government shutdown, which they say is now having a negative impact on the country….Among Americans overall, and including independents, more want to see Mr. Trump give up wall funding than prefer the congressional Democrats agree to wall funding. Comparably more Americans feel House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is handling negotiations better than the president is so far.

Republicans are more divided than Democrats are on whether the shutdown is worth it.”

As we’ve said in the past, $5.7 billion is not a lot of money, but it’s always been about more than just the money. If Democrats cave in now, particularly when public opinion supports them, it would reward Trump’s tactic of taking hostages. He would gladly bring more pain any time he wanted something, and he wouldn’t care who, or what he took hostage.

But there are other insights to why Trump may persist with the shutdown despite poor polls. Sarah Kendzior said this on Twitter: (emphasis by Wrongo)

”The Trump camp is not worried about public approval, because they’re not worried about losing elections, because they don’t plan on having free or fair elections. This is an acceleration of the move toward authoritarianism….The shutdown is a hostile restructuring…Mueller will not save you…We are being ruled by a coalition of corruption, a burden we as ordinary citizens all share but none deserve. The shutdown is not about Trump knowing too little about how government works, but about his team of GOP operatives and outside advisors knowing too much.”

Perhaps Kendzior is correct, but more likely, Trump is learning that the Art of the Deal doesn’t work when the other side has roughly equal power. He hasn’t caused Democrats to blink, if fact they seem more united than ever.

He hasn’t “won” anything with China. So far, they’ve had alternative solutions to keep trade flowing. He certainly hasn’t “won” his war of words with Nancy Pelosi.

But someone will blink, and possibly, soon. The GOP is asking for concessions when they ought to be offering them.

Thursday’s votes in the Senate will tell us nearly nothing, but since Schumer and McConnell had to agree that both votes would happen, maybe they point to an evolving position that 60 Senators and Pelosi can support.

Most likely, Pelosi will offer an alternative after the Senate votes, something that possibly could get 60 votes in the Senate.

Maybe Trump will console himself with a military action in Venezuela. He launched an attempt to kick President Maduro out of office by recognizing the opposition leader as interim president. Maduro responded by telling our diplomats to leave within 72 hours. The US replied that our diplomats will not leave simply because the elected president of Venezuela (that we no longer recognize as legitimate) has asked them to.

Going to war in the middle of a government shutdown: what could go wrong?

Someone will blink. The bet here is that it will be Senate Republicans who will prevail upon Trump to back down, and support whatever compromise can garner sufficient votes in the House and Senate.

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