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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

America Is OK With a Wealth Tax

The Daily Escape:

Navajo Trail, Bryce Canyon NP, UT – November 2019 photo by biochemistry_unicorn

Over the past year, progressives have made a wealth tax a central part of the policy discussions in the Democratic primary. Both Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have proposals to tax the wealth of billionaires to help pay for improvements to the social safety net and infrastructure.

Currently, the US mostly taxes individuals on the income earned from their jobs and investments. The wealth tax is different since it would tax assets like stocks, yachts, artworks, and vacation homes.

Critics of the wealth tax have made a variety of arguments against them. The most prominent that the US government couldn’t enforce them effectively. Consider this from Business Insider:

“Usually, progressives cast Europe as a model for the cradle-to-grave social benefits that nations like Norway provide because of steeper tax rates on richer citizens. But most…countries have ditched them [wealth taxes] over the last few decades.”

Twelve European countries had a wealth tax in 1990, but the number now stands at four: Spain, Switzerland, Norway, and Belgium, which just introduced a limited wealth tax of its own.

Emmanuel Saez, economist at the University of California, Berkeley, who has analyzed the Warren and Sanders wealth tax proposals, says the European wealth taxes failed because governments created many exemptions that undercut their ability to draw revenue:

“The wealth taxes in Europe have failed by and large….they didn’t raise that much revenue because of big exemptions for asset classes….”

Others argue that the super-rich already donate big amounts to charity. One of Saez’s co-authors, Gabriel Zucman, says that the annual giving of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett equates to ~3%–4% of their wealth, while the other top 20 billionaires’ giving equals ~0.3% of their wealth. Like a really tiny wealth tax. Here’s his chart:

Annual charitable giving of the top 20 richest Americans: $8.7 billion, equaling just three tenths of one percent of their wealth. For the top 400 richest Americans, their taxes paid = 1.5% of their wealth, while their charitable giving = 0.4% of their wealth.

But, the average American paid taxes equal to 5.5% of their wealth, while their charitable giving = 0.3% of their wealth. Joe Six-pack gave the same amount of his assets to charity as did the top 20 billionaires.

If Warren’s 6% wealth tax was enforced on the top 20 richest Americans above, they would pay $60 billion to support the social safety net.

Moreover, despite the nay-saying by the rich, surveys show that Warren’s 2% tax is broadly popular:

(This was an online survey of 2,672 adults conducted by the polling firm SurveyMonkey from Nov. 4 to Nov. 11)

The survey by the NYT and Survey Monkey shows that 75% of Democrats and more than half of Republicans say they approve of the idea of a 2% tax on wealth above $50 million. The proposal receives majority support among every major racial, educational and income group.

The majority of college-educated Republican men disapproved, with only 41.5% approving of it.

The NYT reports that the proposed wealth tax is even more popular than the Trump tax-cut enacted in 2017. Only 45% of Americans said the tax cut was a good move:

“The movement against the Trump tax cuts since then has been powered, oddly enough, by Republicans. They largely still back the law — by 76% over all, compared with 20% of Democrats — but that support has dropped six percentage points since April.”

The shift on the tax cut is highest among high-earning Republicans: Americans earning more than $150,000 a year are far more likely to favor a tax increase on the very wealthy than the Trump tax cuts.

America’s tax code is designed to allow massive fortunes to grow ever larger. Wealth is concentrating in a tiny segment of the population, as the middle class shrinks.

We see that even the most high-minded billionaires can’t even give money away faster than their piles of dough are growing. And when Democrats like Warren and Sanders suggest a way towards tax reform, the GOP and the conservative think-tanks condemn them as socialists who want to punish success.

Most Americans are fed up with a government and an economy that overwhelmingly benefit corporations and the rich at the expense of everyone else. A wealth tax can work if Congress doesn’t get rolled by lobbyists that demand loopholes for their clients.

Wrongo will have no trouble backing a candidate who supports a wealth tax. But, increasing the taxes on corporations and a financial transactions tax should come first.

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Monday Wake Up Call – December 2, 2019

The Daily Escape:

New snow at Minnehaha Falls, MN – November 2019 photo by memotherboy.

Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman lays out a grim, but possibly likely 2020 scenario, one where Trump loses the popular vote by five million or more votes, and still wins the Electoral College:

“The ultimate nightmare scenario for Democrats might look something like this: Trump loses the popular vote by more than 5 million ballots, and the Democratic nominee converts Michigan and Pennsylvania back to blue. But Trump wins re-election by two Electoral votes by barely hanging onto Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Maine’s 2nd Congressional District — one of the whitest and least college-educated districts in the country.”

In 2016, Trump’s victory hinged on three states he won by less than a point: Michigan (0.2%), Pennsylvania (0.7%) and Wisconsin (0.8%). All three of these relatively white states with aging populations also have high shares of white voters without college degrees, a group that has trended away from Democrats.

It’s been no secret that six states — Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — are best-positioned to decide which candidate reaches 270 Electoral votes and wins the presidency.

Democrats contend that they won the Senate and governors’ races in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in 2018. And in the House, they flipped two seats in Michigan and four in Pennsylvania.

But Trump could lose Michigan and Pennsylvania and still win the Electoral College, so long as he carries every other place he won in 2016. And Wisconsin is in play, because Democrats won Wisconsin’s governor’s race by just a single point, and failed to gain a House seat. If Wisconsin’s Trump voters turn out in 2020, it could easily stay red.

And should a 269-269 Electoral vote split occur (not impossible), the process moves to the House, with each state delegation having one vote. A majority of states (26) is needed to win. Trump would win, since the GOP holds the majority in 26 states, while Democrats control 22. Two states, Michigan and Pennsylvania, are tied.

The Senate would elect the Vice-President, with each Senator having a vote. A majority of Senators (51) is needed to win, so the GOP would win in the VP in the Senate, as well.

There are a lot of scenarios that could happen in 2020, including a “blowout” victory by Dems. In this scenario, it’s possible the Democratic nominee could win Georgia, Iowa, Ohio or maybe even Texas. But the most likely scenarios see Wisconsin as the state that decides the presidency. Running up the score in California isn’t going to help Dems when it comes to beating Trump.

This makes it of utmost importance that Democrats select a presidential nominee that can energize both the Party’s base, and enough independents to overcome the GOP’s natural advantage in the states that voted for Trump in 2016. That’s going to be harder than it seems. A November Economist/YouGov poll showed this: (emphasis by Wrongo)

A Majority (53%) of Republicans think Donald Trump was a better President than Abraham Lincoln. pic.twitter.com/CrsiYeLUdJ

— Jesse Ferguson (@JesseFFerguson) November 29, 2019

Interestingly, 75% of the country rated Lincoln as better than Trump, showing that the GOP is completely out of step with the rest of us. But, despite an approval rating in the low 40s, Trump has a path to re-election.

Keep this poll in mind whenever the Democratic Party suggests that Democrats can win over Republicans. There may be a few persuadable Republicans, but the majority of Trump’s party actually believes that he is a better president than the guy who kept the nation together by winning the Civil War. Lincoln’s worst day was probably better than Trump’s best.

Time to wake up Democrats! You keep waiting for demographic change to swing many Red states, but most of the change is occurring in noncompetitive states, particularly California and Texas, which threatens to further widen the chasm between winning the popular vote and winning the Electoral College.

Dems need to compete as if our lives depend upon it, in all of the House and Senate elections, in addition to local elections and the presidency!

They need to, because our lives actually do depend upon changing the course we’re on.

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Saturday Soother – November 23, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Lockhart Mountain, Lake George, NY – November 2019 photo by goldengoddess69

After seven public hearings with 12 witnesses over five days, the impeachment inquiry moves to a new stage: a public report and a handoff to the House Judiciary Committee. What’s not clear is whether witnesses close to Trump, like Bolton, will ever testify.

The House Intelligence will deliver a report to Judiciary that lays out their case for impeachment. The Republicans will submit a minority report of their own, once Dems publish theirs.

We’ll have new editions of the same two narratives that have been with us since the start of the Mueller investigation. This leads to the weekly question: How can Republicans not see the facts? Republican lawmakers, aides and strategists surveyed by CNBC’s John Harwood have uniformly treated Trump’s misdeeds with Ukraine as an inconvenience, an annoyance which will blow over. Here’s a quote from Harwood:

“Lawmaker #3 “No. I think the attitude is, so what? “Sondland did his best to protect the President. Over half the Dems were for Impeachment before the whistleblower. People see what they want. This is still too complicated for the average person to understand. But follow the polls.”

And we need to think about what will happen in the Senate after they receive the referral for impeachment. The GOP will use the Senate trial to put both the Bidens and whatever they think the Dems did in 2016 on trial.

It will be a circus. Trump says he wants a trial, and wants to be the first witness. They will out the whistleblower. Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) said: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“And now we’re going on to the main event and that’s in the U.S. Senate…So we’ll finally be able to get to the truth. So I’m talking to my colleagues in the Senate, these are some of the witnesses that you need to call and these are some of the questions that you need to ask. First, you have to hear from the whistleblower.”

It won’t take much for the Republicans in the Senate to convince themselves that they were right all along, that Trump was justified in pressuring Ukraine president Zelensky. They’ll say that nothing happened, there was no harm, no foul and hypocrisy be damned.

Are the Dems smart enough to hold simultaneous hearings in the House to surface more about Trump’s obstruction? BTW, don’t you think Hunter Biden’s Burisma board seat is unseemly at best? Why don’t the Dems just do a proper investigation? But for his last name, Hunter’s credentials for a paid board position seem quite weak.

If you haven’t become cynical about Republicans in the years since Obama was elected, just wait two months.

America will have national elections in 2020. The circus in the Senate will hopefully lead to historic turnout for local, state and federal candidates. Wrongo feels optimistic that something new and better is coming. The path to that new political reality is steep and difficult, and we all must walk it.

Enough! Let’s slide into a Saturday Soother, that time of the week when we try to escape the horror show around us for a few minutes, and contemplate both our inner world, and the world around us.

The first snow covered the fields of Wrong on Tuesday. The short days and the drab colors remind us that spring is a long ways off. This weekend is about preparing for Thanksgiving, the arrival of friends, and a quiet celebration of all that we enjoy, from family, to friends, to our great country.

Let’s kick things off by brewing up a mug of Warm November Rain coffee ($20/12oz.) from Chicago’s Dark Matter Coffee. The roaster says it has notes of black tea, tangerine, and baker’s chocolate.

Now settle into a comfy chair and listen to the enchanting “Pavane, Op. 50” by the French composer, Gabriel Faure, written in 1887. It was originally written for piano, but is better known today in Fauré’s version for orchestra. Here it is played live without an orchestra by 12 Cellists (!) from the Berlin Philharmonic.

If one cello is great, imagine just how fantastic 12 cellos can be!

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

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Hot Takes on the Democrats’ Debate

The Daily Escape:

Autumn, Zion NP, Utah – November 2019 photo by robvisserphotography

Wednesday’s two hour debate hosted by MSNBC and the WaPo gave 10 Democratic presidential candidates yet another chance to introduce themselves at a point when there is less than three months before the first votes in Iowa and New Hampshire.

But, while Wrongo likes them all in the abstract, none of them is world-class. They each have strengths, and while it is still early, and most still have time to grow into the role of top-tier presidential nominee, none is there yet.

A note about the Ukraine impeachment hearings: Shouldn’t the other candidates be willing to defend Biden against the attacks by House Republicans and the administration? Shouldn’t they spend some time attacking the Republican Party as a corrupt entity that must loose power?

Or, are they worried that the Bidens actually may be a little dirty?

The candidates seem to be relying on a calculation that detailed policies are the right way for their campaigns to win the nomination and ultimately, the election. For Wrongo’s money, the candidates should be attacking Trump, the undemocratic Senate, and Supreme Court. Warren gets closest, with her stressing corruption in the corporate and political domains. But most Democratic primary voters aren’t into the wonky details of “my plan vs. her plan”.

Here’s Wrongo’s take on how they did.

  • Warren, Buttigieg and Sanders finished in the top tier. Sanders in particular seems to be a better candidate since his heart attack, while Mayor Pete barely squeaks into this group. Warren led the field in talk time with 13.4 minutes to Mayor Pete’s 12.8. Sanders was in fourth place, with 11.8 minutes.
  • Harris, Booker and Yang are in the second tier. All had strong performances, but Harris in particular seemed to return to the form she showed in the first debate. It’s interesting, but it may not be enough, particularly since she isn’t currently top-three in her home state of California. Yang and Booker made the most of their limited talk time. Yang got 6.9 minutes, vs. 11.5 for Booker and Harris.
  • Biden, Klobachar and Steyer finished in the third tier. Biden talked for 12.6 minutes, and had good moments, but the gaffes remain. Steyer did well, but should drop out, as should Klobachar.
  • Gabbard trailed the field.

A few words about trying for consensus with Republicans. When candidates like Biden, Mayor Pete, Booker and Klobachar talk about unity and consensus, Wrongo hears them saying they will not fight for real change to our corrupt system.

Regarding Biden: He’s from an era where the Parties weren’t as ideologically coherent and polarized as today. There were both conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans, so a liberal Democrat could find common cause with liberal Republicans on certain issues or, with conservative Democrats on other issues on the basis of partisan allegiance.

That doesn’t exist anymore because those guys are gone. Policy success on an issue now depends largely on partisan and ideological alignment.  So, all that “working with the other side” means in practical terms, is an expectation of failure.

For Biden, the question should be: “Why aren’t those Republicans who are willing to work with you not defending you now, when you’re at the center of a fabricated scandal?” The basic premise of his candidacy is that his personal connections with Republicans will overcome their ideological or partisan viewpoints, so he’s operating under a delusion.

In sum, the Democrats running for the presidential nomination are beginning to look like Richard Russ’s novel “Empire Falls: The leading Dems are The Old Crank at the End of The Bar, the Slightly Senile and Slightly Pervy Retired Priest, the Woman Schoolteacher Who Knows Everything and the Cub Scout Going for His Presidency Badge. It’s somehow not that lovable here in reality.

A final word about the impact of the impeachment hearings, and how they overlap with the debates. The initial debate question was about the Ukraine scandal and impeachment. From Charlie Pierce: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“This is an unprecedented moment. A sitting president is under an impeachment inquiry, and likely will undergo a trial in the Senate, while also running for re-election….sooner or later, the issue of whether or not this president should be removed before the voters pass judgment on him is going to come to a very sharp point….”

These aren’t simple calculations. So far, there isn’t sufficient evidence to get 20 Senate Republicans to vote to convict the President on impeachment articles.

And the Mueller report didn’t grab the American public, so it will be ignored by Republicans.

The questions are:

  • Whether what we’ve heard will change the minds of enough Independents and a few Republicans?
  • And/or, will it fire up enough Democrats so that they turnout and overcome Republican efforts at voter suppression next November?
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Can Dems Beat Trump In The 2020 Battleground States?

The Daily Escape:

Buttermilk Falls, Ithaca, NY – October 2019 photo by mattmacphersonphoto

Some news was made by pollsters yesterday. The NYT and Siena College are out with a poll of 2020 battleground states that shows Trump is highly competitive in head-to-head matchups with the top Democratic candidates. Even though Trump is by far the most unpopular president in American history, these polls indicate that he could get re-elected.

Here are the top line results. Among registered voters, Biden narrowly leads Trump in four of them, Sanders in three, Warren in one:

These states were the key contests in 2016 between Hillary and Trump. Trump’s approval ratings have long been in the high 30s to low 40s, and he trails Biden by almost nine points in an average of national polls. But as the 2016 race showed, the story in the battleground states can be quite different. Mr. Trump won these six states even while losing the national vote by two percentage points.

In this poll, Trump trails Biden by an average of two points, but that result is within the margin of error in the individual states. And we know how erroneous the polls were in November 2016. You can look at the current poll’s cross-tabs here.

Hate to pour cold water on Democrats, but Trump could lose the 2020 popular vote by upwards of ten million, and still win in the Electoral College.

This is reality – it will come down to six states. This is why people get so disengaged from presidential politics. Then, by not voting in election years, the Congress, state houses, and state assemblies stay with the Republicans.

Ten years from now, the demographics will be different. Consider Texas, where Latinos will outnumber non-Hispanic whites by 2022. OTOH, we have a census next year, and some states are deploying multimillion-dollar efforts to ensure their population gets counted correctly. But in the South, only three states have allocated state funding for census outreach, with just eight months to go.

It may take time, but much of the South will again come back into play. Maybe people won’t feel like they’re overlooked if presidential campaigns actually required the votes of people in most states in order to win.

Just six states. That should infuriate everyone. We remain at the mercy of the Electoral College.

But there’s more. Nate Cohn says in the Times article:

“Nearly two-thirds of the Trump voters who said they voted for Democratic congressional candidates in 2018 say that they’ll back the president against all three named opponents.”

The crossover by Republicans to vote for a Democrat in 2018 was a factor in taking back the House. So, losing two-thirds of them sounds terrible for Dems, until you realize that it means 1/3 of Trump’s 2016 voters in those states say they’ll stay with the Dems in 2020. And Trump’s margin in PA, MI, and WI was just 80,000 in 2016

We’re at a point where the Democratic field is narrowing. Four candidates have moved clear of the field, Biden, Warren, Sanders and Buttigieg. Biden and Buttigieg represent middle-of-the-road liberalism, while Warren and Sanders represent a more liberal, anti-corporate philosophy. Only Buttigieg is under 70, but that doesn’t matter if the opponent is over 70 himself. The rest of the field barely polls at 2%.

It’s likely that the Dem nominee will be one of these four, but it’s way too early to be concerned about how they perform vs. Trump’s relative strength in the battleground states he won in 2016.

It’s smart for Democrats to fight as though every poll has them way behind. And the figures on advertising dollars spent per campaign show that Trump is currently spending as much money as all the Democrats combined.

A year from now, we’ll be entering a different world. But since we can’t know the future, it could be either wonderful news, or more of the brain-melting hell in which we currently reside.

To make sure it’s a new world, we have to do everything we can to ensure that someone new is elected, someone who will oppose with every vote, every fiber of their being, the policies and hate spewed by Trump and his GOP fellow-travelers.

This means we have to work to turn them out not only from the presidency, but from every other elected office, from county commissioner to the House and Senate.

How?  There are a lot of ways, from donating money, to donating time at the local Party office; to writing letters to the editor, or making your voice heard through whatever means you can.

The How is important, but the Why is what should energize every one of us.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – August 4, 2019

Will Hurd is the third Texas Republican in the past two weeks to decide to spend more time with their families, and is the sixth incumbent GOP member of the House to go. He is the only black Republican member of the House of Representatives. Could this be why?

It’s not that surprising Hurd wants to step down; he barely beat Democrat Gina Ortiz-Jones in the 2018 midterm election, winning by less than 1,000 votes. Ortiz-Jones is running again, and has been out-fundraising Hurd.

Wrongo gave money to Ortiz-Jones last time, and will again. She joined the US Air Force as an intelligence officer and deployed to Iraq in the Bush administration. After three years of active duty, she returned to Texas in 2006, working for a consulting company while caring for her mother, who had colon cancer (from which she later recovered).

Ortiz-Jones then returned to working as an intelligence analyst for the US Africa Command in Germany. In 2008, she joined the Defense Intelligence Agency, where she specialized in Latin America. In November 2016, she moved to the Executive Office of the President (Barack Obama) to serve under the US Trade Representative. Having served under presidents of both parties, Ortiz-Jones continued in her role during the Trump administration until June 2017, when she left.

Until 2016, there were always people like Will Hurd in the GOP. And before Trump came along, it was easy to get way more than four votes from Republicans in the House of Representatives to condemn a politician’s racist comment.

Pulling out for a view from 50,000 feet, there’s now an energized segment of America that are virulently hard core right wing. They are driven by a steady flow of lies and disinformation, and they won’t disappear or even move underground assuming Trump loses in 2020. Democrats will have to win real solid majorities in both Houses if there is to be effective government in DC, And they may be able to turn a few more Texas Congressional seats blue. Ortiz-Jones deserves your attention.

The debates are over until September, but this isn’t what we’ll see when they resume:

One goal among many:

 

This is exactly how the media and the GOP view the Dems:

Why won’t Mitch pursue fixing our election system?

Remember when they said that plastic was far better than paper and would save the environment?

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Marist Poll Points Towards Winning Democratic Policies

The Daily Escape:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Can Dems Energize Voters in 2020?

The Daily Escape:

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

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

From Tom Sullivan:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time will tell.

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Can Democrats Be Republican Lite in 2020 and Win?

The Daily Escape:

Bowman Lake, Glacier NP – June 2019 photo by TheChariot77

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – June 16, 2019

Some harsh news from California for Kamala Harris this week. The LA Times quotes findings from a UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll, commissioned by The Times. It has bad news for some Democratic presidential contenders, starting with Sen. Harris.

The poll shows Biden leading the race. He has support from 22% of likely Democratic primary voters. That is well below his average in most national surveys. Warren and Sanders followed close behind, with 18% and 17% respectively.

Harris is in fourth place at 13%, and Pete Buttigieg is fifth at 10%. No other candidate topped 3%, and many received less than half a point of support.

This is important because California is Harris’s home state. Candidates in California’s primary can only gain delegates by winning at least 15% of the vote. California also has the largest haul of delegates in the Democratic nomination fight, and they’ve moved their contest from the end, to the beginning of the primary season, making it truly important for the first time.

Harris is counting on a California win to propel her into the top tier. On the other hand, not a lot separates the top five, so it is possible that she can still get back into the mix. On to cartoons.

GOP’s two-part voting strategy:

For DT, the FBI’s evidence IS his plan:

Accountability works only one way:

Sanders steps (way) down, but does hell have a bottom?

He might as well wave toilet paper at this point:

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