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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Biden’s Win and Trump’s Economic Stimulus

The Daily Escape:

This week’s Supermoon over Three Fingers, WA – March 2020 photo by Alpackie

Today we’ll talk superficially about two topics. First, a quick take on Tuesday’s Democratic primary, and second, about whatever it is Trump is cooking up with Republicans as an “economic stimulus” in this time of Coronavirus and stock market volatility.

Here’s Jameson Quinn with a pithy summary of the primary:

“Right now, the best-case scenario is that Joe Biden will be the next president of the USA; the worst-case is that Trump is the last one. That is to say, we will have a choice between a guy whose primary campaigns twice flamed out from self-inflicted errors and who, the day he takes office, will be the oldest president the country has ever had; and a narcissistic, mobbed-up reality television star whose platform is focused on his core base of racists, trolls, and racist trolls.”

But how do you really feel?

That said, Wrongo was always for Elizabeth Warren, but now, that door has closed. Wrongo like many others, overestimated the importance of competency and policy. Most people don’t read policy papers, and they knew that Biden had been Obama’s VP. That was enough to get them to vote for Biden.

People make their voting decisions based on things like personality, perceived connection to their tribe, perceived electability and an “X” factor, vague trust in a candidate’s judgment. Would Biden be a good president? Who really knows?

Moving on to Trump’s economic stimulus: It isn’t surprising that Trump promises some more corporate socialism and the stock market likes it. And it isn’t surprising that no one in the media notices that the Party of Obama Derangement Syndrome had zero concerns about debt/deficits once Orange became the new black.

But, rather than proposing tax cuts, good policy starts with identifying the problems:

  1. Sick people: They require costly medical care. Many can’t afford it, even if it’s available, and even if they have insurance.
  2. Unemployment: Unemployment will rise. Sick people without sick leave will lose their jobs. Businesses will have less revenue.
  3. Goods shortages: Much of our goods come from China, including medical supplies and drugs. Trade has already been disrupted, and it will get worse. Italy finds it needs thousands of ventilators, and China is supplying them.
  4. Childcare: Schools and daycare centers are closing, and working parents are in a jam. Worse, parents will be hospitalized with no care arranged for their kids.

Tax cuts won’t address these problems. Most sick people don’t have much income, so tax cuts won’t matter to them. Unemployed people won’t have income either. The idea that the government can wall off the economic impacts of a virus-caused recession is correct. Once the economic slowdown spreads, the right kinds of government programs could soften the blow.

Here’s Wrongo’s prescription for Trump and Congress:

  • No bailouts for any industry
  • Targeted financial help for hospitals and the health care sector
  • General financial relief paid directly to workers and families

America’s businesses and capitalists had a fantastic decade. Let them and their rich executives weather this economic downturn on their own.

Trump’s people floated the idea of a push back of the April 15 Tax Filing Deadline. This does nothing for people, and shows just how little the administration is prepared to do.

Trump’s suggestion of a payroll tax cut is also misplaced. It’s been tried in the past, including by Obama. But tax cuts are less effective than simply providing lump-sum payments to families below a certain income threshold.

Also, payroll taxes are the primary source of funding for Social Security and Medicare. So this opens the door to another GOP stealth attack on Social Security. Trump has already said he plans to cut Social Security if reelected.

Jason Furman, Obama’s head of the Council of Economic Advisers, proposed an immediate, one-time payment of $1,000 to every adult, plus $500 for every child. Such payments would help cover rent, food and other costs, without a large administrative burden of trying to determine who got sick, or who lost work due to the Coronavirus.

Furman’s proposal would add up to $350 billion. The right wing will say no financial stimuli for Joe Sixpack. Those things must be paid for.

But Trump thought it was fine to dig a $ trillion hole in the budget for an unnecessary tax cut during good economic times.

What we need now is urgent. It requires smart, humane, and energetic action.

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Super Tuesday Turnout Wasn’t So Super

Many in the media echoed this from Newsweek:

“Turnout was higher overall in every state except for Oklahoma, but the percentage of voters who were 17 to 29 years old was lower than in 2016.”

That’s true as far as it goes, 2020 was higher than 2016. But 2020 turnout was nearly one million fewer than in 2008, 972,443 to be exact. So Democrats shouldn’t be getting their hopes up just yet.

Here’s a helpful chart from Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball:

Sabato says:

“Turnout overall is definitely up when compared to 2016, but not when compared to 2008, the blockbuster Barack Obama-Hillary Clinton primary…remember that population size naturally grows almost everywhere, so even matching 2008 doesn’t necessarily mean turnout was better.”

(California is excluded in the above, because so many votes remain to be counted. States marked with an asterisk have not fully reported yet.)

What does it all mean? That’s TBD, but everyone should look clearly at these turnout numbers. We know that Bernie’s reason for running is that he can turnout young voters, and other disaffected non-voters. But Sanders hasn’t performed consistently with his strategy. He hasn’t turned out more young voters, nor has he expanded his base. It’s now clear that at least some of his support in 2016 was a function of being the alternative to Hillary Clinton.

Biden’s surge shows our pent-up demand for a return to normalcy, a place where we wouldn’t be shocked by politics 24/7.

But Biden’s winning won’t fix the problems underlying our politics. A vote for Joe is a vote for the status quo, and that’s not going to work out so well for the millennials or younger Americans. Biden’s nomination will not do anything to deal with the malaise among America’s youth, who worry about climate change and college debt, and the minimum wage all of which will get back-burnered by Biden and the DNC. So, how can we get them excited enough to turn out and vote?

What’s Biden’s strategy to do that in November?

 

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Monday Wake Up Call – February 24, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Mt. Rainier from Crystal Mountain – 2108 photo by papageorgio120

At lunch this week with a wealthy owner of a commercial construction company who is also a committed Trumper, Wrongo said that the Democratic Party could split into two parties, assuming that the Dems fail to unseat Trump in November.

That’s because neither of the two wings of the party seem likely to gain majority victories in the primary elections over the next few months. That could lead to a weak national candidate heading the ticket. The race remains static, with a progressive Democratic wing led by Sanders and Warren, and a center-right wing, comprising Bloomberg, Biden, Buttigieg and Klobuchar.

Bernie’s Nevada win indicates that he’s on a path to consistent, 30%-40% finishes in many states. The only age demographic Sanders did not win last Saturday was the 65-and-older vote. We know that the older cohort votes heavily, while younger voters historically have not. If Sanders can bring along a portion of the older demographic, while turning out the youth, he changes the delegate game, and maybe the 2020 presidential election.

On his current track, Sanders could have the delegate lead in July when the Democrats meet in Milwaukee, but since he’s winning pluralities not majorities, he’s unlikely to have the 1991 delegates needed to win the nomination on the first ballot. Depending on how large his delegate lead is, the other candidates should concede, but none of them have to.

And that means there will be a second ballot, when the dreaded Democratic Super delegates will have their say. We know that the Establishment Democrats are not Bernie fans, and they comprise the majority of the Super Delegates, so we could see a Democratic schism in July.

While Bloomberg looks like a terrible campaigner, he forces the other moderate Ds to compete with each other, because they aren’t going to get much, if any of the voters who are committed to Sanders. And they can’t compete monetarily with Bloomberg. If they all stay in the race and keep going after each other instead of Bernie, it guarantees that Bernie will get pluralities, with few opportunities for majority wins by anyone.

What will the average Democrat do when faced with a choice between Bernie the democratic socialist, and if it comes to that, the 12th richest man in the world? The Democratic Party has always been a coalition of varied interests but in July, Dems could face the choice between either concentrated ideology or concentrated wealth.

Many are concerned that Bernie or any of the center-right Dems, won’t deliver the necessary voter turnout in the fall. But the 2020 election really has two parties, the Trump and the Not-Trump Party. Who really believes that the Not-Trumpers won’t come out to vote?

The Not-Trumpers came out to vote in 2018, when there was no one at the head of the ticket. In 2018, Not-Trumpers won in suburbs, in the cities, in some conservative districts, and in liberal districts.

The Dems running as the 2018 Not-Trump Party ran women, children of refugees, men, black people, white people, gay people, and won some races with all of them. So we know that team Not-Trump will be motivated, but we don’t yet know how motivated Team Not-Socialist will be.

So the questions (that we have asked before) remain:

  • Will the Dem progressive and center-right wings coalesce on a Not-Trump candidate?
  • Will that candidate appeal to all of the Not-Trumpers?

Regardless of which Democrat is the Party’s candidate, the anti-Democrat messages from the Republicans will be unprecedented. That will scare many middle-of-the-road voters, and possibly depress turnout. Whatever the pundits’ and the party establishment’s misgivings, right now, Sanders is clearly doing something right, while the others are spinning their wheels.

Next Saturday’s South Carolina primary will show us whether a different candidate can be a serious challenger to Sanders.

A brokered convention would, and should be hotly-contested. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a bloodbath. If it is a bloodbath, that’s on the people who make it one, and they will be the people who break the Democratic Party into two distinct minority parties.

So, it’s time to wake up, Democrats! The divide(s) in the Party are clear: Older candidates vs. younger candidates. Progressive candidates vs. moderate-right candidates.

It’s time for the Party of inclusion to figure out where it’s going in 2020.

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Saturday Soother – February 22, 2020

(There will be no cartoons posted this week)

The Daily Escape:

Bass Harbor Head Light, Acadia NP, ME – 2019 photo by York Chen

Some are saying that the Democrats have abandoned the House as an instrument of power, and that it might be lost forever. The idea is that Democrats have surrendered the power of oversight, because they haven’t been able to use it effectively, and they can’t enforce their subpoena power.

This was the calculus of the Trump administration. If you stonewalled the House Democratic majority, their only option was to declare contempt. Once contempt is declared, it is up to the Department of Justice to enforce the order, an impossible expectation so long as it’s Trump’s DOJ.

After a contempt order has been issued, Congress can pass the order on to the DOJ or, to the DC US Attorney’s Office for prosecution as a civil or criminal matter. In theory, a charge of contempt could result in a fine or jail time, though in reality, that’s unlikely to happen.

After that, it’s up to the courts. That process takes a long time, and the outcome is far from certain. If a judge rules against Congress and in favor of the Trump administration, it could set new legal precedent that could make it easier for future presidential administrations to withhold information from future congressional committees.

The House did exercise its impeachment power, but it’s clear that regarding oversight, Trump has no intention of cooperating, nor will his administration. So the Democrats are facing a Constitutional question: The House is either an independent instrument of power and authority, or it is not.

We’d like to think that the next president and those that follow will not abuse their powers. Or if/when they do abuse power, they will be confronted by a Congress controlled by the other party, and both contempt and impeachment will be taken seriously by the president.

If a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress were elected, they could agree on a series of changes to limit presidential overreach and misconduct. Here are a few options:

  • Statutory penalties for contempt of Congress followed by swift review by the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit
  • Tightening time limits for responding to Freedom of Information Act requests and enacting penalties for abuse
  • Restatement and enforcement of whistleblower protections, including penalties for outing and retaliating against whistleblowers

Even these moves may not be enough to rein in a president who has operational control of the DOJ. It will take the Supreme Court to settle the issue of the power of Congressional oversight vs. the power of the president’s executive privilege.

Trump’s presidency has revealed great vulnerabilities in our politics. Americans must want democracy badly enough if democracy is to survive. Despite our adulation of the framers, the Constitution works because Americans have made it work, not because of the brilliance of its design.

We’re facing a critical presidential election. There must be serious soul-searching by all of us regarding who should have political power.

The question for November is why have so many Americans lost faith in democracy, and what must we do to restore that faith?

No coffee recommendation today, we’re already waay too amped up from Trump’s pardons of bad actors along with his threat to pardon convicted liar Roger Stone. Or, maybe his arguing in Colorado Springs that Obama should be impeached put you over the edge. Maybe you were interested in seeing Mike Bloomberg take the debate stage, only to find out that Bloomberg brought a wallet to a knife fight.

Bloomberg was probably wishing he had bought a podium in a better neighborhood!

It’s time to get some distance from the circus in DC and forget about the shouting and posturing. It’s time to take a break with a Saturday Soother. This week settle back and listen to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” performed by the 5th grade chorus from PS22 in Staten Island, NYC. Wrongo promises you will be happy that you watched:

Think about how a public school music teacher reinvents his chorus every year with a new 5th grade class. This is one reason why we need to fund arts in public schools.

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

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Facebook Could Destroy Democracy

The Daily Escape:

Pond, Greenville County SC – February 2020 photo by Ninjiteex. It’s rare to see snow in SC

On Facebook, Wrongo mostly reads the posts of friends who are involved in showing dogs at AKC events. People who show dogs skew older and female, and thus, so do Wrongo’s Facebook friends. Many share a constant amount of pro-Trump (dis)information.

So, Wrongo tried a week-long experiment, letting some of those posters know that their posts were factually incorrect. Let’s focus on one, a picture of a very young Bernie Sanders being hauled away by police:

The photo’s caption says:

“In 1963 Bernie Sanders was arrested for throwing eggs at black civil rights protestors. This is the side of Bernie that CNN and the fake news media don’t want you to know”

The picture is real, the caption is false. Sanders was actually protesting police brutality and segregation, and was arrested for “resisting arrest”. Facebook has now taken down the post, but it was up for over a week.

When Wrongo told friends that their posts were false, everyone deflected, and minimized their intent. One, a fervent Trumper, said, “I just wanted to post a picture of him when he was young”. Never mind that this photo is available all over the internet with the simplest of searches, all with the correct reference.

Despite a week’s worth of trying, no one was willing to delete a false post. Many of these people post disinformation six or more times a day, so it was an exercise in futility to try and make these “friends” admit the truth about their posts, much less show any awareness about their biases.

This is a small example of what McKay Coppins wrote in his Atlantic article, “The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President.” As an experiment, Coppins signed up at many pro-Trump social media sites, and soon was deluged with alternative facts: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“What I was seeing was a strategy that has been deployed by illiberal political leaders around the world. Rather than shutting down dissenting voices, these leaders have learned to harness the democratizing power of social media for their own purposes—jamming the signals, sowing confusion. They no longer need to silence the dissident shouting in the streets; they can use a megaphone to drown him out. Scholars have a name for this: censorship through noise.”

All of this is helped by Facebook’s excellent micro-targeting tools. They allow an advertiser to slice the electorate into narrow and distinct niches and then reach them with precisely tailored digital messages. More from Coppins:

“An ad that calls for defunding Planned Parenthood might get a mixed response from a large national audience, but serve it directly via Facebook to 800 Roman Catholic women in Dubuque, Iowa, and its reception will be much more positive.”

The results can be overwhelming. The Trump campaign runs hundreds of iterations of ads. In the 10 weeks after the House of Representatives began its impeachment inquiry, the Trump campaign ran roughly 14,000 different ads containing the word impeachment.

No one has the bandwidth to sift through all of them, and then call them out.

It gets worse. Coppins says that the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign have compiled an average of 3,000 data points on every voter in America. They have spent years experimenting with ways to tweak their messages based not just on gender and geography, but on whether the recipient owns a dog or, a gun.

Raw Story quotes former Rep. David Jolly (R-FL) saying that Donald Trump intentionally wants America to be anxious: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“I had a colleague that was in a meeting in the Roosevelt Room and….he heard Trump say, ‘Have you ever seen the nation so divided?’ My colleagues and others said, ‘No, we haven’t.’ Trump said, ‘I love it that way.’’

He thinks this how he’ll be re-elected!

Last Sunday, Walter Schaub, former director of the US Office of Government Ethics had a remarkable tweet thread on this, saying: (emphasis and brackets by Wrongo)

“…we’re in a dangerous new phase of Trump’s war on democracy. What do we do now?

….the greatest threat we face is despondency. The enemies of democracy…want you drowning in hopelessness. A hopeless populace is a helpless one. To that end, a hostile foreign power set up an infrastructure to weaponize social media against you.

Compounding the assault on your senses, he [Trump] also wields a corrupted government, which follows his lead in disseminating lies to sow confusion…

In the face of this psychological warfare, our most urgent mission—our civic duty—is to reject despondency. Everyone has a bad day, so we may need to take turns leading the charge. But our job as citizens is to resist the temptation to spread defeatism on social media.”

You said it, Walter!

We gotta keep hope alive.

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Monday Wake Up Call – February 17, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Looking west at sunset with Merced River in foreground, Yosemite NP, CA – 2019 photo by OlafIowa

“The general culture is often stupid or evil, and would vote out God in favor of the devil if he fed them back their hate and fear in a way that made them feel righteous”  -Charles Frazier, from his book, Varina, Pgs. 328-329

We’re living in the terrible present, an unprecedented time when Trump can say “Make me!” and we can’t, although Democrats have been trying since 2016.

That we’re in the middle of a “put the oxygen mask on your democracy first” emergency is shown by all that the Trump administration has done since his impeachment acquittal. Democracy is dying right in front of us, and in broad daylight. And the people trying to kill it are making no bones about it to the rest of us.

In this primary season, people are fighting over which Democratic presidential candidate will be the best at beating Trump, but that’s the wrong question. Strategically, Democrats win if they hold the House and take back the Senate. With both Houses of Congress, Trump will be neutered, even if he wins. If the Democrat wins, and the Party holds both Houses, passing progressive legislation becomes possible.

So the real decision is which candidate will have the best coattails.

That brings us to doctrinal purity tests. Most Democrats see the purity test as a doctrinaire standard of ideological purity. In 2016, Hillary Clinton objected to Bernie Sanders’s saying in a primary debate that she didn’t measure up as a progressive. Clinton argued that according to Sanders’s criteria, even Obama wouldn’t measure up, “because he took donations from Wall Street.”

Democrats must overcome their obsession about who is the most progressive, or who isn’t progressive enough. Otherwise, the Party will go into the November fight disunited.

In a column last week, Wrongo talked about Democrats’ disunity in the presidential elections of 2000 and 2016. But we can go back to an earlier event, the campaign of George McGovern in 1972. Nixon shellacked McGovern by a 23-point margin in the popular vote, carrying 49 states.

McGovern was a progressive who called for tax reform. He proposed payroll tax-funded single-payer healthcare. He was for a form of guaranteed income called a “Demogrant” of $1,000 per year for every adult, regardless of income, as an alternative to Nixon’s complicated means-tested welfare overhaul plan. Yang’s plan is similar to McGovern’s

Many Democrats failed to support McGovern, thinking he was too liberal. After McGovern’s defeat, Democrats began running towards the center, even though “the center” has moved further and further to the right with each presidential election.

We’ll have to play hardball to defeat Trump in November. But to play hardball, one must first have balls, something Democrats haven’t shown in a very long time. It’s not surprising that despite winning the popular vote in 6 of the last 7 presidential elections, Dems have little to show for it politically.

Consider that two of the top 2020 contenders include Bernie and Bloomberg, who aren’t Democrats, and have at times, held the Party in clear contempt. Think about where we are: Biden couldn’t beat Obama or Hillary in 2008. Sanders couldn’t beat Hillary in 2016. Hillary couldn’t beat Trump.

Is it logical that either of Biden or Bernie could win in 2020?

Wrongo isn’t sold on Bloomberg. Criticisms of other candidates are as least as applicable to Bloomberg:

  • Biden and Sanders too old? Bloomberg is just as old
  • Biden too gaffe-prone? Bloomberg feasts on his own foot frequently
  • Sanders health a concern? Bloomberg also had a heart attack and the same operation to treat it
  • Sanders’s commitment to the Democratic Party? Bloomberg has actually bankrolled Republican office holders at the state and federal level
  • Biden and Klobuchar too conservative? Bloomberg is more conservative
  • Klobuchar an evil boss? Don’t read Bloomberg’s management philosophy. It’s best if you aren’t a woman

For Bloomberg, maybe it’s as Cyndi Lauper said: “Money changes everything”.

Still, after the disaster of 2016, there are people who will sit on their hands and let Trump be re-elected, rather than support a Dem they find ideologically impure.

You probably don’t remember the 1972 campaign clearly because you were too young, but 2000 wasn’t enough? 2016 wasn’t enough?

Wake up America! The best candidate is the one with the longest coattails.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – February 16, 2020

It is clear that Trump, aided by attorney general Barr, is using the power of the Justice Department to investigate and persecute his enemies, and intervene in the judicial process to help his friends.

This isn’t acceptable. It’s out of bounds. It’s unethical and it’s un-American. This is what autocrats do.

Trump didn’t like the jury decision that convicted his buddy Roger Stone, so he’s attacking the jury foreman on Twitter. This woman now has the president of the US gunning for her.

This has never happened before. We live in a country that is supposed to protect our rights. That doesn’t just happen. It requires all of us to demand that our institutions do not abuse their power.

Some of you would love to check out mentally, and let Trump and Barr slide. But our privileges come with responsibilities. Are we willing to stand up for the Constitution? Are we willing to stand up for America? On to cartoons.

America knows the truth about Trump and Barr:

Barr’s investigations could become a moving target:

Our future:

Dems are in training for November:

Biden looks for answers:

And he gives Dems a heads up:

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Saturday Soother – Bill Barr Edition

The Daily Escape:

Peyto Lake, Jasper NP, Alberta CN – 2019 photo by TheMilkMan26

America needs a Trumpectomy, and that won’t happen until January 2021. The problem is that Trumpism is like a metastasized cancer, and maybe even excising Trump won’t be enough to cure the country.

When the story broke that AG William Barr had intervened in the sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone, most of the country was in an uproar. Career DOJ prosecutors left the case, and most of us were angry and in disbelief that Trump was directing the DOJ’s case along with his accomplice, AG Barr.

The Justice Department was also in disbelief. NBC News’ Ken Delanian reported that Department of Justice employees almost walked out en masse on Wednesday over Barr’s actions. Barr responded to the criticism from inside and outside the DOJ by telling ABC News that Trump’s constant tweets “make it impossible for me to do my job.” The first blush reaction to Barr’s statement was that Barr was complaining about Trump getting in his grill.

A much more realistic (and troubling) take is that Barr is defending his action as “perfect”, and the only reason that he’s taking flack is a completely unrelated tweet from Trump.

Barr’s criticism of Trump is about as real as professional wrestling. He’s a fan of executive power, and too aware of Trump’s personality to have done this without coordinating with the White House.

And if that wasn’t enough, the NYT reported on Friday that Barr assigned yet another outside prosecutor to scrutinize the DOJ’s criminal case against Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser. This is yet another case of political interference by the DOJ into the work of its own career prosecutors.

Flynn pleaded guilty, but at the start of the sentencing phase, he hired a new attorney, Sidney Powell, a darling of the right wing media, who is also a FOX contributor. She is contesting his guilty plea.

Barr said just the other day that he would not be bullied or swayed for political reasons, and would only act in the name of maintaining the highest judicial standards. Now, the question for Barr is: How did he pick the Stone and Flynn cases for the DOJ to pursue?

Flynn’s judge, Emmet Sullivan, wrote a 92-page opinion in December laying out why the things that Barr just hired another counsel to second-guess won’t affect Flynn’s guilt. Why is the entire Right wing is going to the mats to defend Flynn, a guy who was secretly on Turkey’s payroll while acting as Trump’s NatSec advisor?

Their hero is a guy who was selling out the US for $600K.

It’s important to remember that Flynn, Manafort, and Stone broke the law repeatedly. Barr is working to undermine our judicial process on their behalf. Now, you can prosecute the bad guys, but don’t mess with the president’s friends. Do that and you’ll be out of work, or worse.

This of course, changes how prosecutors will do their jobs.

Successfully performing the Trumpectomy will be an all hands on deck effort. We can’t give up hope. Wrongo returned from his military service in 1969, and protested the Vietnam War until it ended in 1975.

We need to resist Trumpism until it ends. Let’s close with two excerpts from Thomas Merton’s “Letter to a young activist”, written during the Vietnam War in 1966:

“This country is SICK, man. It is one of the sickest things that has happened. People are fed on myths, they are stuffed up to the eyes with illusions. They CAN’T think straight. They have a modicum of good will, and some of them have a whole lot of it, but with the mental bombardment everybody lives under, it is just not possible to see straight, no matter where you are looking.”

Sound familiar? Merton goes on to say:

“Vietnam is the psychoanalysis of the US. I wonder if the nation can come out of it and survive. I have a hunch we might be able to. But your stresses and strains, mine, Dan Berrigan’s, all of them, are all part of this same syndrome, and it is extremely irritating and disturbing to find oneself, like it or not, involved in the national madness.”

We’ve been here before, and with huge voter turnout, we can beat Trumpism.

We really need today’s Saturday Soother. To help you begin, let’s brew up a mug of Kona Bourbon Pointu Laurina, ($62.50/8oz.). Wrongo know that’s expensive, but use some of your Trump winnings to buy it from Hula Daddy, an artisanal coffee grower in Kona, Hawaii.

Now put on your headphones and listen to “21st Century USA” by the Drive By Truckers from their new album “Unraveled”. This isn’t designed to soothe you, but to fire you up:

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

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Can Democrats Unite Behind One Candidate?

The Daily Escape:

The Great Western Divide, Kings Canyon NP, CA – photo by enigmo81

Let’s recall a statistic from the New Hampshire primary (NH) exit polling: 15% of Democratic voters said they wouldn’t support the Democratic nominee unless it was their first choice. This has echoes of the 2016 presidential campaign when the divisions between Hillary and Bernie carried over to unwillingness on the part of some Bernie supporters to vote for Hillary in the General Election.

Many of their votes went to the Green Party’s Jill Stein. Vox reports that:

“In Michigan, Clinton lost by less than a percentage point, a deficit she could have recovered from with half of Stein’s votes. Again in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, where Clinton lost by one point, Jill Stein’s votes would have covered her loss. Had Clinton won all three states, she would have won the election.”

And remember the 2000 election. That year, the Green Party’s candidate was Ralph Nader, who earned 97,488 votes, in Florida, swinging the election to GW. Bush, who won Florida by less than 600 votes.

So will 2020 be another time that Democrats self-immolate? Can Democrats agree to back one candidate with enthusiasm? Can Dems unify to insure huge turnouts that carry the House and Senate as well?

Let’s talk turnout. It’s been underwhelming. The total of Democrat voters in the 2020 Iowa caucus was 172,669. This is almost the same number of voters who turned out in 2016 when Hillary and Bernie were battling it out: 171,109. That’s about 70,000 less than the turnout in 2008 for Hillary vs. Obama.

Doesn’t seem that Iowa showed much Democratic enthusiasm.

In NH, more than 296,000 Democrat votes were cast. This exceeded the 287,542 that voted for Obama and Hillary in 2008. However, there are more eligible voters today than in 2008. That year 29% of the electorate voted in the Democrat primary, while only 26% voted this time.

It gets worse. NH allows crossover voting in primaries. Wrongo lived in NH for 12 years, and on occasion, voted strategically for candidates he had no intention of voting for in the General Election. Charlie Pierce noted this post last Sunday from the NH Journal:

“Bill Kristol, founder of the conservative Weekly Standard magazine, confirmed to NH Journal that he is part of the effort, which involves tens of thousands of New Hampshire voter contacts and a six-figure budget. Kristol said:

“Yup. I’m happy to have joined with some others to help remind New Hampshire independents, who might be accustomed to voting in the Republican primary, that this year, they may be able to make more of a difference by voting for a responsible and electable candidate in the Democratic primary….”

Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report calculates NH independents responded to Kristol’s prodding, and some helped Buttigieg and Klobuchar:

Is this Democratic field causing less than expected turnout? What can turn this around? Wasserman’s colleague, Amy Walter, tweeted this:

“Dear Democrats: there is no ‘perfect’ candidate. There never is…”

It’s early in the primary marathon, but the signs are not good. Weak candidates, little enthusiasm, and a significant minority who is unwilling to say they’ll back the nominee, regardless of who it is.

And there’s been more than the two examples of disunity mentioned above. We have to go back to 1972 and the campaign of George McGovern. Nixon shellacked McGovern by a 23-point margin in the popular vote, carrying 49 states.

After McGovern’s defeat, Democrats began running towards the center, even though “the center” has moved further and further to the right with each presidential election.

For the past 40 years, party leaders and mainstream pundits have invoked McGovern’s name. In 2004, Howard Dean was the new McGovern. In 2008, Barack Obama became the new McGovern. Now in 2020, many think Bernie Sanders is McGovern. From Martin Longman:

“In 1972, we were told that the newly lowered voting age would bring out a surge of youth voters for McGovern. But only half of 18-21 year olds turned out to vote and 48% of them voted for Nixon. In any case, it wouldn’t have mattered if they’d all turned out and voted heavily for the Democrat. Without party unity, McGovern had no chance.”

We’re again hoping for the youth vote to drive turnout, and bring voter enthusiasm. What are the odds? Democrats are on a high risk course, when based on the midterms two years ago, the Party was pretty cohesive. What’s the reason to weaken the coalition that won the 2018 midterms?

Democrats need to think about how to drive their candidates toward agreement on a set of policies and eventually, on a candidate who can unify the Party.

Remember that regardless of who becomes the nominee, that candidate will be running on the most progressive platform of any major party in the past 40 years.

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Post-Primary Thoughts

The Daily Escape:

Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, CA – photo by valledweller33. The canyon floor is 4,500ft below its rim.

Everything is BS until the people vote. Unlike in Iowa, New Hampshire (NH) declared a primary winner on the same day. One way to look at the results is:

  • The three main moderate candidates took 52.6% of the NH vote: (Buttigieg, 24.4% + Klobachar, 19.8% + Biden, 8.4%)
  • Two main lefty candidates took 35.2 % of the vote (Sanders, 25.9% + Warren, 9.3%)

Bernie was the winner, followed closely by Mayor Pete. Amy Klobuchar, who finished third, was to Wrongo’s thinking, overpraised by the pundits. She finished 5th in Iowa, a state next door to hers. Now she has both 5th and 3rd place finishes, and the media says she’s got a real chance.

Contrast that with Elizabeth Warren, who finished 4th in her neighboring state of New Hampshire, and 3rd in Iowa. So why are the media saying Klobuchar is a serious candidate, and Warren is a loser?

Biden, though, is toast. He’s nearly out of money and if he can’t finish better than 5th, he should go to the sidelines. The parade has passed him by. He looked like a man running on empty, a fine fellow, a good man, but a man of the past, who often seemed to be wondering what was going on.

Despite all of the above, there are two winners coming out of NH: Klobachar and Bloomberg. For Klobachar, she has an upside. She’s raised her profile, but she has virtually no support in Nevada and South Carolina; she may have trouble reaching the 15% threshold for delegates in both.

OTOH, Super Tuesday includes her home state of Minnesota which may be an opportunity for a win.

Klobuchar could easily make a strong vice president with her strength in the Midwest and in the suburbs. Alternatively, she could become the first female majority or minority leader in the history of the US Senate.

Bloomberg is the other NH winner. No one coming out of the NH primary looks to be able to build beyond their narrow base of support. Ron Brownstein concludes in The Atlantic:

“So far, none of the candidates has built a coalition that reaches broadly across the party. Instead, each is confined to a distinct niche of support that is too narrow to establish a commanding advantage in the race.”

The NH primary exit polls said 63% of voters were motivated to vote because of anger at Trump. The scariest statistic in the exit polls was that 15% said they will not vote for the Democratic presidential nominee unless it’s their candidate. This demonstrates the schism between the left and moderate wings of the party.

Many Dems think that Bloomberg would be the best center-left candidate, due to his resume and his money. But he isn’t for the purist lefties, and he’s spending tons of money on the Super Tuesday contests.

The problem with Bloomberg’s spending is that getting to 15% in the polling (with no votes yet cast for him) has already cost him $300 million. How much will it cost to get to 50.1% of Democratic delegates? Beyond that, can he buy the all-important turnout?

Let’s move on to this week’s reason for anger at Trump: His undermining of the federal judicial process.

The DOJ’s prosecutors in convicted Trump buddy Roger Stone’s case filed sentencing recommendations for his guilt in witness tampering. They asked for seven to nine years in prison. Trump tweeted thatThis is a horrible and very unfair situation. “ And Attorney General Barr reacted by overriding his prosecutors and changing that recommendation to three to four years.

Of course the whole case was unfair to Stone — the judge actually allowed witnesses to testify at his trial! That’s a huge no-no in Trumpworld.

All four prosecutors on the case have now left the case over the DOJ’s overriding their recommendations, and one resigned from the DoJ.

This isn’t simply about sparing a Trump crony a long prison sentence, Trump has the power to pardon him at any time. Stone’s judge is Amy Berman Jackson, who also has the Paul Manafort case. Manafort, like Stone, withheld evidence, and decided to face a jury that then convicted him.

Stone’s sentence will now be decided by Judge Jackson, who may have some thoughts about these shenanigans. She may also have some thoughts about Stone having posted her picture on social media with a crosshair over it.

This is a bad look: Trump weighs in, and all of a sudden, the DOJ says “let’s change the deal”.

Most Americans would look at that and say ”it just doesn’t look right”. The DOJ is just Barr’s cover Trump’s butt department now.

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