Keep Your Foot on the Gas

The Daily Escape:

Landscape Arch, Arches NP, Moab UT – 2020 photo by wmartin2014

There are 48 days to go until the election, and nobody who wants Trump retired can relax. The latest New York Times/Siena College poll shows Biden leading Trump in four swing states, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire and Wisconsin. Wining them could guarantee a Biden victory.

But, there were scary findings for Biden in the survey: In those four states, a larger share of voters said “addressing law and order” was a more important campaign issue to them than “addressing the coronavirus pandemic”.

Biden is perceived by some to be weak on crime, despite his lifetime legislative record that says just the opposite. But, while he’s been clear about his stance on rioting and looting, he hasn’t said it often enough to penetrate the consciousness of many voters: A majority of poll respondents said Biden “hasn’t done enough to condemn violent rioting.” Even 27% of his supporters agreed with that answer.

We’ve talked about Biden needing to be simultaneously on both offense and defense. He needs to do better with the perception of weakness around protests, looting and violence, and the future of policing. He hasn’t talked about it often enough, and that’s one reason why the campaign hasn’t turned into a rout.

If Biden fails at this messaging, the 2020 election will turn out to be uncomfortably close.

Ed Kilgore wrote about the uncomfortably close election of 1876, just 11 years after the end of the civil war. It was the closest the country has come to war over a presidential election:

“Republican Rutherford B. Hayes defeated Democrat Samuel Tilden by a single electoral vote after a dispute that wasn’t resolved until the eve of Hayes’s inauguration in March of 1877.”

Legal battles broke out in three southern states over both the presidential contest, and about which party controlled the state governments. Both Parties sent competing slates of electors to Washington from all three. More from Kilgore:

“As the time neared in January 1877…tensions rose around the country and in Washington. Democrats were particularly motivated given their candidate’s apparent popular vote margin (ultimately judged to be three percent) and threatened “Tilden or War.”

A compromise was reached days before the end of Grant’s administration, under threat of violence. Republican Hayes pledged to withdraw the remaining Federal troops in Louisiana, South Carolina and Florida, effectively ending Reconstruction in the south. That allowed southern Democrats to agree to Hayes as president.

Funny how history works: The Dems in 1876 represented the old plantation owner’s class, pro-slavery, and later, the ‘black codes’. The Southern Dems hold on the Democratic Party ended with LBJ passing the voting rights and civil rights acts with Republican help in the 1960’s. Subsequently, Nixon’s Southern strategy made the south a Republican stronghold.

But we’ve also had close elections since then. Paul Campos says:

“Over the past 60 years, six of the fifteen presidential elections in the USA have been extremely close. These elections ended up being basically coin flips — if they had been held a few days earlier or later, or if the weather had been different on Election Day, etc., the result could easily have changed.”

Campos outlines six recent close elections:

Kennedy over Nixon: The first of three presidential elections in the 40 years prior to 2000, in which the winner almost lost the popular vote. Kennedy won by about 100,000 votes out of nearly 69 million cast.

Nixon over Humphrey: This was a three-way contest in which votes for George Wallace were almost enough to throw the presidential election into the House of Representatives. That would have elected Hubert Humphrey, since if Nixon hadn’t won California, he wouldn’t have commanded a majority vote in the Electoral College.

Carter over Ford: Ford made a huge comeback in the weeks immediately before the election, but lost Texas and Mississippi, which were extremely close, with the Electoral College going 297 for Carter and 240 for Ford. Reagan didn’t campaign for Ford, which probably cost the Republicans the presidency.

Bush over Gore. You know how this one came out. Gore said at the time that there was no intermediate step between the Supreme Court and armed rebellion.

Bush over Kerry: Bush won the popular vote by three million, and the Electoral College by 286 to 251. A few tens of thousands of votes in Ohio separated Kerry from winning.

Trump over Clinton: This one wasn’t as close as Campos says.

But, flipping any one of these elections would have had enormous consequences for subsequent US history.

This should keep us all up at night, working hard that to ensure that it doesn’t happen again in 2020. There were lots of optimists in 2016. We need to be more realistic this time around.

We need to register the unregistered, and get out the vote.

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Saturday Soother – Conventions Are Over Edition, August 29, 2020

The Daily Escape:

The Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge that connects Vermont and New Hampshire across the Connecticut River. Wrongo and Ms. Right crossed it many times a year when we lived in NH.

Happy Saturday, fellow disease vectors! Both presidential conventions are over, and there’s just 65 days to go until the election. In his Thursday night acceptance speech, Trump turned and pointed at the White House, saying “We’re here and they’re not.” That sums up what’s going to be all-out, house-to-house fighting for votes by both Parties.

Trump is seeking to redefine the November election as a choice between Biden and himself, not simply a referendum on his first term.

A massive Republican attempt to scramble the narrative has already begun: No one will be safe in Joe Biden’s America. If he wins the election you’ll have to lock your doors, or run for your lives, because those bad people from “Democrat-run cities” want to kill you in your beds.

They’re betting that the fear of violence in the streets will outweigh all of the other issues on the minds of a sufficient number of voters to prevent Biden from winning in the Electoral College.

But the reality is that Trump has done much to incite violence. The fact that the violence has overwhelmingly occurred in cities with Democratic municipal governments is framed as making Trump the “change candidate”, despite being the guy on whose watch all of this violence has happened. And, as presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway explained on Fox News:

“The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on who’s best on public safety and law and order…”

And facts just don’t matter. Biden isn’t for defunding the police. In reality, he has called for increasing federal funding for police departments by $300 million, while Trump has proposed nearly half-a-billion dollars in cuts to law enforcement funding.

We should have expected the emergence of vigilante violence, as more and more protests turned into riots this summer. But this week’s killings in Kenosha, WI demonstrate how sinister vigilantism is when a 17-year old Kyle Rittenhouse comes from another state, ostensibly to protect local Wisconsin property from local protesters, and kills two.

But he wasn’t alone. NYT reports that: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Mr. Rittenhouse’s gunfire is mixed in with the sound of at least 16 other gunshots that ring out during this time.”

Apparently, Rittenhouse was responsible for eight of the 24 rounds, so other vigilantes were also roaming Kenosha’s streets. And since he’s 17, Kyle isn’t old enough either to own a gun, or to be open-carrying in Wisconsin, where you can’t legally own a rifle until you’re 18.

Immediately after Rittenhouse was identified as the shooter, the right-wing media characterized his actions as those of a dutiful citizen who had no choice but to take the law into his own hands, more Republican justification of vigilantism.

Returning to the context of the next 65 days: Once again, the big question is whether you are better off today than you were four years ago?

Since life is worse, how and why should voters focus only on violence when there are already 185,000 COVID dead? When 30 million Americans are unemployed? When 50 million face eviction, and our economy is teetering on depression?

There is no question that street violence is a major issue that must be on the table right along with the others. These require simultaneous solutions, and failure to solve any one of them will weaken the country for at least a decade.

They all urgently need to be solved, not spun, and Biden better have good answers.

It is a wonder that we haven’t seen more gun fights on our city streets. The police have all the tools and protective gear money can buy, but they look the other way when it comes to vigilantes. They need to intervene when these open carry vigilantes show up at protests, and bar them from entering into the immediate area of a protest, regardless of the First and Second Amendment consequences. Public safety should override the Constitutional concerns.

Americans can’t walk around afraid of armed and unregulated militias who think they have a mandate. And those militias can’t be welcomed by our local police. That’s the easy part. Solving the COVID pandemic so people can go back to work and to school can’t be left to Trump. He’s proven he isn’t capable of solving those problems.

Time for some soothing Saturday music. Here’s Yiruma, a South Korean composer and pianist, playing a short set of original music, live at a Korean Traditional House Village:

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

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Trump’s Portland Playbook

The Daily Escape:

Storm near Mesa Verde, CO – photo by mayaxs

It’s once again getting difficult to write about this stuff. Trump is willing to deploy a secret army to protect buildings, but he won’t take responsibility to protect human beings from a pandemic that is killing Americans at the equivalent of three jumbo jet crashes a day.

Let’s focus on the conflict between the First Amendment and the Second Amendment that’s been playing out on our streets since the murder of George Floyd in May. Early in the COVID pandemic, armed protestors carried their long guns into the Lansing, MI state capitol demanding an end to the shutdown. They also stood around in Richmond, VA and in both cases, law enforcement kept their distance, bending over backwards to avoid creating a confrontation.

When unarmed protestors showed up in most American cities after Floyd’s murder, law enforcement more or less did whatever they wanted to them. The sustained brutality of the police against unarmed protestors (there are more than 800 video-recorded incidents of police violence) is prima-facie evidence supporting the protestors’ message.

There are political ramifications and lessons to be learned from the reactions of both groups of protestors and local and federal authorities.

Carrying guns into a legislature completely undermined whatever goals the protestors in Lansing and Richmond were trying to accomplish. The response from most Americans was to ridicule them. The police believed that the armed protestors weren’t going to use their weapons. They knew that letting them yell and march around would placate them. Law enforcement was pretty sure they wouldn’t be back in larger numbers the next day.

On the other hand, the unarmed protestors inspired by George Floyd’s death started a national conversation about the role and conduct of the police. The BLM protestors turned out in the hundreds of thousands, every day, and theirs was largely an anti-police message.

Carrying arms would have certainly undermined their message. Armed anti-police protestors would have credibly shown (to the eyes of most Americans) that a violent police response was probably appropriate. Unarmed protestors have a moral weight that is completely lacking in the messaging of the armed anti-shutdown protesters.

More importantly, the BLM protestors are targeting their message at people who will vote in November.

The sustained, mostly non-violent nature of the protests in the face of an often-brutal police response (and now in Portland, a similar response by federal secret police) gives the protestors political power. Right now, a majority of the rest of the country is on the side of the Portland protestors. This is the exact opposite of the public’s response to the armed protestors.

Another factor is that Rep. John Lewis’s death reminded us of the 1965 march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Think about how different things would be today if those marchers had been armed. There would have been even greater state-sanctioned violence; and most of America at the time would have seen it as justified. It was those unforgettable and unforgivable images of brutal police violence against unarmed and peaceful marchers that shocked the nation and government enough to change the law.

Lasting change only comes through voting, and putting pressure on elected officials to sanction bad actors and change laws that enable bad behavior. That only happens if the protestors gain and keep credibility with voters.

Isn’t it sad that Trump sees two monsters, civil unrest, and the pandemic, and chooses to say that fighting the pandemic is up to the states, but graffiti on federal courthouses is the hill he’s willing to die on? This is the fallout:

A bunch of people in Portland have sprayed graffiti on buildings, broken windows, and started fires, which, to be clear, is wrong and should be punished. Trump’s response was to send in the feds, in force.

Trump’s play is to use federal law enforcement to prod the protestors into more unrest and property damage. He will continue calling peaceful protesters rioters and anarchists. He will try to paint Biden and the Democrats as enablers of the downfall of American society.

This old storyline has worked in the past. Portland is the test of Trump’s playbook. Protestors have to remain mostly peaceful in the face of threats and physical violence by the Federales.

That must be the BLM playbook.

It’s not going to be pretty. People will get hurt.

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Saturday Soother – June 20, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Morning surf casting, Nauset Off Road Beach, Orleans MA – May 2020 photo by Chef Bob

Happy Summer Solstice fellow disease vectors!

The political scene remains in flux. There are 135 days to go until the November election, and while things look encouraging for Biden, there’s plenty of time for Trump to mount a successful counter-attack. We’ll see the start of that effort tonight in Tulsa.

The 2020 Senate races are the most important to Wrongo. If Biden wins, Democrats need to pick up just three seats to control the Senate. If Biden loses, they need four seats, actually five, since Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) is likely to lose his seat.

The Cook Political Report just moved Montana Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock’s race against incumbent GOP Sen. Steve Daines to toss-up status from “leans Republican”. A race of the two Steves. Daines won the seat in 2014 by 18 points.

Montana has become competitive in part due to Bullock’s successful handling of the COVID-19 issue, and because the pandemic has limited campaigning. Bullock has seen his approval ratings rise to 75% in one poll. Montana has one of the lowest per capita infection rates (49th out of 50), with only 20 deaths as of June 17, and Bullock has gotten credit for closing the state early. From Cook:

“Recent private Democratic polling in the contest gives Bullock a small lead and finds that Bullock’s approval ratings are more than 20 points higher than Daines…”

That’s fine, but Cook also reports that:

“GOP polling also shows that it’s a close race, but one where every internal poll for them has still shown Daines leading. “

Remember that Trump won Montana by 20 points in 2016. Democrats argue that Biden isn’t as toxic in Montana as Hillary Clinton was in 2016, and that Obama only lost the state by 2 points in 2008, so if Biden could get close, he’ll help Bullock.

Bullock has outraised Daines by about $2.1 million in the first fundraising quarter, and again outraised Daines ahead of the June 2 primary by a nearly two-to-one margin. But Daines retains a $1.6 million cash on hand advantage.

The national state of play: There are now five GOP Senate seats rated as toss-ups: Daines, Susan Collins in Maine, Cory Gardner in Colorado, Thom Tillis in NC and Martha McSally in Arizona.

There are another four Republican seats in play, albeit where they have leads in the polls. Both Georgia senators (Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue), Joni Ernst in Iowa, and Kansas’s open seat could swing to the Dems. That totals nine Republican Senate seats within reach.

Notice that Mitch McConnell (R-KY) isn’t in the Dem’s competitive column.

If you gave money to centrist Democrat Amy McGrath, she’s trailing progressive opponent Charles Booker in the polls for the chance to go against McConnell despite raising $41 million.

It’s nearly certain that the GOP picks up Jones’s (AL) Senate seat. They’re expecting to hold on to the four seats above, so the Dems would have to win all five of the toss-ups to gain Senate control if Trump won reelection.

That could be a heavy lift. Remember that the GOP gained two Senate seats in 2018, despite the Democratic wave moving control of the House to the Democrats.

Enough calculating about what may be happening in a few months. It’s time for our Saturday Soother!

The summer solstice is Wrongo’s least favorite day of the year, since the days start growing shorter tomorrow. Temperatures at the Mansion of Wrong look to be in the high 80s to low 90s for the next week, so summer seems to have finally arrived.

In honor of summer let’s make a cold brew. Try The Dredger ($16/12oz.) from Jersey City, NJ’s Modcup brewers. The Dredger is said to have a deep toffee like sweetness and a slight fruity undertone. Note that Modcup refuses to sell any coffee 18 days after its roast date.

Now take your cold brew, settle back at an appropriate physical distance, and enjoy the hot sun. Today, you can hear a classic pop song that speaks about the power of “dreamers” in honor of the Supreme Court’s decision on DACA.

Here is Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run” from the 1989 soundtrack of the movie “Working Girl”. Simon won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for it. At the link, you’ll see throwback haircuts and shoulder pads on women’s clothes from the 1980s and a few poignant scenes of the WTC:

Sample lyric:

We’re coming to the edge

Running on the water

Coming through the fog

Your sons and daughters

Let the river run

Let all the dreamers

Wake the nation

Come, the New Jerusalem

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

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Biden Isn’t FDR, But FDR’s 1932 Strategy Could Work

The Daily Escape:

Sunset, Poudre River trail, Fort Collins, CO – May 2020 photo by Dariusva07. Looks like a painting.

Livia Gershon has an article in JSTOR Daily, “One Parallel for the Coronavirus Crisis? The Great Depression”. She focuses on the question of whether America is already in a depression, or if are we sitting in the equivalent of 1928 or 1929? From Gershon:

“Today’s soaring unemployment, small business failures, and uncertainty about the future are like nothing most of us have seen in our lifetimes. If there’s any useful historical parallel, it might be the Great Depression.”

The cliff that our economy just dove off is different from what America experienced in the Great Depression. From 1920 through 1933, America had Prohibition. The 1920’s were a time of unbridled capitalism, and many working class Americans were hurting financially.

In 2020, COVID-19 has hit us fast and hard. Today’s economic crisis is the result of deliberate choices by governments and individuals to restrict commercial activity. However, the results look about the same: Businesses shuttered, families worried about where their next rent payment is coming from, long lines at food banks. And the 100,000+ deaths.

In 1929, life in America was already awful for a lot of people: Businesses had few regulations to constrain their activities. The rich got much richer. Pro-worker policies had little political traction. That all changed after the Depression. By the 1940s, the country’s unions were stronger than they’d ever been and Congress had passed unprecedented economic policies to support workers.

It didn’t happen quickly or easily. FDR beat Hoover in a landslide in 1932. Hoover had won over 58% of the popular vote in the 1928 presidential election, but in 1932, his share of the popular vote declined to about 40%. Democrats kept control of the House, and gained control of the Senate, bringing 12 years of Republican Congressional leadership to an end.

Erik Loomis, a labor historian at the University of Rhode Island and blogger at Lawyers, Guns & Money, offered Gershon historical perspective:

“A lot of Roosevelt’s campaign in ’32 is ‘I’m not Herbert Hoover’….It’s not policy-driven, not about organizing the masses…..In fact, if FDR had been a left-wing figure, he couldn’t possibly have won the nomination of the 1932 Democratic Party, which, like the Republican Party, was deeply beholden to big corporations.”

And today we see Biden, with his man cave presidential campaign, running as “I’m not Trump”. And while he’s not policy-free, his Democratic party is still beholden to big business, much like FDR’s.

Many Democrats worry about Biden’s ability to stand up to Trump on the campaign trail. FDR, despite his polio disability, deliberately chose to present himself vigorously, including breaking precedent by flying to Chicago during the 1932 convention. His campaign song, “Happy Days Are Here Again” remains one of the most popular in American political history.

Biden may also need to consider breaking a few precedents, possibly by running a throwback front porch type of campaign, one that ignores Donald Trump. James A. Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, and William McKinley all ran successful front porch campaigns.

Returning to FDR’s efforts to turn the country around, Gershon says:

“…the major New Deal programs—including public hiring through the Works Progress Administration, Social Security’s old age and unemployment insurance, the NLRA, and progressive taxes—largely followed ideas that had been brewing on the liberal side of mainstream political conversations for decades. To many policymakers, relief for workers was a way of supporting capitalism. It powered the economy by encouraging consumer spending.”

She further quotes Loomis:

“When those measures are passed in the ‘30s, the left considers them all sell-out measures…FDR is heavily criticized on the left.”

In the 1930s, as today, the left wanted more radical pro-worker, and pro-family policies that were a bridge too far for FDR. Today is similar to the 1930’s. As much as Democrats want to run on policy, the candidate (and who the opponent is) are at least as important as policy.

Biden can run on a message of “I’m not Trump. He’s failing. And I won’t fail“. He and the Party can mostly save the details for after the election. For example: Running on some variant of Medicare for all (M4A) isn’t necessary. All Biden must drive home is that COVID-19 has proven that the current private insurance-powered healthcare system has failed us, and that we need reform.

Then impress on voters that the GOP vehemently supports the failed current health insurance model.

Once elected, Biden could push for M4A, assuming he has the Senate.

2020 isn’t 1932, and Biden certainly isn’t FDR. But there are political lessons to be learned from taking a look back in time.

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The Future: Will It Be Just More of The Past?

The Daily Escape:

Wrongo said he wouldn’t look back, but has reconsidered. It’s time to declare war on those who refuse to use facts or science. Think about what these true believers in either faith or ideology have brought us:

Will we continue on this road, or will we make a turn for the better? Will 2020 usher in a better decade than the one we just closed? Doubtful, unless each of us stand up and do what we can to make a difference.

Those who think Trumpism is so new and novel should remember that Norman Lear made a hit TV show about it in the early 1970s. Since then, many American white people have taken a dark turn: They would rather have Trump’s government enforce a whites only voting policy than put in the work required to make our system benefit everyone equally, while decreasing the cut taken by the corporate class.

Building this better society requires hard cognitive work. So far, Americans aren’t up to thinking about solutions beyond “Build that wall!”

Another example: 50% of white people are actively against government bureaucrats making their health care decisions. They insist that something that important should only be decided by employer HR departments and multinational insurance companies.

They’re perfectly fine casting their fates with insurance bureaucrats. Even if those corporate bureaucrats deny their care most of the time. Worse, they’re told by the media that they shouldn’t pay any more damn TAXES for health care when they could be paying twice as much in premiums to insurance corporations.

Remember the song In the year 2525? “If man is still alive…”

That’s 505 years from now. What do you think the odds are that we’re still here?

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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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What the Dem Debates Are Telling Us

The Daily Escape:

Yosemite Falls from floor of Yosemite Valley – June 2019 iPhone8 photo by Believeland313

Wrongo, Ms. Right and a few friends saw the play “Ink” on Broadway this week. It’s the story of Rupert Murdoch, and how he disrupted the newspaper business in England in the early 1970s. Everyone knows the story’s outline: A tradition-bound business is revolutionized by an outsider who uses tactics that the industry won’t consider using.

When the Newspaper old guard finally understand that failure is staring them in the face, they try half-heartedly to change, and fail.

Flash forward to America in 2019: The Murdoch-owned FOX network has disrupted our news organizations, assisted mightily by the internet and by little people like Wrongo. Trump disrupted our politics in 2016, and now it’s the Democrats’ time to decide to disrupt, or stay the course. Their Party is dominated by Biden, Schumer and Pelosi. Schumer is 68, while the others are in their 70s. All represent the old guard.

After two Democratic debates involving 20 would-be candidates, it’s clear that the Party is on the horns of a dilemma: Embrace disruption? Or, stay the course? One of the fringe candidates, Marianne Williamson said it’s not about policies, it’s about playing Donald Trump’s game and beating him.

The MSM says Dems should get down in the weeds, talk policies and how to pay for them. But we should really talk about the direction the country should be taking in a post-Trump America.

Democrats face a conundrum. The Democratic disruptors may be out in front of the public. Those candidates are Warren, Sanders, Harris, Buttigieg, and a few others. Republicans will attack them as radical socialists, but their message, that the average person has gotten screwed for at least 40 years and only systemic change can solve that, resonates.

For the disruptors, Incremental change hasn’t worked. That’s something Trump realized, and these few Democrats have as well. You have to be playing the long game. It’s not about one debate. You stick to your message, and make sure it resonates.

Then there are the traditional politicians like Biden, Beto and Klobuchar who are playing the old style game. Biden in particular says, “look at what I’ve done in the past. Give me the reins again“.

But it’s unclear whether voters want to play it safe. Wrongo had a good conversation with his Trump-supporting friend Dave C., who says he’s fiscally conservative, but may be flexible on some social issues. He knows that Trump won’t fulfill all of his promises. And no one should think that Sanders, Warren or any Democrat will be able to fulfill theirs either.

DC doesn’t work that way. But many things count bigly, like the appointment of Supreme Court Justices.

And regarding the “socialism” epithet, Bernie had a piece this week in the WSJ entitled “Trump Is The Worst Kind of Socialist.” If you read it, you’ll be sold. Bernie is not just saying Trump must go, he’s going at the Right’s main attack on him, while doubling-down on his position.

Bernie may not be your cup of tea; he isn’t Wrongo’s. But, he delivers his position with passion. This isn’t Hillary taking a poll, and trying to cover all bases. Bernie’s willing to drop a few bombs, and then deal with the fallout.

Biden can only go downhill from here. He’s rusty. The Biden we saw may not be around for Iowa if he doesn’t sharpen his game. Here’s Wrongo’s view of Biden and Bernie: (hat tip: Sean O.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kamala Harris showed passion, and her prosecutorial skills to viewers. But will that convince voters? Particularly those in the suburbs? Warren won night one. Let’s see how she does when she’s on stage with night two’s survivors. She’s certainly got the vision thing down, but Kamala seems to have more fight.

Ultimately, the next 18 months are going to be about who can win the suburbs. In 2018, Dems reversed their 2016 losses in the ‘burbs, while again losing rural areas, just like in 2016. The difference was that in 2018, they won control of the House.

Trump’s 2016 formula worked. He traded suburban votes for small-town and rural votes and it got him an Electoral College win. Democrats can win in 2020 if they continue their 2018 success in the suburbs.

If the Democratic presidential candidate focuses exclusively on climate change, he/she will lose a lot of rural votes. A candidate who berates everyone who works in financial services will lose suburban support. But, a candidate that offers solutions on health costs, a fairer, less monopolized economy, more affordable education, a serious approach to the opioid crisis can probably win urban and suburban America.

It’s a long slog from here. And the winning candidate’s job is to keep voters engaged about how important 2020 will be to our kids and grandkids.

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Remembering RFK

The Daily Escape:

Whidbey Island, WA at sunset – 2019 photo by 11mdg11

(This is the last column until Monday, June 10th. Wrongo and Ms. Right are enjoying a few beach days.)

This week shouldn’t be allowed to pass into the books without remembering Robert F. Kennedy. On June 5th, few of us were conscious of that same day 51 years ago, when he was assassinated in Los Angeles, moments after declaring victory in the California Democratic Presidential primary.

On June 5, 1968, Wrongo was running a US Army nuclear missile unit in Germany. We were in the midst of the Vietnam War, and LBJ had announced in March that he wasn’t running for reelection. Sen. Eugene McCarthy, an anti-Vietnam War candidate, had shown surprising strength in the New Hampshire primary, finishing second. Although he was initially given little chance of winning, January’s Tet Offensive had galvanized opposition to the war.

Bobby Kennedy entered the race in March, and it seemed that Democrats were poised to take the Party in a new direction. Kennedy was drawing huge crowds everywhere he went; he was on the cover of Time Magazine’s May 24th issue.

Most saw RFK as a continuation of optimism that JFK had demonstrated in his shortened presidency. From over in Europe in the days before the internet, Wrongo thought that Bobby Kennedy could win the nomination, and beat Richard Nixon in November.

That wasn’t to be. Armed Forces Radio carried the news that Robert Kennedy had been shot, and that doctors would be holding a press conference on his condition. We had all heard that earlier with the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in April.

That summer, American cities burned, the police rioted at the Democratic convention in Chicago, and the Russians invaded Czechoslovakia. In fact, Wrongo’s summer days were spent checking radar images of planes landing and taking off from Prague.

Hubert Humphrey began his campaign to keep the White House in the hands of the Democrats, while trying to distance himself from both LBJ and the War. The Republicans nominated Richard Nixon. George Wallace, the segregationist governor of Alabama launched a third-party run designed to draw conservative blue-collar Democrats. Wallace carried five southern states with ten million votes.

Nixon received 31,784,000 votes to Humphrey’s 31,272,000 million votes. It took until the next day to know the outcome. But as now, the Electoral College totals weren’t close at all: Nixon won 301 to 191 for Humphrey, with 46 votes going to Wallace.

It’s interesting to note that in 2016, Trump got 306 electoral votes in a two-way race.

In 1968, Wrongo believed we needed to end the Vietnam War, and that required Bobby Kennedy to be president. He has certainly felt since then that he needed to vote for Democrats. But only Bill Clinton’s first run, and both by Barak Obama, seemed to inspire the feeling of intensity and commitment that RFK sparked in a young Lieutenant in Germany.

There have been 13 presidential elections since the assassination of RFK. The Democrats have won five of those contests. Most of the Party’s losing candidates were by any political standard, uninspiring: Hubert Humphrey; Walter Mondale; Michael Dukakis; Al Gore; John Kerry and Hillary Clinton. All were mediocre campaigners.

Wrongo fears that our choices for 2020 are also uninspiring, and reflect a similar degree of mediocrity.

Not every candidate can be JFK or RFK. We all understand that.

But we must hope for better, for someone who can express what we are feeling. A person who sees the world as we do, who can make us want to get out of our chairs, and work to make that someone president.

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