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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Monday Wake Up Call – May 20, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Steps leading to Franciscan Sanctuary, La Verna, Tuscany, Italy – photo by Guiseppe Pepperoni

Over the weekend, Wrongo and Ms. Right, along with a few friends, saw “Hadestown” on Broadway. It is a theatrical home run that has received 14 Tony nominations. Describing the plot is difficult. Most reviews focus on the mythology at the heart of the play. The story is a re-imagination of Orpheus and Eurydice set in contemporary time.

The mythological story is that Orpheus is the world’s greatest poet, and Eurydice is his bride. It is intertwined with the love story of King Hades and his wife Persephone. During the play, we take an epic journey to the underworld and back.

In the myth, Eurydice is killed by a snake bite, and the mourning Orpheus travels to the underworld to beg Hades to return his wife to life. To make his case, Orpheus sings a song so beautiful that Persephone begs Hades to let Eurydice go.

That is loosely followed in the play, where these mythic characters are pawns in a central metaphor of capitalism as death. That seems so current in today’s predatory capitalism, and yet, the play is not a polemic. In the play, Eurydice isn’t bitten by a snake. Instead, she’s lured into Hadestown by Hades’s promise of work and food.

Hadestown is a factory town, and Hades is both the god of death and a merciless taskmaster, forcing his subjects to build an endless wall around Hadestown. In his April 15thMonday Wake Up Call”, Wrongo used Hades’s call and response song, “Why We Build the Wall”. The song seems right for 2019 because of our Orange Overlord, but in reality it was written in 2010.

Wrongo posts a sample lyric for you:

Who do we call the enemy? The enemy is poverty, And the wall keeps out the enemy, And we build the wall to keep us free. That’s why we build the wall;

We build the wall to keep us free.

The Wall makes us free. Arbiet macht frei. The few Trumpets in the audience demonstratively did not applaud the song, while the vast majority cheered. Partisanship is an always-on emotion.

Some call-outs to cast members: Patrick Page and Amber Gray are standouts, he as Hades, and she as Persephone. The legendary André De Shields, plays Hermes. He’s the show’s narrator. His cool swagger pulls the audience into the play from the opening curtain.

See it if you can.

During our pre-theater meal, we talked about the Democratic presidential candidates, a list that seems destined to continue growing. Our friends at dinner follow politics quite closely, and none are fully happy with any of the Democrats on offer.

Most defaulted to “electability”, espousing the view that it is “Do-or-Die” time in America, that we can’t take four more years of what we are experiencing now. That leads them to accept Joe Biden’s candidacy. Wrongo has a different view, as captured in this Vanity Fair article: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Since Vietnam, every time a Democrat has won the presidency, it’s because Democrats voted with their hearts in a primary and closed ranks around the candidate who inspired them, promising an obvious break from the past and an inspiring vision that blossomed in the general election. Jimmy Carter. Bill Clinton. Barack Obama. All were young outsiders who tethered their message to the culture of the time. When Democrats have picked nominees cautiously and strategically—falling in line—the results have been devastating, as Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton made plain.”

So, what will happen this time? Those who believe in Biden’s electability should remember that there are 45 million Americans with student loans: 22% of those loans are in default, and 99% of them fail to qualify for loan forgiveness.

It was Biden’s decision to make student loans not dischargeable in bankruptcy. That’s going to be one large group of people who, when they learn who is behind their plight, probably will vote against him.

Biden has been on the job in Washington for around 50 years. Suddenly, according to Bloomberg, he wants to “Fix Things”?

Wake up Democrats! Find a candidate who inspires YOU. Work for that candidate in the primaries. Don’t buy the argument “but he/she isn’t electable” until that is proven by the results of the primaries.

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Dems Should Talk Foreign Policy

The Daily Escape:

Lumen Museum of Mountain Photography, Italy – 2018 photo by Marco Zanta. The glass-enclosed extension is a restaurant.

Every Democratic candidate for the 2020 nomination is discussing domestic policy: Medicare for All, Free College, and all of the other jump shifts in policy, but what about global politics?

Biden isn’t unique among candidates in saying the 2020 election is about a return to the way things were before Trump, the Economist reports:

“’This too shall pass,’ Joe Biden told America’s allies at the Munich Security Conference in February. ‘We will be back.’ The applause he received reflects a longing to return to a world order that existed before President Donald Trump started swinging his wrecking ball.”

It is problematic to rely on the ideas of a Clinton operative, but the Economist quotes Jake Sullivan, a 2016 Hillary advisor who says that the thrust of the Democrats’ foreign policy approach is simple: reverse much of what Trump has done. Sullivan talks of a “back to basics” approach: Value alliances, stress diplomacy:

“Compared with domestic policy….there is less focus on new ideas.”

All of the Democratic candidates would rejoin the Paris climate agreement. They would rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, possibly with new pre-conditions for lifting sanctions. All would reassure NATO allies of their full commitment to the alliance.

Most Dems agree with Trump’s more confrontational approach to China. However, they would ask America’s allies to work with us on the outcomes.

Biden has a long foreign policy track record. He proposed cutting Iraq into three states for the Sunni, Shia and Kurds. He wanted to arm the Ukrainians against Russia. He opposed the surge in Afghanistan, and the intervention in Libya.

The other candidates have said less, and have no distinctive foreign policy positions.

It would be great if we actually talked about foreign policy in the 2020 primaries. Let’s take a step back and remember 1991. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the world’s other nuclear-armed superpower, we became the sole superpower. Until then, our strategy had been to contain the Soviet Union, but afterwards, lacking a global competitor, neither Party put forth a coherent global strategy.

We blundered into the Middle East with the Gulf War in 1991. After 9/11, we attacked Afghanistan and Iraq. We then hatched the war on terror, and subsequently expanded our globalized military across the world. And when the ledger finally closes on our expenditures in Iraq and Afghanistan, the cost will approach $4 trillion.

Had we spent that amount on domestic priorities, we could have shored up Social Security and Medicare for a generation. We could have paid for the repair of our crumbling infrastructure. Instead, we’ve emerged from our Middle East blunder with two global competitors, China and Russia, along with a huge fiscal deficit. Neither had to happen.

America has failed to see the connections between our global strategy and domestic strategy. Providing incentives to our multinational corporations that enabled them to make goods abroad has marooned large swaths of our domestic workers.

A reasonable question to discuss is whether we can continue supporting globalization while building good jobs in the heartland of America.

And there should be a real debate regarding Trump’s foreign policy. He has sided more closely with Israel. He’s walked out of the Iran nuclear deal. He’s threatened Venezuela with possible “military options” that are being seriously discussed at the Pentagon.

Over the weekend, the Israelis told Bolton and Pompeo that the Iranians are preparing to attack the approximately 5000 US military personnel in Iraq. That may or may not be true, but it led to Pompeo visiting Baghdad.

Do American voters want another war in the Middle East? Trump is daring Iran to fully withdraw from the Nuclear Deal. Who will become the fall guy if there is an Iranian closing of the Straits of Hormuz? Trump, or Iran?

Trade talks with China seem stalled. North Korea’s recent missile tests press Trump’s bet on a deal with NK. Surely Kim is carefully watching Trump’s moves in the Middle East.

Then there is Russia. The Dems overreached with Russiagate, but the Russians are working with Syria to eliminate one of the last places in Syria (Idlib) where terrorists still hold sway. Neither Israel nor Bolton seem to want a stable Syria. Will they try to force Trump to obstruct this important operation?

Debate by Democrats may focus on military spending, with some wanting to cut it, and the mainstreamers being more cautious. A new policy towards the Middle East, and Israel in particular, should be discussed.

Regardless, Trump will surely attack Dems as “soft” on national defense.

But Democrats should thoughtfully challenge the Right-wing assumption that America must have a military-first strategy, rather than a diplomacy-first strategy.

We’re stretched thin trying to have a military presence everywhere in the world. It’s worth a real debate.

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Four More Years of Reality TV?

The Daily Escape:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sounds good, but Jamelle Bouie also says:

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

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

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

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

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

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Financial Industry Buys Politicians

The Daily Escape:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And which politicians got the money?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does any Democrat have the guts to reform capitalism?

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Will Dems Develop a Winning Message?

The Daily Escape:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asking for a friend.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your May mileage may vary:

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

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – April 28, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Biden’s also running against himself:

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

Warren’s policies cause concern among the 1%:

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

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

Trump also has a yuuge grey wall:

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Saturday Soother – April 27, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Hemingway’s desk, Finca Vigía, Cuba – 2014 photo by Wrongo. Hemingway lived here for 15 years, and wrote most of “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “The Old Man and the Sea” here.

Spring has sprung in the Litchfield Hills. Bluebirds are again nesting in the bluebird houses on the fields of Wrong. We have flowers on our plum, pear and cherry trees. Hopefully, you are enjoying early spring as well.

There are 555 days left until the next presidential election. We don’t want to live through 2016 a second time, so Wrongo hopes that all of you will remember how energized you were during the 2018 mid-terms, and gear up again for 2020.

In retrospect, the Democratic Party handed Trump the gift of Russiagate. For two years, the Dems fought him primarily on the grounds of Russian influence on the 2016 election. However, the public was more concerned with health care and a square deal on jobs and wages. That Trump/Russia wasn’t the key issue was proven by the Dems winning the House in the 2018 mid-terms when they primarily ran on health care. The Party has now lost that fight, since the Mueller Report found nothing actionable against Trump.

While investigations loom in the House, Trump is completely stonewalling. His decision to simply defy all attempts by Congress to investigate either Russian interference, or his possible obstruction, makes it clear that Congress is being deprived of its lawful investigative powers.

His defiance will tip the scales in favor of initiating impeachment proceedings against him. He will play the victim, and make the contest with House Democrats a major 2020 campaign issue. Will that energize anyone who is not in his base? Time will tell.

Turnout will again be the key factor in 2020 as it was in 2016 and 2018. A key question for turnout is where are rank and file Democrats on the issues compared to the positions of the 20 Democratic nominees? Larry Sabato says:

“National polling from the past several years finds that Democrats are less ideological than Republicans, are less likely to express a desire for their party to move further away from the political center, and are more likely to value experience in a presidential nominee.”

Pew recently found that only 40% of Democrats wanted the party to move more to the left, while 53% said they wanted the party to move in a more moderate direction. Gallup’s ongoing measure of ideological self-identification among Democrats shows that while liberal self-identification is growing, the party is still split about evenly between those who identify as liberal versus those who identify as moderate or conservative.

In contrast, Pew found that 58% of Republicans wanted the GOP to move more to the right, while just 38% wanted the party to move in a more moderate direction. Gallup found that about three-quarters of Republicans identify as conservative while just a quarter identify as moderate or liberal.

Wrongo isn’t ready to accept the findings of Pew and Gallup, but most of the Democratic candidates are Obama-like: Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Beto O’Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, and Amy Klobuchar. Some of the (pardon the label) “no names” with no chance to win also fall into the centrist category.

There are only two real progressives, Sanders and Warren. Another question for the Party to answer through the primary process is whether the Dems can win without strong progressive positions.

Will the general election Democratic turnout be high enough to win with a centrist candidate? Or, will the Democrats just repeat 2016, winning the popular vote, while losing the Electoral College?

But enough navel-gazing, it’s time to gaze at the daffodils and dandelions in your yard.

It’s time for some Saturday Soothing. Start by brewing up a hot vente cup of Sumatra, Lintong – Medium Roast Single Origin coffee ($17/12 oz.) from Georgia’s Peach Coffee Roasters. The brewer says it is citrusy and floral, tart in structure with a juicy mouthfeel.

Now take your cup to your most comfortable chair, and contemplate springtime while listening to “Spring Morning” by Frederick Delius. This melodic portrait of nature is a companion piece to his “Idlle de Prinetemps” composed a year earlier in 1887. It is performed here by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by David Lloyd Jones:

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

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Politics Friday

The Daily Escape:

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

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

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

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

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

More from Politico:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Normal people aren’t political junkies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday Wake Up Call – April 22, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Hout Bay, South Africa – 2012 photo by Wrongo. Hout Bay is a suburb of Cape Town.

Let’s talk a little about ageism and sexism in politics. Are Biden and Sanders too old to be president? Why are the top-polling four 2020 Democratic presidential contenders men?

Over America’s 230 years of presidents, 220 of those years have featured a man who was less than 70 years old. The ten other years consist of most of Reagan’s two terms, along with all of Trump’s time in office, and the last three months of Eisenhower’s second term.

Reagan was 75+ in the last half of his second term. That’s when many in the White House speculated about whether Reagan’s deteriorating mental condition might justify invoking the 25th amendment:

“He was lazy; he wasn’t interested in the job. They said he wouldn’t read the papers they gave him—even short position papers and documents. They said he wouldn’t come over to work—all he wanted to do was to watch movies and television at the residence.”

Does any of that sound familiar?

Biden and Sanders are leading the early polling for the 2020 Democratic nomination, so the possibility of an 80 year-old president is very real (Sanders would be 79 upon taking office, while Biden would be a year younger). If Trump gets re-elected, he would spend the second half of his second term as the oldest president in US history.

People in this age group can perform very well, but their odds of dying or getting dementia are reasonably high. So, why not elect younger people? The idea of electing a white man about to turn 80 to the presidency seems crazy. Maybe not as crazy as re-electing Donald Trump, but we aren’t grading on a curve. There are plenty of perfectly acceptable alternatives that don’t carry anything like these particular risks.

And what explains the fact that in the most diverse primary in Democratic Party history, the top four candidates are all white men? We unfairly hold women who hold, or seek jobs in high places to different standards than men, possibly thinking that in politics, “electability” means “white dude”. This is wrong.

We need to let the policy ideas of this group play out, and let meritocracy prevail. At this point, we have no idea who is “electable”. But Wrongo hopes that we pick from among the younger prospects, someone with energy, ideas and a message that unites rather than divides the country.

Before accusing Wrongo of being ageist, or of playing identity politics, let it be said that his top three presidential prospects at this point are Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and Kamala Harris. All three seem to have the personality that will relish the fight on the campaign trail. Warren offers more policy positions that Wrongo supports. Mayor Pete and Kamala Harris have that elusive “electability” that Warren may lack.

Speaking of identity politics, we shouldn’t forget that Bernie Sanders is Jewish. So his election would be no less historical than electing a woman, a gay or a person of color.

Time to wake up Democrats! We need to support the candidate who can turn current policies in a new direction. Let’s support the candidate who has the courage, stamina, and experience to be successful.

To help you wake up, here is “I Don’t Understand The Poor” from the 2014 Tony Award-winning best musical, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder”. This could be sung at every Republican Convention:

Sample Lyric:

I don’t understand the poor

And they’re constantly turning out more

Every festering slum In Christendom

Is disgorging its young by the score

I suppose there are some with ambition

Say, the pickpocket, beggar, or whore

From what I can tell

They do quite well

They’re rising above

And its work they love

But I don’t understand the poor.

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

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – April 7, 2019

This year is the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. Times have changed:

Biden doesn’t get it right, but consider the alternative:

Trump wants to be the health care president. Won’t happen:

Feminists come in two sexes:

Elizabeth Warren said this on Friday:

“When Democrats next have power, we should be bold and clear: We’re done with two sets of rules — one for the Republicans and one for the Democrats,”…. “And that means when Democrats have the White House again, if Mitch McConnell tries to do what he did to President Obama and puts small-minded partisanship ahead of solving the massive problems facing this country, then we should get rid of the filibuster.”

Warren referenced a bill passed in the Senate last year that made lynching a federal crime, and pointed out that it was first introduced in 1918.

“It nearly became the law back then. It passed the House in 1922. But it got killed in the Senate — by a filibuster. And then it got killed again. And again. And again,” Warren will say. “More than 200 times. An entire century of obstruction because a small group of racists stopped the entire nation from doing what was right.”

Warren is correct on the merits about the filibuster, as she is on many other issues. The filibuster is a blunt tool for the reactionary forces in the Senate.

From a policy viewpoint, she is by far the best candidate. But she lags in the polls, and many are convinced that she can’t be elected. She also trails in funds raising, behind Bernie and Beto. Warren hasn’t released her first quarter totals, but her campaign’s finance director just left. HuffPo tells us that:

“A tricky gender gap is emerging in the race for donor dollars in the 2020 Democratic presidential race.”

That hasn’t affected Kamala Harris who is raising large amounts from corporate donors. Maybe she has corralled the bigger feminists.

Barr’s playing it cute with the Democrats in the House:

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