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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

A Year Later…

The Daily Escape:

Chalk Pyramids, Oakley Kansas – photo by Marlon Flores

(Wrongo is writing this on Election Day, and will not know any national or local results before you read the column on Wednesday. Two years ago, Wrongo’s hometown turned out 20+ years of Republican control in a deeply Republican county. The subsequent efforts by local Republicans to block change mirrors exactly what we have seen on a national level. Despite that, much was accomplished. We’ll know on Wednesday if vision or blockage controls the town’s next two years.)

We are one year into the Trump administration. Many of us are still dealing with the reality that the country elected someone who is incapable of empathy, who has very little understanding of how the world works. Someone who treats women, minorities, and people who disagree with him so appallingly.

The worst thing is how bad behavior (by Trump and many in his administration) has become normalized in the eyes of the press and the people. It started immediately with the administration lying about the size of Trump’s inaugural crowd. Martin Longman took a look back and sums it up perfectly:

Looking back a year later, it’s a struggle not to succumb to a well-earned cynicism. We don’t like to repeat our mistakes, which makes it tempting to over-correct for them.

There were…times when President Obama stood up and told the American people that we’re better than this, that we can do better and be better. It’s not a good feeling to know that the response [by voters in 2016] was, “No, we’re not, and no we can’t.”

…But one giant mistake doesn’t condemn us in perpetuity. I actually find comfort and a cause for optimism that so many people were unable to imagine a Trump victory. It means that I wasn’t alone in having some standards or in believing that we can be better than this. It’s just going to be harder and take longer than I was willing to imagine.

Wrongo thinks Martin is too optimistic, and we shouldn’t expect any real change in his lifetime. Why? One reason is that the Democrats can’t stop playing inside baseball long enough to have a winning vision for the country. The Donna Brazile kerfuffle tells all we need to know: There is no leadership in the Democratic Party.

So, no leadership and no vision. The Dems are like your kids fighting in the back seat of the SUV. While the GOP is a well-oiled machine, staying on message, even when they don’t agree with whatever it is that the Donald just did.

The Democratic Party leadership has to go, we can’t stand by them, not even for another election cycle. Mike Allen at Axios suggests we look to mayors for the next Democratic leaders:

Here’s something unusual and refreshing: There are two highly ambitious Democrats who don’t even bother hiding their strong desire to run [for president] in 2020 — and to reshape the party: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, president of the US Conference of Mayors.

Allen thinks that Democrats could be led back from the wilderness by a mayor:

  • Garcetti: “We’re too busy talking to ourselves, and about ourselves…People don’t care about our inner workings, or even our inner leadership battles…We’ve got to get back to speaking plain English. We are so inside baseball right now…Are you a Bernie person? Are you a Hillary person?”
  • Landrieu, speaking about the bipartisanship of the Conference of Mayors: “The one thing we never do in any of our meetings is think about what the Democratic caucus or the Republican caucus in Washington, DC, is doing. It never enters our mind…People in America are feeling unbalanced right now.”

Allen asked top Dem donors and operatives about possible candidates like Garcetti and Landrieu, and heard that they think DC experience is a vulnerability not an asset for a presidential candidate.

Wrongo agrees. America’s mayors actually do things, and getting things done energizes them. Wrongo has seen this from up close in his hometown. Mayors don’t talk like DC pols, they seem to love their jobs.

And it’s a level of government where Democrats have a deep bench.

The GOP’s goal is to destroy the New Deal, the environmental legislation passed during the Nixon administration and all of Johnson’s domestic achievements.

We won’t defeat their goals without a new message and a new messenger.

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Saturday Soother – November 4, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Grand Tetons early morning – 2011 photo by Wrongo

Two short thoughts for your Saturday. First, hidden in the language of the GOP’s Tax Bill  is a something that would change the Johnson Amendment, a provision in the tax code that prohibits churches, faith communities, and other non-profits from outright endorsing political candidates:

…The provision is not a complete repeal of the Johnson Amendment. As written, it would only free up religious communities—not all non-profits—to endorse candidates and appears to prohibit churches from going out of their way to campaign for a candidate outside of their normal religious activities.

The GOP wants to erode the separation of church and state. Let’s see who, if anyone, in Congress is willing to fight for the Constitution.

Second, the Democrats had a grenade go off inside the DNC when an excerpt from Donna Brazile’s new book was published by Politico. She claims that the Clinton administration assumed control over the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in exchange for keeping it solvent, then funneled most of the funds raised into her campaign, leaving the states with very little to support down-ballot races.

The states kept less than half of 1 percent of the $82 million they had garnered from the Hillary fund-raisers the campaign was holding to support state-level candidates. That’s about $4.1 million.

When Howard Dean was chair of the DNC he instituted a 50-state policy, saying the DNC would maintain full time workers in each state, to contest seats up and down the ballot from the county, to state legislature to house and senate races.

When Obama won, Dean was out, and the 50-state policy was dismantled. After that, the DNC was reorganized to serve only national level elections. And Obama For America took its place as the funds-raising vehicle for the presidential re-election. And Hillary did much the same with the Hillary Victory Fund, but she went further, as Brazile reveals: The DNC would covertly back Hillary in the primaries.

And now, through these efforts, the Democrats have lost the White House, the Senate and the House, in addition to most state governments.

It’s hard to decide what’s worse, that the party is run by incompetents, or that it is just hopelessly corrupt.

Time for a hostile takeover of the Democratic Party.

On to the weekend. You obviously need to go to a happy place that doesn’t include continual assaults by our national media. So brew up a cup of London-based Union Hand-Roasted Coffee’s El Topacio Microlot, El Salvador, available online for £8/200g.

Now kick back someplace you can see the natural world outside, and listen to Peter Mulvey playing his instrumental, “Black Rabbit”. Mulvey is known for his guitar chops and songwriting. He got started by playing in the Boston metro. This short acoustic gem is executed with ease, and pure musicality:

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

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Trump Nominates More For Federal Judgeships

The Daily Escape:

Road in Chongqing, China – photo by Reuters

We have been watching Trump clap Pelosi and Schumer on the back, as Democrats declared victory. But in background, the administration was busy announcing their seventh Wave of Judicial Candidates, including three appellate judge nominations, and 13 district court appointments. All are to vacant judgeships.

These are lifetime appointments, and most will serve long past Trump’s tenure as President. Business Insider quotes Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE):

This will be the single most important legacy of the Trump administration….They will quickly be able to put judges on circuit courts all over the country, district courts all over the country, that will, given their youth and conservatism, will have a significant impact on the shape and trajectory of American law for decades.

Coons went on to say these appointments will lead to “a wholesale change among the federal judiciary.”

Part of the reason Trump’s been able to nominate so many federal judges is that an unusually large number of these positions were unfilled. From Business Insider:

The furious pace of nominations come as Trump faces an impressive number of vacancies to fill. As of [July 27], the federal bench had 136 vacancies…. In August 2009, Obama faced 85 vacancies on the federal bench.

It is possible to attribute the big discrepancy in vacancies to obstruction by Senate Republicans during the last few years of the Obama administration.

Democratic senators have started using a 100-year old procedure to block some Trump nominees. This process is called the “blue slip”. Since 1917, the Senate has followed a process whereby a state’s senators traditionally must return a blue slip of paper, endorsing any federal judicial nominee from their home state, in order for the nomination to proceed. If the senator fails to return the blue slip, or does so with some indication of disapproval, the nomination may be delayed, or possibly, blocked.

This system is old, but it isn’t absolute. Some Senate Judiciary Committee chairs won’t schedule hearings without receiving positive blue slips, while others think they do not necessarily disqualify a nominee. In recent years, the blue slip has given individual senators virtual veto-power over a federal judicial nomination, if the individual was from the state the senator represents.

Will this tradition continue? Last week, Sen. Al Franken (D-WI) did not return a blue slip for David Stras, a nominee from for an open spot on the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Politico quoted Franken:

 Justice Stras’s professional background and record strongly suggest that, if confirmed, he would…reliably rule in favor of powerful corporate interests over working people, and that he would place a high bar before plaintiffs seeking justice at work, at school, and at the ballot box… I fear that Justice Stras’s views and philosophy would…steer the already conservative Eighth Circuit even further to the right.

Later, Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) wouldn’t return blue slips for Ryan Bounds, a nominee for a seat on the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, because they will not green-light any candidate that had not been previously approved by the state’s bipartisan judicial selection committee. More from Politico:

Unfortunately, it is now apparent that you never intended to allow our longstanding process to play out…Disregarding this Oregon tradition returns us to the days of nepotism and patronage that harmed our courts and placed unfit judges on the bench…

So, will Republicans end the blue slip process? Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IW), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, reportedly thinks the blue slip process is less important for district court judgeships than for appellate positions.

But, nobody knows if Grassley will schedule hearings on appellate court nominees who do not secure blue slip approval. Republicans have majority control of the Senate and could confirm judges even over strenuous Democratic objections.

OTOH, tradition is strong. While the denial of a blue slip does not legally restrict a judge from being approved, Business Insider reports that:

No circuit court nominees have been confirmed over objection of one (or two) home state senators — including under Obama.

Even if the blue slip process remains in place, Democrats aren’t in a position to stop more than a handful of Trump’s nominees. Most will probably soon be confirmed, since it is relatively easy to pick nominees that are not in a state with a Democratic senator.

Another example that elections matter.

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A Different Way to See Middle Class Voters – Part II

The Daily Escape:

This is the last in a series from the NJ Grounds for Sculpture – 2017 photo by Wrongo

Today, we continue with G. Mark Towhey’s idea that our political parties no longer work well enough to be relevant to a large segment of middle class voters. He says that the parties must appeal to the voters he calls pragmatists:

The opening episode of the fourth season of Aaron Sorkin’s Emmy-winning TV series The West Wing... [places]…what typical Americans want from government…into perspective for…Toby Zeigler and Josh Lyman, both senior White House staffers in the show. They’re…in a hotel bar and strike up a conversation with a middle-aged “typical American” who’s spent the day touring the University of Notre Dame with his college-aged daughter.

The man and his wife together earn $80,000 a year and, he laments, ‘I never imagined I’d have trouble making ends meet. I spend half the day thinking about what happens if I slip and fall on my front porch. It should be hard. I like that it’s hard. Putting your daughter through college…that’s a man’s job, a man’s accomplishment. Putting your kids through college, taking care of your family… [But] it should be easier, just a little easier, because in that difference is…everything.’

That guy doesn’t want welfare reform, or tax reform. He wants government to focus some of its resources and brainpower on making his everyday life “just a little easier.” The typicals don’t want perfection, just small, concrete steps that improve their lives.

They are the pragmatists.

We shouldn’t confuse “pragmatists” with centrists who are in the space between the Left and the Right. They are not necessarily moderates. Pragmatism isn’t a moderate ideology, but a different prioritization of issues. From Towhey: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

It’s a focus on the concrete, rather than the abstract. It targets immediate, specific problems rather than deep, systemic causes. It prefers clearly defined and implementable solutions rather than aspirational visions…what if, instead of referring to a place on a Venn diagram, the pragmatic-idealistic divide actually functions like a different political axis?

In other words, don’t appeal to them with policies, speak about solutions. Towhey thinks we should imagine the traditional Left/Right political spectrum on a horizontal line, the “x-axis,” running naturally, from left to right. Now imagine a vertical line that intersects the x-axis at its center. That’s the “y-axis.” At the top of this vertical line, we’ll put people who place a high value on ideals and ideologies that affect society in the abstract. The top end of the y-axis is the “idealist” end. At the opposite end of the y-axis are people who place a high value on practical solutions and actions that help them personally. This is the “pragmatic” end. Here is a representation of Towhey’s matrix:

Prepared by Wrongo from Towhey’s article. Position of politicians by Wrongo

Towhey thinks that the y-axis (Pragmatists to Idealists) shows how most Americans see the world: how a policy affects the world, versus how it impacts me; people who’ve succeeded in the current system, versus people who are struggling in it. Those at the pragmatic end struggle to make it under the status quo. They’re people who want small, but real improvements, a few practical solutions.

Pragmatists are too busy to worry about the future. Whether they’re on the left or right on the x-axis, they share a focus on more immediate needs. And today, voters don’t move along the x-axis as easily as they may have in the past.

If Democrats are to compete in this “pragmatic” voter segment, they need to recognize that the typicals comprise many American citizens, enough to have elected a president in 2016.

The lesson for Democrats is to support leaders who will perform the basics of government exceptionally well. Mayors are great examples of this.

On the national level, health insurance is a great example. Pragmatists want action on health insurance, not on health insurance ideology. If Trump can’t form a coalition with an ideologue GOP Congress, pragmatists would be happy if he worked with pragmatic Democrats, so long as the new health insurance law makes their lives easier. It doesn’t have to be perfect, as it has to be for idealists on the right or the left.

This is the message of pragmatism: less ideology, more action. Small steps, not grand gestures. Results, not principles. And pragmatists are up for grabs. They can, and will vote for Democrats.

They’ll follow a politician who unites them behind a few plans that people think will deliver tangible results. That is how Bernie out-polled Hillary, who had 39 positions on her campaign website.

But, if Democrats can’t make this shift in thinking and leadership, new candidates and new alliances may form, and pragmatists will vote for them.

It could lead to the end of the Democratic Party as a national political power.

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A Different Way to See Middle Class Voters – Part I of II

The Daily Escape:

Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park, British Columbia – 2017 photo by Shelley VanKempen

Yesterday, we discussed how building consensus among voters was the best way to beat the disruptive, and in many ways, destructive efforts by Donald Trump to change our democracy.

When Democrats bring up Clinton’s winning of the popular vote in 2016, they overlook the reality that Democratic congressional candidates lost in 23 districts that Clinton won, including seven in California. Imagine, those voters didn’t want Trump, but liked what their local GOP candidate for Congress stood for enough to split their vote.

Trump won the white vote by 58% to 37%, while 51% of American women also voted for him.

To beat Trump, or whoever might be next, Democrats need to move from following a few failed strategies. First, they have been trying only to win the White House, not the Congress. Being a presidential-only party is a powerful thing, until you lose the White House. Second, they need to move away from identity politics. People know the size of the pie is relatively fixed, and the effort to fix the problems of one group can easily be a zero-sum game for others.

An interesting analysis in American Affairs by G. Mark Towhey says that our traditional view of voters as positioned along a spectrum of left to right is no longer germane. He argues for a new grouping of “pragmatists”, who are everyday middle class people:

This bloc of typical citizens—overstressed, under-informed, concerned more with pragmatic quality of life issues than idealistic social goals—has become a powerful political movement…Conventional political leaders seem to completely misunderstand them…

They are not among those of us who read (or write) long-form blogs or articles. We aren’t typical Americans:

We have time to read…we can pause our breadwinning labor and child-rearing duties long enough to consider hypotheticals and to ruminate…on an idea or two. We may not recognize this as a luxury in our modern world, but we should.

Typical Americans don’t read lengthy articles. They: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

Get up far too early in the morning, after too little sleep, [and] work too hard for too long in a job that pays too little, before heading home, feeding the kids, cleaning the house, and collapsing into bed far too late. He or she has precious little time to consume news…maybe a two-minute newscast on the radio if they drive to work or a few minutes of local TV news…It is through this lens that typical Americans view the world beyond their personal experience and that of friends and family. It’s through this lens that they assess their government and judge their politicians.

Towhey says that these people elected Donald Trump.

We all know that there is a gap between the lifestyles, perspectives, and priorities of the most successful Americans and the “typical Americans.” The people who make the decisions that matter in America are, by definition, our political and business leaders — people who have been successful under the current system. They believe that the system works, because it has worked well for them.

The smart people that lead our politics believe the typicals don’t really know what’s best for them. The typicals want to end immigration, hoping it will increase wages, but we smarties know better. From Towhey:

A politician who promises to deliver the demands of an ignorant electorate is a “populist,” and that is a very bad thing. A politician who equivocates during the election, then does nothing to impede immigration, on the other hand, is a wise man skilled in the art of political campaigning and governance.

Typical Americans have always elected the smart people who call themselves Republicans or Democrats. After each election, the typicals wait for their lives to improve, but nothing changes. Most typical Americans don’t simply divide the world into Left and Right. Instead, they instinctively divide the world into things that affect them and things that don’t, things that help them, and things that won’t.

In 2016, the typicals decided that it was time to elect someone from outside the system. Maybe it won’t work out, but electing smart status quo types hadn’t worked out so well for typical Americans, so what did they have to lose?

(Tomorrow we will talk about the emerging political power group of middle class voters that Democrats need to satisfy if they want to remain relevant, the group that Towhey calls “pragmatists”.)

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Do Trump’s Poor Approval Ratings Mean Much?

The Daily Escape:

Lake Louise Sunrise, Alberta, Canada

On Monday, Gallup released Trump’s job approval rating in all 50 states, based on a collection of over 81,000 survey results gathered in the six months between the president’s inauguration on January 20 and June 30. The results show an interesting trend, particularly if you divide them into three categories: states where Trump is above 50%, states where Trump is in the 40%’s, and states where Trump is under 40%:

The dark green states where Trump is above 50% are states Trump carried in 2016. The yellow states, where Trump is under 40%, are all states that Clinton carried in 2016. The light green states are 2016’s swing states: New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Nevada. From Gallup:

Trump largely owed his victory in the 2016 presidential election to his wins in three key Rust Belt states — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — that had not backed a Republican for president since the 1980s. In these states, his January-June approval ratings were just slightly above his overall average of 40%, including 43% in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and 42% in Michigan.

So those three states that put him over the top in the 2016 Electoral College could now be in play. Other interesting data:

  • In the 2016 election, Trump won all 17 of the states where Gallup now shows him with an approval rating of at least 50%.
  • During the six-month survey period, residents in West Virginia (60%), North Dakota (59%) and South Dakota (57%) gave Trump his highest approval ratings. Montana, Wyoming and Alabama all had average approval ratings of 55% or higher.

This is consistent with the geographic patterns of Republican strength nationally. Trump’s highest approval ratings tend to be in Southern, Plains and Mountain West states. His lowest ratings are in Northeast and West Coast states.

Maine, Georgia, Missouri, Indiana, Mississippi, Arizona and Texas are now in the minority-favorable category. Clinton carried Maine and Nevada, but the rest are states that voted for Trump.

In Michigan, North Carolina, Florida and Texas, Trump is at 42% and at least nine points underwater with majority disapproval. Majority disapproval in Texas could help Dems in 2020.

This means that Trump is solidly under 50% in 33 states, including every swing state.

Gallup has been running this daily tracking poll for about 70 years. It showed Trump’s approval at 46% at inauguration. Now the same Gallup poll, done with the same protocol, shows Trump’s approval at 36%.

But this doesn’t mean that Trump is toast in 2020, or that the Democrats have a path to control either the House or Senate in 2018. Peter Hessler had an interesting article in The New Yorker about how Trump has a deeper influence on his voters than we previously thought:

If anything, investigations into the Trump campaign’s connections with Russia have made supporters only more faithful. “I’m loving it – I hope they keep going down the Russia rabbit hole,” Matt Peterson told me, in June. He believes that Democrats are banking on impeachment instead of doing the hard work of trying to connect with voters. “They didn’t even get rid of their leadership after the election…”

Trump is drawn to making silly statements on the Twitter machine like a moth to flame, and it is scorching him enough to reflect in his approval numbers. But Russia alone won’t be a winning hand for Democrats, as the New Yorker article shows. These Russia investigations may not amount to anything, or they may be something that takes until Trump’s second term to fully flower.

In the meantime, the Dems issued a new manifesto, “A Better Deal”, a re-branding of their greatest hits: more and better-paying jobs, lower health care costs, and cracking down on the abuses of big business.

But this time, they really mean it.

It is doubtful that the new slogan or its underlying policies will have Republicans quaking in their Ferragamos.

If there is one lesson Democrats should have learned from 2016, it is that opposition to Trump is not enough to win elections. They need new leadership and a better message.

Otherwise, despite the rosy (for Democrats) poll results on Trump favorability, Democrats will be explaining what went wrong again when the 2018 midterms roll around.

On to today’s tune. Here is Aretha Franklin doing “It Ain’t Necessarily So“, with lyrics and music by George and Ira Gershwin. It is from their opera, “Porgy and Bess”:

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

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – June 25, 2017

Let’s see…New Crown Prince in Saudi, Democrat lost in Georgia, and UBER’s CEO kicked to the curb. What did Wrongo miss? Oh yea, Trumpcare:

Get your health problems fixed while you still can:

Trumpcare may look familiar to some:

GOP plans to include certain pre-existing conditions:

New Saudi Crown Prince gives Trump an idea:

The Dems strike out (again) in Georgia:

The CEO of UBER is kicked to the curb:

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Democrats Have Failed

The Daily Escape:

Lavender in Provence – 2017 Photo by Fabio Antenore

This week, Wrongo wrote that 50% of US births are paid for by Medicaid, and how worry about hunger and homelessness has never been higher among Americans. Both of these issues are symptoms of how our economy fails low-income and lower middle class Americans, and neither political party is truly interested in addressing the problems.

Trump won because he led people who used to vote for Democrats to believe that they had nothing to lose if they voted for him. Below-median income voters had long ago lost faith that Democrats, and Hillary in particular, would ever do anything to change their plight.

Trump said he would look out for them. Whether he does or not, remains an open question, but even before Trump, Democrats had already lost a big swath of America. From the American Prospect:

In the race for the White House, the Democratic presidential candidate has won…fewer US counties with average incomes under the national median and with populations that are more than 85% white in every general election since 1996. Concentrated in the Midwest, Appalachia, and the upper Rocky Mountains, there are 660 such counties today. Hillary Clinton won two of them.

Think about that: The Democratic Party’s influence in mostly white, lower-income America has eroded to nearly nothing since Bill Clinton was president. This chart documenting their fall is stunning:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Parties basically split below-median income counties that were 85% white in 1996. Over a 20-year period, the erosion of the Democrats’ control was steady, and complete. This isn’t just the result of a poor 2016 presidential candidate, it is an indictment of the Democratic Party, its leadership, and its strategy.

The American Prospect article is about Montana’s Democratic Governor, Steve Bullock, who won his state by 4 points while Trump was beating Clinton by 20. Bullock is a rural populist in a party of technocrats. Obama lost Montana by 2 points in 2008. Bill Clinton won Montana in 1992.

But, the electoral failure of Democrats is worse than its showing in these below-median income white counties. The following graphically illustrates the abject failure of Democrats to be competitive in political contests at all levels:

Nothing that Barack Obama did by holding on to the White House for that entire period compensates for these terrible losses.

Democrats remain divided about their Party strategy, many clinging to the thought that if Hillary could have turned about 80k voters in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, where white working-class people are abundant, she would be president.

But she would not control either legislative branch, and she would have had to propose Supreme Court Justices similar to Neil Gorsuch to get one confirmed by the Senate.

The question is where will the DNC be taking the Party in 2018? In a 2018 mid-term election where the president has a historically poor approval rating with independents and Democrats, like Trump has now, victory is possible.

If Democrats want to win back Congress, and the White House in 2020, they need to field candidates who believe in jobs and economic growth first. The candidates need to be authentic people, who listen more than they talk. And when they do speak, they should use PIE as a metaphor for America’s economy, as in: (H/T Seth Godin)

  • How big is the pie?
  • Is the pie growing?
  • What will my share of the pie be tomorrow?
  • Who allocates the slices of pie? Can they be trusted?

When voters think the economy isn’t growing, things begin to feel zero-sum. People begin to think that they may permanently lose their place in our society.

If the Democrats want to win back Congress, they need to describe concretely what they plan to do when they say they support their working-class constituents, regardless of color.

They need to get to be better than Trump on jobs, economic growth and finding a peace dividend.

All of that, and Medicare for all. In Wrongo’s Thursday column, Gallup found that health care concerns ranked highest across all income cohorts.

Shouldn’t these principles be credible with working-class people—including whites?

A song about pie: Here is D’Angelo with “Devil’s Pie” from 1998. It’s a dystopian vision of capitalism, where everybody’s fighting for more of the tasty, materialistic dish. All is fair in pursuit of a bigger paycheck:

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

Takeaway Lyric:

Fuck the slice we want the pie
Why ask why till we fry
Watch us all stand in line
For a slice of the devil’s pie

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Saturday Soother – February 25, 2017

The Daily Escape:

(Crab Eater seal, under ice in the Antarctic)

Today, Democrats will select a Chair for the Democratic National Committee, someone who will be tasked with moving the Party towards relevancy after its 2016 election debacle. In typical Democrat fashion, there are 10 candidates who seem on the surface to be saying exactly the same things. One of the top candidates, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) promises to provide the party with a megaphone for a message of economic solidarity with the working class. Ellison said:

I am not afraid to say that I care about poor people…the rich people have a party, the Democratic Party needs to be the party of the working people.

Ellison proposes a 50-state strategy; listening to the grass roots; better candidate recruitment, and more effective organizing. Ellison is supported by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer (!)

Tom Perez, former Secretary of Labor under Obama, and front-runner, is supported by both the Obama and Clinton camps. He promises principled progressivism with some organizational change.

Perez’s focus on DNC organizational change could prove appealing to the insider voters, who want the action to take place at the state level. Last week, Perez’s team said he was nearing the 224 votes needed to clinch the race in the first round, while Ellison called that count “unverifiable”.

After years of emphasizing big donors, it seems that all candidates are expressing a desire to return to the hard work of a state-based, grassroots, 50 state strategy.

To some, this election is a choice between a populist, grass-roots organizer in Ellison, and the technocrat mainstream Democrat Perez, who calls himself a turnaround artist. Sounds like the Democrat’s 2016 primary all over again. Regardless of who wins, it will be spun as a victory for either the status quo, or for the agents of change in the party. OTOH, either of the two front-runners will be better for the future than were Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and her predecessor, Tim Kaine.

So, after another tough week in Trumplandia, you need to chill out, and so does the rest of America. Sit back, grab a cup of Peet’s Sumatra Batak Peaberry, and listen to today’s Saturday Soother. Here is Russian soprano Anna Netrebko in 2006 with the Berlin Opera Orchestra singing the aria O mio babbino caro” from the opera, “Gianni Schicchi” by Puccini:

A nice way to spend 3 minutes, and you get to see in English what she is singing about. Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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January 20, 2017 – Trump Inaugural Edition

Today is the Trump Inaugural. So many preparations, and so much detail for the transition team to worry about. From the no stone left unturned department, comes this from the WSJ:

 Workers preparing for the Trump Inaugural have taped over the name of the company — “Don’s Johns” — that has long supplied portable restrooms for major outdoor events in the nation’s capital…Virginia-based Don’s Johns calls itself the Washington area’s top provider of portable toilet rentals. But the name apparently strikes too close to home for inaugural organizers.

Too close to Donald John for Donald John Trump? Of course. Somebody placed blue tape over the company name on dozens of portable restrooms installed near the Capitol for the inauguration. The company says they didn’t do it. But, the company’s name is clearly blocked from the TV cameras:

Once Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the US, he will certainly push the agenda that got him elected. We all will need a way to sort the signal from the noise that we will hear from both his partisans and his opposition (which includes the Wrongologist). When you hear people raising reasoned questions and objections to Trump’s proposed policies, odds are that you’re listening to the kind of dissent that’s essential to our democracy, and you ought to take it seriously. For the kinds of arm-waving, emotional, knee-jerk support (or criticism) that you will hear every day, feel free to ignore that. You will know the knee-jerk stuff, since it will be sung in harmony by all the other partisans. And the media will repeat it often for your consideration.

Wrongo has serious problems with Trump, but is hopeful that his administration will:

  • Live up to his populist domestic promises, and
  • Simplify our country’s confusing foreign policy

If he normalizes relations with Russia, extracts us from the messes in Iraq and Syria and if he encourages domestic jobs growth, Wrongo will likely sign up for all of that. If he pushes through a big infrastructure bill that isn’t a wealth transfer to corporations, Wrongo will probably go along with that as well.

Wrongo does not trust Trump or the GOP on health care insurance. He worries that Republicans will throw a number of Americans under the bus, causing a great deal of unnecessary pain.

You can be sure that Trump is going to try to do some terrible things over the next four years, such as appointing ideologues to the Supreme Court. But, Congressional Republicans will clearly attempt far worse things than will The Overlord.

So the terrible fact is, we have to count on Trump to rein in the worst of the GOP’s ideas and instincts.

Needing to trust Donald Trump is enough to frighten anyone.

Trump tweets continually to rally his supporters while simultaneously manipulating the media. It’s unnerving. Saying that Trump is terrifying, while correct, is useless. The most obsessive of his opponents focus on worst-case scenarios that are designed to rally (and raise money from) the anti-Trump troops among us. Sadly, that strategy largely guarantees that the opposition will look disorganized and fragile. It also causes the American center-left to be fragmented issue by issue, and therefore, unable to broadly challenge the GOP, at least in the short run.

The Dems need to coalesce around only the potentially win-able issues. Otherwise, they should “just say no” to any Trump legislation intended to weaken or break our social contract. Sen. Schumer is correct when he says that the GOP needs to own 100% of the pain they cause the average person, whenever they break the contract. Any Democrat that breaks ranks to support issues like cuts to Medicare or privatization of Social Security must be challenged from the left in the next primary.

Democrats did not believe they would be in this political mess. They are trying to find their footing, but establishment Democrats want to simply tweak the message, and stay the course.

However, the battle against Trump and the GOP majority must move from “Republican Lite” to a fight to put social justice and progressivism back on the table as viable options for all Americans.

Otherwise, it will be a precipitous fall from political relevancy for Democrats.

Establishment Democrats who profit from the status quo, have no incentive to come up with an agenda that appeals to people who are suffering because of that status quo. The great weakness of Hillary Clinton’s campaign was that she aimed her appeals at the minority of voters who would benefit from the established neoliberal order, while largely ignoring those who suffered under it.

That decision could cost the Dems for a generation.

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