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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Monday Wake Up Call – February 17, 2020

The Daily Escape:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – February 16, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

America knows the truth about Trump and Barr:

Barr’s investigations could become a moving target:

Our future:

Dems are in training for November:

Biden looks for answers:

And he gives Dems a heads up:

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Post-Primary Thoughts

The Daily Escape:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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IOWA = AWOL

The Daily Escape:

Sunrise, Mt. Hood, OR – 2020 photo by JustinPoe

AWOL means “Absent Without Official Leave”. What’s really AWOL is the Iowa vote tallying on Monday night. Yves Smith:

“The Democrats have lurched from their self-inflicted wound of the botched impeachment effort to the self-inflicted wound of the embarrassing fail of Iowa caucus result-tallying, thanks not just to the use of a newly-created app that failed in prime time, but also the lack of any sort of fallbacks.”

On Tuesday night, Iowa released a partial result:

Buttigieg: 26.9%

Sanders:  25.1%

Warren:  18.3%

Biden:     15.6%

Based on 62% of the votes, these are the viable candidates. It’s useful to point out that Klobuchar was next at 12.6% of the delegates. In Wrongo’s review of counties that had yet to fully report, but where Klobuchar was in first or second place, she will not gain enough votes to make the 15% cutoff for delegates. Maybe, by the time you are reading this, all the votes will have been counted.

How can it take more than 18 hours to tabulate 105,400 votes? That implies that, when fully counted, the total vote will be about 170,000. That’s about as many total voters as a mayoral election in a medium-sized city. Iowa has said since Monday night that every vote had a paper trail. If so, how can they still not have a final count?

Don’t you think that football’s San Francisco ‘49’ers wish that the Super Bowl ended when it was 62% complete? This is absurd.

Is it wrong to point out that the Dems also botched the software roll-out for the Affordable Care Act?

Some random thoughts:

  • The Iowa caucus was administered by the Iowa Democratic Party. Luckily for Iowans, the November election will be administered by state and local election officials.
  • Nevada Democrats also had plans to use the same mobile reporting app for their caucuses set for Feb. 22, but now they say they won’t be using it. The NY Daily News reports that Nevada won’t gamble on the vote results app that derailed the Iowa caucuses: (brackets by Wrongo)

‘What happened in the Iowa caucus last night will not happen in Nevada,’ William McCurdy, the [Nevada] state party chairman, said in a statement. ‘We will not be employing the same app or vendor used in the Iowa caucus.’”

  • In Iowa politics, maybe like politics everywhere, the six degrees of Kevin Bacon works perfectly. Shadow is the software firm that botched the vote tally. It is owned by Acronym. The Iowa Democratic Party paid Shadow $60,000 in November and December 2019. Gerard Niemira and Krista Davis, who both worked for Clinton’s 2016 campaign, co-founded Shadow. Shadow collected $153,768 in 2019 from Iowa, Nevada and seven different Democratic campaigns, mostly for technology, software and subscription services like text messaging. Among them were the presidential campaigns of Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg. Tara McGowan is CEO of Shadow’s parent company, Acronym. Her husband is a Buttigieg campaign strategist. Her brother-in-law is the Buttigieg Iowa state communications director.

If this happened in Venezuela, or Greece, or Indonesia, there would be worldwide mockery along with comments like, “well, what did you expect?”

This goes beyond satire. The only question is whether it’s staggering incompetence, or something deliberately orchestrated. Wrongo votes for the former, because the people running the Democratic Party are too inept to do something like this on purpose. Never attribute to conspiracy what can be explained by incompetence.

Sabotage is the least likely explanation.

In California, it can take weeks to process election results and they often turn out to be different than the estimates on election night. Better to get it right, than end up with what happened in Florida in 2000.

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Monday Wake Up Call – January 27, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Sunrise, West End Overlook, Pittsburgh PA – photo by Kevin Simpson Photography

“The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected….Thus we have two great types — the advanced person who rushes us into ruin, and the retrospective person who admires the ruins….This is called the balance, or mutual check, in our Constitution.” G.K. Chesterton

Remember that Chesterton was British, and he died in 1936.

Wrongo’s really dreading the prospect of looking down a double barreled shotgun of Biden vs. Bernie. This confession is brought on by the WaPo, who reported on its poll with ABC News:

“Nationally…the competition has moved in the direction of Biden and Sanders, with Warren, Buttigieg and others now clearly behind. Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning registered voters, Biden is favored by 32% with Sanders at 23%…In both cases, those percentages are slightly better than what each received in an October Post-ABC national poll.

Warren is currently running third but has seen a significant drop in her support nationally, falling from 23% in October to 12% in the new poll…..she is the only other candidate for the Democratic nomination in double digits.”

Here’s the placement of the rest:

  • Bloomberg: 8%
  • Yang: 7%
  • Buttigieg: 5%
  • Klobuchar: 3%

The WaPo indicates Democrats are motivated in this election. An amazing 73% said that they are certain to vote in their state’s primary or caucus, significantly higher than the 59% who said the same in January 2016. Importantly, 9 in 10 Democrats who named a candidate said that while they are enthusiastic about their choice, 53% still would consider another candidate.

Warren has slipped particularly among women, where her support fell from 26% to 12%. But while she trails Biden and Sanders as the first choice among Democratic voters, she does well when people are asked who their second choice is.

Overall, 23% name Warren as their second choice, slightly higher than either Sanders or Biden. When first and second choices are combined, Biden leads at 48%, followed by Sanders at 41%, and Warren at 35% percent. No other candidate is within 20 points of this combination.

But, this eye-catching poll is based on a very small sample. The Post-ABC poll only sampled 388 Democrats nationally. It includes 349 who are registered voters. Most important, the margin of error is ± six percentage points.

It’s also important to remember that Warren got the endorsement of the Des Moines Register, which probably means more than her earlier co-endorsement by The Times. Nate Silver notes that despite the WaPo poll, Warren is closer in Iowa:

“…the Des Moines Register endorsement tonight could actually matter. Historically, it helps the endorsee by 3 points which matters in a race where the top 4 candidates are separated by ~5 points.

https://t.co/L8iMGV5hPH— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) January 25, 2020

It’s unlikely that 3 points would make Warren the winner of the Iowa primary, but it does seem likely to keep her above the critical 15% threshold for delegates. That would probably keep Iowa from making this a two-man (literally) race.

Wrongo doesn’t know who he’d support if it comes down to Biden vs. Bernie. Wrongo doubts that Bernie would be a good president. Would he be able to get much done? It’s easy to imagine Trump beating Bernie to death with Marxist-Socialist epithets.

Biden would probably be able to staff a professional administration. But his lack of an ambitious progressive agenda means that even if he were elected, his presidency might not amount to much either. OTOH, he may help other Democrats for House and Senate more than Bernie can. Bernie’s “Our Revolution” movement endorsed about 80 candidates in 2018, and just 6 of them were elected.

Warren seems to be a better choice than either, and it’s really depressing that she can’t get much traction with voters.

All of this means that there is a distinct possibility Trump gets reelected in a replay of 2016 no matter who is the ultimate Dem candidate. They all have serious weaknesses. Each has a core group of enthusiastic supporters, and a core group that says that candidate underwhelms them.

Can whoever is the nominee eventually become a consensus candidate?

Wake up America! A lot of people like Biden because they want the politics out of politics. They want “the people in DC to cut out the political shit, and just work together to do what’s right for the country“.

But as Chesterton said, this is just another example of our traditional American way of really wanting to keep the politics IN politics.

The Parties like things just the way they are.

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More About The Virtue of Exciting Candidates

The Daily Escape:

Mt. Assiniboine, Provincial Park, BC, CN – 2019 photo by Talhanazeer. Assiniboine is the pyramid-shaped mountain on the left.

When Wrongo thinks about the Democratic primary candidates, he feels a bit like when he was a breeder of Havanese dogs: “Don’t get too attached to any one of them–we’re only keeping one.”

At the end of the day, we’ll only have one candidate. The question is which is the keeper?

Yesterday we asked: which candidate excited you? Judging by crowd sizes in Iowa, Sanders, Warren and Buttigieg have generated excitement, while Biden has not:

“Mr. Biden has a lot to prove here. I’ve attended some of his town halls and rallies, and they’ve been lackluster, his speeches dull and meandering, and his crowds comparatively small. I’ve been to memorial services that are more exciting. I certainly hope mine is.”

That quote is from Robert Leonard, the news director for the Iowa radio stations KNIA and KRLS. More from Leonard:

“Who is going to get an enthusiastic turnout caucus night? Bernie Sanders will. His support is strong. We’ll see if he can increase it….

Elizabeth Warren has fallen in the polls, but she will have a big turnout caucus night. Her on-the-ground organizing is terrific and her supporters unwavering…..

Pete Buttigieg will also have a big turnout. Watching his several-blocks-long parade of supporters file into the Liberty and Justice Dinner last fall in Des Moines gave me goose bumps…..”

Leonard finishes with this:

“On caucus night, given the soft support I see, if the weather is bad Mr. Biden’s supporters might not come out. It might also depend on what’s on TV….For the other candidates, if their supporters walked outside, slipped on the ice and broke a leg, they still would crawl through snow and ice to caucus.”

He’s alluding to the x-factor, the charisma, the excitement that a candidate creates in voters, and claims that in Iowa at least, Sanders, Warren, and Mayor Pete are showing some of that.

The first thing that most of us want is relief from the Trump assault. In the general election, that starts with telling people the damage assessment, and a plan of repair. The nominee has to say that our government and democracy are in tatters and need to be stitched back together. Constitutional checks and balances have been nearly destroyed by the Republicans.

Maybe we need Medicare for all, free college tuition, and the rest of the progressive agenda, but first, we need to triage our democracy.

To win the presidency, we need to take back Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Are the voters in those three critical swing states ready to sign on to rebuild our social safety net, reform health insurance, and raise taxes on the rich and corporations? Hell yes.

Trump’s 2020 plan is to pump up the Dow while keeping unemployment at historic lows. He’s done that with a $1.5 trillion tax cut without any plan to pay for it. He’ll tout his new “trade deal” with China. He’ll mock and belittle the Democrats and their nominee. Meanwhile, Trump has no health plan at all!

Mitch McConnell’s plan is to make sure Trump is acquitted at all costs, to continue packing the courts, and blocking any meaningful legislation coming out of the House.

What’s the Democratic Party’s 2020 plan? The proposals by the progressive Democratic candidates have merit. Their goals are the right ones for the country and the planet. But, those plans will take several administrations to fully implement. Few voters fully understand the details of how to pay for Medicare for all. Moreover, they absolutely are worried about having their private health insurance taken away. That’s what most Americans have, so that has to be a big concern for Democrats in 2020.

Which of the current flock of Democratic candidates have what it takes to unite and lead the Party to a 2020 victory? Which nominee will have coattails to swing the Senate, hold the House and add to the Party’s roster of statehouses?

The 2020 election will turn on whether individual voters see the Democratic Party’s nominee as a heroic savior of the country, or less of a leader than the execrable Trump.

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Which Democrat Nominee Excites You?

The Daily Escape:

Keyhole Arch, Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur, CA – 2020 photo by jtmess. For a few weeks every winter, starting with the Winter Solstice, sunset lines up with the hole in Keyhole Arch.

Someone told Adlai Stevenson when he was running for president in 1952 (or ‘56): “Every thinking person in America will be voting for you.” Stevenson replied, “I’m afraid that won’t do—I need a majority.” (Via)

It’s time that Americans recognize that the most important global event in 2020 will be the US presidential election. The reason is blindingly obvious. It’s questionable if the world can be brought back from four more years of Donald Trump. That’s doubly true for the US. That means historic voter turn-out is required.

And if that’s the case, it’s important that the best person challenge Trump in November. Last night’s debate didn’t move us any closer to knowing who that should be. This, from Deborah Long is a useful take:

Three Democratic candidates for president walk into a bar.

The first one says, “I’m going to beat Donald Trump by re-starting the Bolshevik Revolution”.

The second one says, “I’m going to beat Donald Trump by breaking up the big banks and sticking it to the man.”

The third one says, “I’ll be in my trailer. Call me on the horn when they’re ready for my cameo in ‘The Way We Were’.

Her underlying point is that the current Democratic candidates show no unifying message. That partly explains why the top four are polling at close to the same numbers. Democrats need to answer the question: Who can deliver a knockout punch to Donald Trump, and repudiate what the Republican Party currently stands for?

Wrongo posted about Economic Dignity last spring. It’s from an article by Gene Sperling, Obama’s Director of the National Economic Council. His take is that the Fed and Congress should implement a full employment monetary and fiscal policy that enables tight labor markets.

Sperling says that implementing the idea of economic dignity would lead to higher wages, and give employers greater incentive to provide advanced training to their employees. And, high demand for labor would give more workers more of the “take this job and shove it” leverage that’s lacking today.

We’ll need more: America needs a return to what Paul Collier calls the “cornerstones of belonging”— family, workplace, and nation, all of which are threatened by today’s market-driven capitalism.

That’s a unifying message for Dems. Hidden behind that message is the idea that America has to return to the ethics of the New Deal. Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel laureate in economics, says: (parenthesis and emphasis by Wrongo)

“Over the past half-century, Chicago School economists, (including Milton Friedman) acting on the assumption that markets are generally competitive, narrowed the focus of competition policy solely to economic efficiency, rather than broader concerns about power and inequality. The irony is that this assumption became dominant in policymaking circles just when economists were beginning to reveal its flaws.”

Stiglitz says we’ll need new policies to better manage capitalism. That means:

  • Dealing with the inequities in health care
  • Paying workers more
  • Rebuilding public assets like roads
  • Passing higher taxes on corporate profits and the incomes of the wealthy

The unifying message is that Democrats will provide Americans with a legal and political framework that allows people to provide better opportunity for their families.

Better opportunity is something all of America wants to believe in.

So, if the Democrats want to win big enough to silence the GOP, the 2020 Democratic Party nominee for president must excite Americans by showing them a path to a better future for their families. Emphasis on the “excite”.

We’re not going to get there by marching with pitchforks. We’re not going to get there with Biden’s nostalgia. We’re going to get there by speaking directly to the needs of America’s families, workplaces and nation.

Not by continuing the tiresome, wonkish recitation of “my policy is slightly better than yours”.

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Monday Wake Up Call – December 2, 2019

The Daily Escape:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Jesse Ferguson (@JesseFFerguson) November 29, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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Hot Takes on the Democrats’ Debate

The Daily Escape:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s Wrongo’s take on how they did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The questions are:

  • Whether what we’ve heard will change the minds of enough Independents and a few Republicans?
  • And/or, will it fire up enough Democrats so that they turnout and overcome Republican efforts at voter suppression next November?
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Saturday Soother – November 9, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Kyoto, Japan — hat tip to blog reader Ottho H. for finding this photo.

The first flakes of snow fell on the fields of Wrong on Friday. Temps were around 24° at daybreak, with winds of 20+ mph, so it felt like winter. We’ve emptied the fountain that birds have used since the spring as a source for drinking water. Other than cleaning leaves out of our gutters, which won’t happen until most of the Oak leaves are down, we’re buttoned up for winter.

What’s not buttoned up is the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Michael Bloomberg has finally jumped in. The story is that originally he believed Biden would win, so he stayed out. But, most of us believed despite the polls, that Biden had no chance. First, because he is certain to blow himself up as he has in the past. Second, the smell around his son Hunter’s role in Ukraine makes it difficult for Dad Joe to stake out a winning moral position opposed to Trump and his kids.

Back to Bloomberg, as the NYT’s David Leonhardt says:

“I’ll be surprised if Michael Bloomberg wins the Democratic nomination. We are living in a political era characterized by economic dissatisfaction and populism, and a 77-year-old Wall Street billionaire doesn’t look like an obvious nominee for a left-of-center party during such a time.”

It’s difficult to know how this shakes out. First, is Bloomberg serious this time? He’s been down the road this far at least twice before. Second, if he’s in, who gets hurt?

Does Bloomberg hurt the moderates Biden and Buttigieg, while simultaneously helping Sanders and Warren? Is that his plan? Or is Bloomberg underestimating Biden? He can’t hope to dent Biden’s strength with non-whites, so what’s his path to the nomination? Lots of questions.

Finally, in a follow-up to yesterday’s column about Elizabeth Warren’s Medicare for All plan (M4A), here’s a Cook Political/Kaiser Family Foundation opinion poll about M4A in the key Midwestern battleground states:

It doesn’t seem that Warren’s plan can be a winner in the Midwest.

We’ve had enough of politics and political problems for this week. It’s time to build a fire and have a Saturday Soother. Let’s start by brewing a mug of Bengal Spice Tea from Celestial Seasonings. Wrongo prefers his with a side of single malt. Now, sit by the fire and contemplate where all of your winter jackets and gloves are hiding.

Next, watch the embedded video by the Apartment Sessions, a Brooklyn NY-based multimedia artist collective that produces monthly videos with a rotating ensemble of NYC/New England-based professional musicians. This performance was recorded for Halloween on a moving “J” train in the NYC subway. They perform Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke”, with Ben Levin on the Telecaster. Wrongo knows that few people click through to watch the video, but today’s is a must watch.

It’s the most fun any of us are likely to have in the NYC subway:

Stand clear of the closing doors please.

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

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