Browsing the archives for the Republican Party category.


Voters Are Not Mind Readers

Democratic Party, Republican Party

Following up on yesterday’s postCharles Pierce wrote,

Today’s installment of our continuing series, People With Whom I Empathize But Do Not Understand, comes to us from the small town of Mexico, in Maine, courtesy of The Portland Press-Herald. …

Leo Grassette gave 41 years to the Rumford mill. He’s 80 now and still works part time at the Mexico Trading Post. He doesn’t have a career to worry about. If the mill closes and takes with it all the jobs, it won’t affect him. His pension is safe. But Grassette and his wife of 57 years have children and grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. In the 15 presidential elections held since he began voting, Grassette had never voted for a Republican. That changed last week. Like many, he felt Clinton was dishonest but it was more than that. She talked more about why Trump was bad than about why she was good. “Democrats used to be for the working class,” Grassette said. “I don’t feel that anymore.”

There is one party that wants to privatize Leo’s Social Security and one that does not. There is one party that wants to hand him a worthless voucher and call it Medicare and one that does not. There is one party that at least tepidly supports organized labor through which Leo got his pension, and there is one party that does not. There is one party that wants to keep Leo’s pension out of the hands of hedge fund cowboys and Wall Street thieves, and one that wants to hijack Leo’s pension into the casino economy.

How, I wonder, are the Democrats no longer “for the working class,” and why doesn’t Leo feel that anymore?

Because most non-college-educated  voters don’t know that Republicans plan to privatize Social Security. Most don’t know that Republicans want to privatize Medicare. Most don’t understand what how the loss of organized labor has hurt all working people.

And that’s because nobody bleeping tells them.

Indeed, if you were to walk up to a standard red state voter and tell him that Republicans are planning to gut Medicare and Social Security, they probably wouldn’t believe you. Republicans like to tell voters that they are the ones who are going to protect Social Security and Medicare from those goofy liberals. However, somehow, they’ve got it in their heads that the Democrats are the party in thrall to Wall Street and the Republicans aren’t. Having Hillary Clinton as the party’s standard bearer didn’t exactly correct that misunderstanding.

For at least 30 years the U.S. has needed an ideologically progressive, left-wing party to counter the Republicans, which have become an ideologically conservative, right-wing party. We’ve needed a party that would champion progressive economic populism and working people, and which would get blue-collar folks enthusiastic about progressive policy proposals instead of allowing right-wing hegemony to go unchallenged in all but urban and liberal coastal circles. We also needed a party that appreciated how much our younger people are being exploited instead of encouraged by the system.

And we needed a party that knows how to take the fight to the Right. We need a party that won’t negotiate with itself out of fear of what the Right will do. That approach doesn’t work.

Maybe now, if we can move the centrist/neoliberal/Clintonite/DLC crew out of the way,  we’ve got a chance at building that party.

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Election Return Live Blog

Bad Hair, elections, Hillary Clinton

Well, folks, hang on to your butts.

Everybody says that Florida will tell the tale. If Clinton hangs on to Florida, Trump is probably shut out, the bobbleheads say.

Indiana and Kentucky already called for Trump. Clinton takes Vermont.

There was a shooting near a polling place in California. No indication the shooting was related to the election.

Rudy Giuliani is on MSNBC saying that Clinton got away with multiple crimes, and Chris Matthews isn’t challenging him to be specific.

(7:30) West Virginia called for Trump. No surprises so far.

Steve Kornacki tells us that Trump is doing better with non-college-educated whites than Romney did four years ago.

South Carolina called for Trump; again, no surprise.

(8:00) Okay, they are calling a bunch of states. Let’s see if I can get it straight.

States just called for Clinton: Illinois, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia.

Tammy Duckworth will be a Senator from Illinois!

Trump picks up Tennessee, Mississippi and Oklahoma.

Marco Rubio re-elected in Florida. Damn.

Florida — 59 percent of precincts reporting, and it’s dead even.

Evan Bayh, centrist Dem Senate candidate, loses in Indiana, MSNBC says.

(8:30) Arkansas called for Trump.

Returns seem awfully slow this year.

New projections — Clinton wins New York. Trump wins North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

Clinton wins Connecticut.

Florida — lots of votes to be counted in Broward County yet.

(9:30) Trump wins Louisiana.

This is making me crazy.

Fox News has called New Mexico for Clinton, I understand.

(10:00) Trump wins Montana.

Missouri called for Trump.

The fivethirtyeight crew is saying that Republicans probably will keep the Senate.

NBC is calling Ohio for Trump.

Clinton is pulling ahead in Virginia.

Clinton wins Colorado.

Virginia called for Clinton, finally.

Florida called for Trump.

Clinton wins California.

People, this is not looking good. Clinton has to win some states in which she’s behind right now to get to 270. And I doubt she can do it.  I think she’s going to fall short.  Assuming she takes all of the states she’s currently leading, she’s going to be short. She’ll need Michigan — possible, but she’s behind right now — and one other state with at least 5 electoral votes. And I don’t know what state that would be.

So, folks, it looks like we’ll lose this one.

If there’s a possible silver lining here, it is that it’s going to shake up the Democratic Party.

(1:45 am) Some news outlets are officially calling the race for Trump, sorry.

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New Revelations on Trump’s Taxes and the Russia Connection

Bad Hair

The New York Times committed an act of journalism and has published a must-read investigative report on Donald Trump’s taxes. In brief, tax experts say “Whatever loophole existed was not ‘exploited’ here, but stretched beyond any recognition.” It’s worth reading the whole article.

Meanwhile, David Corn writes at Mother Jones about what the FBI might be investigating regarding Trump’s dealings with Russia. A former intelligence officer shared with Corn what he had told the FBI:

Mother Jones has reviewed that report and other memos this former spy wrote. The first memo, based on the former intelligence officer’s conversations with Russian sources, noted, “Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting and assisting TRUMP for at least 5 years. Aim, endorsed by PUTIN, has been to encourage splits and divisions in western alliance.” It maintained that Trump “and his inner circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals.” It claimed that Russian intelligence had “compromised” Trump during his visits to Moscow and could “blackmail him.” It also reported that Russian intelligence had compiled a dossier on Hillary Clinton based on “bugged conversations she had on various visits to Russia and intercepted phone calls.”

The former intelligence officer says the response from the FBI was “shock and horror.” The FBI, after receiving the first memo, did not immediately request additional material, according to the former intelligence officer and his American associates. Yet in August, they say, the FBI asked him for all information in his possession and for him to explain how the material had been gathered and to identify his sources. The former spy forwarded to the bureau several memos—some of which referred to members of Trump’s inner circle. After that point, he continued to share information with the FBI. “It’s quite clear there was or is a pretty substantial inquiry going on,” he says.

“This is something of huge significance, way above party politics,” the former intelligence officer comments. “I think [Trump’s] own party should be aware of this stuff as well.”

And Franklin Foer writes at Slate that some computer scientists investigated whether Russian hackers might be hacking the Trump campaign, as they had Clinton’s. What they found was weird. There was regular pinging going on between a bank in Moscow and a Trump server in New York.

The researchers quickly dismissed their initial fear that the logs represented a malware attack. The communication wasn’t the work of bots. The irregular pattern of server lookups actually resembled the pattern of human conversation—conversations that began during office hours in New York and continued during office hours in Moscow. It dawned on the researchers that this wasn’t an attack, but a sustained relationship between a server registered to the Trump Organization and two servers registered to an entity called Alfa Bank. …

…Earlier this month, the group of computer scientists passed the logs to Paul Vixie. In the world of DNS experts, there’s no higher authority. Vixie wrote central strands of the DNS code that makes the internet work. After studying the logs, he concluded, “The parties were communicating in a secretive fashion. The operative word is secretive. This is more akin to what criminal syndicates do if they are putting together a project.” Put differently, the logs suggested that Trump and Alfa had configured something like a digital hotline connecting the two entities, shutting out the rest of the world, and designed to obscure its own existence.

There is some weird-ass stuff going on, people.

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The Damn Emails

Bad Hair, Hillary Clinton

While everyone is hyperventilating about emails that, apparently, no one has read yet, Kurt Eichenwald reports at Newsweek,

Over the course of decades, Donald Trump’s companies have systematically destroyed or hidden thousands of emails, digital records and paper documents demanded in official proceedings, often in defiance of court orders. These tactics—exposed by a Newsweek review of thousands of pages of court filings, judicial orders and affidavits from an array of court cases—have enraged judges, prosecutors, opposing lawyers and the many ordinary citizens entangled in litigation with Trump. In each instance, Trump and entities he controlled also erected numerous hurdles that made lawsuits drag on for years, forcing courtroom opponents to spend huge sums of money in legal fees as they struggled—sometimes in vain—to obtain records.

Nothing so far has been revealed in Clinton’s emails that warranted indictments. But it sounds as if Trump has been breaking laws for years and getting away with it. Note that the worst of the actions Eichenwald uncovered relate to Trump’s violations of fair housing laws

But let us review what the new Clinton email “revelations” amount to. Executive Summary: Nothing so far.

My understanding is that at the time FBI Director James Comey sent his letter to Congress about the emails on Anthony Weiner’s “device,” he didn’t yet have a warrant that allowed the FBI to read them. All they knew was that State Department emails ended up on Weiner’s “device,” supposedly forwarded by Huma Abedin, although she says she doesn’t know how that happened. We don’t know if any of those emails were sent or received by Hillary Clinton, or if Clinton even knew about the emails on the “device.”

Some news outlets are reporting that the emails were in Abedin’s Yahoo account, which makes me wonder if somehow an account was set up to automatically forward emails and Abedin didn’t realize it. The Clinton campaign is not exactly a tech-savvy crew. But if that’s the case, it’s likely most of these emails are duplicates of ones already known to the FBI.

But there’s more. CNN is reporting that the FBI knew about the emails on the “device” weeks ago. Why did James Comey sit on this information and then release it days before the election? At first it was assumed that Comey sent the letter as soon as he knew about the emails; maybe he wanted to avoid an appearance of being partisan. But if that was the case, it backfired big time.

Josh Marshall writes:

It is quite telling that even at this late stage of the election, when partisan tempers are naturally running at their fiercest, former career DOJ lawyers, former high level DOJ appointees and legal experts on both sides of the aisle are lining up to say this was not only an extremely poor decision but may even have violated the law. (Note here: President George W. Bush’s top ethics lawyer suggests Comey may even have broken the law. Another example is here.) As far as I can see, no one who actually knows what Comey’s legal, professional and ethical responsibilities were in this case can find a basis to defend his actions. Even Republicans who might be inclined to interpret ambiguous facts through a partisan prism don’t seem able to come up with one.

I’ve said a number of times that I do not believe Comey acted out of a desire to interfere with the outcome of the election. I still believe that. But I’m not sure it matters. What seems inescapable is that Comey has made avoiding criticism from Republicans (and leaks by FBI agents that would generate such criticism) his top, almost his sole priority. That being the case, his intent seems all but irrelevant. It amounts to some professional equivalent of reckless disregard, perhaps with a smattering of largely irrelevant naïveté thrown in.

See also FBI Director James Comey screwed up big time.

The presidential race has tightened up since Friday, although Clinton is still heavily favored to win.

Meanwhile Sen. Harry Reid has not only accused Comey of violating the Hatch Act; he says the FBI is sitting on damning information about Trump’s ties to the Russian government:

In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government — a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity. The public has a right to know this information. I wrote to you months ago calling for this information to be released to the public. There is no danger to American interests from releasing it. And yet, you continue to resist calls to inform the public of this critical information.

It should be noted that Brian Ross at ABC News reported last September that Trump does millions of dollars of business with Russians, which wouldn’t have been possible without Putin’s approval.

But I’ll give John Oliver the last word today.

Update: Oops! Here’s another last word. CNBC reports:

FBI Director James Comey argued privately that it was too close to Election Day for the United States government to name Russia as meddling in the U.S. election and ultimately ensured that the FBI’s name was not on the document that the U.S. government put out, a former bureau official tells CNBC.

The official said some government insiders are perplexed as to why Comey would have election timing concerns with the Russian disclosure but not with the Huma Abedin email discovery disclosure he made Friday.

Somebody’s partisanship is showing.

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Boo!

Bad Hair, holiday

Happy Halloween!

Too scary?

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Bye Bye, Bad Hombre

Bad Hair, Hillary Clinton

This is the part of the debate that’s already getting all the attention.

“I will look at it at the time. I’m not looking at anything now, I will look at it at the time,” Trump said during the final presidential debate. “What I’ve seen, what I’ve seen is so bad. First of all, the media is so dishonest and so corrupt. And the pile-on is so amazing.”

He then said the media has “poisoned the minds of voters.”

“If you look at your voter rolls, you will see millions of people that are registered to vote,” he continued, claiming to cite a “Pew report.” “Millions of people that are registered to vote that shouldn’t be registered to vote.”

Pressed by moderator Chris Wallace on not accepting “one of the prides of this country… the peaceful transition of power,” Trump said of his acceptance of the election results: “I will tell you at the time. I will keep you in suspense, okay?”

Hillary Clinton called Trump’s response “horrifying.”

There are in fact a lot of dead people who are still on the nation’s registration votes. There often is a time lag between a death and a name’s removal from the registration rolls. However, instances in which dead people actually vote are quite rare.

The Trump surrogates already are trying to walk this back —  he just meant that he would contest the election if there is evidence of fraud, they are saying. But that’s not what he said. Not just the Trump camp but every Republican in national office is going to be pushed to defend or reject what Trump said tonight. A lot of them are likely going to use this as an opportunity to sever ties to what promises to be a loss of epic proportions.

See also Josh Marshall’s postmortem.

 

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Final Debate Live Blog

Bad Hair, Hillary Clinton

Get the beer and popcorn ready, folks. I’ll be here watching and will add commentary as we go. I don’t promise to be sober, though.

About to start.

Supreme Court!

She’s standing up for LGBT rights, Roe v. Wade; the Supreme Court should stand up for all of us. No on Citizens’ United. Good answer.

The Nortious RGB insulted Trump? I missed that one. Trump wants to uphold the second amendment. Trump’s justices will be pro-life and protect the 2nd Amendment.

Discussion time. Clinton says she supports the 2nd Amendment but also supports reasonable regulations. Comprehensive background checks; close loopholes. These are not in conflict with the 2nd Amendment. The Heller decision did not apply the 2nd Amendment correctly, she said.

Clinton says Trump is heavily supported by the NRA and the gun lobby. Split screen; he is nodding. Yep; he’s supported by the gun lobby.

Abortion!

He promises to put more “pro-life” justices on the court, overturn Roe v. Wade and return the abortion question to the states.

She’s not being squishy; she will defend Roe v. Wade; she will defend Planned Parenthood; she will defend women’s rights.

Government has no business in those decisions, she said.

Trump talks about evil women having babies ripped from their wombs days before birth. Give me a break.

Immigration!

Criminals are pouring across the border! Trump cries. Heroin pours across the borders! That’s the biggest problem in New Hampshire now, apparently. It’s coming from Canada?

We need the wall! We stop the drugs! We need to get all of the drug lords!

Trump is sniffing again. Bad hombres!

Clinton says she doesn’t want to rip families apart or send the deportation presence required to deport all undocumented families.

Trump went to Mexico, choked when talking to the Mexican president.

Trump used undocumented labor to build Trump tower. I want to get undocumented workers into the regular economy so they aren’t undercutting American workers.

Clinton: Will you admit that Wikileaks is coming from Russian hackers? That a foreign government is trying to undercut our election?

Trump says he doesn’t know Putin. Then he says he knows Putin doesn’t respect Clinton. These cyberattacks come from the highest levels of the government?

Trump is losing it already. This is turning into a repeat of the first debate.

Chris Wallace took Clinton’s side on the Soviet hacker thing.

Now he’s denying that he thought it would be swell if other countries got nukes. We already found those videos, dude.

Economy!

When the middle class thrives, America thrives, Clinton says. Biggest jobs program since World War II. Sounds good. Green energy. Create opportunities. Help small business. Raise the minimum wage. People who work full time should not be in poverty. Education system. More technical ed.

She mentioned Bernie! Free college tuition!

Let the wealthy pay their fair share.

Trump is proposing trickle-down economics on steroids.

Trump claims Clinton is proposing a massive tax increase.

He’s going back to the previous segment. NATO; why isn’t NATO paying up?

He’s lost it. He’s not shouting yet, but he’s lost it. Probably he was told to stay on trade deals. Jobs have fled to Mexico.

Cut taxes and corporations will start hiring people. Yeah, like that works.

Chris Wallace says to Trump, even conservative economists don’t think your plan will work.

Clinton: The only one who has ever imported Chinese steel is Trump. He built the Trump Las Vegas hotel with Chinese steel.

On the very day Clinton was in the situation room, watching the raid that took Osama bin Laden, he was hosting Celebrity Apprentice.

Fitness to be President!

Chris Wallace brings up the nine women who accused Trump of assault. Why would these women say this?

Trump says the women’s stories are debunked. Now he’s denying he said things we all heard him say.

Clinton says we want to think about what kind of country we want.

Trump brings up the emails.

Clinton: Every time Donald is pushed on something, he denies responsibility. He never apologizes or accepts responsibilities. Mocking reporter. Mr. and Mrs. Khan. John McCain. This is a pattern of divisiveness. This is a pattern of a dark and dangerous vision. This is not what America is.

Trump: All charges against me are false. I never said what I said.

Chris Wallace: What about Clinton Foundation pay to play?

Clinton: I would love to talk about the Clinton Foundation. Starts to rattle off accomplishments.

Trump is yelling, It’s a criminal enterprise!

Trump says he’s entitled to not pay income taxes.

When will this be over?

Rigged elections? Trump refuses to say he will accept the results of the election!

No, Trump, there are not millions of people registered to vote who are not supposed to be registered.

Now he’s saying that Clinton should not be allowed to run for president.

Clinton: Trump always says something was rigged when he loses. He even said the Emmys were rigged.

Whining! she said whining! He’s talking down our democracy!

Foreign hot spots!

Mosul! Can Trump find Mosul on a map? No, he wasn’t asked that.

Clinton will not support putting American troops in Iraq as an occupying force. She hopes for a successful military operations.

No fly zone, safe havens within Syria. Leverage against Syrian government and Russians.

Trump thinks ISIS already left Mosul. Whatever happened to element of surprise?

Trump seems to think that the only reason Iraq is attacking Mosul is to make Hillary Clinton look good. Iran should write us a thank-you note for this.

Chris Wallace: I want to follow up on another debate. [to Trump] You said things about Aleppo that weren’t true.

Trump: Aleppo is so sad, and awful, and everything bad that happened there is Hillary Clinton’s fault. He really said that.

All over the world, fact checkers have thrown themselves on the floor, weeping. Too much! Too much!

How much longer will this go on?

National debt!

Chris Wallace cites right-leaning social spending cutting groups to talk about taxes and entitlements. Social Security is going bankrupt! Oh noes!

Trump wants to repeal and replace Obamacare to save Obamacare.

Wallace asks Clinton is she’s willing to entertain a grand bargain on Social Security and entitlements.

Final question! Hooray! Why should people vote for you? Clinton has a good boilerplate answer ready.

Trump: Everything is a disaster. I will fix it. All she does is talk.

IT’S OVER!

Okay, the big headline from this debate is that Trump directly refused to say he would respect the result of the election. This is going to eat up most of the post-debate spin.

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SNL v. Trump

Bad Hair, entertainment and popular culture, Hillary Clinton

Last night’s SNL opening skit made me laugh:

Even better, it so pissed off Donald Trump that he went on one of his dead-of-night Twitter rants. And he hates Alec Baldwin, which is about the nicest thing that’s happened to Alec Baldwin in some time.

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The Winds of Change Are, Unfortunately, Blowing Over a Garbage Dump

American History, Bad Hair, big picture stuff, Hillary Clinton, Republican Party

Matt Taibbi:

The first symptom of a degraded aristocracy is a lack of capable candidates for the throne. After years of indulgence, ruling families become frail, inbred and isolated, with no one but mystics, impotents and children to put forward as kings. Think of Nikolai Romanov reading fortunes as his troops starved at the front. Weak princes lead to popular uprisings. Which brings us to this year’s Republican field.

There wasn’t one capable or inspiring person in the infamous “Clown Car” lineup. All 16 of the non-Trump entrants were dunces, religious zealots, wimps or tyrants, all equally out of touch with voters. Scott Walker was a lipless sadist who in centuries past would have worn a leather jerkin and thrown dogs off the castle walls for recreation. Marco Rubio was the young rake with debts. Jeb Bush was the last offering in a fast-diminishing hereditary line. Ted Cruz was the Zodiac Killer. And so on.

There’s a lot of talk about whether the Republicans can survive. Clearly, it’s not on its deathbed yet. But reading more of Taibbi, I do wonder what it will survive as. Here he’s describing the Paul Ryan-led rally in Wisconsin from which Trump was dis-invited:

The party schism burst open in the middle of a speech by Wisconsin’s speaker of the State Assembly, Robin Vos. Vos is the Billy Mays of state budget hawks. He’s a mean-spirited little ball of energy who leaped onto the stage reminding the crowd that he wanted to eliminate the office of the treasurer to SAVE YOU MONEY!

Vos went on to brag about having wiped out tenure for University of Wisconsin professors, before dismounting with yet another superawkward Trumpless call for Republicans to turn out to vote.

“I have no doubt that with all of you standing behind us,” he shouted, “and with the fantastic record of achievement that we have, we’re going to go on to an even bigger and better victory than before!”

There was scattered applause, then someone from the crowd called out:

“You uninvited Donald Trump!”

Boos and catcalls, both for and against Vos and the Republicans. Most in the crowd were Trump supporters, but others were angry with Trump for perhaps saddling them with four years of Hillary Clinton. These camps now battled it out across the field. A competing chant of “U-S-A! U-S-A!” started on the opposite end of the stands, only to be met by chants from the pro-Trumpers.

“We want Trump! We want Trump!” “U-S-A! U-S-A!”

Ryan, the last speaker, tried to cut the tension with a leaden joke about the “elephant in the room.” But he still refused to speak Trump’s name, or do more than refer the crowd to a written statement. He just smiled like it was all OK, and talked about what a beautiful day it was.

The threat of a Trump insurgency to the GOP might be mitigated if the GOP had even one strong, respected figurehead for the party to rally around. Alas, all they’ve got is Paul Ryan and John McCain.

My guess is that the Trump faithful might very well split off and form their own party, which in the U.S. is usually the first step toward political irrelevance. But if the worst of the whackjobs follow Trump into eventual oblivion, taking the red-meat-only base with them, it could allow the remaining Republican mainstream to move back toward the center again. Which would be a good thing, in the long run. Maybe they’ll even taken an interest in the governing thing.

 But then you’ve got the Democratic Party, which also is being run by out-of-touch aristocrats. The Wikileaks emails show us that even Clinton’s campaign staff worried their candidate had no compelling reason to run.

The correspondence reveals a campaign that has struggled all year to improve a flawed candidate. As far back as March, aides were keenly aware that she was resistant to the media, perhaps out of touch with regular Americans and unable to convey a clear message to voters.

A month before Clinton launched her campaign, her aides worked to corral her well-known love for granular policy details into a message that would both capture her agenda and present a forward-looking, aspirational vision for her presidency.

Nearly a year later, a similar struggle cropped up as they attempted to revise her core campaign message.

“Do we have any sense from her what she believes or wants her core message to be?” asked Clinton adviser Joel Benenson. . . .

. . . .Seven months later and on the cusp of Election Day, the concerns laid out in these emails and others largely remain. Clinton has proven to be a lackluster candidate who has struggled to win over the liberals who gravitated to Sanders during the primary, and who remains ahead in large part due to Trump’s historic weaknesses.

“Right now I am petrified that Hillary is almost totally dependent on Republicans nominating Trump,” Brent Budowsky, a political columnist and former political adviser, wrote in a March 2016 email to Podesta and Roy Spence, an ad maker for the campaign. “She has huge endemic political weaknesses that she would be wise to rectify.”

The electorate is roiling with a desire for change, and the Democratic nominee had no clue.

In our alarm and loathing of Donald Trump, we must not lose sight of how Hillary Clinton came to be the Democratic nominee.

The answer: we live in a moribund democracy, not a thriving one.  A conjunction of corporate political power and immense wealth is forcibly installing a president.  We haven’t confronted this before, either.  We will cast our ritual ballots in November, but not in a free election: the Democratic nominee was imposed upon us by the corporate and the wealthy.

That’s a strong charge, but as I’ve written in the past, that’s pretty much what happened. The Democratic Party itself made sure there was  no real contest. The Clinton nomination was a done deal long before the primaries even began. But why was it so important to her to run, given that she has no real central message or agenda other than “I am competent”? That’s the part that remains baffling to me. Personal ambition is the only answer I can think of, and that’s not a good answer. It wouldn’t be a good answer for a male candidate, either.

Anyway, in short, the Democratic Party itself doesn’t trust its voters to choose the “right” nominee. The GOP has the opposite problem; it lost all control of the nomination process. Neither development is healthy.

IMO the Dems are roughly in the same place the GOP came to be in the 1990s and 2000, when the party was able to dictate who the nominee would be, and got away with knocking down the competition without too much grumbling. The Powers That Be in the GOP obviously had settled on George W. Bush as the standard bearer shortly after Bob Dole’s defeat in 1996, and they spent the next four years skillfully puffing Dubya up. And during the primaries, you could practically see the RNC’s thumb on the scale to be sure Dubya was the one left standing. (And how did Bob Dole get to be the nominee? I can’t believe that was a popular choice.) Well, now it’s the DNC forcing the pre-ordained candidate on the rest of us.

Eventually, people do notice when they’re being used. I heard a talking head on MSNBC this morning say that about 40 percent of Americans don’t think the presidential election process is legitimate, and this sentiment is spread across the political spectrum. Distrusting the legitimacy of elections has been a problem for a while, though. Republicans tried their best to delegitimize Bill Clinton’s presidency, for example, in part by blaming Ross Perot. They tried to delegitimize Barack Obama by claiming he only won because he was black — he was the cute novelty candidate, apparently.

Of course, in 2000 when George W. Bush was selected rather than elected, Democrats went along for the sake of tradition, or to keep Democracy alive, or something. That was a mistake.

Once you’ve seen the man behind the curtain, the old myths and buzzwords lose their force. As much as I look forward to seeing the Great Orange Sleazebag have his ass handed to him on election night, I’m not kidding myself that Hillary Clinton will be the president we need right now. She might surprise me, but I don’t think she’s got it in her to surprise me. The best we can hope for is that she’ll not completely renege on trying to pass the Democratic platform.

Going back to the Republicans — I believe the party will survive, but the Trump insurgency will force it to change. The mob of Faux Nooz viewers and Rusho dittoheads they have counted on to believe their bullshit and vote R will likely desert them for a long time, or at least a couple of election cycles. This might well force them to have to broaden their base, which means they will have to offer something besides hate. They might even have to start making sense. Radical, I know, but stranger things have happened.

But if Republicans change, Democrats will have to change also. They might have to stop being The Party That Isn’t as Awful as That Other Party and actually stand for something. Imagine.

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The Christian Right’s Original Sin

Bad Hair, Religion, Republican Party

Donald Trump not only is dividing Republicans from Republicans; he is dividing Christians from Christians.

Christianity Today published an anti-Trump editorial, and several prominent evangelical clergypersons also have spoken out against him. However, a lot of the big shots of the Christian-Political Right still stand with Trump — Jerry Falwell, Jr., Ralph Reed, Tony Perkins, James Dobson, and the animated fossil of Pat Robertson, for example.

I wrote a few days ago,

I can think of two explanations. One, they think somehow they will maintain more influence in a Trump administration than in a Clinton administration. And maybe they would. Trump obviously doesn’t give a hoo-haw about religion, except when it can be made to reflect well on him somehow. He might very well support their anti-LGBT and anti-women agenda if they flatter him enough, because it’s obvious he doesn’t give a shit either way.

The other explanation is that these people have become so twisted that oppressing women and LGBT people is the only “morality” they care about any more, and all the stuff about lying, stealing, coveting, adultery , etc., are just details that can be sacrificed for their “greater good.”

The truth probably is a combination of both. Remember, these are guys who were elevated to prominence, directly or indirectly, by political operatives like Paul Weyrich who saw the usefulness of framing the right-wing political agenda as a moral crusade. These guys gave their blessings to the political Right in exchange for fame, wealth and the promise that they could become America’s moral arbiters.

Which brings me to Original Sin. Yes, Christian theology is a bit outside my usual area, but it does interest me. And I have no beef with Christianity; it’s just a shame more Christians don’t follow it.

I never appreciated the Original Sin doctrine until I read Reinhold Niebuhr‘s explanation of it, which differs considerably from what most of us were taught. But Niebuhr (1892-1971) was a highly regarded theologian, and I argue his opinion is as authoritative as anyone’s. And please note that both Niebuhr and I read the Genesis story as myth, not as natural history.

Niebuhr noted that the Serpent had said of the forbidden fruit, “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” In other words, the great temptation was to be like God. This is a point that seems to get lost a lot.

So Adam and Eve ate the fruit and gained the knowledge, and from there came all human hangups, not to mention psychiatrists and lawyers. But we can put that aside for now. Water under the bridge.

Anyway, for Niebuhr, this is not something that happened only in a mythical past. Every human generation has succumbed to the same temptation by seeking power and self-glorification, he said.

“Man’s situation tempts to evil, provided man is unwilling to accept the peculiar weakness of his creaturely life, and is unable to find the ultimate source and end of his existence beyond himself,” Niebuhr wrote in Discerning the Signs of the Times (1946). “Being an insignificant creature with suggestions of great significance in the stature of his freedom, man uses his strength to hide his weakness and thus falls into the evil of the lust for power and self-idolatry.”

Just about the worst sin, to Niebuhr, was presuming perfect knowledge of God. He died before the modern Christian Right got off the ground, but his opinion of such creatures as Falwell (father and son), Reed, Perkins and Robertson comes through clearly in his writing. These are the guys who fell into the temptation; they ate the forbidden fruit; they assumed to know God’s mind and to hand out judgments on the rest of us.

Original sin, by tainting all human perceptions, is the enemy of absolutes. Mortal man’s apprehension of truth is fitful, shadowy and imperfect; he sees through the glass darkly. Against absolutism Niebuhr insisted on the “relativity of all human perspectives,” as well as on the sinfulness of those who claimed divine sanction for their opinions. He declared himself “in broad agreement with the relativist position in the matter of freedom, as upon every other social and political right or principle.” In pointing to the dangers of what Justice Robert H. Jackson called “compulsory godliness,” Niebuhr argued that “religion is so frequently a source of confusion in political life, and so frequently dangerous to democracy, precisely because it introduces absolutes into the realm of relative values.” Religion, he warned, could be a source of error as well as wisdom and light. Its role should be to inculcate, not a sense of infallibility, but a sense of humility. Indeed, “the worst corruption is a corrupt religion.”

If there was ever a better morality play than what’s going on now in the presidential election, I can’t think of it. Those who were raised up through hubris and self-glorification are now being exposed as fallible and corrupt. Truly, their own sinful ways are revealed.

Dana Milbank wrote,

In the past, as Pulliam Bailey has chronicled, religious-right leaders claimed to care about personal morality. “We will not rest until we have leaders of good moral character,” Reed said back in the Monica Lewinsky days. Evangelical leader James Dobson advocated Bill Clinton’s impeachment in 1998 because he set a bad example about “respecting women.”

But Dobson supports Trump, excusing his behavior because the candidate is a “baby Christian.” Franklin Graham, though formally neutral, draws equivalence between Trump’s “crude comments” and Democrats’ “godless” agenda. …

… But where are the high-profile figures in the movement, such as Reed, Robertson and Falwell? In January, Falwell said Trump “lives a life of loving and helping others, as Jesus taught.” He likened Trump to his father.

And now, no regrets. Falwell said that years from now, “I don’t think anybody is going to be sitting around thinking about whether Donald Trump said this or that on the videotape in 2005. I think they’re going to be sitting around saying, ‘Gosh, I wish we had different Supreme Court justices.’ ”

Or maybe they’ll be wondering how differently things might have turned out if Falwell, with his ends-justify-the-means logic, hadn’t made a deal with the devil and destroyed the moral credibility of the movement his father built.

Some Liberty University students are rebelling, and they criticized Falwell for using their university as a vehicle for electing Donald Trump. Do read the letter they wrote; they understand that Trump is a moral cesspool and even quote the Gospels — Matthew chapter 7 — to express their opposition. The fallout from this election is going to be massive, and it won’t just affect the Republican Party.

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