Rigged Elections and Sore Losers

Supporters carrying side arms wait for the start of a rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Supporters carrying side arms wait for the start of a rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

New Orleans   Polls are showing a consolidated lead for Hillary Clinton with three weeks to go and many states already beginning early voting. Republican strategists are warning that it may be too late for a Trump turnaround. The cascade of issues from racism to tax dodging to misogyny and sexual harassment and abuse seem to be baking all of the negatives into Trump’s prospects. Republicans from Speaker Paul Ryan on down the ballot and outsiders, including influential and deep-pocketed donors, have either deserted Trump or are actively arguing that he must be abandoned in order not to inflect permanent damage on the party.

Trump’s response has been to question the very validity of the election and raise the specter of refusing to accept the results of the voters in a direct threat to long and deeply held democratic traditions. Governor Pence, the VP on Trump’s ticket, has said in essence, of course we will accept the results, but Trump has pulled his Twitter-finger and seemingly backed off that pledge, so who knows.

None of this is new. In fact, this has been the Republican tradition in all of the recent elections they have lost and part of their concerted effort over the last eight years to deny President Obama the legitimacy of his two victories. The Atlantic magazine quoted a study in a recent issue saying,

“Backing a losing candidate can also damage voters’ trust in the political system. An analysis of surveys from 1964 to 2004 found that over time, voters who supported losers were less likely than others to see the electoral process as fair. They also tended to be less satisfied with democracy generally.”

It seems that what we are witnessing now is something on the order of “pre-emptive sore losing.” Preparing for a humiliating defeat for a candidate enamored of calling everyone but himself a “loser,” it was predictable that he would whine that he couldn’t win because the election was “rigged” against him and everyone ganged up against “poor little me.”

But, this has been a recurring Republican theme from the very base of the party for years. How else could we explain the fact that the majority of Republicans surveyed without a shred of evidence continued to believe for close to seven years that ACORN had stolen both Obama elections? Or the fact that almost a majority of Texas Republican voters already believe that ACORN is stealing the election for Clinton this time around.

The commitment to democracy of many Republican leaders and much of their hardcore base seems extremely weak. The finger pointing about rigged elections at large cities with minority populations like Philadelphia and others seems totally racist. Inventing excuses for losing elections so that no one has to face the consequences of politics and program seems to argue that party leaders do not want to either learn from their errors or listen to the voters.

It will be interesting once this campaign is over to see how we rebuild a semblance of democratic practice from the thin soup we’re being served in this election. Perhaps I should say “if” we can rebuild a semblance of democratic practice after this election.

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Trump Actually Makes a Good Point

republican-symbolNew Orleans      Donald Trump, the presumed Republican nominee for the presidency, made a very interesting point in a rebuke to Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and also a Republican.  He turned away Ryan’s “wait and see” answer on the question of his endorsement, based on whether or not Trump met certain litmus tests he wanted to use to measure the nature of Trump’s conservative commitments, by not only reminding him that he had 10 million Republican votes mandating change, but also by chiding Ryan on a political philosophy point.  Trump told Ryan, “…I’m a conservative, but don’t’ forget, this is called the Republican Party.  It’s not called the Conservative Party.”

            So, sure, have at Trump.  Call him names, claim he’s a buffoon, or an ignoramus, as Nobel prize economist and Times’ columnist Paul Krugman did, but don’t every make the mistake of believing for one minute that he’s really any of those things.  This guy is clever and quick like a fox.  Underestimating him, as many, maybe most, have done, would, particularly at this point, define stupid, and not the other way around.

            He belled the cow on his comment to Ryan, and on at least this one score all of us have to hope he prevails.

            A republic, classically, is a sovereign state whose authority rests with the people, either directly or through elected representatives.  In a pure, theoretical and practical sense, it differs from a democracy in how it balances individual versus collective rights.  In a republic, individual rights can sometimes prevail over civil or citizen rights.  The United States Bill of Rights protects individual rights.  For example, one vote on a jury can free an accused person in the dock, rather than how the majority might have voted on her innocence or guilt.  In a pure democracy, the majority rules, so 50% plus one assuring the majority interest could make for a democrat and the rights on one individual would make for a republican.  A conservative is by definition resistant to change with a default position respecting how things have been in the past. 

            What Ryan wants is a pledge from Trump that he will genuflect in the direction of what has been the current hard right ideology that has ruled the Republican Party.  The Republican establishment’s disgust with Trump is not necessarily about his xenophobic positions around Muslims or immigrants, but the fact that he is changing the game they have run and the rules they have made.  This dispute with Trump is about power, plain and simple.  Trump is correctly reminding Ryan that a republican is really someone who can cobble the citizens together around their representative positions and respect for their rights.  To the degree Trump has locked into the Republican base, is feeling their pain, and advocating their positions, even when they are abominable, he’s a better Republican, than he is a conservative.  He’s an apostate on the politics and policies of Reagan, the Bushes, the Ryan’s, and a host of others who don’t want change, and he’s all about change.

            Trump certainly shouldn’t be the President of the United States, but on this issue he is one-hundred percent correct, and for goodness sakes all of us have to root for him to blow the bums out of their conservative bunkers and bring change by the bucket load to the Republican ideology and practice.

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How is the Tea Party Able to Escape Taking the Blame for Trump?

image5507293xNew Orleans   It’s hard to avoid the guilty pleasure of reading the “woe-is-me, look what’s happening to the Republican Party” pieces being penned by conservative pundits and party leaders of the newly discredited party “elite.” The main theme has been, “damn, we missed the fact that the white working class was angry about lost jobs, lost income, free trade, immigration, and the featherbedding by the rich!” We still don’t hear enough in the way of mea culpa or “gee, I guess when you play with fire, sometimes you get burned.”

Racism and misogyny are not new problems, but part of the hardwired infrastructure of the Republican Party for more than 40 years. From their much vaunted “Southern strategy” to their embrace of religious pieties and attacks on women’s control of their bodies, these were not inadvertent strategic directions, but calculated paths forward for decades no matter how they are dressed up now.

None of this is current enough to describe the support of Trump by the base. The one thing that is though is the elite’s expedient embrace of the Tea Party movement and its issues within its base and the ham-handed way the party leadership exploited their anger while ignoring their interests. This is interesting to me, because the Tea Party is still not part of the blame-game conversation that is going on about the future of the Republican Party. I think the reason continues to be the Party’s unwillingness to discredit the Tea Party and its Trump-like realities and anger, because the Tea Party as an internal caucus in the Republican Party is still dominant enough to escape both condemnation and accountability.

Obviously it’s tricky for the Republican big whoops to admit to this since Senator Ted Cruz is still a possible option for them, and he’s wearing the Tea Party t-shirt all the way and Senator Marco Rubio, until recently rode the Tea Party to his Senate seat and got caught up in its sleeves when he flirted with a half-step immigration reform plan hoping to have the radicals and the elite backing his bid for the Presidency. But, how long can they get away with this silence? Trump and his phenomenal rise would not have been possible without the Tea Party activists paving the way. Furthermore the fact that too many Republican big whoops flirted with the Tea Party and pretended they were in love with their issues and base in order to get elected, and then left them hurt and crying in the aisle when they went their own way once elected, fuels a vote for Trump “telling it like it is” and kicking the butts of the big wigs.

The Tea Party oriented Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives is another good example of their car driving with the wheels off. Their ideological hero in the Senate is Ted Cruz and they are still out of control and playing with fire, but they are part of the fine line that Speaker Ryan is still walking with his tepid handling of Trump and his reduction to schoolmarm generalizations about manners and good behavior rather than common sense and accountability.

The Republicans have a problem. They can’t win without the radicals and playing with fire, and they don’t have the backbone to face them down and expel them from the party and try and go their own way. They either need to set the tea people free and let them be a separate party or give them the Republican Party and create a new one, because theirs is a house divided and for all of their hand wringing, they still are avoiding dealing with the hard questions and taking the right steps forward.

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Lightning Strikes and a Democrat is Elected Governor in the South

JBE_001New Orleans   Even when State Representative John Bel Edwards from small town Amite, Louisiana, known for little of nothing other than being near where Abita beer is made and on the way to Mississippi, led in the open primary against three Republicans, when asked about his real chances of winning, I was doubtful. He wasn’t the first Democrat to lead a primary race after all. The trick in recent years has been hanging on.

Edwards though ended up with a smashing, almost historic runoff victory, unseating the conservative Republican two-term sitting U.S. Senator David Vitter and administering a butt whipping with nearly a 150000 vote margin and winning by 56% to 44%. In ruby red Louisiana, in recent years a Republican stronghold, Edwards becomes the first Democrat in eight years to win a statewide election. In the Republican solid South with the recent defeat of Kentucky’s Democratic governor, Edwards will also soon become the only Democrat sitting in the governor’s chair in the South.

The pundits are careful to underline that Edwards’ victory does not mark a sea change, but something more akin to a rogue wave. True or false?

Well, it’s true enough that Edwards is a blue dog Democrat rather than a yellow dog one. He’s pro-gun and anti-abortion though wisely not foaming at the mouth on either issue. Significantly, he also benefited from long family and political ties to the critical local law enforcement groups and even won the association of sheriff’s endorsement. He also has a military background including West Point in his resume which meant his only experience with camouflage pants wasn’t while touring the set for Duck Dynasty like either Vitter or Louisiana’s occasional governor and until recently full-time presidential aspirant, Bobby Jindal. Nonetheless, he was enthusiastically endorsed by labor, and wildly loved by the teachers’ unions for his opposition to charters, privatization, and vouchers, which have been constant Jindal themes. He was also clear in a state with more uninsured than any other that he would expand Medicaid thereby embracing the Obamacare punching bag. He also had hardcore business opposition for his pledge to create a state minimum wage where now Louisiana has none.

The Kentucky strategy of tying Edwards to Obama to defeat him was a total loser though, even though it had worked for Vitter in the past. So, learn from that, pundit posse!

One clear lesson, always true and worth remembering, has to do with arrogance. Vitter’s history in the Louisiana legislature and in Congress has been to always fly solo while pointing his fingers at colleagues and trying to shame them for this and that. It turns out that what goes around, comes around, and Vitter was completely alone at the end. His Republican opponents either took a walk or endorsed Edwards calling Vitter “vicious” and a “liar. Voices in his support were few and far between. It turns out that if are a mean, self-servicing, son-of-a-bee, eventually it will bite you, and if you add hypocrisy to that, whoa, Nellie, you’re going down.

Another lesson has to do with competence in actually governing, rather than purity in ideological posturing, both administered by the Bobby Jindal ego-trip. When it’s Republicans in charge from top to bottom and the state is in a total fiscal and economic mess, and the majority of the citizens are hurting, eventually that bill will come due at the polls. Jindal for eight straight years had a budget that by constitution had to be balanced returned for fixing or fudging by the legislature, while kowtowing to out of state ideologues. The first rule of all politics is that you have to tend to your own base first, and the corollary should now be that if you worship at the altar of Republican orthodoxy and forget that rule then change is going to come.

It’s worth remembering that decades ago politicians and political scientists from V.O. Key onward once believed that the solid South meant everyone was a Democrat. Some thought, wrongly, that would last forever. I can remember my father saying he never had a choice in Louisiana about whether to register as anything but a Democrat or he would have only been able to vote once every four years for President, and he was right. The pendulum can and will swing, and the more the Republicans go harder and harder right, leaving more and more people out of the sight and out of mind, the more likely their dominance will be as temporary as it has been painful for people.

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Retiring One Halloween Election Boogie Man: ACORN!

cover-boogeymanNew Orleans   With the election here, the voter registration period is pretty much over in most states, except for those favored few who have same day registration, so it’s safe to finally talk about it a bit more and make some notes about some of the things that make 2014’s midterms different from elections over the last half-dozen years.

One difference that has been huge is that the Republican Party’s voter suppression effort has been so successful in some many states that even the fire breathers at Fox News and what’s left of the Tea People and other far right zealots seem to have finally slacked off on their efforts to make ACORN the boogieman for this election.  Google Alerts on ACORN have finally calmed down to a low murmur, rather than the high pitched roar of recent years. Of course James O’Keefe, the video-scammer is still trying to get a free lunch from ACORN and announced that he had set up an election PAC this season, but it was quickly buried in a universal yawn that escaped from the now perpetual sneer which now seems to be the universal response from the American public to his perpetual shenanigans.

This season the big ACORN news from the Google team was the splash made by Ottawa ACORN on their candidates’ forum!  By the way did any of you even realize the Toronto mayor’s election happened and the Ford family finally lost?

Of course it’s not completely over.  Some old reliable sources still take their best shot, but it is more often now on local races.  The New York Post wanted to make sure their readers knew that the “re-branded ACORN” New York Communities for Change was active in setting up a campaign committee in conjunction with New York State unions to impact the election of friendly legislators to implement their programs.  An ACORN-fixated blogger took a stab at trying to link another rebranded ACORN affiliate in Missouri to the Ferguson controversies, but never got traction there either.

Part of this trend is something less than good news.  The progressive forces are now seen more aggressively in local and state campaigns and less on the national arena perhaps where ACORN was a factor, particularly with its massive voter registration efforts. Races like the campaign in Richmond, California where city councils and mayors are trying to forge new public policies and take on corporations, like Chevron, are increasingly important.  Interviewing Tom Butt, a 19-year city councilman and now candidate for Mayor on Wade’s World  on KABF, recently, it was easy to feel the excitement.  Seeing the role of the Working Families Party aligning itself with Mayor de Blasio and a number of progressives and labor unions to remake the state legislature is vital and exciting.  There are a number of state minimum wage campaigns which could play important roles in turnout though no one seems to be watching this as closely as they might.

There’s still a huge gap with the absence of ACORN in the United States, but seeing the action on some of these political struggles and the inability of the right to continue to scare organizers and others by simply calling up the ACORN boogieman this Halloween, gives all of us more hope for the future

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Please enjoy the Song of the Month from Musicians United to Protect Bristol Bay, Si Kahn’s Mount Polley

Si Kahn’s Mount Polley – On August 4, 2014, the containment dam at Mount Polley Mine, British Columbia breached sending 2.64 billion gallons of wastewater and 1.36 billion gallons of solid tailings with a smorgasbord of toxins into local waterways. The facility that failed was designed by the same firm that is working on Pebble’ Mine’s tailings dam. The Mount Polley environmental catastrophe serves as a direct warning to us.

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Elite Panic and the Tea Party

Rebecca SolnitNew Orleans In an excellent book on community building in the wake of disasters of historic proportion, A Paradise Built in Hell, Rebecca Solnit raises a number of insightful points about what she refers to as “elite panic.”  In post-Katrina New Orleans we saw this all the time, the predictions of dire consequences and the frenzied mobilization of self-appointed big whoops running around trying to take charge, create emergency committees composed mainly of themselves, fund apocalyptic plans and studies tailored to their interests, and other such wildness in the name of protection, advancement, and the future of the city.

Reading past the marionette string pullers among big business donors and the professional Republican party operators shrewd and skilled enough to take advantage of the alienation, racism, and desperation at the base, the same “elite panic” in the wake of the Obama election and its administration over the last two years seems to be the driving force.  The fears triggered by race, “otherness,” and the sense of having been displaced and losing control setting off critical elites in a panic at what might come next and how it has to be stopped.  The Tea Party is one of the sharp points of a stick being wielded and thrashed about by the elites.

A recent story about Obama’s lost support on Wall Street, even after essentially betting and mortgaging the whole national farm on the bankers and brokers who hover there is more than ample evidence of my case in point.  All of this is bitter irony given how regularly Obama and his minions including the Wall Street apologists like Treasury’s Geithner and the White House’s Larry Summers, have done pretty much their bidding while millions have traveled the crowded road in the hand basket to hell.

I had a moment’s surge of hope reading a blog by a Chicago Sun political columnist who  parsed an Obama quote yesterday that might be construed as indicating he was ready to throw those fellas out finally, but that was, as usual, quickly dashed by among other things the administration’s recoiling from a Times story that had indicated that finally they might be ready to strap it on and go after the right wing coup that has manipulated the Tea Party so that the Republicans have been taken over by more extremists than is even usual for them.  Eventually, they are going to have to realize that this is a real fight and the elite panic that is driving this fight will not be assuaged by compromise but only by total victory.

We have to oppose that fiercely.

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