“Rigged,” What’s New?

2016-electionsNew Orleans   Headlines in both the local and national papers focused on Donald Trump’s unwillingness to commit that he would honor the verdict of the voters in a democratic election. Clinton responded in the debate that his position was “horrifying.” My question continues to be, “What’s new?” Am I the only one who wonders why this is such a flashpoint now, and hasn’t been for the last eight years or longer?

Part of this is both personal and political for me, as I have noted before. But at least I’m not alone. David Weigel writing in The Washington Post this week had a memory that was longer than yesterday’s news cycle, and began his piece this way:

According to the Republican nominee for president, his opponents were “on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history.” In an ad, his campaign warned of “nationwide voter fraud” that could swing the election. His running mate worried, in a fundraising letter, that “leftist groups” were trying to “steal the election.”

 

The candidate was not Donald Trump. It was Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who in the final weeks of the 2008 presidential election embraced the theory that ACORN, a community organizing group previously embraced by Democrats and Republicans, was helping to rig the election for Barack Obama by filing fake voter registration forms.

Poor Weigel. He’ll probably be fired soon for pointing out that the emperors continue to walk naked in Congressional hallways and DC corridors. It also goes without saying, and time has proven this out, so I’ll bore everyone by saying, that no such thing happened, nor was there ever any evidence then or now to back up such nonsense about voting.

Even for McCain in 2008 this was an old saw, rather than something he was inventing. Such claims on voter fraud based on voter registration work have been part of the standard operating procedure on election tactics for Republicans for a number of cycles, certainly since the concept of “battleground” states became prominent and the George W. Bush election turned into a Supreme Court disputed umpire call after Al Gore won the popular vote. In Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania for a number of election cycles before 2008, ACORN had been the subject of similar attacks and fabrications with fake FEC complaints and state election charges all of which would be withdrawn by early the following year after the elections were over. Our assumption had been that McCain had wrongly assumed that the election might be close with Obama and was tactically hedging in order to prepare claims in some states and hope for a repeat of the Bush 2000 scenario. As it turned out, he was stomped by Obama, so none of that emerged, though thanks to McCain the target for conservatives would stay on ACORN’s back.

And, let’s be honest about all of this. Of the hardcore 40% base that is sticking with Trump and listening to all of this balderdash, I would put good money on the fact that a huge percentage of that base has still refused to accept the legitimacy of President Obama’s two election victories and the work of his eight years. The continuing drumbeat of the Republican faithful up until recently that ACORN stole both elections and was preparing to steal this one is more than sufficient evidence for such a bet.

Once the votes are all counted, the winner will be named, and whether Trump and his Trumpeteers accept it or not isn’t relevant come Inauguration Day, except that such schoolhouse door resistance to the choice of voters in our fragile democracy only assures even more polarization and extremist from Congress on down to the grassroots.

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Hillary Moving Right, Already, Where Do Progressives Go?

imagesNew Orleans   The headlines in today’s papers range from the bizarre to the insulting.

Donald Trump is having trouble getting Republicans that he has spit on to kiss and make up. The Bush family, one and all, have declined to endorse him. He’s attacking former opponents like Senator Lindsey Graham with vigor. House Speaker Paul Ryan wants to join an alternate reality, even though he’s chairing the Republican Convention, and strategists are suggesting that candidates for the House and Senate avoid the Convention like the plague. That’s enough for the bizarre.

For the insulting, one has to turn to the Clinton campaign which seems to be double-clutching to shift gears from its recent appeals to progressives and the liberal base in the contests with Senator Bernie Sanders to re-position her candidacy, and presumably the Democratic Party and its platform, to something of a center-right party in order to be a more comfortable home for disaffected Republicans fleeing from Trump. Progressives, the young, minorities, immigrants, Muslims, women, Clinton is calculating that none of us have any other place to go, so it’s time to her to swerve hard right.

What are we facing here? One far-right fringe party, led by Trump, calling itself Republican, and one center-right party, calling itself Democrat?

Don’t get me wrong. Of course Hillary needs to go bottom-fishing given how much mud Trump has thrown into the pool. Sure, extend an olive branch, a glad hand, a big, fat grin, but why move right and why the rush? Why not conclude that they can either be no-shows or people with no place to go? Why walk back on the mildly progressive positions so recently weakly embraced?

Seems everybody is being pushed in and out of parties, but no one wants to do the work to actually build their own parties. Let Trump have whatever he wants to call it. Chances are if he wins, or comes close, he’ll re-brand whatever elephantine thing he has left with his name anyway. Let Ryan, the Bushes, and whoever, fight over whatever they think the Republicans pretend to stand for. And, if Hillary wants to make the Democrats back into a 21st century version of the center-right party that Bill Clinton tried to assemble in the 1990s and beat the drums for Wall Street and war and whatever this right shift settles into, how many slaps up against the head is it going to take the rest of us to realize we need a home of our own, too?

One’s a headache and the other may be a heartache, but eventually we need to go somewhere that we’re wanted and respected. And, that’s a far better place to be.

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Trump May Be Bad for Republicans but End Up Good for America

872ee2250d2a46388bd09dc64a242d79-be9e180507fc4bb49a3125bb6f926a08-2New Orleans   The Republicans are going after the mogul, Donald Trump, hot and heavy now. They’re hitting him both high and low….in fact very low, though the lower they go, the better he seems to like it and the more some people like him.

Fox News seems to have invited him to a butt-whipping in the Michigan debate, the last one before the next big round of primaries. They seem to be fascinated that he flip-flops, basically proving that big time developers selling castles in the sky, are exactly the same as politicians selling candy cane versions of the past and sugar plum fantasies about the future, just as the rest of us had always known. Did it matter? Not much.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio seems beaten, bruised, and out of his element. He’s pulled his expenditures and campaigns back from Ohio to make a last stand in Florida where he has already indicated he is forfeiting his Senate seat and Trump is still leading by 7 to 10%. Texas Senator Ted Cruz and the Donald himself are running all over Louisiana seeing this as another ruby-red state where they might Duke it out. Yes, that was a pun!

Reportedly, big donors talked to both of these boys before the debate and encouraged them to keep the gloves on with each other, hang tough, and go after Trump in a desperate hope to have an once-in-a-lifetime brokered convention. An even richer brew is being concocted by some pols and donors for a third-party bid. Zombie-Romney came back from the political graveyard to take some solid shots at Trump’s unacceptability. There is starting to be serious discussion and debate about whether a Trump candidate might shift control of the U.S. Senate to the Democrats. Who says election years are ever boring?

The bottom line is that Donald Trump, now the current and seemingly on-going frontrunner for the Republican nomination for President is driving the Republicans totally crazy from precinct chairs on up to the Speaker of the House. Many focus on his xenophobic, racist, misogynist comments as if they are somehow aberrant, rather than just a clearer expression of the dog whistles and guttural roars that have built the Republican Party state by state for the last number of decades. His flirtation with the KKK and his dilatory handling of David Duke, the former grand pooh-bah of the white sheet wannabes may have come too far over the line even for the Republican Party.

Is it too much to hope that there might be a direct ratio working in the Trump candidacy that allows us to believe that there might be a direct proportionality between how bad Trump is for Republicans and how good he might be for America. Like it or not, if his crazy campaign and demagoguery either forces the Republicans to move to the mainstream or, even better, splits the party in two, separating the fringe freaks from the middle-righters, all of us as true patriots will owe Trump our deepest thanks for his service to the sanity of our politics in coming years.

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If Rubio is a “Moderate” Republican, We’ve Got Trouble!

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks during a rally Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks during a rally Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

New Orleans   Ok, I called the Iowa caucuses for Hillary, based on the strength of her organization, and sure enough her organization pulled it out for her by a hair, though in delegates awarded it was a tie, and, maybe, we’ll see down the road, where she might end up with more in Iowa at the next levels. Sanders still looks good on my bet for New Hampshire, but after Iowa I’m scared to death. Clinton is still the overwhelming favorite for the Democratic nomination, but the fear I’m feeling it is all about the general election. Entitlement doesn’t count in that contest and nothing crashes like a retread when it blows out. This could break very bad. Not just because of Clinton’s campaign and her posture as a candidate, which surely has to be corrected, but also because of this so-called Republican establishment and what it considers a “moderate,” especially when applied to someone like Florida Senator Marco Rubio.

Nate Silver, who I still miss when his 538 blog ran in the Times, took a look at Rubio as a “moderate” almost exactly three years ago. Puzzle this, my friends, when Silver mashed up the polls on voting records and weighted the scores statistically he found Rubio had a score of 51 on the scale of conservatives, a couple of points to the right of the average in the Republican Congress. Yikes! And, more conservative than McCain, Romney, and George W. If he’s a moderate, what was Attila the Hun? Silver finds,

The last two Republican presidential nominees, John McCain and Mitt Romney, had a score of 39 by comparison, meaning that they were more moderate than Mr. Rubio. Mr. Rubio is also rated as being to the right of Ronald Reagan, who had a score of 44, and George W. Bush, who had a score of 46. Among Republican presidential nominees since 1960, in fact, only the extraordinarily conservative Barry Goldwater, who had a score of 67, rates as being more conservative than Mr. Rubio.

Fast forward to today where Rubio is already legendary for reneging on immigration reform and a respected site thinkprogress.org highlights the problem on Rubio’s distinctly immoderate positions. Their short list includes these horror stories:

· He wants to permanently extend the government’s controversial spying programs.
· He has pledged to roll back marriage equality.
· He supports multiple voter suppression efforts.
· He doesn’t believe in climate change.
· He opposed federal action to help prevent violence against women.
· He believes employers should be able to deny birth control to their employees.
· He doesn’t think women who are victims of rape or incest should be allowed to get an abortion.

He’s young, he’s Cuban-American, his wife is not an ex-President, but an ex-Miami Dolphins cheerleader, and he’s from Florida, which is a must-have bellwether in a general election, and he’s Teflon with little backstory or record, and we could have big, big trouble. She can beat Trump or Cruz, but Rubio is dangerous.

Some of his Republican opponents slam him as being the “Republican Obama.” They may think that’s a slur, but I’m scared: that’s Clinton kryptonite!

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2013/02/19/us/politics/conserv-chart/conserv-chart-blog480.png

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2013/02/19/us/politics/conserv-chart/conserv-chart-blog480.png

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Maybe the Republicans Don’t Want to Run the Country, Just the States?

Doug Mills/The New York Times

Doug Mills/The New York Times

New Orleans   President Obama predictably in his last State of the Union address made the case for unity, change, and a new politics.

Makes sense. For the Democrats there is a bedrock belief in the future, demographics is destiny. Change is a friend. All things will come to those who wait.

How do we understand the Republicans though now that they are caught in their great divide? Building a higher fence at the border and deporting millions guarantees them little support in the Latino community? Cutting federal taxes, export-import banks, the federal budget, squeezing infrastructure investment, and free trade agreements alienates them from their corporate sponsors and even if there may not be many votes there, it’s their money that has filled their coffers? What’s up with all of this?

Eventually I have to wonder if the Republican base and a lot of their financiers and even key leaders even want to run the country on a national basis. Sure, there’s no rehab program for the ambition addiction of individual politicians, but I’m talking about the rest of the gang and the people behind them.

It seems for the Republicans the bedrock belief is in the past, demographics is defeat. Change is not a friend, and waiting means that the window could close on them forever.

Most of them probably believe there is no way to ever realistically achieve their ideal of no government, since it’s still a big, bad world out there, but for many it is hard for me not to conclude that they’ve given up on governing the complex, massive behemoth of a federal government. It’s hard not for me not to start think that all of this national stuff and chest beating is a smokescreen: they’ve decided not to be a national party, but to make their last stand state by state.

It can’t be just coincidence. Too much evidence is piling up. It’s all about division.

· Take healthcare, 31 states now in with the Louisiana decision, and 19 out.
· Take guns, different rules in every state with no hope of federal action.
· Take land and they are doing just that, taking land, and claiming that the federal government should give over the land to the states so it could parcel the pieces out to mining, oil and gas, timber companies, and ranchers.
· Take environment, where the Senate Majority leader wanted states to rebel over the coal emissions standards and most of them would scuttle the EPA in a minute.
· Take the poor, and believe me they would love for us to take them, but from Speaker Ryan on down their answer is “block grants,” no matter how they’ve failed, and that means “money for nothing,” since the same 19 or more would take the money and let the poor run or try to pay for bus tickets to their neighbors on the Nevada plan.
· Take workers and their unions, or what’s left of them, where they are using the states to undermine any notion of federal protections for workers, wage increases, and semblance of union security.

The beat goes on and on. This isn’t just tactics, it’s becoming a clear strategy. Make the country ungovernable and hunker down in the states as a last stand at the Alamo and hope you can run the clock out and freeze time. The devil take the hindmost.

***

Please enjoy Bonnie Raitt’s Gypsy in Me. Thanks to KABF.

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The Money Primary: Ted Cruz Thins the Republican Herd and Scares Democrats

2016-money-raceNew Orleans      We now have three elections in the United States.  There’s the general election in 2016 of course when we pull the lever for our candidates, sorting out the ballot babies from the two main contenders offered by the Republicans and Democrats.  There’s the primary election where we poll between candidates earlier in the election year to see who might emerge on the final ballot.   For many of us this is a trivial exercise because our scarlet red states have watched earlier bellwethers, super Tuesdays, and significant prizes earlier in the year. This vote is often more of habit than heart.  And, then there’s the third election that happens much, much earlier where dollars, not votes, are counted that has become one of the most important, if not THE most important, primary operating solely for the one-percenters, deep pocketed, and self-interested where we are ordered to simply watch and wait.

Speaking for this vast, “silent majority,” and I can admit to have been already ticked off seeing Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side pile up such a huge league that the nomination is being all but conceded to her without any of the primaries being conducted, and then Jeb Bush streak to the lead in the Money Primary for the Republicans enough to become almost a frontrunner one day after being uncertain to run the next.  Bush being a Bush, and the Republicans being Republicans, they have become surprisingly committed to chaos and discordant voices, so a score of wannabes remained in the field, no matter how hapless and long their shots might be.

Senator Ted Cruz from Texas was an excellent example, so far right that he seemed the most radical of the crew, a captive of the Tea Party and an anarchist at heart.  The New York Times even ran a piece recently, clipping the heels off his boots by stating that he was less than heartily loved “deep in the heart of Texas.”

But, that was then, and this is now, and the Money Primary allows voting twenty four hours a day, seven days a week and follows its own whim, as money is like to do, not some regular schedule that makes it easy for pundits and papers.  In the Money Primary, Senator Cruz just put a huge ante on the table as his people confirmed that, in what seems like a one-week collection blitz, they scored and have almost finished collecting $31 million for four Super PACs that will coordinate expenditures with each other in support of Cruz.  None of this bundling for him, a Long Island private equity, hedge fund guy seems to have fallen head over heels for Ted and led the big bucks parade.  One veteran Republican fundraiser was quoted by the Times to the effect that most of the big boys would have thought they could raise and budget $30 million for the entire primary season.  With Cruz laying down $31 million almost nine months before the first primaries when all of the rest of us get to come out and play, too, I would bet he just forced the calculations to double to $60 million, maybe even triple towards $100 million for the serious candidates.

The Republicans have already seen one candidate, Mitt Romney, their 2012 standard bearer, pushed out in the Money Primary, when his big rollers told him in so many words, that they had “been there and done that.”  Now with this Cruz news a lot of the little Republicans must have spent some time on the phones and in conference with their families, telling them they would hang in for a hot minute, but their race was “one and done.”  Count Louisiana’s governor, Bobbi Jindal as toast, but Rick Perry of Texas, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, Senator Lindsay Graham, and a bunch of others are also burned to a crisp.  You might have Senator Marc Rubio as still viable, but I would bet he’s on the bubble, too. Senator Rand Paul just announced, but his race now seems way more quixotic with a Cruz ideology and money sucking up the space.  Governor Chris Christie was already late for the party, and now he’s a goner, whether he admits it or not.  Jeb Bush and his money juggernaut just realized they are in a fight to the death.  There are still a lot of candidates and Cruz is a wild and crazy guy, so some of those that can put together the cash will still be viable, but the dark horses just got pushed off the track.

On the Democratic side they just got the memo that there’s a new game in town, and they better double down if they want to be able to compete in the general election, because whoever emerges on the Republican side is going to have a pile of money and the will and ways to have raised it.   Eventually, the rest of us will get to vote, but once all the money is raised and spent, the only mystery will be if any of our votes and voices matter compared to the big buck boys and their millions calling the shots.

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