* **BREAKING NEWS – THIRTEEN RUSSIAN NATIONALS INDICTED FOR ELECTION INTERFERENCE
We will address in detail next week, but for now, see
1. For the latest on the Florida school shooting we point you to a couple of sources, one domestic, one foreign. First, The Miami Herald has been offering up-to-the-minute information. See: http://www.miamiherald.com/ and http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/broward/article200223414.html . And abroad, The Guardian offers good overviews. That paper reports more on the calls for better gun controls: “The school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that claimed 17 lives has provoked an eruption of impassioned calls for action against gun violence from young survivors, community leaders and a reeling sheriff left shell-shocked from one of the worst massacres in modern American history. At a Thursday press conference, local officials lined up to express their determination that something must now be done to stem the bloodletting in America’s schools and other public places. The shooting ranked among the top 10 deadliest gun rampages in the country, three of which have happened in the past four months.” The Guardian also criticizes President Trump’s consoling remarks: “But amid the anguished cries for action rising up from Florida, a national tone was set by Donald Trump that was largely devoid of a sense of urgency. In a televised ‘ address to the nation ‘ made in part directly to the children of America – ‘you are never alone’ he said – the president gave no concrete indications of steps to prevent repetitions of Wednesday’s disaster.” https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/feb/15/florida-shooting-suspect-charged-questions-nikolas-cruz .
How many US school shootings have there been in 2018 so far? The figure you may have heard,18, is from Everytown for Gun Safety, but The Washington Post believes this figure is incorrect. It depends on how you define a “school shooting,” and Everytown has counted a suicide outside the grounds and when the school was closed as one. They also counted accidental gun firings in or near a school. So definitions matter. And yet overall, concludes The Post, “What is not in dispute is gun violence’s pervasiveness and its devastating impact on children. A recent study of World Health Organization data published in the American Journal of Medicine that found that, among high-income nations, 91 percent of children younger than 15 who were killed by bullets lived in the United States. And the trends are only growing more dire. On average, two dozen children are shot every day in the United States, and in 2016 more youths were killed by gunfire — 1,637 — than during any previous year this millennium.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/no-there-havent-been-18-school-shooting-in-2018-that-number-is-flat-wrong/2018/02/15/65b6cf72-1264-11e8-8ea1-c1d91fcec3fe_story.html. So while Everytown is a worthy organization, it is important that gun-control advocates be scrupulous in checking their facts. A more reliab l e website for gun violence statistics is Gun Violence Archive. They do not attempt to define a “school shooting,” but they do report 424 children under 17 killed by gunfire in 2018: http://www.gunviolencearchive.org/ .
The Washington Post also pointed out that “[Trump] called the suspect in the mass school shooting in Parkland, Fla. ‘mentally disturbed’ and vowed to help local jurisdictions tackle mental health issues, but he made no mention of stricter gun control laws.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2018/02/15/trump-weighs-in-on-florida-shooting-calls-suspect-mentally-disturbed/ .
Our friends on the right have a couple of suggestions that they think are useful , which we are sure our school teachers will take to heart: “Here are two reforms that schools can make at minimal expense. First, if they have unarmed security guards, they can hire armed ones instead. And two, they can pay their teachers a little extra to become trained as armed security guards and carry guns while on the job.” [emphasis added] Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/456460/florida-school-shooting-arm-teachers. Another National Review author claims, “A man who is determined to kill and who is proactive in finding the means to kill will find guns. He can modify guns. He can find magazines. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do. When policies fail, people can and should rise to the occasion….Rather than tweet impotently, I’ve armed myself to protect my family and my neighbors; in my past role as a member of a school board, I’ve worked to better secure my kids’ school; and I’ve vowed that if — God forbid — I ever see evidence or warning signs of the darkness of a killer’s heart, I’ll have the courage to seek the intervention that can save lives.” [emphasis added] Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/456436/new-gun-laws-wont-stop-mass-shootings-people-can .
Of course, the impotently-tweeting left has a suggestion too: that guns—not people or mentally ill people—are the problem, if anyone cares to look at the evidence. That evidence is amassed in an article in Vox on Thursday: “Trump’s Florida shooting speech was one giant lie by omission. The president completely ignored the key problem: America’s abundance of firearms.” [emphasis added] If your friends want the proof, here are the stats and the numbers: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/2/15/17016396/trump-parkland-florida-school-shooting .
Finally, for a concise series of responses to the National Review and other jejune arguments against any gun control at all, see the op-ed by Jennifer Rubin, erstwhile conservative, in today’s Washington Post: “Gun absolutists need to stop making specious arguments . ” https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2018/02/16/gun-absolutists-need-to-stop-making-specious-arguments/ . *Highly recommended reading.
2. On Thursday, hopes faded for any resolution of the Dreamers’s status, as three bills failed in the Senate, with even Trump’s more extreme measure failing. “What will happen now is unclear. An estimated 690,000 young undocumented immigrants have been protected from deportation by an Obama-era program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. Another 1.1 million would be eligible. But Mr. Trump has rescinded the program, which offers temporary, renewable work permits. It expires March 5.” However, the Dreamers hope the courts will be able to intervene. Read the details in The New York Times here: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/15/us/politics/immigration-senate-dreamers.html .
Earlier, “[a] bipartisan group of senators [had] reached a deal on immigration Wednesday as President Trump attempted to preemptively undercut the proposal by delivering an ultimatum: Pass my plan or risk a veto.” So reported The Washington Post on Wednesday. However, “A growing sense of diminishing urgency also set in as top leaders signaled that ongoing court challenges may give Congress more time than Trump’s deadline of March 5 to replace an Obama-era program shielding hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation.” That appears now to be the only hope for some resolution. https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/trump-backs-gop-immigration-plan-rejects-limited-approach-on-dreamers/2018/02/14/56f52176-118f-11e8-9570-29c9830535e5_story.html .
3. Although the “Trump budget” will not really affect what Congress does in the end—it is considered “dead on arrival”—its utter cruelty is a measure of what may come in future non-election years. It proposes cutting food stamps, replacing them with a kind of market basket (“like Blue Apron”) of staples and halving the SNAP benefit; it would slash Medicaid by making it not an entitlement but a block grant to states to do as they liked; and it would cut public housing. It would raise military spending by 14% while cutting the State Department 29% and HHS 20%; it threatens both Medicaid and Medicare and would certainly increase hunger, poverty, and homelessness in America. Again, this proposal will not pass the Congress, which has already made clear its budget priorities, but it does illustrate the mindset and goals of a Trump administration . One of the most comprehensive reports is in The Washington Post, here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/trump-wants-to-overhaul-americas-safety-net-with-giant-cuts-to-housing-food-stamps-and-health-care/2018/02/12/a7cfd03e-102f-11e8-9570-29c9830535e5_story.html .
It is also worth pointing out that, however brutal and revolutionary the budget is, it is not Trump’s, and in fact he himself would be unlikely to support it. Who produced Trump’s budget? From Bloomberg News: “The plan the OMB sent to Congress is not, in any real way, the president’s budget proposal. It’s the proposal of OMB Director Mick Mulvaney and is the equivalent of a House Freedom Caucus document. It includes proposals that Trump has little interest in supporting or fighting for.” [emphasis added] Moreover, “[Congressional leaders] learned that Trump is indifferent to most policy questions, inconsistent on others, and easily rolled on almost anything. They know he doesn’t even bother reading his presidential daily brief — so there’s no reason to think ‘his’ budget is anything different.” For details on how this budget was prepared and how it indicates that Trump himself has little control over his agencies or their operation, read the Bloomberg report: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-02-12/who-produced-trump-s-budget-not-trump .
On the other hand: The New York Times does warn, “It will be tempting for some to dismiss Mr. Trump’s budget as a marketing stunt by his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, who was earlier a Tea Party zealot in Congress. After all, Congress last week passed, and Mr. Trump signed, a two-year bipartisan budget that authorizes a significant increase in domestic, as well as military, spending. But presidential budgets are statements of principles. They tend to reveal how administrations will try to change policy and funding levels…” Their editorial warns of a direction of cuts and savage attacks on the social safety net, and even to American infrastructure, to come if the White House attempts to reject that budget deal (which Bloomberg finds unlikely given Trump’s general indifference to policy, or indeed to governing). And The Washington Post agrees that despite its being a paper tiger, “the blueprint nonetheless speaks volumes about the president’s values — and contradicts many promises he made as a candidate. ‘This is a messaging document,’ Trump budget director Mick Mulvaney told reporters at the White House.” The Post outlines in detail how the budget betrays Trump’s own voters, and attacks the basic structure of government, detailing in eight key points the devastation the budget would cause all across the social order. Despite the theoretical nature of this budget, it is important to understand these ultimate administration goals (or at least those of its most radical anarchists): https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2018/02/13/daily-202-trump-budget-highlights-disconnect-between-populist-rhetoric-and-plutocrat-reality/5a8261a530fb041c3c7d7838/ .
4. Trump’s much-touted infrastructure plan would actually require states to come up with more money to build projects, and it has come under fire from state and local officials. “Unveiled on Monday, the infrastructure program that Mr. Trump has championed since the campaign is intended to attract a huge amount of additional money from states, localities and private investors. The goal is to generate a total pot of $1.5 trillion to upgrade the country’s highways, airports and railroads. Those financial priorities are crystallized in the new guidelines established by the White House. The ability to find sources of funding outside the federal government will be the most important yardstick, accounting for 70 percent of the formula for choosing infrastructure projects.” Since the emphasis will be on attracting private money, [p]roposals intended to serve more impoverished communities that require more state and local money, including improving drinking water in a place like Flint, Mich., could be given short shrift. Financial investors may not see a big profit in such a project,” reports The New York Times on Monday. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/12/business/trump-infrastructure-proposal.html .
5. Is America still a democracy? A special section. We take some space here to discuss a couple of books making the news. An article in the March issue of The Atlantic, by Harvard lecturer Yascha Mounk, argues “America is Not a Democracy.” This conclusion arises from many sources of data, but overall, he says, “across a range of issues, public policy does not reflect the preferences of the majority of Americans. If it did, the country would look radically different: Marijuana would be legal and campaign contributions more tightly regulated; paid parental leave would be the law of the land and public colleges free; the minimum wage would be higher and gun control much stricter; abortions would be more accessible in the early stages of pregnancy and illegal in the third trimester.” He adduces the findings of a 2014 study by Martin Gilens and Ben Page that sought answers to the question, “Who rules?” That is, do individual people have power to influence legislation? Interest groups like the AARP? Or business groups like the National Manufacturer’s Association? Or is it the economic elite?
The political scientists studied 1,779 policy issues over two decades. How did the preferences of various groups affect the policies and laws? They found that economic elites were able to stop legislation nearly all the time; they could advance their favored policies about half the time. Mass-based interest groups had little effect on public policy. And the view of ordinary citizens had no effect at all.
Of course, the founders did not really ever envision a full democracy. Popular views , as Mounk quotes Madison were to be represented by elected representatives, “‘whose wisdom may…best discern the true interest of their country.’ That this radically curtailed the degree to which the people could directly influence the government was no accident.” So the Founders gave us the Electoral College and appointed Senators. But over time, Mounk says, we have expected our government to be more responsive to popular opinion and more representative of marginalized groups. That did begin to happen, and perhaps reached its apex after the Voting Rights Bill of 1965. But that era is now over, and people are noticing, and noticing in part because of the growing gap in incomes and the sense that the next generation will not make the economic progress of the last. Since this belief that elites now control our lives is one important reason for the apparent “people’s revolt” that gave us Donald Trump, it is worth considering what less-apocalyptic measures might return us to a truer democracy. Mounk suggests some measures, like putting limits on modern lobbying. But his essay here is just a thought-provoking excerpt from his new book, The People vs. Democracy: Why Our Freedom is in Danger and How to Save It. The essay may inspire you to read his book. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/03/america-is-not-a-democracy/550931/ . *Highly recommended reading.
6. A good companion piece to Mounk’s work is the much-reviewed book by political scientists Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt: How Democracies Die. For Levitsky and Ziblatt, history shows us that democracies can die, not only by armed revolutions or invasions, but by steady erosion from within. Is America an autocracy? No, not yet. The authors point to modern examples, of Hitler, of Erdoğan in Turkey, of Viktor Orbán in Hungary, and Putin in Russia. “Autocrats often come to power through democratic elections rather than at the point of a gun,” summarizes Jenifer Szlali in her New York Times review on Jan. 10. “Establishment elites can inadvertently assist would-be despots, as insiders delude themselves into believing they can invite an outsider into power and then pull the puppet strings. As one German aristocrat boasted in 1933: ‘Within two months, we will have pushed Hitler so far into a corner that he’ll squeal.’ A ‘profound miscalculation,’ is how Levitsky and Ziblatt describe this attempt to share power with the Nazis.” What keeps democracies healthy, say Levitski and Ziblatt, is not a document like a Constitution, but rather certain “norms” that are violated at great risk. “They identify two in particular,” she reports, “’mutual toleration,’ or the understanding among competing parties and politicians that they are legitimate rivals rather than existential enemies; and ‘forbearance,’ or the understanding among politicians that just because they technically have the power to do something doesn’t mean they ought to use it. The erosion of these two norms can lead to a partisan death spiral. The authors argue that Trump has tried to eviscerate both.” We currently are kept from complete descent into autocracy by our operational free press and an independent court system.
The book is also reviewed at length in The Guardian on Jan. 24 by David Runciman, who says that “toleration” and “forbearance” “…amount to the same thing: resisting the temptation to take every cheap shot going. This is where Trump comes in. There are many words that might describe his political style but toleration and forbearance are not among them. Trump treats the presidency as a platform designed for settling personal scores. He appears to be almost entirely lacking in impulse control, yet without impulse control there can be no lasting democracy. As a result, the US now has as its commander-in-chief the norm-shredder-in-chief as well. Levitsky and Ziblatt do not think Trump spells the death of US democracy. What they fear is what he will leave behind. He has taken the growing mistrust and mutual intolerance that preceded him and turbocharged it. Levitsky and Ziblatt call it ‘democracy without guardrails’: a helter-skelter race to the bottom. How bad could it get? This book provides a swift survey of authoritarian politics around the world and finds the same pattern repeating itself. Twenty-first century strongmen do not suspend the constitution and replace it with tanks on the streets. They pay lip-service to the constitution while behaving as though it didn’t exist.” https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jan/24/how-democracies-die-review .
The Guardian in effect reviewed it twice, with columnist Nick Cohen remarking that, “The greatest of the many merits of Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt’s contribution to what will doubtless be the ballooning discipline of democracy death studies is their rejection of western exceptionalism. There are no vaccines in American (or, I would add, British) culture that protect us: just ways of doing business that now feel decrepit.” Read his Jan. 8 column here: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jan/08/how-democracies-die-by-steven-levitsky-and-daniel-ziblatt-review .
But opposing this gloomy view is Guardian columnist and scholar Cass Mudde, who responds that “there is a risk that outraged liberal commentators are overstating how bad things are. The dramatic, sweeping statements that everything used to be better and all is going to hell are becoming annoying – and counterproductive. From the outset, the liberal response to Trump – or in Europe, Brexit – has been over the top…. While some serious scholars of historical fascism have pointed out similarities between that era and (the rise of) Donald Trump, the ease with which the term is generally thrown around, and the reality of the situation in the US, makes most fascism accusations far-stretched at best and dishonest at worst.” He points out that much of this complaining is coming from positions of white educated privilege, and we need to examine our prejudices when attacking Trump’s anti-democratic leanings. Mudde is Associate Professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia and Researcher in the Center for Research on Extremism at the University of Oslo. So his conclusions have some weight as well. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/28/cas-mudde-democracy-fascism-trump .
7. The essay you have been waiting for: Woodward and Bernstein opine on, “Nixon fired the man investigating him. Will Trump?” Actually, their piece is a brief but potent recounting of the story in their book The Final Days, detailing the dramatic story of The Saturday Night Massacre, the firing of Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor. Those who do not know that story will find the story gripping; those who remember those days will find it a frightening potential foreshadowing of what may be about to come. Their piece appears in the Feb. 9 Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/nixon-fired-the-man-investigating-him-will-trump/2018/02/09/301abc0a-0bd1-11e8-8890-372e2047c935_story.html . *Highly recommended reading
8. The Washington Post broke the story on Wednesday that, ” [t]The Rob Porter scandal engulfing the White House is now under congressional investigation.” Trey Gowdy, chair of “the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is investigating the White House’s employment of former senior aide Rob Porter after allegations emerged that he abused his two ex-wives — a rare GOP foray into alleged misbehavior in the top echelon of the Trump administration.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2018/02/14/house-oversight-is-investigating-the-white-houses-handling-of-rob-porter-gowdy-says/ .
The Washington Post has been closely following the implications of the Rob Porter firing, and the timetable that led up to it. “The White House struggled Tuesday to contain a widening crisis over its handling of domestic violence allegations against a senior official, as it reeled after sworn testimony by the FBI chief directly contradicted what President Trump’s aides had presented as the official version of events. FBI Director Christopher A. Wray told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the bureau had completed a background report on then-staff secretary Rob Porter last July and closed out the case entirely last month. Wray’s account is at odds with White House claims that the investigation required for Porter’s security clearance was ‘ongoing’ until he left his job last week, after his two ex-wives publicly alleged physical and emotional abuse.” [emphasis added] The storm brewing may involve how much Trump himself knew about the charges and when he knew it. But it also directly implicates John Kelly, Chief of Staff, who is now exposed as a liar, even to his own staff. The Washington Post’s detailed timeline and investigation is here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/white-house-reels-as-fbi-director-contradicts-official-claims-about-alleged-abuser/2018/02/13/f010f256-10d9-11e8-9570-29c9830535e5_story.html .
Over the weekend, as many of our readers will know, Trump appeared to support his poor, unfairly-accused former aide, even after the photos surfaced of Porter’ s abused wife. “Trump on Friday warmly praised Mr. Porter,” reported The New York Times on Feb. 9, “saying it was a ‘tough time’ for his former aide and noting that Mr. Porter had denied the accusations. ‘We wish him well,’ Mr. Trump said of his former aide, who was accused of physical and emotional abuse by two ex-wives. The president added, ‘He also, as you probably know, says he is innocent, and I think you have to remember that.’” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/09/us/politics/trump-porter-abuse.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news . He walked that back on Wednesday, saying decisively that, he was “totally opposed to domestic violence.” He apparently did not say if he thought Porter was such an abuser. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/14/us/politics/john-kelly-rob-porter-security-clearances.html .
9. “Months after his chaotic resignation as chief of staff, and with his successor on the hot seat, Priebus comes clean about everything: the inauguration crowd-size fiasco, the decision to fire Comey, the Mooch, the tweets, how he helped save Jeff Sessions’s job, and his mercurial former boss. ‘I still love the guy,’ he says.” Reince Priebus tells all about the chaos in the White House, including running after Jeff Sessions to convince him not to resign in a huff, in a new book, The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency, by Chris Whipple. A selection was published Wednesday by Vanity Fair. https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/02/reince-priebus-opens-up-about-his-six-months-of-magical-thinking.
Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent summarizes some key remarks in the Vanity Fair piece, saying, “Former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus has given a remarkable interview to Vanity Fair that is getting some attention because it confirms once again that the most powerful person in the world is a raging, abusive megalomaniac. We learn that President Trump erupted at his staff over accurate media coverage of his paltry inaugural crowd; that officials competed for the title of most obsequious suck-up to Trump; and that Trump once commanded Priebus to swat a fly.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2018/02/15/priebus-reveals-ugly-new-details-about-trumps-fury-over-russia-probe/?utm_term=.d489a486826a .
10. Can a president obstruct justice by firing a federal employee? There has been considerable talk in right-wing circles that he cannot. But Greg Sargent of The Washington Post has spoken to Eric Posner, co-author of a California Law Review journal article that argues that he can be so charged. Sargent discusses the relevance of the Preibus interview to an obstruction charge, in the article above. Those readers with a legal background will be interested to read the California Law Review by the two University of Chicago professors, Posner and Daniel Jacob Hemel. They argue that “the president obstructs justice when his motive for intervening in an investigation is to further personal or narrowly partisan interests, rather than to advance the public good.” https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3004876 .
11. “BuzzFeed News will fight a lawsuit arising from publication of the infamous ‘pee tape’ dossier by proving some of the allegations against Donald Trump are true, Foreign Policy reported Tuesday.” [emphasis added] Be careful whom you sue for libel. “BuzzFeed is being sued for libel by Russian technology executive Aleksej Gubarev, who claims the website was reckless in publishing the series of memos written by Steele, paid for by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.” If the charges can be shown to be true, the libel case will collapse. So reports Vice, which also notes that “Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer, last month launched a suit against BuzzFeed News for defamation over the publication.” https://news.vice.com/en_us/article/4373nw/buzzfeed-pee-tape-donald-trump . It is also possible that this evidence could be of interest to the Mueller investigation. Foreign Policy reports that: “For the last six months, a team led by a former top FBI and White House cybersecurity official has been traveling the globe on a secret mission to verify parts of the Trump dossier, according to four sources familiar with different aspects of the ongoing probe.” http://foreignpolicy.com/2018/02/12/former-senior-fbi-official-is-leading-buzzfeeds-effort-to-verify-trump-dossier/ . [site may not work with Firefox.]
12. The Stormy Daniels hush-money scandal got, we might say, “hotter,” on Wednesday, after Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, released a statement saying that, while apparently admitting that $130,00 0 in hush money was in fact paid to Ms. Stephanie Clifford [her real name], it did not come from the Trump Campaign or the Trump organization. Cohen, in response to a legal complaint from Common Cause questioning whether this was a campaign payment, said he paid the money himself. But was he reimbursed? Can this still be, legally, an unreported campaign expense, hush money to cover up an affair? Would there be legal exposure for Cohen, or Trump himself? One way or another, this is astonishing, says The Washington Post writer Paul Waldman: “But let’s step back for a moment and marvel at the fact that The Perfect Stormy has drawn so little attention compared to what would happen if it were any other president. Remember: The president may have had an affair with a porn star who was paid $130,000 in hush money to keep it quiet, and we treat it like it’s the third- or fourth-most scandalous thing that happened this week.” [emphasis in original] https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2018/02/14/trumps-lawyer-just-made-the-stormy-daniels-affair-much-more-interesting/ .
13. But, amid all this talk about Trump’s apparent corruption and madness, is the left alienating voters? This is the urgent question posed by a shrewd and what-will-be-controversial op-ed in Politico by Rich Lowry. In his “Have Democrats Overplayed Their Trump Hand?,” Lowry argues that new data from Priorities USA polling shows that despite the left’s obsessions with Trump’s scandals, his tax bill has been popular, and his numbers on trust for economic issues have increased, even as the scandals have grown. He argues that, “[i]n their perpetual state of high dudgeon, Democrats are inviting voters to fixate on the latest uproar, while telling them to dismiss bonuses and pay increases — ‘crumbs,’ as House Minority Leader Pelosi deemed them — that are much more tangible. Per the Priorities USA polling, Trump still has dreadful ratings on anything having to do with how he conducts himself, but he is making progress on bread-and-butter issues.” So what to do? Lowry thinks that the Priorities report suggests “that the key to defeating Trump is normalizing him, running against him as a conventional Republican crony of the rich and big business who is re-dist ributing income upward. This Democratic message has worked pretty effectively for 80 years — why change it now? But a party that’s in a perpetual state of hysteria and, on top of that, is operating against the backdrop of an economy with 4.1 percent unemployment, may find it harder than expected to pull off its old tricks.” How will this play out in November? And how is the left to ignore the threat to democracy posed by Trump, as we have reported on above, while explaining how the tax and budget bills are misleading at best and that Republicans’ claims for them are fraudulent? A thought-provoking piece: https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/02/14/democrats-trump-presidency-216999 .
14. “This is what autocracy looks like!” It could be the chant of Viktor Urbán’s party, Fidesz, after they won the 2010 election in Hungary. Their “right-wing party had won unexpectedly sweeping political power in national elections. The question was how to use it. Several men urged caution. But Viktor Orbán, the prime minister-elect, disagreed. The voting result, Mr. Orban continued, had given him the right to carry out a radical overhaul of the country’s Constitution . Mr. Orbán won the argument.” The New York Times describes the chilling aftermath, as once-proud post-Communist Hungary has descended into a democracy in crisis, led by (at the very least) proto-fascist parties. Thanks to changes he made in the electoral system, he is assured of victory in the coming April elections. The Sunday Times describes the events that have shocked Europe: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/10/world/europe/hungary-orban-democracy-far-right.html.
“The EU has tolerated Viktor Orbán for too long. It has to take a stand now: The Hungarian leader’s latest target is Budapest’s critical, multicultural Central European University. His illiberal ideology must not be allowed to spread.” So headlined The Guardian, in an Apr. 3 op-ed by the scholar Cas Mudde, whom we quoted above. “Emboldened by Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, he proclaimed in his 2017 state of the nation speech: ‘We were black sheep, but now we are a success story, and this is also acknowledged – although perhaps reluctantly – by those who don’t like what we have achieved and how we have achieved it. Nothing succeeds like success.’ Orbán believes that liberal democracy has had its day and a more nationalist illiberal era is here, obviously started by him in Hungary.” Mudde warned of growing anti-Semitism, which indeed has grown all over Hungary. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/apr/03/eu-tolerated-viktor-orban-hungarian-central-european-university . For a frightening report on the depths of anti-semitism in Hungary, see The Hungarian Free Press, on July 19: http://hungarianfreepress.com/2016/07/19/viktor-orban-and-his-responsibility-for-rising-antisemitism-in-hungary/ . The Free Press reports on human rights issues in and from Hungary, and is published in English and based in Canada.
15. Who is really behind the candidacy of Jeanne Ives? Two articles note that her support comes from far-right businessman Richard Uihlein. “Illinois multi-multi millionaire Richard Uihlein, who is essentially bankrolling the right-wing insurgency that is seeking to unseat incumbent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, has also emerged as the single largest individual donor to outside spending groups across the country this election cycle. Uihlein, from Lake Forest on Chicago’s North Shore, has spent nearly $15 million of his own money during the 2018 cycle on those outside groups, according to OpenSecrets.org, the data arm of the Washington-based Center for Responsive politics.” This report from the 50 States Of Blue website also discusses Uihlein’s other national contributions, including 11.5 million to “Liberty Principles PAC, run by talk show host and conservative insider Dan Proft.” https://www.50statesofblue.com/2018/02/richard-uihlein-illinois-top-donor-jeanne-ives-campaign-finance/ .
And The Chicago Sun-Times reported on Jan. 30 that “He’s one of the most influential political money men in Illinois, and now Lake Forest businessman Richard Uihlein has decided to shift his money and influence from Gov. Bruce Rauner to the governor’s conservative primary challenger.” https://chicago.suntimes.com/news/gop-mega-donor-uihlein-makes-b-line-to-rauner-rival-ives/ . Illinois Sunshine reports that as of Feb. 15, Ives had $3,093,213.52 at hand; Rauner had $75,226,745.96. See all the totals here: https://illinoissunshine.org/contested-race-detail/gubernatorial-0/ .
For what it is worth, The Cook Political Report, as of Jan. 26, rated the IL governor’s race a “toss-up.” https://www.cookpolitical.com/index.php/ratings/governor-race-ratings .