1. There is plenty of noise and chatter on the political front this week. But we wish to return to what may become the defining moral story of our current era. We refer to the forced separation at the border of immigrant children and parents, the deportation of parents without their children, and the government’s inability to locate all the children, despite court orders.
A. In The New York Times on Aug. 22, Jennifer Anzardo Valdes, lawyer for the Children’s Legal Program at Americans for Immigrant Justice, a nonprofit law firm based in Miami, wrote a moving report called “Your Honor, Can I Play With That Gavel?” She points out that “Media coverage of the border crisis has heavily focused on separated parents and children. But migrant children’s nightmares are just beginning once they set foot here, as documented in the [accompanying] video. Every child that crosses the border without permission has an immigration court case to fight, but there is no right to free counsel in that court. So children, who sometimes speak only an indigenous language, are going up alone against government lawyers to fight to stay in the United States. If that sounds absurd, that’s because it is. Congress has the power to change this.”
Anzardo Valdes’s organization put together a coloring book to tutor young children about what court will be like. Over half of the children in court are unrepresented; 90% of them will be deported. Her organization is representing as many as they can.
One of the clearest and most moving records of this disaster that you will see is this video of the children coloring and learning about their day in court. Here is the URL to click on, or click on the video below: https://nyti.ms/2o1Is9l.
B. And in the Sunday Washington Post, the editors point out that “Sunday marked one month since the passage of a deadline, set by a federal judge, for the reunification of migrant children forcibly torn from their parents as a result of the Trump administration’s policy. Even as the date came and went, hundreds of those families remained sundered, in many cases with no immediate prospect of being rejoined, the children rendered effectively as orphans and wards of the U.S. government….
“By now it is well known, but still difficult to absorb, that the U.S. government broke apart families without the slightest notion or plan for how they would be reunited. This was bureaucratic barbarism on an epic scale. [emphasis added] And in its aftermath, there is no accountability, and scarcely a glimmer of regret, for the suffering it inflicted on human beings.” As far as we know now, about 528 children remain separated from their parents; 412 of their parents have been deported, and the ACLU has been able to reach only about 230 of them. Read a major newspaper’s moral outrage on its editorial page here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-trump-administrations-legacy-of-orphans/2018/08/26/820df666-a7e0-11e8-97ce-cc9042272f07_story.html.
C. In other immigration news, The Washington Post reported Thursday that the “U.S. is denying passports to Americans along the border, throwing their citizenship into question.” The citizens in question are Hispanic, with US birth certificates: “His official American birth certificate shows he was delivered by a midwife in Brownsville, at the southern tip of Texas. He spent his life wearing American uniforms: three years as a private in the Army, then as a cadet in the Border Patrol [!!] and now as a state prison guard. [emphasis added] But when Juan, 40, applied to renew his U.S. passport this year, the government’s response floored him. In a letter, the State Department said it didn’t believe he was an American citizen.
“As he would later learn, Juan is one of a growing number of people whose official birth records show they were born in the United States but who are now being denied passports — their citizenship suddenly thrown into question. TheTrump administration is accusing hundreds, and possibly thousands, of Hispanics along the border of using fraudulent birth certificates since they were babies, and it is undertaking a widespread crackdown.” [emphasis added] These US citizens are “being jailed in immigration detention centers and entered into deportation proceedings.” There had been reports of fraudulent birth certificates being issued in the Texas area by midwives years ago; but the real and the fraudulent ones were hard to distinguish, and the cases of fraud were limited. So the ACLU reached a settlement, and the government stopped prosecuting these cases under Obama. This has changed. Read full details here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/us-is-denying-passports-to-americans-along-the-border-throwing-their-citizenship-into-question/2018/08/29/1d630e84-a0da-11e8-a3dd-2a1991f075d5_story.html.
2. On Thursday night, Trump unleashed his most serious, potentially violence-provoking attack on the press yet, at a rally in Indiana. As Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent reports, “At his rally on Thursday night in Indiana, President Trump unleashed his usual attacks on the news media, but he also added a refrain that should set off loud, clanging alarm bells. Trump didn’t simply castigate ‘fake news.’ He also suggested the media is allied with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe — an alliance, he claimed, that is conspiring not just against Trump but also against his supporters.
“’Today’s Democrat Party is held hostage by left-wing haters, angry mobs, deep-state radicals, establishment cronies and their fake-news allies,’ Trump railed. ‘Our biggest obstacle and their greatest ally actually is the media.’”
Trump said these things knowing full well, Sargent points out, that a man in California was arrested this week plotting to attack “enemy of the people” reporters at The Boston Globe. “Trump also lashed out at the FBI and the Justice Department, claiming that ‘people are angry’ and threatening to personally ‘get involved.’” As Sargent points out, “there is no longer any denying that Trump continues to direct incendiary attacks against working members of the free press even though his own language is being cited by clearly unhinged people making horrifying death threats against them.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2018/08/31/trumps-latest-rally-rant-is-much-more-alarming-and-dangerous-than-usual/
3. Now we wish to step back—we will get to the detailed news soon—and ask the question, where are we now, and should we be optimistic or pessimistic about the future? Will Trump fall if the Democrats take the House? Will his approval rate fall if future revelations are more serious than we so far know? Are his followers so insulated from the news as we know it that there is nothing that will shake their support?
We here at Indivisible DuPage are not really pundits. And to some degree these questions can only be answered by looking closely at data and what polling of subgroups we have: perhaps not even then. What we can do here is report what the best columnists and writers have been saying, as the Trump presidency last week seemed to be in danger from prosecutors closing in.
A. First, we present an overview from the always-perceptive Thomas Frank, who in 2005 wrote What’s the Matter with Kansas?, a book asking the searching question, why do so many middle American conservatives keep voting against their own interests? This book has proved prescient in many ways. Now Frank has a new collection of essays, Rendezvous With Oblivion: Reports From a Sinking Ship, and his introduction has been reprinted on the TruthOut website.
“The essays collected here [in Rendezvous With Oblivion] scan over many diverse aspects of American life, but they all aim to tell one essential story: This is what a society looks like when the glue that holds it together starts to dissolve. This is the way ordinary citizens react when they learn the structure beneath them is crumbling. This is the thrill that pulses through the veins of the well-to-do when they discover there is no longer any limit on their power to accumulate….
“[After the 2008 crash], human intellect no longer served the interests of the public; it served money—or else it ceased to serve at all. That was the theme of the era, whether the locale was Washington, D.C., or the college your kids attended, or the city desk of your rapidly shrinking local newspaper. No one was watching out for the interests of the people, and increasingly the people could see that this was the case….
“Every trusted professional group touching the mortgage industry had turned out to be corrupt: real estate appraisers had puffed the housing bubble, credit rating agencies had puffed Wall Street’s trashy securities, and of course investment bankers themselves had created the financial instruments that were designed to destroy their clients. And then, as the larger economy spiraled earthward … as millions around the world lost jobs and homes . . . the trusted professionals of the federal government stepped in to ensure that their brother professionals on Wall Street would suffer no ill effects.”
Frank points out that “there was… something real about Trump — or rather about the suffering of the white working-class people who attended his rallies and who made him their president during the crazy election of 2016. These were people on the receiving end of the trends I’ve described; they were living in the world dominated by the self-serving professionals who screwed things up and survived to screw things up again. Despite what the Beltway types assured them, they knew that the wars were inexcusable and the elites were corrupt and the trade deals were bad. And what others saw as Trump’s falsehoods they saw as a form of honesty, a plain-speaking directness that was refreshing in all its vulgarity. They looked not to be saved by experts but rescued from them, and Trump’s achievement was to make himself the vehicle of their hopes.” Since he is their champion, they will not desert him. And even if his con game was just another political fraud, his supporters were willing to trust him; they had lost trust in everyone else. Written in Frank’s clear and often witty style, this is an analysis you won’t want to miss: https://truthout.org/articles/what-us-society-looks-like-when-it-starts-to-dissolve/. *Highly recommended reading
B. As for the data, what we have in polling shows no particular movement in Trump support, even after last week’s legal revelations. So reports The Hill on Monday. “President Trump’s approval rating held steady even after his former personal attorney implicated him in a campaign finance case, with voters also showing little appetite for impeachment, according to the latest Harvard CAPS/Harris poll released exclusively to The Hill.” The website says, “The number of Americans who approve of Trump’s job performance stood at 46 percent, according to the survey, in line with the president’s 45 percent support level last month.” The Hill also reports that “[t]he latest Harvard CAPS/Harris poll also showed only 37 percent of respondents advocated for impeachment, though that was up from 32 percent in June.” http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/403477-trump-approval-rating-holds-steady-despite-cohens-legal-firestorm
For what it is worth, poll aggregator FiveThirtyEight had Trump’s approval polling fairly constant over the summer at 41-42%. But early this morning, it dropped to 40.7% as a new Washington Post / ABC News poll (rated A+ by the aggregator) showed his approval at 39%. That poll “also finds that clear majorities of Americans support the special counsel’s Russia investigation and say the president should not fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions.” (Note: this poll is of 1000 adults, not registered voters.)
C. In an op-ed for The New York Times on Aug. 24, Roger Cohen writes, resignedly, from the American West, in a column titled, “How Far America Has Fallen,” that the West is “the bit of the United States the rest of the world finds hardest to fathom. Why the scorn for handouts, the equating of universal health care with socialism, the obsession with self-reliance, the refusal to see that a profusion of guns leads to a profusion of mass shootings? Of course a crowded Europe with its wounds seeks solidarity in the name of stability, while America with its wide-open spaces embraces the right to be left alone (at least until you need Medicaid) and the right, whatever its risks, to the next frontier.
“I said it’s different in the West. It’s not so different in the West, it’s just that you see more clearly what the country stood for in its own mythologized self-image, what it was to be an American, what it was to aspire to some new and exemplary measure of freedom, and how far things have fallen to produce President Donald Trump.” He observes that “[h]is supporters, and there are tens of millions of them, never had illusions. I’ve not met one… who did not have a pretty clear picture of Trump. They’ve known all along that he’s a needy narcissist, a womanizer, a lowlife, a liar, a braggart and a generally miserable human being. That’s why the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape or the I-could-shoot-somebody-on-Fifth-Avenue boast did not kill his candidacy.
“It’s also why the itch to believe that the moment has come when everything starts to unravel must be viewed warily.
“For William Steding, a diplomatic historian living in Colorado, American individualism has morphed into narcissism, perfectibility into entitlement, and exceptionalism into hubris. Out of that, and more, came the insidious malignancy of Trump. It will not be extirpated overnight.” How far Cohen’s argument can be generalized, how exceptional the 2016 election was, will be tested in elections to come. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/24/opinion/trump-colorado-purple-state.html
D. In a severely pessimistic article, the usually coolly analytical Paul Krugman, writing in The New York Times on Monday, headlines, “Why It Can Happen Here: We’re very close to becoming another Poland or Hungary.” The extreme right-wing parties there “have destroyed the independence of the judiciary, suppressed freedom of the press, institutionalized large-scale corruption and effectively delegitimized dissent. The result seems likely to be one-party rule for the foreseeable future.
“And it could all too easily happen here. There was a time, not long ago, when people used to say that our democratic norms, our proud history of freedom, would protect us from such a slide into tyranny. In fact, some people still say that. But believing such a thing today requires willful blindness. The fact is that the Republican Party is ready, even eager, to become an American version of Law and Justice or Fidesz, exploiting its current political power to lock in permanent rule.” Why?
“We’re currently sitting on a knife edge. If we fall off it in the wrong direction — specifically, if Republicans retain control of both houses of Congress in November — we will become another Poland or Hungary faster than you can imagine.
“This week Axios created a bit of a stir with a scoop about a spreadsheet circulating among Republicans in Congress, listing investigations they think Democrats are likely to carry out if they take the House. The thing about the list is that every item on it — starting with Donald Trump’s tax returns — is something that obviously should be investigated, and would have been investigated under any other president. But the people circulating the document simply take it for granted that Republicans won’t address any of these issues: Party loyalty will prevail over constitutional responsibility.” He points out that as the revelations and accusations and strong suggestions of illegal acts piled up last week, Republicans just closed ranks around Trump: “Now it’s clear that there are no limits: They’ll do whatever it takes to defend Trump and consolidate power.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/27/opinion/trump-republican-party-authoritarianism.html
E. But in another op-ed in The Times, Michelle Goldberg offers some hope that, in effect, history will shift if Democrats take the house. Writing on the same day as Krugman, she points out that “[i]f Democrats take the House in the November midterms — which the model of the statistics website FiveThirtyEight gives them about a 70 percent chance of doing — that helplessness ends. Contrary to Republican claims, there are no Democratic plans for imminent impeachment proceedings. But there will be subpoenas, hearings and investigations. Things that haven’t mattered for the past 19 months suddenly will.” So despite the cultish devotion of Trump’s supporters, evidence against Trump will begin to bite.
She points out that the prospective chairs of committees are not planning to get revenge or begin impeachment. But at the same time, the return to “regular order,” the normal committee process of hearings and investigations preceding legislation, will inevitably mean “a level of accountability that the Trump administration has never faced. Adam Schiff, who is poised to lead the House Intelligence Committee if Democrats win a majority, plans to renew the committee’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election.” Schiff will investigate Trump’s finances, and other committees will be able to subpoena Trump’s tax returns. Such new accountability will, whatever the outcome, mean a new turn in the history of this administration. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/27/opinion/trump-democrats-midterms-house-oversight.html
F. The team of lawyers who wrote about Trump’s exposure after the Manafort conviction in The New York Times last week (we referenced the piece in our Must-Reads) have a new analysis in The Washington Post on Aug. 22. Noah Bookbinder, Barry Berke, and Norman L. Eisen write, “Trump’s real problem is that he obstructed justice, and Mueller can prove it. Here’s how.” They point out that “President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen says the president ordered him to violate federal campaign finance laws during the 2016 election. As bad as that news is for Trump, the president faces an even more immediate legal peril: Even from the publicly available information, it’s now clear that Trump obstructed justice.
“Robert Mueller’s team is surely reaching the same conclusion, which means it is highly likely that Mueller will refer an obstruction case to Congress for further action. He could also seek to indict co-conspirators, and he could name the president himself in an indictment.” They reference such publicly-known facts as the firing of Comey, the pressure on Sessions, and the revocation of security clearances of officials working on the Russia investigation. And beyond Trump, Mueller may indict other White House officials; and if a president cannot be indicted under DOJ guidelines, then it is still possible for Mueller to defer the indictment until a later time. https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2018/08/22/trumps-real-problem-is-that-he-obstructed-justice-mueller-can-prove-it-heres-how/
4. In a stunning announcement, “The White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, will be leaving the administration this fall, President Trump tweeted Wednesday morning, leaving the president’s side just as the sprawling investigation into Russian election interference could come to a conclusion,” reports The Times.
5. On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported, in an important story, that “President Trump, who levied extraordinary public attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions in recent weeks, has privately revived the idea of firing him in conversations with his aides and personal lawyers this month, according to three people familiar with the discussions. [emphasis added]
“His attorneys concluded that they have persuaded him — for now — not to make such a move while the special-counsel investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign is ongoing, the people said. But there is growing evidence that Senate Republicans, who have long cautioned Trump against firing Sessions, are now resigned to the prospect that he may do so after the November midterm elections — a sign that one of the last remaining walls of opposition to such a move is crumbling.” The Post names several Republican Senators who seem to have made their peace with Sessions’s firing, including Roy Blunt, Richard Shelby, and Lindsay Graham. Others, including Mitch McConnell, still support him and are urging him to hang in; and several, including Graham, have urged Trump to keep Sessions on until Mueller makes his report. But as Sherrod Brown said, “’I wouldn’t trust this president to put someone in place [who] wouldn’t an hour after he’s sworn in fire Mueller.’” This does not seem as if it will end well. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-privately-revived-the-idea-of-firing-sessions-this-month-according-to-people-familiar-with-the-discussions/2018/08/28/13e84a6c-aa40-11e8-a8d7-0f63ab8b1370_story.html
And on Thursday Politico reported that Trump himself “for the past 10 days has been venting his anger at Sessions to ‘any senator who will listen,’ as one GOP Senate aide put it.” Trump has been urged to wait until after the midterms.
6. In another sign of his growing panic, extremism, and demagoguery, Trump stirred up evangelical leaders on Monday. In a tape of the event smuggled to The New York Times,Trump is heard equating Democratic control of the House with the ascendency of violent antifa terrorism. “President Trump warned evangelical leaders Monday night that Democrats ‘will overturn everything that we’ve done and they’ll do it quickly and violently’ if Republicans lose control of Congress in the midterm elections…. ‘They will end everything immediately,’ Mr. Trump said. ‘When you look at antifa,’ he added, a term that describes militant leftist groups, ‘and you look at some of these groups, these are violent people.’” As The Times points out, “The blunt warning — delivered to about 100 of the president’s most ardent supporters in the evangelical community — was the latest example of Mr. Trump’s attempts to use the specter of violence at the hands of his political opponents and to fan the flames of cultural divisions in the country.” The meeting was in in the State Dining Room of the White House, and included ministers and pastors, to whom “Mr. Trump talked about religious liberty, abortion and youth unemployment.”
“Mr. Trump bantered with the religious leaders at the dinner, noting at one point that Robert Jeffress, a Dallas evangelical pastor who once said Jewish people were going to hell, had observed that Mr. Trump ‘may not be the perfect human being, but he’s the greatest leader for Christianity.’ ‘Hopefully, I’ve proven that to be a fact,’ Mr. Trump said, prompting applause, before adding, ‘In terms of the second part, not the first part.’” That quote is enormously illuminating, and may be one example, at least, of Trump telling the truth about himself. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/28/us/politics/trump-evangelical-pastors-election.html
7. If we are talking about violence, we should remind our readers that the biggest threats of violence so far have come from neo-Nazi and extremist White nationalist groups, as we saw in Charlottesville. Earlier this month, ProPublica, in collaboration with PBS’s Frontline, researched hate groups and produced a report, “Documenting Hate: Charlottesville.” It aired on Aug. 7. This powerful TV exposé was accompanied by a series of reports in ProPublica. You can watch this documentary here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DaOZvsaTyIs*Highly recommended viewing. But be warned: it is a powerful exploration of violence on both sides, but particularly on the growing threat from neo-Nazi and White supremacist groups, who practice para-military training.
And in a follow-up report on Aug. 7, ProPublica documents the failures of the police in Charlottesville. “On Aug. 2, 2017, Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer convened a closed meeting of the City Council. The Unite the Right rally was days off, and Signer was concerned about how to manage the potential for trouble. The Virginia State Police were there. So, too, was the chief of the Charlottesville Police Department. Signer and the council members asked the law enforcement officers present directly: Was there a ‘specific, credible threat’ of violence? There was none, the elected officials said they were told.
“Signer, in a recent interview with ProPublica and Frontline, said he never actually saw security plans for the event until weeks after the fatal rally. ‘I wish that we had known more. I wish that we had been given more information by the state intelligence apparatus,’ Signer said. Asked if the police had indicated that white supremacists would come heavily armed to the marches on Aug. 11 and Aug. 12 — some marchers had guns, clubs and pepper spray, among other weapons — Signer said, simply, ‘No.’” Federal officials had in fact expressed fear of violence, but the police ignored the intelligence. https://www.propublica.org/article/for-charlottesville-authorities-a-painful-post-mortem-on-preparedness
8. There was some further violence in the South over the weekend, as The Washington Postreported. “Protesters clashed Saturday at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — resulting in several arrests — a few days after a group toppled a Confederate soldier’s bronze statue that was erected on campus more than a century ago. Some protesters held Confederate flags while others chanted, ‘White supremacy’s got to go, hey hey ho ho!’ Police arrested seven people, many of whom were charged with assault.
The Washington Post did report on the story, saying that the new numbers reflected a more realistic methodology. “Researchers with George Washington said they counted deaths over the span of six months — a much longer period than usual — because so many people were without power during that time. ‘That caused a number of issues,’ Goldman said, explaining that people were forced to exert themselves physically or were exposed to intense heat without fans or air conditioning. ‘It’s fairly striking that you have so many households without electricity for so long. That’s unusual in the U.S. after a disaster.’” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/28/hurricane-maria-new-death-toll-estimate-is-close-to-3000
10. In a further escalation of tensions with North Korea, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Tuesday that the US will no longer suspend military exercises on the peninsula. As The New York Times reported, “the Pentagon chief’s comments came amid souring relations: In the last week alone, the United States canceled a trip by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Pyongyang and North Korean state media accused the United States of ‘double-dealing attitudes’ and ‘extremely provocative and dangerous military moves.’
“Any resumption of large military exercises involving the Americans and South Koreans is certain to infuriate North Korean officials, who regularly denounce such operations. [emphasis added] And the reversal reflects confusion within the Trump administration about how to deal with North Korea. The president’s declaration of victory after his landmark summit meeting in Singapore in June has given way to tense accusations and counteraccusations….
“At the State Department, Heather Nauert, the chief spokeswoman, said Mr. Pompeo remained committed to finding a diplomatic solution — but only if Mr. Kim takes sufficient steps ‘to completely denuclearize North Korea.’” As The Times points out, North Korea never actually did commit to this.
11. In an illuminating essay in the Sep. 10 issue of The Nation, veteran political correspondent John Nichols offers an insightful essay exploring the candidacy of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old democratic socialist who defeated a veteran congressman in a primary in New York’s 14th District. Nichols sees Ocasio-Cortez’s candidacy, and her campaign appearances, as a national phenomenon. “Ocasio-Cortez’s call to arms pits her against the managerial elites who have made centrism the default position of the Democratic Party, even as it lost control of the presidency, Congress, the majority of governorships, and close to 1,000 state legislative seats. To renew its fortunes, grassroots activists argue that the party must stop pulling its punches. For these veteran campaigners and newcomers alike, Ocasio-Cortez speaks the language they want to hear from party leaders.” She tours with Bernie Sanders promoting progressive candidates in primaries all over the country. Some win, some lose. But her wins are impressive, including James Thompson’s win in a highly conservative Kansas district that sent Mike Pompeo to congress before his appointment as Secretary of State. Certainly it will be a difficult district to flip, but Thompson and Ocasio-Cortez drew large and enthusiastic crowds.
Nichols shadows the candidate on a tour through the heartland. “Ocasio-Cortez talks about ‘reprioritization’: having the ‘political and moral courage’ to place the needs of working families ahead of the demands of billionaires for tax cuts, and ahead of a military budget packed with items that the Pentagon ‘didn’t even ask for.’ This rebalancing of priorities on the side of human needs has been at the heart of the American democratic-socialist impulse for more than a century. At least since Michael Harrington and others founded Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) decades ago, it’s been at the heart of efforts to move the Democratic Party to the left. It’s the program that Bernie Sanders brought to his 2016 presidential run, in which he explained that his ideas extended from those of FDR and Martin Luther King Jr….
“Ocasio-Cortez has been on a journey reminiscent of the one that swept the young winner of the 2004 Illinois Democratic Senate primary, Barack Obama, onto the national stage. She isn’t a member of Congress yet, but she is all over the late-night and Sunday talk shows and has keynoted Netroots Nation, as well as solo events in packed halls in Los Angeles and San Francisco. She has more than 820,000 Twitter followers, and candidates across the country covet her endorsement. Conservative media figures savage her as ‘a Marxist [and] communist running for election [as] a Democrat’ (Rush Limbaugh), ‘downright scary’ (Sean Hannity), and ‘petrifying’ (Meghan McCain). And she has provoked feverish pontificating about whether Democrats might finally abandon the centrism favored by a circle of elite campaign donors and strategists, who imagine that America is so divided that it can no longer be stitched up into a great coalition in the tradition of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal or even Obama’s ‘Yes We Can.’” [emphasis added] Read this important profile of an emerging powerhouse on the Democratic Left: https://www.thenation.com/article/the-alexandria-ocasio-cortez-effect/*Highly recommended reading
Post political columnist Greg Sargent put the significance of this race this way: “The stunning victory of Andrew Gillum in the Florida Democratic gubernatorial primary sets up a test for one of the left’s biggest propositions: That the most potent weapon against Trumpism lies in combining an unflinching vow to roll back President Trump’s inhumane and incompetently executed ethno-nationalist agenda with unabashed progressive economics — including the promise of health care that is truly universal, as a matter of right.”
Note Sargent’s conclusion, which has resonance for many national races: “As Crooked Media’s excellent podcast series on the Democratic Party details, a big question for many liberals is whether a new popular majority can be built in a diversifying country by combining a refusal to back off a robust defense of minority rights in the face of Trump’s white identity politics with a kind of pragmatic progressive populist economics that promises more inclusive prosperity for all. The idea is to energize core Democratic constituencies and to win over white voters who are now alienated by both the xenophobic nationalism and the corrupt plutocracy of Trumpism.” An exciting race to watch.
And on Wednesday, before all the punditry’s ink was dry on the Florida race, Republican Ron DiSantis was accused of making a racist remark on Fox News: “Only hours after their primary election victories, DeSantis appeared on Fox News and called Gillum an ‘articulate” candidate, adding: ‘The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting this state. That is not going to work. It’s not going to be good for Florida.’” Uh oh. As reported in The Guardian and more fully in The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/29/us/politics/desantis-monkey-up-gillum.html.
Gillum will have to address attacks like this. But he will also have to deal with the fact that “[j]ust two months into his candidacy last year, the F.B.I. delivered a subpoena to City Hall requesting reams of documents as part of a corruption investigation centering on a city redevelopment agency. Court records and reporting by the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper revealed that, since 2015, undercover F.B.I. agents had posed as businessmen looking to make investments in the city. The investigation has appeared to focus on a city commissioner and on a lobbyist and longtime friend and ally of Mr. Gillum’s who helped secure a land redevelopment deal.” However, Gillum himself was not a target or a suspect, and was not himself named in any subpoena. So reports The New York Times in an analysis of the race, which, as readers can see, will be brutal. And costly: “The November contest could be one of the most expensive in the country.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/29/us/politics/andrew-gillum-florida-governor.html.
13. For more on the primary races in Florida and Arizona, see The New York Times’s summary, “4 Takeaways from Tuesday’s Primaries.” These include breakthroughs for black and women candidates; challenges to Trumpism in the Sun Belt, which was as crucial to his election as the Midwest; and unusually strong ideological clashes in governors’ races. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/29/us/politics/arizona-florida-election.html
14. The struggle over the mission and direction of the Democratic Party will be reflected in the coming contest to identify a presidential candidate who can successfully challenge Trump in 2020. At least two possible candidates are in talks to decide on their future course, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. For an extended examination of their relationship and the thinking of the senators and their supporters, read this interesting article in the Aug. 28 The Atlantic. Titled “How Sanders and Warren Will Decide Which One Runs for President,” the piece by David Catanese suggests that both sides are preparing to argue their points for winning the nomination. But, says Catanese,” Advisers to both senators tell me they strongly doubt the two ideological allies would run against each other, given their genuine mutual fondness and the sober realization that their support bases vastly overlap.” Sanders’s people believe he has the established on-the-ground network of motivated supporters, a huge mailing list, and experience with an almost-successful presidential race.
Warren’s supporters can look to her record of Senate achievement and her working pragmatically with Republicans to pass legislation (which Sanders has not done), meaning “she’d enjoy a higher ceiling of support with a broader constituency, due to her fortified relationships with both the progressive and more establishment wings of the party.
“Don’t expect either of them to wait very long to make the decision,” reports Catanese. “Last time around, Sanders’s team instructed him that the quicker he moved, the faster he would stomp out the Draft Warren movement. Now they are urging an even earlier entry, ‘to cut off the lure to get her in.’ The message to Sanders from one aide, ‘Be in the race by early 2019.’
15. The debate over the cost of Sanders’s Medicare for All continues, as reported in a Washington Post story, which says, “When a libertarian think-tank published a study of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) Medicare for All plan last month, it said that Sanders’s plan would cut payments to providers such as hospitals and doctors by 40 percent.
“The number suggested Sanders’s plan was wildly unrealistic, and that his plan for achieving universal health care relied on either massive cuts to doctors and hospitals or would prove far more expensive than he was otherwise saying. But Sanders’s supporters say the figure is misleading, and that doctors and hospitals could absorb cuts to their payments under the plan, which also would extend free government health insurance to every American in the country.” Another study, by “socialist think-tank the People’s Policy Project, puts that number at 11 percent. The Urban Institute, a centrist think-tank, found the number is closer to 13 percent.” Sanders claims that savings on premiums would cut health care costs by $2 tln over 10 years. But that assumes big cutbacks in Medicare payments for drugs and hospital costs. Check out the thinking behind the numbers, and how the issue is being debated, here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2018/08/27/what-would-sanderss-medicare-for-all-plan-mean-doctor-pay/.
16. Sex, Lies, and Audiotape department. We report on a major retraction of a claim by Michael Cohen’s lawyer, widely reported last week, that his client has information about Trump’s advance knowledge of a Russian offer to his campaign to share information about Hillary Clinton. As The Washington Post now clarifies: “An attorney for Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, is backing away from confident assertions he made that Cohen has information to share with investigators that shows Trump knew in 2016 of Russian efforts to undermine Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Lanny Davis, a spokesman and attorney for Cohen, said in an interview this weekend that he is no longer certain about claims he made to reporters on background and on the record in recent weeks about what Cohen knows about Trump’s awareness of the Russian efforts.” Davis now says that it is still possible that Cohen’s claims are correct, but he, Davis, cannot verify them. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/attorney-for-michael-cohen-backs-away-from-confidence-that-cohen-has-information-about-trumps-knowledge-on-russian-efforts/2018/08/26/09d7f26e-a876-11e8-97ce-cc9042272f07_story.html
17. The Handmaid’s Tale Department. Have you heard about The Cyrus Prophecy?Well, if you were hoping for Trump’s impeachment and removal, be careful what you wish for. Mike Pence is waiting in the background, and by God, he is really really ready. So says a piece in CNN online, which claims that evangelical Christians imagine that Trump is like the ancient Old Testament pagan king, Cyrus, who returned the Jews to Jerusalem. They see Trump as a flawed man who will nevertheless lead them out of this secular swamp where they face discrimination and a loss of their religious freedom. As for Pence, “Pence’s favorite Bible verse reads: ‘For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ He cites it when he discusses the opportunities that come his way, and to explain the confidence he brings to politics.
“Pence’s theology says that God selects in advance which individuals will become believers and rewards their faith regardless of what they do. [emphasis added] This belief allows for all sorts of bad behavior, if it can be framed as supporting the ultimate goal of promoting the evangelical agenda.” So if Trump goes, say Pence’s supporters, “’Mike will be ready.’” This, reports CNN, “is the line Pence’s aides and allies use as they contemplate his place in a post-Trump world.” https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/28/opinions/mike-pence-plan-to-outlast-trump-dantonio-eisner/index.html
“Our other big issue with Peter Roskam here at CSGOPOTD is that he’s a climate change denier. Back in his 2006 campaign, during a debate against Tammy Duckworth, he drew groans from the crowd after he called studies into global warming “junk science”. It may not be a coincidence, then, that one of the pieces of legislation he once sponsored, that called for oil drilling in the Alaska Arctic Wildlife refuge was co-sponsored by fellow CSGOPOTD, noted climate change denier, and fellow Illinois Congressman John Shimkus.”
Kos takes “a brief look at Roskam’s supposedly ‘moderate’ voting record,” and details some of his “stomach-turning votes” against things like aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy and the ACA. They conclude: “And, the man coming at Roskam in November would be Sean Casten, an Illinois businessman who has started up several green energy businesses throughout Illinois, and provides a huge contrast to the climate-change-denier Roskam…. We’re keeping an eye on this race, because Casten seems like he’s cagey enough to bloody Roskam’s nose in one of these debates between now and November, and we don’t want to miss it.” https://m.dailykos.com/stories/2018/8/9/1786999/-Crazy-Stupid-Republican-of-the-Day-Peter-Roskam-2018-Update