Local interests: Read about the Monday Casten-Roskam debate in The Daily Heraldeditorial offices, #15 below. A video is available.
*********** BREAKING NEWS
This morning, Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign chairman, agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Manafort pleaded guilty to two criminal charges, one count of conspiracy to defraud the US and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice. He was convicted last month on bank and tax fraud charges and was to go to a second trial on separate but related charges. Manafort had worked for Russian-backed politicians in Ukraine, and the charges here related to that work. It is still not clear what information he may be able to provide the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election or possible collusion by with Russia by the campaign. Details here.
1. Our readers will by now have heard that Barack Obama is back, on the campaign trail and giving speeches. His first public by-name denunciation of Trump was, as they say, a barn-burner. Some of thebest coverage in print media we have seen was in Politico, by Eric Isaac Dovere. He reports, “For all the unprecedented moments Trump’s presidency has brought, Obama’s speech, which kicked off his midterm campaigning, marked a new one: a former president going on the attack directly against his successor—and arguing directly that the man in the Oval Office isn’t just a political opponent, but a threat to the core of America itself.
“’I’m here today because this is one of those pivotal moments when every one of us as citizens of the United States need to determine just who we are, what it is that we stand for,’ Obama said. ‘As a fellow citizen, not as an ex-president, I’m here to deliver a simple message, which is that you need to vote, because our democracy depends on it….’
“’It did not start with Donald Trump. He is a symptom, not the cause,’ Obama said to applause. ‘He’s just capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years….’
“He added later, ‘Over the past two decades… the politics of division and resentment and paranoia has unfortunately found a home in the Republican Party’
“Nor, Obama said, should anyone feel good about the idea, expressed in the anonymous New York Times op-ed earlier this week, that there are adults in the room managing Trump. ‘That is not a check. That’s not how our democracy’s supposed to work. These people aren’t elected,’ he said. ‘They’re not doing us a service by actively promoting 90 percent of the crazy stuff that’s coming out of this White House, and saying, “Don’t worry, we’re preventing the other 10 percent.”’
2. We have covered the charade of the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. You will perhaps have heard about calls from various leftist groups to pressure senators, particularly Democrats from red states like Joe Manchin in West Virginia or Joe Donnelly in Indiana. But, says the always-interesting Michael Tomasky, don’t waste your time. It’s all over but the shoutin’. In a persuasive op-ed in Monday’s New York Times, he points out that, “Democrats did the best they could. Pressuring red-state senators to vote no will backfire.” As he says, no Republican senator, not Collins and not Murkowski, is about to vote no. So, “unless lightning strikes, Mr. Kavanaugh will be confirmed to the court sometime in the next few weeks and will take his seat before the court’s next session starts in October.”
What this means is that if somehow the vulnerable Dems do vote no under pressure, it will make no difference to a count that is already 51-49 and will only expose them to vicious attack ads that would threaten their seats.
But there is a second point to be made, and Tomasky makes it well. “But here’s the second and more important reason to give the red-state Democrats a pass here. This battle wasn’t lost last week, and it sure won’t be lost by these red-state Democrats if they vote to confirm. It was lost in 2016. [emphasis added]
“It was lost by the Democratic Party, the Hillary Clinton campaign, and the courts-oriented grass roots and public-interest groups that didn’t do nearly enough to explain to the Democratic rank and file in 2016 that a Clinton victory would mean a liberal court majority for the first time in 30 years.”
“I kept waiting and waiting that fall for Ms. Clinton to emphasize this point, or for other prominent figures to say, ‘Look. You’re not wild about Hillary Clinton? Fine. Are you wild about Roe v. Wade, same-sex marriage, protections for immigrant children, campaign finance contribution limits? Then you’d damn well better vote.’
“It never happened. So that’s on them. But honestly, regular voters should have been mature enough to have figured this out on their own. They’re to blame, too.”
But the folly runs even deeper. “If you live in Wisconsin and thought it would be neat to vote for pot-friendly Gary Johnson, then Brett Kavanaugh is partly your fault. If you are a Michigander who thought you were sticking it to the man by voting for Putin buddy Jill Stein, Brett Kavanaugh is partly your fault, too.”
3. A. So, Roe will be overturned or eviscerated; Trump will have his executive privilege upheld; corporations will get to contribute endlessly to campaigns; voting rights are eroded; and immigration policy is whatever the administration wants. The long-term effects of this presidency will reverberate for decades. But what will be the longest-lasting damage this administration will do?
A piece by Tom Engelhardt in The Nation may shock you into awareness of a threat the scale of which is global and catastrophic. It is titled, “Trump’s Biggest Crime Isn’t Being Covered by the Mainstream Media; It’s been overlooked, but it probably makes him the most criminal president in history.”
Engelhardt is clear about the immediacy and the endurance of the threat: “By the time he’s done, the swampiness of Washington and the nation will undoubtedly be beyond calculation, but that is not what history will remember him for….
“On that score, the record is clear, in part because we are already beginning to live the very future that will remember Donald Trump in only one way. It’s a future that, at its core, has animated his presidency from its first days. Whatever else he thinks, says, tweets, or does, President Trump and his administration have been remarkably focused not just on denying that humanity faces a potential future of environmental ruin—as in the term ‘climate-change denial’ so regularly attached to a startling list of people in his administration—but on aiding and abetting the disaster to come…. [emphasis added]
“Every act of his related to energy reveals the leader of the planet’s ‘last superpower’ as a climate-change enabler of a sort that once would only have been the fantasy of some energy company CEO.
“This makes him and his administration criminals of a historic sort. After all, he and his cronies are aiming at what can only be thought of as terracide, the destruction of the environment of the planet that has sustained us for thousands of years. [emphasis added] That would be a literal crime against humanity so vast that it has, until this moment, gone unnamed and, until relatively recently, almost unimagined.”
Want the science here? Engelhardt continues, “In the wake of this summer, climate-change denial, however ascendant in Washington, is an obvious joke. [emphasis added] You no longer have to be a scientist studying the subject or even particularly well informed to grasp that. As New York Times reporter Somini Sengupta put it recently, in covering the heat waves that have engulfed the planet, ‘For many scientists, this is the year they started living climate change rather than just studying it.’ The rest of us are now living it as well. The math is no longer even complicated. As Sengupta points out, 2018 is shaping up to be the fourth-warmest year on record. The other three? 2015, 2016, and 2017.” https://www.thenation.com/article/trumps-biggest-crime-isnt-being-covered-by-the-mainstream-media/
B. The Washington Post has a story Wednesday on how climate change is showing up from California’s forests to the Atlantic hurricanes. Meteorologist Eric Holthaus explains that “In my two decades as a meteorologist, I can’t recall a single storm [like Florence] that threatened new all-time records in all three of these [wind, rain, storm surge], simultaneously, anywhere in the world. Despite what some of my more hesitant colleagues might say, you can connect individual weather events to climate change in this day and age. Quite simply, Hurricane Florence is a storm made worse by climate change…. Like the otherworldly wildfire smoke that dimmed the British Columbia sun last month or the clear-day floods that routinely hit the Marshall Islands, this week’s potentially coastline-erasing landfall is a glimpse into a haunting world that has arrived too soon.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/we-brought-florence-upon-ourselves/2018/09/12/eaf376ca-b6b2-11e8-b79f-f6e31e555258_story.html
4. Not to put too fine a point on it, but The New York Times reported this Monday on the latest assault on the air we breathe and the climate we are altering. The headline tells it all, really: “Trump Administration Wants to Make It Easier to Release Methane Into Air.”This is not, sadly, a headline in The Onion. Read on: “Methane, which is among the most powerful greenhouse gases, routinely leaks from oil and gas wells, and energy companies have long said that the rules requiring them to test for emissions were costly and burdensome.
“The Environmental Protection Agency, perhaps as soon as this week, plans to make public a proposal to weaken an Obama-era requirement that companies monitor and repair methane leaks, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times. In a related move, the Interior Department is also expected in coming days to release its final version of a draft rule, proposed in February, that essentially repeals a restriction on the intentional venting and ‘flaring,’ or burning, of methane from drilling operations.
“The new rules follow two regulatory rollbacks this year that, taken together, represent the foundation of the United States’ effort to rein in global warming. In July, the E.P.A. proposed weakening a rule on carbon dioxide pollution from vehicle tailpipes. And in August, the agency proposed replacing the rule on carbon dioxide pollution from coal-fired power plants with a weaker one that would allow far more global-warming emissions to flow unchecked from the nation’s smokestacks.”
As if to confirm Engelhardt’s judgment that the Trump administration’s damage to the earth will be enduring and perhaps harder to roll back, The Times points out that “The proposals exemplify President Trump’s policy quest to roll back regulations on businesses, particularly oil, gas and coal companies. While significant aspects of the president’s broader agenda — including immigration and trade policy, and the proposed border wall with Mexico — remain mired in confusion, and as the administration struggles under the investigation into the presidential campaign’s ties with Russia, the E.P.A. and Interior Department have steadily pressed forward with rollbacks of environmental regulations.” [emphasis added] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/10/climate/methane-emissions-epa.html
5. Trigger warning: We hate to upset our readers, but it is hard not be… alarmist… about the future habitability of our planet. There was more bad news on the environment and agency enforcement from The Washington Post, which analyzed data released under a FOIA request. The paper reports, “On the campaign trail, Donald Trump vowed to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency ‘in almost every form. We’re going to have little tidbits left, but we’re going to take a tremendous amount out.’
“As president, he is making headway on that promise. [emphasis added]
“During the first 18 months of the Trump administration, records show, nearly 1,600 workers left the EPA, while fewer than 400 were hired. The exodus has shrunk the agency’s workforce by 8 percent, to levels not seen since the Reagan administration. The trend has continued even after a major round of buyouts last year and despite the fact that the EPA’s budget has remained stable. Those who have resigned or retired include some of the agency’s most experienced veterans, as well as young environmental experts who traditionally would have replaced them — stirring fears about brain drain at the EPA. The sheer number of departures also has prompted concerns over what sort of work is falling by the wayside, from enforcement investigations to environmental research.” [emphasis added]
6. A visible emblem of climate change is the decline of the monarch butterfly. Now a touching report has appeared in The New York Times by Margaret Renke describing her attempts to raise monarchs from mail order caterpillars and from eggs dropped on her garden’s milkweed. You can do this too, but the best way to help is to plant local-adapted milkweed. She reports, “As a species, the Eastern monarch — an iconic butterfly that migrates 3,000 miles every year — is in serious trouble. A changing climate is part of the problem, imperiling the monarch’s Mexican wintering grounds and spawning extreme weather events that can destroy millions of migrating butterflies. And pesticide drift can poison caterpillars even when they aren’t the targeted pest.
“Monarch caterpillars are never targeted, in fact, because monarchs are important pollinators that don’t eat crops or damage gardens. Their caterpillars eat only milkweed, which was once ubiquitous along American roadsides and in the margins between fields on small farms. The biggest danger to the monarch butterfly is the disappearance of milkweed because of habitat destruction and the widespread use of herbicides, like Roundup, by both commercial farms and state highway departments.” Moreover, according to “the Center for Biological Diversity, which advocates adding the monarch to the federal endangered-species list, the North American monarch population has dropped more than 80 percent in the last two decades.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/03/opinion/to-save-monarch-butterfly-plant-milkweed-now.html
To plant local-adapted milkweed in your area, see this website: Monarch Watch, here. And in DuPage County, consult the plant experts at The Morton Arboretum.
However, it is good to report that, here in Illinois this year, “The iconic insects known for their bold orange and black wings are being observed in Illinois at some of the highest levels of the past 25 years as they migrate south for the winter. [emphasis added] Preliminary data collected by the Illinois Butterfly Monitoring Network shows Monarch butterfly population is at the fourth highest level since 1993.” [emphasis added] But over time, “In Illinois, the overall population trend has neither increased nor decreased during the past several years” [emphasis added] So says The Daily Herald: https://www.dailyherald.com/news/20180907/monarch-butterflies-reach-highest-levels-of-past-25-years-experts-say
7. A. On Wednesday, The New York Times broke the story that “the overall number of detained migrant children has exploded to the highest ever recorded.” [emphasis added] At federal detention centers, the number of detained migrant children has shot up to 12,800, up from just under 2500 in May, 2017. The Times found that “The huge increases, which have placed the federal shelter system near capacity, are due not to an influx of children entering the country, but a reduction in the number being released to live with families and other sponsors, the data collected by the Department of Health and Human Services suggests. Some of those who work in the migrant shelter network say the bottleneck is straining both the children and the system that cares for them. Most of the children crossed the border alone, without their parents. Many are teenagers from Central America, and they are housed in a system of more than 100 shelters across the United States, with the highest concentration near the southwest border.” (These are not the 2500 children taken from their families earlier in the year.)
Part of the problem with housing them in foster homes is that many families are reluctant to work with HHS, since in June the administration announced it would fingerprint potential sponsors as well as all adult members of their households. This discourages sponsors who may be illegal themselves; and even if they do volunteer, it can take months for fingerprinting and vetting to conclude, leaving children in detention almost indefinitely. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/12/us/migrant-children-detention.html
B. We reported last week on the administration’s efforts to undo the Flores agreement, the “court-imposed time limits on the detention of migrant children.” [emphasis added] As The Times summarized, they “propos[e] to end 20 years of judicial oversight and allow families to be held indefinitely in secure facilities as their cases wend through the immigration courts.”
In the Sunday Times, the editorial board responded sharply, with an editorial titled, “Don’t Let Migrant Kids Rot: If the Trump administration gets its way, the government will be able to detain the children indefinitely.” The paper says, “Officials are now prohibited from detaining such minors for more than 20 days by an agreement known as the Flores settlement, which has been in place since 1997. The new rules would end that settlement and would likely open the door to an expansion of detention centers across the country. [emphasis added]
“D.H.S. says that by eliminating Flores, officials will deter illegal immigration, reasoning that undocumented adults will be less likely to enter the country to begin with if they know they can’t avoid long-term detention simply by having a child in tow. Immigration activists say the proposed rule’s true aims are both simpler and more diabolical than that: ‘They want to strip away every last protection for detained immigrant children,’ says Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.”
In this case, readers can and should take action. The Times reports, “The proposals will be open to public comment for the next 60 days before they can be finalized. Readers who wish to register their concern can do so on the Federal Register’s website.
“After that period, the issue is almost certainly headed to court. Observers say the same judge who has ruled against past attempts to undermine Flores is likely to thwart this attempt as well.” So why do this if the odds are low that the court will agree? The Timeshits it just right here: “The administration surely knows what a long shot this proposal is, but it will undoubtedly excite President Trump’s political base as the midterm elections approach. So while the administration plays politics, the well-being of thousands of children who came to America seeking protection and safety will be put at risk — today and, developmentally, for the rest of their lives.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/09/opinion/editorials/dont-let-migrant-kids-rot.html
8. As Hurricane Florence approaches the East Coast, USA Today reported that funds for FEMA were diverted this summer to ICE. “The Trump administration took nearly $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s budget this summer to help boost U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to budget documents shared with USA TODAY.
“The revelation, just ahead of Hurricane Florence’s expected landfall in North and South Carolina, was found by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., who first shared the documents live on MSNBC late Tuesday.
“He told USA TODAY that after the devastation of last year’s storms, including hurricanes Maria, Harvey and Irma, FEMA should have the funds it needs to be prepared for another disastrous hurricane season.
9. We have expressed skepticism that the 25th Amendment is ever going to be a viable strategy for controlling or removing Donald Trump (especially given a Republican congress, 2/3 of which is not going to approve a finding of incapacity).Now historian David Greenberg, professor of history and journalism and media studies at Rutgers, and Rebecca Lubot, a policy and legislative specialist with a PhD in history from Rutgers University, have written a history of the amendment, of why it was needed and how it was debated in the 1964–65 congress. They first offer an explanation of how it actually works. (For the text and a brief explanation, readers can consult the Wikipedia entry here.)
Then Greenberg and Lubot explain how, given the congressional intent, which is clear in the record of debate, the Amendment would not apply to Trump: “The legislative debate over the amendment and the prevailing interpretations of its meanings suggest that, despite its vagueness, it doesn’t apply to someone like Trump. Trump has an extreme personality, with many negative qualities—as the Times’ op-ed writer notes, he is ‘impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective.’ Some might judge him to be a grandiose narcissist or even a pathological liar.
“But having a personality disorder or even certain forms of mental illness doesn’t necessarily render a president unfit to govern (Lincoln suffered from depression). And in fact, Trump is not ‘unable’ to serve as president, as would be required to invoke the 25th Amendment. He is actually a high-achieving, high-functioning person who has excelled in business, entertainment and now politics. He hasn’t suffered from a crippling stroke, a psychotic break or dementia. He is, we would argue, temperamentally unsuited to be president—but that is a reason to vote against him, not to resort to a never-used clause in a constitutional amendment. If Cabinet officers tried to use Section 4, Trump would surely challenge them in court and in the court of public opinion—setting up a constitutional crisis that would make the Clinton impeachment and Bush v. Gore look like schoolyard spats. Trump might conceivably refuse to leave office even if ordered by the Supreme Court—at which point Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ loyalties would really be tested.”
10. A. As for the Senate…. Conventional wisdom has been that while the House may be in reach for Democrats to take, the Senate, with its 49-51 Republican majority, is unlikely to flip. But that may not be so certain. The Washington Post reported on Tuesday on increasing anxiety in Washington Republican circles. “Republicans have grown increasingly worried about losing control of the Senate, as President Trump’s approval rating tumbles and Democrats gain steam in key battleground races.
“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday sounded some of the most doubtful notes of Trump’s presidency that Republicans will keep the upper chamber of Congress, telling reporters, ‘I hope when the smoke clears, we’ll still have a majority.’
“His comments came as Republican strategists and officials fretted over a fresh round of private polling on the Senate races, while public polls registered further erosion in Americans’ approval of Trump. ‘Shipwreck’ was how one leading strategist described the situation, adding an expletive to underscore the severity of the party’s problems….
“Less than two months till the Nov. 6 election, Republicans barely mention Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — states Trump won — as opportunities to knock out a Democrat, while McConnell reiterated that nine seats, plus Texas, were at stake.
B. Of course, it is still a tough path to Democratic control. Democrats are defending 26 seats, Republicans 9; and some of those Democratic seats, such as in Indiana or West Virginia, are in states red Trump took handily. Still, as The Post’s Paul Waldman suggests, “In our reality, Donald Trump is president, and that has changed everything. For the first time, respected election-watchers such as Stuart Rothenberg are saying that Democrats have a chance to take the Senate after all. [emphasis added] And Republicans are freaking out,” as evidenced by the article above.
Waldman offers three factors that have surprised pollsters and commentators. First, Trump’s approval ratings in some polls have been dropping; second, some Democratic candidates, in places like West Virginia and Montana, do not look so vulnerable as they did a few weeks ago, as recent polls suggest; and third, Democrats have fielded popular candidates, like Bredesen in Tennessee and O’Rourke in Texas. The odds are certainly not in Democrats’ favor overall. But there now at least appear to be reasonable paths to a victory. For more details, read Waldman’s analysis here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2018/09/12/can-democrats-take-the-senate-its-unlikely-but-there-are-paths/.
C. To the extent we can trust polls, one of the best of the poll aggregators is Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight. Silver has models, complex algorithms, to gauge the odds of election outcomes. He has an overall model that “has Democrats as reasonably clear underdogs to take control of the Senate. Even though it’s more optimistic than the consensus about Democrats’ chances in several individual races — and even though the model is generated by the same program that gives Democrats around a 5 in 6 chance of winning the House— it nevertheless says Republicans have somewhere between a 2 in 3 and 7 in 10 chance to hold the Senate, depending on which version of our model you look at.
11. A. How important is white rage and fear a driver in the coming midterms? This is an issue that is receiving increasing scrutiny. First, Greg Sargent in the Monday Washington Post reports that “One of the Trumpiest candidates in the country repeatedly spoke at a conference whose organizer believes that the ‘only serious race war’ in this country right now is the one targeting white people.
Sargent goes to the bottom of Trump’s “equivalence” claim (or attitude: he cannot be said to have clearly-considered ideological positions) that “all sides” in Charlottesville were equally to blame. More recently, Trump has condemned “all racism” on the one-year anniversary, refusing to single out white supremacy.
“At the pernicious core of these formulations is the tacit suggestion that discrimination against whites and discrimination against African Americans are not just moral equivalences but in a sense are also social and historical equivalences. The message is that white people should — and legitimately do in fact — harbor grievances about discrimination against them that belong on the same plane of seriousness as the grievances of African Americans do. The veiled but intended goal is to downgrade the latter — and, by extension, the unique monstrosity of the historical crime and continuing systemic anti-black racism that give rise to those grievances.
B. Back in August, Adam Serwer, in The Atlantic, wrote an essay that is worth your clicking on. “Despite the controversy over the rally and its bloody aftermath,” he says, “the white nationalists’ ideological goals remain a core part of the Trump agenda. As long as that agenda finds a home in one of the two major American political parties, a significant portion of the country will fervently support it. And as an ideological vanguard, the alt-right fulfilled its own purpose in pulling the Republican Party in its direction.”
Serwer documents the amplification of the idea of an essential race conflict by Fox News commentators (Laura Ingraham says that “the America that we know and love doesn’t exist anymore” because of “massive demographic changes” as a result of “both illegal and sometimes legal immigration that progressives love.”) “White nationalists win by activating white panic, by frightening a sufficient number of white people into believing that their safety and livelihoods can only be protected by defining American citizenship in racial terms, and by convincing them that American politics is a zero-sum game in which white people win when only people of color lose. [emphasis added] While this dynamic has always been present in American politics, it has been decades since the White House has been occupied by a president who so visibly delights in exploiting it, aided by a right-wing media infrastructure that has come to see it as a ratings strategy. It is not just the white nationalists who win when racialized fears surrounding crime, immigration, and terrorism shape the political behavior of white voters. Donald Trump also wins….
C. And in an important review article in The New York Review of Books for September 27, political scientist Andrew Hacker reports on the difficulties Democrats have mobilizing their voters in midterms.The essay is available only to subscribers, but we can summarize it [a one-week subscription will unlock it and other article for $4.99]. Hacker’s message is that polling will show that Republicans are powerfully motivated by three issues, and that the counterposed responses to these are less motivating for Democrats.He cites: abortion, guns, and white fear. On white fear he cites an important 2016 poll from The Public Religion Research Institute: “The partisan divide was striking. Seventy-three percent of Republicans agree with the position that ‘discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities’ (my italics). Only 30 percent of Democrats believed this. In other words, close to three quarters of an established party feel they endure social inequities on a par with a heritage of bondage…. The [Republican] party casts itself as a refuge for a besieged race.” [emphasis added]
On guns: “Perhaps [not] until now, had Democrats been able to mobilize around the issue of gun control. In December 2017, CBS asked a sample of Americans how they felt about firearms. Partisan lines were pronounced. Seventy-one percent of Republicans called possession a ‘vital’ right, while only 24 percent of Democrats did. Six times as many Republicans as Democrats said the country would be safer if more citizens had guns, and eight times as many said that the Second Amendment is ‘part of what makes the country great.’”
And on abortion rights: A Pew Survey last year found that 65% of Republicans want the procedure to be illegal in all or most cases; only 22% of Democrats do. Moreover, Hacker’s own research showed extraordinary fervor on the part of Republicans. “What the figures cannot convey is the fervor that Republicans bring to the issue. Many told me it comes first for them in judging candidates. The Democrats have so far not managed to mobilize such a large and impassioned body of single-issue voters around the defense of the right to choose…. And Roe v. Wade will not be on the ballots for House and Senate seats. Voters will have to do their own research on where candidates stand, plus how to react to Democrats who may take ambiguous positions.”
The figures Hacker cites are stark: “In the last such [midterm] cycle in 2014, taking the ten states together, 11,292,503 Republicans turned out, while only 8,841,970 Democrats did. Not surprisingly, Republicans won across the ballot.” Moreover, Trump supporters numbered about the same as supporters of Romney or McCain. Republicans show passionate party loyalty: the shortfall from Romney to Trump was only 3%. But Democratic presidential votes were down almost 14% in 2016 compared to 2014 (for multiple reasons, some hard to fathom). Hacker’s conclusion is clear: only by harnessing the outrage among Democrats into local election turnout will the future of the country be altered. For those poli sci wonks and interested political organizers, your library may allow you access to this September 27 issue (or you can purchase a one-week trial subscription for $4.99): https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2018/09/27/hopeful-math-democrats/#fn-5
12. The Hill reported on Wednesday evening that “The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee says he plans to not only reignite a full-blown Russia probe if the House flips in November, but he will also prioritize investigating the Trump Organization’s ties to Russia. [emphasis added]
“Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told The Hill on Wednesday that he specifically intends to look into allegations of Russians laundering money through the Trump Organization. ‘There was one issue we were not allowed to look at and the Senate hasn’t been either that concerns me a great deal and that is the issue of whether Russians were laundering money through the Trump Organization and [if] that is the leverage they have over the president,’ Schiff said. ‘Someone needs to determine whether those allegations are true or they are not. That certainly would be a priority for me.’” http://thehill.com/policy/national-security/406383-if-dems-win-house-schiff-says-hell-investigate-trump-money
13. Award-winning novelist and essayist Ariel Dorfman, who fled the Pinochet coup in Chile in 1973, issues a warning to Americans about the fragility of democracy, in an essay in The Guardian on Tuesday. Dorfman came to the US in 1985, became a US citizen in 2004, and now teaches at Duke University as Walter Hines Page Research Professor of Literature and Professor of Latin American Studies. “It can’t happen here. That’s an avowal I have been hearing from Americans ever since my family and I, fleeing a dictatorship in our native Chile, finally came to settle in the United States in 1980,” Dorfman writes.
“I wanted to believe that the American experiment would not abide tyranny. And yet I remained sceptical, stubbornly wary. I had pronounced similar words about Chile, and had also once succumbed to the illusion that democracy in the land I called my own could never be destroyed, that it ‘couldn’t happen here.’”
In 1973 a military coup, supported by Richard Nixon’s intelligence agencies, overthrew the democratically-elected socialist president, Salvador Allende. “The reign of terror that followed was to last for almost 17 years, comprising extrajudicial executions and disappearances, torture and imprisonment on a vast scale, exile and widespread hounding of dissidents. The repression that afflicted those victims was not accidental. It was a way of teaching millions of Allende’s followers that they should never again dare to question the way power was organised and wealth was distributed in the world.”
Of course there are real differences between Chile then and the US today. “And yet the similarities are sobering,” he says. “Having once lost democracy in Chile, I can recognise the signs of malignancy that fester in the US, a country of which I am now a citizen. [emphasis added] I reluctantly note in my adopted homeland the same sort of polarisation that contaminated Chile before the coup; the same weakening of the bonds of a shared, inclusive national community; the same sense of victimhood among large swaths of the populace, troubled that their command over the traditional contours of their identity is slipping away; the same faulting of intruders, upstarts and aliens for that loss; the same tensions and rage exacerbated by shameful disparities in wealth and power. And, alas, the same seduction by authoritarian, simplistic solutions that promise to restore order to a complex, difficult, menacing reality.”
“The main lesson that the Chilean cataclysm bequeaths us is to never forget that the rights we take for granted are fragile and revocable, protected only by the unceasing, vigilant, vigorous struggle of millions upon millions of ordinary citizens. Salvation can’t be outsourced to some sort of heroic figure who will ride to the rescue. The only real saviours are the people themselves. [emphasis added]
14. And on Thursday, also in The Guardian, Senator Bernie Sanders writes, “A new authoritarian axis demands an international progressive front.” Addressing the rise of the international authoritarian right, he says, “There is a global struggle taking place of enormous consequence. Nothing less than the future of the planet – economically, socially and environmentally – is at stake….
“It should be clear by now that Donald Trump and the rightwing movement that supports him is not a phenomenon unique to the United States. All around the world, in Europe, in Russia, in the Middle East, in Asia and elsewhere we are seeing movements led by demagogues who exploit people’s fears, prejudices and grievances to achieve and hold on to power.
15. Locally: In the race for the Sixth District, Sean Casten and Peter Roskam held their fourth debate, once again out of the district and out of sight of the public (at Roskam’s request). What will probably be their final meeting (again, resistance from Roskam) was held on Monday in the Arlington Heights offices of The Daily Herald. Marie Wilson reported on the 90-minute endorsement debate. “Whether the changes from 2017’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act help or hurt suburban residents in the 6th Congressional District is the defining disagreement between the two candidates seeking to represent the area, both men say.
“And whether specific taxpayers are helped or hurt by the new income tax reality could shape whether voters agree with Republican incumbent Peter Roskam of Wheaton or Democratic challenger Sean Casten of Downers Grove.
“Roskam, who has held office since 2007 and who helped write and pass the tax law, says the legislation provides $4,600 in income tax relief to the district’s median-income family of four making $135,000 a year. Casten, 46, says the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act creates ‘massive concern’ about the estimated $1 trillion it adds to the U.S. budget deficit and could contribute to ‘historically high levels’ of wealth inequality. ‘The tax bill that was passed gave tax cuts to those who least need it,’ Casten said…. But Casten offered another caution about the new tax code. He said people who did not adjust their federal tax withholding levels to account for changes in the state and local tax deduction and liabilities under the new law could see sizable federal income tax bills next April.” https://www.dailyherald.com/news/20180910/we-are-really-totally-at-odds-on-this-roskam-casten-sharply-disagree-on-2017-tax-law#search
16. In other local news, The Daily Herald reports that “DuPage Election Commission officials are standing by a decision to deny a county clerk candidate’s Freedom of Information Act request for the serial numbers of more than 100 optical scan voting machines the agency received as part of a settlement with a former vendor. Jean Kaczmarek, the Democratic candidate for county clerk, says she wants the serial numbers to trace the history of the ‘antiquated, castoff machines’ the commission got from Liberty Systems LLC. Liberty Systems gave the commission 118 voting machines to replace devices damaged during this year’s primary election.” [emphasis added] Many readers will recall the debacle at some election precincts during the primary, when Liberty supplied the wrong “ender cards,” which are run through the machines to end the voting. These often damaged the machines, and Liberty replaced them with used ones. Kaczmarek wants the serial numbers to determine where these machines came from.