Ok, so, we’re five days out from this election now, and two months before Trump takes office, and here’s where we are.
This morning, the president-elect took to Twitter to attack the press (again), and then told an easily-disprovable lie about his stance on nukes, one that even Breitbart, run by his blatantly anti-Semitic campaign head — now his chief strategist — wrote about.
As of this writing, he has also said nothing about the emboldened hate attacks happening all over America now. Speaker Paul Ryan, when asked by Jake Tapper about them, just shrugged and said those aren’t Republicans doing those. (Ryan, for his part, is busy plotting the end of Medicare.)
Meanwhile, the President-Elect has tried to move the trial on his fraudulent business practices at Trump University, because being president-elect is too hard. (Spoiler: the job gets harder after January.)
Despite this apparent busy-ness, the President-Elect *has* taken the time to openly complain about protestors, so that’s speech, press, and assembly — three of your five first amendment freedoms, already getting challenged.
In the first five days.
When asked about the President-Elect’s many ethical conflicts-of-interest at the moment, Rudy Giuliani, who’s apparently up for Attorney General, said “Those laws don’t apply to the president.”
(Note: Giuliani also wants to “fix” cybersecurity — trust me, that’s not going to be in the direction of your privacy.)
Newt — yes, he’s back too — is calling for a new House Un-American Affairs Committee. Yes. HUAC. You’re not reading that wrong.
Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway today, when asked about Harry Reid’s rightfully angry press release about the new president, said the former Senate Majority Leader should “be very careful about characterizing someone in a legal sense.” In other words, she threatened to sue and/or imprison the political opposition.
Across the pond, Putin is telling Trump to withdraw NATO forces from Eastern Europe, while Britain is putting more long-range missiles there to protect it. However you feel about Russia or NATO — I would think Republicans are very divided on this point at the moment — this is the type of situation where things can very quickly spiral out of control if a steady hand is not at the till.
A steady hand is not at the till.
All of which is to say, we have to start recognizing what is happening here, and plan accordingly. People my age have had a good run, but the shit has finally arrived.
There are many good articles floating around right now about the election. One of the best, imho, is this one. Step one: Believe the autocrat.
It doesn’t do any good to hope Trump somehow turns out to be a closet lefty, or is just content to play Don the Builder and invests massively in infrastructure. That’d be great (tho’ his version of infrastructure — prisons, pipelines, walls — may not be your version.) I hope so too – that’d be the best case scenario at this point. But there’s also a lot of bargaining going on, and we’re all going to have push through the steps here and get to action.
I don’t want to tell you how to get involved, donate, volunteer, or organize — that’s up to you. Some of us are more privileged than others in that regard. But make a list of the things you are going to do to stand against what’s coming, because it sure does seem to be coming.
A few other thoughts on the inter-Dem recrimination happening at the moment, which I think is good and necessary to move forward. As others have pointed out, in the UK after a losing election, the party leadership usually quits. We need strong Dem leaders right now in the field. But we also need the people who failed here to be held accountable. No more failing upward or pundit tenure.
There’s obviously a lot of back and forth right now about whether Clinton lost because of racism or sexism or economic anxiety, Comey or WikiLeaks or just a terribly run campaign. The answer here to me seems to be…yes? Many of these things are not at all mutually exclusive. She lost the Electoral College in a handful of places, and a lot of things could’ve changed that — no Comey, or more money/visits in Wisconsin, or a media that wasn’t disastrously bad at figuring out what stories merit continuous coverage, or a message that better resonated with working white people.
I will say that I helped write a book with Bill Press this past January, Buyers Remorse, about how Barack Obama failed progressives in many ways, and I think it definitely holds up now. If his administration had addressed the foreclosure crisis in a way that was less banker-friendly and more people-friendly, or if he hadn’t continued building out Dubya’s extra-constitutional foreign policy of surveillance and kill-strikes, we’d be in a better place right now.
That being said, and as others have pointed out, Obama in 2012 also ran much better on the Rust Belt front, aggressively pointing out that Romney and Bain Capital were giant hypocrites that hated the auto bailout and took people’s jobs. (Mike Pence, FWIW, was against the auto bailout too.) Clinton did some of this with Trump’s outsourcing and whatnot, but the overarching message of the campaign was “he’s a deplorable human being.” Which he is, but clearly that didn’t matter for a lot of people.
In any event, Trump pulled his voters and Clinton didn’t pull hers. That was the difference. There was no massive white surge to Trump. He got the people who would vote for any Republican, and enough in a select few states in the middle who were angry about how things are going. That’s it. This isn’t a Reagan landslide. It was a close election with terrible turnout where many people disliked both candidates, and Republicans, as always, were more motivated to show up.
There’s been a lot of talk about how Dems need to pop their elitist bubble and talk to white working class people again. This is definitely true to an extent. But, by all that is good and holy, that doesn’t mean turning Trump voters into some sort of exotic Heartland “real Mur’ican.” Nor does it mean meeting fools halfway on the racist, sexist nonsense. I grew up with a lot of these folks — they don’t think they’re racists and get offended when you call them thus, but then go on to say and post deeply racist things.
As @theshrillest pointed out on Twitter, saying Clinton lost solely because of racism/sexism is like saying a plane crashed because of gravity. Both are real and pervasive, especially in the 99% white enclaves that went for Trump, and that’s how it is.
So for God’s sake let’s not lose our nerve on these issues and look for a Jim Webb type to save us. Let’s do a better job of conveying the true story about who the real villains are here — not poor people of color, struggling every single day, but the rich white assholes who now control every single facet of the federal government, and will use it as a trough.
Bernie clearly was much better at this sort of thing, and as someone who supported him, I’m more than a little annoyed that various people on our side were telling us to ignore what the polls were telling us back then. But that is water under the bridge, and we have a tsunami right in front of us.
Let’s get it sorted, let’s hold the people who failed our party accountable, and let’s get ready to fight. Because, again, the shit is here. This is not a drill.
Remember how I wrote that Trump is already drawing dead because of lack of minority support? As my college friend Shawn Zeller points out in CQ Roll Call, and on the eve of an RNC that promises to go Full Wackadoodle, Trump’s team appear to be aware of the math and are leaning into it, hoping to grow the (old, angry) white vote as a share of the total. “Offending Latinos might even be a good electoral strategy, Frey says: ‘The older white population has a hard time dealing with changing demography, and wedge issues like immigration play well.'”
A good electoral strategy, perhaps, but terrible for the polity…and I still don’t see Trump pulling it off. So he has to grow the overall white vote by 5 percent over 2012 — but he’s running far behind Romney with white women and is still polling egregiously with Latinos. Even notwithstanding Clinton’s iffy approval numbers, it’s a longshot at best. I’ll stand by my earlier prediction: Trump’s gonna lose, handily.
Update: Or, perhaps not.
In the NYT, author and historian Joseph Loconte writes on the impact of the Battle of the Somme on young J.R.R. Tolkien. “When the Somme offensive was finally called off in November 1916, a total of about 1.5 million soldiers were dead or wounded.” (Among the deceased: my great-grandfather, Alfred Amory Sullivan.)
Uh…yeah, hope springs eternal and all, but this doesn’t seem like it’s going to work. We already did the former-All-Star-PG-on-the-back-half bit with Steve Francis and Stephon Marbury, and those were not good years. And, to put it charitably, both Rose and Noah have Mr. Glass tendencies at this point. I know Rose, at worst, is a one-year-loaner, but wouldn’t it make more sense to build young around Porzingis?
In the Prospect, David Dayen explains how deficit-witch-hunting and hubris paved the way for Brexit. particularly David Cameron and the Tories’ “general belief in expansionary austerity, that you could cut your way to prosperity. For those that don’t recall, this led to the brink of a triple-dip recession, and terrible growth numbers for years and years…What Leave offers, a toxic stew of isolation and racism, isn’t any good either. But when elites spend this long doing nothing for large swathes of the population, they’re willing to listen to anyone with a different idea.”
Since the UK’s faceplant last week, there’s been some talk (and. for some, wishful thinking) that Brexit is the prelude to Trump, fact-free appeals and all, and lord knows we spent far too much time of late playing the austerity game also. But I’ll stand by my “nope, not gonna happen” prediction here: The UK electorate is 90% white, America’s is one-third non-white — That’s a big difference, and the same sorts of nativist appeals just aren’t going to play here anymore — which I am very thankful for.
Still, Brexit is another sterling example of how, when people are justifiably angry about being screwed over, many of them may not vote in their best interests. And it’s emblematic of one of the more insightful comments I’ve heard recently about 2016 (and unfortunately I can’t figure out where I first saw it): When you have Latin American levels of inequality, you’ll end up with Latin American politics.
In TNR, Clio Chang surveys the irritating wrongness of House Dems’ recent sit-in. See also Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor in Jacobin, Alex Emmons and Zaid Jilani in The Intercept, and Alex Pareene in Gawker: As Pareene says, “The move is fantastic political theater. It’s also a tremendous waste of popular support and activist energy in support of a measure that isn’t just ineffective but also actively offensive.“
Honestly, this is why people can’t stand congressional Democrats. There are many, many positive actions we could take to reduce gun violence in America — banning assault weapons and armor-piercing bullets, closing the gun show loophole, funding for CDC gun violence research, mandating gun safety classes with licenses.
So what do Dems do? They almost stumble into the right thing by (finally) taking a stand on universal background checks. But then they instead make the centerpiece of their precedent-destroying gambit — and just wait until the GOP is conducting sit-ins during the Clinton administration — a stupid, racist, and unconstitutional terror watchlist that has no gun violence prevention benefit whatsoever, except as a political stunt. (Apparently, attempts to include an assault weapons ban were nixed at the very top.)
If this is what Clinton means about getting back to the “spirit of 9/12”, no thanks. We don’t need another wasted decade of useless pandering and war on terror capitulation from the ostensible left. And let’s be clear: John Lewis, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie — they’re all at fault on this one. For shame.
As my friend and Columbia colleague Niki Hemmer pointed out, regardless of what you think of Clinton herself, that’s a big effin deal: her nomination represents another step forward in a long struggle for equality and justice in America, one that runs from Abigail Adams’ “Remember the Ladies” to Seneca Falls in 1848 to the battle for suffrage and beyond. (While I harbor some reservations about Clinton, which we’ll get to in a moment — in short, #imwithher, but I really wish #shewasmorewithus — I was tickled to think of how ecstatically Jane Addams, Florence Kelley, Grace Abbott, and my other dissertoral compadres would’ve reacted to last night’s news.)
Whatever Clinton’s many faults, it’s long past time we caught up to the rest of the world and elected a woman to our highest office. This isn’t about tokenism: Studies have repeatedly shown that having more women in political office has a salutary impact on politics. When women — 51% of the population, but still only 20% of Congress — reach 30% of a governing body, new issues get an airing — issues like women’s health and America’s embarrassing lack of quality work and family policies. So, regardless of my own hesitations about Secretary Clinton, I do think her being our nominee — and, in a few months, our first woman president — will have a positive impact on the country, independent of anything else she accomplishes in office.
All that being said…Margaret Thatcher was a woman too, and look how that turned out. So let’s get to the problems here.
The signs of trouble were there from Clinton’s opening townhall in June 2014, when she came out of the gate arguing, among other things, paid maternity leave is just too gosh darn hard, Edward Snowden pals around with terrorists, I’ll let you know later where I stand on Keystone, I couldn’t come out against Iraq because I heart the troops etc. etc. From the start, Clinton emerged as the same triangulating centrist and unrepentant foreign policy hawk we saw in 2008.
Then, to knock out Bernie Sanders’ surprisingly strong progressive insurgency, Clinton resorted to many of the same sort of kitchen-sink, whatever-sticks attacks that made her so unappealing in 2008. So, for example, she tried to run on his Left and his Right at the same time: On one hand, she’s the “progressive who gets things done”…but, oh, by the way, single-payer is “never, ever” going to happen. Her campaign declared Bernie’s “tone” was unacceptable, all the while working mightily to slather him in the blood of Sandy Hook kids. (Remember: eight years ago, she was so absurdly pro-gun that Obama was calling her “Annie Oakley.”)
Meanwhile, Clinton publicly embraced Henry Kissinger, who really should be rotting in a jail somewhere, and showed no repentance for her hawkishness in Iraq, Libya, and around the world. (Trump’s disastrous temperament notwithstanding, that bizarre clip of Clinton’s luxuriating in Qaddafi’s demise doesn’t speak highly of hers either. Shades of her calling for Nader’s head back in 2000.) On Israel, she’s established a position to the right of Trump. As noted above, she’s derided single-payer as the Impossible Dream. She’s also now declared that huge campaign finance contributions aren’t in fact corrupting, which blows many progressive arguments against Citizens United out of the water.
In sum, she doesn’t seem particularly progressive for a “progressive that gets things done.” But, of course, we already knew this. It wasn’t like Clinton was any kind of progressive champion during her years in the Senate. Instead, she spent her time trying to criminalize flag-burning and tsk-tsking Grand Theft Auto with Joe Lieberman. (Before that, as we’ve all been reminded throughout this cycle, it was “superpredators” and welfare reform.) And now #we’re (stuck in the middle) #withher.
Moving on, one of the more annoying memes this season has been “zomg Bernie Bros!” — i.e. Clinton surrogates’ continual insistence that Bernie somehow invented Internet trolls, and is at best indifferent to, and at worst malevolently orchestrating, a marauding army of sexists that march under his banner. Firstly, anybody who’s Internetted over the years knows these asshats have been around since the CompuServe days — they’re a ubiquitous cancer of the Web, not a Bernie-inspired battalion. (Trust me, there’s some terribad Clintonistas out there also.) Second, in all honesty, the internecine Democratic fighting this year has been relatively tame compared to 2008, when Mark Penn was busy trying to “other” Obama into electoral oblivion. (Tho’ it probably seems worse to many more people Because Twitter.) And third, the only Democratic campaign that’s been documented as trying to weaponize trolling this cycle is Clinton’s, through David Brock’s brazen, FEC-flouting “Correct the Record” initiative.
Speaking of trolls, Clinton’s most hackish and obnoxious supporters in the media (Joan Walsh, Peter Daou, Jamil Smith, Amanda Marcotte, to name a few) have once again tried to wield sexism as both sword and shield, and argue that Bernie’s solely the candidate of angry white men. (This too is a holdover from 2008 — eight years ago, the kerfuffle was over “Obama Boys”.) But saying it doesn’t make it so. In fact, it takes a willful blindness, if not outright dishonesty, not to see where the Clinton/Bernie divide has really fallen in 2016.
Despite every attempt to make Bernie’s support primarily about race, sex, or income, all the polling has made it clear since before Iowa that the great chasm between Clinton and Sanders supporters is age. This pattern emerged in the earliest states and has held through until the end: Pre-California polling had Latinos under 50 breaking Sanders 2-to-1. America’s largest Arab community (in Michigan) also went 2-to-1 for Bernie, putting him over the top there (which, by the way, puts the lie to Michael Tomasky and others’ stupid contention that only privileged people back Bernie.) The African-American vote has been more closely split, but Bernie still won over half the under-30s nationwide. And women under 30 chose Bernie over Clinton by 30 points. In total, Bernie even beat out 2008 Obama among voters under 30.
There’s a lot of reasons for this, I think, many of which I talked about in my post about Obama’s youth support in 2008: “To many older liberals and progressives, who’ve experienced one dismal setback after another since the heydays of the New Frontier and Great Society, the Clintonian brand of cautious pragmatism often seems the only viable approach to moving the country forward. Put simply, you get burned enough times, you stop using the stove. This time, irony isn’t the shackles of youth, but of their parents.”
These trends have been compounded by the Great Recession and slow recovery since 2008. While Obama et al spent years fretting about the deficit, we failed an entire generation who graduated into a world of unpaid internships and few-to-no decent jobs. This has consequences. On one hand, more young people are living with their parents than living with a partner for the first time since 1880. On the other, the broken economic system and its attendants, like grotesque inequality, have made Millennials even more amenable to lefty policies and politics. Socialism isn’t the epithet the GOP (and DLC) would make of it anymore, and the left-wing of American social and political thought, which has been hacked off several times over the past century, is regenerating anew, and beginning to test its strength.
And that’s a good thing. It gives me great hope for the future. A stronger, more vibrant left means a wider Overton window, more progressive possibility, and an end to the learned helplessness and soft bigotry of low expectations that too many of today’s scared, insipid Democrats have tried to instill in voters. (“It’s not us! It’s Newt/Bush/Frist/Boehner/Trump!”) Bernie may have made some dumb arguments along the way, and these last campaign throes, as per the norm, aren’t looking pretty. (I’m with Favreau on this one: Gutting Bernie anonymously to Politico to set up your next gig is quintessential DC-asshole behavior.) But he pulled off something altogether amazing this year. Up against a “inevitable” candidate with every possible institutional advantage behind her, a 74-year-old Socialist still ended up winning 23 states(!)
Bernie may have come up short in the end. But, if nothing else, he’s put the Democratic Party on notice: A rising generation wants more from them from now on. The same tired GOP-lite camouflage, and a non-refundable, means-tested tax credit in every pot, aren’t going to get it done anymore. Let’s hope the next President is listening, and that she doesn’t take her left flank for granted.
"A barking dog is often more useful than a sleeping lion." -- Washington Irving