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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Creamer: Voting for Clinton the Only Way to Stop Trump

The following article by Democratic strategist Robert Creamer, author of Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, is cross-posted from HuffPo:

A small but significant group of Americans is considering casting their vote this fall for a third- party “protest” candidate. Some are thinking they may not vote at all. They say they don’t like any candidate enough to vote so they will “sit this election out.”

I realize many of the Americans considering a third-party vote — or sitting out the election — have sincere, deeply-held feelings that are driving their actions. Some are just disgusted by what they think is a vitriolic tone of the campaign.

Unfortunately the media encourages that kind of cynicism and disgust by presenting the attacks mounted by each side in the campaign as equally credible.

But while it is easy to understand the reasons that some people might be inclined to choose a “protest” vote — or decide to sit on their hands — the fact is that either of these actions will have one and only one result: putting Donald Trump into the White House.

And “trust me,” the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States will have long-term consequences that will make it ever so clear why every voter has to overcome his or her cynicism, or personal likes and dislikes, and go vote — for Hillary Clinton.

History makes the results of third party “protest” votes in modern American elections crystal clear.

In 2000, thousands of idealistic young Americans chose to vote for Ralph Nader rather than cast their vote for Vice President Al Gore. There were 50,000 Nader votes in Florida. Gore lost the presidency by 537 Florida votes.

Had Gore won, there would have been no Iraq War in 2003 — and likely no ISIS today. There would have been no Bush tax cuts for the rich. There would not have been the massive Bush-era deregulation of Wall Street that led to the Great Recession.

And for those who care deeply about climate change, remember that it was private citizen Al Gore who, after losing the election, sounded the climate change alarm with his amazing film “An Inconvenient Truth.” Had Gore been President, the United States of America would likely have initiated the battle to curb global carbon emissions over a decade and a half ago.

And you can bet that if they knew what would happen in a Bush presidency, many of those 50,000 Nader voters would have begged to reverse history and let them vote for Al Gore for President instead of cast the “protest vote” that cost us all so much.

Of course it’s not just the 2000 election where third-party protest votes have been decisive. The election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 — and the whole right wing “Reagan Revolution” — would likely never have happened, were it not for the third party candidacy of John Anderson.

Remember that none of the 2016 third-party candidates has any credible chance whatsoever of becoming President of the United States.

Someone who casts his or her vote for one of these third-party candidates must be betting that the results of their own “protest” are more important that the consequences that a Donald Trump Presidency would have for the country — and for their lives.

But I would wager that a significant number of those 2000 Nader Voters personally suffered from the consequences of Bush’s two terms in office. Odds are good that many of their families lost loved ones in Iraq, or that their home values collapsed in the Great Recession, or that they lost their jobs or their pensions, or saw their college loans explode. Many suffered from rising health care costs that Bush failed to address through any form of health care reform.

I’m betting that many of those voters would agree today that whatever momentary sense of power they felt by sticking it to the system and protesting their presidential options in 2000 is now far outweighed by the regret they feel at the consequence of what they did.

If you’re considering casting your vote for a third party candidate, or simply abstaining from voting entirely, please think seriously about how you’ll feel about that vote next year, or ten years from now — if, like the Nader voters of 2000, your votes determine who will be president.

It’s one thing to cast a “protest vote” or decide to stay home, if you think the election is already decided. A month ago many people thought Hillary Clinton would run away with the election, so why not vote for a third party candidate? Not so today.

That’s exactly what happened in Britain during the Brexit vote earlier this summer. Many voters — especially younger voters — who opposed Britain leaving the European Union — thought they didn’t need to go to the trouble to vote because Brexit could not possibly pass. The day after the election, they were shocked to learn they were wrong — and then it was too late.

Polls showed that young people overwhelming opposed Brexit. But many of them didn’t take the time to vote. Now they wish they did.

Today, most millennial voters oppose the bigotry of Donald Trump. They also understand that a man with Trump’s temperament has no business with the country’s nuclear launch codes.

They want lives of commitment for themselves. They honor the sacrifice of leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., and Congressman John Lewis who were willing to lay their lives on the line for the welfare of others. And they understand that Donald Trump is the antithesis of a leader who has devoted his life to others and to the common good. They know that Donald Trump is a man who has done nothing in life but look out for himself — no matter who he hurt, no matter whose lives he ruined.

But if Donald Trump is actually elected President, that division, that hatred, that bigotry, that selfishness and the impetuous childish insults will define America. They will be our future.

In a close race like this one, no one can afford to make a “protest vote” that may end in that result. No one can afford to say: “my vote doesn’t matter.” No one can afford to allow their own disappointment with the result of the primary — or their wish that someone who is more to their taste were the candidate — to contribute to such an historic disaster for America and the entire world.

In many states, early voting — or mail balloting — starts in a matter of weeks.

If you were thinking about casting your vote for a third party — or staying home from the polls — please think again. You, your children and maybe even your grandchildren, will be glad you did.

Join us in stopping Trump. And in the process, help make history by electing the first woman president of the United States. Cast your vote for Hillary Clinton.

Lux: Dems Underperforming with Base, Must Turn it Out to Win Down-Ballot, Presidency

The following article by Democratic strategist Mike Lux, author of The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America Came to Be, is cross-posted from HuffPo:

Democrats far and wide are asking: is it really possible we might lose to the guy who seems to be trying to brand himself as the worst person in America? Spewing racist rhetoric and conspiracy theories? Check. Making one misogynistic comment after another? Check. Joking about the assassination of Hillary? Check. Encouraging his supporters to beat up protesters? Check. Cozying up to evil dictators? Check. He’s done it all and more, brazenly. And yet somehow Hillary is tied with him in some national polls, even behind in a few.

I will admit to being nervous, but I am always nervous before an election because surprising things often happen. I was far more nervous than most Democrats when we were ten points ahead in the aftermath of the two conventions and Trump’s idiocy in attacking a Gold Star family. You just never know what will happen in an election, even right up to the end. Indulge me in a little history on the topic of Election Day surprises (I won’t even mention all the times candidates who won were well behind in the late summer or September of the election year).

In 1980, right up until Election Day, the pollsters were talking about the election probably being one of the closest in history. A lot of people thought Carter would squeak out a win over Reagan. Instead, we got a historically big Reagan/Republican landslide that also lost us control of the Senate and working control of the House because things broke their way in the last few days. In 1994, very few people were predicting that Republicans would win the House and Senate; most forecasts had 20-25 House seat pick-ups for them. Instead, they picked up 52 House seats and 10 Senate seats.

In 1998, most people predicted that Republicans would pick up 25-30 House seats because of the Lewinsky scandal, but a late breaking “time to move on” movement (that launched Moveon.org) gave the Democrats a five seat pick-up. And in 2006, only a few people were predicting the House would go Democratic, and almost no one thought the Senate would, since that would require Democrats winning almost every single competitive Senate race. Democrats won the House with room to spare, and won seven of the eight closest Senate races, giving them control of both Houses.

So nervousness is warranted, but panic is not. Let me suggest an alternative: calm and focus. It is absolutely clear what is happening in this election and what the path is to Democratic victory. The underlying fundamentals in this race have not changed since Hillary and Trump established themselves as the forerunners in the nomination, and those fundamentals favor us Democrats if we effectively take advantage of them. The electoral-college math favors us, and the demographic math favors us, as the Democratic base groups of people of color, young people, unmarried women, union members, LGBT folks, and other progressive constituencies make up over 60% of the electorate. Plus Trump’s general offensiveness helps us a lot with higher educated suburban voters.

Here’s where we are not fully delivering on turning those fundamentals into a decisive victory: we are underperforming with our base. It isn’t rocket science to fix this problem, but we must pay attention and put some serious elbow grease into turning this around.

The polls are all over the map, but there are some trends suggesting that Clinton is not doing as well right now as Obama did among all of the major segments of the so-called ‘Obama coalition,’ with African-Americans, especially younger black folks; Latinos; young people; and unmarried women. You can check out the gory details here and here. There’s even one poll that has Trump getting 20% of the African-American vote.

A couple points to make here. First, Donald Trump is just not going to win 20% of the African-American vote or get a higher percentage of Latino voters than Romney did. Every presidential election I have ever been involved with, there are some fluctuations in the numbers for both parties in terms of their base voters, but certain things have never happened and will never happen.

A Republican presidential candidate has not gotten more than 12% of the African-American vote since 1964, and it is not to going to happen with Donald “look at my African-American over here” Trump. The man who called Mexicans rapists and murderers, and said a judge of Mexican-American descent couldn’t fairly rule on his case will not be more popular among Latinos than Romney.

The poll numbers don’t reflect that Democrats, people-of-color-led groups, labor, and other allies will spend the final seven weeks working these constituencies with reminders of every rotten thing Donald Trump has said. They will get the Democratic-leaning members of these constituencies out to vote.

The second point is this: the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party must focus on base turnout like a laser beam. I have confidence they will — they are already doing a lot of the right things. But this is where the ballgame is going to won or lost. Here’s what needs to happen:

1. We must put a lot more money in the closing weeks into Latino media, both Spanish- and English-speaking. Even more importantly, we need to invest far more than we have so far in Latino field operations for voter registration and GOTV. We are not yet maximizing our vote with this crucial constituency, and we have relied too much on the dislike of Trump among Latinos to drive GOTV. We need boots on the ground, and we need to give people a reason to vote for Hillary, not just against Trump. This, as you will see, is a repeated theme of mine.

2. We must invest a lot more money and attention into social media. Despite the big fundraising edge that Clinton has had over Trump, the Trump campaign has spent more on social media. He spent at least $19 million on social media in July and August alone. Hillary’s lagging poll numbers among young people are due in part to the fact that we are not paying as much attention to the media platforms they use as Trump has been.

3. We must get all the Bernie voters we can get. Admittedly, there are some Bernie bros who will reject Bernie’s plea, and almost every other progressive leader’s plea, to vote for Hillary. But there are still plenty of Bernie people who are genuinely torn. Only a tiny percentage of them will vote for Trump. Most are still deciding between Stein, Gary Johnson, Hillary, and not voting at all.

We need to make a sustained, positive, heartfelt series of pitches to them, to convince them that Hillary will get some good things done. Yes, we need to remind them that Trump will do the horrible things he has said he would do, but mostly we need to inspire and motivate them. Hillary Clinton has embraced a large number of progressive economic and social issues that Bernie voters care a lot about, like free college for most people and doing something big about climate change, and we need to make that case to the Bernie folks.

4. What all of these strategies have in common is the simple idea that we must make a much stronger case about voting for Hillary, not just voting against Trump. A campaign that is all negative with no positives will drive down voter turnout, so that only the people who always vote end up voting, giving us a Republican electorate. Check out 2010 and 2014 to see that electoral dynamic — the people who always vote are older, whiter, and better off than Democratic base groups. Disliking a candidate is rarely enough to get people off their butts and into the voting booth.

Democrats have the edge on the demographics and the issues needed to win this race — not just in the presidential, but across the ticket. We just need to focus on winning our natural coalition and do the hard work it takes to deliver that coalition to the polls.

Brownstein: Clinton, Dems Must Address Young Voter Drift

Could younger voters actually prevent Clinton from winning the election? Ronald Brownstein addresses the possibility at The Atlantic:

Clinton struggled among Millennial voters in her 2008 primary campaign, her 2016 primary campaign, and in the 2016 general election. Against Donald Trump, Clinton has two big advantages—a policy agenda that polls show largely matches Millennials’ own preferences, and an opponent even more unpopular with them than with the public overall. But she also must overcome her own long history of failing to connect with this growing group of voters—a failure that is increasingly worrying Democrats as the overall race tightens.

“This could very easily be the difference between winning the election or not,” said Andrew Baumann, a Democratic pollster who is regularly polling Millennials during this campaign. “If she ends up with them at 50 percent [of the vote] or 55 percent or 60 percent, those are hugely different scenarios.”

In simplest terms, Clinton’s problem is that large numbers of Millennials have never warmed to her as a national candidate.

Brownstein shares figures showing Clinton’s deficit with Millennial voters vs. Obama in 2008 and against Sanders during this campaign’s primary season, in which Sanders bested her in 25 of 27 primary and caucus states. Brownstein notes that Clinton leads Trump in polls so far, but “show her failing to consolidate the enormous share of Millennials who express unfavorable views about Trump. Instead, many of those voters now say they will support libertarian Gary Johnson or Green Party nominee Jill Stein.” Brownstein shares some poll results:

Consider the recent George Washington University Battleground Poll conducted by Ed Goeas, a Republican pollster, and Celinda Lake, a Democrat. In that survey, 73 percent of Millennials said they had an unfavorable view of Trump, 68 percent said they trusted Clinton more than him to defend the middle class, 64 percent trusted her more to handle foreign policy, and 61 percent favored her over Trump to manage the economy. Yet in a four-way ballot test, she drew just 46 percent support, compared to 26 percent for Trump, 18 percent for Johnson, and 5 percent for Stein.

In last week’s ABC/Washington Post poll, which released results from adults 18-39, a group that extends slightly beyond the Millennial Generation, 70 percent of those younger Americans said Trump was not qualified to serve as president and 66 percent said he was biased against women and minorities. But in the four-way match-up, Clinton again drew just 44 percent to 24 percent for Trump, 20 percent for Johnson, and 6 percent for Stein.

 A survey of Millennials in 11 battleground states released last week by Baumann’s firm, the Global Strategy Group, for Project New America and NextGen Climate presents the same daunting contrast for Clinton. In that survey, 75 percent of Millennials say they view Trump unfavorably, 73 percent describe him as a “racist,” and 70 percent say he is “unfit to protect our country from major threats.” But among likely voters, this survey again found Clinton drawing 48 percent, to Trump’s 23 percent, 13 percent for Johnson, and 8 percent for Stein.

Brownstein notes that there has been some improvement in Clinton’s poll numbers with younger voters since July. Clinton’s deficit with Millenial voters is apparently not about policy. Clinton supports all of the right policies favored by younger voters, but “Big majorities of Millennials, the polls show, view her as untrustworthy, calculating, and unprincipled.”

It can be argued that young voter turnout rates have not been all that impressive. But close margins in key swing states could make them a pivotal constituency.

As the numbers noted above make clear, it’s not that Millennials prefer Trump: it’s more that too many of them are, at this late date, considering casting their ballots for Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson. Clearly Democrats have work to do to improve Clinton’s credibility and image, but also to educate these voters about Johnson’s right-wing economic policies, which couldn’t be much more detrimental to their interests and prospects.

Russo and Linkon: Dems Must Check Class Bigotry

The following article by managing editor of the blog Working-Class Perspectives John Russo, former co-director of the Center for Working-Class Studies and coordinator of the Labor Studies Program at Youngstown State University and visiting scholar at the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and Working Poor at Georgetown University and Georgetown University Professor Sherry Linkon, faculty affiliate of the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, and editor of Working-Class Perspectives, is cross-posted from Moyers & Company:

When Mitt Romney dismissed the 47 percent of voters who, he predicted, would support Barack Obama “no matter what” as “victims” who depend on government assistance, liberal critics called foul. The quote, caught on video by a bartender at a Florida fundraiser in September 2012, reinforced Romney’s image as an elitist whose interests were firmly aligned with the wealthy. Not surprisingly, Democrats repeatedly used the line against Romney, and while we can’t blame his defeat in that year’s election on that one line, it sure didn’t help, especially in Rust Belt states like Ohio.

Last Friday, Hillary Clinton said the following:

You know, just to be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. They’re racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people – now have 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive, hateful, mean-spirited rhetoric. Now some of these folks, they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America. But the other basket – and I know this because I see friends from all over America here – I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas – as well as, you know, New York and California–but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.

Lux: Dems Must Ignore Distractions, Mobilize Turnout

The following article by Democratic strategist Mike Lux, author of The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America Came to Be, is cross-posted from HuffPo:

Yeah, okay, this hasn’t been the Clinton campaign’s best weekend ever. The media and the Trump campaign both have reasons to play the ‘basket of deplorables’ quote and the health issue up, so of course we will hear a lot of overheated talk about how horrible all this is for Hillary. The simple fact, though, is that neither a quote that needed a little tweaking (if she had said “some” of Trump supporters rather than “half,” the quote would not have been news), nor the news about walking pneumonia is going to change the fundamental dynamics of this race.

When Hillary performs well in the first debate on September 26th, all the health talk goes away — just ask the veterans of the Mondale and Reagan campaigns about good debate performances putting such questions to bed. If Trump wants to get into a discussion about the quote in that debate, it will just give Hillary a chance to pivot and talk about all the nasty racists who are part of his campaign. I guarantee she will not be playing defense on that topic.

So I’m not worried about this irritating weekend. What I am worried about is that Democrats will take off their eyes off the ball and forget the fundamentals of this election, which just aren’t that complicated and aren’t about the gaffe du jour. The 2016 election is about whether Democrats seize the day and get Democratic voters excited about this election. The Rising American Electorate (RAE), a term coined by pollster Stan Greenberg, consists of growing demographic segments within the American voting population: people of color, unmarried women, and young people. All of these groups will strongly support Hillary and other Democrats at the polls. The RAE is now over 55% of eligible voters. If we get them motivated and inspired to vote with a strongly progressive populist message, we will not only win big percentages of their votes, but win more than enough white working class voters as well.

The numbers are clear on this point. As just one example, the Washington Post‘s most recent poll gives Hillary Clinton a modest five point lead over Trump, but if Democratic voters turn out in equal numbers to Republican voters, the lead rises to 10%. Greenberg, who also coined the term ‘Reagan Democrats’ in the 1980s and has studied white working class voters for most of his career, points out, the white working class that is Donald Trump’s base is only 18% of the likely electorate this year. That’s half of what it was in the Reagan years. And we can get some of those voters with the same message that appeals to the RAE.

If Hillary and other Democrats focus the election on the economic narrative of leveling the playing field — the same economic narrative Hillary and Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have all focused on over this election — we will win this election, and win it big. If we talk about creating good, new jobs through rebuilding roads and highways and investing in solar and wind power; if we talk about paid family leave and affordable child care; if we talk about raising the minimum wage; if we talk about holding Wall Street accountable; if we talk about free college for low- and middle-income students; if we talk about getting the drug companies to lower their outrageous price increases; if we talk about not letting big money control our politics anymore; in other words, if we talk about the Democratic platform Hillary and the entire party have already endorsed and campaigned on, we will win this election.

There just aren’t that many swing voters in the presidential election left in an America where Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are people and brands people have known a whole lot about for a very long time. But there are two kinds of voters Democrats need to be worried about: people who would be voting for us yet might not vote due to a lack of enthusiasm, and people who would never vote for Trump and thus are Hillary voters. These likely Hillary voters are not necessarily sold on other Democrats down ballot in races they may not be paying much attention to yet. There are millions of voters in both categories, and rather than worrying about voters who might suddenly decide to vote for Trump because Hillary has a touch of walking pneumonia, we need to focus on making our case to those two crucial sets of voters.

Because of Trump’s historic weakness as a presidential candidate, but even more because of demographics and because this kind of economic agenda and narrative produces a strong majority in the polling, this can be a Democratic wave year of historic proportions. But we can still blow this huge opportunity. Democrats are spending way too much time worrying about Reagan Democrats when the guy who coined the term thinks we need to be focused on messaging to and turning out people of color, unmarried women, and young people. We need to stop worrying about voters we will never get, and we need to stop fretting about the little day-to-day stories that will take care of themselves.

Libertarian Gary Johnson Backs GOP Economic Agenda, Opposes Environmental Protection

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is trying to anchor his candidacy with appeals to two constituencies in particular: anti-Trump Republicans and young voters, who are attracted to Libertarian advocacy of personal freedoms like gay mnarriage and legalization of marijuana.

There is not much that can be done to dissuade Republicans who prefer Johnson to Clinton. But Democrats should try to better educate young voters, who may not be aware of Johnson’s often extreme “free market” views, and his opposition to environmental regulations, as well as his unbridled advocacy of corporate exemption from taxes and regulations.

In a normal political year, Libertarian candidates provide an inconsequential footnote and draw a little more from Republican candidates’ support than from Democrats. This year, however, the situation is a little different, mostly because of the GOP’s relentless hammering of Hillary Clinton, which has reduced her “trustworthy” numbers in polls. Never mind that their case for “distrust” of Clinton is extremeely thin; it’s the repetition that counts, and that’s their only hope.

Gary Johnson will likely be on the ballot in all 50 states, while Green Party nominee Jill Stein’s name will appear on ballots in less than half of the states. You would expect that Stein would draw more support from Democrats, but it’s unclear how much, since many of her supporters would probably not vote for the Democratic nominee in any circumstances.

At FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver writes that “The majority of pollsters (12) have Clinton’s margin over Trump shrinking when at least one third-party candidate is included. The difference in margins, however, varies among pollsters, and a few, such as Ipsos, have Clinton’s lead rising by the tiniest of bits when at least Johnson is included. Overall, including third-party candidates takes about 1 percentage point away from Clinton’s margin, on average.”

Johnson’s average support in polls must be 15 percent in order for him to be admitted into the upcomming televised presidential debates, where he could conceivably increase his support figures.

But Tessa Stuart’s “Why You Shouldn’t Vote for Gary Johnson” at Rolling Stone unmasks the former Repubican’s economic and environmental agendas, and surprise, surprise, Johnson pretty much backs the same policies as the likes of Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump on core bread & butter and environmental issues. Some examples from Stuart’s post:

Johnson has a poor fiscal track record, only the faintest fidelity to Libertarian ideals and a facile grip on issues both foreign and domestic – helping explain why 99.1 percent of the electorate decided he shouldn’t be president four years ago…

“I would not believe that colleges or universities should be free,” he [Johnson] told  ProCon.org in June. “They would be too expensive from a federal standpoint. If states want to do that of course, that’s their prerogative. But should they be free? No, they shouldn’t be free.”

Johnson says corporations should give as much money as they want, as often as they choose, to whomever they please. “I think it [Citizens United] comes under the First Amendment, that they should be able to contribute as much money as they want,” he told The New American in 2012. (He reiterated that sentiment this year.)

While Johnson admits fracking is an incredibly inefficient and environmentally destructive form of energy extraction, he thinks we ought to be doing more of it. “I have spoken to my former environmental secretary,” he tells ProCon.org, “and what he says regarding fracking is that it’s only 10% effective, that there are environmental concerns, and that he believes that more research needs to be done on fracking. Number one, it could become much more effective, meaning it could have a much higher yield. So it sounds very pragmatic to me, but that would be where I’m at.”

“My understanding is that it is more free trade than not…But I could not tell you what the specifics are…So I would be in support of TPP.” (All three of his rivals – Clinton, Trump and Jill Stein – are against the deal.)

Speaking of details, when Johnson last publicly discussed the Keystone XL, in 2012, he also didn’t have a firm grasp on those pertaining to the pipeline – a project later spiked by the Obama administration, and which Trump has vowed to revive. Nevertheless, he said he would support it. “I completely support the Keystone Pipeline if it’s not an issue of the government implementing eminent domain to procure right of ways… I really don’t understand where the regulatory hurdles are… I would certainly remove the regulatory hurdles,” he said.

“I accept the fact that there is global warming and I accept the fact that it’s man caused. That said, I am opposed to cap and trade. I’m a free market guy when it comes to the clean environment the number-one factor when it comes to the clean environment is a good economy.”

“Minimum wage, look, I think [everyone is] missing the boat. Why doesn’t he raise it to $75 an hour? Well, of course he can’t raise it to $75 an hour because then prices would go way up and nobody would be able to afford to hire anybody. ‘Oh, I see $75 is too high but $10.10 is just the right number?’ How do you arrive at that? Why not let the marketplace arrive at that? And I just think it’s much to do – minimum wage is much to do about nothing. I mean, nobody works for minimum wage [anyway]… [Just] showing up on time and wearing clean clothes gets you way above the minimum wage.”

“I would do everything I could to repeal President Obama’s health care plan. I think that very simply we can’t afford it,” Johnson said. “The long-term solution to health care is a free market approach to health care…Regarding paid medical and family leave, “I would be opposed to that,” Johnson told ProCon.org earlier this year.

Johnson says he’s a fiscal conservative, but, as the National Review points out, when he was elected governor of New Mexico, “Johnson inherited a debt of $1.8 billion and left a debt of $4.6 billion.”

In addition to his Republican views on economic and environmental policies, Johnson still supports zero gun safety measures, despite all of the horrific massacres of innocent people, including children, in recent years. “I don’t believe there should be any restrictions when it comes to firearms. None,” he said to Slate in 2011.

Libertarians have gotten pretty skilled in crafting their pitch to young voters with vague noises about “freedom” as a general social goal. But they try to avoid too much conversation about their economic and environmental views when selling their candidates to young voters because they know that their views on these issues are nearly identical to those of GOP candidates.

As one friend puts it, “A Libertarian is just a Republican who believes you should be able to kiss whoever you like and smoke whatever you want.”

Tomasky: Why Media Shouldn’t Get Suckered by GOP’s Double Standard on Clinton

The centerpiece of the GOP’s campaign to discredit Hillary Clinton is a couple of manufactured “scandals” being peddled by Judicial Watch and other Hillary-hate groups, writes Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast. Some of the more gullible media outlets have fallen for it, branding Clinton with a standard they have never applied to Republicans. It has had an effect, as Tomasky explains,

…Hillary Clinton is more unpopular than she’s been in a long time—or ever, if you believe the spin on the the new Washington Post/ABC poll. In that one, she’s 15 points underwater. Other recent polls have been both better and worse—she’s minus-17 in YouGov/Economist but only minus-8 in Fox. But the picture is pretty consistent overall, and it’s bleak.

Her unfavorable numbers over the course of the last several months tell an interesting and mostly overlooked tale. The conventional wisdom is that her numbers went south after the Times broke the story in March 2015 of the email server, and they’ve been lower-hemispheric ever since. That’s true—but there are variations within that are worth examining.

Through the summer of 2015, she was barely underwater—three to five points. By December and January it was marginally worse, six or seven in most polls. But she didn’t hit double digits until March and April, and then she really bottomed out around minus-20 in late May and early June.

Tomasky points out that the contest with Sen. Bernie Sanders took a toll on Clinton’s image and “the Benghazi committee was leaking a steady trail of morsels,” while Republicans amped up their allegations about Clinton’s use of a private email server. Tomasky predicts “Republicans, and Judicial Watch, the source of most of these scandal stories, are going to do everything they can to keep them on the front pages between now and Election Day. Oh—with assists from Julian Assange and Vladimir Putin.”

“The media are showing every sign of falling for each and every breathless Judicial Watch press release that lands in their inboxes, without the least bit of skepticism and scrutiny,” reports Tomasky.  For an example of the double standard,  Tomasky notes that former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s “America’s Promise” foundation under Mrs. Alma Powell’s stewardship received contributions from Enron CEO Ken Lay, while Powell’s State Department helped Enron resolve a dispute in India.

“The media really ought to try to be careful about just swallowing whatever connections and insinuations Judicial Watch and other right-wing Clinton haters trumpet for the next nine weeks,” says Tomasky.  “It’s a rather high-stakes time. If there’s a legit Clinton story, obviously, run with it. But if people find themselves writing sentences with phrases like “nevertheless fuels the perception that the Clintons or their associates may have…” they might want to stop and think about whether what they have on their hands is news or innuendo.”

Tomasky warns that “the right is going to try to keep the words “Clinton” and “scandal” next to each other on the front pages for the next nine weeks.” That’s really all they have. Afraid to engage Clinton on the major issues, Republicans have been pounding the Clintons with phony scandals leading nowhere for more than two decades, and she is still standing, despite recent setbacks in the polls.

The Clinton Foundation has done great humanitarian work, of which they can be rightly proud. But to help deflect more Republican attacks, Tomasky advises the Clintons to announce that their daughter, Chelsea “won’t remain on the foundation board.” Tomasky concludes, “This narrative is the only way she can lose. Don’t feed it. Smother it.”

Sound advice. Democrats have an historic opportunity in this election to put America back on a progressive track. Sometimes a strategic compromise can help set the stage for a more important victory.

How Dems Could Retake the House

Until recently, most experienced political observers agreed that Democrats winning back a majority in the House of Representatives on November 8th would be a long shot, even considering Trump’s abysmal poll numbers. At Vox, however, political reporter Jeff Stein reports that some commentators now see a path that could give Dems majority control:

Geoffrey Skelley, who closely tracks congressional races at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, suggests there’s a crude shorthand for evaluating the battle for the House: Look to see if Clinton can beat Trump by 6 points or more in the presidential race. If that happens, Skelley projects 50 seats would be in play.

..By most projections, Democrats look more likely to get closer to 15 or 20 seats, not the 30 they’d need. Many states have gerrymandered safe Republican seats that would require an extraordinary landslide to do the trick. In 2012, for instance, Democratic House candidates won 1.7 million more votes than their Republican foes — and still ended up with 33 fewer members of the House. This is why even many Democrats believe taking the House is unlikely.

But unlikely doesn’t mean impossible. Here’s the math behind how Democrats’ long-shot dream might just become a reality.

Get a district to vote for your party’s presidential nominee and your party will also probably win its House seat.

That’s not an ironclad rule, but it’s a pretty good indicator — in 2012, only 6 percent of districts that voted for Barack Obama voted a Republican into the House.

This is the key to understanding why Skelley thinks a 6-point Clinton win could put the House in play. That kind of national victory would likely mean 50 House districts currently controlled by Republicans would vote for Clinton — therefore suggesting they have a good shot of also going blue at the House level.

Of course, a Clinton win in these 50 districts wouldn’t guarantee House Democrats will pick up all of those seats. (Many are held by powerful or longstanding Republican incumbents who are well-funded and enjoy good reputations at home.) But it does mean that Democrats could lose 40 percent of the House races in districts won by Clinton and still take back control of the House.

And here’s the interesting thing: The polling suggests this is not only a possibility but exactly what’s projected to happen. Averages of all the major polling firms compiled by both RealClearPolitics and the Huffington Post currently put Clinton’s lead right around the 6-point mark.

Stein argues that a 4-point Clinton victory probably wouldn’t do it. That would replicate Obama’s last margin of victory, which only netted 28 seats, two short of what Dems would need to reclaim the Speaker’s gavel this year. A 5-point margin favoring Clinton might do it, according to Skelley’s calculations, but a 6-point lead should give Dems realistic reason to hope for a House majority.

Stein also cites Sam Wang’s calculation that, with just two exceptions since 1946, Democrats have always won back the House when they’ve won the “two-party vote” (voting that excludes third parties). “If the election were held today,” says Wang, “House Democratic candidates would win the popular vote by 5 to 8 percent..Judging from the last few cycles, that level of public opinion appears to be right on the edge of being enough to give Democrats control of the House.”

Before Dems get too optimistic, Stein notes that the Cook Political Report projects that “the party is only on track to nab an additional 16 seats and argues that only 33 seats are vulnerable at this time. Further, adds Stein, Alan Abramowitz’s calculations indicate Dems have about a 15 percent chance of retaking the House majority.

So we have a fairly wide range of informed opinions based on data among some of the smartest political observers about the possibilities for winning back a Democratic majority of the House this year. That’s a lot better than what we were looking at a year ago.

Russian ‘Leaks’ and Election Hacks Appear Designed to Help Trump

If half of the warnings in Dana Milbank’s WaPo column “A Putin-sponsored October surprise?” pan out,  the closing weeks of the 2016 election could make the ‘Brook Brothers Riot,’ hanging chads and  voter suppression scams of the 2000 election seem like a day at the beach.

The really scary thing is, Milbank’s warnings seem plausible, considering what we know of Putin’s character, track record and priorities. Milbank elaborates:

We learned earlier this summer that cyber-hackers widely believed to be tied to the Kremlin have broken into the email of the Democratic National Committee and others. The Post’s Ellen Nakashima reported Monday night that Russian hackers have also been targeting state voter-registration systems. And, in an apparent effort to boost Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy, they’re leaking what they believe to be the most damaging documents at strategic points in the campaign.

Last week, we learned something else: The Russians aren’t just hackers — they’re also hacks. Turns out that before leaking their stolen information, they are in some cases doctoring the documents, making edits that add false information and then passing the documents off as the originals.

Yes, that’s right. Forgeries crafted to obliterate the integrity of U.S. elections and create an outcome that serves Putin’s agenda, specifically the election of Donald Trump. Milbank continues:

Foreign Policy’s Elias Groll reported last week that the hackers goofed: They posted both the original versions of at least three documents and their edited versions. These documents, stolen from George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, were altered by the hackers to create the false impression that Russian anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny was funded by Soros. A pro-Russian hacking group, CyberBerkut, had inserted Navalny’s name, bogus dollar amounts and fabricated wording.

This raises an intriguing possibility: Are Vladimir Putin’s operatives planning to dump edited DNC documents on the eve of the presidential election?

At this point, maybe the smart answer is another question: Why wouldn’t they? If they can hack the Soros Foundation, perhaps they wouldn’t have too much trouble hacking into the offices of Secretaries of State, particularly “red” states where Republicans run election day operations.

And what sort of b.s. memes might the Russians try to implant? Milbank offers a few possibilities, including “Perhaps they’ll show that the Clinton Foundation has been funding the Islamic State, or they’ll have Hillary Clinton admitting that she didn’t care about those Americans who died in Benghazi after all.”

If this sounds a little too ‘out there,’ consider Milbnk’s reminder that “Russian “dezinformatsiya” campaigns such as this go back to the Cold War; the Soviet portrayal of AIDS as a CIA plot was a classic case.” Milbank conceders that “this type of cyberwar — email hacking and, now, the altering and release of the stolen documents — is a novel escalation.” Further, adds Milbank:

…On Sunday, Neil MacFarquhar wrote in the New York Times about Russian attempts to undermine a Swedish military partnership with NATO. The campaign is spreading false information that there’s a secret nuclear weapons stockpile in Sweden and alleging that NATO soldiers could rape Swedish women with impunity. This Russian use of “weaponized information” helped cause confusion in Ukraine in 2014, when conspiracy theories spread by the Russians about the downing of a Malaysian Airlines jet helped Russians justify their invasion of Crimea.

…Putin has meddled in domestic politics in France, the Netherlands, Britain and elsewhere, helping extreme political parties to destabilize those countries. He appears to be doing much the same now in the United States, where, in addition to the DNC and state voter system hacks, there have also been reports this summer about Russia hiring Internet trolls to pose on Twitter and elsewhere in social media as pro-Trump Americans.

Could Putin make Trump his puppet? Trump is still hiding his taxes from public scrutiny, but it appears that they have some economic interests in common. As Milbank observes, “Trump and Putin have expressed their mutual admiration, and even after the departure of Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, Trump and several top advisers have close ties to Moscow.” It’s even been reported that Trump’s daughter is hanging out with Putin’s wheeler-dealer girlfriend.

“The hyper-competitive American media environment,” concludes Milbank, “is vulnerable to the sort of technique the Russian hackers used in the Soros case — stealing documents, altering them, then releasing them as the original.” Given all of the above, the biggest surprise would be if Putin decides not to meddle in our presidential election to help elect Trump.

It may seem counter-intuitive that Putin would prefer Trump to Clinton, since Democrats are far more of a pro-worker party than Republicans. Russia as a whole has prospered in recent years under Putin, but is now mired in a deep recession. The World Bank projects Russia’s poverty rate to increase to over 14 percent this year. Never much of a socialist, Putin has not been an enthusiastic champion of Russia’s workers. He has put his KGB cronies on industrial boards, not workers, and he has restricted human rights in general.

The labor movement is still weak in Russia, but there have been wildcat strikes and protests in recent years. Putin has been able to deflect much worker discontent with nationalist distractions, like the invasion of Crimea. It’s not hard to see why he would like Trump better than Clinton, with whom Putin clashed during her tenure as Secretary of State. Don’t be surprised if Russian-doctored emails and other forged documents designed to discredit Clinton suddenly appear in the weeks ahead.