washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Ed Kilgore

Trump Will Betray His White Working-Class Base

What Democrats should keep in mind, however, is that whichever way he goes he is very likely going to betray his white working-class base — the people who put him into office — sooner or later. The “later” part is the most certain. Donald Trump does not have the power to bring back the Industrial Era economy he has so avidly embraced. He will not be able to reopen the coal mines, rebuild the manufacturing sector, or repeal the international economic trends that would exist with or without NAFTA or TPP. And for that matter, he has little ability to reverse the demographic and cultural trends most of his voters dislike.
–Ed Kilgore

The Optimistic Leftist

The Optimistic Leftist

“…The case he makes cogent and persuasive. If you’re anywhere on the left side of the political spectrum, you’re feeling pretty glum these days. Well, read this book.”
 —Michael Tomasky
E. J. Dionne Jr

E.J. Dionne Speaks Out

Donald Trump cast himself as the champion of a besieged American working class and a defender of its interests. His early decisions tell us something very different: This could be the most anti-worker, anti-union crowd to run our government since the Gilded Age.
–E.J. Dionne Jr.

The Optimistic Leftist

Ruy Teixeira’s, “The Optimistic Leftist”

“…a powerful, provocative and persuasive case that progressives are in a better position than they realize to make our world better.”
—E.J. Dionne

The Daily Strategist

April 26, 2017

Moody: Democrats 2016 Collapse Long in the Making

At the lefty Jacobin, Kim Moody has a tough critique of Democratic mistakes and misguided strategy, beginning long before 2016. Moody, a co-founder of Labor Notes and author of “In Solidarity: Working-Class Organization and Strategy in the United States,” writes:

…Upper-income groups were overrepresented in the voting electorate as a whole, and both candidates drew a disproportionate part of their vote from the well-to-do, with Trump a bit more reliant on high-income voters. This in itself doesn’t rule out a working-class shift to Trump, but the media’s version of this is based on a problematic definition.

Among other problems, a large majority of those without a college degree don’t vote at all. Furthermore, people who don’t vote are generally to the left of those who do on economic issues and the role of government. Of the 135.5 million white Americans without degrees, about a fifth voted for Trump — a minority that doesn’t represent this degree-less demographic very well.

Another problem is that there are only about 18.5 million white, blue-collar production workers — the prototype of the defecting white industrial worker. If we double this to account for adult spouses to make it just under 40 million, and assume that none of them have degrees, it still only accounts for a little more than a third of those white adults lacking the allegedly class-defining degree…There are another fourteen million or so white service workers who are working class, but even if we include them and their spouses we still account for only about half of the huge 70 percent of white adults in the United States who lack a college degree.

Moody adds that 86 percent of small business owners are white, have an average income of $112K, are twice as likely to be Republicans and 92 percent of them say they ‘regularly vote.’ They and their spouses, writes Moody, “could more than account for all the twenty-nine million of those lacking a college degree who voted for Trump.” Further,

The relatively high income levels of much of Trump’s vote point toward a majority petty-bourgeois and middle-class base for Trump, something the Economist concluded in its earlier survey of Trump primary voters when they wrote, “But the idea that it is the mostly poor, less-educated voters who are drawn to Mr. Trump is a bit of a myth.”…Trump’s victory was disproportionately a middle-class, upper-income phenomenon.

Moody presents an interesting chart on union household voting, based on data from Roper and CNN exit polls, which suggets that Trump’s support from the working-class has been overstated.

moody

As Moody notes, “about 40 percent of union members and their families have been voting Republican in presidential elections for a long time, with the Democrats winning a little under 60 percent of the union household vote for the last four decades.” He adds “a relatively small number shifted to Trump from 40 percent for the Republican in 2012 to 43 percent in 2016. These 3 percentage points represent a shift of just under eight hundred thousand union household voters across the entire country.” In addition,

Trump’s shift of union household voters is actually less dramatic than the swing from 1976 to 1980 for Reagan, and even less so than the 14 point desertion of union household voters from Carter in 1980, half of which went to independent John Anderson rather than Reagan, in an election when union householders composed 26 percent of all voters.

In other words, Trump attracted both a smaller proportion and number of these voters than Reagan or Anderson. These same voters have swung for some time between Democrats, Republicans, and high-profile third-party candidates such as Anderson, Ross Perot who got 21 percent of union household voters in 1992, and Ralph Nader, who got 3 percent in 2000. The meaning of the 2016 shift was more sinister to be sure, but it was also long in the making as the Democrats moved to the right.

Trump did win 10 million union household votes, while Clinton got 12 million. But many didn’t vote at all, and that non-voting constituency may be more ready to vote Democratic after a few years of the Trump Administration’s chaos. Overall, however, “while there was a swing among white, blue-collar and union household voters to Trump, it was significantly smaller than the overall drop in Democratic voters.”

Moody blames a reduction in “direct door-to-door human contact with lower-income voters in favor of purchased forms of campaigning, from TV ads to the new digitized methods of targeting likely voters” as one of the culprits in weaker voter turnouts. He sees a class bias in high-tech voter targeting, which leads to less direct contact with working-class potential voters.

Democrats purport to be the party that champions improved living standards for working people, but they have been unable to deliver in recent years, owing increasingly to the Republican’s strategy of all-out obstruction. Moody concludes by arguing that “centrist liberalism” is a doomed philosophical foundation for Democrats because it is associated with the Party’s failure to produce the needed economic reforms.

Democrats are going to need a much bolder economic strategy that acknowledges the failures of the past and points the way to a more robust economic agenda like that which empowered the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders. Democrats should not allow the Trump Administration ownership of a massive investment in infrastructure upgrades and twist it into another corporate raid on the federal treasury. Instead, revitalizing America’s crumbling infrastructure should be the signature project of the Democratic party, with or without Trump’s support. For Dems, protecting the integrity of it is the central challenge of the next few years.


Progressives Trying to Replace Centrist Dem Office-holders Should Not Purge Moderates from Rank and File

At The Washington Post, Dave Weigel reports on a new initiative to ‘primary’ current Democrats who have voted with Republicans, and elect progressives in their stead:

Cenk Uygur, founder of the Young Turks video network that has become virally popular among progressive voters, is launching a project called Justice Democrats to defeat members of the Democratic Party who have cast votes seen as unacceptable.

“The aim in 2018 is to put a significant number of Justice Democrats in the Congress. The aim for 2020 is to more significantly take over the Democratic Party,” Uygur said. “If they’re going to continue to be corporate Democrats, that’s doomed for failure for the rest of time.”

There’s nothing wrong with organizing primary challengers to defeat moderate or conservative Democrats and elect more progressive replacements. The rhetoric will get hot, but vigorous internal debate is a sign of a healthy party. And Uygur is surely right that Democrats should be more progressive and less corporate to build a stable majority. I like their platform, as Weigel describes it:

The Justice Democrats platform mirrors much of what Sanders ran on, some of which had been adopted into the 2016 Democratic platform. Where Sanders called for renegotiating trade deals, the platform doubles down. Democrats have called for infrastructure spending; the platform calls for the party to “invest billions in rebuilding our crumbling roads, bridges, schools, levees, airports etc.” It goes even further than Sanders, however, in asking candidates to ban foreign aid to human rights violators.

But after the primaries are done, and regardless of the outcome, Dems must unify behind the party nominees, from the court house to the White House. In an electorate as evenly divided as ours, purging those whose views are a little more corporate would be a huge gift to Republicans. Lets not forget that a one vote margin in the U.S. Senate secured the Affordable Care Act.

‘Justice Democrats’ gets a big bump from Dems who were angered by “the 13 Democratic senators who opposed a Sanders-backed measure to make it easier to import prescription drugs from Canada.” That was a moment that made progressive Democrats, including this one, wince with disgust.

Paul Blest joins the call for electing more progressive Democrats in his unfortunately-titled “Democrats need to start fighting — with each other” at The Week:

…Moderate Democrats have rarely faced the same challenges from their left flank. In more conservative states, the excuse is usually that moderates like Mark Pryor (Arkansas) or Mary Landrieu (Louisiana) are the best the Democrats could possibly do, given the circumstances. In liberal states, like New Jersey — which has one senator who opposed the Iran deal and another who sat on the board of directors for the Alliance for School Choice with Betsy DeVos — the excuse is often a lawmaker’s close proximity to an industry that requires “pro-business” policies.

Enough is enough.

If Democrats want to regain national power, they must stop cynically and brazenly triangulating. They can no longer just quietly lament their centrist leaders. Progressives must fight back. They have to take on moderate, establishment-backed Democrats in primaries — even, in some cases, incumbents — who don’t embody the core ideals of a progressive movement positioning itself to be a real alternative to the GOP.

— a well-stated talking point for more progressive Democrats. Further, adds Blest,

…While Republican-controlled seats should unquestionably be the focus, it’s also true that no Democrat — no senator, no member of Congress, no governor, and no state legislator — should be able to take their own renomination in 2018 for granted if they cosign any part of the right’s agenda to privatize everything, install the extremely wealthy in the halls of government, and roll back decades worth of social progress.

There is a real need for fresh blood in the Democratic Party; not just in districts that could be flipped from Republican hands, but in safe seats occupied by Democrats who came to prominence through aligning themselves with the Third Way. After all, this is the faction of the party that ultimately negotiated the public option out of the Affordable Care Act,which arguably contributed to the law’s pending doom.

The trick is to do all of this without alienating a large number of rank and file voters and making them feel excluded. Screwing this up is how you create non-voters and defectors to the GOP.

Now that the inaugural hoopla and escitement about the Womens March are fading, attention is turning to the confirmation of Trump’s cabinet nominees, nearly all of whom merit unified and vigorous  Democratic opposition. There will be some differences among Democrats on the nominees, but we can hope they will unify against the worst ones.

Perhaps even more importantly, Ed O’Keefe and Steven Mufson report “Senate Democrats set to unveil a Trump-size infrastructure plan.” This is the mother of all Democratic issues, the one that should unify all Democrats because it requires direct public investment in massive job-creation. Any Democrat that hesitates on this reform is a DINO, and should probably switch parties. O’Keefe and Mufson explain:

The Democrats said their infrastructure plan would rely on direct federal spending and would span a range of projects including not only roads and bridges, but also the nation’s broadband network, hospitals run by the Department of Veterans Affairs and schools.

Eager to drive a wedge between the new president and congressional Republicans, Democrats consider talk of infrastructure projects as a way to piggyback on Trump’s frequent vows to repair the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges and persuade him to adopt ideas that would put him at odds with GOP leaders, who have done little to embrace what would amount to a major new government spending program.

Advisers to Trump have said they would rely on federal tax credits and public-private partnerships rather than federal spending to pay for a new infrastructure program.

Democrats will have their hands full preventing Republicans and Trump from turning the infrastructure program into a giant pork barrell for the GOP’s contributors, the way they did with U.S. military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dems must be unified on the infrastructure to win the issue and prevent the Republicans from perverting it into a boondoggle for their contributors that creates few jobs.

Campaigning to replace moderate/conservative Democrats with more progressives is not the same thing as “purging” less liberal Democrats from the party. Clinton’s inability to win over some Sanders supporters is likely matched by Sanders’s failure to win over her supporters. There are very real divisions among rank and file Democrats, and it’s unclear what proportion of Democrats are economic progressives and what percentage are ‘corporate’ Democrats. But both groups are large subsets of the Democratic party and there is considerable overlap on different issues.

The Democratic Party would be strengthened with more progressives in the Senate, House and state legislatures and governor’s mansions. But it would be a shame if the centrists were replaced by Republicans because of weak Democratic solidarity. Post-primary solidarity should be a bedrock principle of a healthy Democratic Party.


Political Strategy Notes

Robert Kuttner’s “Q&A: A New 50-State Strategy” at The American Prospect features an interview with  Former DNC Chair Howard Dean on the DNC leadership contest and, more importantly, his ideas for rebuilding the Democratic Party. Among Dean’s observations: “We need a partnership between the DNC with the state parties, to get more Democrats elected to state legislatures. Republicans have been incredibly effective with that. They’ve creamed us, and that’s a really big problem..,And we need a national database. You’ve got to support the state parties with technology…We need two things: we need a 50-state strategy, and a 50-year strategy…[The] generation elected Barack Obama. 2008 was the only election in my lifetime where more people under 35 voted than over 65. This year is a wake-up call for that generation, which is really grief-stricken by Trump’s vote, because it was a repudiation of all their values. I think they’re ready to consider getting involved again.”

For an uplifting antidote to the downer images of the inauguration, check out “Pictures From Women’s Marches on Every Continent” in The New York Times. Will Trump be influenced by the demonstrations that drew an estimated on million protesters in the U.S.? Probably not, and certainly not in a good way, as his recent comments suggest. May it please be followed by more women candidates and a voter registration campaign of unprecedented size and energy. Washington Post reporters notes that “David Axelrod, one of Obama’s closest advisers and an architect of his campaign strategies, said it is incumbent upon Trump’s opponents to do more than march…“This is an impressive display today. But if it isn’t channeled into organizing in a focused way, then it is cathartic but not in the long run meaningful,” he said. “That’s the challenge for the progressive community.”

Put slightly differently, Edward-Isaac Dovere and Elana Schor ask in Politico “Will the women’s march be another Occupy, or a Democratic Tea Party? Organizers and participants want it to be a movement that can do what Trump did in his presidential campaign—only in reverse.” “Now they have to figure out what to do next to channel the raw energy of the marches into political action,” wite the authors. “And what is it that they’re about: Women’s equality? Reproductive Rights? Race? Climate change? Stopping Trump from putting someone they don’t want on the Supreme Court? Making him release his taxes? All of the above? Signs (and costumes) for all of that and more were all over the place on Saturday.”

In his Washington Post column, E. J. Dionne, Jr. explains, “The politics of the next few months and years will depend a great deal on whether the energy displayed on Saturday is sustained through the hard work of political activism. I can imagine skeptics reading this and saying one day of protests will be very easy for Trump and the Republican Party to absorb (even if one can imagine Trump’s fury at not getting even a day’s peace)…there is reason to believe this was not a one-off. First, there was not a single march in Washington but demonstrations all over the country. As the tea party showed, change comes from local actions coordinated nationally. There is clearly a large national base of opposition, community by community.”

The Post’s Philip RuckerJohn Wagner and Greg Miller do a good job of describing Trump’s splenetic over-reaction to the massive demonstrations in compared to the turnout at his inauguration, noting “President Trump used his first full day in office to wage war on the media, accusing news organizations of lying about the size of his inauguration crowd as Saturday’s huge protests served notice that a vocal and resolute opposition would be a hallmark of his presidency…With Americans taking to the streets in red and blue states alike to emphatically decry a president they consider reprehensible and, even, illegitimate, Trump visited the Central Intelligence Agency for a stream-of-consciousness airing of grievances — including against journalists, whom he called “the most dishonest human beings on Earth…“Former CIA Director Brennan is deeply saddened and angered at Donald Trump’s despicable display of self-aggrandizement in front of CIA’s Memorial Wall of Agency heroes,” Nick Shapiro, a former deputy chief of staff to Brennan, said in a statement. “Brennan says that Trump should be ashamed of himself.”

Still wondering what happened in Wisconsin?  Political consultant and educator Brandon Savage has a  provocative op-ed in Urban Milaukee entitled “Democrats Must Change Strategy: Stop bashing Walker and start addressing issues like taxes.” Savage writes “First, Democrats need to stop saying, “You’re voting wrong” to people who support Republicans. A vote is a calculation made by an individual based on what he or she feels is best for family, pocketbook and community. It’s a reflection of that individual’s values. Imagine someone telling you that your values are wrong. It’s an easy way to have a door slammed in your face. A voter like that will wonder, “What do they know about my values?” Don’t do it. Ever….Second, Democrats in the state Legislature have to get to work. They’re in a deep minority, but it’s not impossible to produce results. Democratic state Rep. Evan Goyke of Milwaukee was first elected in 2012, but he’s already authored nearly 30 pieces of legislation based on criminal justice reform alone while having other bipartisan initiatives signed into law. He does it all without ever saying the words “Scott Walker.”…Third, it’s time to get real about the issues that matter. That means Democrats have to start supporting tax reform and address the burden of property taxes while creating real incentives for small businesses and farmers, aka, “Main Street.” Democrats can’t concede this issue because it’s a “Republican issue.” That’s a lazy excuse. It’s time Democrats get tough and talk about the issues that matter most in the small towns and rural communities where they need to win…Democrats can stand up for labor, public education and all the values they hold dear while still delivering a message and results that will make voters think, “They speak for me.”

Some words of wisdom for Democrats from former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, via RealClearPolitics: “…Democrats must diligently seek to establish countervailing power – stronger trade unions, community banks, more incentives for employee ownership and small businesses, and electoral reforms that get big money out of politics and expand the right to vote…The Party must change from being a giant fundraising machine to a movement. It needs to unite the poor, working class, and middle class, black and white – who haven’t had a raise in 30 years, and who feel angry, powerless, and disenfranchised.”

It looks like salon.com screwed up the headline (‘repeal,’ not ‘appeal’?), but Margaret Greenwood-Ericksen, National Clinician Scholar, Clinical Lecturer, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Michigan Medical School, University of Michigan and Mahshid Abir, Assistant Professor, University of Michigan, have some research underscoring the dangers of the GOP’s reckless campaign to repeal the Affordable Care Act. As Abir and Greenwood-Ericksen write, “To improve rural health, it is critical to maintain the expansion of Medicaid. We must find a way to expand coverage for the rest of rural America – two-thirds of uninsured people in rural areas live in nonexpansion states…we are facing a rural hospital closure crisis. The cause of this is complex, but over 70 percent of the closures have occurred in states that did not expand Medicaid – which appears to be linked to improved finances, as hospitals in expansion states have experienced less uncompensated care….An immediate repeal of Medicaid expansion and the private marketplaces without a thoughtful transition and comprehensive plan to maintain health insurance coverage will result in catastrophic consequences for rural health…It will result in a sudden decrease of the insured rates, leading to a dramatic increase in uncompensated care which will likely drive further rural hospital closures. This will result in a crisis of access to emergency care and harm rural economies, condemning rural Americans to an unbreakable cycle of poor health and poverty. American identity is steeped in a desire to protect our most vulnerable – but we need to act now to save our heartland.”

Any bets on how long the petition urging the federal government to release Trump’s tax returns will last on the White House web pages?


Trump’s Divisive Inaugural Address

Immediately after watching Donald Trump’s strange, divisive inaugural address today, I offered an unhappy take on it at New York.

Those familiar with Donald Trump’s inaugural address before he delivered it advised us it would be “Jacksonian.” By that I suppose they meant belligerent, nationalist, and populist. But if you look at the address Andrew Jackson himself delivered at his first inauguration, after a bitter campaign, it could not have been more different. Here’s how Jackson referred to his predecessors in office (including the man he defeated, John Quincy Adams):

“A diffidence, perhaps too just, in my own qualifications will teach me to look with reverence to the examples of public virtue left by my illustrious predecessors.”

Trump began (after a brief thank-you to Barack Obama for cooperating during the transition) by attacking all his recent predecessors, as, well, self-interested betrayers of the public trust:

“For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered, but the jobs left and the factories closed. The Establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs. And while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.

“That all changes starting right here and right now because this moment is your moment; it belongs to you.”

That set the tone for his address, an angry screed of a campaign speech. I’ve been watching and listening to inaugural addresses since John F. Kennedy’s, in 1960. I’ve never heard anything like this one in terms of its divisive content and complete lack of uplift. Even its call for the blessings of the Almighty was to a nationalist God Trump seemed to be charging with protecting the country — if and only if our military and police forces failed. And absent any admission of his own fallibility, his appeal to unity sounded more like a threat of repression than a call for mutual understanding and bipartisanship.

He accused “Washington” of deliberately abandoning factories and their workers, deliberately robbing Americans of their income and wantonly spending it on foreign countries, and deliberately refusing to hear the cries of an aggrieved, impoverished, and powerless citizenry. And having painted this dark picture of a horrific status quo, he proceeded to set out literally impossible goals for his own presidency.

The “American carnage” of crime and gangs and drugs “stops right here and stops right now.” Really? And as for “radical Islamic terrorism”? He plainly promised that “we will eradicate [it] from the face of the Earth.” Seriously. And: “We will bring back our jobs … our borders … our wealth.” Gee, will the rest of the world cooperate to make that happen?

By the time Trump got to the climax of the address, a secular doxology of the national greatness he would achieve (wealthy! strong! safe!), the hope of so many people, especially those who fear him, that the 45th president would rise to the moment and make a graceful, civic-minded speech, had long been dashed.

Trump can, of course, eventually transcend this moment. But it was an ominous beginning for a presidency that was so hard to envision as normal.

I began the day depressed, and ended it depressed and nearly as angry as Trump himself. As he would say on Twitter: Sad!


Trump’s Reelection Slogan

Even as we all try to understand how Donald Trump’s election as president, he’s looking ahead. I noted this, with awe, at New York this week:

The most visible symbol of Donald Trump’s implausibly successful presidential candidacy — with the possible exception of his hair — were the red hats he and many of his supporters routinely wore, emblazoned with the slogan “Make America Great Again.” In an interview with the Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty, Trump discussed how he came up with and quickly trademarked the MAGA slogan back in 2012. His lawyers actually fired off cease-and-desist letters whenever GOP rivals used the phrase in speeches.

The president-elect, a man whose convictions about the value of “branding” are clearer than those he possesses about almost any other topic, is undoubtedly convinced his alleged origination and fierce flogging of MAGA was key to his political success. And perhaps he is right: Its plainly reactionary, yet policy-flexible nature made it a lot more compelling than the straddling stances on the past and present all his opponents assumed. That definitely included Hillary Clinton, who could never overcome the sense she was running for a third term for her husband or for Barack Obama, or both. And it put the Trump campaign in touch with an important strain of right-wing sentiment that is not strictly about limited government — viz. the efforts of David Brooks and William Kristol to promote something they called “National Greatness Conservatism” just before the turn of the millennium.

In any event, the shelf life of MAGA is limited, and as this remarkable moment in the interview with Tumulty shows, Donald Trump is thinking ahead:

“Halfway through his interview with The Washington Post, Trump shared a bit of news: He already has decided on his slogan for a reelection bid in 2020.

“‘Are you ready?” he said. “ ‘Keep America Great,’ exclamation point.’

“‘Get me my lawyer!’ the president-elect shouted.

“Two minutes later, one arrived.

“’Will you trademark and register, if you would, if you like it — I think I like it, right? Do this: ‘Keep America Great,’ with an exclamation point. With and without an exclamation. ‘Keep America Great,’ ” Trump said.

“‘Got it,’ the lawyer replied.”

It’s news indeed that a few days before he becomes president Trump is already thinking about his reelection. And there’s an obvious logic to KAG. But it doesn’t quite pull on the heartstrings like the simultaneously nostalgic and optimistic MAGA. And it puts Trump on the hook for, you know, actually accomplishing something great.

Trump seems to understand that. After some scary talk suggesting that “greatness” has a lot to do with military displays (“That military may come marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. That military may be flying over New York City and Washington, D.C., for parades. I mean, we’re going to be showing our military”), he told Tumulty he needed some steak to go with the sizzle:

“’I think they have to feel it,’ Trump acknowledged. ‘Being a cheerleader or a salesman for the country is very important, but you still have to produce the results.'”

Taking office with the lowest approval ratings ever for an incoming president, while possessing a campaign platform based on magic and Big Man posturing, and facing a common fate with congressional “allies” he plainly mistrusts, it’s not clear how Trump thinks he will “produce the results.” Quite possibly, he thinks that as a marketing genius he can convince voters in 2020 — and earlier, when his administration gets its first public feedback in off-year and midterm elections — that life is better through sheer rhetorical enchantment.

It arguably happened once. Happening twice is far less likely.


Political Strategy Notes

In the states Working America canvassed, a surprising number of white working-class voters who had backed Barack Obama chose Trump over Hillary Clinton, helping flip those states to the GOP. So after the election, [Working America director Karen] Nussbaum’s team went back into the field, surveying over 2,300 voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania to make sense of what had happened. Their conclusion, provided exclusively to The Nation today: Many Trump voters “are as up for grabs [to Democrats] now as they were before the election,” Nussbaum said. That may be of little comfort, two days before the inauguration, but it should remind Democrats that the defection of some of their voters to Trump wasn’t a lasting shift based on policy but a bad choice these voters nonetheless perceived as best for them. — from Joan Walsh’s article, “Post-Election Survey: Democrats Can Still Reach Trump Voters: The study by Working America, shared exclusively with The Nation, finds that many Trump voters are up for grabs—but also points to a lack of progressive infrastructure” in The Nation.

At The Washington Post Elise Viebeck reports that “More than 60 Democratic lawmakers now skipping Trump’s inauguration.” Actually it’s 65 and growing. “The number rose sharply after Trump tweeted Saturday that Lewis (D) is “all talk, talk, talk” and should “finally focus on the burning and crime infested inner-cities.” One Democratic House member, Karen Bass, twitter-polled her constituents, and 84 percent of 12, 704 respondents urged her not to attend.

Jane C. Timm has a round-up at NBCnews.com, “Here’s Why Democrats Say They’re Skipping Trump’s Inauguration,” with short explainations, including “Because “Respect, like Pennsylvania Avenue, is a two-way street” (New York Rep. Lloyd Doggett); “Because “a real president doesn’t insult and bully celebrities or everyday Americans because they disagree with him,” (Rep. Raul Ruiz); “Trump is a unique threat to the Constitution and our country” (Pennsylvania’s Rep. Brendan Boyle); and “To keep a clear conscience” (Texas Rep. G.K. ButterfieldTexas Rep. Al Green).

From “An Emerging, and Very Pointed Democratic Resistance” by Benjamin Wallce-Wells at The New Yorker: “Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who chairs the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, had allowed each senator only five minutes to question [Trump Education Secretary-nomine Betsy] DeVos. In these short exchanges, the committee’s Democratic members did remarkable damage. Under questioning from Senator Chris Murphy, of Connecticut, DeVos not only refused to say that guns had no place in schools but also advanced the ludicrous position that they might be needed to protect against “potential grizzlies.” Bernie Sanders got the nominee to admit that her family had spent as much as two hundred million dollars to elect Republicans. Elizabeth Warren’s prodding revealed that DeVos had little to say about the problem of student debt. Under Tim Kaine’s questioning, she repeatedly declined to say that she would hold charter or private schools to the same accountability standards as public schools. Maggie Hassan’s questioning showed that DeVos did not understand the federal government’s legal responsibility to protect students with disabilities. “I may have confused it,” DeVos said.”

Greg Sargent’s Plum Line post “Trump’s Obamacare replacement will be a scam. Here’s how Democrats can expose it” reveals the fradulent core of Trump’s ACA ‘replacement’: “While he reiterated that people without money will get coverage, he clarified that he’s considering a mechanism to do this: Medicaid block grants. “We’ll probably have block grants of Medicaid back into the states,” Trump told Fox…Progressives tend to oppose Medicaid block grants because they are all but certain to get cut, and because states would restrict eligibility requirements. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities recently put it, they “would likely eliminate the guarantee that everyone who’s eligible and applies for its benefits would receive them…this idea — which seems likely to be at the center of the Trump/GOP replacement plan — would dilute the guarantee of coverage that Obamacare is striving to make universal.”

At Social Europe Oxford University professor Bo Rothstein addresses a question of interest not only in the U.S., but in industrialized nations world-wide: “Why Has The White Working Class Abandoned The Left?” Rothstein focuses on an issue that is too-often glossed over — corruption. “In several yearly polls, Gallup has reported that, since 2010, between 73 and 79 percent of Americans agree that “corruption is widespread throughout the government in this country.” These staggering figures are by no means unique but there is considerable variation between countries from Greece 99 percent to 26 percent in Denmark…Corruption is not an easy concept to define and the academic literature is, to say the least, not unified. Empirical research, however, gives a quite surprising answer to what “ordinary people” in general perceive as corruption. What they understand as corruption is much broader than bribes. Instead, it is various forms of favouritism in which money usually is not involved. This can be things like access to good schools, getting a building licence or a public contract where in many cases people feel that the decision has not been impartial and based on clear rules about merit. Instead, political, social or ethnic personal connections dominates who gets what…Instead of focusing on universal programs for all or very broad segments of the population, the Democrats and Clinton came to represent policies seen as favouritism (“corruption”) towards minority groups by the white male working class. Targeted programs are also very vulnerable to suspicion about malpractice in implementation processes because decisions about individual cases are often very complicated (who is eligible and how much preferential treatment is justified). Universal programs, once the hallmark of successful leftist policies, do not suffer from this problem usually.”

David Leonhardt’s NYT column “America’s Great Working-Class Colleges” merits a thoughtful read from all Democrats who are seeking ways to win more support from working-class voters of all races. Leonhardt observes, “Because the elite colleges aren’t fulfilling that responsibility, working-class colleges have become vastly larger engines of social mobility. The new data shows, for example, that the City University of New York system propelled almost six times as many low-income students into the middle class and beyond as all eight Ivy League campuses, plus Duke, M.I.T., Stanford and Chicago, combined.” However, adds Leonhardt, “The share of lower-income students at many public colleges has fallen somewhat over the last 15 years. The reason is clear. State funding for higher education has plummeted. It’s down 19 percent per student, adjusted for inflation, since 2008, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The financial crisis pinched state budgets, and facing a pinch, some states decided education wasn’t a top priority.” If Democrats can brand their party as the sole institutional advocate of broadening the lanes of access to college education for working families, it will not go unappreciated.

In his post at The Upshot, “Trump Shows How to Smother a Scandal: With a Bigger Story,”Brendan Nyhan has a revealing insight on the role of scandals in politics that Democrats better understand, particularly in dealing with the incoming Trump Administration: “Scandals need time and space to develop. When the news cycle is congested, potential scandals are deprived of attention, causing the media to move on to other stories and the political opposition to anticipate that any criticisms will probably have little effect…Many observers suspect that Mr. Trump seeks to exploit this dynamic by distracting the press and the public with stunts like meeting with Kanye West after delaying a news conference on conflicts of interest or tweetingabout Meryl Streep before hearings to consider his nominees on Capitol Hill. It’s impossible to determine his motivations, of course, but the effect is often to divert attention from less flattering issues…In this sense, the continuing reality show that Mr. Trump creates may help protect him from deep damage by any particular scandal. As in the campaign, he makes so much news every day that few stories ever generate sustained controversy. Instead, public attention lurches from one story to the next, never quite focusing on any particular controversy. He may prefer it that way.” Intentional or not, it’s as if Trump’s attention span deficit has become contagious, infecting the media and actually working in his interest by reducing the shelf-life of his ever-percolating scandals. What provoked outrage in years past, now engenders a few chuckles at the breakfast table, then off to work. Republicans were able to manufacture a fake ‘scandal’ regarding Clinton’s emails, without ever addressing specifics, through unrelenting message discipline, while Trump’s tax returns remain hidden on the eve of his inauguration.

For those who have wondered why America’s 57 million citizens with disabilities are not more of a unified political force, Jay Ruckelshaus’s New York Times op-ed explores “The Non-Politics of Disability,” and offers this provocative idea: “…I believe there is great potential for a new disability politics to provide a positive blueprint for dealing with our partisan divide and other identity issues that goes beyond the unhelpful political correctness frame. Thinking seriously about precisely why disability maintains a moral consensus might allow us to harness any advantages (e.g. a common moral vocabulary) while discarding what’s unhelpful. What if we could construct a model of politicization that doesn’t entail bitter partisanship, and rescue authentic disagreement from stultifying consensus? The resulting practices and mentalities could be revolutionary for disability politics, and for democracy itself.”

 


Democratic State Attorneys General Prep to Fight Trump, GOP Agenda

Despite the problematic political landscape facing Democrats, the party does have a potent resource, 21 state attorneys general, many of whom are tough advocates of progressive values and reforms, and they are ready to rumble. As Alan Greenblatt writes in his post, “To Battle Trump, Democrats Will Use GOP’s Own Tactics” at Governing the States and Localities:

“Democratic attorneys general are going to be very active, suing a number of regulatory agencies,” says Paul Nolette, a political scientist at Marquette University. “They will be prepared to use a kitchen sink strategy against everything coming out of the EPA.”

…Democrats are preparing to fight the new administration with lawsuit after lawsuit. But can Democratic AGs make a difference with their diminished numbers?……The number of Democratic attorneys general has ticked down with recent Republican successes at the state level. But there are still 21 of them — more than the number of Democratic governors or legislatures. Many are already accustomed to working closely on litigation with liberal groups such as the Sierra Club.

As you can see from the wikipedia map below, many of the Republican A.G.s are in smaller population states.

State AGs

And, as Greenblatt notes,”it isn’t really the number of Democratic AGs that matters. A single activist attorney general such as Eric Schneiderman of New York or Xavier Becerra of California can command a small army of lawyers.”

Republicans will surely whine and howl about the Demcoratic state A.G.s doing their job. But they are on very shaky ground expressing any moral outrage about it. As Greenblatt notes,

In his book Federalism on Trial, Nolette found that recent Republican AGs such as Pruitt were far more likely to file lawsuits than earlier generations of attorneys general. By his count, Republican AGs filed a total of five partisan briefs with the Supreme Court during the Clinton administration, compared with 97 during the first seven years of the Obama presidency. Now that the partisan shoe is on the other foot, Democrats will try their best to block much of what they don’t like coming out of the new Washington.

Looking forward, Greenblatt envisions an era of energetic activism on the part of Democratic state attorneys general:

When fighting the administration on labor, immigration and health, Democrats are likely to borrow from the GOP playbook in seeking to block new federal rules through every step of the process. In addition, they’ll try to do something Republicans generally won’t — use their leverage to win multistate court settlements that increase regulation of targeted industries. They could be especially active in areas where Republicans in Washington might be inclined to let corporations off the hook, such as banking and securities.

President-elect Donald Trump is also uniquely-positioned to draw a barrage of legal chalenges from state A.G.s. As Greenblatt explains,

“I won’t hesitate to take Donald Trump to court if he carries out his unconstitutional campaign promises,” Massachusetts AG Maura Healey pledged in a fundraising pitch last year.

…Trump doesn’t come to office with a clean slate when it comes to relations with attorneys general. Schneiderman helped negotiate a $25 million settlement immediately after the election regarding allegations of fraud involving Trump University. He’s still looking into the question of whether Trump’s foundation violated New York law, notably with a $25,000 campaign donation to Florida AG Pam Bondi.

“Donald Trump, citizen, not Donald Trump, president, enters the world of AGs on a watch list,” says James Tierney, a former Maine attorney general who now teaches at Harvard University. “He ran a routine, garden-variety fraud — Trump University — and he was caught. Every attorney general I’ve talked to has had complainants in his state. Everybody opened files. When somebody’s a fraudster, they get on everybody’s agenda. It changes the way you look at him or her.”

Republicans will soon have control of the three branches of government and a healthy majority of the state legislatures and governorships. But, Democratic state attorneys general have a full agenda of their own, and they are set to leverage their authority to keep the Trump administration in check.


As New Head of GOP, Trump is both Sore Loser and Graceless Winner

Dana Milbank sums it up well in in Washington Post column:

To Trump’s many self-assigned superlatives, he can now add another: the sorest winner. With charity for none and with malice toward all but his supporters, he has in the past two months set a new standard for gracelessness in victory.

America has never before had such a prickly president-elect, nor one with such a sour disposition. You don’t have to be a shrink to see that Trump’s extreme defensiveness can be attributed to his titanic insecurities. Having lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million, his tweets and vents provide a textbook case study of a man living his fear that his fraudulence will be found out. He follows each new outrage with another, in hopes that his shell game will continue to distract the media, and so far it has worked.

As the winner of the Electoral College vote, however, as President-elect of the United States and leader of the Republican Party, you would think he would be smart enough to extend the hand of friendship to his adversaries, to reach out and at least make noises about bringing Americans together. Just the gesture would probably get him an upward bump in his approval ratings.

Somehow, that obvious, no-downside strategy has eluded him. Milbank elaborates on Trump’s increasingly sour disposition:

Instead of brushing off criticism, as a president-elect can afford to do, Trump in recent days marked Martin Luther King weekend by telling off civil rights icon John Lewis (a King acolyte) and his “falling apart” and “crime infested” congressional district. He bemoaned “Saturday Night Live” spoofs as a “hit job” and used the words “crap” and “sleazebag” in his public statements. He called the top Democrat in the land the “head clown” and accused the American intelligence community of acting like Nazis.

He responded to criticism from Meryl Streep by calling her an “over-rated” actress and a “Hillary flunky who lost big.” He likewise cheered that his “Celebrity Apprentice” replacement Arnold Schwarzenegger got “swamped” in ratings compared with “the ratings machine, DJT. . . . But who cares, he supported Kasich & Hillary.” Trump said the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee is discussed only because “the loss by the Dems was so big that they are totally embarrassed!”

The losers often have hard feelings after elections. But this much enmity from the winner is extraordinary. Trump, after his election-night promise to “bind the wounds of division” and be a “president for all Americans,” never attempted reconciliation. A day later, he falsely condemned “professional protesters, incited by the media,” and at year end he taunted opponents via Twitter: “Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!”

…His behavior during this time has not been what one typically calls presidential. He has echoed both Vladi­mir Putin and WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange on Twitter and blasted away in all caps. He attacked Vanity Fair magazine editor Graydon Carter after an unfavorable review of a Trump Tower restaurant. His attack on a local steelworkers union president resulted in death threats.

 Trump has used Twitter to attack everything from the “Hamilton” musical to the Chinese government, and, in one tweet, he appeared to commit the United States to attacking North Korea to prevent it from developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the United States.

There is no slight too trivial for the GOP’s new leader to ignore. He has a singular genius for converting a one-day story into a 3-day pubic relations disaster. That probably helps explain why his “favorability” rating has tanked in a recent Quinnipiac University poll.  As Milbank notes, “Views about his honesty, leadership and ability to unite the country dropped similarly.”

Jennifer Calfas reports at The Hill:

The ABC/Washington Post poll found that 54 percent of Americans view Trump unfavorably. The unfavorable ratings of former Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Obama ranged from 9 to 20 percent when they entered office. The new poll echoes similar ones produced from CNN and Gallup.

CNN/ORC poll also released Tuesday also found Trump had a 40 percent approval rating — a historically low number for a president-elect.

Gallup poll released over the weekend found similar numbers, with Trump’s favorables historically low.

Trump’s propensity for the endless, nasty gloat may gratify some of his angrier supporters, and he clearly gets off on the feedback they provide at rallies. But how well does it serve his party’s prospects in the 2018 midterm elections? He’s already won a large majority of America’s sourest voters. There is no value added in marinating in bile for him or the Republicans, but that isn’t going to stop him from taking the bait every time.

All of this in stark contrast to outgoing President Obama, who gave Americans a new standard of dignity, grace and scandal-free government, as well as economic recovery, and greater health security. The new Gallup poll reports that President Obama leaves the White House with a 58 percent ‘favorable’ rating.

Despite the daunting landscape Democrats are facing in the 2018 senate races, their competitive position with respect to House races, governorships and state legislatures is improving. If Trump continues his daily temper tantrums, the GOP ‘brand’ could be in serious trouble by November, 2018.


Creamer: M.L.K. Day 2017– A Time for Principled Defiance

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

This Martin Luther King Day is an especially important time for us to celebrate and emulate the principled defiance of Dr. Martin Luther King. Persistent, unapologetic – doggedly non-violent – Dr. King stood like a rock – defiant of the bigotry, racism and disenfranchisement of his time. Refusing to bend, he inspired a movement that changed America.

In May, 1940, much of the British army was surrounded by German forces – its backs to the sea on the beaches of Dunkirk.

In the face of looming disaster, Prime Minister Winston Churchill rallied his nation and called on his people to take matters into their own hands. In response, hundreds of Brits launched boats of every size, crossed the English Channel, and helped to rescue their surrounded soldiers.

For the British people, the evacuation of the Dunkirk was simultaneously one of the most perilous and heroic moments of World War II.

Ordinary people stood in defiance of certain German victory, refused to accept defeat, helped assure that 330,000 British troops escaped certain disaster, and allowed the British Army to regroup and fight again.

Four years later – together with their ally the United States – many of those British soldiers joined the greatest armada in history as they once again crossed the channel. This time it was to mount the D-Day invasion that turned the tide of the war and ultimately defeated right-wing authoritarianism in Europe three quarters of a century ago.

The spirit of Britain’s defiance of certain defeat at Dunkirk was summed up by Prime Minister Churchill’s “Fight them on the Beaches Speech,” delivered to the House of Commons after the evacuation of Dunkirk was completed on June 4, 1940.

In it he said:

We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills… we shall never surrender.

Today, many Americans prepare to confront our own brand of right-wing authoritarianism. As Donald Trump stands poised to be sworn into office, it is once again a time for Dr. King’s principled defiance.

Several weeks ago, my wife, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, hosted a rally in her district to mobilize her constituents to “Join the Resistance.”

It was a windy, bone-chilling, single-digit day in Chicago. Still 1,400 gathered in at the Armory on North Broadway.

Jan’s speech began:

It is a cold day in Chicago. But it will be a colder day in Hell before we allow billionaires like Donald Trump and (Governor) Bruce Rauner to turn the United States of America into a low-wage plutocracy with no place for immigrants, or people of color, or labor unions, or women’s rights.

The emotional high point of her speech was when Jan, who is Jewish, said:

We need to be united – one for all and all for one – when there are attacks… If, God forbid, a Muslim registry – we must all show up to register and tell Donald Trump: “We are all Muslims.”

That brought all fourteen hundred people in the room to their feet in agreement and applause. “We are all Muslims” they chanted.

That is the spirit of principled defiance that must define our movement in the days and months ahead.

There are many pundits who believe it is a foregone conclusion that Trump and his Republican majorities in both Houses of Congress will repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But if we fight hard enough and stand firm enough, that is not inevitable.

When it comes to the ACA, Republicans in Congress are beginning to hear from Americans with pre-existing conditions and chronic diseases who believe that they are alive today because the ACA saved their lives.

They are beginning to hear from the families that would have faced bankruptcy without the ACA.

They are beginning to hear from the tens of millions of Americans who would lose their health care coverage if the ACA were repealed.

They are hearing from the hospitals and health care providers in their districts that would be devastated.

They have begun to face the reality that if they act to repeal the ACA, many of those millions will blame them – personally – for taking away their health care. And it turns out that people get angrier when you take away something they have, than when you refused to give them something they wanted in the first place.

It is not inevitable that Donald Trump will be able to fill the open Supreme Court seat with a right-wing ideologue who would vote to take away our right to vote, or to form unions, or to assemble to seek redress from our government. That seat should have should have rightfully been filled by President Obama.

If Democrats in the Senate stand firm – and insist that any appointee to fill the seat stolen from President Obama must be filled by a person with the same stature and the same views as those an Obama appointee would have held – we can win.

Republicans only have 51 votes in the Senate that right now requires 60 votes to confirm a Supreme Court Justice. And it will be very hard for Republicans to permanently change the rules so that they could approve a Justice with a simple majority, since many of their own number realize that one day they too will once again return to the minority.

But when it comes to these, and other battles, what will be decisive is not what happens in Washington – but what happens in the states and Congressional districts across America.

Don’t let your Republican Senator or Member of Congress attend an event in your community without confronting them. Give them a first hand feel of the passion and defiance of their own voters.

There are few things more powerful in modern American politics than the combination of your Republican Member of Congress, passionate people and a video camera.

We need to follow the example of a man who is now known in Washington, DC as the conscience of the Congress – Congressman John Lewis.

Fifty years ago, John Lewis helped organize the campaign that ultimately resulted in the passage of the Voting Rights Act and ended decades of disenfranchisement for African Americans in many areas of our country.

Lewis stood on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in principled defiance of Selma, Alabama’s Sherriff Clarke, whose mounted police and local vigilantes beat him within an inch of his life.

Last week, John Lewis quietly but firmly said he did not believe that President Trump is a legitimate president – that there is real question whether the election was manipulated by a foreign power and whether or not there was collaboration between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

A few days ago, the right wing “Washington Times” had a headline reading that “the Left is now permanently in the opposition.” Not unless we completely lose our democracy.

That’s because most Americans are on our side.

The recent Quinnipiac poll showed President Obama with a 55 percent approval rating and Donald Trump at a dismal 37 percent ― lower than any president in two decades as they were being sworn in for their first term. And don’t forget that Hillary Clinton got 3 million more votes than Trump.

But more important, Americans support progressive values. They believe in unity, not division. They believe that we should build an economy that works for everyone, not just CEO’s and the wealthy. They believe in public education. They believe that health care should be a right not a privilege. They believe in the right to organize in the work place and negotiate your wages and working conditions. They believe that every American has the right to vote.

They believe that everyone – white, black, Latino, Asian…. everyone… is created equal and endowed by their Creator with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That’s everyone – not just the wealthy few. Not just people who are the right color or who are brought up in the “right” end of town.

My wife and I had the privilege of attending President Obama’s farewell address in Chicago. In his address, President Obama laid out his vision for an America that embodied those values. And he showed us the kind of dignity and character and decency that should be the hallmark of an American president.

Here is how he concluded his remarks:

My fellow Americans, it has been the honor of my life to serve you. I won’t stop; in fact, I will be right there with you, as a citizen, for all my days that remain. For now, whether you’re young or young at heart, I do have one final ask of you as your President – the same thing I asked when you took a chance on me eight years ago.

I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change – but in yours.

I am asking you to hold fast to that faith written into our founding documents; that idea whispered by slaves and abolitionists; that spirit sung by immigrants and homesteaders and those who marched for justice; that creed reaffirmed by those who planted flags from foreign battlefields to the surface of the moon; a creed at the core of every American whose story is not yet written:

Yes We Can.

Yes We Did.

Yes We Can.

Thank you. God bless you. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.

In the months ahead, it is up to us to stand up for that vision forcefully – defiantly.

This week, as Donald Trump takes office, it is up to us to regroup like the British troops who were rescued by their fellow citizens from the Beaches of Dunkirk – and return to the electoral battlefield in 2018 and 2020 to defeat our own, home-grown version of the authoritarian right ― just as they did 75 years ago.


Political Strategy Notes

In his New York Times article, “When He Goes Low, They Go … Where? Democrats Mull How to Confront Trump,” Jonathan Martin writes, “Democrats, here and in Washington, say it is folly to engage him on his preferred terrain of insults and bombast. They suggest that one of Hillary Clinton’s mistakes was to try to isolate him from the Republican Party by portraying him as an aberrant figure…The more effective course, Democrats say, is to focus on policy and assail Mr. Trump for not living up to his populist promises as he installs a largely wealthy cabinet and begins rolling back the Affordable Care Act…But, despite all predictions in the Republican primary contests and then in the general election, Mr. Trump’s succession of perceived missteps never proved fatal. It turned out that waiting for his inevitable collapse based on his behavior amounted to a grave miscalculation of what the electorate cared most about.”

Democrats must come up with a credible, explainable plan for addressing the job losses caused by automation. In her New York Times article, “A Darker Theme in Obama’s Farewell: Automation Can Divide Us,” Clair Kane Miller writes, “The next wave of economic dislocations won’t come from overseas,” Mr. Obama said. “It will come from the relentless pace of automation that makes a lot of good, middle-class jobs obsolete…The inequality caused by automation is a main driver of cynicism and political polarization, Mr. Obama said. He connected it to the racial and geographic divides that have cleaved the country post-election…Fifty-one percent of all the activities Americans do at work involve predictable physical work, data collection and data processing. These are all tasks that are highly susceptible to being automated, according to a report McKinsey published in July using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and O*Net to analyze the tasks that constitute 800 jobs…Twenty-eight percent of work activities involve tasks that are less susceptible to automation but are still at risk, like unpredictable physical work or interacting with people. Just 21 percent are considered safe for now, because they require applying expertise to make decisions, do something creative or manage people.”

Here’s some surprisign bipartisanship: At The Washington Post Republican strategist Ed Rogers explains why “Comey should resign“: “No matter what the inspector general report shows — after what will undoubtedly be a very lengthy investigation — there will always be a lingering suspicion that something went wrong with the FBI’s involvement. There will always be a sense that something wasn’t quite right at the top…too much toothpaste has left the tube. The FBI won’t be thought of as being at its best, and the agency’s investigations and actions won’t be met with complete trust, unless there is a change at the very top.” Sen. Bernie Sanders agrees.

From The New York Times Editorial Board tribute to President Obama: “Americans will miss Mr. Obama’s negotiating skills on tough issues and the dignity and character that he and his family brought to the White House. Beyond that, they will also miss an impassioned speaker whose eloquence ranks with that of Abraham Lincoln. The way he has defended the founding precepts of the United States while also arguing that those precepts have to be broadened to achieve a new inclusiveness has been especially striking, as have his remarks delivered at moments of national tragedy.”

Some Democrats believe the question of Putin’s influence on Trump is a distraction from the concerns progressives should keep front and center.  As David Weigel reports at The Washington Post, “In a July essay for the left-wing journal Current Affairs, Nathan J. Robinson arguedthat Democrats were “red-baiting” by accusing people who benefited from the hacks of being Russian pawns. Last week Robinson wrote a follow-up admitting that the hacks had mattered — but chastising Democrats for their seeming obsession…Every moment spent talking about Putin is a moment not spent talking about mass incarceration, policing, Social Security, Medicaid, public schooling, Chelsea Manning, gun violence, climate change and war,” wrote Robinson. “Trump is giving press conferences in front of factories whose jobs he has supposedly preserved, while Democrats are frantically calling Trump a Kremlin agent. Who is speaking most to people’s real life material interests?”

The Los Angeles Review of Books has “Reimagining the Working Class: A Roundtable on Economic and Racial Justice in the Age of Trump” by Ignacio M. Sánchez Prado, Sue J. Kim, Keona K. Ervin, Andrew Hoberek, Min Hyoung Song and Curtis Marez.Among the insights, is this nugget from Ervin: “…invocations of the white working class often ignore the ways in which the economic resentments of white working-class people are conceptualized and expressed through race. Moving from the assumption that invoking class automatically means that race isn’t at work, commentators who cited white voters’ support for Obama in the 2008 and 2012 elections as evidence that white working-class voters for Trump weren’t motivated by racism, for instance, missed how race, as George Lipsitz says, “takes place” or finds expression through economic entitlement and possession. Trump supporters’ racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and support of mass deportations, a wall along the US–Mexico border, and a Muslim registry are inextricably bound up with their economic resentment.”

Michael Tomasky has some salient observations on political clock management in his Daily Beast post, “GOP’s Rush to Rubber-Stamp Trump Nominees: Destroy What We Can, While We Can.” Tomasky observes, “A clock is ticking on the walls of leading Republicans and conservative organizations. They have 80 years of history to undo. Workplace regulations, environmental regulations, workers’ protections, social safety-net provisions, various minority-group protections, non-discrimination laws, and most of all business and corporate regulations—all of these and more have to be, uh, reexamined these next four years. Every day counts…That’s the only way to understand congressional Republicans’ solidarity with Trump: They’ll let him have his Twitter tirades and little victory dances in Elkhart, Indiana, over 700 jobs, as long as he lets them take apart the New Deal. That’s what explains McConnell’s hurry to fill Trump’s Cabinet.”

Paul Rosenberg’s “Don’t think of a rampaging elephant: Linguist George Lakoff explains how the Democrats helped elect Trump: Democrats played into Trump’s hands, Lakoff says — and they won’t win until they learn how to frame the debate” at Salon.com provides some painful insights. Lakoff explains in the interview, “The Clinton campaign decided that the best way to defeat Trump was to use his own words against him. So they showed these clips of Trump saying outrageous things. Now what Trump was doing in those clips was saying out loud things that upset liberals, and that’s exactly what his followers liked about him. So of course they were showing what actually was helping Trump with his supporters…Another problem was the assumption that all you have to do is look at issues, and give the facts about issues, and the facts about the issues supposedly show up in polls, and then they apply demographics. So there was this assumption, for example, that educated women in the Philadelphia suburbs were naturally going to vote for Hillary, because they were highly educated. They turned out also to be Republican, and what made them Republican was Republican views, like Republican views about the Supreme Court, abortion, things like that. So they didn’t all go out and vote for Hillary.”

From “The Rust Belt whips and snaps after eight years of Obama,” a Washington Post op-ed by novelist Justin Torres: “I disagreed with a number of Obama’s policy decisions, but always unforgettably admirable will be the way he took kindness with a mortal seriousness. The great work of my adulthood has been to find more and more compassion, to be honest about the grace and beauty I knew alongside the racism and homophobia and spite. First, I had to tease out the complexity, the love and failure, in my own troubled family, and I’ve been working on solidarity, on teasing out the love and failure of that place as well, the place I am from — it has seemed essential to do this work. Today I am bitter, smarting, hunched. I taste once again the rust in my mouth, metallic, bloodlike, as if I’ve been dragged backward across time to a place, a town, I left for good. I can and will be bitter; I can and will resist; I won’t be made unkind.”