Thursday, June 14, 2018

Follow The Leader

Based on the returns from the various primaries around the country on Tuesday, the Republicans seem to be lining up behind Trumpism and setting themselves up for reckoning in November.

“It’s becoming a cultish thing, isn’t it?” Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee told reporters Wednesday morning. “It’s not a good place for any party to end up with a cultlike situation as it relates to a president that happens to be of — purportedly — of the same party.”

Mr. Corker — who is leaving the Senate when his term is up next January — is one of the few Republicans who have stood up to Trump; easy to do when you don’t have to run for re-election.  But the rest of them are all heading for Jonestown.

Not that I’m in the habit of giving advice to people I’d like to see removed from both office and polite society, but when a party re-forms itself to comply with the vagaries and vulgarities of one man — and in doing do blithely abandons its core principles such as fiscal responsibility, family values, freedom (not that they having been breathtakingly hypocritical about all of them before) — they’re setting themselves up for a real turkey shoot.  History — both here and abroad — is littered with the bleached bones of parties and movements that have aligned themselves behind a personality, and there have always been body counts of the innocent to go along with them.  Political parties may unite behind the nominee or a candidate, but they don’t make their platform all about him.  And there has always been a core of loyal, even cordial, opposition within the party to keep a balance and provide a home for the voters who may not have gotten their candidate of choice but still believe in the values that made them join in the first place.  What seems to be the motivating factor behind this cult isn’t a unity of ideas but fear of a tweetstorm from the Dear Leader.

I’m not a great prognosticator of election outcomes, but if the last couple of midterms are any indication, the Republicans are in for a bit of a shock.  Kellyanne Conway, the Wormtongue of this administration, noted the other night that Trump’s approval level rivals that of Barack Obama’s in 2010.  And remember how well the Democrats did in the midterms then?

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Sunday Reading

The Enduring Legacy of Bobby Kennedy — Charles P. Pierce.

Because it has been 50 years, his grandson is my congressman now—a young, passionate red-haired fellow with a crooked smile and a fascinating back story of his own to tell. My congressman’s mother was the first person to take a chunk out of the hide of the unspeakable Bernard Cardinal Law long before the clerical sex-abuse scandal broke and won everybody Pulitzers and Oscars. She took on the Roman Catholic Church’s ridiculous annulment process and won. She fought the case for a decade and finally got the Vatican to cry “Avunculus!” in 2007. My congressman was one of the reasons she fought so hard against preposterous odds. Because it has been 50 years, and there is a through-line that leads all the way back to a cold tiled floor in a hotel kitchen, the end of one good fight and the beginning of so many others.

I have no idea whether Robert F. Kennedy actually would have been elected president in 1968 if someone with a gun hadn’t gotten in the way, as people with guns tended to do during that plague-ridden year. He certainly was building momentum toward his party’s nomination. He had won in places like Indiana and Nebraska, and he had bounced back from having lost in Oregon with a high-stakes win in California. It is possible, as so many of the wise guys of the time claim now in retrospect, that he could have pulled the two wings of the Democratic Party close enough together to beat Richard Nixon, who was not as inevitable as events indicated at the time.

(Hell, Hubert Humphrey almost whipped him and, given another week, probably would have.)

But I am far from completely convinced of that. The Chicago convention likely would have been a free-for-all anyway, inside and outside the hall. The honest protestors might have been mollified by his nomination, but the angrier of the species would have caused their trouble anyway. At the very least, it’s possible that fewer heads would have been busted and it would have been less likely that Dan Rather would have been sucker-punched on live TV.

And what of President Lyndon Johnson, already a lame duck and with nothing at all to lose? How would he have reacted to the nomination of his nemesis to replace him? LBJ, as much as I respect much of what he did, was capable of anything at that point. That is a riddle that was rendered unsolvable by those gunshots in the pantry of the Ambassador Hotel.

What I do know is that his campaign was like no other—a howling cri de Coeur from a wounded nation in a world gone mad around it. It is remembered fondly because the cri de Coeur seemed to be one of stubborn hope that the country could be pulled back from the abyss into which it was staring. But there were other cries from other coeurs that year, too.

Running on the ur-Trumpian platform of the American Independent Party, George Wallace and Curtis LeMay managed to rack up 46 electoral votes, carrying five states, all of them in the old Confederacy. Nixon saw this, and the Southern Strategy was born. In truth, the cri from the coeur of the Wallace campaign has echoed more loudly through American politics than has anything Robert Kennedy said or did as a candidate in 1968. His cri died away when his coeur stopped beating. There is a profound sadness in that.

Whatever it was that drew people to Robert Kennedy is lost to time, although there was some evidence of its abiding force in the two campaigns that Jesse Jackson ran, and even more in the 2008 election of Barack Obama. But the ferocity that drove the Kennedy campaign in 1968, the outrage burning beneath all the healing rhetoric, has been lost ever since. Politicians, and Democratic politicians in particular, became frightened by passion, by the personal, visceral force that drove RFK into the Indianapolis ghetto and announce to the crowd the news of the murder that night of Dr. King, quoting Aeschylus along the way.

That is still the most astonishing performance I have ever seen from a politician, because it was not a politician speaking that night. It was a bleeding country talking through a man who’d already seen tragedies descend upon himself like dark and predatory birds. It was a human being who’d already lost a sister and two brothers, the last of whom was killed from ambush while he was President of the United States.

One of the most remarkable passages from that Indianapolis appearance, a moment unlike any in American politics before or since, came when RFK talked about the murder of his brother.

For those of you who are black—considering the evidence evidently is that there were white people who were responsible—you can be filled with bitterness, and with hatred, and a desire for revenge. We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization—black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand, and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion, and love. For those of you who are black and are tempted to fill with—be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.

That sentiment can be read, in cold pixels, as almost condescending, but the crowd didn’t take it that way. His brother’s murder almost killed him. He knew it, and the people in the streets of Indianapolis knew it and drew a connection unlike any other and believed that he felt the way they felt. No politician since that night ever has spoken so frankly about the power of love and compassion in politics, not even Barack Obama, who often sounded as though he believed love and compassion were always present, even though events have proven that not to be the case. Love and compassion have to be dragged to the surface of our politics, and, even when all the effort is expended to do so, there’s still no guarantee that anyone will buy them.

Ultimately, the great unknowable is whether the country would have taken the turns it took in the 1970s and 1980s, the dangerous detours that have brought us to our present moment, if there had been no guns in the kitchen that night. The reactionary forces against the gains of the Civil Rights Movement already were gathering force, and it’s not unreasonable to conclude that the Republicans would have formed their dark alliance with the remnants of American apartheid even more swiftly had Nixon been defeated by yet another Kennedy.

I would like to think that Robert Kennedy would have been able to stand against the foul gales that were then rising. I prefer to think that he would have, because I prefer to think of this country as perpetually redeemable. So many of our wounds are self-inflicted, and, by and large, through our history, we’ve at least made some good faith effort to heal them and to atone to ourselves for having inflicted them in the first place. That, ultimately, is what Robert Kennedy stood for and, alas, what he died for as well. Wisdom, through the awful grace of God.

A Good Week — John Cassidy in The New Yorker on the Democrats’ results in the primaries.

Donald Trump has had a remarkable impact on American politics. During the 2016 Presidential campaign, he occupied and conquered the Republican Party by mobilizing disaffected, non-college-educated white voters. His accession to the Presidency politicized and mobilized another big segment of the population: liberal, college-educated Americans of all races, particularly women. As the past week has confirmed, this mobilization is just as real as the Make America Great Again phenomenon.

Most coverage of Tuesday’s midterm primaries has concentrated on California, the nation’s most populous state, but I’ll focus here on New Jersey, which may be a bellwether. If there’s anything that analysts from across the political spectrum agree on, it’s that the November general election will be decided in the suburbs and exurbs, where Democrats are targeting Republicans and Independents put off by Trump. New Jersey is perhaps the most suburban of all the states, and, although it has been trending toward the Democrats in recent years, it still has five Republican congressional districts.

The Democrats have their sights set on four of them: the Second, which covers the southernmost portion of the state, from Atlantic City to the Delaware Bay; the Third, which runs across the south-center of the state, from Toms River to close to Philadelphia; the Seventh, which extends from just west of Newark along Route 78 to the Pennsylvania line; and the Eleventh, which includes much of affluent Morris County, and which has for the past twenty-four years been represented by Rodney Frelinghuysen, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, who is retiring.

On Tuesday, the Democrats got a strong turnout in all of these districts, except in the Third, where both parties’ primaries were uncontested. In fact, more Democrats voted in these G.O.P. districts than Republicans. (Democrats 112,751; Republicans 100,028.) For a number of reasons, it doesn’t make sense to extrapolate these figures directly to the general election. But at the very least, they point to an enthusiasm gap between the two parties that augurs poorly for Republicans.

So does the fact that the Democrats chose some experienced candidates who won’t be easy for the G.O.P. to defeat this fall. Two of them worked in the Obama Administration: Andy Kim (Third District) and Tom Malinowski (Seventh District). Jeff Van Drew, who won in the Second District, is a veteran state senator who, in the past, has supported lax gun laws and opposed gay marriage. His victory outraged some progressive Democrats, but his conservative views may well help him in a district that is largely blue-collar, and which Trump carried in 2016.

The victory, in the Eleventh District, of Mikie Sherrill, a former federal prosecutor and Navy pilot, demonstrated the key role that people new to politics, and especially women, are playing in the anti-Trump mobilization. She told the Bergen Record’s Charles Stile that she was motivated to run by Trump’s “attacks on women, minorities, Gold Star families, POWs, and the Constitution.” She lives in liberal Montclair, a focal point for anti-Trump activism in the state. In addition to criticizing Trump and supporting Robert Mueller, the special counsel, she has also stressed pocketbook issues, such as health care and the impact on New Jersey homeowners of the Republican tax bill, which limited local property-tax deductions. Her formidable presence in the race was one of the factors that prompted Frelinghuysen, the scion of a New Jersey political dynasty, to retire.

The success of centrists like Sherrill demonstrates that the anti-Trump movement isn’t an ideological phenomenon. It is based on a visceral reaction to the President, the values—or lack of values—he represents, and the way he is running roughshod over Presidential norms. You can see this all across the country, as evidenced by a new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, which found that, by a margin of twenty-five percentage points, voters are more likely to go for a candidate who promises to provide a check on Trump.

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent obtained a breakdown of these figures in districts that the Cook Report classifies as competitive, such as the four districts the Democrats are targeting in New Jersey. It showed the margin of voters wanting a check on the President was even larger in these places: thirty-three percentage points. “It should be noted that the vast, vast majority of these seats are held by Republicans,” Sargent wrote. “And so, in a whole lot of competitive seats mostly held by Republicans, majorities are more likely to vote for the candidate who will act as a check on Trump and will oppose him on most of his policies.”

Now, this was just one survey, and it did provide some encouraging bits of data for Republicans, including the fact that more than six in ten respondents said they were “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with the economic situation. As I noted earlier this week, the Republicans are trying to turn the midterms into a referendum on the economy. Over all, though, the findings of this poll and others released in recent days confirm what is evident in New Jersey—Trump’s presence in the White House has created a major backlash against him and his G.O.P. enablers. (The new polls also indicate that the Democrats still hold a big lead in the generic congressional ballot, which political analysts watch closely.)

Going into the campaign season, anti-Trump fervor remains the key factor shaping the political environment. With four months to go until the general election, some things could change. But it’s hard to see public sentiment toward Trump shifting much, and this week confirmed why Democrats have reason to be encouraged about the fall.

Doonesbury — Back to normal.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Now That’s Chutzpah

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the one man who held up the appointment of a replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia for nearly a year and who is the majority leader of the Senate, which means the Democrats can’t do much more than just watch, is cancelling summer break:

“Due to the historic obstruction by Senate Democrats of the president’s nominees, and the goal of passing appropriations bills prior to the end of the fiscal year, the August recess has been canceled,” McConnell of Kentucky said in a statement on Tuesday. “Senators should expect to remain in session in August to pass legislation, including appropriations bills, and to make additional progress on the president’s nominees.”

Yes, the party that decided on January 20, 2009, that Barack Obama wouldn’t get a thing done and they’d use every trick in the book to obstruct his agenda and make him a one-term president, is complaining about obstructionism by the Democrats.

The real reason, of course, is that the August recess before an election is prime campaign time and either McConnell is trying to hobble the Democrats from storming the beaches or he is trying to fend off a landslide — or both.  But c’mon; he’s got to come up with a better line of bullshit than this.

By the way, the House is going out for the whole month, so I don’t really see the point of having the Senate stay in session when there’s no one on the other side of the Capitol to do anything with what they come up with.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Don’t Even Try

There was another round of primaries for the mid-term elections in several states yesterday, including the newly re-districted Pennsylvania.  As the article in the Times notes, the Democrats are getting their hopes up that they can retake the House and even the Senate in the fall.

There’s a stream of thought going around that maybe one way to really win is to convince Trump voters that they got screwed over in 2016 and now it’s time to get off the crazy train.  But I doubt that will actually work.

The problem, as Paul Waldman relates here, is that the Trump voters are so convinced that the Democrats and the mainstream media — which is every outlet other than Fox News and AM talk radio — look down on them from their ivory towers of elitism, and the only reason they’re showing them any respect at all is because they want their money and their votes.  After all, that’s how the GOP elitists got them.

The assumption is that if Democrats simply choose to deploy this powerful tool of respect, then minds will be changed and votes will follow. This belief, widespread though it may be, is stunningly naive. It ignores decades of history and everything about our current political environment. There’s almost nothing more foolish Democrats could do than follow that advice.

Trying to convince a Trump voter that they’re wrong is like setting up a Yankees souvenir stand outside Fenway Park.  You’re not going to get anywhere, and you’ll annoy them in the process; in fact, they’ll dig in even harder just to spite you.  What would make it even worse is to try to convince them that you respect them but have different views: “agree to disagree, my friend.”  That only tells them that you’re either patronizing them or worse, that you’re weak-willed and unwilling to fight for your cause at the same level that they are.

Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security over the stories that are popping up now about how some folks in Trump territory are finding out that they bought a pig in a poke.  They are few in number and deep in the closet; they’ll show up at a MAGA rally just to keep up appearances, and when it comes to voting, they’ll stick with their brand.

So don’t bother to try to win them over.  There are more Democrats in this country than Republicans and Hillary Clinton got 3 million more popular votes.  We simply need to get them to turn out and vote.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Clean Getaway

The only thing mildly surprising about House Speaker Paul Ryan’s surprise announcement that he won’t run for election again was that he trotted out the old reason: he wants to spend more time with his family.  As if staring down the barrel of a possible landslide of Democrats taking the House and possibly even the Senate in the midterms only earned a “oh yeah, that too” ranking in his reasoning.  Wanting to spend more time with the family is what a man caught in a dalliance with another woman — or a rent boy — tells the press as he ducks and covers on his way outta town.  I expected something a bit more original.

Or at least more honest.  I think he’d do the world a favor, and perhaps even the GOP, if he said, “Look, we’re up the creek with Trump in the White House and we know it.  Even if I won re-election, if we lose the House, I’m gonna have to live in a party that is run by Trump and I don’t have the balls to do that.  So I’m outta here.”

The one good thing Mr. Ryan’s departure does is give lesser and more vulnerable House members the green light to decide to spend more time with their families, even if they don’t have one.  The number of Republican vacancies, either by retirement or running for another office (or looking for an attorney) is approaching 40.  Now that the Speaker of the House and one-time vice presidential nominee has seen the glare of the oncoming train in the tunnel, there’s no shame in polishing up the old LinkedIn account, lining up some lobbying gig with an oil or coal company, or getting a commentary job on a local Sinclair Broadcasting station.  There has to be a market somewhere for a used Republican.

Paul Ryan’s personal history — that he came from a low-income background in rural Wisconsin, that he lost his father at a young age, and that he went on to achieve some Capra-esque vision of the American dream — is tarnished by the fact that he’s never held a job in the private sector and he’s spent his entire political career trying to undercut and eventually tear down the support system that got him to where he became Speaker of the House.  And now he’s retiring before he’s hit 50 and will, more than likely, never have to work a day in his life thanks to his generous pension from the government.  How very Republican.

I will give him credit for making a clean getaway.  Rather than face the ignominy of defeat next fall, either in his own election or that of the majority, he won’t have to face the press and the microphones as he tries to polish the turds.  He’s going out with applause from his caucus and turning the office over to someone else to clean up the piles that he’s leaving.  And that’s very Republican, too.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Ryan’s Nope

Via the Washington Post:

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) has told friends and several colleagues that he has decided not to seek reelection this year and will soon inform colleagues of his plans, according to several people familiar with his plans.

The decision comes ahead of mid-term elections that were already looking treacherous for Republicans, who risk losing control of the House.

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.  Let the rake do it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Not So Fast There, Rick

All the punditocracy seems to think that with Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) entering the Senate race against incumbent Bill Nelson, the GOP will pick up the seat.

I’m not so sure.  Yeah, it’s going to be a tough and expensive race, but I wouldn’t start measuring for drapes for Rick’s office in Washington just yet.  Bill Nelson may not be the most exciting guy — as if that’s a quality you look for in a senator — but Mr. Scott is no knight in shining armor.  He’s an opportunist, he’s run the state like it’s his own business, he’s made a shitload of money through unknown means while doing it, and he’s taking credit for a lot of things such as job growth that aren’t his doing.

For instance, he’s claiming that since he came into office in 2009, Florida has picked up millions of jobs.  Yes, that’s true, thanks to the economic policies of Barack Obama.  He’s claimed he’s increased education spending in Florida.  Yes, but not as much as compared to the years before he came into office, and right now, it’s lagging behind his predecessors if you account for inflation.

And there’s the simple matter of popularity.  He won election in 2008 against Alex Sink by a very narrow margin (and she was not the most energizing candidate), and re-election in 2012, again by a very narrow margin.  He has baggage from his days of running a hospital corporation, he’s a huge Trump supporter, and — fairly or not — he’s kinda creepy.  I think the only reason he may win is because the people of Florida want him somewhere else.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Republicans Talking Impeachment

Don’t get your hopes up; it’s not like it sounds.

As Republican leaders scramble to stave off a Democratic wave or at least mitigate their party’s losses in November, a strategy is emerging on the right for how to energize conservatives and drive a wedge between the anti-Trump left and moderate voters: warn that Democrats will immediately move to impeach President Trump if they capture the House.

What began last year as blaring political hyperbole on the right — the stuff of bold-lettered direct mail fund-raising pitches from little-known groups warning of a looming American “coup” — is now steadily drifting into the main currents of the 2018 message for Republicans.

So far I haven’t heard of any Democrats planning on bringing it up in the mid-terms, and it’s slightly ironic that the Republicans think it’s such a drastic measure when it wasn’t that long ago that they rallied their troops around impeaching Bill Clinton.  (How’d that work out?)

It’s also common practice for the GOP to go completely batshit when it comes to fund-raising appeals; they’re still working off Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, and raising the spectre of Trump in the dock in the Senate is a sure-fire way to shake down the base.  But it may become problematic when they try to get support and votes from those who don’t watch Fox News or get their millinery from Reynolds Wrap.  I’m not so sure they won’t drive a lot of voters into the arms of the Democrats with “Vote Republican or Trump Will Be Impeached!”

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Too Close To Call

As of this writing — 3:17 a.m. — the results of the special election in Pennsylvania are too close to call, but Democrat Conor Lamb has the lead.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday night, Lamb clung to a 579-vote edge over Republican Rick Saccone, with 113,111 votes for Lamb and 112,532 for Saccone. NBC News said the contest was too close to call.

But shortly before 1:00 a.m., Lamb was introduced as “congressman-elect” at his election night party.

“It took a little longer than we thought, but we did it!” Lamb told cheering supporters.

I don’t know what the trigger point is for a recount, but there will most assuredly be calls for one.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Pennsylvania Oracle

Pundits, predictors, and cable news hosts — basically the same thing — are awaiting the results of today’s special election in Pennsylvania.

The stakes are high for President Trump and congressional Republicans in Tuesday’s special election to fill a U.S. House seat, with GOP leaders unnerved about the prospect of defeat and the implications for this year’s midterm elections.

A loss in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District — a working-class slice of the country that Trump has cultivated as his political base — could shatter hopes that his core voters will turn out in droves this fall and save the GOP’s 24-seat House majority.

And, coming days after the president announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, the vote could raise fresh questions about the power of Trump’s protectionist agenda to lift his party.

“It really is a test that sets things in motion,” former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele said. “Does the base have energy? Does the party have the structure and discipline it needs?”

The latest polling has the Democrat, Conor Lamb, up three points against Rick Saccone, the Republican who is hoping to keep the district in GOP hands, a seat they’ve held for generations.  The district, south of Pittsburgh, is mainly working-class white voters and went heavily for Trump in 2016.  But when the previous rep, Tim Murphy, resigned in a sex scandal, it became the test case Trump’s rhetoric versus the Democrats’ renewed energy to take our country back.

Ironically, the district will basically disappear by November when the court-mandated map is put in place.  But for now it’s all about who’s message gets out.

Scott Lemieux at LGM:

…Whether Saccone narrowly wins or narrowly loses a district Trump carried by nearly 20 points, it’s a sign Republicans are in serious, serious trouble in the fall. And while normally the outcome of the election would still be very important because of the incumbency advantage, because Pennsylvania’s elected judges decided to ram democracy RIGHT DOWN THE THROATS of Pennsylvania’s unrepresentative legislature the November election will be fought in a completely different district anyway. Saccone losing might lead to a few more preemptive retirements by GOP House members but that’s about it. It’s already bad news for Republicans and the only question is how bad.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Democrats Keep On Winning

Another special election, another Democrat flips a GOP seat.  And this time in Florida.

Democrats continued a streak of special election wins with a victory along the Gulf Coast of Florida on Tuesday, the 36th red-to-blue switch in a state legislative race since the 2016 election.

Democrat Margaret Good triumphed by seven points in the Sarasota-based 72nd District, defeating Republican candidate James Buchanan in an area that backed Donald Trump for president in 2016 by more than four points.

The upset is likely to reverberate through the two major parties as they gear up for the midterm election cycle. Although Republicans have been buoyed in recent weeks by the sense that their tax legislation will be popular among voters, and by new polling showing that Trump’s popularity has ticked up, Tuesday’s outcome offers yet another data point that voter enthusiasm lies with Democrats.

“They’re winning elections in places where they shouldn’t be,” said Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager, at a Sunday afternoon rally for the Republican candidate. “We’ve seen them win statehouse seats in Wisconsin. We’ve seen them win big mayor’s races in New Hampshire. Fifty seats have already changed hands, from Republicans to Democrats, since President Trump took office. Make no mistake: The Democrats are unified.”

Gee, Corey, I wonder what it could be that has the Democrats unified?  Could it be that the Republicans are falling in behind a sexist, racist, narcissistic vulgarian who was elected with the help of a global adversary and who, when confronted by a choice of good for the country or good for him, always goes with the latter?

As for Trump’s popularity ticking up, it’s because he’s offered goodies and temptations, the same way a predator offers candy to get into his windowless van.  Most people catch on pretty quick.

But one of the overriding factors may be that the Democrats at long last are running candidates who not only are a stark contrast to the fear, loathing, and racially-tinged message of Trump, but who offer something to vote for.  It also doesn’t hurt that they’re raising a ton of money and outspending the Republicans.  You can have the best message in the world but it won’t do you any good if nobody hears it.

This time they did.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Dream On

Via the Washington Post:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi commandeered the House floor Wednesday for a day-into-night marathon plea to Republicans for action on immigration, casting the fate of young undocumented immigrants in moral terms.

The 77-year-old Pelosi stood for more than eight hours, reading multiple personal stories from “dreamers” and citing Bible passages. Her speech ranked as the longest given by a member of the House of Representatives in at least a century, possibly ever, focusing on an issue that has vexed Democrats for months.

The speech underscored that Democrats lack the leverage they insisted they would have in spending showdowns with Republicans. Pelosi and others repeatedly promised immigration activists and the party base they would force a vote sparing undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children from deportation after President Trump rescinded the program in September.

Instead, Democrats’ ineffectiveness has angered those same activists and the voters critical in a midterm election year with control of the House at stake.

Pelosi, who began talking shortly after 10 a.m., sought the same assurances Democrats have gotten in the Senate — the promise of debate on an immigration bill, the one glimmer of hope on an issue that seems to defy resolution.

“Why should we in the House be treated in such a humiliating way when the Republican Senate leader has given that opportunity in a bipartisan way to his membership? What’s wrong? There’s something wrong with this picture,” Pelosi said.

Aides to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said that he intends to allow debate on immigration legislation that is supported by Trump. But when the debate might happen — and what kind of bill Trump can support — is still unclear.

I admire her stamina, her persistence, and her willingness to make the point that as of now, the Democrats are basically powerless in the House to leverage anything out of the Republicans.

The only way to get their way is to be in the majority, so that’s what needs to happen in November.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Out Of The Woodwork

Way to go, Illinois Republicans.

Arthur Jones — an outspoken Holocaust denier, activist anti-Semite and white supremacist — is poised to become the Republican nominee for an Illinois congressional seat representing parts of Chicago and nearby suburbs.

“Well first of all, I’m running for Congress not the chancellor of Germany. All right. To me the Holocaust is what I said it is: It’s an international extortion racket,” Jones told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Indeed, Jones’ website for his latest congressional run includes a section titled “The ‘Holocaust Racket’” where he calls the genocide carried out by the German Nazi regime and collaborators in other nations “the biggest blackest lie in history.”

Jones, 70, a retired insurance agent who lives in suburban Lyons, has unsuccessfully run for elected offices in the Chicago area and Milwaukee since the 1970s.

He ran for Milwaukee mayor in 1976 and 13th Ward alderman on Chicago’s Southwest Side in 1987.

Since the 1990s to 2016, Jones has jumped in the GOP 3rd Congressional District primary seven times, never even close to becoming a viable contender.

The outcome will be different for Jones in the Illinois primary on March 20, 2018.

To Jones’ own amazement, he is the only one on the Republican ballot.

The nutsery isn’t afraid to run out in the open anymore now that we have Trump.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Down The Hatch

Via the Washington Post:

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) will retire from the Senate at the end of this term, he announced Tuesday, a decision that will bring a decades-long congressional career to an end early next year.

“After much prayer and discussion with family and friends, I’ve decided to retire at the end of this term,” Hatch, 83, said in a video posted on Twitter. Hatch is the president pro tempore of the Senate, as well as the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Hatch’s retirement means an open seat race in his Republican-leaning state in this year’s midterm election. Some Republicans expect Mitt Romney to run for Hatch’s seat, although the former presidential nominee has not made any definitive public statements about his plans.

Good riddance, you pompous, arrogant, self-righteous windbag.  And I hope there’s a big fat primary challenge from a Trumpian neo-Nazi against Mitt Romney so a Democrat insurgent can slip through just like Alabama.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Looking Back/Looking Forward

Here we go with my annual recap and prognostication for the year.  Let’s see how I did a year ago.

  • I have no earthly idea what will happen with Trump in the White House.  But I can say that for the first time in my life — and I will hit 65 this year — I am frightened both for myself and my country.
  • At some point in 2017 elements of the electorate will realize that they got conned into voting for Trump and that they were played for fools.  The backlash will begin when they find out he can’t follow through on his bullshit promises, and reach a peak when they find out that repealing Obamacare and deporting 11 million people effects them personally.  When it happens, it will not be pretty.

I’m still frightened.  Nothing — not the Mueller investigation, the revelations coming from various sources, or chatter about impeachment or invoking the 25th Amendment — has calmed my fear that he is still capable of doing something that puts us and the rest of the world in peril.  As for the second bullet point, we are seeing faint glimmers that disillusionment is happening in the nooks and crannies of America where he can do no wrong, and no amount of tweeting and bullshit from Fox News can turn around his dismal approval numbers.  But that just means that fully 1/3 of the electorate still approve of him.  Even his failures — Obamacare yet survives and the deportations haven’t happened — haven’t dimmed the hopes of the dim.

  • There will be a downturn in the economy thanks to the cyclical nature of economics and the instability in the market by the Twitter-In-Chief. He will, of course, blame it on Barack Obama.

Obviously I’m not an economist because if I was I would have known that the economy lags behind and the continued growth and low unemployment rate are a result of Obama’s policies.  Of course Trump is taking credit for it.

  • A year from now the Syrian civil war will still be dragging on.  ISIS will still be a factor, and if Trump does what he says he will do with the Iran nuclear deal, expect to see them re-start their nuclear program.  “Dr. Strangelove” will be seen by historians as a documentary.
  • The refugee crisis will continue and fester once nativists and right-wing elements win majorities in western European countries.

The Syrian civil war goes on but it’s not dominating the news cycles, and ISIS is a lessening factor.  I don’t know if it’s sheer exhaustion.  The refugee crisis goes on but with a lesser magnitude.

  • Our diplomatic thaw with Cuba will freeze as the attempts to end the blockade will not get through Congress. Only until Trump gets permission to open a casino in Varadero Beach will there be any progress.

Trump rescinded some of the Obama administration’s changes in our relations with Cuba but not enough to return us to Cold War status.  The blockade, such as it is, enters its 57th year.

  • Violence against our fellow citizens will continue and take on a more xenophobic tone as the white supremacists think they are now in control. The attorney general will do nothing to put an end to it because, in his words, “they had it coming.”

Charlottesville and Trump’s tacit support of the Nazis proved that to be true, more’s the pity.

  • We will lose the requisite number of celebrities and friends as life goes on. 2016 was an especially painful year. As I always say, it’s important to cherish them while they are with us.

I lost two uncles and a nephew since I wrote that.

  • The Tigers will finish second in their division.

They traded Justin Verlander.  Yeah, he helped the Astros win the World Series, but…

Okay, now on to predictions.

  • There will be indictments at a very high level in the administration as the Mueller investigation rumbles on.  Plea bargains and deals will be made and revelations will come forth, and by summer there will be genuine questions about whether or not the administration will survive.  But there won’t be a move to impeach Trump as long as there are Republican majorities in the Congress, and invoking the 25th Amendment is a non-starter.
  • The Democrats will make great gains in the mid-term elections in November.  This is a safe bet because the party out of power usually does in the first mid-term of new president.  The Democrats will take back the Senate and narrow the gap in the House to the point that Speaker Paul Ryan with either quit or be so powerless that he’s just hanging around to collect pension points.  (No, he will not lose his re-election bid.)
  • There will be a vacancy on the Supreme Court, but it won’t happen until after the mid-terms and Trump’s appointment will flail as the Democrats in the Senate block the confirmation on the grounds that the next president gets to choose the replacement.
  • There will be irrefutable proof that the Russians not only meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, but they’ve had a hand in elections in Europe as well and will be a factor in the U.S. mid-terms.  Vladimir Putin will be re-elected, of course.
  • Raul Castro will figure out a way to still run Cuba even if he steps down as president, and there will be no lessening of the authoritarian rule.
  • The U.S. economy will continue to grow, but there will be dark clouds on the horizon as the deficit grows thanks to the giveaways in the GOP tax bill.  If the GOP engineers cuts to entitlement programs and the number of uninsured for healthcare increases, the strain on the economy will be too much.
  • This “America First” foreign policy will backfire.  All it does is tell our allies “You’re on your own.”  If we ever need them, they’re more likely to turn their backs on us.
  • The white supremacist movement will not abate.  Count on seeing more violence against minorities and more mass shootings.
  • A viable Democratic candidate will emerge as a major contender for the 2020 election, and it will most likely be a woman.  Sen. Elizabeth Warren is considered to be the default, but I wouldn’t rule out Sen. Kamala Harris of California or Sen. Kristen Gillibrand of New York just yet.  (Sen. Gillibrand would drive Trump even further around the bend.  She was appointed to the Senate to fill Hillary Clinton’s seat when she became Secretary of State in 2009.)
  • On a personal level, this will be a busy year for my work in theatre with a full production of “All Together Now” opening in March and several other works out there for consideration.  I will also be entering my last full year of employment in my present job (retirement happens in August 2019) but I’ll keep working.
  • People and fads we never heard about will have their fifteen minutes.
  • I’ll do this again next year.

Okay, friends; it’s your turn.