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.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Make Them Pay

Now that the Republicans have passed their massive — $1.5 trillion in deficit increase can only be described as massive — tax bill, the vow among a lot of Democrats has been to make the GOP pay for this highway robbery and con game at the polls in 2018 and 2020.

But that won’t happen by itself.  We have seen all too often how inertia and propaganda have paralyzed organized opposition from the Democrats who have enough trouble among themselves to get their shit together to mount a campaign.  The fact that Doug Jones won in the special election is great, but that he won by less than ten points against an alleged child molester and a proven Constitutional scofflaw means that they still have a lot of hard work to do.

The Republicans will mount a rabid defense of the indefensible, using every means possible to suppress the vote, demonize the candidates, put the fear of Jesus in the hands of the paid-off preachers and religious hypocrites, and channel it all through Fox News at a rate that would make Josef Goebbels blush with pride.  And the response from the Democrats and progressives must be swift, organized, and merciless.  No Republican should go unchallenged for any seat in Congress, no district should be considered safe, and no state legislature should be unchallenged in their attempts to gerrymander the state into being held hostage by 35% of the popular vote.

Can Democrats and progressives do it?  Can they elect enough of their kind to put an end to this regime of smug kleptocracy?  They’ve done it in fits and starts in the past, but in the face of this boorish and brazen incompetence and possible treason, the hard truth is that if they cannot, then they don’t deserve to win.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Too Close

The only disappointment with Doug Jones’s win in Alabama yesterday was that it was so close.

That’s a difference of 20,715 votes; basically the population of Perrysburg, Ohio.  Put another way, 650,436 people in Alabama were willing to vote for an outlaw Jesus-shouter with a penchant for teenage girls over a barely liberal Democrat.  And there were more votes for a write-in than the margin of victory for Jones.

Yes, Alabama is a deeply red state.  The last Democrat elected to the Senate was 25 years ago, and he was a Southern Democrat, a distinction that made them a party unto themselves, and he switched to the GOP shortly thereafter.  (Southern Democrats were a hold-over from the days of Reconstruction who began to leave the party after the election of FDR and continued for the exit with Strom Thurmond in 1948.  They slammed the door shut after LBJ signed the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts in 1964 and 1965.  They took their robes and crosses to the GOP in 1968 under Nixon’s Southern Strategy and took up permanent residence with Reagan in 1980.)  But one would hope that with such a deeply flawed candidate supported by an equally repulsive president, they would at least think twice about supporting their party’s nominee.  I take some comfort in the large number of write-ins, but a vote for Teddy the Wonder Lizard or Cap’n Crunch was still not a vote for Mr. Jones.

Mr. Jones will have to run again in 2020.  I hope by then he can convince a few more Alabamaians that he’s worth their trust.  But for now, I’ll take the win.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Winning Where It Really Matters

It is very good news that Ralph Northam won the Virginia governor’s race, showing that “Trumpism without Trump” — championing his issues without embracing the man — doesn’t sell.  But even more important in the long run is that the Democrats made huge gains in the Virginia House of Delegates, their version of the state legislature.

Unofficial returns showed Democrats unseating at least 11 Republicans and flipping three seats that had been occupied by GOP incumbents who didn’t seek reelection. Four other races were so close that they qualify for a recount, and results will determine control of the chamber. The results marked the most sweeping shift in control of the legislature since the Watergate era.

Republicans, who have controlled the chamber since 2000, went into Tuesday holding 66 of 100 seats.

Several winners made history in a year in which a record number of women ran and Democrats fielded the most candidates in recent memory.

One Democrat became Virginia’s first openly transgender person to win elective office, unseating an opponent of LGBT rights. The election signaled a major shift in the gender of a body long dominated by men: Of the 14 seats Democrats flipped, all were held by men and 10 were won by women. And two of those women, both from Prince William County, became the first Latinas elected to the General Assembly.

“This is an unbelievable night,” said House Minority Leader David J. Toscano (D-Charlottesville) in an interview an hour after polls closed. “There were districts we didn’t think we had much of a shot in.”

The final results may not be known for a while since a number of the races are still too close to call and will need recounts, but even if the Republicans hang on, this is a major shift at the state level.

That is where it really matters.  State legislatures are where voting district lines are drawn and where gerrymandering takes place, creating GOP strongholds when there are a majority of Democrats in the region.  Medicare expansion, school funding, and infrastructure spending is determined by the state, doling out federal dollars as they see fit.  Gun laws, restrictions on reproductive rights, and even rules on who can pee in certain places all come out of the state capitol.  (It’s especially glorious that the Republican who proposed Virginia’s anti-transgender bathroom bill was defeated by Danica Roem, the state’s — and the nation’s — first openly transgender candidate.  Karma, ya done good.)

So while it is important who wins the presidency and who’s running the House and Senate in Washington, it’s at the state and local elections where the real work — and influence — gets done.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Flake Out

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) joins a small group of Republicans who are saying that Trump has gone too far and that they are now going to speak out.  He, along with his fellow Arizonan John McCain and Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) have taken to the airwaves and the social networks to express their outrage, disappointment, and they’re not going to take it anymore.

That’s all well and good, but chances are that if this was October 24, 2016, it might make a difference.  Instead, all three of them voted for Trump, supported his agenda, voted to put Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, voted against everything Obama, and shrugged off Trump’s Russia connection.  But now they’ve had enough?  Where have they been?

Not only that, Flake and Corker are dropping out of their re-election races in 2018, and McCain has a terminal illness.  They may now feel liberated to speak up, but now it doesn’t matter because they won’t be around to pick up the pieces; we’re the ones who have to live with the horror.  Thanks a lot.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Can The Democrats Take Back The Senate?

Via TPM:

Here’s the key concluding line from Charlie Cook’s article on the Corker meltdown: “Last week’s news reduced the odds of the GOP retaining its majority from a good bet to even money.”

So Cook, one of the best known election predictors, says it’s 50/50 who controls the Senate after the 2018 midterm.

A lot of good things would have to fall into place for it to happen, including the Trumpistas primarying moderate Republicans like Jeff Flake of Arizona and Dean Heller of Nevada out of the race and replacing them with bug-eyed neo-Nazis, which would open the race for a well-engineered Democrat to swoop in and pick up disenchanted Republicans and energized Democrats.  As it is, the Democrats are defending an inordinate number of seats already.

However, stranger things have happened.  As Josh Marshall notes, in 2012 Claire McCaskill was not supposed to win re-election in Missouri until her opponent, Todd Akin, spoke up on “legitimate rape,” and Joe Donnelly of Indiana won a squeaker because his Republican shoe-in, Richard Mourdock, hadn’t fallen into the same trap.  But the Democrats have to do their part: they have to come up with strong candidates who can convince the voters on their own merits and visions rather than wait for their opponent to turn into Wile E. Coyote.