Predictions from The Bull Elephant – and a Few of My Own

Contributors and staff at The Bull Elephant have predicted the outcome of today’s elections and they deliver about what you’d expect from true believers.  Most think the GOP will hold the House and some think Republicans will pick up 3 or more seats in the Senate, with one suggesting a 60-seat majority.  Many argue that Corey Stewart will outperform polls and one thinks he could have won with more help from the Republican national and state parties.  Almost all think Barbara Comstock will lose, but few think any other Democrats will win Virginia House seats they aren’t heavily favored to win (e.g., Don McEachin [D-4]).  Continue reading

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Kavanaugh, Politics, and the Conservative Project

I think Susan Collins had no good choice here.  Her vote to confirm buys her a credible and well-funded challenger, but a vote the other way would likely have created a primary challenge from the right.  It seems to me that while Collins has rarely deviated from conservative orthodoxy with respect to her actual votes, she has carefully cultivated a reputation as a moderate (chiefly by claiming to respect reproductive choice for women).  This and incumbency has so far protected her politically, but Democrats (especially women) in Maine will now do everything they can to replace her.  This challenge comes in 2020, when Democrats will also show up in force to vote against Donald Trump if he runs again.  I think she had a better chance to win a challenge from the right and keep the seat by voting no on Kavanaugh but supporting his just-as-conservative replacement.

Joe Manchin faced a similar problem except that he depends on some level of support from conservatives to keep his seat where Collins depends on marginal liberals for hers.  I would suggest to Senator Manchin that (like in Maine) a “right thing to do” vote against Kavanaugh would have kept enough conservatives in his corner as long as he votes to confirm Trump’s next choice.  And as in Maine voting to confirm Kavanaugh will alienate Democrats he needs to win.  It’s too late for a primary challenge from the left, but to win he needs every vote he can get, and many women will now stay home. Continue reading

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An Observation on the State of the Democratic Party

Isaac Chotiner has a podcast at Slate called “I Have to Ask,” and this week he interviewed Michelle Goldberg, now a New York Times columnist.  They cover lots of topics, including Omarosa and the Russia investigation.  But this bit caught my eye:

“Whenever I’m in New York, I can work myself into this state of really bleak despair, and then I go out and travel and meet … it’s not even necessarily Democratic Party activists as much as Indivisible activists or Democratic Socialists of America chapters or these sort of grass-roots groups that have sprung up since the election and are just doing so much work. And it always makes me feel so much more hopeful about the future.

You hear the same story over and over again of these kind of middle-aged women who, they voted, but they didn’t necessarily pay super close attention to primaries, maybe they had to look up what congressional district they were in, and who woke up the day after the election and were so shattered and looked around for somewhere they could go and found either an offshoot of Pantsuit Nation or a local Indivisible meeting.

And you meet these women, and they go to meetings now four or five nights a week. They have all new friends. They are just astonishing organizers, and they’re kind of using this intense local knowledge that they have. You can’t replicate that when it comes to canvassing, somebody who just knows everyone on the block. So you see that being deployed everywhere, and that I think is why you’re seeing these numbers in some of the special elections, these swings that are even bigger than the swings you see on the generic ballot.”

I can tell you that I saw the same thing all over Virginia’s First Congressional District during the primary campaign this spring, and these folks don’t seem to be tiring.  So I’m more optimistic than some of my fellow Progressives that we’re really about to see a Blue Wave in November.

Go listen to the podcast or read the transcript.  Lots of good stuff.

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Speaking Event: The Electoral College

The Williamsburg-James City County Indivisible group has invited me to speak about the Electoral College at their meeting on 29 August.  This talk will take place at the James City County Library at 7770 Croaker Road in Williamsburg from 6:30 to 9:00 PM.

Here’s a link to the Facebook Event page.

I’ll discuss how and why the men who wrote the Constitution settled on this method for selecting a President, including how slavery created the conditions that made direct election of the President all but politically impossible.  I’ll also discuss efforts to eliminate the EC or render it moot.

Please join me and the WJCC Indivisibles for an informative evening and a chance to meet new Democratic activist friends.

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What to Watch For: Corey Stewart and Virginia Republicans

Photo from Monthly Review Online

Last week, Corey Stewart won the Republican nomination to run against Senator Tim Kaine for US Senate this November.  This means that the de facto leader of the Virginia Republican Party is a white supremacist from Minnesota. We know he’s a white supremacist because he thinks monuments to men who committed treason against the United States in defense of slavery belong in the public square.  The guy made his bones harassing people of color and trying to cleanse Prince William County of immigrants.

Corey Stewart likes to pal around with people like Paul Nehlen and Jason Kessler.  Nehlen is an anti-Semite who jokes on Twitter about killing political opponents.  Kessler organized the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville last August.  A rally attendee and Kessler supporter killed Heather Heyerwith his car.  Two Virginia State Troopers, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, 48, of Midlothian, Virginia, and Trooper-Pilot Berke M. M. Bates, 40, of Quinton, Virginia, died when their observation helicopter crashed on their way to assist authorities on the ground.  Kessler plans a sequel, by the way.  Wonder if Stewart will attend. Continue reading

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It Was a Good Day, Until it Wasn’t

I spent Primary Day roaming the First District putting out signs and helping volunteers where we had them at the polls talking to voters.  Took some photos of John Suddarthvoting.  Started off at a polling place in Caroline County where I greeted a handful of voters and spent 30 minutes talking to Steven Brodie Tuckerabout the state of the Republican Party, whether Nick Freitasor Corey Stewartcan win Tim Kaine’sSenate seat this fall, and single payer health care.  Interestingly, he seemed open to the idea once I explained that John’s proposal would actually free up markets in health care by removing for-profit health insurance companies from the mix. Continue reading

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#TrumpWillNeverBePresident II

A couple of takeaways from “Trump Orders Surrogates to Intensify Criticism of Judge and Journalists” at Bloomberg Politics:

@realDonaldTrump is a terrible leader and manager of staff.  He had no idea which staff member had sent the memo telling surrogates not to discuss the Trump University lawsuit.  Then he threw her under the bus, telling people on the call to “throw it out,” and asking if there were “any other stupid letters.”  “…you guys are getting sometimes stupid information from people that aren’t all that smart,” he told supporters (including Jan Brewer and Scott Brown) on the call.  He seems to forget that he’s the incompetent executive who hired “people who aren’t all that smart” in the first place.

@realDonaldTrump hasn’t the foggiest idea what it takes to run a Presidential campaign or to assemble a winning political coalition.  He has no idea how to build and run the organizations and teams necessary to win the Oval Office.  If someone constructed it for him he would jerk it out of their hands like a toy he covets and start throwing it at the ground just to watch pieces fly off.  He doesn’t understand who does what (communications, organizers, fundraisers) or how these people achieve success (data analysis, volunteer recruiting, media plans).  He apparently doesn’t realize that political campaigns are highly specialized endeavors with a handful of professional experts who know how it’s done.  He has no use for either a sound strategic plan or expert guidance for the detailed tactical work needed to identify and motivate supporters.

@realDonaldTrump doesn’t understand that bullying your way through the storm after saying something offensive won’t help him expand his universe of potential supporters.  He can’t seem to help categorizing and referring to people as members of groups (Muslim, “the blacks,” “the Hispanics,” Mexican).  People hear this as a claim that tribal membership is the most important quality people have – it drives their behavior.  This is, of course, the very definition of racism – and I believe his willingness to say some of these things out loud has driven his popularity among many Republican primary voters.  At this point, however, it’s begun to offend his now wider audience.  Rather than back off this rhetoric, he’s asking surrogates to emphasize it.  This, by the way, puts people like Jan Brewer and Scott Brown in a tough position – they want to elect a Republican President, but probably don’t want to earn reputations as racists in the process.

#TrumpWillNeverBePresident.  He’s a terrible leader and can’t manage subordinates except through fear.  He calls junior staff “stupid” in front of other senior people.  He hasn’t the smallest clue what it takes to put together the national political coalition needed to win the US Presidency and apparently believes he can win simply by saying silly things on television so people pay attention to him.  And when he says silly things on television and the people around him advise reticence, he lacks the temperament to realize he’s in over his head.

This is all very good news for Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. #TrumpWillNeverBePresident.

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No, Voting for Trump Won’t Accelerate Progressive Change

Yves Smith (aka Susan Webber), a management consultant and principal at Aurora Advisors, writes at Politico that the “highly educated, high-income, finance-literate readers of my website, Naked Capitalism, don’t just overwhelmingly favor Bernie Sanders. They also say “Hell no!” to Hillary Clinton to the degree that many say they would even vote for Donald Trump over her.”

They (9 out of 10 Smith friends polled) developed their “conclusions” from “careful study of her record and her policy proposals,” and believe the Clintons represent a policy status quo of “crushing inequality, and an economy that is literally killing off the less fortunate.” And they think “the most powerful move they can take to foster change is to withhold their support.” Continue reading

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No, Sanders/Stein Does Not Stop Trump

This argument by Kevin Zeese and Patrick Walker at Salon goes in the category of wishful thinking if you ask me.  The core point they make is that by running for President on the Green Party ticket (Jill Stein has apparently agreed to this) Bernie Sanders would keep Donald Trump from expanding his coalition of voters at Hillary Clinton’s expense.  This is because voters see both Trump and Sanders as outsiders, with Sanders the “real” one.  They also worry that Trump could move to Clinton’s left on Wall Street and trade, “corporate trade agreements,” and militarism.  Finally, Zeese and Walker argue that independents will be the key to this race, and that third party campaign risks to Democratic candidates are overblown.  Well, let’s see. Continue reading

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#TrumpWillNeverBePresident

Writing at Salon, Anis Shivani predicted last week that Donald Trump’s campaign “will surely be victorious in the end,” because he appeals “to an elemental fear in the country, torn apart by the abstraction of the market, to which Clinton has not the faintest hope of responding.”  Trump, you see, “’builds’ things, literal buildings.”  People can actually visualize these buildings and the cities they were built in.  This contrasts with Clinton, according to Shivani, since her work with the Clinton Foundation and the State Department “represents…disembodiedness.”  “In this election,” claims Shivani, “abstraction will clearly lose and corporeality…will undoubtedly win.”

Another Salon writer, Musa al-Gharbi, doesn’t actually predict a Trump win, but he does seem to think the Donald has a path to victory.  He lays out three key reasons to think this: because Trump has more “opportunity to radically change public perception for the better” since voters don’t yet know Trump “as a politician,” because this election will turn on what voters think about both Obama and Bill Clinton, and because of something he calls “negative intersectionality.”  Al-Gharbi doesn’t define this very clearly, but he seems to be saying something about political correctness: that Trump’s bigotry and misogyny, “heard in the context of a fundamentally anti-white, anti-Christian culture war,” could actually make some voters see him more sympathetically.

These aren’t the only two writers working to outline a Trump path to the Oval Office.  These arguments mostly focus on three claims: both candidates have poor favorability ratings, Hillary Clinton is a bad candidate, and minority voters could shift to Trump. I challenge them below the fold. Continue reading

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