Tag Archives: Politics

Give The Gift of Nostalgia and Angst

For a holiday gift this year, consider giving a book about politics, since politics this year is so very special.

There are two kinds of books out this year of special interest. There is a plethora of books that expose the evil underpinnings of the white supremacist meritocratic oligarchic patriarchy. And, there is a growing collection of books about the last time America was going under for the third time, and the people of those times. Here is a selection for you to ponder. Continue reading Give The Gift of Nostalgia and Angst

My Review of Hillary Clinton’s Book Part I

Before discussing What Happened by Hillary Clinton, the nature of the political conversation demands that I preface this review with some context.

First, about me.

I supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election because I did not want Donald Trump to be president.

During the primary, which was not the 2016 election, I seriously had a hard time deciding between the various candidates (Clinton and Sanders). On an issue by issue basis, I preferred Sanders’ position over Clinton. However, on the issues about which I have an informed view (climate change and energy related, and education) by view was different from both, and the difference between Sanders and Clinton was smaller than the difference between either of them and me.

I decided early on during the primary to support the candidate that was likely to win the nomination as soon as I was pretty sure who that was. In order to facilitate that, I developed a model predicting the primary outcome. At the very outset, Clinton was predicted to win, but we needed to pass through several actual primaries to have confidence in that. In the end, it turns out that my model predicted almost every primary outcome to within a few percentage points, often getting the outcome exactly correct, and predicted the winners very well (when a primary is a half point difference, the difference between a very good prediction and the actual outcome is literally a coin toss). A very small number of primaries were different from what I predicted in magnitude, and I never made predictions using my model for Vermont, Alaska, Hawaii, and the various territories (the model could not work in those areas). (I made predictions, but not based on my model.)

It became clear to me that Clinton was going to win the primary long before I openly stated that. I avoided stating it because I knew that would cause an unfair and obnoxious reaction from many Sanders supporters. So I waited until a blueberry muffin would have the brains to see who was going to win. In retrospect that was a mistake because none of those folks I was worried about ever got smarter than a blueberry muffin anyway.

So, to summarize, I supported Sanders and Clinton both, liked them both, avoided being mean to either one of them, attended fundraisers for both, attended rallies by both, but all along I knew Clinton was the more likely nominee.

I want to add something else about Sanders vs. Clinton. I regarded Sanders non-incrementalism as better than Clinton’s incrementalism for many but not all issues. I Think both candidates were flawed in having one or the other of a strategy. I know because I’m much smarter than a blueberry muffin that there are times for incrementalism and times for revolution. I also knew it was time for more revolution in two or three areas (such as the energy transition and health care). That’s why I leaned more towards Sanders than Clinton with respect to that philosophy.

Having said that, I felt that Clinton was the more competent and more likely to simply do a good job as president, and I had no sense whatsoever as to how Sanders would do with foreign policy. I did, however, have confidence and reason to believe that Sanders would have come up to the challenge of foreign policy excellence, and Clinton have put the hammer down on certain issues, casting aside the incrementalism.

Now, a quick word about Hillary Clinton.

Clinton was a gubernatorial first lady, and a presidential first lady. She was a trained lawyer and political activist fighting hard fights. She brought the whole idea of public preschool to the US and did more for health care reform, including and especially for children than any other individual until Obamcare. Then, she was an effective and much liked Senator and an excellent Secretary of State. She then became the first woman to win a major party nomination for president, won the popular vote, and probably would have won the election were it not for Russian meddling.

After her loss, she withdrew from public view for over half a year.

Then she wrote a book, What Happened, expressing her point of view.

Then, a lot of people felt compelled to tell this woman to shut her pie hole based on this book.

Finally, my review of the book:

I don’t have one. The book is not published yet. I don’t intend to say anything about the book until I’ve read it (I pre-ordered it). And, if I hate it, I will tell you what I did not like about it, and I’ll even tell Clinton if I get a chance, but I will not tell this woman that she should not have written it. She gets to do that, and all those people telling us that the book that is not yet published is terrible and that Secretary Clinton should not have written it, are deeply embarrassing themselves.

Disagree with the contents of this book you haven’t read, if you can manage to eventually read it and be fair and not a cherry picker with your opinion. But do not, I repeat, do not, tell her to shut up. That’s what Republicans do, that’s what dictators do. That’s what the original American Patriots did, who burned literature they didn’t like and physically assaulted the authors, and burned their homes, back before we got civilization.

I’ll tell you this: I am very interested in what happened during the last election. I’ve written quite a bit about it, I’m writing more about it. Why would I not want Clinton’s point of view?

Stay tuned for Part II of this review, in which I … actually review What Happened after I have actually read it!

(PS: If you didn’t know that bit about the original American Patriots you must read THIS BOOK. )

Upcoming D v R challenges

There has been a trickle of state or federal level races pitting Democrat against Republican, which potentially serve as a barometer for how politics will actually play out on the ground over the next 18 months or so under the Trump Regime.

In my view, these races have shown two things.

1) Republicans beat Democrats even when all the available evidence strongly suggests that the Republican Party shouldn’t even be allowed to exist by any logical analysis of democracy and free society, and the Republicans continue to try as hard as they can to hurt the largest number of people.

2) Democrats have a much stronger than expected showing, indicating that Republicans are on the run and a big change is a coming.

The fact that these two observations are both true and in total conflict with each other should worry you.

Anyway, there are some more races coming up and I thought you might like to know about them.

In Oklahoma, Democrats have already flipped two Republican districts this year, and now, Democrat Jacob Rosecrants was defeated in 2016 by the Republican incumbant (Scott Martin) in House District 46, by a pretty big margin (60:40). But practice makes perfect, and Rosecrants is running again for the same seat in a general election called for September 12.

In Mississippi, Republicans have a super majority in the House, which means they are able to inflict the maximum possible damage that body can manage. Democratic candidate Kathryn Rehner is running in a special election, in House District 102. The Republican incumbent in that district left office to become mayor of Hattiesburg. Rehner is a social worker who is strong on education, and has explicitly stepped up to stop Trump. In the election, Republican Barker won by neary 3/4ths, so you can regard this as a strong Republican district.

New Hampshire has a somewhat unusual legislature. First, it is called “The General Court.” Second, it is huge, one of the largest legislative bodies in the world. There are 400 members in the House of Representatives (Note: New Hampshire is so small, to put it on a postage stamp they have to blow it up first!) a given “district” may be represented by multiple individuals. Anyway, there are some five races open, some were held by Democrats, some by Republicans. So, the relevant outcome here will be more of a differential breakdown before and after. There may also be one state Senate seat open in NH as well.

There are two Democrats running to flip Republican seats in Florida, and apparently the Republicans are pouring money into these races. Annette Taddeo is running for Senate District 40. She had earlier been defeated for a house seat, and is the chair of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party. She is running against Republican Jose Felix Diaz, and independent Christian “He-Man” Schlaerth. The seat is open because incumbent Republican Frank Artiles was forced to resign because he was too much of a Trumpish asshole. The politics here are uncertain and this may be a close race. Clinton beat Trump here by 17 points, but Rubio beat Murphy (but by only 4 points). I can’t tell if this He-Man dude is a spoiler and if so, for which party . He is an academic who gets low ratings on Rate my Professor (which may be meaningless). He appears to be a joke candidate, and may not be taken seriously.

Meanwhile, in the Florida House, Gabriela Mayaudon, running against Republican candidate Daniel Perez.

In South Carolina, Rosalyn Henderson Myers is running in House District 31 against Republicvan Michael Fowler, each trying to replace a Democrat who resigned citing health issues.

Not many US Senators write this kind of book!

Al Franken, Giant of the Senate By Al Franken. This book claims to be this:

From Senator Al Franken – #1 bestselling author and beloved SNL alum – comes the story of an award-winning comedian who decided to run for office and then discovered why award-winning comedians tend not to do that.

This is a book about an unlikely campaign that had an even more improbable ending: the closest outcome in history and an unprecedented eight-month recount saga, which is pretty funny in retrospect.

It’s a book about what happens when the nation’s foremost progressive satirist gets a chance to serve in the United States Senate and, defying the low expectations of the pundit class, actually turns out to be good at it.

It’s a book about our deeply polarized, frequently depressing, occasionally inspiring political culture, written from inside the belly of the beast.

In this candid personal memoir, the honorable gentleman from Minnesota takes his army of loyal fans along with him from Saturday Night Live to the campaign trail, inside the halls of Congress, and behind the scenes of some of the most dramatic and/or hilarious moments of his new career in politics.

Has Al Franken become a true Giant of the Senate? Franken asks readers to decide for themselves.

As the person who personally got Al Franken elected to office the first time around, I’m sure I’m in this book in several places. I haven’t checked yet, but I thought you should know about the book.

Rebecca Otto: by far the strongest and most progressive candidate for Minnesota Governor in 2018

Here’s why: All the available data strongly indicates that Otto will beat all the other contenders across state in the upcoming Governor’s race.

Democrats have two major problems to face in 2018 and beyond. First, how do we win elections? Second, how do we remain true to our progressive and liberal roots?

For Democrats, 2018 is a must-win election, and Minnesotans have a lot at stake. Will the state remain the shining star of the North, or will it go the way of Wisconsin, and sink into a Republican dark age of union busting, environment polluting, professor bashing, service slashing, and economic activity destruction?

Of all the candidates running or suspected of running for Governor in 2018, Rebecca Otto is the only one who can most clearly win and at the same time preserve and advance core, human based, Democratic ideals, in my opinion.

The smart move for the DFL in 2018 is to turn to a candidate that has won several times statewide and has strong name recognition, positive feeling among the voters engendered by her commitment to widely held values, and a strong base of support. State Auditor Rebecca Otto is the only candidate with that resumé. Otto has racked up several historic victories, including the largest upset of an incumbent in 112 years, and is positioned to do it again in 2018. Her statewide electoral prowess far outstrips her nearest competitor, Tim Walz, who is largely unknown outside of his first district, and is untested statewide. Beyond that, Otto stands for strong for Democratic values, while Walz has shown himself to be a DINO-style Democrat. Walz enjoys a very high rating from the NRA, for example, and in February of 2013 was one of only six Democrats in Congress to vote to expand gun sales to the severely mentally ill, over the objections of senior generals including David Petraeus, Michael Hayden and Stanley McChrystal.

On the environment and climate change, Walz again voted with Republicans on anti-environmental bills progressives strongly opposed. He voted with Republicans in favor of building the Keystone XL pipeline. He introduced a bill, siding with Eric Paulsen, to expand offshore oil drilling. Walz refused to provide voters with positions on several other key issues covered by the 2016 Vote Smart Political Courage Test, despite repeated requests. Historically, candidates have failed to complete the test in part due to “fear of negative attack ads,” according to that group. In contrast, Rebecca Otto opposes unrestricted gun sales and supports common-sense, reasonable measures to prevent mass shootings by mentally ill individuals. Otto is also the acknowledged statewide leader on environmental issues, and cast multiple courageous votes against multinational corporate interests, in an effort to protect the environment even while being harshly attacked by industry advocates. Indeed, she and her husband live in a solar home they built with their own hands.

So why are some party elites pushing Walz over the far more progressive, experienced, and courageous, and environmental Rebecca Otto? Because they think we need a DINO to win, and appear to have lost touch with the party rank and file, just as they did in 2016. Walz is a talented but glad-handing politician, and older DFLers, the kind that promoted Hillary Clinton despite the rank and file’s strong preference for Bernie Sanders, find an old white traditional male politician to be a safer, steadier choice when the stakes of losing run high. But that is EXACTLY the kind of thinking that loses elections, because it disenfranchises party activists, it is reactionary instead of visionary, and it selects candidates from on high who are less able to capture the imagination of voters as something new and different. Considering that Democrats have never won the Governor’s seat two administrations in a row, that lack of contrast and imagination is a major concern in contemplating a Walz candidacy.

In their fear, the party elders who have endorsed Walz are willing to overlook Walz’s anti-progressive, anti-environmental voting history, thinking a DINO is what voters want. But they’re wrong. Hillary Clinton was anointed by the same party elites, and she underperformed Barack Obama in Minnesota by 180,000 votes. Hillary Clinton had many good qualities, but last cycle, Minnesotans showed they were ready to embrace bold, progressive leadership, the kind of leadership that they believe, based on track record, won’t sell them out on key issues when the going gets tough. They want a candidate who runs outside strict party affiliation, who thinks independently, and who takes stands for ordinary people instead of the wealthy elite or big corporations even if it means the corporations will mount attacks. They want the kind of principled, fearless leadership shown by Bernie Sanders and Rebecca Otto, not the calculating, fearful, history of Tim Walz.

But what about Trump? Didn’t Greater Minnesota go heavily for Trump? Didn’t the Minnesota Senate go Republican and the House go even more Republican? Considering all this, don’t we need a more conservative and calculating Democrat from Greater Minnesota to bridge the so-called “urban-rural divide”? That’s what some party elites argued when pushing Tim Walz. But Rebecca Otto is the only candidate who resides at the intersections of urban, suburban, exurban, and rural, on a small farm outside the Twin Cities. This means everyone can claim her as theirs.

But more importantly, the “urban-rural divide” appears to be a Republican myth that Democrats should not buy into. The evidence shows that Donald Trump received almost the identical number of votes in Minnesota as Mitt Romney did in 2012, so the notion that Donald Trump surged in Minnesota is false. Rather, Hillary Clinton underperformed Barack Obama’s 2012 Minnesota numbers by nearly 180,000 votes. The congressional districts that went the most heavily for Donald Trump in the general election (7, 6, 8, and 1) also largely went the most heavily for Bernie Sanders in the primary.

Clinton’s underperformance meant that 180,000 Democrats stayed home not just from her race, but from all races. That meant there were fewer Democrats out voting while Republicans were out in their usual numbers, so despite the DFL spending record dollars, Democrats lost every close race. Some portion of this has to be laid at the feet of party elites who, for all her advantages, interfered in the process by backing Clinton too early and loudly, lining the machine up behind her as “the front runner” and disenfranchising Sanders voters who, the above numbers show, stayed home. Some of these same elites are making the same costly mistake in 2018 by backing Walz.

The results of the 2016 election can more accurately be interpreted as an anti-establishment vote and not reflective of an urban-rural divide — and that is a reading which favors Rebecca Otto as the DFL candidate for governor.

Unlike Walz, Otto has always run largely without the support of the party kingmakers and big money players, focusing her energies on rank-and-file grassroots activists, in the style of Bernie Sanders and Paul Wellstone. In so doing, she has always outperformed the DFL candidate for Governor, racking up historic victories in election after election. This approach also led her to an historic victory in the 2014 primary, when a self-financed candidate outspent her 4 to 1, and she beat him 81%–19%.

Rebecca Otto does very well on the Iron Range, and understanding why that is so leads to a full appreciation of her standing with Minnesota voters. Otto voted to protect the BWCA and Lake Superior watersheds from copper-nickel mining until we get better financial assurances from multinational mining companies. Many assumed this would hurt her on the Range and cost her the election as governor, but the facts show just the opposite. Indeed, the “done on the range” argument is from the Republican, not Democratic, playbook.

Otto vastly outperformed both Governor Mark Dayton and Congressman Rick Nolan in every county on the Iron Range and across the entire 8th Congressional District in 2014, improving her margins after her vote. To see if Otto’s brave and thoughtful stand on nonferrous mining cost her any votes, we can compare her margin of victory in the 2010 and 2014 races in the Iron Range counties. (Note: The margin of victory is recognized as the best way to compare across counties, etc., because of differences in ballots across different precincts or elections. These data are from the Secretary of State’s office.)

Otto grew her margin in every Iron Range county in 2014 by an impressive average gain of 9.51 points, for a 72% bigger margin across the Iron Range as a whole. Remember, this happened after the controversy on the range, in which Rebecca Otto took what many thought would be the less popular stand, knowing it was the right thing to do. This happened after Otto explained her position and helped people see, through an examination of long term goals and shared values, that her position was the right one for the people of the state in general and the Iron Range in particular. This is a reality that her Republican (and other) detractors on the range do not like to hear about and tend to react rather poorly to, in my experience.

The most important thing DFLers need to realize is that Rebecca Otto was the only Democrat to actually vote for Democratic values on this issue, while others were afraid to. Otto can rightly borrow Paul Wellstone’s phrase, “I represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic party,” when others cannot. If Democrats don’t stop compromising on their key values they will continue to lose like they did in 2016 because there will be no reason for DFLers to vote for them. I believe voters are well aware of this, this and appreciate Rebecca Otto for it.

Was it a fluke? Maybe Otto just had an easier race in 2014. Let’s look at Governor Dayton’s Iron Range performance and see if there is any difference.

Here again, Otto’s 2014 margin of victory on the Iron Range was 1.54 points higher than Gov. Mark Dayton’s and 4.41% higher than Dayton’s across the 8th CD as a whole. While Otto performed better in every county in 2014 than in 2010, Dayton lost points in 5 of 7 Iron Range counties and across the 8th CD as a whole.

When comparing Otto’s margin to Nolan’s margin, Otto’s outperformance becomes even more striking. Here, Otto completely trounced Nolan’s performance in his own congressional district, to a truly stunning degree.

Otto outperformed Nolan by 12.15 points on the very Iron Range that was supposed to cost her re-election. And Otto’s margins were even better on the Iron Range than they were in the 8th CD as a whole, where she outperformed the Congressman’s margin by a stunning 10 points. Otto’s strong popularity is why Nolan asked her to headline or speak at events. Often, she was the only statewide elected official or party officer there for him at these events.

The evidence is absolutely clear and abundant that Rebecca Otto’s courageous stand on nonferrous mining earned her votes on the Iron Range. Suggestions to the contrary are not backed up by the facts.

What about Otto’s appeal in urban and suburban areas? The candidate with the best chance of winning the Governor’s race can appeal to voters in both Greater Minnesota, and in urban and suburban areas. So, let’s look at Otto’s performance in the state’s most liberal, urban, and populous area, Congressional District 5, home of Minneapolis. We’ll use its high-profile Congressman Keith Ellison as our benchmark.

Rebecca Otto and Keith Ellison both began their terms in 2003 as State Representatives. In 2006 when Otto was elected State Auditor, Ellison won the DFL endorsement for a rare open seat in Congress, making him the shoe-in in the general election because of the CD5 DFL index.

The following compares Rebecca Otto’s CD5 performance to the Ellison benchmark in each house district in the congressional district:
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It turns out that Rebecca Otto is also an exceptionally strong performer in urban/suburban areas, outperforming Congressman Ellison’s margins in 14 of 20 house districts, and across the 5th CD as a whole. Note that Ellison’s performance in his own district is stellar, so Otto’s comparable but better performance is stellar-plus.

Rebecca’s urban and suburban support is not limited to CD5. In CD4, Rebecca outperformed the benchmark Congresswoman McCollum’s margin in 13 of 21 House districts in, and across the congressional district as a whole.
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Because of her strong performance and experience in urban, suburban, exurban and rural areas, Rebecca Otto outperformed the margins of every gubernatorial candidate she has been on the ballot with — Tim Pawlenty, Mike Hatch, and Mark Dayton — in 2006, 2010, and 2014.

Rebecca Otto also unseated an incumbent, and she did it by the largest margin in 112 years, in a race for a seat that had been occupied by Republicans for 134 of its 149 years. This was an enormous and historic upset — on a level that Walz can only dream of.

Otto then made history a second time when she won a tough re-election against the same opponent while being heavily targeted by the Republican Party, and without help from the DFL Party, becoming the only Democrat to be re-elected to the Auditor’s post in Minnesota history. Otto is now in her third term, and made it a third time with her absolutely crushing defeat of Matt Entenza in the 2014 DFL primary.

There is only one candidate with both the electoral experience and the track record of standing up for what’s right without fear or favor, and it is Rebecca Otto. Rebecca is authentic, warm, humble, yet tough, willing to fight for what is right, and these aspects of her character are already widely known. She is widely recognized by State Auditors around the country, winning every major award and serving as president of the national organization of State Auditors. She has Republican support as well as Democratic. In fact, it was former Governor and State Auditor Arne Carlson who first asked her to run for State Auditor. She has strong executive experience at the state level, and she knows how to manage the legislature. On all these measures, Governor Otto would be one of the most qualified new governors on her first day in the State House.

This is a year in which voters are looking for a truly progressive candidate, and it is right that they do so. Voters want a candidate who actually contrasts with Republicans instead of voting like one of them, a candidate who has powerful statewide executive and electoral experience and yet has demonstrated that she won’t sell out progressive values. Rebecca Otto is exactly that candidate.

In a year when so much is at stake, it is time to give voters a strong contrasting choice instead of a Democrat In Name Only practicing familiar old-style politics. It is a year when Minnesota is finally ready to elect a populist female governor, and we have such a candidate with the state executive and electoral experience to make that a reality. With only stunning and historic victories behind her, Gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Otto is in ready to make history yet again.

John F Kennedy’s Birthday Book

JFK: A Vision for America. As our political system slides off the seat and into the crapper, I am finding this book to be a worthy and informative distraction. From the publisher:

Published in commemoration of the centennial of President John F. Kennedy’s birth, here is the definitive compendium of JFK’s most important and brilliant speeches, accompanied by commentary and reflections by leading American and international figures—including Senator Elizabeth Warren, David McCullough, Kofi Annan, and the Dalai Lama—and edited by JFK’s nephew Stephen Kennedy Smith and renowned historian Douglas Brinkley. Combined with over seven hundred documentary photos, it tells the story, in words and pictures, of JFK’s life and presidency, and depicts his compelling vision for America.

JFK brings together in one volume John F. Kennedy’s greatest speeches alongside essays by America’s top historians, analysis from leading political thinkers, and personal insights from preeminent writers and artists. Here is JFK at his best—thought-provoking, inspiring, eloquent, and wise—on a number of wide-ranging topics, including civil rights, the race to the moon, the environment, immigration, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and much more. JFK demonstrates the deep relevance of his words today and his lasting power and influence as an outstanding American leader and orator.

Elegantly designed and enriched by more than 500 photographs and facsimiles of Kennedy’s marginalia on drafts of speeches, his notes from important meetings, letters, and other fascinating documents, JFK is a major contribution to American history.

The august list of contributors includes Secretary John Kerry, Ambassador Samantha Power, Congressman John Lewis, Senator John McCain, Senator Elizabeth Warren, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Robert Redford, Conan O’Brien, Dave Eggers, Gloria Steinem, Don DeLillo, David McCullough, George Packer, Colum McCann, Michael Beschloss, Robert Dallek, David Kennedy, Ted Widmer, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Drew Faust, Tariq Ramadan, Pastor Rick Warren, Jonathan Alter, E. J. Dionne, Ron Suskind, Paul Krugman, Kofi Annan, Governor Jerry Brown, Paul Theroux, Jorge Domínguez, and many others.

Check it out

Democrats: Do these things

A lot of people are offering free advice to the Democratic Party these days. This is natural in the wake of a resounding defeat, especially a defeat that was snatched so clumsily from the jaws of victory.

I gave some advice a while back (see: Why Trump Won And How To Fix That For Future Elections). Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time with a lot of those folks who appeared on the scene, often as members of Indivisible groups, after the election. I see a lot of frustration with the Democratic Party (and our local DFL, which is what we call the Democratic Party in Minnesota). Here are my new suggestions inspired by what I hear people saying out there in the libraries, public meeting rooms, and town halls, at least in suburban Minnesota.

Be A Party

Remember when a judge ruled on an issue regarding voter suppression during the 2016 election? Well, there were a few such rulings, but one had to do with a consent decree against the Republican Party, forcing them to not actively force African Americans and other non-whites away from the polls using intimidation, fear, and misinformation. The concern was that the Trump campaign was doing this, therefore the several years old consent decree should be continued.

The court ruled against extending the consent decree. Why? Because the Trump campaign wasn’t threatening voters? No. They were. Because threatening voters can’t actually change an election’s outcome? No. It can. Because we decided it is OK to exclude minorities from the democratic process officially, not just by default? No. That was not decided.

The consent decree was not extended because the Trump campaign and the Republican party are two different things. Extending the consent decree on the Republican Party because of what the Trump campaign was doing would be like the police arresting you because I rob a gas station.

Crazy, isn’t it? Both major parties have a national organization, plus an organization that helps fund but otherwise has nothing to do with Congressional races. Then, each state has a separate iteration of the party, not quite fully connected to the national party. And, a given candidate’s campaign may or may not have various legal connections with other party entities.

This is actually very complicated, and varies across the landscape.

The point is, regular normal people who are not party insiders can’t really relate to a political party without frequently getting burned or being confused because there is not a political party.

Now, I’m not saying that there should be one entity to serve all the needs of the party across geography and at every level of government. I have no idea if the multi-headed hydra approach is a good thing or a bad thing. I’ve not analyzed that. Perhaps an expert or two will weigh in below, in the comments section.

But I do know this: A sense of oneness, simplicity, and therefore, accessibility to the inside of it, could be engendered to the benefit of the party. The way it works now, individuals can sidle up to what they think is the Democratic Party, then an entity one might easily think is the same entity does some bone-headed thing, and that’s when the regular normal person finds out that their friend, the Democratic Party, has a built in way of making excuses instead of taking responsibility for its actions.

The party asks for unity among its supporters. Fine. But the party should also develop some unity and coherence within itself, so that people can understand it better, and know, that if they are involved at the Congressional District or County level somewhere, that their voices are being clearly heard by the national party as well as the presidential campaign and all of that.

Early Endorsements Stifle

This is an example of what I want to expand on a bit below, but I want to get this near the top of the post because it is a very current issue. I’ve written about this recently. See: A plethora of early endorsements does not endear the new Democrats to the DFL in MinnPost and Collin Peterson, RT Rybak, and David Wellstone Play Inside Baseball? at Minnesota Progressive Project.

Go read those posts to get the details, but essentially, this: We are experiencing endorsement creep, especially by individuals but also organizations. The creep is towards the early date. Insiders, like elected officials or former elected officials, and key organizations, are starting to give Democratic candidate endorsements before many people have even heard which candidates are running. That is a clear message to the voters and would be party participants: Don’t bother, we’ve got this. Please, please, please, Democratic party activists and operatives and sympathetic organizations. Stop this. You are damaging the party, and forcing people to make what suddenly seems a very justified decision to walk away from the party and consider themselves independent. Or worse.

Again, read those articles to get more details.

Try To Act Alive Even While You Are Resting

Meanwhile, as endorsements are too early, other activities are too late. Many of the Indivisible activists I so frequently encounter are wondering where the Democratic Party is. Well, the Democratic Party is there, and they are having various meetings and such, but they are not very visible and the meetings are generally over rather esoteric stuff. A political party has seasonality, because elections are periodic. So, this makes sense.

But right now, people are scared, angry, frustrated, and are trying to do something about the current horrendous situation in American government and politics. Seasonality be damned, get into action!

Several months from now, the seemingly asleep Democratic Party will lumber out of its cave, look around, and try to decide which Republicans to eat. But by that time the rest of the people will have already killed several awful bills, made a large number of elected representatives rethink their strategy of ignoring the voters in their districts, and generally changed the mode and tenor of politics at several levels across the country. Without help or involvement of the Democratic Party.

The party will turn to those activists and ask for their help. The activists will look back at the party, and say, “Who are you? Oh, right, you are the political party that lost all those races. Don’t worry, we’ve got this.” then turn back to their work. I don’t think the Democratic Party wants that.

Political parties change their modus operendus and culture about every 30 years, a major exception being Tammany Hall, which, as a tightly run organized crime organization, kept going for much longer. Sometimes that turnover is accompanied by the disappearance of one party or the emergence of a new one. Seriously, Democrats, you are facing an existential crisis, and you don’t even know it.

Put People Choosing Candidates Above Other Party Business

A detail, but an important one. Please, at conventions and caucuses, do this. If there is a point at which people are expected to vote on candidates, do that first. I have never been to a DFL convention at which the time given to candidates to speak and the time given to participants to vote or caucus isn’t crunched by party business, at least a little, sometimes a lot. Do the esoteric party business last, even if that means doing it at a different meeting later on. (Fact: All DFL conventions are held in rooms that are available only up to a certain hour, at which time everyone has to be out of the room.)

Make Primaries Easier, Caucuses More Engaging

There has been quite a bit of discussion about this, and I have previously offered a solution, not too different from one being considered. (see: How to fix the Minnesota Presidential Caucus). The bottom line: The caucus is what people really need, and the primary is what the people really want. There is a way to have both, we sort of already have both. We just need to adjust a few things to make everyone whine less, which is about as good as it is going to get.

Acknowledge The Waking Giant

I’ve already said this above, in a different way, but it is worth repeating. I was at an Indivisible Event a couple of months ago at which several thousand people spontaneously showed up to yell at a Republican. The Democrats have never managed that, by the way. I was speaking to a woman who had previously never been involved in politics but who suffered through a major traffic jam and was now standing outside in the breezy cold to make her point. She said to me, “They have woken a sleeping giant. And she is pissed.”

I have yet to see any member of the Democratic Party, in any form, acknowledge this phenomenon. WTF, man? Fail to do this at your peril.

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Don’t be a brat, eat a brat

Have more events that get people together. The party tends to have certain events and they tend to do a lot of work at these events.

Indivisible has a lot of events and they do a lot of work at those events. When people walk away from the Democratic Party events, they feel like they’ve been involved in something that could be important. When people walk away from an Indivisible event, they feel like they’ve just left a gathering among friends at which they started to figure out a way to survive an uncertain future.

The Democratic Party should start hosting community meetings of its own, inviting everyone including Indivisible to show up, not to have a candidate listen to the people but to have the people listen to each other.

See you at the Tax March, which was not organized by and seems to have nothing to do with the Democratic Party even though it is an event necessitated by the Democratic Party losing bigly at the national level.

#Occupy #Politics Visibly with #Indivisible

Indivisible is a lot like #Occupy but instead of being in tents, we are intense in other ways.

I have been at a few Indivisible meetings over the last few weeks. One of the questions I have about the movement is this: How many people in Indivisible now had voted for Trump, or in my case, our local Republican house representative, Erik Paulsen, or the like, elsewhere? Also, how many people in Indivisible had not voted at all in the last election, or at least, were not reliable voters? And, how many people in Indivisible had voted, and generally voted Democratic/Progressive/Whatever but had not worked for any campaigns (issue campaigns or candidates)? How many people in Indivisible had not given money to candidates or politically relevant causes (like ACLU, Planned Parenthood, the Democrats, etc.) before? And, how many people in Indivisible didn’t know a lot of important stuff before but are now learning it, and want to learn more, about how our system works?

There are many reasons I want to know these things, but one pragmatic reason stands out: If we re-did the election of November 2016 right now, what would happen? How many people would vote differently, vote at all, or, prior to the election, work for a candidate that had not done so before, send off $50 to a campaign, etc.? And, how much better informed would that electorate be?

In other words, how different would the outcome of a Mulligan be, and how is that difference reflected in the apparently transformative rise of the Indivisible movement?

And, even more pragmatically, should I simply be depressed because all the people who show up at Indivisible meetings were already voting, mainly voting for Democrats, already worked for campaigns, donated some money, and were well informed about how the system all works?

The answer is: No, I should not be depressed. As represented, at least, by Indivisible people in my area, there are big changes.

I’m combining impressions of our very local group (20+ people) and our congressional district group (hundreds of people active, maybe thousands ready to do something). This comes in part from personal introductions at the beginning of meetings, a practice our local group leader has followed, and that has been very valuable to getting the group bonded and fired up. This also comes from conversations during, before, and after meetings, and at various protests or other events.

Here are my impressions.

Most Indivisibles have generally voted, but a small number have not done so reliably, and a few did not in the last election.

A small number of Indivisibles voted for the “wrong” candidate last election, locally (including at the Federal level) but perhaps almost none voted for Trump.

Combining these two numbers, if the election were held again in my district, one or two of my local state-level positions would have been Democratic rather than Republican, because it was a very close election this year (dozens of votes for our state Senator), and the state would be Democratically controlled in the legislature. I think, and some knowledgeable DFL operatives agree with me, that if we keep up this momentum, the state will turn full on blue (at the state level) in the next election. Thank you Donald and Erik.

However, that number of votes may not be sufficient to have turned the vote in our congressional race. Having said that, across the state, a couple of the races were close. If we held the election today, Minnesota would probably send one more Democrat to the House than it did, but not necessarily for my district.

What about sending money to candidates and working on elections? If a new campaign was started today, the number of individuals working for DFL (Democratic Party) candidates would be much higher, maybe 25% or even 50% higher, and the number of hours per candidate even greater. There would not be a corresponding increase in funds or work effort for the Republican candidates. Maybe a decrease. That would translate into a few percent of the vote, most likely. I believe (and I can never be proven wrong so I’m quite confident in this statement!) that if the campaign and election were redone today, because of this additional work on the campaigns, that my member of Congress would have been replaced, and more. It would be a good election. A very good one.

I’ll add this: One of the most interesting characteristics of the Indivisible movement, at least where I’ve been working in it, is the recognition that the Democratic Party is all about the election, and not about the politics, policy, and governing. Indivisible, locally, and I think this is true across the country, is doing a lot, has done a lot, and will do a lot. We will have a lot of stuff done before the Democratic Party finishes its morning coffee. We had done a big hug pile of stuff before the DNC elected its chair, just a few weeks ago.

It was Indivisible and similar movements that crashed the Republican effort to kill Obamacare. On the surface, it was the hard right Libertarians, but they mattered in this process because the more moderate Republicans were scared off by us. At the very root of the party discord that killed the Republican repeal and replace bill was the Indivisible movement showing up at the town halls, crashing the phone system, and filling inboxes with notes. The Democratic Party in Washington was able to make the moves it made because we gave them the room to do so.

You’re welcome.

When the Democratic Party finally gets its candidates for the next round of elections, Indivisible will be there to vote them in. But the Democratic Party needs to recognize that Indivisible is not an arm of the Democratic Party, and the Democratic Party needs to be asking Indivisible what it wants, now, and it needs to be helping, becoming a partner. And, by “asking indivisible” I mean asking the people who are in the movement on a local and regional basis.

I have seen that happening to a large degree, but it is not coming from the party itself. It is coming from individuals who are DFL officers who are also involved in Indivisible. It is an informal link that can’t be trusted to have much value unless it is backed by the party core, the party faithful. If that does not happen over the next few weeks, the Democratic Party is taking a very serious risk of losing relevance. Whigging out, as it were. They don’t want to do that.

What about being informed about how our system works? This is the area where the largest changes are being made. There are two entirely different areas of consideration here, and rapid change is happening in both areas. One is the system of government itself, the other is the system of power. First, about the government.

It is almost as though the system was designed to be confusing. For example, what is a “house member.”

Well, it depends. Do you mean state level or national? In Minnesota, you have a house member at the state level, and you have a house member at the federal level. The state house member is in the state house, and the federal house member is in Congress. We often use the word “Congressman/Congresswoman/Congressperson” for the federal house member. But, “Congress” also includes Senate. So, “The Congress” at the federal level is the Senate (you have two of those) and House, even though we use the term “Congressperson” to refer only to the house and “Senator” to refer only to the Senate. But not at the state level.

Unless you live, say, in New York, where you have no house members. You have Senators and Assemblymen/persons. That state, and some others, have a Senate and and Assembly. Some states don’t have two houses of their legislature, but only one.

Don’t get me started on committees and what they do (vitally important).

I think I’ve made my point. Individuals who are now indivisible but who have not been much involved before are learning all this stuff new, and believe me, they are learning it good.

Then there is the power stuff. We have a representative system where the people elect house and senate members at the state and federal level, and they toil in service of the voters. Right?

No.

First, voters are not relevant, the elected officials represent all the people whether they voted or not. Second, only some of them represent the people. Most of them represent special interests which occassionally coincide with the will of the people. So, Big Oil and the Sierra Club fight over votes, and we give money to Big Oil and the Sierra Club to do this.

The difference is, of course, how these various entities get the money that they use to shape policy in state houses and DC. It is all our money, we are the ones paying for all of it, but the route by which the money travels from you and me to a political campaign or PAC varies in a critically important way.

We give money to Big Oil because we want to drive our cars, heat our homes, use pharmaceuticals (yes, they are often made of petroleum), etc. Every time you spend money on anything, a tiny percent goes into a political or issues campaign, sometimes a candidate’s coffers, sometimes in a super PAK, sometimes to support an ad campaign about how great Methanol is, etc. We have a multi-trillion dollar economy and several hundred million dollars of that is channeled into political activism directed by several dozen individuals who control the largest share of that economy. It is baked in.

Funding for the Sierra Club and all the other organizations, or individual candidates raising those small number donations from the voters, etc., is not baked in. That comes and goes with how much interest the general public has in particular issues and that all depends on which shiny objects are about at the moment.

Indivisible has done two things in this area. A very large percentage, maybe about half, of the people now engaged in Indivisible, did not know very much about this power and money thing. They probably knew it was there, had a vague idea, but not the details. They are now learning the details, and the are creating ways to address it.

The second is what a new Indivisible member told me at a protest event the other day. She was one of those individuals somewhat but not fully involved in previous years. Now she is involved. She said, “A sleeping giant has been awakened. And she is pissed.”

There are some 100 million independent adults or households in this country. About 100 million entities that might decide to write a check for, say, a cause or candidate, or be members of Public Radio, or join a gym, or whatever. Imagine if 10 million of them decided to get serious about his. Ten million Indivisible individuals, where “individual” means household units, being serious. They decide to tithe themselves a total of $1000 a year to contribute to political campaigns. They get semi-organized, but informally so, using the Internet. They distribute their campaign dollars across state and congressional campaigns.

Ten Billion Dollars is a lot of money. Since the House runs every two years, if this was put into all of the Congressional races, that would be 20 billion divided by 538 per race. That’s about 37 million dollars per campaign. That’s ridiculous.

I would love to see that happen, of course. But here, I mention it only as a thought experiment. Here’s a fact: Indivisible is larger than the baked-in Big Industry special interests and the liberal and progressive organizations like the Sierra Club and the ACLU combined. We can kick big money out of politics, not by making it somehow go away, but by making it small. We can force elected officials to represent the people of their respective districts by doing something very simple but incredibly effective when the numbers are large: Insisting on it.

People like Erik Paulsen and Donald Trump will not do what we want (which is, simply, to govern fairly and intelligently) because we insist. They are not built that way and never were. But once we throw all the bums out, as the old expression goes, and replace them with thoughtful, intelligent, reasonable, moderate through liberal (depending on the district) and honest individuals, then we can do something remarkable. We can take over the country.

Imagine that: The people taking over the country.

Sticking with this last issue, of knowing stuff, I want to recommend two books. I’ve reviewed them both, so here are links to both my reviews, and the amazon pages. I’ve checked my local library for both, just to make sure they have them, and yes, they have several copies: they are all out, and the reserve backlog is months long!

Shawn Otto is a political expert, author (of non fiction, fiction, and screenplays) and a bunch of other stuff, and he wrote The War on Science: Who’s Waging It, Why It Matters, What We Can Do About It. (Full disclosure: Shawn is a friend, but he’s a friend BECAUSE he writes great books, of course!) Much of what we are seeing, including the buying off of the government by the aforementioned industries, is about the war on science. Otto sets this in historical and contemporary perspective, and provides a field manual for what to do about it. This is a must read. (My review is here.)

Jane Mayer’s Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right is a very well researched and engagingly written expose of how that baked-in money works, and thus, how our government actually works. It is also a must read. (My review is here.)

Trump’s Take It Or Leave It Approach Makes Sense

In real estate.

I’m not an expert on this but I’ve seen the sausage being made a few times. Individuals with investment money, commercial businesses that might use new space, other possible tenants, maybe or maybe not some designers or builders, municipal or other government stakeholders, community stakeholders such as neighborhood associations, etc. consider a real estate deal. Perhaps there is a bit of condemned land the county wants to sell cheap if only you clean up the brownfield and develop something nice. Maybe the investors include a person who owns an underexploited business venture in a particular property, and some other investor owns the property, and they’re building a subway stop down the street.

All kinds of possibilities for a bigly deal. Plans are made, temperatures checked, conversations happen, money is put down on options to buy, a partnership is formed, etc.

And then, at some point, bait has to be cut, or put on the hook. One must do number two or leave the loo. All the parties involved have to agree on the deal, so they do.

Or, they don’t.

If they don’t, you move on to some other deal. You have not, most of your life, committed to seeing a 7-11 market in a mixed use housing project on the corner of Main and First Ave. It was never really your your dream to build a strip mall on that old landfill by the bus station. You have not woken up every morning of the last 30 years wondering how you could achieve an office building by the new cloverleaf next to the park and ride. Any of those things might have been nice, bit it didn’t work out.

Even more importantly, you are smart if you figure out sooner than later that it won’t work out, and move on sooner rather than later. You may even be smart to move on even if there is a small chance of pulling off the deal.

Donald Trump, as of this writing (and things are happening very fast at this moment, so this could change) is saying, vote on Trumpcare now, if the vote is no in the House, drop it. We’ll do something else unrelated to health care. That is a wise thing to do, in the real estate world. I’m actually surprised to see Trump doing something that makes sense in any context at all. Maybe he isn’t a total failure as a businessperson after all!

Unfortunately, Trump is the President of the United States and the deal we are talking about is with Congress and the People, and it is not a strip mall somewhere, but the health care insurance system.

There are people who have a life-long commitment to seeing affordable healthcare. It was always their dream to build a system of insurance that would be affordable and fair for all. They woke up every morning of the last 30 years wondering how to achieve this goal.

They’ve tried before, failed, and got back up and dusted themselves off and tried again. Obamacare was the first real success since the old days, but even that was not enough and there are people ideologically, politically, and for humanitarian reasons committed to an even lofter goal.

The arc of justice is long but bends gently to the left, in this case to the more universal and fairer health care system. It is convenient that the path Trump has decided to take is a hard right turn followed by … well, parking the car on the side of the road and taking a bus to some other place. Maybe go golfing or something.

We’ll see what happens today (over the next two or three hours). I wonder if Trump will address all of his issues this way. I wonder if he’ll address the presidency this way. I wonder if some day, soon, Trump will say to Paul Ryan, “Build the wall, and get Mexico to pay for it. I’ll be at the Florida White House while you work that out.”

Then, when Ryan tells Trump, “There is no way. It can’t be done. There isn’t a mechanism for that, and we don’t have the votes anyway,” that trump will respond in the same way, but more bigly.

“Call the vote,” Trump tells Ryan. In my fantasy. “If it doesn’t pass, I’m outa here.”