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.
I don’t use clickbait titles very often, but this was one, because I want to talk to people who think that nine out of ten things that the collective known as Donald Trump, his white house staff, and the Republicans in Congress do is a distraction from … whatever.
Yes, distractions can happen, but most of what happens is not a distraction. The Trump administration is incapable of that much forethought and planning. When Trump throws trans people under the bus, telling that is a distraction is YOU throwing trans people under the bus. Here are some examples of the distraction meme playing out on Twitter:
This theme plays out in other ways as well. I recently wrote a Facebook post bout the 2020 election. Something like 9 out of 10 commenters told me to stop talking bout 2020, and to focus on 2018. Some told me to focus on other things.
I’ve got news for you. Every week I carry out a number of focused acts related to the climate change crisis. Everything else is a distraction.
I also carry out an act or two to work towards replacing my Republican representative in Congress because he is vulnerable, we can switch this seat, and that may be part of changing Congress from Red to Blue. Everything else is a distraction.
I frequently expend effort helping in the campaign for who I think should be the next Governor of my state. My fellow staters tend to switch parties every two terms, and we’ve had a Democrat in office for what will be 8 years. I am focused like a laser beam on making sure my bone-headed compatriots don’t blindly put a Republican in office in 2018, and I’ve got my candidate. Everything else is a distraction.
My state house representative is a seriously red tea-bagger. I’ve not done much about that yet, I just moved to her district. But I’ve done a couple of things and I’ll do more. I’ll do what I can to make sure she is replaced by someone excellent, a Democrat, and I already know who it is. Everything else is a distraction.
Today, I started to process of encouraging someone in my school district to run for the board. I want to see more good people run for more offices. Everything else is a distraction.
Oh, and today, for dinner, I’m going to make tacos. Except they really aren’t tacos, they are more like burritos. We must defend the burrito, which is not a taco and not a wrap. Everything else is a …
Anyway, I’m not the only person who cringes when I see “No, that really important example of Trump and his Republican Minions taking away our rights and ruining the planet and garnering more and more wealth is just a distraction,” or who hates it when an attempt at a conversation about politics gets shut down by well meaning and smart people because it wasn’t what they were thinking about that day.
I an prove that with Twitter:
Oh my god: Not everything in the Trump Administration is a "distraction." They don't have that skill level. They're just pure chaos.
Short answer: No, we do not shoot them. But the argument that we don’t shoot them is not as simple as it seems.
Rand Paul: Shoot the CongressmanRight Wing: The purpose of the 2nd Amendment is to allow us to be armed, so we can shoot at the government when we need to. (This section has been heavily modified at the request of Senator Paul)
The purpose of the second amendment, and the reason to stay heavily armed and to be prepared to use the firearms the Constitution guarantees we can keep, is to lift tyranny should it befall the land. An increasing number of people now realize that a president that does not have any interest in following the law or just tradition, and who has absurd and harmful wants he insists be realized by fiat, is a tyrant. Donald Trump is a tyrant. Perhaps you would like to wait to call him a tyrant until he does a certain number of tyrannical things, but that is kind of silly because it takes time for a tyrant to build up a strong resume. Trump applied for the job of tyrant, promising tyranny, was hired to do that, has shown that he is capable of it, and has failed to put many notches in his tyrant’s belt only because he has been successfully fought on several fronts, not because he is not really a tyrant.
Rand Paul has an excellent understanding, aside from one detail, of the use of armed force in resisting tyranny, and according to him, given that Trump is a Tyrant, people should start shooting. The following tweet has been passed around as an example of right wing thinking (or, in this case, Libertarian thinking, which is not exactly the same thing) on the 2nd Amendment:
In reality, this was a tweet by a staffer of Senator Paul’s, who was tweeting the things being said by a speaker previously introduced by Paul, at some sort of an event. I was asked by Senator Paul’s office to clarify that. So, to be extra clear, this is a Paul staffer quoting a speaker who is not Senator Paul.
But it does leave open the question of Senator Paul’s thinking about the Second Amendment. The explanation point, the context, all that, made me assume Senator Paul agreed with this statement made a year ago. I’ve asked the Senator’s office for clarification on the Senator’s position on the 2nd Amendment, and I’ll insert that here if and when that happens.
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Here’s the thing: The 2nd Amendment is a sacred thing to the right, and to Libertarians. It is part of the Constitution. It was put in the constitution because the British suppressed the Colonials by taking away their guns. Not their hunting guns, no one ever did that. Not their sports weapons. Sports shooting was not really a thing in Colonial America. Rather, they took away the Colonial arms that were cached for the purpose of fighting the British. I’ve seen it. I’ve been to the spot where they did it. The point of the 2nd Amendment is to protect the people’s ability to be able to fight back as groups, states, whatever, against the government, should the government become a tyranny. That is the reason the Second Amendment is so important, and that is the reason people fight for it. It is not important because it protects our rights to have certain toys, certain hunting gear, or even, to protect our homes form invasion by criminals. There is no Constitutional protection for those uses of guns, nor is there Constitutional restriction. Same for cars, toasters, and fidgets. Not Constitutionally protected, yet we seem to have them. There is, in fact, another Amendment, I’ll let you research that on your own, that does protect unspecified rights that were already considered normal, and that is where hunting would likely come in.
The essential flaw in Rand Paul’severybody on the right’s argument has to do with the fact that this is not the 18th century. Most people who want to see sensible gun control accept the idea that the 2nd is out of date and no longer applies, and should be ignored or repealed.
I’m thinking that this recent shooting may be a high water mark for the idea that the 2nd Amendment is sacred, for the simple reason that Senator Paul’s staff is asking me to remove an indication that Senator Paul accepts the 2nd Amendment as a protection of weapon ownership by the people to fight a tyrannical government. That would be very interesting if he thought that, because it would mean that Senator Paul is open to putting aside the 2nd and talking about sensible gun reform. Good for him. Or, it might mean that Senator Paul is living between a rock and a hard place, as are many other.
That could cause change.
The point is this: We do not really live in a nation where regular people arm themselves for the purpose of fighting a tyrannical government. Some guy went to fight a tyrannical government the other day, and everyone — EVERY ONE — said no, don’t do that. Everyone said that is a criminal act, or the act of a mentally disturbed person or a terrorist, or whatever. Everyone agrees, even Rand Paul, apparently, that this whole keep the populous armed so we can fight the government thing no longer applies to this society. I hope to see conservatives and Libertarians finally join the rest of us at the table to talk about gun reform .
Bernie Sanders: Don’t shoot the Congressmen but …
Sanders whipped up a lot of hate in this country, during the last campaign. So did Hillary. It wasn’t their intention but it happened.
Today there are still grump muffins wandering around the planet complaining about Hillary this and Bernie that. Bernie has been a supporter of the Second Amendment, so one might expect his position to be similar to Rand Paul’s, but it isn’t. Representative and Senator Sanders supported the Second Amendment for a different reason.
It is hard to be a Senator, but not if you are from Vermont.
Vermont is an easy state to govern or represent because everybody in Vermont is the same. Also, they all live in Yurts. Many of them also have guns; These are not weapons of interpersonal violence, but rather, for shooting woodland beasts. So, if you are pro-Yurt, and don’t oppose hunting, then you can get on to the business of supporting the Maple Sugar industry and helping out with the tourism, which doesn’t need much help because Vermont is surrounded by metropolitan areas that supply countless leaf-peekers every fall for several weeks. It has got to be the easiest state in the country to lead or represent.
And as such, Senator Sanders never faced any real serious problems with policy vs. reality issues within his state. This allowed him, along with a few other Representatives and Senators from a few other states, to do crazy and unexpected things like vote against wars, or come up with policies that ignore special interests and meet the needs of the people. This is why Sanders could have radically pro-people policies while Clinton had to stay all the time in compromise mode throughout the last election. This is why Sanders could say outlandish things like education should be free, but Clinton got dinged for admitting out loud the strategy that allowed Lincoln to win the Civil War and free the Slaves in a world where no one else could have done either: Have a strategy in your head, and another one that people will go along with in your mouth, and work tirelessly to make the two eventually the same.
So Sanders and Clinton were dramatically different, but in ways that a thoughtful analysis would allow either to be complemented on their tactics and abilities. They came from different places, were reaching for almost identical goals, but the differences ended up enraging a lot of people more than the similarities united them. Apparently, that level of hate and anger was sufficient in the case of one Sanders supporter to allow him to take Rand Paul seriously, heavily arm himself, intent on fighting tyranny. (We are only guessing as to motive here, but I’m going to stick with this story until proven otherwise.)
The first thing I notice about James. T. Hodgkinson is that his name most resembles a hypothetical made up character in an Aaron Sorkin script. I assume citizen Hodgkinson is a distant cousin of Joseph Bethersenton of Fargo, North Dakota.
The second thing I notice, based on the pictures and reporting, is how closely he resembles people I meet every week and see all the time. Frustrated, often a former Sanders supporter but not always, a person who truly believes that Donald Trump is a Tyrant, and who has also realized the other really important thing: As long as the Republicans are in the majority in Congress, Donald Trump gets to do whatever he wants, even if the courts slow him down now and then. We have separation of powers in this country, but we also have amalgamation of powers.
Years ago, when he was Speaker of the House, Republican Newt Gingrich said that Republicans should do whatever is required to take power, and only after taking power, govern. At that time the Republican agenda was already pretty right wing, but it has gotten even more right wing since then. And, now, they have taken power. And in the many years between implementing this strategy and realizing success, the Republicans totally forgot how to govern. So this is what we get.
Part of that “do whatever is required” bit is changing the way voting and electing and campaigning in this country happen, so even where Democrats have a 60% majority, they will lose. Now that the Republicans are fully in power, expect that number to change to 65% or even 70%.
Indeed, expect Republicans to never leave power now that they have it. Believe me, for every minute of time, dollar of money, and erg of energy being spent now to attempt to switch one or both houses of Congress to the Democrats in 2018, there are ten being spent to make sure that won’t happen.
This is it, this is the end, of the Republic, of America, of freedom and democracy.
The Lorax: Things can get pretty bad and people can get pretty mad before Grammy Norma kicks somebody’s ass
… unless that doesn’t happen.
I’m pretty sure James T. Hodgkinson (mis)estimated, if he was semi-lucid, that there was no turning back, that the only way Trump could get thrown out of office is if Democrats took over in Congress, and he further calculated that this was not going to happen in his lifetime. (Which, by the way, turned out to be the case but for different reasons.)
But that’s not how Grammy Norma sees it.
I was at an event the other day at which there were about 20 Grammy Normas, a roughly equal number of Pappy Normas, and about the same number of people who were not 70 or older, who came together to hear some speeches and sing some songs and vow their energy to the removal of the really awful Republican that represented them in Congress. My friend John Wexler, who is a Marine vet and a long time Democratic Party activist, was there, and he said to me, “This is like an election year, look at all this activity.” And I thought about it for a second and I says, “Yeah, this is like ‘08: Obama and Franken. And it an off-off year!”
This happened to be an Indivisible Minnesota CD03 picnic, but it could have been any of a number of gatherings by Indivisible groups, Stand Up groups, or other groups, of people who are not going to shoot anyone at this time, and are going to do everything they need to do to take back our Democracy from Tyrant Trump and his Republican henchmen. Again: Without shooting them.
The reason why Rand Paul’s technique won’t work is simple: It won’t work. There is no 21st century version of an armed citizenry able to throw off the yoke of tyranny. We have to do this differently these days, and we will.
Well, to be honest, we don’t know if we will. We don’t know if this odd event, of an incompetent clown being accidentally elected (with the help of the Russians) president at the very same moment in history when the Republican party rules and is also made up of mean spirited bought and paid for jerks, is something we can recover from. And that is what makes it all so scary. James T. Hodgkinson calculated that all is lost, and it is time to start shooting. But he’s a rare bird. He’s one in 10,000.
Which, if you do the math, means that there are lot of him out there.
And this is where I disagree with Nancy Pelosi
Today, Nancy Pelosi, on the House Floor, stated that we should turn down the rhetoric, implying that the intense rhetoric in today’s American politics is too heavy, and that is what lead James T. Hodgkinson to try to kill a softball team’s worth of Republicans.
But that is not what happened. James T. Hodgkinson did not react to the rhetoric. At most, he miscalculated the chance of us handling this with some hard work over a couple of years. At least, he should have kept his powder dry, because maybe in six or seven year’s we’ll be looking at the Constitution disolved and a full on police state. He made the mistake of failing to understand the process, which puts him in a lot of company given the way things went last election. It was not the rhetoric.
Here’s the thing. The rhetoric is as I stated above. Trump is a tyrant, and if he is not stopped he will formalize what he has already done in his own head: thrown away our democracy. The Republicans are his lap dogs and will help him in any way they can to do this, as long as they get to keep power. This is really really bad. That sounds like over the top rhetoric, the kind of rhetoric that would drive an unstable person who happens to be heavily armed to go to the ballpark, as it were. But it is simply the sorry truth and we should not walk away from it, for if we do, it will be to our peril.
At this time it is a bad idea to miscalculate what Grammy Norma and the others can do. That just sets us back. It makes strong Democrats in the house quiet down. That is not a good thing.
Don’t shoot the Republicans. But do everything else you can do to toss their sorry asses in the trash bin of history.
I remember like it was yesterday, the anti Hillary rhetoric flying around during those final weeks of the election. People were making statements that seemed to be based on actual sources, though the sources themselves were not crossing my path. The attitude of those repeating the stories was very similar across the board. Breathless, gut-punch angry, visceral, mean. They were talking almost as though Hillary Clinton had stepped on their baby’s heads. That kind of thing.
And it turns out that this was the Russians. The people doing this were not the Russians. Rather, the Russians, either working for Trump or working in parallel with him (we shall eventually find out) were isolating vulnerable individuals, individual who fit a certain discernible pattern of attributes, and psychologically manipulating them to rage against Hillary.
Looking back, it is now pretty clear that this vitriolic wall of hate, rising up unexpectedly and looking a certain way, was an anomaly. Yes, yes, there was all this Hillary Hate before, but that was from a different demographic, had a different look, and a different feel. This new thing was a different thing, and looking back, one can see it clearly.
And now, it is back. The statements being made that, when you run them down, are not based on reality. The vitriol, almost threatening way it is put. The logical conclusion of the rhetoric being self defeating and damaging to the Democratic Party and progressive idea.
But this time it is about Bernie. I will bet all my bagels and muffins against all your donuts that the Russians are hacking us again, but this time, instead of manipulating Bernie-favoring people to hate bigger and better on Hillary, they are manipulating Hillary supporters to bash Bernie.
It is the same level of vitriol, the same badly sourced accusations, the same direct link between accusation and a final solution of leaving or tearing apart the Democratic party, etc. It appeared in the social networking world instantly, and it is suddenly everywhere. Have you seen it?
I’ll give yo an example. Perez gets up in front of an audience and all the Bernie Bots boo him. That is what is being said. What really happened is that Perez got Bernie to do a talk in a place where Bernie was very popular, to shore up Democratic support, and a lot of Bernie people cheered the heck out of Bernie. There was not moment of booing Perez, though there may have been one moment of mixed hemming and hawing. The actual non-false, real thing that happened is that Perez gave a speech that had the audience cheering and on their feet, then Sanders gave a speech that had the audience cheering and on their feet. If you don’t believe me, you can watch it yourself, below.
But this was converted into a false accusation that Bernie was trying to ruin the Democratic Party. The vitriol is intense. He’s a socialist, run him out. He’s an independent, run him out. He lies all the time. Etc.
The result of this falsehood laced vitriol is to split anti-Republican and anti-Trump forces and to throw the grassroots of the Democratic Party in to chaos.
OK, I do not know that this is Russian Hacking. But it looks exactly like the Russian anti-Hillary hacking. It has the same form, the same technique, some of the same rhetoric, and is exploiting a similar set of vulnerable individuals. If this is not Russian hacking then, indeed, you can have all the muffins and bagels in the land for yourself.
Tom Perez Was Not Booed; that is a pernicious lie
How many Democratic events have you been to? This was a pretty typical one, but slight bit more raucous. There is a heckler yelling something in the beginning, I have no idea what. Hecklers could be paid operatives, or just crazy people, or just people who are not fully in control of themselves.
The so called “booing of Perez,” which was not booing of Perez, happens at just after 6:18. Perez is not on the stage, therefore he is not booed. The speaker asks the audience if they are there to hear about the future of the Democratic Party and the new chair. This is an audience of people who came to hear Sanders. It is a light hearted, fun, charged up rally. If you say to them, “you are here to see ______” where the blank is filled in with anything at all that is not the keynote speaker, they will boo. So, some booed, some cheered, it was pretty ambiguous, and most importantly, UTTERLY MEANINGLESS. It is this moment of alleged but not actual booing of Perez that is among the items being used to bash Bernie and create this unnecessary division.
Now, watch Perz at just after 32:00 . He gives a great speach. He is cheered and loved. there is not Perez hate here.
The people who are being manipulated by this latest round of psychological warfare are unlikely to be convinced that they are wrong. Assuming this is manipulation, the psychology is immune, laced with paranoia and preformed hatred of disagreement. What needs to happen is this: People need to realize that the hacking that happened before can happen again and, probably, is happening again now. The other thing that needs to happen is that the individuals who are doing this hacking, who can’t find their center, their rational self, and slough it off, need to be isolated. Don’t engage, don’t follow, just … well, just do this:
Because that is what your friend’s facebook page looks like.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.)
In Health Care Insurance Reform We See The History of the Republican Party
Very few American policy initiatives have been as popular as Obamacare. The fact that several years of Republican opposition to the Affordable Care Act did not result in any alternative policies or specific revisions to the law suggest that Republicans were aware of that. Touting opposition and threatening to repeal worked with their base, but actually doing something would lead to widespread outrage and loss of votes, possibly loss of actual elections.
The worst nightmare of Republican members of the House and Senate is that they get the bone they have been groveling for and have to explain to the American people exactly how they are going to dismantle and destroy this popular government program.
Do you remember ClintonCare? Back when Bill Clinton was President, his wife, Hillary was her name, headed a project to develop a major overhaul of the American health care insurance system. Unfortunately, the Gingrich Republicans took over the government at that time. The Republicans had no reason to be against a fair health care system, other than the requirement to implement the new Gingrich Doctrine: Destroy the democrats at all costs, make them the minority party, then start to govern.
(By the way, one could argue that Republicans could be against reform because they are against big and complex governmetnal structures and such. But health care reform that leads in the direction of a single payer system is less complicated, less of a requirement for complex regulation, and generally, much simpler.)
Hillary Clinton’s health care reform plan was an early and major victim of this new anti-D/democratic plan (small and large “d”) initiated by the Republican Party. And, at that time, Hillary Clinton herself became the perennial punching bag of the Republican Party.
That punching bag effect, the decades of hate and rage against Hillary Clinton, certainly contributed to her loss in the last election. And, part of that hate came in the form of the Benghazi investigations.
Benghazi refers to a terrible event in which bad guys attacked the US embassy in Libya, with Ambassador J. Chrisopher Stevens, a friend and colleague of then Secretary of State Clinton, was killed, along with three other Americans.
Jason Chaffetz: Foot Meet Mouth
A congressman named Jason Chaffetz, Republican from Utah, was a vocal member of the committee that carried out a long investigation that tried very hard to lay blame for this attack on Clinton. It was a mean spirited and horrific misuse of governmental power that members of the committee, at various times and places, admitted openly to have been a political fraud. But, this effort was key, recent, and probably determinative of the degree of anti-Clinton feelings across the right wing and centrist parts of the political spectrum, and materially contributed to Donald Trump becoming president. The absurdity of this dirty and embarrassing chapter in American Political history is painfully underscored by the fact that Chaffetz himself voted to reduce the funding for security at embassies, which is the real reason this attack cost American lives.
Chaffetz is now intensely engaged, as are many other Republican members of Congress, in repealing and replacing Obamacare. And, his constituents are not having it. Chaffetz is one of those congresscritters who was screamed at by the outraged members of their districts. Outraged about his desire to nix Obamacare, outraged about his general support of Donald Trump, all that.
Then, Chaffetz made the fatal error, placed the nearly weightless but final straw upon the camel’s back, and he is the camel. He ended his political career by focusing too much on the smart phone and not enough on what people around him were saying. Sort of.
He did that thing Republicans do when they talk about poor people. It comes in a lot of forms, but it is, at the root of it, disdain cloaked in a deep layer of mushy ignorance. Chaffetz told poor people that they needed to make a basic choice in life. Get a phone, or get health insurance.
This is wrong on so many levels that I can’t even … But just so certain points are not lost, let’s covers some of them.
1) A cell phone and a cell phone plan cost a fraction of health care plans under the proposed Republican program.
2) Rich people, under TrumpCare, will get a tax break, in a single year, sufficient to cover their cell phone costs until they die, while lower income folks will get nothing more than a new Canadian Province. Nunavut.
3) I say poor people, and he meant poor people, but really, this problem applies to most people.
4) You need a phone TO MAKE A DOCTOR’S APPOINTMENT YOU IDIOT!!!
Sorry for shouting. But I think you get the point. Jason Chaffetz stuck his rhetorical foot fatally in his political mouth.
Introducing Kathryn Allen
Kathryn Allen is a Utah based physician, a Democrat, who is one of those constituents of the hapless Congressman Chaffetz who rose in outrage against him. But Dr. Allen is taking this one step farther. She made a proposal, on an internet crowdfunding site, that she could run against him in the upcoming midterm election, if people wanted her to. She described herself and her potential candidacy, and asked for financial support from those who might prefer her over that other guy, the Benghazi guy, the anti-Healthcare reform guy, the Pro-Trump guy.
And they did. Especially after the Chaffetz iPhone remark. Right after he made that remark, her crowdfunding site went from near zero to over $80,000 in a Utah Minute. Today, as I write this, it is at $256.495, up from the $253,455 when I captured the image for the graphic at the top of this post, about three minutes ago. And continuing to rise (check here for the latest number).
I think Dr Allen’s candidacy is amazing, hopeful a sign of our times, and a harbinger for the future. If you are in her district, go work for her, if not, send her some buks!
Oh look, she’s up another thousand in another two minutes…..
Here is Rachel Maddow’s coverage of this amazing story:
UPDATE: Apple Responds with the Apple Health Care Plan: