The Democratic Party – An Identity Crisis

WTF
Sadly, this is not from the Onion. This was a genuine attempt at messaging from DCCC. Folks, we’ve got some work to do….

An exchange I had on January 19th, 2017 in front of the Trump building where tens of thousands of New Yorkers gathered on the last night of the Obama Presidency and before the Trump Presidency began.

Me: No, no I’m not interested in the third party option, for a variety of reasons there are too many obstacles to that. We’ve gotta reform the Democratic Party from within and/or take it over.

Activist: Yeah, good luck with that…

When history is written, I’ll probably end up being on the wrong side of the argument, at least on January 19th. That is, I will be if things don’t change in a hurry.

While no analysis of how we got here is perfect (although the impeccable “Listen, Liberal!” by Thomas Frank gets close), here is my quick rundown of the top ten “Shatter-points” in the history of the Democratic Party that got them to this point. This is meant to be observational. I morally agree with a few of these developments (Civil Rights and Voting Rights, the need to protest and end the Vietnam War).

  1. Taft-Hartley (1948) | Right-to-work legislation is now on the table and begins in earnest.
  2. The Civil Rights and Voting Rights Act (LBJ’s quote: “we’ve just lost the south for a generation.” That proved to be mostly true, as no Democrat was able to win a national election without hailing from the south until Barack Obama won with parts of the “new south” like Virginia and North Carolina).
  3. Assassinations of 1960s political and moral leaders (JFK, Bobby, MLK Jr., Malcolm X, Fred Hampton).
  4. The Vietnam War (Considerable domestic unrest, a significant generational divide reared its head during 1968, not unlike what happened last year.  The ’68 campaign cycle is still above and beyond ’16, which was more so depressing because of most of the candidates, and the way the media covered the campaigns, etc.)
  5. Rejecting figures like Ralph Nader (who at one time was one of the most admired figures in America in the late 60’s/early 70’s) and small-d democracy in general. Not putting Nader on the ’72 ticket was but an illustration, the more precise problem was pushing his mindset out of the party in general. There is no doubt the ’72 defeat was crushing, but the Democratic Party overreacted to it. McGovern did not lose because he was too far left, he lost because he was not a good national candidate, ran a bad campaign, and was facing the best and most shrewd politician of his generation in Nixon. Did you see the GOP overreact and moderate themselves in the long run after Barry Goldwater was crushed in ’64? No. They stuck to their principles and in the long run were rewarded for it).
  6. Carter bailing on labor, Clinton bailing on labor. (Both post-New Deal-era Democratic Presidents hailed from the south, which was never a strong base for organized labor, but that doesn’t excuse the party becoming less and less friendly to one of its most reliable constituencies historically. Free trade policies like NAFTA ensured organized labor had no place to go in American politics and their long decline would continue. Labor today stands at just over 11 percent (from a point where 1/3 of all workers belonged to a union, as high as 40% in the manufacturing belt of the Midwest and Great Lakes states at on time) and just like post-NAFTA, stands at a crossroads themselves.
  7. Clinton triangulating on a plethora of bad policies that directly punishes reliable democratic constituencies (NAFTA, Crime Bill, Ending Welfare as we know it, Financial De-Regulation, and Tele-communications De-Regulation which ensured the AM talk radio and cable news dominance for the next generation). At the end of the day, Bill Clinton deserves a lot of blame for some incredibly short-term thinking that may have benefited his popularity personally and politically at the time, but in the long run ruined the Democratic Party. There may be a lot of ink spent on how many seats were lost during the Obama years, but the damage was already done, and former President Barack Obama mostly inherited a Clintonian Democratic Party that was built around Bill and built around Hillary taking over the White House in a Clinton restoration in 2008…or 2016…or 2020?
  8. Doubling-down on the Corporate Alliance (Wall Street, Big Pharma, Big Auto, Big Tech, Big Everything, against the Little People) In the late 70s the Democratic Party began openly courting corporate sources for campaign funding. One of the key issues that gave Obama momentum during the ’08 primary was refusing Super-PAC money early on. The party itself ended its ban on corporate lobbyist and Super-PAC money late in the Obama years, in anticipation of President HRC.
  9. Failing to Cultivate the Young Talent and Build the Farm from the Obama years. Ultimately, it was the ground effort and labor of the millennial generation that put Obama over the top in Iowa in 2008. And then in the general election. The Democratic Party has failed to cultivate its young leaders, paying only lip service to this. “Lip service” is a continuing theme with the Democratic Party of the 21st century. Whether it is about the problems facing an indebted generation, ending forever war, the corporate takeover of the country, or racial equity. What strong talk there is on these issues is often not backed up by strong actions.
  10. And finally, yes, I’m sorry, but going with Clinton over Sanders was a mistake. (It is my belief that Bernie Sanders, if nominated, would have won, and his coattails could have been substantial, perhaps saving the party from the rock bottom that this website has consistently predicted was around the corner. The Democratic Party should have listening to its younger members which overwhelming went with Sanders across-the-board, the members they have failed to cultivate, and in-fact are more likely to attack these days.)
Sigh...
What could have been.

And as a bonus: lets be honest — there simply is no “membership” in the Democratic Party.

Populism is associated with President Trump right now, and that is a shame. Because populism isn’t a political ideology, it is a mode and theory of who is going to be empowered and where influence will come from and be most respected.

The simplest explanation of how we got to where we are is the GOP embracing its populist movements, no matter how uncomfortable it may have made the GOP elites, and the Democratic Party refusing to embrace its own populist movements like Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter. Depressing turnout among the progressive base and youth, and running campaigns that are characterized more so by what you are not, rather than what you are and what you stand for, and will do, is what has created the current situation. The voices and so-called membership of the Democratic Party refuse to listen and simply do not get it. Anyone who has attended fundraisers or meetings knows what I’m talking about. It’s a very top-down led party that does not deal with criticism well and as is incredibly evident in 2017–refuses to do the soul searching that is necessary after historical defeats.

In addition to this top-down, failed strategy, the Democratic Party has become a “fundraising machine” of coastal elites.

If it wants to survive — it has to become a movement. It must embrace movement progressivism the same way the GOP embraced movement conservatism.

If you think I’m being too harsh, come back next week as I take down the GOP from top to bottom. I’m writing these words out of love for my country and its people. Any political system that produces these results must be thoroughly analyzed and criticized across the board.

This is not about Hillary Clinton (who full disclosure, I fully expect will run again in 2020 because my wife has a bizarre track record of being right about these things). In a lot of ways and in some parts of the country, HRC is more popular than the party brand itself. Take a look at the 30 million dollar special election in Georgia. Jon Ossoff, a millennial, who ran on meaningless platitudes of everything being “connected”, the need cut wasteful spending, all while refusing to endorse popular policies progressives and other Americans support like single payer, tax hikes on the wealthy, and ending big money in politics. Ossoff, despite all of the money and the attention, lost by a larger margin than Hillary did in the district. The Democrats have tried to message these closer losses than before as “moral victories” rather than an indictment of establishment politics, corporate neoliberalism, or the generational and ruling class consensus. I’m sure Jon is a nice guy, but there will be no big millennial turnout to reverse the direction of the country if millennials are not allowed to run on what most millennials actually prefer. If young candidates run to please the establishment and status quo it won’t work.

But lets end with something productive — where do we go from here? There are two paths the progressive movement can go, and the answer can be BOTH.

 

Plan A: Take the grassroots movement, and eventually go through the Democratic Party as the vessel (50 states, 3000 counties, primary Corporate Democrats, don’t listen to the Chuck Schumer or Nancy Pelosi’s of the world, etc.)

Plan B: The viable third party movement path (a combination of Draft Bernie for a People’s Party, adding and creating a coalition with WFP, who exist in 13 states, the Green Party, Progressive Democrats of America, and non-party affiliated issue-based movements, in addition to realizing the two fundamental loopholes the two party system has never covered up: 1. There is nothing that binds a state or local party org to its national organization. In other words, if progressives takeover the Wyoming Democratic Party, they can later attach themselves to the People’s Party AND 2. Just because a progressive candidate goes through the Democratic or Republican primaries to win, does not mean they have to continue to stay there. If turncoats like the IDC in New York state can block needed electoral and voting reforms, single-payer healthcare in NY State, why not just pull off the opposite?)

I’ll end with former Labor Secretary Robert Reich’s 8 point plan for a new Democratic Party (pay close attention to number 8)

1. Overhaul the DNC
2. Embrace populism
3. Mobilize, energize and educate the base
4. Expose Trump as a fraud
5. Focus on 2018 now
6. Look to the state and local level
7. Protect groups threatened by Trump
8. Failing all else, look outside the party

We will disagree in many measures, but one thing we all must agree on is this — “change will not come from the Democratic Party, change can only be brought to it.”

If we continue on the same path, if we listen to what Mark Penn wants to do (NY Times July 6th op-ed “Back to the Center, Democrats“), not only will Donald Trump be re-elected, but the incredibly deep bench of younger GOP national candidates could very well win in 2024.

This should go without saying but nobody should listen to Mark Penn, who is more interested in protecting his consultancy than improving outcomes for all Americans.

We should listen to the youth, and let them build a movement that has a realistic plan to deal with the dangers and realities of the 21st century.

Not just change we can believe in, but a future we can believe in.

Not just the Resistance, but Beyond Resistance.

Not just “mere politics”, but Beyond Politics, backed by a moral worldview and value-set that can then work its way toward the policies we’re fighting for.

This Week on the Interwebs

The Controlled Burn
A lot happened this week, but I keep coming back to the Joker line in The Dark Knight, sometimes people just want to “watch the world burn.” Not much unites the country these days, but one thing nearly everyone under the age of 45 can agree on, the status quo has not been working for some time.

Beginning a new regular-to-semi-regular series on this website, an internet and news of the week round-up that will be graph-laden and told in a very ad-hoc manner. For the article and commentary news round-up, Pat Meacham has you covered.

Depending on your perspective, this week was either the beginning of Watergate Part II (dir. by Oliver Stone, I’m assuming….), or just another week of the “liberal conspiracy media” trying to ruin the Trump agenda. We’re not doing a very good job as a society of “piercing bubbles” so far, although I will continue nonetheless.

Approval 2 (Boomer Division)
We just crossed the 100 days marker not too long ago, here is where Trump stands, and keep in mind this was before the Comey firing. Most importantly, look at the general trend of the erosion of trust and support for Presidents (in line with eroding support for other American institutions) over the years. Post-Watergate I, partisanship was high but then confidence was briefly restored before returning with a vengeance as soon as the boomer generation assumed complete control of all elected branches of government (Fmr. President Clinton and onward).
Approval 1
Yes, President Trump is different than previous times of polarization and partisanship. He is the most polarizing President in the history of polling. This graph is from right after the inauguration. 
Russia GDP Growth Rate
I don’t pay much attention to the particulars of the Russia investigations. I have no doubt in my mind Putin and Russia wanted Trump elected. Why? 7 straight quarters of negative GDP growth. Russia under Putin has not thrived at all, just the opposite. And if our nation emulates their system we will suffer the same fate (minus differences in natural resources, etc.) and even more stagnant growth (more on this later).

….while we’re on the subject of the future of U.S. public policy…

And America
From the Willy Wonka Honest Trailer on YouTube–check it out if you have time. Hilarious and also this…
What Obesity Used to Look Like
More than 1/3 of U.S. adults are obese and 17.5% of children, couple this with the damning statistic of 20% of U.S. children being in poverty (obviously, through no fault of their own), compared to 4.8% for the Netherlands, there is a lot of room for improvement beyond meaningless and mostly symbolic statements like: “the children are our future.” The obesity crisis has gone under-reported in the U.S. media and has been but one of many reasons that there is no easy fix to the U.S. health care system.

Speaking of….

Fate of 18 Midterms on Older Boomers
If you think the impact of the AHCA passing will surely deliver both houses of Congress to the Democratic Party, think again. You’re counting on a demographic who has voted reliably Republican or Democrat for some time. 
Truth
Ain’t this the truth….
The Pre-existing condition
Please tell me again how the “children are our future?” And why did Hillary Clinton not run on ending child poverty? “It’s Time” to do X, Y, and Z would have been a far better appeal than “I’m With Her” or “Stronger Together”, but I digress. All of this assumes the elites of the Democratic Party knew what they were doing.
Math Is Hard For Fox News
Fox News has had cosmic justice enforced on them in abundance lately. Scandal after scandal, but they can still trot out their old reliable trademark of using accurate statistics to incredibly mislead people. Jeez… if only former President Obama had pressed the job creation button on January 21st…

While we’re on the subject of President Obama, the following undermine GOP arguments that he spent too much during his administration.

So it looks like it wasn’t wild spending, but rather something else that has caused the new normal of sluggish growth. It certainly isn’t sluggish for the wealthy and big corporations….ah, the “job creator” class, what an utter myth.

Consumers create jobs for the most part and workers create value. And until even the so-called “capitalists” of this country understand that, we’re going to suffer from stagnant growth because…. the masses are nearly out of money because…. see below.

Distribution of Income During Expansion
The story since the late 70’s has been unequal growth, wages not rising with productivity and inflation, and its starting to catch up with us no matter who is in charge. Why? Because Tom Frank is right–there is no “party of the people” right now and hasn’t been for some time (circa late 70’s, notice a trend here?)

This has led to a distribution that looks like this….

wealth in america
Clearly, something will have to give here.

There are some that will keep banging the drums for the “magic”, but most working people pounding pavement and trying to take care of their families know the truth–the link between effort and reward is gone and has been for some time.

Want to know what’s behind the actual American carnage and why none of 45’s and the far-right to Alt-Right cabal’s policies will work? Because there is a fundamental disconnect between the world that elites inhabit, and organized money protects, and the actual reality of what is going on and has been the trend in American life for some time.

And this is why the most relevant historical force in the 2016 Presidential election was not Donald Trump–but rather it was Bernie Sanders.

He has proven that small dollar donations can break the donor class monopoly of our political system, or at the very least has proven you can put up one hell of a fight and maybe next (demographically speaking) things will break your way. If it is not broken up, it’ll be hard for much of anything to be made “great”again, although I’d very much settle for “good” outcomes at this point.

Indeed, Mr. Norris was right. We are cursed to live (or fortunate to live?) in interesting times. Anyone who has been following developments between the Alt-Right and far-left clashing on college campuses lately, or developments like this can conclude that we are cursed to live in interesting times.

So I keep coming back to the Joker and “watching the world burn.”

There are those who have settled into the world as it is and those (overwhelmingly under 45) who are dreaming of the world as it should be. I think the common thread that binds a lot of millennials, most Gen-X’ers, and younger folks together will be our desire to “burn it down.”

The key difference will be what type of burn. At the outset I showed a “controlled burn” that farmers utilize to help the soil and rotate crops. I believe the controlled burn is far preferable to what the Alt-Right is and wants, which I will call the “moral hazard burn.”

The Moral Hazard Burn
That’s all for now, folks.

Take care of each out there. And stay tuned for Agreeing Loudly and the Margin of Error.

Judiciary is Conspicuously Missing from WhiteHouse.gov as Being Part of the Federal Government

screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-10-17-51-pm
As of 10:20 PM EST on January 29th, on the tenth day of the Trump administration — the Judicial Branch of the Federal Government is conspicuously absent from WhiteHouse.gov

According to the Way Back Machine on the InterWebs, the Obama Administration had The Judicial Branch of  the Federal Government on its website. While this could have been an oversight, rather than a deliberate political move, like the status of LGBT Americas, Climate Change, Health Care, and Civil Rights, I believe this is a deliberate attempt to delegitimize the Courts, which are the last vestiges in the way of one party fascist rule (in addition to the rights guaranteed us by the Constitution, which must be enforced each and every day by WE THE PEOPLE), and the basic decency and goodness of the American People and our communities.

It takes a long time for the Courts to change over. As you may know, the Supreme Court has had a right wing tilt for a generation or two, but the lower courts have turnover at a much faster pace. While an obstructionist GOP often blocked President Obama’s nominees to the Federal courts – he was able to appoint a total of 329 federal judges, including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sotomayer and Justice Kagan.

This legacy of judicial appointments also includes 55 Courts of Appeals judges, 268 judges to the District courts, and a couple dozen more to specialty courts under Article III  (International Trade), Article I (Federal Claims, Tax Courts, Veterans Claims, Military Commission Review, Armed Forces), and Article IV Territorial courts.

This eight year legacy of judicial appointments, the day-to-day bureaucracy, and the majority of the American people stand in the way of significant parts of the Trump Agenda. We’ve already seen constant attempts to delegitimize the media (although they do a pretty good job doing that on their own), and I believe we’ll see more and more of this as long as District court judges stay executive orders, rule legislation unconstitutional, etc. This “battle of the Federal Government branches” mathematically can only last eight years, or even fewer than that.

Why? Because if we allow one party rule under this President and his administration for that length of time, the judges appointed will be far more favorable to executive orders like the one that swept across the nation this weekend.

This has been a dispatch from Publius – a Public Citizen of the “Sons and Daughters of Liberty” – writing from the island where Lady Liberty welcomes new Americans to the land of opportunity, holding a torch, which will burn a little less brightly if WE THE PEOPLE – do not do our duty in the years to come.

Farewell Barry, and Thank You.

obama-article
Barack H. Obama, 44th President of the United States

New York, NY — The other night before going to bed I watched the Netflix original “Barry.” The film was a slice-of-life moment during Barack Obama’s years at Columbia undergrad in New York City.

Last night, I was barnstorming NYC going from protests to anti-inauguration networking events and fundraisers and meeting many people I have never met before. Like so many conversations with friends and complete strangers since November 8th, my faith in the basic decency of the American people was reinforced yet again. I don’t blame soon-to-be (and likely is as you read this) former President Barack Obama for believing in that same basic decency.

Six weeks ago, I had a dream I was a White House aide, serving at the pleasure of the President. It was the series finale of “West Wing: Obama Edition.” I was summoned into the Oval Office, not unlike Charlie Young often was for Jed Bartlet: “what would you have done differently, Troy?”

“Permission to speak freely Mr. President?”

“Granted”, replied the President, on his last night of service after eight years in office.

“Well Mr. President, I would have….pursued something big and grand first, but it would not have been health care reform. At least not if it is going to be the Heritage Foundation’s plan from the early-90s. I would have pursued a carbon tax, put a down payment on a 21st century green economy infrastructure, bailed out homeowners and people instead of big banks, and then given everything that I had to get the world to succeed at Copenhagen in ’09, the “true last best hope” to stem the tide and roll back the worst effects of climate change the world had. Out of those successes I would have then taken the political capital to try and pass single payer healthcare before the 2010 midterms.”

Perhaps we’ll all learn just like Barack that these things are just out of our grasp. Not possible within this political system. But I still have to believe, and hope. 

What I will always remember about the Obama years is something I can be reminded of every day in the friends and company that I keep. I think Time magazine summed it up years ago best…

The Obama victory was not so much about his generation — but the kids two generations behind him, the college kids and recent graduates, blissfully color-blind, who spent patient months as organizers out in the most rural counties… They reminded me, in classic, solipsistic boomer fashion, of my own generation of the remarkable political activists who went down to Mississippi to register black voters and marched against another war, and came to politics in the Robert Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy campaigns of 1968. That generation’s — my generation’s — passion gave us the propulsion to quickly move to the center of political life and the media. The end of their time — our time — in the driver’s seat may have begun in Iowa.

Whether or not Barack Obama goes on to win the nomination — and let’s not forget in the afterglow that this is truly an open question — his field army will endure and, because of their immense skill, they will bend the political process to their will in years to come. And years from now, when they meet in the corridors of power or academia or at the inevitable reunions, they’ll look at each other and smile, and they won’t even have to say the words: We did something amazing back in Iowa, on January 3, 2008, didn’t we?

– Joe Klein, Time Magazine

And this is the central Obama legacy. His policy legacy will very much be in doubt going forward — but the number of talented and inspiring young people that were brought into politics at a time when cynicism was high is what I truly believe will be the lasting legacy of the Obama years. I met so many great people helping get Barack Obama elected President and so many friendships were forged and strengthened.

Allan Branstiter. 

Pat Meacham.

Jered Weber.

Justin Norris.

Carson Starkey.

The list could go on, but I wanted to highlight these five friends and colleagues.

Allan Branstiter and I met in Fargo at an Obama event. He is an Iraq War vet, and in 2007 I revered Iraq War vets (I still do). I had always opposed the war but looked up to each and every veteran I knew. Allan made an immediate impact on me. On some level I must have made an impression on him because he asked me to help him out on his state senate campaign in North Dakota. He was nominated by the Dem-NPL. He said, “you have more connections than I do and I’ll need all the help I can get.” What Allan did not know at the time was that I probably barely had any more connections than he did.

Pat Meacham I have known for years but as you’ll see from the photo below — we spent some time in Iowa together in 2007 and 2010 campaigning and those photos below with then-Senator Obama and Michelle are hanging up at the Lakeside Tavern in Detroit Lakes, MN if you ever are strolling through that part of the country. It’s a wonderful place where I worked as a summer job during college. A lot of my work ethic was built at that place working double shifts with Pat, cooking and talking…dreaming about a better future.

Jered Weber was the only person who agreed to come down to Iowa with me in late ’07/’08 for the caucus because I had an almost fanatical belief that if Senator Obama won Iowa — he would become President. Jered and I struck up an immediate friendship over the campaign, our love of Star Wars, and being raised in small town America.

Justin Norris liked two candidates in the 2008 Democratic field a lot. Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Justin was the first politically involved person I met at Minnesota State and his encyclopedia-esque knowledge about U.S. History and Politics made me remark upon firs meeting him: “jeez, you’re a genius!” His response I will never forget — “nope, I’m just well read.”

I never knew Carson Starkey until my own Army deployment. He was finishing up undergrad while I was overseas. I saw him as basically doing “my story in reverse” and felt compelled to reach out to this humorist that was so dedicated to satire and sarcasm that he made Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert seem tame. If anyone is ever strolling through St. Paul, MN I highly recommend getting to know the Earl of Payne-Phalen.

What is the common thread that brought us together? Or the ties that bind? The Obama campaign and Presidency.

 

Four times I met the to-be President. Four times. Not gloating. But it happened. It turns out that in the end, I’m not much into hero worship. Barack Obama is no hero to me, and I’m no hero to anyone. The only heroes I’ve ever contemplated are the service members of the United States Armed Forces who gave the “last full measure of devotion.” Something tells me that even they would disagree that they are heroes.

**********

In addition to all the amazing and inspiring future leaders and public citizens I’ve met throughout the Obama years, I will also remember the words.

“Dreams from My Father” and “The Audacity of Hope” are how I will partly remember the Obama years and my role as an American citizen in them.

“Dreams from My Father” is ironically titled you could say, and is a journey a young Barack “Barry” Obama was on that was shaped more by the absence of a Father than anything else. The Obama campaign, like a few things before it, and many things since, gave me a purpose and family away from my own wonderful, but dysfunctional and imperfect family. It brought me back from youthful alienation and into the community of people. Got me away from thinking about just myself. I gave up my pursuit of happiness, because even Thomas Jefferson is not right about everything, and I embarked on a pursuit of joy, which is a far more fulfilling pursuit.

“The Audacity of Hope” was a remarkable journey as well. Where I met amazing people and experienced a Presidential campaign that brought me to three different states, thousands of conversations with people I otherwise would not have met, got me addicted to the “politics of joy”, and impacted my life in ways I’m still pulling together. In the end, Barack was right. “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for” all along. Not in an egotistical way, but in a democratic way. In the only way a democracy and a civil society can be made more perfect, or truly whole again. With a little help from your friends, asking a little bit more out of yourself, and walking amongst others in a spirit of solidarity, embarking on life’s journey, side by side.

 

Goodbye Barry, and Thank You for serving and inspiring us all to be better citizens.

Episode 45: Agreeing Loudly Goes to Iowa

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On this month’s episode of Agreeing Loudly Coast to Coast, we interview Agreeing Loudly’s first endorsee, prospective Iowa Democratic Party state chair Kurt Meyer. We also take a moment to reflect on President Obama’s final address as president as we look towards the future of the progressive movement.

Are you ready to move forward? Tune into this month’s episode to get started! You can also download it.

Conversations with the Ghost of America’s Future Past

by Carson Starkey and Troy M. Olson

America's Future Past

On a quiet park bench on Central Park West, merely hours after a 2018 GOP strategy conference on how to win back the White House got over, which Carson Starkey and Troy Olson, had just got done attending under the guise of being correspondents. The mood is somber. Not unlike this scene:

Carson

That was profoundly awkward, watching the Republican Party elites trying to win back white working class conservative and populist voters, after thoroughly sabotaging and trashing them during the 2016 “respectable conservative” plot to cheat.

Troy

We really missed the boat when we failed to cash-in on that verbiage via a book deal. “Exposed! The Respectable Conservative Plot to Cheat” by Carson Starkey, J.D.

Carson

Senate Majority Leader Tom Cotton (Gin) is going to relish his future role as Vice Presidential candidate. Julian Castro and Cory Booker are going to have tough sells on the Atlantic coast. Virginia and North Carolina might not remember that they voted for an unlikely candidate only a decade ago. Different times…

Troy

You speak of course of the upcoming ’24 and ’28 elections, they will not be pretty. It’s of course a foregone conclusion that 2020 will be both a blood path that was avoidable and a missed opportunity during a redistricting election. As the person who penned the “Case for Losing” back in early 2016, to the incredible enragement of many on the left, I take no pleasure in having been right. This was avoidable. It always has been. Nice things could be possible and would create nicer people.

Carson

I’ll be sad to see Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, SNPA, and the EPA disappear. But such are the misfortunate that follow a $12 trillion tax cut. Sure, the Iran War will be awful, but privatizing the VA will only add insults to actual injuries. I hope that Treasury Secretary Willard Romney has a plan to deal with the resulting 15 percent unemployment. The human misery will be severe.

Troy

Right. This would all be easier to swallow on our end if so-called “enlightened establishment” did not consistently tell Millennials we are all still too young to be Congressional candidates.

Carson

Now, now…the leadership will pick the right people. They know how to build majorities that last two to four years. So we’ll just accomplish everything that we want during any window where we have the majority.

Troy

Then blame losses on the only relatively popular member of the party (former President Obama).

Carson

Because pragmatism…or something. I’m not really sure about the specific strategy, you’ll have to ask Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin.

Troy

A strategy of protecting economic gains made fifty to sixty years ago is not exactly inspiring.

Carson

That’s just your unrealistic opinion in their eyes, they won’t return your phone calls because they’re fundraising with Jamie Dimon. So I suppose we can talk about what…. a minimum wage hike? Or is that already on the agenda? At the very least… let’s talk privatizing public schools. That has to be a popular idea with our voting base, at least that’s what they will presume.

Troy

This is too depressing. Let’s end by talking C-PAC and how profoundly awkward the atmosphere was in there. Did every working class Joe and Jane just conveniently forget about the fact that the GOP establishment called them a bunch of “slack jawed yokels” two years ago during the Trump fiasco?

Carson

Now to be fair… Jane and Joe have bigger problems than crushing poverty, stagnant wages, and drug (presumably meth) addiction. You’re not giving fair consideration to gay people getting married or the existence of the “hippity hop” music. Ask Ben Carson, he’ll tell you why both are causes for concern.

Troy

Sigh… By the way, we switched the metaphor to Joe because John died working the job because social security retirement is now 68 years old.

Carson

Well obviously. And thank God that his company replaced him with a teenager from Vietnam who’s working for 70 cents a day. The power of the free market.

Troy

But pay day loan company executives who enthusiastically supported Hillary in ’16 said people are living longer now… or something. Yeah, tell that to John’s kids.

Carson

At least you can get a slice of pizza for a dollar.

***Carson and Troy walk in to one of New York City’s fine pizza establishments***  

Troy

God bless New York City.

Carson

Amen.

What you just read may scare you, I know it scares me.

However, there is still something we can collectively do about it.

We can change the future…. if we try.

Russian,Syria, and the Limits of Military Power

by Allan Branstiter

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(Alexander Natruskin | Reuters)

 

Six months after intervening on behalf of the Assad regime, Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced that “the main part” of the Russian military task force in Syria will begin to withdraw. Despite warnings that Barack Obama’s foreign policy had the U.S. “slouching toward World War III“—this isn’t some whacky prognostication from the margins of American foreign policy thought, it came from a former professor and NSA analyst and Naval War College professor—the Forever-War Consensus’s great erotic nightmare of World War III hasn’t come to fruition. I suppose they’ll have to find a more effect way of killing off all us pinko Millennials.But how did all these national security black-belts and counterterrorism maestro’s  with super-secret clearances get it so wrong?

But how did all these national security black-belts and counterterrorism maestro’s  with super-secret clearances get it so wrong? Let’s ignore the fact that these confidence men have managed to find a way to turn the art of being consistently wrong about every single international policy since the fall of the Soviet Union into lucrative careers as “serious” subject matter experts. Actually, let’s not.

What these “the world is a Tom Clancy novel” fail to understand is that the Kremlin approaches foreign policy from a self-aware position of weakness. As audacious and ambitious as Russia’s actions in Ukraine and Syria appear, they’ve been relatively measured. Russia isn’t trying to engage in nation-building, nor are they looking to engage in a five-trillion dollar war nor are they looking for new Nazis and the outbreak of World War III. What defines their effectiveness (so far) is not Bush/Reagan cowboy bellicosity, but a self-awareness masked by bombastic rhetoric.

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You have Twelve Days until Your Parents Become Trump Supporters

by Allan Branstiter

Yep, your yoga-loving parents are about to become vocal Trump apologists.

 

If you’re like me, your parents are conservative-to-moderate Republicans. Over the past 10 years or so, they may have mellowed out a bit from their heady days of door-knocking for Barry Goldwater, voting for the nominally anti-war Richard Nixon, and restoring American greatness during the Reagan Revolution. Sure, they voted for George W. Bush over John McCain in 2000, but they did so because the former was prayerful and compassionate, while the latter was a RINO. They may have even voted for Obama in 2008 because of lingering distrust of McCain and a newfound discomfort with Sarah Palin. These days they’re sending a few news articles about how ridiculous Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are in a strained attempt to create rare moments of inter-generational political concord within your family.

Friends, I hate to tell you this, but that moment is gone. Your parents—those sweet compassionate, thoughtful, moderate, and reasonable people who’ve only recently expanded their horizons by experimenting with yoga, tai chi, single-source coffee, and hybrid cars—are twelve days from becoming full-blown Trump supporters. The day after the March 15th primaries, Donald Trump will secure enough delegates to become the Republican nominee. And rather than fight him, your parents will do everything they can to see him elected to the presidency.

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2016: Challengers, Incumbents, and Successors.

by Troy M. Olson

It's the economy, stupid
Screen cap courtesy of the 1993 documentary The War Room, popularized by James Carville, top strategist for Bill Clinton on the 1992 Presidential campaign.

One of the most fascinating aspects to the 2016 Presidential campaign thus far is the shakeup in the traditional breakdown of Presidential campaign politics.

Historically, Presidential runs have fallen into three types of campaigns: the “challenger” campaign, the “incumbent” campaign, and the “successor” campaign. The differences are fairly self explanatory.

Challengers are from the political party that has not held the White House the last four years. Recent examples of this would be Barack Obama in 2008, Mitt Romney in 2012, or any Republican candidate for President this year.

Incumbents are one-term Presidents running for re-election. Recent examples of this would be Barack Obama in 2012 and George W. Bush in 2004.

Successors are candidates from the same political party as the President exiting the White House (or theoretically, stepping down after one full term for various reasons like LBJ did in 1968) and are running to try and keep their party in the White House. Recent examples of this are Al Gore in 2000, John McCain in 2008, and now Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Each type of Presidential campaign has different challenges and obstacles to overcome. Generally speaking, challenger candidates have the easiest path to the Presidency, incumbents have a tougher path, and successors have the most challenges and obstacles to the Presidency.

I don’t mean to minimize the path to the Presidency for challenger candidates, since every path to the Presidency is a long and arduous one. Any successful campaign requires not only not only solid planning and organizational abilities, but also name ID, a compelling narrative, money, and loyal followers. Any good candidate also needs to be resilient, flexible and—most important of all—needs a campaign that compliments their unique personality and public image. One of the main reasons the heavily-favored Hillary Clinton lost to Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic Primary was that she ran more like an incumbent rather than the challenger candidate that she truly was (or at least should have positioned herself to be). By running like an incumbent she created unnecessary hurdles for herself.

This brings us to 2016: a successor campaign (the Democrat seeking to succeed Obama in the White House) vs. a challenger campaign (all the Republican candidates).

As mentioned in the “Case for Losing in 2016” article last week, history says it’s unlikely that the same party holds the White House for more than three consecutive terms, and it is actually quite hard to even win it for the third term, let alone a fourth time. That is because “successor” campaigns have the most obstacles and hurdles to clear. While the argument for re-electing a President is “stay the course, don’t change horses in mid-steam, etc.” the successor campaign has to make the case that “while we are changing horses now, let’s have the new horse going in the same direction.” If you have a relatively popular two-term President about to leave office, this would seem like a benefit, but the historical reality is always much more difficult.

In modern Presidential campaigns, sitting and former Vice Presidents have had trouble parlaying their position into the Presidency. Richard Nixon in 1960, Hubert Humphrey in 1968, George H.W. Bush in 1988, and Al Gore in 2000 all struggled to grasp what “type” of campaign they need to be running. Only Bush the Elder was able to capture the Presidency and succeed as a successor candidate.

Members of the same party but outside of the administration (Senate, Governor, or another official) have not fared much better, which I think explains Hillary’s troubles a great deal. Not only is she tied to the faults of the previous Democratic administration (Obama), she also is tied to the faults of Bill Clinton’s administration, while also receiving very little credit for the positive roles played. Historically, the successor candidacy is the toughest campaign to win, even if you have the institutional advantages of being the incumbent Vice President.

Constitutionally VP’s do very little, but throughout the last 70 years they have taken on more and more pet projects and policy responsibilities inside the White House. The degree to which the VP gets to actually do things depends greatly on their relationship with the President, but overall the office has come a long way from 1945 when Harry Truman came into office after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

When Truman assumed the office, he had met Roosevelt in person only a few times. The new President had not been briefed at all on the post-War situation or the upcoming Potsdam conference. Perhaps most galling was the fact that he was completely unaware of the Manhattan Project and the looming atomic age. Through no fault of his own, Truman arguably inherited the worst possible situation in American history in terms of how prepared he was to take over the highest office in the land. Thankfully Presidential transitions, whether within the same party or the other major party, have improved a great deal since.

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In the 2016 Republican Primary, every candidate can credibly lay claim to the mantle of “challenger” candidate, except perhaps Jeb Bush, who (like Hillary Clinton) has characteristics of both incumbency and successor, which have hampered both of their campaigns from the start. In 2008, Clinton’s status as a former First Lady and a Senator who voted in favor of the Iraq War hindered her ability to position herself as a “challenger” candidate. In a “change” campaign, she looked more and more like a deposed Monarch, seeking to return to the throne. Jeb Bush has fared far worse on the Republican side in 2016. While Hillary has learned from several of her 2008 mistakes, while proving to be quite agile and resilient in 2016, she has not learned from all of them. Her team and organization, while better, still leaves a lot to be desired.

While Hillary is positioned well enough to be the first successful “successor” campaign since George H.W. Bush’s 1988 win over “challenger” Michael Dukakis, a more fresh-faced and upstart “challenger” candidate like Marco Rubio or a complete outsider-“challenger” candidate like Donald Trump would be a poor match in the early going. Many members of the Democratic establishment and voting base do not understand how perilous this election cycle is because of it. While Sanders has successfully positioned himself as the “challenger” candidate that he is, nominating him has its own downsides to it.

This is why early last year on the “Agreeing Loudly” podcast, I argued for who I thought was “the safe horse in midstream,” Vice President Joe Biden, who was torn between his private anguish and grief, and his sense of public duty. To me, Biden represented the most sure-fire candidate in 2016 because he had the support and record as VP to earn at least a term as President. A Biden presidency would have allowed the party a four year window to rebuild and create a deeper bench at every level all the way up to potential 2020 Presidential candidates. Instead, Democrats are left with a hotly contested primary and an extremely shallow pool of future candidates.

Understandably, Biden chose not to run in 2016. While I predicted at the end of the year that Hillary Clinton would win narrowly in the fall, I also explained this would weaken the future of the Democratic Party. This is not necessarily an argument to nominate Sanders, who I think would also lose in 2020 even if he managed to win in 2016. For Democrats, what is most important right now is to continue to have a substantive debate on the issues—like the very one Clinton and Sanders are currently having.

I cannot say the same, however, about Clinton and Sanders supporters. Divided generationally more than anything else, Democratic primary voters are throwing increasingly ridiculous accusations at each other.

We are in the beginning of a political age where all of the cynicism toward politics that began in the 1960’s and 1970’s has crescendoed into a rejection of our two-party system from within the two-party system, just as it has typically occurred throughout history. The rise of Sanders on left running on a plank of true egalitarianism, and the rise of Trump’s amateur big government paleo-conservativism on the right, is evidence of this fact.

Whether this leads to a slight shake-up of the sixth party system, or the eventual creation of a seventh party system, it will be sorted out in the next decade and a half. While the art of Presidential campaigning is somewhat in flux, a few things will never change. Presidential elections will often be about, “it’s the economy, stupid.” And Presidential campaign teams need to know who they are to the electorate—challengers, incumbents, or successors—and prepare the campaign’s messaging around that reality.

For Further Reading/Study on This Topic and Related Topics, Check Out:

Plouffe, David. The Audacity To Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama’s Historic Victory. New York: Viking-Penguin, 2009. Print.

Popkin, Samuel L. The Candidate: What It Takes to Win-And Hold-The White House. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. Print.

The War Room. Dir. Chris Hegedu and DA Pennebaker. Feat. James Carville and George Stephanopoulos. Universal/Focus Features, 1993. Film.

Iowa Results: What They Do Not Mean

by Troy M. Olson

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Disclaimer! The following will have some harsh truths for U.S. millennials.

Earlier in the week I talked about what the Iowa results mean, and previewed what they don’t mean. I do not take pride in the following observations, but must go forward anyway. I hope I’m wrong, but here it goes.

What the Iowa results do not mean:

That Bernie Sanders should be considered the favorite and/or that Hillary Clinton is in trouble.

Bernie Sanders is still very much the underdog (and should relish that role) even after Iowa, and will continue to be after his clear victory in the upcoming New Hampshire primary. The delegate tie and Bernie outperforming (what are often wildly inaccurate primary polls to begin with) his poll numbers does not fundamentally change the race. For the month of January, Bernie has pulled in 5 million more dollars than Clinton, and he has pulled to within 2 points (it was 31 in December) in one poll released since Monday.  There is no denying Bernie has had a good week and will have another good one following New Hampshire.

I’ve seen plenty of joy and jubilation, especially from my favorite American generation since my grandparents, the Millennial generation, on various social media sites. What I am also seeing is plenty of generational and other demographic splits occurring within the Democratic Party. Which leads me to the first key reason why Bernie still has no more than a 5 percent chance of being the Democratic Party nominee: demographics.

The Bernie coalition is not the Obama coalition. Rather, it is the Obama coalition minus non-white Democratic Primary voters. President Obama was not leading among African-American voters in the lead up to Iowa in 2007-08. The difference though, Obama wins by eight points in Iowa and has many voters who were considering or favorable toward him, come on over from Hillary’s side after the clear victory on January 3, 2008, which proved Obama’s electability. I do not believe Bernie has had this breakthrough among Democrats, yet.

Bernie has injected some important issues into the campaign. For instance, probably the most important issue of our time, economic inequality. However, Hillary has also been talking about that issue the entire campaign, diluting Bernie’s ownership over it. While Obama had the Iraq War vote that worked to his advantage, especially with younger voters, Bernie has not talked about foreign policy nearly as often as Obama did in ’08. More important, too many voters have unfortunately put the foreign policy misstep that was the Iraq War out of their mind and into the dustbin of history. This another unfortunate weakness to his candidacy. He has been right on nearly every foreign policy issue of our time, while Hillary has often been wrong. However, his focus on economic issues and the growing uncertainly in the minds of middle and working class voters over their futures, have put foreign policy discussions to the back burner in comparison.

Bernie simply cannot be the nominee with huge margins of under-40 white people. His demographic diversity will need to expand if he is to have any chance. With his current voter demographic profile, his three best states are Vermont, New Hampshire, and Iowa. It is incredibly easy to write-off victories in his home state, its more moderate twin NH, and a gentlemen’s tie in Iowa.

His financial advantage lately will help him compete with Hillary’s universal name recognition in large states like New York, California, Illinois, or mid-range states with big media markets like Minnesota, Colorado, etc. However, Obama was able to capitalize and two things that Bernie does not have going for him in 2016. One, the two David’s (Plouffe and Axelrod) do not work for Bernie, and two, he is positioned as the “angry” candidate in the race and Americans historically go with the more “optimistic” candidate. Not saying Hillary has cornered the “optimistic” candidate angle either, she hasn’t. Marco Rubio has a good chance to be that candidate though.

In addition, the primary calendar favors Hillary, not Bernie at their current voter makeup. In 2008, as long as Obama survived Super Tuesday, he was well positioned to take a significant delegate lead. In 2016, Bernie has very few states that could give him enough delegates to survive the SEC-heavy Super Tuesday states. Even in states like CO and MN, caucus states where organization gives you a heavy advantage, polling (albeit inaccurate and two weeks old) has given Clinton sizable leads. One could argue Bernie has already made up that ground and can win both CO and MN, and other small to mid sized caucus states, but he doesn’t need to just win those states, he needs to win by a landslide. Remember, this is a delegate race. The Obama campaign knew that early on, and Hillary’s campaign was lead by cynical pollster, Mark Penn in 2008, who prioritized the “inevitability” narrative. While her inner circle hasn’t learned all the lessons from their 2008 primary defeat, they have learned enough lessons. The 2016 Hillary organization on the ground is considerably better, and there have been nearly zero super delegate or establishment defections from her camp. While Obama was not winning in super delegates at this stage in the race eight years ago, he had at least some of them won over. He was acceptable to a large number of establishment Democrats. The “establishment line” toward Obama in 2008 was “wait your turn.” The line toward Sanders in 2016 is “use your indoor voice.”

That Donald Trump is done. 

As long as Trump holds onto his lead and wins the NH Primary, he is still very much in the race because of his near-universal name recognition. Name recognition, or name ID, is the universal rule of political campaigning. Above even party ID, because name ID accounts for primary as well as general election campaigns. People are more likely to support people they know or people they think they know. Those in the public or quasi-public figures are already known. Trump is definitely a celebrity candidate. However, Ronald Reagan, Al Franken, and others before him prove that this can be largely to your benefit, especially if you prime the waters with your political opinions in public long before you enter the political fray.

Like Sanders on the left, Trump has successfully positioned himself as the “angry” candidate, which has become more and more palatable on the right over the years. Unlike Sanders however, his “anger” is fueled by cultural and social hysteria more than economic concerns, although economic reasons may very well contribute to the feelings of his supporters. Sanders’ anger his been decidedly economic and class-based, reminiscent of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s attacks on “economic royalists.” Trump’s campaign has been utterly devoid of substance on the issues, lacks a vision for where the country is supposed to go and how it gets there, and has been mostly filled with insults of other people and candidates, boasting of his poll numbers, critiques of the country as a whole, and appeals to the lowest common denominator typically found in the comment section. Once again, I think this lack of substance would only matter on the left, where a certain amount of hope, optimistic, and vision is always required in an ideal Presidential candidate. On the right, in an age where book-burners are controlling more and more territory that the GOP establishment used to claim as their own, anything is still possible. As mentioned in the previous post, Rubio should now be considered the favorite, but do not count Trump out for good. A solid win in NH or a win period, could change things. Keep in mind that Trump probably wins (although still underperforms slightly) if he doesn’t pull the “no-show at the debate” stunt.

And finally, the number one thing the Iowa results do not mean…

That the establishment of both parties, and therefore the Washington D.C. to Wall Street nexus is in trouble.

As of today, Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio are the favorites to match up in the General Election in 2016. In a time when so much digital ink is spilled showcasing how much anger their is directed toward the establishment, they are still very much winning, and are likely to win in 2016.

If any party’s establishment is cracking a bit, it’s on the GOP side. On the Democratic side, DWS is party chair, Chuck Schumer is scheduled to be permanent minority leader, and the DCCC has no viable plan to gain seats back in Congress or rebuild state parties. Someone who has spoke a lot about party-building on the stump is Hillary Clinton. However, it does not get more establishment than her. The difficult task in the years to come for a rebuilding Democratic Party will reconciling the Boomer establishment with the ascendent and numerous, but still relatively powerless Millennials and Generation X. If the quasi-generational battle between the Millennial candidate, Bernie Sanders, and the Boomer establishment candidate, Hillary Clinton is any indication, this is still the Baby Boomers party. Unlike GOP, which is under-going that generational leadership transition as we speak, and doing so in an era where only the White House stands between them and complete power of all levels and branches of Government in the United States.

This is why I cannot reconcile what I see as happening in the near-future with the in-fighting and irrational enthusiasm and shilling of either the Bernie-Millennials or the Hillary-Boomers. The Democratic Party is in deep, deep trouble. And the folks at “Agreeing Loudly,” like most Millennials, are powerless to stop it.