Tuesday, October 25, 2016

"Final Death Blow" to Canada-EU Trade Deal as Delegates Hold Firm Against It


One of the many protests against the TTIP and CETA trade deals, this on in Berlin

by Gaius Publius

In our coverage recently of the European mass protests against the so-called "free trade" agreement TTIP, and its demise, you may have noticed another trade deal mentioned alongside it, something called CETA, the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement. CETA is a "trade" deal being negotiated between Canada and the European Union. As you can see from the image above, those mass protests in Europe targeted both deals, not just the one (TTIP) involving the U.S. Even though it doesn't involve us, doesn't mean the Europeans are any more in favor of it. They're not.

As you know if you clicked the first link above, TTIP is basically dead. TTIP is one of the three cornerstone corporate-friendly deals the U.S. corporate elite is using their well-funded office-holders to enact, the other two being TPP (the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal) and TiSA, the Trade in Services Agreement, which is actually the real killer. (TiSA, for example, would force the fast-tracking of imported non-union, very-low-wage foreign labor. Picture, if you will, the rapid demise of construction unions under TiSA.)

The death of CETA, if it holds, strikes another blow at the heart of the pro-corporate globalist project. This means that of three "trade" deals the Europeans are involved in, two have been killed. This leaves only TiSA, and while that one is much less further along, it's looking more and more possible that the Europeans will do us a favor and kill it too — leaving only TPP standing. Regarding TPP, we may be on our own.

From Lauren McCauley at Common Dreams on CETA:
'Final Death Blow' to CETA as Delegates Hold Firm Against Pro-Corporate Deal

"It's time for a fundamental shift toward international agreements that put people and the planet before corporate profits. That's the message from Europe today."

Dealing what campaigners say is the final "death blow" to the pro-corporate Canada-European Union trade deal, negotiations collapsed on Friday after representatives from the Belgian region of Wallonia refused to agree to a deal that continues ignore democracy in favor of multi-national corporations.

Canada's International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland reportedly walked out of talks with the Wallonia delegation, which had ruled to maintain their veto against the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) after the parties reached a stalemate over the controversial Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system.

"We made new significant progress, especially on the agriculture issues, but difficulties remain, specifically on the symbolic issue of arbitration, which is politically extremely important," Wallonia president Paul Magnette told the regional parliament. ISDS permits companies to sue governments over perceived loss of profits due to regulations or other laws.

Magnette had told reporters Thursday that the delegation had particular concerns over "matters affecting U.S. companies in Canada which will benefit from the system."
Seems even with a Canadian "trade" deal, the problem the Europeans have is what it allows U.S. companies to do. Still, the obviously pro-corporate Canadian negotiators tried to push it through. And when they failed, they blamed the Europeans for not being "capable" of "having an international treaty."
Friday's talks were held as a last-ditch effort to save the trade deal. After they fell apart, an emotional Freeland told reporters, "I've worked very, very hard, but I think it's impossible," referring to the impasse. "It's become evident for me, for Canada, that the European Union isn't capable now to have an international treaty even with a country that has very European values like Canada."
There's more in the article about the deep and widespread objection across Western Europe to each of these deals. All good news.

Next to Fall: TPP and NAFTA?

Assuming the deals involving the Europeans fail, there's only two more to go — NAFTA and TPP — and both have Withdrawal clauses. Clinton in 2008 promised to renegotiate NAFTA using the threat of withdrawal.

If she was sincere, the same would apply to TPP, which she has recently announced she opposes. I'll be interested to see how all this plays out. At the moment, though, the citizens appear to be winning.


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Clintonism: Re-Defining Progressivism, Populism And The Democratic Party-- And Not In A Good Way


Congressman Wright Patman (D-TX), chairman of the House Banking Committee, 1963-74, led the fight in Congress to stop the manipulators of the Federal Reserve System from 1937 to his death in 1976

It flipped me out earlier in the cycle when Obama sent out numerous communications-- including radio ads-- to Democratic base voters in Florida, particularly African-Americans, that reactionary New Dem Patrick Murphy is a progressive. The only relationship that Patrick Murphy has with progressives is that he opposes their agenda and that he was running against one, Alan Grayson. But, then again, maybe it's just about how you define "progressive." After all, Murphy doesn't mind if women get abortions or gays want to get married or even if lots of undocumented immigrants come over the border. If that's how you define progressive... ok, Murphy's a progressive. A look at his voting record, on the other hand, paints a picture of Wall Street's most devoted Democratic puppet in Congress, something borne out by Wall Street campaign contributions this cycle. Murphy has gotten more loot ($2,013,462) from the Finance Sector than any other non-incumbent running for the Senate-- more than any Republican and more than many incumbents. The banksters have given more to Murphy than to embattled allies like Ron Johnson (R-WI), John McCain (R-AZ), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Richard Burr (R-NC), Joe Heck (R-NV), Roy Blunt (R-MO), men who have served them faithfully for years or even decades and are now facing defeat. But getting Murphy into the Senate is a Wall Street priority, even if they love Marco Rubio and were a significant part of his aborted presidential campaign.

In fact, more than any other Democrat running for the Senate, Murphy is seen as the not-Elizabeth Warren candidate. He's the one who has worked in the House Financial Services Committee to help the Republicans with their efforts to undo all the consumer protections Warren was able to incorporate into Dodd-Frank. But if decades old battles for gay rights and women's equality is the ultimate definition of "progressive," maybe Obama wasn't as much of a liar as he sounded and maybe I was too hasty to point out that Murphy's parents' and Saudi allies' promises to help fund his presidential library-- surely a progressive place in the making, no?-- weren't really the motivation for the lie.

Notorious bankster errand boys Chuck Schumer and Patrick Murphy

Anyway, yesterday Matt Stoller, a Bernie Sanders Senate staffer, published the article of the day, How Democrats Killed Their Populist Soul and the period he wrote about, the mid to late 1970s-- was actually just before Patrick Murphy was born. The liberal reformers who came in on the coattails of Americans' disgust with Nixonian sleaze, didn't understand that banksterism was the enemy either. And they screwed things up in a way to make it possible for Wall Street toadies like Patrick Murphy, Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) and Evan Bayh (D-IN) to thrive within the Democratic Party today.

It's entirely consistent with Stoller's nature to launch right into a defense of an old racist, pro-war congressman who few people outside of obsessed political junkies have ever heard of. "One of their first targets," he wrote, "was an old man from Texarkana: a former cotton tenant farmer named Wright Patman who had served in Congress since 1929. He was also the chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Banking and Currency and had been for more than a decade. Antiwar liberal reformers realized that the key to power in Congress was through the committee system; being the chairman of a powerful committee meant having control over the flow of legislation. The problem was: Chairmen were selected based on their length of service. So liberal reformers already in office, buttressed by the Watergate Babies’ votes, demanded that the committee chairmen be picked by a full Democratic-caucus vote instead. Ironically, as chairman of the Banking Committee, Patman had been the first Democrat to investigate the Watergate scandal. But he was vulnerable to the new crowd he had helped usher in. He was old; they were young. He had supported segregation and the war in Vietnam; they were vehemently against both. Patman had never gone to college and had been a crusading economic populist during the Great Depression; the Watergate Babies were weaned on campus politics, television, and affluence."
In reality, while the Watergate Babies provided the numbers needed to eject him, it was actually Patman’s Banking Committee colleagues who orchestrated his ouster. For more than a decade, Patman had represented a Democratic political tradition stretching back to Thomas Jefferson, an alliance of the agrarian South and the West against Northeastern capital. For decades, Patman had sought to hold financial power in check, investigating corporate monopolies, high interest rates, the Federal Reserve, and big banks. And the banking allies on the committee had had enough of Patman’s hostility to Wall Street.

Over the years, Patman had upset these members by blocking bank mergers and going after financial power. As famed muckraking columnist Drew Pearson put it: Patman “committed one cardinal sin as chairman. ... He wants to investigate the big bankers.” And so, it was the older bank allies who truly ensured that Patman would go down. In 1975, these bank-friendly Democrats spread the rumor that Patman was an autocratic chairman biased against junior congressmen. To new members eager to participate in policymaking, this was a searing indictment.

...Not all on the left were swayed. Barbara Jordan, the renowned representative from Texas, spoke eloquently in Patman’s defense. Ralph Nader raged at the betrayal of a warrior against corporate power. And California’s Henry Waxman, one of the few populist Watergate Babies, broke with his class, puzzled by all the liberals who opposed Patman’s chairmanship. Still, Patman was crushed. Of the three chairmen who fell, Patman lost by the biggest margin. A week later, the bank-friendly members of the committee completed their takeover. Leonor Sullivan-- a Missouri populist, the only woman on the Banking Committee, and the author of the Fair Credit Reporting Act-- was removed from her position as the subcommittee chair in revenge for her support of Patman. “A revolution has occurred,” noted the Washington Post.

Indeed, a revolution had occurred. But the contours of that revolution would not be clear for decades. In 1974, young liberals did not perceive financial power as a threat, having grown up in a world where banks and big business were largely kept under control. It was the government-- through Vietnam, Nixon, and executive power-- that organized the political spectrum. By 1975, liberalism meant, as [Michigan's Bob] Carr put it, “where you were on issues like civil rights and the war in Vietnam.” With the exception of a few new members, like [George] Miller and Waxman, suspicion of finance as a part of liberalism had vanished.

Over the next 40 years, this Democratic generation fundamentally altered American politics. They restructured “campaign finance, party nominations, government transparency, and congressional organization.” They took on domestic violence, homophobia, discrimination against the disabled, and sexual harassment. They jettisoned many racially and culturally authoritarian traditions. They produced Bill Clinton’s presidency directly, and in many ways, they shaped President Barack Obama’s.

The result today is a paradox. At the same time that the nation has achieved perhaps the most tolerant culture in U.S. history, the destruction of the anti-monopoly and anti-bank tradition in the Democratic Party has also cleared the way for the greatest concentration of economic power in a century. This is not what the Watergate Babies intended when they dethroned Patman as chairman of the Banking Committee. But it helped lead them down that path. The story of Patman’s ousting is part of the larger story of how the Democratic Party helped to create today’s shockingly disillusioned and sullen public, a large chunk of whom is now marching for Donald Trump.
In March, we spent some time talking about Thomas Frank's new book, Listen Liberal-- Or What Ever Happened To The Party Of The People. Stoller's analysis is very much in synch with the one offered by Frank, namely that the Democratic Party no longer prioritizes the interests of working families but instead super-serves the interests of the top 10%, a professional class for whom Wall Street is not as mortal an enemy as has proven itself to be to the working class.

Stoller lionizes the contributions of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis who, he wrote, essentially formaled "the populist social sentiment of the late 19th century into a rigorous set of legally actionable ideas. This philosophy then guided the 20th-century Democratic Party."
Brandeis’s basic contention, built up over a lifetime of lawyering from the Gilded Age onward, was that big business and democracy were rivals. “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few,” he said, “but we can’t have both.” Economics, identity, and politics could not be divorced, because financial power-- bankers and monopolists-- threatened local communities and self-government.

This use of legal tools to constrain big business and protect democracy is known as anti-monopoly or pro-competition policy. This tension stretched back to colonial times and the nation’s founding. The British East India Company was a chartered corporation organized to monopolize the tea business for its corporate owners and the Crown-- which spurred the Boston Tea Party. Alexander Hamilton’s financial architecture concentrated power and wealth-- which prompted the founding of the Democratic Party along more Jeffersonian lines, promoting private small-land ownership. J.P. Morgan’s and John D. Rockefeller’s encroaching industrial monopolies were part of the Gilded Age elite that extorted farmers with sky-high interest rates, crushed workers seeking decent working conditions and good pay, and threatened small-business independence-- which sparked a populist uprising of farmers, and, in parallel, sparked protest from miners and workers confronting newfound industrial behemoths.

In the 20th century, Woodrow Wilson authored the Federal Trade Commission Act, the Federal Reserve Act, and the anti-merger Clayton Act, and, just before World War I intervened, he put Brandeis on the Supreme Court. Franklin Delano Roosevelt completed what Wilson could not, restructuring the banking system and launching antitrust investigations into “housing, construction, tire, newsprint, steel, potash, sulphur, retail, fertilizer, tobacco, shoe, and various agricultural industries.” Modern liberals tend to confuse a broad social-welfare state and redistribution of resources in the form of tax-and-spend policies with the New Deal. In fact, the central tenet of New Deal competition policy was not big or small government; it was distrust of concentrations of power and conflicts of interest in the economy. The New Deal divided power, pitting faction against other faction, a classic Jefferson-Madison approach to controlling power (think Federalist Paper No. 10). Competition policy meant preserving democracy within the commercial sphere, by keeping markets open. Again, for New Deal populists like Brandeis and Patman, it was democracy or concentrated wealth-- but not both.

...Underpinning the political transformation of the New Deal was an intellectual revolution, a new understanding of property rights. In a 1932 campaign speech known as the Commonwealth Club Address, FDR defined private property as the savings of a family, a Jeffersonian yeoman-farmer notion updated for the 20th century. By contrast, the corporation was not property. Concentrated private economic power was “a public trust,” with public obligations, and the continued “enjoyment of that power by any individual or group must depend upon the fulfillment of that trust.” The titans of the day were not businessmen but “princes of property,” and they had to accept responsibility for their power or be restrained by democratic forces. The corporation had to be fit into the constitutional order.

Remember, it was the great bankers and managers of the “money trusts,” such as J.P. Morgan, who sat astride wide swaths of corporate America through their investment and lending power, membership on boards of directors, and influence over industrial titans. Among other things, they maintained a sufficient concentration of power to keep prices up, workers disorganized, and politics firmly within their grasp.

New Deal fears of bigness and private concentrations of power were given further ideological ammunition later in the 1930s by fascists abroad. As Roosevelt put it to Congress when announcing a far-reaching assault on monopolies in 1938: “The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism.” In 1947, Patman even commissioned experts to publish a book titled Fascism in Action, noting that fascism as a political system was the combination of extreme nationalism and monopoly power, a “dictatorship of big business.”

This basic understanding of property formed the industrial structure of mid-20th-century America and then, through its trading arrangements, much of the rest of the world. Using this framework, the Democrats broke the power of bankers over America’s great industrial commons. To constrain big business and protect democracy, Democrats used a raft of anti-monopoly, or pro-competition, policy to great effect, leading to vast changes: The Securities and Exchange Commission was created, the stock exchanges were regulated, the big banks were broken up, the giant utility holding companies were broken up, farmers gained government support for stable agricultural prices free from speculation, and the chain stores were restrained by laws that blocked them from using predatory pricing to undermine local competition (including, for instance, competition from a local camera store in San Francisco run by a shopkeeper named Harvey Milk).

Competition policy was also a powerful political strategy. Democrats lost the U.S. House of Representatives just twice between 1930 and 1994. To get a sense of how rural Democrats used to relate to voters, one need only pick up an old flyer from the Patman archives in Texas: “Here Is What Our Democratic Party Has Given Us” was the title. There were no fancy slogans or focus-grouped logos. Each item listed is a solid thing that was relevant to the lives of conservative white Southern voters in rural Texas: Electricity. Telephone. Roads. Social Security. Soil conservation. Price supports. Foreclosure prevention.

Foreclosures protected homes against bankers. Farm-to-market roads allowed communities to organize around markets. Social Security protected one’s livelihood in the form of unemployment insurance and old-age benefits. Price supports for family farms protected them from speculators. And rural electrification and telephones shielded communities from the predations of monopolistic utilities. Packaged together, these measures epitomized the idea that citizens must be able to govern themselves through their own community structures, or as Walt Whitman put it: “train communities through all their grades, beginning with individuals and ending there again, to rule themselves.” Patman’s ideals represented a deep understanding that sovereign citizens governing sovereign communities were the only protection against demagoguery.

The essence of populist politics is that political and economic freedom are deeply intertwined-- that real democracy requires not just an opportunity to vote but an opportunity to compete in an open marketplace. This was the kind of politics that the Watergate Babies accidentally overthrew.

The story of why the Watergate Babies spurned populism is its own intellectual journey. It started with a generation of politicians who cut their teeth on college-campus politics. In their youth, they saw, up close, not the perils of robber barons, but the failure of the New Deal state, most profoundly through the war in Vietnam. “We were the ’60s generation that didn’t drop out,” Bob Edgar, a U.S. representative from the class of 1975, told me. The war in Vietnam shaped their generation in two profound ways. First, it disillusioned them toward the New Deal. It was, after all, many New Dealers, including union insiders, who nominated Hubert Humphrey in 1968 and who supported a war that killed millions, including 50,000 Americans their age. And second, higher education-- the province of the affluent-- exempted one from military service, which was an explicit distinction among classes.

...For younger Democrats, the key vector for these ideas was an economist named Lester Thurow, who organized the ideas of Galbraith, Stigler, Friedman, Bork, and Jensen into one progressive-sounding package. In an influential book, The Zero-Sum Society, Thurow proposed that all government and business activities were simply zero-sum contests over resources and incomes, ignoring the arguments of New Dealers that concentration was a political problem and led to tyranny. In his analysis, anti-monopoly policy, especially in the face of corporate problems was anachronistic and harmful. Thurow essentially reframed Bork’s ideas for a Democratic audience.

With key intellectuals in the Democratic Party increasingly agreeing with Republican thought leaders on the virtues of corporate concentration, the political economic debate changed drastically. Henceforth, the economic leadership of the two parties would increasingly argue not over whether concentrations of wealth were threats to democracy or to the economy, but over whether concentrations of wealth would be centrally directed through the public sector or managed through the private sector—a big-government redistributionist party versus a small-government libertarian party. Democrats and Republicans disagreed on the purpose of concentrated power, but everyone agreed on its inevitability. By the late 1970s, the populist Brandeisian anti-monopoly tradition-- protecting communities by breaking up concentrations of power-- had been air-brushed out of the debate. And in doing so, America’s fundamental political vision transformed: from protecting citizen sovereignty to maximizing consumer welfare.

The Watergate Babies began to coalesce around their own sense of this new intellectual economic philosophy to deal with the stagnating economy around them. In an early sign of where it would lead, President Jimmy Carter deregulated the trucking, banking, and airline industries, with help from economist Alfred Kahn, Senator Edward Kennedy, and Kennedy’s young aide, future Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. Democrats then popularized supply-side economics in a Thurow-influenced and Democrat-authored 1980 Joint Economic Committee report, “Plugging in the Supply Side.”

In 1982, journalist Randall Rothenberg noted the emergence of this new statist viewpoint of economic power within the Democratic Party with an Esquire cover story, “The Neoliberal Club.” In that article, which later became a book, Rothenberg profiled up-and-coming Thurow disciples like Gary Hart, Bill Bradley, Bill Clinton, Bruce Babbitt, Richard Gephardt, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, Paul Tsongas, and Tim Wirth, as well as thinkers like Robert Reich and writers like Michael Kinsley. These were all essentially representatives of the Watergate Baby generation. It was a prescient article: Most Democratic presidential candidates for the next 25 years came from this pool of leaders. Not all Watergate Babies became neoliberals, of course. There were populists of the generation, like Waxman and Miller, but they operated in an intellectual environment where the libertarian and statist thinkers who rejected Brandeis shaped the political economy.

Democrats and Republicans still fought. Neoliberals, while agreeing with Reagan Republicans on a basic view that the structure of corporate America should be as depoliticized and as shielded from voters as possible, still vehemently opposed Ronald Reagan on environmental policy, foreign policy, and taxes. But the very idea of competition policy, of inserting democracy into the economy, made no sense to them. Previously, voters had expected politicians to do something about everything from the price of milk to mortgage rates. Now, neoliberals expressed public power through financial markets. As libertarian and future Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan had written a decade before, “The ultimate regulator of competition in a free economy is the capital market.”

...When Bill Clinton took office as the 42nd president, the Watergate Babies would finally have their chance to govern... Clinton Democrats eventually came to reflect Dutton’s political formulation, more diverse and less reliant on the white working class. His administration looked like America-- with women, African Americans, Latinos, and gays and lesbians represented-- and most were educated at top universities. Thurow’s influence was also notable. Clinton stripped antitrust out of the Democratic platform; it was the first time a reference to monopoly power was not in the platform since 1880. Globalization, deregulation, and balanced budgets would animate Clinton’s political economy, with high-tech and finance leading the way.

And it seemed to work. From 1993 to 2001, GDP growth averaged 4 percent, up from 2.8 percent from 1981 to 1993. The median family income increased by $6,000, with the lowest inflation rate since the 1960s. Plus, 22 million jobs were created, 7 million people came out of poverty, America saw the highest homeownership rate ever, the national debt nearly disappeared, and interest rates came down. African Americans experienced pay increases for the first time since the 1960s. Goldman Sachs called it the “best economy ever,” and BusinessWeek lauded a “New Age economy of technological innovation and rising productivity.” The administration put this additional fat of the land toward third-world debt relief, student aid, empowerment zones, and community block grants. (When George W. Bush came into office after Clinton, The Onion’s headline read, “Bush: ‘Our Long National Nightmare of Peace and Prosperity is Over.’”)

At the end of his presidency, Clinton explained his success. He praised Greenspan’s stewardship of the Federal Reserve. He said that the key to noninflationary growth was ensuring that workers did not demand raises beyond the rate of productivity, while unleashing businesses to pursue the most profitable lines of investment through deregulation and globalization. He implicitly touted the theory of capital shortage: Inflation resulted from overregulation and deficits, which took money out of the hands of businesses. Putting money and power back into the hands of businesses with deregulation and a balanced budget led to low interest rates, massive corporate profits, productivity growth, and broad prosperity. Bork and Thurow, in other words, were right.

Clinton’s policy framework diverged with that of his Republican predecessors in many ways, not just on social policy but also on raising marginal tax rates on the wealthy. In terms of concentrations of power in the private sector, however, it was more a completion of what Reagan did than a repudiation of it.

From telecommunications to media to oil to banking to trade, Clinton administration officials-- believing that technology and market forces alone would disrupt monopolies-- ended up massively concentrating power in the corporate sector. They did this through active policy, repealing Glass-Steagall, expanding trade through NAFTA, and welcoming China’s entrance into the global-trading order via the World Trade Organization. But corporate concentration also occurred in less-examined ways, like through the Supreme Court and defense procurement. Clinton Library papers, for example, reveal that the lone Senate objection to the Supreme Court nominations of both Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg was from a lurking populist Ohio Democrat, Howard Metzenbaum, who opposed the future justices’ general agreement with Bork on competition policy. And in response to the end of the Cold War, the administration restructured the defense industry, shrinking the number of prime defense contractors from 107 to five. The new defense-industrial base, now concentrated in the hands of a few executives, stopped subsidizing key industries. The electronics industry was soon offshored.

But who could argue? The concentration of media and telecommunications companies happened concurrent with an investment boom into the newest beacon of progress: the internet. The futurism, the political coalition of the multiethnic cosmopolitans, the social justice of the private centrally planned corporation-- it worked. Clinton’s “Third Way” went global, as political leaders abroad copied the Clinton model of success. A West Wing generation learned only Watergate Baby politics, never realizing an earlier progressive economic tradition had even existed.

Despite this prosperity, in 2000, the American people didn’t reward the Democrats with majorities in Congress or an Oval Office victory. In particular, the rural parts of the country in the South, which had been a traditional area of Democratic strength up until the 1970s, were strongly opposed to this new Democratic Party. And white working-class people, whom Dutton had dismissed, did not perceive the benefits of the “greatest economy ever.” They also began to die. Starting in 1998 and continuing to this day, the mortality rate among white Americans, specifically those without a high school-degree, has been on the rise-- leaving them scared and alienated.

...By 2008, the ideas that took hold in the 1970s had been Democratic orthodoxy for two generations. “Left-wing” meant opposing war, supporting social tolerance, advocating environmentalism, and accepting corporatism and big finance while also seeking redistribution via taxes. The Obama administration has been ideologically consistent with the Watergate Babies’ rejection of populism. Modern liberal political culture epitomizes Dutton’s ideas. And its accomplishments are impressive. As late as 1995, a majority of Americans did not approve of interracial marriage. Today, gay marriage is the law of the land, and intermarriage rates are high and growing. Culturally, the United States is a far more tolerant and open society.

Dealing with a financial collapse in the early years of his administration, Obama’s political-economic framework supported concentrated yet regulated financial power. From 2009 to 2010, the administration prioritized the stability of a concentrated financial system over risking an attempt to end the foreclosure wave threatening the American housing market. In the last seven years, another massive merger boom has occurred, with concentrations accruing in the hospital, airline, telecommunications, and technology industries. Progressive corporations like Google are key pillars of a cosmopolitan liberal culture. This is the world of the Watergate Babies and the libertarian and statist thinkers who shaped their intellectual understanding of it.

But what intellectuals like Thurow, Galbraith, Greenspan, Bork, and so forth didn’t foresee was political disillusionment on a vast scale. In 2014, for example, voting rates in some states dropped to levels unseen since the 1820s (when property-franchise laws were in force). Meanwhile, American soldiers once again find themselves in a quagmire; this time, in the Middle East. Despite their best efforts, U.S. institutions seem as out-of-control and ungovernable as they did when the 1975 class came into office.

For most Americans, the institutions that touch their lives are unreachable. Americans get broadband through Comcast, their internet through Google, their seeds and chemicals through Monsanto. They sell their grain through Cargill and buy everything from books to lawnmowers through Amazon. Open markets are gone, replaced by a handful of corporate giants. Political groups associated with Koch Industries have a larger budget than either political party, and there is no faith in what was once the most democratically responsive part of government: Congress. Steeped in centralized power and mistrust, Americans must now confront Donald Trump, the loudest and most grotesque symbol of authoritarianism in politics today.

“This,” wrote Robert Kagan in the Washington Post, “is how fascism comes to America.” The nation is awash in commentary and fear over the current cultural moment. “America is a breeding ground for tyranny,” wrote Andrew Sullivan in New York magazine. Yet, Trump’s emergence would not be a surprise to someone like Patman, or to most New Dealers. They would note that the real-estate mogul’s authoritarianism is not new in American culture; it is ubiquitous. It is consistent with how the commercial sphere has developed since the 1970s. Americans feel a lack of control: They are at the mercy of distant forces, their livelihoods dependent on the arbitrary whims of power. Patman once attacked chain stores as un-American, saying, “We, the American people, want no part of monopolistic dictatorship in … American business.” Having yielded to monopolies in business, the nation must now face the un-American threat to democracy Patman warned they would sow.

Americans have forgotten about the centuries-old anti-monopoly tradition that was designed to promote self-governing communities and political independence. The Watergate Babies got rid of Patman’s populism for a lot of reasons. But there was wisdom there. In the 1930s, Patman said that restricting chain stores would prevent “Hitler’s methods of government and business in Europe” from coming to the United States. For decades after World War II, preventing economic concentration was understood as a bulwark against tyranny. But since the 1970s, this rhetoric has seemed ridiculous. Now, the destabilization of political institutions suggests that it may not have been. Financial crises are a regular feature of the U.S. banking system, and prices for essential goods and services reflect monopoly power rather than free citizens buying and selling to each other. Americans, sullen and unmoored from community structures, are turning to rage, apathy, protest, and tribalism, like white supremacy.

Ending the threat of authoritarianism is not a left-wing or right-wing problem, and the solution does not reside in building a bigger or a smaller government. Restoring political stability means structuring society’s public and corporate institutions so they can be governed by human beings and communities. It means protecting the property rights of citizens and not confusing property with arbitrary tollbooths erected by tech billionaires. And it means understanding that protecting competitive markets and preventing concentrations of power are essential components of democracy.

Fortunately, Americans are beginning to remember what was once lost. Senator Elizabeth Warren often sounds like she’s channeling Wright Patman. Senator Bernie Sanders stirred enormous enthusiasm in a younger generation more in touch with their populist souls. Republicans even debated putting antitrust back in their party platform. President Obama has begun talking about the problem of monopolies. Renata Hesse, the head of the government’s antitrust division, recently gave a blistering speech repudiating Bork’s corporatist ideas. And none other than Hillary Clinton, in an October 3, 2016, speech on renewing antitrust vigor, noted that Trump, while a unique figure, also represents the “broader trends” of big business picking on the little guy.

Restoring America’s anti-monopoly traditions does not mean rejecting what the Watergate Babies accomplished. It means merging their understanding of a multicultural democratic society with Brandeis’s vision of an “industrial democracy.” The United States must place democracy at the heart of its commercial sphere once again. That means competition policy, in force, all the time, at every level. The prevailing culture must be re-geared, so that the republic may be born anew.

When he was still Chairman of the House Banking Committee, Patman once famously asked the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Arthur Burns, testifying in front of his committee, "Can you give me any reason why you should not be in the penitentiary?" A year after being deposed in a 152-117 caucus vote in 1975, Patman died of pneumonia and was replaced by an ultra-conservative Democrat, Sam Hall, who was later nominated for a judgeship by Reagan, making way for the district to turn red. It is now one of the most Republican districts in the country, Obama getting only 25% of the vote there in 2012; 24% of the population is black or Latino. When people talk about Hillary gaining on Trump in Texas, this isn't the part of Texas they're talking about. They're talking about well-off suburbs around San Antonio, Austin, Houston, Dallas and Forth Worth, traditionally Republican areas, not traditionally Democratic areas that have been left behind and have slipped into the Republican orbit. 

Mary Hoeft is the progressive Democrat running for the northwestern/central Wisconsin congressional seat (WI-07), currently held by Trumpist and former reality TV character Sean Duffy, who currently earns his campaign funds as chairman of a House Financial Services Sub-committee on Investigations and Oversight by pointedly not providing any oversight or doing any investigations of crooked (albeit generous-- at least to Rep. Duffy) banksters. Last night, after reading Stoller's article, Mary drew a sharp contrast between herself and crooked members of Congress from both parties who put Wall Street's interests above the interests of their own constituents.
I refuse to balance Patrick Murphy's advocacy on behalf of Wall Street with his advocacy on behalf of reproductive rights, gays, and undocumented workers. To do so would be naïve. Pope Francis spoke out against the naivete of those who believe good will come as droplets of water trickle down from the pool of riches our wealthiest bathe in. Americans are drowning in those droplets. My opponent Sean Duffy is an easier enemy to see coming. He advocates against reproductive rights, gays, and undocumented workers. But Murphy is equally responsible for the chasm that now divides our wealthiest from the rest of America.
Needless to say, Hoeft is one of the progressives who won her primary, only to be promptly ignored by the very conservative and very Wall Street-friendly DCCC. They're not helping her, even though her district is very swingy and was only recently held by a Democrat, Dave Obey (who is campaigning for her), and was won by Obama against McCain, 53-45%. Please consider contributing to her grassroots campaign by tapping the thermometer below:
Goal Thermometer

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Monday, October 24, 2016

Did Dylan Deserve The Nobel Prize!


As Denise Sullivan reported here last week, not everyone agreed that Bob Dylan deserved his Nobel Prize in literature. Of course, everyone I know agrees, but I don't get out much and I don't know, or at least talk to, a single person planning on voting for Trump.

This morning Nicholas Pell, writing for the L.A. Weekly, was as definitive as Denise: Dylan is the most deserving Nobel laureate since John Steinbeck. Steinbeck got his in 1962 ("for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception"). "Music," Pell wrote, "if done the right way, counts as literature. And Bob Dylan did music the right way. I’m not sure any musician from the 1960s deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Elvis, but if anyone does, it’s Bob Dylan."

One of my favorite things about Dylan is that he appears to actively detest his fans. If you want to see someone who’s going to give the fans what they want, don’t go see Dylan. His live shows might well be a giant troll against his fans. If he plays “The Times They Are A-Changin'" you won’t recognize it until the second chorus. Then you walk out of the gig with your head hung low. This pleases me because, like Dylan, I too hate most of his fans and reflexively love musicians who hate their own audience.

And then there’s the man’s music. So much of what is good about rock & roll after the original wave of Chuck Berry, Elvis, Buddy, Gene and Eddie imploded came from Dylan. His early folk stuff doesn’t do much for me. As a friend of mine pointed out, the whole “being on Pete Seeger’s dick” period of his career probably even embarrasses Dylan at this point. For my money, Dylan comes into his own with his Judas moment, going electric.

Where to begin with talking about the sprawling masterpiece that is The Basement Tapes? Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s a collaboration with The Band and he doesn’t sing on some of the tracks. So what? This is Dylan at his purest and most exuberantly creative, worth the slog every time.

Old fogeys are going to get mad about the inclusion of Street-Legal. Every time I say I like this album in front of someone who remembers the Johnson administration, I get a strange guffaw. But this is what Dylan should have sounded like in the '70s, remaining true to his roots while also incorporating new sounds on his own terms.

His masterwork might be dodging the awards ceremony. The Nobel Prize people have given up trying to get him to respond. Hell, he might even go so far as Jean-Paul Sartre, who declined the award entirely.

Leonard Cohen has said that giving Dylan an award is like giving Mt. Everest a medal for being the tallest mountain. I agree, but I’m glad they gave it to him just so I can listen to people cry about it.

The only downside? In 40 years they'll probably give this award to Kanye West.


The End Of Paul Ryan?


A #BitterWay

It kind of looks like Paul Ryan's career is melting down. That's a good thing; he's a real threat to this country, a slick face of the plutocratic agenda. He doesn't call dismantling Social Security and Medicare "austerity" anymore. He called it a #BetterWay. But he got caught up in the maelstrom that is the Alt-right Trump campaign. And now the chatter that started on the Breitbart fringes has moved to the Republican mainstream. Hannity, for example, demanded Ryan be replaced by one of the crackpot extremists like Mark Meadows (NC) or even Louie Gohmert (TX). Members of Congress are openly talking about Boehnering Ryan.

Yesterday at Forbes budget expert and former congressional staffer (so, presumably not a crackpot) Stan Collender laid out a scenario that shows Ryan-- already Trump's designated scapegoat for what's about to happen to him-- turning over the Speaker's gavel soon after the election. Collender is probably not right but he seems pretty sure that Ryan either won't be Speaker after the lame duck or won't be Speaker during the lame duck. "It now looks," he asserted, "like Ryan could be deposed or forced to resign this Congress in the lame duck session that begins a week after Election Day."
I say this after hearing from several highly reliable sources that the House Freedom Caucus is seriously considering doing to Ryan what it did to former Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) by threatening him with a privileged motion to vacate the chair. If a majority of the House supported the motion, Ryan would be removed immediately as speaker.

Getting 218 House Republicans to vote for a motion to vacate won’t be easy.

There currently are 246 GOP House members, so almost 89% of the caucus would have to support the motion for it to be adopted.

But 19 of the 246 Republicans are retiring at the end of this Congress and at least 10 more are expected to be defeated by Democrats on Election Day. If the past is any indication, the votes of these soon-to-be-leaving members will become far less reliable in the lame duck. Many might not vote as they have to move out of their their offices and begin to look for a job.

If all 29 decided not to vote, the 218 GOP votes needed to oust Ryan (I’m assuming House Democrats would not vote on the motion) wouldn’t exist. If only some of the 29 voted, the House Freedom Caucus would need more than 90% of the Republican caucus to agree to its motion, and that’s just not likely.

But there may not need to be an actual show of hands. Faced with the possibility of the congressional equivalent of a no confidence vote, Ryan would probably decide to pull a Boehner and immediately resign as speaker, announce that he won’t run again as speaker in the next Congress or announce that he is resigning from Congress at the end of this session.

Any of these options would throw the House into almost immediate chaos and severely limit what will get done in the lame duck.

Ryan is not likely to do what Boehner did by cleaning out the barn and making deals with House and Senate Democrats and the Obama administration on his way out the door. He has presidential ambitions and any last-minute deals on spending and other issues would greatly complicate a run for the GOP nomination.

Ryan might also want to stay in Congress and resume being chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Last-minute closed-door arrangements with Democrats would likely make that impossible.

But a leadership vacuum wouldn’t be the lame duck’s only problem.

If it were offered, the debate on a motion to vacate the chair could take several days. If the motion passed, the subsequent election for a new speaker would take several additional days. Even more days would be needed if, as many expect, the GOP caucus couldn’t quickly agree on even a new temporary speaker. The new speaker would then need time to organize his or her operations and determine how to proceed.

In the meantime, the clock on the three-week lame duck session and the expiration of the current continuing budget resolution would be running. With Thanksgiving in the middle of the lame duck and the Republican leadership (yes, I’m assuming the GOP still has a majority) needing to organize for the new Congress, the amount of time available for legislative work would be severely limited.

That would likely lead to an extension of the lame duck and CR for at least one week.

And all hell might break loose in the lame duck if the newly chosen speaker were a member of the House Freedom Caucus.
Alas, one of the many problems with Collender's speculation-- "19 of the 246 Republicans are retiring at the end of this Congress and at least 10 more are expected to be defeated by Democrats on Election Day. If the past is any indication, the votes of these soon-to-be-leaving members will become far less reliable in the lame duck"-- is flawed. First, the 19 retiring are actually 25 who are retiring and many of them are stalwart Ryan allies who despise the extremists in the party. Reid Ribble (WI), Chris Gibson (NY), Richard Hanna (NY), Joe Heck (NV), Lynn Westmoreland (GA), Todd Young (IN), Candice Miller (MI), Mike Fitzpatrick (PA), Scott Rigell (VA), Ed Whitfield (KY), Joe Pitts (PA), John Kline (MN) and Cynthia Lummis (WY) are not going to betray Ryan. I doubt Robert Hurd (VA), Jeff Miller (FL), Lord Charles Boustany (LA) or Dan Benishek (MI), Rich Nugent (FL) will either.

Tim Huelskamp (KS), Renne Ellmers (NC) and Randy Forbes (VA) lost their seats. Huelskamp wants to see Ryan die in the street like a dog. Ellmers less so-- unless Trump has some kind of job for her at one of his golf courses and voting to screw Ryan is part of the deal. No idea where Forbes stands but I'd guess he'd stick with Ryan.

That leaves Matt Salmon (AZ), Ander Crenshaw (FL), Curt Clawson (FL), Marlin Stutzman (IN), John Fleming (LA), Stephen Fincher (TN), and Randy Neugebauer (TX) as the ones who either will or might vote against Ryan.

As for the 16 most likely Republicans to lose their seats Nov 8, nine are firm Ryan supporters:
Jeff Denham (CA)
David Valadao (CA)
Darrell Issa (CA)
Mike Coffman (CO)
David Jolly (FL)
Carlos Curbelo (FL)
Robert Dold (IL)
Peter King (NY)
Pat Meehan (PA)
And that leaves 7 as possibilities to defect-- although I wouldn't count on any of them except,maybe, Blum and Garrett.
Steve Knight (CA)
Rod Blum (IA)
Cresent Hardy (NV)
Frank Guinta (NH)
Scott Garrett (NJ)
Barbara Comstock (VA)
Will Hurd (TX)
I'd say Ryan would have a better chance to make a quiet deal with Pelosi to allow some Democrats to vote for him than for the Freedom Caucus being able to pull off a coup. But, one thing for sure, it will certain be fun watching them try.

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Not Every Candidate Running As A Democrat Is Actually Anything You Might Define As A Democrat


Friday, I had dinner with former congressional candidate and Air America host Richard Greene, to talk strategy in congressional races beyond just candidates. Richard wants voters to focus on issues that are important to them and then vote for the candidate whose positions coincide with their own. Last week he wrote a guest post here about the concept.

Like many progressives, Richard wants to see voters go beyond the personality shit-show between Clinton and Trump and vote rationally down-ballot. The overwhelming majority of Americans, for example, want stronger, saner gun safety laws-- and say it's a motivating factor in election decisions for them-- but Republicans, who oppose gun safety, still hold the majority in both houses of Congress. On a completely different level, most Americans strongly oppose cruelty to animals, yet the Humane Society congressional scorecard shows clearly that there are really bad members of Congress on animal protection issues, who get elected over and over again, like Darrell Issa, Jim Costa, Dana Rohrabacher and KevinMcCarthy in California, Steve King (R-IA), Fred Upton (R-MI), Cresent Hardy (R-NV), Sean Duffy (R-WI), Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN), Frank Guinta (R-NH), and like Mike McCaul, Louie Gohmert, Henry Cuellar, Bruce Babin and Lamar Smith in Texas.

Richard-- who tends not to obsess over the Republican wing of the Democratic Party and their right-wing positions the way we do at DWT-- makes the point that on a dozen important issues, Democrats and Republicans have clearly different stands-- from women's choice, gun safety, climate change, equal pay for equal work, LBGT equality and increasing the minimum wage to making college affordable for kids from working class families, getting dark money out of politics and tax fairness-- and that if voters focus on their own most important issues, Congress will change hands in 2 weeks.

"If you want women to continue to be able to have the right to choose an abortion, vote for Clinton and Democrats," he said. "If you want abortion to again be illegal in various states, vote for Trump and Republicans." Generally speaking, fair enough... but, when I told Richard that his old friend Tim Ryan (D-OH) is anti-Choice and has a bad voting record on abortion, he was more than mildly surprised. And Richard is an extraordinarily knowledgeable voter. And, by the way, Tim Ryan isn't even at the bottom of the Democratic barrel on Choice. Democrats with ugly anti-Choice voting records include Stephen Lynch (MA), Kurt Schrader (Blue Dog-OR), Jim Langevin (RI), Mike Doyle (PA), Dan Lipinksi (Blue Dog-IL), Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN) and Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX). Oops.

"If you want to increase the minimum wage," said Richard, "vote for Clinton and Democrats. If you don’t want to increase the minimum wage, vote for Trump and Republicans. OK, again, mostly true... mostly. The Republicans just coordinated with conservative Democrats to kill an Obama Administration rule that would have expanded the number of workers who get paid for overtime work. Blue Dogs and New Dems helped make opposition to that "bipartisan," so that Ryan and his henchmen could claim their anti-worker approach was supported by members of both parties... which is was.

Fact is, if issues are really important to you, you have to go beyond not just personalities, but beyond party identification as well. You like doggies? Republican Ileana Ros Lehtinen, an otherwise reprehensible and extremely corrupt Republican in Miami-Dade, led, along with Democrat Katherine Clark (MA) to curb cruelty to pets, while Blue Dog Democrat Henry Cuellar of a solid blue south Texas district votes worse on animal protection issues than lots of Republicans.

In a perfect world, Richard's perspective about supporting all Democrats against all Republicans works perfectly. Alas, though, today the Democratic congressional party has a large and growing Republican wing-- including inside the leadership-- and the Republican/bad, Democrat/good, narrative doesn't always work. It's more like Republican/bad, Democrat/maybe good-maybe bad, so... buyer-- or voter-- beware.

And these are Democrats with voting records! What do voters do about candidates who are not congressional incumbents? Well, of course, some recruits come from legislatures where they have records. State Senator Isadore Hall, a favorite of the California Democratic Party, has the most corrupt, vote-selling record in Sacramento and Lou Correa, another California Democratic Party fave, was as corrupt as Hall when he was in Sacramento and has a record of being the deciding vote against progressive legislation for his entire miserable right wing career. He's probably going to Congress-- as is Florida state legislator Darren Soto, someone the NRA adores, endorses and awarded an A+.

This year, the DCCC has 43 candidates on it's Red-to-Blue list, most of them conservatives. On the 43 about half have been endorsed by the Blue Dogs and or New Dems. These are the candidates the DCCC and Pelosi's House Majority PAC are spending most of their money on, not on policy and values oriented progressives like Zephyr Teachout, Pramila Jayapal, Tom Wakely, Paul Clements, Mary Ellen Balchunis, or Carol Shea-Porter. All the conservative Democrats on this list of candidates have been endorsed by the New Dems and/or the Blue Dogs. They are the candidates being pushed by the Democratic House leadership. They are not necessarily in favor of all the issues Richard wants voters to vote on. I'm eager to help Richard with his initiative and help him perfect it but, personally, I wouldn't vote for any of them:
Tom O'Halleran (AZ)
Matt Heinz (AZ)
Salud Carbajal (CA)
Lou Correa (CA)
Isadore Hall (CA)
Lou Correa (CA)
Gail Schwartz (CO)
Darren Soto (FL)
Val Demings (FL)
Charlie Crist (FL)
Randy Perkins (FL)
Joe Garcia (FL)
Colleen Hanabusa (HI)
Monica Vernon (IA)
Brad Schneider (IL)
Shelli Yoder (IN)
Emily Cain (ME)
• Lon Johnsonl (MI)
Gretchen Driskell (MI)
Angie Craig (MN)
Terri Bonoff (MN)
Josh Gottheimer (NJ)
Kim Myers (NY)
John Plumb (NY)
Pete Gallego (TX)
Doug Owens (UT)
LuAnn Bennett (VA)
None of these progressive candidates, on the page that clicking the thermometer will bring you to, are Blue Dogs, New Dems, conservaDems... and none are corrupt careerists either. Oh-- and none are being helped in their campaigns by the DCCC or by Nancy Pelosi.
Goal Thermometer

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Do You Always, Blindly, Vote For Anyone With A "D" Next To Their Name? Here's One You Won't Get Behind


If you're a regular reader here, you probably know the editorial position of this blog is that Trump is uniquely unfit to be president and that there are overwhelming and existential dangers this country would face were he to ever get into the White House. At the same time we're not sold on Hillary as anything more than a way to stop Trump and as an inspiring victory that finally cracks the ultimate glass ceiling for women. We've suggested that voters in this year's swing states-- Ohio, Iowa, Arizona, Georgia, Utah (and up in Maine's Alagash)-- take one of these to the polls and vote for her.

We've never felt that just because someone calls himself or herself a Democrat, they automatically have earned a vote or any kind of support. The Democratic Party Establishment, Inc. has its own set of reasons for what it does and how it calculates what moves to make politically. The leaders and decision-makers on the top of the food chain-- the Chuck Schumers, Debbie Wasserman Schultzes, Steny Hoyers, Nancy Pelosis, Joe Crowleys, Rahm Emanuels-- are utterly unfit for leadership or even for public office. The direction of the Democratic Party is largely in their hands and largely determined by how something will impact their own careers. Their puppet candidates-- chosen for a willingness, even an eagerness, to follow blindly and to play ball inside a culture of corruption-- are insupportable, even in the context of a lesser-of-two evils world. Trump may be an exception, but garbage candidates from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- like Patrick Murphy (FL), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ), Patty Judge (IA), Tom O'Halleran (AZ), Lon Johnson (MI), Randall Perkins (FL), Brad Schneider (IL), Josh Gottheimer (NJ), Pete Gallego (TX), Joe Garcia (FL), and Monica Vernon (IA)-- should never be supported or even voted for unless your aim is to undermine the Democratic Party as a vehicle for the legitimate aspirations of working class Americans.

The story of the congressional race in Pennsylvania's 9th district is even more bizarre than the normal "DCCC lures ex-Republican shit-head into congressional race" narrative. Bill Shuster is one of Congress' more contemptibly corrupt congressmen and he represents Pennsylvania's most backward and forgotten congressional district, a gigantic sprawling mass of southern and central Pennsylvania: Altoona, the exurbs south of Pittsburgh to Chambersburg halfway across the state. 93% white, it's the most Republican district in the state (R+14) and Romney crushed Obam there 63-36%. In the primary, Trump won every single one of the district's 12 counties-- by a landslide. On the same day crackpot teabagger Art Halvorson challenged the entrenched Shuster and nearly beat him. The final vote count-- the closest race in the state-- was 48,686 (50.5%) for the powerful incumbent who spent $1,655,437 to 47,677 (49.5%) for Halvorson, who only spent $264,357.Since there is virtually no Democratic Party in the area, it was easy for Halvorsan to then lay claim to the Democratic nomination and the extreme right candidate is now on the ballot as a Democrat. I spoke with him on the phone and he went out of his way to tell me he thinks Hillary should be in prison and that isn't joining the Democratic Party. But over a thousand Democrats wrote him in on the Democratic line and he used that successfully as the excuse for claiming the Democratic line in the general. So, no, this isn't going to be another case like Charlie Crist, Monica Vernon, Tom O'Halleran, Patrick Murphy, Mike Parrish or any of the dozens of Republicans the DCCC has recruited to run as Democrats. Steve Israel's Blue Dogs and New Dems always agree to caucus with the Democrats as long as they're free to vote with the Republicans. Halvorson has pledged to caucus with the Republicans if he wins. So now take a look at this ad that Halvoson started running last week that has the whole district buzzing:

Shuster got the State Police to cite Halvorson for harassing one of his campaign workers, 22 year old Meghan Boocks, at the Fayette County Fair. In response, Halvorson is suing Boocks for defamation. ("This," said a Halverson spokesperson, "is a political hit job that the Shuster campaign pulled directly from the Hillary Clinton playbook on character assassination, just before the election.")The bad feeling between them has been further stoked because the ad, reminding voters that Shuster's incredibly corrupt father, the previous congressman, was just like the odious son and that the father was also having sex with lobbyists, just the way Shuster, Jr. does. Shasta never stops whining that Halvorson started running the outrageous-- albeit true-- ad hours after his mother died. Halvorson says he didn't run the ad sooner out of respect for Halvorson's mother and that he should man up and face all the allegations in the ad which have been thoroughly fact-checked and found 100% true.

I wonder how many low-info Democrats in PA-09 are going to vote for Halvorson because, after all, "any Democrat is better than any Republican." Whatever there is of a Democratic Party in the district is supporting write-in candidate Adam Sedlock. Meanwhile, though Halvorson-- formerly a Ted Cruz supporter-- is backing Trump, the Trump campaign has officially endorsed the status quo, crooked Ryan-Republican, Shuster. This is a crazy mixed up race on every level. 

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The Trump Effect-- On The 2016 Senate Races... And Beyond


You may have read yesterday that new polls are showing Democrats surging in gubernatorial races. The Trump effect looks like it will be kicking in up and down the ballots, even in the Republican-friendly states like Indiana, North Carolina, West Virginia and Missouri, that have gubernatorial races this year. “We’re in a map right now where we’re pleased, on a race-by-race basis, at how this looks,” said Jared Leopold, a spokesman for the Democratic Governors Association. “Everyone expected that 2016 would be a difficult cycle for Democrats because we were defending more.” Is Leopold celebrating that the Trump-like "Democratic" billionaire, Jim Justice, a detestable arch conservative who reeks corruption and has announced he won't vote for Hillary, is ahead? I called the Democratic Governors Association and they refused to comment on West Virginia. They'd rather talk about North Carolina and Indiana
A Ball State University poll released Wednesday, conducted for WISH-TV in Indianapolis, shows former Indiana House Speaker John Gregg (D) leading Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) by a 48 percent to 43 percent margin in the race to replace Republican Gov. Mike Pence, Donald Trump’s running mate.

In North Carolina, another Republican-led state, three surveys released this week show Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) locked in a tight race with Gov. Pat McCrory (R), who has faced nationwide backlash over the state’s law on public bathroom use for transgender people. Polls conducted by CNN and Survey USA showed Cooper with a narrow lead, while a survey conducted by the conservative Civitas Institute showed McCrory slightly ahead.

Surveys in two states led by Democrats, Oregon and New Hampshire, show Democrats up by significant margins in gubernatorial races.

A University of New Hampshire poll conducted for WMUR showed Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern (D) leading fellow Executive Councilor Chris Sununu (R) 44 percent to 38 percent. A MassInc poll conducted for WBUR released last week showed Van Ostern up 47 percent to 44 percent.

...In Montana, both Democrats and Republicans believe Gov. Steve Bullock (D) is likely to win a second term.

Though governor races tend to be viewed differently by voters than federal races, some Republicans worry that Donald Trump’s increasingly perilous political standing could begin to bleed down ticket, especially in North Carolina and New Hampshire, two presidential swing states.
But it's the Senate where most attention has been focused. This should have been a relatively easy year for Democrats to win the majority and to bank seats for the expected GOP come-back in 2018. The 2018 midterm map favors Republicans as much as the 2016 midterm map favors Democrats. Unfortunately, Schumer and Tester, who run the DSCC recruited excruciatingly bad candidates and not only are the Democrats not banking the seats they need to offset expected losses in 2018, they could possibly manage to not even win the Senate back this year. The only reason Schumer's dreadful, Wall Street-friendly conservative recruits are even in contention at all is because of Trump's toxicity. "Without Trump," one progressive senator who's no fan of Schumer's told me, "we wouldn't have a prayer. Schumer screwed up royally in too many states."

There are 34 Senate seats with elections this year. 10 are safely Republican-- Utah, South Dakota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Kentucky, South Carolina, Alabama, Kansas, Idaho and Arkansas-- and not looked at as worth contesting by the Democrats and 8 are safely Democratic-- California, Oregon, Vermont, Hawaii, Maryland, Connecticut, New York and Washington-- not looked at as worth contesting by the Republicans. That leaves 16 seats with vulnerable incumbents that the two parties are battling over: just 2 Democratic-- Nevada and Colorado-- and a whopping 12 Republican seats-- Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Hampshire, Illinois, Georgia, Alaska, Indiana, Arizona, Missouri, Iowa, Louisiana, North Carolina and Florida.

Goal Thermometer Despite poking around to see if he could get Wall Street whore and New Dem chief Ron Kind to run, Schumer didn't interfere in Wisconsin, where Russ Feingold was the overwhelming favorite of the state's Democrats and is kicking unpopular extremist Republican Ron Johnson's ass. Other states were-- and thereby are-- less fortunate. Schumer overrode Iowans to insert corporate shill Patty Judge, who is going down to a tremendous defeat. Schumer squelched the early enthusiasm for smart, young, ideas-driven candidate PG Sittenfeld in Ohio and forced walking corpse, conservative throwback Ted Strickland, into the race, where he's being slaughtered by dull and unaccomplished Republican Rob Portman. Schumer recruited reactionary New Dem Ann Kirkpatrick to run against the very vulnerable John McCain. The only way she will become senator is if McCain dies before election day. In Florida, Schumer promised Wall Street he would keep Alan Grayson out of the Senate and the vessel was Wall Street's favorite New Dem, Patrick Murphy, who the DSCC and their allies spent millions on to get over the primary finish line. The DSCC has now abandoned him to Marco Rubio-- a weak and flawed candidate Grayson could have eviscerated and beaten-- who is beating Murphy. In Pennsylvania, Schumer spent a fortune denying the nomination to the extremely popular Joe Sestak-- popular with real Democrats, not with establishment elites-- and Schumer's mediocre candidate, former fracking lobbyist Katie McGinty has been unable to put the reprehensible Republican, Pat Toomey, away. Even in the one race where Schumer's strategy worked-- recruiting very right-wing corporate whore Evan Bayh in Indiana, a state that would not have otherwise been in play-- even if Evan wins, it's a mixed bag, since he tends to vote with the GOP as much as with the Democrats and if he's in the Senate he will be constantly dragging the Democratic caucus further right on most issues. He's so bad that Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have pointedly left him out of their appeals to Democrats to vote to give the party a Senate majority.

The Democrats could take back Alaska-- where the GOP is in a vicious civil war between mainstream conservatives led by Lisa Murkowski and fringy neo-fascists led by Trumpist Joe Miller (running as a Libertarian) but instead of embracing the Democrat in the race, progressive reformer Ray Metcalfe, Schumer tried recruiting the incredibly corrupt Mark Begich and when Begich turned him down, gave the OK for his allies in the party establishment to throw Metcalfe under the bus and support an independent candidate instead.

The state of the race as I see it now is that Schumer has thrown away Alaska, Arizona, Iowa and Ohio and that the GOP will win each of those states. Georgia and Louisiana are going to vote Republican. Colorado, Wisconsin and Illinois are safely Democratic and Indiana, Nevada, and New Hampshire will probably go Democratic. That leaves Florida leaning Republican, Missouri leaning Republican, North Carolina and Pennsylvania true toss ups.

Over at Politico yesterday, Burgess Everett wrote that the battle for the Senate is down to 6 states: "the traditional swing states of Nevada, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, and the newly competitive states of North Carolina, Missouri and Indiana, which historically lean Republican."
One wild card is Florida, where Democrats are engaged in an internal battle about whether to add the Sunshine State back into the battleground mix. President Barack Obama was just there hammering Sen. Marco Rubio, but Democratic groups have cut more than $15 million in ad buys. Some in the party are advocating that Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.) can win with a reinvestment of party resources, but the DSCC and Senate Majority PAC are for now unmoved.

Here's Politico's guide to the half-dozen states that truly dictate whether Mitch McConnell or Chuck Schumer will be running the show next year.

New Hampshire

Democrats just got their best poll of the race from UNH/WMUR, showing Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) losing by nearly double-digits to Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan. Democrats are crowing about it, but no one on the ground actually thinks it’s a blowout.

...Hassan is trying to make Ayotte pay for not disavowing Trump until this month.

“When it became untenable to stick with him ... she switched,” Hassan said of Trump in an interview this month.


Republican Todd Young's campaign is laser-focused on a glaring vulnerability that’s dogged Democrat Evan Bayh since he entered the race in July: The charge that he abandoned Indiana until he wanted to run for office again.

...Thought by Democrats to be a lock when the former senator and governor enjoyed a double-digit advantage three months ago, Bayh has seen his lead dwindle to single digits after a barrage of attack ads. Democrats are betting that Indiana voters’ long history with the Bayh family will be enough.


More than ever before, Democrat Katie McGinty’s campaign is hitching itself to the Clinton wagon and attempting to make GOP Sen. Pat Toomey’s indecision on Trump the race’s signature issue. Toomey has said he's still waiting for Trump to earn his vote.

...But nationalizing the race by making it about Trump carries risks for McGinty as well. While Toomey has carved out a brand distinct from Trump’s, many voters still see her as a generic Democrat. While Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has pulled away in Pennsylvania, McGinty and Toomey are running neck-and-neck.

North Carolina

It’s all tied up in North Carolina, where Democrat Deborah Ross has steadily gained on Sen. Richard Burr, a low-key and relaxed lawmaker who vowed not to start his campaign until October. Now, Republicans are betting it all on an advertising blitz about the “radically liberal” stances Ross took while at the American Civil Liberties Union. The spots slam her for voicing concern over the state’s sex offender registry, defending flag burners and even for advocating for an adolescent who was convicted of sexual assault. (The ACLU believed he had been given too harsh a sentence for someone his age.)

Burr, however, waited to launch the attacks, causing much grumbling among national and local Republicans, who say an aggressive summer ad campaign to define Ross would’ve put the race out of reach for Democrats. Republicans familiar with Burr’s campaign said there was not enough cash to do so, as other Senate races were seen as “higher priorities.”

So the political winds, for now, are behind Ross, a former state legislator and a late-round draft pick for her party. Trump trails in the state, as Clinton airs wall-to-wall ads. And the GOP brand has suffered during a months-long fight over the state’s transgender “bathroom law,” which a majority of voters don’t support.


The GOP assumed Trump’s popularity would guarantee GOP Sen. Roy Blunt’s reelection. But while Trump’s numbers in the state slid slightly over the past month, Democrat Jason Kander gained momentum and kept outperforming Clinton on the Democratic ticket.

Kander got reinforcements from the Democratic Party’s liberal firebrand Elizabeth Warren on a recent Friday in Kansas City before a capacity crowd of over 1,000 people. Warren delivered a roaring indictment of Blunt as “part of the problem” in Washington and tied him to special interest groups such as the Koch brothers.

Warren has limited appeal in red Missouri, but her depiction of Blunt as a career politician with deep ties to Washington lobbyists-- including within his own family-- syncs with Kander’s central message in the race.

Polls show Blunt with only a slight lead, and Republicans have privately urged Blunt to hit back at the Democrats' attacks more forcefully. But Blunt has instead focused on criticizing Kander over his support for Clinton and Obamacare.


The Silver State is the most diverse swing state up for grabs and the only one in which Republicans are on offense. Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.) has been a solid recruit for the GOP, acquitting himself well in the Democratic-leaning state against former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto. The winner will claim a big prize: the seat of Democrat Harry Reid, the retiring minority leader.

Heck has led for most of the year, though polls are showing the race beginning to tilt Cortez Masto’s way. Polling in Nevada is notoriously unreliable due to the difficulty of reaching casino workers and cellphone users. The past two surveys showed Heck up 3 percentage points and Cortez Masto up 7.

But one thing is more certain: Heck is taking plenty of heat from conservatives for unendorsing Trump.

"No Cortez Masto supporter was going to change their vote and vote for him" because Heck unendorsed Trump, said Chuck Muth, a former state GOP executive director, on Nevada radio this month. It’s one of several similar clips being circulated by Nevada Democrats.
So let's imagine that the Schumer curse is somewhat ameliorated by the Trump curse and that Democrats win Nevada, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Indiana and even Missouri and Florida. Hard to imagine, but play along. Two years later, unless Hillary suddenly turns into FDR (rather than the more likely Richard Nixon), the Democrats will face an electoral nightmare. Of the 33 Senate seats up, 9 are held by Democrats who will be considered vulnerable-- the governor-filled Kaine Virginia seat, Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Manchin (WV), Claire McCaskill (MO), Sherrod Brown (OH), Tammy Baldwin (WI), Bill Nelson (FL), Jon Tester (MT) and Joe Donnelly (IN). On top of that Bob Menendez (D-NJ) will either be super-vulnerable or in prison. Independent Angus King (ME), who caucuses with the Democrats, will also be vulnerable if LePage decides to challenge him (likely). And among Republicans, only Dean Heller (NV) could be thought to be vulnerable to a Democrat.

So... say the pretty much everything within reason goes for the Democrats-- even Missouri and Florida-- they going into 2018 with 54 seats. That's 2 years into an obstructed Hillary term and with weak candidates in red states North Dakota (Heitkamp), Missouri (McCaskill), Montana (Tester), and Indiana (Donnelly), who-knows-what in Virginia, New Jersey and Florida, where Nelson is likely to run for governor and Rick Scott will probably run for the Senate. And no Trump on the ticket. I'm sure McConnell likes those odds better than the one's he's looking at today.

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