Can Anybody Really Fear Trump Anymore? And Other Questions

Wow was that a bad speech last night with no news content whatsoever. More than a bad, wooden recapitulation of the same concocted talking points, just this time by teleprompter, it was a nadir.  Maybe even that elusive turning point on Republican support, if not media groveling.  Trump cried wolf and wasted his first Oval Office speech giving a wan replica of the same speech he gives everywhere so:

1. The networks that felt they had to give him the benefit of the doubt and grant him prime time will surely reject his next request won’t they?  The evolution of the press into more skeptical and appropriate coverage of the lying conman continues (too damn slowly).  Like a bad date you know you shouldn’t have even gone on, ABC, NBC and CBS woke up this morning feeling dirty.  Well, dirtier than usual.  Well, uncomfortable in an unfamiliar way, maybe.

2.  If you heard the speech it’s hard to imagine that it was a last ditch attempt to move public opinion towards the wall because it was so lame, but that’s what it was.  If 65% of the country had any question about whether this dope considered himself president of anybody other than his base, last night answered that, no?  The government is shut down over a farcical wall intended to fix a mythical crisis.  Nobody wants this thing except the marks that have bought into the entire Fox News con on immigration stranger danger, and hundreds of thousands of people are out of work because of it with millions more unable to access needed government services.  Furloughed federal workers are applying for SNAP, which will not be there for them.  No safety net and no savings – a uniquely American SNAFU.

It’s notable but too rarely communicated that A. there is no concrete (no pun intended) proposal for how to spend the $5.6 billion that is in contention which is ridiculous, but par for a Trump course, and B. even if the money were approved for any sort of wall, the land needed to build it on would be seized by eminent domain and those cases would be tied up in the courts for years!  There are dozens of cases still in the courts from GWB’s Secure Fence Act of 2006!  The wall wouldn’t get built until after Trump’s death (from my fingers to God’s ears), if ever.

3.  Sen. Republicans know now that Trump has led them into a box canyon with no back up and will back away from him to reopen the government, right?  They may be afraid of his base, but even in the reddest states pressure is building every day to end this bullshit and reopen the government.  The Senators in purplish states up for re-election in 2020 are going to fall like dominoes.  The ones in blue states (Gardner and Collins) have already said they’d vote to reopen without the funds.  They have to get to 60.

Would Trump dare to veto a bill reopening the government as the stories of put upon federal workers in Trump-imposed hardship proliferate and public opinion becomes overwhelming?

4. Is there anybody who can really assert that this motherfucker has a chance in hell of being re-elected?  Please.  He’s not added one vote to the 62,979,636 he got in 2016, which will naturally decline by 1-2% due to death.  One of the downsides of having an older cohort as your core.  Yes, they vote, but not when they die.  Every year more 18 year-olds register to vote as Democrats or Independents and more Republicans die.

Note to self:  invent a new phrase that is stronger than clusterfuck because Trump has worn that out.

Maine 2nd CD – Flipped Red to Blue – Ranked Choice Voting Worked

We wrote about Maine’s ranked choice voting experiment a few weeks back.  It seems to have worked pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty well and flipped Maine’s 2nd CD to the Democrat leaving New England in a 21-0 blue to red count in Congress!

Poliquin, the incumbent, led after ballots were initially tabulated, though no candidate had an absolute majority. However, under ranked-choice voting, the lowest-choice candidates were eliminated and their votes reallocated to their second choices. Under that system, Golden, the Democrat, pulled ahead.

The Democrat won even though more people voted for the Republican incumbent.

Candidate Party Votes Pct.
Jared Golden Democrat 129,556 45.5%
Bruce Poliquin* Republican 131,466 46.2
Tiffany Bond Independent 16,500 5.8
William Hoar Independent 6,933 2.4

284,455 votes, 95% reporting (399 of 418 precincts)

* Incumbent

 

Jared Golden, a Marine Corps veteran and Democratic state lawmaker,defeated New England’s lone House Republican, Bruce Poliquin after the incumbent failed to win a majority of the vote and the state’s new ranked-choice voting system came into play. Mr. Golden received the majority of votes in the second round of vote tabulation, according to the Maine 

So the process in Maine did extend past election day, effectively working like a recount, but with the bonus that third party and protest votes are not rendered simple and one dimensional.  By ranking choices, you can make your protest vote, but not necessarily cause an undesired candidate to ultimately win.

 

New Pew Poll Shows, Again, How Stupid a Country This Is

Yes, a majority of people prefer Democrats on most important issues.  What gets me is the people who say “Not much difference” between Trump and Congressional Dems on issues like the environment (25%), or Social Security (24%).  It’s easy to make fun of the blinkered morons who think Trump gives a shit about anything other than Trump, but there’s a hard core quarter of the country that is just a box of rocks who are so disinterested that they can say Trump and Dems are the same when any 3rd grader who reads the Weekly Reader knows there’s a massive difference on almost every issue.

However, it’s interesting that the topics that have been most in the news lately like immigration (13%), have the lowest “Not much difference”.  Maybe the people can learn?

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Fox News is on in Too Many Restaurants

Of course it’s not really that it’s on in restaurants, where it’s just ambiance (if you can use that word for nut jobs lying soundlessly in the background) the bigger problem is that it’s on in the homes, but if this election brought anything into clear relief it’s that the Foxification of the nation is maybe our greatest danger.

It was a wave.  It may not have felt like one on Tuesday when we were waiting breathlessly for the flips, as the marquee races were going south, but in time, with analysis it’s clearly a wave.

Nearly 40 seats in the House

Only 1-3 seats lost in the Senate (still counting in AZ and FL and a run off in Mississippi that, yes, will not likely go blue, but remember Alabama?)

7 governorships

350+ state legislature seats

A lot to applaud.  That’s a wave, people.  And that is a base to build on for 2020.

And yet, it feels like the Senate, and therefor court appointments, are out of Democratic reach because of those smaller rural states that just seem to be under the tribal thrall of the Republican party.  In the last 10 years we’ve seen states like NM, CO and VA turn blue.  And make no mistake, with great, great candidates GA and TX are now purple!  AZ too.  On the other hand, in this time period we’ve seen OH and MO slip over to seemingly solid redness, maybe.  Ohio did re-elect Sherrod Brown, so maybe they’re not lost and if a Beto was running there, maybe they’d go blue.  Florida is just fucked, you can’t know what they’re going to do, they’re crazy.  But all those little red states with fewer than a million people and 2 senators seem completely out of reach (Tester in MT notwithstanding).  So how the hell does the majority of the country get back the ability to have a say in some of the most vital parts of government including court appointments?  Not to mention the precariousness of the still living farcical Electoral College.

Let me first state the problem:  1. Fox News, talk radio and various profoundly dishonest right wing outlets have their propagandistic claws in too large a segment of America.  2. Besides their usual demonization of Democrats, they’ve screamed about the absolute necessity of conservative judges and justices for decades so that even when a fair minded person throws off their programming for a moment and listens to a talented Democratic candidate, all they have to hear is “but the Supreme Court” and they run right back to the red team.

The solution:  Democrats, progressives, liberals have got to break the spell on red voters regarding the courts.  Of course, we have to have charismatic, smart, personable candidates that can explain their positions cogently about everything.  But I don’t think I’ve ever heard anybody ask conservative individuals what exactly conservative courts achieve for them and debunk that there’s anything good for the average worker, farmer, citizen in the anti-worker, anti-consumer, anti-voter judgments coming from the conservative courts.  Citizen’s’ United did not help these people.  They’re never going to get a full national ban on abortion.  Pro business rulings against workers can’t help them.  Making it harder to vote?  Okay, right now they’re making it harder for brown people to vote, but the precedent can be applied to anybody.

The fact is that conservative propagandists have effectively deified the courts in the minds of their lowliest followers with no actual connection to the real decisions laid down by those courts.  Just like how poor conservatives keep voting for elite business interests because of social wedge issues, there is as total a disconnect between what the courts do and how hard these average citizens root for them, and effectively against themselves.

That spell has to be broken.  And that is something I don’t hear anybody on the left talking to those people about.

Way, Way, Way Under the Radar – Maine Will Use Ranked Voting for First Time in U.S. – Good

So what if in 2016 you could have listed your first and second choices for president so if your first choice is out of the running, or there is no majority winner, your vote then goes to your second choice.

If most Jill Stein voters had listed Hillary Clinton second in WI, MI and PA she could have won those states despite the protest vote.

Maine is actually utilizing this ranked choice system for the first time ever in two weeks.

The system works like this: Voters rank candidates. A candidate garnering a majority of first-place votes is the winner.

If there’s no majority winner, the last-place candidate is eliminated and the losing candidate’s second-place votes are reallocated for another voting round. The computerized tallies are repeated in a game of political survivor until someone captures a majority.

This is a step forward in fixing the many, many, many flaws in our system.

Also, a thought:  of course we need to get rid of the Electoral College, but that will get tremendous resistance from the small states that dominate our senate (that’s the damn problem).  It’s a compromise that would also require an amendment, but it might be more universally acceptable if we changed the system so that the winner had to get the majority of both the popular votes and Electoral College votes.  If no candidate wins both there’s an instant runoff between the top two vote getters, say two weeks later.

Not a bad idea?

We often talk about the disparity in population that the founding fathers could never have foreseen whereby California has something like 70 times the population of Wyoming but they have the same 2 senators.  Bad.  It occurs to me that New York City, which shares its senators with the rest of the state has 16 times the population of Wyoming.  Or as many people as Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska, the Dakotas, Montana, New Hampshire, Delaware, Rhode Island and Maine. That’s 20 senators representing around the same population as NYC.

Unsustainable.

Matt Yglesias – The Hack Gap, Why Conservatives Have Such an Advantage in Shaping the News in a Supposed Liberal Media

So yeah, Clinton called half of Trump supporters “deplorables” and to this day it’s a talking point on the right.  Last week Trump called anybody who votes Democratic “crazy” – not a story at all.  Funny how the liberal media has such a conservative bias when it comes to stories that reinforce umbrage.

Matt Yglesias at Vox calls it the Hack Gap and analyzes its whys and wherefores.

The hack gap explains why Clinton’s email server received more television news coverage than all policy issues combined in the 2016 election. It explains why Republicans can hope to get away with dishonest spin about preexisting conditions. It’s why Democrats are terrified that Elizabeth Warren’s past statements about Native American heritage could be general election poison in 2020, and it’s why an internecine debate about civility has been roiling progressive circles for nearly two years even while the president of the United States openly praises assaulting journalists.

Which brings us the important point that most of the issues we talk about as being created by Fox News/talk radio are about nonsense in that they’re not inaccurate, they’re just not important.  Hillary’s e-mails or Benghazi are great examples of matters that got blown out of all proportion by conservative media in order to be able to beat their enemy over the head with it.  There is no equivalent on the other side, even for matters that do somewhat matter.

Yglesias points out that when Trump said he was too busy to visit the troops, it’s low hanging fruit to posit what Fox News would have said if Obama said such a thing.  The point is there’s no Democratic politician, or media outlet, that actively made the case in an angry manner that it’s outrageous that Trump said that.  It’s outrageous that he hasn’t visited troops two years into his presidency.  Maybe some Democratic pol said something about that on the stump somewhere but we didn’t hear about that.  If Democrats really wanted to make that an issue to use against Trump and Republicans they would have to make coordinate irate speeches in front of cameras and push that meme as a talking point.  They could do that.  It would be legitimate to criticize Trump on that and make  Republicans have to answer questions about it.

But Democrats don’t manufacture outrage or coordinate messages on what some may call unimportant topics.  They have no problem going to the well on things like Social Security and Medicare, healthcare, racism – 100% legitimate issues.  Republicans have no such reticence.  They make “unimportant” issues into important ones not just for their followers, but for the media at large, which then has to follow that bouncing ball.

If Chuck Schumer and a bunch of other Democrats had made firy spit spouting speeches about how outrageous it is that Trump said he had no time to visit troops and the Democratic Party coordinated messaging (push polls, mailers, e-mails) around Trump’s statement, they could easily push that story into the media in such a way that would have a depressing effect on Trump’s approval and force Republicans to be on the defensive about it.

If conservatives have taught us anything it’s that you have to make arguments not just about what we would all consider important, but also about things that are arguably important, if not actually trivial.

If we want to stay on a higher road and not go down the shameful road of elevating complete nonsense and dishonesty, fine.  No argument that we do not have to make up bullshit about them they way they make up bullshit about us.  There are plenty of actual issues and behavior that we can highlight in a forceful way.  But we do have to do that.  We can’t just save our righteous rage for the massive issues.  The way to create a critical mass of media and public criticism, even for a character as widely despised as Trump, is to push the important stuff like the Russia investigation and the arguably unimportant stuff that you can make a critical argument about like visiting the troops, or the inaction on opioids.