Demographics: New Democratic Leaders and the Changing Electorate
The New York Times profiles a group of promising California legislators who could be our best hope to rebuild the Democratic Party.
‘This new class of Democratic leaders seems likely to reshape the political face of California for a generation. But for national Democrats, they also represent a potential talent pool of leaders who can help pull the party out of the worst crisis it has faced since 2005, the last time the Republicans controlled the White House and both houses of Congress. California also stands ready to become a laboratory for Democratic policy that, it seems fair to say, will have little chance for enactment in Washington, at least for the next two years’.
AARP and Politico have joined together for a recurring series ‘the Deciders’ analyzing the impact that voters age 50+ are likely to have on the upcoming elections.
An article in the Washington Post about why demographics weren’t and will not be destiny for the Democrats (because the concentration of Democrats is in cities, not enough Democrats in rural areas).
Here’s a good analysis by Thomas Edsall in The New York Times of the economic insecurity of the Trump supporters versus the liberal left and how that plays across the country.
Electoral College Inequities and Minority vs Majority Rule
A New York Times opinion article by Steven Johnson points out that the real divide is Blue Cities/Suburbs and Red Country with Blue States subsidizing Red States. The urban states are subsidizing the rural states, and yet the rural states get more power at the voting booth.
‘If a Trump administration that urban states voted overwhelmingly against starts curtailing voting rights and rolling back drug-law reform, reneging on the Paris climate accord, deporting immigrants and appointing justices that favor overturning Roe v. Wade, states like California and Massachusetts are sure to start asking hard questions about why they are subsidizing a government that doesn’t give them an equal vote’.
‘How to Make the Majority Rule in America’ by Joel Mathis for the Week states that the only way to ensure that we do not continue to be ruled by the minority is to require that elections must be decided by a candidate winning a majority of the votes cast. If there is not a clear majority in an election, there must be a runoff to decide who has won the majority.
Fake News, Trump’s Attacks on the Press, the Media
George Lakoff, a retired professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at University of California at Berkeley, has valuable insights into how to effectively rebut/deflect Trump’s tweets without giving them more credence: the trick is framing the response from a progressive and moral mindset e.g. Trump is rolling back ‘protections’ not ‘regulations’. Here’s the link to his blog.
‘Repetition is a way of changing people’s brains…There wasn’t anything Hillary did that was crooked. But he kept saying it until people believed it. And they believed it because it was heard enough times to strengthen the neural circuitry in their brains. It wasn’t just stupidity. It’s simply the way brains work. By repeating that Hillary wasn’t crooked, Democrats in fact reinforced his message!’
Wall Street Journal Editorial: Trump on track to be a Fake President; Trump’s falsehoods are eroding public trust both at home and abroad.
This article by Alina Polyakova and Geysha Gonzalez that ran initially in the Washington Post argues that to combat Fake News we must use a ‘whole society’ approach similar to the anti-smoking campaign that was successful:
Only a whole-of-society approach—one that engages government, private companies and civil society alike—can effectively combat and build resilience to disinformation.
Brookings’ Report ‘What Science Tells Us About How to Combat Fake News.’ The answer is not fact checking after the fake news is out there. The damage has already been done; the answer is not to publicize suspected fake news until it can be fact checked.
Here’s an article about NewsGuard, a new app, to make it easier for readers to distinguish between vetted articles and fake news. Launched in 2018, NewsGuard is a new service that uses trained journalists to rate thousands of news and information sites via web extensions that let users view vetted, non-partisan trust ratings for these websites. Partnering with Microsoft, NewsGuard works by appending web extensions to let readers know which articles have been vetted by its panel of journalists and which have not.
Gerrymandering and Voter Suppression
In February of 2018, The New York Times Editorial Board wrote about the partisan gerrymandering and rampant GOP power grabs in PA and North Carolina designed to keep the GOP in power despite election and court decision defeats.
The News Observer reports in article by Lynn Bonner that the North Carolina Republicans are talking of impeaching the State Supreme Court, which has a Democratic majority, if they vote against proposed constitutional amendments that would restrict the Governor’s authority. One would take away the Governor’s power to appoint members to hundreds of state boards and commissions and give it to the Legislature. The other would limit a Governor’s ability to make appointments to fill judicial vacancies and give the Legislature a major role. Daily Kos Media has more background on this and other blatant GOP power grabs in this Voting Rights Update article.
Here’s a link to Daily Kos’ sobering report Voting Rights Roundup on how GOP controlled states are increasingly passing more voter suppression laws and onerous restrictions which depress the vote especially among minorities.
The New York Times reports here that the Justice Department has demanded millions of North Carolina voting records be turned over to immigration authorities which will certainly depress minority voter turnout for the midterm elections.
‘Federal prosecutors have issued sweeping subpoenas demanding that millions of North Carolina voter records be turned over to immigration authorities by Sept. 25. With just two months to go before the midterms, the subpoenas threatened to sow chaos in the state’s election machinery, while renewing the Trump administration’s repeatedly discredited claims of widespread voting by illegal immigrants.’
The New York Times reports on a new movement Time to Vote, a coalition created by Walmart, Lyft, Patagonia and over 100 other companies to increase voter turnout for the midterms. Some like Walmart have even created a website to help employees register to vote and become better informed. Patagonia’s CEO said:
Growing Income Inequality
Here’s a link to a study from the University of Illinois showing a robust correlation between the weakening and decline of unions and rising income inequality gleaned by studying workers from 1973 to 2015.
Maximizing Effective Political Activism and Resistance
This is an excellent New Yorker article analyzing the best ways to effectively contact your Member of Congress (MoC) and influence his/her voting. Here are some excerpts:
‘For mass protests, such as those that have been happening recently, phone calls are a better way of contacting lawmakers, not because they get taken more seriously but because they take up more time—thereby occupying staff, obstructing business as usual, and attracting media attention. E-mails get the message through but are comparatively swift and easy for staffers to process, while conventional mail is at a disadvantage when speed matters, since, in addition to the time spent in transit, anything sent to Congress is temporarily held for testing and decontamination, to protect employees from mail bombs and toxins. Afterward, most constituent mail is scanned and forwarded to congressional offices as an electronic image. In other words, your letter will not arrive overnight, and it will not arrive with those grains of Iowa wheat or eau de constituent you put in it. But, once it shows up, it will be taken at least as seriously as a call…
For constituent activity to have more immediate effects on the actions of lawmakers, however, other conditions—most of them necessary, none of them necessarily sufficient —must apply. Broadly speaking, these include a huge quantity of people acting in concert, an unusually high pitch of passion, a specific countervailing vision, and consistent press coverage unfavorable to sitting politicians. Together, these can create the most potent condition of all: the possibility (or, at any rate, the fear) that the collective restiveness could jeopardize re-election.’
Per the Indivisible Guide: the best way to influence your Member of Congress is to demonstrate (in person, by mail, by phone) that he/she may not be reelected if he/she continues on a given course of action.
The least effective method per the above New Yorker article appears to be the online petitions which have been so prevalent; however, in the aggregate they may be useful in keeping an issue front and center in the public eye and attracting the necessary press coverage specified above.
Per Swing Left’s research, canvassing voters is two times more effective at convincing someone to vote for your candidate than calling and five times more effective than cold texting.
In the New York Review of Books how to survive the Trump regime: steps we have to take to ensure that democracy survives.
New York Times article by Tina Rosenberg about what we can learn from the effectiveness of past protest movements.
Per Roger Cohen of The New York Times in his article ‘Banal Belligerence’ Americans are going to have to fight for their civilization against the banal belligerence of President Trump.
Paul Krugman’s NYT’s article The Uses of Outrage confirms that activism and outrage may be our last chance at saving our Democracy.
In Eclectablog, how to effectively fight against Trumpism.
A U.S. News and World Report article entitled ‘Flood the Zone’ by Peter Fenn details the Trump Administration strategy to distract Americans and the press with their flood of outrageous tweets and actions so that there is little coverage of all the horrible actions that Trump’s cabinet and administration are effecting. The news cycle is consumed with the chaos of Trump and Bannon, not the draconian actions the Trump administration is taking under the cover of this chaos.
‘The main tactic of the Bannon-Trump administration is to flood the zone with one action after another without vetting, without serious explanation, without consulting Congress or even those within their own administration. They then follow up these executive declarations with tweets and invective directed against one perceived enemy after another. The desire to create chaos, regardless of the consequences, follows on from the writings of Bannon and the speeches of Trump.’
In the face of this chaos, Fenn urges us to:
‘We must build our case and our own movement against his policies, engage experts and lawyers, go to court, go to the media (mainstream and social), continue protests, contribute money, volunteer on the front lines, convince those who may have voted for Trump and Republicans now in elective office that our fundamental values, and even our country, hang in the balance.’
Methods of Nonviolent Action compiled by Gene Sharp for the Albert Einstein Organization.
While this article by Michael Moore appeared in the Huffington Post in 2017, and some of the ‘things to do’ are now dated, Moore’s call to action is still relevant.
An article by Turkuler Isiksel for Dissent Magazine makes the case that autocracy can happen here and lists actions we need to take now to prevent regime change.
As reported in an article in the Daily Kos in 2016 following Trump’s election, newly elected MD Senator Jamie Raskin describes what we must do now to fight Trump:
‘The Democrats’ job right now is not to “find common ground” with Donald Trump and his enablers. It’s not about “striking deals” or “working together.” It’s about refusing to normalize Trump and refusing to give the Republican Party an inch. Yes, we will lose a lot of battles in the coming years, but it is far, far better to lose than to be co-opted. And when you stand up and fight, even if you lose, Americans will know what you believe in.’
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote in the Washington Post about the importance of immediately protesting against the Trump administration and how boycotts could help sway Trump:
‘We need to start actively re-establishing what our values are before they are slowly eroded, one bad choice at a time. By “actively,” I mean that we need to commit to an aggressive plan of peaceful actions as part of a new civil disobedience. And by “we,” I mean every supporter of the constitutional guarantees of equality, especially people of color, women, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, the LGBT community and anyone else who has been marginalized by this election….If we don’t apply the tourniquet now, our country’s constitutional values may bleed out before the next election.’
An excellent article in Tablet comparing the present with Vienna in the 30’s reaffirming that we must protest now:
‘This isn’t a political contest—it’s a moral crisis. When an inexperienced, thin-skinned demagogue rides into office by explaining away immensely complex problems while arguing that our national glory demands we strip millions of their dignity or their rights, our only duty is to resist by whatever means permitted us by law. The demagogue may boost the economy, sign beneficial treaties, and mend our ailing institutions, but his success can never be ours. Our greatness, to use a tired but true phrase, depends on our goodness, and to succeed, we must demand that our commander in chief come as close as is possible to reflecting the light of that goodness. There’s no point indulging in the kind of needlessly complex thinking that so often plagues the intelligent and the well-informed. There’s no room for reading tea leaves, for calculations or projections or clever takes. The only thing that matters now is the simple moral truth: This isn’t right. As long as we never forget that, we can never lose.’
Taking a page from the Tea Party, here’s an article in the New York Times by Ezra Levin, Leah Greenberg and Angel Padilla, the co-authors of Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda, which describes how progressives can blunt Trump and Republican actions by getting more active at the state and local level learning from the Tea Party’s effective tactics.
A Daily Beast article by Joy-Ann Reid argues that the best way to stop Trump is at the local level; we need to engage in progressive federalism.
‘Democrats …need to recruit strong candidates who can advocate for strong state and local governments that will defend working men and women of every racial, ethnic and religious group—their healthcare, their civil rights, their right to vote, their air, water and land—from the gang of billionaires about to take over Washington’.
Here is an excellent article from the New Yorker about how we have to stand up for what we believe in, and use language in a very precise way about what is really going on; we must eliminate the false equivalency that plagued so much of the campaign reporting:
‘Now is the time to counter lies with facts, repeatedly and unflaggingly, while also proclaiming the greater truths: of our equal humanity, of decency, of compassion. Every precious ideal must be reiterated, every obvious argument made, because an ugly idea left unchallenged begins to turn the color of normal. It does not have to be like this.’
From the Washington Post, a blueprint for resisting Trump has emerged and this is what it looks like by Greg Sargent. While this was written in 2017, the basic tactics are still relevant.
A New York Times article about how Democrats are studying the Tea Party Playbook (the Indivisible Guide); however, our challenge is that Democrats have always been more invested in a functioning government than are the Republicans who were happy to shutdown the federal government when they did not agree with Obama’s policies.
The Week article describes how our best chance of taking down Trump is via investigations by the New York Attorney General. Ryan Cooper writes:
‘…the president’s pardon power extends only to federal crimes. Governors, not the president, have pardon power over state crimes. It follows that state attorneys general could use their prosecutorial power to investigate Trump’s criminal empire free of the mafioso abuse of pardons.’
The Supreme Court and the Judiciary
The New York Times published an in depth article by Emily Bazelon in their Magazine about what happens when the Supreme Court lurches right and becomes significantly more conservative than the country.
The Federalist Society’s juggernaut plan to reshape our judiciary into a conservative force is reported here by The New York Times’ Jason Zengerie. Don McGahn, White House Counsel, and the Federalist Society (of which McGahn is a prominent member) are working together to seat only young originalists and textualists on the Supreme Court and other lower court judgeships. This effort is unprecedented in its single focus to remake our judiciary in a conservative mold. And unfortunately this partnership of McGahn and the Federalist Society has been very effective:
‘Indeed, after just 18 months, Trump has “flipped” two circuits — the Sixth and Seventh — from liberal to conservative. Two more — the Eighth and the 11th — are on the verge of tipping. Even circuits that are decidedly liberal are undergoing significant changes. “It’ll be really important for the Second and the Ninth Circuits to have between two and four really good, high-octane intellectual conservative jurists,” explains a person close to the judicial-nominations process, “because dissents provide a signaling function to the U.S. Supreme Court, and those are very important circuits.”
In short, a radically new federal judiciary could be with us long after Trump is gone. Brian Fallon, a veteran Democratic operative who leads Demand Justice, a group formed to help Democrats with research and communications in the judicial wars, says, “We can win back the House this November, we can defeat Trump in 2020 and we’ll still be dealing with the lingering effects of Trumpism for the next 30 or 40 years because of the young Trump-appointed judges.”
Trump GOP Threat to our Democracy
This chilling but important article appeared in The New York Times in late 2016 and warned that Trump is a threat to our democracy.
Paul Krugman’s excellent article in The New York Times entitled ‘How Republics End’ describes how the history of the fall of the Roman Republic has frightening parallels with our current era.
Plus Charles Blow’s New York Times’ article ‘Donald Trump, This is Not Normal’ sums up how abnormal and awful a Trump presidency will be and that we must not ’normalize’ the Trump Presidency.
Admittedly, this is a long shot. Nevertheless here’s a primer ‘How to Remove Trump From Office’ by Richard Cohen of The Washington Post on how Trump can be removed from office without going through impeachment proceedings. Instead under the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, the Vice President, together with a “majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide” can remove the president for being “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office”. Perhaps if the Russian scandal boils over and/or Trump’s Tweet storms become even more unhinged this might be possible.
In The Washington Post, here’s an excellent article by Paul Waldman about what the Democrat’s can do to hold Trump and the GOP accountable (short of impeachment) once they regain control of the House of Representatives. These steps include obtaining and releasing Trump’s tax returns through the Democrats new control over the House Ways and Means Committee, launching investigations into the rampant corruption in the Trump administration, etc.
In a Huffington Post article, Robert Kuttner describes what needs to be done now to build the case to impeach Trump. While Pence is awful as well, he is unlikely to blow up the planet with a careless tweet provoking a nuclear war and Pence would be unlikely to get reelected.
David Brooks’ article in The New York Times describes Trump as our first Snapchat President.
Here’s an excellent article from The New York Times’ Paul Krugman describing how the US has now officially become a -stan country with the advent of a Trump administration committed to self-enrichment and authoritarianism.
Indivisible has a website ‘Trump Threat Level’ that is compiling a running list of how Trump is threatening our Democracy and our security.
Here’s an in-depth report dated August 2018 from the Brookings Institution’s Governance Studies Program detailing all the ways that Trump has obstructed justice.
A group of concerned therapists analyzes the psychosis of Trump and Trumpism and warns that the evils of Trumpism will outlast Trump’s presidency.
An article in New York Magazine by Eric Levitz, reviews how many therapists have diagnosed Trump with malignant narcissism personality disorder which makes his having the nuclear codes even scarier. The article concludes as follows:
‘By all accounts, most GOP Congress members recognize that Donald Trump is a pathological narcissist with early stage dementia and only peripheral contact with reality — and they have, nonetheless, decided to let him retain unilateral command of the largest nuclear arsenal on planet Earth because it would be politically and personally inconvenient to remove his finger from the button. You don’t need a degree in psychiatry to call that crazy.’
However, here’s a very sobering article from the Week where Matthew Walther argues that despite Mueller’s ultimate findings, Trump’s status as an unindicted co-conspirator, Manafort’s conviction, etc. Trump will never be held accountable. His thesis is that the Judiciary is merely an extension of the Executive Branch and Trump is likely to skate through this mess. The only remedy is political i.e. impeachment and the GOP Congress is not going to challenge Trump because of his popularity with the GOP base.
2016 Election Analysis: Why and How Trump was Elected
Joan Williams writes in the Harvard Business Review how we ended up with Trump (culture gap, white working class disdain for professionals such as Hillary, sexism and the Democrats’ failure to make economic policies the center of the campaign) and how the Democrats need to appeal to the uneducated white working class voter in the future:
‘For months, the only thing that’s surprised me about Donald Trump is my friends’ astonishment at his success. What’s driving it is the class culture gap. One little-known element of that gap is that the white working class (WWC) resents professionals but admires the rich. Class migrants (white-collar professionals born to blue-collar families) report “professional people were generally suspect”…’ If You Want to Connect with White Working-Class Voters, Place Economics at the Center.’
Five Thirty Eight article describing how Clinton’s ground game didn’t cost her the election; the upper Midwest became much Redder.
Farewell America by Neal Gabler published on billmoyers.com shortly after the election is one of the most insightful articles to date about how we ended up with Trump. Gabler points out that the Republicans for some time have sought to delegitimize the Democrats in every way possible even when the Democrats were in power: challenging Obama’s US birth, Mitch McConnell and the Republican controlled Congress stonewalling Obama for 8 years opposing almost every Democratic legislative initiative, the Republicans refusing to conduct hearings on Merrick Garland (Obama’s proposed appointment to the Supreme Court), etc. etc.
From Yes Magazine, here’s an interesting article on how Norway avoided becoming a fascist state. The answer is an organized left with a strong vision and broad support, lessons we can learn from.
A March 2017 article by Brian Klaas in the Washington Post details how Trump has already hurt our democracy since taking office. And of course now in 2018 the damage is much worse.
Here’s an optimistic article by Ruy Teixeira in the Washington Post stating that the Democrats will ultimately be victorious. He argues that what will have staying power in the 21st century is the values and priorities of the left. They will not win every battle, but they will win the war.
This Irish Examiner article describes how the election of Trump marks a dangerous turning point in the world. This article presents a rundown of recent economic and political history, and an insightful analysis of what Trump’s agenda and the Republican agenda (the two are not always the same) will mean for the US and why his election should not come as a surprise:
‘Rising inequality, an unfair political system, and a government that spoke as if it was working for the people while acting for the elites created ideal conditions for a candidate such as Trump to exploit.’
Steven Rattner in an article for The New York Times presents an excellent analysis (with graphics) on how the precipitous loss of jobs and lower wages, rising death and addiction rates especially in the northern rust belt states contributed to Trump’s victory.
In another article for The New York Times, Rattner describes how the GOP’s relentless obstruction of Obama and his agenda created Trump.
David Brooks’ article on the Faustian bargain the GOP has made with Trump from The New York Times.
Egberto Willies wrote an excellent article for Daily Kos questioning how democratic our political system actually is. An excerpt from the article:
Republicans used the court system to aid voter suppression and deny Americans health care coverage through the Medicaid expansion to Obamacare. They used economic angst to promote racial, xenophobic, ethnic, and gender polarization in order to divide and conquer. They effectively stole a Supreme Court seat. Meanwhile, Democrats saved the economy and provided health care (and many other good programs). However, they did it timidly. They refused—and continue to refuse—to play hardball.
Five Thirty Eight’s analysis that Trump’s victory had to do with economics after all not just educational differences and it details the issues that Democrats must effectively address in order to get back in power. The article draws an important distinction between voters suffering from economic hardship (Clinton won those voters) and those suffering from economic anxiety (Trump won those voters):
‘The role of economics in the election matters politically: for Trump, because voters may turn on him if he doesn’t deliver on his economic promises, and for Democrats, because they will struggle to win back the White House if they don’t find ways to speak convincingly on these issues. And it matters in terms of policy.
Trump’s economic plans may not make much sense, but the problems identified by his supporters are real. Manufacturing jobs really have disappeared, and we haven’t yet found a source of similarly stable, well-paying jobs to take their place. Wages really have stagnated for much of the past 15 years, and economic mobility, at least by some definitions, really has fallen. College costs really have risen, and our retirement system really is broken. Until politicians and policymakers find ways to address those issues, economic anxiety — and its political consequences — isn’t likely to go away.’
Mark Lilla in his New York Times opinion article writes how identity liberalism may have cost Democrats the election.
Extent of Russian Interference in 2016 Elections
Tips on Surviving the Trump Era
Here’s a helpful article on how to cope with the distress we’re all feeling from the Trump Apocalypse by Dr. David Edelberg of WholeHealthChicago, an integrative health facility in Chicago. His advice is to get very politically engaged (just like in the 60’s) get enough sleep, eat whole foods and exercise (and he recommends protesting as an excellent cardiac exercise :-).
The Road to Unfreedom by Timothy Snyder
For more information on the book visit this link
This newly released book (Spring 2018) offers a brief, potent and well documented history of Putin’s consolidation of power in Russia, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Russian meddling in the 2016 Presidential election. Putin was very savvy at exploiting our vulnerabilities (the Electoral College, the Second Amendment, etc.) and fomenting more divisiveness in our society. Snyder, an historian and professor at Yale, details ways we can try to counter Russia’s pernicious attacks on our Democracy.
On Tyranny, 20 Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder
For more information on this book visit this link
This is an important quick read about steps we must take to fight back against the current threats to our Democracy. In an excerpt from this book Snyder states:
‘The Founding Fathers tried to protect us from the threat they knew, the tyranny that overcame ancient democracy. Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century. We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience.’
Additional Recommended Books
Here are additional recommended books by the newly formed group RustBeltRising. Headed by Illinois State Senator Daniel Biss, this organization’s mission is to train Democratic candidates to lead on the foundational economic issues of working families, education, healthcare and especially jobs. RBR will be focusing its efforts on the six states bordering on the Great Lakes: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin.
White Working Class by Joan Williams
Across that Bridge by John Lewis
Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Hochschild
What’s the Matter with Kansas by Tom Frank
Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance
A Colony in a Nation by Chris Hayes
Every Day is Election Day by Rebecca Sive
Winning Elections in the 21st Century by Dick Simpson, Betty O’Shaughnessy
Run for Something by Amanda Litman