And Then There Were…

The double-dozen roster of Democratic hopefuls shrank a little more this week, when Beto O’Rourke ended his run. Whatever got Texans so juiced about his 2018 race against Ted Cruz didn’t transfer to a presidential run.

Even so, the field remains clogged with 17 candidates, most with little chance of success. Tom Steyer, the impeachment guy, has gotten his wish, making him insignificant now that the House officially opened the impeachment inquiry. If the field had not been so crowded, likable, intelligent Cory Booker might have built a following. In this Democratic dogpile, though, he did not make it into the front rank. He will be remembered best for his awesome side-eye directed at O’Rourke’s Latinx introductory message at the first debate.

Kamala Harris closed her offices in New Hampshire this week, a signal that she can wage only one fight at a time. She had surged into the upper tier briefly on Joe Biden-shaming for his decisions in the 1990s that haven’t weathered well. For Harris, she’s depending on Iowa, and it looks like a bust.

Those remaining fall into either the progressive or the moderate camp. Elizabeth Warren holds a significant lead over Bernie Sanders in the Medicare-for-all faction, a symbol of advocacy for meaningful economic reassessment. Warren and Sanders both advocate Medicare for all but are not interchangeable. Andrew Yang, a second-tier candidate, has attracted interest for his unconventional view that each American should receive $1,000.00 per month. It’s not a crazy notion once he explains it. He is an exciting figure, who deserves serious attention, if only for his ideas. Unfortunately, Yang and the rest of the progressives will be tagged as socialists, still considered anathema in a country that has passed and embraced several popular social welfare programs since the end of World War II.

The moderates in the field have a different sort of challenge. Joe Biden remains the front-runner. He’s plowed through a handful of gaffs. He showed indecision in feebly responding to Trump’s attack. Some of the polls reflect weakening, but he is hanging around the front of the pack. Ask yourself where are the megabucks donations fled for a well-liked middle of the road candidate with a modicum of gravitas. Fund-raising has plunged, and his candidacy is idling. Aside from his repeated boast to beat Trump like a drum, Biden hasn’t had much to say.

The other moderates are languishing. Pete Buttigieg has had a great run this summer, out-earning the competition, and has performed well in the debates. Amy Klobuchar is still having trouble getting momentum, which is unfortunate for her. She had an impressive performance in the latest contest. She hasn’t been hit with many negatives, only being a demanding boss.

To the list of lies, damnable lies, and statistics, we must consider polls, a particularly undependable form of statistics. The national general election polls of 25 October show Biden, Sanders, Warren, and Pete Buttigieg all beating Trump by significant margins. But general election isn’t won on general trends. Let’s take a look at how the candidates are doing in some of the battleground states.

. Among the most recent state polls, Emerson in Arizona found Trump in a statistical tie with Biden and Warren and with a slight edge over Sanders. There is a significant shadow over Arizona, which may resonate nationally. On healthcare, Republicans and Independents poll highest to keep things the same, then for a public option. Medicare for all ranks slightly ahead of shamanism. It’s even more unpopular among Independents than Republicans.

Among Democratic primary voters, Biden – keep healthcare the same – polls highest – but then Sanders and Warren – Medicare for all – follow closely. Buttigieg and Klobuchar – public option — are far down the scale. In the general election, though, they may be more competitive in capturing red-to-purple Arizona.

Purple Minnesota goes robustly for favorite daughter Klobuchar against Trump, and also for the general poll leaders. Minnesota went blue in 2016 by a slim margin.

Trump’s triumph in Wisconsin in 2016 was critical to his election. Marquette’s results of 23 October present a different outlook. Biden, Warren, and Sanders lead the incumbent, and Buttigieg trails but not by much. Klobuchar prospects are looking up.  She claims to know her beer from her foam, and that will serve her well in a Midwestern pub crawl.

North Carolina, another critical state captured by Trump in 2016, is polling blue. On 14 October, the top Democrats led Trump by slim margins, and Buttigieg and Harris trailed much the same.

Florida, too, is in play, but probably turned slightly bluer on the news that Trump is now one of their own. The state will likely remain red with a progressive running but could turn blue with the right moderate.

The leftward pull is dominant in the Democratic primary but is a handicap in swing states in the general election. There are troubling signs now that neither Sanders nor Warren may be unable pull in the critical, independent voters. Arizona’s split on health care is an indication.

These figures, unreliable though they are, support the American centrist convention. Democrats who play to the center draw less suspicion than those advocating the need for political upheaval. Except for 2016, we are a gradualist nation by and large.

If Biden can survive the primary, he can win the election, so say the polls. If not, Sanders and Warren will bear the socialist stigma, sending undecided voters back to Trump or keeping them quietly at home.

The outside play is for Amy Klobuchar. Her campaign has been relatively unexciting. But her performance in the debates has improved. Her positions on core issues are comfortably mainstream. Most importantly, she knows the difference between the fluff of foam and the bedrock of beer. My guess is that she will poll well in battleground states. If Biden falters, his support will swing to her, especially in the midwest.

Pete Buttigieg consistently has been the most impressive candidate on the husting, by far. His youth may be a plus rather than a minus. His sexual orientation is not the verboten issue it once was. Still, First Husband Chasten Glazmen’s TV tour of the White House will please and infuriate in equal measure. Still it’s possible that America will have a gay president before a female one.

 

Three into Two Won’t Go

The administration of future ex-President Donald Trump appeared to be in a graveyard spiral.  The House’s impeachment inquiry was going well; the G7 Summit at Trump’s beleaguered, bedbug-ridden Doral Resort was universally condemned; Mick Mulvaney spit the bit on the quid pro quo deal with Ukraine; Joe Biden didn’t shoot himself in either foot during this week’s debate.

Nature abhorring a vacuity, into the breach rushed Tulsi Gabbard and Hillary Clinton.  During a midweek podcast interview with David Plouffe, Obama’s twice-successful campaign manager, former/former/former Clinton said that one of the current, female Democratic candidates was being “groomed” as a third-party candidate by the Russians.  Counting out Harris, Klobuchar, Warren, and Marianne Wilson, the index finger pointed at Tulsi Gabbard, who had done the same math.

Gabbard fired back at Clinton. “Let’s be clear what this is about. Really, that if anyone stands up and speaks out to end the regime-change war policies that this country has had for so long, the likes of which we’ve seen waged in Iraq, Libya and Syria, we will be labeled as foreign agents, as traitors to our country…that we are traitors to the nation that we love. This is despicable on so many levels.”

Gabbard described Clinton as a champion of the regime change policies. She didn’t stop there, describing the 2016 nominee as the “embodiment of corruption.”  These are sobriquets one might pick out of Trump’s Compendium of Campaign Taunts and Disparagement. That would be strange in isolation.   Not for nothing, though, Gabbard has received praise from a surprising cohort of Trump supporters. Lisa Lerer wrote in the New York Times several days before the Clinton statement, in a piece called, “What is Tulsi Gabbard Up To?”

 Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, is impressed with her political talent. Richard B. Spencer, the white nationalist leader, says he could vote for her. Former Representative Ron Paul praises her “libertarian instincts,” while Franklin Graham, the influential evangelist, finds her “refreshing.”

 And far-right conspiracy theorists like Mike Cernovich see a certain MAGA sais quoi.

  “She’s got a good energy, a good vibe. You feel like this is just a serious person,” Mr. Cernovich said. “She seems very Trumpian.”

Plus, the support of former KKK Grand Dragon David Duke.  The Times story mentioned other alt-right constituencies offering praise for Gabbard’s isolationism and her willingness to criticize Israel.  Yet, her isolationist rhetoric reads as an anti-imperialist message, at home in Democratic circles of the sixties and seventies, ignored by Gabbard herself.

The Times article also cited Gabbard’s favorable treatment by the Russian Times and supportive attention from suspected Russian bots.  There is reason for concern that she might be a witting Russian asset, like Donald Trump, or an unwitting one, like Donald Trump.

Gabbard threatened to boycott last week’s debate, contending that the 2020 election was being rigged. This has a Trump resonance But Gabbard worked for Sanders in 2016. She comes by her distrust honestly.

At the same time, Clinton’s statement — provocative, tone-deaf and impolitic — hearkens back to 2016 and Deplorables 2.0.   She threw a Molotov cocktail when all that was needed was a Roman candle.  The only important point is that the Russians need Trump to win to continue to influence U.S. foreign policy. Fearing that the structural limit of Trump’s support and his self-inflicted wounds will render him unelectable, Russia’s interjection of a third-party candidate to Trump’s left would split the Democratic vote, potentially tossing the election to the incumbent.

Russia’s attempt to divide the vote and the Democrats’ internecine struggle over the role of the DNC are the “vectors” which line up Russia’s potential backing of a Democrat to run as a third party.  The Democrats have not put out the fire. In fact, in Democratic circles, the war of 2016 continues to rage with complaints over super-delegates and partisan treatment. Hence, claims of corruption.

I drew flack yesterday with the statement, “As Trump falters, the Democrats’ circular firing squad moves into position.”

https://www.facebook.com/678453688/posts/10158060790548689/   Nevertheless, that assessment stands.  It remains a long, difficult lesson for Democrats to learn how Republicans, essentially a minority, outperform them through superior party discipline:  Merrick Garland. Brett Kavanaugh.

Unfortunately, the Republicans have gone so wrong as to put party over country. Maybe that’s inevitable when power is concerned. The Democrats have won far less than they should have, largely because of a failure in marshaling resources. Obama is a notable exception. So much about being a Democrat these days is aspirational. Still, there has to be a pragmatic side to it, and that pragmatic side must be upgraded to compete with the substantial political and financial forces arrayed against it.

 

Père Donald? Merdre!

One way to look at Future Ex-President Trump’s removal of troops from Syria is that the cabal involving Russia, Syria and Iran convinced him that it was “time” to get out.  This point of view treats him merely like a fool, and it is by all accounts the most charitable view.

The Kurds were stifling ISIS.  Within a day, the Turks moved on the Kurd territory, driving them out and opening a lane for ISIS to move.  His response was that ISIS won’t bother us – they’ll go to Europe.  Evidently, when Al Qaeda knocked down the Twin Towers, it inadvertently forgot to retake the Alhambra.  Not going to make that mistake again!

There are other, more sinister ways of looking at Trump’s decision to set free the turkeys but that would be the stuff of conspiracy and who needs a stuffed Turkey in October?  Let’s give Trump the benefit of the doubt for the moment- that he is merely a fool.

Then this is the moment we’ve been waiting for!   The moment when the consequences of Trump’s impulsive ignorance are recognizable immediately.    The signal that US troops were going home triggered an instant shift in the Middle East, with Iran, his bete-noir, the most likely beneficiary of the move.  More than ever, the appropriate question is: what was he thinking?  We don’t know, possibly will not know for many years, with his thoughts squirreled away in that private server we think of as the Stable Genius Stable.

I wonder if there was input from the CIA – if it was involved in the decision. Or the Defense Department; if we still have a Defense Department. Or Mike Pompeo, that one-man band at State.  The question for Pompeo is whether he can walk, chew gum, eaves-drop on a call with Volodymyr Zelenskyy and analyze the complexities of Asia Minor and the Middle East at the same time. The presumptive answer is, “Are you kidding?”

Everybody else has left the building. Mattis, McMaster, Kelly, Bolton.  I’ve never had high praise for John Bolton – Dr. Strangelove without the disabilities – but within the Trump bunch, he may have been principled – a radical hawk, but a principled one – if there is such a thing.

When Trump cleared out the State Department, then the National Security Council, and let all the advisers go, that leaves no watchdogs, nobody to tell the president that all the screws are now loose, and the engine is starting to vibrate off  its mounts.

When that engine, the American nation,  drops from the chassis and screeches hot metal against asphalt until the entire vehicle stops dead,  that’s the time when we will miss our national apparatus; our redundancies – at State and Defense, NSA, ambassadors and spies, domestic investigators.  And for good measure, WHISTLEBLOWERS. Trump calls it the Deep State and deplores it, but the federal government, massive by necessity and preferably rich in information and experience, prevents the kind of disasters that an ignorant despot can cause at will. And he will.

Russia, If You’re Listening

Donald Trump has given Congress the road to his own perdition, not that he believes in it. He last year regarding the notes kept by his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, that good lawyers don’t keep notes. In essence, if you don’t write it down, there’s no evidence.

So, Trump, sly devil, doesn’t take notes; doesn’t put anything in writing; and prefers to conduct “personal diplomacy,” one to one calls or conferences in which no notes are taken or records kept. We recall he directed the translators at his meeting with Putin in Helsinki to destroy his notes.

There’s one thing he had to work around: when the president has a conversation with another head of state, many people are listening, in the Oval Office and in the Situation Room. Some of those people are charged with taking notes, transcribing the conversation. The notes taken are official records and cannot be destroyed. They are kept with similar records in an electronic filing system. They are discoverable to Congressional and FBI investigators. The Intelligence Committee has clearance over all classified materials, the kind of materials for which the lockdown was intended.

Records of his one-to-one conversations, such as the call with the Ukraine President in July, and most probably of the Oval Office meeting with Russian diplomats immediately following the Comey firing in 2018, were placed in a special electronic lockdown and removed from the standard database. The records thus disappeared. The whistleblower states in his complaint that White House officials were directed by White House lawyers to “remove the electronic transcript from the computer system in which such transcripts are typically stored for coordination, finalization, and distribution to cabinet-level officials.”

One of Trump’s Tells is that he accuses his enemies of doing what he himself has done or would do. Thus, Trump accused Hillary Clinton of maintaining a private email server to keep her nefarious dealings out of official State Department communications. It doesn’t matter if he believed that she did that. By accusing her, he signaled it as something he would do – and actually has.

Trump’s use of the lockdown in essence created for himself a private server into which his most scandalous communications were placed – away from prying government eyes. He might have gotten away with it, were it not for the whistleblower, one person – maybe the only person standing watch over the administration, perhaps a solitary figure acting at maximum personal risk.

 

Intermission

Revolted Colonies is going on hiatus.  Like many other people attempting to write about the political rift in our country, I am at a loss for words and voice to comment on the state of this Union. It seems that no matter how far from the White House a story starts, it eventually finds its way back – or to Mar-a-Lago or Bedminister. It’s tiresome, in addition to being unbecoming most of the time, veering occasionally into horrifying.

So I will sum up for now.  The country is in open warfare over who will control America.   America in the 21st Century began with existential terror and has never recovered.  America also is not reconciled to its demographic composition. The election of Barack Obama blew the lid off the White Nationalist movements boiling just beneath it. The backlash election of Donald Trump and his presidency have re-ignited white supremacists.

At the same time, we are ignoring our burning planet.  Eventually, there won’t be much left to fight over.

 

Here She Is!

McConnell Gaming the System

Pascal’s Wager is one of the best concepts I learned in college [In law school I learned its less useful alternative – it never hurts to ask. Sometimes it does]. If you live virtuously and God exists, then you enter the kingdom of Heaven. If God doesn’t exist, you’ve given up only a few material things. On the other hand, if you act godlessly and it turns out you’re wrong, Pascal says that you’ll have Hell to pay. He asks the skeptic, “What have you got to lose?”

Pascal’s Wager popped up most recently in the US Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked bi-partisan measures to provide heightened security for the 2020 presidential election. I’d like to know what he was thinking.

If we protect the electoral process and the Russians and others don’t hack it, we’ve lost nothing more than a little pocket money. On the other hand, if we are hacked and we’ve done nothing, then our electoral process is destroyed. Or, as Pascal might conclude, we’ve gone to Hell in a handbasket. And we would have Mitch McConnell to thank.

But it’s no wager. Pascal had no proof of the existence of God (thank you, Rene Descartes, mais non). His wager is about faith. Election meddling is a fact, Jack. The special counsel, 17 intelligence agencies, and a bipartisan Congress all found that we are walking around with a bull’s-eye on our back. May I have your attention please — wagering has been suspended.

McConnell is nobody’s fool. His decision to block the bills is strategic. He expects that meddling will help re-elect Trump. He also is counting on the fact that Trump supporters don’t care how he is reelected. If it takes a derevnya (Russian for village), then, “Da!” Mitch McConnell recognizes that the reelection of Trump, by any means necessary, extends Republican rule, and he believes that this is the best thing for the United States.

Wanna bet?

Blood in the Water

Joe Biden’s backers are fleeing.  When he started his 2020 campaign he was one gaff  away from a wipe out. He did better; he lasted two gaffs.  Biden failed to handle the anticipated attack  on his dealings with Dixiecrats in the 1970s.

He could have handled it many ways other than the way he chose, which was to attack Kamala Harris.  She offered a heart-felt explanation why his insensitivity was a problem. And he responded with — insensitivity. This is the party of kumbaya, after all. What was he thinking? Was he thinking?

It was stunning to see his campaign go down that fast but it’s for the best. Now resources won’t be wasted watching him crash in slo-mo.

The Democrats  can get on to the main event, which is to pass the torch to the new generation,  Elizabeth Warren notwithstanding.

Warren was one of the winners this week, along with Harris and Mayor Pete. Booker was good, Beto was disappointing and Bernie was Bernie.  Nobody has dropped out so far, and some of the other candidates were impressive.

Whoever wins will be left of Clinton and Obama. They stand a chance as long as Pennsylvanians don’t think that the Democrats will turn the Lehigh Vslley into an agricultural collective.

Haiku for Virginia Beach

Twelve dead, four wounded

Another day of mayhem

Something must be done

Playing the 2020 Field

Maybe the Democrats think that having 24 declared candidates is seven better than the GOP’s 17  in 2016. Or perhaps the lunatics are running the asylum. Nancy Pelosi can’t do everything, you know.

Either way, the party of Andrew Johnson has a problem  There are so many aspirants, it’s as if there were none.  Perhaps it’s better to think of the double dozen, not as viable contestants, but rather as a think tank, and the primary contests an extended brainstorming session.

The most prominent candidates, professional pols like current frontrunner Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, and Bernie Sanders, do not have a single, signature issue. However, there are talented prospects on the taxi squad; people who possess experience in particular disciplines. For example:

  • Jay Inslee on climate issues
  • Elizabeth Warren on public education and family economics
  • Pete Buttigieg on homeland security and counterterrorism
  • Andrew Yang on automation and workforce
  • Tulsi Gabbard on armed services
  • Michael Bennett and Julian Castro on immigration
  • John Hickenlooper on gun control
  • Seth Moulton on national security
  • Tim Ryan on the economy and international trade    

How about locking them into a free-wheeling Internet-aired discussion, two or three at a time; forcing them to grapple with a single issue; challenging one another to propose a plan and then defend it. Require a proponent to explain how a program would be funded. Americans love new ideas, but we hate paying for them.

 These forums would provide the second-tier candidates with a way of distinguishing themselves, and at the same time giving the issues some Oxygen. The discussions could be posted on Youtube. They would be a stimulating sideshow to the Debates, an insufferable circus. 

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