Revolted Colonies

U.S. Politics and Culture

Category: Politics (Page 1 of 2)

Breathlessly Awaiting Comey’s Final Chapter

For those of you whose TV viewing will not be disrupted by work today, you will now be treated to a preview of the Soap Opera cum Congressional Hearing known as the Comey Memos.  For former FBI Director James Comey, a pillar of rectitude, a man of unshakable integrity, it’s surprising that his memos read a little like a Harlequin romance.  

Comey writes breathlessly of the first time he met the man he would one day call “President.”

During our one-on-one meeting at Trump Tower, based on President-Elect Trump’s reaction to the briefing and without him directly asking the question, I offered that assurance.

He gushed about how the President-Elect was like no one he had ever met before.

I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the President-Elect in a memo. To ensure accuracy, I began to type it on a laptop in an FBI vehicle outside Trump Tower the moment I walked out of the meeting. Creating written records immediately after one-on-one conversations with Mr. Trump was my practice from that point forward. This had not been my practice in the past.

This hardened professional, a survivor of the George Bush administration, who stood up to Alberto Gonzalez, Bush’s personal attorney, who was trying to compromise bedridden Attorney General John Ashcroft, felt his knees buckle when he realized that the President was trying to get him alone.

He had called me at lunchtime that day and invited me to dinner that night, saying he was going to invite my whole family, but decided to have just me this time… It turned out to be just the two of us….seated at a small oval table in the center of the Green Room. Two Navy stewards waited on us, only entering the room to serve food and drinks.

The besotted Director felt powerless, having been cast under the spell of Don Giovanni Trump. Nevertheless, he resisted. Oh, how he resisted the enticements of his pursuer!

My instincts told me that the one-on-one setting, and the pretense that this was our first discussion about my position, meant the dinner was, at least in part, an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship.

 Comey is not like all the rest. He is the product of a strong and supportive home, a disciplined and religious background. He would not cave in like Trump’s earlier prizes. He’s the kind of guy who always keeps at least one foot on the floor.

I replied that I loved my work and intended to stay and serve out my ten-year term as Director. And then, because the set-up made me uneasy, I added that I was not “reliable” in the way politicians use that word….

Trump pressed Comey. 

The President said, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence.

Later, Trump again pressed Comey.

Near the end of our dinner, the President returned to the subject of my job, saying he was very glad I wanted to stay, adding that he had heard great things about me from Jim Mattis, Jeff Sessions, and many others. He then said, “I need loyalty.” I replied, “You will always get honesty from me.” He paused and then said, “That’s what I want, honest loyalty.” I paused, and then said, “You will get that from me.”

Normally, at this point, Comey might have stifled a sob or felt a clutching in his throat. 

It is possible we understood the phrase “honest loyalty” differently, but I decided it wouldn’t be productive to push it further.

Instead, he departed, his virtue intact. He retreated to his car, and before driving off, he wrote the entire discussion down, word for word, so as not to lose a single innuendo to the mercy of faulty memory.  Returning to his office, he logged his recollections in and then told his BFFs  about his trying evening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Comey decided that he could never let himself to be left alone with the President.  Yet weeks later he found himself face-to-face with his tempter in the Oval Office, the President having excused all the other meeting participants. Trump moved in, invading Comey’s personal space. He asked Comey if he could see his way clear to let it go – the “Flynn” thing.  

When the door by the grandfather clock closed, and we were alone, the President began by saying, “I want to talk about Mike Flynn.” Flynn had resigned the previous day. The President began by saying Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong in speaking with the Russians, but he had to let him go because he had misled the Vice President. He added that he had other concerns about Flynn, which he did not then specify.

“He’s a good guy,” said Trump.

Comey pulled himself up to his full 6’8″ height, put on his stern face and, mildly nauseous, vomited a little in his mouth. After this meeting, Comey would not face Trump again. The President would not relent. He called, beseeching him to lift the cloud of inquiry over his head, to tell the world that he Donald John Trump, was not being investigated. Comey was wracked, pulled in opposite directions by honesty and loyalty.  He could not say anything because he thought it was possible that he would have to retract it.

In a final phone call,  suitor became tormentor.   Trump asked Comey why did he testify before Congress the week before that there was an open investigation, and why didn’t Comey say Trump was not under investigation.  Then Trump added:

“Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.” I did not reply or ask him what he meant by “that thing.” I said only that the way to handle it was to have the White House Counsel call the Acting Deputy Attorney General. He said that was what he would do and the call ended.

 Less than a week later, while meeting with federal agents in  Los Angeles, Comey heard that he’d been fired, but he did not believe it until he saw the TV news news crawl.  A great deal of confusion ensured about who prompted the firing and the reasons for it. It was Trump, all along, who jilted his FBI director.

Today,  James Comey will come before Congress to tell the rest of his tragic tale. If you decide to watch have a box of Kleenex at the ready.

  © Revolted Colonies 2017

Hacking the 2020 Census

The Trump administration, running the executive branch like a three-card monte game, is trying to pull another fast one. Its next step in replacing majority-ruled government with a permanent, authoritarian plutocracy was unveiled yesterday. As we all chuffed over firing of FBI director James Comey, we were distracted from the resignation of John Thompson, Director of the Bureau of Census, over Congressional refusal to fund the 2020 Census adequately.

The seeds of 2020 electoral manipulation are being sown at the Department of Commerce. John Thompson had been with the Bureau since 1975. He tendered his resignation on May 10, ahead of his plan to retire at year-end. “Your experience will be greatly missed,” wrote Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, as he booted Thompson out the door with his size 9 brogan. Or as the late songwriter Dan Hicks put it, “How can I miss you if you won’t go away?” So it is with Thompson. Ross gladly will miss Thompson’s knowledge of the logistics of obtaining an accurate census.

By Constitutional mandate the census is taken every decade, and the numbers are used to determine the number of districts in each state. In turn, the number of districts determines the state’s number of electors. The number of electors in each state is equal to the congressional delegation, which is the number of representatives in the House and Senate combined. The seats in Congress are reapportioned based on the census. Then each state legislature hacks itself into districts to match the number allocated by the census. This is where gerrymandering comes into play. Eldridge Gerry, a founder, became famous for reshaping the districts of Massachusetts in 1810 to maintain dominance of his party. One district took the shape of a salamander. Hence, the term, gerrymandering,” representing the manipulation of a district’s shape to affect the political outcome.

If the underlying principle of democracy is “one person, one vote,” then getting the number of persons correct is a paramount concern. Yet, John Thompson was struggling with Congress to get more funding from Congress to modernize the data collection process.

The Republican-controlled Congress saw no reason to upgrade the data collection system if it would cost more than the 2010 collection. That’s where they drew the monetary line, even though the new electronic data collection system was proposed as the investment in long-term cost-cutting measures. Congress was happy with the 2010 results, and it saw no reason to ramp up the system. Hacking the census is another means of keeping American leadership in the hands of old, conservative white men. Some of the House members have requests in to use the old-style printouts to make Snoopy pictures for their kids.

Voter suppression takes many forms, and misreporting of the census is fundamental. Errors in the raw numbers skew the apportionment of representatives so that it is effectively beyond the reach of legal action. In other words, counting heads is a political function. If we get that wrong, the error taints all that follows.

Most of the alleged anti-voting fraud laws enacted in the last few years have been overturned. Still, Congress repealed a vital part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. In addition, many state legislatures have shown the inclination to suppress voting claiming fraud as a pretext. The party in power in a state with a growing non-establishment population base has an incentive to minimize its impact on voting. The less reliable and transparent the counting system, the greater the possibility for mischief. No doubt, the Congressional majority would be happy with a back-of-the-envelope tally. So what if a couple of people – or neighborhoods or – cities are under-reported?

© 2017 Revolted Colonies

Give a Leak, Take a Leak: Welcome to Washington

Leaks

 

Leaks come from disgruntled career bureaucrats, or disgruntled  former security contractors and  internet provocateurs, or candidates floating trial balloons,  or political opponents with scores to settle. And now that war has gone digital, leaks can be a military offensive.

 Take a leak like the outing of bad boy Mike Flynn. His past successes  taught him to ignore the rules. For example, when he was in charge of routing ISIS, he decided to leak  US intelligence to Pakistan about Pakistan. Just to show those bastards we know where they live. Well of course we do; we have GPS. It was a blatant violation disclosing classified information. But he got away with it. 

Now the tables have been turned.   His back channel bromance with Russian ambassador Kislyak became front page news. So did his lying to Mike Pence about their sanctions pillow talk. Out came the secret, and down went Flynn.  The source of the leak is a mystery still. Like one of those English mystery stories where the stiff had so many enemies, lots of suspects had opportunity and motive.

 So who are the suspects in this one? The intelligence community for sure. Just yesterday, they said they’re going to withhold information from the President because they don’t trust him. Imagine that. They don’t trust Him with their information because they think he’ll give it to America’s enemies. You don’t need Julius Rosenberg if you’ve got Donald Trump.

A lot of media outlets are pissed off at this administration too. They’ve all been thrown out of the press conferences except for Breitbart and Golf Courses of the World. Not that it matters.  Nothing really is being said at press conference these days that isn’t contradicted  by somebody else in the administration five minutes before or after.  

 If I had to guess, though, I would say it’s some career government employee, stashed in one of the intelligence agencies,  who got so pissed off that he ended up blowing the whistle. Kind of like Milton in the movie, “Office Space.” You just don’t screw around with a guy’s stapler.

 Deep Throat, America’s most famous leaker, is gone, but his advice still rings true: follow the money. It’s a little more challenging though when we have to convert from dollars to rubles.

Leaks are political safety valves and have a purpose; a fact of nature, like gas escaping a Swamp.

© 2017 The Revolted Colonies ™

 

Politics as Unusual: The FBI, The Bundy Verdict and The Comey Letter

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FBI director James Comey had a lousy week, and next week is not looking any better.  A trial jury in Oregon told him that his G-Men were off-base thinking that armed seizure of a federal bird sanctuary constituted a crime when the panel acquitted the Bundy Gang of conspiracy, gun and other charges. Comey took refuge in Anthony Weiner’s underwear, but they’re not fitting as planned.

Bad Day at the Bird Bath

img_1441The Bundy Gang didn’t walk away. There are other charges against them still pending.  The acquittal was not a blanket exoneration. Still, it will force the Bureau to reconsider its policy in dealing with armed anti-government resistance.  J. Edgar Hoover must be spinning in his grave. 

img_1443The shooting at Ruby Ridge, Idaho in 1992 and the siege and shootout in Waco, Texas in 1993 had previously put the FBI under scrutiny in its encounters with the Militia Movement, of which the Bundys are a part. The verdict handcuffs the Bureau in protecting federal land from armed opposition.  The next step, unfortunately, would be to call up the National Guard. which may be precisely what the Bundys want.

Rifling Through the Underwear Drawer

img_1448The day after the Bundy acquittal and without any apparent connection to it, Comey sent Congress a letter stating that the FBI was reading newly discovered Hillary Clinton emails from a cache recovered a month ago from a laptop it seized from Weiner.  The laptop was shared by the former Congressman and his soon-to-be ex-wife, Huma Abedin, a top aide to the President-in-Waiting. Weiner is under investigation for conducting an online sexual relationship with a minor.

Even though the FBI has had Weiner’s laptop for a month and presumably has known about the emails for as long, allegedly it hasn’t gotten around to reading them.  So, the FBI hasn’t determined if these emails are new discoveries or copies of emails previously recovered.

Nevertheless, Comey thought it necessary to inform Congress of the find. In July, Comey announced that the FBI had found no basis to recommend criminal charges against former Secretary of State Clinton, arising out of her use of a private email server. He then scolded her publicly for mishandling classified material.   Comey came under fire for this ex-officio comment.

Crossing The Boss

img_1447Now, Comey is on the hot seat again. He went against Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s direction not to issue the inflammatory letter adding nothing of substance to the case against Clinton, eleven days before Election Day. The FBI reports to Lynch’s Justice Department. Yet, Comey said that he felt obligated to inform Congress of this newish discovery. Comey’s action may well be grounds for dismissal. Given Lynch’s own political problem over her June  airport meeting with Bill Clinton, creating an appearance of impropriety in connection with the email server issue, she was in no position to block Comey and is in no position to fire him.  

Comey Unchained

Nevertheless, Comey’s feeling of obligation is badly misguided. The emails have not been examined. Right now, they are not evidence—they are data. It is against law enforcement policy to discuss on open investigation of any kind.If Clinton was not running for President in an upcoming election, you can bet that Comey would not even have thought about it. The FBI would continue its investigation and report its findings to DOJ, which then would make a decision as to prosecution.

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Even if he had an obligation to update Congress, his action was premature and knowingly prejudicial. It would be understandable if the FBI had determined that the emails were newly discovered material, containing a “Classified” marking and being sent to or from Clinton’s private server.  Then the Bureau could report something meaningful had been found and that further classification review by other agencies would be required. Until then, it should have remained an internal matter for the Bureau; especially because classified material might involve matters of national security.  

Comey has painted himself into a corner. If the emails are innocuous, he should not have raised it at all. If they involved  classified material, he can’t disclose them but clearly has opened that door. He’s prejudiced the election as well as a potential prosecution.  Clinton along with others accuses Comey of a political hatchet job.  Try as one might, the political aspect is impossible to dismiss.

© 2016 The Revolted Colonies

What We Need is A Little More Anarchy

Anarchy

As a lifelong anarchist — of the party-throwing, not bomb–throwing,  sort — I’m sick and tired of being mischaracterized. People who should know better cry, “Anarchy!” every time things get chaotic and start falling  apart. That’s wrong.  Anarchists don’t create chaos. They have the goal of getting things done  without government — kind of like free-market capitalism. What happens to anarchists is what happens to rock bands. Sooner or later, somebody decides to be the boss, grab the credit or go solo.  The answer to the question, “Who’s breaking up that old  band of mine?” Not the anarchists.”   The anarchists liked it better when we rehearsed  in the basement, set up our own amps and there was not enough money or fame to fight over.  

 “Whenever government assumes to deliver us from the trouble of thinking for ourselves, the only consequences it produces are those of torpor and imbecility. — William Godwin

Anarchy means without government.  It’s not a political vacuüm.  At the grassroots level, it is the way people regulate themselves without hierarchy. Anarchy happens a lot but we don’t recognize its positive characteristics. Instead, we focus on lawless malcontents who are anti-government, not free of it.  

Anarchy“Anarchism is democracy taken seriously.” — Edward Albee

 

For anarchy to  function, it has to be local, temporary, consensual and equitable.  It doesn’t last because continuity requires planning, and planning requires leadership. Leadership then seeks its privileges and does not relinquish its power.  Once the community is institutionalized, there’s no more anarchy.

  “I firmly believe people have the power to make decisions locally and cooperatively. Anarchism is how that is put into practice.” —  Scott Crow

Anarchy is utopian, an ideal.  People come together, have a communal moment, then go their separate ways. It’s is a good thing when it happens. A few months ago, a three year-old child broke away from his mother at the Cincinnati Zoo and climbed into the gorilla habitat. Because the child was in imminent danger, the zoo keepers had to kill Harambe, the 17 year-old gorilla, to save the child. The gorilla was a beloved member of the zoo community, and staff members and Cincinnatians were distraught over the incident.  The child’s parents were grateful that God had spared the child. 


“Freedom, morality, and the human dignity of the individual consists precisely in this; that he does good not because he is forced to do so, but because he freely conceives it, wants it, and loves it.”   Mikhail Bakunin

Public reaction was understandable. Most people rushed to find fault – by the zoo or the parent. There was a traumatized child,  a dead gorilla and no closure. What if the parents, without blaming the zoo or acknowledging fault, were able to say that they, as part of the community,  were also sad about the event?  As grateful as the parents  were for their child’s rescue,  it was not a satisfactory conclusion because Harambe was killed. 

  What if those parents and their friends and parishioners joined together to celebrate Harambe and created a fund in his name to benefit the zoo; if they could not donate money, they could donate time. The zoo and community heal some of the wounds.

“Anarchy could never get a man to the moon, but it may be the only mode that can allow us to survive on earth.” — Sheldon Kopp

Of course that didn’t happen.  The zoo and animal rights activists and primatologists played out their debate over what went wrong and what should be done. Harambe’s killing became a cultural flash point, with internet memes, video games and write-in campaigns (he out-polled the incumbent in some districts).  A plain expression of regret, a sharing of loss and a productive way  forward could have healed wounds and pulled people together around common sorrow. That would have been  Anarchy at work: local, temporary, consensual, and equitable. You can be sure that I was blasted at the mere suggestion that the parents should be anything other than overwrought.   Anarchy would have promoted healing and offered a teachable moment for parents and children.

“Anarchy is order, government is civil war.” — Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

The next time friends gather to celebrate or mourn, to have an impromptu adventure or to take up or oppose a cause, take a moment to remember anarchy’s great thinkers, and thank them for their service. 


In Memory Of Harambe


© 2016 The Revolted Colonies

Trump Accusers Are Raising Consciousness

  New accusations from Trump accusers are coming fast now, separate accusations being published Wednesday in the Palm Beach Post and the New York Times.  If not for confidentiality agreements routinely used to gag contestants and staffers, more accusations of criminal behavior would have been leveled at Trump by now, and there is still three weeks to go.

The outpouring of stories has an effect beyond the election.  Women are expressing gratitude for the women coming forward because these stories are revealing  deeper truths about the powerlessness women experience. The assault is momentary and in many cases women can prevent the incident from escalating.  What they can’t do often is to report it, speak up about it, out the attacker.  A young woman subjected to aggressive sexual behavior often is told directly that “it never happened” or that if she speaks of it, she will be punished. Her career derailed.  

In anti-discrimination law, this is a hostile working environment. These claims are especially tough to make when it’s caused or endorsed by the big boss.  Young women in new or first jobs  are given the Hobson’s Choice of calling out a powerful man and facing retaliation and ostracism, or remaining silent, which most of the traumatized women choose to do. 

Keeping silent is an extension of the feeling of powerlessness.  There is no release  from that feeling, so it takes hold psychically. The feeling of powerlessness becomes deeply ingrained and has a negative impact beyond the workplace. 

The Trump scandals, like the Clinton scandals before them, have presented opportunities to teach boys and girls, adolescents and young adults, that predatory sexual behavior often is criminal. Its victims no longer need to be resigned to shame, silence and a feeling of being ineffectual. Boys learn that a parent, sibling, friend or lover may have been victimized and that they may have experienced life-altering consequences. 

Coin Toss: The First Presidential Debate

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The Sacagawea $1.00 Coin

 

The NFL and the Commission For Presidential Debates jointly announced today that an NFL team of the referees slated to officiate Monday Night Football instead will oversee the first Clinton-Trump Presidential Debate.  Lester Holt, the Debate moderator originally named, will work the Falcons-Saints game.  The switch supposedly was made for Holt’s personal safety. The two events air at the same time

This extraordinary change actually may have been triggered by doubts following Matt Lauer’s sniveling performance last week at the Commander-in-Chief Forum, anonymous sources say, and because the NFL crew is better prepared to prevent cheap shots.

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Referees Conferring

False Starts

 The topics announced are America’s Direction, Achieving Prosperity, and Securing America. However, the candidates will ask themselves  questions, which they need not answer. The format has been divided into halves, each consisting of two quarters, with each candidate having two time-outs and two challenges per half. Choice of the north or south podium will remain a game-time decision based on the coin toss. The Clinton Team will attempt a triangulation formation.

Trump’s Roster

Mr. Trump’s team pushed for the unprecedented use of substitute debaters.  The CPD rejected the proposal, insisting that the public should hear from the people who will  be responsible for setting policy. Thereupon, Mr. Trump resubmitted his proposal with a list of names, assuring CPD that the public would.  The CPD criticized this tactic and was particularly  distressed that one of his proposed  substitutions requires a Russian interpreter.  Mr. Trump’s new request for a life-line was under review as this story went to press. Roger Ailes, who has prepped Trump for the debate, planned to attend the Hofstra event.  Unfortunately, he will not be in attendance.   The terms of his recently settled sexual discrimination case require him to be least 2,000 feet away from the school.

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Pre-Debate Maneuvers

The Clinton team believes that the use of the officiating crew is more likely to keep the questions  and answers on topic it has challenged the all-male composition. The Trump team has publicly stated of the switch that the game is rigged. Trump offspring have been deployed to check if any of the refs have favorite charities in need of a boost.

Nevertheless, both camps have approved the challenge system. For the first time in the history of the Debates, slow-motion replays will be available. The stoppage of play opened up ad opportunities sought by the candidates, who nevertheless lost out to the Canadian Tourist Board, the high bidder.

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Courtesy of Canadian Tourism Board

The Trump campaign made a last-ditch effort to postpone the debate until 2017, to coincide the groundbreaking of the site of Trump Hall and Lounge, which is to house a center that will provide sanctuary to female models  from former Warsaw Pact nations. Hofstra, the hosting institution, was dumbstruck, the first and possibly the last time, it hears of this generous gift.

Spin Control

The new format permits each team its own play-by-play announcers. The teams will  not have to wait until the end of the contest to spin the result. They can roll it out as the candidates are speaking. This will put the Trump campaign at a distinct advantage, as Kellyanne Conway, the rapid-fire Trump campaign manager, seems to answer questions before they are asked.

Mr. Trump has said that he will not depart much from his Playbook of the last year.  Notably, his team has said that he might refine his immigration policy to include Guatemalans, Nicaraguans and Easter Islanders, in addition to Mexicans.  He does seem intent on pursuing his ban of Muslims and will extend it to Muslim-types, by which he means all non-Caucasian people.

Team Clinton

Preparation on the Clinton team has been rigorous.   They are gearing to their candidate’s strength, focusing on misdirection and hidden ball plays.  Bill Clinton, one of his era’s greatest debaters, will  confer on matters of strategy and tone but  is expected to spend the bulk of this time auditioning cheerleaders. Clinton’s preparation has been physical as well as mental.  She has approached her task with dedication, especially the walking-back drills designed for defensive play on questions regarding Whitewater, the Rose law firm, Vince Foster, Troopergate, Travelgate, Jennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky, the entire female population of Chappaqua, the Iraq War, Benghazi, Goldman Sachs, the 2008 Campaign, Muhammad Yunus, the  Deplorables, and the Clinton Foundation.  The team has set aside ten minutes for issues about the future.

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Clinton’s inner circle has scored a coup by hiring Trump ghost writer Tony Schwartz to coach Special Teams.  He has recruited many former Trump girlfriends and wives,  except for those still on the Trump payroll.

Rules Committee

Most NFL rules will be suspended during the debate. For example, Trump successfully petitioned to suspend Unlawful Use of Hands. Clinton meanwhile was able to invalidate the False Start rule, giving her the ability to switch positions during the course of her answer.   Naturally, Taunting and Unsportsmanlike Conduct rules will not be in effect.

Here’s That The Ring of Fire You Told Me About

The political class holds the view that every successful candidate must go through a Ring of Fire, a test that can sink a campaign. The successful candidate will withstand the Ring of Fire. The candidate must confront a negative and neutralize it or turn it positive.

Clinton’s Struggle

Frontrunner Hillary Clinton has endured many trying moments in her campaign but has held on to a lead, now dwindling, from the day she declared. The lead withstood the Benghazi Inquisition, the Goldman Bounty, The Global Path to Power, the Email Enigma and even the Escape from Pneumonia. Can she surmount the final and ultimate hurdle: The Flight of the Millennials?
Over the past week, Clinton’s slipping numbers have not been Trump’s increase, but they have been his gain. There is evidence to support the view that, although Clinton beats Trump head to head among Millennials, her support drops substantially in a four-way race that includes Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, and Jill Stein, the Green Party nominee.

Election 2000 Redux?

Ralph Nader’s Green Party candidacy siphoned off enough votes from Al Gore to turn a comfortable margin in Florida into a deficit of 537 and a calamitous recount. We learned about hanging chads and butterfly ballots, a wrongly announced time for poll closing by the five major media outlets, vote scrubbing – the wrongful removal of non-felons from the Florida voting rolls, vote pairing – a vote trade that is meant to altecarviller electoral college results, combativeness during the recount and finally the Supreme Court hijacking the recount process from Florida. The only election result that counted was 5-4, the court split in Bush v. Gore. But Nader’s participation made it possible.

Doing the Math

At this point, the “I’m With Her” team has lost its swagger and is grappling with the departure of Millennial support.millennialscollage Voters that abandon Clinton for Johnson or Stein are taking their votes off the board because only Clinton and Trump are competitive. The smaller total favors Trump. Those departing voters effectively are throwing their votes toward Trump.

Here then is Hillary Clinton’s Ring of Fire, the ultimate challenge to her bid to become President, the first female to hold the office. The challenge folds in the earlier crises that have come to represent a penchant for secrecy, deviousness and legalistic parsing of words. In one sense, she cannot meet the ultimate test without shutting down a lot of the other ones. In another sense, she must make her case to the young constituency directly and convincingly.
People don’t use logic in voting. They vote on emotion, personal attachment to a candidate or, in this year’s pageant, detachment from one or both. The logic is there for Clinton to make her case to the Millennials. She will need to deliver it with sincerity and passion, concern for the lives of our children and our children’s children. When she delivers her message, she ought to be thinking about her daughter Chelsea, who is a Millennial. She should speak to Chelsea or her friends find out how she’s letting them down and move quickly to persuade them – through acts, not words – that she can be trusted to carry out an agenda that holds promise for them. This is her Ring of Fire, the ultimate test of her candidacy. Hillary has always been a top student. Let’s see if she can ace the final.

Spoiler? Green and Libertarian Candidates Won’t Go Away

Spoiler

 

A friend and I had an animated discusson last night about Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, and Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, for President. My friend is furious, fearing that Johnson will become a spoiler, keeping Hillary Clinton from winning.  Johnson (NM) and William Weld (MA), two former Republican governors, comprise the Libertarian slate, the stronger of the two alternative tickets.

“Did you hear Johnson the other day? He didn’t know what Aleppo (Syria’s largest city and a focal point of the war)  is. He didn’t say where– he said what,”  possibly confusing Aleppo with a similarly-named Spotted Panther or someone suffering from Hansen’s Disease.  Johnson “took responsibility” for the blunder, as if there was anyone else at fault for his ignorance.

Old Wounds

“I’m still angry about Nader,” said my friend. Nader is Ralph Nader, the pioneering consumer advocate whose Green Party run in 2000 most likely cost Al Gore a clear victory in Florida and thus the election.  Nader admits pulling away a net of 12,000 Florida votes from Gore. This would have changed the result.  Nader disingenuously points to the Supreme Court’s infamous decision, which stopped the Florida recount, thus throwing the election to Bush. But if Nader had not run, Gore would have been a clear winner, and no recount would have taken place. Even those who see few meaningful differences between the parties must admit that the 21st Century would have been different with Gore in the White House.

My friend and I agreed also that 2016 is not the right time to launch an attack on the two-party system, given Trump’s patent unfitness for office. Yet, the question remains: If you believe that America’s two-party system is failing, will there ever be a better time?

The Flawed System

The system is corrupt, ineffective and inefficient.  Congress especially is a quagmire, with office holders spending almost 20% of their time raising money for  …reëlection. No wonder so little gets done.  There are some dedicated, hard-working lawmakers in spite of the system, not because of it. Assuming the lawmakers to be well-intentioned, they do not have time to do the people’s work or they do so at the risk of raising money to support reëlection.

Both major party candidates are disapproved by more than half of people questioned.  Each party’s primary had a forceful populist movement. Trump’s campaign defeated 16 opponents in seizing the nomination. Bernie Sanders did not fare as well, running an enthusiastic second.  Sanders threw his support to front-runner Hillary Clinton and got some props at the convention.  Sanders has not been a significant force in the Clinton campaign so far.  Not  all of his supporters have embraced her candidacy, and she has not forcefully pushed Sanders’ agenda.

If Not Now, When?

There is a fertile field for a third-party candidate, who can pick up Sanders’ progressive followers or the disenfranchised Republican establishment.  Jill Stein has not broken out of the pack. Sanders himself has maintained his position that electing Clinton is the only goal this year.  On the right, Independent Evan McCullin  has barely broken the water’s surface. Nominally an alternative to Trump, McMullin is effectively stuck at the kid’s table, left to debate whether he, unlike Johnson, is a serious candidate.

My friend may be right: there is no political will for a third-party candidate, or for a coalition of parties common to non-American democracies.  The two-party system may be America’s single most resistant viral strain. The gravitational pull is so strong that politicians like Sanders, the late Arlen Specter or – gasp! – Ronald Reagan, are more likely to change parties than to embark on a new movement. Trump found it easier to become a viper in the Republican nest than to build one of his own–and he’s in construction!

Changing Partners

In today’s New York Times, columnist David Brooks suggests that the parties are ripe for realignment, with the Sanders following finding common ground with the Trump Republicans, and moderate Republicans finding a home with the Democratic establishment.  This would be a convenient resetting, but for the serious racial and social differences, which Brooks does not consider. He mentions that African-Americans were Republicans prior to the FDR realignment.  He fails to mention  that the abolitionists were called radical Republicans or that southern Democrats were segregationists until 1968. That was  when they left the party en masse  as a rebuke to Lyndon Johnson for his Great Society.

“Bullshit!” I imagine my friend saying. “There are fundamental differences in how the two parties view the role of government.”  At the moment, it’s true.  Historically, those differences were not as extreme or rigid as they are now.  I’m relatively certain that the growing role of non-white people in elections accounts for this change. If America was truly a post-racial society, the pols could go back to a more flexible notion of bipartisanship and a coherent government.

The instability of each party makes third-party candidacies attractive, even necessary, although they are viable only as disrupters of the status quo and not as players in the system.  They are external expressions of the internal party realignments taking place. 

I concluded that either my friend does not see the need for fundamental change in America or believes that the green grass must grow from the ground up, not from the top down.

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You’e Fired!…and You’re Fired…and You’re Fired!

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It took Donald Trump exactly two days to undo his new Teleprompter demeanor and turn his campaign on its head again. He demoted campaign manager Paul Manafort in favor  of Stephen Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, a team calculated to walk Trump back further into the political wilderness.

No matter what you thought of the content of Trump’s recent speeches, the fact that he was delivering them in a more conventional style gave the impression that he was starting the all-important pivot from sideshow freak to politician. In fact, the Celebrity Apprentice Candidate reality show was continuing off-camera the entire time. The pivot, when it came, turned away from the center, not toward it.

It’s been all bad news for the Trump campaign lately. Poll numbers are going through the floor. He was blaming his opponent, Hillary Clinton, until recently, when he declared the media as the true scourge and President Obama and Clinton as the founders of ISIS. He dog-whistled his Second Amendment friends what to do when President Hillary Clinton nominates Supreme Court Judges unacceptable to the Duck Dynasty crowd.  This situation cried out for a campaign chief who knows how to put out fires. Instead, he hired someone who brings his own Molotov Cocktails.

Stephen Bannon is now CEO of the campaign. He is the former chairman of Breitbart News, the late Andrew Breitbart’s conservative e-zine for the Torch and Pitchfork Crowd.  A former Goldman Sachs investment banker turned Sarah Palin acolyte, Bannon was named the Most Dangerous Political Operative in America in October 2015 by Bloomberg News. For example, Bannon thinks that Fox News is too soft and needs to take the gloves off.

Kellyanne Conway was promoted to campaign manager. Conway is a lawyer and pollster.  She had been a GOP operative since 1988.   Trump first tried hiring Conway while she had been running Ted Cruz’s super-PAC. When his campaign collapsed, Trump hired her initially to improve Trump’s image with women.

The story within the story is that Manafort had been a compromise choice, acceptable to the Republican National Committee and Trump.  After six weeks, Trump’s campaign was failing and, hey, you can’t fire the candidate, can you?

Actually, the RNC had been working on trying to dump Trump but hadn’t found a way out of its mess. After exploring the legal and electoral consequences, it reallocated its resources to protect the down-ballot candidates in the House and Senate, where the GOP currently holds majorities.  Its hold on the Senate is tenuous and especially troubling.   Retaining Senate control is the key to blocking any of Clinton’s judicial nominees.

Finally, the RNC pulled back on its operational support. This, in turn, caused Trump to fire the RNC symbolically, by canning Manafort.    Hiring Bannon was Trump’s declaration of war.  Trump accompanied this staff turnover with the announcement that he will not pivot. Trump’s going to dance with the one who brought him, even if they both fall off the dance floor.

© 2016 The Revolted Colonies

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